In many ways, Samsung’s Smart TV service is the one to beat. For starters, it’s got for us the best interface of any of the online platforms in the shape of the Smart Hub. This graphically intensive, icon-based interface is actually the TV’s default menu, and does a mostly excellent job of presenting you with lots of information without appearing over-cluttered. It also provides a universal search tool that lets you look for content everywhere, including on the Internet.
What’s particularly impressive about Samsung’s Smart Hub is that it works quickly and slickly, and gives more or less equal weight to both your ‘normal’ TV sources - like the tuner and AV inputs - and Samsung’s streamed content. This shows a good understanding of the balanced way most end users will likely treat content in the Smart TV era.
Samsung’s Smart Hub also makes it more likely that users will find and thus use more of the platform’s apps - a particularly important point for Samsung’s system given how many online services it supports. In fact, once you’ve added together its many video streaming services, music services and smaller, infotainment apps, it’s currently got the widest and most varied selection of content of any Smart TV platform.
There are some notable highlights among all this content too. LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer, Acetrax, Facebook, Twitter, Google Chat, an exclusive and surprisingly well-stocked 3D ‘channel’, Blinkbox, YouTube, The Cartoon Network, Daily Motion and Box Office 365 are just a few of the Samsung services we can imagine people using regularly.
Despite scoring a hit with both its presentation and some aspects of its content, though, Samsung’s Smart TV service certainly isn’t perfect. In particular we question the ‘quality control’ Samsung applies to its apps approval process. For while most of the video services are useful, many of the smaller apps range between pointless and ridiculous.
Of course, you don’t have to use these smaller apps if you don’t want to. But actually they tend to clutter up some corners of the interface, and generally dilute the sense of quality from the platform as a whole.
Another issue we have with Samsung Smart TV right now is that it doesn’t have as many free catchup services as we’d like.
Our final cause for concern with Samsung’s service is that it splits its Smart TV features across different levels in its range. So while Samsung’s top-end TVs have Skype and a built-in Web browser, Samsung’s entry-level Smart TVs do not. Given that no other brand currently splits its Smart TV features in this way, we feel that Samsung’s approach could prove too confusing to a public only just getting used to the idea of Smart TV functionality.
Still, while the Samsung Smart TV can certainly be improved, it seems to represent the most likely blueprint for where we expect Smart TV to go over the next couple of years.