7 Best Devices to Turn a Regular TV into a Smart TV

Upgrading to a smart TV opens up a world of entertainment options and features, but buying a new TV is an expensive endeavor. Luckily, with the right device, you can convert your existing “dumb” TV into a smart one and access all the same streaming apps and services.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover the top options for adding streaming capabilities and smart functionality to traditional televisions. Whether you want the best device overall or need to stick to a tight budget, you’ll find the perfect smart TV solution here.

What is a Smart TV and Why Should You Want One?

A smart TV includes built-in internet connectivity and streaming platforms. This allows you to access popular apps like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and more directly through your television. You can browse content, play shows and movies, and even control playback all without any additional devices needed.

Here are some of the great benefits a smart TV provides:

  • Streaming Apps & Services – Access virtually any streaming service like Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max and thousands more all from a simple, intuitive smart TV interface. No extra streaming box needed.

  • Voice Controls – Many smart TVs now come with integrated voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant to easily search for content or manage playback hands-free.

  • Smart Home Controls – Smart TVs often double as smart home hubs, letting you control other connected devices like smart lights and thermostats right from the TV.

  • Automatic Updates – Smart TV platforms update themselves to add new features and apps over time so the experience stays fresh. Dumb TVs can’t update.

Upgrading an older dumb TV saves the cost of buying a whole new smart TV. And adding streaming opens up a world of entertainment you’re missing out on otherwise.

But with so many options for adding streaming to traditional televisions, how do you choose? We’ll cover the top device choices here as well as everything else you need to know.

7 Best Devices to Make Your TV Smarter

Ranked from best overall to best for specific functions, these are the top options for adding smart capabilities to existing televisions:

1. Google Chromecast with Google TV – Best Overall

Price: $29.98

Resolution: Up to 4K (depends on TV)

Key Features:

  • Stream over 700,000 shows & movies
  • Giant library of apps to download
  • Google Assistant built-in
  • Personalized recommendations

Google‘s latest Chromecast tops our list for its ideal balance of affordability, usability and sheer content options. For under $30, you get full smart functionality including voice controls via Google Assistant.

The Google TV interface puts curated, personalized watch suggestions front and center based on your subscriptions and preferences. And you get access to almost any streaming service imaginable; just download the app to start watching.

Set up takes two minutes: Plug the Chromecast HDMI dongle into your TV, connect to WiFi and you’re all set. For both cost and capability, the Chromecast with Google TV is hard to beat.


  • Inexpensive
  • Easy set up
  • Robust platform
  • Voice commands


  • Lower max resolution on cheaper model

The Chromecast supports up to 4K streaming but the base $30 model maxes out at 1080p HD. Still, for most the standard model hits the sweet spot of affordability and quality.

2. Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite – Best Budget

Price: $29.99

Resolution: 1080p Full HD streaming

Key Features:

  • Alexa built-in
  • Voice remote
  • Streaming apps
  • Live TV with guide

Amazon‘s most affordable streaming stick delivers smart functionality without breaking the bank. For just $30, you get full HD streaming capabilities and Alexa voice controls built right into the remote.

The Fire TV Stick Lite provides instant access to all the top streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Prime Video and HBO Max. There‘s also a live channel guide that lets you stream news and sports broadcasts totally free.

Consider the Fire TV Stick Lite if you want basic smart features on a budget. Compared to the Chromecast, you‘ll save a few dollars for largely the same streaming capabilities. However, the Google TV software arguably provides a richer experience overall.


  • Extremely affordable
  • Easy plug and play setup
  • Alexa voice remote


  • HD rather than 4K
  • More limited platform compared to Google TV

3. Roku Express 4K+ – Best Budget 4K

Price: $39.99

Resolution: 4K/HDR streaming

Key Features:

  • Smooth 4K streaming
  • 500,000+ movies/TV episodes
  • Roku App for streaming control
  • Includes Roku Voice Remote

The Roku Express 4K+ delivers ultra sharp 4K resolution at an impressively low price. For under $40, you can now stream your shows in richer, more vibrant 4K quality.

Much like the Chromecast, Roku offers a massive library of streaming apps and channels. From stalwarts like Netflix and Prime Video to more niche apps, Roku likely has it. The included Roku App also allows you to control streaming directly from your smartphone.

