Smart TVs: Everything You Need To Know

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Smart TVs are the newest trend to hit the television market. They offer a lot of benefits over older models, such as voice control, integration with smart home devices, and a wide selection of streaming video apps.

The best part is that they’re not very expensive. If you’ve been thinking about upgrading your TV or purchasing one for the first time, then you came to the right place.

I’ll go through all the common (and uncommon) questions that people ask and should know before buying a Smart TV for your smart home. This will give you everything you need to know to make an informed decision.

1. What is a Smart TV?

A Smart TV is a television that can connect to the internet, allowing you to access all sorts of streaming content from your TV. This means no more needing a separate device (like an Apple TV set-top box or Amazon Fire Stick) for watching videos. 

A Smart TV can also be used for more than just streaming videos. A Smart TV has internet access and supports apps to make it easier for users to take advantage of their smart home functions.

You can browse the web, check Facebook and other social media, play games, and control your smart home. You can even use Amazon Alexa and Google Home to control your smart thermostats and smart locks. 

Voice commands allow you to change channels and control volume, but some TVs also come with a remote control for physical navigation. All this makes it easy to use your TV just like you would any other device.

Take a look at some of what’s out there. These are some of my favorite Smart TVs that are at the top of the game right now in terms of quality of smart features:

Learn more about Smart TVs in this article: How Do I Know If I Have a Smart TV?

2. What are the Best Smart TV Brands?

The big TV manufacturers have started to put out their own Smart TVs with the latest and greatest features. 

Here are some of the major TV brands that sell the most Smart TVs: LG, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Toshiba, Philips, Hisense, and VIZIO. 

The higher-end models come from LG, Sony, and Samsung. They’ll offer more features and capabilities, like voice control with Alexa built-in and compatibility with smart homes and devices. Not to mention the displays are absolutely stunning. 

My 4K Samung 65-inch TU-8000 Series UN65TU8000FXZA has been absolutely amazing for me. Alexa is built-in, so I’m able to control the TV, ecobee SmartThermostat, and Echo Show 10. The smart home integration with the connected devices is definitely nice to have. 

The lower cost models from TCL and Insignia are also popular. They’re pretty basic and usually have Fire TV and/or Roku TV platforms installed. If you have a lower budget, these are good value for the price. 

You won’t get the amazing clarity in the displays, but they’re still good. There’s also the risk of inferior materials, but they should still last a long enough time. 

3. How Do Smart TVs Connect to the Internet?

Smart TVs connect to the internet in one of two ways:

Wireless Wi-Fi Network – This is the simplest and usually cheapest way to connect your TV, but it will only work if you have a wireless internet connection. If not then there are two alternatives…check out how each type connects below!

Wired Ethernet Cable – This can be plugged into an ether port on any one of these TVs — or just use USB OTG adapter for newer models that don’t come with the Ethernet port built in as standard.

When the Smart TV is connected to the Wi-Fi network, it’ll also be able to talk to other connected devices on the same network. 

4. What are Smart TV Apps?

Smart TV apps are downloadable software applications that connects to the internet. In many cases, these apps are free and can be downloaded from a wide range of third-party sources (like Google’s Play Store). 

Apps specifically designed for Smart TVs allow you do things like watch videos anonymously or play games with your friends on Facebook. 

Smart TVs typically come preloaded will some applications already installed. Popular ones include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, YouTube Kids, etc. 

Some models also offer voice control capabilities outfitted by Siri so users aren’t only tied to Alexa or Google Assistant. 

If you can’t find a TV version of the app you want and you have an Android platform on your TV, you can download the APK and sideload it onto your TV. You can sideload the APK files directly into HD televisions through USB ports. 

A scenario where people often sideload apps is with web browsers for Smart TVs, like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. 

5. Can Smart TVs Download Apps?

Smart TVs will have a built-in collection of apps and other features that make setting up your new TV quick.

While those preinstalled apps may not fulfill all your needs, you can usually download more through various online sources. 

The downside is that the content you downloaded may not always be available in your country or region, since some apps are restricted by location for security reasons (like Netflix and other video streaming services). 

