G-BOX MX2 Firmware Update Adds AirPlay and Miracast Improves XBMCPosted: October 30, 2013
Ryan Michael Downey
Matircom has updated the firmware for the G-Box Midnight MX2. When the MX2 hit the market it came packed with ports and processing power along with expectations that the Android based set top box would deliver an easy to update system and feature many high end multimedia features. Version 1.1.6 of the company’s firmware is beginning to deliver on the lofty promises. The new set up features an Integrated XBMC launcher designed in to the system. The update improves the performance of the system from top to bottom including setup, responsiveness to the controller, menus and performance of XBMC. Matricom says that the update also fixes a number of errors including one that prevented certain apps from being loaded on to the system via the Google Play Store.
Set up time for the device has been greatly reduced. Language selection is simple and self-explanatory. Setting the screen size is as simple as turning up and down the volume on a TV. Once these tasks are completed choose how the device will work at start up. The MX2 can use both Android and XBMC as an OS but If you would like to easily tweak the settings we recommend launching from Android and not from XBMC. It is also far easier to use the Android based apps when launching from Android instead of XBMC.
Apple TV No Longer Has a Monopoly On Set Top Air Play
A significant addition to the MX2 is its new ability to utilize Apple’s AirPlay with IOS devices. Air Play is a versatile protocol developed for compatible Apple mobile devices and computers that allows the devices to share video and audio from the device with other devices including the Apple TV 2 and 3 as well as some speaker systems. While Air Play was possible through various computer configurations involving programs like XBMC it was not enabled on any other set top box. Developers promised AirPlay when the product launched but the early builds of the firmware did not support it. Once the function, which can be found in the All Apps menu, is opened and enabled an IOS device will recognize the MX2 as a receiver in the same manner that it would see an Apple TV or Airplay speakers. I tested the service with an Ipad 4 and the watched videos from ESPN.com in full HD. The GBOX does not currently allow for screen mirroring or airplay directly from IOS apps. But this is a big step forward for the device. Along with AirPlay capabilities the MX2 also offers Android users with compatible devices the option to use AirPlay alternative, Miracast. Miracast is like AirPlay in that it will mirror the screen of a compatible Android device and is available via some smart TV’s as well as through other Android based dongles. The only major protocol missing from the MX2 is DIAL (DIscovery And Launch) which is the protocol that the popular Google Chromecast utilizes.
Fully Charged version of XBMC
XBMC an app that is considered a major selling point for the device is now integrated in to its main Android based menu. It is available via its carousel and launches quickly. XBMC was included with other builds of the MX2 firmware but the current version has eliminated the bugs in the coding that hurt its performance including a lag between audio and video content. The MX2 can even be configured to launch directly in to Matricom’s custom version of the popular media aggregator which comes pre installed with a number of the most popular internet based apps including a portal to access Hulu’s Free computer based service on your TV and YouTube. Also preloaded is the USTV Now app which provides free access to major network television to Americans living overseas. All of the video apps we tried load faster than ever. Netflix is famously absent on XBMC. To Access Netflix on the MX2 the mobile version of the app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store.
It’s all about the Repositories
Repositories are basically libraries of apps from individual developers. The MX2 ships with over 50 repositories including the xbmc.org repository pre-installed on the device. The version of XBMC on the MX2 is a full version of the program fully capable of adding downloader server links through the settings menu in order to add any new apps as soon as the debut. One of the strengths of XBMC is that it has many third party apps that can provide unlimited hours of entertainment and educational programming. They include The Onion.com, Aljazeera World, iTunes Podcast, apps covering tech news, entertainment news, full seasons of television shows movies and so many other things. But like other open source programs XBMC has inspired many creative people to develop other apps to meet the needs of the public.
The new firmware improves the basic functions of the included remote from the start. Most of the basic functions such as app selection and closing apps can be taken care of via the directional button and “OK” button. A major upgrade from the previous firmware is the the controller is fully capable of text selection using its directional buttons and no longer requires the use of the cursor button. The company also launched a new branded controller with an included physical Keyboard. The item, called the G-Mouse III, has multiple functions including a “mouse” function that will allow users to point to items and select them similar to the functionality of Nintendo’s Wii remote. The G-Mouse will also allow user to use a swiping motion that will greatly improve the Android experience. Having a keyboard will speed up searches for content in XBMC as well as web browsing as well as shopping for apps. It can be added to the purchase price of the MX2 for $14.00 or bought individually from Amazon or the Matricom home page for $18.90.
Very Strong Entry
The improvements to the MX2 both from a software perspective through its firmware updates and the new controller have made the item a very compelling product going forward. It appears that developers have been paying attention to reviews and suggestions from their audience and implemented suggestions that could make it far more marketable to a general audience. The product has maintained a strong presence on Amazon since its launch. It will bear watching as customers begin to post reviews based on the upgrades.
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