Noontec A9 Smart TV Box Review


Noontec aren’t a very well known company in the United Kingdom but they have a fairly broad range of products available. We recently looked at their MovieHome V8 NAS Media Playerwhich was sadly a little disappointing. A lack of features and substandard software interface put a stop to a recommendation.
Today we are going to look at another product from Noontec’s range, the A9 Smart TV Box. We were initially a little worried that it would suffer from the same clunky user interface as the MovieHome V8 but we were pleasantly surprised to see Android 2.3 on the specification. Lets see if the A9 succeeds where the MovieHome V8 did not!
Our sample of the Noontec A9 was supplied with the optional M100 wireless multimedia keyboard.
Features
  • Operating System: Android 2.3
  • CPU: Cortex-A8
  • CPU Frequency: 1.2 GHz
  • RAM: 512 MB (DDR)
  • NAND Flash: 4 GB
  • GPU: Vivante GC800, support OpenGL ES 2.0 and Open VG
  • Hardware Decoding: Cevo MM3000, Multi-format full-HD video decoder
  • WIFI: 802.11b/g/n
  • Remote Control: Wireless keyboard mouse
  • USB input: USB host x2
  • Card: 2 in 1 card reader, SD/SDHC/MMC
  • Video Output: HDMI, AV
  • Audio Output: Stereo R/L, optical, HDMI
  • Video Codec: MPEG-1/2/4, H.263, H.264, XVID, RV, AVS, VC-1, VP8
  • Video File Support: MKV, AVI, MP4, 3GP, MPG, VOB, RMVB?RM, FLV, TS, WEBM, WMV, ASF
  • Audio File Support: MP3, AAC, WAV, WMA, M4A, OGG, FLAC, APE
  • Photo File Support: JPG, BMP, GIF, PNG, JPEG
  • Dimensions: 189.7 x 189.7 x 26.4 (LxWxH)
  • Product Weight: 600g
Like the MovieHome V9, the A9 is supplied in a medium sized white cardboard box that is decorated in a fairly minimalistic white livery. The top of the box features a large image of the unit alongside the optional wireless media keyboard. There are also a series of icons along the bottom edge of the top of the box which illustrate some of the most interesting features of the unit.
Inside the box, the unit is surrounded by polystyrene for protection. Removing the unit from the box gives us access to two further compartments in the bottom of the box which contain the bundled accessories. Noontec include an AV cable to connect the unit up to your TV as well as a setup guide, AC adapter and a mini remote with the required AAA batteries. The only obvious omission is an HDMI cable which would be preferable over the AV cable for most users.
As we mentioned above we received the optional multimedia keyboard with the A9 which was located in the accessories section at the bottom of the box. This was contained within it’s own box which looks very similar to the A9′s packaging. Inside this box we find a mini-USB cable for charging the keyboard.
It’s no bad thing that the aesthetic design of the A9 is quite similar to that of the V8 we reviewed a while back. The unit is finished entirely in gloss black plastic which feels very good quality. We would have preferred to see Noontec using gloss plastic more sparingly, though, as it acts as a dust and fingerprint magnet.
Noontec have integrated a metal plate into the base of the unit which gives it a reassuring weight. There are also four rubber feet on the underside of the unit which will stop it from moving around under your TV.
There are no multimedia controls to speak of on the box so we are forced to use the remote control and keyboard exclusively. There is a power button on the top of the box, though, which glows red when the unit is in standby and blue when it is powered on.
On the left hand side of the unit we find one of the two total USB2.0 ports alongside a 2-in-1 memory card reader which supports SD/SDHC and MMC cards.
Most of the connections are located on the rear of the unit. From right to left we find a DC-in jack, three AV audio and video connectors, an optical audio out, an HDMI port, a RJ-45 ethernet jack, a further USB-in port and a USB port to connect the box to your computer.
The Noontec M100 multimedia keyboard really enhances the user experience of the media player. The remote control that is included with the A9 only caters for the very basic functions like volume, basic navigation and back, home and power. The M100 is designed to be used in conjunction with this.
As you can see from the size comparison with our HTC EVO 3D mobile phone in the photo above, the M100 is quite compact indeed. The left hand two thirds of the unit are reserved for the integrated QWERTY keyboard with the thumbpad occupying the remaining space. For some reason Noontec has integrated a tiny LED torch into one end of the keyboard which is operated using a button along the bottom edge of the device.
