One of the most anticipated Android TV boxes of the year is finally out: The SkyStream Two.
SkyStream already had a great streaming device on their hands, but they weren’t content to just rest on their past success. They wanted even better performance this time around.
In late October, when the SkyStream Two was nearing it’s launch date, they started an awesome social media campaign to build interest for the next generation of SkyStream devices with teaser images like this one.
The whole campaign emphasizes SkyStream doubling-down on performance and trying to make a truly elite streaming device. It obviously worked because so many of you have been asking what I think of the new SkyStream Two.
Now it’s time to find out.
So what’s different? Is it worth it? Read on in my SkyStream Two review.
SkyStream Two vs SkyStream One
SkyStream doesn’t put out new TV boxes very often, so they wanted to make it worthwhile for people to upgrade – especially if they’ve recently bought a SkyStream One.
There are five major improvements to the SkyStream Two that I think we should focus on:
Android 7.1 Nougat: Depending on when you’re reading this, it may not seem like a big deal that this box comes with Android 7.1. But right now, there are still quite a few TV boxes being shipped with versions of Android 5 and Android 6.
In addition to tons of new features, Android Nougat also has the ability to constantly improve an app’s performance as it it running. The same app running on Android 7 should be faster than that app running on an older version of Android.
More RAM: 50% more RAM in the SkyStream Two vs SkyStream One (3 GB compared to 2 GB)
…and the RAM is faster too: The memory chips in the SkyStream Two are DDR4 instead of DDR3, which is a faster clock speed for the memory.
Double the storage space: SkyStream upped the storage on the SkyStream Two to 32 GB instead of the 16 GB that is standard among most TV boxes.
Widevine certification: Here’s the big one! Widevine is a digital rights management (DRM) certification for streaming media. More importantly, it’s a requirement to stream HD and 4K content from sources like Netflix, YouTube and Sling TV. The SkyStream Two has it, which is extremely rare in Android TV boxes. For more on Widevvine and what it means, check out my article on Will my device stream Netflix in HD or 4K?
SkyStream Two Specs
- CPU: AmLogic Octa Core S912 2.0 GHz 64-Bit ARM Cortex
- GPU: Mali-T820MP3 GPU up to 750MHz
- RAM: 3GB DDR4
- Storage: 32GB flash storage
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Operating System: Android 7.1.2 Nougat
- User Interface: SkyStream TV
- Platform: SkyStream TV
- 5″ x 5″ x 1.25″
- LAN: RJ-45 10/100/1000 GigaPort Ethernet
- WLAN: 802.11 b/g/n/ac Dual Band WiFi (2.4 & 5 GHz)
- Host USB: 4 x External Ports (2.0)
- SD Card: 1 x External Port (SD/SDHC/MMC)
- Video Output: HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 & Widevine L1
- Audio Output: Dolby Digital via HDMI & SPDIF (Optical Audio)
- External Power Supply: 5V@2A (100-240V, 50/60Hz)
Audio & Video Formats
- Video Resolution: Up to 4k x 2k, 3D-HD(1080Px2), 1080P, 720P, 480P
- Video Formats: VP9, VP10, HDR, MPEG-1 MP/HL, MPEG-2 MP/HL, MPEG-4 Part 2, ASP, WMV/VC-1 SP/MP/AP, H.264 HP@L4.1, H.265, REAMDEO 8/9/10, M-JPEG & JPEG”
- Video Codecs: MPEG, MPE, MPG, M2V, ISO, TS, VOB, DAT, AVI, MKV, MP4, MOV, 3GP, 3GPP, FLC, WMV, FLV, RM
- Video Subtitles: SRT, SUB, IDX, PGS
- Audio Codecs: ACC, AC-3, ADPCM, AMR-NB, MIDI, MP2, MP3, MS-ADPCM, PCS, RV40 Vorbis WMA, AAC+ (HE-AAC vi), eAAC+ (HE-AAC v2)
I’ll start off with a shocker: The SkyStream Two doesn’t use Kodi.
If you’ve been around Kodi and TV boxes for a while, you realize what I just said was a total attention grab, and I’m OK with that. 🙂
For those of you that don’t know, SPMC is a fork of Kodi which is developed and maintained by one of the (if not THE) biggest Android developer\maintainer for Team Kodi. When he left the team in 2016, he started putting a lot more effort into his own project called SPMC.
Normally, I’m not a big fan of Kodi forks. I think in general, you’ll get better performance and updates from the official version – except if you run an Android device, in which case SPMC is definitely the way to go.
The SkyStream Media Center uses the familiar Kodi Confluence skin that’s been around for years, so navigating the interface should feel instantly familiar. There are sections on the center menu bar for Movies, Sports, TV Shows, Music, Utilities as well as more specialized menus for content from Real Debrid and Live TV.
Getting to the content you’re looking for can be a bit of a challenge at first, only because there are so many options to choose from.
Once you’ve been using the Media Center for a little bit, it all becomes second nature and intuitive to navigate.
The SkyStream Updater app isn’t new. Actually, it’s been around since the early days and it’s one of the things that sets SkyStream apart from other TV box manufacturers.
