With everyone having an individual smartphone these days and most which aren't an Apple product is running some sort of Droid OS on it. So individually, you can sit and watch a movie on your phone or tablet, you can game on it; really you can do just about anything on these new devices out on the market today. The only thing I see wrong with the idea of the individual devices for personal use is what happens when someone comes over? Typically if you wanted to show a friend or family something on your small-ish screens or prop it on a table as you both stare into it trying to watch the latest movie or YouTube videos.
Thanks to the gang over at Pivos Group, there is a new way to essentially take said smartphones and tablets and devise a device to offer the same feel as these devices, but now you simply connect it to the TV or home entertainment system. This way when friends and family show up for a party, you can simply walk over to the couch and show all of your videos, even play games on the home theater system. Now I know everyone into tech has sat around with their buddies over a few drinks wondering how to connect their phone to a TV to have the large screen we all would rather watch HD movies on, but up till now were really limited with limited availability of connectors or pass-through cables being offered to do so.
The idea from Pivos is to make the XIOS DS Media Play! a unit that won't replace the smartphone in your pocket, but with this device there is a seamless transition from the phone while you are on the go, right on into the couch for catching up while you eat dinner or lounge around the house. Of course this media box doesn't make phone calls, but with all the apps that come on the XIOS DS from Pivos and the huge Droid Marketplace, there really isn't much you can't find to do with this unit.
I have used a couple of media players in the past, I have even started to move into mini-PCs as of late and I have to say, the XIOS DS is the perfect cross over device that offers you the best of both worlds. With a load of codecs, a bigger list of supported file types and the intuitive connectivity of the XIOS DS, it really is much more of a mini-PC/tablet than a standalone media player as I have seen them before.
I for one always wished there was a way to take tablets and phones and connect them to a much bigger screen and now Pivos has brought that exact concept to fruition and I get to test it out and show it off to you right now.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The XIOS DS arrives as a tiny white plastic covered unit and by small I mean just slightly larger than an SSD and only twice as thick. In actual dimensions, it sits at four inches wide, four inches deep and stands only six tenths of an inch high. The top of the unit offers the XIOS naming centered in the field with the Droid logo split on the top and bottom. On the front of the unit there are LED indicators and a microphone to receive voice commands. On the right there are USB ports and a SDHC card reader. The back offers a LAN port, USB, HDMI, the power jack and the power button. The left side is just the plastic shell with stickers on it. This just leaves the bottom of the unit that has a rubber pad across it with four bumps as the feet to keep the XIOS DS in place on any surface.
The unit also comes with a remote control that will offer you the basic buttons and functionality that is found on any tablet or smartphone. With the version of the remote that is shipped, I did find it easier to control things with a wireless keyboard and mouse, but even here Pivos has a better solution that they are also offering. They have also sent along the XIOS DS Sense remote that works much like a Wii controller. With the dongle plugged into the XIOS DS, you now can point anywhere you want the cursor to select on the screen, rather than having to use the arrow keys on the stock remote.
As you can see by the listing of codecs for audio, video and file types, there isn't much this system won't read and even when shifting a movie over from my PC, the Droid 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich offered to convert the file I had into one that was playable on the XIOS DS much like your phones and tablets do. With an ARM Cortex A9 processor running the show, a Mali-400 Open GL 3D GPU, 512MB of onboard DDR2 for system memory, along with the 2GB of NAND flash for storage, this unit is ready to go out of the box. As we all know 2GB of storage isn't that much, but with the Micro SDHC slot on the side, you can add up to an additional 32GB of storage to the XIOS DS.
Since I received the XIOS DS, the availability has increased a lot. When I first received the sample there weren't any places actually stocking this device. Over a two week period of time, that all changed as I can see that now there are five locations in the US to obtain one of these. There are a few listing prices a bit better than the one at Newegg, but all included, the $114.99 pricing there is really reasonable for this device. Considering what tablets cost or even to grab a smartphone on the retail market, they aren't exactly cheap. For just over $100 you can have all of the fun and entertainment you carry around in your pocket every day, just now it is as easy to hook up to the TV as a VCR, just with this you will never get the time to continuously blink 12:00 AM.
Let's dig a bit deeper and see just what the XIOS DS Media Play! system has in store for us, what it looks like and just what comes included along with some of the developments since the original release of this creative little gadget.
The top of the packaging shows this device is created from the Pivos Technology Group at the top, with a green TV looking logo centered in the panel with a play icon on the screen as part of the XIOS name. Under that you see the DS Media Play and icons showing that this runs Android, HTML5, Chrome and APK.
