Streaming media players are a dime a dozen these days, and with good cause. Consumers are always looking for a way to cut back on the expensive cable TV packages that plague most middle-income families. Cord cutting is not a new concept – it’s been around in various forms and formats for years – but it has captured a lot of press lately, especially when surrounded by a nimbus of attention-grabbing headlines like the ones that were garnered by the Aereo TV defeat in Supreme Court (for the uninitiated, Aereo TV offered streaming broadcasts of “free” TV networks like NBC, CBS and ABC while not paying the substantial licensing fees that cable companies do. The US Supreme court ruled Aereo TV must pay the same fee for content, and they have since shuttered their doors).
"The need to have your laptop, tablet or smartphone nearby while watching TV is becoming a thing of the past..."
Savvy consumers now turn to the Internet for their news, entertainment and information (figures from comScore state that 100 million Internet users watch online video every day, while PewResearch says 44% of the public go online or through mobile devices for their news), and scores of TV viewers are now adding Wi-Fi options or video streaming devices to their home entertainment systems so they can access all their online digital data directly from their TV screen. The need to have your laptop, tablet or smartphone nearby while watching TV is becoming a thing of the past, and services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are vying for space on your TV, right next to the big three networks.
So a streaming media device really needs to stand out in the crowd. And the best of the lot should have a bare minimum of a strong processor, Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity, and ports for additional storage so they can double as media servers. They also need support from online app stores, Full HD 1080p support for playback, and HDMI connectivity to support new high-definition TVs. The two leaders in the field, Google’s Chromecast and Roku’s Streaming Stick already contain most if not all of these features, but they are quickly being imitated and out featured by brash newcomers to the field.
Jynxbox M6 Android Media Center
One such newcomer is Jynx Media. They are the makers of two streaming media devices, each with its own challenges and unique features, each made for different audiences. Their Jynxbox M6 Android Media Center says it in the title. It connects to your TV and delivers a true Android experience similar to one that you would get on your Android tablet or smartphone. It connects to your TV’s HDMI input terminal and immediately and seamlessly turns your TV into a Wi-Fi connected smart TV. You can access, download and use apps from the Google Play app store, browse the Internet, play music from streaming services like Pandora or Spotify, or watch movies from your favorite online channels. It contains a 1.5GHz dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processor and 4GB of internal Flash storage (for apps and systems storage) and a microSD slot for an additional 32GB of room. The processor is powerful enough to play all of today’s popular Android games, and fast enough for dedicated web browsing, and the storage is handy for viewing files or videos from cards. There are also two USB ports on the side, and they both support NTFS-formatted USB drives (a big deal if you’re trying to watch large downloaded movie files) and the device supports a large list of file formats, including AVI/RM/RMVB/MKV/MWV/MOV/MP4/WEBM/DAT(VCD format)/VOB/MPEG/MPG/FLV/ASF/TS/TP and 3GP. That covers most video file formats – and it’s always good to see native Matroska file support on an Android box so you don’t have to worry about re-formatting movies, which can lead to synch errors on playback. The device was able to run AC3, Dolby Digital 5.1 / 7.1, TrueHD 5.1/ 7.1 and DTS-MA/HR without problems (although I noticed a little skip with the Dolby Digital 7.1, but that could have been my configuration). This unit supports DOLBY TrueHD and DTS HD bypass via HDMI.
The graphics processor is an OpenGL Mali-400 3D multi-core graphic processor, used in many smartphones and tablets, and runs almost anything you throw at it with ease.
The setup was incredibly simple. Plug in the power, connect to your TV’s HDMI and connect to your home network either via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Right from the start, you’ll notice that the M6 is skinned with simplicity in mind. The first screen is a tabbed wonderland with Home, Media Player, Online Media Game, All Apps and Settings tabs. Using the included ergonomically shaped controller, you can even simulate a mouse experience for browsing the tabs (although we recommend a USB keyboard/mouse combo if you’re doing extensive web surfing on your TV – the included remote can get tiring after a while).
