Sunday, January 19, 2014

After the Smart TV debacle: what we really want

Years after everyone else, I reluctantly retired our 25yo SONY Trinitron CRT and it's (free, subsidized) A/D converter box and naively bought a Samsung Smart TV (Wirecutter, you are dead to me.)

The crapware infested box and usability were bad enough, but an thread on intrusive ads overlayed on an Apple TV input brought the full horror home.

My Samsung experience, and the strange death of rabbit ear (OTA, "over the air") media recording in America [1] made me think more about what kind of TV we really want. I think it would be a set of modules like this:

  • Plain display with simple speakers, single HDMI input, no tuner, no remote.
  • Separate Tuner/DVR and switch control. 4-5 HDMI in, single HDMI out, digital audio and analog audio out, speaker connections, antenna connections.
  • Apple TV

I can imagine some permutations, but I think this is the right setup. Given the subsidies that support Smart TV prices [2] the way to build that today is to buy a Smart TV, don't connect it to the network, set the input to HDMI 1 and hide the remote. Then buy something like the (overpriced) $250 Channel Master DVR+ and an Apple TV.

Sure, Samsung could change their Smart TV so an internet connection was essential, but they won't. There aren't enough geek customers to bother with the customer complaints; we will get subsidized by Smart TV's victims.

- fn -

[1] After a 5-7 year hiatus solutions for recording OTA digital broadasts are reemerging -- albeit at $250 price points instead of the $80 one would expect given parts costs. Why is this? I think some mixture of bad patent law, DMCA, and probably illegal conspiracy and price fixing between cable companies and content owners.

[2] Revenue comes from the things that the Smart TV delivers.

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