Android TV Box Review: SkyStream X5

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SkyStream X5 is an all-in-one Android TV Box that allows you to watch online videos (mainly free movies, TV shows and live sports) and functions as a DVR for Over-The-Air (OTA) TV channels. The device connects to the Internet through an Ethernet cable or Wifi connection. If you can capture OTA channels with a TV antenna from your location, you can hook it up to SkyStream X5 Android TV Box’s RF input. To complete the setup, SkyStream X5 connects to your TV via an HDMI or RCA AV cable.

You can then navigate its Android-based media centre menu on your TV screen using the included Air Mouse remote control to access desired media thru different Apps. In this article, we will take a close look at SkyStream X5 Android TV Box by reviewing its design and hardware; how it functions as a DVR; going over Kodi software setup then summing up our findings with a verdict and summary of both pros and cons for this particular Android TV Box review.

 

Why SkyStream X5 Android TV Box

The main reason for you to purchase a SkyStream X5 is to take advantage of its pre-loaded software called Kodi. Kodi itself is a legal media center software but many of its add-ons (plugins) developed by third-party developers allow you to gain access to unlimited viewing of the latest movies, TV shows and even live sports for free. SkyStream is very unique in the segment because it offers an updater App that gives you the most coveted add-ons.

If timing coincides with the update software, SkyStream team may even offer you add-ons which are reflective of current major sporting events and such. In addition, SkyStream X5 is one of very few Android TV Boxes that also has a built-in TV tuner. In other words, SkyStream X5 can display captured OTA TV channels on your TV. More importantly, you will receive an EPG (Electronic Program Guide) so you can see upcoming shows plus you can use SkyStream X5 as a DVR to record TV shows in HD.

 

What does the SkyStream X5 Android TV Box Package come with

  • SkyStream X5 Android TV Box
  • Remote Control (Air Mouse with Mini Keyboard)
  • USB Wireless Receiver for Remote Control
  • USB Charging Cable for Remote Control
  • HDMI Cable
  • RCA AV Cable
  • Power Supply
  • User Manual

 

What else do I need for an Android TV Box to function properly

  • High-Speed Internet
  • Wireless Internet Router (if an Ethernet cable is not present where the Android TV Box is to be placed)
  • Wifi Range Extender or Powerline Adapter (if the Android TV Box location gets weak Wifi signal)
  • Indoor/Outdoor TV Antenna (optional)
  • External Hard Drive for OTA TV recording (optional)

 

Connectivity

SkyStream Android TV Box Connections BackSkyStream X5 offers a long list of practical connectivity options. First of all, it has built-in Wifi and a port for Ethernet cable. Internet connection via Ethernet cable is much faster than Wifi with our router setup. Then there is an SD card reader and four UBS 2.0 ports plus an SPDIF output. The unit also offers Bluetooth connection. Lastly, you can connect SkyStream x5 to your TV via an HDMI cable or RCA AV cable (both cables are included). Below is a quick overview of all the ports and connector on a SkyStream X5:

  • SD card reader x1 (the reader can take an SD/SDHC/MMC memory card from a digital camera or camcorder for you to view photos and videos on your regular TV)
  • USB port x4 (you can plug in external hard drive(s), flash drive(s) to access stored files; USB receiver for the Air Mouse remote control will permanently occupy one USB port so technically only 3 USB ports are available)
  • SPDIF output x1 (good option if you plan to use your home theater system for superior sound)
  • AV output x1 (3.5mm plug to 3 colour RCA AV cable, avoid this option unless there’s no other choice because of the lower picture quality)
  • HDMI output x1 (quickest and easiest way to connect SkyStream X5 to your TV; the included HDMI cable yields same picture quality when compared to a decent HDMI cable we own)
  • Bluetooth connection

 

Hardware

For an Android TV Box, SkyStream X5 offers a great deal of speed due to its robust CPU and abundance of RAM (Random Access Memory). It has a Quad-Core processor (Amlogic S812) which clocks at 2.0 Ghz and 2 GB of DDR3 RAM. For comparison purposes, the latest Apple TV (4th generation) which costs more than a SkyStream X5 has Dual-Core processor @ 1.5 Ghz and 2 GB of RAM. In other words, SkyStream X5’s technical specs are comparable to an Apple TV but is cheaper (although Apple TV has more built-in flash memory).

