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back to article Why do Smart TV UIs suck?

Years ago, TVs were simple. My grandparents’ set, for example, had a single channel-change button which clunked through to the next VHF preset each time you pushed it. My own family's TV had two standards, enabling us to “Switch to U for BBC 2” in time for Play Away. Inevitably, matters have became much more complicated than …

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Re: It's almost depressing...

Apple's solution to building a better software ecosystem is a lot like Mussolini's approach to making the trains run on time. Not worth the trade-offs.

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Progress free TV?

Obviously if they were all the same, then there would be little in progress.

Anyway the lack of full OS certainly ain't for our benefit.

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Open

Companies should leave the system open / progrmmable, like Topfield. The public will then sort the UI to its liking, like "Mystuff".

Panasonic etc haven't got time to employ fleets of software engineers. They focus instead on just getting the next model out the door. As long as the UI looks okay in John Lewis, that's all that matters.

I have a WD TV Live. They are well thought of, but the usability sucks too, so much so I never use it.

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To answer your question:

"Or would it be better to have industry agreed open standards that let ‘companion devices’ such as tablets and smartphones interact with our displays, reliably and consitently?"

Yes.

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Stop

iPlayer 2 Click Fail!

That's just wrong. if the TV is off, or if the TV is tuned into channel 5, or if the tv was playing from a DVD Then it's Always going to be more than 2 pressess. The 2 button thing only works if your already on a BBC channel.

Anyway, My FreeviewHD+ box has iplayer mapped to channel 222 (thats BBC via a phone style alpha numeric pad) it also has sky player on 759 (again sky) thats very useful but its all preset.

I'll only be interested in a smart TV if I can configure it myself, it'd be nice if I could choose what to map to which chanel numbers then I'd be happy.

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Re: iPlayer 2 Click Fail!

Yes, indeed if the TV's off, then you'll have to press more buttons; sorry, for not mentioning that.

Nevertheless, the fact is that there is an established, and consistent method of launching the BBC's catch-up service. I'd dearly love to see that implemented too on the other channels, so that the same two pressed would launch catch-up for whichever channel you happen to be watching. It would certainly be technically possible, and wouldn't it be handy if there was that consistency, just like people used to know to press text then 888 for subtitles?

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Re: iPlayer 2 Click Fail!

haha.. but the channel 5 point is more valid.

The 'established method' is a bbc launcher thing only, you are going to need to get other channels to adopt this if you want it as a standard on the red button. then perhaps the tv's might be more inclined to work that way.

BUT what about 'IP only' tv channels which channels Red button would you put them on? or how else would you access it? or would this require a totally different method? surely one that does all is the best solution? instead of some on a menu and others via red button.

Personally I'd still like the option to place internet services onto specific channel numbers so I can dial up youtube or fetchtv or something else without menus at all.

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You missed half of the UI

The remote in conjunction with what you see onscreen is the UI. This doesn't necessarily make it better especially with some brands.

It is hard though with limited space for text due to required text sizes and it still needs to fit in all of the dozens of translated languages. They could still do better.

The real solution is to move most of the interaction to a tablet type device and keep the big screen as a content output device.

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Re: You missed half of the UI

We could probably do another whole article about the remotes; the weird choices between shiny metal look membranes, or real buttons, some of which click, others which just wobble.

Odd concentric circles of buttons, which almost guarantee that half the time you're trying to move to an option, you accidentally press the outer circle instead, and back right out to live TV, or launch something completely different.

Remotes that have icons that mean absolutely nothing - I was on the second Toshiba set of a recent batch before I realised there actually was a dedicated "Toshiba Places" button on the remote, because it just looked like, well, an empty speech bubble, and what the hell does that mean?

The secondary remote that comes with some Samsung sets is quite interesting; top half is effectively a trackpad, with a few raised areas for some key functions, which makes it a bit simpler to get to on screen icons by moving your finger around. It also has a built in microphone, which is a little more reliable - especially in a noisy room - for speech control than having to shout at the TV.

But yes, remotes are often overlooked.

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Re: You missed half of the UI@Joseph Lord

"The real solution is to move most of the interaction to a tablet type device and keep the big screen as a content output device."

