REVIEW – Android TV and Retro Gaming

There has been a lot in the media news recently about Android TV, which is the big new feature in the 2015 line-up of new TVs from Sony and Philips. But what does it have to offer the retro gamer?

Bravia Android TV

A Sony X90C displaying the Android TV interface

Android TV is an attempt to make ‘Smart TV‘s even smarter, by integrating the Android OS that many of us use on our mobile devices into our TV’s. This has loads of promise, but we shall have to wait and see how useful it is in real day practice.. ..Google‘s previous attempt (Google TV) did not take off.

We needed to replace our main TV at the ‘Woody’ household this summer and as such I have now had a chance to look at this new exciting OS from Google.

In general I am fairly impressed with what Android TV can do.. ..however, I am not totally convinced you need all of this on a TV and there are currently several performance issues.. ..lag and freezes are fairly common place (fortunately, subsequent updates have largely cured these issues). But seeing that all of this Android goodness comes with the TV anyway, there is very little to actually complain about.. ..it certainly enriches the interaction you have with your TV.

Being an avid retro gamer, only one question mattered to me after ‘setting up’ the new TV (a Sony KD-55X9005C).. .. “if you can run emulators on your Android phone, can you run them on an Android TV“?

Well, in short, yes you can!

As you can see in the above image a lot of the most popular emulators are available for download from the Google Play store for Android TV and with a little bit of tinkering they work great!


Here’s how to get your favourite emulator configured for use on Android TV.. ..firstly you need to connect a USB device to your TV, which contains your ROM images (which for legal reasons, you obviously own, :-)) already installed. I used a small 500 Gb NTFS formatted HDD and plugged it into one of the USB ports.. ..it was recognised immediately!

After installing an suitable emulator from the Google Play store the next task was locating the ROM images stored on my HDD.. ..this was a little difficult as the directory structure is somewhat different to Android on a mobile device. Anyhow, after a little investigation the path you need to find is – rootfilesystem/mnt /sda1 – where ‘sda1’ represents the HDD.

Then came the problem of navigating the directories with the TVs remote control.. ..finding how to go back up a directory level was initially perplexing.. ..’up’ and ‘down’ are self-explanatory as is ‘enter’, but going back requires you to press ‘left’ on the remote,not ‘back’. After this it was easy to set up each emulator, just as you would on your Android smart phone.


How well does Android TV run the emulators?

Well I had my doubts, as it occasionally appears that the processor in the TV has difficulty just running the OS, but I needn’t have worried all the emulators run perfectly. I think the OS is just a bit buggy and feels unfinished at the moment.. ..looking forward to some updates!

Retrollection recommendation?

The fact that you can run emulators via your  Android TV is absolutely fantastic and all of the ones I have tested so far work at full speed!

My Sony Bravia also revealed  some other bonuses.. ..it allows you to use a DualShock 4 controller to control the emulated action and also comes with PlayStation Now built in.. ..what more could a retro gamer want from a TV?


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