Google TV is going to be available in the UK two years after its US launch. Sony is making the first hardware to accompany the launch, the NSZ-GS7. Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Holland, Brazil, USA and Mexico will also all get Google TV and the new Sony set-top box offering. The Google TV service is intended to let users to browse the internet and use Android apps on their big screen living room TVs.
The Google TV hardware made by Sony is basically a computer that sits under your TV running the Android OS. When you turn on the box and press the home button on the remote, a bar overlaid at the bottom of the screen shows shortcuts to your favourite apps. The default apps are the Chrome browser, YouTube, Google Play, Photos and Sony Store. At the moment there are about 150 apps that have been optimised for the Google TV. An app that shows some extra capability of this setup is “PokerFun” which displays the card table on the TV but player poker hands are displayed privately on their Android phones.
While there are currently no optimised apps for BBC iPlayer, Netflix or Lovefilm, iPlayer worked in the Chrome browser with no problems. Also, if you are looking for some new movies to watch, Google is probably hoping you will rent something from the Google Play Store and Sony have their own digital entertainment store installed as default on the GS7 too.
The remote for the Sony GS7 Google TV is necessarily complicated looking due to the inclusion of a QWERTY keyboard, and it is a two sided device. One side looks quite simple with regular TV/VCR icons, a directional pad and the three common Android phone buttons; Home, Menu and Back. The flip side has a full QWERTY keyboard including a search key. Also to keep features on a par with many Android smartphones the remote has a 3-axis motion sensor.
Key specifications of the Sony NSZ-GS7
- 1.2 GHz dual core CPU
- 8GB of storage
- HDMI in/out connections
- Dolby Digital Plus decoder
- Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
- Ethernet connector
- 2X USB connectors, USB mass storage FAT32 (read/write) and NTFS (read only)
- Power usage 21W in operation, 0.5W or less in standby
- Dimensions 204x35x130mm
- Remote with all the controls you need including QWERTY keypad and motion sensor
- Alternatively use an iPhone or Android app to make your phone into a remote
- Picture in picture – watch live TV in an overlay window while you use Google TV
Google TV hasn’t taken off in America over the last two years, perhaps this new Sony hardware and updated big screen optimised software will help make a difference. However the UK retail price of £200 seems very high as the same set-top box is listed at $199 in the USA. Also there are plenty of set-top box choices and many games consoles, Smart TVs, Blu-ray players and TV recorders which have access to the internet and streaming services. Sony plan to release a version of this set-top box, called the GP9, which will include a Blu-ray drive later in the year at an estimated £300.