A Smart System with its head in the cloud
IntroductionThese days every TV needs to have an extensive smart system and all the manufacturers have been busy expanding their platforms to add more and more features. Last year Philips offered a fairly solid effort that included some useful features and an emphasis on video services - although it was fairly Euro-centric. This year the interface has had a make-over, there’s quad-core processing included and Philips have added some new features, specifically their Cloud TV and Cloud Explorer services. So Let’s take a look and see how the 2014 vintage performs.
EPG & PVR FeaturesPhilips' TVs include a single DVB-T2 tuner for Freeview HD, along with a single free-to-air satellite tuner. Setting up the terrestrial and satellite tuners 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. As with last year, our only complaint is that the EPG doesn't include a video window or even audio for the channel you are currently on. This is presumably because the TVs only have one tuner each for terrestrial and satellite TV.
As with most modern TVs, there is 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 limited.
Applications - HardwareLike 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 is 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 using the Sources button, 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.
The user interface has been updated since last year and looks very slick.
Applications - SoftwarePhilips have updated the look of their Smart TV home screen and now the various features and apps are overlaid on top of whatever is playing, rather than using a video window for the current programme. The home screen is accessed using the Smart TV button on the remote and we like the new layout, it's simple and informative, which makes it easy to navigate. There are specific features that can be accessed such as Cloud TV and Cloud Explorer, as well as your favourite apps.
Aside from the video on demand services and social networking features mentioned elsewhere, there are also apps for Spotify, 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.
The most popular aspect of Smart TV in general are the catch-up video and video on demand (VoD) services, which makes sense since these features are directly related to the TV's primary function - watching content. 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, Netflix, YouTube, Ace Trax, Blink Box, ScreenDreams and CineTrailer. There’s even a few surprising ones supported by the liberally minded Dutch that you definitely wouldn’t see on most other manufacturers’ platforms.
New this year is Philips Cloud TV service which provides hundreds of premium international channels for you to watch. It’s a handy feature and works quite well but if the truth be told it is fairly Euro-centric and from the point of view of the UK user, adding more catch-up services and Amazon Prime would be more useful. However the addition of quad-core processing certainly makes the overall platform fast and very responsive.
Media PlaybackThanks 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, WMV9/VC1 and 3GP. For music playback the support includes AAC, AMR, LPCM, M4A, MP3 and WMA, although the absence of lossless formats is a shame. Whilst for photos there is JPEG, BMP, GIF, JPS, PNG and PNS. 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 TVs also include WiFi Miracast, which allows you to mirror compatible smart devices on your display so you can look at photos, watch videos and play games. Philips also have their Multiroom TV feature which allows you to share live TV and recordings between Philips TVs. Finally Philips have introduced Cloud Explorer, where you can access Dropbox to view and share photos and videos on your TV screen.
Thanks to Cloud Explorer you can download content from your Dropbox account.
Remote AppPhilips offer a dual-sided controller with many of their TVs that has a QWERTY keyboard on one side to make navigating and inputting into 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, responsive and robust.
Social NetworkingIn 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, Twitter, Skype and Picasa, thus catering to those who need to always be in contact with their friends or social circle. The newly added Social TV peg allows you to tweet your friends and follow trending subjects whilst actually watching TV.
Skype is separate from the rest of the social networking features and rather than appearing on the Social TV page, it is a choice on the Home page. Yoou can obviously message using Skype and the dual-sided controller or remote app make this much easier. However, if you want to make Skype calls you’ll need to buy an optional camera and microphone. The camera and microphone have worked very well in previous testing and the ability to make Skype video calls through your TV is one social networking feature that we find very useful.
The addition of Cloud TV gives you access to hundreds of (mostly) European channels.
Web BrowsingPhilips’ 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 dual-sided controller 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.
- Attractive Home Screen design
- Customisable features
- Very good web browser
- Flexible streaming capabilities
- Excellent connectivity
- Good for social networkers
- Very impressive remote app
- Intuitive to use
- Needs more UK catch-up services
- No support for lossless audio
Philips Smart TV System 2014 ReviewPhilips Smart TV System might not be as comprehensive as Samsung’s or as revolutionary as LG’s but it is a well thought out platform that includes some useful features and is easy to navigate. The approach to accessing sources or features is sensible, whilst the user interface for the platform as a whole is attractive and intuitive. The hardware aspects of the TVs include built-in WiFi, terrestrial and satellite tuners, quad-core processing and a handy dual-sided remote. A second set of tuners would be handy but the Philips system still supports recording on an additional HDD and the remote app is very good.
As far as the available apps on the platform itself are concerned, Philips offer a reasonable amount of choice. There are the obvious services on offer such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix, whilst there’s also a few VoD services that you’re unlikely to see with other TVs. Philips have added their Cloud TV service this year which contains extra channels but it is very Euro-centric and the inclusion of Amazon Prime, NOW TV or more UK catch-up services would be handy. The networking capabilities are good and Philips have added Dropbox which allows you to share content, whilst the file support is fairly comprehensive, although you can’t play lossless files.
There’s also WiFi Miracast to allow you to mirror compatible devices on your screen, as well a Multiroom TV feature that allows you to watch broadcast or recorded content on other Philips TVs in your house. If social networking is your thing, you can now follow Facebook and Twitter whilst watching TV and also make Skype calls - although you’ll need to buy a separate camera and microphone. Finally there is a very effective web browser that is easy to use thanks to the dual-sided controller or remote app.
Overall the Philips Smart TV System remains a decent platform that provides some nice features that deserves a Recommended award, even if it is slightly too Euro-centric for most UK users.
Ease of Use8
Media Playback Quality8
Applications - Software7
Applications - Hardware8
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.