If you haven't done so already, make sure to check out the unboxing of the Smartron S805 for more pics and my first impressions of the media player.
Design, ports and expansion
The Smartron S805 measures in at 10.2cm x 10.2cm x 2.2cm. It features a shiny black plastic at the top and the rest is matt plastic. The device itself is square and symmetrical, however, it has rounded corners which improve its visual appeal. The top is marked with the letter 'S' which is likely representing the Smartron brand.
The sides are covered with little 1mm holes, but the holes are purely aesthetic and do not penetrate all the way through the plastic. At the front of the device is a small window for the infrared receiver. There is also an LED alongside the infrared receiver which indicates whether the device is on or not, and it changes colors between different modes: when the device is first booting, the LED is red, but once the device is fully booted it shifts over to a more neutral blue.
On the right side of the device it features two full-sized USB 2.0 ports, as well as a Micro SD expansion port. Moving to the back of the device, it has a 3.5mm AV jack, a 10/100 Ethernet port, a full-sized HDMI port and a DC-in port for power. The AV port mentioned earlier has two functions: it can either be used as an RCA alternative for the HDMI port for older TV's that do not have HDMI-in, or it can be used as a 3.5mm audio-out port for anyone who wants to connect external 3.5mm audio. The left side of the device doesn't have any ports
Moving to the bottom of the device, it has two grills on the left and ride sides for air intake. The device rests on four rubber feet. It has two holes next to two of the rubber feet which indicate a reset and debugging/upgrade buttons.
The provided remote measures about 13.5cm x 3cm and is about 8mm at its thickest point. It doesn't take normal batteries but instead takes a small button cell battery, one of which comes provided with the Smartron S805. The remote has 12 buttons in total, including a sleep button, home, menu, back, volume controls, directional arrows and a select button. It also features a mouse pointer button where if you are unable to use the arrow buttons to get somewhere, pressing the pointer button will allow you to use the arrow keys to move a mouse pointer instead. I found this handy in apps like XBMC where although almost everything is accessible using the normal arrow buttons, I wasn't able to do things like skip to different parts of a film. Using the arrow keys as a mouse pointer allowed me to do that, however.
The Smartron S805 has a quad-core Amlogic S805 chipset clocked at 1.5 Ghz as well as a quad-core ARM Mali-450 GPU. It has 8 GB of on-board storage (about 5 GB of that is available for use) and it has 1GB of DDR3L RAM. It all gets filled up fairly quickly, though, so you'd definitely need to consider expanding the memory if you plan on installing many apps.
Other features of the device include Miracast/DNLA support, Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n WiFi-- unfortunately there's no 802.11ac support. One notable feature is HDMI-CEC although I didn't get to test it.
I'm not exactly sure why the benchmarks came out the way they did and why the device scored as low as it did, but unfortunately it received horrible results. My three year old dual-core iMito MX1 with the RK3066 chipset outperformed it, leaving me with questions as to why it turned out like it did. Both the MK808B Plus and the Smartron S805 run pretty much the same chipset, with the MK808B Plus running the Amlogic M805 and the Smatron S805 running... well... the S805. Both are clocked at the same speed and have the same GPU, with the only difference being that the M805 is designed for tablets whereas the S805 is designed directly for media players. For whatever reason, the benchmarks of the MK808B Plus were, in almost all cases, double that of the Smartron S805. The MK808B Plus' benchmarks were nothing to write home about because it was a $30 device, but the Smartron S805 is expensive enough to be considered premium. This makes the benchmark results even more shocking.
Anyway, the benchmarks performed and the scores are listed below:
- Quadrant Ice Storm Extreme: 1999
- AnTuTu: 9241
- Epic Citadel: 18.7
- Geek Bench: Single-core was 304 and multicore was 558.
As always, though, benchmarks are not very accurate reflections of real-world usage-- especially video playback. Based on the results, however, you can almost certainly rule out any form of 3D gaming.
Video playback has been buttery smooth, especially in XBMC. I tested video content all the way up to high bitrate 1080p and it played it without a hitch. I accessed the films from a 2 TB external storage connected over USB and accessing the films, moving through the directory structure and opening files was very quick. Skipping to different parts of the film was also extremely fast.
In testing H.265 playback, I used a video offered from Elecard. The video was a 1080p 5.1 mbps nature clip that went on for a couple of minutes and had a total file size of 87.2 Mb. I didn't experience any stuttering or pausing and the video played without a hitch.
I found Netflix to not be the smoothest experience, especially when bitrates were constantly changing. The audio and video goes out of sync and it stutters sometimes. This makes an unstable internet connection not very preferable with this sort of device.
The Smartron S805 comes with Android 4.4.2, which is just shy of the final Kitkat release of 4.4.4. It features a customized launcher which seems to be extremely influenced by the default XBMC/Kodi menu. Not that this is a bad thing at all-- quite the contrary, actually. Many of these TV boxes usually miss the mark in terms of usability; TV boxes, as they're named, should be usable on a TV. This implies large screens with the user sitting several feet away, accessing the device through a remote of some sort. With this in mind, it means that icons should be large, that settings shouldn't be too difficult to view and change, and that the most important things are brought to the forefront.
