Android TV, the operating system of Google for televisions, can be found on the devices of Philips, Sony, TCL and Sharp. The first version, launched in 2014, was based on Android 5 (Lollipop). Intermediate updates essentially did not change anything about the interface. But with the introduction of Android TV 8 (Oreo), the user interface got a completely new look. We give you an extensive overview of the possibilities.
Installation Android TV
Our guide is based on a Sony KD-65AF9. If there are different options on other brands / models, we will supplement them in this article. The installation of Android is most convenient when you have an Android smartphone at hand. It is then sufficient to run Set up my Device via the Google App.
Smartphone and television meet and you are automatically logged into Google. Furthermore, you only have to accept the conditions of use, set a pin code and, if necessary, tune TV channels.
Finally you will get a tour of the new features of Android TV. You will be explained the most important things in six screens. Keep your smartphone at hand, Android has a general TV remote app that is quite handy.
Android TV got with version 8 (Oreo) a completely new interface. The Home screen still fills the entire screen, a choice that we continue to regret somewhat. The lighter approach of LG and Samsung, where a large part of the image remains visible, is still our preference. An advantage of the new interface is that the intrusive row of recommendations that were at the top of the screen disappeared.
At the top of the screen to the right you will find an icon for the inputs. Which of course shows a list with all entries. Interesting to know: you can rename or remove entries from this list. We return to that when we go through the menu.
The gear icon is obviously the shortcut for the Android settings menu. Here you will find all settings. Image and sound can be adjusted elsewhere, depending on the manufacturer.
The rest of the screen is occupied by the ‘channels’, a new concept.
Channels Android TV 8 (Oreo)
First row you will find the list of apps, but underneath that Google re-edited the interface with a view to ‘content channels’, per application. This can be Netflix, YouTube or Spotify, but also the built-in TV tuners. Theoretically, any app that offers content can appear there, but the app must of course support this. Some apps also offer multiple channels. For example, you can install the Trending and / or the Recommended channel on YouTube.
Channels can also show preview video or audio, simply by selecting a tile, but that only worked at the channel of the live TV channel at the moment. tuners.
The first channel is ‘Play Now’. In theory, there are films that you have not fully anticipated, the next episode of a series, and so on. In other words, Google provides you with the things that you think you want to look at. The content in “Play Now” can come from different sources. In practice, this function did not work with a lot of content. When we broke a YouTube video in the middle, it did not appear in this channel. The same for an episode of a Netflix series. Here you still have to work on it or possibly longer use is necessary for the TV smart enough to show the right content.
To add or remove channels, click on the bottom of the start screen ‘customize channels’. You then get a list of all apps that offer one (or more) channels. Attention, some apps only appear in the list when you are logged into this app (eg Deezer), or after you have started them once.
When an app channels, you can also select which channels should appear on your home screen. At the top you can also select which apps may place content in ‘Play Now’
You determine the order of the channels on the screen completely yourself (only the first row is fixed for the apps and the second for ‘ play now ‘). Go to the channel you want to move. Click on the arrow to the left until you see the white sphere with an arrow pointing up and down. One click, and you can move the channel.
If you go one step further to the left (the sphere with the minus sign), you can also remove the channel here.
The Play Store apps
The apps take place at the top of the screen, the row you find there can be considered as your favorites. If you want to see all installed apps, you can press the ‘ok’ button for a long time, or in the case of Sony you can also press the Apps button, right above the d-pad.
At the top you’ll find the Google Play store and the Games store, where you can of course look up and install new apps. Below that a grid with all installed apps. Clicking starts the app, but if you press and hold the OK key on an app for a long time, the option screen appears. You can swap, add or remove the apps from the favorites list (which appears on the Home Screen), and remove them if necessary.
We recommend these recommendations as a good start selection for everyone;
Streaming services video: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play movies
Streaming services music: Spotify, Deezer, Google Play Music
NL services: NOS, VideoLand. An Android TV version of NLZiet is being worked on. Pathe Thuis should be available, but we did not find it back in the store, possibly because we are testing in Belgium.
To our surprise, it is still impossible to watch HDR movies via YouTube, which succeeded in Netflix and Amazon.
Crunchyroll : for fans of Japanese animation Crunchyroll is an absolute must.
