back to article TVs are now tablet computers without a touchscreen

A few weeks back I turned on my television to find out it had stopped receiving two of the free-to-air channels I watched most often. All of the other channels still resolved with perfect, digital clarity, so I couldn’t work out why these two channels - out of four in packaged in a multichannel broadcast signal - failed to …

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Chromecast

My solution to this dilemma has been to slap a chromecast into the TV and then watch/cast on a tablet - see, my TV now has a touchscreen! It's not perfect and the resolution of the old plasma TV is still the same but the difference is minor unless I put my glasses on - and most of the time I don't.

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Re: Chromecast

Chromecast is no solution.

1) Privacy

2) Needs Broadband

3) Needs additional HW.

A setbox is more sensible.

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Re: Chromecast

Any number of cheap knock-off Chromecast-like things will also do it.

But privacy isn't really an issue if - like mine - the Chromecast is only powered when the HDMI is selected, and is properly - like any client should be - restricted in what it can do (i.e. it can't see any of my local network). And, pretty much, I use it for showing Google Play movies on the screen.

If you're that paranoid, just use DLNA.

Needs broadband is ridiculous in this day and age. We're talking about streaming video, if you don't have broadband, your choices are severely limited anyhow.

Needs additional hardware - yes. That you can replace for £20 a throw rather than £2000.

For reference, I have a Chromecast, a VM box, a Blu-Ray player which can play DLNA, a Android-based satellite box that can do DVB-S for Freesat / Italian satellite. The TV, however, is as dumb as they come with only SCART and HDMI and an RF interface for analogue/Freeview that's not even plugged in.

TVs are display devices. Buying a TV because it runs the app you want or accesses the content you want is stupid, because someday it will stop working like the article. Buy a TV that has a port on it you can put video and audio down, put all your "content" on cheap, replaceable, throwaway boxes that you can upgrade and replace as suits the situation, that don't all need to talk to each other, and that you can add new ones of whenever you like. Even that Android will be out-of-date and unsupported in a couple of years, and then it's just a health hazard sitting on your local network.

Last time I counted, including games consoles, etc. I had about 10 ways to view BBC iPlayer on my TV. Everything from an app on a smartphone pushed over a Samsung proprietary link, to Chromecast from a browser, to the Blu-Ray/Wii having access to it built-in. When one goes "wrong", who cares when you have so many other ways to access, or so many other services to do the same. And my entire setup - with all those boxes and necessary cabling - doesn't come to half what that guy paid for his TV. Probably not even a quarter. And I've had the same setup for nearly 10 years now, and just added to it piecemeal (it is in fact the second Chromecast as the new ones do 5GHz Wifi, which the old ones didn't).

And I bet an Android-based Smart TV is much more privacy-infringing than a ChromeCast, if that's what you're worried about. You have absolutely no clue what that's doing with its data. At least a ChromeCast that you only use for watching ChromeCasted things you have a chance of isolating and seeing what it's doing.

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your screen is just a screen

your screen is just a screen

Everything else should be done outside it ,

via set top box - cheaper to replace

or PC - easy to upgrade HW or SW

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Chromecast

"if you don't have broadband, your choices are severely limited anyhow."

Bollox. Terrestrial signals have an uncanny knack of getting to most places in the UK, even in rural areas - if it's a bit dodgy, a taller, more powerful aerial/mast will normally sort the problems. Broadband on the other hand (despite government claims to the contrary) is and will continue to be patchy in rural areas. My family in rural Wales still struggle to get about 2Mbit/s and are not likely to see that any time soon.

Broadcast television is available to pretty much all, even remote hermits. Stick FreeSat broadcast into the mix and you have high bandwidth broadcast to 100% of the UK without even trying.

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Re: Chromecast

"Bollox. Terrestrial signals have an uncanny knack of getting to most places in the UK, even in rural areas" And when the signal changes you may find yourself needing to upgrade your TV! The point the posters before were making is that with braodband and cheaper hardware any old TV will be able to display everything, regardless of format.

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Needs broadband is ridiculous in this day and age.

For most people, yes. But for the frugal or the very income-limited, there is a huge role for over the air reception. Hopefully with a PVR, as the benefits of time-shifting and advert avoidance are huge.

>my entire setup - with all those boxes and necessary cabling - doesn't come to

>half what that guy paid for his TV. Probably not even a quarter. And I've

> had the same setup for nearly 10 years now,

Did you add the cost of your network into the above computation?

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Re: Needs broadband is ridiculous in this day and age.

"But for the frugal or the very income-limited, there is a huge role for over the air reception."

And for those who simply don't see the point in sending their money to large, mostly US, corporations.

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Re: Chromecast

Or upgrade a £50 set-top box. HDMI is likely to be around for a while.

