Despite being developed primarily with mobile devices in mind, Android is finding its way onto bigger screens via Google TV set top boxes and games consoles such as the OUYA and GameStick. Already having mobile Android gaming covered with its GamePad, French company ARCHOS is adding to the Android-powered devices battling it out for a place on the big screen with the TV connect.
The TV connect isn’t the first device to turn any HDTV into an Android-powered smart TV and give users the ability to play games, stream videos, video chat, email, and surf the Web. But it sets itself apart in a couple of notable ways, not least of which is the included TV Touch remote. The remote is quite literally a handful, sporting Android shortcut keys, a QWERTY keyboard, a D-pad, X, Y, A, and B face buttons, and two analog sticks.
To provide touchscreen-like control, manipulating these analog sticks in various directions provides “multi-touch” capabilities, such as swiping and pinching. Users can also “touch” their TV by pointing the remote at the screen and using the “Pointer-Wand” feature. Why this preoccupation with touch interfaces? Probably because instead of running the TV-centric Google TV OS, the TV connect runs the tablet-centric Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean).
This means that virtual onscreen controls for games need to be mapped to the remote’s buttons using the ARCHOS game mapping tool. Additionally, playing games in portrait mode will see roughly two thirds of the screen taken up by black bars – although the device will rotate the screen automatically for games designed for portrait mode.
While the choice of OS may give some consumers pause, the hardware appears to have its merits. Powered by a 1.5 GHz multi core processor and with 1 GB of RAM, the base station has 8 GB of flash memory onboard, which can be expanded by 32 GB via a micro SDHC slot. There’s also built in Wi-Fi, Micro USB port, USB host port (for connecting external HDDs), Ethernet port, Mini HDMI output and a HDMI cable thrown in for connecting to a TV. The device also comes with access to Google Play.
The base unit measures 235 x 105 x 34 mm and is designed to sit on top or underneath the screen to provide a better angle for the integrated HD webcam on video calls.
ARCHOS will be demonstrating the TV connect at CES 2013 ahead of a planned February, 2013 release at a price of US$129.99.