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RikoMagic MK802 II Review

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#1
PaulOBrien

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Introduction

While Android is wildly popular on phones and is finally starting to make an impact on the tablet market, there’s a third space where I think that Android can really add value... and that’s in the realm of PC replacements / media centers.

Android hardware is becoming more and more powerful at an ever decreasing cost and coupled with maturing apps for the platform (both built into the OS itself and the likes of Chrome), I think we are approaching a time when a lot of people will be able to plug an Android device into a monitor and accomplish the majority of what they can achieve with a ‘real computer’.

The RikoMagic MK802 was one of the first devices that really looked to exploit this. Aimed primarily at enthusiasts, the MK802 was a small box with a HDMI port, providing Android on your TV / monitor at an impressively low price. The box was well received by the hacking community and the successor, the MK802 II we are reviewing here, fixes a number of criticisms of the original. But is it ready for primetime?

Review Device

The review device is a full retail device, matching what is available to buy from Rikomagic UK. I had a white unit, of course.

In The Box

Bearing in mind the low price of the MK802 II, you get more in the box than you might expect! As well as the foam-packaged device itself, you get a paper manual, a microUSB power cable, a microUSB OTG adaptor (for connecting external storage) and a HDMI extension cable... everything you need to get going! :)

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-inbox.png]Posted Image


Hardware - overview

The hardware in the MK802 II is pretty much on par with a low to medium end Android phone or tablet. Specifications are as follows...
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (can also run desktop versions of Linux from a microSD card)
  • Allwinner A10 / 1GHz Cortex-A8 processor with MALI 400 GPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4GB ROM
  • 802.11 b/g/n wireless WAPI(Ralink8188)
  • microSD slot
  • Micro USB x2
  • USB2.0 x1
  • HDMI x1 (720P, 576P, 480P, 1080P & 2160P)
  • Supports virtual keyboard, supports 2.4G wireless keyboard, fly mouse
  • Audio: AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, QCP, MP3, WMA, WAV, MIDI, M4A
  • Video: WMV/ASF/MP4/3GP/3G2M4V/AVI/MJPEG/RV10/ DivX/VC-1/MPEG-2/MPEG-4/H.263/H.264/1280*720P HD 30 fps, 1080P/720*480 D1 30fps
    HDMI: Output 720P, 576P, 480P, 1080P&2160P
  • Powered by USB port.
  • 97mm x 28 mm x 1.20mm
  • 200g
The device is made out of matte feeling plastic and actually feels pretty well made. It's very light, it feels like there's basically nothing to it. :D

Hardware - around the device

Let's have a little walk round the device.

The top of the device has an Android logo (with headphones) and the Rikomagic branding. The bottom of the device has 2 sets of ventilation holes and a LED indicator, as well as labelling for the various ports on the device. Earlier iterations of the device did suffer from heat problems, so it's probably worth ensuring these are left clear of obstructions when you've sited the device.

One end has the HDMI plug. On the original MK802 this was a socket for a cable, whereas it's now built in. The top edge of the device has the microSD slot, a reset hole and one of the microUSB ports. This one is used for the OTG adaptor, to connect memory sticks or hard drives. The bottom edge has the second microUSB port (for power / ADB) and a full size USB port, which can also be used for keyboard or mouse, memory sticks or hard drives.

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-top.png]Posted Image


'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-bottom.png]Posted Image


In use

Hooking up and booting up

To get going, all you need to do is hook up a power input (a regular microUSB cable connected to a PC or a USB to mains adaptor), connect the HDMI output to your TV / monitor and then add an input source. This could be a wired or wireless keyboard / mouse, for my testing I used a Logitech K400 which I normally use for my media center - it works great.

The device starts to boot as soon as you connect the power, indicated by a blue LED. It first tries to boot from the microSD card (e.g. a Linux distro), before then booting the internal Android OS.

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-homescreen.png]Posted Image


After the Rikomagic boot screens, you arrive at the Android home screen. The configuration is such that you get the regular Ice Cream Sandwich tablet UI. Out of the box my device was configured to 720P, however you can bump the resolution up to 1080P (24 / 50 / 60).

