How to buy the best Smart TV What's needed for smart TV?
Broadband connection, networking and upgrading explained
- A good internet connection – whatever brand of smart TV you buy, you will need a broadband connection to get online. Connect your TV to your broadband router with an ethernet cable, or wirelessly via wi-fi. Some smart TVs have built-in wi-fi, while others are 'wi-fi ready', which usually means that you need to buy a separate wi-fi dongle, costing around £50, for the wireless connection to work.
- Decent broadband speed – if you want to use your smart TV to stream films, browse the web or watch catch-up TV, the faster your broadband the better. The average speed offered by internet service providers (ISPs) is 12Mbps, according to Ofcom data for November 2012. But some providers now offer superfast speeds (of up to 100Mbps) in many areas. However, bear in mind that the speed you get in practice rarely matches advertised maximum speeds.
- Unlimited broadband (preferable) - many broadband packages put a limit, or cap, on how much internet data you can download. If you want to use smart TV video apps like BBC iPlayer and YouTube, then an unlimited broadband deal could be the better option. Many ISPs charge for exceeding your monthly cap, which can prove costly.
- TV licence - you don't need a licence to watch TV over the internet if it's purely on-demand – ie, not live. But you do need one if you're watching live TV through any receiving device in your home, including a computer or smart TV.
- Home networking capability – it’s possible to connect your TV to other devices, such as your PC or mobile phone, wirelessly if you have the right connections (for more on this, please see our DLNA explained guide.)
Can I upgrade my current TV?
If you don’t want to splash out on a new smart TV, there are ways to connect to the internet through your current TV:
- Set-top boxes - some boxes allow you to connect to the internet, transforming your standard, run-of-the-mill TV into a smart TV for a fraction of the cost. There are a range of boxes available that can access video on-demand, catch-up TV and other internet apps; please check our set top box reviews for more details.
- YouView – a subscription-free service, launched in 2012, that combines Freeview digital TV with the internet catch-up TV services from all four main broadcasters (BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5). The YouView set-top box can be purchased standalone, or bundled with broadband deals from BT and TalkTalk.
- Connect your computer – visit an internet TV service, such as BBC iPlayer, on your PC or laptop, and then connect it to your TV to run the picture through the larger screen. For this, you’ll need an analogue VGA input. Some TVs can be connected via a digital input, either a DVI socket, or more commonly via an HDMI input configured for PC screen resolutions (check your TV manual for instructions on this). If your PC only has a DVI output, HDMI to DVI cables are available online, costing from just a few pounds.