Here’s the gist of it: SkyStream doesn’t technically sell fully loaded Kodi boxes – that’s not legal in the UK and it’s questionable in several other countries as well. How they get around this is to sell their TV boxes bare-bones, but also give you a handy-dandy way to install all of the most popular addons in one shot.
That’s where the SkyStream Updater comes in.
The Updater app does two main things: Install the most popular Kodi addons and maintain those addons so that they always work.
Installing Kodi addons
“Kodi” isn’t quite correct here. As I mentioned above, the Media Center that’s included with the SkyStream Two is actually based on SPMC. But since the two are so similar, I’ll keep using the term Kodi Addons to describe them.
When you first start the SkyStream Two (or the older SkyStream One), you’re given a choice how to configure the box using the Updater app. It will install the Family Friendly addons, or a slightly different version with the Adult options enabled. Don’t worry…I won’t judge which option you pick.
It’s a “one click” installation and only takes a minute or so. After that, the next time you start Media Center, it’ll have all of the options already set up for you.
Automatically updating the addons
Choosing an option is only the start. After that, things get even easier.
The team at SkyStream will maintain the addons that you’ve installed via the SkyStream Updater app.
If an addon stops working, they’ll remove it.
If a new, better addon comes out, they’ll add it to the list.
They try to make streaming easy. The best part is they don’t charge you a small fortune for a box that will update itself, unlike some other TV box manufacturers do (I’m looking at you StreamSmart).
SkyStream adds that value without a big hit to your wallet.
OK…this is a really cool idea.
What about if a TV box had a help app right on the box itself.
I mean, think about it. You’re going to have problems, so why not have a help app right where you need it to be?
Think of the SkyStream Help app as your launching pad to quickly find solutions to those problems. It’s got their customer support phone numbers at the top of the page, along with links to their social media pages and FAQ’s. You’ll also find links to their official downloads and their official Facebook support group.
The SkyStream Two is a premium player and it’s got a premium price tag. At around $200, it’s in the same price point as the NVIDIA Shield TV.
To a point, that’s a fair comparison, but only to a point. Although they’re both higher-end streaming devices, they’re aimed at different consumers.
The NVIDIA Shield TV is aimed at the consumer who wants the fastest streaming experience and best picture quality possible. What it lacks is the content itself. If you want to watch something on the Shield, you’re going to have to watch on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or take the time to configure Kodi yourself. There’s also the little matter of maintaining all of your Kodi addons and filter out any that don’t work anymore.
By comparison, the SkyStream Two isn’t going to give you the raw performance of the Shield, but it’s going to be much, much easier to find and watch content because they maintain all of the Media Center addons. If you need support, it’s also right there at your fingertips.
If you really want to look at the value of what SkyStream gives you, it’s only fair to compare it against other TV boxes that give you that “fully loaded” experience. Most of those boxes as hundreds of dollars more expensive.
Looking at it that way, I think the SkyStream Two is a good value for your money.
Now for the fun part. Well…it’s fun if you’re a geek at heart.
Every new TV box that comes across my desk gets put through a battery of tests to see how it performs. These tests don’t always equate to real world performance, but they’ll usually give you a good idea of how one box stacks up against another.
One thing to keep in mind, you’re looking for big differences in scores here. For example, a difference between 30,000 and 31,000 isn’t very noticeable, but you’ll definitely see the difference between 30,000 and 40,000.
First on the list was AnTuTu Benchmark, which has been a staple of this site since the very beginning. Here, the SkyStream Two performs very well, scoring over 43,000 in the overall test. This compares to a score of 36,000 for the older SkyStream One. To me, that means that the snappier feel of the SkyStream Two vs SkyStream One wasn’t just in my head. It really is that much faster.
That score is also on par with the EZ-Stream Ti8, which uses the same chipset and graphics processor. Both boxes score right around the 43,000 and 44,000 marks, which makes sense.
Next on the list is 3DMark’s Ice Storm. This is one of my favourite benchmarks because it’s geared towards graphics performance, rather than overall performance which is AnTuTu’s forte. Here, a device lives or dies based on the power of it’s GPU. A fast memory or CPU won’t be able to make up for lackluster graphics performance.
The SkyStream Two really shines here. It scored an impressive 8,161 on Ice Storm and 5,205 on Ice Storm Extreme. While not as powerful as an NVIDIA Shield TV, it proved itself more than capable of handling game nights as well as movie nights.
There’s no doubt that SkyStream put out an amazing Android TV box with the SkyStream Two. If I had one thing to fault them for it’s that it is a little pricey. I would have liked to see the box at closer to the $160-$170 price range rather than the $200 price range.
That being said, you’re getting a lot of support and hand-holding for that price, so it’s not all bad. The performance of the box is excellent and I can’t overstate how easy it is to find and watch content using the SkyStream Media Center.
If you’ve already got a SkyStream One, upgrading to the SkyStream Two isn’t going to give you that much better of an experience. That’s not a knock on the Two, but a testament to how good the SkyStream One was.
But if you’re looking for an amazing new TV box, then this one should be on your short list.
Find the best price on the SkyStream Two at SkyStreamx.com