Let’s just get one thing out of the right now, shall we? All those clever folk sneering at the wave of Android TV boxes flooding the market right now need to wipe the smirk off their faces, because these things are here to stay, and they’re getting awesome.
For those who’ve just arrived from Mars, these small boxes hook up to your TV via the HDMI socket and deliver games, Internet, and TV entertainment using the WiFi network in your home. They are very cool, and they’re now a must-have tech if you’re into what they offer.
The Tronsmart Draco AW80 is the first of a new generation of TV boxes with OctaCore processors, which means it’s a beast of a device when it comes to handling media and streaming needs. Read on for our overview and video of the product in action.
The first look at the product is impressive. The AW80 comes in a very nicely packaged box, along with a suite of boxes containing accessories you may need. As well as the mandatory power block and USB cable, there’s an HDMI cable, remote control, user guide and an unusual cable to let you connect up an external SATA drive to the box, if that’s your thing. This is a bump up in specification from all the other boxes we’ve tested so far, and it’s very interesting, because it means you can at last take advantage of very high speed, high capacity drives to store your media on.
The specifications of the AW80 are likewise very impressive. It sports an Allwinner A80 OctaCore processor up to 2.0GHz, a 64 core PowerVR graphics processor, either 2 or 4 GB of RAM depending on model, 16 or 32 GB of internal storage, dual band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet and SPDIF sockets, OTG USB, and an SD card slot. It runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and supports 1920×1080, 4K with the more efficient H265 decoding. Oh yes, and it will do Miracast/Airplay/DLNA streaming and accepts an external webcam for video calling etc. Our video below gives a run through of the product in operation.
All this processing power really does make a difference when it comes to real life performance. It’s been roughly 2 years since we first started looking at these boxes, and the difference in the user experience from then to now is night and day. The only unfortunate thing is that too few of these box suppliers offer a decent air mouse or keyboard/trackpad combo with their kit, which makes it a pain to navigate around. For our review we cheated and used the excellent ProboxEX 2 air mouse with this box, and threw the supplied remote back in the box. It’s a shame.
That said, everything else on this product is a dream. The first point to note is the Antuttu benchmark result, which comes in at a stonking 60028 (compared to 40021 from the ProboxEX 2 we reviewed recently). This is a powerful beast, and it translates into a faultless operation. Navigation is sweetly smooth, games are likewise slick and gorgeous to look at, and the WiFi delivers superb signal strength, which is vital if you’re doing a lot of streaming.
Talking of streaming, the other lovely feature is the fact that Miracast (and we must assume all the other streaming services) works like a dream out of the box. The ProboxEX was good, but the AW80 takes it to another level. We streamed a game from our Android phone to the TV box and it was glitch and lag free, which is the first time we’ve been able to say that the experience is top notch for any kind of wireless streaming like this. And our test model was only the 2GB model!
The other nice thing is the fact that the box doesn’t exhibit any problems with overheating, and ran cool during all of our tests. This may not seem like much, but almost every other box we’ve tested has got warm, and sometimes hung during extended periods of use. The Tronsmart doesn’t. We also liked the fact that you can just slot any old webcam into a USB port and bang, you’ve got yourself a full blown video chat system ready to go. Again, something we’ve not found before.
Although we weren’t able to test the 4K resolution at all (due to our lack of a 4K TV), we did run the box through a range of resolution, gaming and browsing tests and it passed all of them with flying colors. This is the Android TV box we’ve been waiting for. It’s good looking, fast, delivers gorgeous resolution, rock solid streaming and is built like a proper top quality product. Our only complaints are trivial, the lack of a default air-mouse (essential really, we suggest you invest in a $25 Probox2 Remote+) and the fact that the default vanilla Android interface may put some people off.
In the end we spent two minutes downloading and installing the excellent and free Simple TVLauncher, which delivered a simple and easy to use TV box front end, and we were good to go. Such is the beauty of the Android store. But overall? We really love this box. It’s the new standard to beat in Android TV boxes, and a worthy new champion. Recommended.
Price: $149 (2GB/16GB Meta model)
Operating System: Android 4.4, support OTA
CPU Allwinner A80 ARM Cortex A15/A7
CPU Cores Octa Core
GPU 64-Core PowerVR G6230
Memory DDR3 2GB Internal Storage EMMC 16GB
Wifi Connectivity 2.4G/5.0G, IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wifi AP6330 module
Video Supported Video Decoder: Supports *.mkv,*.wmv,*.mpg, *.mpeg, *.dat, *.avi, *.mov, *.iso, *.mp4, *.rm and *.jpg file formats
Video Encoder: H.265 HEVC [email protected] up to 4Kx2K@30fps
Audio Supported Audio Container: Supports MP3, AAC, WMA, RM, FLAC, Ogg and programmable with 5.1 down-mixing
Additional Function Support Google Play & APK install
Support Skype/MSN/GTALK (Depends on APK )
WORD/EXCEL/PDF(Depends on APK install)