# new Adobe Launch tag manager # The best TV boxes for all budgets in 2021 - IONOS

TV boxes in comparison: streaming at the touch of a button

Nowadays, watching series and films online is part of everyday life for most young people. TV guides are becoming a thing of the past, as is being bound by a TV schedule. Usually when people say that they watch television, they aren’t referring to conventional television, but streaming a film or series from the media libraries of Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and so on. As the popularity of watching programs in this way increases, so does the use of laptops and computers for watching TV – but their screens are often no way near as good as a conventional TV screen. How to unite the two? A TV box provides the solution, as it allows content to be streamed directly onto a TV screen, instead of over a laptop or desktop.

What is a TV box?

A TV box is a device that you connect to a TV set to watch any streaming content directly on the TV. To use the box, only an internet connection and a charger are required – all media content will already be available on the TV. A TV box should work with new TVs as well as older models.

By using a TV box, you can turn a normal TV into a smart TV that plays videos in 4K.

Note

The abbreviation “4K” stands for 4,000 horizontal screen pixels. Compared to the resolution in full HD with 1,080 pixels, videos in 4K are almost four times as sharp. The resolution in 4K is also known as ultra-HD (ultra-high definition).

Streaming boxes are slightly larger than streaming sticks. What is compromised in size is made up for in power. What you’ll be able to stream via a TV box ultimately depends on the manufacturer and model, the installed software, and on the operating system. For example, Apple offers several apps different to those on Android TV boxes, or the Fire operating system from Amazon. However, well-known and frequently used apps can be used with all TV boxes. These include:

  • Apps to stream films as part of a subscription: Amazon (Prime) Video, Netflix, Hulu, HBO
  • Apps to access TV channels online: DirectTV, SlingTV
  • Video media libraries of TV stations: NBC, CNN
  • Apps to stream music: Deezer, Spotify and other service providers, Amazon Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music
  • Video portals: YouTube, Vimeo
  • Internet radio stations
  • Games apps
Note

Some boxes also include a feature for recording live streamed content, either to internal and external storage media, or to a paired cloud. Thanks to this, you’ll never miss a single show.

What should you be aware of when buying a TV box?

Which hardware components are important depends on your preferences. Regardless of personal preferences, however, using a powerful processor such as a dual- or quad-core processor is recommended. Weaker processors can be made up for to an extent by a larger RAM.

If you plan to save content, you should make sure you have enough storage space – or alternatively make sure that you are able to add external storage. If you want to convert your TV box to a game console from time to time, you should find out which accessories are compatible with your box.

Existing subscriptions, on the other hand, shouldn’t play an important role in choosing a device. If you already have an Amazon Prime subscription, for example, it might a good idea to buy a Fire TV box, but this should not restrict your choice, because all prime content can also be streamed via other boxes. The best way to decide is to look at the preferred hardware components, and perhaps to test the user interface of various devices, either at a friend’s or in stores.

A comparison of the best TV boxes

The selection of TV boxes is as extensive as that of TV sticks. Amazon and Apple have been offering their own TV boxes for several years now, and they have been continuously revised and updated to offer ultra-HD and optimized user interfaces.

Below you will find a comparison of Amazon’s Fire TV Cube, Apple TV 4k, NVIDIA SHIELD TV, Xiaomi Mi Box S, MINIX NEO U22-XJ, Rveal X96 Air Smart TV Box und Leelbox Q4, looking at the features and the pros and cons of every box.

Features

Amazon Fire TV Cube

Apple TV 4K

NVIDIA SHIELD TV

Xiaomi Mi Box S

MINIX NEO U22-XJ

Rveal X 96 Air Smart TV Box

Leelbox Q4

Price

$100

$149-199

$149-199

$59.99

$169

$149.95

$65

Weight

43,4 g

425 g

127 g / 250 g

149 g

255 g

125 g

380 g

Remote control included

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Voice control?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Wireless connection to other devices

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Bluetooth

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Wi-Fi

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

HD 720p, 1080p?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Ultra-HD/4K?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Processor

Hexa-Core processor(Quad-Core with up to 2,2 GHz and Dual-core with up to 1,9 GHz)

A10X Fusion Chip with 64‑bit architecture

NVIDIA TEGRA X1

Quad-Core-Cortex-A53 processor

Hexa-Core processor (Quad Core Cortex A73 + Dual-core Cortex A53)

Quad-Core processor (Cortex-A55)

Quad-Core-Cortex-A53 processor

Internal storage

16 GB

32 or 64 GB

8 or 16 GB

8 GB

32 GB

16 GB

64 GB

RAM capacity

2GB

3GB

2 or 3GB

2GB

4GB

2GB

4GB

Does it need an external power supply?

