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Always Innovating HDMI dongle brings Android to your 'dumb TV' (engadget.com)
53 points by bane 1662 days ago | hide | past | web | 50 comments | favorite



If I'm understanding this correctly, this is basically a wifi-only Android tablet with a simplified UI, a remote instead of a touchscreen and keyboard, and an HDMI output instead of a built-in screen. For $79. Wow, that's awesome.


A few thoughts...

I rolled my eyes when I first saw it. Another silly gadget when my Roku does just fine. At some point it just becomes too stupidly small, right?

Then I watched the video where he plugs it into the hotel TV and it all made sense. As someone who probably rents overpriced hotel movies about 4 times a year, this device may pay for itself relatively quickly.

Built-in Bluetooth you say? I wonder if I can pair a keyboard to it...

Also -- come to think of it, Google's best marketing strategy for GoogleTV might be to get widespread hotel adoption for it. It'd be a huge convenience for me to be able to, when I get to a hotel, simply auth myself into GoogleTV and have my whole experience personalized.


I think that is a really interesting idea. However, in my previous position I worked to help get a local chain hotel some bandwidth beyond their dedicated T1 connection.

That's right, they had more than 50 rooms plus the hotels staff all using a 1.544mbps connection. They were ecstatic that we were talking about bringing in 20mbps via fixed wireless. However, there was tons and tons of red-tape with their corporate IT department.

Moral of the story: the infrastructure is so uneven that using GoogleTV in hotels will be really hit and miss. Unless, they do it in Kansas City with Google Fiber ...


That would be great for GoogleTV (and great for the user) but I can't imagine hotels signing up unless they got some money from Google out of usage even in the case where the user buys nothing new while at the hotel.

If I've got a bunch of stuff stored to Google Movies or UltraViolet or whatever and I watch that via GoogleTV instead of buying a PPV movie via the hotel's existing system, that's no good for the hotel.


Funny the coming of consumer ~~key-sized~~ product, roku, rasperry pi. Embedded is becoming mainstream, and `usbkey` a term for lambda user price level, ease of use.

Slightly off, they made this few months ago : the smartbook http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWbCF1ulBPY&feature=mfu_i...

So much plugability it makes you laugh. I'd suggest `frankentab` to replace `smartbook`.


Make one end a 16GB USB and the other a HDMI, put some CPU in the middle so I can play 1080p videos from the USB straight to TV and I'll buy it in a flash.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raspberry_Pi (when available, though that dongle's site doesn't list it as actually available anywhere yet either) plus an SD card (or USB stick) might be something like what you are looking for.

It isn't going to be as small and neat, as far as I can tell the standard models won't even be coming with a case, but they are capable of 1080p h264 playback at 30fps. I'm planning to grab a couple to play with when they are generally available.


Probably worth noting that if you don't care about the dongle form factor, you can buy (shipping) Android set-top-boxes now, for the same price as this device[1].

These devices aren't Google TV devices - they run Android 2.x (although I'd expect Android 4.0 on them soon), and they don't have the custom Google TV skin. None-the-less, they are good value if you know what you want.

[1] http://s.dealextreme.com/search/Android+PMP


they are good value if you know what you want

I bought two of these[1] for hacking on[2] and, in my experience and opinion, the ones I got are appalling value for most people.

The remote control works like a combination of a mouse (wiimote style against IR LEDs in the unit) and keyboard (the buttons.) So you're using a remote control to emulate a mouse and keyboard to interact with an interface designed primarily for a touch screen.

In the Android launcher, I found you have to first use the remote buttons to highlight a launcher icon, then use the "mouse" wiimote thingy to -also- hover the cursor over it, and then press and hold the OK button (not tap it) in order to launch an app.

The devices work reasonably well with a proper wireless keyboard and mouse. But in that case why not just buy a tablet with HDMI out for similar or less money? Or dust off an old PC?

Add that to apparently patchy video decoding support, and my verdict is: "really, don't bother".

If/when the promised open source GoogleTV support drops as part of ICS AOSP, things might change. Then they'll actually have a TV-oriented interface not a kludge.

[1] FV-1, S5PV210 based, the first result of the search link.

[2] I bought them to port GNU/Linux w/ X11, with a goal of porting XBMC. I'll hold back on that rant. ;)


The remote control works like a combination of a mouse (wiimote style against IR LEDs in the unit) and keyboard (the buttons.) So you're using a remote control to emulate a mouse and keyboard to interact with an interface designed primarily for a touch screen.

In the Android launcher, I found you have to first use the remote buttons to highlight a launcher icon, then use the "mouse" wiimote thingy to -also- hover the cursor over it, and then press and hold the OK button (not tap it) in order to launch an app.

I'm not surprised to hear this. Good TV interfaces are as different from phone interfaces as phone interfaces are from PC interfaces.


You can also grab a BeagleBone for $89 (http://beagleboard.org/bone), which runs full-=featured Linux (Angstrom) and install MythTV on it install or install Android. Or if you want to spend a bit more go for the full BeagleBoard fro $150, has HDMI out.


You can get a Google TV device for $80, too. That's what a refurb Logitech Revue goes for on Amazon and elsewhere. $99 new.


Cool idea. Amazing price-point. There's android phones for $80 (including screen and battery), so I believe it.

The future of computers is not faster but cheaper.


Can you actually buy an Android phone for 80 dollars or is that after the markdown for signing a service contract?

(Serious question, I mean no disrespect!)


http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2892031

Right now in Australia, that model is $59 on sale (no contract, but locked to Virgin) http://dicksmith.com.au/product/E6835/virgin-huawei-u8150-an... But, for totally unlocked (and not on sale), it's $179 http://dicksmith.com.au/product/E6826/huawei-u8150-ideos-and...

Also, the LG Optimus ME P350, "with a massive 140MB of storage" (!) http://www.woolworthsmobile.com.au/handsets/lg-optimus-me - that's just from my local supermarket, it may be cheaper elsewhere. EDIT manufacturer says it's 2GB http://www.lg.com/au/mobile-phones/all-lg-phones/LG-bar-phon...


The Huawei is available for $80 unlocked, and without contract in Australia [1]. It's a pretty decent - if low end - phone[2].

[1] http://www.uniquemobiles.com.au/Items/huawei-u8150-blk?&... and http://www.uniquemobiles.com.au/Items/huawei-u8180-blk?sck=1... - unsure what the difference is.

[2] http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/review/mobile_phones/huawei/id...


"Can you actually buy an Android phone for 80 dollars"

Yes, unsubsidized. You can also buy Android tablets for $120. They're just not very good. Also, none of them will have brand names you'll have ever heard of, or they'll have the logo of some telco on them.

The cheapest phones by LG and Samsung cost $120, the LG Optimus P350 and the Samsung Galaxy I5500 (both SIM lock free, unsubsidized).


I like this a lot.

I think there could be a market for something like this that allows you to play games off newgrounds if they could get the controller right. Or displays a custom news feed with video and a crawl based on selected keywords.


I'd love to see this as an input to an HMD with some kind of keyboard/touchpad - a great standardized base for head-mounted glasses/AR.


Why does this include an accelerometer?


"RF Remote". I assume it functions like a Wii remote -- you can tip it and shake it and such.

Wouldn't work quite as well for games that allow "real" gravity to affect objects on the screen, but it would be awesome for, e.g., racing games where you tip to steer. Honestly I'm not a big fan of tipping the device to steer when the UI otherwise stays constant to the screen, so this would be an improvement for such games.


How do you tip and shake a device that's plugged into the back of your TV?


"RF Remote" is short for "Radio Frequency Remote Control." So you're tipping and shaking the remote control.

I thought the term would be clear, but apparently not. A quick search of that term gets you to the correct results, though. [1]

"RF" is specified to let you know it's not an infrared remote, so tipping it won't end up sending the "beam" in the wrong direction, and it will (probably) be more reliable in general than an IR remote would be. Certainly the range should be longer.

[1] http://duckduckgo.com/?q=rf+remote


I know what an rf remote is, but this is what the article says:

> The simply-titled HDMI Dongle is effectively an entire system on a chip dongle (and yeah, it looks a lot like Roku's Streaming Stick), boasting a Cortex-A9, between 256MB and 1GB of RAM, inbuilt WiFi / Bluetooth, an NFC module and even an accelerometer.

It explicitly states that the HDMI Dongle contains an accelerometer. It sounds likely at this point that the article is just flat-out wrong, but that's clearly what it states.


I want a subscription to this kind of stuff. This, a raspberrypi, etc.


[deleted]


I was LOOKING for the rudeness and condescension and I didn't sense even the smallest bit of it. So yeah, it's your prejudice. You should really keep that shit off HN.


Neat! But it's in essence nothing more than an Apple TV?


If it really does what they say, I think the metaphor flips. "This Apple TV thingy, isn't it just an oversized HDMI Dongle?"


AppleTV lets you choose from tens of thousands of movies and TV series to rent or buy. It can stream any file you have in your iTunes library on your Mac and PC, over WiFi. It can wirelessly stream from an iPad or iPhone. It can even show an iOS game on your TV, turning your iPhone or iPad into a controller and your TV into a game console.

I don't see how an Android dongle will allow you to do any of that.


"I don't see how an Android dongle will allow you to do any of that."

Then you didn't watch the video on the article, which showed most of exactly that happening with this dongle and its accelerometer-enabled remote.


