You don’t have to buy a smart TV to watch Netflix on the big screen. In fact, you can get the job done for less than $40. All you need is a streaming stick or an HDMI cable.
Update, 10/21/22: Checked content for accuracy, product availability, and dead links. Updated all products to their most current versions. Removed Roku Premiere and combined that section with the updated Roku Express.
Honestly, most smart TVs are stupid. In theory, smart TVs should make it easy to watch Netflix (and other services) on a big screen. But it doesn’t always work that way. Manufacturers shove “smart” features into regular TVs as an afterthought, and they don’t keep software up to date through routine updates and patches.
But, dedicated streaming sticks and computers receive routine updates, and they have intuitive interfaces that anyone can navigate. If you’re happy with your “dumb” TV’s performance (or frustrated that your smart TV hasn’t had an update in years), but you want to use it to binge Netflix shows, all you really need is a dedicated streaming stick or an HDMI cable paired with a laptop.
If you want to watch Netflix on your TV for less than $10, all you need is an HDMI cable and a computer. It’s easy, you just connect your computer to the TV with an HDMI cable. The sound and picture from your computer will show up on the TV, and you can navigate the internet with a mouse and keyboard.
A 10-foot long AmazonBasics HDMI cable is really cheap, but there’s a good chance that you have a spare HDMI cable lying around the house. Keep in mind that this method works best with a laptop, or a desktop that’s right next to your TV.
Amazon Basics High-Speed 4K HDMI Cable - 10 Feet
Connect your laptop to your TV for the cheapest way to watch digital movies.
If you’re looking for a dedicated device that can bring Netflix to your TV, then you should check out the Google Chromecast. It’s a small, fast, and unobtrusive streaming stick that can bring Netflix, Youtube, and Hulu to your TV in HD. You just plug it into an HDMI port and go to town. As an added bonus, you can use the Chromecast to wirelessly project your laptop or desktop’s screen to the TV.
Chromecast with Google TV (HD) - Streaming Stick Entertainment on Your TV with Voice Search - Watch Movies, Shows, and Live TV in 1080p HD - Snow
The Chromecast with Google TV (HD) allows for 1080p video output and comes with all the features that make its 4K sibling, and Google TV in general, so great.
Many streaming sticks are limited to a 1080p resolution. That’s fine for the majority of TV’s, but what if you want to watch Netflix in 4K?
It’s hard to find “dumb” UHD TVs, but they’re out there. Thankfully, there are cheap streaming sticks like the Roku Premiere that offer 4K streaming from Netflix, Sling, Hulu, and a variety of other services.
Roku devices are easy to use, and they allow you to watch Netflix, Sling, Hulu, and a few other services in HD without any hassle. You can also mirror your phone or computer’s screen to the Roku, if you ever want to browse the internet on your TV. Plus, Roku products work with Google Assistant, so you can use voice commands to find your favorite episode of Star Trek or MASH.
A streaming dongle with a physical remote? Get two!