Looking for a cheap way to stream movies or use Kodi on your TV? These are the best Android TV boxes you can buy
The best Android TV boxes are weird and wonderful things; there’s no generally accepted definition of what they are and they’re available in all manner of shapes and sizes.
Regardless of the form they take, there’s no denying how useful a good Android TV box can be. These versatile devices can be used to stream content to your television, play locally stored files, video games and more.
With numerous options out there, many of which are from no-name brands you’ve never heard of, picking the best Android TV box for you can be a daunting experience.
But that’s where we come in. With the help of our buying guide and recommendations based on extensive testing, you will be able to safely navigate your way to finding the perfect Android TV companion.
How we test the best Android TV boxes
We test Android TV boxes by connecting them to a 4K OLED TV, running through the setup process and installing as many apps as we can from a range including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Now TV, BBC iPlayer and All4. We then run through a range of different films and TV shows and programmes, both at 4K and 1080p resolutions, in order to assess picture and audio quality.
While we do so, we take a good look at the interface, and at how easy it is to navigate, change settings and search for specific content. We also keep an eye on performance, looking at whether the interface feels snappy and how long it takes for a programme to start playback and switch to a high-bitrate HD or 4K stream. Finally, we take a careful look at the remote and any voice control features, plus any added entertainment or gaming features, to see if these make for a better package overall.
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 Android TV boxes market themselves as Kodi devices on which you can download the Kodi open-source software and gain access to music and audio streaming across an enormous range of services. In the wilder parts of eBay, you might stumble across 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 one of our favourite VPN services when using something like an Amazon 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.
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What should you look for in an Android TV box?
Frankly, it’s a chaotic market, with the specs, features and boxes themselves changing regularly. If you’re buying one of the myriad Chinese-made boxes, we would 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. However, even on these, you might have problems running Netflix or Amazon Prime without employing esoteric workarounds. If you don’t like getting your hands dirty with sideloaded apps or reconfiguration, we suggest sticking with an Amazon Fire TV or Nvidia Shield TV. If you’re happy to tinker, though, you will find some bargains – and fun – to be had
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The best Android TV boxes to buy in 2023
1. Nvidia Shield TV Pro: Best Android TV box, bar none
Price when reviewed: £200 | Check price at Amazon
Nvidia’s Shield TV has long been considered the king of Android TV boxes, and the Shield TV Pro is the best-ever version. It’s getting old these days, yet its Tegra X1+ processor onboard is still comparatively speedy, powering an AI-enhanced 4K upscaling technology 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 drive 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 the Shield TV Pro is a regular AV powerhouse.
Running an NVIDIA variant of 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 many of the biggest games on the Google Play store, but it will stream games directly 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
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
2. Amazon Fire TV Stick (3rd generation): Flexible, stable and readily available
Price when reviewed: £45 | Check price at Amazon
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 third-generation Fire stick is identical to its predecessor – the only difference being that it 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). It also supports Dolby Atmos and the HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG HDR standards, making it a good partner to modern HDR 4K TVs.
If you’re more of a Kodi enthusiast, you might want to find the extra £10 for the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, which has a faster CPU, more RAM, and Wi-Fi 6 networking – not to mention support for 4K video and Dolby Vision HDR.
Key specs – Core spec: Quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Operating system: Fire OS 184.108.40.206; Core apps: Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5, Plex; Voice-enabled remote: Yes; HDR: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG
3. Easytone T95 Super: Best cheap Android TV box for Kodi
Price when reviewed: £29 | Check price at Amazon
Amazon and eBay are stuffed with compact, cheap Android TV boxes built around the same 2GB of RAM and 16GB of flash storage specification. Most ship with an identical remote control and run a variant of the same reskinned Android software. This box from Easytone 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 will 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 10.0; Core apps: Netflix, Kodi, YouTube, Google Play Movies; Voice-enabled remote: No
4. Google Chromecast with Google TV 4K: The best Android TV device if you don’t need Kodi
Price when reviewed: £60 | Check price at Amazon
Buying Android TV devices can still be a minefield, with too many cheap boxes running strange ‘TV-optimised’ builds of Android that are anything but. That changes with the Google Chromecast with Google TV. It’s effectively a Chromecast with a remote control and running Google’s Google TV interface, which means access to the Google Play store, nearly all the major UK TV apps and a slicker, more reliable experience than you’ll get with most of the budget, no-brand competition.
The Chromecast with Google TV supports 4K resolutions, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, so audio and visual quality is up there with the best 4K devices from Roku, Amazon and Apple. The remote supports voice search – though you have to watch that your thumb doesn’t obscure the mic – and the UI makes finding your favourite shows or navigating between apps easy. It’s not quite perfect, with no Now TV or All 4 onboard, but if you want an Android TV unit you can rely on, this is the one to buy.
Key specs – Core spec: Quad-core ARM Cortex-A55 processor, 2GB RAM, 8GB storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Operating system: Android TV 12; Core apps: Netflix, Google Play Movies and TV, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Disney+, Google Play store; Voice-enabled remote: Yes
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