So long as they do it right everybody will be happy. All I want is a nice streamlined app that enables me to control my display from a device I already own, and that I can then duplicate or transfer when I replace my phone or tablet. Given that most makers of TV's produce a whole range of consumer electronics, you'd have thought the opportunity for smartphone apps to act as remote controls would be particularly attractive, yet five years after the touchscreen smartphone became mainstream, the efforts of the TV makers don't seem to have widespread adoption or awareness.

I did write "Samsung and LG in particular should hang their heads in shame, and Sony at least should blush.", did a quick google to check my facts, and found that they do all in fact offer control apps for Android, working with selected TV's. I'll have a play this evening with the Sammy version and see whether it's any good.

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Re: You missed half of the UI@Joseph Lord

"I'll have a play this evening with the Sammy version and see whether it's any good."

In the unlikely event anybody's still following this thread, the answer is "Almost"

The Samsung App works pretty well with my TV, and duplicates all the functions of the remote. There's no noticeable delay in the operation, it is logically laid out, able to control basic settings, or go into more advanced setup options. What lets it down is the same thing - it duplicates the original remote's capabilities rather than extending them, so despite the potential there's no keyboard for text entry (and for my TV there's still no web browser app - can it really be that hard?).

There's some fairly minor inconveniences, like you can't turn the TV on from standby (surely they could have the wifi connection maintained in standby, and a wake on LAN function?), and you have to select which TV to control every time the app is activated, rather than being able to tell it to control a particular set (or your only one) by default.

So in many ways a good start, but nowhere realising the full potential. Other phone/tablet.TV inter-connectivity is similarly "not quite there", so DLNA is slow to the point of inoperability, there is no way of doing wifi video out from a an SGS2 to the TV (so using the phone as the browser). You can do it by a hardware link, but then it's difficult to use the phone as a controller (not to mention the unavailable option of using the phone to control, but having the video out different from the phone display).

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One word.

Mediaportal.

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They should embed Windows Media Center

I have used Media Center for years and haven't found anything in a TV or other device that comes close. Why don't TV manufacturers embed that in their sets?

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Re: They should embed Windows Media Center

"Why don't TV manufacturers embed [Windows Media Center] in their sets?"

That's meant as a serious question, isn't it ?

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Re: They should embed Windows Media Center

Didn't the sky interface used to be written by Microsoft? They do have a MCE embedded option but it's a little different to the MCE interface.

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IT Angle

I think you need the option to link it with mobile devices, browsing clunky sliding, swivelling, iffy UIs with up,down,left,right arrows is painful at best and impossible at worst.

A way to browse and launch apps via your mobile would probably be best, with the TV just staying as it is, a screen to display content. Pick the content on your phone or tablet, it starts to load on the TV.

Simples (okay probably not).

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Panasonic not fully learning

I just bought a Panasonic smart tv, every time I turn the thing on I get an ad for music from Myspace. That's pretty annoying, although not as bad as every time you turn on the EPG.

There's apparently different standards of Panasonic smart tv, the one I got doesn't have the web browser for whatever reason.

Another thing about UI that annoys me about a lot of tv's is the standard of the remote control that comes with them. The Panny remote is terrible, has all the expected functions but is just plain awkward to use. It really does make me appreciate Sky's remote and UI.

It would help if when tech journalists - definitely looking at the Reg here - would actually put an appropriate emphasis on the quality of the UI and remote when reviewing a TV instead of going on about differences in video quality which are only really apparent when looking at the sets back to back, or if you're trying hard to notice.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Panasonic not fully learning-remotes

only reason I consulted the manual on our remote was to find the button for the subtitles as the missus currently has a head full of snot that has made her as deaf as a post. It does have a web browser. The one ad lasts about 5 seconds on start up...... EPG is fine.I used a sky remote at the weekend and found it a pain in the derrirere...... Just shows.... personal taste is everything.

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FAIL

Bought a Samsung "Smart" Blu-ray

I bought it on the promise of being able to add iPlayer and Netflix to my aging TV. To be fair it works well for iPlayer (except the Samsung app has painfully slow performance when scrolling). However, Netflix never worked. The samsung (cr)app store is a right dogs dinner - I searched for the Netflix app, it found it and then... nothing. It mysteriously refused to download. After the most tortuitous registration process I have ever followed.

