Box for tv internet: Best tv boxes of 2023

Xfinity TV and Internet Equipment Guide

During the Xfinity checkout process, you can add a bunch of TV and internet equipment to your package. While we won’t knock it if you want to do a big unboxing video for all your new gear, some Xfinity TV and internet equipment is more essential than others.

Here’s what you’ll need to know about Xfinity equipment and the best hardware for your home TV or internet setup.

Jump to:

  • Xfinity X1
  • Standard Xfinity cable TV box
  • xFi Gateway
  • xFi Pods

Xfinity TV equipment

Xfinity’s equipment catalog isn’t limited to a single hulking cable box these days. Between its streaming devices and cable boxes with integrated streaming apps, Xfinity’s TV equipment bridges the gap between old-school cable TV customers who just want the local news and cord-cutters who jump between live TV and streaming TV shows.

Find TV and internet providers near you

If you’re interested in alternatives to Xfinity or just want to check that Xfinity is available in your area, enter your zip code below to see the major TV and internet providers in your area.

Xfinity Flex: price unknown

Xfinity Flex is a 4K streaming device that’s available to Xfinity internet subscribers, and it works like a Roku or Amazon Fire set-top box. On Xfinity Flex, you can watch streaming services like Hulu and Peacock Premium.

Flex isn’t a full-fledged cable TV replacement, since it lacks an easy way to watch local channels or live sports. And right now, it’s the most mysterious streaming device in the game; after April 2023, it’ll no longer be free to Xfinity customers, but we don’t yet know its new price.

Flex still offers a lot of value—it’s a good gateway if you’re new to streaming on your TV.

Read our full Xfinity Flex review to learn more about the streaming TV device. Or if you’re interested in spending cash for a better streaming experience, check out our recommendations for the best streaming TV devices.

Xfinity X1: $8.50/mo.

If you’re tired of hopping between your cable box and streaming device, the Xfinity X1 promises to eliminate the number of remotes in your living room. The X1 is an Xfinity cable TV box that includes a voice remote, on-demand content, and streaming apps like Netflix.

But potential Xfinity customers have to jump through several hoops to get the X1. The device, which costs $8.50 per month, requires an Xfinity TV plan, so it’s not an option for cord-cutters. Only two X1 models (the ARRIS XG1v4 and ARRIS Xi6) support 4K video, and you’ll have to call Xfinity or go to an Xfinity store to request the units.

Most customers will be able to get an X1 box, but the device’s availability can vary depending on your home address. If the X1 isn’t available in your area, you’ll only be able to get a cable box that comes with some X1 applications.

Still, there’s no reason not to snag a 4K-capable X1 with your Xfinity TV plan if you can do so. Check out our Xfinity X1 review to find out more about the cable box.

Standard Xfinity set-top box: $8.50/mo.

If you go for Xfinity’s most basic TV plan (with 10+ channels), Xfinity passes you over for the X1 treatment and offers only a high-definition cable TV box. The TV box costs $7.50 to $8.50 per month (depending on where you live), and you can add 150 hours of cloud storage for $10.00 per month.

Heads up—in some areas we noticed Xfinity’s checkout automatically added the cloud DVR storage and it’s $10.00 per month charge. Keep an eye out for this pricey assumption and be sure to unselect any services you don’t want.

Xfinity internet equipment

Xfinity’s internet hardware helps connect your home to its internet network. But depending on your home internet needs, you might not need to pay for all of Xfinity’s equipment.

You’ll need home Wi-Fi equipment like a router and modem to get internet service, but you don’t have to use Xfinity’s gear. If you want to save on rental costs, check out our wireless router, Xfinity-compatible modem, and combo router/modem guides.

xFi Gateway: $14.00/mo.

The xFi Gateway is an optional combo cable modem/Wi-Fi router that’s built to streamline your home internet setup.

The Xfinity Gateway wirelessly connects your home devices to the internet, supports Xfinity Voice, and integrates with services like the Xfinity mobile app. The xFi Gateway’s biggest downside is its price tag — you can only rent the combo device for $14 per month, and there’s no way to buy one outright.

The rental costs might make sense if you need only short-term internet. But if you plan to stay with Xfinity for a while, you’ll save a lot of money by buying your own modem and router instead.

Visit our Xfinity xFi Gateway review to learn more about the combo device.

xFi Pod: $119.00–$199.00 one-time charge

If your xFi Gateway is struggling to provide reliable wireless internet throughout your house, Xfinity xFi Pods will expand the Gateway’s wireless range using a mesh Wi-Fi system to eliminate download and upload speed issues. To use the Pods, you plug them into a wall power outlet and control them with the Xfinity mobile app.

The Pods can be a decent Wi-Fi support option if you plan to stay with Xfinity for a while and have a large multi-story house that can’t be covered by one Gateway. In most cases, you won’t need a Pod if you live in a small apartment or home.

But you’ll need an xFi Gateway to use the Pods, since they don’t work with non-Xfinity Wi-Fi routers. At $119 each or $199 for two, the Pods are expensive additions to your home internet setup, although they’re comparably priced against other Wi-Fi extenders.

Plus, you don’t even need Pods to extend the Gateway’s signal, because the Gateway works with non-Xfinity extenders. The xFi Pods aren’t a bad option if you need a mesh Wi-Fi setup, but since you don’t have to stick with Xfinity hardware, prioritize finding the best deal on a mesh Wi-Fi system.

Read our full Xfinity xFi Pods review to learn more about the network extenders.

Final take

If you want to watch TV with Xfinity, get a 4K-capable X1 box or a Flex.

For Xfinity internet, our advice boils down to two questions. Do you want someone else to handle tech support? Rent from Xfinity. Do you want to save money? Buy your own equipment.

Xfinity’s internet equipment is powerful enough to support most home Wi-Fi setups if you want something you can set and forget. But if you’re willing to do your own tech support (or rope in a tech-savvy family member), buying your own internet hardware is a better deal versus renting it from Xfinity.

View Xfinity Plans


Our experts spent hours checking prices and comparing stats for Xfinity’s TV and internet devices. We regularly test and review similar products from other companies, and we consider each devices’ bang for your buck, reliability, features, and customer satisfaction. For more information on our methodology, check out our How We Rank page.

Related articles

  • Xfinity-Compatible Modems
  • Xfinity Flex Review
  • Xfinity X1 Review

Xfinity equipment FAQ

Xfinity Flex | Get our 4K Streaming Box with Xfinity Internet

Get our Flex 4K streaming box

Don’t want a traditional TV plan? Try Flex, the 4K streaming box that lets you enjoy all
your favorite apps, all on your TV.

Add Flex

Tons of entertainment

Watch thousands of awesome TV shows, movies, and documentaries.

Stream in seconds

Plug the box into your TV and connect to your Xfinity Internet to get started.

Say it and see it

Just say a title, genre, or actor into your Voice Remote to find what you love.

Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas or to current Xfinity Video customers. Requires post-paid subscription to Xfinity Internet, excluding Internet Essentials. Pricing subject to change. Taxes, fees and other applicable charges extra, and subject to change. One-time $15 activation fee per account. Limited to 3 devices. Currently, one device included with monthly Xfinity Internet service. Additional devices $5/mo. All devices must be returned when service ends. Separate charges apply to On Demand and certain streaming services. Viewing will count against any Xfinity data plan. © 2023 Comcast. All rights reserved.

Enjoy all your favorite streaming apps.

All in one place.

Use Flex and sign in to your streaming services to find your favorite movies and shows, alongside a curated selection of free entertainment.

Explore apps

Certain streaming services require separate subscriptions.

Our services work even better together


Not available to current Xfinity TV customers. Requires post-paid subscription to Xfinity Internet, excluding Internet Essentials. Pricing subject to change. Taxes, fees and other applicable charges extra, and subject to change. One-time $15 activation fee per account. Limited to 3 devices. Currently, one device included with monthly Xfinity Internet service. Additional devices $5/mo. All devices must be returned when service ends. Separate charges apply to On Demand and certain streaming services. Viewing will count against any Comcast data plan.

Subscriptions required to access Peacock, Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Spotify, STARZ®, SHOWTIME®, and Max™, and Disney+. Peacock Premium is $5. 99/month. Access to Disney+, Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu and YouTube on Xfinity requires an eligible set-top box with Internet service. Disney+, Netflix streaming, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu membership required. Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube, and all other streaming services use your Internet service and will count against any Xfinity data plan. Programming subject to change. Streaming content limited to the U.S.

Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. © 2023 Comcast. All rights reserved. Individual programs and marks are the property of their respective owners. (All Disney+ content © 2023 Disney and its related entities). © 2023 & TM Lucasfilm. Ltd

Standard data charges apply to app download and usage. © 2023 Comcast. All rights reserved. All other copyrights and trademarks are the properties of their respective owners.

Smart TV set-top box – what is it, how does it work, what is it for and how to use it?

