back to article Smart TV shootout

It’s about 18 months since I last rounded up internet-connected TVs - or "Smart TVs" as they’re now being named by all the manufacturers these days. Since then, all the brands have upped their game considerably, and just about all of their offerings are much more powerful than the 2009 models I looked at last time. As before, I' …

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Holmes

"All the sets I looked at incorporate iPlayer, though in the case of the Sony and the Samsung, what you get is really just the standard big screen version. It works, but there’s no HD and it’s a little basic – especially for a really large screen."

Are you sure? My 1 year old Samsung LCD TV has all the HD content available via iPlayer (either via the BBC HD channel icon or select the "also available in HD" link on suitable program info pages). Works well too as long as my router's managed to connect at 5mbps (can stutter at lower speeds).

Admittedly the HD content comes across 720(p/i not sure which) and not in 1080i. But it's still HD of sorts.

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I agree. Samsung C650 (1year old) has iPlayer HD

me too. Samsung TV has iPlayer HD out of the box. This review is wrong about the Samsung not doing iPlayer HD.

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Maybe they've regressed. It wouldn't overly surprise me if they've got a brand new app to sit within their new UI rather than the one that came with the older models. On a similar note I saw a brand new Humax freeview box a couple of months ago (with HDMI output) that had no HD within the iplayer interface. The default "quality" for SD viewing in the Humax iPlayer was also poor by default (to get the same standard picture as my Samsung you have to click to say you want "high" quality before viewing each program - but this still only gives you 576i).

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Facepalm

BBC iPlayer on Sony does have HD option!

Definitely! Check again, look in TV then choose BBC HD. Many programmes offer you an HD option when you go to them too even when not shown on BBC HD. I suspect Samsung may be similar but I haven't checked.

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Cost premium

is still too much compared to using a small HTPC box loaded with something like Mediaportal and a few plugins, most notably OnlineVideos which will deal with most if not all of the content these TVs have. You can use a nettop, they are currently out of favour and selling at reduced prices and if you buy the right one it'll mount discreetly behind the TV.

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Depends

On the TV, 6 months ago I got a very nice 32" Sony smart TV, it's brilliant.

The software on it was very similar to a PS3, so it was incredibly easy for me to use straight out of the box.

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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.

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LG also have nice iPhone/iPad and Android remote control apps - the recent firmware update for the TV also means you can enter text via the app too - much nicer than before

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What is it Sony has against .MKV? Still not supported on the PS3 either.

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Bronze badge

Can't speak for Sony, but I know some other manufacturers are reluctant to claim support for MKV, because it's a bit of a slippery beast, being a container format.

So, depending on which codecs were used, a file might not play properly, perhaps missing audio, for instance.

From a marketing perspective, you then have to decide how you're qualifying MKV support, or you push to get as many different codecs supported as possible (which seems to be the Samsung approach).

Some companies take the "not officially supported" line, so they can shrug when people complain a particular MKV doesn't play.

And it would seem that Sony perhaps is taking the rather more conservative approach of not even acknowledging they exist, so you can't complain that they don't all play properly.

It's certainly one of the options, but I'd love to know exactly what made them think it was the right one to choose.

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Unhappy

skyplayer

we've got a Panasonic in the bedroom and iplayer is pretty good. I just wish you could get Skyplayer on it

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Extras

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.

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Meh

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?

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Most unlikely that any of these sets will get an upgrade to YouView - remember that YouView is not just about the IPTV side of things, but the way that that's all seemlessly integrated with the EPG, so you can scroll backwards from today, and access catch up services that way.

So, it would be a completely different UI, at the very least for the EPG, and on the whole manufacturers are not that keen on changes like that, not least because of the number of phone calls they'd get from the terminally bewildered.

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TWB

Panasonic

I bought the Panasonic model here in a hurry for reasons too boring to mention and generally I am very happy with it, though I find it that it cannot play .mpg files which are direct DTT recordings i.e. they are not transcoded - I wish it had VLC bulit in....

I hope software updates come in time - would be nice to have ITV player and 4OD.

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Unhappy

Missmash

The main problem at the moment is all the different boxes (TV, set top box, home cinema, games console) offer various bits of on-line content. Not every box has each feature, and some things are done better on one than another. It's a nightmare of remote juggling and finding your way through very different interfaces to find the thing you want. A single box which does everything would be far better.

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Anonymous Coward

Install Serviio on the Synology server then all sets will play all formats. Sony might not play MKV directly but Serviio just does a head switch and plays as AVC. Any format on any set thats not supported is transcoded to one it can cope with.

Nobody used DivxHD in the real world so nobody really cares if they play or not.

Serviio lets you had online streams from RSS so you can add more channels that you tv doesn't support.

You can control the Sony from a iPhone or Android app and even remote keyboard from Windows 7. Sony are also far more proactive with firmware updates than Panasonic who often deny problems for years before finally fixing or recommending you buy a different brand.

Sony has BBC iPlayer HD, you select a show and it says do you want to play in better quality or just browse the HD channel in iPlayer channel listing.

Other DLNA servers are available, Mezzmo for example but Serviio is the best free and has great support form Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and will over come any short comings from media playback.

Strange review TheReg that didn't seem to really bother checking out any models properly.

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Thanks!

for your inputs on Serviio. Installed it on the Home PC yesterday (Windows XP) and my LG TV found it in a jiffy. Everything running smoothly now.

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LG

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.

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No Skype mention?

Skype is bundled with a lot of these sets, but in the case of Samsung (which I've just bought) the proprietary webcam you have to use is 130 quid! I bought the damn thing anyway, and it IS good quality (and integrates with the set aesthetically very well) but its still a bit of a ripoff.

I'd also give another vote for using phone/tab apps as the remote control; the standard Samsung remote is hideous (such as shame with such a beautiful looking TV) and text input is painful; I now do all that through my Galaxy Tab or the missus' S2 and its a much nicer experience.

NB. In Ireland we don't get iPlayer or LoveFilm, so the content offering is pretty lightweight (AceTrax and Muzu are about your lot), and a downside of the YouTube player is its pretty much impossible to control content that comes up while you're searching for the content you DO want, which has led to my toddler seeing one or two rather alarming Elmo videos (she wasn't impressed when the little guy was shot from a cannon).

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Happy

Good review. Thanks.

I'm looking at purchasing a smart TV in Jan - hoping they'll be discounts!

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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.

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