The Rikomagic MK902 II is a TV box that brings Android apps such as Netflix, YouTube, or XBMC/Kodie media center to your TV.
Launched this summer, the box sells for about $127, and features some of the most powerful hardware currently available in a small, Android-powered TV box including a quad-core ARM Cortex-A17 processor, 2GB of RAM and up to 16GB of storage.
It can handle 4K H.265 video playback, and generally it’s a pretty zippy box. Unfortunately like many devices in this category, it runs software that wasn’t really designed for televisions.
Rikomagic sent me to a demo unit to test, and here are some thoughts on the MK902 II.
It comes with a remote control that features back, home, and menu buttons as well as volume, arrow, and media playback buttons — although many apps won’t actually recognize those media buttons.
The MK902 II does come with a video player that supports the play/pause and forward/rewind buttons, but you’ll have to use the arrow keys to navigate in XBMC and many other media apps.
The device runs Android 4.4 KitKat with a custom home screen designed to make it easy to launch apps with a remote control rather than a touchscreen.
But what separates devices like the MK902 II from simpler TV boxes such as the Google Nexus Player (with Android TV) is that it runs the full Google Android operating system.
That means you can use a web browser, download and install games, or just about any third-party app. Rikomagic ships the box with the Google Play Store pre-loaded, and it’s easy to download most apps available from the store.
But many of those apps are tough to use unless you plug in a keyboard and mouse. Even the web browser which is the first listing on the home screen, is practically unusable unless you connect a mouse or a different input device. It’s tough to navigate through web pages using nothing but arrow keys. Entering URLs or other text takes forever when you’re tapping on those buttons… and sometimes the on-screen keyboard doesn’t even pop up when you think it will.
In other words, if you’re looking for a simple device that’s easy to use, but limited in function, you might be better off with a Nexus Player, Fire TV, Roku, or Apple TV. The appeal of a product like this is that it can technically do just about anything an Android phone or tablet can… just not necessarily as well.
We’ve seen a number of Android boxes in this category over the past few years. The MK902 II is one of the most powerful yet thanks to its Rockchip RK3288 processor with ARM Mali-T764 graphics. It’s also a versatile little device with an HDMI port, S/PDIF and AV jacks, an Ethernet port, 4 USB 2.0 ports, a microSD card reader, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0.
Google’s Nexus Player, by comparison, not only has a simpler user interface and access to fewer apps, but it also has far fewer ports: just a power jack, HDMI port, and a microUSB port. It’s easier to connect external storage, gamepads, keyboards, or other controllers to a device with 4 USB ports.
In terms of overall performance, the MK902 II is actually pretty comparable to the Nexus Player (with an Intel Atom Moorefield processor) or a device like the Probox 2 X (with an Amlogic S802-H processor). With an Antutu score of 37,153 it’s within spitting distance of those devices.
I didn’t run 3DMark on the Nexus Player, but the MK902 II comes out a little behidn the Asus MeMO Pad ME181C tablet (with an Intel Atom Bay Trail processor) and a head of the Probox 2 EX.
The MK902 II is also much faster in most tests than the 2013 Google Nexus 7 tablet (with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chip), but not nearly as fast as the newer Nexus 9 tablet (with an NVIDIA Tegra K1 64-bit chip).
I also ran the Antutu Video Tester benchmark which confirmed that the device can handle a wide range of video formats and resolutions, including 1080p MP4 videos and 4K HEVC/H.265 videos.
I found that my 4K test videos had a nasty habit of crashing XBMC and I had audio/video sync issues when using XBMC with some 1080p files. But those same videos played perfectly in other media players.
Personally I still find a cheaper, less versatile device like a Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV to be a better solution for adding smart TV functionality to a standard TV. Not only are those devices more affordable, but they also don’t tempt you to try running apps that will tough to use on a big screen.
But that’s not to say there isn’t a place for a device like the MK902 II. If you connect a wireless keyboard, you can sit with a keyboard on your lap and use this type of box to surf the web in the living room. Hook up a gamepad, and you can play hundreds of Android games that support Bluetooth or USB game controllers.
Or you could use it as a sort of cheap desktop computer by connecting a monitor, keyboard, and mouse and then installing office or other productivity apps.
Don’t think Android is a good platform for desktop computing? No problem — Rikomagic UK sells a Linux edition of the MK902 II. It’s a bit more expensive, with prices starting at £110 (about $170), but you won’t have to go through the trouble of installing and configuring Ubuntu yourself.