One of the reasons you plan to get an Android TV Box or a Streaming device is that you want to convert your Normal TV to a Smart TV (or) you aren’t satisfied with the features and the interface in-built in the low-end Smart TV’s.
A good example would be the Sony Bravia Series under the 45K price segment. Everything from the display, sound to build quality is remarkable, but the smart TV features that you get are based on Linux OS, which isn’t impressive.
A few factors to consider when purchasing an Android TV Box / Streaming Device:
- Storage: Make sure the device that you select has an option for external storage if you plan to download many apps. All the devices listed here come with 8GB Internal storage. Except the Firestick, Mi Box and Airtel Xstream Box have an option for external storage via Micro SD card.
- OS Version: In my opinion, this doesn’t play a huge role. As long as the version that’s shipped with doesn’t have a bug, it should be fine. Because, unlike smartphones most of your time is spent on watching the content and not using the interface.
- Internet Speed: If you are planning to stream it over Wi-fi make sure you at least have an 50 Mbps connection otherwise you are better off connecting to an Ethernet port to avoid buffering.
Now that we are equipped with the basics, here are the 3 best android tv box / streaming devices that’s worth their price in 2021.
1. Amazon Fire TV Stick
I featured Amazon Fire TV Stick in the first spot even though its processing power falls a little behind other devices featured on the list because I have been using the Firestick for more than one and a half years and haven’t faced a single issue till date.
What’s inside the box?
You get a Fire TV Stick that can be directly plugged to the HDMI port of your TV, HDMI Extender, 5W Power Adapter, Alexa enabled Voice Remote and 2AA Batteries for the remote.
How to set up the Fire TV Stick?
- Setting up the firestick is a breeze. Just follow the onscreen instructions and it should take anywhere between 8-10 minutes to finish the initial setup.
- Once you have powered the device and plugged it to the HDMI Port you will be greeted with an Amazon and Firestick logo. It takes about 2-3 minutes before it goes to the next step.
- In the next screen there’s some optimization performed for “System storage and Applications” – It takes a solid 5-7 minutes to complete this step.
- Then you need to pair your remote, select your language and then the device searches for Wifi Networks. Once you have connected to your network, you need to sign in to your Amazon account.
- Finally, the home interface is loaded where you can download all the apps that you plan to. Prime Video comes pre-installed.
Apps & Resolution: You have access to all the streaming apps like Prime Video, Disney+Hotstar, Netflix, Youtube etc. However, remember you don’t have access to Google Play store and instead you have access to Amazon Android App store. To be honest there’s no big difference and everything is smooth.
The Fire stick streams video upto 1080p and 720p at 60fps in the base model and upto 2160p at 60fps (4K) in the Firestick 4K Model. Also, the 4K model has a better Processor and GPU. The 4K model also has 1.5GB DDR4 RAM whereas the base model only has 1 GB LPDDR3 RAM.
So which one to pick? If you have a non 4K TV, I would recommend you to just pick up the base model. However, if your TV supports 4K, consider picking the 4K version.
What’s bad / needs to be improved?
- When you switch off the power adapter and then switch on, the initial loading of the interface takes quite some time. So it’s better to keep the power adapter turned on at all times or at least till the end of the day.
- It doesn’t run the latest version of OS. The non 4k model runs on Fire OS 5 and the 4K Model runs on Fire OS 6. (Fire OS is forked version of Android OS)
- Alexa doesn’t work properly with regional languages. I don’t have any complaints when using English. Also the remote doesn’t have any shortcut buttons to launch OTT apps.
2. MI TV Box Android 4K (Available only on Flipkart)
The reason MI Android TV Box takes the second spot is that the device was only launched 3 months back and till date, I haven’t faced any issues. So I would probably wait for another 3-4 months to update this list.
