13
Mar
wm_IMG_2774

While this isn't the first time we've looked at one of those "plug this in your TV and make it better!" Android-powered gadgets, it is the first one that can add some interesting features to your existing set for such a small price. Also unlike other solutions, the SmartStick is – as its name suggests – merely a stick that plugs into the HDMI port of your television.

In short, it's a stick that puts Android (and a custom skin) on your TV. And it's surprisingly not awful.

wm_IMG_2762

Specs

  • 1GHz Cortex-A9 processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • Wi-Fi b/g/n
  • 4 or 8GB storage, microSD card slot
  • One full-size USB 2.0 port
  • Android 4.0.4
  • Price: $50 for 4GB, $80 for 8GB
  • Where to buy: Amazon

wm_IMG_2763 wm_IMG_2764

Yay

  • It's small. I know I've already said it at least twice, but the SmartStick won't take up much space on your TV stand. In fact, it won't take up any space on your TV stand – just plug it in and forget about it. If you have a TV with HDMI ports on the back, you'll never even see it. That's definitely a plus.
  • It has a custom interface. Have you ever tried using stock Android on a TV? Or can you imagine what it's like? I can tell you, the experience is less than spectacular. Fortunately, the Favi has a custom skin that works very well on a TV screen. Navigating through the primary interface and such is a breeze.
  • Expandable storage. The SmartStick comes in both 4 and 8GB variants, but if that's not enough for your ever-growing movie collection, just throw a microSD card it in. Done and done.
  • Root support. While there isn't much practical use in rooting a TV-connected device, the manufacturer fully supports rooting if you want to do it. It even provides all the necessary files on its forum to make it happen. That's awesome.
  • It's pretty decent. That may seem like a weird thing to say about a device like this, but it's true. Honestly, most devices in this category are absolute garbage, but the SmartStick isn't all that bad. That said, it's still far from perfect. But it's usable... for the most part.

wm_IMG_2766 wm_IMG_2767

Nay

  • The included remote is awful, awful, awful. If you want to make the most of your time with a Favi SmartStick, go ahead and spring for the full remote with trackpad. You'll be more than glad you did, even though at $34, it costs nearly as much as the SS itself.
  • Streaming video is cumbersome and quirky. This could be the dealbreaker for some of you, but here it is: Netflix, YouTube, and the like are, of course, Android apps and therefore optimized for a touch interface, which makes for a pretty bad experience on a TV. Honestly, Netflix does a pretty good job of sucking on its own, but throwing a non-touch device into the mix and it's far more cumbersome and impractical. YouTube is a similar story – you'll find yourself using the trackpad to navigate through a UI that would be much, much easier to just reach out and touch.
  • No Bluetooth. Playing games like Dead Trigger on the SmartStick would be killer... but only with a Bluetooth game controller (because how else are you going to play it?) Sadly, it doesn't have Bluetooth so that can't happen. Boo!
  • It's still Android on a TV, and therefore kind of pointless. Let's face it – Android on a TV isn't inherently a fantastic idea. And while the SmartStick is definitely usable for some things, it's still very clunky in certain areas, like the Android menus for example. The aforementioned keyboard makes it less annoying because of the touchpad, but it still doesn't make Android on a TV a "great" experience.

wm_IMG_2769 wm_IMG_2773

The biggest problem with the SmartStick isn't the SmartStick itself. Its physical design is well thought-out, as it doesn't take up much space and it offers a lot of features in its tiny package. The problem really is Android. Not because Android is bad, but because Android is bad on a TV. It wasn't made for a large non-touch screen. That makes navigating much of it a very cumbersome and annoying process. Favi's custom interface does a lot to help, but the biggest part of the problem lies within the applications themselves. Netflix sucks without a touch screen. YouTube is all sorts of wacked out. Browsing the web is decent at best, and it'll work in a pinch, but it's still less than ideal.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get screenshots of the SmartStick's software, but this video shows the UI pretty well.

And that's also how I would sum this device up: it works in a pinch but is less than ideal. Then again, I'm not sure what kind of a pinch you're in to need a smartTV, so you really need to think long and hard before spending any money on not just this device, but any like it.

If, at the end of it all, you decide that Android on your TV is something that you actually want, I would recommend the Favi SmartStick to you. Not because I think it's a fantastic product, but because Favi really has tried to make the best out of a less-than-perfect situation, and it shows.

As always, if you have questions, feel free to drop 'em in the comments and I'll do my best to answer.

Buy: Amazon

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • Kevin Aaronson

    Just because I completely lack imagination when it comes to these things, what are some interesting uses for this? Streaming is sub par, and no bluetooth; what does that leave?

  • Robb Nunya

    Check out the iMito MX 2. Similar concept, runs a little more $$ (I got mine for $67) and you don't get the craptacular remote, so you're essentially on your own for an input, but it's a dual core proc, and is as smooth as butter. I have a Logitech Revue, and frankly, I prefer the MX2. The only thing I actually like better on the Google TV is the Netflix app. Other than that, I much prefer the MX2. It pairs up with bluetooth devices flawlessly, and streams over WiFi with no worries, although once in awhile Netflix DOES go down in quality for a bit... But that's just Netflix over the internet, IMHO. Over all, it's worth the money, vs. a Roku or whatever, and seeing as how you can put XBMC on either of these, the interface is great. Note:I bought the smart stick remote from a Tiger Direct retail outlet, and like it fine. I also have a Media Center IR remote connected for use with XBMC, and it really upgrades the experience.

