Looking for an Android TV - What features matter?

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What is an Android TV?

Not as daft a question as you'd think.  It's effectively a "Black Box" you connect to your TV which allows you to stream or download TV programs from the internet.  Internally it's effectively an "Android Smartphone" without the ability to make phone calls.  It will however connect to the "Google Play Store" and download Apps including Netflix or even games.

They differ from most other devices in that in addition to Netflix, BBC iPlayer and iTV etc, they also have access to hundreds (or even thousands) of free services via a system called KODI.

There are other options however, including devices from Roku, Amazon and Apple, and if you're not comfortable with techie stuff, or at least familiar with Android from your smartphone, I'd stay clear of these devices.

What accessories you should buy?

An Air Mouse/Remote:  I’d recommend the “ProBox 2 Remote+” for about $20/£20.  It looks a bit gaudy but it’s harder to lose, and it runs as an “Air Mouse” or game controller.
* Air Mouse/Keyboard:  An alternative to an “Air Mouse” and great for entering passwords, you might consider a combined air mouse and keyboard.  I’d recommend the “Minix A2”.  It’s a little heavy but it’s a great remote control that flips open to reveal a decent sized keyboard.
* A fast SD card:  There’s hundreds available, but it comes down to speed and size.  To record 4K video search for “SD card UHS 3” which supports 30 MB/sec write speed.  Otherwise, search for either of “SD card UHS 1” or “SD card class 10” which support full HD video recording at 10 Mb/Sec - fast enough for the rest of us.
* Correct size of SD card:  Check the maximum size SD card your device will support.  A 32Gb micro-SD card will hold around 20 hours of MPEG 4 video at 720P format or five hours at 1080P.  Likewise a 64Gb card will hold 40 hours at 720P or 10 hours at 1080P.
* External HDD:  If you need more storage than an SD card, consider an external hard drive.  I’d advise a minimum 500Gb disk and to stream 4K video (and make it future proof), make sure it supports USB 3.0 even if your TV device doesn’t.  Means it will last for years to come.
* HDMI Switch:  If you’ve not got enough HDMI sockets free on your TV consider a HDMI switch which automatically switches the signal depending what you watch.  Don’t make the mistake of buying an HDMI splitter (same signal on two TVs).  I’d recommend the “Fosmon 3 port 4K HDMI Switch”.

Who Shouldn't buy an Android TV?

Unlike the Apple TV, Roku Streaming Player or Amazon Fire TV these is not limited to Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and Apple paid for services, but just about every app available on the Google Play store.  This includes KODI (search “You Tube nr5Mz2Yci4c” for details), which means you can stream TV programs, films and live TV off the internet.  Of course you also get YouTube and Netflix, but much of the KODI content is free.
You will find however you’ll need to be pretty technically aware and familiar with Android and Google Play to get the best out of this device.  If you’re intimidated by the idea of downloading and installing programs, stick with the Roku, Amazon or Apple player.

What features matter?

What features matter ?
* Hardware Specs:  Minimum spec you’ll find will be a Quad core processor 8Gb of storage and 1Gb memory with 32Gb SD card support.  Better devices include 16Gb of storage, 2Gb memory and 64Gb support.  Some even throw in a SD card too but that’s rare.
* Hardware H.265 decoding:  Every Android TV has this, but it may be in software.  If it’s a hardware decoder it’ll be much faster.  It won’t be a problem initially, but it will mean you device lasts longer as there’s more CPU processing power available for your apps.
* Android 5.1 Lollipop (or better):  The latest operating system will help make your device future proof.  Android 5.1 starts faster, saves disk space and handles memory better in addition to supporting audio input/output through USB devices.
* OTA Firmware updates:  Just like your phone or PC automatically checks for an update, this means your TV will do also.  It means you’re always running the latest (and best) software.
* HDMI 2.0:  Released in 2013 it’s a major improvement over 1.4 this means your device will support 4K UHD at 60 fps (frames per second).  4K uses around 10Gb/second which will work with HDMI 1.4, but 2.0 supports 18Gb/sec which gives you extra breathing space
* USB 3.0:  To stream video straight off a hard drive, ideally you want at least one USB 3.0 port on your device.  It’s 10 times faster than USB 2.0, and you’ll see the difference in image quality
* Dual Band Wi-Fi :  You’ll need to check your router also supports this, but most WiFi runs at 2.4Ghz which given the number of smartphones, tablets, computers and devices you have will push the limits.  If your router supports 5Ghz as well, it will automatically switch between the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz channels depending upon traffic.
* Gigabit Ethernet:  A must if you intend to wire in your Android TV this runs at 10 times faster than the standard 100Gb/sec wire.  Again, you’ll need to check you have a free Gigabit port on your router, and if you’re using a PowerSwitch that will need to handle Gigabit speeds as well.

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