Smart TV, media streamer or both?
Netflix has transformed TV. But what’s the best way to stream it to your TV - Smart TV or streaming stick? We investigate…
Move over, TV guide…
The days when you were bound by the restrictions of TV listings magazines are long gone.
Netflix has changed all of that – with a little help from BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime and countless other services that stream content over your Wi-Fi.
Streaming to your TV means one of two options: internet-connected Smart TV, or a box or stick that hooks up to your television and streams to it.
But which is right for you? Should you even have both? We explore…
In a nutshell: A TV that connects to your home Wi-Fi and has built-in apps for things like Netflix and iPlayer
Most new TVs from Samsung, LG and Sony can hook up to your home Wi-Fi so you can stream the latest Netflix Original or last night’s EastEnders to your TV.
You work your way around the TV using what’s called a smart TV platform – basically software like your smartphone’s operating system. Each brand uses a different one.
These software platforms are really user-friendly – smooth, fluid and easy to navigate. They even recommend things they think you’ll enjoy.
You can watch Netflix, YouTube and BBC iPlayer on Samsung, Sony and LG TVs. While Sony also has Google Play Store, and LG and Samsung Amazon Instant Video – so there’s plenty to watch.
LG Smart TVs have Freeview Play, which puts live TV channels alongside catch-up TV apps in a single episode guide.
Benefits of Smart TV:
- Everything is already inside your TV - built in Wi-Fi and no separate box
- Easy to set up – LG TVs use a cartoon character to explain
- Built-in Freeview HD for HD channels and Dave/CBeebies/Film 4
In a nutshell: A separate device – a box or a USB-type stick – that connects to your non-Smart TV to stream Netflix over your Wi-Fi
If you don’t own a Smart TV and don’t plan on buying a new TV in the near future, media streamers are fantastic.
They almost magically (well, not really) stream Netflix etc. onto a regular TV that can’t connect to Wi-Fi.
There are 2 different types of streamers. Streaming sticks are small devices that plug directly into your TV’s HDMI port. Streaming boxes are separate devices that sit on your TV unit like a Blu-ray player, connecting to your TV with an HDMI cable.
They work in different ways too. With a Chromecast streaming stick you use your tablet or phone as a remote control.
A streaming box like Apple TV comes with a separate remote control, and loads its own home screen on your TV when switched on.
Benefits of a media streamer:
- Cheapest way to get Netflix and iPlayer on your TV
- Enjoy a serious upgrade without buying a new TV
- Easy set-up – just plug into your TV or connect a HDMI cable
- Access iTunes, Amazon and Google Play (with certain models)
Is there a case for having both?
Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Chromecast streaming devices all have access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer, but so does your Smart TV. Here’s what else there is on offer.
- Apple TV 4K - use Siri voice search to find the next big thing on Netflix – then watch in awesome detail with 4K HDR compatibility*. Transform your TV into a powerful games console with the A10X Fusion chip. Get Apple TV 4K
- Amazon Fire stick - plug it into the back of your TV. Tell Alexa what you want to watch (Alexa, find comedies) or binge watch (Alexa, play next episode). Get instant access to the biggest Amazon original series. Get the Amazon Fire Stick
If you’re buying a new large screen TV, it’s most likely to be Smart. This will give you access to Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and catch-up TV like iPlayer and All 4.
But by investing a further £30 on a Fire Stick or Chromecast you can get so much more from your new TV. And if you’re an Apple family, then it’s worth investing that bit more in Apple TV for iTunes.
Now you know what you need to watch your favourite shows online, get the perfect sound system with our guide on home cinema setup.
*Compatible 4K HDR TV required and also correct subscription packages from Netflix and Amazon Prime