For me, testing out a new Android TV stick is kind of like getting back to my roots. So I was pretty excited to test out the new MeCool KD1 TV stick.
I’ve actually been using it for a little more than a month as one of my “daily driver” streaming devices. In this review, I’m going to give you my thoughts, some performance figures, what I liked about it, and what I think fell a little short.
The MeCool KD1 is a relatively new Android TV stick that retails for about $60. For that price, you’re getting a Google Certified device that’s running the official Android TV 10.0.
Just because it’s Google Widevine certified doesn’t mean it’s Netflix certified. Unfortunately, that means video performance in the world’s most popular streaming app isn’t as good as it could be.
We’ll get into the details in the coming section, but first let’s look at the hardware specs for the MeCool KD1.
MeCool KD1: Specs
The MeCool KD1 runs on the AmLogic S905Y2 chipset, which is a small form-factor version of the popular S905 platform. Since it’s designed for streaming sticks, the S905Y2 does away with any external ports so it can be as small as possible.
Even though it’s a small form-factor CPU, the S905Y2 supports HDMI 2.1, which ups the throughput to 48 Gb/s. That’s more than enough bandwidth to support 4K at 60 fps so I was anxious to see what the video performance was like.
The other important things to look for are system memory and available storage. Since there’s no expansion slots for micro-SD cards, the 16 GB of storage is all you’re ever going to get. System memory is 2 GB, which is about right for a streaming stick in this price range.
- CPU: Amlogic S905Y2 Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU
- GPU: ARM G31 MP2 GPU
- RAM: 2GB
- Storage: 16GB
- WiFi: Built-in 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi + BT 4.2 Module
- Bluetooth: BT4.2
- Operating System: Android TV 10.0
- 3.67″ x 1.3″ x 0.51″
- 1 x HDMI 2.1
- 1 x DC 5V/1A
Audio & Video Formats
- VP9 Profile-2 Up to 4k * 2k @ 60fps
- H.265 HEVC MPfirstname.lastname@example.org Up to 4k * 2k @ 60fps
- AVS2-P2 Profile Up to 4k * 2k @ 60fps
- H.264 AVC email@example.com up to 4k * 2k @ 30fps
- H.264 MVC UP to 1080P @ 60fps
- MPEG-4 ASP @ L5 UP To 1080P @ 60FPS (ISO-14496)
- WMV / VC-1 SP / MP / AP UP TO 1080P @ 60fps
- AVS-P16 (AVS +) / AVS-P2 JIZHUN Profile Up to 1080p @ 60fps
- MPEG-2 MP / HL UP To 1080P @ 60fps (ISO-13818)
- MPEG-1 MP / HL UP To 1080P @ 60FPS (ISO-11172)
- RealVideo 8/9/10 Up to 1080p @ 60fps
As soon as I took it out of the box, it hit me just how light the MeCool KD1 was. It’s almost exactly the same size as an Amazon FireTV Stick, but it’s noticeably lighter.
The case is made from a ridged, matte black plastic stamped with the “KD1” logo on the top. There’s also a “blink and you’ll miss it” white LED light midway on the top that glows when it’s powered on.
Other than that, the only thing interrupting the sleek black plastic case is a micro-USB port on the side that’s used for the combination power cable and IR remote sensor.
I’m not a fan of IR remote sensors, so that cable is easily my biggest disappointment with this Android TV stick. I understand why manufacturers use them; it’s all a cost savings.
However, a Bluetooth remote isn’t that much more expensive than an IR remote. I think consumers would be perfectly willing to pay $5 more for their device and not have an IR sensor peeking out next to their television.
Setting Up the MeCool KD1
Since the MeCool KD1 is a Google certified Android TV stick, it’s going to have the same familiar Android TV home screen that you’re used to seeing.
That also means that it’s going to be incredibly easy to set up. You can either go through the process and manually enter your Google account’s username and password or link your Android smartphone to make things easier.
The whole setup process takes about five minutes to complete.
Once you get to the Android TV home screen, the first thing to do is check for any system updates.
