Best Android TV box

**Updated on June 26, 2017**

The internet has become so integrated in our lives that we do most of our media consumption through the internet. All sort of devices can be used to connect to the internet but the best way to enjoy media is right in front of your TV. To stream media from the internet and watch it on a TV you can buy a SMART TV or you can also connect a set-top box if you don’t want to buy a whole new TV.

These set-top boxes come in all shapes and forms but Android TV boxes are the most popular and have a wide range of products that offer different features and come in range of prices from affordable to high end.

What exactly is an Android TV box?

An Android TV box is simply a device running on the Android operating system that connects to your television which allows you to stream media and view through your television. Obviously aside from hardware It might seem like that they are all the same because they run on the same Android operating system but this is so far from the truth. What sets each of these apart is the software or user interface that is presented to the user.

Most Android TV boxes, mostly the cheaper ones from China, are essentially Android tablets that connect to your TV. The way you use a mobile device and a Television are completely different and aside from a few exemptions these TV boxes don’t come close to giving you the full experience of a SMART TV.

SMART TV platforms

A SMART TV platform is very important because it is the user interface of the device. Think of it as the middleman between hardware and user. Here is a pros and cons list of having an official SMART TV platform on your device.

Pros:

  • Big Names – Tend to belong to big companies so you can expect a lot quality and research has been put into it.
  • Specialization – These companies specialize in either media devices or provide media so you can be sure that the user interface is optimized to provide the best experience possible.
  • After sales – Warranties and great customer support.

Cons:

  • Oh, It’s Android? – Although Android is running the show, you probably won’t even tell that it is Android. If you think you can use this just like a normal Android tablet then I’m sorry to disappoint.
  • Ball and Chain – Most of these platforms will tie you down media only available from one source both free and paid media.

Among the many notable SMART TV platforms only two devices take advantage of the Android operating system.

1. Android TV

If somebody is going to make a version of Android specifically for the TV then it might as well be the ones who created Android in the first place. Android TV is the official SMART TV platform that Android uses in their TV’s and set-top boxes. Google’s voice search is a heavy focus with Android TV and it combines their excellent voice recognition with their advance search engine that everyone uses. Being Android TV you can expect to have access to the play store where you can download and install the many apps available, from media streaming apps all the way to graphic intense games.

Nvidia Shield TV

Pros:

  • Hardware – The Shields Nvidia Tegra X1 chip will handle anything you throw at it whether it you’re streaming a 4k movie or playing a game with heavy graphics.
  • Gaming machine – Nvidia specializes in gaming so you can expect the Shield to be a gaming machine. You can also enjoy the many gaming features Nvidia has to offer.
  • Sleek compact form factor – The 2nd generation Shield TV is smaller and more compact than the first which makes setup a breeze.
  • Peripherals bundled – Unlike the 1st version, the new Shield TV already has the remote and controller bundled with the package.

Click here to check out the NVIDIA SHIELD TV on Amazon

Cons:

  • Voice Search – The Shield TV’s voice search is not the best voice recognition among these media devices.
  • Price – As a gaming machine it’s priced around the same with other gaming consoles, but as a TV media streaming device it’s a bit expensive compared to others.
  • Internal Storage – 16GB onboard storage may be a bit limited.

Click here to see the other NVIDIA SHIELD TV Reviews on Amazon

 

2. Fire OS

When Amazon came out with the Fire TV it was running on Amazon’s android based Fire OS. Fire OS is responsible for users to enjoy the virtually unlimited media that Amazon has to offer. The Fire TV is now in it’s 2nd generation and similar to Android TV voice control is a common theme. Users interact with “Alexa” using their voice and she’ll act as your personal assistant. You can basically control your device all just by interacting with Alexa. The best thing about the Fire TV is that you can enjoy Amazon’s vast collection of movies and programs.

