Date: Jan 18, 2013
Most of the times, I will just watch these TV media on my iPhone or iPad, and then, I will "Air Play" it onto my TV. It works but sometimes, when you get a incoming call, or you need to do some work on your iPad, your kids are watching the documentary on the TV using the iPhone/iPad. And it also drain your battery. So, I figure that is a reason to buy a Media TV Box and hook up to your TV, so that your kids know how to operate.
I have been searching such box for quite a long time. And I believe I have found one that meets my requirement and satisfaction. So, I am recommending that to you guys.
I spent some time walking in Sim Lim, and test run most of the box. And I found this box is quite fast, not so crapy, and it is usable. It is called "Smart TV Box". It costs about S$179. It is available almost everywhere, but I bought it from CH2 Technologies Pte Ltd on #04-61. This is because the guy wold sold me are able to answer all my questions. And he has a display set for me to test which he runs on WiFi over SingNet broadband connections. I tested a few of the Apps and found that it is fast too.
This is how small the box is. In front, there is 2x USB port and a microSD slot for you to store those movies you downloaded. I simply plug the wireless mouse adapter there in one of the USB port.
Behind is very simple. HDMI port, RJ45 Network port and the power. Of course, this comes with a WiFi antenna. But I did not use the Antenna, I simply plug it into my home Gigabits network.
The sales man is also good enough to install all the Apps you want for you, just give him 10-15min to do so. So that you don't have to install everything. The most important thing for this is they know what software to run, where to fun it, and install for you. So, when you gets home you have a minimum set of software to use and watch. All the shows are mostly 99.9% FREE. And some shows are HD quality too.
This is how the box looks like. It can run up to 720p movies, which is good enough for me.
This is the back of the box. Where it has all the specifications. One of the thing that they do not tell you is how much RAM they put in. For this, they place in 1Gbps RAM. Which is OK and large.
The CPU is quite fast too.
Before I bought this, I uses AsiaBox. One thing I love my AsiaBox is "It runs ONE App at a time". This is so important because normally you don't pack so big RAM into these media box to save cost. So, some box gets 512M and some even get lesser than that. So, if you only run one application at a time, your system at least don't look so crappy.
Problems I faced with AsiaBox are (after using it for 1.5 years):
1. PPTV start to ask for money. US$60/year. Free content getting lesser.
2. It is also running on Android, but it is a customised version. Which mean, you have to write the App for this AsiaBox. So, as you can see, the Apps is not so many, and it is controlled. Some Apps stop functioning too.
3. It is getting slower and slower.
So, if they can make better hardware to go with it, I am sure I will use it for long time. I still can use AsiaBox, but if I find a better one, of course I will use the faster, and the one with more contents.
Then, I made the huge mistake. At my home, I used the S-Plug from Aztech to save money on my electrical bill. I also uses Aztech Powerplug (HomePlug) Ethernet over Power Line technology for so many years (almost 9-10 years). So, I am quite satisfy with Aztech product. So, when they have this Aztech playXtreme2 Android box, I thought it can't be too bad if it is from Aztech.
But big mistake. big mistake. This box is so CRAPPY! It is slow, and way too slow. Even if your network is not slow, the box can't even play the show fast. How I know? Very simple test.
1. Run the Netflix App on iPad. And it works! Very smooth, no buffering.
2. Run the Netflix App on Apple TV. It is smooth and no buffering.
3. Run the Netflix App on playXtreme2. It is choppy, and lots of time got buffering.
And all three devices using the same WiFi, same network. HaHaHaHaHa
Remember, don't blame the network. Do more test then, you know who is the culprit!
So, I can safely throw away this Aztech crappiest product.
Oh ya. I mentioned Netflix. It is a TV streaming service from US. To run this service, you need to subscribe to freedom VPN (on top of your existing ViewQwest FibreNet Broadband link).
They will give you an extra network port for you to get a VPN link, obtain a US-based IP Address. And from there, you can hook up to Netflix, Amazon Video, iPlayer (BBC) and Hulu Plus.
Or if you don't want to pay $10.70/month for the VPN link. Then, you can do what I do… configure the DNS on your network. i.e. Instead of using your ISP DNS, use a special proxy DNS in US. I wrote about this before.
But beware, using the alternative DNS method. You are been seen as you are from US address. So, if you access local websites like the bank websites, it will be slower. :) Hey, give and take la.
OK. Now back to my new Android TV Box.
This is my home screen. As you can see, I only need these few Apps to work.
All these Apps has exceptional good quality of playback the streaming media from the Internet.
"DS file" is a very important App to link up to your NAS - my Synology NAS. It can play all the movies on your NAS.
"快手MV" has a good collections of Music Videos. They even have the KaraOK songs on there.
PPTV, QiYi, LeTV, Funshion are the usual Apps that I used. Each of their own contents, most are duplicates. But depends on which one is faster.
One of the surprising good App is called "Kascend Video". From there, I can access to tons of CHINESE DOCUMENTARY shows. I can remember, I grew up in front of TV sticking to watching all these Chinese Documentary from TCS last time. And It is so hard to find all these Chinese Documentary. Hey, this is to re-pick up your Chinese roots la. haha
Another surprising good App is the 兔子视频. It tries to find all HD contents from all the media sites.
And of course, you can throw away those awful simple remote control or this Aztech remote control that comes with keyboard and touchpad. It is very hard to use! hahaha
The best navigation device is still the old trusty Mouse. So, just hook up the Wireless Mouse, and use Mouse to navigate. There is online keyboard you can use too.
So, let's test drive some of the App. This App shows decent movies collection.
It takes less than 3-5 seconds to launch the movie. (depends on ISP, I am using ViewQwest which has peering with PPTV).
And it is HD quality. The show is quite decent, the sounds is good quality too.
One thing I like about this box is. Some how when you click the RIGHT mouse button, you will always been ask if you want to exit from the App. So, it seems that it is running ONE APP at a time. But then, when I go SETTINGS to check, I found out most App are actually on suspension but not EXIT. However, the performance of the Box is still running good. May be is because my S-Plug will always turn off the box when I turn off the TV. That is why it is always boot up clean.
I am actually quite happy with it. For the first time, I am satisfy with the performance of the Android box. (not the UI though).
So, when you want to pick up a Android TV Box / Media Box next time, just remember few things...
1. What is the RAM running inside. It has to be > 1Gbps to get a good enough performance. Even if you have super powerful Network, your Streaming Media will be slow due to the slow CPU, slow RAM, etc.
2. What version of Android they are running. If it is < version 4. Forget it! Those are old technology. If it is version 4. WHICH VERSION 4. Best is to stick with a stable version 4.0.4. NOT NECESSARY NEWEST or LATEST will be great! For example. Some newer version 4 of Android don't run Flash Player. :) But most of the China contents need flash player to work. So, you know why you cannot run latest and faster version of Android.
3. A version that is fast, and able to allow you to run "Flash Player". It is important. :)
I am happy with my TV box now. So, I even run Flipboard on my TV. :) Cool right.
I am still waiting for my Roku box from US. That box suppose to be one of the good alternative beside Apple TV.