Netflix claim Samsung needed to release an upgraded firmware, Samsung claim it is up to Netflix to fix. So, back to using my laptop to stream netflix to my TV. Except, of course, I can't get Windows to output in my TV's native resolution so the edges are chopped off everything I watch. I think I'll give in and go for a Raspberry Pi/XMBC solution! You wouldn't think such a simple requirement would be so hard.

Forget all this Facebook/Twitter integration, anyone who uses these regularly probably has a mobile or laptop to view them on with a much better user experience. Just put some engineering resources into the "let me easily watch a streaming service on my telly, regardless of what that streaming service is" requirement and watch units fly off the shelves.

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Re: Bought a Samsung "Smart" Blu-ray

"Just put some engineering resources into the "let me easily watch a streaming service on my telly, regardless of what that streaming service is" requirement and watch units fly off the shelves."

But that is what they think they have done, which is the problem. Another one is 'streaming services' makes sense to you and me but some old dear will say 'I don't want water in my tv so I never choose that, where is iPlayer?'. Adding in that Aunty, Netflix etc all want their branding used and there will be ructions and copyright etc all tied up in how they appear, or else.

It's like some guy on another discussion site made a comment about the advert at the bottom of the page. I expressed surprise that people still browsed the web without ad blocking apps. He replied that it was too complex to set that stuff up. I'm the sort of person who always learnt how to use software by pulling down menus and wondering 'what does that do?' but most other people are not like that. My wife, who has a BSc in CompSci included. Her defence is she was interested in how computers worked and how the program them. My response is her part of the 3rd year project was the interface. This does not get me brownie points and I still have to navigate the crappy devices she buys so they see the home network.

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Re: Bought a Samsung "Smart" Blu-ray

I know of one website designer (small scale and looks likely to remain so) who deliberately sabotages websites he creates so they look bad when adblocking software is in use. The sites don't explain this; they just look bad, apparently to punish users. Clearly he's an idiot, but that attitude may exist elsewhere.

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A smart TV

Is merely a dumb display device with lots of bits added to 'provide value' that, I strongly suspect, the average punter doesn't give a damn about anyway; they're provided purely to provide smoke'n'mirrors for the sale of the device (er, I mean of course 'differentiate the product').

They tried massive screens, they tried 3-d, now they're trying 'smart'. But the TV makers all face the same problem: everybody's already got one. They're a commodity item, with no reasonable reason to change more than once every five or ten years... and that hurts the makers. So they slap on the latest added goodness, making it a worse experience in just about every way, and hope they can sell to the must-have fashionistas. It's a good ploy - the UI has no incremental cost of manufacture since the processor's in there anyway, and it can be changed on short notice (er, upgraded) when the punters notice how bad it is.

All that's really needed is a screen and an external box. Let the box do the switching between different devices, manage the EPG, organise recordings, and access the various internet services - pick the box of your choice to manage the services you want.

Apps on 'smart' TVs? Don't make me laugh!

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Re: A smart TV

Excellent point, Neil. Smarts belong in an outboard box.

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Facepalm

“Click here for additional assets”

This may have been my fault (but I don't think it was). For a while one of the things I was doing was confirming the UK English strings for Sony TV's. This string probably got approved by the US team and I didn't come up with a good enough alternative for it (and commonality was preferred where there was no good reason for it to be different). I don't like it but can't think of anything much better (although removing it might be better I'm not sure I had that choice). Replacing "assets" with "media" or "content" doesn't really improve it that much.

I'm no longer in position to fix it but what would anyone else suggest for it? It has to apply to video/audio/photos. It must fit in a limited space. Be translatable, not content related but ideally still helpful. Note that the same string may be used in other parts of the UI so a complete change of meaning may require more significant work as then there will be two strings to manage and get translated into more than 20 languages for Europe and probably 40-50 globally.

The process was largely that I got spreadsheets full of strings normally with short descriptions of their meaning and occasionally screenshots of where they would appear. Normally it was quite quick and easy although sometimes significant dialogue to get an understanding of the intention was needed. I did my best to make the strings helpful and meaningful but there were still a few I didn't like but couldn't fix.

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Re: “Click here for additional assets”

I appreciate that the string may appear in more than one place; that particular abomination crops up in the Demand 5 app, and also in the LoveFilm Trailers section, which both have the same look and feel, so I presume it's part of a Sony application framework.

