Last week, after I posted my review of Vizio’s new $99 Co-Star streaming box, I got a lot of questions from readers wanting me to comment on certain features of the box. So I’ve made a list of the questions, done some additional testing and have provided answers to them below. I’m also giving one of these boxes away, so go here to enter the drawing.
[In addition to these questions, I also got a few others that I sent to Vizio asking for more details. I’ll update this post as soon as they respond.]
Do you know when the next wave of Co-Star’s will be released?
Vizio’s Co-Star device started to be delivered last week, to those who pre-ordered from Vizio.com. Vizio said they sold out of the original run of boxes made just for the pre-order, but said the box will soon be up for general availability. From what I have heard, it sounds like the Co-Star will be generally available in September.
What kind of chip is in the box and what processing power does it have?
iFixit took the box apart and says it is using a Marvell Armada 1500 1.2 GHz Dual-Core Processor, with just 4GB of flash memory to store everything for the OS and Google TV platform. Vizio says their box is so robust that the processor can also support the playback of 3D content, although I haven’t tested that yet.
How does it handle local content playback? Is it better than the Boxee Box?
The Co-Star has excellent video format and codec support, more than the Boxee Box and has pros/cons over Western Digital’s WD TV Live. If you want to playback lots of formats from a local USB drive, the Co-Star device will handle just about all of them. (It does not support ISO or xVID)
What additional content services are coming to the box? Will it have Vudu and Blockbuster On Demand in the future?
Vizio told me that more content services will be added to the box before the end of the year, but aren’t hinting at what those services will be. I really can’t speculate, but I doubt it would be Blockbuster On Demand. I’m also hearing that more content services will soon be coming to the Google TV platform, so it may be that more content for the box comes from Google rather than Vizio.
Did you test the streaming services via WiFi or ethernet? How well did WiFi work?
All of my testing was done via WiFi. The WiFi signal and reception was excellent, even when I moved the box to a TV located on the opposite side of my house from where my router was. I’ve had some reception problems with the WiFi on Roku’s in the past, and the Co-Star seems to have stronger WiFi reception than the Roku. BUT, many factors go into how well WiFi works on any device, including the unique setup in your home. So what worked best for me is not guaranteed to work best for you.
How well does the chrome browser handle flash content?
Using the Chrome browser via the Google TV platform, worked very well. I didn’t have any trouble playing Flash content and it didn’t stutter or have any hiccups.
I’m curious how the Vizio Co-Star stacks up to the Sony Blu-ray Google TV player?
The Google TV platform is the same on both boxes, but Vizio has re-skinned the Google TV platform for their box, making it easier to overlay live TV. But it is really hard to compare the two boxes as the Sony model is a Blu-ray player firs and the Vizio Co-Star isn’t. The Sony Blu-ray player is also 2x as expensive as the Co-Star.
Can’t I get android apps of Hulu Plus and MLB.TV via the Google Play store?
No. Hulu and MLB, along with others, are blocking access to their website if you’re using the Google TV setup. There are no apps in the Google Play store for MLB.TV, Hulu Plus and others for the Google TV platform.
As for Hulu Plus and the other apps, couldn’t you use something like PlayOn as a substitute and still pull them in?
I haven’t tested it, but you should be able to. PlayOn works on the Google TV platform by entering g.playon.tv into the search bar, which will bring you to the page that discovers your PlayOn PC. While you need a keyboard to control Google TV, Vizio’s Co-Star remote should be fine for this purpose since it has the trackpad and keyboard.
I’m wondering if this is an open API leaving the door open for a third-party app to use my iPhone or tablet as a replacement remote?
Vizio hasn’t given me a clear answer on what their API and SDK plans are for the Co-Star, so I don’t know what their long-term strategy is for this.
Since this has the Google TV platform on it, can you hook up a webcam and do video chat like you could with the Logitech box?
Presently there are not any apps available for Co-Star that support video chat, but as those become available webcams could be supported.