We have no doubt key missing Apps like Facebook and dedicated weather and news services are coming soon, and Google TV will get access to the Android Market sometime in 2011. This has the potential to add tons of innovative apps, and in the meantime having a full-function Chrome browser (to actually visit Facebook.com and Weather.com, for example) should satisfy many users.
The main thing separating Sony's Google TV from those other Internet TVs is the built-in Chrome browser. There's support for both HTML5 and Flash 10.2, which means you're technically capable of accessing nearly any video source you can find on the Web.
The emphasis is on "technically," though. The reality, as mentioned before, is that many content providers, such as ABC, CBS, and Hulu, are currently blocking Google TV devices from streaming video from their sites (we also tried loading Comcast's Hulu-like Fancast site but were never successful). The main issue is that major content providers don't mind people watching these videos for free on a computer, but don't like the idea of the same content showing up in the living room. The apparent reasons: Web advertising still doesn't pay nearly as much as traditional TV advertising, and--unlike cable and satellite companies--Web video currently doesn't offer any affiliate fees (read: revenue) for TV content providers.
Unfortunately we expect this problem to stay in flux, with hobbyists finding workarounds, content providers trying to plug the holes, and official deals between content providers and Google coming slowly (although we'd bet Hulu Plus comes soon). It is worth pointing out, however, that some content providers don't seem as vigilant with their content. Comedy Central and Cartoon Network, for example, currently aren't blocking Google TV--though that could change at any moment. We expect access to the extensive video archives at PBS.org to remain Google-TV-accessible indefinitely, however.
Content issues aside, the experience of surfing the Web on your big screen is simultaneously frustrating and awesome. It's frustrating when the browser feels slow (which happens sometimes when Flash is used on the site) or when a pop-up window fills the entire screen. It's awesome when Chrome intelligently maximizes videos to full screen (which happens on Amazon VOD), and that you can now access any niche video site from your home theater. For better or worse, it essentially duplicates the feeling of watching videos on a slightly underpowered laptop, except you have the benefit of the big screen.
|Amazon Video on Demand||Yes||Rhapsody||No|
|CinemaNow||No||DLNA compliant||Photos only|
|Other: Napster, Sony's Quriocity VOD/music servide; numerous niche video sites|
Compared with other Internet-enabled TVs, the Sony's lineup of dedicated streaming services is nothing special. We were disappointed that Google TV's Netflix still has the first-gen interface we saw on the original Roku Netflix Player. That means there's no search functionality or the capability to see movies that aren't in your instant queue. Most other Internet TVs also feature the basic version of Netflix, however, and we expect the interface to update soon.
The GT1's "Sony Recommends" menu has all of the niche video content providers from the company's previous Bravia Internet Video Link TVs, including Sports Illustrated, the Minisode network, Blip.tv, Style.com, Howcast.com, and numerous video podcasts. They seem tacked-on, however, since the providers' Web sites are accessible via the browser anyway, and Google TV's Queue can search and subscribe to podcasts in a much more efficient manner. Potentially more valuable, especially if Sony Pictures decides to give it exclusive content, is the Qriocity on-demand service, with first-run movies available now and music coming soon.
In terms of local file support, the NSX-GT1 played back our test videos, photos, and music in a variety of formats from an attached USB drive. We did not extensively test DLNA support via networked computers and other gear, in part because Sony tells us it's still a work in progress--even the company's support site contradicts itself, in one answer claiming to support only JPEG picture files and in another both video and photos. The GT1 did "see" DLNA-compatible devices on our network including a PC running PlayOn (users interested in PlayOn via Google TV could try this method, but we couldn't get it working).
