Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Which Is Better?

android-tv-chromecast

YouTube Music and Google Play Music. Allo and Hangouts. Google Plus and Orkut. Google loves to duplicate its apps and services. The situation is no different for cord cutters and streamers: one company, two completely different solutions. So, if you’re wondering whether you should buy a Google Chromecast or an Android TV device, keep reading. In this article we pitch the Google Chromecast vs. Android TV to help you determine which one you should buy. What Is Android TV? Android TV is the television version of the smartphone operating system. It launched in mid-2014, 12 months later than the Chromecast….

Read the full article: Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Which Is Better?

android-tv-chromecast

YouTube Music and Google Play Music. Allo and Hangouts. Google Plus and Orkut. Google loves to duplicate its apps and services. The situation is no different for cord cutters and streamers: one company, two completely different solutions.

So, if you’re wondering whether you should buy a Google Chromecast or an Android TV device, keep reading. In this article we pitch the Google Chromecast vs. Android TV to help you determine which one you should buy.

What Is Android TV?

Android TV is the television version of the smartphone operating system. It launched in mid-2014, 12 months later than the Chromecast.

Like the smartphone OS, there’s not a single version of the Android TV platform. Lots of manufacturers have added their own customizations, and there are dozens of Android TV dongles and set-top boxes on the market.

Android TV also powers some smart TVs from manufacturers such as Hisense, Asus, Sharp, and Sony. Google does not produce any in-house Android TV equipment.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Cost

android tv aliexpress

The cost of Chromecast dongles is easy to quantify. The entry-level model costs $35 and the Chromecast Ultra (which supports 4K video) will set you back $69.

Which it comes to Android TV, the situation is considerably more complicated. Because there’s not a single Android TV model, prices can vary wildly.

Fair warning—there are a lot of cheap Android TV boxes flooding the market. Some no-brand Chinese devices can be found for less than $20 on sites like AliExpress. Give them a wide berth.

However, some cheap Android TV boxes are worth recommending. They include the Xiaomi Mi (around $50), the MXQ Android Box ($35), and even a DIY Raspberry Pi solution.

At the other end of the scale, the best-in-class is still the Nvidia Shield. You can buy the 16GB model for $180 and the 500GB version for $300. Confusingly, both Nvidia Shield models come with Chromecast built-in.

Read our list of the best Android TV boxes for more details.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Interface

android tv interface

If you’re the type of person who likes to immerse yourself in an operating system, a Chromecast dongle might not be right for you.

Chromecasts do not have a user interface. Instead, you cast content from your phone, tablet, or computer (via Chrome).

Some apps are Chromecast-enabled; they have a dedicated Cast button which will replicate their visual and audio output on your TV screen. Alternatively, you can mirror your device’s entire screen, but that requires your phone’s screen to remain on, thus chewing through the battery.

Android TV devices have a dedicated user interface that you can control using a remote or a smartphone app. Rather than installing apps on your computer or mobile, you install standalone apps directly on the Android TV device.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Apps

Most of the big players (think Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, etc.) have apps available for the Android TV platform and also make their smartphone apps Chromecast-enabled.

The notable exception is Amazon Prime Video. There’s an Android TV app available, but you cannot easily cast the video to a Chromecast.

There are a few workarounds which let you watch Amazon Prime Video on a Chromecast, but they are not ideal.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Sideloading

Android TV boxes have access to a special version of the Google Play Store. Unfortunately, the selection of apps available is nowhere near as diverse as in the regular smartphone version of the store.

Thankfully, you can negate the issue by sideloading apps on Android TV. If you can get hold of an app’s APK file (check sites like APKPure and APKMirror to see if you can find it), you can install any Android app on the operating system, and it will work.