This side of the packaging offers the Android logo waving over the black block containing information that Android and Chrome are registered to Google and all other names and trademarks belong to the respective companies.
Rotating the box clockwise shows a description of just what the XIOS DS is and does. It then carries into the super small form factor of this device and just how much they can pack into such a small device.
Continuing the clockwise spin, you are then shown that the device is 3.3" square, although unless my ruler is made funny, my XIOS DS is 4" square. The unit ships with the default OS being Android 2.3, but with an update you are given Android 4.0 right out of the gate without even having to deal with this OS.
The last side of the outer packaging gives you a full list of the onboard components, network capabilities and the connectivity and storage options. If the list isn't enough to get the idea, the text on the right gives you ideas of what to use it for.
The bottom of the box also offers a bunch of information about the supported formats for the video, audio and images. Really everything they could think of about the XIOS DS can be found here. The clear plastic band you see is actually a handle to separate the box to expose the device inside.
With the top off of the box, you see that the XIOS DS is shipped in high density foam. Since the device is less than an inch thick, a cardboard shelf allows this to sit above the included hardware and goodies you will find under it.
Pivos XIOS DS Media Play!
The XIOS DS comes completely white, except for what you see here on the top. The Android logo has been slip with his eyes peering from the bottom and his legs hanging from the top; both of which are surrounding the XIOS DS Media Play and the TV-like icon.
On the front edge of the XIOS there are indicators, a purple power LED, an orange or red "." icon to let you know it is loading and a blue LED on the right for Wi-Fi. The black section to the right is a microphone to allow for the voice commands we are so used to on our mobile devices.
The right side offers a Micro-SDHC slot for up to 32GB of extra storage followed by a pair of USB 2.0 ports to connect any devices to the XIOS DS that you think you might need.
The back of the unit offers a 10/100 Ethernet port, but the device does have built in Wi-Fi (802.11n). You then run into the USB 2.0 port, the HDMI port and the DC jack to power the unit. That just leaves the little green power button. Keep in mind there is a power button on the remote as well.
The left of the XIOS DS is plain and contains just a couple of stickers. The first is a MAC code and the second code says "nanomini" and is followed by what appears to be a serial number, but it doesn't coincide with any numbers on the bottom.
Under the unit you see that the entire bottom has a grey rubber cover, but only at the corners are there bumps to act as feet. You can see by the sticker here that the numbers don't match the side and there is an upgrade hole in the bottom, which I never had to use, but I assume is there for good reason.
Just in case you were having a bit of trouble grasping the size of the XIOS DS, I went and grabbed an SSD I had around and placing them side by side should give you some real perspective on just how small this device really is.
Accessories and Documentation
Let's start off with the instructions found on the side of the inner part, under the original lid. First be sure that you got all of your parts for the XIOS DS including the unit, the remote, the power cord and the HDMI cable.
Step two is to connect the power to the XIOS DS, then connecting the HDMI cable from it to your TV. Lastly, you want to pull the battery saver tab out of the remote.
From there you boot up the XIOS DS, open the browser and visit www.pivosgroup.com to download the latest software and apps package to install on the device.
If at the point of getting back to the updated XIOS DS things aren't second nature to you or if you do have any issues, consult with the manual or visit either of the sites listed at the bottom for help or even send in a support ticket.
The HDMI cable supplied with the unit comes with protective caps on the gold plated ends and offers about five feet of total length to connect it to the TV.
You also get a wall plug that goes to a laptop style power connector on the end of six feet of dual strand wire. The wall adapter will show a green LED if the outlet has power for quick reference if there is a power issue with your device.
The remote that comes with the XIOS DS is also white and offers a power button and setting button at the top with a four-way controller with an OK button to move around the screen and make selections. Below all of that, there is also a return button and an information button to finish off the main controls on the top.
On the left side of the remote, you can also control the volume, much like any phone or tablet.
To get underway with this remote, you must first remove this plastic tab so that the battery inside will make contact with the remote. I also wanted to show this end of the remote so you can see how it differs from the optional offering.
XIOS DS Sense Optional Remote Packaging
The XIOS DS Sense remote is exactly as the box describes and alludes to. The layout of this 2.4GHz wireless remote has change because this $24.99 option to the system allows you to move a cursor much like using a Nintendo Wii remote.
