Whether watching Netflix on their television or playing video games, multimedia boxes have more than ever the coast and become for many essential accessories. Xiaomi, Nvidia, Google and its Chromecast or Amazon with its Fire TV Stick, many references are available and it can be difficult to decide for this or that product. Our guide will help you take stock of the best products on the market.
In France, the multimedia box market is dominated by the boxes of Internet access providers. These are interesting to be included in the subscription to your operator, but these solutions are not necessarily the best when it comes to box Android. Whether it is to offer a first-class gaming experience or a much superior multimedia experience, here is a brief overview of Android TV multimedia boxes, but also their alternatives often offered at a more affordable price. .
Nvidia Shield TV: the inevitable
Two years after its initial launch, Shield TV has quickly become a staple among a wide audience, establishing itself as the benchmark solution for Android TV 4K and HDR.
Interface and choice of applications
Although Android TV can be criticized for its aesthetics and ergonomics, the Shield TV is still a good example of stability and tracking. up to date. From this point of view, the comparison with the TVs Android TV is totally fortuitous, as the gap between the two platforms is significant in terms of optimization and performance.
On the other hand, and despite very slow beginnings, Android TV now offers a catalog of applications extremely interesting. The video services offer offers access to many VOD / SVOD platforms (Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, Netflix, OCS …), but also to TV channels via Molotov and myCANAL, not forgetting YouTube. and Dailymotion. For streaming music services, the main needs are covered with Deezer, Google Play Music, Spotify or TuneIn Radio.
The game offer can also attract a certain audience for some occasional games, or even more with GeForce Now (at least for fiber users …), but the Shield is also and above all an excellent solution to indulge in gaming, with emulators such as RetroArch and ClassicBoy to review its classics on NES, SNES, GameBoy, Megadrive, etc.
Features and settings
The Shield TV offers a number of features, whether it's the ability to cast content from a smartphone with Chromecast support, Bluetooth that allows you to stream music as well as to pair a headset or a joystick , not to mention compatibility with DLNA, Samba and NFS servers via multimedia applications.
The case also stands out through GameStream and Steam Link technologies, which offer users the ability to stream their PC game library to the living room TV.
In terms of multimedia support, the Shield TV ensures the greatest compatibility. Preferred partner (and sponsor) of Kodi, the Chameleon brand has been treated to a special treatment with a fully optimized version of the Media Center application. Some bugs are still in the game, but nothing necessarily crippling in most cases.
The majority of HD and 4K video file formats are played, auto-framerate is supported, HDR10 and HLG support is assured, and Dolby True HD, DTS-HD, Dolby Atmos and DTS: X audio signals are transmitted for users of audio-video amplifiers. It's the same for playing music and photos.
Kodi is obviously not alone, Plex assures just as well this role for media files stored on a NAS server, just like SPMC or Archos Media Center in a different register. Only downside, most of these applications do not support the automatic change framerate (out SPMC), it is necessary to go into the settings menu to manually change the frequency depending on the content that you want to watch. Simple, but not very ergonomic.
Why is Nvidia Shield TV recommended?
It is compatible with 4K HDR
It can act as a game console
It is compatible with Android apps and games and includes Chromecast and Google Assistant
It has important catalogs of games, video services and streaming music services
Where to buy the Nvidia Shield TV (2017) at the best price?
Xiaomi Mi Box S: the newcomer
On the side of the famous Chinese manufacturer, there are also Android TV solutions. After several versions of box TV, Xiaomi returns with a new model that brings some interesting new features: the Mi Box S.
Interface and applications
The Xiaomi Mi Box S is a minor update to the Chinese TV's famous Android TV box. Unlike its predecessor, it natively embeds the latest version of Android for Android TV, namely Android 8.1 Oreo. The interface is very fluid and it is very easy to navigate the menus with the remote control.
The remote has been redesigned for this new version. It adds a touch of "Netflix" to access in no time the famous streaming service, a "Live" button to view TV channels more easily via a third-party application, and the microphone key allows you to use the Google Assistant function. to control your TV box, but also all your connected objects, using your voice.
