I was after a quality android TV box with optical audio out connection to replace my aging Western Digital TV box. The problem was that there are heaps of cheap Chinese media streamers out there with the coax spdif connection that are fine for the average person. But I needed an optical out Toslink connection for my 5.1 home theatre receiver.
Now both coax and optical SPDIF are digital and will pass through 5.1 surround sound to a receiver, but I only had one spare Toslink optical connection on my amplifier. So the quest was on to review 4 of the best Android media streamers with an optical output connection.
If you would like the best value for money android box with optical output then the Beelink GT1 has to be it. It has the latest hardware at a great price. If you would like to learn more about these media streamers then read on.
Top 4 Android TV Box supporting Dolby digital
Beelink GT1 Android box with optical output review – Our #1 Pick
The Beelink Gt1 is a very compact feature filled Android TV box. It is packed with quality features like 3GB ram and the latest Amlogic 912 8 core CPU. Its hardware outputs are great like fast 1000MBs ethernet, optical spdif sound, HDMI, and 2x USB for hard drives or wireless keyboards.
I like that there is no external Wifi antenna so it makes it a really clean install say if you need to mount it behind a wall mounted TV. Did I mention this unit is tiny, as it fits in the palm of my hand.
It comes with the latest 7.1 Android operating system with regular updates from the manufacturer. This device also is equipped with an update and backup manager called QodiMate that makes it very easy to update the software when there is a new version released for the GT1.
The remote has a nice feature that it can also learn the codes for your TV so you can turn both devices on with the one remote. You just need the number IR codes for your TV. I still prefer a home theatre keyboard to use this Android TV box such as the i8 Rii backlit wireless keyboard shown below.
Updating the Kodi software was simple enough from the android store. I first had to uninstall the Beelink Qodi version by going to settings and then applications and pressing stop on the Qodi software. From there you can then uninstall the old Kodi version and install the newer one from the Android app store. From now on it should auto update.
After using this Beelink TV box for over a month it is now part of our home theater movie hardware. It will play anything we throw at it up to 4k video files. Its a great replacement for the aging WDTV box.
GreatEver T98 Android SPDIF passthrough TV box review
The T98 Android streamer box is a very nice cheap unit. Its perfect for those that are just getting into video streaming and would like to play files up to 4k from either an HHD or over a wired network. I always recommend a wired ethernet connection for 4k video streams for smooth playback.
It comes with the previous generation quad-core Amlogic 905 CPU which is fine to play the latest 4k video files but will run slightly hotter and slower than the current gen Amlogic 912.
I like that it has optical spdif out which is great at this price point. The AV 3 in 1 port is also good if you want to send video and sound to a legacy TV that only has composite in capabilities. Especially useful for an old outdoors projector or TV.
The usual ethernet and wifi features are present so you will have no issues connecting this TV box to your network. I like that there is a clock time feature on the front of the box.
The included remote control is a no-frills device. I would recommend grabbing a wireless keyboard with a trackpad as soon as possible. This makes navigating the Android TV box and its applications more enjoyable.
If you don’t need the latest hardware the T98 is a great buy.
BetterLife x99 with optical output review
If you love the latest hardware and features on an Android TV box then the x99 has to be it. Its packed with 4GB of ram and 32GB of internal storage so it is a very snappy and fast unit while navigating around.
Its CPU uses the RK3399-6 cores 64-bit and will play anything you though at it, even most Android games downloaded from the app store.
On one side of the x99 is a range of outputs and inputs which include Type-C port, optical SPDIF, HDMI, Ethernet, and 5v power in port. On the other side, it has a SIM slot, Micro-SD, USB 2.0, and a faster USB 3.0 port.
The remote control is cool that it is a combination air mouse. This means it will control the cursor when the remote is pointed to the TV. There is a little USB dongle that needs to be plugged in. So be aware this will use up one of your USB slots.
All in all, this is a very fast Android media player. Its packed with the latest hardware and upgrades so it is no wonder it has a higher price than the rest here. If you want the best and don’t want to pay for a Nvidia Shield then this is the best Android TV box with optical output for surround sound.
What is an Android TV box?
Video on demand is the replacement for the new generation of TV viewers. Our lives are so busy that we want to watch movies, sports, and TV shows when we want, whenever we want.
The rise of on-demand movies and TV from companies like Amazon and Netflix means we can watch our favorite shows when it suits us. This is where the Android TV box comes into play.
If you are stuck with an older LCD TV it is most probably not a smart TV. This means you will have trouble viewing your downloaded content on the TV unless you have access to a media streamer or an Android TV box.
Google has made available its Android operating system available for use with very powerful media players to playback online and downloaded video content. This operating system is very similar to the Android mobile phone software so it will be familiar to most people who use Google products.
The hardware inside TV boxes
The hardware inside these Android TV boxes usually consists of a quad and octa-core CPU processors with 1-3 GB of ram and 8-64GB of onboard storage. Depending on the make and model. The following CPU configuration is very popular in a lot of Android Kodi TV boxes in 2018. Anyone will easily play 4k video files.
S905: AMLogic Quad Core Low-end processor
S912: AmLogic Octacore Improved performance compared to the S905 and a good low-to-mid range CPU.
RK3328: Rockchip Good low-to-mid range.
RK3399: From Rockchip it is a very High-Performance CPU
NVIDIA Tegra X1: High Performance
The standard features found on most midrange models will be
- Ethernet cable connection 100-1000mbs connection
- USB ports for expansion
- SD card for expanding internal storage.
- Optical or Coax cable s/pdif sound output
- 5V power input
- Headphone out jack
- Wifi and Bluetooth wireless capabilities
Depending on what you need your TV box to do will depend on the features and hardware required. For example, if you would like to connect a whole heap of USB peripherals like flash drives. HDDs and wireless keyboards then the x92 is your best choice.
No optical out on the Nvidia Shield what to do?
If your computer, Nvidia Shield, DVD player, or Android TV box doesn’t have an optical out connection you can always add in an HDMI audio extractor box such as the J-Tech one shown.
Basically, it takes the HDMI audio signal from the HDMI input and converts it to a 2 channel analog stereo output or 5.1 channel Audio output via the optical Toslink connection.
This is the cheapest way to get a Nvidia Shield optical out point. The HDMI will still transmit video to the TV or projector but the surround sound will be captured and sent to the receiver or soundbar.
It is hard to pick an android box with optical output as there are not too many good choices out there. There are plenty of coax digital 5.1 SPDIF android streamers in the market because these are cheaper to build. But if you are like me and only have spare Toslink connections on your amplifier then the Beeling GT1 will be a great performer.
Remember to keep your applications updated for trouble-free performance. Kodi is the leader in movie viewing apps so stick with it and you will have heaps of fun viewing free TV shows and movies with all the fun plugins.