Updated for 2019: In this guide I’m going to go over everything you need in order to pick the best cheap Android TV box. So, if you’re strapped for cash, but you still want to get a great streaming device, keep reading!
Quick Look at Our Top Pick:
- 4K Ultra HD Streams
- Voice Controlled remote
- Excellent customer support
- 30 Day money back guarantee
Quick Look at Our Top Picks:
- Best Budget Android TV Box: SkyStream Android TV Box
- Best Android TV Box Under $100: Beelink MINI MXIII
- Best Android TV Box Under $50: HAOSIHD T9
I love looking at big houses and fancy cars. It’s great to dream, but at the end of the day, I’m going to get in my Mazda and go home to my little house.
It’s the same thing when you’re shopping for a streaming device. You may want to get that $300 NVIDIA Shield that’s on my list of Best Android TV Boxes, but it might not be in your budget. But how do you buy a cheap Android TV box and still be happy?
This guide will take you through what you’re going to be giving up when you look at a cheap Android TV box, as well as a couple of things I absolutely will not skimp on – no matter how cheap the device is. Finally, I’ll give my recommendations for Android TV boxes that are low on cost, but high on features. Most of them are around the $50 range, but all are under $100.
If you’re ready, let’s dive in!
Understand what you’re giving up
If you’re looking at a cheap Android TV box, you need to understand what you’re giving up. It makes sense that higher priced streaming devices will usually (but not always) have better features. What I’ve found is that most of the cheaper TV boxes will often skimp on some of the things that don’t show up in the specs.
For example, here’s what you might be giving up by going with a cheap Android TV box:
- Performance Components: You wouldn’t expect a Honda to have the same engine as a Ferrari. In order to bring the costs down, manufacturers often have to skimp on some of the components. Don’t expect to get a high performance TV box at bargain basement prices.
- Regular firmware updates: Streaming devices get better over time – if the manufacturer updates them at all. Without regular firmware updates, the TV box that looked like a great deal when you bought it can quickly become outdated.
- OTA upgrades: If the manufacturer doesn’t offer OTA (Over The Air) firmware upgrades, you may have to use the “toothpick method” and manually update the device. Manual updates are much more complicated and most people just skip them entirely.
- Forum support: If I’m having a problem with my device, the first place I’ll usually go for answers is to the manufacturer’s forum. It’s rare for the cheaper streaming devices to have a good community support network.
- Support after the sale: It takes money to run a customer service department. If they aren’t making it on the price of the TV box, this is usually the first thing to go.
Five things I won’t skimp on
Now that you’ve got a better idea of what to expect with a cheap Android TV box, let’s go shopping!
Geekbuying and Gearbest are two of the most reputable places to buy an TV box. If you want the latest stuff, as soon as it hits the market, they’re the first place to go. Usually,
I will buy most of my devices through Amazon.com, but that’s because I’m an Amazon Prime member and I get free 2-day shipping.
What can I say? I’m impatient when I shop for my tech. Note: You can see a full write-up of my shopping experience in my GearBest Review.
That being said, a quick look at Geekbuying and Gearbest list over 500 TV boxes! Ouch.
Now, that counts the same box with slightly different specs listed multiple times, but still…that’s a lot of possibilities.
Let’s try to narrow down that list a little?
There are some things that I simply won’t skimp on – no matter how cheap the TV box is.
- It MUST have Android 6 or Android 7: Unless you’re stuck in 2016, there’s absolutely no reason that you should be buying a TV box that still runs Android 5.
- No Generic TV boxes: Seriously. If the company can’t put it’s own name on their product, how much do you think they’ll support it after you hand them your money?
- Don’t bother looking at eBay or Craigslist: I’ve talked about this before in detail, so let me just say this. If you buy a box from some guy on Craigslist, you’re throwing your money away. Give it to me instead please. 🙂
- If it says “Allwinner” or “RockChip” just skip it: It’s been very, very well documented that Allwinner has been copying its development code from other companies without getting the proper licensing, which is a no-no in the open-source community. Similarly, RockChip has absolutely no developer support from within Team Kodi. Personally, I wouldn’t want to buy a device that isn’t 100% compatible with the most popular app I’m going to run on it.