Yes, through micro-USB

Yes, through lightning cables

Yes, through micro-USB

Yes, through micro-USB

Yes, through micro-USB

Yes, through micro-USB

Yes, through micro-USB

Amazon Fire TV Cube

The Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd generation) is a performance-strong device of the Fire TV range from Amazon. In addition to the ultra-HD resolution, the Amazon box also supports HDR streaming. This means that the image is evenly illuminated, richer in contrast, and brighter overall when streaming series and movies.

If you use the TV box from Amazon which can be remote-controlled with Alexa, you will soon find that although the focus is on Amazon’s own content, neither a Prime membership or a subscription is necessary to use it. You can easily access external apps via the box. If you only want to use Amazon services from time to time, you can also borrow movies from their library, or buy individual titles.

Functions:

  • Supports resolution of 2160p, 1080p and 720p with up to 60 fps
  • Streaming in 4K/ultra-HD quality and HDR is possible without any issues. A requirement for this is a suitable TV that can play videos on Ultra HD.
  • The box has 16GB storage capacity and a working storage of 2Gb combined with a Hexa-Core processor (Quad-Core with up to 2,2 GHz and Dual-Core with up to 1,9 GHz) that allows for Ultra HD streaming.
  • The box supports Wi-Fi standards 802.11a, b, g, n, and ac as well as Bluetooth 5.0 and LE.
  • Ethernet support with included Ethernet adapter

Selection of apps:

  • Video streaming apps for Amazon Prime and other services by prominent TV channels and video platforms such as Hulu, YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix or similar alternatives
  • Music streaming apps like Spotify and Apple Music
  • Internet browsers like Firefox or Silk
  • Games
  • Lifestyle apps such as yoga and Pilates apps or calorie counters

Price:

  • The Amazon Fire TV Cube is available for approximately $100. Additional costs may incur for subscriptions.

Format of the box:

  • Dimensions: 38 mm x 142 mm x 16 mm
  • Weight: 43,4 g (without batteries)
Pros Cons
Remote control included Not compatible with Apple devices
16GB storage Very big in size
Alexa integration  
Additional costs are optional, and don’t affect the use of the box  
Wide selection of apps for videos, music, and gaming  
Streaming possible in ultra-HD and 4K  

Apple TV 4K

Another frequently used streaming service comes from Apple. Apple’s TV box is designed to fit close to the TV, like a Blu-ray player. Apple’s box enables the streaming of music and videos (in Ultra HD). Like Amazon, Apple uses HDR which portrays images brighter and features more details.

The Apple TV box displays an overview of all installed and favored apps on its user interface. You are free to install any streaming apps. It also includes Apple’s iTunes store, where users can buy and rent music and videos.

Functions:

  • The Apple TV box delivers video content up to 4K in quality.
  • The A10X fusion chip processor (64bit) ensures smooth streaming; the box has a storage capacity of 3GB.
  • internal memory of 32GB or 64GB
  • For the Internet connection, the device provides an Ethernet connection and a Wi-Fi adapter (802.11ac dual-band).

Selection of apps:

  • Numerous free and paid apps are available via the box, while in Apple’s iTunes Store, users can also buy films and series.
  • Another practical feature is the TV app for iPhone and iPad to synchronize content with the TV box, giving you central access to all installed apps – no matter on which device.
  • An advantage of iTunes content is that Apple automatically makes movies and shows that users have already purchased in HD quality from iTunes available in 4K as soon as they are available – at no additional cost.
  • Game apps (optional with Apple Arcade subscription)

Price:

  • The Apple TV box is available in two versions that differ in their storage capacity. The 32GB model costs $149, while the 64GB box costs $199.

Format:

  • Dimensions: 98mm x 98mm x 35mm
  • Weight: 425g
Pros Cons
Remote control included Expensive
Integrated Siri voice control No USB ports
Extra costs are only for optional add-ons, and do not affect the usability of the box  
Wide selection of apps for videos, music, and gaming  
Ultra-HD and 4K streaming possible  
Internet connection possible via Wi-Fi or Ethernet  

NVIDIA SHIELD TV

The NVIDIA SHIELD TV box provides high definition 4K entertainment and HDR technology. For a realistic and sharp picture, all you need is a suitable TV. The NVIDIA SHIELD is an Android TV box, and therefore relies on Google software – with the advantage that the box can also be operated via Google voice control. The Pro version of the box in is also suitable as a game console, and it is sold as a set with a game controller and more internal memory. Besides video and music streaming, many other practical features are available.

