Aug 23 2016
Best Android TV Box Review
Are you tired of cable companies bleeding you dry of your money? Would you like to finally give them that long-winded “expletive” speech you’ve been meaning to for ages? Or maybe pull a Cartman on them? Well, with these reviews on the Best Android TV Box, you just might be able to do it.
All jokes aside, though, what is the Best Android TV Box? The “Box” (stemming from the shape of it) part is actually a portmanteau for a whole range of similar appliances, aka streaming media players, while “Android TV” simply indicates which operating system it uses (Android Lollipop 5.0 or higher). There’s no clear-cut definition as to what exactly makes a TV Box, so what type of a streaming media player you should buy depends primarily on what services you want to use.
Some of the must-haves you should be looking out for when buying your Android TV Box are a decent operating system (today, it’s 5.1 Lollipop or newer), 5.1 Audio Passthrough, as well as a good decoder (essentially, what helps the box decompress images for up to 8k res), preferably H.265.
This is the holy trinity, but there’s more – for example, many folks forget about updating the firmware. Luckily, with OTA (Over The Air) Firmware update app, you’ll able to keep up with the changes almost automatically. Another feature that might be important is the capability of dynamic refresh rate switching; let’s put it this way – having a device that runs 60Hz is all good and well, but if you put a 24Hz movie through it, it’ll come out sloppy, so get one that switches the refresh rate automatically, so you don’t have to do it manually.
Naturally, you’ll also need good connectivity (Dual Band WiFI, or Gigabit Ethernet, take your pick), as well as some means of connection to other hardware, and external memory drives (definitely a HDMI 2.0 port, as well as USB 3.0, though 2.0 is still valid, old as it is). Finally, (not that’s crucial) try and find something with the latest version of Kodi. Yes, you can customize your own, but stock installations are much more stable.
NVIDIA SHIELD – 4K HDR Streaming Media Player
We kick off this list with the priciest thing on it – the NVIDIA SHIELD. Though you need to shell almost twice as much as you would for most other set-boxes, rest assured you’ll know where each and every penny went.
The SHIELD is not so much a champion of innovation, as it’s a powerhouse. Like most set-top boxes, it offers interactive TV experience in a single device, but it’s geared heavily towards gaming, at least when it comes to similar products.
This little fella enables you to get the most out of Netflix and YouTube, thanks to the support for 4K HDR in Netflix, 4K 60fps in YouTube, as well as universal voice search and private listening in both. Moreover, you’ll have access to a host of other apps, such as Twitch, HULU, HBO, or Spotify, and, naturally, Kodi. As a matter of fact, as one of the diamond sponsors of the Kodi Team, NVIDIA, and the SHIELD enjoy their full support.
The box is the winner when it comes to the internal storage capacity – full 16GB, though you won’t even need it with its 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet. For something else, there’s a MicroSD card slot for additional storage, as well as two USB 3.0 and one USB-micro port, as well as one HDMI 2.0.
- Great sound output, with 5.1 and 7.1 Audio Passthrough
- Powerful CPU and GPU
- Great storage capacity, especially compared to the rest of the class
- The controller is fairly user-friendly
- Doesn’t support Amazon Prime Video
- Can’t watch 3D in 1080, though it’s debatable how much of a loss that is
So, whether you plan to enjoy some Netflix, or play the latest gen Android games, or just listen to your favorite playlist, you can rely on the NVIDIA SHIELD to give you the best money can buy.
Matricom G-Box Q² Android TV Streaming Media Mini PC
The latest G-Box Q2 model from Matricom features a faster processor than its predecessors, new and improved user interface, as well as the latest Android 5-series TV Operating System. Unlike the previous item on this list, the G-Box Q² fully supports Amazon Prime video and is a strong contender for the best android TV box.
With a Quad Core S812 CPU and the more than adequate Mali-450 Octo Core 3D GPU, this little bad boy can give you smooth performance, and a full Android experience. If it’s made for Android, be it a game or app, this bad boy will run it without a hitch, and you can personalize it whichever way you want. However, it’s designed with Kodi Media Center in mind, so it’s optimized for it and able to fully support it. A veritable bounty of free streaming add-ons allows you to cut the cord, or cancel the satellite subscription.
- Great storage space
- Easy, one-click update
- Unconditional one-year warranty
- The launcher suffers from the double-press syndrome on the remote
- No playback controls on the remote
- The UI could be a lot more user-friendly
This is a very powerful piece of equipment, but if you’re new to the world of streaming media players, you should probably have someone over to help you set it up, and be available at all times to answer your questions.
