The Logitech Revue recently arrived and I was eager to see what this whole Google TV thing was all about. For sure I understand the concept of integrating TV with the Web–I’m old enough to remember WebTV–but there does need to be a reason for doing this; the reason, I’m assuming, is to bring Google features into the bedroom or living room via the TV set that enhances what is being watched while also bringing the “Internet” over from the computer. And since having Google built into a TV means a new model rather than a firmware update for $, having a separate box like the Revue is a much less costly affair.
Setting up the Google TV is no more complicated than that of a DVD player–in fact it is a bit simpler since less cabling is required. You place the Revue box on top of the video source device–in this case that is a Dish Network Vip722 satellite receiver (with built in digital video recording capabilities). Pull the video cable out of the receiver’s output, for example, an HDMI cable that carries both video and audio in high-definition, and plug it into the review’s HDMI output (of course since the Revue only has HDMI, you better be using that or it’s a no-show).
Plug the ends of another HDMI cable between the HDMI output on the ViP722 receiver and the HDMI input on the Revue and that’s it for the A/V side of things, with the exception of an optical digital output that you can use to run audio to an external device like an amplifier. And moving into the future for a moment, the Dish Network receiver integrated with the Revue and the whole Google TV experience totally seamlessly, no fuss no problems, no issues with the Revue, makes sense of what the receiver was dealing with.
For the Internet side of things, you’ll plug an Ethernet cable into the same-named port on the back for, in my case, broadband access courtesy of a wired home network that already has a network switch in the room for just such a use. Or you can go with the Revue’s built-in WiFi if you’ve a wireless network that it can pick a signal up from (I’ve found that WiFi enabled devices such as this or an AppleTV in my case, don’t handle WiFi so well when confined in a small space amidst other electronic devices like TVs and amplifiers, etc.). Regardless, the last bit to do is to attach the IR emitter if you’re going to need to control something, like an amp, that’s in an enclosed space–otherwise the IR capabilities of the keyboard/controller that the Revue provides will handle things just fine. That’s it, except for plugging it into a power outlet or, to be safer, a surge protected outlet or, to be even more safe, an uninterrupted power supply to keep it running when the inevitable power glitch occurs.
This all being done, I turn the TV on and see a start up screen for the Revue in progress. This is followed by a series of start up screen on the second run-through; the first not giving me this option because it wanted to download updates and then reboot.
The installation screens are straightforward, if time consuming and help you to connect the Revue to the video source device (i.e., the ViP622), the TV and a third device like an amplifier if you want to. Once this is done, you’ll use the keyboard/controller to turn the satellite receiver on as well as the TV and then navigate and choose things at will.
So a quick word about the keyboard/controller–it’s quite nice. Bigger than a hand-held remote tot be sure, but well laid out, although the lack of backlighting can hurt when trying to access keys with the lights out–learn the location of the “PIP” button next to the direction pad for viewing TV content while you’re access Google features. Besides the obvious keyboard functions, there’s dedicated buttons to control the satellite receiver and its recording capabilities as well as the TV. That directional pad already mentioned helps to make things go smooth, but for my money using the built-in trackpad does the job quicker.
Now the HOME key next to the direction pad brings up the menu as an overlay over the TV picture running as a window on the right side. A list of the options for what you can do will be on the left: Bookmarks, Applications, Spotlight, Most Visited, What’s On and Amazon VOD–Amazon is self-evident as is Bookmarks once you use the built-in Web browser to access what you want online (with the exception of the jerks at some of the networks that have blocked their streaming sites).
You can use the aforementioned items from the list to navigate channels and pick out Web sites that have been predetermined for you like TBS and Logitech or YouTube, or hit some Internet radio. Or, if your video source had digital recordings, pop up the menu from the video source box (i.e., the satellite receiver) and play some digital. While the interface could stand some improvement (updates over time could take care of this, you listening Logitech?), for the most part I had no problem maneuvering my way between online and “pure” TV. Which is kind of the whole point I would think. And perhaps most importantly, the view from the Internet is sharp, in focus and compelling when displayed on a big TV screen.
I also had a chance to tool around with the (optional) video camera Logitech makes available for use with the Revue. The vidcam plugs in and is quickly accessible with minimal actions on the part of the user (helped by online streaming video aid if you want it). Video sessions on a TV are obviously bigger and more easily accessible to a family than using a hand-held device and is a more accessible way to do this.
The vidcam function works through services like Skype and others. And since the camera adjusts for the upload speed of your connection “on the fly,” you can maintain an image of yourself to the other party–for sure the “HD” quality will be downgraded but every action, reaction, etc… Add a stereo mic and an auto focus that actually works, and yep it’s worth having.
As is Google TV through the Logitech Revue. Sure there’s room for improvement–but those who remember WebTV will still be trying to pop their eyes back in their heads. For the rest of us, it’s a way to make TV more “interactive” by letting us have our PC and our bedroom or den or living room too. EG