Mine’s a modest 22-inch Samsung, but I’ve managed to transform it into a smart TV. I had to. So underwhelmed with regular television – and so enamored with everything else to see on a big screen (movies, video clips, the Internet) – I was determined to make my lounge-chair time even better.
My TV wasn’t going to get into Harvard before I began to tinker, let’s just say that.
Here’s what I tried to plug into it to boost the IQ of my big screen.
1. Personal Computer Free, if you have the PC already
That PC you still have around? Put it to work with your TV. My Samsung has a VGA entry port that can connect to my TV. I had to buy the right cord for the job. My PC is still pretty fast, so I’m able to watch movies and let the kids play video games when it’s connected to the TV.
The power bill’s a bit of a problem, though.
How smart?: This would work better with a Macbook Air or some such device out of my price range.
2. Google Chromecast $35
A dumb TV is a smart TV just waiting to happen. Chromecast, a dongle that lets you stream media, can also show anything open in a Google Chrome browser. Google’s app-to-TV dongle supports six apps overall, including Google Play Movies &TV; Google Play Music; Hulu Plus; Netflix; Pandora; and YouTube.
With Google’s support, Chromecast has the potential for more apps and features by name alone.
How smart?: The price is about a third of that of similar products such as Apple TV, Plair or Roku. I’d say that’s pretty smart.
3. Xbox $250 (Xbox 360 console with Kinect)
All you need is the SmartGlass app (if you have the Xbox and an Android, iOS or Windows smartphone.) Your enabled device becomes a second screen, allowing you to watch movies and browse the web.
Get relevant immersive details while you watch a game, movie or TV show. You’ll need an Xbox Live membership to download a lot of apps, such as HBOGO and Netflix.
How smart?: The app’s amazing – and can provide real-time strategy while you play online games.
In our case, we had the PC and Xbox, which wiped out the need for a trip to the store. The Xbox by far provided the best option for everyone involved, but Google Chromecast holds the best potential. Both Chromecast and Xbox worked best when we upgraded to fiber-optic Internet.
Dropping $1,000 on a smart TV is just not very smart.