Minix Neo U1 Android 5.1 Google Smart Kodi TV Box
If you’re looking to get the best android TV box & bang for the buck, you just might settle with the Minix Neo U1. Like all other items on this list, the U1 fully supports Kodi, as well as a ton of other media player apps. It’s also capable of local media playback via a USB 2.0 and an HDMI 2.0 port, as well as Internet radio and audio streaming services, screen-casting, Skyping, and whatever else floats your boat.
Stay online with the 802.11ac 2 x 2 MIMO Dual-Band Wi-Fi, capable of smooth and surprisingly fast live-streaming, as well as Gigabit Ethernet for a wired connection. In other words, whether you enjoy watching your favorite Let’s-Players on Twitch, gaming online and even live-streaming yourself, then this puppy got you covered.
The package includes FOTA (Firmware Over The Air), so you won’t have to worry about keeping the device up-to-date,
- Comes with a user manual, SV/A3 adapter, HDMI cable, and RC7 keyboard
- Fairly friendly User Interface
- Very flexible and easily customizable OS
- Doesn’t have USB 3.0 ports
- Isn’t recognized by Netflix
This little fella is built with video purists in mind, so if watching movies is your top priority, it will give you amazing cinematic experience.
Idroidnation I-Box “PRO”
If you’re looking the real set-top box for neophytes, then look no further than Idroidnation I-Box PRO. Granted, it does have a learning curve, but it’s nowhere near as steep as with some of the other models, even ones on this list.
The I-Box PRO lets you turn any old TV into a smart TV, and bring all the wonders of the Internet into your living room, and on a big screen. This puppy comes with Play Store, YouTube, Netflix, and a host of other apps preinstalled, so it’s a true plug-and-play. If, however, you decide you want to customize it a bit, you’re free to do so.
For your viewing pleasure, the I-Box PRO features the RK3368 64bit Octa core Cortex A53 CPU, as well as the H.264/H.265 real-time decoding hardware. It has 16GB of its own storage, as well as a Micro-SD card slot for up to 64Gb, as well as a USB 2.0 port for bigger drives.
- Comes with Kodi preinstalled
- Great storage capacity
- Pleasant and helpful customer support service
- The remote is pretty much useless, works better with mouse and keyboard
- The manual is useless unless you’re used to Android phones or tablets
If you were looking for the right TV Box to buy for your mom, then this little plug-and-play is just the thing you need.
SkyStream X4 Android TV Box
Here’s a little item that has something for everybody. The SkyStream X4 comes close to NVIDIA and Matricom when it comes to CPU power, thanks to its S812 Amlogic A9 Quad Core Neon HD CPU and Mali450 Octo Core High-Performance 3D GPU, the heart and soul of this little beast.
This combines with the 2.4Ghz/5Ghz WiFi and 10/100 Ethernet to give you smooth streaming experience, be it surfing the web, watching movies, playing games, or streaming yourself. For your convenience, this little fella comes with a number of preinstalled apps and services, such as Fully Loaded & Pre-programmed KODI, SkyStream KODI Updater App, Facebook, YouTube, NetFlix, Google Chrome, RootExplorer, Skype, and much more. Moreover, the Android OS allows you to customize it to your heart’s content.
One minor drawback is that it features an older version of HDMI port, as well as USB, but that’s just a minor gripe. A major one would be that it doesn’t have the Lollipop OS, but rather the Android 4.4 KitKat OS. It remains to be seen how this reflects on software updates. This is still a contender for the best android TV box.
- Very versatile
- Great storage capacity
- Comes with lots of preinstalled apps
- Older version of Android OS
- Doesn’t have a USB 3.0 port
- Doesn’t have an HDMI 2.0 port, but a 1.4
Paired with a wireless keyboard and a trackpad, this little box is near perfect for playing streaming media, your own local media, or running any type of apps; and it’s kind to your budget.
Final Verdict on Best Android TV Box
So, when all is said and done, is buying a set-top box really necessary? OK, that’s maybe too strong a word, but if you want to turn your TV into a smart TV so that you don’t have to depend on your computer for all the online fun to be had, then, yes, you need a set-top. Depending on what you’re going for, there are some recommendations to be made.
If versatility is what you need, then you best get the SKyStream X4; however, if you want a plug-and-play, possibly to give as a present, then the Idroidnation I-Box Pro is the way to go; the Minix Neo U1, though, is the best value for money right now, and it’s made for enjoying movie nights, while the Matricom G-Box Q² is designed with speed and power in mind, and excels at it (that is, until a new gen of Matricom boxes comes along); however, if you have the urge to splurge, and the means to do so, don’t pass up on the NVIDIA SHIELD, as it’s currently the best on the market, and the best thing since sliced bread.