Top positive review
65 people found this helpful
Great device for $99, does so much more w new Android updates
on December 20, 2012
I've owned the Co-Star for about 2 months.
Initially I thought it was a neat gadget to try out to see if I wanted or needed Google TV on the next big screen TV I would purchase. I also wanted to find that 1 tech device that will control everything (tired of having multiple remotes, etc.) I also figured that since these are on back-order (lack of supply) that I could resell it easily if I didn't like it.
Install and overview:
Co-Star took about 5 to 10 minutes to install and sync with everything, and has worked flawlessly since. It connects and controls everything in my entertainment system with no issues. Great device, the software keeps updating and getting better (my Co-Star is receiving software updates automatically from Google). The layout of the apps, and the navigation is better than the typical Vizio TV apps (for those of you that are familiar with the Vizio Apps layout). The new layout / navigation takes some getting used to just like any new technology. And like every new technology, it can use some software improvements. However, for $99 this far exceeded my expectations.
The issue concerning the Co-Star remote control:
The best thing about Co-Star is that I finally have a device / remote that consolidates and commands EVERY product that is hooked into my entertainment system. This is a huge plus! The Co-Star remote has a high degree of programability. It controls my Toshiba TV. Controls my Samsung Time Warner cable box.. full DVR control, access the guide, settings, search, schedule recordings, ff/play/rev, scroll in every direction, everything on the cable box! Controls my LG Blu-Ray surround sound system. XBOX 360.
The layout / design of the remote is probably my only "complaint" about the product. The Co-Star remote is similar to every other Vizio TV remote... which are not backlit. My brain is just too wired into the button layout of my Time Warner cable remote that I have always used.... I can navigate the Time Warner cable remote if I were blindfolded, wearing mittens, while in a straight jacket. So not being backlit is the reason it is difficult for me to use the Vizio remotes in the dark. However, I downloaded the free app called ABLE REMOTE. This app turns your cell or tablet into a remote, it has bigger buttons, is much more intuitive, and is easier to use. It is so much easier to navigate than using the Co-Star remote's touchpad. It also allows you to program favorite channels, websites, etc. Honestly the ABLE remote app is better than my Time Warner cable remote. It's better than the Google Remote app too!.
As for the big 4 items that I typically use:
Netflix & Pandora work just like they should. Netflix layout is better with Co-Star than a typical Vizio TV apps.
YouTube is very intuitive, & I like the Co-Star's YouTube layout / functionality. You get used to it very quickly, and you can scroll through 'related' videos amazingly quick. Again better than Vizio TV apps.
Amazon VOD took some getting used to, because Co-Star does not use the standard Amazon "app". Co-Star essentially takes you right to Amazon's website through the Chrome browser, then you navigate to your Amazon playlist / watchlist just like you would typically do on a laptop. So, this is very different from what everybody has been used to with the Amazon "app" on Roku or Vizio TV's. The upside of using Amazon VOD on the Co-Star is that you can utilize Amazon's Watchlist functionality, and browse / search for titles much more thoroughly. However, I do wish that in addition to the full Amazon VOD website, that Amazon would have a simple "app" interface that had just 4 items: Purchases, Watchlist, Prime, and "go to full website". This would simplify the process of watching the movies I've already purchased or that I want to watch (instead of having to navigate to it through the browser).
Other than the big 4:
Inernet. It's a full Chrome browser. Syncs with all of my Chrome settings and bookmarks on my other devices. Works and looks the same as using my laptop. Using the included Vizio Co-Star remote isn't the easiest way to type and search the web on your TV.... so download the free ABLE remote app to your cell / tablet and you can type on your phone / tablet just like you currently do while using your TV as the display. It's 100% easier to browse the web this way.
Google Play Music. Very nice feature to have on the TV screen. Google Music has been around for awhile, but I never really used it.... it was simpler to just use a playlist on Pandora through my entertainment system. Now that I've got the Google Play Music on the TV screen, I'm listening to my own playlists and the 1000 or so albums that I've actually purchased in my life, instead of always just using Pandora playlists.
