UPDATED For 2018!
This post should confuse some of my longer readers, because I’ve always argued against buying a fully loaded Kodi box.
So why the sudden change of heart?
I’ve heard from a lot of readers who have bought TV boxes that were advertised as a ready-made, out of the box solution for Kodi. They claim to have all the Kodi\XBMC addons you’ll ever need pre-installed.
The reality is that, if you get the wrong one, they can be more trouble than they’re worth.
Quick Look At Our Top Picks
#1 Skystream Two
#2 EZ-Stream Ti8
#3 NVIDIA Shield TV
What’s changed recently
When this article was originally posted, it highlighted three XBMC box manufacturers that tried to include all of the add-ons that anyone could possibly want to use. Then, there were a couple of high-profile legal cases in the United Kingdom and Europe that changed the marketplace significantly.
Early in September, the EU passed a law that box sellers will now have to verify that the links they include with their TV boxes do not infringe on any possible copyright laws. Obviously this is a logistic nightmare for sellers. The more add-ons that are included, the more links that are there to verify. To make it easier, many companies have simply stripped out the add-ons, but set up tutorials on how to install them after you purchase their device – sidestepping the law.
Later that month, the first person charged with selling TV boxes in the UK which are able to stream illegal content is heading to trial. Brian Thompson, who sells Kodi boxes in Middlesbrough, England, insists that he’s done nothing wrong. Although he’s wiling to test his business in the court system, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around selling a fully loaded Kodi box.
When “fully loaded” is a “load of …”
Third party add-ons can be pretty frustrating sometimes.
In fact, dozens of you have emailed me saying that crappy add-ons as one of your biggest challenges when trying to watch a movie or live TV.
I hear from dozens subscribers who tell me that they just purchased a “Kodi Box” and it doesn’t work as advertised.
I wish I could say I’m surprised.
Most of the addons that are included are, to put it bluntly, absolute crap. Almost all of the TV box manufacturers will throw any add-on they can find on their fully loaded Kodi box and use it as a selling point.
This makes it difficult for anyone to figure out which box to buy, especially someone new to Kodi devices and streaming boxes.
That’s why I’m writing this article.
Advice on buying a fully loaded Kodi box
My main reason for starting this site was to help make sure that no one reading this site ever gets ripped off because you don’t have enough information.
There are a lot of scummy sellers out there. Until now, my advice has always been to avoid anyone selling fully loaded Kodi boxes or paid Kodi addons after the fact..
The add-ons are free, so you can install what you want just by following a couple of Android box YouTube channels. You can buy a really good bare-bones TV box like a MINIX, Zidoo or ProBox2 and add whatever Kodi add-ons or apps you want.
Be together, not the same, right?
That’s the power of Android. Configure it how you like. How it works best for you.
But what I’ve heard from you is that you want a box that works – one that is set up right from when you take it out of the box. All of the add-ons are there for you.
No muss. No fuss.
That’s something that manufacturers like MINIX won’t give you. They give you the blank slate, not the finished product.
So if you’re looking for a fully loaded Kodi box, then I feel it’s my responsibility to help.
It’s my responsibility to try to steer you in the right direction, just the same as if you were buying a bare-bones TV box.
What makes up the best Kodi \ XBMC box?
What makes a good seller doesn’t change because their product does.
Good sellers have good support, fair prices and quality products.
Anyone I put my seal of approval on has to have a good support network. You won’t find any sellers that just sell the TV box and disappear. No eBay or Craigslist, fly-by-night sellers here. You need to have an active forum network with both company representatives and end-users who will gladly help out other users who have issues.
One other big thing: There has to be a warranty.
In short, you need to be taken care of after the sale. That should be a basic requirement, but surprisingly, most companies get this one wrong.
If you think that a good support network is the most important thing on this list, then you’re right.
Regular firmware updates
Good firmware can make or break a device. If you’ve got crappy firmware, I don’t care how good the hardware running the TV box is – it’s just not going to save it.
To be considered, there has to be regular firmware updates. It doesn’t have to be monthly, or even bi-monthly. but there has to be a history of firmware updates after a device is released.
