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Newbie, advice requested, which Android TV box under $30 is good starter?


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I am new to this site, so far I have not been able to find a newbie list of what type of hardware to start with.

I do not have any device yet.

I have been looking at the android tv boxes on amazon, and I want to start with a $30 box, to be able to load linux on it, and have a graphical interface (ie like a Gnome/KDE desktop view) and then be able to install a vnc server, so the device can be controlled remotely.


I have two projects in mind:

1. a chromium based browser install, for viewing webpages and playing any videos embedded in those webpages.

2. later on,  perhaps with different more robust hardware?, add the capacity to install a media player type interface, ie Kodi, so my elderly parents could watch home movies, or view photos, and listen to their aac music. The vnc desire/requirement is so that I could connect over the internet and upload new content to their storage device, and assist them with any problems they were having.


If this forum has a topic that you can point me to, to understand what types of device I should start looking at, without getting too overwhelmed for a newbie, I would appreciate it.


Otherwise, if you know of an Android tv box in the $30 price range that will work for project #1, please recommend it in the reply.

and if you also have recommendations for project #2, i.e. what type of hardware device upgrade should I consider for movie playback (it is not 4k, even 720 or 1080 is good enough), I would also appreciate that, or even your commentary if there is no hardware upgrade needed.


Thank you.

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Donate your old hardware to community. Start a giveaway Raffle!

Moved you post to the TV Box club.  You should read:  https://forum.armbian.com/topic/16407-please-read-first

Generally you are not going to find any Android TV boxes that will meet your needs with the armbian builds that you can install on them currently.  They were great for headless servers, or light desktop/browser use.  But you aren't going to find good video playback support currently in general and especially not at the price point you are looking at.  Just trying to set your expectations.  If you already had a box and wanted to experiment, I would say go ahead, but if you haven't yet bought something, you are likely going to be disappointed by the current state of armbian on TV boxes - the first clue to that state is that they aren't supported devices.

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You can perform both 1. and 2. with almost any Android tv box, using Android. From the practical point of view, that you a your best option IMO.


Now, if you want to experiment the use of Linux, in order to learn about it, I think the device that best suits your goals is some box based in the RK3328 SoC. You can find some very cheap ones. Some search in the forums will reveal you which models are most popular to work.


With that RK3328 device, you can get Kodi and 4k video play with the Legacy Kernel Multimedia Framework:


But remember, the TV boxes are not meant to work with Linux, they just happen to work, more or less reliable. If you want stability in Armbian, I recommend going for some true Single Board Computer, instead of a TV Box (check in the download page). And for Multimedia, Rockchip is the way to go as of today (devices based on RK3328, RK3288 or RK3399, in increasing order of price and performance)




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6 часов назад, JMCC сказал:

box based in the RK3388 SoC

I think it's just a typo, meant rk3328.  :)



9 часов назад, balltrader сказал:

if you know of an Android tv box

Tip - don't spend money on Amlogic, this shit won't work properly.

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Now I tested the latest versions of Armbian with Ubuntu Hirsute on rk3399. Firefox plays yuotube at full screen 1080p without brakes (without any additional settings, immediately after starting the system). :)

And most importantly - (when using Armbian supported devices) I get immediately working LAN WiFi BT HDMI sound, without any dancing with a tambourine and manual finishing with an unknown result will you have it work on an unknown (but cheap) noname TV box.  Only a specialist of the Armbian developer level who can independently guarantee their work can afford to buy cheap shit boxes. if you do not have such skills (are not able to develop) - it is better to forget that cheap piece of crap, the result clearly disappoint you (i.e. you potrata time, nerves and energy, but don't get what you want).

@JMCCHe is a developer of medascript (for working with media content) in Armbian and I advise you to listen carefully to his advice, it will save you money and nerves. Especially now there are interesting options for full-fledged devices (ready for the end user) that can work as a mini-PC and at the same time as a media device (TV box). :)

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On Aliexpress $30 will get you a 3GB/64GB box somewhere along the lines of Mali750, which is quite impressive.


But like others have said, you are likely to bump into issues.


In my experience: I still own a Mali 450 device 2GB/16GB and run LibreELEC on it. I can't update because it needs 1-2 proprietary drivers that only run with the 3.14 kernel. The vendors made efforts to open source the graphics drivers and the hardware of my box is really really supported well, which it might not be on other boxes. Still on Armbian I would only get some guesstimated 1/3rd of the graphics performance I get with LibreELEC (uses framebuffer directly) or Android. From Firefox I could play 720p videos from the Youtube desktop website, while on Armbian Youtube only plays 480p acceptably and 1080p barely with a few framedrops directly without browser.


So on the one hand you are likely to run into similar issues (or worse). On the other, $30 will get you so much horsepowers nowadays that it doesn't matter as severely as other people like me have experienced it before you.


I believe though, your question is very important and maybe even the most important of all questions in this forum: Which box costs $30 and is well supported?


And the answer of course isn't to just buy a more expensive box.


We as a community and from a developer POV should be able to come up with a good answer. Maybe we can focus our efforts on just one type of box for every X gigabytes of RAM in the generations.


$30 TV boxes running Armbian are a cornerstone to the Fediverse, P2P networks, privacy, self-hosting, press and information freedom. A $120 Rasperry Pi isn't.


I came here to find an answer to the question as well and I hope there is one or that we can find one together.

Edited by ballerburg9005
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Thank you for your replies. Becuz I am a new user here, I needed to wait 24 hours before I could post a follow up.


@JMCC, thanks for your note that I can achieve both scenarios 1 & 2 using Android itself.


My biggest issue roadblock was researching a remote control like VNC to work on android, everything I read said it couldn't be done.


I tried using ScrCpy on an android tablet, to allow control from a pc, but I could not get it to work, perhaps the usb cable I was using was not made for data transfer. I will get a different cable and try again. Once I can get that to work over tcpip, I can do NAT on my parent's router to map the port to the device, and that should work for remote control.


The other aspects of VNC was for tranfsering files to the android box.

But now I suppose I could setup an FTP server on the Android tv box, and use that to transfer files to it from a pc. I just searched and found a few videos on youtube about it, so I will explore that concept.


Thanks to @balbes150 also for the work they have done in making things work up to October.


I guess I will not be moving forward with the Armbian idea, as it seems I can try playing around with Android TV Box to see how it fits my scenarios. I guess I had this dream that a $30 ATV box could take the place of a $100 rasp pi 4, which looking back now, I deserved to be slapped, ouch.


I hope I did not waste anyone's time. Thank you again.





Edited by balltrader
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6 hours ago, balltrader said:

. I guess I had this dream that a $30 ATV box could take the place of a $100 rasp pi 4, which looking back now, I deserved to be slapped, ouch.

As I said above, you should consider some SBC with Armbian support. You can get something rockchip-based with 2gb RAM for about $40-$60, or if you don't need 4K video play, go for the Odroid XU4 for $50.

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