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With high-speed fibre widely available across the country, super-fast LTE internet and data prices dropping, it’s never been smarter to own a Smart TV. But if the price of these devices makes you want to cry, then keep reading as we may have a solution that fits into your budget and ensures you won’t have Netflix FOMO.
When you hear ‘HD’ ‘FHD’ and ‘UHD’ and you think it must be a term describing a medical condition, we are here to help. These acronyms refer to the number of pixels which make up the resolution of your TV screen: the higher the pixels means a clearer screen image for your viewing pleasure.
(or 4k technology)
If the word ‘Smart’ appears in the TV description it just means that your TV can connect to your home internet. Once connected, your Smart TV will have preloaded apps like Netflix, Showmax and YouTube and allows you to browse and select with your Smart TV remote.
How to make your TV a Smart TV
If you already own a TV that isn’t ‘smart’ there are a variety of products out there that can help to turn your TV into one. Before you purchase anything we suggest you do the following:
- Make sure you have a decent internet connection
- Check that your current TV has an HDMI port on the back or side of it and a USB port
- Identify your budget and then choose the device that will work best for you
Here’s a round-up of some of the most popular TV Sticks on the market:
Google Chromecast Gen 3
Simply plug this device into your TV, download an app on your phone or tablet (Android and iOS) and cast or stream whatever you want to watch onto your TV. With the Google Chromecast Gen 3, your smartphone or tablet works as the remote control and allows you to search and choose the program of your choice.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
Just like the Google Chromecast, the Amazon Fire TV Stick plugs into your HDTV and instantly gives it Smart TV capabilities. The difference with this device is that it comes with an Alexa voice remote to assist you in searching and selecting. Just say ‘Alexa, Play Bridgerton on Netflix’ making it super simple and easy to navigate all the choices out there.
What is important to note is that with any of these devices you still need to pay and subscribe to the streaming service of your choice like Showmax, Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
Xiaomi Mi TV Stick
Arguably the most budget-friendly option, the Xiaomi Mi TV Stick is a strong contender when it comes to which device is best for you. Like the others, you plug it in and it turns your TV into a Smart TV. The Mi Stick comes with a remote that has pre-programmed shortcuts to both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video (as mentioned before, you need to subscribe to these services). It is Android-operated and has built-in Chromecast, plus downloading the apps you may need (like the DSTV now app) is very easily done through the Google Play Store. The Smart Remote also has Google Assistant allowing you to use your voice to search for whatever it is you’d like to watch.
What is the difference between a Media Box and a TV Stick?
In a nutshell, the difference isn’t that big and in many ways a TV stick wins hands down. However a media box offers many more connectivity options and often a higher resolution for streaming that may be better suited to your individual preferences. Let’s take a closer look:
TV sticks aka streaming sticks are comparatively cheaper than Media Boxes. However if other factors are more important to you (like 4k viewing) then the price difference would be worth it for you.
Around the size of a USB stick, TV sticks are small and easily plug into your TV’s HDMI port without taking up too much space. If you have a wall-mounted TV this may be the only option for you as you won’t have the space for a media box. A smaller TV stick can generally be plugged in without being seen.
A media box needs something to stand on and needs to be plugged into an electrical point, so if you don’t have a TV cabinet or stand then this probably isn’t the best option for you.
A TV stick is extremely portable, so taking it with you on holiday or when visiting friends and family is super easy and allows you to enjoy your favourite streaming service wherever there is a TV.
Speed and Power
Because a media box can plug directly into your internet source, it is definitely the faster of the two.
If you’re a gamer and want to use a streaming device for this, then a media box may be a better option for you. Because a media box is always plugged in, it is always on whereas a TV stick that is powered by your TV’s USB port always needs a few minutes to ‘warm up’ when you switch on your TV. If this is something that would bother you, then the media box is the clear winner of this category.
TV sticks need an HDMI port and a USB port for power which then connects to your WIFI and lets you begin streaming. If you have a weaker WIFI connection, you may want to look at a Media Box as you’ll be able to connect it directly to your router.
Mediabox Maverick 4k Media Player
This google-certified media player comes preloaded with DSTV now, Netflix, Showmax, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. It has built-in Chromecast functionality as well as Google Assistant which allows you to use your voice to navigate your viewing experience.
Xiaomi MI TV Box
Like the Xiaomi MI stick mentioned earlier in this post, the MI TV box comes with built-in Chromecast and Google Assistant. This device supports 4K at 60fps videos giving you an overall Ultra High Definition quality that is superior to the MI stick at just 1080p.
Smart TV vs Android TV
Smart TVs that come with preloaded apps usually include the apps that are most in-demand like Netflix and YouTube to name a few. The downside of this is that if you’re looking for a new app, you may not be able to get it if it isn’t preinstalled on your specific Smart TV. This also means that when new streaming services become available in South Africa you won’t be able to get that app directly on your Smart TV. Many Smart TVs don’t have an upgradeable operating system either.
Some Smart TVs like Hisense, Sony and Panasonic have built-in Android operating systems, meaning your Smart TV has the user-friendly menu that you’ve come to know and love on your Android-powered smartphone. Your TV then has access to the GooglePlay store so you’ll be able to choose from thousands of apps and not be limited to the few that come built-in. Another benefit of an Android TV is that its operating system is upgradable (and so are all of your chosen apps). When new services become available in South Africa, you won’t need to upgrade your TV or device as you’ll be able to just download it if and when that happens.
In the same way that you can make your TV a Smart TV by plugging in a TV stick or Media box, if the device you choose has an Android operating system (like the Amazon Fire Stick or the Xiaomi MI stick), it will transform your TV into an Android TV.
Because of this limitation of some Smart TVs, many people have both a Smart TV and either a media box or TV stick to be able to access all the apps that are out there.
DSTV Now app for Smart TV
So what about DSTV? Let’s say you have a Smart TV (or with the help of a media box/ TV stick you’ve converted your TV into one) – you’ve chosen your favourite streaming service and you’re watching series and movies like a boss, but now you’re wondering about your DSTV subscription. If you seem to be only watching sports or news channels on DSTV, you may want to look at switching your current package to DSTV Compact. At around R400 per month (almost half the price!) you’ll get 125 channels including news and sports channels and the ability to use the DSTV Now app on up to 4 devices of your choosing, giving you flexibility to stream DSTV wherever you are.
To download the app on your Smart TV:
- Search for DSTV Now and and install the app
- Once downloaded you will receive a display code on your TV screen
- Go to now.dstv.com on either your smartphone, laptop or tablet and sign in
- Enter the code displayed and click on the ‘sign in on TV’ button to start viewing the app on your TV
Alternatively if you have a Google Chromecast device or a TV stick with Chromecast functionality (like the MI stick from Xiaomi) you can download the app on your smartphone, select the channel you want to watch and cast it to your TV.
With all the incredible options out there, hi definitely has the right device for you.
If there’s a specific topic you’d like us to cover, leave us a comment and let us know as we would love to hear from you.