It’s been a few years since I wrote my Canadian buyer’s guide to Android TV boxes, and a lot has changed.
Several of my favourite Android TV box manufacturers have moved on to other products. That means this is the perfect time to dive back in and get some fresh new recommendations.
If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you’ll see some fresh faces on this ‘best of’ list, but some familiar ones as well.
However, there are some quirks to the Canadian market as well. Some Android TV boxes I’d recommend for the US wouldn’t be good for Canada.
Before we get started, let’s look at one of the most popular questions I get asked.
Are Android Boxes Illegal in Canada?
I’ve said this time and time again: An Android TV box is literally just a media player that runs the Android operating system.
But many people still ask whether Android TV boxes are legal or not.
Back in 2016, the CBC wrote an article that got a lot of attention. It’s actually still getting attention today.
It’s been a few years since they wrote that article and there’s been some new legal battles since then.
Myth #1: Android TV boxes are illegal
You’ll hear this one most of all and it’s the biggest lie of them all.
The big telecom and movie companies will try to tell you that Android TV boxes are illegal because they can access illegal content.
The truth is that you can get illegal content on your Android box, an Apple TV, Roku or even your PC. Even your Android phone can get to the very same illegal streaming sites that your Android box can.
There’s nothing different about an Android TV box except the fact that it’s optimized for your television.
Myth #2: Streaming is illegal
This myth started out because streaming got lumped into the same category as downloading torrents. In fact, they’re very different.
Torrents became popular through sites like The Pirate Bay. Although they go about it differently, they’re similar to other peer-to-peer file sharing sites before them (Napster or Kazaa).
Torrents are a way to download movies, music and other files directly from other users. This eliminated the need to have the files stored on a central server somewhere.
The thought was that the government couldn’t go after companies directly because they didn’t host any of the files themselves. Nevertheless, downloading illegal content was still illegal.
Back in 2019, media companies started suing individual users for downloading files. The media lumped streaming into the same bucket, when in fact, they’re completely different.
The legal loophole is that streaming doesn’t actually download the files to your device. They just play them in real time.
According to legal experts, “since most streaming video does not actually involve downloading a copy of the work (it merely creates a temporary copy that cannot be permanently copied), users can legitimately argue that merely watching a non-downloaded stream does not run afoul of the law.”
There’s also a well-publicized legal case where the major telecoms are suing the founder of popular Kodi site, TVaddons. The legal case was built on shaky ground. It’s generally believed that the goal is just to keep the trial going as long as possible until TVaddons runs out of money.
What Is Actually Illegal in Canada
A few years ago, Rogers, Bell and Videotron brought a lawsuit against several Android TV box manufacturers for selling “fully loaded” TV boxes.
A “fully loaded” TV box already has apps and addons that can access illegal sites or video sources preinstalled from the factory.
What the courts decided was that these TV boxes enabled piracy and that was a big part of what those merchants were selling.
To put it another way, there’s a BIG DIFFERENCE between selling the hardware by itself and selling hardware that is pre-configured to download or stream illegal content.
The moral of the story is that if you want to stay on the right side of the law, not to buy “fully loaded” Android TV boxes.
What’s the Best Android TV Box for Canada?
Best Overall: MeCool KM2 Plus
The MeCool KM2 Plus is the newest entry on this list, but it really impressed me!
It punches WAY above its price point!
Depending on where you buy it, the MeCool KM2 costs somewhere just north of $100. That means it’s priced like a budget Android TV box but with the performance of a flagship device.
For that price, you’re getting a Google\Netflix certified Android device to allow streaming 4K video on both apps.
The heart of the MeCool KM2 Plus is the Amlogic S905X4-B CPU. This is the latest iteration of the popular processor and a significant improvement compared to the Amlogic S922 CPU found in the U22-XJ and Beelink GT-King Pro (both were on this list previously).
The reason is something called Arm Architecture Armv8.2-A.
Without getting too technical, this gives the S904X-B better memory performance, floating point data processing (used for game physics and to render graphics on screen), and reliability.
Unfortunately, the MeCool KM2 Plus only comes with 2GB of RAM, which is a bit of a letdown. Although that’s the same as the Fire TV 4K Max, the Firestick feels a bit snappier when navigating the menus and initially loading apps.
Overall, at a time when many manufacturers are giving up on Android TV boxes, the MeCool KM2 Plus is an exciting new entry that deserves a look.
Runner Up: Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022)
I’ve always preferred the Amazon Fire TV Cube over the FireStick.
Don’t get me wrong, streaming sticks are convenient if you move them from one TV to another. But, if you’re looking for the best performance on your main TV, it makes more sense to go with a larger TV box.
That said, it had been three years since the Fire TV Cube had an update, so the performance needed to catch up to its competition.
However, Amazon released its all-new Cube in late 2022.
While it doesn’t technically run the Android TV operating system, Fire TV OS is a variant of Android, so I’m comfortable including it on this list.
In addition to an all-new (less glossy) look, the new Fire TV Cube includes a faster processor and an HDMI 2.1 input, so you can passthrough your game console and simplify your setup.
