Walmart Onn Android TV 4K Review: A compelling streaming box for $30
For years, one of the main problems with Android TV was the limited selection of affordable streaming boxes. Google didn’t have an answer to the rising popularity of the Fire TV Stick and Roku streaming sticks, and the few sub-$100 Android TV streamers that did exist (like the Mi Box S) suffered from poor performance and limited software support.
That started to finally change last year, with the introduction of the Chromecast with Google TV and a few other devices. Walmart has also now entered the game with two Android TV-powered streaming devices, a cheaper 1080p stick and a 4K box. The latter has a super-low retail price of $29.88 (as of when this review was published), making it the most affordable 4K Android TV device currently available.
The unhelpfully named ‘Walmart Onn Android TV 4K’ is a great device, but there are still unanswered questions about its long-term support.
Walmart Onn Android TV 4K: Specifications
|Specification||Walmart Onn Android TV 4K|
|RAM & Storage||
|Software||Android TV 10.0|
About this review: This streaming box was purchased from Walmart for this review, and I’ve been using it for around a week. Walmart was not involved in any part of this review.
Design and Hardware
If this streaming box looks familiar to you, it’s probably because you’ve seen this design before. As pointed out by AFTV News, Walmart’s device uses the same reference design and hardware as Google’s ADT-3 development box. It’s the same black plastic square with rounded corners, with a microUSB connector for power on one side and an HDMI connector on the front. Since there will be cables coming out of both sides, there’s really no way for this to look acceptable sitting next to your TV or in a media cabinet — your only choice is to hide it behind your TV.
Unfortunately, microUSB and HDMI are the only ports you get. There’s no extra USB port or microSD card slot for adding more storage, nor is there a LAN connector for Ethernet. The Chromecast with Google TV shares the same lack of connectivity options, though Google sells an adapter to add Ethernet support. I assume that adapter would work with this box, as I was able to use a microUSB OTG adapter with power pass-through to connect various USB devices (like an Ethernet adapter and flash drive).
The internal hardware is similar to other low-end Android TV devices. The SoC is an Amlogic S905Y2, a four-core ARM chip, paired with 8GB of storage (with around 5GB usable) and 2GB RAM. Don’t let those specifications fool you, though — the Onn box is surprisingly speedy. It’s quick to boot up, animations are smooth, and most applications don’t take more than a few seconds to open. I’m happy to see we’ve finally moved past the era of cheap TV streaming devices being slow and laggy.
Walmart went with the new Google G10 reference design for the remote, which is being used by some other Android TV and Google TV devices. It’s a white plastic remote, powered by two AAA batteries (which are included in the box). Besides all the usual controls for the Onn box itself, there are also volume and power buttons for your TV, just like on Roku and Fire TV remotes. There’s also a Google Assistant button (and a microphone) for using voice commands.
I have two main issues with the remote. First, the exterior color is more of a cream color than pure white, which makes it look a bit dirty. Second, the four buttons on the bottom are hard-coded to streaming services (YouTube, Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max) and cannot be changed to launch other applications. The popular Button Mapper app doesn’t seem to fix this, but I imagine someone will eventually find a workaround.
The Onn 4K box has a complete stock build of Android TV 10.0. That’s not the latest version of Android TV, but it’s the same version that Nvidia Shield and the newest Chromecast has. Most of the noticeable changes to Android TV roll out through updates to the launcher and other system applications, so the actual operating system version doesn’t matter too much. Most applications still support very old versions of Android TV (the latest Netflix update works on v5.1), so even if Walmart never updates this box, you shouldn’t have compatibility issues for a while.
The Onn 4K box is not running Google TV, which is the customized skin the new Chromecast and some other TVs/streamers now use. That’s not much of a loss, though — especially as Google has started porting some features back to Android TV. This has the same ‘Discover’ tab on the home screen as Google TV devices, and the Onn 4K can download and run all the same applications from the Play Store.
Unlike the ADT-3 and some other Android TV devices, this has all the DRM and encryption keys necessary for full-quality playback with Netflix and Disney+. It also worked well with every other streaming service I tried, including Hulu, Plex, and Prime Video.
Android TV has been missing a competitor to the Fire TV Stick and low-end Roku devices for years, outside of poorly-performing streamers like the Mi Box line. The new Chromecast with Google TV is a great option to have at $49.99, but Walmart’s box nails the basics for $20 less. It has a clean build of Android TV 10, a decent remote, and good performance — you can’t ask for much more at less than half the price of a new PS5 game.
The one caveat right now is ongoing software support. It’s not clear if Walmart will ever deliver a major Android OS update, even though the Onn 4K box has the same hardware as Google’s development box. Security might also be a concern if Walmart slacks on the monthly patches.
If you want the cheapest Android TV device out there that supports 4K and all major streaming services, this is it. However, if you’re looking for something that will get frequent (and fast) software updates, the Chromecast with Google TV is probably worth the extra $20.