The Google TV platform is the newest entry into the Internet-enabled TV space. Rather than creating a single Google-branded device, the company developed the platform and made it available to various manufacturers, much as it did with its Android smartphone operating system (the core technology around which Google TV is based). As of this writing, the various options for Google TV include Sony Internet TV models with Google TV built in, and the Logitech Revue set-top box, though other products will likely be developed in the future.
One challenge presented by this approach is that different hardware will offer different connectivity options and add-on possibilities, as well as varying price points. The Logitech Revue box comes with a price tag of $299, while the Sony TVs are all LCD HDTV models with built-in Google TV, priced at $599 (24”), $799 (32”), $999 (40”), and $1399 (46”). The Sony Blu-ray player with Google TV sells for $399.
Unlike Apple's goal of taking specific forms of content and building a simple device focused on that content, Google's aim is to bring the entire Internet into your living room. Google TV can access a variety of Internet audio and video sources, including Netflix streaming, Amazon Video On Demand, NBA TV, YouTube (which is owned by Google), Napster, and Pandora—as well as some network-specific content. Google TV also offers applications that come built into the device (with third-party applications planned for the future), including the Google Chrome web browser and Twitter. Support is also included for browsing photos on sharing sites such as Flickr, Google's Picasa, and others.
Google integrates a search bar into the Google TV interface that allows you to search for available programming as well as for web and other online content. Search strings (and other text-based content) can be entered using a remote app for Android smartphones and devices as well as for Apple's iOS devices. Internet content displayed on devices can also be displayed on the TV by using a feature known as Fling.
Depending on the product, a remote with a physical keyboard may be included or available as an add-on. Other add-ons are also available, depending on the specific product purchased. Owners of Logitech's Revue box, for example, can purchase a webcam option for $150 that will allow video calls to be placed from the TV.
Dish Network subscribers can integrate Google TV with their Dish-provided DVR to search recordings or schedule future recordings—a nice tie-in with Google's search feature. While this is a big plus, it isn't available if you subscribe to other satellite or cable providers. In fact, the setup of the set-top box Google TV product can be challenging for some cable or satellite consumers, because a cable or satellite set-top box (DVR, digital/HD cable box, or satellite receiver) must be plugged into the Google TV box rather than directly into the TV for proper functionality.
A/V connections supported: Varies depending on device.
Pros: Widest range of content of any set-top box; ability to expand with third-party apps and hardware add-ons; Internet browsing and social media side by side with TV content; integration with Dish Network DVRs.
Cons: High price point; complex setup in some instances; range of features and reliance on text input make overall use more complicated. Google TV is essentially a PC displayed on your TV with a slick interface.
Best for: Tech-savvy people looking to integrate a broad range of basic and premium Internet content as well as other common Internet functionality with their TV experience.