On the networking side, they added support for WiFi 6e, which opens up additional bandwidth in the 6GHz range. Currently, only a few devices are using this protocol, so speeds should (theoretically) be higher. This version also has an Ethernet port, which is a HUGE improvement. However, it’s a 10/100 Ethernet port rather than Gigabit, which is a letdown.
The remote is bigger and better than previous versions. Unfortunately, the four app buttons at the bottom are pre-set. You can’t configure them like you can on the Alexa Voice Remote Pro.
You can still pair the Fire TV Cube with an Amazon Echo to act as an inexpensive surround sound system. While not something I’d use personally, this is a nice extra feature for many people.
Whenever you talk about the Fire TV Cube, you will inevitably get comparisons between the Amazon Fire TV stick and the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro.
Amazon says the new Cube is twice as fast as the Firestick 4K Max, but it doesn’t feel like it. Sure, it’s faster, but it isn’t twice as fast.
That said, the Fire TV Cube offers much more flexibility than a FireStick, earning it a place on this list.
The latest version of the NVIDIA Shield TV was released in 2019. It’s clear that NVIDIA is more interested in artificial intelligence than streaming devices, so I’m not expecting a new version anytime soon (if ever).
Amazon Fire TV has a massive user base, so you’ll be reasonably sure this streaming device will be supported for a long time.
- Octa-core processor that is 2X as powerful as Fire TV Stick 4K Max
- Support for Dolby Vision, HDR, and Dolby Atmos audio
- Netflix certified
Best Upgrade: Nvidia Shield Pro
The Shield TV has been my favourite TV box for several years. They were one of the first devices to run the official Android TV operating system, and you can opt in to their beta program to get access to new Android TV features before they hit the mainstream.
So why did they drop down to #2 on my list?
With this iteration of the Shield TV, NVIDIA refocused the system away from gaming and more toward streaming (which is a good thing).
The remote control got beefier. It’s now the size of a regular television remote. Instead of the “Apple-inspired” flat remote control, it’s now triangle-shaped. It’s oddly still comfortable, but I still prefer the old remote.
They changed the design away from the iconic wedge-shape as well. The Shield TV shrunk down to a small cylinder that’s not much bigger than the new remote control.
And, best of all, they lowered the price, even in Canada.
All that comes at a cost though. Storage has been cut in half, down to 8GB and system memory dropped down to 2GB from 3GB.
As I said, the focus is now clearly on streaming rather than gaming. The specs are still enough to run Netflix at 4K resolution. It can still output in Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision HDR if the movie supports it.
All in all, the new NVIDIA Shield TV is a great option for a bare-bones, streaming player running the official Android TV. And now it’s at a price-point that makes it a great option in Canada.
Easily the highest performance Android TV there is! Power enough to be used as a Plex media server or game console with Steam or GeForce Now. If you want the best streaming experience you can get, then the NVIDIA Shield Pro is the one you want.
Android TV Boxes That I Don’t Recommend for Canadians
I’ve also updated my list of Android TV boxes and media players that just don’t make sense to buy if you live in Canada.
Cheap no-name TV boxes: This is the easy one because I don’t recommend no-name Android TV boxes at all. Usually, these TV boxes are sold by a third-party company who has no involvement with the manufacturer. Getting firmware updates is a problem and it’s hard to get any customer support after the sale. Avoid these at all costs!
Beelink GT-King: Beelink was once one of my go-to manufacturers, and yes, they’ve made some awesome products. But, they’ve moved on from Android streaming devices and now focus on mini-PC’s. Both the GT-King and the GT-King Pro are discontinued on their official website. While these are great devices, their prospects for long-term support are pretty bad. I’d avoid them both.
Minix NEO U22-XJ: The U22-XJ is one of my favourite TV boxes, especially if you love tinkering to get the perfect setup. Similar to Beelink above, MINIX has shifted their focus as a company to mini-PC’s. While you can still purchase a MINIX Android TV box on their website, they’re increasingly hard to find on other shopping sites.
Where to Buy an Android TV Box in Canada (And Where to Avoid)
Shopping is expensive in Canada, and finding the right Android TV box is no exception.
If you’re shopping for a new Android TV box, I encourage you to look beyond Amazon. You can often find good deals from the manufacturers themselves. Many don’t change the price as the US exchange rate fluctuates.
Another solution is to look at retailers like Geekbuying or GearBest, which specialize in Android TV boxes. They ship directly from China, so shipping will take a week at minimum. However, if you’re not in a hurry, you can often get better prices from them than you could through Amazon.
A word of caution: Never buy a TV box at a county fair, flea market or any other type of temporary location. Also avoid buying an Android TV box that advertises “free TV” as it’s main selling point.
In my experience, many of these box-sellers are just looking to make a quick buck. Customer service is usually nonexistent and it can be impossible to get in touch with them after the sale.
I wish it were easier to shop for an Android TV box in Canada. You have to deal with horrible exchange rates and exorbitant shipping costs. That can turn an otherwise good deal into one that just doesn’t make sense.
The good news is that streaming is alive and well (and legal), despite all the changes that have happened over the last few years. It’s still possible to find an Android TV box that makes sense for Canadians, despite all of the challenges.
Hopefully this list will help point you in the right direction!