Not that long ago we told you about GlideTV and how it aims to bring the PC to the TV in a much better way that you can currently enjoy. Well shortly after that we were able to get our hands on the GlidTV Navigator and the new Software complete with the "What?s On" browser. This kit goes a long way to bringing extended functionality, easier navigation and more consolidated HTPC Experience. We Put one of these in play in our lab and then in our own personal Home Theater room to see just what GlideTV does the PC on the TV experience.
The Box and Goodies
If you are just looking for the GlideTV software then all you have to do is head over to their website and download the latest version. This will get you the GlideTV experience [including the Browser and What?s on search functions]. However, that is only part of the package. To get the full experience you need one more piece…
This is the Navigator.
The Navigator arrives in a classic black box with the GlideTV logo on it and not much more. The bottom of the box does have some additional information but really only serves to let you know that you have picked up the right piece of hardware.
Once you open the box you are greeted by the Navigator itself sitting in a black sea of foam. This cradle is for the protection [and presentation] of the Navigator. Once you slip this out you will find there is much more below.
Under the foam insert we find the charging base, a USB cable [USB B to Mini-USB] and also a USB AC adaptor. Stuffed under the foam is a small USB RF receiver which makes using the Navigator from anywhere in the room much easier [no need for line of sight].
Other than the Navigator you also get a DVD that contains the GlideTV software. However, I would recommend heading over to the GlideTV site and downloading the most current Beta version to have access to all of the features available.
The Navigator is a small device. It is square with rounded corners and only about 3.25 inches on a side. The top is slightly concave; GlideTV has chosen to make the arrangement of the buttons on the diagonal axis. This puts the controls within easy reach of your thumb. The center is a touch pad that can be depressed to act like the left click on a mouse.
The ring around that touchpad is segmented; each segment acts like a soft button depending on where you are in the GlideTV software [or even what software you are in]. Although the images here are actually upside down [the GlideTV button is usually at the top] you still get a good feel for the layout with the touchpad in as the center of action. The GlideTV button at the top will take you to the software or back to the GlideTV screen if you are in another application like Windows Media Center.
Below the GlideTV button are the volume buttons [up, down and mute]. Below the touch pad are the media controls; forward, back, pause/play. On the left is a power button that can put your system to sleep [if you have that enabled]. The right has a search button that allows in application searches or contextual searches when inside the GlideTV software.
The lower half of the Navigator is rounded in order to fit comfortably in your hand. On the bottom are four pins to allow the internal rechargeable battery to connect with the charging base. This can be connected to your HTPC or directly to the wall and can keep the Navigator charged when it is not in use.
The GlideTV software is a Java based software [which helps with the platform independence] and combines the myriad internet based media systems as well as local media software into a single interface designed to run a 1080p resolution. This give you an excellent starting point for running the PC on your TV as complete media center.
When you first enter the software you are greeted by a fairly cleanly laid out menu system. On the left is the exit button [which looks pretty large here] as well as the GlideTV logo and name. On the right are your menu options starting off with My Shortcuts.
My Shortcuts is a simple page that lets you add the things you want to have available
quickly [like Netflix, Hulu, Media Center, Cyberlink PowerDVD, etc. But that is not the coolest part of the software. As we mentioned GlideTV is sort of a media aggregator. In other words it is able to show you present a graphical display of almost everything that is available to view over the internet. You can reach this by clicking on the "What?s on" button.
Once you open this up you are actually in the GlideTV browser. It quickly searches [Well the GlideTV servers search] many of the popular online streaming and download media sites and shows you an image of the movie, TV show, etc. along with the title. You can narrow down your search by choosing one of the five media types [Movies, TV, Music, News, Sports] you can also narrow things down further by only searching for free media.
Each image can be clicked on to get a description and also to see where it is available. As you can see with Robin Hood, you can watch it on iTunes [in HD] or Amazon as a streaming media file [Rent or Buy]. Looking at LOST, you can see there is a separation, out of the 120 Episodes – "only" 102 are available for free.
The Browse and search buttons are self fairly self-explanatory. The browser acts like a typical web browser you can browse any website you like. You can also open multiple tabs; these tabs can be viewed in a windowed mode so you can visually find them when you have multiple sites open [Like ya do].
The browser can also be configured to your tastes with some fairly decent options.
Next up on the list is the Websites button. Here you have a listing of most of the major Internet streaming media providers. Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, TV.com – even Pandora is avalible here. Clicking on these takes you back to the GlideTv browser and opens that particular site. I do wish there was a way to add one to this list though. But we have been told that this listing will increase as the software gets updated. You can also right click on any of these and add them to the shortcuts page.
