Getting the internet on your TV used to be so complicated that all but the most savvy tech-lovers (or struggling, geriatric WebTV users in 1997) didn't even bother. But now that we get more of our video from the Web than ever before, the Powers That Be have deemed it time to bring the two worlds together yet again. The first Google-ready home-theater equipment is rolling out now, so we spent a couple days with Logitech's Google-TV-ready Revue set-top box so see what happens when worlds collide. All told, Google has done what it's advertised in a more seamless way than anyone has before, but a few hiccups keep it from playing nice with everything you'll wanna watch.
Google TV is the first search engine for your TV. A Google TV (GTV) capable device is one that will allow you to search and view Web video on your TV without having to connect to a computer. The first such device is the Revue by Logitech. The small Intel Atom-powered box nestles itself between your existing cable box and your TV, overlaying GTV's engine atop your own cable feed. What's special, though, is how the overlay is done: Google has not only brought its omnipresent search bar onto your TV screen, but built an entirely new indexing system specifically catered for Web video streaming and searching. Taking listings from your cable company and the Web and marrying them into one source-agnostic results page. "I don't care where my stream of Community comes from, I just want to watch it now." That's the underlying premise of Google's seemingly seamless integration of two different content sources.
Shows' Index Pages: When you enter the title of a show into the GTV search bar, you aren't met with the usual Web-style list of random websites and blogs; what you see, rather, is a pulldown menu of sorted links. If there's an air date of the series upcoming, it will appear at the top of the list. Following that is a result labeled "series" which sends you into an index page with a show summary and an index of all the current episodes with links to the various sources that carry them. A grid displays what shows you can see on live TV, what you can stream for free, and what you can stream for a price from a service, such as Amazon Video On Demand. Grabbing all those network streams, though, is a trickier proposition (more on that later).
Smart Display: Even if you're not searching for a series, GTV's default engine creates an index page of videos relating to almost any search query (be it an actor, film, place, what have you). Entering "Morgan Freeman," for instance, brings you to a thumbnail-based spread of movies he's in that are available to watch (either though channel guides or streamed from the Web). Below that is a listing of Web video clips matching your keyword search, accompanied by thumbnails. You can also, naturally, choose to do a plain ol' Web search, which will bring you to the regular Google homepage.
Queue: Think of the GTV queue as a DVR for video streams. When you land on a show index page, there's an option to "add series to queue." This will then add any new uploads of episodes of that show to a queue on the GTV home screen to let you know there's new content ready and waiting.
Picture in Picture: You can do anything you like in the GTV interface and still keep a live TV image in the corner of your screen. Say you're watching a live NFL game and want to check on your fantasy team: hit the PIP button on the keyboard, fire off a search in the integrated Chrome browser, and check you stats and watch the game on the same screen.
Google TV Ready Sites: Several sites, most prominently the Google-owned YouTube, have re-coded their sites to be GTV friendly (much like sites designed to be easy to use with a Wiimote). Instead of having to browse to them in Chrome, each site has been re-skinned for GTV, using it as a portal. YouTube Leanback, for one, instantly launches videos into full-screen high-def with related-video thumbnails strung across the bottom of the screen.
What's On: Say you're in the mood to watch, I dunno, something, but you're not sure what. The What's On menu sorts whatever's on the air right now into categories. In the mood for a movie or football game? Each one is listed individually along with its channel and how much of the airing is left.
The Keyboard: Kudos to Logitech. Their GTV remote, as all are required to, has a full QWERTY keyboard, but this one is especially comfortable, so much so that I was able to do the lion's share of my navigating without ever having to look down. The layout of the directional keypad is intuitive, and the integrated search button pulls up the search cue no matter what screen you're in.
Lack of Network Streams: It makes perfect sense that the major TV networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) aren't huge fans of GTV; they want to have full control over their shows being piped into our living rooms--and hopefully make some money in the process. And while watching a free Web stream on NBC.com on your laptop may not seem drastically different than doing it on your Google TV, to the networks that's a terrifying proposition. Think of it this way: why would anyone even need a broadcast if they can just search and instantly play a free Web stream the day after on the best screen in the house? You don't even need a DVR to time-shift anymore. So, naturally, most of the major networks have blocked GTV from streaming their Web content, and only sad "this video cannot be played" boxes appear where your Modern Family stream should be. In essence, this is currently hamstringing the very heart of GTV. We hope soon they'll all find a way to play nice. Oh, the same goes for Hulu, too, kids.
Apps: The same complaint can be made of GTV as can any new platform: there's not enough being done with it--not yet. Out of the box, GTV has a small suite of apps, and for the most part their content isn't is particularly robust. Netflix is the main offender; you can only access your instant queue--no search, no recommendations--which is miles behind the leading Netflix integrations on the Xbox 360 and Apple TV. It's especially sad in comparison to Pandora, which has full functionality of the website. Still, developers are hard at work coding the next-gen of GTV apps, so hopefully this improves soon.
