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The MK808 Dual Core Android 4.1 TV BOX Rockchip RK3066 Cortex-A9 Mini PC Smart TV Stick

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The thinking was sound, there has been a lot of press recently about Android on a stick devices which plug into the HDMI port on your TV and turn that “dumb” TV into an Android powered Smart TV. So hove does this device with the snappy title stand up to this task?

As someone who has cut the cable, I run my TV currently off an ASROCK ION 330 PC which has up until last week served me well, however last week it started sounding a bit like a jumbo jet taking off, i cleaned the fans, no change. Although the box was working, having it and my significant other complaining about the noise was more than enough to start looking at what was available in the latest crop of media players.

While the current selection of dedicated media devices such as the Roku, Apple TV and Western Digital offerings do get high praise and seem to offer many services and codecs each time a read a review about each device the negatives although fees were enough to put me off. The Apple TV doesn’t play MKV files and thats what i’ve ripped my DVD collection to and don’t fancy re-transcoding a few hundred Gb of movies. The Roku is service heavy if you are in the US however doesn’t support some of the UK TV services. Reports on other devices of not playing every file unless it is encoded correctly etc.

While i could possibly live with these issues, the bottom line is despite the noise being made on my current device, Ubuntu, XBMC and a web browser play everything I have, including music and offer me the actual access and experience with BB Iplayer, Spotify, Rdio etc i’m supposed to have, not some terrible attempt at a web browser showing a half baked attempt at what a page might have looked like had i gone back in time and opened it in Netscape in 1992. (exhibit A: PS3 40D page)

What did i need?

71BIO8rCrIL._AA1500_So I decided I needed something with an OS on it which allowed me to install Applications as I needed them, and this path lead me to these Android Devices. Simple in concept Take a stock Android OS (in this case the latest one 4.1.1 Jelly bean) and add access to the Play store, install the required apps and off we go. A great idea and one I do on my Transformer PRime tablet anyway so I know that the Apps on android provide the infrastructure i was looking for, XBMC, Plex, TV Catchup, iPlayer, 40D, ITV etc.. because as well as me using this, so is my wife and she uses an aneroid phone so should also be easy to navigate.

The reviews

The snappily titled MK808 Dual Core Android 4.1 TV BOX Rockchip RK3066 Cortex-A9 Mini PC Smart TV Stick gets some good reviews on Amazon and many other sites, these include these little gems..

Well this mini pc is absolutely a fantastic bit of kit, it’s dual core processor handles everything I throw at it and I had a 32gig memory card from my BlackBerry so now I have 32 plus the internal 8gig trust me you will never want to use a desktop pc or laptop again..great product at a great price

Update..

they have just released the latest update to this item which makes it perform even faster and also it has true 1080p Resolution also included in the update are few nice add-ons such as it being rooted so you can overclock it if you desire i just love this little machine i’m never off of it great product and makes a very Dumb telly very very smart indeed. i feel bad for all those people who changed their sets to get the same or less features for all of that extra cash

and

What to say about the MK808? Well basically it is a very fast Android tablet without the touch screen and designed to turn your existing TV into a “smart” one.

Brought this one on a recommendation from someone on a tablet site I sometimes converse with (thanks Bob)

It plugs in to the TV via-HDMI input to your TV with the supplied HDMI adapter and comes with its own power supply.

I actually have a tablet with this same chipset and it’s very good, all you need to get up and running is a TV with HDMI input, a wireless router for internet access, and of course some form of input, I have ordered a Air mouse controller for better control on Apps and games, but have also tried with a standard wireless mouse which worked fine.

This runs Jellybean and hardware info (which is a good reporting App for Android) states that it runs at 1608 MHz (duel core) and of course has quad core graphics, same as my tablet in fact.

This one is connected in my son’s bedroom and seems to be fine Wi-Fi wise, the router is downstairs and Youtube plays flawlessly.

Those that are used to Android will easily get the hang of this device, and those that aren’t will quickly learn by using, which is just as well as the instruction manual is small and not extensive.

A fast and very capable device, especially at the price that I paid (40) and I think will be buying another for another TV soon.

I fully recommend.

and

This is a really useful little machine. It’s versatile, silent, and packs a lot of functionality for the price.

