Full disclosure: I am not currently a Google employee, but I did intern there in 2009 and 2010 (this summer), and I have accepted a full-time job from them after I graduate.
Google TV is a fantastic and revolutionary product. But I'm going to return my Sony NSZ-GT1.
First, the positives:
- The Chrome browser is excellent. It's not quite desktop-class, but it's close and it's definitely worlds better than smartphone browsers. You can seriously use the web on this device.
- Flash works better than it does on anything else. I cannot find a video that doesn't play smoothly on the NSZ-GT1. This, with the browser, means that you can watch a world of video that was previously PC-only; this includes things like videos embedded on blogs and other places that don't use YouTube.
- The video player handled all of my test files just fine. I'm sure there are things that don't work, but if you have home movies or free content (e.g. TAS videos or something) it's easy to play them.
- The Blu-ray player loads discs fast, supports 24p, and the picture quality is basically the same as it is on my standalone BDP-S360.
- The UI looks great in 1080p, far better than anything that's ever been attached to my TV. When you compare an upscaled UI (e.g. like on my cable box or Blu-ray player, or even the XBOX 360 I used to have) to a true 1080p UI, it's not hard to tell the difference.
- HDMI in works well. It adapts to different resolutions seamlessly (my cable box is in native mode) and de-interlacing seems to be good.
- I like the Sony remote. It's the right size and shape and it's perfectly usable. The layout isn't perfect but it gets the job done and isn't cumbersome like I've found keyboards to be.
- 5GHz 802.11n. Everything should support it, and the NSZ-GT1 does - unlike a lot of other consumer devices.
Now, the downsides:
- Video blocking. CBS/NBC, Hulu, etc. What is the point of having Flash if you can't watch the top content sources? Yes, I like independent content too, but I spend more time watching scripted shows. I have my cable DVR for recent programs, which means I mostly want Hulu for back-episodes. Unfortunately this isn't possible. The real shame is that this isn't really Google's fault.
- The UI. There are a lot of inconsistencies. For example, it's not possible to go into PIP mode in many contexts (e.g. in the browser) - you need to go to live TV, then hit PIP, then open Chrome.
- IR control. The Logitech device may do a better job, but the Sony Google TV device is at best mediocre. My TV and receiver both have discrete on/off codes, but the NSZ-GT1 only allows toggles. The NSZ-GT1 can't control the power on my cable box at all, either, and it doesn't support the "back" function. Worst of all, the volume control for my receiver (Yamaha) is dreadfully slow.
- Stereo only for HDMI in. This just plain sucks. It's 2010, and basically every HD cable box in the US supports Dolby Digital 5.1. Almost every HD program is broadcast in DD5.1, and since the Comcast World of More upgrades around here darn near 100% of what I watch on TV is in HD and 5.1. Yet here we are with a box that only does 2.0 PCM. I don't mind if it has to go 2.0 when you're in the menus or using split view, I just want the live, untouched HDMI to have a 5.1 pass-through. I shouldn't have to switch my receiver every time I switch from Blu-ray or YouTube to live TV, especially since the IR blaster on the NSZ-GT1 won't change inputs on my receiver. Yes, hopefully this will get fixed in the future, but it should have been fixed before launch.
- Noise. The NSZ-GT1 is reasonably quiet, but it's still quite a bit louder than my DVR or BDP-S360 (both of which are effectively silent). The fan is almost quiet enough for me, but the real problem is the Blu-ray drive which makes a significant whooshing noise. Presumably this is a trade-off for faster load times, but the drive should drop to its minimum speed once you're playing a movie.
- Power. Power consumption is quite good at around 15W according to my Kill-A-Watt. The problem is that it uses 15W 24x7x365 unless you turn off the 'quick boot' feature, which would be fine except that without 'quick boot' the NSZ-GT1 takes 40+ seconds to boot every time you want to watch TV. Even desktop PCs can go to sleep (my desktop PC is under 2W in sleep) and wake up quickly; the NSZ-GT1 should be able to do the same. No, the $2/mo in electricity this thing uses isn't a big deal, but in a world where people freak out about 0.5W being wasted by a cell-phone charger that's not being used, 15W of continuous power consumption just seems excessive. Even the CFL light over my TV is less than that (13W), and I wouldn't leave it on all the time.
Overall I would say that the positives outweigh the negatives. This really is a revolutionary device - it literally allows me to constantly leave my TV on a single input, because it combines Blu-ray and Internet content (including the full Web) in a single device, and also has the passthrough feature which nothing else (to my knowledge) does.
The problem is the value equation. $400 is just too much for a device that has as many flaws as this does.
I knew when I bought the NSZ-GT1 that the value equation was completely broken. You can get a PS3 which also plays Blu-rays and Internet content (albeit with a terrible browser), has a hard drive, and plays games - for $100 less.
What would make the NSZ-GT1 worth $400 are the features that a PS3 doesn't have. It has HDMI in, it has IR control, and (presumably) it's cooler, quieter, and uses less power. The problem is that the HDMI in is flawed (you have to bypass it for 5.1 audio), the IR control is limited, and it doesn't end up being any quieter than a PS3.
Most of this stuff could be fixed with firmware upgrades. The problem is that I don't know when or if those fixes will come.
I get what Google was trying to do with Google TV. I get where Sony was going with the NSZ-GT1. But at $400 this needs to be a tightly-integrated product with very few flaws. It's hard to call the Google TV "overpriced" because there's really nothing else like it on the market. But I already have an Internet-enabled TV for Netflix and Amazon (Bravia XBR9) and I already have a Blu-ray player. I paid $400 because I wanted an integrated, simple solution that tied all of this content together - plus access to the sort of Web content that you can't get on my XBR9. Unfortunately, the current state of the NSZ-GT1 is that it's neither simple nor particularly well integrated, and with the content blocks (which, again, aren't Sony or Google's fault) the compelling arguments for Google TV just went out the window. I'm left with a device that's still better than what I had before, but it's not $400 better.
If you have no Blu-ray player and no Internet TV device (Roku, PS3, Apple TV, etc.), and you don't care about gaming, the NSZ-GT1 could still be a decent deal - flaws and all. But for those of us who were early adopters, this isn't a $400 revolution. Not yet at least.