As the integration of web and TV gathers pace, and the profile of online video continues its meteoric rise, what is the best choice for smart TV viewers in the UK? I've been looking at some of the Smart TV devices on the market and thought I'd give a quick run-down of the options available.
Whether it’s a Smart TV that you’re after, or a device incorporating the technology (such as a set-top box, Blu-ray player, or game console, there's plenty to choice from. The ever-burgeoning range and choice of OTT ‘Over The Top’ content (online delivery of video and audio without the Internet service provider being involved in the control or distribution of the content itself, eg Netflix and Lovefilm) having a Smart TV or a set-top box allows the content to stream to you easily.
And it’s not just useful for entertainment - the world of business and current affairs is embracing Smart TV. For example, the BBC's News application for connected TV brings the latest news reports to your TV screen, on demand. The service is started, stopped, and navigated via the remote control. It has been designed as a complement to the BBC's live 24-hour news channel, and is updated around the clock with the latest video reports from around the world.
List of Smart TV, Connected Devices for the UK
Here is a quick overview on some of the leading contenders for your hard earned cash:
Apple TV Sets the Bar!
As is common in the world of tech, apple set the bar:
Apple TV box itself is small, and comes with nothing more than a remote control and a power lead. You don't need to be a mac user it's a plug 'n play device; in my local Apple store this device is on display plugged into a Sony Bravia tv via a HDMI rather than an Apple monitor.
Apple TV Third Generation is the latest edition: it now plays blueray quality streamed 1080p video: meaning now you can access HD movies via your Netflix account, which recently launched in the UK - Also with iCloud you can instantly access content that was purchased on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
With the Airplay app you can control Apple TV with their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch using the Remote app, available as a free download on the App Store.
There are some existing requirements however:
- iTunes 10.5
- A Wi-Fi network or Ethernet network
- Broadband Internet connection and a HD TV capable of 1080p or 720p
- HDMI cable.
Second generation Apple TV users can install the new Apple TV user interface via a free software update. Third generation Apple TV hardware is required to play 1080 HD.
Sony and Google TV
Sony is also releasing the NSZ-GP9 Internet Blu-ray Disc Player with Google TV. This combines Google TV and Blu-ray playback, and offers voice search functionality. These releases mark the first time that Google TV devices are available outside the United States, and are available in the UK this month. A responsive on-screen keyboard and wide selection of apps is a good start from Sony, but it can't disguise the disjointed presentation and lack of app store. Sony has placed a strong emphasis on video content.
Samsung Smart TV
Hot on its heels is London 2012 sponsor, Samsung's Smart TV also features voice control. Samsung has gone to town with apps. There are many pre-installed, and a comprehensive apps store to add more. Most smart TV functions are easy to use.
Let's Get Connected
As a sign of how far we have already travelled down the Smart TV road, according to a report from the researcher NPD In-Stat, only about 12 million U.S. households have their Web-capable TVs connected to the Internet. The estimates are that about 25 million U.S. TV households own a set with the built-in network capability. Also, In-Stat predicts that 100 million homes in North America and Western Europe will own television sets that blend traditional programs with Internet content by 2016.
As for the UK? Of the 107 TVs of all sizes that UK consumer group ‘Which?’ tested in 2011, 37 were Smart. They expect to see more in 2012. In Panasonic's range of TVs for this year, for example, only the entry-level models don't have internet connectivity.