Can you stream YouTube videos and browse the web on your TV, or download apps and play games on it? Well, the fast-evolving world of television technology could even reduce your latest acquisition, say, a flat panel full HD TV, to an outdated piece of furniture in just over a year. But don't lose heart. It is just about time to smarten up your TV with a few smart add-ons. You may not be able to match up to the next phase of innovations, such as the 4k smart TV, but there are alternatives that can bring smart functionality and the Android OS interface to your drawing room. In fact, it could be a smart money move to upgrade your existing set, considering the high premium you pay for 'smart' or 'connected' TVs. But before you start, ensure you have a high-speed Wi-Fi connection to add more zing to your viewing experience.
If you don't mind a few wires running around, the simplest way of converting your TV into a smart one is to connect it to your laptop. All you need is HDMI ports in both the TV and the laptop, and an HDMI cable. Once you connect the two, whatever is displayed on your laptop will be streamed to the big screen. However, you might have to get up again and again to operate your laptop. A simple solution to this is to plug in a wireless mouse. If you need to type text to browse the web or update your Facebook status, consider using a wireless keyboard.
Digital Living Network Alliance
DLNA is a wireless technology that allows you to play content between two connected DLNAenabled devices. The technology is not restricted to any brand or product, and has become an industry standard adopted by most brands.
Price: Rs 500 onwards
If you are not sure about how wireless technology works, there is a way to connect your Android smartphone with your TV using the MHL cable. Just connect one end of the cable to the micro USB port of the phone or the tablet, while the other end goes into the TV's HDMI port. Simple and easy. The phone's screen will mirror on the big display. This doesn't require any app. It is mostly used to play videos and view images on the big screen.
It is true that you can do a great deal by plugging in your laptop, tablet or smartphone to your TV set. But here's another convenient, yet independent, way to get going. Welcome to the world of smart boxes. They are compact and much smaller compared to your standard set-top boxes streaming digital content. Just remember that not all smart boxes are the same. You must find out what you need before buying one.
Amkette Evo TV
Price: Rs 6,000
The new-generation Amkette EvoTV Android Central (AC) and Amkette EvoTV Android Media Center (MC) allows you to seamlessly stream movies, watch your favourite matches and download games. It has four USB ports. Navigating is easy as it comes with a sensorbased controller.
Price: Rs 5,900
The main purpose of Apple TV is to stream videos from websites, such as YouTube and Vimeo, with content from partners. If you belong to the Apple ecosystem, you can even play music and movies from iTunes. It also allows users to mirror the computer or phone's screen on their TV sets.
Samsung Evolution Kit SEK 1000
Samsung Evolution Kit SEK 1000
Price: Rs 17,000
Although the Evolution Kit SEK 1000 is restricted just to Samsung products, it promises to bring in the latest features to your recently-purchased smart TV. It is compatible with the company's LED ES7500, ES8000 and ES9000 series, and PDP E8000 series.
Smart boxes sound interesting, but involve wires. Therefore, if you wish to go wireless and for even more affordable solutions, consider getting a smart dongle that plugs into the TV's HDMI port and works with an app over Wi-Fi. There are many media streaming sticks available online, but the ones we have featured here are the best of the lot.
Price: Rs 2,999
After a long delay, Google's Chromecast has been officially launched in India. It works with the Chromecast app available for smartphones. Simply plug it into your TV's HDMI port and then control it from a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. You can stream favourites from Google Play, YouTube, Netflix and Chrome to the TV with the press of a button. The Chromecast isn't restricted to just Android smartphones. There is a Chromecast extension for the desktop browser. Using the "cast" button on top of the page, YouTube videos will be played directly on the TV. It can also mirror the laptop display.
Micromax Smart Stick
Micromax Smart Stick
Price: Rs 5,999
A compact USB-shaped device from Micromax. It can be used to surf the Internet, stream videos on YouTube and connect with your friends on social networks through your Smart TV. The Smart Stick has got a 1 GB DDR3 RAM and ARM Cortex A5 clocked at 1 GHz. Weighing 40 grams, it runs on Android Ice Cream Sandwich and plugs into an HDMI port.
Price: Rs 1,999
It is a small wireless device that plugs into the TV's HDMI port, but requires additional power source to work. A micro USB wall adapter has been added to the box that can be connected to a plug socket. Even the USB port on the TV can power the dongle. Like other dongles, even this one works with an app. Teewe is available for iOS and Android smartphones. The smartpone needs to be connected to a Wi-Fi network to pair it with the device. This dongle allows one to stream YouTube videos, or one can even watch the content that is stored on the phone. A strong, fast and uncluttered Wi-Fi network works best for Teewe to operate.