A few years ago, Sony was one of the few Google TV partners – Google’s first attempt to own the TV screen. That project failed. In 2015, the two giants will try again with Android TV. Sony is fully committed and Android TV will be available in all of Sony’s Ultra HD TV and some Full HD models. Here are our hands-on impressions along with a video.
Sony is all-in on Android TV
As mentioned earlier, Android TV looks the same on every TV as TV manufacturers are not allowed to change the user interface like they are with Android smartphone. However, TV manufacturers are allowed to pre-install apps and Sony is focusing on PlayStation.
Android TV will be available in a range of Sony's 2015 TV from mid-range and up. Sony also sees it as a change to launch the next phase of PlayStation. PlayStation Now will let you stream PS games just like you stream movies from Netflix – directly to the TV, no game console required. At the moment, PlayStation Now only works in the US and only with PS3 games, but more countries and features will be added. We have had a chance to try it out several times over the last year, and it is pretty convincing.
Later this year, Sony will introduce a "Remote Play" app that allows you to stream games from your PlayStation 4 in the living room to a another TV in the house or outside. This app will probably not be available in time for the launch in spring, Sony told us at CES.
Voice Search in many languages
TV manufacturers are also allowed to make their own remote control, and Sony has added a “discover” button that brings up a menu at the bottom of the screen, recommending new content based on what you have watched in the past. This feature is unique to Sony’s Android TV models, and it appears that TV manufacturers are allowed to implement these little gimmicks.
In the box, you will also find a classic remote with a button for every feature, including a new Netflix button. Additionally, there is a microphone built-in, which lets you use voice search for finding movies, TV series and information on actors. Voice search will work in many different languages, Sony told us.
We were told that Sony’s TVs come with 16GB storage in all models, but it is possibly to expand on that by connecting a USB hard drive. Everything is powered by a quad-core processor, and the TVs support HEVC as well as VP9. HEVC is required to stream 4K content from Netflix and Amazon, and VP9 is required to stream 4K from YouTube. This has not been possible in the past. It looks pretty good, btw.
Like any other Android TV device, Sony’s TVs will come with built-in Chromecast. It has never been easier to push video - and soon music - from an Android or iOS tablet or smartphone to the TV screen.
Android TV will be available in the new Ultra HD TV that we detailed the other day and some Full HD models. Most TVs will launch in spring.
Watch the video for a quick tour of Sony’s Android TV.