Get ready for the revolution: internet TVs
Connect the set
Not so long ago, a TV was just something for presenting broadcast programmes or content from devices like DVD players. If you wanted anything more exotic, you had to hook up a media player or perhaps a PC. More and more sets sprouted DVI or VGA ports to make that easier.
But that’s now started to change. The 2009 models from the major manufacturers marked the year when the ‘connected’ TV really arrived in the UK, offering basic internet access and often the ability to play media stored on home networks too.
With this year’s just-launched models competing to add other features, the 2009 tellies could prove to be a good deal for bargain hunters looking for a cut-price connected TV. Certainly, there's doesn't appear to be a huge amount to choose between the latest and most recent models when it comes to online features.
So, Reg Hardware has taken a brief look at the internet and media playback functions on some of the top brands, to find out whether or not it’s time to say goodbye to your dedicated media player, and hello to a connected TV set.
For most manufacturers, where they include connectivity, it’s the same across all the models that have the feature. Options such as Freesat compatibility will affect the possibility of certain services, such as BBC iPlayer, being made available.
All the connected sets I’ve looked at have an Ethernet port on the back. Hooking up them to your home network is just a matter of plugging them in, directly, by cable or across a Powerline link - there’s no configuration to do beyond that. Sets that have wireless connectivity will obviously need more set-up work. Many sets are marketed as 'wireless ready', meaning you'll have to buy and fit a USB adaptor separately.
Just give me a dumb display...
... that allows me to connect, through a standardised port, the newest low-powered tech which comes along, that will do all the processing and content delivery, and can be replaced with the next, better thing, without disposing of my perfectly good dumb display, as and when I see fit.
Let us be absolutely honest......
....this is crap. Connect a bloody pc to the thing for crying out loud, then you have proper internet TV. Most of the modern flat screens come with three or four HDMI ports or (if you absolutely insist on connecting that way) a VGA port. This is a very poor facility which smells strongly of trying to lock you into something which they can use to seperate from even more money than the frakking TV cost you in the first place. The only thing I intend to use the ethernet port on our new Sammy for is firmware upgrades when/if necessary. TV@internet my arse!
Reliance on 'standardised' DLNA
I own a Sony KDL40W5500 and trying to get the DLNA to work is certainly not for the technologically challenged. I have finally settled on a solution that works great for me and my (not so technical) wife, but it's taken a while. Though I run an all Linux shop at home, the forums show problems for people on all platforms and this seems to recur for TVs with DLNA from all manufacturers.
For the record, the W5500 (and their siblings) support MPEG2 PS with AC3 audio and AVCHD video (MPEG2 TS with H264 video and AC3 audio) without transcoding, and also MP3, uncompressed PCM (i.e. WAV) and JPEG files.
My biggest niggle now is that you can't browse music for the next track to play while currently playing a track - something my Netgear MP101 was able to do via UPnP 7-8 years ago!
To those stating that they want TVs with a MCE extender built in... why would anyone want to be more tied to MS technology in their display device?? At least DLNA is supposed to be a standard, MCE extenders certainly are not.
Why on earth would anyone buy this?
Built-in means lock-in. A cheap external Internet thin client STB that can be thrown away when the next technology wunder comes along will be a much better bet. Pile in a hefty network disk store and scoff at Internet TV.
And BTW why are TV with analogue receivers still sold when soon there will be nothing for them to receive? Is this not as suspect as selling a 405-line set of a betamax video recorder?
Looking at that motley lot, it's not hard too look wistfully at Project Canvas and the treasures it might unleash. Why the disbelief that allowing access to a tiny, pre-selected section of the internet is going to be a successful selling point?