Recently, we got a hands-on review of the Ugoos UM2 Android stick PC. Today, we’re going to look at their Streaming TV Box version with our Ugoos UT2 Review.
The Ugoos UM2 and UT2 are built around the same CPU\GPU combination. Both include the RK3188 quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU and the Mali 400 GPU. The major difference is in the casing of the unit itself. The UM2 is designed to be the portable stick PC that you can take with you wherever you go. The UT2, by contrast, is designed to be the centerpiece of your streaming entertainment hub. The UT2 Smart TV Box is over twice the size of the Roku 3 and absolutely dwarfs the Google Chromecast. But, the increased case size brings with it some obvious benefits.
The first thing you’ll notice is the addition of the external wireless antenna. This gives the UT2 increased wireless range and signal strength. During our testing there was no place in our offices that we could take the UT2 that we were not able to get a solid wireless signal.
The second reason for the larger casing is for the addition of extra ports and connections – and the Ugoos UT2 has plenty of those to spare. The UT2 comes with a digital audio input, HDMI, wired Ethernet, 4 USB ports – one of which is a micro-USB for smaller devices. It also includes an SD card slot for extra storage or streaming photos from your digital camera.
Ugoos gives you two options for the UT2. It comes with either 8GB or 32GB of flash memory. It is strange to not see a 16GB version, but this allows Ugoos to position the 8GB version at the mainstream crowd and the 32GB version for those who want the most storage possible. This makes sense given that the UT2’s main competitors, the Matricom G-Box Midnight MX2 and the Rikomagic RKM MK902 come with at most 16GB. If you’re looking at the most storage bang for your buck, take a serious look at the Ugoos.
The UT2 replaces the UT1, which is also still being sold by Ugoos. The UT1 is based on the same CPU\GPU combination as the UT2 – The quad-core RK3188 with the Mali 400 GPU. Where you’ll see the performance of the UT2 is in two main areas: The UT2 has double the RAM as the UT1 (2GB compared to 1GB), and includes a dual-band Wi-Fi for better connectivity. Both devices come with Android 4.2, although Android 4.4 is available as a download from their website. As a side note, that is one area where Ugoos made a great impression on me as a company. I’ve seen many companies release a device and stop supporting it a few months later. Ugoos is still actively adapting new Android OS and XBMC versions to their older devices. Kudos for the product support!
The UT2 includes the basics out of the box – with one big (and very much appreciated) exception – it comes with the HDMI cable. As most of you probably know, most manufacturers consider including the HDMI cable to be on the same level as giving away the product for free. You’ll almost never see it, even though the cables only cost about $2.50 on Amazon. Ugoos includes this for you, so it’s one less thing you’ll need to hunt for in your spare parts bin at home. The UT2 also includes the infrared remote, micro-USB to full-size USB cable and AC adapter.
The remote itself is similar to the UM2’s remote. I’d recommend caution if you have both units, however. Even though the remote uses the same physical layout as the UM2 remote, the layout of the button assignments are different in some cases. For example, the Home and Settings buttons are switched from UM2 to UT2. It’s also worth noting that the multi-color buttons along the top of the remotes are labeled in the UM2, but not in the UT2. Not to worry though, Ryan Downey over at The Streaming Advisor created a very useful User Guide and FAQ for the UT2, which includes the button mappings.
In all honesty though, I’m not a fan of the standard remote that comes with either the UM2 or the UT2. It’s nice to get started with and be able to use the devices right out of the box. If you want to really enhance your experience with the streaming box, then you’ll want to get a wireless HTPC keyboard or air mouse. The standard remote’s buttons are too hard to operate and the D-Pad is just not a good substitute for a mouse or touchpad. Finally, the remote has the standard issue with all infrared remotes: it is painfully difficult to his the small sensor on the front of the UT2 – especially if you want to hide the unit behind the glass doors of your entertainment center.
Setting up the UT2 is similar to every other Jelly Bean\KitKat based Android streaming box. This is a good thing. Other than the Ugoos Splash Screen at bootup, there is very little during the initial setup to say that this is a non-standard Android mini-PC. It connects to the Google Play Store as any other device would where you can download any app you’d like. The device comes pre-rooted so you have options for international apps as well as the ones you’re usually familiar with.
The real difference in the Ugoos UT2 comes from the custom App Launcher and the custom XBMC build that comes pre-installed.
The UT2 comes with a pretty slick app launcher. Here you’re one click away from launching into XBMC, the Google Play Store, the Internet, your App list, and more. This really makes it easy for non-technical users to be able to pick up the remote (or keyboard) and get to what they want without difficulty. Let’s face it, we may be used to navigating the Android OS, but not everyone is as comfortable with it as we are. Ugoos is trying to reach a broader audience with their Smart TV Box. To do that, they needed to make it easier to use.
That being said, is it just me or does anyone else look at the “APPs” icon and immediately think about the Office 2010 logo?
As we mentioned before, the UT2 Smart TV Box ships with a custom build of XBMC – Beyond XBMC version 12.4. You can, of course, upgrade this to the current version (Gotham), or Kodi when it is released. The beautiful thing is that you don’t need to waste time installing XBMC as your first upgrade. The UT2 includes it right out of the box so you can plug it in and go.
Beyond XBMC is a custom version, as we mentioned. The interface is slightly different than Gotham, but not enough to cause issues if that’s what you’re used to. The skin is very well designed and professional looking. Too often we’ve seen XBMC mods that can only be described as “hacks.” Not in this case. The developers put a lot of time and effort into this mod – and it shows. The developers created a 10 minute video of Beyond XBMC in action where you can see just how easy it is to use.
XBMC functions exactly as you would expect it to running on the UT2. It was able to play all of the major media types I tried (avi, mpg, mp4, mov and mkv) without a hitch. The audio stayed in sync and the resolution was great – even up to 1080p. On one of the larger (2GB+ files) there was a bit of lag to start, but that was quickly corrected and didn’t occur again throughout the test.
Ugoos UT2 Review: The Verdict
Performance of the UT2 was good. An Antutu benchmark test scored an 18653, putting it in line with the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note 2. By comparison, the UM2 scored a 16321. Even though they have the same hardware, the edge definitely goes to the UT2.
The UT2 is similar in performance to its main competitors: The Tronsmart A928, RKM MK902 and the G-Box Midnight MX2. Each is slightly different in their configuration and use, however. The main advantages to the Ugoos over the others is the external antenna (which the G-box lacks) and the App Launcher, which makes it easy for everyone to use the Ugoos UT2. Plus, the option for 32GB of RAM is a nice benefit.
If you’re looking for maximum performance you may want to hold out for the harder to find UT3 Smart TV Box. The UT3 is based on newer RK3288 chipset. Although the UT3 does have less RAM, the processor should make up for the difference. We’ll know more once we get our hands on a test unit from Ugoos.
All in all, the UT2 is a solid, easy to use Android TV box and definitely worth a look.