Wednesday, 23 January 2013

My Smart-arse Sony TV

Just before Christmas I finally plucked up the courage to get rid of the huge TV in our living room.

This must have been one of the last TVs with a proper 4:3 Cathode Ray Tube (crt) that Currys sold. It was enormous.

The neck of the tube stuck out the back so far that we had to sit in the drive-way and watch the TV through the window. It was either that or wedge ourselves into the 10inch gap between the TV screen and the wall. But with our noses pressed up against the screen, it was only possible to take in about 20% of the action.


I hate throwing away working machines, but no one was interested in this fully functional monster. So I loaded it into the back of a truck and took it to the local tip.

Now what I really wanted was another 32" Sony KDL-32V4000, which we already have in our front room. Great picture, great sound, and nice and light if I have to lift it. Unfortunately technology moves on at a frightening pace. And the nearest equivalent seemed to be the Sony KDL32EX653BU Smart LED TV.

The first thing I noticed about this new contender was the shiny gloss screen. If I was looking for a new shaving mirror, this would be a good choice. Unfortunately all TV manufacturers seem to have adopted gloss screens. Our old Sony has a matte screen, so you do not notice any distracting reflections. In fact, I think standard definition programs look better on the old Sony than on the new one. But the HD channels (only 4 available on Freeview at the moment) give the new TV a slight edge.

As its now a couple of months since we bought this TV, I'm in a better position to comment on some of its foibles, although I realise that there are probably lots of features still to be explored.

User Manual?

This TV does come with both a printed manual and an iManual on the TV. These cover the basics. But the popular trend with Smart products is for manufacturers NOT to bother writing comprehensive manuals for them. Which must mean that anyone needing to read the basic manual or quick start guide, is never going to know how to use many of the machines capabilities. Only the young or inquisitive are likely to uncover all its mysteries.

Not being aware of features and options which may make their "experience" more enjoyable, should be considered to be a Marketing Disaster. I've seen Amazon reviews where punters have stated that you can't do this or that on a piece of equipment, when actually they just don't know how to do it...not their problem, its the manufacturer that is to blame!

So with this in mind, if you have one of these Sony TVs you probably need to look at the useful stuff here: http://www.sony.co.uk/support/en/product/KDL-32EX653/tips-and-solutions

"Lip-sync"

Smart TVs seem to struggle with synchonising the picture with the sound. I believe some allow you to adjust this, so you can offset any constant errors.

But on this Sony, Lip-sync seems to drift in and out from time to time, so the sound is sometimes ahead of the picture. Operations like switching channels, then switching back, seems to re-sync it. But mostly it fixes its self.

Slow Start

What is the first thing you want to do after switching on your TV?

Well in our house, we want to switch channels. But because the processor is busy sorting its self out, checking the attached hard drive & doing other stuff...you can't.

You have to wait. When its good and ready it will start dealing with your remote requests.

Program Guide

The Guide does not seem to fully update in the background. For example, if we have been watching a BBC channel since turning on the TV, when we go to the guide, many of the other channels do not have program information.

You seem to have to select one of the channels from another multiplex to populate the other associated channels in the guide. We don't have this problem with the old Sony.

The External Hard Disk

With a 2TB USB hard drive attached (not supplied), we are all set to record programs. Although for me, being able to hit the "Pause TV" button is far more useful than I ever imagined it would be!

I wanted to be able to copy some of our existing recordings to this drive, but the whole thing is managed by a SQLite database, so the TV can't find any rogue video files.

We have used a memory stick to play videos, but when attached to this TV the files are sometimes reported as faulty or corrupt. However, when plugging the stick into our LG Blu-ray player, they play nice!

Now this may sound trivial, but Sony have positioned the USB socket for the hard disk too close to the edge of the TV. So we have a really nice looking TV, with an ugly black cable sticking out the side a few inches from the top of the screen.

It would have been so easy to angle the USB socket backwards, so these cables are not seen.

iPlayer & Others

You can use the BBC iPlayer, but there is no support for others such as ITV Player & 4OD. Some say this is because Sony have not struck a deal with the commercial TV channels. I think this is due to lack of support for Adobe Flash.

Either way, you probably need to consider a Samsung if this is important to you.

Internet sound

For some reason internet sound is at a much higher level than TV sound.

Now, you may say, just turn down the volume a bit. But sound from the iPlayer has a slightly clipped/overloaded distortion to it. Its tolerable through the TV speakers, but I can't stand it through the hi-fi.

If anyone has found an internal adjustment for this, please let me know.

Internet browsing

I haven't done enough of this, but its rather awkward. Using a Smart phone as a remote helps to some degree. Apps are available for Android and iPhone.

Conclusion

If you don't need the features of a Smart TV, just get an ordinary one. Simple is best.

If you do need all this cleaver stuff, its probably better to buy a smart TV than have lots of separate units (e.g. recorder, computer & so on), each with its own remote control.

If you need "on-demand" TV from commercial channels, do a lot more research into models and capabilities.

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