Android TV explained: what you need to know about Google’s TV OS
What is Android TV? While many of you may be used to scrolling through theAndroid operating system on non-Apple smartphones, there’s also a versiondeveloped especially by Google for TVs, set-top boxes and soundbars.Other TV platforms include Amazon’s Fire TV, Roku TV and Samsung’s Tizen OS,all running inside respective smart TVs and allowing you to access smartservices, apps, movies, music and TV shows.Android TV is currently built into a number of TVs from brands includingPhilips TVs, Sony TVs and Sharp TVs. You can also find it in streaming videoplayers, like the Nvidia Shield TV Pro.In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at what Android TV offers, the newfeatures to expect from the smart TV platform, the products running AndroidTV, as well as what sets it apart from other TV platforms on the market.
Android TV apps
There’s a huge range of apps available on Android TV via the Google PlayStore.These include most of the streaming favourites, like Netflix, Disney Channel,Spotify, HBO Now and YouTube. Depending on your country, there are also a lotof live TV channels, including NFL, Bloomberg TV and ABC. There are plenty ofgaming apps, too, such as Crossy Road, Final Fantasy IX and Minecraft.What’s important here is the Google Play Store on Android TV only displaysapps that are supported by the TV platform – not all of the apps available onother devices, including smartphones.
Android TV key features
Curated content: Android TV analyzes the kinds of TV shows and movies that youusually watch, play and listen to, and serves up similar things you’re likelyto be interested in.Universal search: You can use the search bar at the top of the Android TVinterface or the voice search button on your remote to find what you’relooking for. Android TV crawls a number of services, including Netflix, Hulu,YouTube and Google Play Movies and TV to find what you need, and usually liststhe lowest price first.Native Google Cast support: All Android TV players and TVs have Google Castbuilt-in. That means you can stream content from your device to your TVwhenever you see the Google Cast icon. This is sometimes referred to asChromecast built-in.Voice search via the remote: Instead of scrolling all the way up to the top ofthe interface and typing out the name of the show, movie or actor you’relooking for, you can simply speak the name into the Android TV remote – thisis a great time-saver.Google Assistant integration: Near the end of 2017, Google’s smart assistantmade its way into Android TV. Google Assistant on Android TV is the same onethat’s built into the Google Home and some higher-end Android phones. Just say”OK Google” to begin.For the most part, it’s a lot like Siri or Cortana – Google Assistant can makecalendar appointments, check your to-do list and answer inquiries aboutpopular topics. What makes it unique is that it also can control your smarthome products like thermometers, light bulbs and smart locks, too.Games via the Google Play Store: Fancy playing a game of Pong between seasonsof Breaking Bad? Android TV currently has more games on its store than anyother TV operating system. Like Android on phones, some games are free andothers cost money.Actor bios and filmographies: Let’s say you’ve just watched Guardians of theGalaxy 2 and now you want to see what other films Zoe Saldana has been in.Search Zoe Saldana on Android TV and you’ll find every title she’s starred in.Click a TV show and you’ll find a synopsis, where you can watch the show andthe rest of the show’s cast.Google Chromecast devices feature Android TV apps as well (Image credit:Google )
Android TVs: what screens run the Android OS?
