Today’s smartphones are tablets make great media consumption devices and with the integration of cloud services, you always have your music or photo collection with you wherever you are. Traditionally, if you wish to share these on the big screen in your hall, you’d typically have to dump them on a pen drive or in your media player and view it. But what if you wish to simply sling your media, be it photos, video or music, wirelessly onto your TV that’s not DLNA compliant? ZOTAC has launched just the product for the job. Called the StreamBox, this little soap dish-sized device acts as a DLNA server, allowing you to push media from your PC, smartphone or tablet onto your non-smart TV.
Design and build
The StreamBox is built using a metal enclosure with metal mesh on the sides for ventilation. The unit is about the same size as the ZBOX Nano XS that we reviewed a while back. There StreamBox uses four sturdy rubber feet which provide good ground clearance and also double as screws for removing the base. There are VESA mounting grooves pre-built into the base of the unit.
Good quality metal chassis
Around the back, we have a microUSB power port, headphone-out jack, USB 2.0 port, HDMI, LAN and a button to switch between modes. The glossy translucent top holds the Wi-Fi antennae as well as the power LED. Since ZOTAC hasn’t mentioned any specifications of the StreamBox, we took it upon ourselves to see what’s inside. The StreamBox is powered by a Realtek RTD1185 SoC designed for HD media playback, wireless networking and mass storage capabilities.
The StreamBox only has one USB port since the other one is used by a standard USB Wi-Fi dongle. The audio port also has Optical SPDIF built in so you can use either of the two via an adapter. While there is an IR cover in the front, the actual sensor is not present and so is a remote.
Features and Performance
The StreamBox, in essence, is a media player just like the WD TV Live, Asus O!Play Air, etc. However, ZOTAC is emphasising mostly on the DLNA capabilities, hence the name. After a brief boot screen animation, you’re greeted with this screen. There’re no menus or icons to navigate through, just a screen with an IP address. In order to setup the box, you’ll either have to go to the web address through a laptop or you can download the AirFun app by Realtek on your Android phone and access it.
The UI could have been more user friendly
There is a bit of delay navigating through the settings even when directly connected to the StreamBox. The trouble is that the app doesn’t always work very well and many times, actions performed in the app don’t reflect on the screen. The app lets you stream music, photos and video from your smartphone or tablet onto your HDTV. Full HD playback is also very smooth and formats like MKV, AVI are supported as well. You can also sling media across from other devices too; all you need is a DLNA app on your phone. For instance, Samsung’s AllShare Play app works just fine with the StreamBox.
AirFun app works but is buggy
The StreamBox doubles as a decent media player as well. Pen drives and hard-drives are easily detected and one can browse through the contents of the drive via the AirFun app quite easily. Once again, the app could use an update as there are bugs, which cause it to lose connection with the StreamBox intermittently.
The Realtek chip powering the StreamBox
Another feature that’s not mentioned clearly in the manual or the site, is the ability to mirror your smartphone or tablet on your TV, wirelessly. This uses the Miracast protocol, which unfortunately very few devices support. Some currently available devices include the Samsung Galaxy S III, LG Optimus G, Asus PadFone Infinity, etc. The other catch is that you need Android 4.2 as a bare minimum for it to work. The other two modes let you connect via Wi-Di and Wi-Fi Direct.
Overall, the StreamBox handles HD video streaming well but it could have used a better interface and a physical remote for easy navigation.
Verdict and Price in India
The ZOTAC StreamBox is priced at Rs 6,999, which is not bad considering the features it offers. The device does a good job of rendering HD video and supports most file formats as well, although this can be improved (AC-3 audio wasn’t supported). The recommended DLNA app works, but is a little buggy and slow so if you already have a DLNA app baked into your phone, then we recommend you use that. It also supports Miracast, which not many players support, so that’s a bonus. What the StreamBox is badly lacking is a physical remote for easier navigation and a more user friendly firmware in order for it to truly shine.
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