I’ve written posts before about sellers who rip people off by marking up a $50 TV box to $300. Nothing pisses me off more than a company taking advantage of people like that.
So one big criteria for me is that the device has to be within a “fair price range” which is comparable to other devices with similar specs.
This generally means a price limit of around $160 US for a TV box. If something is more expensive than it’s competition, there better be a really good reason.
This one is admittedly fuzzy. I’ve tested device from this company before. I’m familiar with how they work and what their quirks are.
So trust me when I say that I’m confident in the quality of their products.
Are they perfect? No, of course not.
Every device, even the $300 NVIDIA Shield which is mostly amazing, has it’s flaws. And sometimes those flaws are pretty annoying.
But, when I mean “quality”, I mean is the product at or above the level of build quality and “daily use” quality of other devices in it’s price range. If a device costs $100, does it look, feel and act like at least a $100 product?
Two great choices for the best fully loaded Kodi box
Both EZ-Stream (formerly Element Technologies) and SkyStream One are doing things the right way. I’m a fan of supporting the local companies and its great to see them both pumping out such high-performing boxes.
Let’s start with what they both have in common:
- Both have one-click updating apps to keep all of your Kodi addons running smoothly. They do the maintenance for you.
- Both companies are based in the USA, with customer service teams in Florida. If you have a question or a problem, you’re talking to someone in the same country and not halfway across the world. That’s a big deal.
- Both offer actual telephone support (M-F, 9am-5pm Eastern time)
- Both have Facebook support groups monitored by their customer service teams as well as power-users from the community.
Now let’s look at their differences…
The SkyStream Two is the brand new entry from SkyStream. Under the hood it’s got the newer Amlogic S912 CPU which is a favorite with Team Kodi programmers because its compatible with almost every type of media codec there is. In other words, it’ll play just about anything you can throw at it. You can read my full SkyStream Two review here.
In addition to the phone and Facebook support listed above, they’ve also got a live chat option, if you don’t want to be bothered talking to anyone on the phone.
They also offer a 2-year extended warranty which you can get for $9.99. If the box stops working within the first two years, they send you another one to replace it. Honestly, if you look at what you’re saving compared to other boxes, that $10 bur two years of hassle-free support seems like a pretty good deal.
Find the best price on the SkyStream One direct from Skystream here
Note: Element Technologies recently changed their name to EZ-Stream. You may see some references to this box as the Element Ti8 or the EZ Stream Ti8. It’s the exact same box.
EZ-Stream has put together one of the best fully-loaded TV boxes I’ve seen in a long time. The EZ-Stream Ti8 has the newer Amlogic S912 CPU, which gets better performance than the older S905. It lacks some of the polish of the SkyStream Two, but it edges it out in raw performance. You can read all about it in my full EZ Stream Ti8 review here.
Find the best price on the EZ Stream Ti8 direct from EZ-Stream here
NVIDIA Shield TV
NVIDIA, the graphics powerhouse behind most of the world’s top performing PC gaming systems, stormed on to the scene in May 2015 with the NVIDIA Shield Android TV console. Unlike the Razer Forge TV, which never really caught on, the Shield has a devoted following of Kodi enthusiasts, developers and causal gamers that have made it extremely popular.
Now redesigned for 2018, the Shield TV is aimed at the user who want more power and storage from their streaming device than a Roku or Fire TV can give, but don’t need to go into the super high-end streaming devices like the Cyrus Stream Xa or Naim ND5 Xs. It has the high-end Tegra X1 CPU, 3GB of RAM and a graphic processor with a whopping 256 cores!
The Shield user interface is one of the slickest I’ve seen. Google’s official Android TV interface runs on top of Android 8.0 Oreo – the only device on this list to use the latest version of Android.
Find the best price on the NVIDIA Shield TV at Amazon.com
There you have it. Of all the TV boxes I’ve seen, there are very few that offer a high quality, “fully loaded” solution.
I like not paying a fortune for streaming boxes. A lot of cheap boxes have great specs. But that’s not enough.
So why do I think they’re the best fully loaded Kodi boxes?
You get a ton of value for not a lot of money.
What do you think? Do you have a fully loaded Kodi box that you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below!