Whilst Google developed Android TV for use on TVs, media players, streaming devices and more – with the platform appearing in numerous guises and iterations since its launch in 2014 – Google TV is essentially a rebranded version with extra features and a couple of design tweaks.
Android TV and Google TV offer many the same things, such as streaming apps and internet browsing, with a few key differences – but what are they, and which one is actually better to use?
What is Google TV?
Google TV won Best Smart TV Platform at the TechRadar Choice Awards 2021
Back last year, Google announced its new smart TV platform, known as Google TV. Google TV is a user interface that runs on Android devices such as smartphones, TVs and the latest Google Chromecast.
Google TV allows users to access their favourite content including Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Apple TV, HBO Max and much more. While that may sound pretty similar to other smart platforms on the market, Google TV wants users to have easier and faster access to their most viewed and recommended content. It does this by mixing all the content from each streaming service together and putting it into one interface so you can search across all streaming services in one easy click.
For example, instead of looking for Netflix content on the Netflix app, head to the home screen where Google TV will give quick and easy access to what you want to watch without you having to waste time by going into each app.
Google TV has quite a few features that aren't on Android TV. What's interesting about Google TV is that it is a lot more user-friendly as you don't need to be in front of your screen to operate it. You can add movies or TV shows to your watch list via your phone, which is ideal for planning your viewing in advance.
Google TV also has an intelligent smart engine that will suggest content that you may enjoy based on your previous viewing habits. This can be particularly useful if you're a serial flicker always on the lookout for new programs to watch.
Google TV is also a great addition if you have children, as you can create a channel just for them that will only show age-appropriate content. Parents can remain in complete control of this channel by using the Family Link app to block apps, control what applications are used and set viewing limits and bedtimes.
If you have a Google Nest, you'll also love the new Google TV system as you can connect your Google Nest camera and view your camera feed via your TV.
Other added features of Google TV include integrated slideshows from Google photos and the ability to control your other smart home devices, such as lighting, straight from your TV screen. There is also support for multiple user accounts – which is handy if you and your household enjoy different content.
What is Android TV?
Android TV is an Android operating system that Google designed for use on TVs, streaming sticks, digital media players, and even soundbars. Android TV is built into many TVs from brands such as Philips, Sony and Sharp. It features a huge range of apps via the Google Play Store, including Netflix, Disney Channel, Spotify, YouTube and HBO Now. There are also a number of live channels viable through Android TV, including Bloomberg TV, NFL and ABC, and a host of gaming apps.
Android TV cuts out the clutter giving you a more direct, more streamlined experience – one that's just limited to what your television can handle.
This means that Google Play Store on Android TVs only displays apps supported by the TV platform – not all of those available on smartphones.
TVs that were manufactured from 2017 onwards with Android TV included also come with Google Assistant integration by default. So you can just say 'OK Google' to help you control your smart home products as well as carrying out life admin tasks such as checking your calendar or adding to your to-do list.
The voice search, via the remote function, can stop you from wasting time and typing out what you're looking for; just speak the name of the actor, movie or tv show you're looking for into the remote and Android TV will find it for you.
Android TV may have been around for a while, but it's undoubtedly keeping abreast of the latest trends. If you're fed up with scrolling through the newest dance moves on your phone, you'll now find the TikTok app integrated into Android smart TVs.
Plus, another nifty feature is included if you can't watch a movie or TV show without wondering where you saw the actor before. Search the actor's name, and you'll find every title they've ever starred in plus their bios which saves a visit to IMDB.
Android TV users should have recently seen an upgrade in their user interface, which now shows three new tabs including Home, Discover, and apps which can help make content easier to find and emulate the new Chromecast with Google TV – even without a full shift onto the new platform.
Where to get Google TV
In terms of price, it costs $49.99 / £59.99 / AU$99, which is slightly cheaper than the Chromecast Ultra, but unless you want to stream games, it is the perfect pick.
When it comes to buying a TV with built-in Google TV, at the moment, Sony is the only option. Sony has opted to use Google TV on its high-end televisions, including the 4K OLED Sony A90J and LCD champion Sony X95J.
Where to get Android TV
Android TV can be found on a huge number of smart TVs. Philips, Sharp, Toshiba, and Sony are just a few of the manufacturers that have this operating built-in as standard. You can also find it in streaming video players, like the Nvidia Shield TV Pro.
Last year's Sony A8H OLED is still one of the best TVs around, and one with the Android TV platform. This TV has a stunning picture performance combined with a powerful sound system making it the ideal choice for any home cinema enthusiast. In terms of price, the 55-inch model comes in at $1,899 / £1,799, while the larger 65-inch size comes in at $2,799 / £2,799.
How do Google TV and Android TV compare, and which one is best?
So on the face of it, it may look as though Google TV is just an update to Android TV that brings about a new name, new user interface and new features – more of a rebrand than a revolution – and you wouldn't be wrong. But just because Google TV is now on the scene, that doesn't mean that Android TV is defunct.
The main difference between the two is that Google TV focuses on user interaction and perfecting content curation, so finding what you want to watch is sleek and easy. Google TV also offers a watchlist that lets you easily bookmark content from different apps to watch later. You can do this from any device that allows you to log in to your Google account, so you can connect whether it's your phone or laptop.
From 2021, however, many TV manufacturers that run Android TV will be switching to Google TV for their primary interface. Plus, you can also access Google TV via media streaming devices such as Google Chromecast, so we are airing on the side of Google TV as the superior option.
Unless you're planning on upgrading your TV, you probably don't need to worry too much about making the switch. Unless, of course, your Android TV is acting a bit sluggish, in which case it may be cheapest to pick up a new Chromecast with Google TV rather than a whole new television display.
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