G-Box Midnight MX2 TV dual-core box is made for Android, XBMC

There are plenty of Android-powered TV boxes designed to let you run apps, surf the web, and even run the XBMC media center software on your TV. But the G-Box Midnight MX2 is one of the few that’s really designed with XBMC in mind.

mx2_08

Matricom’s latest TV box comes with a custom version of XBMC preloaded. Not only does it support hardware-accelerated video playback for a wide range of video formats, but it’s also configured to make installing add-ons for Hulu, Amazon, and other internet media sites as easy as possible.

The G-Box Midnight MX2 also more ports than most Android TV boxes, comes with a wireless remote control, features access to the Google Play Store, and comes pre-rooted, which lets you install apps that require root access.

The media box still has a few quirks that take some getting used to, but if you’re looking for an inexpensive device that lets you run XBMC on your TV, the G-Box Midnight MX2 is one of the best options around.

It’s available from Amazon for $100.

Overview

The Matricom G-Box Midnight MX2 is a little larger than an Apple TV, but at about 5″ x 5″ x 2″ it’s still a relatively small box that takes up less space by your TV than, say, a DVD player.

It features 4 USB ports which you can use to plug in a keyboard, mouse, game controller, USB flash drive, or other devices. You can hook up the device to your TV using an HDMI cable or composite cables. It also supports SPDIF digital audio output.

Note: While the MX2 comes with A/V cables and features an A/V output, when I connected it to my TV using the red, white, and yellow cables, nothing happened. HDMI worked just fine.

The box connects to the internet over WiFi or you can plug in an Ethernet cable to the 10/100 Ethernet jack.

mx2_00

Under the hood the MX2 is powered by an Amlogic AM8726 ARM Cortex-A9 dual core processor with ARM Mali 400 graphics. It has 1 GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, and runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean software.

Not only does the device come preloaded with XBMC, a media center app designed to make it easy to access your music, movies, videos, and other content on a TV. But it also includes a custom app launcher for Android which is a bit more remote control-friendly than the stock Android user interface (which was designed for phones and tablets).

Remote, keyboard, other forms of input

Matricom includes an infrared remote control which you can use to navigate. It sports direction buttons, a mouse cursor mode (which is kind of frustrating to use, but which helps you move an on-screen pointer if you don’t happen to have a mouse handy), and dedicated buttons for Android functions including Home, back, and menu.

Note that the button marked “return” on the remote acts as the Android back button, for some reason.

mx2_remote

The remote works quite nicely with XBMC and the MX2′s custom app launcher. It also works surprisingly well for navigating the Google Play Store — I was a bit surprised to find that the Play Store is actually easier to navigate on the MX2 than it is on the Asus CUBE. That’s surprising because the CUBE is running Google TV, an operating system that’s designed for television screens, while the MX2 is running Android, which was designed for touchscreen displays.

mx2_play

But that probably says more about just how bad the Play Store looks on the Google TV platform than how well it works for Android TV boxes.

Unfortunately while the wireless remote works great for navigating the home screen and controlling media playback, it falls short in other areas. You can’t really use this remote to play games, and even surfing the web is kind of tricky. That’s because it’s not really designed to handle common Android actions such as swiping or dragging. And since it doesn’t have a QWERTY keyboard, entering text is kind of a pain.

mx2_kb

You can use the remote to enter text using an on-screen keyboard, but it’s a slow and painstaking process. If you plan to do a lot of web browsing, chatting, or instant messaging, you’ll want to plug in a USB or wireless keyboard. And if you want to play games, you’ll want a gamepad, or at least a mouse, touchpad, or remote control app that lets you use your phone or tablet as a wireless touchpad.

Matricom also configures Android so that the default keyboard is one that’s supposed to work with the remote control. Not only does it take a long time to select letter — but if you try using an external keyboard while this on-screen keyboard is active, you may find yourself entering a “2″ when you try to type “@.” So if you plug in a USB keyboard you’ll want to go into the Android settings and change the default keyboard to AOSP or something else.

