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What Is The USB Port On My TV For?

As an owner of a modern television, I was frustrated when I discovered that there was a USB port on the back of my TV. I had no idea what it was for, and I wanted to find out more. After some research and testing, I am here to share what I have discovered about the USB port on my TV and the various solutions that it can provide.

A USB is a connector found on many electronic appliances, including laptops and smart TVs. They connect many devices, including memory sticks, flash drives, and other peripherals such as printers and cameras. They can also be used to power or charge cell phones and other equipment.

1. USB ports on modern TVs can be used for various purposes such as connecting input devices, copying and displaying movies and photos, updating TV firmware or installing applications, and powering devices and accessories.
2. A USB port can allow for the connection of a mouse and keyboard to make navigation easier.
3. USB ports can be used to transfer and play multimedia from a storage device such as a flash drive and watch it on the TV.
4. Most Smart TVs use USB 2.0 rather than 3.0, which supports faster data speeds.
5. USB does not support direct audio and video streaming like HDMI does.

USB Ports: 4 Reasons Why Your TV Has Them

Until fairly recently, flat-screen TVs were afforded only to the well-to-do or those with a maxed-out credit card. This is no longer the case. 

TV tech has really come a long way from the old CRT box, the plasma, and LCD flat screen to the high-resolution OLED TVs available on the market today.

Flat screen TVs are primarily designed to accommodate an aesthetically pleasing, wall-mounted option, which means they need to be light and thin. Unfortunately, though, this approach to the design architecture means there’s a natural trade-off such as loss of sound quality. 

Thankfully the addition of USB functionality allows for many external devices and functions, which helps to offset the limitations. Here are some uses for USB ports.

1. Connecting Input Devices And Peripherals

Most modern TVs have built-in applications such as Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Netflix. Many TV brands have agreements in place with software companies allowing the deployment of web browsers. You can usually download universal applications on most Android TVs, for example.

Sometimes the remote controls sold with a smart TV have dedicated buttons that act as shortcuts to these applications. While useful, it can sometimes be daunting to have to use a remote to type out a search request in a TV browser. 

Luckily, a USB port allows for the connection of a mouse and keyboard, making the inputs such as search requests or logins and passwords much easier to navigate. 

With a wireless mouse and keyboard, it is not necessary to get off the couch or to reach for the cumbersome remote control.

2. Copying And Displaying Movies And Photos

A very popular use for USB on a smart TV is transferring and playing photos, movies, and other multimedia from a storage device such as a flash drive and watching it on the TV. 

As long as the TV supports the media formats, you can view photos or movies, listen to music (e.g., MP3s), and read digital books or other documents stored on the flash drive, external hard drive, or any supported device such as digital cameras.

If you have downloaded a movie to your laptop or smartphone from the internet, for example, simply save it on a flash or pen drive, plug it into your TV’s USB port, and watch it on a big screen. 

You can also quite happily connect an external hard drive as long as it is installed in an HDD enclosure that supports USB 2.0 or 3.0.

3. Update TV Firmware Or Install Applications

A Smart TV uses an operating system much like your PC or Mac. Sony, Philips, Sharp, and many others use Android. 

Samsung generally uses Tizen. And much like your PC or Mac, it needs to run intermittent software and firmware upgrades to keep your applications updated and to take advantage of security enhancements and improvements.

Usually, and provided your Smart TV is connected to your home network and properly configured, these updates will run automatically. You won’t even know that they are doing so. 

It isn’t, however, always possible or even feasible to do it this way. You may have network restrictions preventing automated updates, for example. Or you may not have Wi-Fi or internet access at all.

Most Smart TV brands have a website where you can punch in your TV’s model number, and you will be guided through the technical steps for loading the firmware or software onto a USB stick, which you can then slot into the TV’s USB slot and install the updates manually. 

Other Third-party apps for your TV can be downloaded and installed the same way. For Android TVs, these are called APK files.

4. Powering Your Devices And Accessories

Most modern electronic and multimedia devices have an option to power via USB. The standard 5-volt, 500 mA is enough to keep a digital camera or smartphone powered while you’re browsing through a photo album. 

Many casting dongles and devices use HDMI for connectivity and streaming but may need another power source, such as Chromecast. It requires an additional USB connection to power the device. Many external Wi-Fi and Bluetooth adapters require a USB cable connection for external power.

Need to charge your cell phone or wireless headset, but you don’t have a charger on hand? Just plug it straight into the TV’s USB port for a reliable alternative to a standard mobile charger.

There is also a broad range of third-party accessories available on the market to enhance your TV viewing experience. Connect a backlight and illuminate your room. You can usually customize the colors and brightness via remote control. Other devices that you can connect include amplified antennas.  


Traditionally, and on most Smart TVs, USB has been used primarily to provide external power and for data or file transfer. USB does not support direct audio and video streaming in the way that HDMI does. In addition, most Smart TVs use the older USB 2.0 rather than 3.0, which supports faster data speeds.

Although the older USB A connector we are all familiar with is slowly being replaced with the more modern C Type connector, USB technology is very handy and will likely stay for the foreseeable future.

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