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Feature Articles
The Smart TV Buying Guide Essentials
By Andy Sim - 23 Apr 2012,2:05am

Network Connectivity & Usage

Common Questions On Connectivity And Usage

Are you smarter than your Smart TV?

There is still a fair amount of uncertainty among consumers when faced with Smart TV purchases. Queries such as "how do I hook it up to the Internet" are not uncommon with the less savvy crowd, while others are worried that Smart TVs require obligatory accessories which no one mentioned before. Now that we've given you an inkling to what a Smart TV is (on the previous page), here are answers to various scenarios to give you a better understanding on what's required to get that Smart TV up to speed. For what it's worth, we'd rather you hear it from us rather than a disreputable salesman after a quick buck, yes?

1. How Do I Connect My Smart TV To The Internet?

There are two ways to connect a Smart TV to your home broadband (or fiber) network. You may use the television's Ethernet port, or go wireless with Wi-Fi. Alternatively, you may also purchase a wireless adapter from the TV maker if the display does not carry any integrated options. Some TV makers actually bundle these adapters with the more premium models, so be sure to check the specs list before you purchase one. The Wi-Fi solution is often preferred since a wired Ethernet connection also suggests that your router has to be situated in close proximity to the TV. On that note, ensure that your router's DHCP is enabled in order to "add" the Smart TV to your network. Speed wise, a basic 6Mbps broadband plan should suffice to tackle simple tasks such as web surfing and standard video streams.

All Smart TV models should carry an Ethernet port. Sometimes called the LAN port, they are typically situated at the back panel with the rest of the AV connectors.

For a wireless solution, an external adapter is required if your Smart TV does not carry any integrated options. Shown here is the Sony UWA-BR100 wireless LAN adapter with a USB plug.

2. Is The Standard Remote Enough?

Quite honestly, the answer is no. If we could use a metaphor, attempting to navigate a web browser on a Smart TV is quite akin to writing with your non-master hand. Fortunately, most of the new Smart TV remotes are now fitted with gesture recognition or touch controls. One example is LG's Magic remote, which made its entrance two years ago with its point-and-click features. Samsung and Panasonic have also augmented their remotes with a touch pad recently, much like the one you use on a notebook. On top of that, how the TV handles text-entry is another component you shouldn't neglect, especially if you love to dabble in social media apps. Although a remote with a QWERTY keyboard is rarely seen on consumer models, it is infinitely easier to point and click at the onscreen keypad or use a remote app (see Question No.3 below) compared to a standard remote's alphanumeric keys. Most of the newer Smart TVs also support a USB keyboard and mouse.

LG's revamped Magic remote (left) now features a scroll wheel and voice-recognition features. Samsung's sleek wand features a built-in microphone for voice controls, but is also equipped with a touchpad.

Using the TV's built-in camera, Samsung has taken things one step further by incorporating gesture recognition (sans the remote) for users to navigate their Smart TV interface.  

3. What About Those Remote Apps?

Excellent question, dear Watson. Most Smart TVs also support remote apps on mobile operating systems like Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Essentially, you may use your smartphone or tablet as a makeshift remote with added features to boot. Let's use the Sony Media Remote app as an example. While Sony's application offers perks such as a virtual game pad and catch-and-throw features (to replicate content between TV and mobile device), we find the QWERTY touch-screen keyboard and Free Cursor functions to be the most helpful. The former is self-explanatory, while the latter enables you to use the phone or tablet as a touchpad to manage the onscreen cursor. There is a catch, however. In order to use these apps, the Smart TV needs to recognize and interact with your mobile device, and the only way to do so is to 'add' the mobile gadget to your existing network. On the other hand, this usually requires a one-time setup, so everything should be ready to go the next time you fire up your phone's or tablet's Wi-Fi.  

Might these be the remotes of the future? Shown here is Sony's Media Remote app which packs more punch than the standard Bravia wand. The Text Input function enables you to key in alphanumeric text on the TV as you would on your smartphone. 

4. How Can I Connect My PC or Notebook To The TV?

The majority of Smart TVs support DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) - an industry standard established by Sony for sharing digital data within the same network. You may connect a DLNA-certified server (like a PC or notebook) to share and stream data over to the Smart TV which acts as a DLNA client. Like the remote app, you'll have to ensure that both the TV and computer are both on the same network. If your system is running on Windows 7, you may use the embedded Windows Media Player 11 to stand in as a DLNA media server. Some brands have created their own spin on the DLNA standard, like 'AllShare' (recently re-badged as 'AllShare Play') by Samsung for instance. If you're unsure if a particular device supports DLNA, do check with the vendor for confirmation, or look out for the DLNA logo (shown below) in the marketing collateral.  

Relying on the DLNA standard is a quick and effortless means to stream content to the TV. Big brands such as Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, and LG all support this networking standard on their Smart TVs.

5. Are there any other wireless alternatives?

Yes, there is. Intel has forged an alliance with LG to bring their Wireless Display (WiDi) technology to LG's range of 2012 Cinema 3D Smart televisions. This is made possible with an integrated WiDi chip within the TV itself. In a nutshell, WiDi enables users to stream HD video content wirelessly from a computer or a mobile device to a larger display, such as a TV or a projector. LG is one of the first in the market to integrate WiDi with their new fleet of Smart TVs, and notebook users wielding the latest Ivy Bridge mobile processors with an updated Centrino wireless adapter should have no issues streaming HD clips (1080p video at 60fps) to the TV via the latest WiDi 3.0 version. Unlike DLNA, Intel's WiDi has been hailed as a form of "wireless HDMI" standard since it doesn't require devices to be on the Wi-Fi network. On paper, WiDi has rates of up to 25Gbit/s although real-world results are probably closer to 4Gbit/s. 

Upcoming laptops with Ivy Bridge processors and an updated Centrino wireless module will have integrated WiDi support as well. Look out for this label on Smart TVs and notebooks if you want to enjoy wireless HD video transmissions without the hassle of cables or joining networks.

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