Logitech Revue Review
Reviewing the Revue now that it’s $99 and a few, I have things to say, some of which are new.
At $300 (or a $300 premium), Google TV in its various forms has been the kind of joke we tech folks adore. Lots of things to write about, all of them bad, and the chance to add some clever puns to repertoire.
But not me, I am not punny.
Right off the bat, it’s easy to see the Revue offers more than the King of the DMR space: the Apple TV. A web browser, a keyboard, extensive search functions, these are all well above the functionality of the Apple TV.
But the beauty of Apple’s beauty is in its simplicity, something Google TV is trying to not be. It’s practically a reactionary product, at least it was when it came out. Now, more DMRs are adding features Google did “first,” with mixed results.
At a new, more competitive (as in, realistic) price, all these extra features seem like an added bonus. An added bonus if and only if it works as well or nearly as well as the Apple TV does for what it does.
Setup is a more extensive process than the point-and-shoot Apple. Beyond the normal network and TV setup stages, you tell the Revue what TV service you use, what the cable/satellite box model is, plus what TV and receiver you have.
This is because the Revue likes to integrate itself into your system, a sort of central hub of content. You plug the HDMI from your cable/satellite box into it, and there’s an included IR blaster to let it drive your system. While this does add an extra level of complexity, and slows down the overall “I just want to watch TV” navigation, it does allow for the Revue’s best feature: Picture-in-Picture (Dual View).
Say you’re watching a movie, and you want to know what else the director has done. Press the Dual View button, navigate to the Chrome app, and Google search till your heart’s content.
The search function also searches local listings, so if you heard of a TV show you want to check out, the search will list the show’s website, plus what channel and when it’s playing next. If you want to set a record, though, you have to navigate through your DVR’s interface.
One of the major shortcomings of Google TV is that it doesn’t search all the available content sources. For this search to be truly useful, when I type in Sports Night I’d want to know if it’s playing on cable, plus that it’s available to stream from Netflix or Amazon. Instead, you have to navigate separately to their specific apps and search again. It’s this “almost a good thing” that has plagued Google TV from the start.
Unlike Sony’s TV that had integrated Google, the Logitech’s keyboard/remote is excellent. Wireless, with a built-in touchpad, it makes navigating the web and searching easy. It’s more lap-based than hand-held, but for what it does that’s OK. One unfortunate quirk, the touchpad doesn’t allow you to tap-to-click, something anyone who’s used a laptop does intuitively. It does allow you to use two fingers to scroll, so the lack of a tap is totally troubling. (Update: Or I’m wrong, see Alvin’s comment below)
The Netflix interface is of the new variety with big, high-res cover art and search functions. The picture quality is excellent, though, with one of the best scalers I’ve seen in a DMR. Standard definition content looks exceptionally detailed with very little noise. It’s probably the best looking streamer going, up there with the better streaming Blu-ray players.
Amazon Instant Video isn’t quite as user friendly as Netflix. It’s “interface” is merely access to the Instant Video portion of Amazon’s actual website. Navigating isn’t difficult, but it’s not fast or particularly easy. That said, the stock AIV interface found on most DMRs blows, so by default this is a step up. HD content is excellent, with little extraneous noise and lots of detail. My AT&T U-verse still looks better, but not by much.
The web browser is a little on the slow side, especially on pages with a lot of graphics. I wouldn’t use it in place of a computer, but in place of nothing, it works great. You still can’t watch video from NBC, ABC, CBS, or Fox, and Hulu says “coming soon” just like it did when I first reviewed a Google TV product nine months ago.
The Revue can stream music and some video from your computer. The interface isn’t too elaborate, but it gets the job done. Mostly. There is no global “shuffle” feature, so you can’t set it and forget it (for a party, say). You can search, though, which is cool.
Who’s it for?
I use DMRs to stream from Netflix, Amazon/iTunes, and to bring music from my computer to my theater. Additional features aren’t worth much to me. This takes for granted, though, my smartphone or the occasional tablet I review. If I didn’t have such convenient access to the Web, would the browser capabilities of the Revue be a draw? Unequivocally, yes. If you want web access in your TV room, plus streaming features, the Revue is a great product. I wouldn’t recommend letting its tendrils reach out to all your other gear, but that’s just me.
Is it worth upgrading or converting from an Apple TV if you don’t care about Web browsing? No, and there’s a lot of extra goop to navigate around if you’re just using it as a streamer. Perhaps that’s the biggest irony of the lower price point. It’s easier to overlook all the extra “features” promised with Google TV, and just judge it as a DMR+browser with some extra stuff. Stuff that, amusingly, is forgettable.
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