In our opinion, Android TV Box’s main task is to run Kodi. Since Kodi is an open-source media centre software that requires updates periodically, having more RAM and CPU speed should allow SkyStream X5 to handle more demanding Apps (including Kodi) in the future thus increasing its service life. Another advantage of SkyStream X5 over Apple TV is: its Quad-Core processor supports 4K video playback. You can use technical specs below to compare SkyStream X5 to other Android TV Box makes/models:

  • CPU: Amlogic S812 Cortex A9 processor @2.0GHz
  • RAM: 2G DDR3 + Flash 16GB
  • GPU: Octa-Core Mali-450 MHz,  supports H.265/H.264 HEVC Hardware decoding 1080P
  • OS: Android 4.4 Kitkat
  • Wifi:  2.4 & 5 Ghz with AC wireless capability

 

Air Mouse Remote Control

SkyStream X5’s remote control is multi-function remote control with a QWERTY mini-keyboard on the back side. This type of remote control is also known as an Air Mouse. To truly appreciate why the maker of SkyStream X5 included this particular Air Mouse, we will go over inherent weaknesses of remote controls from cheaper Android TV Boxes. Many inexpensive Android TV Boxes come with rather basic remote controls. Although these regular remote controls satisfy essential navigation needs of onscreen menus of an Android TV Box, they are far from perfect.

The two most obvious flaws are 1. A regular remote control does not have a keyboard so entering text such as passwords or search input becomes a time-consuming task (picture selecting individual letters from the onscreen keyboard using a D-pad); 2. Most Apps are not completely D-pad friendly. A common issue is you can’t select certain button on the screen to execute its function.

Remember, Android TV Box’s GUI (Graphical User Interface) is designed for mobile devices with touch displays thus D-pad controls are limited to reach certain areas of the screen/menu. If there is a button you cannot get to, you would have no choice but to activate the “Mouse Cursor” function on the remote control then use the D-pad to move it over the button to select it. Unfortunately, the “Mouse Cursor” can’t move diagonally and it moves like a tortoise so it hampers the whole navigation experience.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, SkyStream X5’s Air Mouse remote control allows you to point the remote control at the screen and control the onscreen “Cursor” with ease. When you need to input text, you conveniently flip the remote control over and type with the included mini keyboard. The mini keyboard contains most keys from a full keyboard except F1 to F12 buttons which are usually reserved for PCs so it’s perfectly fine without the F keys for an Android TV Box.

Initially, we found the “Back” button on the Air Mouse a little awkward to press because it is in close proximity with other buttons. Luckily we got used to the button location fairly quickly. Another note, it takes some practice to keep the onscreen Air Mouse cursor centered since the alignment between the cursor and the remote control will be off because the onscreen “cursor” will not move beyond the edges of the screen.

SkyStream X5’s Air Mouse has a built-in lithium ion battery and is charged via a USB cable (included). The battery lasts at least a week with average usage from our observation but we always turn it off with the side power button thinking it may conserve energy according to the user manual. Another observation, when SkyStream X5 Android TV Box is turned off (indicated by a small red LED light), we had to press the power button repeatedly in order to turn it on or wake it up. You can also press the physical power button on the front of the TV Box to turn it on.

Aside from the main features stated above, SkyStream X5’s Air Mouse is able to learn up to three functions from another remote control (via IR a.k.a. Infrared Signals). There appears to be a speaker (top) and a microphone (bottom) and a headphone jack on the side but we did not come across an App that could take advantage of them yet.

After trying out SkyStream X5’s Air Mouse remote control, there is no doubt in our mind every Android TV Box should come with one. It feels so much better to navigate an Android TV Box’s onscreen menus with an Air Mouse and its mini keyboard.

