The High Tech Society

A Review of the Xios DS Media Play Smart TV Companion

Gadgets & Gizmos

A Review of the Pivos Xios DS Media Play Entertainment Box

The Pivos XIOS DS Media Play Smart TV Companion is touted as one of the best Android set-top entertainment boxes currently available on the market, second only to the second generation Apple TV. While at first glance the Xios DS device seems simple in nature, featuring a standard Android interface, the real beauty lies beneath the surface: the ability to install Kodi and use it as a Kodi box.

Kodi, or XBMC, initially designed for the original Xbox game console, is a highly customizable media center application that is extremely popular among media fanatics, has been through many incarnations. The latest now makes this sleek-looking application available on select Android devices.

Enter the Xios DS Media Play from Pivos. This little box, barely bigger than a man’s wallet, at first glance seems like the perfect media center companion. The newest model, the M3, sports a 1ghz processor and 1gb memory, as well as a microSD slot for added storage and easier upgrades. It also comes with 802.11n Wifi, Ethernet, USB and HDMI connection abilities.

For those geeks who find pleasure in finding things to do with their devices that aren’t officially supported, the Pivos community has released an unofficial Linux plus XBMC firmware for the device, enabling much more control over the Xios.

Other Features of the XIOS DS Media Play System:

  • Powered by Android 4 ICS and team behind XBMC who brings you the Official XBMC development platform.
  • Built in 10/100 Ethernet connection and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi connections for all your audio, video streaming demands from internet, networked or DLNA devices.
  • Get the latest Internet technology on your TV including a web browser supporting the latest HTML 5, Adobe Flash 10.x,
  • Chrome V8 and Java support.
  • Support weather, calendar and hundreds of desktop widgets such as weather, calendar, clock, search, internet radio, photo album and hundreds more!
  • Supports a wide range of USB peripherals such as XIOS Sence wireless motion remote, wired/wireless keyboard, mouse, webcam, card reader, digital cameras, and more.

Trouble Shooting “Issues”

Unfortunately, there seem to be some issues with the setup of XIOS DS Media Play box. With Linux + XBMC installed, the system becomes slow and somewhat unresponsive. The video quality seems to suffer, as well as almost constant “buffering” over a 10/100 wired network connection, which should offer more than enough bandwidth for streaming standard definition video files.

After flashing the firmware back to Android ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) and installing the XBMC apk from Pivos (Note, the official XBMC android app does not offer hardware decoding, so you’ll want to grab the modified version from the manufacturer’s website) the video buffering cleared up, but then I found that the audio was out of sync by a tiny amount. Standard definition videos were just as bad, and I quickly tired of trying. After unplugging the unit with the intention of boxing it back up to return, I had a random idea.

It seems that altering XBMC’s built-in audio offset settings went a long way toward cleaning up the sync issue, and I am once again happy with the device. Sure, it runs a little slower than I’m used to on an HTPC, but what can one expect from a small Android device?

Because of what I assume are hardware limitations, completely importing large video sources are both cumbersome and frustrating. The Xios worked on importing one source (a NAS on my local network) for well over 24 hours, only reaching approximately 20% completion.

Granted this source houses a large video collection, but the same source successfully imports on a full HTPC in a matter of a couple hours. Because of this limitation I had to import the sources through UPNP instead of SMB (the preferred method). This meant that I lacked the full menus, cover art and descriptions of a regular XMBC installation.

The only other issue I’ve noticed so far is an occasional problem with the device “forgetting” about the network. This could be due to placing the unit into standby mode. No amount of tweaking, disabling and re-enabling the wired network helped. The unit had to be unplugged and turned back on before the device would recognize the network again.

The remote leaves much to be desired. It’s very simplistic and has few buttons. Unfortunately play and pause buttons are not among them, which is a drawback for many users, myself included. According to the Pivos user forums, however, Harmony remotes work well with the device and will use the built-in remote sensor.

The Bottom Line

Considering that the Xios is purported to be able to use hardware decoding when most other devices will not, I’m willing to bet that a fix for the stuttering video and audio sync issue will be forthcoming eventually, and I’m therefore willing to hang on to the device until then.

Overall, the Pivos Xios DS Media Play is a great little device and, although at the moment is not a good replacement for a full HTPC setup, it makes a great gadget to hook to a secondary television in an office.