The 10 Best 4K Android TV Boxes
This wiki has been updated 11 times since it was first published in October of 2018. Android is by far the most popular operating system on Earth, partially because it's based on open-source code. This flexibility means there's no shortage of cord-cutting devices based on it. We've scoured the most powerful TV boxes to find those most suited to 4K Ultra-HD streaming. You'll find some from third-party developers and others licensed by Google itself. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
November 09, 2018:
The field of Android TV boxes is quite the swamp to wade through right now. If you're dead-set on taking advantage of 4K content from official streaming services, you'll need to select an official Android TV unit that's Netflix-compatible, rather than a third-party unit running on the Android Open Source project. If you're looking to access user-driven streams like Kodi and Acestream, you'll have a MUCH easier time with a third-party box — but be careful to comply with all relevant copyright laws. Pay attention to RAM size and processor speed, as 4K video is pretty data-heavy. Also, Intel-powered Chromeboxes have entered the game, finally, as Intel just recently adapted HDCP 2.2 to x86-based Chrome OS machines in September of 2018.
Benefits Of An Android TV Box
Better to stream through a less expensive box and save the console for the games.
In the age of cord cutting, choosing the right streaming device can seem like an unnecessary chore. This is especially true when so many modern television sets come with some kind of built-in software that can at least access popular streaming channels like Netflix and Hulu. But there are some very good reasons for using a dedicated box, and some particularly good reasons for going with one of these Android models over something like a gaming console.
Using a box instead of another streaming device has several benefits. Compared to using your TV’s smart interface, the box is going to seem much smarter. That’s because TV companies desperately need to drive down costs. It’s one of the most competitive marketplaces on earth, and it’s why many companies have resorted to selling your streaming data and specific viewing habits to third-party marketing research firms; it’s the only way they can get you a piece of tech that’s so expensive to produce for so little money. In that spirit, they aren’t going to be spending a lot on R&D to cover the perfection of their streaming interface. As a result, one of the most common complaints you hear about Smart TVs is that their streaming services are slow, glitchy, or riddled with ads.
A box avoids all of this. The hardware is much less expensive to produce, and there’s a whole community of users and developers working in concert to make the open-source Android platform as efficient as possible. User feedback generates frequent and specific software updates, so many problems that arise are often dealt with quickly.
Now, you might own a gaming console, and could probably stream from that any time you like. But the problems here are practical and ecological. Practically, using a $400 game system to stream Netflix is overkill. And every moment spent not gaming on a console, but using it for something else is going to count against its inevitably limited lifespan, as modern consoles are not built to last forever. That could mean shelling out hundreds for a replacement or repair if you run it too hard. Better to stream through a less expensive box and save the console for the games. Ecologically, the overkill question comes up again, as a console is liable to burn a lot more coal so you can watch Rick and Morty than a small Android box would.
Choosing From Among A Sea Of Boxes
Since the Android OS used on the majority of these systems is their open-source software, all anyone has to do to put one of these boxes on the market is figure out the hardware. As a result, there are a lot of inexpensive options out there, which can make it hard for the consumer to figure out which ones are legitimate and which are less secure purchases.
If anything, it allows you to find an identical version of that device for the lowest price.
Pro tip: In inexpensive consumer electronics categories, if two or more products look identical and have more or less all the same listed specs, price points, and packages, with only slightly different, yet equally unpronounceable names, there’s a good chance they all originated from the same factory, allowing any company with enough capital to slap their name on a run and sell them online. Now, that doesn’t necessarily make them inferior. If anything, it allows you to find an identical version of that device for the lowest price. While comparing these, however, always look to maximize things like CPU speed, storage and RAM. Some boxes allow you to upgrade storage space with a micro SD card, and we certainly recommend this.
Beyond those considerations, there are some basic features to look for that can ensure you get a high-quality product. Obviously, if you want to avoid the situation above, you can look for brand names you recognize. Short of that, think about things like USB ports for watching media on flash drives, or clock displays on the front of the box itself. I happen to own a box with a clock, and I can’t tell you how many times it’s saved me from taking a binge session too far into the night.
Finally, take a look at the remote that a given box comes with. Often, these are among the cheapest components included in the box’s packaging, and if yours is lacking certain features (like a jump back button or a reliable means of pairing to the box), you could find yourself getting very frustrated, very quickly.
Accessories To Maximize Your Purchase
Once you’ve selected your Android box, there are a few things you’re going to want to get your hands on to ensure you have the best experience possible with it. As mentioned above, there’s a good chance that the remote your box came with is going to underperform, but there are plenty of remotes on the market you can pick up for relatively little cost.
If you do choose to install and use Kodi, just make sure you follow the instructions to the letter and don’t do anything illegal.
If you’ve bothered to buy a 4K Android box, but you don’t yet have a 4K TV, it might be time to upgrade there, as well. You may find that these are surprisingly inexpensive nowadays, but remember that a lot of that savings comes from TV companies essentially spying on you and selling your behavioral data to the highest bidder, so look for a set that has comprehensive permissions in its menus. You can also employ a VPN to ensure that the activity they monitor can’t be traced back to your IP address. Many VPN services offer apps for streaming boxes to make this particularly simple.
There are a ton of other apps for you to peruse, as well. This is liable to be a personal choice deeply guided by what subscriptions you already have or are dying to get, but you’re going to see Kodi talked about a lot on pages regarding Android boxes. If you do choose to install and use Kodi, just make sure you follow the instructions to the letter and don’t do anything illegal. And if long user manuals and the risk of breaking the law aren’t your thing, it might be smart to stick with more conventional apps.
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