Make a Netflix smart TV with mobile remote

Australia is currently in the midst of a boom in ‘video on demand’ (VOD) streaming with Stan, Netflix, Presto and Quickflix all offering movies and TV shows for around $10 a month. If your TV doesn’t have the built-in tech to deliver those services, you don’t need a new smart TV – you can make your own.

What you’ll need:

  • Android device with Android 4.0.3/ICS or later, or
  • Apple iOS 7.0 or newer device
  • Google Chromecast dongle
  • Home broadband with Wi-Fi
  • Total cost: about $50
  • Total time to complete: 30minutes

How it works

iviewSmart TVs are essentially ordinary flatscreen TVs with a tablet-grade processor bolted on providing the ‘smart’ tech.

In terms of VOD streaming, you can turn any HDMI-ready TV (and almost any HDMI-ready monitor) into a smart one with a $49 Google Chromecast dongle.

We’ve looked at Chromecast previously – we’ve even shown you how to hack it – but combined with almost any Android and late-model iOS devices, Chromecast can turn your TV into a wireless streamer able to play Netflix and other VOD streaming services.

Chromecast contains all the hardware required to stream, decode and output those VOD streams – a single-core Marvell SoC CPU with 802.11n Wi-Fi and an HDMI output for up to 1080p (full HD) content – but the key is the Chromecast app.

The app only requires an Android device with Gingerbread/2.3 to become a Chromecast remote control. But minimum OS requirements for VOD streaming apps vary – for example, you’ll need at least ICS/4.0.3 to use the Android apps from Netflix and ABC iView, while Stan requires Jelly Bean/4.2. For iOS devices, you need at least iOS 7.0 across the board.

Any tablet as a remote?

net1What’s clever about the Chromecast system is its reliance on only Wi-Fi for control – it means you don’t need recent additions such as Miracast or MHL in your device. You don’t even need Bluetooth.

As long as you have working Wi-Fi, the minimum OS requirements and your preferred Chromecast-ready VOD app, you should be good to go. The key to Chromecast is that it is its own ecosystem, with specific Chromecast versions of VOD apps.

net2For example, when you select a movie to watch via Chromecast on the Netflix app, you’re actually telling the dongle to load the Netflix Chromecast app, which then tracks down your video and plays it.

Your mobile device then uses the Wi-Fi connection over your home network to control Chromecast playback, volume and time-position.

Chromecast alternatives

If you’d rather watch your own movie library instead, you can stream your content straight to your device using any number of apps, but we’d probably lean towards Plex as the most polished – grab the free Plex server for your PC and purchase the Plex app from Google Play or the App Store.

But Android users also can’t go far wrong using just ES File Explorer and MX Player, free from Google Play – ES File Explorer will see any shared folders available on your network and we still haven’t found a file format MX Player can’t play.