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

By | July 24, 2023

What is a Android TV Box and How Does it Work
An Android TV box is a small, low-cost media center box that connects to a TV and plays movies, TV shows and apps such as games.

Android TV boxes are popular items these days and allow a wide range of uses, from surfing the web to streaming video straight to your HDTV.

Android boxes were Introduced a few years ago, and now there are many options available.
Mainly used to stream video content
These small boxes can turn almost any TV into a smart TV with a wide range of features. Most people use them to stream movies or TV shows from their favorite streaming sites, such as Netflix, Disney, YouTube, or Hulu.

Videos can also be stored locally, such as an extensive video library, and played on-demand.

How Does an Android TV Box Work?

A box is connected to a TV and set up 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.

The Android Operating System keeps the cost down, making Android TV boxes good low-cost media centers.

While Android 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.

Initial Setup for an Android TV box

An Android TV box is quick to set up by connecting it to a TV, WiFi, and downloading apps.

The first thing to do is to plug the box HDMI video cable into your TV.
What is an Android TV Box and How Does it Work 2021

Be sure to set the TV to the correct HDMI Input.
What is an Android TV Box and How Does it Work 2021 Setup

Once connected to a TV and powered on, connect the box to your WiFi.
What is an Android TV Box and How Does it Work 2021 WiFI Setup
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.

Once 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 primary 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 websites.

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

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

What Can an Android TV Box Do?

An Android TV box can be used to play music, stream videos, play games, or even check the weather.

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 the Google Play Store that can do almost 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 unless the videos are stored at your home, a provider for the videos is needed, usually with a service such as Netflix, Hulu, or Disney Plus.

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

They also have different pricing, with a monthly fee ranging roughly from $20-$70 a month.

There are also free streaming options that will not have the latest movies and TV shows but do have a lot of content.

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 at 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, if you want live sports, FuboTV currently has many options for sports packages.

Netflix is another service widely known for having many movies and TV shows.

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 TV 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 or the provider website.

Sign in to the app and start streaming.

A good place to start since they are free and have many movies and TV shows is Tubi TV.

Go to the Google Play Store and download the app or open a browser such as Chrome and go straight to the Tubi TV website.

Tubi TV Website

Tubi TV can be watched from the app or a web browser such as Chrome.

Do You Need the Internet to Use an Android TV Box?

If you plan to stream videos from online sources, yes, an internet connection will be needed.

If you plan to store videos locally and stream from a home video library, no internet connection will not be needed.

Since an Android TV box is just a small computer like any computer, it does not need the internet to operate.

The internet can greatly enhance a TV box’s capabilities, and most will need an internet connection.

If you have a large video library stored on an external hard drive or flash drive, the internet is not needed to play local files.

What Type Of Video Streaming Services are Available for an Android TV Box?

There are many paid streaming services available with top ones, including Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, and more.

There are also free streaming services also which often play commercials but are free such as Tubi TV, Roku Channel, Pluto TV, and more.

All the streaming services will have an app or can be watched with a web browser such as Chrome.

With any paid provider, researching the service to see which TV shows and movies they have is always best.

Free providers can be used any time and are a good place to start.

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 by 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 manufacturers 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.

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 units are different and will have different features and hardware. Most do not 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 set up 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 do not 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 how good the WiFi the box has. 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.



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

  1. Lebogang

    I hv a TV bt not smart tv just plasma tv with the hdmi at the back I want to buy this box especially for show max nd Disney plus how will it work

  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

    1. Don

      Technically yes they can connect to a smartphone hotspot but streaming videos requires large amounts of data. A cellphone plan likely does not have enough to stream. For example, a cellphone data plane maybe 2-3GB a month. 1 movie can be 1-2GB depending on the resolution.

  3. 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.

    1. Don

      Most boxes will come with an HDMI cable but check the listing to be sure.

  4. 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?

    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.

  5. 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 3 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!

    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.

    2. Mehrdad

      it should have the same issue, as android TV box provides only HDMI output and not components.

