Smart TVs have always been on the expensive side and are focused on a niche audience. Over the past couple of years, ‘smart TV’ features have even made their way to TVs priced below Rs 20,000. But if you own an old non-smart TV, Android OS-based smart TV boxes such as Amkette’s EvoTV, and media streaming dongles such as Chromecast and Tweete, among others, are the way to go. Now, Mumbai-based company, ReTV, has come up with a smart TV box called ‘X1’ with a set of interesting features that aim to enhance the way you consume content.
Priced at Rs 4,199, the ReTV X1 can turn your dumb TV into a smart one. You can use the smart TV box to stream music, movies and TV shows, as well as surf the internet. You can also connect your external hard drive or USB flash drive to play audio and video content. Now, while this is something that you can do on most other smart TV boxes too, the differentiating factor of ReTV is torrent integration and the FastForward feature. I’ve been using the ReTV X1 for three weeks now, and here’s my review.
ReTV X1 Design
The ReTV X1 has a very simple design. You get a small white box, square in shape with rounded corners. It’s made from thick plastic and the build quality feels solid. The top half is plain with ReTV logo and there is just one hardware button to turn the power on and off.
Along the bottom, you have a round rubberized ring to ensure it does not slip from the surface. In fact, the base is slightly conical in shape, and has holes for the heat vent.
On the connectivity front, you have a microSD card slot and two USB ports, one of which will usually be occupied to connect the remote’s receiver. You can use the other USB port to connect an external mouse, keyboard, a hard-disk drive or a pen drive.
At the back, you have one power input port, an HDMI port, a CVBS port (composite video output) and an RJ 45 (LAN) port.
The bundled remote, on the other hand, has a glossy surface and it is comfortable in size. The remote has a slight bulge at the bottom half which makes it fit nicely in your hand. Up top, you have the power button, followed by volume buttons, a 5-way button – cursor buttons on left, right, top and bottom, and an ‘OK’ (or select) button at the center.
Below the 5-way directional button you have back and menu buttons, followed by a trip of five buttons for home, activate / deactivate cursor, buttons to turn subtitles on or off, and to favorite something, followed by the mute button. The remote runs on AAA batteries and the receiver is tucked into the battery cover, as you can see in the above photo.
ReTV X1 Specifications
Talking about specifications, the ReTV box is powered by a 64-bit quad-core SoC clocked at 2GHz. It is paired with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. A microSD card slot for further expansion up to 32GB is also present. Running on Android 5.1 Lollipop-based OS, the ReTV box can play most popular video codecs (MP4, AVI and MKV among others), 4K videos and popular audio formats such as MP3, WAV and AAC. Talking about in-box contents, you get an HDMI cable, the analogue audio-video cable and a power adapter.
ReTV X1 Features
You also get six months of complimentary access to WebChannel, a subscription service with access to comedy, music and documentaries among others, which otherwise costs Rs 899 per year. ReTV also offers 25GB of free FastForward space and if you want more, you’ll have to pay Rs 150 per 25GB. The feature allows you to download video files on ReTV cloud account and stream the videos in seconds. So, when you’re looking for movies and TV shows that are on Torrent sites, instead of downloading locally, you can save it to FastForward cloud account and then stream it. ALSO READ: Amazon Prime Video: 7 things you should know
There are a few benefits here, Torrents are illegal, but what you’re doing here (according to ReTV) is just streaming, and not downloading, consider it from another angle, say you want to watch a movie ‘Iron Man 3’ and its DVD RIP is about 1.5GB in size. Downloading it locally is illegal and the time taken will also depend on your internet speed. Instead, what you do with FastForward is use ReTV’s fast internet to quickly download it to the cloud drive, and then stream it from there. This saves your data and space on local drive. I tried the feature and it works well. ALSO READ: India loves binge watching the most, and Netflix is taking note
What’s more, ReTV is also offering three months of complimentary subscription to Ditto TV where you can watch over 100 live TV channels, including Zee Cinema HD, Sab TV, Sony Entertainment, Zee TV HD, Zee Marathi, and more. After three months, you can continue with the subscription by paying a mere Rs 20 per month.