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-displaymode.png]Posted Image


Out of the box the software included is fairly minimal, you get the standard Android base software with a (certainly unofficial) Play Store. The Play Store is interesting, the ROM could do with some permissions / fingerprint tweaks as quite a lot of apps don't show (e.g. Chrome, although this can be installed manually via APK).

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-launcher.png]Posted Image


By virtue of the fact the MK802 II has no hardware buttons or touchscreen there are some additional buttons on the bottom navigation bar for volume up / down, shutdown and legacy menu access.

Peripherals

You can plug most things in to the MK802 II. I've used USB flash drives, USB hard drives and some USB ethernet dongles are also supported. With 2 microUSB ports and a full size USB port you're not likely to go short! I believe some 3G dongles also work, but you might want to double check this if it forms part of your plans.

The port marked 'OTG' doubles up as a PC connection - you can copy files to / from the device's internal storage using this (in mass storage mode) and also get ADB access.

General navigation and browsing

In use, the UI performs as you'd expect for a 1GHz single core device driving a 720P (or 1080P) screen - that is to say that while it's generally usable, it does struggle at times, leading to occasional 'wait' dialogues (clicking wait generally does the job).

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-youtubenr.png]Posted Image


This experience is echoed in the Browser and in the Chrome browser if you download and install it. Although the device is usable, you do get occasional slowdowns which can be a little frustrating. It does very much depend on the intensity of the task you're doing.

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-bbcnews.png]Posted Image


Streaming video (iPlayer etc.)

I know a use case for the MK802 II is to enable streaming video services on a TV / monitor, so I made a point of trying out the popular services. Unfortunately I was unable to use the iPlayer app due to an incompatability message nor the ITV / 4OD apps due to the Play Store issue, but I was able to get iPlayer working through the browser, probably the most important thing to work.

Once i'd kicked off iPlayer playback it ran smoothly and was perfectly watchable.

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-iplayer.png]Posted Image


As an additional test I installed the TVCatchup application from the Play Store and with the exception of the occasional slowdown in the UI, I was again able to use this to watch live TV. Pretty cool. :)

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-catchuptv.png]Posted Image


Unfortunately the latest Netflix releases closes immediately on launch, however I managed to download a 1.8.1 build which works much better!

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-netflix.png]Posted Image


Finally, YouTube videos are silky smooth too.

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-youtube.png]Posted Image


Local / network video

One thing I really wanted to do on the MK802 II was to play MKV files. I suspected that the device would be really good at this and it was! I played from a locally attached drive and over the network and playback was flawless. The MK802 II can be susceptible to getting a weak WiFi connection, but with careful placement I was able to maintain a good stream.

For my playback I used MXPlayer... and this is why I had so much success. MXPlayer supports hardware accelerated playback on the MK802 II - other players I tried that only use software mode struggled to play smoothly.

XBMC

Unfortunately, the current builds of XBMC do not support hardware accelerated playback on this device and this manifested itself in the form of stuttering video playback. The menus etc. ran surprisinly smoothly so should a build of XBMC come along in the future where hardware playback can be used then this will be a great solution!

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-xbmc.png]Posted Image


Music

For music testing I installed Google Music to play from the cloud, which worked fine. A lot cheaper solution than a Nexus Q...? :)

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-playmusic.png]Posted Image

Ubuntu

A number of Ubuntu builds are available for the MK802 II, the main ones being from miniand and Rikomagic themselves.

I tried 3 different images (LXDE miniand, Full miniand and LXDE Rikomagic) on my 16GB class 10 microSD card (well, it claims to be class 10, but i'm not convinced now!)

Performance was pretty slow, hence my doubts about the card. I'm going to order a new card then i'll update this topic! :)

Rooting and hacking

The MK802 II comes 'pre-rooted' with root ADB access and is ripe for hacking. There's already quite a few hacks around for the original MK802 and the same will no doubt appear for the new version.

It's a great little device to have a good play around with!

'>http://content.modaco.net/dropzone/mk802ii-about.png]Posted Image


Pricing and availability

The MK802 II is available for £49.99 with regular Air Mail delivery from Asia or £59.99 with much faster FedEx delivery.

Conclusion

Before the MK802 II arrived I was pretty excited and very positive about the future of such devices. Having used one, I have to say that my belief in the concept hasn't abated. What is clear however is that at present, the device is more of an enthusiasts tool than anything else. I suspect that a future MK802 III or IV with a faster CPU will be pretty fantastic and make the product more viable to a wider audience.

