Smart TVs are becoming more and more common in our houses and in the tech marketplace. If you threw a rock at a TV display, you’re more likely to hit a smart TV than a regular LED TV. But, please don’t throw rocks at TVs in stores. The point is that most TVs produced these days are smart TVs to some extent. But what about TVs made a few years ago? Those might not be smart TVs in the technical sense. So, if you’re asking, “How do I know if I have a smart TV?” we have some answers.
If you bought your TV in the last five years, chances are you have a smart TV. If you’re not sure, check for an ethernet cable (or CAT5) plug in the back. That’s a dead giveaway. Also, a network option in your TV’s menu is a good clue. And, if Roku or Fire TV is in the name, you have a smart TV.
I like to focus on internet connectivity when it comes to determining whether a television is “smart” or not. All other things considered, if your TV can’t connect to the internet, it won’t have smart TV features and functionality right out of the box. This is what a smart TV is meant to do.
So, in my opinion, the main difference between a smart TV and a regular LED TV is the ability to connect to a network. It also happens to be, under most circumstances, the easiest thing to check if you have.
What’s the name of your TV?
The name of your TV is actually the best place to start. As I mentioned above, a television that says Roku or Fire TV in the name signifies that you have a smart TV. That’s because the manufacturers of these TVs intend for the users to connect to the internet and use one of those services.
You won’t find a Roku or Fire TV branded television that isn’t able to connect to a network.
If you have a modern mid-range TCL TV, for instance, you most likely have Roku built-in, which would mean that you have a smart TV. TCL is one of the most popular producers of TVs right now, and they are well known for their partnership with Roku and for including the Roku interface in many of their TVs.
Having a Roku or Fire TV branded smart TV is the same as having a regular television with an external streaming device connected to your TV’s HDMI port.
When did smart TVs come out?
A while ago. The history of smart TVs on Wikipedia is a bit overwhelming in terms of the details of its development. But, it does show how television changed dramatically over the years beginning in the early 1980s.
The first smart TVs as we know them now hit the market right around 2007 and 2008. For instance, Samsung’s first smart TVs were released in 2008.
Other ways to check for a smart TV
Smart TV remote controls: Is there a home button?
Lots of people recommend checking your remote for buttons labeled “Hulu,” “Netflix,” and the like. You can give that a shot, but this doesn’t definitively mean that you have a smart TV. The reason is that some TV manufacturers’ remote controls are very similar to universal remotes that include lots of options for users, whether they ultimately use them or not.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that the TV supports those functions natively out of the box. Some remotes will allow you to map buttons to certain functions, such as launching apps like Netflix.
The same is true for a home button. The presence of one on your remote may mean that you have a way to get back to the main screen of a streaming service. But, it could also be a way to get to a home screen function of your TV itself where you can then adjust things like brightness and volume settings.
So, while you can use your remote as another clue as to whether or not you have a smart TV, don’t rely solely on that as your answer.
Checking your TV’s startup screen
This is a better method than checking your remote control in my opinion. However, if you don’t know how to access the apps section of your TV, it might still be an unreliable method.
For a Roku television, such as the TCL models mentioned above, when you start up your TV you’ll see a menu that includes a lot of options for controlling many features of your TV and anything else connected to it. Roku TVs allow you to sign up for, and then access, most of the major streaming services.
So, you’ll probably see options such as Netflix and other common entertainment services right when you start up your TV. You can also manage connected devices, such as Roku soundbars and other smart home devices from the menu screen if you dig around a little bit.
The menu screen on a Roku TV is a dead giveaway. But, my guess is that if you do have a Roku TV, you’ll be able to determine that directly from the name as well.
Google the model number of your TV
If you don’t have the details of your TV, maybe you bought it second-hand or it was a floor model, for instance, then you can always turn to the internet.
Grab the model number off of the back of your TV and plug that into Google. You’re almost certain to get back loads of info on your TV, its specs, and its capabilities. Even if you do have the manual, Googling your TV can bring tons of valuable information that you might not otherwise know.
Quick tip: If you’re not getting as much info as you think you should, make sure that you’re grabbing the correct number from the back of your TV. Sometimes, you’ll find more than one long number on the back. The number you want should say something like “model” or “model #” next to it. You can also just try the various numbers you find on the back until you get the info you’re looking for.
Does a smart TV need Wi-Fi?
If we’re being honest, it probably does.
As mentioned, a television needs to connect to the internet to be a smart TV. Most families these days utilize Wi-Fi for their internet connectivity. So, if you’re like most households, you’re going to connect your smart TV through Wi-Fi.
There are other options, such as dedicated ethernet. But, if you’re going that route, you most likely already have an idea of how to set that up.
Do smart TVs have ethernet ports?
Since we’re talking about it, are ethernet ports common on these smart TVs?
Yes, most smart TVs will feature a dedicated ethernet port. This can be a really good thing too. Hard-wired Ethernet can be faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi in many situations.
It’s also a lot harder to hack a hard-wired connection than it is to hack one floating through the air (and out into your front yard, and into the street…).
How smart do you need your TV to be?
I’m of the opinion that there are varying levels of “smartness” when it comes to smart TVs. Some smart TVs may only be able to connect to a network, and the rest is up to you. However, some television models have a lot more functionality than that built-in.
If you’re only looking to stream content to your smart TV, then you might only need that network connection. For instance, if you do have a Roku or Fire TV branded television set, then the only thing you need to do is connect your TV to your home network router or WiFi signal. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to stream services like Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix.
If you don’t have a Roku or Fire TV interface built into your TV, however, you’ll most likely need to pick up a streaming device, such as an Amazon Fire TV Stick.
If you’re looking for more smart functionality than that, there are other options as long as your TV supports it with available connections. For example, if you have available HDMI or USB connections, you could integrate a smart speaker, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home.
The point is, even the least intelligent smart TVs today can be extended and adapted into what you need them to be.
What does a smart TV do that a regular TV doesn’t?
I think we’ve shown here that a smart TV can do a whole lot when connected properly. For instance, a smart TV can go online for you, find your favorite programming, and then bring it to you in the comfort of your home.
You can also surf the Web if you’d like. With the right software, you can even answer emails and do some shopping.
How can I make my TV a smart TV?
The quick and easy answer is that you simply need to connect a streaming device like a Roku or an Amazon Fire TV Stick. Your television will need an HDMI port, so that’s the main requirement.
You can also use an HDMI cable to connect to other devices, such as aerials and DVD players, and extend the TV’s functionality even more. This may not extend the “smartness” of your television, but it will enhance your media experience for sure.
Do you know if you have a smart TV yet?
Hopefully, this answers the “how do I know if I have a smart TV” question.
Start with checking for a network connection of some kind. Either a network port on the back of your TV set or a setting to connect to your home WiFi will let you know if your TV can connect to the internet.
Just remember, even if it turns out that you don’t have a smart TV, you can still connect a good streaming device through your TV’s HDMI port and transform it into a very usable smart TV.
If you have any questions or suggestions, let us know in the comments below.