With a useful USB 3.0 port, the Mecool Android TV box proves that video streaming devices don’t have to be tiny. While Google smart assistant is built-in and you can control your robot vacuum and lights, some apps are curiously missing, other well-known services are unstable, and ultimately, you might wish you’d opted for an HDMI streaming stick instead.
- Android TV and smart speaker combined
- Touch control surface
- Privacy switch for mic off
- Integrates with OK Google for smart home device control
- Dimensions: 261 x 222 x 124mm, 1.5kg
- What’s Included: HDMI cable, PSU, remote
- Brand: Mecool
- Data Ports: Ethernet
- Media ports: HDMI, USB 3.0
- Wireless connections: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
- Useful remote control
- Thousands of apps and games are available
- Surprisingly large
- Could do with additional USB ports
- Some Android TV apps are unavailable
- Tearing in one popular streaming app
Can’t make up your mind between a smart speaker with Google Assistant, or a streaming TV stick with Android TV? The Mecool KA1 Android TV box combines the two. We’re not sure why—but even if you had the space for it, is the Mecool KA1 the solution to your streaming media dreams?
If you’d like to buy the Mecool KA1 after reading this review, enter the code 30KA1 at checkout for 30% off when you buy direct from Mecool!
What You Get With the Mecool KA1
Shipping in a colorful box that you can imagine being ready to lift off a shelf in your local supermarket, the Mecool KA1 is packaged alongside a PSU, HDMI cable, and a remote control.
This takes two AAA batteries, sadly none are included in the box, so you’ll need to source your own.
The remote features a few shortcut buttons, particularly for Spotify and YouTube. There is also a button for voice commands, enabling you to instruct the Google Assistant host in the Mecool KA1 to perform a search or turn your lights down.
The Mecool KA1 Is Huge
When you think of a smart assistant or a streaming TV box, you naturally think of something like the Roku or the Amazon Fire Stick, or even the Amazon Fire TV. You might think of a standard Amazon Echo.
The Mecool KA1 Android TV differs from those devices in that you could fit them all inside. Resembling some sort of UFO, the KA1 comes in white, with a gray speaker grille covering the dual 5W RMS stereo speakers. Around the back, the DC power, 1x HDMI, 1x LAN, and 1x USB 3.0 port can be found. (The Mecool website lists a model with an RF connector, but our review device doesn’t have that feature.)
On the top of the Mecool KA1, you’ll find a microphone mute button, and four status LEDs. These switch between the Google colors when the device boots or processes a command, and a standard off-white while awaiting instruction. Another LED is found on the front of the smart KA1, at the bottom.
The central white panel of the KA1 is touch-sensitive, used for controlling volume, pausing and playing media, and initializing Google Assistant.
Inside the Mecool KA1 is an Amlogic S905X4 SoC Quad-core ARM Cortex-A55 processor with either 2GB of RAM and 16GB storage or 4GB RAM and 32GB storage (we reviewed the 4 + 32GB model).
Running a Google Certified Android TV OS, the device features four indicator LEDs on the top.
The Mecool KA1 has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless networking and device connectivity. It also has dual linear microphone arrays for picking up voice commands from across the room, and as noted, touch controls are also included on the surface of the Mecool KA1.
Main Features of the Mecool KA1
What can you expect when hooking it up to your TV and switching on the Mecool KA1?
The system runs Android TV 11, so you can expect the latest TV user interface and a huge collection of apps for streaming and entertainment. Additionally, the device will run Android games.
The built-in microphones support “Far-Field voice” which enhances your voice for barking commands at the box from across the room, to a range of 5 meters. The mics also support commands such as turning on the TV, switching to a particular VOD service or movie, and others.
Google Assistant is only available when the TV is off, and can be disabled if necessary with a mute button. Otherwise, you can use it to play music, get weather details, traffic updates, and all the usual things. With the Housekeeper feature also included, the MECOOL KA1 can control smart home devices at your command.
Setting Up the Mecool Android TV
The basic Mecool KA1 setup is straightforward – you simply plug everything in, and enjoy the ambient music is plays while you set up the internet connection.
Well, that seems to be the intention. But getting it online with your wireless network if you don’t have an Ethernet connection is less than perfect.
In fact, I’d say it was pretty tough. The smartphone set up through the Google Home app doesn’t work for some reason, necessitating a manual setup. This is no big disaster, but less elegant than having the app copy the details from your phone to the device.
Consequently, you’ll need to fuss around entering passwords for your Wi-Fi and Google account via an on-screen keyboard. Connecting a USB keyboard is preferable for this stage, but you may not have one to hand.
Smart Assistant Integration With the Mecool KA1 Android TV
The Housekeeper mode works with Google Home to give you direct access to the smart devices you own. For example, you can control smart lights, view a security cam, or control a robot vacuum cleaner.
As one of the key pieces of tech in my abode, I opted to use the Mecool KA1 with the previously-reviewed Roborock S7. Set up was straightforward, and the resulting list of commands helped me to instruct the robovac to clean specific rooms.
No complaints here.
Using the Mecool KA1 as a Streaming Solution
Of course, the main purpose for a device in a box labeled “Mecool Android TV” is to help you watch TV. This is mainly done via the Android TV user interface, which means that in theory any streaming app on your phone or tablet should run.
Furthermore, any apps and games you use may also work. To test this, I attempted to install our usual favorites: Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, NOWTV, and Britbox (UK).
While starting well, I soon became concerned that apps apparently available on other Android TVs (such as Britbox) were not listed. While sideloading is an option, built-in Chromecast is included for casting, and installing a web browser should let you view any services that don’t have an available app.
Unfortunately, worse was to come. The Mecool KA1 developed a weird audio glitch on Disney+, with the app or the device opting to set its own volume level. Worse was to come, as Disney+ appeared to show tearing (above) on several episodes of Modern Family. While I wasn’t able to compare other shows, I compared it against the Disney+ app on the Roku, connected to the same TV and wireless network, and found no tearing.
Other Apps and Games on the Mecool KA1
If you want to play Android games on this device, you’ll need a wireless controller in most cases. I installed Asphalt 8 from Google Play on the Mecool KA1 and after connecting an Xbox One controller (which was pretty painless) I was able to enjoy a few rounds of the game. While the game looks great, it isn’t hugely playable, however, so I opted for something a bit different, an old favorite, Radiant, which again played perfectly on the big screen.
Finally, unable to find something I felt would really tax the Mecool KA1, I decided to give Steam Link a go, but due to both devices being connected wirelessly, the results weren’t as good as they could be. However, the results were enough to indicate that with the Mecool KA1 and any computer running Steam connected to the network over Ethernet, PC gaming streamed through the device should be pretty enjoyable.
But do you really want to play games through an Android TV if you already have a game console connected to the same TV?
What Do You Want From Your TV Box?
If you’re getting the shows you want to watch and any apps and games you enjoy through your TV, the size of the Mecool KA1 might not matter so much. Having a smart assistant is useful, as is the ability to cast to it without requiring a Chromecast device.
Smart assistant aside, Mecool KA1 Android TV box doesn’t bring much to the party. It’s like the sum of its parts don’t quite match its potential.
I don’t generally like Android TV. While it has improved in recent years, I find the user interface too busy. But after a few days with the Mecool KA1, I found myself getting used to it—especially after disabling a few of the promotional options—and enjoying telling my robovac to clean up.
However, the sheer size of the Mecool KA1’s is a problem. A few days into testing, I came across a Roku Streaming Stick+, a 4K version of the Roku, for just $12. Compact, anonymous, and with a remote-mounted mic, the Roku Streaming Stick+ does everything I need a TV streaming device to do.
In contrast, the Mecool KA1 does lots of things I don’t need. My TV already has a USB input, so I don’t need that. I don’t need to bark commands at my tech because I have apps that I can tap, quietly. But I do need a Disney+ that doesn’t glitch, and streaming services that run on other platforms (and other Android TVs) to be available.
The Mecool KA1 Android TV box is a good piece of hardware that may well change how you watch TV—but it didn’t for me.