Best device for microSD LE + on-board Android boot under $50 right now?

  • So I've been using a Nexbox A95X with LibreElec for years. I'm a total newbie in the field but even I - guided by on-line instructions, of course - managed to install my LE on a microSD and now have the device able to boot either to Libre (when the card is in - so 99,9% of the time) or to the Android it came with (if it's taken out - which is when I need to use some Android app, usually a VOD service). The installation process was quick and everything works perfect.

    So perfect - in fact - that I decided it's high time to buy another box to a second room in my apartment :) Since I bought the Nexbox almost 3 years ago, I reckon the hardware landscape is probably completely different nowadays but what did not change is my cluelessness about it all. Thus, I'd be very grateful for any tips on what box I should buy in order to ensure such a smooth and noob-friendly installation process and such fluid support of the two boot options as my Nexbox does while allowing for such impeccable playback of each and every format you throw in its direction on a usb stick. I wouldn't want to go beyond $50 but of course the less the better (I remember I bought the Nexbox for under $30 these three years ago and can only speak in superlatives about it to this day).

    What would you recommend? Should I go for a specific brand? Model? Architecture? RAM? Thanks so much in advance!

    Edited once, last by Tigro (January 28, 2020 at 12:32 AM).

  • You will not get a noob-friendly device for that price - you want the best of both worlds. :saint:

    If you forget about the price, then the Nvidia Shield TV is the noob-friendly device #1. It runs Kodi (not LE) and Android perfectly.

    If it has to be under 50$, then buy a Raspberry Pi 4B (sub-version: as much RAM as you can afford). You can dual-boot Android and LE on it.

  • You will not get a noob-friendly device for that price - you want the best of both worlds. :saint:

    If you forget about the price, then the Nvidia Shield TV is the noob-friendly device #1. It runs Kodi (not LE) and Android perfectly.

    If it has to be under 50$, then buy a Raspberry Pi 4B (sub-version: as much RAM as you can afford). You can dual-boot Android and LE on it.

    Well, I don't really need things that noob-friendly, haha! Like, I am fully capable of writing an the image file of the given firmware to the card, installing things with the toothpick method or SSHing into the device so I don't really mean something plug and play like Nvidia Shield :) Would just like something of a similar class as the Nexbox I have but more modern cause I'm sure that one is already more of a museum exhibition than a respectable android tv box in 2020 :)

  • The best option in the $50 range is an RPi4 (2GB or 4GB) with a Kodi flirc case. Software is still evolving (no HDR or high bitrate audio yet) but those will come and it's more reliable then the Amlogic and equivalent Rockchip hardware that's kicking around. Most of the 'good' new box devices are some way above your price point.

  • I'd agree with a RPi4 however, the user occasionally needs Android which, whilst an image for Android is available, it's not particularly usable. Personally, I'd buy a RPi4 just for LE and use a phone/tablet with cast or HDMI for Android.

    I'm still using a MECOOL M8S PRO+ which works fine on LE but is only Android 7.

  • Thanks for all the replies. Isn't there really nothing that would fit the bill from the "regular" android tv boxes though? Honestly I'd rather not have to do with completing the whole set for rpi (buying the chip itself, then the case, then the remote...) if I could do it other way. I really liked the ease the Nexbox I have offered in that a) Android was already preinstalled, b) it came with all the accessories in the box already (the device, remote, ac adapter) so all I had to do was install LE for the dualboot and I'm done.

  • Sure you could buy a cheap Android box from China, install the Kodi app, and everything is fine. You really don't need LE as an extra OS.

    Problem: You will run into a support problem after a couple of years. Those China boxes have blocked boot loaders, which makes it impossible to install other OS'es. When the China boys decide to stop software updates, then you can throw your box into the dumpster.

    That's why we suggest open source software here - you will have support for a long time.

  • Yeah sure, that's why I'm asking about boxes with the possibility to install LE, not just install kodi on the Android that comes preinstalled in the box. I am aware both of the support problems and of just how much performant Kodi on LE is on these boxes than it is on their Androids which come with tons of junk preinstalled and generally aren't the smoothest user experience there is.

    Just did some browsing on these cheap boxes and it seems like nowadays most of them are powered by RK3318 CPU (or some derivatives) which don't seem to have an official LE distro. So are there no new boxes in this price range that would be capable of running LE?

  • Android itself is highly optimized to play media. It's a perfect base to run Kodi. LE isn't the more performant base for Kodi.

    On RPi with LE you can use your TV remote, so you don't need to buy that part.

    You have to buy the RPi, a case and a PSU. All in all it still could be under 50$.

    Here are my instructions to install a power button and a status LED: Instructions.

    This will make it work like a commercial box. Don't fear to build it.

  • clarkss12...

    I did mess with one that one of our group guys got back in Dec and eventually got a modded LE 9.2 build using the generic project mostly working, but to be honest it was a big waste of time as the guy that owned it had nothing but trouble with the device pretty much right outta the box... Windows 10 kept crashing and the box ran hot which i suspect was at least partly to blame why Winblows was really buggy and locked up and crashed a lot.

    He got the unit because we've been looking around for awhile for a SoC without the typical Arm GPU and the Intel was appealing and we figured we'd loose winblows anyways as really we were just looking for a better board for Linux and LE.

    After some tinkering I got LE working by 1st making a full linux distro run on a modded kernel on the box, we used the kernel tweak learned from that to tweak LE's kernel and got it working...

    Thru all of this tho the box still had heat issues and kept crashing so we stopped and he tried returning or getting it swapped out but ran up against a wall with Customer Service as they didn't like the idea of messing it with.

    In my normal job I do a lot of mb repairs on Macbooks and a variety of other low level boards as i do reworking and repair as well as design and consult on custom boards and I've seen a lot of poorly made crap over the years and the board in his box was manufactured poorly with things not down and poorly oriented before going thru the oven. The sad part is its not the 1st time i have seen that kinda poor quality come out from Beelink before. Its just disappointing to see a supposed Premium maker as they claim produce bad boards in the same manner you would expect from some knock off clone shop charging half the price, I did consider pulling the chip and reballing it but for the time investment it was not worth it, but i am sure that will be the last Beelink product he buys.

    Anyway...To your point.. If your up to building LE git sources you should be able to build the Generic project and work out from there as i am not sure if anyone else has really gone down this rabbit hole yet...

    Tigro... Sorry don't mean to hijack your thread so i will shut now... Chewitt and Da Flex i think have probably helped so i need no say anymore.

  • Thanks for the info. Nothing more to be said on this thread.

  • Thank you for the responses. What about the cheap S905X3 boxes, though? An X96 Air 2/16 or a Tanix TX3 2/16 are both under $30. Wouldn't they be alright for LE? Also, there's Tanix TX9S with S912 for even cheaper.