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Best Android TV box 2021: The top Android TV devices from Plex, Kodi, Showbox and more to buy this Black Friday

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Looking for a cheap way to stream movies or use Kodi on your TV? These are the best Android TV boxes you can buy

Buying an Android TV box can be baffling. Chances are you've ended up here because you either know what an Android TV box is and want some buying advice – or you've been advised by others that an Android TV box is a solution to your streaming problems but you have no idea what that means. If it’s the latter, we have some bad news: no one really knows what an Android TV box is. There’s no generally accepted definition of what constitutes one of these streaming boxes and many don’t even run Android TV.

Confused? You should be: the Android TV box market is a confusing place. However, with our guide, you can safely navigate your way to the right Android TV box for you.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is down to its lowest price EVER for Black Friday

As part of its humongous Black Friday sale, Amazon has cut the price of the Fire TV Stick down to just £20, the lowest price since it was released in 2020. In our best buy list below, we had this as our favourite mid-tier option but for this price, it even undercuts our best budget option. Grab this deal while you can.
Amazon
Was £34
Now £20

Best Android TV boxes: At a glance


How to choose the best Android TV box for you

What is an Android TV box?

An Android TV box is a small set-top box, roughly the size of Apple TV, running either Google’s Android TV software or – more frequently – a reskinned version of standard Android. In theory, this makes an Android TV box an incredibly flexible device for streaming content to your TV from the internet or a NAS drive or playing back media stored locally on the device itself.

Many market themselves as Kodi devices, and in the wilder parts of eBay you’ll find devices calling themselves Android TV boxes that claim to come unlocked or preloaded with what would normally be subscription channels or free content. Don’t buy them as they may be illegal.

However, there are dozens of perfectly legal devices out there and there’s nothing illegal about the Kodi platform itself, provided you don’t use it with piracy-enabling add-ons. If you’re concerned about your ISP being able to see your Kodi activity, we highly recommend using a VPN for your Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick. A good VPN will hide your traffic from your ISP and let you virtually change your location so your Kodi add-ons will work from anywhere.

ExpressVPN remains the best all-around VPN we’ve tested to date, and it’s our top pick for Fire TV Stick and Kodi.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best TVs

What should you look for in an Android TV box?

Frankly, it’s a chaotic market, with the specs, features and the boxes themselves changing on a near-weekly basis. If you’re buying one of the myriad Chinese-made boxes, we’d advise looking for one with a quad or eight-core processor, 2GB to 4GB of RAM and 16GB to 32GB or more of storage – often confusingly labelled “ROM”.

Dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi plus 4K support are also useful extras, but don’t get too excited by claims of 6K or 8K support: until more TVs and streaming services support higher-than-4K resolutions, they’re virtually meaningless and it’s doubtful that the boxes have the horsepower to process all those pixels.

The other thing to watch out for is software. Only a handful of Android TV boxes actually run what Google calls Android TV – most simply run a version of Android with the manufacturer’s own TV-focused interface. The latter may or may not have access to the Google Play store and may run preinstalled versions of Kodi and popular video-streaming apps.

Generally speaking, boxes running genuine Google Android TV are easier to use and more reliable, although even on these you might have problems running Netflix or Amazon Prime without employing esoteric workarounds. If you don’t like to get your hands dirty with sideloaded apps or reconfiguration, we’d suggest sticking with an Amazon Fire TV device or Nvidia Shield TV. If you’re happy to tinker, though, you’ll find some bargains – and fun – to be had.

READ NEXT: The best UK TV deals

The best Android TV boxes

1. Amazon Fire TV Stick (2020): Flexible, stable and easily available

Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon

Okay, it’s a stick, not a box and it doesn’t look like its running Android, but underneath Amazon’s custom Fire TV interface you’ll still find Google’s operating system, and there are streaming applications such as Plex on Amazon’s app store. The same can’t be said of Kodi, but there are ways to download and install it and a range of other TV-friendly apps via sideloading or specific downloader apps.

The entry-level Fire TV stick will do a lot, but with just 1GB of RAM, a quad-core CPU and 8GB of storage, it can feel underpowered. In terms of hardware and software, the 2021 firestick is identical to its predecessor - the only difference is that the 2021 model has a slightly updated remote with a Channel Guide button and four app buttons that instantly take you to apps such as Amazon Prime or Netflix (the specific apps vary region to region). If you’re more of a Kodi enthusiast, you might want to find the extra for the 4K version, which has a faster CPU and 1.5GB of RAM – not to mention support for 4K video. It’s also worth looking for the old pendant-style 4K unit, which has a slightly slower processor but double the RAM. You can often pick them up secondhand on eBay.

