Best Android TV Box 2020

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Although there are tons of streaming devices including Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV, set-top boxes, Android is a prime multimedia landscape. It’s chock-full of popular apps for streaming movies, TV, and music. Android gaming is a blast as well with support for native Android games and emulators. Plus, there’s integration with Google Assistant. Check out the best Android TV boxes for 2020!

What is an Android TV Box and What Should You Look for?

While tons of devices are marketed as Android TV boxes, it’s somewhat misleading. Many budget Android set-top boxes run a tablet-optimized version of Android that’s engineered for a touchscreen interface rather than a remote. As such, navigation is pretty cumbersome. Official Android TV devices on the other hand feature an Andriod operating system (OS) designed for use with a remote or gamepad, and viewing on a ten-foot-interface.

When selecting an Android TV streaming device, consider your needs. If you’re mostly streaming from Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+, pretty much any option will suffice. But for gaming, either native Android gaming or emulation, a beefier CPU and GPU are both necessary. In addition to underlying hardware such as CPU, GPU, RAM, and onboard storage, connectivity is important. Most modern streaming set-top boxes utilize HDMI, but you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the highest resolution possible, either 4K or 1080p. Wi-Fi is pretty standard, although particularly for 4K streaming, Ethernet is recommended. Plus, think about the different apps you use. Although most are available on Android TV, some such as CineMax aren’t. Finally, budget is a factor as well.

Android TV box considerations:

  • Android TV vs. unofficial Android
  • Internet connectivity: Wi-Fi, Ethernet
  • Video output and resolution: HDMI, 4K or 1080p
  • Hardware specs: RAM, CPU, GPU, onboard storage
  • Price
  • Use: Streaming, gaming

best android tv box 2020 - android shield tv pro
Hands-down the best Android TV box money can buy in 2020 is the Nvidia Shield TV Pro. Powered by an Nvidia Tegra X1+ chip, the Shield Pro churns out buttery smooth 4K HDR visuals. It’s compatible with Dolby Vision, a proprietary implementation of HDR (High Dynamic Range), and handles virtually any audio or visual signal thrown at it including Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital Plus. There’s dual-band AC Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, and an excellent array of inputs/outputs (I/O). You’ll find dual USB 3.0 ports and Gigabit Ethernet.

The Shield TV’s artificial intelligence (AI) upscaling takes standard 1080p high definition (HD) content and upscales it to 4K resolution for a clear, image. Its AI upscaling video enhancement noticeably improves image quality, and isn’t merely a gimmick. There’s Google Assistant built-in as well as Chromecast onboard. With its ability to run 64-bit Android apps, the Shield TV Pro can handle native Android games, GeForce NOW game streaming, and emulation. For Plex streaming, the Shield TV is a top-notch client device tackling pretty much any audio or video codec. What’s more, the Shield can double as a Plex server. Unfortunately, the Shield TV’s revamp nixed its internal harddrive. Plus, there’s no SD card slot. However, its USB ports support external harddrives and flash drives. Overall, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro is the best Android TV box on the planet.

Pros:

  • Powerful Nvidia Tegra X1+ processor
  • Ethernet
  • Wi-Fi
  • True Android TV OS
  • 4K HDR with Dolby Vision
  • Dolby Atmos compatibility
  • 3GB RAM
  • Runs 64-bit android apps
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • 16GB internal storage
  • Doubles as a Plex server
  • Great for game streaming, native Android gaming, and emulation

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Only 16GB of internal storage
  • No SD card or microSD card slot
  • Lacks HDR10+
  • Can’t do HDR for YouTube (software issue, not hardware)

best android tv box 2020 - android shield tv dongle
In addition to the Shield TV Pro, Nvidia offers its Shield TV. Rather than the set-top box of the Shield Pro. the vanilla Shield opts for a dongle form factor. The compact tube-shaped device boasts the same Nvidia Tegra X1+ processor as found in the Pro variant. And it sports almost the exact same feature set. You’ll find Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos compatibility, 4K HDR video output, and 4K AI upscaling. There’s also dual-band AC Wi-Fi as well as Ethernet. Additional I/O includes HDMI and microSD. Onboard, the Shield TV packs 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage space.

