You’re about to go on that annual cross-country road trip or maybe embark on a solitary trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Perhaps you’re even planning to spend life on the road full-time. You’ve got everything packed and ready to go. Well, everything except your favourite TV shows. And as much as you love the open road, having a TV to binge-watch dramas and enjoy movie nights on is part of what makes you feel at home.
There’s a chance you’ve read about power inverters and considered taking your home television for a test drive in your RV. But this wouldn’t necessarily be the best approach. The journey can be bumpy and a regular TV isn’t made to withstand uneven roads. Not to mention that although power inverters certainly resolve the problem of limited power supply, they can actually reduce the amount of power delivered to your TV.
Luckily for you, 12V TVs are specially designed to take to the open road as easily as you do. There have been more options than ever for caravan TVs in the last few years. With a wide range of features to suit your needs, you have choices from compact 22 inch TVs to larger 32 inch TVs.
What is a 12V TV?
A 12V TV is purpose-built to be the perfect companion for those on the go and living off the grid. Made to wire straight into a battery, 12V TVs can run on either DC (direct current) or AC (alternating current). This means you won’t require a power inverter. And no power inverter means no power loss. They can work with your RV’s stored DC power, power created by a generator, or provided power at a campsite or park.
Most caravan TVs are made to expect the unexpected when it comes to harsh conditions on the road. As we mentioned previously, regular TVs are meant to stay relatively static in homes. They simply can’t endure continuous impact from rough terrain and extreme weather that comes with motorhomes. They’re prone to condensation when too cold and can short circuit if warmed up too quickly.
With this in mind, 12V TVs are sturdy devices that have been subjected to extreme vibrations and temperature variations during testing. The internal chassis of a 12V TV is also structurally strengthened against any jostling or collision, so it stays on the mount no matter what happens.
But not all 12V televisions take these factors into account, which is where many cheap 12V TVs will fall short. Worst of all, any damage that occurs as a result of this is not always covered under their warranty. When you decide to purchase a 12V TV for your very own caravan, it’s important to keep these points in mind.
Choosing a suitable 12V TV
Now that you know the standards that define a high-quality 12V TV, its features will be completely up to you. When it comes to selecting the right TV for yourself, there’s no right or wrong decision to make. It all depends on what you want out of it.
But with so many options on the market today, you may have a difficult time choosing one. Here are some key features you can consider while you browse:
Caravan TVs now come in a variety of sizes. If you’re living alone, you might consider a 22 inch or 24 inch TV. Otherwise, there are larger options like 32 or 40 inch TVs that are a great fit for a big group of friends or family.
Take note of where and how you plan to position the TV in your caravan, including the distance of the TV from the viewing area. When you’re working with limited space, it’s more important than ever to make sure everything fits just the way it should. Also, keep in mind that the screen you choose will ultimately look larger in your caravan or RV.
Most likely, you’ll be placing your TV on a mount. If you want to be able to watch your TV from multiple angles, a swivel mount is a very popular choice. It can benefit those of you who don’t have space for a larger TV. For more information on how to mount your caravan TV, keep reading…
Just like its size, a TV’s portability will be really significant in your motorhome. We suggest taking into account every dimension of the TV you consider to ensure it doesn’t appear chunky in the space or add more weight to your caravan. This is where your dusty old measuring tape comes in handy.
Compact and sleek models are best, as well as those with fewer cables. The last thing you want to deal with is the mess of tangled wires and extra accessories taking up space in your caravan. Plus, minimising the clutter can not only make your space look tidier, but also means you’ll spend less time setting up your TV and putting it away after each stop.
3. Sound and picture quality
Not being able to get a regular TV for your motorhome doesn’t mean you have to compromise your viewing experience. 12V TV screens are quite impressive now. They have full HD resolution to give you a crisp picture, energy-efficient LED technology to show off vivid panels, and zero dead pixels resolution. Now imagine that on a 32″ SMART TV! Make sure you check the specifications of each TV so you know its exact display resolution.
Caravan TVs are renowned for having poor audio systems, which can be annoying when you’re trying to enjoy a show. Check the built-in speakers of your preferred TV, and if possible, test it out in a similarly sized space. The best sound systems range between 5 W to 15 W. Some 12V TVs also have a Bluetooth audio feature which can come in handy if the integrated system doesn’t quite live up to your expectations.
