In the world of Apple TVs, Rokus, Fire TVs, and generic Android TV sticks or boxes, is there room for one more? VidOn.me’s AV200 Android Blu-ray box is a $120 option with one unique feature: it supports Blu-ray menu navigation. How useful is this feature and how often will you use it? Does it justify choosing the AV200 over an Apple TV or Amazon’s Fire TV? Let’s take a look.
We’ll also be giving this media player away, so be sure to read through the review, then submit your entries to be entered into the drawing.
Introducing The VidOn.me AV200 Player
It’s not a very familiar brand, I’ll admit. VidOn.me is affiliated with DVDFab, one of the biggest names in DVD and Blu-ray ripping software. As such, the VidOn.me AV200 player contains DVDFab technology which allows it to support Blu-ray menu navigation — it’s unique and key selling feature. Other than that, the AV200 is pretty much similar to any generic media player running on Android.
At $120, the AV200 isn’t exactly cheap. It’s approximately $20 dearer than the Apple TV, as well as Amazon’s Fire TV; as a media player, that’s not a very attractive standpoint. However, neither the Apple TV nor the Fire TV supports Blu-ray menu navigation. In fact, the AV200 is the only media player among the three that’s capable of playing 3D content. If you consume a lot of 3D content, in Blu-ray format, stored on a local device like a USB hard drive, then the AV200 is perhaps the best option for you.
Design and Technical Specifications
The VidOn.me AV200 Android player is a sleek-looking device. At 190 x 124.5 x 45.4 mm, it’s about the size of a novel. With its anodised aluminium case and shiny plastic front panel, it will feel right at home on your entertainment console. It does, however, have a sizeable external vertical antenna, which will prohibit you from storing the AV200 in an enclosed space, especially if you have a cluttered console. Although it bears no resemblance to the low-profile design sported by the Apple TV or Fire TV, I still wouldn’t consider the AV200 bulky at all.
Internally, it features pretty modest hardware, which includes an ARM-based Cortex A7 quad-core chip running at 1.3GHz manufactured by AllwinnerTech, PowerVR SGX544 eight-core GPU, 2 gigabytes of DDR3 memory, 8 gigabytes of storage, and 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n wireless. Out of the box, runs Android 4.2, designed to feel like a media center.
As mentioned earlier, the AV200 has a shiny plastic front panel, with a single silver power button. When powered on, a blue LED lights up in the middle of the panel. Around the back, you’ll find the port which holds the enormous antenna, air vents, audio out, microUSB, power, HDMI, LAN, USB, and optical audio output ports. On its left side, there’s yet another USB port as well as a SD card reader.
The AV200 ships in a rather mundane-looking white carton box with an infra-red remote controller (although no batteries were provided), power supply, “high speed” HDMI cable (standard not printed) and some documentation to help get you started — illustrating how to power the device and connect to your local wireless network. Notably missing from the package is a user guide. At the time of writing, the AV200 is out of stock from its vendor, and unfortunately, its product page isn’t quite ready for prime time as the user guide and FAQ links seem broken.
Setting up the AV200 is a piece of cake. Connect the power cable, attach the HDMI cord, and you’re in business. There’s no pairing involved, no extended setup processes — it simply turns on.
VidOn.me AV200 launches and presents with a media center interface upon boot. Navigating the interface is quite simple using the directional buttons on the remote controller. Alternatively, a Mouse Mode is also provided, which is pretty standard with most Android-based TV sticks and boxes (what are Android TV boxes?).
Setting up networking was the first thing on my to-do list. However, using the remote controller to input keystrokes proved to be frustrating. The buttons on the remote controller were much too stiff, and there’s a slight — probably half a second — delay between pressing a button on the remote and the actual on-screen event, which is disorienting. Perhaps I should also point out that my wireless network password wasn’t masked and readily available for everyone to read.
The VidOn.me AV200 home screen was designed using a very straight-forward, no-nonsense approach. It provides you with the basic options for which you might want to use the device. Of course, it works like any Android device, so you can dive into the Play Store and install any app you wish. It comes pre-installed with a few popular apps for consuming media, for example, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, Pinterest, and Spotify.
Using the remote controller to navigate the user interface generally works. However, conflicts do happen, and there will be some menu items that the remote controller just can’t seem to reach. That’s when Mouse Mode comes in handy. With Mouse Mode enabled, the directional buttons on the remote are used to move a cursor around the screen. I do have to point out that a single press on the remote controller results in the cursor travelling two paces — it’s not exactly smooth scrolling. At one point, I was pretty annoyed because there were elements that neither the remote controller nor the mouse pointer could get to.
