Android TV streaming boxes and dongles: Here are our top recommendations of 2021

Mi Box S

Android TV is a Smart TV operating system by Google designed for television sets, digital media players, set-top boxes and soundbars. The platform was unveiled back in 2014. Several Smart TV vendors have adapted Android TV including Sony, Sharp, TCL, Hisense, Xiaomi, Oneplus, Philips and more. However, not everyone has a smart tv. This is where streaming players come in. They plug into your existing non-smart TV through the HDMI interface. There are tens of options of streaming dongles and boxes from Google, Xiaomi, Anker, Nokia, Nvidia, Amazon and more.

Android TV follows a vertically-scrolling, row-based interface showing several Apps and streaming services from the most popular providers today. You also get voice control through Google’s AI-driven smart Assistant. The Google Assistant not only can be used to send voice commands to your TV, but can also be used to control smart home devices such as smart bulbs, home security cameras, thermostats etc. You also get Miracast and Chromecast built-in which means you can cast media such as photos and videos from your smartphone or laptop to the TV. With Android TV, you have access to over 7000+ Apps from the Google Play store.

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Android TV supports over 43+ Paid and Free streaming services. There are subscription-based streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, HBOMax, Hulu, Prime Video, Paramount+, Apple TV+, Epix Now, Philo, Starz, Showtime, Youtube TV, Sling, Philo. You also get Free Ad-sponsored providers such as Plex, Pluto, Peacock, Tubi, IMDB TV, CW, PBS Kids, Crackle, Crunchyroll and many more.

Android TV however currently lacks Live TV native support the way that Roku or Fire TV do. You can however, get Live TV through other streaming services such as Philo, Starz or Google’s Youtube TV subscription which aren’t free. On a side note, Amazon’s Fire TV devices run on Fire TV OS which is a fork of Android TV. So we shall include them on the list.

In 2020, Google announced a new Chromecast that came with a dedicated remote and Google TV, a new Smart TV interface that runs on top of Android TV 10. So far, this Chromecast is the only streaming player that comes with Google TV although the Realme 4K streaming stick by Realme is expected to run on the new platform. Google TV has however, now been introduced in newer Smart TVs from TCL, Sony, Hisense and many more.

If you don’t have a Smart TV already, then an Android TV Streaming player or Sticks or Smart boxes is a good way of giving your existing “dumb TV” Smart TV super powers.

Read more: Streaming Sticks vs Smart TV: Should you get both?

Before you buy an Android TV streaming stick/box

There are plenty of Android TV boxes out there making choosing one a challenge. The latest players run on Android TV 10, but most are powered by Android TV 9 with no upgrade in sight. And then there’s Google TV which is a modern Smart TV Interface based on Android 10. So far, only the 2020 Google Chromecast comes with the Google TV interface which is much much better. It seems Google is abandoning the old Android TV interface, so if you’re buying a streaming device today, you should consider that.

Read more: The Difference Between Google TV and Android TV

Then you should consider which design form factor you want. Typically there are two types; the smaller and compact streaming stick/dongle and streaming box or smart box. The stick or dongle simply plugs straight into your TV without the need of additional HDMI cable. Streaming sticks are small and light-weight and not so powerful. But they are cheaper, low-powered so they can be powered by one of your TV’s USB ports. They are easy to carry, so you can actually take them with you while travelling and still enjoy your streaming services in hotel rooms, friend’s place or college dorm room. The Xiaomi Mi TV Stick, Google Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K fall under this category.

Then there’s the square shaped streaming boxes with usually rounded corners. This category of Android TV players are more powerful, require more power and offer more connectivity options. If you’re planning to do intensive work such as gaming or playing personal media using Apps like Plex or Kodi, then you should go with streaming boxes. Some come with Gigabit Ethernet ports which gives you access to faster internet through wired network connection. The Nokia Streaming box 8000, Xiaomi’s Mi Box S 4K and Nvidia Shield TV Pro fall under this category.

Read more: Streaming Stick vs Streaming Box: Which Is Better for Watching Online Content

Alright, here are some of our very top recommendations for Android TV streaming players.

Chromecast with Google TV

Launched in 2020, Chromecast with Google TV is top brass in Android TV streaming players. It features the new Google TV interface that includes a “content discovery” area populated by suggested content, followed by “Watch Now” rows that surface media content from installed apps. You also get a watch list which lists movies and shows you have bookmarked for later viewing. It also supports Stadia, Google’s online subscription-based gaming service and is powered by Android TV 10.

Related post: Chromecast with Google TV Review: As good as it gets

The Chromecast with Google TV HDMI 2.0, supports 4K Ultra HD at 60 FPS, HDR 10 and HDR 10+, supports Dolby audio pass through mode. In connectivity, it features 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2.4GHz/5GHz), Bluetooth 4.2 and is powered through USB-C port. Unlike its predecessor, this model comes with its own dedicated remote powered by 2 AAA alkaline batteries.

