K300 Premium 4K 3-port HDMI Switch Hardware Review

K300 Premium 4K 3-port HDMI Switch Hardware Review

Aug 11, 2015

Yep, it’s a wireless world.

Nothing really beats the convenience of hooking up a mobile source to a bigger target and being able to stream and consume content. It’s just awesome.

I’m old school though, in that I still appreciate the fidelity of wired connections. No muss, no fuss. No need for wi-fi (as is necessary in some wireless connectivity set-ups). HDMI connections are especially noted; these are universal standards, and have the ability to provide input options for a veritable host of peripherals, from smartdevices to whole computers and everything in-between. And, if truth be told (and being the gadget collecting generation that we are), TV manufacturers, for instance, may need to start allocating most of the back panel space to more and more — and more — HDMI input space.

But again, this is where small, useful and portable gadgets get me going. Stuff like the K300 Premium 4K 3-port HDMI Switch.

What the k#00 proposes to do is infinitely simple: it is an extension of sorts for HDMI inputs.

kin3

The review unit Kinivo sent us highlights the design, presenting it to us in black with lime green accents and white lettering. It is a rectangular cuboid with soft edges, and the front panel features labeled lights, infrared sensor and the power button. The side opposite to this carries 4 HDMI slots, one for output and three for plug-ins. A power jack is on the one “side” to provide juice to the gizmo, and the whole thing is pretty small and light, being less wide than your average flagship smartphone. The review box also contained power cord, remote, battery and documentation.

Setup is intuitive; simply plug it in to power via the supplied cord, and then connect it to, say, a TV with an HDMI cable through the lone input slot. Then, one can add USB peripherals to the unit by connecting the respective USB units to it. Operation is simple, with the remote; one can then select which USB item is being piped through a specific port.

The benefits are pretty obvious; one slot for switchable three off the bat, and it ultimately allows more pieces to be connected simultaneously. The control is useful, but is one more remote, and the infrared sensor did get moody every now and then. Still, the setup and initial operation was mostly flawless, even when I ran a mobile HDMI cable through it.

It isn’t a new solution, but it is pretty relevant, especially with all the connections we run through our televisions. At $34.99 (on Amazon), it isn’t too bad of a financial proposition either.

Aerb Wi-fi Display Dongle Hardware Review

Aerb Wi-fi Display Dongle Hardware Review

Dec 30, 2014

Screen casting is all the rage in mobile computing, and with good reason. Aerb Wi-Fi Display Dongle looks to be an option that spans platforms, and we were happy to check it out.

The review unit Aerb sent us contained the dongle, and HDMI extender, micro-USB cable and documentation. The physical pieces are mostly black, and the dongle itself isn’t too big at just about the size of other similar units. Figuring out how to get the unit going was a bit of a drag. On the first hand, it was intuitive enough with regards to removing the protective cap and connecting the dongle to an open HDMI port on the TV. I then connected the micro-USB to the open micro-USB port on the unit, and then powered it by connecting the cable to a USB port on the TV.

Then, it is a matter of accessing the HDMI port on the TV through the menu. The Dongle shows up as clearly, and depending on how one’s Android device is set up, it’s a simple matter of pairing it to the dongle via the Miracast option. As soon as this done, the device’s screen is mirrored.

aerb2

In practice, the mirroring works well, and, surprisingly, the TV output mostly kept up with the device output. there were times a bit of lag occurs, and graphics got jumbled, but I was able to play games with the casting device solely used as a game controller. Youtube videos reflect well, and I like how the whole system comes together.

A big question remains… with casting options being seamless on major devices nowadays, why bother with this option. Well, it’s a one stop shop for different devices. Every OEM seemingly has a different type of casting system, and this unit somewhat streamlines the process. Further to that, the easy pairing process allows for one to switch sources efficiently.

But the most effective use I found for it is effectively reducing the need for AppleTV to stream on iDevices. having devices from different OSes is becoming more commonplace, and, as such this attribute is golden in my book. It worked well, out the box, with an iPad 2 on the latest iOS.

It’s also rated to work with Windows Desktop systems, but I did not try this out.

All in all, my biggest gripe is the documentation, which could use some work; I am told this is already in progress. As a pocketable, affordable ($29.99 via Amazon) cross-platform screen mirroring solution, this piece is quite effective.

Favi SmartStick Hardware Review

Favi SmartStick Hardware Review

May 28, 2013

The Favi SmartStick is a very good idea in theory: slap Android with a good 10-foot interface on a dongle with an HDMI output, microSD card slot, USB port for accessories, and an IR blaster with remote for navigation, and turn any TV into a smart TV with the power and flexibility of Android. All this for only $49 for the 4 GB model!

