In-depth review of the ABOX A4: a fine TV box, but nothing more
Fine crafted design.
Nice build quality.
Solid media playback performance.
Useful voice control functions.
Poor support for mouse and keyboard.
Unstable overall performance.
Most icons in the app drawer look blurry, regardless of the output resolution.
The remote doesn’t always work with smartphone apps.
No dual-band Wi-Fi (ABOX promised to add 5GHz Wi-Fi in the next batch of the A4).
GooBang Doo is a Shenzhen-based company known for making quality TV boxes, mini-PCs and projectors. The ABOX A4 TV Box, which comes with an Amlogic quad-core processor, 2GB RAM and stock Android TV UI, is one of their latest offerings.
OS: Android 7.1.2
CPU: Quad core Cortex A53 2.0GHz 64bit
GPU: Penta-Core Mali-450MP GPU @ 750MHz
RAM: 2GB DDR3
ROM: 16GB EMMC Flash, expandable with a Micro SD card
Power Supply: DC 5V 2A
Power Indicator (LED)：Blue(ON); RED(Standby status)
3D: Hardware 3D graphics acceleration
HDD file system FAT16/FAT32/NTFS
Support Subtitle: SRT/SMI/SUB/SSA/IDX+USB
High Definition video output: 4k*2k
LAN: Ethernet: 10/100M, standard RJ-45
Wireless: Support 802.11 a/b/g/n at 2.4GHz
The ABOX A4 comes with simple but beautiful packaging.
Besides the ABOX A4 TV box, we also found an HDMI cable, a power adapter, a remote and a user manual which is printed in English after unboxing.
Design and build
The ABOX A4 is a beauty, it is in fact one of the best-looking TV boxes I have ever tested. The design is simple and sophisticated at the same time. The jet black chassis gives the box a premium feel, and the ABOX LOGO sits comfortably on the top side of the device.
When you power on the A4, the LOGO will light up in sapphire blue, making the box look extremely high-end and futuristic.
The front side of the A4 is a digital display which shows the time, date and connection status when the device is powered on.
Despite its compact size, the A4 still offers many ports and slots. On the left side you will find 2 full size USB Type-A ports, both are of USB 2.0 standard. There is also a Micro SD card slot which supports cards up to 32GB.
On the back side of the device you will find a 3.5mm SPDIF audio port, RJ45 Ethernet jack, an HDMI 2.0 port, an AV port and a DC port.
There are some vents on the bottom side to keep the box from overheating. The 4 round rubber feet are quite short, but still do a very good job at protecting the box from scratches.
The build quality of the A4 is extremely solid, it feels sturdy and durable, and there are no ugly mold lines on the shell.
The supplied remote of the A4 looks far more premium than the remotes paired with Jide or Beelink TV Boxes. Although it is lightweight and made of plastic, it does have a metallic-alike finish on top to give it a high-end look. The remote also feels very well-built and robust in our hands, the buttons have reasonable travel and rebound fast.
Unlike most remotes that’s based on infra-red, The ABOX A4 remote is actually based on Bluetooth 4.0, and has a pretty long and broad control range. According to ABOX, you can use the remote to control the TV box from up to 15 meters away. In my own test, the remote has no problem sending voice commands to the box from 7-8 meters and a wall away. Also, the A4 responds quickly to the remote’s signal.
Setting up the ABOX A4 is extremely easy. Connecting it to a TV set (or projector) via HDMI, plugging in the charger, loading two triple-A dry cells in the stock remote and you are good to go. There are some settings needed when you boot the A4 for the first time. Since it is running on Android TV UI, you are required to connect the device to the internet and login in your google account before you could use any of its functions.
System and Apps
As we mentioned earlier, the A4 runs Android 7.1 Nougat out of the box, with stock Android TV UI on top. The UI is simple and easy to navigate, with a voice control icon on the top of the screen, an array of shortcuts for recommended content, notifications, and two rows of shortcuts for favorite apps. There are also shortcuts to settings, Wi-Fi, and app drawer on the bottom. The UI even offers automatic previews of content from the homescreen.
The voice control function worked like a charm, I could use it to find, launch, and control content. For example, I can ask the A4 to “launch YouTube”, then to “search for the videos about the latest match of Rafael Nadal”, and to “play the first video” with only my thumb staying on the voice button on the remote.
The TV version Play Store has been preinstalled, you can find thousands of apps optimized for a TV screen in it. The A4 also allows you to install apps you can’t find in the Play Store with the built-in apk file installer.
There are a few other preinstalled applications as well, including YouTube (TV version), YT Kids, Netflix, MX Player and ES File Browser. Most of these apps are quite useful. But if you live a region where you don’t need or can’t even get access to Netflix or YouTube services, you can always uninstall them.
Unfortunately, most icons in the app drawer look quite blurry. I initially thought it was probably due to the output display resolution, but then I realized that’s not the case since the icons always looked blurry, regardless of resolution I was using.
The lockscreen of the A4, however, looks beautiful and artistic.
Running the Android TV UI means that the A4 is designed as a TV box, and it is supposed to be used as one as well. Mice and keyboards are still supported, since it is still Android underneath, but don’t expect the experience to anywhere near it is on a Jide Remix Mini. Some TV apps and the A4’s on-screen keyboard don’t even support a mouse at all. For example, when you use your wireless keyboard to type in the words in the search box in YouTube, you cannot just press enter and then expect to get your search results, it doesn’t work like that. You can’t even use your mouse to click the “search” button on your on-screen keyboard. The only way to get the results is for you to use your remote. While the TV apps aren’t always friendly towards a mouse and a keyboard. Normal apps don’t always support the remote. Needless to say that you can’t not ways use a remote to navigate in a smartphone app which was only built for tapping with your fingers. Also, when you are in a smartphone application such as a benchmark, you cannot always expect the A4 to instantly go back to the homescreen or to the last screen by pressing the home and back button on the remote, it simply doesn’t work. I constantly found myself switching between the mouse and remote when testing the A4. Fortunately, if you only use it as a TV box and only has TV apps installed, you won’t be faced with this problem.
Like many of the modern smart TV boxes and mini PCs, the A4 supports over-the-air (OTA) upgrade. And GooBang Doo is known to keep their devices updated.
The ABOX A4 is powered by an Amlogic quad-core processor, which contains 4 cores of Cortex-A53 CPU and 5 cores of Mali-450MP GPU. There’s also 2GB RAM under the hood to handle multi-tasking. It is definitely not the cutting-edge internal setup you normally find in flagship smartphones and tablets, but it is supposed to handle TV box tasks well.
As usual, we started the performance test by running some benchmark tests on the A4. The video playback performance of the A4 is great, and it has been certified by the Antutu Video Tester Benchmark with a decent score of 875.
Only 4 clips were rated “partially supported”, most of the video clips were smooth and without issues.
In the Antutu benchmark test however, the A4 for some reason couldn’t finish the Graphics test, resulting in 0 point in GPU score. The overall score was shown as 21,360, which is definitely not the result the A4’s hardware was supposed to be returned.
In Geekbench 4, the A4 was returned 498 in single core test, 1,388 in multi-core test and 919 in computing. Those scores were nowhere near the points a modern flagship smartphone could get, and not even impressive by TV box standards.
Using a relatively old GPU ends with a low score in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test. So don’t expect to play graphic-intense 3D games on the A4, it won’t be able to deliver the frame rate and responsiveness needed for an enjoyable gaming experience.
Fortunately, the benchmark scores didn’t entirely translate to real-life performances, as the A4 was fast and responsive with most of the TV box tasks I threw at it. Playing high-quality videos on YouTube and other online video apps was smooth, and it didn’t run into any problem playing any of the local video files stored in my portable drive. With that said, it did struggle with more demanding tasks such as compressing a zipped file, or loading image-heavy web pages. And there could be stutters and delays if you have too many apps running in the background.
The A4 offers quite a number of connectivity options. It supports 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-FI at 2.4GHz. Although without an exposed antenna, the A4 still has solid reception, The RJ-45 Ethernet jack can also come in handy when you want more stable connection via a network cable. As most high-end TV boxes support dual-band Wi-Fi now, it’s really a shame for ABOX not to follow the trend. I did personally write an Email to them explaining this issue, and they replied by saying that dual-band Wi-Fi will be added to their second batch of A4. There’s also Bluetooth 4.0 on board to take care of data transfer with your mobile phones and connecting with audio and input devices. I connected the A4 with my Harman Kardon Aura Studio and they worked fine together. If Bluetooth audio transfer doesn’t offer satisfying sound, the 3.5mm SPDIF audio jack can get most speakers plugged in.
The HDMI 2.0 port on the A4 can output videos up to 4K@30Hz, and should support most TV sets, monitors and projectors. The 2 USB ports support external USB storages, and they have no problem reading my 4TB portable drive. According to ABOX, the next batch of A4 will be equipped with a USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0 port, instead of two USB 2.0 ports we have here. The Micro SD card slot, however, can only support cards with storage no bigger than 32GB. This is a real shame since all of the other TV boxes I tested in recent years have the ability to support Micro SD cards up to at least 128GB.
Priced at $79.99, the A4 offers a beautifully crafted design, lots of connectivity options, a simple and user-friendly UI, a nice Bluetooth remote with useful voice control functions, and it handles everyday TV box tasks with ease. If ABOX could really add dual-band Wi-Fi and a USB 3.0 port on the device as promised, it will be an easy recommendation for those who need a new TV box. But if you are expecting an HTPC that is more capable of handling more complex tasks such as social-networking, web-browsing and editing, the A4’s lack of mouse and keyboard support may be a problem. If I am to sum it up by one sentence: the A4 is a designed as a media-playback device, and it works ideally as designed, but no more.