Finding the right media player or smart TV box is no easy task. The Chromecast is among my favorites, but I will be the first to say it’s a bit restricted (more of a streaming device). Android TV and the Amazon Fire TV are awesome, but they need to evolve and get more support. You can move on to things like Apple TV and Roku, but those are even more limited in terms of apps.
Why is it so complicated to get a device that can do everything that your Android smartphones and tablets can do? It’s very possible – the right answer (at least before other platforms catch up with Android support) is to turn your TV into one big Android tablet.
There’s a good list of Android sticks and boxes that can accomplish this, but quite honestly, all the ones I have seen and tested are under-powered and… really suck. That is, until the Veolo 4K reached my doorstep.
The Veolo 4K is a powerful media player that brings all the power of Android right to your living room screen. It promises endless streaming capabilities and 4K resolution playback for those of you who have invested in an Ultra HD TV. IS it perfect? I won’t go as far as saying that, but it’s one hell of a smart TV that I actually enjoyed using.
Let’s stop the spoilers and jump into the review, shall we?
Veolo 4K specs
- Android 4.4 KitKat
- 1.8 GHz quad-core Cortex A17 ARM processor
- ARM Mali-T764 quad-core GPU
- 2 GB of RAM
- 16 GB of internal storage
- HDMI and Composite AV out with support for up to 2160p (4K) (Optical S/PDIF also available for sound)
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x microUSB 2.0 OTG
- 1 x microSD card reader
- WiFi, Ethernet port, Bluetooth 4.0
There is not much to say about the Veolo 4K design. This is not like a phone, that we have to scrutinize and judge for not having the right materials and construction. A media player has to look fairly good and be discrete, I have to say the Veolo 4K does very well at both.
It’s a flattened device with one button in the front, which lights up white wen turned on and red when off. I kinda wish the light would simply be off when… off. That is a personal thing, though. You may like the night light effect it provides.
There is nothing else on the top or bottom. The left side is also left alone, while the right side of the box offers easy access to a USB port and the microSD card slot. This is pretty good positioning, if you ask me. It allows you to connect and disconnect storage units (and any other USB accessories) without having to reach all the way in the back.
By the way, the back is where most of the action is happening. This side of the Veolo 4K has the power outlet, along with the Composite Video, LAN, USB, USB OTG, HDMI and Optical Audio ports.
How does Android feel on a TV?
I will accept full Android does look and feel a bit weird on the big screen TV. Your TV pretty much becomes a huge Android tablet, except it’s not. You can’t use touch capabilities, and Android for tablets is not exactly optimized for the TV.
Veolo makes sure to make some UI modification in order to combat this enigma. A big Window on the top section will give you details and access on your local movies and clips. They have also added a row of shortcuts that you can customize with any apps of your preference. The bottom part houses your app drawer, an app killer, the Settings button and a file manager.
Overall, the home screen is well organized and fits the TV pretty well. All your main apps and content are laid right in front of you from the get-go. Going inside the app drawer will also reveal a very familiar set of pages that you can scroll through, just as you would in a regular Android device.
This is all nice and dandy, the real issues show up when you start really using the device and the apps within it. It’s not really so much an issue as it is… wonkyness (if that makes sense). It just feels a bit off. But stick around, it all gets better in the next section of the review!
For now let’s just tell you that using the included remote will give you a weird experience. You have to navigate through icons, buttons and other options before you get to where you want. Want to flip from one app drawer page to the next? You have to first navigate through all them icons in the first page.
And if you want to use regular apps with this device, you will have to realize that some of them won’t look great. Remember most Android apps are designed for phones and tablets (often only for phones!), not for TVs. Below is an image of an example – Facebook.
VEO Navigator – now Android on a TV makes sense!
The guys at A.C Ryan (the manufacturer) probably knew how the Android experience is not optimal when used on your television. And so they came up with a little something they call the VEO Navigator.
This $49 SGD (about $39 USD) remote comes with a 6-axis gyroscope that allows you to use it somewhat like a Wii controller. You can move a cursor in the screen by simply moving the remote around. Then you can simply press the big select button to enter any app you want.
Think of the select button as a touch action. You can simply press and release and that would be a tap. You can also go to the app drawer, press and drag over to go to the next page. It works seamlessly, and it’s the most natural way to interact with Android on a non-touch device. It just comes as second nature, really.
