OnePlus Proving A Set-Top Box Is Still The Best Android TV Purchase

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OnePlus plans to launch a new TV in the next few weeks. Not a set-top box, but a TV loaded with Android TV. Considering OnePlus is known for offering premium hardware at a not so premium price, that's good news.

Except, OnePlus has already confirmed its OnePlus TV will be priced accordingly.

That is, while it will be similar in quality to Samsung and Sony TVs, it'll also be priced similar to those TVs as well.

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But the OnePlus experience is what matters?

There's no doubt that many OnePlus fans will be screaming "it's the experience that matters." After all, OnePlus is also known, within its circles, for offering a good user experience. If you ask OnePlus, its an experience designed with the users in mind, almost built by the users. But that's all just marketing spiel.

Either way, OnePlus users like the OnePlus user experience, and OnePlus has already confirmed it will offer a unique user experience with its TV. In fact, OnePlus pretty much said it improved Android TV wholesale. To the point where Android TV is taking on some of those OnePlus changes. Yes, OnePlus has changed Android TV forever. Well, not really, but OnePlus says it's better.

So if you already love the OnePlus experience, you are in luck. You'll be getting more of the same when the new (and expensive) OnePlus TV launches.

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The issue is, though, is for how long?

Please, sir, I want some more updates

In a strange move, OnePlus recently and somewhat proudly announced its OnePlus TV was guaranteed updates for three whole years. Yep, three big ones. For thirty-six months, that really expensive TV you purchased will be updated.

Beyond that, it might be updated, but it's not guaranteed. All that is guaranteed, again, with that really expensive TV you purchased, is three years.

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To OnePlus that sounds so good that it's worth announcing to the public instead of hiding away in the T&C's. And that makes a little sense. OnePlus is actually a smartphone brand and any smartphone brand that offers three years of updates with a new phone would be praised. While OnePlus no doubt expected to be praised on this occasion as well, the problem is, that's not so good for a TV.

TVs are expensive. They don't have to be but if you want the best quality and experience, they are. More to the point, TVs are not something people expect to throw away after a year or two (or three) because a new model is now out. I mean, it's a bit harder to trade-in your TV for a new TV than it is to trade-in your smartphone. Or for that matter, stick it in your drawer with the rest of your I-was-there-from-the-beginning OnePlus phone collection.

TVs are built to last. Historically, they've been built to last a very long time. However, the move to smarter software has changed the game a little and now we find ourselves in a situation where a company like OnePlus actually boasts about three years of support.

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Apparently, it's a selling point

The solution? Buy an Android TV set-top box

It is that simple. The solution is to simply buy a set-top box powered by Android TV. If you need a new TV anyway, then OK, buy one. Even buy one running on Android TV. Even buy the OnePlus TV. Just don't view it as a long-term software solution. It's not.

While set-top boxes are not necessarily any longer of a solution, they are far cheaper. Therefore when the software becomes the problem, you can just buy another one.

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It is a far better solution than having to buy a new TV every few years just to upgrade the software. You see, regardless of whether the OnePlus TV is updated once or a million times in its first three years, it won't make any difference to the box you have plugged into the TV. That will get its own timely updates, and as mentioned, whenever it doesn't, the upgrade will be at a much cheaper rate.

An old TV with a new box will feel like a new TV. An old TV with old software, won't. Even if it is as super unique as OnePlus claims it is.

Spend as much or as little as you like

If you do spend more on the set-top box then you can expect more, including greater levels of support.

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Take the SHIELD for example. This is arguably the most popular Android TV set-top box. One of the reasons for that popularity is the support. NVIDIA has become known for its routine SHIELD TV updating and this even applies to the original model.

In fact, the 2015 SHIELD TV is now in its fourth year of update support. That's already one year longer than OnePlus is guaranteeing you, and that was without NVIDIA announcing the support as a selling feature. An example of less talk, more doing. The 2015 SHIELD is currently running the latest version of Android TV.

But again, the price doesn't matter. You can spend as much or as little as you like. The SHIELD is still an expensive device (currently $179 on Amazon) for what it is and if you don't want to pay that much, don't. Buy something like the Xiaomi Mi Box.

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Yes, you won't get the same experience from the Mi Box that you will the SHIELD, and that likely includes update support. But you won't pay the same either. The Mi Box typically retails for around $60 (Amazon) in the U.S.

That's about $25 more than a Chromecast and yet it gives you full access to the Android TV platform.

Exactly the same access the OnePlus TV will.

Forget OnePlus TV, Forget all the TVs

Again, if you happen to need a new TV, today, then by all means buy whatever TV catches your eye or falls within your budget. Just don't be sold on the promise of Android TV as the reason to buy the TV.

While we at Android Headlines love the Android TV platform (in spite of its faults), the TV is just not the best method of delivery. Arguably, that goes for any device that tries to bundle Android TV in with it – instead of being the purpose of the device.

There's an age-old rule in the world of audio and that's "always separates." You would be wise to apply that same rule when buying a TV.

Buy the TV for the TV, regardless of the OS. Buy a set-top box to take care of the rest.