Having been around the personal computer industry since its early days, there are a few signs that tell me when a category is starting to mature. One of the most obvious signs is packaging. Back in the 1980’s we sold software such as dBase II, a database application that retailed for $400 to $500 packed in little more than a plastic baggie and paper insert. Then along came Lotus, VisiCorp, Microsoft and others and software package design was elevated to a fine art. Taking a look at the MK908, the latest offering from Tronsmart, I was transported back to those heady days.
While the Tronsmart MK908 packaging may not be art, it has come a long way from the spartan enclosures we were seeing just a year ago. Gone is the flimsy plastic casing and single sheet of instructions. This box is sleek, stylish and includes separate compartments for each of the contents, including a slightly expanded user manual. I don’t want to place too much emphasis on something that you’re going to throw away anyway, but just know that it’s a sign this market is maturing.
On the inside of that snazzy box is a powerful third generation Android Mini PC. It’s loaded with high end features such as the Rockchip 3188 Quad Core SOC, Dual WiFi Antenna, Dual heat-sink, Bluetooth 4.0, 2Gb RAM and the latest version of Android. The MK908 has potential to open new areas to Mini PC users. With its emphasis on speed, both in the processor and networking, this Stick is a champion at what it was designed for – streaming all types of media from both local and Internet sources.
The hardware included in the MK908 compares favorably to the latest generation of quad-core tablets. The Mali 400 Quad Core graphics processor has become the de facto standard for Android Sticks. For both streaming media and 3D gaming, the system performs remarkably well, even at full resolution. Expansion abounds with a Micro SD slot for up to 32GB of internal storage, as well as a gaggle of USB ports for adding additional storage and accessories.
The Bluetooth 4.0 receiver is also a big plus. Many of the synchronization issues seen with earlier Bluetooth devices are just not there. Another nice feature is the attention paid to cooling and ventilation. There are heat-sinks on both top and bottom of the board, with complimenting vents on both sides as well. The casing was designed to keep the heat away from the core components and allow it to remain cool even with extended usage.
The MK908 comes out-of-the-box with Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean). In this version of Android you’ll find many new apps available to you, including the Android version of Kodi. With some additional data storage and accessories, the MK908 can become a full fledged media center or even serve as a secondary PC for browsing the web, Skype video, email and other general purpose tasks.
Since this review was written, Tronsmart has discontinued selling this product. An alternate Generic MK809III is now available.
What I like about the Tronsmart MK908
The Tronsmart MK908 is for those who’ve been waiting for a reason to get into Stick Computing. The Quad Core RK3188, Cortex A9 SOC means you’ll be running one of the fastest chipsets on the market. With a Linpack score over 120 and AnTuTu over 14K, you’re getting twice the speed of second generation dual core models. That means better video playback and more performance out of your 3D games.
Since it’s Android 4.2 ready, you can pop it into the HDMI port of your TV or Monitor and start using it right away. Access to the Google Play Store is built in, so you can immediately download your favorite Android apps. You can also download and run Kodi to turn the MK908 into a full blown media center. WiFi performance of the MK908 is outstanding. Whether you’re streaming from the Internet or a local media server performance is excellent.
One of the few negatives of this unit is the hidden button for entering flash mode. If you’ve owned another Stick or read forum posts on how to upgrade the firmware, then you’ve heard about the issues some owners have had with getting their Stick into flash mode. I’ve found that the best way to access the button is to find a small paperclip and unfold the outer loop. The sharp end should fit exactly inside the hole and with delicate pressure you can depress the button while plugging in the OTG cable. Sometimes a third hand can be helpful to steady the Stick.
I like the fact that the MK908 includes two usable USB ports. For many of us, two ports will be enough. But if you anticipate needing to attach a variety of USB devices, such as audio and external storage, I’d advise you to pick up a powered USB hub from Amazon.
As I mentioned earlier, the MK908 has double heat-sinks and double ventilation. That’s important for these little sticks. With adequate cooling the Stick won’t overheat and it means you have less problems over the long run and the lifetime of the unit is greatly improved.
Some users have reported issues with Netflix and several other Android apps in the stock ROM. There is a custom ROM available for download (see FAQ below) that fixes this, and other issues, as well as providing a variety of enhancements.
Overall I would give the MK908 a 3.8 out of 5 stars. My rating will be higher with the addition of an external flash mode button, true power-down, a better out-of-the-box ROM, and a resolution to some of the video stuttering issues. Even with these dings, it’s still an excellent choice for third generation Sticks in this price range.
Company Product Information
Tronsmart is a fast-growing computer product manufacturer in China, focusing on Android Mini PC and and accessories. They are the makers of the popular MK808 line of Stick PCs, as well as the Quad Core T428 and MK908. In order to insure the authenticity of the product and the best quality and service you should always purchase a product like this from a name that you trust, such as Amazon.com.
