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What is Android TV? Mobile OS on the big screen

What is Android TV?

What is Android TV? Mobile OS on the big screenAndroid TV devices are becoming increasingly common, ranging from tiny dongle-sized gadgets to bigger set-top boxes. Some of them resemble the Xbox Kinect or the Sensor Bar for the Wii in shape, size and function.

What all Android TV devices have in common is that they can hook up to a TV set (usually via HDMI) connect to your home broadband network (via WiFi and/or Ethernet) and give you full Android on your TV screen.

You could achieve a similar effect if you connected an Android phone or tablet to your TV. The difference with Android TV devices is that they’re built specifically for TV viewing, and will often come with a peripheral device like a games controller which will let you navigate menus, browse the web and play games perhaps more easily than you could on your phone or your tablet.

Also, if you were to connect your Android phone or tablet to your TV you’d have to consider power. Battery life is an issue which plagues all of us Android owners, so you’d probably want to have your phone charger handy. By contrast an Android TV device either plugs into the mains or draws power from your TV itself, so it’s got a constant source of energy.

It’s important to note that Android TV is a very different thing to Google TV, though they offer similar services and functions.

Android TV gives you full, unvarnished Android as you’d expect to see it on phones and tablets (in most cases) whereas Google TV, which is based on Android, has a different design and user interface. Google TV units are either full-blown Smart TV sets with everything already built in, or separate set-top boxes, like Freeview HD and Freesat.

Android TV devices tend to be much smaller and cheaper, often with a focus on gaming or playing media rather than providing a single, unified experience.

Some of the early devices were as good as you’d expect for the price – underpowered dongles churned out in a nameless Chinese factory – but we’re now seeing slicker devices from Ouya, Archos and bog names like Samsung.

Previous news stories about Android TV

Archos TV Connect brings Jelly Bean to your screen

Archos TV Connect is a new Android TV device that gives you the full Android 4.1 Jelly Bean experience on the big screen.

A receiver unit sits atop or underneath your screen like a Kinect/Wii Sensor Bar and a traditional game pad with a Qwerty keyboard bolted on make up the Archos TV connect package.

The TV Connect receiver features 8GB of flash memory and a microSD slot (up to 32GB) for storing Android apps and games on and is powered by a 1.5GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. No word on how many cores are present but Archos’ spec list reveals that it’s a ‘multi core processor’ so at least two.

Android TV: Archos TV Connect brings Jelly Bean to your screen

Android TV: Archos TV Connect brings Jelly Bean to your screenAnother feature of the Archos TV Connect is the camera which will let you make HD video calls over Skype or Google Talk.

As you’d expect from an Archos device, support for virtually every video file format is present and you can stream content over your home network via WiFi or Ethernet too.

The controller, at a first glance, doesn’t look up to much but a closer look shows that Archos has come up with quite a neat way to browse websites and zoom in to Google Maps using the two analog pads; pushing the pads out will zoom in while pushing them in will zoom out. Pushing one pad up while pulling the other down will let you rotate maps.

For typing and web browsing there’s a full Qwerty which looks a little fiddly to use, though we suspect former BlackBerry owners might be able to put those old skills to good use.

Another neat feature is that using a custom Gaming Mapping Tool, you can map the buttons of the controller to specific functions in games downloaded from Google Play.

The Archos TV Connect will be on show at CES, so expect to see some hands-on shots soon.

January 4, 2013

Ouya: Android games console scores $8.5 million in funding

Ouya, the crowdfunded Android console, has bagged over $8.5 million (£5.2 million) from investors on Kickstarter.

This is way over the initial $950,000 (£590,000) needed initially, meaning that the Android console pipe dream is set to become a very real thing in the future. Expected to go on sale in March 2013, the Ouya is expected to cost the equivalent of £60 for the console and one controller and £30 for any extra controllers.

Angry Birds on a hacked Google Nexus Q: Smart TV Tuesday

Just days after the announcement of the Google Nexus Q comes word that yes, it can play Angry Birds too. The current high water mark for any kind of mobile-related device right now seems not to be ‘Will It Blend?’ but ‘Will It Play Rovio’s Absurdly Popular Bird Game?’.

Quite how you’d actually play the game on your Nexus Q without an awful lot of faffing seems to be another question; the fact that it’s possible will be enough for some. Just ask Samsung…

Google Nexus Q: Apple TV for Android

At Google I/O 2012 in San Francisco, Google took the wraps off of the Google Nexus Q, a new device compatible with Android phones and tablets.

Similar to how Apple TV works with iPhones, the Nexus Q lets you stream music from your Google Music folder on your phone or tablet to the Nexus Q which you can hook up to TVs and stereo systems around your home.

SmartKey TV HDMI Android 4.0: Convert your dumb TV for £92

SmartKey TV is a super-inexpensive Android TV device that lets you turn your dumb TV into a smart one for just £92.

Plugging in to the HDMI port of your TV, SmartKey TV comes with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich installed and is powered by a 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor and 512MB of RAM.

The SmartKey TV itself is tiny, just a bit bigger than a mobile broadband dongle. Everything is controlled by an iPhone 4S-looking peripheral which features a full Qwerty keypad on one side and a directional controller on the other.

Hansun Android Bar: We go hands-on with the Android version of Kinect

The Hansun Android Bar is a Kinect-esque device that sits on top of or underneath your TV and gives you a taste of Android on the big screen.

Running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the Hansun Android Bar features 16GB of Flash memory and is powered by a 1.2GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor. Pairing with a Logitech Bluetooth mouse, we were able to browse the web and check Gmail almost as if we were using a desktop PC running Android, on a small TV screen. Not due to come out in the UK directly, we understand that Hansun’s tech will be integrated into a set being developed by Cello Electronics. 

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