In this guide we will show you all the features to look at before buying a TV Box with Android operating system, together with some tips to increase the usability of these devices and, finally, the inevitable purchase guide with the best models on the market and that we can choose to have the maximum compatibility with the various legal streaming services.
READ ALSO: How the Android TV Box Mini PCs work
Which Android TV Box to watch movies, TV series and IPTV
Although thousands of TV Box models are available with Android, only a few have all the features to effectively replace a Smart TV. Below we will find the features to consider before purchasing, the supported audio/video formats, the multimedia apps that we can install on the devices and finally a guide to buying the best models.
TV Box technical features
To choose a TV Box it is necessary to observe some of the features, so as to be sure not to buy an obsolete product.
- Chipset and processor: the best CPU and chipset for a TV Box are branded Amlogic, Intel Atom, and Rockchip, although models with very powerful proprietary processors (such as NVIDIA chips) are not lacking. As a matter of compatibility, we suggest you focus on Amlogic, Intel or NVIDIA models, so as not to have problems with some multimedia apps or with some file formats.
- RAM: 2 GB of RAM is the minimum necessary to make the operating system and all multimedia apps work properly. If our spending budget allows it, we can also focus on models with 3 GB or more of RAM.
- Internal memory: in order to have all the necessary space we advise you to focus only on models with at least 8 GB of internal memory, so as to be able to install all the apps without fear of space problems; avoid using the TV Box to store large video files, relying on a DLNA server or a external USB disk for the purpose.
- Connections: to connect to the Internet the chosen TV Box must have the WiFi module (better if dual-band, so as to support both 2.4 and 5 GHz) and an Ethernet port, to be used to connect the device via a cable. Bluetooth connectivity is also useful, to be able to connect headphones or wireless speakers.
- Connectivity: HDMI output is essential for connecting the TV Box to a TV or monitor. We choose if possible only models with at least 2 USB ports and an audio jack output (3.5mm) to be able to connect external speakers. There is no need for additional video output to be present (for example VGA or DVI), although it is an interesting feature if we had an old monitor or an old TV to be connected.
- Video resolution: all TV Boxes are compatible with 1080p resolution and the most powerful also allows you to view 4K content on compatible TVs. To be able to see correctly in 4K UHD streams, let’s make sure that the HDMI output is in version 2.0.
- Other characteristics: a slot for microSD will allow us to expand the internal memory of the device, while other minor features Mini DisplayPort or optical audio output S / PDIF are useful only if we use this type of system for audio and video.
All the TV Boxes on the market have a remote control (but we have seen that it is possible to control an Android TV Box with the smartphone), which can present various keys according to the functions supported by the device; usually the button is never missing Home and the key back, flanked by the arrow keys, by the key to confirm (OK or enter) and keys to adjust the output volume. Other additional keys are useful for quickly opening streaming apps or for accessing the on-screen cursor control (similar to that of a mouse on a PC) but are not present on all TV Boxes.
Audio/video formats supported by TV Boxes
A TV Box must be able to read any type of video without jerks and to play any multimedia file, be it a video or an audio file. For a greater speed of execution (especially for the movies in 4K), it is necessary to have a chip with integrated hardware acceleration, so as not to have to use software codecs (decidedly slower).
A modern Android TV Box must, therefore, support the following codecs or containers with hardware acceleration:
- Codecs and video formats: H.264, H.265, MP4, AVI, WMV, WebM, MKV (up to 4K UHD)
- Codecs and audio formats: MP3, MP4, AC-3, Ogg Vorbis, AAC, WMA, and Dolby Digital
A much requested additional feature on modern files is the ad support HDR, which together with the 4K allows you to see in a higher quality the colors and the details of the videos in ultra-high definition.
Currently, very few TVs allow you to take advantage of audio Dolby ATMOS since this feature requires a very expensive dedicated chip (we will point out the TV Boxes that support it).
Multimedia apps available on TV Box
The apps that we can use or install on our Android TV Box (able to make us not regret a Smart TV) are:
- YouTube: ubiquitous on any TV Box, the app allows you to watch videos saved on the famous site at any quality (even 4K UHD);
- Netflix: the app of the famous legal streaming site can be used without problems on TV Boxes, but for a question of compatibility we can view the contents in Full HD and in 4K only on some certified devices (which we will show you later).
