Google TV promises to finally, completely, really, once and for all unite Internet video and what most people think of as "TV" into one seamless interface. The first Google TV product, unveiled today, is the Logitech Revue. It looks pretty much the same as a host of other so-called media receivers, but works differently, and in some pretty impressive ways.
The Revue looks like a completely bland slab that you connect between your cable/satellite box and your TV with HDMI cables. It also connects to the Internet via either Ethernet or Wi-Fi (802.11n). It's paired with a keyboard controller that runs Logitech Harmony software. If you like your remotes small, Logitech also sells a mini controller with all the same functionality for a little more. Still not small enough? Smartphone apps will let you control Revue from an iOS or Android device.
Why is the remote control a keyboard? Because the main things Google TV brings to the table are search and a full-featured Web browser. Search any show — say, True Blood — and not only does the show's entry in your TV program guide come up, but so does the True Blood website, promos on YouTube, fan pages, and the like. Select anything online, and it pops up in Chrome just like it would on your PC.
Got an Dish Network box? Then you also get your True Blood DVR recordings in the mix, too. So far, Dish is the only provider with this functionality; if you have another kind of box all you'll get in your search results are the guide listings, but nothing from your DVR.
Wait, there's more! If you're watching streamed video on a smartphone, you'll be able to switch from your phone to the TV at the touch of a button. And besides TV and video, the Revue enables video calls with a Logitech app called Vid HD. Big catch there: it only works with one kind of camera, coincidentally also made by Logitech.
Catch number 2: No Hulu. Nope, not even in the Chrome browser. Logitech says it's in talks with Hulu, so expect the crappy, $10-more-a-month Hulu Plus to emerge in the Revue's app list soon.
Catch number 3: The cost. Revue is $300 (similar products, like the Boxee Box and Apple TV cost $100-$200). The keyboard controller
is another $100 comes with, though if you want more than one they're $100 each. Want the mini controller instead? That's $130. And the Vid HD camera is $150. Yeowtch. You can preorder them today, and they're supposed to be in customers' hands by the end of the month.
Catches aside, is Revue the real deal? Based on our brief hands-on this afternoon, we think it's great… for a 1.0. Including a full Web browser sounds good on paper, but do we really want annoying pop-ups on our TVs? At least the search ability will be a godsend to anyone who's suffered through an idiotic cable provider's — *cough* Cablevision *cough* — search interface.
But the whole idea of hooking up a separate box to your TV to bring you the Web is an interim solution at best. While we definitely want to play with the Revue, we patiently await the arrival of a real Google TV. With a screen and everything.
CORRECTION: As one commenter has pointed out, we made a mistake in assuming the large keyboard costs extra — it comes packaged with the Revue for the $300 price.