Faster Forward: Google TV review, part 2: Connecting to cable

By Rob Pegoraro
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 10:44 AM

The first half of my Google TV review, posted on Friday, covered the easy parts of Google's software package: its ability to display Internet content. Testing the not-so-easy parts -- how it connects to TV-tuning hardware such as cable boxes to replace their interfaces -- ate up most of a beautiful Sunday afternoon and more of Monday than I'd expected.

After all that, I have to wonder if Google realized how much trouble it was getting into when it launched this project. Google TV (tested, in this case, on a loaned Logitech Revue box), has a difficult job to do and does it poorly.

I tested the Revue against four configurations in four residences: a Verizon Fios-issued Motorola high-definition digital video recorder, a TiVo HD and a Cisco high-def DVR hooked up to separate Comcast subscriptions, and a Toshiba DVD recorder connected to an over-the-air antenna.

Every time, the $299.99 Revue's Google TV software took more work to set up than advertised. It didn't detect any of these devices automatically, instead requiring a slower manual-setup routine (in some cases, prolonged by a failure to see a wireless network that I could only fix with a reboot). It didn't list the right TV providers (memo to Google: Cox and RCN don't offer service in Arlington). Once I'd picked the right service at each location, its list of channels often failed to match what was available there; it provided no way to filter out such irrelevant offerings as standard-definition versions of HD channels on Comcast or the Baltimore area stations listed on the Toshiba.

The only pleasant surprise: Although Logitech bundles an "IR blaster" cable that you can park in front of a cable box or DVR to send commands to its remote-control sensors, in most cases its built-in IR transmitter handled the job.

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