Over the course of modern culture, some brand names fall into the vernacular. About to sneeze? Grab a Kleenex. Need to vacuum? Head for the Hoover. Want a soda? How about a Coke? Want to find specific content on the Internet? More often than not we’ll simply say, “Google it.”
Not just a search engine, Google’s rapidly expanding empire now includes their new Google TV service, recently launched with partners Logitech (the keyboard and mice people) and Dish Network. Also, Sony also just recently announced select HDTVs with Google TV built-in.
While many current HDTV sets include some sort of Internet application functions, their usefulness and the amount of corresponding content they can access is somewhat limited, compared to what’s available to a PC user. And, using a virtual keyboard to search out content with many Internet-enabled HDTVs can be a hassle—if not a royal pain.
Enter Google TV, via Logitech’s new Revue, which is something of a dedicated computer box that’s designed to bring the broad array of available Internet content directly to your HDTV. While the computer industry would have you to believe that everybody needs to have their PC connected to their HDTV, that just isn’t the case. For the vast majority of PC users, their PC is in one place in the home, and their HDTV is elsewhere, and they’re not connected—period.
Consider Google’s YouTube service, where vast quantities of content are easily available and searchable via a typical PC, laptop or netbook. That same service is available from many current HDTVs, but searching and finding content is anything but easy, as the lack of a dedicated keyboard has users fumbling with a virtual keyboard from their TV remote control.
The Logitech Revue is essentially a limited purpose computer that’s primarily media-oriented, as opposed to a stand-alone PC that’s more of a multi-tasker that can handle a variety of functions. Equipped with Intel’s Atom processor, the Revue is based on Google’s Android operating system, and provides the ability to surf the net, seek out and find content, and display same on your HDTV without the hassle of connecting a home computer.
The Revue box itself is compact enough, and is about four fifths of the size of a netbook, and comes with a keyboard that communicates with the Revue via wireless RF, so there’s no need to be constantly within the narrow IR window that conventional infrared remote controls require. At launch, Google TV partnered with Logitech and satellite provider Dish Network, although Logitech’s Revue website lists a number of other cable and satellite providers that can work with the Revue.
About the only main requirements are that A) the Revue be connected via HDMI between the set-top-box and the HDTV with HDMI connections to both, and that B) there needs be some sort of Internet connectivity available. The Revue is equipped with both wireless Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet connectivity, and for wireless connection along with the best HD streaming video quality they recommend that the wireless router support the higher speed 802.11n specification (this is no big deal given that 802.11n wireless routers are widely available and easily affordable).
The keyboard that comes with the Logitech Revue could be considered full-size, compared to a typical laptop or netbook keyboard, although it’s only about three quarters the size of a typical desktop PC’s keyboard. That it communicates with the Revue box wirelessly, via RF as opposed to infrared, makes it vastly more usable—it’s easy to curl up on the couch with the keyboard pointed toward the ceiling and away from the box and surf away. It’s also much lighter and slimmer than a typical PC keyboard and is fairly well laid out.
On the upper right side, there’s a touchpad that allows your finger to do the walking, but the touchpad doesn’t support double-clicking as your laptop does. Underneath the touchpad there’s a confirmation bar, as well as a cursor keypad similar to what’s found on most TV and STB remotes.
At the installation phase, the Revue queries the user to identify the associated equipment, including the set-top-box, the TV and also an AVR, which is a relatively painless process. Once accomplished (which doesn’t take long at all), the keyboard can fire up the TV, the STB and the AVR, and control the key functions of all three.
Based on the Android operating system, and using Google’s Chrome browser, the surfing experience is similar to what you might expect with a typical PC. But, there are limitations, especially when it comes to loading pages. The default browser location is Google’s search engine, and currently the Revue comes equipped with a limited number of apps, such as Netflix, Pandora Internet radio, Major League Baseball and a few others. That’s supposed to change in 2011, when Google is supposedly slated to unleash literally thousands of apps that are available to current Android-based smartphone users.