On the side they even show more of what this is about. You can take this remote and move around, swipe screens, point at applications and widgets, even clicking on them to select and initiate said apps and widgets.
The back of the packaging offers a bit about the Sense and even says that it is ready to go for a wide array of products, not just the XIOS DS Media Play. It also covers the contents which should be the remote, the charger cable and the USB mini-dongle to receive the signal from the remote.
Just like on the bottom of the XIOS DS packaging, the Sense remote also makes the disclaimer about trademarks or names found other than Android and Google is not related to Pivos.
Just to be sure the Sense remote arrives damage free, inside of the cardboard box, the remote is also packed inside of a sturdy plastic clamshell to take any abuse transit may deliver.
The XIOS DS Sense Remote
The Sense remote is a little dressier than the original equipment. Here you not only have XIOS DS Sense painted on it, but the Android logo is also slightly present. The layout now offers a lock key, mute and zoom buttons, but since you can move the remote to move the cursor, the arrow keys now get a home, return, information and setting buttons around the large OK button.
This too will allow you to adjust the volume up and down with the small volume switch found on the left side of the remote.
At the bottom end of the remote, this time there isn't a battery tab in place since this battery is rechargeable. Once the XIOS DS is all set up, plug in the USB cable to the media player and the other end to here and the remote will begin its charging process.
I figured since I had them both, I would put them in an image side by side so you can see the differences without having to swap pages back and forth to see it.
Here is the charging cable for the remote. One end is mini-USB to plug into the remote and at the other end of four feet of cable is the standard USB connection to plug into one of the XIOS DS' multiple USB ports.
As for the receiver, you get a plain black mini-dingle to plug into the XIOS DS as you see that I have done. Once the mouse is charged, you simply use it. Both remotes work at the same time so you can battle with your buddies as to what to watch or what version of Angry Birds you are going to play.
With all of the pre-installed applications and the vastness of the Android Marketplace, you can really do just about anything with the XIOS DS, even things like tracking ghosts in the house, gaming and media streaming, making the mere $114 asking price a drop in the entertainment budget. While this product doesn't exactly fit my needs, I can see where this could be a lot of fun for most everyone or even a test bed system to root and write apps for so that you aren't bricking expensive phones. I made sure to give myself ample time with the Pivos XIOS DS and I set it up on my main monitor at my work PC, figuring I would swap over the TV inputs and mess around with it from time to time. In reality I kept reaching for my Galaxy, as it is just simpler to deal with. While the Sense remote did make life easier than the basic remote or even the mouse and keyboard I used, for some reason for me things just didn't click. I had fun, but this didn't end up being a go-to product that I just had to come home and play with. If I didn't have a smartphone or just wanted an easy way to delve into the Android arena, this device is priced perfectly for that.
I went ahead and got all the updates and even had a chance to play around with a development that Pivos worked on to bring XBMC to the XIOS DS. For those used to playing around with XBMC you get the same abilities just this time specifically made to run on the XIOS DS. While it does give you an all-in-one solution to media, so does the XIOS DS or many other applications available in the marketplace. I can appreciate both the time it took to make this all happen and the user base that feels comfortable with products they have already become accustomed to. With me I was able to do what I needed with the basic applications and since my last Xbox was the original system, I sort of missed out on the necessity of XBMC since its inception.
The XIOS DS is pretty snappy swapping pages, getting to the internet and the marketplace with ease, even loading games and applications in good time. What gets me is the boot time from powered off to actually being able to use it. In the two to three minutes of the boot time, I lost interest in it and ended up moving to the phone. I would have left the unit running all of the time, but what I found is that if the ambient got over 25 degrees Celsius, the device temperature climbed pretty fast as the ambient went up. Sitting here as I type this, the box is currently 45 degrees and it's at rest. While playing videos or streaming over the wireless network, I saw readings of up to 60 degrees. I am positive the hardware can take it, but be sure to leave this is a well-ventilated area and expect the XIOS DS to generate some heat.
Even though the XIOS DS Media Play isn't one of those devices I just had to tinker with all of the time, I may have not given it all a fair enough amount of time, but then again I don't typically sit in my living room getting so bored with cable that I am looking for something else to do. That being said, I can definitely see the need and potential market for a device like this. Essentially offering you everything a phone and tablet can do from the comfort of your couch, even there is a bit of Wii action mixed in with the $25 Sense remote.
For around $150 the XIOS DS Media Play and the Sense remote offer an easy to grasp interface and what could be a very enjoyable experience in any room in the house with a TV with an HDMI connection.