Fans of TCL smart TVs who would like an alternative to the Roku platform now have one: The company is rolling out Android TV versions of its 3-Series and 4-Series smart TVs at very affordable prices. The smallest 4K HDR model, the 43-inch 4-Series, is priced at just $200, while the largest model — a 75-inch 4-Series — goes for $800.
There’s also a new budget option for folks who don’t need a big screen, 4K resolution, or HDR. The 3-Series offers Android TV at 32 inches (720p resolution) for $130, or a 40-inch model with.
At the moment, all of the TCL Android TV models are Best Buy exclusives, but we imagine this will change in the future.
With the exception of the Android TV operating system, which brings both Google Assistant and Chromecast to the 3- and 4-Series, TCL hasn’t made many changes from its Roku TV versions of these models. They all have support for Dolby Digital Plus audio, and they feature HDMI ARC for a single-cable connection to a soundbar or A/V receiver. But there is a subtle difference with the Android TV versions.
Typically, Roku TVs ship with Roku remotes — they’re simple and easy to use, which is why Roku fans love them. But there’s no way to use a Roku remote to trigger a voice assistant — the only voice feature on Roku TVs is Roku’s own voice search, which is not compatible with any smart home ecosystems like Apple’s HomeKit, Amazon’s Alexa, or Google Home. Roku’s remote is also missing dedicated channel up/down buttons for those who want to use their TVs with an antenna for free over-the-air HD channels.
The Android TV versions get a remote that has more buttons (so arguably not as simple), of which two are used for channel up/down. And there’s also a dedicated Google Assistant button, which can summon the voice assistant for TV functions like launching apps and searching. As with other Google Assistant devices like Nest smart speakers, it can also control compatible smart home gear.
Another small difference: Android TV models support private listening on any set of Bluetooth headphones, while the Roku TV versions require that you use the free Roku app and listen via your smartphone or tablet’s headphones.
Google spent years letting Android TV fester, with only a few partners like Nvidia and Sony using the smart TV software to power their devices. However, with the launch of the new Chromecast with Google TV, TCL’s new Android TV models, and even the new Stream 4K device from TiVo, Android TV is clearly on a roll.
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