In the infancy of smart TVs, Samsung was the leader when it came to functionality and their smart features. This isn’t to say that they were very good, as it took quite a few years for Smart TV platforms to mature into something comparable to external set-top boxes. Samsung’s lead was quickly usurped by LG WebOS, which was launched in 2014 and remains one of the best today.
Samsung first responded in 2015 by updating their platform to Smart Hub, based on their Tizen operating system. This was a significant upgrade, but it still didn’t match LG’s consistently updated offering. They gave the platform a face-lift in 2017 as well, switching the color palette and updating their voice control capabilities.
In 2018, Samsung added their Bixby virtual assistant to Samsung’s entire line of Q* and most N* models except the NU7100. The same was the case for the 2019 lineup as the RU7100 still lacked the feature. Bixby can integrate into Samsung’s SmartThings smart home platform, allowing you to control compatible devices ranging from lights, outlets, door locks, and even your fridge.
The interface is very simple and easy to navigate. Everything is located along a toolbar that appears at the bottom of your screen. Downloaded apps are found here as well, and you can quickly access the different inputs and settings. The interface works well, and there are a lot of animations, but on lower-end TVs, these animations can be slow.
Unfortunately, Samsung’s Smart Hub also shows ads on the home screen. It shows up in the same row as the installed Samsung Smart TV apps, and they can’t be disabled.
You can opt-out of personalized advertising in the settings, but that unfortunately just means that you’ll see very repetitive ads instead of different ones.
Apps & Features
The app selection is pretty extensive nowadays. All the popular video and music services are available and more. Fortunately, the search function is quite good, and results come up very quickly. Like LG’s WebOS and Android TV on Sony and Hisense TVs, Samsung TVs have an excellent selection of apps, and the vast majority of streaming services are available.
Voice Command was overhauled in 2017, and they are pretty good now. Other smart interfaces were updated in 2018 to search for content or apps, and also change settings, something Samsung has been able to do for two years. Even more in-depth stuff such as calibration settings are only a button press away, which is quite nice.
- Changing inputs
- Launching apps
- Basic online searches, including “What time is it?”, or, “How’s the weather in New York”
- Change some settings
It’s also possible to search within apps, but only a few apps are supported at this moment. It isn’t possible to search Netflix, for example, but it is possible to search YouTube.
The Samsung smart remote included with the high-end QLED series is excellent. It’s very comfortable to hold and features craftsmanship unlike anything else currently on the market. The controls are simple and intuitive, and it’s easy to pair with the TV and other devices.
You may notice that current Samsung TVs have done away with expansive controls such as advanced playback buttons and number keys (although the budget models like the RU7100, RU7300, and RU6900 are still packaged with a more ‘ordinary’ remote with many buttons and a full number pad). This is in line with their initiative from a few years ago, and other remotes such as the ones found with Roku TVs. This isn’t a big deal nowadays, but people using the TV tuner might prefer ordering a cheap universal remote to easily access TV channels.
The Samsung Remote App is very limited. It has recently been updated to a universal app for all Samsung smart home products, called SmartThings. The app functions mainly as a replacement remote control. It can’t stream files from your device to your TV, but some apps can stream video to your device. It can also be used for voice commands.
This is less common now than it was in previous years, but Samsung TVs often have issues with Wi-Fi connections. They’ll randomly stop functioning after leaving the TV off for a while and will require the connection to be set up again, which is quite annoying.