Review: Nixeus Fusion XS, the Android-powered STB

The Nixeus Fusion XS is an Android-powered set-top-box. Running Google Android 2.2 (Froyo), it’s certainly a few steps behind the latest 4.0 version. But does running a custom build...

Nixeus Fusion XS STB[9]

The Nixeus Fusion XS is an Android-powered set-top-box. Running Google Android 2.2 (Froyo), it’s certainly a few steps behind the latest 4.0 version. But does running a custom build of a mobile operating system on your HDTV make any sense? We spent some time with the device, so get ready for the breakdown.

Hardware

The device itself is a small, compact unit, weighing about the same as an average smart phone. The device contains no fans, meaning operation is silent and wrapped in a glossy black finish to match the rest of your home cinema. From the back we get access to HDMI 1.3, 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11b/g, Optical Audio Out, and couple of USB 2.0 ports for accessing media.

There isn’t any SD or media card slots like some STB competitors, which means photos need to go via a PC before they reach your TV. Using one of the rear USB ports or over your network, the Fusion XS will display JPEG, PNG, GIF, Bitmap or TIFF, basically any common image format, minus RAW support.

Inside the components include dual Sheeva Processors running at 900Mhz and 512MB DDR2 RAM.

The remote is fairly typical, which is actually a negative. This device runs custom software, which means many of the remotes buttons go unused. I’m guessing it was easy to brand a control off the shelf that get one custom made.

Format support is pretty decent, supporting AVI, WMV, MPG, VOB, IFO, MP4, ASF, TP, TS, M2TS, MOV(H.264), MKV, M-JPEG, Rmvb, FLV, MPEG 1/2/4, AVI, H.264, WMV9 and VC1 on the video side. As for audio, the Fusion XS can playback MP3, WMA, AAC, Dolby Digital, DTS, FLAC, OGG, MPEG 1 Layer 2, PCM, WMA PRO.

A full list of specs is available here.

Software

With Google Android 2.2 on-board, the device streams a custom UI suited to HDTV’s. It’s an interesting idea, but sadly has many significant drawbacks.

First of all the interface is slow, at times taking 5-10 seconds to enter an app. Other times the device would freeze all together and require a reboot, not when performing an intensive HD video decode, but simply launching an in-built app. There’s a market available to download additional applications like IMDB, Google Reader and many more.

One of the issues is that many of the apps require a mouse to use. If you are comfortable having a mouse (and likely keyboard) in your living room, then you’ll need to source your own, none ship with the device.

Streaming video from online sources like YouTube worked well, but lacks the ability to control playback like skipping forwards or backwards. While the Fusion XS features solid language support, the videos displayed in YouTube, appeared to be Asia rather than Australian.

Jumping into the Settings, the system really breaks down, revealing raw Android UI where the custom skin ends.

To be fair the Fusion XS does support a Google Chrome browser with support for Flash 10.1 to playback movies on the web. It even supports HTML5, so most modern sites render decently, even at 1080p, you will need a mouse and keyboard to use it though, there’s basic operation possible via the remote, but it’ll make you want to poke out an eye and cut of an arm.

The idea of using Android to get apps to your television is a nice idea in theory, after all its a problem pretty much every TV manufacturer is trying to solve right now. The problem is that Android apps are made for phones, not TVs. Also at Android 2.2, there’s very little in the way of developer support, all the attention (rightly so) has turned to 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

Gallery

Nixeus Fusion XS STB

Price

The device sells for A$199.99 inc GST. With the limitations mentioned above, it’s incredibly hard to justify that cost.

Overall

There’s much better set top box offerings on the market in the sub-$200 price range. Overall, I can’t recommend this device, go for a Boxee Box instead, which has is faster, has a custom remote, better app support, responsiveness and UI. Even at half the price the Nixeus XS wouldn’t be a good solution to your home local/online media streaming needs.

Consumers are wise to bad experiences, especially with a daily use device. For around the same price. the experience of an Xbox 360 with its new Metro apps is far better than this device. Although it lacks a browser, it’d be a better choice overall.

Available from Mwave.com.au

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ReviewsSet-top box

This post is authored by techAU staffers. Used rarely and sparingly when the source decided to keep their identity secret, or a guest author who isn't seeking credit.
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