The biggest drawback to sideloading apps is navigation. Because the apps have not been altered for the Android TV platform, your device’s remote might not work. If your Android TV box has a USB port, you can plug in a mouse. If it doesn’t, you can try pairing your box with a Bluetooth-enabled gaming controller.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Games

If you’re a gamer, Android TV devices are the clear winner. Just make sure you don’t try to save a few bucks by buying an underpowered box.

If you want to use a Chromecast for gaming, you’ll still need to use your mobile device for the controls. That awkwardness, paired with the occasional lag you’ll encounter between your phone and your TV, makes it unsuitable for any fast-paced game. However, more sedate games, like Solitaire or quizzes, will be fine.

In contrast, many Android TV devices can be paired with gaming controllers. If you buy a high-spec box—such as the previously-mentioned Nvidia Shield—you might even find that a gaming controller comes included in the box.

The Android TV version of the Google Play Store hosts a wide variety of popular games, including Grand Theft Auto, Asphalt 8: Airborne, and Badland.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Longevity

chromecast and google home

It’s fair to question whether Chromecasts have a long-term future in Google’s product line-up.

Yes, they were revolutionary back in 2013 when they brought on-demand internet video streaming to the masses for the first time, but they increasingly look like a technology from yesteryear.

All the Chromecast’s competitors—Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, and Roku—offer a more holistic service for cord cutters. And as we’ve seen from the Nvidia Shield, it’s perfectly possible to bolt Chromecast’s screen mirroring features onto the Android TV OS for on-the-fly casting. The devices from Roku, Apple, and Amazon also all offer their own version of screen mirroring.

We’re not sure what’s preventing Google simply putting the Android TV operating system into a Chromecast-sized dongle and offering it at a similar price point. It’s likely to happen at some point.

Android TV and Kodi Boxes

You’ve probably heard of Kodi boxes. They are set-top devices that automatically launch Kodi upon boot, allowing you to easily access all your content. In simple terms, they turn Kodi into a smart TV operating system.

Although it’s not strictly essential (you could use a Raspberry Pi), almost all Kodi boxes run on Android TV. It’s also the operating system of choice for all those illegal (and they ARE illegal) “fully loaded” Kodi boxes you see popping up on eBay.

We’ve rounded up some of the best Kodi boxes on the market if you would like to learn more.

Google Assistant and Your Smart Home

Chromecasts are not smart devices. You cannot use them to control third-party smart home products around your home. You will need to use your phone’s Google Home app, which is a bit of an effort when you just want to turn off a light.

In contrast, an increasing number of mid-range and top-end Android TV devices now come with Google Assistant built in. As we know, the smart assistant offers an array of smart home integrations, entertainment options, and productivity tools. If you enjoy the benefits of voice control, an Android TV box is the way to go.

What About the Amazon Fire TV?

Don’t forget that Amazon Fire TV devices run their own customized version of Android TV. Sure, it’s unrecognizable from the vanilla operating system, but it still qualifies.

If you want more information, we’ve previously explained what Amazon Fire TV is and how it works.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: The Winner Is…

Everything else being equal, the clear winner is Android TV. It has more features, it’s just as easy to use, its future looks more certain, and it’s more flexible. But don’t write off the Chromecast completely.

If you want a highly portable device that’ll work in hotels, for business presentations, and at other people’s houses, they are the best option on the market. They’re also a cost-effective choice for secondary TVs in your home such as in bedrooms and kitchens.

Of course, you could also consider a Roku device. And if you need to know how the Roku stacks up against the Chromecast we have previously written a comparison of Chromecast and Roku.

Read the full article: Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Which Is Better?

15 Essential Android TV Apps You Need to Install

android-tv-apps

So, you’ve bought an Android TV device. Congratulations! But now what? A few apps—like YouTube and Google Play Music—come pre-installed. For the rest, it’s up to you. For the best experience, you need a mix of videos, music, productivity, and system apps. With that in mind, here are the essential apps you need to install right away. 1. MX Player MX Player has long been considered one of the best video players on Android. Its qualities comfortably translate onto the larger screen. The app can play a vast number of codecs and supports subtitle files. The interface is smooth and…

Read the full article: 15 Essential Android TV Apps You Need to Install

android-tv-apps

So, you’ve bought an Android TV device. Congratulations! But now what?

