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My Mini PC - Android TV

Update 2014-01-25
The performance of the MK908 Mini PC has improved by these two recent actions:
  • Upgrade to Finless ROM 1.7a: generally smoother video quality
  • Measures to lessen the risk of overheating, see here! Rare sudden reboots!

Previous version: 2013-10-25

View My Video 5 min

View River's Video 9 min
This small device could turn the TV into a Smart TV!

The Tronsmart MK908 (60) is one of the new generation of Android PC-sticks coming from China, all having rather similar specifications: Cortex A9 RK3188 Quad-Core CPU with 2GB DDR3 RAM and 8GB NAND Flash ROM, supporting Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi 802.11 /b/g/n and running on Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) - pretty much like a 2013 smartphone or tablet.

It connects to the TV via a mini-HDMI port and to the Internet via WiFi. It is not strictly a Google TV device, as it lacks the HDMI passtrough. It is an Android TV.

It has two micro-USB ports: one for OTG used for the Remote RF receiver (and for firmware updates) and one for power connection. It also has a normal USB port and a micro SD-card slot for extra storage. Of the internal 8 GB storage half is used for apps and the other half for data storage.
This remote is a MiniX NEO A2 Gyro Air Mouse ($35), which features gesture cursor control, voice control, querty keyboard (on the reverse) and multi-media controls. It uses RF and transmits well over 5 m, including through a wall. It is a bit tricky to control the cursor movements, but it gets easier with some practice.
Initially I had all kinds of problems with my stick (such as boot loops), which was of the unfortunate subversion 3.0. After a couple of weeks in dispair, the situation was saved by Finless ROM 1.6, which solved most of the problems.

Finless has faked the model number to Samsung Galaxy to allow installation of most apps from the Google Play Store.

System Settings (updated)
The video quality is not as good as I had hoped. I am using the the 720p kernel and upscaling to 1920x1080. Have tried the 1080p kernel, but did not notice any improvement of the video quality, so I went back to the more stable 720p kernel.

Another problem is that the stick gets warm after heavy use (video) - and after an hour or so it will switch off and reboot.

Screen Settings

Homescreen - Oct 2013
Homescreen - Jan 2014
To the left is my main homescreen, which is very much like my Nexus 7 homescreen. My main objective with this stick was to be able to browse the internet comfortably from the TV couch. The cursor control of the remote is a little bit tricky to use for more than fairly short surfing sessions. As an alternative I installed the RKRemoteControl app on my Nexus 7 tablet, emulating touchpad control of the cursor.

For videos from YouTube the video quality is quite acceptable and overheating only becomes a problem after about an hour. For Movies-on-Demand I prefer using my PC to TV method - also for playing videos and movies from the PCs hard disk as direct play rather than streaming through an intermediate device.

I believe the problems I have been facing with video quality and with overheating will be solved on the next generation of mini PC sticks - if not already through MiniX NEO X7 mini ($120)?

I believe mini PC:s to be the future: turning your old TV into a Smart TV - rather than buying a new full size TV! Some more development is needed though - for the mini PC:s as well as for the remote controls!