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Best Android boxes in 2021: for TV, gaming, and everything else

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VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Best Android boxes
(Image credit: Nvidia)

The best Android boxes of 2021 are incredibly versatile devices. Plug one into a TV, and you've suddenly got a smart device that has access to all the latest streaming services, like Netflix and Disney Plus.

The best Android boxes are also impressively powerful, so you could hook one up to a monitor and use it as a mini PC. These make them great affordable alternatives to big and bulky Windows 10 desktop PCs. Because of their small size, they can be hidden away behind a screen (or even attached to it), which means they are great choices for powering interactive displays, adverts and points of sale.

Android boxes have also become very popular as Kodi streaming devices, to such an extent that Android boxes have almost become synonymous with Kodi boxes.

But unlike the latter, Android boxes are more versatile and don’t suffer the bane of being tied to customized user interfaces or Android builds. And in this article we’ve listed the best Android boxes you can currently buy for work, play, or indeed anything else.

Best Android boxes - at a glance

  1. Nvidia Shield TV Pro
  2. Amazon Fire TV Cube
  3. Turewell T9
  4. MINIX NEO U9-H
  5. Mecool MK9 Pro
  6. Ematic Jetstream
  7. A95X Max
  8. Xiaomi Mi Box S

The Nvidia Shield

The Nvidia Shield (Image credit: Nvidia)

1. Nvidia Shield TV Pro

The best Android streaming box and retro gaming machine

Reasons to buy
+Powerful+Many features+High-spec PC gaming+HDR formats

The latest Nvidia Shield Pro doesn’t do much new, but doesn't have to in order to remain the best streaming box and retro gaming machine out there. An Android-powered set-top-box / games console, it's about as powerful as streaming devices come, and is jam-packed with features that will tempt movie and video game fans alike. 

Whether you're after high-spec PC gaming streamed to your TV, or 4K movies in multiple HDR formats, it's got you covered. It does offer less value for money than previous models however, despite a spec bump.

Read our review of the Nvidia Shield TV Pro here.

Amazon Fire TV Cube

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. Amazon Fire TV Cube

The best Amazon streaming device

Reasons to buy
+Fire TV OS+Processor upgrade+Dolby Vision

Using Fire TV OS, a variation of Android, Amazon’s newest Fire TV Cube is, by far, our favorite Amazon streaming device – better in so many ways than the Amazon Fire TV Cube that was released in 2017. The processor upgrade and inclusion of Dolby Vision are great new additions and, in spite of a few shortcomings, help solidify the Cube's spot as one of the best streaming players to be released this year. 

The Fire TV Cube has always been rock-solid in terms of performance, but the latest version introduces a number of upgrades that make it even faster.

Read our review of the Amazon Fire TV Cube here.

Turewell T9

(Image credit: Turewell)

3. Turewell T9

Fast and efficient Android box

Reasons to buy
+Android 9.0 Pie+Good interface+Decent range of games+4K HD+Save bandwidth

The Turewell T9 Android 9.0 TV box comes with Android 9.0 Pie, making it fast and efficient. This Android TV box offers a decent range of games, an attractive user interface (for the cost), and Google Play Store support which grants you access to an eclectic mix of experiences. It also supports video decoding and plays almost all popular audio and video formats, including 4K HD video. 

And moreover, its H.265 decoding will save 50% of streaming bandwidth compared H.264, providing the ability to play thousands of Android games on a large 4K screen while enjoying a higher quality experience with less buffering.

MINIX NEO U9-H

(Image credit: MINIX)

4. MINIX NEO U9-H

Good budget Android box

Reasons to buy
+60fps+Full HDR10 support+Cheap
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

Featuring speedy video that stretches up to 60fps, the NEO U9-H 64-bit Media Hub for Android delivers smooth, responsive, and crystal-clear picture quality thanks to its 4K capabilities. Even better, the U9-H offers impressive picture performance thanks to full HDR10 support. 

Its HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology widens the color spectrum, displaying brighter whites and deeper blacks, accentuating the contrast to create a more natural, vibrant viewing experience. All of this is available in a package that costs less than £40/$50.

Mecool MK9 Pro

(Image credit: Mecool)

5. Mecool MK9 Pro

Android box with Google Assistant

Reasons to buy
+YouTube in 4K+HDR10+Bluetooth voice control+Google Assistant

Powered by the S905X2, the latest chipset from Amlogic, the Mecool MK9 Pro can display YouTube in 4K and boasts HDR10 alongside HLG HDR and H.265(HEVC) video encoding for enhanced contrast, color and clarity. 

Handily, it sports a voice control function and comes with a Bluetooth voice control remote controller, allowing you to operate the TV box using voice commands, which is both novel and useful. With Google Assistant built in, the Mecool MK9 Pro also makes it easy to control your smart home at the same time.

Ematic Jetstream

(Image credit: Ematic)

6. Ematic Jetstream

Miniature Android box with Bluetooth voice search

Reasons to buy
+4K Ultra HD+Netflix, Hulu, and PBS Kids+60 FPS video+Bluetooth voice search

Buying your first Android TV box? Then the Ematic Jetstream 4K Ultra HD TV Box could be the one for you. The Jetstream 4K Ultra HD Android TV Box with Voice Search Remote is, in our view, the perfect starting point to learn more about TV boxes. It provides access to more than 450,000 movies and TV shows across 4,500+ paid and free channels, including streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and PBS Kids. 

The miniature (and surprisingly affordable) marvel supports 60 FPS video at 4K resolution while the included remote has built-in Bluetooth voice search technology so that you can use your voice to browse, install, and play more apps, games, movies, and shows.

A95X Max

(Image credit: A95X Max)

7. A95X Max

Android box with unique video recording

Reasons to buy
+Unique video recording function+Dual band WiFi+Smartphone as remote

This well-connected Android TV box is equipped with 2.4GHz + 5GHz Dual Band WIFI, in addition to 10M/100M/1000M Ethernet Lan, which improves the problem of small wireless signal coverage by enabling signals to be received from all corners. It also packs Bluetooth 5.0 for fast data transmission to compatible devices. 

We’re fans of the A95X Max's unique video recording function, which lets you record videos to share with your family and friends when desired. And who needs a remote control? With this model you can use your smartphone as a remote to navigate recorded clips.

Xiaomi Mi Box S

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

8. Xiaomi Mi Box S

Budget Android box option

Reasons to buy
+Budget box+Decent specs
Reasons to avoid
-Some bugs

The Xiaomi Mi Box S doesn’t compare to the likes of the Nvidia Shield TV, but if you’re looking for Android TV on a budget, it’s an option to consider. While it’s not perfect, it has a lot going for it, and if you’re looking for an Android-based streaming box and don’t want to spend much, this is a decent device to go for. 

However, know that you will need to put up with a few bugs, a remote that doesn’t always work properly, and you won’t be able to use it for too many high-performance tasks.

Read our review of the Xiaomi Mi Box S here.

Desire Athow

Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Then followed a weekly tech column in a local business magazine in Mauritius, a late night tech radio programme called Clicplus and a freelancing gig at the now-defunct, Theinquirer, with the legendary Mike Magee as mentor. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global techfests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. He has an affinity for anything hardware and staunchly refuses to stop writing reviews of obscure products or cover niche B2B software-as-a-service providers.