Whether you're after BBC iPlayer, streaming movies, some on-demand 3D action or something else, smart TV is quickly maturing.
A range of apps are available on connected TV services offered by all the big manufacturers, bringing social networking to your living room screen alongside television series streaming, music, gaming and more.
But which is the best smart TV platform?
Here we separate the connected kings of television from those playing catch-up, and present them in descending order of greatness, to try to help you when choosing a new TV.
1. LG Smart TV
LG gets the nod largely because of its oh-so-simple design that puts seemingly disparate sources of video onto one home screen.
Our favourite part of LG's smarty-pants user interface hasn't got anything to do with apps, but rather with networking. SmartShare software displays any video, photo or MP3 file stored on a networked PC, Mac or NAS drive, USB flash drive or HDD, on the home screen - and as a thumbnail image.
It's beautifully simple, and file support is huge, though for those wanting an even more comprehensive treatment, LG also offers the Plex app.
Beloved of rampant downloaders and networkers it might be, but SmartShare is made complete by a thoroughly decent selection of apps - and that includes a useful 3D World.
The Premium page hosts BBC iPlayer, Lovefilm, Netflix, Acetrax and YouTube, with lesser-known apps comprising Absolute Radio, Red Bull TV, ITN, Autocar, YouTube, Blinkbox, CineTrailer, Cartoon Network, HiT, Picasa, iConcerts, AccuWeather and Box Office 365.
The SmartWorld app store, however, contains little of note aside from Skype, which requires adding LG's AN-VC400 smart TV camera/mic. It's not got the most extensive choice of apps, but LG's Smart TV platform succeeds on ease of use - and spectacularly so.
Six LG TVs with Smart TV:
- LG 50PM670T 50-inch Active Shutter 3D plasma TV
- LG 47LM860V 47-inch Cinema 3D LED TV
- LG 47LM760T 47-inch Cinema 3D LED TV
- LG 47LM960V 47-inch Cinema 3D Nano LED TV
- LG 55LM660T 55-inch Cinema 3D LED TV
- LG 47LM670T 47-inch Cinema 3D LED TV
2. Samsung Smart Hub
Sheer volume of apps wins the day here, though Samsung's Smart Hub has a polished look to it, too. It's strong on movie streaming services, counting new service KnowHow and niche film finder Curzon On Demand alongside PictureBox, Lovefilm and Netflix.
For once, BBC iPlayer isn't the sole source of catch-up TV, with the slick ITV Player app onboard, too. Common apps such as YouTube, Viewster, Dailymotion, Absolute Radio, TuneIn radio, Vimeo, HuffPostLive and FluxPlayer join in, but it's Smart Hub's exclusive apps that appeal most.
It's constantly evolving, but as it stands, Smart Hub's unique apps include Spotify, ITV Player, Curzon, Digital Theatre (live recordings of stage plays), Yabazam 3D, S[edition] (contemporary art) and myriad fitness apps and simple games.
Why doesn't Smart Hub grab top spot? It can't be customised enough, that's why, leaving all viewers forced to use an interface built with Samsung's own apps - Family Story, Fitness and Kids - at the centre. Some of those apps might be great for families, but must we all suffer them?
Meanwhile, some flagship TVs - such as the Samsung UE55ES8000 - go further, delivering voice control, gesture control, and even chucking in a second remote control with a touch-sensitive pad on it.
Six Samsung TVs with Smart Hub:
- Samsung UE55ES8000 55-inch 3D LED TV
- Samsung UE46ES8000 46-inch 3D LED TV
- Samsung UE46ES6300 46-inch 3D LED TV
- Samsung UE46ES7000 46-inch 3D LED TV
- Samsung PS60E6500 60-inch 3D plasma TV
- Samsung UE40ES7000 40-inch 3D LED TV
3. Sony Entertainment Network
Sony has two types of smart TV - its own Bravia TVs with SEN and its add-on NSZ-GS7 Google TV box. The latter could well be included on a Bravia TV soon, but for now we'll concentrate on SEN.
SEN works unlike all other smart TV platforms, principally by combining it with Sony's own Music On Demand, Video On Demand and PlayMemories cloud storage services.
Still, the common apps - and more - are all present. The BBC trio of iPlayer, News and Sport are available, as is Demand 5 - a catch-up app from Five that's here exclusively.
These sit alongside YouTube, Lovefilm, Netflix, Sky News, Sony Entertainment Television Network (old TV episodes), Eurosport, Sony 3D, Skype, Facebook and Twitter (though the latter social media sites are separate).
In terms of presentation, SEN is now much improved on 2011, with a live TV thumbnail and an altogether clearer, more confident design that's easy to navigate.
