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Nov122010

Podcast #452: Logitech Revue and Google TV

We have talked in the past about the various options for streaming content to your TV and Google TV always emerges as one of those options.  In fact, we’re on record as saying that Google TV may even revolutionize the consumer electronics industry by becoming the base operating system TVs and Blu-ray players are built on.  When we got the opportunity to review the Logitech Revue, we jumped at the chance.

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Logitech Revue and Google TV

We have talked in the past about the various options for streaming content to your TV and Google TV always emerges as one of those options.  In fact, we’re on record as saying that Google TV may even revolutionize the consumer electronics industry by becoming the base operating system TVs and Blu-ray players are built on.  When we got the opportunity to review the Logitech Revue, we jumped at the chance.

What is Google TV

Google TV literally combines a search engine with your TV. Google TV lets you search across every channel,  application, and the Internet to find exactly what you are looking for. It combines the power of applications like Pandora, Twitter, Netflix, and many others with the Internet to enhance how you watch TV. You can create a custom homepage  that gives you access to your favorite apps, channels, and websites. You can easily switch between the web and TV or even combine the two with picture in picture. It takes the concept of Internet connected TVs to the next level by integrating the experience.

About the Revue

The Logitech Revue is a small box you connect to your TV via HDMI.  In many ways it is quite similar to the other streaming options out there like the Apple TV, Roku and Boxee Box.  With a retail price of $299 (buy now), it is a bit more expensive than the competition, so you’d assume it comes with a few extras to differentiate itself.  And it does, but we’ll get into those later.  We’ll leave it up to you to decide if the extras are worth the cost.

Setup and Use

In addition to the HDMI output that you connect to your TV, the Revue has an HDMI input as well.  This allows you to plug in your TV source directly to the Revue so Google TV can interact with live television.  That’s differentiator number one.  The competition devices stream content to your TV, the Review does that and can interact with your live TV content.  You can pull up a browser right on top of the TV program to do an IMDB search without having to switch boxes.

If you happen to be a Dish Network subscriber, the integration goes even further.  This is where you really start to see the power of what Google TV will offer as the solution matures.  The Revue has the ability to connect to your Dish DVR and access all of your recorded programs.  It can also see what’s available for On Demand or Pay Per View viewing.  So when you do a search on the Google TV for something to watch, not only do you get online content, but you get your own local content as well.  It’s awesome.  It really gives you one interface for all of your entertainment options.

So we’ve mentioned you can do full browser searches and can search your media content with the Revue.  That sounds like something that would be difficult with a standard remote control.  Differentiator number two, the Revue comes with a full keyboard controller with built-in touch pad.  It’s a bit large, but it has buttons for media control like a remote would, has a full keyboard to make typing a breeze and even a touch pad to allow you mouse around to wherever you want to go.  You get hooked on using it pretty quickly.  We sure did.

And of course, it’s from Logitech so you expect some sort of Harmony style universal control.  That brings us to differentiator number three.  The Revue actually uses HDMI CEC the way it was intended to be used.  It allows you to turn your TV on and off and adjust volume.  It will change channels on your video source.  If you have a receiver for surround sound, you can plug it into the Revue instead of plugging your TV source directly and control it as well.  Finally a good use of HDMI CEC to actually control all your home theater devices.

Of course the Revue allows you to get access to all the usual online suspects: Netflix, NBA.TV, Pandora, Twitter, Amazon OnDemand.  It’s all in there.  It also has a built-in DLNA player so you can stream all of your backed-up movies to it.  We’ve heard the CODEC support is limited, but we use mostly mpeg4 video variants and it played all of them just fine.  Word on the street is that Google is going to open app development to the masses in the near future.  This could be where things really take off.

And, of course, as a Google based product you can imagine there’s an Android app to control it.  This isn’t really a differentiator, but the app is pretty cool.  It connects to the Revue via WiFi and lets you do just about anything the keyboard allows, albeit not quite as easily.  But it is convenient to have that controller in the palm of your hand for a quite adjustment or something.  We’re expecting this integration between Android and Google TV to grow in the future and perhaps become more of a differentiator.  Would be nice if you could watch whatever was playing on the Revue on your Android phone anywhere in the world.

