Adamya Sharma/Android Authority
I bought a 50-inch Sony Bravia W950D Android TV five years ago. To say it was excellent television for its time is an understatement. Sony’s Triluminos LCD was one of the best on the market at the time. The set also included an included soundbar, and being Android TV, it naturally brought with it the power of the Google Play Store and its extensive library of TV apps, including Plex, Kodi, YouTube, Netflix, and Business. At the time, the TV was around $1,400 here in India, and since I was able to get a decent discount on it, I was very happy with the whole deal. It was my first experience with a true smart TV after upgrading from a 27-inch BenQ monitor that I used with a Fire TV Stick for live streaming and Klipsch Pro Media speakers for audio.
I thought I was a lifelong Android TV subscriber.
When Sony TV came into my life, I thought I was in for Android TV hardware for life. Five years later, TV broke, and I’m convinced I never want an Android TV again. At least in the near future, given the state of things.
Do you own an Android TV?
What happened to my tv
Adamya Sharma/Android Authority
In my time with Sony’s best-of-breed LCD, I’ve encountered multiple hardware issues. Within two years, the motherboard broke. It cost me an arm and a leg to replace it, but I was so committed to the Android TV experience that I went ahead and fixed the thing without creating a stench from the whole ordeal.
The life of a smart TV is not what you think it is.
Fast forward to a few months ago, and the commission gave up for good. Since Sony doesn’t make the set anymore, the TV is now redundant and hangs lifeless on the wall, reminding me of the good few years I spent with it, but the many frustrating ones that followed.
It is important to understand that the lifespan of a smart TV sitting in the living room is not what you think it is. It’s not like the old grandmother’s box set that made her live most of her life and some of her life. An LCD TV can provide 50,000 hours of viewing, that is, its lifespan is four to five years (if it is turned on all the time), while an LED panel can reach six years. OLEDs are believed to have a longer lifespan thanks to newer technology and better hardware, but my problem with my old Sony TV, or any current Android TV on the market, is not the longevity of the display technology. It’s another thing entirely. It’s a terrible software update experience.
Android TV update conundrum
Adamya Sharma/Android Authority
When I bought a Sony TV, it came with Android Marshmallow out of the box. Within a year, it had updated to Nougat, and I was flabbergasted that Sony was keeping up with Google’s annual Android TV releases. The next update hasn’t come for a while, and by that, I mean I only got Android 8 on Sony TV in 2020, the year Google released Android 11 for TVs.
In that period of time, I saw a gradual decline in Sony TV as the user interface became unbearably slow, app crashes became frequent, and other random software errors went unaddressed. This wasn’t really what I expected from such an expensive smart TV. The picture quality certainly remained the same until the TV’s last breath, but the software experience was sub-par, to say the least.
I only got Android 8 update on TV in 2020!
Even today, in 2022, Android TV makers are not committed to long-term software updates on their desired TVs. Whether it is Sony at the top of the pyramid or other brands like Xiaomi, TCL or Hisense, it is almost impossible to find information on how many updates these smart TVs will get when they are purchased. The reason is that almost no Android TV maker promises a specific number of software updates. I only remember OnePlus committing three years of updates to Android TVs in 2019. But the leading brands, as well as budget Android TV manufacturers, have been largely silent about updates.
Related: The best smart TVs to buy in 2022
As if the sheer lack of commitment wasn’t bad enough, these brands don’t provide enough and timely updates in the first place. This expensive Sony TV has only had two updates in its five years of life. Some of the newer collections might even get three updates, if you’re lucky, however snail’s pace the brand decides to roll out. This is definitely not enough.
Television is a long-term technology investment.
Unlike a smartphone, a TV is a long-term technology investment. It’s a big tool that no one buys every year or two. In fact, I’m pretty sure people don’t buy a new smart TV unless their current one stops working. If you’re investing over a thousand dollars on a TV, the least you can expect is a four- to five-year update commitment to match the age of the panel. Without that, these TVs become an absolute pain to use.
Get a streaming box instead
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
When my Android TV UI started to crawl on its knees, the only thing saving me was the Fire TV Stick. This inexpensive dongle has given thousands of dollars in broadcast television a new lease on life. I’ve spent the past two years with a streaming stick attached to the back of my Sony TV, providing me with a seamless interface, all the necessary streaming apps, voice input capabilities, and the promise of an upgrade I knew wouldn’t hit my pocket.
There are several reasons to recommend Android streaming boxes over Android TV devices. On the one hand, they are not very expensive, and therefore they are easy to replace when they run out of life. Secondly, the devices I mentioned above get more Android updates than the actual Android TV devices. The 4K Chromecast with Google TV, for example, is running Android 12 with the October level security patch right now. The Nvidia Shield TV is the epitome of longevity. Heck, the 2015 Shield TV is also running Android 11 now. This is an example of a powerful Android TV set-top box that is older than my Android TV, but still looks newer.
I also have a 55-inch LG B9 OLED, which I’ve been using for the past three years. You get constant software updates, probably because LG makes their own webOS, and the UI hasn’t slowed down a bit since I got it. I really appreciate that LG even provides a handy online resource for keeping track of software updates and change logs for all major TV models. While the TV, its screen, the magic remote, and everything else about it is great, it doesn’t have an extensive library of apps or the ability to sideload things.
Until Android TV OEMs fix the update issue, I’ll stay away.
However, if I wanted the power of the full Google Play Store on my LG TV, I would choose an Android TV or box rather than a full Android TV. I hate not having Sony’s gorgeous woman-cave display, but until Android TV OEMs fix the update issue, I’ll stay away.
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