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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.

The Smart TV Box supports both Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Setting up Wi-Fi required selecting my network and entering the password. But since at this point I was only using the remote, that was no easy chore. Imagine the pop-up onscreen keyboard on an Android phone, spread out across the width of a 50-inch screen. But you can't simply swipe or tap the letters. For every letter, number, or punctuation mark, you have to move one key at a time with a TV remote control to the right key, then press the OK button.

Mouse, keyboard, and remote control

Entering text is considerably easier with a mouse and easiest of all with a keyboard, and it's good that the Smart TV Box supports both of these. The problem is that you really need all three to fully use this device.

The remote control feels cheap and lacks any form of backlighting. It has Back and Home buttons that any Android user would know — but no Recent Apps button. The Pause/Play button is near the top, making it difficult to hit.

Worse, that Pause/Play button only works with the Smart TV Box's native media players intended for playing local content. If you want to pause while streaming something off the Internet, the remote won't do you any good. You'll need a mouse for that.

The mouse, of course, makes it much easier to select an item on the screen. A right-click acts like the Back button, but there's no equivalent for Home. If you want to do something with an app other than launch it — for instance, move it to the desktop — your only option is to use the remote's arrows and OK button.

Since neither the remote nor the screen offers a Recent Apps option, there's no obvious way to switch between running apps. How do you do it? The same way you do in Windows: Alt-Tab on the keyboard.

So you really do need all three. While testing and playing with the Smart TV Box, I found myself juggling the remote, the mouse, and the keyboard (and my laptop, but you probably won't have to do that). I always seemed to need the one I wasn't holding.

Like Android, but odder

Aside from juggling multiple input devices, Android users will be generally at home with the Smart TV Box, but not entirely. At times, the Smart TV Box's version of Jelly Bean can be difficult and counterintuitive.

For instance, the Home screen is taken up primarily with a few apps that Satechi is currently promoting. A smallish box on the left, called the desktop, has a smattering of apps. You can add or remove apps, but the way to do it is anything but obvious.

 

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