Our media consumption habits are becoming increasingly sophisticated as we move into the digital age, where high-speed Internet connections are commonplace, and more and more people are turning to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, or sites like YouTube. In this way, traditional TVs are starting to become more and more useless. This is why, as of late, the “Smart TV” trend has been on the rise. They are meant as a convenient way to consume digital and Internet-based media right from the comfort of your couch.
The problem comes when you try to actually purchase a Smart TV. Typically they are significantly more expensive than regular TVs, making the barrier to entry a little high. Fortunately, there are a few other ways in which you can go about this, by converting your existing TV into something much smarter.
Use a Game Console
Modern consoles like the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Wii U, and Xbox One all have multimedia functionality of some kind. They may be better suited for making your TV “Smart” since they’re designed with the living room in mind. They’re often much more convenient to use from the couch, with user interfaces specifically tweaked for this.
The PS4 and Xbox One in particular offer quite a bit of multimedia functionality. They’re both starting to become “all-in-one” boxes that also happen to play high-end games. PS4 has more of a focus on games, while the Xbox One has everything and the kitchen sink. This may be the way to go if you’re willing to spend a little money.
Boxes and dongles dedicated to “Smart” functionality are a relatively new trend that people are starting to take a liking to. One of the first to do this was Apple with their Apple TV product. It works as advertised, although it may not be to everyone’s tastes and is limited in some ways unless you jailbreak it.
More recently Google has come out with the Chromecast, a small HDMI dongle that plugs directly into your TV and allows you to stream your media over your home Wi-Fi connection. The media doesn’t even have to come from a computer; it can also come from any Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. Mobile device apps can be made compatible with Chromecast, allowing more media sources to be streamed over (such as Netflix and Hulu). This is probably one of the cheapest ways to solve the problem. There are many more devices which are similar to Google Chromecast such as MK808, UG007B; we call them Android mini pc .
Use a Computer
A rather popular option these days is to simply use a computer that has TV output of some kind. In some cases a regular TV will take VGA input, but this is considered an old-fashioned way of doing it. The modern way is to use HDMI; typically a modern PC will have HDMI output of some kind. All you need is the cable and optionally some kind of media center software like XBMC.
There are downsides to this. With an actual Smart TV it’s designed right from the start to be instantly usable with a reasonably fast boot time and dedicated software. A computer, on the other hand, tends to take a bit longer to boot and can be less convenient to use than a dedicated Smart TV. There’s also the issue of power consumption, although PCs are becoming a lot better at this.
That covers the most popular ways that you can make your regular TV more useful, outside of purchasing a Smart TV. Each method has its own steps, so be sure to do your research to see what suits you the best. For me, I choose Android mini pc.