The problem with the reality is that the Favi SmartStick is just too underpowered to do anything at high quality.

While the OS is only Ice Cream Sandwich, it’s not a huge deal, as most if not all video apps are going to support ICS. Oh, and getting apps is very easy because the SmartStick comes with Google Play. Thus, the selection is exactly what Google Play offers, so the selection is great. Oh, and a rooted firmware is also available for those who want to tinker.

SS-4GB-7

However, the default interface is good enough as it is, working well as a “10-foot interface” for use on a TV or other large display. As well, the tablet Android interface doesn’t look bad on a TV either, there’s little to no text that seems too small, so as a whole it’s just a good TV experience. This could just be one of those Chinese-made Android dongles found on the likes of eBay and DealExtreme, but the interface was made with care for English speakers. Plex comes preinstalled as well. There’s an included remote that can simulate a mouse cursor, though there’s also an optional handheld keyboard-plus-trackpad available that connects via an RF USB adapter. Most USB keyboards and mice should work, along with some USB ethernet adapters. There’s no Bluetooth, sadly.

So, we have a solid set of software, but what about the hardware? Well, here’s the problem: the processor included with this thing just isn’t up to the mustard for video-watching. All the video I watched with the Favi SmartStick was blurry. This seems to be an issue with the video decoding on the processor with apps and not a network issue, because watching identical services on the same network with other devices showed better quality. Watching an animated program like Bob’s Burgers on Netflix made the blurring especially clear. Whatever’s decoding video on this device, it doesn’t do a good job at it. Video stored on USB devices and SD cards seems to work a lot better, and it handled pretty much any file format I threw at it. Also, the media buttons on the keyboard work with local videos, but not generally with apps.

Games don’t work all that well, either: Sonic the Hedgehog runs at a very slow framerate, though Angry Birds works alright. So, this thing is a casual gaming machine at best.

SS-4GB-2

And really, casual usage is all that this thing is really good for. The video quality is poor but passable, and the unlimited number of services does give it a distinct advantage over boxes where the user is at the whim of the manufacturer to offer the channel. Just for playing local files off of a USB drive, with the built-in remote? Sure, there are worse ways to spend $49. And maybe casual use of other video apps might be worth it. But really, knowing that better is possible from Android makes the Favi SmartStick a real disappointment. Perhaps a future iteration with a better processor will be a more solid recommendation.

The Favi SmartStick is available from Favi for $49 for the 4 GB model, and $79 for the 8 GB. There’s a microSD storage slot, so the 4 GB is likely the smarter option considering how cheap microSD storage is now. The RF keyboard/trackpad is available separately for $39.

KickStarter Spotlight: GameStick

KickStarter Spotlight: GameStick

Jan 9, 2013

With the advent of Ouya, the wildly successful Android powered, open-source gaming console, there have been a flood of new and unique console ideas. Weather this is the start of a new era in gaming where the power is decentralized and given to small indie developers remains to be seen, and the success of Ouya will probably be the biggest barometer of that. One thing that these consoles have going for it that many startups did not traditionally have in the past is an established library of games and a seasoned operating system. Coming hand-in-hand with this lowered bar of entry are a lot of optimistic and eager developers hoping that their Android powered console will, for one reason or another, reign supreme or at least get a large slice of the pie in this new frontier. Making it even easier for these entrepreneurs is the fact that unlike the past there now exists tremendously powerful crowd funding resources that were not available to game developers of the past.

So with that being said, we are going to take a look at one hopeful called GameStick which takes the idea of the console and tries to render it completely useless. The developers behind GameStick have taken a small sized gaming console like the Ouya and were able to fit it into about the size of a large flash drive that plugs directly into the HDMI port on a TV. The kicker here is that this ‘flash drive’ is able to be stored inside of its controller which makes the entire system incredible portable in a way that no system has been able to do before. The games, and especially the home UI that was shown in their KickStarter video all looked great on an HD TV and they claim to have over 200 titles already ready for launch.

This all sounds great but I do have a few reservations, one being that because this is so small there has to be something sacrificed and my feeling is that this will work well for the current wave of mobile games, but what will happen to future games when phone get even more processing power and start to outpace the GameStick. If the price is right though maybe it would be cost effective to just buy an updated version of the GameStick, but this does not exactly breed confidence in the product. Also, I am not a fan of the initial controller design. It looks too square and does not seem comfortable in the slightest.

Even after all that I do feel that GameStick could potentially have a great future because it will be cheap at around $100 and will launch with a large and established library of games. Assuming they can get their wonky controller whittled down to size and deliver some solid hardware I see no reason that the GameStick could not “stick” around with us for some time.