Welcome to the wonderful world of cord cutting. Saving hundreds of dollars a year on overpriced packages full of programs that nobody wants is what we do here (yeah I’m looking at you CSPAN 12).
There are many options to choose from when looking for a good Android TV box. One thing you should be aware of is that some Android TV box manufacturers will void your warrantee if you install a media server like Kodi or Plex.
Some won’t even let you install Kodi at all!!
In this guide we’ve selected the best Android TV boxes that won’t give you any extra headaches that you don’t need.
If you’re curious (or in a hurry):
Which Android TV Boxes Made The Cut:
1. Best Overall Box - ABOX A1 Android TV Box With Octa-Core & 64-bit ARM
2. Best Premium Box -MINIX NEO U9-H A3, 64-bit Octa-Core Media Hub
3. Best Budget Box - ABOX Lite Android TV Box Amlogic S905X 64 Bit
4. Best Gaming Box - NVIDIA SHIELD TV Streaming Media Player
5. Best Prime Box - Fire TV | Streaming Media Player
Top 3 Android TV Boxes:
1. ABOX A1 - Best Overall Android TV Box
When on sale, It’s also a great deal.
For under $100 you get a powerful 750MHz+ ARM Mali-820MP3 GPU processor, 2GB of expandable ram and a full QWERTY keyboard.
I would highly recommend you purchase the additional QWERTY keyboard to go along with the A1.
I have several TV boxes hooked up and many of them run off of voice commands (Apple TV & Fire TV). While this is a nice feature I find that it doesn’t work all that well sometimes.
For example, if I say something that it doesn’t recognize (like trying to watch lucky number slevin) it will refuse to pull it up.
I then have to go through that annoying on screen keyboard and type it in one painful letter at a time.
With the QWERTY keyboard I can just quickly punch in what I’m looking for. Bam. Done. Ahhh... much better!
It also comes with a dual 2.4 and 5GHZ antenna for faster wifi.
I will say though that just like any TV box, you will be better off if you can manage to plug it directly into your router via an ethernet cable.
This will cut down on needless buffering, lag time, and dropped connections when you’re right in the middle of the tear jerking climax of the movie. (I had a feeling that Han Solo was going get it but going out that way just wasn’t right!).
This is an overall great box for the price and comes with extra hardware that makes it all the more worth it.
Great value. Has everything you’ll want. Current Kodi & Plex compatible. I find myself using this box more often than the others, and haven't had any issues with it. Would recommend for anyone looking for a solid Android TV box.
1. Minix - Best Premium Android TV Box
The Minix U9-H is top of the line when it comes to features.
Only the Nvidia Shield, (which is more of a gaming box) has better specs but it costs you anywhere from $40 to $140 more depending on the model you choose.
What makes this box unique is that it offers you full access to the Google play store.
Other units limit entry to only the apps that they want you to have.
The latest version of this Android TV box has an octa-core processor (double what it had before) for smoother streaming of advanced formats like 4k.
They have also upgraded from Android OS Lollipop 5.1 to Marshmallow 6.0.1.
This is still a version behind. At the time of this writing, Android is currently on Nougat 7.0.
Minix has made the decision to stay a version behind so that they can make sure that their boxes are stable and don’t have crashing issues that many devices have with bleeding edge software.
It also comes with A/C dual band wifi. If you have a compatible router (you should, really just get one) you can stream through the fastest possible network connection. Obviously important when loading up bandwidth hogs like 4k video.
Another unique feature is the remote control. It has a built-in gyroscope controlled mouse. This allows for finer control of the menu options inside the software. Just point and shoot.
It also has a keyword built into the back of the control if you get the pro version.
While the new version does support voice input, I’ve found that sometimes it just doesn’t pick-up what I’m saying if there is loud background noise. It also confuses words sometimes and I’m forced to enter it in manually.
It also really sucks to have to enter in passwords using a remote control.
So the built-in keyboard is great! Very useful.
Now for the downsides.
First, while it will play games, you can’t stream from your PC like with Nvidia shield. Not a big deal for most but if you’re a hardcore gamer you will really miss this functionality.
Also, while having full access to the Google play store is great, not all software will play nice with the Android TV.
