Samsung Smart TV 2015 – First Impressions
Although Samsung’s 2014 Smart TV system impressed with the
extent of its content options and the sophistication of some of its
features, its interface was made to look pretty clunky and unintuitive
by the launch of webOS by LG. Given the intense nature of the rivalry
between these two brands, Samsung couldn’t allow this situation to
continue into 2015. So it’s used CES 2015 to showcase a brand-new Smart TV interface built upon the brand’s Tizen operating system.
the first thing that strikes you about the new Tizen-driven UI is just
how much it resembles webOS. The homescreen brings in a row of icons
along the bottom, providing links to your preferred content options, which you can change the order of. This row of icons is all
but identical in presentation, size and position to the presentation of
webOS. As with it’s strategy against Apple, Samsung seems to have decided if you can’t beat them you might as well
Related: Samsung JS9500/JS9000 SUHD TVs – First Impressions
more I played with the Tizen system, though, the more its individuality
gradually started to assert itself. In particular I started to like its
focus on highlighting both recently used and regularly watched
(favourite) content apps, and I suspect the much cleaner, less cluttered
presentation versus 2014’s screen-filling monster will also make it
much easier to engage with Samsung’s Recommendations system (based on
the TV learning your viewing habits).
I couldn’t test this at the CES, though, as the On TV menu option wasn’t available in any of Samsung’s demo areas.
well as making it much easier for other family members to keep watching
TV while you explore Tizen’s features, the use of overlaid, relatively
small content icons versus the full-screen menus of Samsung’s 2014 smart
interface makes it easier to focus the user’s attention on the stuff
that really counts.
Reducing the screen real estate taken up by
the Smart menus also makes it easier to provide onscreen ‘sign posts’ to
help guide users to other menus or content areas. I was particularly
struck in this regard by the clever use of icons in the centre of the
left, right and top edges of the screen that propel you into other
content menu areas if you move the onscreen cursor over them.
is the way with all today’s sophisticated Smart TV systems, Tizen treats
all your connected sources and even TV channels as apps, equalising
their importance in the interface with more traditional apps such as
Netflix or BBC iPlayer.
Treating everything as an app also
enables Tizen to support multitasking, so that you can quickly and
easily switch between different apps.
Samsung was keen to
emphasise the running speed of Tizen during our demos, showing how even
video-based apps like YouTube boot almost instantly for a fluid,
free-flowing smart experience. It may help in this regard that the TVs
Samsung was focussing on for its demos are built using Octa core
processing – though Samsung was keen to stress that most of that vast
mountain of processing power is actually being devoted to the
HDR-capable pictures of its new SUHD TVs.
for Tizen as its new Smart platform also makes it easier to get
external sources working with Samsung’s new TVs. For instance, the Tizen
TVs can automatically detect when a previously paired Bluetooth device
like a smartphone or tablet comes within operating range of the set, and
automatically pair the two ready for content sharing. Samsung was even
showing an energetic demo of a pair of its latest smartwatches being
used to play a dance game app on a Tizen TV.
With possible gaming uses in mind, it’s worth pointing out that Bluetooth works with less input lag than Wi-Fi-based systems.
last potentially key innovation in Samsung’s 2015 Smart offering is its
new Smart remote control. After receiving a lot of criticism for its
past couple of Smart remote efforts, Samsung monitored a test group of
more than 600,000 consumers to see how they used their remote controls,
and used the results of this enormous research to develop a new remote
which really does appear far more intuitive than its predecessor.
starters this new remote ditches the previous fiddly touch pad
entirely, now focussing solely on point and click and simple up, down,
left and right navigation systems. The button count has been reduced to
just 18 too, in recognition of these proving to be the only keys
consumers regularly return to.
The new remote is also gracefully
curved and fits beautifully in your hand, but the best thing about it so
far as I was concerned during my hands-on is the way it no longer tries
to squeeze too much functionality into too small an area, greatly
reducing the potential for accidental mis-selections.
Look out for a full review of Samsung’s Tizen-based Smart TV OS when the first of the brand’s new TVs roll into town in March.