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Hands-on review: Probox2 EX Android 4.4 TV box

Sep 27, 2014 — by Rick Lehrbaum 10,623 views

This hands-on review examines the Probox2 EX media streaming box, featuring Android 4.4, a quad-core Cortex-A9 SoC, 4k video, Miracast, and an air-mouse.

W2Comp began shipping the Android 4.4-based Probox2 EX media streaming mini-PC last month. Compared to the company’s earlier media streaming products, the $150 Probox2 EX uses a faster Amlogic quad-core processor and runs Android 4.4 (“KitKat”). On the wireless side it advances from Bluetooth 2.0 to 4.0, and features dual-band 802.11 b/g/n support that uses 5.8GHz instead of 5GHz as its upper band, resulting in reduced interference, according to W2Comp. (More hardware details appear farther below.)

Probox2 EX
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This hands-on review starts out with an overview of the device’s default user interface and preinstalled apps. Next, it demonstrates the results of installing an alternative homescreen launcher and a highly flexible folder and icon customization tool, provides brief descriptions and screenshots of many of the device’s preinstalled and user-added Android apps, and concludes by assessing how well it’s likely to serve users’ “first screen” media streaming needs, especially for would-be “cord cutters.”

But first, let’s crack it open…


Unboxing the Probox2 EX

The Probox2 EX arrived tucked neatly inside a cardboard box. Included with the device were a WiFi antenna; an IR remote; an RF “Remote+”; HDMI, A/V, and USB cables; and a 5VDC (2A) power supply.

Unboxing the Probox2 EX (Remote+ not shown here)
(click images to enlarge)

Standard user interface

After firing it up and running through a couple of startup screens I grabbed a set of screenshots showing the default user interface, including homescreens, folders, and settings.

The screenshots below show the Probox2 EX’s standard homescreen launcher, appropriately called the “Probox2 EX Launcher.” The device comes with a set of three homescreens, each containing icons corresponding to folders and apps. The primary two homescreens appear below, and the scrolled contents of the “All Apps” homescreen are shown farther below.

Default homescreens
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Of the icons on the two homescreens shown above, nine are folders and the remainder are app shortcuts. Folders on first homescreen (“Home”) are labeled Movies, TV Shows, Music, Games, and Internet, and the ones on the second homescreen (“More”) are labeled Favorites, Games, Streaming, and Social. The rest of the icons on the two homescreens are shortcuts for the XBMC, File Browser, Google Play, Task Killer, and Probox2 EX Settings apps.

The default apps that are contained in the nine default homescreen folders can be seen in the screenshots below.

Default folders
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Selecting the third default homescreen, labeled “All Apps” in the navigation at the top of the homescreens, gives you the opportunity to scroll through all of the apps that are installed on the device, and launch any app you want to run. This is similar to what you’ll find on a typical Android tablet or smartphone, except in this you scroll through the full set of app shortcuts vertically, instead of horizontally. As shown below, the Probox2 EX arrived with 33 Android apps preinstalled.

Default “All apps” homescreen contents
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Although the device’s standard “Probox2 EX Launcher” is clearly meant to make it easy to navigate to any desired app using either of the two provided remote controls, it ends up being overly rigid. For example, you can select or deselect the app shortcuts that appear inside each of the nine category folders on the homescreens using the “+” function that’s present in each folder, but you can’t cause an app to appear in more than one folder. But this means you can’t include XBMC in the Music, Movies, and TV Shows folders, even though it handles all three categories of content. Other things you can’t accomplish include rearranging, adding, or deleting folders; nesting folders; or customizing the icon names or images for folders or app shortcuts.

In short, the default Probox2 EX homescreen launcher seems rather arbitrary. It’s not that it’s unusable — rather, it’s overly and needlessly restrictive and inflexible. I suspect most users will want to tweak the system to match their tastes and needs, but there’s little that can be done within the constraints of the current homescreen launcher. Hopefully the Probox2 EX Launcher will evolve over time (W2Comp indicated their interest in enhancing it in several recent emails).

Customizing the homescreens and folders

So, after taking a tour of the device’s default launcher and noticing its limitations, I bade it farewell and installed the Android ADW Launcher and Folder Organizer apps. Both are available in free versions from Google’s app store, without ads or other annoyances.

The screenshots below show the Probox2 EX after I installed these UI alternatives. As you’ll see, at this point I also added my favorite NASA nebula wallpaper and installed a bunch of my favorite Android media streaming apps and other utilities.

