The cheap Android Media Players available from China are terrific value for money. I have purchased the M8H, MK809V in the past and I added to the collection by adding a MXQ OTT TV Box to the list. One thing that is common among all my Media Players is that they feature Amlogic 8xx Series processors which have inbuilt support for H.265 video codec.
- Like the MK809V Compact AMP device, the MXQ device features an Amlogic S805 Quad Core CPU with 1GB RAM and 8 GB Internal Storage. It features an HDMI 1.4 Port, 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port, Four USB 2.0 Ports, 3.5mm SPDIF port and 3.5mm Composite Audio-video output port. The device also comes with a compact remote control, 1-foot long HDMI cable and 5V DC 2 Amp Adapter.
- Appearance wise, it’s a compact flat box like Apple TV. Due to the huge number of USB ports, its very easy to connect a bunch of External HDDs directly to it and playback their content on the TV.
- The device is capable of playing Full-HD videos encoded using H.265 Video Codec at 30 fps. This means that this device can very easily play BD-Rips encoded using either H.264 or H.265 codec.
- The device outputs digital audio over HDMI port or SPDIF port. It also outputs analog audio over the Composite Audio-Video port.
Setting it up was super simple. I hooked it up to my Onkyo TX-NR525 Receiver via HDMI, connected the power supply and was done. Compared to the M8H device, the MXQ device features much better Hardware and Software internals. Caveats if any, are few.
The MXQ is reasonably fast. As a generic Android computing device, the numerical performance of it’s main CPU is only as fast as Mobile phones and Tabs from 2013-14. However, the numbers are decent enough for a wide range of computing tasks.
- AnTuTu Benchmark 5.7.1 Score: 18037
- AnTuTu HTML5 Benchmark 5.7.1 : 5543
- Quadrant : 4014 (CPU:10620, Mem:2272, I/O:3808, 2D:1000, 3D:2370)
- Sun Spider 1.0.2 : 1417.56 ms
- The MXQ supported my 4GB USB 2.0 to 16 GB USB 3.0 Pen drives quite well. It also supported a Belkin Non-Powered USB Hub and External Desktop USB Drives connected to the hub.
- It comes with a bunch of pre-installed programs. Fortunately, I was able to un-install all of them without any trouble and then install the stuff that I wanted. This included installation of Kodi 15.2 as the main media center. Kodi was easily able to play H.265 1080p videos and also send AC3 and multi-channel AAC audio in pass-through mode to my Onkyo Receiver for Dolby Digital Surround Sound.
- The Android OS on the MXQ device allows you to change the default Home Screen Launcher app. You can choose to boot to default Android Home Screen with Live Wallpapers instead of the default Multimedia Launcher that is default on all Chinese Android Media Players.
- The device does not get unbearably hot. The motherboard features a passive heat-sink that does a good job of taking away the heat from an otherwise hot S805 CPU. In my tests, the device worked for 4-hours straight without hanging or burning up.
The design of the device very similar to the M8H, and similar to the Apple TV in some aspects. It’s actually made of translucent black (actually deep blue) plastic on the top, transparent black plastic on the sides and opaque black plastic as the base. A Red/Blue LED at the front lets you know the device power status. The blue LED is extremely bright and while it appears beautifully diffused when viewed from top, from the front, it’s glare was just too much. I was easily able to diffuse it by scratching the LED plastic surface and also sticking some 3M Scotch-tape to the front panel of the device.
- Some apps from Google Play Store will refuse to install citing device compatibility issues. You can bypass these errors by downloading the APK files from Play Store and then installing them by transferring them to the device using a USB Pen Drive or over Network.
- The MXQ does not support 2.5″ USB Portable HDD drives that require bus-power. Apparently, the USB ports on the MXQ do not deliver 500 – 700mAh that is required for these drives to spin-up and work. Your only solution to connect such drives to the device is to use a USB Hub with External power option.
- The device claimed to feature 1 GB RAM, however Android only reports about 815 MB RAM. It also claims 8 GB ROM, but Android reports available space of only about 5.06 GB. Both these parameters are not terrible and in fact, nearly 500 MB RAM is available for apps at device start.
- For a software that claims to be Version 15, Kodi has a number of usability issues.
- The sub-title colours in Kodi are hard-coded into the app and cannot be configured by the user. In fact, the “Grey” colour option is so light, that it almost appears white.
- A fair bit of technical prowess is required to install additional fonts for subtitles in Kodi.
- Kodi offers pass-through of Dolby AC3 and DTS audio-tracks. Many Receivers cannot handle multi-channel audio in any other format (for ex: AAC Multichannel). On such receivers, only stereo audio is processed. Fortunately, Kodi also offers an option to Resample such multi-channel audio files to AC3. Much of multi-channel audio/video files on the Internet use AAC encoding and this feature is certainly very useful.
- Due to lack of support in hardware, Kodi is unable to render 10-bit H.265 video properly. While other apps simply crash and burn, Kodi struggles but eventually fails. I am unsure if 10-bit video will even become a priority for general public, but being able to support it will become mandatory.
- Confluence, the default UI of Kodi requires a steady-hand and high-accuracy mouse. It’s quite frustrating to use the interface using a Bluetooth Keyboard with Touchpad from 10-feet away. Other user-created interfaces are available but the default theme is now long overdue for a revamp.
The device lacks a software option for operating system shutdown and hardware switch for cutting power to the device. In the best case, you can put the device in standby mode using the remote or the power button of a keyboard. If you intend to switch the device off, please ensure that you have unmounted all connected USB storage and closed apps that may have opened files. Since Android 4.4 that is installed on the device is not rooted, you can use apps available on Google Play Store to power-off or reboot the device.
- The device does not feature Bluetooth, hence you cannot redirect the audio from the device to a Bluetooth Portable Speaker or Bluetooth Audio Receiver. The device does not feature a headphone socket either for easy connectivity to small computer speakers. I did connect a Bluetooth dongle to the device and was disappointed to see that the dongle was not detected and added to the system capabilities.
The Wi-Fi feature uses a small patch antenna of the type that is used in mobile phones. Though it’s exact of the same type, it actually performed way better than the M8H device. At a particular location in my house, while the M8H showed signal strength of -69dB, the MXQ showed signal strength of almost -59dB. On the M8H, I had to use an external 3dB Gain Antenna to achieve this kind of signal strength. Unfortunately, the internal patch antenna is soldered to the motherboard and does not use RP-SMA connector. This rules out using an external antenna with the MXQ to improve signal strengths further.
- The OS features an Update feature to update the OS. However, it does not work. Since the manufacturer of the MXQ device is not clearly documented, trying to download the original or updated ROM for the device has proven to be useless till date for me.
While the device costs the same as the MK809V, it actually offers much better performance. Be it in terms of design, power or convenience, the MXQ makes much more sense than buying the MK809V or the M8S. Since it also costs less than half of M8H, it is an excellent option for those who only need 1080p video playback.
Gallery of Image (Software Configuration)