Smart TV: which is the best/ most hackable as of today?
May 23, 2012 2:40 PM   Subscribe

What Smart TV set (Samsung,Philips,YouNameIt) to buy? Bonus firmware and software hack (legal) link inside.

My TV-monitor died after giving me 4 years of excellent service, so I am in the market for a so called "smart tv", that is, a TV-monitor set with embedded linux/android/youname it processor and operating system, web interface, wifi connection etc. Any recommendations / experiences / stuff to avoid?

What I really would like to have:
1. usb connection to HD to view mkv et al, embedded decoder chip inside;
2. wifi connection to stream youtube from wifi router;
3. embedded applications, possibly android, skype being a very nice extra;
4. embedded browsers w/flash support, hopefully not sucking too much.

Here's the bonus hack link for Samsung TV oweners : SamyGO
posted by elpapacito to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We like our as yet unhacked samsung TV - mostly for the picture, the apps are only marginally useful.

I would find a TV with a picture you like and a separate box for streaming and hacking (HTPC, Roku, Apple TV, etc.). Bricking a TV would be painful and I'm sure you will find heftier processing in an external box. I love the converged idea, but for the moment I think the TVs are just underpowered...
posted by NoDef at 2:53 PM on May 23, 2012

TV embedded software is pretty crappy. Some TV's devices will support MKV but are finicky. (Doesn't like certain resolutions, no subtitle support, multiple audio tracks, etc.).

Buy a separate device for media playback.
posted by wongcorgi at 3:46 PM on May 23, 2012

Separate boxes are cheap and will give you interface consistency from one TV to another. Buy your TV based on its quality as a display and its input options and keep the source devices external. You don't want to be married to an outdated "smart TV" system when some new must-have streaming service comes out and you just have to hope Samsung is interested in keeping their firmware up to date instead of trying to sell you a new set. It's much easier to change out or upgrade a $100 box or an HTPC.
posted by contraption at 3:51 PM on May 23, 2012

I have a blu-ray player from Samsung, (the BD-C6500) which also plays media off of USB or from your PC. I think that across much of Samsung's product line, the internals (main processor, codecs supported, etc.) are pretty similar. There a few things I don't like about it

(just as a preface, I use my bd player mostly for netflix first, dvds second, and playing avi/mkv off of my computer using the built-in dlna player)

- it does not support subtitles under Netflix
- does not support amazon prime streaming
- for playing anything off of the computer, there is no seek functionality
- does not support mkv subtitles muxed in (playing off pc)
- supports .srt files, but if you want to start playing halfway through a film, you will need a program that can edit the film along with the srt track (while playing off the pc)
- has annoying restrictions where it supports a given video codec, audio codec, and container format, but not that particular triple together

In general, it works pretty well for Netflix and for dvds, and ok for streaming off the pc.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 5:19 PM on May 23, 2012

I was thinking about getting a smart TV and after looking at the prices I just went with a regular one and also bought a raspberry Pi to turn it into a smart TV. If you want more processing power look for nettop boxes that will output 1080p over HDMI and usually have a decent atom or amd chip inside for a bit more than the cost of a smart tv. I have the asus eeebox from two years ago and it works fine as my desktop computer and is designed with a VESA mount in mind so it can be hooked to the back of a TV and very low power so it can be left on.

Any TV no matter how expensive will not be a good as a TV and computer combo in terms of "Smartness" A TV company will cut corners to keep the price down so if you give them less corners to cut and just pick the one with the best picture and has all the ports you will need you will likely get better quality.
posted by koolkat at 2:04 AM on May 24, 2012

I have a Samsung SmartTV and although it was pretty fun to check out when I first got it, I hardly ever use it. The app 'store' and the apps themselves are sluggish and hard to use with the remote. The remote I have doesn't have a keyboard, so you have to type everything in with a 'virtual' keyboard which sucks (because its sluggish as well).

I had a roku before and I continue to use that. The only thing that the smartTV does that the roku doesn't is a youtube channel, but again, it's not well designed so it's hard to navigate my favorites.

I had written it off as a feature that I would never use (like the built in speakers). I tried to get the media player thing working, and it sort of did, but I didn't put too much effort into it. It seemed to me that unless they opened up the development it wasn't going to amount to much. SamyGo looks interesting. Thanks for the link.
posted by kookywon at 8:43 AM on May 24, 2012

Response by poster: kookywoon I remember reading that some samsung tv can be connected to a USB keyb and mouse, just FYI. Tho I am not sure that that would require a firmware upgrade first.
posted by elpapacito at 10:23 AM on May 24, 2012

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