Android ARM TV Sticks are the new SMART TV

posted Jan 18, 2013, 5:04 AM by Henrik Cort Tranæs   [ updated Jan 18, 2013, 5:41 AM ]

Remember my post on Android and ARM last year? Things have been changing fast in the last year for Android Smart TV market. 

There are a bunch of mostly Chinese players who are making small HDMI/USB sticks with an SOC of Dual core ARM chips with all ports for USB, and built-in Wi-Fi. These small sticks sell for less than $70 and run Android 4.1 The beauty of it is that you can plug them into any HDMI screen and suddenly have  full functioning smart TV. You have an open platform with internet access and you can run all the usual apps that you can on an android phone or tablet. I have tested an popular unit called the MK808 running an Rockchip Cortex A9 1.6 Ghz chip. What is more interesting from a business perspective is that these players are mostly being sold on Chinese websites directly to the end users around the world. Sites like offer the players with free freight around the world. 


No big brand names are at the moment offering an solution or implantation like it. Dell have recently announced a project called Ophelia that look like these players but at the moment it seems that the interest is mainly being build up from the first movers and innovators mainly by forums and on the web. 


What’s to like in compared to old MIPS based media players like WDTV. 

  • Internet access makes it easy to download subtitles on the fly from you video library.
  • You can watch YouTube, and stream TV from your favorite TV channels.
  • You can download many different media players. 
  • you can get power form the TV's USB port, meaning NO cables sticking out 


Cons versus old media players


  • HD sound are still not implemented
  • Hardware decoding does not work on all formats like avi, mkv 
  • Full HD does not always work, often less than 650p
  • Remote control is cumbersome since you are navigating or a desktop
  • no real Remote based UI
  • Connections such as Wifi, Ethernet don't run at full speed 
  • NFS not supported
  • UPNP takes time setting up
  • No Media library app like don't really work yet. 
  • lack of connections such as Ethernet, Optic cable etc.
  • firmware upgrades are pretty difficult the first time around


All in all there is still some way before these players are up to what the old MIPS based players like WDTV could do. However the charm of having a small media player you can hide behind you LED flat screen is a mayor WAF factor. Also there is coming out a new stick every month now so the race is on to build the smartest and most functional player is on. It is great to see that external media players again are taking the lead in the innovation of the digital media player landscape. Integrated SmartTV solution  are now trying to catch up.