This time we will be reviewing a TV Box based on a new chipset. Mecool M8S Pro W is based on Amlogic’s newest affordable S905W chipset. There are some shortcomings but lets check if these are important or not.
Packaging – Specifications
Packaging is typical for a Videostrong product. A no thrills small white cardboard box with basic specs mentioned at the back.
Inside you will find the media box, an HDMI cable, the familiar OEM IR remote, the wall type adaptor and a quick start guide.
Specifications are very interesting for an Android media player that costs 30$.
Amlogic designed a new quad-core SoC that has lower clock speeds than the previous S905X version. Mali 450 is still the horsepower behind device’s graphic processing. There is a catch though. The S905W has a resolution limitation to 4K@30hz. Of course lower resolutions can go up to 60hz. This shouldn’t annoy the majority of users but more on that later on in the performance section. HDR is still supported like H.265 HEVC decoding.
2GB of RAM and 16GB or ROM, are more than we expected from 30$ media box.
Connectivity is also good with 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Headphone jack, 1 x HDMI 2.0 out (with 4K and HDR support) and 1 x microSD slot (up to 32GB).
For network connections, an RJ45 with Mbit LAN and a Wi-Fi draft N module are typical for the price. A Bluetooth module is not installed.
Android 7.1 is the selected operating system.
Media Player – Remote
Mecool M8S Pro W is a small rectangular device. The red stripe sets it apart from a typical and tedious design implementation. The plastic build is something we expected at this price range.
All connections are located on the left and back sides. On the left you will find the USB and microSD ports and on the back the HDMI, Headphone, LAN and power connections. If you plan to avoid any USB HDD connections, cable management should be easy.
The IR remote is the standard used by the company in all its products. Although not a major implementation, it is perfectly suited for standard use. It is also made of plastic and incorporates numeric keys. At the top we will find a series of buttons that you can program with instructions on how to do this located at the back.
Menus – Settings
Booting into the main menu will not take long (less than a minute) and it is accompanied by a short animation (with sound, so check the volume of your TV/Receiver).
The menu is simple and exactly like the one we find lately in all Videostrong products.
You will find one main screen, only featuring the basic options (KODI, File manager, Settings, Web Browser and apps) with the possibility to add shortcuts. It is clean and simple, with a useful clock widget in the middle. At some point we would like to see a new GUI accompanying newer Mecool/Videostrong devices since the overall design of the existing one is getting too old.
At least the settings menu is the Nougat based one appearing on the right side of the screen. It is similar with the one found in the official Android TV based boxes. It certainly adds a more refined experience while browsing the settings.
An OTA update system is included but we did not receive one during our tests.
This is the more interesting part of the review since we would like to see all the things omitted from the new cheaper SoC implementation.
As expected, playback of all popular stereo audio files (mp3/FLAC) was an easy task.
The pre-installed fork of 17.4 version of KODI (re-named as TV Center) showed very acceptable video performance. UHD HEVC video files had perfect playback, even the ones with high bitrate. For the later ones, playback from a USB drive may be required. HDR was enabled and HDR-SDR conversion also worked like a charm in cases were the display was not HDR compatible. The SoC’s limitation is the maximum resolution 4K@30hz. Higher frame rates at 4K resolution are not supported. This in theory should not affect movie viewers since almost all releases are at 4K@24p. The same applies to any home camera recording you may have with higher frame rate than 30. Home cinema enthusiasts should know that native 23.976 resolution is not supported, so the 1080p@60 resolution is the best option (pull down conversion). But since the 4K resolution is limited to 30Hz, and with the 23.976 mode being unsupported, there is absolutely no reason to choose a 4K resolution since all the 23.976 material (practically all movie releases) will playback with lots jerky lags every now and then. The best option to avoid this is to select the 1080@60Hz resolution and use the pull down conversion that provides a far better result in terms of cinematic motion. This is perhaps a deal breaker for 4K TV owners, unless Mecool provides a firmware update with support for 4K@23.976. Owners of Full HD TVs will be happy anyway and will not be affected by this issue.
Full HD playback was also stellar with Blu Ray backup files and home videos, even from wired network.
Auto frame rate switching is not supported which means that you will have to switch it every time manually when the source material has a different frame rate that the one chosen.
Once more, Android 7’s audio enhancements assisted into bit-stream HD Audio (Dolby ATMOS included) perfectly. Down-mixing to stereo was also supported for all of you that connect the media box directly to the TV set.
Wi-Fi performance was OK since streaming of 720p movies and TV shows was handled nice.
Gaming performance is very basic and you should stick to casual 2D titles. Remember that you will not be able to connect a Bluetooth gamepad as well.
Internal ROM’s performance is above average with ~40mb/sec write speed.
Android 7.1 with the equipped 2GB of RAM help a lot towards making the browsing experience as good as possible.
Nougat is the standard operating system for all new Android TV Boxes. The (dated) user interface is still responsive, and the shortcut options in the main screen will help you launch your favorite applications faster. Play Store is pre-installed so that you can install any application you want from Google’s never-ending catalog.
SD Netflix is supported, but with Google’s Widevine DRM Level 1 support you might get lucky (HD) if you try another apk version. 1080p You-Tube is supported as well.
Hardcore users will be happy to see that the device arrives pre-rooted with Super user not installed (you can install it manually in no time).
After the first boot you will find ~11GB of free space.
The new SoC from Amlogic is a very pleasant surprise for all the ones in need of a very capable TV Box on a budget. Mecool M8S Pro W implementation appears to be one of the most feature packed with support for HD Netflix (not in 4K though).
If you are on a budget and seek a very capable Android TV Box, then Mecool M8S Pro W is really a class of its own by costing ~30$.
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