With that in mind whether the product is right for you today very much depends on what you're going to do with it. If the majority of your usage is going to be media playback via MXPlayer for example, then at £49.99 it's a great deal, particularly with all the Android-hacking-fun you can have too. If you're looking for a PC replacement for browsing then it's not quite there yet... but it'll happen.

Have your say

Do you have a Rikomagic MK802 II? Do you agree / disagree with my review? Post below!

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#2
sipart

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Do you think the Sumvision Cyclone Nano Slim Plus Media Player is a more practical design than the stick (effectively the same spec - think the stick above has a slightly faster processor (but slim+ is cortex A9) and more RAM - but both made by the same Chinese manufacturer - http://www.geniatech.com/)? EDIT: I take that back it seems RIKOMAGIC is a chinese manufacturer in it's own right - http://www.rikomagic.com/En/about.asp - seems they make very similar products.

I have a Nano Slim+ and the performance is pretty much as above (don't get many 'app not responding' messages but some apps do bomb out occasionally).

XBMC works well and might be worth trying this version: http://www.pivosforu....php?f=11&t=847 - it has a menu that allows access to Android apps - so in theory and in the future XBMC could be the android home launcher. The Linux build that is effectively a XBMC live build works as well.

Ebuyer has the black version of the nano slim + at £71 at the moment (and that comes with the wireless/kb/air mouse + mains PSU).

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#3
mrshark

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does it recognize ntfs formatted external hard drives?

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#4
fraxos

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For me the big question is this: something like this or Raspberry Pi?

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#5
ukgnome

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Would I be correct that I could use the redundant USB port from my sky box? If so then this looks worth a punt.

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#6
PaulOBrien

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Yes, that should work.

P

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#7
Patrick73

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I have been thinking about getting one of these for a while as my Sony TV only does internet video.
But I got a WM8850 from ebay with a Via 8850 arm9 based cpu with a mali400 gpu. It works great on my tv but res is low as the screen is only 800*480.

it runs games like shadowgun ok but no support for GTA 3 etc. but for £60.00 its cheap. And has mini HDMI output and full size usb host and mini usb for connecting to your pc. only downside is battery life, but it does come with a charger with its own port. and has ICS with google Play working on it.
Google movies works ok on it too its like watching a itv2 show its watchable but not that great (not hd)

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#8
stormuk

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I like sipart have the Nano - I found it fine for browsing though I found some playback a little odd and there does seem an issue with XVID with the native players - loading android XBMC on it though improved the playback but it did get slowdown sometimes (not as bad as the raspberry PI I had though).

It ran some games fine and others including psx games a little slow.

So in the end I went and put a Linux XBMC image on it and its much better as a out and out media player.

However it was a close call thing to leave it as an android PC - that close Im now getting a Dual Core A9 UG802 at 1.2 burst upto 1.5 for £50 from China, as I think the speed boost will tip this from being a good system into being a brilliant one - Ill update when I test it.

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#9
PaulOBrien

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I just got a UG802. :)

P

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#10
Degurney

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WHat about the 808?

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#11
PaulOBrien

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Also interested in that! :D

P

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#12
jasonmccartney

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Found out the new version Rikomagic MK802 III is out!
http://www.androidta...-mk802-iii.html

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#13
stretchie

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Can I ask how you get on with the UG802, just looked it up here

http://www.in4dealz....-TV-Box-600195/

I also looked at the remote control they link to in the article and am wondering if this could replace my freeview box. I like the idea of the remote, I might get one to try.

Does anyone have a comparison between the UG802 and the MK802 (II or III)

Many thanks

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#14
ontherocks

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Couldn't find anywhere....
What's the difference between UG802 and UG808?
Both seem to be based on Cortex A9 RK3066, with 1GB DDR3 & 4GB Nand Flash

Edit: I think I found it
UG808 has
  • 2 x Wifi antennas
  • 2 x cooling plates
  • CPU is clocked at 1.6Ghz
  • Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
  • Retail price is 65 USD

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#15
lineone

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i have problems with the sound to picture synchronisation on my mk802 where sound is slightly behind the picture.
anyone know of a fix? :(

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