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Disclaimer: In keeping with the theme of this series, let me be clear that I have no interest in using Google TV as a cable / satellite TV "enhancer". I'm trying to get away from my $1000 / year TV shackles, not be bound more tightly to them.

When I pre-ordered the Logitech Review with Google TV [news item] to do a review, I made sure that it could be returned. Because as I said back in Part 5, unless Google had negotiated rights to what most of us want to watch, the product would be pretty uninteresting.

Logitech Revue with Google TV box and keyboard

Well, it looks like Google is still engaged in "talks" with the content power-that-be. So if you're hoping to watch the same web content as you currently do on your desk or laptop computer, well, forget it.

What we have is the completely moroniotic situation where most TV content owners are playing cat-and-mouse with blocking Google TV's Chrome browser. So if you have any kind of a computer connected via HDMI to your living room flatscreen, you can watch anything you see on the web. But if you are watching via Google TV, (which is essentially an Atom CE4150-based nettop computer with 1 GB of RAM and 5 GB of flash running Google Android) you may get a polite notification like Hulu provides (below).

No Hulu for you, Google TV!
Click to enlarge image

No Hulu for you, Google TV!

You're more likely, though, to get just an endless "Starting playback..." spinner, as I did when trying to watch an old Newhart episode that a Google TV search pointed me to on Comcast's Fancast, or just a blank player window with no notification of why your video isn't playing. Danny Sullivan wrote up an excellent summary of how the networks are currently blocking Google TV if you want more of this sad story.

We've been through all of this already with Boxee. But it appears that Google has no more influence with the TV moguls than its feisty little competitor. Or maybe Google hasn't thrown enough money at it yet. At any rate, if you're hoping that Google TV will expand your TV viewing options, save your $300 for now.

What Google has done is a much better job than Boxee (or anyone else) of using a web browser in a set top box. Whether it's obvious (by accessing the Google Chrome app) or not, Chrome is used a lot for both browsing and viewing content.

Some of Google TV's apps

Some of Google TV's apps

Browsing is very natural, except for the missing address bar at the top of the screen.

Google TV Chrome Browser default page
Click to enlarge image

Google TV Chrome Browser default page

Instead, you use the Search key (the magnifying glass) on the Revue "remote" (a rather large RF combination keyboard / trackpad / controller). I at first thought this was just a Search box, perhaps because of the Type to search prompt shown when the box is blank. But I learned after a bit of searching that you can also enter URLs here and go right to your desired website.

I could move around many of the Google TV app pages by just using the arrow / OK button cluster. But on the occasions when I had to mouse around using the trackpad, I found myself looking for the right-click button and hitting the Back key instead of the clickbar. The Menu key comes in handy to manage browser tabs or reveal options when you are in apps or "Spotlight" sites.

Logitech Revue remote with unfortunate Back button placement

Logitech Revue remote with unfortunate Back button placement

The Spotlight menu shows websites "tweaked and perfected for the television". But don't get your hopes up here. Since I took the screenshots below yesterday, TNT has appeared in the Spotlight section. But the "tweaked and perfected" TNT Spotlight site offers up only clips of its TV series. Click on the Visit Full Site button, though, and you can watch full episodes there.

Oddly, TBS, which is the first thing you see when you hit http://www.google.com/tv/spotlight.html isn't shown in the Spotlight, but does allow you to view entire episodes of its original and catalog of syndicated older shows. Commercials, which come as often as they normally do on broadcast TV, switch you out of full-screen mode, though. Yet another perfect tweak I suppose.

Website video quality is definitely sub-par, especially for those of us spoiled by Netflix. Smearing is common and the picture quality is definitely soft.

Google TV Spotlight - Page 1

Google TV Spotlight - Page 1

You'll note Clicker in the Spotlight listing page shown below. But, as with Boxee, just because you see a show here doesn't mean you'll be able to watch it. Clicker just sends you on to the content owner's (or licensee's) site, which may or may not be playing nice with Google TV.

Google TV Spotlight - Page 2

Google TV Spotlight - Page 2

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