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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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