In fact, I wound up installing the Null Keyboard app from the Play Store, so that no on-screen keyboard pops up at all when I’m typing on a USB keyboard.

Performance and media playback

While the MX2 is fast enough to handle most Android games, it really excels as a media player. I was able to connect the box to my home network and stream HD videos from a shared network drive over WiFi.

mx2_home

The box had no problem playing 720p videos in DiVX or H.264 formats. It connects to my large media library quickly. And the forward, reverse, play and pause buttons on the remote all work flawlessly.

I also haven’t had any problems with audio and video going out of sync — something that happens when running media player software on some other devices.

mx2_xbmc2

XBMC can also stream video from hundreds of online media sites including YouTube and Hulu — but you typically have to track down the appropriate repository and enable it before you can install some of the most popular plugins. The Matricom team did some of that for you, and the MX2 comes with popular repositories pre-loaded.

That means all you have to do to enable support for Hulu, Amazon, Youtube, Funny or Die, Crackle, CrunchyRoll, or other sites is visit the add-ons section and choose the plugins you want to use from a list. That list also includes a number of adult sites though, so if you plan to let your kids use the box, you may want to disable a few repositories.

mx2_xbmc

The unofficial Hulu add-on works pretty well, but it can be a bit quirky. This is true even if you’re using XBMC on a Windows or Linux computer, so it’s not a problem specific to Android or the Midnight MX2.

But the Hulu plugin loads segments of TV shows or movies one-at-a-time. That means that if you’re watching a 42 minute TV show and you’re half-way through the program, but want to rewind to the beginning, there’s no easy way to do that if you’ve already watched a commercial break or two.

mx2_xbmc3

There’s also an unofficial Amazon video plugin — but as of early May you cannot use it to actually stream content from Amazon because the company has protected its video streams with DRM.

Netflix is probably one of the most popular sources for online video, but there’s no XBMC plugin for Netflix. The good news is that the MX2 comes with the official Netflix app for Android pre-installed. The bad news is that the Android app is designed for touchscreens, not remote controls.

Navigating with the wireless remote is nearly impossible unless you want to watch one of the videos that shows up on the main page.

mx2_netflix

So if you plan to use Netflix you’ll probably want to plug in a wireless mouse, keyboard, or other controller. Once you do that, Netflix video playback looks great.

Unlike many Android TV boxes, it’s also very easy to turn off the G-Box Midnight MX2. Just press the power button on the remote and the device shuts down almost immediately. Press it again, and it boots in under 30 seconds.

The down side

Matricom’s latest Android TV box is probably one of the best devices I’ve tested for turning your TV into a media center. But that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect solution.

As I’ve mentioned above, the wireless remote control works pretty well if you just want to launch apps or navigate through XBMC. If your primary goal is to use the MX2 as an XBMC media center you might never need to plug in a keyboard and mouse (although the initial setup process will be a lot smoother if you can type out your wireless password, Google username and password, and other text on a physical keyboard).

But if you plan to surf the web, play games, or even navigate Netflix, you may want a keyboard or another type of controller. Fortunately there are plenty of USB ports, so you should have no problem plugging in the peripheral of your choice.

mx2_03

While the G-Box Midnight MX2 generally feels a lot snappier than a Google TV box like the Asus CUBE, there are some apps that aren’t available for Android devices like this. For instance, Amazon offers an Amazon Video app for Google TV, but not for Android. So you won’t be ale to stream videos from Amazon.

On the other hand, the Hulu plugin for XBMC lets you stream TV shows and movies without signing up for a $7.99 per month Hulu Plus subscription, something that you can’t usually get away with on an Android device.

So depending on what online video services you like to use, the MX2 may or may not be a better option than a Google TV device.

But it’s certainly not as versatile as a home theater PC running Windows, Linux, OS X, or another desktop-style operating system. I have a Dell Zino HD computer running Windows 7 plugged into my computer, and it can run XBMC, Windows Media Center, Hulu Desktop, and Snapstream’s BeyondTV digital video recorder software.

