Google’s Android operating system has conquered phones, tablets and smartwatches, but can it do the same with TVs? Read on for our review of Android TV on Sony televisions.
Google’s Android operating system is the most popular smartphone OS in the world. It’s also available on tablets, watches, in cars and now on TVs, too.
In this post, we take an in-depth look at the user interface, app store, web browser and multimedia features of Android TV on Sony televisions. Can Google conquer the living room gogglebox? Read on to find out.
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Sony Android TV overview
Firstly, Android TV isn’t exclusive to Sony sets – Philips also uses it on several models, and so do several internet TV box manufacturers. It’s a welcome upgrade over Sony’s distinctly average proprietary smart-TV service.
You get a whole new home screen with content recommendations from YouTube and other services, which lets you open featured apps, select external TV inputs like HDMI, and access system settings. However, it’s a shame that the home screen isn’t customisable with your favourite services, as with other smart-TV services.
A useful feature of Android TV is Google Cast, enabling you to ‘cast’ apps stored on your smartphone to the TV in a similar way to the Chromecast TV stick. It’s more sophisticated than mirroring – for example, you can ‘cast’ a YouTube video from your phone and then continue using it while the video plays on your TV. You can also search Google for various items using your voice.
To see Sony Android TV in action, take a look at our video overview:
Sony Android TV key features
Sony Android TV app store
If you’ve ever had an Android phone or tablet, you’ll be familiar with the Google Play app store. You’ll need a Google account to use it, but in TV form the apps are filtered for compatibility with Android TV. Whereas the old Sony app store was just an alphabetical list of apps with no ordering, Android TV presents them in sensible categories for easy browsing. You get a good choice of apps tailored specifically for the big screen, including catch-up TV, games and social networking.
Our rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Sony Android TV web browser
Strangely, you don’t get the option to use Google Chrome, and instead use the Opera browser. This is an improvement on Sony’s own dreadful browser, but far from perfect. Navigation is the biggest problem, particularly with the standard Sony remote – although you can use a pointer mode, the cursor is small and hard to see on the screen. As you scroll down a page, the menu bar disappears rather than following you, meaning you have scroll all the way back up to use it again. You can use favourites and a zoom feature, but overall the browser isn’t as intuitive as on rival TV brands.
Our rating: 3 stars
Sony Android TV multimedia player
There are various multimedia options available on Android TV, including VLC, Plex, MX Player and ViMu. Sony also offers three pre-installed apps for photo, video and music playback. These apps are OK, but are not great to browse as they just present all your photos, video and music in a basic folder structure with limited options for filtering or labelling. This isn’t great if you’ve got lots of content spread across loads of different files and folders.
Our ratings: Photo 4 stars, Video 3 stars, Music 4 stars
Our overall Sony Android TV verdict: We’ve criticised Sony’s smart-TV service in the past and while Android TV is a marked improvement in many areas, it still falls short of being a total success. We’ll hope to see some improvements from Google and Sony with future releases.