I did watch them, though. I was careful in writing my comment about iOS and iTunes Store support, not about gaming and video content in general.

The dongle will definitely not run iOS games and apps, and it probably won't play video from the iTunes Store. The doubleTwist app mentioned by another commenter can't read iTunes FairPlay DRM. AirPlay from an iPhone or iPad would need a third party app, and is currently limited to just audio.


Complaining specifically about iOS and iTunes seems unfair in the extreme.

An AppleTV won't run Android games and apps, and it won't play video and films bought from the Android Market.


"An AppleTV won't run Android games and apps, and it won't play video and films bought from the Android Market"

Agreed, but you wouldn't want to, if you were using an AppleTV. There is less content available in the Android Market. There are less apps and games (let alone for big screens), most contain ads and frankly, just aren't as good as iOS counterparts.

If the marketplaces were comparable, I wouldn't have commented in the first place.

(NB: from what I understand, you can't buy movies from the Android Market, you can only rent them.)


Your points seems to be that your prefer the iOS/iTunes ecosystem. I think we get that.


If anything, my point is that it's not down to preference. In specific use cases one platform can simply be better than an other.

Android is better than iOS at certain tasks. As it happens, this just isn't one of those.


Android has torrent client and support for more video playback formats. For me, it is far better suited as a content delivery system than something based on iOS.


AppleTV provides an intuitive way to choose from tens of thousands of titles, making it easy to purchase them and to view those titles on their TV. Those are the tasks I was referring to.

Android allows you to pirate content, run all kinds of dodgy file formats and doesn't put much emphasis on content quality or security, that has been well established.

I'll let you guess which way is better for consumers.


>Android allows you to pirate content, run all kinds of dodgy file formats and doesn't put much emphasis on content quality or security, that has been well established.

Dude, come on, this is getting embarrassing. "Dodgy" file formats? How does an OS put "emphasis on content quality" unless you're going to tell me the 720p from iTunes looks better than the 720p from Android Market?

No emphasis on security? At what level? and what justification do you have for such a sweeping statement?

I don't mind that you're not a fan of Android, though I'm not sure you even have very well articulated the reasons you dislike it so much, but my only objection was your assertion that one is better than the other or that Android can't be perfectly suitable as a set-top operating system. Honestly, I tire of this. First it was Android will never take off on phones, then Android won't work on tablets, now Android is doomed on set-top boxes...


"I don't mind that you're not a fan of Android, though I'm not sure you even have very well articulated the reasons you dislike it so much"

I don't dislike Android, I just don't think Google's version of it is particularly well-suited for users who aren't very computer literate.

"my only objection was your assertion that one is better than the other or that Android can't be perfectly suitable as a set-top operating system"

I didn't say Android can't be perfectly suitable as a set-top operating system, I believe it will be a great platform for set top boxes, especially once Amazon gets involved. I said that right now, Apple has the better platform.

"First it was Android will never take off on phones, then Android won't work on tablets, now Android is doomed on set-top boxes..."

I never said anything of the sort, feel free to browse my previous comments. In particular, I don't believe Android is doomed on set-top boxes.

""Dodgy" file formats?"

File formats of which it isn't clear whether they violate IP of others (like Theora). Containers that are primarily used to distribute pirated content in (like Merkava). Codecs that are installed with malware and browser toolbars (like Real). Pretty much all legally distributed movies are in MPEG-4 and h.264 formats, and all iDevices support those.

"No emphasis on security?"

There's little quality control in the Android Market and apps can be side loaded. That opens the door for all kinds of malware.

"How does an OS put "emphasis on content quality""

The OS doesn't, but we're talking about platforms. The iTunes Store and the App Store are curated. When you buy an iOS app, you can be assured it has no viruses. When you buy a movie or music track in the iTunes Store, you know what kind of file to expect -- which codec, resolution, and bitrate.


What? Seriously, what?

>There's little quality control in the Android Market and apps can be side loaded. That opens the door for all kinds of malware.

Lol. I don't think you understand how Android works. You even imply "viruses" too, which again, is very silly.

>Containers that are primarily used to distribute pirated content in (like Merkava

What? Containers aren't protected and besides, you're (I assume) talking about Matroska?


Are you saying there's no malware or viruses for Android? Why then do so many Android users use a virus scanner?

And yes, I meant the Matroska container. Because of its "MKV" abbreviation, I often confuse it with the Hebrew word for chariot.


Because they're clueless? There are several posts by Android leads that call out those app makers for a reason. That's like asking why do people use task killers in Android.


If this device can stream 1080p content, the hardware is powerful enough to do anything you said. The rest is just software.

