Asus Tinker Board – An Inexpensive Home Theatre Solution
The Asus Tinker Board is a computer designed for Single Board Computer hobbyists, makers & Internet of things enthusiasts. One of the highlights of the device is its multimedia support; it’s a tremendous prospect for the multimedia enthusiast on a budget. The computer has a respectable 1.8GHz ARM Cortex-A17 quad-core processor. It’s only 32-bit (unlike the Raspberry Pi 3) but it has a higher clock speed. The Tinker Board also sports an integrated ARM-based Mali-T760 graphics processor (GPU). It’s available to purchase from Amazon (and other retailers), and currently priced at $59.99.
At the time of this review of the Tinker Board, an Android image wasn’t available. Instead, the review was carried out using an initial release of Asus’s TinkerOS, a customized version of Debian. This initial release didn’t really let us explore whether the Tinker Board is a home theatre solution. The Android image now lets us assess the device’s merits from this perspective.
Most of the Android apps explored below can be installed using Google Play Store. While Asus’s Android image doesn’t currently provide this essential app, read our guide on how to install the Google Play Store. Once installed, it’s a breeze to download the multimedia software below.
Before we explore the apps, there is a leitmotif. The multimedia experience on Android is not perfect with Bluetooth. I love my Bluetooth devices. But Bluetooth support on the Android image is a mixed bag. Audio with the Amazon Echo Dot is terrible. Fortunately, connecting via Bluetooth to a Cambridge MINX GO is much better. And pairing with an inexpensive pair of Bluetooth headphones was pretty reasonable, although audio syncing wasn’t perfect. For now, I’m connecting via its headphone socket.
Kodi is billed as the ultimate open source entertainment centre. With good reason, it’s a trendy home theatre solution, jam-packed with features and functionality. It’s one of the finest open source multimedia applications, offering flexibility with support for a wide range of streaming services, and a TV-friendly interface that makes watching videos a joy. Users can access music, movies and all manner of video, picture and radio content from a single interface. And there’s a massive collection of Kodi add-ons available to download within the app that add even more features and functionality to the entertainment centre.
Kodi is available for just about everything from Windows to the Raspberry Pi. I’ve previously written a guide for installing a fork of Kodi in Android on the Tinker Board. The installation is far from simple, although this guide walks you through the process. Installing the official Kodi via Google Play Store is now my recommended solution, and you’ll get the latest stable version, 17.1. Kodi transforms the Tinker Board into a stupendous home theatre solution.
The Tinker Board’s ARMv7 processor and Mali-T760 GPU and 2GB of RAM has more than sufficient grunt to admirably run Kodi 17.1. Navigating the interface is snappy, and video playback is very smooth. Not a hint of choppiness or video tearing, even with HD video.
Netflix is an extremely popular subscription service for watching TV episodes and movies with over 100 million subscribers worldwide. There are many good TV shows and movies on Netflix. But the bread-and-butter of the Netflix service is its original programming. Narcos, Designated Survivor, Riverdale, 13 Reasons Why, and House of Cards are just a few of the original shows that capture my interests.
The original programming offered by Netflix is a valuable addition. Watching this content is not possible under TinkerOS. But Asus’s Android image now lets us access the Netflix material on the Tinker Board.
The well-designed app gets my strong recommendation. It performs really well on the Tinker Board. Responsive, fast, and pretty stable. A truly pleasurable experience!
Amazon Prime Video
Included with an Amazon Prime membership is unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Prime Video. Like Netflix, Prime Video has signed up exclusive content deals to differentiate its service. I’ve been eager to continue watching The Grand Tour on the Tinker Board.
Installing the Prime Video app is a bit fiddly as you’ll need to use Amazon Underground. The app isn’t included in the Play Store, so you need to install it from Amazon’s own app selection. Because you’re downloading the apps from an “unknown source”, i.e., not the Play Store, you’ll have to change the security settings on your device.
I’ve watched the entire 4th series of Downton Abbey on the Prime Video app. Playback is flawless on the Tinker Board.
Vimeo is a video-sharing website in which users can upload, share and view videos in full 1080p HD. With an ad-free experience, Vimeo is a popular service.
The app lets users save videos to watch offline, and like and share videos. It’s a bit clunky, and I experienced a few crashes. Not enough to make me want to uninstall the app, but sufficient to dent the experience.
Still, there’s some good independent content on the service. You must watch Last Light by Colin Rich. A mesmerizing feast of Los Angeles bearing the brunt of a storm with some excellent night photography.
This app will be familiar to both Windows and Linux users alike. Like Kodi, VLC features in our Killer Apps article.
It’s an awesome multimedia player which can also stream audio and video in a number of formats. With its integrated codecs covering just about every type of media under the sun, it’s the bee’s knees of media players. A must download.
The Android app is installed using Google Play Store. It’s a full multimedia player with a complete database, an equalizer and filters, playing all popular codecs. It works well, but I prefer 4K Video (just).
BBC iPlayer is an internet streaming catchup television and radio service in the United Kingdom. The service is available on a wide range of devices, including mobile phones and tablets, personal computers, and smart televisions. You’ll need a TV license to watch this service.
Yes, you can watch iPlayer via a Kodi plug-in. But the dedicated iPlayer app is worth the download; it makes finding the material you want to watch quick and easy. The app lets you watch live TV, catch up on the last month’s TV, and download TV programmes.
The app performs admirably on the Tinker Board. Video playback is remarkably good. A strong recommendation for anyone living in the UK.
Teenagers in many countries are making the switch from traditional television to streaming services. Consumption of streaming video is growing rapidly. If you want to share a video, YouTube makes it easy to do, from embedding to emailing to sharing via social networks.
YouTube is available on phones, tablets, game consoles and smart TVs, allowing you to watch all your favourite videos on the go or on a large screen. There’s also an official Android app. While Kodi offers an add-on for YouTube, the official Android YouTube app is a popular download.
YouTube 12.16.56 performs admirably on the Tinker Board. It’s solid performance combined with good design makes it an enjoyable way to enjoy YouTube material. Personally, I gravitate to watching YouTube via Kodi.
This is the only app here pre-installed with the Android image. There’s an equivalent application for TinkerOS which was covered in this article.
The video app uses the hardware acceleration features found on the Tinker Board to play video encoded using H.264 and H.265. The Android is a good alternative to VLC.
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