Today, I’m going to tackle one of the toughest questions that you can possibly ask:
How much is an Android box?
The prices for Android boxes vary wildly between manufacturers, but most people don’t know how much they should be paying for one.
And that is a HUGE PROBLEM if you’re trying to make an informed purchase, right?
In my opinion, after more than four years of reporting on this industry, there isn’t just one answer to that question.
…because there isn’t just one type of Android box.
There are five.
Each type of Android box needs it’s own “Android TV Box Price Point”:
- Budget Android TV box
- Mid-range Android TV box
- Premium TV box
- “Set It and Forget It” TV box
- The Rip-Offs
What do the these categories mean and what’s a good Android TV box price point for each of them?
Let’s find out.
Budget Android TV box cost (Under $50)
I’ll be honest: If you’re spending under $50 on a streaming device, performance is going to suffer.
Memory (RAM): Usually you’re going to be getting 1-2 gigabytes of RAM (GB). This is enough to do some really basic stuff, but as your apps become more and more complex, you’ll quickly find your streams stuttering and buffering.
Storage: You’ll almost always be limited to 8 GB. That’s not terrible, but you will have to watch how many apps you put on the device. The Fire TV and Fire Stick get by with 8 GB, so it’s definitely doable.
CPU: Most of the CPU’s that come in these devices are sub-par or old technology. You’ll find a lot of RockChip and AllWinner CPU’s that aren’t even supported anymore.
Quality: At this price point, unless you’re buying a Fire Stick or Roku Streaming Stick, these devices aren’t built to last. Most companies are fly-by-night, generic sellers that purchased a lot of boxes on Alibaba and they’re looking to unload their old stock. Don’t expect anything in the way of updates…ever.
Just about every Android TV stick, dongle and streaming stick are going to be priced in this range.
Personally, I consider everything in this price point to be a “stopgap” or Band-Aid streaming device. They’re a good test to see if you can replace your cable TV subscription, but they’re not a long-term solution. They’re fine as a second device for the kid’s TV though.
Mid-range Android TV box price ($50-$99)
A word of warning, this is probably the most crowded category and the hardest to shop in. You can find some real gems here, but it’s going to take some digging.
Memory (RAM): Every device in this price range should have at least 2 GB of RAM. If you can find one with 3 GB, consider it a bonus.
Storage: 16 GB is the norm here. Stay away from anything in this price range with only 8 GB.
CPU: Here’s where things can get confusing. so you’ll need to pay attention carefully when shopping. You may see a great CPU like the AmLogic S905, but in a slightly different version like S905X, S905W or S905L. That little extra letter can be the difference between a tuned-up chip or a lower-power version that performs up to 25% worse. If possible, stick to the original S905 or the newer S912.
Quality: Like the CPU, quality can be hit or miss at this Android TV box price point. There will be some cheap TV boxes from more established manufacturers, but they’ll usually be at the higher end of this price range.
This is where I’d really start shopping for an Android box. Most of the junk has been weeded out at the lower price points and you’re getting into devices that will last a bit longer before they’re obsolete.
You’ll start to see box sellers put a little more effort into design and marketing here. The companies are more established, although you’ll still see a lot of generic boxes. Updates will still be few and far between, but you can get a good value for your money initially, at least.
Premium Android TV box price ($100+)
The biggest difference here is going to be in the Quality. You’re getting into some serious streaming power and much better reliability, but you’re going to be paying a premium for it. Most of the best Android boxes will fall into this category.
Memory (RAM): The newer CPU’s will usually be paired with 3 GB of RAM, although you can still find several good TV boxes with 2 GB.
Storage: 16 GB is the standard here, but it’s becoming more and more common to find boxes with 32 GB of storage space.
CPU: The newest and most powerful CPU’s will usually be in this category. You’ll see many devices with the latest AmLogic or RockChip CPUs that are tweaked for video streaming and performance.
Quality: This Android TV box price point is where the well known manufacturers like MINIX, Zidoo and Ugoos release their top-of-the-line Android boxes. You’ll almost always find a much higher level of support, more frequent updates and even service after the sale here than you will in the other categories.
Usually the devices you see here are designed and built by the box sellers directly, so you’ll find some higher end features and unique case designs.
Not every device at this price point is a winner, but it’s a much safer bet. Looking over GearBest‘s website shows the rare TV box cost more than it should. In general, you can trust that what you find here will be a good box for at least a few years.
That doesn’t mean that there’s aren’t a few “gotchas” here to watch out for. You’ll find the odd head-scratcher device using a CPU from a few years ago that costs upwards of $200. Usually it’s pretty easy to determine the winners from the one’s that shouldn’t be here at all.
“Set it and Forget it” TV box cost ($100+)
This is a broad category that has a lot of variability in price. You’ll hear the term Fully Loaded Kodi Box thrown around, and they’ll certainly fit this category.
The specs are going to be all over the board, so I can’t tell you what kind of memory, storage or CPU you’ll find. Usually they’re going to be on-par with one of the higher Mid-Range Android boxes or one of the Premium Android TV boxes that I went through in a previous section.
The biggest difference here is that the company you’re buying from will take care of updating your device and making sure that all of your streams are working correctly.
Note: That does NOT mean that every stream you try is going to work. That’s just not ever going to happen with Kodi. But, it means that you should be able to find something to watch with a minimum of fuss.
You should be able to get a good, well-maintained box here for somewhere between $100 and $200 US. Just be sure that you trust the company to be around for the long haul, or you’re just going to be giving your money away.
A word about the rip-offs ($299+)
So what separates the “Set it and Forget it” TV boxes from the Rip-offs?
Price and the technology you’re getting for the price.
Remember: You don’t always get what you pay for.
I’ve been brutal with a couple of companies before (StreamSmart and SmartKodi) that I feel have been taking advantage of their customers. Unfortunately, the list of rip-offs is much, MUCH longer than just those two companies.
It’s easy for a box seller to set up a cheap website or a stand at your local fair and sell boxes to unsuspecting people who are tired of paying a fortune for cable TV.
It’s harder for consumers to realize that the boxes are only worth a fraction of what they’re selling for.
Here’s two simple things to look for to help you avoid the rip-offs:
- If the price is $299 or higher, it’s a good sign they’re just in it for a quick buck.
- If the box doesn’t have a detailed Specifications section on the company’s website, chances are they’re hiding something.
If you see either of those things…don’t even think about buying it.
So…How much is an Android box?
There are several factors that make up the TV box cost, but at least now you know what to look out for.
And hopefully after reading this, you’re a more informed consumer.
So tell me, what are your thoughts? Do you think there should be different Android TV box price points? Have you found a particularly good (or bad) deal? Let me know in the comments below!