Six Sony TVs with SEN:
- Sony KDL-46HX853 46-inch 3D LED TV
- Sony KDL-26EX553 26-inch LED TV
- Sony KDL-40HX753 40-inch 3D LED TV
- Sony KDL-32HX753 32-inch 3D LED TV
- Sony KD-84X9005 84-inch Ultra HD 3D LED TV
- Sony KDL-46HX923 46-inch 3D LED TV
4. Panasonic Viera Connect
In terms of sheer at-a-glance simplicity, Panasonic's Viera Connect is hard to beat; press a shortcut on the remote to wake the smart stuff, and another to fire up BBC iPlayer. Now that's what we like, though there's arguably not enough going on elsewhere for true greatness to be achieved.
A highlight is Rovi TV, a web-powered EPG that's a huge advance on the dreadful EPG native to all Panasonic TVs.
But of wider appeal will be Skype, Netflix, Acetrax, YouTube, Picasa, Daily Motion, Vimeo, Viera 3D World, FetchTV, BBC News, BBC Sport, euronews, CNBC Real-Time, MLB.tv, the subs-based Eurosport Player, TuneIn Radio, SHOUTcast radio, Aupeo & iConcerts.
Squillions of games and more are available on the extensive Marketplace, which sells games downloads as well as 3D glasses and other TV accessories.
Arranged in a 3 x 3 grid with a large window for a live source (TV, Blu-ray, whatever), the need to navigate up and down through different pages is a pain, but Viera Connect is very simple to customise so frequently used apps can all appear on the front page.
The best looking, best behaving and most ambitious smart TV platform around, Viera Connect nevertheless feels like a separate service and isn't integrated into the TV quite as completely as it should be.
Six Panasonic TVs with VieraConnect:
- Panasonic TX-P50VT50B 50-inch 3D plasma TV
- Panasonic TX-L32E5B 32-inch LED TV
- Panasonic TX-P42GT50 42-inch 3D plasma TV
- Panasonic TX-L47WT50B 47-inch 3D LED TV
- Panasonic TX-L42DT50B 42-inch 3D LED TV
- Panasonic TX-L37E5B 37-inch LED TV
5. Toshiba Places
Toshiba Places is an attempt to put essential apps and 'social TV' in front of families, offering all members their own log-in if they want it.
That idea doesn't really make sense unless everyone watches TV alone; is a daughter really going to log in to her Twitter account on a TV with her brother sitting nearby? We doubt it, but there's more to Toshiba Places than personalised app arrangement.
The filing system - Video Place, Music Place and so on - is nicely thought through, but also serves to highlight the fact that there's not much in each folder. The only apps in TV Place are BBC iPlayer and a MediaGuide app, while Music Place is similarly bare, with just iConcerts and Aupeo! Radio inside.
We're not sure why it's home to a Skype app, but the Video Place folder is busiest - inside is Blinkbox, Acetrax, Cinetrailer.tv, Dailymotion, Viewster, YouTube and Womi. Social Place adds Flickr, Facebook and Twitter, though only clutter comes from News Place (Livesport, Euronews, France 24 and MeteoNews).
An overly fussy user interface and long winded navigation in and out of Toshiba Places leaves it languishing near the bottom, but for those merely wanting occasional access to BBC iPlayer, it ticks that particular box as well as any - and Toshiba TVs are famously affordable.
Six Toshiba TVs with Toshiba Places:
- Toshiba 47WL968 47-inch 3D LED TV
- Toshiba 42VL963 42-inch 3D LED TV
- Toshiba 46TL963 46-inch 3D LED TV
- Toshiba 55VL963 55-inch 3D LED TV
- Toshiba 55ZL2 55-inch Ultra HD, glasses-free 3D LED TV
- Toshiba 40RL953 40-inch LED TV
6. Philips Smart TV
It's got a thumbnail that displays - with sound - either live TV or a live video source, a Tweet button and a fresh design that puts all apps along the bottom of the screen. In fact, Philips has created a roomy smart TV interface that borders on classy.
That, however, it where the good stuff ends. Sure, BBC iPlayer is included, and so is Acetrax (if you look for it), but beyond those two and YouTube there's little to get excited about.
Twitter and Facebook (combined in a Social TV app) besides, there's Picasa, iConcerts, and a link to an App Gallery that includes stuff such as CNBC Real Time, Napster, Absolute Radio, Aupeo, Viewster, Funspot, Euronews, ebay, MeteoConsult, Foreca weather, the saucy trio of Hustler, Private and Brazzers, and... Tom Tom HD Traffic. Say what?! Blinkbox, a streaming movies app, is promised to also arrive soon.
Basic and in need of some content, Philips' smart TV effort is nevertheless straightforward to use and decidedly uncluttered - though there is an uncomfortable reason for that.