My home theater PC cost more than the Midnight MX2 to set up, and it uses more electricity. But in every other way, it offers a superior media center experience. While the MX2 is one of the best Android-based solutions I’ve seen, it’s not quite good enough to make me give up my HTPC anytime soon.

mx2_01

I also had a few other issues with the MX2. From time to time XBMC froze when I tried to exit the app. And Matricom actually had two send me two different demo units. The first one worked perfectly… until I turned it off. When I tried to turn it back on again, it froze at the boot logo.

Fortunately Matricom quickly decided there was a hardware problem and sent me a second unit the very next day, which worked as intended. I happen to live in the same city as the US distributor, which helped. I doubt paying customers would get quite the same level of support, but hopefully if you do get a faulty unit, Matricom will work with you to resolve any issues.

The device comes with a 1 year warranty.

Update: You can find more details about how the MX2 handle’s video playback of various media codecs at CNX-Software, as well as a few photos of the system board hiding under the MX2′s plastic case.

  • R.al’Thor

    Does / can HDMI-CEC work on android/XBMC ?

    • Sandra Bryant-Gambrell

      Yes, CEC is supported.

    • Tom

      Brad or Sandra,

      Is there any chance you can install the DramaFever plugin from the Play store and see if the remote-control is usable in navigate that UI? Would be much appreciated.

      Secondly, do the USB ports have enough power for a 2.5″ (laptop-type) external USB HDD?

      • JL

        yes, i have a WD passport 1TB that works fine. i recommend a powered usb hub anyways to prevent straining the power of the mx2 though. Just to be on the safe side I guess.

  • NeedName

    Looks promising however the customizations + bugs can be a killer. We’ll have to keep an eye on this to see if it gets fast/long term updates or becomes another orphaned Android.

    • Modempremodz Sales

      Forums on the MX2 looks very active and promising from what they are planning, I am excited. Pretty good product so far and I loved their attempt on the first G-box Midnight 1 which still gets updates to this day, and its over a year old. I a confident they will do well on the G-Box Midnight Mx2

    • JL

      Seems theyre making headway. Started with 4.2.1 and now on 4.2.2 which i just installed and its running even better. the interface is smoother and just seems to run faster overall. I also own their midnight and its been updated for a year now. No doubt in my mind theyll support this one too.

  • The_Cageybee

    Is it really outputting 1080p or is it just upscaled 720p?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jean-Luc-Aufranc/100000690503162 Jean-Luc Aufranc

      The UI is 1280×720.

  • Christopher Winn

    That chipset is Linux (Ubuntu) friendsly correct?

    • Aaron Johnson

      meson6 – source code is available via amligic openlinux website. Matricom is fully compliant.

  • JL

    Mine arrived friday and so far much more impressed than I am with anything else ive got. Ive bought enough android boxes to start a set-top box shop and this is the first one that runs xbmc this good! 10 gig 1080 movies over wifi from my desktop working flawless on it. It takes a while to exit xbmc though. It can be kinda annoying but for something that performs this good i cant deal with it. Youll need a wireless mouse. The remote is, eh.. it works but not great for navigating android and sucks for typing. I cant find a linux firmawre for it but i also dont see the point since it runs Android and xbmc together without a prob.

    • jay

      i was wondering how long did it take ya to get ya gbox in the mail i ordered one last week and they told me takes about 3 or 4 days to fully program it for me after i e mail them they still having sent it out

  • mitnits
    • JL

      That M3 box doesnt have the same cpu. Even if it did have the amlogic MX it still woudlnt have the proper firmware and xbmc. Should be careful posting links like this without understanding what youre posting. If I didnt know better and bought from your link id be pissed when i got that crap in the mail.

      • mitnits

        Oh dear. I have the box, it runs any firmware made for g-box midnight, Google j1nx Linux firmware for pure xbmc experience. OTOH I obviously don’t have the original g-box midnight so I’ll shut up now. The remote and the casing is identical except for the logo…

      • JL

        You misunderstood. The review on this page is about the MX2 that matricom released, not the old midnight you have linked. mx2 is dual core. Matricom also makes the Midnight. This new box does laps around that old one though. The real g-box midnight sells on Amazon for $79 which is cheaper than your link anyways lol.

