This is a review of my first impressions with the device. I'll include a background to my experience with Satellite and Cable TV, and other information to give an indication of my understanding and to give a basis for my review.
Who am I? Why did I get one of these devices?
I was a Digital Cable TV user for quite sometime, and I was paying a premium price every month for TV which was, in fact, available on FTA. My most watched channels were the standard Channel 4, BBC, a few of the UKTV channels (Dave, Gold, etc.) and Film4. Nothing out of the ordinary. Any of my movie watching was via Netflix or Plex hooked up to my laptop via HDMI. Basic, I know.
I first took a plunge and bought a VU+ Solo 2 device, and a few Zero devices for around the house. I used the FTA satellite for the channels after this point. I used Dreamplex to access the content on my server. It all worked well. As for other channels, you can guess.
It turned out that Enigma2 devices were not suited to IPTV, which was becoming required after, er, 'changes' which had occurred on the satellite. IPTV was now necessary, but the boxes could not handle them well. I was constantly editing and try to fix the box. I was changing players constantly. I was on a constant quest to fix the issue and make channels and EPG working. It was frustrating.
I eventually gave in and reached out to a local satellite store. I was hoping for a Wetek Play 2, as this offered the access to FTA satellite, but the ability to run IPTV. Not too many boxes offer this. If the Internet went down, I had the Satellite TV. If the Internet was working, I could use IPTV and FTA Satellite. Perfect. But, I could not get my hands on one without going online, and I could not wait any longer. The shop recommended this Formuler S Mini. I had never heard of the brand before, but he stated that this was the only box that was available. But, here I am.
So, onto my first impressions:
This box is fast. Much faster than my Enigma2 device. I was expecting this. Channel zapping (between the Satellite) is as fast as the VU+, so nothing major to report then. In general, the device is pretty speedy, and seems to be capable of running Android without a hitch. However, we'll come to the software later.
Appearance, Size and Hardware
It's slim and sleek, and doesn't take up as much space as the VU+ Solo 2 device. It is very much a similar footprint to the Zero device.
+ The hardware seems to be build well.
+ It is attractive and not intrusive to have in your cabinet.
- The lack of a OSD on the box is a drawback, but not a deal-breaker. This is rectified by buying the larger model. Again, the VU+ Solo doesn't have one. Maybe I am expecting too much for a device which is not comparable to a VU+ Solo 2.
- It would be great if this was a twin tuner out of the box, or even had the ability to handle a 'stacker-destacker'.
- The USB ports are quite stiff, so you have to give them a good push or pull to add a USB stick.
- The Remote Control is very poor in terms of functionality. I have tried to pair it with my Philips TV RCU on many occasions, but it simply won't work. My Philips TV is not terribly old, so it is no excuse for it not to work.
- The cursor functionality is not great, and you don’t really save much time using it versus moving with the directional keypad.
I am happy to be using Android, as it gives far more flexibility than Enigma2, even with custom operating systems and builds, like OpenATV, OpenVix, and the like.
+ It is using a modern, fairly up to date, version of Android. Compared to other versions shipping on similarly priced devices, this is a big plus.
+ It is fairly simple to use (arguably too simple as you cannot dive in too deep and change more advanced [lexicon]settings[/lexicon].
- This is not using Android TV or a more suited variant for large screen devices. It would be great if it was using the specific Android TV variant as this would be easier to use and more suited to this device.
- The keyboard is poor. If you’re entering in long URLs or [lexicon]settings[/lexicon] as often is the case with M3U links, you’ll get frustrated).
- No root access - as of yet I have not been able to dig down to a system wide level and change such [lexicon]settings[/lexicon]. As of now, you are therefore not able to edit any system files or change your HOSTS file for advertising or malware blocking.
- The remote control is not powerful to use for Android. If you’re trying to use the Play Store, you’ll have to default to the cursor. I have been forced to use a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard.
I am aware that this is a fairly new device, so hopefully future software updates allow us to fix this issues.
+ Zapping TV is fast.
+ It handles HD (via Satellite) perfectly. Even 4K content appears without a hitch. My VU+ devices would often fall-over if you even tried to stream 4K content (such as the Astra 4K Demo and the like).
- There is no way to properly edit channel lists. We’re currently forced to using C-Tech [lexicon]Editor[/lexicon], which is an OK workaround, but not quite suitable.
- The Channel [lexicon]Editor[/lexicon] built into the device is very basic and not suitable for large operations. If I want to mix the IPTV channels in with the Satellite channels (as is my intention from the start), you’ll spend hours doing it. With my Enigma2 device, this could be changed without much effort via E-Channelizer or similar Dreambox applications. Again, I hope that this is fixed in future releases. Even a Web UI to edit it would be welcome.
- Lack of EPG is annoying. Sure, you can import Satellite and IPTV into the out of the box channel player, but you are not able to assign EPG to the IPTV streams. I’m using Xtream-[lexicon]Editor[/lexicon], but the box cannot (as it appears) obtain the EPG from the IPTV server.
- MyTVOnline is not able to handle some providers (such as Xtream-[lexicon]Editor[/lexicon]), but this is not their fault as such.
This is a strange one. I purchased the device for €125, and I am generally speaking optimistic about the product. As it stands, it fulfills most of my desired features, but I still do believe that this is an unfinished product. I really hope that future software releases give remedies to the issues that I mentioned above. And, I hope that these updates come fast.
As is stands, it looks like I’ll be keeping it. But, I have still kept the box and packaging in case I bring it back.