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Hands and eyes on native Android TV in the Sharp Aquos LC-70UE30U

One of the more interesting aspects of the predecessor to Android TV (you remember Google TV, right?) was the few situations where it was baked right in to the television. Having access to the web no matter what input you were on, including the streaming apps that followed, had a lot of positive elements to it. While Android TV in set-top box form is cool, there's a lot of potential to be found in making this platform the base OS for any Smart TV.

To confirm these suspicions, we're taking a look at the Sharp Aquos LC-70UE30U. It's a 70-inch 4K TV running Android TV as the primary OS. Before we get too far into out thoughts on native Android TV, here's a few quick thoughts on the TV itself.

  • Sharp's panel seems a little dark and a little cold out of the box, compared to what I am used to but those things can be adjusted to preference and I am far from an expert on TV panel quality.
  • 4K can be very cool, but there's still not enough content out there to justify rushing out and upgrading your set. It's nice when available, but far from necessary yet.
  • Streaming 4K is damn cool if your connection can support it.
  • WiFi and Ethernet built into a TV is great. Options are important, especially when streaming 4K.
  • The remote control Sharp includes with this set is embarrassingly bad. It's a big, ugly monster with none of the features that typically complement an Android TV box.

With that out of the way, lets talk about Android TV.

Sharp Android TV Cast

Sharp has placed a quad-core processor with less than 16GB of internal storage accessible to the user, and while that's more than enough for streaming video it's not hard to get this setup to struggle when playing games. It's clearly not running an Nvidia Shield TV under that glass, and while that's probably fine for folks who just want a Smart TV it's an important distinction to make when picking up a gamepad. This setup really isn't much for games.

If you frequently cast things, native Google Cast nearly justifies having Android TV baked into a television on its own.

When the core OS for your Smart TV is Android TV, you gain a few extra buttons. For starters, Android TV adds a row of icons for switching inputs, including a quick way to access those inputs and a setting for labeling the inputs with a few generic options. There's no way to use your own text to label an input, which is kind of a bummer, but you can use some generic labels to help out. Switching inputs from the remote works the same way you'd expect every TV to behave, but when you get to that input you still have access to all of the Android TV features. You can press the Home key on the remote or on your Android TV app, and have access to the full Android TV interface.

The most important part of this particular input experience is access to Google Cast from every input, and you can do so without leaving whatever it is you are doing. In a game, for example, you can pause your current activity, launch a cast from your phone or tablet, and when the cast connection disconnects you are immediately returned to the activity on that input. If you frequently cast things, this feature nearly justifies having Android TV baked into a television on its own.

Sharp Android TV UI

It's probably a little generous to say this television is only running Android TV. Sharp does a decent job hiding it at first boot and when you're changing inputs through the primary interface, but the things that control the actual television leave Google's Leanback UI and move in to Sharp's interface. The end result is a confusing combination of interfaces that don't play nice with one another. If you press the physical input key on the side of the television, for example, Sharp's interface takes over instead of the Android TV input interface.

It's not hard from this example to see where Google draws the line for functionality.

If you want to change things about the display itself, you're doing so through the Sharp interface and then returning to Android TV when you're done. The only indication that these Sharp settings exists at all in Android TV is though a "Jump to TV Setup" icon at the bottom of Settings, and at the same time Sharp's UI doesn't seem to communicate with Android TV at all. They exist side by side, but don't talk to one another at all. While it's easy for someone who has used Android TV already to get around and recognize the boundaries in software, it's not hard to see new users getting easily confused by how different everything looks from one set of key presses to the other.

While Sharp's implementation is far from the best Android TV experience out there, it's not hard from this example to see where Google draws the line for functionality. Sharp's software takes over in places where Google's software lacks the mechanism to interact with that function. Some of that is overlap, like when dealing with the physical input button on the side of the screen, but some of it is Google not being ready for Android TV to be the only thing telling a TV what to do. Things like brightness controls, color presets for different activity modes, and the kind of basic parental controls that have been standard in televisions for a couple of years now don't exist in the Android TV interface yet.

