Best Android TV Boxes Android Central 2020
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 (2019)
- Small and Functional: Xiaomi Mi Box S
- Another budget pick: Ematic Jetstream 4K Ultra HD TV Box
- Perfect Home Theater: VANKYO MatrixBox X95 Max
- Gaming & Streaming: NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro Home Media Server
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.
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.
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.
The VANKYO MatrixBox X95 Max doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but this Android TV box comes with Android 9.0 out of the box. There is also a great combination of 4GB of RAM along with 32GB of storage, which can be expanded to 128GB. Plus, the X95 Max supports 4K UHD content with HDR 10+ and 3D video playback, all in a small and compact package.
The difference between the standard model NVIDIA Shield TV and the Shield TV Pro is the classic look comes to the Pro, along with the addition of some extras. These include two USB ports to connect your favorite peripherals for gaming sessions, along with the ability to use the TV Pro as your Plex Media Server. With the Tegra X1+ chipset, you even get AI-powered upscaling for a better experience when viewing HD content on a 4K television.
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 TV (2019).
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, making many interesting balks 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.
However, 2015 saw 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.
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 seven 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 ten 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.
2019 has been extremely generous to those of us wanting more from an Android TV box with the updated release of both the Shield TV and Shield TV Pro. NVIDIA took all of the best traits from its original Shield lineup and brought them along while adding many features that users were looking for. The standard Shield TV has been completely redesigned, while the Shield TV Pro keeps that sleek look from the first generation.
If we're making some suggestions
The Android TV box that we here at Android Central recommend is the NVIDIA Shield TV (2019). 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, is fantastic with its updated Tegra X1+ chipset along with 3GB of RAM and 16GB of expandable storage. There are also 2-USB 3.0 ports for storage, keyboards, mice, or even controllers. Plus, you'll get the advantage of Dolby Vision HDR and Atmos for the ultimate home theater experience.
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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