There’s some confusion between “Android” TV boxes and “Android TV” boxes.
Google actually has two versions of Android that may run on these smart TV boxes:
- Standard Android: This is same operating system that runs on smartphones and tablets. It’s designed for touchscreens but the user interface can be customised for TV use
- Android TV: A TV-optimized version of Android that’s built from the ground up for TV use. It has a TV-friendly user interface, apps designed for remotes, voice search and more. Yet, it’s not as customisable and has a smaller library of apps.
This means you can have an “Android” TV box running standard Android or an “Android TV” box that runs Google’s TV-friendly OS.
Both types have their pros and cons. “Android TV” boxes usually offer a better TV experience, though with a less apps and customisation. Devices running modified versions of Android such as the WeTek Hub offer far more flexibility and customisation but some apps can be difficult to use without a touchscreen.
Are Android Boxes Any Good?
I often get asked are Android boxes any good and the answer is yes – as long as you pick the right box (but that’s why you’re researching the best boxes, right?)
Android TV boxes offer an excellent balance between powerful features, flexibility and price.
Whilst they’re not going to be as easy to use as something like a H96 pro h2 , you trade a little more complexity for the ability to run amazing apps like Kodi, access thousands of games and customise your device so it looks and behaves how you want.
Are Android Boxes Legal to Use?
Kodi boxes have been mentioned a lot in the news recently with some high profile bans, leaving many asking are Android boxes legal?
The reality is that Android boxes themselves are completely legal, as they’re no different from a smartphone or a tablet.
However, a number of companies have been selling “fully loaded” Kodi boxes that come preloaded with some legally-questionable add-ons. It’s these devices that have been banned.
What Features Should an Android TV Box Have in 2018?
With so many options out there, there’s a number of core features you should look for when trying to find the best Android TV box.
Excellent Kodi Support
It goes without saying that the best box for Kodi needs to have solid Kodi support.
Certain manufacturers work closely with team Kodi to make sure their Android TV boxes support important Kodi functions to allow for important features such as audio passthrough and automatic framerate switching.
5.1 Audio Passthrough
Stereo audio is so passe. 5.1 audio, which features 5 speakers plus a subwoofer, has been the baseline for home theatre audio for years. The best Android TV box for Kodi will at least support 5.1 audio passthrough, allowing your video’s multichannel audio to be reproduced on your home theatre setup.
Automatic Refresh Rate Switching
Automatic framerate switching is an important but relatively unknown feature few Android TV boxes support. Basically, it allows your Android TV box to output a video signal that matches the framerate of your video. This means smooth video playback and elimination of judder.
H.265 Hardware Decoding
H.265 decoding, also known as High Efficiency Video Coding or HEVC, is the one of the latest video codecs. Thanks to its improved compression rates over H.264 video, H.265 video allows better quality video with smaller file sizes. As such, it’s becoming popular for both compressing video files and using in streaming applications.
The best streaming media players support decoding H.265 in hardware to offer a degree of future proofing for this increasingly popular format.
Dual-Band Wi-Fi and/or Gigabit Ethernet
We live in a world of streaming, whether you’re streaming 4K movies from Netflix or watching Blurays from your server. All this high resolution video requires bandwidth to support it.
Look for Android boxes that offer dual band wireless to avoid the congestion found on the 2.4GHz band and/or gigabit Ethernet for those that prefer the stability of a wired connection.
OTA Firmware UpdatesGood Customer Support
It can be argued that a device is only as good as its support. So many cheap Android TV boxes coming out of China (or overpriced “fully loaded Kodi boxes” from other companies) are sold by those trying to make a quick buck. When something goes wrong or there’s a bug, they’re nowhere to be found.
Good Android TV boxes come with excellent support, either via direct customer support or regular firmware updates that add features or fix bugs so you can focus on enjoying your streaming media player.
A Recent Version of Android (Android 5.0+)
Google regularly releases new versions of its Android operating system. Like any other operating system, having a recent version of Android is important so you have both the features and security you need.
An Android TV box should come with at least Android 5.0. This is particularly important if you’re looking for a Kodi box as Kodi 17 only supports Android 5.0+.
Other Useful Features
HD Netflix Support
There’s no doubting that Netflix is the king of movie streaming. However, not all Android devices support HD Netflix.
If you’re a Netflix user, picking an Android TV box that supports HD Netflix streaming is a must to make sure you’re getting the best quality video possible.
Strong Gaming Performance
Many home theatre enthusiasts are also gamers. With Android supporting a host of games, including casual titles, ports of retro games and even emulators, it’s no surprise some want their Android TV box to pull double duty as a gaming machine.
3D never really took off the way Hollywood was hoping, though some are still fans of 3D movies (myself included). If you regularly watch 3D content, you’ll want an Android TV box that’s capable of playing back 3D video in various formats.
USB 3.0 is pretty much ubiquitous at this stage, though the uptake on Android TV boxes has been slower. If you’re regularly finding yourself transferring lots of content between an external hard drive and your Android TV box, getting a device with high speed USB transfer makes sense, though it’s unlikely to be a must have feature for most.
Do you have an Android tv box you like? Welcome to leave a message in the comment area, I will discuss everything about tv box with you.