Television continues to play a major role in our leisure time. However, it faces greater competition every day and is forced to reinvent itself. The great news is that television is able to offer more and more content and channels, too. Nowadays, you can find free or paid, satellite, international and even internet channels.

Faced with this new reality, TV boxes are a fantastic opportunity to bring new life to your television, to increase your channel options and even to connect to the Internet and enjoy a multitude of games and apps. This is why the market for this type of device is constantly growing, as are its features.

Key Facts

  • TV boxes allow you to enjoy a large number of channels, many of which you could not access any other way. You can watch international or foreign channels that are not necessarily available in the U.S.
  • Android and Linux are the two most common operating systems for TV boxes. Choosing between one or the other will be a critical aspect of your purchase.
  • Nowadays, TV boxes offer more and more functionalities. Some models could even be considered small computers connected to your television.

Ranking: The best TV boxes on the U.S. market

In the following section, you will discover our very own ranking of the best TV boxes currently available on the American market. We have done our best to select models that offer different features, while keeping in mind that value for money is always the key to a successful purchase.

No. 1: VANKYO MatrixBox X95A

VANKYO is a Chinese company that specializes in the manufacture of quality and affordable tech products. Its MatrixBox has been praised by past customers, and it is Amazon’s Choice in the $40-and-under category. Running on the powerful Android 7.1 operating system, this little box will revolutionize your TV time at almost no cost at all.

It integrates 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage memory, and you’ll be able to watch Full 4K HD video with this device. You can connect to the Internet via Lan or Wi-Fi, which will allow you to download the multitude of apps and games available. The MatrixBox also features a USB 2.0 port. Note that 5.0 GHz Wi-Fi is not supported. This product comes with a 12-month warranty.

No. 2: TUREWELL T95 Max

This TV box by TUREWELL is another Amazon’s Choice in the category, and it runs on Android’s latest version, Android 9.0 Pie. It’s more expensive than VANKYO’s model above, and naturally offers enhanced performances. When it comes to technical specs, the T95 Max packs quite a punch for its price, with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage memory.

It can be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi or Lan, and its card reader may come in handy to read external files or store downloaded content. It has an HDMI and two USB ports — including a USB 3.0 — for greater versatility. Past customers have loved the overall speed of this TV box, and the remote it comes with is easy to use. This model has a 1-year warranty.

No. 3: Amazon Fire TV Cube

Amazon advertised its Fire TV Cube as “the first hands-free streaming media player with Alexa”. This means that you can control this TV box from anywhere in your room. And it won’t only allow you to choose which channel you want to watch, but also which lights of the room you want on, for instance. Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa is simple to use and many have already adopted it.

The built-in speaker of the Fire TV Cube also lets you make and receive calls, so you’re actually getting a whole lot more than just a TV box. You can stream your favorite movies and series in 4K UHD at 60 fps, and you’ll have thousands of apps and channels to choose from. This model integrates a Micro-USB and an HDMI port, as well as a Wi-Fi connection.

No. 4: NinkBox N1 Max

Here is another Amazon’s Choice, and it falls in the mid-price category. It comes with a no-frills, easy-to-use remote control that will help you manage the dozens of apps you can install on your TV box. It runs on the Android 9.0 operating system, with a quad-core 64-bit Cortex CPU and a GPU that can reach over 750 MHz, which will provide incredible performances.

Connectivity-wise, the N1 Max offers two USB ports (including one 3.0), as well as a TransFlash and an HDMI port. One particularly interesting aspect of this model is that it offers the capacity to connect via Bluetooth, on top of the Wi-Fi and Lan. It also has 4GB of RAM and an incredible storage capacity of 64GB. This product has a 12-month warranty.

No. 5: Nvidia Shield TV, Gaming Edition

This last product is a little different from the rest, and it is reflected in the price, too. It is designed by Nvidia, the American computer electronics giant. As you can imagine, this means that the Shield TV offers fantastic performances, starting with 4K HDR quality for all your multimedia content. Not only that, but you can also play video games.

This Nvidia product will actually transform your TV into a real gaming PC, and you’ll be able to enjoy the latest titles on your big screen. If you have an Amazon Echo at home, this device will also work with Alexa for hands-free control. You naturally have access to all your favorite apps like Netflix, YouTube, and PlayStation Vue.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about TV boxes

There is a series of key criteria that you need to take into account when choosing your own TV box. Keep in mind that there are many different models on the market and that each one is designed for a specific use and offers its own features. In the section below, we’ll try to answer any question you might have regarding these devices.

TV boxes allow you to enjoy a large number of TV channels.
(Source: Guillem: 50532995/ 123rf.com)

What is a TV box exactly?

Also called TV decoders, these electronic devices receive analog or digital signals and decode them so that they can be displayed on any monitor. That way, you can watch both free and paid channels that you couldn’t access otherwise on your television or computer screen.

How do TV boxes work?

Data is compressed so that it can travel faster. Unfortunately, televisions do not have the ability to read this compressed information. TV boxes basically transform — or decode — this signal into one that televisions can understand and read.

TV boxes offer multiple functionalities.
(Source: Angchakan: 103366260/ 123rf.com)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of TV boxes?

The numerous advantages that TV boxes offer have played a great part in their incredible popularity. The number one benefit of these devices is that they allow you to enjoy hundreds of channels and a multitude of new television programs and series. What’s more, a TV decoder can turn your old TV into a digital one.

Many of these products also provide a series of additional functionalities that expand the possibilities of televisions. The ability to connect your screen to the Internet is a particularly interesting feature. That being said, you need to choose the right model according to your needs to make your investment worth your while.

Advantages Disadvantages
They can bring new life to old televisions or transform a computer monitor into a digital television. Their design isn’t always very attractive.
They give you the opportunity to watch hundreds of channels, giving you access to new content. This industry is evolving so quickly that you may have to change device in a few years to keep watching your favorite channels.
You have access to a multitude of international and foreign channels. You can watch a channel while browsing others at the same time.
They feature parental control systems to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content.
Most models have an Internet connection to update their software and download movies and applications.

What are TV boxes designed for?

They are mainly used to watch television and to enjoy a wide variety of channels. As a matter of fact, a TV box allows you to access many more channels than with standard cable television. These generally include international channels, which are ideal to practice other languages.

You will also be able to record programs and watch TV in Full HD quality. Some users even use their TV box to watch pay-per-view channels and pay-TV platforms without subscribing to the correct service. Please keep in mind that this is an unacceptable practice that can lead to legal consequences.

Melinda McLaughinCMO of Extreme Reach

“TV and Video are converging at a rapid pace and consumers, accustomed to viewing content on the screen and device of their choosing, distinguish less and less between the two forms even though the industry still plans, buys and measures them in silos. A decade or so from now the lines between TV and Video will no longer exist.”

Is it worth buying a TV box?

Do you watch TV often and want to enjoy new channels? Then the answer is yes. This will turn out to be much cheaper than subscription services in the long run. You’ll be even more attracted by these devices if you want to watch channels that aren’t normally broadcast in the U.S. They also allow you to turn your regular television into a smart TV.

Linux and Android are the most common operating systems for TV boxes.
(Source: Bogicevic: 38719063/ 123rf.com)

What operating systems do TV boxes use?

Like most electronic devices, TV boxes need an operating system to work. Linux and Android are currently the systems most frequently used. The decision you make between the two will also determine which features your TV box will include.

Android offers the advantage of being easier and faster to set up. Its interface is also more intuitive than that of Linux. On the other hand, the latter allows for greater user customization. The fact that Linux is an open-source operating system also means that it is much more flexible.

TV boxes are electronic devices that receive signals and decode them.
(Source: Irynal: 117303138/ 123rf.com)

What does IKS stand for?

The IKS acronym stands for Internet Key Sharing. This type of technology allows you to connect your TV box to certain websites using the Internet. That way, your device is kept updated and you will not face compatibility issues.

What types of TV boxes are there?

If we wanted to make things easier for you, we could say that there are two main types of TV boxes. On the one hand, we have DTT decoders, and on the other, satellite boxes. The former are designed to transform old TV sets into digital televisions. The latter allows you to enjoy a large number of channels via satellite.

Type Characteristic
DTT boxes They can turn old analog TV sets into digital televisions. They are very affordable considering their functions are quite basic.
Satellite boxes They allow you to capture a large variety of channels via satellite, truly expanding the offer of available channels and programs. They tend to be more expensive, in particular when they include more features.

Shopping Criteria

There is a series of different aspects that you have to take into consideration when you’re hunting for your own TV box. We’ve discussed the most important of these criteria in the section below to help you make the right purchase. If you don’t overlook these factors, we’re confident that you will be satisfied with your choice and that you will get great value for money.

  • RAM memory and processor
  • Connectivity
  • Operating system
  • Recording
  • Ability to change the tuner
  • Additional functions
  • Image quality
  • Brand

RAM memory and processor

The RAM memory and processor are key if you want good image fluidity and better performance for all your apps. The maximum standard value is generally 1GB. However, the market is starting to offer devices with more RAM capacity. In that regard, more will always mean higher performances.

As for the processor, you would want to have a speed of at least 1.2 GHz. Again, faster is better. That being said, having a good balance is particularly important. Having a lot of RAM and a slow processor, or vice versa, won’t be any good to you because it will cause a bottleneck in performances.

TV boxes offer many inputs for different devices.
(Source: Ferwurlf: 14966396/ 123rf.com)

Connectivity

Connectivity is one of the fundamental aspects you have to take into account when choosing the right TV box for your home.

You want to have at least SCART connectors (for the French Syndicat des Constructeurs d’Appareils Radiorécepteurs et Téléviseurs), an RCA connection for audio and an HDMI connection. It is also useful to have one or more USB ports handy.

You will also find it interesting to choose a TV box with a card reader. This, as well as USB ports, will allow you to play external content or connect storage devices. As you can imagine, having a Wi-Fi (and/or LAN) and Bluetooth connections is a clear advantage.

Operating system

As we briefly mentioned earlier, one of the biggest benefits of Linux is that it is an open-source operating system, which means that it is tremendously versatile. In addition, it has many teams of programmers constantly striving to develop new firmware, drivers, channel lists, and other tools.

On the other hand, the models that use Android as their operating system allow you to download and enjoy games and applications as popular as YouTube, Netflix or HBO. This will provide you with a much more comprehensive multimedia experience. That being said, Android models tend to be more expensive than Linux ones.

Tom AscheimPresident of ABC Family

“People like choice and control. And I think the biggest shift for all of us is that we used to be in control, and now the consumer is in control. And the judo of our lives is finding a way to still give them the stuff that they want to watch, but do it in the way that they want to consume it.”

Recording

TV boxes offer a feature that can be particularly interesting for many. They can record what is being broadcast on several channels at the same time. In that regard, you’ll want to check whether the model you’re looking at buying can record, and whether it can record various channels simultaneously. It’s even better if you can program the recordings.

In the same vein, and if you do decide to opt for one of those TV boxes, don’t forget to look at the internal storage capacity of the device to store recorded content. If it features USB ports, you can also plug in a USB stick or an external hard disk in which to save this content.

Ability to change the tuner

If you don’t want to have to buy a device for each type of signal, you are strongly advised to choose a model that lets you change the source of the signal. This means that you’ll be able to change from the satellite signal, the one that comes from the DTT, the one from the cable television, the IPTV signal or even the one from an Internet subscription service.

As you can imagine, these devices are more expensive. That being said, they’re a great long-term investment, since you won’t have to buy any other product to have access to other services. You’ll also save space, not to mention the convenience of having a single device and, therefore, a single remote control.

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Certain TV boxes have the TimeShift function that lets you rewind and rewatch a past scene.

Additional functions

The latest TV boxes feature a number of functions that truly expand their possibilities. Nowadays, some of these are practically essential. The Picture in Picture (PiP) function, for instance, allows you to watch one channel at the same time as another on a smaller screen in the corner of your TV.

The Time-Shift function lets you start watching a program that is still being recorded. This is a great tool, as so you don’t have to wait until you’ve finished recording to enjoy your favorite show or series. As we mentioned earlier, being able to record several channels at the same time is also a handy function.

The numerous advantages that TV boxes offer have played a great part in their incredible popularity.
(Source: Magraphics: 16016661/ 123rf.com)

Image quality

Since digital TV boxes are designed to watch television, the image quality is naturally a key factor you can’t overlook when buying your own device. Don’t go for anything less than HD quality. Note that the majority of current models offer Full HD video, with some even being compatible with 4K quality.

Brand

When you’re not too sure what to opt for, the brand is often a good aspect to rely on. In that regard, we also encourage you to choose the latest models, since each new TV box launched on the market offers better features than the previous ones. As we said, this industry is extremely dynamic.

Summary

TV boxes have definitely come to bring new life to television. However, picking the right model and answering all your doubts isn’t always so easy to do when you’re buying one of these devices. The large number of brands and models also makes it difficult to select a product that satisfies your needs.

This is why we’ve designed this article, and we really hope that we were able to guide you in the right direction. We’ve detailed the most important shopping criteria such as the different types of connections available, the two major operating systems, or the additional features these devices can offer.

If you feel like our shopping guide helped you in your decision, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share it on your social media!

(Source of featured image: Angchakan: 103366260/ 123rf.com)

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