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NZXT Doko review: The little streaming box that (barely) could

Hayden Dingman | March 12, 2015
When Valve first discussed bringing the PC into the living room with Steam Machines, it outlined an entire ecosystem. On the high end we'd find $1,000-plus media center PCs, equipped with top-of-the-line hardware. But on the low end, there was a much more interesting proposition for those who already owned a capable PC: A streaming-only device that cost barely anything but relied on your home network and your primary tower for horsepower.

I can't do that, Dave

Welcome to the picky, ornery, fight-you-every-damn-step-of-the-way future.

There are two huge interface issues I encountered with the Doko. Neither alone is enough to write off the Doko, but the theme of this review (if you couldn't tell already) is "little annoyances that eventually make you disconnect the Doko and just go sit at your desk."

1) Alert messages in Windows 7 don't display on the Doko. I got pestered by that nuisance commonly known as the "Java Update" shortly after activating the Doko. I had no idea this had happened, because on the TV everything simply froze. There was no alert sound. No alert overlay. I just couldn't move the mouse anymore.

Walking into my office, I could see the Java Update dialog sitting there taunting me. Closing it returned the Doko to normal.

2) You have to run Steam in Admin Mode to utilize Big Picture and a controller. Presumably this is how you want to use your Doko — after all, it's a user interface designed for couches. As someone who runs Steam at launch, this means shutting it down and then reopening in Admin Mode every time I want to use the Doko. It only takes about five seconds, but it's tedious and also something that nobody told me. I literally had to email NZXT to figure out what was going on.

Even running in Admin Mode, the controller support is sometimes spotty. I'd be able to run one game fine, then switch over and find that the controller (for whatever reason) was unresponsive. The only way to fix it was to reset the Doko.

A caveat for everyone

The problem with the NZXT Doko is every time you think "Well, this is cool," there's immediately a caveat to follow.

I've probably used the Doko most to stream movies and music to my TV, but at that point I might as well own a Chromecast, Fire TV Stick, or any other low-profile streaming solution. That's especially true because the movie streaming quality of the Doko is subpar, with quite a bit of obvious screen-tearing and worse-looking picture quality than you'd get from something like the Chromecast.

Also a Chromecast is $35. The Doko is $100.

I guess certain enterprise pursuits might benefit from streaming presentations to a TV or even working directly on a TV, but that's definitely a niche use-case — and again, there are cheaper options available.

So I'm forced to conclude the NZXT Doko is meant primarily for gaming. Here, too, we find caveats — namely that the Doko is only prepared to output 30 frames per second. And even this wouldn't necessarily be an issue, considering console users are used to 30 frames per second, except that variable amounts of lag render any timing-based games practically unplayable.

 

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