Google TV review

Can Google's Internet TV service deliver the experience you demand?

google tv review
Can Google TV live up to expectations?

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Google tv

Google delivered an update to Google TV in December; when we plugged in the Revue we had to wait almost five minutes on a fast broadband connection for this to download and install before we could get to the twelve set up steps.

These aren't difficult but it does take about twenty minutes (much too long), the user experience is disappointing and not nearly friendly enough; Google TV can't autodetect screen size or resolution so you have to manually resize the image on screen.

update google tv

Even if you have a network cable in, the setup asks you to choose between wired and wireless (the equivalent step with Apple TV makes it much clearer that you have a network connection but can switch to Wi-Fi if you want) and it's never encouraging when the designers have so much confidence in the intuitiveness of their interface that they play you a training video you can't skip at the end of setup.

The Keyboard Controller remote

The Revue box is a netbook inside and the Keyboard Controller reinforces that. It's remarkably light, but it's also large and computer-like. The keyboard scatters the special keys around confusingly; Home, Back and Picture in picture are with the playback controls but Search is where the Windows key would usually be and Mute and volume are over on the top left.

Despite the size of the keyboard, key buttons like Stop and Zoom are secondary function keys to leave space for Ctrl, Alt and Tab.

Things you'd expect to work – like being able to scroll through a list with the mouse pointer as well as the arrow buttons – just don't (there is a two-finger scroll gesture but it's just not that comfortable when you're holding the keyboard).

google tv

We found ourselves repeatedly switching from the arrow keys to the touchpad and back because many apps demand you use both and it's not clear which works for any given interaction until you try.

You can't tell which of the playback keys will work either; play/pause works with the podcast Queue interface and on some of the Spotlight video apps, but not in YouTube (so you have to mouse over to the on-screen pause button).

Having a keyboard at all could be seen as a failure (the Apple TV remote is at the other extreme of being almost too simple), but if you want to search or type in URLs, you're going to need one and this is certainly better than the terrible predictive text systems on Samsung connected TVs (and faster to type on than the alphabetical on screen keyboard of Apple TV).

The Sony Google TV controller groups the special buttons far more logically, but has the same problem of too many function keys, plus the QWERTY keys are much too small.

You don't have to use the Revue keyboard to control Google TV; Logitech sells a version of the DiNovo Mini Controller with Google TV buttons and functionality, or both Google and Logitech provide free Android apps to run on your phone.

The Google TV Remote app lets you search by talking to your phone, but it only works on Android 2.2; 2.1 users can get the similar Logitech Harmony app without the voice control.


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.