With large screen HDTVs becoming mainstream nowadays, people are constantly looking for additional ways to take advantage of what they have to offer. Smart TVs are relatively new, but often are extremely limited in the content they offer. So, what if you could bring the Android operating system and all the apps that come along with it to your TV screen? Just think of all the internet content and thousands of apps you could enjoy right from the comfort of your own couch. Pivos Technology Group thinks the Andriod operating system is the perfect compliment to any digital home entertainment system and has provided the XIOS DS Media Play to accomplish just that. With its ability to turn any TV into a Smart TV, it certainly sounds like something many of you might be interested in. So, let’s have a look at the Pivos XIOS DS Media Play and see what it has in store for us!
Specifications and Features
Here are the specifications as provided by the Pivos Website. Of note is the extensive list of supported file types, audio CODECS, and video CODECS. It looks like we have a lot of connectivity options and support for 1080p too!
|Pivos XIOS DS Media Play Specifications|
|Supported Video Codecs|
|Supported Audio Codecs|
|Supported Audio Output|
|Supported Subtitle Types|
Most of the features are listed above in the specifications, but Pivos has provided some graphics to accompany the high level features found on the XIOS DS Media Play.
The size of this unit is an important factor to consider, especially if your space is limited. The XIOS DS Media Play is roughly 4 inches square and as depicted below, just over 1/2 inch tall.
Just to confirm, Pivos wants you to know this is the smallest embedded unit available anywhere.
|Digital home entertainment never came in such a sleek package. Introduce the all new XIOS DS Media Play, one of the world’s SMALLEST embedded entertainment companion designed for your digital life style!|
Obviously, apps are a huge deal with devices based on the Android operating system. You’ll have thousands of apps to browse through, which makes finding just what you need easy.
Below are some of the high level features I spoke of earlier. We have the latest Android version in Ice Cream Sandwich (4.04), a wide range of streaming capabilities, built in Ethernet and wireless, and the ability to plug in a wide range of peripherals.
The box is designed with a black and white theme, accented with the familiar Android green color. The box top and bottom are home to branding and high level features. The bottom of the box does a good job of showing you the connectivity options, resolution capabilities, and file format support. As you spin the box around to look at the sides, you get much more information on the Pivos XIOS DS Media Play. The Android ICS operating system is mentioned, along with the ARM Cortex A-9 processor and Mali-400 onboard GPU that provide all the horsepower. One of the box sides makes mention of a very important feature, and it has to do with XBMC. The Pivos XIOS Media Play is the only official ARM based developer platform for XBMC. You can actually flash the firmware on this device to a Linux based version of XBMC, or simply use the XBMC stand alone software that’s preloaded on the Android operating system.
Once we get inside the box, you are immediately greeted with a message to update the firmware before using the product. Seems fair enough. The contents include the XIOS DS unit, power adapter, remote control, HDMI cable, and the user guide.
A Closer Look/Connectivity
The top of the XIOS DS Media Play has a cute way of showing the Android character with the head and body split apart, separated by the XIOS DS graphics. The bottom of the unit is decked out with a rubber pad that does a great job of keeping it from sliding around. Also located on the back is the “Force Flash” button that can be used to flash the firmware outside of the operating system.
The front face has all the LED indicator lights, including a large one for WiFi. The right and back sides are home to three USB 2.0 ports, one LAN port, one HDMI output port, and the slot to install a Micro SD/SDHC card up to 32 GB. The back side also includes the power button and the place to plug in the AC adapter. The left side has two bar code stickers, one of which is the MAC address.
There are two main areas to cover in this section. The first being the Android Operating system and the second, the XBMC Media Center Software. When you first boot the system, you land on the familiar home screen that probably looks a lot like any Android based tablet or smart phone. I did a small amount of customization by adding a weather widget and bringing in some shortcut icons for a few apps. If you click on the top right corner, you’ll be sent to a page that shows all the apps and widgets currently installed. The bottom left picture shows the apps that are pre-installed, except for the Screenshot and Weather Channel apps that I installed.
From this point, you can use the device much like you would any Android based tablet, but on your big screen TV. You can browse the internet, check e-mail, view pictures, and a host of other things. You’re only limited by the apps you install, and there are literally thousands of those to choose from.
One of the first things you’ll want to do is get inside the settings app to customize the device to your needs. Below are 16 screenshots of all the different sections inside the settings app. These are all self explanatory, so peruse at your leisure to see what’s available for customizing.