Sharp Android TV

What Google and Sharp have demonstrated with this television is a solid step forward for Android TV. Casting from any input is awesome, having Google's Leanback UI as the default for the television is great, and with the grip Google is maintaining on software with this generation there's a lot less concern over software updates than the last generation of Google TV sets. It's a great first step to be sure, but after using it for a week it's clear there needs to be a few more steps before this setup appeals to more than just the Android faithful.

Leaving the Nvidia Shield TV behind for a week to explore this setup didn't cause an overwhelming desire to throw down cash for Sharp's 4K TV, but instead raised some questions about what a Smart TV built 100% from the ground up with Android TV in mind would look like.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

  • I really don't like the smart TV idea. What if it isn't supported and you lose access to features and updates? I like my dumb TV that I can plug an updated little box into every couple years for a lot less money. Posted via the Android Central App
  • This. When I bought my 4K, I decided I'd rather not spend the money on the additional Smart TV features when I know the TV is going to outlast the processor. A "dumb" TV with upgradeable/replaceable set top boxes has worked for me, and I will continue that process.
  • Another ^This. I keep a TV forever. My TV is OLD... still 720p (well, 1080i). If it was a Smart TV when I bought it, it would be a retarded TV now. But I have 3 cheap but powerful boxes for streaming to it that I've bought over the years.
  • What 4k tv did you buy that had a cheaper non smart option? Posted via the Android Central App
  • I value fewer remotes and combining hardware makes sense, but how about putting it in an inexpensive Blu-Ray player, like OG Sony Google TV? Not much more expense added for disc technology. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Eh, I have a Logitech harmony remote that controls everything. And I skipped Blu-ray, DVD has always looked fantastic on my 1080p TV. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I didn't have a Google TV per se, but I do have one of the older Sony Bravia Internet TVs. I can only imagine based on that experience just how much better having Android baked in to the TV versus a box-top would be. Of course, this depends on implementation of services, I guess. I actually enjoy Chromecast, AppleTV, and the Firecast when I've used them, but . . . something about baked goods. ;-) Oh! And on a side(ish) note: Normally I let grammar stuff slide, but I thought I'd bring this up, only because I've seen it three times in as many days on AC. "It's a big, ugly monster with none of the features that typically compliment an Android TV box." It's COMPLEMENT when used like this. Well . . . unless the features are actually complimenting how lovely the Android TV box is, or that its wearing a nice dress, or the like.
  • Every once in a while I come across my boxed up Asus Cube Google TV and cry a little bit....just a little.
  • I fell for that one too. The remote was cool, but it won't work with anything else. I trashed it.
  • I'd much rather stick with my 1080p and buy a nexus player. That being said,if I was rich I'd have this delivered immediately. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hah I hear ya. It's just not worth it Posted via the Android Central App
  • Agreed, my 1080p sharp aquos that's 5 years old looks great still. I don't like the way a lot of the new TVs look. Posted via the Android Central App
  • LED backlit LCDs look better than CCFL LCD TVs.
  • I have the 2015 Sony Bravia with Android TV built in. It's pretty great, but i do think Android TV is still lacking a little bit. Could they throw in a web browser?
  • Does the VUDU app actually work? Are their any other apps included that aren't yet available via the Google Play Store for Android TV (like Amazon Instant Video on the Sony Android TVs)? Posted via the Android Central App
  • I see a VUDU icon...that means they've ported to AndroidTV finally? But apparently not for the general public...
  • VUDU is a pre-installed app from SHARP, not from the Google Play store.
  • It's cool and all, but with all the functionality we have today, I don't see myself ever biting on one of these or smart tvs in general. Wasted money imo. I'll take a regular TV with rock solid specs and it'll still be less than this. Posted via the Android Central App
  • People keep saying this but you can't buy a good panel without the smart stuff. And LG's WebOS and Samsung's Tizen are very good anyway, with the latter having upgradeable one connect boxes Posted via the Android Central App
  • Exactly.
  • I have to admit. I have the Shield TV connected to my 2012 Samsung Smart LED TV and I still use the Smart Hub, and Samsung still sends updates regularly. It offers me Amazon Prime and Vudu where Android TV still doesn't. It's nice to have options at your fingertips (especially if you use a Harmony 900 remote, or something similar).
