Along with the Sony NSZ-GP9 network Blu-ray player, the Sony NSZ-GS7 Google TV set-top box will be among the first UK products featuring the search engine giant's TV service ( we still don't know when the LG Google TV will be arriving). We were recently treated to a brief demo of the service but it's only now that we've had the chance to get our hands on the box itself and the innovative remote at Sony's HQ in Tokyo.
The Google TV box can be connected to your TV via HDMI and enables you to watch broadcast TV (via a set-top box), use apps and browse the web, displaying more than one function on the screen at any one time. All TVs in the Sony Bravia range for 2012 will be upgradable to Google TV using the NSZ-GS7 box.
Sony NSZ-GS7 Google TV box: Build
The box itself is very small and compact, sporting a minimalist design, although it's bigger than the likes of Apple TV. The black chassis sports a textured dimpled design that's been designed to match the bezel of the EX650 TV range (available in 22, 26, 32 40 and 46-inch screen sizes).
Sony NSZ-GS7 Google TV box: Features
Running Android 3.1 Honeycomb, the NSZ-G37 incorporates Google Search and Chrome for easy web browsing. Bookmarks can be added and it's also possible to add shortcuts to the homescreen, as you would on an Android phone or tablet. We're told that the Google TV box will automatically update to Ice Cream Sandwich once it's available.
The box has 4GB of built-in storage, although this is just for software updates and apps, and not for storing content. The NSZ-G37 supports both HD and 3D content.
Sony NSZ-G37: Remote
The Sony Google TV remote certainly looks impressive, and is different to Sony's US Google TV remote. Along with a backlit QWERTY keyboard, it offers a touchpad (including pinch zoom for web browsing) and 3-axis motion control and can also be used as universal remote for basic functions on the latest Sony TVs.
Powered by two AA batteries, the remote fits neatly in the hand for one-handed control, while flipping the remote over to use the QWERTY keyboard is better suited to two-handed use (the QWERTY buttons won't work while you're holding the remote the other way up, so there's no need to worry about pressing them accidentally). There's also a mic input to enable voice search, although voice recognition is currently only available on the Sony NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray player.
You'll also be able to perform basic functions on the both the NSZ-G37 and the NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray player, using the latest Bravia remote controls.
Sony NSZ-GS7 Google TV box: Apps
Unlike the first generation of Google TVs, the Sony Google TV box will offer full access to the Android market, including a selection of TV-optimized apps. We're told told that the there should be a substantial selection of TV-centric apps available at launch as they're actually relatively easy to put together.
For apps that already exist for other Android platforms, most of the work is already done - developers merely need to port them across with larger images and text to fit the TV screen, and they don't need to worry about touchscreen functionality and for tablet developers - the apps are already TV-friendly 16:9.
We don't know exactly which apps will be available at launch, but the boffins at Sony told us to expect apps from "all the big content providers".
There will also be integration for games across different devices, both Android and Apple iOS, and you'll also be able to 'throw' the website on your mobile device to your TV and vice versa.
Sony NSZ-GS7: Verdict
On first impressions, the Sony NSZ-GS7 Google TV box itself fits in well with Sony's design theme, so it'll match any other Sony AV kit nicely. The remote is extremely impressive, as the designers have clearly had to cram a hell of a lot of functions into a relatively small device.
Overall, the Google TV experience appeared to be simple and zippy, much like the slick interfaces that we've become used to seeing on tablets, rather than the somewhat clunky internet TV options that have appeared over the last few years, so we look forward to seeing Sony's Google TV offering when it's fully operational (we've been told that the products will launch in the summer).
Although we managed to get our mitts on the product for a limited amount of time, we haven't been able to give it a full run-through so stay tuned for a full review.
Sony NSZ-GS7 Google TV box: Summer 2012
Sony NSZ-GS7 Google TV box: TBC