Sony NSZ-GT1 Blu-Ray Player with Google TV Reviewby Andrew Van Til on November 29, 2010 3:45 PM EST
GTV delivers one of the most comprehensive applications platforms available by providing web and internet content alongside a browser with Flash video support. Unfortunately, in this case, despite the quantity of applications provided, the overall experience is often disjointed and inconsistent.
For example, search is a major part of the overall GTV experience. Where in many cases it works quite well with a limited subset of the content federated on the device (i.e. the STB’s guide data), it does not provide a true unified search, browse and consume model consistently across all of the applications available on the box. The video below demonstrates the experience as we dig deeper into the search results.
As we can see from the example presented in the video where search works with Netflix’s RSS feed, but not with the application itself so the level of integration does not provide the level of polish I would expect in a consumer oriented device. Google has some work to do integrating the existing applications both with search, and linking the disparate experiences with each other. The GTV should know that the Netflix application is installed and launch videos from the native Netflix application, instead of leading users through an elaborate and futile cycle. That said, as a workaround for the current state, it is possible to add the item to the “Instant Queue” after "search and browse" and watch it by launching the Netflix application manually. Which also serves to highlight the limited Netflix implementation (it only supports the “Instant Queue”) so the built in browser is really the only way to add and view content not previously queued up.
Not surprisingly, enhancements to the “TV” experience are a big part of the functionality GTV brings to the living room. For those with just a Cable STB, features like guide data search (which prefers HD content), picture-in-picture (PiP) and easy browsing from the couch are welcome additions. The main issue I have with the current implementation is that it is a very singular PC or mobile like experience, where TV viewing (at least in my house) is much more communal—I cannot hijack the screen to perform other tasks (like looking up an actor/actress to see what other shows they are in) while consuming content with other people in the room.
When looking at GTV’s approach to non-linear TV consumption, it is important to make a distinction between web content (YouTube, abc.com, teamcoco.com, etc.) which is only intended to be consumed in a browser and internet content (i.e. Netflix, Amazon VOD, VUDU, Revision3, etc.) which [while also available in a browser] is really optimized for a full screen TV-like experience. Besides the basic Netflix application and leveraging the browser availability of some internet video services (e.g. using Amazon VOD through the web browser), the GTV, in its current implementation, is mostly focused on getting web content to the TV. I hope that this is only temporary because, frankly, it is not a good fit. Web content is not optimized for full screen HD displays, and the picture quality is atrocious for most of them.
Atrocious picture quality—You don't want this on your big-screen TV!
There are also many other issues like content providers blocking access to the device (Hulu, abc.com, Viacom, etc.) as well as content moving from full screen to “in browser” for a commercial but not going back to full screen when the ad is finished creating a very unfriendly user experience.
Fortunately, a foundation for consuming internet content does exist both through dedicated applications (we can hope that this will get better when the GTV Marketplace becomes available) as well as the included podcast application which supports the search, browse and consume model very well for RSS based audio/video content while also supporting text feeds.