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Comigo Smart TV Android set-top box: We go hands-on

After hearing about Comigo’s Smart TV plans the other day we recently got the chance to get some hands-on time with the Android-based Smart TV service.

What we saw at TV Connect in London (formerly IPTV World) was a heavily customised UI that was different from other Android TV efforts we’ve seen in the past, but was still recognisably Android. Though unfinished, Comigo’s service looked polished and solid.

Comigo Smart TV Android based hybrid DVB IPTV box

As well as being able to run Android apps and games and tweet while watching TV you can also check out what your Facebook friends are watching live and invite them to watch the same movie or programme. This is an opt-in feature that uses Facebook Connect, though Comigo said that you’ll be able to turn off this feature easily if you don’t want to constantly broadcast your viewing habits.

Search options alongside Google web search include the ability to look for cast information of a movie (like Xbox Companion), and search for an audio track.

As a fun option, you also have the ability to throw tomatoes and rotten eggs at friends screens, a feature which seems perfectly suited for football matches and Question Time. We’re sure that The Only Way Is Essex, 10 O’Clock Live and [insert cause celebre programme of your choice] could be livened up by lobbing things at cast members.

Comigo Smart TV Android based hybrid DVB IPTV boxComigo Smart TV Android and iOS apps: virtual remotes, EPGs, remote recording

Everything on the screen is controlled either by the Comigo remote or by the Android or iOS apps. We got to have a quick play around with the Android app and saw that there’s three main areas; a virtual remote for things like volume and channel changing, a search tool and a virtual trackpad.

The fourth tab on the menu manages local Wi-Fi connections – your phone will need to be connected to the same wireless AP as the set-top box.

We understand that there’s EPG and remote record functions coming to the Android and iOS apps (the iPad was sadly out of juice when we got to Comigo’s stand) but this wasn’t present when we were there.

Comigo Smart TV Remote: Motion control and full Qwerty keyboard

The Comigo remote functions much like a Nintendo Wii WiiMote; there’s a tiny pointer on screen that lets you tap and click on things. Playing Fruit Ninja as you would Wii Sports tennis was plenty of fun but it was slow and clearly needs a bit of work; and maybe even a wrist strap to stop remotes flying out of your hand.

On the front of the Comigo remote there’s typical TV controls for navigating channel menus. Round on the back there’s a full Qwerty keyboard plus an extra mouse button which you need to tap to activate the virtual pointer/WiiMote mode. The keys are rubbery and depress nicely, though we think that those with large hands might find them a little small.

Comigo Smart TV Android based hybrid DVB IPTV box

Comigo Smart TV: When is it coming to the UK?

Comigo’s Dov Moran told us that its hoping to launch its set-top box in multiple markets with a “buddy” partner a la Virgin Media and TiVo; “we’re looking to co-brand with partners who we feel we’d like to work with,” but there were no names to be mentioned at this point.

So while a UK launch isn’t strictly on the cards at the moment, a partnership with BT, TalkTalk or another ISP is a possibility.

Let’s take a look at Comigo’s set-top box itself. Running Android 2.3 Gingerbread (2.3.4 to be exact) the box is powered by an ARM-based Cortex A9 processor. It’s a hybrid box, i.e. it’s a DVB/Freeview box and an IPTV device and has plenty of external ports.

Comigo Smart TV Android based hybrid DVB IPTV box

Along with the aerial and ethernet (10/100Mbps) ports there’s HDMI, optical SPDIF and three USB 2.0 ports. There’s no listed hard drive size, but Comigo says that the maximum size they’d put in would be a 2TB disk.

Again, there’s no set ‘release date’ as such as it all depends on Comigo finding a UK partner. More information on this as and when we hear it.