Despite its small size, the keyboard is actually very easy to use. The small size means it’s very easy to reach across it with your thumbs and the keys are large enough to hit accurately. We rarely found ourselves activating the wrong key when inputting text and web addresses. A few specific keys are in unusual locations but once you’ve used it for a little while you get used to it.
The thumbpad is quite small in size but is substantial enough for basic navigation. Noontec has included a second left mouse button in the top right hand corner of the keyboard, in addition to the one below the thumbpad, which you can use with your left thumb while operating the thumbpad with your right.
We have to plug a tiny USB receiver into the smart TV box for the keyboard to function. And, when not in use, the keyboard can be charged up using the USB cable supplied.
One of the most interesting features of the Noontec A9 is that it uses Google Android 2.3 as an operating system. Noontec claim that this enables the A9 to do a whole host of different things including browing, gaming, shopping, video chat and blogging.
After powering the unit on, we are greeted with a rather familiar looking Android homescreen with a selection of icons for the various applications. Noontec don’t pre-install any applications that you wouldn’t expect with a basic version of Android.
We downloaded a few different applications onto the device through Google Market (the device hasn’t been updated to Play yet) including Facebook, BBC News and BBC iPlayer. BBC iPlayer was essentially useless on the A9 as no video was played when we tried to watch various programs, only audio.
The BBC News was also pretty bad and suffered from some text sizing issues which made it very difficult to read articles unless you’re close to the screen. But, at the end of the day, Android 2.3 was designed as a phone operating system so it’s not surprising that there are issues.
The lack of proper app support is redeemed in part by the browser. We managed to get the BBC iPlayer website working fine and video playback was smooth.
We didn’t have such luck with 4od, though, which experienced stuttering issues. We would recommend using the browser for Facebook as well as the full-size version is much better suited to a large screen than the scaled down mobile app.
The overall browsing experience wasn’t great, though, as web pages take quite a while to load and the thumbpad on the keyboard doesn’t make it very easy to navigate. We also found ourselves zooming in and out accidentally at points because the web browser is clearly designed for a touch screen, not a thumbpad with mouse buttons.
Unlike the other programs we tested, the YouTube app worked perfectly and we were able to search and play video without issue. The playback quality was very good and there was no stuttering at all.
Unlike the MovieHome V9, the A9 doesn’t have room for a hard drive meaning you can’t store your media files directly to it. You can however connect external storage devices such as external hard drives and USB drives. We tested the unit with a selection of filetypes including .AVI (XVID) and .MKV and had no issues at all.
Overall we are left with generally positive impressions of the Noontec A9 Smart TV Box. The unit itself is stylishly designed and will compliment a living room environment aesthetically. The black gloss finish may attract fingerprints and dust but if you keep it clean, it looks great.
Build quality is excellent and the unit is well put together. The built in Wi-Fi is very useful and it means there is no need to purchase an extra dongle or pass meters of network cable through a living room.
After experiencing the horrible interface of the MovieHome V8, we were pleasantly surprised with the A9 Smart TV Box. Android 2.3 doesn’t work that well with a smart TV box but this isn’t surprising as it’s designed for use primarily with smartphones. It is, however, a million times better than the operating system on the V8.
The user interface is easier to navigate and much better featured, YouTube is fully supported. Browsing the internet is also not a problem.
We were a little disappointed that applications such as iPlayer and BBC News weren’t compatible with the unit but this was redeemed to some extent by browser support for these features. Sadly we did experience some trouble with other video on demand services such as 4od, the video didn’t play back smoothly and would jump and stutter continuously.
We do question the need for a device such as the Noontec A9, though, as a PC, laptop or tablet can handle the same tasks without the associated problems.
There are three different versions of the Noontec A9 available on the market with slightly different bundled items.
We would certainly recommend opting for the additional M100 wireless multimedia keyboard as the user experience is greatly enhanced by the addition of a thumbpad and keyboard for navigation and text input. They do charge a slight premium for this but there aren’t many alternative multimedia keyboards out there at the same price.
The cheapest we were able to find the Noontec A9 online was at Play.com where they are selling it bundled with a wireless keyboard and mouse for £100. We would recommend buying the version with the M100 as the keyboard-touchpad combo is better suited to a living room environment. This can be yours for a price of £105 at Scan.
Pros
  • Sleek Design.
  • Solid Build Quality.
  • Inbuilt Wi-Fi.
Cons
  • Android 2.3 isn’t ideal.
  • Poor app support.
  • Stuttering with some flash video playback.
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About Yomal Malinda

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