Don't want to buy a new TV? Smarten up your existing set with LG's box of tricks
3D is old hat. The latest buzz in TVs is "connected content". In other words, built-in web browsers, on-demand video streaming and smartphone-style apps. But what if you've just bought a new TV without all these tricks? The simple solution is to plug in something like LG's ST600.
The box itself is tiny. Like the latest Apple TV, it has a footprint smaller than a CD case and no controls on the unit itself, just a few connections on the back. It comes with a stubby remote that does the basics but if you have an Android phone or iPhone you'll find the free LG TV Remote app lets you zip around the menu screens with greater speed and precision. The app also brings QWERTY text entry, without which some of the ST600's features are quite cumbersome to use.
What's in the box?
So what do you get? You can browse the web, although be prepared for some blank screens with embedded video and a reduced set of features compared to browsing on a laptop. Once you're over the thrill of seeing Google plastered across 47 inches of LCD it's time to get into the on-demand video features. Behind the scenes the ST600 is based on the existing Plex system that's been pulling together web video in a neat front-end for Mac and PC users for some time. Not that you'd know it, because LG has skinned the system to make it more TV-friendly.
Currently, on-demand TV is limited to the BBC's iPlayer, although this could be joined by the likes of ITVPlayer, 4OD and Demand 5 in future. Buffering before viewing takes a little while but once you're off, iPlayer picture quality is excellent and the simplified interface is easy to use.
You get more in the way of movie options, and although the selection from Viewster is uninspiring, Acetrax offers a great spread of up-to-date flicks available to rent from £3.49 or buy for £10.99. These aren't funneled into your ST600 in hi-def, but as with all content, the ST600 will upscale it to 1080p on the way out.
But there's more. Search options allow you to scour the net for video clips of whatever tickles your fancy. Then there's LG's app store. Right now there's not a whole lot there, and maybe there never will be, but you do get a few simple games and social networking widgets.
If that's still not enough, how about internet radio? The vTuner app makes it simple to find favourites and new stations (far easier than on most internet radios) although like iPlayer it's slow to buffer initially. If that doesn't seal the deal (and we don't expect it will) then perhaps the DLNA features will, since they allow you to stream media content from any other DLNA-certified gear in the home to your TV.
Add all that up and you've got a whole load of entertainment for your money, and while the extra cabling and remote clutter isn't ideal, at £130 it's a hell of a lot cheaper than a new TV.
LG ST600 Smart TV Upgrader review
We'd like to see more online content and apps, but this is still a great way to smarten up your TV
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