So far we’ve somehow managed to avoid talking about the onscreen Smart TV interface LG has introduced for 2013 – even though it’s actually a very nice system indeed for the most part.
Rather than splitting its content over multiple home ‘hub’ screens like Samsung and Panasonic do this year, LG’s approach is to populate a single hub with various themed content ‘folders’ or cards providing direct links to associated content.
The default set up for these folders finds a Premium folder up first containing all the key online video service providers contained on LG’s platform; then there’s a 3D World folder providing direct access to streamed programmes on LG’s own 3D World channel; a Smart World card providing access to information-based apps and LG’s Cloud (more on this latter app presently); Game World aggregating all the games carried by LG’s platform; and Smart Share, which shows stuff collected from your connected mobile devices, PCs and USB drives.
A maximum of three of these folders is shown on screen at any one time, so that the icons can be kept large and easy to select using the magic remote. You scroll along between pages of folders just by moving the cursor to the left or right side of the screen.
The opening Smart page also happily shows a shrunken version of the TV programme you were watching when you hit the remote’s Smart button. We were a bit annoyed to find a fairly large advert box beneath the TV screen, though; we really don’t see why we should have to suffer ads when we’ve paid so much for a TV – especially as the ads inevitably occupy space that could be filled instead with extra content shortcuts.
One other niggle with the Smart Hub layout is that if you scroll right to access the extra content shortcut cards/folders, the TV screen disappears. Surely it would have been better if the TV screen had been locked permanently in position at the left of the screen while the content folders scrolled separately, without forcing the TV picture to disappear.
Each folder/card on the Smart hub shows eight direct links on the home hub screen, with other options available by selecting the ‘More’ tab at each folder/card’s top left corner.
Add to these folder/card link icons a row of further feature and content shortcuts along the menu screens’ bottom edge and you’ve got a system that looks busy, showcases lots of apps you might not have seen if everything was tucked away in submenus, and delivers plenty of direct content access all without ever looking cluttered or confusing. Excellent.
As with Panasonic’s excellent My Home Screen interface, moreover, LG has provided a simple interface for creating your own folder/card of links. However, rather bizarrely you’re only able to import links from a very limited list into this personalised card. You can’t, for instance, choose which video content providers you want to have on your home card, or your preferred games.
We guess LG could excuse this by saying that since you need to scroll past the other themed cards to get to your personalised one you’re going past all the main content folder/cards anyway, and so can get to content in those folders/cards quicker without having to move to your personalised menu. But personally we still think many users would have appreciated being able to create their own folders from ALL the apps available.
While we can see ways for further improvement of LG’s Smart TV interface in the future, though, we need to make it absolutely clear that the combination of the attractive, content rich menus, solid degree of personalisation and brilliant intuitiveness of the magic remote make LG’s Smart interface seldom less than a joy to use. Especially as the system proved both robust and reasonably fast during our tests – a pleasingly far cry from the rather buggy smart platforms LG has launched in past years.
That’s it for part 1 of our exploration of LG’s new Smart TV platform. In part two we’ll be running through the platform’s content, and the startling number of ways LG has provided for enabling you to access content across a range of devices.