The idea of turning your regular old TV into a smart TV used to require actually buying a new smart TV. But today with the rise of the Android TV box, you can easily upgrade any TV with the latest streaming capabilities and so much more.
Android TV boxes provide a simple way to get smart TV functionality on any TV with an HDMI port. These clever little devices run a version of the Android operating system optimized for the larger screen experience. So you can access all your favorite streaming apps, use voice commands, cast content from other devices, and do everything a smart TV can do for a fraction of the cost.
In this post, we’ll dive into the top Android TV boxes that are worth your consideration in 2023. We’ll look at key factors in choosing the right streaming box for your needs and budget. And we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about how these devices work and what you can do with them. Let’s get started!
The Best Android TV Boxes of 2023
With more companies releasing their take on the Android TV box every year, it can be tough to determine which ones are truly the best of the best. Here are 5 boxes that stand out for their impressive performance, features, and overall value in 2023.
1. Nvidia Shield TV Pro – Top Performance for Streaming and Gaming
If you’re looking for the most powerful Android TV box money can buy, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro tops the list. It packs Nvidia’s blazing fast Tegra X1+ processor and 3GB of RAM under the hood. This gives it downright awesome performance for ultra smooth 4K HDR streaming and multitasking.
It’s the premium streaming box for home theater enthusiasts who demand the best. In addition to Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support, the Shield TV Pro uses advanced AI upscaling to make HD content look sharper on 4K TVs.
Gamers will also delight at the ability to play Android games on the big screen and access Nvidia GeForce Now for streaming graphics-intensive PC games. The Shield TV experience is unmatched if you want the utmost in performance. Just be prepared to pay a premium price for it.
2. Amazon Fire TV Cube – Hands-Free Streaming with Alexa
Amazon’s latest entrant in the Android TV marketplace distinguishes itself with exclusive hands-free Alexa voice control capabilities. The hexacore Fire TV Cube essentially doubles as an Alexa smart speaker, with 8 microphones built into the box to listen to your voice requests from across the room.
You can ask Alexa to launch apps, search for content, control smart home devices, answer questions, and more completely hands-free. This makes navigating the Fire TV interface easier than ever. Backing up the voice functionality is excellent streaming performance thanks to the speedy hexa-core processor and Dolby Vision support.
If you want Alexa at the center of your living room entertainment, the Fire TV Cube is the obvious choice. The major downside is no access to the Google Play Store and higher cost than the Fire TV Stick. But Alexa fans will think it’s worth paying extra for an Alexa streaming box.
3. Xiaomi Mi Box S – Budget-Friendly Streaming
Proving you don’t need to spend a lot for quality streaming, the Xiaomi Mi Box S manages to pack a pleasant punch for under $100. It comes with 4K HDR streaming capabilities, Dolby DTS audio support, and Chromecast functionality baked right in for beaming content from phones.
The TV interface is responsive thanks to Android TV 9 under the hood and you get Google Assistant voice commands via the remote. Setting up and using the Mi Box S is a breeze, especially if you already use Chromecast or Google Home products.
While the 8GB storage fills up quickly, you can’t beat the price for easy 4K streaming. The Mi Box S is great for casual streamers who want to affordably upgrade an older TV. Just don’t expect all the bells and whistles of the Shield or Fire TV Cube.
4. Nvidia Shield TV (2019) – AI Upscaling for HD Streaming
The simply named Nvidia Shield TV (2019 edition) brings much of the praised Shield streaming experience to a smaller, more affordable package. The slick tube design hosts the powerful Tegra X1+ processor along with Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, and AI upscaling features.
The upscaling is what really makes HD content shine on this box. It can boost 720p and 1080p video on your 4K television to near UHD quality using the power of AI. This means non-4K content avoids looking soft or pixelated. The Shield TV pulls off this trick better than just about any streamer.
You still get full access to Google Play apps and even GeForce Now game streaming. The cheaper price does come with some downsides like fewer ports and no remote voice support. But for AI video enhancements at this price, the Shield TV is unmatched.
5. TiVo Stream 4K – Stream Free TV Alongside Paid Apps
Veteran DVR maker TiVo took an interesting approach to its Android TV debut. The appropriately named TiVo Stream 4K focuses on integrating free streaming TV alongside your paid subscription apps. So you get excellent live TV integration from Sling TV, Pluto TV, and more.
It delivers this experience with a refined interface that is smoother than some competing options. Of course, you still have full access to install any app from the Google Play store. Backing it up are capable 4K HDR streaming capabilities with Dolby Vision support.
The TiVo Stream 4K is a solid pick if you want tighter live TV and streaming integration. But it is more expensive than competitors with similar hardware specs. Still, for those missing cable TV, it’s a clever way to recreate that experience with free streaming TV resources.
