LG WebOS 2.0 Smart TV System Review
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
What is WebOS 2.0?WebOS 2.0 is the latest iteration of LG's game-changing Smart TV platform they first launched last year. When WebOS arrived in the early part of 2014 it presented a revolutionary approach to Smart TV. No longer treating smart features as something to be added on to the TV's primary system architecture WebOS, instead, made smart features an integral part of the TV itself. It did this through the simple but highly effective idea of treating all features as apps that are accessed via a central launcher.
The system was fast, responsive and highly intuitive and it's an indication of how successful LG's approach was that all the other manufacturers now offer Smart TV systems that look suspiciously familiar. Well they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but how do LG follow up on last year's success? Well it looks as though they have taken the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" approach and WebOS 2.0 looks very similar to last year's platform.
In fact, the only major changes appear to be the addition of a series of shortcut menus down the right hand side of the screen and a My Programmes page for greater customisation. Otherwise it's business as usual with the main launcher allowing you to access everything including inputs as apps and LG's superb Magic Remote allowing you to quickly and easily navigate to your choices. So does WebOS deliver enough to retain its crown in 2015 or has it been usurped by a rival Smart TV system?
Smart+ SystemJust like last year, to access WebOS all you need to do is press the Home button on the Magic Remote. This brings up the launcher menu (see image at the top of the review) along the bottom of the screen. The previous app you accessed appears in the thumbnail image on the left and the most frequently used apps appear on the right as pop-up tags. If you scroll towards the left you essentially go backwards in time, with all the apps you opened previously in the order you were using them. This is a quick, easy and highly intuitive way of accessing the apps that you use on a regular basis.
Alternatively, if you scroll to the right you essentially move forwards in time and the launcher shows you all the apps that are available and you can then open any of these. To open an app you simply move the cursor over that app and press enter, so if you're watching Netflix and want to open BBC iPlayer just click on the home button, put the cursor over the BBC iPlayer tag on the launcher menu and click enter. That's it, the system then takes you straight into BBC iPlayer without having to come out of Netflix or go into a separate home page first.
The entire interface is highly intuitive, combining simplicity and elegant graphic design with a slick and fast system architecture. Just how fast will depend on the model you buy but WebOS 2.0 is available on the majority of LG's sets and not just the high-end models. The use of faster processing this year means that WebOS should be very quick, switching between apps almost instantaneously. Obviously if the system needs to open your Netflix account for example, that might take a few seconds, but otherwise it's very responsive. LG have refined the system to speed up the boot up time and make the entire system more responsive.
The layout of the launcher itself is completely customisable, so you can add more apps and move them around, so that the most frequently used app are the first ones that you see. To add more apps you just need to go to the LG Content Store, here you'll find single page that combines content from a host of different sources including movies, premium, 3D, apps and games. The system will provide recommendations and provide an easy way to find more content and new apps, allowing you to customise your launcher menu further and take full advantage of all the apps available.
This year's iteration of WebOS is almost identical to last year, although there have been some minor changes, most of which are cosmetic. The basic layout is identical but the design of the various pages and apps have been changed slightly and on the whole we prefer the look of this version. The main addition to the system is a shortcut menu that appears down the right hand side of the screen. This provides quick access to certain features as well as the entire menu system. You can access this menu by pressing the setup button on the remote or the setup icon at the top right hand corner of the launcher menu.
We're not entirely sure we like the shortcut menu, it feels tacked on and detracts from the overall cohesive nature of WebOS. You can already access the menu system via the button on the launcher menu so a direct access button on the remote would have been more useful. As it is, to access the picture menu system takes four clicks, which is really annoying when you're calibrating the TV. However for most people the shortcut does allow them to quickly change picture modes, sound modes and aspect ratio but we wish it felt more integrated into the rest of the system.
The shortcut seems like something that LG just added to differentiate this year's version of WebOS from last year and the same goes for the input button. This feels unnecessary because you can already select any input via the launcher menu. Also new this year is the My Programs page, which allows users to bookmark their favourite programs and content. As with the shortcut, we sometimes felt it just detracted from the simplicity of WebOS but at least it does provide a way of combining your favourite content into a single page.
Navigating WebOS 2.0 is easy thanks to the Magic Remote, which remains one of the best motion TV controllers on the market and this year LG have even added voice control. The remote is ergonomically designed and sits comfortably in the hand, providing motion control with a high degree of accuracy. The Magic Remote was created for use with WebOS and the two compliment one another perfectly, allowing the user to navigate the system with complete freedom. The seamless combination of WebOS 2.0 and the Magic Remote means that you'll be expertly controlling and navigating your new LG TV in no time.
This year's iteration of WebOS is almost identical to last year, although there have been some minor changes, mostly cosmetic.
EPG & PVR FeaturesSince WebOS treats everything as an app it makes accessing anything easier because everything can be available on the launcher menu. So if you're watching a live TV programme and want to go to the TV guide, you just open the launcher and select it. The TV Guide has had a make over but remains a unified part of the system, with the same design and functionality. The guide shows the current channel in a window in the top left hand corner and includes channels and upcoming programming. As with all of the WebOS platform, moving around the guide and finding additional information is quick and easy.
If you have attached an HDD to your TV then you can also record TV programmes and watch them later. To do this you just open the launcher and select Time Machine, which works in conjunction with the TV Guide to allow you to record TV programmes and watch them at your leisure. The combination of the TV Guide, Time Machine and an HDD turns the TV into a fully functioning PVR, allowing you to schedule and record programming whenever you like. Just like the TV Guide, the interface matches the rest of the system and accessing your recorded content or your recording schedule is quick and intuitive.
