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If you follow my articles about cordcutting and streaming devices, you’ll know that historically, I’m a massive Roku fan. You’ll also know that the Nvidia Shield has recently stolen my heart. No other box on the market comes close in terms of functionality, speed, and selection of apps.
For those who don’t know, the Shield runs Android TV. It’s far from being the only set-top box to rely on the operating system. The Amazon Fire TV, WeTek Core, Mi Box, Q-Box, and countless more also use it. Oh, and these days, you’ll also find plenty of smart televisions with Android TV built-in.
As you’d expect, several aspects of the Android TV operating system have a resemblance to the mobile version of Android. However, there are also some fundamental differences. Many of these differences are found in the Settings menu.
In this article, I’m going to discuss the Android TV Settings app and explain some important features you need to know about.
Note: Some settings may slightly differ depending on the box you own. This guide was written using an Nvidia Shield.
1. Display and Sound
The Display and Sound menu is arguably the part of the app that diverges most significantly from the mobile version of Android. There’s no sign of ringtones, screensavers, or screencasting.
On the basic menu, there are four options:
- Resolution: You can choose from 1080p 59.940Hz, 1080p 60Hz, 1080p 50Hz, or 1080p 23.976Hz.
- Power Control: Your Android TV box works with CEC. CEC stands for Consumer Electronics Control. It lets your box control your TV’s input. If you power on your Android TV box, the TV itself will automatically change to the correct input channel. You can also set up an IR blaster remote in this section, if supported.
- Volume Control: Lets you decide whether you want to control your TV’s volume using your Android TV remote.
- System Sounds: Like the mobile version of Android, this governs the audible clicks and alerts as you navigate the operating system.
You can also tweak some advanced settings. For most users, there are only three you might want to change:
- Adjust for Overscan: Used if your TV is chopping off some of the picture
- Fixed Volume: Disables Android TV’s internal volume controls
- USB Audio Mode: If your TV supports Dolby 5.1 surround sound, this is where you turn it on
Again, the System menu doesn’t look anything like its mobile-based cousin. You only have two options to tweak.
The first of the two, LED brightness, will not be useful to most people. Generally, you will use your TV’s image settings to get the on-screen visuals looking the way you want.
The second, Processor Mode, is more exciting. If you have a box with a small amount of RAM or a weak CPU (such as a Fire TV Stick rather than a fully-fledged set-top box), you should make adjustments. You have two settings to choose from: Max Performance and Optimized. In almost every usage case, choose Max Performance.
3. Storage and Reset
The Storage and Reset menu is more similar to what you’re used to. Under Device Storage, you’ll see the space left on your Android TV device. If you click on the device’s name, you’ll see a detailed breakdown.
If your device has a USB port and you’ve attached an external storage drive, you’ll also see it listed in this menu.
Some devices also allow you to mount the storage as a network drive, thus enabling you to send files from your computer straight to your media player. Click on Network Storage to enable the feature.
Lastly, this menu is where you’ll find the Factory Reset option. Using this option will wipe all the data saved on your Android TV, so make sure you’ve made appropriate backups before proceeding.
Remember I told you that you wouldn’t find screensaver options in the Display and Sound menu? That’s because it has an entire menu section dedicated to it!
You have three default screensaver options to choose from:
- Off: Your TV will display a blank screen.
- Backdrop: You’ll see a slideshow of stunning photographs from around the world.
- Colors: Provides a psychedelic swirling display.
Some third-party apps add more options to this list. For example, MUBI offers a slideshow of stills from shows you can watch through the app.
Further down the list, you’ll be able to adjust screensaver timers and sleep timers. Right at the bottom of the menu, pay attention to Stay Awake on Music. If you use your Android TV to listen to apps like Spotify or TuneIn Radio, you should turn this setting on.
5. Home Screen
Once you get down to the Preferences part of the menu, things start to look more familiar. Date and Time, Language, Keyboard, Search, Speech, and Accessibility are all almost identical to the mobile version.
However, nestled in the middle of the menu, you’ll see a Home Screen option. This setting controls how apps appear on the main screen of Android TV.
Click on the link, and two further options will appear: Recommendations row and Apps and Games rows.
- Recommendations Row: Android TV automatically displays content it thinks you’d be interested in along the top of the home screen. It sources the videos from the apps you have installed on your device. In this setting, you can disable certain apps from appearing. For example, perhaps you don’t want to see recommendations from Netflix if you’re not a subscriber.
- Apps and Games Rows: Within the Apps and Games rows, you’ll find three further settings. The first setting allow you to automatically sort your installed apps by recent usage. The second and third options let you manually reorder apps and games respectively.
6. Add Accessory
Depending on the device you own, you might be able to add third-party Bluetooth accessories. These could take the shape of games controllers, TV remotes, or even mouse/keyboard combos.
To add another accessory to your device, go to the Remotes and Accessories > Add accessory. Your device will immediately start scanning for nearby Bluetooth devices. Once the device is found, follow the on-screen instructions to get it up and running.
The final part of the Settings app deals with your user accounts. Unlike the mobile version, they are listed in the main Settings menu, rather than being tucked into their own section.
Any logins that you’ve entered into your device will be listed. That includes credentials for services like Google and Microsoft, but also apps like Netflix and Spotify.
Click on one of your accounts, and you can choose what data is synced over the network, how often syncing occurs, edit your login details, or even remove the app from your system entirely.
Has the Settings Menu Left You Confused?
In this article, I’ve explained some of the key differences between the Android TV Settings app and the mobile Android Settings app.
Although the interface will be largely familiar to anyone who has spent time in the Android ecosystem, the differences can be confusing for non-tech-savvy users.
Next, how about adding a few apps to your setup. We show you how to install Google Chrome on Android TV.