Boot up and initial impressions
Booting up the JynxBox mini takes over a minute which is more than twice as long as an RK3066 based device. The first time that the JynxBox mini is started, it launches a wizard that helps you setup the language, display layout and WiFi.
After being connected to my WiFi network, I got a notification that a new firmware is available for my JynxBox. This is the first time that I have ever come across an Android Mini PC device that autoupdates and it is a pleasant surprise. Updating the firmware on an Android Mini PC usually requires rooting as well as connecting the device to a PC and running the update from the PC.
The firmware update process on the JynxBox is totally painless. All I had to do was to accept the update and the update completed on its own and rebooted the device. I wish all firmware updates were this easy. I did not managed to check before the update but the updated firmware is rooted.
Once the firmware update completed, the JynxBox mini started the default Android launcher. The launcher is quite spartan with no apps or widget on the desktop at all.
A quick check on the apps page reveals that thankfully, Jynx Media did not fill up the JynxBox with tons of unnecessary apps. Besides the default Android browser, Chrome has been installed as well.
The IR remote could have benefited from a customized launcher that makes it easier to navigate using directional buttons. However, this is not a big issue as you can always replace the default launcher with a customized one from the Google Play Store. There are launchers that are designed to work with TV remotes.
The size of the remote makes it easy to hold and the buttons are not stiff like the IR remote that came with the Minix New G4. It looks and feels a lot like the Uhost U-mouse except that it is an IR remote and has no air mouse function like the U-mouse.
Since this is probably the feature that garners the most interest, I started with testing XBMC right away. The good news is that the JynxBox does have hardware video decoding support on XBMC but the bad news is that the support is via MX Player, an external video player.
Using MX Player as an external video player has been a work around to play HD videos on the Android Mini PCs. While this is generally an acceptable solution for many users, getting native hardware decoding has been the holy grail for XBMC on Android.
So on one hand, the JynxBox does allow you to play HD videos smoothly on XBMC, you can achieve the same results by installing XBMC with MX Player as an external player on most other Android Mini PCs. The only difference is that on the JynxBox Mini, XBMC and MX Player are already pre-installed.
However, XBMC is much more than just a media player and that is why it is loved by many. There are many add-ons available for XBMC that really extends the functionality of XBMC. Unfortunately, I got error messages on missing dependencies. XBMC can be quite overwhelming for a newbies but fortunately there is quite a lot of resources online to help you out. Error messages like these right out of the box scare a lot of people away even if they are easily fixable.
I managed to find a thriving JynxBox user community on the XBMChub forums with a lot of information and feedback from users. There are many who managed to get XBMC to work really well on the JynxBox but it requires a lot of experimentation and tinkering.
If you are not one of those who have the time, resources and skills to tinker around with the JynxBox and expect it to work as advertised right out of the box, the JynxBox mini is not the device for you. However if you find satisfaction in hacking and modifying your PC, the JynxBox mini can be a lot of fun.
As a media management tool and player, XBMC is among the best. It is very versatile and allows for tons of add-ons that extends the capability of XBMC. However, the Android version of XBMC still has some limitations compared to other versions and many add-ons currebtly still do not work on the Android version.
Netflix is another popular app for those who are mainly using the Android Mini PC as a media box. Unfortunately, I couldn't get Netflix to work properly on the JynxBox Mini. I first tried installing the latest version of Netflix app from the Google Play Store. Audio and subtitles work fine but I couldn't get the video. All I got is a black screen with the subtitles at the bottom.
I then reverted to an older version of Netflix (ver 1.8.1) that normally works with the Android Mini PCs I have tested. I got slightly better results. The video is vertically squeezed with vertical black bars on both sides. However, it only plays briefly when the playback controls are on screen. Once the controls get hidden, the videos disappears as well.
I initially had problems with Netflix on the Tronsmart Prometheus which also has an Amlogic CPU but it was quickly fixed by a firmware update.
(Update 4/2/13) I installed an updated firmware supplied by Jynx Media but it did not resolve the problem with Netflix. The only thing that it fixed is that the video no longer disappears when the controls get hidden on Netflix 1.8.1. The vertical bars problem and the latest Netflix not running are not resolved. Video playback on Netflix suffers from frequent slow downs or lags. Even if you can ignore the vertical bars problem, the laggy video is hard to ignore.
The current firmware for the JynxBox mini is still quite flaky and can be very unstable at times. During my initial testing, I did not install any additional apps but the JynxBox crashed on me quite a few times especially when viewing videos. The system will also become momentarily unresponsive at times.
However, there are also times that it will work flawlessly for long periods so I am not exactly sure what is causing the JynxBox to crash. Overall, the system seems a little more laggy compared to the dual core RK3066 devices.
Hopefully with the interest that the JynxBox has been generating, either the open source community or Jynx Media themselves are able to resolve these issues with a firmware update. The JynxBox mini hardware shows a lot of promise but it just needs to proper software to go along with it.
(Update 4/2/13)I have updated the firmware with an updated version from Jynx Media. The updated firmware is much more stable compared to the original. YouTube and the video player no longer crashed when playing video. The latest firmware is still Android 4.0.4 though.
One of the biggest issues with the Android Mini PC devices is problems with WiFi connectivity. With the external WiFi antenna on the JynxBox mini, I expected better than average WiFi connectivity.
The good news is that I did not have any problems connecting to my WiFi router that is located 1 floor down and with a couple of concrete walls in between. The bad news is that I can get much faster download speeds on my laptop computer. When I moved the JynxBox mini downstairs right next to the router, I get similar speeds as my laptop.
However, as a comparison, the Minix Neo G4 which has one of the best WiFi performance among all the Android Mini PC that I have tested gives similar performance. So while the antenna does help in getting better than average WiFi performance, it cannot compare to a laptop.