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Android on Everything

Mark Gibbs | Feb. 15, 2013
This week is Android week here in Gearhead land, starting with a tool that will let you run pretty much any Android app on your Mac or Windows PC.

The BlueStacks App Player is a very impressive platform and, minor flaws aside, it's a very cool achievement and gets a Gearhead rating of 4 out of 5.

Now we come to another Android product, this on a complete computer system running Android called the Favi Smart Stick that turns your dumb TV into a "smart" TV that can run any of the gazillion Android apps. The real focus, however, is on digital media playback.

The SmartStick is tiny, measuring just 3.6 inches by 1.3 inches by 0.6 inches. A male HDMI connector sticks out of one end which you plug that into your TV. The device also comes with a short HDMI cable so you can plug the SmartStick in to televisions that have limited access.

The SmartStick runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) on a 1.0 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 with 1GB DDR3 SDRam with built-in 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and either 4GB or 8GB of storage (you can add up to 32GB storage via a Micro SD card slot).

Power is provided by a standard wall wart that plugs into a mini USB port on the side of the SmartStick. A USB 2.0 is located on the opposite end and most wireless keyboard and mouse adapters will be identified and supported automatically when plugged in.

Installation is straightforward and the SmartStick can be configured to output either a 720P or 1080P television image. The SmartStick also comes with an IR sensor on a three foot cable so that you can control the device with the included remote, even if the SmartStick has to be buried behind your TV.

The remote that comes with the SmartStick is OK but the controls are not as intuitive as they could be and text entry via the on-screen keyboard with the remote is painful. You would be advised to get the wireless Favi SmartStick Keyboard.

Sadly, while the keyboard is an improvement it isn't a huge one -- as with the BlueStacks interface, the Favi keyboard is twitchy, often generating extra key presses while the mouse pad is a little on the small side requiring you to relearn your mousing technique to improve accuracy and it doesn't always generate a "mouse down" when you tap on it.

Those criticisms aside, as a multimedia platform the SmartStick isn't bad ... it can run all of the usual Android music, movie, and video apps, including Pandora, Netflix, YouTube, HBO GO, Flixster, and Hulu.

It would be nice if a simpler, non-techie interface was available as not everyone cares about all of the configuration and management features particularly when it is to be used as media consumption platform.


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