Google Play Movies. app works and integrates with all other devices. Also, Google Play Movies is very specific and lets you choose between buying a movie in SD, or buying in HD. It shows the price for either side by side, and lets me choose if I want to spend extra money for the HD version. Amazon could take a lesson here.
Google PrimeTime. Nice to see what else is on TV that I might want to watch. This is somewhat like the suggestions you get from Netflix (Netflix suggests what you like based on how you've rated past titles)... Google PrimeTime is suggesting movies / shows that are currently (or coming on in next 1/2 hour) on your cable TV that you may want to watch (just like Netflix... on Google TV you have to start rating movies and tv shows for this to work well). Hoping for the ability in future software update to select my own "categories" instead of the standard "New", "Comedy", "Drama", etc categories that are currently used. ...just like I can customize the categories and the viewing order of my Google News sections..
Google PrimeTime also allows you to search for a movie, and it will show you all the places you can watch the movie (On your own cable TV, Netflix, Amazon, Youtube, etc) and if you can rent it, or buy it, and the costs associated for each. This is a very nice feature, avoids the time involved with searching through my own Cable system, then searching Netflix, then searching Amazon to see where and how much a movie is that I want to see.
I think the Google PrimeTime app has a ton of future expandibility. It's been updated once or twice since I've owned my Co-Star. They could link it with Google Drive, then essentially you have full TiVo / DVR capability. Again, this is at a $99 pricepoint all in, while currently Time Warner charges $10 / monthly rent per cable box. I'm interested to see what the Google software developers can do with the PrimeTime app.
M-Go... still waiting to see what this is.
OnLive... I don't play video games, so no opinion.
Other apps?? I haven't really used anything else, but there's a bunch of other stuff there.
Syncing to cell phone / tablet:
The coolest thing about Co-Star is the ability for it to sync with my Android cell phone and tablet. I'm just learning how to use this, but it seems that the possibilities will explode very quickly. While using certain apps / features on my cell phone or tablet, I can hit a "share" icon on the phone's screen and the TV will display whatever is on my phone's screen. Photo's, slideshows, etc. When I'm using YouTube on my phone or tablet, I can hit the "share" icon on the phone / tablet and the video instantly starts also playing on the TV. I can then search and add more videos to the "view on tv queue" on my phone without interrupting the video that is currently playing on the TV. I think that this sharing functionality is part of the most recent update, and it is very neat. I'd hope that very quickly every app on my phone / tablet will allow this.
Within the next 6 months, I don't see the need for specific Google TV apps for things like Facebook, Twitter, etc. It feels that Android capability to link your cell phone / tablet to the Co-Star is going to solve the entire issue and make it simpler than anybody imagined.
The devices sync using your home wifi.
My current 50" TV is 6 years old and works well. I bought it before all the new gadgets were invented, so I've used ROKU, Blu-Ray players with apps, and now the Co-Star to make my old TV much more functional. Roku and Blu-Ray player were both very simple and basic, but VERY limited and maybe 1 or 2 software updates over the years. The Co-Star was the least expensive, and best performing, and IMO has the best ability for ongoing software updates.
The Co-Star is not perfect, it doesn't yet do everything in the world that all the technology reviewers are dreaming of... but it is getting software updates that have eliminated most of the initial complaints and improving the apps. So make sure to read the date of any reviews you have read. My review is as of today, Dec 20, 2012.
It doesn't wash your car, cook your meals, take out the dog, have every app in the world, etc... so if you're dreaming about and waiting for THE DEVICE that does everything you want specifically for your own preferences and likes, then you're probably going to need to win the Powerball and hire your own engineers to build it for you.
