- Easy setup
- Great 4K TV box
- Smooth gaming
- Smart Google Speaker
- Netflix has to be sideloaded
Smart assistants and speakers are omnipresent in the modern world. We rely on them so much now that I don’t think we realize how much more difficult our daily life would be without them. There are smart assistant speakers that specialize in a certain task; for example, the MECOOL Android 11 KA1 TV Smart Speaker that is featured in this review. It’s a smart speaker and Google assistant but also a hybrid, as it also contains a fast and feature-rich Android TV box that you connect to the TV.
This is a sponsored article and was made possible by MECOOL. The actual contents and opinions are the sole views of the author who maintains editorial independence even when a post is sponsored.
The MECOOL Android 11 KA1 TV Smart Speaker (also known as the MECOOL HomePlus) is a Google voice assisted smart speaker with Android TV capability. It’s somewhat oversized compared to the standard Google smart speaker and is more like the size of a melon rather than a grapefruit. The unit is stylishly designed and looks very similar to Google devices, as it is a round device made of white plastic and grey fabric. At first glance, it looks like a big smart speaker.
Inside the device you have both an Android TV box and Google Assistant. When disconnected from HDMI, it routes audio to its own speakers turning it into a smart assistant to check the weather or control your home’s smart devices with voice commands, just like you can with the Google puck.
The Bluetooth remote control for the device is clearly laid out with a control pad and OK button to move around the screen, hotkeys for Spotify, Prime, Youtube and Google Play and a Hey Google (or OK Google depending on your location) button for talking to the unit via your remote. There is also a mute button and volume and page up and down rocker switches.
The unit comes complete with a power brick and an HDMI cable for connection to your TV. There’s no Ethernet cable for connection to your router, so you will have to supply your own.
Full Voice Control
Unboxing the device, the first thing that strikes you is how much more comfortingly big it is than you thought it was. It’s great that it’s so sturdy and all that, but because it’s quite big, it’s a teeny bit more challenging (in my house at least) to find somewhere to put it.
Getting set up is very easy, especially if your router and TV are fairly close together, which here in the UK at least is quite common, as the TV service also provides broadband. Plug the router into the Ethernet port, plug the HDMI plug into the TV and power up. You go through a few menus selecting preferences, then it asks you to select your preferred channels. The apps which govern ITV and BBC, Plex, Prime, Disney etc. are then downloaded to the device.
Obviously, this is a TV box primarily, but it is also an Android device, meaning you can add almost any Android app from Google Play, including games. Netflix is weirdly not part of the set. But not to worry, as you can sideload any apps that are not available in the store. I’ll come to the downsides of all of that in a minute.
For the TV function, the box is really nicely featured. It can play up to 4K HDR10 content, and all the native apps for Disney+ and Amazon Prime let you view all the shows in top quality. The graphics processor handles all the heavy lifting with media and does so very nicely. I didn’t notice any lagging or tearing while watching 4K HDR shows. It’s all very smooth.
The gaming experience is also really good, with full resolution graphics which move very quickly. The graphics processor copes with resolving the 3D graphics of the games very well. With the addition of a wireless game controller, this is a competent and enjoyable Android game console.
The internal speakers are really loud, which is impressive, as they are 5W per side. This means they have designed the inside of the box to maximize the sound. Music sounds really quite good, and if you are all the way across the house, you can hear the Assistant’s responses very clearly.
We’ve established it does many things very well, so we have to address the downsides. I’m not sure why Netflix was not included when most of the other streaming services are, forcing you to sideload it. This brings us to a crucial point for this device.
You can sideload Netflix (using the sideloading feature on the menu) and use your account to log in, but the video quality is not great more like standard definition to my eyes, but this is understandable because it’s not a supported app. All supported apps work very well, but unsupported apps? Well they are unsupported, which means what you get is what you get. Netflix works, just not very well.
This applies to games as well as streaming services. If you want to load emulation clients onto the box, for example, you can use them, but it’s hit or miss if they will work or work well. You can load your own APKs as a side load, and they may work well with the processor and graphics card, but there are no guarantees. If you want top performance out of this box, then stay inside the lines of what’s supported.
Additionally, if you wish to use it as a Google Assistant when the TV is off, you do have to unhook the HDMI cable from the unit. To activate the wide field microphones in standalone Google Assistant mode, you have to hit the mute button and restart the unit, and once you do that it’ll work as a standalone Google Assistant. If you restart with the mute button up this turns off the wide field mics, so you should be aware of this as it’s not in the manual. On the whole, it works best when connected to the TV, but it’s nice to have the option to use it standalone.
As a set-top box it’s terrific. As a Google Assistant it’s good, and as a gaming console it’s great as long as you use the apps supported by the legit selection on the Play Store. Stray outside of those, and you’re on your own.
Availability of the MECOOL KA1 TV Smart Speaker
The MECOOL Android 11 KA1 TV Smart Speaker is a smart speaker and Android TV combo which is also, on the quiet, a quite decent game console. It’s only brought down by slightly outdated documentation and undocumented operating modes. Pick up your own KA1 speaker for just $140 after applying the 30% off code of 30KA1.
Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox