Posts Tagged Android TV

Google readying Chromecast Ultra with Android TV, report indicates

Google is working on a successor to its Chromecast Ultra which will be based on Android TV, according to a 9to5google report.

The device, which is said to go by the code name of “Sabrina”, is expected to support 4K HDR content as well as Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.

As is the case with the current Chromecast Ultra, the second-gen model will be a dongle that plugs directly into TV. Unlike the one available today, the new one should be paired with an external remote.

The remote control is reported to have a microphone, dedicated Google Assistant button, and support pairing to TVs. Naturally, the remote will also be used to navigate Android TV experience.

According to the source of the report, the forthcoming device will closely resemble the 3rd generation Chromecast but with a softer, more round finish.

This will mark the first time Google has offered up hardware for its Android TV experience in the form of a dongle.

With Google I/O cancelled, it’s hard to say exactly how or when Google might introduce the new device.

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JBL Link Bar review

As a self-proclaimed audiophile and home theater geek who loves using Google Assistant, the JBL Link Bar and its promise of an all-in-one Android TV soundbar with built-in Assistant had me beyond excited. Unfortunately, the reality leaves much to be desired. It was meant to be a “Jack of all trades” yet it is a master of none.

Hardware

The first thing that struck me about the JBL Link Bar was how surprisingly light and slim it was. It made me question whether it would be able to produce any bass at all, which is important given that it doesn’t include a subwoofer. Later, I’d come to find out that looks can be deceiving, and it pushes more bass than I expected.

Given that the JBL Link Bar is more than a soundbar, it is also a fully functional Android TV box, it’s important that it has plenty of ports. Fortunately, JBL has included three HDMI ports with support for 4K HDR passthrough and a dedicated HDMI ARC port for connecting it to your TV. This will give you enough to connect three devices, such as gaming consoles, cable boxes, or a Blu-ray player to the soundbar. However, if you have more than three HDMI devices you’ll be out of luck.

Along with the HDMI ports, the JBL Link Bar also hosts an Ethernet port, auxiliary port, and Optical port on the back. When it comes to storage, JBL left off anyway to expand; there is no microSD card slot and the USB-C port is for maintenance only.

It’s particularly disappointing because it only includes 4GB of storage total. This is much less than on the original Android TV box, the Nexus Player, which launched with 16GB of storage. That will make it difficult to load up with apps, especially any games.

As a Soundbar

When it comes to being a soundbar, the JBL Link Bar pleasantly surprised me. This is the first soundbar I’ve ever used that did not include a subwoofer, and I was concerned the sound would suffer significantly. It’s true, the bass was nowhere near what you’d get with a dedicated subwoofer, but I was still impressed with the oomph added to movies and music.

It sounded much better than I expected, giving plenty of stereo separation which lets you hear sounds clearly going from left to right or vice versa. Movie soundtracks were brought to life with a much richer and fuller sound than you’d be able to get from TV speakers alone. The only downside being that you won’t have the same impact a dedicated subwoofer brings to the party.

While that can be disappointing, it also makes this soundbar perfect for people who live in apartments, condos, or even those with roommates. Without the boombastic bass, you can still enjoy much better sound quality from your TV without disturbing others.

As an Android TV box

There’s no real getting around this, Android TV on the JBL Link Bar is a bit of a dumpster fire. It would crash on me and require a full reboot at least twice a week. This is quite frustrating when you’re trying to binge-watch a new series or have a movie night.

To make matters worse, the JBL Link Bar refused to play movies in 4K HDR via popular streaming apps like Vudu or Google Play movies despite supporting it. The good news is Netflix 4K HDR movies did continue to work. Sadly, the movies I purchased in other services or providers did not.

That in itself was not the fault of the JBL Link Bar but was an issue with the Android TV software. Even users of the popular NVIDIA Shield TV encounter this issue. It was later fixed and 4K HDR videos worked for a couple of weeks, but as of the time this post was published it is broken again.

While it certainly has issues, when the JBL Link Bar did function properly, it functioned well. I was able to use voice commands to summon up movies and TV shows. I could stream all my favorite movies and TV shows and they looked great.

