What is Android TV?

Imagine if you could take the search functionality of Google and combine it with the versatility and openness of the Android operating system. Now add the apps of Google Play to that mix. Does that sound a lot like your phone?

What if you want the display of your television so you can experience this together with other people?

Now you can. And, you have the ability to choose between a variety of devices from which you can extend all of your favorite streaming, games, and apps to your TV screen. If you already live on your phone, you might as well have better picture and sound quality.

What is Android TV Exactly?

Android TV is an operating system developed by Google, much like the Android operating system developed for your phone. Its niche is that it can be built into TVs or digital media players. For instance, Android TV is accessible through the “Home” button on the 2015 Sony line of televisions.

Android TV features voice commands (there’s a remote with a mic built into it) and you can control it from your phone, Mac, Windows desktop, Chromebook, or Android Wear Watch. You can watch movies, live sports, use streaming apps, and partake in multi-player games. It has a card-based interface divided into three sections: recommendations, media apps, and games.

Android TV Interface 2

What Else Can I Do With Android TV?

Google is your brain’s crutch if you can’t remember something. I’m not proud of this, but the other day I was racking my brain for the name of the movie that stars Tom Hanks and his volleyball. I Googled those two terms. Cast Away showed up in a much more expedient and efficient manner than my brain could pull off. Sadly.

Also unique to Android TV is your access to Google Play. This feature truly allows Android to become an extension of your phone. All of the apps that are available can take on a much larger form. This doesn’t happen magically, however, developers still have to account for the extreme change in size.

What About Chromecast & Google TV?

Chromecast is not a requirement if you have Android TV. Android TV is software that is used or is built into a variety of devices. Whereas Chromecast is a small HDMI dongle that plugs into the back of your TV and connects with your Android device using Wi-Fi.

What is an Android TV dongle?

It’s a piece of hardware that provides a streaming link between the devices. Chromecast is a cheap option at $35, but it is only capable of achieving that connection and is not a stand-alone option. For more info, check out our review of the Chromecast to see if it’s for you.

At this point, Google TV has been replaced with Android TV and is no longer receiving much support from Google. It has been abandoned because it didn’t fare too well in the first place. There was no access to Google Play, plus the interface left something to be desired. It is now the age of smart TVs, and Android TV is willing to step up to the modern-day challenge as well as continue its availability in set-top box form.

Android TV on NVIDIA Shield VS Roku 4

When it comes to specs, many devices running Android TV are very competitive. Compare the NVIDIA Shield to the Roku 4 and you will find that the Shield has a faster processor, double the memory, ten times the Ethernet performance, and more.

While voice recognition tends to be very limited on the Roku, it is far better on the NVIDIA Shield to accommodate the Google search function. One downside to the Shield is that it lacks support for Amazon Instant Video now. There’s some friction between Google and Amazon.

No device or software is free from defects, or even drama between competitors, it seems. The best thing you can do to maintain an Android TV box is to monitor your storage usage and stream rather than download.

nvidia shield

Which Box is Best?

What is covered in Android TV box? Anything your desktop can do. Within the Android TV family itself, there is a plethora of options out there. A moment ago, we discussed the NVIDIA Shield. Here are some more noteworthy choices and an answer to “What is Android TV box?

1. The Matricom G-Box Q

The quad-core processor gives this visually appealing box some power. 4K video playback (4000 pixels is considered ultra-high definition) is brought to you by 5GHZ Wi-Fi, which makes it less likely to drop your connection than the standard 2.4GHZ. 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage aids in performance and affords you some space.

2. MXIII Amlogic S802

Call me old-fashioned, but I’m still a fan of physical power buttons, and this has one. It also has different connectivity options, including Bluetooth. Its custom GUI is brought to you in part by its quad-core processor. It also supports up to 4K video playback.

3. Amazon Fire TV

Amazon and Google did play nice together with this one and you get the best of both worlds

because this does include Amazon Video and Google voice search. It runs Kodi (formerly XBMC), a free open source software player that has been in this game for a while and knows the ropes. Its speed is spectacular, so you can enjoy the over 250,000 TV episodes and 800 games it has to offer.

amazon fire

Which TV Triumphs?

1. Sony KD-75X9405C

At 75 inches, this TV is a behemoth, but it actually performs well despite its size. With the large screen and awesome sound quality, you will feel like you are in the movie. You won’t find the same app selection you see on your Android phone, but the selection will only get better as more developers take advantage of the openness of Android.

Recall that initially Google Play didn’t have as many apps as the Apple App store. It does have plenty of entertainment options to offer, and   this is a nice TV—but you will pay for having the best–about $8,000.

2. Sony XBR-65X850C

If the price tag of the previous TV made you fall out of your chair, this one may only make your jaw drop at a mere $2,198.00 or so. This TV is 65 inches but is still a 4K ultra HD LED backlit beast. Android TV plays its role by allowing voice searches using Google Cast, its array of apps, TV shows, games and personalization choices.  Want to use your smartphone as a remote control? You got it.