A few apps—like YouTube and Google Play Music—come pre-installed. For the rest, it’s up to you. For the best experience, you need a mix of videos, music, productivity, and system apps. With that in mind, here are the essential apps you need to install right away.

1. MX Player

MX Player has long been considered one of the best video players on Android. Its qualities comfortably translate onto the larger screen.

The app can play a vast number of codecs and supports subtitle files. The interface is smooth and easy to use.

MX Player can also read both locally-saved files and content from external drives, making it an excellent companion for anyone whose Android TV device has USB ports.

Download: MX Player (Free)

2. Sideload Launcher

The Google Play Store on Android TV is a slimmed down version of the smartphone version. Some apps are not Android TV-compatible, so there aren’t as many to choose from.

However, the operating system is capable of running an Android app, making sideloading apps on Android TV a popular activity.

But there’s an issue. Apps that you sideload will not show up on the devices home screen or list of apps. The only native way to access them is via the Settings menu.

The solution is to install a third-party app. The easiest app to use is Sideload Launcher. When you open it, you’ll see a list of all your sideloaded apps.

Check out our article about how to manage sideloaded apps on Android TV to learn more.

Download: Sideload Launcher (Free)

3. Netflix

This one is a no-brainer. Netflix might come pre-installed on your device. If it doesn’t, grab the app.

A Netflix subscription will give you access to thousands of TV movies and shows. It’s an essential service for anyone who wants to cut the cord.

Download: Netflix (Free)

4. Plex

plex android tv

Another no-brainer. If you have an extensive personal collection of digital movies and TV shows, Plex is the best solution for casting them around all the screens and devices in your home.

In addition to its beautiful libraries, Plex can also automatically download subtitle files, metadata, movie artwork, viewer ratings, and more.

As long as you don’t want to watch your content remotely, Plex is entirely free to use.

Download: Plex (Free)

5. AirScreen

Android TV devices natively support Google Cast. This means you can cast content from Android smartphones and other Google products such as the Chrome browser and Chromebooks straight to your TV screen.

Apple’s AirPlay is not supported. If you have an Apple device, one of the best apps you can install is AirPlay. It will let you mirror your iPhone or iPad screen on your Android TV box.

The apps also works with the Google Cast, Miracast, and DLNA protocols.

Download: AirScreen (Free)

6. X-plore File Manager

It’s always useful to keep a file manager installed on your device, but if you’re planning to sideload apps, it’s essential.

We are blessed with a good selection of file managers for Android TV. In our roundup, we recommended X-plore File Manager, Total Commander, TvExplorer, and AnExplorer File Manager.

From a sideloading perspective, we recommend X-plore File Manager. It uses a dual-pane approach which makes it easy to transfer an APK file from a USB stick to your device’s hard drive.

Download: X-plore File Manager (Free)

7. Google Drive

If you want to access your computer’s files on your Android TV device, Google Drive offers the best solution.

Unfortunately, Google Drive is not available on the Google Play Store for Android TV. You will need to sideload the app. Make sure you’ve got X-plore File Manager installed before you try and install the app’s APK file.

Download: Google Drive (Free)

8. Kodi

kodi android tv

If you don’t have any of your own digital content, you can argue Kodi is a better choice than Plex.

The app has an almost endless number of add-ons which can provide access to on-demand videos, live TV, weather updates, the news, productivity tools, and a whole lot more besides.

Download: Kodi (Free)

9. Wake on LAN

Wake on LAN is the only Android TV app that can wake up your computer remotely.

It’s a vital feature if you do a lot of local streaming using Plex or Kodi. If the computer on which you run the Plex or Kodi server goes to sleep, the Wake on LAN app can force it to wake up so you can start streaming content again.

