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Satechi Smart TV Box review: Android-based set-top box does a lot, but doesn't make it easy

Lincoln Spector | Jan. 15, 2015
Every streaming device, from your aging Blu-ray player to your Roku, has limitations. At some point, you're going to want to stream a service that your device doesn't support. When that happens, your only big-screen option is to plug a laptop, tablet, or smartphone into your HDTV. That way, you get a real operating system with complete flexibility.

Every streaming device, from your aging Blu-ray player to your Roku, has limitations. At some point, you're going to want to stream a service that your device doesn't support. When that happens, your only big-screen option is to plug a laptop, tablet, or smartphone into your HDTV. That way, you get a real operating system with complete flexibility.

But that's a hassle. These devices aren't designed to be controlled from across a room. And even when they have remote controls, they're usually not that good.

The Satechi Smart TV Box offers a way around this. It's a streaming device, designed specifically for plugging into your TV and controlling from across the room. But it runs Android. If your Android phone or tablet can do it, the Smart TV Box can probably do it, too.

Okay, not everything

Of course it can run the obvious apps, such as Netflix and YouTube, but that's no big deal. But if you're partial to a particular Android video player that doesn't support Chromecast, here's a way to play it through your TV. And if there isn't an app, there's at least a web page you can access.

And it's not limited to video apps. I successfully installed Dropbox and KeePass on the Smart TV. KeePass was particularly useful. I could log into a service by copying and pasting the password — much easier than typing one.

Not that the Smart TV can co everything that an Android phone can. You can't make calls, and it doesn't have a camera. And while it comes with Google Maps, there's no point to receiving GPS directions through your television.

Out of the box

The Smart TV Box measures 7.5 by 5 by 1 inches. On the back you'll find an on/off switch, along with Ethernet, optical, HDMI, AV/Audio, USB OTG, and DC power ports.

The box contains 8GB of internal flash storage. If you need more, there's a full-size SD card slot on the left side, along with two USB ports. But the ports serve another purpose. You'll need a wireless mouse and keyboard (more on that later). Of course, if you buy a wireless mouse and keyboard packaged together, they'll only need one port.

Also in the box you'll find an HDMI cable, an AC adapter, and the remote control. Oddly, the remote doesn't come with batteries. The thin manual doesn't help much.

When you plug everything in and turn on the physical on/off switch, the Smart TV Box goes into its remarkably efficient standby mode. How efficient? My Watts Up power meter estimated that it would burn about 0.02 watt/hour if left in standby for a month. Apparently that's enough to make a red LED glow and respond to the remote control's power button. When fully on and streaming HD video, it burned about 4 or 5 watts.

 

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