LG Smart TV System 2012 Review
Not to be outdone by their Korean rivals, LG's Smart TV platform aces its IQ test
IntroductionIn the last two years the IQs of modern Smart TVs are getting to the point where they could qualify for membership of MENSA. In fact, the current smart platforms offer so many features that we were struggling to fit everything into a single TV review. So instead we have begun to cover the actual smart features separately, allowing us to go into more detail than we could in a single TV review and also enabling us to keep the TV reviews themselves to a reasonable length. We have covered the current smart platforms of all the major manufacturers in the last six months and finally it’s the turn of LG. How will they compare to the competition and have we saved the best until last?
EPG Quality & PVR FeaturesIn these days of digital channels there is a bewildering array of choice and the line between programme guide and internet platform is beginning to blur. All LG's TVs come with a DVB-T2 tuner for Freeview HD and many of the higher end models also include a free-to-air satellite tuner but it should be stressed that this is not a Freesat tuner so there's no EPG or other niceties. Freeview setup is easy and the resulting Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) is both sensibly laid out and informative. Our only complaint would be that it doesn't include a window or audio for the channel you are currently on.
Many LG TVs offer a choice of recording options and you can just hook up an external hard disk drive to utilise these functions and access even more features. This facility allows you to use a host of convenient features such as Timer Recording, Direct TV Recording and Pause Live TV. All of these functions have been integrated as conveniently as possible with dedicated buttons on the remote control. This means that by adding a HDD via USB you can turn your LG TV into a PVR, providing you with the opportunity to record programmes and play them back later. We found this feature to be quite useful and the interface is effective, however there is only one tuner which means you can’t record one programme whilst watching another, so it is limited.
Applications - HardwareMany of LG's TVs now come with built-in WiFi which makes it easy for you to connect with your broadband router and your home network wirelessly, removing the need for any bothersome cables. It’s easy to setup the WiFi connection and integrate your TV into your network. The resulting network can stream content at high speed and offers a wide, stable transmission range for a reliable, cable-free home system set-up. LG also supports WiFi Direct (WiDi) which allows it to connect directly to similar devices without going through your router. 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 any of the LG TVs to our router and network, using both the built-in Wi-Fi and an Ethernet cable.
LG's Smart Share is designed to be a multimedia hub for your home and thanks to built-in Wi-Fi and DLNA networking technologies, LG TVs are 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 input on the remote the resulting interface is very well laid out ,informative and does include a window showing your current input. Through the LG's Smart Share platform you can have full and easy access to your photos, videos, music and more – no matter where they are stored. When compatible devices are connected via DLNA, you have access to entertainment stored in different rooms around the house, directly on your TV.
Media Playback QualityThanks to LG's superb Smart Share feature you can access all you media via a convenient page that offers you a choice of selecting different content - videos, music, photos or TV recorded on a connected hard drive. You can also access various linked devices, select newly added content and recently watched content.
The majority of LG TVs provide extensive media playback capabilities, either through Smart Share or via connected devices. The support of audio files is fairly comprehensive and includes AC3, EAC3, HAAC, AAC, MPEG, MP3, PCM and DTS. Thanks to these features, media streaming is relatively easy to achieve and you’re not limited to files on a PC as an LG TV will happily communicate with a Mac, smartphones and tablets.
We tested a number of different LG models, playing back videos, listening to music and looking at photos and we found the performance to be excellent. The Smart Share platform was effective, comprehensive and robust and we found the interface to be attractive and easy to navigate. It was also very responsive and could be easily controlled, either through the normal remote or LG's remote app.
ApplicationsLG offer their Magic Motion controller with the LM860 and LM960 models which is designed to make navigating all the Smart TV features easier and more ergonomic. However, regardless of which model of LG TV you own, there is an equally useful remote app for both iOS and Android devices, which you can download for free from the Apple App Store and or Google Play Store. 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 effective way of controlling and communicating with your LG TV.
We downloaded the latest remote app (both iOS and Android versions) and found the interface to be both effective and attractive in terms of design. Navigation was easy, the app was responsive and the connection with the LG TV was robust. Using the remote app, you could control all the main features of the TV, as well as access the home page, the 3D features, the inputs and all the apps. There was also a touch pad, a mini Home page and pages of apps and premium content.
Internet PlatformWe really like LG’s new layout for their Home page, which acts as a hub through which everything else can be connected and can be accessed using the Home button on both remotes. We found navigating the Home page was very easy, especially using the Magic Motion controller, and the system was quick and responsive. All the content is very accessible and is cleanly presented using a ‘card’ style format for the different categories – Premium, 3D World, LG Smart World and Smart Share.
If you have a favourite app you can make it quicker to access by adding it to My Apps, which will see it included in a bar at the bottom of the Home page and you can also access them directly by hitting the My App button on either remote. To add to the usability, the Home page can be customised to your own preferences in appearance, organisation and layout. In addition if you own a LM860 or LM960, then the inclusion of dual core processing has significantly increased the speed and response of the platform.
