Most TVs you buy now are “smart” TVs. What does that really mean? In simple terms, a smart TV has built in Apps that allow you to go access designated websites like Netflix or YouTube. I like Smart TVs, especially since they are charging less of a premium for these capabilities, but here are limitations and alternatives.

Smart TVs are best for video downloads. I don’t want Pandora playing through my TV speakers. It sounds bad. Smart TVs only allow access to a limit number of Apps and you have to use their remote to spell out choices. It is cumbersome trying to type out a long website name in YouTube using a hand held remote. The Smart TVs do not have a good user interface for anything other than the simple Apps.

There are alternatives that will turn any TV into a Smart TV.

Apple TV– an Apple TV is a device that plugs into your TV and accesses most of the same Apps as a Smart TV. The advantage is you can use an iPad or iPhone to enter data and make choices. It’s a lot easier to type on a keyboard. Apple TV also allows you to mirror any content on your iPad directly to your TV wirelessly.

Roku– is like Apple TV with more video choices, but does not allow iPad mirroring

Google Chromecast– for $35 or less, you can turn any TV into a Smart TV. Chromecast plugs into an open HDMI port to allow Netflix downloads and a couple of other Apps. You use your smartphone to control it. Very cool. We added one to a small kitchen TV.

Long term, your TV will act like a PC monitor that easily accesses any content on the Internet. In the interim, use any of the devices above to download and watch videos.

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