Last updated on June 4th, 2021
Smart TVs are great because they let you watch streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ on your TV without additional cables or boxes. Unfortunately, not every TV is smart. If you’re stuck with a ‘dumb’ TV, you can still access streaming services in a number of ways. There is a caveat to this, however. Your TV must have an HDMI port in order to use most of the following solutions.
- Your Laptop – If you have an HDMI cable and a laptop with an HDMI port, you can hook your laptop up to your TV. This will essentially turn your TV into a larger monitor for your laptop.
This solution is great because most people have a laptop they can use. HDMI cables are pretty cheap which makes this a cheap answer to an expensive problem.
The only issue with this solution is that you either need an awfully long HDMI cable or a wireless mouse. Without these, you’ll have to get up and change the show or service on your laptop. Also, if you don’t configure the laptop display, you might find that you’re seeing the show twice. Ideally you want to set the TV as the only display or an extended display.
- A Smart Box – Smart TV boxes are sort of like a cable box except they only really give you access to online streaming services.
Probably the best-known smart TV box is the Apple TV box. This device is fairly small and could fit into the palm of your hand. You need to plug the Apple TV box into the TV using an HDMI port and into the outlet by the supplied electrical cable. When you turn the device on and switch to the HDMI display on your TV, you’ll be walked through the set-up instructions.
Once installed, you’ll be able to access different streaming services through the device. The box comes with a remote, so you can flick through shows from your sofa. If you have an Apple device, you’ll also be able to cast and mirror your screen through the box. This means that you’ll be able to display your iPhone or Mac wirelessly.
There are also tons of android versions available online. Many of these are cheap and unbranded. They usually work very well but do make sure to read the reviews. You can also get an Amazon Fire Cube which performs in the same way. However, it has the added bonus of being voice controlled and compatible with other Amazon smart devices like Alexa.
- Streaming Stick – Streaming sticks include things like Amazon’s Fire Stick, Roku Express Stick, and the Xiaomi Mi TV stick.
In effect, the work the same way as the smart TV boxes except that you don’t need an HDMI cable. Instead, you plug the stick directly into the HDMI port of your TV. These sticks either need to be plugged into the wall outlet or they can draw power from your TV. To take power from your TV. You’ll need an adaptor and a free USB slot at the back of the TV.
Streaming sticks don’t allow you to mirror or cast from other devices. This means that you can’t display your phone or tablet through the sticks. What you do get is access to streaming service apps like Netflix, Disney +, Hulu, and others. These are natively hosted through the streaming stick rather than accessed through your other devices.
Streaming sticks are fairly cheap, usually running about $25 – $50 depending on the brand. The only other thing you’ll need is a subscription to the streaming services of your choice. For the Amazon Fire Stick, as with the Apple TV Box, and the Fire Cube, you will need an Amazon or Apple account. This is true of pretty much any device made by the big tech companies.
- Portable Media Sticks – These are pretty much exactly the same as streaming sticks with one key difference. The Google Chromecast is probably the best-known example of these devices.
To connect to your TV, do exactly what you would do for a streaming stick. You place the stick directly into the HDMI port and either power it from the wall or the TV. The difference is all down to how you access the streaming apps. With a streaming stick, the apps are native to the device. You don’t need to use an additional device to get to Netflix or Hulu.
With a Chromecast or similar device, you will have to use a mobile, tablet or laptop to use the device. When using a Chromecast, for example, you need to download the Google Home app on your android device. From there you will be able to set up and connect with your Chromecast. You will need to be using the same Wi-Fi network as the Chromecast to pair.
Once paired, you can mirror or cast your android device to your TV. You’ll need to have the streaming app downloaded to your device to watch through your TV. This can be a bit annoying especially if you’re short on space on your phone.
When casting to the Chromecast, you can use your phone as well as watching TV. Only the streaming app will be broadcast on the TV. If you mirror your device, what ever you see on your phone will also be displayed on the TV. Make sure you choose the right option, or you’ll destroy your privacy!
- Games Console – If you’ve got a PlayStation or Xbox, you’ll be able to access certain streaming apps on your console. Big apps like Netflix, Hulu, Disney +, Amazon, and Twitch are available on both consoles.
Some of these apps will be preinstalled, but others will need to be downloaded from the console’s app store. As with all the other options, you’ll need to have a subscription to use the streaming service of your choice. Any and all of these options will give you access to the most popular streaming services. You will need a subscription to every service you want to use.