Google Chromecast with Google TV box

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

There are plenty of ways to stream movies and shows directly to your TV. One of the best options is to get your hands on an Android TV box — a streaming device running on a bespoke version of Google’s Android OS designed for standalone set-top boxes and TV sets.

Unlike the wildly popular Chromecast, Google has tried and failed (twice) with its own Android TV products, but thankfully there are plenty of companies out there that have filled the void.

Whether you want to use it as a Kodi box, a platform for emulating retro games, or just an all-round media streaming hub, here are the best Android TV boxes you can buy.

The best Android TV boxes:

  1. Chromecast with Google TV
  2. Nvidia Shield TV
  3. Xiaomi Mi Box S
  4. Xiaomi Mi TV Stick
  5. Ematic Jetstream 4K

Editor’s note: We’ll update this list of the best Android TV boxes as new devices are launched.


A bit on Google TV and Android TV

Google Chromecast with Google TV library tab - The best Android TV boxes

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

We were getting all used to Android TV boxes when suddenly Google TV came into the picture. What is the difference? Are they even different? Technically speaking, Google TV is still Android TV, but it features a whole new concept. The company has introduced Google TV, a new experience for Android TV that aims to harmonize your viewing — no matter what apps you use.

Any app that works on Android TV will work on Google TV, according to the company. Don’t expect every feature to be available from the outset, though. In some ways, this is parallel to efforts like Amazon’s Fire TV and Apple’s TV app. That is, it’s a content hub that also promotes in-house services. Google wasn’t shy in noting that its new interface unites all its platforms and services, ranging from Android to Nest to YouTube TV. It’s a living room equivalent to Pixel phones, using a common OS customized to represent Google’s vision.


1. Chromecast with Google TV

Google Chromecast with Google TV on table style photo - The best Android TV boxes

The Chromecast with Google TV is still a Chromecast. You can still send things like movies, YouTube videos, and music directly to your TV from your phone or computer, just by having the Chromecast dongle plugged in. But casting has shifted from something that required a standalone product to a feature of many of Google’s devices. Google already offered a bonafide content streaming experience in the form of Android TV, but with no dedicated hardware of its own, it barely existed in the market.

To solve this problem, Google has fundamentally changed what the Chromecast is. Instead of simply being a target for content to be cast to, Google has loaded up the Chromecast with Android TV, giving it both casting capabilities, as well as a full-fledged media streaming interface. And to make Android TV better and more accessible, Google developed a dedicated UX for it, which it calls Google TV.

The Chromecast with Google TV is easily one of the best Android TV boxes on the market. Currently, there are only a few viable options, and our old favorite, the Nvidia Shield TV, costs much more.


2. Nvidia Shield TV

NVIDA Shield TV 2019 remote control on table - The best Android TV boxes

This is one of the best Android TV boxes for most people, but it’s also the most expensive one on this list. Packing the mighty quad-core Tegra X1+ processor, 2GB RAM, and 16GB storage, the Nvidia Shield TV has the specs to match its huge app library via the Play Store and the seemingly endless list of features.

This Android box offers 4K streaming, Dolby Atmos and DTS-X surround sound, has built-in 4K Chromecast support, can be used as a Plex media server, and even doubles up as a smart home hub with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. That’s all without mentioning its gaming credentials, as the Nvidia Shield TV can play Android games, stream PC titles, and stream games via the cloud with GeForce Now.

There’s a more powerful Pro version of the Shield TV available, which is designed with gaming in mind. But if that’s not your main focus, the regular Nvidia Shield is the better option because of its cheaper price tag.


3. Xiaomi Mi Box S

Xiaomi Mi Box S running Android TV - The best Android TV boxes

From the high-end to something far more affordable, the Xiaomi Mi Box S is a semi-upgraded version of the Xiaomi Mi Box with identical core specs but added 4K HDR support. The Mi Box S also has Google Assistant and Google Cast functionality baked into the box and remote.

Unfortunately, because it’s a little bit older and underpowered, the actual performance for streaming 4K content leaves a lot to be desired. However, if you’re happy with 1080p streaming, then the Mi Box S is a solid and cheap alternative to the Nvidia Shield TV.


4. Xiaomi Mi TV Stick

Xiaomi Mi TV Stick official image - The best Android TV boxes

If you’re looking for something newer (and much more affordable) from Xiaomi, we have good news. The company offers the Android TV-powered Xiaomi Mi TV Stick, and it offers a lot for the money.

The Mi TV Stick is a pocket-sized streaming device that’ll attach to your TV’s HDMI port. It comes with Google Chromecast built-in and also supports voice commands thanks to the Google Assistant. The device is equipped with a Bluetooth remote with dedicated buttons for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Here’s a quick summary of all its specs.