Also consider what Smart TV you have, because not all brands will allow you to add or download apps. 

LG and Samsung will let you add more apps to customize your Smart TV and viewing experience.

Unfortunately, Vizio doesn’t allow you to download or add other apps. They preinstall apps and only let you use those that they’ve given you. 

6. What Streaming Services Can I Use on Smart TVs?

You can use streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video on the smart TV. These are all paid subscriptions, but don’t worry, because there are plenty of free streaming apps too. 

There are a number of free video streaming apps like Crackle, PlutoTV, Tubi, and the User-Generated Content platforms like YouTube.

The experience with the apps is similar to streaming them through a set-top box or computer, but without all of that extra hardware. 

If you don’t want to stream video, you can also stream music with apps like Pandora and Spotify.

7. How Much are Smart TVs?

The price range of Smart TVs can vary widely. Budget-friendly options start at around $100, but a 65-inch set can cost $5,000, like this Samsung 65-inch QN900A Smart TV.

Generally speaking though, the price of Smart TVs is going down as they become more popular and production volumes increase. On average, you should be able to find a full-featured Smart TV for less than $1,000. 

8. Is a Smart TV Worth it?

As prices continue to move downwards, a Smart TV provides even more value for  consumers. TV manufacturers are packing more features for the same price. 

The most important factor in deciding whether a Smart TV is worth it to you, depends on your normal TV watching and other media habits. 

If you’re someone who only watches the local channels, you probably don’t need a Smart TV. A TV antenna would be enough for you. If you often find yourself streaming movies and TV shows on your computer, then a Smart TV is probably worth it for you. 

A full-featured, modern Smart TV will give you access to your favorite shows and movies right on your television without having to plug in a laptop or tablet every time. 

A lot of these TVs even offer separate user profiles, so everyone in the whole family can enjoy easy access to their favorite shows.

If you’re someone who loves watching sports, especially football, then a new smart TV might be just what you need! They use less energy than older models which means they won’t heat up during those long games. 

With internet access, you’ll be able to lookup the scores of other games, while watching your favorite team with picture-in-picture. No more need to have a separate laptop that you’re refreshing for the latest scores and updates.

9. Do Smart TVs Need Updates?

Smart TVs are just like any other electronic and connected device. They require regular updates to ensure that they are running smoothly and securely, which is especially important with the prevalence of hackers these days.

The first thing you should do when buying a new Smart TV is research whether it offers automatic updates like Google’s “Chromecast” operating system for TVs. This type of update allows you to keep your firmware up-to-date without having to manually download and install software yourself on your own schedule. 

If the smart TV doesn’t offer this feature automatically, then check in every few months to make sure that you’re downloading any available security patches or bug fixes. Depending on the model, you may need to first download the update file onto a USB drive, then load it onto the Smart TV.  

The majority of Smart TVs now have hardware that can be updated with the latest firmware and software for 10+ years. They know that they can’t make a TV and no longer support it after 3 years, just to sell their newest TVs. Stick with the reputable Smart TV brands and you’ll be good for many years to come. 

10. Do Smart TVs Crash or Freeze?

Smart TVs have firmware and software that need to be updated as other software and technologies evolve. That’s what can lead Smart TVs to crash or freeze.

For example, if Netflix updated their app, but the Smart TVs firmware is a couple of years old, the app will not function correctly. That would lead to the app not loading, suddenly crashing, and even freezing your whole TV. 

If your TV doesn’t have the latest firmware, then chances are also high it may crash at some point due to outdated code, which may have security vulnerabilities. Malware and viruses will be easier to be loaded onto the TVs, so it’s a good idea to always keep your firmware updated for security reasons. 

11. Are Smart TVs Touchscreen?

Smart TV displays are not touch screens, unfortunately. But they do support remote control and voice commands on some for navigation.  

The newer models of Smart TVs offer a more streamlined user interface with fewer buttons on the TV’s remote to save space and lessen confusion when finding what you need. 

Some Smart TV remotes have a pointer that can be used as an input device instead of the regular arrow buttons to move around the screen. 

