My new connected TV, LG 60PS80

Well, well, guess what, I got myself a new TV. With the reluctant acceptance of my wife, I went on Amazon (which at the time had a pretty good deal including free shipping and interest free for a year) and I bought the LG 60PS80 Netcast connected TV.

Without going into details about image quality, sound and so on (there are already a number of sites concentrating on this aspect and I am not the type of person to hunt for minor differences) I want to talk a little bit about the connected part. According to some recent articles, about a quarter of the TVs sold/launched this year are connected. That means they have wired/wireless network connection and a number of clients embedded that support popular services.

This particular TV supports the following clients:

NETFLIX – Arguably the most popular movie streaming service in the world. NETFLIX can be accessed currently on a large number of   TVs, set-top boxes and it might come very soon on iPhone.

There are two main interfaces implemented to access NETFLIX. The so-called Version 1.0 displays your current queue and that’s about it. If you want to see something not currently available in your instant queue, you need to go to your PC and add movies to it. Not necessarily a hard thing to do but I don’t want to access my computer when I am watching TV.

The NETFLIX interface version 2.0 (similar with the one implemented on XBOX 360, PS3 and 7MC) allows you to browse and select movies from multiple categories, so you are not limited only to the movies from your instant queue.

Well, unfortunately LG 60PS80 has only NETFLIX 1.0 so you are stuck with the old style interface. Version 2.0 is available on LG 2010’s TV line and they don’t seem willing to update the firmware for 2009 line (even if the price paid, around $2000 would entitle someone to better support, at least during the first year of ownership). From this perspective, LG as a company seems to not care too much once they sell you a product. I have seen this behavior on their DVD/Blu-ray players as well. However, while I can imagine buying a new Blu-ray player every year, especially with the costs going down, I’ll certainly won’t get another TV for the next 5 years (my wife could read this post 😀 ). OK, enough ranting.

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YOUTUBE – LG’s interface is pretty good, no real complaints here. You can display Featured videos, Most Recent, Most Viewed, Top Rated and you can also search. The remote control text input works in a manner similar with a standard phone. There is no way though to select high quality clips or high definition ones.

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VUDU – is a very popular online movie rental service that claims it has the largest collection of HD movies available. So be it. It was recently aquired by Walmart, so i am curious where will it go from here. The possibilities are limitless, so are the chances to screw it up.

The VUDU client itself is pretty good, streaming is fluid with no issues (if you have the broadband). A major annoyance is that it doesn’t include VUDU Apps. It looks like ,for some reason, LG doesn’t want this feature, and they are the only TV manufacturer that refuse to implement it. I wish I could have bought a Samsung :(.

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Yahoo! TV Widgets – Taken from Yahoo!’s own page: Yahoo! TV Widgets deliver a Cinematic Internet experience directly to TVs from Samsung, LG, VIZIO and Sony. Buy a TV today and get access to your favorite movie, TV show and Web services on demand. Get your personal selection of movies and TV shows streamed directly to your TV from Amazon Video on Demand® and Blockbuster® including HD!

Translation: Yahoo! TV Widget platform is a tone down web experience transitioned to the big screen. You can develop widgets and they can run on the TV. Currently there are news, Flickr and Twitter clients, etc.

Well, the intentions were certainly noble. When 60PS80 launched, it probably had the fastest embedded processor among its competitors. The Yahoo! TV Widgets on LG are usable, although nothing to write home about. However, the way Yahoo! advertised the platform, you would expect to see hundreds if not thousands of widgets coming soon from the never tired hands of programmers. Well, guess what: 9 months after, there is absolutely no update on 2009 LG TV lines, the available widgets are still only the ones from the launch day. The connected TVs from the other manufacturers got eBay, Showtime, etc, LG is completely mum on the subject. One huge annoyance on LG side. This is how you kill a platform, you pump up the expectations and after that, you leave your customers in the cold.

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CIFS file sharing – The TV can also see your Windows shared folders and play content from them. It supports pictures, music and movies, the last category including MKV support. No DTS decoding though, so most of the MKV files won’t play. From what I gathered, their Blu-ray player do play DTS. I guess they just didn’t want to pay the royalties.

Speaking about CIFS file sharing, for a long time it didn’t work on my network, which drove me crazy. After playing around with several routers, I found the problem in my Belgin N router that had IP 192.168.2.1. For some reason, this TV cannot see shares on networks with 192.168.X.Y when X!=1. As soon as I changed the router’s IP to be 192.168.1.1, everything started to work.

Conclusion: Nice TV, nice set of features, but every feature is only implemented half-way. It won’t replace your HTPC, XBOX 360, PS3 in terms of media streaming or internet clients and in time, at least in my case, due to the lack of software support and updates on LG’s part, you’ll get really frustrated. Some might argue that you buy a product with the set of features available and that’s it, but for me this is not good enough. We are in 2010, the connected TVs are extensible, the Yahoo! TV Widgets were designed to be extensible, so sorry LG, not good enough. It looks like Samsung will create their app store for their TVs, so you get the idea…

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