The XBMC Media Player is a stand alone software package that sits on top of Android. As I mentioned earlier, you could flash this device with the Linux based XBMC firmware and do away with Android altogether if you wish. From reading a lot of posts on the Pivos forums, many people have done just that. This may be the avenue to pursue for better XBMC stability, because apparently XBMC runs much better with the Linux based firmware. Below are pictures of the XBMC software and the different areas within. Again, these pictures are all pretty self explanatory. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the forums.
Just for grins, I went ahead and ran 3DMark Ice Storm for Android operating systems. The benchmark finished with no issues, but it had no idea what device I was testing. The benchmark did pick up on the fact I was using version 4.04 of Android ICS. Unfortunately, there weren’t any comparison systems listed other than much more powerful smartphones. Typically, we saw 3 to 4 FPS while the benchmark was running. This isn’t a gaming machine by any stretch of the imagination, but the fact it was able to run and finish the benchmark was a good thing.
The remote control unit that comes bundled with the XIOS DS Media Play is very limited in its functionality. It can work for most things, but navigating around the Android operating system can be very time consuming and cumbersome. I highly recommend a wireless keyboard and mouse to save yourself a lot of time and frustration. Pivos also has a “Sense Wireless Motion Remote” available. If your heart is set on using a remote control, that would be the one to get as it’s much easier to deal with than the stock remote. There is also an app for your Android smartphone, which will allow you to use it as a remote too!
The other must have item is a Micro SD/SDHC card. You’ll need this because the internal storage is limited to just 1 GB, and that will fill up in a heartbeat as you start adding apps to the system. Just the Android operating system with XBMC installed takes about a quarter of the internal storage capacity alone.
As luck would have it, a new firmware was released just as I was beginning the review on the XIOS DS Media Play. There were several issues I was having with the older firmware, but those have all been cleaned up with the latest firmware version. This thing is cooking right along now! Once the latest firmware was installed, I grabbed the newest “nightly build” of XBMC and things are working great. There is a substantial learning curve when dealing with the Android OS and the XBMC media center software, especially if it’s your first experience with them. Luckily, their forums are a haven for useful information and guides on how to get the most from the XIOS DS Media Play.
Armed with the newest firmware and latest XBMC, I set off to try things out. As far as wireless and LAN connections go, they work pretty well; albeit the stock internet browser is not the fastest there is. I played music files from a USB connected storage device; and when streaming over the network, it all worked fine. I did the same thing with HD movies and that all worked fine too. I would suggest using a wired LAN connection for streaming HD content though. Depending on how far away the XIOS DS is from your wireless access point, you could run into buffering issues. Next, I loaded the Netflix app from the Google Play Store and tried that out. The picture quality was excellent, and the whole Netflix experience worked like a charm. After checking out all the media functions, I spent some time browsing the internet, checking e-mail, and just getting a feel for the Android OS on a big screen TV. All I can say is that it’s really a lot of fun!
Bottom line? Be prepared to spend some quality time with the XIOS DS Media Play in order to learn everything it can do. I really can’t stress enough that their forums are a great resource when first learning your way around the XIOS DS Media Play… Bookmark it! If you’re willing to spend the time to tweak the system to your liking, you’ll end up with a pretty cool new toy at the end.
The Pivos XIOS DS Media Play is a unique device, to say the least. Its ability to bring a full fledged Android OS to your big screen TV can be an enjoyable experience. Couple that with media playing capabilities of XBMC, and you have the makings of an inexpensive mini HTPC. How inexpensive you might ask? Currently, the device is selling for $99.00 at Newegg, which is a great price for everything this unit is capable of doing.
There is no shortage of connectivity options with the three USB ports, HDMI, WiFi and LAN, and the Micro SD/SDHC slot. The XIOS DS Media Play is compatible with a wide range of peripherals including external storage and input devices, making for a more user friendly experience.
The XIOS DS Media Play will require a fair amount of time to learn everything it can do, but in the end it’s time well spent. The XBMC Media Player is a work in progress and should only get better as time goes by. In fact, by visiting the forums you’ll find a host of “nightly builds” available to try out.
To wrap this up, we have a very unique device that’s a whole lot of fun to use. There certainly isn’t anything to argue about as far as price goes either. For $100, you can turn any TV into a Smart TV with the latest Android ICS operating system and the accompanying XBMC software. If you’ve been looking for a device like this, the Pivos XIOS DS Media Play is definitely worth a good hard look.
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-Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)