LG Smart TVs have a Magic Remote Control that acts as a regular remote control, but also a cursor like on your computers. It’s much easier to move around the screen with a cursor. See this LG Magic Remote Control that you can buy as a replacement. 

Here’s a video of the remote control in action, so you get a sense of how easy it is to use: 

How To Use The LG Magic Remote

12. Can you Surf the Internet on a Smart TV?

You can surf the web on a Smart TV because it is connected to the internet. There are a few different ways you can do this, and it all depends on your TV’s model and what type of interface they have. 

Some TVs will come preinstalled with their own web browsers. If not, one of the first things you’ll need to do is to download a web browser for your Smart TV

Some TVs will use the same web browser as your phone because there’s no app store specifically for TV apps. 

If there’s no TV app store, you can download a browser app from the app store on your phone. Then you’ll need to get it onto your TV by plugging in a USB stick into the TV and sideloading the app on.

Even if your Smart TV does have a preinstalled web browser, you still may want to install a different web browser to get your settings and browser preferences to the Smart TV. For example, you can install a Google Chrome browser and bring over all your favorite bookmarks to the Smart TV.

The last option is to use something like Google Chromecast where you can stream content directly from your laptop or smartphone onto your Smart TV screen as well as surf the internet at the same time without any other apps needed. 

13. Do Smart TVs Work With Amazon Alexa or Google Home?

Yes, there are Smart TVs that work with Amazon Alexa and Google Home. If you have an Echo Show 10 or one of the other Echo speakers, I’m sure you know how much easier it is to control your smart devices with voice commands. 

The voice controls are also a huge perk for those who can’t easily control their television with traditional remote buttons. Voice commands are far quicker than using physical buttons on the TV itself in many cases, so you’ll either have an easier time doing what you need to do or get frustrated less often.

You’ll want to look at the product descriptions of the TVs before you buy. See if they have Alexa built-in, for example. If not, you’ll need to have an Alexa-compatible smart speaker that can connect to the Smart TV. 

An example of a Smart TV with Alexa Built-in would be the SAMSUNG 65-inch 4K Curved UHD HDR TU-8300 Series Smart TV.

An example of a Smart TV without built-in Alexa would be the budget options likethe TCL 32-inch 1080p Roku Smart LED TV. While it’s great as a cheap Smart TV, you’ll need to purchase an Echo speaker or another Alexa-compatible device. That would add extra costs. 

14. What Smart TV Sizes Are There?

If you plan on buying a new smart TV, there’s a wide range of size options: 24″ – 85″+. 

The size that’s good for you depends on where you plan to place the TV. How big are the rooms you’re thinking about?

If you’re looking for a Smart TV for your living room, you may want to get a larger size, such as 55-65 inches. If you’re looking for one to use in your bedroom, on the other hand, it’s better to get something more manageable like 24-32″. 

Measure out the wall location you’re thinking to place the TV on to see what size you need first. Then look at whether you want a wall mount or a stand to hold the Smart TV up. 

15. Smart TV vs Roku TV: Which is Better?

A Smart TV and Roku TV both allow users to stream TV and movies from the internet, so they’re similar in that respect.

Roku comes as an app and a streaming player device that connects to your TV. Users need to plug it in and can’t use the Roku app without a device. The combination helps ensure that it works on the majority of TVs.

One of the bigger differences comes down to content: Roku offers more channels and apps than a Smart TV would typically do.

Roku TV models offer consumers an easy to use, customizable home screen, a simple remote with everything you need to quickly launch shows and movies, and automatic software updates with new features and the latest streaming channels.

Roku TVs are cheaper than Smart TVs and can also be used as a regular TV without any additional equipment needed. 

But I prefer pairing a Smart TV and with a Roku Express 4K+ or Roku Ultra because the Smart TV has many more built-in features like Alexa voice commands. 

16. Smart TV vs Amazon Fire TV: Which is Better?

On the face of it, a Smart TV and a Amazon Fire TV Stick offer the same types of functions, but there are some considerations to account for when deciding between the two. 

