Android TV vs Smart TV: differences and options to have a smart TV

Android TV vs Smart TV? Review of the existing options so that you know the best ways to enjoy all the content on demand. Smart TVs

Android TV vs Smart TV: differences and options to have a smart TV
Android TV vs Smart TV: differences and options to have a smart TV

Android TV vs Smart TV? Review of the existing options so that you know the best ways to enjoy all the content on demand. Smart TVs can enjoy Android apps and functions thanks to the adaptation of the operating system for smart TVs, but what about old TVs that can't run it? Thinking about them, Google created a new Android device that can work autonomously and with which it is possible to access all that entertainment easily by connecting it to any type of screen. This is how the Android TV Box or Smart TV were born.

When we talk about Android TV, there are usually many doubts since the name can mislead us. Both the Android-based platform for Smart TV built into TVs and Android-based external multimedia devices use the same name. They are all Android TV. The key is found in the surname that perfectly defines its use: Box.

Literally, the Android TV Box or Smart TV Box are devices with Android TV in a box so that you can connect it to any screen with HDMI and "unpack" its functions, while if it is only Android TV, the system will be installed on the television and will be the one who directly manages the entire entertainment platform without the need to connect any additional device.

Next we will tell you what Android TV is, what it is for, how to get this operating system for television and why Android TV Box is a revolution.

  • What is Android TV?
  • What do I need to have Android TV
  • The power of Google on television
  • Kodi, that great ally to consume content
  • Chromecast built-in
  • Games and apps on Android TV
  • Latest devices released

What is Android TV?

First things first: before we jump into explaining the strengths and weaknesses of Android TV, let's describe exactly what Android TV is. As its name suggests, it is a television service based on the same Android that is installed on smartphones, but with some adaptations to make its use more comfortable on certain devices that do not have a touch screen, such as the case of a monitor or television.

When an Android TV Box is connected to a monitor or TV that does not have Smart TV functions, the Android TV Box or Smart TV box acts as a bridge so that you can access those connected functions, allowing you to install apps from the Google application store to watch Netflix or YouTube series by connecting your television to the Internet. However, Android TV is much more than just a couple of streaming video consumer apps. It is a complete operating system optimized for televisions that allows us to install applications on the device as if it were a mobile.

Android TV is usually based on the latest version of Android available at that time (Nougat, Oreo, Pie, etc.) and has a specific interface to be used from a remote control or from a keyboard and mouse. In addition, the processing of each and every one of the data is carried out directly in the SoC (system on chip) included in the motherboard of the television or in that of the Android TV Box. In short, it is as if you attach the motherboard of a mobile to a television, to understand us in a few words.

Before seeing what advantages Android TV has and why televisions are smarter thanks to Android TV, we must see what options we have and what we need to achieve a good experience with this system.

What do I need to have Android TV

Now that we know what Android TV is and why it can give lovers of on-demand content so much joy, it is time to see how you can have Android TV on your television. If you have tried to find how to install Android TV on your Smart TV, we are sorry to tell you that you cannot do it if it is not factory installed on your TV.

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However, that does not mean that you cannot use Android on your TV: you still have different options if you want to have Android TV on your television. The most basic and simple is to connect a Chromecast to your TV.

Chromecast is a cheap solution to have Android TV on a television that does not have a smart TV platform, since all the connectivity work falls on the hardware of the mobile or tablet that sends the information to Chromecast and, from there, through HDMI, the content comes to television. Just connect the Chromecast to the same Wi-Fi network as the mobile ... and enjoy your favorite series.

However, despite the fact that Chromecast is the easiest way to turn a conventional TV into a Smart TV, it is not the best Android TV experience you can get, since you will not be able to use all the functions that the Google operating system to televisions puts at your fingertips. Therefore, you must choose one of these three options:

  • Android TV Player: The Nexus Player was an attempt by Google to compete against Apple and its Apple TV device, and it was the first Android TV Box capable of bringing Android TV to televisions other than Smart TVs. With a device of this style, like the one proposed by Xiaomi with its Mi Box, for example, you can turn any television into a Smart TV with Android TV.
  • Nvidia Shield TV: Another option to have Android TV is to opt for the Nvidia player that, in addition to Android TV, allows us to play certain streaming games (as long as we pay the subscription, of course). On Amazon, Nvidia Shield TV is available.
  • Television with Android TV: There are different manufacturers that have opted for Android TV to manage their smart TV platform such as Sharp, Philips or Sony, which are opting for televisions with the Android TV operating system. It is the most comfortable way to enjoy Android TV, since it comes directly implemented in the television and you do not have to buy a separate device or use another HDMI (they are so highly valued in the living room among consoles, PCs and other devices).

In addition to this, you need to have an Ethernet cable connected to your TV, although you can also connect it via Wi-Fi. For this reason, it is highly recommended to have a broadband connection and a good location for the television, ensuring that the signal arrives correctly so that the streaming video content does not suffer cuts or drops in resolution, which are very annoying when you consume content. on large Full HD and 4K displays.

