I Returned My ‘Smart TV’ Because the Apps Were Dumb

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 (s YHOO) Widget platform to provide web access to video services like Amazon VOD (s AMZN), Vudu, (s WMT) Netflix (s NFLX) 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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