Functions:

  • The device supports 4K HDR videos, as well as ultra-HD video. 4K HDR videos and gaming are also supported by the device.
  • The box contains the NVIDIA TEGRA X1 processor, a 2 to 3GB (Pro) working memory.
  • 8GB or 16GB (Pro) of internal memory.
  • The device connects to the internet via dual-band Wi-Fi or via a gigabit Ethernet connection.

Selection of apps:

  • NVIDIA offers an extensive selection of apps for video and music streaming, including subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, as well as free services such as YouTube, Vevo, and the media libraries of many private and public TV stations.
  • Common Google apps for music and movies
  • Both device options come with a two-month Premium membership with TV streaming service Zattoo.

Price:

  • The different versions of the box are priced from $149 to $199.

Format:

  • Dimensions: 165 mm x 40 mm x 40mm (Standard) / 26 mm x 159 mm x 98 mm (Pro)
  • Weight: 137 g (Standard) / 250 g (Pro)
Pros Cons
Remote control included Standard edition does not have USB connection
Integrated Google voice function and Alexa support Doesn’t offer its own streaming service
Wide selection of apps and games  
4K and ultra-HD streaming is possible  
Internet connection possible via Wi-Fi and Ethernet  

Xiaomi Mi Box S

The Xiaomi Mi Box S is also an Android TV box. It supports HDR video and ultra-HD playback. Like the other models presented, the TV box from Xiaomi fits sleekly into any room and doesn’t take up much space. With a stable internet connection, the device streams videos quickly and in high resolution. Xiaomi delivers the device with a Bluetooth voice remote control, which forwards all commands to the Mi box and displays the results on the TV. If you prefer the manual search, use the keyboard of the remote control instead.

You can choose from numerous on-demand programs that can be accessed via apps. View the latest news, listen to the radio, or use the box as a game console – all this is easily possible with the device.

You can use Google Chromecast to stream the content on other devices. If the display of a smartphone or tablet is too small for a slideshow, for example, the content can be transferred to the bigger TV screen.

Functions:

  • The Xiaomi Mi Box S supports 4K resolution and HDR video.
  • The device is equipped with a quad-core Cortex A53 processor, 2GB RAM and 8GB internal memory.
  • Xiaomi uses dual-band Wi-Fi technology that supports the 802.11a, b, g, n and ac standards.
  • If you want to use your Mi box as a gaming console, you can optionally purchase a Mi game controller.

Selection of apps:

  • Wide range of free apps available via Android user interface MIUI
  • Streaming services like Netflix or Amazon and TV channels for live streaming
  • Apps for video platforms like YouTube or Vimeo
  • Music apps of online radio broadcasters and other service providers like Spotify or Amazon Music
  • Good range of gaming apps

Price:

  • At around $59.99, the Xiaomi offers an excellent price-performance ratio.

Format:

  • Dimensions: 95 mm x 95 mm x 16.7 mm
  • Weight: 149 g
Pros Cons
✔ Remote control included ✘ Doesn’t offer its own streaming service
✔ Integrated voice control  
✔ Wide selection of apps and games  
✔ Streaming in 4K and ultra-HD  

MINIX NEO U22-XJ

With the TV box from MINIX you can stream videos in ultra-HD and HDR. The high picture quality creates a home cinema experience. The box is enabled for 4K streaming via the Android operating system. It can be connected to the internet via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable.

The unit is equipped with a remote control, but it does not have a voice function. Another disadvantage is that some apps with the associated remote control are very difficult to use. MINIX therefore offers the separately available remote control MINIX NEO A3, in which a small keyboard and many more function keys are integrated.

Functions:

  • The MINIX NEO U22-XJ TV Box streams ultra-HD videos. It supports 4K and HDR quality.
  • Top performance is supported by the Hexa-Core processor (Quad Core Cortex A73 + Dual Core Cortex A53), 4 GB RAM and 32GB internal storage.
  • The device can be connected via dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac or LAN.
  • Shipment includes a remote control. Its functions can be extended with a separate remote control or via touch pad.

Selection of apps:

  • The TV box from MINIX supports a wide range of apps for video and music streaming.
  • Media libraries from private and public TV channels can be used via their respective apps in the Google Play Store, and YouTube and Vevo are also available.
  • Owners of the MINIX NEO U9 box can use existing streaming subscriptions by installing the appropriate app from the provider and logging in with their account – such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, or HBO.
  • The App Store also offers a wide range of apps for gaming.
  • If you want to watch content from your smartphone or tablet on the TV screen, you can transmit the content wirelessly to the box and then to the TV via Miracast.

Price:

  • The price for the box is about $169 – it is in the middle of the price range compared to the others in this article.