Key specs – Core spec: Quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Operating system: Fire OS 7.2.2.3; Core apps: Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5, Plex; Voice-enabled remote: Yes; HDR: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG


2. Nvidia Shield TV Pro: The ultimate Android TV box

Price: £199 | Buy now from Currys PC World

Nvidia’s previous Shield TV was the king of Android TV boxes, but the new Shield TV Pro almost makes it look weedy. With the new Tegra X1+ processor onboard it’s 25% faster, while it boasts a new AI-enhanced 4K upscaler that actually works, improving both the clarity of HD pictures and the vibrancy of colours for a 4K screen. The chip also handles real-time transcoding, so if you have a NAS full of files in different formats, you can stream them without a hitch. Throw in support for Dolby Vision HDR, Dolby Atmos and DTS-X surround sound, and it’s a regular AV powerhouse.

Running the official Google TV OS, you have access to all the software on the Google Play store. Plex is preinstalled and you can still install Kodi if you want to go beyond Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer and the other usual suspects. And while the 16GB of onboard storage space is limiting, you can always upgrade it using a USB 3.0 external drive.

The Shield TV Pro’s other big selling point is games. Not only can the Tegra X1+ handle the biggest titles on the Google Play store, but it’ll stream games direct from Nvidia’s GeForce Now service, so you can play through your PC games library on your TV (provided the games in it are supported by the service). For some Kodi fans, it’s overkill and the new Shield TV “stick” may be more enticing – it runs the same software and has the same Tegra X1+ chip. All in all, though, this is the ultimate Android TV package.

Read our full Nvidia Shield TV Pro review for more details

Key specs – Core spec: Quad-core Tegra X1+ processor, 3GB RAM, 16GB storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Operating system: Android TV on Android 9.0 Pie; Core apps: Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Plex, GeForce Now; Voice-enabled remote: Yes

Buy now from Currys PC World


3. Turewell T95S1: A solid budget box for Kodi

Price: £27 | Buy now from Amazon

Amazon and eBay are stuffed with compact Android TV boxes built around the same basic spec: an Amlogic S905W chipset, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of flash storage. Most ship with an identical remote control and run a variant of the same reskinned Android 7.1 software. Turewell’s box doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from the pack, but it’s reasonably speedy, stable and easy to use.

The box itself is well-designed and surprisingly solid and while the remote has cheap-feeling buttons, they’re laid-out more logically than they are on the remotes you get with some bargain-basement boxes. As with all these cheap Android TV products, you’ll need to sideload apps and may want to install your own version of Kodi but, with a few tweaks, this is an inexpensive way to get it up and running.

Key specs – Core spec: Quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, 802.11n Wi-Fi; Operating system: Android 7.1.2; Core apps: Netflix, Kodi, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Plex; Voice-enabled remote: No


4. Xiaomi Mi Box S: The best budget alternative to the Nvidia Shield TV

Price: £85 | Buy now from Amazon

Xiaomi’s updated Android TV box isn’t perfect – it’s had some on/off issues with lag and stability – but it does a few things better than the average no-brand Android TV box. For a start, it runs the Google version of Android TV, meaning you get an interface designed from the ground up for use with a remote control from a sofa, plus a good range of apps from the Google Play store. For another, it has the Google Assistant and a remote with voice controls, meaning you can search for content or launch an app using voice alone – and it actually works. Until you’ve played with a few Android TV boxes, you won’t know how unusual this is.

The Mi Box S also has built-in Chromecast functions, so you can cast web pages and apps direct from your tablet or smartphone, although you’ll have to check that the box and your screen are on before you start as it won’t turn on your TV. What’s more, it’ll play 4K material from supporting apps. It’s not widely available in the UK and, at times, it can feel slightly underpowered, but if you want a cheap, no-nonsense alternative to the Shield TV, the Mi Box S is the only Android TV box that fits the bill.

Key specs – Core spec: Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, 2GB RAM, 8GB storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Operating system: Android TV 8.1; Core apps: Netflix, Google Play Movies and TV, YouTube, Google Play store; Voice-enabled remote: Yes


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