While not a DVR by itself, GoogleTV gives DVR users the ability to enhance their viewing experience through online content. All without having to change your cable or satellite provided set-top-box. While the initial release of GoogleTV was met with derision, it has since matured a bit. Enough that I was more than willing to give it a try.
The device I decided to try is Logitech's Revue. It has recently been discontinued by the company due to lackluster sales (again, harking back to GoogleTV's lackluster launch) but units are still available. In all honesty though, it doesn't matter very much which device you choose since Google's software is going to be basically the same no matter which piece of hardware it's in. With the Revue's $99 price point, I figured it would be worth it to see if this device could make using my cable company provided DVR better in any way.
The Revue ships with the unit itself, a keyboard remote control, an HDMI cable, power supply and an IR blaster for controlling the other equipment in your home theater. The Revue is a pass-through device so you don't connect it as you would other pieces of equipment.
In order to get the most from the Revue, you'll simply use HDMI cables to place it between your STB and your HDTV. The HDMI out on your STB goes to the HDMI in on the Revue and the process is repeated on the way to the TV, leaving the Revue and entering through one of your TVs HDMI ports. You'll also want to connect the included IR blaster if you want to control your other equipment. There are two IR connections on the back of the Revue and you can use either one. When it comes to connecting to the internet, the Revue comes with Wi-fi built in or you can connect using the Ethernet port found on the back of the device.
I did find that the included IR blaster has the ability to reach devices that aren't directly in its line of sight. My A/V receiver resides on the shelf down from the GoogleTV and it has yet to miss a beat when I send a volume or source command to it through the Logitech keyboard. As mentioned above, the Revue does have two IR blaster connections on the back so if you need to have multiple blasters you can do it without issue. Note that the device only ships with one so you'll need to find or order a second one yourself.
Once you have everything connected, it's time to get started with software setup. GoogleTV will walk you through all of the steps you need in order to get up and running. If you purchased a Revue like I did, it will also more than likely need to perform an update to Android 3.1. The update was the longest part of the setup process so once it starts, you can walk away for a few minutes. The Revue will restart once done and you'll be able to continue the setup process.
If you choose to setup the Revue (or other GoogleTV device) to control other equipment in your living room such as your TV or STB, you'll probably want to jot down the model numbers of those devices. While it appears that GoogleTV has a large list of known devices, I ended up having to enter the model numbers for both my STB and A/V Receiver. Once I entered the correct info, it was able to locate the codes but it was required to download them.
You'll also need to setup your Google account if you have one. This will allow you to pay for apps in the Android App Store as well as keep your GoogleTV device backed up should you ever need to reinstall it for some reason. Linking your account only takes a few seconds and is worth it if you think you're going to want to purchase any apps.
Once you've gone through the hardware and GoogleTV software setup, you're ready to start using the device. You're not completely done with setup yet however. If you have Netflix, Pandora or other accounts, now's a good time to go into each app and get them setup so that you won't have to do it later. This optional setup ended up taking me about 10 minutes (I have a lot of media service accounts!) but I was happy that I did it right away so that no one else in my home had to worry about it.
In the end, complete setup of the Logitech Revue, including the software update, took around 30 minutes. While this could probably be shorter, once it's complete, you won't have to worry about it again. Everything will come together and you can just enjoy using the device.
Next up we'll cover using GoogleTV and what it can bring to your experience of using your cable or satellite DVR. The ability to expand the features of your standard STB is where GoogleTV excels and we'll cover all of the features in an upcoming article!