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Hands On

You get the feeling pretty quickly that Primetime (previously known as TV and Movies) is where Google wants your primary Google TV experience to take place. It has three modes: Live (on now); Shows; and Movies. In Live mode, you can define your favorite TV channels. As you scroll down, you can see what’s currently on live TV by category. You can also choose HD or HD/SD quality filters, as well as look ahead to the next hour’s programming.

Google TV Primetime Favorite Channels

Google TV Primetime Favorite Channels

In the Shows menu, you can see shows that are trending as well as shows by category. You can then choose a show or an episode that you want to watch. Google TV will tell you when it’s on. Depending on availability, you also have the option of renting or purchasing the show or episode from one or more online content vendors. (Google or Amazon).

The Movies menu gives you similar choices and options as the Shows menu. If you have a Netflix subscription and the show is available for online viewing, Google TV will tell you that you can watch the show now for "free". The gallery below will give you a good feel for the Primetime experience

If you don't see what you want to watch, the Search icon all the way on the right of the icon bar on the home screen is there to help. When you enter in a search request for a term, Google searches for available online content from your live TV source as well as available online sources for content. The nice thing about this search is it lets you easily find the show/movie that you’re looking for and consolidates your search results in one place.

But as you use Primetime, and Google TV in general, you may feel a persistent tug at your wallet as the Search and Primetime results often show only Rent or Buy options. Given Google's prowess in Search, the limited results and their focus on Rent and Buy options is puzzling.

NeoTV Prime/Google TV Search Results

NeoTV Prime/Google TV Search Results

The image above shows the results for a search for Law & Order. You’ll note that the highlighted section has the symbol for “Primetime”. If you select this entry, you will find your search results available in the Primetime app, where you can find out if your selection is On Now, On Soon or available for rent or purchase. Of those 288 episodes listed as available below, however, you'll find a lot of them fall into the latter two categories. You can also see that Law & Order: Criminal Intent was currently playing on Live TV with only 3 minutes remaining.

If you're looking for free sources for your content, including the network websites, you'll have to use the See web search results from Google.com option. But don't expect to be able to play that content with the Chrome browser. Since it's Android based, you'll have the same "sorry your browser is not supported" experience that you get when trying to view those same sites from a tablet or smartphone.

The Chrome browser otherwise provides a full web browsing experience including Flash and HTML5 support. While viewing web pages, you can also enable PIP (Picture in Picture) if your device is connected to your cable/satellite box as shown in the screenshot below.

Google Chrome Browser showing Picture in Picture

Google Chrome Browser showing Picture in Picture

While the above images and galleries give you a pretty good idea about how the NeoTV Prime is set up and works, it doesn’t really address how easy is it to use and navigate around the product and through the screens. First, while I like the idea of a Bluetooth wireless remote as compared to the IR remote found in the NeoTV MAX, I found that the touch pad was difficult to use. I found it difficult to control the cursor to precisely place it on icons. And, I found that often I had to swipe on the touch pad multiple times to get from corner to corner on the screen. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be a way to adjust the touchpad sensitivity. Though I liked the additional keys on the remote as compared to the NeoTV MAX, I still found that the keyboard was also somewhat awkward to use.

I finally scrounged around and dug out a spare powered USB hub and connected it to the Prime. I then plugged in a USB keyboard & mouse as well as a flash drive. While a wired keyboard or mouse was called out in the user guide, it made no mention of using a USB hub. The tinkerer in me decided to try it out. While it's not a "supported" configuration, the real keyboard and mouse dramatically improved the Google TV experience. Of course you probably don’t want a wired keyboard and mouse cluttering up your living room, so that may not be a practical solution.

The "real" keyboard made typing in search phrases and passwords a snap. The "real" mouse made it much easier for selecting links and navigating across wide expanses of screen real estate. It would have been nice if there had been at least one additional USB port on the device. With two ports, you could use a wireless keyboard/mouse and still have one port free to use with a USB drive. Fortunately, with the powered USB hub, I had the best of all worlds - keyboard, mouse and access to my USB flash drive.

While looking around on NETGEAR’s website, I discovered that there are both Android and iOS apps that you can use to control your NeoTV Prime/Google TV. While there are QR codes for both platforms, I had difficulty scanning them with my Android-based phone. So I searched both the Apple apps store and Google Play for NeoTV and didn’t find one specifically for the NeoTV Prime. However, if you search either of the App stores for “Google TV”, you’ll find the app. I downloaded the app on both my Droid Razr MAX as well as my iPad. Note: The iOS app is an iPhone app. If you install it on an iPad, while it works fine, you’ll be stuck in portrait mode.

The application looks and behaves the same on both platforms. It probably goes without saying, but your phone/tablet must have a wireless connection on the same local network to which the NeoTV Prime is connected. Of course, since this is a wireless connection you don’t have to be in direct line-of-sight to control the NeoTV Prime with your phone/tablet.

When you launch the app for the first time, a four digit code pops up on the TV screen, which you then enter into the prompt field on your phone/tablet. The device is immediately connected to the NeoTV Prime. Of course, the NeoTV Prime has to be turned on and connected to your TV set and the set must be on in order for you to get the four digit PIN to connect.

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