|Adjustable picture modes||5||Independent memories per input||Yes|
|Dejudder presets||0||Fine dejudder control||N/A|
|Aspect ratio modes -- HD||4||Aspect ratio modes -- SD||4|
|Color temperature presets||4||Fine color temperature control||2 points|
|Gamma presets||7||Color management system||No|
Sony managed to shoehorn all of its standard picture settings, including a fine color temperature control, into the Google TV menu system. Given the TV's feature set noting crucial goes missing, and it's nice that full control is available within apps like Netflix and Amazon VOD, complete with a single dedicated independent memory slot in Custom mode.
|Power saver mode||Yes||Ambient light sensor||Yes|
|Picture-in-picture||Yes||On-screen user manual||Yes|
In addition to the three standard Power Saver modes is a Picture Off setting that delivers sound only--great for Pandora!--and reduces power use to 39 watts. Sony's traditional Eco menu adds a Quick Start mode that enables the GT1 to turn on in about 4 seconds--just like a standard TV--as opposed to the 45-odd seconds it takes to boot up Google TV normally. In that mode, the TV uses 24 watts of standby power instead of the default 0.14. The TV's picture-in-picture is restricted to viewing a small window showing the TV source inset into the larger Google screens.
|HDMI inputs||2 back, 2 side||Component video inputs||1 back|
|Composite video input(s)||(1)||S-video input(s)||0|
|VGA-style PC input(s)||0||RF input(s)||1|
|AV output(s)||1||Digital audio output||1 optical|
|USB port||4 side||Ethernet (LAN) port||Yes|
|Other: Side headphone jack; rear IR blaster ports|
While blessed with plenty of USB and HDMI ports, the Sony NSX-GT1 series lacks an analog VGA connection for PCs and has just one analog video connection, a component-video port that can be sacrificed to accept composite video.
Google TV performance
Using Google TV on the Sony, aside from the issues noted above, was a mostly satisfying experience via the wire connection. Response times in the menus, apps, and browser were generally quite snappy, pages loaded as quickly as we expected, and even pages with flash seemed to appear more quickly than on the Logitech Revue--although once the PBS site caused flash to crash.
We do mean "generally," and lag beyond simple page loading was more common than on typical Internet TVs. We experienced lag at times with the search bar, picture-in-picture, and even volume, mute, and input changes, where a button-press would take a second or 5 to mature into a response from the GT1. The issue reminded us of using a modern Android smartphone heavily--lag was intermittent and tolerable for the most part, albeit system-wide and tough to pin down.
As expected we experienced worse performance with Wi-Fi than Ethernet, and recommend using the latter if possible. Via wireless pages took longer to load or sometimes didn't load at all; sound and video were more prone to breakup; and a bandwidth test at Quiocity said our connection was only good enough to stream SD quality. We've had no problems with many other streaming Wi-Fi devices, including Sony TVs, in the same environment.
Streaming video quality was fine, and as usual depended on the source. HD streams from Amazon and Netflix via Ethernet looked great, SD streams less-so, and most Internet video sites looked bad blown up on the 46-inch screen. We were especially disappointed in HBO Go's quality--"Boardwalk Empire" looked blocky, soft and generally unworthy of our high monthly subscription rate.
Image quality on the Sony NSX-GT1 was below average compared with its peers. Google TV's frequent full-screen fields exposed the panel's uneven uniformity more frequently than typical video content would. Black levels were relatively bright, and we saw occasional flashes in the shadows during transitions. Color accuracy after calibration was a relative strength, however, and surprisingly the TV handled 1080p/24 content well.
Editor's note: The remainder of this review does not apply to the 24-inch NSX-24GT1, which uses a different backlight technology than the other members of the series. We cannot comment on the picture quality of that size.
The Custom picture mode was slightly more accurate than Cinema overall, with good average gamma (2.24 versus the 2.2 target) that remained linear except in the brightest areas, and a consistent albeit too-blue grayscale--so we used it for our Before numbers in the Geek Box below. Our calibration was able to improve the grayscale significantly, although it still remained slightly uneven, and also help gamma further. Sony doesn't offer a CMS so the highly inaccurate primary color of red had to remain so.
