For $100 I Think Very Few Consumers Will Be Disappointed!
Google keeps bringing amazing solutions to the public that many people don't even notice, because they are slowly pushing their technology through many less known channels. The Vizio Co-Star is just another example of that. This is one hot device for the price, yet most people have never even heard of it. You have most likely already heard of the Apple TV, Roku Box and other streaming media boxes in the same genre. Well, now its time to learn a little more about the newest release in the Google TV lineup of hardware.
Vizio now ships the Co-Star built right in to all of their new TV's. This is a big trend in the Television market. It gets harder and harder to buy a new television that does not have "smart apps" built in. This buzz word makes me a little sick, but then again I may be one of the rare consumers who would rather have a TV just be a TV. Then, I can add what features and apps I want using my own needs as reference, instead of being told what I need. This is exactly what the Co-Star offers!
What Is a Cord Cutter?
This is another tech buzz word that simply means somebody who no longer pays for cable television. I have not had cable TV for about a year and a half now. I use Netflix, Hulu and the Google Play Store to watch the television shows and movies I want. It is a great experience, being able to watch what you want, when you want. Not only that, no longer do I have to pay for channels I will never watch.
The problem with having cable TV has always been that people are more likely to waste their hours, days and eventually life just flipping channels looking for some crap to watch. When you don't have a hundred channels to flip through, you will become much more selective in what you watch and you will also find it much easier to limit the time you are sitting in front of the boob tube in general. This is a very liberating experience, saving money and time and still getting all the great content you want.
Tell Us About the Apps
The Co-Star offers a lot of great apps built in, but of course you can also sign into your Google account and download others from the play store. Please understand that the amount of apps that are build to work on Google TV devices are limited. I am sure as these devices become more common, the app ecosystem will grow accordingly. However, for the time being, don't get mad if you can't play Angry Birds, yet.
Apps On Board
- Google Play Movies
- Google Play Music
- Amazon Instant Video
- On Live (Streaming Game Service)
- iHeart Radio
- Pandora (Must be downloaded first)
The list goes on, but these are the big ones. You can download some simple games, and using the multi-sided remote, they are very playable. One side of the remote control has a game pad built in, ready for action!
One app that every Co-Star owner should get is the Android remote control. this app lets you use a phone or tablet to control the Co-Star through WiFi. It is fast, intuitive and even has a mouse pad and full keyboard for easy navigation and searching on it.
I Already Have Cable so Why Would I Want This?
If you add this to your home theater, you can cut down on remotes fast. Just plug your existing cable box into the Co-Star, and then run another HDMI cable directly to your TV. Simple to setup and now you have a full-fledged web browser (Google Chrome) on your TV and have the ability to stream Pandora and Google Music at will.
Of course, there are many other cool features that you will still use, even if you don't watch movies and TV shows on the Co-Star, but that option is always there. The Co-Star lets you browse what shows are on and change channels via the cable box using its remote control. Another amazing feature that many overlook, but makes it more appealing to people who do still have cable is the YouTube app. Just open YouTube and anyone in the house who has an android phone can stream videos from their device directly to the TV. This is a feature I have used many times when we are entertaining guests. Everybody just adds a song or funny video to the playlist and our TV is playing what everybody wants!
Pure Horsepower or Is It a Miniature Pony?
So what kind of hardware can you actually get for a hundred bucks? Well, you will be surprised to find what is under the hood of this little mighty black box. The system runs off of a stripped down version of the Android OS. Yes, it is the same one that is on your phone, so it does not take a lot of horsepower to make it run fast. Once you get the device, you will most likely have to run a few updates, which are kind of slow. However, once your device is up to the newest version, you will be surprised at the speed it loads videos, web pages and flips through the menu.
You will find the main Co-Star device, power cord and dual sided remote in the box. With an amazingly small 4.2" x 4.2" footprint, you can set the actual device in many places that make it easy to hide. The remote is functioning using Bluetooth technology so you don't have to have a direct line of sight to make it work, which is another undocumented but awesome feature.
The real guts of this cool little black box include a dual-core, 1.2GHz Armada 1500 CPU, 1GB of DDR3 memory and 4GB of flash to store data on. This is all the juice it needs to stream videos at full 1080p. Even though this device does have the ability to multitask and keep apps running in the background, there will never be as many threads running as you would find on an Android phone or tablet, because its uses are much more limited.
The remote control does seem a little bulky at first (but you can use your phone as mentioned earlier), but it is very usable. The fact that it has two sides and it automatically turns off the buttons on the bottom side when flipped, makes it easy to use the controls you want for the application you are currently accessing. A touch pointer and familiar channel and volume controls are one side. On the other, you will find a complete QWERTY keyboard and a directional pad and game buttons for a familiar experience when you are gaming.
It Only Gets Better With Updates
Yes, this is something that is kind of hard to wrap your head around if you are used to older devices that rely on the hardware to update, and as you go, the device only gets slower. All Google TV devices have an upper hand in this respect, since they rely on mostly web connectivity, they get better and faster as they go. This fact gives this little media box a longer life than many others on the market.
$100 - Priced To Move, Is It Worth It?
There are many other devices at the one hundred dollar price point, but most of them do not offer the Google TV features. This is one of the cheapest and fastest performing GTV devices out there. If you are ready to try something new and make your TV a complete entertainment system for a fraction of the cost of buying the next Xbox, this may be a great way to add some powerful features to your home entertainment system on a very reasonable budget.
If you are happy with flipping channels and have no need to access your online services and view pictures from websites on a big screen, this may not be for you. For me, it was a great investment and I use it all the time. I used to have a full PC connected to the television and now I have no need for that, as I can get any content I want that is not already offered in app version from the built in Chrome browser. This is a great deal for anybody looking for a little added spice to their living room experience.
Author : Nick Simpson