What is smart TV? Best smart TVs for 2021

by Miles Warren

  Want to access apps such as BBC iPlayer, stream films on Netflix or surf websites on the big screen? You can do all this with a smart TV.

  Lg 50 inch smart tv is an internet-connected television that offers a range of online features, such as on-demand content from apps like BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All 4, access to streaming services like Netflix, and the ability to connect to other wireless devices like smartphones. Most TVs are smart, so there are plenty of models to choose from. High-end TVs, as well as some mid and low-end ones, now support voice control and the latest models from LG, Samsung and Sony now let you search for content on your TV. Some TVs even double as smart hubs, giving you control over smart bulbs, thermostats and other devices. In this guide, we'll explain what you get with smart TV, show you some of the best internet TVs and tell you more about the smart features available from each brands. We'll also show you how to stay secure and protect your privacy while using a smart TV. Just want to see great smart TVs? We've got hundreds of expertly-tested models to suit all needs and budgets in our TV reviews.

  Smart TV: what are the benefits? The vast majority of modern televisions now have 'smart' capability, with only a handful of TVs releasing without access to smart features. You don't need to connect a smart TV to the internet to just watch regular television, but if you do go online there are various benefits, including: Apps: Apps on smart TVs either come pre-installed, or are available to download from an app store. Most smart TVs offer TV and film streaming on services such as Netflix and Amazon Video, catch-up TV on apps such as BBC iPlayer, and social networking on Facebook and Twitter. Streaming and casting: smart TVs let you wirelessly stream videos, music and pictures from your phone, tablet or laptop straight to your TV. This is often called casting. You can find out how to set up casting and streaming in our guide on connecting devices to your TV. Recommendations: if you opt in many TVs will now recommend shows and films for you to watch based what you've been watching and you favourite genres. Smart home control: as more devices around the home the TV has become one way of keeping on top of everything. Some smart TVs let you access and control everything on your network, such as washing machines, light bulbs, thermostats and more. TVs losing access to catch-up apps many of us use every week can be enormously frustrating. Use our guide on what to do if you've lost access to streaming apps to try and get them back.

  Smart TV: what you'll need Internet: You’ll need an internet connection to get your smart TV online. Most smart TVs are now wi-fi enabled, meaning you can wirelessly connect them to your internet router and other devices like smartphones. Some older models require a brand specific wi-fi adaptor, which usually slot into one of the USB ports. You can also connect your TV using an Ethernet cable, but if it's not close to your router then you'll need a long lead or a power line adapter. Decent broadband speed: This is essential if you want to stream video, and a super-fast speed is preferable. For example, if you want to stream 4K Ultra HD content on Netflix, you'll need at least 25Mbps to get the best experience. Also, go for an unlimited broadband package so you can avoid any extra changes for exceeding your data limit while streaming. You can find the fastest broadband for your budget by reading our guide on the best broadband deals. "If you want to stream video on your smart TV, it's best to go for an unlimited broadband package to avoid any excess data charges." TV license: You don't need a license to watch TV over the internet if it's purely on-demand or via catch-up, though you do need one to watch or download on BBC iPlayer. For more on this, head over to our TV License explained guide. Smart TV brands Smart TVs are available from all the major manufacturers – including LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony – but each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

  Samsung smart TV Samsung's Tizen smart TV platform has evolved since its launch in 2015 into one of the best around. That said, while the other major TV brands have incorporated services such as Freeview Play (handy smart electronic programme guides with catch-up TV built-in) Samsung hasn't gone with the crowd. We've found Samsung's smart-TV platform to be easy to use, although getting around is a bit more of a challenge on TVs with just the standard remote. More expensive Samsung TVs come with a voice-control remote – this has been dubbed the 'One Remote' for the latest models. While it lacks a motion-sensitive on-screen pointer that we see from other manufacturers, the One Remote can control compatible devices that are attached to the TV, such as sound bars and Blu-ray players, making it a sort of universal remote In 2019, Samsung incorporated its SmartThings software. This smart home tech gives you control of smart devices, such as light bulbs and thermostats from your TV. Bixby, Samsung's answer to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, is now the default for voice commands on Samsung's TVs. The advanced features Bixby brings, includes searching for movies and TV shows starring specific actors, checking the weather and answering questions. You'll now find Universal Guide software included in Tizen, which is a recommendations tool that flags shows and films it think you'll like based on what you've watched and your favourite genres.

  LG smart TV LG's smart TV platform is called webOS. Models released before 2021 have a 'launcher' bar at the bottom of the screen that allows you to quickly jump into things like the TV guide, apps or the web browser. You can customise the launcher with your favourite services by dragging and dropping them into the order you want. Models released in 2021 and beyond have a more traditional homescreen with rows of apps, previews and quick links to shows you've been watching. This should cut down on the number of clicks it takes to get to the shows and films you want to see. Unlike Samsung TVs, most LG models (with the exception of many 2020 TVs) also benefit from Freeview Play. This software combines catch-up TV features with the electronic programme guide, so you can see what shows are coming up and what you might've missed from one menu. Just like Samsung, LG offers two types of remote control – a standard version and one known as the 'Magic' remote, with a moveable cursor on screen for clicking on apps and icons. It's great for smart-TV functions and where it was previously only included free on the pricier TVs, the vast majority of LG's ranges support the Magic remote. LG's ThinQ software lets you control other ThinQ compatible LG appliances from your TV. With the right devices, you could get alerts on your TV when the washing machine had finished its cycle, or when the timer was done on your oven. Voice commands continue to get more advanced on the. You can search for content with specific actors and directors and the TVs recommends content based on these searches. Only the Magic remote has the built-in microphone for voice control.

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