Where's the smart TV money this year?
Whilst we always value picture quality above all else, we have to acknowledge that the features built into some Smart TVs are worthy of being included in purchase criteria.
Smart TVs just keep on getting smarter and easier to operate as the manufacturers battle it out for centre spot in your living room. The upshot of this, for us the consumer, is that we’ve never been presented with more ways in which to interact with our TVs and never have they been so capable of doing so much. In fact, some are so capable that they will allow you not to miss a minute of the World Cup. With the tournament just about to begin, there’s no time to waste so here are the smartest of the Smart TVs and systems.
The Philips 55PSU7809 has literally just passed through our testing rooms and it’s astonishing that, so early in the Ultra HD lifecycle, we’re seeing TVs from mainstream manufacturers priced this low. Whilst the asking price of £1,500 is not exactly a paltry sum, it’s hardly eye-watering when you consider this is a 55-inch screen with cutting edge tech.
In terms of smart functionalities, Philips may not be quite at the top of the pile but their 2014 platform is definitely on the up and the PSU7809 is equipped with quad core processing to ensure duties are carried out at maximum velocity.
In terms of allowing you to keep up with events in Brazil, this TV has the option of adding an external USB hard drive to turn it into a PVR (Personal Video Recorder), allowing for time-shifting and single tuner recording duties. We found the feature to be genuinely useful and the interface is intuitive, but the fact it lacks dual tuners may be a tad limiting to you.
And if you fail to remember to set that recording going, you can always catch up with the action later on. The Philips platform doesn’t have the ITV Player but it does boast both the BBC iPlayer and BBC Sports app so you can watch the endless highlights shown through them, if needs be. And when you’ve had enough, you could always check out Netflix.
Companion apps and catch-up services make it so easy to keep up with everythingSony W955
It’s not a 4K TV but the W955 has just about everything else in terms of apps and features. Not least amongst the W955’s formidable suite is a speaker system, and design, capable of conveying the stadium atmosphere better than most flat panel TVs out there. You can even opt to add a wireless subwoofer to augment to the in-built drivers, if you fancy showing off.
For integration with your existing PVR Sony includes an IR blaster with the W95 which lets it control your HDMI connected set top box, be it Sky, Virgin, Freeview or whatever but the W955 also offers its own recording software for external storage, too. Not only that but they have an excellent app for mobile devices (iOS & Android) called TV SideView which will present you with an enhanced EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) for any of the TV platforms listed above and it will also allow you to set recordings to the connected USB hard drive.
SideView also lets you search for related programming content on the www and YouTube, so it could be the perfect World Cup second screen app and the inclusion of BBC Sport and iPlayer apps will allow you to play catch-up. Sony even has a dedicated Football mode in some of its TVs, especially for the tournament, which enhances crowd noises whilst attempting to drown out the commentary. Now that is Smart!
LG Smart+ (webOS) TVs
We’ll have to admit to a tinge of disappointment when LG notified us that what we had been calling webOS, has been rechristened to Smart+ for the UK market. We thought the previous title was distinctive and catchy, whilst Smart+ just doesn’t convey the sense it is anything radically different from the pack. When it is!
Although we’re only just about to receive our first Smart+ TV in for review, we were lucky enough to be invited out to Silicone Valley to see how it all works and get an insight to the thinking behind it. Our initial thoughts are that the platform will redefine the idea of what a Smart TV should be, combining a mega-intuitive interface with the latest iteration of the exceptionally brilliant Magic Motion smart remote control.
Like the Sony above, the LG platform will integrate with just about every TV provider in the UK which will boost the content suggestion features as well as offering easy-to-use recording interaction.
We’ve yet to see LGs latest mobile app but it’s sure to offer similar features to SideView and the platform will have BBC iPlayer support. Whether it will have BBC Sport, or not, remains to be seen but the early signs are that it may be missing so we’ll have to keep fingers crossed on that one. There will definitely be no catching up through the ITV Player, however, there’s only two manufacturers that can currently boast that service amongst their offerings...
We don't like the injury time name change but Smart+ from LG looks like a game-changerPanasonic AX802
...And the first of those is Panasonic who pulled off a major coup when getting the Freetime App on board their latest batch of Smart TVs. Until recently, Samsung had snapped up the ITV catch-up service under an exclusivity deal and thus was the only manufacturer to be able to claim support for all the major UK catchup services but Panasonic cleverly side-lined that by acquiring the rights for Freetime.
So, absolutely every game will be available, in its entirety, through the AX802 after the event and this TV also boasts twin Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners that can transform it in to a fully-fledged dual tuner PVR, i.e. you can watch one thing whilst recording another. Panasonic has always been at the forefront of developing multi-tuner systems, and it shows with recording functionalities that work extremely well and an interface that’s very easy to follow.
The AX802 is also compatible with the Panasonic TV Remote 2 app, available on Android (4.0+) and iOS (5.0+) and it’s one of the best there is and Panasonic has followed others in producing a genuinely useful Smart remote controller with voice, gesture and touchpad control. Simply issue it the instruction to search ‘World Cup’ and you won’t believe the number of results the AX802 will return.Every single game available through catch-up on the Samsungs and Freetime equipped PanasonicsSamsung HU8500
We may as well go out with bang so if you’re looking for a spectacular Smart TV this World Cup, there aren’t many fancier panted ones than the HU8500. It’s slightly curved for your viewing pleasure, although we’re still leaning toward that being a gimmick, rather than a genuinely useful design but you’ll no doubt set tongues wagging, amongst your friends, were you to stick one in your living room.
As noted above, Samsung’s Smart TV and video products carry all the major UK catch-up services so, as well as getting BBC iPlayer and ITV Player, you will also gain access for Demand 5 and 40D. Most of them also get the BBC Sport app, too. Samsung were the pioneers of integrating the likes of Sky, Virgin and Freeview in to their Smart TV platform so you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it works faultlessly.
The HU8500 is another TV that can double as a proper PVR with dual Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners and the mobile app is excellent, acting as companion, guide, content-caster and full-blown remote replacement. We wish support from Android devices was more comprehensive but at least you know if yours is supported, it will work.
Samsung may just have been casting a beady eye on LG’s Magic Motion when they came up with the design for the 2014 Smart Control and we can’t blame for that. The resulting controller is almost as impressive of that of their main competitor, with superb motion and voice controls at your disposal.
Possibly the crowning glory of Samsung’s Smart TV platform is their One Connect Box/Smart Evolution Kit that will allow you to keep pace with any future updates and developments, meaning you won’t be lagging behind the new buyers come the 2018 tournament in Russia.
Yes, we’re already thinking ahead!
What impact has your Smart TV made on the way you interact with your TV?
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.