Many of us are probably familiar with having to look through several TV channels to find anything even remotely enjoyable. Thankfully, times have changed; and with them, home entertainment has changed too. In this guide, you will find everything you need to know about what a TV Box is, why it's much better than a mere "Smart" TV, and why every household should have one.
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A TV Box's Philosophy
The Android TV Box is designed for use with a TVs. The idea is to improve the viewing experience with the push of a button and the aid of the internet.
As such, this device is more than just another digital box that connects to our screen.
To be more specific, a TV Box comes with the already familiar Android environment, but that's not all. It also provides users with a remote control that usually comes with the box.
Additionally, it also has the iconic Google Play Store, as well as several other treats we'd expect to get with a set-top box.
Whatever the case may be, even if we don't feel like watching a movie or listening to music, we can use the TV Box to transform our TV into a giant monitor that's connected to the internet.
As such, we can surf the internet, read the news, shop online, send e-mails, play games or lose ourselves inside the vast world of Youtube from the comfort of our couch.
Do I need a Smart TV?
Since we already have a smart box, such as TV Box, we don't need a Smart TV. This tiny device will make our TV smart, whether it likes it or not.
To be completely honest, Smart TVs are usually so inadequate that it's often far more smart and affordable to purchase a regular TV and add a TV Box. Or even disable a Smart TV's "smart" capabilities and use it with a TV Box.
This little box transforms any TV with HDMI into a Smart TV. It can even do the same for TVs with no HDMI, but let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
Before all of that goodness, we'll take a quick glance at what we'd have to be extra careful with when it comes to Smart TVs.
Your Smart TV might be watching you
It's no surprise to anyone that a Smart TV is...well, smart. That aside, it can become a little more sinister and indiscreet than one might like.
Wikileaks has revealed information which seems to suggest that the British information agency MI5 and the CIA have created a "fake off" function for the Samsung F8000 series. This allowed them to secretly record their users' conversations through the use of their mic and camera.
Samsung has announced that they're looking into this possibility. They claim that if they do detect this problem, they might release a new security update to fix it.
But wait, there's more! In early 2017, Vizio, which also produces an Android TV Box, was fined with 2.2 million dollars for spying on their users without their knowledge or consent.
How to stop the "leak"
Smart TV manufacturers can monitor their customers if they have their permission. We can usually find this tiny detail in the settings most people gloss over in anticipation of trying out their new TV.
As such, it's just human for us to get excited enough over getting to enjoy our new purchase to miss a seemingly small detail like this.
We can revoke our consent via the device's settings. If we're talking about a Samsung device, we'd have to disable "SyncPlus and Marketing," or something to that extent.
LG's newest models that have the updated webOS don't automatically collect your data. As for the company's older Smart TVs, you'll have to disable "Live Plus" or a similar setting.
Most of Sony's latest Smart TVs use Android TV, which means Google's data collection practices do apply here.
Moreover, Sony can also collect data through sound recognition. However, the company mentions the terms and security conditions during the device's initial set up process.
As such, it would be wise for everyone to check their device's settings, just in case.
Another way of protecting ourselves is that our TV uses the latest software available. All we have to do is enable automatic updates, or check for them regularly.
Is a TV Box of any use to me if I already have a Smart TV?
A TV Box is just as useful whether you have a Smart TV or not. Aside from the usually limited amount of apps Smart TVs have, their OS that comes with them is definitely inferior to the TV Box's Android.
The only advantage of owning a Smart TV alone, if we could call it that, is that there's no need to plug in any additional devices or an extra controller.
However, that's not much of a problem. As far as cables are concerned, especially with the presence of HDMI, it should be child's play for any user. Moreover, one can quickly turn their phone into a universal remote.
Additionally, when it comes to apps such as Kodi, two excellent apps named Kore and Yatse exist to help us manage our media center through our phone.
CetusPlay is another awesome alternative, offering users complete control of their TV Box via their phone.
Why should I choose a TV Box over a phone, tablet or PC?
One can easily connect their phone or tablet to their TV, wirelessly or not. In that case, viewing pictures and videos we've taken with our mobile devices shouldn't be an issue at all.
When it comes to movies, shows or livestreams, however, a TV Box is an almost vital necessity. Especially when it comes to movies, adding subtitles can be a very tricky process, and they often fail to play on our TV.
A sole exception would be a wired connection of the phone to the TV, which can be used to mirror movies and subtitles onto the screen. In this case, Plex server and the respective Android or iOS app will serve us well.
Despite that, we'd still have to purchase an MHL adapter and the Plex app. And as if that wasn't enough to worry about, our phone might not even be able to support the MHL wired connection.
With a TV Box, however, Plex server and the Android app will leave us speechless, without even having to purchase the app.
