More people are looking to become “cord cutters” these days, that is cancelling their cable TV subscriptions and using other methods to get access to their shows which include Netflix, Hulu, shomi, CraveTV, and others. A number of streaming media devices, mostly based on Android, have also hit the market over the past couple years which allow users to stream media from other sources as well. We take a look in our Andi review at one of the latest Android-based media streaming devices that is available for consumers looking to become cord cutters.
The Andi features the following specifications:
- Quad Core processor (ARM Cortex A9 @ 1.61GHz)
- Mali-450 MP GPU
- 3GB RAM
- 4GB storage space
- 1080p video with 4K video support
- Dual Band Wireless Connectivity
- Ethernet port
- 2 x USB 2.0 ports
- Up to 200GB microSD card support
- KODI Support
- Motion control gaming
- HDMI pass through PIP function
- Screen mirroring (with compatible Android and Windows devices)
What’s in the Box
When you purchase an Andi streaming media device, you get:
- 1x Andi
- 1x microUSB cable
- 1x HDMI cable
- 1x GamePop remote/game controller with USB receiver
- 1x cable with receiver for adapting next generation controllers (this was added as an extra accessory as things are being developed for the future and instead of sending it at that point, the company has included it in the box now)
The Andi multimedia streaming device is a pretty simple and non-descript rectangular box roughly 4.5″ long x 1.5″ wide x 1″ thick. The top, or front, of the device has the IAM-ANDi logo, with an LED power light shaped like a TV which lights up green once it’s powered on. One end houses the HDMI out port, while the other houses the microUSB 5V power port, HDMI input, and IR jack. The front edge contains the microSD card slot, two USB ports, and an Ethernet port, while the bottom of the device has a small pinhole reset button. All four sides have multiple holes for ventilation, and while the Andi is warm to the touch after prolonged use, it’s not overly warm.
Andi can be powered from a USB port in your TV if it outputs at least 12V, so older TVs that only output 5V from the USB ports will not properly power it. However, you can use the included microUSB cable to connect to a 5V/2A USB adapter. Connecting the Andi to your TV is pretty simple, as can be seen in the diagram below. You’ll notice the USB power cable in the diagram shows a split cable, it’s actually a single cable and the diagram is just showing the two available power connection options.
There is also a full setup guide over on the IAM-ANDi website, which you’ll need for the configuration step as well.
While the Andi is nothing special to look at, its size makes it easy to tuck away behind your TV and I had no issues controlling it with the remote while the Andi was not visible and hidden from sight. The option for powering via your USB port on your TV makes it easy to grab and take with you, and the portability makes it a great little device if you travel and want to use it in a hotel or at a friend’s house.
Software can easily make or break a streaming media device, after all the more difficult the software is to navigate, the less likely someone is going to continue to use it. I’ve used a few devices in the past that suffer from this issue, the Andi however is not one of them. Not to say the software is perfect, but it is being actively developed and updated by the developer. In fact, during the time I had the review unit there was a major software update that fixed a lot of the major issues I would have brought up had our review gone out earlier.
After connecting the Andi to your TV, the next step is setting it up. It’s not difficult, but it is fairly lengthy and you’ll need to follow the install guide for the best and easiest results. You’ll follow a brief controller tutorial which will introduce you to how to use the GamePop controller. When using the controller, a red dot appears on the screen which acts as the cursor. It works pretty well for the most part, although at times the dot doesn’t exactly go where you want it and I found that a simple flick of the wrist “reset” the dot. While it wasn’t perfect, it worked well enough to navigate and activate the apps/games you wanted. Depending on your setup, you can also use a USB or Bluetooth mouse to control the cursor (which will still be a red dot) on the screen.
Once you’ve been introduced to the controller, you’ll want to connect to your wireless network (if not using the Ethernet port), and then configure KODI — which is the app you’ll use to stream media to your Andi, and again the install guide is the easiest way to do this.
As mentioned before, the Andi runs on Android, in this case KitKat (version 4.4.2). It does have a custom launcher, which currently isn’t customizable. The home screen consists of a number of rows with Recently Played at the top, Top Apps below that, and then categories for Cards & Casino, Social & Communication, Simulation & RPG Games, Action & Adventure, and much more. The top left of the Recently Played row is where the Search button resides, clicking on this allows you to search for apps and games. If the app is installed on the Andi , it will show up in the search results, if not then the Search will open Google Play with a list of results from which you can then install the app or game you were looking for.
The software isn’t perfect, but at the moment it is simple enough that you can find what you’re looking for within a few clicks, but I’d definitely like to see some options added down the road to customize your main home page on the Andi.
Once properly set up and connected to the Internet, the Andi performed almost flawlessly. The issues I did have weren’t related to the actual device itself but were more the fault of the streams available — or not available — when using KODI to stream video. Whether streaming from KODI, YouTube, Netflix, or from my local media server, Andi processed both 720p and 1080p with no issues. Unfortunately I was unable to test 4K streaming as I don’t have a 4K display as of yet. Music streamed just fine as well from my local media server and Google Play Music. While Andi includes an Ethernet port, streaming over Wi-Fi worked great with my setup.
Gaming was a bit more of a mixed bag and was hit and miss. Some games worked great, while others didn’t as not all games really translate well from a touch control interface to a controller type interface. It was fun using the GamePop controller’s tilt functionality for racing and other games which use your device tilt to control gameplay. For simple games, it was fun to be able to play them on a larger screen, for more complex games you’ll probably want to stick to your smartphone or tablet. Still, it’s a nice feature to have the ability to game through the device as well, something that not all media streaming devices have.
It would be nice to see Andi come with more than 4GB of storage as there isn’t much room left after the system install for more apps and games. I installed Netflix and YouTube, as well as a few other apps and had about 300MB of free space remaining. While it does include a microSD card slot, with Android 4.4.2 you can’t move apps or games to the external SD card so unfortunately you’re stuck with a bit of limited space for additional apps and games. The microSD slot is great for loading up media content for those times when you don’t have an Internet connection or want to take your own media with you when travelling.
As it runs on Android 4.4.2, you’ll have full access to the Google Play Store and the few extra apps and games I installed did so with no issues. KODI is a bit of a mixed bag. It does work but it can take a bit of trial and error to figure out the best streaming sources. I did have the best success using Exodus but depending on your location or tastes your mileage may vary. There are plenty of sources to install and choose from, and the KODI website has an entire section for Add-ons and other KODI configuration issues.
Priced at $199USD, Andi is a bit on the higher end of the price scale for Android-based streaming media devices, but it does run great and once configured properly, I encountered no issues with any media I ran through it. If you are considering a device like Andi to replace your cable TV, it’ll definitely pay for itself over a few months.
If you’re looking for a digital entertainment system that’ll help you replace your cable or satellite TV, or simply add media streaming to another TV in the house you’ll want to add the Andi to your list for consideration.[rwp-review id=”0″]