Sunday, March 25, 2012

YouTube on LG Smart TV Upgrader Box ST600 Review

I've decided to make another blog entry about the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box ST600. This time I wanted to write about the/my YouTube experience using this box.

When I first got the box and used it to watch some YouTube clips/videos, I was not overly impressed with it. The videos would pause/buffer often even when I was sure that my internet bandwidth was more than sufficient to support the stream because I didn't have the same pausing/buffering experience with watching NFB videos or Netflix videos using the same box (and the same internet connection).

However, after upgrading the firmware to ST.8.79.202, I would like to say that I'm satisfied with the video/audio quality that I'm getting when I'm watching YouTube videos with the box.

The YouTube screen has a menu on the top of the screen which shows 8 options: Featured, Recent Videos, Most Viewed, Top Rated, Search, History, Sign In, and Local Site.

I don't spend a lot of time using my box to watch YouTube videos. I will do the occasional search on a specific video or topic such as "Nikon D5100" and I will watch a few videos on the topic. The video and audio quality that I've experienced with the box and the ST.8.79.202 firmware update is very good. It used to buffer/pause a lot with the older firmware but now, the buffering/pausing that I used to get is as rare as what I see with NFB or Netflix. You can either watch the video fullscreen or using ~40% of the screen where the remaining 40% of the screen is the video description with 20% of the screen shows some of the LG Smart TV Upgrader box's menu options and titles/headings).

I've tried to watch some of the free movies available on YouTube that I've seen on my computer using the LG Smart TV box but these movies are apparently not supported since they don't show up when I try to search for the movies. The pay movies also don't show up in the search.

I've logged in using my YouTube account (actually using my Google account) and it doesn't seem to give me any additional functionality except to give a different history list. The videos that I watched on my computer were not reflected in the history list on on the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box even though I was signed in using the same account. The only thing that I think that signing in might allow for (although I haven't tested it) is the ability to watch videos that have a more mature rating.

I've also changed the Local Site setting from "Worldwide" to "Canada" and I didn't notice any difference in the menu or the items found in the search or videos selected in the other menu options.

Overall, I would say that I'm satisfied with watching YouTube videos using the LG Smart TV Upgrader box (although as I mentioned, I don't use it a lot for watching YouTube videos).

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

National Film Board of Canada on LG Smart TV Upgrader Box ST600 Review

I've decided to post another review (3rd review as of the date of this posting) about the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box ST600 but this time dealing with using it to watch material from the National Film Board of Canada. The first review that I posted was a general overall review and the second review that I posted dealt with using the LG Upgrader box to watch Netflix content.

Please note that I am basing this review from Canada so depending on your location, the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box might not allow you to access material from the National Film Board of Canada.

As of this review, the firmware/software on the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box is ST 8.79.198.

Before getting an account on Netflix, I used the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box to watch material from the National Film Board of Canada.

In terms of the video and sound quality, I find it to be very good. I would say that it stops/buffers less than both Netflix (which rarely stops/buffers) and YouTube. I believe that all the material available on the National Film Board of Canada's website is available using this box.

I've watched mainly political documentaries but there are also a lot of cartoon shorts including the famous "The Sweater" by Sheldon Cohen which is a cartoon from Quebec about a boy much to his dismay whose mother buys him a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater to replace his Montreal Canadiens sweater. Something that I was surprised to see was "Hitman Hart - Wrestling with Shadows" by Paul Jay.

If you enjoy content from the National Film Board of Canada, you shouldn't have any issues with using the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box to watch the content. My main negative comment is only the amount of content available and the type of content available. However, it is the same negative comment that I had regarding using the box to watch Netflix Canada content.

I find the NFB search feature of the LG box to be very good. It is much better than what is available with the box for Netflix content. The NFB search on this box will search keywords whereas the Netflix search feature using the same box doesn't do this.

All in all, I'm very satisfied with the video/audio quality that I get with the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box when I am using it to watch material from the National Film Board.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Samsung Series 5 3G Chromebook Review

I've been using/testing a Samsung Series 5 3G Chromebook for a few months and decided to post a review of it after a few of my friends asked me about it.

