Looking for a great Android TV box? Want one that's packed with features, supports 4K, and let's you do pretty much exactly what you want with minimal fuss?
Good. You're in the right place.
During the past 18-24 months, I have had the pleasure of testing out way too many Android TV boxes and media streamers. Android TV boxes of all shapes and sizes. And during this time I have managed to put together a list of the best Android TV boxes in the business.
Android TV boxes are great for people that want a lot of choices for TV and Movies but don't want to be tied down with something like Sky Q, which costs quite a lot per month.
With an Android TV box, you have access to a myriad of applications and content from all kinds of sources. Google Play is jam-packed with tons of TV shows and movies which you can buy and rent.
Conversely, apps like Netflix, Hulu and other VOD services are readily available on the platform. Get yourself a VPN and you can access US content in the UK and UK content in the US.
American Netflix is now pretty tricky to access in the UK, following Netflix's war on VPNs. This unpopular move was met with plenty of anger from UK subscribers but doesn't appear to have hurt the company's bottom line in any real meaningful way.
Amazon has raised its game dramatically in the past 18 months, however, championing new content and inking plenty of new licensing deals. If you have both you will have plenty of choice, though I do find myself using Amazon more these days.
Android TV boxes are also CHEAP.
This means if you're operating on a budget, you can get yourself up and running for very little money.
This list isn't just a list of ALL the Android TV boxes you can buy right now; rather, it is merely a selection of the absolute best – either for features, price or value for money or, in some cases, all three.
What The Deuce Is An Android TV Box, Anyway?
Good question. A lot of people are unsure what exactly constitutes an Android TV box – and with good reason too.
The market itself is super confusing, as some run Android, some run skinned versions of Android and others, well, they don't run Android at all.
This list features a range of units; some that run proper Android TV and some that don't.
People call them Android TV boxes because, well… that's just what they've become known as, though true Android TV box devices, devices like the Shield TV, run Google Play services straight up.
The incorrect naming convention is similar to people calling vacuum cleaners Hoovers. Sort of.
Either way, the actual "concept" of what people refer to, colloquially, as an Android TV box is pretty simple: basically, it's a small, web-connected unit that attaches to your HDTV via HDMI and it lets you download apps and stream content from your phone, laptop or PC.
And Then There's Kodi…
Kodi Boxes, some of which are included in this list, occupy a legally grey area. They aren't themselves illegal, but some of the things you CAN do with them are.
A good basic rule of thumb when using Kodi is this: if it feels too good to be true, like, you're watching a film just released in the cinema in 4K on your HDTV at home via a Kodi add-on, chances are you're doing so via an illegal add-on.
So, as always: proceed with caution.
Unsure what I'm talking about? Check out our Guide To Kodi: Everything You Need To Know.
Below are my picks for the best Android TV box and media streaming boxes for 2017 – in no particular order.
NVIDIA Shield TV
The Mac Daddy. The King. The Big Show. The Elvis of Android TV Boxes – NVIDIA's Shield TV is all of these things and more. And what a brilliant piece of kit this thing is; it has power, features, specs and hardware that'd make your laptop envious.
It's also an exceptional device for gaming on and it comes with a great Xbox-style controller. The NVIDIA Shield TV runs a pure version of Android TV, which is great for apps, content and games and, if Kodi is your thang, it can also do that too.
NVIDIA has added in support for 4K videoplay inside Google Play and Amazon Prime Video, as well as providing excellent specs for streaming games to your big TV either from your own PC or a network like Steam.
SHIELD's many features include:
- Awesome Entertainment, One Device: Simplify the living room with a single device for all entertainment needs — TV shows, films, music, games and apps.
- 4K Everything: Watch your favorite Netflix series — as well as content from YouTube, Kodi and elsewhere — in Ultra HD 4K as SHIELD Android TV delivers the best 4K media streaming experience with full 4K at 60 fps support.
- Amazing Games: Play amazing games — next-gen Android games, NVIDIA GeForce NOW cloud games and PC GameStream™ games — only on SHIELD.
- Experience Latest Apps and Content: Check out popular apps in Europe like Netflix, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Sky News, Zattoo, my TF1, Magine, France TV, STV Play and Sport1.
- Built-in Chromecast and Google Voice: Quickly access content with Google voice search and commands — using the SHIELD remote and SHIELD controller — plus cast apps from Android or iOS phones to the big screen TV.
This is basically the Android TV Box to end all Android TV Boxes; nothing else on this list comes even close to how good the NVIDIA Shield TV is – it is a marvel in every sense of the word.
The NVIDIA Shield TV is the most expensive Android TV box on this list. But it is also the best by a considerable margin. Still, for the price you get A TON of features, masses of spec and hardware and access to a myriad of content via Android TV services and things like Kodi.
If you're in the US, you can pick up the Shield for $199 via BH Photo & Video.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
This is a great little budget option for those that want all the benefits of an Android TV box, just without actually buying an Android TV box – this isn't one; it does run a version of Android but it doesn't feature Google Play services. It's also not a box, either. The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a dongle-like device that slots directly into one of your TV's HDMI ports.
Once it's plugged in you have access to ALL of Amazon's excellent video services as well as hundreds of applications and games. Netflix is there. Ditto Hulu if you're in the US and, yes, the Amazon Fire TV Stick also runs Kodi. In fact it is one of the best options on this list for Kodi. Find out why here.
In order to get the maximum out of Amazon's Fire TV Stick you will need an Amazon Prime Membership. Unsure about whether you want one? Check out our review of Amazon Prime for a full breakdown on the pros and cons of selling your soul to Amazon.
Google Chromecast ULTRA
Chromecast is brilliant. It's cheap, super easy to use and works pretty much without a hitch once you have it installed. I use mine every day and it is one of the most useful pieces of technology to launch in a good, long while.
There are plenty of Chromecast options out there, even Chromecast Ultra which brings support for 4K output for all you high-rollers out there with 4K TVs.
Chromecast isn't an Android TV Box per se; it's more of a conduit that uses your Wi-Fi network and phone, tablet and/or PC to stream content to your TV. It is still a great option and definitely worth having if you don't already own one.
Unknown, obscure brand? Check. Big claims about features and functionality? Check. Excellent pricing? Check. The Q-Box might look and sound a bit dodgy but it is a very capable unit despite its rather mysterious origins.
Tonbux is a Chinese company (no, I'd never heard of them before, either) and usually that is a sign for concern. However, the Q-Box 4K is a bloody excellent piece of kit with tons of features and a great price tag to match.
The Q-Box comes preloaded with Netflix, YouTube and Kodi and, as the name proudly boasts, it will also output 4K content. And all for a very reasonable price.
Want a Kodi box? Check out our guide to the best Kodi boxes you can buy in 2017.
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