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Wetek Play 2 Android Media Player Review

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Can you have it all in one device? Nearly...

by Mark Hodgkinson Mar 10, 2017 at 7:02 AM

  • SRP: £108.00

    What is the Wetek Play 2?

    The latest Android TV device from the Wetek stable is the Play 2, which is in fact very similar to the previously reviewed Wetek Hub in its chipset and capabilities but boasts some extra grunt and, more importantly, a TV tuner to receive terrestrial, cable and satellite broadcast. Like the Hub, it is a 4K Ultra HD capable device with the ability to decode 10-bit HEVC content and also has the necessary accreditation for high definition streaming from services such as Netflix. Wetek has a deservedly fine reputation for supporting its products well after release and we’re reviewing the Play 2 under its second major software release (WeOS 2.0.2) which brought with it some major changes to the user interface, among other things. At the time of publishing (February 2017), the Wetek Play 2 is priced at around £108.

    Specification

    The Play 2 has an AMLogic S905-H (Revision C) processor at its heart together with a Mali-450MP Penta Core GPU. There is 2GB of RAM on-board with 8GB of flash storage built-in. The Play 2 is based on Android 5.1.1 and is available with a choice of DVB-S2, DVB-C/T/T2 or ATSC tuners at the same price.

    Design & Connections

    The build quality of the Play 2 is perfectly reasonable, although there’s nothing particularly special about the black plastic casing which does have a propensity for attracting a lot of dust particles from the air. There’s a hard power button on the front left of the facia which doubles up as the power indicator light, illuminating blue when on and red when the device is in standby. On the right hand side of the unit are a Micro SD Card slot and a USB 2.0 port while the remaining connections are on the back panel and include a Toslink optical digital audio out, an HDMI 2.0 port, a Gigabit Ethernet connection, an ‘all-purpose’ 3.5mm AV out jack (composite video and stereo audio) and two further USB 2.0 ports. Also at the rear is the terminal for the aerial/cable/satellite connection along with an RF out to route the broadcast signals to another device.

    Wetek Play 2
    We had some major criticisms of the remote control implementation in the Wetek Hub, owing to the fact you had to take careful aim at the device with the handset in order for it to register commands and, while we can’t level the same criticism at the Play 2, it has its own shortcomings. The major downside of the remote, for us, is the fact that the directional keys are placed right next to other heavily used buttons at the centre meaning, if you’re not both digitally nimble and/or very careful, it’s easy to hit the wrong one; it’s not a deal-breaker but the design decision seems strange nonetheless. Other than that, we have no real complaints, it’s a solid, well-made controller with all the buttons you need for both media playback duties and operating the Play 2 as a set-top-box/PVR. The mouse pointer function – necessary for navigating certain apps and the Google Play Store – is pretty woeful, however, so if you’re planning on using many remote unfriendly apps, you’re probably going to want to invest in a third party remote with proper air mouse abilities.
    Wetek Play 2


    User Interface

    As we alluded to above, one of the biggest changes in WeOS 2.x was a revamp to the launcher of which we have to say we’re not great fans. Wetek went with an Android TV Lenabck style layout which is in stark contrast to the minimalist approach of the classic Wetek launcher it replaced. You get a ‘Story’ section at the top which is populated by your most recently used apps, feeds from certain installed apps – notably YouTube which seems to take up a lot of the screen real estate – and tutorials from Wetek on how to get the most out of the device. For first time or inexperienced users we can see the sense in it all but we just find it all a bit too busy. Below the Story you can place ‘favourited’ apps while any remaining wil be found in the apps section at the bottom of the launcher page. Settings are accessed from a tab on the left side of the screen but it’s not especially obvious this is the case and, frankly, they were easier to get at in the previous launcher. Fortunately, there is the option to go back to the Classic Launcher by downloading it from the Aptoide app store which is bundled with the OS in the 2.0 update.
    Wetek Play 2 User Interface
    Wetek Play 2 User Interface