Download: Wake on LAN (Free)

10. Steam Link

steam link android tv

In 2018, Steam finally launched its Android TV, Steam Link.

The app allows you to stream your Steam games directly onto any Android device. You can finally play all your PC games on your TV without worrying about moving your computer and a fiddly HDMI cable.

Download: Steam Link (Free)

11. Spotify

Cable TV music channels are annoying and full of ads. And the musical experience on YouTube isn’t much better unless you pay for YouTube Premium.

Spotify is the answer. Other Music services with a dedicated Android TV app include Pandora and Google Play Music.

Download: Spotify (Free)

12. Google Chrome

Oddly, Google Chrome does not come preinstalled on Android TV devices. There’s not even an Android TV version of the app.

Despite the lack of a store version of Chrome, you don’t need to sideload it. If you head to Chrome’s listing in the Google Play Store on the web, your Android TV box will be listed as a compatible device.

Download: Google Chrome (Free)

13. Live TV Providers

The cord cutting revolution is showing no signs of slowing down. Users have been canceling their cable subscriptions en masse and migrating to a la carte live TV services.

The three big players are Sling TV, DirecTV, and PlayStation Vue. SlingTV and PlayStation Vue both have an Android TV app. You will need to sideload the DirecTV app.

14. Hulu

hulu android tv

If you want live TV and on-demand content all in one service (and you live in the U.S.), the best service is Hulu.

The full package costs $39.99/month.

Away from the content, the app itself deserves credit. After a couple of years of development, it’s now one of the best designed Android TV apps on the entire platform.

Download: Hulu (Free)

15. Network TV Apps

Almost all the most prominent TV channels in Europe and the United States now offer some form of Android TV app. You can catch up on new series, watch some of their older classics, and in some cases even tune into live TV.

Networks with an Android TV app include ESPN, FOX Sports, Comedy Central, FX, MTV, HGTV, Travel Channel, Food Network, ABC, Disney, HBO, Showtime, and Nickelodeon. Users in the UK can install BBC iPlayer.

Note: Some of the apps require you to have a cable TV subscription.

Other Android TV Tips

If you install some of the apps we’ve discussed, you’ll instantly add another level of enjoyment to your Android TV experience.

To learn even more about the operating system, check out our articles about Android TV apps you didn’t know existed and our list of amazing Android TV tricks.

Read the full article: 15 Essential Android TV Apps You Need to Install

How to Install Google Chrome on Android TV

Android TV boxes are some of the best streaming devices one the market. They can act as Kodi boxes, Plex servers, and even gaming consoles. However, they have one odd and significant drawback: they don’t come with a pre-installed browser. If you search in the Google Play Store on your device, you’ll find a couple of third-party browsers listed, but Google Chrome is not there. Is it possible to install Chrome on your Android TV device? Yes! Here’s how. Method 1: Use a Different Device Unlike some apps which require sideloading, you can install Chrome on your Android TV device using a…

Read the full article: How to Install Google Chrome on Android TV

Android TV boxes are some of the best streaming devices one the market. They can act as Kodi boxes, Plex servers, and even gaming consoles. However, they have one odd and significant drawback: they don’t come with a pre-installed browser.

If you search in the Google Play Store on your device, you’ll find a couple of third-party browsers listed, but Google Chrome is not there. Is it possible to install Chrome on your Android TV device? Yes! Here’s how.

Method 1: Use a Different Device

Android TV Chrome Browser

Unlike some apps which require sideloading, you can install Chrome on your Android TV device using a web browser on another machine:

  1. On the computer, navigate to Google Play.
  2. Click on Apps in the left-hand panel.
  3. Type Chrome in the search box and press Enter.
  4. Open the app listing.
  5. Click on Install.
  6. Choose your Android TV device from the dropdown menu.
  7. Click Install.

Give the app a few minutes to download and install, and you should find see it on the leanback launcher on your Android TV device.

