One wonders why they're not making, er tablets. Since those seem to be popular.
It’s not easy being a television manufacturer these days. Most homes, especially in the West and the wealthier parts of Asia, now have a large flat panel TV, thank you, and don’t need another one. Sales, then, are not as strong as they once were, pushing down prices and, in turn, whittling production margins from razor thin to …
Thursday 14th February 2013 12:33 GMT cyborg
I want dumb TVs
The dumber the better. Give me decent output connectors so I can route stuff through my own boxen - which you will never be able to better configure than me for my needs - you concentrate on making sure the screen shows what's necessary and does so with the minimum amount of fuss.
Thursday 14th February 2013 14:36 GMT Tom 38
Thursday 14th February 2013 16:14 GMT Flywheel
Thursday 14th February 2013 19:14 GMT Dave 126
Re: I want dumb TVs
The only downside to dumb screen + external box(es) is that my father can't grasp the procedure to turn on the tv from the PVR remote control. I guess a universal remote with macros would resolve this issue.
Most people I know don't have rooms so minimal that they get upset by an extra box or two- indeed some boxes hide behind the screen on the Vesa mount- so integrating features to the screen itself makes more sense for second TVs in kitchens and bedrooms.
Friday 15th February 2013 00:46 GMT Graham Dawson
Re: I want dumb TVs
Oddly enough, I have a solution to that one. The Raspberry Pi plugged into the USB port of my television powers on when I turn on the TV and switches it to the correct input with that there CEC feature. After that I do everything through XBMC, and when I tell XBMC to power off it shuts down the pi and then shuts down the TV along with it. Freaking marvellous it is.
In the interests of fairness there are downsides. I have to unplug the USB if I want to use my tv for anything that doesn't involve xbmc because otherwise it grabs the screen when I switch it on, which means a little bit of dinking to get it back and then mucking around to tell the pi to switch off the tv when I'm done. I don't watch broadcast television any more (and haven't for years - bye bye TV license!) but I do play a couple of xbox games now and then and the wife still occasionally pulls out the PS2 for her Final Fantasy fix.
Other than that it's bruddy marvellous.
Thursday 14th February 2013 14:57 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: I want dumb TVs
Agree additional IPTV services are better handled via external box(es), and a dual-core netbook with HDMI out connection is my solution, bought for £129 as an Argos return
This solution is probably future proof within the life expectancy of the TV and netbook.
But it is actually a third screen solution, because by using Synergy the IPTV netbook is normally controlled from another netbook used simultaneously at my armchair, while watching TV. Full keyboard and mouse control with an EPG/Windows Media Centre is obviously preferable to faffing about with a remote control and on-screen software keyboard.
While it may be possible to use a Raspberry-Pi, or similar kit, as the IPTV box, using a netbook has the added advantage of it being a PVR when required. With a standalone dual-channel PVR-HD+, it means that I can record three programmes as well as watching one using the TV's tuner, a situation that sometimes arises at 9.00pm here in the UK.
Thursday 14th February 2013 12:45 GMT Richard 81
Thursday 14th February 2013 12:46 GMT Shagbag
Thursday 14th February 2013 12:55 GMT Bronek Kozicki
some things make sense, some don't
When I eventually replace my current TV with a new one, there will be few features I will expect the new one to have. These actually reflect changes in mini HiFi systems, that is ability to stream data from network (both local and Internet services). So the fact that TV vendors are exploring this direction is a good sign, even if they do it a bit too eagerly for some peoples (mine included) taste.
For example, I will want my new TV to be able to connect to my subscriptions in LoveFilm , blinkbox , Netflix etc. , just like my HiFi can stream directly from my Spotify and last.fm accounts. Most likely I will not use all of those, but there is no telling which one actually I will want at the time when I buy a new TV. A HiFi delivers wide choice of connection services, but I only use some. On the other side of the same coin, just as I will not buy a HiFi which does not support my accounts to streaming services, similarly I will not be considering a TV which does not do that.
