The DroidBOX T8 Mini is an Android powered TV Set top box running Android 5.1.1. The device is one of many options available from the British company trying to compete with the saturation of Chinese Android TV boxes release over the last few years. DroidBOX have added plenty of nice features to make it stand out from the rest of the crowd and we’ll get into those in more detail in the full review below.
One nice feature DroidBOX have included is the ability to handle some of the Android TV apps (the “lean back” TV versions) and even provide some of these via their own App Store. To make things easier to navigate, DroidBOX developed their own custom launcher designed to work with a simple cursor based remote control. Finally, the DroidBOX T8 Mini can dual-boot into an Openelec environment which is a custom version of Kodi 16.1 designed to run in its own environment without needing Android.
All of this is useless without a descent engine under the hood, and DroidBOX have built the T8 Mini with a powerful Amlogic S905 2GHz Quad core processor and Mali-450 GPU with support for 4K UHD video.
DroidBOX T8 Mini Technical Specifications
|Processor:||2.0 GHz Quad Core Cortex A53 Neon Amlogic S905|
|Operating System:||Android 5.1.1 Lolipop and LibreELEC 7.0.2 (Kodi 16.1)|
|GPU:||Mali-450 Penta Core|
|Expandable Memory:||SD Storage (up to 32GB)|
|Google Play Store:||Yes|
|XBMC/Kodi 16.2.1 Jarvis preinstalled||Yes|
|HD Video Playback:||Yes, Supports 1080p HD Videos|
|4K Video Playback:||Yes, Supports 4K Videos|
|Gaming:||Supports 3D gaming|
|I/O Ports:||10/100/1000 Ethernet, HDMI, SD card up to 128GB, Optical Audio out, Power Port|
|WIFI:||Wireless LAN 802.11b/g/n/AC – 2.4/5GHz DualBand|
|Accessories:||HMDI Cable, Power Adapter, Remote Control, Manual.|
|Dimensions:||167mm x 123mm x 23mm|
What’s included in the box
Opening the box reveals the DroidBOX Mini unit, a basic Infrared Remote Control, A European power supply with an adapter to convert the plug into a US compatible format and a couple of quick setup guides. The packaging was adequate and everything seemed well protected in the box.
The DroidBOX T8 Mini is housed in an aluminum case that makes it feel well built. Along the front of the box is a small display that shows the time, which some people may like. I have enough clocks around our house and this seems a little overkill for Android Streaming Box. The remote control is a fairly standard looking remote that you’d expect to get with most Android TV set top boxes. It has a few custom buttons as well as volume controls but more complicated than those found with other set top media players.
Around the left side you’ll find a couple of USB ports and on the right hand side you’ll find AS/MMC card slot for expanding memory, another USB ports and a reset button.
The back has all the connection need to hook up to your TV. They’ve even included old school RCA Video and Audio jacks if your TV does not support HDMI. For you audiophiles out there, there is an optical connection to connect to your receiver or amplifier. For faster connection to your internet there’s an RJ45 Gigabit LAN connector for hard-wiring and you also have the power connector.
As the DroidBOX T8 Mini is based on standard Android, you can install and run almost any Android applications available on the Google Play Store. Some of the applications may be hard to control as their interface might be optimized for a touch display, but everything should run on the DroidBOX.
DroidBOX have designed their own customized user interface to try and make things a little easier to navigate and control, but it’s still not as easy as your Roku’s, Fire TV’s or Android TV boxes. You’re still going to find the interface a little technical and navigation a little frustrating sometimes with the supplied InfraRed controller.
While most applications will run, you’ll find some of them hard to navigate using the cursor keys to try and get your selector to the right pace on the screen. You’ll also find some applications are impossible to completely use all the features and one of these applications in the incredibly popular Netflix. Browsing around in general is usable, but one you get into a TV show, you’ll find the episode list on the right hand and simply no way to get your selector across to it. This is just how the Netflix programmers designed the interface as its optimized for a touch screen, but it’s still a big downside to using an Android TV box. Other versions of Netflix are designed specifically for the devices they run, even other Android based boxes that have customer version of Netflix work perfectly such as the Amazon Fire TV and real “Android TV” devices, but alas there is no way to run those versions of Netflix on standard Android TV boxes.
One of the big draws for the huge selection of Android TV boxes now available is the ability to run Kodi, and with the DroidBOX, the dual boot option to run Openelec. Openelec is a version of Kodi designed completely on its own instead of on top of another operating system. It’s has a mini optimized version of Linux built in and with everything optimized just for Kodi, you can expect a slightly faster experience.
For those of you who don’t know what Kodi is, it’s a media center application for playing videos, music, pictures, games, and more. Kodi runs on almost every platform available, including: Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android. Kodi is designed with a 10-foot user interface for use with televisions and simple remote controls. You can read more about Kodi on the official Kodi Website.
DroidBOX have a few extras to enhance the user experience with added remote control software called DroidBOX Share that allows you to use your mobile phone or tablet to take control of your DroidBOX and share photos and videos as well as control every action on the screen.
For application, you have access to the compete Google Play Store as well as DroidBOX’s own app store with hand picked application that work well on the DroidBOX.
VPN software by IP Vanish is built in to allow access to those applications that are blocked by various countries, so if you sitting in the US and watch to watch the BBC news, you can connect through the VPN service and the content will be available. The VPN service is not free, but DroidBOX has a special offer so you can try it out for a month at a heavily discounted cost of just $0.99. Subsequent months start at about $10 per month and get cheaper the longer period you sign up for.
Here’s a couple of my first concerns. I hate anything with an Infrared remote control. I don’t care what it is. This is even more of a concern for an Android TV box that you may want to hide away behind your TV, but also because Android was not built to be controlled with a cursor key remote control, it is designed to be used with a touch screen. Once you play around with any of the many android TV boxes available, you quickly start to feel it’s short comings. DroidBOX have done a great job of creating their own interface on their products, but once you leave this interface, you are reliant on third-party applications having support for cursor control, which many fall short on.
To fully appreciate any of the Android TV boxes, you need to have a mouse style remote control that allows you to control a pointer on the screen and select anything you need to select. In my opinion, these should be shipped with every Android TV box out there, but this would also increase the cost a little. For a company like DroidBOX who are trying very hard to differentiate themselves from the crowd, I feel they should have made a Bluetooth remote standard.
DroidBOX have been able to provide some of the real “Android TV” applications designed for the “lean back“ interface, but we don’t really know if these will always be supported. One of the major media apps, Netflix, have been constantly tweaking and updating their Android apps and the current release is not cursor friendly at all. You can’t even select an episode anymore in the TV shows using your cursor controls.
This is nothing to do with DroidBOX, it simply the shortcomings of using standard Android on a device that is designed to be used a TV screen. This is why Google created the official “Android TV” release of Android designed from the ground up to support a TV screen and cursor controls, but is not installed of many of the so called Android TV boxes you can purchase. A couple of exceptions are the Xiaomi Mi Box and the nVidia Shield TV.
If you’re looking for a low-cost Android based set top TV box, DroidBOX made a high quality product with excellent service and support. You’re not going to get the support and updates from many of the Chinese manufacturers and paying a little extra to get this level of service is worth the price. If you haven’t check out DroidBOX yet, head over to their website for more information and or the Amazon store if you ready to purchase.