There are plenty of ways to stream content on your television, and if you get one of the best Android TV boxes, you can make sure that experience is as fast, seamless, and enjoyable as possible. Android TV boxes allow you to instantly access all of your favorite video and music apps, along with some light games, without going out and buying a completely new TV. There are a few different options to choose from, with these being the best of the best.
The best Android TV boxes at a glance
- NVIDIA Shield TV — Between its powerful performance, 4K upscaling, and support for high-quality cloud game streaming, the NVIDIA Shield TV is no match for any other Android TV box.
- NVIDIA Shield TV Pro — The Pro version of the Shield TV isn't as easy of an overall recommendation, but if you want better specs and smart home features, it's another solid option.
- TiVo Stream 4K — For those shopping on a budget, the TiVo Stream 4K delivers everything you need at a great price.
- Ematic Jetstream — Ematic's Jetstream may not be your first choice, but it's a solid low-cost streaming box that's filled with features.
What are the best Android TV boxes?
When it comes to the best Android TV boxes, our overall pick has to be the NVIDIA Shield TV. NVIDIA is one of the few major tech brands that has continued to release Android TV boxes over the years, and this latest model is its best yet. It has an ultra-compact design, plays native 4K HDR content while also upscaling HD shows into 4K, and has full support for Dolby Vision and Atmos.
If you find that you have a bit more money to spend and want to get something even nicer, check out the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro. The higher price tag means it's not as good of an overall recommendation, but you do get a few nice perks for your extra money — including more RAM, double the internal storage, and USB ports.
Finally, if you're trying to keep costs low and just want a simple Android TV box that has all of the basic features you need, get the Xiaomi Mi Box S. It delivers 4K streaming and a clean Android TV interface at a great price, making it a solid choice if you aren't ready to step up to what NVIDIA is offering.
1. NVIDIA Shield TV
The best Android TV box overall$150 at Amazon
Bottom line: In the world of Android TV boxes, the NVIDIA Shield TV easily stands out as the best one to get. It has incredibly powerful specs, one of the best 4K upscaling systems on the market, and works with NVIDIA's GeForce NOW cloud gaming service.
Processor: NVIDIA Tegra X1+ | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 8GB | 4K: ✔️ | HDR: ✔️ | 4K upscaling: ✔️ | Dolby Vision: ✔️ | Dolby Atmos: ✔️ | Lost remote finder: ✔️
- Sleek, compact design
- 4K HDR streaming with upscaling
- Lost remote finder
- NVIDIA GeForce Now
- Not super affordable
Although there aren't a ton of Android TV boxes available to buy in 2020, the one that easily stands out as the best of the bunch is the NVIDIA Shield TV. Starting first with its hardware, the Shield TV is one of the most compact Android TV boxes you'll find. In fact, it's not a box but more of a small tube. It's tiny, out-of-sight, and easy to hide regardless of your entertainment setup.
The Shield TV has all of the streaming tech you could ask for, including support for 4K HDR content, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos. It also uses AI upscaling to convert HD content into 4K for an even crisper image than before. There's an Ethernet jack if you prefer a wired connection for faster streaming, along with a microSD card slot for quickly expanding your storage.
Another big draw to the Shield TV is that it can access GeForce Now — NVIDIA's cloud gaming service that allows you to play fully-fledged PC games right on your television.
Best Android TV Box Overall
Want a top-notch Android TV box? Keep it simple and buy the NVIDIA Shield TV. It's sleek, powerful, and not overly expensive.
2. NVIDIA Shield TV Pro
The best premium Android TV box$200 at Amazon
Bottom line: The Shield TV Pro is a lot like the regular Shield TV above, though it comes with a few notable upgrades. For a few extra dollars, going Pro gets you more RAM and storage, full-sized USB ports, and allows the box to function as a SmartThings hub.
Processor: NVIDIA Tegra X1+ | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 16GB | 4K: ✔️ | HDR: ✔️ | 4K upscaling: ✔️ | Dolby Vision: ✔️ | Dolby Atmos: ✔️ | Lost remote finder: ✔️
- 4K HDR with upscaling
- Tons of RAM and storage
- Full-size USB ports
- SmartThings hub
- Most expensive on our list
If you like what you see with the NVIDIA Shield TV but want something that's even more capable, the Shield TV Pro could be for you. It has everything that makes the regular Shield TV great, including 4K HDR streaming, 4K upscaling, Dolby Vision and Atmos, and more.
