First Impressions of Logitech Revue Google TV Box: It’s Way Too Geeky

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This is the controller for Logitech's Revue Google TV box. Minimalist it is not.

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is not to be underestimated, but sitting here watching a demo of the first Google TV, I’m not sure it has mainstream appeal.

Built by Logitech and running Google’s Android software, the Logitech Revue Google TV has definite geek appeal. It does everything: the $299 box connects to satellite and cable TV, compatible DVRs and Web video, as well as other online multimedia. You can search for content using your voice and control it with a smartphone. It has apps, HD videoconferencing, and functions as a universal Harmony remote, controlling all your home theater devices. (For a detailed breakdown of how it compares to Apple TV, see here)

But there’s no way my mother will go for it.

The hardware of Logitech's Revue Google TV box looks good and capable, but search isn't a good UI paradigm for TV. There's too much crap to sift through.

For a start, it costs $300. The AppleTV, while perhaps more limited, costs $99.

Second, the Revue relies on search as its main UI metaphor. Search is great for computers, but I know from experience that it doesn’t work on TV.

I already have YouTube on my Apple TV. It’s easy to find a lot of crap on YouTube but it’s not so easy to find the good stuff. It’s the availability of good content that counts. Given that Google has a similar line-up of content partners that Apple has, the Revue doesn’t solve that.

Third, that keyboard. The Revue is controlled by a full-featured keyboard with a built-in universal Harmony remote. It may be great for typing searches, but it’s not a good TV interface. It’s overly complicated. This is a control device only geek could love.

The Revue, in fact, is just like one of Logitech’s Harmony remotes. We have one at home, and my wife and kids hate it, even though I set it up to control everything. It has a learning curve — and they have zero interest in mastering it.

We got the new Apple TV a few days ago, and unlike the Harmony remote, there’s no learning curve. The pleasure of the device is its simplicity. The last thing you want when watching TV is a bunch of buttons and too many choices. Like Steve Jobs said, TV is for when you want to turn your brain off.

The Logitech Revue is the anti-Apple TV. It’s overly complicated. It’s less of a TV-watching device than a mini-computer for the living room. And that’s what will condemn it.