Vizio Co-Star

2.0
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Reviewed by AirElephant (Currently owns)

I decided to hack out a review of the Vizio Co-Star for The Verge simply because I haven't really seen any yet. I hope that many others find the time to leave their impressions as well. If you don't want to read to the end, the skinny of it is that I feel that GTV is not ready for prime time, especially as put forth in the Co-Star, and I am sending my unit back to Vizio for a refund (minus a 10% restock fee, of course.)

The worst aspect of the Vizio Co-Star has to be its wonky remote. Large, rectangular, and angular it is a cacophony of buttons and touchpad that make little sense together. The QWERTY keyboard lacks discrete numeric keys and the layout is so wide that is difficult to type with both hands. To access special characters, including numbers, you must HOLD (not tap, but actually hold) the FN key as you type, making the process of entering passwords or email addresses tedious. The touchpad is questionable, and will often not register taps when trying to activate icons. The buttons on the front are also in odd positions, and the lack of a backlight as well as a low-contrast color scheme makes using the remote in low-light conditions nearly impossible.

As for the software, apps crash frequently. (And this is after running the update that appeared immediately after powering on for the first time.) The Amazon Instant is not an actual app, but rather a link to the Amazon Instant store webpage, requiring a wonky sign-on to view content. The same can be said for their "TV Apps" which are little more than links to web-optimized TV websites. M-GO, as of launch, was inoperable. And Netflix uses an older menu style, not the superior view utilized by the XBOX 360 or even the Roku.

Attaching pass-through devices and controlling them with the remote is difficult, at best, as it seems Vizio hasn't done a great job of updating its IR codes database. Several of the products I tried to use, including a Samsung TV, simply didn't work with the remote. That could be user error, but then again this is supposed to be an easy consumer device, and it's anything but.

Overall, though, I feel the GTV platform is just as much to blame as Vizio. The GTV platform is the strangest cross between a HTPC and a media streamer, with the complexity of the HTPC superseding the ease-of-use of devices like the Apple TV. It's as though Google's engineers threw everything they wanted in an HTPC into the kitchen sink, hit the disposal button, and walked out with a strange, chopped-up mound of code at the end. It may do everything they say it will, but most consumers will never figure out how to make it work right.

The Breakdown

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  • Design 1
  • Software 1
  • Content selection 1
  • Performance 5
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