Format:

  • Dimensions: 128 mm x 128 mm x 28 mm
  • Weight: 255g
Pros Cons
Wide gaming and app selection Simplistic remote control – an improved version costs extra
Ultra-HD and 4K streaming Doesn’t offer its own streaming service
Internet connection possible over Wi-Fi and Ethernet  

Rveal X 96 Air Smart TV Box

The Rveal X is another Android TV box, meaning that all apps are available in the Google Play store. The box is equipped with a powerful processor, which is the prerequisite for playing ultra-HD videos.

Apps allow users to design their personalized media centers. In addition to adding online content from various apps, you can also add pictures, music, and videos from external hard drives connected to the box. Users can access content independent of storage interface via the software interface.

Functions:

  • Rveal allows you to stream series and movies in 4K ultra-HD – either via dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11a, b, g, n, or ac or via Ethernet.
  • The TV box is equipped with an Octa-Core-Cortex-A53 processor, 2GB RAM.
  • internal memory of 16GB
  • The box is operated via the associated remote control which has all functions that are important for the home entertainment experience.
  • The TV box is also available as a set with a small keyboard with integrated touch pad.
Selection of apps:
  • The box gives you all the popular apps available for the Android operating system, including Amazon Prime video, YouTube, Netflix, Skype, numerous news channels, and public and private TV broadcasters.
  • The app store also offers a wide selection of games, radio stations, and music streaming services.
  • You can also use this box to surf the internet on your TV screen.
Price:
  • The Rveal X 96 Air Smart TV Box has a price tag of around $149.95.
Format:
  • Dimensions: 77 mm x 77 mm x 17 mm
  • Weight: 125g
Pros Cons
✔ Remote control included ✘ Doesn’t offer its own streaming service
✔ Integrated voice control  
✔ Wide selection of apps and games  
✔ Ultra-HD and 4K streaming enabled  

Leelbox Q4

Like many other TV boxes, the Leelbox Q4 is an Android TV box, but unlike many others it offers 3D viewing in addition to 4K and Ultra-HD. Bluetooth, smartphones, tablets, and other devices can be linked to the box to synchronize content. Further, the Leelbox Q4 enables Internet telephony via a connection between the box and your smartphone.

Functions:

  • Users of the Leelbox Q4 can surf the internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection.
  • The manufacturers of Leelbox have installed a Quad-Core Cortex A53 processor and 4GB RAM in the model.
  • Apps and content are supported by an internal flash memory of 64GB.
  • A standard remote control is included, which is basic, without voice control, but does the job.

Selection of apps:

  • With the Leelbox Q4 you can access a wide range of apps including YouTube, Picasa, Flickr, Facebook, and popular video streaming apps, but also media libraries of TV stations and news channels to Netflix and Amazon Prime.
  • The box can be wirelessly connected to other devices via the Miracast app, making it possible to transfer pictures and other contents from your cell phone to the television.
  • Internet calls are possible, for example, by using the Skype app.
  • Radio stations, music streaming apps, and games can also be found in the Google Play store.

Price:

  • The TV box from Leelbox is cheap compared to some of the other devices presented, without compromising on performance. The box costs around $65.

Format:

  • Dimensions: 176 mm x 136 mm x 66 mm
  • Weight: 380g
Pros Cons
Ultra-HD and 4K streaming Doesn’t offer its own streaming service
Wide selection of apps and games No voice control
Availability issues

Installing a TV box: quick guide

If you want to set up a TV box, you don’t need any in-depth expertise. The box can be set up in just a few steps, requiring only an internet connection and an electric power outlet:

Step 1:Connect the unit to the TV either directly via an HDMI connector or cable (these are inexpensive and readily available if you don’t already have one).

Step 2: Connect the streaming box to the mains plug using a USB cable, and plug the power supply unit into a power outlet – the box can also be powered via a USB port on the TV, but this is not recommended if you want to play 4K content smoothly – mains power is the best way to go for ultra-HD.

Step 3: Connect the TV box to the internet, either via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable, and stream content using the apps built into the user interface or download new ones.

In addition to the HDMI connection, a TV box has various other connections, for example for a USB stick or an external hard disk. External storage media is also useful for storing recorded content if the internal memory of the box is no longer sufficient.

Most TV boxes come with a remote control. However, some models are also equipped with voice control, and some TV boxes can also be operated via an app, such as Amazon’s Fire TV box. In this case, a smartphone or tablet functions as a remote control. Some devices can be expanded via touch pad.

Note

TV boxes should not be confused withstreaming sticks. The latter are very compact and can also be used while out and about. The more powerful processors of TV boxes, on the other hand, have better picture quality, but are less transportable. Their better performance is reflected in the higher price.


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