I might have been the last guy to get the Android 3.1 Honeycomb update to his Sony Google TV. When I got home from work last night, my TV announced that an update was available and I jumped on that.
The style changed. When I hit the home key, live TV continues in the background and a row of customizable app icons appear across the bottom. Quite a different look from the old home screen. Select the ‘All Apps’ icon and a wall of app icons is displayed much like one sees on an Android phone. Spotlight is now mixed in with the apps and Bookmarks is a menu item within Chrome. TV&Movies is also available on the app wall.
Spotlight opens a wall of featured “TV optimized websites”. Some are free. Some are subscription based. Here is a good place to start looking for Amazon Instant Video, npr, the NHL site, tunein radio, Flixster, HBOGO, Revision3, and more.
I have some quibbles about the TV. Navigation is quite unresponsive and clunky. You won’t mistake this for a polished Apple product. Photos aren’t displayed in their native aspect ratio but are squared off in the Photos app. This seems like a major screw up to me. Strangely, pictures streamed from local media are shown properly. This would indicate that someone on their team knows how to do this. Hopefully, it will be fixed in a future update. A last nit to pick has to do with the guide. The guide loads quite slowly. Tivo and Windows Media Center are virtually instant and they’re advertisement free.
I find using Netflix and Amazon Instant Video to be quite friendly and responsive in contrast. While navigating the AIV website is fine, Amazon really needs to develop an Android app.
I use the Media Player app to stream media from my NAS, Orb, XBMC, and shared folders on my home network. It works quite well. I control my PS3 through the HDMI connection which integrates the PS3 as a Blu-Ray player quite nicely.
The next thing I want to try is side loading some apps not available through the Market. Specifically, I’d like to get last.fm and Google Music working on my TV.
It bears repeating that the remote is quite a nifty piece of work. About the size of a game controller, it is comfortable to hold. If you can thumb-type on your phone, typing on this will be a breeze. It is much easier to handle than a full keyboard like comes with the Logitech Revue. My recommendation for improving the next generation is to backlight the keys, but keep the form factor.
At last year’s price of $800 I didn’t think this TV was worth it. After all it doesn’t even have a DVR. But at $420 from CompUSA, I think it is competitively priced with other low end LED LCD TVs. The picture quality is excellent and the sound is adequate. Buy a Google TV product now at discounted prices or get the next generation hardware when it comes out in the near future. (The rumor is December.)