3. Sharp LC-80VE30U

Sony isn’t the only TV in town. This TV is an example of Sharp’s debut into the world of 4K TV sets. The view is nice and Android TV navigates and loads quickly. Android TV also helps to blur the lines between TVs, computers, and smartphones with its app and gaming options. Share with others what you were streaming on your phone without invading anyone’s personal space.

4. Sony Bravia

These TVs are something we poor folks can actually consider. Although the 40 inch might seem   small in comparison to some of the other TVs, some models are far more affordable at approximately $450. The sleek interface will seem somewhat familiar too if you have an Android phone. The W600B promotes social viewing, where you can follow tweets about the show you are watching as they flow across the screen.

Set Up Your Android TV

Android TV provides many more possibilities for configuration than Roku. Similar to the difference between Android phones and its competitors, Android does not place emphasis on locking everything down. The manufacturers that Android collaborate with may vary in their approach, however. These steps are very basic guidelines for setting up your Android TV.

setup

Step 1:

Ensure that your HDMI cable (most common) is plugged in to your device, and the power cord plugged into the wall.

Step 2:

Connect to Wi-Fi by opening the device’s Settings menu (unless your device has a walk- through for initializing or setup—if so I would follow its steps instead). Enable the On switch or tick the Wi-Fi option, highlight the network you wish to join, and enter its password. Keep in mind that a wired connection can be more stable.

Step 3:

Create a Google account to use as the login if necessary.

Step 4:

Check to see if updates are available. Many models will do this automatically and restart.

Step 5:

Sign in with your Google account.

Step 6:

Explore and add apps. If you are using an Android TV box, apps can often be found in the “Favorites” tray on the Home screen. On a smart TV, apps are listed in the second row from the top. You will probably find the top row of “Recommendations” useful as well.

Step 7:

For even more options, consider installing a media center like Kodi or Plex. Some boxes have these options preinstalled.

In Case of Issues

Android TV Boxes are like any other computer. They will need to be rebooted from time to time. Some boxes allow you to clear memory by simply pressing and holding the Menu button on your remote for a few seconds. If a particular app seems to be your problem, try re-installing it or removing it altogether. For severe problems, consider a factory reset.

Connect Your Phone to Your TV

If you have a smart TV with MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) already built-in, in most cases, all you will need is a micro USB-to-HDMI cable. Older TVs may not support MHL, but it’s rare you will run into that these days. If that’s the case, you will need an MHL-to-HDMI adapter.

Standard HDMI cables are 10-15 feet, but can range up to 65 feet. Always check your specs for your device before purchasing a cable. For instance, Samsung has 11 pins on the micro USB connector instead of the standard 5.

Protocols like DLNA or Miracast have been providing screen mirroring without all of the wires for a while. There are many screen mirroring apps out there, including Mobizen and Pushbullet. Google Play has an app for that, called Google Cast Receiver. For more options, check out this guide to connect your Android phone to your tv.

TV Apps Galore

1. TV Listings by TV24

Everything is set up and you are ready to resume your couch potato status, but the sheer number of choices is overwhelming, and you would just like an organized view of what’s on. This will help you out with all of the major channels. Take a look at this list of apps with built-in TV guide.

2. Top Streaming Apps

It’s hard to simply choose one streaming app. It can be a bit like choosing your favorite child. Netflix or Hulu can get you up to speed on the series your friends have been talking about. Showbox and Crackle are great options for movies. More movie apps can be found here.  YouTube can seem like amateur night, but then again, it can be where talent is discovered.

3. GoWatchIt

While apps like Netflix can be great, they can also be hit or miss. That’s where an app like GoWatchIt can be helpful. If you already know what show or movie your want to watch, but don’t know where to find it, GoWatchIt can help you.

4. Something for Everyone

Google Play has games for kids, digital hunters, sports fans, fantasy lovers, or zombie killers. Pandora, iHeartRadio, or Spotify can bring music to your ears. If you like to learn, TED provides you with talks from influential thinkers and allow you to explore new concepts. For more education apps, go here.

Conclusion

So what is Android TV? It is many things. You might see it as a TV, or a digital media player. Perhaps you are best acquainted with it in the form of its user interface, where it takes on a minimalist approach.

You might see it as your gateway to all sorts of shows movies, games, and apps available in a form that is only limited by the size of your TV. You might call out to it to perform a Google search. You could see it as the link between your phone and your television.

In all of its forms, we hope that you now see Android TV a little clearer. It is a software that who plays host to so many things; in so many ways; providing so many opportunities. Why not take advantage?

Already own an Android TV? What are your must-have apps? Which TV or box did you buy? Tell us more about it below.

Featured Image Credit, Android 2 Interface, NVIDIA Shield, Amazon Fire, Sony Setup

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