I didn't want to risk damaging my review unit, so I checked out the FCC photos to get an idea of what powers the Prime. The photos out on the site aren't great or in very high resolution and show only the RF portion of the product. The photos show that a Marvell Avastar 88W8787 provides the Prime's 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 functions.
Marvell's data sheet shows that the chipset supports only single stream (N150) Wi-Fi. By comparison, the NeoTV MAX supports N300 wireless. NETGEAR advised me that the MAX needed the additional stream to support streaming both video and Intel Wireless Display (WiDi). WiDi is not supported on the NeoTV Prime.
NeoTV Prime PCB (from FCC web site)
I actually went through the setup process twice. First, I set up the NeoTV Prime in my office, which doesn’t have a cable or satellite box. When it came to the step for configuring the set-top box, I chose the Skip option. In my office, I used a wired Ethernet connection, so the device automatically recognized the network connection and confirmed that it had internet access.
The setup process does a good job of managing your expectations. The figure below appears on the screen after you select the language. It shows that you have about 20 minutes of setup ahead of you, and that seemed about the right time estimate.
NeoTV Prime Getting Started
One step worth mentioning is the screen calibration. In this step, you are presented a screen with a blue box surrounding a black box that contains instructions. Using the cursor keys on the Bluetooth remote, you “push” the edges of the black box until it eliminates blue box. You repeat this for each of the four sides of the rectangle. In the image below, I had already eliminated the blue at the top of the screen.
NeoTV Prime Screen Calibration
Once setup has been completed, a five-screen tutorial appears on the screen to help familiarize you with some of the basic features. It shows you the Home button, the Google Play Store, “TV & Movies” (which has now been renamed Primetime), Search Google TV, and the Menu key.
My second setup involved connecting the NeoTV Prime to the TV in my living room that’s connected to a Comcast Cable receiver. Since there isn’t a wired Ethernet connection available here, I reconfigured the NeoTV Prime to use Wi-Fi. I launched the settings app from the application icon and selected the entry for network setup. I choose wireless and WPS. I pushed the WPS button on the WNDR3800 NETGEAR router that I’m currently using, and WPS completed a WPA2/AES secured wireless connection in a matter of a couple of seconds.
My biggest challenge came with setting up the NeoTV Prime to work with my Comcast Cable receiver. I hooked up the cable coming from the Comcast box to the HDMI input on the NeoTV Prime, and connected another HDMI cable to one of the inputs on my TV. The HDMI passthrough worked just as expected. (Note: the NeoTV Prime has to be powered on for HDMI passthrough to work. If it is turned off, you won't see live TV on the HDMI input connected to the device.)
Unfortunately, when I started the wizard to configure my setup box and provider, it didn’t automatically find my device – even though video was playing on the screen at the time. I called Comcast to get the model number of my receiver – that seemed like an easier option than tearing apart my equipment rack to find the model number label on the receiver. Ultimately, I was able to get the box configured, as well as the IR blaster, but it took a couple of tries. It sure would have been nice if the wizard had recognized my receiver and made the process more seamless. Of course, you may have a different experience with a different provider and receiver.
After the setup and the initial tutorial screen complete, you land at the home page. If you shut your Prime down and restart it, it will land at the fairly spartan page shown below. Normally, whatever application (or live TV) was recently running becomes the wallpaper and the home screen resides on top of that. This screen shows the main features of the NeoTV Prime.
NeoTV Prime/Google TV Home Page
All media streamers share some common features. First, all of them stream content from online sources. As you move up in price point, many media streamers add in the ability to play your own local content – either from a USB storage device, a DLNA server, or possibly a network share. Finally, at the top of the food chain, you have Google TV devices. In the sections below, we’ll talk about each of these areas and how well the NeoTV Prime accomplishes its tasks.
The NeoTV Prime does a good job of streaming online content. It has most of the major applications you expect in a media streamer with one exception—Hulu Plus. This is more related to a business relationship, or lack thereof, between Google and Hulu. If they ever reach an agreement on licensing, Google could easily add an app to its online store that you could download. Here's a brief look at some of the streaming apps included or available on the NeoTV Prime.
Netflix – This is the granddaddy of streaming applications, and one reason that many people buy a media streamer in the first place. You can launch Netflix from the home screen, from all apps, or by using the dedicated Netflix button on the remote. The Netflix client is the same on both the NeoTV MAX and NeoTV Prime. Both feature the same interface – one that seems a bit dated. Individual categories are shown in rows with about five entries per row. You have to scroll left/right to see entries in each category. I personally prefer the NetFlix interface built into my Vizio TV. A recent firmware update made for a more useful screen arrangement that shows multiple rows of shows when a category is selected.
NeoTV Prime/Google TV Netflix
YouTube – Compared to the NeoTV MAX, the YouTube client in the NeoTV Prime makes better use of screen real estate. For example, when choosing “Discover”, the NeoTV MAX client only shows 6 categories and information about a channel is shown in a row format with details for a single channel and thumbnails for two more channels. You have to scroll to the right to see more channels. On the NeoTV Prime, 16 categories are shown with detailed descriptions of 5 channels shown vertically as shown below.
NeoTV Prime/Google TV YouTube - Discover
Pandora – Surprisingly, this app wasn’t included in the set of pre-installed apps, so I downloaded it. While it worked well, I prefer the screen layout and features on the NeoTV MAX.
NeoTV Prime Pandora Interface
The two images above and below illustrate the differences.