As you may have gathered, Vizio, FedEx, and USPS have collectively been unable to deliver a Costar to the address I specified or fee-free as advertised. Fortunately (perhaps), our pals Scott Greczkowski of Satellite Guys and Chris Kapusta of The Game Corps have received shipment of second generation Google TV hardware. And while the form factor and pricing ($100) are both improved over first gen hardware, it seems the overall experience is still lacking.
Scott’s had all sorts of difficulty streaming content from various sources and was ready to return the unit, until Vizio informed him he’d be responsible for return shipping costs and hit with a restocking fee. As Vizio probably intends, that disincentive (corroborated on AVS) has been enough for Scott to hang onto his flawed Co-star — which he’s pretty much relegated to a single function “Slingcatcher” device given Google TV’s limited ecosystem of compelling native apps (versus the kludge of icons masquerading as app that send you to webpages… that fail to stream or offer SD-only video).
There’s been some discussion of Vizio’s bulky remote. While this may be the first RF remote with touchpad and QWERTY keyboard bundled with a hundred dollar streamer, it is indeed thick – about as thick as the competing Roku 2 XS box is tall and about twice as thick as Boxee’s comparable clicker but without the ergonomics of say the TiVo Slide. Also, I’m getting kinda tired of these branded buttons (as also seen from Roku). But, most importantly, Scott tells me the touchpad isn’t super responsive and he has a difficult time moving the cursor. I guess it’s not all bad though, as Chris was able to easily take control of his Vizio TV, DirecTV HR-34 DVR, and Onkyo TX-NR701 receiver.
Speaking of Chris’s experience, he’s been more satisfied with his purchase than Scott. Especially once a recent firmware update hit which reduced UI lag and resolved some Dolby Digital-related playback issues. And Google TV does provide the single input, pass-thru trick – when it works. However, for a dedicated Netflix streamer (with benefits) we’d point you to the cheaper Roku (starting at $50) or for a more capable device, on par with what you might expect from Google TV, we’d suggest the WDTV Live ($90) or Boxee ($178). Of course, there’s always the Apple TV ($99) — app options are somewhat limited, but it provides a polished experience and obviously integrates well into Apple’s ecosystem.