A number of different TV brands have Android TV built-in. Right now thesemostly include Sony and Philips. A number of Hisense TVs also have Android TV,as do some Cello and Sharp models.Some TV brands run their own OS, like Samsung and its Tizen platform. Whilstothers have deals with third-party companies, like TCL and its partnershipwith Roku.What’s important to note is that Android TV doesn’t run in exactly the sameway on every device. Why? Well, each hardware manufacturer has the ability tomodify the base Android TV code to tailor it for their system.For example, for a short period of time, Nvidia Shield was the only devicethat had access to Amazon. One device might have PlayStation Now, while othersmight use a spot on the Android TV interface for a first-party app. (LeEco,for example, has a space for its LeTV on the Android TV homepage, forexample.)But these are generally minor differences and not ones to lose sleep about.With that in mind, let’s take a look at just a few of the Android TVs we’vereviewed here on TechRadar:(Image credit: Sony)Sony A8H OLED: In our smart TV guide we crowned the Sony A8H OLED the bestsmart TV with Android TV. That’s because, out of all the brands with smartTVs, Sony has the most comprehensive Google solution.For UK viewers, it has rather cleverly layered a YouView program guideplatform on top, deftly addressing one of Android TV’s big weaknesses – catch-up TV provision.The latest Android version 9.0 (Pie) also features a few Sony-specificimprovements. Highlighting an option in the Settings menus, for instance, nowbrings up a cool ‘exploded’ explanation of what that feature does. There arealso new voice control onscreen ‘tips’, and enhanced external device detectionand information.Read our full review: Sony A8H OLED reviewToday’s best Sony Bravia A8 OLED TV deals(Image credit: Hisense)Hisense H8G Quantum Series (65H8G): The Hisense H8G Quantum Series does somuch at a price that will make you wonder why you’d even consider “premium”televisions. Overall this is an affordable, high-quality television and wehighly recommend it for those of you in the US.This is a feature-packed television, thanks to Google. Android TV is powerful,flexible, and useful all at the same time. We had no problems with the initialsetup, which took about 15 minutes total including several app installs.Google handles the interface for the television, and even during the few weeksof testing, there were several updates and tweaks. So Hisense doesn’t have tocreate its own interface and the viewer doesn’t have to learn something new.It’s a real win-win.Read our full review: Hisense H8G Quantum Series (65H8G) reviewToday’s best Hisense H8G TV deals(Image credit: Philips)Philips OLED+935 TV: The addition of AI to Philips’ already highly-evolvedvideo processing feels like the discovery of some sort of missing link,enabling the brand to skip a few generations ahead with its always ambitiouspicture quality dreams. The glorious pictures are accompanied, too, byarguably the finest sound system ever found on a mainstream TV.However, the Android smart system Philips uses for its UI isn’t the most user-friendly around, but it does run relatively stable on the OLED+935, and comesloaded up with Freeview Play to provide all the UK’s key catch up TV services.Read our full review: Philips OLED+935 TV review(Image credit: Cello)Cello Smart Android TV: This budget TV from Cello boasts all-round picturequality and smart TV features galore courtesy of the latest Android TV systemand Freeview Play. It is exclusive to the UK.But while the Android operating system is rich in content, it’s not the mostintuitive platform to use on this TV. It runs sluggishly on the C2420G,especially when trying to use Google Assistant voice control.Read our full review: Cello Smart Android TV review
Other Android TV devices
One of the easiest ways to get Android up and running quickly on almost any TVis with a set-top box that runs the smart TV platform.The Nvidia Shield TV Pro is one of the best streaming boxes on the market.It’s an Android-powered set-top-box / games console, it’s about as powerful asstreaming devices come, and is jam-packed with features that will tempt movieand video game fans alike.The Xiaomi Mi Box S doesn’t compare to the likes of the Nvidia Shield TV, butif you’re looking for Android TV on a budget, it’s an option to consider.The simplest and cheapest solution is probably a Google Chromecast streamingstick, though, which can plug into an HDMI port and supply thousands of appsas well as the Android TV platform.(Image credit: Google)
8. Torrent Free Controller IPTV
Torrent Stream Controller is an app that lets you enjoy hundreds of TVchannels from all over the world, and stream them directly without needing todownload anything. All you need in order to enjoy this service is to also haveinstalled an app called Ace Stream Engine (also available on Uptodown).Using Torrent Stream Controller is simple. You just have to tap on any channelto start playing it in Ace Stream Engine. From the app’s interface, you canfilter the channels by category (children, movies, entertainment, music, news,etc.) or use the search box directly to find a specific channel. That said, tosearch for channels directly, you need to unlock the complete version of theapp first.Torrent Stream Controller is a high-quality app for watching channels online.You can choose from more than a hundred different channels related to almostany subject area, and even enjoy some of them in high definition.Download Torrent Free Controller
13. Genius Stream | Live TV App
If you’re looking for a decent application to watch TV from your Androidsmartphone or tablet, with access to thousands of channels from any countryaround the world, the truth is that there are loads of alternatives out there.Thanks to the IPTV protocol, there are hundreds of options to watch TV viastreaming over the Internet from any kind of device, and that also goes formobile phones.Genius Stream is one of the latest examples, an app that offers us links tochannels in HD quality, perfectly sorted by country and type of contentoffered, with special attention to sports channels from where we can enjoy thebest international soccer competitions, amongst others, live and in real time.Furthermore, we can also the best movie premieres and all our favorite seriesonce we download and install the APK of GStream.Main features:Thousands of television channels from countries including the USA, UK, andFrance.Possibility to play the channels by means of external players.HD quality, without interruptions.Access to the best sports channels including the local versions of Bein Sportsin 10 different countries.Doesn’t require registration or subscription. * Multiple Players Supported * Free Live TV without any subscription. * Channels from over 10 countries with Bein Sports. * Smoothly Work’s on (Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G) networks * No Registration or Membership Required * Support HD quality * Simple User-Interface and simple navigation.Download Genius Streams
Details: Blaupunkt BATV10 Android TV dongle
Manufacturer| Blaupunkt —|— Price| $99 Shop| Bing Lee, JB Hi-Fi and other CE retailers Warranty| 12 months ACL Country of manufacture| China Notes| Blaupunkt is a German audio equipment maker and also licences its brandto various electronic products.