- It MUST have a custom launcher: If your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc. is going to be using the TV box, you’re going to hear a lot of complaining if it’s not easy to use. I don’t want to hear them complain, do you?
Cheap Android TV box recommendations
(All under $100. Most under $50)
Those five things help narrow the possibilities down quite a bit, but there’s still a lot of TV boxes out there. I’ve looked over the devices that are still standing and come up with some of my favorites. These are in alphabetic order, so don’t look at this as a ranked list. All of these are good choices from solid companies.
Skystream is back again with the SkyStreamThree and this time they’ve doubled down on their success.
OK…sorry for the bad pun. I can’t resist. 🙂
In all seriousness though, Skystream took what made the Skystream Three a killer Android TV box and doubled it.
The processor has been upgraded to the Amlogic S912 octa-core CPU – double the cores from the One. The internal storage has been doubled from 16 GB up to 32 GB. System memory hasn’t quite been doubled, but it has definitely been given a big boost. There’s now 3 GB of memory, up from 2 GB. And now DDR4 memory, which has the edge in performance over the older DDR3 in most TV boxes.
There’s also a slick new custom interface which is more modern than the brightly colored interface from their older boxes. You’ll still find most of the large icons where you’d expect them to be, but they don’t jump out at you as much as they used to.
What really gets me excited is the extra features that they’ve crammed into the Skystream Three.
They’ve integrated Google Voice Search into the media center so you can search for whatever you want to watch instead of typing it out on the on-screen keyboard. With Google Assistant, “OK Google” is always available to answer questions.
Also new on the Skystream Three is Widevine certification. It’s one of the main requirements for getting Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and Hulu in HD quality.
What to love: Looking at the specs, there’s a lot to love. More memory. More CPU power. More storage. Pair that with the famous Skystream support network, and we’ve got a great TV box.
What’s missing: Still missing USB 3.0 which will really hurt transfer speeds from external hard drives. There’s also an increase in price to go along with the increases in memory, storage and CPU.
- 5.1 Audio Passthrough
- H.265 Hardware Decoding
- Android 7.1 Nougat
- Dynamic Refresh Rate Switching
- OTA Firmware Updates
- HDMI 2.0
- USB 3.0
- Dual-Band Wi-Fi and\or Gigabit Ethernet
- The latest version of Kodi
Find the best price on the Skystream Three directly from Skystream.com
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is an inexpensive option? You heard correctly! Even though this baby is fully loaded with updated features including an Alexa voice remote, it’s priced well under $100 and if you already have Amazon Prime, you’ll automatically have easier access to tons and tons of exceptional content.
Let’s take a closer look.
What to love: No surprise here: Amazon Fire TV is the most powerful media stick for streaming in 4K. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though: You’ll be able to stream content from Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Disney+, Apple TV, Hulu, Sling, and more. There are even some free options including IMDB TV and Pluto.
People who are new to Alexa or voice controls in general love the fact that they now have the ability to launch their content with simple commands and control it the exact same way. There’s more: Visuals are astounding once you’ve plugged in – you’ll have full access to Dolby Vision, HDR, HDR10+, and 4K Ultra HD. In case your TV isn’t 4K, no worries – you can plug in Fire TV and access all the content you want. In the event that you want to store apps and games, this little device has tons of room.
Got other smart devices? You can control them with the Alexa voice remote that comes with Fire TV. Pretty cool!
What’s missing: Since Amazon competes with Google Play, Vudu, etc., certain apps aren’t available. Amazon wants its users to rely on them for streaming and that’s understandable – it’s somewhat of a tradeoff for some people, a non-issue for others, and a dealbreaker for a select few.
- Alexa Voice Remote Control
- 8GB storage plus free cloud storage for content purchased from Amazon
- HDMI output
- Micro USB port for power
- Supports 4K / HDR
- Bluetooth 5.0 + LE
- Dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi
As it turns out, you can now get an Android 10.0 TV Box for under $100 – in fact, this one is a lot closer to the $50 mark! The Pendoo T95 TV box has been around for a while now. As the company has enjoyed quite a bit of success with this particular model, they opted to provide some upgrades for 2020, beginning with the addition of an Android 10.0 OS.
