Easily the most capable Internet-connected TV ever made, Sony's NSX-GT1 series calls for a tech-savvy buyer who can live with Google TV's growing pains, a touchy remote, and so-so picture quality.
Aside from actually hooking a PC to your TV, Sony's Internet TV with Google TV, aka the NSX-GT1 series, is the closest you'll likely come today to converging the two devices. That's both an advantage and a disadvantage compared to more conventional Internet-connected TVs, which typically rely on a "walled garden" of apps and streaming services to channel that fire hose of Internet content into discrete, useable streams. On the upside, the Sony's built-in Chrome browser--which behaves basically like the one on your computer, aside from an inability to get video from Hulu and many other sites--opens up the hose very effectively, offering significantly more content than those TVs. On the downside, Google TV threatens to soak users in too many choices, and suffers from many of the same bugs and issues that can make PCs frustrating.
The main difference between this Sony and the two other Google TV products available now, namely the Logitech Revue set-top box and Sony's own NSZ-GT1 Blu-ray player, is integration. The Sony TV builds Google TV right in, delivering the whole caboodle for one price--just add the Internet (cable TV optional). On the hardware side, Sony's compact, thumb-centric remote isn't as easy to use as Logitech's, but the bigger problem to critical viewers will be the TV's mediocre picture quality. While the Sony Internet TV is surprisingly affordable for all that it can do, and we're sure Google software will evolve significantly in the coming months, at this point we have a hard time recommending the NSX-GT1 series to anyone aside from early adopters who don't want a dumb monitor.
Our favorite feature on Sony's remote was the two keys shoulder-mounted under our index fingers. Holding down one enabled a simple swipe of the thumbpad to scroll up or down within the Chrome browser, while the other magnified the page with a swipe. Depressing both together enabled easy text selection, which will be especially useful if Google TV eventually supports copy-and-paste.
While blessed with plenty of USB and HDMI ports, the Sony NSX-GT1 series lacks an analog VGA connection for PCs and has just one analog video connection, a component-video port that can be sacrificed to accept composite video.
We were disappointed that Google TV's Netflix still has the first-generation interface we saw on the original Roku Netflix Player. That means there's no search functionality or the capability to see movies that aren't in your instant queue. Most other Internet TVs also feature the basic version of Netflix, however, and we expect the interface to update soon.
We did like the "What's On" section, which is Google TV's version of an electronic program guide and lists current TV programming, but again the layout will be unfamiliar. It includes the traditional "channel list" in a vertical, not a grid form.
The GT1's "Sony Recommends" menu has all of the niche video content providers from the company's previous Bravia Internet Video Link TVs, including Sports Illustrated, the Minisode network, Blip.tv, Style.com, Howcast.com, and numerous video podcasts. They seem tacked-on, however, since the providers' Web sites are accessible via the browser anyway, and Google TV's Queue can search and subscribe to podcasts in a much more-efficient manner.
Press the dedicated button on the keyboard and the search bar pops up at the top of the screen, regardless of whether you're using the Chrome browser, streaming Netflix, or watching live TV. The search combs through streaming video, the Web, and regular TV to find the programming you're looking for, and can even search Apps, Twitter feeds and numerous other sources.
We did not extensively test DLNA support via networked computers and other gear, in part because Sony tells us it's still a work in progress--even the company's support site contradicts itself, in one answer claiming to support only JPEG picture files and in another both video and photos. The GT1 did "see" DLNA-compatible devices on our network including a PC running PlayOn (users interested in PlayOn via Google TV , but we couldn't get it working).
Sony's traditional Eco menu adds a Quick Start mode that enables the GT1 to turn on in about 4 seconds--just like a standard TV--as opposed to the 45-odd seconds it takes to boot up Google TV normally. In that mode the TV uses 24 watts of standby power instead of the default 0.14.
Image quality on the Sony NSX-GT1 was below average compared with its peers. Google TV's frequent full-screen fields exposed the panel's uneven uniformity more frequently than typical video content would. Black levels were relatively bright, and we saw occasional flashes in the shadows during transitions. Color accuracy after calibration was a relative strength, however, and surprisingly the TV handled 1080p/24 content well.