For $99 Co-Star is a great device for anybody that wants to use or try out internet capabilities, and begin using unified Android phone / tablet / TV capabilities on THEIR CURRENT TV set, prior to spending $1000 to $2000 for a new TV that will become outdated within 12 months. I believe that within 6 to 12 months, simply having the Co-Star communicate with your cell, laptop, or tablet will trump the idea of building the hardware into a TV set or some other gadget.
And, for $99 it is a flat out great device with a lot of current capabilities that will only improve because Android keeps evolving and getting updated.
EDIT: May 16, 2013.
Just an update:
I'm now so used to the remote control that it is no longer even an issue. My brain has learned where all the buttons are and I can easily use it in the dark. I also eventually figured out how to connect all my equipment so that the remote controls everything in my TV / Audio system.
A standard Amazon App was released and included with the last software update a few months ago. So that issue is completely eliminated. The Co-star Amazon App is much better than on a Vizio TV set.
The new PRIME app is probably what I like best about the Co-Star. And it truly does make "finding something to watch" much much much easier. The PRIME app is basically a new feature that pops up at the bottom of the screen and shows tiles of movies / tv shows currently on tv that you might be interested in. (it learns to know what you like!) The interface is clean, you scroll up / down for categories (similar to Netflix) and scroll horizontally for different titles (again, like Netflix). The items displayed are based on how you've already rated shows and movies. The more you use it and rate titles, the better it gets. Where this software completely blows away the Netflix software.... is that you can select the "Don't show this channel again" or "Not interested, don't show titles like this again", and the software will stop showing them as something you "might be interested in". I am so tired of the Netflix software that keeps showing me the same movies that I've already rated "waste of time". Netflix refuses to change their recommendation algorithms! The PRIME app software actually stops showing you items when you tell it you don't like them. Also, the PRIME app allows me to eliminate duplicate titles (HD and Standard def) playing at the same time by clicking on the "don't show this channel again" for the Standard def version. The learning algorithm needs your input, and I get EVERY channel that time warner cable offers....so probably after 2 weeks I had rated enough titles and eliminated standard def, spanish, etc type channels so that the PRIME app was getting really focused in to where it should be. The app also allows me to program a row that includes just my "favorite" channels. So, I NO LONGER USE THE Time Warner CHANNEL GUIDE AT ALL.
Lastly, it feels that the purchase price of movies has jumped up so much versus 1 or 2 years ago!! With Co-star, if I want to watch a movie, I can quickly check to see if it is free on Netflix or Amazon Prime, or HBO-GO. If it isn't, then I can quickly check the rental / purchase price on Amazon, Google Play, VUDU, and M-Go. (there's also a 3rd party app that can do this too)
I am amazed at the price differences for movies on the various platforms. I can also see the price for buying (or renting) in HD or standard def. I've definitely saved over $99 just by comparison shopping for movies I want to watch (or own).
I initially bought the Co-Star to see if I wanted / needed Google TV as an internal feature when I purchase my next big screen TV. After using this device.... I no longer even think of it as "Google TV". TO ME IT SIMPLY FEELS LIKE HOW A TV SHOULD WORK in this world of cell phones/apps where we basically tailor almost everything to our specific needs. These google tv devices are bringing an open sourced functionality to the world of TV. Instead of having to scroll up / down through a channel guide with 1000 channels, the software has learned what types of shows / movies I like to watch and with a clean interface at the bottom of the screen it shows me where / when they will be on tv. Instead of being stuck having to purchase a movie from the specific app that is included from the tv manufacturer,,, I can comparison shop quickly across multiple video apps and buy from the app with lowest price. It just seems natural to have that ability to comparison shop.
The Co-star and other devices still aren't perfect and the software is evolving. Based on the $99 cost for these type of open source devices, I'm much more inclined to just buy the tv with the best picture and not get bogged down with the manufacturer's internal branded apps and stuff. Plugging in a $99 OPEN SOURCE device is so much better than being stuck with the TV manufacturer's planned obsolescence.