How to choose the right Android TV box was a subject I spent about a week researching last Fall. At the outset, I was looking for something that wouldn’t take up a lot of space but in theory would have an OS that my disabled father could operate. My reasoning for choosing Android was simply that he had an Android phone prior to his stroke. So he knew his way around the Android OS far better than I did at the time.
The funny thing is that as I looked at Android TV Boxes, I came to realize that they did everything my aging Windows Media Center PC did and, I suspected, better. When I say aging, In technology terms, it was waiting to go to its final reward with the long-departed dinosaurs. It was a PC I built in an old shuttle style case many moons ago and it was still running Windows Vista. I had toyed once or twice with updating it but it never seemed worthwhile. The only real reason I hung on to it was it had basically become a pseudo-server for several hard drives worth of music, movies, and TV.
So, in short order my original plan to choose the right Android TV box for my Dad in the nursing home became a plan to shift an old PC that lived under my TV set out of service. I had planned for mine to be a trial run and if it lived up to expectations, I would get a second one for him. His health took a bad turn and that never happened, but the box I got is so small and lightweight that I carried it over to plug into his TV on a few occasions for those rare moments when he was up for a film. This proved in a limited fashion that I did choose the right Android TV Box for our situation. It connected easily to his TV, but whether he could have operated it with his disability is a question that will never be answered.
When I was trying to figure out how to choose the right Android TV box for my experiment, I decided to let my personal needs dictate what I purchased. In the sum of things, I realized I didn’t actually do a lot with my comparatively hulking windows PC. It was a convenience to have it always on and connected to my TV, but outside of housing several gigs worth of drives, I didn’t use it to browse the web or play games. I used it to stream my music library to other devices on my home network. And I used it to watch TV shows and movies online or from my own library. I decided to move the drives elsewhere which I’ll cover in a future post. So, basically that only left media consumption. Now, your needs may differ so the first thing I suggest when choosing an Android TV box is to sit down and think about what purpose it will serve. Games? Media? Web? Maybe you’re looking to make one part of a smart home system? Or if you’re living minimally in a small space, maybe it will be your main “PC” for connecting to the outside world?
But as I said, my needs for an Android TV box were relatively small. Honestly probably most of the ones available would have fit the bill for listening to music and filling my TV with a little bit of entertainment. The only reason I was a little bit selective in my shopping is that I didn’t want to feel the pull to replace it too soon. This coming from someone who nurses computers along until they have relatively little left to give. There’s nothing quite like prying open a Macbook to un-stack layers of components and replace a dying fan! File that under the things I’ll do not to have to sit down and pay for a new one!
So, all that said, when it came time to choose the right Android TV box, the factors guiding me were a combination of price and likelihood of needing to replace it anytime soon. Granted one of the big pluses of these Android TV boxes is the relatively low cost. I think we have truly gotten to a place where these can be considered something akin to disposable technology. Of course this is in first world terms, but the $60 I paid for my new media center could easily fall under the budget of a single night out with friends. Never mind the price of a concert ticket, etc.
It’s interesting that price wise we’ve come full circle from the Timex Sinclair 1000 my Dad bought years ago. His first PC cost around a $100 minus peripherals. And one of the perks was that it similarly could connect with a simple TV set. That’s probably where the comparison ends though. Technology has evolved by leaps and bounds since then.
If you’re curious to know what I finally chose, this is the specific Android TV Box I purchased from Amazon.
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And it’s more than ticked off all the boxes for me. It came with Kodi installed which was perfect as I used XBMC on my old Media Center to browse through my collection of movies and music. The fact I can install other entertainment apps was icing on the proverbial cake. It’s amazing to me how I have migrated from a big shuttle case to something that fits in my hands and operates much quicker and is, frankly, better suited to the task. Windows Vista and a wireless touchpad-keyboard was always an awkward combination, I grant you. The skin that came with this particular Android TV Box has nice clear big buttons to navigate apps and is perfect for sitting across the room on the couch or in bed. And given the low price, you could easily toss one at multiple TVs in the home.
I could have gone cheaper still but, as I said, I didn’t want it to belong in a museum before I even held it in my hands. The Android TV box I chose runs Android 6.0. When I was actively shopping for one, I didn’t find any reasonably priced ones that were running 7.0. And since it was very much an experiment, I didn’t want to budge too much on price point. Still, if you are shopping for one now, the OS version should be on your list of things to look at when trying to choose the right Android TV Box for you. Do your research, look for what is out there that’s running the latest Android OS possible at a price point you are comfortable with. And, of course, pay attention to the amount of RAM and on-board storage. As these devices are essentially disposable, you won’t be upgrading these items later. Instead you’ll be getting a new box! So you need to be sure the amount of RAM and storage matches your needs now and a bit down the road as well.
You may have noticed that the Android TV Box I’m using has a dongle plugged into one of the three USB ports. This one does come with a remote of its own and it seems adequate, but I’m been so used to a wireless touchpad and keyboard that I’m using one with this box as well. I did end up replacing the one I’ve used for years. Its battery was not replaceable and it no longer held a charge long. There were a lot more options than when I bought my old one but this little number fit the bill between easy to use and doesn’t take up the whole bedside table. And the best part was I had to do nothing special to use it with my Android box – literally plug and play.
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If you’re in the midst of the same experiment trying to choose the right Android TV Box for you, I hope my story helped a little? I’d love to hear about your experience. Are you researching to buy one or did you similarly make a switch like I did? Or?? If you have a novel use for one, I’d love to hear!
Where to go from here?