The Mi Box S also offers a lot of applications that allow it to offer a complete experience on your TV. We find globally an experience similar to the previous model, with always access to different streaming platforms such as YouTube, Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or OCS, but also conventional TV channels via the Molotov TV or myCanal applications, of course.
It does not come with a gamepad (sold separately), but it is quite possible to enjoy Play Store games. With its SoC Amlogic S905X quad core and 2 GB DDR3 RAM, it offers slightly better performance than its ancestor for a significant gain in fluidity in the game. The Mi Box S also offers 8 GB of storage for directly install your various applications.
Features and settings
The Mi Box S offers some nice features, starting with the new integration of the Google wizard. Through the dedicated key on the remote control, you can do voice searches to ask your box to find a specific type of film (action, horror, romantic, etc) or play a particular style of music. You'll also be able to control your different connected objects like adjusting the brightness of your Philips Hue bulbs or changing the temperature of your Netatmo thermostat, for example.
With built-in Google Cast, it's easy to stream content from your smartphone with the Smart Cast feature. The Xiaomi TV box also has WiFi 802.11 b / g / n (WiFi 4) to connect to your home network, but also provides connectivity via Bluetooth 4.2 LE + EDR for pairing various accessories, including the remote that came with it.
The Mi Box S supports 4K H.265 at 60 frames per second, 4K VP9 and 4K H.264 at 30 frames per second. It is also compatible HDR and HDR10, and supports video formats MPEG1, MPEG2, VC1, DivX 4, DivX 5 in Full HD at 60 frames per second. It does not have to blush at the level of audio signal transmissions thanks to its Dolby Audio and DTS-HD compatibility, and even includes a 3.5mm jack.
Now that the Mi Box S is certified by Netflix with the dedicated button on its remote, the streaming application now offers 4K and HDR mode on most of its content. A problem often pointed to the old model that was blocked in Full HD.
For users more accustomed to Plex, the application that creates a local Netflix home by fetching your files from your server and you transmits them by encoding them to create a catalog of content, know that it is also present on the Xiaomi Mi Box S.
Why choose the Xiaomi Mi Box S?
An Android TV box with a lot of features
Google Assistant integration
4K, HDR, HDR-10 compatibility
A practical remote control
Where to buy Xiaomi Mi Box S at the best price?
For information, the old model Xiaomi Mi Box is still on sale and offers services similar to the Mi Box S.
Apple TV 4K HDR: the apple solution
The Cupertino company will have taken its time, but the Apple TV 4K has all the appearance of a "game changer". More than in the past, Apple is targeting a public fond of streaming programs, who want to replace the TV decoder of their ISP by a third-party media player.
Interface and choice of applications
Apple's expertise in interface and user experience is undeniable (whether we like it or not) compared to Android TV. As on the iPhone and iPad, the interface is fluid, ergonomic, easy to handle and aesthetically pleasing. We quickly find his bearings.
Apple's desire to encourage the user to barter his TV decoder for his box materializes here through the TV application, which acts as unified interface to access the programs of TV channels or VOD services / SVOD, without the user needing to open each application individually. A real vision of new ways of consuming content.
The choice of applications is more or less identical to what is found in most cases on Android TV, whether VOD / SVOD services (Amazon Video, Netflix, OCS, iTunes …), TV channels and catch-up programs (Molotov, myCANAL …), the inevitable YouTube, not forgetting Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify and TuneIn Radio for music. We note the willingness of Apple to care for its customers and put the forms, by offering free 4K HDR version (subject to availability) movies already purchased in HD on the iTunes Store.
Features and settings
Beyond the integration of 802.11ac and Bluetooth Wi-Fi modules, and the inevitable AirPlay, which simplifies the dissemination of photo, video and music media from an iPhone, iPad or Mac, the Apple TV offers some interesting features, such as the ability to associate a pair of Airpods, and the Siri voice assistant.
Regarding the settings, although the manufacturer has made some efforts, including the ability to change the frame rate, the change must be done manually, the user must search through the settings to pass a rate from frame to frame in the absence of auto-framerate function. A situation certainly identical to the Shield of Nvidia, but against the current of what can be expected of an Apple product.