 

Ease of Setup

android-tv-box-skystream-x5_largeSetting up an Android TV Box is easy. Below is a list of steps to set up a SkyStream X5 Android TV Box. It could be done in less than 5 minutes if you have a proper Internet connection, an Ethernet cable or Wifi password handy, and two AAA batteries:

  1. Connect the device to power via the supplied power adapter.
  2. Pop in two AAA batteries (not included) into the remote control.
  3. Connect the supplied HDMI to your device and TV.
  4. Change your TV input source to the connected AV port.
  5. Connect an Ethernet cable (if available) to your device.
  6. If you need to connect to your Wifi network; use the remote control and click on “Settings” on the TV screen; click on “Network”; pick “Wifi”; choose “Wifi device” and select “on”; select network name you wish to connect to; use mini-keyboard on the back of the remote control to input your password; make sure password is correct before returning to “Home” and you are good to go!

 

Kodi Media Centre

Kodi is the main reason why most people get an Android TV Box. Nowadays, Kodi is basically a synonym for free movies and TV shows. However, it is not perfect. There are many “pauses” (long and short) while navigating through Kodi’s menu. Most of the time, this pause or lag is not Kodi’s fault. Rather, the issues usually rest with 3rd party add-ons or your Internet connection. If the 3rd party add-on server speed is slow or the add-on itself is outdated, there could be instances where the menu screen just “hang” or “freeze” with only the “working” message showing for a long time and pressing “Back” or “Home” button would not help.

Fortunately, SkyStream X5 comes with a Kodi updater called SkyStream Updater. For those who are new to watching free movies and TV shows via Kodi, SkyStream Updater offers tremendous value and the bottom line is: it saves you time because you would not need to filter our hundreds of add-ons in order to find good ones. As well, there may come a time where the video might freeze or become choppy or stops suddenly during playback. This occurs more frequently while streaming live shows and live sports because the broadcasting source is either slow or not tuned properly. Fortunately, watching most movies and TV shows in high-definition are usually without any issues from our experience.

To ensure smooth video streaming using SkyStream X5 Android TV Box, avoid taxing your Internet connection with heavy downloads/uploads which may affect your streaming experience. A quick tip, you can see if your Internet connection is functioning properly by using the Speed Test App (icon with speedometer symbol) in the main menu. If your Internet speed is fine, you may need to try a different video source or even an add-on if necessary. Below is a list of picture quality you can expect with different streaming speeds:

  • SD Minimum………….. 2Mbps
  • SD recommended……. 5Mbps
  • HD Minimum…………. 5Mbps
  • HD recommended…..10Mbps

Note: if you have an issue with your Internet connection, try unplugging your router or modem for at least 30 seconds before reconnecting it to power.

 

Customize Kodi Video Add-Ons

Android TV Box ReviewAlthough SkyStream X5 already comes with pre-installed add-on shortcuts. In our opinion, it is best to know how to add your own add-ons and update the menu shortcuts according to preference. We will go over the steps to create your own menu shortcuts in Kodi  for quicker access to free movies and TV shows below:

  1. Launch Kodi from the main menu
  2. Click on “Add-ons” under “VIDEOS”
  3. Pick “Get more…” and choose an add-on
  4. Click on “Install”
  5. Repeat Step 1 to 4, six more times to install at least 7 video add-ons
  6. Go back to the main menu and click on “Settings” under “SYSTEM”
  7. Select “- Settings” under “Skin”
  8. Scroll down to “Add-on shortcuts” in the left column
  9. Click on “Add-on 1 to 7” under “Home page ‘videos’ submenu” and select installed add-ons
  10. Installed add-ons will now appear under “VIDEOS” and you are ready to stream!

 

DVR Usability

If you have already cut your cable TV and is currently enjoying watching Over-The-Air (OTA) TV channels via a TV antenna, the addition of SkyStream X5 Android TV Box will take your cord-cutting experience to the next level. How so? Besides getting unlimited movies and TV shows from Kodi add-ons, you will be able to use SkyStream X5 as a DVR (PVR) for your OTA TV channels.

This is a big deal because you will not only get an EPG (Electronic Program Guide, basically a TV guide) but also the ability to record live TV shows. To be used as a DVR, SkyStream X5 relies on an App called DTVPlayer. The first time you start up the DTVPlayer App, there is a prompt for scanning available OTA channels (make sure TV antenna is connected to your SkyStream X5). Once channel scanning is complete, it is quite easy to change TV channels using the up and down buttons.

You can access channel options such as display options, EPG (TV Guide), closed caption (subtitles) and recording. Note: we tried using a thumb drive (USB flash drive) as the external storage to recording shows. It worked the first time right after inserting to the USB port. However, we couldn’t get it to work unless we remove and reinsert it into the USB port again. We then switched to a 3.5″ external hard drive with a power adapter as DVR storage and it solved the issue. A 120 minute or 2-hour recording of an HD movie consumes around 15.5 GB of storage (roughly 1.3 GB each 10 minutes).

A minor issue we observed is the start of some recorded videos will freeze but it plays without issues once you fast forward a little. We suspect this occurs because our external hard drive is on standby and needs a couple of seconds before it could start writing data. Another issue is the Air Mouse cursor will appear on the screen when using the D-pad, so you need to turn it off by pressing the Air Mouse button on the remote control.

While it’s nice to record shows, there is a challenge to find what we have recorded because the file names look almost identical except for the first few characters which represent the channel name and followed by the date and time. (i.e. CIVI-01012016-183000.ts). SkyStream X5 captures the same number of OTA channels as our HDTV which confirms its built-in TV tuner functions as well as a regular TV. We observed a slightly lower volume using the DTVPlayer App; however, it should not affect your viewing experience at all. Lastly, there are onscreen icons (coloured dots which represent different recording functions) in the DTVPlayer which we couldn’t get to during our review.

We were really excited about getting a TV guide and recording capability for the OTA TV channels. However, we felt the DTVPlayer could be a little more polished because it has so much potential. Luckily, since DTVPlayer is an Android App, there is always hope that it will be improved and updated. So stayed tuned.

 

How to make SkyStream X5 Android TV Box better

  • Fast and stable Internet connection speed is vital to streaming smoothly with SkyStream X5 Android TV Box. Therefore, Internet connection via an Ethernet cable is highly recommended. If WiFi is your only option, try placing SkyStream X5 as close to the wireless router as possible. If still getting a weak Internet signal, adding a router range extender (see price here) or Powerline adapter (see price here) might help.
  • Get an external hard drive for recording OTA TV channels. Please note thumb drives did not work but an external hard drive (3.5″) with a power adapter did with our setup.
  • Use SkyStream Updater periodically to get latest add-ons but please be aware customization like Kodi favourites will be lost after the update.
  • Shutting down Kodi properly every time will avoid most issues according to the manufacturer. You can do so by clicking on the power icon at the lower left-hand corner of Kodi’s home screen.
  • For better sound experience, connect your SkyStream X5 to your home theatre system using an SPDIF coaxial cable (not included in the package).
  • Charge the Air Mouse remote control whenever possible to avoid running out of power. In case of a completely drained battery, the USB charging cable is long enough for you to control the device and charge at the same time.
  • Check out SkyStream X5’s website for the latest and best add-on recommendations for movies, shows, and live sports.

 

Verdict

SkyStream X5 Android TV Box is marketed as an all-in-one solution for cutting your cable TV bill. It could keep you entertained for hours each day with unlimited viewing of movies and TV shows. In addition, its built-in TV tuner allows you to record Over-The-Air (OTA) TV channels in HD picture quality for local news and available programming (OTA TV channel reception is subject to your location and TV antenna type). We know it may sound like a cliche but you truly get what you pay for with the SkyStream X5 Android TV Box. It comes with a powerful processors and plenty of RAM; good connectivity options including AC Wifi capability; an extremely handy Air Mouse remote control; a built-in TV tuner and a DVR App plus a Kodi updater (SkyStream Updater) so you always have the latest add-ons to watch free movies and TV shows.

If you have read our review in details above, you will find a few minor issues you need to content with. But if you look at the bigger picture, SkyStream X5 is an excellent choice for cutting your cable especially if you are able to capture OTA TV channels from your home. The overall build quality is good and on par with its competition in the same price range. Our observed device and App startup times are swift thanks to SkyStream X5’s robust hardware configuration.

