I got just a Logitech Revue, which was the first implementation of Google TV platform. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but here are the high’s and low’s of this device, particularly as it stands now, a few months after all of the tech-site reviews of the system.
Having the web browser on my TV is pretty awesome. I posted to Facebook, Google Plus – this blog post was even written in the built-in Chrome browser (with full Flash support!). Now this alone is not hugely different from just hooking up your computer monitor to your TV; however, a number of sites have optimized their experience for Google TV (like CNET, Cartoon Network and YouTube). This experience can be a little jerky at times, but the idea shows a lot of promise. I have found myself browsing these TV-optimized sites more than I would have imagined. As a side note, one of the major reasons I got the revue was because of its HBO Go support; this is enabled through the web browser. In practice, this works fine; however, in the future, I think I will prefer the app version.
Google TV integrates search directly into the experience. Instead of browsing for titles, you can search for shows or web content. Pretty neat. With the hundreds of channels available to cable and dish users these days, this seems like the logical way to go. Google TV also offers a view of TV content organized by category (movies, sports, news, etc.). Oddly enough, Google TV does not offer a view of TV content by channel. To browse by channels or favorites, I had to go through by cable box.
By the way, I was skeptical of using a keyboard to navigate around my tv, but I’m becoming a believer. The keyboard is really light, and search with a keyboard is a much better experience than using a remote.
There are only a handful of apps available for the Google TV, but hopefully that will change with the new Honeycomb UI. However, the apps really showcase some of the cool possibilities of the platform. For example, you can watch a show and see tweets about it in real-time. You can also see NBA scores, stats, and standings while watching a game (this will be exciting during the actual NBA season).
Buggy and Slow
The Logitech Revue (and, I think, the Google TV system) are still a bit half-baked. Our wireless connection flops around like a fresh-caught trout, and the Revue has frozen or rebooted on me a half-dozen times on the first day I had it. This is kind of sad considering that the Revue has been out for a number of months already. Hopefully, future updates will alleviate these issues although I think I’m out of luck until the next Google TV version is released.
In addition, the Revue slows down periodically, and I think it’s a bit underpowered for what the OS requires. While I have vague hopes for better stability in the future, I think I’m stuck with the sluggish performance. Oh well.
Better Streaming Support
It’s unfortunate that Google TV access is blocked for sites such as Hulu, NBC, CBS, etc. I’d like to see these services embrace subscriber- or ad-supported internet access to shows and movies. However, you do have access to services like Netflix, Amazon VOD, and HBO Go. So screw network TV.
Partial Harmony Support
From reading the Logitech website, you would think you’re getting Google TV and a Harmony remote all in one. Unfortunately you’re not. The Revue offers partial Harmony support, which means that you can send some commands to your TV, cable box, and receiver. In practice this works ok. You have to turn on each on separately, but there’s a dedicated button for each component so this isn’t horrible. When you change the channel it routes appropriately to the cable box and when you change the volume it routes to the receiver. However, I would have liked the ability to add more devices (like an XBox or PS3) as well as true macro support (the Harmony’s killer feature).
Here’s the quick summary: at $400, the Revue was a buggy piece of junk, appropriate only for tech reviewers and early adopters. At $100, this is a really nice tool. For the same price, I believe the Apple TV and Roku fall short with their lack of partial Harmony support, a full web browser, apps or search. However, if you are going to buy the Revue, I would suggest that you get powerline ethernet or an access point to prevent the wireless issues.