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Ouya (mini) review

My friend Lance bought an Ouya and pried it out of his wife’s hands long enough to let me review it. Thanks Lance. Sorry for the marital strife 😦

The Ouya is a Kickstarter (crowd funded) box that is aimed at playing games. It is a heavily skinned android. It’s so heavily skinned that the fact it is Android is pretty much irrelevant. It has it’s own market place and only allows programs in that are properly supported and working on the Ouya.

OUYA

Let’s start with physicals. The device is an uber small box that is very nicely designed. It is so small it could fit anywhere. While there is a fan in it the device is pretty much silent. When you look at the way the fan is located in the case it sure seems like an after thought. The fan will spend most of the time fighting itself because there is no clear path for the air to come in, pick up heat and go out.

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The cube has a U shape to the bottom of it and looks nice. It’s so small it will easily be missed. There’s no infra red so basically this device can be hidden too. There is only one button and one light on the unit and they are on the top. This is it’s power button. On the back are a wired Ethernet port (necessary if this is going to stream hi def movies), a full size HDMI port, a USB host as well as a micro USB OTG port. Lastly a barrel shaped power port. The power adapter is quite small. and delivers 12V 1.5A so 18 watts. The device does get warm when pushed but not outrageously warm. My WDLX get’s warmer. I’m not sure why they opted for a micro USB OTG port rather than a second USB port. But a micro USB OTG cable is cheap enough so who cares.

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Powering this thing on is uber fast. From powered off to up is a mere 35 seconds with the first chirp out of it coming at 30 seconds. Impressive and helps to reward you to power it off when not in use. There doesn’t seem to be any power management within the Ouya (or not by default) but it does put the screen to sleep.

When it first comes up (and you can only power it on by pressing the button on the top of the unit, an oversight IMHO) you are greeted by a menu that allows you to choose from Play/Discover/Make or Manage. As I mentioned heavily skinned. They included a power off on the menu but forgot to include a reboot. So if you need to reboot it you have to power if off, get off the couch and power it back on. Another clumsy over sight that can easily be fixed in software.

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You can quickly see the focus of this device is games. According to Lance to even start this puppy up you need to give it a credit card. The Ouya marketplace only allows you to pay for things by credit card. No Paypal option. Only approved and working programs are allowed in the Ouya marketplace. Some Android games have been rewrritten for the Ouya to support unique hardware like the game controller. Games like Stupid Zombies etc.

The number one problem with playing games on PCs and Android is the lack of a game controller. The Ouya comes with one. And a pretty good one too. It comes with not one, not two but three different ways of controlling it (two joysticks and one D-pad). Not to mention a myriad of buttons. And this comes the first rub. The buttons are completely inconsistent amongst aps. So I find myself pressing a bunch of buttons until one does something. It’s maddening. I suppose given enough time you can get use to it. Given enough time I might get use to the dentist chair but this isn’t something I’m working towards. There’s even a virtual mouse on the controller. The controller is bluetooth and you can add additional ones at a price $49 a pop. The controllers are well built and solid.

XBMC has been working and have now released a formal XBMC for the Ouya in the marketplace. XBMC works quite well on this device and movie playback even from network shares (using the wired Ethernet) worked well. Surprisingly well in fact. Initially scanning directories for content, as well as loading the database of already scanning content does require some patience as it is slow. Probably the slowest I’ve see to date.

And now we are onto the next rub. Your using a game controller to control movies. I tried my Windows Media center remote … no joy. And so far I don’t see another option. Controlling movies with a game controller is clumsy at best.

There’s a web browser (Chrome) you can add in, and paging up and down works well and is smooth but you really need a mouse and keyboard to make this even remotely useful.

So in the end, you have to decide if what you really want is just a game console? If so this is an inexpensive, flexible one. If your looking for a media player as well, until the remote control options improve I’d look elsewhere.

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August 26, 2013 - Posted by | Android, Electronic gadget reviews

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