A Bluetooth soundbar or speaker is especially preferred by most caravanners as they can also be connected to your phone or laptops. These two products perform the same task but are actually quite different. While you can find 12V TVs with an installed soundbar, Bluetooth speakers deliver better audio quality and provide a surround sound system when placed strategically. However, this could take up room in your caravan, so consider your space before committing to them.
4. Surge protectors
In the same way that you already know how challenging it can be to cope with a limited power supply, you may find that the voltage supply can be quite erratic as well. For your caravan TV, this means those agonising moments of flickering screens and power meltdowns.
If you definitely don’t want this to happen right at the height of the action, then prioritise a surge protection system on your TV. Surge protectors keep the power supply to your TV running smoothly. They do this by boosting voltage supply when it drops and absorbing sudden spikes to prevent damage.
These modules can be bought separately, but if you simply don’t want to take the risk, be on the lookout for a 12V TV that has a built-in surge protection system.
5. Online or offline
Choosing between online and offline viewing can be a complicated decision. The best place to start is by asking yourself simple questions about how and where you’d be using your 12V TV.
Offline viewing would be best suited for those who plan to stay off the grid, or those are not too fussed about having on-demand viewing. This would mostly mean watching cable TV and DVDs. New 12V TVs usually come with a built-in tuner that allows you to watch free-to-air channels. Some TVs also feature an integrated DVD player, so you don’t have another accessory taking up space in your home. This can be great for short trips or families who want to keep children entertained during long drives or rainy days – simply bring along your favourite DVD collection.
Otherwise, some caravan TVs have a screen-mirroring app that makes it easy for you to display downloaded content from your laptop and tablets.
It can be difficult, though, to completely switch offline considering so much video content is available online. To access online videos, many caravanners opt for a Smart TV which already has a Wi-Fi adapter installed that allows for easy connection. If you’re heading to a campsite, check ahead and ask if they provide Wi-Fi (free or otherwise) and its bandwidth. A higher bandwidth would provide a more reliable and stable connection as you’ll be sharing the connection with other caravanners.
If you simply can’t decide to commit yourself to either one, keep reading to understand more about Smart TVs and other options for online viewing.
6. Antennas and satellite dishes
Although these features aren’t exactly part of a 12V TV, antennas and satellite dishes are essential for watching TV in your motorhome. Some 12V TVs come with a built-in tuner, giving you access to free-to-air channels such as Freeview. Additionally, check if your TV remote has an AQT (Avtex Quick Tuning) button. This feature makes it simple for travellers as it automatically tunes your channels into your current area with just one click.
It’s normal, however, to have trouble receiving a good TV signal. Your location, tall trees, buildings, and metal objects can all significantly affect your reception. Caravan TV antennas help overcome these obstacles by picking up signals as far as 80 kilometres away! This makes them an excellent choice even for people travelling further from the city. Antennas are also handy for caravanners staying on a campsite, such as when you’ve parked far away from the source. For this purpose, a shorter-range caravan antenna is more than enough.
If you intend to travel across Outback Australia, note that there’s a lack of Internet access in these locations. If you want to keep in touch with the world while visiting the most remote areas in Australia, a TV satellite is pretty much essential. As they are quite expensive, you should get a satellite dish only if it is completely necessary.
Why are Smart 12V TVs popular?
The obvious advantage of owning a Smart TV is that you can easily access a vast array of online video content. Smart TVs are Wi-Fi enabled, which means you don’t need any extra devices to connect to the Internet.
Once connected, the integrated platform allows you to browse video content through the TV’s various streaming options. With on-demand viewing on the rise, owning a Smart TV gives you control over what you want to watch. In return, your Smart TV can also tailor your entertainment experience to fit your interests.
Keep in mind that every manufacturer will have a different platform running on their Smart TV. So, it’s worth checking which apps and streaming services each one offers to ensure it meets your requirements on the road. While those who wish to enjoy their leisure time may prefer Netflix and YouTube, those who work from their motorhome may prioritise easy access to Facebook and Email apps instead.
● Connecting your Smart TV to the Internet
It’s important that you provide a strong and stable Internet connection for your Smart TV in order to make full use of its platform and apps. Most campsites have Wi-Fi for their guests, which can be a cheap and easy option to access the Internet. However, it’s not always reliable, especially when shared across many other caravanners on the site.
In cases where the connection is weak, you may opt to purchase a Wi-Fi booster device. This device amplifies available Wi-Fi signals and generates a stronger connection for your TV. This is also great for when you’re located a long distance from the source on your campsite. Make sure to research ahead so you know what to expect and you can be prepared.
