From the moment we first set our eyes on Sony’s Internet TVs powered by Google TV, we were impressed. Google TV basically brings the best entertainment on the internet to your TV. For the past few weeks we have had the opportunity to live with Google TV, and it turns out that living with it as our primary TV isn’t all that we expected it to be.
We reviewed Sony’s NSX-46GT1 which is still amongst the first TVs to come with Google TV built-into it. The TV itself is quite the looker with a glossy white curved back finish and an iPad’esque frame on the front – its design is indeed very Mac’esque. As a stand alone TV, the NSX-46GT1 is quite impressive. Besides for its spiffy design, it’s also features an LED backlit display with a 1080p resolution. It also packs in four HDMI connections, component/composite connections for older devices, four USB ports, 24p True Cinema support, Light Sensor technology, and built-in 1080p up-scaling.
Getting up and running with Google TV is easy. The system has both an ethernet port and built-in Wi-Fi (a/b/g/n), so connecting it to the internet is as easy as connecting it to your local network. The system comes with a “Keypad”. The keypad is used as the system’s remote control and it sports a full QWERTY keyboard along with an optical finger sensor for controlling the mouse pointer, as well as scrolling, and zooming in on photos. The optical finger sensor takes a bit of getting used to, but overall, the keypad is just the right size and offers a solid form-factor for operating a smart TV. Alternatively, you can use your Android phone or iPhone as a remote control by downloading the Google TV Remote.
Google TV is running Android and is powered by an Intel Atom processor. The system is responsive and the Atom processor manages to provide the the system with plenty of power for all of its multimedia tasks. Speaking of multimedia tasks, there is almost nothing this TV cant do. For starters, the system comes with the Google Chrome browser with support for Adobe Flash 10.1 for surfing the web. We found the experience of surfing the web on the TV to be pleasant enough, although we’re really not sure how often we would use it – it is a nice feature to have. Google TV also offers other apps like Twitter, Napster, Pandora, Netflix, Vimeo, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, CNBC Real-Time, Sony’s own Qriocity movie service, NBA Game Time, Crackle, HBO Go, Blip.tv, C-SPAN Video Library, Dailymotion, EpixHD, Vevo, and more. The system also has a Gallery app which lets you stream photos from Picasa, Flickr, etc, essentially transforming your TV into a giant picture frame.
When it comes to apps like YouTube, you can stream both standard def and high def videos (when available) to your TV. Generally, HD streaming quality is top notch, although we didn’t experience the occasional stutter which was probably do to our own network issues. The user interface also features a neat picture -in-picture mode so that you can navigate the Google TV interface while simultaneously watching TV in a smaller window.
Google TV is able to work hand in hand with your live TV channels. One of its neatest features is its ability to search your TV. Input a search term and Google TV will search live TV, your apps, and the web for you. Then you can access what you’re looking for instantly. You can also use Google TV as a sort of DVR by creating TV playlists which are added to your Google Queue. Items on the playlists can include YouTube videos, and video podcasts. Furthermore if you’re a Dish network subscriber, you can use Google TV as a serious DVR system so that you can record TV programs and search your TV recordings. It’s just a shame though that these enhanced TV functions are limited to DISH network subscribers.
Unfortunately, our biggest issues with Google TV lies with its user interface. While the system is powerful, its user interface feels unintuitive and uninspiring, and even somewhat disorganized. We often found ourselves squinting to read the text used in the menus, even on a 46″ display. We also often found ourselves scratching our heads about how to navigate around the system. The reality is, that when you compare Google TV’s U.I. design to that of Boxee, or Apple TV, it comes up short. At the end of the day, we really feel like the U.I. needs to be revamped. Fortunately, we have heard from a few semi-reliable sources, that a major Google TV refresh is on its way soon. Whether that refresh comes in the form of new hardware products, or just software, Sony’s series of Google TVs should support any software updates via over the air updates.
Overall, we would best describe the Google TV experience in its current form as powerful and robust, but not intuitive. That said Sony’s NSX-46GT1 Internet TV is a quality TV with a beautiful design and great HD performance that produces solid colors and blacks. When it comes to those don’t have cable, we could really see why Google TV could be especially appealing for them because it offers TV viewers lots of content options without being tied to a cable connection. But how many people actually need to Tweet directly form their TV, we’re not sure, but it is a nice feature to have regardless. Fortunately, Sony’s Google TVs are pretty reasonably priced. The 46″ Sony NSX-46GT1 TV can be purchased online for under a $1000. The 32″ model is also going for around $599, and the 40″ for around $700.
The Good: Stylish and Unique Design, Solid visuals, Excellent keypad / remote control, Google TV is a powerful platform, Built-in Wi-fi, TV is Energy efficient
The Bad: Some popular services like Hulu are missing, thin metal stand is a bit chintzy, Google TV user interface is unintuitive