ProBox 2 mini PC

The Probox2 is an Android mini PC with a dual core processor and a wireless remote control that works as an air mouse and also as a voice input device. But more importantly, it’s one of the best Android TV sticks I’ve tested so far, thanks largely to excellent build quality and strong WiFi reception.

probox_05

Many of the ARM-based mini-computers we’ve seen in recent months have specs that seem to match the Probox2’s, including the same processor, memory, and operating system.

But many of the cheaper models also suffer from awful WiFi reception which makes the sticks nearly unusable for surfing the web, streaming internet video, or doing just about anything else that requires an internet connection — in other words, most of what you’d want to do with a tiny Android device that you can plug into a TV to run apps on a big screen.

The Probox2 doesn’t really suffer from any of those problems, which makes it a pretty good option if you’re looking for a device that turns your TV into a smart TV capable of running thousands of different Android apps.

W2Comp sells the Probox2 for $90, and the company sent me a unit for testing purposes.

While the stick is a bit larger than similar devices such as the MK802 or G-Box Dyno, it’s still much smaller than a full-sized computer. But it’s basically got the guts of a low power PC (or an Android phone or tablet without the touchscreen display).

Under the hood it features a 1.6 GHz Rockchip RK3066 dual core processor, ARM Mali-400 quad-core graphics, 1GB of RAM, and 4GB of storage (although less than 2GB is available for use).

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There’s a microSD card slot for extra storage space, a microUSB port which you can use to power the Probox2 and/or connect it to a PC, and 2 full-sized USB ports which you can use to connect a keyboard, mouse, video game controller, or external storage.

The device also features a full-sized HDMI port and comes with a small HDMI cable which you can use to hook up the Probox2 to a TV or monitor. There’s no separate audio output, so if you plan to use the box for multimedia you’ll want to make sure to use it with a monitor or TV that supports audio input over HDMI.

Right now the Probox2 ships with Google Android 4.0.4, but it should eventually be able to run Android 4.1 or Android 4.2 as well. Still, as an Android 4.0 device, it should be able to run the vast majority of Android apps available.

I tested Netflix, MX Player, and a recent build of XBMC Media Center for Android, and the Probox managed to stream video over the internet and play 720p HD video from a microSD card without any trouble.

Streaming videos over my home network was a bit more of a challenge, with some videos looking a little choppy. But that could have more to do with wireless activity on my home network than with the Probox2 itself.

Unlike most other Android TV sticks, the Probox2 never lost its WiFi signal while surfing the web, downloading apps, or streaming videos.

In addition to 802.11n WiFi, the mini computer supports Bluetooth which you can use to transfer files, connect peripheral devices, or stream audio (although I haven’t tested performance of all of those functions, since I don’t have a Bluetooth mouse or headset handy).

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Out of the box, the wireless remote control works like an air mouse, allowing you to move an on-screen cursor to select items and click on them with an OK button. You can also use it to type this way by clicking keys on an on-screen keyboard. It’s not the fastest way to enter text, but it works.

Or you can click the microphone icon on the on-screen keyboard and the mic icon on the remote to enter text by talking into the remote control. It even works with relatively obscure words like “liliputing,” although it sometimes took the mic a few tries to figure out what the heck that particular word was.

During my testing, I preferred to use a wireless keyboard and mouse, but if you plan to primarily use the Probox2 as a media center device in your living room, the remote could come in handy.

I ran a few benchmarks on the Probox2, and it scored 9324 in Antutu and 7199 in CF-Bench. While these tests don’t always indicate real-world performance, they suggest that the device is a little faster than a Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphone, but not nearly as fast as a recent top-tier smartphone like the Galaxy S3 or LG Nexus 4.

All told, of the half dozen or so Android TV sticks I’ve tested so far, the Probox2 is one of the best I’ve tested, and one of the only ones I’d recommend buying if you’re looking for a reliable device to use in your living room. The other is probably the $65-ish Minix Neo G4, which has similar hardware and excellent WiFi reception.

But the Probox2 has Bluetooth, voice input, and 2 full-sized USB ports, which help set it apart from the Neo G4.

While the Probox2 ships with Google Android, there’s a chance you may be able to shoehorn Ubuntu or other Linux-based operating systems onto it for use as a general-purpose computer with a desktop operating system.

Developers have been building custom desktop Linux-based operating systems designed to run on devices with RK3066 processors, but so far they don’t support hardware accelerated graphics, which means they might not handle HD video playback and some other functions as well as Android on a TV stick like the Probox2.

You can pick up the Probox2 from W2Comp for $90.

  • strider_mt2k

    Sorry if I’m annoying, but this is an area of interest for me right now and you folks are feeding it with coverage of these cool little devices.
    You wonder why your metrics are going up? -it’s all me combing the site for articles old and new nowadays!!

    • http://twitter.com/rick390 longstoryshort

      Me too. Can’t seem to settle on which one is the best. One minute I’m thinking the Minix neo g-4 than the mk808 what’s a person to do?

  • renw0rp

    its not much cheaper than Hi-802 with quad core freescale i.mx6 processor (which also gives more hopes for reasonable linux support)

    • http://twitter.com/vbjelak Zaphod Beeblebroks

      but without remote and voice support no?

  • Steve Fink

    This is beginning to get quite interesting….The stable wifi, air remote and voice translation are great features and @ under $100 bucks I’m tempted to click the buy now button…Brad is starting to cost me money….

