The Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player with Google TV is a stylish, slim black set-top box that won't look out of place in the most stylish of living rooms. All the ports and the power cable sit nicely around the back, and a single white LED blinks out from the front. It's fully on board with Sony's style principles: we slipped it on top of our PlayStation 3 beneath the TV and they sat together nicely like long-lost siblings.
You get HDMI in- and out ports so you can route through the signal from your existing set-top box, as well as two USB ports, an optical digital audio output, and an ethernet connector (in case you are such a cable fetishist that the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player's power cable and two HDMI leads aren't enough to add to your set up). 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi is also enabled, as you'd expect. Visit: Digital Home Advisor.
Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player: hot but silent
In use the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player is virtually silent, although we found it was quite warm to touch after prolonged us. No fans, you see? however it does run hot, despite the vented sidepanels. There's no hard drive - it's not a PVR - although the device does have 8GB onboard for app storage. The Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player runs Android 3.0 Honeycomb.
The remote is a thing of beauty. A double-sided device that brings you a qwerty keyboard, touchpad and traditional remote capabilities. It's both an infrared remote and a Bluetooth keyboard. And you can set it up to control all of your devices, making the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player a space saver - in that respect.
Because the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player is yet another box to site around your TV. So what does it add to the party? In Google's own word Google TV places the best of the internet on your TV screen: YouTube, Google Play and the Chrome web browser. The Sony NSZ-GS7 also brings in Sony's own media apps.
In our words the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player adds smart TV to the dumbest of telly boxes. Is that worth £200? It may be, but the key factor is online content. And on that score we're only getting started, the UK especially.
Setting up the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player with Google TV
Set up was simple. Really simple: we're talking Apple-levels of consumer-friendliness. Typically, there is no HDMI cable supplied, so you'll need to purchase another one of those, but you simply take the HDMI cable that currently runs from set-top box to TV, pop that into the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player's HDMI in port, and run another cable from the Sony to your TV. Then switch on, set your TV's input to the HDMI port, and follow the onscreen instructions.
The interface says it will take 20 minutes to set up, but we were there in less than 10. This includes a clever little process by which you tell the devices exactly how big your screen is, so it can use every inch. 1080p HD content positively sings off the screen.
Once up and running you can watch TV as normal, via the Google/Sony box, or even switch it off and your set-top box will route through without you noticing that the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player is there. Once switched on, you have an internet-enabled TV. You can also play virtually any media file from a memory stick via the USB ports - supported files include MP3, MKV, FLAC, AVI, WMA, WMV, AAC and WAV.
We connected to the web via our wireless network, and it all worked fine. It has to be pointed out, however, that heavy use of the device on our putative 10-meg connection left it breathless and feeling the strain.
Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player and Google TV: what's the point?
The biggest problem with Google TV devices in the UK is the lack of content. Watching PC Advisor product reviews on YouTube via our 32in TV was brilliant (although the wind needed to be behind the router in order for us to watch them in HD - the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player downgrades the quality to match the connectivity). It was also fun to be able to browse the web and access our favourite apps on the biggest screen in the house. Utilising picture in picture to check out IMDB whilst watching a movie is a fun, if potentially marriage-ending, diversion.
But for £200 I am looking for something that offers capabilities not elsewhere. And unless I am missing something, there's noit much of that about. There is a Netflix app, of course, but I can get that via the aforementioned PS3. And the Google TV box doesn't yet offer dedicated TV catch-up apps for services such as BBC iPlayer or 4oD. You can view such content via the web browser, of course but... did I mention the games console? To be fair, Google has said that an iPlayer app is in the process of being built.
There's the Sony Entertainment Network, of course, which offers access to Sony's dedicated on-demand movies and music services.
It's probably unfair to criticise the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player and Google TV in general for lack of content. We're a small island with its own licensing laws: like Amazon, Google has to painstakingly negotiate deals with content producers in every territory, and then wait for those media makers to create apps and services. But unfair as it is, it makes the £200 outlay for this slick piece of software feel like a lot to me.