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Emtec GEMBOX Review

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Slightly different approach to what I normally do, this time I am going straight to the streaming end of this box, yes, streaming PC Games to my TV. How is this done? with a program called Gamefly or GEM STREAM, one streams directly from your PC the other streams from a set of servers at a price per month expense, a subscription basically, which you get one month free in the box when you first purchase your new GEM BOX. You will be happy to hear that streaming has come a long way and yes this device shows just exactly how far its come, as it works surprisingly well.

The GEMBOX does, however, require a Reliable and fast connection, as the Gamefly application does stat that it requires a 5GHz Wi-Fi connection to stream wireless, so you will have to plug directly into the router via an ethernet connection as the GEMBOX only supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection, something again they did not think of when building this box.

Once connected up to your router games work great, streaming the likes of the Witcher 3, Darksiders and Tomb Raider all worked great, but just remember do not stream via wi-fi as the GEMBOX is underpowered in this area for the application to work successfully.

Might be asking, why, did I start my review talking about streaming? well the best performance and power comes from PC’s, spend as little as $500 and you can get a PC that is VR ready, that supports the more powerful VR units, like the HTC VIVE or the Oculus Rift, compared to the PSVR on Playstation, and we all know in the end PC VR exclusives will roll over PSVR easily. This does not mean the Rift or the Vive will sell well compared to the PSVR due to the costs involved, PSVR is a lot cheaper. Do not let this worry you though as there are many applications out there on PC that A: will allow you to use a basic mobile headset and phone to play PC VR Games and B: there is an application that actually allows you to use the PSVR on your PC.

There is also the argument that many gamers complain about, PC’s being too big, can not fit under your TV, blah, blah, blah, this is a myth now as there are systems much smaller and more powerful than the PS4 or XBox One, comes with wireless controllers and much more, then there is the argument of exclusives that consoles hold over PC’s, however, this is slowly disappearing as many developers decide to release on PC, either on the same release date or after.

The reason many gamers buy a console, well one of the arguments is ‘EXCLUSIVE GAMES’, the other argument is ease of access, for me , both of these excuses mean nothing, thanks to how far PC’s have come, from the Alienware Alpha with its pre-installed controller friendly UI to Steams new (Shitty) Linux based console, which admittedly was a flop out the door, why? Linux, says it all.

Consoles are not going anywhere, but they are evolving into more a less a PC, with a closed platform and restrictions forced upon you by the console manufacturer, consoles should in the end become more of an open enviroment allowing gamers to experiance what we PC Gamers have had for years now, FREEDOM.

Let’s move on to Selling to the Consumer

From the outside they sell the GEMBOX well, showcasing it as an Android Games Console, running off Google Play and Gamefly Streaming, the best thing, you also get 4 Pre-Installed games from Gameloft, which include My Little Pony, Asphalt Airborne 8, Wonder Zoo and GTRacing 2, something for each member of the family.

On one side they stat ‘Access all your favourite Android games on your big screen! Enjoy a large selection of great games all playable with the GEM Pad, up to 4 players.

On the other side the stat ‘Stream a large variety of high-end console quality games directly to your TV in full HD. Free trail access to all games. New games added monthly.

Finally moving to the back there is a description about the console in 10 different languages, here is the English version

Stream AAA console-quality games to your TV from the Gamefly Streaming Service. Download thousands of Android games on Google Play and access a large selection of games all playable with a gamepad in the GEM STORE. Use the GEM Stream Application to stream your PC game library to the TV. Plug a microSD memory card or a USB storage device into the GEM Box and play all your private multimedia libraries (Music, favourite photos and videos) on your TV. Turn your TV into a real SMART TV and enjoy favourite websites thanks to the exclusive Bluetooth GEM Pad virtual keyboard and remote control GEM Motion. Wirelessly mirror all the content of your mobile devices (smartphone and tablet) to your TV screen.

We also have the specs

  • CPU Quad-Core 1.5 GHz
  • Android OS
  • Bluetooth
  • 1GB Ram
  • Flash 16GB
  • USB
  • MicroSD Port
  • WiFi 802.11 b/ b/n
  • Ethernet Port
  • HDMI V1.4
  • Full HD 1080

Finally what you get in the box

  • GEM Box
  • Gamepad
  • HDMI Cable
  • Ethernet Cable
  • Power Cable
  • User Guide
  • USB/microUSB cable

Microconsoles sound Great or not so great?