Just below that is the Apps listing. Clicking this button will open up a listing of the currently install applications that GlideTV can interact with. As you can see GlideTV can open Media Center from right inside. You can also exit or minimize media center to return to GlideTV at any time. The Navigator also works inside Media Center [with a few missing buttons and without the direct channel access. As with the Websites you can also right click any of these and set them as a shortcut.
The last stop on our list is the Settings button. Here you have [you guessed it] all the settings for GlideTV. Most of the settings are very easy to understand. Some of them were unexpected but very cool though. [Like being able to launch the on screen keyboard inside FireFox].
Over all the GlideTV software is very nice and actually does look good on a 1080p TV. GlideTV still has some work to do on the interface [it can still be cleaned up a little] but so far the application is excellent.
To test the performance of the Navigator I first installed it on the HTPC in my lab. This is an Asus AT3ION-I MiniMax Home Entertainment setup with 4GB of DDR3-1333 and 40GB Kingston SSD for a boot drive. The setup also features a 200GB HDD for recording. Microsoft Windows 7 x64 Ultimate is installed with all the current updates and all of the current drivers. Of course the issue with testing it here is that the display is not more than 2 feet from where I sit. Still I wanted to get a feel for the Navigator before I dropped it in place in the living room on the 52-inch screen.
As we mentioned before the size of the Navigator makes it fit perfectly in the palm of your hand. It just rests there. Even when you are working the buttons or touch pad there is no stress to your hand from gripping the navigator. The layout takes a little time to get used to but after a while you find you are not even looking at it while in use. There were a few issues, as there is no direct number input and we could not get a virtual number pad [because there is not one] to show up in Media Center, navigation through regular TV and the built in guide was not as good as it could have been. I found myself grabbing the MCE remote as soon as I launched Media Center.
The next issue I ran into during the lab run was that if you invoke the onscreen keyboard you cannot use the real one to fill out the form. This happened whenever I tried to use GlideTV?s search function. I wanted to quickly type in what I was looking for using the keyboard, but I had to use the mouse or the touch pad on the Navigator instead. Neither of these is a show stopper, but it was a small annoyance to have to deal with them.
After my run in the lab I moved things out to the living room for some more extensive usage. This time we were on the HTPC system that we built for the Zalman review. This is plugged into a Panasonic Viera 52" Plasma TV [1920x1080p resolution]. The viewing distance in the living room is around 15 feet [4.52m] so the RF connectivity on the Navigator really came into play as there are areas in the living room that do not have direct line of site with the IR-Blaster tucked away at the base of the TV. Again, Windows 7 x64 is involved as well as CyberLink?s PowerDVD [for the attached Blu-ray drive].
The Navigator plus GlideTV was a perfect fit. As we watch much more than just Cable TV on this system having the ability to create and use short cuts to places like Discovery.com, History Channel and even PBS was fantastic [I have two teenage kids]. We continued to use Netflix through Media Center and again found that the MCE remote was easier to use while in Media Center. The overall feel was a much smoother and more complete experience with the GlideTV software and navigator in place. Even the issues with the On Screen Keyboard and the GlideTV search were quickly forgotten with all of the other benefits in place.
The Battery Life on the Navigator was fairly good. You can get about two days of regular usage out of it without needing to drop it back in the charger. Thankfully it comes with a rechargeable battery and also a charging cradle. GlideTV gave you multiple options for where you can place this cradle. With the wall adapter you can put it near your seating area and charge directly from the wall [which is much faster] or you can connect it to your HTPC and charge it from there. However, unless you have a board that supports charging when the system is powered off you are losing out on some overnight power. I would recommend using the wall adapter and maintaining the continuous charging from there.
The GlideTV software is free and for the foreseeable future it should remain free to download from the GlideTV website. The Navigator will cost you a little though; as of this writing it is $69.99 [plus shipping] from GlideTV?s website. This is not bad at all when you consider that most decent MCE remotes will cost you about $99.99 and do not have the same range of function. They also lack the same ability to operate outside the normally needed line of site that IR remotes require.
As we said in our initial write up on GlideTV we found the GlideTV software and the navigator to be an excellent complement to our existing HTPC setup. We were able to extend our style of usage to include much more than we already did. The Navigator relieved the need to constantly have someone working the mouse or keyboard that is usually kept hidden inside the cabinet the TV sits on. The GlideTV software also added a great deal of functionality to the system. Although we have had a Pandora account for some time we have [for our phones] this was the first time we have used it on the TV in the living room. But the
re was more to it than that; the GlideTV software and Navigator really do represent a whole new way to bring the PC onto the TV. We found that our time with the Navigator and GlideTV was very enjoyable and we are looking forward to seeing what new items they are planning on putting into the software [and possibly hardware] in the future.
We are happy to award the GlideTV software and navigator combo both our Innovation award and the BSN* Editor’s Choice award for the Home Theater market.