Key Factors in Picking the Right Android TV Box
With so many options on the market, it can get overwhelming to decide which Android TV box is the right pick for you. Let’s go over the key factors and features to consider when making your selection:
- Processor performance – A faster processor ensures smooth 4K streaming and quick app loading. Look for a chipset with at least a quad core CPU like the Tegra X1 or Snapdragon 665. More cores equal better multitasking.
- Remote control – Many Android TV remotes now incorporate voice control or programmable shortcut buttons for easier navigation. This is handy if the box will be used by kids, seniors, or casual streamers in your home.
- 4K and HDR – To futureproof your purchase, ensure any box supports 4K resolution and HDR formats like HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. This provides the best picture quality.
- Storage space – While streaming is the main use case, more storage allows you to download more apps. Shoot for at least 16GB; 8GB will fill up fast with the Android OS and pre-installed apps.
- Gaming features – Some boxes support gaming controllers and game streaming services like GeForce Now. If gaming is a priority, look for relevant gaming-focused features.
- Audio quality – Dolby Atmos support brings immersive sound to your TV entertainment. DTS:X and DTS Virtual:X also boost audio quality.
- WiFi performance – With 4K streaming requiring more bandwidth, you’ll benefit from WiFi 5 or the latest WiFi 6 adapters for fast wireless connectivity.
- Extra features – AI video upscaling, Chromecast built-in, and far-field microphones for voice control take the experience up a notch on certain boxes.
- Price – With the wide range of Android TV devices now available, set a spending budget and look for the best combination of performance, features and value.
- Brand reputation – Stick with recognizable consumer electronics brands like Nvidia, Amazon, Xiaomi and others with proven track records.
Frequently Asked Questions About Android TV Boxes
Let’s wrap up with answers to some commonly asked questions about how Android TV boxes work and how you can use them:
1. Do you need WiFi to use an Android TV box?
Yes, an Android TV box requires WiFi connectivity to access streaming services and apps from the internet. Some boxes also have an ethernet port for wired connection if available. WiFi 5 or WiFi 6 is recommended for fastest wireless performance, especially with 4K streaming.
2. How do you load apps on an Android TV box?
The process is simple and similar to an Android phone. Most Android TV devices come preloaded with the most popular streaming and entertainment apps. You can browse and download additional apps you want through the Google Play store.
3. Can Android TV boxes be used for live TV streaming?
Yes! Many streaming TV services like YouTube TV, Hulu Live, Sling TV, Philo and more offer Android TV apps. This allows you to stream live TV channels through the box. Some cable providers also offer Android TV apps to view your cable package.
4. Are Android TV boxes legal to use?
As long as you use your Android TV device to access legal content from services you subscribe to, it is perfectly legal to own and operate for personal streaming. On the other hand, streaming pirated movies or TV shows is prohibited.
5. Do you need to subscribe to apps like Netflix separately?
Correct. An Android TV box simply provides the platform to run streaming apps on your TV. You still need to subscribe directly to any services like Netflix, Prime Video, etc. before you can view their content on the box.
6. Can you use gaming controllers and play games?
Absolutely! Most Android TV boxes support wireless gaming controllers that pair via Bluetooth. This allows you to enjoy a much better gaming experience. Some boxes are especially geared for gaming like the Nvidia Shield TV models.
7. What’s the difference between Android TV and Android TV boxes?
Android TV is Google’s smart TV platform that comes built into select smart TV models. Android TV boxes are physical streaming devices that run the Android TV software to deliver the features to any TV with an HDMI connection.
8. Can Android TV boxes get viruses or be hacked?
It’s very unlikely, but theoretically possible. Sticking to downloading apps only from the Google Play store greatly minimizes any malware risk. Additionally, performing regular software updates delivers the latest security patches.
9. Do you need fast broadband speeds for 4K streaming?
Yes, to stream 4K Ultra HD content smoothly without bufffering, you’ll want a steady high-speed broadband connection. Minimum speeds of 15-25 Mbps are recommended for 4K, though faster is always better!
10. What are the most popular uses for Android TV boxes?
The most common uses include streaming HD and 4K movies and shows on services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and more. Running a wide variety of Android apps on the TV screen via the Google Play store. Casting videos, music and photos from your smartphone or tablet to the TV. And gaming with controllers.
Bring Your TV into the Smart TV Era
Android TV boxes provide an affordable gateway to unlock a world of entertainment on your existing television. With capabilities like 4K streaming, voice controls, gaming and more, they make any TV smarter. Choosing the right Android TV box comes down to your budget, performance needs, and desired features.
For premium performance and every bell and whistle, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro leads the pack. Those wanting seamless Alexa voice interactions will love the Fire TV Cube. And the Mi Box S delivers surprising quality for less than $100. Any of these solutions will convert your standard TV into a smart hub overflowing with streaming content and apps.
So say goodbye to the limitations of regular televisions. With the simple addition of an Android TV box, you can enjoy an amazing smart TV experience without buying a whole new TV set. Your home entertainment lifestyle is about to get a major upgrade!