Philips Smart TV System 2012 Review
How does Philip's Smart TV measure up to the competition in the IQ stakes?
We've managed to cover all the major Smart TV systems over the last six months and now we come to our final review and a chance to check out the platform on offer from Philips. It will be interesting to see how the manufacturer approaches the challenge, especially as they have placed a lot of emphasis on usability and interaction in the past. Certainly, on paper, the system appears to offer most of the features we would expect from a modern internet platform. The real question is can Philips find a way to make a system that's simple and intuitive, so it's accessible to as many people as possible? Let's find out...
Whilst not quite as comprehensive as the Smart TV systems from the likes of Samsung and LG, it does offer a reasonable set of features and perhaps more importantly it's very intuitive to use. Of course there is an electronic programme guide (EPG) allowing you to access all the Freeview channels and see up to 8 days ahead, as well as the option to add a USB hard drive and use the recording feature. Most Philips' TV come with built-in WiFi making them simple to connect to your network but there is also an Ethernet port for a wired connection. The interface with your network and other connected devices is well designed and the DLNA support is excellent. The media playback is also very effective, with a decent number of different files supported.
The Home Screen is nicely designed with a video window in one corner and the various apps along the bottom; it is easy to navigate and can be customised if you so wish. The app support is reasonable but there’s nowhere near the number offered by Samsung and LG. There is an App Gallery for adding more apps and a SmartTV Payment feature if needed. The Philips' Smart TV platform has most of the most popular services and also a number of social networking apps. There are some video on demand services but these are limited and there is room for improvemen. There is a remote app available for both iOS and Android and we found it to be one of the best we have used. There is also a web browser which is well designed and effective, offering bookmarks to make use easier over time.
Overall we found the Smart TV platform to be responsive, robust and well thought out, with an intuitive and attractively designed interface. Whilst not as comprehensive as some of the competition, it covers all the essential features and what it does, it does very well - Recommended.
EPG Quality & PVR Features
In the UK all Philips' TVs come with a DVB-T2 tuner for Freeview HD and in Europe many of them also include a free-to-air satellite tuner. Setting up the Freeview tuner is simplicity itself, with the Philips menu system taking you through the process of tuning in all the digital channels. It takes a few minutes but the resulting eight day Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) is sensibly laid out, informative and intuitive to use. Our only complaint is that the EPG doesn't include a video window or even audio for the channel you are currently on.
There is also the option to add an external USB hard drive and utilise the recording options, thus turning the TV into a PVR. This facility allows you to use a host of convenient features such as Timer Recording and all of these functions have been integrated as conveniently as possible with dedicated buttons on the remote control. By turning your Philips TV into a PVR, it provides you with the opportunity to record programmes and play them back later. We found this feature to be useful and the interface is intuitive, however there is only one tuner which means you can’t record one programme whilst watching another, so it is still limited.
Applications - Hardware
Like the majority of the competition, most Philips' TVs include built-in Wi-Fi which makes it easy for you to connect with your broadband router and your home network wirelessly, without the need to resort to cables. It’s very easy to setup the Wi-Fi connection and integrate your TV and the resulting network can effectively stream content. If your TV doesn’t offer a wireless option, you can still access your router or network using an Ethernet cable. We had no problems connecting to our router and network, using the built-in Wi-Fi and an Ethernet cable.
Philips Smart TV system is designed to make your TV a multimedia hub for your home and also be able to communicate with compatible devices – so you can wirelessly stream multimedia stored on a compatible computer, tablet, smartphone or HDD recorder to your TV. When you select the source on the remote, the resulting interface is very well laid out, informative and easy to navigate through using a series of layers. The Smart TV platform gives you full and easy access to your photos, videos, music and more – no matter where they are stored.
Media Playback Quality
Thanks to Philips well designed interface you can access all your media using the convenient source button that offers you a choice of selecting different content - videos, music, photos or TV recorded on a connected hard drive. We tested the media playback functionality by watching videos, listening to music and looking at photos and we found the performance to be excellent. The system was effective, comprehensive and robust and we found the interface to be attractive and easy to navigate through. It was also responsive and could be easily controlled, either through the normal remote or Philips' remote app.
