Other Gadgets

Are you smartening up your telly?

Sabyasachi Biswas | Updated on May 29, 2014

Do you really need a Smart TV when you have DIY options?

We’re living at a time when saying “My TV is boring” isn’t really ironic. Let’s face it, there’s a lot more happening with a television set than watching a sitcom or a movie. An ‘interesting’ telly isn’t really complete unless it’s hooked up to a gaming console, or a digital media player such as an Apple TV, Google Chromecast or even something as basic as a DVD or a Blu-ray player. And then of course, you have the premium options such as a Smart TV, which can connect to the internet, can be used to stream online videos and more.

But while each TV accessory comes with a lot of good stuff, they also come with their own limitations. So should you go ahead and buy a Smart TV, use a ‘normal’ HDTV with a host of accessories, or just smarten up your television on your own?

Hooking the TV up

The idea of integrating Internet and other wireless connectivity features with a TV has certainly been a leap forward. Smart TVs have taken home entertainment up by a notch by letting users access the net right from the couch. These television sets come with WiFi, which means you can hook the set up with WiFi enabled speakers and your home network as well.

If you want to watch a YouTube video, you don’t have to compromise on screen size – you can run the YouTube app right from the TV and see that funny cat video your friend suggested. Or, if you have a smartphone or a tablet that has mirroring enabled, you can ‘throw’ your content on the screen too. Many of these TVs are equipped with webcams – the entire family can sit on the couch on a Skype call with an uncle or aunt in another city. The high-end models also come with gesture recognition, eliminating the need for conventional remotes.

However, these TVs are usually pricey and still cannot do without additional accessories. You will need a Blu-ray player or a gaming console if you want to watch a Michael Bay movie in the highest resolution, or if you want to play Halo with your friends. The operating systems and the interfaces haven’t yet evolved to be fully seamless, so it takes time to get around.

But, if you don’t want to go for a very high-end telly, and would rather spend the money on something that gives you more features, you have a lot of options. You can start with a good gaming console – an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4 can be used for gaming and more. For example, an Xbox One can interact with your smartphone, tablet or PC. You can also use the console to run a Blu-ray disc.

There are other options too, such as using an Apple TV or a Google Chromecast, to access media content on your TV, along with the option of streaming content from Netflix, YouTube and more. The only problem is that these two devices are not officially available in India, and also some of the features wouldn’t work here.

The other problem with these devices is that there’s just too much wiring to manage around the TV set (unless it’s only a Chromecast that you’re using). You also need more space to store these around the telly.

So, DIY?

But if these options are just too expensive or full of hassles for you, you can always ‘smarten up’ your television by yourself. What do you need? A laptop computer (preferably with an optical drive and a good graphic card), an HDTV and an HDMI cable.

A Smart TV anyway has a computer built into it. So do the consoles. With your own laptop, you’d have the option to have your own interface and your own set of apps that you’d want to run on the big screen. And laptops and Ultrabooks are WiFi and Bluetooth compatible, so you can use a wireless mouse and a keyboard (or a gaming pad if you’re playing a game) without sacrificing the comfort of your couch!

Of course, you wouldn’t get to run Xbox or PlayStation games on this DIY kit, but you can still have all the Smart TV features (probably more) without blowing a big hole into your wallet.

But life would be way simpler if someone decided to integrate a good OS, a full-fledged gaming system (complete with gesture detection et al), an optical drive and complete web integration into one simple package – an ultimate Smart TV of sorts. Is anyone listening?

Published on May 28, 2014

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