First impressions: Google TV delights

Logitech Revue

I simply don't understand all the fuss about Google TV delays. I set up the Logitech Revue on Christmas Eve and the family is absolutely loving it. Revue/Google TV delivers one of the best non-cable-provider set-top box experiences I've ever had testing these devices. In fact, setup and benefits make up for all the pain encountered with similar class products running other operating systems.

First the news that gets stranger: Following rumors that Google TV asked partners to pull their products from next month's Consumer Electronics Show, there's now buzz that Logitech has either suspended Revue production or shipments until Google releases a software update.

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Oh yeah? I don't see a problem, whether or not the rumors are true. I'm dumbfounded by how good Google TV is right now. I can compare to Apple TV, but not Xbox 360's integration with AT&T U-verse (I don't have one of Microsoft's game consoles).

12 Steps to TV Bliss

Initially, I found Revue setup to be daunting. I received the Google TV device late afternoon on December 22d but waited another day before installation. Based on my past bad experience with this kind of product -- and, yes, including Windows Media Center -- I was flummoxed by instruction to connect my IPTV settop box to the Revue. I figured that could only lead to trouble. How wrong I was.

Logitech provides an HDMI cable in the box, which I used to connect my AT&T U-verse tuner to the Revue, which in turn got the other cable already connected to the TV -- a three year-old 42-inch Vizio model VU42L. So HDMI goes out from the tuner into the Revue and out to the Vizio. I then turned on the Revue and TV, which launched a 12-step setup process and notification 20 minutes time would be required.

I balked at the 12-step process, which was more than Apple TV ever demanded. But Revue/Google TV would be doing more -- gulp, controlling the AT&T settop box and television. For this first impressions review, I won't go through step by step. At some point I entered my Google account ID, zip code, service provider, settop box brand and model and TV brand and model. The process seemed straightforward except for setting screen size, which required using buttons on the Revue keyboard to widen the black display area to cover over blue background.

Say Your Hail Marys

After the setup process concluded, Revue rebooted and I said my Hail Marys (Heck, I'm not even Catholic, but it was Christmas Eve!). What happened next shocked me. Revue provided unified and flawlessly functional access to AT&T U-verse features, the TV and Google TV. Based on past bad experience using this kind of device, I expected either U-verse features to be unavailable or somehow compromised. Not the least. If anything, U-verse is now better, because of Google search.

Revue's mini-keyboard replaces the U-verse and TV controllers and, quite surprisingly, offers all the functionality I normally use. I was skeptical of the keyboard, which proved to be too cumbersome with other products I've tested. But, because all the functionality I expect is there and because of the ease of searching, the keyboard is handy and confortable to use -- even for my tech-adverse wife.

Google TV starts from Revue's Home button, which serves up appropriate services/applications, such as Amazon Video-on-Demand, Netflix, television and other services. Chrome browser is also available, and it's surprisingly useful and integrated into other experiences. For example, Chrome launches access to Amazon VoD, for renting or buying movies. The experience looks like the Amazon service would in a browser. I've never been a fan of Internet on the television, with screen resolution problems being one of several reasons. But I found the browser experience to be surprisingly pleasant considering the TV is more than three years old. One browser gripe: No bookmarks sync with Chrome on PC that I can see.

Google Search opens Doors

Pretty much any content available in a browser is accessible on Google TV, although the exceptions are perplexing. Hulu isn't available as a service or application (because Google TV uses Android, applications are available, too). This morning, I went to Hulu in Google TV's Chrome browser and immediately received one of several notices the service wasn't available -- yet. But I persevered, getting as far as the video window for a TV show, at which point the final prompt stopped me. Surely, it's a licensing thing, or so I guess after observing that Starz Play is available from Netflix on my laptop but not Google TV.

From a user interface perspective, Apple TV is much more visually appealing. But I found searching for and renting movies from Amazon VoD on Google TV to be much more functional. On Christmas Eve, I rented "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" for $3.99. A notice indicated that Amazon VoD HD was coming soon for Google TV, but the quality looked plenty good enough to me. On Christmas Day, my wife and father-in-law rented "That's Entertainment" for $2.99 (for 48-hours), and my daughter and I later watched "Die Hard" streamed from Netflix. I often search Apple TV and can find nothing to watch, because of the presentation and cumbersome search capabilities. So less than two days using Google TV, that works out to two more movies rented using Google TV (and one streamed for free) than Apple TV (for the month). The Apple TV is boxed; I'm done with it.

