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