If you're implying that Android cannot get behind the iron curtain of iOS APIs, then you are missing the gist of GP's point, which is that this device suggests that Apple could make something smaller than Apple TV. (I didn't downvote you.)


"The rest is just software."

And the reason the iPad is the only tablet that sells well is also "just software". In consumer electronics, the quality of the software makes or breaks the user experience.

"you are missing the gist of GP's point, which is that this device suggests that Apple could make something smaller than Apple TV."

Agreed, I'm sure they could. However, Apple wouldn't make a dongle that sticks out of your TV, simply because it looks ugly. And given that the HDMI and USB ports are placed differently on every TV, I foresee that many users of that dongle will also have a USB extension cord dangling from their TV.

I do see a use case for this dongle in situations where you want to temporarily turn a TV into a useful device (showing content you actually want to see) in a setting where you usually don't have an extra power outlet. The French guy in the video showed this well, plugging it into a TV at a Best Buy and in a hotel room.


If you think Apple has something against selling dongles because they are ugly, have I got a page to show you. I think every Mac owner (including myself) winds up having 2 or 3 of these alternately sticking out of their computer or slowly disintegrating in the back of a desk drawer. http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_mac/mac_accessori...


I see mostly adapters and cables on that page, and some dongles from third parties.

However, I thought of one example of an ugly Apple dongle that is meant to protrude from an Apple device: the iPad's Camera Connection Kit [1]. The reason I think Apple made an exception there is because it's meant to be attached only during the importing of photos.

[1] http://store.apple.com/us/product/MC531ZM/A


Really? "It brings Android to your TV". Have you ever used an Android device? I'll be your tour guide.

AppleTV lets you choose from tens of thousands of movies and TV series to rent or buy.

The Android Market [1] is the "app store" of Android devices (we also have the Amazon App Store [2]). You can buy from tens of thousands of apps, movies, and books. It doesn't have TV shows, but the Netflix [3] and Hulu [4] apps do. Also, the Kindle currently supports Amazon's Instant Video streaming [5], so it's probably only a matter of time before other Android devices support it. Then there are all the less conventional apps for streaming TV [6].

It can stream any file you have in your iTunes library on your Mac and PC, over WiFi. It can wirelessly stream from an iPad or iPhone.

AirSync by doubleTwist [7] can do that as well, works with Mac and PC. If you just want iTunes support directly, there is the iTunes Remote [8] which can control the music on your computer or stream it to your Android device with AirBubble [9]. There's also Twonky [10] and tons of other such apps to choose from.

It can wirelessly stream from an iPad or iPhone. It can even show an iOS game on your TV, turning your iPhone or iPad into a controller and your TV into a game console.

This kinda overlaps with the last point, but a couple more apps that I think get close to this include Plex [11] and Skifta [12].

I don't see how an Android dongle will allow you to do any of that.

It brings Android to your TV. So replace "your Android device" with "your TV" in the above examples.

[1] http://market.android.com

[2] http://www.amazon.com/mobile-apps/b?ie=UTF8&node=2350149...

[3] https://market.android.com/details?id=com.netflix.mediaclien...

[4] https://market.android.com/details?id=com.hulu.plus

[5] http://www.amazon.com/gp/video/ontv/devices

[6] http://www.androidauthority.com/best-android-apps-for-stream...

[7] https://market.android.com/details?id=com.doubleTwist.androi...

[8] https://market.android.com/details?id=hyperfine.hftunes.rele...

[9] https://market.android.com/details?id=com.bubblesoft.android...

[10] http://www.addictivetips.com/mobile/twonky-wireless-media-st...

[11] https://market.android.com/details?id=com.plexapp.gtv

[12] https://market.android.com/details?id=com.skifta.android.app


Thanks for the information. I'm afraid you missed my point, though. AppleTV does all of these things I described out of the box. It's all very well integrated, anyone will know how to use it.

The scenario you described is far less straightforward, and from reading the reviews for some of these solutions you proposed, one's mileage may vary. Sure, this appeals to hackers and tinkerers, but to consumers not so much.

A while back I heard someone argue that when you buy a DELL computer, you can develop iOS apps just as well as on a Mac. You only need some drivers, cracks and a Mac OS X DVD. And you need to make sure you get the right model, with the right chipset, otherwise your sound or WiFi won't work. Somehow, I was reminded of that discussion just now.


I hear ya. For what it's worth, I never said it did any of those things as well as AppleTV, only that it did them. I don't think it's really fair to fault this device for not being as slick as AppleTV, considering the profound price difference.


Gotcha, and thanks again for the links. Some apps I knew about, but some I didn't.

Not sure I'd call $20 a profound price difference though. The current AppleTV has been in stores for over a year and costs $99. The Android dongle has no shipping date and is supposed to cost $79 when it comes out (we'll have to wait and see).




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