Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Vizio launches $99 Google TV set-top box

Dan Rayburn of StreamingMedia.com reports that Vizio's new Google TV-based Stream Player will ship in the first half of 2012, and will be priced at $99 (U.S.). According to Rayburn, the set-top box will only be sold directly by Vizio from its website, but I don't expect that to last--Vizio sells too much product through resellers such as Costco for the company to ignore that channel.

The VAP430 Stream Player uses the new ARM-based Google TV architecture, and Vizio has reskinned Google TV's user interface. It will have HDMI in and out (so it can be connected to a receiver or A/V amplifier in-line with another set-top box or other device without taking up an additional HDMI port), Ethernet and Wi-Fi interfaces, and a USB port that can be used to connect an external hard disk (only for playing, not recording, audio and video). It will also come with a universal remote control with both IR and Bluetooth outputs. The device will support 1080P video in and out, and Vizio claims that the device will have sufficient bandwidth to support 3D streaming.

Vizio has confirmed that the Stream Player will support Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, HBO Go (for existing HBO subscribers), YouTube, Pandora, Technicolor's new M-GO streaming video service, and others. Additional services will be announced by the time the device ships.

On paper, Vizio has hit all the right notes: The Stream Player will be priced competitively with Apple and Roku, it will run a more polished version of Google TV, and it can be connected in-line with the user's existing cable, satellite or IPTV set-top box, instead of requiring a separate HDMI connection. It remains to be seen how well the device works when it gets into the hands of consumers, and whether Google and Vizio have smoothed out the many rough spots in Google TV's user interface. If it works well, it'll help put Google TV back into the thick of the over-the-top set-top box competition.
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