What Is an Internet-Enabled TV?

Smart TVs connect directly to the internet to provide streaming content

Girl using touch screen television in living room
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An internet-enabled TV is a television that is factory designed to connect directly to the internet and display content such as YouTube videos, weather reports, apps, and streaming movies or television shows along with other content that you once could only receive with the use of a system like a Roku box or Apple TV unit attached to the TV. It also displays all the usual television channels you receive on a regular TV.

You'll need a high-speed internet connection and an unlimited or generous data allowance with your internet provider to take advantage of all the features of an internet-enabled TV.

These sets differ from televisions that double as computer monitors—although many can do that as well —because no computer or outside equipment is required to display the web content. It is important to note, however, that viewable internet content varies by manufacturer. All the major television manufacturers offer smart TVs with beautiful displays now, so picking out the correct set for you can be difficult. 

What Services Do You Get on an Internet TV

When you are shopping for an internet TV (often called a smart TV), make sure you find out what features it has. If you are an audiophile, streaming music apps are probably important to you. If you're a gamer, you'll want to check out the video game compatibility.

Each manufacturer uses a collection of features that vary. Popular free and paid features that are available on internet TVs include:

  • Applications that work like mobile apps
  • Amazon Video On Demand
  • YouTube
  • Spotify
  • Netflix
  • HBO Go
  • Hulu
  • Live broadcasts
  • Sports
  • Video games
  • Twitter,  Facebook and other social networking apps
  • News and print publication channels
  • Music services (Napster, Pandora, Slacker)
  • Photo services
  • Weather

Amazon publishes a feature comparison chart that might help you when you are making a smart TV buying decision. These may change, but it is a starting place.

What You Need

To use the internet-enabled functions on any TV, you must connect the television to the internet. In most cases, this can be done wirelessly (which requires a wireless router), but some televisions require a wired Ethernet connection. After the TV is connected to your wireless router or directly to your modem by cable, it uses your high-speed broadband internet connection to deliver internet content.

There is no additional charge for the basic internet functionality on the TV, but some services, such as Netflix and Amazon Video, have subscription charges if you want to use the services. You may need to upgrade your internet data limit with your internet provider if you find yourself streaming a large amount of content.

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