Many games available in the play store are not optimized for the television. They are optimized for touch screens like your phone or tablet.
Other than that this box has everything you need.
If you are a cord cutter you can use Kodi and multiple apps on this device and everything will run smoothly.This device is one of the best you will see, especially when running 4k content.
- Full Access To Google Play Store
- Keyboard/Mouse Built Into Remote
- Fast Processor For Smooth 4k Playback
- Not All Apps Play Nice With Android TV
- Bulky Antenna On The Back
2. Nvidia Shield - Best Android Box For Gaming
The Nvidia Shield is mostly geared toward gamers but with its 256 core processor, it is an Ultra hi-def streaming mega monster.
You can run 4k content from Netflix (which you can’t do on some other boxes) and it now has access to Amazon Prime’s video content.
You can also run the Shield as a Plex server so you can download and stream content to other devices like your phone from anywhere you are.
If you’re going to go the server route I recommend getting the pro version of the Shield because it has 500 gigs of internal service. You can get that here...
The Shield also has google cast (formerly chrome cast) built in so that you can stream directly from an android device directly to your tv (if you have an iPhone you can also stream through the Nvidia Shield).
Ok, let’s get into what this box is really built for. Gaming...First, you get a gaming controller in the box.
They’ve upgraded and streamlined the controller to make it smaller and more comfortable in your hand.
It has several ports and the center button allows you to voice control the Shield right from the controller.
You get access to Nvidia’s GEForce streaming service that allows for 1080p 60fps gaming for around $8 bucks a month.
They have many great titles included in the service for free and you also have the option to purchase AAA games like the Witcher 3.
Another really great feature for gamers, GameStream, allows you to stream games from your PC straight to your television.
Be aware that you do have to have a Nvidia graphics card installed on your Windows machine. Also, if you have a game that requires a mouse and keyboard, there are ports on the back of the Shield to plug in a wireless dongle.
The downside to the Nvidia Shield is the price. If you are just looking for a streaming Android TV box then you should definitely look at the other devices on this list.
It also doesn’t have an HDMI cable included in the box. For the price they should have thrown one in… Just sayin’.
It is also a closed ecosystem.
They have a custom skin that limits the choices you have for installing apps out of the box. That means that you will have to side load any extra apps that you want onto the Shield yourself.
Other than that, the Shield is a great, fast, fun Android TV box and I highly recommend it!
The Nvidia Shield is insanely snappy and runs games extremely well. It can handle all of your 4k video content streaming needs without a problem and you can play a lot of really fun and challenging games.
- Stream Games From Your PC
- Great Gaming Titles W/ GEForce
- Price (Unless You're Getting It For Gaming)
- No HDMI Cable Included
3. Amazon Fire TV - Best For Prime Subscribers
The Fire TV is Amazon’s version of an Android TV box. It comes with it’s own apps, it’s own menu, and it doesn’t have direct access to the Google Play store.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t download and install apps like Kodi. It just means that it’s more difficult and takes more time.
While they are getting more versatile, it does prioritize content from its Prime video membership service. If you have Amazon Prime (which you should :)) then you should definitely consider getting a Fire TV.
That’s because of the easy access and spot on voice search to Prime video content.
The Amazon ecosystem is getting stronger.
With the invention of the Echo for smart home control and the ability to listen to just about any song ever, Amazon has a pretty solid case for controlling your TV as well.
Alexa Do My Laundry:
You can do voice search with Alexa to pull up your prime content along with ordering a pizza or adding things to your to-do list that you forgot about while watching the latest movie.
This box also supports Ultra 4k video and has a micro USB port for extended capability.
It also has a USB port on the back so that you can plug in auxiliary remote control to replace the one that comes with it.
That brings me to the one thing that I don’t like about the Fire TV.
I hate the remote… a lot.
It doesn’t have a volume control so if I want to turn down the volume I have to search for my main TV remote. Not cool.
It also doesn’t change to the HDMI input when I press any of the buttons. I have to once again, track down my main TV remote and switch the input manually.
Soooo, I recommend purchasing the Sideclick. It's an attachment for the Fire remote that allows you to control volume and other important functions that Amazon for whatever reason left out.
