Wetek Play Review
Tune in. Drop out.
What is the Wetek Play?The Wetek Play is an Android media hub with a twist. The near unique feature it holds up its sleeve comes in the shape of digital TV tuners with choices of DVB-S/S2, for satellite reception, or a DVB-C/T/T2 version for those with an aerial atop their roof or receiving services via cable. Also in the bundle comes membership to Wetek’s WeCloud Antenna service, providing access to various IPTV services and since the company is a sponsor of both the KODI and OpenELEC foundations, the performance with the World’s favourite open source media software promises to impress. You can pick the Wetek Play up in the UK for around £99.00 (July 2015) so it finds itself amongst some pretty formidable competition.
The Wetek Play definitely doesn’t boast one of the more impressive spec sheets we’ve seen but as long as it performs, we won’t worry too much about that. There’s a rather long in the tooth AMLogic AML8726-MX (1.5Ghz Dual Core) processor together with a Mali MP400 (Dual Core) GPU, backed up with 1GB of RAM so it’s not going to knock any spots off others we’ve tested in any benchmarking scores. Still, we wouldn’t buy this product as anything but a vehicle for KODI/OpenELEC in any case and you’d expect it to run those just fine. There’s also only 4GB of built in NAND Flash storage so you’ll definitely need to expand if you’re looking to take advantage of the PVR capabilities but you have options via Micro SD and USB inputs. The LAN Port is a ‘regular’ 10/100 Mbit number and the Wi-Fi(B/G/N) adapter operates on the 2.4Ghz band, only.
Design & ConnectionsThe Wetek Play is unusually large for an Android box but then it does have to accommodate the tuners. The build quality is nothing special, with a very lightweight plastic casing but so long as it stays cool, we’re not worried by that and it looks quite nice with rounded corners and a couple of small indicator lights just to the side of the inlaid power button. On the right hand side is a micro SD card slot and a USB port whilst the remaining connections are situated around the back; namely those are an HDMI port, a Toslink digital audio output, an adapter for RS232, a LAN connection and two further USB ports. We opted for the DVB-T version so this model has a terminal for the aerial connection as well as an RF out to distribute the signal to another TV or device.
This is definitely one of the better stock remotes we’ve seen provided with these boxes; primarily because it has ‘air-mouse’ functionality, meaning there are gyroscopes built-in allowing you to waggle it around to position the cursor on-screen. The majority of apps built for Android aren’t very remote control/button friendly so it’s really useful and the implementation is accurate enough to make it entirely useable. It mostly operates without line of sight, too, although the power on/off command is sent via an infra-red signal but there is a shortcut to it on the launcher screen so you will be fine to hide the box away anywhere you like.
The launcher/home page is very clean, simple and straightforward and very easy to navigate using the remote. It’s a monochrome affair with a ribbon of large, tiled shortcuts in the middle to access the TV functions, the app drawer, the stock Android browser and file explorer, plus another for KODI. We would have liked this tile to have been editable so we could, for instance, replace the browser with chrome. Below that is a cutomisbale app shortcut bar and above is the date, a clock and a graphic local weather report. Down the side, it's more like a standard shortcuts panel with access to settings, attached storage and recent apps.The Wetek Play comes pre-installed with quite a lot of apps, including YouTube, MX Player, ES File Explorer, Aptoide, SuperSu, Miracast and Flash Player so quite a lot of the, already limited, storage is taken up; in fact, we were left with only just over 1.2GB available. We did find the UI to be very sluggish at times, especially with 2 or 3 apps running but for reasons that will become apparent below, we were running a developmental build that has yet to be polished.
The TV functionality of the Wetek Play is split into two divisions, with Wetek Theater[sic] covering the more traditional broadcast side of things. The review sample came ready fitted with the DVB-T2 tuner module -.you can also get a version with satellite tuners - and it quickly picked up all the available Freeview services on the initial scan. Things didn’t go quite so smoothly following that, however, as the subsequent audio and video performance from the channels was, quite frankly, very poor. The worst offender was the sound where any channel with HE-AAC audio would just produce a static/white noise; since all HD channels on Freeview use that codec, it was a deal-breaking issue. Furthermore, the deinterlacing performance was really bad with blatant jaggies everywhere and, to top it off, there were frequent dropped frames on the channels where the sound was OK.
Credit to Wetek, however, who quickly supplied us with a developmental software update which solved all of that; OK, deinterlacing performance isn’t as good as a standalone box or that in a TV but it was certainly acceptable. Sadly, the Wetek PVR software isn’t, with programme listings and data taking an eternity to load for the HD channels. We have notified Wetek about this and we await their advice on a solution. In fairness, most will integrate the tuners into KODI with a PVR addon but, still, the Wetek App should be much better. The few test recordings we setup worked OK but the lack of programme details makes it a pain to use.
Wetek Cloud Antenna – IPTV
Hmm, we suspect the natively supported channels aren’t going to be of too much interest to a big proportion of UK readers as none of them are in English, in addition to the fact the quality is generally dire. Those that speak Turkish will definitely find them of more interest, however, and you do have the ability to add your own IP channels to the list to make the functionality more useful. The best legitimate uses we can think of would be for remote use of security cameras or a video baby monitor although we are perfectly aware of the fact that there are more nefarious ways by which to access IPTV stations that won’t be discussed any further here.
It runs OpenELEC like a dream. Android? Not so much
Wetek Play KODI / OpenELECWe’ll start right out by saying that if you’re buying this as a KODI machine, then you will be much better off installing OpenELEC right off the bat, or even just buying the company’s new box which runs on that OS. In doing so you’ll avoid some of the sluggishness/hang ups we experienced when running it through Android and it’s a simple enough process. For those that don’t know, OpenELEC is a Linux based operating system which basically exists only to run KODI and is, therefore, very light and undemanding on the processor of the device it is on - which suits the Wetek Play’s available resources down to the ground. Of course, if you go down this route, you won’t then have access to any of the Android apps or functionalities but that won’t bother many and the built-in tuners give the device the added dimension of integrated Live TV support. Installation is easy enough and an can be done in two ways; either by running it temporarily as an image file or by unzipping a few files on to an SD card and then booting the machine in recovery mode to flash to the NAND memory; it might sound a bit tricky but it really isn’t. The full instructions are here.
If you’re not going to go with OpenELEC then you’d be well advised to stick with the pre-installed Version 14.2 KODI as it allows you to grant Super User permissions to the app which allow it to perform better in the video department. That is speaking from experience as the device automatically updated to KODI 15.0 rc2 from the Play Store upon setup, causing us quite a few issues; in fact, it’s a wonder this particular sample is currently still in one piece, such was the frustration we endured with it crashing when we reverted back to back to 14.2. It would be much better if Wetek had produced their own tailored version of KODI, rather than using SuperSu as now it’s on the Play Store, it’s tricky to stop it updating and there seems to be an issue with super user permissions transferring to the updated version.
In the end, we were forced in to revoking the SU permissions for KODI just to get it up and running but the general sluggish performance meant we soon lost patience and flashed the box to OpenELEC. As well as the advantage of it running much, much quicker you also get the advantage of the OS automatically switching video refresh rates to match the framerate of the content. Running the Android version of KODI on the Wetek means you have to do so manually through the settings page, which is a real chore. To be fair, there are precious few Android boxes that can pull of that trick but since Wetek are now official sponsors of KODI (as well as OpenELEC) that situation could change in the future.
If we take it as read that the Wetek Play runs OpenELEC just great – and it does – then it’s time to focus on its defining feature, i.e. the built-in tuner. Let me start by saying that never in all my years of reviewing various kit have I ever been so close to committing ‘devicicide’; the hammer was taken out of the toolbox, primed and readied on several occasions but because the Wetek has so much potential - and the fact I’m downright bloody-minded with these things - it was never brought down on the casing. I went through flashing two versions of OpenELEC (5.0.8 & 5.95.1) and back again, with several full resets on each, followed by a quick detour back to Android to check the tuner was working, before throwing in the towel in trying to get any channels tuned in successfully. The best I managed was to get 9 channels before the process, again, stalled at 506Mhz.
I tried using both VDR and Tvheadend with slightly more success using the former but there’s only so much time one can expend in such endeavours and mine was already severely over-budget. We can only surmise that there’s an issue with the DVB-T2 standard used in the UK and the versions of KODI/OpenELEC we tried, as it doesn’t appear to be the hardware. We’ve fedback to Wetek and if we can resolve it with them, we will, but in the meantime the potential remains unfulfilled. We know from our forum thread that some folks have had success using the satellite tuner model, which actually makes it that bit more frustrating. We will update the review if we eventually succeed.
- Runs OpenELEC a charm
- Innovative features
- Good support
- Nice little airmouse remote
- DVB-T2 tuner issues
- Sluggish android performance
- Too many preloaded apps
Wetek Play Review
Should I buy the Wetek Play
For UK readers there may be a supplementary question, or two, that need to be asked. Firstly, are you running a digital terrestrial or digital satellite television system? Our experience would suggest that if you’re receiving your TV through an aerial then the Wetek Play is currently of pretty limited use. Given that its major USP is in its ability to act as an integrated PVR, then the issues with the tuner in Android, KODI and OpenELEC mean I wouldn’t currently recommend it – especially running Android where performance is sluggish. It appears to be a different story for those with a dish and once we were running off OpenELEC the experience was incredibly slick, but if you want to use that platform – and don’t need a built-in terrestrial tuner – you might as well save yourself a few quid and pick up a Raspberry Pi 2. I wanted so much for this to work as advertised but in the final analysis it didn’t so, in this case, a miss is as big as a mile.
What else is there?
Apart from the Pi – and we’ll have to ignore the tuner – the best Android/KODI box we’ve tested remains the Minix X8-H Plus, which is a near flawless performer that can also now be run on OpenELEC. The slightly down-specced Minix X8 Plus is similarly gifted (although lacking some of the flagship players’ future-proofing), whilst the HiMedia Q5 is the probable king of local/networked stored media, with its out-of-the-box support for 7.1 HD audio and 3D ISO playback. For something else slightly leftfield, and boasting the ability to record via an HDMI input, the Zidoo X9 is an interesting option, although its video playback performance isn’t as good as any of the others mentioned.
Networking, Internet, Streaming quality7
Set up, Menus, Remote8
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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