Secondly I would like my TV to be able to stream MPEG, WMV etc. video files , but also DVD and BluRay images saved on local NAS server (just like my HiFi can stream MP3 and FLAC files) but this is where it gets tricky. Manufacturers will have to make a choice: stream only unprotected content (thus encouraging stripping of DRM protection by the users when one makes a copy of owned DVD or BluRay) or employ proper DVD / BluRay certificate on a TV, and act in lieu of a DVD / BluRay player , thus potentially cannibalizing sales of these devices. Judging by the way it went for WiFi, I see former as more likely option but I don't mind, I have certain product from Slysoft to help me manage my own DVDs and BluRays. Oh did someone say that format shifting is illegal? That will probably have to change, too.
There is yet another role which TV can fulfill and that is communication device - Skype video being one example. But why not Apple and BB video chat? If these can be licenses then yes, I'd like to have those too on a TV.
As for fully functional computer? No, thank you, I have other devices for this.
Thursday 14th February 2013 13:43 GMT Drummer Boy
Thursday 14th February 2013 15:16 GMT Bronek Kozicki
Re: some things make sense, some don't
I do not need to stick a Raspberry Pi into my Onkyo to access my Spotify account, why my TV should be any different? This one thing aside, a TV is media consumption device, you shouldn't need a general purpose computer you have setup yourself (no matter how small or cheap) to make it work.
Just imagine how TV would be used by a layman, given the possibilities.
Thursday 14th February 2013 12:58 GMT Anonymous Coward
Bugger the smart TV. My PC has been connected to the telly for years and years.
Yes the telly is a good medium for web browsing. I often browse web pages, with friends around the telly.
The telly just needs to display content I send to it. It doesn't need to have all of this functionality built in, I just want a built in sky decoder and fully fledged PC. The rest of the crap is just filler.
Thursday 14th February 2013 13:08 GMT Bronek Kozicki
For viewing streaming content from iPlayer, blinkbox or Lovefilm I'd very much prefer if I did not have to keep my PC running. TV able to do it all by itself is what I would actually prefer, thank you. If my PC is running, I'd rather do it more useful stuff rather than command its HDMI output. For example, I like to do my email on a PC, browse web, run some VMs and compile stuff, at the same time when the kids are watching a movie I rented in blinkbox.
Thursday 14th February 2013 13:44 GMT the spectacularly refined chap
Personally I can see a role for a smart TV along for very lines. When I first got this (Samsung) TV that I'm using as a monitor I observed it had an ethernet port, a general computer processor and support for USB keyboard and mouse. The only thing stopping it being a thin client X/RDP/VNC/whatever terminal is a bit of software. That software simply isn't there though so I have a Neoware thin client also sat on my desk, consuming power and taking up space for something the TV itself is perfectly capable of doing for itself.
Thursday 14th February 2013 13:04 GMT Jason Hindle
The UIs aren't great
Watching Netflix content is superb on our Samsung Smart TV. Finding content and making it ready to watch (i.e. finding, clicking play and letting it run for for a couple of seconds) is far easier to do on the laptop, the Android tablet, the iPad, the Android phone or the iPhone (I say again - too many toys in our house)!
Thursday 14th February 2013 13:31 GMT Lunatik
Smart TV has a problem
The problem I have with "smart TV" functionality is that it is so woefully slow and unresponsive compared to other devices that we use nowadays.
On my tablet or phone I can start the You Tube app, click through or search for a video and be watching it in under 10 seconds.
Try to do the same on any "smart TV" that I've tried and you've got to navigate the menu system, wait for it to sort itself out, load the (presumably heavyweight Java) app, then try to navigate the UI with the customary 0.75 second lag on the controller/text entry, then watch a spinner/throbber for another 5-10 seconds before the video starts.
Same broadband connection, an order of magnitude longer to get going.
And woe betide if you want to quit watching You Tube and go into Netflix. For that you've got to quit to the beginning and start the process all over again!
Until the devices can offer smooth, easy UIs like Android or iOS then they'll never be adopted in anything like the numbers that manufacturers hope.
Don't get me wrong, I make use of it at the moment but it is far from a pleasant experience, and the annoying thing is that the technology to enable a fast, responsive UI is already in there (if an RPi can do it...), but ignorance/inability/pride/intransigence prevents it being implemented.
Thursday 14th February 2013 13:33 GMT Raedwald Bretwalda
Smart TVs will die
I guess that smart TVs will die out soon after the manufacturers "end of life" their early smart TV products.
