Gizmodo Smart TV Buying Guide Part 1: What You Need To Know

TV isn't just TV any more -- or at least it doesn't have to be. Smart TVs were the buzzword of the 2010 CES, but ten months on, what does the Smart TV market look like? Gizmodo Australia tells you what you need to know to make an informed Smart TV buying choice. Panasonic's Smart TV App view, pictured above

Gizmodo's Smart TV Buying Guide

- Part 1: Basics You Need To Know

- Part 2: App Stores Compared

- Part 3: Latest Models Roundup

- Part 4: Smart TV Tips And Tricks

What is Smart TV?

At the most basic level, a Smart TV is one that leverages the power of an Internet connection to deliver additional services specifically tailored to the TV medium. This can be as simple as networking ability that allows you to access shared content on a DLNA complaint network share and play it back on your TV, but most Smart TVs will go beyond simple network sharing.

What do I need?

A smart tv, for a start. Just because you've got a full HD panel doesn't automatically make it a Smart TV per se, although there are ways to bolt on some Smart TV functionality onto existing panels. You'll also need an internet connection to feed through to your Smart TV. Some Smart TVs offer only an Ethernet port, some offer WiFi and some can have WiFi added via an optional USB adaptor.

What makes a Smart TV so smart?

The key thing that defines a Smart TV is "Apps", and just as they are on smart phones, Smart TV apps allow you to access online services and resources -- except that instead of having a system that's bodged onto a TV screen, a la what you'd get if you plugged in a notebook, you get interfaces that have been programmed specifically with TV resolution and TV remotes in mind.

This can vary from music streaming services, catch-up TV -- most notably sports content in the Australian market -- to social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter. There's a mix of paid and free apps, as well as streaming services such as Sony's Qriocity music streaming service that are offered on a subscription basis. As the smart TV market grows, we should also see a growth in App stores offering a wider variety of content to enhance the TV's they'll run on.

So is Smart TV a distinct platform of its own?

No, not exactly. It's important to note that each of the vendors runs their own app environments, so you can't transfer applications from one TV to another; nor will every smart TV application be available across every single Smart TV platform.

Will Smart TVs make my existing telly obsolete?

Smart TVs aren't a replacement to the existing HDTV market; it's really an add-on feature to existing, mostly high-end TV units. So the kinds of features that you'd expect in a high end TV panel -- solid refresh rates, 3D compatibility for compatible 3D content and the like -- should still be present in a Smart TV. It's a feature to consider when buying a new TV, just like whether or not you want 3D compatibility or a particular panel size.


Comments

    what about the BigPond TV and Movies that you can access on LG and Samsung TVs?

    i am running it in my house, the movies are good and cheap, and the BPTV shows are ok, but i hear that they are adding another 80 channels soon.

    Also Foxtel on my T-Box is awesome :D

      It's good that you love the company you work for but foxtel on tbox is a bit off topic. Not totally convinced on the accuracy your info either.

    Until you get the dreaded announcement that will stop support of their smart TV platform due to lack of interest.

    My thoughts are to stick with a well established platform like Android (you can get some Set Top Boxes running Android for cheap-ish or wait for the revival of Google TV) on an open platform so even if Google decides tomorrow that Android is not working for them, there are enough resources out there to where you can still get apps and updates (in a CyanogenMod sort of way if necessary)

      was that a reply to me?

      my brother works for Telstra and manages the IPTV and T-Box platforms, and trust me, they are not going anywhere, ever.

      aparently they are also getting many more channels and features, plus hulu and netflix, as well as more movies.

      all coming next year too :)

        It was just a general comment, almost an addendum to the article :P

        I guess I'm favourable towards platforms that allow for tinkering. I know that if Android stops being developed, it can carry on. Same applies (I guess) for the Kindle. Once you jailbreak / hack / open it, it's yours for good. And that makes me happy.

        But it's also good to know that Telstra is planning to keep the T-Box around for a while. My dad (who was also a Telstra employee for 35 years) just got one and it'd be nice for him to have it for a while.

    I just hook my HTPC up to my TV which makes my dumb TV smart.

      This.

      Except I already own a smart TV. HTPCs are just 50x better until the TV companies figure out what people actually need for their media centre experience (everything).

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