postheadericon Tech Talk: How smart is my new Smart TV?


This review is really for anyone considering or just purchasing a newer LCD/LED TV that has Internet connectivity built in (as most mid-to-high end models do this year). I just bought a Sony KDL-EZ720 this week, and what excited me the most about my new purchase, outside of the HD & 3D display, was the opportunity to play around with its optional wireless connectivity. When your TV can be connected to the Internet, many interesting possibilities arise, hoina?

Well, while I discovered many cool possibles, I also uncovered several impossibles at the moment, and I wanted to cover this to ease your expectations somewhat...

First, these newer TVs have tiny internet applications built into the firmware of your set, that when connected via your home router, can do some interesting things, like display YouTube videos or your Facebook page. So now you can view "Baby Monkey, Baby Monkey, Riding On The Back of a Pig" in full HD and 5.1 surround sound. In addition to the bazillion bad home videos found on YouTube, you can also have your Twitter feed or Facebook notifications displayed side-by-side whilst watching SAW 3D: The Final Chapter. With a new Sony Bravia TV, you can even have all of that at once, using the picture-in-picture feature. The human race has come this far; meet the smart TV.

Putting this silliness aside, a Smart TV has many advantages over one that cannot connect. For example, the firmware of your Smart TV, which by the time you unbox it has undoubtedly been updated with bug fixes and new features, can now be updated from the web in just a few clicks of your remote control. Computers have done this for a decade or more, and now TVs are up to par on the maintenance end.

Another advantage that a Smart TV has is the potential to connect to your computer and to display things like photos and movies, and to even play music from your various iPod-like devices. This potential was what first excited, and then arrested my enthusiasm once I got into the try-to-do phase.

New Sony Bravia TVs, like the EX720 or NX720 found on the local market, come with a USB dock for your iPhone or iPod - so that gets you a little closer to sharing movies and whatnot from your computer library where you have all stuff stored. Smart, eh? If you are like me, you have a vast music library of MP3 files, and GBs of downloaded movies and TV shows. But loading up a phone or music player with goodies, and then plugging that (or even a flash drive) into your TV for viewing, seems like an added and unwanted step - after all, this is supposed to be entertainment, and not an exercise in geekinease.

Yet a Smart TV can get to your computer content directly over a wireless connection, but right now you need an intermediate "thingee" to make that so, such as a media server like the Xstream sold at HD Nepal, or an Apple TV sold at most KTM Apple shops. However, after plunking down over a lakh for the TV, I didn't relish running out and spending more if I didn't have to. So after a bit of research, I found another solution that saved me thousands of rupees to essentially do the same thing: stream content from my computer to my new TV.

VUZE software (www.vuze.com) is advertised as "the most powerful bittorrent app on earth," and after seeing the VUZE icon pop-up in my TV settings menu, I am now convinced that they may be right. Here is how it works: you install VUZE Plus on say a laptop, and then download any of the millions of decent HD-quality movies and TV shows available online for free. After they are finished downloading to your computer, they are made available to your TV over your wireless connection. This feature of VUZE will cost you an additional NRs 1900 per year, as "Device Playback" is only found in the Plus version of the software, and not in the free version. But wow! - rupees well spent to have access to all the true HD content that is being shared by what seems to be everyone on the planet.

The VUZE model is simple, you do a Google-like search for any movie or show that you want to watch, select from the available list, and download. This is great for us Nepalis who don't have access to US-only services like Hula and Tivo. The content found in VUZE is top-notch, and TV commercials have already been trimmed out, thus avoiding the brain-drain of watching an endless stream of Star TV Fair & Lovely adverts.

In short, while I just love my new Sony EX720 – kudos out to Bikram at the Sony Kantipath showroom – I'm disappointed that my Smart TV came out of the box slightly retarded. But with the innovative software package VUZE, at least I did not have to run out and buy a media server or some other doohickey just to get to the media library stored on my computer, and instead, I can simply download quality content that I want to watch, and then be onto the show.

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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