I’ve gotten a lot of requests to review the Element Ti8 Android box over the past few weeks.
In fact, I’ve gotten so many that I thought on doing an “Honest Trailers” style intro for this article.
So I reached out to the team at Element Technologies (who changed their name to E-Z Stream recently) to see if I could get my hands on one of their new Element Ti8 fully loaded Kodi boxes to test out, and they were happy to help out.
This device has been so popular with everyone reading, I was really looking forward to putting the Element Ti8 through it’s paces. How did it do?
Stay tuned and read on!
Element Technologies is based here in Orlando, Florida. Since the Android box community here in Orlando is actually pretty small, it turns out that some of the Element founders are actually friends with the guys over at SkyStream. What’s cool about that is that you’ll actually see a lot of common threads in how the two companies take care of their customers. Instead of backstabbing each other, they both want to make the best products they can.
For example, Element puts the same focus on having a great customer support team and service after the sale. Their customer service team is based here in Florida and has several options how you can reach them. For the self-service crowd, there is an online knowledge base, with several in-depth video tutorials, like the Element Ti8 setup video below. There’s also a Facebook support group where you can get support from users and Element team-members for your issue.
If you’d prefer to talk to someone in person, you can call their toll-free support number anytime M-F, 9-5. Of course, there’s also an option for email if those times aren’t convenient.
One important note: Even though Kodi is a huge part of the Element Ti8, Element Technologies is not affiliated with Team Kodi in any way. Any addons that are included with the Ti8 are not owned or maintained by Team Kodi.
Element Ti8 Specs
The Kodi Element used one of the new AmLogic S912 chipsets which improves on the wildly popular S905 CPU. AmLogic is one of the most popular Android box chipsets, especially for manufacturers who want the best performance with video playback in Kodi.
Beyond that, the specs are pretty standard. 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage as well as 802.11 ac Wi-Fi. One of the pluses of using the AmLogic S912 is that it supports Android 6.0 Marshmallow. While no device lasts forever, this means the Element Ti8 will be “future proof” for at least a few years.
Some of the things that are missing though are USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet. Personally, I can live without Gigabit Ethernet, but I find not having USB 3.0 limits my options for plugging in external hard drives. I realize that designing hardware specs is often a game of give and take. Hardware manufacturers always have to make choices based on what the feel is best for their customers. I just with that more designers would include USB 3.0.
- AMlogic S912 Octa-Core 64-bit Cortex-A53 CPU up to 1.5GHz
- ARM Mali-T820MP3 GPU up to 750MHz
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB Memory
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Bluetooth 4.1
- 802.11ac 2.4/5.0GHz Dual Band WiFi
- Up to 4k resolutions
- LAN 10/100 RJ-45
- USB x 2 / SD Card x 1
- HDMI 2.0a with 3D, HDR, CEC
- SPDIF & DOLBY TrueHD and DTS HD Bypass through HDMI
The Element Ti8 is a really compact Android box, about the size of a Beelink Mini. Unlike the Beelink, the Ti8 has a more sophisticated, less generic feel to it. The corners are rounded off, and there is a polished metal edging along the top of the device. All of the venting is on the bottom of the device and the Wi-Fi remote is permanently attached on the back of the box.
On the front of the box there are two small status lights: one for power and one showing network activity. Next to those lights there’s a fairly large IR remote receiver that blends in to the frame unless the light hits it just the right way.
One of the things I liked about the box is that all of the USB ports are on the left side of the device, when you’re looking at it from the front. Some devices split the USB ports on the side and the back, but I never really liked that configuration. I always found myself using the side ports almost exclusively. The ports on the back always felt crowded and wedged in between the HDMI cable, power or digital optical cables. The Ti8 gets around that by moving all of the USB ports to the side.
It just doesn’t feel good in your hands.
To be fair, the remote I received with my Ti8 was the basic remote – no air mouse functionality.
Let’s get back to this particular remote. It’s got a double-circle directional pad, which sits right at where your thumb would naturally rest. Above that are the volume up and down buttons, which, oddly enough, don’t use the standard icons that we’re all familiar with. Instead they elected to go with “V-” and “V+” labels. The mute button at the very top right goes back to the icon though. From a user-interface perspective, it feels a bit disjointed.
Underneath the D-pad are the Menu and Home buttons and a Back button – all fairly standard issue for Android based remote controls. At the very bottom is a number pad.
As you can see in the picture, the remote feels small and tended to get lost in my hand when I picked it up. It’s fairly light once the batteries are installed, but that doesn’t mean it’s comfortable to hold. The back of the remote is smooth, polished plastic, so there’s no ergonomic texturing to keep it from sliding around.
Overall, this remote will get the job done. I get the impression that they needed to include something and this was good enough for basic use. For an extra $20 you can upgrade to the air-mouse version which looks much higher quality. Or, if you prefer, you can check out my recommendations for aftermarket air-mice or HTPC keyboards.
Element Ti Launcher
Once you boot it up for the first time, the Android 6.0 launcher in the Element Ti8 has a familiar feel to it. In fact, most device manufacturers have been using something similar for several years now. And for good reasons. The large, flat-design icons make it easy to navigate around the interface and find what you’re looking for.
The box is built for streaming, and not just for Kodi. Along the bottom row is a configurable list of one button shortcuts to launch Amazon Prime video, Netflix, Mobdro and several others. If your favorite isn’t included, you can always add it after the fact using the large “Plus Sign” icon on the right side of that row.
