Logitech Revue with Google TV: Hands-On Review

Big trends often arrive with modest beginnings. In 1996, Gateway launched its Destination PC, a $4,000 audio-visual monster comprising a TV tuner-enabled PC running the company's DestiVu software, infrared controller, wireless keyboard/trackpad, remote control, wireless receiver, and either a 27" or 36" CRT monitor. That's a wall phone jack in the diagram below, not an Ethernet port. It was essentially the first mass market home theater PC (HTPC) destined for living rooms. The best thing to come from Gateway's convergence bomb was inspiration. Imagine it: a home PC that could meet all multimedia entertainment desires. Surely, if it could be built for half the price, people would buy it in droves.

Then came the realization that studios and content owners loved high-margins. Satellite and cable providers had no interest in sharing their monopoly with the PC space. Intel's Viiv effort built a tremendous sports arena...and nobody showed up to play. (At least Intel earned notoriety. AMD's LIVE! platform seemed to vanish in 2007 with nary a notice.) Microsoft's Windows Media Center Edition, along with MythTV, SnapStream, and many other media center apps, remained in the domain of niche enthusiasts, not the mainstream. And Apple TV? The new version may be a great product, but the sales numbers speak for themselves. In market-making terms, Apple TV is no iPod.

As an industry, we've spent more than a decade trying to mix and match tuners, ports, case styles, operating systems, wireless gewgaws, and all manner of marketing to get the average American living room online and converged. We never stopped trying to fulfill the Destination PC's promise in hopeful yet doomed fits and starts. For years, we've sensed that the extortion of the TV providers couldn't last. How could it when a pay-per-view title with no sharing rights costs $5 and Redbox DVD is just a buck? Yet, every effort to overthrow traditional living room paradigms has met with commercial failure.

Enter Google TV and with it the Logitech Revue ($299.99), a set of hardware devices able to bring Google TV to your existing home theater. I received the Revue three days ago. I can honestly say that I haven't been this excited about a consumer electronics product in years.

I want to point out right away that Google and Logitech are not just after the early adopter geeks this time around. To test their theory, I asked my wife to do the initial Revue setup. Keep in mind that she's never even set up a stereo before. One hour after unboxing the Revue, she posted this to Facebook:

I am in love. Google tv and this logitech keyboard are frickin' awesome. I am doing this post right now on my tv. SO COOL! Netflix, gmail, youtube, google chat, pandora, facebook and I can access them all on my tv with a cute little wireless keyboard

This isn't some lobotomized half-solution like WebTV. This is the real deal and our first real shot at bringing affordable living room convergence to the masses. Walk with me through this hands-on review and see what you think.

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  • Anonymous
    What "appropriate adapters"? Do they exist? Whar'zat?
  • San Pedro
    I just hooked up my PC to my TV with an HDMI cable. That works pretty as a media center, pc, and gaming console.
  • Anonymous
    Hey Will, you can already do voice searches on the Revue using the Harmony app on your Android smartphone.

    It's found on the keyboard screen.
  • topcold
    pinnacles don't happen in capitalistic systems
  • spoonless_eddie
    Can I see this on my PC? over the net? with open-source software? Can I copy this content to watch on another machine, when I am unplugged? Can I give it away, or donate it to charity, when I am finished with it?

    A fool and his money are soon parted.
  • jamezrp
    Good read Will. I look forward to testing out the Revue myself.
  • Anonymous
    "I couldn't see a way to create or otherwise use bookmarks from within the browser."

    I suggest pushing the dedicated bookmark button (it's a star) on the keyboard. It matches the yellow star theme that Google has used for bookmarks across many different products. (Google Maps, Chrome, Google Bookmarks, Google Docs, Google Reader, etc, etc)
  • cashews
    Once it has lan support I might give it a try, until then I can't see it replacing a htpc
  • williamvw
    mtthwgrms"I couldn't see a way to create or otherwise use bookmarks from within the browser."I suggest pushing the dedicated bookmark button (it's a star) on the keyboard. It matches the yellow star theme that Google has used for bookmarks across many different products. (Google Maps, Chrome, Google Bookmarks, Google Docs, Google Reader, etc, etc)

