Tag Archives: android tv sticks

How to increase the performance of your Android TV Stick

So basically all android TV sticks (ATS’s), boxes and any other android device you connect to your TV has been somewhat hacked together to deliver a product the Android OS wasn’t explicitly designed for. (Not that it doesn’t do a great job)

The Android OS was designed for mobile devices but what constitutes a mobile device?

Well one can differentiate a mobile device as a mobile device by two distinguishing characteristics, one it has a built-in display and two it’ll be battery powered.

Android mini computers have neither.

As mentioned above ATS’s use a TV for the display and often ATS’s don’t have the drivers needed to recognised touch screen inputs. No touch screen inputs can have its drawbacks but the focus in this article is on the influence of not having a battery.

Android devices are constantly doing a juggling act between making the device run as fast and be as responsive as possible and not burning through the battery.

This balancing is primarily directed by the CPU governor. The Linux kernel has a number of CPU frequency governors, which can be looked on as rules that set the CPU frequency based on the selected governor and usage patterns. The frequency or clock rate is typically used as an indicator of the processor’s speed, i.e. how quickly it processes tasks. It is measured in the SI unit hertz. The higher the speed the better the performance and the worse the power consumption.

The best thing about the governors is that they have pre-sets, when the “performance” governor is active, the CPU frequency will be set to its maximum value, the “powersave” governor sets the CPU to its lowest frequency, the “ondemand” governor sets the CPU frequency depending on the current usage, etc.

But here’s the important part, because an ATS has no battery and it’s being power by the mains, there’s no need to set the governor to go easy on power consumption. So the governor should be set to performance at all times but by default (the device thinking it’s mobile) it’s probably not.

So how do you change the governor?

Well like everything else with android you use an app of course!

Note: You cannot change your CPU governor unless your phone is rooted and you have a ROM or app that lets you make a change. Also, different kernels (the intermediary software between your phone’s hardware and the operating system) offer different sets of governors.

There are several to choose from:

  • CPU tuner
  • No-frills CPU control
  • SetCPU
  • See here for more

I use CPU tuner as pictured below.


Simply install CPU Tuner and set profile to “Performance” and Governor to “Full Speed” and you should be getting a little extra juice from your device.


Android with a rocket launcher

How to setup an Android TV Stick

In my last posting Buying advice for Android TV Sticks I wrote about some of the main things to consider when buying an ATS. Quick recap, go quad-core, get a model with an external antenna, SD cards will give you more storage, you’ll need some sort of keyboard/mouse and there are several other android devices you could use to make your TV smart with which you should consider before buying.

This posting offers advice regarding, viewing Flash media, setting up your web browser properly and getting the best out of the user interface.

Firstly you need Adobe Flash Player to live.

The flashFlash player is incredibly resource hungry even for laptops but the quad-core ATS models can just about handle it. But rather than continue to optimise and refine the Android flash player the nice guys over at Adobe just decided to discontinue support for it. And unfortunately HTML5 hasn’t taken over the net in the way that we’ve been told it would so we’re still very reliant on flash for streaming video.

So you’ll need to download the last version of flash from the adobe archive if you want to watch media, like TV shows or sport broadcasts, via your browser. The last version can be found by scrolling down to the heading “Flash Player for Android 4.0 archives”. Just click on the file when downloaded and the install will run.

There are a few web browsers to choose from for Android but probably the most familiar browser Chrome doesn’t support flash so I’d recommend Firefox which brings me to another important matter.

Browsersepic battle between firefox and chrome

I don’t want to get into a “which browser is best” war but I would say of all the browsers I’ve tried namely Chrome, Dolphin, Lightning, UC and Firefox, IN MY OPINION Firefox is the most versatile though not the fastest. (My second favourite is UC browser because I always found it performs really well on underpowered devices.)

Regardless of which you use there will be an option in the settings/preferences to switch to viewing sites as a Desktop by default, as opposed to viewing them as a mobile device. This is a very important option as Android browsers will by default request to view a website as a mobile device.

Why is that?

If a site is modern it will either be a dynamic site, meaning the webpage can be reshaped to fit the devices display, or it may have a different website to be displayed to mobile devices altogether, a mobile site. Considering you’ll probably be viewing the site on a big HD TV a website optimised for a 4 inch display leaves a lot of wasted space on the screen. So make the most of that screen by setting the browser to view sites as a Desktop.

LaunchersAndroid with a rocket launcherTypically a user would interact with Android devices by touching and dragging their greasy fingers across the display. The graphical user interface (or GUI, pronounced “gooey”) therefore has been designed to optimise navigation by this means of interaction.

But because an ATS has no screen of its own to touch a typical android GUI is not optimal for couch surfing. (I don’t mean couch surfing in the hobo/college student sleeping on your sofa sense.) For this reason most ATS’s will come with their own custom launcher.

What’s a launcher? An application launcher is a computer program that helps a user to locate and start other computer programs. So it’s like the desktop environment on a windows computer except Android allows the environment to be changed easily and the looks, feel and performance of a device can benefit from doing so.

I’ve tried a few but the only browser I’d recommend is TVLauncher. (Though I say that having never paid for a launcher or an app . . . ever . . . BUT if I wanted to pay for things I’d be part of the Apple cult.)