    Features

    The Wetek Hub has an impressive list of features that you won’t find in the cheap Chinese boxes that proliferate the market. There’s a Web interface allowing you to check the status of the Play 2 from a browser although it offers only fairly limited options. For more comprehensive remote operation there’s also the WEcontrol remote app for Android mobile devices. It can be a bit sluggish to react but offers full button replication plus text input and a mouse pointer control that's far better than that of the handset. One very handy app the Play 2 includes is the WeTek Netmounter, although it’s been neutered somewhat but does still allow for Operating Ssytem level mounting of SMB and NFS shares. It’s a security measure from Wetek so we can’t really complain but it was slightly more useful pre the 2.x update.
    Wetek Play 2 Features
    Wetek Play 2 Features

    Like all the better Android TV devices on the market, the Play 2 can be software updated OTA (Over the Air) and the device is Widevine Level 1 certified (as well as meeting other DRM standards) to allow streaming of 1080p content from various services, including Netflix; as we said in the intro, this makes the Wetek players very unusual against the majority of Android boxes although sound is limited to stereo unless you use the custom ROM, based on Android TV, found on the Wetek forum. The Netflix app – and just about all others – benefit from the company’s Display Refresh Rate app which, in conjunction with the Automatic Refresh Rate option in Display Settings, ensures your TV is operating at the correct output signal to match the framerate of the video content at hand. The app is switched on by default for all other apps although you will want to disable it for Wetek Media Player (and YouTube) which is the company’s hardware optimised fork of KODI and another noteworthy feature in itself. In a similar vein, Wetek officially back LibreELEC which is a JeOS (Just enough Operating System) designed to run KODI.

    Live TV/ PVR Functions

    In many ways the tuner functionality is the defining feature of the Play 2; after all, you can pick up comparably blessed Android TV boxes, in terms of media playback, for similar money, or less, so the Wetek really needs to pull its weight here. In all honesty, we have mixed feelings on how it’s been implemented although it’s certainly much better done than it was in the original Wetek Play even if it is unlikely that many will use the Play 2 to replace their primary set-top-box/ PVR. Set-up is reasonably straightforward and the Play 2 had no problem locking in to all available Freeview services for our area, although owing to the Winter Hill transmitter set-up it did pick up a lot of duplicate channels that needed to be manually deleted to avoid the EPG being unnecessarily cluttered. The programme guide, itself, takes a fair while to populate on first use but loads quickly thereafter but it’s not the prettiest and if you want channel icons/logos, it’s a manual job to add them; Wetek is covering a lot of territories with this device so it is to be expected but it’s an aesthetic compromise nonetheless.
    Wetek Play 2 Live TV/ PVR Functions
    Wetek Play 2 Live TV/ PVR Functions

    The usability of the TV/PVR functionality is also somewhat compromised by the fact that Wetek has provided scant information on how to use it, in terms of the remote control. If you don’t go and seek out Wetek’s online guides to the remote and TV functions you wouldn’t, for instance, know that the Blue button is used to summon the EPG or that the Right Directional button brings up the channel list. There are other examples, as well, but once you get to grips, the useability and functionality is decent. The picture quality for DVB-T2 broadcasts is certainly up there with the Humax YouView box we used for comparison with the AMLogic processor capable of excellent deinterlacing, Channel hopping is a little bit slower than most set-top-boxes but never tardy enough for it to feel like an issue. We do like the fact that you can record to networked storage (you can also use a connected SD card or USB hard drive) but we did have one instance where a recording scheduled for just one programme carried on indefinitely, necessitating a hard reboot of the box. Scheduling recordings from the EPG can also be a bit of a chore as there’s no easy/quick way (or at least one we found) of skipping days ahead – you need to scroll through every programme, which is very tiresome. We also had issues with time-shifting (pausing live TV) in that it didn’t seem to work at all with a blank screen returned when attempting to use the feature. All in all, it’s a good effort from Wetek but, like we said earlier, we don’t really see it as a true replacement for a more dedicated device.

    Video & Audio Performance

    You have quite a few options for media playback using the Play 2, including the aforementioned manufacturer tailored version of KODI (WePlayer), LibreELEC, SPMC and KODI, itself. There’s very little in it between the bunch, however, so you can exercise some personal choice here. We would suggest that if Live TV is a major concern then perhaps LibreELEC would be the preferred choice and if you’re using KODI, at this present time, the newest release (v17) isn't quite the optimised experience it is in v16. Between SPMC and WePlayer we could find no differences; we went with the former, in the end, just because it receives more regular developer updates than WePlayer.

    Testing was undertaken via a NAS over a wired Gigabit network, as well as from a USB 3.0 hard drive, on a Samsung UE65JU700 via a Yamaha RXV-679 AV Receiver. Starting with the Ultra HD/4K tests…

    4K Tests

    SPMC

    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/23.976fps
    No auto-switching from 1080p -applicable to all below
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/24.000fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/25.000fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/29.970fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MKV/59.940fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/23.976fps
    3840 x 2160/HEVC/MP4/29.970fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/59.940fps
    10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/TS/59.940fps
    10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/TS/23.976fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/50.00fps
    4096 x 2160/AVC/MP4/24fps

    The Play 2 had zero problems with our Ultra HD files, including 10-bit HEVC at up to 60 frames per second. It should be pointed out that there is absolutely no support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) video, however, although unless you’re a fan of endless test clips or extremely poor quality dodgy downloads this is no issue in the short term future. Things might change with the advent of broadcast HDR but it won’t be a priority for most at this time. The Play 2 has no problems in dynamically switching its video refresh rate output at all resolutions, which is something that’s crucial for optimum playback. It won’t automatically switch resolutions, however, and the scaling in your TV is more than likely better than that of the chipset so if you’re playing 1080p (or below) content on your 4K TV, it’s best to set the device to output in Full HD than it is Ultra HD.

    Moving down the resolution ladder, we tested the Pay 2 with a variety of standard and high definition formats with the expected solid results:

    SD/HD/Interlaced

    SPMC

    720 x 576/MP2/mpg/25.000fps - Interlaced
    Good deinterlacing
    1280 x 720/AVC/MP4/29.970fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/25.00fps - Interlaced
    Good deinterlacing
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/24.000fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/25.000fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/29.970fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/30.000fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/59.970fps
    1920 x 1080/HEVC/ISO/23.976fps
    1920 x 1080/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps
    1920 x 1080/VC-1/MKV/23.976fps
    1920 x 1080/VC-1/MKV/29.970fps - Interlaced
    Very infrequent stutter - borderline pass


    There has been a small improvement, somewhere in the chain, since we tested the, extremely similar, Wetek Hub with VC-1 encodes at 29.97 fps now playing more smoothly – they’re not quite perfect still but stutter is now very infrequent.

    High Bitrate

    SPMC

    1920 x 1080/AVC/M2TS/23.976fps & 90mbps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 100mbps
    1920 x 1080/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 110mbps
    3480 x 2160/H264/MKV/23.976fps @ 120mbps
    10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 120mbps
    3840x 2160/H264/MKV/23.976fps @ 140mbps
    10-bit 3840x2160/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 140mbps
    3840x 2160/H264/MKV/23.976fps @ 200mbps
    Stuttering playback form HDD and NAS
    10-bit 3840x 2160/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 200mbps
    Stuttering playback from HDD and NAS

    With content played both over our Gigabit network from attached storage and from a USB HDD, the Play 2 was able to play video (HEVC 10-bit) right to 160Mb/s which should be more than adequate for the foreseeable future as the bitrate for Ultra HD Blu-ray maxes out at 128Mb/s.

    While 3D isn’t quite a dead format - there are still discs being released, even if all the major TV manufacturers have pulled the plug – the reader will know the importance they place, themselves, on this facet of performance. The chipset in the Play 2 certainly isn’t able to play frame-packed 3D in either ISO or MKV format although it can make a fist of Side-by-Side and Top-and-Bottom files.

    3D

    SPMC

    1920 x 1080/AVC/ISO/23.976fps Frame Packed
    Plays in 2D
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Frame Packed
    Plays in 2D
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Side by Side
    Need to manually engage TV 3D mode
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Top & Bottom
    Need to manually engage TV 3D mode

    Was we noted in the HUB review, the software team behind, and involved with, Wetek has put a lot of effort in to getting the audio side of their devices working with the most needed formats and the Play 2 followed its excellent results with our tests:

    Audio

    SPMC

    AAC (Dolby Digital) 5.1
    AC3 (DTS) 5.1
    Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
    Dolby True HD 5.1
    Dolby True HD 7.1
    DTS HD-MA 5.1
    DTS HD-HR 7.1
    DTS HD-MA 7.1
    LPCM 7.1

    Along with the formats noted above, it’s reported that both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X passthrough is working well so you should have no issues with almost anything in your collection.

    How future-proof is this video streamer?

    4K Ultra HD playback up to 60 frames per second
    HEVC decoding Full HD
    HEVC decoding Ultra HD
    7 Channel HD Audio pass-through
    Netflix HD/4K
    3D ISO playback
    HDMI 2.0
    Over The Air (OTA) Software Updates
    Manufacturer version of KODI

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Solid playback of video & audio up to 4k60
    • Support for HD audio passthrough
    • Some excellent Wetek specific apps
    • Netflix HD
    • Great manufacturer support
    • Reliable firmware

    Cons

    • TV/PVR integration could be slicker
    • Remote layout can be troubling
    • Default launcher a bit cluttered
    You own this Total 0
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Wetek Play 2 Android Media Player Review

    Should I buy one?

    The Wetek Play 2 is marketed as a hybrid device, combining the more standard Android media hub functionalities with the less common live TV and Personal Video Recorder (PVR) capabilities. The build quality is fairly good, although the black plastic casing doesn’t really help the Play 2 stand out from the pack but there’s (more or less) up-to-date connectivity options, including an HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 port, three USB inputs, a Gigabit Ethernet connection and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, as well as Bluetooth 4.0. The bundled remote control is well made, and certainly of higher quality than your regular Android box but it’s let down, somewhat, by its design which has too many of the important buttons placed too closely to one another.

    Wetek, as a company, also sets itself apart from most of the competition by providing excellent support for its devices, although the latest software update to the Play 2 introduced a launcher that we’re not huge fans of. It is based on the Leanback launcher, seen in certified Android TV devices (the Pay 2 is no such thing) but fails to live up to the clean design Leanback is known for; fortunately – at least as far as we’re concerned, you can roll-back to the Wetek Classic Launcher, which is far more to our tastes in its minimalism. The Play 2 has an excellent feature-set, including a Web Interface, operating system with level mounting of networked storage and the appropriate security clearance for high definition video streaming form the likes of Netflix – this is still not at all common in the sector, by the way.

    The media goodness doesn’t stop there, however, as the Play 2 boasts excellent playback of almost all audio and video formats, including 4K Ultra HD up to 60 frames per second, 10-bit HEVC decoding and faultless pass-through of HD audio. It also features the unique ability (thanks to another Wetek specific app) to dynamically adjust video refresh rate to match the framerate of any video app so not just with KODI, PLEX or SPMC as is the case with other devices. It’s a definite boon for videophiles, although the lack of frame-packed 3D support will trouble some, as will the inability of the Play 2 to playback High Dynamic Range video.

    The built-in tuner of the Play 2 is put to reasonably good use with the live TV and PVR features. The deinterlacing capabilities of the AMLogic chipset means the picture quality is indistinguishable from the likes of your SKY, Virgin or Freeview/Freesat box – i.e. it’s very good when the source permits – but the interface is nowhere near as slick. Set-up is definitely more complicated than the average set-top box, especially if you want niceties such as channel logos in your programme guide and the fact that Wetek has to cover so many territories definitely dilutes the effort, over all. Unless you’re using the custom ROM which backports Android Nougat’s TV app – which is pretty slick – or the experimental TV Headend server app, we’d consider the Play 2’s TV functionalities to be a bit of an extra rather than a must-have feature of the device. This effects the over all rating of the Wetek Play 2, particularly in terms of value, but we’d still consider this one worthy of our recommendation.


    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    8

    Performance

    9

    Networking, Internet, Streaming quality

    8

    Features

    9

    Set up, Menus, Remote

    7

    Value for Money

    8

    Verdict

    8

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