Vizio Co-Star Streaming Player with Google TV page 2
As with other Google TVs, preinstalled apps include: Netflix, YouTube, TV, Movies and TV, the Google Chrome Web browser, On-Live gaming, and the Spotlight TV app. It also comes with Vizio's own PlayPoint DLNA media streaming app that works well in finding and playing videos, photos, and music from computers and NAS drives on a home network.
Rather than having separate apps for Crackle, CNBC, HBO Go, TBS, and more, you can access an optimized version of these streaming Websites from the Spotlight TV app. As with other media players, HBO Go, TBS, Epix, and other premium channels require authentication that you subscribe to the channel through your TV provider. The Amazon Instant Video app is also a shortcut to the Amazon Web page rather than a standalone app.
Movies and TV App: The Gem of Google TV
Although the Movies and TV app is part of the Google TV platform and not unique to the Co-Star, it’s worth mentioning, as it’s probably the number-one reason I would buy a Google TV. After you’ve rated a few movies, this app will display a grid of recommended movies and TV shows. Then, when you double-click on the cover art of the desired title, it brings up a screen that lists where you can watch it—online, from movie streaming apps, or from your TV provider's schedule. If the title is only available as a rental, the price will also be listed.
The Movies and TV app has a section that displays the live TV shows that are currently playing on your connected cable/satellite/telco service. Displayed as a grid of cover art, a quick glance at a blue progress bar beneath each title tells you which TV shows and movies have just begun and which are further along or almost over. This is the way all onscreen guides should work.
Apps for AirPlay and Media Streaming
As with other Android devices, you can download apps from Google Play to your Google TV. The Co-Star is limited by its measly 4 gigabytes of flash memory and is only able to download about 20 or so large apps. It should be enough memory for the apps available today, but you may have to remove apps to make room for new ones in the future.
Apps like Media House, GTVBox, and AirTight add the ability to stream from your home network, tablets, and phones to the Co-Star. GTV Box and AirTight are AirPlay enabled, so you can stream to the Co-Star from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod. Unlike streaming to an Apple TV, the apps cannot mirror the mobile device's display to your TV. Photos that are streamed to the Co-Star are beautifully displayed and easy to navigate by swiping on your iPhone/iPad. However, videos are compressed with such poor picture quality that it’s doubtful anyone would want to stream movies using these apps.
Picture and Sound
The Co-Star’s video output has 1080p resolution with up to 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus passthrough. It also plays 3D content. For live TV and streaming HD movies and TV, the picture and sound quality were adequate. However, streaming Web video that is often 360 or 480 resolution appeared pixilated and wasn’t enhanced in any way that would make it suitable for viewing on the 46-inch Samsung 6100 series TV I used to test the Co-Star. Only high-definition videos from YouTube, Redux, and other online sources were of high enough quality to view on the big screen.
With a price tag of $100, the Vizio Co-Star is half the cost of its latest competitor, the Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player with Google TV ($200). While it doesn't have some features found on the Sony—a backlit keyboard, more flash memory, and superior upscaling of subpar video content—it has other features that make it stand out. The Co-Star's Launcher/home screen and direct remote access to Amazon Instant Video and Netflix make it easier for the novice techies in your household. The Vizio is a good value and a good way to bring Google TV to your home theater.