  6. Alysia

    My husband bought an android box (MxQ) from someone at work and somehow he installed free tv shows like E and Bravo that I can watch without a streaming provider. How is this possible and how can I get more channels added to my box?

  7. 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.?

    1. Don

      It depends on the service. There is no one spot with everything. Channels are spread out over a patch work of different providers. With that said almost any channels (TV shows/Movies) can be found just find the provider that is streaming it.

  8. Andrew Rutledge

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

    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.

  9. 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?

  10. Androidbox

    What is the best android box for using IPTV service? And which program has the best performance for using IPTV?

  11. Marco

    Hi. I have 2 samsung tvs but its not smart tvs. SO when I download movies from my phne ans transfer it to a usb drive, it doesn’t play unless i play it through my Hisense smart tv. Will a tv box fix this problem.

  12. 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.

  13. Trevor

    Thanks for this very infomative article. I was wondering if you can add a usb FTA tuner to an android tv box. I see many of them on ebay for use on Android phones/tablets. Is this doable on Android TV 10 or 11?
    Cheers from Trevor

  14. Samuel

    Can I have a supersport channels on the Netflix?
    What is the difference between a smart TV box and a plain smart and which one is the best

  15. 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!!

    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

      1. Don

        There is no fee for the box except the initial cost to buy it. Internet will be needed along with a fee for any service such as Netflix.

  16. 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

    1. Don

      An Android box connects to your router the same as any device over WIFI or Ethernet cable. WiFI requires the router username and password. An Ethernet cable simply plugs in.

  17. jim aromin

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

  18. 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.

    1. Don

      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.

      1. LyneM

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

  19. MEEE

    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

    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.

  20. 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!!

    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

  21. 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?

    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.

      1. Jacky Coetzee

        Does an android box have to linked via cable to your wifi router?

  22. Kempanna

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

    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

    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.

  23. Christopher cager

    My t95 android box is buffering. My download speed on router is only 13.25 mpbs. Would you recommend a powerline adapter or wifi extender? Thanks!

    1. Jutin

      They work on WiFi or Ethernet the same as a laptop or PC.

  24. Gary Hill

    Can you watch channels like History and A&E and the like on an android box or do you still need a cable provider? I want to get rid of my cable and monthly bill which gets higher every month.

    1. Ali

      Yes you can if you subsribe to IPTV provider cheaper than cable boc and watch all channel

  25. 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.

  26. 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?

    1. Don

      Usually no but there may be a box that can record. Best to do research first.

  27. victor dawson

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

  28. Kathy

    I have a global media box. Sometimes we like to watch shows on ITV that were on earlier in the day. When you click on them it says stream not available. It’s been about 2 weeks. We’ve tried unplugging/disconnecting with no luck. Do we need a new box?

  29. Bill

    Will it work with a rather poor and unreliable wifi service here in the Philippines?

    1. Don

      It will work for locally stored videos but will buffer with a slow internet provider.

  30. Prafull

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

    1. Don

      Most boxes use HDMI to connect. For local channels a regular TV antenna is likely best and free.

  31. sally

    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

    1. Don

      What type of freezing is happening? Buffing or the whole box locks up. If in doubt return it as there are many good boxes that don’t freeze.

  32. Dwight

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

      1. Don

        An android TV box can stream Netflix but so can many other devices such as PC’s Fire TV Sticks Roku and more.

  33. Jeannie fitch

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

    1. Don

      It sounds like the language setting got mixed up. In Settings it can be changed.

    1. Jutin

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

  34. bob green

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

    1. Jutin

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

  35. Jennifer

    What is the price range for an android box? I see so many varying prices that I’m seriously confused.

    1. Don

      Like anything they can vary widely with low-cost units to high-expensive units.

  36. Anto

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

  37. W R Akash


    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:


  38. 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.?

    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.

  39. 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?

    1. Don

      Kodi is for the computer savvy and is a bit technical. Probably best to stick with Netflix.

  40. mandla edison

    Can TV box allows me to watch DSTV channels , Show max, Amazon and Netflix without any payments or subscription to those particular companies?

  41. Angela James

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


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