The physical hardware for the Shield TV Pro is considerably larger, and there's a reason for that. If you have a lot of smart home gadgets under the SmartThings brand, you can use the Shield TV Pro as a hub for all of them. It also has two full-size USB ports on the back, which can be used for connecting external storage devices, over-the-air antennas, and keyboards. On top of all that, the Pro has more storage and RAM than the regular Shield TV — 16GB vs. 8GB and 3GB vs. 2GB, respectively.
The increased price and size of the Shield TV Pro make it a tougher sell than its non-Pro sibling, but for power users that need their Android TV box to do as much as possible, it's a fantastic choice.
Best Premium Android TV Box
Whether you want to use it as a SmartThings hub or take advantage of the USB ports, the Shield TV Pro does it all.
3. TiVo Stream 4K
The best value Android TV box$50 at Amazon
Bottom line: Want an Android TV box on a budget? The TiVo Stream 4K isn't as feature-rich as the Shield TV, but it delivers all of the basics while keeping more money in your wallet.
Processor: Amlogic S905Y2 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 8GB | 4K: ✔️ | HDR: ✔️ | 4K upscaling: ❌ | Dolby Vision: ✔️ | Dolby Atmos: ✔️ | Lost remote finder: ❌
- Streams 4K HDR
- Remote with voice control
- Very affordable
- Expandable storage is clunky
- No 4K upscaling
As much as we love the NVIDIA Shield TV and Shield TV Pro, we also understand that they might be way too expensive for a lot of shoppers. If you happen to fall into that group, we recommend going with the TiVo Stream 4K. Despite being a lot cheaper, the Stream 4K from TiVo still supports 4K HDR content, works with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and comes with a voice remote for easy access to the Google Assistant.
The biggest draw to the TiVo Stream 4K (other than its low price) is access to its exclusive TiVo Stream app. In the app, TiVo makes personal recommendations of shows and movies to watch based on your own tastes and preferences. In the process, the Stream app also houses access to all of your other streaming services so you can access them in one convenient place.
TiVo Stream is also where you'll find a collection of free channels from the likes of Pluto TV, Tubi, Cheddar, and Tastemade. If you have a subscription to Sling TV, you'll be able to watch it in the TiVo Stream app, too.
Best Android TV Box Value
Thanks to its low price and good feature-set, the TiVo Stream 4K is a fantastic Android TV box if you're on a budget.
4. Ematic Jetstream
The best features for an Android TV box$63 at Amazon
Bottom line: If you're looking for robust features in an affordable Android TV box, the Ematic Jetstream is a solid pick. On offer is 4K HDR streaming, two full-size USB ports, and a microSD slot for easily expandable storage.
Processor: Amlogic S905X | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 8GB | 4K: ✔️ | HDR: ✔️ | 4K upscaling: ❌ | Dolby Vision: ❌ | Dolby Atmos: ❌ | Lost remote finder: ❌
- Has 4K HDR video streaming
- Two USB ports
- Great price
- Lackluster software support
- No Dolby support
Speaking of affordable Android TV boxes, we also have the Ematic Jetstream. This isn't nearly as well-known of a product as the other picks on our list, but for budget shoppers, it could be worth a look. Similar to the TiVo Stream 4K, the Ematic Jetstream has 4K HDR video streaming and a remote with voice control functionality. We also like that you get a YouTube and Netflix shortcut on the remote, which will likely be two of your most-used apps.
Ematic equipped this Android TV box with 8GB of storage, a microSD card slot for adding more space, and even two USB ports similar to what you get on the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro. The biggest issue we foresee is the lack of software updates, as smaller companies like this tend to be less consistent about them compared to a larger corporation such as NVIDIA.
It's also worth noting that the Ematic Jetstream doesn't support Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos, which is something you'll want to keep in mind if those are two features you rely on.
Best Features Android TV Box
Along with 4K HDR streaming, the Ematic Jetstream also gives you microSD storage expansion and even two full-size USB ports.
How to pick the best Android TV box
You have a few choices available to you when shopping for an Android TV box, but overall, the NVIDIA Shield TV stands out as the clear winner. It gives you a ton of features, a great design, and comes in at a fairly reasonable price.
In regards to watching movies and TV shows, the Shield TV is a champ. It handles 4K HDR content without breaking a sweat, and thanks to its support for both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, you can ensure that your picture and audio quality is as good as it gets. NVIDIA's AI upscaling is also rather impressive, giving non-4K content a noticeable resolution boost.