What’s in the Box
- Tronsmart MK908
- User Guide
- AC Power Adapter
- Micro USB Cable
- OTG Cable
- HDMI Cable
Here’s an unboxing video from an early reviewer. (Note: The reviewer makes 2 errors in the video, mistakenly calling the MK908 “the MK809” and confusing Micro and Mini USB ports. The MK908 shown here includes the more sturdy Mini USB ports.)
Unboxing the Tronsmart MK908
Features and Specifications
- Tronsmart MK908 Rockchip 3188 Quad Core 1.6GHz Cortex A9
- Mali 400 Quad core GPU
- 2GB DDR3 RAM, 8GB Internal Flash Storage, support for up to 32GB Micro SD card
- Built in 802.11b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0 Built-in
- Dual Heat-sink, Dual WiFi Antenna
- HDMI, USB, Mini USB, USB OTG and MicroSD card ports
- Android 4.2 OS (Supports Kodi, Google Play Store)
|Max Screen Resolution||1080P|
|RAM||2 GB SDRAM DDR3|
|Graphics||Mali Quad core GPU|
|Number of USB Ports||3 (1 Full, 1 Mini, 1 OTG)|
|Dimensions||88mm x 31.5mm x 15.8mm|
|Weight||~ 50 grams|
|Hard Drive Interface||USB 2.0, Solid State (up to 32GB)|
|Power||5V 2A (via Micro USB port)|
Pros and Cons
- New Generation Quad Core RK3188
- Scores over 14000 on AnTuTu and 120 Linpack
- Fast and reliable built-in WiFi
- True 1080p video mode
- Double heat-sink for improved cooling
- Preloaded with Android 4.2
- Bluetooth 4.0 provides more stable connections
- Users reporting issues with video frame stuttering
- Netflix and other software issues with early ROMs (should be fixed)
- Flash mode reset button can be difficult to push
For overall performance and reliability, the closest competitor to the MK908 is probably Tronsmart’s own T428. The T428 runs slightly faster in performance tests. The T428 comes with a single Micro USB port whereas the MK908 has two Mini and one full sized. These are both relatively new devices and cost about the same. In terms of community support, they are both based on the same chipset and are both offered by Tronsmart.
User Community Support
There are a number of forums that cater to users of Android Mini PCs like the Tronsmart MK908. You’ll find many of them linked in various articles on Stick Computing. The majority are open forums that cover nearly all of the Android Mini PCs on the market. If you have issues with your MK908, you will likely find the answers in the forums.
The MK908 ships with an Android 4.2 stock ROM. There are some known issues with Bluetooth, Netflix and some other applications. In late May 2013 they began providing an updated ROM. If you experience any of these issues, you can update to the latest firmware. Finless has released version 1.5 for Android 4.2.2 and it includes many fixes and enhancements. It also comes rooted for those who wish to install apps requiring root. The latest updates can be found on the Freaktab forum.
Another benefit of upgrading the ROM is that you can reallocate application memory. This enables you to install and run more apps.
***WARNING*** Update your ROM at your own risk. Incorrectly flashing your T428 can cause it to become non-functional. Make sure you know what you’re doing when you upgrade, or have someone with prior experience do it for you.
Who is the product for?
The Tronsmart MK908 is one of the best sellers of the third generation Sticks. If you’re looking for performance, reliability and expandability in an Android Mini PC, this is your Stick. As a dedicated streamer, it doesn’t get much better. For those who are on a budget, with a keyboard and mouse this stick can serve as a general purpose or secondary PC. For the modder/hacker there’s plenty of room for upgrades and experimentation as well.
“I’ve had the Tronsmart MK908 for about a month now and its great. I just upgraded to the latest ROM and it now has a TRUE 1080p kernel. That makes this the first quad core player on the market to have full 1080 and not up scaled 720. Besides that it has great wifi and custom ROM support.”
“For what it does, it does it very well. I showed it to several people and they think I am pulling their leg when I tell them it’s a computer.”
“Now I play android games (on my) TV instead my smartphone. It has full HD quality, very good speed in applications and games.”
“The Mk908 is very good, it is very fast and works smoothly. It is also very stable.”
Tronsmart MK908 Review
A good overview of the new features in the MK908, plus some performance tests and apps demonstration.
Summing it up
I’d recommend the Tronsmart MK908 as a great way to get started in the world of Stick Computing. It makes an excellent upgrade from a second generation Stick or a generic “tv box”. With solid performance, and the latest in both hardware and software it represents the best of the latest generation in Stick Computing.
Since this review was written, Tronsmart has discontinued selling this product. An alternate is now available.
Order with confidence and get fast delivery with Amazon.com