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 was as follows:
Mecool KM2 Plus.
Mecool KM6 Deluxe is the best choice.
Xiaomi Mi TV Box S.
Tanix TX3 Mini is the best budget option.
Ugoos X4 Pro is the best for enthusiasts.
Nvidia Shield TV Pro is the best of the best.
Realme TV Stick 4K is the best compact one.
Xiaomi Mi TV Stick 4K.
Apple TV 4K 2022 is the best for the Apple ecosystem.
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 , launch a 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 top-end smartphone: instantly launches apps, switches between them, and opens websites in the browser. The rest of the Android set-top boxes on the list are more like an inexpensive tablet that lags even in simple tasks.
Like most Android TV boxes , 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 are watching 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 launch without additional steps.
Everything is fine with video playback. There are HDR 10, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos audio and all codecs, including HEVC. Files from the computer are loaded over the local network, even via Wi-Fi, but there is also a gigabit LAN. The internal storage is 16 GB, but there are two USB 3.0 ports. The set-top box plays 30 GB movies from an external hard drive without a hitch.
The unusual triangular-shaped remote control turned out to be convenient. The button backlight turns on automatically when you pick it up. In the set-top box settings, the remote control can be programmed to control all other devices: TV, sound bar, AV receiver and others. You can also connect gamepads, mice and keyboards to the console via Bluetooth or USB.
The main feature of Nvidia Shield TV Pro is resolution improvement using AI. If you start a movie or video in 720 or 1080 p , 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 If upscaling is poor, trails may appear on moving objects, and noise and artifacts may appear on monochromatic textures. The magic doesn’t work with very small files, but movies weighing 2-3 GB are converted perfectly.
Another proprietary feature is the pre-installed GeForce Now service. If you have a computer with a GeForce GTX 650 or newer video card in another room, the set-top box can stream games from it to the TV.
Best for the Apple Ecosystem – Apple TV 4K 2022
Apple TV 4K is not as versatile as Shield TV Pro , but it is not inferior to it in either image quality or speed. Inside, the A15 Bionic processor is the same as in the iPhone 14.
Branded tvOS is thoughtful, beautiful and perfectly integrated with Apple phones, tablets and laptops. Whatever you turn on on your iPhone, iPad or MacBook, you can continue to watch on your TV from the same place and vice versa. Through Apple TV, you can broadcast the screen of other devices from the manufacturer onto your TV. The set-top box 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 also confirm payments for purchases and subscriptions.
The set-top box has its own version of the App Store with applications adapted for use on a 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 works 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 don’t need this: movies from the MacBook are sent directly, and there is Plex support for files from network storage. There are even loopholes for launching unofficial online cinemas.
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.
The only connectors here are HDMI 2.1 and LAN in the older version with 128 GB of memory. The younger model with 64 GB has only Wi-Fi, without the ability to connect to wired Internet.
I also really like the remote control. It is aluminum, lightweight and runs on a built-in battery. The buttons are conveniently located and well separated, there is even a touch pad for comfortable scrolling through the menu.