Honestly, I believe The Veolo 4K should just come with the VEO Navigator. The regular controller should be ditched altogether. I guess it’s just not as affordable to make this advanced navigator.
You can even add more peripherals
However, there are still some things I don’t like doing. One of them is typing, and that is with either of the remotes. Thankfully, the Veolo 4K is pretty much another Android device. And conveniently enough, it’s one with two full USB ports!
You can easily plug in a mouse or keyboard. And because it features Bluetooth 4.0, you can use wireless ones too. Anything you can use with an Android tablet you can use with this smart TV box. Even gaming controllers! While we are covering that topic, let’s jump into the next chapter.
Gaming is a beauty in this thing, but it has some major downfalls. The thing is, gaming is awesome when you have a controller and are playing a game that doesn’t require touch functions. Something like Shadowgun and racing games is awesome.
The only issue here is that not all games support controllers to begin with. And some of the games that do still require that you use touch functions from time to time. This becomes cumbersome because touch capabilities are non-existent here. And the VEO Navigator won’t save you here, because, though it can take care of the job, it doesn’t do it the same way a capacitive touchscreen does.
This makes for a less-than-desirable gaming experience in most cases. I had awesome fun with the few games I could play with the controller alone, though. Not to mention, this thing will run emulators like a champ, and pretty muc all emulators support gamepads.
Content and support
Now, here is where the beauty really is. You want content? You got it! The Veolo 4K has comes with all the support you want. Because it has native access to the Google Play Store, you can get Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, Google Play Music, Crackle, Vimeo and whatever else you can get from the vast library of Android apps.
You can also plug transfer files straight to it, or simply plug in your external hard drive or stick in your microSD card slot and get going. You could even set up a media server and simply stream content from your PC to your Veolo 4K over your WiFi network.
Not enough? How about downloading the Google Drive, Dropbox or any other cloud service app? You can simply get video files from there and start streaming them! This thing supports everything, so you won’t be running out of things to watch!
Now, let’s touch on file support. After all, this is a media player and needs ample support for most popular formats. Here is what the Veolo 4K supports.
Now, I am not loaded with cash, so I don’t have a 4K TV to test this with. What I can tell you is that the device can play 4K video without a single hiccup. I tested 4K video files with it, on my 1080p TV, and they worked like a charm.
Price and conclusion
I must say I like the Veolo 4K more than I thought I would. So much that I am no longer using my tablets as much. I spend most of my time using the Veolo 4K. The little device offers good performance, which is definitely an oddity with these types of devices. It also has all the support and apps I need for the right media playing experience.
It has its downsides. The lack of a touch screen in a touch-optimized software can be a bit weird, especially when using certain apps or playing some games. I also don’t like how many phone-optimized apps look on the big screen. I do believe all the benefits that full-blown Android brings trumps the few drawbacks that you get, though.
Some people buy whole Windows computers to use as HTPCs. I say this is a much more seamless solution (unless you want to do some serious gaming). It packages all your content in a single device, and it’s super fun to use.
Hell, you could even pair a keyboard and mouse to it. Android is a powerful OS – you could download software like Quick Office, Photoshop Touch and other great productivity apps. This could literally replace a computer for some light users.
So, the real question is – how much will this whole ordeal cost me? The Veolo 4K is not as cheap at $299 Singapore dollars (which is equivalent to about $239 USD) . In fact, that price makes about twice as expensive as the competition. And that is if you don’t include the VEO Navigator, which is a huge part of making this smart TV box’s experience good.
If you are on a budget and simply want to stream your movies/TV shows, though, go with something like a Chromecast. Or even a Nexus Player, which is under half the price of the Veolo 4K. What about those of us who want more?
I can honestly say I would recommend the Veolo 4K to those who want full Android without any limitations. Of course, this also means your experience will be wonky at times, as this is not 100% optimized for the TV. It’s good for those who want an HTPC that isn’t too powerful, but gives you a better experience than a desktop OS.
I use it every day and haven’t looked back. It’s just so easy to turn it on and catch a movie after work. If one app doesn’t have my flick, another one will. If for some odd reason a service is not on Android, just hit the Chrome browser and use any service that runs online.
The Veolo 4K really opened my possibilities, allowing me to do things I could otherwise only do when plugging my laptop into my TV. To me, that makes it a winner. Even if it is an expensive winner.