If you want to know what a Smart TV set-top box is, what it is for, how it works, what opportunities it gives and how to use it, then you have come to the right place. In this article, I will tell you all about these devices. Let’s look at a few examples, I’ll show which set-top box is connected to my TV and what I use it for. This information will primarily be useful to those who are thinking about buying a Smart TV set-top box for their TV and want to learn more about the capabilities of these devices.

“Smart” set-top boxes became popular after the advent of smart TVs. When there was a need to somehow add Smart features to ordinary TVs that do not have built-in support for Smart TV. I already talked about this in a separate article: how to make a Smart TV from an ordinary TV.

What is a Smart TV box?

You can come up with a lot of different wordings, use some smart words, etc. But to make it simple and clear, I answer this question like this: Smart TV set-top box (media player, smart box) is a separate device (something like a mini-computer, smartphone, tablet, but without a screen), on which an operating system is installed that is optimized for working on a TV screen and which allows installing various applications, accessing the Internet, watching online video, TV channels via the Internet, IPTV, etc. In fact, this is a small computer or tablet with the ability to connect to the Internet, which simply uses your TV as a screen. Well, to make it easy and pleasant to manage all this, the operating system installed on the Smart TV set-top box is designed (or modified) specifically for control using a remote control. And the interface and applications are optimized to display different information on a large TV screen.

The most important thing is access to the Internet. A smart set-top box can be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi or using a network cable (it depends on the model, there is always Wi-Fi, but there may not be a LAN port). After that, the system itself and installed applications get access to the Internet. We have the opportunity to install different applications and games (as on a phone). Watch YouTube through a separate application. Watch TV channels, movies, series, cartoons through various online cinemas (Netflix, Amediateka, MEGOGO, ivi, etc.). You can use a browser (usually you need to install it manually) to view sites.

What are there?

They come in the form of a box (a separate box), or in the form of a stick (something like a large flash drive). For example, let’s look at two very popular set-top boxes from Xiaomi: Mi Box S and Mi TV Stick. The main difference between a stick and a box is, of course, in size. The prefix in stick format is much more compact. It connects directly to the TV via the HDMI input. And the set-top box in the form of a separate box is connected to the TV using a cable. As a rule, set-top boxes that are in the box format (pictured on the right) are more productive and functional. For example, they may have a USB port (or even several, for connecting a flash drive, hard drive, mouse, keyboard), a LAN port (for connecting to a router via cable), etc. The size of their case allows this. Well, they usually have more productive hardware installed.

Power is usually connected via a separate power adapter (which is included), and the sticks are powered from the USB port of the TV (if necessary, you can connect via a power adapter from a wall outlet).

How does a Smart TV set-top box work?

A board is installed inside the TV box or stick, which houses the processor, video adapter, RAM and permanent memory, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth module (Bluetooth is not available in all models) and other equipment. Everything is as in the case with the same computers, tablet, or other similar device. The newer and more productive the processor and video adapter, the more RAM and permanent memory, the better. This directly affects the performance of the set-top box, the speed of the interface, application launch, etc.

The operating system is “hardwired” into this hardware. Almost all set-top boxes that are on the market work either on Android or on Android TV. There are also models that run on Linux or Windows. There are not many of them, and I probably would not advise buying them. For fans of Apple technology, we can recommend the Apple TV 4K. Really cool set-top box, but in terms of functionality it is no better than set-top boxes on Android. Although it runs on a special operating system from Apple.

What is the difference between an Android set-top box and an Android TV?

  • Android TV is an operating system that was developed by Google specifically for installation on TVs and Smart TV boxes. It is perfectly optimized to work on these devices.

    Google Play Store is immediately installed in it, which contains only those applications and games that are optimized for TV screens and for remote control.

  • Android is a common system that is installed on phones and tablets. It is clear that it is not optimized for TVs. But the developers of Smart set-top boxes modify it a little, install some kind of launcher (which looks more or less normal on a TV) and install it on set-top boxes. The usual Google Play Market (app store) is available in it, just like on phones. The system itself and applications on the TV do not look very nice.
    In addition, they are very difficult to control with a remote control (especially individual applications), as they are designed to be controlled using touch screens, not a remote control.

Of course, I would choose a set-top box for Android TV. It is much easier and more enjoyable to use. I often hear that the disadvantage of Android TV is that the store does not have all the necessary applications. Yes, the app store is really “stripped down” there, as only those apps that are optimized for TVs are placed there. But on Android TV, you can install any application through the apk file.

Most Smart Set-Top Boxes connect to your TV via HDMI. With cable.