You won’t find any USB ports, so unlike the Shield Pro, the Shield dongle can’t be used as a SmartThings smart home hub. Likewise, it won’t work for a Plex server, but it’s perfectly good as a Plex or Emby client. Disappointingly, Nvidia opts for a 32-bit Android TV OS on the Shield TV non-Pro. As such, many Shield TV native Android games and the Dolphin emulator won’t run. On the bright side, it keeps the price point lower than the Shield Pro. Most users predominantly concerned with streaming from the likes of Hulu, Netflix, or Disney+ will be just fine. Power users seeking an Android TV box for gaming, Plex server use, and smart home hub compatibility will be let down. However, for most people, the Shield TV is an excellent Android box.

Pros:

  • Nvidia Tegra X1+ processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 8GB onboard storage
  • 4K AI upscaling
  • 4K HDR output with Dolby Vision
  • microSD card slot
  • HDMI
  • Ethernet and Wi-Fi
  • Reasonably priced
  • Chromecast
  • Google Assistant
  • True Android TV OS

Cons:

  • No HDR10+
  • Lacks USB connectivity
  • Can’t be used as a Plex server or SmartThings hub
  • Doesn’t run 64-bit Android TV apps
  • YouTube HDR not available (software issue, not hardware incompatibility)

best android tv box 2020 - xiaomi mi box s best budget android tv box
The Xiaomi Mix Box S is a great Android box that won’t break the bank. Clocking in around $65 USD, the Mi Box S is a true Android TV OS device. There’s Chromecast and Google Assistant built-in. Xiaomi’s Android media box handles 4K HDR content from the likes of Netflix with aplomb. It’s powered by a quad-core CPU with a 3+2 core CPU for excellent audio and video quality. There’s dual-band Wi-Fi, a full-size USB port, and S/PDIF audio output. With a small footprint and superb candybar remote, the Mi Box S is a compelling option for anyone seeking a cheap Android TV device.

However, Xiaomi’s Android streaming box is a bit laggy for 4K video. The Cortex-A53 processor, Mali 450 GPU, 8GB of internal storage, and 2GB of RAM remain unchanged from the original Mi Box. Instead, the Mi Box runs a newer version of Android TV in 8.1 plus benefits from a re-designed remote. On paper, the Mi Box S is a potential Shield TV killer. But spotty 4K performance prevents it from truly competing with the Shield TV or the Shield Pro. Nevertheless, at this price point, the Mi Box S is a great choice for a streaming device that runs actual Android TV on a budget.

Pros:

  • 4K HDR
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi
  • S/PDIF audio out
  • USB port
  • Mali 450 GPU, Cortex-A53 CPU
  • True Android TV OS
  • Chromecast
  • Google Assistant
  • Great remote
  • 2GB RAM
  • 8GB internal storage
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Laggy 4K playback
  • No Ethernet

4. Best 1080p Android TV Dongle – Xiaomi Mi TV Stick

best android tv box - xiaomi mi tv stickThe Xiaomi Mi TV Stick is a bit of an oddity. Outfitted with 8GB of memory, 1GB of DDR4 RAM, and Android TV 9.0 Pie, it’s a true Android TV streaming stick. Google Assistant, Chromecast, and the Google Play Store are built-in. There’s Dolby and DTS surround sound audio support, Bluetooth 4.2, and wireless 802.11a/b/g/n/ac. While the Mi TV Stick is capable of pumping out a 2K full HD picture, it’s only able to stream in 1080p. That’s fine for older televisions, but because 4K panels have become so cost-effective, the Mi TV Stick is a curiosity. But if you have 1080p TV and want to upgrade it with an Android TV experience, the Xiaomi Mi TV Stick is a solid choice. Its quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU and Mali 450 GPU are powerful enough to handle pretty much any stream you throw at it, particularly since it’s limited to 1080p streaming.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Small
  • Dongle/streaming stick form factor
  • Powerful Cortex-A53 CPU and Mali 450 GPU
  • True Android TV 9.0 pie
  • Google Assistant, Google Play Store, Chromecast built-in
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth

Cons:

  • Only 1080p streaming
  • No Ethernet

MECOOL M8S PRO - best android tv box 2020

A bevy of devices branded Android TV boxes actually run a tablet or phone optimized version of Android, including the Mecool BB2 Pro and WeTek Play 2. However, the Mecool M8S Pro L and Mecool M8S Pro W run a real Android TV version. Both devices come well specced out with 4K HDR video output capabilities. The M8S Pro W features 2GB of DDR3 and 16GB of internal storage with microSD card expansion. Like the Mi Box S, it’s powered by a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU paired with a Mali 450 GPU, and runs on an Amlogic S905W chip. There’s built-in dual-band Wi-Fi and HDMI 2.0. Stepping up the M8S Pro L gets you 3GB of RAM, 16GB of onboard storage, and an Amlogic S912 octa-core CPU with a Cortex -A53 CPU. sIt’s a beefy little upgrade.

