MAY 23, 2024

What is a Smart TV and should I buy one?

TVs aren’t just televisions any more, with most being sold as “Smart” TVs. But what makes a TV smart – and what Smart TV features are worth paying extra for?

If you’re in the market for a new TV, you’ll have a huge range of choices to make, whether that’s around specific brands, from the budget to the premium range, across sizes that can fit neatly into caravans to panels that are in effect walls in their own right.

Across nearly all of the new TVs sold right now, you’ll also see the term “Smart TV” bandied about. This doesn’t mean you need some kind of PhD to understand its content, but instead a catch-all term used to define Internet-connected TVs capable of running a number apps, predominantly streaming TV apps in their own right.

TV wall mounting service from Geeks2U

Geeks2U can help you to mount your television to your wall. Our professional technicians will expertly mount your TV, connect it to the Wi-Fi, configure and update settings, neatly arrange wiring and more.

What makes a TV a “Smart” TV?

Your basic TV since its inception was interested in receiving signals; originally analog signals though all TV transmissions in Australia are now and have been for some decades digital broadcast. Outside of internal tuners and the needed components to display an image, they really weren’t all that smart in a computing sense.

A smart TV – and the term is absolutely tied to the switch away from classic old Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TVs to flat panel LCDs and OLED TVs – has internal components that let it run applications on top of whatever’s being broadcast to it from your TV antenna. It’s broadly similar to the app approach taken by your existing smartphone, except that nobody really has the wrist strength to strap a 75” OLED to their arms!

The majority of Smart TV platforms tend largely to concentrate on streaming TV platform support for services such as Netflix, Disney+, STAN, YouTube and the like, as well as the catch-up services offered by the Free-To-Air broadcasters such as ABC iView, SBS On Demand, 7Plus, 9Now and 10Play. Other apps are available on some platforms, including some games, but it’s in the streaming media space that Smart TVs have become most popular.

Those streaming apps do rely on having some kind of Internet connection, which means that they hook into your home’s existing broadband via either Wi-Fi or direct ethernet connections. You then use the TV remote to sign into your subscribed services, and rather than watching through a set top box or on other devices, it’s all done through the one remote, which is nicely simple.

Is it worth buying a Smart TV?

The primary benefit of having a Smart TV is integration, because you don’t need to set up or configure any additional devices or set top boxes or the like, or worry about where their remote controls might be, or which particular input they’re connected to.

It also simplifies plugging in and setting up your new TV, because you don’t have to think about plugging in other devices if all you want to do is watch actual TV. The one power plug that powers your screen is all that’s generally needed.

Smart TV remotes will typically have a “Home” button that takes you to a central simple interface that lets you select streaming services (or other apps) from an integrated menu, at which point all you need to do is get the bowl of chips and your favourite beverage ready before your next binge watching session.

When they were first “new” – a touch over a decade ago, more or less – Smart TV features attracted a premium price, but these days you’d be hard pressed to find a TV that didn’t sell itself as having some level of Smart TV integration, and that even includes most of those really cheap TVs you find sold in supermarkets or through some of the less-well-regarded online retailers too. In terms of the bigger brands such as Samsung, LG or Sony,  they’re Smart TV-ready across the board whether you’re spending a few hundred dollars on a TV or many thousands. In other words, you don’t really have to pay “extra” for a Smart TV.

The big downside to Smart TV platforms is that they’re not always updated on a regular basis, and this can mean that changes within specific streaming platforms, or the emergence of new streaming platforms might leave you unable to access services.

In some cases the app won’t load, or it won’t play content, and unless the manufacturer issues a software upgrade, you’ve got no way to access those services. That might not be a problem depending on the services you use or the newness of the TV for everyone, but as an example, when Disney+ launched, very few existing Smart TVs had it available day one – or in many cases, for some time thereafter.

What’s the best smart TV? What about the best cheap smart TV?

The issue with answering this question is that it’s both variable depending on your TV watching preferences, but also a total moving feast, because if there’s one tech gadget that’s nearly always on sale somewhere, it’s TVs, and that includes Smart TVs.

Within the Smart TV category there’s definitely an element of getting what you pay for in a linear cost sense; more expensive Smart TVs tend to have better internal processors which enable more Smart TV apps and features, and those from reputable brands tend to enjoy longer supported lifespans in terms of app and software upgrades. Conversely the cheapest smart TVs may have a range of apps available when you buy them, but that might be it for new services or software updates. That’s not always 100% the case, but it’s a good yardstick for Smart TV feature longevity.

That can make buying a “good brand” Smart TV if you see it at a good sale price a wise buy, though it’s worth checking carefully just how old the TV in question is. One of the big reasons that TVs go on sale so frequently is that models are refreshed annually, which means there’s big pressure to sell off last year’s stock before the newer and better screens come into stores. Buying a much older Smart TV might limit your ongoing app support options.

If you are considering a Smart TV, it’s well worth your while heading to a few stores and having a bit of a demo go on the major and minor brands where feasible to ensure that you’re also happy with the smart TV interface they offer. What Samsung has might support, say, Netflix in the same way that LG does, but both big TV brands have quite different visual and control systems for their Smart TVs – and for most of us, that’s an interface we’ll be using for many years to come, so it’s wise to ensure that you’re going to be happy with it.

Geeks2U: your wall mounting experts

Ready to wall mount your television? Call us to book a Geeks2U technician today. If we can’t help, you don’t pay a cent!

Can I make my existing TV smart?

If you’ve got an existing TV that lacks Smart TV features – or an older Smart TV that lacks access to a streaming service you’re keen to spend some quality time with – there is a way to add Smart TV style features to it, as long as it’s got an HDMI port somewhere. If you’ve still got a hugely heavy old CRT style TV, or a very early flat panel as your primary TV, you’re plumb out of luck, but that’s stretching quite far back in TV technology terms.

The easiest way to add Smart TV features to an existing TV is to use a smart TV set top box or dongle, like the Google Chromecast with Google TV, the Amazon Fire TV Stick or something fancier like the Apple TV set top box. Here you’re effectively offloading the “smart” part of a Smart TV to a separate device – so you’ll typically need an extra power socket for it – though this can be a smart way in itself to update your existing Smart TV as it’s considerably cheaper than buying an entirely new TV if yours is still in fine working order.

If you’ve got a passion for gaming consoles, Sony’s PlayStation 4/5 and Microsoft’s Xbox One/X/S models also feature a lot of the apps you’ll find on Smart TV platforms, so that’s another way to get the benefits of Smart TV. As with the set top boxes and dongles, however, that does involve a little bit of setup around plugs and cables, as well as finding another remote control or controller to get your Smart TV fix.

Can I wall mount a Smart TV?

Absolutely you can, with the one caveat being that you do need to consider how it’s going to connect to your home or building’s Internet connection. In most cases this will be over Wi-Fi, where the higher positioning of the TV on the wall might actually help with the data connection relative to your Wi-Fi router, but for TVs that require an Ethernet connection (or if that’s just what you prefer for location or signal stability reasons) you will need to consider the practicalities of how you’re going to get that wired connection to work. Need some help wall mounting a Smart TV? Geeks2U is ready to assist you with your TV mounting needs; just contact us to get started!

1300 769 448

or complete our form today to set up an appointment with a computer repair technician

Photo of Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman
A multi-award winning journalist, Alex has written about consumer technology for over 20 years. He has written and edited for virtually every Australian tech publication including Gizmodo, CNET, PC Magazine, Kotaku and more.