Some best TV set-top boxes

The best choice is Mecool KM6 Deluxe

The Mecool company is not very well known in Russia, but is popular among enthusiasts. Mecool KM6 Deluxe runs on the latest Amlogic S905X4 chip – it is not as powerful as those from Apple and Nvidia, but it works quite quickly.

The set-top box supports the AV1 codec. This is a new generation technology that allows you to stream video in high definition with less traffic consumption. Major services like Netflix and YouTube have already announced plans to switch to AV1 in the near future. By the way, the more expensive but older 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 a rarity among set-top boxes from China. There is an application store and voice search in Russian. Chromecast available for casting 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 and off both the set-top box and the TV at once, and control the overall volume. It also synchronizes the screen refresh rate with the video frame rate to make the image 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 streams automatically switch to the less advanced HDR 10 format.

Even very large 4K files from external hard drives and network storage are played back 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, SD card slot and optical audio output.

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’s convenient to watch movies and TV series in any formats and from any sources.

Best for Enthusiasts – Ugoos X4 Pro

Ugoos X4 Pro runs on full-fledged Android 11. The set-top box supports the Google Play store with the entire application library, and root access to the deep elements of the operating system is immediately unlocked. There is even system monitoring of processor 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 doesn’t look very elegant: it’s inconvenient to operate the remote control, there are no colorful cards with content, like 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 in many ways to Mecool KM6 Deluxe. Applications launch quickly, but not instantly, I did not notice any significant slowdowns. All modern codecs are supported, including AV1, this is a good foundation for the future. There are versions on sale with 2 and 4 GB of RAM; it is advisable to take the older one, because it works faster.

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

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

To connect storage devices, keyboard and mouse, there are two USB and a slot for microSD cards.

Best Compact – Realme TV Stick 4K

Realme TV Stick 4K inserts directly into the HDMI of the TV and is powered by the USB connector. The device is very compact and does not spoil the appearance with unnecessary wires. This is a good option for the kitchen or for a country TV where you want to play movies and videos from the Internet in the background.

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

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

Realme  TV Stick 4K does not have any certification issues. There is 4K support in all streaming services, including Netflix, HDR Dolby Vision and the AV1 codec.

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 is limited by the capabilities of the Wi-Fi connection – the speed and stability may not be enough.