Do Smart TVs Need Internet? [What You Can + Can’t Watch]

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Smart TVs have taken over the TV market to the point where it’s almost impossible to find a new non-smart TV these days. But, if you’re one of those without a reliable internet connection or you are concerned about privacy issues, you may be wondering if smart TVs require an internet connection?

Yes, smart TVs need internet if you want to access all of the smart features such as catch-up TV and streaming services. However, if you only want to use it as a regular TV to watch live channels, then you can do this without the internet.

Keep reading to find a full list of what you can and can’t do when your smart TV isn’t connected to the internet and some helpful guides to get things set up.

Can You Use a Smart TV Without Internet?

Yes, you can use a smart TV without internet, however, you will only be able to use the non-smart features. This includes watching live TV or listening to the radio via Freeview.

The internet connection does not have to be wireless (Wi-Fi). if you don’t have Wi-Fi or it is unreliable, you can use a smart TV with a wired connection. The details of how to connect your TV to your router with a cable are later in this article.

If you have no internet connection at all, you won’t be able to use any of the smart features of your smart TV. This means you will not be able to watch Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, or other streaming apps, play games, surf the web, use voice assistants, and more.

Here is a breakdown of which features on your smart TV require an internet connection and which can be accessed with a Freeview aerial:

Requires an AerialRequires Internet/Wi-Fi
Watch Live TV (85 Channels)Stream Live TV via iPlayer (BBC Channels Only)
Listen to Live Radio (30 Channels)On-Demand TV (All4, ITV Hub, UKTV Play)
 Video Streaming Apps (Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+)
 Radio Streaming Apps (BBC Sounds, Global Player, Tunein, etc)
 Music Streaming Apps (Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music)
Surf the Internet (via a TV Web Browser)
Use Voice Assistants (If your TV has Built-in Alexa or Google Assistant)
Play Games and use Other Apps

How to Connect Your Smart TV to the Internet (Wirelessly)

When setting up a smart TV for the first time, it will usually take you through the steps to connect it to a Wi-Fi network. Simply select your network from the list, enter the password and you should be good to go.

However, if your TV is not brand new, you can easily connect it to your Wi-Fi network from the settings menu.

To connect your smart TV to the internet using Wi-Fi:

  1. Go to the ‘Settings’ menu on your TV and look for ‘Network Connections’ or something similar.
  2. Choose ‘Wi-Fi Connection’.
  3. Select the name of your router and input the Wi-Fi password.
  4. Your smart TV should now be connected to the internet.

The default name and Wi-Fi password for your router are usually on the router itself. If these have been changed and you do not know them, you’ll have to reset the router to factory settings which means all devices will need to be connected again.

Find more info on resetting your router here.


How to Connect Your Smart TV to the Internet (Wired)

If you are opting for a wired connection between your smart TV and the internet, you’ll need to connect it to your router using an ethernet cable like the one shown here.

If you’ve not yet sourced an ethernet cable, be aware that some are faster and more reliable than others. The brand doesn’t matter so much as the ‘cat’ number. The faster your internet is, the higher the ‘cat’ number you’ll need to ensure it doesn’t hold back your speeds.

Image: Ethernet cable

Which Cable is Best? You’ll want at least a cat 5 but if you have ultra-fast broadband look for cat 7 or 8. I recommend this cat 7 cable which is suitable for all internet speeds in the UK as high as 1Gbps.

To connect your smart TV with an ethernet cable:

  • Connect one end of the ethernet cable to your Wi-Fi router.
  • Connect the other end to the ethernet port on the back of your TV (see image).
  • Go to the ‘Settings’ menu on your TV and look for ‘Network Connections’ or something similar.
  • Choose ‘Wired Connection’ and you should be good to go.
Image: Ethernet port on smart TV

You do not need a password when using an ethernet connection as you would when using a Wi-Fi connection, this is because the cable is physically attached to the router so there is little risk of being remotely attacked.

My TV is Too Far From My Router! If your TV is a considerable distance from your router but you’d like to use a wired connection, instead of installing a long cable around your home, you may want to consider using a powerline adaptor such as this TP-Link starter pack which sends an internet signal through your home using the power cables.

A powerline adaptor comes as a pair, you’ll need to plug one into a socket near the router and connect it to the router, then the other into a socket near the TV and connect it to the TV.


Is it Better to Use a Wired or Wireless Connection for a Smart TV?

There are pros and cons to both wired and wireless (Wi-Fi) connections when it comes to smart TVs, here is a breakdown of each:

Wireless Connection

Pros:

  • Much cleaner – no messy wires
  • Freedom to place your smart TV wherever you like

Cons:

  • Likely to be slower than a wired connection
  • More steps to set up – requires Wi-Fi password

Wired Connection

Pros:

  • Faster than a wireless connection
  • Simple set up – no passwords required

Cons:

  • Can be harder to install due to cabling
  • Can get messy behind your TV, especially if wall mounted

I will almost always use a WI-Fi connection when connecting my devices, otherwise, you can quickly end up with cables everywhere.

However, if you have a slow connection and tend to stream lots of high-resolution video (e.g. 4K), then there are certainly benefits of a wired connection.


Related Questions

How Do I Know if I Have a Smart TV?

There are several ways to tell if your TV is smart, for example, it may have apps such as Netflix or YouTube on the remote or the home screen. It will have an app store in the menu and will have an ethernet port on the back (see image earlier in the article).

Can I Watch Netflix on My Smart TV Without Internet?

No, you will need an internet connection to watch Netflix on your smart TV. This can be a wireless connection (Wi-Fi) or a wired connection. If you don’t have home internet, you can also use your phone as a wireless hotspot to connect your smart TV.

Do Smart TVs Need Aerials

Yes, smart TVs need aerials if you want to access live TV via Freeview. However, if you’re a cord-cutter and only plan on watching on-demand TV and streaming services, then you don’t need an aerial.

Kieren

I have been building up my smart home since 2016 so I'm a bit of a smart home expert by now. On this blog, I share my favourite smart home devices that I've tested along with tips and tricks I learn by watching countless YouTube videos, scrolling through forums, and tinkering around with my own smart devices. I've always been a Google Home user but I'm starting to think Alexa might have the edge, what do you think?