LG would not be where they are if they had always placed all their eggs in one basket and that was never more evident than it was when I visited with them at CES. Aside from a stunning, and I mean stunning OLED TV they're working on, they also had not one, but two, connected TV platforms that will cover a variety of series.
Two LG Connected TV Platforms
Why is that you ask? Well, first off, they've got their own proprietary smart TV service that has everything you would expect including voice search for content on cable, Internet and in your own DLNA and local media servers. When I asked them how they were achieving that and how it was retrieving data they simply said it was a proprietary technology. So it's not using Google's voice search apparently.
However, the two series of smart TVs that they are bringing out with Google TV are doing just that. While the first TVs aren't running Android, these are and will have the full Google TV suite of features including voice search on content.
The interesting thing is that they look ready to ship some of these with no remote control. Instead, they have a magic wand, which is a motion sensing wand with dual-accelerometers and RF technology in it for point and click usage. It's also got some basic buttons on one side and a full QWERTY keyboard on the other. OK, so that really is like a remote control, but you won't really need it.
They are also offering smartphone and tablet apps that will allow you to control the TV through the local area network which means you might never need a remote for your TV. And they could, some time this year, become optional accessories for your connected TVs and perhaps even further lower the cost a bit by unpacking them from the TVs.
The Magic Wands have point, gesture and wheel, and another model adds voice navigation. So a three or four mode. The TVs with the four mode wands have dual-core processors to help with voice recognition and web surfing. The voice search lets you find apps and your content. The units have dual accelerometers and RF. There's a full QWERTY keyboard on the back side.
The LG proprietary platform has four main components; premium apps from the LG Smart World (their app store) and customizable home pages, 3D world their 3D content discovery hub, a full web browsing experience including HTML5 and Flash 10 and finally Smart Share which is a user friendly DLNA sort of server. It uses PLEX software, a media center software package so you can bring in all your local area network content with ease. The nice thing is that it pulls in all the metadata and instead of browsing folders and files, like on the PS3 with a DLNA server, you actually see information about each of the files. So I did a little research.
They weren't able to tell me what was powering their voice search software. LG proprietary was all they could say. They also said the same about the web browser for the LG platform TVs.
PLEX and LG
To use the 'MediaLink' service of LG Smart TV, it is required to install PMS (PLEX Media Server) on a PC connected on a same network with a LG Smart TV.
Plex Media Server seamlessly connects your Plex clients to all of your local and online media. The combination of networked library management, online content streaming and powerful transcoding functionality provides an unrivaled level of flexibility and ease of use not found in other media server applications.
Simply install the media server, tell it where your local content is located and you are ready to go. Plex Media Server running on one computer will serve your content to all of your Plex clients including Plex enabled mobile devices and 2011 LG Smart TV and LG Smart TV Upgrader!
The software will scan the folders you tell it to and try to match up the content to metadata on some Internet databases.
If you don't like the metadata you get from the Internet sites, you can enter your own using the Edit Metadata screen. Right-click on the item to edit, then choose Edit Metadata. Once you have made changes to a data item, the padlock icon will lock, preventing your changes from being overwritten by downloaded data. To unlock a locked item, click the padlock icon. It is able to do Movies, TV and Music.
LG Smart Share
'Smart Share' is LG Smart TV's powerful function which enables you to access the content wirelessly stored in your digital devices, including digital cameras, mobile phones, tablets and PC, and bring them to your home's largest screen with a simple click. With 'Smart Share', you can free yourself from complicated cable connections. This included wirelessly from smartphones, tablets other Wi-Fi devices. Basically, it helps tie all of your media together and gets it onto the TV screen as quickly and easily as possible.
Google TV Powered LG TVs
On the Google TV side, they have a more standard implementation which is what we will see across numerous brands I'm sure. LG is offering their own take on things in regards to the controller (see above) and some other bits and bobs. They've got two series (five models) of Google TV-powered TVs coming out along with those LG proprietary-software based TVs as well.
The Google TV versions will have dual-core processors and reach up to 65 inches in size. They're set for release later this year. It's offering full HTML5 and Flash support.
If you've got an Android tablet or phone, you can use an app and have it be your remote instead of using one of theirs or a third-party universal remote. They will connect through Wi-Fi and connect to the TV.
LG has done away with the reliance on the EPG, you can just type CNN or Law & Order and it will give you what is available at present and into the future. No more wading through 400 channels to find something or using a supremely slow interface. I had them do a test on Cowboy Bebop (which only runs on Adult Swim from time to time) and it nabbed it extremely quickly.
The search works with HBO Go, Netflix, Amazon and on-demand from cable or satellite. It still uses their information but presents it in a more focused way so you don't have to scan the EPG by time and channel. You can also give Google access to some of your favorites and it can do recommendations based on things like actor, director, genre, content (sports, news, etc). You have to do some training and give it some specifics but that's done by selecting things and watching them. Then it starts drawing lines from that content to like content and suggesting it to you.
You can also do things like pull an app from your tablet or phone to the TV and use it on there. So you Angry Birds fan...yeah you know where I'm going with that.
The C6 series and C8 series 120Hz/240Hz, dual-core, Wi-Fi, LAN, and Wi-Di all embedded. Of course with Wi-Di you're going to need to connect it to something else and I imagine that they're going to have all manner of devices that will be able to tie into that.
Which Would I Prefer?
Honestly, whichever comes with that insanely great OLED image. If they don't pair up that with one or the other, I would just try to find a Google TV box to use with my existing projector because I've already got it and, I have to believe it would be cheaper. But I still won't pay $200 for a Google TV device unless it's already built into a massive TV with all the bells and whistles. Again, that's just me. If you're looking to replace your TV this year, these might be some valid options later in the year and, you'll be able to watch all your original web series right on your TV without any extra boxes or cables.