Android TV Box Review: Element Ti5
Android TV Box is marketed as a device that allows you to watch online videos (mainly free movies, TV shows and live sports) on your regular TV. The device connects to the Internet through an Ethernet cable or Wifi connection. At the same time, it connects to your TV via a HDMI or RCA AV cable. You can then navigate its Android based media centre menu on your TV screen to access desired media for viewing or listening. Although the device is named as a “TV Box”, most devices can not be hooked up to a TV antenna since it does not come with a RF input.
The main reason for you to purchase an Android TV Box 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. In this article, we will take a close look at Element Ti5 Android TV Box by reviewing its design and hardware; going over Kodi software setup then summing up our findings.
What does the Element Ti5 Android TV Box Package come with
- Element Ti5 Android TV Box
- Remote Control
- HDMI 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)
- Wireless Keyboard/Mouse (optional)
- Air Mouse remote control with Mini Keyboard (optional)
Unlike majority of Android TV boxes which look identical except with a different name tag, Element Ti5 Android TV Box stands out from the crowd. The profile is relatively slim and the tapered edge towards the bottom gives Element Ti5 a more elegant look than its competitors. In terms of built-quality, Element Ti5 is on par with all other streaming players including Roku and Apple TV. There is a distinct symbol of three horizontal bars on top of the unit which represents the letter E for “Element”. The symbol is also a power indicator which lights up when the unit is turned on.
Like most streaming players, there is no physical power button on the device. A tiny red light appears in the front edge when the unit is turned off by the remote control. There are numerous clusters of air vents underneath the device for heat dissipation and the unit never felt hot even after extended period of usage.
Element Ti5 offers a number 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 (25Mbps vs. 10 Mbps when connected using Wifi). Please note the speed discrepancy is likely due to the Android TV Box and wireless router are placed at opposite sides of our place. Then there is a SD card reader and two UBS 2.0 ports plus a SPDIF output. The unit also offers Bluetooth connection. Lastly, you can connect Element Ti5 to your TV via a HDMI cable or RCA AV cable (HDMI cable is included). Below is a quick overview of all the ports and connector on an Element Ti5:
- SD card reader x1 (the reader can take a SD memory card from a digital camera or camcorder for you to view photos and videos on your TV screen)
- USB port x2 (you can plug in external hard drive(s), flash drive(s) to access stored files or use them for hooking up with an Air Mouse remote control, wireless mouse/keyboard for easier navigation/text input)
- 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 quality image output)
- HDMI output x1 (quickest and easiest way to connect Element Ti5 to your TV; the included HDMI cable yields same picture quality when compared to a decent HDMI cable we own)
- Bluetooth connection (pair your Bluetooth keyboard/mouse for easy text input and onscreen menu navigation)
For an Android TV Box, Element Ti5 offers a great deal of speed due to its robust CPU and abundance of RAM (Random Access Memory). It has a Quad-Core processor which clocks at 2.0 Ghz and 2 GB of DDR3 RAM. For comparison purposes, the latest Apple TV (4th generation) which costs twice as much has Dual-Core processor @ 1.5 Ghz and 2 GB of RAM. Roku 2 and Roku 3 which are in the same price range as Element Ti5 has Dual-Core processor @ 1.2 Ghz and 512 MB of RAM. In other words, Element Ti5’s technical specs trump Roku streaming players while comparable to an Apple TV (although Apple TV has more built-in flash memory).
Some may argue Roku players’ specs are fine for its intended purpose and we would agree since we have also tested a Roku player. 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 will allow Element Ti5 to handle more sophisticated Apps (including Kodi) in the future. Another advantage of Element Ti5 over Apple TV and Roku 2 and 3 is: its Quad-Core processor supports 4K video streaming. You can use technical specs below to compare to other makes/models:
- CPU: Amlogic S905 Cortex A53@2.0GHz
- RAM: 2G DDR3 + Flash 16GB
- GPU: Penta-Core Mali-450 up to 750MHz, supports H.265/H.264 HEVC Hardware decoding 1080P
- OS: Android 5.1 Lollipop
The included remote control is fairly basic. You need to supply your own batteries (AAA x2). Like most Android TV Boxes, this particular remote control does not have buttons for the usual video playback functions such as play/pause/forward/rewind. The most logical reason for this is: the remote control is designed to navigate a Android based GUI. In that sense, the remote control carries out all the main functions with ease.
Element Ti5 Android TV Box’s remote control is very responsive to our inputs although the buttons appear to be on the firm side when pressed. There are times when you need to activate a “Cursor” function which displays a pointer on the TV screen to execute certain functions. You can control this onscreen pointer by using the D-pad, we wish the pointer could move a little faster. Also, the pointer can move in four directions only (up, down, left and right), it can’t move diagonally. If you find this bothersome, you can invest in an Air Mouse remote control which performs the same task with ease.
Many Air Mouse remote controls also include mini keyboards on the back side. This means there is no need to invest in a wireless keyboard separately. Another solution would work on a temporary basis but not as practical: you can connect a wired or wireless mouse to the Android TV Box via USB port or Bluetooth connection. Alternatively, there are Android TV Boxes which already come with an Air Mouse remote control ; however, the cost of these units are often higher. Overall, the included remote control performs Element Ti5’s primary functions without much hassles.
Ease of Setup
Setting up an Android TV Box is easy. Below is a list of steps to set up an Element Ti5 Android TV Box. It could be done in less than 10 minutes if you have a proper Internet connection, an Ethernet cable or Wifi password handy, and two AAA batteries:
- Connect the device to power via the supplied power adapter.