We are used to a TV being something that, once bought and installed, contionues to give years of service. When the TV manufacturers decide to pull the plug on the servers providing the smart TV service, customers will be up in arms that the manufacturer has in effect stolen their TV from them. The fallout will be either plummeting demand for smart TVs, or the manufacturers deciding that providing the ongoing support for them is not worthwhile.
Thursday 14th February 2013 13:38 GMT Anonymous Custard
So one has to wonder, rather than turning the TV into the tablet, why not leave the TV as the display area and turn the remote into a second-screen tablet? Have the two fully linked and then you can probably do all sorts of clever stuff between the pair. Or would that incur a lawsuit from Nintendo as copying the Wii U?
I've seen a few Android apps to turn tablets into TV remote controls, but I'm meaning a wider collaboration than just changing channels etc. To have the remote second screen as a full interactive partner to the main screen for tweeting/voting/commenting etc.
Thursday 14th February 2013 13:38 GMT Don Jefe
I Like It
Well enough. I've got a Samsung LED that is "smarter than my last TV anyway". I often use the browser to read the news from my back deck while I'm outside smoking and drinking my morning pot of coffee. I was reading this site this very morning.
If it had any features I find lacking it would be not enough in/outputs. More HDMI and USB is what I would really like in my next TV.
Thursday 14th February 2013 13:41 GMT arrbee
Why don't the TV manufacturers just provide a free tablet app (Apple and Android) with their TV ?
This could include all the usual remote control functions, remote viewing (e.g. so you can wander off and make a cup of tea while still watching a live event), streaming, etc without them messing around trying to make the TV itself interactive.
Thursday 14th February 2013 15:37 GMT Andy ORourke
Sony do this, I have the remote for the Bravia in the bedroom on my iPhone.
I also like the Sky+ app on the tablet, it's a lot better than the EPG guide on the Sky box, tells you when you have recording clashes, helps you sort them out with good suggestions for alternative recordings
Also, I hate to say it but the TV catchup services on the sky box are WAY better than those on the PS3, iPlayer on the PS3 is soooooooooo Sloooooooooooow compared to the iPlayer on the sky box.
All in all, my "dumb" TV has enough "Smart" stuff attached to it for my liking
Thursday 14th February 2013 13:46 GMT Gordon861
We don't need Smart TVs that will be obsolete in 6 months, a small set-top (or behind/under/wherever the set) box is a better solution.
If you want to add a camera for Skype into the TV, fine but make it able to feed into the USB of the external box as a webcam.
This way when there is a OS upgrade, or a new 'next big thing' you can just upgrade the box or replace it.
All I want from a TV is a good quality display and a ton of usable inputs/outputs.
Thursday 14th February 2013 13:52 GMT Anonymous Coward
Thursday 14th February 2013 14:32 GMT Anonymous Coward
The smarter they get, the quicker they will be old hat, and out of support.
Look at phones now, you're lucky if you're still getting updates at the end of your 2 year contract.
What's going to happen when the iPlayer API changes in a year and your 2 year old TV doesn't get an update?
Maybe they'll make an update, maybe they won't and hope you go and buy a brand new TV.
Keep the screen as a screen, and plug in the content.
Thursday 14th February 2013 14:45 GMT Euripides Pants
Thursday 14th February 2013 14:46 GMT MJI
All _I_ want is
The best panel I can afford
The best processing they can do (upscaling and deinterlacing ect)
A Freeview tuner for watching breakfast news and I don't want to power up a Freesat PVR
LOTS of ports, 3 or so Scart, more than 4 HDMI, component, different picture/sound modes per input.
My current TV does most of this but only has 3 HDMI.
I have one quiet PVR so boost the sound on that one, others are OK.
A games console does the streaming and BluRay, a DVD player does DVD and audio duties, but I need more ports on my amp
Thursday 14th February 2013 15:10 GMT John H Woods
it's all about the video, of course.
My ideal TV would copy 5.1 sound systems, where you plug in a microphone and they can make a passable effort at self-calibration. Why can't TVs do this? Most people i know are watching their TVs with colour and contrast completely out of whack.
How about a very rapid power saving mode that goes off when there is no one in the room and comes back on again when you come in? Audio muting optional.
How about non-sucky picture-in-picture controls? Or digital logo removal processing?
