The VidOn Box simply put is an Android based media player. It’s priced at $69.99 which includes free shipping, the box itself and a free one year VidOn membership card.
The box itself looks absolutely stunning, and I would have no problem sitting this next to my TV. In terms of size it measures 31.5mm x 150mm x 107mm (H x W x D), so its a compact product that will leave room for any other players you may have stacked under your TV. This being said after setting up the VidOn Box you shouldn’t need any other playback devices.
It’s powered by a customised version of the XBMC Pro, underpinned by Android 4.4 which will allow you stream and manage your whole media library from a single device. As well as this there are many apps and add-ons to choose from to enhance your streaming experience.
On the inside it features a Cortex-A7 Quad-core CPU, a PowerVR SGX544MP2, 1GB DDR3 memory, 8GB of storage and also supports 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n wireless.
The device is constructed from a single piece of gold aluminium (manufactured in the same factory as Apples MacBook Air), while the front and back are finished with black plastic. Most of the action happens around the back however where all of the ports are located. You’ll find the DC port, LAN, HDMI, 2 USB ports, optical audio out, reset button and a wireless antenna.
As mentioned above you also receive a 1-year free VidOn membership. This will allow you to upgrade the VidOn XBMC to VidOn XBMC Pro which allows you to access and use a whole array of new features only available to pro members. You’ll also be able to gain early access to the upcoming VidOn Media Center exclusive features.
Setting up the VidOn Box is a very simple process and doesn’t take long. You’ll need to connect the box to your TV using a HDMI cable, annoyingly this isn’t included in the box. Once you’ve hooked up the power to the box, you’re then ready to switch on your TV and begin setting up your network connection.
The VidOn device can access your media from a variety of devices including the built-in memory, external HDDs connected via the USB ports or from network attached storage. However if your files aren’t in the correct format then they’re useless. Thankfully the device and XBMC support a wide range of files including M2TS, TS, MP4, MKV, AVI, VOB, H264, MPEG2, RMVB, FLV and WMV. It’s also capable of supporting 3D output.
We tested playback over both a wireless and wired connection to compare them both. The test file was a full HD 1080p WEB-DL movie so we were pushing the boundaries of the wireless connection to the maximum. At first I ran into quite a lot of buffering when first trying to play the film, so I decided to pause the playback for exactly 5 minutes to see if this would help. I hit play again and managed to finish the remaining 92 minutes without any buffering.
Overall I think that’s pretty good, but obviously your own wireless internet connection (as mine is pretty speedy) need to be taken into account, and also where the box is placed. I didn’t run into any problems such as buffering when using the wired connection, and the whole film played back smoothly.
In the box you also get a remote which allows you to control the box from the comfort of your sofa or bed. There is also a mobile app available for iOS and Android devices which you can download for free, which allows you to control the box the same way.
Overall the VidOn Box seems like a great product and supports a wide range of features. You have the added benefit of XBMC with this product over say the Apple TV and this in itself may be the deciding factor to a lot of people. For a lot of people ease of use is the key factor with a media streamer and although the interface isn’t the most simple that I’ve used, I definitely wouldn’t call it difficult to navigate.
However I’m not sure that I would go as far as saying it could permanently replace your HTPC. The box will set you back a cool $69.99 on the VidOn website, or you can pick it up for under £50 on Amazon (UK) which isn’t all that bad, although you must remember that if you want XBMC Pro after the first year you’ll have to purchase a membership.