So you've just bought a nice shiny HDTV to play your videos on and now you're frantically searching Google for "Stream video to TV" where you find lots of pages (587,000,000 to be exact!) but no answers.
Thankfully, all you need is a suitably equipped PC/Mac, media player or Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, the right kind of wireless router, and, believe it or not, you don't even need to have an Internet-enabled TV! The only tricky part to this is bridging the gap between the two-especially if they're in separate rooms.
There are many ways to achieve this and this short 'How to Stream video to a TV' guide is aimed at helping with a straight forward way to get your TV to serve up videos, music, and even TV programming (both live and recorded), all stored on these other devices.
1. Choose the right router
A router is the gateway to/from your home to the internet and connects you to all the content available outside of your own home network. Internet video services such as Love Film, NetFlix and IPTV can be streamed to your TV instantly on demand but if you haven't got the right router these services can be slow, could buffer or even disconnect from the film just as you find out that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father!
It is important that you have the right router to stream video to a TV - most routers provided by ISPs are very basic and are often based on Wireless-G that cannot cope with the high bandwidth required by today's video streaming - especially with the delivery of HD content.
It's recommended that you upgrade your router to one with improved range and performance power, such as the NETGEAR R7000 Wireless-AC Router. This routers wireless and wired performance is suitable for the most demanding applications and serves to offer minimal buffering, lag or interference when streaming video from an 'on demand' service or from your own collection. This router is suitable for use with Virgin Media or Fibre Broadband, such as BT Infinity.
2. Consider buying a Smart TV
Currently, there isn't a clear definition for smart TVs adopted among the TV manufacturers. However, most, if not all Smart TVs offer connectivity to the internet and have built-in apps with video-streaming, social-networking and gaming functionality. Moreover, most of these apps are free and can be downloaded from an online app store.
Other common features include Web browsing capabilities, as well as remote apps for iOS and Android devices and an Ethernet port or USB port for network connectivity. These USB ports require the purchase of an additional Wireless USB from the TV's manufacturer and can often be quite an additional cost. These costs can sometimes be reduced by purchasing a third party wireless USB adapter. For example a Netgear WNDA3100 USB adapter can be used with a Panasonic Viera TV for a wireless connection and can save you up to £30 vs the official adapter!
To stream video to a Smart TV is easy - you will need to connect the TV to your router via an Ethernet cable or Wireless USB adapter and either download the video on demand service app and follow the on-screen instructions, or insert a USB storage device so the Smart TV can access the video file directly or stream from another device such as a NAS, using DLNA. (See related links for 'What is DLNA?')
You will also need to ensure that the video you stream or play on the Smart TV is in the correct format. Popular file types are AVI, MOV and MP4. Please check your instruction manual for a complete list of suitable file types.
3. If you don't own a Smart TV
Don't panic, you don't need to spend £1000s on the latest Smart TVs to stream video to a TV! A standard TV or HDTV can still have video streamed to it, thanks to a small device called a Digital Media Player. In the simplest of terms, a Media Player is a device for playing digital media files on a TV or Hi-Fi.
A Media Player provides one central hub for the enjoyment of all digital media. You can use it to play any video file or piece of music, or to view all your photos. All this in an easy-to-use, energy efficient and compact box. Connect the Media Player up to your TV via a HDMI or composite cable and you have an instant and convenient way to enjoy your music collection in the best possible quality.
4. Types of Digital Media Players
- Non-networked players: Use either an internal hard drive or storage attached to the Media Player, such as an attached USB hard drive, attached USB pen drive, SD Card, or an eSATA hard drive. You load the storage with your digital media files from a computer, or simply remove an SD card from a camera and insert it into the player.
- Networked players: Have the option of local storage but can also access a local network or the internet. This allows the player to access digital media stored on a home PC, or a dedicated storage device (NAS). Look for the DLNA or UPnP logo.
- On Demand: The degree to which this is an advantage varies massively between players depending on the content the player is able to access. Content varies from internet radio through to paid video-on-demand services such as Netflix.
Some Digital Media players offer a multitude of ways to stream video to a TV from an SD card, USB storage, PC, Laptop, the internet or even a BluRay drive and in glorious HD over a HDMI cable.
To stream video from a media player you will need to choose the right connection type for your TV, which can be found in the manufacturer's specifications. Once you have chosen your connection to the TV, you will then need decide how you want your stored files or internet video to be played back. For example, files stored on a NAS can be played back by connecting the media player to your router wirelessly or via a wired connection, and if you have a DLNA-enabled NAS, your files will be instantly available when you turn the device on.
5. Streaming Video from a NAS
Storing files on a NAS is an ideal solution for not only backing up your precious memories, favorite movies, music and photos but it also lets you share them with friends and family. A NAS does not need a computer to be turned on and can be accessed from multiple devices by multiple users at any time!
Some Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices such as the NETGEAR ReadyNAS series include a DLNA multimedia streaming server (built-in software). This streaming server allows users to stream multimedia content from the NAS device directly to any DLNA playback device (Televisions, Game Consoles, Set-top boxes, etc.). Additionally, a built-in iTunes server allows you to centralise the storage of your music files and then access them from multiple computers.
So, how do you stream video to a TV from a NAS? simple, just upload your files to the NAS, enable the DLNA feature using the included manual, connect the NAS directly to your router via a network cable (a NAS does not currently have a wireless option but can be accessed wirelessly once connected to a wireless router), finally powering up your DLNA-enabled Smart TV, Media Player or playback device and navigate to the relevant app (i.e Samsung AllShare)- your files will be there instantly! Your router will take care of the NAS IP address and DLNA will sort the rest out. All that's left is.. 'Quick, get the popcorn, the film is starting'!
6. Ditch Slow Wireless Speeds and Go Completely Wired
No-one likes wires running across the floor and Wi-Fi provides a convenient way to connect the computers in your home without dealing with the hassle of wires. However, Wi-Fi can be slow and unreliable compared to a wired connection. Wireless may be the way of the future, but the best way to go wired where it counts is when you want to stream video to a TV. As mentioned earlier, services like Netflix and Love Film are the future of online video entertainment and your own video collections are always a click away, but a lot of Wi-Fi connections can choke on streaming HD content. Not only will your picture be less than stellar, but movies can take a while to buffer before they become watchable depending on how far you are from the router, how much interference you have, and so on.
A straight wired connection will always get you crystal clear HD and quick streaming, so you don't ever have to worry about seeing a "buffering" message. Even if you're using something like iTunes to download a movie, it can seem like it takes an eternity over wireless, which isn't fun when you want to watch a movie straight away.
The neatest way to wire up your devices is with powerline adapters such as the NETGEAR XAVB5201. These handy little devices plug into your wall and actually use your home's existing electrical wiring to transmit data. Where possible, we always recommend you use a wired connection such as HomePlugs and best of all, you won't have any wires running across the floor. Very neat, not to mention easy to setup!
How does it all connect together?
So, by now you may have decided which way you would like to stream video to a TV. Below is a simple diagram of a typical setup for a home with all the above devices installed.