The UI was snappy and, all in all, I was pleased when I wasn’t encountering crashes and bugs. The problem is that every time I started to enjoy using the JBL Link Bar a crash would come or I would get frustrated by voice commands taking forever to respond.

As an Assistant speaker

I love having Google Assistant speakers all around my house and being able to use them to play music, set reminders, check the weather, or control my smart home. I was excited at the thought of adding the JBL Link Bar into this ecosystem and it serving as the sole Assistant speaker in the living room.

Unfortunately, that’s just not possible and it comes down to one frustrating reason. That being when using the “Ok, Google” or “Hey, Google” hot words the JBL Link Bar is painfully slow to respond, especially when compared to other Assistant-enabled speakers.

It takes some real practice to get used to waiting a few seconds before giving your command. Then it starts to become confusing because that is the only device that requires a pause in your house.

Inevitably, you’ll end up repeating yourself pretty often when using the Link Bar after forgetting to pause long enough after using the Google Assistant hot words. Ultimately, it became so frustrating that I opted to not even use it for voice commands. Unless I used the remote, which works immediately.

When it first launched, the Link Bar lacked support for speaker groups. This was a huge bummer for me since I wanted to use it as part of my whole-home audio setup. Around a month ago I discovered that had been fixed and the Link Bar is now an option to include as part of speaker groups. It took them several months to implement this but better late than never.

Final Thoughts

The JBL Link Bar was an ambitious product with a lot of promise. Unfortunately, it falls short. Most of the blame is due to buggy Android TV software which often feels incomplete for the experience it promised. It doesn’t help that it retails for $250, with additional $200 for the optional subwoofer. If the product functioned flawlessly, that wouldn’t seem too bad.

For that same amount of money, or even cheaper, you could get a better home theater setup by buying a soundbar with a subwoofer and an Android TV box such as the NVIDIA Shield TV. You’d still be subject to some Android TV bugs but at least the products would work more reliably and you’d get more oomph from the included subwoofer.

Despite all of the issues I encountered with the JBL Link Bar, I still really want to love this product. I’m hopeful that one of these days a software update will come along and fix most of what is broken or frustrating, making it the finished product it could have been.

I’d be even happier to see a second version of this device next year with more storage, a subwoofer included for the price, and bug-free software. Hopefully, JBL makes those dreams come true because an all-in-one soundbar is a fantastic idea. This one just left a lot to be desired.

Buy from Amazon Buy from JBL

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Sony at CES 2020: An 85-inch 8K, a 48-inch 4K OLED, and Android TV

Sony has unveiled its first TVs of the new year, and among them is a gigantic 8K LCD unit and a 48-inch 4K OLED unit. And there’s also a bunch of stuff that fits in between, too. Here’s a quick look at what’s in store for Sony TVs in 2020.

Z8H (75″, 85″)

Starting at the top of the lineup we find the Z8H which will be available in 75-inch and 85-inch sizes. Touting a mindbogglingly high 7,680-by-4,320 (8K) resolution, it promises incredibly deep blacks, sharp images, and support for Dolby Vision/Atmos.

An “Ambient Optimization” feature promises to optimize the picture and sound quality based on where the viewer is sitting and the lighting in the room.

Other notable details include CalMAN auto-calibration software and a Netflix Calibrated Mode which preserves the vision that was intended by those who create Netflix original content.

Even though it’s a TV, the experience isn’t just about what’s seen. Indeed, a new feature makes it so that the entire frame of the Z8H is used as a tweeter. This vibrates the frame of the TV to emit audio that appears to come directly from the screen.

A Sound-From-Picture Reality feature also tries to align sound to objects, making things feel even more real and to provide a sense of space.

Like others in its portfolio, the Z8H runs Android TV with Google Assistant, Google Play Store, and built-in Chromecast. Sony does put its own interface menus and voice controls on top.

As one might expect from a bleeding-edge TV, it can be controlled by Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home devices. Moreover, they can be connected to AirPlay 2 and HomeKit-supported speakers or accessories.

The idea of an 85-inch TV is appealing on its own, but when you add in an Android TV experience it gets even better. Then, topping it off with 8K resolution and support for all sorts of wonderful voice assistance? Does it get any better?

