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How YouTube on a smart TV can make your life better

YouTube on a smart TV isn’t the answer to everything. At least, that’s what I keep hearing. Challenge accepted. In this article I’ll be road-testing YouTube on my TV to see if I can get to grips with it.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to watching series, documentaries and DIY hacks on a big TV screen. The most obvious outlet, YouTube, is often scorned. But I think the infinite choice at your fingertips speaks for itself – and it’s free to boot.

Come on, TV lovers, what more could you want?

But then voices pipe up in your group of friends and in tech forums claiming that YouTube on a smart TV would be preposterous. A good friend of mine once said it would be the work of the devil.

I tend to think they’re being a bit over the top.

However, what else could I do but put YouTube on my smart TV to the test once and for all. I plonked myself down in front of the box to find out how this streaming world can get the better of you. The end result surprised me.

Let's get started: the YouTube app on your smart TV

At the start of this guide I’ve got my cursor hovering over «Start». I’m pretty proud of so much meta

At times, YouTube on a smart TV seems anything but smart: the interface is too slow; the menu navigation too confusing; and operating it with a remote control is too complicated. There is obviously still room for improvement. And yet, as a proud owner of a smart TV less than three years old, you’ll be the first to admit it’s not such a faff to use as before.

Don’t get me wrong, I know typing in searches seems too fiddly. Especially when you want to watch lots of short videos, such as a new film trailer or a cool music video. Those kinds of things are better done on your phone or computer.

You see, my friends, you have to take a different approach to using YouTube on your smart telly:

1. Long videos rather than short ones

Long clips, such as documentaries or video essays come across better on a big screen than on your dinky mobile phone display. Because you’re not looking for a new video every few minutes, you won’t have to waste time fumbling around with the remote.

2. Videos from channels you’re subscribed to

It’s a good idea to subscribe to channels that suit your taste in videos. The reason being you don’t have to manually type in the names of these clips. All you need to start subscribing is a Google account.

3. «Watch later» comes into its own

If you come across interesting videos while you’re scouring your PC or mobile, you can add them to your «Watch later» list. Then the next time you’re sat in front of the box, you just hit play without having to type in a single thing.

4. Don’t overlook playlists

Playlists are practical things, as they’re set up to automatically play the next video once the current one is finished.

Using the remote as a microphone

This is the microphone button on the remote. Why don’t you give it a go?

While I’m sat here scribbling notes about the best way to use YouTube, I notice a little microphone icon on the remote. Rumour has it, all you need to do is press it to give the TV voice commands.

«There is only one way to find out», as senior editor Dominik Bärlocher says in these kinds of situations.

I press the button and say in German: «digitec company on YouTube».

It doesn’t seem to be so hot at foreign languages, as it promptly regurgitates: «digitec undertaker as youtube».

Once I get over the shock of it replying, I realise my smart TV can only understand English. Porgi, my plush little porg (a small creature from «Star Wars – The Last Jedi») comes to mind.

Right, let’s try again: «everything wrong with Star Wars».

I say «everything wrong with Star Wars» and Jar Jar Binks pops up. Coincidence?

Well, that second attempt was a breeze. I didn’t even have to open the YouTube app. My smart TV is clever enough to display search results from the Internet and YouTube.

Operating the YouTube app via your mobile

Rather than using the TV remote, you can also use your mobile to operate YouTube. You use the app as normal and the only difference is you get to watch the videos on TV rather than your small phone screen.

Connecting your mobile directly to the smart TV

All you need to do is click on the stream icon on the top right of the YouTube video while it’s playing. This is what it looks like:

It’s the little rectangle with the waves in the bottom left corner. Click on that to stream what’s on your mobile to a device in your network.

As long as your mobile and TV are in the same network, the name of your television should pop up on your mobile display. Just select it and you’re ready to go. You can even watch videos in 4K as long as the YouTube clip is available in the right resolution.

Chromecast: pimp your smartphone stream

Chromecast lets you stream almost everything to your TV that you can watch on your smartphone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a photo collection for a slide show; Internet TV via Zattoo; series via Netflix; or even YouTube videos. If you opt for the more expensive ultra version of Chromecast, you’ll be able to stream in full HD quality as well as 4K and with HDR.

  • Chromecast Ultra EU Version
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It’s quick and easy to install:

  1. Plug Chromecast into the HDMI port
  2. Connect Chromecast to the mains
  3. Switch on the TV and install Google Home on your mobile phone. Here’s the Android version and the iOS version
  4. Hook Chromecast up to your Google account
  5. That’s it
This little thing is magic 11876677 Connect it to your TV and the mains.
Install Google Home on your mobile 11876680 Then use YouTube on your mobile as usual.

While you’re watching a YouTube video, select the streaming button at the top right of the screen again. This time you won’t be selecting the TV as the playback device but rather your Chromecast. I called mine «living room».

