You might be asking yourself…”Self, why is there an Android launcher review on AndroidPCReview.com? This is a hardware site.”
And you’d be right. I’ve never done a review of a launcher before. Most of the Android boxes I get for reviews already have custom launchers. Opinions of who has the best android launcher are a dime a dozen.
But then I opened up my new Tronsmart Draco. No custom launcher. Just plain-old KitKat.
Hmmm…that makes things a bit more difficult.
You see, part of my testing process is to give the box to a completely non-technical user and see how they like it. Without a custom launcher to help, that entire part of the testing process pretty much goes right out the window.
When you look at the Roku or the FireTV, the first thing you notice is how easy they are to navigate around. Any device that you’re going to be using when you’re sitting on your couch with a remote control in one hand and a drink in the other had better be easy to use.
There’s the beauty of TVLauncher in a nutshell. It’s designed to be as easy to use as a media streamer like Roku, but still give you the power of Android at the click of a button.
If you know anything about me, you know I like things to be simple to use. Honestly, if you have to write a manual for something, you’ve made it too complicated.
That’s one of the things I really like about TVLauncher. Everything is intuitive.
Once you install it, you’re greeted with a blank home screen, with left and right arrow bars pointing to the menu’s. It’s like a clean slate ready for you to play with.
The three categories probably don’t need an explanation, but I’ll give you one just to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
The Add Featured Apps option will be the fastest way to add the most commonly used apps to your home screen. If you’re thinking about putting Netflix, XBMC, Chrome or Facebook front and center, this is where you’ll do it.
If you don’t find the app you’re looking for with that option, you can always select Add Any Apps. This is a grid listing of all of your apps. There’s no difference in adding an app here or through the Add Featured Apps menu. Simply click on the app and TVLauncher slides it into place on the home screen.
Finally, there’s an option to add a bookmark to the home screen. As you might expect, this will open your default web browser and go directly to one particular website. So if you wanted to add your favorite Android mini-PC review site to your bookmarks, you could do that here.
Changing the Settings
There are some basic settings adjustments for the app. On the bottom of the left menu you’ll see menu options for TVLauncher Settings and System Settings. System Settings takes you to the Android settings screen that you’re all familiar with. No big surprise there.
The TVLauncher Settings option will allow you to change some basic options on the launcher itself such as the wallpaper, tile labels, opacity and keyboard options. Nothing too surprising or game-changing, but its always nice to have options, right?
If you want more details, I go through the options one-by-one on my video review of the TVLauncher.
Searching for Apps
The right hand menu screen is where you can access your entire list of apps. TVLauncher displays them for you in either an alphabetical list, or in a grid form – whichever you decide.
Personally, I think the alphabetical list looks pretty close to the app list on Windows Phone 8. It doesn’t have quite the same polish, but the same slidebar with floating letters are there.
If that’s not your thing, you can always switch to the grid view. The icons are smaller, but you’ll be able to see everything more or less at a glance.
Downloading the TVLauncher App
There are two ways to get your hands on the TVlauncher app. The first is the one you’re probably most familiar with. Like most apps, it’s available from Google Play through this link. The version that’s on Google Play right now is version 2.08. It’s the last stable release of version 2.
However, if you feel like walking on the wild and unstable side, there are beta versions all the way up to 2.80 found on Freaktab. Some of the links in that thread are old and may not be in use anymore. Your mileage may vary. At the very least, its interesting to see the progression of the app.
The second way to get the app is to follow the TVLauncher Development Google+ page. The developer, Sam Weggersen is pretty involved with the community, keeping them posted on the alpha development of TVLauncher4. He also solicits feedback and requests for the new version. If you join the Alpha and ask nicely enough, you may just get your feature added to the launcher.
TVLauncher lacks some of the polish of some of the other launchers I’ve seen. It can be buggy at times and the feature set is pretty sparse.
On the plus side, the icon sizes are large enough to be seen, even from across the room. The option to include a bookmarked web site and treat it like any other app is a nice plus.
Is TVLauncher the best Android launcher? Not yet. I’m waiting to see what TVLauncher 4.0 will have in the way of interface and features. That may be a ways off, considering its still in Alpha testing.
Still, if you’re a “no-frills” kind of minimalist, TVLauncher 2.0 could be worth a look.