Master Series A9S (48″)

The new Master Series A9S comes in at 48-inches, which is the smallest OLED 4K TV from Sony. It utilizes X-Motion Clarity for a high refresh rate and clearer image during fast-moving scenes and gaming while TRILUMINOS tech and the X1 processor produce colors that are more natural and precise.

This one also runs Android TV with support for Amazon Alexa, AirPlay 2, and Apple HomeKit. Rounding things out are Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision, X-Motion Clarity, and Ambient Optimization.

A8H OLED (55″, 65″)

  • Utilizes Picture Processor X1 Ultimate to provide crisp, high-contrast and true-to-life picture
  • Offers Pixel Contrast Booster, which enriches colors at high brightness
  • X-Motion Clarity technology will now be available for OLED, refining action on the screen in real time with brighter and clearer picture than ever before
  • Two subwoofers improve and enhance Acoustic Surface Audio
  • Now supports Dolby Atmos, in addition to Dolby Vision
  • New Ambient Optimization optimizes picture and sound quality in any customer environment
  • TRILUMINOS Display reproduces the subtle nuances of color, light and gradation from video lens to living room
  • Works with Smart Speakers, including Google Home and Amazon Alexa enabled devices
  • Easy connectivity to most devices, including Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit
  • Quick access to an array of content and services with Android TV
  • Custom Mode, along with Sony’s other calibrated viewing modes, provides various viewing options to suit customers’ tastes while faithfully preserving the creator’s intent

X950H 4K LED (49″, 55″, 65″, 75″, 85″)

  • Offers Sony’s best-ever picture and sound quality for 4K LED TVs
  • Utilizes Picture Processor X1 Ultimate to provide crisp, high contrast
  • Full Array LED brings more realistic peaks of brightness, more accurate shadow detail and deeper blacks than standard LED TVs
  • X-Wide Angle technology, which provides vivid real-world colors from any angle while retaining more color and brightness, will be expanded to 55″ and 65″ for this model
  • Features improved Acoustic Multi-Audio, Sound-from-Picture Reality concept with bi-amp system, which controls main speaker and invisible tweeter separately, and X-Balanced Speaker, a new shaped speaker unit that pairs slim design with sound clarity
  • Flush Surface design offers sleek, bezel-less look
  • New Ambient Optimization optimizes picture and sound quality in any environment
  • TRILUMINOS Display reproduces the subtle nuances of color, light and gradation from video lens to living room
  • Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support
  • Features hands-free capabilities
  • Works with Smart Speakers, including Google Home and Amazon Alexa enabled devices
  • Easy connectivity to most devices, including Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit
  • Quick access to an array of content and services with Android TV
  • Custom Mode, along with Sony’s other calibrated viewing modes, provides various viewing options to suit customers’ tastes while faithfully preserving the creator’s intent

X900H 4K LED (55″, 65″, 75″, 85″)

  • New mid-range Full Array LED model
  • Offers Acoustic Multi-Audio with X-Balanced Speaker
  • Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support
  • Diamond cut bezel for slim design
  • TRILUMINOS Display reproduces the subtle nuances of color, light and gradation from video lens to living room
  • Works with Smart Speakers, including Google Home and Amazon Alexa enabled devices
  • Easy connectivity to most devices, including Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit
  • Quick access to an array of content and services with Android TV
  • Custom Mode, along with Sony’s other calibrated viewing modes, provides various viewing options to suit customers’ tastes while faithfully preserving the creator’s intent
  • 4K 120fps compatible
  • NEXTGEN TV compatible

Availability

Sony has not detailed pricing or availability for its new TVs but we suspect we’ll learn more in the coming weeks.

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Anker intros the world’s smallest wall charger and a new Nebula Capsule projector

Anker today unveiled a series of new products including a very small wall charger.

After a whole year of development, the PowerPort Atom PD 1 makes its debut as the first product in the Atom series which will offer slim, lightweight PD wall chargers for MacBooks, phones and other PD devices.

Aptly named, the device is slightly bigger than a 5W stock smartphone charger, so you’ll be able to fit it almost anywhere. It features one single USB-C port that can deliver up to 27W of power through the Power Delivery standard.