Customized homescreen using ADW Launcher
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Next, I created five custom folders using the Android Folder Organizer app, for Watch, Listen, Stream, Utilities, and Admin. Although it’s not essential, I prefer the optional “pro” version of Folder Organizer, which lets you place folders within folders; for example, I put Admin inside Utilities.

Customized folders using Folder Organizer
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The screenshots below show the contents of the horizontally-scrolling “All apps” screens, which at this point contain launchers for 60 apps.

“All apps” screens after adding some favorites
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System settings

The Probox2 EX comes with a unique settings app that lets you configure several functions specific to the device. As seen in the set of screenshots below, the Probox2 EX Settings app offers quick access to wired and wireless networking enable/disable options, and provides several settings for tuning the device’s A/V configuration. It also includes a convenient entry point to the main Android settings function from the “More Settings” button on the “Other” tab, although you can easily access standard Android Settings using normal methods, such via the swipe-down panel at the upper-right corner of the screen.

Probox2 EX Settings
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Preinstalled multimedia apps

The Probox2 EX comes with many of the apps you’ll want for streaming movies, TV shows, and music to your big screen. These include Media Center, Miracast, Netflix, XBMC, YouTube, MX Player, 4k Movie Player, Play Music, and a simple Music app. Most are well known, popular Android apps, so they need no explanation. Below are brief descriptions and screenshots of several of the Probox2 EX’s multimedia apps.

  • Media Center — This app provides support for DLNA and AirPlay media rendering and appears to be unique to the Probox2 EX. Both functions worked as expected for rendering movies and music over DLNA from a Nexus 10 running Android 4.4 to the Probox2 EX, and over AirPlay from an iPad 2 running iOS7 to the Probox2 EX. Apple’s iOS screen mirroring feature is not supported, however. Here are several screenshots showing the Media Center app’s configuration options:

    Media Center app
    (click images to enlarge)

    Once the app is configured and launched, the Probox2 EX shows up as a DLNA renderer on DLNA-enabled sources and as an Airplay target on late-model iOS devices. The screenshot below shows the Probox2 EX appearing as a DLNA renderer on my Nexus 10 tablet. Using my Nexus 10 as the DLNA server, video renders on the Probox2 EX without noticeable flaws.
  • Miracast — The Probox2 EX includes an app that you can run to enable Miracast A/V rendering on the device. It provides a few simple setup functions, as shown in the screenshots below.

    Miracast rendering app settings
    (click images to enlarge)

    The Probox2 EX is only available as a Miracast receiver device while the Miracast app is actively running on it, and provided it is on the same WiFi access point as the Miracast casting device. Once the app is configured and launched, the Probox2 EX shows up as a casting target on Miracast-enabled sources. The screenshots below show the process of mirroring video to the Probox2 EX from my Nexus 10 tablet.

    Miracast screen casting to the Probox2 EX from my Nexus 10
    (click images to enlarge)

    Video performance during Miracast screeen mirroring seems reasonably smooth and responsive, and performs about the same as iOS screen mirroring from my iPad 2 to my Apple TV box. However, casting video from BeyondPod on the Nexus 10 to the Probox 2 EX seems to have a minor video/audio syncing discrepancy that does not seem to be there when casting the same video to the Chromecast device.
  • 4k MoviePlayer — Unfortunately, I don’t have any 4k video available to try, so I’ve been unable to test this capability of the Probox2 EX. The 4k MoviePlayer app has a simple folder and file browser user interface, through which you can locate and play 4k videos on the device.
  • Play Music — Google’s app for playing music from local files or from the cloud works as expected.

    Play Music
    (click images to enlarge)

  • Netflix — This continually evolving app for streaming movies and TV episodes works great on the Probox2 EX. Monthly fees apply.

    (click images to enlarge)

  • XBMC — Recently renamed to “Kodi,” this superb media center app makes a great portal for accessing local storage, network shares, and numerous cloud sources. It offers a continually evolving set of services and plug-ins. It performs well on the Probox2 EX.

    (click images to enlarge)

  • YouTube — As you might expect, YouTube runs flawlessly on the Probox2 EX.

    (click images to enlarge)

User-added multimedia apps

After experimenting with the preinstalled multimedia apps, I added a number of additional ones that I’ve used on my Android tablets and TV-streaming boxes. These include BeyondPod, BubbleUPnP, Hulu, Pandora, PlayOn, Plex, SimpleTV, Skifta, TuneIn Radio, and Vudu. Most of these are quite well known. BubbleUPnP and Skifta are two DLNA-oriented alternatives to the Probox2 EX’s Media Center app and are probably unnecessary, but I like having them available just in case I need to try an alternative for DLNA. I also find ES File Explorer useful for streaming video and audio files from Windows shares, including from Samba services on my Linux systems.