Although it targets a very different audience from most of the other solutions presented, the Apple TV 4K provides the essential with Plex or Infuse, which can read its library of multimedia files. In addition, it offers excellent video and audio quality now that it is Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos compatible, provided you have the necessary equipment at home.
The box makes its own with the recognition of color spaces, a more technical subject that deserves to be interested, but I will return to it more in a dedicated test. However, for those looking for a complete multimedia solution, with auto-framerate, or a USB port to connect a hard drive, it will be better to go along.
Why opt for the Apple TV?
4K HDR compatibility
The presence of Siri
The TV application that provides access to TV channels and VOD / SVOD services
It offers a wide range of applications as for Android TV boxes
Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos compatibility
Where to buy the Apple TV 4K at the best price?
Amazon Fire TV Stick: the standalone dongle
Amazon's Fire TV Stick is a dongle that connects directly to HDMI on your TV, much like a Chromecast. Nevertheless, its use is totally different. Comes with a remote control, you do not need your smartphone or tablet to use it: the Fire TV Stick is completely autonomous. So you can leave your phone alone to enjoy the different web services.
It has the operating system Fire OS that integrates all Amazon services like Amazon Prime Video that allows access to several popular movies and series or Amazon Music to listen to music. Obviously, you have to subscribe to Amazon Prime to take advantage of these services … Rest assured, it also gives access to a rich catalog of applications available through the Amazon App Store which includes games, but also applications like Molotov TV , YouTube, Netflix, etc.
It is equipped with 8 GB of storage and can watch content in 720p or 1080p up to 60 frames per second. However, we regret the 4K incompatibility.
Why buy the Amazon Fire HD Stick?
Totally autonomous, without the need for a smartphone to use it
Groups all Amazon Prime services
The catalog of the Amazon App Store (Netflix, Molotov TV, etc;)
8 GB of internal storage
Full HD compatibility
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is available for 60 euros. For Amazon Prime subscribers, the price drops to 40 euros.
Chromecast 3: the reference in the field
Chromecast 3 is a simple revision of the previous model. It incorporates Bluetooth, but also more power for WiFi 5 GHz: the antenna has been improved to increase the gain from 2.1 dBi to 4 dBi, doubling the signal strength. This helps to better capture if your router is not in the same room as your Chromecast. Google ecosystem requires, it is obviously compatible with devices that work with Google Assistant.
Although its interest is now greatly limited compared to most of the solutions discussed in this article, the Chromecast is nonetheless reference. This is a practical solution if you simply want to cast content from your smartphone or tablet to access a larger screen to Netflix, YouTube or myCANAL, for example.
Note that unlike the second model in the range, it can play 1080p Full HD video at 60 frames per second.
Why take Chromecast 3?
More power with WiFi 5 GHz
Its compact and discreet side
Play 1080p Full HD video at 60 fps
Where to buy Google Chromecast 3 at the best price?
If you want a Chromecast compatible 4K, it is better to look at the Ultra model of the range.
Where to buy Google Chromecast Ultra at the best price?
Android TVs TVs
Although some manufacturers have considered it a miracle recipe for the fragmentation of Smart TV OS, three years later the Android TV experience on TVs leaves a bitter aftertaste. Between promises of unkept updates, bugs of all kinds, missing functions and stability issues, not to mention the weakness of embedded SoC, we can say that users have largely wiped the casts.
Nevertheless, the improvements made by both manufacturers and Google are optimistic about the future of the OS. Everything is not perfect, far from it, but the curve of evolution suggests a real better. Not necessarily difficult given the starting point will say some.
If your needs are limited to just watching streaming content, casting your holiday photos on the TV or watching the last season of Game of Thrones in MKV, an Android TV may be enough. In contrast, multimedia playback performance leaves TVs far behind a Shield TV (not to mention the Zappiti) because of the slowness and the lack of certain functions sought by purists. Better to forget the gaming … totally and definitely, unless limited to casual titles very little greedy.
Read on FrAndroid: OLED, Android TV: What are the best connected TVs compatible 4K HDR in 2019?
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