Channel 5

How to make any TV a smart TV

The Gadget Show  Thursday 23 August 2012

How to make any TV a smart TV

IFA, the international gadget expo, kicks off once more in Berlin next week, but we already know what the big story is going to be: smart TVs. Internet connected TV screens that pipe through all sorts of video on demand and then some: everyone from Samsung to Philips will be vying to prove to punters just why their smart TV is the smartest.

But the big brands aren’t telling you something: the TV you have in your living room is already smart. It’s really easy to turn your flatscreen into a web TV with gear you likely have already, for free. Read on, and we’ll show you how.

Got a games console?

Got an Xbox 360 or Sony PS3? Then you’ve got the best smart TV money can buy already. Both have access to a whole range of services already, including BBC iPlayer, YouTube, 4oD, Lovefilm, Netflix and movie rental stores to call their own (The Xbox also boasts Demand Five on top of that), and both can stream media straight from your PC. Sony’s games console can even be controlled with the remote control that comes with most modern TVs. Both offer up a lot of content in HD, though Xbox users will have to pay the Gold subscription (£28 per year) for everything other than BBC iPlayer.

You can even get some of the same services on the Nintendo Wii as well, though not in high definition. Movie streaming service Netflix and BBC iPlayer are both available in the Wii Shop Channel, and if you want to stream your own video from a PC, you can even use a free application called Orb. It needs a little bit of set up – you can find instructions here.

Some Blu-ray players (particularly Sony and Samsung models) and Freeview boxes also come with web services built in, so have a look in their instruction manuals to find out.

Check out how to stream media to your TV below

Tablet double duty

If you’ve got a tablet to hand, you’ve probably got another smart TV option too. Every generation of Apple’s iPad can be hooked up to a TV using the official Digital AV Adapter, so you can play back anything you can view on your iPad on your HD TV, from iTunes TV show downloads to iPlayer and YouTube videos.

Got an Android tablet? If it’s got an HDMI (high definition multimedia interface) slot then you can do exactly the same, and watch Flash video on any website too. You probably won’t have the right cable in the box, but you can pick up a micro HDMI cable on Amazon for under £2. The one tablet that doesn’t offer this, sadly, is the new Google Nexus 7 from Asus. But fret not, there are more ways to get yourself a smart TV…

Use your phone

If you’ve not got a tablet, a modern smartphone might also solve the problem for you. Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S work with its Digital AV Adapter in exactly the same way so you can hook them up with ease and play all your videos and stream from apps.

If you’ve got an Android phone meanwhile you might be in luck too. Some older Android phones, including Sony’s Xperia Arc and Arc S, use the same micro HDMI connection as Android tablets – and they can even be bossed about by your TV’s remote so you can order it all from the comfort of your sofa.

Newer top of the range phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, S2 and HTC One X meanwhile all work with a regular sized HDMI cable, but you’ll need something called an MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) adapter to connect it. These cost under ten pounds online, but once it’s plugged in, work exactly the same way.

Plug in your laptop

Just like a tablet, you can always plug in your laptop straight to your TV to stream web video like a smart TV. Some laptops have a HDMI connection so a regular HDMI cable will do the trick, while other olders will only have a VGA connector (15-pins in three rows) or a DVI connector (29 pins). If your TV doesn’t have either of these, you can get an HDMI adaptor for both that’ll share your laptop’s screen to your TV, though you might need a separate audio cable too (like this one).

Add Wi-Fi

Many new TVs are “Wi-Fi Ready”, meaning they can be connected to the internet, but you’ll have to buy a little USB dongle to plug in and hook them up to your network. Have a look in the instruction manual and see if yours is and be sure to shop around: you can get good deals online, and some accept third party equivalents.

Shopping spree

If you’ve not got any of these, don’t despair: you can make your current TV a smart TV with one of many little set top boxes. There’s Roku’s superb £50 box with BBC iPlayer, Netflix and more, the Apple TV with iTunes and Netflix for £99 and Microsoft’s entry level Xbox 360 costs £139.99. Check out our reviews of them all to find out which is the right one for you.

Check out the Apple TV on video now

Tags:

Smart TV, Feature

User comments (45)

Leave a comment

matt

you should look at xbmc google are looking to add it as a full android app and the user experience blows my xbox 360 and ps3 and phone out of the water :)

Report as inappropriate
R Manby

You may want to update your sources, iplayer has been on the Xbox 360 since March.

Report as inappropriate
mini76

Where can I get XBox gold for £28 a year DUH.

Report as inappropriate
Renato

Here you go mini76 http://www.digideals.co.uk/computor-games/47-xbox-live-12-month-subscriptions-882224079143.html

Report as inappropriate

This comment has been removed.

This comment has been removed.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment has been removed.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment has been removed.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment has been removed.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment has been removed.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

This comment is awaiting moderation.

chris murgatroyd

You could always pick up a Raspberry PI and install xbmc (I currenty use xbian as it has better wifi support) with a pocket wireless keyboard and the ability to output to hdmi or composit video it can be used with almost any tv even my big old crt all for about £50!

Report as inappropriate
Gopiraj Sundaram

Hello, Eurostar android tablet is with me. I would like to know if I purchase a samsung smart tv, can I play the games and watch movies in TV, which I have already downloaded from apps store? Kindly share your thoughts.

Report as inappropriate

This comment has been removed.

john liu

hi i notice there is a gadget for laptops or tablets to recieved wifi signal from distance what i like to know is , is there 1 so i can use for my mobile phone ?

Report as inappropriate
varsha morayya

where can i find a dongle for my sony smart tv.

Report as inappropriate

This comment has been removed.

This comment has been removed.

Join Channel 5

Creating an account is free, will only take a few moments and will allow you to enjoy the full benefits of 5FWD and Channel 5:

  • Create lists of your most wanted and owned products
  • Leave article comments without having to re-enter your login details
  • Get updated with all the latest gadget and car news

Leave a comment

Please note that we will not expose your email, but we might use it to email you back. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.
* mandatory field

Jason Bradbury

Jason has been on The Gadget Show since day one. Before he joined us, he could be seen popping up on The Big Breakfast, hosting The Web Review for ...

Profile

Rachel Riley

Rachel made her television debut in 2009 when she took over from Carol Vorderman as the numbers expert on Countdown. Rachel studied maths at Oxford...

Profile

Jon Bentley

Jon Bentley returns as The Gadget Show’s chief gadget tester, completing the show’s strongest line up ever.

Profile

Ortis Deley

Ortis has been obsessed with all things gadget-esque since he was a kid as well as being a massive sci-fi movie fan, and describes being back in pr...

Profile

The Gadget Show tests the latest gadgets and technology and tells you, the viewers exactly what kit to buy. We also value your comments and feedback.

For Gadget Show website queries email the studio

For any other enquiries or complaints – email our customer services department