EPG Quality & PVR Features
Like most manufacturers these days, Sharp provides the option to record programmes using a connected USB drive. When you first connect a USB drive, the TV asks if it's for Media or Time Shift purposes and if you select the latter then you can use the attached drive and the timer features in the EPG to create a basic PVR. This will allowing you to record from the built-in tuner and utilise the time shift functions. These functions have been integrated as conveniently as possible with dedicated buttons on the remote control. 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.
Whatever your method of connection, thanks to DLNA networking technologies, Sharp TVs are able to communicate with compatible devices – so you can wirelessly stream multimedia stored on your home network to your TV. We were able to wirelessly connect to our home networks and wirelessly stream content without any problems. The file support is reasonable and includes JPEG, LPCM, MP3, MPEG2, WMV, ASF, MP4, MOV and AVI. There’s also support for DivX HD but you’ll need to go online to activate the license for playback.
Media Playback Quality
In terms of file support for devices connected via USB, Sharp TVs are reasonably good and can handle JPEG, MP3, MPEG2, AVI, MKV, ASF, WMV, MP4 and MOV, which should cover most people's needs. As with media playback over a network, we didn't have any problems via USB but we can't vouch for everyone’s collection and, no doubt, there will be instances where there are compatibility issues – almost certainly due to the audio encodings used – but overall support seems very robust for a television.
You can also customise the layout of the main page, which means you can position the more commonly used apps for easier access. To select a particular app you just highlight it and press enter and from the home page you can access any of the features available. The number of apps on offer is very limited but includes Napster, on-demand radio service AUPEO and video from iConcerts which, as the name would suggest, has a number of concerts available to view although a subscription is required. AUEPEO is pretty decent and works on a Spotify style personalised interface and recommendation engine. If you love news channels there are a number available including Meteonews, Euronews and TV5Monde, although the latter is obviously in French. There is also an area called Funspot where you will find some basic games but sadly the App Gallery promises more than it actually delivers. All we found in the App Gallery were additional apps for eBay, TomTom and TED Talks.
Video on Demand
We also found the browser’s bookmark feature to be quite useful because, when you call up the Web Browser, you immediately have the possibility to select one of the bookmarked website thumbnails using your TV remote control. This approach added convenience and faster access to our favourite sites, as we didn't have to type in a new Web address every time. Thanks to this latter feature you can create a series of favourite sites that are easily accessible from the home page, which will mean that as time goes by the Browser will become easier to use.
- Good media playback capabilities
- Nice, clean interface
- Web browser works well
- Smart TV Alliance is promising for the future
- Serious lack of VoD services
- Lack of other content
- Limited social networking capabilities
- No remote app for Android or iOS
Sharp Smart TV System 2012 Review
The design of Sharp's Electronic Programme Guide is decidedly uninspired compared to much of the competition, with no picture-in-picture feature and small type that can be difficult to read. There is a search feature in the EPG that uses either genres or dates which can prove handy but it lacks the cross platform video search facility found on systems from other manufacturers.
Sharp call their internet platform Aquos Net+ but, compared to the smart features employed by many other manufacturers, it is fairly basic and even the name feels anachronistic. The main page offers a rather limited choice of apps and whilst YouTube is present and correct, the BBC iPlayer is surprisingly missing. There is in fact a distinct lack of apps, especially in terms of Video on Demand (VoD) and whilst there is an App Gallery, it is decidedly thin on content. On the plus side, the platform does at least show the majority of apps on one page and there is a degree of customisability available.
There is also an open web browser included which actually works quite well but is rather slow to navigate due to being limited to the remote control. If there is one area where Sharp's platform is markedly behind the times it is in terms of how you interact with the platform itself. Whilst systems from other manufacturers are communicating directly with smartphones, tablets and other devices, allowing people to share content easily, Sharp doesn't even have a remote app for iOS or Android.
There is no WiFi Direct or MHL compliance but the Sharp smart TV platform is at least DLNA compliant, allowing users to stream content from their home network. There is also support for USB and when you first connect a USB drive, you can choose between using it for Media playback or Time Shift purposes. If you select the latter then you can use the attached HDD and the timer features in the EPG to create a basic PVR, allowing you to record from the built-in tuner. If you select Media then you can choose to look at photos or play music and video files from the connected USB drive or via your home network - file support is reasonable for both.
The Sharp smart TV platform is perfectly adequate and two years ago it would have been considered state-of-the-art but technology never stands still and now it appears rather dated. There is a serious lack of content, especially when it comes to VoD services and the only method of interacting with the system is via the remote control. Let's hope that the new Smart TV Alliance provides Sharp with the opportunity to take their platform to the next level.
Ease of Use
Media Playback Quality
Applications - Software
Applications - Hardware
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