There's a lot of smart things TVs could do, but smart TVs don't seem to do any of them.
Thursday 14th February 2013 15:18 GMT CCCP
Still a long way to go... yes, talking to you Samsung
Our 2012 smart Sammy is a great screen and thin, but "smart"? Not so much.
It's is by far the least able device in the house for holding a wifi connection. It sucks. And entering a secure password through the remote is a PITA. Oh, with no wifi you obviously can't then use the remote app either. Arrggg...
Secondly, the one service we'd like to use, Blinkbox, has a compatibility problem with the Sammy. Apparently to do with how it handles Java. So even with ethernet cables trailing from the router you're SOL.
As others have said, keep the image processing and screen tech, ditch everything else and save us a few hundred squids.
Thursday 14th February 2013 15:42 GMT fung0
Not 'smart' enough!
Obviously, TV is all about the content. But 'smart' TV does make sense. The problem is, no one has done (or is about to do) it right. A fragmented market of proprietary TV ecosystems and user interfaces is a nightmare, not a benefit to the consumer.
'Smart' TV today is simply not smart enough to be worth the effort.
On the other hand, an Android-enabled TV would make perfect sense. Then the controls would be standard, and the selection of apps would be big enough to be interesting. Integration with tablets or smartphones would be easy... Eventually, I'd have a tablet (or other Android device) on my coffee table as a remote. When the main TV was occupied with content, the tablet screen would let someone browse the channel guide, or maybe watch something else. (A programmable tablet controller would also neatly solved the insane problem of proliferating remotes, over which the AV industry should feel constant shame.)
All easy to do, no new technology required. Unfortunately, no one is doing it.
Even the Google TV fails, by trying to build some new dumbed-down interface, and a new, restricted app ecosystem. Still, the potential is evident. When I was trying out Sony's Google TV box, I found myself wishing it could play content from my local SMB network shares. Even with the miserable selection of apps specifically approved for Google TV, I was able to find an audio/video player app that did exactly what I wanted. This brought the whole concept to life. Wow - TV that can expand to do whatever I want! (Video calling? Download a Skype app. Don't like the built-in browser? Grab Dolphin, or Firefox.) If 'Google TV simply gave me unrestricted access to the entire Google Play library, under the familiar Android UI - plus transparent integration with other Android devices - I wouldn't want to be without it.
Bottom line, 'smart' TV should be about enabling familiar and desirable capabilities. Not larding on individual, proprietary features that no one asked for, and which make TV harder to use.
Unfortunately, AV manufacturers have no idea how to deliver that future - partly because they're congenitally unable to cooperate, and partly because software is a world they deeply fail to understand. I've long ago given up on Microsoft, which itself has closed, propriety products on the brain nowadays. But Google could step up, and I can't understand why Google TV has been such a feeble effort. The doomsday scenario is that Apple will walk in with a closed, infuriatingly limited - yet moderately usable - product and take over. As they did in phones. For some reason, the TV industry seems unable to learn from that historical precedent.
Thursday 14th February 2013 16:54 GMT Frankee Llonnygog
Name and shame
Is there some company somewhere who specialises in churning out this anti-usability, bug-ridden, flaky, shit software, as used by TV makers, car manufacturers, and all those other bastards who want to saddle consumer devices with their cack-handed proprietary vanity-ware?
We need to find them, and target them with Hellfire missiles now. (Assuming, of course, that they didn't write the missile targeting software)
Thursday 14th February 2013 17:34 GMT h3
I think Panasonic's software is great. (At least on my 2012 smarttv).
Plays anything less hassle than any other thing related to DNLA I have encountered.
I don't care about what it looks like as long as it works perfect.
(I have a weird playlist ordering bug that only happens with flac's (And doesn't happen with a 2012 Panasonic Bluray Player). But chances are if I was going to be pushing music through the tv I would only be using it as a renderer anyway.
Most of the smart stuff is not a great deal of use to me. But the fact that it is rock solid reliable means I don't really care.
Thursday 14th February 2013 18:33 GMT Will Godfrey
As a re-treaded TV serviceman I can tell you that nothing really changes. TV makers have been trying to sell must-have features since the 1960s (at least).
