We admit to being a little fascinated by these tiny TV PCs…Android dongles which add computing and Internet power to your conventional flat screen television. We last looked at one a few months ago, and concluded that it was under-powered but a great idea. Well the latest models have been given a big performance boost, so we thought we would take a look and see whether they’re ready for prime time now.
This R-Box Dual Core Android TV PC features a respectable 1.6GHz dual core processor, Android 4.1.1, 1GB of RAM and 3D acceleration in a package which is not much bigger than a stick of gum. Like its predecessors it comes with HDMI 1080p output, a USB port to accept accessories like Bluetooth keyboards, mice etc, plus a microSD slot for extra storage space up to 32GB. It supports WiFi b/g/n which is another upgrade on previous models, and can handle MP3, OGG, WAV and the rest of the audio formats.
The major new addition is a 2 megapixel camera, which seems like a brilliant idea to us, and something that could really add value to the whole genre. Unfortunately, as we’ll see in a moment, it doesn’t really work out that way. From a first impression point of view, however, the product is first class. The casing is nicely styled, and in operation it doesn’t seem to get as hot as we would expect with all that processing going on inside.
The box comes with all the bits you need, including a power brick, A/V cables (presumably if HDMI is not your bag), a micro USB power cable and an HDMI extender. The one thing we noticed first off is that the power cable tip is unusually long in order to fit into the small port on the Android PC itself. So it looks as though you won’t be able to use your standard micro USB cable to power up this puppy. We assume that there are other suppliers of this type of elongated USB connector, in case you need a spare, but it’s something to note down.
To get going you simply slot the thing into your HDMI socket and locate the signal source on your TV as you would with any other accessory. The first thing you notice is how fast this new dual core 1.6GHz model is, compared to the older single core. Boot up is very rapid, and browsing sites is a dream. Even navigating through menus is snappy and lag-free. Now this is how they should operate. Take a look at the video below to see it in action.
Now on to the less than stellar bit. The camera. We were all excited because we thought we’d found a bargain basement way to add Skype video calling to our TV (compared to products like the Logitech Skype camera which costs hundreds of dollars). But to our dismay Skype refused to work with the dongle, and not only Skype. We tried Tango too, and even Google Talk failed to load. So it looks like there’s either a) a bug in the firmware or b) the thing is designed not to let you access the camera via a video chat application.
It totally ruins the point of having a camera in the device, what else are you going to do, photograph (or video) yourself sitting on the couch? Not really, eh?
Apart from that massive disappointment, we really like this product, and if they or someone else can come up with a fix for the camera issue, this would easily get our Red Ferret Editors Choice badge. But as it is, we’re going to have to give it a ‘Nice Try’ rank instead. For $64.99 it’s almost worth buying it anyway for the fast operation and improved Android experience, but we’ll reserve our real praise for when the camera works as it should and we can video chat from the comfort of our couch and the TV.
Material: Aluminum Alloy
Color: Silver + Black
Dimensions: 3.94 in x 1.65 in x 0.39 in (10.0 cm x 4.2 cm x 1.0 cm)
Operating System: Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean
Chipset: Rockchip RK3066
Processor Frequency: 252MHz~1608MHz
Memory: DDR3 1GB
Operating Language: Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Spanish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Turkish, Chinese
Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n
Memory Card Type: TF
Support TF Card Extension: 32GB Max
Support External HDD: 1TB Max
Audio Formats: MP3, WMA, APE, FLAC, AAC, WAV, OGG
Video Formats: H.264, VP8, RV, WMV, AVS, H.263, MPEG4
Video Codecs: H.264, VP8, RV, WMV, AVS, H.263, MPEG4
Picture Formats: JPEG, JPG, BMP, GIF
Subtitle Formats: ssa (SubStation Alpha)
Output Resolution: Full HD 1080p
USB: USB 2.0
Wireless Keyboard/Mouse: 2.4GHz
Video Output: HDMI
Audio Output: AV
Other Interface: 1 x USB 2.0, 2 x Micro USB ports, 1 x TF card slot, 1 x AV Output
Power Supply: US Plug
Power Input: 110~240V
Google Play: Yes
Other Features: Supports DLNA; Camera: 2.0MP