Trying to decide which Google TV setup to buy? After a little spin with Sony’s Internet TV Blu-ray player with Google TV we hope to help in that agonizing decision. Check out the first thoughts of Sony’s choice now.
After tearing open your latest purchase you will find a power brick, power cord, remote, AA batteries, HDMI cable (looks to be 3 ft), and dual IR blaster cable. Your DVR or cable box should plug into the Internet TV box and then Internet TV box plugs into your TV. This way the menus and applications will run over-top your video content.
After the physical set-up, you are asked to define the size of your TV by moving the black overlay to the edges of your screen. Next, verify cable provider, channel lineup, and that the IR blaster commands are working properly. Then you configure your internet connection, after which it will check for updates. Unfortunately, if an update is found and installed, all of your settings that you just made will be saved. Very frustrating and a bad first impression, as this is what happened to us.
To navigate Google TV we are given a home button, back button, and a 5-way directional pad. The home button brings up a clean looking menu on the left with Bookmarks, Applications, Most Visited, Queue, and more. After selecting one the contents come up on the right. You can choose between thumbnail or list view. To be honest, we didn’t use the home menu much. The search button quickly became our best friend (it is Google TV after all). Type in what you are looking for, whether it’s on the TV or not and results come back almost instantly. Results include TV programs, apps, YouTube, and the internet including the text you entered. This feature works very well and allows you to jump around very easily.
There is a window icon in the top right that Android users may find familiar. This holds all your current pages, apps or whatever you have open and allows you to flip through them very easily. This allows for some major multi-tasking. Watch the game while running your fantasy team online and tweeting with your buddies about that awesome play.
As of right now DISH TV is the only cable company that Google TV completely integrates with. This means, if you have Verizon FIOS, or a local cable provider, Google TV can’t communicate with your DVR except for simple IR commands. This means if you seach for your favorite show on Google TV it will give you the program guide but you cannot record it from there. You have to manually set up your DVR to record.
The browser leaves much to be desired. Scrolling is choppy, the UI is tedious, and if you were looking for Hulu, or online content from ABC, CBS, or NBC it’s all blocked. Don’t get me wrong, It’s usable. My dad or my wife would probably love useing it. It just seems to lack the clean polish and finish of Chrome we were hoping for.
This thing is a monster. With 102 buttons, half of which you won’t even use, it is awkward and annoying. Sony claims they used the dual-shock controller as inspiration but I would hold a dual-shock for 72 hours straight rather then use this for a day. The optical joystick on the right performs OK and is much better after adjusting the settings. The problem lies in that the keyboard settings apply to the whole remote. What feels great as a keyboard will cause your TV controls to act erratic and crazy. It takes a while to find a middle ground you can live with. I think I would much rather use the upcoming Remote app for my Android device as my primary remote.
While I think Google TV will be the next big thing in television, I think the Sony Internet TV Blu-ray player with Google TV is not. Don’t get me wrong, I loved tweeting and searching the net all while I watch my favorite show. The problem lies in the execution here. If you are anything like me you have a smartphone sitting next to you and a laptop within arms reach. If the browser and remote were as fast as either of them, Sony would definitely win the battle. I have a hard time justifying $399 for a slow, incomplete internet experience with my laptop 6 feet away. Also, I own a surround sound Blu-ray player and do not want to replace it. I really wish Sony would have taken a little more time to tweak the end user experience and give us the quality we have come to know from them.