Note: You will need to launch Chrome from the Apps list in the Settings menu, or use a sideload launcher for Android TV.

Method 2: Use Your Voice

Very few people know about this trick—even seasoned Android TV users. If your Android TV device supports voice input, all you need to do is press the appropriate button on your remote and say Launch Chrome.

The device will ask whether you want to install the app. Click Agree, and Chrome will be ready to use in seconds.

Regardless of which method you use, there’s one setting you need to change when you launch Chrome for the first time. Click on the three vertical dots, scroll down, and mark the checkbox next to Request Desktop Site. It will ensure the app takes full advantage of your TV screen’s real estate.

While this is invaluable advice, we have written about lots of other cool Android TV tricks if you would like to learn more.

Read the full article: How to Install Google Chrome on Android TV

What Is the Best Smart TV Operating System?

best-smart-tv-os

There are lots of things you need to know before buying a smart TV. What size do you want? How many HDMI ports do you need? Any extra features that are important to you? But there’s one question that people often overlook: which operating system should you buy? This article will help you answer that question. Picking the Right Operating System Is Important It isn’t 2016 anymore. Back then, we were telling readers why you should avoid buying a smart TV. But in the intervening years, a lot has changed. It’s now almost impossible to find a new TV that…

Read the full article: What Is the Best Smart TV Operating System?

There are lots of things you need to know before buying a smart TV. What size do you want? How many HDMI ports do you need? Any extra features that are important to you?

But there’s one question that people often overlook: which operating system should you buy? This article will help you answer that question.

Picking the Right Operating System Is Important

It isn’t 2016 anymore. Back then, we were telling readers why you should avoid buying a smart TV. But in the intervening years, a lot has changed.

It’s now almost impossible to find a new TV that isn’t “smart.” Take a trip to your local electronics store, and you’ll be overwhelmed with promises of streaming, casting, sharing, and all the smart TV buzzwords.

But, not all smart TVs are created equal. Much like the world of desktop operating systems, the various smart TV operating systems have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some have a more extensive choice of apps, some have a better user interface, some are more compatible with third-party devices, and so on.

So, which is the best? In this article we pit Roku TV, Android TV, Fire TV, WebOS, and TizenOS against each other to see which smart TV operating system is best.

1. Roku TV

In 2017, Roku launched a lot of new hardware, but the Roku TV operating system survived the cull.

The OS includes the best parts of the Roku set-top boxes but also throws in some extra features that are unique to the platform.

For example, unlike the other products in the Roku range, you can connect an HDTV antenna to a Roku TV and enjoy a full electronic program guide (EPG) from within the Roku ecosystem.

Roku TV has also benefited from staying well clear of the seemingly never-ending bickering between Amazon, Google, and Apple. As such, you’ll find all the most popular apps from all the providers (unlike Amazon Fire TV, which does not have a YouTube app).

Other features include a universal search function, a customized feed of upcoming shows you’ll be interested in, and a private listening mode.

Many manufacturers offer Roku TV televisions, including TCL, Element, Insignia, Philips, Sharp, RCA, Hitachi, and Hisense.

Of course, like all Roku products, you can also install private channels. They provide access to TV content which isn’t available in the main store. We’ve previously looked at the best private Roku TV channels if you would like to learn more.

2. WebOS

webos screenshot

WebOS is LG’s smart TV operating system. After a curious history, the OS finally emerged as the leading smart TV operating system in 2014 thanks to its slick and easy-to-use interface.

Since 2014, LG has been steadily refining the OS, and it’s now found in everything from fridges to projectors.

The operating system revolves around the launch bar at the bottom of the screen. On the bar, you will find all your apps and settings. You can customize the order of the bar so the apps you use most frequently show up first.

WebOS is Bluetooth compatible, meaning it’s easy to hook up keyboards, mice, and other useful peripherals. It is also Miracast compatible. (Miracast is a cordless version of HDMI!)

