Best Cheap Alternatives to the NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) Android Central 2020
The NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) is hands down the best Android TV set-top box you can buy, offering a great mix of features for cord cutters and gamers alike. However, all that greatness comes at a fairly high price. If you're looking to save some money on your next streaming box, your best bet is the Xiaomi Mi Box S, but we've rounded up a couple of other options as well.
- Best Overall: Xiaomi Mi Box S
- Best Value: Roku Ultra
- Best for Alexa: Amazon Fire TV Cube
- Best Streaming Dongle: Google Chromecast Ultra
Best Overall: Xiaomi Mi Box S
The Xiaomi Mi Box S is the best option for those wanting the full Android TV experience at a lower price point. Featuring decent specs and compatibility with 4K TVs, this is an affordable option for anyone looking to stream content from the most popular services available from the Google Play Store — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, YouTube, and so on.
Given the price and the compatibility, it might seem like a no-brainer but the Xiaomi Mi Box S does have some shortcomings. While it offers support for 4K content, it struggles to stream in 4K without considerable lag. As writer Harish Jonnalagadda explains in his full review, the Mi Box S simply doesn't have the hardware power to fully support 4K streaming and that's a disappointment.
Another annoyance is having to turn the box on just to use the Chromecast functionality. Having said that, if stuttering 4K streams isn't a dealbreaker for you, the Xiaomi Mi Box S is a perfectly affordable alternative to the NVIDIA Shield TV.
- Runs on Android TV 8.1
- Handles 1080p content with ease
- Built-in Chromecast and Google Assistant functionality
- 4K streaming is laggy
- Mi Box needs to be turned on to Cast
A comparable Android TV experience at half the price
The Xiaomi Mi Box S is a great option for fans of Android TV. It lags in 4K but still offers great value for thrifty cord-cutters.
Best Value: Roku Ultra
Roku is a popular streaming platform that's been used in many smart TVs, and the Roku Ultra represents the best that Roku has to offer for cord cutters.
The Ultra is the latest streaming box from Roku that supports 1080p, 4K UHD, and HDR10 content. It ships with a remote that's a jack-of-all-trades. It features a headphone jack for private listening (along with a complimentary pair of earbuds), offers support for voice search, and includes a built-in speaker for the times when it gets lost in a couch cushion. Simply press the remote finder button on the Roku Ultra and your Roku remote will chirp out its location in your home.
There's support for all the expected streaming services, local news programming, and hundreds of private channels streaming content of all varieties — the true strength of the Roku platform. The only downside is that it's not running on Android so you don't get access to the Google Play Store. Also, while there's support for Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision is not supported.
- Full support for 4K UHD and HDR10 content
- Remote control jam-packed with useful features
- Platform offers great support for apps
- Comes with earbuds
- No support for Dolby Vision
- No support for Android apps
Roku's best streaming solution
The Roku Ultra is a stalwart 4K streamer that supports most streaming services, along with Roku's deep collection of free channels.
Best for Alexa: Amazon Fire TV Cube
Amazon's Fire TV Cube is a great choice for anyone who's heavily invested in the Alexa ecosystem. The latest streaming solution from Amazon supports 4K Ultra HD streaming and includes everything you love about Alexa baked right in.
The Fire TV Cube offers a bit of everything that makes Amazon's smart home offerings so appealing. You get an improved set-top streaming box that also works as a smart home hub for your other connected devices. It also still works as a voice-controlled Echo speaker when the TV is not in use.
For those reasons, it's the best option for anyone already baked into the Alexa ecosystem. Unfortunately, it lacks the support for Google Play services that Android users love about the Shield TV.
- Support for 4K UHD and HDR10+
- Support for Dolby Vision and Atmos
- Use Alexa for voice searches and
- Acts as Echo speaker and smart home hub when TV is off
- Limited support for gaming
- No support for Google Play services (aside from YouTube)
Best for Alexa
The perfect Alexa product for your living room
Amazon's 4K streaming cube is the perfect way to add Alexa to your living room, and doubles as an Echo speaker when the TV's off.
Best Streaming Dongle: Google Chromecast Ultra
The Google Chromecast Ultra is not a fully-fledged streaming box like the other options on this list, but it still functions well for most streaming situations using just your phone. The Ultra also supports 4K HDR streaming, where available, and also offers functionality with Google's Stadia game streaming service.
There's no remote here, just an HDMI dongle that connects at the back of your TV and lets you cast apps from your phone (or from a Chrome browser on a computer) to your TV. This makes the Chromecast one of the easiest streaming products to set up and use, but not having physical controls can cause headaches if the media controls disappear from your phone's notification shade.
The Chromecast Ultra is not as feature-laden as the other options on this list, but it is a Google product so it plays nice with Google Play and can be controlled by Google Assistant.
- Supports 4K HDR content
- Easy to set up and use
- Works with Google Assistant and Google Stadia
- Not a full-featured streaming box
- Media controls can disappear while you're streaming
Best Streaming Dongle
Google's mighty little streaming dongle
The Google Chromecast is an affordable way to stream your favorite content in 4K, featuring full support for Google Assistant.
We'd still recommend the NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) as the absolute best option for Android TV streaming (with all the gaming goodness thrown in as a cool bonus), but if you're looking to save some coin while still getting a similar user interface and access to the Google Play Store, we'd suggest the Xiaomi Mi Box S as an affordable option.
The Mi Box S costs less than half of the Shield TV (2019) and it manages to offer decent hardware and compatibility with all the streaming services you're interested in. The remote has Google Assistant baked in, giving you the ability to play your favorite TV shows and movies just by issuing voice commands.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Marc Lagace is the Apps and Games Editor at Android Central. He's been a gamer for most of his life and took a university course on Video Game Theory — which he aced! You can reach out to him on Twitter @spacelagace.
Harish Jonnalagadda Harish Jonnalagadda is the Regional Editor at Android Central. A reformed hardware modder, he now spends his time writing about India's burgeoning handset market. Previously, he used to ponder the meaning of life at IBM. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.
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