Examining a Typical Smart TV
Most of today’s smart TVs offer similar features and functionality. In addition to the normal TV features (screen, tuner, remote control, and so on), you get the Wi-Fi or Ethernet connectivity, onscreen GUI menus, and built-in apps that are part and parcel of the “smart” experience. Naturally, the onscreen menus and included apps differ from manufacturer to manufacturer and model to model, but all offer the same general approach.
Let us take, for our example, a typical higher-end smart TV, as of late 2014. We’ll look at the Samsung UN50H6350, shown in Figure 3.2, a 50” diagonal LED-LCD model that sells for a little under $1,000. This model has all the bells and whistles that you’d expect from a TV in this price range, including smart TV functionality in the form of what Samsung calls its Smart Hub. It also includes a built-in camera and microphone, for live social networking and video chatting.
Figure 3.2 Samsung’s UN50H6350 smart TV.
Before you can access the Smart Hub, you first have to connect the TV to your home network. This particular model includes both wireless and wired connectivity, so there is an Ethernet connection on the back if you want to use it.
Assuming that you’ll be connected via Wi-Fi, like the vast majority of users do (it’s just easier), you have to configure the TV to recognize and connect to your home network. You do this from the Network Settings setup screen, shown in Figure 3.3. Select the type of network (Wireless); then select your network from the Wireless Network list. You’ll be prompted to enter your network’s password, and then you’re ready to rock and roll.
Figure 3.3 Configuring the TV to connect to your Wi-Fi network.
To access the Smart Hub, press the Smart Hub button on the TV’s remote. This displays a First Screen bar of your most-used apps along the bottom of the screen. You can select an app from here or display the full Smart Hub by pointing to and then clicking the Smart Hub icon within this bar.
The Smart Hub consists of multiple screens for different types of entertainment:
- On TV, which offers suggestions for currently available programming on traditional television. You can use this page to quickly click to view specific programs or to display a more traditional onscreen programming guide.
- Samsung Apps, which is where you access all available web-based content, including streaming video services, social networks, and Skype.
- Games, which provides access to various online games (both free and paid).
- Multimedia, which enables you to access your own digital media stored elsewhere on your home network.
- Movies & TV Shows, which provides suggestions for streaming web-based content.
You’ll do most of your browsing via the Samsung Apps screen, shown in Figure 3.4. Here you find apps for all the major streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Vudu, YouTube, Vimeo, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn Radio, and more. There are also apps for Facebook, Twitter, and Skype (using the TV’s built-in camera and microphone). Click to open an app, sign into the service (if necessary), and then start watching or listening or communicating or whatever.
Figure 3.4 Browsing web-based media from the Samsung Apps screen.
This screen comes preloaded with some of the more popular apps. You can down load additional apps via the Samsung Store, which you also access from this screen.
Operation is via the TV’s included remote control, the accompanying smartphone/tablet app, voice command (the set has a built-in microphone, remember?), or hand gestures. This last one is an interesting application of the set’s built-in camera; just point and “grab” to select an item onscreen.
It’s all very high tech. The bottom line is that this set, like most other current-generation smart TVs, makes it relatively easy to view just about any type of programming you can think of. It takes a little time and effort to get everything set up properly, but then it’s a matter of pointing and clicking to get to what you want to watch.