Google TV or a Nettop?

How does a Google TV-based device like the Logitech Revue compare with a similarly priced Windows 7 Nettop?

The Logitech Revue unveiling earlier this week provided details about yet another device in the $99 to $399 price range competing to bring Web-based video content to your television. Alongside the Google TV-based Revue, we also have boxes from Apple, Roku, as well as the forthcoming D-Link Boxee Box. We would also add the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, and Web-enabled Blu-ray players to that mix and, in addition to those specialized devices, Nettop PCs.

The Logitech Revue adds a number of fundamental improvements to the streaming video device category.
The Logitech Revue. Logitech

If a Nettop represents the most open option for its configurability and its access to the unfettered Web, and a PlayStation 3 offers the most powerful hardware with its Blu-ray drive and gaming capabilities, the Revue falls somewhere in the middle. Like many Nettops, it has no optical drive. Like the PlayStation 3, the Revue lacks the greater software and peripheral device flexibility of a traditional Windows-based computer.

Perhaps the Revue's biggest selling point is its broad range of content. Logitech and Google have announced support for Amazon VOD, NetFlix, Pandora and YouTube, as well as programming from TBS, TNT, CNN, and HBO. Because the Revue also includes a Google Chrome Web browser with HTML5 and Flash 10.1 plug-in support, you can also navigate to any Web-based content that supports those standards, at least provided it's not explicitly blocked, as with Hulu. On top of all of that, the Revue will support application downloads from the Android Marketplace in 2011. We would also be remiss if we failed to note the various existing Android BitTorrent apps.

For Nettops, in spite of all their openness, we've never found a model we loved. We fail to understand why a $299 or even a $399 computer should have lesser hardware than a $199 or $299 gaming console. You also have to factor in the additional cost of a proper input device for the living room. Most Nettops come with either no input devices or standard wired mice and keyboards. eMachines' recent $300 or so ER1402-05 comes with a decent wireless mouse and keyboard set, but that's an exception. That eMachines system also has difficulty playing even the generally low bit rate HD content from the Web.

Nettops like this eMachines aren't perfect, but they have their fans.
Nettops like this eMachines still have their fans. eMachines

We can't claim any hands-on experience with a Logitech Revue, but Logitech says it can play 1080p video. Like the Boxee Box, one of the Revue's core features is providing a simple search interface to look for video across all of its supported services. We haven't seen a tool for the PC that offers the same service-spanning search capability.

Potentially separating Logitech's device from its dedicated device competition, the Revue also can search for content stored on your DVR. Right now, the Revue only interacts with Dish Network DVRs. We'll see if reality meets Logitech's expectation that it will secure DVR searching for other providers. If it can, that would give the Revue the lead in content searching breadth. Throw in its internal IR blaster that can talk to your other home entertainment devices, and the Revue can also claim a large ease-of-use advantage over Nettops.

Despite the Revue's on-paper appeal, we suspect that enthusiasts will continue to prefer Nettops for their pure PC openness (LifeHacker has one example). The $299 price tag for the Revue also bears questioning, since, like Nettops, its lack of a Blu-ray drive or gaming capability looks spare next to the hardware value of a $299 PlayStation 3. We'll reserve final judgment of the Revue until we get our hands on one. For now it seems like an impressive step forward for the streaming device category. Agree? Disagree? Let us know.

 

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