We give you the lowdown on Samsung’s 2015 Tizen smart-TV operating system, including the user interface, app store, web browser and multimedia features.
Just like a good smartphone, a good smart TV will be easy and enjoyable to use – but it doesn’t necessarily follow that software originally designed for smartphones will be any use on a TV – so what’s Samsung up to with its Tizen operating system, originally developed for phones and now found on its flatscreens? Is it a smart move? Let’s find out.
Best Buy TVs – the best TVs in every size, for every budget.
Samsung Tizen overview
Launched on 2015 TVs, Samsung Tizen has a brand new design and layout, with little in common with Samsung’s old TV interface. It’s available on 5-Series models and above, so you only have to spend just over £250 top enjoy it.
To get started, you press the ‘Smart Hub’ button on the remote and a bar appears at the bottom of the screen, giving access to apps, the web browser and other key features – all presented in brightly coloured icons.
The bar changes dynamically to display the services you use most frequently. And because it runs at the foot of the screen, you can keep watching TV programmes in the background while using it.
Overall, we found the menu system reasonable to use, but the quality of your experience will depend on the type of TV you have – the design works better on bigger screens, for example, and navigation is easier if you have Samsung’s ‘smart touch’ remote rather than just the standard model.
To see Tizen in action, take a look at our video overview.
Samsung Tizen features
Tizen app store
The Tizen app store has a similar structure to the old Samsung smart-TV platform. You can search for apps by name or genre and there are plenty of great services available, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and more. Some apps come pre-installed while others you’ll have to download. There are options for ‘most popular’ and ‘what’s new?’, along with individual categories. The app browsing experience isn’t a huge improvement on the previous system, but that wasn’t bad anyway, and finding what you want is usually pretty straightforward.
Our rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Tizen web browser
The new Tizen browser looks much more stylish and modern compared to the old one – if you use Chrome or Firefox on your laptop, you’ll feel right at home. You can enjoy tabbed browsing, and inputting text for searches and web addresses via the virtual keyboard is relatively simple with the stock remote, and easier still with the smart version. You can access your browser history, set favourites and also zoom in on webpages if you’re struggling to read the text. You no longer get picture-in-picture like you used to, but can instead use the ‘multi-link’ feature, where half the screen is used by the browser and the other by what you’re watching on TV – again, this works better on bigger screen sizes.
Our rating: 5 stars
Tizen multimedia player
Although not strictly part of the smart-TV features, Tizen TVs also support a range of multimedia functions, such as showing photos, videos and music stored on a USB stick or hard drive. Called ‘my content’ and accessed from the ‘source’ menu, the Tizen multimedia player benefits from a refreshed, modern design, and playing files and filtering your choices is simple enough. However other changes over the old player are less successful – for example, previously you could hover over a photo and read info such as image resolution and the date it was taken, but now you have to dig into the menus to see that, making browsing a little more sluggish.
Our ratings: Photos 5 stars, Videos: 5 stars, Music: 5 stars
Our verdict: We expected Samsung Tizen to deliver a significant leap forward from the brand’s old smart-TV system, but beyond the streamlined look and feel it’s actually a fairly modest improvement. It is better, though – and aside from a few minor quibbles, it’s one of the best smart-TV systems available.
Samsung is not the only game in town, however, as there are other big names involved in smart-TV. Can LG, for example, beat its big rival with the latest incarnation of webOS? Find out next week.