The Quick Take
The Tronsmart Vega S95 is an Android powered 4K media player that comes in three flavors: Pro, Meta, and Telos with more RAM and better networking capabilities as you go up the range.
I've been using the Telos variant for a month, and while it's a pretty good device, it could've been much better with just a few small improvements. It works well for the most part, and you wonder why Tronsmart didn't go the extra little bit to make it truly compelling.
Here's how I've been liking it.
The Vega S95 has a clean, utilitarian design with matte finish — the square box is roughly the size of two smartphones put next to each other. It's hard to write about what is essentially a black, plastic box. It doesn't look far off from the Amazon Fire TV, actually.
Oddly, there's no physical power button on the unit – so you can't turn it off leaving the power outlet on all the time. There is a power indicator light which glows blue when the unit is on.
There are two USB 2.0 ports and a full-sized SD card slot on one side, and another USB 2.0 port, an HDMI port, a digital audio out, a LAN port, and the power connection at the back. It's disappointing that not one USB port is USB 3.0, but the Telos variant features a SATA port on the other side for hooking up an external storage.
|Category||Tronsmart Vega S95|
|Operating System||Android Lollipop 5.1.1|
|Processor||Amlogic S905 quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53|
|GPU||Penta-core ARM Mali-450|
(8GB on Pro and Meta)
(2GB on Meta, 1GB on Pro)
|Connectivity||802.11ac Dual-band Wi-Fi
(Meta supports 802.11n Dual-band; Pro supports 802.11n at 2.4GHz)
|Dimensions (L x W x H)||4.62 x 1 x 4.62 inches|
Thankfully, the remote control for the Vega S95 does not feel cheap like most in this product segment do. It feels nice in the hand, although the line-of-sight for the infrared sensor is very narrow. Almost every time, I had to point the remote directly at the box, which in a few days of usage became my natural reflex, but isn't necessarily ideal — Bluetooth would've been far preferable.
There are the usual playback controls, a power button, and a mouse cursor function. I used the latter only rarely, because it is a pain to travel across the screen using it.
The Vega S95 user experience works, and that's the only thing going for it. The multi-colored tiled interface is garish and a pain to navigate. For a media player to be controlled by remote, it's clearly not well thought out. It's not unintuitive, mind you, and you'd get a sense of things on first glance especially if you are coming from Android side of the world. Once you go a level deeper beyond the main interface, things are a bit saner. The Settings menu, for example, looks good and is quite intuitive.
The Vega S95 includes VidOn XBMC, a specialized media center software that combines all digital media into an integrated platform. While it's an otherwise paid app, Tronsmart bundles it free for life of the product. VidOn XBMC allows you to play local and streaming media, view your photos, and install several nifty add-ons for additional functionalities like subtitles, cataloging, et al. It also includes support for 3D content and HD audio pass-through.
Tronsmart has released a couple of OTA software updates for the Vega S95 already to rectify some bugs, and big props for the company for the consistent support. The company also recently announced that the S95 now supports Remix OS 2.0. Check out their forum post for the details if you're interested in a different interface.
The Telos variant of the Tronsmart Vega S95 packs decent internals, yet the performance is middling. Ultra HD content stutters while playing, while 1080p and 720p content – both progressive and interlaced – play smoothly in most cases. The patchy 4K playback is disappointing for a device that is positioned as a 4K media player.
The 3D playback is not smooth and the media player is usually unsuccessful in detecting frame rates and adjusting display refresh rates. Unless you are an audio-visual geek, you won't really hit this niggle, but then again you aren't likely to enjoy the experience either way.
The network performance on the Vega S95 Telos is pretty good, and the connectivity capabilities — such as 802.11ac and dual-band Wi-Fi — of the Telos over the other two variants is a clear advantage.
The Tronsmart Vega S95 has a decent set of specifications, especially the Telos and Meta editions. The support's great, and the consistent OTA updates are impressive. It also comes with a licensed version of VidOn XBMC, which is how you'll be consuming a lot of the media through this box.
The playback performance is not the best though, especially in 4K. It's not the player you should opt for if you're looking for a future-proof solution with the next generation content formats and resolutions. However, if you aren't an AV geek, and just need a basic media player, the Tronsmart Vega S95 is a pretty good box, and at just $99 (down from $179.99), it's not a bad purchase at all if you know the limitations going in. For the same price though, there are several alternatives in the market, but most would have you locked in their ecosystem and wouldn't offer the flexibility of running plain vanilla Android on your TV.
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