You have been looking for that one super cool smart tv for so long and you are in the final stages of deciding to buy a TV . There are a lot of feature comparison that you would have made on different TV and their features and specifications . While most mainly concentrate on Display , Sound quality , myths about LED vs LCD vs Plasma and whether smart tv are that smart , you may need to check if your new tv has really smart features that will help you connect to internet easily and make your streaming easy in such a way that it is relevant with technology for at least few years .
Need for Internet TV and why it sucks ?
When i bought my TV , i excluded ‘Internet TV’ as one of the feature since the scenario of streaming content via internet seem far-fetched in India.But as years move by, streaming content in India is very much possible with improved bandwidth speeds and better data caps. There are few features that I wished my TV has, but is not available now . So it is important to take it into account on how the future may evolve and decide features that may keep your TV fresh and relevant.
Some of us buy TV but never use it to watch content from cable or satellite network. They do not even subscribe to cable networks and are contented watching all content from their external hard disk or connecting laptop to TV via HDMI .And others do rely on the smart tv apps provided along with TV to stream video content.
Trust me , once the initial euphoria of browsing or streaming content from internet with your new TV is over , you will not be compelled to use the feature regularly.Reason being the not so great user interface and inbuilt OS for TV. Browsing content through various apps on your TV remote is tedious to say the least. If you need to search for any content , the user input via tv remote is not easy. It will take a lot of time to input the keywords and can piss you off for sure.
So instead of relying on the TV apps that are very few and not constantly updated ,make sure your smart tv has good external connectivity options.
Go for DLNA
Most of smart tv today has a DLNA feature.
DLNA is basically a standard through which different devices like TV , PC or Mobile can connect with each other through wi-fi connected to the same network. This allows you to share and stream content from PC to TV or from DLNA supported smartphone to your TV .
Though many TV mention it as DLNA certified and compatible , all the TV’s do not have the same DLNA features. For eg. DLNA certification is done at varying levels :
Digital Media Server (DMS) – which stores content and makes it available on the network
Digital Media Players (DMP) – which can play content pulled from a Digital Media Server
Digital Media Controllers (DMC) – which can find content on a Digital Media Server and send it to a Digital Media Renderer device on the network
Digital Media Renderers (DMR) – which can play content pushed to it from a Digital Media Controller
Digital Media Player(DMP)
DLNA DMP certification is provided to devices which has the capability to connect with other devices. Your PC or smart phone can be connected to the TV wireless. From your TV interface , you can view the shared contents of PC or smart phone here and even play music or stream videos available in your hard drive.
A typical certification for a DMP enabled device will be like this. The list of file formats supported also will be listed .
Even with this certification , only file extension that are certified by DLNA can be played in your TV. For eg. 3gp video format cannot be played. Hence you need to convert all your file types into a format that will be compatible with TV.
While DMP is a handy option to view and play content from smartphone or PC , the smart TV interface is clumsy and navigation between files and folders is both difficult and time-consuming to navigate to a specific file and play them.Also you cannot stream the files directly from your smart phone or PC into TV.
The DMP enabled DLNA certification can be viewed for a sample device here. In Page 2, the list of supported file formats are also displayed.
Digital Media Renderer(DMR)
DMR does pretty much all the functionality of DMP . And added to that , you can render the content using a controller . Controller here means your smart phone or PC . So instead of relying on the clumsy TV navigation using a TV remote , you can browse through the files in your controller, choose what file to stream . And then there is an option to stream the file to your TV directly.A typical DMR certification for DLNA is shown below.
This is a really handy option.Many mobile apps and desktop media server has this feature these days. So if you want to stream the youtube video on your TV , search for the video in your smart phone and then choose the render option as TV. And voila , your content is there on your TV easily.Here also , it is important to understand what type of file format can be played .
An example of DMR enabled DLNA certification can be viewed here . In Page 2, the list of supported file formats are also displayed.
While DLNA is an useful option , it requires all the devices be connected to each other through wifi. Hence that requires a wireless router and an access point for devices to talk with each other.
Wifi Direct is a new standard that is similar to blue tooth where in two devices can talk to each other without a need for internet WiFi as such. If two devices are Wifi Direct enabled , then devices can talk to each other without any wireless or access point. Hence it would be easy to share or transfer the content easily between the devices. Also the file transfer is pretty high.
So if your mobile and TV is Wifi Direct enabled , then you do not require your TV to be connected to the internet to stream content. It is quite easy. Wifi Direct is used in printers as well these so that printing can happen through wireless.
Searching or browsing through TV web browser is not the reason why we bought our TV in the first place.But if you have a browser in TV , there are few apps that help you tap that potential. Clik is one such app that can harness your TV browser potential and help you stream youtube videos from your smart phone onto TV browser.Hence having a browser in your TV can be helpful in few scenarios.
Streaming Media Apps and TV Utility Apps
Now you have a good connectivity with your TV using DLNA or Wifi Direct. Next what you need is good apps to be able to find and stream content. There are some TV apps available in your TV by default but they are very few and offer very less value . This is when the Streaming Media Apps from smartphones that come in handy.
There are a lot of smart phone apps that can help you find interesting content to stream from the internet onto your TV .
IMediaShare is an incredibly useful app and it has a free version as well. It has a lot of channels like YouTube , CNN , NASA , Audi ,Nat Geo from where the videos can be directly streamed in your TV or PC too. It is available for both Android and iOS.Added feature is that you can login to facebook via this app and then stream your facebook photos on TV.
Imagine how cool it would be for a friend to come home and stream his facebook photos in your TV for everyone at home without transferring the photos or even sharing using bluetooth etc.
Remote TV App
Suppose if you shortlist three TV models on the final stage of buying tv. Check whether each TV has a compatible TV remote app provided by the TV manufacturer .For eg. Samsung smart phone like Galaxy has an exclusive app that is compatible between Samsung smart phone and Samsung TV . This will be really helpful since your TV app on your smart phone will be your controller to control your tv, stream and play content on the TV easily .
Please check if such app features are available for your TV. This feature can earn few extra brownie points.
These are the various connectivity options that your smart TV should have so that you can stay relevant with the technological innovations happening every day.Hope this information helps in choosing a TV that is as smart as you .Share your experiences and tips on how you chose or missed to choose few features while buying TV which you are regret now.
If you have come till the end , it means you are interested in reading about the future of internet TV in India as well, read my post on the prospect of online streaming or internet tv in India.