Ladies & Gentleman, Boys & Girls the future of free to air TV is here. And with I officially declare SKY TV the loser in embracing where TV is headed.
We’ve had Freeview for years and we’ve seen it evolve. It started with set-top boxes for the digital era. It embraced recording. It then embraced on demand content and apps. It has now reaching peak evolution. The SmartVu device from Freeview brings us the holy grail of free to air TV, live streaming and it’s a great start that’s full of potential.
SmartVu X is tiny, verstaile little device that is going to change the way you watch TV, no matter where you are. As long as you have a decent internet connection of course.
The first thing to note about SmartVu is it is absolutely tiny! This thing is about the same size as a Chromecast Ultra and comes with it’s very own remote.
Set up is dead simple. Simply plug it in to power, use the accompanying micro-USB to HMDI cable to plug it in to your TV and complete the set up. SmartVu runs on the Android TV platform so once it’s turned on you just need to connect to wi-fi, sign in to your google account and decide if you want to download the suggested apps. Once that’s done you can dive right in!
The slowest part of the connection is turning it on which is quite slow and set up through Android isn’t the fastest but it is pretty straight forward.
Once connected free to air TV awaits. In it’s first iteration SmartVu is limited in what free to air channels you can stream live.
TVNZ channels, Three, Bravo, Māori TV, The Edge TV, ThreeLife and few more are what you’ll get so don’t expect the full suite of freeview channels, although I’m sure that in the future we’ll see more content come to the device. Maybe not the version 1 device but Freeview are proving to be great adapters so I can’t see them not adding more capability in the future.
The navigation UI is well laid out, using the tile based system we’re all well familiar with. Across the top tiles you’ll find your apps, including the Freeview app which is where you watch live TV. If that’s too cumebrsome then the remotehas shortcut buttons for Freeview, Netflix & YouTube that will take you straight on in.
In practice this works pretty flawlessly. Go into the freeview app and choose the channel you want to watch. After a brief buffer period (about the same as you get when you want to watch something on Netflix), the TV is streaming your channel without any further buffering. It “just works” and that is what I love about it. It’s such a simple system that makes cord cutting easier than ever.
Where the SmartVu shines is bring the likes of Netflix, Lightbox and YouTube onto it to make it a cord cutting, home entertainment hub. And the beauty of running on Android is that is has Chromecast Ultra built into it. Yep it’s 4K capable and if you can’t find the app you want through the Play Store then just cast it from your Android phone onto the device! The big one we use outside of the main staple of apps is Plex and it works great with SmartVu.
Where this really shines is using it in a spare bedroom and making a non-smart TV, smart. We use it primarily in our Daughters room on an old 40inch Veon TV that is as dumb as they come. Now our Daughter prefers to ignore us to go into her room and as she puts it “watch her shows”.
The biggest down side is that the device itself gets ridiculously hot after extended use. I don’t understate that. It gets REALLY hot. On occasion I’ve turned it off out of concern that it would overheat and I have made sure nothing flammable is around it, just in case. I don’t want to scare people off, it hasn’t caught fire or set anything on fire but it does get hotter than any other device I’ve used before.
That aside with a price tag of just $139 the SmartVu X is the best evolutionary device Freeview have ever released. Streaming TV is the future and Freeview have embraced that and delivered a device that allows people to ditch the satelitte and UHF antenna. The beauty of streaming over the internet is that as long as you have power you aren’t affected by atmosepheric conditions at all, no satelitte disruptions or digital interference in stormy weather, just crystal clear HD TV all through the wonder that is broadband.
If you’re thinking about buying a Chromecast, wanting to make a dumb TV smart or just shopping around for a small portable streaming device then look no further than SmartVu. I mean it even has a magnet so it can stick the the back of your TV!
With 4K capability SmartVu is as future proofed as you can get right now and all the apps you want are either available through the Play Store or can be cast to it. Add in that you can watch Free to air TV on it and it’s a no brainer. Freeview I commend you, you’ve embraced the future of TV and you’re all the better for it.
SmartVu was provided by Freeview for the purposes of this review.