What is a SkyStream X5 exactly ?
Well if I were to put it short I would say it’s a tiny box full of entertainment, but I don’t like keeping it short, so instead here’s a more detailed answer. The SkyStream X5 is an Android powered T.V box. Now an Android TV box sounds boring doesn’t it ? Well unlike your typical boring Sky HD or Freeview box an Android T.V box has access to almost everything your mobile device has access too. That means millions of applications, millions of T.V shows on demand, millions of movies on demand, millions of songs, millions of games and well the list goes on. So as well as a T.V box or entertainment media centre, it’s literally a mini Android-powered PC that connects to your T.V and in turn turns your T.V into a ‘smart T.V’. There are many different types of these boxes but today I am reviewing the SkyStream X5.
So what lays under the hood of the X5? Here’s its official specifications:
- Amlogic Quad core S812 CPU clocked at 2.0 GHz
- Mali 450 Octa core GPU
- 2 GB of DDR3 DRAM
- 16 GB Flash storage
- Resolutions up to 4K
- Running rooted Android 4.4 (KitKat)
Now these specifications aren’t the amazing specifications you may find in a flagship mobile, but for a T.V box, this is by far the best specifications sheet I have seen yet, all of my other boxes are equipped with 1GB of RAM and only 4 or 8 GB of Flash storage for a comparison. In terms of raw power, these specifications do make this box amazing and I’ll go more into how, when I get to the software and performance section of this review
I own about 6 Android T.V boxes before this one and five of those are all generic looking squares that well are basically all the same, but with different branding on them as they all originate from Chinese companies. The X5, however, is actually designed by SkyStream themselves and Skystream are an American company so the product is actually unique with it looks.
Instead of the traditional square shape I’m used to seeing from Android T.V boxes, the X5 has a rectangular shape which is also accompanied by curves that really help to give it some edge. This is more than just a boring rectangular shape, it more like a sleek gorgeous rectangle that has been designed to sit nicely in a T.V cabinet.
In terms of colouring the X5 is coloured in Black with a glossy finish that gives it a little bit of shine. Running around the edge of the front face plate is a strip of yellow, that stands out and makes the box known, I suppose you say it’s to stop the box from being completely camouflaged.
When it comes to offering connectivity ports the X5 isn’t shy at all, in fact on the left-hand side of the box are four USB ports as well as an SD card slot, my other boxes only have two USB ports. This means if you decide to use a mouse and keyboard, you still have two ports left over for other things. Around the back of the box are all the basic ports you’d expect to see such as the DC in, a HDMI port and an ethernet port, but also present here is an HD aerial connection that can be used to watch local T.V (now I must admit I’m not sure if this will work here in the U.K as the DTV application doesn’t seem to list the U.K) and there’s some more good news, if you happen to be using a none HD T.V that has a white, yellow and red port (know as AV) you can still use the X5 as it has this connection option available, of course, you won’t get the benefits of HD, but you can still turn your old T.V into a smart T.V. Also present on the back of the box is a WiFi antenna that can be set at many different positions to ensure you get the best signal possible.
Now onto the remote control, normally I would be ranting about how I hate the plain boring remotes that often come with Android T.V boxes. They’re usually terrible and lack no interesting features at all, they’re so horrible I always end up using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. However , I am completely unable to rant or even find myself using a keyboard and mouse with the X5 over the remote that comes with the X5 as the X5 actually comes with a pretty amazing device that has pretty much left me speechless. The X5 comes with a three in one device that is a remote, wireless keyboard and air mouse. Yes, you read that correctly it actually comes with something that isn’t a terrible slab of plastic with buttons on it.
Now in terms of the design it’s a normal sized remote, now that sounds impossible as it’s also a wireless keyboard, well it’s not, because whichever genius designed this thing had the amazing idea to put the remote on one side in a vertical position and put the keyboard on the other side in a horizontal position. So basically it’s a two-sided remote/keyboard/mouse and wait for it, I have been calling it a three in one, but I should actually call it a four in one as well because it’s also a microphone. Yes, the remote has a built-in microphone, just another amazing feature on an already featured packed remote.
Of course, a remote needs something to power it, well this one has a built-in rechargeable battery. Now I’m not all entirely sure just how long this battery can last, because I have been using it for a good while now and so far it’s still going, but when it does need recharging you will be happy to hear it’s charged using a simple MicroUSB cable and that a simple MicroUSB cable is also included.
The remote is by far the best I have ever received with an Android T.V box and really makes using the box so much fun as it just feels like I have so much more input than ever before with an Android T.V box. it’s also extremely comfortable to use and despite the unusual design I never once felt awkward using it, it just feels so right.
Software and performance:
The X5 comes running a heavily skinned version of Android 4.4.2 which has also been rooted for maximum access to the entire O.S. Now in all honesty I have nothing but praise for the work the guys at Skystream have done to make the O.S amazing, although I will say I do feel the choice of Android 4.4 over a more recent Android version is something I don’t like, but this is a small issue and who knows maybe Skystream are working on an update for the firmware version.
As I mentioned above this box is running a ‘skinned’ version of Android 4.4.2. This means the guys at Skystream have created their own skin that sits on top of the O.S that has enabled them to make the X5 as easy as it is fun to use. Right from the start I already felt as if I knew my way around the box because the simplicity and styling of the user interface made me feel that way. Now on the box it list the name of the interface as ‘Windows 8’, now this doesn’t mean the box is running Windows 8, it actually appears to say that the company has taken inspiration from the U.I of Windows 8 and innovated from the Windows 8 U.I to create a fun and easy to use U.I of their own. The main similarity of the U.I here and the U.I of Windows 8 is the tile appearance used, but in all honesty, this is where the similarities end.
Navigating around the U.I is both easy and fun. The main home screen makes use of the tiles I mentioned above and there are six of them listed here. As well as this there’s also a bar at the bottom where you can add or remove applications, this is basically a shortcut bar that allows you to have any applications of your choosing for quick and easy access without having to open the main application drawer.
Now in terms of performance, it appears to me that despite using a heavy skin, this box works like a charm and that’s because Skystream has put a lot of time and effort into making the CPU, RAM and GPU work in perfect harmony along with the O.S itself, this is often a challenging process, that many major O.E.M’s of smartphones always seem to do a less than perfect job of. Right from the start this box seems to have no trouble loading up applications and running them. This can be put down to the fact that 2GB of RAM is in use here. I have so far used a few catch-up T.V applications, played some games, used some of the pre-installed applications and even viewed Facebook from this box and each application was handled with ease. Seriously the experience was so smooth, the box just seemed to handle anything I threw at it with ease. It’s so smooth I have secretly been playing Angry Birds just for fun.
It’s just so hard to find anything to dislike about the X5. It looks stunning, It has an amazing remote that comes as standard, it has the best specifications I have seen yet from an Android T.V box and it even has a built-in digital T.V as well as a built-in DVR for the built-in digital t.v, so if you fancy watching local channels and recording your favourite shows just pop in an aerial, although in all honesty I don’t know if this feature works outside of the U.S, I can’t see why it wouldn’t, but the settings for the DTV didn’t mention many countries and I don’t actually watch live T.V as I don’t support the T.V licence, so I haven’t actually tested this feature properly.
DISCLAIMER: I was sent the X5 for free in return for my honest and unbiased review. This has had no effect on my overall opinion of this product.