The price of computers for the family can be pretty difficult to afford but one of the great things about everyone moving to Streaming Content from providers like Netflix Hulu and Amazon Prime is that the developers of the products are introducing some pretty impressive hardware in a very small package.
So here is the situation Maybe you have a family computer or laptop and your kids share it. Or maybe everyone is sharing including mom and dad when they need to do things for the home or work.
This can be pretty difficult to manage when everyone needs to get things done yesterday because its due tomorrow. It would be nice if you had an extra computer where you could type up a letter or homework, spell check it and then send it to your teacher if they request that or print it off to bring it in the next day.
This is really not that difficult but you should expect that a small android or windows device is not going to give you the same full features as a gamer desktop computer or a powerful laptop. It just won’t but what it will let you do is more than you probably need to do.
What you will get is access to most of the normal productivity software you are use to. Word Processors, Spread Sheets, Browsers for searching for information. Whatever is available in the Google Play Store for your phone will be available on your TV / Computer and you will have the ability to add software from other sources.
What Hardware will you need for your TV / Computer
Well to start off you will need a television and your Computer Device. You will also need a keyboard and most wireless devices will be recognized without problem so you can get a mini keypad if you don’t expect to use it often as a computer or you can get a full sized keyboard and mouse if you expect every day or a good amount of use.
When you select your computing device whether its a stick or set top device you want to find one that has the ability to install the applications you need and has external USB or MicroSD access for expansion. Personally at time of writing I would go for an Android 4.4 or higher device and a Set Top device because they run cooler and will last longer and also because they come with more USB ports.
Do not even think about getting a proprietary device like a Chromecast Mircast FireStick or Roku for this set up. They are fine for what they do but they do not allow you to install a variety of apps and connect with mail, external drives and printers the same way a Full OS product does.
Next if you are buying a printer you want to look into one you can print to directly. You will have the option of WiFi, Bluetooth or USB if you have an available port. Some people are starting to use Cloud Printing which lets you share your printer over the web. Personally I don’t think its necessary unless you want to print off a list of chores from the office.. I’m sure your kids will love that.
The next thing you need is a place to store your files.
You could simply use a GMail account as storage or you could use a MicroSD Card that goes in your device. You could also use a removable USB Stick Drive but if you go with a removable option you want to use a USB Extender cable. An Extender cable is about a foot long and will let you plug the cable into your device at one end and then your Thumb Drive in on the other end. Don’t remove the cord from the device that way all of the changes of the drive won’t cause damage to your device .. it will simply wear out the adapter on the extender cable where you plug in your thumb drive… believe me its really worth the $4 for that extender cable to save the life of your computer.
If you go the mail route or decide to save your files online on Google Drive or another cloud service remember to back them up locally.
You can also partition an external drive or NAS Server with WiFi and you can let each family member have their own storage area on a backup drive.
What will turning a TV into a Computer cost?
Thats a very important question because you don’t want to be wasting money.
You will need the android or windows computer device.
At this time Android is probably a better deal and I have seen Android Sticks go for as cheap as $15 and the larger more expansive set top devices start at $50 and range to about $150 but you don’t need the most expensive one the $50 one should perform very well for this purpose.
You will need a Keyboard and expect to pay $10 on discount up to about $25 for a quality knockoff wireless keyboard with a track pad or mouse.
You will need that extender cable and some memory to store your files unless you want to start off by emailing yourself everything.
A printer that you can connect to would also be good. I would suggest a WiFi network printer but only if you can get it on discount and you are sure it can print well. Otherwise offload the files and print them from your laptop or family desktop.
If you already have a printer then some wifi routers have printer connectors or you can get a wifi adapter to allow wifi printing.
The very least you could get into one is $30 and an average cost will be around $75. This does not include the cost of the TV and the TV will need HDMI so you can’t use an old Tube TV unfortunately.
Whether you have a family of people all needing computer time or if you live alone and your android or windows TV device is primarily used for watching online streams this is something that everyone should do.
For a relatively low cost you are providing a backup solution that others can use or one that you could use if you ever have problems with your main computer. This way you can shop online for parts or a replacement computer or simply keep on working while you await the deliveries.
Setting up the extras that extend your TV Device into a Working Computer is relatively easy and something you can do over a few days.
Adding some productivity software.
Finding a good keyboard and mouse that works better than your TV Keypad.
Finding out how to and setting up Printing if you can.
Adding local or cloud storage accounts so you can save your files.
If you do this now it will help both alleviate headaches in your home and provide you that backup security for not very much money.