HiMedia Q5 Android Media Player Review
HiMedia Q5 Android Media Player
This is a review of the HiMedia Q5 Android media player. HiMedia has a range of popular media players that are based on the Realtek chipset but the HiMedia Q5 is based on the Android OS and runs on a Hisilicon Hi3716C SoC, an ARM Cortex A9 1GHz class CPU.
I first came across the HiMedia Q5 in a video clip that was posted on YouTube. In the video clip, a few of the HiMedia Q5 unique features were demoed which puts the HiMedia Q5 a class above not only its older Realtek based siblings but also all other media players.
The other reason I was interested in the HiMedia Q5 was the fact that many Android Mini PC users are actually looking at replacing their media players with a device that can play their media collection that also offers the versatility of an Android based computer.
However, as I have mentioned several times in my articles, the Android Mini PC is not an ideal replacement for a media player as all of the Android Mini PCs that I have tried and reviewed have certain limitations when compared to a dedicated media player. Since the HiMedia Q5 is first and foremost a media player that also happens to run on Android, perhaps it is the ideal device for the people who are looking for an Android OS based media player.
The generous folks at HiMedia are kind enough to sponsor a review unit for me to write this review. As usual, this review is impartial and HiMedia had no influence over the content of this review except to make clarifications on questions raised during the writing of the review itself. HiMedia only got to see this review after it has been published.
All images in this article are courtesy of Roy Yap or HiMedia
Review unit courtesy of
Sales Contact: Monica Lee
HiMedia is a high-tech engineering company specialized in designing and manufacturing Android Smart TV Box, Android HDMI Dongle, HD Media Player, Internet Hybrid TV Box, IPTV and OTT(STB)
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Unboxing the HiMedia Q5 Android media player
The first thing that struck my mind when I removed the HiMedia Q5 from the box was how nice the brushed aluminum casing looked. The construction is very solid and the simple design with the metal enclosure gives it weight and build quality that looks and feel much better than most media players that come with plastic enclosures.
On the front of the unit is a power switch and an LED display. On the right of the unit are 3 standard USB host 2.0 ports and a reset button while on the left are a SATA interface for SATA HDD and a card reader slot for SD / SDHC / MS PRO memory cards. At the back of the unit are a myriad of connectors that you would expect to be present on a media player.
From left to right are a co-axial S/PDIF connector, an optical TOSLink S/PDIF connector, composite video RCA connector, stereo L/R RCA connectors, a 3.5 mm component port , a HDMI port, an RJ45 Ethermet port and lastly a connector for the12V DC 2.0A Power adapter. Also located on the rear panel is the WiFi antenna. Compared to an Android Mini PC that only has a HDMI port, you are spoiled for choice on the HiMedia Q5.
Ports at the back of the HiMedia Q5
Also included in the box is the IR remote control. The remote control has a numeric pad at the bottom half and a navigation directional buttons at the upper half. There are also a few Android specific buttons such as Home, Menu and Back. The remote also comes with a mouse toggle button that switches the remote into a special mouse mode. The remote runs on 2 AAA batteries that are not included in the box.
Also in the box are a HDMI cable, a SATA cable for connecting to a SATA hard disk, a 12V DC 2.0A power adapter and a simple manual. Although the player has support for various video and audio ports, only the HDMI cable is provided with the unit. If you need to use any of the other connection methods, you will need to get the proper cable on your own.
HiMedia Q5 media player specifications
The HiMedia Q5 uses a Hisilicon 3716C, ARM Cortex A9 1GHz CPU. It is a single core CPU and based on the specs alone, its performance should be somewhere in between the single core ARM Cortex A8 based CPUs like the Allwinner A10 and the dual core Rockchip RK3066 ARM Cortex A9.
According to HiMedia, the Hisilicon 3716C was chosen as it is more stable as the chipset is optimized for set-top-boxes. The rest of its specifications are more standard and should be familiar to Android dongle users such as 1 GB DDR3 RAM, 4GB Nand Flash for internal storage (2 GB for OS and 2 GB available space) and built-in 802.11b/g/n wireless network.
