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Google TV – Good Start but not quite ready for prime time

In theory, Google TV makes an enormous amount of sense.

The technology, which Google is making available to third-party hardware vendors, integrates traditional cable, satellite and broadcast TV with Web content.

It also lets you access the Web from your TV and takes advantage of Google’s search capacity to locate movies, TV shows and video content.

The first iterations of Google TV include the Sony Internet TV ($600 to $1,400 depending on screen size) and a couple of external set-top boxes including the Review from Logitech.

I tested the Logitech Review, now on sale for $299. The device was easy to install because I have a compatible Dish Network receiver with a built in Digital Video Recorder (DVR) that connects directly to the Logitech Review. If you have a cable box or other type of receiver, you’ll need to use an “IR Blaster” to allow the Logitech unit to send signals to your TV receiver for changing channels and selecting over-the-air programs.

Once the TV, receiver and Review are wired together, the next task is to configure the unit to work with your TV. For some reason, you have to tell it the model number of the TV set you’re using and also align your screen with the Review. You also have to connect the Review to a wireless or wired home network, which may include typing in your wireless security code.

Google TV’s user interrface is straightforward, though it was a bit confusing at first to distinguish between TV listings, programs saved to my DVR and web programming.

Out of the box, the built-in applications include the Google Chrome browser, Netflix and Amazon streaming movies and TV shows, Pandora streaming audio, and Twitter. Additional apps will be available in the future.

One of the hardware’s best features is the nearly full-size wireless keyboard, which includes a TV on/off button, volume adjustment and buttons to select programs to watch and record. The keyboard has a built-in trackpad that you can use to navigate around the screen.

Part of this column was written from my TV set using Google Docs via the web. It was fun sitting on my couch and watching this column unfold on my 55-inch TV. I don’t plan to do this often, but I can see myself using the device to read and write e-mail using Gmail or another e-mail service.

Just to the right of the keyboard’s Ctrl key is a prominent search key that lets you search for content on your DVR, TV and Web. If the content is on your DVR, it will say “DVR recordings” to the left of the listing. It will also tell you when it’s on TV and show you any web episodes.

The biggest problem is that some of the major networks are blocking their content from Google TV, so when I clicked on the full web episode of “Dancing with the Stars” on, I got a message saying that “the operating system or web browser you’re using is not currently supported.”

I got similar messages when I tried to access content from CBS and Hulu. Even though there are online articles saying NBC isn’t available, I was able to watch content from the Peacock Network.

I was pleased that the device provided access to streaming movies and TV shows from Netflix but, unfortunately, Netflix programs didn’t show up in search listings and — unlike the newest version of Netflix for Roku — there is no way to search within the Netflix application.

It took getting used to, but overall my experience with Google TV was pretty good.

We did run into a snafu while my wife was trying to watch a program recorded on our DVR. All of a sudden, the DVR went crazy, switching channels and randomly displaying menu items as if an invisible hand were messing with our remote control. And that’s kind of what was happening.

Somehow Google TV started sending random signals to the DVR which only stopped after I unplugged the device.

Advanced technology is great, but there are times when all she wants to do is sit and watch TV. How quaint.

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