How much Android TV box storage do I need?

Today I wanted to answer a question directly from one of my readers. This question is from Tom about the Android TV box storage space:

This may seem like a silly question since MORE is usually better; but just how important is the built-in Read Only Memory [ROM] in a TV box. I see many TV boxes advertised with 2GB of RAM and anywhere from 8, 16 or 32GB of ROM storage.

My question is this. If I only intend to use my Android TV box as a streaming media player [not downloading anything] then how much ROM storage do I really need?

And I guess as a secondary question; if the TV box I purchase comes with a memory expansion slot can’t I just add it later if I need it?

Thank you for considering my question[s].

Great questions Tom.

To start, let me clarify some terminology.

Many manufacturers mistakenly call the the Android TV box storage space ROM, as you mentioned in your question. But that’s not quite right.

ROM stands for Read Only Memory. I don’t want to get off-track by getting into too much detail. But, in computers, this is the memory that is hard-coded with some of the basic instruction sets so that the computer can boot up and run. It’s not something that the user can modify or access easily.

What these manufacturers are actually advertising is the internal storage space of the device. Think of it like the hard drive in your desktop computer. It’s where you’ll install all of your apps and personal files.

What goes on the internal Android TV box storage?

So what gets put on that internal storage?

It turns out, quite a lot.

Apps: Here’s the easy one. Every app you install will go on your TV box’s internal storage. Not only the app itself, but any settings or local information as well. In many cases, the actual app can be dwarfed in size by all of the extra junk that it accumulates over time. When I’m running out of space on my smartphone, the first place I look is to see how much storage space each individual app is taking up.

Thumbnails: Especially if you’re using Kodi, this can be a huge space waster. Thumbnails are the the small images that you see on the screen for album artwork and screenshots. Kodi uses these on the menus and browsing tabs instead of showing you a simple list of your movies and music. The trouble is, all of those files take up a lot of space. In my case, my music library alone is over 1,700 artists, each one with multiple albums. The thumbnails alone take up over 2GB of space, nevermind the songs themselves.

Cache: Even if you’re streaming, the media files will use storage space to buffer the file. Buffering gets a bad reputation among Kodi users, but it actually performs a useful function. If there’s any slowdown or interruption in your network transfer speed, buffering the media file will help make it so you don’t see that when you’re watching the movie. In many programs, the amount of the media files that you buffer will change depending automatically. If you like tweaking your system, you can always change that to buffer more and have less interruptions.

Android OS: Don’t forget, the Android operating system takes up some space too. It’s hard to pin down an exact number, but I’ve seen a number of people estimating the system files take up between 3-5 GB of storage space.

Can’t I just add more?

With most PC’s and some laptops, you can just add more storage space. You asked if you can just add more with an SD card, and the answer is “yes…kindof.”

Here’s what I mean by that.

Yes, most devices will include some sort of SD or Micro-SD card slot for more storage space. If you can offload your pictures, and some app storage on to the card, then you’ll likely see some storage space gains.

But it may come at a cost.

When we hear the word bandwidth, we usually think about internet speeds, but it really just means “how much data can go through the pipe at any given moment.” The challenge with memory cards is that their maximum bandwidth speeds aren’t nearly as fast as the internal memory. Usually, this means getting a faster SD card, not one of those cheap ones. Even if you get an ultra high-speed SD card, you’re still limited by the speed of the connection it’s going through.

SD cards aren’t always slower, mind you. Depending on the device, it may be a perfectly acceptable solution. But, there are a lot of variables in that equation and I just can’t make a blanket statement one way or another.

How much Android TV box storage space do I recommend?

Recommending how much storage space to get is a moving target.

There’s an old urban legend that Bill Gates (in)famously said “640K ought to be enough for anybody.”

He may or may not actually have said that, but history is full of people who spectacularly underestimated the future.

Right now, I would try not to get an Android TV box with less than 16GB of storage space. You can still find a lot of 8GB devices out there. To be honest, unless the rest of the specs are just absolutely stellar, I’d give it a pass.

Thanks again for your question Tom. I hope that helps!

How much storage space do you have on your TV box? Is it enough? Do you want more? Let us know in the comments below!

11 Comments

  1. This helps me a decent amount. No I will probably get one with the 32G but on these Android boxes I see that most of them say they are between 1 and 2G ROM and then 8 / 16 / 32G SSD now what does this mean? Now I’m sure that you are referring to the 8/16/32G memory but I don’t understand what the 1/2/and 3G memory is for. Can you help and elaborate please?

  2. I have been testing TV box for internet download speed. What is not talked about is that the amount of free memory is critical in TV box performance. When more program is installed the amount of free memory decreases and internet download speed can slow to a crawl. The responsiveness of simple Android operations also slow to a crawl. There are many programs that come preinstalled by the system that you can not uninstall. So the 2GB and 1GB internal memory designation is is inadequate. It is the amount of free internal storage that is important.

    1. That’s a great point Edward. The hard part when you’re buying the device is that they never tell you how many apps they’re installing from the factory. That’s why I got rid of my Samsung Galaxy and went back to Google’s pure Android Pixel phones. Android boxes are a little better, but you’re still going to see many manufacturers install apps for you.

      Thanks for the comment.

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