- Kodi: the definitive media center for your TV Box, with which you can view any content saved in the internal memory or saved on the network via DLNA. In addition to the files present locally or on the network, it is possible to expand the features with extensions, so as to access numerous streaming contents;
- Plex: another excellent media center app for TV Box, allows you to view indexed content on another device (PC or NAS) at the highest quality and with all information already automatically available (subtitles, flyer, information, vote, etc.) ;
- VLC for Android: the famous multimedia app can be used on Android TV Boxes to play any multimedia file;
- Spotify: an excellent app to listen to free streaming music with no time limits.
- IPTV Extreme: indispensable for displaying streaming flows disseminated via IPTV lists;
- DroidMote Server: another very useful app (on TV Boxes with active root) to control playback and commands directly from the smartphone.
These are just some of the apps you can install on a TV Box, but simply open the Google Play Store to install any other app that can extend the device’s features, such as those recommended in our guide to the best apps to have on Android TV Box.
Best Android TV Box to buy
After seeing some of the features to consider on a TV Box, in this part of the guide we will show you the best TV Boxes on the market, so as to choose only the most powerful and compatible models.
Are we looking for a next-generation digital terrestrial decoder (DVB-T2) with TV Box functionality? We can take the Leelbox K2.
This small TV Box connects to the home antenna and allows you to watch all the digital terrestrial channels, including those that are in effect when you switch to DVB-T2. In addition to the decoder functionality, it provides support for numerous multimedia apps, so you can see the IPTV lists and the mainstreaming services without problems. It probably won’t have the same compatibility as a classic Android TV Box, but if we look for an all-in-one solution this is the best device to buy.
We can buy this TV Box from here -> Leelbox K2 (€ 29).
Bonve HK1 Max
If we do not make any claims and want to spend little on a powerful and complete TV Box, we advise you to view the Bonve HK1 Max.
The device comes with a quad-core processor flanked by 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of internal memory, WiFi Dual-Band, Bluetooth and Android 9 operating system. The remote control has a large number of keys (similar to that of a TV remote control) and, once started, we will be able to quickly access many pre-installed apps so that we can immediately start managing streaming streams.
We can buy this TV Box from here -> Bonve HK1 Max (52 €).
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
The TV Box category also includes amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Ultra HD, since it allows to install the apps inside it as if we were on a classic Android system.
By connecting the dongle to the HDMI port and to the USB port of the TV, we will be able to quickly access many multimedia apps, with the certification necessary to play protected content (we can access Netflix in FullHD and 4K without problems). The supplied remote control supports Amazon Alexa’s voice commands, so you can open an app or a streaming service with your voice.
We can buy this dongle from here -> Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (€ 59).
To learn more about using the Fire TV Stick we advise you to read our Amazon Fire TV Stick Guide with hidden tricks, apps, and features.
Xiaomi Mi Box S
One of the best TV Boxes in circulation for the quality-price is without a doubt it Xiaomi Mi Box S.
This TV Box has a powerful quad-core CPU flanked by 2 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal memory, Wi-Fi Dual Band, Bluetooth, and Xiaomi Android Box operating system, optimized for use on TV. Among the top features we highlight the presence of a button for voice search (via Google Assistant), the dedicated button for Netflix (certified, therefore compatible with Full HD and 4K HDR) and Chromecast features included (we can receive Google Cast flows directly on the TV Box without having to buy a Chromecast).
We can buy this TV Box from here -> Xiaomi Mi Box S (69 €).
NVIDIA SHIELD TV
The best TV Box in circulation is definitely the Nvidia Shield TV, which in its latest version has the shape of a tube, similar to a small power bank.
In addition to having the best of NVIDIA technology (including the Tegra X1 + chip), it is certified by Netflix for displaying 4K UHD, Dolby Vision HDR, HDR10 content and for providing Dolby ATMOS audio, with all the power needed to perform games available on Android. The supplied remote control allows you to control every aspect of playback and the interface, as well as providing a convenient button to start voice commands.
We can view the device here -> NVIDIA SHIELD TV (€ 159).
Even if we have a Smart TV to manage the media streams from the Internet or from the DLNA server, using a TV Box will allow us to take advantage of the new features released by the various services (through their updated apps on the Play Store), so as to always be in step with the times and not having to change TVs every 2-3 years.
It will also be possible to use HDMI adapters to connect TV Box to older TVs.
To take full advantage of an Android BOX TV, it is important to be able to access all the websites that provide streaming content, using iBrowser for Android TV, Box and Fire Stick.
In another guide we have seen how to Create a home-cinema system to connect to the TV to watch movies and videos online, taking advantage of the technology available on all the TV Boxes shown above.