Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review - Sony NSZ-GT1 Wi-Fi-Enabled 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player Featuring Google TV

This review is not about who should buy and who should not. I am assuming that you have already done your homework on what the box is capable of and what features would be useful for you.
These are just my findings after I used it for about an hour or two and would like to share it with everybody.

First i'd like to jot down the connection details:

  1. Comcast HD Cable Box
  2. Sony NSZGT1 Google TV Box - HDMI Input from (1)s output
  3. Onkyo HT-S3300 AV Receiver - HDMI Input from (2)s output
  4. Samsung LN46B530 LCD TV - HDMI Input from (3)s output
  5. Wired Network connection via TrendNet 100Gigabit Switch

The setup was very simple, but a bit long and with a few glitches.
When I tried to connect the wifi, the setup hung and did not come back for at least 10 mins. Granted that it could be a one in a thousand cases, and then I restarted my box. Was entering my wifi password in this second try, and the screen hung and did not let me enter the password. Luckily, the box is next to my router, so I plugged in an ethernet cable and it connected successfully. Then it downloaded the 3.1 update, and I found that it asked me to maximize the screen again. All in all, a 15-25 min setup, if you have a good internet connection. (BTW, I set my box up to start instantly)

Syncing my TV, AV Receiver and Comcast box was a breeze. Follow the steps and all should be good.

The first thing I checked was the TV and movie app. This app is awesome!! Lets you search the current showing programs, based on categories like Movies, Comedy, Drama, Family, Animation etc..

TV & Movies App

In my opinion, Comcast TV guide and the useless remote that comes with the set top box are the worst of all designs ever. I have the basic TV subscription from comcast, so most of the channels are blocked, so I never bother changing channels much, hence I did not know what all channels I am subscribed to. This app resolves all this for me, and I came to know that I have channels like LNM, Syfy and Hallmark. Was really happy with the output and the way the programs are categorized and showed on screen.

Tip: I do not subscribe to the HBO package from comcast, but I use an HBO Go account separately on my PC to see HBO's online content. If you do the same as I do, and want "TV & Movies" app to search HBOGo for content you types in, click "Yes" when the setup asks you if you receive HBO, Starz etc. This will let the box know that you subscribe to HBO, so you already have a HBOGo account. If you don't do this, then this app wont search HBOGo content. By default, it searches only Amazon and Netflix (if you have Netflix app setup)

Downloaded a few Google TV apps out there and tried out a few. The ones which I liked were Redux, Google Music (I have my collection uploaded), podcasts, CNBC, CNN and YuppTV (Free Hindi channels). The ones which could do a little better are BuddyTV, Fox News.
YouTube App

Netflix app is almost exactly the same as the PS3 app out there. You would need to know what to watch. The recommendations are not that great. So add to instant queue on your PC and watch it later on your GoogleTV.

Spotlight app takes you to the browser and lets you watch content on Chrome. I tried Crackle and the video seemed pretty decent.

The PictureInPicture mode works only when you are watching TV. It does not work with any other video I tried like Netflix. Also, there is a two second audio & video pause when you press the PiP button, which is a bit annoying, coz anytime you enable or disable this feature, the TV goes blank screen and audio is out. Not sure the reason behind this : A smooth transition would be welcome.

The Android Market app is good looking, but it lacks the fluidness and the smoothness I would expect from 3.1. Market loads all data from scratch every time and does not cache anything, which makes it really slow at times. Also the animation advertising the apps when you launch the market is also very clunky.

I connected my 500GB external hard drive via USB and switched on the Media app. When connected, it tried to scan the drive for errors and it says it is still scanning. The message in the notification centre wont go away and the hard drive does not seem to have any activity going on.

I have some Hi-Def movies on the drive so I tried to play them. The movies I have have two audio channels each. Channel 1 is Stereo (2 channel) and Channel 2 is a 5.1 Dolby Digital. I tried to find a way to switch the audio channel from stereo to 5.1, but I could not find a way to do this in the media app. I know about the sound channels because I have the same files on my PS3 and I can easily change the channel on that after starting the movie. If anyone finds a way to do that, then let me know please.

I also have a wireless media server setup in my home, which the Media app on NSZGT1 can access. The same HD movie files in point 10 above, if accessed via the media server, play the 5.1 surround. So I have moved my HDD and connected it to the media server and access all my media from there. Will write in my next post on how to set the media server up for serving wireless HighDef media.

The remote, although looks like its very complex, is one of the best i've used. The convenience of the functionality is so that I can now stow away the pathetic comcast remote and also my TV remote. I can change volume of my AV from this remote itself and TV remote is not needed for anything except changing TV settings.

In the end, I would also like to mention that all the negative points that I mentioned above, are all software related, so I am hoping that if Google tries to improve on them, a software update will definitely resolve them. No hardware change should be required.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Free Google Voice Landline

Save some money.. and chuck your monthly landline bills.

This post describes how to get a free US landline, based on the Google Voice service. Before I start off, I would like to make it clear that this setup is only possible for US residents, because Google Voice currently limits its service to only residents of United States. I have personally set this up a number of times for friends and family who are very satisfied with saving their money and also the quality of the service.
But once the initial setup is complete, this device will work anywhere in the world, as long as you are able to provide this device an ethernet based internet connection.

1. Buy one of the ObiHai devices from I bought the Obi100 from amazon for $40. The most basic of all models Obi provides. Good enough if you just need a landline at home.

2. Create a new google account. If you are comfortable sharing your personal email ID with Obi, then you can skip to step 7.

3. Use your Gmail account from step 2, and login to Google Voice portal.

4. The first thing you see as soon as you login will be a dialog box asking you to create a new number.
Click on "I want a new number"

5. Search for a few numbers by your zip code and get a number for yourself. Enter a suitable PIN number for security and click Continue.

6. The next step involves adding a forwarding phone to your account. This is the step which requires you to have a US number in order to create a new google voice account. If you do have a number, type in the number here and get it verified by google. The  steps on the google voice setup page will guide you on how to get your number verified.

7. Once you get this verified, click on the settings button on top right corner of the screen and click on the checkbox, "Forward Calls" to "Google Chat". This is the most important step in the whole process since Obi technology works by "talking" to the google voice using its chat protocol.

If you like, you can also keep your other forwarded numbers checked, but I usually do not.

Once you complete this, lets move on to the ObiHai setup page.

8. Go to the ObiHai-ObiTalk Website to create a login. Fill in all the required details on the registration form and click Continue.

9. After you successfully create your Obi ID and login for the first time, the site will ask you to add your Obi device.

Follow the instructions on screen to add your Obi device to your account.

10. Once the device is added, go to the "Device Configuration Page" to link your google voice account. The page should look like :

11. On the same page, click on SP1 (Service Provider 1) Setup button and click on the "Accept" button.

12. Select "Google Voice" from the list of service providers.

13. Enter your Google Voice login credentials and click Submit.

14. After clicking Submit, you should see the following message on the screen.

15. Wait for a few minutes and then try making a few calls to test out the service. 

You can play with other settings of Google Voice to forward missed call emails, voicemail settings etc to make it more personalized.

If you would like to make international calls using this number, you can add credits to your google voice account and dial international numbers straight from your landline.

You now have a free US landline number based on google voice. !! Enjoy!

PS: Please leave a comment if you found this post useful.