Hulu, like Netflix, requires a monthly subscription, while using M-Go or Vudu to watch movies or TV episodes involves either a one-time fee or a purchase. I tried PopcornFlix and found that it treats the Probox2 EX as a phone, rendering its user interface on a narrow vertically-oriented segment of the HDTV’s screen; however it appears to go full-screen for playing video, so it might be usable.

The screenshots below show some of these added multimedia apps running on the Probox2 EX.

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PBS Kids
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TuneIn Radio
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Hardware comments

The Probox2 EX ships with two remote controls. The simple IR remote, shown on the left below, is nearly identical in size, button layout, and functions to the remote that came with the Ugoos UT2 that I recently reviewed.

Left to right: standard remote, Remote+, and my diNovi Mini
(click images to enlarge)

The other included remote is the “Remote+” air mouse, which combines normal remote control button functions that are transmitted via IR to the Probox2 EX, along with gesture functions that are transmitted over RF wireless. It’s said to be useful for playing games, but even as a non-gamer I found two of its features to be quite useful.

The air-mouse function of the Remote+ goes along way toward eliminating the need for using my more fully-featured Logitech diNovo Mini wireless keyboard/touchpad most of the time.

The other interesting feature of the Remote+ is the built-in mic, which is useful for voice searches and commands, but also for making Skype calls. Regarding the latter, I had to re-install Skype from Google’s app store, even though it came preinstalled on the Probox2 EX. Apparently, the preinstalled version was meant for operation in China: it failed to connect with Skype’s communications service here in North America, and when I invoked its help feature it presented troubleshooting information in Chinese. Now I’ve got two versions of Skype on my box.

Incidentally, the Remote+ can also be used with Windows, Linux, and Apple PCs and laptops, thanks to its universal USB plug-in adapter.

Antutu benchmark

In case you’re wondering about performance, the screenshots below show the results of an Antutu benchmark test I ran on the Probox2 EX. The device turned in a stunning score of 38,942, putting it about 10 percent shy of Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 3. (Keep that in mind when we get to the bit about price, in the conclusion.)

Antutu benchmark results
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Power consumption

As is my usual practice, I plugged the Probox2 EX’s power supply into my Kill-A-Watt meter to get a sense of the device’s idle and active power draw. It peaked around 8 Watts during Antutu’s graphics-intensive test phase, and settled down to 2-3 Watts after the test completed. Typically, it sits at about 2 Watts when idle, and jumps to the range of 3 to 5 Watts during video streaming or when switching among homescreens.

Putting the box in “suspend” mode
(click image to enlarge)

Thankfully, the Probox2 EX has a power button on it, as well as one on its remote control — something sadly lacking from an increasingly number of small consumer devices, these days. (I’m looking at you, Roku!) The device consumes roughly zero Watts (my meter reads “0.00”) when it’s in suspend mode, yet it snaps back into the Android homescreen in less than one second flat when it’s awakened. So you might want to consider contributing to a healthier planet by taking advantage of the device’s excellent suspend/resume support.

(Note: to suspend the device, either use Android’s power button widget at the bottom of the screen and select “suspend,” or press the remote’s red power button and select “suspend” using the remote’s D-pad up/down arrows and then press the D-pad’s OK button to complete the process. To wake the device up from suspend, press the remote’s red power button, or simply press the power button located directly on top of the Probox2 EX.)

Using the Probox2 EX as a WiFi access point

Thanks to its Android 4.4 OS, the Probox2 EX can be configured as a WiFi access point, assuming you have it connected via Ethernet to a broadband source. This is easy to configure using the Wireless & Network section of Android’s Settings, as shown in the group of screenshots below.

Configuring the Probox2 EX as a WiFi access point
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My Nexus 10 using “Probox2EX AP” for Internet access
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Overall assessment

By now, I’ve used quite a few Linux- and Android-based gadgets and gizmos to stream multimedia to my HDTV. These have included the iconic Popcorn Hour and its PopBox sibling, BoxeeBox, several generations of Roku boxes, the Logitech Revue and Vizio Co-star Google TV devices, the Plair and BiggiFi streaming sticks, the Ugoos UT2 Android TV box, Google’s Chromecast, and several Roku wannabees from D-Link and Netgear.