But if Kodi is your thing, then you’ll want to jump right in. But…there’s one thing you should do first.
The Element E-Z Stream Updater is how the Element Ti8 gets its access to all of the latest Kodi add-ons. More importantly, its how it keeps them updated to limit the number of dead addons out there.
There’s nothing worse than dead add-ons, right?
You see, because of the way that streaming is legislated around the world, the Element Ti8 doesn’t ship with all of the Kodi addons pre-installed. Depending on the country you live in, this could get the guys at Element Technologies into some legal hot-water. So they do the next best thing: they include a one-click way so that you can choose to install the addons after purchase if you want to.
There are two Kodi configurations that you can choose from: Kid-Friendly and Adult. Basically the only difference is that the Adult version includes all of the adult add-ons installed as well. Obviously, if your children are going to have access to this box, you need to choose wisely here. 🙂
The E-Z Stream Updater will check to see if there are any updates for the system as well, which is something I strongly recommend everyone do from time to time. Not only is this going to keep your streams updated, but it will make sure you get any security updates as well.
Once you run the Element Updater, it will automatically launch Kodi and you’ll see all of the addons loaded along the bottom row.
Some of the first tests that I to run on a new Android box are some of the more popular stock benchmarks like AnTuTu and Futuremark’s Ice Storm.
The same videos that other devices struggled to hit 30 frames per second on, the Element Ti8 was pushing 45 frames per second.
Benchmarks are not the be-all, end-all of testing a new product. There are some people that put complete faith in a benchmark score. They’ll sit and tweak a device just to get that score a couple of points higher.
I’m not one of those people though.
Basically, I recommend looking at benchmarks a bit more broadly. The trouble is that benchmarks don’t necessarily translate into real-world performance. If you’ve got a device that scores 34000 on AnTuTu and one that scores 35000, there’s not going to be a whole heck of a lot of noticeable difference.
Well, that might be worth talking about. That’s exactly what the Element Ti8 did. It scored a very impressive 44,270 AnTuTu score which outscored the MINIX NEO U1 by a wide margin.
With that kind of performance, I was really interested in seeing how it performed on my favourite graphics benchmark from Futuremark.
Normally most of the latest crop of Android boxes are able to run through Ice Store Extreme at between 20-30 frames per second. To give you a frame of reference, the human eye considers fluid motion to be around 30 frames per second.
There are several different components to the Ice Storm test – each abusing the system’s graphics processor in slightly different ways. Normally I see whatever device I’m testing start to choke up on one or more of the tests.
Like I said, these benchmarks are designed to abuse the system. But the Element Ti8 surprised me by breezing through the benchmark tests. The same videos that other devices struggled to hit 30 frames per second on, the Element Ti8 was pushing 45 frames per second. Pretty impressive!
All in all, it ended up with a final score of 6,675 on Ice Storm Extreme – which is over 50% better than the NEO U1’s 4,317.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to consider that a success.
Benchmarks are all fine and dandy, but how does the Element Ti8 handle real video playback?
I did extensive research on four of the main streaming services: Kodi, Plex, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. OK, you got me. I watched a lot of movies. Either way you say it, I’m going to tell you what I found.
I mentioned the E-Z Stream Updater earlier. It’s the heart of the Kodi installation. I had no trouble playing several 1080p and 720p files. Streaming videos worked well too. There were some issues playing 4K video files. There were several sample files on my local network which the Element could not play without stuttering. The file sizes were extremely large, so network traffic could be an issue though. If you have a lot of 4K video files that you want to play, Kodi may not be the answer.
It’s worth mentioning that my Plex Server is a Windows 10 PC with an Intel Core i7 and 16GB of RAM. So the server is definitely no slouch. The PC is built to be a number-cruncher, so transcoding is a piece of cake.
Still, the interface was snappy and responsive and there seemed to be no lag at all in video playback.
Netflix on the Element Ti8 suffers from the same limitations as most of the other Android boxes: Netflix’s stringent certification rules. You see, Netflix limits many devices to standard definition playback, unless the manufacturer meets their certification standards. More often than not, many great manufacturers find themselves on the wrong end of Netflix’s rules for no good reason at all.
There’s a Netflix HD app included, but it was very clunky to use and the videos definitely didn’t look 4K or even 1080p. The app performed well and streamed the shows I selected almost instantly. But the resolution was disappointing.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video doesn’t have the video library that Netflix does, but it looks a whole lot better. HD videos streamed instantly and there was no buffering within the video that I ran into.
Amazon is putting a lot of money into creating original series like The Grand Tour. You can also get subscriptions to HBO Now and Showtime through Amazon as well. If you’ve cut the cable cord completely, that may be the only way to (legally) get access to shows like Game of Thrones or Westworld.
I’ve got to say that Element looks to have created a really solid piece of tech here. The Ti8 is well designed and looks like something that I would want to display next to my TV, not something that I’d shove underneath in the depths of my entertainment center. No matter what your style is, the Element Ti8 shouldn’t look out of place at all.
The Element Ti8 is a really good streaming device at a good price-point. They’ve got a great support network that will take care of you after the sale, which is critical. The E-Z Stream Updater keeps the device and the Kodi addons up to date, which takes a lot of the tinkering out of owning a Kodi box.
All things considered, this is a great Android box and should be on everyone’s short-list of devices to buy.
If you want to find out more about the Element Technologies Ti8, head on over to KodiElement.com.