Or directly if it’s a stick-on set-top box. If necessary, you can use an HDMI extender.

If you have a very old TV, you can connect via AV (tulip). But for this you need a special adapter.

After connecting to the TV and connecting the power, the set-top box turns on. If this is the first turn on, then she will most likely offer to connect the remote control (if it connects via Bluetooth in this model) and perform quick setup (select a language, connect to a Wi-Fi network, log into your account, etc. ).

After performing quick setup (only when you turn on the media player for the first time), the main screen will appear.

You can use all the functionality of the Smart TV set-top box.

You can see the connection and configuration process in the following articles:

  • Xiaomi Mi Box S: how to connect to a TV and set up?
  • How to connect Xiaomi Mi TV Stick, set up and use the set-top box?

How to use and why you need a Smart TV set-top box?

There are a lot of options for using Smart TV set-top boxes. Well, I’ll probably watch YouTube first. I use the prefix just for this. Well, sometimes I also watch TV channels and movies through MEGOGO on a paid subscription.

You can go to the application store (Google Play) and install all the necessary applications and games. Weather, news reader applications, file managers, media players, various online cinema applications, etc.

You can read more about installing applications in the article installing applications on Xiaomi Mi TV Stick via APK file or Play Store (relevant for all set-top boxes on Android TV).

Of course, you are probably interested in how to watch movies, series, cartoons and TV channels via the Internet using a Smart set-top box connected to a TV. This is what the prefix is ​​\u200b\u200bmainly bought for. There are two main ways:

  1. Watch with a paid subscription through various popular online cinemas. There are a lot of them. For example: Wink, Okko, MEGOGO, Ivi, Amediateka, START, Netflix. You can watch movies, series, TV channels and other content. Everything about them is simple and convenient. Everything works very stable. You just need to choose an online cinema, subscribe (you can usually try it for free), install the application on the console and you can watch.
  2. Watch all this for free through applications like HD Videobox, TorrServe. You need to install these offers on set-top boxes with Android TV through the .apk file (instructions on the link above), since they are not available in the app store.

You can also install a browser to view sites. It is difficult and not very convenient to watch movies through a browser on sites.

Additional functionality:

  • Smart TV box can also be used to watch videos, photos and listen to music from USB drives. To do this, the set-top box must have a USB port. There are many models without USB, pay attention to it.
  • You can output video, photo, music via LAN. Through DLNA technology. By running the DLNA server on a computer or router (to which the drive is connected), you can watch content on the TV screen through the set-top box.
  • Cast videos, photos, music from your phone, computer, tablet (with certain apps) via Chromecast. If the set-top box is on Android TV, it supports Chromecast. This means that you can stream videos to it from the same YouTube app, for example.
  • You can listen to music or internet radio. There are separate applications for this. For example YouTube Music, Spotify, Deezer.
  • You can connect wireless headphones or a Bluetooth speaker to the set-top box (if it supports Bluetooth, of course). I wrote about this in the article how to connect a Bluetooth device to Xiaomi Mi Box S, TV Stick or other Android TV set-top box?
  • You can connect a mouse, keyboard, gamepad. Via USB or Bluetooth.
  • On set-top boxes with Android TV, you can use voice control, voice search, or control via the application from your phone.
  • The functionality of the set-top box can always be expanded by installing additional applications.

I think what a Smart TV set-top box is and why we need it, we figured it out. If you have any questions, or you don’t understand something from the article, ask in the comments. If I missed something, or made some mistake, be sure to write about it. You can share your opinion about these devices, or your experience of using them. Best wishes!

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Best smart TV boxes: ranking 2023

Daniil Bazdyrev

Watch TV shows in comfort

Author profile

The TV box makes it easy to access movies and TV shows in good quality.

According to a study by M-Video-Eldorado, in 2022, 75% of TV sales in Russia were smart TV models. With such TVs, you can not only watch TV programs, but also access the Internet from the built-in browser, turn on streaming services and YouTube on the big screen. If the old TV still shows well, it can be made smart with the help of a special set-top box.

External “brains” are also relevant for modern TVs. Many smart models either support only a limited set of applications or are very slow. A good set-top box solves this problem much cheaper than switching to a top-end TV with a powerful processor.

Now dozens of models are sold in Russian and Chinese stores, and their cost varies from 2,000 to 25,000 R. I studied the current set-top boxes in different price segments and took the most interesting ones for the test. As a result, we got a rating of the best set-top boxes in six categories.

Selection criteria

When compiling the selection, I relied on the range of marketplaces, my experience in testing set-top boxes, as well as owner reviews and reviews of specialized publications.

