Smart TV: Getting Started With DLNA and What It Can Do

Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) is a technology that most Smart TVs use which allows you to watch media content from your Smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc. on your TV screen over a wired/wireless network. But, some manufacturers use different names for this technology. If your TV manufacturer says that it supports SmartShare (LG), AllShare (Samsung) or Simple Share (Phillips), it is just another way of saying DLNA. Even Apple’s AirPlay – while not technically DLNA – is a similar technology.

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How Does It Work?

Basically, there are two classes of DLNA devices – a server and a client. The server transmits the media and the client, your Smart TV in this case, receives and plays it. Tablets, Desktops, Smartphones, Laptops, and NAS drives can all act as servers as long as it has DLNA software installed on it.

Many modern devices come with DLNA-certified apps/software pre-installed. Some TV manufacturers have their own media-server program (such as Samsung’s AllShare) which usually comes bundled with the TV or can be downloaded from the company’s website. There are plenty of third-party programs as well like Plex, TVersity and Twonky for PCs and Macs; UPnPlay for Android and Media: Connect for iOS. Just make sure that your TV is connected to the same network as the server, and it will automatically show up in the media-server app. Select the TV and streaming will start automatically.

Are There Any Limitations?

Even though the technology is supported by most large electronics manufacturers, it does have its share of problems.

The biggest limitation of the technology is codec support. Out-of-the-box, DLNA only supports a few major codecs like WMA, WMV, MP4, AVI, FLAC and DivX. It is complicated further by the fact that different manufacturers have different implementations which support their own set of codecs. Sometimes, files in a supported codec won’t work if the bitrate, container or other specs don’t meet set guidelines. This fragmentation could make it difficult to find DLNA software which not only works well with your TV but also plays the files you want.

Other minor limitations include freezing – which could happen when connected over Wi-Fi – and the fact that streaming HD content could be challenging on some devices.

How Future-Proof is DLNA?

Nowadays, DLNA is a part of most modern Smart TVs since it not only helps you stream content from your own device, but also lets you use mainstream sharing and streaming sites like Netflix, Spotify and Hulu on your TV. But, it is more than a decade old and new technologies will replace it sooner than later. In fact, Sony – which is one of the founding members of DLNA – has opted not to add DLNA support in its new PlayStation 4 gaming console.

But, if you have tons of media content stored in a hard drive that you want to watch on your new big-screen TV, DLNA continues to be the best streaming option available.