However, as mentioned earlier, on top of the above the HiMedia Q5 has a lot more options when it comes to connecting to your display and speakers. One of the Android Mini PC's biggest disadvantage when used as a media player is the lack of support for true surround sound. While they are capable of playing most sound formats, the sound is always down sampled to stereo and as far as I know, it is not possible to pass through surround sound to a receiver.
Front of the HiMedia Q5
Besides the HIDMI cable, audio pass through is also possible either via the co-axial S/PDIF or optical TOSLink connectors. However, no RCA or TOSLink cables are included with the package.
The HiMedia Q5 supports multi-channel audio tracks including DTS-HDMA and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 pass-through so you can get multi-channel sound if the files that you play come encoded with any of the surround sound formats.
Besides the built-in WiFi, it is also possible to connect the HiMedia Q5 to the network via a wired RJ45 port. For media players, a wired connection is usually preferred over a wireless connection as it more stable at higher speeds. A wired connection also means that it is possible to play high bit rate video files over the network.
You can connect up to 3 USB external drives to the HiMedia Q5 via any of the 3 USB ports plus a SATA drive via the included SATA connector. A SATA cable is included in the package which is a thoughtful move as it is less likely that you will have a spare SATA cable lying around compared to a USB cable. The USB ports can also be used to connect to USB devices such as a mouse, keyboard or a USB RF receiver for a wireless keyboard.
The stock ROM is Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich). While it is a slightly older version compared to the usual Android 4.1 (Jellybean) and Android 4.0.4 (ICS) that comes with the latest Android Mini PCs, it is a more advanced version of the Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) that is more common on rival Android set top boxes.
As for video and audio playback compatibility, according to HiMedia, the HiMedia Q5 has the best file playback compatibility compared to all the other Android media players. HiMedia assured that as far playback compatibility is concerned, the HiMedia Q5 is very close to their Realtek 1185 based players. For example, the Q5 has support for BDMV and BDISO with BD-Lite navigation menu, something that none of the other Android media players can claim to have as far as I know.
HIMEDIA Q5 ANDROID MEDIA PLAYER TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
> OS - Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
> Chipset - Hisilicon 3716C, ARM Cortex A9 1GHz
> Memory - 1GB DDR3
> Built-in Storage- 4GB (2GB for OS, 2GB available space)
> Network - WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
> Additional Storage - SD / SDHC / MS PRO card reader
> Video Formats - TS, M2TS, TP, TRP, MKV, MP4, AVI, RM, RMVB, WMV, ASF, FLV, VOB, DAT, MPG, MPEG
> Audio Formats - MP3, WMA, WAV, APE, AAC, FLAC, MKA
> Video/Audio Output - HDMI (up to 1080P), Composite Audio/Video, Y/Pb/Pr Video, S/PDIF Coaxial (digital audio), S/PDIF Optical TOSLink (digital audio)
> USB Ports - 3 USB 2.0 Host
> SATA Ports - 1 SATA interface for SATA HDD
> Size - 170 x 115 x 24.5 mm
> Weight - 500 g
Additional cables you may need for the HiMedia Q5
The Velocity digital audio cable is a great upgrade to the cables typically included with consumer electronics products. The low-loss 75 Ohm oxygen-free copper center conductors and foam dielectric provide high quality digital sound and performance.
While the HiMedia Q5 has WiFi, a wired connection is always preferred for high bit rate HD content.
USB cables to connect external hard drives to the HiMedia Q5
Use RCA cable only as a last resort as it does not support HD video or surround sound.
HiMedia Q5 media player performance
The HiMedia Q5 is primarily a media player and this review will primarily look at its media player features. However, I have also checked out its capabilities as an Android computer and how well it runs popular Android apps.
Boot up and initial impressionsBoot up takes about 30 seconds which is comparable to dual core Android Mini PCs and about twice as fast as most other Android set top boxes. After boot up, a customized simple launcher is the default home screen. The simplified launcher has short cuts to the video player, favorite apps folder, apps manager, HiTV app, web browser, file manager and Android settings.
The HiMedia Q5's customized launcher home screen
The included remote is an IR remote which has a numeric pad but no Qwerty keyboard. This makes the remote useful for simple navigation as it has a directional pad with an OK button in the center. It also has a few Android OS specific buttons such as Home, Menu and Back buttons. The buttons are a bit stiff however and you do need to really press hard on the buttons for them to register.
