I know I’m gong to lose half my audience with this article, but that’s OK.
Every time I go back up North to visit family, I’m always asked about Android boxes. After the fourth or fifth time I had this conversation it hit me that I’ve never written a guide to Android boxes specific for the Canadian market.
Sometimes, I need to be hit over the head before something sinks in. 🙂
So today I’m going to give an overview of some Android TV boxes for Canada and then give some recommendations to look at. If you’re a regular reader of this site, then a lot of this is going to look familiar. But there are some quirks to the Canadian market and that’s going to change some of my recommendations.
So stick around…
Are Android TV boxes legal in Canada?
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room first.
I’ve looked at the question of “Is Kodi Legal” in some detail recently, and that information applies to any streaming service. The CBC also wrote an article in early 2017 about how “Free TV” Android boxes were becoming more popular in Canada.
So are Android TV boxes legal to own and operate in Canada?
Yes. There’s nothing wrong with the box itself.
Where Android box owners get into trouble is how they’re using them.
Any streaming device can play legal and illegal content. This is just as true for Android boxes as it is for a Roku or Fire TV. If you’re going to be using your streaming device to play content that you don’t have the rights to watch, I’d strongly recommend using a VPN for streaming content to help protect yourself.
What’s the best Android TV box for Canada?
There’s more to a good “best of” guide than just looking at specs and Amazon reviews.
Anybody can do that and frankly, its a little insulting to read.
Specs only tell half the story. User reviews can easily be faked. So how can you be sure that what you’re reading is real?
I want to keep this simple. I don’t want to give you so many options that it confuses you more. No Android box is perfect. There’s a give and take with all of them. I’ll attempt to make that simple and all geared toward the Canadian market.
If you haven’t seen my original best Android TV box guide, you may want to check that out as well. Some of the boxes are the same, and some are very different. But I’ll get into that in a bit.
Here are my five recommendations for Android TV boxes that work for Canadians.
NVIDIA Shield TV
I’m a HUGE fan of the NVIDIA Shield TV. It’s my go-to streaming device that powers two of the three TV’s in my house.
The Shield TV is for the people who have invested a lot of money into a 4K HDR TV and need a streaming device that can keep up. In my case, my main TV is a 2016 55″ Sony 4K HDR TV and it’s the only device I’d ever think of hooking up to it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not cheap. It ill set you back nearly $270 CDN. But it’s easy to use, easily the most polished of all boxes and gets the most frequent updates. In terms of sheer power, there’s nothing that even comes close.
If you look at this as a long term investment, the Shield TV starts to make a lot more sense. I bought mine n 2015 (and a second in 2017) and it’s still far and away the best player on the market.
It doesn’t come pre-configured at all. You’ll have to setup all of the different streaming apps that you want to use. The same goes for Kodi or Plex.
Find the best price on the NVIDIA Shield TV at Amazon.ca
MINIX NEO U9-H or MyGica ATV495 Pro HDR
If you don’t want to splurge on the NVIDIA Shield TV, or if regular Android is more your style, then you should be looking at one of these two boxes. MyGica has the name recognition in Canada, but I’ve always preferred the MINIX personally.
There’s a lot of similarities in the design of these devices. Both have custom interfaces and strong customer support networks. MINIX also has very frequent firmware updates – averaging one every 2 months or so.
If you’re on a budget, the MyGica will save you about $30 CDN over the price of the MINIX. But for that extra $30 you get double the internal storage (16 GB compared to 8 GB) and Gigabit Ethernet. If you’re wondering if that will make a difference, check out my article on how to buy an Android box which goes over what the specs mean in plain English.
If a bare bones box isn’t your style, you don’t have a whole lot of options in Canada anymore. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not legal to sell fully loaded boxes in Canada, but its still OK in the States.
The EZStream Ti8 costs $109 USD and unfortunately doesn’t offer free shipping to Canada. At current exchange rates, the Ti8 will set you back right around $200 CDN once you factor in the pricey shipping options.
The TI8 has the same CPU\GPU as the MINIX NEO U9-H although firmware updates aren’t as frequent and the interface isn’t as polished. Frankly every other box on this list is a better option at this price. But…
But none of them will configure and maintain Kodi addons like EZStream will. If you’re going to be living in Kodi and you want to avoid the hassle of configuring and maintaining addons yourself then this is one of your least expensive options.
Find the EZ-Stream Ti8 directly at EZStreamBox.com
The Mi Box is the “other” official Android TV device. It’s got the same slick interface, but it lacks the power of the NVIDIA Shield
Think of it this way: If the Shield is a Shelby GT-500, then the Mi Box is the 6-cylinder Mustang. It’s got the looks (mostly), and it’s still good in its own right, but there’s not as many horses under the hood.
What that means is that 4K performance isn’t as smooth as the Shield TV and the updates don’t come as often. But you won’t find any cheaper way to get the official Android TV interface on a streaming device.
If you’re headed to the US, pick it up at a US Wal-Mart or find the best price on the Mi Box on Amazon.ca
Android boxes that I don’t recommend for Canadians
There are three things that I can’t recommend as well. Two of these are among my favourite devices in the States, but for one reason or another, they just don’t make sense for Canadians.
Cheap non-name boxes: You won’t get updates and support is non-existent. In most of the “best of” guides that I see on the Internet, I scroll down the list and half the boxes on the list I’ve never heard of. That’s a huge red flag to me.
The SkyStream Two: As much as I love this box, the price with the exchange rate makes it more expensive than the NVIDIA Shield. As good as it is, there are better options at that price point.
Amazon Fire TV: Don’t get me wrong, I love the Fire TV as well (even the third generation that stripped out some of the more popular features). It’s my backup streaming device that I use in my home office. However, the only Fire TV device available at in Canada right now is the Fire TV Stick Basic Edition. It’s only $49, but let’s face it, this is a really stripped down version of the low-end Fire TV device available in the US. You can find out more about the differences between the Fire TV vs the Fire Stick here.
What’s the simple solution?
Unfortunately finding a good Android TV box for Canada isn’t as easy as it is in the US. Between the terrible exchange rate, copyright laws that aren’t favourable for streamers, the odds aren’t good.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas of TV boxes to look at and some others to maybe take a pass on.
Do you have any Android boxes that you think should make the list? Better yet, do you know of any Canadian box sellers that should be included too? Let me know in the comments below.