YOU’VE NO DOUBT seen how gorgeous today’s
televisions are, with ultra-high-definition ;K
screens that deliver nearly four times the resolution of HD and complementary features like
HDR;; or Dolby Vision for exceptional colour,
contrast and brightness. But there’s a lot more
to these TVs than meets the eye. In short, they’re
getting smarter all the time.
A good number of TVs today are smart TVs,
which let you access several online services
without having to buy an additional piece of
hardware, such as a media player (e.g., Apple
TV, Roku or Chromecast), video game console or
Blu-ray player. Many cord cutters are even cancelling their television service—such as a cable,
satellite or fibre optic box—and simply using
built-in (and downloadable) apps to consume
engaging video content via your home’s Wi-Fi
network. Read on to unlock the full potential of
your new television.
Content varies among smart TVs, but most
let you run apps tied to video services, such as
Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.
Some are free to use as you like, such as You Tube,
while others require a membership, including
subscription services like Netflix; they are usually relatively affordable.
It means that whenever you want to binge-watch some great content, you just press a button on the remote to access your smart TV apps.
Some remotes even have dedicated Netflix and
You Tube buttons. It’s easy to add or remove apps
on a smart TV, and many let you change the
order of the apps on the screen.
Keep in mind that apps, and especially
video services, will use up data from your home
Internet plan. Be sure to have a healthy amount
of data if you’re into streaming services (unlim-
ited is the way to go, if it’s offered and you can
afford it). If you’re into sports, there are video
streaming packages you can subscribe to, divided
into specific sports, such as NHL hockey, MLB
baseball and NBA basketball, to name a few.
Smart TV platforms
TV makers don’t all use the same smart TV
software. Some use software that is exclusive to
that manufacturer (like LG’s webOS), and some
use a common platform. For example, Android
TV, which is built into many new TVs, leverages
the best of Google, including downloadable apps
and games from the Google Play store, streaming
media services, voice control (via a microphone
in the remote), support for multiple languages
and wireless communication with Android
and iOS devices. This last feature allows you to
stream content from your smartphone, tablet or
laptop to your smart TV.
Some TVs have the built-in Roku platform,
which offers thousands of the same streaming
channels found on Roku sticks and boxes.
What else can they do?
Video streaming services may be the most
popular kind of apps you’ll run on a smart TV,
but there are also social networks (e.g., Facebook,
Instagram or Twitter), music streaming services
(e.g., Spotify or Google Music), online photo
galleries or on-demand news, weather, sports
scores, stock quotes and other personalized
information. Many smart TVs also give you a
full web browser, so you can use a search engine
or visit and bookmark websites. It’s easier to use
your voice to search for content, so be sure to
shop for a smart TV that includes this feature.
A few TVs also offer interactive games, but
don’t expect the kind of deep experience you get
with your console and your PC game collection.
A couple of models have a camera with which to
make Skype video calls over your big-screen TV.
More televisions today are smart TVs than
not, and the good news is there isn’t much of a
price difference between a smart TV and a not-so-smart one. C
Costco carries a variety of TVs
from leading manufacturers in
the warehouses and online at
Marc Saltzman, a leading
high-tech reporter, contributes to more than three dozen
appears on radio and TV,
and is the author of more
than ;; books. He’s on Twitter
Saltzman will answer
selected questions in this
column. He regrets that
unpublished questions cannot
be answered individually.
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Q&A with Marc Saltzman
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Getting the most from your Wi-Fi television