While generally easy to use, the Roku interface feels somewhat basic compared to sleeker platforms like Google TV. But for 4K streaming on a budget, the Roku Express 4K+ streaming stick is virtually unrivaled.


  • Inexpensive 4K streaming
  • Roku app for smartphone control
  • 500,000+ movies & shows


  • Dated interface
  • Less robust app library than Google

4. Nvidia Shield TV – Best High-End Streaming

Price: $179.99

Resolution: 4K HDR/Dolby Vision

Key Features:

  • Powerful streaming performance
  • Chromecast built-in
  • Gaming capabilities
  • AI upscaling

As far as pure streaming capability goes, little beats the Nvidia Shield TV. Packed with advanced features and futuristic performance, it provides an exceptionally smooth, versatile streaming experience.

First and foremost, the Nvidia Shield supports crystal clear 4K HDR and Dolby Vision playback for best-in-class picture quality. Custom Tegra X1+ processors then power through any streaming, gaming or multitasking needs with ease.

The Shield TV also touts AI upscaling, which can boost lower resolution streams up to 4K-like clarity. This mini machine truly maxes out streaming with speed and smarts.


  • Killer performance
  • Packed with features
  • AI video enhancement


  • Very expensive
  • Potentially overkill for basic needs

Yes, you pay a premium for all that power. But for home theater enthusiasts after the ultimate streaming box, the Shield TV shines.

5. Apple TV 4K – Best for Apple Ecosystem

Price: $129.99

Resolution: 4K HDR/Dolby Vision

Key Features:

  • Seamlessly integrates Apple devices
  • Powerful A15 Bionic chip
  • Spatial Audio support
  • Sleek all-new Siri remote

It should come as no surprise that Apple TV 4K couples best with iPhones, iPads and the Apple ecosystem overall. Its clean, app-driven interface even resembles an iPhone brought up on the big screen.

This latest generation gains more power and efficiency courtesy of Apple‘s blazing fast A15 Bionic chip. Spatial Audio support also brings immersive surround sound when using AirPods.

From Apple Arcade gaming to Apple Fitness workouts, Apple TV 4K expands upon iOS features and apps rather than just core streaming. For existing Apple devotees entrenched in the ecosystem, going all-in with Apple TV 4K makes perfect sense.


  • Deep Apple integration
  • Intuitive, app-driven interface
  • Expand on iPhone/iPad features


  • Fairly expensive
  • Less essential if not already Apple-centric

As long as you don‘t mind paying a little extra, embracing the Apple TV 4K proves rewarding for faithful Apple users and converts alike.

6. TiVo Stream 4K – Best DVR Alternative

Price: $39.98

Resolution: 4K HDR streaming

Key Features:

  • Robust DVR functionality
  • Integrates live TV streaming
  • Intuitive program guide
  • Attractive interface

Designed by DVR veterans, the TiVo Stream 4K brings a familiar live TV streaming focus lacking in some other platforms. It combines renowned DVR-style program guide navigation with support for all the top streaming apps.

For cord cutters accustomed to traditional cable or satellite, TiVo provides a friendlier transition to live streaming services like YouTube TV or Hulu + Live. Cloud recording capability even lets you record and playback certain live programming similarly to a standard set-top DVR.

Support for virtually every major streaming service remains excellent as well. If you still want that DVR-ish feel however you stream, TiVo makes an enticing offer.


  • Approachable like cable/satellite
  • Robust recording features
  • Access all major streaming apps


  • Can run slower than competitors
  • More niche appeal

From its unique peanut remote to the familiar interface, veterans of traditional television should feel right at home with TiVo‘s fresher take.

7. PlayStation 5 – Best Streaming Game Console

Price: $499.99

Resolution: 4K 120fps

Key Features:

  • Stunning graphics
  • Immersive console gaming
  • All major streaming apps built-in
  • Media remote available

It may seem unorthodox, but today‘s advanced video game consoles double as incredible home media hubs. The PS5 in particular streams shows and movies with unrivaled visual polish.

Of course, you‘re also buying a state-of-the-art gaming device touting cinematic graphics and show-stopping performance. Exclusive single player adventures like God of War: Ragnarok can‘t be played anywhere else.

