There are plenty of ways to stream movies and shows direct to your TV. One of your best options is grabbing one of the growing number of Android TV boxes — streaming devices 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 box 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.
Best Android TV boxes:
Editor’s note: We’ll update this list of the best Android TV boxes as new devices are launched.
1. Nvidia Shield TV
The power user’s Android TV box of choice, the Nvidia Shield TV is an absolute beast. It’s also the most expensive at $179.
Packing a mighty quad-core Tegra X1 processor, 3GB RAM, and 16GB storage (expandable via external USB 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 premium 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 even an option to buy the Shield TV with a Bluetooth controller in addition to the standard remote.
2. Xiaomi Mi Box S
From the high-end to something far more affordable, the $69 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 comes with Google’s version of Android TV based on Android Oreo and has Google Assistant and Google Cast functionality baked into the box and remote.
Unfortunately, those underpowered specs mean 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, cheap alternative to the Nvidia Shield TV.
3. Skystream Three Plus
So far we’ve listed devices from recognizable brands, but there are plenty of options out there from companies that you’ve probably never heard of. These devices almost always have an Amlogic SoC and a customized version of Android TV.
Related: 10 best Android TV apps!
One of the more powerful Android TV boxes in this category is the Skystream Three Plus, which has a beefy specs sheet, supports 4K streaming (with Widevine certification for HD Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime), has Kodi pre-installed, and has more ports than you could possibly ever need.
The regular Skystream Three comes with 2GB of RAM, but the more widely available Skystream Three Plus model goes one better with 4GB of RAM (DDR4). It’s not cheap at $149, but there are very few Android TV boxes that come as fully loaded as the Skystream Three Plus.
4. Ematic Jetstream 4K Ultra HD TV Box
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.
Best Android TV box alternatives
Not swayed by the best Android TV box has to offer? Here are a few alternative media streamers we highly recommend.
1. 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 $49 Fire TV Stick 4K which supports 4K Ultra HD video streaming at up to 60fps, as well as Dolby Vision and HDR10 Plus.
All Fire TV devices enjoyed a huge upgrade recently 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. Google Chromecast
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 $35 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 for a little extra at $69.
3. 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 and it’ll be getting even better later this year with the launch of Disney Plus and the upgraded Apple TV app. 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 improved Wi-Fi range for $59.99.
4. 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 soon Apple TV Plus — and most major streaming apps, as well as Dolby Atmos support. Starting at $179.99, it’s pricey and doesn’t play YouTube in 4K, but if you’re already inside Apple’s walled garden the Apple TV 4K is worth a look.
Those are our picks for the best Android TV box and a few alternatives. We’ll update this list as new Android TV devices are released.