MINIX NEO X8-H Review
Nope, you’re not seeing double. There are two new versions of MINIX’s flagship Android TV box:
The NEO X8 and NEO X8-H. What’s the difference, you ask? It’s actually fairly simple.
The spec that’s going to jump out at you is that the NEO X8-H has 16GB of eMMC flash storage –
double that of the NEO X8. But that’s not the important part.
The real advantage to the NEO X8-H is that it includes the Amlogic S802-H CPU
which supports hardware decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Bypass audio formats through HDMI.
The Amlogic S802 is the quad-core replacement for the dual-core MX chip
found in popular streaming boxes like the G-Box Midnight MX2.
The S802 continues Amlogic’s solid history of support, but increases performance dramatically.
The average Amlogic MX based chip will report Antutu benchmarks of around 10,000.
We’ll show the Antutu score from the MINIX Neo X8 a bit later in our Setup and Benchmarks section.
But, let’s just say you’ll be impressed. It will be interesting to see how this
player stacks up when the Rockchip RK3288 based devices.
The NEO X8 and NEO X8-H offer support for Ultra High-Definition (UHD)
4K video playback right out of the box.
This means you get up to four times the detail as in regular 1080p televisions
Without the techno-speak, this means you get an incredibly clear picture,
better image texture and less pixelation than on regular high-definition signals.
Both new NEO models include a dual band Wi-Fi connection with an external antenna
to allow for maximum network flexibility and stability. There is also a signal analyzer
application which will allow you to fine-tune
your network to get the best performance. As with the NEO X7, firmware updates are available
Over The Air (OTA), so you don’t need to manually download and install new releases on your own.
Of course, there is also Bluetooth 4.0 as well.
The ports on the NEO X8 are the same as those found on the NEO X7.
There are 3 USB 2.0 ports, a wired Ethernet port, an optical audio out,
HDMI, two 3.5mm jacks for headphones and microphone, and a micro-USB OTG port.
Finally, the MINIX NEO X8 supports Ultra High Speed (UHS) SD cards
which allow file transfers at up to 104 MB per second.
As far as the design of the NEO X8, MINIX decided to stick with what works.
I really can’t say enough about the design of the entire NEO series.
The casing is matte black, with the MINIX logo in recessed gloss black.
The rounded off corners are reminiscent of the Apple TV, except larger.
The Apple TV is a tiny 3.9 inches square and just under an inch high.
The NEO X8, in comparison, is a considerably larger at 5 inches square and just over an inch tall –
not including the antenna. The antenna will add another 5 inches to the height,
so be sure to account for that when planning out your entertainment center.
As with most Android streaming boxes, the NEO X8 includes a basic IR Remote.
The NEO series includes an internal IR sensor, so you won’t need to string
an unsightly wire to the front of your TV.
The remote is basic in terms of functionality, but it doesn’t feel cheap.
The buttons and D-pad have a satisfying feel when pressed.
The remote works best when navigating the NEO’s Metro interface,
but it does have some limitations. I found it impossible to navigate the Netflix app successfully
and had to resort to my wireless keyboard combo.
The days are over when setting up an Android streaming box is difficult.
Most players will boot straight up to the familiar Android desktop and away you go.
MINIX decided that they wanted to take that off your hands too.
When you first turn on the MINIX NEO X8, you’re greeted with a
Windows 8\Windows Phone type interface,
appropriately called the Metro interface.
Don’t worry, though – MINIX knows Windows 8 sucks too.
They took what worked, adapted it for a living room environment and threw out the rest.
But we’ll get more into the Metro interface in a bit.
Our standard battery of video files all played without a hitch.
The NEO X8 played avi, mov, mp4 and mkv files perfectly.
The MINIX NEO X8 comes installed with Android 4.4 KitKat, but as we mentioned before,
that’s not the normal home screen. MINIX included the Metro interface to make it simple
for anyone to sit down on their couch and watch movies. Don’t worry, if you don’t like the Metro interface,
you can always revert back to the familiar Android UI.
There are pre-defined buckets (folders) where you can separate your favorite apps by category.
Looking for Music? Click on the musical note. Want to play a game? Click on the game controller.
Everything is quite intuitive.The only drawback is that none of these buckets are populated the first time
you turn the device on. But, this gives you the ability to add only the apps you want,
and not have to clean out the bloatware.
MINIX NEO X8: The Verdict
I can’t say enough good things about the MINIX NEO X8 and NEO X8-H. The performance is good.
The Metro interface is incredibly powerful and flexible while still being
simple enough for anyone to use. It has a sleek design that looks
sophisticated enough to look at home next to the newest 4K TVs.