Android TV sticks used to be fairly expensive and delivered very little bang for buck. The WiFi was almost never stable, they'd frequently overheat and manufacturers would offer little to no support. The worst of all of it, though, was that they'd easily cost $80 or more. As the technology progressed, as well as through competition from gadgets like the Chromecast and Fire TV stick, the Android TV sticks have naturally dropped in price. Surprisingly, though, is the MK808B Plus which has gone sub-$30 including postage. I decided to get my hands on one of these to check out whether or not it actually delivers or if it's just unusable.
Also, in case you haven't seen it yet, make sure you check out my first impressions and unboxing (including a full gallery of photos) of the MK808B Plus here.
Design, ports and expansion
The MK808B Plus measures at 88mm x 31.5mm x 15.8mm. This thing is tiny, which I found to be pretty cool. Barring the USB and HDMI cords, it leaves the device being extremely portable. It has an in-built hidden antenna, a mini-SD slot, a mini HDMI port, a full sized USB port, a mini USB port for power, and another mini USB port for OTG. The device comes with a 5V/2A USB power supply.
The material the box is made from is plastic, but it is encased in a very soft rubber making it very "cushiony" to the touch. It has vents on both the front and the back, however, heat seems to be a bit of an issue. I noticed that it is almost always pretty hot to the touch, so it means you might need to have this device in a well ventilated area (i.e not in a drawer) or risk overheating. It has a blue LED which indicates whether or not the device is switched on. The box mentions something about a physical button, but I wasn't able to find it, so it may be internal or referring to a pin-hole button for resetting the device
The MK808B Plus has a quad-core Amlogic M805 chipset clocked at 1.5 Ghz as well as a quad-core ARM Mali-450 GPU. It has 8GB of on-board storage (about 5GB of that is available for use) and it has 1GB of DDR3 RAM. It has Bluetooth 4.0 support but unfortunately it doesn't have 802.11ac support, and it also has H.265 decoding support although I didn't test it for this review (there just isn't enough H.265 content out there to make it worthwhile).
The benchmarks weren't really amazing on their own, but it performed surprisingly well for a $30 device. It scored just under 17,000 in AnTuTu, a little over 4000 in 3DMark's Ice Storm and just over 4000 in Quadrant Standard. Benchmarks are not exactly great representations of ability, however, and real usability tests are much better. That said...
I had no issues with playback of 720p and 1080p content on XBMC from an external HDD. The videos loaded fairly quickly I didn't experience any frame skipping or lagging. The device itself supports hardware acceleration, for those wondering.
I did experience one strange issue with XBMC, however, with not being able to play videos located in the root directory of the hard drive. The only videos that would play were those contained in separate folders, which I found fairly strange.
Netflix gave me some issues with videos stuttering but I'm not sure if this is a problem with the Netflix app itself based on some of the reviews. Nevertheless, playing videos on Netflix involved lag and even random crashes, which is a large contrast to XBMC.
Android OS and apps
The black menu bar at the bottom of the screen can be hidden by default.
Unlike the Tronsmart AW80 Draco, the MK808B Plus had a really awesome interface and customized Android 4.4 Kitkat ROM. It makes for a really great experience when used on a TV and everything is clear and easy to access from 20 feet away. It has a lot of capability for customization and even provided a custom (almost) full-featured settings menu as well. It features an often-updated weather panel at the top of the screen, a WiFi icon which reveals the signal strength and also features a USB icon if any type of USB storage is plugged in.
The MK808B Plus comes pre-loaded with a number of apps, including the default Google collection (Gmail, YouTube, Play Store etc) as well as Netflix, XBMC, QuickOffice and a Miracast app. The device comes rooted out of the box and has SuperSU, a file manager and an APK installer already installed. It also has some sort of media center that exclusively deals with things like AirPlay/DLNA/Miracast. AirPlaying a song was fine, but it had issues when I tried to AirPlay a YouTube video.
The device comes with a mini-HDMI to full-HDMI cable, a USB OTG cable, a mini-USB to full-USB cable and a small USB power block. It doesn't include a remote so this is something you would have to provide on your own (although it does have native support for Google Remote as well as support for USB mice and keyboards, and this can be used to bridge a Bluetooth mouse/keyboard setup etc).
For the price you can't really beat the MK808B Plus. If you're after a great XBMC platform then you can't really go wrong with it. I was fairly unhappy with the Netflix issues, especially given that Netflix comes pre-installed on the stick, but I'm confident that this will be fixed if not by Netflix themselves then through an update for the device. It has support for OTA updates, so I'm pretty sure it will be utilized. I'd like to see some typos fixed in a future update, for example the settings menu is labled as just "Setting." Otherwise, I don't really have much complaints with the MK808B Plus. If you'd like to see a full gallery of images of the MK808B Plus, click here.
A big thank you to our friends at Gearbest who supplied the device for this review. If you are interested in picking one of these up, Gearbest has the device available for sale at $29.99 with free shipping if you use the coupon "MK808BCN"-- Gearbest informed me that this coupon will be active until some time in February 2015.