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Free upgrade to LG's 2014 Smart TVs coming soon, along with DirecTV access

The company's Web OS TV operating system will see an upgrade to version 2.0 in 2014 models, for better responsiveness and more features. The company's 4K models will also gain access to DirecTV's 4K content.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Free upgrades to the newest software version are par for the course with computers and smart phones, but new territory for Smart TVs.

On September 21, LG will release a no-cost software upgrade that takes all of its 2014 TVs from version 1.0 of Web OS to version 2.0, the same version on 2015 TVs.

The new version offers a few interface tweaks and improves shortcuts, including the ability to add TV channels directly to the launcher bar (above), but surely the most welcome improvement is in response time. Web OS 1.0 feels positively pokey compared to its successor.

When it first announced the upgrade last spring, LG told CNET that the upgraded OS will be "more than 1.5 times faster" then the current version on 2014 TVs, with the caveat that the exact increase is subject to change before the roll-out. We've asked LG for an updated number, but didn't receive it by press time.

By comparison, according to LG Web OS 2.0 on 2015 TVs performs "slightly greater than 3 times faster" compared to 2014 TVs running Web OS 1.0.

This is the first system-wide, no-cost version upgrade to Smart TV operating systems I've seen. Roku TV s have also received numerous free software upgrades, but the overhaul didn't seem as extensive -- although it did add features such as My Feeds. Most Smart TV upgrades, when they happen, are on an individual app level.

LG's chief rival Samsung does offer Smart TV (and other feature) upgrades via Evolution Kits and OneConnect boxes. The catch is that they're available only on certain higher-end TVs, and they cost $250 to $400. The closest it has come to LG's level of free upgrade is tweaking the initial menu bar of its 2014 TVs to look more like the 2015 version (complete with an ad).

LG's press release spells out how the upgrade to version 2.0 will proceed:

Owners of Web OS 1.0 TVs who have the automatic update option enabled will receive the upgrade automatically. If automatic update is not enabled, users will receive a pop-up message on their screen to guide them through the easy upgrade process. LG's 2014 Smart TV series that will receive the update are: LB6300, LB6500, LB7100, LB7200, UB8500, UB9200, UB9300, UB9500, UB9800, EC9300, EC9700 and EG9700.

DirecTV Ready coming too, including 4K content

LG also says that on September 2, select 2014 and 2015 TVs with Web OS will get the DirecTV Ready app. It allows subscribers to watch DirecTV's programming on the TVs without having to connect an external box.

Subscribers who have DirecTV's Genie HD DVR will enjoy full DVR access, and those with 4K TVs will also get access to DirecTV's library of 4K movies and TV shows.

Samsung's 2014 and 2015 TVs also have access to the DirecTV Ready app, including the 4K version. DirecTV also offers its 4K content to subscribers who don't have DirecTV Ready TVs, but whose sets still have compatible inputs.

Apps for iHeartRadio and Rdio are also coming to Web OS soon.