When you’re looking for a new media streaming device, it’s tough to know which is the best Android TV box available.
There’s so many devices on the market, and more are appearing all the time with the latest Android TV boxes promising they’re bigger and better than the last. The massive number of manufacturers, chipsets and features means plenty of options but it makes it hard to decide which Android TV box to buy.
Now I know that you’ve read the reviews, compared all the specs and you’re still wondering what is the best Android tv box. Thankfully, I’ve saved you the headache and pulled together my list of the best Android boxes your money can buy.
What is an Android TV box?
An Android TV box is best described as a home entertainment hub. Not only are they media streaming devices that you to play media through a gorgeous frontend like Kodi, but also access the hundreds and thousands of apps on the Google Play store.
They’re a good solution for those wanting a device that goes beyond basic multimedia playback.
Whether it’s watching Netflix, browsing the web on Chrome, or playing the latest Android games, an Android box will let you do it all.
What Features Should the Best Android TV Box Have?
With so many options out there, there’s a number of core features you should look for when trying to find the best Android TV box:
- 5.1 Audio Passthrough
- Automatic Refresh Rate Switching
- H.265 Hardware Decoding
- Dual-Band Wi-Fi and\or Gigabit Ethernet
- OTA Firmware Updates\Good Customer Support
Other features you may want:
- HD Netflix Support
- Strong Gaming Performance
- 1080p 3D Playback
- USB 3.0
- A Recent Version of Android
That’s a pretty comprehensive list and it’s unlikely you’ll find a TV box that will have everything you want but you can get pretty close.
So with all that food for thought, let’s dive into my list of of the best Android TV boxes of 2016.
Best Android TV Box (Overall): NVIDIA SHIELD TV
NVIDIA’s SHIELD TV is NVIDIA’s latest Android TV box and absolute beast. That’s why I had no hesitation giving it the title of Home Theatre Life’s Best Android TV box.
Made by gaming giant NVIDIA, the NVIDIA SHIELD TV is powered by the company’s powerful Tegra X1 processor offering unparalleled CPU and GPU performance. This thing screams, whether you’re browsing the web or gaming.
For you media lovers, it’s capable of watching 4K content from Netflix, Youtube, Kodi and PLEX. It also supports 10-bit color and Dolby 7.1 surround sound passthrough.
Google Cast support is built-in so you don’t even need to have a separate Chromecast to stream media from your smartphone or tablet.
It’s also got strong support from Koying, developer of the Android-centric Kodi fork SPMC, so you know Kodi support will be top notch.
Gamers get some of the best GPU performance from an Android device, including a number of PC titles ported exclusively to the SHIELD TV.
There’s also support for NVIDIA’s game streaming technology, allowing you to stream your games from your PC with a compatible NVIDIA GPU or use NVIDIA’s NOW game streaming service.
The company has also been actively supporting the device, releasing regular firmware updates. It was even recently updated to Android 6.0 Marshmallow – Google’s latest version of Android.
The NVIDIA Shield is considerably more expensive than its rivals but the sheer amount of features and power makes up for the increased cost.
The NVIDIA Shield TV is available from Amazon.Check the Current Price at Amazon
Best Android TV Box (Honorable Mention): WeTek Hub/WeTek Play 2
WeTek have been around for quite a while (their original WeTek Play was one of the first Android TV boxes that I reviewed!) and the company has built an impressive reputation for well-designed Android devices with excellent support.
Both the WeTek Hub and WeTek Play 2 are powered by the quadcore Amlogic S905-H chipset and are capable of playing back Netflix in high definition – a feature few Android boxes can boast.
Additionally, thanks to working closely with Team Kodi, WeTek devices have some of the best Kodi support around.
If you’re looking for an excellent streaming media player that won’t break the bank, check out WeTek’s devices.Check the Current Price at WeTek
Best Android TV Box (Honorable Mention): UGOOS UT3S
The UGOOS UT3S (Review) is the best Android TV box that I’ve reviewed to date. Powered by the powerful Rockchip RK3288, the UGOOS UT3S performed well across the board. Thanks to it’s powerful Mali-T764 GPU, gaming performance was excellent for everything from Android games to emulators.
It’s available in two variants. One features 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, whilst the cheaper model features 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. Both models features wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.0 and Gigabit ethernet.
The recent update to Lollipop also brings across UGOOS’ new Android launcher, a file server and a host of bug fixes and improvements.
For Linux lovers, UGOOS have ported across Ubuntu and the company has been actively updating the software on the device for months, constantly fixing bugs and adding awesome new features.
You can’t go wrong with the UGOOS UT3S.Get the Current Price
Best Android Box (Honorable Mention): Tronsmart Orion R68 Meta
The Tronsmart Orion R68 Meta (Review) is powered by Rockchip’s latest SoC, the RK3368. Performance of the Tronsmart Orion R68 Meta was generally impressive.
Video codec support was generally good with most codecs playing back well. However, the RK3368 seems to struggle with 4K videos, a problem that has plagued other RK3368-powered boxes. Gaming performance was great too.
The included OTA updates is a massive plus, allowing software updates to easily be applied.Get the Current Price
Best Android Box (Honorable Mention): Beelink i One
The Beelink i One (Review) was a impressive Android box. Thanks to the powerful Amlogic S812 SoC, the device is capable of playing back a wide variety of video including 4K HEVC, which is impressive. The GPU also has enough grunt for gaming, though it’s not as powerful as the UGOOS UT3S above.
HDMI In also makes an appearance, with HDMI recording being added via a later firmware update.Get the Current Price
Best Android Box (Honorable Mention): WeTek Play
The WeTek Play (Review) is a great little device. Codec support is good for the most common codecs, although it does get a little shaky for more advanced video formats. However, the WeTek Play makes up for it thanks to its built-in TV tuner, intuitive custom Android software and it’s ability to run OpenELEC which makes the unit a much better media player.
WeTek have been committed to providing regular software updates too, fixing bugs and adding new features consistently over time.Get the Current Price
Best Android Box (Honorable Mention): Zidoo X9
The Zidoo X9 (Review) packs in an impressive array of features and remains one of my most used Android boxes, including HDMI recording, dual WiFi antennas and USB 3.0.
Codec support was solid, Zidoo have developed a fantastic and intuitive Android launcher called ZIUI, and the company is committed to supporting the device with regular updates.
Over the past few months, Zidoo have fixed numerous bugs and added some useful features including the Zidoo NAS kit, allowing you to serve media files from the Zidoo X9 to other devices on your network.Get the Current Price
Having personally reviewed dozens on Android boxes, the above list reflects the best Android TV boxes to date.
The Nvidia Shield is definitely the best Android TV box so far thanks to its combination of great features, best-in-class gaming performance and support from one of the biggest companies in gaming.
The honorable mentions are also fantastic in their own ways. In the end, it’s all about what device best meets your requirements.
Have a favorite that I haven’t included in here? Let me know in the comments!