The power of Google on television

As we have already seen, with Chromecast we can achieve an experience close to that of Android TV, but it is not the same, not remotely. The main difference is that, while in Chromecast it is the phone that has the information and applications, and Chromecast the device that transmits the information to the television, Android TV is the system that takes care of everything.

In fact, you don't need to have an Android phone to enjoy Android TV, you just need a TV with Android TV and a Google account.

Once you start the TV and connect it to the Internet, as in the first configuration of the mobile phones, it will ask you to enter your Google username and password. Once this is done, you will have a range of pre-installed applications that you can use, and others that you can download, to start enjoying a true smart TV with Android TV.

Kodi, that great ally to consume content

The history of Kodi is still curious since it was born as an operating system to manage the multimedia content of Microsoft's XBox consoles. In fact, its previous name was XBMC (Xbox Media Center) and it was adapted for use as a multimedia center in living room computers (Home Theater Personal Computer). Later it changed its name to Kodi, a free and open source software project that any user can use.

Currently, Kodi is one of the best applications of the media center type. It reads all kinds of formats, allows us to create a private network and, in addition, we can expand it practically as we want thanks to the add-ons. Android TV is already, by itself, a great multimedia center, but the great advantage is that we can install complementary applications, and Kodi is, without a doubt, mandatory in this regard.

The best thing is that you don't have to do anything weird to install Kodi on Android TV; since it is an application that is in the Google Store. And yes, where we say Kodi, we can also say Plex to set up a local server at home.

Chromecast built-in

At the beginning of this article we told you that Chromecast is a simple option to have Android TV on a TV without a smart TV platform. However, the Android TV system built into TVs already works like Chromecast. It may seem somewhat minor, and even redundant, but having Chromecast on an Android TV is something that can greatly facilitate the consumption of content and allows you to share it quickly and easily.

With this function, instead of having to watch the videos you save on your mobile on a 5 or 6-inch screen, you can send it to the living room TV and comfortably watch the same video on a 50-inch screen.

To use the Chromecast built into Android TV, all you have to do is download the Google Home app. If we have an Android, we can do mirroring, which consists of sending the content of the mobile screen to the TV. If we do not have an Android, the options are limited and we can only send content from YouTube, Netflix or photo applications to the TV.

For example, one thing Chromecast on Android TV is very useful for is watching HBO. HBO is not available as an Android TV app, but it is a Chromecast-compatible mobile app. As we can send Chromecast content to TV through mobile, we have it very easy to watch HBO on Android TV.

Games and apps on Android TV

We finish with this buying guide to choose an Android TV or Smart TV Box talking about something quite juicy: the possibility of installing games and applications on your Android TV or Android TV Box.

Android is becoming more and more powerful as a gaming platform and there is a huge variety of games that you can install on your television with Android TV or on your Android TV Box. Had you imagined that you could turn your television into a complete game console? Well, Android TV has made it possible!

Playing on Android is increasingly important, companies take this section very seriously and we see more and more quality games on mobile phones. This opens two possibilities to play video games on your television: Either you install the game on your mobile by running it from it and sending the image to the television, or directly installing the compatible games on your Android TV, and that you can play without having to have the mobile close.

In addition, you can connect different types of game controllers to the television or mobile, in a similar way to those we have in consoles to enjoy games on TV without ... well, without the console. It is not that they are games to spend hundreds of hours, as it happens in other systems, but to remove the bug and have fun for a while they come to perfection.

In addition, being Android, we can install other types of applications that are not in the Google Store of Android TV. The only thing we need for this is to have the apk installation file of the application, a file explorer and activate the unknown sources on the TV. Exactly the same as you would do on your mobile

The problem is that if it is not a native Android TV application, the interface will not be adapted and you will need to connect a keyboard or a mouse to navigate. Once this problem is solved, we can use it without problem, as long as the app is compatible with the TV hardware. Something that happens exactly the same as on mobiles.

Now, you know what Android TV is and what you can do with this type of system, it is up to you to assess whether it is worth investing in a television or a device to turn your television into an Android TV ... or continue pulling Chromecast.

Latest devices released

When it comes to transforming any television into a Smart TV, the fastest way to achieve this has been to have a Chromecast and a model launched is the most effective solution: Google Chromecast 2020.

But Xiaomi has also taken the step towards a similar device with its own Mi TV Box S. This player can work with 4K video and Dolby + DTS sound. Among its main advantages is how easy it is to connect, whether through WiFi, Ethernet and HDMI.

In addition, if you are looking for a cheap option, you can also opt for the simplest device from Amazon: Fire TV Stick Lite.

With Alexa and remote control included, a good number of channels and options have also been incorporated that have considerably improved the 2019 version, although the negative point is the lack of 4K playback. If you want to get one, you can buy it for only 29.99 euros on Amazon.