What is Google TV? Here’s everything you need to know

What is Google TV? Here's everything you need to know 1

Much like our smartphones, tablets and computers, our smart TVs and streaming devices are powered by cutting-edge operating systems that control everything from the look and feel of your device’s menus and navigation to more unique features. That inlcudes what kind of content (apps and games) your TV will support and whether or not you’ll be able to “cast” photos and videos to your new OLED using your iPhone or Android device. Every web-connected A/V peripheral has some kind of OS working behind the scenes, and the one we’ll be focusing on today is called Google TV.

Google TV goes toe-to-toe with other OS platforms, including Apple’s tvOS, Amazon’s Fire TV, and Roku’s titular OS. Is it better than the rest? Let’s unpack Google’s foray into TV smartness to find out!

Further reading

What is Google TV?

The Sony X95J Series 4K TV with the Google TV interface on the screen.

At its core, Google TV is a user interface running on top of Android TV, but with a different look and feel than the original platform. It is preinstalled on many different smart TVs from brands like Sony, TCL, and Hisense, as well as on the Chromecast with Google TV and the O.G. Chromecast.

Google TV’s focus is to ensure users can access their most-viewed and recommended content directly from the home screen. Like other streaming device platforms, Google TV features Netflix, Apple TV Plus, Hulu, and more. However, Google TV lets you access what you want to watch without diving directly into the specific streaming app as long as you are logged in to your Google account. An algorithmic wunderkind, Google TV also keeps tabs on the apps you’re subscribed to and the movies and shows you like watching. This allows the platform to recommend content for you to enjoy, which is housed under an awesome Home Screen tab called “For You.”

Thanks to Google Assistant integrations, you’ll also be able to use your smart TV (and Assistant-enabled remote control) to search for apps, movies, shows, and games using voice commands. Google TV can also be linked to your Google Home account, allowing you to control certain smart home devices with Google Assistant through your TV. Google Nest cameras will also connect to the interface so that Nest camera owners can view their camera feeds via their TVs.

How does Google TV work?

A white Chromecast and remote lie on table.
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Whether you purchase a Google TV-enabled TV or Chromecast with Google TVthe experience is pretty similar. All Google TV-enabled devices need an internet connection. Some devices will give the option of using an Ethernet cable for a hard-wired connection, but they all work with Wi-Fi, too. Setting up Google TV is pretty simple. You can download the Google Home app on your mobile device for the fastest experience, but you can also do it directly from the TV or streaming device. Furthermore, having a Gmail account makes this experience seamless.

After the initial setup, you will be presented with the Google TV home screen. The home screen features a slide show of various movies and TV shows that are recommended based on viewing preferences (that For You tab). It may also include advertisements for the latest movie releases. Below that is the Top Picks for You column, which is another recommended list of content, followed by Your Apps. The platform includes a Highlights tab as well to collect a personalized hub of entertainment info, generally news and reviews about important or upcoming titles that Google thinks you will like.

Google TV uses Knowledge Graph and machine learning to boost the discoverability of content aimed at the viewer. Google’s Knowledge Graph is the company’s collection of facts about people, places, and things. This allows Google to answer or present users with accurate information about movies, TV shows, historical facts, and more. The interface is divided into multiple tabs allowing users to browse movies, shows, apps, and purchased content.

Google TV’s focus is to ensure that users never have to venture into apps to watch their preferred content. With just a click of a button, jumping back into Marvel Studio’s Moon Knight on Disney+ is a seamless experience, and it can be done directly from the home screen of Google TV without opening Disney+ itself.

Parental controls are also built into the interface, allowing parents to create separate profiles for their kids. Kid profiles are tied to the parent’s account, so they do not have their email and password to worry about. There is also a Google Family Link app to set guidelines for their kids’ experience with Google apps and devices. For example, Google TV’s parental controls let parents set screen time, lock and unlock profiles, and set rating limits.

Games on Google TV

There are a lot of games available for Google TV. You will find titles like Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Final Fantasy, Oceanhornand more. Unlike Android TV, Google TV has so deeply integrated the Play Store that you don’t just go to an app — searching for some games has to be done through voice or word search.

Here’s another gaming pro, specifically for Google TV-powered smart TVs. Many of these sets include a number of today’s best gaming features for a TV, including support for things like NVIDIA GeForce, AMD FreeSync, and VRR. While these features have less of an impact on Google TV’s internal gaming, those of us rocking next-gen consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S will be the real beneficiaries of these awesome gaming features and HDMI standards.

What are some Google TV voice commands?

Chromecast with Google TV remote.

What you ask the Google Assistant is predicated on the apps that you are logged in to. For instance, “Play Master Chef on Hulu,” will only work if you have a Hulu subscription. However, Google TV does offer universal commands, such as:

  • “Play some R&B music.”
  • “Open [app name].”
  • “Tell me about Chef Ramsay” gives a detailed description of the person as well as content from various streaming services that they appear in.

Is Google TV right for me?

Google TV is an excellent alternative to Fire TV, tvOS and Roku OS. And if you’re already intertwined with the Google ecosystem, using Google TV interface will feel right at home. In addition, having a Google Assistant on your smart TV helps make your TV browsing experience more seamless and intuitive.

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