Full Specs:

  • Model: Chromecast with Google TV
  • Colors: Snow, Sunrise, Sky
  • OS Version: Android TV 10
  • Dimensions: 6.4 in(162 mm) x 2.4 in (61 mm) x 0.5 in (12.5 mm)
  • Weight: 1.9 oz (55 g)
  • Display: Up to 4K HDR, 60 FPS
  • CPU: QUAD S905D3 64bit, MALI G31
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3 RAM, 8GB eMMC ROM
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz, Bluetooth: 4.2
  • Ports: HDMI 2.0b, USB-C, Audio Out, Power

This Chromecast goes for $49.99 at Google Store, Target, Bestbuy and $59.99 at Newegg.

Mi Box S 4K Ultra HD

Xiaomi Mi Box S

The Mi Box S 4K is Android TV-based streaming play from Xiaomi. This player is certified by Google and features most of the streaming services you would expect in Android TV devices such as Netflix, Youtube, Disney+, HBOMax, Prime Video etc. It’s a full 4K Ultra HD streaming player with 2GB of RAM, 8GB storage and supports WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 4.1.

Full Specs: 

  • Model: Mi Box S
  • Colors: Matte black
  • OS Version: Android 9 (Android TV)
  • Dimensions: 3.75 in x 3.75 in x 0.66 in
  • Weight: 147.13 g
  • Display: 4K (3840 x 2160)
  • CPU: Cortex-A53 Quad-core 64bit, Mali-450 GPU
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3 RAM, 8GB eMMC ROM
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz, Bluetooth: 4.1
  • Ports: HDMI 2.0a, USB2.0, Power

Xiaomi also has a striped-down version of the Mi Box S called the Mi TV stick. It’s Full HD 1080 instead of 4K and follows a stick form-factor that plugs straight into the HDMI port of your TV.

Read more: The Mi TV Stick vs Mi Box S 4K: What’s right for you

The Mi Box S 4K costs between $55 to $70 depending on where you buy it from. You can get it for $63 on Amazon, $63 on Aliexpress and ₹3,199 on Flipkart.

onn. Android TV UHD Streaming Device

The onn. Android TV streaming device is a 4K UHD player from Walmart. Taking cues from Amazon, the mega retailer has entered the streaming player device game. At a sub-$30 price point, it’s the cheapest 4K Android streaming player in the market.

This streaming player has a plastic square with rounded corners design, is powered through a Micro USB port and connects to your TV through HDMI. It’s powered by an Amlogic S905Y2, a quad-core ARM chip, has 2GB of RAM and comes with 8GB of storage. The Onn 4K box runs on a stock version of Android 10 which is the latest version right now.

Full Specs: 

  • Model: onn. Android TV UHD Streaming Device
  • Colors: Matte black
  • OS Version: Android TV 10
  • Display: 4K UHD
  • CPU:4x ARM Cortex-A53 (up to 1.8 GHz), Mali G31 GPU
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3 RAM, 8GB ROM
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz, Bluetooth: 4.0
  • Ports: HDMI 2.0a, Micro USB, Audio Out, Power

This device is sold exclusively on Walmart. It’s currently at $30 $19.88.

Nvidia Shield TV

If you’re looking for an Android TV streaming player with raw processing power, then the Nvidia Shield TV is what you’re looking for. It’s powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra X1+ processor, comes with 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage expandable via microSD. It features 4K at 30 FPS resolution with DolbyVision, HDR and HDR10 support. On connectivity, this is one of the few streaming devices with Gigabit Ethernet port which comes in handy in areas where the WiFi is spotty.

Full Specs: 

  • Model: Shield TV
  • Colors: Black
  • OS Version: Android 9 (Android TV)
  • Dimensions: 1.57 in(4cm) x 1.57 in (4cm) x 6.5 in (16.5cm)
  • Weight: 4.83 oz /137 g
  • Display/Resolution: 4K, Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10
  • Audio: Dolby Audio (Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos) DTS-X surround sound (pass-through) over HDMI
  • CPU: NVIDIA® Tegra® X1+ processor with a 256-core NVIDIA GPU
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3 RAM, 8GB eMMC ROM
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz, Bluetooth: 5.0, Gigabit Ethernet
  • Ports: HDMI 2.0b, Power

Nvidia has a Pro version of this streaming player called Shield TV Pro which has more RAM, Storage and features USB ports. The Shield TV goes for $149.99 on Amazon and Walmart.

Fire TV Stick 4K(3rd Gen)

The Fire TV Stick 4K is not strictly speaking an Android TV player. It’s based on Amazon’s Fire TV OS which is a fork of Google’s Android TV operating system. Amazon is fierce for pricing its products so low that it often out-competes its rivals. At $49.99, this streaming stick offers great value featuring 4K Ultra HD with support for Dolby Vision, HDR, and HDR10+. You also get Home theater audio with Dolby Atmos, CPU 1.7GHz, GPU 650MHz, 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB storage.

