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Sony NSX-GT1 series -- Google TV (photos)

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.

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David Katzmaier

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Overview

Aside from actually hooking a PC to your TV, Sony's Internet TV with ="http: www.cnet.com="" 2700-32146_1-797.html"="">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.

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Side view

The panel's 2.3 inch depth out-chunks LED-based sets like the 1.2-inch Samsung UNC6500, but we're guessing that extra inch better accommodates the Google TV hardware packed inside.
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Remote overview

Despite the Sony remote's compact size and a thumb-centric design, however, we think the Logitech Revue's larger keyboard provides the best way to control Google TV.
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Zoom and Scroll buttons

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.
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Connectivity

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.
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Corner detail

Rounded edges and a minimalist aesthetic mark Sony's Internet TV.
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Stand

Sony's unique metal stand may look precarious but supported our thin, 46-inch review sample well enough.
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Remote control of other devices

Using IR blasters, the Sony TV can control your other AV gear.
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Home menu

Google TV's main home menu looks modern and feels responsive.
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Netflix interface

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.
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What's On channels

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.
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What's On genres

It also also breaks down programs into genres such as "Movies" and "Sports and Information."
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Sony recommends

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.
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Qriocity on-demand

Potentially more valuable, especially if Sony Pictures decides to give it exclusive content, is the Qriocity on-demand service, with first-run movies available now and music coming soon.
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Queue

Google's Queue allows subscriptions to podcasts and can see updates to RSS-enabled Web sites.
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CNBC app

On the other hand, CNBC and NBA Game Time are a cut above your average Yahoo widget. CNBC complements a standard customizable stock ticker with video streams and a newsfeed.
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Search bar

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.
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Search customization

We liked the capability to customize what was available in Search.
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Applications list

Google TV provides lots more customization options than typical Internet-connected TVs.
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Application manager

Many aspects of Google TV, including the Application manager, have their roots in Google's Android operating system for phones.
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System information screen

In many ways the Sony Internet TV is more computer than television.
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Web page viewing

The Chrome browser can find regular Web pages along with Web video.
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Web video via Chrome

The browser often took longer to load video than a typical PC, and as expected Web video quality looked poor for the most part on the big screen.
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Search bar for video

Finding Web video via the search bar works well, for the most part, although Google's series page was often inaccurate.
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Chrome browser web video

The Chrome browser can watch video from unblocked sites like Adultswim. Hulu and major network Web sites, however, are currently blocked.
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DLNA streaming

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 could try this method, but we couldn't get it working).
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Quick Start mode

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.
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Picture controls

Full picture control is available within apps like Netflix and Amazon VOD, complete with a single dedicated independent memory slot in Custom mode.
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Advanced picture menu

Sony managed to shoehorn all of its advanced picture settings into the Google TV menu system.
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Fine color temperature menu

The fine color temperature controls, if adjusted correctly, improve color accuracy.
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Picture quality

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.

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