Does your TV lack the smarts?
As somebody who owns one of the cheapest TVs on the market from a dollar-per-inch perspective, I’m open to the idea of running a small media server or device to boost its feature set. Laser’s Android 4K Smart Media Player aims to deliver on such needs, and brings the key ingredients to the table, while some software quirks work against the user experience somewhat.
The unit itself, a black, square-shaped box with about the footprint of a coaster, will fit neatly beside or underneath your TV no problem. It sports three USB ports on the side and HDMI out, a microSD card slot, gigabit ethernet port, optical audio out, a 3.5mm AV port and a power connection on the rear.
The unit’s internal hardware is sufficient as well, including an 8-core 2GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, 802.11ac wireless, and bluetooth. It supports 4K playback and Dolby Surround Sound audio. The unit runs on a modified version of Android 6 and comes preloaded with a suite of software including streaming apps and media players, a notable inclusion of which is KODI, once known as XBMC, the media player of choice for mod-chipped Xbox owners.
After seeing Youtube browsing as a major drawcard of the media device I was frustrated to find the bundled Youtube app crashed several times when running a search and sometimes during playback. A second Youtube app downloaded from the Play Store seemed a little more stable, but the less reliable version is firmly planted on the non-customisable Home screen; I’m already cluttering the system.
Another oddity was that when you hit the remote’s power button to shut down, the menu screen shrinks to black, only to come back on a moment later. It’s only when you press and hold the off button and acknowledge the shutdown prompt will it really turn off. I fully discharged several remote control batteries before figuring this out, having previously walked away on a single press thinking the job was done.
For $250, dealing with quirks and relying on updates may be a big ask on what is otherwise a promising addition to an average TV.