Our image quality tests compared the Sony NSX-GT1 to the following TVs, using the Blu-ray of old favorite "I Am Legend."
|Comparison models (details)|
|Samsung UN46C6500||46-inch edge-lit LED-based LCD|
|Sony KDL-46EX700||46-inch edge-lit LED-based LCD|
|Samsung LN46C630||46-inch LCD|
|Panasonic TC-P46S2||46-inch plasma|
|Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference)||50-inch plasma|
Black level: The Sony fared poorly in this area compared with the others in our lineup, rendering a lighter, less realistic shade of black than any of them. The difference was most visible in dark scenes, such as Chapter 3 when Dr. Neville closes up his house. The letterbox bars, fades to black, and very dark shadows all appeared relatively bright and less impactful in our darkened room.
We also noticed unusual flashing in the shadows during transitions. One example appeared at the 12:12 mark, when the shadows on either side of the doorway flashed brighter then darker again as they brightened from black. The same thing happened starting at 1:02:45, again during a fade up from black. The letterbox bars even flashed slightly when we hit Select on our PS3 to disappear the status display.
Shadow detail was passable given the relatively light blacks, but some shadowed areas seemed flat. In Chapter 8's exploration of the zombie nest, for example, the GT1 outdid the C630 and S2 at delivering realistic detail in areas like Neville's shaded face, but didn't quite match the C6500 or EX700.
Color accuracy: After calibration the Sony appeared relatively accurate. The skin tones of Anna and Ethan in Chapter 20, for example, came closer to our reference than on the C6500, although they weren't as close as the C630 or EX700. The inaccurate color of red also made the pillows on Neville's couch, for example, look less realistic than on the other sets, but the difference wasn't drastic. Saturation and richness also suffered a bit in bright areas due to the lighter black levels.
Aside from the Sony EX700, the GT1 was the worst in our lineup in terms of tingeing dark areas blue. The near-black along Neville's face and hand at the 44:17 mark provided one glaring example, and similar ones appeared in other shadows and black scenes.
Video processing: During the helicopter flyover from Chapter 7, our standard test for 1080p/24 processing, the NSX-GT1 performed well, delivering the same cadence as our reference--not too smooth and without the stuttering characteristic of 2:3 pulldown, as seen on the Panasonic S2.
As expected from a 60Hz TV, the GT1 showed only 300-400 lines in our motion resolution test, but as usual we couldn't see a difference compared with the higher-scoring sets in regular program material.
A ramp test pattern revealed breakup as opposed to a smooth progression from black to white, a possible indication of bit depth issues, and again not something we typically see on modern HDTVs. We kept an eye out for false contouring or other related artifacts during the film but didn't see any glaring examples.
Uniformity: The GT1 was the worst of the lot at maintaining an even image across the screen. The movie's letterbox bars showed this issue clearly; they were brighter along the bottom edge and in the upper corners than elsewhere. We also noticed vertical brightness variations that looked like amorphous bands. These issues were even more noticeable on the Sony than they would be otherwise, since Google TV's screens often show flat fields (such as around the white space on Web pages, the gray of loading screens) that clearly reveal uniformity problems.
From off-angle, the GT1 behaved like the other edge-lit LCDs, losing black level and color fidelity relatively rapidly as we move to either side.
Bright lighting: Under the lights the GT1's glossy screen reflected bright objects more noticeably than the matte LCDs or the S2 plasma and about the same as the glossy C6500. It preserved black levels relatively well, however, surpassing the plasmas and roughly equaling the other LCDs in that area.
We did not test the NSX-GT1 with standard-def or external PC sources.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6776/6885||Average|
|After color temp||6438/6458||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||477||Average|
|After grayscale variation||140||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.602/0.323||Poor|
|Color of green||0.307/0.603||Good|
|Color of blue||0.161/0.059||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||(Did not test)||n/a|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Sony NSX-GT1 series, but we did test the 46-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Sony NSX-46GT1.