Google TV Two Years Later: Still Not Very Good

Joel Ward —  August 31, 2012

Since we’ve had an amazingly difficult time getting some new Google TV hardware in here, we’re revisiting the original Logitech Revue with fresh eyes, nearly two years after launch — a period that brought us few notable software updates and the ouster of Logitech’s CEO… Not to mention Google has just given up on television advertising and currently provides non-Google TV hardware/software to Kansas City Fiber customers. 

googletv-logitech-revue

ZNF supporter and neighbor Joel Ward shares his thoughts:

It was the day that was going to change my life forever. I was about to get my hands on a slightly used Logitech Revue Google TV unit from premiere tech blogger Dave Zatz. Dave had a Revue that he used a while back but had boxed up for some reason or another. I couldn’t comprehend why he would do such a thing. I would soon figure it out.

I started the Google TV experiment that night: replace the Roku on our bedroom TV with the Revue, passing the Verizon FiOS HD cable box signal through the Revue via HDMI cable. Then the Revue hooked to the TV via HDMI. Lastly Ethernet plus the power cable and I was up and running. The on-screen setup wizard was a snap. I was excited to give it all a try.

For about a week I tried the Revue in the bedroom. After about a week in the bedroom, where we barely use the TV, I moved the Revue to the family room where our main HDTV sits. We have our FiOS HD DVR there and a surround receiver, both of which connected easily to the Revue.

This was the real experiment: Would my wife and I appreciate the Google TV interface, search, and app selection? I was up for the challenge. My wife was skeptical.

The Netflix interface, which is a native app, worked well. The integrated content search worked fairly well. We have HBO GO, Amazon Prime/VOD, and Netflix, and the search does a decent job returning results across all of those sources plus the FiOS guide. It does not, however, include FiOS/cable video-on-demand content. Which is a bummer.

Other than the Netflix app, I did not get any use out of any of the other Google TV apps. There are useful apps like Pandora and other internet radio, though. However, while Google TV is built on Android, you cannot access the entire Android market (nee Google Play). Only a few dozen apps are currently available. Absent are apps such as Hulu, HBO GO, Cinemax GO, and Showtime. While you can get to some of these sources–like Amazon, HBO GO and Cinemax GO–via the integrated browser (which allows Adobe Flash video), others are not available at all, like Hulu. Hulu just does not want their content on Google TV. So it is not a full internet experience.

However, that is not the reason we eventually gave up on the Revue. After about a month on our main TV, I ended up removing the Revue when I replaced our broken surround sound receiver. The immediate reason was that the Revue would have video problems–often we’d turn on the TV to find the screen blinking black with no sound. Disconnecting the HDMI cable seemed to fix this–must have been some sort of handshake problem. My wife was especially annoyed with this problem, particularly when I was not home.

However, we also just got bored with what Google TV had to offer. It was too much of a hassle to use it. The search is great in theory but buggy in reality. The whole thing was sluggish to use and compared to the Windows 7 media center we also have, it just can’t do as much. So we went back to using Windows 7 and Windows Media Center.

While WMC is on its way out, it’s honestly a better choice than Google TV at the moment. You have a full browser, Netflix integration, the ability to use ATSC, Clear QAM, and Cable Card tuners. If you don’t need that stuff, Roku is a better choice for streaming internet content.

The promise of content search integration is a great one. Google may get it right in the next version or version after that. It’s not just there now.

Pros/Benefits

  • Pulls in digital cable box channels (SD and HD) and DVR recordings easily via HDMI pass through
  • Control of cable box and surround sound receiver using Revue keyboard remote
  • Pass through of cable box HDMI signal to TV, so does not require a separate input and makes it easier to switch between cable and internet content
  • Integrated search for results in cable, Netflix, Amazon, HBO GO
  • Chrome web browser works well. Works with Flash video.
  • For the few native apps that exist, they all work pretty well
  • Integrated with Google account for subscriptions in YouTube and other settings.

Cons/Drawbacks

  • Cable guide is not integrated seamlessly. Just a view of the cable box’s guide. Nice to have a pass through, but not a unified experience.
  • Only one HDMI input (not a strong con, but still)
  • AFAIK, no integrated search results for cable box (FiOS) On Demand content.
  • No way to browse all content across all sources, just search. So you still have to browse each source separately if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
  • No standard remote. Keyboard is useful but clunky and chunky.
  • HBO GO and Amazon are accessed via the website interface, not a native application
  • Limited selection of Google Play apps for Google TV. Regular Android apps are not compatible? Or is that because this is Google TV version 3.1 and not the latest 3.2?
  • No power button or sleep mode (a la Roku), though it looks like it has a screen saver (also a la Roku). Cooling fan seems to run all of the time. Not the quietest.

Issues

  • Seems to have a recurring issue with the display blinking on and off (picture then black, rinse and repeat). Sometimes the sound stops working. Both of these issues require a reboot. Not sure if it’s the hardware or software.
  • When watching video from HBO GO, which had to use the web browser and Flash, in full screen mode the picture would often get offset for some reason. Exiting out and coming back sometimes fixed it and sometimes crashed the browser.

What it could be

  • The integrated search is probably the most important feature that could be great. No other platform currently has this.
    • However, not all content sources feed the search, including VOD and many internet sources. More sources need to be able to tie into the search API.
  • Access to all web content instead of having sites like Hulu block it.
  • More native apps, especially for video content
  • Better remote or keep the keyboard and add a separate remote
  • Access to actual Android apps as widgets

18 responses to Google TV Two Years Later: Still Not Very Good

  1. Thanks for posting this, Dave. :-)

    I should note that we actually started using our Roku again after removing the Google TV from the family room. I think the failure of our Google TV experiment actually convinced us that the Roku was the perfect middle ground. Not as capable as Windows Media Center or even Google TV, but it just works. That’s the key: it just works.

