Top critical review
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Decent hardware specs and performance for the price compared to other Android boxes and there's good community support
on December 1, 2017
I'll start with a reality check, even if my comments come out unpopular to the fanboys out there: curve your expectations; most android boxes manufacturers use forked Android versions that are not fully optimized and their firmware is not always the best (and since their bootloaders are unlocked and the Android versions not certified by Android, the device will NOT be certified under Google Play Store, so you won't have access to certain apps like Netflix, although you can side-load Netflix, but sometimes the apps go down and you have to re-download new versions to solve errors). Although, I must say, out of all Android boxes I've tried this is definitely the best: constant firmware releases fixing bugs and a very active online community always on top of glitches and helping the MINIX software developing team release quick and constant patches that continue to improve device performance so that's a major plus for any new emerging technology. I used the device for a while with the stock firmware and I could definitely notice performance improvements as I updated to new firmware versions (you can do that with a nice app made by MINIX that automatically installs the firmware OTA packages so you don't have to mess around with Android ADB). That said, you will notice some apps crashing (especially during 1st startup right after installing them) and getting long loading times. For example: Flipboard (news app), ASUS AiCloud, most weather apps (1Weather and Weather timeline work well but the many other popular ones crash immediately), email, calendar, etc. but after a few crashed they will work a bit better. One thing that I liked is that the launchers usually work well, which was surprising (i.e. I use Nova Launcher Prime and it works flawlessly, especially the widgets and settings shortcuts).
In terms of hardware specs, I think this is one of the better Android boxes out there with decent hardware specs for the price. Just wished it had a bit more RAM so that it could compete more with the Nvidia Shield in that aspect (the CPU and GPU are also just a bit behind Nvidia Shield's but performance is ok overall, at a good fraction of the cost of the Shield, and it comes with a much much nicer controller than the Shield). You notice some lag and slow loading times when you have several apps open so at least 4GB of RAM could improve performance (although performance also depends on how well coded the Android fork version is). Also, it could include at least 32GB or even 64GB of internal memory, but since it has an SD card slot for adopted memory, 16GB is not so bad. Gaming performance is not bad but it doesn't compete with Nvidia Shield (although the Shield is aimed for gamers, both PC and Android gamers so better GPU performance in the Shield is expected).
USB 3.0 definitely would've been a nice addition (Nvidia Shield has 2 Type A USB 3.0 ports), especially when playing high bit rate, 60fps, 4K movies from external hard drives or when just moving lots of small files around from external into internal and vice versa (copying files from internal memory into PC via microUSB OTG port is pretty slow since it's only USB 2.0).
USB-C charging and data port would also be nice but that would be a bit overkill for this price range IMO.
The dual band 802.11 ac wifi antena + chip and ethernet chips are really good and provide the fastest speeds compared to other Android boxes out there and is super reliable: the range and reliability is as good as in my Android flagship (LG V20). I can stream 30GB+, very high bitrate, 1080p and UHD Blu-Ray rips (mkv format) via Asus AiCloud app from my Win10 PC to the MINIX and it works super well thanks to the 200+ Mbps downlink speeds.
The A3 controller is also very well, feels very premium (material construction)and the buttons are well placed and functional. One thing that MINIX has to add to this controller is the mutlimedia skip forward/backwards button pair. Currently, the play forward/backward buttons DON'T skip songs but only fast-forward or rewind videos in a very limited number of apps (i.e. side-loaded Netflix, Spotify, Hulu), so if you're listening to music in the background you have to switch to the app to change songs (or use the pulldown bar). Also, a mute button would be nice. Another super nice addition would be to add configurable buttons to launch favorite apps (I know that's hard to code in Android, especially with different launchers available but it's certainly doable)
One of the best Android boxes out there with some frequent glitchy performance but issues being solved as new firmware updates roll out. Good price-performance ratio and very nice alternative to the more restricted Android TV OS that comes in Nvidia Shield, which is pricier but does offer slightly better gaming and processing performance since Android TV OS is very lightweight and can handle multi-tasking much better.
So, if you want more of a "pure stock android" experience and the freedom to install more functional apps, and don't mind trading off some performance for that freedom, then the MINIX U9-H is a good buy.