I’ve been keeping an eye on the whole Android TV Stick/Box market for a while. There are so many out there, it is almost impossible to pick one and I haven’t been overly impressed with the sticks due to all the compromises involved in getting everything into such a small form factor. Wifi performance in particular seems to be a failing.
This AND100 box is a different kettle of fish. It’s a box for a start! It also has wired Ethernet as well as built in Wifi. It comes with a couple of USB ports so you can add a Wireless Keyboard and USB harddisk if you wish. In addition to the usual HDMI, it also has Composite out if you have an older TV.
The only real difference from standard Android 4.x is that they’ve added a pretty hokey home page which I could really do without. But so far that’s the biggest complaint I can make. It has full Android Play Store and it was a doddle to install Netflix, RTE Player, iPlayer etc.
Android hasn’t been optimised for non-touch devices so I was surprised how well the simple IR minimal remote control works. Up/Down/Left/Right play/pause etc is really all you need for most of the Media Apps. Netflix works particularly well compared to the PC version I’m used to. The extra wireless keyboard with touchpad deals with those times when you need text input and you find the on-screen keyboard is too much hassle. In an ideal world both remotes would be merged.
All of the media Apps I tried like Netflix worked like a charm which is hardly surprising since it has a dual-core 1.5GHz CPU. The only let-down was XBMC which still doesn’t have hardware h264 decoding on most Android devices and struggled to play 720p stuff across the network. But that is more down to XBMC and I hope to see that sorted for most devices in the coming months.
Whilst you can get Roku boxes etc to play Netflix, they are extremely limited and obviously don’t run Android. In fact they currently don’t even have YouTube. And whilst I love XBMC/RaspBMC on Raspberry Pi, things like YouTube take an eternity to load.
I haven’t tried any games on the box so I don’t know how the UI would work but there is nothing stopping you from giving it a lash. Whilst I almost never watch RTE, I did try out the RTE Player and it worked perfectly.
Overall, it’s a great piece of kit and it should be a trivial exercise to install OpenVPN and connect to your VPN provider so you can access the likes of local BBC or Hulu on it.
The price is actually great compared to many of the Android sticks out there which are far less functional. You also know that if anything goes wrong, you have a local supplier and you won’t have to deal with the black hole that is returns to China.
Now if only House of Cards Season 2 would hurry up and get here.