Other Gadgets

Akai Smart Box Review

Mahananda Bohidar November 21 | Updated on November 20, 2012

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If the revolution in the handset industry wasn’t big enough a hint, let me spell it out for you. It’s the age of smart! Never mind the collective IQs plummeting; no digital device is worth its salt unless it’s tagged a smartie. So much so that the good ol’ idiot box can no longer seem to retain its fond sobriquet. While companies such as Sony and Samsung try and make a telly smart at the time of inception, there are other like Akai that convert your living room simpleton into a digital genius. The company’s newly launched Smart Box was plugged into our resident dunce and here’s how it fared!

Console details

The entire package consists of a console, mouse-cum-pointer and a couple of connecting wires. The underside of the plastic mouse houses the USB dongle that you have to connect to the television set that you are pairing the Akai Smart Box to. Thankfully, they pack in an HDMI plug TOO, which you can connect to the telly to stream high-def content.

It might seem a little weird to find that the mouse has to be operated with the logo pointing outwards. The clickwheel as well as the power button face away from the palm rest. The surface area of the mouse although devoid of any demarcations or contour, functions like a touch mouse with accurate responses to right and left clicks.

The home screen on the interface looks slightly tacky. There are a handful of preset apps and functions that you can access from the homescreen and these remain uncustomisable. These include Browser, App World, Games, Mail & IM, Multimedia and Utility and Services. A double-click ion any of these takes you to the main functions. Once in, you have to click on icons once to activate them.

The in-depth settings on the Akai Smart Box won't be unfamiliar to those who have used an Android-based smartphone. However, considering this is a Smart Box and not a smartphone, the tweaks might be a little different. For example, is Display settings, you only get to choose between an HDMI and TV, activate the animations and tweak the aspect ratio.

The 'Return' function is displayed at the far right of the notification bar which did seem a bit inconvenient at times. It's situated next to a in-app settings icon which you can use only with certain apps or functions. For example, clicking on the icon while catching up on mails in Gmail, there's an onscreen pop-up letting you refresh your inbox, compose a new mail, switch accounts and so on.

Virtual typing

Although the Smart Box does allow you to make use of a virtual keyboard, typing across one that spans almost 32 inches isn’t exactly a breeze. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no problem in the accuracy. It’s just that there’s just too much travel between letters especially if your TV has a big screen. An SMS or two might be okay but you can forget typing detailed mails on this one. But it sure is handy if you quickly want to catch up on mail while taking a break from Bad Piggies.

Gaming

One of the negatives of using an Android-based console to make your telly smarter is that most games you play will not scale well by default. So, while some such as Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja don’t seem to have any problems, others such as Bottle Shooter are highly pixilated, thus ruining the gaming experience a bit. Otherwise, the games don’t take much to adapt to and if they fit your widescreen, it’s actually fun to be flinging birds across a 40-inch screen! Downloading apps from Google Play Store again is a breeze. The only difference being, once you choose an app to install, the system will automatically prompt you as to where you might want to store it.

A long press on the home screen lets you change the background but the rather ominous red Akai logo doesn't go away. A right click on any of the pages (except the home screen) will take you to the previous page you were on. This comes as a handy replacement to the icon on top. The Smart Box also has a built-in camera app but the TV which we tested it on didn't have a webcam. If your telly does, you can hold Google Video chats or Skype conversation directly through your telly.

Rs 6,990

Love – Simplicity of use, pure Android platform

Hate – Tacky interface, hogs up broadband bandwidth

mahananda.bohidar@thehindu.co.in

Published on November 20, 2012

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