Google search is what makes the experience so far superior to using either U-verse alone or another settop box. For example, this morning I wanted to go from a Web page to Google's main page -- something really unnecessary for searching, which can be done from the address bar. But I was fooling around. Typing "Google" brought up some unexpected choices, including "Google Baby." WTH? There's a new Google service oriented to kids? No. "Google Baby" turns out to be a program airing on HBO in nine days. Google search didn't just cover the Web but future U-verse programming. Clicking "Google TV" took me to information about the show and option to record using the U-verse DVR. Hell, that's slick, and remember AT&T's service runs Microsoft's MediaRoom software. Google search is simply amazing and, as I'll explain in a later post, may fundamentally change how I use the television -- perhaps as much as the DVR did.

That's a wrap. I may do a full review in a couple weeks, particularly if Google really does issue a major software update.

30 Responses to First impressions: Google TV delights

  1. sir-issac says:

    Hey Joe,
    You would have understood it if (like me) you had paid real money to buy this piece of shit. My bluray does a better job and it also playes, well bluray. Not sure how much Google/Logitech (I otherwise love Logitech, but this burnt) paid you for this.

    • joewilcox says:

      sir-issac Based on this experience, I would buy a Google TV device. I'll probably have to once the review is done. What kind of problems are you experiencing? Sony offers a Blu-ray player with Google TV, so you could have both in one device.

      • sir-issac says:

        Most of the channels I was hoping to watch ended up blocking Google TV, I was under the impression Google has some arrangements with content providers but now I know they were just "hoping" they won't block because its "Google", I have no idea what they were thinking. Its consumers who put up hard cash to buy these that ended up paying for this little experiment.

        PS, my blue ray is a LG player and it does a much better job with Netflix, can watch youtube and other content and is a lot cheaper.

      • dc2003va says:

        sir-issac, If you go to the setting for the chrome browser simply change the user agent to "DESKTOP" and it will unblock most of the channels. The only things that are still blocked will be hulu and abc (they are using adobe flash signature to block).

      • dc2003va says:

        Jeez someone downgraded my above comment? Must be some Mactastic Nerd Jealous their crummy Apple TV box can't do Shite.

      • Daymon says:

        Not to mention there are plenty of other places, even bigh networks (Lifetime, Spike to name a couple) that don't block Google TV.

        One thing that's mildly irritating though is Google blocked a lot of those itself in the search results, probably due to the backlash from big networks. You have to go online to find full movies, and full episodes now.

  2. Saadbox13 says:

    Same here we simply love it! Dont understand how googletv got bad reviews in the first place, we did not buy it to watch cable on demand, if thats what you were expecting it is definitely not for you

    • warisshah says:

      I have an idea why google tv might have got bad reviews - just scpeculation, mind you -
      1. tv networks hate the device because it cuts into their ad model. wink wink.
      2. it is not an apple product. the user interface is not that well rounded on first look - never mind the functionality.

  3. jjmfe says:

    Competition is good. Your comments on Apple TV are less objective. Many of us install the Boxee XMBC patch to the older Apple TV very successfully, and run around on the web. Basic Apple Tv was an excellent turnkey user experience , with all the basics, most popular movies, and a very simple user find feature. Sure worked well for me. Then I bought a Samsung BluRay player to play the occasional disc, and it plays Netflix Sports and a bunch of other stuff. Between the two pieces of hardware I'm a happy camper. Your review makes Google TV sound like an attractive option, and one that I'll certainly explore later one, But unlike your experience, I'm sure enjoying my AppleTV and Samsung net enabled BluRay player, and I don't have to have a U-verse subscription to make it work. There are LOTS of options out there. I'll look forward to trying yours out.

    • jjmfe says:

      ... oh yeah, there is the keyboard advantage that the logitech Revue has over the very very basic remote that AppleTV has too. Apple is starting to rectify that by an app for the iphone / ipod touch that lets you use a virtual keyboard to control your AppleTV. It's an interesting option. Competition is good.

