Hi! I’m Tim Wells, and I’m the face behind AndroidPCReview.com.
There’s a lot of reasons why you’ve found your way to this point: You could be just starting your journey, and exploring what a streaming media player is. You could already know your way around Android TV boxes, or even one of the new official Android TV sets. You could just want to figure out how one of these little boxes can help you “cut the cable cord.”
No matter how you got here….welcome. If I can do anything to help you get a better streaming experience, let me know!
Let’s start with the basics.
I’d like to offer a definition of what an Android TV box is: An Android TV box is simply a streaming media device running the Android operating system. It’s the same operating system that’s running on your smartphone, tablet and millions of other devices throughout the world. If you know how to use your tablet or smartphone, you can usually run most (if not all) of those apps on an Android TV box.
Android TV box vs Smart TV
Smart TV, which includes Google’s Android TV, is an attempt to integrate your media hub inside your TV itself. This may sound like a great idea, but it’s got one major drawback: Smart TV’s can cost up to ten times as much as a streaming media device box hooked up to the TV you already own. The difference between Android TV and an Android TV box lies in the operating system itself. Android TV is a special version of the core Android OS. Android TV can’t run every app, at least not without some complicated workarounds. It requires special versions of apps which are specifically designed to be run on your television rather than a touchscreen.
The right TV box will be simple, intuitive, and stream what you want, when you want it. Click to tweet
TV box vs streaming media player
Streaming media players like the Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV are great. They’re extremely easy to use, but rather limited in what they can do. An Android TV box can run almost any app because it has access to the entire Google Play Store and Amazon App Store. See if your Roku can do that.
I go into those and other topics in more detail in this beginner’s article.
What a TV box is not
It’s important to realize what a TV box is not: It’s not about you getting content for free that you would otherwise have to pay for.
I don’t care what side of the piracy debate you’re on. Some readers are morally opposed to it. Others don’t think it’s a big deal. I’ll leave it up to you to decide. I’ll be here to guide you how to use your TV box no matter which of those two camps you fall into. Either way, I’ll show you how to get the most out of it.
What you need to get started
You are going to need a couple of things to get started streaming. Some you may already have. Some are free. Others may cost a little bit of money, depending on which ones you choose.
I’ll be here to guide you every step of the way.
The right TV…
Of course you’ll need a TV to get started streaming, but will your current TV work? Will you need to upgrade?
Probably, unless your TV is more than ten years old. TV’s started coming with HDMI ports way back in 2006. Since you can’t get 4K content without the right TV connections, you’re going to need at least one HDMI port on your TV. If you don’t have an HDMI port, but still want to cut the cable cord and start streaming, there are other options for you. Just know that you won’t get the best picture quality using a different cable.
What if all of your HDMI ports are filled by other things, like your Blu-Ray player or game console? You can add what’s called an HDMI-splitter or HMDI switch in between your TV box and TV.
…with the right TV Box…
I assume that if you’ve gotten this far you’ve already made your choice between a Smart TV, a mainstream streaming media player and an Android TV box. If you skipped the first part, first of all…why? Secondly, skip back on up to the first section and read over the differences. Android TV boxes aren’t for everyone and you should be reasonably sure that’s what you want.
Still here? Great! Let’s move on.
When I say “the right TV box”, what I mean is the TV box that does what you need it to do, offers you a little room to grow, but without loading you down with extra bells and whistles that you don’t need or will never use. The right box lets you stream what you want, when you want it. For example, if you’re an Amazon Prime Video subscriber, the right box for you probably isn’t an Apple TV. Likewise, if you’ve got your content in iTunes and you’re happy with it there, you probably don’t want to be looking at an Android TV box. Does that make sense?
I test out a lot of TV boxes. In fact, at this very moment, my shelves are full of review samples and test units. Some of them are great. Some are worthless junk. If they’re junk, you’ll hear about it from me. Many of the other review sites will try to spin everything to be an amazing “must-have” device, and that’s complete BS. You won’t get that from me because I think you’re smarter than that. I believe that I’m here to be your guide and your trusted friend.
Which TV boxes do I recommend? I’m glad you asked. Its one of the most popular questions I get from my readers. So I’ve created an article which has my recommendations for which TV boxes you should be looking at right now. If you’re shopping for a new device, it’s a great place to start.
