The Matricom G-Box Q is one of the most popular Android TV boxes sold in the past two years. If you look at Matricom’s facebook page, they have 24,000 fans, and tons of social shares and comments.
But how much of that is marketing, and how much is because they have a great product?
To answer that, I need to take you back in time a bit and talk a little about Matricom’s history. After all, you need to understand where they’ve been in order to fully appreciate the G-Box Q.
Let’s begin our Matricom G-Box Q review with a little story….
The G-Box Q is actually the second Android TV box made by Matricom. Their first product was the extremely popular G-Box MX2, which was one of our first reviews back in early 2014.
The Florida based company has also created a few other devices as well. There have been three tablets: The Iota, Zeta and Quantum 10. None really caught on, which isn’t surprising considering how dominant the iPad is. It is difficult for any company to break in to the tablet market, especially a small one like Matricom.
There was also the ill-fated Linux HTPC the G-Box Sigma. The Sigma had an AMD E-350 dual-core CPU, which wasn’t bad when it was released back in 2013. However, Matricom included an untested alpha version of XBMC. Support was dubious and the Sigma soon faded into obscurity.
The G-Box Q returned to its Android TV box roots, becoming the official successor to the G-Box MX2 in late 2014. The initial product launch was limited, but it sold out within hours – owing in no small part to Matricom’s rabid fan base and excellent marketing machine.
Matricom G-Box Q Specifications
There are a couple of important things to note about the G-Box Q’s hardware.
First, the CPU is one of the more established (read: older) Amlogic S802 chipsets. This is the same CPU that’s found in TV boxes like the Tronsmart Vega S89, the MINIX NEO X8 and the SkystreamX quad-core.
That has it’s good and bad points. The good part is that even the base firmware is going to be more mature and less buggy than the newer TV boxes on the market.
The bad part is that the $109 MSRP for the G-Box Q puts it at the same price point as the brand new RK3368 Zidoo X6 Pro.
In my opinion, that’s just not a fair fight.
The second big point to mention is that, because the G-Box Q runs on the Amlogic S802, it is stuck with Android 4.4.2 KitKat, and can’t be upgraded to Android 5.1 Lollipop.
With those two things out of the way, the rest of the specs will look pretty similar to just about every device out on the market. The lack of gigabit Ethernet is a little disappointing, but most users will opt for a wireless connection, so the impact would be minimal.
- CPU – Amlogic S802 quad-core ARM Cortex A9r4 at 2.0GHz
- GPU – ARM Mali-450MP6 GPU
- RAM – 2GB DDR3
- Storage – 16 GB internal storage + micro SD card slot up to 64GB
- Video Output – HDMI 1.4 up to 4K30, AV port
- Audio Output – HDMI, AV, optical S/PDIF
- Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0
- USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
- Misc – IR Sensor, Power LED (g letter), power button
- Dimensions – 10.16 x 10.16 x3.81 cm
Is it just another M8?
It’s worth noting that Matricom doesn’t actually build their own devices. To be honest, not too many Android TV box companies do.
CNX-Software noted back in December 2014, that the hardware on the G-Box Q looked remarkably similar to the popular M8 TV box.
The hardware is based on M8&M9 V1.0 PCB found in Eny / SZTomato M8 box, but they’ve doubled internal storage (16 vs 8 GB), and used a Wi-Fi module that supports 802.11ac, probably AP6335.
Again, not that there’s anything wrong with putting your own spin on a popular device. After all, Apple made a lot of money improving on other people’s designs, right? 🙂
The packaging for the G-Box Q is simple, but effective.
More and more, manufacturers are looking at the inside of the box as a final selling point….one final impression of a device’s quality before you actually plug the thing in.
The G-Box Q comes with most of the usual Android TV box accessories: IR remote, HDMI cable, and USB cable. Two things should stand out as missing from that list, though.
First, there’s no external antennae. Matricom opted for an internal wireless antennae rather than the bulky external one which would have improved reception slightly, but at the cost of sacrificing the sleek disc-shaped design.
There’s also no OTG capability on the Q, so there’s no need to include an OTG cable. This makes firmware updates a little more challenging, but more on that later.
The G-Box Q has a polished back plastic case, which can be a fingerprint magnet, so be careful if you plan on putting it in high traffic areas.
Thankfully though, there’s no reason at all to actually touch the device.
There’s no power button, nor any front-facing LED’s to speak of on the Q. The large “g” emblem on the top of the TV box will light up in a soft blue glow when the device is on. This is a classy way to incorporate a little branding into the design of the box, without coming across as cheesy or overbearing.