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Re: Chromecast

"The point the posters before were making is that with braodband and cheaper hardware any old TV will be able to display everything,"

And the people who can't get BB fast enough to stream a decent picture reliably can carry on with what they've got and if necessary, get a set top box with whatever the new standards are. No new TV required. Just like a few years ago when digital terrestrial started and the vast majority did not have TVs with Freeview built in.

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Re: Chromecast

Privacy is out the window anyway with any new smart tv (and even new broadcast dtv standards include the feedback loop via existing Internet connection, and obviously no backwards compatibility). And lets don't mention security (or lack of it) in all these IoTs.

I'd say a good ole PC (or whatever you already have that can connect via HDMI) is the way to go. The more control over it the better. And 4k is overrated. Most cable channels look like s..t and are nowhere near 1080p - slapping 4k sticker won't help.

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Re: Chromecast

Terrestrial signals have an uncanny knack of getting to most places in the UK, even in rural areas

Unless, like me, you live somewhere where there is a dirty great lump of hill beteen you and the nearest transmitter, and a big ridge between you and the next nearest.

Even with a good masthead amp, even SD terrestrial broadcasts are just about unusable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Chromecast

"Unless, like me, you live somewhere where there is a dirty great lump of hill beteen you and the nearest transmitter, and a big ridge between you and the next nearest."

True, hence "most places" :-) The difference being that you can potentially erect a massively tall mast to try and compensate, or equally use the FreeSat transmissions instead. I also find that most places that don't get decent TV reception don't get great broadband either.

Broadcast signals aren't perfect, but they're a darn sight more reliable than broadband communications.

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Oh you optimist

So you presume that for the next 10 years that TV is going to get patched and updated?

Find me a 5 year old, let alone 10 year old Android phone that is still fully supported and I'll tell you it's a very rare beast indeed.

If even if a miracle happens and it gets updated for the next 10 years, it will become so completely slow and unusable, you'll simple just give,.

I would say your obsolescence has gone from 10 years down to 5 max now..

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Re: Oh you optimist

Hear hear. The IoT revolution is either a revolution of insecurity or a revolution of obsolescence. Or both. And even if (and this is a big if), manufacturers decide to keep patching for years (or decades, in the case of white goods - my fridge, hob and oven are all starting their third decade) life is far too short to spend my spare time installing updates on the TV, vacuum cleaner, car, microwave, light bulbs etc.

Fuck that. Count me out.

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LDS
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Re: Oh you optimist

I would look for a 40"-50" "dumb screen" (a monitor...) to be connected to a "media player" device I could update and upgrade separately. And which cold run an OS not controlled by the appliance maker - which is obsoleted as soon as the TV is packaged.

Those who got the fist wave of "Smart"TVs already found there's no longer an app to play their contents - and updates - if available - were removing them, not adding new ones...

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Re: Oh you optimist

Basically this, I'd be very happy for manufacturers to produce 'dumb' TVs where (a bit like hi-fi separates) you add the bits you need. I know that's not for everyone, but my temporary(ish) Sony Android TV very rarely ends up being used for its smart features, and a 'dumb' but a high-quality screen would be my preference.

Personally, I'd be happy to ditch smart features and pay about the same - assuming, of course, you are paying for a better quality image.

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Re: Oh you optimist

I'd be very happy for manufacturers to produce 'dumb' TVs

It's one of the curious paradoxes of a market economy that smart TVs are probably cheaper than comparable dumb monitors, because more people want to buy them. Fortunately, there's nothing to stop you treating your smart TV as dumb and connecting a PC, PVR or STB to it.

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Re: Oh you optimist

Dell has them 40-50 inches dumb screens.

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Re: Oh you optimist

"there's nothing to stop you treating your smart TV as dumb"

Providing it stays dumb and doesn't try to hang onto any unsecured wifi it manages to find.

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Re: Oh you optimist

When people say 'Oh dear, I have to buy a new expensive TV' and promptly buy one, it will be noticed by manufacturers. No use complaining and wishing you hadn't, it's too late now, you have been borged into the consumer society and the consumer society is designed to make you consume, and you have, and you will.

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Re: Oh you optimist

I am happily ignorant to change with a new 1080p projector to give me any size screen I want, a $40 OTA DVR with HDMI output, and an Intel NUC. All-in cost under $1,000, including the going-out-of-business sale HDMI switching receiver.

DVDs and BluRays play on the NUC but most are already ripped to the NAS (with the exception of some ornery ones which refuse to be ripped.)

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Re: Oh you optimist

Precisely. I was without a TV for some time (in 2014) while waiting for large 4k sets to come down to a reasonable price level. One day I was shopping for socks at a Target department store and noticed a strikingly nice picture on a TV in their electronics section. It was a 55" mid-range model Samsung and I played with it for a few minutes and bought it that day after checking its specs on my phone.

