What’s an Android TV box? Why should I care? Which one should I get? Is it worth it? There are many plaguing questions that consumers have when it comes to these streaming devices, and for good reason, too. There are hundreds of different kinds on the market right now, ranging from pure junk to devices very well capable of replacing Apple TVs or Roku players. After hours of research and gathering information, we have amassed the complete guide with everything you need to know about these devices.
What are Android tv boxes Anyways?
An Android TV box is just a term coined for small devices running Android OS capable of streaming video and audio. There is no standardized hardware or look, and so the internals of the box can be anything that is Android compatible. They have usually had very basic hardware such as a base level GPU, around 1GB RAM, and a 4-8GB hard drive. This means these devices are purely made for streaming, not media storage. Regardless of these similarities, they are not created equal. Essentially, Android TV boxes can be split into two tiers: 1) cheap boxes with limited features running a basic Android 4.2 or higher OS and 2) mainstream, slightly more expensive boxes with all features, greater storage, and usually an Android 6 or 7 based TV specific OS. Later in this article, we’ll discuss what you should take into consideration when picking one of these two categories, and the best boxes in each category.
Why Should I Care?
The primary use for Android TV boxes is just streaming. Hubs for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. However, since they do run full Android OS, they can be used for most anything that an Android phone or tablet would be used for. Web browsing, music playing, and some higher end boxes can even be used for gaming. They can be cheaper and just as good alternatives to more restrictive or proprietary streaming devices such as the Apple TV, Google Chromecast, or Roku.
Which Android tv box should I Get?
The type of streaming device you should get depends on what you are in the market for. If you need something as simple as a basic streaming device, then all you need is a cheap third-party box, and it’ll be more than enough. However, as you move up in requirements, such as 4K, local media storage, gaming possibilities, you also must move up tiers to brand name devices to get the storage spaces and computing power necessary to keep up with the demands. In general, here are some of the features you should be on the lookout for 5.1 surrounds sound audio, aim for Android 5.1 or higher, over the air firmware updates, 1080p full HD output, HDMI 2.0, USB 3.0, and Dual-Band Wi-Fi (Gigabit Ethernet preferred). In the next section, we make two lists for each category of a streaming box, and the pros and cons for each to decide what the best for your needs.
Best Android TV Box reviews
Matricom G-Box Review
This box has an octo-core processor, 2GB RAM, and 16GB hard drive. It also supports 4K.
The biggest selling point, however, is that it is one of the few non-Amazon devices that supports Amazon Prime. It comes with a Wi-Fi dongle and a HDMI cable, runs Android 5 OS, and comes with XBMC instead of Kodi like most other boxes in this category. Matricom also offers over-the-air updates to higher versions of Android as they integrate support.
This box has an octa-core cortex A5 processor, and a basic Mali GPU. This means that it can play media content and even basic games smoothly, but don’t expect to be gaming in 4K with ultra-settings on it. It has Netflix and Kodi built in, as well as a web browser. Other features: Android 6.0, 3GB RAM, 16GB hard drive, dual-band Wi-Fi and Ethernet, and Bluetooth 4.0. This is a great box for more than just streaming, without the high cost.
4k Android Tv Box Minix NEO U1
This box is the best it gets without having to break the bank. It is super compact and can fit nearly anywhere, has a 10-bit color format and 4K output support at 60 FPS, which is means display is clear and ultra-smooth. The box runs Android 5, has a silent thermal control system to regulate temperature, has dual-band Wi-Fi and Ethernet, and comes with Kodi installed. People tend to enjoy this one in particular because of its easy setup, constant updates, and reliability. It has a large user base and dedicated forums for support.
Top Mainstream Android TV Boxes:
Amazon Fire TV Android tv box
This box, of course, made by Amazon, has a library of over 7,000 games, apps, and Alexa skills, the lattermost being unique to Amazon products only. All major streaming services are supported with 4K, and Amazon Prime members get even more features. The remote has a microphone built-in for Alexa (Amazon’s voice assistant) commands. The newest model also has reasonable hardware specs on its own as well, including dedicated graphics, 2GB RAM, 8GB hard drive, and extra storage that is expandable to 200GB. There are similar products with better features for the same price point, however, the added benefits for Prime members is why the Fire TV made the list. There is also an Amazon Fire TV Gaming edition at $129.99 which comes with a joystick controller, two games, and a 32GB MicroSD card.
Top Android tv box Rveal TV Media Tuner
Yes, the price. Which is why it’s not first. However, even though you’ll be down the price of a game console with this TV box, the features make up for it. In addition to all the features offered by the other boxes, this box allows for streaming of live TV just by connecting an antenna. You can get hundreds of local and international channels, and buyers say that the quality is surprisingly good if you have a good internet connection. If this feature is not something you are looking for, however, skip this one as it’s a good $100 more than any other box on these lists.
Best Android tv box Nvidia Shield
Let us start off by saying that the upgraded model of this device, the Nvidia Shield Pro, is available for $299.99. The extra hundred dollars gets you 4K game steaming, a new controller with an IR blaster and always-on microphone and rumbler, smaller box size, and Android 7.0.1 with voice assistant. The 4K game streaming and Android OS update will also be available to this older model asa software update later this year, and the hardware in the two devices is the exact same, so you aren’t missing much going with the older model. This box definitely takes the cake in terms of features and ability. In addition to all apps and games being in 4K HDR, the box possesses the ability to cast PC games from your computer with GeForce now. There are also exclusive Android games available only for the Shield. This box not only is an Android TV box, but also a 4K streaming and gaming powerhouse. Each Shield includes the normal remote with microphone, as well as a gaming controller. There is a slew of other features that are beyond the scope of everyday use that is also included: Dolby Atmos and DTS-X surround sound, NVIDIA Tegra X1 256-core processor, Google cast, and Bluetooth 4.1 LE (well, maybe this one is important).
Best Android tv box Bottom Line:
As you can see in the second list, those boxes are necessary for those who know exactly the features that they want: Fire TV for Prime members, Rveal for people who want live TV, and the Shield for those that want a lot of power for gaming. Otherwise, the boxes on the first list will more than suffice. Do I recommend the first list Android TV boxes? Sure, if you have a need for something cheap for streaming that can be hacked, customized, or used for other purposes. Otherwise, there are other devices out there for similar price points that offer better support, a more polished OS, and have a reputation for quality. Devices such as the Roku 4 or Apple TV, which are also priced sub $100, and are used in households around the world. In the end, it’s up to you and what you’re looking for. Personally, my preference is the Apple TV, but I am considering saving up for the Nvidia Shield.
Learn more on Wikipedia
More Best Android TV Boxes – Buyer’s Guide 2017
HDTVs are ubiquitous now; you’re probably using it right now while watching your favorite TV show.
You’re also still using that cable box that charges you a couple of dollars per month, and you’re not even utilizing it for so many hours since, well, you have other things to do.
What if there’s a way to replace your cable box with something that gives nearly the same features, but also adds some depth to entertainment as well?
There’s actually a way to further improve your entertainment system, and that is with the use of an Android TV Box.
What is an Android TV Box? Well, it essentially looks like set-top box like your cable provider gives you, but instead of pre-programmed channels, you can treat it like you would any Android device.
In this article, I will give recommendations on the best Android TV Boxes that you can find on the market today.
If you’re going to buy one so that you can ditch your expensive cable box, then you’ve come across the right article. So, without further ado, here are the best Android TV Boxes
Amazon Fire TV
Pros: 4K Resolution Streams, Small form factor, Lot of choices when it comes to streaming content
Cons: Requires an Amazon Prime Account for full features, non-extensive codec support
Amazon is probably one of the most notable brands on the market. You’ve probably even bought some stuff from the site.
But, did you know that Amazon has their own Android TV Box? That’s right, they have, and its name is the Amazon Fire TV.
They’ve actually released a similar product a few years ago, but just about anything in the tech industry, there are going to be some improvements in the future. Which is why this is an upgraded version of the TV box they’ve released a few years’ back.
It comes with a quad-core processor; two of which are clocked at 2GHz and the other has a clock speed of 1.6GHz. It isn’t that blazing fast, but its performance is considerable if you’re only treating this solely as a streaming device.
Of course, if you do want to install some light games, you can pretty much do so. The Amazon Fire TV comes with a PowerVR GX6250 GPU and it also has 2GB of RAM which is respectable when it comes to casual games.
However, if you’re going to install some 3D, graphically-intensive games, then this Android TV Box will probably disappoint you. You can still play them, but FPS performance will drop depending on graphically-intensive the game is.
For its connectivity options, there is a Gigabit Ethernet port at the back and it if you wish to use the WiFi instead, it also supports a dual-band, dual-antenna 802.11ac connection. The Fire TV also has 8GB of internal storage with an option to insert a 128GB micro SDXC card for more storage.
One of the strongest features of the Amazon Fire TV is its 4K-resolution playback, but before you can enjoy this, you need to have a compatible TV and an HDMI 2.0 port on your TV as well.
The Fire TV’s operating system is a custom version of Android known as the “FireOS”, which has a streamlined interface that allows you to sift through the content that you want with minimal effort.
For the most part, the performance of the Amazon Fire TV is quick not only when streaming content (even 4K), but it also considerable performance when it comes to games.
But of course, even with the Amazon Fire TV being one of the best-value Android TV boxes on the market, there are some quirks.
For one, it doesn’t have the most extensive codec supports out there. This means that it cannot play all video formats.
Second, in order to truly enjoy it, you need to sign up for an Amazon Prime account.
Other than these annoyances, the Amazon Fire TV is one of the most solid Android TV Boxes on the market.
Pros: Very Portable, Pretty good gaming capabilities, Easy to setup and Use
Cons: Runs on an old Android OS, Interface and controls are clunky, Remote control is a separate purchase
As previously mentioned, an Android TV Box is essentially a TV set-top box that has the Android operating system inside it.
And, if you’ve owned an Android device before, you know that you can install a plethora of apps from the Google Play Store. Want some entertainment? You can install a bevy of games from the said Play Store.
That being said, if gaming is more important to you than streaming your favorite movie or TV series, then the Emtec GEMBox might entice you.
First of all, this Android TV Box is deemed as a “gaming” device. When you purchase one, you’re going to be given the TV Box and also its game controller.
The GEMBox is highly portable. You can bring it with you anywhere so long as you have a suitable TV for gaming and streaming.
Its specifications include an Amlogic S805 quad-core chip which is clocked at 1.5GHz. It also comes with the Mali-450MP6 GPU and a GB of RAM with a 16GB internal storage.
It can also support the 802.11n wireless connectivity and it also has an Ethernet port at the back if you want to use a wired connection.
Again, the GEMBox is specifically made for games. You can go to the Play Store and download all of your favorite games, so long as it supports the Android KitKat operating system.
And that is where this Android TV Box falls short. Despite it being a good gaming device, the Emtec GEMBox can only support up to 4.4 Android KitKat because of the restrictions of the newer Android operating systems.
Despite this, the GEMBox has an extensive codec support and it also allows you to use a microSD card for storage expansion.
If you want to use a standard remote control, however, you will need to dish out some additional cash to get one. It has a wireless keyboard support making it much easier for you to browse for content that you want.
Don’t worry, this Android TV Box supports Kodi, but keep in mind that this one doesn’t support Netflix.
Even though it has its shortcomings, the Emtec GEMBox is a pretty good entertainment device. You just have to be comfortable with using an older Android operating system.
Nvidia Shield TV (2017)
Pros: Impressive performance, extensive gaming capabilities, 4K HDR Support
Cons: Expensive, not much has changed
You’ve probably heard of Nvidia. You know, that company that creates amazing graphics cards for the PC.
And yes, they do have an Android TV Box that you can buy for a hefty price of $200. But, does it warrant its asking price? Definitely, yes!
The Nvidia Shield TV was released back in 2015 and it was THE best and beats any of its competitors out the water. That is still true to this day and it has a new iteration that will probably disappoint many people.
Well, despite its upgrade, nothing much has changed. The only thing that has changed significantly is the controller.
The controller is now more responsive; from its buttons to its D-pad. It is also smaller and has a much more ergonomic design. Plus, it has that aesthetic appeal with a diamond-like design.
Another big change of the newer version is that it now has a smaller form factor. Specifically, the 2017 Nvidia Shield TV has a 40% reduction in size. Because of its shrinkage, the one that gets the boot is the microSD card slot.
This can be a bummer for some, especially for people who wants to consume media via that storage medium, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy entertainment content on the Nvidia Shield TV.
At the back, you will see an HDMI 2.0a port, two USB 3.0 ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. Not to mention, the Shield TV also supports the latest WiFi standard, 802.11ac.
People will be delighted to know that the 2017 Nvidia Shield TV will now ship with a free remote control; something that used to cost a couple of dollars two years ago.
The remote control has a directional pad and three buttons: two for the controls and one for the microphone. You can use the microphone to enter commands such as searching for specific content, asking what the weather is in your area today, who won an NBA game last night, among other things.
This Android TV Box also ships with the latest Android operating system, Nougat. It still has that same Nvidia interface from the 2015 edition, though. Despite the lack of a new interface, the categories and everything you need to tinker are all streamlined so that you can navigate to them quickly.
4K is already mainstream in today’s TV sets and thankfully, the Nvidia Shield also supports 4K with HDR-compatibility as well. So long as your TV can support these, you’re pretty much good to go.
Another main feature of the Nvidia Shield TV 2017 is that it allows you to stream your games from your PC to your television via Nvidia’s “GeForce Now”. Before you can enjoy this feature, however, you will need to have an Nvidia graphics card with the latest drivers.
Although streaming games from your PC may not be that smooth, it is still a welcome feature, especially if you want to play it on a much bigger screen.
The Nvidia Shield TV 2017 also supports all of the popular streaming apps such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, among others.
And lastly, back in CES 2017, Nvidia has confirmed that the Nvidia Shield TV 2017 will have support for Google’s assistant. That will be a pretty cool feature. You just have to wait for a couple of months before it gets supported.
So, is the Nvidia Shield 2017 worth it? If you own the 2015 edition, no, it’s not. But, if you’re going to buy an Android TV Box, then definitely put the Nvidia Shield TV 2017 into consideration. It is pricey, but you’re getting a plethora of features in return.
- WeTek Core
Pros: Extensive compatibility with HD Streaming services, good build quality
Cons: Doesn’t work well with Netflix, no 10-bit 4K Support
Although there are a lot of Android TV Boxes on the market, most of them do not have an extensive support to run all of the HD streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, among others.
I think that can be attributed to poor systems and poor integration. But, that is why I made this article so that you can weed out the ones that do not deserve your money.
The WeTek Core is another great Android TV Box that runs on the Android Marshmallow operating system.
It has a robust build quality in a small form factor. It has that typical black TV Box design, so nothing spectacular there. However, it is made of plastic and metal components which increase its durability.
As mentioned earlier, not all Android TV Boxes have extensive support for HD content. Thankfully, the WeTek core is not part of that group and this one can actually support HD content.
However, it doesn’t support 10-bit HEVC 4K, which is a bummer considering that this is a bit pricier than the competition.
This is not to say that this Android TV Box doesn’t support 4K, it’s just that it doesn’t support the better quality one.
For its specs, it comes with the AMLogic S812-H Quad-core processor clocked at 2GHz, a hefty 2GB of RAM, an 8-core Mali-450MP GPU, 8GB of storage, a microSD card slot, a Bluetooth 4.0 support, and it also supports the 802.11ac WiFi standard as well.
On the back, you will find the Gigabit LAN port, the HDMI 1.4a, the DC Power, A/V port, and an Optical port.
The WeTek core performs admirably well thanks to its performance package and support for HD Streaming content. It breezes through every 1080p content you can find; whether it be movies or your favorite TV show.
It just falls short on its 4K performance, though. And on top of that, the WeTek core has a love-hate relationship with Netflix because it just doesn’t work well with it.
Despite this, the WeTek Core is still a pretty good Android TV Box.
- MINIX Neo U1
Pros: Solid build quality, Good performance for the price, lots of accessories
Cons: Slightly older version of Android, Color scheme might not appeal to many
If you do not fancy the WeTek Core, the MINIX Neo U1 is its direct competition. Like the previous Android TV Box, the Neo U1 from MINIX has a solid build quality and it also has that simple black TV Box look.
I like to go over this Android TV Box’s specs first because it is very important that you know its performance package.
For the CPU, it has the Amlogic S905 quad-core processor which is clocked at 1.5GHz. It also has the 5-core Mali-450 and 2GB of DDR3 RAM as well.
Probably, something that might made people sad about this TV Box is it still uses the Android Lollipop operating system, which is two generations older than the current Android Nougat. Even though this is the case, the interface is clean and the performance is smooth. So, there are no complaints in that regard.
On the right of the device, you will find three USB ports, a micro SD slot for expanded storage, the power button, and a micro USB OTG port as well.
At the back, you will find the HDMI port, a headphone and microphone jack, a gigabit Ethernet port, an optical S/PDIF port and a WiFi antenna just a little bit to the side of the device.
Because it has some USB ports, you can actually plug in a mouse and a keyboard for easier use. Otherwise, you can use its remote control to navigate through the different features and functionalities of the Android TV Box.
The MINIX Neo U1 has a streamlined interface and it is pretty easy to navigate as well. It has a gray and green color scheme which is plain and simple, but it might not appeal to the vast majority.
For those of you who do not know, the MINIX Neo U1 supports 4K video playback at a consistent 60fps. That is pretty impressive considering that not all Android TV Boxes get extensive support.
Speaking of support, this TV Box supports a variety of known codecs so that there will be no problems with playing your favorite media content.
Its gaming performance is also considerable thanks to the quad-core CPU, 5-core GPU, and 2GB of RAM. There are going to be some framerate dips, especially if you’re playing a graphics-heavy game. But for the most part, it plays nicely with a lot of games on the Google Play Store.
Lastly, I am glad that MINIX is one of those companies that ensure a stable product. The company sends out firmware updates frequently so that all of the bugs are fixed and all of the issues are ironed out.
Should you get the MINIX Neo U1? If you want a great performing Android TV Box, then yes, definitely get it!
What to look for in an Android TV Box?
Now that I’ve recommended five of the best Android TV Boxes on the market, what should you look for if you do decide to buy one that is not on this list?
- Compatibility- First and foremost is the compatibility. Make sure that if you get an Android TV Box that supports the 4K resolution, you also have to have a 4K TV as well.
- Price- Android TV Boxes can be expensive, so be sure to know how much you’re willing to spend on it. Luckily, four of the five ones I’ve recommended are affordable with a good feature set.
- Codec support- The Android TV Box you’re going to get should have a good codec support. Codecs are responsible for playing different file formats. So, get one that has an extensive codec support.
- Constant Updates- Get a TV Box that has constant support and updates via a Firmware update. This will ensure that you will have a bug-free Android TV Box.
- 4K Support- HD Streaming services are already supporting the 4K resolution. If you have a 4K TV, there is no reason not to get an Android TV Box that supports the said resolution.
- Form Factor/Build Quality- An Android TV Box should also have a solid build quality. You want them to last a couple of years, right? Furthermore, the form factor can be an issue for some. So, get one that doesn’t hinder your living room or TV setup.
The Android operating system is getting better and better. And, it would be a waste not to get a hold of its features.
Android TV Boxes allow you to make use of the operating system right from the comfort and grandeur of your 4K TV sets.
You can stream your favorite movie or entertainment content on a much bigger screen and you can also play games with it as well!
I hope that this article has helped you weed out the good from the bad. All of the Android TV Boxes I’ve recommended are the most bang-for-the-buck; with impressive performance and reliability.
If you’re going to buy an Android TV Box that is not on my list, then I’ve also put the things that you need to look for in a TV Box so that you will get your money’s worth.