Looking at the G-box Q, there’s no doubt that this is a Matricom device.
The Metro-style Android launcher that Matricom used for later versions of the MX2 is still there in the G-Box Q, but it is hidden under a slick, new interface.
The Matricom Experience Launcher made it’s debut with the G-Box Q, but it is also available in the Google Play Store, so you can test it out on other devices too. Officially, the only supported device is the G-Box Q, however. So be forewarned that you may have some issues if you try it on other TV boxes.
Overall, the launcher gives users a fresh, Android TV-like feel. You can definitely tell that the developers had an NVIDIA Shield someplace nearby when they were programming.
The launcher is split in four sections: Videos, Music, Apps and Settings. There’s no “All Apps” button to quickly take you to your full app tray, but you are able to modify any of these four main categories to add more buttons to the list. Unlike the Shield and Nexus Player, the buttons will not move according to how frequently you use them.
Overall, the Matricom Experience Launcher is a welcome update and makes navigating quick and easy, even when you’re using the included IR remote.
One of the later additions to the G-Box Q software is the ability to stream games from your PC to your G-Box Q.
Hyperstream Gaming is similar to NVIDIA’s GameStream, which was developed in 2013 and first launched on the NVIDIA Shield handheld player.
Matricom’s version isn’t quite the same as NVIDIA’s proprietary software. Instead, they use Moonlight – an open source NVIDIA Gamestream client.
Moonlight, and Hyperstream Gaming by extension, have some limitations. First, you need to have a GameStream compatible PC. Meaning, you’re going to need to have a desktop with a GeForce GTX graphics card or a laptop with a compatible GPU.
Hyperstream Gaming is a cool feature, but ultimately more of a gimmick, in my opinion. If that feature is something that you’re really excited about, check out the official NVIDIA GameStream page for more information.
I wouldn’t feel right talking about the G-box Q without mentioning the trouble I had trying to upgrade the firmware.
My G-Box Q came with Firmware 1.2, which was released back before March 2015. Since then, Matricom has released two official firmware updates since then. Version 1.3 came out in before summer and 1.4 came out in August.
To give you a little background, version 1.3 was the first that enabled an OTA (Over The Air) firmware update. Anything earlier, like my version 1.2, would have to be upgraded manually. As I’ve said many times in other places on this site, an OTA firmware update process makes life much, much easier when updating your device.
But there’s never been a time when I just plain couldn’t get an update to work. Sure, there was a time updating the Tronsmart Vega S89 firmware that wasted three hours of a Saturday afternoon, but I was able to work through it.
I have downloaded over a dozen different versions of the Matricom G-Box Q firmware – version 1.3, 1.3.1 and 1.4 – and every single update failed. Hours spent trying to update using various workarounds and hacks, nothing worked.
The image to the left shows one particular thread started by another user who had the same issue. But there are several threads detailing, not only issues updating the firmware, but issues with the latest firmware itself. Check here, here, or here for examples. Note: If the forum asks you for a password, it is “Matricom”.
I attempted to reach out to Matricom’s customer service department, but they only have hours Monday through Friday, from 9am-5pm EST. Not exactly convenient for those of us that work during the day.
So my caveat for the benchmarks in this test is that the firmware is still on version 1.2. Newer updates, I’m told, improve the performance of some of the bundled apps, like YouTube. However, I can’t confirm that because the upgrade was (evidently) beyond my technical expertise.
I’ve put in a ticket with Matricom support via email and am waiting on a response.Update: The ticket was closed and my post (pictured to the left) was surprisingly deleted.
Benchmarking is one of my favorite sections of an Android TV box review. Even though benchmarks don’t mean too much in the real world, it’s still nice to be able to put a score to a device.
My first step was looking at CPU-Z to verify the hardware specs and to see how the G-Box Q handles at idle. As expected, the Q shut down idle CPU cores in order to save power. This is common in devices that were based on mobile chipsets, so it’s perfectly normal to see the “Stopped” status of CPU 1, 2 and 3 in this image.
AnTuTu 6 came out recently, so I had the opportunity to test Matricom’s flagship using that app.
The G-Box Q scored a very respectable AnTuTu 6 benchmark of 33108, which puts it on par with the MINIX NEO X8-H. MINIX scored 34102 when I tested that box back in November. What’s more impressive is that the MINIX was using firmware 007, so they’ve had plenty of opportunity to tweak the performance.
It would be interesting to see how the Matricom box performed using updated firmware.
