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Pivos XIOS DS Media Play review: Pivos XIOS DS Media Play

The XIOS DS Media Play mimics the visual appeal of the Apple TV tied into the excellence of XBMC, but the end result is anything but satisfying.

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Alex Kidman
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Alex Kidman

Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.

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4 min read

Design

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.

XIOSDS_1.jpg
5.3

Pivos XIOS DS Media Play

The Good

Extremely flexible Android device. XBMC offers lots of options. Multiple USB and microSDHC slots.

The Bad

Terrible wireless network performance. Too prone to crashes. Ordinary remote control.

The Bottom Line

The XIOS DS Media Play mimics the visual appeal of the Apple TV tied into the excellence of XBMC, but the end result is anything but satisfying.

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.

Features

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.

Performance

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.

This is not an insurmountable matter, but it's a clear indication of the kinds of happy-to-tinker users that Pivos is presumably targeting with the XIOS DS Media Play. If you're unhappy sorting out serial numbers to determine accurate firmware versions, this may not be the player for you.

Pivos hasn't done that much with Android itself to differentiate the XIOS DS Media Play from any other Android box or USB stick you can buy. Whether that's a good thing is a matter of personal taste, but it does mean you're left with something of a blank slate. As with most other TV-based Android experiences, a keyboard and mouse is highly recommended, as trying to negotiate even basic text entry with the squishy remote is a recipe for insanity.

The XIOS DS Media Play does have one trick up its sleeve, and it's clearly the single best reason to pick one up. It runs the XBMC client in a specifically developed (and constantly updated) Pivos-specific version. XBMC remains one of our favourite flexible media platforms, simply because unlike the locked interface of, for example, the Apple TV, you really can make of it what you'd like. It'll talk to just about everything, play just about any file and has evolved beautifully as an excellent interface for TV-based file browsing and viewing from any number of potential sources.

XBMC is great in many instances, but sadly, we can't report that the XIOS DS Media Play is one of them. We hit all sorts of problems in actually using the XIOS DS Media Play for its intended functions.

It's wireless capable, but in just about every test case, it would endlessly cycle through trying to get an IP address from our network, forever declaring the signal to be weak while multiple other devices happily found and locked onto the same signal. Ethernet was better, but required a reboot before we could get it to work. Those hurdles having been overcome, we sat down to watch some video, only to have the XIOS DS Media Play lock up. Sometimes, it'd just go blank, or freeze the video, or crash back to the plain Android display.

Like the Apple TV, if it does lock up, there's only one thing to do, and that's to pull the power cord. The boot sequence for the XIOS DS Media Play runs to a couple of minutes, and that's a couple of minutes where you're not doing what you want to — namely, watching TV — and instead, you're tearing out your hair waiting for it to start up again. Crashes like this were just all too frequent during our test period, sadly.

Conclusion

The XIOS DS Media Play has an awful lot of promise. It's always feasible that a future firmware or XBMC update might resolve some of the instability issues we hit, although we're not sure much can be done about its woeful wireless performance. If you've got the patience to tinker, there might be a good product lurking under there somewhere. But with so many options for streaming already open to consumers, from dedicated set-top boxes to miracast, to console-based IPTV, it's hard to make any kind of compelling argument in the XIOS DS Media Play's favour.

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