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HDX Bone review: Android on your TV with a mini media streamer

The HDX bone is more than just a media streamer, it's also capable of running Android, which could turn your TV into something more exciting than just a vessel for interminable football

The ability to stream video from your PC or USB device to a television is invaluable in this day and age and HDX's products have always impressed us by doing just that. The company's latest product, the amusingly named Bone, is endowed with a little bonus -- the ability to run the Android operating system on your TV.

Ignoring Android for a moment, the Bone has a whole array of media capabilities that are worthy of our attention. Despite being tiny, it can output video at 1080p over HDMI, handling MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 video in high resolution. Container formats such as MKV are also playable too, which will keep Internet downloaders happy.

This is all pretty standard fare, but on a small device such as this, it's refreshing to see such a wide embrace of HD codecs.

The Bone doesn't come with a hard drive, but once you've got one installed (there are no instructions, but it's fairly simple to plug in an SATA laptop drive), you gain access to a whole bundle of new options. Simply unplug it from the mains outlet, and connect it to your computer's USB socket, and you can drag video content on to it as you would with any portable drive.

This means you can carry your media around and plug it into a TV anywhere in the world with the Bone's HDMI output. Imagine: never being forced to watch foreign TV (or CNN) in a hotel ever again.

With the hard drive plugged in, you can also install Android, the lightweight operating system Google has designed for mobile devices. The build on the HDX Web site is Android 1.6, but you can experiment and get a later version on it, if you're confident fiddling around. HDX hopes to bring Android 2.1 to the device soon.

Having the ability to run Android is certainly cool, but does it serve much purpose? Connect a USB keyboard and you can browse the Net easily enough. Android can also act like a lightweight version of Linux, so it could be possible to develop the Bone as a miniature FTP server or torrent client -- some NAS boxes and media streamers offer this sort of feature.

It's just a shame you have to boot into the Android OS, which is something we don't think many people would do. It would be superb if the Bone was built on Android, and you could use voice search to find your favourite videos. Android offers massive potential, but only if a company is prepared to build a custom interface for it.

We'll be fully reviewing the Bone in the coming days, so keep an eye on our reviews channel to see what we make of it. The Bone is available now direct from HDX for $119 (£80).