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Sony, Google Internet TV Worth Investment

Sony and Logitech's Google TV devices get pricey, but are a giant step toward video integration.
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Google (GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class C Report TV devices from Sony (SNE) - Get Sony Corp. Report and Logitech (LOGI) - Get Logitech International S.A. Report have been announced, but are they worth buying? Sort of.

This isn't some "meh" reaction to yet another must-have device. Even the most jaded consumer can see the value in having Web-based content they're already paying for streamed to the big screen in his or her living room -- especially those consumers shelling out for

Netflix

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or seasons on

Amazon

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On Demand. The question is whether it warrants relegating your current high-definition TV to the guestroom or vacation house.

Google TV's browser alone may make this Sony device a worthy buy.

Google TV's browser alone makes it worthy of consideration, as viewers who don't feel like attaching an HDMI cable (or VGA and audio cable for troglodytes) to their laptop just to use the Internet on the big screen can now browse and watch a program on a second screen without being tethered to the TV. The ability to use your smartphone as a remote is something

Apple

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TV users have had for a while, but "flinging" an image or Web video from your smartphone to the TV screen is a feature well ahead of its time. Combined with a DVR for

DISH Network

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providers, the sum of these features plus access to Pandora, CNBC and HBO content makes a huge value statement, but it comes at a hefty premium compared with $99 AppleTV and Roku devices.

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Sony's Google TV-equipped 46-inch has edge LED backlighting, four HDMI inputs, four USB inputs, Sony's PlayStation-style mega remote with directional controls and a full QWERTY keypad, but costs $1,400. That price drops for 40-inch ($1,000), 32-inch ($800) and 24-inch ($600) models, but are still almost double the cost of similarly sized base-model Sony Bravia sets. If you're in the market for an HDTV anyway, the Google TV sets are far more functional and practical than 3D sets of the same size, which fetch $500 to $1,500 more than their more connected counterparts.

According to Nielsen's recently released second-quarter Home Technology Report, the number of HDTVs in the U.S. grew by 26.9% since 2008. The number of LCD flat screens nearly doubled in that time, with more than 60% of Americans now owning an HDTV. While there's still a lot of room for new sales, DisplaySearch announced last month that an inflated supply of HDTVs will drive overall prices down 12% this holiday season compared with last year. Research firm iSuppli, meanwhile, predicts 32-inch LCD sets will drop from $300 to $450, to between $199 and $299. Though Sony's Google TVs have a strong argument for features and picture quality, fourth-quarter consumers have a nasty habit of bypassing the big screen and going straight for the price tag and a nearly 75% discount.

That said, Sony's $400 Google TV Blu-ray player and Logitech's $300 Revue box present much better options. Nielsen notes that VCR- and DVD-player ownership are down since 2008, leaving room on users' shelves for a new device. The Blu-ray player offers all the options of the Sony televisions, but with Blu-ray capability and considerably less overhead. That Blu-ray's market share still hovers around 12% to DVD players' 88% won't matter all that much when you're checking your fantasy football scores while watching a $7.99

Terminator

disc. If you've soured on disc-based media altogether, Logitech's Revue gives users just a box and remote-control mini-keyboard. For the cord-cutting video viewer, that's about as cheap and basic as Google TV gets.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.