First, apologies for the long wait for this review (or any update). The reason is simple: I’ve been having trouble accessing my blog for the last week or so, and it’s been (finally) solved today.
This review unit was sent to me courtesy of Probox2, so thank you (again) very much, and especially Wilson, for the help and support!
Probox2 EX+ was one of the first boxes I reviewed, as well as being one of the best and most stable of the bunch. So I was glad to find out they’ve joined the “updated” group of manufacturers and came out with the new Z Kodi TV Box that employs the Amlogic S905 CPU.
What’s in the Box?
As can be seen both in the unboxing video and the photo below, the package is pretty standard, a DC power adapter, standard HDMI 2.0 cable, a IR remote control and Quick guide. It’s really all you need to use this device efficiently – aside from a digital screen.
The Probox2 Z is made of black plastic and comes in a matte finish. The box is quite light and simple, with an embossed logo of the manufacturer on its top. There is no external antenna, but there is a blue round indication LED on the front of the box. The port selection is quite basic with (only) 2 USB 2.0 ports on offer, a Gigabit LAN port, and a TF (Micro-SD) expansion slot .
|CPU||Amlogic S905 Quad Core 64-Bit Cortex A53 CPU, up to 2Ghz|
|GPU||Penta Core Mali-450 GPU, up to 600Mhz|
|Memory / Storage||1GB DDR3 / 8GB eMMC|
|Wireless Connectivity||802.11n WIFI, Bluetooth 4.0|
|OS||Android Lollipop 5.1|
|Video Output||HDMI 2.0, up to 4K** @ 60fps, Support HDMI-CEC|
|Audio Output||Via HDMI 2.0, optical SPDIF|
|Power||DC 5V 2A adapter (CE, FCC, CCC Certified)|
|Dimensions / Weight||110mm * 110mm * 17.5mm / 185g|
Benchmarks and Testing
All benchmarks have been repeated 3 times and results have been averaged to give a more accurate reading:
The Antutu benchmark tests single core performance over multi-core as it is a better indication of the performance of one device over others in most situations. The position in each graphs paints a somewhat mixed picture, as in the newer 6.0.1 version, the Z is in one of the last places (even among the S905 boxes), and in the older 5.7.3 version, it takes a middle placement. The (somewhat) more demanding 6.0.1 version may be too taxing for the new box, but this may change with time and new firmware updates.
GPU Mark Benchmark
GPU Mark tests 3d gaming performance and also provides a normalized score according to the used screen resolution (for a more accurate result). The test is quite short and should be taken as a supporting result to that of the more serious 3D Mark benchmark. We can see GPUMark also places the Z in one of the last places, so 3d gaming/apps may prove demanding for this box.
A1 SD Benchmark
A1 SD Benchmark tests RAM and flash memory speeds. As can be seen in the provided graphs, RAM is much faster (by a factor of about 40) than flash memory – that is why it’s in smaller amount and is also volatile (does not keep its contents after a reboot). The results here shows that the RAM/storage controller does not shine and the results are (again) among the lowest in the test. This can and does affect general performance as the included RAM amount is low to begin with.
PC Mark Benchmark
The PC Mark benchmark test suite gives a more task/day oriented picture of performance. Things like photo editing, web browsing and video playback are tested. The results of PC Mark are average which is quite good, considering the low scores the Z box got in the memory tests above.
3D Mark Benchmark
3D Mark benchmark is considered as one of the best ways to test 3d performance on Android (and other platforms). The score is consistent with the GPU Mark and Antutu scores from before. This box can be used for casual gaming, but it will struggle to produce decent frame rate in 3d heavy games.