While both Mecool Android TV streamers run a full-on Android TV version, some features are lacking. HDR doesn’t work with Netflix unfortunately. And lack of frame-rate switching isn’t available. Video playback is pretty solid, 4K support is decent, and overall performance for the price is more than satisfactory. The Mecool M8S Pro L is beefy and with its Ethernet jack could be a solid Mi Box S alternative.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • 4K HDR compatibility
  • 2GB RAM (M8S Pro W)/3GB RAM (M8S Pro L)
  • 16GB onboard storage
  • microSD card slot
  • Ethernet jack (M8S Pro L)
  • True Android TV OS

Cons:

6. Best Android Media Box – Beelink GS-King X

Beelink GS-King X - best android tv box 2020 android kodi box nas

Although the Beelink GS-King X doesn’t run Android TV, it’s arguably the best Android box for Kodi. A unique media player, the Beelink King X supports up to two 3.5-inch hard drives for up to 32TB of storage space. It runs Android 9.0, albeit a touchscreen-optimized iteration of Android. There’s a microSD card slot that lets you fire up EmuELEC and transform the GS-King X into a Kodi home theatre PC. Connectivity is simply superb. You’ll find left and right RCA outputs, headphone jack, analog A/V output, a pair of balance output ports, an Ethernet port, four USB ports including an OTG USB host, HDMI, and S/PDIF. At its core, the Beelink GS-King X sports a beefy Amlogic S992X-H chip. There’s 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage. In addition to its Ethernet port, you’ll find dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1. It can handle 4K HDR video at up to 75Hz.

Because of its S922 chip, the GS-King X can handle native Android gaming and even high-end retro gaming emulation for systems such as the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and Sega Dreamcast. Unfortunately, the Android version on board isn’t an official Android TV OS, so it’s a touchscreen variant of Android with a launcher designed for navigation on a TV or projector. As such, some apps won’t run or lack necessary features. Netflix, for example, isn’t available in 4K. However, running the standalone Kodi operating system CoreElec from its microSD card slot could enable 4K Netflix. But the versatility of the Beelink GS-King X as a network-attached storage (NAS) device, game console, and Kodi home theatre PC (HTPC), the GS-King X is a great choice.

Pros:

  • Powerful S922X-H chip
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB of onboard storage
  • Handles up to 2 x 3.5″ HDDs
  • Excellent I/O
  • HDMI
  • Ethernet and Wi-Fi
  • Great for gaming
  • Can be used as a NAS
  • Runs Kodi OS CoreELEC or retro gaming operating system EmuELEC

Cons:

  • No 4K Netflix in Android
  • Not true Android TV
  • Expensive

Best Android TV Box 2020 – Final Thoughts

Although Android TV boxes abound, only a handful run a real Android TV OS. Nvidia dominates with its Shield TV and Shield TV Pro. Gamers and power users should pick the Pro, while most multimedia enthusiasts primarily concerned with streaming movies and TV shows will be just fine with the Shield dongle. Truthfully, nothing really comes close to the Shield TV and Shield Pro. On a budget, the Xiaomi Mi Box S is pretty decent, although its 4K performance is somewhat laggy. For a cheap Android TV set-top box alternative, the Mecool M8S Pro L is a neat Mi Box S competitor. And if you can live with an unofficial version of Android TV, the Beelink GS-King can hold up to 32TB of movies, TV shows, music, and games for an all-in-one multimedia device. Of course, the Shield TV can accomplish the same feat, but the GS-King X with its internal harddrive storage offers a cleaner set up than connecting external USB harddrives to the Shield.

Which Android TV boxes are you using in 2020?

 

 

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