Updated for 2020: 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:
Quick Look At Our Top Picks:
- Best Overall Budget Android TV Box: Transpeed 10.0 Android TV Box
- Best Android TV Stick: Amazon Fire Stick 4K
- Best Android TV Box Under $50: Pendoo Android 10.0 TV Box
You have a standard definition TV, and all you really want is something that lets you easily stream Netflix and live TV to your screen without the need for cable. What you do need is my list of the best cheap Android TV boxes.
You can spend a lot of time researching and seeking out the best Android TV boxes (check out our list here). But you should ask yourself whether you really need all the bells and whistles that come with a premium $300 box like the NVIDIA Shield. Do you even have a 4K TV?
Read on for my honest analysis of what is “essential” to an Android TV box, and what are nice-to-haves that are just costing you extra. I’ll also talk you through exactly what the trade-offs are when you go for a cheaper model.
Finally, I’ll give you my list of what I think are the best affordable TV boxes. Most will set you back around $50, and they are all great values at less than $100 each.
What Is An Android TV Box?
Before diving in, I just want to answer this question for anyone new to the field. What is an Android TV box?
A TV box is a piece of hardware that enables you to stream content directly from the Internet to your TV screen. It works a lot like a smartphone or a tablet. You can download apps, which you access and control through the TV box using your remote, and they enable you to watch online content on your big screen.
You can get the Netflix app, the YouTube app, the Amazon Prime Video app, the Hulu app… Pretty much all streaming services have an app that you can download directly to your TV box.
Now, an Android TV box is a TV box that runs on the Android operating system, the same as many mobile phones. You can also get Apple TV devices, which use the Apple operating system, and there are a variety of other options out there.
The reason to choose an Android TV box is the same reason to choose an Android phone: Flexibility. Many operating systems—Apple, for example—only come on Apple hardware, and you are locked down in terms of what you can put on there.
Android, on the other hand, is an open operating system, so a wide variety of hardware manufacturers will use it. You also have more options in terms of what you can download and how you can customize your experience. But it is nevertheless one of the most popular and supported OS out there.
This also means that it is easier to find cheaper Android TV boxes, as the operating system is very accessible to manufacturers.
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 a 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 two-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 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 its 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?
Best 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 alphabetical order, so don’t look at this as a ranked list. All of these are good choices from solid companies.
Transpeed Android 10.0 TV Box – Best Overall
Costing around the $50 mark, you get enough power to deliver 4K streaming and 3D. You get a powerful RK3318 Quad-core cortex A-53 ultra high-frequency CPU to make this happen.
The box also runs Android 10.0, which means less glitchiness than you see with boxes running off the previous versions, even 9.0.
You are looking at 4GB of RAM and 64GB of ROM, which is generous even when you are looking at one of the more expensive TV boxes. If you want to turn the box into a comprehensive media hub, you can also extend the USB mechanical hard disk to up to 2 TB of storage, which should be enough for a nice movie collection.
You get both remote control and a mini keyboard, which makes searching and getting set up a breeze. The connection between the box and the controllers is also nice and stable thanks to Bluetooth 4.0.
It has a great stable Wi-Fi connection with 2.4G/5.8G dual-band WiFi, or plug in directly with GB ethernet.
What is this box missing? I’m tempted to say nothing. It doesn’t come with the latest version of Kodi pre-installed. But I’m willing to do this myself considering just how good this TV box is at the price tag.
- 5.1 Audio Passthrough
- H.265 Hardware Decoding
- Android 10.0
- Dynamic Refresh Rate Switching
- OTA Firmware Updates
- HDMI 2.0
- USB 3.0
- Dual-Band Wi-Fi and\or Gigabit Ethernet
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K With Alexa Voice Remote – Best Android TV Stick
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
Pendoo Android 10.0 TV Box – Best Android TV Box Under $50
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 there are often issues with stuttering and buffering. This one is smooth as silk, though, 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
T95 Android 10.0 Smart Box
It combines a powerful Amlogic chip with an Android 10.0 operating system for both a powerful and smooth viewing experience that can output up to 6K if the content is available thanks to H.265 decoding.
With 4GB of RAM and 32GB of ROM, you should find this box quick and responsive, with plenty of room for all your favorite applications, including gaming.
The remote goes beyond the basic, which is nice. Or hood up your favorite remote (or anything really) via built-in Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band WiFi.
This box might not come with bells and whistles, but it has all the essential necessary for streaming (or playing) anything, including in 4K.
- Amlogic Allwinner H616 Chipset
- Built-in 100M Ethernet connection
- Built-in Bluetooth 5.0
- 2.4G/5G WiFi
- 2 USB Ports
- Remote control
Turewell T95 S1 Android TV Box
It is certainly less powerful than the other options on this list with only 2GB of RAM and 16GB of ROM, and running the Android 7.1 operating system.
But this is enough to deliver a fast and smooth viewing experience, thanks to H.265 decoding and the powerful Amlogic S905W quad-core. This means that you can watch both 4K and 3D, despite this being a lighter and more affordable device.
While we would personally prefer a more powerful device, if you are on a tight budget and you want to be able to do everything that you expect from the current TV Box technology, the Turewell has you covered.
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB ROM
- USB 2.0 and USB 3.0
- HDMI cable
- Remote control
Buying a cheap Android TV box doesn’t mean you have to settle, but it does mean you need to look closely at the device you’re buying.
There are hundreds of options out there, but as long as you know what is essential, what to stay away from, and what you’re giving up, then you should still be able to have a great TV box at a discount price. 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!