Do you want to watch Netflix on an older TV? Do you want to play games without spending the money on a console? If you're reading this article, you probably know the solution to these needs: it's called a TV Box and it can make any kind of television smart. Also known as set-top-to-box (STB), the TV Box can be considered as a mini computer.
In the latest versions, this device is able to perform much more advanced functions than the latest generation of smart TVs. However, there are so many models on the market that the choice has become quite complicated. In this article we help you in choosing the perfect Android TV Box for you, thanks to our selection of the best models available in Italy. But first we'll let you know the different parameters on which to base your purchase.
TV Box: what features to choose
There are several features to consider before choosing an Android TV Box, so you can relate them to your needs and also to your budget. Here are the main ones.
TV Boxes, as we have seen, can be compared to small PCs. There are, however, substantial differences based on the operating system that they integrate.
Those that have the Windows 10 operating system are real mini desktop PCs (or mini PCs) and can, therefore, be used as real computers, with the ability to surf the internet via Google, download other operating systems such as Linux and more or less heavy programs. The main disadvantage of these TV Boxes is that they are particularly expensive, as their hardware is very professional.
The TV Boxes that operate with Android operating system are the most reasonably priced and, although they do not allow the performance of certain operations typical of a mini PC, make any television smarter, provide the ability to download many applications directly from the Play Store and, as for the versions of the operating system, are released in greater numbers than the mini PCs that currently operate with a single version (Windows 10).
If you take into account the hardware component of TV Boxes, you can choose the model that best suits your needs. The processors that are mounted on Android TV boxes are usually the Amlogic and Rockship ones. These chipsets present good performance at an affordable price. There is also an Android TV Box that mounts the Tegra chipset: this model is super advanced and the cost, clearly, rises.
As for TV Boxes with Windows 10 operating system, you can generally find Intel Atom X3, X5 and X7 processors: the first are integrated in entry-level devices; the second are present in mid-range TV Boxes; the third are the most advanced and most expensive. Another parameter to take into account is the RAM memory. We recommend that you always choose a TV box with at least 2 GB and DDR4 RAM.
Finally, although the latest TV boxes have USB ports and microSD slots, we recommend that you choose TV boxes that have a large memory: the larger it is, the more you can store content inside it.
Supported video and audio formats
Before buying this device, it is essential to take a look at the audio and video formats. The most advanced ones that allow you to enjoy high-resolution content are HEVC/H.265 and VP9 in 4K resolution. HDR support is also important because it allows the TV to get a wider range of colors. This support, in turn, is divided into two other standards: HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
If you want to watch 3D movies, you should buy a TV Box that has support for 3D videos and ISO files that contain 3D videos. However, you might also overlook this technology, because it is often snubbed, as virtually no one makes use of it.
In addition to clearly needing an HDMI port on the TV, it is important that the TV Box has the latest HDMI 2.0 ports that support 4K content at 60 frames per second with HDR technology.
Another aspect concerns the internal memory of Android TV boxes: not being high, it does not allow you to save many movies or videos. That's why it is important that there are USB inputs, which can make this tool more rich in options. Other important ports are the following: microSD slots; SATA ports (for connecting disks); headphone jacks; and S/PDIF output.
If your Wi-Fi reception is rather low and you want to make the most of your wireless network, we recommend that you buy an Android TV Box that has support for 5GHz dual-band networks and supports AC wireless technology, capable of transferring files at speeds of up to 1.3 Gbps.
Best Android TV Boxes
After describing the main parameters for making an informed choice of an Android TV Box, we come to our selection of the best models, which we have rated based on the reviews of users who have had a chance to try them.
1. Viden W2 Android TV Box
Available in online stores starting at a price of about 59 euros, this mid-range TV Box is considered by many to be the top of the range in terms of structure and components with which it is equipped. The technical features, which according to users deserve to be taken into account, are those relating to connectivity and video viewing.
Viden W2 allows you to connect both in WI-FI mode and through an Ethernet port and connectivity is definitely good, above average for a TV Box in this price range. The ports present are these: HDMI output, 2 high-speed USB 2.0 ports (Support U disk and USB HDD), an AV (CVBS), a TF Card (Support 1 ~ 32GB), a SPDIF Output, a DC (5V / 2A), a RJ45 LAN Ethernet.
As we read the reviews, we found no criticism regarding the playback of popular video formats, considered always fluid. The presence of the recent VP9 video format and 4K movies in 10-bit h.265 format are even played back without any issues.
2. Xiaomi Mi Box S 4K
The latest set-top-to-box of Xiaomi to have arrived in Italy is precisely this model, ideal for lovers of TV series broadcast by Netflix. On the hardware front, we find the following features: a DD3 type RAM equal to 2GB; an internal memory equal to 8GB; an Amlogic chipset; a Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac dual-band 2.4GHz / 5GHz connectivity; Bluetooth 4.2; a USB 2.0 port with HDMI 2.0a output.
A much appreciated detail is the presence on the Xiaomi remote control of the button dedicated to Netflix and the Google Assistant button, which allows you to use the microphone built into the remote. In particular, we said that this TV Box is ideal for Netflix subscribers, as it is one of the few set-top-to-boxes to be certified by the famous streaming service: therefore, you will be able to use it up to the maximum of its capabilities (in 4K and HDR), so you can enjoy realistic and ultra-high-definition viewing. The Xiaomi Mi Box S4 list price is 65 euros.
3. Nvidia Shield TV
The only model equipped with Tegra X1 processor with 256-core Maxwell video card is Nvidia Shield TV, definitely the best Android TV Box since 2015. If you don't just want to watch movies, but you're a gaming lover, this TV Box is for you: it is, in fact, a real video game console, through which you can exploit the potential of Android TV and other services such as GeForce Now, which allows you to play online for 10 euros per month.
Nvidia differs from all other TV Boxes not only for its high performance, but also for its futuristic design and the highest quality materials. The Shield Stand allows you to put the console in an upright position and this stand is also made from premium materials. This TV Box comes with a pad (Shield Controller), inspired by that of the XBOX and those typical of Android. On the pad there are a headphone jack and a USB socket for charging. The autonomy of the Shield Controller pad is 48 hours. As for connectivity, we find a dual-band Wi-Fi AC type, 2 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 2.0b, Bluetooth 4.1/BLE.
The Android version until recently installed was 7.0, but we found out that Nvidia Shield TV is now compatible with Android 9 Pie. In short. You can not want better from this TV Box, equipped with everything and whose price, although very high compared to the first two we have described, is contained for its hardware features.