The Ultimate Android Media Setup
If you’re a big Android fan, you’re fortunate. The operating system shows up on a wide range of devices, from smartphones and tablets to set-top TV boxes. You might be drawn to Android due to its tight-integration with all things Google. Or it might be the more open nature of the operating system, which allows for greater customization than its main competitor, Apple’s iOS.
Whatever the case, if you want to go all-in on Android, you can use the operating system to build yourself a pretty sweet Android media setup.
The first device you might want to invest in is a Google TV set-top box. Keep in mind, there are already some TVs that have Google TV functionality built in, so if you have one of these sets, you can skip this step. There are many different makes and models for Google TV boxes, including boxes made by Vizio, Netgear and Sony. I’m going to recommend the Vizio model, which is called the Co-Star.
So why do you want one of these boxes? Two reasons: tight Google integration and apps. The Co-star is a Google TV box, and as you can imagine, Google and its services are featured predominately throughout the operating system (which is a version of Android). You can browse the Web in Chrome, check your Gmail and watch YouTube videos using your Google account. And it’s all built to work together.
Of course, this box is attached to a TV, and you’re going to want some good media apps. Google TV has apps like Pandora, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Plex. Plex is one you’ll especially want to download (99 cents). When you run the Plex Media Server app on your Mac or PC, the Plex for Google TV app gives you the ability to stream media from your computer to your Google TV box.
In addition to handling media and apps, the Co-Star also comes with OnLive functionality built-in. That’s right — it can handle games, too. All you’ll need to add is an OnLive controller to get your game on.
There are times when you’ll want to sit down and catch an episode or two of your favorite show but someone is using the TV. If you have an Android tablet, you can access a wealth of apps — including many of the same apps found on your Google TV box — and even stream wirelessly from your PC.
The recommended tablet in this case is still one of the best and most affordable Android tablets that exist — the Nexus 7. Once you’re signed into your Google account on your N7, you can begin downloading apps and games from the Play Store almost immediately. And by downloading a media app like MX Player and a file browsing app like ES File Explorer, you can access your shared folders on your PC and stream music and video files over your network. You can accomplish the same thing if you have Plex Media Server installed on your PC or Mac with the Plex for Android app.
The Nexus 7 is well suited for games, too, thanks to its powerful quad-core Tegra 3 processor. Be sure to check out titles like Angry Birds: Star Wars, Granny Smith and The Conduit HD.
And finally, you’ll need to round out your Android experience with a good smartphone. There are a bunch of nice Android phones — not just one standout like the Nexus 7 in the tablet category — so you might have to shop around, try some out and figure out which you like the best.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of the best Android phones out there, but the S4 will be launching on carriers within the next month or so. If you prefer the stock Android experience over modified UIs, you may feel more at home with LG’s Nexus 4. HTC will be releasing the HTC One sometime soon — that’s another Android device to keep an eye on.
In terms of media capabilities and apps, an Android smartphone isn’t all that different from an Android tablet. A smartphone is more pocketable and can serve as a way to access media when you’re out and about, and that’s a pretty big advantage. It’s also easier to hold in one hand — for example, if you’re using it as a remote control, which you can do with Android’s Google TV Remote app. Sure, your Google TV device came with its own remote, but why spend time looking for it when you have all the controls you need on your phone?
You’ve got Google TV in the living room, an Android tablet for lounging around on the couch or in your room, and an Android smartphone for music, video and gaming on the go — the ultimate Android media setup. And thanks to the highly-customizable nature of Android, the sky is the limit in terms of what you can do to make all of your devices talk to each other and integrate better into your media consumption flow. Explore the enormous Google Play store for apps that might fit your needs and keep checking back here for the latest Android news!
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