If it can't be tweaked for each app, then "Click OK for more" would at least be somewhat clearer to ordinary people; if you've highlighted something that says "Drama" and the message "Click OK for more" appears, then it's probably reasonably clear that you'll get more items in the Drama category.

But the message as it stands is just horrible, and not a form of language that I think any ordinary person ever uses.

And it was things like that, and the ridiculous 35 pages of terms in a web browser, that made me think "Didn't Sony let ordinary people sit and play with these TV sets, and ask them for feedback?"

Of course, other manufacturers are guilty of similarly stupid things; but given the position Sony used to have in the TV market, I felt it particularly shocking (and perhaps a good example of why they don't have that position any more) that there were so many elements in their UI that I felt, frankly, just showed a lack of attention to detail.

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Happy

Re: “Click here for additional assets”

What about some simplification : "Click for more"

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"More..."

Where do I send my invoice?

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Re: “Click here for additional assets”

“Click here for additional assets”, whatever that means. I know. You know

I don't, actually. Not that I have a smart TV, or want one, especially after reading the article, thanks! And I didn't know about the Panasonic EPG ads. Sheesh, I just hope I don't need a new TV for many years. My Sony Profeel was still going strong after 25 years before I junked it.

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Re: “Click here for additional assets”@Joseph Lord

"This may have been my fault (but I don't think it was). For a while one of the things I was doing was confirming the UK English strings for Sony TV's. "

I had a dig at Sony remotes earlier in this thread, and whilst I standby the comments, I thought I'd better declare that I do appreciate your contributions, and that wasn't intended as a personal go at you.

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Coat

Re: “Click here for additional assets”

Well I would be expecting some NSFW pics if I click that button ...

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Re: “Click here for additional assets”

Yes "Click for more" is probably the winner. Or just not bothering with this string at all at least on this screen. Can't remember for sure if I did approve it, tried to reject it but picked other fights or lost an argument about it. I do kind of remember it which probably means I wasn't happy with it but didn't actually manage to resolve it. I think it is a fairly rare really bad one in my (and Sony's) defence.

The Sony UI has its problems (and I actually preferred the XMB before they changed to the NUX in the right hand corner as you could see your context better).

The Sony remote controls are I think better than most although my favourites were the basic model a couple of years ago that was narrow and comfortable in the hand without the ring of buttons around the arrow key. I did battle quite hard on the remote control to keep the input selection at the top. Of course flexibility in remote controls is limited by DtG standards and other bodies round Europe.

>And it was things like that, and the ridiculous 35 pages of terms in a web browser, that made me think "Didn't Sony let ordinary people sit and play with these TV sets, and ask them for feedback?"

The 35 page agreement is nothing to do with me, I was out before that service launched so I'm definitely not guilty of that. I think it might also have been a post launch added service so not in the same QA process. Regarding letting normal people use the TVs and getting feedback - we sometimes tried but the timings and deadlines don't really work for that. Feature freeze including UI was 6-9months before launch and samples with workable software were only available a couple of months before launch. Normally by the time we had the product to try it was too late to get changes. In fact I learned of many features when asked to confirm the strings for them. That is part of why I didn't offload that task earlier than I did.

If you want to try my attempt at a UI without anyone else to blame you can check out my iPhone/iPad app - Fast Lists (http://itunes.com/apps/fastlists). It's for reusable lists (e.g. shopping and packing). I'm to blame for everything but I can fix things there. ;)

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Re: “Click here for additional assets”

Tim Berners-Lee et al say a good UI design should not mention the mechanics of navigating...

http://www.w3.org/QA/Tips/noClickHere

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More grunt and customisation needed.

They need to put some processing power in the box so it doesn't feel like you are being ignored when you have the audacity to push a button on the remote. My Sony TV is a fussy sod and only plays a very limited number of formats so I end up transcoding on the fly.

I don't mind the extra add-ons that are in the internet video bit if I could delete them but I can't, about as user friendly as a hungry salt water croc.

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Re: More grunt and customisation needed.

Never buy Sony!

This is not a new problem, and a very deliberate tactic. Bare in mind, Sony are the single biggest muscle behind the War On Piracy (ironic since their tape recorder very nearly didn't get released because of the exact same legal actions).