For starters, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a dongle that plugs into an HDMI port. If you don’t already have a smart TV, and don’t fancy splashing out on a new TV, then this is an option worth considering. 

When it comes to installing third-party apps, some brands of Smart TVs are mroe restrictive to the apps that can be installed. The Fire TV Stick is an Android-based system that has very few restrictions on the apps that can be installed. It can also be paired with Alexa devices to allow Voice control. 

As with the Roku, Amazon Fire TV offers consumers a higher degree of customization than most Smart TVs and is a cheaper option. 

While an Amazon Fire TV is a great option, my preference would be for a Smart TV with the same functions built-in. Ultimately, it is one less piece of technology to worry about. 

17. Smart TV vs Apple TV: Which is Better?

If you are already a user of Apple equipment like their iPhone, then the Apple TV option is worth considering. 

Similar to the Roku and the Amazon Fire TV, the Apple TV 4K or HD system plugs into an HDMI port and connects to the internet to offer a host of streaming services.

If you already own an Apple computer or phone, it also syncs with your existing Apple account and gives you access to features like your iTunes and stored photos. 

One disadvantage is the proprietary nature of the Apple TV. This means it is more limited in what apps it offers. 

Although it does now offer support for services like Amazon Prime Video, users that would like to install apps such as Spotify may be disappointed.

In most instances, particularly for those without an Apple account, a good Smart TV will be a better option when it comes to choosing between the two. As with all things Apple, diehard Apple fans will beg to differ.

18. Smart TV vs Google Chromecast: Which is Better?

Google Chromecast is a device that can offer video and audio streaming options by plugging it into an HDMI port on a TV. There are two versions, the Google Chromecast Ultra in 4K quality and the regular Google Chromecast (3rd Gen) in HD quality.

One note about a Chromecast, it doesn’t come with a remote control, rather it is controlled through an app on your smartphone. This can be a disadvantage if not all members of your household have a smartphone.

If you are already an Android user, you’d likely have a Google account. A Chromecast offers you access to all media linked to that account. Once installed, the Chromecast allows you access to all the most popular streaming platforms.

Depending on the Smart TV, the services that are available on both devices are likely to be similar. And of course, a Smart TV will come with a remote. 

If a remote is important to you, then there are workarounds that will let you program most controllers to control your Chromecast.

If you are more focused on budget, then Google Chromecast is definitely an option, otherwise, stick with the smart TV.

19. Should I Buy a Smart TV or Buy a Cheap TV and a Set-Top Box?

There are pros and cons to both methods, but it is also worth keeping in mind that there are some cheap Smart TVs on the market that are worth considering too!

One advantage of buying a set-top box is that it will be easier and cheaper to upgrade in the future. 

While this is an advantage in some circumstances, many of the changes in technology that drive the need to update are likely to also require a TV upgrade. This is especially relevant when it comes to display technologies.  

It is always worth remembering that cheap TVs are usually cheap because they use older display technologies.

Set-top boxes can also have more apps available than many Smart TVs, particularly if the Smart TV uses a proprietary Operating System. These TVs tend to be limited in the apps that they can run.

Ultimately, if your budget is limited, then buying a cheap TV and a set-top box is a cost-effective method of getting Smart TV features at a fraction of the cost.

20. Is a Smart TV Wireless?

In 99.99% of cases, the answer to this is – yes. Just about any modern Smart TV is Wi-Fi enabled with a built-in wireless adapter. 

Many Smart TVs also have an ethernet port to connect to the Internet. This is a good option if the TV is located where there is a weak Wi-Fi signal.

21. Can a Smart TV Connect to Wi-Fi or Hotspot?

As long as the TV has wireless capabilities, then it is in all likelihood able to connect to your Wi-Fi router or hotspot. 

The procedure will vary depending on the brand and model of your TV, but the process of connecting to Wi-Fi or Hotspot will involve:

  • Scanning for your Wi-Fi network
  • Entering your password using the remote control

As streaming video requires a lot of bandwidth and a solid connection, it is best to have the TV as close to your router as possible, preferably in the same room.

