Android TV boxes have become increasingly popular in recent years as an easy and affordable way to stream media content directly to your TV. With so many options on the market, it can be tricky to determine which Android TV box is right for you. This comprehensive guide will provide an overview of Android TV boxes, their key features and capabilities, tips for selecting the best device, and a list of top recommendations for 2022.
What is an Android TV Box?
An Android TV box is a small set-top box device that runs on the Android operating system. It connects to your TV through an HDMI port and transforms your standard television into a smart TV.
Android TV boxes allow you to stream movies, TV shows, live channels, games, and more directly onto your TV screen. They provide access to a wide variety of apps and services including popular streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max and many others.
In addition to streaming, Android TV boxes can also be used for web browsing, checking social media, playing games, and running other Android apps and services. Many models also allow you to "sideload" apps that aren‘t available on the Google Play store.
Some key features and capabilities of Android TV boxes include:
Streaming Media – Access online streaming services, live TV, local media files, cloud storage, and more. Popular apps like Kodi and Plex allow extensive media libraries.
Gaming – Many Android TV boxes support casual gaming, retro game emulators, and can even be used for Android game streaming services like Google Stadia.
Web Browsing – Use popular web browsers like Chrome or Firefox to access websites and online content.
Apps & Services – Download Android apps and services like social media, productivity tools and more from the Google Play store. Apps can also be sideloaded.
Customization – Android TV operating system allows for customization of the interface, launchers, themes and adding external devices.
Voice Controls – Control your Android TV box with your voice using Google Assistant on select models.
Android TV vs Stock Android
There are a couple different versions of the Android operating system that you‘ll find being used in Android TV boxes:
Android TV is Google‘s operating system specifically designed for the TV experience. It provides an intuitive and user-friendly interface optimized for televisions that can be easily navigated with a remote control from 10 feet away.
The Google Play Store on Android TV also only allows you to download apps that have been adapted for Android TV, ensuring all the apps have interfaces made for TV screens.
Some Android TV boxes use a stock version of Android, which is the standard operating system found on Android smartphones and tablets. The interface isn‘t really optimized for TV usage, but device manufacturers try to compensate by including TV-friendly skins and launchers.
The Google Play Store includes both phone/tablet apps and Android TV apps. Many phone/tablet apps don‘t work well on a TV interface, but the option provides more app selection.
Amazon‘s Fire TV devices use Amazon‘s own Fire OS, a proprietary fork of Android optimized for streaming media use cases. The interface is designed specifically for ease-of-use on a television with a remote.
Fire OS only includes apps from Amazon‘s own Appstore, which has a limited selection compared to the Google Play Store. However, you can sideload Android apps onto Fire TV devices.
Pros and Cons of Android TV vs Stock Android
There are some key differences between the Android TV and Stock Android experience on media boxes that are useful to understand when selecting a device.
- Streamlined TV interface
- Apps optimized for TV usage
- Consistent updates direct from Google
- Access to all Google services
- Limited app selection in Play Store
- No root access available
- Broader app selection in Play Store
- Support for sideloaded apps
- Often rooted for greater customization
- Interface not optimized for TV use
- Apps often not optimized for TV
- Less frequently updated
How to Choose the Right Android TV Box
With many options on the market, choosing the right Android TV box involves considering a few key factors:
Usage – What do you want to use it for? Basic streaming? Gaming? Apps and services? This affects the hardware and software specs you‘ll want.
Interface – Do you prefer the streamlined Android TV interface? Or do you want maximum app flexibility from stock Android? This will determine the device OS.
Hardware – Processing power, RAM, and storage dictate video quality, multitasking ability, and app storage capacity. Multiple USB ports allow more accessories.
Price – Android TV boxes range from $50 budget models to high-performance boxes over $200. Consider how much you want to spend.
Brand – Sticking with well-known brands like Nvidia, Xiaomi and Amazon tends to provide better support and more consistent updates. But there are some decent no-name Chinese models too.
Best Android TV Boxes of 2022
Based on the criteria above, here are some of the best Android TV boxes across various price ranges:
Budget Under $100
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K – The 4K model of Amazon‘s popular streaming stick provides excellent performance at just $50. Fire OS interface optimized for streaming.
Onn FHD Streaming Stick – Walmart‘s $30 streaming stick runs Android TV and handles all the basics very well. Great value.
MECOOL KM2 – One of the best budget Android TV boxes at just $60. Stock Android provides app flexibility and strong local streaming.
Nvidia Shield TV – The gold standard for Android TV boxes. Powerful performance, sleek Android TV interface, gaming capabilities, and consistent updates.
Xiaomi Mi Box S – Affordable $100 option with Android TV and 4K HDR video support. Smooth streaming and casting abilities.
Amazon Fire TV Cube – Improved version of Fire stick with faster processor, hands-free Alexa, and Ethernet port while still only $120.
Nvidia Shield TV Pro – More powerful version of Shield TV with USB ports, more storage and RAM. Ideal for gaming and power users.
Skystream Box – Enterprise-level Android TV model with cutting edge hardware and features for $250. Made for business use.
Minix Neo T5 – High-performance Android TV box with octa-core CPU, 3GB RAM, and 32GB storage for $250. Great specs.
Must-Have Android TV Box Apps
To get the most out of your Android TV box, be sure to get these apps installed:
Streaming services – Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, etc. Get apps for any streaming services you subscribe to.
Kodi – Extremely popular open source media center app to manage and stream your media library. Add-ons allow streaming more content.
Plex – Similar to Kodi, allows you to set up a server and client to stream your media library nicely.
YouTube – Watch YouTube videos or stream live TV with YouTube TV.
Web browser – Such as Chrome or Firefox to access websites and web video.
Aptoide TV – Alternative app store to get Android apps not available on Google Play Store.
Tivimate – Great app for streaming and recording live TV channels.
RetroArch – Excellent open source emulator for classic game systems.
Tips for Getting The Most Out Of Your Android TV Box
Here are some tips to improve your Android TV viewing experience:
Use ethernet if possible for faster streaming and downloads.
Get a wireless keyboard/trackpad combo to easily enter text and navigate apps.
Adjust display settings like resolution and refresh rate for maximum quality.
Use ADB commands to grant permissions, disable pre-installed apps, and customize further.
Sideload any apps you want that aren‘t available in your device‘s app store.
Add external storage like a USB drive or microSD card to store more apps and media.
Use a third-party launcher like Wolf Launcher for greater home screen customization.
Enable developer options to tighten animation scales and transition effects for snappier performance.
Use IPVanish or ExpressVPN apps to access more streaming content and protect privacy.
Enable Apps like MX Player or VLC for better video format compatibility and playback options.
Install digital assistant apps like Google Assistant for handy voice controls.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you do with an Android TV Box?
Android TV boxes allow you to stream movies, shows, live TV and more. You can also browse the web, use apps, play games, and access any other content you could get on an Android tablet or smartphone.
Is an Android TV Box legal?
Yes, Android TV boxes themselves are 100% legal. The content you stream may violate copyright though. You‘re responsible for using the device ethically and lawfully.
What‘s the difference between Android TV and Fire OS?
Android TV is Google‘s TV-optimized OS while Fire OS is Amazon‘s proprietary OS just for Fire TV devices. Both provide easy TV interfaces but Android TV offers more flexibility and customization.
Do I need internet for an Android TV Box?
Yes, an Android TV box requires an internet connection for streaming media, apps, web access and other functions. You can connect via WiFi or plug in an Ethernet cable. Offline media can be loaded onto storage.
Can you play Android games on an Android TV Box?
Yes, Android TV boxes allow you to play most games designed for Android mobile devices. Some also support third party controllers so you can play more intensive Android games too.
Thanks to their flexibility, affordability and ease of use, Android TV boxes have become extremely popular gadgets for streaming entertainment. This guide has provided tips on selecting the right model and getting the most out of your Android TV box.
The best options offer a good balance of power, features and price. With the ability to install various streaming services and apps, an Android TV box can transform your standard television into a full smart TV experience. Compare the models recommended here and look for the right fit based on your budget and needs.