As more users turn to streaming and on-demand entertainment, services such as Netflix, Max (previously HBO Max), and Showmax have increased in status. Even local network streamers, such as Plex and Roku, have slowly increased in popularity over the last few years. The big challenge with any number of these services, however, largely comes down to how difficult and inconvenient they can be to set up. Google ChromeCast and Apple AirPlay both require a mobile phone or tablet to be on-hand, while services like Plex can be a tech savvy chore to set up. Fortunately, instant “Smart TV” solutions exist. One such solution is the Mediabox Neo, the more affordable, and much more convenient brother to the Mediabox Maverick.
Like its kin, the Mediabox Neo most definitely flaunts simplicity as its mantra. From the small little box it comes packed in, through to its AndroidTV-based set up, users can get both the media stick and all of their favourite entertainment services going in literal minutes. Moreover, where the Mediabox Maverick is already quite a tiny device, the Mediabox Neo goes one step further by being less than half the Maverick’s size — it looks like a thick USB drive! With that said, the device’s tiny stature means a few sacrifices had to me made.
As a “smart media stick”, one needs to consider how the tiny form factor of the Mediabox Neo means there is not much space for ports and connections. As such, it essentially features zero USB ports, Optical SPDIF outputs, or 3.5mm analogue stereo jacks. Instead, Mediabox have opted to keep it as simple as possible with a single HDMI output. With that said, the device still comes equipped with full Bluetooth 4.2 capability, and dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz n-wireless connectivity, with optional MIMO support. Considering its price of entry (~R1000 ZAR/$82 AUD), it comes as a steal, even with all of the Mediabox mainstay connections cut loose.
Once unpacked and plugged in, all users need is some sort of smart device to go through a quick and easy smart setup, or their login info for a tiny bit slower (yet still very convenient) setup process. The Mediabox Neo comes with AndroidTV 11 installed by default, meaning users with a Google account will immediately gain access to all of their linked services, including but not limited to, YouTube and YouTube Music. For added convenience, the Mediabox Neo even guides users through the entire process!
Simplicity runs through the Mediabox Neo’s veins. As such, it also comes with an easy-to-learn remote with Google Assistant built right in. Having a non-techie person such as moms and dads launch their preferred streaming services is a breeze thanks to Google Assistant’s [admittedly superior] voice recognition capabilities, and letting them use the remote for app/channel switching is just as easy. A simple “launch Showmax” was enough to make my ageing mother see her favourite shows, or “run DStv” to get my grandpa to switch over to his scheduled rugby match.
As expected, a constant internet connection is essential to get the full experience out of the smart stick. Services such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others simply cannot stream without it. With that said, local streaming services such as Plex and Roku works great as long as both the stick and the source (whether it be Network Access Storage (NAS) or otherwise) are connected to the same home network.
While the Mediabox Neo is only capable of outputting 1080p video at a maximum of 60 frames per second, it still houses quite the powerhouse underneath its bonnet. The Mediabox Neo comes equipped with a 12nm 2.1 Ghz Quad-Core Cortex-A35 processing unit with advanced 10bit AV1 & AV2, H.2664 & H.266, VP9 P-2 capabilities. Thanks to the ARM Mali-G31 MP2 graphical processor, it can also decode and output high-dynamic range (HDR) 10/10+ and HLG content. Not having any kind of output resolutions higher than 1080p might be a crutch for techies, but the reality is how many medium and lower income homes have not yet adopted televisions with higher output capabilities. In short: this is most definitely the perfect gift to buy your parents as a starter into a more convenient and modern lifestyle.
While most assuredly not the gold standard for smart media devices, the Mediabox Neo joins its stronger and faster brother as one of the best bang-for-buck solutions currently available. It is small in stature, fits directly into most television setups, and comes with all of the cabling necessary to turn any old television into a smart television. AndroidTV 11 is equally as powerful with one of the simplest and easiest user interfaces to learn. Google Assistant is a massive boon to the device as well, making it significantly easier for anyone to set up and also navigate. The Mediabox Neo may not have all of the capabilities the Maverick does, but it does not need them. As a far cheaper and easier entry point, it is a good and capable device the market definitely needs in order for adoption rates (and by extension, competition) to increase.
|Affordable SmartTV solution||No MicroSD expansion|
|User simplicity exemplified||Only outputs at 1080p60|
Review device supplied by Apex Interactive.
Learn more about our review methodology here.
Junior Editor at Vamers. From Superman to Ironman; Bill Rizer to Sam Fisher and everything in-between, Edward loves it all. He is a Bachelor of Arts student and English Major specialising in Language and Literature. He is an avid writer and casual social networker with a flare for all things tech related.