Streaming TV and no need for an aerial or satellite dish? Yes please… PAT PILCHER checks out Freview’s SmartVu.
Thanks to UFB, New Zealand has some of the best broadband in the world. Now Freeview is taking full advantage of it by launching a widget that will let you watch streamed TV without an aerial or satellite dish.
They say that good things come in small packages, and this is the case with the Freeview SmartVu. Made by Dish TV, it does its thing – streaming content using broadband. In addition to broadcast channels from Freeview players (TVNZ, MediaWorks and M?ori TV to TVNZ OnDemand), it also supports Netflix, Lightbox and Kodi along with a near endless amount of Android TV apps.
Getting set up was a doddle. After connecting the SmartVu to a spare HDMI jack on my TV and hooking up its power supply, I followed some near idiot-proof on-screen prompts to get the supplied Bluetooth remote connected and the SmartVu hooked up to my router via Wi-Fi. From there I entered my Google credentials and was up and running. Total set up time: 15 minutes. Total stress: none
Its tiny size means the device can be magnetically attached to my TV’s rear, which greatly reduced set-top box clutter.
It might be small, but it doesn’t lack when it comes to features and functionality. Google’s Chromecast is built-in, and the remote has voice search capabilities. I could, for instance, hit the microphone button on the remote and say “show me greyhounds” which would then bring up half a dozen video clips. I can also ask about weather, traffic and all the other useful stuff that Android Assistant can do. It’ll supposedly work with smart lights and other home automation gear too. Add in Netflix, Freeview on demand, YouTube and Lightbox, and the SmartVu is pretty useful.
There are also a massive volume of Android TV apps and games (including Kodi) which means SmartVu looks set to become an indispensable part of my household. If you’ve recently coughed up a pile of dough on a fancy 4K TV, this will render UHD content effortlessly. Best of all, it’s priced at a very reasonable $139, making it an ideal stocking stuffer for Xmas.
With Spark sweeping up a growing bushel of sports broadcasting rights, SmartVu may also be just the thing for sports nuts too, and could just what is needed to view the 2019 Rugby World Cup. That said, Spark has yet to launch a sports app for Android TV and the SmartVu.
There are some channel gaps. Prime is not there, neither is Choice TV, and several Chinese and Indian channels, but it is early days, and some of these will most likely be added further down the track.
The SmartVu is pretty compelling. While this is helped along by its attractive sticker price, the sheer amount of functionality on offer is very impressive indeed. If you want to add smarts to a dumb TV, or are in a Freeview reception blindspot, it’s ideal. Add in the Android TV platform, and it becomes pretty hard to beat. The sheer number of apps, games and TV networks available on it make it incredibly versatile. Add to this the rather fun voice search, Netflix, Lightbox and the possibility that it could also get used for viewing sports and it makes the SmartVu a must have gadget for couch-spud-kind.