With more ways than ever to transmit content from your PC to your TV, to create a truly seamless convergence experience you still need to figure out how to actually control that content from your couch. A mouse-and-keyboard combination is hardly ideal, which leaves room for devices like the $150 GlideTV Navigator, a handheld gadget designed to bridge the gap between computing input and living room practicality. Even though the included software with the Navigator provides simple onscreen button-based navigation of the Internet and applications on your computer, you're better off using something like the Logitech diNovo Mini Keyboard, which provides a much more accurate and comprehensive computing input experience.
The Navigator feels great in your hand. Its curved bottom rests comfortably in your palm and you can operate it using only your thumb. According to GlideTV, its internal rechargeable battery should net you at least two weeks of normal operation after you've fully charged it for roughly 4 hours in its cradle. The device held a charge during our week of testing, giving credence to at least half of GlideTV's claims.
At the center of the Navigator is a 2-inch-wide touch pad for driving the cursor onscreen. Pressing down on the pad acts like a left mouse click. The pad is flanked by eight buttons; a conventional up, down, left, and right, as well as four more in the corners. The right and bottom edges of the touch pad work as scroll bars, making it easy to navigate larger Web sites and documents. Standard media controls on the Navigator give you basic play/pause and skip track functionality. Up top you've got access to volume up, down, and mute controls. The left side has a power button (for your computer), the right a search button, and right above the volume controls you'll find the GlideTV home button. We'll explain more on the specific functionality of these items a bit later.
Setting up the device is a snap; all you need to do is download Glide TV's latest software for your operation system from the company's Web site and plug in an included USB dongle. The Navigator will work with any PC (Windows XP, Vista, and 7) Mac, and even PlayStation 3, though you'll need to tell the Navigator which platform you're running via a quick two-step setup process.
Using the Navigator requires you to launch the GlideTV software runs in the background of your OS. When you click the home or search button on the Navigator, a new graphical interface shell will take over the screen, giving you access to all of the program's features. The GlideTV software adapted well regardless of the resolution on our test system. We also tried out the onscreen interface on three separate TVs (all at different resolutions) and never had a problem reading text.
The GlideTV software provides shortcuts to various programs, searches, and Web sites. This GUI (graphical user interface) is oversize, easy to click on, and designed specifically to work on a TV screen. When you hit the GlideTV software home button, you're given four basic options: Applications, Web sites, Search the Internet, and Settings.
Clicking Applications gives you direct access to a list of apps currently installed on your computer. Web sites gives you one-button access to dozens of preprogrammed bookmarks, complete with each site's respective company logo. Search the Internet will bring up an oversize onscreen keyboard that allows you to manually type your search term and choose which engine you'd like to use. You can also bring up the search window via the search button on the right side of the Navigator itself. The Settings software button allows you to customize the content of the other categories in addition to exposing other options. The onscreen keyboard allows simple text-entry as well. Accessing these features is easy enough, and we liked the fact that GlideTV designed these options to be read on a TV screen. You can also customize the software icons that appear, though most Web site additions won't carry over their associated icons.