Vizio Co-Star TV Media Player Review

The VIZIO Co-Star Stream Player - VAP430 is an attractive and compact unit that packs a lot of features and functionality, including Google TV.

The VIZIO Co-Star Stream Player – VAP430 is an attractive and compact unit that packs a lot of features and functionality, including Google TV.

Boy, am I ever behind the times when it comes to home entertainment technology. Most of my family, friends and co-workers have HDTV and have either replaced their cable subscription with a TV media player or are using a streamer in conjunction with their cable or satellite box to expand their viewing options. Me, I have a cable-ready TV that’s about seven years old hooked to a cable box with an expanded cable plan. And until recently, I didn’t even know a media streaming player existed.

I decided I needed to start upgrading and my TV was the first to go. As a birthday present from me to me, I purchased a Google Smart TV. Next up on my upgrade plan was a TV media player. Over the past month or so, I browsed Amazon and read reviews on the many options available in streaming media players. I knew I needed a streamer with Google TV, which limited my options considerably. And since I had space limitations, I also needed a media streaming device that was compact. I found the perfect solution to my media player needs in the Vizio Co-Star.

Just as its name suggests, the Vizio Co-Star Stream Player with Google TV co-stars perfectly with my new Google TV and enables me to stream all types of media. As an added bonus, it allows me to access videos, music and photos stored on my computer and flash drives. I never realized how much I could do with my TV with a media player attached to it.

The Setup Award Goes to the Co-Star

When the Vizio Co-Star’s Quick Start Guide claimed “setup in a snap,” I immediately thought it was too good to be true. In my past experiences with anything electronic, nothing is ever as easy as 1-2-3, despite what the manufacturer claims. But I was pleasantly surprised that it took me literally 5 minutes to remove the unit from the box, place it on the shelf next to my TV, plug in the power cord and:

  1. Plug in the HDMI output from my cable box into the HDMI input on the Co-Star.
  2. Connect the HDMI output from the Co-Star to my TV.
  3. Connect my Wi-Fi. (Or if you have an Ethernet cable, you would connect that).

It was, as advertised, as simple as 1-2-3. Once I powered everything on, the On-Screen Set-Up Wizard Guide took over, smoothly handling specifications like screen sizing and networks, and guided me through syncing my other home network devices.

It should be noted that the Co-Star media streamer is only compatible with high definition television with HDMI ports. Your TV should also have a resolution of 720p, 1080i, or 1080p. A great plus is that Vizio and Google automatically update the Co-Star with new software releases as they become available.

Once the streamer is set up, take some time to check out the two-sided remote control. It has more programmability than I could ever image, including full function controls for TV, cable, DVR, surround sound system and video game consoles. Although I would have liked the remote to be backlit, any disappointment is forgotten with the QWERTY keyboard, touchpad and game control buttons on the remote’s backside. These features come in handy for typing in keywords when searching for programming, navigating the Co-Star menu functions and for playing video games. The front side of the remote contains all the traditional remote buttons.

Another great feature of the remote control is its IR blaster functionality for controlling your television or other remote control devices by infrared, so it’s just a matter of pointing your remote at the device to operate it. As another bonus, the remote control uses Bluetooth technology so it not only communicates with the Co-Star, it also is compatible with your Bluetooth headphones, keyboard, or mouse. You also have the option of controlling the Vizio TV media player from your smartphone or tablet by downloading the Google TV remote control app.

Using the TV Media Player

The Vizio Co-Star has nicely organized and colorful onscreen menus and easy navigation throughout the menu options.

The Vizio Co-Star has nicely organized and colorful onscreen menus and easy navigation throughout the menu options.

The main screen of the VIZIO Co-Star stream player is nicely navigated with a clean layout of the menu icons on the left side of the screen that connect you to a wealth of television programming, movies, music, your settings and more. The top of the On-Screen Menu includes icons that show your network status, the time of day and any waiting notifications. Next your Favorite Apps are displayed with a drop-down Category Selector menu, followed by All Apps including your Bookmarks and Downloads, Google Chrome, Google Play, the Vizio User’s Guide, the Search function, Settings and the TV Spotlight app. You can also create your own custom categories and arrange them as you prefer.

he four main functions of the Vizio streamer are watching live TV or streaming entertainment, searching for programming, browsing the Internet and accessing Google Play apps. Simply use the remote’s touchpad to click on the icon that represents your viewing preference or use the keyboard and the Google Chrome browser to search for programming. With Vizio’s PlayPoint DLNA media streaming app, you can also let Co-Star search and play files stored on your home network via Wi-Fi, USB port, or Bluetooth. This allows you to view photos or videos or listen to music stored on other devices on your TV screen. Because the VAP430 includes the Google TV platform, you can also organize your media content into folders however you please, read and respond to your email, post on Facebook or Twitter, or do whatever functions you typically do with Google Chrome when using your PC, smartphone, or tablet. Google TV also gives you access to Google Play, the Android Market app store where you can add more content-rich apps.