I selected several popular models that the editors of Tinkoff Magazine purchased for testing. Based on the following criteria.

Form. Smart set-top boxes are available in two versions:

  1. Stick. The miniature device is slightly larger than a flash drive, but instead of a USB connector, it is inserted into the HDMI on the TV. There is usually no room for additional ports on sticks. The stick will need additional power – it can be connected to the TV’s USB port or to a charging adapter for smartphones.
  2. TV box. A small box that is connected to the TV with a cable. The boxes have more connectors for connecting devices. In addition, the spacious case allows you to install a more powerful processor that would overheat inside a small stick.

Operating system. Most gadgets run on Android. This OS is of two types – both on smartphones and specialized Android TV. Here are all the options:

  1. Android TV. The interface is adapted for TVs – the menu is designed in the form of large visual cards, and recommendations from installed online cinemas are displayed on the main screen. Only specially designed apps are available in the Google Play Store. But other services can be installed separately by downloading the APK file.
  2. Android. Set-top boxes with regular Android turn the TV into a large tablet. You can install any applications from the official store on it, but on cheap TV boxes they will slow down due to too weak chips.
  3. Apple tvOS. The only modern non-Android set-top box is made by Apple. This is a smooth and thoughtful operating system with tight integration of services and devices of the manufacturer. For example, you can easily turn your iPhone into a remote control or instantly stream files from your MacBook via AirPlay. The only downside is that you probably won’t be able to use your Apple TV for something Apple didn’t think of.
  4. Proprietary operating systems. Set-top boxes from Yandex, Sberbank and some other companies run on a modified version of Android TV. Their capabilities are severely limited compared to “ordinary” set-top boxes. For example, they do not have access to Google Play, and the set of online movie theaters is strictly limited by the interests and agreements of the manufacturer. They also have their own advantages – for example, the Salyut assistant in the SberBox, who can order food at home and book tables in a cafe.

DRM keys. Content in legal online cinemas is protected by special licenses – it can only be played on devices that have passed paid certification. Small manufacturers rarely spend money on a full set of DRM keys and only add a basic layer of protection. Because of this, many streaming services will not show content in 4K, and some, like Netflix, will not work at all.

Who needs “Station Mini” and TV set-top box with Alice: review

If the set-top box has a certificate, the box will most likely have the logos of popular streamers, and the corresponding buttons on the remote control for quick launch.

Resolution and HDR. Most set-top boxes are capable of playing 4K Ultra HD video, but very low-end models only support Full HD 1080 p.

HDR High Dynamic Range allows you to play appropriate content on a compatible TV. There are several HDR standards, but the most advanced of them is Dolby Vision. Many Chinese players do not support it, since you have to pay royalties to add this standard. Therefore, in budget models, HDR 10 is more common – less perfect, but compatible with most modern TVs.

Processor and RAM. A weak processor will not be able to run high quality video, and the interface and most applications will slow down.

Try to base your model year on: budget 2021 set-top boxes may be faster than more expensive models from two or three years ago. RAM affects the speed of work and the ability to quickly switch between applications – you need at least 2-3 GB for normal operation.

Accumulator. Applications are installed on the built-in memory – the more, the better. Ordinary programs don’t weigh that much, but it’s better to have at least 5-10 GB in reserve for downloading movies offline. Remember that the operating system occupies 3-4 GB of the declared volume.

Internet connection. Most set-top boxes connect to the network via Wi-Fi, but many also have an RJ-45 port for a LAN cable. The most common Wi-Fi 5 standard does not always cope with the smooth loading of heavy 4K content. Therefore, it is better to connect the set-top box by wire so as not to suffer from downloads and jumps in picture quality.

Ports and connectors. Most of the time you won’t need anything other than HDMI, but USB ports and memory card slots open up more options:

  1. HDMI. The most common audio and video input on modern TVs. There are several types, but the best one today is HDMI 2.0, which transmits a 4K signal at 60 frames per second.
  2. Tulip RCA. Used in old TVs. If you buy a prefix for the country, it may come in handy. Through the “tulip” you can transmit video with a resolution not higher than 1080p and sound in normal stereo.
  3. USB. Allows you to connect flash drives and hard drives with movies. You can also connect mice and keyboards via USB to make browsing easier. It is desirable to have at least one USB 3.0 or 3.1 port – according to the old USB 2.0, large files can be read with freezes.
  4. SD or microSD slot. Compact memory cards do not stick out of the case and do not spoil the view. The volume of modern microSD reaches several terabytes. But most inexpensive TV boxes don’t accept cards larger than 256 GB.
  5. SPDIF optical audio output. Used to output sound to a home theater receiver or soundbar.