So, how does the Android 4.4-powered Probox2 EX compare to this long list of candidates for streaming entertainment to your family room’s big screen? Here’s my take:

  • Compliments:
    • Powerful quad-core processor and decent GPU
    • Update-to-date Android 4.4 OS
    • Full support for Google’s Android services and app store
    • Low power operation; 0 Watt sleep mode with instant-on
    • Comes with both IR and RF remotes, with the latter providing handy air-mouse and microphone functions
    • Relatively simple UI
    • Includes Media Center app for DLNA and AirPlay media rendering
    • Includes Miracast app for screen casting
    • The device comes pre-rooted!
  • Complaints:
    • Overly rigid default UI
    • Complex to use, compared to channel-oriented TVs and cable boxes
    • Pricey compared to Roku or Chromecast

As I’ve demonstrated it’s easy to install third-party apps that create a higher degree of UI flexibility and customization, which reduces the intensity of the first item in the complaints list, but at the cost of increasing the intensity of the second item. Regarding price, $150 really isn’t too much to pay for a powerful, Android 4.4-based TV set-top-box for streaming multimedia and playing games, assuming it does what it’s claimed to do well, and provided it gets timely bug-fixes and periodic feature upgrades and OS updates for a good three to five years

Cord-cutter’s verdict

The Probox2 EX packs a powerful set of media playing and streaming functionality within a small, low-power box. It was able to play or stream content from nearly every source I pointed it to, or pointed to it. Thanks to its up-to-date, full featured Android 4.4 OS, it benefits from numerous high quality multimedia-oriented Android apps that are available at zero or negligible cost from Google’s app store. Really, the biggest issue I ran into is one that all Android devices currently suffer from: the painfully slow transition of web-based video content from being based on Adobe Flash to using HTML5 — but that’s certainly not the Probox2 EX’s fault!

How often would I use the Probox2 EX for my multimedia watching and listening needs? At this point, the jury is still out pondering that question. So far, I’d say the Probox2 EX beats out any other Android set-top-box I’ve used to date (see long list up above). But it faces serious competition from two other devices sitting beside it:

  • Roku — For watching movies and TV episodes streamed from well established services, nothing beats Roku in terms of ease of use and a super-efficient remote control. Additionally, recent Roku firmware updates have added DLNA rendering and Miracast casting support. On the other hand, when you want to check email or google something relating to the content you’re watching, you need to grab your smartphone or tablet for those tasks, whereas with an Android box it’s all there in front of you — which, incidentally, is something Google is focusing on with its soon-to-be-released Android TV platform.

  • Chromecast — Google’s “little streaming stick that could” keeps expanding its media-streaming capabilities, with growing third party support. It does a great job at both screen casting from your smartphone or tablet as well as independently streaming from the cloud, as it deems appropriate.

So which of these three gadgets is the best choice for would-be cord cutters? The answer depends on your own inclinations. I intend to switch among all three, while discovering how far I can push the Probox2 EX — after all, that’s the only one that puts me squarely in the driver’s seat, which is where I like to be!

Summary of Probox2 EX specs

These specifications listed on the Probox2 EX’s web page:

  • Processor — Amlogic S802-H (4x Cortex-A9 cores @ 1.6–2.0 GHz) with Mali-450 MP GPU @ up to 600MHz
  • Memory:
    • 2GB DDR3 RAM
    • 16GB eMMC flash (12-13GB user available)
    • TF (SD) card reader
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet port
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g/n dual-band (2.4Ghz/5.8Ghz)
    • Bluetooth 4.0
    • IR receiver
  • Video support — AVI, RMVB, MKV& FLV; supports 1080p and 4K playback; Adobe Flash 11.1 support for YouTube
  • Audio support — MP3/WMA/WAV/APE/AAC/FLAC/OGG; Dolby/DTS
  • Other I/O:
    • HDMI port
    • AV port
    • 2x USB 2.0 host ports
    • Micro-USB OTG port
  • Other features — Remote+ controller (IR+RF) with air mouse, gyroscope, gaming, and mic; Miracast, DLNA, and Airplay streaming support
  • Hardware options — Bluetooth or WiFi (2.4GHz) keyboard/mouse combo; Bluetooth or WiFi (2.4GHz) gamepad controller (2.4GHz); USB 2.0 hub
  • Power:
    • Supply — DC 5V, 2A adapter (included)
    • Consumption, as measured by LinuxGizmos — 8W peak; 2-3W idle; 0W suspend
  • Weight — 200 g
  • Dimensions — 115 x 115 x 26mm
  • Operating system — Android 4.4 (“KitKat”)

Further information

The Probox2 EX is currently available for $150. Further details are available on the Probox2 EX page of, and at W2Comp’s Probox2 EX shopping page. Although it’s not the manufacturer of the Probox2 EX, W2Comp is its “exclusive distributor” and has specialized in HD media players for more than five years, says the company.