Since the start, Sony CD players haven't recognised various flavours of recorded CDs, their DVD players plead ignorant if you put a disc in them that isn't exactly the right colouration to be legit, and support for any digital format that could be linked to non-payment downloading is suspicious by its' absence.

Add to that their woeful support of HDMI CEC (preferring to try and foist their own proprietary solution, and lock you into all Sony kit) and the fact that their reputation for quality has far exceeded their ability to deliver for the last 20 years…

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Paris Hilton

God Bless

My Pioneer Kuro.

No 3D bollocks, no intenet connectivity. Just amazing picture quality only now being rivalled by TV panels being produced today.

Plug in the trust old Western Digital and I am good to go.

No doubt Apple will launch a very simple UI, state they invented it and everybody will fall for it. All other manufacturers have had more than enough time to get it right and failed everytime.

Paris - cos she likes a good bit of UI

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Sad but unsurprising

Remember these UIs are designed by companies that figured it would be a great idea to put a button per function on their old, non-smart TV remote controls. Cue users looking at a baffling array of little-used function keys, and the main reason for the old cliche of not being able to program your VCR. Usability experts (or indeed enthusiastic amateurs) they are not.

I reckon Apple might not get it 100% right if they were to enter the market in a big way, but they would get enough right that it might shock some of the manufacturers to look harder at the problem. I am quite disappointed Google hasn't pushed Google TV as a better solution for manufacturers - if it became as successful as Android at providing a decent usable interface on something (phones) that were previously mainly rubbish, it would be a great thing.

As others have said, for now ignore the smart stuff and just buy an add-on box that you can easily replace. The RaspberryPi/Raspbian is pretty good for techies, else Roku and WDTV Live.

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Re: Sad but unsurprising

Apple's model is to produce pleasant but limited devices which need replaced every couple of years. How many people are prepared to replace a TV as often as they replace their iPhone?

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one function per button

I disagree. My folks are from an era where equipment had a single function per button. They fully understand this type of UI. The modern style of menus with control a cursor with direction keys and OK is an utterly alien concept.

As an example they had an old JVC VCR whose timer could be set from the front of the machine itself. Mum would have no problem setting this. She now gets lost immediately having to navigating on-screen menus and gives up. She doesn't get the concept at all. I understand where she is coming from. Simple things should be simple and complex thing should be possible. It seems things are going to get more complicated and using less buttons.

As the article says, press the red button and OK to go straight to iPlayer. Or it could even be on its own iPlayer button... (Hopefully Mum will comprehend the subsequent iPlayer pages...)

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Re: one function per button

"Apple's model is to produce pleasant but limited devices which need replaced every couple of years"

True, but arguably an old no-longer-updated iPhone is still a perfectly usable interface for a phone, it just lacks certain newer features. I wouldn't expect manufacturers would update their sets for the 5,6,7 year lifespans but if they started with a better UI it would be a huge improvement, and Apple's competition might help with that.

@Danny4 - I guess it depends on the quality of the UI - as the article points out they're usually not so good. And maybe there are some preconceptions that each function has to have its own button, and thus a workflow-based system that only allows you to make valid choices might be confusing to some. But I reckon with minimal retraining pretty much anyone can get the hang of a decent UI-based system, and new users find them more intuitive. Else phones and the like would have more buttons ;-)

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Sony Bravia

I've got a 2.5 year old Sony Bravia whose remote control also controls a Sony amplifier.

It's not meant to. It just happens to.

Changing to the Blu-Ray input shouldn't mute the sound, switching to teletext shouldn't start the test tones - but it does.

Sony's response - oh that problem was addressed in the updated firmware for your tv (which has never been pumped out to existing sets). But you really should know that amplifier is discontinued, you should get a new one. Have you thought about the Sony....[click]?

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One of the reasons I don't use my TV much - doing anything other than watching simple TV channels and Blurays.

Anything else, I use my PC. Currently using MediaPortal. Pretty good - especially as you can change the interface to suit.

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I'll stick...

to my basic Sony Bravia set that has tho XBM system but that works without a problem. It's not smart true but hell it does what it needs to. If I want something more I'll hookup openelec.tv to it via any of numerous fancy bits and get all the fancy stuff that way.

