Google TV has finally launched. It's here to make your TV smarter, oh, and to take on the likes of Apple, Boxee, and Roku at the same time. But should you be investing in the new "smart" TV top box? Pocket-lint was at the launch of the Logitech Revue in New York City to find out.
The Logitech Revue is a fairly large black TV top box that connects to your television via HDMI cable and then wirelessly to your home network giving you the new Google TV. Currently, Revue is the only way to get the new Google service (Sony is launching a TV in just 7 days time) and certainly the only way to get it without having to upgrade your television.
The Revue connects to any HDTV using the included HDMI cable to display in 1080p. Other I/O ports include: HDMI input/output, a wireless 802.11a/b/g/n and Ethernet based 10/100 Base-T, audio optical output (S/PDIF), 2x USB 2.0 ports, an integrated Logitech Harmony Link IR Blaster for A/V device control and Logitech Unifying wireless technology.
Once connected, the Revue can be controlled in different ways including a large keyboard; included in the box, an optional mini controller; similar to the company's PS3 controller released a number of years ago, and even your mobile phone; via iPhone or Android.
The keyboard is just what you would expect, complete with a standard QWERTY keyboard, a built-in trackpad on the right hand side and a series of shortcut keys to let you zip through the Google TV system and your other home cinema equipment. It's not sexy, but it will get the job done and it is way more practical that that Sony remote keyboard "thing".
The mini controller combines a palm-sized keyboard, dual-mode touch pad, and entertainment-system remote in one. It looks to be the same as the PS3 offering, and really just a smaller version of the included keyboard, so you won't be as easily branded a geek for using it.
If you really want to avoid the keyboard altogether then you can opt for smartphone control. Downloadable via the relevant app stores, you can use your phone to control what's happening on the screen. That means no more fighting over the remote, but it also means plenty of channel hopping arguments could be in store.
That's the hardware, what about the software? Here Google does its best to offer you the Internet from your TV and gives you the power to search the web, surf the web, run apps, customise your homepage, manage your TV shows, movies and other content. The interface is easy to navigate, and the experience is simple but effective.
Playing on the company's history in remote controls, the Revue includes the company's Harmony Link technology as a core part of the Google TV platform. What that means is that you can control your HDTV, AVR and TV top box in your entertainment system via IR, all from your keyboard controller. Cool!
As for the apps, there are plenty on the way. But to get you started you'll get Logitech Vid HD, the Logitech Media Player, Google Gallery, YouTube as well as applications from Netflix, Napster, Twitter, Pandora, NBA, CNBC and DISH giving you plenty to get going with if you like music, movies and sports. Expect this to grow considerably once the service starts to get into homes.
All that aside, what makes the Revue and Google TV cool is the fact that it combines so many options into one easy-to-use system. Let’s say you’re sitting on your couch and you decide to search for your favourite TV show using the Revue. Without the Revue, you would use your standard cable company issued remote control to access the menu and search for the live TV show. Or you may grab another DVR remote to search through recorded programs. With the Revue and Google TV, you simply pull up a search bar, much like you would on a smartphone or your computer, and search the name of the show.
If you search for your favourite TV show using the Revue, the first result in the list may be the live showing of the program, the second might be last week’s episode on DVR, and the third might be a relevant YouTube video and then a full list of Google search results.
If you choose the YouTube result, the Revue will instantly pull up the YouTube link in the Chrome browser on your TV and the video will start playing, the same way you would see it on your home computer - only you’re watching it on the TV in your living room.
Logitech mentioned that the living room is one of the best places in the house, and we agree. Being able to watch TV while searching the Internet all from our couch within one system, means we are automatically fans. That laptop can get hot on your lap.
We also like the idea of being able add accessories to it like a webcam so you can chat with your friends from your home TV. It's a much more intimate chat experience than chatting from your desktop computer or even your laptop, and is sure to offer a viable alternative to Skype on your TV or other webcam solutions on the horizon like Cisco Umi.
Now you will be able to invite your international friends into your living room, even if they can't physically be there - something that is seriously cool and intimate, and will keep us from having to clean the kitchen because we’re having company over. It's a win win as far as we are concerned.
So where's the catch? Well the system isn't 100 per cent perfect. Users will have to use Logitech Vid Chat rather than Skype, Apple's FaceTime or Microsoft Messenger offering - let's hope that changes in the future, but overall, we would say the Revue has some serious promise to redefine the way we watch and absorb TV.
There's nothing better than plopping down on the couch and zoning out to the TV while cruising YouTube or searching the Internet from a laptop, and let's face it, that’s what most of us do these days.
Some of us at Pocket-lint have some serious attention problems, so we're really drawn to the "dual search" functionality that lets you keep a TV program on the screen while searching the Internet for related (or unrelated) content. The feature simply refines the way we already watch TV and absorb content, which is very welcomed.
Being an all-in-one way to surf, watch, and control, we think it's fair to say that Google TV and systems like the Revue will be the norm in the near future.
Couch potatoes rejoice.
The Logitech Revue is due out in the US at the end of October and expected in the UK early 2011.