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!
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 five 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 Without regular firmware updates, the TV box that looked like a great deal when you bought it can quickly become outdated.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 entierly.
- 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 5 or Android 6: Unless you’re stuck in 2015, there’s absolutely no reason that you should be buying a TV box that still runs Android 4.4. In fact, Kodi 17 will require Android 5.0 or higher to run.
- 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?
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!