Today we have vast choices of hardware and the available power is insane. Over the last decade the the trend shifted from downloading content to new streaming almost everything. Requirements for ample storage isn’t crucial since you can stream excellent quality content on demand. This has changed the size of the boxes but didn’t change power.
The must-haves on our check list are an Android OS for ease of installation. At least 2 GB of ram 8 GB of storage for streaming and apps. Finally, the ability to add ethernet connectivity. A lot of people don’t care about this, but wireless is still unreliable. If you want to stream HD content on you LAN or over the internet, the most consistent way is still over a physical connection.
There are literally thousands of boxes in the market, so we kept the selection tight and to the point. We selected the top 3 media boxes in three different categories, since most people may prioritize their needs differently. These have been tested with regular use over the last year.
Best Value – Mi Box S
I am a huge fan of Xiaomi (they do not sponsor us). They make excellent hardware at a low cost. For me this is, hands down, the best box you can buy. Boot up is fast, Google assistant built in, and regular Android OS updates. There is very little is need to configure. You can have it up and running in a matter of minutes. The remote included is connected by Bluetooth and has an intuitive design.
CON: Ethernet is not built-in. Which is not a problem for a lot of people, but is for me. To solve this I picked up a USB dongle from Amazon, and plugged it in my network.
Most Versatile – Nvidia Shield
Nvidia has always been a power house with graphics cards, and moving into the streaming hardware just sounds like a natural move. Their new boxes have the options of controlling it with a remote, or a gaming controller. Nvidia runs on the Andriod OS and allows you access to their own app with extensive amounts of games. Personally this is just a fun addition, though i dont think any gamer would use this as their main gaming device. For example, i tried out Fortnite, and it spinned up a virtual session in their datacenter and streamed the game to me. It was good, but not great.
CON: The ‘touch’ volume control is a annoying because its either too sensitive or doesnt read the touch at all. I picked up a replacement generic remote on Amazon to solve this problem.
Most Portable – Amazon Fire TV Stick
Full mobility has been increasing rapidly over the last five years. This trend has created a demand for portable media players that you can fit in your pocket and carry them on the road. It’s a big deal for people that travel and want to be able to take their personalized content with them. Amazon is the only one right now that’s able to do this as cleanly. At the size of a flash drive, this HDMI device plugs directly into your TV, and you’re done! Simplicity wins here. There’s no cable to connect or additional power to add. Switch your tv over to the source device, and start watching.
CON: Yes, this is Android-based, but runs the Amazon Fire OS. You can still do what you want, but there will be a few steps to get it up and running with Kodi. If this is the path you choose, we have a quick guide to help you install Kodi on a FireStick.
If you choose to pick up a Fire TV Stick, we have a linked a quick guide to help you install Kodi.