Everything you need to know about LG’s new smart TVs
LG´s LA860 is among a new generation of smart TVs which are more social, interactive and tailored than those that came before.
17 Apr 2013
Whether down the pub or in the office, we've all heard the term 'smart TV' but aside from bar and break-room banter about tellies do you actually know what it means and how it can enrich your life?
There's no need to be embarrassed if not, because now is a perfect time to master the subject.
A new generation of smart TVs are emerging which are more social, interactive and tailored than those of just six months ago.
As well as being able to stream programmes from the web, they can be controlled through movement and speech, paired with our phones through NFC, and even recommend programmes they think we'll like.
The world of TV has seen some seismic changes - so take our hand as we lead you to infinity and beyond with our two-part series examining what makes 2013 smart TVs so damn clever.
First up, we're looking at LG's new range, focusing on its slender and sublime LA860.
But before we get started, we'd better clear up a few basics:
What is a smart TV?
Smart TV is the name given to televisions which connect to the internet. You may wonder why you'd want a web-connected telly when you already have a tablet and laptop.
Sit back and we'll tell you. There are loads of reasons, but the headline-grabbing feature of a smart TV is you can use it to watch the iPlayer or 4OD from your TV - no more squinting at last night's EastEnders hunched over your 13inch laptop screen.
Why do I need one of 2013's smart TVs though?
Because they're redefining the word 'smart', that's why. This may sound like spiel, but they really are so much cleverer than the TVs that came before, offering oodles more features than we've already come to expect from, well, smart TVs.
Take the LG LA860. First seen at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the TV is more slender than a member of the Rolling Stones - and a whole lot more sociable.
Can I use it for social networking?
Yes. Smart TVs generally offer a web browser as well as a whole load of apps including Skype and Facebook for when you're feeling sociable.
The LG LA8600 is perfectly tuned for such sofa socialising, with a camera fitted to its front so you can enjoy proper Skype chats from the living room (just remember to change out of your pyjamas, and maybe brush your hair).
What do I want to watch?
We all love catching up with friends, but there's nothing like catching up with TV. Some 60% of folk polled by NPD Group said they most used their smart set when watching catch-up TV. With apps for Netflix, iPlayer and Knowhow Movies, you'll never be short of shows.
But when you just can't decide what to watch on your new LG smart TV, why not let the LG's On Now service recommend something for you, based on shows you've previously checked out? On Now is a feature across the 2013 range.
With the LA860 promising a picture as sharp as its form, there's no wonder watching catch-up TV is the main focus for many smart TV owners.
Long gone are the days of fluorescent CCFL backlights; LG has instead opted for edge-lit with local dimming in the LA860 and the LA7400. This sounds like a load of jargon, but basically means you can expect darker black levels - or a deeper, richer picture, in other words.
How magic is a magic remote?
Several of LG's 2013 smart TVs feature the latest version of the Magic Remote. How magic is it? Very! In fact, it has more tricks than Paul Daniels. The Magic Remote is all over the big thing for 2013 - gesture and voice control.
When you turn on the TV you'll see the home screen. From there just point your remote to what you want and click - easy peasy. If something is on the next screen, don't worry about scrolling - just click and drag 'til you find it. Smoother than Katy Perry sunbathing at Coachella.
While we're talking about smooth operators - check out the voice recognition.
Say you're watching Game of Thrones and you want to find out what else Sean Bean has been in, just hold the remote closeish to your face and speak into the mic symbol. It can also be used to write posts on social networks if you're feeling too damn lazy to type.
And because it features natural voice recognition technology in Voice Mate, you don't have to talk like you're in 2001: A Space Odyssey - but that might be fun if you're having a Kubrick night.
NFC - is it for me?
In one word, yes. NFC is a pretty big deal at the moment and here's why: It allows you to pair your devices by simply tapping them together. Once they're paired all kinds of magic can happen: pair the LA860 or other 2013 smart TVs with your smartphone by simply holding your handset over the telly's NFC tag.
Once hooked up, content can be shared between the two and stored on the SmartShare feature on the TV's home dashboard.
LG says: "This feature immediately connects two devices for quick media sharing. To use 'Tag On'...users simply hold a smartphone or other NFC-enabled device against the NFC sticker on LG's Cinema 3D Smart TV."
What the hell is a TV dashboard?
Think of it a little bit like the dashboard in your car, but instead of speedometers, petrol gauge and seat-belt warning light, you'll find your TV's major features stored neatly in one place. Seriously, the design is simple and intuitive enough to give Monica Geller a run for her money in the tidiness stakes.
You get there by pushing 'home' on the remote. Once there you'll find a launcher bar with settings, web browser and other goodies, as well as a live stream of what you're watching and pre-installed apps such as Facebook, YouTube and Netflix.
Just when you thought your TV couldn't get any more tailored, there are My Interest cards, which allow you to group favourite apps, or trending news and latest weather.
The smart rub
So there we are: a rundown of the main features of LG's 2013 smart TVs.
Next time the subject of smart TV comes up in the pub you no longer have to smile and nod in a baffled way, for this guide qualifies you as a near expert.
Just don't expect a certificate in the post.
Stay tuned for part two, when we'll check out Samsung's smart TV offerings for 2013...