So, you’ve just bought a shiny new “Smart TV’ panel, but your Internet connection is nowhere near where you want to put your TV. Don’t panic — you’ve got plenty of solutions to pick from to get your Smart TV online.
The statistics suggest that an extraordinary percentage of the Smart TVs sold in Australia never go anywhere near an Internet connection. While that may be in part due to the somewhat lacklustre nature of Smart TV apps, there is one killer feature that I reckon is worth enabling, and that’s the catch-up TV services, especially the ABC’s iView. There are other offerings — Samsung, for example, has a lock on Foxtel Play — but pretty much everyone has iView. iView, of course, shows Doctor Who. I’m sure you’re following me from here.
But perhaps you aren’t, or to be more specific you can’t, because your home Internet connection sits in one room — if it’s ADSL, probably wherever the phone point is — and your Smart TV is in another, being dumb. Aside from having network cables installed in your wall cavities — never an inexpensive options — what can you do?
As a side note, any of the below options are also good if you’re struggling with an online-capable games console, streaming TV box or other IP-based bit of AV kit.
Option one: Check for wireless
Some Smart TVs come with inbuilt wireless, while others have it as an option via a USB dongle. Check the menus on the TV for a wireless option, or the box for a USB key that you never managed to plug in. If you’re buying a smart TV, ask about wireless, and see if they’ll chuck in the wireless adaptor as part of the deal. Wireless is going to be your easiest option, although that’s tempered by the fact that wireless reception can be interesting depending on the nature of your router, walls in-between router and TV and other interference sources such as microwave ovens or baby monitors.
Option two: Wireless Bridge
If you don’t have a wireless dongle — or that kind of capability even built into your TV — then you’ll be left with a standard RJ-45 Ethernet socket and not a lot else. That’s where picking up a wireless bridge (or converting an unused router into one) can be a solid step. A wireless bridge does what the name suggests; you connect it up to your wireless network as just another device — you’ll need another device on the network, preferably a PC to manage this step — and then use an ethernet cable from the bridge to your TV to share out the connection. If you’ve got an older router around, most can work in Bridge mode, although the procedure for doing that varies from model to model.
Option three: Powerline
I’m a big fan of the Powerline solution; up until my home connection shifted where it was it was the solution I used myself. Powerline is again one of those technologies that describes itself; a pair of small powerplugs (typically around the $100 mark) that you connect up at one end near your router, and the other near your smart TV. Network packets flow along your existing electrical wiring, and the signal is usually quite solid, although this can involve a little experimentation, as powerline equipment can have odd reactions to being in specific places on powerboards for example.
Not all Smart TV applications are worth getting wildly excited about, but the catch-up TV option is the one glittering diamond amongst the lot. You may not get much out of the rest of the varying Smart TV options, but if you can access it cheaply enough, it’s worth making the most out of your Smart TV.