Vizio's new Vizio Co-Star LT smart-TV box has an HDMI input for integrating cable and onboard apps.
With the ongoing popularity of the Roku family and the Apple TV it's natural for AV manufacturers to want to take a piece of the action. While most TV manufacturers have a similar box, devices such as Sony's NSZ-GS8 are based on the much-maligned Google TV platform. Unfortunately for the well-known search giant, people never took to its set-top box due to a combination of obtuse early software and high-profile spats with content producers and manufacturing partners.
Vizio, after releasing its own Google TV box last year, has shifted to its inhouse smart TV suite for its newest box: the Co-Star LT Stream Player. Vizio claims its VIZIO Internet Apps Plus is "more intuitive" and comes with several streaming options including Hulu Plus, Netflix, YouTube and VUDU.
Whether you will find this more intuitive is a matter of contention as many Vizio apps are based on Yahoo Apps and I found have a very widgety feel to them. Native applications like Netflix provide a more satisfying experience.
The device also takes advantage of the recent changes to Netflix and YouTube mobile apps that enable users to "swipe" content to the device. While Vizio calls this "second screen" this is not a Vizio-specific feature and is what allows competitors like the Chromecast to function.
Unusually for a cheaper set-top the Co-Star LT also incorporates an HDMI input so that users can browse apps while still watching live TV. Additionally it comes with a USB port for media playback from compatible devices.
Given that at $79.99 the Vizio sits in the middle of Roku's cheapest and most expensive options it'll be interesting to see if an HDMI input is enough to woo existing Roku users. Given the popularity of Roku and its comparative selection of apps, early indications are "No".