YouTube for Yahoo TV Widgets

We spent some time with the YouTube widget for Samsung HDTVs as part of our updated look at the Yahoo TV Widgets platform .

The "snippet," or collapsed form of the widget as it appears on the dock, only serves to launch the program. The Yahoo Video widget, pictured here in snippet form, allows users to scroll through the snippet for video categories, in this case "Movies," that have been marked as favorites.

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Photo by: Sarah Tew / Caption by:

Main window of the widget

When expanded, the main window provides quick access to a number of familiar features, including links to all sorts of top video categories, channels, and the search feature.
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Full-screen YouTube widget

Selecting any of the options on the widget window (except for Channels, which opens an additional but currently nonfunctional submenu) wipes the screen of whatever you were watching and loads a full-screen YouTube client that bears resemblance to the Web site, only cast in black.
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YouTube widget search feature

One truly unique feature, a live-updated search, is really impressive, at first, as it provides a search service similar to OS X's Spotlight. After you input each letter using a virtual keyboard on the left side of the screen, the right side is populated with a list, complete with thumbnail previews, ratings and descriptions, of matching videos.

As seen in this picture, the search is neither suggestive nor predictive. When we tried searching for videos of Coldplay, we didn't get any relative content until we had typed "Coldp," and even then these were mostly fan-made cover songs and low-view videos.

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YouTube widget search feature, cont'd

Only when we typed out the full word did we get the results we expected. This ended up being a bit tedious and wasted time, since after each key press, the program freezes for a second as it updates the search results.
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Search results

When you finally do get the results you're looking for, they are very nicely presented and informative.
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Widget video player

The actual video player is available in window form and full-screen, which, like other YouTube clients for TV, stretches out a video regardless of display ratio to fill the 16:9 screen. It also automatically plays the next related video, which is particularly useful when watching multi-part videos.

While video quality was about the same as other YouTube clients we looked at, the widget did lack a number of key features available on other TVs.

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LG's YouTube solution

The LG 47LH50 has its own dedicated YouTube client that's separate from the Yahoo widgets system. It's one of the better looking and performing ones that we tested. While the set runs Yahoo TV Widgets, LG opted for its own YouTube program over a widget.
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Searching on the LG

The LG remote utilizes the number pad for searches in the same way a cell phone does with text messaging, although it can't always keep up with fast fingers. While the Yahoo widget's search feature is visually more impressive, we found the physical keypad to be a much more efficient method than a virtual keyboard.
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Playback on the LG

The LG 47LH50 uses buttons on the remote for a number of dedicated features, including pausing, seeking through a video and switching to full-screen. During playback, a progress bar shows both how much of your video has been downloaded (the gray bar) and how far into you are (the blue bar and red arrow).
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Viewing and marking favorites

You can also sign in with your YouTube account to view your favorite videos. During playback, a dedicated button lets you mark a video as a favorite. This, along with the ability to seek, are sorely missing from the Yahoo widget.
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Sony's YouTube client

Sony, which can run Yahoo TV Widgets, also chose to use its own YouTube program, seen here on the KDL-52XBR9. While not as visually impressive as the LG, it does offer similar features and is the only set we tested that preserves aspect ratio when watching in full-screen. It also has some unique features, like the ability to sort video searches and rate videos.
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Panasonic's YouTube client

Panasonic's G10 and V10 plasmas with VieraCast don't support Yahoo TV Widgets, but do have a YouTube client. Like the Yahoo widget, it has the ability to automatically play the next related video, but also offers this as a changeable option, as does the Sony.
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