There is no denying that TVs have come a long way in the past couple of years. We’re noticing a massive evolution in how they’re made, the materials used, the panel types with different qualities, and of course, the functionality. We are, of course, talking about the software manufacturers heavily advertise, which is now more than just “go through channels and display the Teletext information”.
Modern models can do everything – play on-demand content from a streaming service, play games, and some will even let you control your smart home device setup. It’s all up to the software that’s built-in, and for users that haven’t bought a new TV in a while, this poses the question – is my TV a smart TV?
Answering this is simpler than you think, but let’s take it one thing at a time, start with what a smart TV is, and get into the details and all the necessary information afterwards.
What is a Smart TV?
To understand what a smart TV is, let’s take a look at how original television sets work. They need a source from which they’d display content, and that can be a cable, an HDTV antenna, or any other A/V source. But that’s about it – they can’t do much more than display what’s being fed to them, and for many users, that’s not exactly ideal.
Smart TVs, on the other hand, offer a full-fledged operating system. In the best-case scenario, that means Google and the Android TV OS or Apple TV, but some proprietary operating systems also do a great job. This operating system allows you to connect your TV to the internet and allows it to support a wide variety of apps that you can download. We’ll get to the details in a moment, but this kind of functionality opens up a whole new world of entertainment you can enjoy.
With that in mind, if you’re buying a TV anytime soon, a smart TV should be a no-brainer update. They’re priced so well, it doesn’t make any sense for you not to get one, and you’ll be getting a whole new world of options!
How Do I Know if I Have a Smart TV?
As we mentioned, if you haven’t bought a TV in a while, you might not have a smart TV but a regular one on your hands. While this isn’t inherently bad, you should know that you’re missing out on a whole lot of functionality, and you should update it.
Distinguishing a regular TV from a smart one is rather easy – the apps give it away. Any smart TV, even the ones that opt for manufacturers’ proprietary operating systems, will have support for applications like YouTube and Netflix. So if yours does, chances are you are looking at some kind of smart TV.
There’s another thing that separates smart televisions from the regular models, and that’s internet connectivity. A smart TV must have a way to connect to the internet, either via Wi-Fi which you’ll find in your TV’s settings or via an Ethernet port at the rear. Note, however, that even some regular models come with such connectivity, so checking for applications like YouTube is a safer bet.
What Does a Smart TV Do That a Regular TV Doesn’t?
Well, quite a lot, but there are some things that you as a consumer will enjoy more than anything else.
The first and most important perk is the fact that you get on-demand streamed content from every provider you can think of. Stan, Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, you name it – all of them have simple applications that you can fire up and enjoy their streamed content. You can watch your movies and shows without waiting for your cable provider to show them.
But, that’s just the beginning. Modern smart TV operating systems have app stores that are very similar to the ones you get on your smartphone or computer, and you can download a vast variety of applications. Yes, a streaming service or two is probably your first pick, but you can also download social media apps that are optimized for the big screen, news apps, and also, games!
Yes, you can play games that you download straight to your TV – they’re oftentimes optimized for you to play with your remote, for example, and while it might sound a bit rudimentary, it’s a great way to have a bit of fun. These games aren’t meant to resemble a PC or console experience, but they’re simpler options that look like mobile games and a good method of relaxation.
Another thing that every smart TV has, as we mentioned earlier, is internet connectivity. While Wi-Fi does a great job, a wired Ethernet connector is usually the way to go. It gets you both stability, and better speeds, so try to get a TV that has one. That internet connectivity isn’t just used for streaming and downloading, but you can even utilize your TV to browse the internet if you’d like - all you need is a browser app.
Now, all the things we mentioned earlier are the most basic uses for a smart TV. These are the things that you’ll get with more or less every smart TV that has a nice operating system like Android TV, but they’re far from the only features. There are a lot of other things you can enjoy, and smart integration is one of them.
A popular feature on TCL TVs like the X10 or the C815 is AI integration and compatibility with smart home devices that work with the Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. If you already have a smart home setup that revolves around one of these devices, you can have your smart TV control your devices and have it be a part of your preset scenes. This is a seriously underestimated feature and one that many users enjoy more than they anticipated.
When everything is said and done, and when you consider the fact that most of the good options you can buy today do come with smart functionality, it makes perfect sense to buy one.
How Do I Make My TV a Smart TV?
If the answer to “Is my TV a smart TV” is no, and aren’t looking to buy one anytime soon, you can add smart functionality to your existing TV. There are two main ways – an Android (or Apple TV) box or a Chromecast.
An Android box is, like its name suggests, a box similar to a set-top box, which you connect to your TV and use as a source. These boxes tend to come with a full-fledged Android operating system, but some cheap ones won’t have Android TV and instead will get you regular Android which is difficult to navigate with a remote. On the flip side, with such a box you aren’t limited to applications made for Android TV, but you can run any Android app you’d like provided you can work with the UI. Note that this doesn’t apply to all boxes, just some of them.
A Chromecast is a device made by Google, and it’s probably the simplest way to make your TV a smart TV. It plugs into the back of your TV, in one of the available HDMI ports, and uses a USB cable for power since it can’t be powered via HDMI. You then connect the Chromecast to your Wi-Fi network, and you can use your smartphone (connected to the same network) to watch streamed content on your TV from YouTube! This can be anything from popular streaming providers to content that’s on your phone, and you can even mirror your phone’s display on the TV. It does add a lot of versatility, but it’s still not as good as built-in Android TV.
Some TCL Options to Consider
If you’re in the market for a new TV, and you want all the nice things a smart TV can get you like on-demand streamed content, there are a couple of TCL models that should be right up your alley.
The C8 is a great choice for people who appreciate both video and audio since it comes with Onkyo Audio for an excellent experience and a beautiful panel. At a 4K resolution, everything is crystal clear and the wide color gamut and HDR support get you beautiful, vivid colors in every scenario. Android TV makes sure your connected smart experience is taken care of, and there’s AI-IN so you can control smart devices in your home too.
The flagship X10 comes with everything you’d like a high-end TV to have, from the mini LED 4K QLED panel that offers an unparalleled viewing experience, to the Android TV integration with Google Play Services, AI-IN, and the inclusion of Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos for video and audio, respectively. It’s a true flagship in every sense of the word, and you’ll love every minute you spend watching it.