What is Google TV?

Google TV is not a TV made by Google. Instead, it is a streaming media player that uses Android apps and connects to your satellite or cable box. This brings together both your live TV programming and streaming online services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play Music and Movies, and many more. Along with preloaded apps, you can download myriad Google TV Apps from the Google Play store in much the same way as you would download apps for an Android phone or tablet.

Google TV runs a version of Android

Google TV’s operating system—the guts behind its home screens and navigation—is actually a version of Android. Some smart TVs have a built-in Google TV for streaming media. Google TVs also come as a stand-alone box. A Google TV box include the NETGEAR NeoTV Prime, the Vizio Co-Star, the Sony NSZ-GS8 Internet Player, the Asus Cube and the Hisense Pulse. Prices range from less than $100 to almost $200. While most Google TVs work the same, home screen menus and remote design will differ, and may include a built-in microphone for voice control and search on the remote control.

Integrating live TV and streaming online services

A Google TV can control live TV and your DVR, as well as streaming services from online, once it is connected to both television and your cable box or satellite receiver. This integration of streaming and live TV is particularly useful when you search for a movie or TV show title.

When doing a search, Google TV will display results from online services that have the title available to stream for free–Netflix, Crackle, Amazon Prime–or tell you the apps from which a title is available to rent. It will also show the times and channels where you can see it on cable or satellite, so you can watch or easily record an upcoming showing. Voice search is available for most models, using the Google TV app for smartphones or via a built-in microphone on the remote control. Both voice and typed search can find movies and TV shows by title, actor and more. If you only have a vague idea about a film, you can describe it. “Movies about boat catastrophes” will bring up titles like “Titanic” and “Poseidon Adventure.”

The PrimeTime app shows you what is currently on TV or what is coming up next. Pressing “guide” on a Google TV remote brings up the app along the bottom of the screen so it doesn’t interrupt the current TV show. Cover art of movies and TV shows are displayed. A blue status bar indicates if the show has just begun or has been on for a while. The app can be customized to first display shows that it recommends, based on the types of movies and TV shows that you like.

Most Google TVs come preloaded with apps like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, YouTube and other streaming video services. While Netflix and YouTube are Google TV apps, other streaming service app icons, like Crackle and Vudu, are actually shortcuts that open the streaming website in the Google TV’s Chrome app.

Note that you can’t stream from Hulu and most broadcast network TV websites, as they continue to block their streaming services from Google TV. However, you can download the PlayOn app and pair it to a computer on your home network, in order to access the blocked content. Some Google TVs come with an app to stream movies, music and photos from your computer and home network drives; others may require downloading an app. AVia is an excellent app for accessing media on your home network.

Google TVs are not the easiest media player to use, but if you have used an Android smartphone or tablet, you should be able to pick it up quickly. Note that recent rumors claim that Google TVs will heretofore be called “Android TVs.” It’s an accurate description. I’ll keep you updated when more information becomes available.

Barb Gonzalez ~ The Simple Tech Guru

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