What is an Android TV Box and How Does it Work?

By | February 25, 2020

What is a Android TV Box and How Does it Work
An Android TV box is a small media center that connects to a TV to play movies and TV shows along with games.

Android TV boxes are popular items these days and allow a user a wide range of uses from surfing the web to streaming video straight to your TV.
Mainly used to stream video content
These small boxes can turn almost any TV into a smart TV with a wide range of options. Most people use them to stream movies or TV shows from their favorite streaming sites, such as Netflix, Disney Plus, or Hulu.
 
How Does It Work?
A box is connected to a TV and setup to the internet via wired Ethernet or WiFi connection.
Android Box Setup
After a box is connected to a TV, and the internet, apps can be installed.

For example, a YouTube app can be installed to stream YouTube videos.

Android is an Operating System, like Windows or iOS, that was created by Google mainly for mobile phones. It runs on ARM-based processors which makes it portable to any device that runs the same hardware.

Since the Android Operating System is open source and free, it is much cheaper to manufacture hardware based on it and sold.
 
While it is mainly used on smartphones it can also be installed on small boxes that run the same hardware but give better input and output options.
Android TV boxes can output HDMI or component video
For example, Android TV boxes can output HDMI to a TV giving it HD viewing ability. They also can use a remote control, keyboard, or mouse for input.
 




 
First Thing To Do After Opening the Package
The first thing to do is plug the box HDMI video cable into your TV.

Once connected to a TV and powered on, connect to your WiFi.

Some boxes will have a setup screen for WiFi while for others it is in the settings section.

Alternatively, an Ethernet cable can be plugged into the unit.

One the box is powered on and connected to the WiFi it is ready to be used.

How To Install Apps to an Android TV Box
The main way to install Apps on an Android TV box is to use the Google Play Store.

A Google Gmail email address will be needed to sign in and download Apps.

Alternatively Apps can be installed from other locations such as a websites.

Android uses files called APK which like EXE file for Windows can be installed from anywhere.

For example, Kodi is a popular Android App which can be downloaded and installed form the Google Play Store or straight form the Kodi site.

What Can an Android TV Box Do?
What is a Android TV Box
They are mainly used to stream video content to users allowing them to watch their favorite TV shows and movies on demand.

While that is their main use they can also do almost anything a standard computer can do. As with Android based smartphones apps can be installed from Google Play Store that can do most anything that can be thought of.

A very large variety of apps can be installed that can do everything from creating a document to checking the weather.
 
What Movies and TV Shows Can You Watch on an Android TV Box?
Android TV boxes are great at playing videos that are locally stored and from online sources.

This means that a provider for the videos is needed usually with a service such as Netflix, Hulu, or Disney Plus.

Each provider is competing with each other and will have different movies and TV shows to watch.

They also have different pricing with a monthly fee usually less than $10 a month.

Videos that you own can also be played from internal storage.

This means a large video library can be stored on the unit and watched any time.

Each unit will have different hardware but usually limited internal storage.

Large video libraries are usually stored on an external hard drive or flash drive which are plugged into a USB port on the box.
 
Can You Watch Normal TV on Android Box?
Yes, depending on the service subscribed to any TV shows or movies can be watched.

Every service will have different movies and TV shows or other on-demand services such as sports.

For example, live sports may be included in some service package or be added on for a fee.

Researching each service is best to see which one will match your viewing habits.

How Do You Watch Movies and TV Shows on an Android Box?
Find the best service for the types of movies and TV shows you want to watch.

Download the app for the service from the Google Play Store.

Sign into the app and start streaming.

What Type Of Boxes are Available?
Units come in all shapes, sizes, and pricing formats.

Like all things computer-related better hardware is introduced constantly from many manufacturers.

Low-cost budget boxes are available along with high-end units packed with the latest fastest hardware.

Each box will come with its own setup as manufactures modify the Android code to fit their machines.

Which box is right for your setup very much depends on what fits your need and price range.

The best way to see what is best for your setup is to read reviews on units within your budget.

See Here for Our Picks of Top Android TV Boxes
 
Summary
Android TV boxes are here to stay and are a nice fit into any home entertainment center.

Android smartphone users will have no problem quickly moving about the interface and finding what they want. As with any computer, those that are new may have a slight learning curve as to how things work.

Most all units are different and will have different features and hardware. Most don’t come with much internal hard drive space and use micro-SD cards or flash drives to give more storage space.

Some high-end units give large internal hard drives which of course will cost more.

Low-end units are popular since they are cheap and a nice place for many to feel comfortable starting with. While many cheap units work well keep in mind they often require some skill to setup and operate.

If you have some knowledge of android based systems using a low-end box will likely be fine. If you have never used one before having a unit with technical support may be best which low-end boxes don’t usually offer.

Reading reviews and watching YouTube videos on the different units available is best to see which one would fit your skill and home setup.

Also, keep in mind the wireless the box offers. Streaming video over WiFi can be challenging at times even with good equipment. Running a wired Ethernet cable is always best but sometimes not feasible. If you do need to use WiFi be sure to read how well it streams video content over a wireless setup.
 


 




 

62 thoughts on “What is an Android TV Box and How Does it Work?

  1. Marco Fuse

    I have a TVBOX INternet TV. I have connected the TVBOX to my TV to get Netflix . I have opened connected A WIFI function. On the user manual I read next step is choose hotspot>input password
    >connect to the network . How can I do it ? Thanks

    Reply
  2. Steven Talbert

    I have no in house wifi, we use android phones… Will these run off of my phones hotspot? If so which is best for this? I need one that works with my phones hotspot data instead of in house wifi or Ethernet… Any help would be grateful for. Thanks

    Reply
  3. Prafull

    hi i have tv but they’re no USB port .how to install it. and how this work for local channel .

    Reply
  4. Jeannie fitch

    How do I send this tv box multimedia gateway internet cause it only speaks foreign language Thank you

    Reply
  5. Nicole

    Hi, I have a Samsung Hard Drive which I use to record programs on – can I record from the box as well onto my hard drive?

    Reply
  6. jim aromin

    is there any payment for using android tv box when you watch movies let us see netflex

    Reply
  7. Lucas Arnott

    Android Tv boxes are the best to use. I am using Beelink GT King 4K Ultra HD Android TV Media hub which is the most powerful streaming device. It runs S922X CPU 4GB RAM. Nice device. I am very happy with the features.

    Reply
  8. Tom C.

    I have a Roku box and subscribe to Netflix. How is Kodi different? Would I need to replace my Roku? Does Kodi provide the streaming capability?

    Reply
  9. Tish

    As a senior citizen, I am really struggling with technology! I desperately want to disconnect my cable tv., that increases their fees nearly 2X a year.My area is not open to numerous cable companies, which makes it worse. I want to continue to see my regular channels LIVE…ABC, NBC,MSNBC, CW, BET,BRAVO, E, HGTV, LIFE, OWN,TLC, WE, and VH1. I have a 52″ Mitsubishi Projection TV, Model WS-55315 (12 yrs. old) that I love since it is the only tv in my home with Pic in Pic, that isn’t made much any more, allowing me to watch (2) channels at a time! It doesn’t have HDMI connection…only plug in female connections can be made with red/white/blue/or green wires. I purchased a Amazon Firestick, however, it didn’t work since It isn’t an HDMI connection. I then purchased from walmart on line…an HDMI to YPbPr Converter Adaptr, EEEKit HDMI to Component Audio Video Converter, supports 1080P for DVD PSP Xbox 360 etc, to be able to plug up the Firestick. I also had to buy a set of green, blue red, wires to use with the white, red and yellow wires on the back of this tv. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to operate the Firestick on this tv since it has other setting and not HDMI setting to turn it to, in order for the firestick to operate! Would a Android Box operate on this tv or would I have the same problem that I’m having with my firestick not operating? Your assistance would certainly be appreciated!

    Reply
    1. Hobbsmack

      I respect your bravado for trying…I suspect you’re very close to making it work…you didn’t mention internet connection…you need one…they work wi-fi or ethernet I believe….ethernet is the best…which just means “wired” instead of “wireless”…..when people talk about disconnecting cable, what they really mean, generally, is to switch from a large cable, phone and internet package to just an internet package….so if you already have, say, a desktop computer set-up in your house with the router/modem supplied by your service provider that connects your computer to the internet, you’re all set…..in the back of your router/modem will be a labelled ethernet port, looks kinda like a phone jack but a little wider….pick up an ethernet powerline adaptor kit from amazon or somewhere that allows you to basically send internet to every wall socket in your house…just plug one in to the wall near your router and connect the supplied cat 5 cable to your router ethernet port on one end and the wall socket adaptor ethernet port at the other end then plug in the other adaptor to a wall socket near your t.vconnect another supplied cat 5 cable to it and the other end in the firestick ethernet port…then plug your hdmi to component audio/video converter to your firestick hdmi out port…connect your white,red, yellow wires to mathing color ports on converter on one end…connect the other ends to video in on t.v making sure colors match, yellow to yellow, red to red, white to white…should all be labelled in samall print…might say video 1 or dvd in or component in, use either as long as colors are same….use one converter or the other…the ypbpr(green,blue,red) is higher quality but must connect to same colors at tv end…if you have them go ahead and use them, whichever ones you use, the source will be labelled at the t.v in small print…you will choose that source with your t.v remote…if you connected to the “video 1” group, then select video 1 on your remote…if dvd…select dvd ….etc….can also set up wi-fi without ethernet powerline adaptors but might not work as smoothly.

      Reply
  10. Fred Drayton

    This info has been very informative, thanks you. I will take your advice and try it for free first before I buy.

    Reply
  11. Tera

    I just hooked my TV BOX 4K yesterday in my living room. For some reason I can’t find how to get the Hulu application on this? I have a smart tv in my bedroom & have the hu app. Any help with this would be greatly appreciate. Thank you in advance!!

    Reply
    1. Jaydish

      Does your box have a Google play store ? If not you might not get the app .

      Inna such a event in case you have a browser in the box then visit sites which provide APK’sfor apps and download from there or just sideload the APK through USB

      Reply
  12. sally

    Hello
    I had my multimedia installed yesterday. i was excited but unfortunately it keeps freezing. i cannot watch anything for 5 minutes before it freezes. i’m already hating the box. someone please help me what can i do to stop this frequent freezes
    thank you

    Reply
    1. Jutin

      Yes they will, check the video outputs match your TV such as Component or HDMI.

      Reply
  13. victor dawson

    thanks for this great article , Although my android box doesn’t come with HDMI cable , i need to spend extra for that .

    Reply
  14. bob green

    with a TVBOX can I get rid of spectrum ? must I have a wireless modm
    thanks

    Reply
    1. Jutin

      Most use WiFi but they can be connected with wired Ethernet also. The same as a PC.

      Reply
  15. Don

    Can I get all of the local channels plus the sports channels and how much well it cost me monthly and do I need to have satellite tv to operate

    Reply
    1. Jutin

      You will need to look at which online streaming service is best for you. The most popular options are Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

      Reply
  16. Angelika Streck

    Are you able to watch major networks/shows on this system? Or are you limited to older episodes that you can find on Hulu, etc.?

    Reply
    1. Ronald Magistro

      How much free streaming go channels can you do. How many.free channels can you get and do these devices turn your tv into an a fried tablet or smartphone.

      Reply
  17. Jan

    Do i need to have cable after connecting with tv box to watch all the chanels from cable. I have the HDMI cable connected to my TV port with android box.

    Reply
  18. Jeannie fitch

    Hi I hooked my tv box multimedia gateway internet. and it only has foreign languages how do I send it back Thank you Jeannie Fitch

    Reply
  19. CPR Guy

    There are so many different manufacturers of Android TV boxes that it’s impossible to know which one is better than any other. I suppose if you get a name brand one like the Nvidia Shield at least you know what you’re getting.

    Reply
  20. Andrew Rutledge

    Are you able to watch major networks/shows on this system? Or are you limited to older episodes that you can find

    Reply
    1. spoddy

      It the service that streams the movies and TV shows. For example, with a Netflix subscription you could stream any videos in their library.

      Reply
  21. Anto

    hey, is it posible to watch sports or news even if the android box is not connected to internet

    Reply
    1. Daniel

      It uses dish and antenna. So you can watch channels from the two if not connected to the internet

      Reply
  22. Angelika Streck

    I am getting that I have asked this question before, however, I have not received an answer ….. so I am asking again: Are you able to watch major networks/shows on this system? Or are you limited to older episodes that you can find on Hulu, etc.?

    Reply
    1. Peter

      Android TV boxes can play most anything from anywhere is depends on the provider what can be played. There are many providers including IPTV services, HULU, Netflix, Amazon, Kodi and many more.

      Reply
  23. Angela James

    I urgently need one which is the best quality name brand would you advised to purchase?

    Reply
  24. Debra MacDonald

    Hi have been researching how to get out of my Direct TV cancellation fees, but before I do I want to make sure this KODI which I guess is streaming player does all I want? I don’t understand all the tech language so I’m not sure if it will also get me all the local channels ,and my fav cable channels, like E, Lifetime ,Nat Geo, History, Animal Planet, or do I have to buy add one? I don’t want to lose my DVR recording ability. Is this stream player easy to hook up and update add ons, for a non tech person, or will I need to hire someone to get it set up?
    I have internet thru another service and pay $250 every 3 years, along with using a Router to hook up all my TV, laptop, etc.

    Reply
    1. WirelessHack

      Kodi is on the technical side and is not for everyone but is free so worth checking out. There is no need to buy a box as it can be installed on a computer or smartphone for free. Once Kodi is understood there is no need for a DVR as all the videos will stream to you. Be sure to check it out for free first before investing in a box.

      Reply
      1. LyneM

        This info has been very informative, thanks you. I will take your advice and try it for free first before I buy.

        Reply
  25. mandla edison

    Hi
    Can tv box allows me to watch DSTV channels , Show max, Amazon and Netflix without any payments or subscription to those particular companies?
    Regard Mandla Edison from South Africa Johannesburg.

    Reply
  26. Santosh

    Can you please let me know if you can install YuppTv app on Android TV Box

    Reply
  27. Eva

    Can I stream from computer to the TV through android box or I need extra chromecast?
    Do I get with android box a web broser?
    Can I use android box with any smart TV?
    Would” Echo” speakers” works with android box?

    Reply
    1. Dave

      Most boxes have built-in WiFi to connect to the internet.
      Yes, any of the popular Browsers can be installed such a Chrome.
      Most boxes use HDMI to hook up to a TV so as long as the TV has an HDMI port it will work.
      Many boxes have Bluetooth which will Pair to speakers. Be sure it has Bluetooth.

      Reply
  28. Peterson

    Hello!! My TV is Toshiba 32″ flat screen analogue TV,can it work with the Nvidia shield?? Does the android TV box needs monthly subscription or how does it work please on the named above tv please advice!!

    Reply
    1. Arif Khan

      No monthly charges bro its life time free. You won’t need cable or dish you will get access to world wide channels HD movies radio etc only good Internet connection is needed.. Along with some knowledge of third party apps to be side leaded to get all content for free best of luck

      Reply
  29. Kitmir13

    So help an Octagenerian connect.
    I buy a Android Box,coonect it to mY TV(Samsung),and although I have WiFI ,its better to have a direct connection to
    an Internet Port..for Clarity (I use Bell Fibre 50)
    I want to watch BBC,ITV,Sports tennis,Golf Cricket,PBS,and US & Canadian Prog…will I be able to do This?
    I also have Netflix and Youtube and Kanopy,will these be accessible on the BOx?
    I am being offered a Box for $140 and a monthly cahrge of $20 to connect and get Multiple Cahnnels,Pl explain whats the deal here…Im told rarely do they have problems but when they do ,the Supplier is only the Middle Man and things are resolved withinin a couple of Days.
    Lastly if go alone which Box would be adequate for me?

    Reply
    1. no-win

      I’ll try to help out an octogenarian. I assume that if you are using Bell as an internet provider, you are in Canada. There are differences between what is available in the US and what is available in Canada. It seems you want to watch netflix and youtube plus a number of TV channels (BBC, ITV, PBS, etc). All of this is possible with an android TV box. In fact, you will be able to watch hundreds if not thousands of TV channels. You mention that you are being offered a “box” by a middle man for $140. There is another type of box that can be used largely for TV only (such as a MAG box) and these are often what is provided by these middle men. This is however NOT an android TV box. An android tv box is similar to an android phone. It is essentially a computer. So you can download apps, access the internet, run office apps, email, etc. But, there are many, many different types of android tv boxes tat vary dramatically in quality and ease of us. Again, something like a MAG box will allow you to watch TV but that’s about it. It does have the advantage that because it is not a computer, it will be easier to set up. You also mention that the middle man will charge you $20 per month. The android tv box (or the MAG box) cannot directly be used for TV. You do need a TV provider. Your $20 is almost certainly for a connection to an IPTV provider. So, you would be paying $20/month for probably hundreds/thousands of TV channels from all over the world compared to the much more expensive Bell TV offering many fewer channels. There are a few issues to keep in mind. First with a big name TV provider such as Bell, it’s plug and play. Pay for their service, connect the TV to their receiver and that’s it. It’s not nearly that simple with an android box. In Canada, the box must be “empty” (no apps). Not necessarily a bad thing. You will need to download the various apps from Play Store and these will be the latest updated versions. If you are using an android phone, this will be very familiar. The other issue is the legality of IPTV. This is a gray (oops grey in Canada) zone. The providers pirate the signal from companies such as Bell and then charge you a fee for the service each month. There are a number of providers of the IPTV service and they are shut down frequently. You probably should not be signing a 1 or 2 year contract because your provider could be shut down at any time. Almost all IPTV providers will allow you to sign up for only month. I would recommend that you do this to verify if this is something you really want to try. Is it legal for you to watch IPTV from these providers? That’s iffy. You are after all paying for the service. Moreover, there must be several thousand people in Canada doing the same. If the government is going to prosecute anyone, it will probably not be someone that is 80+ . You might also want to consider using a VPN. This basically hides your location (by technically changing your ip address). In Canada, your government blocks access to many foreign streaming services. For example, you will not be able to watch American netflix. The VPN, by changing your location, may help you to do so. The other purpose of the VPN is that errrr… no-one will ever know you are using an IPTV service. Again, keep in mind that if you have a problem with your Bell system, they will service it. With your android box, you will probably be very much on your own.

      Reply
  30. W R Akash

    hi,

    I having a smart tv of VU company (Vu 102cm (40 inch) Full HD LED Smart TV) . It can connect to internet & having usb & hdmi port. But it runs on Safari OS , as a result I can’t install android apps there . Is it possible to use any Android TV box with this tV ? I am missing out lots of things in my tv … It will be really helpful if you kindly help on it.
    Proving link of my tv for more specification details:
    “https://www.flipkart.com/vu-102cm-40-inch-full-hd-led-smart-tv/p/itmf79g3qdemnhfh?pid=TVSF79G2AMYZXXEH&lid=LSTTVSF79G2AMYZXXEH0CR”

    Regards,
    Akash

    Reply
    1. Dibor

      Yes you can. The Android TV box can run on any TV screen platform

      Reply
  31. toncor

    I have an MXQ android box and last couple of days the movies n show’s won’t play? it comes up “no data” whats up with that? I get steams for “TVBox” but they won’t run… any suggestions?

    Reply
  32. Kempanna

    Can I use android box for my non smart TV using hotspot not Lan cable

    Reply
    1. The Master

      Yes…Make sure you have wifi in your house. The android box makes your non smart tv a smart tv. The android box will connect to the wifi directly

      Reply
    2. Dibor

      You would have to connect it to your TV HDMI port. Once you select the HDMI channel it’s connected to then your good to go.

      Reply
  33. Dwight

    Thanks for the information and insight. I am a new comer just starting out.

    Reply

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