- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A marriage of TV and the Internet may seem an odd pairing, but it’s already happening in many ways. You can look up TV show listings online through a variety of sources; with some, you can program a digital video recorder, or DVR, to capture the program of your choice.

Many of today’s TV makers — Samsung, LG and Vizio among them — offer various wireless Internet connection options, bringing “widgets” that display news, weather, stock prices or family photos on the screen with the press of a remote control. These “dongles” also allow connectivity with video or audio services such as Hulu Plus, Netflix and Pandora Radio.

But what if you want more, if you want to become one with the universe through that big, honking 46-inch LCD hanging on the wall? For you, the answer might be another box to connect to your TV, the Logitech Revue, a $299.99 device that promises the world on your flat screen.

Or, at least a fair chunk of the Internet world, provided you (a) have the aforementioned flat screen with an HDMI interface and (b) have a wireless connection to your home’s broadband Internet service. (I suppose you could try to use a neighbor’s unsecured Wi-Fi connection, but that could get dicey.)

In return for a fair chunk of change — add $150 if you want to do video calling — and a few minutes of setup time, you get a somewhat enhanced TV experience and some nice Internet features. But there are limitations to what you can do, and this is clearly a product for “bleeding edge” and not even “leading edge” users.

Let’s start with some of the positive things Logitech has provided. The first is a relatively easy setup process and HDMI “pass-through” connectivity. The cable that normally goes from your cable box/DVR to the TV now must “pass through” that signal using the Revue. The plus here is one less HDMI port needed on your TV.

Setup, once I made sure the HDMI cables were properly seated at all points, was relatively fast. Even though the TiVo HD XL is not the Revue’s favorite DVR, it now works quite comfortably with that device. The Revue didn’t find my wireless home network initially, but connected flawlessly with a little prodding.

From there, getting things such as programming information, opening a Google-based Web browser and surfing the Net were all completed easily. Ancillary services such as YouTube, Netflix and Amazon’s Video on Demand were all available.

Google TV, the umbrella under which the Revue operates, claims to offer a lot of extra services for users of DISH Network services and equipment. My cable TV is provided by Verizon FiOS, and the TiVo box is about as far as I go in pushing the DVR envelope, so I can’t have the advanced searching/recording features promised for DISH users.

Such is life, I suppose, and one can hope and expect that the Revue’s features will branch out to other platforms in the coming months. For now, the Revue’s usefulness is in organizing broadcast video and Internet offerings. Set a “bookmark” for CNN or for www.washingtontimes.com and it’s one click to get there, whether it’s video or the Web. Want to check e-mail while watching “SportsCenter”? Press a button on the supplied keyboard/remote control, and the video window shrinks, the sound remains and you can e-mail easily.

As suggested, there are limitations. Hit a YouTube site while watching live TV and you’ll mess up both. I had to restart the Revue and my TV for things to return to normal. I haven’t tried Adobe Flash-based sites on this. They should work, but I’m a bit anxious. There also seems to be no easy way to enlarge text on the screen. That’s challenging, even on a 46-inch display.

Time has not allowed a test of video-based chatting, using a $149.99-list-price camera add-on that promises HD video chats. This may be a redeeming feature, but if it won’t support non-Logitech networks, its usefulness will be more limited.

In short, these really are early days for Google TV and certainly for the Logitech product. I’m willing to take this device “on faith” for now and expect more in the future. Those who are more cautious will want to wait and review their Revue buying decision later.

E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com.