The remote also has a "mouse" button. Pressing on the mouse buttons brings up the mouse cursor on screen which you can then control using the directional buttons and you can make selections by pressing on the OK button. It is not easy at all to control the cursor using the directional buttons as it is hard to control fine movements.
Because of the stiffness of the buttons, a click in any direction may make the cursor move a short distance or a huge jump. The mouse feature has its uses however as once in a while, the use of a mouse is required on certain apps especially when entering information on a form. A big plus point for the remote however is that it has a power toggle button that can actually power up the HiMedia Q5 as well as put it to sleep. something that is not possible on any of the Android Mini PCs that I have tested.
Video playbackThis is what the HiMedia Q5 is designed for and I expect it to excel in this area. As far as video format support is concerned, the Q5 played every single video file that I threw at it. The Q5 also has support for NTFS so it had no problems reading files that are bigger than 4GB that were stored on my NTFS formatted storage drives.
Mizuu automatically downloads covers and other details for all my movie files
I do have a large collection of video files but I must admit that what I have are meant to be played on my WDTV Live media player so my testing may not be thorough.
My biggest complaint however is the lack of a front end file manager to manage the large number of video files that I have on my two 1TB external hard drives. Fortunately, being an Android device meant that I could easily browse through the Android Play Store and find something to fill the gap.
Mizuu is a great looking front end for all your locally stored media
I installed Mizuu which provides a great front end for all my locally stored favorite movies and TV shows. It automatically scanned my drives and downloaded covers and details of all my movies and TV shows. It worked well for 95% of my files but I needed to make manual corrections to the remaining 5%. There is some work involved but I am happy with how well Mizuu worked. Unfortunately, Mizuu only supports content stored locally and at this moment there is no support for network storage yet.
The other problem that I had with the HiMedia Q5's media playback capability is the lack of fast forward and rewind buttons on the remote control. The only way that I can skip parts of the movie was by switching to mouse mode and use the cursor to select another point in the movie. Since the control of the cursor was not precise, it was actually quite difficult to accomplish this. Compared to my WDTV Live where I can speed up the movie or make 10 mins jumps, this was a big step backwards.
It does have dedicated buttons for other media functions such as volume control, skip tracks forwards and backwards and a play/pause button. I also liked the fact that it has an audio track selection button as well as a subtitle selection button. Pressing a button to choose a track or subtitle is much easier than going through a menu on my WDTV Live.
Support for network sharesThe HiMedia Q5 has support for Samba and NFS network shares and is able to play files over the network from a PC or a network storage device. This is where the built-in wired LAN connection comes in handy as high bitrate files played without a hitch. The only problem I had was that I had to rely on the very basic file manager to access my network files since Mizuu had no network support. Using the file manager seemed a little primitive but the important thing was that it worked.
Video streamingThere are a couple of video streaming apps that come with the HiMedia Q5. The first is a Live TV app that streams over 200 Chinese TV stations. I didn't have the time to check every single channel but I did come across one English news channel (CCTV News). If you do not understand Mandarin Chinese, this might not be of interest to you but if you understand Mandarin and have an interest in news and entertainment from China, this could be a big plus point.
This app is also the only app that I can think of that makes use of the numerical pad on the IR remote. You can easily change to any of the 200 plus channels by using the keypad.
HiMedia Q5's HiTV app
The other video streaming app is the HiTV app. This app is actually a form of front end to Chinese video streaming sites like YouKu plus a few other sites. Since I am from outside China, I would have thought that I needed some kind of VPN service to make use of this app but surprisingly, I can actually access the content.
There is a mix of both Chinese and foreign content
There are both movies and TV shows and most of the content is from China but there is some foreign content including a few English, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese movies. Subtitles are available for most titles including English subtitles for the Chinese content. For some content, there are options to stream in both standard definition and high definition. However, I did notice that the streaming speed is not consistent. There are times when the streaming is fast and even HD content can be streamed with minimal buffering and there are times when even 320p content would not stream at all. This has nothing to do with the Q5 of course but I thought this might interest those who are thinking of buying the Q5 for this feature.
