While nostalgia goggles may convince us that the televisions of previous decades did everything we required, modern television has become incredibly diverse in its features.
Unlike televisions of old, however, newer TVs come with several features that may be unique to the brand or type of television. This can often confuse people as to whether or not they have a smart television.
Thankfully, smart televisions come with a few notable distinctions.
In this article, we will cover what constitutes a smart television, what they have to offer, and whether or not the one in your living room fits the bill. We will also feature a small FAQ at the end to answer common questions concerning smart televisions.
What is a Smart TV?
Smart televisions come with several features packed under the hood.
The first and most obvious feature is the ability to access the internet, which helps open up the products to several streaming services that include audio platforms such as Spotify as well as movie services like Netflix. You can also access internet video platforms that may even come included with the device, such as Youtube.
Almost all should come with an Ethernet port and/or wireless internet capabilities. They will also come with a “Graphical User Interface” or GUI which is little more than a visual menu that allows for easily accessed settings without prior tech knowledge or savvy.
Several have voice commands through a microphone built into the device and will usually come with USB ports to allow flash drives, keyboards, computer mice, and whatever else you can fit into it.
How To Tell If You Own A Smart TV
Smart televisions contain a lot of different options when it comes to how you consume media.
It can work exclusively as a way to absorb basic cable or work as the hub of all entertainment you consume. The average smart television is capable of streaming shows through Netflix, browsing video platforms on the internet, and even playing music from your phone or audio streaming platforms.
If you are on the fence about your television’s intelligence, the next few paragraphs will easily clear up any confusion.
Streaming Apps or Icons
The first step to figuring out if your television has more going on than meets the eye is to check if it has streaming apps or icons. Even an option to enable a Wifi connection can prove to be a dead giveaway, as basic cable does not require internet.
Typically, most apps will be found on the App store, though some (Youtube, Netflix, Prime Video) will almost certainly come with the television out-of-the-box.
If your television comes with an App store, streaming apps, or even internet capabilities – you more than likely have a smart television already. This isn’t to say that it offers everything another smart television does, they are all different, though it will come with most of the usual features.
The Remote Has a Menu or Streaming Button
If there is one thing that is a notable downside to smart televisions, it is the convoluted nature of their remotes.
There are considerably more buttons that often don’t give a great description of what they do and for those who aren’t particularly tech-savvy – this can prove to be an annoying riddle to solve. Thankfully, it also is a telltale sign that your television is indeed smart.
There are a few notable buttons to look for. The first would be an options, menu, or setting button, which will lead to an in-depth on-screen menu that likely has settings for streaming options, internet access, and more. Some devices will even feature a button with the logo of a streaming service that has come with the television itself and allows one-touch access to a library of films and shows.
While this is true of a majority of smart televisions, there are models that have more simplistic remotes that skip the additional buttons. So even if your television doesn’t have all the additional options on its remote, it doesn’t explicitly mean that it is a “dumb” product.
Look for an Ethernet Port
A basic television has no need for internet access, so Ethernet ports will likely not be found in the row of electrical outlets on the back of your television. An Ethernet port sort of resembles an upside-down ziggurat or a square with two smaller rectangles underneath it. There is usually one, though that does vary from product to product.
This will typically be found behind your television next to a bunch of open sockets and is essential for a wired internet connection. If you are unsure of where it is or what it looks like, the next step will give you a more detailed way to find it.
Refer to the User Manual
As much as most of us hate to even acknowledge its existence; the user manual can clear up a lot of questions we may have. In any manual worth it’s salt you will have a detailed summary of the television telling you exactly what each port, button, and setting does as well as give a list of the product’s features.
If you are in the dark about what your television is capable of, you may want to flip open the strangely slick pages of your TV Handbook.
There are a few key things you want to look for: streaming options, internet access, and an Ethernet port. Most manuals will have an illustrated picture of the television with intermingling lines pointing to various parts, ports, and buttons on the television. If one indicates an Ethernet port on the back of the television, it means that your television is capable of accessing the internet.
Looking toward the tables of contents, there should be an entire chunk referring to “Smart Features” or “Smart Options” somewhere in the list of chapters and titles. This is a dead giveaway and will also refer you to any and all of the smart features that your specific product comes with.
If you lost your manual or misplaced it in the trash, you can google the product name of your device, and almost all companies have a digital manual or PDF file that will bring up the manual on your computer. You can also go to the manufacturer’s site itself, find the product, and scroll to the bottom, which is usually where the manual or digital user guide can be found.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I look for when purchasing a Smart TV?
The biggest concern when purchasing a smart television is the price of the product. Cheap televisions are often not good televisions, though certain brands do tend to bump up the price due to name recognition.
Your average 4k television will go for somewhere in the $500 – $700 price range and be around 50 inches, with 1080 HD televisions going for much less.
Speaking of, the resolution is another big selling point. 4k is the gold standard nowadays, though for smaller televisions many would argue that the difference is negligible. If you want crystal clear clarity on your movies, then you may want to spring for a 4k (or even 8k) television.
Refresh rate refers to how smoothly pictures can transition from frame to frame on a television. 60 Hz, 120 Hz, and 144 Hz are the three big choices, with the higher numbers meaning a better refresh rate.
While the human eye can detect the difference, it can sometimes feel a bit off-putting for those not used to the higher Hertz. With that said, if you want a better visual experience for television or a competitive edge in video games, a better refresh rate will help.
For those who have the desire to watch more obscure streaming services, you may want to familiarize yourself with the listed apps that come with or can be downloaded onto a television.
Is a Smart TV Necessary?
This question largely depends on how you consume television. If you choose to flip through the channels looking for something palatable to watch, a smart TV may be a bit more than you require.
If you do utilize streaming services and have no interest in 3rd party options like a Roku or Amazon Firestick, a smart television is a good purchase that will likely offer better visual clarity than a basic television can.
Does a Smart TV come with better visuals and audio?
The answer to this is a reluctant no with several asterisks.
A smart TV isn’t defined by its superior video or more immersive sound, though they do tend to bring more on both fronts.
This is more or less due to the fact that most companies are focusing entirely on the smarter side of televisions to keep up with competitors and meet the demands of their consumer base. So even though a smart TV does not guarantee better specs, they usually do have an advantage over more basic models.
Can Smart TVs access the web?
Usually, most smart TVs have an internet app or built-in web browser that allows you to access most parts of the internet. The caveat to this is that it won’t be as smooth as browsing with a keyboard (though you can usually plug one into the device) and sometimes the design of the website can come across as a bit wonky or even not show up correctly depending on the television.
If this is a big selling point to you, check prior to buying a television to see if it has the ability to browse the internet beyond social media and video streaming apps.
Smart televisions are not going anywhere and it’s reasonable to assume that in the next ten years, they will only become more prevalent.
The days of kicking your unreasonable heavy television to receive a better signal are long over, though there never seems to be an end to technical issues. While a smart TV won’t fix every issue you have with your afternoon entertainment, it will certainly make things more efficient.