What makes the Shield TV unique from other Android TV boxes is the fact that it works with NVIDIA's GeForce Now service. GeForce Now is one of the best cloud gaming services currently on the market, and it allows you to play games like Fortnite, Destiny 2, Warframe, and more right on your TV.
1. What is Android TV?
First thing's first, a brief overview of what Android TV is at its core.
Android TV is a special version of Android that's designed specifically for televisions. It's technically the same software that powers your Samsung or Pixel phone, but you'll notice that it looks considerably different. The user interface has been optimized specifically for the big screen, which is why it looks and feels the way that it does.
You can download a variety of apps on Android TV, including the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, etc. It even has apps for HBO Max and NBC's new Peacock service, both of which still don't have official support for Roku or Amazon Fire TV. There are also some basic games available to download, which can be fun if you're looking for another way to kill some time.
There are a couple of cool tricks Android TV has up its sleeve that you won't find on competing smart TV platforms, the first of which is Google Assistant. Just like you have Google Assistant baked into your smartphone and smart speakers, it's also integrated into Android TV boxes. Just press the microphone button on the remote that comes with the box you buy, and you can ask the Google Assistant to control smart home devices, bring up your calendar, start streaming a specific show, and a lot more.
Android TV boxes also double as Chromecast targets! If you're browsing the Netflix app on your phone and find something you want to watch, just tap the Chromecast icon and it'll be sent to your Android TV just like that. You can even mirror your entire phone screen if you want to show off an app that doesn't natively support Chromecast, which is pretty darn cool.
2. Why should I buy a streaming box instead of an Android TV?
When shopping around for an Android TV box, you may notice that you can buy a full-on television that comes with Android TV software already built into it. These can be handy if you're in the market for a new TV and know you want it to run the Android TV interface, but they're also a much larger commitment than going with an Android TV box.
Android TV boxes are considerably more affordable than most Android TV televisions, making them a lot easier on your wallet. It's also a great way to get familiar with the operating system if you've never used it before. If you get an Android TV box and it turns out that it isn't a good fit, it's much easier to return a small box instead of a giant TV.
Android TV boxes also tend to have better processors and get more reliable software updates, especially with ones like the Shield TV and Shield TV Pro.
3. How does Android TV compare to Roku and Fire TV?
If you aren't thrilled about any of the choices on this list, you may want to consider shopping for streaming boxes powered by a different smart TV platform — specifically, Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
Roku is the most popular software out there for smart TV interfaces, offering robust options for both streaming boxes and televisions with Roku built-in. Roku benefits from having a lot more available hardware options in both of these regards, in addition to supporting more apps. Android TV's app selection is a lot better today than it used to be a few years ago, but Roku still has a lot of smaller apps/channels that you just can't get on Android TV.
Amazon Fire TV is right behind Roku in terms of popularity, and while it doesn't have a lot of different hardware choices for Fire TV boxes, the available ones tend to be considerably cheaper than the top Android TV picks. It also benefits from having Amazon Alexa built-in, which functions the same way Google Assistant does on Android TV.
4. Can you tell me more about NVIDIA GeForce Now?
We mentioned NVIDIA GeForce Now a couple of times throughout this article, but if you're still a little confused as to what it is, here's what you need to know.
GeForce Now is a service that allows you to play PC games on virtually any device by streaming them over the internet. Similar to how you stream movies and TV shows from Netflix, GeForce streams video games. It works with a variety of free-to-play games and ones that you've purchased through platforms like Steam, with some of the supported titles including Fortnite, Just Cause 4, Control, Rainbow Six Siege, and tons more.
You can use GeForce Now for free, but if you do so, you'll only have one-hour gaming sessions. Once that hour is up, however, you can just hop back into your game and start playing for another hour (and so on). There is a paid tier that costs a few bucks a month, and this gives you access to longer continuous play sessions, priority access to GeForce Now servers, and RTX support for even better-looking games.
Android TV boxes are a fantastic way to easily stream endless content on your television, and as you can see, you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to get one. Whether you decide to pick up an NVIDIA box or the TiVo Stream 4K, you'll have a capable and reliable gadget for streaming the day away.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Joe Maring is Android Central's Senior Editor and has had a love for anything with a screen and CPU since he can remember. He's been talking/writing about Android in one form or another since 2012 and often does so while camping out at the nearest coffee shop. Have a tip? Reach out on Twitter @JoeMaring1 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!
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