A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, all internet-connected TVs did essentially the same thing, and they did not do it very well. Modern Internet TV platforms are relatively new. Just a few years ago, Internet TV functionality was split into two areas: a built-in browser, and content provided exclusively by Yahoo! and their subsidiaries.
That has since changed—and while it is a change for the best, it also widens the comprehensive "learning curve" for consumers between two TV companies, such as Samsung and LG. Now, most TV companies have designed their own company-exclusive interface for arranging and providing TV content, making a much larger impact on a user's experience with a particular brand. No more is screen size the only factor to take into account when shopping for a TV.
So, to make your life a little simpler, we at TelevisionInfo.com will be releasing a series of brief but (hopefully) informative articles detailing the different web-based content, and that content's accessibility and organization, as it is presented by different TV companies. Our first article provides a comprehensive look at LG Smart TV.
LG, the South Korean company best known for their production of electronics and electronic accessories, introduced their first internet TV in 2007. Back then, they were calling them NetCast Entertainment Access devices. Today, they are more simply dubbed smart TVs.
As of 2012, LG's smart TV interface features a number of industry-wide, staple design essentials.
Home Menu / How to Use It
LG's Home Menu is exactly what it sounds like—its integrated headquarters for streaming content, apps, the built-in browser, USB device controls, and any 3D content. By pressing the "Home menu" button on their remote control, users are brought to a hub, of sorts, that lays out the various options LG provides for interfacing with the TV. These sections, which LG calls "cards," are a customizable tab that houses up to 9 different links, and are sorted by content.
The left-most card, called the "Live Card," is a small window that continues to display whatever you were watching before you entered the Home Menu, and lists the input receiving it, as well as providing various links to LG content. The middle section of the Home Menu is where users will find their streaming content, called the "Premium Card," because most of the included services (Hulu Plus, Netflix) have paid to be featured there.
The right side of the menu is dedicated exclusively to 3D content, aka LG's 3D World, called the "3D World Card."
Next, on the second page, LG's featured/starter apps are organized under the "LG Smart World Card."
Finally, any video/pictures/music stored on a connected USB device is organized and accessed via the "Smart Share Card," which is the furthest to the right. Users can create their own custom cards with up to 9 links, or apps, that they want quick access to.
The "Live Card" and "Premium Card" (pictured below, alongside the "3D World Card") cannot be altered or removed from the Home menu, but the other cards can be removed/reordered as users see fit.
Also featured on LG's "Premium Card" are social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Clicking on any of these networking sites will allow users to log in and view the sites right on their TV. Scrolling around and typing is done via LG's infrared-motion Magic Remote and its on-screen browser keyboard. It's not as easy as on a PC, but is easier on LG's platform than on most internet TV platforms thanks to the Magic Remote.
Streaming Movies, TV, & Music
One of the biggest draws of internet-enabled TVs is their ability to stream a large variety of content. The days of flipping on your TV and channel surfing until you find something you want to watch are almost over. Streaming content allows users to select from a variety of providers, who in turn host various kinds of content: tv shows, sports, movies, documentaries, and the like. The featured content providers on the "Premium Card" are LG's blue chip partners: Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, MLB.TV, VUDU, and CinemaNow, to name a handful.
LG also hosts free 3D content to help users get the most out of their 3D television. 3D World (pictured below) is a collection of all of LG's hosted 3D content, and features movies, tv shows, documentaries, and sports that will broadcast in 3D. Content is organized by subject. 3D World, like the Apps Store, is regularly being updated and expanded to include more content. We think this is one of the best things about LG's smart TV platform, as the amount of 3D content available on the market right now is severely limited.
Apps are everywhere. No longer confined to the realm of the smart phone, apps are now common to the use of televisions, tablet readers, and gaming consoles. LG's "Smart World Card," on the Home Menu, features 9 such apps and a link to LG's app store, where users can shop for and download a huge variety of apps to integrate into the Smart World Card or the apps bar (i.e. quick menu) for quicker access. The app store features TV compatible games, as well as tools and niche content providers. Some apps are free, and some must be paid for.
LG's internet browser is a built in web-surfing option for anyone who happens to have one of its smart TVs. Coupled with the Magic Remote, LG's motion-controlled infrared wand, the browser is an alternative to phone, tablet, or even PC, but in no way is it preferable. The Magic Remote acts as a cursor, and the browser's on-screen keyboard has big buttons that are easy to point and click. While it's not the first time a browser has been a feature of an internet TV, the Magic Remote ensures that it's by far the easiest one to use (bandwidth notwithstanding). Users simply type in a URL using the on-screen keyboard, and they are able to navigate a web page using the Magic Remote.
Your Personal Media (photos & more)
The last card in LG's Home Menu is the "Smart Share Card," which is LG's hub for any media playback that users wish to do via USB. Pictures, music, and video can be played back and organized here. A USB drive with content stored upon it will be automatically filtered into the Smart Share card when it is inserted into the TV's USB input.