Android Smart TV box

I've noticed recently the large number of Android apps which enable you to watch television programmes - live or 'catch-up' services - or films on your tablet or phone. The best known of these streaming services is the ubiquitous BBC iPlayer but all the major broadcasters have an equivalent including the ITV Player and Channel 4's '4oD'.

And there are others which offer an even wider range of television channels and films, many of them completely free. One of the broadest is TVCatchup which streams live TV from over 40 UK channels but there are many others (Google reveals all), with their companion Android apps for your tablet or phone. For all of them picture quality depends on your internet connection speed (ours is still fairly slow at 4 Mb per second) but we get an acceptable picture with only an occasional stutter.

The only problem is that we couldn't watch most of these on our main TV. Until now.

An oil painting it's not
We've been trying out an Android TV box, the stupidly named Justop Droibox Ace. This is a bland black box which connects to your TV but otherwise behaves just like an android tablet or phone. So you can install apps from the Google Play store and watch the result on your HD TV. It's very easy to use and after a few minutes you get used to not having a touch screen - the remote control is intuitive but you can also connect a USB keyboard and mouse if you find this easier.

There are many of these boxes on the market, from about £35 upwards, but there are some things to watch for. Two of the most important are: make sure that it gives access to the Google Play store, or you won't be able to install the apps; and make sure that it runs a recent version of Android (this one runs 4.2 Jelly Bean) or the current apps might not work properly. Other features to look out for are connectivity options - this one has 4 USB sockets, HDMI, optical digital audio, analogue AV and an ethernet port.

These boxes will also play media files stored on your own network but we haven't done much of this as we also have WDTV Live boxes attached to each TV for this purpose and they are better for this particular task.

So far everything has been problem free and the best part is that we no longer have to huddle round a tablet to watch that missed episode of Coronation Street!