Mecool HomePlus KA1 Android TV field overview: a streaming gadget and good speaker combo

Twine-cutters have had an thrilling interval over the previous two years, with Android TV bins gaining traction and Google’s Chromecast taking up a brand new type with a distant for the primary time. Whenever you mix that with the Google TV interface, you get personalised suggestions. Quick ahead to 2022, and this phase remains to be rising, thanks largely to smaller gamers becoming a member of the fray.

Mecool is a kind of smaller companies attempting to make a reputation for itself within the streaming market. It has churned out a bunch of alternate options to the Chromecast with Google TV over the previous few years, together with the Mecool KD3 streaming stick I beforehand reviewed.

Nonetheless, Mecool’s line of streaming units hasn’t gotten the identical quantity of consideration as the brand new Chromecast. Regardless, its most up-to-date choices share most of the identical options as Google’s streamer, comparable to curation capabilities that make it straightforward to seek out content material to look at.

Mecool acquired it proper with the KD3, which incorporates future-proofed options like help for the AV1 commonplace. The corporate has just lately launched the HomePlus KA1 Android TV field, and whereas I do not suppose it is a greater different to a number of the greatest streaming units, such because the growing old Chromecast with Google TV or Amazon Fireplace TV Stick 4K Max, it is value contemplating particularly for those who’re searching for a hands-free streaming expertise.

Mecool HomePlus KA1: Value and availability

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Mecool HomePlus KA1 with the distant (Picture credit score: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

The HomePlus KA1 was launched earlier this yr for $249. Whereas the product was initially launched in Asian markets, it’s now obtainable for cargo in the USA and the UK.

You should buy the streamer straight from Mecool’s on-line storefront. It is available in two fashions: an over-the-top model (opens in new tab), and a DVB model (opens in new tab) with a built-in DVB-C / T / T2 tuner. Each are priced the identical.

Mecool HomePlus KA1: What I like

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(Picture credit score: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

The marketplace for streaming units can really feel ever so saturated these days, given the rising variety of choices for shoppers. Actually, most of them share the identical core function set, however the KA1 makes an attempt to interrupt away from that camp.

When plugged into your TV, it delivers 4K and HDR10 content material. In any other case, it may possibly nonetheless perform as a wise speaker that continuously listens for voice instructions. For privateness’s sake, Mecool has included a mute button within the bevel-shaped gadget to immediately cease Google Assistant from listening to what you say.

With twin capabilities current in a single gadget, Mecool clearly goals to have one of the best of each worlds right here. The gadget handles each process you throw at it, each as a streamer and a wise speaker, due to a quad-core Amlogic S905X4 SoC that powers it.

The KA1 meets virtually the entire fundamental necessities for a contemporary streaming gadget, making certain that your content material appears and sounds pretty much as good as attainable. Every thing I watched on it regarded simply pretty much as good because it did on the Chromecast with Google TV, or the built-in Android TV interface of my TCL tv, in the course of the two weeks I spent reviewing it. Actually, I adore it, although that is what I’ve come to anticipate from nearly any streaming gadget. After I begin digging into the KA1’s software program, issues begin to get actually fascinating.

The KA1 runs Android TV 11, and it really works identical to every other Android TV units obtainable in the present day. A row of apps seems on the prime of your display, with app channels that spotlight urged content material beneath them. You possibly can, in fact, rearrange them and obtain eligible apps from the Google Play Retailer. When you have an Apple TV+ subscription, you may be glad to know that you could get the app from Google’s app market.

Mecool has additionally made the KA1 future-proof by together with AV1 commonplace help. It’s a comparatively new video streaming codec that’s anticipated to ultimately substitute the H.264/AVC and HEVC requirements. When in comparison with present requirements, AV1 is touted for its improved compression system, which permits for enormous information effectivity financial savings with out sacrificing video high quality. It is a constructive step ahead as extra TV fashions transition to 8K decision and better body charges.

Efficiency has been strong on the KA1, with app navigation operating easily virtually 100% of the time. And since it doubles as a wise speaker, with Assistant and Chromecast onboard, you’ll be able to leap from one app to a different through the use of your voice, successfully rendering the distant ineffective in most conditions.

Mecool expertly combines a wise speaker and streaming field right into a single gadget able to dealing with any process you throw at it.

Nonetheless, the distant deserves its personal appreciation. Mecool has a penchant for including a number of shortcuts to main streaming platforms to its distant. It is nowhere extra apparent than within the distant controls that include its streaming units. 

The distant for the KD3 has 4 shortcut buttons every for YouTube, Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney+. The identical is true for the KA1, although there are minor variations. Its distant contains shortcut buttons for YouTube, Spotify, Prime Video, and Google TV.

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(Picture credit score: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

On the {hardware} aspect of issues, the gadget comes with HDMI 2.1 video output, an RJ45 port, and a USB 3.0 port. These are on prime of the DC enter. Nonetheless, the one ports I am actually utilizing are the facility enter and HDMI 2.1 port. As a result of the gadget helps Wi-Fi 5, you will not should muddle your tabletop with an extra Ethernet cable for connectivity.

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Mecool HomePlus KA1 ports (Picture credit score: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

It additionally contains twin 5W audio system and two far-field microphones that may choose up your voice from as much as 16 ft away, permitting you to offer instructions from a distance with out screaming on the prime of your lungs.