You can get that here...
Fire TV vs Fire TV Stick:
Before I finish up here I wanted to make a quick mention about the differences between the stick and the box.
First, the box is faster. You can plug an ethernet cable directly into the back of the box which eliminates the need for WiFi. While WiFi is great, an ethernet cable is going to be faster and less likely to drop the connection.
Second is the ports. The Stick doesn’t have a micro USB port so you’re stuck with 8gb while you can upgrade the box to 134gb.
The stick also doesn’t have a USB port so you’re stuck with the crummy remote that comes with the Fire.
If you just want something that you can plug in and go, the Amazon Fire TV is excellent. It's far and away the best choice if you have a Prime video subscription. If you have some technical knowledge (or can follow a youtube video 🙂 ) you can still install 3rd party apps like Kodi.
- Easy Access To Prime Video Content
- Friendly User Interface
- Alexa Integration
- The Remote
- That Stinkin' Remote
4. ABox - Best Budget Android TV Box
If you’re just looking for something to easily access your basic streaming media and games, then my recommendation is to stick with the basic model.
The basic model does come with a respectable remote that allows you to control most functions you need, easily and accurately.
You can do all the standard things with this box like play games, install popular apps like Kodi and Netflix and watch Youtube videos.
It comes with an 8 core processor so your playback is smooth, even when watching 4k video.
The Dual band wifi antenna allows speeds up to 100mbps. Plenty enough for most but if you’re one of the lucky ones who has Google fiber installed in your home then this box won’t allow you to reach the full potential of your connection.
The ABox has a basic install of Android Marshmallow and it doesn’t allow you to playback Amazon Prime Video content at the moment so if that’s a concern then you might want to look at another one of the boxes on this list.
Solid Android TV box that allows for basic streaming and gaming. Nice full featured remote included and the ability to upgrade to a fully featured qwerty keyboard and mouse for more control.
- Fast 4k Playback
- No Voice Control
- 100mb Connection Cap
5. Sony X850D - Best Android Television Integration
If you want to ditch the extra box hanging off the back of your television, consider getting a fully integrated Android TV…. TV.
Some smart TV integrations like the one that comes with Samsung televisions are, how do I say this nicely… Garbage!
Not so with the Sony X850D and its direct Android TV integration...To start the unit itself has a fantastic picture. I would recommend this television even if it didn’t have Android installed as its smart operating system.
It’s super thin and comes in 55’ 65’ 75’ and the ultra crazy 85’ inch models.
As for the Android TV integration, it’s great!
You have full access to the google play store and with it’s 8gb of internal storage and the ability to plug in a 1tb hard drive directly into the TV, you can download any app in the store.
Being a Sony television, you also have access to the Playstation store.
It also has Google cast installed so you can easily beam apps from your phone to your TV.
The downsides are that it doesn’t come with great speakers out of the box. You will probably want to get at least a sound bar to go with it.
The remote control, while functional, is not great.
If you’re in the market for a new television, I highly recommend checking out the Sony line of Android integrated smart TVs. It will save you from having to purchase, install and maintain a separate box.
The Sony X850D is easy to configure and set up and it has a fantastic picture. With it’s integrated Android Tv, you can stream movies and play games easily on Google’s fantastic software platform.
- Direct Android TV Integration
- Fantastic Picture
- Easy Smart TV Setup
- Sound Not Great Out Of The Box
How To Choose The Best Android TV Box For YOUR Needs:
Android TV vs Chromecast:
My biggest question when I started researching Android TV boxes was, why not just get a Google Chromecast and save the few extra bucks.
Well, the answer is that while the Chromecast is great for things like traveling when you don’t want to take a bulky box on the road, it has a limited number of features over the Andriod TV.
To begin, it is a streaming device and does not have any internal storage. That means that you will need a phone, tablet or laptop to connect to the Chromecast for it to work.
You also can’t stream Amazon Prime video from your phone without extreme difficulty. Some Android TV boxes come loaded with the Amazon app already installed and it’s ready to go from the time you set it up.
The Chromecast also doesn’t have a remote. You control the action from your phone or laptop.