The Vizio Co-Star already provides a nice selection of Internet content streaming services, including Netflix, Spotlight TV, Amazon Instant Video, Slacker, Pandora and Rhapsody, just to name a few. And more are added regularly; for instance, Vudu was added in a February 2013 software update.

If you want to play video games, select the OnLive App and turn the remote sideways for an instant game controller. You can demo new releases or play video games from the cloud. This app essentially does away with the need for a video game console. As a word of caution, you really need good broadband speed, a minimum of 2Mbps, to have the best experience with online gaming.

Technical Info

The back of the Vizio Co-Star media player shows how compact the HDMI, LAN and USB port connections are.

The back of the Vizio Co-Star media player shows how compact the HDMI, LAN and USB port connections are.

The Vizio Co-Star with Google TV is manufactured by Vizio, an Irvine, California based company that specializes in high definition televisions and also makes stream players, personal computers, tablets, home audio electronics, routers and other media accessories. The Vizio Co-Star streamer was launched in June 2012 and is based on the Android Honeycomb platform. It features a dual core Marvell processor for faster response times.

The Vizio TV media player is pocket-size, measuring 4.2 inches wide, 1.6 inches high, 4.2 inches in depth and weighs 0.66 pounds. The device’s universal remote has dual-sided functionality, complete with a QWERTY keyboard and touchpad. The remote features Bluetooth technology and an infrared (IR) blaster.

The inputs, which are located on the back of the Vizio media player, include HDMI In, which connects to a cable or satellite box, HDMI Out, which connects to the TV, and a 2.0 USB port. The USB port can be used to connect a flash drive to access stored media content, or to connect a wireless USB adaptor, an OnLive game controller, a USB mouse or keyboard, or other compatible USB device.

In terms of networking, the Co-Star has built-in Wi-Fi and accommodates 10/100Mbps Ethernet and Bluetooth. Its Web browser is Google Chrome with Adobe Flash Player and HTML 5. Network multimedia functionality is provided with the PlayPoint app for accessing media on DLNA-enabled network devices. In addition, the Vizio Co-Star’s graphic horsepower supports 3D viewing.

The Co-Star Shines Bright with Its Many Features

The Search screen makes it easy to find viewing options; simply type in a keyword and select your preference from the search results.

The Search screen makes it easy to find viewing options; simply type in a keyword and select your preference from the search results.

The VIZIO Co-Star stream player with Google TV is packed with features that enhance the TV viewing experience. One feature that distinguishes the Vizio streamer from other brands is its Live TV watching experience. This allows the media player to connect to your HD cable or satellite receiver, merge your live TV, web and app options into one interface and simultaneously search across live TV, web and apps. Furthermore, the live TV integration features a picture-in-picture app so you can continue watching your programming while reading your email or searching the Web on the side of the screen.

Another feature worth mentioning is the TV and Movies App, which intuitively recommends programming based on ratings you’ve given content you’ve already watched. Not only does this save you from searching, you’re introduced to movies or TV shows which match your viewing interest but had not been previously available to you via your cable or satellite provider. The app also lets you know when the programming will be on or if you need to rent or purchase it from a streaming content provider.

Perhaps the best feature of this Vizio network media player is the way in which it merges live TV, streaming entertainment and home network content into one so you have a seamless user experience. It allows you to search content from live TV, apps and the Web and do so while watching something else on your TV.

What’s Included:

When you purchase the VIZIO Co-Star Stream Player with Google TV, the following contents will be found in the box:The Co-Star stream player
1 universal touchpad remote with keyboard
1 power adapter
A Quick Start Guide

How Much?

The VIZIO VAP430 retails for $99.99. The lowest online price was found so far on Amazon at $99.51, which includes free shipping. You can also purchase used units in good condition for around $86 on Amazon.

What Others Are Saying

There’s much talk about the Vizio Co-Star stream player since its 2012 debut. On Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/VIZIO-Co-Star-Stream-Player-Google/dp/B009IBX7Z2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364849173&sr=8-1&keywords=Vizio+Co-Star) alone, there are nearly 500 reviews from consumers who purchased the product. The majority of the reviews are positive, although there are quite a few comments that mention issues that range from quality of the unit to streaming performance. Here’s a sampling of some of the Amazon reviews:

  • “I purchased a Co-Star the moment they went up for pre order. It is the most feature-packed streamer on the market right now by far.”
  • “The Co-Star is not perfect, it doesn’t yet do everything in the world that all the technology reviewers are dreaming of, but it is getting software updates that have eliminated most of the initial complaints and improving the apps. So make sure to read the date of any reviews you have read.”
  • “It doesn’t wash your car, cook your meals, take out the dog, have every app in the world, etc., so if you’re dreaming about and waiting for THE DEVICE that does everything you want specifically for your own preferences and likes, then you’re probably going to need to win the Powerball and hire your own engineers to build it for you.”
  • “For $99, Co-Star is a great device for anybody that wants to use or try out internet capabilities, and begin using unified Android phone / tablet / TV capabilities on THEIR CURRENT TV set, prior to spending $1000 to $2000 for a new TV that will become outdated within 12 months. I believe that within 6 to 12 months, simply having the Co-Star communicate with your cell, laptop, or tablet will trump the idea of building the hardware into a TV set or some other gadget. And, for $99 it is a flat out great device with a lot of current capabilities that will only improve because Android keeps evolving and getting updated.”
  • “This stream player in my humble opinion is one of the best investments ever. An excellent alternative to the Mac mini, if you don’t have $500 – 900. What sold me more than any other feature was the Google Chrome browser. It helps to have access to the internet on my TV and as a result less clutter. I highly recommend this device if you want internet browsing, ability to access Netflix, YouTube, and only spend $100.”
  • “I have had the co-star since it was released, and I love it. When I want to just watch TV, it is a completely transparent system that does not interfere with the ATT uverse system. Works great with netflix. I bought an app that connects to USB external hard drive with music/movies, and now it functions as a backup media center. Google TV/Prime Time app is fun to use, and is like a super netflix for all my content … with the same issue of spending more time surfing content, than actually watching anything.”
  • “I had some issues initially with HDMI cables and some odd graphic glitches, but amazon basics cables seem to have fixed the issue. Software has been fairly stable for me – any issues are easily fixed with reboot.”
  • “Let me start out by saying that I tried to love the Vizio Co-Star but it ended up not being as good as I had hoped. I liked the fact that the box was a pass through device and I could use apps at the same time as watching TV instead of having to switch inputs on my receiver, unfortunately this ended up becoming more of a hindrance than a blessing. Many of the apps on the Co-Star are full screen only when they could have easily taken a notification style approach to the user interface but this is likely a problem of the app developers themselves and Google rather than the Vizio. Additionally, the first device that I received had in issue with rebooting while watching Netflix or other video applications. These reboots took about a minute to complete and then I had to go find the show I was watching and fast forward to my spot again. These reboots happened probably about 2-3 times during an hour long show. I performed a return on the device and got a different box that doesn’t seem to have those problems but still has some hardware issues. My problem now is that occasionally the box will stop recognizing the input from my cable box and I’ll have to go unplug the HDMI cable and reset it. That being said, I think the biggest downfall of this box is the lack of Hulu support but again, this is not Vizio’s fault but Hulu themselves. Other than those problems the picture quality is good as well as the audio.”
  • “I had Boxee earlier which went bad. So I was looking out for a Player that has browser. This was the cheapest of the lot. It is a bit clumsy to use but, it has a very good browser. Remote has a QWERTY keypad which is very nice. But it has a delayed response time.”
  • “The problem I see with this Google box is that the box (even when connected to the high speed internet via Ethernet) does not seem to be able to process quick enough at times to allow for true HD streaming. I do not believe it is broadband issue as I have a Turbo broadband package and the latest and greatest modem and router available. At times the box does not respond well to the remote and I have to power cycle the box. On the bright side, Vizio’s English-speaking, American help desk support is excellent. I’d even consider buying from Vizio in the future for this reason. The Vizio Co-star is a decent Google TV box. Fairly straightforward to use. Access to Google’s play store is great. I was able to download ‘airtight’ which allows me to stream from my Apple devices right to the TV (this is Google’s answer to cracking the Apple Airplay feature on Apple devices) and it works well. Is this device perfect? No, but neither is any other device. Is it worth it? Probably.”
  • “It works and at a good price. The interface is easy to use and it works perfectly with my Samsung LCD.”
  • “This product is by far the best thing I’ve bought so far. It’s a great little box you can do so much just sitting. No need to go get the laptop, no need to find the other remote, it’s all right there in your hand, you can surf, you can play onlive, you can shop, you can watch Netflix ,goof off on YouTube, check your email. Jeez, what else do you want it’s right there in the palm of your hand.”

Where Can I Buy the TV Media Player?

The VIZIO Co-Star Stream Player With Google TV – VAP430 is available to purchase from Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/VIZIO-Co-Star-Stream-Player-Google/dp/B009IBX7Z2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364849173&sr=8-1&keywords=Vizio+Co-Star), as well as the Vizio store site (http://store.vizio.com/costar.html?SID=c5175icecropjl80mk6k367q32). Vizio also recommends these retailers: Amazon.com, Costco, Sam’s Club and Walmart.

Where Can I Read More Reviews for the TV Media Player?

In addition to the wealth of reviews on Amazon, there are about a dozen reviews on the Vizio store website (http://store.vizio.com/costar.html?SID=c5175icecropjl80mk6k367q32). These reviews are not as current as Amazon’s and they are not as comprehensive as those written by those who purchased the device through Amazon.

Related Products