review

ReTV X1 Review: Binge on BitTorrents, with Innovative Fast Forward too

Proprietary Fast Forward to Instantly Play Movies From Torrent

ReTV X1 is the latest entrant into the Android TV box segment in India. It is made in India by a Mumbai-based startup led by CEO Ashish Dinkar. The ReTV X1 initially went on sale earlier this year on Flipkart at Rs 4,999. Thereafter, the startup has made some changes in its Android-powered TV box, both in terms of hardware and software; and have silently launched the second iteration of it. The name of the box, however, remains unchanged. So we had been testing it out for nearly a month now, and it’s time to give you guys a full review of the ReTV X1. Let’s get started.

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ReTV X1 aims to differentiate from the crowd of the Android TV boxes with its easy to use software. Currently, the market is filled with numerous similar offerings like the Amazon Fire TV stick, Google Chromecast, and Tewee Stick. ReTV claims that the interface of the ReTV X1 is so simple that even our grandparents can easily use it with a small learning curve. The CEO likes referring to his startup more as a content aggregator platform than a hardware firm. And that’s quite evident from the fact that they plan to earn more from post-purchase subscriptions rather than the device itself.

For those wondering, the ReTV X1 comes with three months of free DittoTV subscription and a year of ReTV subscription. Furthermore, ReTV plans to collaborate with Spuul to provide 6 months of free subscription to the buyers of the new TV box. Another highlighting feature of the ReTV is its ability to download movies from Bit Torrent. More on that later.

Build and Design

The ReTV X1 is a well-designed Android TV box. It comes in a rectangular white polycarbonate with a large ReTV logo on top. The box is small enough for people to not even notice its existence in your TV setup. The X1 comes with a set of standard ports which includes two USB 2.0, microSD, Ethernet, HDMI, AV port and a power socket. It’s however worth noting that you are effectively getting only one usable USB 2.0 port as the other one is always blocked by the remote receiver. More on it, a little later.

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The second iteration of the Android TV box comes with an external antenna. It is a small black 350db antenna located to the right side of the device. ReTV claims that it decided to add the antenna after receiving multiple customer complaints regarding the weak WiFi signals in its first box. That said, even an average person would be able to understand that the antenna was an afterthought, as it’s not properly put to place and has some rough edges at the point of attachment to the box. Nonetheless, that’s a minor issue. Rather, we are happy ReTV decided to use an antenna after hearing customer feedback. Very few companies do so nowadays.

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Hardware

The ReTV X1 is modestly specced Android TV box. It is powered by a 2.0GHz quad-core 64-bit processor. Besides, it has an 8GB of internal storage out of which 5GB is available out of the box. The TV box also comes with support for 4K H.265 video decoding, Bluetooth 4.1 and dual-band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi. Incidentally, ReTV skips out on the details of the RAM used in the TV box. Apparently, this RAM would act as a bottleneck in certain operations. We will talk more about it in the software and experience section.

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Remote with Air Mouse Functionality

The Android TV box comes with motion sensor equipped remote. This means that it isn’t the standard IR remote that comes with TVs and set-top boxes. Instead, it is Bluetooth enabled and comes with a tiny USB wireless receiver that needs to be attached to the ReTV X1. The remote is ergonomically designed and is easy to hold for longer duration due to the presence of a bulge at the lower extremity. It comes in black color and appears sturdy enough to resist some falls. With that said, we were not really happy with the fact that we had to attach an additional wireless receiver on the TV box to get the remote to work. This apparently leaves you with only one vacant USB port to address your storage needs.

The bundled remote comes with a number of features including the ability to use it like an air mouse. It enables you to move the cursor by spatial movement of the remote, instead of using the traditional button. I was pretty intrigued to check out the feature, but my initial excitement passed off rather soon as I was forced to shift to the normal method of using buttons.

The air remote functionality is still pretty buggy and I found it better to not use it at all. Besides, the remote controller doesn’t come with any sort of alphanumeric keyboard, nor does the TV box comes with voice support. This means that the searching a movie or a TV show is a tedious process, simply due to poor typing experience. You can, however, overcome this easily by using an external keyboard. That said, this issue is common among major Android TV boxes that lack voice support.

Setting Up the ReTV X1

Setting up was the ReTV X1 was a pretty simple process. All you need to do, is to find a power plug and connect the TV box to it using the proprietary cable. Then, attach the ReTV X1 to your TV using the built-in HDMI male/female connector. Users with CRT TVs may, however, make use of the AV port to connect the box. Moreover, you need to plug in the Bluetooth receiver of the remote into one of the USB ports. Thereafter, switch on your television and change the source to HDMI. Just in case the TV has multiple HDMI ports note the exact port in which you have plugged in the box, and thereafter select the appropriate option as source. Now, you are all set to go. A white screen with a ReTV logo crops up as the device boots up.

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Software and Overall Experience

The ReTV X1 is powered by Android Lollipop 5.1.1. The user interface, however, doesn’t look anywhere close to Android. The TV box apparently uses Kodi (previously XBMC) platform. This makes the interface of the ReTV X1 is rather simple. So first time smart TV box users won’t find it tough to get accustomed to the ReTV X1 interface. To make life even easier, the UI has been categorized into various sections. These include Channels, Movies, English TV, Indian TV and Web Series. There’s also a highly touted Search option. Other sections comprise of My Files (to view download movies, TV shows etc.) and Apps.