    • Wilfredo Alarcon

      Do you have a source/link for me to check out the product and other reviews?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Sure, maybe for the unit you have. This one doesn't have Bluetooth, so I still stand by my statement in this case.

    • dan

      I also have the MX2 and while it's kind of awkward in some ways (ever tried going into recovery on a device with no buttons?), I have found it really valuable. I use Netflix and TV portal on it all the time, get notifications, pull up maps during conversations, stream my Google Music library, etc etc etc.

    • Ryan O’Neill

      Can you use your phone as a BT remote?

      • AC

        The review states that there's no BT. I guess technically they could make a wi-fi app for it

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

      What do you mean "on your own for an input?" How do you set it up once you have it? How the heck do you control it?

      I really like the idea using it with emulators... even if it's just for that.

      • A

        I have a similar device, and I use a miniature wireless keyboard with a built in trackpad (cost about $30).

  • JonJJon

    I have seen several companies push sticks out like this with Android on with varying levels of success and usability. I wonder if Google will speak anything of the Google TV platform this I/O or whether it really is a lost cause for them.

    • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

      I hope so, I keep really wanting to fall in love with Google TV, but it just seems like a missed opportunity so far. It will be interesting to see if this changes, or what effect the OUYA may have on the scene.

      • JonJJon

        Yeah my sentiment exactly, Google have it in them to produce a great "smart TV platform" but haven't hit the right chord yet. They might want to hurry up about it and get lots of OEMs on board (not an easy task with TV manufacturers pushing their own sluggish systems) if Apple really are going to push into the TV market more, bound to get a lot of buyers.

      • Justin Winker

        I would love to have GTV, but conveniently, they only come on certain devices/TVs. Wider selection of TVs and aftermarket units, and possibly a plug/play stick like this would help so more could get their hands on it.

  • k

    XBMC?

  • http://profiles.google.com/wisefire935 Joshua Wise

    Just gonna add in my opinion, I bought this, and returned it a week later. Its slow, laggy, apps don't work and the extra keyboard/trackpad remote falls short. It isn't even designed for the Favi, just kind of thrown in to work with it. I recommend the Pulse, I've had it for awhile now. Only issue I have with it is the Wifi drops every once in awhile.. but I keep it connected with a network cable anyway.

  • http://twitter.com/phonecount StalkyTheFish

    Seems like a cool thing to run game emulators on.

  • Zaatour36

    I've tried two other similar products, and I gotta say, they all are laggy, and not TV friendly.

    They need to understand is people need something fast and easy to access.

    So a better UI then a regular AOSP launcher(TV friendly), and something faster then those dual-core available, as well as Bluetooth built-in.

    If they did those things, it will be poplar, and customer get interested in the idea. Other than that, it's basically an MK802 or like the dozens like it, but different name and shape/color!

  • David Becker

    I have this stick and you don't necessarily need the controller You can get Able Remote and control your stick via your phone and an interface. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.entertailion.android.remote&feature=search_result

  • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

    The only thing I want to do with this is to install QQPlayer and throw it to my father-in-law's TV. He doesn't even have Internet connection, and all he wants to watch are some Chinese TV shows his friends give him. Do you know if QQPlayer can be installed?

  • lurkapup

    Rather than Able Remote as suggested below, which imposes a touch screen remote skin, something like a vnc server for android would work better - that way you're duplicating the android TV display on your tablet/phone screen and have touch capability combined with big screen resolution.... would be interested to know how well this works....

  • http://twitter.com/MrPendulum Mr Pendulum

    CIFS/SMB support?

  • ElfirBFG

    So, it's still smarter to go with something like a Raspberry Pi running XBMC for the price?

  • TB

    I have a SmartTV stick (from a Kickstarter project) and it works well. I mostly use it to check weather/news/etc. but have used it to stream WatchESPN and video from Amazon Prime. The only problem is that a recent update is stuck and won't complete - they need to fix this and it could be upgraded to Jelly Bean and allow some cool widgets to run

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

    I'm ultimately waiting the OUYA to fulfill this role of the being the ultimate Android device you plug into your TV.

    • primalxconvoy

      This.

  • http://twitter.com/videomap videomap

    look what you can do without touch screen but with DroidMote
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BM6W3Dq_yqQ

  • Paul

    Try xbmc on it. That'd be the #1 reason I'd use it. XBMC has a good remote for Android phones and tablets to, so I would rarely need to interface to the Favi.

  • Paul

    You mention HDMI is the only connection needed. Doesn't it require 5v input power, and therefore a USB connection to either a charger or to the t.v's usb port if it has one?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Correct. Thought it was a given that it needs power.

  • primalxconvoy

    I don't think the idea of Android on a tv is bad, but you're right in writing that Android, as is, isn't ready for a tv/monitor set up right now. The great convergence WILL happen though, with OUYA and its ilk leading the way.

  • GigiAUT

    I bought the Zealz GK802 about 3 weeks ago. I admit, the performance was a bit under par and not what I was expecting, but it serves a purpose now. It's my portable HTPC I take with me on business trips so I can enjoy my shows/movies on the tv in the hotel room. Beats having to watch on my laptop or tablet by a long shot.