Anker managed to make the Atom slimmer and more efficient than other competing products by using GaN (Gallium Nitride) components. It’s actually the first device of its kind to do so.

The PowerPort Atom PD 1 will go on sale towards the end of November for $29.99 on Amazon.


Next, Anker has also unveiled the Nebula Capsule II, a small entertainment device that brings new capabilities such as Android TV support and Google Assistant integration.

The gadget features a black cylindrical body and is only 5.9-inch tall, so it’s quite portable. It’s also able to project a 720p image at 200 ANSI lumens.

The new projector is powered by Android TV 9.0, so it brings support for a myriad of applications including YouTube, Hulu Plus and much more. And with Google Assistant on board, finding searching for media is a walk in the park with the Capsule II.

But wait there’s more, the Nebula also doubles a Bluetooth speaker that can offer up to 30 hours of playtime on a single charge.

The product will become available for early adopters on Kickstarter on October 26. Early Bird backers can order their device for $349.


Last, but not least, Anker announced the availability details of its Soundcore Model Zero+ speaker today. According to Anker, this is a product that has been envisioned by artists and sculpted by designers. Made from premium materials like brushed aluminum and woven fabric it’s quite stylish-looking, albeit a bit oddly shaped.

The portable speaker is the first from Soundcore to come with integrated Dolby Audio, so it can deliver a crisp and extremely detailed sound experience. It also has Google Assistant support and can offer 5 hours of battery life.

What’s more, the Model Zero+ also advantage of another first. It includes “Designed by Scan-Speak” drivers which are known for offering unmatched sound quality and music reproduction.

The speaker will go on sale in late November for $249.99.

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Assistant on Chrome OS, Samsung fined, and more Android news you need to know

Welcome to In Brief, the AndroidGuys tech briefing. Today is Wednesday, October 24th, and we’re taking a look at all the tech news you need to know. In this post, we want you to learn about the news the way you want to learn. We’ve embedded a podcast version of all this news below. If you don’t want to listen, you can read just like you normally would.

In today’s edition, Google Assistant comes to Chrome OS devices, OnePlus 6T passes through Verizon, Google will force OEM’s update older devices, and more news you need to know.

We’d love feedback on this post, so please let us know what you think in the comments. If we can improve in some way, we’d love to know!

Google Assistant comes to “all” Chrome OS devices

It seems that Google’s latest big push comes at a good time for Chrome OS users. The company has been bringing new updates to devices, while new products are coming out all the time.

The latest update brings Google Assistant to just about every Chrome OS device, including tablets and Chromebooks. In order to access this, you will need to have Chrome OS Canary installed.

From there, a new flag is available which will bring Assistant to “all” Chromebooks. While this is in testing, Google is still working out the kinks and the interface isn’t all that great just yet.

OnePlus 6T rumored to pass through Verizon certifications

Earlier this month, a report revealed that the OnePlus 6T could end up being compatible with Verizon. This is huge because up until now, OnePlus devices were limited to only working with GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile.

The latest report from PCMag claims that the OnePlus 6T has passed through Verizon’s certification process. If true, this means that you will be able to use the 6T on Verizon without jumping through hoops.

We are already expecting to see the OnePlus launch its next device in a partnership with T-Mobile. Here’s to hoping that OnePlus is ready to make the plunge in the US and really take the market by storm.

The OnePlus 6T will debut at an event on October 29th in New York City.

Google plans to force OEM’s update to new versions of Android

Hot off the heels of the changes coming to Android in the EU, it seems Google is looking to get more from OEM’s. The Verge has obtained a contract which will require device makes to “regularly install updates for any popular phone or tablet for at least two years”.

The contract also states that OEM’s will be required to “provide at least four security updates” within the first year of a device’s launch. There are mandates for bringing security updates to devices in the second year, but there’s no mention of how many will be required.

It’s no secret that one of Android’s biggest issues comes down to software updates. Unless you own a Pixel, there is no telling when the next major update will be pushed to handsets, and security updates can be few and far between.

Samsung fined for slowing down smartphones intentionally

For years, Samsung has been accused of intentionally slowing devices down, with some instances beginning just a few months after launch. It seems that Italian authorities have found that Samsung is forcing unwanted updates on older devices.