(advertise here)

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13 responses to “Hands-on review: Probox2 EX Android 4.4 TV box”

  1. kapi says:

    hello, I couldn’t decide between this product, and RK3288 tv box, can you help me for the choice? mainly for video, a little games

    • LinuxGizmos says:

      Although we covered it in our news ( I haven’t had the opportunity to test Rikomagic’s MK902II tv box. The MK902II has four USB 2.0 Host ports, which seems useful for external media and interface peripherals, but beyond that there doesn’t seem to be a big difference between the Rikomagic box and this Probox2 EX. Another point to research might be in the two device’s SoCs: the MK902II’s SoC is a Rockchip RK3288 with 4x Cortex-A17 cores @ 1.8GHz and a Mali-T764 GPU; the Probox2 EX uses the Amlogic S802-H with 4x Cortex-A9 cores @ 1.6–2.0GHz and a Mali-450 MP GPU. Miracast support is not listed on the MK902II page, so you might want to investigate that if screen casting/mirroring would be desirable for your use of the box. Also, Rikimagic’s web page for the MK902II ( shows a about a 5 percent higher Antutu score (40,253) than what I measured for the Probox2 EX (38,942). You also will want to think about the comparison of the I/O ports, for example the Probox2 EX has 2x USB Host ports and 1x microUSB OTG port, whereas the Rikomagic box has 3x USB Host ports and 1x USB host port.

  2. David Smoot says:

    This looks like a very promising MythTV front end, cheap, low power, with a wireless remote. Any chance you could evaluate its ability to run one of the Android MythTV clients? Also can it install the Amazon Prime video player? If I could have one box for Netflix, Amazon, and MythTV I would be happy.

    • CFWhitman says:

      It’s very doubtful at this point that Amazon Instant Video player would install from the Google Play Store. That app seems to use a whitelist arrangement for “compatibility.” That is, it considers your device incompatible unless it’s on its list of compatible devices. Last I checked, even the Galaxy S5 was not listed as compatible yet.

      If you do have a compatible device, you may or may not have success downloading the apk on the listed device and then copying it and sideloading on this device. If it has a root check, though, that probably wouldn’t work. I find it rather amusing that Netflix works on almost any Android device with little trouble, while at this point Amazon Instant Video works on almost none.

  3. kapi says:

    I would like to know if it’s possible to boot on linux? linux support?

    • LinuxGizmos says:

      I asked W2Comp about whether a version of Linux will be available for the Probox2 EX. The reply was: “they will do linux like ubuntu but it should take longer time, maybe two months.”

  4. Lloyd says:

    Can you connect the probox 2 directly to a USB HDD and play it’s media on a HDMI Connected TV? I have a WDTV Live and am looking for a replacement due to it’s poor performance. I want a device that can play media directly connected to a USB HDD. I’m basically looking for the WDTV Live with an awesome processor and memory!

    • LinuxGizmos says:

      This should work fine, since you can definitely play media from USB devices plugged into the USB ports.

      • Lloyd says:

        What does it use to catalog the media? Is it XBMC or some other system? I really need a system that is great at organizing my files by HDD folder. The WDTV Live is awesome at doing this function. It not only gathers metadata for feature films, it allows home video and movie extras to be identified by creating a matching name .jpeg as it’s associated image for the video file. I already have over 6TB of data and would hate to redo every single file plus figure out a method of adding an image file to files that aren’t major feature films (such as the movie extras and home video).

        I really want to replace all 6 of my WD’s with something better. My concern is in ease of use, that’s why I simply direct connect the drives to the device. If you have a better method of using the device I’d appreciate your instructions for how to do it with this device (or something else)! I tend to avoid networking because I need something my kids can intuitively and reliably use.

        Lastly, is there a USB HDD size limitation for the device? Thanks for letting me bend your mind a little!

  5. RobertD says:

    Does the probox2 ex automatically load playon from my tv server or is there and app to install to be able to use Playon tv on the probox? Playon tv is on my computer server that is connected to my network.

    • LinuxGizmos says:

      You need to install the Android PlayOn app. It’s free.

      • RobetD says:

        So if I install theplayon Android app does it pull content from my server or does it access playing directly? I guess what I need to know is do I need to purchase plyon again and create a new account or will it access the account I have installed on my server?

        • LinuxGizmos says:

          The playon app on your android box (or android tablet) streams from your PC’s playon server. You only need the PC master (server) app once, for everything (including on more than one PC or laptop). I recommend also getting the playlater upgrade sometime when they offer a very inexpensive lifetime package upgrade for the combo. Every now and then they do that.

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