I recently upgraded my dumb TV to a smart one. I went for the Samsung UE32ES6300 in case you’re interested; however this is not a product review, rather a collection of observations about my initial experience of using connected TV.
The first frustration was that the TV comes with 3D which seems to be pretty much the standard even though I have no interest in it (it’s a fad). Whether there is any compromise in picture quality as a result is hard to say, but there seems to be something wasteful in having to pay for functionality you have no intention of using. That said, I was able to get Freesat built in (which is slightly unusual) which has allowed me to get rid of another box from the living room.
Needless to say the set up was remarkably easy. I was expecting my partner to start getting impatient, but it was pretty much complete before she’d finished making a cup of tea. After marvelling at the awesome picture quality we delved into the SMART menu via the big funky button on the remote.
And this is where things get a little complicated. I don’t know about you, but I have limited time to really relax and tune into some proper “brain bubble gum” TV. So the last thing I want is to spend time surfing around for content, especially when the experience of navigating is so clunky. Finding clips on the YouTube app is reminiscent of accessing the internet in the old days via 56k dial-up – painful, but you get there in the end. And it’s not like there isn’t already enough argument about what to watch at the best of times…the missus has an almost insatiable appetite for Grey’s Anatomy and other things I disapprove of (mostly on ITV).
It will be apps providing easy access to great content that will be the winners here. Netflix is nearly there in terms of usability, although the content itself feels a bit disappointing (Dawson Creek, I mean really?). The fact that it told us what my Facebook friends had been watching on Netflix amazed my technophobe, luddite girlfriend; “Who the hell is Simon MacKenzie?” she said, “And why should we care what he’s been watching?” I decided not to explain the whole point of frictionless sharing (she’s not even on Facebook you know) and opted for Breaking Bad box set on recommendation. Pretty cool, although the quality of the picture did suffer when streaming, so that great picture is already compromised.
Later I tried using the browser, which is seemingly impossible given that I did not have a keyboard connected to the TV or a mouse. It did have a cool in-screen inset with the TV still playing so I did not miss any of the football whilst I tried to work it all out. I downloaded an app for my Android phone in the hope that it would allow me to type into the address bar on screen from my phone…it didn’t. If it had, I would still have been too far away to actually see what I was typing or indeed read any web pages. It did allow me to starting changing the channel and the volume later on when the missus had the remote in her hand. That really baked her noodle.
At this point it feels like using the connectivity is not something you’d do while people were watching with you… trying to navigate that interface is not very socialable. It will also require quite a lot of research, or indeed reading of instruction manuals in order to get the most out of the technology as it currently stands. I am just too lazy though so it’s not going to happen. Not when there are re-runs of Family Guy or the new series of The Walking Dead to watch on regular TV. Maybe the TV is too SMART and I’m too dumb, but it feels like there’s a disconnection between the behaviour and the technology still.
The picture really is rather good though.