An announcement has been made which shows that Samsung has been fined €5 million. The announcement surrounds the release of the Galaxy Note 4 where users were “incessantly pestered” to install the update.

Then, the users would complain on forums that the smartphone became practically useless, including lasting just a few hours before the battery would run out. Samsung has yet to respond to the fines, but it will be interesting to see how this turns out.

AT&T working on dedicated DirecTV Now Android TV box

For the last year or so, AT&T has been rumored to be making a dedicated DirecTV Now box which is based on Android TV. Today, we received reports that the device is alive and well and has even passed through the FCC.

Originally, the Android TV device was set to launch by the end of 2018, but AT&T CEO John Donovan stated that the company will “roll out trials in the first half of 2019”. We are hoping that this new Android TV box won’t just be available for DirecTV Now customers.

However, if the release finally happens, then we can hopefully see more similar devices launched in the future.

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The 3-year old NVIDIA SHIELD TV gets its 20th update

Owners of the NVIDIA SHIELD TV must be feeling pretty lucky right now, as their device is currently receiving the 20th update since it was released.

The Android TV, which is among the best product in its category, was released back in 2015, so the fact that it’s currently getting its 20th update today is mighty impressive.

Titled the SHIELD Software Experience Upgrade 7.1, the new build offers an impressive list of new features and improvements that will refine your overall experience with the device.

What’s new in the Software Experience Upgrade 7.1?

The update brings 120Hz modes for supported TVs and monitors and resurrects NVIDIA Share, which allows users to Broadcast to Twitch, record gameplay and take screenshots.

A bunch of GeForce Now features have also been added including in-game chat support in GeForce Now games like Fortnite via the SHIELD controllers’ headphone jack. On top of that, there’s improved keyboard and mouse support in GeForce Now.

Moreover, NVIDIA also throws in more day-and-date released including Monster Hunter World and F1 2018. Shadow of Tomb Raider will be joining these titles soon enough.

The NVIDIA SHIELD TV companion app is also getting a makeover adding a virtual keyboard and mouse for faster form filling.

Since it was released NVIDIA’s Android TV product has received countless upgrades including three operating system updates that culminated with Android 8.0 Oreo that brought forth a new UI.

Over the years, the SHIELD TV also gained a few AI capabilities. It was the first Android TV to get hands-free Google Assistant integration via SmartThings Hub support. This turned the SHIELD into a hub that could connect to countless smart home devices.

On top of that, the SHIELD’s Google Assistant added voice commands for Google services like Photos and Calendar.

And as it released the 20th update, NVIDIA promised the SHIELD TV will continue to get even better. The company says that old and new users should expect more surprised in the future. Uhu!

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Lightinthebox offers up some great deals on Xiaomi products (Promoted Deals)

Lightinthebox have come through with some awesome offers on some pretty cool Xiaomi products that make for some really good savings. First up is the Xiaomi Mijia Camera Mini 4K 30fps action camera that is reduced from $184.99 to $113.99. The action camera can operate at either 1080p 60fps or 4K 30fps and features a […]

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Amazon’s Prime Video app for Android TV lands in the Play Store, but there’s a catch

It’s no secret that Amazon and Google have been at each other’s throats lately. Not so long ago Google blocked YouTube from the Amazon Echo Show (it restored access a few weeks later and then pulled it again) and Amazon stopped selling Google products, although this has changed as of late. Anyway, it seems the […]

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Plex on Android TV gets Google Assistant integration

Android TV got the virtual AI integration with Google Assistant complimenting the platform a while ago and now Plex is taking advantage of it. In the latest update, Plex version 6.9.0 provides some substantial updates and enhancements to the entertainment centre on Android TV. Despite the integration of Plex with Google Assistant, it’s only available […]

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YouTube TV app goes live for your Android TV and Xbox

Back in April, Google officially launched its entry into the streaming of live TV, with YouTube TV. The service lets users access live and recorded content from major networks typically found on cable, so it’s great option for cord cutters. However, YouTube TV suffered from one major flaw – it offered no elegant way to […]

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