Saturday, 24 November 2012

Which smart TV set-up is right for you?


Which smart TV set-up is right for you? Which smart TV set-up is right for you?

TVs have been going crazy of late, with streaming, apps, and games all relatively recent additions. So how do you know which set-up is right for you? Break out the popcorn, as we take a quick tour through the different options on offer. And please, turn your phones off.

Smart TV set

Smart TVs are a new breed, bringing the internet and apps to your lounge. Which sounds great on paper, but in reality they’ve been slow to take off, with Google TV failing to win over couch potatoes. So what’s been the problem? Too many companies, like LG and Samsung, have tried to launch their own app stores, so there’s been no standard set so far. And that means less choice. Like any new technology, they’ve been expensive, too, but the price will come down. Having said all this, you haven’t lived until you’ve played Angry Birds on a 65-inch screen.


One huge advantage PVRs have over smart TVs (and all these other set-ups have over smart TVs, for that matter): you won’t need to buy a new telly, which will save you a bundle. And will mean you’re not stuck with an eyesore of a gogglebox for years if you find actually you don’t like it. Freeview+ HD boxes let you record shows and movies from the TV in HD, and they won’t break the bank either; you won’t need a subscription, and prices start from around £160. Or if you want something a little extra, and are prepared to pay a bit more, why not go for YouView? The boxes are a little more expensive, but there’s still no monthly fee, and it’s a doddle to use, especially compared to the mostly clunky and overly complicated smart TV menus.

Media streamer

These do what they say on the tin. You can enjoy all the movies, music and TV shows stored on your computer, but on the big screen TV in the lounge. Which is handy, as you can sit on the sofa instead of that uncomfortable desk chair. The only downside? You’ll need Wi-Fi set up, as it all works wirelessly. Apple TV is probably the easiest of the bunch to use, but Roku runs it a close second.

Games console

If you’re only using your console for games, you’re only using a fraction of its potential. Hook it up to the internet, and you can watch a host of films and TV shows. The PS3 has its Video Store, offering films, and you can access services like iPlayer and 4OD on it. The Xbox 360 also offers lots of films and TV shows, as well as catch-up services like 4OD, iPlayer and Sky On-Demand. You will have to pay for films, and some TV shows though, so be prepared to cough up if you’re a telly addict. And if you don’t own a games console already, it wouldn’t make sense to buy one purely for watching films and TV.

Media centre

In many ways, a media centre PC is the best way to watch TV. It’ll have far more storage than any other device, so can hold more movies and shows. It’ll play more file types than other home cinema kit too, and you won’t be tied to one particular online store, so you can pick and choose from all the films and TV shows on the web. But media centres are bulky, expensive beasts that look unsightly in a lounge, and with noisy fans that can get annoying. Look for one with a built-in Blu-ray/DVD drive though, and it’ll be all the home media systems you need.

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