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Android powered smart TV boxes have boomed the past few years, and I am personally a huge fan of the concept of separating the smart functions from the TV.
While most modern TV have excellent smart features such as the Panasonic we revived it just makes so much more sense to keep the smart functions in a cheap upgradable box compared to your potentially very expensive TV. Even my excellent midrange Samsung UE55H6400 struggles to keep up with my Amazon TV now.
That being said, most of the Android boxes I have used or recommended are quite expensive or locked down in some way. The 2 main ones I love are the Amazon Fire TV and the NVIDIA Shield. Both are amazing devices for the price, but apps are missing and you often have to find work arounds. There are also cheaper devices around.
Today we are looking at the Digi4U branded OTT M8S that currently sells for a pocket friendly £46.99 on the digi4u.co.uk website.
It runs a custom skin of Android 4.4/KitKat and the specification is:
- RAM：2GB DDR3
- ROM：8GB NAND FLASH
- GPU：Octa-core Mali-450MP GPU @ 600MHz
- Chipset：Amlogic S812 Quad Core Cortex A9 2.0 GHz
- Support Decoder format： HD MPEG1/2/4,H.265, HD AVC/VC-1,RM/RMVB,Xvid/DivX3/4/5/6 ,RealVideo8/9/10
- Support Media format：Avi/Rm/Rmvb/Ts/Vob/Mkv/Mov/ISO/wmv/asf/flv/dat/mpg/mpeg
- HDMI： HDMI 1.4b up to 4K2K
2 of the important features to note here are the ability to handle 4K and the new 4k orientated codec H.265/HEVC. This is the chosen codec for Netflix and significantly reduces files sizes. Unfortunately, it does not work with a lot of devices as it needs hardware specifically cable of handling it, or all the decoding will be put onto the CPU and things will just go horribly wrong in most cases.
The packaging and box itself are reasonable for the price. It is all plastic and does look a little cheap compared to the Shield or Fire TV, but this is a fraction of the price compared to the other 2. The box came with everything else I needed, apart from batteries for the remote. The bundled remote uses IR rather than Bluetooth, and is frustrating to use to say the least. Being IR it needs line of sight and I found you needed to be within a close range for it to work responsively. I would strongly suggest investing in a Bluetooth/RF keyboard/controller. I didn’t actually use mine with the device as I have mislaid the battery, but in the past the ESYNiC KB04 has worked excellently for my media devices. Alternatively, if you are already buying from Digi4u they sell a T10 gyroscope based controller.
There’s no power button on the device, so as soon as you connect the power, a blue LED lits up, and the device boots to the same Windows Metro-style. The interface is nice, but a little bright and childish looking.
There are multiple pre-installed apps on top of the default OTT install which include Kodi+plugins. Several of the extra Apps included, and within Kodi itself are orientated to streaming copyrighted content. I am not going to review these specifically as I do not want to condone them, however I appreciate this is one of the main reasons why people buy these boxes, so if that is what you are looking for then there are several choices installed.
I carried out most of my video testing in Kodi, as this is my preferred app. Setup is as simple as any normal android device and I was quickly able to browse to a few sample files. As expected the device had no issues playing 1080p and 72p MKV files. So your typical download or personal rips should play absolutely fine, I had now slowdowns or glitching at all.
I don’t have a 4K TV to test 4K properly at the moment, and 4K file downloads are few and far between; but I downloaded the 4K Elysium trailer to try out. The M8S generally handled the file well, there was no slowdowns here or glitching at all.
I did the same with some H.265 encoded files in both 1080p and 720p. In 720p the videos played fine again, but in 1080p there started to be some noticeable slowdowns and glitching. It wasn’t terrible at 1080p, some people may find it watchable, but for me I would not be able to watch a movie with that many issues.
Overall I am pleasantly surprised with the OTT M8S, while it doesn’t quite live up to the advertised features, at under £50 it is a good little box. If you have spent enough money to buy a nice new 4K screen then you would might be better looking for a more powerful box, but at 1080p this is more than capable for anyone’s needs.
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