Cutting the cord, or avoiding subscription fees by using the Internet as your source of TV programmes, is a popular pastime. As domestic Internet speeds rise and smart, tiny HDMI capable computers can sit snugly under TV sets; there’s no real need to be a cable or satellite subscriber.
In this review we will be looking at a powerful new Android contender in the form of the GooBang Doo ABOX A4. You’ll even get the chance to get one of these gadgets for yourself.
The unit is based on the Android 7.1 platform, driven by a Quad core Cortex 2Ghz A53 processor assisted by a 750MHz Penta-Core Mali-450MP graphics coprocessor. Having additional processors to take care of rendering video and graphics on screen smooths out performance and greatly reduces the kind of lag you usually get with cheaper computers.
The remote is Bluetooth 4.0 rather than infrared, and you pair it to the box by holding down the lowest two keys on either side of the remote. The process is painless and quick, and once it’s done it’s done, even if you change batteries. The remote is voice-enabled, meaning you can press the mic button and speak your searches.
There are two USB socket inputs and one slot for a TF card, so you can play videos, photos and music directly from storage media using ES Explorer.
The onboard Ethernet is 10/100M, using a standard RJ-45 connector in the back. There is also wireless support for the 802.11 a/b/g/n standards at 2.4GHz. Obviously for applications like streaming, a wired connection will always be faster.
The box supports wireless display standards Airplay, DLNA, Miracast and H.265, meaning you should be able to mirror your phone or tablet to the TV, if it’s compatible. All video formats you can think of are supported as standard like MPEG, H.265, AVC, XVID, DIVX – basically, you name it, it plays it. All standard subtitle formats are supported, too. Supported video file formats are all the usual suspects including AVI, MKV, MOV and MPEG, and every photo format for stills and all standard music file formats like MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC, etc. Supported resolutions are SD, HD up to 1080p and even 4K, playable through the HDMI connector.
Why Would I Want It?
Having a TV box is a boon for several reasons. TV-on-demand services have Android versions of their apps these days, and downloading them from the Google Play store is simple and quick. All your local TV stations offer such apps and if you also subscribe to any premium services, you can usually get an app for those, too, to have all your TV in one box on one remote.
The voice control is accurate and easy to use. Press the mic button and talk into the remote. You have to wait until it beeps before you talk, and sometimes there is a slight delay, but it works well. The remote is solid and feels very good in the hand.
The ABOX A4 is a kind of Swiss army knife media player. You can connect it to your Plex server (if you have one), can play movie and music files directly from USB and TF cards, and of course mirror wirelessly from your other Android or Apple devices. Also, it gives you access to top movie rentals using the Google Play gateway.
Now then, this box is rooted by default. Being rooted is generally a good thing for software choice and hacking, but a few apps, like the UK Channel 4’s All4 app, for example, objects to rooted devices. Why is not made clear, but we suspect it’s because they can potentially allow users to do things like save streamed videos to disc in ways which are not authorized by the app’s license.
The logo on the top lights up in blue when the box is on. You will either find this adorable or annoying. If your room is dark, it can be a little distracting.
The only other problems are inherent with Android software in general. For example, the Netflix app shows a dark grey border at the bottom of the screen. It’s not a deal breaker but mildly distracting. Also, some apps rely too much on the mouse feature of the controller to position the cursor which can at times be a bit fiddly and annoying. It’s doable. The additional purchase of a cheap Bluetooth mouse/keyboard combo would fix that and many other software interface related problems.
So the snags were nothing to do with the Android OS or the box itself, but the somewhat forgiving nature of the Google Play store and a lamentable lack of quality control.
Pros: Excellent TV box with all the features you would want. Plays any file with hardly any exceptions. Smooth ergonomic remote.
Cons: Let down occasionally by software. Optionally might need Bluetooth mouse and keyboard for certain software.
Overall this is a good, solid TV box, and playback performance is very good. But any TV box is only as good as its apps. Most are excellent and work very well. Some, especially notable ones like Netflix, have annoying bugs which should be trapped. As a midrange workhorse hub for your TV entertainment, the ABOX is a good buy and is recommended.
If you have any comments or questions, as always, leave them in the comments section below.
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