The rating includes 10 devices that meet at least several criteria. And then most of the models for the article were purchased by the editors of Tinkoff Magazine. The shortlist is as follows:

  1. Mecool KM2 Plus.
  2. Mecool KM6 Deluxe.
  3. Xiaomi Mi TV Box S.
  4. Selenga R1.
  5. Tanix TX3 Mini.
  6. Ugoos X4 Pro.
  7. Nvidia Shield TV Pro.
  8. Realme TV Stick 4K.
  9. Xiaomi Mi TV Stick 4K.
  10. Apple TV 4K 2022
  11. Best for Apple Ecosystem
  12. Optimal choice
  13. Best for enthusiasts
  14. Best compact
  15. Best budget
  16. Best of the best Best for Apple Ecosystem
    Nvidia Shield TV Pro Apple TV 4K 2022
    Top-of-the-line Android TV with 4K auto-scaling A prefix for users of Apple technology that complements the brand’s ecosystem
    On Yandex Market – from 22 450 R On Yandex Market – from 13 720 R
    Best Choice Best for Enthusiasts
    Mecool KM6 Deluxe Ugoos X4 Pro
    TV box with balanced content. Can play heavy 4K videos in HDR, supports all major formats and 9 codecs0273

    A device for those who like to change and customize everything. Works on regular Android, rooted and advanced AFR
    On Yandex Market – from 8698 R;
    on “Ozone” – 7386 R
    On Aliexpress – from 8350 R;
    on Yandex Market – from 6900 R

    will be enough for watching FHD video

    Best Compact Best Budget
    Realme Stick 4K Tanix TX3 Mini
    Small TV Stick with Powerful Inside – Can Play 4K Video with Dolby Vision A simple TV box with budget stuffing. It does not work too fast, but
    On Yandex Market – from 3942 R On Yandex Market – from 2328 R

    Best of the best

    Nvidia Shield TV Pro

    Top Android TV set-top box that can automatically scale video resolution up to 4K

    Yandex Market — from 22,450 R

    Best for Apple ecosystem

    Apple TV 4K 202 2

    Attachment for users of Apple technology that complements the brand ecosystem

    On Yandex Market – from 13,720 R

    The best choice

    Mecool KM6 Deluxe

    TV set-top box with balanced filling. Can play heavy 4K videos in HDR, supports all major formats and 9 codecs0003

    On Yandex Market – from 8698 R;
    on “Ozone” – 7386 R

    Best for enthusiasts

    Ugoos X4 Pro

    A device for those who like to change and customize everything. Works on regular Android, has root access and advanced AFR

    On Aliexpress – from 8350 R;
    on Yandex Market – from 6900 R

    The best compact

    Realme Stick 4K

    Small TV stick with powerful stuffing – can play 4K video from Dolby Vision

    On Yandex Market — from 3942 Р

    The best budget

    Tanix TX3 Mini

    A simple TV box with budget stuffing. It does not work too fast, but its capabilities will be enough to view FHD video

    On Yandex Market – from 2328 R

    But we do not distort or embellish the reviews. The choice of specific things does not depend on whether we receive a commission.

    Product reviews in Tinkoff Magazine are independent. We make a verdict based on reviews of things and devices that we carefully studied, or how these things performed during editorial tests.

    For reviews, we either request goods from the manufacturer for a test, or we buy them ourselves, or we study reviews in other publications and user opinions. Our reviews are subjective, but honest and expert: opinions are written by authors who have more than one review behind them. The editorial team of Tinkoff Magazine double-checks the texts, proofreads them and conducts fact-checking.

    All prices are at the time of publication of the material, but we update them periodically to keep the reviews up to date.

    The best of the best – Nvidia Shield TV Pro

    Nvidia Shield TV Pro was released in 2019, but it is still the most powerful and functional set-top box on the market. Android TV allows you to install many applications, including bypassing the built-in official store. An Nvidia Tegra X1+ processor is installed inside – its lightweight modification is used in the Nintendo Switch game console.

    Almost all TV boxes can play 4K video, run the browser and other applications from Google Play. But the difference in the speed and responsiveness of the interface is huge. Shield TV Pro works like a modern high-end smartphone: it instantly launches applications, switches between them and opens sites in the browser. The rest of the Android consoles on the list are more like an inexpensive tablet that slows down even in simple tasks.