The Fire TV Stick 4K supports Alexa, Amazon’s Smart Voice assistant which is similar to Google’s Assistant. Not only can you control the TV through voice commands, you can also control Alexa-supported smart home devices such as smart bulbs, security cameras, thermostats, sensors and more. However, be prepared to be bombarded with Amazon’s promotional messages, Ads and recommendations biased towards Amazon’s own streaming services.

Full Specs: 

  • Model: Fire TV Stick 4K
  • Colors: Matte black
  • OS Version: Fire TV
  • Dimensions: 99 mm x 30 mm x 14 mm 
  • Weight: 53.6 g
  • Display: 4K UHD, Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG
  • CPU: Quad-core 1.7 GHz, IMG GE8300 GPU
  • Memory: 1.5 GB DDR3 RAM, 8GB ROM
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi5: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz, Bluetooth: 5.0
  • Ports: HDMI 2.0a, Micro USB

The Fire TV Stick 4K goes for $49.99 $33.99. Amazon recently released an upgraded version of this streaming player that supports WiFi 6 and a more powerful processor called the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. Amazon claims it’s 40% more powerful than Fire TV Stick 4K and it goes for $54.99.

TiVo Stream 4K

The TiVo Stream 4K is yet another 4K UHD Android TV streaming player from TiVo. It supports Dolby Vision and Atmos, is powered by Amlogic S905Y2 processor and has 2GB of RAM with 8GB storage.

Full Specs: 

  • Model: TiVo Stream 4K
  • Colors: Black
  • OS Version: Android 9 (Android TV)
  • Dimensions: 77mm x 53mm x 16mm
  • Weight: 147.13 g
  • Display: 4K UHD, Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos
  • CPU: Amlogic S905Y2
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3 RAM, 8GB eMMC ROM
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz, Bluetooth: 4.2
  • Ports: HDMI 2.0a, Micro USB, USB-C

The TiVo Stream 4K goes for $39.99 on the TiVo website and $38 on Amazon.

NEBULA 4K Streaming Dongle

Premium Charging and mobile accessory brand Anker decided to join the streaming player game with the release of Android TV-based player dubbed Nebula 4K streaming dongle. Launched at the end of 2021 at a hefty $89.99 price tag, this seems to be an audacious move from Anker given the numerous equally capable cheaper alternatives.

This streaming player features 4K UHD HDR and Dolby Digital Plus. It comes with 2B of RAM, 8GB of storage and the new HDMI 2.1 standard.

Full Specs: 

  • Model: Nebula 4K streaming dongle
  • Colors: Black
  • OS Version: Android TV 10
  • Dimensions: ‎2.2 x 2.2 x 0.59 inches
  • Weight: ‎0.96 ounces
  • Display: 4K UHD, Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos
  • CPU: ARM Quad 64-bit Cortex-A53 up to 2GHz (DVFS)
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3 RAM, 8GB eMMC ROM
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz, Bluetooth: 5.0
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1, Micro USB

At $89.99, this streaming player seems overpriced compared to the alternatives on this list.

Nokia Streaming Box 8000

The Nokia Streaming Box 8000 is practically a Smart TV without a screen. That’s because it’s jam-packed with a number of connectivity options that most Android TV players don’t have. Besides the basic HDMI, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity options, you also get an extra USB-A 3.0 port, Digital optical audio output, USB-C and an Ethernet port for faster internet link.

Full Specs: 

  • Model: Nokia Streaming Box 8000
  • Colors: Black
  • OS Version: Android TV 10
  • Dimensions: ‎112 x 112 x 24 mm
  • Weight: 0.17 kg
  • Display: 4K UHD
  • Audio: Dolby Digital Plus
  • CPU: Amlogic S905X3 Quad-Core Cortex-A55, GPU: ARM Mali-G31 MP2
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3 RAM, 8GB eMMC ROM
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz, Bluetooth: 4.2
  • Ports: HDMI, USB-A 3.0, Digital audio (optical), AV (3.5 mm), USB-C (5 V, max. 1 A), Ethernet LAN, DC IN (12 V, 1 A)

This streaming player goes for €89.9 from the Stream view or from Amazon Germany.

There are several options have haven’t really cut into our list but are worth checking out including;

  • BuzzTV XRS4500 – $129
  • MECOOL KM1 Collective ATV Google Certified Android Smart TV Box 4GB RAM 64GB ROM – $94.99
  • UGOOS X3 PRO 4K Ultra HD with Remote – £99.99
  • MINIX NEO U9-H +NEO A3 Backlit, 64-bit Octa-Core Media Hub for Android [2GB/16GB/4K/HDR] – $139.9
  • Beelink GT King Pro Hi-Fi Lossless Sound 4K TV Box – $189

If you know of any great recommendations, let us know in the comments down below.

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