We’ve been covering Android TV boxes for a while, and they’ve come a long way since the early days of under-powered, over hyped gum-stick units. Nowadays the best of them are really cool, and can turn your television into a beast of an Internet enabled multimedia device. Now the manufacturers have stepped up the game and introduced the first of the ultra high resolution models, which can deliver 4K to your compatible TV.
Our first test of the genre involves the OTT M8 TV Box, which is a very cool piece of kit indeed. As you’ll see from the video, it runs impeccably and comes with enough functionality, and a strong enough specification to ensure that it will deliver just about everything you’ll need if you ever decide to cut the cord and make the Internet your media channel of choice.
The M8 comes in a professional package, complete with a power block and cable, a simple remote control, HDMI cable and a fairly rudimentary user manual. We would have liked to see a slightly more detailed manual, but to be honest, we guess that anyone who’s buying one of these boxes by now, should have a basic understanding of what the functionality is all about. And as we’ll see, the user interface is so delightfully simple to grasp that it should be a cinch for most folk to get going.
What we’re specifically missing though are detailed instructions about the more esoteric functions, such as Miracast, Airplay and DLNA connectivity. The box itself is very meaty, featuring a 2 GHz quad core processor, 2 GB of RAM, 8 GB of onboard storage and support for SD cards (not microSD as it says on the sales page!) up to 32GB. It also features, Bluetooth, Ethernet and twin USB ports, as well as optical in and A/V out for connecting to external high quality audio. The box runs Android KitKat (4.4.2) and also supports (i.e. has installed) XBMC (via hardware encoding), Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Skype (without camera), and email, so it’s ready to cope with a huge set of services immediately.
The most impressive thing about the M8 is the fact that the developers have hidden the typical Android front end behind a really nice, colorful UI, which immediately encourages you to explore and use the box to its fullest. They call it a Windows 8 interface in the blurb, but thankfully it only has a passing resemblance to Metro. In use it’s just a matter of cycling through the menu box icons to get to your function, and if you need to do more detailed setup stuff you can get to the stock Android Settings page via the front screen Setting option.
The box has full access to the Google Play store, and you can also add your own favorite apps and games using a handy .apk installer built into the system. It’s fast and easy to navigate around the system, and things like connecting to your WiFi network takes a matter of seconds. It all just works. One thing we would strongly recommend though, is you have a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse or trackpad of some sort handy, since the remote control in cursor mode is excruciatingly slow, which makes entering set up text like WiFi passwords or browser URLs a real pain.
Once you’re all set up and running, using the box is a lovely experience (especially compared to the older slower TV sticks). Menus flash past, and accessing functionality is almost instantaneous. The browser is also fast, and there are plenty of options available to let you customize the interface to have your favorite apps and games up front where you need them. But we’ve really got to tip our hat at the Mali-450 8-Core GPU, because the graphics and resolution of the M8 box are first class.
The HD quality video coming from some of the channels on XBMC and YouTube is excellent, although we found that you really need a really good WiFi connection (which preferably means the router should be in the same room as your TV) in order to get the best results. We can see why hooking it up to an Ethernet cable might be preferable (and probably mandatory?) for seamless 4K resolution. Speaking of which, we were unable to test out the 4K res because we don’t have access to a 4K television, so we’ll have to take their word for it that it works properly. Judging by the general quality of the video we saw, we’d say that it’s a pretty safe bet.
The OTT M8 4K TV Box elevates the Android add-on Internet box to a whole new level of functionality and sophistication. The integrated XBMC hardware support on its own is worth the price of admission, as it brings one of the coolest apps on the market front and center into the living room, without needing to fiddle about with complex installations (and yes XBMC is still not ready for prime time consumer use for that very reason) and add-on setup.
Add to that a fabulous interface, with clear and easy navigation, superb performance from the processor and RAM combo, and video resolution which rivals any standard HD terrestrial broadcasts and you’ve got a stonking great product which really defines the market right now. Yes. we’re impressed, and no sign of over-heating either, which we’ve found with just about every other unit we’ve ever reviewed. Recommended.
OS Version: Android 4.4
CPU: AML8726-M8 Quad-Core Cortex-A9
GPU: Mali-450 8-Core GPU
Processor Speed (max): 2.0GHz
ROM:(internal + external) 8GB, up to 32GB
Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n
XBMC Hardware Decoding
Power Source: Power Adapter
Micro SD Card Slot: Up to 32GB [SD!!!]
2 x USB Port