Getting a regular TV nowadays isn’t all that worth it, especially with smart models on the market at extremely reasonable prices. But not every smart TV is equal, and if you want the best possible experience, Google TV is the way to go.
At its core, the service offers an intuitive user interface where you can install entertainment apps and enjoy just about any content you want. This includes streaming services and local content, and everything prepared for you – all you have to do is choose your content and enjoy it.
Introduction to Our Google TV Guide
Google TV is a UI that sits on top of Android TV. It’s not meant to be a replacement, but rather an extension to improve on things where necessary. The main two things are the inclusion of Google Assistant, as well as the remote you’d get if you were to buy the new Chromecast. They work in conjunction because you access the Assistant through the button and mic that are on the new remote.
So, now that you know what is Google TV, the burning question is, “How much does it cost?” And if you get the new Chromecast device, you get Google TV as well, with no additional charges. Using it is also free because you’ll be paying for the streaming services that provide you your content, rather than the interface itself.
Google Streaming Service: Apps, Live TV & Search
This platform is similar to competing options from Apple for example, but it’s slightly easier and simpler to use. You get more or less any streaming service in one place, and you can pick and choose the content you’d like to watch. It’s a simpler way of watching on-demand content, and it’s made to completely replace cable TV as your main source of entertainment. Of course, cable TV is on its way out anyway with a lot of users opting for on-demand content, and Google TV goes a long way towards making that transition easier.
Kicking things off with app availability, the platform will allow you to install any app that has been available on Android TV in the past. The list is quite long, but you get the usual suspects – YouTube, Netflix, Stan, and other streamer-oriented apps that are made for on-demand content. If you’d like to listen to music, Spotify is an option and the new user interface makes things incredibly simple. Installing apps is as simple as it was without it, which means that users won’t have any issues using the new UI.
To add to this, if you’ve got a library of media on your PC, whether that’s your main PC or an HTPC made specifically for media, you can install Plex. This is a simple streamer app that allows you to combine all of your content – local, on cloud storage sites, and played without a lot of fuss.
If you think that you’re watching too much TV, TVUsage is the app you should install. It gives you extensive statistics on your TV watching habits, from what you watch, to how long and when you watch it, and it comes with a few advanced features such as daily screen time limits. And if you’ve got kids, the app can lock any Android TV app with a PIN code, so you can control exactly what your children watch in terms of content availability.
We could go on and on with this list, but the gist of it is that Google TV allows you to install pretty much any Android TV-compatible app under the sun on your entertainment device, and a simple way of controlling it thanks to the intuitive UI.
What’s neat is that if you’d rather watch live TV, you can do that seamlessly with supported TV providers. Of course, Google TV wasn’t made for watching live TV, so functionality might be somewhat limited, but it does the job. The company’s Live Channels is a great way to look at what you can watch.
One of the prime features (and the one Google themselves have boasted about quite extensively) is the search and how smart it is. The search now has much deeper integration with the Knowledge Graph, which is used for the company to be able to understand your media consumption habits and look at what you enjoy watching.
The search is made to optimize not just the suggestions you’ll be getting, but also make content browsing simple and easier. This works incredibly well, and combining the Knowledge Graph with the Google Assistant ensures that you get the content you want to watch pretty much instantly, any time you want to watch it.
A thing to keep in mind is that the search uses your watch history to make recommendations. This is why you’ll notice a “Watched it?” button, which you can use to let the platform know that you’ve already seen something. This ensures that it’s considered for future recommendations, and it doesn’t show up again.
Of course, the new remote allows you to use the built-in Google Assistant to search for content using your voice, which is a handy feature. All you have to do is press the button on the remote, and speak out your request. It doesn’t even have to be a specific movie or show – you can search for a movie in a certain genre, for example, as most such queries will work with no problems at all. Chances are if you can think of a query, Google TV will understand it.
Design & Usability
Unlike the regular Android TV UI, Google TV takes everything and presents it to you in an organized way where everything is within reach. Android TV was perfect for a lot of users, so to say that Google TV is an improvement goes a long way.
At the top is the main menu, which gives you the ‘Search’ option, but also gets you a dedicated ‘For You’ screen based on your recommendations which we discussed earlier. Then, you have ‘Live’, which is for live TV channels, as well as Movies, Shows, Apps, and your Library, which are all self-explanatory.
Below that is the main content for the platform, and everything is as simple, minimalist, and as easy to use as possible. It’s obvious the company has given it a lot of thought in terms of how to organize everything, and users love it.
Alongside the revamped design, you also get a slightly changed setup wizard, which is now much more intuitive and simpler to deal with.
Ever since the platform was initially introduced, it came alongside Google’s new Chromecast with Google TV. And even though you can expect some TVs released this year to make use of the new UI, the platform at the moment is only available on the new Google Chromecast with Google TV.
On the other hand, the Chromecast with Google TV is compatible with any TCL TV that has an HDMI port, so if you have recently bought a TCL TV and would like to take advantage of it, it is certainly an option.
Google TV vs Android TV
We already touched upon the topic earlier, but you shouldn’t be looking at Google TV and Android TV as two different platforms or operating systems. Google TV is merely a new, improved version that sits atop Android TV and makes the entire user experience more intuitive, and adds a few features that consumers appreciate.
The one difference that could apply from a functionality standpoint is that Android TV is based on Android 9, whereas Google TV is based on the newer Android 10, which does bring a few small under-the-hood improvements.
Google TV & The Smart Home Concept
Another thing we mentioned when we discussed how does Google TV work is the Assistant integration, but this goes a lot deeper than just voice commands. You get the complete experience, and you can combine usage with all your other smart devices. How does this apply to your home and the smart integration?
For example, if you have a smart doorbell, you can utilize your TVs as a display to see who’s outside. Smart lighting? Sure, create the perfect environment for watching TV and relaxing. To add to this, you can watch photos and videos that you’ve saved on the Photos app, or you can stream content straight from your smartphones and tablets (even from Apple iPhone devices)!
All things considered, the platform goes a long way towards getting you a complete integration between your TV and all the other smart home components you’re using as a system. And this is, quite frankly, an underestimated feature that once you get used to, you won’t be able to live without.