3. Sony: Android TV
Android TV is the nearest the smart TV universe has to a standardized operating system, but there are still variations between brand executions.
Sony has the most comprehensive Google solution. For UK viewers, it has rather cleverly layered a YouView program guide platform on top, deftly addressing one of Android TV’s big weaknesses – catch-up TV provision. This YouView app ensures that all the main catch-up services are provided, and accessible via a roll-back 7-day EPG.
Other supporters of Android TV are Philips (via maker TP Vision) and in the US, Sharp. It’s also available on the Nvidia Shield TV streamer and Razer Forge TV.
While other TV platforms make a virtue of their minimalism, Android stacks the screen with various layers of content. Press the Home button on the remote and up pops a full-screen page that's dominated by a carousel of videos from YouTube and from Google Video.
There’s also a row of specific Sony selected content, followed by apps for Netflix, Amazon Video, links to the Google Play Store, Google Play Music, Google Play Movies and TV, YouTube and so on.
Owners of Android phones/tablets can use their device to control Android TVs via Sony’s TV SideView app, and Google Assistant continues to get more and more useful with its own Android TV integration.
Android TV devices also have Chromecast built-in, which simplifies streaming from mobile Android devices (iOS users can download the AirBuddy app to Google Cast). Controllers from Logitech and Razer also promise gaming without needing a console.
There is a caveat though. In our experience, Android is the least stable of the various smart platforms, with Sony TVs exhibiting more than their fair share of failures – it’s not unusual to be notified that various aspects of the Android platform have stopped working, and some of these messages are completely inscrutable (usually the best option is to simply restart the TV).
To be fair to Google, this is becoming less of an issue as successive Android TV updates roll out – the latest incarnation is particularly slick on the Nvidia Shield, for example – but there's still room for improvement.
Five Sony TVs with Android TV:
- Sony Bravia A1 OLED 65-inch: Sony's triumphant return to OLED
- Sony Bravia KD-55XE9005 55-inch: one the most exciting TVs right now
- Sony Bravia KD-55XE9305 55-inch: high-end Sony LCD
- SonyKD-65XD9305 65-inch: one of the all-time greats
- Sony KD-55XD9305 55-inch: comes with 4K HDR
Three Philips TVs with Android TV: