What is a smart TV?

Image of a black TV on a white stand featuring a choice of films on the display, with Gone Girl selected.
Credit: Jens Kreuter

Image of a black TV on a white stand featuring a choice of films on the display, with Gone Girl selected.
Credit: Jens Kreuter

What is a smart TV? Maybe that’s not a question you’ve ever thought about, and you simply opt for the latest model when it comes to making a purchase because of its large screen and abundance of features. Or maybe you've always been curious about the answer but never got around to asking.

Regardless, the most crucial aspect of any question lies in its answer, which is why we've put together a guide on what exactly a smart television is to help you fill any gaps in your knowledge.

What's more, we've sprinkled in our thoughts on what are the best TVs with smart features available right now, and have addressed some of the most significant and commonly asked questions about smart TVs along the way.

Generally, it's getting difficult to find a good, old fashioned dumb TV nowadays, as intelligent devices are more affordable than they've ever been before. So let's explore what puts the smart in smart TV.

What is a smart TV?

In simple terms, a smart TV is a television equipped with internet capabilities. This manifests in slightly different ways depending on the manufacturer, but will often result in a smart television featuring direct access to streaming apps, an internet browser, and sometimes even video games as well.

Each smart TV runs on an operating system, much like Windows on a PC. This makes them a central hub for various multimedia services, making them incredibly convenient for everyday life. You can consider them a one-stop-shop for pretty much everything entertainment, although app selection will depend on the make and model.

They often consume less power compared to using streaming services through alternative devices such as gaming consoles, making them a more environmentally conscious choice - not to mention they're a bit kinder on the electric bill.

What is the difference between a smart TV and a regular TV?

The fundamental difference lies in functionality. Unlike standard TVs, which lack internet connectivity, smart TVs possess the capability to directly connect to the internet. This crucial feature eliminates the need for additional devices to facilitate streaming, cloud gaming, and other desired functions. Consequently, smart TVs offer users a significantly broader range of use.

Image of a TV with blue and purple backlighting featuring multiple apps on the display, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, etc.
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Credit: Nicolas J Leclercq

What apps are on a smart TV?

Although the availability of apps may vary across different smart TV brands and models, most offer access to a wide range of applications. Popular streaming services like Disney+, Netflix, and Prime Video are commonly supported.

Some smart TVs are built on the Android platform, enabling access to the Google Play Store. This expands the possibilities to include gaming, reading apps, and more. If you have a specific app in mind, such as Apple TV, we'd highly recommend double-checking the compatibility with the TV you're looking to buy before making a purchase decision.

Image of a Samsung TV pop-up box trying to connect to Wi-Fi.
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Credit: Samsung

Do smart TVs work without an internet connection?

In short, yes, a smart TV will function without an internet connection, but you won't be able to use it to its full potential.

While the TV itself will still work, allowing you to use gaming consoles or Blu-ray players, the apps and features that rely on the internet will not be. This means that a significant portion of the intended use of a smart TV is indeed dependent on having an internet connection. However, it's important to note that if you don't have internet access in the first place, streaming services would be inaccessible regardless of the TV you have.

Regarding the internet connection itself, smart TVs typically offer the option to connect either via Wi-Fi or a wired connection. Although a wired connection is generally considered ideal, a wireless connection is usually sufficient for streaming TV shows and films, as they typically don't require excessive bandwidth. This means you can enjoy the latest TV shows in high definition or higher quality using a wireless connection.

Image of a black TV with the Freeview Play logo on the display above multiple app logos.
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Credit: Freeview

Do you get Freeview on smart TVs?

Many smart TVs do have their own version of Freeview or live TV channels built-in as part of the service. However, just like with apps, we'd advise you double check the availability of specific channels before finalising a TV purchase.

Freeview can prove highly useful though as it allows you to stay up-to-date with shows that may not be available on streaming services. Although the popularity of such traditional TV viewing is less prevalent these days, it remains a valuable option for a wider demographic.

Image of a black Amazon Fire Stick with a black remote control leaning against it.
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Credit: Amazon

Do you need an Amazon Fire Stick with a smart TV?

Probably not. Again, this is one of those things that you’ll need to check beforehand, but most apps are available on most smart TVs, which means that a Fire Stick, or any other streaming stick, cube, or box, isn’t necessary in order to access the shows you want to watch.

Now, it could well end up being that the latest model of Amazon Fire Stick offers faster response times and better visual quality than what your TV can offer on its own, but that’s usually only the case if you’ve got an older model. It’s also not a huge issue for many people, because while 4K visuals are nice, they’re not going to make or break a TV show for all but the most hardcore of visual fidelity connoisseurs.

Image of a thin-framed TV featuring multicoloured paint stripes on the display.
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Credit: LG

What are the best smart TVs?

As smart TVs are all the rage at this point anyway, the best smart TVs also happen to be some of the top televisions on the market. You only need to take a look at some of the best OLED TVs, for instance, and you'll be presented with an array of amazing smart devices with exceptional screens.

In our opinion, one of the best smart TV's at the moment is the LG OLED C2. It features a beautiful OLED display capable of showcasing your favourite shows, movies, and games in 4K, and it comes with an array of smart features and applications.

So, if you want to make sure you get the cream of the crop next time you upgrade your television, then make sure you're checking out the hugely impressive LG OLED C2.

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