Android TV 12 beta adds 4K user interface and dynamic refresh rate switching

Mike Wheatley

Google has just announced the Android TV 12 Beta 3 release and it brings some long-awaited features for both developers and end users. The most significant updates are the debut of a native 4K user interface and something called dynamic refresh rate switching that should result in a smoother viewing experience.


The Android TV operating system has supported 4K content for a long time, in line with most other TV software. But the Android TV UI itself has up until now always been rendered in a somewhat archaic 1080p resolution. Due to that, the home screen interface, settings menu and so on have never really looked quite as sharp as they could. Today’s update should change that, at least for 4K TVs.

The dynamic refresh rate switching is a nice addition that will enable various devices to match their video output to the source content’s frame rate, be it 24fps, 50fps, 60fps or whatever. In turn, this will allow for more seamless video playback without stutter, Google said.

“For a smoother viewing experience, Android 12 now supports seamless and non-seamless refresh rate switching,” wrote Android TV OS Product Manager Wolfram Klein in a blog post. “Apps can now integrate these settings for playback of content at optimal frame rates. The Match Content Frame Rate user setting has been added to allow users to control this feature.”

This particular feature has been available on a few Android TV devices, notably [Nvidia’s SHIELD TV box](Nvidia’s SHIELD ), but this is the first time it will become available at the platform level, meaning every device can take advantage of it.

For developers, the new Tunnel Mode will make it easier for them to support consistent and efficient playback across devices, Google said, by reducing some media processing overheads in the Android Framework. So that’s good to know.

A more visible, privacy-focused update is the new camera and microphone indicators, which will make it crystal clear to users when they have been activated. Another update includes an improvement to how Android TV devices such as the Chromecast dongles detect the TV they’re plugged in to. Finally, Google said it is extending support for device attestation to support the attestation of basic device properties.

Google said the Android TV 12 Beta 3 update can be downloaded on ADT-3 developer devices now. It will also be made available soon in the upcoming Android 12 TV emulator, giving developers a way to test their apps at higher resolutions.

The final Android TV 12 release is expected to launch later in the year, but it may be even longer until consumers will actually see it on their TVs. That's because once the update becomes available, it's down to manufacturers to upgrade their TVs and devices through a firmware update. Unfortunately, most tend to take their time getting those firmware upgrades ready.

Google TV, an Adroid TV-based interface that's used by the new [Chromecast with Google TV dongle](Chromecast with Google TV) and some new Sony TVs, will also incorporate the Android TV 12 updates.