What to look for when buying an Android TV box

Switching from traditional platforms like DStv to online streaming has been made even easier by the availability of Android media boxes.

These set-top boxes run a version of Android with a number of applications installed, including Netflix, Showmax, DStv Now, YouTube, and more.

They can plug easily into your TV and can upgrade your boring old panel into a smart TV with a wide range of functionality.

Android media boxes come in many shapes and sizes, although many of these devices use the same hardware – namely the Amlogic S905X chipset, which supports 4K 60FPS video playback.

When it comes to buying an Android media box in South Africa, however, it can be difficult to know exactly what features you are looking for.

Software

MyBroadband spoke to Nology product manager Grant Robertson about what South African buyers should look for in an Android TV box.

Nology is the official distributor of the Ematic 4K Ultra HD Android TV Box in South Africa. The Ematic 4K is both Google and Netflix-certified, which Robertson said is crucial to the user experience.

The device also runs the latest version of Android TV OS.

“Customers should definitely check which operating system the Android media box is running, as well as which certifications the Android media box has (Google and/or Netflix Certification),” Robertson said.

He said that these boxes either run mobile Android OS or Android TV OS, which provide very different experiences.

“Mobile Android OS is typically what you’re running on your phones and tablets, and the apps have been designed for touch inputs and navigation,” Robertson said.

“Android TV, on the other hand, is a branch of Android which has been designed, configured, and optimized to run on your TV. As such, the apps for Android TV are specifically designed for TV use and will have a different look and feel to those designed for mobile.”

Android TV is the preferable option for media box buyers, as it delivers larger icons, text that is more suitable for TV viewing, and more intuitive navigation.

Robertson said that non-certified boxes usually run a mobile version of Android, which provides a worse experience for the viewer.

“A non-certified Android media box is typically going to be running mobile app versions, most often resulting in a frustrating and inferior TV experience – for example, browsing through series, seasons, and episodes on a Netflix mobile app version can be quite challenging.”

Certification

Robertson added that customers should also check that an Android TV box has the correct certifications before purchase.

“When it comes to certifications, the two most important are Google Certification and Netflix Certification,” he said.

“Google Certification means that the device and software have been tested, approved, and certified by Google themselves, making it an official Android TV device.”

“This Google-certified version of the software means that a user has access to certain Google propriety features such as the Google Play Store, Google Play Movies, Google Play Music, YouTube, Chromecast built-in, screen mirroring, and the Google Assistant,” Robertson added.

The Android TV logo is only allowed to be used on devices which have been certified by Google, making this a good way to tell if the media box you are looking at has the correct certifications.

“Netflix Certification means the box has been tested and approved by Netflix and offers the best Netflix viewing experience available on a TV,” Robertson said.

Netflix certification is required for the Android TV version of Netflix, which supports 4K HDR playback and runs the latest Netflix user interface designed specifically for TVs.

“The Ematic AGT419 is one of the few devices available locally that has both of these certifications, as well as running Android TV OS,” Robertson said.

You can spot whether an Android media box is Netflix-certified by checking whether its remote has a dedicated Netflix button, as this is a requirement for the certification.

Now read: The best Google-certified Android TV boxes you can buy in South Africa

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What to look for when buying an Android TV box