  2. I have a Google TV “TV”, i.e. built into the TV, rather than a set-top box, which I picked up at rock-bottom fire-sale price for our bedroom. For all the geeky neatness of the Google TV experience, at the end of the day it didn’t provide anything more compelling than a good Netflix experience. There are plenty of “Smart TVs” that have Netflix built in, so the Google aspect didn’t really add much for me. Certainly the “Play” store doesn’t have anything compelling in it beyond the usual stuff that is available on pretty much everything (e.g. Pandora). I never managed to figure out how to get the thing to index HBO Go shows in the “Movies and TV” app search either.

  3. I got rid of my revue also, but I kept the excellent keyboard remote and use it on my linux HTPC.

  4. Well I actually have the follow devices that do some type of streaming in my home entertainment center:

    1. Roku Model N1100
    2. Logitech Revue Google TV
    3. Netgear NeoTV Streaming Player
    4. TiVo Premiere
    5. TiVo Series 3
    6. TiVo HD
    7. Onkyo TX-NR807 receiver
    8. Panasonic DMP BD605
    9. A home built HTPC

    The Roku & NeoTV are both easier to use for standard streaming channel stuff, the HTPC works much much better for accessing the actual Internet, and the TiVo Premiere is great for stuff like Pandora or subscribing to have pod cast auto downloaded.

    I only paid $80 for a reconditioned Revue and frankly it was still a bad deal.

  5. Still have the Revue hooked up, but even a Roku is more useful (more apps supported)

  6. I recently bought the Sony version. For the most part I’ve been happy with it. However, I am getting tired of Flash crashing, or YouTube crashing. Seems like it’s gotten a bit less stable after some recent “updates”. If they would just fix the apps so I don’t have to reboot every few days, I think I’d give it 5 stars.

  7. I’ve had the Revue down in the basement exercise room. The Revue seems significantly slower than it was when I got it and requires frequent reboots. Getting to chrome from the tv is painful. I’d be better off bringing a tablet down with me.

    I prefer the Roku interface, but like the Revue keyboard. I want to know what genius made the decision to omit double tap on the track pad for a left mouse click. They should be given a wedgie.

  8. I stopped using it because the sound would periodically die. Only fix seemed to be a reboot.

  9. I never actually used mine, but in the past month or so I’d turn on my TV and see “This app has crashed” messages from the googletv covering up the screen, requiring me to pick up the keyboard and click them off. That annoyed me enough to pull it out of the cabinet.

  10. The hope I had when Google bought Sage was that they would produce an integrated CableCARD DVR with Google TV built into it. So you’d have live TV, recorded TV, OTT services and search across all of them. Maybe by the time they released it they’d get the remote control thing under control (hint: look at the Boxee remote).

    But it isn’t clear if this will come to pass. Google appears to be using the Sage TV stuff in the Kansas City trial, but it isn’t clear if they’ll ever integrate it with Google TV.

    Same story with Motorola. Would be nice to see Motorola DVRs with Google TV added to them, but that now seems unlikely. There are constant rumors Google is looking to sell the Motorola Home unit, and it seems entirely unlikely that Google could get cable companies to accept the OTT services we’d all want in their DVRs. So they could build it, but nobody would resell it, making it a retail product at best. Not so much a Motorola thing.

    Google didn’t even mention the Google TV at the last Google I/O conference I don’t think. Are they still working on it? Is a new version still coming? I’m not clear.

  11. You should try Able Remote. It’s an Android app that is a remote control for Google TV.

  12. The worst thing about the logitech revue is that you can’t install any of the adons for google chrome to block ads. If you go to any web site to watch free video, you’re going to get blasted with ads. Most of the ads are unacceptable for children to see. You can’t really let your kids use this device.

  13. I still use my Revue every day, but only for two things: streaming downloaded videos off my desktop and Netflix. That is literally what this box is for. Both things could be done with apps on my TV itself, but the Revue streaming interface is slightly less annoying than the Sharp streaming crap. And the Revue Netflix app is much better.

    Mine crashes a lot these days too and requires reboots about every three days or so.

    Such promise that was never realized.

  14. My Revue is also in my gym – google docs [chrome] for my log, youtube for a few exercise videos, and Pandora are my go-tos. I did use HBO Go for a bit with the treadmill.

    I would say it has gotten a lot less stable over time, especially for when I flip between pandora and chrome.

  15. You get a much better experience with the Revue when you also have a Dish Network DVR box. Then it does fully integrate the search with nearly everything including your recorded shows on DVR. Also, I use it to stream home videos, pictures, and you tube videos from my iphone or ipad which both serve as a pretty useful remote control to serve up all this content without having to change inputs on the TV. For me, it was well worth $99.

  16. i hate google tv, i just got google revue … gosh even if it is free i shouldnt take it … It keeps hanging often, and netflix app on it basically sucks .. i think it could be more of logitech hardware . i love the keyboard though .. and the way i can use it . Overall bad experience .. shame on google … they are not really making it better …

  17. chrome keeps crashing.

  18. I use the revue every day and way way more than my Roku, it allows me to go to free streaming sites like Coke and Popcorn, I’ve cancelled Netflix and Huluplus because I don’t need them anymore. Yes it’s buggy and freezes up and I have to restart it 2 or 3 times a week, but it has paid for itself 100 times over for me.