Subscription Model

Using the Apps category, you can access Google Play and download any app of your choice. ReTV however, comes with some preloaded app like YuppTV, Ditto TV, Hotstar, Spuul and Eros Now. With that said only 3 months of Ditto TV subscription comes free with the TV box. The payments can be made directly from ReTV interface and the company will act as a mediator between you and the service provider; YuppTV, Hotstar or Eros Now in this case.

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On the other hand, downloading apps from Google Play is pretty easy. On opening Google Play for the first time, you would need to go through the mandatory Google sign-in. Thereafter you can search for any app using the search bar and install it. Once installed the application will appear in the Android App sub category within the Apps section. We tested out Amazon Prime Video and Netflix on the ReTV X1, and both apps worked just fine. JioTV and JioCinema however, didn’t work flawlessly. While JioCinema stuttered during playback multiple times, JioTV failed to scale appropriately to match the aspect ratio of the television. A word of caution, do keep a Bluetooth keyboard at handy in case you own one, as typing within Google Play app using the virtual keyboard is a tedious process.

Watch Web Channels, albeit after Paying Subscription Charges

The Channels section primarily comprised of a history of your previously watched TV channels and a curated list of Trending videos from the web. To make things simple, the TV channels have been segregated into various categories including News, Entertainment, Science & Technology, ReTV specials and so on. For those wondering, only those channels would be available in these sections to which you have subscribed for via media streaming platforms like YuppTV, DittoTV etc.

Download and Play Movies Instantly Using Fast Forward 

Apart from that, the Movies section on the ReTV X1 shows a curated list of featured movies which includes both recent and evergreen English and Hindi content. Often than not, a movie that’s currently running in cinemas near you is featured in this list. And guess what, you can end up watching it directly on your TV for free. Wondering how? Well, by using Torrents. Yes, the ReTV X1 comes with support for Torrents (despite the fact it’s illegal in many parts of world and in India, but how many of you really care about that anyway)

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Furthermore, you can stream the movie directly from the Torrent site using a feature called Fast Forward. This is a proprietary ReTV feature that basically downloads the torrent file in its high-speed cloud storage and starts playing the movie almost instantly. So, you need not wait hours for the movie to download. It comes at a cost though. ReTV is offering free 30GB of Fast Forward data with its Android TV box, however, you can expand the limit by paying a nominal amount to the company (Rs 49 for 5GB and Rs 99 for 10GB)

Curated Section for Web Series

The Kodi based ReTV UI also has a section called Web Series. It includes a collection of numerous web series from the internet, especially YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime. So you can watch popular Indian Web series like Permanent Roommates, Triplings from TVF or even Spotlight-Bollywood Exposed by Viu. Leaving that aside, the section also lists a range of English Web Series like the Game of Thrones, House of Cards and much more. The Indian TV and English TV, on the other hand, shows a list of self-curated popular TV shows that’s sure to draw your interest. That said, you wouldn’t be able to watch most of English ones until you buy a subscription of either Hulu or Netflix.

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Search Torrents for Movies and TV Shows

Now, comes the main highlighting feature of the ReTV X1; the Search. It basically allows you to search Movies, TV shows, and YouTube video. That might sound quite clique shade, as most smart TV boxes or TV sticks comes with it. However, its distinguishing feature is the ability to organize search results from various torrents sites like YiFY, Pirate Bay, KAT and a few others.

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You can simply download a movie from any of these sites if you happen to find it. Likewise, you may also Fast Forward the movie and start playing it. Moreover, the search option shows various details like the review, cast/crew, and similar movies when you search for a particular one. Quite a nifty feature to have.

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YouTube Works Fine, but with Occasional Stutters

The ReTV X1 can be used for watching YouTube videos too. The experience, however, was average. It was more due to the processing power of the TV box. The app froze a few times while opening up and the video sometimes stuttered. However, it isn’t a deal breaker as most of the times it works just fine. You can also surf the internet by downloading Chrome or any other browser or even scroll through social media like Facebook or Twitter. It’s however worth noting, that the experience won’t be that fluid due to power limitations of the ReTV X1.

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Remote Needs Some Refinement, but will Get the Job Done

One of the major drawbacks of the ReTV X1 is its bundled-in remote. The air mouse feature of the remote isn’t really confidence inspiring. Throughout our testing process, I decided to keep it switched off as the air mouse lacks a number of options like scrolling. You can only select using it. So there’s no way of navigating through menus. For that, you need to make use of the physical navigation buttons on the remote. The power on/off button on the remote doesn’t work that well too. In most of the occasions, I had to manually switch off the ReTV X1 by using the physical power button on the box. Nonetheless, these issues can possibly be fixed by a software update or by changing the remote in subsequent versions of the TV box.

Final Words

The Android TV market has been growing at a steady pace during the past few quarters. With global players like Amazon and Google bringing their smart TV sticks to India, the market is slowly becoming competitive especially for a startup like ReTV. Even then, the ReTV X1 has enough in it to compete with the Amazon Fire Stick, despite the fact that you are required to shell out Rs 1,000 more to get your hand on the indigenous TV box. It has a lot to do with the unique features of the ReTV X1 like Fast Forward and Torrent search.

With that said, ReTV needs to works on refining the software experience even more and try to remove as niggles as possible. And the remote too isn’t something to write home about. Despite that, ReTV as a start-up promises a lot, and we hope to see even better Android TV boxes from the company in future. So would be buying the ReTV X1 over the Amazon Fire Stick? Let us know in the comments section below.