Rating: ★★★★½

With the advent of services such as Hulu Plus, Amazon VOD, and of course NetFlix a lot of people are finding it hard to justify continuing to pay for a cable subscription.  One of the issues though, is that if you have a non-internet connected television, then you need to either drag computer everywhere you want to watch things (kinda hard with a desktop), or purchase something that enables your TV to connect to the net.  This is LG’s incursion into that field…

Normally when I want to watch Netflix, I use my PS3 to do so (or the 360 when I’m feeling adventurous), so I was kind of skeptical when the Smart TV Upgrader showed up here, after all how much use could it really be?  It’s not like I ever used any of the other services (besides YouTube) that it connected to – NetFlix had everything I needed, so how much would I actually have this thing on?  Well, as I soon discovered, quite a lot actually.  What started out as me wearily testing out something I figured I wouldn’t care for, quickly turned into me constantly using a product that worked great.

The LG Smart TV Upgrader is unbelievably simple to set up for any TV that has an open HDMI port – just plug in and go.  You can do extra things like connect an optical cable if needed, and an Ethernet cable if you want a wired connection, but neither are necessary.  The internal antenna for the Smart TV Upgrader’s WiFi has a really good amount of range, and I was able to pick up a good signal throughout my house (even in the back upstairs room where reception can be spotty).  Setup of the WiFi was simple as well – just like connecting a laptop or a gaming console.

The response time in the menus could have been faster (in fact that’s one of my biggest complaints) – in a world where everything is moving faster all the time, the menus on the Smart TV Upgrader are sluggish.  The remote is also very small and basic (plus the up and down navigation buttons on the one I received needed to be pressed hard to get any kind of response), and could easily get lost I would think.  I’m all for making things smaller (the actual Upgrader itself is very small), but with three kids and five dogs, remotes tend to get lost in my house.  As an option though, you can download a remote for your iPhone, or Android powered smartphone, and then you can hide the little remote for emergencies.

The Smart TV Upgrader also has Apps you can download, but I didn’t see anything really that great to bother with.  It’s a fairly new product in the USA though, so I’m hoping that will change down the line.  If you look at their Korean library, there are a large number of apps there (some of which I’ve been told are really good), so I would sincerely hope that they bring those over.  Another thing it has is a web browser – but I’m not sure anyone would ever use it.  I mean it’s a nice feature and all, but I feel like it was just a bullet point for the back of the box.  In a day and age where practically everything else has a web browser though, I can see why they did it.

The biggest selling point for the Smart TV Upgrader is the sheer amount of services it connects to.  Want to listen to music without your computer?  It’s got Pandora.  Want to check out something on YouTube?  It’s got you covered there too.  Want to watch something on VUDU or DivxTV?  Yeah, it’s got those too.  I’ve seen other boxes like this before that don’t connect to half of these services, let alone new things like Amazon VOD.

Something else that was truly useful for me, is that it allowed me to stream content on my own computers to it.  Since I have a number of digital movies downloaded to my desktop, it was very nice to watch them on the big TV with really no extra effort involved.  The Smart TV Upgrader also supports playback via a usb memory stick (for pictures and the like).

Because of how much use the Smart TV Upgrader has been getting in my house, and because of the ease of use, I’m rating it with four and a half stars out of five.  If it was a little faster, and had more useful extra Apps, it would have gotten the full five.  As it is though, this is probably the best solution out there for doing what it does.

Pros:

  • Super easy setup
  • Connects to a wide variety of services
  • Very tiny and pleasing form factor

Cons:

  • UI is slow
  • Not many Apps yet, and the ones there are “o.k.” at best
  • Menu design could be better

You can get the LG Smart TV Upgrader from Amazon for $107.99










Staff