Conclusion

We had a ton of fun playing with the Revue and Google TV.  While it does carry a hefty price tag, it has a few bells and whistles that set it apart from the competition.  And we see tremendous opportunity for innovation in this platform.  If you’re a Dish network subscriber, you’ll love it.  If you aren’t, the Revue might make you want to sign up with Dish just to get the integrated content all in one place.

Breaking news, Nov 10. 2010:

DISH Network’s Google TV solution, which requires a DVR integration service of $4 per month, includes the Logitech Revue with Google TV, a small set-top box available for a special price of $179 (MSRP $299) – an exclusive deal for DISH Network customers. The Google TV experience is compatible with DISH Network ViP series HD DVR satellite TV receivers including the ViP 622, ViP 722 and ViP 722k.  

 

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Reader Comments (5)

I was ready to jump on the google TV idea intergrated into the new Sony Tv's but two big things are stopping me right now.

1. the broadcast networks are blocking google TV so you can't stream from their sites.
2. The TV's are only Refresh Rate : 60Hz

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbenwaynet

Thanks for the shout out at the top of the show, Ara! I'm really keen to hear what you think of the difference when you use the Auralex GRAMMA isolation riser under your subwoofer! I'm hopeful you will find it to be a large enough improvement that you'll also consider decoupling your front speakers - especially the center speaker ;)

Re: that plasma vs LCD article -

LCDs with full-array, local-dimming LED backlighting really are the only LCDs worth considering in my book. I brought home five LCD displays and returned four of them to the store. I got to see, first hand, in my own home, just how bad the edge-lit and regular CCFL backlit LCDs look in comparison!

That said, the best plasmas - such as the Panasonic VT25 series - are still better; however, I will qualify that by saying, the best plasmas are only better when viewed under dim or darker lighting! In a well-lit, or even just a "normally" lit room, plasma's native black level rises quite a bit to a dull grey. This is just an unfortunate result of the screen technology.

So the bottom line is this:

- if your room is dim (just barely enough light to read by) or darker, then the best plasma TVs are still the best displays to buy.

- if your room is any brighter than "dim", I would say that the best full-array, local-dimming LED-backlit LCDs actually look better than even the best plasmas. Black looks truly black, not grey. Shadow detail is better. And LCDs have always produced brighter, more vibrant whites, which also makes them look better than plasma in anything above "dim" room lighting.

Myself, I have a Kuro plasma in my dark theater room, but I have an LG 55LH90 local-dimming LCD in the living room. Trust me, I have tried both displays in both rooms. In the dark theater, the LH90's "blooming" and lighter shade of black on things like widescreen black bars easily allow the Kuro plasma to look better. But in the living room, the Kuro looks washed out and the blacks look grey. The room lighting pretty much masks the LH90's "blooming" and the blacks look inky black on the LCD!

So it's all about matching the right type of display to your viewing environment :)

November 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob H.

I have only gotten a small amount of hands on time with the google tv but overall I think it has a lot of potential.

My only problems with it are that many tv networks are blocking it, which isn't googles fault but it affects my decision to buy one. And that when you search and find shows online such as The Daily Show. It just loads the webpage rather than scrapping the site and giving you a tv friendly UI to pick an episode.

Boxee does a great job of pulling together shows that are streamed online in to one cohesive UI. Unlike the google tv, boxee doesn't make you try to navigate a webpage from your couch. It just gives you the content you care about, the show.

Their are plenty of things I'm not such a big fan of when it comes to boxee but the way it does streaming tv shows is the route I hope google will go.

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAl

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November 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhappyttyy

I would have to say that having the Logitech Revue with Google TV has definitely taken my TV watching experience to the next level. Being an employee of DISH Network I got mine right after it was released. I can also say that I've had the opportunity to talk to our customers personally to find out what they think! No complaints yet! Thanks Google and Logitech!

January 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJon

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