It has never been connected to the internet, so all of its apps (Netflix, Youtube player, etc.) can happily rot for all I care. It's connected to an old laptop, my cable box, and a blu-ray player. So I have a dumb smart TV.

Yes, it is joined to my wifi network and blocked at the router to keep it from becoming too friendly with any open networks in the neighbourhood.

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Unhappy

Re: Oh you optimist

Even if the manufacturer never issues another firmware update, I’m probably good into the future, because it runs apps which will be updated.
Riiight, but in the real world...

My Humax box has just told me it's going to delete the YouTube app because YouTube is switching to https and they can't be arsed to update the app.

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The road ends eventually.

Before you talk about upgrade paths, consider the previous generation of Smart TVs that had their own OS's and app stores. You would think these would also allow for upgrade paths. The thing is, like most other things, they eventually get abandoned. You can't expect Android to be supported to eternity, and indeed Google seems intent on an eventual path away from it with Andromeda. What happens when the app you need to watch your shows is dead-ended? Even worse, even if the app is updated, will your television carry the brute force needed to handle newer, tighter codecs? Take my TV. It'll never have the oomph to do HEVC. At the time it was made, AVC was state of the art. HEVC wasn't even a concept at the time. As a New Yorker would say, "Fugedaboudit!"

Just like with computers, it's a decision between "wait until something better comes along" and "pick your spot and take the plunge". It pretty much comes with the technology territory and is for the moment unavoidable.

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Re: The road ends eventually.

"will your television carry the brute force needed to handle newer, tighter codecs?"

That's *exactly* what I suspected when I read the synopsis, and had confirmed when the author mentioned that his old TV wasn't able to support the new MPEG-4 channels. Was he under the impression that it would have been able to support MPEG-4 with a purely software-based upgrade? Not bloody likely. The MPEG-2 likely used hardware decoding that probably wouldn't have been doable in software itself, so there isn't a cat's chance in hell the more demanding MPEG-4 could have been supported the same way.

This principle- as you make clear- applies equally to newer codecs.

And even if it was possible, that assumes that all these apps would work with the obsolete version of Android built into his "smart" TV that- experience already makes clear- will never be upgraded because there's no money in that for the manufacturers.

So, yeah. Nothing's changed. Smart TVs were- and are- a crap concept for that reason, and it still makes sense to rely on external units for upgradeability, not the display itself.

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Re: The road ends eventually.

" will your television carry the brute force needed to handle newer, tighter codecs? "

Spot on. I remember the first HD DVB-T2 trials in London where participants were sent new receiver boxes, back in 2006/2007. The channel "BBC HD" was broadcast from Crystal Palace.

I wasn't a participant, but it was perfectly possible to capture the raw data signal on a PC capture card, it just couldn't natively decode the exotic new MPEG-4 data stream. I managed to get the signal to decode, but couldn't manage it on my reasonably well-specced PC in real-time, it probably transcoded at around 10fps. My current TV is older than this trial, so definitely wouldn't be able to handle MPEG-4 with a mere firmware upgrade.

Similarly, when DVD first launched, PCs at the time needed an MPEG-2 add-on card as the required decoding wasn't possible in software-only due to the limits on CPUs grunt at the time.

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Re: The road ends eventually.

"Similarly, when DVD first launched, PCs at the time needed an MPEG-2 add-on card as the required decoding wasn't possible in software-only due to the limits on CPUs grunt at the time."

And they weren't cheap, either. Anyone remember the RealMAGICs and Jazz VGA piggyback cards? I ended up getting one (used) because I learned firsthand that a 300MHz CPU (no cheapie for the late 90's) was a bit on the underpowered side. It took the P3 generation to make it doable in software, just as it took the P1 generation to be able to do MPEG-1 VideoCDs in software.

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Meh

I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

....to a Smart TV by slapping a £10 NowTV box on it and never paying for NowTV.

Job Done.

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Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

@Lost_all_faith that's much the best idea - because now you can replace that 10 quid box whenever you get the urge and keep your pricey (if slightly more mature) telly as long as you like. The idea that display, processing, networking and everything has to be in one black-and-chrome box is merely a chimera my duster-wielding better-half wants to chase.

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gv

Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

I agree. The TV is just the display hardware. The "smart" should be your media centre computer which you can upgrade on a schedule that suits you.

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Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

>The "smart" should be your media centre computer which you can upgrade on a schedule that suits you.

But don't base it on an MS platform - remember Windows Media Center...

Surely by now there is a maintained Linux Media Center distribution?

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Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

"Surely by now there is a maintained Linux Media Center distribution?"

Kodi.

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Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

LibreELEC - Just enough OS for KODI, on a WeTek Play 2.

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Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

Depends on your requirements. If you're looking for a relatively inexpensive media box with apps and a 4K Blu-Ray player, the Xbox One S isn't a terrible option.

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Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

WeTek?

