This guide was written in 2019 but has been kept up to date with modern standards
Table of Contents
Turning your TV into a Smart TV is easy
You don’t need to purchase a Smart TV to have a Smart Home, you can easily create a Smart TV from any television with a few creative methods. Whilst Smart TV’s are now cheap, why buy a new one when you can just upgrade your current one?
How do I make my dumb TV a Smart TV?
Simply plug in an Amazon Firestick or Google ChromeCast into your dumb TV, connect those devices to your Wi-Fi Network and use a Smartphone, Tablet, Laptop or their remotes to stream Music and Videos to your now Smart TV. You can also use something like Miracast which mirrors your mobile device onto your TV and that only requires an additional HDMI cable.
There are many alternatives to the Google Chromecast and Amazon Firestick, one of these being the Roku Express or Now TV Smart Stick. But I tend to stick with the more well-known devices. The Roku will likely have more apps available and can certainly add third-party devices but this can be a security risk.
Compare Media Streaming Devices
Price of Product
Roku Streaming Stick +
Nvidia Shield TV 4K
Roku Express 4K+
Amazon TV Fire Stick
Only for Amazon Prime Movies
Amazon Fire Stick 4K
Only for Amazon Prime Movies
Only for Apple TV+
Between $179 – $199
* Restricted Firmware and applications via a store
Common Asked Questions
How do you know if you have a Smart TV?
A Smart TV is essentially a TV which connects to other devices or the internet. In this case, using Netflix, Plex, Amazon Prime (30 Day Free Trial here!) would all be Smart TV utilities.
If you have a 4K TV, you will need to upgrade your Netflix plan if you want to stream in 4K!
If you have this natively, congratulations, your Television is Smart TV ready. Otherwise, you will need to convert your TV from a “Dumb TV”.
Can I get Netflix without a Smart TV?
Yes! In addition to being able to turn your TV into a Smart TV for free, a lot of the newer TVs now have Netflix as an App built-in, a lot of older TVs and budget newer TVs don’t.
So, to get your Netflix and Chill on easily, you may find that the Google Chromecast, Amazon Firestick and Even the Roku is the way to go.
There are alternatives like the Raspberry Pi and even using Plex which we will discuss later.
The Best TV Dongle Which Uses Wi-Fi
There is no ‘best’ Wi-Fi Dongle, most of them simply stream video wirelessly over your network from Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Video and even Plex if you have a localized Network.
A lot of people call them “PC-TV Sticks” and there’s a ton of them on the market which aren’t exactly great and essentially run on the same Linux based software as the Roku.
Personally, I consider Roku as the best of the lower-tier types of PC-TV Sticks for user interactivity.
If you’re a little more technical, the Roku is great. If you just want it to work out of the box, go for the Amazon Firestick / Google Chromecast.
The Amazon Fire TV Streaming service is pretty clean if you have Amazon Prime, but doesn’t have a great Prime selection as it tricks you into seeing non-prime content that you need to pay for.
Can I stream videos to my TV in 4k?
Amazon recently released the Fire TV Stick 4k which replaces the standard Fire TV Stick and supports 4K Streaming.
It is still a budget device which is great at only £40 ($50). Obviously this only really works if your internet connection is quick enough to buffer at 4K and your TV supports 4K.
It’s worth noting the standard Firestick is the only device which doesn’t have the ability to stream in 4K. If you use Google, you will need to get the Google Chromecast Ultra to stream in 4K, although this is around double the price of the original product, it does even it out with the price of the Fire Stick. Read more on how to create a 4K UHD Smart Home Setup
Can I turn a CRT Monitor into a Smart TV?
Most CRT monitors use what is called VGA, you’ll have seen this in the back of the monitor which has a lot of holes and requires a pin connector. This is definitely possible, but not recommended.
You’re going to need a VGA to HDMI converter for this which will allow you to connect your Amazon Firestick, Roku or Google Chromecast. It’s worth noting it needs to be a VGA to HDMI, not the other way round, see the picture below for an example.
Can I control my Smart TV without a remote?
Yes you can! If you have the Alexa Firestick, you’ll get a remote with a microphone in it to quick search, but if you have yourself an Alexa Smart Hub, you can send voice commands to your Firestick: “Alexa, play Stranger Things on Netflix”
For those of us who are lazy, this is fantastic. You can do this via other hubs such as the Google Home, but it requires a lot of workarounds with IFTTT. Honestly, it’s not worth the stress.
Play a movie or TV show on Netflix using Chromecast: “OK, Google, play Stranger Things on the Kitchen TV.” If you use a Roku stick, you can download the Skill for this onto Alexa which allows you to then ask Roku to search for something: “Alexa, launch Hulu on Roku”
Do Smart TVs need aerials?
No, as you’re using Wi-Fi, you’ll not need to connect to any stations. Essentially you’re streaming data just over your internet connection, just like if you watched YouTube on your phone. Without any need to tune your TV, you’ll literally be able to watch anything, anywhere.
Will my Smart TV work without an internet connection?
Technically, yes. But mostly, no. You can use your Smart TV to connect locally to something along the lines of Plex, but if you’re looking to use a subscription service like Netflix, Amazon Movies or BBC iPlayer, you would need an internet connection.
