HDMI switching

Lifestyle

The ability of the NSZ-GS7 to indulge in some basic HDMI switching is a killer feature, instantly bringing an existing set-top box - in our case a Virgin Media TiVo PVR - into the experience. It proved relatively easy to set-up; attach any set-top to the NSZ-GS7 via an HDMI cable, then go through a set-up wizard to determine manufacturer and model number of both the set-top box and the TV you're using.

The end result is that the NSZ-GS7's remote control can operate most functions of both third party products, including changing the volume and channel, although we did detect a slight lip-sync issue from time to time.

It's possible to put a picture-in-picture thumbnail of live TV in the corner of the screen while you surf the web on the NSZ-GS7, which is a seriously joined-up feature we like.

It's also worth noting that set-up, in which we encountered no hold-ups or problems locating IR codes (potentially devastating if the database doesn't include your products), took over 30 minutes and involved a couple of re-boots.

Although the choice of apps on Google Play is - for now - limited, there's a mixed performance, too. We fired-up Flixster and watched a few movie trailers, which loaded quickly and played stably. Not so the hot-off-the-press Netflix, which continually crashed. We never did get it to work.

YouTube

Youtube app

Should this really be called Sony YouTube TV? Its dedicated YouTube app impresses, with a fresh new interface - compared to the video website's appearance on smart TVs - that includes thumbnail links to trending, recently featured and most popular videos along with a fluid search function that's held up only by the remote.

However, the best aspect of YouTube - and perhaps of this product - is the YouTube app's channels section. Upfront are links to the various BBC channels (we found links to just-broadcast material like Citizen Kahn, Reading & Leeds Festival, Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure and Waterloo Road as well classic BBC series like Coogan's Run and the Wonders of The Solar System on the BBC, BBC America, BBC Worldwide and BBC Earth channels), though that's largely down to the wonders of the alphabet.

It proved difficult to find any of the other YouTube-hosted channels, such as footage from ITV Player or Channel Four. We know they're on there, but the list of channels is so long and the remote is frustratingly poor at scrolling down pages.

To do so it's necessary to swipe downwards only on the right-hand side of the trackpad, but it's not sensitive enough. However, choose a series and the app immediately plays the first episode, and as well as scanning controls also displays a Google+ button in case you feel the need to share.

YouTube is a potentially great app - though video quality is invariably poor, and it's let down by the remote. It's also already on most smart TVs.

Chrome browsing

Chrome

The best bit about Google TV is indeed the Chrome browser. Apps are often nothing more than shortcut web links, of course, so we tried logging-on to the BBC iPlayer site directly through the Chrome browser, and … bingo. It's arguably more intuitive to use the main BBC iPlayer website than it is the made-for-smart-TVs app version, and though it's possible to save bookmarks, we do wish there was a way of bookmarking sites to the main toolbar.

As well as managing to watch full-screen content direct from the BBC iPlayer website, it performed a similar trick from Vimeo (we watched Earth: As Seen from the ISS) and iConcerts. It's not possible to stream from Lovefilm's website - Chrome doesn't support Microsoft Silverlight (we did download it, but to no avail) - and nor could we watch movies on Netflix (it defaulted to the perennially frozen/crashed Netflix app).

If, during a search on Chrome you find a video from YouTube, the NSZ-GS7 gives you a choice between watching via the browser or through the YouTube app. The latter is probably advisable, though we found it easier to browse for films through Chrome. Watching movies via YouTube on a TV is excellent - we found Mr Nice and Red for 99p each - though it would be good to see a few more movie streaming apps available.

Chrome browsing

Incidentally, actually performing a search in Chrome is a cinch; start typing using the backside remote, and suggestions instantly appear. To actually select one of those suggestions it's worth noting that it's easier to use the tiny arrows and 'enter' button on that diminutive QWERTY keyboard rather than turning over the whole thing and negotiating the trackpad to select and double-tap.

Although we feel slightly shortchanged in terms of the choice of apps on Google Play, the presence of such a functional browser does negate that to some extent. We just wish we could save shortcuts to websites somewhere easily accessible in the core GUI.

Chrome options

As pleasant as using Chrome is - relatively speaking - it doesn't feel anywhere near as personal as it could do. Once you've signed-in Gmail can be checked instantly through the browser, as can documents stored in Google Drive and Google Calendar, though most households will find the need to use one Google Account problematic.