At a quick glance, it may seem SkyStream x5 Android TV Box is more expensive when compared to its competitors (especially cheaper alternatives). But if you look closely and take SkySteam X5’s additional features into consideration: an Air Mouse remote control; built-in TV Tuner and free SkyStream Updater, etc. it actually delivers a fair value. Plus, the device will pay for itself within a couple of months after terminating your cable package.

If watching popular movies and TV shows and record OTA TV channels are what you desire, then SkyStream X5 Android TV Box would happily satisfy your viewing demands without ever asking for a single penny from you. The only caveats are: not all 3rd party video sources work in Kodi so pauses during add-on navigation are expected. And even if they do work, the source may not be available forever. Thankfully, SkyStream Updater allows you to update Kodi with the best and latest add-ons so it’s easy to keep watching movies and TV shows for free. Besides, you will quickly forget about the menu caveats once a good movie or your favourite TV show starts to play on your TV screen.

On the other hand, if you despise watching copyrighted material for free and don’t have the patience for Kodi’s videos to load, you should stay away from using the add-ons in Kodi. Instead, you can use SkyStream X5 strictly as a DVR for your OTA TV channels. Or you can cast contents from mobile devices and access media files stored on your PC.  Or simply use it as a Netflix player or watch YouTube videos on your regular TV. Alternatively, you can check out other ways of watching movies, TV shows and live sports for free or less by browsing our website (ways to cut my cable TV bill).

 


SkyStream X5 Android TV Box Review Summary

Pros

  • Unlimited viewing of free movies/TV shows with pre-loaded Kodi software
  • Fair value (see price here)
  • Air Mouse remote control allows smooth menu navigation
  • Decent build quality
  • Plug and play
  • Built-in Wifi (AC capability)
  • Built-in TV tuner provides EPG (Electronic Program Guide/TV Guide) and recording for OTA (Over-The-Air) TV Channels
  • Plenty of connectivity options
  • Excellent online reviews (e.g. Amazon) plus over 32K Facebook likes at time of this review
  • SkyStream Updater (free), basically a Kodi updater is of great value especially for new users of Kodi
  • No ads while streaming movies and TV shows using Kodi
  • Streaming of high definition movies or shows without any lags or buffering (based on 10Mbps Internet connection speed and a stable video source)
  • Quad-Core processor allows 4K streaming
  • Includes Speed Test App for checking Internet connection speed
  • Factory reset function restores the device to its original state including Kodi and all its pre-installed add-on repositories
  • Live phone support via Quick Support App (where technician can remotely troubleshoot the device)
  • Ability to view media files from a portable storage device on your regular TV
  • Ability to cast your mobile device screen on your regular TV
  • Package includes a good HDMI cable

Cons

  • 3rd party add-ons in Kodi could infringe on copyrighted materials
  • Not all video sources in Kodi work properly
  • Inconsistent menu navigation speed through Kodi’s 3rd party add-ons
  • Quality of live shows and live sports streaming depends heavily on broadcasting source
  • External hard drive (not included) is required for DVR App recording
  • DTVPlayer App (for OTA TV channel recording) could be improved
  • If you update Kodi with SkyStream Updater, customization such as favourite channels will be lost
  • No manual for remote control
  • Your location may not be suitable for OTA TV channels. In such case, you can not take advantage of the DVR capability
  • “Back” button on Air Mouse is in an akward location
  • Too much streaming may exceed your Internet bandwidth allowance
  • Batteries are not included for the remote control
  • Price in USD (see price here), Amazon.ca carries the product but is listed as unavailable at time or writing. If you prefer to order from a Canadian source, SkyStream X4 is available but not SkyStream X5 at the time of this writing.
  • Shipping charge to Canada is not free at the time of writing if SkyStream X5 Android TV Box is ordered from SkyStreamX’s website. A workaround for Canadians who drive to the US: order the unit and send it to a parcel receiving store by the border on the US side and pick it up to receive free shipping.

 

 

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