Will my DIY Smart TV regularly update the software with new features?
This is something I can’t directly answer, this really depends on whether or not the device you’re using to connect to the internet is updated. A lot of these devices will be updated for years to come and due to their price it’s not really a problem if you need to upgrade.
A lot of the major platforms such as Roku, Google Chromecast and Amazon Firestick will keep up to date with the latest security protocols and add new features when they can because they’re constantly in competition with one another. A lot of these patches will add new support for extras such as Dolby Vision, HDR etc.
If you’re using an Android or Linux based platform you’ll find that there is a whole operating system update as well as the TV software updates that are on it, I highly suggest updating both.
I really wouldn’t worry about thinking if you’ll be up to date on everything, if the next Netflix turns up, you’ll find it will appear on your service too because the competitors will want to supply it too.
Can my Smart TV crash or hang?
100% they can and will, Smart TVs are just compact computers, so they’ll be trying to work on Video Processing, up-scaling/converting to your monitor / TVs resolution.
There’s plenty more specifics such as memory and processing power, very similar to your phone. This will happen for a variety of different reasons across a variety of different tools and platforms.
Typically it happens more often if you’re using a cheap third-party tool which utilizes Android or Linux and doesn’t have the right specifications for what it’s trying to do.
Should I buy a Smart TV or TV and a set-top box?
The answer is a Smart TV, with the price of a Smart TV getting smaller and smaller it becomes apparent that it’s purely better value than a set-top box.
A Smart TV is an all in one system which requires no third party interruption, it requires less cables and they tend to have a completely inclusive update procedure making it easier for you or your family members to keep their TVs up to standard!
Regardless of the price difference in the specifications of Smart TVs between one another. Smart TVs offer better video processing and higher quality in the picture. If you’re looking to save money with Smart Home Technology, check out my blog post here on Saving Money with Home Automation.
How does a Smart TV work with Alexa?
This depends on the software on the TV / The way you’re doing it, if you’re using a Dumb TV and using an external device it’ll have full integration via the WiFi connection as per my blog post here.
The same tends to go with Smart TVs as they are recognized as Smart Devices and utilize an API to get stuff done, Smart TVs with Alexa already integrated offer a super simple set-up when you first turn them on.
What Alexa Commands can I use for my TV?
It’s very straight forward to use Alexa with your TV once it’s all set up, simply keep Alexa within the distance of yourself (I suggest not keeping it next to the TV Speakers, it makes it hard to control).
Make sure the extra apps you want are installed (NBC, Fox Now, BBC iPlayer, Netflix, etc and then say the following:
“Alexa, watch Breaking Bad on Netflix” “Alexa, watch The Man in the High Castle on Amazon” “Alexa, watch Bill and Ben the flowerpot men”
Leaving out the “On _____” part will make it search for you which is great if you still have a remote next to you. You can also ask it to rewind, pause and play as well:
“Alexa, rewind” “Alexa, rewind two minutes.” “Alexa, Pause”
How to hook up your Samsung Smart TV to Alexa
Samsung as of the moment are the kings of integration across multiple platforms.
With the use of the Samsung SmartThings Hub, you can connect your Samsung SmartTV directly to Alexa meaning you don’t need the firestick controller.
Start by connecting your Samsung smart TV with the SmartThings Hub.
If it’s compatible, turn your TV on and put it on the same network as the hub.
Press the button your TV remote and select “Settings.“ Go to “System” and then select “Samsung Account.” Your TV should now show up on your SmartThings app.
Open the Alexa app and tap “Menu.” Click on “Smart Home” on the dropdown list and turn it on.
Use the search bar at the top and search for “SmartThings.” When you find it, tap “Enable.” (If this doesn’t appear, There is a section below these points on how to fix this).
A new window will come up asking you to sign into your SmartThings account. Fill in the details and hit “Sign in.”
You will see a new page with a drop-down area. Click on the bar with the arrow and choose “Live.SmartHomeDB.com.” Click “Authorize.”
You should get a message telling you Alexa was successfully linked with SmartThings.
Close the window, find a pop-up menu and click “Discover devices.”
You should see the SmartThings skill added to your Alexa app with a blue button below it. Tap the blue button that says “Discover,” and wait for Alexa to notice all the connected devices.
For those of you without the Official Samsung Smart TV integration, look for a skill called “Unofficial Samsung SmartTV Controller” by “ShemeshApps”, it is a bit of a hack job and does require a Raspberry Pi, It works great but does require some technical hackery to work.
Why should I use Alexa?
It goes without saying, Alexa is the #1 in this industry for this specific area. In terms of competition, I don’t really think that there’s anything commercially available which beats this.
If you have a Raspberry Pi or you know how to work with Linux, the Roku box may be good for you. However, to keep things simple, Alexa is my option.
What do you think? Do you use the Alexa Firestick or have a recommended Smart TV?
What Smart TV Apps can I use?
This completely depends on the TV you have if that has Smart Apps as well as the Set-Top Boxes you opt to use. There is no set standard, however, most of these devices do offer the major Catch-up services.
A catch-up service is anything along the lines of BBC iPlayer, All 4, ITV Hub, Hulu, Disney+ and Fox On Demand.