MeCool has an OTA (Over The Air) update app that will automatically reach out to their servers and download any patches and bug-fixes that have been released.
It’s a good idea to check this app regularly, just to make sure that you’re running the latest-and-greatest version.
MeCool KD1: Video Performance
In addition to using the MeCool KD1 as one of my daily-driver streaming devices for several weeks, I ran specific tests in order to gauge video performance.
For YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video performance, I tested HD and 4K video, looking for dropped frames, stuttering and resolution. On Plex and Kodi, I tested movie and music files from my personal library, which runs off a Windows 10 server, hardwired via Ethernet.
My home network uses a Ubiquiti US-8-150W gigabit Ethernet switch and a UAP-AC-PRO-US wireless access point. I designed the network to have far more capacity than I could ever use. That should take the network out of the equation when looking at performance.
YouTube played well, for the most part. Video was occasionally laggy and seemed to be because of the slower WiFi adapter. It’s definitely not common, but it happened enough for me to notice. This is where it really could benefit from an external Ethernet adapter.
For the most part, 4K videos played at the full resolution (3840 × 2160). There were several instances when the resolution dropped to 2560 x 1440, but if I didn’t have Stats for Nerds up, I wouldn’t have known.
On my personal Plex server, using one of my NVIDIA Shield TV’s as a client, videos normally play after a buffering time of only 2-3 seconds.
With the MeCool KD1, DVD rips right away, and the quality looked as good as expected. However, once I tried playing Blu-ray rips, I started encountering some issues.
Picture quality was great, however it was very common to have several seconds of buffering during normal playback. Usually this happened at the worst times. For example, during testing, it buffered right at the beginning of Darth Vader’s hallway scene in Rogue One (1080p).
The occasional second or two of buffering is to be expected. However, I experienced so much buffering that it completely took me out of the movie experience.
While music files played just fine, my experience trying to watch movies means I cannot recommend the KD1 as a Plex client.
Since it was accessing the same files, Kodi had the same challenges that Plex had. Large video files buffered frequently, so it’s not possible to make it through an entire movie.
However, when I switched to streaming content from addons directly, it got a lot better. Although I did encounter a few seconds of buffering while switching to new content, overall the entire experience was pretty good overall.
Netflix \ Amazon Prime Video
I’ve seen some reviews of the MeCool KD1 where the reviewer needed to sideload Amazon Prime Video. Thankfully, I was able to install it right from the Google Play Store so that wasn’t necessary for me. Netflix, unfortunately, still needed to be sideloaded manually. For more on that process, check out my tutorial here.
Amazon Prime Video looked good, although it could not play 4K content. Since it’s got a native Android TV app, the navigation was seamless and worked really well with the remote.
The same cannot be said for Netflix. Navigating the pure Android app was clunky, and needs an air mouse to really make it work. Since Netflix is limited to SD content, it looked grainy on anything larger than a 32″ TV.
The Verdict: Is the MeCool KD1 Worth It?
I like the MeCool KD1…I’m just not sure if I like it enough.
It’s a solid Android TV stick with some great features. The performance is good, especially for YouTube and Kodi addons that rely on streaming. For the price, it’s a great Android TV stick if you want to buy something other than the Chromecast or FireTV Stick.
But that’s the problem. At this price-point, both the new Chromecast with Android TV and any of the Amazon FireSticks give you more for your money. Even the $39 FireTVStick has a native Netflix app that lets you stream in HD quality. For a few dollars more, you can upgrade to the 4K FireTVStick and you’re still less than the price of the MeCool KD1.
Like I said…the MeCool KD1 is a good streaming stick, but it’s in a tough segment. As good as it is, I think there are better options for the price.
If you’re looking for Android TV sticks, check out my roundup review here. Or, if you’re looking for a great Android TV streamer that won’t break the bank, check out my article discussing the best cheap Android TV devices for the money!
MECOOL TV stick is small enough to easily fit in your pocket. Forget about cables, plug the stick into any TV with an HDMI port to turn it into a smart TV.