The AV200 utilises XBMC to play media files, and that’s no surprise as most Android TV devices depend on XBMC. You can expect to use all of XBMC’s core functions here, there’s really nothing special about this particular installation. To find out more about XBMC, read our guide on setting up XBMC.
Of course, in order for the AV200 to work, you’ll need to have local media in any of the common file formats: MKV, MP4, AVI, VOB, TS, WMV, etc. The AV200 can access media from its built-in memory, connected USB hard drives, SD card, or from local network-attached storage devices. Generally, there aren’t any device-specific restrictions on accessibility. As long as XBMC supports the source, you can add it to your library.
As I have all of my media stored on a NAS device, I instructed XBMC to search for SMB folders. Disappointingly, it didn’t manage to find my server. After manually adding the network address as a source, XBMC imported the media files and listed them in my library. Despite the bit of manual manipulation, the setting up process was rather painless. At least, I should say it was expected, since all networking-related procedures are bound to face issues.
Playback — through WiFi — was horrendous. Despite its large antenna and wireless-N connectivity, I can never seem to get the AV200 to play any of my local media files smoothly when connected to WiFi. One of the test files was a 720p WEB-DL TV episode at around 1.3 gigabytes and I could never get past the endless buffering. After switching to a network cable, the issue was resolved. Still, this is a rather major blow, especially if a wired connection isn’t an option.
Playback quality is acceptable — PowerVR SGX544 GPU does the job with decoding 1080p media files pretty well. Although I didn’t have any Blu-ray media files to test, I did play a bunch of 1080p MKV files. Watching movies with the AV200 was smooth, but I did notice a minor glitch: the audio would fall out of sync after seeking or changing chapters. This would happen no matter which file I played. Luckily XBMC has a feature to alter the audio offset, which allowed me to re-synchronise the audio track.
Note: after consulting with a representative from VidOn.me, they’ve assured me that the audio sync issue would be fixed in a future firmware update.
Like I mentioned, the buttons on the remote controller are much too stiff to use comfortably. Pressing a button lightly doesn’t invoke a response, and sometimes pressing harder doesn’t result in anything either. The buttons also don’t provide the satisfying click found on most modern remote controllers. Instead, it’s stiff and squishy — if that makes sense.
Since it communicates through infra-red, the remote controller must establish direct line of sight with the media player. Unfortunately, this means that whenever you’re using the remote controller, you’ll need to lift your arm up and point it towards the media player. In today’s world of Bluetooth and WiFi Direct, that’s pretty much unacceptable. It also means that you can’t have the media player enclosed in a cabinet somewhere, unless you also use an IR blaster to relay the signal.
There are quite a few buttons on the controller and without a manual, it’s puzzling to figure out what each button does. I did randomly press on a few of the more mysterious buttons to see if they’d invoke an event on the screen, but nothing happened. Some buttons outright won’t work. For example, the subtitle button brings up the subtitle menu in XBMC, and will run through the list of subtitles, but it will not select an option.
There also aren’t any dedicated volume control buttons to be found. Instead, there’s an “audio” button which you’ll need to first select, then use the directional buttons to increase or decrease the volume. Not the most intuitive layout, I must admit.
Honestly, I would have preferred a more minimalist approach — perhaps similar to the Boxee’s remote, with a few dedicated and directional buttons on one side, and a keyboard on the other. As grateful as I am that VidOn.me provided a remote controller with the AV200, it couldn’t be harder to use.
When using the AV200, it found the performance to be quite sluggish, even while navigating the user interface. There’s probably a half a second delay between the input on the remote controller and the event on screen, but that’s amplified by the sluggishness of the device. The graphical transitions are also slightly jerky, and not as buttery smooth as I’d hoped.
Running AnTuTu confirmed my doubts — it return an average result of 11379, which is poorer performing than Samsung Galaxy S3, a smartphone released in 2012. Coupled with the wireless woes I faced during testing, I was left with a bitter experience.
Should You Buy The VidOn.me AV200 Android Media Player?
The VidOn.me AV200 media player is by no means perfect. However, it is an entirely capable media player that should be considered. Wireless networking issues aside, the user interface is intuitive, a remote (albeit a confusing one) is provided, and setting up is really easy. The beautiful thing about Android TV boxes is the boundless capabilities — just hop on the Play Store and download any app you wish. If XBMC isn’t working for you, then download another media center application. With Android, you’ll always have options. If only it was $30 cheaper.
Buy only if you can find a good deal.
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This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, July 18. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.
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