I’ve been testing the AND100 Android Box from TV Trade. Dave and the guys sent me the box in December and I’m only getting around to blogging about it now (sorry guys!).
I have a Roku XS and it’s the benchmark when it comes to home media. I run a Plex client and Netflix off it. The Roku remote control is easy and simple – that’s what I like.
Any new media box challenging to sit full time under my TV must equal or surpass the Roku.
Let’s get the little niggly things out of the way first because the AND100 is a very good box in terms of flexibility and what it can do (way better than the Roku).
This is a version of Android that should be running on a tablet and it has 3 soft keys that are constantly displayed at the bottom of the screen. Since the TV isn’t touch screen these buttons have no purpose. They turn into 3 dots while watching netflix etc. in full screen and there is no easy way to remove them either without rooting the box and using an APP. I decided I could live with the 3 dots.
The front end launcher is terrible. It made no sense to me and I ended up going into the ‘Android’ option and browsing the apps from here. I felt the default launcher was really letting the box down so I installed the GO launcher HD (free). Once installed I added the stuff I wanted to quick access to (Plex, Netflix, RTE, BBC sport, News, etc). I increased the font size to make things a little easier to read from a distance. Once Go Launcher was installed the AND100 becomes a lot more user friendly and from here I felt the box was in its element. Compared to the Roku and how easy it is to launch apps it’s not perfect but getting there.
The Good Stuff
You can install RTE player, Netflix, Plex, Hulu and pretty much whatever you want from the Google play store. This is where the AND100 is better than the Roku – you have full control. With Roku you are very much limited by what Roku offers (yes you can side load but that’s not for everyone!). The Roku has limited ability to play videos from a USB key whereas the AND100 had no problem at all.
The Box Itself
The box isn’t the prettiest box (black generic box) but it’s small and well made. As you expect it is whisper quiet and the LEDs on the box are pleasant and not distracting. In terms of video-out ports it has HDMI and RCA allowing it to be plugged into most TVs.
I should point out I’m using the HDMI output from the box and it’s the only way to use it on big screens (+30inch). I tried the RCA cables and it was horrible to look at. It doesn’t come with a HDMI cable by default and if you forget to order one, don’t go to big name stores for HMDI cables – they will fleece you, try somewhere like Dealz and you’ll find a 1m cable for a bargain price of €1.49.
For some reason I couldn’t get ethernet to work but the wifi was simple and very stable. (I think because most mobile device don’t have an ethernet port this version of Android OS doesn’t know how to handle the hardware correctly.)
The box comes installed with your typically Google apps like maps, Gmail and with the wireless keyboard remote you can send/receive/read emails. You can install Twitter and Facebook and they all work great (unlike on the Roku). Since I view this is a media box, I turn off all notifications, I don’t want interruptions. A lot of the apps that comes preinstalled with Android AND100 won’t be useful for the regular user and just adds to the clutter. This is why I think a better launcher is key.
Remote Control vs Mini Keyboard
I found myself ditching the wireless keyboard and just using the default little remote control that comes with the AND100 box. I used the wireless mini keyboard for surfing the web, entering search terms etc. but I didn’t really need a full keyboard. The little remote control is perfect for start/stopping media and up/down/left/right is all you really need to navigate Plex/Netflix.
Overall it is a good versatile box but if you have a Roku – it won’t replace it. It is very portable and I’ve brought the Andorid Box (AND100) on my travels and plugged it in to the hotel TVs. Plugging in a usb key with movies and the AND100 shows its value again over the Roku which doesn’t have a great standalone media player. Once up and running it had no problems with HD netflix or playing HD videos over plex so I was happy with it overall.
I think we’ll see more and more of these kind of boxes (not to mention chromecast). I’m surprised not to see more dedicated free launchers on Google play for these kind of devices. There might be an opportunity for someone to come and along and put one together that covers everything. Maybe I’m missing something, I did find one that is close but it’s a paid app, (TV Launcher), which looks nice and simple.