There are some sacrifices to be had with the lower price point, though. There is no 4K definition support, and there is still no mention of an improved version coming. Regardless, this is the newest Android TV box coming from Xiaomi, and it is definitely worth the sub-$50 price tag.


5. Ematic Jetstream 4K Ultra HD TV Box

Jetstream Android TV Box - The best Android TV boxes

Ematic’s Jetstream 4K Ultra HD TV Box targets the budget crowd and is readily available in the US from Walmart for an affordable price. As well as the standard Amlogic SoC at its heart, the Jetstream runs Android 8.1 Oreo, supports 4K streaming, and has Widevine certification. There’s also a handy remote with dedicated buttons for YouTube, Netflix, and Google Assistant.

The only real downside aside from the underpowered processor is the lowly 8GB of storage, though this can be expanded with a microSD card. Otherwise, it’s one of the best Android TV boxes.


Wait, there’s more

google chromecast remote

An Android TV box isn’t your only choice if you want to stream TV shows and movies on your big screen. There are plenty of other streaming devices available running other software that gets the job done just as well. Some may even be a better choice than any of the Android TV boxes listed above, depending on your wants and needs. Check out the best alternative media streamers we highly recommend below.

The best Android TV box alternatives:

  1. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
  2. Amazon Fire TV Cube
  3. Google Chromecast
  4. Roku Streaming Stick Plus
  5. Apple TV 4K

Editor’s note: We’ll update this list of the best Android TV boxes as new devices are launched.


1. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Amazon’s Fire TV products are some of the most popular streaming devices out there, and while you wouldn’t know it at a glance, they are all powered by Android. What you’re getting is a fork of Google’s open-source OS that swaps the Play Store for Amazon’s own Appstore. The regular Fire TV Stick is the cheapest device in Amazon’s streaming portfolio, though most will want to pay a little extra for the Fire TV Stick 4K that supports 4K Ultra HD video streaming at up to 60fps, as well as Dolby Vision and HDR10 Plus.

Related: Here are 3 ways to install Kodi on Amazon’s Fire TV/Stick

All Fire TV devices enjoyed a huge upgrade last year with the return of a proper YouTube app following a long, tiresome spat with Google. The Amazon Appstore also has all the biggest streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon’s own Prime Video, as well as Plex and Kodi. While it isn’t the most powerful “box” out there with just a 1.7GHz quad-core processor, 1.5GB RAM, and only 8GB of storage, the Fire TV Stick 4K is a great entry-level streaming solution with a handy remote that offers quick access to Amazon’s Alexa assistant.


2. Amazon Fire TV Cube

Amazon Fire TV Cube Couch

Those looking for something more powerful form Amazon can’t do better than the Fire TV Cube. This is the fastest, most powerful Fire TV. It’s significantly bigger and more expensive. It offers benefits like physical Ethernet support and also doubles as an Alexa speaker, which could be a huge incentive to some of you.

The benefits don’t end there. The Amazon Fire TV Cube has overall better specs than the Fire TV Stick 4K. The processor is more powerful (hexa-core vs quad-core), RAM is more plentiful (2GB vs 1.5GB), and even internal storage has received a boost (16GB vs 8GB). This means it will perform better.


3. Google Chromecast

Third-gen Chromecast apps

Following the demise of the Nexus Player, Google no longer sells products that directly stream media to a TV. However, it does sell two Chromecast devices that let you stream apps and videos from your phone to your TV via the popular HDMI dongle and Google’s Cast platform. The regular Chromecast is now in its third-generation and supports video streaming at 1080p resolution at 60fps and multi-room audio. There’s also the Chromecast Ultra, which offers 4K streaming.


4. Roku Streaming Stick Plus

Roku streaming stick plus

Roku is one of the more popular streaming brands due to its wide library of apps and services. There’s almost nothing you can’t stream on a Roku stick. There are various Roku devices out there, but the Roku Streaming Stick Plus offers the best mix of premium features and affordable pricing, offering 4K streams and an improved Wi-Fi range — check it out via the button below.

For more options from Roku you can always check our list of the best Roku streaming players.


5. Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K

Android’s biggest rival has its own media streaming box and it’s one of the most powerful and most expensive devices on the market. The Apple TV 4K is the latest tvOS-powered box and brings with it Apple TV and most major streaming apps, as well as Dolby Atmos support. It’s pricey and doesn’t play YouTube in 4K, but if you’re already inside Apple’s walled garden, you can the Apple TV 4K is worth a look.