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Review: Sony Google TV NSZ-GS7

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

Inability to Manually Install Firmware Updates

After a bit of research, we found that a firmware update had been issued on August 3, 2012, with a build date of July 24, 2012 (the firmware ends in 20120724_URSC_S67254, with the initial 2012 number being the build date). This new firmware was the one that Tony, the Sony representative, was referring to in the Google TV Hangout video.

However, when we tried to update the firmware during our initial set-up on August 24, the unit first said, "Your system is currently up to date," but also gave the "last checked date" as July 23, 2012. Since we knew there was a July 24 build, released on August 3, we opted to click on the "check now" button to update the firmware.


Or, perhaps a bit more precisely, the screen status changed from "last checked date" to "checking for updates," but then just remained in that state for more than 20 minutes.  

After two additional attempts, we went to Sony's electronic support site and found the firmware update information

Turns out there's no way to manually update the firmware on our NSZ-GS7 test unit, at least according to the support website. 

Due to the fact that clicking the "check now" button on the firmware update page resulted in twenty minutes of watching the screen prompt showing "checking for updates" with no results, we figured Sony might have a USB workaround for upgrading the unit's firmware.

Nope. The site's troubleshooting notes that "This update is only available directly through the NSZ-GS7 Network Media Player."

What about USB? Nope. "It is not possible to download and install this update using a USB device."

We even tried accessing the firmware update support page directly on the NSZ-GS7 built-in Chrome web browser. No luck, as the "download" button just routes the user to an explanation on how to set up network access on the Google TV unit, and that the update could either by manually requestion (as we'd done) or allowed to automatically occur.

So we waited. We waited some more. We turned off the Sony NSZ-GS7, waited a few minutes for good measure, and then turned it back on. Then we waited. And watched some Netflix. And waited some more.

About thirty minutes later, a prompt on the screen said that an update was available. Maybe it's like adage about watching a kettle: ignore it and something finally happens. 

So we let the NSZ-GS7 do its thing, upgrading the firmware. Once it completed and the unit rebooted, we were glad to see that the Media Player was no longer was grayed out or described as "coming soon," but instead was a working app

Still no DLNA Support

Remember the Google TV Hangout mentioned above? The one that said the Media Player app would work and that DLNA support would be enabled?

Turns out that's only half true.

The firmware update (20120724_URSC_S67254) does enable the Media Player app but still does not support DLNA. 

A note on the Sony firmware page states: "The Media player application only supports local contents (Internal Memory and USB). This application is not supported using DLNA technology."

Now we understood a bit more about why Tony, the Sony representative on the Google TV Hangout, stated that Plex was installed. "Until that happens"—referring to the firmware update that was supposed to provide both Media Player app and DLNA support—"one of the pre-installed apps, Plex, will provide local media support, if you set up your Plex media server."

You can't miss Plex, as it's the first prompt on the screen when the NSZ-GS7 is launched, prodding you to set up your Plex server. 

What's a Plex server? We were a bit befuddled, too, and then found it was a media server that lets one view content locally. Except it's limited by the fact that it requires the user to run a separate Mac or Windows machine. Plex doesn't support the basic network attached storage (NAS) that many users find the Google TV well suited for—besides watching Netflix and YouTube videos on their 55" LED TV.

Not a good thing. So we dragged out a few older USB flash drives, formatted them to FAT32—the only formatting that the Sony NSZ-GS7 supports. The FAT32 limitation means that ExFAT formatting doesn't work on the NSZ-GS7, so files larger than 4GB, such as bit-for-bit DVD transfers aren't supported. Which is why DLNA is needed in the first place. 

The one positive note, after the firmware upgrade, was that we were able to confirm the unit was able to play back MPEG-2 content, something the original Sony NSZ-GT1 could do but the Logitech Revue could not. 

Not Ready for Prime Time

The Sony NSZ-GS7 is a work in progress, not yet ready for prime time. While Sony supports the widest range of codecs of any Google TV unit on the market today, the NSZ-GS7 still lacks the basic functionality of the much older Sony NSZ-GT1. 

It's a mystery why Sony chose to release the NSZ-GS7 before it had even basic local functionality, and we hope Sony will rapidly rectify this situation. At twice the price of competing products like the new Visio Co Star, Sony has a tough game ahead.