Channel management is usually nothing to write home about. How hard can it be to create a list with your favorite channels inside and navigate through them? Sony however screwed it up so badly that it deserves an entire section.
Due to a lack of comprehensive manual it is hard to find the place where to create or edit your favorite channels. The ACTION MENU is your best friend. However, while the favorites editor is entered via the ACTION MENU, the full channel list editor is to be found in the Settings menu.
Actually the whole Digital Setup is a total mess, far from a common structure or common naming conventions. Sony for example distinguishes between Digital and Satellite. The term Digital in this case refers to cable (DVB-C) and terrestrial (DVB-T/T2) reception. And why in the blue hell would you call your channel search/scan facility Digital Tuning?
The favorites editor, seemingly being Google software, is actually quite good. It is fast and usage is intuitive. One thing I desperately miss though is the ability to organize several channels into what is called a bouquet (channel group). All channel lists on the Sony are completely flat.
Favorite channels, even though being re-sorted, retain the channel numbers from within the full channel list, resulting in the favorites channel numbering not being consecutive and impossible to remember. Navigating favorites via numeric buttons therefore isn’t much fun. TV Guide and Discover menu at least provide a linear list to scroll through.
Another flaw of the favorites concept is that the TV event search uses the full channel list instead of favorites only, returning TV events from channels you might not be able to watch (e.g. due to a lack of respective pay TV subscription). With latest Marshmallow update, the TV events returned by search don’t even show the name of the corresponding channel anymore. So you are completely blind as to whether you are able to watch or record the events returned by search or not, rendering it completely useless.
The most convenient way to switch between full and the up to four favorite lists is by using the DISCOVER menu. What is really annoying though is that the TV quits “favorites mode” all the time, effectively re-activating the full channel list. This for example happens every time you leave and re-enter Live TV (also when switching the TV off and on), or when using the numerical buttons on the remote as favorites don’t have their own numbering.
The flawed favorites implementation forced me into maintaining the full channel list, effectively turning it into a favorites list of its own. The respective editor inside the TV, this time being Sony custom software, is hardly usable however. After having moved or deleted three channels, the bad usability (for example using replace/exchange instead of insert semantics) and unresponsiveness of the UI have already driven you crazy. In the end it turned out that maintaining the full channel list wasn’t worth the effort either as the TV decided to re-sort channels every night. Disabling Auto Service Update solved this issue but for some unknown reason also killed the automatic guide updating in standby, see TV Guide. And without a comprehensive TV Guide, search again becomes useless. So this is nothing but a vicious circle.
Sony is perfectly aware of the troublesome in-TV editor and made a special deal with the SetEdit developer, providing the Sony edition of the tool (called Sony Editor) for free to customers, simplifying the editing of channel lists and the creation of favorite lists by using a Windows PC. Buying into this tool perfectly demonstrates how incapable of action Sony is concerning their own software on the TV.
While commercial SetEdit version is at 1.22, the free Sony Editor has been at 1.17 for several months now, suffering from some annoying malfunctions. SDBEditor is probably the better alternative, but unfortunately being another Windows-only tool. Source code is publicly available though.
A platform independent web-based thingy (like SamyCHAN) or mobile app would be a much nicer solution, directly connecting to the channel list on the TV. PCs and particularly Windows are not that popular anymore. Fiddling around with files has also lost its cool.
Another problem for which I fail to find any workaround is that it does not seem to be possible to maintain a list with both, DVB-C and DVB-T channels. Scanning DVB-C wipes DVB-T channels and vice-versa.
Also when performing a full auto scan, all previously scanned channels are wiped, even the favorites, requiring one to start from scratch. So in order to add missing/new channels, you can either hope for the Auto Service Update to catch them up over night or get acquainted with the rather painful manual frequency scanning. After finding and entering the correct parameters, the desired channels will hopefully be added to the channel list. My results have been… well… inconsistent.
Auto Service Update in most cases is more of a pain, with channels either getting re-sorted, reappearing upon deletion or even disappearing all the time.
I wonder anyway how Sony maintains satellite transponder/frequency lists for the full auto scan. At least I couldn’t find a way to manually exchange/edit them. I don’t think that a “full scan” performs a full-blown blind scan. So you can either perform a network scan and hope for the NIT (Network Information Table) to be up-to-date and complete on the predefined transponder or as mentioned resort to manual frequency scanning.
Channel management is more of a gamble on Sony. Typical use-cases have just not been thought to the end. Detailing all flaws and bugs would probably go beyond the scope of this review. Hopefully I haven’t lost you already…