Is It Me, Or Are TVs Getting Friendlier?


On my recent visits to see the latest TVs, I started to get the sneaking suspicion that the interfaces were getting more user friendly. I mean, that isn't hard: TVs have notoriously bad interfaces, and unless you are Brian Lam or a member of the AVS Forum, you might have a hard time calibrating your TV to exacting specifications. Do I have evidence from Sony, Philips, Mitsubishi and others that they are in fact responding to these silent cries for help? You bet.

Sony is now using the XMB (cross media bar) interface developed for the PSP and the PS3 in its Sony Electronics products, such as the Mylo, a new receiver or two, and most new televisions, starting with the 37-in. Bravia KDF-37H1000 rear-projection LCD. See the XMB interface:


Now see the Bravia's XMB interface superimposed over the PS3's XMB interface (just for fun):


When I was checking out the new Mitsubishi LCDs, I had a look at their NetCommand system for assigning remote control commands. While the system itself has been around a while, the colorful higher-res visuals make the whole thing easier to figure out.


I asked David Katzmaier, TV reviewer at CNet, whether he thought I was onto something, and he replied speedily with more examples to the affirmative.

On a new HP:

This has a "simple menu" option that limits the number of controls available in the OSD. In simple mode, you can't adjust any of the picture parameters directly, just shuffle through modes.

On some new Samsungs and Sonys:

Like many new TVs, all Samsungs and Sonys have text explanations of various menu items. When you select "Size" in the Samsung's menu, for example, the explanation reads "Selects the picture format according to source. The P SIZE button on the remote accomplishes the same function." This is a great substitute for reading the user manual. And of course, Samsungs play their little chime to let you know the TV is turning off and on. While annoying, it's also good feedback especially for sets that take awhile to warm up (DLPs for example). Sony, for its part, has a highly nested menu system where simpler options appear first. It's both easier for novices to navigate and more annoying for experts to find the item they want.

My favorite example is a Philips innovation. In the following gallery, have a look at how the "eye test" approach makes tweaking picture information so much easier.

Now, am I wrong, or are TV's getting friendlier? I'll let you have the last word on the subject.

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