What features should you look for? I’ve created my list of “must-have” features to make your streaming player as future proof as possible. The list isn’t meant to be a shopping list for you. No box is going to have all of these things without costing a fortune. But, the list is a perfect starting point for you to look at what’s important to you and then decide which TV box has the features that are your “must haves.”
If you’ve already picked out or even bought your first TV box, then you might be wondering what else you need to make it work. I’ve created two detailed guides to help with that: Android TV Box Accessories will give you a good overview of some of my favorite accessories that I’ve used in the past few years.
I’ve also created a huge guide all about air-mouse remote controls. The Android OS was designed for touch screens, so there are some challenges adapting it to remote controls. Plus, it can be a pain in the neck to clean the fingerprints off your TV all the time.
If you want a bit more control, then maybe you’re looking for the best HTPC keyboard for your living room setup.
Finally, if you feel like browsing through all the devices I’ve tested out, take a look at the Reviews section to see how they stack up against the competition.
…set up the right way…
Now that you’ve got the right TV box…now what?
It’s time to get it set up the right way. If you’ve just opened the box and are hooking up your brand new TV box now, I’ve created this short article to get you up and running in about five minutes. It’s a checklist of things that you can skim over to make sure you didn’t miss anything important.
If your TV box is already set up, then that means thinking about how you’re going to play your media.
There are two articles that I think are essential reading when setting up your media server:
The two most popular media centers are Kodi and Plex. Each is an amazing program with a ton of great features. Each has their own devoted followers that will say that theirs is the best. But, one may be the better choice for you. Here I’ve highlighted some of the main differences between Kodi and Plex, which will help you decide which is right for you.
If you’ve set your heart on Kodi, then you’re in luck. The hardest part about Kodi is sifting through all of the junk information out there. You’ve already seen it. “How to install _____ addon for Kodi.” It’s hard to find something that will take you on a detailed, step-by-step journey installing Kodi, setting up your media libraries, changing the skin, installing official addons, and more. All of the essential parts of getting it setup correctly. There was nothing out there like that for beginners, so I made my own Kodi tutorial.
…with the right streaming service.
Everyone needs at least one streaming service. Without one, you’re limited to playing your own content or streaming from sources that are either unreliable illegal or both.
Personally, I have two streaming services that I use year-round, one that I get for a few months for a temporary binge watch when Winter Is Coming, and one other service whenever it’s hockey season. Your needs are probably different. What you’ll need to do is to pick one that works for you so that you don’t miss out on the shows that you want to watch.
These services cost money, yes. But you can still save money overall, even when paying for a streaming service, or three. The cost of what my streaming services (described above) for an entire year is less than I used to pay the cable company for two months worth of their TV service. I’m saving hundreds of dollars a year, and getting everything that I was watching before. Just think what you can do with that extra 10 months worth of money.
Here are the “Big Three” streaming services that you should start with.
|Cost: $9.99/month (119.88/year)|
|Content: Movies, original series such as “Daredevil”, “House of Cards”, “Voltron” and “Orange is the New Black”|
|Pros: Huge selection, exclusive original programming, Disney movies for the kids|
|Cons: No current episodes of programs from other channels, lag before getting blockbuster movies.|
|Cost: $8.25 month ($99/year)|
|Content: Movies, original series such as “Veep” and “The Man in the High Castle,” “Mozart in the Jungle” and some older HBO series.|
|Pros: Free with an Amazon Prime subscription for two-day delivery, a growing content library, free Amazon Prime Music.|
|Cons: Few current episodes of programs from channels other than HBO, time lag before release of blockbuster movies.|
|Cost: $7.99/month ($95.88/year)|
|Content: Original content like “The Path” and “The Mindy Project.” Current and past seasons of broadcast TV shows.|
|Pros: Current and previous ABC, Fox, and NBC shows, older ones from CBS, a few cable channels, and now some original series.|
|Cons: You’re still going to see commercials. Not as many movies as the competition, limited selection of older shows.|
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I want to leave you by saying “Thanks!”
Over the years I’ve heard some great stories and experiences from you, my readers. Without your input, this site wouldn’t be here without you. But we’re just beginning….
I want to know how I can help. This community is as much about you as it is about your streaming experience, and I think that we can learn a lot from each other.
I do my best to respond to emails and comments. While you may not get a personal response every time, you can be sure I’ve read every single email and comment on this site. I’m no different than you: I’m just a normal guy trying to get the best TV experience I can. I’m glad to have you along for my own journey.
(Cover image licensed under Creative Commons)