      • mitnits

        So I have to wonder – maybe this (http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Dual-Core-4-2-Android-TV-Box-XBMC-Preinstalled-1G-RAM-8G-ROM-ARM-Cortex-A9/806724175.html) *is* MX2? The spec page says dual-core….

  • Modempremodz Sales

    androidtvbox.us and matricom.net are sites with true sales information.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jean-Luc-Aufranc/100000690503162 Jean-Luc Aufranc

    Have you tried composite output? It does not work at all for me.

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

      Huh… good point. I had only tested this with HDMI, but the A/V cables don’t seem to work for me either.

      • kbaumx

        I bet you don’t have your A/V plug in the g-box the whole way. It should be flush against the unit when installed. It takes a little extra pressure to snap it in.

    • JL

      AV works. I had to set my resolution to 480i and CVBS. Also my red AV wire is hot for video and yellow/white for audio. Might want to try both of those combinations.

  • toronado455

    Thanks for the tip on Null Keyboard, Brad. That may come in handy sometime.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timberlake.mike Mike Timberlake

    Is this a different model from the G-Box Midnight that’s been around for a few months already?

    • Sandra Bryant-Gambrell

      Different model, 2x more powerful and new dev team. I love my purchase and this box is the best I have used so far for android. Got tired of the hdmi sticks.

  • malcolm

    order EXOON Samsung Quad Core Q2 online at http://www.xbmcandroidtv.com

  • sarahtang

    i like it very much

  • http://twitter.com/gvnmcknz gvnmcknz

    Does it play nice with USB?USB HDD’s seem to be a problem with Android 4.0.
    I am an Android/Linux fan, (we also have varieties of Windows and iPhones in the house, just so we are clear where I’m coming from).
    Our UG007 HDMI Android 4.? stick is an excellent piece of kit for the money.
    However when I plugged in an USB HDD (Fat32) it isn’t recognised.
    Seems Android 4.+ went to MTP instead, (kind of unannounced for such a big change).
    Does this particular kit work with USB properly?
    Any suggestions?
    Regards
    gvnmcknz

    • JL

      working with my WD passport without a problem. Its formatted in fat32.

  • Tarwin

    I ALMOST pulled the trigger until I saw that the SPDIF is coaxial not optical =(
    So few android options have optical out…

    • JL

      Im one of the lucky ones that got coaxial on my receiver I guess :) I havent even tried it yet though. Optical would be nice though.

    • Anon

      You can get a Coax-Optical adapter for less than $12 on monoprice

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Derek-Dickerson/1071002621 Derek Dickerson

    just don’t update to the latest version of xbmc

  • Matt

    Webcam? Skype video? Do these work?

    • Box Tester

      There is finally a device that does all the webcam and skype features The Exoon Power Pro

    • Danny

      Nope but the Exoon power pro does this and you can hook up a 2TB external drive. Another cool feature that is nice you can download UTorrent apk from the playstore and download 1080p torrents from kickass torrents directly to you 2TB drive. Trully a all in one unit.

  • Agad

    How unbrick that device?
    Is there any way?
    After power on i have only blue led and black screen TV.

    Greetings

  • David Ferrandino

    Another crappy android device. Great review

  • Edward Feldman

    This unit is another obsolete amlogic unit that has to use a off build version of XBMC the only tru Players that cant use XBMC 12.2 out the box without and workaround builds of XBMC is the Exoon Q2 offered by http://www.xbmcandroidtv.com quadruple the speed and power. There Q2′s are by far the best Android units on the market and light years head of anyone.

  • Moore52

    Just bought one of these things and it is AWFUL! I bought it mainly for xbmc but the version supplied runs worse than my old raspberry pi version. I could find no advanced features to change Hz rate etc and everything plays back at 720p max. Otherwise the android experience from this box is slow. This box is only good for subscription based services. If you are buying for a xbmc HT experience. Dont do it. :)

  • Hobzer

    Has anyone tried this with a HDHomeRun Prime? I’m curious how well this works as a MC extender.

