The thing about Android boxes is that there are tons of them in the market, doing every different things with different hardware configurations and software, hence there is no real recommendation as in which Android box to go for. A month ago, a company called PROBOX2 sent me their flagship Android TV box called the Air Plus, a $109 (RM459) Android TV box that is able to playback 4K videos and comes with HDR output support, it this worth your hard earned cash? Let’s find out.
One of the reasons that some Android TV boxes annoy me is the unnecessary bulkiness and the lack on I/O ports, the PROBOX2 Air Plus thankfully does away with that, not only it is a very compact device that you can easily pack it in your travelling backpack, it also features a lot of ports that you will find it worth having in your living room, including two USB 2.0 ports, a MicroSD card slot, HDMI 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet and optical audio output, it is really a lot superior than other Android TV boxes of the same class.
Unlike smartphones, Android TV boxes are designed for media playback and hence they use hardware optimized for that purpose, the PROBOX2 Air Plus is powered by an Amlogic S912 processor, which is the fastest chip by Amlogic that sports eight Cortex-A53 cores with ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture, the box also has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which is more than sufficient if you are thinking to just run purely media playback and streaming apps.
One thing I was rather impressed is the inclusion of dual band WiFi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0, which isn’t available on Android TV boxes of the same range, PROBOX2 has also used a detachable antenna for receiving WiFi signals, which gives you the option to upgrade to a stronger antenna if required.
Software and User Experience
When we mentioned that this is an Android TV box, the PROBOX2 doesn’t run on Google’s Android TV platform, but rather it runs on the tablet version of Android 6.0.1 with a proprietary Apex UI optimized for the TV, which means you can install and run most smartphone and tablet apps from Google Play, it also has very few preloaded software that does media playback and screen mirroring.
Apart from having the standard remote, PROBOX2 does sell an optional $20 ( Remote+ remote, connect its provided dongle into the device’s USB port, it lets you navigate around the interface with an air mouse feature like you do on a Nintendo Wii, it also has a few more buttons for gaming and a built-in microphone that can be used with Google Assistant or voice calling apps. While I do find the microphone being the most useful feature of all, I have no luck in making the dedicated gaming buttons work in popular game titles like Asphalt Xtreme and Modern Combat 5: Blackout, which is obviously a compatibility issue. Otherwise, a standard USB gamepad should work perfectly well.
During my time with it, I haven’t find the need to switch away from Apex UI, the main reason being it works well with the remote control and its pretty reliable with no lags, the user interface is mainly divided into two tabs, the first one will allow you to categorize apps into different folders, and the other shows all installed apps. Gaming performance is considerably decent on the PROBOX2 Air Plus, while you won’t get 60 fps on most games, it at least produces playable frame rates than some competing products.
A media player is only considered good with its media playback capabilities, the PROBOX2 Air Plus works just as advertised as I was able to play ‘Ethereal – Iceland Highlands in Aerial 4K60’ downloaded from YouTube encoded in WEBM and MP4 format with no issues, most MKV encoded movies in 4K resolution also played properly on it, not until I played 4K60 sample videos with 60Mbps bit rate, the PROBOX2 Air Plus begins to encounter frame drops and audio sync issues. Frankly, it encodes 4K videos way better than smartphones and entry-level laptops.
Most Android TV boxes focuses on selling the content that comes bundled on it, neglecting hardware performance and eventually the user experience, the PROBOX2 Air Plus does what a media player is supposed to do with the right price tag, it trumps almost every other media player in video format compatibility within the same category, while performing great in every tasks we threw at it. Heck, it could even be an Android PC if you intend to use it as one. The PROBOX2 Air Plus can be purchased over at Amazon and eBay for $109.
- Powerful media playback capabilities
- 4K HDR support
- Ample storage and RAM for general purposes
- External WiFi antenna, dual band WiFi
Optical audio output
- The Not so Good
- No plans for future OS updates
- Remote+ gaming buttons doesn’t work properly