- Pop in two AAA batteries (not included) into the remote control.
- Connect the supplied HDMI to your device and TV.
- Change your TV input source to the connected AV port.
- Connect an Ethernet cable (if available) to your device.
- 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 onscreen keyboard to input your password and select the teal oval symbol with right arrow; make sure password is correct before returning to “Home” and you are good to go!
Kodi Media Centre
Kodi is the 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 do anything. This could be very frustrating in the beginning.
However, if you were to follow Element Ti5’s blog for add-on suggestions, you can easily filter out the not-so-reliable add-ons and keep the best 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 Element Ti5 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 you 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.
After connecting Element Ti5 to the Internet and your TV. The most important task is to customize your Kodi software. Setting up Kodi from scratch is not an easy task especially for those who are not computer savvy. The designer of Element Ti5 recognizes this so the unit comes pre-loaded with a long list of add-ons. This means the user only needs to decide which add-ons to enable. Plus, Element Ti5’s website offers many add-on suggestions which is really a time-saver for new Kodi users. We will go over the steps to enable add-ons and create menu shortcuts in Kodi for quicker access to free movies and TV shows below:
- Launch Kodi from the main menu
- Click on “Add-ons” under “VIDEOS”
- Pick “Get more…” and choose an add-on
- Click on “Install”
- Repeat Step 1 to 4, four more time to install at least 5 video add-ons
- Go back to main menu and click on “Settings” under “SYSTEM”
- Select “- Settings” under “Skin”
- Scroll down to “Add-on shortcuts” in the left column
- Click on “Add-on 1 to 5” under “Home page ‘videos’ submenu” and select installed add-ons
- Installed add-ons will now appear under “VIDEOS” and you are ready to stream!
Note: some other Android TV Boxes already come with add-on shortcuts. In our opinion, it is best to know how to add your own add-ons and update the menu shortcuts using steps above because the best add-ons today may be replaced by even better ones eventually in the future.
How to make Element Ti5 Android TV Box better
- Fast and stable Internet connection speed is vital to streaming smoothly with Element Ti5 Android TV Box. Therefore, Internet connection via an Ethernet cable is highly recommended. Try placing Element Ti5 as close to the wireless router as possible if WiFi is your only option. If still getting weak Internet signal, adding a router range extender (see price here) or Powerline adapter (see price here) might help.
- If you plan to do more than just viewing movies and TV shows, for instance, browsing the web, emailing or using Facebook, a wireless keyboard is recommended (wired version works too; however, it may not be as practical due to limited cord length).
- Consider adding an Air Mouse remote control which will improve your navigation experience immensely. Most Air Mouse models include mini keyboards on the back side so you don’t need to invest in a wireless keyboard separately. (see price here)
- 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 Element Ti5 to your home theatre system using a SPDIF coaxial cable (not included in the package)
- Check out Element Ti5’s website for the latest and best add-on recommendations for movies, shows and live sports.
Element Ti5 Android TV Box is a powerful yet compact media centre. Its technical specs trump most of its competitors because Element Ti5 sports a fast CPU (Quad-Core) and GPU; it also has more RAM than most competing streaming players. The overall build quality is solid and on par with its competition in the same price range. The device has many connectivity options and most importantly, it is pre-loaded with Kodi media centre software that sets it apart from a Roku or Apple TV. Kodi add-ons allow you to watch the latest movies, TV shows and even live sports for free and most people buy an Android TV Box for this very purpose.
Depending on your viewing needs, it is quite possible that you can cut your TV subscription service with an Element Ti5 Android TV Box. Our observed device and App startup times are quick thanks to Element Ti5’s robust hardware configuration. Overall onscreen navigation experience is fluid. However, not all Apps are remote control friendly. If you plan to use Apps such as emails or Facebook/Twitter, a wireless keyboard/mouse combo or an Air Mouse remote control w/ mini keyboard is recommended.
If watching popular movies and TV shows is all you want to do, then Element Ti5 Android TV Box would happily satisfy your viewing demands without asking for a single penny from you. The only caveat is: since not all 3rd party video sources work in Kodi, be prepared to exercise some (if not plenty of) patience while searching and waiting for the videos to load.
Thankfully, Element Ti5’s website offers good add-on suggestions so you don’t have to waste time installing and removing add-ons which won’t fit your needs. Also, you will quickly forget about the menu caveat once a good movie or your favourite TV show starts to play on your TV. 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 Element Ti5 Android TV Box for casting 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 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).
Element Ti5 Android TV Box Review Summary
- Unlimited viewing of free movies/TV shows with pre-loaded Kodi software
- Reasonable price (see price here)
- Decent build quality
- Plug and play
- Built-in Wifi
- Plenty of connectivity options
- Good online reviews (e.g. Amazon)
- 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
- 3rd party add-ons in Kodi could infringe on copyrighted materials
- Despite pre-loaded Apps, Kodi still requires initial add-on setup (however, it’s easy to do if you follow Kodi Setup instructions listed above)
- 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
- Too much streaming may exceed your Internet bandwidth allowance
- Most Apps are remote control friendly but some requires the use of onscreen mouse pointer via D-pad
- As above, adding an Air Mouse remote control will improve onscreen navigation but increase the cost of ownership
- Device will not wake up from stand-by mode via remote control over extended time period (replugging of power cord is required)
- Batteries are not included for the remote control
- Possibly a printing error but the remote control shown in the manual is different than the actual unit
- 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, this Android TV Box has similar specs.
- Shipping charge to Canada is not free at the time of writing if Element Ti5 Android TV Box is ordered from Element Technologies’ 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).