Earlier this year, Google announced a new product called Google TV. In late October, they also announced a Google TV giveaway to 10,000 lucky developers. I was fortunate to become one of those lucky 10,000 and Google sent me a Logitech Revue just before Christmas. Overall, I think it’s a pretty cool gadget, but it does have some shortcomings.
The device itself is quite compact and comes with a small, lightweight keyboard (aka the “controller” as Logitech calls it). The physical setup of the device couldn’t be simpler: plug the output from your cable set top box (STB) into the HDMI IN on the Revue, and then the HDMI OUT from the Revue into the TV. If you use a home theatre for your audio, your setup may be slightly more involved, but it is still pretty simple to set up. Just check out the Logitech Revue setup video to see how easy it is.
You should be made aware that Google TV only has HDMI input/outputs on it. You won’t be able to connect a cable box or television via component connections. If you have older equipment, then Google TV may not be for you.
Google TV Configuration
After you plug everything in and turn on the Revue, you’re taken through a wizard-like setup. It’s relatively straight-forward, asking you questions about the model number for your cable box, television, and audio system. It does take some time to go through the configuration, because after you have your network up and running it downloads and installs an update.
You can connect it to the Internet either via the built-in wireless connection or through an ethernet connection. I find it annoying that there is no manual configuration for the network connection. You cannot assign static IPs, gateways, DNS servers, and the like. However, unless you’re a major geek like me, you are probably just fine with the automatic configuration it performs for you.
Google TV Features
Just as Kevin Bacon’s biggest fan demonstrates, Google TV is great for finding video content on whatever your heart desires. It searches your television programming, Netflix, Amazon On Demand, YouTube, and other web videos. My biggest complaint about the television programming results is that if you don’t have a DVR that directly integrates with Google TV, it won’t automatically set up recordings for individual programs or series (aka TiVo season pass). I have a TiVo, so when I see results for TV shows I want to record, I need to:
- Remember the date and time for the show.
- Tune to the channel (this is all the Revue/Google TV does for you).
- Navigate to the proper day of the show.
Hint: If you also have a TiVo, you can use your controller to change the day in the guide by holding down the key while pressing the key to go to the previous day and the key to go to the next day.
- Navigate to the proper time of the show.
Hint:: If you also have a TiVo, use the key to move from selecting the day to selecting the time, and then press the and keys to quickly scroll through the time, to find the correct time for the program.
- Manually navigate the DVR menu to record the program. On the TiVo, it can be done with the directional pad and button.
It’s a bit of a hassle, and it’s unfortunate that Google TV doesn’t feature better integration with most DVRs.
Google TV also features Netflix and Pandora applications, which brings additional video and audio content to your television. It’s great having a keyboard to search for movie and television titles in the Netflix application, as it is much less cumbersome than doing so on other devices with traditional remote controls. You can also stream video if you have DNLA compliant devices or software on a computer. If you’re looking for a great free DNLA program for your computer, I highly recommend XBMC.
There is also Harmony application for both iPhone and Android. With it, you can turn your iPhone, iPad, or Android phone into a remote control. The Harmony application actually has more features for controlling your equipment than is available directly on the controller by default. For example, for my television the Harmony application has buttons for directly selecting the different inputs on the television, as well as navigating the television’s setup menus. Something which isn’t possible without customizing the Revue controller.
Google TV includes the Chrome web browser, which is very nice to have at your disposal as you’re watching television. What’s that gal’s name on that movie? What other movies has she been in? Just launch the Chrome web browser and look her up on IMDB! You can also browse and watch television at the same time, with the dual view feature.
Logitech Revue Shortcomings
Lack of DVR Integration
One of the Revue’s shortcomings is it’s lack of direct integration with most DVRs. As of right now, you can only get direct integration with a Dish Network DVR. With a Dish DVR, Google TV can directly manage the DVR rather than having to control it via IR blaster (i.e. behave exactly like your remote control). The Dish Network DVR integration also allows Google TV to search recordings on the DVR and directly set up recordings for Google TV search results. I hope that some day Google TV will have similar integration with TiVo. If it did, it would most certainly help to justify the $250 price tag.
Lack of Storage
While on the topic of DVRs, it is also unfortunate that the device itself is not a DVR. At the initial price tag of $300, you would think it might have storage for recording programs, or at least the ability to add external storage. Although the recent price cut to $250 is a bit more palatable, it is still unfortunate the device does not have the capability to record programs. If it had the ability to do so, it would overcome the inability to control a DVR. However, without either feature, it’s a pretty expensive gadget.
Not a Universal Remote
I was also very disappointed that the Logitech Revue can only control an AV unit, television, and cable box. If you have other components (i.e. DVD or Blu Ray player), the Revue has no direct support for controlling those devices. With the built-in IR blaster and external IR blasters, Logitech could have easily allowed the device to behave as a universal remote for all your electronic components. You can use it to control a DVD or Blu Ray player via some customization of the remote, but that’s another article for another time.
It would also be nice if the Revue included multiple inputs, rather than just a single one. When you switch to other inputs on your television (say your XBox 360, Wii, or DVD player), you lose Google TV because it’s running on a different input. If the Revue had multiple inputs, you could continue to use dual view with other devices on the television. Including multiple inputs along with more features as a universal remote to control all of those devices would make the Revue more attractive and make it the true centerpiece of your entertainment system.
Sluggish Adobe Flash Performance
YouTube works fine, and videos on most other websites typically play without issues. However, on occasion you may encounter some websites with Adobe Flash that perform very poorly. I wanted to try out the Nick Jr. website, because my daughter wanted to play some games, and the performance was horrendous. I think that if you encounter websites that have more than one or two flash objects, you’ll see the performance of the browser degrade significantly. I even encountered a website at one point that brought the Revue to a grinding halt.
Google TV and Logitech Revue Summary
All-in-all the Logitech Revue is a pretty cool gadget, but I don’t think I would rush out and spend $250 on it. That being said, I do really enjoy the one I have and it has found a permanent home in my entertainment system. It makes navigating my television programming much easier, makes it easy to stream video and music, and brings the web to my television.
If you want an easier way to access your television programming and stream videos to your television, then the Logitech Revue with Google TV may be right for you as long as you’re willing to pay $250. If you have Netflix and you don’t already have a Netflix capable device, the Logitech Revue may be even more appealing to you.