Logitech (s LOGI) dropped the price of its Revue Google (s GOOG) TV set-top to $99 this weekend, down from $249, after consumers all but ignored the device for more than half a year. Some folks may see the price reduction as yet another indicator that Google TV failed, but I think that a $99 Google TV box deserves a second chance.
Here are five reasons that make the $99 Logitech Revue worth buying:
1. The browser. This one is a biggie. A browser on your TV changes everything. Yes, Google TV has been blocked by virtually all major broadcasters, so you won’t be able to watch any videos from ABC.com (s DIS) or Hulu. However, you will find yourself in countless situations where current events and live concerts are streamed online, and most of them will be viewable just fine from your Google TV browser. Coachella? Check. NASA TV? Check. Professional video game players battling each other online? Check.
I know, the skeptics out there will still say, “But I don’t want to surf on my TV.” The good news is: You don’t have to, at least not in the traditional sense. There are now dozens of websites optimized for viewing on browser-based TV platforms. Check out some of them in Google TV’s Spotlight Gallery. YouTube on TV alone is so much better than any of its previous iterations on connected devices.
2. The Android remote app. Google TV remote controls have been the subject of a lot of mockery. I actually like the Revue keyboard, but I have to admit it’s not something I want to have on my lap all the time either. Luckily, there’s a really good Android app to control your Revue available, which not only simplifies the experience, but even offers voice input. It’s powered by Google’s speech recognition technology, so searching for a TV show is as easy as getting directions while you drive.
3. Honeycomb. I will admit, the current Google TV platform isn’t much fun to use. It’s overly complicated, giving you too many options to get to the stuff you really want. However, things are supposed to get much better with the platform’s next iteration, which is based on Android 3.1, also known as Honeycomb. And the good news is: Logitech’s Revue will support that version just fine, which may just make the Revue the most affordable hardware running Honeycomb, period.
4. The app store. Google TV currently doesn’t have access to the Android Market, but this is expected to change later this summer when it gets that Honeycomb upgrade. Some developers are already busy putting together apps specifically for the Google TV, but countless others may just take what they have developed for Android handsets, tweak it a little and make it available to Google TV users as well. Some of that will undoubtedly be a UI nightmare; a TV screen simply isn’t the same as a mobile phone.
However, if you’re an Android user, take good look at your handset. Maybe you’re like me, and you have apps from some of your favorite radio stations on there. Wouldn’t it be great to hear their music with the best speakers you have in your house? Or how about some of the casual games you have on your Android tablet: Woudn’t you love to play them on a bigger screen? A few months from now, Google TV users will have access to more apps than on any other TV platform — and some of those apps will be worth the purchase of this device alone.
5. Android @home. This could be the secret killer app of Google TV. Later this year, Google and some of its partners will start to sell a first round of home automation devices that directly interoperate with Android devices, making it possible to control them from any Android app. The very first devices to reach the market as part of this Android @home program will be LED light bulbs. Sounds boring, I know, but think about the possibilities. What if the Netflix (s nflx) app on your Google TV automatically dimmed the light once the movie started? What if Pandora (s p) could change the tone of the light based on the mood of the music?
There are of course still many reasons why someone wouldn’t want to buy the Revue. For one, a device that may suck less with the next software update isn’t really a good proposition for everyone. Also, future Google TV products from companies like Samsung and Vizio may just be better, making the Revue look outdated. Google TV also still doesn’t have access to Hulu Plus, and the Revue is optimized for people who use cable. However, if you’re currently in the market for a Boxee Box, an Apple TV (s aapl) or a Roku, do yourself a favor and take another look at the Revue. A few months from now, it may just feel like an incredible bargain.
Check out our original video review of the Logitech Revue below: