Are you looking for a low-cost method of streaming movies or using Kodi on your television? These are the best Android TV boxes available on the market.
The best Android TV boxes are strange and wonderful things; there is no universal definition for them, and they come in an array of shapes and sizes.
Whatever form they take, there’s no denying the utility of a good Android TV box. These adaptable devices can stream content to your television, play locally stored files, and play video games, among other functions.
With so many options available, many of which are from unknown brands, choosing the best Android TV box for you can be a daunting task.
However, this is where we come in. With the assistance of our buying guide and extensive testing, you’ll be able to navigate your way safely to finding the ideal Android TV companion.
Best Android TV boxes: At a glance
- Best budget Android TV box: Easytone T95 Super | £29
- Best Amazon Android TV box: Amazon Fire TV Stick | £40
- Best all-around Android TV box: Nvidia Shield TV Pro | £179
- Best cheap alternative to the Nvidia Shield: Xiaomi Mi Box S | £69
How to select the optimal Android TV box for your needs
What is an Android television set-top box?
An Android TV box is a small set-top box about the size of an Apple TV that runs either Google’s Android TV software or – more commonly – a reskinned version of standard Android. In theory, this makes an Android TV box an incredibly versatile device for streaming content to your TV from the internet or a network attached storage (NAS) drive, as well as playing back media stored locally on the device.
Numerous Android TV boxes market themselves as Kodi devices, on which you can install the Kodi open-source software and gain access to an enormous variety of music and audio streaming services. You may come across devices dubbed Android TV boxes on eBay that claim to be unlocked or preloaded with what would normally be subscription channels or free content. Avoid purchasing them as they may be illegal.
However, there are dozens of perfectly legal devices available, and the Kodi platform itself is not illegal, as long as it is not used in conjunction with piracy-enabling add-ons. If you’re concerned about your ISP monitoring your Kodi activity, we strongly advise you to use one of our favorite VPN services when using an Amazon Fire TV Stick. A good VPN will encrypt your traffic and allow you to virtually change your location, ensuring that your Kodi add-ons work from anywhere.
What features should you seek in an Android TV box?
To be honest, it’s a chaotic market, with specifications, features, and even the boxes themselves constantly changing. If you’re considering purchasing one of the numerous Chinese-made boxes, we recommend looking for one with a quad or eight-core processor, 2GB to 4GB of RAM, and 16GB to 32GB or more of storage – which is frequently referred to as “ROM.”
Dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi, as well as 4K support, are also useful additions, but don’t get too excited about claims of 6K or 8K support: until more TVs and streaming services support higher-than-4K resolutions, these claims are largely meaningless, and the boxes’ processing power is doubtful to handle all those pixels.
The other aspect to keep an eye on is software. Only a few Android TV boxes run what Google refers to as Android TV; the majority simply run a customized version of Android with the manufacturer’s own TV-focused interface. The latter may or may not have access to the Google Play store and may come preloaded with Kodi and other popular video-streaming applications.
In general, boxes running genuine Google Android TV are easier to use and more reliable, though you may encounter issues running Netflix or Amazon Prime without resorting to esoteric workarounds. If you’re not into sideloaded apps or reconfiguring your device, we recommend sticking with an Amazon Fire TV or Nvidia Shield TV. If you’re willing to tinker, however, you’ll discover some bargains – and entertainment – to be had.
The best Android TV boxes to buy in 2022
1. Nvidia Shield TV Pro: The best Android TV box, bar none
Price: £199 | Buy now from Currys PC World
Nvidia’s previous Shield TV was the undisputed king of Android TV boxes, but the new Shield TV Pro makes it look weedy in comparison. It’s 25% faster thanks to the new Tegra X1+ processor, and it includes new AI-enhanced 4K upscaling that actually works, improving both the clarity of HD images and the vibrancy of colors on a 4K screen. Additionally, the chip supports real-time transcoding, which means that if you have a NAS drive full of files in various formats, you can stream them without issue. When combined with support for Dolby Vision HDR, Dolby Atmos, and DTS-X surround sound, this is a true AV powerhouse.
You have access to all the software available on the Google Play store if you’re running the official Google TV OS. Plex is preinstalled, and you can still install Kodi if you’re looking for something other than Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer, and the other usual suspects. Additionally, while the 16GB of onboard storage is limited, it can always be expanded via a USB 3.0 external drive.
The Shield TV Pro’s other major selling point is its gaming capabilities. Not only can the Tegra X1+ handle the most popular titles on Google Play, but it can also stream games directly from Nvidia’s GeForce Now service, allowing you to play your PC games on your TV (provided the games in it are supported by the service). For some Kodi enthusiasts, this may be excessive, and the new Shield TV “stick” may be more appealing – it runs the same software and features the same Tegra X1+ chip. Overall, this is the ultimate Android TV bundle.
Key specs – Core spec: Quad-core Tegra X1+ processor, 3GB RAM, 16GB storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Operating system: Android TV on Android 9.0 Pie; Core apps: Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Plex, GeForce Now; Voice-enabled remote: Yes
2. Amazon Fire TV Stick (2021): Flexible, stable and readily available
Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon
While it is a stick, not a box, and does not appear to run Android, it does run Google’s operating system beneath Amazon’s custom Fire TV interface, and there are streaming applications such as Plex available on Amazon’s app store. While this is not true for Kodi, there are methods for downloading and installing it, as well as a variety of other TV-friendly apps, via sideloading or specific downloader apps.
While the entry-level Fire TV stick performs admirably, its 1GB of RAM, quad-core CPU, and 8GB of storage make it feel underpowered. The 2021 firestick is identical to its predecessor in terms of hardware and software; the only difference is that the 2021 model features a slightly updated remote with a Channel Guide button and four app buttons that instantly launch apps such as Amazon Prime or Netflix (the specific apps vary region to region). If you’re more of a Kodi enthusiast, you might want to spring for the 4K version, which includes a faster CPU and 1.5GB of RAM – not to mention 4K video support.