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In Defence of Smart TVs

None of this will come as any surprise to many of the smart TV naysayers who agreed with Gordon’s article last week. For while MrHorizontal’s comment was pushing the idea that NEC’s P series give you a much more feature-laden interactive experience than any smart TV could, most people were basically simply not wanting smart TV-type features on their TVs at all.

But I have two questions to ask people who take this latter view: first, have you actually lived with any of the current generation of smart TVs for any amount of time? And second (and don’t take this the wrong way!), how 'normal' would you describe your level of technical know-how compared with other family members or friends?

Regarding my first question, my point is that if you’ve not experienced the latest generation of connected TVs, you might not be fully up to speed with what they offer, despite my occasional features on the subject.

A PC in a TV really isn't the same as a smart TV...

My second question has to do with the commonly suggested smart TV alternatives of either going the 'full PC' route like the NEC P461, or going for an external multimedia hub box. For it’s my belief - as someone whose work brings him into daily contact with what 'normal' (as opposed to 'technically aware') people asking for TV-buying advice - that neither the full PC nor the external box options are of any interest at all to the mass TV market.

The external box idea makes absolutely perfect sense to the already likely quite technically minded people who regularly read TrustedReviews, but to the mass market buyer, adding another box to their living room is just beyond contemplation. And that’s before they’ve even started to worry about how you set such a box up.

Ah, but such 'low-tech' TV buyers wouldn’t bother using smart TVs anyway, I hear you say. But this is an argument I totally disagree with, simply based on some of the content of the smart TV services. Sure, an unhealthy chunk of the material available now is dross; ridiculous mind-farts from over-pressurised R&D guys trying desperately to take online TV functionality in 'brave and creative' new directions that nobody actually wants.

But while the stupid and pointless 'apps' found on some online TV systems seem to be getting all the headlines, there are things on there that are not only genuinely useful, but crucially NATURALLY BELONG TO A TV ENVIRONMENT. Sorry about the caps there, but sometimes it just has to be done.

Jason Mullins

June 28, 2013, 10:33 am

To answer your questions first - yes, I bought a new Samsung Smart TV (series 6) last year and gave it all a go. And 'Tech Savvy' would be a good description of our house.
One year later the TV acts purely as a nice screen and we -never- touch the smart TV stuff (or even the remote). There are a number of reasons for this:
1/ the built-in Freeview is good, but you can't pause, record, etc, so...
2/ content is all delivered by Vigin Tivo, or Freeview+, or Apple TV
3/ the apps and interfaces on all of the alternatives are much easier to use - browsing YouTube on a tablet and then streaming to AppleTV is soooo much easier than a smart TV (as is iPlayer, Netflix)
4/ the apps are shoddy and mostly pointless, with the exception of the catch-up services but I can get these elsewhere. I mean, web browsing, facebook and twitter on a TV?
In the end the SmartTV became another remote, another device to learn that isn't as useful, or as easy to use.

For me, I'd be happy with a completely 'dumb' screen at a cheaper price rather than packing everything into the TV - that way I can choose my input devices, sound system, and upgrade them all at will.

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