Amiko SHD-8900 Alien review
No CI slots and only 1 Card Reader
Amiko SHD-8900 Alien – Design and connectivity The design of the Amiko SHD-8900 Alien is pretty stylish. The box is not big with its size of 220 X 169 X 46 mm. On the front we find a 4 character display in red and leds for on or off mode. If you want to control [...]
Amiko SHD-8900 Alien – Design and connectivity
The design of the Amiko SHD-8900 Alien is pretty stylish. The box is not big with its size of 220 X 169 X 46 mm. On the front we find a 4 character display in red and leds for on or off mode.
If you want to control the basic functions of the box without the remote you are in luck. Buttons to change channels, control volume, etc. are hidden behind the front panel, which you can tilt forward. Behind the front panel you also find the built-in card reader which is the only option to receive encrypted channels on the box. The card reader worked just fin with my Conax card from Canal Digital Scandinavia.
On the rear the Amiko SHD-8900 Alien offers most of the connections you could wish for:
- LNB in and loop-through
- Digital coaxial audio output
- Composite video and audio out
- Scart out
- USB 2.0
- Ethernet Connection (also available USB WiFi support)
- RS-232 connection
Amiko SHD-8900 Alien comes with:
- Remote control + batteries
- Manual in English and Hungarian
The remote has a very logical layout, but can feel a bit slippery when you hold it. There are direct buttons for YouTube, Picasa and more, making it easy to access these services. We also find it positive that it is possible to switch the screen resolution directly on the remote. And while we are on this subject the Amiko SHD-8900 Alien offers these resolutions 480, 576, 720, 1080 i and also 1080p which is not so common yet on many other receivers.
Power wise the Amiko only uses 0.5 watts in power saving standby mode but do note that it is not the quickest boot wise. It takes a while from you power on the receiver before it is ready to use.
Amiko SHD-8900 Alien is shipped with, and automatically starts up with, the firmware called Spark. Spark is developed by the company Fulan as a common software solution for Linux-based receivers. But Amiko is among the first to make use of Spark. On paper Spark offers several menu languages, but many seem only partial translations, so English is perhaps is the best option for most.
We quite like the look and feel of the Spark interface and it seems quite fast and logical in its design. Some worthy mentions include the graphical user manual which is available right on the box. The text in the pictures however may be somewhat small to read easily for some . Spark also seem to potentially offer news about the receiver, software, etc. via a online message system on the on screen menu and a FAQ section of frequently asked questions. Things which could offer a closer contact between the end customer and manufacturer. So far while we are reviewing the Amiko box, of these services only the user’s manual section seem to be enabled.
The Spark did not prove flawless (We are reviewing the reciever with firmware version 1.3.8). We did have a couple of freezes where the box did not react on remote commands and had to be restarted by a power cycle.
Amiko SHD-8900 Alien – Dual boot Enigma2 firmware
As we touched on in the beginning the Amiko SHD-8900 Alien offers a dual boot option. It is quite easy to use. To switch from Spark to alternative Enigma2 software you press the ok button on the front of while turning on the box. When it says Forc on the display you can choose which firmware to use by using the channel up down keys. The receiver remembers your choice until you change it again.
It is possible to download new Enigma2 images from different developers if you search on Google. We have tested the PKT_GM990_Enigma2_Nibiru_V3_Image, which did need a remote control file update to work properly with the Amiko remote. Enigma2 images seems to be developing quite fast but do not expect everything to work 100% yet. You do want to be the kind of user that is willing to search through forums for new updates to get the most our of the Enigma2 options on this receiver.
Amiko SHD-8900 Alien – General functions and use
The first time installation of Amiko SHD-8900 Alien does not offer a LNB setup section, so be sure to set that up manually after selecting language, resolution, timezone, etc. The Amiko SHD-8900 Alien offers excellent support for DiSEqC with support for 1.0, 1.1, 1.2 and USALS, The tuner seems quite sensitive and searching channels is certainly not on the slow side compared to many other receivers.
The EPG section has support for both single and multi-channel viewing now and next and up to 5 days ahead. How much information you get is depending on the provider. Freesat only shows now and next on the Spark firmware but that is to be expected considering this is of course not an official Freesat receiver.
When it comes to subtitles both teletext and DVB subtitles from 1 degree west channels worked on the box but not completely without issues. Teletext subtitles appear as white text with no background or real shadow making it difficult to read on video content that is white. DVB subtitles proved to have timing issues on certain channels where the subtitles was shown much too long but again an issue which we often see on most receivers which are not official Canal Digital Scandinavia receivers.
Amiko SHD-8900 Alien – PVR and Multimedia Features
To enjoy the ability to record content on the Amiko SHD-8900 Alien you have to connect an USB storage device. The receiver can format the disk to either ext3, fat32 or the NTFS file system. After doing this you have the ability to record programs either manually, via the EPG or via the timer option in the receiver menu. While recording you can watch a different channel but only if it is transmitted on the same transponder. The Amiko does not show specifically which channels you can switch to while recording, making it somewhat difficult to make use of this option.
A somewhat annoying part of the PVR is that receiver insists on showing a recording logo and timer on the screen while recording and we also could not seem to get subtitles on recorded shows which aired with such and worked fine when being watched live.
If you want to use timeshift you have to enable it in the PVR options of the menu. The Amiko offers fast forward and rewind of up to x64 normal speed or faster jumps with the arrow keys on the remote. A missing feature so far anyway is a resume feature if you stop playback of a recording and want to restart later. The receiver always starts playback from the beginning.
Multimedia wise the Amiko SHD-8900 Alien is quite interesting with its ability to play media files over your home network and using services like YouTube from the web. We had no problems getting my network drive mounted on the receiver. Via the file menu on the box you can choose which media type you want to play such as video, music or pictures. The file support includes mkv, avi, mpg, ts, wma, wmv,, mp3, jpg and others. Some mkv demo files we had lying around did not play as smooth as expected though.
With the box connected to the Internet it is possible to play content from media sites like YouTube, Picasa, listening to SHOUTcast Radio and downloading RSS news feeds. Those feature are well implemented and pleasantly you can access most of these directly via remote. The Spark firmware also offers a well designed graphical presentation of the local weather forecast and it is also possible to connect directly to an FTP server through the download menu of the Amiko. Certainly not much here to complain about.
The Spark firmware offer a single plugin (calculator) at the time of this review but hopefully many more are on the way.
Amiko SHD-8900 Alien – Final words
The Amiko SHD-8900 Alien is an interesting new option on the Linux receiver scene with an attractive price tag.
With the Spark software the Amiko SHD-8900 Alien has many things going for it. A pretty good user interface that is easy to use. Good support for DiSEqC and pretty fast channel scanning makes it great for free to air channels from several satellites and the built in card reader does not rule out watching pay tv either.
The Amiko shines on the Media front with fine support for things like YouTube, Picasa, which is well designed and implemented on this receiver. The Amiko has potential for more in the future hopefully improving on stability and things such as PVR subtitle playback support of recorded content.
We must praise the easy to use dual boot option. The dual boot extends the possibilities of this receiver and as an end user we cannot complain about more choices.