Android at 42″
Android is showing huge market gains on other platforms in the mobile device market. Now manufacturers are starting to consider an Android-like user interface a platform for “Smart TV’s”. But, at the moment, if you buy a Smart TV from the likes of Samsung or LG, it comes with a proprietary operating system and user interface which often leaves a lot to be desired.
If you’re already an Android user then this can leave you feeling a bit deflated. You know full well how useful a device your phone or tablet is, so why can’t your TV step up to the mark? Thankfully we’re starting to see products like the JUSTOP K9, which plugs straight into your TV’s HDMI port and gives a full and open Android experience on your TV.
Out of the box
The K9 comes bundled with everything you need to get connected. You get the device itself, a USB power adapter and Micro-USB cable, an HDMI extension cable, end cap for the device itself and a quick start pamphlet to help you get setup and running.
The device itself is quite small, measuring 90 x 42mm and being just under 10mm thick, but you may find that it won’t connect directly to your TV (depending on the port spacings). If that’s the case then the supplied extension cable will definitely come in handy, and a bit of sticky-back velcro should do a good job of holding the unit securely against the back of your TV.
To the end of the device you’ll find a full size USB port, a Micro-USB port (for power). To the side is a Micro-SD card slot and on the back is a pinhole reset switch for if you get yourself in trouble.
Connecting everything up is no bother at all, although one thing worth noting is that the K9 doesn’t ship with any method of controlling it. You’ll need to shell out separately for some form of USB interface device, like a mouse or IR remote control.
The K9 ships with Android 4.1, which is getting on a bit now but is still useful. A quick Google search will show that JUSTOP did publish a 4.2 update, but the links to the instructions are sadly broken so at this point I’ve no way to know how to upgrade.
That being said, 4.1 chugs along quite nicely and still allows you to connect the functionality of an Android device, just without some of the latest features.
At first it seems strange to control and Android device using a traditional mouse, but it still remains a slick and easy to use interface, albeit with more limitations than a full Windows PC or Mac. In practice I’ve found that the K9 is most useful for things like media playback and general web browsing. That being said, most Android apps should still run on 4.1, so you’re only limited by the hardware.
The K9 comes with a quad core “up to 1.6GHz” Cortex A9 processor. A quick Google search will reveal that the actual processor core speed is 1.2GHz, but it’s been factory overclocked to 1.6GHz. It’s relatively nippy, though the interface is noticeably slower than modern tablet devices like Google’s Nexus 7. The processor is paired with 1GB of RAM, which is enough to run a few different apps at the same time without too much slowing down. It also comes with 4GB of internal NAND storage for the OS and apps, which can be expanded with a Micro-SD card should you so choose.
The K9 runs media playback apps like BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Plex with no issue whatsoever, even when playing full HD video and connecting via the built in WiFi chip. When it comes to things like games, the K9 does struggle with more graphically intensive titles like Real Racing 3, but for things like Candy Crush and Angry Birds it’s not too bad. That being said, the lack of a touch interface and acceleromters makes it a difficult platform for Android gaming. You can connect an external controller via the USB connection, but expect results to vary depending on your specific controller and the game you’re playing.
The hope is that one of the major TV manufacturers will partner with Google in the near future and produce a true Android Smart TV, until then devices like the JUSTOP K9 definitely have a place in the tech enthusiasts living room.
This device specifically is a good example of what can be accomplished for relatively little outlay. No, it’s not the fastest Android device in the world, nor does it come bundled with any decent control mechanism, but pair it with a decent USB remote or game controller and you’ve got a decent enough interface for Android on your TV.
The ability to use Android versions of applications like Plex, YouTube, BBC iPlayer and Netflix makes this a worthwhile purchase for me. My 2012 Samsung Smart TV lacks support for some of these services (yet insists on downloading apps that I’ve no interest in), so to be able to access those services on my TV makes the £35 worth it on its own.
My only criticism is that system stability seems to be a little less than other Android devices I’ve used in recent memory. I’ve experienced a hand full of system crashes over the course of 3-4 weeks, which have required a power cycle to get the system back up and running. WiFi also seems to inexplicably disconnect at random intervals, which is no good if you’re using the K9 to stream high definition video. Stability seems to be better with a compatible USB to Ethernet adapter, but that might not be an option for all people, and really we should be expecting WiFi devices to just work at this point.
For me, this is the perfect type of devices for digesting content on my TV. I don’t want a full PC sat in my living room, and proprietary devices have too narrow a vision to be of use for me. I’ve kind of fallen in love with it a bit, in spite of it’s flaws.
Should you buy the JUSTOP K9? Well, if you’re looking to access an increasing number of media services on your TV then you should definitely consider it. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than shelling out for a new TV, and Android is a better supported platform than any of the Smart TV implementations on the market at the moment. At £35 it’s not going to break the bank, so my recommendation would be to at least try it and see if it meets your specific needs.