Revue of My Google TV

Here’s a little low down on my recently purchased, now defunct Logitech Revue with Google TV. The device is a set top box that is supposed to integrate with your current television set up. I’d like to make one disclaimer and statement: I am TOTALLY AWARE that the Google TV software package is NOT FOR EVERYONE. The subsequent text may not reflect such. I’m just going to mention my findings and opinions for those that have heard of this or may be on the fence for purchasing. This will be a long “TECHY” post.

First off, the Logitech Revue is not being manufactured anymore. This means you can get a really good price on it. I nabbed mine for $100 from good ol’ The package includes the set top box, HDMI cable, keyboard with AA batteries, IR blaster, and power cord.

More notes on the hardware:

1 HDMI port
1 ethernet port
2 USB ports

1 HDMI port
1 optical audio out

The keyboard or “remote” is a QWERTY keyboard similar to those slim bluetooth keyboards used on Apple products. It’s not large at all. Note: images taken by my Android DroidX camera under CM7. Picture quality isn’t the greatest, but it will do. . . .

The keyboard will take some getting used to for navigation. On the right of it there’s a mouse track pad. You can navigate on the screen inside of the Google TV software with the mouse cursor or use the arrow keys. I’m still trying to get used to the track pad not being “tap to click” capable, but the single click button under it will work. Other keys on the keyboard include standard android functions such as the escape key, home key, and menu key. My other gripe about the keyboard is there’s no backlight on it. If you’re like me and seem to only watch television in a dark room, the backlight is much needed. But don’t worry there’ s a work around. More to come on that.

The Google TV is running Android 3.1 (Honeycomb). It doesn’t look like any of the tablets out there, but it will give your television a “feel” of a pseudo tablet when you launch the Android Market to find apps. Like those running Windows Phone 7, the app ecosystem is a little slim (for now). I was mildly surprised not to see Angry Birds in the list of compatible apps for this device, because Lord knows EVERYONE WANTS ANGRY BIRDS. (Smh) I’ve found the Google Music and Twitter app to be useful. It’s been nice to listen to my tracks via my surround sound. I wish Spotify had a compatible app. (nudge)

Google TV is meant to bring you the ability to have the web and your television integrated. You have to have your current cable/satellite provider’s set top box connect to the Google TV with an HDMI cable. That’s the only way on the Revue. Once connected, the set up options are pretty simple to follow. A series of questions based on model number and carrier and you’re done.

If you have an A/V receiver you can connect your Google TV to it as well for audio if your receiver uses an HDMI input or an optical input. I had some complications with my receiver. It has two HDMI inputs, but it’s only for video PASS THROUGH. Audio isn’t supported. So I had to pipe audio via an optical cable instead. You can pair your keyboard to control your receiver for its functions. As a matter of fact, your keyboard can operate your television too.

Ok, so hardware is out of the way. Let’s get into the meat of this device – software. The internet browser is the (as expected) Chrome browser. In my experience, it’s functional. It’s not as fast or smooth, but it’s functional. I had only one crash. It seemed to be due to a missing plugin of some sort. But overall, the browser was functional. Here’s a shot of Google Plus I took with my cell phone.

I was able to get another website that was resource hungry to load. It looked pretty good. (Go Tigers!)

Back to the other apps, the search feature allows you to search for content by keyword like running a Google query. The results returns hits from the web, Youtube, and your cable/satellite device if connected. It lets you know what’s free and available as well as video quality. When it mentions items that are free, this data set is also including your current online subscriptions such as Netflix. I’ve tried a few items outside of Netflix and it worked “okay”. This is because the other sources are played in the browser, which I already mentioned to be a little slow in processing. I have 12Mbps download speeds, so I know my internet connection is fast. It has to be the browser’s processing in the device in my opinion. Below is the app called “What’s On” that’s built into the OS. The Netflix app is simple and works like other Android versions, by the way.

Ok. Now the more geeky stuff. Video podcasts. There is a podcast app that offers up different genres of podcasts as well as allows you to input your own subscriptions. I added Tekzilla to my feed and it was BEAUTIFUL in HD. Granted my camera doesn’t show this, but trust me, it was BEAUTIFUL. I was previously using a media server to watch my podcasts on my Playstation 3 which required transcoding on the fly for viewing. This transcoding could have meant a little degradation in video quality if your server’s hardware wasn’t high end.

Now for those of you that have movies stored on your hard drive, the Plex app is a must. I’ve been a Plex user for quite a while. I installed their server on my computer, purchased their Android app for a whopping $5 (worth it), and have been enjoying my media on the go ever since. As previously mentioned, I was running a different media server to see my podcasts and I also used it to watch my videos found on my hard drive. This was a great piece of software, but did have its challenges when it came to transcoding the files into something viewable by my Playstation 3. Plex seems to have the transcoding issue down. I loaded up a movie that’s in 1080 resolution (.mkv file container) and it was BEAUTIFUL. No stutter, no lag, and Dolby Digital audio format. The Plex app for Google TV is 99 cents, so it’s worth it too.

(my apologies for the poor quality of my hacked cell phone camera)

Lastly, remember that backlight on the keyboard I longed for? Well with the free Android Google TV remote app, this backlight isn’t needed. You can just use your cell phone to control your Google TV and essentially all of your devices connected to it. The Market had a few shotty reviews of this app, but I really like it. If people would READ THE MANUAL, they would see how to use the app properly. I really love how the volume control is done by the volume rocker on my cell phone. The app has two views, a regular remote view and a track pad view. Here are two screen shots I took of my DroidX.

(track pad view)

This remote app will only work if you’re on the same Local Area Network as your Google TV. I just need to find a way to allow my cell phone to continue to control these devices AND my Playstation 3. But I think PS3 uses bluetooth connectivity. (Not sure) I’m sure there’s a hack somewhere. I digress. . . .

In conclusion, I’m digging this device. I haven’t had to deal with too many changes to my current home media set up and viewing habits. This device just added the internet to my television and made it a pseudo tablet device. I enjoy the functionality of the native apps. I enjoy the functionality of this device with my DirecTV. (Track pad doesn’t work in the DirecTV interface, but arrows do.) I enjoy the harmony remote feature. Note: if you’re not keen on the full size keyboard remote or the Android app, there is a smaller “regular” remote with a QWERTY keyboard available. As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, this device isn’t for everybody. It’s for those wanting to get more out of their televisions and multimedia. It’s for the geek community. It’s for anyone that is cutting cable and wants to get their television content more like a la cart. In my case, it’s a way to have “smart apps” on an semi old 50” television.

Thank you for reading this post. I hope I answered questions you may have had. Comments are always welcomed on my mindless blog. Feel free to leave a comment and/or question.