DevicesOne of the revolutionary aspects of WebOS is the way that everything is treated as an app, including any inputs or devices that are connected to the TV. So one of the apps you can select from the launcher menu is Device Connector which allows you to easily setup any device you want to connect to the TV. These devices include a set-top box, Blu-ray player, sound bar, games console, smartphone, external HDD etc. and you can set them up to appear on the launcher menu as individual pop-up tags.
The same approach is true of all the inputs, which again can appear on the launcher menu as pop-up tags, allowing to go straight to them. There is also an Inputs option available which has had a facelift this year but still shows all the individual inputs. So from here you can customise the inputs, setup a universal remote and select whether or not you want each input to appear as a pop-up tag on the launcher menu because you don't want unused inputs clogging up the launcher.
Switching from one streaming service to another is easy and fast.
Video on DemandThese days people watch as much content via the internet as they do over broadcast and as bandwidth increases and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon create their own content, this will only increase. In fact many people probably watch more TV via catch-up and streaming services than they do over the air. So a TV's ability to handle catch-up, streaming and video-on-demand is more important than ever. WebOS is particularly strong in this area as it makes no differentiation between live TV or catch-up, streaming or download services. So switching from one service to the other is easy and fast, all you need to do is open the launcher and select the app you want to open.
All your favourite catch-up, streaming and video-on-demand services are there at your fingertips, allowing you to easily switch from one to the other without having to come out of one service, back into a smart home page and then into another service. LG currently cover all the popular video streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant, YouTube, BlinkBox and NOW TV. They also have BBC iPlayer and Demand 5 but it's currently missing All 4 and ITV Player. Hopefully LG will be able to add the last two at some future point, thus making their TVs a great video hub. The actual apps themselves all worked without any problems, the interface is as well designed as the rest of WebOS 2.0 and the system is fast and robust.
Media PlaybackWebOS provides an effective platform for quick and easy access to connected networks and devices. The TVs include built-in WiFi, although a wired connection is also an option, and DLNA as well of course. Many LG models also support WiFi Direct, NFC, MHL and USB, so there are a multitude of ways to access content. Unsurprisingly, WebOS is highly effective in organising all these sources in a way that is intuitive and easy to navigate. One of the apps available in the launcher is SmartShare where you can access any content on connected networks or devices, be it photos, music or videos. You can drill down through these menus to access whatever content you want from your network or connected devices.
With devices directly connected to the TV, you also have the option to chose these as apps that appear on the launcher menu. So for example, when you attach a USB drive to the TV, it will appear on the launcher as a pop-up and you can access it directly. Although you also have the option to access the drive via the SmartShare app, the Input menu or the Device Manager app. The result is that playing content on your TV either by a connected device or via a network is incredibly easy and very intuitive. The interface is as well designed and the playback of photos, music and video was very good. LG TVs currently support a number of file types, including MPEG1/2/4, MP4, DivX HD, JPEG, JPS, MPO, AAC, AAC-HE and MP3, with more file types being added.
WebOS provides an effective platform for quick and easy access to connected networks and devices.
Web BrowserAlthough Web browsing has never been that popular on TVs, most smart platforms still offer it as an option. The simple fact is that accessing the internet via a tablet or smartphone is just quicker and easier. If you really do want to browse the web using your TV then WebOS includes a web browser for that purpose and, like everything else in the system, the interface is well designed and very responsive. However, as great as the Magic Remote is, typing into the browser is still time consuming and somewhat frustrating.
So whilst the Web Browser looks great and is fast, we probably wouldn't find ourselves using it to browse the internet very often. The same is true for most social networking which LG have wisely avoided, except for Skype of course, which once works really well with televisions. Although to take full advantage of Skype you'll need a TV with a built-in camera or buy an add-on camera. Along with the web browser and camera option, WebOs also includes a handy user guide.
- Integrated into the TV itself
- Very intuitive
- Easy to use
- Extremely responsive
- Comprehensive system architecture
- Missing a couple of catch-up services
- Menu access laborious
LG WebOS 2.0 Smart TV System ReviewThere's no denying that WebOS remains a highly effective Smart TV platform and we applaud LG's decision not to try and reinvent the wheel this year. The reality is that WebOS got so much right when it was launched in 2014 that there is little room for real improvement. What changes LG have made are minor and probably unnecessary in our opinion, largely included to differentiate this year from last. It's more responsive, there have been some minor cosmetic changes, the addition of a shortcut menu and a My Programs page but otherwise it's business as usual. Where LG could genuinely add value is in terms of including all the video-on-demand services but we appreciate that this comes down to licensing agreements and contracts.
We also found that accessing the main menu system was laborious and whilst most people won't need to after they've initially set their TV up it is a pain for calibrators and reviewers. However by resisting the urge to tinker with a winning formula too much, LG have positioned themselves very favourably this year. Samsung's Tizen powered smart platform looks a lot like WebOS but has been plagued with issues, whilst Panasonic, Sony and Philips have been at the mercy of third-party providers, resulting in serious delays. LG meanwhile have a system that both works and hasn't delayed the launch of any of their TVs, making WebOS a real asset to the manufacturer and a system that remains the one to beat.
Ease of Use9
Media Playback Quality9
Applications - Software9
Applications - Hardware9
Voice and Motion Controls8
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