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X96 Max is the first TV Box we test equipped with the brand new Amlogix S905X2 System on Chip (SoC). Performance is supposed to be better in all aspects and we now also find RAM configurations up to 4GB. Let’s see how it compares to the existing models.
Packaging – Specifications
Packaging was simple but effective. Just the casual cardboard box with all the basics. The unit itself, the remote, an HDMI cable, the wall adapter and basic documentation. You will have to buy batteries for the remote on your own since they are not included.
The new SoC from Amlogic, S905X2 is still quad-core (compared to S905X) but carrying a new manufacturing process and an improved GPU (Mali-G31 MP2). It is the first time we have a 4GB RAM based Amlogic SoC so overall performance and multitasking should be considerably better. The previous generation of Amlogic SoC coud handle up to 3GB of RAM (S912). Our test model arrived with 32GB of internal ROM but there are more configurations available.
Connectivity is updated, with a 1x USB3.0 port (first time for Amlogic SoC), 1x USB2.0, 1x Micro SD slot, 1x Optical out, 1x AV jack and 1x HDMI2.0a out.
Networking is upgraded with a faster 2×2 MiMo wireless Dual Band module and we still have a Gigabit wired LAN connection and a Bluetooth 4.0 protocol.
Although Amlogic’s new chips support Android Pie, the X96 Max arrived with Android 8.1 operating system.
Media Player – Remote
X96 Max is very compact (100x100mm) and lightweight. Since we are dealing with a cost effective TV Box, the plastic build was not a surprise. Its overall quality is decent though and the “muscled” design is actually really nice and not eye-catching in a bad way. The Black-Ash color profile make it easier to place almost anywhere.
You do get a nice blue LED display in the front with time option and some minor notifications like USB, HD resolution etc. Its brightness is on the up side, so keep that in mind if you intend to place it in your line of sight.
The small chassis dimensions force I/Os to be deployed on two sides. On the left we get the 2x USB ports with the Micro SD slot and on the back we get the rest of the connections. Cable management can be tricky if you intend to connect wired USB peripherals.
The remote is nothing amazing, pretty basic really. IR based with numeric keys included. You do get four programmable keys on the top row in order to control your TV set. Key strokes are more “clicky” than normal but the grip is normal and it will get the job done at the end.
Menus – Settings
Since acquiring an Android TV license would probably raise the cost, the manufacturer decided to offer something minimal and straightforward avoiding the tablet-like launchers we usually encounter (and hate). There is a single page that consists of two sections. The top one is named Collection and the lower one is named Apps and includes all of them in a form of a clickable box/icon. We could not find a way to delete the shortcuts/icons in the apps section, so adding any shortcut/icon in the collection row above, will result in to having the same icon/app twice in your main screen, which is not smart. At least the user interface design is beautiful and browsing is fast and responsive. You also get the typical application drawer.
The settings menu is the Android stock one appearing at the right side of the screen. As always navigation is easy and all settings appear in the right way divided into easy to understand categories (Audio, Video etc.). Setting up the device according to your needs should be easy.
Audio playback was very good for stereo files (mp3/FLAC). Both from streaming services like Spotify and from locally stored ones.
Video playback was very good and you will have no issues with all popular encodings. Via KODI, the highest bit-rate UHD and Blu-Ray releases had no playback issues. VP9 based files also showed good playback. There is one omission though that may disappoint in comparison to the previous line of Amlogic SoCs. HD Audio pass-through is no longer supported. You will get DTS-core and Multi-PCM instead. We did not encounter any scenarios were we could not get audio at all which is at least comforting. Stereo down-mixing works properly in case you want to connect the TV Box directly to your TV set. Although we enabled all related auto frame rate switching options (both from the Android settings menu and the KODI one), we just couldn’t get it to work so we left the refresh rate at 60Hz to avoid switching.
KODI plug-ins for streaming, had perfect performance with fast loading times (compared to a typical 3GB RAM, S912 based TV Box) which will delight many users out there. Unfortunately there is no Librelec support yet (it is very early so this may change later on).
Dolby Vision appears to be supported, but we unfortunately had no such display to make the related tests.
Networking performance was very good. Via wired Gigabit LAN, we did manage to stream high bit-rate 4K videos, and the new updated Wi-Fi 2×2 MiMo module was able to stream high bit-rate Blu-Ray videos with no buffering (depends from the title and peak bandwidth, but overall performance was really good).
Gaming experience is enhanced compared to previous generation Amlogic flagship SoC (S912). The G31 GPU is almost 40-50% faster, so 3D gaming is now even better. Results can’t rival Nvidia Shield, but at least you will be able to play PUBG in low setting. Titles like Asphalt 8 offer way above average performance. Note that during gaming, rendering takes place in 1080p even if your display is set to 4K in order to avoid huge performance drop.
Benchmarking results place the S905X2 SoC clearly above the S912 both in terms of computing and 3D tasks. Internal ROM speeds are really good and above average.
The fast eMMC ROM in combination with the fast SoC and 4GB of RAM provide excellent (for a TV Box) navigation and application launching results. Web browsing is faster too, bit you will need a mouse/KB combo to obtain a hassle free experience.
You are free to select any application/game you want from Google’s Play Store which is pre-installed. You will only get limitations from applications requiring specific licensing. For example, Netflix is not supported and in order to get payback, you will have to download the application from Netflix website and side load it. You will only get a standard definition playback and you will require a mouse/KB combo in order to navigate (mobile version of Netflix). It appears that there is not even Widevine level 3 licensing so You-Tube is limited to 1080p/stereo. We did get a very annoying bug that resulted to exiting the You-Tube video when we tried to switch the resolution.
The device arrives pre-rooted and after the first boot you will get ~25GB of free space.
There is an option for automatic system updates, but we received none during our tests. Probably you will never receive one via OTA. Usually OEM TV Box release updates that can only be installed by connecting the device to a computer.
The new Amlogic SoC certainly provides updated performance that can actually be witnessed during everyday use. Since we focus on audio and video performance, we were disappointed by the lack of HD Audio pass-through but we almost had no complaints in every other aspect (official licensing excluded).
Performance was solid during our test period which was not the case with the previous generation Amlogic based TV Boxes. Gaming performance was greatly amplified as well so the overall performance is indeed better.
The X96 MAX will not bleed your wallet also since it costs ~70$.
If you are seeking a great and affordable all round performer, without the need for playback of licensed streaming services in HD quality, then the X96 MAX is a great pick.
- Gearbest offered the unit for an honest review and that is exactly what we did.
- If this review helped you towards making your decision, we would appreciate if you made your order through the following affiliate link(s). This way we will be able to review more products in the future.
- Gearbest link