Whereas the KA1’s design is a bit divisive (some could say it is cumbersome), I truly just like the bevel form. In case you personal any of the greatest good audio system from Google and Amazon, the fabric-wrapped part of its physique ought to really feel acquainted. It is a stark distinction in comparison with different good audio system, being fabricated from a plastic base and a prime portion with 4 LED indicator lights. The position of the mic additionally makes speaking to Assistant a breeze.

The HomePlus KA1 renders the distant virtually ineffective.

Apart from utilizing your voice to ask Assistant to regulate the speaker’s quantity, the KA1 has just a few different tips up its sleeve. For instance, you’ll be able to faucet both aspect to extend or lower the amount and flippantly faucet the indicator lights to play or pause media playback. However the presence of Google’s digital assistant makes these actions pointless.

As a speaker, the KA1 handles all of my audio content material impressively. It produces a ton of bass with out sounding too muddy. I additionally get a pleasant thump on the low finish, with the mid and excessive finish giving a delightful sound to my ears.

The Assistant expertise it affords is much like most of the greatest Google Assistant audio system. This implies you should utilize the gadget to ask in regards to the climate, management different good dwelling units, set reminders, or make a household broadcast. I additionally put the microphones to the check by saying “Hey Google” from an inexpensive distance, and the KA1 managed to listen to me with none downside.

Whereas I nonetheless want the way in which Google’s proprietary units deal with my queries and combine with my Google account, like with the Nest Hub (2nd Gen), the KA1 would not really feel any much less succesful.

Mecool HomePlus KA1: What I do not like

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Mecool HomePlus KA1 LED lights (Picture credit score: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

Nonetheless, the HomePlus KA1 will not be with out flaws. It lacks just a few key options that you simply’d look forward to finding in a streaming gadget, comparable to 4K upscaling. Whereas it’s all the fad within the streaming phase lately, it’s conspicuously absent from the KA1.

There are just a few extra omissions as properly. The KA1 doesn’t help Dolby Imaginative and prescient, a typical extensively utilized by all main streaming platforms comparable to Netflix, Disney+, and Apple TV. Nonetheless, its HDR10 content material format is nothing to sneeze at.

The HomePlus KA1 lacks just a few key options that would go away you eager to look elsewhere.

Its distant can also be a little bit flimsy. Holding it in my fingers ceaselessly makes me really feel as if I may snap the distant with out breaking a sweat.

The shortage of Netflix help can also be a bummer, particularly for somebody like me who follows each season of Stranger Issues. That stated, Mecool instructed me that it’s attainable that they are going to add Netflix help sooner or later.

Throughout my time with the KA1, I additionally discovered that Assistant is not at all times responsive to some instructions achieved by way of the Broadcast function. Greater than as soon as, I discovered myself type of activating the speaker first by casting music to it earlier than making a broadcast. In different situations, the voice assistant would not play music on YouTube Music by default, even when I set it in any other case (it defaults to the YouTube app). These are the types of points that take away from the general expertise.

Mecool HomePlus KA1: The competitors

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(Picture credit score: Joe Maring / Android Central)

As I’ve talked about above, the HomePlus KA1 is a intelligent method of deviating from the saturated streaming gadget phase. As a two-in-one streamer and good speaker, it at the moment faces little competitors.

Nonetheless, when it comes to streaming, the TiVo Stream 4K is at the moment its closest competitor. On paper, they’re practically similar, except for the KA1’s lack of Dolby Imaginative and prescient help. Other than that, they each present the identical content material curation options. Nonetheless, their costs are vastly completely different.

Relating to content material curation, there’s an enormous discrepancy between Android TV and Google TV (though the latter is constructed based mostly off the previous). Naturally, the Google TV interface on the Chromecast does a greater job of recommending films and TV reveals.

The Amazon Fireplace TV Stick 4K is one other formidable rival. Amazon’s guess has the identical elevator pitch of 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos, however for a lower cost ($50). The primary distinction is that it is powered by Fireplace TV OS, and focuses closely on Amazon Prime Video content material.

On the good speaker entrance, the Amazon Echo (4th Gen) is a troublesome competitor. It carries a extra inexpensive price ticket at $100 than the KA1. Nonetheless, for those who aren’t absolutely dedicated to Amazon’s ecosystem, the $100 Nest Audio could also be value trying out. Google’s newest good speaker has most of the identical options because the Echo (4th Gen), together with nice sound and dependable microphones.

Mecool HomePlus KA1: Must you purchase it?

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(Picture credit score: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

You can purchase this if…

  • You dislike the Google TV consumer interface.
  • You desire a hands-free streaming expertise the entire time.
  • You watch lots of Apple TV reveals and flicks.
  • You desire a streaming gadget with ample storage.

You should not purchase this if…

  • You do not need to spend greater than $200 on a wise speaker or streamer.
  • You need Google TV’s content material curation function.
  • You do not like Android TV.
  • You watch lots of Netflix films and reveals.
  • Dolby Imaginative and prescient help is an enormous deal for you.

Whereas I’ve my fair proportion of complaints in regards to the streamer’s shortcomings, that does not take away from the HomePlus KA1 being a multi-functional gadget. It has practically each audio and video commonplace you could possibly ask for, and it may possibly deal with virtually any process you throw at it as a wise speaker.

Nonetheless, at $249, you may need to look elsewhere. You will get a wise speaker and a streamer individually for lower than the KA1, however meaning you may want more room to accommodate two distinct units. Mecool’s newest providing tries to fill this void, for those who do not thoughts paying a premium for a two-in-one Android TV field.

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