  • gboxmack

    the best place to buy a preconfigured mx2 is
    http://www.gboxpower.com

  • Tim Cronin

    i just got one of these. it’s not too bad for the price. a better remote is to install VNC and remote access it from a pc/laptop or a tablet.

    this vid is helpful with xbmc setup

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0wWXQUYeV0

    i have an LG 50″ TV and i had to tweak the display to get it to fit properly.
    i tried netflix and the resolution looks (pixelated) bad.

  • http://google tom

    i have one. worked great for 2 weeks then froze now wont do anything.looks like a waste of money.

  • http://google tom

    more to point no support

  • Box Tester

    The only thing is that it wont work with the new Frodo 12.2 because it has to use a custom build any unit should work with XBMC out the box and all the newer units using the Rockchip 3188 Quad core play XBMC out the box. There should never a XBMC custom build as that goes to show the unit is not made for playing XBMC and the chipset which is Amlogic has issues. There was a work around to try to get XBMC to work with the unit instead of the unit working with XBMC. That why it glitches with720P and 1080P playback. There are way better options out there.

    • rick390

      Can you please share what some of those better options are?

  • RB

    Hi. Do you know if there is an app that i can install on my Nexus 7 that will control the whole device? The remote control is pretty much unusable. I have the xbmc remote app which only controls the xbmc software on the device.

  • Dale

    Did videos on XBMC take a long time to buffer or was it seamless streaming?

  • JL

    Im beta testing the 1.1.6 update for the MX2 now. In one word: AMAZING. Skype and everything is perfect now even with generic webcam. new XBMC updates are stellar. full screen flash working perfect. fastest build theyve had yet. plethora of changes. I think matricom is going to release this update in the next few days. game changing release from these guys. Im also testing their 1080 alpha which is workign great but has a few bugs they said theyre working on. ill keep everybody informed.

    • Jones2112

      I bought the MX2 in Jan 2014, would it already have the version on it? I know its supposed to update automatically…How can I find out what version number of xbmc I have?

  • john

    The G-box is junk. I had one and it would always reboot and crash. I found one of there competitors Skystream and there box blows the G-Box away. It’s called the SkystreamX.

    Check out there website – http://www.skystreamx.com

    • gogot

      Looks exactly like a G-box except with different logo.

  • http://photosubmitdecorating.com/ TomH

    I tried the gbox mx2 and similar issues. I had problems on the second day and my unit was stuck on searching for wifi. I had to do a reset and lost all of my settings. I contacted the company and they were not too helpful either. I was also upset that I had to pay $166 for the unit because I live in Canada and it is only $99 in the US, with free shipping. I ended up ordering a box off of http://jailbrokentv.com and have been lucky so far.

  • john

    The best Android TV Box by far is the SkystreamX. It has a dual core 1.5 Ghz processor, Mali 3d graphics processor, 1 Gb Ram, 8Gb internal memory, Preloaded with all of the good XBMC add ons and Android 4.2.2.

    Android TV Box

  • Rafael Villar

    this thing is horrible. Why does it have wi-fi if the range is very limited. My tv had full bars the gbox could not even stablish a connection.

  • Rick

    Will this Box support an Air Mouse with microphone and speaker? My current tV Box supports my Measy RC13 Air mouse with the exception of audio.

  • Adam Worhle

    I love this box personally. Found it on http://androidxbmc.com . It says its from Matricom. Great box for xbmc. Thanks for this article.

  • ahmed waddey

    Can you use a Sample video clips which are in 480P 720P 1080p and 2160p ?? so that we wil know which ever you test the hardware is compatible with your videoclips ? am i right ?

  • Erin23

    What kind of internet speed do I need to have for the gbox to work well? The fastest Rogers can give me “in my area” is 60 mbps. Is that a fast enough connection?

    • Jones2112

      I ran this on 10mbps for 6 months and it worked fine…I recently upgraded to 30mbps but haven’t tried it out on the box yet…60mbps would be overkill…The only reason I upgraded to 30mbps is because it was cheaper than staying with my 10mbps plan which I had for 13 years…LOL

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