FAVI Entertainment, the creator of a wide range of entertainment products has recently released their highly anticipated FAVI SmartStick. This device has the ability to upgrade any TV with a HDMI port into a “Smart TV”. It runs Androids Jellybean OS and comes pre-installed with PLEX for Android. One of the best features is the ability to download apps from the Google Play store. You’re able to get Netflix, HBO Go, Angry Birds, and much more. Here are a few other notable features: Wi-Fi, Google Chrome Browser, USB Port – Great for wireless/keyboard combo, MicroSD slot for up to 32 GB of data, 1080p Video Quality.
The device was initially scheduled to ship in Novemeber 2012, but after some delays it went out in early December. FAVI has released two versions, a 4GB for $52.50 and 8GB priced at $79.99. It is available for purchase from Amazon.com.
- FAVI SmartStick
- Remote Control
- HDMI Adapter Dongle
- IR Receiver
- minUSB Power Cable
- Wall Power Adapter
- Quick Setup-up Guide
Impressively, the FAVI SmartStick comes with almost everything you need. However, for the best experience, a Wireless Keyboard and Mouse combo is a must. We’ll go into more detail below.
- Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
- FAVI SmartStick hooked up via HDMI
- 42” Panasonic Plasma
- FAVI Wireless Keyboard with touchpad mouse
First Impressions with the FAVI SmartStick
After opening up the box, we had trouble imagining how the device was going to fit behind our wall mounted TV. But the creators were thoughtful enough to include a HMDI extender cable which turns the stick into a dongle and allows it to hang. After plugging the device in, it immediately turned on, but we noticed the remote wasn’t working. The reason for that is because the IR receiver cable must be plugged in. Once we had that figured out, we were able to run through the initial setup of adjusting the screen resolution, WI-FI, etc.
At that point we began navigating through the interface which should be familiar to anyone with an Android device. We felt it was well laid out and enjoyed the built in web browser which the Roku, a competitor of the SmartStick lacks. Also, unlike the Roku, this device does not require a credit card number to use.
Remote Control and Nagivation
The included remote is flat out horrible. After using it for a few minutes, it became clear that it doesn’t fit well with the Android interface. You’ll be able to do everything, but your patience will run out fast. The reason why is because the text entry is almost unusable. The remotes cursor mode is unbearably slow and does not accelerate well. We ended up ditching the remote and switching over to a wireless keyboard/mouse combo.
If you’re going to purchase this product a wireless keyboard and mouse is a must. We opted for a FAVI handheld keyboard and it worked well. Text entry was good, but the touchpad mouse cursor was a bit cumbersome. A regular wireless combo should work perfectly or take a look at the iPazzPort which has been suggested by readers in the past. This upgrade greatly enhanced our experience with the FAVI SmartStick. However, it added an additional $30+ to purchasing the product. The additional cost might shy some consumers away.
Google Play – Netflix and Hulu
It’s safe to say that the best feature of this device is access to Google Play. Just like the G-Box Midnight, which we reviewed recently, you get access to literally thousands of apps. Check out the selection here or if you have access to an android device take a look on your phone or tablet. The selection is huge so there’s something for everyone.
For us Cordcutters, we really enjoyed streaming media from Netflix. Our testing consisted of spending a ton of time watching movies through the application. The app worked well and the picture quality looked great. At first, the image appeared poor, but after about 30 seconds the picture improved greatly. Keep in mind that the service compensates for slower connections which results in a lower resolution. A good connection will ensure the best picture quality.
PLEX for Android
Another major selling point of the SmartStick is the pre-installed PLEX for Android app. PLEX is a media center application that runs on MAC, PC, and Linux and organizes your media to be viewed on a client (client = FAVI SmartStick). The application is extremely popular among home media enthusiasts since it can play a wide variety of media.
In order to be able to use PLEX on the stick, you’ll need to follow the 3 steps below:
- Setup your Plex Media Server (PMS) – it’s a free download here: http://plexapp.com. This is absolutely required to run Plex for Android.
- Test it out… make sure it works locally with either the Mac or Windows client player (aka Plex Media Center) running on the same machine.
- Get Plex for Android (Already pre-installed on the FAVI)
Overall, the PLEX setup was extremely easy. We already had PMS installed on a computer so all we had to do is point the stick to the server which was automatically recognized after connecting to our home network.
The application is well laid out and easy to use. Current users of PLEX should expect the same level of quality as the client versions for MAC or Windows. Like expected, the app was able to play everything we threw at it. However, we were left a bit disappointed since the picture quality when streaming videos in PLEX was poor. Even high quality video files appeared pixelated and could not match the quality of videos streaming through Netflix. But still, for users without a way to extend media from their computer to the TV, the SmartStick provides an excellent way to do it at an affordable price and with a top notch media center application.
In the end the FAVI SmartStick delivers on what it says it does. For a small price tag, you’re able to bring new features to the living room. The top two being streaming from apps and PLEX. But the device does have a couple drawbacks that will disappoint some users.
Going into your purchase, you should price in the additional cost for a wireless keyboard and mouse since it won’t take long for you to lose patience with the remote. Also note, the streaming quality of videos through PLEX is poor. This is most likely due to hardware limitations with the SmartStick.
But on the other hand the stick does have a strong suit. We were satisfied with the streaming apps available for download from Google Play. For those of you without a gaming console, Apple TV, or Roku, this could be one of the more affordable products out there with this functionality. On top of that, you get a great built-in web browser, a feature not found on the Roku.
The FAVI SmartStick is available for purchase at Amazon.com. Please post any questions or comments in the section below.