Haystack TV : who likes to stay with all sorts of news and do not mind doing that in English, Haystack TV should definitely check out. You select sources and news categories (eg Science and tech, Entertainment, Video Games, …) and you get a continuous supply of news.
Airscreen : Are you an Apple user? and want to use AirPlay, then install this App.
Steam Link : do you have a large library of Steam games on your PC? You can play them on your television using Steam link.
VLC : the built-in media player is often fine, but for even more options and broader support of audio and video formats there is VLC.
Kodi : If you want to convert the television to a real media library, you install Kodi. (Kodi refused to start in our test, a good alternative than SPMC)
Do you have recommendations for cool apps, please let us know in the comments.
A special mention for the Android TV remote app. He is very limited in functionality, but is useful if you do not want too much hassle. The app offers a d-pad and touch pad, with a microphone button on top and a button for Back, Home and Play / Pause at the bottom.
Most manufacturers have their own remote app, which often more features
Chromecast is a streaming protocol that lets you do various things. For apps that support Chromecast, you can browse your smartphone through the offer and then by clicking on the Chromecast icon and sending the content to your Android TV. The smart thing about Chromecast is that you do not forward the entire movie, but only a link. The TV then retrieves the content itself. You can just continue using your smartphone. Install the Google Home App for a list of compatible apps. (or look here )
Another option is to send the complete smartphone screen to the television (mirroring or mirroring). This is best done from the Google Home app, which automatically finds compatible televisions on your network. You can also mirror through the Android settings on your smartphone but unfortunately each manufacturer hides it in a different place.
Tips for the Android TV settings menu
Select the gear at the top right of the Home Screen to call up the settings menu . We give you a few useful tips that can improve your TV experience.
- ‘Manage input’: Here you can adjust the list of external inputs. Hide what you do not use, and give the inputs a clear name.
- Adjust TV button: the TV button of the Sony remote obviously starts the live TV mode, but you can also assign it to another input, eg HDMI 1.
- ‘HDMI signal format’: Connect an Ultra HD HDR source to a specific HDMI input, then switch that input into the ‘Improved setting’, so that you get the very best picture quality.
- ‘Update System Software’: here you can manually ask to update the software if necessary. You can also have the TV automatically search for updates on a regular basis.
- ‘Reboot’: if everything goes wrong, start the TV from here again. This is more convenient than pulling the power out.
- ‘Subtitles’: Here you can adjust the subtitles. Very interesting on devices where subtitling in dark scenes leads to a watered-down contrast. Click on ‘Subtitles’ and select ‘Custom’ below. Then you can set all kinds of things yourself. A possible start is: text color white, transparency of text 50%, display background, background check black, and transparency of the background 50%
- ‘Customize channels’: this way you can change which channels appear on your Home Screen.
- “Reorder apps”: takes you to the Apps screen, where you can change the order of all apps.
- “Searchable Apps” : Here you decide which apps the Google Assistant can look for.
‘Security and Restrictions’
- ‘unknown sources’: who wants to install apps from sources other than the Google Play Store (the so-called ‘Side-loading’) must give the apps the necessary permission.
Voice commands with the Google Assistant
Android TV now comes with the Google Assistant built-in. That means you can ask a lot of questions.
“Will it rain tomorrow?” Gave us the weather forecasts for the next day.
“Stranger Things” gave information about the well-known Netlfix series, and a key to start the series directly.
These kinds of searches look in the program guide when you pick them up when you look at the built-in TV tuners. The results sometimes vary. He found the famous Belgian quiz series ‘Blocks’. But a search for “Friends” only meant that the series was available on Netflix and Google Play. The fact that there is also a TV channel that shows daily episodes, we did not get to see.
“Science Fiction Films” provided a nice list of films of which in some cases you could only view the trailer on YouTube, but if it is available in Google Play or on Netflix it was mentioned.
“Dim the living room lights” We do not have Philips Hue, so we could not test this, but the Google Assistant helps you also have smart home applications.
Google Assistant detects in most cases whether we spoke Dutch or English. Unfortunately, the results are not always what you are looking for. For example, searching in the program guide does not always give the right results. And in some cases the Assistant misinterprets your question, and only shows related YouTube videos. So there is definitely room for improvement.