However, if you want a Stock Android TV interface, you should definitely opt for this device. The other two devices in this list have their customized interface (My personal opinion is all the three mentioned in this list are easy to use, and I have no complaints)
Inside the package, you get the MI Android TV Box, HDMI Cable, Power Adapter, Remote, and a quick start user guide. The device is powered by ARMs Cortex-A53 2GHz Quad-core processor, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, and 8GB of internal storage.
MI Box supports streaming up to 4K with support for HDR10 at 60 fps. It runs on the latest Android TV 9.0, which means you have access to Google Play Store and can download all the apps that you wish to. It also comes pre-installed with Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube.
You also have a USB 2.0 port so you can connect your Hard Drive or pen drive to watch videos stored on your device. Also, it has an Audio output port that allows you to connect home theatres or soundbar.
Navigating the interface is pretty smooth, and it’s even faster compared to the other two devices listed here. It also has Google Chromecast in-built that allows you to cast videos from your mobile/tablets. The remote quality is ok – nothing impressive, and it doesn’t have a mute button. The box also has support for Google Assistant, so you can press the button in the remote and then start a voice search. Google assistant is the most reliable voice assistant compared to Alexa, Siri, and Bixby.
What’s bad / needs to be improved?
- There are complaints of the HDR performance especially when using Prime Video. If you have a HD or Full HD or 4K TV with no HDR support, then this shouldn’t be a worry to you.
- There are issues when connecting to 5GHZ wireless connection. Sometimes, it refuses to connect or drops off abruptly in the middle. ( I tested with 2.4GHZ in 1080p resolution and it works perfectly fine). So don’t worry about this issue if you have a HD ready or a Full HD TV.
3. Airtel Xstream (DTH + Android Box in a single device)
I upgraded from the normal Airtel DTH Connection to the Airtel Xstream box in the mid of March, and I have to say I am pretty impressed with this box. For starters, you could access your Normal TV channels as well as what an Android box offers, such as the OTT apps namely Prime Video, Youtube, Disney+Hotstar, Netflix, etc. on a single device.
The main advantage of this box is that it would be easier for your parents to use it because, with a single remote we can access both the DTH channels and the android tv box features. Also, you don’t have to switch between multiple HDMI ports, unlike other devices.
Airtel Xstream box is powered by Broadcom BCM72604 B 1.8 GHz dual-core processor, 2 GB of RAM, 8 GB of Internal storage and an option to expand the storage by inserting a microSD card of up to 128GB.
It also runs on the latest Android TV 9 Pie OS, so you have access to the Google Play store, which allows you to download the apps that you wish. It also has Chrome cast in-built, and this feature comes in handy during a lot of times. For example, you might see an interesting video on social media apps and want members in your family to view it. Instead of sharing the video, you could directly cast the video from your mobile to the TV, and everyone can enjoy it in an instant.
Airtel Xtsream streams videos up to 4K resolution. The voice-enabled remote is powered by Google Assistant. It does a great job right from opening the apps to switching between different channels. It’s also easy to pair your TV remote with the Xstream box remote so that you could control everything with a single remote.
Setup: You don’t have to worry about the initial setup since the service representative takes care of everything right from installing the dish (Using the same dish if you have prior Airtel connection) to setting up the Airtel Xstream box. You can also set up the Xtsream box if you wish by following the on-screen instructions.
What’s bad / Can be improved?
- To access the Android box features such as the Google Play services, OTT Apps such as Netflix, Disney+Hotstar, Prime video you need to have an active subscription for the DTH (Your DTH balance shouldn’t be zero)
- I also had an issue where the Airtel Xstream while watching normal channels switched off automatically every 15 minutes and then re-booted. I thought the problem was something to do with either the device or the dish. However, updating the software solved the issue. So make sure to check for software patches once every two weeks.
To conclude, if you have a regular TV or aren’t satisfied with the inbuilt smart TV features, getting an Android TV Box/Streaming device would be the best thing you can do instead of replacing or buying a new TV. I have only featured three devices on this list, so if you are looking for more options, you can check out the ACT Stream 4K TV (Similar to Airtel Xstream) or MarQ by Flipkart. Happy Streaming!