We already have the failed OUYA, that garnered a nation of lovers and haters, and also garnered the like minded like me that said it simply will not be popular or do well, who was right? the like-minded individuals and the haters. Then we have the shocking idea of the Steam OS console, which again failed to entice the market, why? Linux, what bright spark decided to run it on the worse gaming platform ever, oh yeah that numbnuts Gabe Newell, who hates Windows, yet it’s Windows that brings him the most money thanks to their Steam Platform.

There is also the Nvidia Sheild, Playstation TV and much more, all of them have sold low amounts and have not enticed gamers to their platforms. Now we have another gaming console, hoping to entice some gamers over, but the question is can it? and this is simply not for me to answer, but to wait and see as time goes by.

The Emtex Android Microconsole comes in at $99.99 which makes is affordable, but is it powerful? well, let’s find out.

First the design and size

Coming in at a small compact size of 3.27×3.27×1.0″ it’s rather small, mostly black with a blue power button on top and a small red LED on the front. The back of the GEM Box holds an HDMI Port, Ethernet Port and the power connector, the left has the MicriSD card slot and USB Port.

The controller included looks and feels very similar to an Xbox 360 controller, the two analogue sticks are parallel to each other, very similar to a Playstation controller, but other than that from the X Y A B buttons to the trigger all feel like an Xbox Controller. The controller feels weighty and not cheap at all, and it’s also a Bluetooth controller, so no need for wires, awesome, hate wires.

Under the controller is a three-way switch, which allows the gamepad to either act like a controller or a mouse. Gamepad modes runs the controller like a standard Gamepad, of course, running through all menus with the direction pad or left thumbstick, switching to mouse mode makes the left thumb stick act like a mouse, which in turn controls an on-screen pointer. This is great as the GEM Box runs off a mobile version of Android instead of Android TV.

Power, Power, Power, or as this generation loves FPS and Resolution, please.

Running off what I believe to be Android 4.4 it’s miles behind from what is currently available, version ‘7.0 Nougat’, come on folks this is just wrong and as it’s running a mobile phone version of Android this really needs to be looked at and upgraded ASAP. The systems runs of 1GB Ram and a 1.5 GHz ARM Mali-450MP6 Quad Core CPU with 16GB onboard storage, after everything is installed you only have 9.7GB of storage left to play with.

Now the MicroSD card is a great option to upgrade the amount of storage, but this is not great, as we know if you are an Android User, installing stuff on an external storage is, put it bluntly rubbish as nothing works, apart from videos and images.

GEM Box Media hub is just as good as Steams Big Picture

The GEM Box interface is fantastic as it takes the small Android icons and replaces them with large tiled version, which arranges horizontally for ease of use and access, an added bonus is the clever way they have improved text input, which is assigned to groups of 4 characters per front button (X, Y, B, A) and using the left analogue stick to switch between each group of characters, which makes it rather rapid and easy way to navigate.

Performance is where it lacks, yes it streams well, but that wouldn’t be too hard, as everything is done from the other end, but streaming also comes at a cost via Gamefly, a subscription cost. Gem Streaming, however, allows you to stream from your PC using its own hardware, not great if your hardware sucks, but if you have a high-end PC, this is great.

Playing many of the games on Android, will be an easy task currently, for almost any smart device or low engineered Android Machine, due to the way they are made, but if games become more powerful/power hungry, the GEM Box will struggle, I found a basic $49.99 mobile phone more powerful, that’s no lie, so it’s not going to last that long, that IF and I say IF mobile phone games become more power hungry or should I say graphic hungry, then the GEMBox will not be able to handle them. or even if games require a more updated version of Android, so please GEMBox Developers keep updating the software so we can keep playing games.

You can gain access to Apps via the google store or via the GEM store, I would recommend the GEM Store, simply because they are guaranteed to work with no issues, going to the App Store you might find that some games and apps are simply not compatible.

But, like I have said in the past, Android being an open platform, equals, loads and loads of emulators so I was able to run emulation software for the Nintendo DS, Classic Gameboy, SNES and much more. You can also run the likes of KODI and turn your GEMBox into a video, movie and TV streaming box as well.

So Final Thoughts anyone?

As long as the mobile market does not go Main Stream as in AAA titles that are all about the next level graphics, and mobile graphics stay simple and graphics friendly, then this will have a place in anyone home. Gamefly adds games via their streaming service for a subscribed price-per-month and you can finally stream games via your PC. However, all streaming services will require you to have the ethernet cable connected to stream perfectly otherwise you will encounter issues.

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