Best Android TV Boxes Android Central 2019

Streaming devices and set-top boxes are becoming major staples in the homes of those who wish to cut the cord or augment their current television viewing experience. While there is no real shortage of available set-top boxes and streaming sticks on the market, there are quite a few that are heads and shoulders above the rest, especially in the Android TV market. Here are some of the best available Android TV boxes on the market.

Gaming & Streaming: NVIDIA Shield TV

Staff Pick

The NVIDIA Shield is a pure powerhouse in the Android TV ecosystem. With hands-free operation, courtesy of either Google Assistant or the Alexa ecosystem, as well as GeForce NOW game streaming, 4K HDR video streaming with Dolby Atmos audio, and access to the full Google Play Store, the NVIDIA Shield is a top pick for anyone looking to bring the Android TV experience home.

$170 at Amazon

Small and Functional: Xiaomi Mi Box S

Xiaomi's Mi Box S isn't the most powerful Android TV box, but it makes up for it with its 4K HDR streaming capabilities. The Mi Box S also has full access to the Google Play Store and Google Cast capabilities, making for a serviceable entry-level Android TV box for anyone.

$59 at Walmart

Another budget pick: Ematic Jetstream 4K Ultra HD TV Box

Ematic's Jetstream is one of the newer boxes on the market, and it's a great middle-of-the-road box. Released in mid-2018, the Jetstream supports Android Oreo right out of the box, and it is one of the few certified Android TV set-top boxes with Netflix certification, and 4K UHD playback.

$69 at Walmart

OTA + SlingTV with a dash of Android TV: AirTV Player

Dish's Sling TV is one of the first and popular OTT services available for cordcutters, and the AirTV Player is their way to integrate Sling into more homes. The included AirTV adapter allows connection to Over the Air channels, and you can connect an external hard drive to record local channels for later viewing. Also, having Android TV on board opens the door for much more streaming content, including Netflix.

$100 at Walmart

Gaming & Streaming: NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro Home Media Server

The difference between the standard model NVIDIA Shield and the Shield TV Pro Home Media Server is the built in 500GB hard drive and the micro SD slot for expandable storage. The Shield Pro Home Media server is harder to come by, as it is no longer in production, but the aforementioned included 500GB hard drive will help with setting up a Plex Media Server for the whole house.

$278 at Amazon

What's up with the limited options for Android TV set-top boxes?

Before we get to that answer, let's clear one thing up first. There are several Android TV boxes available on the market. However, there are only a few that are Google certified, and even fewer certified for Netflix. Beyond that, there is only one certified for Amazon Prime Video — the NVIDIA Shield.

Going a bit further, Android TV's start was extremely rough, leaving sour tastes in the mouths of many. The Nexus Player by ASUS was severely under-powered with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of onboard storage and overpriced at $100, making many interested balk at buying the device. Despite getting updates as far as Android Oreo — the device shipped with Android Lollipop — the Nexus Player was marred by several issues, such as networking issues and device bricking, the latter happening as recent as Summer 2018.

The Razer Forge TV was possibly the worst Android TV box that was released, while the NVIDIA Shield is largely considered the cream of the crop.

However, 2015 has seen the best of Android TV rise, as well as the worst of Android TV make a brief showing. The NVIDIA Shield is a powerhouse of an Android TV set-top box, with access to both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, as well as the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa connectivity and the ability to become a smart hub via the Samsung SmartThings Link adapter. The NVIDIA Shield TV can also stream games from the PC via NVIDIA GeForce Now or the Steam Link app. But the worst came in April, and that was the Razer Forge TV. That device completely stumbled out of the gates, and never recovered from the missteps that Razer made.

Android TV is growing, and things are looking quite promising for the platform.

Missteps such as the lack of Netflix support and not fulfilling their promise to stream games from the PC led to the Razer Forge leaving the market less than 7 months later in November of 2015. Additionally, Xiaomi's Mi Box S and the Ematic Jetstream are just as readily available in the United States as the NVIDIA Shield. However, there are more 4K smart TVs that are equipped with Android TV from companies such as Sony, Philips, Sharp and Hisense, than there are available consumer grade Android TV set-top boxes. One out of every 10 smart TVs host Android TV's OS, and even though this trails Samsung's Tizen OS and Roku TV, it's popularity is growing at an amazing clip, as Google takes more stock in its television OS.

There is a lot more depth we can go into concerning the Android TV ecosystem, such as Google's seeming shift towards Chromecast, or even pay TV providers such as Frontier Communications, WOW! and AT&T in the United States and Telus in Canada looking to bring Android TV to their set-top boxes, including a few Operator Tier-certified boxes from Telus and AT&T's DIRECTV. Android TV is growing, and things are looking quite promising for the platform.

If we're making some suggestions

The Android TV box that we here at Android Central recommend is the NVIDIA Shield. What makes the NVIDIA Shield a great Android TV box other than the 4K HDR output with Dolby Atmos audio is the integration with Samsung SmartThings, as well as full access to the Google Play marketplace and the included Google Assistant functionality. You can even control your Shield TV box with your Alexa-enabled devices via Amazon's NVIDIA Shield skill for Alexa.

Alternatively, The NVIDIA Shield TV Pro Home Media Server, although being difficult to find due to production of this model being halted, is still an excellent choice for hosting a Plex Media Server.

The Xiaomi Mi Box S compared to the NVIDIA Shield isn't the most powerful device, but for an entry-level Android TV box, it gets the job done. It's one of the few official Android TV-certified boxes, and is well known for its capability for 4K HDR output.

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