If there’s one stumbling block stopping internet TV from really taking off it’s that there are so many different ways to do it. From internet-enabled TVs and games consoles to a surprisingly cheap third option, there are a few different ways to get web features on your telly.
If you’re thinking about getting online with your TV, here’s a look at the various options and how they measure up in terms of price and usability.
Buy an internet-enabled TV
Internet-enabled TVs, or ‘smart TVs’, connect wirelessly or via Ethernet to a router to access web content. This could mean streaming a film over a service like Netflix or LOVEFiLM, using Facebook via an app or surfing the web using an in-built web browser.
Samsung’s Smart TV (pictured, right), for example, supports video conferencing via the Skype app and on-demand BBC programmes via the iPlayer app. Viewers can also interact with the Smart TV using voice commands and hand gestures, for remote-free control. To top it all off, the TV has a full HD display and (active) 3D capability.
The set doesn’t come cheap though – the RRP of the massive 55” version is £2,499.99. Even its smaller, 40” sibling will set you back £1,449.99.
LG does a similar range of web-enabled TVs with access to a range of apps and a unique Social Centre which connects to your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts so that you can interact with friends while you’re watching the same programmes.
The range also supports voice control, with the LG Magic Remote control acting as a receiver, allowing you to enter search terms and other text using your voice. It also features a wheel for scrolling through pages. As with Samsung’s Smart TVs, you can download an app for your smartphone which allows you to control the TV using a touchscreen.
LG’s Cinema 3D Smart TV range also supports full 1080p HD and (passive) 3D.
The LG range is a little cheaper – the 42” LM66OT comes in at £999.99 and the 55” version will set you back £1,649.99.
The great thing about internet TVs is that everything is built into one device, so if you’re using a wireless web connection you don’t need to worry about connecting any other devices to the set with cables, unlike when you use a games console or Blu-ray player.
Use a games console
If it’s not been that long since you last shelled-out for a big HDTV, you might not be ready to upgrade just yet. If you have either a Playstation 3 or and Xbox 360, however, you can hook it up to your TV and enjoy all the web-features you’d expect from a smart TV – and possibly more.
The great thing about internet TVs is that everything is built into one device, so if you're using a wireless web connection you don't need to worry about connecting any other devices to the set with cables
The PS3 has apps for BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, Netflix and LOVEFiLM, to name but a few. It also has a built-in web browser and support for video chat with other PS3 owners.
Xbox 360 also supports 4OD, BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, Netflix and LOVEFiLM and has a dedicated Facebook app. One of the 360’s big draws for Sky customers is that the console supports the Sky Go on-demand service.
At this year’s E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) conference, Microsoft finally unveiled support for Internet Explorer – which means the 360 now supports web browsing too.
As both the 360 and PS3 offer motion and voice control via their respective Kinect and Move peripherals, there’s very little you can do with a smart TV you can’t do by connecting one of the two consoles to your existing set.
You can pick up a PS3 (160GB) for around £189 and an Xbox 360 for around £149.99, making this a much cheaper option.
You’ll have to connect your console to your TV using a HDMI cable and control everything using the console’s control pad, which could be jarring for a non-gamer, but there are more traditional remote controls on the market.
Other web-enabled devices
Let’s not forget you can always connect a desktop computer to your TV via a HDMI cable and then plug in a USB DVB-T tuner to receive Freeview. The problem is you’d have to switch back and forth between TV and computer functions – and Sky if you subscribe – making it a bit of a fuss.
For a more straightforward solution, you could connect a web-enabled Blu-ray player. Samsung’s Smart Blu-ray players give you access to web apps like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube just like their Smart TV range. They connect wirelessly to your router over wi-fi and support HD and 3D.
As the Samsung BD-E6100 Smart 3D Blu-ray & DVD Player with wi-fi costs just £113.48, web-enabled Blu-ray players could actually be the cheapest way to boost your TV’s IQ to the level of a smart TV.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.