What is Google TV? Vizio and Sony have recently released Google TV boxes. The Vizio Co-Star at $99 and the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player with Google TV, $199 can be connected to your TV and to your cable or satellite box for a complete Google TV experience. Google TV has matured since it came out in October of 2010. While the initial devices could not deliver on many of its promised features, the new crop of Google TV devices are beginning to live up to their potential.
Google TV is different than other media streamers because it integrates with live TV—cable or satellite. If you haven't seen it yet, here's the lowdown explaining Google TV.
Google TV apps
Like "Apple TV," Google TV is not actually a television, it is a platform,—i.e., it's Android for your TV. Google Play (the Android store), has apps that are made for Google TV, and apps that work on other devices that also work on Google TV. Most of the apps relate to streaming TV, music, games, or other entertainment. Still, you can also download apps for reading documents and others not normally found on TVs.
Google TV includes the Google Chrome web browser. Although negotiations are taking place to allow Google TV access to TV shows, you still can't stream videos from many websites—Network TV sites, Hulu, and others.
Some of the apps for Google TV take you to a self-contained app like those you would find on other media players. Other apps simply connect you to the video streaming website. When you click on the Amazon Instant Video App, it takes you to the Amazon website to play the video. HBO Go, Crackle and other streaming sites can be accessed through an app called "Spotlight TV."
Watching Live TV Through Google TV
When setting up a Google TV box, you connect your cable or satellite box to the Google TV, set up your location and indicate to which channels you are subscribed. The cable or satellite signal will pass through the Google TV box so you can simply watch TV. When you access Google TV, it will on top of your live TV programming until you switch to another app. To the Google TV, your live TV is just another app.
Some apps allow you to view tweets onscreen while watching a TV show. Also, you can easily switch to the Chrome web browser by bringing up the Google TV home screen or searching for something while watching TV. It's this search function, and the TV and Movie listings app that make Google TV a desirable enhancement to live TV.
Finding TV and Movies to Watch
Google TV has a couple of features that make it easy to find what you want to watch. The Movies & TV app displays a grid of cover art of the movies and TV programs that currently showing on your cable or satellite service. When you first open the Movies and TV app, you can rate 20 movies and the app will use that information to suggest movies and TV shows to you.
As you browse through the grid, notice a progress bar beneath each title that displays how long that show has been on. Is it halfway through the show, close to the end? It is easy to scan the grid for shows that have just started by looking for short progress bars. Double clicking on a movie or TV show changes the channel on your cable or satellite box. The menu then disappears so you can watch TV as you would normally. It's much better than the TV listings or grid guides on any cable or satellite box.
There is also a universal search function on Google TV. When you want to find a movie or TV show, press "search" on the Google TV remote and type in the title (or any search term). Google TV will display the results it finds on the web and on your TV service. If you look for a movie or TV show, it will display if streaming will be free, how much it will cost, and which streaming providers are offering the title. If you want to Google information about the TV show you are watching, the search feature can be accessed at any time.
In the past two years, Google TV has finally been able to deliver on some of the features it initially promised. Samsung has announced that by year's end they will release TVs with built in Google TV. Stay tuned for reviews on the Vizio Co-Star and the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player with Google TV and more news about what TVs and devices will include Google TV.