Sony Smart TV 2014 - Homescreen cont.

Score

Sections

Sony Smart TV 2014: Video and Music Unlimited

The top left of the Home screen features four other home screen options

alongside the default Channel one. The First of these is Movies. Select

this and, surprise surprise, you’re presented with a home screen built

around Sony’s Video Unlimited platform. This attractively presented

screen is regularly updated with the latest titles, and there’s a simple ‘More’ icon to bottom right allowing you to explore more titles and

access VU’s search features. This secondary menu is oddly of a much

lower resolution than the main one, but it’s effective enough.

Scrolling

right from the opening Video Unlimited menu gives you access to content

you’ve got stored on your own USB or home network. This feels like a

slight odd choice; having Netflix or Lovefilm (now Amazon Prime Instant Video) accessible alongside Video

Unlimited might have made more sense. But then as well as the dedicated

Netflix button on the remote there is a separate Netflix icon along the

bottom edge. The only weird thing is that this Netflix icon at the

bottom isn’t joined by links to any other movie platforms.
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The

next home screen choice along the top of the screen is Album, which

brings up access to Sony’s PlayMemories Online service where you can

upload your pictures to the cloud for access from any connected device.

Scrolling right from here gives you access to photos stored on a

connected USB stick or networked device.

There are further

options along the bottom for Screen Mirroring from suitable smart

devices, and the option to put the TV in Photo Frame mode, where it

cycles through photos in a sort of screen saver mode.

Next, along

the top of the screen is a Music option, which again entirely

predictably focuses at first on Sony’s own Music Unlimited service,

highlighting ‘Hot Songs’ and the Global Top 100. As with the Video

Unlimited menu, a fuller listing and search tools can be accessed by

pressing a More button along the screen’s bottom edge. Scrolling right

from the Music Unlimited home gets you to the VEVO online music service,

while right again gives you access to your own music stored on a USB or

networked device.

The last home screen option you can select is

named Apps. This is probably the second most useful home screen after

the Channel one, with a Featured box on the left side showing Apps Sony

thinks you’ll find most useful, and a larger box on the right showing

‘My Apps’ – basically apps you’ve selected as your favourites (this box

starts off empty, as you would expect).

Not surprisingly, during

our tests the top three items in the Featured box were invariably

Sony’s own Video Unlimited, Music Unlimited and PlayMemories (photo

management) apps. There is at least a sensible focus on video apps with

these recommendations, but still you’ll likely find that you want to set

up your own list of preferred apps sooner rather than later.
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To

add apps to this box you just press the icon and then select the app

you’re interested in. It’s a reasonably intuitive approach, if not quite

as intuitive as the system on Panasonic’s My Home Screen interface.

There

is one crucial limitation with the My Apps system, though: the TV

doesn’t recognise multiple users. So different members of your family

can’t set up their own individual My Apps list like they can on the

Panasonic My Home Screen system or Samsung’s Smart platform.

We

accept that trying to cater for multiple users can cause some extra

interface complexities, but at the same time if you’re going to offer

personalisation options it kind of makes sense to make these options

truly personal.

Sony Smart TV 2014: Discover

We mentioned a Discover button on the remote

earlier, and pressing this calls up  a brief ‘Top Picks’ list of content

shortcuts along the bottom of the screen. To the left side of this list

is your most viewed channel, next to that is a ‘You Might Like’

suggestion based on your viewing history, then there’s a New Arrivals

box showing highlighted content from the BBC iPlayer and Sony’s Video

Unlimited system, and finally there’s a box for setting a keyword the TV

can use in looking for other Top Picks.

Handily you can scroll

down from the Top Picks list to the same further lists of content

highlights found under the Channel List link in the Channel home screen.

Having a remote button shortcut to this excellent feature is much

appreciated.

One interesting aspect of the Discover feature is

the way it can be set to keep monitoring content even when the TV is in

standby. Even cooler, the TV can learn when you most watch the TV so the

higher-power standby setting needed for the background Discover

monitoring only works around those times, to reduce energy consumption.

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Sony Smart TV 2014: Social

Hitting

the Social View button, meanwhile, launches you straight into Twitter

gimmick territory. The set starts trawling twitter for tweets related to

whatever you’ve input as a keyword, and when it’s found a few these

start to scroll along the bottom of the screen in a three-tiered flow,

complete with the tweet profile images of the tweeters the system has

found. It looks cool, to be fair, and I guess it could have a little

value if you set the keyword to relate to the programme you’re watching –

especially if that programme is an ‘event’ like a football match or an

episode of The X Factor.

You

can also open up a more standard TV Tweet app where a normal Twitter

timeline connected to your keyword appears down the TV’s right side. But

overall the Twitter stuff doesn’t feel like anything we’d imagine

ourselves using except for if wanted to show the scrolling ticker-tape

Twitter effect off to mates. A separate tablet or smartphone still feels

like a better home for social media activity.

We also spotted a

pretty healthy number of expletives trotting merrily along the Twitter

ticker tape feed, suggesting that Sony isn’t using the same language

filters Toshiba now employs for its TV Twitter features.

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The

Football button builds on the sense we got from the previously noted

FIFA and YouTube football lists that this is a TV designed for a World

Cup year. When you turn the Live Football mode on, the set automatically

adjusts its picture settings to what Sony feels works best for watching

football. There are also options from the Football mode ‘home’ screen

for accessing the same latest and most popular YouTube footie vids and

FIFA World Cup history archive found elsewhere earlier, plus there’s a

link to Sony’s own One Stadium football website. This wasn’t open for

business during our tests, though.