In case you haven't guessed based on my other blog entries, I'm located in Canada and as of the date that I'm writing this blog entry/review, the Samsung Series 5 3G Chromebook is not widely available in Canada (it is actually not being sold in Canada unless you can find it through private sellers). I managed to get mine during a recent trip to Las Vegas.

The first thing that needs mentioning is that in order for the Chromebook to be useful, it absolutely requires access to the internet. There is very little that can be done with the Chromebook if it is not connected to the internet either via WiFi or via the carrier's data network. The Chromebook that I purchased is the 3G model which includes 100 MB per month of data from Verizon Wireless in the US and it also has a 3G SIM card slot (carrier unlocked) in case the owner travels outside the US and/or wants to use a SIM card for data.

The premise behind the Chromebook is that most users use their computers/laptops for internet use whether it is to check their e-mail, browse the internet, access their social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook Google+, etc. or watch online videos.

The first thing that I like about the Chromebook is that it boots up almost immediately (under 10 seconds). After logging onto to the Chromebook (using your Google account), the user is presented with a Chrome browser (similar to what you would get on a Microsoft Windows machine). You then use the browser as you normally would to access the websites that you would normally access. I didn't have any issues accessing most of the websites that I would normally use.

You will notice in the specs that the Chromebook does not have a very large capacity in terms of the hard drive. The reason for this is that it assumes that all documents that you would create will be stored in the cloud (Google Docs).

In terms of what you can and can't install on the Chromebook, you can install Chrome applications/extensions (web applications) from the Chrome web store similarly to what you can do with Chrome on a Microsoft Windows based machine.

If you are someone who uses Google products a lot (Gmail, Google Docs, Google+, etc.) and the majority of what you want to do is web based, I believe that you might consider getting a Chromebook. I've tested Netflix on the Chromebook and it works very well. SlingPlayer also works but requires a workaround (you have to go through Facebook).

The negative things that I want to mention about the Samsung Series5 3G Chromebook is that the battery is non-removable and the memory can't be upgraded. Also, I find that the default setting for the touch pad is not as good as the ones that I've used on other netbooks/laptops. After configuring the touch pad based on your Google account, it functions a lot better but the moment you log out, it reverts back to the default settings until you log in again.

Another negative aspect that I've noticed is that because the Chromebook requires internet access, it can sometimes have problems accessing public hotspots which require you to agree to certain conditions found on a webpage before internet access is granted. The way that you are supposed to do this if the Chromebook is powered on from a powered off state and not in suspend/sleep mode state is that you must first access the Guest account and then use the browser within the Guest account to agree to the WiFi hotspot terms/conditions. After doing this and verifying that you have access to the internet with the Guest account, you would then log out the Guest account (making sure that you don't shut down the Chromebook) and log in with your personal Google account. However, as mentioned, I've sometimes experienced issues doing this. To solve this issue, what I normally do is that I keep my Google account logged in and leave the Chromebook in a standby/suspend state. When I lift up the lid of the Chromebook, I will log into my Google account with the password from the suspend/sleep state. From the power-off state when you turn on the Chromebook, it will try to authenticate your Google account and will fail because you don't have access to the internet before you accept the hotspot terms/conditions whereas from the suspend/sleep state, it is only using your password to unlock the screen and doesn't immediately require access to the internet.

The things that I like about the Chromebook is that it boots up very fast and the battery lasts longer than any of the laptops/netbooks that I've used in the past. When I want to do something fast (like check a website), I will normally use a tablet but now with my Chromebook, I find that I'm using my Chromebook more than my tablet. The ChromeOS also updates automatically in the background and after an update, you only have to shut down the computer or reboot the computer in order for the update to be applied.

It is very unlikely that the OS in the Chromebook gets corrupt but in case you want to reset the Chromebook back to factory defaults, it is very easy to do this and the instructions can be easily found on the internet (a blank USB memory stick is required to do this).

For Samsung's usage guide to the Chromebook, you can click *HERE*.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to write them in the comments section below.