Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems
Q I'm looking after my grandkids after school while my daughter is at work. They say they want to watch Netflix but I don't know how to get that for them. Do I need a new TV? I have an ordinary television that's about three years old. Any advice would be much appreciated.?
A You don't need a new TV but you will need something to plug into your current telly. You'll also need Wi-Fi (home broadband) which I'm assuming you have already. (If not, it gets a lot trickier as you have to use someone's phone as a 'hotspot' - if this is the case, email me and I'll explain how to do that, although it has some significant limitations.)
A quick note if you're completely new to the concept of Netflix - this is an online film and TV service. It has quite a lot of movies and television shows, although rarely any new ones (except for the ones it makes itself such as Stranger Things or House of Cards). You can watch it on almost any type of phone, tablet or computer - either by downloading an app or simply through the website Netflix.com. But you can also watch it on your telly if you have a small set-top box or the TV itself is a 'smart' TV with apps of its own. (If they're over the age of 6 or 7, the kids can probably show you whether you have this type of telly if you're not sure.) There's no long contract with Netflix, it's a month-by-month rolling subscription which you can cancel at any time.
What most people with conventional (non 'smart') TVs do is to buy one of the small set-top boxes. Two rival devices stand out.
The easiest one to set up and use is the Apple TV device (€159). You plug it into your telly (via the 'HDMI' port, which all TVs made in the last 15 years have) and the instructions come up on screen. It has its own small remote control, which comes in the box. It's extra simple to set up if you happen to use an iPhone or an iPad, because the little box borrows all the Wi-Fi connection information from the phone or tablet.
If this seems pricey, Google's Chromecast (€39) is a budget alternative that works perfectly well, but you need to have some sort of smartphone or tablet to use with it. This small gadget plugs into your telly's HDMI port, too, but you have to manually connect it up to your home Wi-Fi and your phone or tablet. It actually takes its Netflix source from your phone, meaning you have to have Netflix on your mobile device. Once up and running, this works absolutely flawlessly but it's not as easy or as user-friendly as the (considerably pricier) Apple alternative.
Lastly, and obviously, you'll need access to a Netflix account subscription. If the kids are used to watching Netflix, it's likely that your daughter already has one so you can simply log in using this subscription (name and password). Otherwise, you'll need your own Netflix account, which starts at €8 per month.
The most popular Netflix subscription is the middle-tier one, which costs €10.99 per month. For this, you get high-definition quality (which you need on any TV over 32 inches in size) and you can play it on two simultaneous screens. A cheaper option, €7.99 per month, only lets you watch it on one screen in low resolution ('standard definition') - don't choose this package unless you have a small TV as the quality will seem quite poor.
RECOMMENDATION: Apple TV (€159)
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Two to Try
There are gazillions of Bluetooth wireless speakers but not many 'Wi-Fi speakers'. Riva's Arena is both in one, benefitting both from the convenience of Bluetooth and the (slightly) higher quality of Wi-Fi connections. Compatible with Chromecast, it also has the advantage of an extra battery if you want to bring it on the road with you. In terms of quality, this is up there with premium speakers from the likes of Bose and Sonos.
(€199 or from free on operator contract)
When it comes to budget smartphones, Motorola is arguably the king. Its newest G5 (like all previous 'G' models) gives you a hell of a lot for your money, including a fingerprint scanner, a decent 13-megapixel rear camera and a pretty nice five-inch 1080p screen. Where it cuts corners is on the sameness of the design and just 16GB of storage. However, there's MicroSD expansion built in. Battery life is fine and it uses the older MicroUSB rather than USB-C to recharge.