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.