Like other Google TV devices, the Vizio Co-Star can run apps from Google Play, and has the Chrome Web browser on board, though several major networks block Google TV from streaming their website content. The device can work on its own input, or as an overlay for existing cable or satellite TV services, so users can browse for Internet content and apps without switching inputs away from live TV.
But Vizio’s Co-Star isn’t just about Google TV. It also has OnLive’s streaming game service built-in, so users can play modern video games on the big screen without a dedicated game console. Keep in mind, though, that OnLive’s universal controller is sold separately for $50, and you need a fast Internet connection to avoid atrocious input lag.
The Co-Star hardware is a small box, roughly the size of an Apple TV or Roku. The included remote has a trackpad and various buttons on one side — including one-click access to Netflix, Amazon and M-Go — and a full QWERTY keyboard on the underside. The box supports remote control through the Google TV app for Android as well.
Vizio’s Co-Star is the least-expensive piece of Google TV hardware yet, unless you count the Logitech Revue, which started at $300 but later dropped to $100 because sales were abysmal.
Vizio’s low price, small stature and OnLive support may help, but Google has yet to show that it can get people interested in its TV platform. Reviews of another second-generation Google TV box, Sony’s NSZ-GS7, have been negative so far. We’ll see whether Google can spruce up the platform this week, during its Google I/O developers conference.
Vizio will start taking pre-orders for the Co-Star in July, but hasn’t announced a release date.