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The TVs: Smarter, curved, and in gorgeous 4K that finally clicks

Susie Ochs | Jan. 10, 2014
CES 2014 is packed with wearables (even for pets!) and incredibly cool car tech, but the show's bread and butter is still TVs--the bigger and more over-the-top the better. We scoured the press conferences and the sensory overload of Central Hall until our ears were ringing to identify the newest trends coming to your living room...if not this year, then eventually.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that curved TVs just have a high-end, expensive look — and they'll be more expensive too. Will the better viewing experience be worth the extra price? For many people, no. But if you can afford it, they sure are nice — we even chose Samsung's 55-inch U9000 Curved UHD TV as our favorite entertainment product from CES.

Smart and getting smarter
Every single TV we saw at CES was a smart TV. That means they connect to the Internet and feature web browsing and apps: think Netflix, Pandora, Spotify, Skype, Vudu, games, and many more. The problem with smart TVs up until now has been just how confusing and messy the interfaces can be. In fact, according to the NPD, the vast majority of smart TVs are used for watching regular TV, maybe listening to music, and that's about it.

The smart TVs at CES are trying to correct this, but some take creepier paths than others. Panasonic's TVs let you customize a home screen for each user, and as you favorite things it learns your preferences and hopefully suggests things you'll like. Oh, and it knows who you are because it recognizes your face. In fact, all you have to do is walk by the TV for an Info Bar to pop up with the time, date, and weather.

Vizio's made its entire lineup of TVs smart (although the entry-level E series sets are also available in non-smart versions), and switched from the Google TV platform to Vizio Internet Apps Plus, based on Yahoo Connected TV. The navigation is much improved, and the remote control makes it easier to search for content thanks to a backlit QWERTY keyboard on the rear.

But our favorite interface is from LG — the company is using webOS to completely revamp its smart TV platform. The new launcher is a scrollable menu that pops up along the bottom of the screen, letting users flip through the cards and choose new content without having to go back out to a home screen.

LG is also trying to simplify setup by sending an animated character named BeanBird to walk you through connecting your new TV to your network, cheering you on after you complete each step. And as you plug in external devices into your TV, webOS helps recognize them and pop up relevant menu options automatically.

Better yet, LG's newest LAB540W model SoundPlate will let you add advanced features to your current TV, including Bluetooth, connectivity, and the same smart TV interface. So even if you aren't ready to take the plunge into 4K or a brand-new smart TV, you won't be left behind.


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