Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Return of the Sony Google TV Box

Be sure to check out parts one and two of my Google TV adventures:
First Impressions of Sony's Google TV
Further Adventures in Google TV-land

So after my success with the Logitech Revue recounted in my previous post, I tried to setup the Sony Google TV box in the bedroom. I had previously put the Sony through its paces with the main TV room's Samsung HDTV.

The bedroom has an older 37" Sharp 720p LCD HDTV, and I've had an old, half-broken XP laptop driving it for media and Internet content. That system works, but it's far less than ideal. It works in the sense that it can play full-screen Flash and Silverlight video, but it's often choppy or glitchy, and it seems every time I use the PC attached to the TV then Firefox, Microsoft, AVG, Flash or something else wants to perform an update in the middle of whatever I'm doing. So I've been looking for a replacement. A Mac Mini would be great, but Apple raised the price of the base model, and even then controlling and navigating a Mac Mini from across the room is a challenge, and thus fails one of my important goals with this project which is enabling Internet and local media content on my TVs that everyone in the family can use. The Mac Mini definitely fails in that respect even with media control software like Frontrow, Boxee or Plex.

I swapped out the XP laptop for the Sony Google TV that I had previously tested with the Samsung HDTV. Fortunately, the Sharp has an HDMI input. I don't have an HD set-top-box on that TV. So I'm just running the Google TV as a standalone internet content box (a la Apple TV or Roku). Cable setup was easy, and the system came right up at the correct resolution.

Then came the problem of changing the TV and AV receiver setup. The Settings app on the Sony allows you to change the configuration so the controller can control the TV and audio correctly. But obviously they haven't done much testing of changing the configuration of a previously configured Sony Google TV.

The Settings app asks you to pick the brand of your TV then it asks you to test that the system is setup to control your model of TV. To do this you must use the Vol+/- buttons on the Sony controller to see if they adjust the volume on the TV. But the Sony doesn't even realize it's already been configured to use an AV receiver to control the volume so it's doesn't even trying to send Vol+/- to the TV. Duh! So I guess.

Then changing the setting for the AV receiver is even worse. It asks for the brand of your audio receiver, then it gives you a very long list of codes that you can go through one by one -- select, a dialog that says "Press Enter", test, fail, go back, select another code from the list etc. After about 10 tries I got what seems to be the right one.

The scenario above is vastly inferior to the Logitech Revue's Harmony system of device configuration which consists of simply entering the exact model number for each device.

After all that is done, I'm mostly able to control the Sony Google TV in the new configuration. But I want to also be able to do basic control like select Home and arrows and OK from my Logitech Harmony Remote. But that's not possible, the Harmony uses only IR signals. Sony's Google TV is exclusively controlled by RF signals.

I don't really care about having a Blu-ray in the bedroom. I have only one Blu-ray disc. Our local video store (yes, we still have a local video store) doesn't carry Blu-ray.

I decide it's time to return the Sony Google TV box to Best Buy whence it came. First I make sure I erase everything on the Google TV -- the button to do that is in the Settings app About panel.

I return the Sony Google TV and the unopened Blu-ray of Avatar that I had bought with it. Best Buy didn't give me any hassle. I notice they have at least of dozen Sony Google TV boxes on the shelf, but they are all sold out of Logitech Revues. (Of course, I have no idea how many they have received of each device.)

I order a second Logitech Revue from Amazon. It'll be here tomorrow.

1 comment:

connan said...

I enjoy having Google TV and the new Google Chrome browser. I had a chance to play around with the Revue for my work (DISH Network) and I feel in love with it. DISH Network sells the Revue for $179 and they can enhance your integration feature which is really net. Check this out at www.dish.com/googletv.