These days nearly every device in the home entertainment system is "connected," meaning that it will have the ability to access the Internet for content and services like Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video and more. But increasingly, the smart TV is vying for position as home-media hub, adding social networking, home networking, TV apps and more to the mix. This short guide will get you up to speed on the latest in smart TVs and help you decide if one is right for you.
"When planning for the installation of a smart TV, remember that the structure needs to be there to support dependable connectivity, including a jack behind the television that provides Internet connection," says Susan Keel, business development manager of Advanced Communication Specialists. Although a hardwired connection is preferable, many smart TVs have Wi-Fi capabilities. "Even if it has an Ethernet jack, that doesn't mean it has usable smart features," cautions Eric Landis, owner of All Sound Designs.
Next, check that the TV has the apps and services you are looking for. "Content is suggested via alliances with the best content providers and by what is most useful and the most popular," says Keel. As many of the manufacturers have proprietary technology, you will want to make sure that your TV supports the apps and services you value most.
Download your favorite apps to play games or learn the latest in the stock market, sports scores and weather. ESPN and Turner Apps, for example, supplement Samsung Smart TVs ($500-$2,500, 32-55 inches) with additional info and trivia during a show.
Look for your best-loved social media apps. "With LG's Social Center app, you can tweet or Facebook your friends while watching TV. It's like watching TV with your friends no matter where they are," says Keel.
The capability to stream media from your smartphone or tablet, as well as from online sources such as YouTube, Netflix and Hulu Plus, is common among smart TVs.
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