Next up were the GPU tests from 3DMark. Ice Storm is one of the more popular benchmark scores for looking at gaming performance. One of the things I like about this particular test is that it will specifically look at the physics of how a device handles different items moving around and bumping into each other.
What does that mean for you? Well, you’ve seen those video game fails where crazy stuff happens in a game that just can’t happen in real life? A lot of that stuff happens in the game itself, but some happen because the device has different rules for the game world as the real world. Testing the physics performance of a device helps games perform better.
The G-Box Q performed pretty well in the Ice Storm test, scoring 5428. This again, puts it on par with devices like the Octa-Core iDroidNation TV box but not as good as the Tronsmart Vega S89, which also runs on the Amlogic S802 chipset. It’s worth noting that the Tronsmart Vega S89 has had several firmware versions so it has had the opportunity to be tweaked by the manufacturer quite a bit.
There was one confusing aspect of the benchmark tests, however. When I ran through the PCMark tests, which looks at real-world performance on video editing and web browsing, there wasn’t enough information to score the G-box Q. I thought that had to be a mistake, so I re-ran the test again….and again…and again. Each time, the score came back “0”.
I can honestly say that I’ve never seen that particular result before. I’m not sure if this was an error in the software or something else, but it makes for an interesting footnote to my G-box Q review, at any rate.
Like many manufacturers, Matricom includes a custom version of XBMC\Kodi with their Android TV boxes. This lets them tweak the code to get the most performance out of their devices.
I’ve already talked briefly in my eBook that I’m not really a fan of developing splintered versions of Kodi. Essentially, that version will quickly become outdated, since there is no way that the device’s developers will focus on their version as much as Team Kodi will focus on the official version. It’s just not possible.
That being said, for the short-term, these splintered versions can perform better than the official Kodi release.
That held true with the G-Box Q.
I’ll talk about both the bundled version of XBMC, simply called “Media Center”, as well as the official version of Kodi 15.2 that I downloaded and installed.
The Matricom Media Center mostly performed as expected…until I got to 4K movies. 720p and 1080p videos played flawlessly. They all looked and sounded great. There were no issues where the sound was out of sync, or there were digital artifacts or stuttering. In short, it worked as it should.
4K videos on the other hand were a complete failure. No matter what test video or what size of file I tried, the video would start playing and almost immediately freeze. The audio would start about five seconds later and was out-of-sync for the entire video file. I tried streaming the videos both from my Western Digital NAS, as well as from a high speed USB flash drive connected directly to the back of the G-Box Q. Neither made a difference.
Looking at the settings, the version of Media Center that’s bundled with my G-Box Q is based on Kodi 14, and dated December 5th, 2014. I’m told there’s a newer version available once the firmware is upgraded, but I’ve already beat that part of this G-Box Q review to death.
After the test videos, I fired up some files from my personal collection: A H.264 version of Star Wars IV from a Blu-ray rip and an H.264 version of 2003’s Italian Job. Star Wars seemed to struggle, although that may have to do with the sheer size of the file. I could have changed the Kodi buffering settings to improve performance, but I wanted to look at the stock settings first. Italian Job played perfectly, so I did have a successful movie break during my testing.
This job has benefits sometimes 🙂
Installing Kodi 15.2 went smoothly, but the performance was no better. In fact, it was worse.
4K videos were still unwatchable, but now the issues seemed to extend to some of the 1080p videos that I tried. The sound sometimes struggled to keep in sync. The issues didn’t occur with every video, and I couldn’t seem to find a pattern. Even after a complete reboot, the same files just wouldn’t work, even though they worked on Media Center.
I have a mixed opinion on the G-Box Q.
On the one hand, the raw benchmark scores were impressive, given the age of the device and the early firmware version. The playback of SD and HD videos in the custom Matricom Media Center was flawless, and the addition of game streaming from your PC using HyperStream Gaming is a really cool feature. The launcher is fresh and gives the device a modern, Android TV interface.
On the other hand, trying to play 4K UHD videos was a complete failure. Android TV boxes already struggle with Netflix in HD, so this will just add to cord-cutter’s troubles. Many users are having trouble upgrading the firmware, and I can relate firsthand how frustrating that is. We’ll see how the support ticket play out, but I’m not terribly confident that it will be resolved.
If you’re happy playing SD or HD videos through Matricom’s proprietary Media Center and don’t care about timely Kodi updates, then the G-Box Q is a good, stable choice. But if you’re looking for an Android TV box with great 4K playback, this isn’t the box you’re looking for.