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Google TV?


We have struggled to get our upstairs TV watching set up the way we want it for a while now. We want what is on the TV in the living room to show in the kitchen. We messed with a lot of ways to do it and eventually ended up using a 50 foot HDMI cable. The only problem was that if we were watching netflix on the built in TV app or via the Wii it would not show in the kitchen because we could not feed the signal via HDMI to our HDMI switch. We wanted to get a device that would allow that.

We have 4 TVs and one cable box. We want the total package without paying that much monthly.

I researched some options like the Roku, apple TV, and Google TV for months. We decided to go with the Logitech Revue which is a google TV. It is no secret I am a huge google whore. I love the notebook they gave me, and droid phones rule, and that made the decision easier. We got it from Amazon for their great return policy and have decided to keep it.

GTV is a box and a keyboard for a remote. The GTV goes between your cable box or dish box and your TV. You still use your remote like you normally would to watch cable / dish, but the GTV can do more if you want. It has Netflix, Amazon video on demand, and an almost fully functional chrome browser. The most powerful feature is the search. While you are watching TV you can grab the small wireless keyboard / remote and search for stuff. It will return results like shows coming up on your cable / dish, youtube videos, and results from google. Unfortunately it does not search Netflix of Amazon for results.

I think I am just going to ramble on for a while about pros and cons and stuff. So click on through if you want to read more.

The first night with it was kind of strange. It took a good while to get the hang of it. Install was quick. It asks you questions and figures out your cable / dish programming so it can search that. You have to have a google account or create one. Took about 15 minutes with a couple reboots. Set it to fit our screen. This was such a nice feature. It fits perfectly. I have tried to connect a computer to a TV screen for so long and have never had much luck.

The picture in picture only works with live TV being in the little box while you browse the web (above pic). It is pretty cool, but the live TV box is pretty small and Theresa said she would not be happy watching it while I browsed for any length of time.

The chrome browser is what sold me on this device. It is a slightly stripped down google chrome that allows you to have 3 tabs. Getting to the new tabs takes a special keyboard shortcut and you would never know that unless you searched online. It is not filtered in any way. You can search online and go to any site you want. Flash puts the hurt on it though. You will not be playing any flash games like farmville or even simple games. It is not exactly a PC, but is somehow optimized for youtube.

The browser is the secret weapon with this device though. Google got the finger from a lot of online content sources, basically all of the main networks and even Hulu. There is no way around that currently. But there is a bunch of good flash content out there. Here is a site a GTV user set up as his own personal, but it caught on and he shares it with the community now. The top is his own personal stuff and the links to the left are random, but that bar along the bottom is where the magic happens. With the D pad on the GTV keyboard you can scroll left to right (you can do this with the arrow buttons on your keyboard now). If you click on one it will load the website in the top frame. You navigate it like a web page and then full screen to watch content. Pretty cool. This site is not just for GTV so a few things on there, like the major networks, are blocked.

Netflix on the GTV is great. It has its own app and it works great. We are running the GTV with wireless G and the access point is another room away with crap blocking it. We have not had any issues with losing signals. Actually in the last few weeks we have not had a single problem with netflix streaming.

We are also Amazon prime members and it also has its own app. Problem with the Amazon prime is that it simply does not have enough content in the prime area to make it worth checking out. Sorta like the early days of netflix watch instantly. We are not Amazon prime members for the video content, so it really does not matter to us. You can still purchase from a much larger selection from Amazon on demand, they just limit the free stuff on prime.

The keyboard remote is hella handy, but we only use it when we want to watch netflix or browse the web on the GTV. Our Harmony 900 handles all our other stuff and can control the GTV no prob, but typing stuff in is much easier with a keyboard. They also make apps for both the iphone or droid and we were able to try both out. Once again it is just easier to use the keyboard though. the keyboard is pretty much the perfect size, wireless, light, and easy to use. It has a lot of powerful shortcuts, but you would never know that unless you searched online. The trackpad is perfect and you can set tap to click with a shortcut, but you would never know that unless you searched online. The keys on the keyboard are not backlit and that is just total BS. I am just stunned that they did not make it backlit. It sucks when watching TV in the dark all kicked back.

Are you seeing a pattern here? This device is made for geeks who love to be guinea pigs and it becomes really apparent. But if you were not a google whore / nerd you would not be buying one of these. There are TVs you can buy with GTV built into them, and I bet that has to be frustrating for newbs. GTV is very beta. We were a few months after it debuted, and a lot has been fixed since then. There are a lot of promising things hinted as coming down the pipe. The android app market is coming soon they say, as well as a deal with hulu. It has gotten 2 updates since we picked it up, but those were only security and did not add any functionality. The rumor is that the android OS is going to be combined into one main that will cover phones, tablets, and GTV. I really hope that is the case.

A quick example how I use the GTV on a daily basis. After we get off of work we turn on the TV and watch some Simpsons. While getting dinner ready we might watch a few episodes of TV shows we are watching on netflix. if Theresa is headed out shopping I will search for a band and rock out to some youtube clips. Later at night when Theresa goes to bed to read, I will check some websites and watch some Adult swim clips online or maybe some PBS nature shows, plus more music. Some nights when I am a bit lubed I like to watch youtubes of bands on the computer while surfing. Now I can do that on my TV with good sound and cruise around the web on my notebook. It just added a few cool things to my living room TV watching experience.

We were very early adopters and knew that going in. Adding the GTV did not change the way we watch our cable TV, it just adds a few more layers of stuff we can do on our TV. We hold out for what it might become, and hope our early hardware will survive for a while if they continue to make it better. I would not suggest it for most, but it was easier than building my own HTPC and I can live with the limitations. I would not buy one for my parents or try to encourage others to go GTV. You can watch netflix on all sorts of devices and having a browser on your TV is only cool if the others in your dwelling do not want to watch the TV.

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