2013, is not a time when one uses physical media to consume content. We stream videos, we download videos, and same goes for music and basically most of our content is driven by the Internet. But our televisions, at least in most Indian homes, don’t leverage the power of the Internet. Yes some will argue new Smart TVs have such capabilities built-in, but most of them are obscenely priced well beyond the average Indian, and the user interface used by most of these TVs are far from ideal. So what’s the solution? Well, Amkette believes the EVO TV XL is the answer, and on paper it definitely looks like one. The EVO TV XL is a small Android powered box, that connects with one’s TV, offers a gamut of connectivity options, and can play most media formats and more importantly heralds a very interesting user interface concept. While all this sounds good on paper, but does it really pull through for the consumer? Read on to find out.
What’s in the Box?
The EVO TV XL is an innocuous looking box that resembles an Apple TV from a distance. In fact, it looks identical to its predecessor, the EVO TV. It’s a pretty unassuming device with its gun barrel grey look, but once we take a closer look at it, there are four USB ports that come in handy for all sorts of capabilities, a HDMI port for a connection with the big screen and there is also a SD card reader. It’s worth noting that no other multimedia box in the market offers so many USB inputs, so this is a very nice touch. It also has a SPDIF, an Ethernet out and an AV out. Because of so many connectivity options, the EVO TV can be very easily loaded up with content and hooked up with peripherals. Amkette also throws in a very high quality HDMI cable for good measure, which is also pretty lengthy.
Internally, it’s powered by an ARM Cortex A9 CPU clocked at 1GHz and has a Mali-400 GPU and 1GB of RAM. This basically ensures the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich experience is pretty seamless for most multimedia activities.
And then there is the ‘Air Mouse’ that is the make or break deal for the EVO TV XL. Amkette calls the Air mouse, the EVO Touch controller. Amkette is betting big on this apparatus that allows the user to navigate the Android home-screen using a combination of gestures and some manual button controls similar to what one might do via the Microsoft Kinect or the Nintendo Wii.
The build of the Air Mouse is solid and has a certain heft that feels reassuring. The design is ergonomic so that the user can comfortably hold it in one’s palm for long periods. Additionally, it also houses a high quality microphone, which means if one hooks up a web camera to the EVO TV XL, it becomes a handy Skyping or video conferencing tool.
Amkette has totally customized the Android UI, which in this case is a good thing as it is optimized for the large screen. Essentially, the home-screen has been flooded with a gamut of tiles, that act like giant folders holding genre centric applications or content. So the games tile houses games like Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds, the TV tile has a curated YouTube mode that delivers local content that is already available on YouTube in an organized and curated fashion, making content discovery a breeze and there is a multi-media tile for accessing the video and audio features.
As it is powered by Android, the EVO TV XL is basically an Internet connected box, so there is web browser, users can download games and applications from the Play Store and Amkette has even added a ticker for weather updates and news, which basically appears on the home-screen and keeps the user up to date with the latest information.
The core UI is dependent on horizontal swipe gestures using the Air Mouse and in my testing I found while there was a bit of learning curve, the interface was very responsive and intuitive once the I became accustomed to it.
I handed control of the EVO TV XL to my 85-year-old grandfather and he was easily browsing the web using a bluetooth keyboard, and playing movies of the EVO TV XL within 45 minutes, which speaks volumes about the simplicity of the UI.
As a Multimedia box
At the end of the day the EVO TV XL is a multimedia box. Most people will disregard its Android functionality, but will see it as a means to easily watch movies on the big screen. For that matter, the EVO TV XL shined in my tests. I threw a ton of movies in varying formats and it easily played them. May it be a .MKV file, a .MP4, a .AVI file or .FLAC audio, it played them all easily.
That said, I noticed that hooking up a powered external hard drive, the performance tended to dwindle massively as the video would stutter or freeze at times as the hardware powering the EVO TV XL would not read the loaded HDD fast enough. But there are no issues with a standard laptop class external drive or USB, however the read times could be better. Another advantage is the fact it has a SD card slot so users can easily transfer content from memory cards.
It also supports DLNA streaming, so the content does not have to be stored locally, it can be streamed over the Wi-Fi network. Unfortunately, in my testing while it worked well across the PC or Mac, it failed to recognize the PlayStation 3 Media Center. We believe this to be a minor issue as this can be rectified via a software fix.
Support for the XBMC media center is one of the main draws behind the new EVO TV XL and at this moment the implementation is not very stable. However, when it works properly, its a joy, because users can pull up all sorts of extra content related to the movie or TV show one is watching. May it be, reviews, summaries, cover-art, subtitles, there is a lot to be gained out here.
But the most surprising thing about the Amkette EVO TV XL is its potential as a gaming machine. The Air Mouse is perfect for consuming mobile games. Suffice to say, chopping fruits on Fruit Ninja was never this much fun on a touch-screen. It feels as if the game was designed for the Air Mouse.
Rarely do home HD media players excite us this much. And this is not even because of the core multimedia functionality, it’s because of the new Air Mouse implementation which works remarkably well and because of its Android underpinnings, the EVO TV also becomes a decent gaming machine. In fact, if you have been bitten by the Smart TV bug, then its not the TV you are looking for, you are looking for the Amkette EVO TV XL.
At Rs 10,500 it is a good deal cheaper than the Western Digital TV Live, but that product comes with a built-in 1TB HDD, so that’s something a consumer will need to take into account. Then there is the Apple TV, which is now officially available in India for Rs 8,295. However, if you are looking for that all-in-one Smart TV experience, then the EVO TV XL is the one to go for because of the flexibility of Android, the unique user interface and the sheer number of connectivity options.