So what makes TVLauncher good? Well the HINT is in the name. It was designed to be a launcher for Androids connected to TV’s. An ATS is not a mobile phone so the home screen won’t be packed with the icons you’d typically place on your home screen because you use them all day. I’m going to guess your home screen has the following icons:

  • Dialler
  • Sms
  • Camera
  • Alarm
  • Volume
  • Maps
  • Watsapp
  • Viber
  • As well as toggle widgets for wifi, Bluetooth and GPS.

You don’t need quick access to a dozen different apps on an ATS so with TVLauncher’s home screen you get 6 large tiles to use. You can import your own images for apps if you wish, like speed dial for Firefox and Chrome. And trust me you won’t need more than 6 if you’re using the ATS as a cheap but ultra cool media centre.

My set up is as follows:

For Music: Apollo

For Video: MX player

For Video Streaming: Youtube

For Web Browsing: Firefox

For File Navigation: ES File Explorer

For More Awesome Apps: Google Play

OK OK some of you might like paying for things like Netflix and Spotify, clutter up your home screen see if I care. . .

So that’s all for this post. If anyone reading this thinks they know of a better launcher feel free to comment below.


Android TV Sticks, the time is now!

So what am I talking about?

Potentially the future of how we surf the web while sat on the couch.

Android TV Sticks (aka Android Mini PCs, aka Android TV Dongles) are about the size and shape of an overfed USB flash drive but they don’t just store files.

Android TV Stick example

They’re actually tiny computers in themselves that run an Android operating system, generally version 4.2, and accept input from USB, SD cards and Bluetooth devices like mice, keyboards and gamepads. Plug the stick into your TV via the HDMI port and you can run Android apps on the big screen.

To clarify they’re essentially powerful phones/tablets without the display (which is the expensive bit) making them really cheap, around $70. The thumb sized MK802, was first brought to market in May 2012 but I held back as the hardware was pretty underwhelming for the work the device would have to do.

But that’s changed with the very recently released quad-core processor models (think 4 brains instead of 1) capable of outputting Full HD display smoothly and powering through graphically intensive games.

(To give you an idea of performance I recently downloaded and installed a 1 GB game while watching an episode of Breaking Bad stored on a flash drive with no issues.)

So why is that cool?

Well think about the apps out there on Google play, you have Facebook & Twitter, Netflix, VLC & MX Player, Spotify, Apollo & Double Twist, Youtube, Chrome & Firefox, Quickoffice NOT TO MENTION ALL THE GAMES THAT ARE FREE TO PLAY!!!

This magical little box turns your TV into a web browser, media player and games console (and if you like looking at spread sheets and word docs on a screen while sat across the room, you can use it for the traditional boring PC stuff too).

You’re effectively making your TV smart (really smart) without spending the extra few thousand clams. And think about this, your big flat screen full HD TV is a capital purchase, that bad boy is going to be bolted to your living room wall for a few years at least. But computers stop being at the forefront of technology within a couple of weeks. Spend a small fortune on a Smart TV and by the end of the year it’ll probably start to seem pretty stupid.

But, so far, Android TV Sticks have proven to be so cheap you can get the next model in six months time which will probably have doubled in brain power. I’m already looking forward to getting my hands on one of the next octa-core models.

So why haven’t you heard of these awesome little contraptions before?

Currently there is lack of big player interest from the likes of Google, Samsung, LG etc. (If anything these relatively new and mysterious devices work against the product portfolios of the big boys).

Production is cornered mainly by little known or unnamed Chinese manufacturers, shrouded in oriental mystery . . . for legal reasons . . . using the Chinese rockchip processor. Some of the devices don’t even ship with any branding. Possibly a legal thing (the eyes of g-oo-gle are ever watchful) or perhaps the manufactures just want to pass the savings of sparse branding onto the customer. Some company names you may have heard batted about though (if you hang out with tech nerds) are Rikomagic and Tronsmart which would be considered reputable (by said nerds).

Another possible reason you might not have heard of these “things” is nobody seems to know what to call them! So here’s my attempt at making a name stick (WORD PLAY!), Android TV Sticks, shall be henceforth known as A.T.S’s.

A.T.S. sounds kinda like TV jargon don’t ya think? Like VHS, DVD or AV cable.

Let’s take it for a spin:

  • I got a new 4.4 ATS.
  • The video playback on this new ATS model is awesome.
  • I’ve put my old ATS in the microwave to see if it explodes.

Yep ATS sounds right.

So you may have heard of the Google Chromecast, so what’s the difference?

Although visually similar, Chromecast and Android sticks have little in common. The Chromecast is simply a receiver. It enables you to transmit/mirror your Chrome tab from your computer or broadcast certain apps from your Android or iOS device to your TV.

That’s all.

The Chromecasts currently retail at around $35 and the ATS’s start at around $70 but if you’re thinking the ATS’s are expensive by comparison you’re forgetting you’re getting an entirely separate computer you can use independently.  It would be like comparing the price of a set of tyres to the price of car. In the same way tyres don’t get you from A to B without the rest of the vehicle the chromecast displays nothing unless you have a device to transmit to it.


I think ATS’s make a pretty compelling argument for themselves. If you have a few clams to spare and you know how to set up an android phone you should give one a try.