PC on your TV
Connecting a laptop or an old desktop computer to our TV will more than likely produce better results.
In this case, there is a possibility of reliable wireless transmission of multimedia and movies with subtitles, but only if our laptop supports Intel's Wireless Display (WiDi).
If that's not a possibility, we'd have to go ahead and try a wired connection. This can be a bit of a pain since we'd have to keep plugging the laptop in and out, or permanently leave the old desktop computer next to the TV, resulting in a mess of dust and cables.
Since all of those are matters of practicality, it's up to the user to decide whether they'd rather deal with all of that, or choose the much more convenient, smaller TV Box which is designed to stay connected to the TV.
It's also worth noting that TV Boxes are designed to be passively cooled, which makes them utterly silent. Of course, we can't say the same for an old computer.
What sort of internet connection is required?
As for the internet connection, we're going to need a decent broadband connection to make sure the apps will be running smoothly. Most manufacturers recommend speeds of 5 to 7Mbps for content in SD resolution.
Though, it's only natural for most of us to want to watch content in high definition FHD with no cuts and interruptions. For that, we'd need a broadband connection of speeds from 10 to 24Mbps.
Most TV Boxes also support 4K if we have a UHD TV. In that case, a VDSL connection would be vital for our content to run smoothly.
How easy is it to install?
The easiest way to connect your TV Box to the internet is, of course, via Wi-Fi. However, an Ethernet cable would do just fine.
A wired connection can prove to be very useful, and will more often than not give us better results. Preferring it over a wireless one should be a no-brainer if our internet connection isn't all that great, or if our router is located near our TV.
The recent discovery of the dangerous threat by the name of KRACK definitely gives a wired connection a few additional brownie points.
If your router isn't near your TV and you don't want to have to deal with cables running all over the place, a pair of powerline units will transfer the data through the house's electrical network. That solution offers all of Ethernet's advantages, with none of the disadvantages.
Be mindful of the fact that your powerline will have to be connected directly to a socket or a simple power strip, not a safety power strip. As for a three-phase current, a Devolo powerline will be necessary.
How to connect it to your TV
Connecting your TV Box to your TV is fast and easy.
The only thing you'll need is an HDMI cable, which usually comes with the TV Box. The fact that we also need the power cord goes without saying.
However, taking care of the power should be near the bottom of our list. Before worrying about any of that, it would be wise to get the sound and video cables out of the way first.
HDMI - High Definition
First off, plug one end of the HDMI cable in the respective TV Box port...
... and the other end to the respective HDMI port of your TV.
After that, we'd need to power the TV Box and turn it on. Then, switch the default input source to HDMI via your TV's interface.
To access this menu, we'll have to press the Source button on our remote, seen below. The icon is identical for almost all TVs.
In some rare cases, it may take the form of AV.
Component - High Definition
If your TV or monitor has no HDMI port, fear not. You can still connect your TV Box to it for that sweet, high definition content.
However, you'd first need to purchase a converter, as most TV Boxes don't have a Component port. Additionally, you would also need the 5-connector cables for sound and video.
The overall cost comes out at about 15€.
After all of that is said and done, plug the HDMI cable into the respective HDMI port of the converter.
Next, take care of the five connectors. At first, plug all three colors in the respective video ports "Y-Pb-Pr" of the converter...
...and then to the respective ports of your TV.
After that, match and connect the two "L - R" sound ports on the converter and TV.
As we already mentioned, you also need to switch the default input source via your TV's interface. This time, "Component" should be selected.
Composite - Standard Definition
As for older devices, composite video (Standard Definition) with the use of A/V OUT exists.
However, in a case such as this one, we should be prepared for a pretty significant downgrade when it comes to quality.
Connection to the internet
After making sure there's an active internet connection, as well as WiFi, go to "Settings -> Wi-Fi" on your TV Box - as you would on your Android phone, and enable it.
After all Wi-Fi networks are detected, choose yours and confirm the connection. From that point on, you're ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
What can I watch on my TV?
As previously mentioned, the content you can enjoy through a TV Box is practically limitless.
Movies and series on Kodi
If you're a fan of TV series, downloading Kodi alongside a build would be wise. Alternatively, one of the "forbidden" Android apps that offer movies, TV shows, and sports should do.
As for movies and TV shows, there are several options and legitimate apps found in the Play Store.
One of those is called Stremio, and its functions are pretty much identical to those of Android.
All Champions League matches
There's no doubt that sports livestreams such as soccer or basketball are amongst the top TV spectacles out there.
The Champions League is definitely one of them. However, digital television offers a meager single game, and you'd need to pay a subscription to watch the rest.
