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In Defence of Smart TVs

John Archer


In Defence of 'Smart' TVs

A week or two ago, my esteemed TrustedReviews colleague Gordon Kelly wrote a passionate and hugely persuasive article about why he believes 'smart' TVs are a great big waste of space. This coherent and logical piece promptly and understandably attracted a startling number of supportive comments from our readership.

Which obviously makes my attempt here to give a more positive view of smart TVs likely to go down like a lead balloon. I’m already girding my loins for a pounding in the comments section. But in the honest belief that debate is healthy, and also honestly feeling that smart TVs deserve a bit of love, at least from certain portions of the TV marketplace, here is my two-penneth.

Panasonic's new 'Viera Connect' interface...

There are essentially two things about my ever-so-marvellous life as a reviewer of AV tech that made me want to pen this article. First, I happen to have spent an awful lot of time over the past year or so delving into all the services and features that have started to appear on the various online TV platforms. So I’ve not only experienced them, I’ve had a chance to actually live with them, to the point where they’ve become pretty much a part of my daily life.

Second, in response to one of the comments raised by Gordon’s article, I recently tested NEC’s P461 screen with a built-in, fully functioning Intel Atom-based PC, complete with full Windows XP operating system. And to be honest, I found the whole ‘PC on your telly’ experience left me feeling colder than an Arctic dip pool.

Panasonic's Viera Tablet was being used at CES to 'throw' content directly from the tablet onto the

smart TV screen and to provide direct touchscreen access to the TV's onscreen options.

This latter point might initially seem to support the argument against smart TVs. Certainly my experience with the P461 made me totally agree with Gordon that I don’t want a PC on my telly. Having a PC taking over a living room rather than an office space or a dark corner of a bedroom just felt wrong. For a start, even though the presentation of the NEC’s Windows environment is exactly the same as we see every day on our work PCs, the system just looked and felt clunky when transposed to a screen in the comfort of a shared, relaxing living space.

The uncomfortable mix of full PC and TV worlds was further exposed by the fact that the living room is a family space, where what’s showing on the screen is taken for granted to be something for sharing with other people in the household. Using PCs, by comparison, feels mostly a very individual, almost anti-social experience.

What’s more, while Gordon rightly points out that so far, smart TVs have tended to be rather tricky to navigate, using a full PC on a TV felt much worse; a totally unnatural mish-mash of two wholly incompatible control systems and ways of thinking.

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