How To Turn Your Dorm TV Into A Smart TV

smart tv

Do you still have an old TV? Looking to upgrade it so you can catch up on your favorite series or watch the game with your roommates? You can make almost any TV work as a smart TV.

How do you turn a TV into a smart TV? The simplest and easiest way is to purchase a streaming device and plug it into the back of your TV. These devices connect to the internet and provide you with all the apps you’ll need. It can be confusing which streaming device is best for you and what features you’ll need. If you want to learn about other options you have to change your TV into a smart TV continue reading.

Popular Media Devices

Finding the best devices can be confusing because there are so many of them. Because of this, I’ve provided a list of the most popular devices, so be sure to read through each one and decided which one is best for you.

Streaming Sticks

This is the most popular way people go about changing their TV into a smart TV and for good reason. Streaming sticks are very easy to set up and give you access to lots of apps. They also are relatively quick and can stream at high resolutions all the way up to 4k depending on the stick.

Stick Set Up

Setting up most streaming sticks is fairly easy and fast. The first step is to locate the HDMI ports on the back of your TV and plug your stick into one of those ports. You’ll also need to connect your stick to power so make sure there is enough room and an outlet to plug it in. We recommend that you also have your TV connect to a surge protector to preserve your TV.

After everything is plugged make sure your TV is on and on the correct HDMI port. You should see the screen change to whatever company your streaming stick is. Go through the setup and you should be good to start selecting your apps.

Gaming Consoles

Gaming Consoles are not only meant to play games but also store media. They also have disk drives which give them the ability to play DVDs and Blu-rays. Depending on which console you have you can also run cable through them and be able to watch TV channels on them. Let’s also not forget they also can store digital movies and shows on them. If your looking for a jack of all trades gaming consoles are great as your media centers.

Recommend Streaming Devices

If your already dead set on going with a streaming stick I have listed the most popular sticks and ones that I would recommend going with. You may also find that a streaming stick isn’t for you and may want to try our other options. If so, continue reading below to see other options.

Fire Stick

The Fire Stick is Amazon’s streaming device that comes preloaded with a bunch of apps. Being very user-friendly this is great for those that are looking for something that falls into the plug-and-play category. Priced at a very reasonable price it’s hard to say to the Amazon Fire Stick.

Google Chromecast

Chromecast is another great option and is very comparable to the Fire Stick. Being Google’s version of a media streamer it comes with google’s apps like Youtube. You really can’t go wrong with getting a Chromecast and it will serve your TV well.

Roku Streaming Stick

Roku really sets the bar high for streaming devices and rightfully so. They have one of the greatest interfaces and with the ability to use Apple airplay it really can do everything. Roku has also priced its streaming stick very competitively matching other streaming services.

Apple TV

For our Apple fans getting a device that works seamlessly with your Apple product will be important. Apple TV is a great solution for anyone looking to turn their old TV into a smart TV and get Apple’s services.

What Do You Get?

Apple TV comes with a premium price tag but includes a lot of cool features. Airplay is included which is great if you like showing all your roommates how good your Tinder profile is. You also have access to Apple TV+ which gives you access to Apple’s streaming services. They also included Apple arcade if your into gaming which has a good selection of mobile games.

Xbox One

For those that love to game the Xbox One can be a great solution that you weren’t even aware of. When Microsoft originally was developing the Xbox One back in 2013 they primarily focused on making it a media center. This means the Xbox could download most of the streaming apps we use today and hold all your media.

What Makes It So Great?

The Xbox really is the jack of all trades and can be called the media center king. It has the ability to play Blu-ray disks, play games, and stream apps online, there really isn’t a thing this console can’t do. If you’re looking to have the ultimate media center I recommend getting an Xbox One.

Raspberry Pi: DIY Project

If you want to save some money then a Raspberry Pi can be a great solution as a streaming service. Because you’re essentially building a streaming accessory from scratch, this requires you to get down and dirty. This is a great option for anyone interested in engineering, tinkering, or just making something with their hands. It also makes for a great parent-child activity if you have a child with a blossoming curiosity for anything STEM related.

After we’ve built it, we can install software called KODI on the Raspberry Pi which can mimic a lot of what these other streaming devices do for a considerably smaller price.

What Is KODI?

KODI is an open-source home theater software that can stream movies, music, TV shows, photos, and can even play games. It is super easy to use and the user interface is very clean allowing you to impress your friends. If you are interested in seeing how to install and use KODI check out our guide here.

Apps We Recommend

Once your set up and ready to go it’s time to decide on what apps to get. It can be hard with such a huge selection but hopefully, we can get you started off.


Of course, we are going to include Netflix becoming a staple on almost every media center, and for good reason. Netflix has a big selection of TV shows and movies on their services including their personal productions. Netflix currently is the largest streaming service around and continues to add content. This should be the first app you add to your media device.


Disney Plus is a fairly new streaming service that has risen to the top very quickly because of how great its services are. They provide most of their classic animated movies, Star Wars, Marvel, and even the Simpsons. It is new so it’s adding content all the time and should in no time be at the same level as Netflix and Hulu.


Hulu is a great streaming service if you really enjoy watching TV. They offer a cheap subsection with ads that are perfect for a student looking to save a few dollars. They also offer exclusive shows like Bob’s Burgers if that is something you’re into.

Amazon Prime Video

Another great addition to your streaming apps is Amazon Prime Video. They offer many great TV shows and have recently had to update their movie collection. What is great about Amazon Prime is they let you search their movies without having an account, unlike other services. They also let you rent directly in the app making it very easy and fast.

Samsung TV Plus

If your looking for live TV then Samsung has provided a great solution. Their app lets you stream live TV for free without a subscription which is great. It may not include more key channels but its offerings are great and can’t complain much given its free.


This one is very interesting considering it’s not a streaming service. Plex is a media center for you to store all your movies and shows for free. It’s very easy to set up and will be sure to include a guide on how to do that in the near future. If your looking for a place to store your pirated movies Plex is great…we are kidding.


You can’t have a smart TV without including Youtube. If you love watching prank videos or learning about how to unclog your sink then adding Youtube is a must. Recently, Youtube has catered to the TV industry and has developed Youtube TV which allows you to stream movies online.


For music lovers, Spotify really is the king of music. Adding this to your app selection will give you access to Spotify’s library of over 40 million songs. A cool feature that Spotify recently added is the ability to use your phone as a remote to control music from your TV. Make sure to add Spotify to your media device if love music.


VUDU is another streaming service that, unlike Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon isn’t a streaming service. Instead, it’s a place to buy and rent movies. Providing a lot of the newest movies out there and even releasing their opening day, VUDU is great for the avid movie watchers that want what’s current.


Making your TV into a smart TV is easier than ever and adds some great features that you wouldn’t get with a normal TV. As we said before, finding the perfect streaming device can be confusing which is why we provided a list of our favorite streaming devices. Hopefully, by now you have the knowledge to turn your dumb TV into a smart TV.


I'm a college student just like you. I want to know what the best tech is so I can be successful at college.

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