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Will Sony's Google TV replace our cable TV?

Part 2 of our series, “Cutting the Cable”  Last weekend, we canceled our cable service, and many of you weighed in with your ideas on how to switch to the new web-powered, social world of television while saving a few dollars, to boot. While we’ve temporarily wired our Mac Book into our TV set, we’re now looking for a more convenient solution that spans all of our TV dietary needs, from live sports to HBO.

Our first stop was Best Buy for this week’s debut of Sony’s Google TV sets, which are billed as the first true internet TVs. The Best Buy team was just putting the finishing touches on the display when I walked up, so here’s a little review of what I found.

The LED sets look great, and the 40″ version is priced at an affordable $999. Beyond the looks, the first thing I noticed was the remote — a two-handed variety that was confusing at first, and certainly less than optimal. To move the cursor, you lightly rub your thumb over the right pad, which would take some time to master. Logitech’s version of Google TV — an external box called Revue that goes for $299 — features a keyboard with a touchpad, which seems like a better way to move the mouse.

Now that I’m off and running with the Sony remote — sort of — I page through the different video partners displayed in the Google TV navigation — where’s Hulu? So I punch up the Google Chrome browser, navigate directly to Hulu, and discover that it’s blocked. “We are working hard to bring our Hulu Plus subscription to Google TV!” the message says. It does have Netflix, however, it requires you to work off the Instant Queue instead of searching on the spot. Google TV plans to add that functionality sometime soon.

So, Google TV is brand new, and beyond YouTube, HBO Plus and a few others, the content is not quite there yet. That’s to be expected, but I didn’t expect the Best Buy sales guy to discourage me from buying the set. Why? Because the Sony set is running at 60 mhz (instead of the more standard 120 mhz), which means Blu-Rays and our Xbox will experience some blurriness on fast-motion scenes. Since I’m a pretty avid gamer, that made me pause and consider his advice to buy a TV set on the merits, then add Logitech’s Revue or Sony’s Blu-Ray Google TV box ($399) to power the internet piece of it.

If I weren’t such a gamer, I would have bought the set on the spot, but now we’re still weighing our options. We’re eying the new Xbox Kinect device, which comes out next month with a bunch of social TV features and live ESPN3 streaming. We’ll keep you updated as our quest continues, and as always, please let us know your own tips in comments….

Update: Search Engine Land conducts an in-depth review and discovers many of the same problems accessing content — and comes to a similar conclusion. “If you don’t watch that much internet content, hooking up your existing laptop to your TV and firing up Clicker to locate shows would seem to do much of what Google TV offers…. Heck, this gets me wanting to explore some of the other internet-to-TV options out there.”

Another update: Networks block their shows from playing on Google TV

Part 1: Connecting our Mac Book to play on TV

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