It comes with a USB OTG cable, mini HDMI to regular HDMI cable, and 1 amp mini-usb adaptor. This unfortunately has a non-UK plug, but I’ve powered the unit using a spare power supply. It’s supplied with Android 4.1 as described, although there are a few minor issues around wifi reception and display scaling. These can be fixed by flashing an updated firmware to the device, an easy process with plenty of guides out there.

Performance is good, and after customising the appearance with a custom launcher, it looks great. It plays HD video, although note that the actual resolution is 1280×672. This is then scaled to whatever resolution you select, so 1080p video is somewhat wasted. You can connect a usb flash drive or external hard drive to the OTG port and play directly from that.

Overall, a great little machine for web/e-mail/social media with gaming and video a handy bonus.

If this ran at 1.6Ghz as advertised (it’s actually set to 1Ghz by default, and would benefit from a bit of a speed boost), had bluetooth support and a UK power adaptor, this would be a five star item.

You get the picture, all reviews telling me just how well it works, and usually Amazon’s reviews are spot on, take the top and bottom, leave them out, read the ones in the middle and I’ve not had a problem before.

Experience

Unfortunately my experience wasn’t anything like this. the device turned up as advertised, so can’t complain there, it is the size of a rage USB sick, so thats good, it has a HDMI Cable coming out of it, a USB power supply (with an additional US to UK mains adaptor) however no OTG cable to convert Ethernet to USB, it does come with built in Wifi however if you are streaming 1080p (as the able advertisement picture taken from Amazon’s site says it will) Wifi isn’t enough. Especially with 2 iPads, 2 phones and an Android tablet also on the same Wifi hub.

71dCT5BAdNL._AA1500_Plugging in my IR Logitech media adaptor into the device and the mouse and keyboard were up and running, and I had an OTG cable which it picked up immediately and got me an Ethernet connection with no fuss. Turning on the device is fast, however would not go into 1080p mode only 720p and the default wall paper is a headache inducing green mess..

I logged onto my play account, and installed all the Apps, which work as I said on my Transformer Prime TF300. First app to run iPlayer, no go, ITV Player wouldn’t install it wasn’t compatible, 40D and TV catchup none of them would start, despite having a valid IP all of these apps complain that there is no Wifi connection. So seem to have been built not to look at eth0 in the underlying network stack, only check if there is a 3G or Wifi adaptor with an IP Address. Understandable as Android is a mobile platform, very frustrating when you do have a GB Ethernet connection..

Not great, however I moved over to Plex, something i’ve spent a while setting up as i love it works on Android, WP8 and IOS however not too well on this device as although it picked up my media, nothing would transcode or play on the device. I followed about 20 different suggestions from forums, nowt, nothing would play via plea.Maybe i’d get better luck with XBMC? Downloaded and installed this and again, no cigar, first I had an issue getting the NAS drive to show up, this was fixed by entering in the IP information directly, I got a list of media and chose a smaller vide (Penguins of Madagascar) Choppy doesn’t even go far enough to explain just how bad this was, sync of vide and audio out was off, choppy, poor resolution. AVI files, MKV files MP4 files all the same.

So what about games? maybe I could give to my sisters kids as a games machine? I think not, touch based games with a mouse, yuk!!!

I followed the advice on a forum and tried iPlayer on Firefox.. and Chrome and Browser, choppy terrible playback, and a parallel test on my phone, iPad 3 and Android tablet all played fine so it wasn’t a network connection issue.

Conclusion

I love this concept, a USB sized device running android on My TV, it makes very very good sense, Android is a good OS, it has good support for media and media types, however what blights it on the phone and tablet systems, has killed it here as well. Android’s biggest issue is not Android, its the cheap, terrible hardware people (rad chinese hardware companies) flood the market with. To realistically play media on a device at 720 or 1080p you need a decent GPU as you would find on Nexus Devices, Asus Tablets, Samsung phones etc. Which is why these devices sell well. they give the user a great experience. pull the GPU out of the system, put substandard hardware on it, sure it will display at 1080p, sure it does support apps, its just not going to give you the experience you are expecting.

I’m going to have a play with this device, see if putting another rooted version of the OS can at least get me something with which i can use, its a pity it can’t get enough power off a HDMI port to power up otherwise as a portable device i can plug into any HDMI TV/Display and check my mail on via a bluetooth keyboard i bought for my iPad (oh, yeah, why bother I have working kit)

Assigned to the pile of useless crap, which remind me to be more careful.

 

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