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Hands-on: Comigo Smart TV Android set-top box

Comigo is the first Android-powered TV set-top box we’ve seen with a front end that looks like it’s designed for TV.

Demonstrated at IPTV World Forum 2012, it’s a classic ’10 foot’ interface you can read from the sofa instead of a collection of app icons and small text designed for close-up viewing.

But you still get all the power of Android’s apps ecosystem – you can play games, check email, tweet and see Facebook – while watching TV.

Comigo doesn’t plan to retail the box itself, so there’s no UK arrival planned yet, but they’re looking for operators or brand partners to pick up.

The UK market is crowded, but there’s no reason a smaller broadband operator couldn’t offer it as a Freeview+HD recorder with a little bit extra.

Pictures with friends

Social features are already designed-in, such as an optional feature using Facebook Connect, you can show your Facebook friends what you’re watching and invite them to watch and comment with you.

Many apps will be designed for the close-up world of phones and tablets, but Comigo has specialised Google web search options for TV viewing, such as looking up cast information and searching for audio tracks.

And if you’re the kind of person who shouts at the screen when you’re watching Eastenders, Question Time or the football, there’s an app for throwing tomatoes and rotten eggs at the screen – and they’ll show up on the screens of friends who have the same app on another Android set-top box.

Not surprisingly there’s an app for controlling it via your home network. Smartly, it’s on both Android and iOS.

The virtual remote features volume and channel-changing, an EPG search tool and a virtual trackpad, with EPG and remote record functions planned.

The traditional stick-shaped remote is very pretty, and it’s more than just an IR blaster: it uses a motion sensor to control an on-screen cursor for controlling apps and playing games, Wii-style.

Flip it over to find a full Qwerty keyboard, but if you’re playing games be careful – unlike the Wii there’s no wrist strap to stop it flying out of your hand and into your TV, or granny’s ashes on the sideboard.

The specs

Inside the box is an ARM-based Cortex A9 processor, driving Android 2.3 Gingerbread (2.3.4 to be exact).

Digital TV tuners for DVB services (used in most of the world) can be fitted as the operator or brand wants, whether DVB-T/T2 for Freeview/Freeview HD, or DVB-S/S2 for satellite (though a Freesat edition looks unlikely).

The aerial and ethernet (10/100Mbps) ports are joined by HDMI, SPDIF optical digital audio, and three USB 2.0 ports. Hard discs can run up to 2TB. WiFi is built-in, hence the external antennas.

We’d be interested to see this innovative package competing against YouView and the pay-TV giants. In case you’re wondering where the inspiration comes from, Comigo’s founder, Dov Moran, is the inventor of the USB flash drive, which he sold to SanDisk for a tidy sum.