LG, along with a number of other manufacturers have realised that one of the reasons 3D hasn't been as popular as they'd hoped is the general lack of content. To address this, LG have upgraded their previous 3D Zone app to 3D World which now occupies an entire card on the Home page. At present there are around 70 things to watch encompassing entertainment, sports, documentary, kids and lifestyle and it’s free! The only problem is that it is somewhat dependent on your broadband speeds but there is certainly some interesting content available that allow the Cinema 3D TVs to show off their 3D capabilities.
There is also a very useful search feature that allows you to look for content provided by LG's Smart TV platform. Whatever the content is, TV programmes, movies, videos or apps, this search feature will look through all the connected devices and services for you. It also makes recommendations and shows the most searched for items. It's this kind of centralised, connected platform that makes LG's Smart TV system so effective and such a pleasure to use.
Video on DemandIn the UK, by far the most popular aspect of smart TV is catch-up video and video on demand (VoD). The appeal is obvious and it is the feature most directly related to the TV's primary function - watching programmes. In LG's smart platform all the VoD content is collected together in the Premium page and here you can choose between a large number of useful services. You can also see the input you are currently on in a thumbnail in the top left hand corner, which is handy.
As well as the fantastic 3D support, there’s also most of the usual 2D video on demand services such as BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Lovefilm and Netflix. In addition you get Knowhow Movies, Ace Trax, Live Sport, Museum, Blink Box, Euronews, Red Bull, iConcerts, Accu Weather, Cine Trailer, Daily Motion, Viewster and vTuner. The quality was generally very good, although to a certain extent this is going to depend on how fast your broadband connection is.
Social NetworkingIf you’re a member of the social networking generation and can't get through your favourite TV programme without chatting to your friends, then LG provide their very useful Social Centre. Here all the usual social networking apps, services and features are all congregated into a single area. This allows for easy access to your favourite social networking features, whilst still being able to watch the TV.
As you would expect in this age of social networking, the LG Social Centre platform offers all the main forms of communication with apps for Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Picasa. So if you’re one of those people who can’t bear to be cut off from their social network, the apps allow for their message streams to be read down one side whilst you’re actually watching TV. This could be very handy for watching live sporting events, where you can chat with friends at the same time.
Web BrowsingLG TVs include a web browser which offers a tabbed browsing experience, along with the option to create favourites that can appear on your home page. Thanks to the Magic Motion remote’s scroll wheel, navigation is a breeze and the only downside is that clicking the wheel in as the OK/Enter button can cause the cursor to jump off the target, which can be frustrating. 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 favourites feature you can create a series of sites that are easily accessible from the home page, which will mean that as time goes by the Browser will become easier to use. The built-in search engine also worked well and it’s definitely a step up from our previous experiences with browsers built into TVs. We had no problems playing embedded videos and overall we found the whole experience to be relatively painless, especially if you use the remote app.
LG Smart TV System 2012 Review
There's no doubt that when it comes to Smart TV the Koreans are ahead of the pack, with both LG and Samsung delivering platforms that offer a slick and centralised interface with a myriad of features, loads of free content and excellent connectivity. The similarities between the two platforms suggests that they may have been cribbing off each other but who cares when the results are this good.
LG's use of a centralised Home page makes perfect sense, with everything being accessible from a single and customisable location. We found navigating the Home page was intuitive and the system was very quick and responsive. All the content is highly accessible and is clearly presented using a ‘card’ style format for the different categories – Premium, 3D World, LG Smart World and Smart Share. LG have succeeded in the difficult task of providing a wealth of content whilst still keeping the overall interface clean and easy to navigate. There’s most of the usual video on demand services, as well as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and a host of other apps and features including loads of free 3D content. In fact, LG's Smart platform currently boats over 1,300 apps although we've not counted.
There are a number of methods available to navigate through all this content, including a highly effective Magic Motion remote and a downloadable remote app. We downloaded the latest remote app (both iOS and Android versions) and found the interface to be both robust and extremely effective. The majority of LG TVs come with built-in WiFi and DLNA compliance but many also include WiFi Direct (WiDi) which allows it to connect directly to similar devices without going through your router. Thanks to these features, media streaming is extremely easy to achieve and the support of audio files is very comprehensive and you are also not limited to files on a PC as the system will happily communicate with a Mac, smartphones and tablets. In fact we found the LG connectivity and media support to be amongst the best we have experienced, with the LG system happily playing anything we threw at it.
LG's current smart platform is the state-of-the-art when it comes to its centralised and customisable interface, offering a marvellous choice of apps, features, streaming content and connectivity. Anyone who doubts the value of Smart TV clearly hasn't tried LG's offering because the future has most definitely arrived - Reference Status.
Ease of Use8
Media Playback Quality8
Applications - Software8
Applications - Hardware8
Voice and Motion Controls7
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