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Initial Review of Google TV a la Logitech Revue – Not really worth it, get a Roku instead

Wherein I review my experience using the Logitech Revue more as typical user instead of talking about the usual industry dynamics and all that analyst hand-wavey stuff.

If you’ve ever wanted to browse the web on your TV you should get a Logitech Revue, one of the Google TV boxes available on the market. Other than that, it’s a bit of a bust for myself. The available apps are anemic and generally advertising and pay-wall oriented. Hulu, of course, doesn’t work. The crown jewel for any WebTV 2.0 is the Netflix application which, here, is sufficient, but not as good as the Roku‘s Netflix app. If Skype was on the box for Skype video chat, there might be another benefit beyond browsing the web on my large flatscreen, but instead you have to buy the Logitech webcam or (at least) use their own video conferencing system.

If there was content worth searching for, I’d blow out my keyboard typing

Logitech Revue Google TV keyboard

The conceit of the Google TV, as far as I can tell, is to move you towards two things: using search for everything and having the smart phone app experience on your TV. Technically, both of these seem to have been accomplished. The issue is that there’s little content out there that compels me to be interested in consuming through the Google TV. Searching the web for video content brings up the usual collection of am, pro-am, and profesional video. The quality on a large TV is even worse than a small laptop screen. While YouTube’s “Leanback” interface is great for the form factor, most other video is still in a web page. And, really, browsing a web page on a 48″ flatscreen TV is not really too cool. It’s the opposite, though equally frustrating to use, experience of browsing the desktop-web on your tiny screened mobile device.

As far as I can tell, the search doesn’t interface with Netflix, which would be where I’d really want to search. The search does bring up Amazon on-demand videos, which is great, but Netflix would be greater.


I have to be honest: I don’t have cable. I generally think broadcast/cable TV is utter crap and a waste of time and money. We save about $1,200 a year by not having it. (We don’t watch sports, so we’re immune from the last, lock-in reason to stay with cable.)

As such, I didn’t test out the DVR functionality. In the utopic view, I can see that tight DVR integration on the Google TV would be awesome, actually. But, barring me paying that $1,200+/year, it’s just not something I care about.

Video-on-demand: Netflix, Amazon, others


Many folks have long said that we’d gladly pay for legit content given the chance to pay and consume it in a more “digital” way. Netflix fits that bill almost exactly (their inability to secure the on-line rights for all movies is frustrating: you can go through all the “good” stuff they have available on-demand pretty quickly, leaving a bunch of questionable “direct-to-demand” content) and so having access to it on one of these “streaming devices” is key.

Sadly, the interface on this Google TV is not too peachy: it’s just your instant queue. On the Roku box (and one of the TV’s with built-in Netflix I’ve used) you can browse other categories. While you can’t browse all available videos on any of those two devices (why not?), being limited to your instant queue is silly. Granted, you can login to the Netflix site on the TV and manage your queue – but that kind of thinking is exactly what people mean when they say turning your TV into a computer is a bad idea.

The Amazon Video on Demand is more or less just fine. While there’s a sort of weird native Amazon app and playing videos seems “native,” as with Netflix, the main way to browse videos it through the web-site, which just looks kind of bad versus a native app experience.

Conclusion: for apps, wait, otherwise get a Roku box

If all you want to do is watch video on demand, I’d got for a Roku box. I have one of the older ones, and it works great. It has the same app anemia as the Revue, but it doesn’t really push itself as more than a Netflix, Amazon VOD, and maybe Pandora box. Their pricing is pretty matched to that limited functionality.

Something like the Logitech Revue – and all Google TV’s, I’d guess – depends on lots of high quality content (apps and video content that’s free or ultra cheap). That’s one of the major reasons the iPhone and iPad are successful: the devices are top-notch, but the apps push the iOS platform way over the edge. At the moment, that “content” is missing from Google TV land.

Granted, I got this box because I was at Adobe MAX where they were pushing developers to make those missing apps. Understood, for sure. But if any “citizen” user asked me, at this moment, I’d say get a Roku box.

Disclosure: I received both the Revue and the Roku boxes for free. Adobe is a client.

Categories: Reviews, RIA, The New Thing.

Comment Feed

6 Responses

  1. Hey interesting article, but I would disagree with you. I think the Logitech Revue is better than the Roku. I have used both, I work at DISH so got a chance to play with the Revue before it came out. I also own the Roku. I like that you're are able to surf the internet with the Revue. I tend to use it a lot when the commercials come on. When the app market does come out it will make the Revue even better.

  2. Indeed: as I (think I mentioned) I get the feeling that if I had cable (or dish ;>) I'd be more impressed with the Revue. But since I just watch streaming video, the "traditional TV" component wasn't a big deal for me.

    And, yes, if there was an active app store, it'd be nicer. It makes me think that they should have waited to release so that they could have an app store instead of just the very limited OEM apps.

    Thanks for leaving a comment!

  3. Thanks for sharing. Where can I get more information from?

Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] free devices might do the trick, other will be more savvy and just want cash). While not a tablet, the current state of Google TV provides an excellent counter-example: the apps are limited to the handful of ones that come with […]

  2. […] I’m not a big fan of the Google TV (at least in the Logitech Revue incarnation) over the cheaper Roku box (or just watching Netflix on your XBox or embed TV player). But, rather than balancing that big keyboard it comes with on my lap or the end-table, I can see that a smaller remote would be nicer. […]