This month we have been handed the MX64 Android streaming box to take a look at (supplied by Gearbest.com). These new devices are designed for connecting to your TV at home and streaming content from external hard drives, home NAS systems, SD cards and online. The MX64 is essentially a stripped-down HTPC for watching media and utilising various applications on the Android platform.
The packaging boasts the following specifications:
- HDMI 2.0 capability for 4K playback at 60FPS
- A 4-core 64bit CPU
- A 5-core 'Mali-450' GPU with H.265 codec
- 1000M LAN
- 2.4/5.8G Wifi
- 2GB DDR3 RAM
So without further ado, let's see if this little powerhouse can live up to its specifications!
What's in the Box?
The packaging contains:
- The MX64 device
- IR remote control
- A 1M HDMI cable
- Power brick (5V, 2.0A)
- User manual
It is a nice little bonus to have a good quality HDMI cable included in the box, however our sample did not come with batteries for the remote (2 X size AAA required) and unfortunately the power adapter arrived with a European plug, so we had to purchase an EU to UK power adapter separately.
The device itself measures about 12cm square, is covered in a nice matte black coating and has the following connectivity features:
- Power button on top
- Power socket
- 3.5mm audio jack
- Ethernet port
- HDMI 2.0 port
- SPDIF optical audio connection for 5.1 audio
- 2 X USB 2.0 ports
- Mini USB port for OTA updates
- SD Card slot
As you can see – plenty of connectivity here!
Diagram showing MX64 Connectivity
Setting up the device is a relatively painless affair (I say relatively because of various issues with the remote control. More on this later…).
The welcome screen guides you through the setup of Wi-fi connectivity and highlights the various applications on it. All fairly standard stuff, however in order to obtain any apps from the Google Play Store, you will need to go to settings and input your account details, which will then be stored on the device.
The MX64 is capable of running a variety of games and applications from the store relatively well, and the built-in Play store is accessed very quickly and easily.
The main star of the device is the Kodi streaming app. This has become a very popular service for streaming a huge variety of TV programs, films and live sports events. The MX64 launches Kodi very quickly and it looks great on a 4K TV (after manually setting the resolution). There are a multitude of guides available on the internet to get this set up the way you want and customise the channels you want to stream from the box. Needless to say, it is easy to search for and select your favoirite Kodi 'Add-ons'.
HD and 4K channels looked great, but 4K streaming is still in its infancy so there is very little media worth actually watching yet. This will improve with time, however.
MX64 Home Screen on a 4K TV
Navigation around the device's various menus and within Kodi is very smooth and it handled all the videos I streamed from both online and a USB stick with ease. The MX64's hardware specification is absolutely fantastic and it creates a fast, fluid and responsive user environment.
For a small, easy to use solution to stream content to your living-room TV, the MX64 is a good option.
There are a number of negatives to this device, many of which aren't limited to just the MX64, but many devices like it.
The main concern was the remote control included with the box. It is utterly useless for anything but the most rudimentary of input options, and has a variety of essential buttons completely missing. There are no play, stop or pause buttons, just fast forward/skip. There are also no context-sensitive buttons either. For example, pressing 'Menu' on the remote will bring up the system menu for the device, not the menu within Kodi.
There is a 'Mouse' button, which needs to be pressed 3 times to enable, but the cursor speed is treacle-slow and it is an exercise in frustration trying to input anything using the remote. Entering my account details for the Play store on the on-screen keyboard took me around 5 minutes (a simple email address and password).
Android apps such as Netflix and iPlayer that are designed for touch-screens are very frustrating to navigate with the remote's directional arrows and almost impossible with the 'Mouse'. I also couldn't find a way to modify the desktop layout and have the device launch straight into Kodi when powered on, rather than start at the main 'Welcome' screen.
If you want to use this device properly, you'll need a keyboard and mouse.
After abandoning the included remote control, I managed to get my Logitech Harmony 650 working with a FLIRC dongle which solved the media button problems, but I still needed an external keyboard and mouse to navigate through many applications.
At the time of writing this review, the MX64 is retailing at around £45. This is a good price for a functional streaming box, however the problem with these devices is that they can’t compete with a mini HTPC such as the Acer Veriton (£80) or the Intel Compute Stick (£99), which can easily run Windows 10 or Linux with the Kodi app installed. This allows for much more flexibility with the full functionality of a 'proper' operating system with a fully featured web browser and many more applications.
If you are in the market for a simple, relatively powerful streaming device at a low cost then the MX64 could be for you. However, if you want the freedom of a PC operating system with better file management, more applications and retain the ability to stream Kodi, then a higher end HTPC may be better suited.