Sony's Android TV wins impromptu speed test, but smart TVs still need to clear some serious hurdles

Increasingly, smart TVs produced by manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, LG and Panasonic are becoming the big screen of choice for OTT-savvy consumers. But despite advances in areas like processing speed, other components need to come up to par--such as "horror show" remote controls and a fragmented app environment.

In a test of several smart TVs by The Wall Street Journal's Geoffrey Fowler, Sony's Android TV was tops in speed, going from off mode to streaming Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) in less than 10 seconds. The fast loading speed is due to improved hardware, he noted, but also because smart TVs' "software is built around apps."

But other elements of smart TVs presented only frustration. Netflix is a commonly available app, but other big-name streaming services like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) Prime Instant Video and Hulu aren't bundled into the essentials of many smart TV brands, Fowler noted. HBO Now, of course, is still only available via Apple TV (NASDAQ: AAPL) streaming devices, and is slated to come to Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android platform in late June. But smart TVs not powered by Android may be out of luck for a while longer. In short, apps on smart TVs are a fragmented mess.

Search and recommendation on smart TVs is another sore spot, Fowler wrote. But the most egregious components of smart TV systems are the remote controls, which Fowler said are "still horror shows." While praising LG's remote--which includes voice command and "magic wand" capabilities--he singled out Sony's clunky 51-button remote as a problem spot for an otherwise sleek TV experience.

So, which TV was best for streaming? All the models tested had their good and bad points, with Fowler posting his top choices in the article.

The impromptu review brought up a number of troubling points. While smart TVs are getting faster, viewers may be stymied by frustrating user experience issues like a random selection of bundled apps, limited search capabilities, and the ever-changing remote control.

For more:
- WSJ has this story (sub. req.)

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