Features - more
It takes a little poking around the user interface to discover how to play local media. To find the local media player, you need to click on All Apps icon from the Prime's home page and select aVia. Alternatively, you can use the My Media dedicated key on the remote control.
aVia is your media player application for local content. The app was able to play media from my DLNA servers, the USB drive as well as photo albums from my Picasaweb account. Unfortunately, the NeoTV Prime can't browse SMB network shares to access content. Networked content must be served via DLNA.
Included in the gallery below is a listing of the file types supported by both the NeoTV MAX as well as the NeoTV Prime. By comparing the lists, you'll see that the NeoTV Prime has a slight edge over the MAX. It had no problems with the following formats that I tried: mp3, .jpg, .png, .mov, .wmv, and even an old .avi file from a very old camera. You'll also see that you can select both media sources from local (USB), cloud (Dropbox & Picasa) as well as DLNA servers.
Google TV's main focus is to "Discover, access and engage with all your favorite TV content". It is supposed to integrate your live TV viewing experience with the other streaming content available on the web and help you find it all via the magic of Google search. Unfortunately, the reality of what Google TV actually does is sometimes far from what is advertised.
By identifying your content provider and zip code during the setup process, Google TV has access to your local TV schedule along with local channel information. It can integrate and display this information in either its Search results or in its Primetime app. Primetime shows you what's currently on TV and recommends shows/movies that you can view now, or buy/rent from either Google or Amazon.
Since you've connected your TV service provider's receiver to the NeoTV Prime's HDMI input, you have the option of viewing live content through your Prime. If you select Live TV, the live signal from your TV provider will appear full screen as if the NeoTV Prime wasn’t even connected. And, if you're using the included IR blaster, you'll be able to change TV channels on your TV receiver using the NeoTV Prime's remote. You even get a PIP (Picture in Picture) feature to let you view live TV in a small box in the upper right-hand corner of the screen while using PIP-supported apps.
The last two key Google TV features are its Chrome web browser and, of course, its Search. If you enter in the name of a TV show or movie, Search will return results both from your TV schedule as well as online sources where you can view (Netflix), or, again, buy/rent (Amazon/Google). If Search doesn't turn up what you are looking for, you also have the option of doing a full Google search.
Since the NeoTV Prime is running Android, its features can be expanded by downloading apps from the Google Play store. If you use an Android-based smartphone or tablet, the image below will look very familiar. This page shows all of the applications installed on the NeoTV Prime. The image below includes a couple that I downloaded from the Google Play Store.
NeoTV Prime/Google TV Application Screen
Let's walk through some of the apps that come installed on the Prime and also a few that I downloaded.
Flixster – This is similar to the Flixster Android smart phone app for checking out movies and reviews. Unlike the smart phone app, you can't search for theatres or locations in the Google TV app. This made the app somewhat useless in my book – I want to see what’s playing at my local theatres and when.
IMDb – This is one of the apps that I downloaded and is one of my favorite apps on both my Android phone and my iPad. It’s great for looking up actors/movies, etc. But on the Google TV platform, it crashed multiple times.
HBOGO – This appears both on the application page as well as one of the six predefined keys on the remote. If you have an HBO subscription through your TV service provider, you can access the HBO archives through your NeoTV Prime.
I have an HBO subscription, so checked it out. I was able to watch a couple of episodes of a series that I hadn’t seen. The playback was smooth without dropouts (on a Wi-Fi connection). This application is not currently available on the NeoTV MAX. So if you want HBO GO on a TV that's not connected to your HDTV receiver, this feature would definitely be a vote for the NeoTV Prime.
NeoTV Prime/Google TV HBO GO
Play Music – this is Google’s music player. It works exactly like the Play Music app on Android smartphones. Since I have uploaded a significant amount of my music library to Google, I was able to play my library through the NeoTV Prime.
NeoTV Prime/Google TV Play Music
Spotlight – On a second app page not shown above is Spotlight. This pre-installed app is a collection of 59 (currently) online sites that have been "optimized" for Google TV.
NeoTV Prime/Google TV Spotlight
Play – This is the Google Store, but filtered for Google TV. You can buy content or scroll through Google TV compatible applications to download. Unlike the Play store available for smart phones, there are still relatively few choices for Google TV compatible apps. For example, a search for “Wi-Fi” doesn’t yield any of the Wi-Fi utilities that are available for Android phones. The Play store on a Google TV device has a very similar look and feel to what you find on other Android devices.