I still remember the remote control that was the size of a brick, with an umbilical you could tow a lorry with... Only there was a crappy microswitch in the telly that was so sensitive that if someone slammed the door, the vibration would make it change channels. This was a rotary tuner so it would slowly chug all the way round till it got back to the original channel again.
Friday 15th February 2013 03:05 GMT Steven Roper
"umbilical you can tow a lorry with"
Yes, I also remember those from my childhood back in the 70s. There was one time when my parents were shopping for a new TV, and one had a "wired remote" with a rather hefty cable - about which I recall Dad commenting that "you could moor the bloody QE2 with that thing!" And that was back then...!
Friday 15th February 2013 14:28 GMT Anonymous Coward
Re: "umbilical you can tow a lorry with"
Heh, not too long ago I saw a television set that featured one of the first remote controls.
Using ultrasonics no less. Still chunky by today's standards, and maybe 4 buttons.
That said, the sound out of that television set had a depth and warmth totally unlike any modern set.
Thursday 14th February 2013 18:42 GMT Will Godfrey
And another thing...
AMX and Crestron solved all the problems years ago, with wireless tablet-like controllers + docking station that had a decent programmable menu system which you then used to control an entire house-worth of AV + env control too.
Where's the grumpy old man icon when you need it?
Thursday 14th February 2013 20:21 GMT Herby
Just a display for me!
The added feature of obtaining some programming thru a coaxial cable is kinda a bonus.
Features? They all belong in the "program providing box", which may or may not be an integral part of the unit.
It is kinda like automobiles having zillions of different seat configurations. A wonderful idea, but not really helpful.
Thursday 14th February 2013 21:45 GMT Anonymous Coward
HD compression artefacts
The main issue with the "features" the TV guys are pushing is that on the tech side so little content actually uses it. To get any benefit I either need to watch bluerays (OK, I do do this, but 1080p at 24FPS is fine) or sell my soul and £50 a month to VM/Sky, etc. There are many better ways to enjoy life than plonking £600 a year on some really bad TV programs and a million channels I will never watch.
That leaves FreeView which while it supports "HD" resolution I think it misses the point of "HD" quality. They try to cram so many channels down each multiplex that all you end up with are high fidelity compression artifacts ...
Then you get onto the scaling, color correcting, artifact reducing "DSP magic" all of the TV manufactures claim to have. All of this is designed to work well for some canned demos in a show-room. It almost always makes other content worse - every "buff" I know turns all of this "value add" off - so it's not adding much.
On the internet connected thing, why bother? My TV doesn't have a keyboard, and it is less useful than my laptop. Err no thanks.
Friday 15th February 2013 09:11 GMT teapot9999
Sony smart TV too slow
I have a 2012 model Sony 'smart' TV - it takes several seconds to respond to the remote after the picture is on, presumably because it is still booting. All the menus, guides and other crap are accesses via a slow and poorly designed UI, none of it works as well as my Humax PVR which is quick, slick and just does what is needed and nothing else.
Friday 15th February 2013 14:18 GMT Nick Ryan
[apologies in advance for the length of this post!]
A lot of people here are asking for dumb TVs. With Sky decoding. Or Freeview. Or NetFlick. Or DVD playback. Or Media Streaming.
A truly dumb TV has a single video (and maybe audio) input. Probably an of/off switch as well. And maybe volume, brightness and contrast controls as well. Uh oh, feature creep is setting in already.
A slightly less dumb TV as a set of inputs, allowing you to either have multiple devices connected simultaneously or to give a choice of how you would like to to connect. No Scart? use HDMI instead? As soon as you get multiple inputs the TV has to start having input source selection. This is the first point that starts confusing the hell out of the average user... average as in Joe Public, not an El Reg reader who by definition is usually capable of mashing a keyboard semi-coherently.