A curse shall be upon those whose websites require Javascript to display anything meaningful at all and the name of the curse shall be NoScipt and their websites shall go unread for ever.

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Re: I upgraded my "dumb" TV...

If you're looking for a relatively inexpensive media box with apps and a 4K Blu-Ray player, the Xbox One S isn't a terrible option.

Agree, with caveats.

When I upgraded from SCART to HDMI connected equipment, I decided that the new Xbox One would serve as a DVD/BluRay player and so both retire the (non-HD) Video/DVD player and keep both the box and controller count down.

It has worked quite well, just that like all jack-of-all-trades tools, things aren't quite as simple as the old dedicated box approach (the other half still hasn't worked out how to drive the thing). I live with the compromise because the Xbox does support a wide range of media app's from iPlayer through to Amazon video (and finally ITV Hub) and for those who have problems my son will willingly do the necessary in return for being allowed to play CoD.

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Your new TV wouldn't have fixed the 'new broadcast codec' problem

Android TV and the broadcast TV decoder have little to do with each other. If tomorrow HEVC were to become the standard all channels went black because your $1500 MPEG-2/4 TV couldn't decode it, you wouldn't be able to download an Android HEVC app for free to fix the TV decoder. That's $1500 of new shiny HEVC TV that you could be buying.

And talking about the "smart" side of a smart TV, many can read codecs from USB that they can't from DLNA and vice-versa.

With Samsung's software quality, are we surprised? They did TVs which reduced a 4K picture to 1080p, let Tizen play around with it, then upscaled it to 4K again. Why? Because Tizen couldn't cope with 4K then.

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This is what most people I know with Rasberry Pi's bought them for - well, the first one at least.

And because it's not a closed system, it can be updated with ease.

/me wonders if 'custom' firmware would allow the old tv in the article to support the 'new' codecs.

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Probably not. Need additional oomph in the chips to be able to handle HEVC (that's the tradeoff; tighter encoding results in higher demands at the other end). Basically, if your TV was built before HEVC was formalized, don't count on it to be able to handle it reliably if at all. It's a hard problem of technology: they can only build for what they can see, and trying to future proof is like trying to predict the weather: fair chance of missing.

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"It's a hard problem of technology: they can only build for what they can see, and trying to future proof is like trying to predict the weather: fair chance of missing."

Building in a faster processor and more memory than currently needed would be a good start but it would cut out a new sale a few years down the line.

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"This is what most people I know with Rasberry Pi's bought them for"

Just checked. RS have a VESA adapter which will take a Pi mounting box and an HDD.

Hmm. Interesting... Nice project to work on with grandson-apprentice.

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My point. You STILL would miss, as most video decoding these days is done on the graphics unit rather than the central unit. Plus by raising your price, you allow the competition to undercut you, so you basically can't win.

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"Cut out a new sale a few years down the line..."

and reduce your margins on the current range. I can't imagine TV manufacturers overspeccing their hardware with more expensive components just in case something new comes along in a few years.

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"You STILL would miss, as most video decoding these days is done on the graphics unit rather than the central unit."

Quite. Which is why all the work is done on a separate box sitting on a shelf under the TV.

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Samsung. Eurgh .....

I paid £1800 in 2014 for a top of the range Samsung "smart" TV.

All the literature banged on about how it was the future, integrated services, quad core processor blah blah.

It used to get regular updates for a couple of months then it stopped. The only updates we get now are to remove services. Now TV isn't even supported on it as it's too old. Really ????????

The menus are a confusing mess and it's literally impossible to find anything. No coherence at all.

Next time I'm getting a hi-sense panel and a plug in box.

Yet again I fell for all the Samsung marketing bullshit but never again. Thing is the 1080 picture quality is very good and the 3D support is fantastic. I just wish Samsung would stick to making good core products without all the crap attached to them.

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Re: Samsung. Eurgh .....

I bought my Sony 'smart' tv less than 2 years ago with a 6 year warranty from Richer Sounds, I expect it'll be quite obselete by the time the warranty ends, but I very rarely use its 'smart' capability anyway because I use external hardware for the source of the stuff'n'junk I consume.

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Re: Samsung. Eurgh .....

My Samsung "Smart TV" bought in 2012 had it's "SmartHub" update itself the other day - it infuriatingly popped up on the screen to tell me...

The scenarios described in the article are why I use a Chromecast. In addition trying to navigate the Samsung software using a remote control is a PITA.

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Re: Samsung. Eurgh .....

I won an LG Smart TV 5 years ago. Plex, Netflix and iPlayer still work absolutely fine. Still trying to win a UHD TV though.

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Def
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Re: Samsung. Eurgh .....

I promised myself a long time ago (shortly after I made the same promise about Sony) that I would never buy a Samsung product ever again. They're nothing more than shovellers of shit for the stupid and gullible.

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