What is an Android TV Box? Well, that all depends on who you ask and how you ask. Android TV is a platform. It is an officially licensed platform from Google and is available on a large number of devices from Set-top boxes, TV’s and in markets outside of the Pay TV boxes and more. The apps made for Android TV devices are designed and optimized for TV’s and can be fully controlled using a simple directional remote. Android TV devices also have a specialized version of the Google Play Store that only features TV-friendly apps. This means that despite having the name Android TV, one is not required to tap on the TV Screen, or swipe to access the content. In the US users can find Android TV on the Nvidia Shield, AirTV and Mi Box from Xiaomi. Android TV is also available on a number of 4K TV’s from Sony and other major companies making it one of the largest smart TV interfaces in the world.
On the other hand, there are countless media players that advertise as Android TV Boxes. They are typically inexpensive little boxes powered by the same type of Android system designed for phones and tablets. The Google Play Store on these devices is built around apps that are for the most part designed for touch-based devices. In order to operate the vast majority of the apps available on the devices, users must have a controller designed to work on a desktop or touch environment, like a computer mouse or a USB powered Keyboard of some type. This is because the apps designed for these boxes were meant to be utilized in a touch screen environment. So in many cases, navigating the menus for something like Netflix or Hulu is nearly impossible. This means that users with these devices can access thousands of apps including multiple browsers, games and more. They just will not be able to get much from the experience without an investment is other peripheral devices.
Can you use an Android-powered TV box as a primary media player? Sure. But you will most definitely need to invest an extra $20.00-30.00 in a remote controller of some type to be sure that you can actually use the thousands of apps that are available on the Google Play Store. A lot of the motivation behind Android-powered boxes is to provide access to the Kodi Media Center, which has become very popular over the past 5 years but is not available natively on many mainstream TV devices though that is changing thanks to official Android TV boxes and Amazon Fire TV devices, which can be side loaded in order to operate Kodi.
Despite the fact that there are two very different operating systems, there are a number of YouTubers and bloggers who insist on referring to every cheap Android-powered box as Android TV. This is not to say that nothing these creators say has any merit, but they misunderstand what they are professing expertise on at a fundamental level. I hope this sort of sets you straight as far as devices go.