But this souped up computer comes equipped for multimedia too. Alongside gaming visuals optimized for stunning 4K and 120fps, every major streamer finds a home on PS5. Netflix, Disney+, Hulu – they all make the cut in beautifully rendered form.

For those wanting a supreme streaming machine with gaming as an awesome added perk, the PS5 makes a shockingly great smart TV companion. A separate media remote even allows hands-free TV navigation.


  • Next-gen gaming
  • Jaw-dropping visuals
  • Built-in streaming apps
  • Media remote available


  • Very expensive upfront cost
  • Can be hard to find in stock

If you can get your hands on the oft sold-out console, the PS5‘s elite gaming and streaming capabilities justify an investment.

What To Consider Before Buying

While all these devices can successfully add streaming functionality to traditional televisions, choose wisely based on your exact needs:

Streaming Content Goals – What do you want to watch, and on which services? All streaming platforms provide access to mainstream staples like Netflix and Hulu, but niche app support can vary.

** resolutions and will appear suboptimal on a 4K display.

Internet Connectivity – Every streamer obviously requires decent broadband internet to function properly. Connect to 5Ghz WiFi if possible for fastest performance.

Existing Device Ecosystems – If you already use Alexa smart home gear for example, a Fire Stick with built-in Alexa may prove most convenient. Likewise Apple fans gain perks sticking with Apple TV.

Budget – Thankfully capable streamers now start around just $30. But power users seeking top performance and features will spend accordingly more for advanced options. Prioritize must-have capabilities over price alone.

When used effectively, streaming solutions like the ones covered here inject new life into traditional televisions. Just make sure your needs align with the right option.

Enjoying Your Upgraded Smart TV Experience

Once you select and set up your preferred streaming device, a world of on-demand movies, shows, music and more opens up via your newly smart TV. Here‘s a taste of the entertainment treasures in store:

Streaming Services – From Netflix to HBO Max, experience virtually any streaming platform directly through your TV. No laptops or mobile devices required! Browser filters and recommendations make scouring all those options enjoyable rather than overwhelming.

Live TV – Many streaming devices integrate live online television seamlessly alongside familiar apps. Browse live news, sports and more via YouTube TV, Hulu Live, Sling TV and other wire-free alternatives to cable.

Cloud DVR – Record and save shows, movies and live content to revisit whenever you like. No VHS tapes or even HDD storage necessary!

Gaming – Select multimedia powerhouses like the PS5 double as advanced video game consoles in one convenient device. Enjoy exclusive hit titles and stream everything else from one central smart hub.

And More – Listen to music, control smart home devices, access workout classes…top streaming options essentially morph dumb TVs into customizable home centers tailoring to your needs and interests most.

Thanks to HDMI inputs making connecting to virtually any television easy and instant, old faithful screens find renewed purpose. Why not save some money and take your existing flatscreen into the age of limitless streaming entertainment?

Frequently Asked Questions

What resolution do I need for 4K streaming?

To stream content in Ultra HD 4K, you need a compatible 4K smart TV device as well as a steady internet connection providing at least 25 Mbps speeds.

Do smart features slow down older TVs?

Generally no – the actual streaming device handles all video processing/app loading duties. The TV itself simply displays whatever images are passed through via HDMI.

Can you use multiple streaming devices on one TV?

Yes! Many TVs offer multiple HDMI ports allowing you to connect several media players simultaneously. You can easily switch between them.

Do these devices come with streaming subscriptions?

The devices themselves provide free access to services with primarily ad-supported content. But to unlock full experiences with Netflix, Hulu and others, separate paid subscriptions are required.

What‘s the best way to watch local TV channels?

Online live TV providers like YouTube TV and Hulu + Live integrate major national and local broadcast stations. An HDTV antenna also pulls local over-air signals absolutely free.

Give Your TV an Entertainment Upgrade

While smart capabilities are now standard on most new televisions, owners of even 10-15 year old sets can unlock modern streaming functionality with these clever HDMI devices.

For an investment often less than $100, you ditch antiquated inputs and menus for intuitive smart interfaces with all your favorite apps built right in. Streaming simply couldn‘t be easier.

So give your working but basic flatscreen revived purpose. Thanks to streaming technology advancing leaps and bounds ahead, excellent dumb-to-smart TV add-ons now cost less than a nice dinner out.

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