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UHD Android TVs: the best way to enjoy 4K HDR images?

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Netflix and Amazon are making massive investments in the production of films and series in the 4K Ultra HD format. From 2018 on, all original content produced by these VOD services will be exclusively available via streaming and no longer on UHD Blu-ray discs. To watch this content on a large screen, you’ll need a 4K UHD Smart TV. And why not choose a model running Android TV, such as those proposed by Sony and Philips? Android TV offers the advantages of integrating a host of regularly updated apps as well as the renowned Chromecast Built-In module. Here is a selection of the best apps for Android TV, all of which have been optimized specifically for Android.

Android TV = Chromecast Built-In

All TVs running Android TV benefit from Google Chromecast Built-In technology. This is visible in all Chromecast-compatible mobile apps, whether they are video apps (Netflix, YouTube, Plex, VLC, etc.) or audio apps (Deezer, Play Music, Tidal, Spotify, etc.). From your smartphone (iPhone included) or tablet, all you need to do is select the Chromecast icon in the corresponding app to begin playback directly on your Android TV. The TV will connect directly to the audio or video source (Netflix servers, for example), and neither the video stream nor the audio stream will pass through the smartphone.

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Note that the Plex mobile app may be used to control the Plex app installed on the Android TV.

Netflix for Android TV

Android TV is certainly the best way to watch Netflix in optimal conditions. Not only is the Netflix app regularly updated, but the Android TV platform grants access to the Google Widevine Modular DRM (Direct Rights Management) platform. Consequently, content may be streamed from Netflix in SD, HD, and 4K HDR Ultra HD quality. If your Internet connection has enough bandwidth, films and TV series are streamed in the highest quality possible. If your display is 4K and HDR enabled, you will be able to enjoy an absolutely superb image quality. It is important to keep in mind that films and TV shows produced by Netflix are filmed in 6.5K HDR, post-produced in 4K HDR and streamed in 4K HDR. This is true 4K quality, without upscaling. On a practical note, the Netflix mobile app may be used to control the Netflix app installed on the Android TV.

Important: to stream content from Netflix in 4K quality, a Premium subscription is required.

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The Netflix app for Android TV is optimized for home theaters and its settings may be adjusted to enable the transmission of a Dolby Digital Plus Atmos signal to an AV receiver.

Amazon Prime Video for Android TV

Amazon Prime Video shares a similar working principle with Netflix, although its movie and TV show catalog is less extensive. That being said, Amazon is currently making massive investments in this arena, and a TV series based on The Lord of the Rings is scheduled for release at the end of 2019. Additional exclusive TV series in true 4K and HDR quality will also be made available. Note that the Home screen of an Android TV detects when a user has started viewing (but not finished) a film or TV show and picks back up automatically where the user left off.

Note: Amazon Prime subscribers benefit from automatic access to Amazon Prime Video. Like with Netflix, not all content is proposed in 4K quality, but 1080p quality is guaranteed.

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The interface of the Android TV Amazon Prime Video app.

Kodi for Android TV

Kodi is an audio and video playback app which is compatible with all file formats. All you need to do is connect a hard drive to your Android TV, or indicate which network your NAS is connected to, and it will automatically index all of your content. Kodi is a modular app, and a variety of plugins are available to download subtitles or stream foreign TV programs from the Internet. If Kodi seems too complex, opt for Plex or Emby instead.

Plex for Android TV

The Plex app for Android is a free playback app for audio, image and video files (films, TV series) which operates with a web server software installed on a NAS or computer. This server software indexes multimedia files and downloads any missing subtitles, which the Plex app then presents along with movie posters and synopses. The server is easy to install, and the Plex app for Android is very intuitive.

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The Plex app for Android TV uses server software installed on a NAS or computer.

Emby for Android TV

Emby, the open source alternative to Plex, offers even more functions. The Emby server must be installed on a computer or NAS, and the installation process is also rather simple. The app must be purchased, and a subscription is available to manage multiple users in the same household (to block access to certain content for younger audiences, for example). Note that Emby integrates the ultra-efficient VLC media player. If you’re planning to view content on a TV or tablet, this last point makes Emby even more practical than Plex.

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Emby’s video and audio player for Android TV.

VLC for Android TV

The French app VLC Media Player is simply the best video playback app out there. The version for Android TV handles absolutely all video files, whether they are stored on a USB drive or shared via a home network.

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The VLC Media Player app for Android TV.

ES File Explorer for Android TV

To play files stored on a USB drive connected to your Android TV or shared via a home network, ES File Explorer is without equal. The Material Design UI is efficient and easy to use.

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Deezer, Spotify and Play Music…

All Android TVs are compatible with online music services. Once the TV is connected to an AV receiver or an amplifier equipped with a DAC, music may be enjoyed in particularly favorable conditions.

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This post is also available in: French

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

Tristan est rédacteur chez Son-Vidéo.com. Passionné de musique, d'acoustique et de high-tech, il réalise notamment les tests matériels pour notre blog.

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