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Even simple things like choosing the correct input for all the connected devices is difficult to explain to someone non-technical. For instance my old Panny TV which I donated to my parents comes up with 'EC/HDMI' or whatever when switching to the Humax PVR (*). Just WTF is that supposed to mean to the casual user?

* Operating the PVR is sadly completely beyond their comprehension.

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The article is spot on.

Had the horror of a Samsung 'smart' TV and apps - thought it couldn't get worse until I got a View21 HD Recorder - interface on that is so *very* slow, full of bugs and silliness that anyone with a clue would have spotted before release. Already had to do a factory reset and wipe the hard drive of recordings after about 3 weeks of use when it hard crashed.

Only TV recorder I've used that was any good was PlayTV on the PS3 - and that is just SD and single channel recording, but the interface was built by game developers and is slick - rapid response, no crap just does what it should. Paired with a blue tooth remote it's great. [Why are TVs still using IR remotes? They suck compared to bluetooth and the batteries in the PS3 one last for ever with tons of use] iPlayer on PS3 is a mess though - have to get the trad controller out for some operations.

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Holmes

Heritage industry

They're just building on the grand tradition of remote controls. They've always sucked.

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Anonymous Coward

Media Center and their extenders

I threw my TV away after sitting through the very first airing of Big Brother. It was the straw that broke the camels’ back. By that point, we only ever switched the TV on for new episodes of Simpsons, but Sky1 adverts made it a truly painful experience, and our disgust at the devolution of TV had reached breaking point.

So, I cancelled our Sky subscription, dumped the telly on the pavement outside, let our TV licence lapse, and that was the end of an era. What I didn't realise at the time was that it opened a whole new, refreshing chapter in my life.

I started downloading movies and TV programmes not long after, watching them on my computer. Being able to watch on-demand and pause was unheard of then! The monitor was soon replaced with a projector (now 150" screen), scrolling through filenames was replaced with a movie database program that downloaded the meta-content from IMDB. Media Player Classic worked beautifully (VLC Player isn't as good to use, and the codec argument fails now MPC's embedded in the K-lite codec pack) Things were good, but it was still a little clunky, and tied me to keyboard and mouse.

When Media Center came along, I invested in an Emprex 3009ARF remote (by far the best of any remote I've ever used! so good in fact, I bought a third one today) and then I discovered the Mediabrowser plugin for Media Center.

Wow! This is how a UI SHOULD be designed! Based on the same open source code as XBMC, it has a far superior interface, and a plethora of plugins for various streaming services.

For live TV, I use a DVBT2 USB tuner through MCE, which is just a button toggle away.

The combined setup is so simple, so beautiful, and so intuitive, I have replaced the parents’ set-top, DVD player etc. with an old laptop that had a broken screen.

Because the power button on the remote sleeps/wakes it, there's never a need to open the lid, so it sits under the TV gathering dust just as a set-top would.

When I started hearing about the capabilities of these new smart TVs, I thought "Wow, they're finally catching up!" Nope. It’s not just the appalling UIs, or the problems of getting differing services on the many different devices talking to each other, but the "very nearly, but not quite" invariability of the feature sets on these devices that’s so disappointing.

While most devices now support Divx and XVID, they’re late to the party as we’re now moving onto the wonderful Matroska .MKV wrapper. This is just a codec update on my system, but from the general lack of support in all but the latest blu-ray players, I suspect a hardware issue for brown goods. And what happens when DVBT3 comes along? I can always replace my £30 USB dongle…

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Re: Media Center and their extenders

On the subject of "smart" TV's and their format support Samsung seem to have very good support for video... A Samsung TV I had a few years back never failed to play anything I threw at it, in HD or SD format where applicable... MKV, MP4, AVI, FLV, 3GP. Quite surprised me really and the UI actually wasn't all that bad. The audio (only) support was terrible though... MP3 and nothing else (not even the free OGG Vorbis format, which in my opinion results in a better overall sound than MP3).

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Re: Media Center and their extenders

I assume you now have a TV licence again, as you're watching broadcast TV?

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Re: Media Center and their extenders

@stu_ekins – Yes, I do have a TV licence again. Posting anon though, due to references to download activity, which I continue to do simply because the legal alternatives don’t provide the same quality of services.

