New 'smart' TVs are anything but – unless you're a tech genius. We deserve better

Furious senior man with TV remote control shakes fist
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A few weeks ago I sold my friend's mother my 42-inch LG C2 OLED. For context, I sell far too many TVs to friends and family – a slightly wrong-headed byproduct of upgrading my own sets on an embarrassingly regular basis. While it felt good to pass a saving on the best 42-inch TV onto her, guiding her through the C2’s features was painful.

Let me make this clear, though: this was in no way her fault. It might be one of the best TVs available today but the LG C2 (like basically all modern sets) is absolutely awash with features your average user will never understand, let alone use.

As an AV obsessive with Terminator eyes, I go through a soul-crushing checklist every time I buy a new OLED. I dip into the OLED Care menu to run a quick Pixel Cleaning cycle to clear up any out-of-the-box, near-black vertical banding. I regularly switch between content to safeguard against any chance of OLED screen burn-in. Hell, I even bought LG’s Factory SVC remote to turn off my remaining 77-inch C2’s Auto Brightness Limiter – yes, I owned two LG C2s at the same time. I deserve your judgement and scorn.  

For your average user, the above steps will sound fairly ludicrous. And they are. With that in mind, there was absolutely no way I was going to try to explain what ABL or banding was to someone in their late ’60s who isn't a screen-tech obsessive. Even picking my battles, what struck me was that guiding this older new TV owner through features a high-end user would consider rudimentary was quite the challenge.


Here is the Hand of TechRadar, using the 42-inch LG C2. We make it look easy! (Image credit: Future)

Pains and gains

When you start to think about it, setting up any new TV is a pain, whether you’re 18 or 80. Said pain only further shoots through the roof should it be their first set in the best part of 20 years.

As I introduced my friend’s mother to LG’s Magic Remote for the first time, I elected not to explain its motion features. After all, just the process of how to bring up the BBC iPlayer app via the home button or explaining how to switch between her Chromecast and Sky satellite box with the switch source button was already a massive change from what she'd used before.

The problems only worsened from then on. Logging onto BBC iPlayer proved one hell of a task. Forgotten email details and password resets via the BBC website were soon the order of the day, and when I told her we’d have to repeat this mini-Herculean feat for All 4 and ITVX, the daggers she cast in my direction could have sliced steel.

That her DVD player and Sky+ box were both old enough to order a gin and tonic didn’t help matters much, either. Having to explain the difference between a SCART socket and an HDMI cable to someone who's had no reason to look at the back of their TV in 17 years is like trying to split an atom with garden shears. Suffice to say, the news that she’d have to order a Sky HD box and a 4K Blu-ray player to get the most out of her shiny new OLED didn’t go over well.

The LG G2 OLED shown off in a briefing to TechRadar.

HDMI, USB, ARC… what chance does someone without a mental library of abbreviations have? (Image credit: Future)

C2 the light

Thankfully, when we finally got into BBC iPlayer and watched a minute or so of David Attenborough’s bewitching Frozen Planet II, all of the above woes quickly melted away. Fiddly logins were replaced by gobsmacked awe at the C2’s incredible contrast and colors, and I could instantly tell my friend’s mum was delighted by her purchase.

And that’s what a new TV should provide any buyer, regardless of age: frictionless wonder at how far screen technology has evolved. Deciding to leave the proud OLED owner and happily rehoused C2 on a happy note, I elected not to spoil all the 4K polar bear wonder by mentioning the upcoming Netflix password sharing crackdown as we put her son’s login details into the streaming app.

The moral of this rambling tale? There’s far too much finicky busywork that goes into setting up a TV in 2023, especially for someone who hasn't upgraded in a long time. While many of you may know your Wi-Fi passwords off by heart, spare a thought for relatives who can’t even remember where their routers are, because it was set up by someone else in the family, or an engineer, or whoever – in the case of my friend’s mother, it was squirrelled away on a shelf inside a cupboard. 

It’s why I feel newly passionate about upcoming TVs in 2023 streamlining the initial setup process. Whether we’re talking about the best OLED TVs or budget offerings in the best 32-inch TVs, manufacturers should be taking extra steps to make setting up a TV as pain-free as possible.

webOS and flow 

The upcoming LG C3 is one TV that looks like it could provide something closer to the friction-free installation that most casual TV buyers would appreciate. Thanks to an updated webOS platform, the C3 boasts Android-like Quick Menu and Quick Settings features, letting you access recently used apps, the TV’s Game Optimizer or picture settings in a flash. For those allergic to deep dives into increasingly complex menus, the C3 and LG G3’s webOS should be a welcome time-saver.

LG G3 on wall at CES 2023

Just tell it what kind of images you like, and it customizes the picture! More of this, please. (Image credit: Future)

For people like my friend’s mum, LG’s new Personalized Picture Wizard (which we took a look at in our early hands-on LG C3 review at CES) should also alleviate the fear factor of stumbling upon the right image settings. Rather than any discussion of individual presets or intimidating settings, webOS serves up a series of images, then asks you to choose the two you prefer the most. It’s a feature that promises to make following your aesthetic sensibilities that much more intuitive, offering an easy eyeball test for those not familiar with pouring over complex calibration slides on YouTube.

The TV industry may not be geared towards elderly users, but there’s no reason manufacturers can’t introduce features to make the process of setting up a new LED, QLED or OLED TV less daunting for people who aren’t overly tech-savvy.

With more features like the LG OLED C3’s Personalized Picture Wizard, perhaps a time will come when older and/or non-techy owners of new TVs will find booting up a set for the first time no more daunting than turning on a lamp. By then, future-me will probably be looking to sell Mrs Glen his 16K micro-OLED TV…

Dave Meikleham

Dave is a freelancer who's been writing about tech and video games since 2006, with bylines across GamesRadar+, Total Film, PC Gamer, and Edge. He's been obsessed with all manner of AV equipment ever since his parents first bought him a hideously garish 13-inch CRT TV (complete with built-in VCR, no less) back in 1998. Over the years he’s owned more plasma and OLED TVs than he can count. On an average day, he spends 30% of his waking existence having mild panic attacks about vertical banding and dead pixels.