Entertainment Smart Home

How to Get a Smart TV for Cheap With an HDTV

Mihir Patkar 16-11-2016

It’s 2016, and we still don’t recommend buying a smart TV 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Buy a Smart TV What is a smart TV and should you buy one? Here's a detailed look at the biggest drawbacks of modern smart TVs. Read More . In fact, if you have an old HDTV that’s working well, you should stick with it. You can easily turn it into a smart TV — nay, better than a smart TV.


The most basic definition of a smart TV is any television set that lets you access the internet. But you need so much more than just “access” alone. You want to watch Netflix or Hulu, or stream news and sports if you’ve cut the cable cord.

Most smart TVs don’t do a good job of this. Plus, they have serious security flaws. And importantly, buying a smart TV doesn’t make you future-proof. New video standards and apps are introduced regularly, and smart TVs don’t get regular updates to accommodate these.

Which brings us back to the first point. It’s better to stick with a regular HDTV, and turn it into a smart TV with specialized gadgets Save Money on a Smart TV with These More Affordable Options Read More . Here are the best options.

Google Chromecast

The cheapest option of all is to buy a Google Chromecast Google Chromecast Review and Giveaway We're giving away a Google Chromecast, so read through our review, then join the competition to win! Read More . The little $35 gizmo fits into an HDMI slot on your TV. Once you set it up, you can stream media from computers or mobile devices, as long as both are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

Chromecast is incredibly easy to use. Any app that supports it, like YouTube or Netflix, will let you cast a video to the TV. You can even cast your device’s screen or a browser tab How to Cast Local Media From Your Mac to Chromecast Here's all you need to know on how to stream to Chromecast from your Mac, whether you're casting videos, music, or photos. Read More , in case an app doesn’t support it.


The only downside of the Chromecast is that it isn’t an independent device. Your “smart TV” with Chromecast needs an input device, like a phone, tablet, or laptop.

Roku / Media Players

There are several good media players out there. But we recommend Roku over all others. It’s the most foolproof, easy interface for the non-techie user.

Roku works with all major streaming services 6 Reasons Why You Need A Roku [Opinion] Electronics can be evil. A short time ago I wrote an article about using the Xbox 360 as a media center. I concluded that it wasn’t the best choice. Sensing my betrayal, the 360 promptly... Read More , like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, ESPN, and more. It comes with a dedicated remote control, which has a little headphone jack. That’s right, you can use your regular headphones to listen to the TV wirelessly.

The new Roku 4 also supports high-resolution 4K and HDR (High Dynamic Range) videos. It’s not a necessity for most people, to be honest, and you should buy it only if your TV supports 4K already. Otherwise, get one of the older models, which will cost less.


There are a range of Roku models, so you need to know which Roku media streamer is right for you Which Roku Media Streamer Should You Buy? The current offering is split into five products – the Roku Streaming Stick, and the Roku 1, 2, 3, and 4. This article looks at what each product can offer, and tries to ascertain which... Read More .

Intel Compute Stick / Mini PCs

Both the Chromecast and Roku are excellent. But if you want a truly powerful smart TV, ditch Chromecast and get an Intel Compute Stick or Mini PC Thinking of Buying a Chromecast? Buy a Stick PC Instead The Chromecast is a wonderful little gadget. However, it has some issues that could mean it's not the right choice for you. True geeks should consider buying a stick PC instead. Read More . You’ll get a full-fledged Windows computer running on your TV.

It’s a little costlier, but you can do so much more with it. Obviously, you get all the Windows 10 apps and you can stream anything on a browser like Edge. That includes 4K streams, too.

But more than that, it makes your smart TV about more than just watching videos Buying an Intel Compute Stick? 7 Pros and Cons You Must Know The Intel Compute Stick wants to be a truly portable PC in your pocket. Read More . You can work with Office, check your emails, browse social media — all things you often want to do. Heck, you can store all your photos on it too.


