This guide was written in 2019 but has been kept up to date with modern standards
It’s 2020, everyone who buys a new TV will expect it to be a Smart TV, but what’s the point in swapping out a perfectly good dumb TV that works with an expensive inclusive smart TV? There is no reason!
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.
A Smart TV is essentially a TV which connects to other devices or the internet. In this case, using Netflix, Plex, Amazon Prime 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”.
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.
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 localised 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.
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
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.
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.
You would be better using a Chromecast with the Google Home, as this works natively and can be done with the following command:
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”
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.
Technically, yes. But mostly, no. You can use your Smart TV to connect locally to something along the lines of Plex, but should you wish to use something along the lines of Netflix, Amazon Movies, BBC iPlayer etc you would need an internet connection.
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.
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 utilises Android or Linux and doesn’t have the right specifications for what it’s trying to do.
The answer is yes, with the price of a Smart TV getting smaller and smaller an investment to that would be better if you could, it’s all in one, less cables and they tend to have a completely inclusive update package making it easier for yourself.
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.
Whilst I don’t actually watch TV very much as I use it mostly for my Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360 and RetroPi (I may actually cover this on my blog as it’s a cool home addition for you and your friends!), I do have a tendency to go back and watch older films I love, like Full Metal Jacket and Citizen Kane.
So yes, whilst I may have a stick up my backside about cinema and it’s importance, I do still love to binge watch Netflix shows.
In this world of interconnection based on Smart Devices and APIs and timeywimey stuff, it can be easy to lose track of your setup.
That’s why SmartTVs doing all the work for you built into one are fantastic! I only have a Hisense 2018 4K Smart TV which does the job fine, but I also have a ‘dumb’ TV I converted into a Smart TV.
There are currently a few budget Smart TVs I’ll recommend to you as of the moment, one of which is my Hisense 2018 4K Smart TV, honestly, it does a great job, quality is enough for me and I love everything being tweaked into one package.
Alternatively, there is an off-brand SmartTV which a friend of mine owns and it seems pretty good! It’s 40″ and 4K, it holds up really well, the quality is great for the price bracket (£240 ish with free delivery), it has Netflix, YouTube, iPlayer, Freeview and enough HDMI ports for extra goodies!
This depends on the software on the TV / The way you’re doing it, if you’re using a DumbTV 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 recognised as Smart Devices and utilise an API to get stuff done, Smart TVs with Alexa already integrated offer a super simple set-up when you first turn them on.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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?