Android TV Box(es) with Kodi.tv
This year I recently received two newer Android TV Boxes from Keedox (4kSmartBox and TV quad-core MXIII)(www.keedox.com) that support 4k video (UHD), H.265 ,recent versions of Kodi.tv (still branded as XBMC 13.2,), and supporting NetFlix, youtube and other Android Apps. Both boxes are feature packed and for the cost really bring a modern smartTV experience to any TV in the house. About a year ago I reviewed an older dual-core Android TV Box , you can read it there to see how it compares. I will refer to Kodi.TV/XBMC interchangeably in this review.
Because the boxes have very similar functionality, but slightly different hardware specs, this review will apply to both boxes, differences in their operation when relevant will be pointed out. Both boxes run a recent flavor of the Android O/S version 4.22, that means that many applications are available from the Google Play store and can be installed on these boxes. Both have built in WIFI , multiple USB ports and an SD (or microSD) card slot. so you just plug it into your TV via HDMI (or analog cables) and then you can connect it to your home’s WIFI network and begin streaming content from popular services like YouTube, Netflix, Amazon or XBMC sources.
Arguably the main reason these boxes are popular is because it comes with XBMC (upgradable to Kodi.TV) installed. For those not familiar with Kodi.TV, Kodi.tv (formerly known as XBMC) is an open-source video/music and home theater software that offers a vast array of functionality especially through add-ons. It offers a polished big-screen U/I and can pull content from many sources.
|Feature||Android 4K Smart TV Box||Android TV Quad-Core MXIII|
|Model||Keedox S802 4k Smarttv||Keedox MXIII Amlogic|
|Cost||($90 on Amazon)||( $75.00 on Amazon)|
|CPU||Quad-Core Cortex-A9r4- 2.0GHz||: Amlogic S802 Quad Core up to 2.0GHz|
|Graphics||Mali-450MP GPU@600MHz||Mali-450MP GPU@600MHz|
|OS||Android 4.4 (updateable OTA)||Android 4.4 (updateable OTA)|
|Firmware||XBMC 14.0 Alpha||XBMC Gotham 13.2|
|Video Out||480/720/1080/ 4K UHD||480/720/1080/ 4K UHD|
|Ports||HDMI out ; Analog out ; 2x USB ports; 1x MicroSD port ; 1x SPIDF||HDMI out ; Analog out ; 2x USB ports; 1x SD port ; 1x SPIDF|
|Radios||WIFI B/G/N||WIFI B/G/N and Bluetooth 4.0|
|Remote||Yes -basic||Yes – basic|
Setup is very simple: Unpack the box, plug the power into the A/C outlet, and plug a standard HDMI from the Android Box to your TV and turn it on (be sure to be in the correct Video/HDMI mode). Use the supplied remote to follow a brief on-screen setup (such as connecting to your home network via WIFI or Ethernet cable), and then you’ll be greeted with an a launcher that provides access to the various capabilities of the box.
Android on your TV
These boxes run a fairly recent version of the Android OS , so if you have an Android phone, you’ll be immediately familiar with the Android apps and interface. The remote control (included), does less than a favorable job of navigating the Android programs, but it is adequate for navigating within XBMC. If you are expecting to make heavy use of this for your media viewing i recommend, getting an Air-mouse remote.An air-mouse (sometimes clled a fly mouse) has a small usb dongle that plugs into one of the USB ports and then offer gyroscopic mouse control on-screen, similar to the (Wii Remote).
Additionally another nice feature of these units is they support Play store soft remote apps. If you have an android (or Ios) smartphone, you can install them to control the box via your WiFi connection. Both XBMC remote and GoogleTV software remote which you can install on your phone will provide all the basic remote capabilities of physical remote, plus the Goolge TV soft remote supports air-mouse like functionality via your smartphone., while not as fluid an experience as a true physical airmouse , because the request needs to go over your WiFi network, they make entering text and navigating much easier than the stock remote.
Additionally the Android marketplace is available, so you can sign up and begin downloading your favorite apps. It uses most of the same Apps as your phone or tablet, very few apps are customized for the TV. You can also browse the web on your TV, using the standard Android Webkit browser included, plus you can sync all your bookmarks and other useful information if you have other android devices or accounts.
Launcher- Home screen
One area where these boxes differ a bit is in the launcher , the initial home screen, while both use the MBOX app for settings and configuration, the 4kSmartBox has a different launcher which just has a six basic icons, and the ability to change its background, the The MXIII box features the traditional MBOX launcher with the ability t o add App tiles. In either case ou can default Kodi.TV to be your startup Application, bypassing the launcher.
Play store Android Apps and Games
Because both these devices support the Android Play store ,you can download most (but not all) content from the play store, this includes, apps, games, video, music, music, books, etc. In order to use the Google Play marketplace you need to sign in with an existing Google account or create a new one.
Once there, you can search for Apps and Games via the on-screen Google Play App. Be aware that not all Apps will work with these boxes, and most Games are notorious for playing in portrait mode as most games are not designed for the TV layout.For an ideal experience with apps that take advantage of a TV interface your best bet is to search for specific Google TV apps, check out this list of specific to Google TV Apps.
Also installed is a web browser and other Apps. There’s also a web browser available that will allow you to surf the web from your couch, I have found that reading or surfing the web from your couch is a lot less effective.
