Ten years ago, Steve Jobs walked onto a stage to introduce a revolutionary update to a device that would change technology to what we know today. His vision and innovation of “fixing” an existing product was Apple’s propelling push to the technology giant they are today.
Apple’s original iPhone was a 3.5-inch displayed device and ever since then, smartphones have gotten a lot, lot bigger.
My daily driver is the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus with a 6.2-inch display, nearly double the original iPhone. When purchasing this phone, I was afraid that the screen size would be unwieldy, but it turns out to be a perfect fit for me.
As large and vibrant as the screen is, it’s still only 6.2-inches. Browsing through applications and the web is fantastic to do on the phone, but watching content is still sometimes hard to do. I doubt many of us would be excited by watching a two-hour movie on our phones.
Televisions are still a must-have in the home. When flat screen TVs were coming to the market in mass, a lot of manufacturers pushed smart operating systems onto their TVs to persuade consumers to buy their TV.
Nowadays, SmartTVs seem to be a thing reserved for premium models or only offered by manufacturers like LG and Samsung as they continue to be strong players in the TV market.
This decline in SmartTVs has opened up the opportunity for third parties to develop third-party tools to get people’s basic or dumb TVs into the intelligent world.
Amazon has their Fire TV, Apple their new Apple TV box, and one of the originals being Roku with their Roku box. Google is also a part of this market with their Chromecast, a device that is so simple, it works for millions of people.
For those that do not know what a Chromecast is, it’s a device that can mirror your Android (or Chrome browser) applications to a connected TV. Simple, yet somehow revolutionary, because your Android phone becomes the hub of all of your content.
Since it’s your phone, everything is updated daily and you already know how to use it. However, what if you don’t use the Android ecosystem or don’t wish to be tethered to your phone? Google has one more lesser-known tools that it offers.
Known as Android TV, it’s an operating system handed out to manufacturers to then develop a smart TV box that is running Android in the background. You get the best of both worlds, no need for a phone, but keeping all of the Google apps from your phone.
A company that thinks they can make something from Android TV is Matricom. With previous experience in the field, their new Q3 is an Android TV box that turns any TV into an Android powerhouse.
Welcome to my review of the Matricom Q3 Android TV.
Constructed using a lightweight plastic shell, Matricom isn’t going to win any awards in design when placed side-by-side with an Apple TV.
While made from a plastic body, the Q3 remains sleek and stylish for the average consumer living room. The top of the unit uses a glossy plastic finish that centers the lowercase Google ‘g’. This ‘g’ glows blue when the device is turned on, which can be a bummer as it adds additional light to what should be a dark room for movies. I could not find an option to turn it off.
For what I consider a small device, the Q3 contains a fair amount of reasonable I/O for the user to use in most situations.
Along one of the sides is a full-size SD card slot for additional local storage for local content. As I will mention later, if you plan on watching local content, an SD card is a must for additional storage as the Q3 comes with a minimal amount.
On the back of the Q3, you’ll find two full-sized USB ports, a full-sized HDMI port, Ethernet, a 3.5mm headphone jack, an optical audio jack, and power input. What you can’t see is that inside the box is a Bluetooth receiver, an IR receiver, and built-in wireless.
The expected way to interact with the Q3 is by using the included remote control. This remote control is a stylish remote and is quite nice to use. It’s made of plastic but has this smooth brushed finish that looks pleasant.
The remote uses two AAA batteries to send IR commands. These commands include power, menu navigation and select, the default Android buttons of menu, back, and home, volume adjustment, and an option to bring up a mouse to click things. More on the mouse later.
One annoyance I find with the remote is that the Android buttons are not correctly positioned. Most Android phone makers make their buttons in this order: Back, Home, and Menu. Samsung opts for Menu, Home, and Back. So, why Matricom has a different order for the buttons seems off to me.
While unboxing, I noticed Matricom includes a user guide on how to use the remote. Each button is briefly explained on what does what, except for the menu button. It seems like that button was forgotten about. Lastly, one generous inclusion in the box is an HDMI cable. It’s not the longest cable in the world, but it’s nice to see one was even included as not everybody has an HDMI cable lying around.