The majority of Philips TVs provide extensive media playback capabilities, either through the network or via any connected devices. The file support is fairly comprehensive and for video playback includes AVI, MKV, H264/MPEG-4 AVC, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and WMV9/VC1. For music playback the support includes AAC, MP3 and WMA and for photos there is JPEG. Thanks to these features, media streaming is relatively easy to achieve and you’re not limited to files on a PC as the TV will happily communicate with a Mac, smartphones and tablets.
Philips offer a double sided remote with their higher end TVs that has a QWERTY keyboard to make navigating all the Smart TV features easier and more ergonomic. However, regardless of which model of Philips TV you own, there is an excellent remote app for both iOS and Android devices, which you can download for free.
This clever app turns your smartphone or tablet into a touch-screen remote and lets you use it as a QWERTY keyboard. It’s easy to connect and simple to use, providing an easy way of controlling and communicating with your Philips TV. We downloaded both iOS and Android versions and found their interface to be extremely easy to operate and very attractive in terms of design. Navigation was easy, the app was responsive and the connection with the TV was robust.
Using the app you could access three separate features - SimplyShare, Wi-Fi Smart Screen and Control. The SimplyShare feature allows you to access content on your smartphone, tablet or network and play it on the TV. The Wi-Fi Smart Screen allows you to watch digital TV on your smartphone or tablet and the Control feature turns the smartphone or tablet into a full remote control. Overall, this is one of the best remote apps we have used - it's well designed, intuitive and it works!
Philips use a design for their main Smart TV home screen that is similar to both LG and Samsung in terms of layout. The home screen is accessed using the Smart TV button on the remote and we like the layout, it's simple and informative, which makes it easy to navigate. There is a window showing the current source video and below that are a series of apps and other features that cover two pages.
Aside from the video on demand services and social networking features mentioned elsewhere, there are also apps for Napster, Absolute Radio, CNBC, Meteonews, Viewster, Funspot, Euronews, Aupeo and iConcerts. Whilst the apps are easy to navigate through, if you want you can move the apps and customise the layout to your needs. Philips also include an App Gallery where you can add more apps and if you need to pay for them there is also a SmartTV Payment feature.
Video on Demand
The most popular aspect of Smart TV is catch-up video and video on demand (VoD), which makes sense since these features are directly related to the TV's primary function - watching programmes. All the VoD content is collected together on the main Smart TV page and whilst the choice isn't as big as on some rival platforms, the main providers are there like BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Ace Trax, Blink Box, ScreenDreams and CineTrailer. The quality was generally very good, although to a certain extent this is going to depend on how fast your broadband connection is.
In this age of social networking, the features offered by a TV have become more important and is a functionality that can actually be quite useful. The Philips platform offers all the main forms of communication with apps for Facebook, Skype and Picasa, thus catering to those who need to always be in contact with their friends or social circle.
There is an optional camera and microphone that is provided free with the Philips 9000 series but owners of other models can also buy it and thus add a video capability to their TV. The camera and microphone worked very well and the ability to make Skype video calls through your TV is one social networking feature that we found very useful.
Philips’ TVs include a web browser which offers a tabbed browsing experience, along with the option to create favourites. Navigation is fairly easy, especially if you have the QWERTY remote or use the remote app on your smartphone or tablet. There’s still a long way to go before the TV becomes your first port of call for internet activities but things are moving in the right direction and further refinements and innovations in the control technology can only make things better.
Thanks to the bookmarks feature you can create a series of sites that are easily accessible from the main web page, which will mean that as time goes by the browser will become easier to use. The browser was responsive and we had no problems opening various sites or playing embedded videos and overall we found the whole experience to be quite decent.
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Smart TV Platform
Philips Smart TV System 2012
Reviewed 7th February, 2013 by Stephen Withers
To get the best out of your TV or projector, consider getting it calibrated.