What is a Smart TV?
We are now in the age of “on demand” having many forms of entertainment right at our fingertips. HD Video, movies, music, television and games are easily accessible by simply launching an app. Smart features are a must-have these days and will be even more of a necessity in the future. Having a device with “Smart” capabilities means that your device connects to the internet and provides online services through applications (apps). These services vary from streaming HD Video to internet games. Some people are even starting to replace cable TV with all online broadcasting apps as their television programming.
Most of the newer flat screen HDTVs feature smart capabilities on board. This means that you can launch apps and streaming HD Video right from the TV requiring only an internet connection. If your TV does not have Smart capabilities you just need a smart Blu-ray player or a streaming media device. Most current gen gaming systems like PS4 and Xbox One allow you to launch most online apps as well.
Streaming Media Apps and Services
There is a wide variety of apps that provide streaming HD video, music, movies and games. Some apps even allow you to view live and archived TV programming. Many apps are free while some require a monthly or annual subscription fee. For example, YouTube is a free app while Netflix is a paid subscription service. Apps such as iTunes provide media rental services meaning that you can view a movie or video for a specific amount of time for a one time fee. TV networks like ESPN have apps that broadcast live and archived TV programming requiring you to log in through your cable or satellite provider to gain access.
Choosing a Streaming Media Player
Streaming media players or hubs are used for streaming HD video and using online apps. When choosing your device, consider what apps you already use or are currently subscribed to. Some apps are not available on certain devices while some are exclusive to specific devices. For example, iTunes is only available on Apple TV while Amazon Prime is exclusive to Amazon Fire TV.
Allows you to access apps using your smartphone as a remote and connects to your TV’s HDMI port. It has the ability to connect to Apple® and android devices as well as your laptop. These devices have the most reasonable price plus the latest Google Chromecast Ultra supports 4K HD video and HDR.
A great choice if you are already an Amazon Prime member and is overall a top-notch streaming device. It enables you to access most mainstream apps and all Amazon Prime member media including movies, TV shows, music and games. Newer released movie rentals that are not free for members are reasonably priced as well. A smaller compact version called Amazon Fire TV Stick is a pocket sized device that connects directly into your HDMI port on any HDTV expanding its accessibility. The original Fire TV box does support 4K Ultra HD Video and HDR while the compact Fire Stick currently does not.
Roku players provide the largest variety of apps in the Roku Channel Store. There are several different Roku players available based on what features you are looking for. The Roku 1 is the only one compatible with older TV’s with no HDMI port and has basic features. Roku 2 adds a faster processor, an Ethernet port along with Wifi, a USB port to play media files and a micro SD slot for extra storage. Roku 3 has the same features as Roku 2 adding a remote with a headphone jack and voice commands. Roku 4 has all of these features adding 4K UHD and HDR resolution with the ability to upscale 720p or 1080p signals. The Roku Streaming stick is a portable version of the Roku 2 and comes with a remote.
A good choice for Apple® users connecting all of your devices through AirPlay including your iPhone, iPad and MacBook. You can display content such as pictures and Video on your TV from any of your Apple devices. This is the only player with iTunes and Apple Music making it a great option if you already use these services frequently. Apple TV currently does not support 4K Ultra HD or HDR.
Finding the right streaming media player for you just takes a little research. Consider the services you already have and find the apps you are interested in. Finally you can choose the device that supports the apps you will use the most. Refer to FlatScreen 101 for all basics for HDTV.