The design of the Q3 creates some mixed feelings, but luckily Matricom wasn’t going for style points. You can do what I did and use Velcro to hide the Q3 behind the TV. Just make sure it can still somehow receive an IR signal for the remote. It’s all about how it actually performs and what can be done with it.
Since the device is running a Google operating system it’s a breeze to setup and get started. You are prompted for some information for your Google account and getting online for updates and apps.
One of the setup options is to adjust the screen resolution to make sure everything will fit into frame. This can be a bit hit-or-miss. I configure my screen to the correct settings, but the Q3 will sometimes bug out and cut off parts of the display. It’s rare, but annoying when it happens because you need to reconfigure the screen.
Once you’ve gotten configured, the device checks for updates (upon each startup) which it will actually find! A lot of Android devices are left as is after they are sold, so to see that Matricom is keeping up-to-date with theirs is promising.
With most Android devices, manufacturers install a custom skin over Android to make it easier and better for the user. Matricom is no exception and they too have installed a custom user interface (UI) for their Q3.
The UI has a left-hand menu that contains Home, Videos, Music, Apps, Games, Live TV, and Themes. Each menu contains applications containing what is expected for that category and customization of applications is allowed.
One strong annoyance I have is with the Themes section. You can choose between four wallpapers to change the background of your Q3, but you cannot change the default pictures of the menus. The home will always be a foreign boy staring up at the sky (which is not even in high definition and is blurry), movies will always be a group of people you’ll never know, and the stock images go on and on. I would have much rather preferred nature images or my own pictures.
Preinstalled on the Q3 are all of your expected applications like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. There are also music apps for Pandora, Spotify, and a couple of others I’ve never heard of. FireFox is the default web browser that is installed.
Nothing on the device is considered bloatware to me and I’m glad to see Matricom installing the applications that people will certainly use right away. With a few exceptions for testing purposes, I’m still using the applications that were installed and haven’t had the need to reinstall anything else.
One of the additional applications installed is Kodi. Kodi is a popular new addition to people’s living rooms. It’s a tool that can scan the web to find movies and TVs. Its legality is questioned and can get you in trouble if you aren’t careful. Nevertheless, it’s preinstalled and only requires slight configuration if you wish to set it up to use it.
The Q3 has a quad-core CPU that runs with 2GB of RAM with 16GB of onboard storage. Utilizing the hardware is an updated version of Android TV 7.1.2. Since this is practically Android, any Android smartphone user will feel right at home.
If you use Android one way on your phone, chances are strong you can use it in the same way on the Q3. Games, applications, and files are all available through the Google Play Store just like they are on your smartphone. This takes mobile application gaming to a whole new level.
For those times that an application is only available in a smartphone format, the Q3 does offer Miracast which allows you to stream your phone’s screen to the big screen. This lets you play a movie, video, or display pictures on your phone and cast/stream it to the Q3 for everybody to see.
Using the Q3 for a long period of time is quite nice. The themes are a disappointment, but everything else is buttery smooth and quick. Applications load in a timely manner and the Play Store is filled with thousands of applications for you to download for additional content.
In some cases, browsing through the Q3 and Android applications isn’t always the ideal situation. If you are having trouble selecting objects with the remote, you can opt to show a mouse on the screen. Then, using the directional buttons, you can slowly move the mouse around as if you were on a computer to click objects and buttons. It’s a neat and clever way to use the Q3.
My Final Comments
Priced at $100, the Matricom Q3 is a neat little device that can turn practically any TV into a smart TV. It doesn’t have the stunning design of an Apple TV or the clean UI of Amazon’s Fire TV, but it comes with a powerful operating system that has more apps than any other smart TV provider on the market.
Everything you do on the Q3 is snappy, quick, and works as expected. My only wish was if there was a better way to navigate through the UI.
I enjoy how it’s so similar to the Android on phones, because I felt right at home. There are some things it could work on and adjust to make it better and over time it should improve with Matricom’s dedication to updating the device to the latest version of Android.
The Google Play Store offers a virtually unlimited amount of purchasable content and your paid subscriptions for Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu cover the rest. Navigating through all of it with the included remote was seamless and easy to do.
If you are looking for a Kodi box or for something new and neat, this is that device.
© 2017 Justin Vendette
Tagged Amazon, android, Apple, Box, Fire, google, Kodi, Matricom, Q3, Replacement, review, Set, smart, top, TV.