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Review: Sony Google TV NSZ-GS7

Sony shrinks its Google TV box, but the new box lacks basic functionality.

Sony and Logitech were the first two companies to launch in to the Google TV space, in late 2010, each with a set-top box. Sony went a bit further, integrating a Blu-ray Disc player in to its NSZ-GT1, although the Blu-ray player made the unit a bit bulky by comparison. Sony also integrated Google TV in to a few of its flat-panel HDTVs, offering a more expensive, all-in-one solution.

Even though the GT1 Blu-ray unit cost almost twice as much as the Logitech Revue, the Japanese consumer electronics giant found it had a hit on its hands, selling many more of its Google TV units than Logitech was able to muster. When Logitech got out of the Google TV game, famously calling even the Google TV 2.0 specification "beta" software—even though Logitech never fully implemented the Google TV 1.0 or 2.0 specifications—the question arose as to whether Google TV was dead.

Fortunately, Sony announced in January, at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, that it would ship 2012 models of Google TV set-top units, including one that eliminates the Blu-ray player and comes in about 30 percent smaller than the Logitech Revue. The Sony NSZ-GS7 began shipping in both the US and Europe in July 2012, and it was with great anticipation that we bought a unit for testing.

Sony Google TV NSZ-GS7

Boy, were we ever disappointed. While it possesses an innovative remote that's sure to be copied by others, the Sony NSZ-GS7 lacks basic functionality and fails to live up to even the 2010 Sony GT1 model. 

Here are a few key points from our testing.

Lack of Basic Functionality

Our review unit shipped from Amazon on August 21, was received two days later, and set up in our lab on August 24. 

The fact that these are late-August dates is important to remember, given the fact that the Sony NSZ-GS7 had been shipping for a month before we ordered the unit. Part of the reason for waiting was to bypass an issue we had with  our initial Logitech Revue review, where the initial firmware was buggy and didn't support all the Logitech-touted features.

Turns out that the Sony units have the same issue, even after applying the most recent firmware update. Several key elements are not supported in the initial firmware, the version number ending in 20120628_URSC. These missing elements include Sony's very good Media Player app, DLNA support, and access to both the Sony Entertainment Network Music and Video Unlimited services.

In fact, it was a bit of a shock to go to the installed apps and see "coming soon" on the Media Player application, as this app and Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) support was a strong selling point for the NSZ-GT1. Why would Sony ship a unit two years later that didn't have basic functionality that's been available in its older models for over a year?

We never got an answer on that, but we did find that a subsequent firmware release may address the problem.

"In the product we have in the market right now, the local media player is actually disabled," said Tony, a Sony representative, during a July 25 Google TV Hangout video chat that we found while researching the lack of Media Player support. "However, there is an over the air update that will enable the media player, and will allow DLNA support."