We have some bad news for you and you’re not going to like it, as few parents ever want to hear anything negative about their baby. Well, here it is: Your so-called Smart TV really isn’t that smart.
The Android on TV box idea may be the future, but probably not this one.
Sure, the guy in the blue shirt said that your fab 60-inch plasma was top of its class and graduated cum laude, but the truth is, your TV spent most of its schooling playing beer pong and is a actually a class-A moron. The only reason it’s called “Smart” is because it was pledged as a legacy.
That’s where the MiniX Neo X5 comes in. Running Android Ice Cream Sandwich, this inexpensive black box gives your TV an actual browser and access to applications that aren’t coded in the language Ass++.
The Neo X5 sports a dual-core Rockchip RK3066 ARM processor with a quad-core Mali 400 graphics chip, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. For connectivity, it has 802.11n, Bluetooth, HDMI 1.4a, Fast Ethernet, and an optical S/PDIF out. For additional storage, the Neo X5 has an SD slot. MiniX even includes a short HDMI cable and USB OTG cable. For those of you who don’t subscribe to Obscure Ports Quarterly, OTG lets you use the box’s Micro USB port as a standard USB port, or—if we could figure it out—hook the Neo X5 to a PC’s USB port to use as a storage device. Think of it as a USB port that swings both ways.
As we said, we couldn’t figure it out and that’s perhaps one of the most vexing problems with the Neo X5. It’s pretty much stock Ice Cream Sandwich, but a lot of things were simply not intuitive or not working. We couldn’t, for example, figure out how to zoom in or out, and many apps that are intended for touch just didn’t work correctly for us. Granted, we were using it with a wireless keyboard and mouse, but that’s how the device would normally be used in a living room since the remote it ships with feels like it came out of a gumball machine.
The performance of the Neo X5 didn’t impress us, either. It felt sluggish in most instances, with a subpar user interface. Some benchmarks told us otherwise. We compared it to a Tegra 3–based Nexus 7 (admittedly not the most direct comparison, but a good measure of relative Android performance) and the X5 took most of the wins. The Nex7 certainly felt smoother but that’s likely due to Jelly Bean and its Project Butter improvements.
Overall, the Neo X5 feels underspec’d to us. Even the display at 1080p output looked so soft we had to double-check which mode it was in. Security is also an issue, as there is no way to secure the unit. Since you’d be logged into your Gmail account at all times on it, you’re leaving your email fly down for anyone on the device.
The Neo X5 is mainly marketed as a media player and it does fine there—to an extent. We could play various MP4 files, from GoPro cams to handycams to still images without hiccups, and there is an extensive set of codecs supported. Netflix was also fine but did exhibit more compression artifacts than we expected. YouTube videos were also pretty low-res despite being checked off as “HD.”
What we have here is essentially a work in progress. As is, it’s still far more usable and much faster than 95 percent of the “Smart” televisions on the market, but there’s much improvement to be had. MiniX is promising a Jelly Bean update at some point that may greatly change the experience—which it needs.