Home Tech Review OpenBox AS1 HD: tale or reality?

OpenBox AS1 HD: tale or reality?

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Oh, great and ubiquitous Android! At such rate it will soon be built into chandeliers and radiators, and is it so necessary? I’d like to bring to your attention a satellite receiver with the functionality of an Android-based multimedia set-top box.
So, I would not answer for chandeliers and radiators, but in the receiver, either DVB-S, DVB-S2, DVB-T or DVB-T2, Android is the best invention by mankind.
OpenBox AS1 HD is not a pioneer among Android-based satellite receivers, but in all those similar devices that fell my way it was taken from Android just the engine (which is also good); here you can see the operating system in all its glory. Put simply, the engine was used in devices with poor hardware without special system settings and without enhanced functionality. A stripped-down Android OS is used for more reliable operation.
The receiver OpenBox AS1 HD is fully different: Android system is presented in its original form, as we are accustomed to see it. All this is backed up by top specifications of the device.

Package contents

There is a carton box of a quite compact size (a quite compact size is relative to the device size) with a high quality photoprint, but the quality of the packaging material is average. The box is pleasant to the touch, but quite slippery (due to a matte film over photoprint). The film quickly wears out and comes unstuck, especially the tear strip sealing the package cover.

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The compact-sized box reflects the compact and modest contents::
• remote control;
• two batteries;
• power supply unit 12V;
• HDMI cable;
• user manual.

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The manual is just one glossy A5 sheet of paper with duplex black-and-white printing. The only useful information on the paper is about the contents of the box and the Openbox’s official website.

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The look of OpenBox AS1 HD is traditional for this kind of devices. The case is metallic black with plenty of venting holes all around. At the front, there is a black glossy plastic front panel divided into two functional parts. On the left hand side, there is an Openbox sign, a seven-segment four-character display indicator with green luminescence; below the display there are three small buttons (power-on and switching channels forward/backward), followed by power-on indicator and IR remote control receiver. On the right hand side, there is an opening cover with signs of basic capabilities of the device and the device model sign, and under the cover there are hidden USB-port, CI-interface and a smart card slot.

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On the rear panel there are main ports for receiver:
• LNB In (antenna input) и LNB Out (loop output);
• e-SATA (port for external HDD);
• RCA (analog video/audio outputs);
• S/PDIF (optical audio port);
• HDMI;
• USB 2.0 (2 ports);
• LAN (Internet);
• SD-CARD;
• Power supply (12V 2,5A);
• RS-232C (PC COM port).

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The remote control is made of a material pleasant to the touch, the weight in the hand is hardly sensible, that may cause discomfort being new to use. The battery compartment lid is removed with great effort. The remote control is of standard size (comparable with a remote control for the TV-set Samsung UE-40D5000), but the keys themselves are near on the same level with the case, and such a solution does not suit everyone’s taste. The key sound effects are rather loud. The remote control itself is the only weak point of the receiver. The solution to this problem may become the use of Smartphone as a remote control, and all that is lacking is to download (from Google Play Market or Apple Store) and to set up AirTivi+ app, which is distributed free of charge.

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The device has an elegant look, but to be honest, it is very difficult to catch on some detail in the look of OpenBox AS1 HD, as everything is similar to any other receiver available within the satellite TV premium segment. Yes, it is pretty, yes, the design materials of high quality, but that is all to tell about the look; the receiver does not stand out from its competitors in terms of look. But (author’s lyrical digression) once again, as the saying goes “every man to his own taste”.
I was very pleased with availability of as many as 3 USB-ports. They would be well enough for a simultaneous use of WiFi adapter (optional in the receiver), a wireless keyboard mouse set or remote manipulator with a gyroscope and external HDD (to watch movies or recorded telecasts). I was also encouraged by their location: 2 rear and 1 front ports are a reasonable and viable option. When connecting devices/cables to the ports, nothing interferes to one another, and all the ports are placed wisely.

Hardware

Now goes the most interesting (and there is no exaggeration). The receiver has a truly powerful processor Hi3716C V200, which easily copes with any task relative to the “boss’ entertainments”.

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Seemingly not the most advanced, fashionable today capacity rating and number of cores (there are 2 cores here) may compete in efficiency with the “4-core monsters”, and all this thanks to an excellent architecture and service instructions. All technical information for the processor can be found on the official website HISILICON. And here it is a direct link to Datasheet Hi3716C V200:
http://www.hisilicon.com/engdownload/digital/20130719/Hi3716C%20V200.rar


The videos downloaded from YouTube  run with MX Player (ARMv7 NEON codec, decoders HW, HW+ and SW). FullHD  run without any problem with the HW+: the picture is very well, there is no frame bounce, no delays, no frame skips; QuadHD was run with the HW hardware decoder: everything is stable, excellent picture, no slow running, frames are all in their place, the maximum resolution on the TV screen is 1080p, therefore it was impossible to see all the charms of video with a resolution of 1440r, but the image sharpness is much higher and it even ripples due to superimposed pixels; UltraHD was run only with the SW software decoder, the video represents a slide show, and then with artifacts, OpenBox AS1 HD did not cope with videos with resolution 4K (UltraHD). The receiver’s specifications mention only FullHD support, that is why running videos with the QuadHD and UltraHD was a pure experiment with an unexpected result: excellent quality playback of 2K (QuadHD) using a hardware decoder.

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Videos used in testing (downloaded from www.youtube.com using Ummy Video Downloader 1.5):


Also, by means of the media center KODI it was run the cartoon Home (2015) with the following specifications:
• Blu-Ray: overall size 23,3 Gb
• Runtime: 01:33:48
• Format: M2TS
• Video codec: Н.26х
• Audio codec: DTS
• Video: MPEG-4 AVC, 28081 Kbit/s, 1920х1080
• Audio: Russian (DTS, 6 ch, 768 Kbit/s)
• Audio: Ukrainian (AC3, 6 ch, 448 Kbit/s)
• Audio: English (DTS-HD MA, 8 ch, 4451 Kbit/s)
• Subtitles: Russian, English, Ukrainian
Everything is perfect, inside and out: a high-quality bright picture, no delays, also no delays in rewinding, the processor processes everything effortlessly; a power reserve is felt to perform parallel tasks.

Software

The first thing you have to do when setting up the receiver is update; as the built-in firmware has a lot of problems: Google Play was not initially installed and I did not manage installing/running it in spite of doing all my best, and that is because of the following emerging problem: Google account refused outright to be added. As a result, all the Google services failed to work. An updated firmware was found on the website of OpenBox, and its installation did not bring any trouble taking no more than 15 minutes, and then all the problems disappeared as if they had never existed.
After a relatively short time (a bit above a month) there was released another updated firmware with some improvements. As for the latter, its description mentions that it is a test version, and indeed, if you are not developer, it is better not to install it. First, the installation of this update succeeded only with the original update menu, and second, the file had to be extracted from the archive and put in USB storage root, third, after the installation there came back a previous problem with adding google account and, accordingly, authorization in the services of the aforesaid. I could not see any visible changes for the better in that firmware. But a test version is also a hard work of developers, and perhaps there will appear in the near future an update without tagging “test version”, where one may see the latest improvements and system developments.
As for the satellite receiver, there are no questions, both before updating and after it. A very convenient thoughtful setup menu, the quality of signal reception and the channel switching rate prove just one thing: the symbiosis of engineers and developers has designed a unique device to serve faithfully for many years.


All declared functions are executed flawlessly when starting them. OpenBox AS1 HD has the option to record simultaneously two satellite channels and TimeShift (time offset) for the third one (or simultaneous recording of three channels), everything works steadily, the main thing is to have enough space on the unit applied for recording.

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I was pleased with availability of the functions PIP (picture in picture) and PAP (screen is vertically divided into two identical fields, and each of them displays its channel) and a separate key on the remote control for them, there is also a “simplified list” function for the second channel.

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The DiSEqC settings lack the “auto” mode (a mode for identifying automatically the DiSEqC port connected by the convector tuned to the selected satellite). It will be probably added in future updates.
As for the offered software, I would like to mention the multimedia center Kodi (former XBMC) with truly great capabilities and their enhancement by installing add-ons. Kodi includes a variety of raised servers (UPnP, DLNA, Web-server, AirPlay, SMB client) to synchronize with existing devices.


From all this diversity of standards I did not manage running just the web-server, so it was impossible to control Kodi by phone. I was also pleased with the support of Miracast standard (picture duplication from a phone/tablet/PC screen via Wi-Fi Direct, given availability of the same capabilities in the transmitting device). I barely managed connecting the phone Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, and just only the desktop; when connecting there popped up a device incompatibility message.

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And Xiaomi RedMi 1S connected without any problem.

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Using third-party applications Sony managed making friends with the receiver (MirrorOp Sender on phone + MirrorOp Receiver on receiver), but this option will be only suitable for viewing some data on a large screen, i.e. you will not succeed in playing or normally working due to the critical delays of 2-3 seconds.

Conclusions

I would like to point out as follows: a rather classic look of the device hides truly magnificent capabilities that will surpass all expectations. The receiver has one problem, and this is its remote control, the good is that the problem is resolvable and it can be settled without additional investment by using phone as a remote control after downloading AirTivi+ application from the Google Play Market. Now about the merits: Hi3716C V200 processor. The heart of the set-top box easily copes with commissioned tasks, the device coped effortlessly even with 2K resolution standard (QHD) undeclared in the specifications; in fact, the processor power is indicated indirectly by a Kodi pictogram on the package, because it is a serious application that requires serious hardware resources. TV torrent also starts and runs without problems. And, for sure, it is worth focusing on the availability of a DVB-S2 tuner. The satellite signal is kept excellent, especially compared with my outdated ORTON 4100C with constant artifacts due to inaccurately tuned antenna, and the interface of the satellite part is also above all praise. Everything is usable and setup does not take a good deal of time. All that is lacking is to add that after two-week tests of OpenBox AS1 HD, I was about to buy it and have it at home on an ongoing basis, but that is nothing but a personal opinion.
Thanks for your attention.

The test involved the following devices:
OpenBox AS1 HD.
Laptop HP Pavilion dv6-6b01er.
Laptop HP ENVY 17-j006sr.
Phone Sony Xperia Z1 compact.
Phone HTC Desire X.
Phone Xiaomi Hongmi Redmi 1S.
802.11N High Speed Wireless USB Adapter with Antenna – 150 Mpbs.
Wireless keyboard mouse set Logitech Wireless Combo MK270.
Applications used in testing:
On receiver:
3DMark – The Gamer’s Benchmark.
vidsoftware.ru/download/tsc/latest.php
Geekbench 3.
Ace Stream Engine.
Torrent Stream Controller.
AIDA64.
All-In-One Toolbox (cleaner).
Browser Dolphin Classic.
ES Explorer.
MirrorOp Receiver.
MX Player.
MX Player codec (ARMv7 NEON).
On Smartphone:
MirrorOp Sender.
AllConnect – Play & Stream.
Kore, Official Remote for Kodi.
Air Tivi+.
HimediaControl.
HiTVRemote for Hisilicon STB.
Truck Driver 3D: Offroad.