Disclaimer: Somewhere on this blog are multiple grammatical mistakes, spelling errors and obscure Star Wars references.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: The Samsung Smart TV. How Smart is Smart?

About a week before their launch on 6 April, I was invited by the folk at Samsung to have a look at their new product the Samsung Smart TV. Alongside me were a bunch of other technology related bloggers, like Paul ‘DaddyBird’ Castle, Magnus Nystedt of PCWorld, Mohammed Al Huraiz of Lochal Archade, Saurabh Chabra, the young chap from EMR8.com and the legendary Ashraf Ghori, creator of the Xero Error series

With this nice little focus group, I guess they aimed at getting a geek’s opinion on the Smart TV. The event itself was held at the Media One hotel at Dubai Media City which is not too far from where I work. As I arrived, I was greeted by Mani Karthik and interestingly enough 2 of my former schoolmates. Quick hellos done, one of the Samsung reps got right into the skinny with the TV.

The TV itself is very aesthetically pleasing. The one we were shown was a shiny silver, with a very thin frame, so you were looking mostly at a screen, with an illuminated Samsung logo right in the middle. So, answering the question of how good will it look in my living room, I’d say pretty damn good.

Picture Quality; Wonderful. The colours were crisp and the TV delivered the viewing experience that one would expect from a product of this sort. The 3D feature, for movies shot in 3d, was surprisingly not giving me a headache, as one would usually expect from wearing 3D glasses. A sweet little gimmick the TV pulled off was real-time conversion of 2D to 3D. Case in point, the guys at Samsung played Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight on the screen and we watched the first few minutes in regular 2D. Bear in mind, this movie was not shot in 3D at all. They then pulled out the remote and a few presses here and there and voila! We were watching Heath Ledger in 3D. From what they then continued to tell me, this could be further applied to video games, so if you’re gaming and decided you suddenly wanted to see in 3D, all you had to do was flip a switch.

Way cool.

Now let’s talk about the ‘Smart,’ aspect of the TV. The TV allows you to wirelessly sync with other (permitted) devices like your Samsung Galaxy Tab or a hard drive etc. With this feature you can browse through contents in Tab or Hard Drive and play them on the screen. Nifty little trick. The TV also features browsing, so one could switch to a full web browser and check for footie scores, while watching 'Days of Our Lives.' Another feature that Samsung call 'Social TV,' allows you to:
  • Chat, blog and share with friends and family while watching TV
  • Access social networks like Facebook & Twitter
  • Access communication and messaging programs like Google Talk & Skype
So, you could do all the things above while still watching TV. Interestingly enough, the TV itself doesn't have a built in webcam, so it sort of takes out the point of being Skype-capable. Now, while being chat capable is still cool, unfortunately the big-wigs at Samsung decided not to give this TV Bluetooth capabilities. This means I can’t use Bluetooth to connect a keyboard to the TV to use while chatting/browsing and will instead have to resort to the keypad on the back of the remote that comes with it. Boo.
The TV has access to Samsung Apps, which I thought was cool, until the presenter started focusing on the sheer number of apps on the Samsung App Market. All 300 - 400 of them. Nope. Not buying that gimmick. Having apps is cool, but that can’t be your selling point. I won’t be using apps on my TV as much as I would on a tab/phone/computer. That’s why I bought a tab/phone/computer in the first place.
Overall, the Smart TV is a good looking device, that can allow you to surf the web, browse your HD or Tab content wirelessly, check your social networks and actually watch TV all in one place. Here’s my issue with the TV though; Unfortunately, for reasons that I’m assuming are economical, the TV cannot do everything my phone can do. And my phone is a ‘Smart’ phone. While there’s no doubt about the technological achievement that the TV is, one has to bear in mind that calling something a ‘Smart’ device, that can’t do all the ‘smart’ things that my phone can, will dampen the impact the TV has to the technologically savvy consumer. Also, seeing as the TV they showed us costs a sweet bit at AED 6k, Samsung is not targeting the average consume, but the above-average, technology savvy money spenders.
Future TVs will probably have better processors and so be able to do all the cool things a ‘smart’ device can do (and it’s quite likely it’ll be the folk at Samsung who come through with it), but the Samsung Smart TV is not just there yet. It’s made the first move, and a massive kudos to Samsung for that, but it’s not quite there yet.

Picture Quality
2D to 3D Conversion
Wireless Sync to external devices
Web browser & Social Networking capabilities while watching TV
Aesthetically pleasing

Lack of Digital TV in the region, makes a few 'smart' features unusable, thus reducing value for money.
Limited Apps
No Bluetooth
Limitations in living up to the full expectations of a ‘smart’ device


Sajid said...

I have a feeling they are trying to get the XBOX live experience for commercial viewing. Didn't quite work as they wanted I believe but it is an evolution. Somebody has to make the first mutation.

Tie it with GetGlue/Twitter/FB and give it an iPad app that can connect with it. A whole other level of TV it'd be! No need for silly remotes either.

MaliZOMG said...

Agreed on the first point.

There's already an app for the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Samsung phones called the Qwerty Remoticon. It basically allows you to control the TV through it..