I bought myself a MK809II, a Chinese TV stick running Android that connects to the HDMI port of your dumb TV and transforms it in a smart TV. It’s pretty inexpensive, going for about 50 euros and pretty power efficient:
at 5V-1.5A = 7.5W maximum load * 24h = 180W/h max per day, at 0.15€ average KW/h results in a total of 0.027€ per day (around 10€/year in electric bill) if one was to use it day and night….
The specs are okay, with the RK3066 chip, dual core A9 cortex 1.6Ghz CPU and Quad core Mali 400Mhz GPU, 1GB DDR 3 RAM, 8GB internal memory (SD card expandable), WiFi b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1. Talking about incredible bang for the buck… but as always the main question is, does it deliver?
1 – Root and ROM
As a true geek, i lost some time and berain cells, around the forums and tinkering with it and after some hours the device was properly rooted. In a summary you must install JDK and ADK, configure the USB driver so the ‘adb’ command can talk to it. I had some pain with the PDAnet USB drivers (recognizing every other Android device except this one…), and i only solve it ditching the PDAnet drivers and using the Moborobo drivers (specifically the Android Composite ADB Interface). After this problem solved, it was a breeze to root it. I don’t give many technical details on purpose because you can find excellent guides online, i followed this video on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYdMydq7css
Everywhere in the forums there are good sayings about custom ROM (that will do this and that better than stock), so i went for it. As now, the ROM of choice for this device is made by some guy named Bob, and is posted in the Freaktab forum: http://www.freaktab.com/showthread.php?5232-MK809II-Finless-1-7a-ROM. The ROM installation is really a simple process, download the Finless Bob ROM, then use the maker flashing tool and the USB drivers to put it on flash mode. From there start the flashing tool that comes with the custom ROM and follow the on screen instructions (in doubt please see part 3 of the Youtube video mentioned in the previous paragraph).
After i flashed the device it seemed a bit stupid rooting it first, because the custom ROM comes already pre-rooted and the flashing procedure looks completely independent of the previous rooting procedure. So my advice, go directly to the flashing and skip previous rooting. I strongly believe it should work and you save yourself a lot of time and pain (please comment if it’s successful or not).
With the custom ROM up and running, Antutu scores 9028 marks (close to a Samsung Galaxy S2), i don’t know much about the stock ROM as i didn’t use it for more than 10 minutes.
2 – Remote control
The custom ROM comes with an application called RKRemoteControl, you can install it in an Android device and control the TV stick with your phone or tablet. It’s not the neatest application that i have seen, but it does the work, also remember that works trough IP network so it’s a bit laggy (it’s not that bad, but don’t expect to enjoy playing Fruit Ninja…). Of course the stick has built-in Bluetooth just waiting for an air mouse/keyboard to connect. So, expect an update about Bluetoothing remote control soon…
3 – Youtube
The Youtube experience is pretty neat. The app runs smoothly, and the videos playback perfectly. The videos in high definition seem to play at 720p (this is just empirical as there is no way in the app now to tell the current resolution) with no frame dropping or lag. A couple of nasty things worth to mention, first as with phones and tablets, some videos are not available to “mobile devices” even if I’M WATCHING IN A FUCKIN BIG TV, and the second is the weak WIFI. To stream Youtube content (or any other network intense activity) you must have the stick at a maximum range of 5 meters from your router and even so be prepare for some loading pauses here and there.
4 – Playing external content (HDD)
Connect an external USB HDD and it is automagically recognized. All the multimedia content can be found and played in MX Player (the most widely used player on the Android platform). The main problem is that that quality is not really 5 stars. The content in 720p and 1080p is actually played…. but it’s noticeable some kind of frame dropping. There is no lagging or jittering, but it lacks a lot of smoothness that you can quite obviously notice when there is movement (it is as if you are drunk watching a movie drunk). For the record, the same content in other mediums plays back perfectly.
5 – XBMC
This was the big disappointment. I put in the latest XBMC release as by now (12.2 Frodo). But it lacks hardware acceleration support, so it’s pretty useless on playing video content in high definition. It struggles even to play 720p… sure it’s fine to stream some music with the audio plug-ins in your living room and slide-showing your photos or some content from art/design sites as 500px. That is all cool, and the interface is cool and works great, but I wanted this to play my digital content (not only the old low quality movies). So, in the end of the day, it’s a no-no.
6 – Other Apps
With Google Play access and some space, you can use this stick to load some Apps. Twitter, Accuweather, Facebook and so on (all the apps that I installed) work good. But there are two problems here (maybe three), first the poor WIFI performance sometimes shows itself and it takes a while to load content. The second problem, is the bad text quality. The output is not true 1080p but upscaling, this causes the text outline is bit fuzzy, and is incredible in a 1080p TV set you can’t comfortably read small fonts because of that. The Facebook and browsing experience is not as good has it could be mainly because of this. After some minutes, you are tired of the effort to read.
Really cheap (around 50 euros).
It’s an Android, millions of Apps (updates), fully customizable, etc on your TV.
Bad WIFI performance (must be close to the router, 5 meters maximum).
Internal resolution of 720p then upscaled do output 1080p, the small fonts don’t show that nice.
XBMC (as of 12.2) doesn’t support hardware acceleration for this chip, so no HD content from XBMC.
For now it’s a DON’T BUY. Too many but’s and maybe’s. Maybe with the hardware acceleration support in XBMC, maybe with a better WIFI support, maybe with no frame dropping in MX Player… The best bet is to spend a little more money in a more powerful device with better overall support.
Lesson learned again, don’t buy cheap Chinese stuff, you spend money just to realize you have to spend money again in decent stuff….
My device is wrecked. After just some weeks of usage…. no output signal, no USB signal when connected to the PC, nothing, completely dead. Sometimes i noticed it a bit warm. Maybe the ROM killed it, maybe i should have put an heat sink…. maybe it’s not top quality piece of hardware….Well, eill do the post mortem analysis and dissection as soon as possible.