Whilst smart TVs are designed to be used with apps, sometimes you might just want to surf the web. That’s where a browser will come in handy. Much like browsers on your PC, laptop, or phone, a smart TV browser will allow you to visit any webpage you like, including those that don’t have official apps.
In this guide, I’ll share the best TV browsers for your smart TV along with the pros and cons of each from my own experience.
Many of the browsers have some limitations in terms of the features on a smart TV or the input devices you can use. At the end, I’ll share some alternative ways you can browse the internet on your TV.
Things to Know When Using a Smart TV Web Browser
Using a web browser on a smart TV is an overall different experience from using it on a phone or laptop. For starters, smart TVs have smaller CPUs with lower processing power than a PC, so expect more lag if you’re accessing data-heavy sites such as those with video content.
Smart TV platforms generally don’t support flash which is sometimes used by older websites to display animations or interactive content. Even if the browser supports flash, that doesn’t mean the TV does.
Best Smart TV Web Browsers
Here are the 6 best smart TV web browsers:
- Puffin TV Browser – BEST CHOICE
- TV Browser by Canada Inc
- LG Web Browser
- Google Chrome (Sideloaded)
- Mozilla Firefox (Sideloaded)
- Samsung Internet Browser
Below are my full reviews of each web browser for smart TVs, with the pros and cons of each and a few screenshots too.
Puffin TV Browser
The Puffin Web Browser is different from most other smart TV browsers because it works in the cloud rather than locally on the device.
The Puffin TV Browser was at once point the top web browser in the Play Store. However, in 2020, the creators introduced an annual $20 charge (around £25) to use the Android TV Browser. The standard browser for mobile remains free.
- Renders webpages in the cloud which allows the browser to be used on any low-spec device
- Because pages are loaded in the cloud, the IP address shows the cloud server’s IP address which causes some sites to treat it as a proxy server.
- Costs $20/year (around £25) after the free trial
Available on: Android TV
TV Browser by Canada Inc
If you’re looking for a free alternative to the Puffin Browser for Android which can be downloaded through the Google Play store, the closest you’ll get is TV Browser.
This is more akin to a typical web browser, with processing done locally on your TV. It works as you’d expect a typical browser to work with a URL bar and a cursor to control it. The only issue I had with this browser was the slow speed of the cursor moving around which made the whole experience very tedious.
If you won’t be using the browser on your smart TV very frequently then it will just about suffice, otherwise I’d recommend you opt for the paid plan to Puffin.
- Eays to install via the Play store
- Works just as you’d expect a basic browser to work
- Cursor is very slow to move across the screen which makes it a pain to interact with
- Cannot sync favourites or history with other devices
Available on: Android TV
LG Web Browser
If you have an LG smart TV running on WebOS, you’re in luck as the built-in browser is very good.
Their Universal Search feature brings together search results from across the internet and your TV all in one place.
Plus, LG let you change the default search engine on your TV with a choice of Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
The only downside is that the browser itself is very basic. It will only show HTML5 content and will struggle to load any videos. Also, I often find that sites look different on the TV browser than other browsers, LG have explained that this is due to the TV browser only having a limited range of fonts available to it.
- Comes pre-installed on LG WebOS
- Brings together content from the internet and your TV apps
- Choose your default search engine
- Pages can sometimes look different compared to other devices
- Cannot play video content in the browser
Available on: WebOS
Quick Note: Sideloading Apps
The next two apps below will need to be sideloaded onto your TV as they are not in the Play Store or other TV app stores. To sideload an app to Android TV:
- Download and install the ‘Send Files to TV’ app on your Android TV and smartphone.
- Download and install the ‘FX File Explorer’ app on your Android TV.
- Update your settings to allow FX File Explorer to install apps (Settings > Apps > XXXX).
- Download the required APK for the browser to your smartphone.
- Open ‘Send Files to TV’ and press send.
- Find the APK in your downloads folder and select the TV (you must be on the same Wi-Fi network).