  • The automatic casting ability is priceless and why I can't understand why no one makes a ATV STB with HDMI pass-through like the Google TV boxes had. This would be a big seller for older people who have always have issues with switching inputs (i.e. parents). Right now they cast nothing cause it would require changing inputs but with automatic casting and going back to what was on it would be used all the time. Come on, someone build a ATV box with HDMI pass-though!
  • I just bought this TV a week ago. Amazing display but a couple of things that I have problems with. First thing, if you get this is to update the firmware and it's a little confusing. The documents tell you to call SHARP and a manual update didn't recognize the firmware I downloaded from SHARP. It's much easier than that, just go to Home ->settings ->about -> update just like on Android phones but be sure to select auto update.
    The remote is ridiculous, it's huge and doesn't have a microphone to use for the search like on the Android TV Player puck. Also, the remote control and gamepad for the Player puck don;t work very well. They are supposed to connect to any Android TV but I can't get them to stay connected and often don't work even when they are paired.
    A major issue I'm having is the HULU app doesn't work, I get audio only and just a black screen. I contacted HULU and they told me the TV wasn't supported. I think the TV is just so new they didn't know what it was. By unplugging and pluggin the TV back in I got HULU to work once but I'm not doing this every time. I hope an app update fixes this soon! Oddly, I think the Netflix app is baked in like the pre-installed apps such as VUDU and not from Android Play. It wasn't on my TV when I first turned it on and it wasn't found in the Google Play store when I searched for it. The firmware update added the app but not in the section for Android apps, it shows up in the section for pre-installed apps from SHARP. It works great, although I did once have the same issue of audio only and no video but it hasn't happened again.
  • Likely because the Android TV netflix app doesn't support UHD which is why it will be a native TV app Posted via the Android Central App
  • In regards to the remote you have a few options. You can add ANY bluetooth keyboard or remote. You can also purchase the bluetooth remote that comes with the more expensive UH30E model for around $50. This includes voice search functionality. I purchased after noticing a reviewer on amazon talking about the option of adding any bluetooth device (makes sense when you think about it). The touchpad is a bit wonky and I only used the voice search once. I plan to get some candybar remote with a keyboard on the back. I just haven't found one yet. And the netflix app was part of the week 1 firmware update. Some of the negative reviews on the inital released bashed it because netflix was not ready which was related to the 4k support. I've also had some odd issues where audio stops but video works, random power offs and freezing. It seems to have been getting better with the firmware updates. Thankfully I bought it with an AMEX so I make exercise the extended warranty in the future. Overall I am very satisfied with the unit. And to everyone who says "i'd rather just plug in some streaming media box", when better hardware becomes available in a year or 2 I still have that option. It's not like this TV doesn't have HDMI ports. For now having single remote and the built in nature of the product I am really enjoying it. I only paid about $150 more than the vizio I was looking at so totally worth it for Android TV being built in.
  • Better be careful with this. Sharp is no longer selling televisions in the U.S. .
  • I heard this as well. SHARP really went down hill and fast.... Its what happens when you make an inferior product... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Ill informed article. Hisense bought Sharp to expand their market and improve their products. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Not ill-informed. Sharp got out because of slumping sales.
  • But there products and expertise will still be relevant under a new name Posted via the Android Central App
  • What is a good box to hook up to a dumb TV?
  • The Nvidia Shield TV.
  • I agree. Especially once you install Kodi with relevant add ons, and install a HD HomeRun Tuner if you cut the cord. The Shield TV becomes the primary interface for the TV.
  • I'm doing the same, only thing that hurts is a lack of VUDU support. CinemaNow ALMOST makes up for it, but not quite.
  • I've used my Samsung Smarthub for Vudu. I also use my Shield tablet through HDMI to view Vudu from that. Native support would be nice. Wish Android TV would step up supporting more streaming media and sports, though. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Get the Shield Tablet and use the HDMI output to a TV. You'll be much happier.
  • I use that for items not available on Android TV. I like to use my tablet for reading and drawing and hate constantly connecting and disconnecting console mode. It takes forever. Posted via the Android Central App
  • And then there's me, with an LG webOS TV. It was an involuntary replacement to a Sharp Quattron LED TV, which died a shocking death. It wasn't smart by itself, but had an Apple TV hooked up to it, which made it smart. That Apple TV died a shocking death too.
  • You should really stop shocking your electronics.
  • Wow, may want to consider updating your circuit box.