Top positive review
296 people found this helpful
Great alternative to Roku & Apple TV
on October 6, 2012
UPDATE TO REVIEW:
I no longer can recommend this device. Basically the device has been orphaned by Vizio and the GoogleTV platform has been abandoned by Google. Although the Co-Star and GoogleTV had much potential, it has been squandered and as of 2014 consumers have a variety of better options. All that said, I'm not going to edit the text of my original review (below) as it should provide context for other comments.
I've had my Co-Star for over a month now and love it. A couple of disclaimers up front...I own both an Android phone and tablet so I'm very used to the OS. I also have a couple of Roku boxes (that I love), but one of my Roku's was getting old and needing replaced, hence my decision to try a Google TV device. The top-end Roku's sell for about $90; the Co-Star is around the same price and not only offered Netflix, but also hosts a number of other features such as web browsing, games, integration with existing TV service, etc.
The Co-Star is a pretty small unit, approximately the same size as a couple of decks of cards. The remote is at least twice as thick as a normal remote because it has a keyboard on one side (more about that in a minute). Setup of the unit was very straight forward, although not as fast as a Roku. But then again, the Co-Star isn't a basic device like the Roku; it is much more powerful. Regardless, the setup was pretty easy...it walks you through pairing the bluetooth remote with the box, then adding your cable box, TV, soundbar, etc.
The remote will take some getting used to. Personally, I've had ZERO problem using the keyboard on the back other than the fact that my eyesight isn't great and identifying some keys requires me to put on my glasses. You might read some negative comments regarding the remote not registering keystrokes. My guess is that is because the remote has a built-in safeguard that only registers keystrokes when the remote is held/pointed properly since the remote has keys on both sides. As long as you're holding the remote fairly parallel to the ground, it works fine. If you're kicked back holding the remote like a paperback book, it probably won't work. The button layout on the non-keyboard side is very good...no issues whatsoever. The remote will work about anything; I easily paired it with my Philips TV, a Vizio soundbar, a Tivo HD, and an AC Ryan PlayOn HD media streamer. My only serious criticism of the remote is that it lacks any type of backlight...this coupled with my poor eyesight makes using the remote a pain unless the lights are fully on.
If you're not familiar with what Google TV is, you should probably go watch some videos on YouTube before purchasing. Basically, it's a version of Android--the same operating system used on a number of smartphones. The OS has been highly tweaked for use on TVs, however. Still, you have access to the Google Play store, the Chrome browser is built in, etc. As mentioned earlier, I was primarily needing a device to replace a dying Roku that I used to stream Netflix. The Co-Star has a Netflix app and it is awesome. So for me, as long as just that one feature worked well, I was covered. But Google TV has so much more to offer. First, the Google Music app is available. Google lets you upload 20,000 songs for free (which I had already done). I can now stream all of that to my TV, pumping it through my sound system. I also side-loaded the Amazon MP3 Player app which lets me stream all my Amazon music purchases from the cloud. GoogleTV has an really nice YouTube app that actually makes YouTube on a big screen compelling. There are some cons with the available apps--the app store on the Co-Star is not nearly as good as what you'll find on your Android phone or tablet. There are far fewer apps available and Google has done a poor job with app-discovery to assist you in finding apps that are compatible with Google TV.
One of the big selling points of the Co-Star (and GoogleTV) is the way it integrates with your existing cable/satellite service. It takes the video in from your cable box (via an HDMI cable) and passes it through the Co-Star, then on to your TV via another HDMI cable. This let's you overlay your TV programming with stuff from the Co-Star, use a better TV guide, etc. I don't have cable or satellite; I use an antenna to pull in OTA programming. However, I do run that through a Tivo HD (series 3) box which gives me the HDMI output...it works pretty darn good. If you have regular cable or satellite programming it should be even better for you.
Is the Co-Star a perfect device...no. Some folks will hate the remote control or some other aspects. As much as I like my Google TV, it is not for dummies (like the Roku). Roku devices are ingeniously designed to be dead simple. They achieve much of this by limiting functionality. The Co-Star probably isn't a device I'd give my elderly parents but anybody who is comfortable tinkering around a smartphone will be able to figure everything out without a problem.