There is no doubt that we are in the age of Android. The platform is dominating the mobile market and it is slowly preparing to take over the set top box market. As such we have seen an onslaught of Android based units flooding the web, this site, and our homes over the past 2 years thanks to the efforts that of those who ported XBMC to the Android OS. With this insurgence of hardware options we have all found ourselves falling victim to subpar devices with subpar software… rendering many of them useless. That is, until recently.
PRELIMINARY REVIEW OF MATRICOM’S G-BOX MIDNIGHT MX2
Once we were able to get the gBox MX2 set-up appropriately, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that this device is ROCK SOLID. After running this machine for 3 days straight (72 straight hours) we experienced absolutely no freezes, crashes, or reboots. The fact is that the most damning part of Android based XBMC devices is their firmware. It would appear that Matricom has solved this problem, placing them in in some good company with others like OUYA who have succeeded in making an Android device that actually works.
It doesn’t stop there. After a bit of work we were able to experience some amazing HD capabilities from the MX2. The device has the unique ability to not only play HD content of any codec, from both local or network storage, but it also handles the audio flawlessly. This little box handles it all. In our testing we had nothing but success in playing multiple HD files of varying codecs with differing configurations of surround sound ranging from 2.1 – 5.1. Again, however, this was all AFTER we overcame some setup obstacles.
One of the largest shortcomings these devices have is the fact that retailers often CLOG the device down with their own version of bloatware. In an attempt to make these device easier for consumers they often make things more complicated and less efficient for end users. This was absolutely the case for us, and we know it has been the case for many of you. Often when retailers distribute these devices with modified/custom firmware, additional apps, preloaded XBMC, and so on… users are left in a difficult position as often troubleshooting doesn’t work.
The Matricom gBox MX2 comes with its own built in Settings App. This app is a MUST in order to get your device setup and running correctly. The issue is that when retailers preload these systems, they are sending devices that are already setup… for *their homes. As XBMCHUB.COM began testing multiple units we experience a wide spread problem with each and every box.
When we first booted up the machines, our first steps were to navigate the the Android Settings Menu in order to set-up our wifi, change our resolution, and configure our audio. Sadly, not one device would maintain its internet connection, the resolution would not adjust above 480i, and there were no audio options to speak of. Luckily, after 4 hours, we decided to attempt a Factory Reset of one of these devices. Upon the first reboot we discovered a new experience entirely. When these devices are sent out, they are intended to be experienced out of the box. This experienced gave us an easy to use setup menu that walked us through all of our option on its initial boot up. This enabled us to setup wifi, enable a resolution of 1080p, and get our audio set to HDMI Passthrough.
THE UGLY TRUTH
This device is well worth a look, and consideration, if you are looking to purchase a unit for your home, friends, or family. My suggestion; if you purchase of of these units… your first step should likely be to do a factory restore. From there, you are able to update it using its built in OTA (over the air) update app that is included by default withe unit. This will get you to Matricom’s stock experience. From there it is simply a matter of finding the right version of XBMC and loading the Play Store apps you want.
Also worth noting is that we did have a terrible experience with the default remote control that was included with our units. Now this is not a unique problem to Matricom or the MX2 boxes in anyway. In fact, this has been our experience with 90% of device we have purchased including the OUYA. Fortunately we have many USB remote controls sitting around and it was a mere matter of plugging one in and off we went.
I hope this provides some kind of help and guideline of expectations for those to come.
PS: have replaced my OUYA with this device in my main room… 4 days in and I have not even noticed the difference.