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The best Android TV box

Launching voice controls with Google Assistant is as simple as saying "OK Google" into your Android TV remote.
Launching voice controls with Google Assistant is as simple as saying "OK Google" into your Android TV remote.

You have plenty of choices when it comes to adding a video-streaming device to your entertainment center, but there are quite a few reasons why Android TV boxes stand apart from the competition. For example, you can browse a gigantic catalog of apps featuring countless movies and shows with precise voice controls, manage your home's network of smart devices using the Android TV as a hub, and, our top pick, the NVIDIA SHIELD TV Gaming Edition doubles as a video game console that is capable of playing many popular titles. There are many more factors to consider, ranging from gorgeous 4K video streaming to Dolby Audio, and it's certainly worth your time to learn which Android TV box is the best one for you.

Considerations when choosing Android TV boxes

Official Android TV boxes

Be wary of streaming boxes that claim to be "Android TV," when they simply run an Android operating system. Official devices will make it crystal clear that they utilize genuine Android TV on the packaging.

DVR functionality

Although all Android TV boxes include DVR capabilities, you will need an antenna and tuner to digitally record and view local content.

HDR functionality

What good is your gorgeous 4K HDR TV if your Android TV doesn't stream content in HDR as well? HDR, or High Dynamic Range, displays a greater range of brightness and color to create a more lifelike picture, and it's worth the effort to find an Android TV box capable of streaming HDR video.

Features

4K streaming

If you own a 4K TV, then we highly recommend buying an Android TV box capable of streaming video in 4K, even if it means spending a little extra to ensure that you are getting the best viewing experience possible. On the flipside, if you do not own a 4K display, you may be able to save a few bucks by buying a model limited to a 1,080p Full HD resolution instead.

Gaming

The ability to try a new game between binging the next season of your favorite show is a welcome distraction, and while mid-range Android TV boxes should be able to run smaller titles like Crossy Road and Final Fantasy III, the NVIDIA SHIELD TV Gaming Edition easily plays action-packed and visually impressive games like Rocket League and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

Voice control

Since no one wants to use a directional pad to scroll through the entire alphabet to type "The Walking Dead" within the Netflix app, Google Assistant makes searching for interesting shows nearly effortless with its capable voice controls.

Smart home control

Some Android TV boxes take the convenience of voice controls to the next level by utilizing Google Home or Amazon Echo, via Google Assistant or Alexa respectively, to activate your array of smart home devices.

Price

The average cost of a modern Android TV box ranges between $65 and $190. Some of the factors that determine the price of each model include gaming capabilities, the ability to stream in 4K, and processing speed.

FAQ

Q. What is Chromecast?

A. Chromecast is an innovative feature built into the Android TV software that allows users to stream shows, movies, photos, and other content directly from their smartphone to the TV. Over 1,000 Android TV apps support Chromecast, including Spotify, Hulu , and YouTube .

Q. Are all Android TV boxes capable of playing games?

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A. No. Although there are many genuinely great games available on Android TV via the Google Play app store like PAC-MAN 256, Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath, and The Wolf Among Us, lower-end Android TV boxes are best suited for streaming video content.

Android TV boxes we recommend

Best of the best: NVIDIA SHIELD TV Gaming Edition

Our take: The NVIDIA SHIELD TV Gaming Edition goes above and beyond expectations with its lightning-fast speed, gigantic collection of apps and games, and especially convenient control options, making this the must-own Android TV box if it's in your budget.

What we like: Features popular games like Minecraft, Bioshock, and Fortnite. Includes controller. Full Android TV lineup of apps. 4K streaming. Smart home hub. Voice controls. Surprisingly powerful.

What we dislike: Although this is a fairly pricy Android TV box, you won't find a better model than this one.           

Best bang for your buck: Mi Box S

Our take: Considering that the Mi Box S sports the full Android TV library of streaming apps, voice controls, and surprisingly good video and sound quality, it is certainly the best budget Android TV box on the market.

What we like: Inexpensive. 4K Ultra HD display. Excellent use of Dolby Audio. Includes Chromecast and Google Assistant. Thousands of Android TV apps. Control smart home devices.

What we dislike: The overall performance of the Mi Box S isn't nearly as speedy as competing models.                              

Choice 3: AirTV Player

Our take: The AirTV Player is a triple threat of free over-the-air local channels, the best streaming apps available, and it was made for Sling TV, making it a fantastic low-cost cable alternative.

What we like: Affordable. Optimized for Sling TV. Easily receives free local channels. Optional DVR feature. 4K picture. Thousands of Android TV apps. Connects to most Bluetooth devices.

What we dislike: While it's easy to connect an HD antenna to this Android TV box, you will need to buy one separately.

Arnold Carreiro is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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