Just how smart is your smart TV? These high-end devices are supposed to combine the best parts of your computer and your TV set. Set up one Samsung Android TV or 43-inch Sony in your den and you could spend days exploring its features and figuring out all the astonishing things it can do.
But even people who swear by their smart TVs may not know their full capacity. You may not know about a certain feature, like built-in video games or live radio, which could unlock limitless entertainment.
Here are some of the smart TV’s less-known capabilities. Try any of these out, and you could be looking at your TV in a whole new way.
1. Stream live feeds
Live feeds are some of the most captivating videos on the internet. It’s hard to believe you can watch the mouth of an active volcano, or the middle of Times Square, or even a central square in Prague. You may not notice anything interesting, but it’s hard to believe the places these streaming videos can take you, especially on a 60-inch screen.
For compatible smart TVs, you can download the Ustream app for free live video streams from around the world. Much easier and more dependable than YouTube, Ustream will enable you to watch some of the most obscure corners of the world, including deep wilderness, aquariums, and sporting events.
If you use Apple TV, your television can even take you to outer space: Try the Earthlapse app, which will give you stunning high definition space views of the Earth taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Earthlapse also features an optional on-screen clock display and eight different ambient soundtracks to choose from. So just kick back and enjoy these majestic views of our planet all day.
2. Web browsing
No matter how big your computer’s display, it probably can’t come close to a wide-screen TV. That’s why many people hook their laptops to their smart TVs using an HDMI cable. This cable allows you to “mirror” the activity on your computer directly onto your TV, including web browsing, YouTube, Amazon Prime, and whatever else you want to see.
Hooking up a computer or tablet is relatively easy: Using your remote control, just set the TV’s input to “HDMI” and attach the special cable to both devices. Just remember, TVs, computers and tablets come in all varieties, so you may have to find an adaptor or special cord before linking them.
Many smart TVs already have a built-in browser, so you can theoretically search the internet without any computer at all. Granted, these TV browsers are painfully slow and limited compared to your trusty laptop. But if you don’t have a phone or tablet handy, you may be able to track down websites with your trusty remote.
3. Play video games without a console
Suppose you’re stuck in a house or hotel room. There’s a smart TV, but no other device, and there’s nothing to pass the time. If you were at home, you’d flip on your Playstation, but of course, that’s far away. The solution? You can play games on the TV itself, and you don’t even need a console.
Most smart TVs have fun and casual mini-games you can download from their respective app stores. The TV remote may not be the best controller, and it may take a little while to adjust, but it should do just fine for simpler games. It’s kind of like playing one of those games on an airplane, using the little TV display in front of you, except without all the claustrophobia.
For a more dedicated gaming experience, check out Playstation Now. This streaming game service works with select Sony and Samsung smart TVs, allowing you to play all your favorite Playstation 3 games without an actual console. Just subscribe to the service on the Sony website, then link to it on your Sony or Samsung television. Games are updated regularly, so there is no limit to the number and variety you can play.
The only thing you’ll need is a Dualshock 3 or 4 controller, the only device compatible with the console-less system. Make sure this controller comes with a USB cable, which you can plug directly into your television.