What is an Android TV box?
An Android TV box is a media player that runs a version of the Androidoperating system (OS). Thereâs actually two versions of Android that areused: * Stock Android: This is the same version of Android youâd see on your smartphone or tablet. Whilst itâs not specifically designed for TV use, most TV box manufacturers include a TV-friendly user interface and youâll get access to a much wider variety of apps compared to Android TV. * Android TV: Googleâs TV-optimized version of the OS. Android TV is designed from the ground up for TV use. This means that its interface is designed to be used with a remote. Youâll also get TV-optimised versions of apps such as Netflix, though the app selection on Android TV is far smaller than stock Android.Theyâre often used to stream movies and TV shows from services like Netflixand Amazon Prime or watching your own content using a TV-friendly frontendsuch as Kodi. However, they can do much more.For more information about Android TV boxes, I recommend reading my detailedintroduction to Android TV boxes.
Android Box vs Firestick Comparison
| Android TV Box| Amazon Firestick —|—|— Processor| Varies (Fastest is Tegra X1)| 1.7GHz Quadcore Processor Connectivity| Typically Wired & Wireless| Wireless Only Portability| Not Portable| Portable Remote| IR/Bluetooth| Bluetooth Voice Remote Support/Updates| Varies based on Manufacturer| Excellent Android TV boxes come from a number of manufacturers with an even largervariety of configurations. This makes explicit comparisons of Android TV boxesvs Firesticks difficult. However, there are some common things that Iâll befocusing on.
Android TV Box vs Firestick for Kodi
When it comes to Kodi support, Android TV boxes win out.ÂAmazon isnât a fan of Kodi and the app hasnât been available on the AmazonApp store for some time so youâll need to sideload it â this is somewhattechnical which might scare off some users.That said, Amazon users can use the MrMC app for a Kodi-like experience thoughincluding automatic framerate switching â though youâll lose the abilityto stream using add-ons as this function isnât supported.Android TV boxes donât have this restriction and can install Kodi directlyfrom the Google Play store. However, support for more advanced features suchas automatic frame rate switching heavily depends on the deviceâs firmware.Better supported Android TV boxes such as the Nvidia Shield or Zidoo deviceswill offer better Kodi experiences.Those who want the ultimate Kodi experience on their Android TV box can bypassAndroid entirely, installing the alternate OS LibreELEC or CoreELEC (thoughthis is typically restricted to a handful of Android TV box processors likethe Amlogic S912 and S905).When it comes to choosing a Firestick or Android TV box for Kodi, I have togive Android TV boxes the edge.
What does it have to offer?
At first glance, the menu seems to replicate that of an Android TV’s menu (nosurprise, actually). You’ll find your faithful Google App Store, and typicalvideo apps such as YouTube, Netflix, Hypp TV and Prime Video. There’s also theChrome browser and RedBoxTV, which contain country-exclusive shows such as UKFox channel and Disney.T9 also offers support for 4K Ultra HD Image, so as long as your line issteady. With Quad Core (Cortex-A53) and 4GB of RAM with a 32GB ROM, you shouldbe facing little to no lag while operating it. At least, we didn’t.”