How to turn your TV into a Smart TV

This story is part of Tips for the homeCNET’s collection of how-to tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

No matter how old your TV is, it’s still possible to bring it into the modern age, and for all the functionality you’ll enjoy, it doesn’t need to cost much. smart tv is another way of saying “streaming TV” and compatible devices offer dozens of streaming services from free (the Roku channel) to premium cable replacements (YouTube TV).

If you have a TV made since 2005, you probably have a hdmi portwhich means all the devices listed below will connect directly. If the TV is a bit older, then an inexpensive HDMI to AV Adapter may be in order.

From basic streaming adapters to gaming-friendly soundbars and set-top boxes, there’s a smart TV stick for you. Here are four of our favourites.

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Make your TV smart for the price of a takeout? The Roku Express 4K Express offers hundreds of apps and is easy to install into a spare HDMI port on your TV. Roku is our favorite smart TV interface, and it’s easy to set up with your own apps.

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Google Chromecast with Google TV comes with a voice-enabled casting stick and remote, and this can also be used to control other smart devices in your home. Google’s interface is better than Roku’s in one respect, because it shows individual shows instead of making you choose an app first.

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A combo soundbar and 4K HDR streamer, Roku’s Streambar is a great way to “smart” a bedroom TV with enhanced sound and streaming in one fell swoop. This compact speaker will outperform almost any TV and is especially good at enhancing hard-to-understand dialogue. Even if you don’t need the (excellent) transmitter, the soundbar itself is a good deal at its current $30 discount through Amazon.

Read our Roku Streambar review.

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With fast browsing and enough grunt to support cloud gaming (or steam link) the Apple TV 4K 2022 is the best option for advanced users. It features a modern A15 Bionic processor, a new USB-C powered Siri Remote, and a lower starting price than previous models. It’s worth mentioning that those looking for Ethernet will have to go for the $149 128GB version.

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Frequently asked questions about smart TVs


In essence, all a TV needs to be “smart” is the ability to connect to the Internet, and this transforms it into “streaming TV.” Even the most basic smart TV can offer video services like Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu, as well as streaming music from Spotify and Pandora.

Smart TVs predate smart speakers, which include voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri, and while smart TVs can incorporate newer features like voice operation, they don’t have to.

Depending on when your TV was made, it may already have smart functionality built in, but there are still benefits to adding a third-party device.

  1. Smart TVs typically only receive updates for a couple of years after they’re manufactured, but separate streaming devices can continue to receive updates for many years. plug a 2016 year 3for example, and you’ll get the latest versions of Netflix and even Disney Plus.
  2. A third-party device may add features that were not available when your TV was manufactured. For example, him Roku Pro Voice Remote The plugin not only offers a neat, voice-activated remote finder, but can also act as a wireless headset adapter for use at night.

Do you need internet for a smart TV?

The short answer is yes, you will need the Internet to make a TV smart, and possibly wireless Internet. Although some transmission devices with Ethernet connections exist, the main way most streamers connect is through Wifi.

If you buy a new smart device, first make sure you have your Wi-Fi details handy: access point name and password. Some devices also require an app to be installed for your smartphone or tablet, so check that out as well; these can also make it easier to enter Wi-Fi details. Connect the device to a free HDMI port on your TV, and then follow the instructions on the device’s screen. Congratulations, you now have a smart TV!

What channels are free on a smart TV?

Smart TV opens your TV to dozens of apps or streaming channels, and many of them are free. Each smart TV system typically has its own free service: Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus, and Vizio WatchFree Plus are three examples, but there are many more. NBC’s Peacock and Fox’s Tubi stand out as they offer a lot of free content and in some cases offer exclusive shows like Australian Lego Masters. Here’s CNET’s breakdown on the best free tv streaming services.

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