Installing an Internet router directly on your caravan is another option for establishing an Internet connection. Using this method provides a more stable connection either wirelessly or through an ethernet. You’ll need a 4G SIM card with a data plan for the router. Make sure you select a suitable data limit to avoid additional charges.
Other options include using a portable Wi-Fi device. It looks like a USB stick and immediately connects you to the Internet when plugged into your device. You can also utilise ‘Hotspot’ from your mobile phone if that’s suitable. Note that both of these methods would also require a data plan.
What if I can’t afford a Smart 12V TV?
If we’re being honest, purchasing a Smart TV can be an expensive investment. After all, a 32 inch regular 12V TV can be found for the price of a 22 inch Smart TV – and sometimes, size does matter. Even if you don’t want to spend too much on your caravan TV, you might still want the option of streaming online.
An easy option would be to take advantage of any USB or HDMI slots that your TV might have. By plugging in a suitable cable, you can connect your caravan TV display to your laptop, phone or tablet and seamlessly stream online videos and listen to music.
Worried about more cables taking up space in your caravan? Streaming sticks can turn any TV into a Smart TV. It can easily be set up and used by plugging it straight into your TV’s HDMI port. Depending on the streaming stick, you’ll be able to watch videos from 1080p to 4k HDR resolution.
The type of streaming sticks available to you might vary from country to country. So if you’re travelling abroad, be sure to keep this in mind. Here are just two of the most popular choices out there:
- Google Chromecast
Chromecast allows you to watch videos, listen to music, play games, and use other types of online apps on your TV. It usually includes the likes of Netflix, YouTube, Stan, Disney+ and Spotify. The new generation Chromecast comes with its own remote equipped with Google Assistant. This differs from its original predecessor which could only be controlled via the Google Home mobile app or Chrome browser.
2. Amazon Fire TV Stick
Amazon’s streaming stick has been around for ages and is favourable for its reliability. This device offers a range of popular streaming services, and the remote control features Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa. Additionally, you can use the remote to control your soundbar, speakers and other compatible smart devices.
How to mount your caravan TV
It might seem secondary, but knowing how to mount your 12V TV properly is absolutely essential. This is fundamental to make sure it doesn’t fall from abrupt stops or cause damage to the interior of your caravan.
The brackets can also come in many shapes and sizes to suit different RVs and TV positions. So it varies a little from mounting a regular TV:
- Firstly, look for a bracket that fits your 12V TV. While there are also adjustable brackets, this can usually be determined through a VESA number, which follows a standardised bracket pattern system. Both the TV and bracket’s VESA number should match. In some cases where there isn’t one, your TV manufacturer may produce one specifically for it.
- Select the best place to position your TV depending on where you’d spend most of your time viewing it.
- Examine the surface to ensure it can take on the weight of your TV. Even if the wall seems solid, it’s always recommended to add reinforcements for assurance such as a piece of plywood (3 to 4 inches thick). You can usually ask a professional for advice on your specific placement.
- Finally, decide if you’d like to mount your caravan TV permanently. If so, also think about how you’d like to stow it away while you’re on the move. Some brackets allow your TV to be safely stowed away against a wall or in a padded cupboard.
And, you’re all done. Time to kick back, admire your handiwork and enjoy that new TV.
Key things to remember
Before you go off on your hunt for the perfect 12V TV, we’ve compiled a checklist for you. Make sure you refer to it before you hit that checkout button:
- A 12V TV is ideal for motorhome owners. They are energy-efficient and made to withstand harsh environments – built especially for life on the road.
- It’s not always “go big or go home”. Consider the placement of your TV carefully when choosing a suitable size. Also think about whether a swivel mount can compensate for a smaller screen.
- Space is a priority when it comes to caravans! It’s best to measure both the area you intend to mount your TV and the TV itself. A sleek, compact model will also make transportation and handling simpler.
- With their easy Internet access, Smart 12V TVs are popular choices for online viewing. Consider the best way to provide a stable Internet connection before you buy one.
- You don’t have to worry about bringing another device along if your TV has additional features. 12V TVs can come with built-in DVD players, soundbars and surge protectors. Consider which of these would fit your needs.
The most important thing to remember is that your perfect 12V TV will be one that meets all your needs and preferences while you enjoy the scenic route. At Englaon, we strive to give you the best TV experience possible for your RV. Ask us questions and let us know what you’re looking for below in the comments or in the online chat. Or better yet, give us a call on +61 (03) 8658 0907 and we’ll help you find your new TV now!