Other noteworthy features include live apps (so you can pause content in one app, start using another app, then return to the first app and pick up where you left off later in the day), 360-degree video playback, and an OLED image gallery.

If you’re looking for crisp and clean, WebOS is the clear winner.

3. Android TV

android tv screenshot

Android TV is probably the most common smart TV operating system. And, if you’ve ever used an Nvidia Shield (one of the best devices for cord cutters), you’ll know that the stock version of Android TV takes some beating in terms of the feature list.

However, with Android being Android, you will not get a consistent user experience across different TV manufacturers. They all feel the need to put their own “twist” on it, usually for the worse. Error messages saying that a part of the OS system has stopped working are not uncommon on non-stock implementations.

On a more positive note, any television running Android TV will also have Chromecast built in. It makes streaming or casting content from your Android phone or tablet a breeze.

You can also cast directly to your TV from your computer as long as you have Chrome installed. Just go to Menu > Cast to begin.

You also be able to use Google Assistant. That means you can use your voice—via your TV—to control all your smart home devices such as lights, speakers, thermostats, electrical sockets, and more.

4. Tizen OS

tizen screenshot

TizenOS is a Linux-based operating system that has been developed by The Linux Foundation.

You will only find TizenOS on Samsung devices. It’s in all of the company’s products, including TVs, cameras, ovens, and air conditioning units.

Of course, TizenOS has a bad reputation following the Samsung TV “spy-gate” in 2015. To be fair, those issues are long in the past. Samsung TVs don’t spy on your any more (at least to our knowledge). However, Tizen still leaves a lot to be desired as a smart TV OS.

Visually, the operating system is fine. It’s clearly taken a lot of design cues from WebOS; there’s a horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen with all your apps and content.

Criticism comes in two forms. Firstly, it’s not as intelligent as some of the other operating systems on this list. For example, while Roku learns what you like and suggests new content from all the apps you have installed on the OS, TizenOS merely suggests apps that you haven’t opened for a while. It’s not inspiring.

Secondly, it faces accusations of being too simplified. Whereas WebOS strikes a perfect balance, tech-savvy users will find the fun settings hidden being endless buttons and submenus.

U.K. users will also bemoan the lack of Freeview Play. It’s a repo of programs from all of Britain’s major OTA TV networks and is available on most of Samsung’s competitors’ TV sets.

5. Fire TV Edition

Fire TV Edition is the new kid on the block. As the name suggests, it’s the smart TV operating system version of the popular Amazon Fire TV devices. At the time of writing, you will only find Fire TV Edition on Toshiba and Element televisions.

Fire TV Edition also gives you access to Amazon Alexa. Like Google Assistant, it can control your smart home, update you on the news and weather, and engage with other apps that form part of your daily workflow.

Content-wise, you’re limited to apps that are available in the Amazon Appstore. Even though Fire TV is based on Android, you cannot access the Google Play Store. Nonetheless, most mainstream apps are available, with the notable exception of YouTube.

However, you can sideload apps onto Fire TV devices, and Fire TV Edition is no different. You just need to get your hands on the APK file for the app you want.

Check out our article looking at the different versions of Fire TV if you’re not sure whether Fire TV Edition is right for you. And if you’ve already bought a new Fire TV Edition, make sure you check out our list of essential Fire TV apps.

And the Winner Is…

We’re going to call it a three-way tie between Android TV, WebOS, and Roku. In truth, each of the smart TV operating systems excels in a different area, but Amazon Fire falls flat due to the lack of YouTube and the Google Play Store, while TizenOS is by far the weakest of the bunch.

If you want slick and minimal, go for WebOS. If you want the largest selection of apps, choose Roku. And if you want smart assistant capabilities, pick Android TV.

If you’d like to learn more about smart televisions, check out our list of smart TV lies you have probably fallen for.

Read the full article: What Is the Best Smart TV Operating System?