It used to be that a "media center" was a 50 pound box in the corner of your entertainment room, with more dials and buttons than a NASA control panel. Now, the new rage is "Android HDMI sticks" or "Android HDMI boxes" (sometimes even called "Android Mini PCs"), which can be acquired for as little as around $30, take up no more space than an Altoids mints tin, can play any video format, stream Netflix and other services, and can even run games and applications. My parents recently asked me to find them a good one to buy, and when I started looking around, I was amazed at the massive number of different models that exist and how confusing it was to figure out the differences between brands and devices. To help, I made a massive spread sheet with all the different models I could find, and included specifications, URLs, and prices. It helped me pick one that fit our needs, and hopefully it can help you too! The spreadsheet is embedded below, and by default is sorted by price, from cheapest to most expensive.
Dual Core A9 = this is really a 1.6 GHz dual-core RK3066 (with integrated Mali-400 GPU). This is what most of the sticks are using, unless they are using a quad core
ROM = this is memory on the stick that is used (and I am oversimplifying here) to store files and applications. The more ROM the stick has, the more videos you can download and keep on the stick instead of streaming, and the more applications you should be able to install.
RAM = this is memory on the stick that is used (and I am again oversimplifying here) really only for the operating system of the stick, not for storing files. RAM is correlated with performance, but not necessarily speed, so the more RAM the stick has really means the more apps you can have running at one time, or certain apps might work better (if they are RAM intensive), and there is less likely to be stuttering video / dropped frames.
Flash = To my knowledge, every one of these sticks supports flash, but you it might require some expertise to get it installed. Some of the sticks however, come with it pre-installed. See the "notes" column in the spreadsheet.
Prime = Whether the product is eligible for Amazon Prime or not. Prime is a great service from Amazon that enables you to get free 2-day shipping on most items for a low yearly cost (you also get free streaming TV shows and select Kindle titles). I can't say enough nice things about it, and if you want to learn more, you can check it out here. Items that are prime eligible have free 2-day shipping for prime members, and free standard shipping for everyone else. Most of the Android sticks are prime, and the ones that are not still usually have free shipping.
General Overview: Most of the devices are very similar, in that they have the same processor and amount of memory. The main differences seem to be in RAM, quality of the device (is there enough heat dissipation?), and more specifically, how good the WIFI reception is. Pay close attention to reviews, but at the same time, realize that sometimes people are trying to compare something that they paid $50 for, to competing products that cost over $300.
Disclaimer: Prices were fetched on 5/31/2014. They are subject to change. I will try to update them once in a while, but I am also very lazy.
If you find a stick on your own that is not in my list, feel free to leave a comment or email me, and I will add it to the list so others can see it.
Tags: Android HDMI Sticks List, Android Sticks Comparison, Best Android HDMI sticks, Android boxes list, Android boxes comparisons, Android mini PC list