It's been yet another rough year for connected TVs, but that isn't stopping Best Buy from jumping into the fray. The new Insignia Connected TV is the first smart TV from the retail giant's house brand, and it's also the first connected TV that runs the TiVo interface. That's just the interface, mind you -- there's no DVR in there, and you'll still need a cable or satellite box to watch and record regular TV, a problem that no connected TV vendor can solve until the cable industry decides to open up. That said, Insignia's optimized and improved the things it can control: initial setup includes a network speed test and automatically programs the remote to control your set-top box, the TiVo search shows results from a variety of supported streaming services including Netflix and CinemaNow, and there's even a built-in slot for a RocketBoost wireless audio card so you can easily add compatible Insignia and Rocketfish wireless headphones and speakers. Pricing is extremely aggressive: the 32-inch model is $499, while the 42-inch version is $699. We got a quick peek at the TV last week -- read on for some impressions.


 

As you may know, the modern TiVo platform runs on Flash, and Insignia is extending that foundation by adding in Chumby apps, which are also built in Flash. Twitter, Facebook, Photobucket, Accuweather, and Reuters are all preloaded, and you can add other Chumby apps at will. We also noticed that the YouTube player was just the stock Leanback Flash experience, which is a pretty neat trick -- Insignia's getting a lot of mileage out of Flash on this thing. There's a single core Broadcom BCM3349 processor under the hood, and performance was better than any modern TiVo we've experienced. (To be fair, there's no DVR stuff running.) The apps and streaming content all worked well, but there's no getting around the simple fact that you'll see a second cable or satellite box UI just as soon as you want to watch TV -- which is probably what you'll be doing most of the time. As for the panel itself, it's a 120Hz 1080p edge-lit LED LCD, which looked fairly good to our eyes when we previewed the TV in a bright conference room, but we'll wait to see it in a regular room before we make any serious judgements.

Best Buy was pretty open about the challenges of building a smart TV without serious support from the cable industry, and they say the Connected TV is just a first step -- the retailer was also among the early partners in Google TV, and it'll sell both products side by side, along with connected TVs from other manufacturers. Eventually the company wants any TV to be able to access any content without any additional hardware -- the easier it is to watch more content on every TV, the easier it is to put TVs in different places, and the more TVs Best Buy can sell. We'll see if Best Buy can turn that clever realization into sorely-needed changes in the TV market, but for now the Connected TV is about as far as it can go without entering into the hell that is CableCARD -- we'll see if it goes far enough when we get a review unit.

Insignia Unveils Connected TV with Award-winning TiVo® Design

Insignia’s Smart TV is first to combine the power of the Internet with acclaimed TiVo user interface, all in stunning HD

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (August 1, 2011) – Best Buy’s own Insignia brand today announced the arrival of the new Insignia Connected TV. Insignia Connected TV customers can simply enjoy broadcast and online movies, shows, and music. Simple, easy entertainment is what customers want in a TV, and Insignia delivers on this through its TiVo® Design partnership, providing award-winning Tivo ease-of-use, all without a paid TiVo subscription. The new Insignia Connected TV will be available in 32- and 42-inch models for $499 and $699 respectively, on BestBuy.com and at Best Buy stores nationwide.

Insignia’s Connected TV features a breadth of entertainment options from the most desired services, including Netflix, CinemaNow, YouTube, Pandora and Napster, plus popular entertainment and social media applications from the chumby content network, such as Facebook, Twitter, Photobucket and more. Developed by Insignia from the ground up, including ease of setup and ease of use based on Best Buy customer input, the Insignia Connected TV directly solves the most common challenges consumers face with other, more complicated Smart TVs. In partnering with TiVo, Insignia created a product and interface that offers consumers an experience that is easy to use, easy to connect and easy to find.

  • Easy to Connect: Connecting to broadcast and online entertainment is a snap with an easy step-by-step guided setup. The Insignia Connected TV virtually sets itself up!
  • Easy to Use: Insignia brings the fun back to TV entertainment, with all of the Insignia Connected TVs powerful features at your fingertips through the award-winning TiVo Design interface.
  • Easy to Find: Insignia makes discovering new online entertainment a breeze by allowing customers to search for online movies and shows from the most popular services.

"The Insignia Connected TV gives our valued customers a new way to easily set up and access the entertainment they want, when they want it," said Patrick McGinnis, vice president of Exclusive Brands at Best Buy. "We’ve heard from customers that Smart TVs can be intimidating, and we’ve put 110% of our energy into making the powerful features of the Insignia Connected TV easy to enjoy."

"TiVo has evolved from its roots as the DVR that changed the way consumers interact with entertainment, allowing us to customize and deliver solutions that best meet the needs of our partners like Insignia," said Jim Denney, general manager and vice president of Product Marketing at TiVo Inc."The Insignia Connected TV is the result of great collaboration and we are proud to bring the TiVo experience to this leading consumer electronics brand and innovative product."

As part of Insignia’s ongoing partnership with leading content platform chumby, the Insignia Connected TV comes preloaded with the most popular chumby applications, including Twitter, Facebook, Photobucket, Accuweather, Reuters News and Sports, Stocks and Traffic. Customers can customize their experience by selecting additional content from the chumby network, which supports hundreds of applications for the Insignia Connected TV. It also benefits from chumby’s wide network of developers working on new content, and Insignia will continue to update and add applications to the Connected TV as new, high-demand applications become available.

Additional product features and technical enhancements include:

  • LED: Thin, elegant design and energy efficient, a perfect fit for modern households
  • 1080p/120Hz: Stunning picture quality with full HD and clearer fast motion
  • Enhanced audio: Music and dialogue never sounded this good from a flat panel TV, enabled by Audyssey and SRS
  • Rocketboost-ready: Wireless, uncompressed digital audio input to the TV or output to speakers such as the Insignia Soundbar and the Rocketfish Outdoor Speaker

More information about the product visit www.bestbuy.com/insigniaconnectedtv.