    Like most Android TVs, the Shield supports Chromecast. This technology allows you to “transfer” videos and photos from Android devices and from the Google Chrome browser to your TV. If you watch a series on Netflix or a video on YouTube, the set-top box will launch the corresponding application, and videos from some other compatible sites will start without additional steps.

    Video playback is fine. There are HDR 10 and Dolby Vision, audio in Dolby Atmos and all codecs, including HEVC. Files from a computer are loaded over a local network even over Wi-Fi, but there is also a gigabit LAN. The internal drive is 16 GB, but there are two USB 3. 0 at once. The set-top box plays 30 GB movies from an external hard drive without hesitation.

    The best TVs under R20,000

    The unusual triangular-shaped remote control turned out to be handy. Button illumination automatically turns on when you take it in your hand. In the settings of the set-top box, the remote control can be programmed to control all other devices: TV, soundbar, AV receiver, and others. You can also connect gamepads, mice and keyboards to the set-top box via Bluetooth or USB.

    The main feature of the Nvidia Shield TV Pro is resolution improvement with the help of AI. If you start a movie or video in 720 or 1080p, the set-top box will automatically increase the resolution to 4K. The function works in all applications.

    Video upscaling is found in almost all smart TVs, but Nvidia’s technology is much more precise and cleaner. With poor upscaling, trailing objects may appear on moving objects, and noise and artifacts may appear on monochromatic textures. With very small files, magic does not work, but films weighing 2-3 GB are converted perfectly.

    Another proprietary feature is the preinstalled GeForce Now service. If you have a computer with a GeForce GTX 650 or later graphics card in another room, the set-top box can stream games from it to your TV. If there is no computer, you can run games from the cloud service – there is a free plan and a premium plan for 1499 R per month, games must be purchased separately.

    How much:

    • on Yandex Market – from 22 450 rubles

    The best for the Apple ecosystem – Apple TV 4K not as versatile as the Shield TV Pro, but not inferior to it neither in image quality nor in speed. Inside, the A15 Bionic processor is like in the iPhone 14.

    Branded tvOS is thoughtful, beautiful and perfectly integrated with Apple phones, tablets and laptops. Everything that you turn on on your iPhone, iPad or Macbook can continue to be watched on TV from the same place and vice versa. Through Apple TV, you can broadcast the screen of other devices from the manufacturer to your TV. The prefix shows photos and videos from iCloud, plays music from your iTunes and Apple Music. The smartphone can be used as a control panel: navigate through the menu, enter passwords and search queries, and confirm payments for purchases and subscriptions.

    The set-top box has its own version of the App Store with applications adapted for use on the TV. There is a subscription service Apple Arcade with almost a hundred compatible games – you can connect gamepads from Xbox and PlayStation via Bluetooth.

    Apple TV acts as a HomeKit smart home hub. It is quite convenient to control light bulbs, sockets, various sensors and other smart devices from the TV.

    Compared to Android boxes, Apple’s set-top box has fewer features. For example, there is no USB connector for connecting flash drives and hard drives, voice search does not work in Russian. Applications not from the AppStore cannot be downloaded. But most users do not need this: movies from the MacBook are sent directly, and there is Plex support for files from the network storage. There are even loopholes for launching unofficial online cinemas.

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    The set-top box supports 4K video at 60 Hz and HDR Dolby Vision. There is no smart upscaling here. Streaming from Apple TV+, Kinopoisk, YouTube and other applications is in 4K with HDR.

    Of the connectors, there are only HDMI 2.1 and LAN in the older version with 128 GB of memory. In the younger model with 64 GB, there is only Wi-Fi, without the possibility of connecting wired Internet.

    I also really like the remote control. It is aluminum, lightweight and powered by a built-in battery. The buttons are conveniently located and well separated, there is even a touch pad for comfortable scrolling through the menu.

    How much it costs:

    • on Yandex Market – from 13,720 rubles.

    The best choice is Mecool KM6 Deluxe

    ii, but popular among enthusiasts. Mecool KM6 Deluxe runs on a fresh Amlogic S905X4 chip – it’s not as powerful as Apple and Nvidia, but it’s fast enough.

    The set-top box supports the AV1 codec. This is a new generation technology that allows you to broadcast high-definition video with less traffic. Large services like Netflix and YouTube have already announced plans to switch to AV1 in the near future. By the way, more expensive, but old Apple TV 4K and Nvidia Shield TV Pro do not support this codec.

