Competing products include Apple TV, the Boxee Box, and Sony's Google TV line of products.
The Revue Hardware
The Logitech Revue is sold with the set-top box to connect to your television, an infra-red blaster for controlling TVs and other devices that use IR remotes, and a full-sized keyboard with attached track-pad that serves as a very large remote. The Revue hooks up by HDMI, so if you have an older TV, you'll need some sort of converter.
Optional equipment includes an HD webcam for video conferencing and a mini remote with keyboard. If you have a Harmony remote, you can use it, and if you have an Android phone, you can download an app to use your phone as a remote.
The Keyboard Remote
When you first launch your Revue, you'll be prompted about your TV equipment. Logitech has an impressive database of different devices and remote codes, so you can turn your TV, DVR, and AVR (audio visual receiver) on and off, control the volume, change channels, and switch to picture-in-picture mode directly from the Revue remote. This is a handy reduction in remotes. However, you can't control your Blu-ray player, your DVD player, your Wii, or other set-top devices you might have. You'll still need separate remotes for those, or you'll need to buy a Harmony.
Google TV is meant to bring the Internet to your TV, and it makes a lot of sense to have a remote that allows you to really type instead of hitting arrows and selecting keys the slow way. In addition to a full keyboard and keys for your DVR, AVR, and TV the Revue remote has a trackpad for moving your cursor on the screen and selecting things and the traditional Android Menu, Back, Home, and Search keys.
The full size keyboard types fine, but it is not backlit, making it difficult to use in the dark while watching a movie. It's light and seems flimsy. I had a problem with the back of the remote falling off and exposing the batteries. Initially I thought a full size keyboard would be the way to go, but I now lean toward the smaller mini keyboard (which is backlit.)
Will This Replace Your Cable TV?
When you can't find anything on TV, you can use it to watch a Netflix movie or buy one from Amazon Video on Demand, or watch a show you've recorded on your DVR.
However, it has the potential to replace your cable. When you search for TV shows, Google searches for feeds and allows you to add them to your queue. You could find feeds from all different networks and sources, including podcasts, YouTube videos, and webisodes.
So what's preventing this from replacing your cable? Two things. The Google TV interface and the TV networks. Nearly all major US TV networks have blocked Google TV, save PBS. You can get around some blocks by changing the browser's user agent (not exactly a novice move) but then you still have to struggle against the unpolished Google TV interface. You still have to scroll and find the expand button, and some video ads will freeze the display. This isn't a product to buy for your Luddite grandmother to use.
The good news is that Google could still push out updates to fix the interface problems, and TV networks might one day come to their senses and realize that blocking viewers only encourages piracy.
Apps on the Revue
The Netflix app is primitive. It only lets you view content from your instant viewing queue. You can't browse to find new videos from the full Netflix website, like you can on the Playstation 3 app, so you're stuck pulling out a laptop, adding a video to your queue, and then watching it.
Amazon Video on Demand has similar problems. While it's easy to shop and purchase Amazon videos, rather than using the Amazon VOD app from the side of the screen, you have to go to Bookmarks and then click on Amazon VOD to view the video you've just purchased and probably just want to watch right away.
This is inelegant and will hopefully be fixed in future updates, and for all I know it may be all Amazon's fault. Viewing Amazon videos was generally quite smooth, but occasionally there would be hiccups where the sound would continue and the picture would freeze. I'm not sure if this is a hardware or software issue, but it did not happen with Netflix or YouTube content.
On the next page, we'll look at video calls, the future of the Revue, and my buying recommendation.