Streaming devices and set-top boxes are becoming major staples in the homes of those who wish to cut the cord or augment their current television viewing experience. While there is no real shortage of available set-top boxes and streaming sticks on the market, there are quite a few that are heads and shoulders above the rest, especially in the Android TV market. Here are some of the best available Android TV boxes on the market.
Gaming & Streaming
NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)
The NVIDIA Shield is a pure powerhouse in the Android TV ecosystem. With hands-free operation, courtesy of either Google Assistant or the Alexa ecosystem, as well as GeForce NOW game streaming, 4K HDR video streaming with Dolby Atmos audio, and access to the full Google Play Store, the NVIDIA Shield is a top pick for anyone looking to bring the Android TV experience home.
$150 at Amazon
Small and Functional
Xiaomi Mi Box S
Xiaomi’s Mi Box S isn’t the most powerful Android TV box, but it makes up for it with its 4K HDR streaming capabilities. The Mi Box S also has full access to the Google Play Store and Google Cast capabilities, making for a serviceable entry-level Android TV box for anyone.
$53 at Amazon
Another budget pick
Ematic Jetstream 4K Ultra HD TV Box
Ematic’s Jetstream is one of the newer boxes on the market, and it’s a great middle-of-the-road box. Released in mid-2018, the Jetstream supports Android Oreo right out of the box, and it is one of the few certified Android TV set-top boxes with Netflix certification and 4K UHD playback.
$67 at Walmart
3D and 4K
VANKYO MatrixBox X95A
The VANKYO MatrixBox X95A doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but this Android TV box comes with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage. The real impressive part is that you can use the X95A to stream not only 4K content but also 3D content if that’s your kind of thing. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to take advantage of the more-reliable 5GHz Wi-Fi networks; you’re limited to just 2.4GHz connections.
$33 at Amazon
Fun with Alexa
Amazon Fire TV Cube
The Fire TV stick is fine for most applications, but the Fire TV Cube steps things up a notch. You’ll get all of the normal features such as streaming up to 4K HDR10+ content, but there’s much more. The Fire TV Cube doubles as an Alexa speaker so you can find a new show or movie to watch or control your soundbar without fumbling with a remote. Amazon also packed in 16GB of onboard storage and a hexa-core process to help power your home setup.
$120 at Amazon
Roku is a big player in the streaming game; its products are some of the most popular that you can get today. The Roku Ultra is capable of streaming in 4K HDR, provided that your TV is compatible, along with offering an Ethernet port for hard-wired streaming. However, the fun comes with the remote, which you can use to control the Roku itself. It also features a built-in headphone jack and a set of Premium JBL headphones for “private listening” sessions.
$78 at Amazon
What’s up with the limited options for Android TV set-top boxes?
Android TV’s start was extremely rough, leaving sour tastes in the mouths of many. The Nexus Player by ASUS was severely under-powered with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of onboard storage and overpriced, making many interesting balks at buying the device. Despite getting updates as far as Android Oreo — the device shipped with Android Lollipop — the Nexus Player was marred by several issues, such as networking issues and device bricking, the latter happening as recent as Summer 2018.
The Razer Forge TV was possibly the worst Android TV box that was released, while the NVIDIA Shield is largely considered the cream of the crop.
However, 2015 saw the best Android TV rise, while the worst of Android TV make a brief showing. The NVIDIA Shield is a powerhouse of an Android TV set-top box, with access to both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, as well as the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa connectivity, and the ability to become a smart hub via the Samsung SmartThings Link adapter. The NVIDIA Shield TV can also stream games from the PC via NVIDIA GeForce Now or the Steam Link app.
Android TV is growing, and things are looking quite promising for the platform.
Missteps such as the lack of Netflix support and not fulfilling their promise to stream games from the PC led to the Razer Forge leaving the market less than seven months later in November of 2015. Additionally, Xiaomi’s Mi Box S and the Ematic Jetstream are just as readily available in the United States as the NVIDIA Shield. However, more 4K smart TVs are equipped with Android TV from companies such as Sony, Philips, Sharp, and Hisense, than there are available consumer-grade Android TV set-top boxes. One out of every ten smart TVs host Android TV’s OS, and even though this trails Samsung’s Tizen OS and Roku TV, it’s popularity is growing at an amazing clip, as Google takes more stock in its television OS.
2019 has been extremely generous to those of us wanting more from an Android TV box with the updated release of both the Shield TV and Shield TV Pro. NVIDIA took all of the best traits from its original Shield lineup and brought them along while adding many features that users were looking for. The standard Shield TV has been completely redesigned, while the Shield TV Pro keeps that sleek look from the first generation.
If we’re making some suggestions
The Android TV box that we here at Android Central recommend is the NVIDIA Shield TV (2019). What makes the NVIDIA Shield a great Android TV box other than the 4K HDR output with Dolby Atmos audio is the integration with Samsung SmartThings, as well as full access to the Google Play marketplace and the included Google Assistant functionality. You can even control your Shield TV box with your Alexa-enabled devices via Amazon’s NVIDIA Shield skill for Alexa.
The Xiaomi Mi Box S compared to the NVIDIA Shield isn’t the most powerful device, but for an entry-level Android TV box, it gets the job done. It’s one of the few official Android TV-certified boxes and is well known for its capability for 4K HDR output.