What Is an Android TV Box?

What Is an Android TV Box?


An Android TV box is, simply put, a set-top box which runs an Android operating system (OS). Primarily, these are used for streaming media from the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and even home server software such as Plex. However, Android boxes function as gaming consoles as well for both Android games and playing ROMs via emulators.


There are two main varieties, though both are commonly dubbed Android TV boxes. One branch runs Android TV OS. As the name suggests, it’s a version of Android specifically engineered to display on a monitor or television screen. Its design allows for easy navigation with a remote or gamepad rather than touch controls. The other variant runs a tablet-optimized version of Android. That means navigation with a remote works fine, but you’ll need to use a mouse or use a third-party remote for proper exploration.


App compatibility muddles the distinction between the two even further. Android TV boxes run apps created for Android TV OS. Therefore, not every Android app can install on devices running the set-top box iteration. Some vanilla Android apps can sideload onto Android TV OS gadgets, although functionality varies since these are designed for touch input. For example, my Nvidia Shield TV can’t run the Funimation app, whereas my WeTek Play 2, running a tablet-optimized version of Android, benefits from access.

  • Android TV OS boxes
  • Boxes running tablet-optimized Android

What to Look for in an Android TV Box


When selecting an Android media player, app compatibility is key. Most apps should function fine on both tablet-optimized forms of Android and Android TV OS. This is especially true for common media applications like Netflix, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, and Crunchyroll. Although other apps such as Funimation still don’t have Android TV OS counterparts.



Consider how much work you’re willing to put into setting up your device. Are you able to sideload apps or willing to learn how? With Android TV devices or standard Android boxes, you’ll likely need to sideload some apps. But navigation admittedly isn’t as intuitive on boxes running a touch interface Android since you’re not using a touchscreen. It’s doable, but you must switch into the mouse mode on your remote or employ a third-party offering with a mouse.

What resolution you’re outputting determines what device is best. Because 4K is the next evolution in content delivery, there’s a bevy of 4K streamers. Many Android media players include this feature, yet few do it well. Finally, think about what, if anything, besides streaming you’d like to perform. If you’re keen on gaming or game streaming, the Android box you pick differs from what you’ll want if you’re merely watching Netflix.



  • Android TV OS
  • Easy to use
  • Tons of apps
  • Capable of gaming and game streaming
  • 4K
  • HDR
  • Capable of running a Plex server
  • Kodi and Plex access
  • Able to record over-the-air (OTA) TV


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