review oct 2012, for the Android TV Dongle - Dual Core Rockchip rk3066
pros: uses android ice cream sandwich operating system - all the advantages of an android, access to Google Market (Play) on the stock firmware. Good system spec, quad core gpu - compared to other similar dongles which only have a single core gpu. Powered USB hub can be used to allow more usb devices
cons: current firmware doesn't deliver all types of media playback too well, although it does a fairly good job on local playback. Original batch of Rockwell rk3066 has known problem of weak wifi and a lot of users are reporting a tendency of the dongle to corrupt the sd card (if your using an external sd card). No power off button or system provided power off function on the stock firmware to switch off the dongle.
bottom line: an excellent piece of kit, with loads of potential. In its current state maybe only useful for enthusiasts, rather than those that want a polished plug and play system. Who knows maybe a new firmware will correct the current niggles.
The Rockwell rk3066 chipset at the time of writing is sold mainly from China with many different brands selling them as "Google TV Dongles". This particular model is actually a 1.6ghz processor that is currently set to an 'on demand sliding scale' frequency up to 1.2ghz. This means with future firmware it may be possible to unlock the full potential of this little beauty. With the original batch of rk3066 there is a known problem of weak WiFi - for the more adventurous, this can be improved by opening the case and pulling the antenna out of the case.
As this is an android device, if you already have an android device and use the same Google credentials to log into the Google Market, all your previous purchases are available to install on the dongle at no further charge. One disadvantage of the stock firmware, is the device is picked up as Chinese Rk3066 - this means not all Google apps that are regionally restricted will be available unless you root the dongle and install a Market Enabler app, or manually hack the config files (which also require root access).
Media playback on this device is mixed. I have used both the stock firmware and a custom one to root the device and both suffer from audio/video out of synch from between 0.5 seconds to 2 seconds. For something with its good spec this is extremely surprising. I find some playback is fine, like links to the Chinese video sites from the home screen.
My online playback consists almost entirely of bbc iplayer - the only way i could get it to work properly was use the official android bbc media player app and google chrome - even then the bbc site mistakenly identifies the dongle as some small mobile and gives no option for HD playback - this might change with time if tv dongles become more popular and bbc iplayer accommodates this, otherwise no fun watching iplayer on a 40+ inch tv on standard def! BBC iplayer playback wasn't too bad with the audio/video out of synch only barely noticeable. The stock media player, which is actually quite good, also support dnla servers and plays films served by my twonky server running off a nas box quite well. At the time of writing xbmc android app is still in closed beta, so will still have to wait for that.
Customising the home screen is very limited on the stock firmware. On rooted firmware it is possible to use normal launchers, which can be customised to your hearts desire. I purchased a 'branded' rk3066 to avoid the wifi issues, and rooted it to gain valuable internal space (after its all set up on stock firmware it goes down to around 540mb, but rooting it and repartitioning reclaims lost space giving you just under 1 gb space!
Controlling the tv dongle is done through a keyboard/mouse. Android has had keyboard/mouse support for a long time, only its become more feasible to use them. I used a wireless keyboard mouse combo on a single nano usb receiver stub - you can get add more usb sockets by using a powered usb hub. You might want to do this for example if you had your library of films/photos/music on usb drives.
Its surprising that these devices don't come with a physical or software emulated power off button/switch. All the dongles share this feature - even the pi doesnt have an on/off switch. The only workaround is to use a software power off function, that will only work if the dongle is rooted. Even then, because there is no physical switch, you still have to yank the power out after software emulating a power off otherwise the dongle will just reboot again. Still thats better than having no way of emulating a power off, just one more reason for rooting the device.
If someone ports over a linux desktop version for this like they have with the raspberry pi, this will kick some serious butt - if xbmc ever port a version that runs natively on this stick (like with the original xbox 1) that would be a dream come true! Native xbmc is one of the best media players I have ever used, and I ran it for years on xbox 1's until htpc became cheap enough to put windows/linux on them. The ported xbmc on raspberry pi runs reasonably well, but I would expect it to smoothly cruise along on the higher spec of the rk3066.
Overall, an enthusiasts gadget - I love it to bits, but the stock firmware and current root roms, imho, still need a lot of polishing before its good enough for the average joe bloggs off the street.