    Mecool KM6 Deluxe runs on a licensed version of Android TV, which is rare among set-top boxes from China. There is an app store and voice search in Russian. Chromecast is available to cast files or the screen of an Android smartphone to a TV.

    Mecool KM6 Deluxe supports the HDMI CEC function: with one button on the remote control, you can turn on / off both the set-top box and the TV at once, and control the overall volume. There is also a synchronization of the screen refresh rate with the frame rate of the video, so that the image is smoother.

    Most streaming services like Apple TV+ and Kinopoisk work properly and show 4K content without any restrictions. But due to certification problems, the Netflix application and HDR content in Dolby Vision will not work on the set-top box. Open HDR standards work fine, so streamers automatically switch to the less advanced HDR 10 format.

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    Even very large 4K files from an external hard drive and from network storage are played without problems. If your router supports Wi-Fi 6 and is not very far away, you can even do without wired internet. There are enough connectors: two USB, gigabit LAN, HDMI 2.1, an SD card slot and an optical audio output.

    How much:

    • on Yandex Market – from 8698 R;
    • at Ozone – 7386 R.

    Alternative. The Mecool KM2 Plus model runs on the same processor, but has 2 GB of RAM instead of 4 GB, slower Wi-Fi 5 and a 100 Mbps LAN connection. The set-top box works a little slower than the older version, but otherwise there are no big differences – it is convenient to watch movies and TV shows in any format and from any source.

    How much:

    • on Yandex Market – from 5616 R.

    Best for enthusiasts – Ugoos X4 Pro

    Ugoos X4 Pro runs on full Android 11. The set-top box supports the Google Play store with the entire library applications, root access to the deepest elements of the operating system is immediately unlocked on it. There is even system monitoring of CPU load, temperature and other useful information.

    The interface looks unusual: the TV turns into a huge Android tablet. There are even virtual buttons at the bottom of the screen, but they are disabled in the settings. It does not look very elegant: it is inconvenient to operate the remote control, there are no colorful cards with content, as on Android TV. However, enthusiasts will be able to install another launcher and customize everything to their taste.

    Ugoos X4 Pro runs on Amlogic S905X4 and is similar to Mecool KM6 Deluxe in many ways. Applications start quickly, but not instantly, I did not notice significant slowdowns. All modern codecs are supported, including AV1, this is a good start for the future. There are versions with 2 and 4 GB of RAM on sale, it is advisable to take the older one, because it works faster.

    Due to primitive DRM protection, Ugoos X4 Pro is not friendly with legal streaming services. Megogo, IVI, Kinopoisk and others are limited to 1080p resolution. Netflix doesn’t work at all. There is also no support for HDR Dolby Vision, but there is HDR 10 and various surround sound standards, including DTS.

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    All videos from hard drives, torrents and network storage play correctly, in 4K and with HDR. Thanks to the gigabit LAN, the Internet speed is enough to play huge 4K files. But Wi-Fi is not the fastest here, so it’s better to use a wired connection to watch heavy videos.

    Two USB ports and a microSD card slot are provided for connecting drives, a keyboard and a mouse.

    How much it costs:

    • on Aliexpress – from 8350 R;
    • on Yandex Market – from Rs. The device is very compact and does not spoil the view with extra wires. This is a good option for a kitchen or for a country TV, on which you want to turn on movies and videos from the Internet in the background.

      No additional connectors. You won’t be able to connect an Ethernet cable for maximum Internet speed, and you will have to use a microUSB to USB adapter for flash drives and hard drives. There is only Wi-Fi 5 to connect to the network.

      Stick works on modern Android TV 11 with Google Assistant voice search and Google Play store. Amlogic S905Y4 processor with 2GB RAM is slightly weaker than Mecool KM6. The prefix does not “fly”, but I did not notice annoying slowdowns and freezes.

      Realme TV Stick 4K is great for users who mainly plan to watch videos from streaming services. Launching files of 20-30 GB over a local network rests on the possibility of a Wi-Fi connection – there may not be enough speed and stability.

      How much:

      • on Yandex Market – from 3942 R.

      Best budget – Tanix TX3 Mini

      Tanix TX3 Mini Amlogic S905W budget processor with 2 GB of RAM and a small screen showing the time.

      With a limited budget, you can hardly find something better. There will be enough power to launch “Kinopoisk” or “YouTube”. But it’s better not to count on more, and be prepared for slowdowns and jerks with every action, you won’t be able to quickly scroll through the menu and switch between online cinemas.

      The set-top box runs on the long-outdated Android 7.1 – most likely, the manufacturer chose it because of the low chip requirements.