Luckily, this is where the Smartron S805 really gets it right. Drawing influence from the XBMC/Kodi menu, they've managed to make it really straight forward to use with the provided IR remote. Alongside the launcher is is a customized keyboard which is also very straight forward to use with a remote, making logging into things like Netflix or Google Play less of a chore. If a user isn't happy with the default pinned items, they're able to delete and add their own. The app drawer is also very simplified and easy to use with the provided remote. At the top of the launcher we see the time and date listed, as well as the connected methods of connectivity (such as Bluetooth and WiFi).
At the bottom of the screen are three buttons which can't be changed, however, and they are a button which opens the Settings menu, a button which opens the app drawer, and a button which frees memory by killing all of the opened apps. The last of which is really useful when you want to quickly close everything after opening multiple things, especially considering that the device only has a gig of RAM. There are settings available to have it automatically clear the memory at a specific interval.
The launcher in general is really stable and I haven't experienced any crashing. However, opening the app drawer is sometimes slower than I would like it to be. Also, for anyone who ends up owning one of these, don't turn on the screen saver. I found that the screen saver isn't context-aware and interrupts streaming video apps like Netflix and XBMC which is really, really annoying. It's also worth mentioning that the device does not come with root access.
The bloatware on the device isn't too bad. It comes with the latest version of Netflix and BBC iPlayer pre-installed, as well as v14 of XBMC. As far as I'm aware, XBMC was renamed to Kodi at v14, but for whatever reason it still identifies itself as XBMC on the device. The specific build is dated 2014-09-23.
Other installed apps include Facebook and Twitter, the typical Google range (Play Store, Play Music, Gmail, Gallery, Hangouts etc) and the standard Android apps, such as Browser and Music. It features the same Miracast apps as those I came across in the MK808B Plus, but on this device they appear to be a lot more responsive. Last but not least, it includes an APK installer and an OTA updater.
Unfortunately, out of all of the apps I tried, Play Store was the only one which gave me trouble when using the IR remote. While I could access and install most apps easily, getting to the menu which allows a user to view already installed apps, view their wishlist, redeem coupons or change Google Play settings took a bit of effort. It's not that difficult, but it is difficult enough to ruin an otherwise very smooth navigating experience.
The Smartron S805 comes with an IR remote mentioned earlier, as well as a standard HDMI cable and standard 5V DC power adapter. It also includes an AV cable, which is a 3.5mm jack with RCA (red, white, yellow) leads coming out the other side. As mentioned earlier, it comes with the battery needed to use the remote which is pretty thoughtful by the manufacturer as most usually skip over this.
I had no issues at all connecting Bluetooth devices and they remained pretty stable. The WiFi wasn't too bad at all and I was expecting much worse for an internal antenna, but it chugged on and managed to lock in at 65 mbps to the router which was a floor below me. My internet has been too spotty to evaluate whether or not my internet connection or the device is the problem, but I had some issues with Netflix I mentioned earlier.
I found the Ethernet to be fairly reasonable, achieving an average speed of about 9 MB/s. AirPlay worked fine with music, but I experienced similar issues with the MK808B Plus where AirPlaying YouTube wasn't working right.
I typically don't ever talk about this aspect, but for this specific device I believe it's important. As a Neowin reader mentioned, the device itself appears to be a clone of the popular Sunvision Cyclone X4. Clones are not uncommon at all, and this device was a clone of every aspect of the device including the OS. The worrying element of Smartron, however, is that the company itself barely has any sort of web presence. From what I can gather, this is their first and only product, and they haven't even got a proper website. The box lists a website and forum located at ismartron.com, but the only thing there is a source copy of Minix's website with a gallery of the Smartron S805. The box also mentions a Facebook page but it only has 2 likes and it has been abandoned since October 2014 aside from a single post saying "good" in November. The takeaway from this is that we're likely to not see any manufacturer support at all, and whoever you purchase the device from will be handling all of the warranty and support.
That is one side of things, but the other side things is that the Sunvision Cyclone X4 has a very lively user base, and any ROMs, updates and discussion about the Sunvision Cyclone X4 will likely work fine on the Smartron S805. This means its not really that much of a deal breaker at all, but it is worth keeping in mind. I've personally dealt with something like this before - the iMito MX1 I mentioned was actually a clone of the original called a "Ditter V12." It was, just like this, a straight clone of the original, so I was able to use third-party ROMs (such as Finless Bob's ROM) and debug it just like I would with the original.
For those interested, here is a thread from the Kodi forums where the Sumvision Cyclone X4 is discussed - everything in there will apply to and should work flawlessly with the Smartron S805. It appears that the device is rootable and they've got OpenELEC working without issues.
The Smartron S805 is a great device for anyone interested in a media player. Whatever video content you throw at it, from what I saw, worked without a hitch. Netflix gave some issues but I'm sure they can be attributed to connection problems rather than the app itself.
...but - and this is a big 'but' - the benchmarks were extremely worrying. I can only guess that I might have received a defective unit or something, but for anyone who plans to get this device for something like gaming (sort of like what I did on the Tronsmart AW80 Draco where I was playing GTA:SA and Modern Combat 5 with a PS3 controller) then you might have to give this one a miss. For whatever reason, it simply can't handle it. Overall, though, this device is marketed as a media player and should be treated and reviewed as one, so I won't penalize it very harshly. It is still something to keep in mind, though.
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 $59.81 with free shipping if you use the coupon "SS805AUCN"-- Gearbest informed me that this coupon will be active until March 14th 2015.