Amazon Fire TV

Pros:

  • Alexa – Amazon voice recognition is very responsive and recognizes speech very well.
  • Entertainment Central– With Amazon you virtually have an unlimited amount of media available to you.
  • Speedy User Interface – The user interface is very responsive and fast which is perfect for sifting through all those movies and programs.
  • Compact form factor – The Fire TV has a basic square design and is very compact. If it’s not compact enough for you it has smaller version called the Fire TV Stick

Click here to check out the Amazon Fire TV on Amazon

Cons:

  • User Interface Design – Some love it and some hate it, either way you’re stuck with it for now.
  • Amazon Prime – There are free content you can enjoy but to fully exploit Amazon’s library you have to be a Prime member.
  • Gaming – It’s a great at streaming media but if you want games, then you better stick to the more casual simple games.

Click here to see the other Amazon Fire TV Reviews on Amazon

 

Other platforms:

The two biggest drawbacks of using an official SMART TV platform is not being able to fully utilize the Android OS and being tied down to a specific services. There are very good devices that use their own user interface which acts as a skin over the Android OS, which means you have the option of using it how you would use an Android tablet. It also means that you’re not tied down to specific service like the 2 devices mentioned earlier

 

MINIX NEO U9-H

Pros:

  • Kodi 17.1 – The U9-H supports the latest version of Kodi. Although not mentioned above Kodi is considered to be a notable SMART TV platform.
  • Fast and responsive – With a quad-core processor it’s no surprise that you’ll get smooth and fast performance without any delay.
  • Build Quality – Minix stands out from the rest with it’s excellent build quality and design which leaves other Chinese TV boxes in the dust.
  • Up to date – Minix is known for their excellent customer support and roll up regular updates available online.
  • A3 Remote – The included remote is probably one of the best among Android TV boxes. It has a microphone for voice commands, flip it over and you have a qwerty keyboard and to top it off, it’s an air mouse.

Click here to check out the MINIX NEO U9-H on Amazon

Cons:

  • Large Antenna – This seems like more of a Minix product design and may not be necessarily for improved wifi, but that antenna sticking out doesn’t make it too compact and sleek.
  • No 4K Netflix – There are still a number of 1080 TV nowadays but if you have a 4K TV then you won’t be able to maximize your Netflix experience.
  • For Android Users – As I mentioned earlier this device can be used just like any other Android Tablet so expect it to not be as straightforward and user friendly as other devices. On the other hand if you’re a big Android fan then this is perfect for you.Click here to see the other MINIX NEO U9-H Reviews on Amazon

 

The Best Android TV box:

At this point you probably noticed that all the Android TV boxes here all let you stream movies, watches TV shows, play games and install apps right on your TV in the comfort of your own home. The major differences between them is the media available to you and price.

With that said we have a clear winner.

The Amazon Fire TV

The most important word in “TV media players” is “media” and there is no question that Amazon probably has the most media to offer.

 

According to instantwatcher.com (a database that lists the movies and TV shows of Amazon and Netflix) there is 79,916 movies and 19,315 TV shows for you to watch. It would take 80 years to watch all of the movies on Amazon, and that doesn’t even include the TV shows.

Price is an important factor here because most buyers like yourself are probably getting into the world of media streaming and cable cutting. This means that you don’t want to spend too much money on something you might not enjoy in the end. Fortunately the basic Amazon Fire TV is less then half the price of the Nvidia Shield TV. If that’s still a bit too steep then you’ll love the Fire TV’s little brother the Fire TV stick which is less then half of the price of that!

Click here to check out the Amazon Fire TV Stick on Amazon

The Amazon Fire TV has some drawbacks but if you think about it, they’re not really a big deal. The User interface might be a little ugly for some but you’ll spend hours watching that you probably won’t notice it after a while. Amazon has so much movies and TV shows that being able to only watch stuff on Amazon is not a problem at all. As for gaming then you better know your priorities because it’s either one or the other because you can’t really have both. Nvidia Shield TV tries to do this but it seems they are more catered to gamers then media consumers and the price being equal to other gaming consoles really shows that.

Click here to check out the Amazon Fire TV on Amazon

 

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