  • GregYohn

    The are selling the rebranded uhost2 and the umouse2 that I can not find sold alone.

  • http://twitter.com/vbjelak Zaphod Beeblebroks

    thanks for review.. I wonder did u maybe try ur camera with it?

    • http://pinguy-os.sourceforge.net/ Pinguy

      I am wondering this too. I have the LOGITECH
      C270 HD Webcam. Would love to know if the Probox2 works with it.

  • Federico

    Could you gently try Netflix with subtitle? Normally are unreadable due to the supersmall size on a 32″… Can you put a screenshot? Thanks.

  • rformisa

    I tried the Imito MX1 and the Minix Neo G4 ( the one Brad sent me) and I wasn’t lucky with the WiFi, I can’t watch Netflix like I do it with my Logitech Revue, Roku 2 or WII.

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      Oh wow, sorry to hear that. Up until the probox2, the MINIX neo g4 was the best device I had tested in terms of WiFi performance.

      • rformisa

        I tried both in my son’s house and in my house, we both have Netgear N300 router, I’m going to try they at my daughter’s house she has a Linksys maybe is the router. I’ll let you know. Which router do you have?

      • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

        We have a Linksys WRT160N. Generally these little sticks are known for having awful WiFi reception — but I’m a bit surprised because I’m not the only one who’s noticed that the Neo G4 is better than most — the folks who make/market it say that’s one of its most compelling features.

        good luck!

      • http://pinguy-os.sourceforge.net/ Pinguy

        I have the Netgear N300 also. Its really bad with any linux system when using 2.4Ghz. Change the band to 5Ghz (if the Android Mini PC supports 802.11n) and you will notice a huge difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.gosnell David Gosnell

    Out of interest, Brad or anyone else, do you have any idea what product CnM are rebadging here?

    http://www.kmscomponents.com/cnmlifestyle/products/TVSmart.htm

    It’s just about the only TV stick being sold directly in the UK (via the Argos high-street shop), but I’m sure as I can be that CnM aren’t the actual manufacturer unless you know better!

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      I don’t recognize the design, but that does look like a nice remote control!

      • http://www.facebook.com/david.gosnell David Gosnell

        Quite a clunky RF dongle for it though, and looks like it occupies the sole USB host port. Tempted, but knowing what these things can be like for overheating, and even the user guide admits it can run very hot… But at least if it does blow up, Argos’s warranty is excellent, and doesn’t involve posting it back to China at one’s own expense!

      • http://pinguy-os.sourceforge.net/ Pinguy

        The remote is the MeLe F10 Fly Mouse. I ordered one a couple of weeks ago. Still waiting for it to turn up. But from the videos I have seen and reviews. It’s one of the most accurate air mouses on the market.

        I am getting the Uhost2 (basically a re-branded probox2) with the MeLe F10 Fly Mouse. Hopefully it will be a pretty good setup.

  • y0pla1t

    …this is a rebadged uHost2 or am I missing something?

    Even the remote is the same.

    • MeJRGV

      They’re both the same device
      But I don’t know which is the rebranded one.

  • DMAN

    I bought one of these & within less than a week I’m returning it.
    Why you ask?

    1. Poor Air mouse control from more than 1m away
    2. Bluetooth doesn’t work past 4 feet
    3. Plugging a keyboard & mouse in via USB causes the mouse not to function properly half the time.
    – This issue is all over third-party forums about this bug.
    4. Latest 4.1.1 firmware Antutu benchmark is down to 6500
    5. XBMC causes CPU utilization close to 100% most of the time when updating the library making XBMC unusable during this time.
    6. No true 1080p out (it’s a scaled up 720p interface)
    7. No direct support from ProComp2.com, you have to fish around other forums to find answers but none are forthcoming.
    8. The Kernel doesn’t support many USB-RJ45 adapters, so you have to get a specific chipset only. Although the Linux kernel has supported my adapter since 2.6 (ProBox2 on 3.08).
    9. Device reboots randomly if run for too long (i.e. past an hour)
    – Yes I did use the 2A power adapter all of the time
    10. The ProBox2 is OEM from a Chinese vendor called Smallart, they have a reputation for producing good with poor support & leaving customers with unresolved issues.

    Dan.
    Read more at http://the-gadgeteer.com/2013/02/03/probox2-mini-android-pc-review/#hgZtOckCh2EQfGcV.99

  • sean

    How large ext. Hdd does the probox support?

  • Randy Noseworthy

    I was wondering how well the browser worked with going to places like CBS.com, etc?
    I’m cutting the cable at our house. WiFi shouldn’t be to much of an issue as the TV will be about 5-10 feet from the source of the signal. – I like the Air Mouse, too. But might also try a bluetooth keyboard with it in the future, if I feel the need.

    • http://nortonpeabody.blogspot.com/ Norton Peabody

      I’ve had mine for a couple of weeks and I like the default browser better than the latest Chrome version as it just seems faster and more responsive. Netflix, XBMC and Crackle work fine and I’ve also got my Logitech webcam working on the device. The air mouse is not very accurate and the mic doesn’t work worth a crap either so it’s basically used to turn the device on and off. The wifi is very good and and the processor much faster than the MK802II (which is acceptable). I’ve been using the Logitech K400 keyboard and it works great on everything it’s been connected to. I had to do a complete system reset as I lost all audio output on the device and it’s working fine now but I haven’t isolated which app initiated the problem…

  • mark stockton

    hi, my probox 2 remote keeps going into sleep/standby mode, is there anyway to stop this?