Since their humble and unassuming beginning in 2000 as media boxes that could stream music to your TV for a not-so-low price, Android media players have come a long way. Improvements in operating systems, hardware, and video output, have contributed them becoming great alternatives to Home Theater PCs. They are practically a must-have, if you enjoy relaxing with a movie -or an online video- from your comfy couch. With added features like the ability to play casual games, or even post in social media, these little devices (also known as Android TV box) are earning themselves a spot as an essential part of any home entertainment center.
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Benefits of Android media players
Since you do not need to purchase a giant screen with them, Android media players go for lower prices than other Android device counterparts. This is important, considering all the extra functionality they are able to bring to the living room. The added comfort of being able to stream your PC video library to your TV, browse the internet, play casual games or even purchase things; the ability of choosing your own TV shows with just a few key presses, coupled with the low power consumption these devices have, make Android media players a good choice, that’s bound to have something advantageous for every member of the household. [Read: SPMC is a Custom XBMC or Kodi Alternative for Android]
Best Android Media Players 2015
While there are several Android media boxes and preferences may differ, here are some of best Android Kodi Boxes in our opinion. These boxes can also run SPMC, so if you're interested in this application, you could pick one of these devices as well. [Read: Install SPMC on Amazon Fire TV using only AFTV device]
Amazon Fire TV
Because of the option to sideload and run Kodi flawless, Amazon Fire TV is the best Android TV Box 2015. But there is more to AFTV. What is more comfortable than laying on your couch and, remote in hand, choose the TV show you want to see? The answer is: choosing it with your voice. This is exactly what Amazon Fire TV publicizes as its main selling point: a voice search feature. With a super-simple setup process and the ability to turn into a casual game console with the right peripheral (Amazon Fire Game Controller, sold separately), Amazon Fire TV is amazingly fast, going as far as having certain multitasking features, like playing music from an app while you are browsing the menus. This Android TV box has a mode called FreeTime, which lets you configure profiles for kids in the household, each with different content if you so decide; this is a nice and very useful family-oriented feature. [Read: Raspberry Pi vs Amazon Fire TV for Kodi media center]
New to Amazon Fire TV and Kodi? Check out: Beginner Blueprint: Complete Amazon Fire TV Kodi Guide. It covers everything you need to know on Amazon Fire TV Kodi setup.
Matricom G-Box Q
With a Quad-Core CPU and an Octa-Core GPU, the Matricom G-Box Q Android TV Box is a good and powerful alternative. Its 5GHz Dual-Band WiFi proves very useful when streaming 4k video, which it does without dropping any frames or overheating. 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage help it achieve this performance. This small Android TV box device has a complicated setup process, though, so be prepared to spend a good few minutes getting it ready, however, once properly configured, it will amaze you with its streaming quality, and even the ability it has, given the right peripherals, to let you play some games on the big screen. [Read: 20 Best Kodi addons in 2015 to help you cut the cord]
MXIII Amlogic S802
A physical power switch and light, Bluetooth support for peripherals and ability to stream video up to 4k from your preferred Video Player app are some of the things you will encounter with MXIII Amlogic S802 Android TV box. A custom-GUI, unique to the manufacturer, behaves in a quick and snappy way thanks to the Quad-Core processor under the hood of this small box. The device comes pre-rooted, and its weak remote controller is no obstacle to enjoy the great picture quality this media player has to offer. About this device, you could actually say that it has a performance on-par with any multi-core PC, with a solid WiFi connection and a friendly user interface. [Read: Plex vs Kodi – The Ultimate Comparison Guide for Beginners]
DIAOTEC S82 Android Smart TV Box
The DIAOTEC S82 Android Smart TV Box boasts a Quad-Core processor, 2GB RAM and comes with Android 4.4 with support for OTA function. It works almost right out of the package, and XBMC/Kodi responds very quickly. It provides an excellent picture quality, and its WiFi has good range and great connectivity, being able to stream video through Ethernet as well, and deliver it through HDMI or even Miracast. Its quiet performance and attractive form factor, along with its snappy performance and easy setup, make this Android TV box an option to consider when browsing among Android media players. [Read: 5 Kodi advanced settings I always use on media centers]
The name is pretty self-explanatory, as it suggests this is one of the Android media players that can handle 4k video output; however, this is not the only thing the Onvo 4k offers. This small Quad-Core box offers support for AV/RCA connections, as well as HDMI, and even Miracast, so you will have a decent set of possibilities to take advantage of its features, even if you own an older TV set without HDMI input. Pre-rooted and with XBMC already installed, the Onvo 4k can play a wide variety of formats. This Android Media Player for TV also enables you to enjoy the full features of Android on your big TV screen. [Read: A budget HTPC-NAS Combo with an old PC and OpenELEC]
Limitations of Android TV Boxes
Android media players bring most of the Android experience to the TV screen, however, this has several limitations. For example, to take full advantage of Android in such a situation you need peripherals like a keyboard and a mouse. Remote control support is not really developed, so it will be hard and cumbersome to browse around the menus and do things in Android with the remote controller, for some boxes more than others. [Read: A simple yet awesome IR Raspberry Pi remote control for $5]
Android does not let apps control the display refresh rate, which means automatic frame rate switching is not possible. This is a big issue for PAL system users. In the US, the TV standard is NTSC, and this problem might not be an issue for those users. Android also does not make it possible to count with HDMI HD audio, limiting itself, and the boxes that run it, to PCM stereo output.
Should I get an Android TV box, then?
Most of the issues with Android TV boxes come from the fact that this OS was not designed for this kind of devices, but instead for mobile phones and tablets. Although, in terms of media consumption, Android can be really efficient, it is yet to reach its full potential. Nevertheless, Android media players seem to be really convenient from a comfort perspective. Add the fact that most of these boxes are priced under the $100 tag, and bring a ton of new features to an already-existing device in your household, and you can see why these tiny little things are starting to gain popularity really fast. If problems like the difficulty to use them and the need for peripherals are overcome, we can safely say these devices will be in the forefront of the ways we will have to watch our favorite shows in the future.