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Summary:

Should you buy an Internet-enabled TV? Before you get all app-happy on the big screen, read this cautionary tale of a so-called smart TV from Vizio crashing, crashing and crashing some more.

vizio apps

Here’s something I didn’t imagine when I hooked up my brand-new Vizio XVT553SV TV last week: It crashed. Again. And again. And again. The culprit? Turns out the “smart” Internet apps made my television really dumb.

While there was no blue screen of death, this particular kind of televised crash was equally frustrating. Here’s what happened, why I returned it and the potential problem with these Internet-enabled TVs.

Setting the Scene

The Vizio TV uses the Yahoo Widget platform to provide web access to video services like Amazon VOD, Vudu, Netflix and more general apps like Twitter, Facebook and more. The TV was hardwired to a beefy 50 Mbps connection, so bandwidth wasn’t an issue.

The beauty of the smart television set is the ability to use one remote to control the TV and cable, as well as renting movies over-the-top. No more switching inputs; no more using three different remotes.

That beauty turned ugly real quick.

First, navigating through the apps was slow. Then scrolling through the individual apps — like searching through Amazon’s catalog or my Netflix queue — was even slower. It was much slower sifting through those catalogs on the Roku.

Crash Into Me

The first crash(es) happened on the very first night. The aforementioned lag when searching through Amazon’s catalog froze the TV and then made the screen go dark. I had to power-cycle the TV to get the picture back. This happened again the very same night.

To its credit, Vizio’s customer support is top-notch. I tweeted about the issues and the company sent me a note, hooking me up with its online chat. The suggestion at the time was to uninstall and re-install the app. Okay, perhaps that was just a bum install of Amazon at the factory or whatever. I did as they said. This didn’t get rid of the lag, but Amazon didn’t crash again.

The third crash happened a few days later when my wife was trying to rent a movie through Vudu.

The TV was one week old at this point.

Once again, I contacted Vizio customer support, this time by phone. Once again they were very nice, and this time they instructed me to basically wipe the TV and restore all the factory settings. While it was a hassle to go through and re-register the TV, and to re-set up all of the settings, perhaps this was the silver bullet. I was also told at the time that this was the only fix to keep apps from crashing.

So let’s hit pause for a moment. If the apps, which had crashed on me three times across two different services already, continued to break, I had to do a factory reset each time?

Patience was wearing thin.

Camel’s Back Broken

Cautious, I gave the TV one last chance. I’d fired up Netflix and started watching The Larry Sanders Show when the TV froze the video but kept the audio going and proceeded to crash. For those keeping score, that’s four crashes across three apps in one week.

So, back in the box to be returned it goes.

Perhaps I just got a bum set and no one else has these issues (if you have, leave a comment below), but this is a problem with turning a TV into something more like a computer. If my Roku crashes, I can still watch TV. But when the TV crashes, I have to resort to something like (shudder) reading.

I’m on the hunt for another TV now (again, any suggestions, leave below), and while I still like the idea of the smart TV, buying another one before the technology is more mature might just be dumb.

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  1. Sad story but if the TV goes down, with all the services you mentioned, there is still a PC app available. Reach for the Notebook and put that other book away!

    TK

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    1. That is SO not the point…

      If you are buying a TV for these features you’d expect it to do what it says on the box.

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    2. It’s just that attitude that allows product manufacturers to get away with this kind of garbage time and time again. You have to be willing to stand up for your rights as a consumer and make sure you get what they advertise, not just roll over and let them rape your wallet.

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    3. No. How about the consumer should just get what they paid for? There’s nothing wrong with that.

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  2. You don’t mention what kind of internet connection you have at home? Maybe your pipe is not big enough to support a connected TV. This is not AOL dialup…

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    1. Hey Steve,

      I did mention it. I had the Comcast biz class 50 Mbps connection hardwired to the back of the TV.

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      1. And it shouldn’t crash just because there isn’t enough bandwidth, anyway.

        I think those apps are all kind of half assed. I just use my Roku and AppleTV instead.

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  3. And I was looking forward to internet TV!! :(

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  4. Let a tv be a tv, and a computer be a computer.

    Get a Boxee.

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  5. Good piece Chris. The very thought of a TV crashing is irritating, but the idea that we will have to find, install, put our information in, and update apps on our TV is just not what I think of when I sit down to watch TV…ugh. I’ve got at least 3 devices that are better for interaction than my television — my laptop, my iPad, and my smart-phone. My TV is, frankly, for mind-numbing or engrossing entertainment.

    I’ve submitted a blog post for our corporate site on this very subject. Look for it soon on Rovi’s website.

    Richard Bullwinkle
    Chief Evangelist, Rovi
    @rbullwinkle

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  6. I have to say that I haven’t seen a real compelling reason for an internet connected television yet. Widgets are the best anyone has been able to come up with yet they seem to fall short on a giant communal device. I don’t want my wife checking her Facebook on “our” screen. Watching tv and having a tablet seem like the best use case for me right now. Maybe when we can play doubles against others on Jeopardy or enjoy other television shows… somehow… then it’ll make more sense. As if there were apps that television shows could launch. I got it! Imagine this: American Idol comes on and a voting app comes up on the screen. News comes on and a “more info” widget comes up on the screen… now we’re getting somewhere.

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    1. You’re right. Widgets are pretty widget-y right now, but that will change. Though I think for social apps, the two-screen experience is the way to go.

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  7. While it sucks for sure I think it’s to be somewhat expected from any new tech. Growing pains if you will.

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  8. Here is an idea that has worked good for me. Just buy a blue-ray player with a wi-fi connection like I did and stream your movie content through it. If that crashes you’ll still have a TV. Furthermore, let’s face it, not to bash Vizio but it isn’t exactly at the top of the food chain when it comes to that type of technology. I got a Sony blue-ray unit with built-in wi-fi and it works perfect across my wireless internet. Try it out. Just an idea.

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    1. exactly which sony product did you get?

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  9. Nice header. Same reason my next phone won’t be an iphone.
    The messenger still cant deliver to me when i need.

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  10. Rick Mainstreethost Thursday, January 27, 2011

    Pretty sad, they must improve on this. It will take off in the next year or two. mainstreethost

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