By Jamie Carter
Smart TV is changing. Where once it was about how many apps you had, the Internet connected television is now just as much about what OS is being used.
All smart TVs give access to Netflix and Amazon Instant, with various digital TV catch up services available, too. Separate apps are one thing, but increasingly the services formally offered by apps are being integrated into the user interface.
There is no industry standard. Smart TV platforms tend to change every year or two among the big TV brands. 2015 sees a new focus on operating systems, with the likes of LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Sony all opting for webOS, Tizen, Firefox and Android, respectively.
Is this a brave new world for smart TV, or just the rehashing of old apps and services?
So, what’s the best smart TV platform? We’ve ranked the UK’s major connected TV platforms in descending order, putting just as much emphasis on ease of use as app selection, to help you as you buy into a whole new generation of online television.
1. Sony: Android TV
It’s official; Sony has the best smart TV platform for 2015. The mere mention of the word Android in relation to a TV will automatically alienate half of all smartphone owners, but Sony is not alone in hoping that the other half will want to go Google in the living room.
Only Sharp and Philips have joined Sony in embracing the Android TV OS from Google, so we’re hardly talking about an industry standard yet, but Android TV is polished enough to put it in the running to become just that.
It’s not just in TVs though, you’ll find connected boxes, like the Nvidia SHIELD sporting Google’s TV OS too.
Unlike other new smart TV platforms, Android TV services are not built around icons along the bottom of the screen. Press the Home button on the remote and up pops a full-screen page that’s dominated by a carousel of videos from YouTube and from Google Video.
Scan down and there’s a row of Sony Select services (a mix of the main apps, such as Netflix and Amazon Instant), links to the Google Play Store, Google Play Music, Google Play Movies and TV, YouTube, Netflix and many more besides.
Further down is a list of the TV’s inputs and settings; it’s all fairly conservatively done.
Sony Android TVs are also unique in having some serious storage; 16GB is the default for 2015, which is far more than most smart TVs.
Owners of Android phones/tablets can use their device to control Sony TVs via the TV SideView app, which comes complete with a plug-in for voice search, while Google Cast allows video and photos to be natively streamed to the TV (iOS users can download the AirBuddy app to Google Cast). Controllers from Logitech and Razer also promise console-less gaming.
For now, Android TV is a relatively high-end feature; only TVs in Sony’s W, S and X Series of Bravia TVs will include Android TV.
However, aside from Android TV’s interface exhaustive content that TVs from Sharp and Philips will match, there will soon be a Sony-only add-on. All Sony Android TVs will get a firmware update in July 2015 to create built-in YouView services.
With Android TV and YouView, Sony has at last got smart TV right – thanks to Google.
Best for: content-grabbers
Three Sony TVs with Android TV: