MeCool M8S Pro W – Cheap and cheerful

In 2019, does the Mecool M8S Pro W still have a place?

Whilst its never going to the set the world on fire, being 2 years long in the tooth, the Mecool M8S Pro W is still a solid little box for the price point. Based on the Amlogic 905w core is good, the gadget runs smoothly and the applications load acceptably quickly by virtue of the speedy storage and reasonable memory. The 16GB of on-board storage can be raised by another 32GB with the addition of a micro SD card, and with 2 x USB 2.0 providing additional options for external storage. Benchmarks are deemed typical for the budget, with low to mid end gaming possible, but don’t expect to be running the latest and greatest titles.

Amlogic designed a new quad-core SoC that has lower clock speeds than the previous S905X version. Mali 450 is still the horsepower behind device’s graphic processing. There is a catch though. The S905W has a resolution limitation to [email protected] Of course lower resolutions can go up to 60hz. This shouldn’t annoy the majority of users but more on that later on in the performance section. HDR is still supported like H.265 HEVC decoding.

For network connections, an RJ45 with Mbit LAN and a Wi-Fi draft N module are typical for the price. Though no Bluetooth module is installed on this unit, so if you’re wanting to use an alternate remote or other Bluetooth capabilities, you’ll need to factor in buying a USB module and losing 1 of your ports.

The unit comes with Android 7.1.2 as the operating system and surprisingly, Videolan whom make the unit are still making and releasing updates to this day, which is commendable and shows how successful the unit has been. The interface does however look rather dated whilst still remaining responsive. Play Store is pre-installed so that you can install any application you want from Google’s vast catalogue.

You will find one main screen, only featuring the basic options (KODI, File manager, Settings, Web Browser and apps) with the possibility to add shortcuts. It is clean and simple, with a useful clock widget in the middle. It would however be nice to see a new interface on the Mecool/Videostrong devices since the overall design of the existing one is getting too old.

Inside you will find the media box, an HDMI cable, the familiar OEM IR remote, the wall type adaptor and a quick start guide. Connectivity is also good with 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Headphone jack, 1 x HDMI 2.0 out (with 4K and HDR support) and 1 x micro SD slot (up to 32GB).

With the lack of Widevine only standard definition Netflix is supported, 1080p You-Tube is supported as well. The device also arrives pre-rooted with Super user not installed though if you need it, you can install it manually in a few short moments..

After the first boot you will find just under 11GB’s of free space, which is enough movement room for installing apps and performing updates, though don’t expect to store a huge media library on there without using external storage of some kind.

Obvious weak points of the Pro W are the lack of Widevine L1 and the Google certification along with a maximum of 4K at only 30Hz, which even then, the box struggles under the weight of trying to render at that resolution. However 1080p playback was smooth and without issues, and running at a solid 60Hz.

Armbian OS

Armbian OS will run on this unit, both stably and smoothly, however its worth noting that there have been 2 revisions of the Mecool M8S Pro W. One will install Armbian to the internal eMMC and one wont, though as best I can tell, all the current revisions fall into the “will install” category. At time of writing, also don’t expect WiFI to work under Armbian and as mentioned, Bluetooth isn’t on the board, so that’s out too.

Conclusion

As a box, it really is cheap and cheerful, but with fantastic performance for that price point. If youre on a budget and just looking for a 1080p media server or an low power host to run Armbain OS from, the M8S Pro W will be hard to beat.

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