Usually, when a new technology or advanced feature package is rolled out, TV manufacturers typically start at the top, introducing high line (and correspondingly high-priced) models at the outset, and then over time expand the offerings to lower priced tiers. That’s been the case with such things as 120 and 240 Hz refresh, LED backlighting and edgelighting, and this year’s introduction of 3D HDTVs.
Sony has instead chosen to launch internet-enabled sets with Google TV in the middle of their broad array of HDTV product tiers, and we’re one of the first to get a look at how they’ve implemented this new Internet TV service. The review sample they sent is a 32” model which is a popular size for bedrooms and other smaller-sized rooms, and the rest of the current NSX range includes a 24” set that might be ideal as a desktop monitor, while the 40” and 46” bigger siblings are probably better suited for a proper living room setup. All of the models feature full 1920 x 1080 HD resolution. But, they only come with standard 60 Hz screen refresh, which might be a turn-off for some. While the set features LED edgelighting, according to Sony, the resulting picture quality often suggests that fluorescent lighting is back there.
Consider this HDTV if: you’d like an HDTV with Google TV built-in right now, as Sony is first out of the gate with this technology.
Look elsewhere if: picture quality is more important to you than the Google TV function, as this set offers decidedly middle-of-the-road, if not sub-par, image quality.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced HDTVs):
• Overall HD picture quality: 5
• Features: 8
• Connectivity: 8
• User interface: 8
• Value: 7
While Internet apps have been around for some time now, Google TV ups the ante significantly, as the technology essentially puts a special-purpose computer inside the device, complete with Intel Atom processor, operating system (from Google, naturally), and a full-fledged browser (Google’s Chrome, as if you were expecting Internet Explorer or FireFox?). There’s on-board RAM memory (4 gigabytes in this Sony), and the set ships with a range of pre-installed functions, including Netflix as well as Sony’s own recently launched Qriosity subscription streaming service, Pandora Internet radio and Google’s ubiquitous YouTube, among others. In mid-December Google pushed out a fairly significant upgrade (it goes automatically to the set, even when the TV is in standby mode as long as there’s an active broadband connection).
Included in this update (which occurs in the middle of the night) is an improved Netflix app that provides for better and smarter searching, along with personalized recommendations. Within the list of credits, one can select a favorite actor, and the system calls up a list of other titles that he or she appeared in. While the Google TV app featured Dual View from the get-go (think of it as picture-in-picture), the update provides for re-sizing the window and allows for moving it to another location on the screen. As the Google smartphone supports Android, they’ve also just now added a remote control app in the Android Store (Google TV Remote).
While it’s great to have the TV automatically receive updates and do a self-upgrade without human intervention, it’s important to note that the update also requires a full reset, which wipes out all customized data, including picture settings, remote control settings—the works. That means that you’ll most definitely want to keep a hard copy of important picture settings and other settings that you’ve made, as you’ll have to manually go back and re-enter them after every update. That also includes having to re-configure remote control settings as well. Since the set features picture adjustment memories for each input, if you have a fair number of source components connected to the TV, you’ll be spending more than a few minutes manually re-entering your desired picture settings for all of the affected inputs after every update and subsequent full system reset.
The remote control is central to the Google TV service, as it sports a QWERTY keyboard, dedicated function buttons, and two cursor keypads, one of which features an optical trackball of sorts. It doesn’t rotate as an optical mouse’s trackball does, but instead has a small circular aperture that detects finger movement, and while not as smooth as an optical trackball, it’s better than having to tab and stab your way around the text boxes and icons. The set also features built-in compatibility with most current Dish Network HD DVRs, and pairing my Dish ViP-722K with the Sony was quick and painless.