Ease of use and interface
Content and functionality aren’t the only important elements of a "smart" TV - ease of use is key, too. All the sets were pretty much plug and play in terms of getting on the network. Accessing the smart TV functionality is a press of the button.
The VieraConnect home screen is simple – perhaps too much so, necessitating multiple levels
But while LG, Panasonic and Samsung have a single interface for all their connected functions, the Sony set still uses a modified version of PS3-oriented XMB interface, which is not ideal, and results in a fragmented experience – there are top-level menu items for Bravia Internet video, Qriocity, Application and Widgets, which just seems unnecessary.
LG’s main menu looks neat, but hides a lot of content
Panasonic’s is perhaps the cleanest interface, with its rigid grid unchanged from the VieraCast days, but having to move in and out through ‘levels’ to find things can be a bit annoying, unless you rearrange all the icons to put the things you want on the first screen.
Sony’s set suffers from a slightly tweaked version of the XMB interface, with too many top level options
Despite the rather busy appearance, the Samsung turned out to be the easiest to use, even including DLNA access in the main menu, with the LG a very close second. That said, I did find the process of having to register a Samsung account, then link it to Twitter, before I could access Twitter on the TV, a little tedious.
If BBC iPlayer and a bit of network media playback are all you are really concerned about, then just about any of the main brands of smart TV will do the job. They’ll all also give you a fair bit extra that you can watch when there’s nothing decent on the TV at Christmas.
The VieraMarket allows for future paid-for applications
There’s a lot more content available online now than there was when I last looked at connected TV sets, and the launch of YouView next year shoul spur manufacturers on to add even more – in particular catch-up for the main broadcasters, giving every set BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Five on Demand.
In the meantime, and despite below-par BBC iPlayer and YouTube implementations, for breadth of online content, best DLNA compatibility and ease of use, the clear winner is Samsung's SmartTV platform. ®
Smart TV shootout
YouView if you want to....
So when YouView comes out in 6 months time. Will any of these TVs get firmware updates, or will I have to drop another grand on a new telly to get it?
Please review mobile phone control apps
At least Sony and I think Samsung have remote control apps which are really useful especially for entering text (but they could do so much more).
Makes a big difference when searching for content. Especially things like the Muzu music service (which I'm surprised you didn't mention although maybe it is common between the platforms).
It would be a useful addition to your review or you could make a separate article of it.
I have the 37" version of the LG TV you review. A few interface points for others considering it:
- It supports mobile control apps. I use my iPhone instead of the standard remote control. The app includes mouse control (proper cursor on screen, very nice) and text entry. For £50 you can also buy a 'magic remote' which is basically a Wii remote for the TV.
- It supports Plex media browsing and streaming from a Plex server, eg. your computer. Far superior to DNLA (especially for a machead like me), except that I'm not convinced that it always streams in the best resolution.
- The iPlayer implementation is superb, better than the iPlayer website or iOS app.
- My main criticism is the number of steps to go through the interface to get to what you want. I would like the ability to map buttons on the remote to iPlayer and Plex, or at least have them as the first selectable icons on the home screen; but it's not very customisable at all.
- Likewise, I'm not sure of the difference between the three areas of apps on the main screen - 'Premium', 'LG apps' and the bottom row - and I don't really care. I'd rather remove all the crap I don't want and keep the buttons I do.
Those niggles are minor though - I'm very happy with it, and would recommend it over the others purely for the Plex integration.
Think it's worth a mention that the LG has Medialink which is the name for their Plex client. There's also an unofficial Plex client for the Samsung which is rather slick.
If your Synology NAS is Intel based then it's worth loading the Plex software to manage your digital media. It also runs on Windows, MacOS & Linux.
Samsung has iplayer but...
I have a 3 month old Samsung 40" D7000 and it has largely failed to impress...
1. IPlayer doesn't work properly. 95% percent of the time 5 minutes into watching something, the screen will bounce back to the iplayer interface leaving the sound running. Pressing play will take you back to the video stream but it will then freeze after a couple of minutes. Samsung's response was that I should update the firmware - which is already updated so refuses to reload. (SD stream on a 50Mb connection and using the IPlayer in my Sony Bluray works fine)
2. Blinkbox has loads of content, though you can't watch anything from the BBC - all you get is a message saying content is not authorised on that device. If you can watch on a PC, why not a TV?
3. The screen has stuck pixels which I cannot shift. Interestingly Samsung's response was to update the firmware for this too - though how that'd help, I'm not sure...
4. bit off topic but 3D is terrible - loads of ghosting and the active shuttter glasses usually guarantee a headache... Have seen far better 3D on passive systems by LG
Overall, have been dissapointed with the Samsung. Reckon I paid over the odds for a 40" screen but bought it for the SmartTV hub.. 3 months in and the apps either don't work, or don't have the content I want to watch.