Of course, Kodi is one of the suggested solutions when it comes to live sports. However, complete accuracy when it comes to sports livestreams is not an absolute certainty, which makes the possibility of users getting frustrated very likely.
As such, it would be much wiser to calmly watch our Champions Leagues games, as well as other events and championships, either via the app offered by Reddit or by the use of our browser in Reddit's community page.
Reddit's magic word is “Soccer streams”. In this place, you can watch every available Champions League game, provided it's taking place in that specific day.
As long as there are live matches taking place in that day, we'll be able to scan all critical championship games and choose the one we'd like to watch.
During the tests conducted for this guide, we were lucky enough to enjoy the five critical games of life and death for the World Cup's preliminaries in South America.
As huge South American soccer enthusiasts, witnessing Argentina being qualified with Lionel Messi's hat-trick was a delightful surprise. The three goals scored by Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani in Uruguay's qualification match are just as noteworthy.
The right streamers
It's worth noting that one would have to become familiar with how Reddit's Soccer streams work. Moreover, you would also need to find the right "players" (Verified Streamers), who have acquired high ratings by users.
You shouldn't let it get to you and give up, as trial and error will help you learn how things work around there. Reddit streaming will feel like child's play in no time.
At first, we'd have to start off with verified streamers. An array of information such as video quality, the number of ads and support for Android devices will be available to you.
Click on the parts highlighted in red to start the stream.
The parts highlighted in green refer to the stream's compatibility, as well as additional information such as the number of ads, some of which might be...disturbing.
As we've already mentioned, users can gain access either through the app or their browser. Access via a browser can sometimes be a little more efficient.
It's worth remembering that it would be a good idea not to use the internet for any other activities during the stream, especially if we have a VDSL connection. Otherwise, you'd have to worry about the possibility of missing a goal.
Alternatively, you could watch Champions League and other important soccer championships via two forbidden Android apps, Live NetTV and UkTVNow.
NBA - Euroleague Basketball
As with soccer, Reddit is here to save the day once more. It offers us the ability to enjoy NBA games with nbastreams, as well as Euroleague games.
At the same time, we can also watch highlights of previous games.
All of your phone's photos and videos on your TV screen
Our personal photos and video are probably of very high value to most of us, possibly irreplaceable.
Your TV Box is ideal for this purpose. You can use it to view all of the photos and videos you've taken via your phone by downloading the "Google Photos".app on it.
Of course, it's essential to make sure our photos are synced with Google's app. That's a straightforward process, and we can activate it through the app's settings.
From that point on, every photo or video we take will also be available on our TV Box in Google's app for us to enjoy in a larger screen. Additionally, we also get unlimited storage in the Cloud.
How to listen to music on your TV Box
Listening to music via your TV Box is a piece of cake.
If we have music saved on our hard drive, we'd only need to transfer it to a microSD card, and then plug it into the TV Box's respective port.
If not, we can just use our TV Box to go to Youtube and listen to the songs we want.
An even better and convenient solution would be to listen to music from our TV Box using an existing playlist on our computer.
Alternatively, we can download Spotify's free music app, as well as apps created by other services for unlimited options when it comes to music. Of course, the only drawback is the fact that we'll have to deal with a few ads here and there in the free versions.
Can I also play games?
Downloading and playing games on your Android phone is fun, to be sure. Doing the same thing on your TV Box and taking advantage of your TV's large screen takes the experience to a whole different level, though.
Additionally, you can use Miracast, which is almost certainly supported by your TV Box, to use your phone as a controller. The integrated gyroscope can be used to make certain games shine, especially racing ones.
Do I need a VPN?
There is no doubt that a VPN is more than useful in this day and age of NSA surveillance.
If you use Kodi to watch pirated content, or any of the forbidden apps, using one is pretty much a necessity.
On Android TV Boxes, we can adequately cover our tracks for free. We can do so with the use of an entire array of excellent VPN apps such as Hotspot Shield and others.
Where can I get a TV Box?
There are two main TV Box categories in the market. First, the big brands, such as NVIDIA SHIELD TV, which can be quite a hit to your wallet.
The second category consists Chinese alternatives, whose price is much easier to digest.
How to choose what's best for you
We believe that there are a few Chinese TV Boxes out there that seem to be exceptional. The Amazon reviews left by users who have purchased and tried them out seem to confirm just that.
In this well known and trustworthy shop, users who have made a confirmed purchase will never hesitate to complain about the tiniest little flaws of their devices.
Do you have or plan on getting a TV Box?
The idea of being able to pack all of the world's content into one tiny box would have seemed like science fiction to someone living in the not so distant past. And yet, here we are.
If you have any questions or want to share your experience with your TV Box, you can let us know in the comments down below.
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