Google TV 2.0 launched earlier this week, finally bringing Android Market to the living room platform. But Google TV still isn’t perfect. For better or worse, the product’s dependence on apps allows 3rd party developers to stand up and fill the voids.
Hopefully Google TV will one day feature a rich app ecosystem filled with fun and glorious apps. That’s not today. Most of the launch apps are random Android apps, from LauncherPro to Twitter. Sideloading is allowed but it’s hit or miss. Some apps work, most do not. The five apps after the break mostly fill out Google TV’s features although one of them is included because of a fun drinking game.
Google TV is missing a solid local network media player. It natively supports DLNA servers, but I loath DLNA servers. They’re resource intensive requiring on-the-fly transcoding and often support just a limited amount of file types. Google TV needs the ability to browse a local network as an SMB client and play content remotely. That’s what most local network streamers have done it for years. But not Google TV.
Plex approaches local media in a similar fashion as DLNA servers. A server-side app is still required but it supports all the major file types including those wrapped in MKV containers. There’s a good chance Plex can play all your files. The app also features a swanky music and photos mode. One of the major downsides to Plex comes back to the server app, though. It requires a Core 2 Duo or better CPU, meaning most older file servers or network-attached storage devices are left out of play.
Still, Plex is a wonderful app and greatly increases the functions of Google TV. It looks great, runs smooth and as long as your files are stored on a compatible device, the app is a smart $5 purchase. Not only does it stream local media like a champ, but it provides access to Spotify, Viemo, and tons of other sources. I can’t recommend Plex enough, really.
Whenever I state that Hulu and others are blocked on Google TV, commenters always point me towards PlayOn. For the most part they’re right; PlayOn does provide all those services. However, I’m not a fan of the app. It’s built around a sloppy DLNA server, ugly in operation and worse yet, PlayOn is expensive. The server app costs $5 a month, $40 a year, or $80 through a one-time payment.
PlayOn serves an impressive amount of content though a backdoor. The app streams nearly every major streaming source including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, ESPN, CBS and many more. This is accomplished using a DLNA server. Users input their username and password on the server app and then the streams are made available through the local network to a DLNA client or web browser, effectively bypassing any blockage on Google TV. It works, but not elegantly. There’s luckily a free trial so you can give it a go without handing over your credit card.
If you want to dig deep into Google TV, you’re going to need a file manager. I found File Expert by accident but it seems to work great. It supports local network browsing so you can drop APKs and the like in a local network share for easy installation. The app even allows for easy app uninstalling. There are plenty of file managers out there but this one is free and seems to do a fine job.
Sideloading apps to Google TV is currently a fool’s affair. Most apps not found in Google TV’s Android Market force close immediately after they’re launched. But my little warning probably won’t stop you. You’re going to try it yourself and see that Angry Birds doesn’t work yet.
Alternatively, sideloading can be done through Dropbox. Installation is a bit wonky as the app throws several errors during installation but it eventually loaded for me. As more users try to exploit Google TV, Dropbox is an easy way to access remote files and install apps. Simply drop APKs into one of the shared folders and pull it up on Google TV. Easy.
However, don’t expect to read PDF files or Word documents without the right app installed on your Google TV. Even MP3s do not work without additional software installed.
AOL actually has a solid portfolio of video content. Translogic? Awesome. But TCTV’s Fly or Die featuring Erick and John is tops. It’s so good that it has an official drinking game and Google TV is the perfect device to play along.
Here it is:
Did I miss any? Drop your suggestions in the comments below.
[image via Wired]