Q. I hope this isn’t a stupid question, but I want to know what is a Smart TV. I’ve seen ads for it and heard people talk about it. But I’m not really sure what it is. Can you tell me? — Katy, Vero Beach, Florida.
Katy, I’m very happy that you asked that question. Too often, I forget how difficult it is for people to follow all these terms associated with new TV technology. Streaming. HDMI. 4K TV. Buffering. Smart TV. And so on. My job as the head of a web site that says it’s supposed to make ‘television easy again’ is to keep things simple and carefully explain what it all means.
So, let me explain what is, Smart TV.
Smart TV is a term used for a television or set-top box that can connect to your home Internet Wi-Fi network. It allows you to access the Internet, including video streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon or Hulu, right on your television rather than on your computer, tablet or mobile phone.
If you are interested in buying a Smart TV, check out these options at Amazon.com.
If you use a set-top box, you will want one that has Wi-Fi built-in. This allows you to connect to the Internet using your home network without plugging your Internet cable directly to the TV or set-top. (If you don’t have a home network installed, here’s a guide on how to do it.)
With a Wi-Fi built-in set-top, such as these Blu-ray players, you connect the box to your TV just like you would with any DVD or any other Blu-ray player. Then, after turning on your TV and tuning to the source (HDMI or component) where the player is connected, you hit the Menu button of your player and search for the header that says Connect or Internet (Every one is a little different so just look for the Header that suggests connecting to the Internet.)
Click on that header and your player will search for available Internet connections in or near your home. Look on the screen for the one that has your home network’s name and click on it. The player will then begin connecting to your home network. (If your home network has a lock on it, you will get a prompt to type in your password.)
Once you are connected, go back to the Menu of your set-top box and search for the header that says Video or the name of an Internet program service, such as Netflix. Click on the video service of your choice and you will get on-screen instructions on how to set up an account. If you already have an account, you can type in your account name and password.
If you use a TV to access the Internet rather than a set-top, the steps are pretty similar if the TV has Wi-Fi built-in.
If you use a TV that does not have Wi-Fi built-in, but is Internet capable, it will probably come with what’s known as a dongle. The dongle is a small antenna that plugs into the USB port of your TV and allows your set to capture the signal of your home network.
Katy, I hope that helps. Happy viewing!
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann