First, you’ll need to connect your TV to your home network. This can be done through the TV’s network settings, and a step-by-step wizard will guide you through the process. Thankfully, you’ll only have to do this once, as your smart TV will automatically connect to your wireless network from then on.
All the smart TV functions are rounded up into a special user interface you can launch by clicking from the remote control: on Samsung TVs it’s the ‘Smart Hub’ button; on Sony TVs it’s the ‘SEN’ button; on Panasonic TVs it’s the ‘Internet’ button; and on LG TVs it’s the ‘Home’ button.
The catch-up TV services are free to use, but each episode is only available for 30 days at most after the original broadcast date. The other video services operate on a rental or all-you-can-stream subscription basis, and you’ll need to create accounts with each provider to access them.
Most video services stream content in SD (i.e. Standard Definition), which means even the pokiest of ADSL2+ connections should be fast enough for a smooth stream. HD content requires a 4Mbps connection. If you have a fast connection and your videos are still stuttering, you might have to upgrade your wireless router to a model that lets you prioritise video streaming on your network, like the Belkin N600 DB.
The app stores on each smart TV aren’t exactly brimming with content, but they’re worth checking out anyway, as some of the standard smart TV apps like YouTube, Skype and SBS On Demand may not be preinstalled by default. You might even find some other apps you’re interested in.
The Facebook and Twitter apps on smart TVs are pretty abysmal across the board, but if your smart TV offers a Social TV app or social widgets, this can be a handy way to keep up to date on your social streams while watching TV using a picture-in-picture view.
None of the latest smart TVs come with a built-in hard drive, but most will let you record free-to-air broadcasts if you have a flash drive or external hard drive attached to one the USB ports. You can record while you’re watching the program, or by scheduling a recording through the electronic program guide.
Most smart TVs come with two remote controls and the non-standard one is better suited for navigating through apps and content. You can download apps to iOS and Android devices that work as software remote controls; as well as offering standard remote control buttons, a touchpad, and a software keyboard for entering text, some of these apps make it easier to wirelessly share multimedia content with the TV.