I don’t know about you, but those first moments when I rip open the packaging on a new piece of tech turns me into a little kid at Christmas again. The shredded shrink wrap blows across the floor as you quickly start tossing cables and accessories aside. Instruction manuals? Who needs those? I’m on an emotional high induced by the smell of new plastic and the possibility that I may have just purchased the world’s best gadget!
Of course, a few minutes later, after all the wires are connected and I hit that power button, it hits me: Now what? Those instruction manuals that I casually threw over in the corner told me how which cables to plug in, but they didn’t tell me what to do next.
Sound familiar? Android TV boxes have a lot of possibilities, right out of the box. You can configure it any way you choose, unlike a Roku or Amazon Fire TV which is pretty much locked down from the factory. So where do you start? I’m going to show you how to setup your Android TV box in 5 easy steps. This assumes you’ve already plugged in all the cables and successfully turned it on. This is all about what to do next.
Android TV boxes are really just small form factor computers. Like any computer, the manufacturer has probably come out with new features, or at least bug fixes, since they shipped it to you. It’s a good idea to make updating the firmware the first thing you do with any new Android device.
Why do this first? Well, depending on the way the manufacturer handles the firmware update, it may completely erase your settings and apps. I used to do this step at the very end, until one upgrade erased the everything I’ve done over the past hour. Lesson learned. Install the firmware first, when you setup your Android TV box. Then you can start with a clean slate on the latest version of the TV box’s operating system.
Check out our Android TV Box Firmware Guide to find your firmware!
If you’ve installed anything on an Android smartphone you probably installed it through the Google Play Store. With over 1.4 million apps as of the end of 2014, there’s a lot to choose from. If Google’s not your thing, you can always check out the almost 500,000 apps on the Amazon Android App Store instead. Each has its advantages: Amazon offers a daily free app, which is always worth checking out. Google Play is the only place you can pick up their apps, such as Chrome.
Either way, you’ll want some way to install apps on your device without sideloading all of them. Its time to go shopping.
When it comes down to it, all we really want to do is watch a movie, right?
Your new Android TV box will come with some sort of media player like MX Player or VLC player, but what you really want is a full blown media center. That means either Kodi or Plex. There are others, of course, but most Android fans will fall into one of these two camps.
Kodi and Plex and both media centers that will organize and stream your existing media files no matter where they are on your network, as well as fetch video streams from locations on the web. There are some subtle differences, but generally, you can’t go wrong with either one. To find out more details on which one may work for you, check out my detailed Kodi\XBMC vs Plex comparison guide.
After you’ve installed Kodi, you may need to change your settings to fix buffering problems. Don’t worry, there’s a detailed “how-to” for that.
BONUS: I’ve posted a HUGE step by step article on How to install Kodi: The right way. Check it out here, or click the image below.
Where’s my stuff? Add your shared drives
Even if you don’t use a media server like Kodi or Plex, you can still access the files on your network using ES File Explorer. If you’ve got a Windows network set up already, you can set up a file share using nothing more than an external hard drive. ES File Explorer can be used to pull files from any folder on your network and is pretty easy to setup.
Even though you could use ES File Explorer to navigate your network, this isn’t the best solution for playing all of your videos. This is better suited to finding images or documents on your network and showing them on your TV screen. Still, for the occasional video that may not be in your Kodi or Plex library, this is an easy to use way to access them.
Find help when you need it: Join the manufacturer forum
There is a ton of useful information and tips on the manufacturer’s forums.
The forums are one of the first places I go when I want to research a product. They’re a great place to find the latest information, especially when you’ve just setup your Android TV box. Often, you can find quick, easy solutions to common problems. Even if you don’t have any problems, you can find other users with tips, tricks or suggestions to really make it run smoothly.
One of the added bonuses is that a lot of times, manufacturers will tease new features or apps. Even if you just got your device, its cool to see the new features that are planned for the next versions.
Now that you’ve setup your Android TV box, there’s only one thing left to do: sit back, grab some popcorn and watch a movie.
Have any other tips? Leave a comment below and tell us.
Ready to take the next step? Check out our guide to finding the best air mouse too!