  4. lindafus says:

    I just received the Logitech Revue for Christmas and set it up today. I have not been able to put it down. It hooked up easily to my Dish network 722 - Samsung LN46A850 and Sony Soundbar and PS3. I am loving this device and have no clue why anyone would give it bad reviews. It is great to be able to watch movies and surf the net and control it all with one controller! I would recommend this to anyone who loves their internet and tv to be all in one! I have not found any bugs yet.

  5. drewbyh says:

    If it had a cablecard slot for digital cable I'd more than be all in. Maybe in the next hardware release.

  6. NickFun says:

    Google, another name for Big Brother, has now captured all of our spare time and all our info to go with it! They see you when you're sleeping, they know when you're awake, they know if you've been bad or good...

    • IPad man says:

      So be good for goodness sake!
      O! You better watch out!
      You better not cry
      Better not pout
      I'm telling you why
      B-i-i-i-i-g B-r-o-t-h-e-r is coming to town

    • 3djesus says:

      Is fapping good or bad? And why is Big Bruh watching me do it?

    • Daymon says:

      So don't use Google. Google is not the IRS, and it's not the federal government. They offer valuable services, and YOU too have a choice. I hear Bing is pretty good.

  7. "Much ado about nothing."
    -- OR --
    "A sale of hounds all furry, signifying nogooglething."

    In short, it's a waste of money as currently configured.
    Any "web TV" product that requires a retail cable connection to complete its lineup is worthless, period.

    • Daymon says:

      It's not a waste of money to those who find it useful. I for one enjoy it immensely. Your comment is contradictory since the Google TV software is designed to integrate with both your cable / satellite, and Internet for web video all at the same time.

  8. Forgot to mention that GoogleTV needs the ability to display closed-caption text (or does it have it?) -- Sony BluRay BDP-S370 does not! I would not have purchased Sony if I had asked first. My "misteak!"

    Companies that put out a device unable to cope with closed-captions are utterly worthless and out of touch with reality. If you think I'm exaggerating, ask (sign) a deaf person to find out what they think.

  9. Murrayhill says:

    Finally an article that makes sense! Google tv is a game changer for me... After having tried and struggled with the like of netgear 7and8 series. I think that all the various news media types give loor reviews of the google tv have not even tried it themselves and are simply being lazy and following another posting.... According to my neighborhood bestbuy sales dudes and duddess ..they have NOT seen any returns on the gtv products....

  10. jonleexh says:

    I think, It may be considered good gift on Christmas Occasion.And why not? mostly people are happy with this gist.Therefore, I want to say thanks to Google.
    http://colopurereview.net/

  11. StockportJambo says:

    American only, right?

  12. fundacion keto says:

    I think, It may be considered good gift on Christmas

    http://www.fundacionketo.org/

  13. conan007 says:

    I'm not surprised to see this as Joe always had a weird taste.

  14. popman says:

    I own the Sony Television version of Google TV and I love it with the exception of the remote. Very cumbersome to use the mouse/touch pad thingy. Other than that, I use it every day for surfing, and playing flash games. Also the sites that have converted to a Google TV wide large HTML 5 format (USA Today and NY Times are a couple) look great. I really believe in Google and believe that if something is not baked 100% yet, they will keep striving until it is 200% to 300% perfect. (doesn't anybody remember the first release of gmail . . . . look at it now) This is a product people pay for as an example, Google wave wasn't and they did bail on it (at least what the public saw). Giving the developers free units was a great idea and I believe we will see some cool stuff (apps) coming soon. As for the OS, is Android the right choice??? I think it is for a phone, maybe not for a TV OS. Maybe the new Google OS is the right choice. Who knows, but Google does and they will make it right.

  15. mshulman says:

    Until a device like this can replace my cable service, I'll pass.

  16. jackamus says:

    What?? Praise for something other than Apple? I am shocked!! lol

  17. Calc_Yolatuh says:

    Mostly, I see this as an argument for Nintendo to release a new Wii.

  18. NateR says:

    Thank you Google TV. As a DISH employee I know that they have combined with DISH Network making the Logitech Revue compatible with the 622, 722, and 722k model receivers. I have to say this is the best thing I was able to play around with in a while. For DISH customer this feature also allows you Schedule recordings, search through DVR events and do Automatic paring of DISH receivers.

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