Before I delve into this new box from Banggood – let’s go back a step: I’ve had quite a number of Android TV boxes over the years and there are lots on the second-hand market. But something to consider… I just had to bin two boxes that were not that old, maybe a couple of years or so – my fault for not checking initially) as neither of them support 5G WiFi.
At the time, that didn’t bother me as they both had hardwired Ethernet – but things change and it is no longer convenient for me to put the box near hardwired Ethernet (that’s historical – July 2021 I’ve now gone back to hardwired). If you are not familiar with such TV boxes, most of which come in under €50 one-off-price (and no annual fee, for those who were talked into an annual “deal”, usually nothing more than a guy selling a similar box and charging for free software – boy are those purchases a rip-off), for best picture quality (given that you have fast enough Internet for HD or even 4K), 2.4G WiFi is not ideal so I would now suggest always looking for a box which handles both 5G WiFi and hardwired Ethernet.
What else, looking back? I also eventually had issues with Netflix and Amazon Prime on the older boxes (I choose to subscribe to both services – I’m not suggesting they are mandatory) – which makes the boxes pretty useless for many of us – it seems almost as if these boxes have redundancy built in.
Just to be clear the HK1 R1 RK3318 5G WIFI Android 10 4K TV Box does not use the crippled “Android TV” software – but instead has the full Android 10 complete with Playstore and in this case a nice choice of wallpapers.
So – the R1 Box is curved and looks beautiful, it is small, has 2.4+5G WiFi, Ethernet and Android 10 – that’s a good start. Why am I calling it “R1”? That, apparently is the model number.
Digital and 3.5mm audio are standard, 4K-capable HDMI output along with 1 microSD slot, 1 USB3, 1 USB2 connector and the ability to handle H265-encoded video.. and obviously power in. My R1 unit came complete with (just) adequate instruction manual entirely in English (always a good start), the usual elementary IR remote control and EU-plug 5V 2A power supply.
Before going further – as ALWAYS, the IR remote that comes with this R1 box is , well, basic and frustrating – the standard ones always are – here’s my favourite – just ordered another – often referred to as “Air Mouse MX3 Pro” – there’s a keyboad on the back. I deliberately avoided the white backlit version. Under a tenner from China or a rip at €18 from Amazon.es but I’m in a hurry… these remotes are good – not indestructable but good.
The R1 TV box comes with 128GB of storage and 4GB RAM, enough for most of us I would imagine, given that it accepts a microSD (or USB memory stick) for expansion. I tried the box firstly on one of my handy HD PC monitors and no adjustments were needed. On the main screen you see Netflix, Firefox browser, the Google Play Store and there are some presets along the bottom (AirScreen Airplay / Cast / Miracast / DLNA), Netflix, an APK loader, network/file handler and something called “Smart YouTube TV”. I decided at this point that setting up the WiFi might be a good idea 🙂
Connecting to my 5G WiFi took a couple of seconds.
At this point I thought I’d go see what other apps were installed and I changed the bottom preset menu to my tastes. There are LOTS of pre-installed APPS as it happens – including Prime Video, Mobdro, RKMC, Disney+ (which may need a subscription), CyberFlix (which was dead last time I checked on another box but which now seems to work after a quick upgrade), Chrome, YouTube, a Media Centre and much more.
I did notice that the installed APPS on my box are not quite the same as the list on the Banggood site – who’s ad looks like it was constructed for a USA audience but of course as the R1 has the Android Play Store and an APK loader, that’s not really an issue – there is bags of room for installing APPS.
Up to this point, everything seemed to work, when I tried YouTube I just got a rotating circle. I was about to get disappointed when I hit the back buton and my chosen “Norway in 4K” video came up in tremendous quality and very smooth – I simply cannot fault the sound or picture quality. There is a pre-installed file manager but that proved disappointing for any other than internal storage and to use – it is donate-ware – the creator wants coffee-money to allow you to turn on (for example) an FTP server. IMHO something that requires extra payment of any form should not be featured on the front panel but merely included as one of the available APPS.
I did notice one company selling this R1 box claiming it could be controlled by voice – but as there is no reference to that in the documentation or in Banggood’s ad so I’ll take that no further.
Note in the above photo I’ve already re-arranged the standard presets (bottom line above) to get rid of some nonsense and to add in Curiosity Stream and other APPS.
From the Playstore I added my Wireguard VPN, BBC iPlayer, Curiosity Stream and Magellan TV (the last two are subscription documentary channels – but cheap) so now I’m happy. Overall, compared to my (good) 2020 H96 MAX TV box, the R1 seems to have a lot more going for it (but the Android 9 equipped H96 Max plays EuroNews App more smoothly for reasons beyong me). Both boxes work with 5G WiFi.
About the only thing that initially concerned me about this unit is the ABOUT message in settings. This appears as a relatively new Android 10 device – yet in “about” there is a clear message that “Regular updates have ended for this device” – the last system update was May 5 2020. But then that no doubt accounts for the attractive price and very few of these TV boxes ever get the kind of ongoing operating system support you might expect on a decent phone.
It is (IMHO) important to ensure you get the full Playstore with such boxes – I understand that Huawei and some other Chinese manufacturers have trouble with Google on that front.
Up to now then – a winner – and I have more news channels than I know what to do with 🙂
As an aside, we thought it might be nice to make Skype calls on the TV… so my spare Logitech camera has just found a home on the R1 – tested – working.
July 2021 Update Progress and End of Life?
Lets get the ugly bit out of the way first, like most if not all such boxes, operating system updates are no longer available for this box. And unlike my other Android box, this one tends to buffer a little on EuroNews – no idea why but it’s annoying.
And now the good news. The box comes complete with KDMC which CAN be updated. As you may know, KDMC (KODI) tends to be full of plug-ins that no longer work. Well, I’ve (easily) added two – THE CREW and THE AUTH and together they offer more movies and channels than you could imagine – most of which work. We’re talking all the major networks and some not-so-major networks – and stuff that goes from current, in some case back to the turn of the century. Many, many hundreds if not thousands of episodes – on on network alone I found the entire Stargate set – all series, all episodes, all variations (Altantis, Universe etc). I’m REALLY excited about that.
In fact, right now, these two add-ons are so good you may be wondering why you’d need anything else. The same runs on a Raspberry Pi 4 (I have the 2GB version) which unlike previous RPis is now fast enough, particularly in the graphics department to make a great TV box – but if you still want to keep Netflix, Amazon APPs and several other Android APPs (Curiosity Stream, Magellan TV etc), perhaps Android boxes like the HK1 are a better choice?