Sony NSZ-GS7 review

Can the Sony's first Google TV box app the ante?

Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player with Google TV
Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player with Google TV

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IMDB app

Will Sony make a dedicated Google TV on the back of this box's success, or will Apple's much-discussed app-laden iTV ultimately consign the whole idea to history?

The swelling of Goolge TV-centric apps in Google Play could be the platform's saviour, but there's a DIY aspect to this set-top box that won't have wide appeal beyond the tech-savvy.

Meanwhile, Sony has promised a NSZ-GS7 3D Blu-ray Player with Google TV for autumn, which might reduce the 'who needs another box?' cries.

We liked

Quick to start-up, the NSZ-GS7 offers useful HDMI switching that results in a live TV thumbnail while browsing on Chrome. That browser is highly functional and reasonably pleasant to use, but not as important as it might seem because Google is continuing to fit-up YouTube as an arbiter of video on the internet.

YouTube is presented in its most functional app yet, fetching on-demand content in such a way that it almost deserves to be the whole point of this product. Despite Google TV offering a potentially compelling alternative to necessarily fiddly and restrictive apps, it is good to see the appearance of a Netflix app, though it crashed during our test.

We disliked

While finding disparate sources of video either via the Chrome browser or YouTube is a lot of fun at first, not being able to save shortcuts, bookmarks that are hard to access and a general a lack of customization makes it all a bit too long-winded.

Add a pretty terrible trackpad remote that makes scrolling down a simple web page a pain, and the whole experience lacks usability - and hamstrings the YouTube app. We're surprised there's no voice control or search, with no mic in the remote, though it's the no-show of UK-centric catch-up TV apps, as well as missing services like Lovefilm, that make Google TV look like a rather fiddly platform that lacks an overriding reason for being.

Final verdict

Google TV potentially compelling, but even in the world of regular firmware updates and new apps, is that enough? It's should fetch video from disparate websites and present it in a source-neutral way. Chrome doesn't do that, and nor does a motley collection of mostly smartphone-centric Google Play apps help in that mission.

The real arbiter of content on this Google TV box is an excellent YouTube app that is by far the best place to head to for sheer breadth of content. It's far from perfect - and nor is Sony's trackpad remote - but 'ultimate YouTube access' might be a more fitting sell for this box. Trouble is, YouTube already features on most smart TV platforms.

So is Google TV better than the cheaper options, Apple TV or an Xbox 360? Hardware-wise, absolutely not - and the software is not as impressive, either - though with a friendlier, far more streamlined remote and a growing list of apps on Google Play there could be a future. A great browser it might have, but even a clever Chrome can't locate enough compelling answers to the key question about Google TV; what's it for?

Also consider

Those after a purely UK-centric catch-up TV experience should head immediately to the pricer, at £299, first YouView set-top box from Humax, while those after YouTube, voice control and streaming movies will have a better experience on a £160 Xbox 360 games console.

A slicker interface, meanwhile, is available via Apple TV, which costs only £99.

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and He also edits two of his own websites, and that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),