A less dumb TV also has a TV tuner built into it. Except that this depends on the connectivity to your video source... as in over the air (generally FreeView), Satellite or Cable. These use channel numbers as a matter of historical and remote control convenience, not for the ease of use of the end user. These channel numbers are stupidly not consistent between FreeView, Satellite and Cable services and don't integrate with the Input Selection which is also a channel selector in its own way. When a user turns on a TV they often have a TV channel in mind, for example Sky One or BBC 2, they don't have "150" or "102" in mind and instead they have to either learn the specific device's numbering scheme or use what is far too often an extremely clunky or slow program or channel guide to select a channel. A program guide? Now that's yet another source of confusion as they are usually far too hard to use, inconsistent in operation and rely on short cuts on the remote control. Why does the remote control not have a "next day" button and instead the user has to learn to press the Blue button instead. Many Joe Public users just don't use the program guide or the channel listing, can't quite remember the channel numbers and instead repeatedly hit the channel up and down buttons on their remote until their desired channel eventually appears. Eventually? Yep, with digital decoding we're gone from the 1/25th of a second channel change to waiting for the first I-Frame in the MPEG stream, which on heavily compressed streams can often take a second or two.
We haven't even got to anything that would be considered a "smart" TV yet, and already we have layer upon layer of User Interface (or User eXperience) failures. The Smart TVs barely stand a chance.
As for where I'd like it to be heading...
Most users frequent no more than six channels (there's research on this somewhere). Give them a remote control with six channel buttons clearly marked with their channel preferences. This means a smart, two way remote. If the remote controls are cheap enough, supply more than one - one for the kids, one for mum, one for dad and so on. The alternative is one what can be switched between user profiles very quickly and simply. If information is stored on the remote control, back it up to the TV itself this way when a remote is broken or lost or multiple remotes are used they can be configured very quickly. Little things like this are really appreciated by users.
Kill Infra Red remote controls. They may be quite power efficient but they're one of the reasons behind appalling user interface response times on TVs and similar devices. Two way wireless communications, e-ink display and quite possibly wireless charging would be the way to go. Stick with buttons and not touch screens. The older the user, the more they appreciate and can handle button interfaces - they are far superior for limited functionality applications than the more adaptable but harder to use (and hugely more expensive when done well) touch screen interfaces.
If "smart" TV functionality must be implemented in a TV, do it using an established platform and not recreating the wheel with poor quality often underpowered components and awkward operating environments. Android is the ideal platform for this and removing the telecomms stack and associated chipset would save a chunk of the cost. It even comes with wifi management which saves another problem... In theory, iOS or even WinRT would do the job, however Android, if the components are correct, the applications are coded efficiently and unnecessary baked in applications are removed it can be quite efficient and would not have trouble rending at full TV screen resolution as similar resolutions are in place on mobiles and tablets already. Android, iOS and even WinRT would have to be tweaked to be usable without using touch input and without having a horrible pointer overlay alternative. Once tweaked though, there would be a huge market for applications that either just work on this kind of device or have been specially created for them.
Integrate the channel and input selectors into one seamless list and ditch the entire concept of channel numbers. Channels should be sorted by separate sorting text behind the scenes which will sort the channels into the order the user expects. i.e. BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four and so on. Alphabetically these would be "BBC Four, BBC One, BBC Three and BBC Two" which isn't quite so user friendly. Regional variations on the channels are an added complication, in theory they should be listed together with their parent channel, such as "BBC One North, BBC One Scotland, BBC One South" this makes for an appalling use case for the users that regardless of the interface will still frantically press Channel Up and Down buttons to select their desired channels. We'd doubtless see a proliferation of channel named "Arrdvark 1" and so on but there is no perfect solution.
If the broadcast content is the same, always select the HD option rather than the SD when presented with two otherwise channels. This should be togglable of course, but given ease of use it should be automatic and not needlessly presenting a user with two versions of BBC One is a good thing.
Friday 15th February 2013 15:11 GMT Nelbert Noggins
The dumb screen exists...
What most comments here are asking for as a dumb screen still exist and aren't anything new on the market, but they're called Professional/Commercial displays and cost significantly more than the mass market goggle boxes.
I got my screen when Hitachi got out of the custom installer Ultrathin business so it was 1/4 of it's normal price. I was surprised when I found out it had speakers as they weren't listed in the specification. I've still never used the speakers after owning it for over 3 years.
All I require as a 'TV' is a screen with a single HDMI input, support for the appropriate resolutions and minimal video processing to give me control of the picture so I can adjust it appropriately for my south facing room. I know that doesn't sell to the consumer market and it would be a loss making item for the consumer market.
My only hope for when I need a new screen is that monitor manufacturers are doing TV sized screens without pricing them at professional display level.