As I could technically have more than one Chromecast, I decided to christen mine the rather unimaginative name of living room. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could call yours Beth or Billy.

In HDR playback (find out what HDR means here), there was a difference between streaming from your mobile via Chromecast to the TV and direct streaming between your mobile and the TV. There was for me, at least. In the YouTube app, my TV plays a 4K HDR demo video in 4K but without activated HDR. If I stream the same clip from my mobile via Chromecast to the telly, HDR turns on.

That puzzles me. I then try the 4K HDR video in the smart TV app. «There’s still no HDR,» I mumble to myself. I search in vain in my TV app settings for the option to «activate HDR when HDR content is available» and for an unchecked box. What I discovered is that you can only get HDR when you use Chromecast ultra for streaming.

Keyboard to the rescue

What bothers me about operating YouTube via my mobile is that I still need to have my phone around. If you’ve run out of battery or can’t use your smartphone for one reason or another, you’re pretty much at a dead end. So why not use a keyboard for the YouTube smart TV app?

Without further ado, I dig out my Razer gaming keyboard and link it up to the TV via USB port.

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And that’s where I encountered the first problem: I’m sitting quite close to the TV – uncomfortably and impractically close, you could say.

I didn’t even need my glasses when I was this close to the TV. PS Extra points if you spot Porgi on the bookcase.

Problem number two: the keyboard didn’t do what it was supposed to in the YouTube app.

I do a silly test and give the keyboard to a couple of friends to try. Still no luck.

I’d obviously been using the keyboard the way it was intended up until now. A quick gander online confirmed the app can’t be operated with a keyboard, no matter what brand of TV it is.

But don’t give up hope yet. In fact, I came up with a little workaround. You’ll notice the keyboard does work when you open your TV’s Internet app:

  1. Open your smart TV’s Internet app
  2. Go to www.youtube.ch
  3. Select the video you want to watch and hit play
  4. Use the remote control to switch back to the YouTube app
  5. Done. The app opens with the clip that you’ve just played.

Still not satisfied with this workaround? No, me neither. It certainly doesn’t save you time. That’s why I’d stick with the keyboard but solve problem number one: use a bluetooth version.

  • KM636 Wireless-Tastatur und Maus (USB, CH, Wireless)
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Why don’t you just connect your PC to the TV?

The people in the TV are looking around as if to say, «Don’t you think that’s a great idea?»

I mentioned earlier that you’re better off watching some YouTube videos on your computer. That brings me to the last thing I want to test. Why can’t we just hook our PC up to the TV?

And that’s exactly what I did. To be honest, it doesn’t really need much explanation. Just link the PC tower up to your telly via HDMI port and you’re good to go. As a general rule, your TV automatically recognises what resolution is needed. Even when your PC is hooked up, you can still game on it in the living room or do your tax return.

Now that I think about it, that exercise sounds rather familiar.

What happens when you hook up a <strong>65-inch TV</strong> to a PC?

What happens when you hook up a 65-inch TV to a PC?

So what’s the answer to everything now?

YouTube on my smart TV did improve the quality of my life.

As you can see, I tried out a few different options. But at the end of the day, it was the YouTube app on the smart TV that was easiest to use. I have to say I was surprised about that, as I’d been warned it was still rather poor by friends, acquaintances and on tech forums.

The benefits of the app include the fact you don’t need additional hardware and there are no annoying cables. My living room did somehow look more welcoming without a mouse and keyboard sprawled on the floor. Another advantage is that I don’t need any other controls apart from my remote control with optional microphone. All in all, the app is designed in a very remote control-friendly way.

With all these tips under your belt, you’re now ready to dive head first into the exciting world of the YouTube smart TV app. Don’t be nervous. It’s not rocket science, so just give it a go.

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Luca Fontana, Zurich

  • Editor
I'm an outdoorsy guy and enjoy sports that push me to the limit – now that’s what I call comfort zone! But I'm also about curling up in an armchair with books about ugly intrigue and sinister kingkillers. Being an avid cinema-goer, I’ve been known to rave about film scores for hours on end. I’ve always wanted to say: «I am Groot.»

19 comments

3000 / 3000 characters

User Anonymous

Protipp für eine Tastatur am TV: besser eine Tastatur mit integriertem Touchpad wie die Logitech K400, dann sind nicht immer beide Hände an Tastatur UND Maus gebunden, und mit Maus auf dem Sofa ist sowieso nicht so bequem.

05.03.2018
User gm5star

Absolut, Tastatur mit Touchpad ist die optimale Lösung. Ich möchte auf meine Kombi aus Intel NUC (für Kodi und YouTube) und Rapoo Tastatur (schön dünn aus Alu, gibts aber hier nicht mehr) nicht mehr verzichten. Da verzichte ich gerne auf die träge smartTV Youtube App. Das Suchen und eingeben ist mir zu doof.

05.03.2018
User Anonymous

Jupp, habe auch einen NUC. Für Youtube, Netflix und SRF streams benutze ich dann aber doch lieber den Chronecast mit dem Handy.

