By now, people may know the phrase "smart TV" as well as they know "Gangnam Style." But in neither case have people grown tired of them. The song has been played more than a billion times on YouTube — far more when you count all the spoofs and mashups. Meanwhile, smart TVs are expected to account for all models sold in North America, says research firm NPD DisplaySearch.
Now Samsung is doing their own mashup of an old hit — by further integrating "real" TV and Internet video. Three new mainstream Samsung models (two LCDs and a plasma) feature a "Smart Hub" with five menu screens. On the "Movies & TV Shows" screen of the new models (ranging from 46- to 75-inch screens), programs are presented as options — just as channels are for traditional television. And while they come from a variety of sources, including Netflix and Vudu, all the videos are presented equally, as if they were TV channels on TV, rather than as a list or grid of apps to dig through.
(SmartHub is also offered on the new 85-inch UltraHD/4K LCD and 55-inch OLED TV. And it can be added to last year's higher-end models by plugging a box called a Smart Evolution Kit into a port on the back of the TVs. Price not given.)
"Once you find what you want to watch, the TV will tell you [what service it comes from]," a Samsung rep told TechNewsDaily. Currently on the new smart TVs, content from five services appears on the Movies and TV Shows screen: Netflix, Blockbuster, Cinema Now, Vudu and Media Hub." For others, such as Hulu, you have to dig through a smartphone-style grid of apps on another screen. A Samsung rep said that there are no technical reasons the other services such as Hulu can't be integrated into the "Movies and TV" screen. They just haven’t signed up.
Meanwhile, regular TV service — from a cable box — appears on another screen, simply called "On TV." Unlike the not-so-successful Google TV setup tried by companies such as Sony and LG, the Samsung TVs don't try to put all the video sources — cable and Internet (including YouTube) — in one place. [See also: 5 Steps to Cut Cable and Enjoy TV for Half the Price ]
Though separate cable TV and Internet video screens may sound like one screen too many, it's a setup most people will probably find more familiar. Putting it all on one screen, with a search bar to dig through it all, made televisions with the Google TV look more like PCs, which may have been a step too far for people to get used to.
And if viewers just want to veg on the couch, the sets make that easy. When turned on, they default to the "On TV" screen. The viewer can hide the apps and recommendations and just channel surf.
Media Hub will be available on the F7500 and F8000 LED LCD sets and the F8500 plasma the first half of 2013, Samsung said, but did not listing prices.
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