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.
What are the best Android TV boxes?
When it comes to the best Android TV boxes, our overall pick has to be the Chromecast with Google TV. In almost every regard, the new Chromecast is basically perfect. It has 4K HDR streaming with support for Dolby Vision/Atmos, a great remote that's easy-to-use, and comes in at an incredible price. The star of the show is the special Google TV software that's layered on top of Android TV, offering new features and an upgraded design that we think you'll love.
If you aren't thrilled with what the Chromecast has to offer, another solid pick is the NVIDIA Shield TV. Its higher price may turn some potential buyers away, but it makes up for that with a faster processor, 4K upscaling, and a more premium remote.
Last but not least, it's also worth considering the very similar NVIDIA Shield TV Pro. It's almost identical to the regular Shield TV, but you're benefitting from extra RAM/storage and full-size USB ports. This one also doubles as a SmartThings hub, which is a great touch if you have a lot of SmartThings-enabled gadgets in your home.
1. Chromecast with Google TV
The best Android TV box overall$50 at Best Buy
Bottom line: In the world of Android TV boxes, the Chromecast with Google TV easily stands out as the best one to get. Its hardware is more than capable, but the thing that puts it over the edge is its unmatched software and highly competitive price.
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- 4K HDR streaming
- Supports Dolby Vision & Dolby Atmos
- Small, well-built remote
- Google TV interface is excellent
- Affordable price
- Limited remote buttons
- Ongoing bugs
Although there aren't a ton of Android TV boxes available to buy in 2021, the one that easily stands out as the best of the bunch is the Chromecast with Google TV. No matter how you slice it, this latest Chromecast ends up being a perfect streaming companion for just about any living room.
On the hardware/spec front, everything you need for high-quality streaming is here. The Chromecast offers 4K HDR streaming, support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and has a processor that keeps things running smoothly for most tasks. The remote is a little lacking when it comes to buttons, but it's incredibly well-built and offers good utility in a sleek and compact form factor.
Where the Chromecast gets a big edge over the rest of the options on this list is how it's running the new Google TV interface. While it's technically powered by Android TV, Google's added this new Google TV software on top of it to create for a brand new experience. Everything is much more visually-appealing, all of your apps work just the same, and the new home pages are designed to curate everything from your streaming apps so you can more easily find something to watch. In our testing, it's a much better user experience compared to regular Android TV — and the Chromecast is the only way to get it right now.
Making all of this even better is the Chromecast's price. Not only is it the best Android TV box on our list, but it's also one of the most affordable. Talk about a win-win.
The biggest downside of the Chromecast is that some users have reported a variety of bugs and glitches since its debut — such as freezing apps and full system crashes. It doesn't seem like everyone is being affected by these things, but if you are planning on picking up the Chromecast, it's something to consider beforehand.
2. NVIDIA Shield TV
The best alternative Android TV box$150 at Amazon
Bottom line: In the world of Android TV boxes, the NVIDIA Shield TV easily stands out as one of the best one to get. It has incredibly powerful specs, outstanding 4K upscaling, and works with NVIDIA's GeForce NOW cloud gaming service.
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- Sleek, compact design
- 4K HDR streaming with upscaling
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- NVIDIA GeForce Now
- Not super affordable
Google did a lot right with the Chromecast, but if it doesn't seem like a good fit for you, another option to consider 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.
3. 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.
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- 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.
4. TiVo Stream 4K
The best value Android TV box$38 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.
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- Streams 4K HDR
- Remote with voice control
- TiVo Stream app
- 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. It's not quite as seamless as the Google TV experience, but if you want the traditional Android TV interface while still getting high-quality content recommendations, the Stream is a great pick.
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.
5. Ematic Jetstream
The best underdog Android TV box$70 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.
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- 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.
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 Chromecast with Google TV stands out as the clear winner. It gives you a ton of features, amazing software, and comes in at a very reasonable price.
In regards to watching movies and TV shows, the Chromecast 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.
What makes the Chromecast unique from other Android TV boxes is the fact that it features the new Google TV software. Google TV is layered on top of Android TV and curates all of the shows and movies from your various streaming apps into one place. It takes out the normal hassle of juggling between multiple apps just to find something to watch, and it's a genuinely useful addition that you won't find anywhere else.
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. Right now, the biggest missing piece from Android TV's content library is an Apple TV app (though it's coming soon).
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 the best Android TVs, 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 a Chromecast 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 email@example.com!
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