Over the past few years, entertainment systems have taken a quantum leap forward. If you’re still channel-surfing, you’re probably missing out on some of the best content the web has to offer, along with a host of smart web-connected apps. The key is to connect fast, stream-friendly internet to your TV. A smart TV isn’t the only option to start using your favorite streaming services in your living room; these simple hacks will help you get the most out of your TV, whether it’s “smart” or not.
The Rise of the Smart TV
Today’s best HD TVs often have built-in Wi-Fi receivers, which are easy to use if you have fast internet. These “smart TVs” come equipped with on-board streaming applications and a host of other useful programs, similar to what you find on a tablet or smartphone. If you already have a smart TV, getting the most out of it is as simple as navigating to the application store and downloading your favorite apps. Streaming apps like Netflix and HBO, weather apps, music apps, and others give your smart TV a lot of extra features over a standard HD TV.
Smart TVs come preloaded with their own operating systems, and the capabilities and available apps vary by manufacturer. Most Sony TVs use an Android operating system, while TVs from Element come preloaded with Amazon Fire TV. Look into the operating system before you buy if you want to take advantage of specific apps, channels, or services.
Benefits of Video Streaming
If you love bingeing shows on Netflix and HBO, smart TVs make a great component in any entertainment system by bringing your favorite internet streaming services directly into your living room. In many cases, smart TV owners can ditch their cable package and save hundreds of dollars a year. If you prefer binge-watching through online apps like Netflix and HBO, upgrading to a smart TV is the perfect cord-cutting strategy.
To make the process simple, TOAST.net has high-speed internet that will support your streams. It’s recommended that you have speeds of at least 5Mbps per simultaneous stream, so make sure to get the package that will work for your situation.
Upgrading Not-So-Smart TVs
If your TV is a few years old and lacks a Wi-Fi receiver, there are still several ways to connect your TV to the internet. You can turn any TV into a smart TV by using a video streaming device, a computer, or a game system. These devices add web streaming capabilities to any TV, along with an operating system and a plethora of useful apps. All you need is an HDMI port, a power outlet, and a Wi-Fi connection.
Video Game Consoles
The newest crop of game consoles aims to replace most of your TV’s multimedia devices. According to Nielsen, game systems represent the vast majority of smart TV streaming devices in use today, which may be surprising given the buzz around devices like Apple TV. PlayStation and Xbox both offer their own in-system entertainment apps that replicate most of the capability of a dedicated streaming device. If you’re an avid gamer, these systems can get you most of the way towards a smart TV by themselves.
Dedicated Streaming Devices
In many ways, a video streaming device can be even better than the preloaded systems on a smart TV since you can choose whichever device best suits your personal preferences (and budget). They can also work in tandem with your cable box, giving you the best of both worlds.
- Roku TV
The Roku TV uses a wireless connection and a power outlet and plugs directly into your TV. Once it’s set up, you can stream thousands of shows and movies through its paid and subscription channels and utilize several web apps like YouTube. Roku is broadly available and has a budget-friendly version, so it’s a great system for dipping your toes into streaming devices.
- Amazon Fire TV
Amazon’s Fire TV works similarly to the Roku but with the added benefit of Amazon-specific apps. Fire TV also integrates perfectly with the Amazon Echo’s AI, Alexa, expanding your smart home possibilities. It’s a great pick for the voice activation capabilities, and it comes preloaded on some smart TVs.
- Apple TV
Apple TV plays well with other Apple products. You can use your iPhone as a remote, or access your music and movie library through iTunes or Apple Play. It’s also easy to switch between your TV, phone, tablet, and computer, so you can pick up your shows right where you left off.
Using a Home Computer as a Streaming Device
If you have a laptop, consider adding “smart TV” to its list of capabilities. You can plug your computer directly into your TV and have full access to the web, including your favorite streaming services. The interface isn’t quite as friendly if you’re sitting across the room, but there are third-party apps aimed at users who want to dedicate a PC to their TV.
Advanced users can create their own “streaming device” using a basic PC as the brain of their smart TV, which offers a lot more flexibility and customization over a set-and-forget device like a Roku. A wireless keyboard and mouse are great options for PC setups, but it’s possible to control them from your smartphone as well.
Wi-Fi Enabled Blu-Ray Players
If you’re holding on to your collection of physical media, a Blu-ray player with a Wi-Fi connection can marry all of your technologies together into the ultimate entertainment system. These work exactly like a regular Blu-ray player but add the capabilities of a streaming device. It’s a practical option if you want to maximize the number of media sources you have access to at any given time.
Once you’ve expanded your entertainment empire, additional upgrades like a surround sound system, game controllers, and advanced universal remotes make for great additions to your new smart TV. Either way, once you upgrade with a smart TV, it’s sure to be the center of your entertainment. And with TOAST.net high-speed internet, you’ll be able to enjoy your streams in great quality no matter which TV set-up you choose.
– Alex Haslam, cord-cutting expert at CutCableToday.com