By Andy Penfold
WHEN JOHN LOGIE Baird invented the
first publicly demonstrated TV system, the
world rightly thought it was pretty smart. But
TVs today take clever to a whole other level.
Smart TVs, as the latest crop of television sets
is known, do a lot more than simply beam TV
channels into your living room.
Fun and function
When the term “smart” is used in a technology context, it means that Internet connectivity has been added to a device, bringing
new functionality. So, a smart TV is a model
that can get online and provide access to
streamed content, apps (free and paid), games
and other widgets to you via the screen.
Most smart TVs these days connect to
the Internet wirelessly using your home Wi-Fi
connection. These TVs indicate that they are
Wi-Fi enabled (or built-in). The TV simply
connects to your router using easy on-screen
commands, in the same way you connect
your computer, smartphone or tablet to your
Be aware that if you’re already using a
range of Internet-connected devices wirelessly at home, a smart TV is yet another one
to add to your router’s work, which can affect
its performance. If this is an issue, you can also
connect the TV to the Internet via a wired
There’s an app for that
There’s no standard for smart TVs. Each
manufacturer offers a different platform and
user interface to deliver Internet services, so
it’s important to check what services and
apps are available on the models you’re interested in. App stores, where you can download additional programs, are available on
most smart TVs, but, again, what each manufacturer offers varies wildly.
Most smart TVs provide a means to
watch on-demand TV content, usually
through built-in or downloadable apps, so
you can watch HD content on your TV
rather than having to use a browser on your
computer. Depending on which TV brand
you go for, you’ll find a range of TV channels’
on-demand services, such as Fox Now and
Streaming movies is also very easy. If
you’re a user of Netflix, Hulu Plus or Vudu,
check whether your TV has an app that will
let you access your account on your service.
You’ll even find models with apps such as
Skype, Facebook and Twitter, so you can use
your TV to stay in touch with people on your
social networks. And, just as with your
phone, apps are available that can give you
snippets of information, from weather
reports to sports scores.
Get smart with smart TV
A smart TV will let you access your
apps via remote control, and many TVs
allow you to customize your app home
screen. That way, you can remove apps you
never use and keep your favorites just a few
button pushes away.
Many viewers have a second screen—a
smartphone or tablet—in their hands while
they watch TV these days, and some smart
TVs have a companion app that can be
downloaded to such a device. The smartphone app can have a range of functions,
from acting as a second remote to letting you
stream video content from your phone to the
TV, or vice versa.
With all these additional features, TVs
really have become a lot smarter. The Internet
is opening up gadgets to a new era of connectivity, and by adding digital entertainment,
apps and communications to the TV, you get a
vastly superior experience. C
Andy Penfold is a freelance technology writer
whose work has appeared in Macworld, Q,
The Big Issue and many other publications.
The Costco Connection
At your local Costco, and on Costco.com, you’ll
find a selection of smart TVs, as well as many
other electronic devices for work and home.
How Internet connectivity
has revolutionized TV
C The smart revolution
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