05.03.2018
User ursdaniel

Samsung hat extra tastaturen für den tv. Und bin total zufrieden

09.03.2018
Answer
User bkeleanor

Ich finde die youtube app auf meinem fernseher sehr gut. ich suche allerdings sehr wenig. meistens schaue ich mir die neusten videos meiner abos an und da reicht die fernbedienung völlig aus zum navigieren. wenn ich mal was suche gibt es nach wenigen buchstaben eh schon passende vorschläge.

05.03.2018
User anakele

Mit einem LG kann ich auf dem Handy in der Youtube App suchen, anschließend verbinde ich mich mit dem TV und der Stream startet in der Youtube App auf dem TV. Mein Handy wird für den Stream anschließend gar nicht benötigt. Einfacher geht es meiner Meinung nach kaum.

05.03.2018
User zuphil77

guter Beitrag, vielen Dank. Wenn hier jedoch Chromecast aufgeführt wird, sollte eigentlich Apple-TV nicht fehlen. Führt aus meiner Sicht zum gleichen Resultat, ausser dass man noch weitere Apps installieren kann. Vorausgesetzt natürlich, man hat ein iphone :-)

06.03.2018
User Anonymous

Habe eine noch einfachere Variante: Man nehme einen Raspberry Pi und führe aus:
Preferences > Raspberry Pi Configurations > SSH einschalten
sudo apt-get install libjpeg8-dev libpng12-dev
git clone github.com/HaarigerHarald/o...
cd omxiv
make ilclient
make -j4
sudo make install

05.03.2018
User Anonymous

Jetzt play.google.com/store/apps/... am Handy herunterladen und oben rechts bei SSH-Einstellungen die IP eintragen (falls unbekannt über Befehl ifconfig abfragen). Jetzt kann über die YT-App auf den "Teilen" Button geklickt werden und dann auf "Cast (Raspicast)"

05.03.2018
Answer
User nils.leumann

Wenn man keinen Smart TV hat oder einen Beamer verwendet kann man die YouTube App auf der Swisscom TV Box verwenden.

05.03.2018
User Anonymous

Gibt mittlerweile sogar schon smarte beamer ;)

05.03.2018
Answer
User Alessandro Bottinelli

Ich bin ein riesiger Fan der Youtube-App bei Smart TVs! Ich schaue sowieso kein Fern sondern nur Youtube. Mit dieser App wird der TV eigentlich im Dauerbetrieb verwendet, da ich entweder zocke oder Youtube schaue ^^ Vorher musste ich noch mit meiner Wii U über den TV Youtube schauen. Ich habe mir auch schon eine BT Tastatur mit Touchpad geholt, damit ich so nach Videos suchen kann. Jedoch funktioniert das Touchpad nicht. Entweder mache ich etwas falsch, bin unfähig oder das Touchpad ist von Anfang an kaputt gewesen oder "nicht kompatibel"..

06.03.2018
User MattJohannes

Ich tippe stark auf deine Theorien 1, 2 oder 4. Fall 1, 2 und 3 kannst du ganz easy Testen, indem du die Tastatur zb. deinem Kumpel für einen Test ausleihst.

13.03.2018
Answer
User lukas__97

Ich benutze mit meinem 2 Jahre alten LG TV den Chromecast. Da die Youtube-App des TVs nicht mehr geupdatet wird, ist sie entsprechend schwierig zu bedienen.
Und das Handy an das Ladekabel anzuschliessen, 2 Minuten eine Playlist erstellen und dann eine Stunde unterhalten sein, finde ich am besten...

06.03.2018
User DarthKeks

Nutze den Chromecast seid ein paar Monaten, war und ist für mich die beste Alternative gewesen.

06.03.2018
User benoit09

je regarde très souvent youtube depuis mon home cinéma depuis ma nvidia shield, je ne trouve pas que c'est moins pratique que sur téléphone et je peux aussi rechercher sur le téléphone et caster sur la shield

13.03.2018
User Sophie Boissonneau

Bonjour benoit09, la Shield est en effet une autre solution et les recherches ne sont pas aussi fastidieuses que sur une smart TV car ses manettes disposent de la commande vocale et elle a le Chromecast intégré :)

19.03.2018
Answer
User hockeymaster

Ich habe einen Lg Fernseher mit einer Airmouse Fernbedienung da geht das stöbern und suchen absolut schnell und bequem!!!! Schaue nur noch am Tv Youtube wenn ich zu Hause bin.

15.03.2018
User EMkaEL

"Ich drücke, und spreche: «digitec Unternehmen auf YouTube»."
und dazwischen einfach mal eben die einverständniserklärung verschwiegen, die man bei aktivierung der sprachsuche akzeptieren muss, damit das gesprochene gespeichert und für analyse zwecke verwendet wird etc.
Nein danke!

05.03.2018