Having a dedicated Android media center is a great plus, but the Jynxbox goes one further and includes native XBMC support. XBMC (which used to stand for Xbox Media Center) is a globally developed open source media player, originally used with the first generation Xbox. It integrated the Python scripting language into our living rooms. The advantage of having XBMC is that you can customize the interface yourself (if you have the skillset), allowing greater control and flexibility in playing music, videos, podcasts and other digital media from local and network storage media and the Internet.
Audio files are also handled seamlessly, including mp3, flac, wav and wma formats. You can assign cue sheets, implement tag reading and create smart playlists that give you more control over your media. You can also watch live TV from the GUI or completely reskin the GUI to your preference. All of this is possible with XBMC.
But XBMC is only one of the features that the Jynxbox M6 offers. You also have the Android 4.1.2 operating system, ATSC digital broadcast with an optional tuner (with the ability to record live TV to an external drive for viewing at a later time), support for Adobe Flash and HTML 5. The Jynxbox even supports subtitles.
The Jynxbox M1V2 Pure Linux Network Media Streamer
The other Jynxbox offering is the M1V2 Pure Linux Network Media Streamer. While the M1V2 may seem like the same box – it has a 1.0GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor with a Mali-400 graphics processor, 2GB of built-in storage and a microSD card reader – it is basically a stripped down version of the M6. The processor is only a single-core processor, and you’ll notice it. Video viewing gets sluggish, especially if something is happening in the background, and the output for this box is only 720p. It can play 1080p content, but it will scale it down to 720p – not noticeable to most, but definitely a sticking point for those that want the best from their set top boxes.
Jynxbox has once again made sure to tout the XBMC addition, which is enough to warrant a look at this box (along with the fact that anyone with even a little skill could hack this into something more interesting – and Linux experts might find something useful here as well). But basically what you get is a Linux box with XBMC support – if that’s what you’re looking for, then look no further.
To Stream or Not to Stream?
Users looking for a better multimedia streaming experience will definitely want to look into the M6 box. It’s more full featured, has better and more robust playback options, and is far more reliable than the hit-and-miss Linux box. Since media streaming of large and diverse files is the crux of most media devices, you’ll find more flexibility and less heartache with the M6.
|Jynxbox M6 Media Center||Jynxbox M1V2 Media Center|
|Operating System||Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2||Linux|
|Processor||1.5 GHz ARM Cortex A9||1.0 GHz ARM Cortex A9|
|Memory||1 GB||512 MB|
|Storage||4 GB NAND Flash||2 GB NAND Flash|
|GPU||Mali-400 MP2||Mali 400|
|Resolution||Output: 1280 x 720 (720p)
Support: 1920 x 1080 (1080p)
|Output: 1280 x 720 (720p)
Support: 1920 x 1080 (1080p)
|Expandability||microSDHC Slot||1 x microSDHC Slot|
|Inputs||2x USB 2.0 Ports||3 x USB 2.0 Ports|
|Outputs||1x HDMI 1.3
1x CVBS (composite video and stereo RCA)
|1 x HDMI 1.3|
|Ethernet Interface||1x 10/100||1 x 10/100|
|Wi-Fi||802.11 b/g/n||802.11 b/g/n|
|Video Formats||AVI, RM/RMVB, MKV, WMV, MOV, MP4, /WEBM, DAT(VCD format), VOB(DVD format), MPEG, MPG, FLV, ASF, TS, TP, 3GP||AVI, RM/RMVB, MKV, WMV, MOV, MP4, WEBM, DAT(VCD format), VOB(DVD format), MPEG, MPG, FLV, ASF, TS, TP, 3GP|
|Audio Formats||MP3, WMA, WMV, APE, OGG, FLAC, ACC||MP3, WMA, WMV, APE, OGG, FLAC, ACC|
|Power||1x DC Input||1x DC Input|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||3.3 x 0.8 x 3.3" (85 x 21 x 85 mm)||4.3 x 0.7 x 4.2" (109 x 17.8 x 106.7 mm)|
|Weight||6 oz (170 g)||1.32lbs / 0.60kg|