Video Playback testing (Using KODI)
|Resolution||Video Format||Local Playback||Network (Wi-Fi/LAN) Playback|
|720p (1280*720)||AVC (High@L4.1)||Playing correctly||Playing correctly|
|1080P (1920*1080)||AVC (High@L4)||Playing correctly||Playing correctly|
|4K/UHD (4096*2304)||AVC (High@L5.1)||*Playing correctly||Buffering and stutter|
|2160P (3840*2160)||HEVC (H.265)||*Playing correctly||Mixed. Some Buffering|
|4K TS HEVC files||HEVC (H.265) 10Bit||Playing correctly||Mixed. Crashes/Buffering|
Local (SD card) Playback: Most of the files played correctly locally. However, some (AVC/H.264) files showed Kodi beta issues – The audio starts while the screen is black, and only by bringing up the info overlay (clicking “okay” or middle button on the remote), the video shows.
Local Network Playback: Z had issues with local network playback of heavy files. Standard Mpeg 4 (H.264) 4K files would either play with buffering after a while, jitters, and/or stutter. One of the 10 Bit TS test files not only would refuse to play, but actually crash Kodi. That is true only for network files playback. However, it shows firmware instability, and broken multi-tasking. Even with the modest hardware specs, it is possible to achieve stable and sustained video playback over the network – at least for AVC (H.264) files. And crashes are not acceptable.
* I also noticed, that when Kodi was updating the library, it would affect heavy playback both off the network and locally, to the point that stuttering and even crashing occurs. This is what I meant by broken multi-tasking. I did not notice this in most of the other S905 boxes I tested. Even the cheapest ones. This is an urgent issue to correct.
All these issues seems to be correctable, as the video compatibility rating for this box is one of the highest (if not the highest) I seen – according to Antutu Video tester.
Issues and bugs
- 10 mb bug is still here. Probox2 maintains that it does not happen in all cases. They’ve tested a 2 TB drive and reported that it appears and works fine. However, I have tested with my own 1.5 TB which appears fine in non-s905 (or firmware fixed s905) devices and it shows as 10 mb, and does not allow copying of large files.
- I experienced some jerkiness in two out of the three games (Angry Birds 2, and Asphalt 8) – both in menus and in-game. The jerkiness affected video, but not audio.
- I also noticed delays in certain applications. In Kodi, some plug-ins would take very long to load. And in games using Google play games services, it would take long minutes to connect to the service, even though the bug that crashes Google play games is fixed.
- The Kodi issues mentioned in the Kodi testing section above. Kodi crashes, video delays to start while audio begins, and bad local network playback performance. These are unacceptable in a commercial box – even though they apply to the heaviest files (4K/UHD) files mostly.
Network performance has been tested using Speedtest.net Internet speed measuring app, in WiFi and in Wired mode. My Internet connection is 200 Mbit Symmetric Fibre connection. Performance is average-low for WiFi (only N standard is supported), but quite good for Wired connection:
I use an application called “GameBench” to measure frame rate and resource usage in games. However, since this box is brand new, and does not have a working root solution, my impressions are just descriptive and not measured:
Asphalt 8 Airborne – a 3d graphic intensive racing game. The game run fine, but not completely smooth. Loading screens were swift, but the during gameplay I experienced a small amount of jerkiness.
Angry Birds 2 – a popular 2d action game. Runs smoothly most of the time, with bits of slowdown both in-game and in menus. GameBench was unable to measure in-game performance, as it crashed once the game loaded and switched from the menu. The resource usage below is just for general indication.
Walking War Robots – an online robot warfare game that requires a game-pad (I don’t have a game-pad). Mostly smooth sailing, with very little to un-noticeable slower frame rate at times.
Did I like it? So So. I experienced too much instability in Kodi (be aware that I tested it with Kodi Jarvis Beta 5), and it must be corrected before it can become popular. However, the Z works well most of the time, with videos up to (and including) 1080p. The box also comes pre-rooted.
Would I recommend it? Not at this stage, unless you’re willing to experiment and wait for the next firmware. The Z needs to go through at least one more firmware update to improve stability. It is one of the cheapest S905 boxes out there, and once Probox2 fix some of the urgent issues, it will be one of the stronger contenders.
So you’d like to buy this box? You can find it here: PROBOX2 Z ANDROID TV BOX, 64BIT QUAD CORE CPU + 4K DECODING, S905 + GIGALAN + ANDROID 5.1 + KODI for a mere 60 USD!
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