If your TV is quite old and therefore not smart, or you’re just not a fan of your TV’s operating system, you can very easily just start using a dongle or a streaming device to change that. Some options out there are quite pricey, but there are some cheap streaming devices you can opt for instead.
Let’s go through some of your options, from dongles to consoles.
What is the cheapest way to turn a not-smart TV into a smart TV?
‘Cheap’ may rely heavily on the devices that you already have, so we’re going to list a few options. If you’re looking for a cheap all-in-one (offering an alternative TV OS with apps), then you’d likely want to get a device like the Amazon Fire Stick Lite ($59) or the Google Chromecast with Google TV ($59). These devices, while more expensive than some of the cheaper streaming-capable dongles available in Australia, will connect to your TV easily, without the need for casting from a separate device (such as a phone or a laptop).
If you don’t mind streaming from your computer or smartphone, with the content playing on the TV, you may want to consider the standard Google Chromecast ($19) or similar devices. This device lets you stream content from your smartphone or computer to your TV but it has a limited operating system, meaning you need a casting device (again, phone or computer) to stream the content you’d like to watch. Keep in mind though that this Chromecast (the third generation) is no longer officially supported by Google.
If you’d like to get even cheaper and rely on your ownership of a computer, you could simply connect your PC or laptop to your TV using an HDMI cable (these usually retail for between $3 and $20). There’s no content drop-off with this solution, as even the most basic HDMI cables will transmit 4K at up to 60Hz. Keep in mind though that this solution, depending on the length of the HDMI cable, will likely require you to get up and walk over to the TV to control the media (as you’ll probably place the laptop beside the TV). It’s a less convenient solution, but a solution nonetheless.
What cheap streaming devices are available from each major company?
Amazon, Apple and Google all offer media streaming devices, but if you’d like to get one included with an internet plan and potentially save some money, several internet providers offer Fetch TV (with Telstra soon moving to the streaming device instead of its own Telstra TV).
Let’s start with the standalone devices.
Amazon’s cheap streaming device
As we have already covered, the cheapest streaming dongle you can get from Amazon is the Amazon Fire Stick Lite ($59). This device is pretty barebones, with up to 1080p streaming (AKA: no 4K) and a very limited remote control (without volume buttons). As you spend more with Amazon’s Fire range, you’ll get more features, however, Amazon Fire Sticks and the Amazon Fire Cube don’t have Binge. As one of Australia’s major streaming services (with The Last of Us, Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon) we thought this was an important point to make.
Apple’s streaming device
Apple only sells the newest Apple TV 4K at the moment (starting at $219) with no other versions available. This is hardly a cheap streaming device, but keep in mind that you can still find older versions of the Apple TV elsewhere, such as the 2nd generation version of the Apple TV 4K 32GB available at Officeworks for $179. This device is no longer supported by AppleOS updates, which is something to keep in mind when shopping for any kind of tech.
Google’s cheap streaming device
The cheapest Google streaming device officially sold through the manufacturer is the Chromecast with Google TV HD ($59), though as we said earlier, you can still buy the third-generation Chromecast elsewhere, despite it being no longer supported. that said, the Chromecast with Google TV is a functionally better device, offering an integrated operating system that lets you stream content without the need for a phone.
If you’d like to bundle your internet plan with a streaming device, several NBN providers offer Fetch TV as an inclusion (Telstra will soon offer Fetch as well). With Fetch, you can stream live TV, pause it, rewind it and add channel packs. Additionally, Fetch offers several streaming apps built into the device, although keep in mind that Binge isn’t available on Fetch. You can buy Fetch’s cheapest device, the Fetch Mini, for $49 (down from $169 at the time of writing). It doesn’t have a hard drive for local storage and it’s not 4K capable (1080p max).
What can I use instead of a streaming device?
Like we said earlier, you can connect your computer to your TV via an HDMI cable, letting you stream all the same content from a browser or app, without the convenience of a remote-controlled streaming device.
You could also use a gaming console, if you own an Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5 (the Nintendo Switch might have YouTube, but it doesn’t have much else as far as streaming goes). The Xbox and PlayStation consoles have streaming apps for all the major streaming services, and allow you to use the gaming controller as a remote. Keep in mind though that this solution is dependent on you owning a console, which could cost you anywhere between $300 and $799, depending on the model.
Alternatively, depending on your TV, and depending on if you can stand your TV’s operating system just a little, you could probably stream content from your phone using an app. Some TVs require a specific app to be installed to stream content, while others have Apple AirPlay support or Android Screen Mirroring.
Which device is best for streaming?
There’s no doubt that the convenience on offer with cheap streaming devices is hard to beat, although there’s no definite ‘best’ one. You might be more attracted to Apple’s ecosystem, which tends to blend well with iPhone users, or you might be more interested in the easy navigation with Google’s Chromecast with Google TV.
It depends on what’s best for you, frankly. We’ve written this article with your budget in mind, but knowing your OS preferences is also important.
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