01/2021 Update (OUT OF DATE BOX and Details):
Note this Box and the Kodi services described below are no longer working properly , this is because a lot has changed in the 7 years since the article was written. Kodi as of right now is has a stable release of 18.9 , this is no longer compatible with these older Android Boxes, as you need Android 5 or newer (this box came with Android 4) .. In adddition most of the plugins especially for dubious content no longer work as those services have gone offline.. In a nutshelll this box is no longer viable for Kodi.. You can still use it to play some Android apps or run older versions.
10/2014 Update (XBMC Gotham update aka Kodi):
Back in April an upgrade to XBMC was announced announced. Gotham (beta) brings a bunch of new capabilities to the XBMC ecosystem, especially native hardware decoding for android devices like this G-Box , check out the article on Engadget XBMC to improve Android playback.
Then in August Matricom (the makers of the MX2 G-Box) announced they had new firmware 1.2 which includes XBMC Gotham 13.2 on the G-Box MX2. If you have not definitely upgrade to this version 1.2 firmware it offers tons of fixes and updates plus all the enhancements that came with XBMC Goth. There have been other updates since them , but this one is the most important.
Most recently the XMBC community has indicated it will change the name of the product, from XBMC to Kodi starting with version 14.0. Version 14.0 will be very similar to 13.2 Gotham and mostly represent a branding change for the software. Matricom has indicated that shortly after Kodi is officially released it will create a GBox 2 version.
I have a more recent in-depth review of newer Android TV Boxes here.
I recently picked up a G-Box Midnight MX2 Android 4.2 Jelly Bean Dual Core XBMC Streaming Mini HTPC TV Box Player (herein referred to as the MX2 for brevity). This is small box about the size of a few packs of cigarettes. The purpose for getting this box is to turn any TV into an Internet connected a SMART TV , neither of my televisions as smartTV’s so this works well.
This box is running the Android O/S version 4.22, so basically any application that runs on this OS is available from the market and can be installed on this box. It has built in WIFI 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, Hulu, etc.
Arguably the main reason this box is popular is because it comes with XBMC installed. For those not familiar 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.
|CPU||Dual Core A9 CPU|
|Graphics||Mali400 Dual Core 3D GPU|
|OS||Android 4.22 (updated OTA regularly)|
|Firmware||Matricom 1.2 XBMC Gotham 13.2|
|Video Out||1280 x 720p (*1080p decoded videos are scaled to 720p in XBMC.)|
|Ports||HDMI out ; Analog out ; 4x USB ports; 1x SD port ; 1x SPIDF|
|Radios||WIFI B/G/N and Bluetooth 4.0|
|Remote||Yes – basic remote included|
Unpack plug the power into the Ac and plug a standard HDMI from the MX2 to your TV and turn it on. 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 greated with an option to choose a launcher (Regular android , a custom 3D launch ** stay away * , or straight into XBMC), I recommend choosing the initial launcher for the first time yo setup your Android accounts and such , and then making your XBMC your main console.
Android on your TV
This is box runs a fairly recent version of android, 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 there are soft remotes (check Android marketplace) that allow you to use your smartphone (one the same network) to control this device.
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.
While your inteh android side, check the OTA application to load the latest verison of the MX2 firmware along with any updates.
Netflix, YouTube, etc.
Out of the box the Android NEtflix and Yourtube apps are supplied and serve as your main points to accessing content from those sources. Its a little frustrating the first time you run it because of the Android 4.2 hints appear overlayed onto the screen and getting them to go took me a bit. Once that was completed, both apps worked prettym much identically to the Android phone cousins.
What’s so great about XBMC?
The main purpose as I mentioned above for purchase of this box is that XBMC is already installed and ready to go. XBMC originally started as an alternate firmware (ROM) for the old classic XBOX systems but has since been ported to just about every computing platform (PC, MAC, Android , Linux etc…) ,which partly the reason it’s getting its name changed to Kodi .
Typically enthusiasts wanting XBMC for a HTPC (home theater PC) would install it on a rooted Apple TV because of its small footprint and no noise nature. But one had to deal with the technical details of rooting certain versions of Apple TV’s and getting XBMC to work on it ,because XBMC is already pre-installed on this device, is setup and ready to go out of the box..
XBMC is a pretty multi feature video stream/player application allowing you to stream UPnP (DLNA) files from other servers, stream music from the network, view pictures, and if you had a TV tuner stick (USB ones are available) watch and record Live OTA television.
One reason for its (XBMC) popularity is that is allows all type of Add-ons (think of them as XBMC apps) to be installed. These add-ons both for Video,Audio and misc. programs (like TV guides, games etc) add extra functionality to your xBMC setup. There’s no official store, but the Get Addons… option allows you to install a large number of pre-installed add-on content sources. Using massive repo libraries like superrepoorg. you can get most of the Addons in one shot..
Its no surprise a lot of the add-ons are for underground (illicit ) sources of content, such as 1channel, sports.pl (live sports), icefilms, adult channels etc, basically anything people may be interested is there. In addition to these there’s a who array of more mainstream sources such as PBS, TED Talks, Discovery , VEVO (music videos), ESPN video, plus many many more.. You can save yourself a bit of trouble and just download 1,300 addons from superrepo.org . Go there to get instructions on how to get these add-ons for your box.
Once the sources (Add-Ons) are installed and up and running you can simply use the XBMC menu system to navigate amongst them and begin playing.
- Small and quiet: Its a 5″x5″x2″ in size and no noise (no fans) so its very convenient to plut next to your TV set.
- XMBC pre-installed: As mentioned above this software gives this box its powerhouse kick with its many add ons and features
- Wifi 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.
While the unit arrived new, and it was just a matter of taking it out of the box and plugging it in,I did have a few initial issues.
- Version 1.16 of the G-Box MX2 firmware didn’t display video correctly (sound only no video for add-ons), this was a common problem listed in the forums, solution here was to download the update and manually (not using the built in OTA updater) update it, something as important as getting video to appear is disappointing, even though a quick fix was available, any non-technical person would have run into trouble.
- XBMC on Android is at best a work in progress, by this i mean the stability of the software on ARM chip-sets, is still not 100% in the stability department. You will sometime get frustrated by lock ups or other times it will just reboot XBMC. It happens about 10-15% of the time, XBMC on android is still a fairly recent development , unlike the existing PC platforms, so there’s still some growing pains… non-PC platforms (including Apple TV have this issue)
- More MX2 specific apps: There are still many points when you are dropped into the Android settings or programs when you want to make MX2 specific changes. The changes from the more polished XBMC interface to raw Android can be jarring, a more unified launcher and interface would help.
- Less official content, unlike an Xbox or PS4 there’s no official marketplace, as mentioned above, many of the Add-on sources are from underground sources, which means that they may be here today gone tomorrow..
- Remote Control: offers basic functions, but not all the keys correspond correctly to the on-screen menus and sometimes appears unresponsive.
If you have a HDTV and its not a SmartTV( not internet ready) , 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. If you already have a big screen TV still consider this box as it may offer enough compelling features to keep you interested. Be prepared to deal with some growing pains in the stability department, but for the price ( < $90 on amazon) its worth the cost and patience.