Spotted at CES 2012: New Google TV Hardware
I spent last week at CES, checking out all the latest gadgets. There were a lot of interesting bits of technology on the floor, and I was especially eager to get a peek at the new Google TV hardware from confirmed vendors Sony, LG, Vizio and Samsung. Sony, the only original OEM back for round two, opted to stop building TV sets with the Google TV platform for the time being, instead using their own Smart TV platform for future connected TVs. The Sony lineup for 2012 includes two Google TV devices: the NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray player (a sleeker version of last year’s model, plus 3D capability) and the NSZ-GS7 Network Media Player (which looks like a very svelte version of the abandoned Logitech Revue.) Both have 8 GB of storage for apps, compared with 4 GB in last year’s models. Prices and release dates to come. Sony also redesigned its Google TV remote, which is a very welcome change. The new remote is dominated by a touchpad on the front side, along with a D-pad surrounded by the normal Android buttons (home, back, menu, etc.) The volume and channel buttons moved to the side, and the full QWERTY keyboard moved around to the back. This does wonders for the form factor, as you might imagine. When I saw it in the demonstrator’s hand, I found myself unable to keep my mouth shut: “Oh good, you got rid of the P-touch machine!” The booth guy just grinned. “Yeah, we get that one a lot.”
I didn’t have much opportunity to test it out at the show, but Sony’s new remote includes 3-axis motion control, and also supports voice search, which (understandably) didn’t work so well on the noisy show floor. LG also showed off its future Google TV offerings at CES, in the form of some gorgeous 3D LCD TVs. LG went for a more customized version of the Google TV interface, with bookmarks and featured content up above the standard row of icons. LG’s Google TV also features the 3D World portal, a source for both free and paid 3D content.
Like Sony’s remote control, the LG Magic Remote QWERTY is motion sensitive and features a full keyboard on the flip side. This remote also has a scroll wheel, which in combination with the motion controls makes browsing the web on TV a lot more intuitive.
I never did manage to find Vizio’s booth, but I hear they were showing off a streaming player and a Blu-ray player with Google TV, and that they also announced plans to release 47, 55 and 65-inch 3DTVs. Their entry-level Google TV device, the VAP430 Stream Player, is about the same footprint as a Roku, only taller. We’re told the release date for the VAP430 is “imminent,” and that the price will be $99. No word on prices or release dates for the other Vizio Google TV devices. All of Vizio’s Google TV devices feature a heavily customized interface, with the apps displayed in a pane to the left.
(image source: The Verge)
Like the other new Google TV devices, Vizio includes a two-sided remote with a full QWERTY keyboard on the back and a touchpad on the front. This remote has something extra, though: dedicated buttons for Netflix, Amazon and Vudu. (image source: The Verge) Samsung, on the other hand, was keeping their Google TV plans very close to the vest. At last year’s show they had a Google TV-powered Blu-ray player and a standalone box, so I hoped we’d get to see something from them this year. However, I didn’t catch a single glimpse of a Google TV device in their booth (though to be fair, the booth was about the size of a city block.) Both Samsung people I asked gave me a nonchalant “No, we’re not showing anything like that here,” which naturally made me even more curious. I got the impression that some of the other manufacturers were a little unnerved by Samsung’s lack of a Google TV demonstration, too — as I was talking about the platform with a couple guys from LG and Sony, I pulled out my (Samsung) phone to snap a picture. And they suddenly got very quiet. “Uh… you don’t work for Samsung, do you?” Curious… I was hoping to see some of the new hardware already running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), but all were still running Android 3.0 (Honeycomb, the same version as our devices in the lab). Another thing I’m curious about, after seeing the Google TV lineup at CES this year, is how Eric Schmidt can possibly be correct in his claim that “By the summer of 2012, the majority of the televisions in stores will have Google TV embedded.” From what I saw, all of Google TV’s hardware partners are still very committed to using their own smart TV platforms instead of Google’s.