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Logitech Revue with Google TV: Hands-On Review
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What excites me most about Google TV is the Web browsing. Wherever you are in the Google TV UI, you need only hit the magnifying glass key on the keyboard to pop up a Chrome address/search bar. As you can see in the example below, Google TV Search spans your TV listings, the Web, and compatible app/widget content. The only missing piece is your own LAN. Can you search your PC and that big NAS box stuffed with media in your closet? Not yet. But according to Google, that's coming next year, too.


As for Chrome, the experience is very similar to Chrome on your PC. Considering the screen proportions, it feels a lot like surfing on a netbook, only now the netbook is no longer cramped and constraining. In fact, within a single day of use, my family had given up on our living room 12" notebook and switched completely to using the Revue. My Yahoo, Google Docs, Blogger, online banking, and everything else runs fine, so why not? It's the first time we've had a "PC" in the room that actually fit better with the family's lifestyle in that space.

Google TV lets you maintain multiple "tabs," which seem equivalent to new browser windows, and these can be opened from any application by hitting the Menu key. Simply pick New Tab from the pop-up bar to behind a new window, or pick New Incognito Tab to not leave any traces of your Web travels behind in the Tab History. The only problem with this arrangement is that you can't see your other open tabs, so navigating between them is a real pain. The only practical use I could find for them today is keeping one page open and unchanging while I went to go work on something else for a few minutes. With so much available space still available on the Google TV, this shouldn't be a hard problem to resolve.

While Google is at work making multiple tabs more user-friendly perhaps it can put bookmarks back into Google TV's Chrome. I couldn't see a way to create or otherwise use bookmarks from within the browser. This really cuts down on convenience and efficiency while browsing, and it seems like a doubly glaring omission given that Chrome can sync bookmarks across multiple devices through your Google user account. The only "bookmarks" present are those shown at the top of the Home screen, and I have yet to discover a way to manipulate these.

Last but not least, Google needed a video rental partner on this platform, and Amazon On Demand fills the niche well with its catalog of movies and TV shows. Amazon movies currently top out at $3.99, which is still less than the $5 I paid (before time and gas) on my last trip to Blockbuster. Amazon's home page widget quickly lands you back in Chrome on Amazon's site to complete your order. It's all very seamless and fast.

 

You probably know about the lengthy wranglings involved in just getting some full-length shows on Hulu and the new Hulu Plus service. Apparently, rather than find some new, not even creative ways to monetize shows through Google TV, the major broadcast networks are blocking some of their most popular content from playing on Google TV devices. Rather than repeat the Wall Street Journal's article on this subject, you can read it here. Interestingly, I used the Revue's Chrome Web browser to pull up NBC's site for "The Office." The full-length show featured at the top of the page would not play but other full-length episodes linked further down the page played just fine. In fact, in an odd bit of irony, NBC has its video window sized large enough to nearly fill my 720p TV. I played an episode of The Office in HD through the Revue and it looked great, with no observable dropped frames after buffering. Regardless, if NBC and the other networks are willing to give away full-length episodes for free as long as commercials come along for the ride, then why not have Android apps for the shows the networks' full lineups? Why not make a carbon copy of each show's microsite to run as a Google TV app and let it subscribe through the Queue? Surely the TV studios have learned from the disaster of the music studios...haven't they?

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