Pair it with a good wireless keyboard with trackpad, or use a remote keyboard app on your phone. Either way, it’s an excellent Home Theater PC (HTPC) for your living room. And better than building your own, since the Compute Stick and mini PCs are tiny, and can be hidden away in any home theater setup.

Raspberry Pi

If the Windows operating system isn’t that important, then a Raspberry Pi is a cheaper option for an HTPC The Raspberry Pi Home Theater: What You Can And Cannot Do If you’ve been following our recent articles about the Raspberry Pi, you’ll know that it can be set up as a media streaming client with a dedicated XBMC build and you should also be aware... Read More . It offers the same low-energy, small-size benefits, while running on a Linux operating system.

The Pi will also require a keyboard or a remote app. You’ll also ideally need the new Raspberry Pi 3, since it has integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Add an HDMI cord, a case, and a microSD card, and the total cost shouldn’t be more than $50. Not bad to get a full PC for your HDTV, eh?

In case you have any other queries, our guide to set up a Raspberry Pi media center with RasPlex The Easiest Raspberry Pi Media Centre, With RasPlex Read More should answer them all.


Android TV Box / Apple TV

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. In Apple vs. Android, buy the ecosystem, not the gadget Apple vs. Android: Buy the Ecosystem, Not the Gadget You love your Android phone and want to buy a tablet. Everyone tells you the iPad is the best tablet, and it really is the best; but you should still buy an Android tablet. Read More . So if you use an iPhone and a Mac, do yourself a favor and get an Apple TV Still Unsure If You Need an Apple TV? Here’s What It Can Do On the fence about what seems like yet another expensive Apple purchase? Check out what you can do with an Apple TV and decide for yourself. Read More . If you’re on an Android phone with a Chromebook or Windows laptop, an Android TV box might make sense Android TV Boxes: What Are They and What Can They Do? Is Android TV better than satellite, over-the-air TV, or cable? Here's what you need to know about Android TV boxes. Read More .

Both smart boxes will turn your TV into a smart TV, but are rooted in their ecosystem. Don’t try to mix and match, it’s not the ideal experience.

It’s difficult to fully justify buying these instead of one of the other options, but if your purchases are mainly on the Play Store or App Store, then it makes sense.

PlayStation 4 / Xbox One

The two major video game consoles are both capable media players Which Game Consoles Can You Use as a Media Center? Looking at Microsoft and Sony's next generation offerings, it seems that bringing video, TV, music and your photo collection (and probably social networking) into the mix of games and achievement unlocking is now part and... Read More in their own right. The biggest feature they have that others don’t is a Blu-ray drive to watch high-definition movies. The consoles also output better quality audio than any of the other options, in case you use external speakers. And they will soon be getting HDR support as well.

In particular, the Xbox One is a fantastic media player PS4 vs Xbox One: 5 Reasons To Buy The Xbox One This year's E3 felt almost like it was over before it began. Though the conference lasts for days, both Microsoft and Sony made their announcements before the doors opened, showing not just hardware but also... Read More . It supports all of Microsoft’s services, like Groove Music. It even features the Plex media server, in case you use that.

Over the last year or so, PlayStation 4 has received updates to make it a capable media player too. The interface isn’t as intuitive as the Xbox One, but once you get used to it, it just works.

Do You Actually Use Your Smart TV?

While we have articles to help choose between a media player, media streamer, and HTPC Media Streamer, Media Player or HTPC: Which One Is For You? Read More , in the end, only you can figure out the right device for you. The common thread here is that a smart TV isn’t necessary.

A lot of people who buy a smart TV don’t end up using the “smart” features at all. If you purchased a smart TV, we want to know, do you use its smart features regularly? Or have you got a Chromecast, Roku, or console that receives more attention?

Share with us in the comments section below!

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  1. help4code
    May 14, 2018 at 10:51 am

    It was an amazing article. Your article helped me to understand it. I have recently purchased tv, hope this will work for me.

