25/06/2012 12:11 | By Nik Taylor, editor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Google TV: what you need to know

All the facts about the interactive TV service set to launch over here next month.


Sony NSZ-GS7 Google TV set-top box (© Sony)

Google TV will launch in the UK next month, when Sony debuts a set-top box that makes it possible to access the interactive service from any television.

The service is Google's crack at 'smart TV', enabling users to browse the internet on their televisions, as well as accessing additional content using smartphone-style apps.

Here's what you need to know about the Google TV service.

What is Google TV?
It's an internet TV platform. Google TV turns your telly into an internet-enabled computer - so you can browse the web, read emails, watch YouTube videos and use smartphone-style apps. Up until now, Google TV has only been available in the US but now it's coming to the UK.

How will I access Google TV?
Sony is going to launch a new set-top box in July. This set-top box will plug into your existing TV set-up and make it possible to access Google TV. For the time being, that's going to be the only way to access Google TV in the UK - although don't be too surprised to see other manufacturers getting involved soon.

Google TV interface (© Sony)

So what's this Sony product?
Sony is offering an 'Internet Player' set-top box (NSZ-GS7), which plugs into your existing TV set-up. It will also be launching a Blu-ray player (NSZ-GP9) with built-in Google TV, which will go on sale in the UK some time after October next year.

Does this replace my existing set-top box?
Probably not. Sony's product is likely to be most useful as an additonal part of your home entertainment set-up, rather than a replacement for anything. Google TV does offer some content - but it's 'on-demand' content accessed via partners such as Netflix and TV channels' 'watch again' services, as well as additional content from the Sony Entertainment Network.

What will it cost?
The NSZ-GS7 Internet Player box will cost around £200. The NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray player with Google TV is expected to cost around £300.

When can I buy it?
The NSZ-GS7 Internet Player goes on sale on 16 July. The NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray player with Google TV support will go on sale in the UK some time after its initial October launch in the US.

Can I buy a TV with Google TV built in?
Not yet - right now the set-top box option is the only way to get Google TV.

Google TV interface (© Sony)

How does the set-top box work?
It's operated using a dual-sided remote. On one side you have a trackpad, which you can use to navigate web pages in the pre-installed Google Chrome browser. On the other is a full QWERTY keyboard, to make inputting text easier. It's a universal remote that controls your entire entertainment system and it has a motion sensor for playing games.

As well as offering web browsing, the Sony box includes access to the Google Play store - so you can access apps such as YouTube or Twitter. Google expects app developers to come up with more programs specfically optimised for TV.

Do I have to use the supplied remote?
No - there is a free app called Media Remote that makes it possible to use your smartphone or tablet as a remote control instead.

Is Google TV any good?
It has met with a fairly lukewarm reception in the US over the past couple of years and some manufacturers have found sales of their set-top boxes to be sluggish. However, if you want to be able to access a full web browser from your TV (as well as a host of additional features), it makes a useful addition to your front room set-up - especially if you've not yet invested in a smart TV.

Google TV interface (© Sony)

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