Android TV OS provides the backbone for streamers of all kinds, with a growing app store and access to major streaming services including Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, and more alongside games both local and streaming from the cloud. Android TV is built into dozens of different TV models, but if you’ve already got a panel you’re happy with, there’s no reason to upgrade just for software. With a simple HDMI port, you can refresh your TV with Android TV powering the experience. Here are the best Android TV set-top boxes in 2021 you can do that with.
The best Android TV and Google TV products
There are Android TV and Google TV products available in all shapes and sizes. From high-end TVs to the boxes sold by pay-TV operators, Google’s platform is growing quickly. In this roundup, though, we’re just taking a look at set-top boxes and streaming sticks that anyone can buy for any TV.
Chromecast with Google TV
The best Android TV OS device for most people
The Chromecast with Google TV, launched in late 2020, might just be the best overall option for most people. Why?
Chromecast with Google TV nails the basics of a streaming device. It has a compact form factor that costs just $50 and works with all major apps, including Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Prime Video, and others. For its affordable price, it also delivers support for 4K HDR, Dolby Vision, and just about every other key spec and standard. Perhaps its only major flaw is storage, where 8GB proves to really get in the way with no easy way to expand it.
What really helps set the Chromecast apart from a lot of previous streamers, though, is that it’s using the new Google TV interface. This updated version of the platform is still built on top of Android TV OS, but with some key changes. First and foremost, the homescreen offers personalized content recommendations throughout several sections based on your viewing history. It also has a special watchlist feature that syncs across devices connected to your account that can show where various movies and TV shows are available for streaming. Check out our full review of the Chromecast with Google TV for more on what makes the platform so good and why we’re such big fans of the device.
Buy Chromecast with Google TV:
Walmart Onn streamer w/ Android TV
Next up is perhaps the best deal in streaming, Android TV or not. Walmart’s pair of Onn-branded streaming devices offer Android TV and output up to 4K for under $30.
There are two models in Walmart’s Onn lineup, a 1080p streaming stick and a 4K dongle similar to Google’s Chromecast. Both models are super affordable, but the 4K model is definitely the better value with 4K output at just $19 when it’s on sale (which it usually is).
What do these devices bring to the table? You’ll get a pretty basic overall package with Google’s reference design remote, Android TV 10, and no use of the newer Google TV UI. Still, both streamers are fully compatible with Netflix, Disney+, and the rest of Android TV’s catalog of apps and services. The biggest loss here is that the device does not support Dolby Vision for HDR.
Buy Walmart’s Android TV streamers
Nvidia Shield TV/Pro
Beyond the basics
The Nvidia Shield TV has long been a favorite in the streaming space, and down to this day, it remains one of the best options for a streaming box. The latest generation of Shield, released in 2019, offers up supports for all of the best Android TV apps alongside some power-user features like better Plex integration, 4K HDR streaming from GeForce Now, and more.
For the 2019 revision, there’s the standard Shield TV which is a compact device designed to fit basically anywhere in your setup and is essentially just a streaming device. It’s shaped like a tube, offering a more compact shape compared to previous generations. The other new Shield TV is a proper set-top box with the same design as the previous models, and both come with the same Android TV software.
The smaller Shield TV comes with the Tegra X1+ chipset, 8GB of storage, 2GB of RAM, and Android TV with Pie. While that storage is limiting, there’s a microSD card slot to expand it quickly and easily. The Shield can also handle Dolby Vision and Atmos.
The larger Shield TV Pro has mostly the same hardware but with USB 3.0 ports for further expansion, 16GB of storage, and 3GB of RAM. The Pro is definitely the one to get if you want to use it as a Plex server. Both devices also offer a powerful upscaling feature that uses AI to deliver stunning quality on basically everything you watch.
If you’ve got the budget for it, the Shield TV is a no-brainer. There are no caveats or real issues with this device, and for a starting price of $149, it’s not overly expensive, either. Functions like game streaming are excellent additions.
Buy Nvidia Shield TV:
Buy Nvidia Shield TV Pro:
The best TVs with Android TV and Google TV built-in
Android TV and Google TV aren’t just limited to streaming devices, though. Like Roku and Amazon Fire TV, you can buy a TV with the OS built-in, meaning there’s nothing extra to hook up. As a bonus, TVs sold with Google TV built-in have a “basic mode” that allows them to be stripped of smart features and act as a basic panel, something we’re happy to see for longevity’s sake.
TCL Google TVs
Tremendous value, questionable performance
One great place to turn for Google TV is TCL, which is a name you might recognize considering the brand is one of the most popular in the US and around the world when it comes to affordable televisions. TCL utilizes Android TV on its super-cheap 3-Series TVs, but Google TV on its 4-Series, 5-Series, and high-end 6-Series models. While the TV panels themselves have always been regarded as good, TCL did come under fire for performance issues with its Google TV lineup for a while, but updates seem to have fixed those issues.
Regardless, it’s hard to beat the value here, with TCL selling Google TV models for as little as $350, often less when you catch a sale.
Buy TCL 3-Series w/ Android TV
Buy TCL 4-Series w/ Google TV
Buy TCL 5-Series w/ Google TV
Buy TCL 6-Series w/ Google TV
Hisense Android TVs
Middle of the pack
If you’d prefer Google’s Android TV instead of the newer Google TV, Hisense would be our go-to pick. The company strikes a great balance between price and quality with its lineup, offering Android TV on super-affordable devices all the way up to flagship offerings.
One model we were especially big fans of this year was the Hisense U8G, which had excellent QLED picture quality and performance for a solid price point. Meanwhile, the company’s H-Series and A-Series offer much more affordable price points.
Buy Hisense Android TVs
If picture quality is your main objective and price isn’t a qualifier, the Sony Bravia lineup is a clear winner. Sony’s TVs have been praised for their quality and accessories for years, and the company’s transition over to Google TV only offered more features on the top-tier panels.
Sony sells Google TV models for high prices, but with OLED and every other tech at the beck and call. You can buy Sony Bravia TVs at some of the following retailers in the US.
Where to buy Sony’s Google TVs
Rounding things out, it’s worth mentioning that these three aren’t the only brands making Android TV OS models. You’ll also find the OS on TVs from Philips in some countries, as well as on countless models in India, as the platform has really been a hit in that region.
More on Android TV:
- Google announces Android 11 Developer Preview for Android TV
- Latest Google ‘Sabrina’ Android TV dongle leak details programmable button, specs
- Google Stadia now works on Android TV… at least with a hacky workaround [Video]
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