  2. Rodney
    July 18, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    I use my smart tv all the time. I had a Roku player with my old HDTV. Once I got my Smart TV I put my Roku player in the drawer. Its just simpler, one button to Netflix, no extra remote. The security comment is a bit alarming though.

  3. Tony V
    November 17, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    Have a smart TV. I also have a Roku and I love my Roku. It is a little easier though to access Netflix Hulu or Amazon on my TV as opposed to going through the Roku. A little more convenient.

    • Mihir Patkar
      November 30, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Ooh, which smart TV?

  4. likefunbutnot
    November 17, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Mihir didn't like the nVidia Shield Set Top, which I believe is the result of either user or environmental issues on his part, and he also neglects Amazon Fire devices. This is a problem because as it happens, those are probably the two best all-around options for media services at the moment, even better than using an HTPC.

    Here's why: 4k Authorization. nVidia Shield has it. FireTV has it (the high-end Roku box also has it, but it's not as flexible in other areas and frankly the UI lag on Roku players drives me nuts anyway so screw those things). Windows, Linux and MacOS do not have access to play 4k content via Netflix, Amazon or Vudu; Netflix won't even deliver 1080p via a PC unless you're using Microsoft Edge and that's just gross. Apple's STB won't do 4k at all and the premium Chromecast won't talk directly to Amazon. If I'm looking for the full set of available features on a current device, nVidia and Amazon are probably the best all-around bets. Other Android STBs are lacking the 4k authorization and/or are barely capable of playback anyway (cough Matricom cough), which to me makes them also-rans in this category.

    Amazon devices are particularly credible in this area, since there are high and low cost options that feature a completely consistent and responsive UI, have dedicated remotes and good support for external modification (i.e. they'll run Kodi with just the tiniest bit of user effort). As far as I'm concerned, there's no reason to talk about any other streaming device.

    The Shield is a fantastic machine and even works as a functional transcoding Plex Media Server, but it's a little too expensive to recommend for just Set Top Box duty.

    • Mihir Patkar
      November 30, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      I actually don't like any of the Android STBs right now, not Nvidia particularly. But for anyone who is interested in the devices LFBN mentioned, here's a nice comparison:


      • likefunbutnot
        November 30, 2016 at 3:45 pm


        I'm not sure how you justify the position that the Roku is a better box than either Fire or Shield. Even the article you linked doesn't find them particularly praiseworthy devices. Laggy UI, barely functional search and limited ability to access local content (absent a Plex Media Server, at least) do not a great product make.

  5. Daniel Perez
    November 17, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    No mention of the Amazon Firestick?

    • Mihir Patkar
      November 30, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      It's nice, but I think the Roku is a better choice right now.

  6. Oswaldo
    November 17, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    I got a Full HD TV back in 2011. Non-Smart. A few months later, I got a Home Theater, same brand as my TV. Next year, I won a PS3 console at a company event. I've been using my TV with cable, Blu-rays, and YouTube for the last five years. And, last month, I signed into Netflix, for its Marvel shows. It lets me watch my shows wherever I may be (provided there's a Wifi signal) at the same time as my family watches another show at home. Cable has a place for news, sports, and other live content. Youtube is best for archival and home content. And Netflix is best for its original content. Just avoid binge-watching.

    • Mihir Patkar
      November 30, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Nicely put, Oswald :)

  7. Richard Wingfield
    November 17, 2016 at 7:22 am

    I'd love a dumb TV but where would you find such thing?

    • Ron Ablang
      November 20, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      Isn't that any HDTV being sold that doesn't have the word "smart" in it's name or description?

      • Mihir Patkar
        November 30, 2016 at 1:34 pm

        Yup exactly. You'll also find some "smart TVs" that aren't actually smart because they have Ethernet and not Wi-Fi, or have outdated UIs that don't support new features of apps like Netflix.