Home Cinema, Media Players, Smart Home, TV

LG Smart TV & Media Link – Hands On

lg1

Back in August last year we brought you the first glimpse of LG’s new Smart TV platform (then branded as NetCast), with an integrated media streaming application powered by Plex. Fast forward five months, and a refined version of the platform was on show last week at CES 2011 in Las Vegas.

We had the opportunity to take a look at the continued development of what is probably the best of all the large TV brands’ media streaming applications, and learned a little more about what you can expect to see when TVs with Media Link ship later in the year.

First some bad news – if you’ve had your interest piqued by the new LG Smart TV Upgrader (a small set top box that brings the company’s Smart TV platform to any TV set) then note that it will not deliver the full Smart TV experience. LG are reserving the full Plex-powered Media Link application for their own TV models, and as you’ll see from the video below, the Media Link application is missing from the Smart TV adaptor and LG’s new connected Blu-ray players. An LG rep confirmed that this was not a technical restriction, but purely a marketing decision.  Streaming on the Smart TV Upgrader will require Nero MediaHome to be installed on the PC from which you want to stream.

The demo units at the show are still running from the Apple Mac version of Plex, but LG confirmed that a version for Windows was imminent (i.e. shipping this week). Plex Media Server must be running on the PC or Mac you wish to stream media from, handling the metadata acquisition and application configuration on the TV. It leads to a slightly more complex configuration than competitors (which may concern mainstream users) but once set up, works very well. The included Magic Motion remote takes a little bit of getting used to – you’ll find your aim improves over time – but lacks a QWERTY keyboard that’s really quite essential for web browsing and social networking apps, so you’ll likely need to invest in a wireless keyboard at some point.

As you can see from the screenshot. the Smart TV interface is clear and simple to understand. Large icons at the bottom of the screen help you navigate through the various features and apps, whilst a preview window and large application buttons ensure you can access your favourite applications and content quickly. A search bar helps out if you get lost and you’ll see an included web browser, premium apps from Netflic, Hulu Plus, MLB.tv, You Tube and Facebook.

Since we last previewed LG’s Plex-based Media Link app in August, stability has improved dramatically. The demo unit on the show floor was streaming from a Macbook Pro running Plex Media Server, but LG told us that Plex for Windows should be released this week (the rep already had a copy), which opens up Media Link to many more users. With TV and Movie metadata and images automatically downloaded from your choice of metadata providers, LG’s Media Link application provides the richest user interface available on the current crop of media streaming TVs.

But you’ll only find in on LG’s TVs. Buy the LG Smart TV Upgrader or a Network Blu-ray player and you’ll find 90% of that same Smart TV platform, but there’s no Media Link application. You can’t blame LG for reserving the app for their most expensive product lines, but it’s a shame that more people won’t get to experience Media Link.

 

As you can see from the photos above, the Smart TV Upgrader offers a very similar experience to LG’s new TVs themselves, but note the absence of the Media Link icon in the bottom bar. That said, the ST600 Smart TV Upgrader remains a fantastic solution for  those wishing to connect their TV on premium online services.

Expect to see LG’s new Smart TV range available later in the year.

Previous ArticleNext Article
Terry Walsh is the founder of We Got Served. He started the community in February 2007 with a mission to help families, tech enthusiasts everywhere figure out the technology needed to run the modern home and small business. He's the author of a number of guides to Windows, Windows Server and OS X Server and runs his own successful publishing business. Born and raised in Liverpool, England, Terry has been awarded Microsoft's prestigious Most Valuable Professional Award each year since 2008 for his work on We Got Served.
  • Søren Pedersen

    Finally a little bit of information on this new Plex client in the LG tv's – thanks a lot Terry!

    Do you know if the content streamed from the Plex Media Server will be transcoded before it can be played on the new LG tv's? – When playing on e.g. an iPhone it makes sence to transcode the content, but it doesn't make sence on a TV in my opinion, and I am very eager to find some more information on that.

    Thanks in advance 🙂
    /Søren Pedersen

    • Terry Walsh

      I’m a little blurry here (I had a lot of conversations with people regarding media streaming last week, and they’ve blurred somewhat) but I think it may well transcode to h.264.

      • Søren Pedersen

        Ok. I will look forward to some reviews 🙂

        I was also thinking about surround sound… Will I be able to send the sound to my receiver and get surround sound?