    Bam! You're quite right. Somehow, I totally missed that. I just tried it: went into Google Docs, hit the star button, told the pop-up to make the link into a bookmark, and there it is in my Bookmarks section. (Note also that the pop-up gives you the option to send the page to your Queue rather than the Bookmarks.) That said, I think the thing that threw me was the bookmarks being separated from the main Chrome UI. Perhaps it would be more intuitive if there was a small icon in the corner of Chrome that spawned a fly-out bookmarks menu? Food for thought. Still...my bad, and thank you for the correction, mtthwgrms.
  • topcold
    "I couldn't see a way to create or otherwise use bookmarks from within the browser. "

    Have you tried using the keyboard shortcuts from the PC browser? (I don't know if that works, but people are saying most of the keyboard shortcuts are the same)

    "but Google can't let the same riotous sprawl hit living rooms that we've seen on its smartphone marketplace"

    Its called 'choice' - if you want someone else to make the choices for you, you could always get Apple TV ;)

    "Perhaps this is why Google is waiting until next year to open up its TV app store and broaden its functionality."

    No, here is why: Each version of Android has certain compatibility definitions manufacturers must follow if they want to be considered a fully compliant Android device.

    They don't have to - but then they don't get access to the proprietary Google apps, like the market)

    So, amusingly enough, according to Googles own guidelines, Google TV is not a compliant Android device (for instance, version 2.1 of Android requires the device to have GPS - obviously Google TV doesn't have a GPS nor need one) - so instead of giving themselves permission to break the rules (and risk lawsuits and angry manufacturers) they adhered to the rules and didn't add the market.

    Now the next version of Android is very close, and there they can make sure to phrase the new rules for requirements in such a way that Google TV will be compliant. And since the new rules apply to everybody, nobody need get upset.
  • Anonymous
    does this thing play back music I have on networked PC's? If so, does it play WMP and Zune playlists?
  • Anonymous
    Hooked everything up and started on screen setup. One of the first steps is to maximize the size of the viewing area, expanded to fill the screen as directed and completed setup. Booting up is SLOW...over 5 minutes! I then activated the internet and found that videos requiring a player will not work on this system. This was my reason for buying, to watch flash videos from a membership site on our home gym tv.

    TV does not work inside of the system so I changed the input back to "tv." (This may be an issue with my TV model) Now the size of my viewing area for my tv has SHRUNK! Let me be clear...Revue setup directed me to ENLARGE viewing area inside of their setup. Now the area has SHRUNK when switched back to tv mode.

    This morning I called "support" about the issue. Rude Andrew told me that the Revue system had nothing to do with my tv screen resolution/size. I rebutted: YOUR setup system required that I make adjustments to the viewing area THROUGH your device. When I switch OFF of your system (and when I disconnect it entirely) the viewing area on my original system has shrunk and it has nothing to do with your system? Using the tv remote I ran through the tv's screen modes, none of them fill the screen now.

    I then asked Andrew how to reset through the Revue. He says there is no way, agian arguing that Revue has nothing to do with it. Critical thinking engaged here? Obviously not. I ask for a supervisor and am told there is none. I ask for number to corporate and am told that he has no idea. Really?

    I look up corporate on the internet and ask for escalation (which Andrew SHOULD have engaged for me). No one knows how to fix the problems that their system caused. I was offered a refund, but waht about returning my tv to it's original state?

    RUN FROM THIS PRODUCT! It was released far too early and "support" is ill-trained. Escalation noted that there are many problems and they just don't know how to fix them. Be aware, any site that has videos that need a "player" on your computer WILL NOT WORK! It seems that "apps" are coming in a few months, but no one knows if a "player" will be included.

    So, who will pay a technician to come out and try to reset my tv screen viewing area?
  • mirandasb
    I have been using this for some time now. I first got some hands on to this working at DISH, after I couldn't wait till I could purchase it myself! I think the set-up was easy, its at most 3 cords! 2 HDMI cables, one going from the receiver to the Revue and one going from the Revue to the TV. Then the power cord to the outlet. Its simple! Then the initial set-up of the actual Google TV took about maybe 15 minutes at max! I was quick and easy. I would recommend this to everyone. As for the above comment, I didn't have any issues with my screen size. It did adjust the size of the actual TV view while working with Chrome, otherwise my TV screen is perfectly fine.