Thursday November 4, 2010 5:36 pm
Google TV review
Google launched into the TV arena last month with their very own platform, Google TV. With it, they hope to compete with the likes of Apple TV, Roku, and of course, your cable connection. Unlike its competitors however, they haven't made a hardware device, but instead a platform which device makers can integrate into boxes which you connect to your TV, or into TVs themselves. This platform boosts to bring the best of the web and TV together, into a system where you can add features, search for shows and do so much more. But does this Google TV deliver?
The first devices to come out with Google TV are the Sony Internet TV and the Logitech Revue, both having been released in the past weeks at stores all around the country, with plans to expand worldwide in the coming months, and into next year. Both products offer a similar experience, since they both run the Google TV platform, and it's mostly a choice of whether you want the system built into a TV, or if you want to add a box to your existing TV.
The first thing you'll notice out of the box is the remote, and after all the good promises of the two products, that's where things start going down. Both remotes include a full keyboard, plus many other buttons, all crammed into a TV remote. From now on, you have to control your TV with a computer keyboard, and that's one road block many people will not be willing to pass. Then, the installation of the system can be somewhat of a pain. While the hardware installation is fairly straight forward and well explained, the first thing Google TV will want to do is a long, painful update, which may take half an hour of downloading fixes and updates to your TV. You'll also need to go through several installation screens where you need to select your Internet connection and various other details. Again, not a good first impression.
Once everything is setup and in working order, the platform works fairly well. You can watch your cable TV, or watch a variety of Internet based video services from YouTube, to Netflix and Amazon On Demand. You can even do full web browsing, listen to music from Pandora and look at Flash based web sites. Unfortunately, while Google TV runs Android, there is no way to add apps to your TV quite yet. The marketplace should launch at some point in the future.
But the main issue with Google TV is in the details. Once you start using it on a regular basis, assuming you can get past the initial reticence at using a keyboard to control your TV, then you'll find various little issues. For example, you can go on Twitter while watching TV, but the way it's setup, the tweets take the whole screen, and the video is a tiny box in the corner, with no way to change it. Then, at various times, Google TV will want to update itself. When that happens, a big popup window will appear in the middle of your TV asking you to reboot. Finally, while this is supposed to be the ultimate combo of TV and web based videos, you'll find that some services have decided not to support it, and if you visit Hulu, you'll be denied access because you're using Google TV.
The bottom line is that Google TV very much feels like a geeky product, something for people who like to mess around with their TVs, not for an average consumer who just wants to use it. This platform also feels like a 1.0 version, where many things are not ideal and should be changed for a future update. Overall, I would not recommend Google TV in its current form, as the benefits added over something like the Roku Box or Apple TV don't compensate for its complexity and added price. It's a 1.0 product though, and we definitely see where improvements can be made and things can be cleaned up to make the future of the Google TV platform shine--it's just not there yet.
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