This week we’ve seen Ubuntu-powered phones, Google TVs and ‘four screen’ ideas galore, so the chance to turn your TV into a giant Android tablet – minus the touchscreen – is nothing if not on-trend. As previewed in our Android TV strand, here’s the Archos TV Connect.
Jamie Carter reports from CES 2013 in Las Vegas.
On demo at the Archos stand in Las Vegas, TV Connect is due out in February for a paltry £99, which we suppose puts it in the same league as the Apple TV – though Netgear has also announced its own Android TV solution.
At that price build quality is relatively basic, but design-wise it’s a clever idea; the traditional little black box is here transformed into a clip-on device for the top of a TV.
Connected to any HD-ready TV via HDMI, this TV Connect gadget has a webcam and 8GB of storage (expandable to 32GB via microSD) built-in. It links to its remote control, a games console-style device, via low-power Bluetooth.
The main trick here is that is uses a pointer-style cursor on the screen, which is easy enough use, though there is a compromise; instead of building-in a pricey mini-touchpad, Archos has gone for a small control under each thumb. You then ‘pinch’ them to mimic what you’d do on a smartphone.
It’s hardly offensive, but doesn’t have any kind of wow factor, though it’s possible to replace it with any CEC-certified remote (so any TV remote from the past year or so) as well as anything Bluetooth-powered. There’s also an Archos Remote Control smartphone app, which will probably be the prime choice.
With full and complete access to Google Play apps, it’s then possible to download games, add a particular web browser, and generally do anything the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean interface allows.
Archos has been known for its flexible, comprehensive support of digital music and video files for yonks, and thankfully its Archos Media Center is a key slab of software here. As well as supporting myriad file types, it can ‘watch’ a particular folder on a home network – such as a destination folder for bitorrent files – and automatically add those files to TV Connect.
Hugely more flexible that than Apple TV, the controller will put some off, but it’s a clever, clutter-free device going for a good price.
Archos TV Connect: close up
The Archos TV Connect is mostly controller – you ‘pinch’ the lower set of thumb controllers as though they were finger and thumb on a tablet.
Archos TV Connect: base unit
The receiver for the Archos TV Connect holds an Ethernet port and WiFi ports, plus HDMI for connecting to your TV and two flavours of USB for storage and other connections.
Archos TV Connect: interface
Vanilla-flavoured Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) lies at the heart of the Archos TV Connect, so you can add anything from Google Play, with themes and launchers designed for the TV experience being no doubt worked on by both hobbyists and professional developers.
Archos TV Connect: in our hands
Some of those buttons could be a little diddy unless you’re a BlackBerry fan.