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Turn your TV into a smart TV

Turn your TV into a smart TV

Smart TVs let you watch Netflix and other streaming services directly on your TV, no extra cables or devices needed. Regular TVs can get the same functionality, albeit with the help of a device or two. Here’s how you can make your TV into a smart TV.

If you’ve bought a new telly within the past few years, chances are high it’s already a smart TV. If you’ve got an older set, though, you’re missing out on some great added features that can seriously upgrade your entertainment options.

Basically, smart TVs are just TVs that connect to the internet and allow you to stream media, browse the internet or run apps through your broadband connection. Some have other functions like cameras or voice controls, but really, the internet connectivity is the most important part.

Of course, you can’t literally turn a regular TV into a smart TV, but there are devices out there to give your TV the same functionality as a smart TV.

Set-top boxes

Nowadays, pretty much every set-top box gives you access to players and apps so you can stream content to your telly on demand. Catch-up services like iPlayer, ITV Hub and All 4 are standard nowadays, but the other apps included on your set-top box depend on your provider.

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BT

BT YouView set-top box

Apps include:

  • Netflix
  • BT TV Store
  • NOW TV

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EE TV

EE TV set-top box

Apps include:

  • YouTube
  • NOW TV
  • hayu
  • Wuaki.tv
  • TVPlayer Plus

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NOW TV

NOW TV's set-top box

Apps include:

  • NOW TV
  • YouTube
  • Spotify

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Sky

BT YouView set-top box

Apps include:

  • YouTube
  • Vevo

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TalkTalk

TalkTalk set-top box

Apps include:

  • Netflix
  • NOW TV
  • TalkTalk TV Store

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Virgin Media

Virgin V6 set-top box

Apps include:

  • Netflix
  • YouTube
  • Vevo

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Streaming devices

Thanks to the growing popularity of streaming services, you can now buy standalone streaming devices to get access to the service of your choice. Be careful which one you buy, however, since each streaming device comes with different apps.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Amazon Fire Stick

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a small device that plugs into the HDMI port on your TV and connects to the internet via your Wi-Fi connection.

Apps include:

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime
  • Spotify
  • YouTube
  • Vevo
  • hayu
  • Catch-up TV apps

Currently there are nearly 5,000 apps you can download, including games, media players and other services.

Apple TV

Apple TV box

Apple TV is a streaming set-top box that you plug into your TV and connect to the Wi-Fi so you can access streaming content and other apps.

Apps include:

  • Netflix
  • NOW TV
  • YouTube
  • Disney Life
  • Spotify
  • Vevo
  • Catch-up TV apps

Apple TV is linked to your Apple ID, so you can download plenty of music, movies and games through the iTunes store in addition to other apps.

Chromecast

Google Chromecast

Google’s Chromecast — similar to the Fire TV Stick — is a device about the size of a USB stick that plugs into the HDMI port on your TV and connects to the internet wirelessly.

Apps include:

  • Netflix
  • NOW TV
  • YouTube
  • Spotify
  • hayu
  • Vevo
  • Catch-up TV apps

Chromecast also has tons of other apps you can use, ranging from games and sports to health and fitness apps.

NOW TV boxes

Watch NOW TV on NOW TV Smart Box

Although NOW TV boxes are mostly promoted in terms of their ability to play NOW TV passes, obviously, you can watch other apps on them, too.

Apps include:

  • NOW TV
  • YouTube
  • Spotify
  • Catch-up TV apps

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Roku

You can either get a Roku box or streaming stick, either of which plug directly into your HDMI port and connect to Wi-Fi.

Apps include:

  • Netflix
  • NOW TV
  • Amazon Prime
  • Spotify
  • Catch-up TV apps

Roku has over 2,000 ‘channels’ or apps that you can watch, listen to or play.

YouView

BT YouView set-top box

YouView makes set-top boxes for TalkTalk and BT, but they also sell standalone boxes that support Freeview channels and players and apps.

Apps include:

  • Netflix
  • NOW TV
  • Catch-up TV

Other ways to stream

Couple watching smart TV

If you don’t want to switch providers or buy a dedicated streaming device, you still might be able to access your favourite players and apps on your TV through another device you already own.

Games consoles

Most modern games consoles have the capability to connect to the internet and stream different players and apps, including:

  • PS3 and PS4
  • Wii and Wii U
  • Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Netflix and catch-up TV are available on all of the above devices; however, not all consoles support all streaming services.

Blu-ray players

Similarly, Blu-ray players can connect to the internet, so most have streaming apps already built into them. Again, Netflix is the most common, but some devices also support NOW TV, too.

Connecting devices to your TV

Watch your laptop on TV

Alternatively, you can always connect your laptop, computer, tablet or other device directly into your TV with an HDMI cable, as long as your device supports that capability.

Even going through this route, however, not every streaming service supports this ability: NOW TV, for example, won't let you connect your iPad directly to your TV to watch boxsets.

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