Over the holiday weekend, I had a small budget to buy a new TV for my bedroom and maybe a cool something else to go with it. (Was thinking PS3?) I was budgeted to spend under $500 and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted but I know I definitely wanted a TV with WIFI and it had to be able to stream Netflix as well as some media off my network. To get the biggest bang for my buck, I was looking at a no frills 37” HDTV with a higher end BluRay player with wifi. As luck would have it, right when I thought I figured it all out, I saw a pile of Sony BluRay Players with Google TV built-in, for $199 each. I dropped the ‘SMART’ player player I had and headed to cash out. All in all, I spent right around $475 for the TV and the unit. Not bad for what has now basically become a smart TV with a WiFi BluRay player.
When I got home, I unpacked and hooked up my new toys and it took me about ten minutes to set everything up and get it running. The longest part of the setup was the software update to Honeycomb for the player. It came with a qwerty remote, which I love, and the remote also doubles as a true universal remote. Aside from the full keyboard, the remote also has a touch sensitive cursor to fully navigate the screen like a mouse on a desktop. My only complaint with the remote is a lack of backlight. As far as the BluRay player goes, it runs great and I will leave it at that. It is a Sony, it is BluRay (their invention), it plays great. End of review for the BluRay portion.
The Google TV portion of the player literally brings the term “smart-tv” to life. Now we all know that Samsung has a line of “SMART” TVs, and every other company out there has some “wifi enabled” options built in them, but those features are not even in the same realm as Google TV. Comparing those to Google TV is like comparing a Palm Treo to a Galaxy Nexus. (Nice name drop huh?) That may sound extreme, but it doesn’t take long to realize this is the truth. In my configuration, adding Google TV to a standard HDTV was literally like implanting a brain into the TV. In some aspects, it reminds me of the old PC days whereas the TV has become just a monitor again. Following a spent with this device hooked up in my bedroom, it only seemed fitting that I purchase another unit for our main entertainment center before the sale ended, which I did. My plasma in the living room was quite the opposite of the TV in my bedroom and I purchased it only 6 months ago. Unfortunately I paid extra to have a “wifi enabled” tv with apps on board and I only say unfortunate, because those apps and features will never be used again now that Android has taken a firm position in my living room. Unlike video game systems, you don’t just go back to older versions of windows on you PC to re-live the nostalgia. For me, I won’t be going back to the pre-installed junk on my plasma just for fun. It is with a sad bit irony that I can state, my 6 month old smart tv has become obsolete due to a product produced well over a year old. Figure that one out.
So what is it that is so great about Google TV? Where is all the magic in this little box? How did I fall in love with it? Google TV is so much more than just adding a browser to a TV with some hokey apps, much more. I am reminded of back in the day when they first added the interactive guide to cable? For you Gen Y and whatever, younger people since then, we used to have to purchase a TV guide or go to a special channel to see what was upcoming on cable back in the day, there was no interactive guide. Before you ask why we didn’t just use the web, it was because we couldn’t constantly tie up the phone line just to check AOL and Netscape, but let’s keep this story on track. The guide used to just scroll endlessly with an infomercial in the upper corner selling a 50 pack of hunting knives, or whatever, while you waited for your favorite channels to scroll by. If you missed your channel, you had to sit through all 700 channels again or you could just start surfing. Well, at some point, in the late 90s I think, our cable boxes got smarter and they added an interactive guide to them. (This time also marked the death of the little black boxes when everything went digital.) The guide was a huge step forward and while may not seem like a revolutionary thing now, take yours away and you will see how handicapped our cable boxes used to be. It is in this same fashion that Google is going to make its way into our living rooms. Google TV adds a diverse amount of function to everything I have in my entertainment center and it seems very natural in its place with my other components. When using the device, it is almost like adding a perfect functioning skin onto your basic TV. I have come to realize that this is what Blur, Whiz, and Sense are all trying to do. I said trying. keep up with me.) Google TV changes things from just letting me watch my TV, to actually using my TV. From the customizable wallpaper and app drawer, all the way down to the way it communicates with my cable box, receiver, TV, and home server, the integration is seamless.
It also happens to be user friendly for all levels. Using a media player connected to my TV that has every codec known to man, all the way to a search engine that finds what I want to watch by searching live TV, future TV, Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube, the Web, and even Google Rentals, there is never an excuse for not being able to find my favorite shows. For something that just was opened to the market a few months ago, there is enough to keep you entertained and informed for now and I find myself not spending as much time with the browser as I initially thought I would. I have a tablet and laptop better suited for surfing the net and when it comes time to share on the big-screen, the Chrome to TV plug-in will really shine. In addition to the Chrome to TV plug-in, all android devices have various remote apps and several other items that make their use even more fun in the experience of it all.
In the short weeks I have owned my Google TV, I have not only grown to use it constantly, I truly have come to love it. It reminds me of the Christmas season just two years ago when my Verizon upgrade date was up on my Palm Treo and I had been following a small movement for a new line of smart-phones running off a new operating system made by Google. The search engine guys?!? I took the plunge and bought myself a Motorola Droid because the commercials and the web compelled me so much. (I even ponied up and got my wife an Eris. ha! Old joke if you are an OG D1 guy.) I really didn’t know what to expect from my Droid but I wanted to be “wowwed.” It was less than 24 hours later that I was officially at that state. I then began an endless pursuit to find out what I could do with this device and many nights were spent poking into forums and through youtube videos rooting, romming, and bricking my phone over and over again. (God I loved SBF.) Those old phone days are long gone but my new Google TV is giving me this same type of experience all over again. Just like in the beginning, I am still spending countless hours tinkering, reading and tweaking to get that
perfect experience. With a broader adoption of Google TV on the horizon, I can’t wait to see what unfolds.
Almost forgot to mention, I still haven’t bought a BluRay disk yet, not that anyone in my house has noticed.
This was a guest post written by DL reader Pakman2k.