Real-World Testing: SmartHub
Samsung has been in the smart TV game for a while, and the refinement that comes with experience really shows in its second-gen implementation. The interface runs through a 1.35 GHz quad-core processor and is very responsive, both to the remote and when pulling in content from the cloud.
Pressing the SmartHub button on the controller brings up a program guide that’s based on your local cable or satellite service. When I set it up, I had to enter my zip code and the name of my provider, Bright House.
In the upper-left, you can see the image from the active input (in this case, it’s an Oppo Blu-ray player). The thumbnails represent featured programming and upcoming shows. If you use a cable or satellite receiver, they're largely redundant and you don't have access to DVR functions or on-demand content from your carrier.
Swiping to the right takes you to a screen where you can buy or rent movies from Samsung or services like Vudu.
If you have a Vudu account, you can purchase 1080p content with up to 7.1-channel surround sound. This is an easy way to browse without starting up a separate app like you would with Netflix or Amazon, for example.
The next screen is the social media center. The photo shows a YouTube feed, but you can also interact with Facebook and Twitter. It’s easy to make Skype video calls using the F8500’s built-in camera and microphone. The only requirement is that you link your various accounts to Samsung first. Then you can access them right from the SmartHub.
SmartHub ships with a large suite of apps. Of course, you can download even more from Samsung if you want. Many of them offer direct access to sports and news feeds, as well as popular services like Instagram amd Amazon shopping.
Naturally, there's a fully-functional Web browser built-in. I used it with the remote, though a Bluetooth-attached keyboard and mouse would likely be even easier. In the lower-left corner is a small Tools menu that pops up with a remote key. It gives you direct access to resources like Netflix and Amazon, as well as menu functions like screen size and picture mode.
Here’s the familiar Netflix interface. I was able to log in quickly, browse content in my queue, and use the search function. Thanks to the quad-core processor, it’s extremely responsive to remote commands. Content loads expediently, and the picture quality was excellent with few compression artifacts.
Samsung includes a gateway to locally-stored content in the SmartHub. You can browse the files on devices connected via USB, HDMI/MHL, WiDi, or the cloud (that can be a local NAS device or something from an Internet resource). File format support is quite extensive, including nearly every video, photo, and music codec in use today. If you have a home-based media server, you won’t need a separate bridge device to bring your content to the screen. SmartHub 2.0 seems to cover all of the bases.