At CES, I was treated to a sneak peak of VIZIO’s new line-up of Google TV powered TVs, Blu-ray player and streaming box. The box sports VIZIO’s new design look which you can see in all of their new products including their new PCs, tablets and laptops. As reported by our friends at the Streaming Media Blog, VIZIO’s stand-alone Google TV box is going to retail at $99. It enters a crowded field of devices at that price point from Apple, Roku, Western Digital and Sony. In many ways, the box is similar to Sony’s SMP-N200. Both boxes have a wide array of streaming services and will stream music, video and photos via DLNA.
Of all the Google TV devices I saw at CES, I liked the VIZIO version the best. It appears that VIZIO spent significant time addressing some of the short-comings of the first generation of Google TV boxes from Logitech and Sony. For one, VIZIO has its own version of the Google TV interface that appears easier to use. On their Google-powered HDTV, VIZIO combines switching between apps and HDMI inputs into a single function (see the end of the video below). Even the remote is a noticeable improvement. Unlike the bulky keyboard remotes from the first generation of Google TV devices, the remote has a comfortable form-factor. The remote features dedicated buttons from Netflix, VUDU and Amazon Instant (first time I’ve seen an Amazon Instant Video button on a remote!). Unlike some of the other remote offerings at CES, VIZIO once again decided to keep it simple by not adding voice recognition or gesture-recognition. I’ll be interested to see if the trackpad makes navigation easier in apps like HBO GO.
What’s also interesting about the VIZIO’s remote is that it functions as a universal remote. Instead of having the IR blasters being in the base unit, VIZO has moved this functionality to the remote control. Could this be a Harmony All-In-One Remote killer? As the box also has a HDMI in port, it will be interesting to see how the VIZIO box integrates with cable boxes and TiVos.
For video streaming services, Hulu Plus, Netflix, VUDU, Amazon Instant Video and HBO GO will all be included. The addition of HBO GO would give it the most complete set of premium video streaming services on the market. In theory, the VIZIO box should support 1080P and Dolby Digital surround sound from Netflix too. More to come on this.
To finish up, one thing to notice in the below video is how responsive the Google TV interface is. I suspect that VIZIO is using one of the new Google TV chipsets announced at the show. Enjoy the demo.