    • Taejin Park

      You are very correct. The TV doesn't always get the transcoded streaming because most of container or codec can be supported. But, it is not true for all of the video formats.
      Examples are FLV or Siliverlight video.
      This "web" video contents should be transcoded by the PC.
      The other problem of transcoding is, it takes some seconds for transcoding and buffering.

      So,
      It is depending on the the video format whether it is transcoded or not.

  • Anders

    Any chance of getting the Plex functionality in a 2010 NetCast enabled LG TV?

    • G11

      I'd like to know this as well, thanks

  • twangus

    According to LG's US twitter feed, this article is incorrect… It looks like the Plex functionality (aka MediaLink) is going to be included on the TVs, Blu-ray players, and SmartTV upgrader.

    stevendavis — @LG_US Is the Plex functionality in '11 LG products only reserved for high end TVs, or will BR players & Upgrader box get it as well?

    LG_US — @stevendavis The SmartTV functionality is available across LG TV, Blu-ray and Home Theater models as well.

    stevendavis — @LG_US Does SmartTV functionality = Plex functionality?

    LG_US — @stevendavis LG SmartTV functionality includes, but is not limited to the functionality of Plex

    stevendavis — @LG_US Last question, will SmartTV (Plex) be included in the SmartTV upgrader box?

    dirRtyjoe — @LG_US Will the Upgrader that is due out soon have Plex functionality? I'll buy (and recommend) lots if it does!

    LG_US — @dirRtyjoe @stevendavis @plexapp The LG ST600 SmartTV Upgrader has the Plex functionality to turn any HDTV with HDMI output into a SmartTV!

    • Terry Walsh

      If that’s true, it’s great news – potentially a change of heart, or the guy on the stand at CES was poorly briefed… I have my fingers crossed.

  • Amanda Jo

    i am having problems getting to veiw videos and shows through the media link i get all the way through pick what i want to watch and it brings up a black screen and an adobe flash player sign but i cant get the adobe flash player to download from internet what can i do so i can watch videos on the tv

  • ddd

    I dontr care about PLEX – Damn LG – i am a windows user and Plex was built for Apple – sure it has some minor win compatability but its not full featued

  • Arj

    LG Smart TVs have issues. Their support also sucks. Be careful signing up for apps.

    • Hey man! I really don’t know where you got this from but if you must know, from
      experience the LG Smart TV has an impressive picture quality with good black
      levels and contrast. I don’t even want to mention the magic motion control which has made everything so simple to browse whatever you want.

  • Balk

    Can you get Flash on this thing? I like to stream a lot of TV shows and they all require flash

  • Dburnet

    Can anyone help with the wireless keyboard, I added one but my LG TV will not reclinise it.

    • Dburnet

      Sorry for miss spell on RECOGNIZE

    • Greg Neely

      i read somewhere that you cant load any drivers to the tv so anything like wireless keyboard will not work without its driver

    • Valentin

      HelloI bought 4 months ago the LG 32LW5500 but I have not taken advantage of all the “qualities” (say so) because when you´re conected on the Internet you need to do a lot of work typing the web address… that you end up with the remote control and battery.My question is: There is any wireless keyboard with integrated mouse (not the nonsense of “magic motion” LG) that is compatible with this model of TV.I called the dept. LG technician and I was told that “officially” does not exist. Sure as you’re going to say …. you know our product is compatible with, say Samsung or Logitech or who knows any other manufacturer. They say this because they dont want to loose clients  buying another product than LG. I saw something on e-bay but donno if the USB port dongle recognize the keyboard or if the TV recognize the dongle …. so I´m aiting for some helpSee if anyone could help me.thank you very much
      valy_lov at hotmail.com

  • Greg Neely

    Tv suddenly lost access to iview also never been able to record to usb internet connection is not good wont use flash so can watch anything on the net

  • Greg Neely

    has anyone been able to record to usb ive tried numerous drives to no avail

  • lgcankissmyass

    LG makes crap and they don’t care! The Media Link app is broken and has been for almost a year. They appear to be doing nothing to resolve the issue. In addition to the Media Link issue my 50PZ950’s browser was built with an outdated version of flash player that can not be updated. When I complained to one of their techs I was told “We never advertised that it would work”. Now that’s company that really cares about the quality of their product.

Subscribe to We Got Served

Get the latest news and reviews from We Got Served in your inbox. Simply add your name and email address below. You can unsubscribe at any time.

x