It's impossible to look at the XIOS DS Media Play and not think of the Apple TV set-top box. With just a coat of black paint and an Apple sticker, you could fool anyone that this was in fact an Apple TV prototype. Without the black paint, however, the very omnipresent Android on the top and white design rather gives the game away at an early stage.
Closer examination will reveal a host of differences, though. Where Apple's take on a home streaming box is very much a sealed unit, the XIOS DS Media Play is all about flexibility. Here, you'll find microSD and USB ports down the right-hand side, and a further USB port hiding around the back. This is a home streaming box built for a bit of experimentation. It even happily takes keyboards and mice, not to mention external storage.
Where the design inspiration behind the XIOS DS Media Play is quite clear, the same copying care hasn't been taken with the remote control. Pivos' website indicates that it does sell fancier remotes, but the stock device is thick, with squishy rubber buttons. If you've ever tested the remote control on any given cheap TV set, then you'll be in very familiar territory.
The XIOS DS Media Play runs Android, currently Android 4.04 on a Cortex A9 processor with a Mali-400 GPU. Or, in other words, it's a smartphone in the dressings of a media streaming box. That brings with it a lot of flexibility in terms of what the XIOS DS Play can actually do.
Like other Android-based boxes, you can pretty much install anything you'd care to on the XIOS DS Media Play. How well it'll work is something we'll get to shortly. On-board storage is limited to a measly 1GB, although that can be bumped up with microSDHC cards. In connectivity terms, the XIOS DS Media Play supports 802.11b/g/n wireless networking and 10/100 Ethernet.
Setting up the XIOS DS Media Play is an interesting matter. The basic product manual suggests that it should be plug and play, but the review sample we tested noted that updating the firmware and installing XBMC first would be a good idea. This, within the context of most other streaming boxes, isn't a simple issue, as you'll need an external microSDHC card and reader to download firmware onto it before performing the update through the Android interface.