Glossary of Android TV Box Terms & Kodi TV Terms
A system on a chip (SoC) is an integrated circuit (also known as an “IC” or “chip”) that integrates all components of a computer or other electronic systems. These components typically include a central processing unit (CPU), memory, input/output ports and secondary storage – all on a single substrate. Make sense? Sometimes you may see reference to a SoC such as Amlogic S905W, or Amlogic S912 and in the same breath their respective processors, Quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 and Octa-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53.
The Central Processing Unit (CPU) as the name suggests the central component governing the performance of the device. They come in for ever-changing types, normally increasing in performance and energy efficiency. Examples include dual, quad, and octo-core, running at various clock speeds measured in GHz (gigahertz). In general, the more cores and GHz a device has, the better it should perform. It’s not all about speed and power, however, and the various chipset manufacturers have their own strengths and weaknesses. Well known CPU manufacturers include AMLogic (AML), Rockchip, MStar, AllWinner and Intel.
Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) come with a variety of capacities and clockspeeds and, more is usually going to be better.
The more Random Access Memory (RAM) capacity available to the CPU/GPU, the better. Iit allows for larger amounts of data to be temporarily stored. Some apps – particularly games – call for very large amounts of data to be kept in memory and if there’s not enough room, your device will run sluggishly and video performance will suffer. Having plenty of RAM will also allow you to run multiple apps more efficiently.
A Graphics Processor Unit, produced under licence based on the ARM architecture.
An SoC produced by Amlogic. Quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53
An SoC produced by Amlogic. Octa-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53
A type memory that is normally embedded onto the computers circuit board that retains its ‘memory’ when powered off. Commonly this will be the same type of memory in your mobile phone.
A type of computer memory, basically faster than the older DDR2 but not as quick as DDR4. When selecting an Android TV Box, this is a factor but there are many things that make a good machine.
Digital Audio – Toslink/Coax
There are quite a number of soundbars, and older AV Receivers, that don’t have an HDMI input so if you want to take multichannel audio to one, you’ll want a device with a dedicated digital audio output. These connections in two flavours, the more common Toslink variety as well as Coax(ial).
Most likely your Android TV Box will have a LAN connection as an option/alternative to Wi-Fi with what’s known as an RJ45 port. Their capabilities come in various transfer rates with Gigabit Lan generally being at the high end, whilst more common is 100Mbps (Megabits per second) against the 1000Mbps of a Gigabit connection. Either will be more than sufficient for even 4K video streaming but if you want to use your Android device to transfer large files over your network, you might want to go Gigabit.
This is the basic operating system (OS) which runs the device.
Recent versions are 7.1.2 (called Nougat) or very recent 8. At the time of writing version 9 is in development (it’s a forever changing world!)
Firmware is software that is embedded in a piece of hardware. Each Android TV box has its own specific set of software on top of the Android OS to customise the look and add special features to their device and this is known as firmware. Its good practice to keep this up-to-date, although updates aren’t that frequent. There will be an option on your box to do so, with luck via OTA (see below).
An Over The Air (OTA) update applies to the manufacturer’s firmware version and simply means that new versions can be downloaded to the device via the internet. Not all manufacturers offer this facility.
No….. get your mind out of the gutter…..The process of Rooting an Android device grants special user privileges and in some cases, Android TV devices come pre-rooted. This is to allow them to perform tasks and functions otherwise beyond the scope of the operating system. Some advanced users might want to gain root privileges to devices to do special things with their box, it’s a computer after all.
Sideloading is the process of installing an app by means other than any App stores you have installed on the device. The vast majority of Android boxes come preloaded with the Google Play Store but if there’s an app you want that isn’t, you can sideload it in a number of ways; USB, via browser, over the network or from the cloud are all ways in which it can be done.
An Android application package (APK) is the file format used to distribute and install application software (apps) on to the Android OS. If you’re sideloading something, it will be an APK file.
These apps are alternatives to the stock Android home screen and all the devices come with their own. A launcher is responsible for the look and feel of the home screen, managing the grid of apps/shortcuts and then, well, launching them. A lot of the boxes allow for some degree of home screen customisation by letting you place your most used apps there but, this being Android, you’re completely free to install any launcher you like.
KODI, formerly known as XBMC, is a free and open-source media player software developed by the XBMC Foundation and the reason most people want to get themselves an Android TV device. It is extremely versatile and can be centralised most, of your local, networked, cloud and streamed media content into one easy-to-use interface.
KODI comes very media playing capabilities but its versatility comes from addons which you can install similar to addons as you would an app for your phone, tablet or computer. There are thousands of KODI addons, some official and others not.
Based on KODI, OpenELEC is a free and open source operating system which can be installed on some Android TV devices. As it is just basically dedicated to media centre duties, it is very small in size and, therefore, boots up quickly and has very low overheads on the processor, meaning it will run very quickly and smoothly. You will need to check if your device has a version of OpenELEC available for it and for its individual installation method(s). It’s not for the first time user and some computer literacy is required.
TERMS & STANDARDS
Ultra HD 4K
Increasingly content will be available in 4k, with the most recent TV being ahead of the curve in the having ability to play 4k. Basically, 4k means you can have a much clearer more lifelike picture due to, the increased resolution (four times that of HD) especially suited for the larger screens we have now. If your Android TV Box supports 4k, then great, but be aware that you may have to think about how to deliver such high bandwidth-hungry content. This is defiantly the way forward though, and a box that currently supports 4k is more than likely going to be an up to date unit, with a foot in the near future.
The other potential limiting factor in an Android devices’ 4K capabilities is in its ability to decode the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) codec, or otherwise. HEVC/H265 is destined to be the de facto compression technology used in Ultra HD video delivery and it is, therefore, an important consideration.
HDR (High Dynamic Range)
HDR enhances the contrast and colour representation of the existing pixels on your TV, high dynamic range technology creates a more natural viewing environment where colours are vivid and shadows and highlights form detail.
DRM Google Widevine L1 certificate
A digital rights management (DRM) certificate that provides trust allowing the device to effectively stream HD content from video services like Netflix.
A program/application that allows you to add a new feature, or to extend an existing feature, of Kodi. It is the same principle as used by Apple’s AppStore and Google’s PlayStore
A codec encodes a data stream or a signal for transmission and storage, possibly in encrypted form, and the decoder function reverses the encoding for playback or editing. Codecs are used in videoconferencing, streaming media, and video editing applications.
A file format that is used to combine, store and play Codecs