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Vizio Co-Star LT lower-cost streaming player strips out Google TV

Instead, this new box runs on Vizio's VIA Plus platform

Published: October 16, 2013 04:00 PM
Among the changes in the Co-Star LT is a new interface with a full-screen apps menu.
Photo: Vizio

Is Vizio's support for Google TV wavering? That's what we're wondering with today's announcement of the Vizio Co-Star LT, an $80 streaming media player that's similar to its regular Co-Star model, but with Google TV platform stripped out.

Instead, the Co-Star LT—which costs $20 less than the regular Co-Star—uses Vizio's own VIA (Vizio Internet Apps) Plus Internet platform, which is available on its 2013 step-up M-series TVs. One benefit of Via Plus is its second-screen capabilities, which let you search for and watch content on mobile devices.

For the time being, at least, Vizio will continue to offer the Co-Star and Co-Star LT players. The Co-Star LT can be purchased now from Vizio's website, and later this month it will be available from several retailer websites, including Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com, and at Walmart stores.

The introduction of Vizio's Co-Star LT comes on the heels of several reports that Google may be be moving away from the Google TV name, if not the underlying technology. GigaOM, citing manufacturing sources, first reported that Google would be rebranding Google TV in favor of the term Android TV. So far, Google hasn't commented on its plans for the Google TV brand. As far as we know, LG Electronics is the only TV manufacturer still openly embracing the Google TV platform in a 2013 TV lineup.

Find the right model for you with our streaming media player buying guide and Ratings.

Like the original Co-Star, the new LT model has an HDMI input and output, which in this instance integrates live TV so you can watch live shows while browsing the apps. Other features include built-in Wi-Fi, support for 3D and 1080p video, a USB port for accessing personal content, and the ability to control apps using a smart phone or tablet.

The Co-Star LT also has a new interface that can display the apps—including streaming services such as Amazon, Hulu Plus, M-Go, Netflix, and Vudu—as either a full-screen menu that covers the live TV image while audio plays in the background, or as a smaller app dock overlaid across the bottom of the TV screen, so you can watch live TV while viewing the apps. When you select an app from the dock, it appears in the center of the app launcher, with a carousel-style arrangement that lets you view the three previous and three next apps at a glance.

VIA Plus also provides second-screen capability, so you can search for and play content on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets.

There are a few differences between the two Co-Star players beyond just Google TV. One is that the LT lacks a full Web browser, and its remote is simpler and more streamlined than the Co-Star's chunkier dual-sided remote, which has a touchpad and QWERTY keyboard. The LT also lacks Bluetooth and a wired Ethernet jack, both present on the original Co-Star.

The market for streaming media players continues to get increasingly crowded. We recently purchased several of Roku's newest players for testing in our streaming-media lab, and we're hoping to add this new Vizio Co-Star LT to the group. So keep checking back for the latest updates on the latest streaming media players.

—James K. Willcox

   

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