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Logitech Revue and Google TV Review - Oct 28th, '10
Note that this is about the Logitech Revue unit, which contains Google TV. I'm not going to make much of a distinction even though they can be considered separate things.
The good - The functionality that is included in Google TV, while limited, works mostly as expected. Assuming the setup goes as described in the "Quick Start" guide, getting things up and running is seamless and smooth. Assuming your needs are limited, the user interface is simple to use and quite functional. And if your expectations about features are based on 5-10 year old technology, the functionality is quite impressive. If all you want is the web, webpages in Google TV look fantastic and work as expected.
Yes, that's the good. I think it's important to say something nice.
The bad - Set up is a nightmare. Finding media on your local network will be impossible for the average user. Functionality that is ubiquitous in Google products and the Internet in general is missing. The UI assumes your viewing habits are minimal. Features specially built for the Google TV interface are inferior to what you get by just going to the webpage. Some web content isn't playable due to missing codecs and programs. The unit is surprisingly underpowered, making many websites very sluggish. Unless your home theater matches exactly what the Logitech unit expects (the specifications for which don't seem to exist), you will have major problems with audio. The mini keyboard makes an unwieldy TV remote, and there is no option for a regular sized remote. While the Logitech box can talk to my cable STB/DVR it's very buggy. Google TV as a whole seems to be relatively bug free, but the application as a whole is rather shallow. It really could use another 6-9 months of development. There is no app store, and no way to add apps.
That's just the quick list of things which annoy me with the Logitech Revue and Google TV. I don't even have it on right now. If I was making a list while using it the list would be much longer.
Okay, the details.........
Everything I had read about the unit before it arrived gave me the impression the installation would be dead simple. Plug one cable into your STB/DVR, plug another into your AVR, run setup and go. With all HDMI this seemed realistic. Well, it didn't go that well. I spent 8 hours setting up the unit and getting it running. Eight rather angry hours. First of all my cable STB doesn't play nice with HDMI so the simple set up was a non-starter. Even three days later I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to monkey rig the audio to work right. Rather than just plugging in two HDMI cables the challenge actually ended up being closer to a complete recabling of my entire home theater. Keep in mind this is just due to my personal mix of components, mostly my POS cable box, but looking online turns up many similar stories. When all is said and done, the unit may actually not work for you, full stop.
So there is no misunderstanding - Plan on the "quick start" guide being potentially useless. Which makes the COMPLETE LACK OF ANY FUCKING DOCUMENTATION ANYWHERE IN ANY FORM RATHER FRUSTRATING. Seriously. What the fuck. I am not happy with you Logitech.
And the wireless Internet connection proved to be a very bad idea. I could connect to my network via WiFi just fine, but doing it that way made the unit lockup and reboot at frequent random intervals. Like 30 seconds to a few minutes. Maybe I was being an idiot, but since the unit could obviously see my WiFi router, authenticate, and download the update I didn't think that wireless was the problem. But after many factory resets and starting over with setup repeatedly I decided to try a wired connection, and the lockup/reboot problem completely stopped. Happily the on-screen setup is short and simple because I had to do it over and over and over again.
Okay....... So it's 3:00 AM and I finally have the unit "working". The audio is kooked up, but let's just ignore that for now. While the UI in Google TV and the included mini-keyboard work well, many things seem to be missing. There is a place to bookmark any media you have access to, but if you need to bookmark more that a few things the UI quickly becomes rather cumbersome. And even though the unit knows who I am via my Gmail account, there doesn't seem to be any integration with Google apps. The exception is Picassa, which makes the other missing apps rather obvious. The lack of a function for importing my browser bookmarks from Chrome is also disappointing. Etc etc. Things just seem to be missing.
Also missing is any meaningful integration between live TV (and some of the Google TV features) and social media. If I'm watching much of the Google TV content I can push a share button on the mini keyboard to open a Twitter interface preloaded with a link to what I'm watching. But that's missing from things like live TV and audio podcasts. The point being that some obvious things are missing, and the user interface is very inconsistent.
Finding music and other media on your local network may be easy to impossible depending on your familiarity with DLNA, UPnP, Windows Home Server, file permissions, etc. Only true computer and AV nerds are likely to have any luck with this at all if it doesn't just happen to work for you by default, and it probably won't. I have it working here, sort of, but that took many hours of reading forums that would frighten off non-technical users.
I could go on and on. You get the idea. It's not even marginally as simple as expected to set up, and the functionality, while pretty much bug free, needs serious work.
There are things I really like. The pocast/RSS features are very nice, even though they lag way behind desktop applications, which I think is acceptable on a TV screen landscape. Webpages look perfect and work as expected, which is one of the main things people want from Google TV I suppose. The search features are, thankfully, to Google standards. One search interface finds things on the web, media on my local network, podcasts, videos, programs on my cable service, etc. And if that isn't good enough I can take the search right to the Google's web-based search page. Very nice. And the Netflix integration is honestly a delight.
I'm sure that both the Revue and Google TV will be getting updates soon, but right now it all feels rather frustrating and half-baked. I get the impression that if I'd waited a year I'd completely love it.