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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.
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I’ve spent some time with Google TV and have formed some definite opinions.

Logitech Revue - Google TV in a box - looks non-descript and comes with a wireless keyboard with limited remote functions. I installed it into my system, which includes a TiVo HD DVR, Classe SSP-800 surround processor, B&W 800 series speaker package, a stack of Rotel amps, a 2:39 Stewart screen, and a Runco Q-750 LED front projector.

Hook up is very simple: the idea is you have to pass the signal from the cable/sat/TiVo through the Logitech box using HDMI. That’s the only way to hook it up, component video is out.

Once connected, I went through the setup menu, the first step of which was very strange. An image comes up and you expand the top/bottom/left/right until it fills your screen. You then tell it who you are and where you live and can either opt in or out of the box tracking what you do. Next, you tell the box the model of your cable/sat/TiVo, the model of your TV if you wish, and the model of your surround sound piece. You then tell it your service provider for cable/sat/TiVo and go through some channel confirmations to make sure it knows how your channel line up is set up.

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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. Coming up: the new Tivo. Audio Advice is a member, and Shaw is past president, of the Home Theater Specialists of America. Follow @AudioAdvice on Twitter.

The next step is to enter your Google Gmail account or create one. You must do this to move through the setup. Once you get past this, it goes out and looks for new software, then reboots.

The whole idea here is letting Google TV do the searching for content, and if that content happens to be on your cable/sat/TiVo box, Google TV box issues an IR command to tune your box to that channel and switches to the video pass through for your cable/sat/TiVo.

The front and sides of the Logitech box have IR blasters to saturate the room with IR to control your components. There is one IR blaster supplied that you can use if the box itself is not hitting your gear.

The remote is a full-sized wireless keyboard with up/down/left/right enter functions, along with volume, mute for your system. It also has a guide and DVR button that take you directly to the guide or DVR for your cable/sat/TiVo. There is a home button, a search button, and a history button for quick navigation. There is also a little mouse pad to control the on screen mouse.

How Does Google TV work?
The home menu is more of a folder view where you see all of your possible choices by category, such as TV shows, applications, most viewed, etc.

The searching for what might be on TV was cool. You navigate through folders of categories to quickly find what you want. For example, you can choose the drama folder to see what is on. It does not let you scroll faster by typing the first letter of where you want to go like iTunes does.

The full search is also very slick. I searched for “Carolina Hurricanes” and it came up with a selection of choices, again in folder fashion. There was broadcast TV, Internet videos, YouTube videos, etc. Once you select a category, you see all the choices. If you select something from your cable/sat/TiVo, you jump to that channel.

The Internet searches are just as you might suspect. You use a browser (Google Chrome, of course) where you type in as you would on a computer. The results are displayed like they would appear on your computer; you then navigate with the mouse to click on one to see the results.

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Logitech Revue Keyboard

If you have a Twitter account, you have options to set things up to Tweet based on what you are watching.

There is the full gamut of apps, which are not that much different than what you might get on any current Internet-enabled TV, Blu-ray player or gaming system. There are lots of choices to purchase content as with everything these days.

A picture in picture option is also pretty cool where you can park the TV feed in a little window while you go search for something on Google.

The most bang for the buck is probably the camera accessory. I’m not sure how secure the connection is but for a total of $450 bucks at each end (the box is $300, cam is $150), you’ve got full HD video conferencing, which is a huge bargain. The Logitech box makes the interface to your video display and using it is a snap.

The Bad Stuff
I need to drag a second TiVo into my theater to compare, but I am 99 percent certain the picture of your cable/sat/TiVo box is degraded by the video pass-through.



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