Along with Google+ and Google Wave, Google TV has so far been one of the company’s flops. It’s the latest in a 17-year line of failed efforts by various companies to stick a computer — or in this case, an Android phone — into a television.
Sony was the original TV-maker to crash and burn with a TV piloted by Google. Now LG gives it a try, but having learned some lessons. The collection of video apps on the home screen, such as Netflix, HBO Go and YouTube (with Hulu on the way) simply appears on the home screen, as do Web page bookmarks — a big improvement on the seven different screens on the very first version of Google TV when it first came out with Sony (an update came later).
But perhaps the best way to use Google TV is … sparingly. Like Google’s home page, the TV interface can simply be a search bar in which you type, or say, the program you want to watch, such as "Game of Thrones," and see the options — in this case, watching it on HBO’s own app, HBO Go (if you already subscribe to HBO on cable), or on Amazon’s online video service (for an extra fee). If the show happened to be playing on regular TV at the time, that would appear as an option, too.
That simple way of using it — a single search on one device, with Web video available on the big screen — may be the most appealing to most people. If you want, you can simply watch the TV as a regular set, and have the option to bring up just that search bar, which you can fill in from a slim hand-held keyboard on the back of the remote, instead of a massive handful of a keyboard as originally came with the Sony.
LG will start selling two of these sets next week: a 47-inch model for $1,700 and 55-inch version for $2,400, respectively. They’re pricey, but in line with what you would pay for other high-end TVs (Internet-connected with 3D screens) from the company. And one price bonus: LG’s sets use the low-cost “passive” 3D glasses that sell for just $10 a pair, if you need more than the six that come with each set.