What to love: If you’ve had cheap Android TV boxes in the past, then you know that there are often issues with stuttering and buffering. This one is smooth as silk, which is pretty incredible considering the price! Just like its predecessors, the Pendoo T95 Android box is compatible with an almost endless array of games and apps, so you can do more than simply watch TV.
Speaking of TV – if you’ve upgraded yours and are longing to watch shows in 4K or even 6K, here’s your golden opportunity. This Android 10.0 TV box delivers, supporting both formats and treating you to an ultra-impressive picture.
Easy to connect using the supplied HDMI cable, it has 2.4GHz WiFi built right in so your signal is always strong and steady. The remote lets you take charge and even features a button that takes you directly to your apps for added convenience.
What’s missing: Need Bluetooth? We’re sad to report that this cheap Android TV box doesn’t have it.
- Android 10.0
- 6K / 3D video
- 32 GB Storage space
- 4G RAM
- SD card slot and USB ports
Coming in at well under the $50 mark is the VANKYO MatrixBox. Quite frankly, we’re shocked to see how many features this cheap Android TV box manages to pack in – particularly as it’s such a budget-friendly option.
What to love: If you long for simplicity, then you’re going to appreciate this cheap Android TV box for its sleek, easy-to-connect plug and play design. If you’re longing for expandability, then you’ll like the fact that you can easily add an extra TF card and increase storage to a full 128GB – more than enough for games, apps, and other goodies.
Have HDTV? You’re in luck: The VANKYO MatrixBox treats you to rich visuals, supporting HD, HDR 10+, 4K Ultra, and 3D.
What’s missing: It’s important to note that the VANKYO MatrixBox runs on an Android 7.1 OS instead of a newer version, however that’s plenty of power to provide you with a pleasant viewing experience and run games. If gaming is your first love, you might want to spend a little more for something with a newer OS. Still, it’s an outstanding piece of technology for the money.
- Amlogic S905W Quad Core Cortex
- Penta-Core Mali-450MP GPU
- Built-in 100M Ethernet connection
- Supports WiFi
- 2 USB Ports
- Remote control
Transpeed Android 9.0 TV Box with Backlit Keyboard
Not too long ago, it was impossible to find a cheap Android TV box with a full keyboard and remote – letalone one that came in closer to the $50 mark than the $100 mark! There are quite a few options now and the Transpeed Android 9.0 TV Box is a solid option that’s well worth placing on your shortlist.
What to love: Android 9.0 and an RK3318 Quad-core CPU let you do everything you want to: Stream movies and TV shows, download apps from the Google Play store, play games, and listen to music. Dual WiFi lets you stick to 2.4G or take advantage of 5G.
As for visuals, this box delivers beautifully despite its minuscule price tag. Watch in 3D and 4K – the H.265 hardware decoding function spares bandwidth so there’s no stuttering or irritating buffering in the middle of your move.
Last but not least – controls. You get a remote for quick, easy access to essentials, plus you get a backlit 92-key QWERTY keyboard with a touchpad that puts a stop to endless scrolling.
What’s missing: Obviously, this is not the latest, greatest TV box – for example, you’re not going to get voice controls or other fancy features. If you don’t mind basic entertainment though, you’ll probably enjoy this cheap Android TV box while you save up for next year’s upgrade!
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB ROM
- USB 2.0 and USB 3.0
- HDMI cable
- Remote control
- Full keyboard remote
Buying a cheap Android TV box doesn’t mean you have to settle, but it does mean that you need to look closely at the device you’re buying.
There are hundreds of different options out there, but as long as you know what you’re getting, what to stay away from, and what you’re giving up, then you should still be able to have a great TV box that will save you some money. It doesn’t hurt to pick something on this list, either. 🙂
What do you think? Do you have a cheap Android TV box that should be on this list? Let me know in the comments below!
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