I do not know if these apps will be included in the HiMedia Q5 units that are sold in other parts of the world or if they are only included for selected regions.
Besides these 2 apps, I also installed YouTube and Netflix. YouTube worked well and I had no problems streaming HD content in full screen without the menu bar at the bottom. However, I could not get Netflix to work. The app can be installed and I can even browse the Netflix library but the screen goes blank when I tried to actually view any content. HiMedia has informed me that they are aware of this problem and they are currently working on a fix.
HiControl AppFor me, the piece de resistance of the HiMedia Q5 is the free HiControl app which allows the user to control the Q5 using an Android phone or tablet. All you have to do is to install the HiControl app on your Android phone or tablet and then connect it to the same network as the Q5.
HiControl app's Touch mode
HiControl app's Keyboard mode
The HiControl app allows you to remotely control the HiMedia Q5 using several methods. The first is a soft keyboard that allows you to enter text by using your phone or tablet as a keyboard. The second is a touch pad control. Switching to this mode allows you to use the control screen as a touch pad with an onscreen cursor.
HiControl app's Mouse mode
HiControl app's Remote Control mode
The most interesting mode of all is the third which is the "touch" mode that mirrors the TV display and allows you to use touch controls. It can be difficult to touch selected elements on a phone's small screen but this feature works great on a 7" or bigger tablet screen. It makes it easy to scroll the screen or make use of apps that require touch control especially games with on-screen controls.
However I must state that there is a slight lag for the touch control so it may not be ideal for games that require quick touch feedback such as Temple Run for example. The refresh rate is about 2 frames per second and video content is not mirrored on the app.
Lastly is a remote control mode which duplicates the IR remote control buttons. This is probably the least useful mode and the only reason that I can think of to use this mode is is for switching channels on the Live TV app.
The HiControl app has support for gyro control which means that you can run apps especially games that require gyro controls. Like the touch control, there is also a slight lag.
HiShare and AirPlayWith the HiShare app and AirPlay, you can share video, audio and photo files from an Android or iOS device to the HiMedia Q5 wirelessly and instantly. All you have to do is start the HiShare app or AirPlay and select the media file that you want to share and it will play back from the TV. However, it does not have the screen mirroring feature that AppleTV does.
Games and other applicationsWith the great features offered by the HiControl app, I was excited about the gaming possibilities of the HiMedia Q5. Unfortunately, this is not one of the strong features of the Q5. Many of the apps that I have installed including popular games like Angry Birds Space either just crash or have garbled graphics.
To be fair to HiMedia, the Q5 is marketed as a media player with additional features like media sharing and streaming. The fact that it happened to run on an Android OS does not mean that it will be fully compatible with all Android apps. HiMedia is working on firmware updates for the Q5 and I have installed the latest firmware which provided more stability and compatibility with more apps. For example, the stock firmware could not run Minecraft but the updated firmware could.
- The HiControl app with multiple choices on how to control the HiMedia Q5 remotely with my favorite being the touch method which mirrors the display on the TV.
- Very good support for video and audio formats including BDMV and BDISO.
- Surround sound audio pass through through either HDMI, co-axial S/PDIF or optical TOSLink S/PDIF.
- Fast boot up in about 30 seconds.
- Dedicated buttons on the IR remote for selecting audio tracks and subtitles.
- HiShare app and AirPlay support makes sharing of media files on the big screen a simple task.
- Support for network shares via Samba and NFS.
- No fast forward and rewind buttons on the remote
- No customized front end to manage a large library of media files.
- Slight lag in the HiControl app that hampers control in a few games.
- Many Android Play Store apps cannot run on the HiMedia Q5.
- Buttons on the IR remote could have been more responsive.
- Trying to skip a couple of minutes during video playback using the included IR remote control
Best HiMedia Q5 deals on Amazon
HiMedia releases this Q5 Android media player which features with 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 Processor, 1GB DDR3 Memory and 4GB NAND Flash. It supports high definition 1080P video output via hardware decoding, comes with Android 4.0 OS (upgradeable) as well as the build-in HiMedia exclusive HiTV APP providing unlimited online video.