Mira Cast and Chrome Cast
Because this is a recent version of Android 4.4 , it has support for miraCast (similar to Chrome cast) that allows you to stream live the screen of a supporting device. For example I can open up my Android phone that has the cast option in the settings and turn it on , with this on the device can send over wifi the actual screen that you’re seeing on your phone (or tablet/mobile device). This is useful for situations where you haven’t had a change to off-load photos or videos or just want to broadcast your mobile devices screen contents to your TV. Also great for presentations as you can hook up the Android TV box to most hdmi projectors and run a presentation via your smartphone, very neat.
Netflix, YouTube, etc.
Out of the box the Android Netflix and YouTube apps are supplied and serve as your main points to accessing content from those sources You will need to login into the Play store before you can use YouTube and also you’ll need to use your login to your NetFlix account to access that content. Once setup both of these apps function pretty much as expected.
a word about 4K UHD
One of the newer capabilities of these units is to support 4k (UHD) video using the new H.265 standard, while I was not able to verify that 4k video functioned, as I do not have a 4K television, I did download and play small video clips in 4K and while only able to see a quarter of the screen on my televisions, it did render and play the video as expected. 4K UHD video because of it’s enormous bandwidth requirements and limited content offerings, will likely be relegated to download and store on external USB or flash media before live streaming becomes practical.
Using Kodi.TV (formerly XBMC)
Kodi.TV (still displayed with its XBMC branding) originally started as an alternate firmware (ROM) for the old classic XBOX , (hence the original name Xbox media center) but has since been ported to just about every computing platform (PC, MAC, Android , Linux etc…) ,which is partly the reason it’s getting its name changed to Kodi.Tv this year .
Before the availability of boxes like these , an enthusiast wanting XBMC for a HTPC (home theater PC) would typically install it on a rooted Apple TV because of its small footprint and no noise nature of the device. But one had to deal with the technical details of rooting particular versions of Apple TV’s and getting XBMC to work on it , which was no simple process and required a fair bit of technical knowledge and time. Luckily this is no longer the case as this software comes ready to go out of these boxes.
Kodi.TV is first and foremost a full featured video stream/player application allowing you to play, videos, music, photos from USB, SD cards or stream from multiple sources such as UPnP (DLNA) files, NAS drives or from other servers on the Internet. There are also available USB TV tuner’s that allow you to watch and record Live OTA television. Really this is a very limited description of what it can do, want to find out more visit there site Kodi.tv.
One reasons for its (Kodi.TV) popularity is that is allows you to add extra capability through the addition of custom video/audio and program Add-ons. Think of Kodi.tv Add-ons as internal Apps, The are installed inside the Kod.TV application. These add-ons are for both for Video, Audio and misc. programs (like TV guides, games etc.) add extra content and capabilities to your Kodi.TV functions. There’s no official store, but the Get Add-ons menu options allow you to install a large number of pre-installed add-on content sources. A popular repository for these Add-ons can be found here at superrepoorg. This allows you to download most of the Add-ons (~ 1300) in one shot..
Its no surprise a lot of the Video add-ons are for underground (illicit ) sources of content, such as 1channel, SportsDevil (live sports), icefilms, adult channels etc, basically anything people may be interested is there. But by and large most are for legitimate and popular online content, some of the more mainstream sources include PBS, TED Talks, Discovery , VEVO (music videos), ESPN video, Bloomberg TV, Engadget TV, TwiT network TV, Revison 3 etc. plus many many more, refer to the superrepo.org video add-on list to see if the content your interested in is listed..
In addition to the video Add-ons there are also a host of Music add-ons to listen to live streaming radio stations throughout the world, and program add-ons that offer all sorts of extra features live live TV Guides, Rom managers etc.
- Small and quiet: Its a 5″x5″x2″ in size and no noise (no fans) so its very convenient to put next to your TV set.
- Kodi.TV pre-installed: A recent version of Kodi.TV (upgradable) gives this box its powerhouse kick with its many add-ons and features
- Wi-Fi and Ports: This little box has plenty of USB ports that allow you to connect all sorts of stuff to it , such as HDMI, analog, USB Tuner cards, joysticks, keyboards ,USB sticks..etc.
- Android: Android and its many Apps and content options.
- Support: Keedox.com offers support forums and FAQ to help you troubleshoot any issue you may have.
Overall both units performed pretty much as expected out of the box, but there were a few minor quibbles..
- HDMI auto detection issue: The 4k Smart TV box Model didn’t seem to recognize one of my TV’s HDMI settings properly. And proceeded upscale all content to 4k and caused the displayed picture to show only quarter of the screen on a 1080p display. After fiddling with the HDMI settings I was able to correct this but it was a bit frustrating.
- Limited to poor documentation: Sadly there’s not much in the way of detailed documentation on how to use this device, while its mostly explanatory it would be nice if there was a better documentation. The short one page pamphlet is hardly enough.
- Basic remote: I wish they included an air-mouse remote, with the device, while it would increase the cost, it would improve the user experience. The supplied remote does an adequate job, but it only controls the box (not your TV or other devices) , and frankly once you use an air-mouse+keyboard there’s no going back. But the Google TV soft-remote helps a bit.
If you have a HDTV and its not a SmartTV( not internet ready) or perhaps is an older smartTV , definitely go out and get this box, it will open a whole new world to you in terms of content and Internet functionality for your big screen. The best part is because this is a true Android device the entire Android App eco-system is available to you, and this is fantastic because you can now run virtually any android App on your TV from the comfort of your couch.