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Smartphones push TV outside its box

Sep. 29, 2011 - 02:54PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 29, 2011 - 02:54PM  |  
LG 55-inch Class 55LW5600
LG 55-inch Class 55LW5600 (LG)
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Some of the latest and best-reviewed smart TVs:
Samsung 55-inch Class 8000 Series
• 1080p 3-D LED HDTV
• SmartHub provides pre-installed apps to access Netflix and Facebook, among others. AllShare wirelessly syncs a PC and other digital devices for full-screen playability.
• $3,499.99
LG 55-inch Class 55LW5600 (pictured)
• 1080p 3-D LED HDTV
• Reviews praise its ability to convert 2-D content — movies, TVs shows and even games — into 3-D.
• $2,399
Samsung 32-inch Class 6000 Series
• 1080p LED HDTV
• ConnectShare Movie lets you watch videos, play music or view photos from a USB drive. Simply plug your USB directly into your Samsung TV’s USB port.
• $899.99
Sony 32-inch Class Sony Internet TV
• 1080p LED HDTV
• "The world’s first and only HDTV powered by Google TV."
• $499

From the battlefield to the big-box stores — smart bombs and missiles to Smart cars and smartphones — technology won't stop getting smarter. Now even the boob tube is getting brainier, blurring the line between computer and TV.

What's making the difference? An Internet connection, of course. The latest Wi-Fi-enabled TVs merge techno-beauty with Web-powered brains to create a breed of TVs that give new meaning to brightness control while integrating other smart devices such as phones, game consoles and Blu-ray players.

Industry experts say sales of smart TVs are expected to more than triple in the next four years as smartphones — and a new generation of made-for-TV apps — become a bigger part of the viewing experience.

Apps have already made the jump from the phone onto TV screen, allowing viewers to access everything from Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and YouTube to Facebook, Twitter and Skype. Meanwhile, smartphones are now just as likely to serve as a TV remote, DVR programmer and Netflix queue manager as a small-screen viewer.

"Integration across several platforms is a driving trend in the consumer electronics market today," says Roque Muña, an analyst with IHS, a consumer electronics research company.

Apple TV helped kick-start that convergence by allowing consumers to upgrade their existing TVs with its plug-and-watch box, and rumors persist that Apple will launch its own line of TVs.

Online giant Google isn't waiting to find out.

"Google TV in set-top boxes brings another point of integration into the home," Muña says. "Similar to Apple TV, Google will have the flexibility to integrate its newly acquired mobile and tablet platforms with televisions, giving consumers access to Google TV content while possibly providing a secondary interface for apps in the Android market."

Packaged with the Logitech Revue TV and as a stand-alone box, Google TV is now also fully embedded in Sony's latest line of HDTVs.

Meanwhile, more manufacturers are building their own app-enabled HDTVs. Samsung's Smart Hub provides access to Netflix and other online providers, while its AllShare feature allows you wirelessly tap into digital content already on your home network, including computers, cameras and smartphones. Other models allow you to tap content via USB drive.

And smart can mean more than just accessing content. The powerful processors aboard LG's latest line of HDTVs, for example, are drawing praise for their ability to convert regular 2-D content into eye-popping 3-D on the fly.

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