Logitech Revue brings Google to your TV for $300

The Logitech Revue with Google TV is a single set-top box that promises to integrate all your content sources into a single, unified, searchable interface.

The Google TV home screen.
The Google TV home screen. Google

At a press conference today, Logitech revealed the full details of its upcoming Logitech Revue with Google TV, a set-top box that aims to integrate all of your content--from your cable box to YouTube--to a single unified interface.

The Revue is set to come out at the end of October with a $300 list price, and preorders begin today. The Revue will be one of the first products, along with Sony's forthcoming TV , to integrate the new Google TV platform. Here's a preview of what it can do.

Google TV software

The highlight of the device is, of course, Google TV. The basic pitch for Google TV is the ability to search all of your TV content through a search bar similar to Google.com. The bar overlays whatever screen you're on and combs through online video sources as well as live TV from your cable/satellite box to find content (currently, Google TV searches only DVR programs for Dish DVRs, although a Logitech representative told us he expects compatibility with non-Dish DVRs to roll out over time). The idea is that you don't need to know whether the video originates from Netflix, your cable box, YouTube, or a random Web site--Google just finds it.

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For launch, the Revue/Google TV software has support for several streaming-media services, including YouTube, Amazon VOD, Netflix, Pandora, and Napster. Google announced partnerships with TBS, TNT, CNN, and HBO, which take the form of customized Web sites and, in the case of HBO, access to HBO Go's service for subscribers.

Google TV also has built-in apps for Twitter, the NBA, and CNBC at launch, and we'd be shocked if Facebook didn't show up soon. Later in 2011, there will also be support for the Android Marketplace, so you'll be able to use Android apps on your HDTV. Phone apps will be scaled to fit bigger TV screens, and Google expects developers to start creating apps specifically for the Google TV platform.

One big difference between Google TV and competitors like Apple TV and Roku, as well as Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray players, is its capability to access just about any source of Web-based video. Google TV has a built-in Chrome browser that supports Flash 10.1 and HTML5 video. The browser should allow virtually the entire world of video on the Web, including video from sites like comedycentral.com and PBS.org, to show up on your HDTV.

The accent is on "should," however, and at launch Google TV is already missing one of the key providers of Web-based video: Hulu.com. The browser inside Google TV is technically capable of handling Hulu.com's massive library of free streaming video, but as of press time we were told Hulu is blocking the Revue from accessing its content. Google and Hulu are apparently in talks regarding the situation, but it's unclear whether that would mean paid-for Hulu Plus access (at $9.95 per month) or full free access to the Hulu content available on a standard browser. We're guessing Google TV will get Hulu Plus once the dust settles, but there's no telling for now.

Logitech Revue hardware
Logitech Revue
Logitech

The Revue itself consists of two main pieces of hardware: the set-top box and the wireless, RF-based keyboard.

The set-top box is small (although not nearly as tiny as an Apple TV) and uses HDMI as its only video connectivity option. There's an HDMI output to connect your HDTV or AV receiver and an HDMI input for a cable/satellite box. There are also two USB inputs, an Ethernet jack (the Revue also has 802.11N Wi-Fi, so you won't need an Ethernet cord in your living room), a digital audio output (useful for older AV receivers), and IR blaster ports.

The front of the box can also emit IR signals, which provide the main way for the Revue to control your cable or satellite box. Those IR emitters utilize the same kind of technology found in Logitech's Harmony remotes for controlling all your home theater devices.

The idea is that you'll watch all of your TV through the Revue by connecting your cable or satellite box or DVR to its HDMI input, then connect the Revue to your TV. The Google TV service, including search, overlays the live video from your box (which can also appear in an inset, PIP window), and the Revue can control the box using its own remote. Yes, IR control via blasters isn't perfect since it can cause lags, such as during channel changes, but devices like the original TiVo handled the issue well enough. The Revue can also control compatible Dish DVRs via Ethernet, without the need for IR blasters.

The included wireless keyboard is slick--much slicker than the leaked controller included with the upcoming Sony Google TV product. Though we can see some balking at the idea of having a keyboard in the living room, in our brief demo it really felt like the ideal way to control the Revue, and its slim design (4.8 inches deep by 0.94 inch thick by 13.17 inches wide) and light weight don't make it feel cumbersome. There's a full QWERTY keyboard, standard home theater remote-style controls (play, pause, volume up/down, etc.) plus a touch pad in the upper right, for navigating a mouselike cursor.

The Revue comes standard with the wireless keyboard, but Logitech also offers two other ways to control the unit. There's a mini-controller sold separately ($130), which boils down the full-size keyboard into a handheld design; it looks a lot like the diNovo Mini . The third way to control the Revue is using an Android-based smartphone (version 1.6 or higher) or an iPhone, both via forthcoming apps. There are onscreen buttons, but you can also use gestures to swipe your way through the menus, similar to what you can do on the Apple TV.

In addition to standard TV and streaming-media content via Google TV, the Revue can also access music, photos, and videos stored on a PC with a DLNA-compatible server running. A Logitech rep confirmed the device will also stream the popular MKV file format, among others. The Revue also adds HD video conferencing, with a separate camera ($150).

Our brief demo with the device was impressive. Response times were snappy, and video quality of the services was as good as expected.

Our take

Compared with the recently released Apple TV, the Logitech Revue with Google TV offers much more extensive content options and comprehensive home theater integration. However, the $300 price is hefty and will be a sticking point for many people, especially with the Apple TV available for just $99. Still, in our brief demo, we felt like the Logitech Revue was able to live up to most of the hype surround Google TV, and we're itching to get our hands on a review sample and put it through its full paces.

 

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