What is an Android TV box?

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What is an Android TV box?


What can they do?


It turns out, this part of the question is actually very simple. An Android TV box is simply a TV box running the Android operating system. This is the same operating system as the one running on your smartphone, tablet and millions of other devices throughout the world. Usually it’s a slightly older version like KitKat (Android 4.4) or Lollipop (Android 5). But, if you know how to use your tablet or smartphone, you can usually run most (if not all) of those apps on an Android TV box.


What’s the difference between an Android box and a Roku or Apple TV?


You’ve probably heard a lot of different terminology being thrown around different sites, forums and Facebook groups: Streaming media device, TV box, IPTV box, set top boxes, media streamer, HTPC, Kodi box, and my personal favorite the Android TV box. They’re all basically the same type of device – something that gets content from your home network or the Internet to your television.


If you’re new to streaming devices and TV boxes, then this is the place to start.


The terminology may seem confusing, but don’t worry: I’m here to guide you through some of the basics. My goal is to make this a good starting point for anyone who wants to learn more.


To start things off, I’m going to tell you a story about MP3 players.


What do they have to do with MP3 players?


Remember MP3 players?


A long time ago, it seems, I worked in a “big-box” electronics store. No, not the blue one. I worked at the red one that went out of business back in 2009. Back then, we had thousands of people coming in the store looking for iPods. But, like Apple will do, they didn’t make enough to go around, so we had to sell what we had. And what we had was a lot of generic MP3 players. People would come in asking for an iPod and the first question we would ask is “do you want an Apple iPod, or are you looking for an MP3 player?”


That usually resulted in a confused look. Most people thought they were the same thing.


We had to take the time to educate people to all of the other options they had. A lot of times, an iPod really was what they wanted, and that was cool. But, a lot of other people just wanted the best device and in their case, the best device didn’t come with an Apple sticker in the box.


That’s what I’m doing now. A TV box is similar to a Roku or an Apple TV, just like an MP3 player is similar to an iPod. I’ll let you know how you can decide what’s right for you, but let’s get some terminology out of the way first.


Why so many different names?


MXQPro-AmlogicS905-1000MbpsLAN-BT4.0.cdrWhen you look at this picture, what do you call it? Hint…it probably depends on where you’re from.


Where I am in North America, these devices are normally called Streaming devices or Streaming Media players. Sometimes, they’re mistakenly called Roku boxes, even though they may be made by Amazon, Apple or one of the many other manufacturers I cover on this site. Let me give you an example of something similar. Depending on what part of the country you’re in, you call that sugary, carbonated beverage Pop, Soda or even Coke (even when it’s not Coke). So, unless it’s actually a Roku that you’re talking about, please don’t call it a Roku box. It can create confusion for you and the person who you’re talking to.


In Europe, they’re generally called Kodi boxes due to the popularity of installing Kodi and some of the streaming addons that are available. They can also be called IPTV boxes because it’s much easier to find an Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) service on that side of the Atlantic than here in the US. To put it simply, IPTV is a way to get live TV over the Internet.


If you’re in Asia, then chances are you’ve heard them called TV boxes. Personally, I prefer calling them TV boxes. It is a more generic term, sure, but the device can do so many things that it just makes more sense.


One last thing. You can also see the term mini-PC. TV boxes can certainly be considered a mini-PC, but I think that lumps them into a category that they don’t quite belong in. A mini-PC can also include any small-format computer like an Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing). They can usually do everything that your desktop PC or laptop can do. Some TV boxes can replace your desktop, but they’re the exception, rather than the rule.


What makes it an Android TV box?


OK, so the generic term is the one we’re going to be using, not just in this article, but throughout this site as a whole. So what makes it an Android box?


Different companies can create different skins or launchers to give it a customized look and feel. Generally they’re trying to make it easier to use from your living room couch, or have it look more like Netflix, which makes sense. Netflix is the world’s most popular streaming service, so imitating their interface makes it easier for new users to familiarize themselves with their new TV box.


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