Browsing: While anything that will render in a Chrome browser will display in gorgeous high-def through GTV, using it for general-purpose surfing is not ideal. Sure, we were able to load Facebook and PopSci.com easily enough, but navigating through links with a tiny pointer on a massive screen can be a frustrating experience. Stick to pre-programmed GTV Web-based apps and their more user-friendly large buttons and fonts.
Integration: Almost there... While Google TV can search your guide, unless you have DISH Network, it won't play nice with your DVR. On our TimeWarner box, it could see upcoming listings for shows, but couldn't tell us if we had it recorded and saved locally, nor could we tell our box to record a particular show airing right from the Google TV menus.
$300 for the Logitech Revue box and keyboard.
It'll be interesting to see where GTV goes once its place in the home-entertainment marketplace settles down--along with networks, of course. What'll be most interesting, though, is to see how developers use its SDK to create new, interactive apps. Given access to closed-caption information, a script could easily be run that live translates all the dialogue into any language Google Translate supports. Or, IMDB entries can be automatically linked to guide listings based on metadata and keywords. The key for those apps, though, is focus; this is not a gaming platform, nor is it a place to deal with text. Google TV is just that: TV from Google, with the TV first, Google second. A strong focus on media, video streams, and dynamic content will be what helps the platform truly shine.
I haven't read the review just yet... all I can think about is, "I want that keyboard - where can I get the keyboard?"
Well, as I found out halfway through reading the article when I stopped caring about the Revue and started looking for the keyboard, they don't have it separately on Amazon. = ) It's very nice. I've been looking at remote options for a Boxee Eeebox, and that's the second-nicest I've seen.
GoogleTV doesn't look bad, except for that it costs way too much money.
I already use a very inexpensive piece of software for watching tv online called TVdevo.com It's not Google TV,but it is a heck of a lot better when you consider the cost.
I would pay the $300 bucks if I could put Windows 7 on it. Why logitech and gigabyte made it so hard to boot to a real OS is beyond me.
I'll stick with my Lenovo Q150 until someone else produces a similar CE4xxx htpc.
Actually, the keyboard is available from Amazon. Search "logitech revue" at Amazon and you'll see it for $100.
I wonder if it would work ok with a pc?
Isn't Google TV the exact same thing as getting a video out coverter for your computer's video card and simply hooking it up to your TV?
You would get much more than just TV, media player, etc.
Electrical Engineering Inventor/Programmer/Designer
Vale Varka Systems.com
Also, TV online is the same as getting a coaxial TV card from Newegg, right?
Electrical Engineering Inventor/Programmer/Designer
Vale Varka Systems.com
What about those people who have over-the-air tv? I would pay $300 if it had a tv tuner and it was able to manage the listing of the OTA tv, but unfortunately the only input it has is HDMI. I don't want to pay for cable or satellite, there's internet and it has a lot more to offer.
I currently have a Roku box and I love it. Huge Google fan, but I'll pass this one.
yeah... I use a some pretty cheap software called the internet and vlc. it cost me nothing. Oh. I did have to use a HDMI cable but I think I had one lying around. I really dont see why you have to be all that tech savy to simply use your TV as your monitor (or a secondary) and use the internet like you always do. I really dont get whats so hard about that and why would we want to pay apple or google for it.
I have the Moxi DVR and I am able to see what I've recorded and schedule recordings from Revue. The recorded shows don't show up in a search, but are available by going to the recorded section of the DVR guide. I think most of the cable DVRs are so old they don't interface properly with the Revue.
There are some things that aren't discussed in most of the reviews of Revue. The Revue should get a lot of customers into the Google cloud. If you use gmail, Google Docs, Google Reader, Google Notes, etc, you have access to everything you normally use. If you're not already in the Google cloud, you can upload the documents from your computer to Google Docs for easy access. Google TV allows you to Bookmark the stuff you use regularly so it makes it very convenient. Videos you subscribe to show up in Google Reader and your bookmarks from Chrome on your computer are automatically available in Google Docs. These are all very useful features that are rarely discussed.
A major advantage of the Revue over other implementations of Google TV is the inclusion of the Logitech Harmony universal remote software, which recognizes almost any device in the world. I can controll all the Moxi DVR features. my ten year old Denon DVR, and my TV from the Revue keyboard, which incidently, has a very nice touch typing feel and all the necessary control keys.
Another advantage of Revue is access the Logitech Vid for video calling using the TV Cam. Although, I don't know what the advantage of the $150 TV Cam is over the Logitech C910 which appears to be the same camera for $99.
In the previous post, that's a Denon AVR, not DVR.
I'm very satisfied with the Logitech Revue thus far, with it being WiFi it's much more convenient for me then running extra cables into my TV room. The apps are great it being nice and slim work for my set up. Also as a DISH Network employee I know that it cost's only 179$ to DISH subscribers. I agree the keyboard is amazing, the touch pad is very responsive it's more comfortable on my lap then I first thought a keyboard would be.