LG 55GA7900 Google TV £1899
14th Jan 2013 | 22:35
Voice search powers this web-savvy set
You use Gmail all day long, increasingly run Chrome, and have been known to watch the odd YouTube video, so why should you desert your beloved Google-made goodies when you sit down in front of a supposedly smart TV? You shouldn't, thinks LG, which has made this luscious-looking Google TV especially for Google users.
However, if last year the prospect of a Google TV was a genuinely exciting 'watch anything from the web' idea, now it seems like just another tweak to smart TV – but Google software lovers will adore the 55GA7900.
Google TV is nothing more or less than a mod to LG's existing Smart TV user interface. It has the same three panels on the home page dedicated in turn to a live TV thumbnail, Premium apps (such as Netflix, Lovefilm, and in the UK version, the BBC iPlayer), and – new for 2013 – My Interest, which appears to be a rolling news service based on a genre you select (world, business, sports, etc).
It also retains 3D World (the 55GA7900 is also a Cinema 3D telly) and LG's SmartShare panel, one of our favorite media streaming platforms, on swipe-able panels.
It's across the bottom that the Google action begins, with LG's usual roster of apps now added to or replaced by Chrome, TV & Movies, YouTube, Google Play (though don't expect to be able to download any app you might use on your phone) and a voice search app. These apps can be customised and replaced or added to by a quick drag 'n' drop.
This 55-inch 55GA7900 is one of seven Google TVs in LG's line-up for 2013, with its 47-inch variant joined by five models in the step-down GA6400 Series. All use a special Google TV version of LG's latest-gen remote called Magic Remote QWERTY, which has the same microphone built-in, but adds a full keyboard on the reverse.
The standout combo is PrimeTime, which searches the TV and the web for anything you ask it. It's best used with the Magic Remote QWERTY's mic, which uses surprisingly sensitive 'natural speech recognition' for voice searching, and it really works.
Even in the noisy environment of the CES show floor, a call to find the 'movie about a casino robbery in Las Vegas' elicited the hoped-for Ocean's 11, complete with a link of where to watch it on-demand, or even purchase it. It first searches live TV before looking at content in the TV's apps, and lastly does a web search.
Using the Magic Remote pointer (think a Nintendo Wii nunchuk), it's a simple interface to navigate – and at time it's incredibly nuanced and stylish, For instance, it's also got a wise EPG that lets you find movies, comedy and other genres on live TV; scroll through a pop-up menu on the left-hand side and cover art or thumbnail images appear for each title.
The Google TV architecture then delivers its last surprise with a YouTube smartphone/tablet app, which allows a video played on a handheld device to be pushed to the TV. Simple – and brilliant.
The 55GA7900, which includes a TruMotion 200Hz backlight scanning mode and Cinema 3D skills (as well as the dual play option for full-screen 2D gaming for two 3D-spectacled players), is a step-up option even judged purely on picture quality. It runs LED Plus, code for some local dimming that appears to jack-up contrast, while new for this year – and something we've seen on Samsung's stand, too – is the inclusion of a subwoofer in the TV to boost sound.
We've liked LG's smart TV interface for a few years, but the integration here of some rather simple but highly polished Google TV features makes the 55GA7900 a rather special set. OK, so Google TV isn't quite as ambitious as we were once promised, but as a mod to existing smart TVs, we think it really works – and the voice search is the icing that makes it click.