Mobile technology should not be about cramming the office into your pocket but a way to enjoy your everyday life.
Rikomagic MK902 - Quad Core Android Set-top-box
The Rikomagic MK902 is a quad core Android set top box for any HDMI equipped TV. The only thing it does is allow you to run Android applications on your TV - but with about a million applications available, that is no small thing.
Rikomagic (they also go by the name RKM) is a Chinese company that made the popular and much copied "Android on a stick" MK802 back in 2012 - a device that helped start the Android set-top-box market.
They have made several improved models since then and the MK902 is the latest and greatest of those models. Previous models looked like large USB memory-sticks and where designed to be inserted directly in the HDMI port of your TV, but the MK902 comes in a small desktop case similar to the Apple TV. Unfortunately, it does not come with a built in power supply like the Apple TV and instead requires an external power supply of the wall-wart type. The included European power supply (2-round-pin) seems to be of good quality and supplies 2,5A of power. The power cord is only 110 cm long and that caused some placement problems for me.
The heart of the device is a Rockchips made quad core Coretex-A9 CPU (RK3188) running at up to 1,4 GHz. The GPU is an Mali-400 MP (quad core as well I believe).
AnTuTU Benchmark gave it an overall score of 16 084, placing it just behind the Google Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy S3 and that is not bad.
The device came with Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) and is Google Play compatible so installing applications is a simple as it can be. Hopefully there will be upgrades to even newer Android versions in the future.
And yes, it's rooted out of the box so thumbs up to Rikomagic for that.
The bigger set-top-box design of the MK902 offers some obvious advantages compared to smaller android on a stick -designs: There are four USB ports, there is an Ethernet port for wired connections, optical out for audio enthusiasts and a proper WiFi antenna that offers great reception. One really special feature is the built in camera in the front panel of the device and this is good if you want to use it for Skype or something similar. It also has Bluetooth and a Micro-SD slot.
The device does not come with any remote control of any kind in the box but it works great with any normal mouse. It is often sold bundled with some kind of "flymouse" and this is also the kind of input device that I use as it is a convenient solution for the living room. The flymouse is a motion sensitive remote control similar to a Wii -controller that you wave in the air to move the pointer on the screen. Pressing a button clicks on the screen just like tapping on that spot with your finger and it intuitively allows you to swipe by holding the button and moving the controller just as if you where swiping a touch screen with your finger.
The MK902 replaced my previous singel-core Android set-top-box that was running Android 4.0. The previous box worked great in most situations, like playing videos located on my NAS server using the "BS Play" media player application and running video streaming applications such as Netflix. It did have some problems with not running some applications (like Flickr), not displaying the video in some Flash based browser players and being too slow to play games such as Riptide.
The MK902 has no such problems. In fact, it does not have any obvious problems. The device is stable. After several days of intensive usage it has not crashed a single time, it does not get hot or any other of those small but annoying things that some Android-on-a-stick devices seem to suffer from. Video playback with BS player works with hardware decoding out-of-the-box and full-HD playback of MPEG4 files works without a hitch.
And Riptide GP2 looks good. The Mali 400 GPU is certainly not cutting edge anymore and perhaps the weakest point of the device, but for casual gamers like me that does not expect Playstation 4 graphics, it's quite alright. I actually bought a Logitech F701 wireless gamepad to use the MK902 as a simple gaming console since I anyway have it connected to the TV and the games are so cheap compared to actual console games. While Riptide GP2 works great with the controller, there are not that many others that do. This is a shame and hopefully it will change as more people are playing Android games with devices that do not have touch screens.
I am personally not a fan of XBMC as I think it suffers from "too much UI" but I realize many like it and are considering Android set-top-boxes specifically for running XBMC. Interestingly enough, the MK902 comes in a box with an XBMC logo, suggesting the MK902 is a suitable device for such use. I tried XBMC v12.3 "Frodo" as it was the latest stable release downloaded from the official XMBC.org site. It works, but it does not seem to make use of hardware acceleration for video decoding as full HD playback "stutters". I also tried a nightly build of version 13 "Gotham" (20140119) and it worked with some HD files but not with all. There are other XBMC ports out there specifically tweaked to use hardware decoding on different Android set-top-boxes but I have not tried any of those.
For the time being I'm sticking with BS Player as it makes use of hardware decoding and has played everything I have thrown at it without any problem.