From Smartphone To Smart Screen: The Features Changing How We Interact With TVs

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If you bought a TV a decade ago, or even five years ago, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you need another device plugged in to get the utmost enjoyment out of it. While that's still true if you want to watch 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, any new TV that you buy will be able to beam your Netflix or YouTube or on-demand video streaming service directly to your TV -- no extra gadgets required. Here's how 2016's latest and greatest TVs can make your TV- and movie-watching experience more seamless than ever.

Sony was first to market with both 4K UHD TV and Android TV in Australia. From the director’s lens to the living room, Sony is a proven leader of innovation and technology in home entertainment.

Smart TVs: Navigate The Net And Stream TV From Your Remote

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There are a bunch of different smart TV platforms that exist today -- each of the major TV manufacturers has its own particular implementation, which makes choosing between them slightly difficult when you also have to take in every other aspect of a TV's visual performance at the same time. Some smart TV interfaces like LG's WebOS are heavily motion based with a movement-sensitive remote control, while some like Samsung's Smart Hub are a 3D grid with an app store you can download specific features from when and if you need them. All the decent smart TV services give you access to a number of different streaming TV platforms, which is their key feature -- more TV channels at your fingertips. Any TV worth its salt will also be FreeviewPlus compliant.

Android TV is the smart TV platform developed by Google and used by Sony, and as such it has direct hooks into the company's most popular apps like YouTube and Google Play Music, as well as Google Play Movies & TV. The interface is extremely straightforward and very reminiscent of Android if you're familiar with it on your smartphone, with a grid- and card-based layout that's very easy to understand. Because it's an open platform, too, you're relying on Google rather than a specific TV manufacturer to upgrade its software when the time comes. Android TV also integrates a Google Cast receiver, letting you throw content from any number of high quality smartphone apps directly up to your big screen.

What you're looking for is a smart TV that has a straightfoward layout, but without seeming empty -- you want a smart TV that can actually live up to the promise of being smart. All the usual streaming video on demand apps are almost a necessity -- we look for Netflix and YouTube at the bare minimum, and having direct access to Stan and Foxtel or Presto is an extra bonus. At the same time, with Australia's free to air TV channels increasingly broadcasting online, built-in apps for at least ABC and SBS and hopefully the major commercial TV networks as well is a good requirement. Some kind of screen mirroring from your Android smartphone is also a big bonus, as is a Web browser just in case you need it.

Smartphone Control: Use Your TV And Your Favourite Apps

Image: Sony

While we're all used to the convenience of the candybar remote control, we all also usually keep our smartphones or even a larger-screened tablet close to hand when we're watching TV. Your smartphone is an incredibly handy tool -- it's filled with apps and it has the benefit of years of software and hardware refinement -- and it can supercharge the way that you interact with your big-screen TV. When you're picking out a TV, make sure that it has a complementary app for your smartphone that lets it function as a full remote control over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Ideally that app will also give you a TV program guide at a minimum, because it's always easier to tap and scroll on a touchscreen than it is to click away on a remote control.

Google Cast is, at the moment, the de facto standard for displaying just about any streaming video, streaming music or photo service that lives on your phone on to your TV. There are dozens of different apps across both major smartphone platforms that are compatible with Google Cast, and you can also buy a Google Chromecast dongle and hook it up to any non-Google-compliant TV to make it possible to share content from phone to big screen. Google Cast even supports screen mirroring, so you can enable that on your phone and then display whatever's on your phone screen -- and it can be anything -- to a larger display. Apart from a TV remote, your phone is best put to use to Google Cast your favourite streaming apps -- as long as they support it -- onto the much larger and more visually impressive panel inside your TV.

And, of course, almost any add-on media device that you buy in 2016 will have its own smarts built in -- whether it's integrated Wi-Fi, some kind of YouTube access or Web browser, or even its own integrated app store with dedicated programs to download for specific uses. If you want to watch 4K video in Australia in 2016, the best approach is still to buy a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player and some discs to go in it, although you'll be paying a price premium -- in the same way that you already do for 4K -- to pick one up. For 4K streaming, your choices are Netflix and YouTube, but you'll need appropriately fast home broadband to actually connect and stream at a quality level that's appropriate and doing justice to the image that your new 4K smart TV is able to display.

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