22. Can a Smart TV Work Without the Internet?

A smart TV can still work without the internet, although obviously, you won’t be able to use any of the features that require an internet connection. 

If you have an antenna attached for terrestrial TV or a Satellite TV connection, then you will still be able to watch these without an internet connection.

Blu-ray / DVD players, media stored on hard drives and USB sticks, and game consoles also work with a Smart TV without an internet connection.

Read the in-depth article: Will a Smart TV Work Without an Internet Connection?

23. Can a Smart TV Be Hacked or Get a Virus?

Unfortunately, yes, a Smart TV can be hacked. But it is rare Smart TVs will virus or be open to an attack by hackers. Many Smart TVs now come with virus checkers allowing you to run a virus scan, usually from within the settings menu.

But let me reiterate, these are rare occurrences, Smart TVs usually have a “read-only” operating system. This makes it extremely difficult for virus creators to target Smart TVs. 

The manufacturers also have safeguards like restricting you to apps that are certified as safe and ensuring that firmware updates are digitally signed.

It is also good practice to ensure that software and firmware updates for Smart TVs are installed as they are released. They will usually close new, potential security holes.

If you are worried about your Smart TV getting hacked, you can get a Non-Smart TV and buy a streaming device like the Amazon Fire TV Stick to plug into the HDMI port. While the Fire Stick is susceptible to hacking and viruses, your TV will not be.

24. How Long Does a Smart TV Last?

How long a Smart TV lasts can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. 

It is dependent on factors like the quality of the Smart TV components) and the technology used. As a general rule, OLED screens are usually longer lasting than LED screens, however, the quality of the product also plays a part here too.

Most manufacturers claim a working life for their TV sets of between 40,000 to 60,000 hours. However, other factors like continuous use, operating environment (temperature and humidity) and the brightness setting of your screen can affect this figure.

In general, you should expect to get at least 5 to 7 years from a Smart TV, and in many cases much longer.

25. Can a Smart TV Spy On You?

If you classify “spying” as collecting data about your viewing habits, then yes some Smart TVs do spy on you. 

This feature is most commonly known as Automatic Content Recognition (ACR), although not all manufacturers call it by this name. It’s the technology used to create personalizations for you. 

This spying feature can help by recommending shows based on your past viewing habits, but it can also target ads based on the data it collects. 

Most manufacturers have privacy policies that require you to agree to this data being collected (remember those screens you flicked through during the initial setup?). 

There are so many of these user agreements and in the excitement of getting a new toy up and running, we tend to just “default agree” with these choices.

There are options available to turn this feature off, and it is different for each manufacturer, a quick internet search will point you in the right direction if this is a concern.

26. Is a Smart TV Better Than Cable?

One of the benefits of a Smart TV is it allows you to access a large amount of media without the need to subscribe to a high monthly Cable Service cost. 

However, for most of the top services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, you will need to pay a monthly subscription to watch their movies and TV shows. But there are also plenty of free services like YouTube and other on-demand services to watch movies and shows. 

Smart TVs can also offer other functions like gaming and web browsing that are not available through cable. And of course, Smart TVs can also get cable if all that isn’t enough.

The answer to this question can come down to personal preference. If I was given a choice of one or the other, then I would always go for the Smart TV. Smart TVs have far more to offer and more versatility than a cable system.

27. Can a Smart TV Get Local Channels?

A Smart TV can get local channels if you have an antenna (in some cases cable or satellite too) that enables you to pick up the signal. 

If you have an existing method of watching local channels, then your Smart TV will be able to do the exact same, using the same method.

Many local channels also stream their shows and schedules, live or delayed, on the internet and may even have an app that you can install on your Smart TV.

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Written by:

Greg Randall
Greg Randall is deeply immersed in Smart Home Technology, with years of experience in home automation, from smart displays to TVs. He enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with like-minded enthusiasts. Beyond smart homes, Greg loves snowboarding and exploring new culinary scenes with friends, bringing a zest for adventure and fine dining to his tech-savvy lifestyle.