Today, Vizio is announcing a completely overhauled homescreen experience for its TVs that will eventually make its way to models dating back to 2016. The new interface looks sleeker and more modern than the company’s existing SmartCast operating system. And Vizio went the direct way with branding: the new software is simply called Home Screen.
Just take a look at the revamped user experience and it’s immediately clear where Vizio got its inspiration from: this basically looks like its own streaming service. All the telltale signs are there. A column of navigation icons on the far left? Account. There’s the usual hero slot at the top with compelling artwork, custom fonts/logos, and autoplay video.
It’s much easier to see at a glance which services your content recommendations are coming from, as little badges are now included with the cover art. Vizio says it will also display Rotten Tomatoes scores and parental controls from Common Sense Media on the detail pages for shows and movies.
Home Screen comes with its own universal watchlist that can collect content from various entertainment apps. But that comes with the usual exception of Netflix, which always refuses to participate in these things. Everything seems more cohesive and intuitive than SmartCast OS. The latter always struck me as a bit cobbled together ever since Vizio pivoted away from its ambitious cast-everything strategy (remember those Android tablet remotes?) and realized that people want built-in apps without jumping through hoops to get there. come.
Home screen now feels more like Google TV with its large presence of recommendations and a customizable app row. (Your TV inputs also appear in this row.) But that navigation on the left really reminds me of Netflix, Max, and every other major streaming app under the sun. There you will find sections for live TV, free on-demand content and more.
It should come as no surprise that Vizio will push its WatchFree Plus FAST service, but all the extra features that SmartCast offered – casting, AirPlay, etc. – are still accounted for with Home Screen. The company has also polished up its search experience with a more user-friendly virtual keyboard and added new genre/collection pages with their own carousels of recommendations. The “app catalog” now feels more like a real app store and has improved findability for finding under-the-radar streaming apps.
It’s fair to think of this as a fresh coat of paint, but I’d say a modernized UX is something Vizio desperately needed as it continues to compete with TCL, Hisense, and now cheap sets from Roku itself. The company still makes excellent TV hardware, and Home Screen seems like a step in the right direction to ensure Vizio can keep up on the software front as well. The redesigned Vizio Home Screen software will roll out to “most” of the company’s smart TVs starting in 2016 and beyond in the coming weeks.