I personally don’t like this. I like the tactile feeling of the remote in my hand and being able to control things in the dark vs turning on a bright screen in the middle of a movie.
First off, if you are getting an Android TV to use for gaming I highly recommend the Nvidia Shield.
Gaming is what it was born to do.
I’ll get back to that in a second but let’s talk about the gaming options on Android TV…
To begin, there are some really fun games. Old classics like Soul Calibur, Final Fantasy, and GTA along with new favorites make this a great inexpensive option to some of the more expensive consoles.
You will need to purchase a game controller but the price still comes in way under the four hundred or so bucks that you’d pay for a PS4 Pro.
Not saying that the Android TV is better than new generation consoles by any means but if you’re a casual gamer, it will more than satisfy your needs.
If you are buying an Android TV with an eye toward gaming, get the Nvidia Shield.
Nvidia is well known for its graphic cards installed in many of today's high-end gaming PC’s. To that end, the Shield can render some really beautiful graphics.
With the proper hardware and software, you can stream games right from your PC to your television through the Shield.
If you want more info on the Nvidia Shield you can read the full review up above in this article.
Many people purchase Android TV boxes to install the Kodi Media server.
Koki plugins, if you’re unfamiliar, allows you to stream TV, movies, and music for free.
I’m not going to make a judgment here but many would say that some of the available functionality of Kodi… is illegal.
With that said, if Kodi is what you are looking for then all of the TV boxes on this list will allow you to install and use the software.
Android TV Box Channels & Apps -
If you have an Andriod TV box with Chromecast abilities like the Nvidia Shield, you can get the Youtube TV bundle.
It includes channels like ABC, CBS, ESPN, Disney and more. This marks a big shift in the way we watch TV.
Before it was all about $100 - $200 cable subscriptions with tons of channels we didn’t care about.
Now you will be able to get the basics for around $35 bucks and then add any niche programming that you want through apps.
4K & Various Formats:
If you want to get the most out of your new 4k television then you want to make sure that your TV box is capable of streaming 4k content like the new Fire TV from Amazon.
Be aware, though, that even though it will stream 4k, it might not be compatible with certain apps.
For example, Netflix will stream in 4k but not on all boxes.
Also, most boxes support H.264, H.263, Mpeg4, VP8, MJPEG, and AVI. You can also expand the capability and formats by downloading apps in the google play store.
Setting up a Plex server is something that’s been on my todo list for a long time.
I’ve been dying to put all my favorite old movies DVD’s like the complete series of Monty Python on the network so I can stream it anywhere.
Whoops, I’m getting ahead of myself.
I guess I should explain what a Plex server is first…
Plex allows you stream your media anywhere, from any device.
You can set it up on a computer or certain boxes like the Nvidia Shield.
Then you rip your DVD’s to the device (or external storage hard drive) and you have a beautiful graphical interface to all of your media.
That means no more loading a DVD when you want to watch a movie and no more having to pay premium prices for old content that you already own.
While you can only install the media server on the Nvidia Shield, other boxes on this list will allow you to install the streaming app which allows you to watch Plex content.
Android TV & Google Home:
Currently, if your TV is Android capable you can turn it on and off with your voice and change channels by calling it out if you have a Google Home.
So you could say “Ok Google, change it to the kid's channel” and it will change the channel for you. You could see how this could be helpful with your children.
Also, they are currently working on getting the Google assistant loaded directly into the boxes themselves like the Nvidia Shield and Sony televisions.
In the near future, you will be able to ask your television questions, pull up your Google calendar and load your work commute right from the largest screen in your home. Rad!
Optional Accessories -
You can purchase an optional keyboard / mouse combo for better control of your Amazon TV box. Allows you to enter in passwords easily and play games that require a keyboard.
With the exception of the Nvidia Shield, none of the boxes on this list come with a game controller. I've found one that will work with all Android TV installations.
Final Words - Wrapping It Up
If you’re looking for the best overall Android TV box go with the Minix if it's in your budget. It’s fast and can handle most things that you can throw at it.
For gaming (or if you are a mega hardcore media streamer) get the Nvidia Shield. It’s powerful and if you have a good internet connection, it will play beautiful, graphically intense games no problem.
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