- Once the APK has been transferred to your TV, go to the FX Explorer and open the APK.
- This should initiate the install process.
For more detailed guidance on sideloading apps, see this article.
Google Chrome (Sideloaded)
Chrome has dominated the browser market for a long time now, and it’s no surprise given how speedy and lightweight it is. Many other browsers such as Microsoft Edge are now based on the underlying open-source software called Chromium.
Chrome is a very reliable browser that’s always being updated. In particular, it does a good job when it comes to security, with pop-ups to notify you when you may be leading to malicious content or insecure web pages.
However, given that it’s a Google-owned browser, privacy may be an issue if you’re concerned about Google collecting your data and tracking your behavior.
Getting Chrome set up isn’t as easy as the previous TV browsers. As well as sideloading the Chrome browser itself and the sideload launcher, you will need to install the mouse toggle app which costs £2.99 to use it.
If like me, you use Chrome on your other devices, you can sync all of your favourites and browsing history by logging in which is nice.
- Same recognisable user interface as chrome browser on other devices
- Log in with your Google Account to share passwords, favourites, and browsing history
- Very secure
- Requires sideloading which some users might not be comfortable with
- You’ll need to install the Mouse Toggle app which costs £2.99 to use the browser properly
Mozilla Firefox (Sideloaded)
If you’re more of a Firefox fan, this can also be sideloaded onto your smart TV.
Firefox uses less RAM than Chrome, this is well suited to smart TVs which generally have less processing power than laptops or desktop PCs.
Firefox has a built-in ad blocker as standard which is helpful, but one of the best features is browser extensions which let you add a ton of extra functionality to the browser.
- One of the fastest and most lightweight browsers
- Adblocker as standard
- Access browser extensions like the desktop version
- Again, you’ll need to buy the Mouse Toggle app to use the browser
Samsung Smart TV Internet Browser
Samsung have perfected the smart TV web browser which is evident from the default browser that comes pre-installed on their TVs that run the Tizen operating system.
The browser uses a large and easy-to-move on-screen cursor, or, with some newer models, you can connect a standard windows mouse and keyboard for a seamless browsing experience.
If you don’t have a Samsung TV, don’t panic as the browser can easily be sideloaded onto other smart TV platforms using the method mentioned earlier.
The browser is easy to use and allows you to choose between Google or |Bing as the default search engine/ Your most visited sites are prominently displayed when you open the browser for quick access or it’s easy to put them in the URL bar.
The browser has built-in ad-blockers that can speed up site load times and reduce any security risk. You can also change the font size onscreen if you have accessibility needs.
- Has a built-in ad blocker
- Easily set your default search engine
- Works with a mouse and keyboard (TV dependent)
- Needs to be sideloaded on other smart TVs besides Samsung’s Tizen platform
How to Browse the Internet on Your TV
Installing a web browser app isn’t the only way you can surf the internet on the big screen. Here are five more ways that will work with both smart and dumb TVs.
- Smart Dongle: I can recommend one of Amazon’s Firestick TV dongles for many reasons, one of them being the Amazon Silk Web Browser which can be installed on it for surfing the web. It can easily be controlled using the provided remote control and provides a slick user interface.
- Games Console: If you have an Xbox One, it’s built on similar software architecture to Windows 10 which means it has the Microsoft Edge browser built-in.
- Screen Mirroring: Use a Chromecast to mirror the Chrome browser from your laptop or TV. Once the Chromecast is set up, simply open the browser on your laptop and hit the cast icon to start mirroring a tab.
- Plug-in Your Laptop: Using a HDMI port, you can connect your laptop or PC and use a second screen to pull up a browser on your TV.
- Mini Desktop PC: Desktop PCs are far smaller than they used to be, you can now pick up some PCs as small as your palm which you could locate behind the TV with its own TV input for when you need to surf the web. If you’re serious about using a web browser on your TV, this will provide you a good user experience and ease of setting up each time, you’ll just need to fork out for the PC in the first place. You could even consider running Windows on a Raspberry Pi.