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Review: Google TV Underwhelms

Audio Advice President Leon Shaw says Google TV could suffer like Windows Media Center: it does everything, but only a few of them well.


Reviewer Leon Shaw is president of Audio Advice in Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C. In addition to Google TV, Shaw recently reviewed Apple TV and Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect. Audio Advice is a member, and Shaw is past president, of the Home Theater Specialists of America.

The box has a Netflix app, but it's so far behind what you can get now out of most devices it's a joke. If you have not seen the new Netflix app for PS3 or Apple TV, you should: it’s worlds ahead of Google TV's. And Netflix is only stereo on Google TV (unlike the PS3 which is 5.1).

I tried the Pandora app, as Pandora is one of my favorite music services. For some reason when I logged in, it did not show all of my stations. Also unlike every other Pandora device I have played with, when you skip to the next song, Google TV acts like it is going out again to the Internet and starting the whole station over as you have a long delay while its going out. Every other device I have tried is an instant skip to the next track.

Google TV also had a chance to do something cool like hyperlink the artist or song but chose not to. The sound from Pandora on the Google box seemed very thin, like it was a low resolution digital file. I've not been able to find a spec on how they pull it in, but I plan to connect a Sonos box to my system and do a direct comparison.

I guess having the ability to watch YouTube on your TV is cool, but if you watch a typical YouTube video on a 46" screen, it looks pretty bad.

Logitech Revue

Another design feature that's pretty strange occurs when you are watching your cable/sat/TiVo go back to the home menu. The picture disappears, but you continue to hear the sound of the station you're on until you select something else - a bit annoying. This audio hangover happens on just about any source.

Now, the big question: other than YouTube, what do most of us watch on the Internet (OK, get your minds out of the gutter). It's the TV shows we missed or old TV episodes. And where do we go to view them if we want to see them in high quality? That would be Hulu or the network websites, right? Well guess what? Hulu and all the networks are blocking content playback on Google TV. You can get to the site, but if you try to play anything, you get a pop up saying something like "this device is not supported for playback."

I also had some navigation issues as I dived in deeper. There is an icon for Google Chrome, which you would think would just take you to the home page for Google. However, you have to press a little feature button, scroll over, select close tab, press the home button, navigate to the applications, choose Chrome, and then you land on the Google home page. A bit of a pain.

Google TV is Underwhelming
All in all, I was underwhelmed with the idea of Google TV. When I sit down in front of my TV, I don't have the urge to use Facebook, Twitter, or look up the latest restaurant or car review. If I have this urge, I just pick up my iPad and do it, and its way faster on the iPad.

In this world of ease of access, control from anywhere and DVRs, I rarely watch anything live. I can set up all of my recordings from my TiVo interface or online, so the search only comes into play if I am trying to find the channel of a live sporting event. In this regard, Google TV wins hands down, the search is much faster.

Google TV could suffer the same way media centers have. They do everything, but while they are great at a few things, they are marginal at most others. It is far easier to use than a media center PC, but I think we are entering a world where we will continue to use our TVs just to watch content. That content may be delivered completely over the web in the future, but I don't see many people using their TV as a search device.

With the advent of the iPad, we have seen a dramatic shift in the price of a great handheld interface. The iPad, even in its first iteration, is far easier to use than looking up at a big screen while you type on a remote keyboard. I see a future where our social media outlets and all searching is done on a handheld device and when we sit in front of our TVs, it's about content and seeing it in the best possible resolution.

As with anything, I'm sure Google TV will improve over time, and there certainly are lots of things about Google TV that could be improved with a software update. But for now, Google TV does not get my recommendation.

This review was republished with permission from Audio Advice. Check out the Audio Advice Blog for more news and reviews from Leon Shaw.

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Article Topics

News · Product News · Displays · TVs · Streaming Media · Google Tv · Logitech · All topics

About the Author

Leon Shaw
Leon Shaw is founder and chairman of Audio Advice, a systems integration firm with locations in Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina. Check out the Audio Advice Blog for more news and reviews from Leon.

5 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Tom Abell  on  12/09  at  09:43 PM

It would seem to come down to personal preference when it comes to whether it’s easier to pick up a Logitech Harmony enhanced keyboard or an Android tablet (or cell phone) that can do the same thing. 

The point is that this is the FIRST iteration of Google TV.  Remember when Android came out?  Look at it now.  Android tablets?  Watch what happens when Gingerbread comes out.  I would even guess that Gingerbread will update Google TV as well.

Yes, it’s not spectacular…yet.  But the more people support innovation and growth, the cooler gadgets we get!  Give Google TV a chance…the truth is that it seems actually better to be underwhelming than over-whelming, it gives the general public that these devices are targeted at (referencing agreement with the HTPC comments) a chance to grow INTO this new concept of interacting with their TV. 

I think Google TV is pretty cool, it will get better, and most importantly…it will spurn innovation in other companies.

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  12/10  at  03:35 PM

I understand that the review shoud be thorough so when i read stuff like “the picture is degraded” i get that this is directed towards people who don’t know anything about compression and the trade off you make when you attempt to consolidate/simplify things.

I have heard so many times “why would you put a streaming blu-ray player in a clients home.. the picture quality sucks”. The answer is “it sucks compared to Blu-ray but its not horrible and the endless services and features are amazing”.

Google TV (apple tv and others) is not going to replace your satellite receiver and Blu-ray player… yet. But for right now.. its fun, relatively inexpensive and a guaranteed hit wherever you install it.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  12/10  at  03:47 PM

amen, 39

Posted by Stamp Price  on  12/11  at  07:42 AM

@39 cent stamp

Are you ever going to upgrade to the latest greatest Forever Stamp?  I think there is a firmware update for that too. I do like you comments. I just want to make sure there is enough postage so the rest of us can continue to hear you.


Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  12/16  at  05:40 PM

No need for an upgrade! Email and my opinions are free!

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