ReTV X1 User Interface
The user interface of ReTV X1 is simple, and those who have used Kodi (formerly XBMC), would find it similar. Along the left edge, you have a list of sections – movies, English TV, Indian TV, Web Series, Live TV, Web Channels, Search, My Files, Apps and Settings.
Under movies, you will be able to see the top titles of films that recently released and have made their way to torrents. When I tested, I was able to see titles such as Raees, Rangoon, Dangal, Jolly LLB 2, Fifty Shades Darker, Logan and La La Land among others. After clicking on one of these you can see details like the synopsis, star cast, trailers and link to torrents to watch it. Upon clicking on torrents links, the movie buffers a bit and playback starts while it is still downloading in the background. For the best experience, ensure that you have bandwidth of at least 4Mbps and above. ALSO READ: Piracy still rules despite growing popularity of Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hotstar streaming services
Talking about English TV, you pick from the likes of The Big Bang Theory, Supernatural, Prison Break, Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Better Call Saul among others. However, I could not test it as it didn’t find any streaming links at that time.
Indian TV shows include Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashma, The Kapil Sharma Show, Koffee With Karan and more, and I was able to flawlessly stream these shows. You get to choose the episode you want to watch, and control the streaming quality – low (180), SD (480) and HD (720).
Web series include the likes of The Other Love Story, Married Woman Diaries, Chai Sutta Chronicles, Little Things, Ladies Room, TVF Bachelors, Hilariously Yours, Girl In The City, The Trip and Man’s World, and they worked pretty well too.
Web Channels section include integration of Hotstar, ErosNow, Spuul and Ditto TV, and you will need subscription to these services to enjoy the content, You also have other curated content such as news, movies, Bollywood, comedy, entertainment, kids, music and travel handpicked by ReTV content curators.
Search allows you to look for a content based on movies, TV show or actors. The ‘my files’ section is actually a file manager, where you can access the files stored on your internal and external storage. Lastly, you have apps and Play Store, where you can access installed apps and download new ones from the Play Store.
Bundled apps include Clash of Clans, ES File Explorer, Gallery, Media Player for DLNA-based media streaming on home network, YouTube, Chrome, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. ALSO READ: YouTube viewed by 180 million users in India
ReTV X1 Performance
Coming to performance, lack of powerful hardware is clearly visible here. I hooked on a 1TB external hard disk drive to play some music videos and movies. The ReTV took about eight seconds to read and open the folders, and while the full HD videos played without a hiccup, 4K videos did show a negligible amount of lag.
Next, I tried screen mirroring using a couple of Android smartphones, and while Miracast works decently, the connection gets disconnected in about four-five minutes. You then have to reconnect it, but again after a few minutes, it gets disconnected.
The system lag is again clearly visible when you run Android apps. I opened Chrome browser to surf a couple of websites, and after an initial couple of minutes, there was a noticeable delay, and the screen would just freeze for a few seconds. Also, while apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video could stream the videos without any issues, the same wasn’t the case with Hotstar app which I downloaded from the Play Store. Yes, there is native Hotstar integration, but it only shows free content. Overall, the performance is a mixed bag.
For the asking price of Rs 4,199, the ReTV X1 has a lot to offer, especially for those who are into binge watching. While Google’s Chromecast is a no-frills streaming media dongle, the curated content library, smart TV functionality and the ability to hook your external storage device and play content is something that sets the ReTV X1 apart from others.
Yes, not everything works flawlessly. Sometimes torrent streams don’t work, there is an occasional lag, but I would blame that on most of our habits of being impatient. Even when navigating through the interface, streaming some media or running apps, give it a few seconds without rushing too much and you could get the best out of the X1.
Unique features like FastForward come handy, and the ability to have all the content at your fingertips is something that works in ReTV’s favor. While first-year access to ReTV content is free, you will have to pay a minimal fee of Rs 99 thereafter. Even if you don’t choose to use their services, you still have apps like Chrome, YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to suffice your binging needs. If you are looking for a decent smart TV box and can compromise the slight performance delays, the ReTV X1 could be a good option to go for. If you just want a streaming media dongle, I’d recommend going for the Google Chromecast.