Indeed, there are some good products out there, but you have to wade through an enormous pile of dross to find them. On top of this, brown goods documentation is notoriously light on technical info, making your purchase decisions all the more difficult, and to be frank there is no financial incentive for the manufacturer to provide additional support and upgrades once you’ve purchased the item, so the many comments here indicating an industry wide dearth of firmware updates, while sad, comes as no real surprise.

One major gripe I have is the complete gamble you have to take with HDMI CEC support. Because it was only an optional component of the standard, the features that work on it are almost random. Sony barely support it at all, as they have their own solution (which only works on Sony products).

Try finding the supported range of CEC commands of your next TV/HiFi/DVD player before purchase! I used to work as a multimedia technician, setting up everything from lecterns for presentations to turn-key kiosks, and the very first thing we learned was that if you wanted to make the installation work properly, be idiot-proof enough for unassisted use, and future-proof for new features, you had to use a PC.

If something on a PC doesn’t support a certain feature, doesn’t work in the required manner, or doesn’t integrate with your pre-existing configuration, you can change it. Without a computer as the hub, all the individual components that make up your desired solution are a bit like the shapes and holes puzzle. Except that all the shapes were moulded by the same toddlers the puzzle was aimed at. You will get things to fit eventually, but it will never be seamless.

My parents, both in their 70s are not complete luddites, but they struggled so badly with their Smart TV/DVD/PVR/Set-top box/Hifi and the many remotes (oh, god, the remotes!) that I offered to set up an alternative.

Now, with a single remote, they can easily navigate their TV/streaming and catch-up/music/pictures/recordered and 1.4Tb of moveis, TV shows, Documentaries and Stand-up through a single unified interface.

Seriously, have a look on youtube at mediabrowser 3. I’ve tarted it up a bit more than the videos, so it looks even prettier, and is astonishingly easy to use.

And I haven’t even touched on the low cost of upgrades to support new features. This all started with a conversation about them buying a new TV to get DVBT-2 support. They now have this, AND blu-ray, for less than the price they were intending to pay.

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clusterf*ck

Tv's, dvd players, set top boxes - of which i've had many, all had ability to update FOTA. How many updates did i get? None, ever.

The worst was my first DVD player, bought on the strength of playing MP3 discs. It's interface was unbelievably bad. The left hand side of the screen was reserved for folder structure, the right hand side for tracks. Both sides could only show a maximum of 8 characters in a name ( i measured the available space left over and it would allow for 40 characters each side!) which meant every folder by the same artist was named the same if the artist name was more than 7 letters, the same for the tracks when tagged artist/album/track. Only when i played a track would the full title appear except that any spaces, dashes or hyphens would appear as zeros! Totally unfit for purpose. Needless to say i dumped the dvd player and connected my pc to the tv instead.

My current tv has a guide, selectable by pressing the guide button. It splits the screen into three vertical columns and two horizontal. The bottom left hand side is reserved for channel numbers/names and is basically empty space, the other two bottom panes show Now and Next. They can show 30 characters along with '...' if there are more than 30. The top of the screen has PIP on the left third and programme details on the other two thirds. The details of the current selected programme has acres of space but again will only show about 6 words followed by '...'. I can press the info button on the remote to get more info in a pop up window, it can show about 10 words including the first 6 that were already available on the guide. I can't press the info button again to close the window, instead i can press the return button on the remote (will remove the pop up but keep the guide open), the exit button on the remote (will close the guide as well) or navigate to the onscreen 'return' button and press the ok button on the remote (will remove the pop up and return to guide).

If i forgo the guide and press the info button while watching a programme it displays the same 6 word description as the guide but this time it occupies the full width of the screen via a drop down menu, again with acres of empty space. I can now close this by pressing the info button again, or usefully press the red button on the remote for information? Doing so will now display the full text of the programme description in a pop up window. This pop up can be closed by pressing the ok or exit button on the remote but not the red button a second time. The pop up window is only half the width of the screen but with larger text than either the guide or the info button drop down uses but can manage to display all the programme information in far less space!

I fail to comprehend how something could be made so unintuitive without special effort and struggle to accept that someone was paid (probably good money) to make it so. Oh and i've had the tv for 3 years without a fw update...

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