Nokia Media Streamer Review: Does Not Upstage the Amazon Fire TV Stick at Its Game
Few products in the world enjoy popularity beyond bestselling status. For instance, Xerox established such a reputation in the world of photocopiers that in large parts of the world, the very act of making photocopies is called ‘xeroxing’. The same applies for searching the internet for answers, aka ‘googling’. When it comes to media streaming USB sticks, the Amazon Fire Stick enjoys a similar level of reputation in India, even as Roku continues to give it a difficult time in other parts of the world. The reason is simple – for all those who invested in large screen LED TVs before all of them started using the Android TV platform, the Amazon Fire TV Stick offered a simple plug-and-play layout, easy setup, practically every OTT media streaming app, and a whole lot of convenience. It is exactly this that the Nokia Media Streamer wants to offer its users.
However, it takes a fair bit of added zing in order to upstage a very well established product. The most important factor here is to provide an extra edge – a new feature, a suave design language you wouldn’t have expected, a price you can’t argue against, or maybe all of the above. Does, then, the Nokia Media Streamer manage to provide all of this – or at least some of this?
Streaming performance: Far from optimal
To begin with, the Nokia Media Streamer offers a smart upgrade to your dumb TV in only 1080p (full HD), and not 4K. This in itself is not too big a surprise, for two reasons – one, if you already own a 4K TV, chances are slim that it doesn’t already have smart connectivity chops; and two, the Nokia Media Streamer is aiming at the most affordable end of the smart TV market, where most competing streaming devices are offering full HD streaming quality in exchange for shaving a few extra bucks off the price tag.
In exchange, what you get with the Nokia Media Streamer is the ability to stream full HD video content with HDR support, the quality of which will largely depend on your TV’s panel and its ability to relay high dynamic range video content on screen. You get Android TV running on this device, which is based on Android TV 9.0 (like most Android-based televisions) – and as a result, you also get access to the Google Play Store and all of its TV apps on offer. You also get dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity, and a voice-enabled remote control for quick access via the Google Assistant. It’s all pretty standard fare if you’ve ever experienced the interface of Android TV.
Coming to its overall performance, the Nokia Media Streamer shows the typical signs of an entry level Android TV. Right from the setup process, the Nokia Streamer shows signs of not being the fastest streaming device in the market. Once you’re all setup with your Google account and have updated the firmware, you’d realise that it always takes a second too long to scroll through apps – even when you’ve just set it up. Open any app, and there is a momentary pause that leaves you either waiting awkwardly for something to happen on your TV, or frantically bashing the buttons on the remote – trying to make something happen. Pro tip: button bashing never helps, and you’re always encouraged to let your patience persevere.
Given that this is a TV streaming device, there was no reason for us to try stress tests or anything ridiculous of the sort – we’re pretty sure that a viewer would really try to see one thing at a time. However, if you’re indecisive about your content choices, you’re in for a wee bit of trouble here. Unlike an older generation Amazon Fire TV Stick that we used alongside the Nokia Media Streamer, the latter exhibits annoyingly long pauses to load an app, and there are stutters aplenty. This can be a major cause of concern, since streaming content from our TVs make for a major part of our lives nowadays.
As for the video streaming quality, you may choose from full HD at 60fps, 50fps and 24fps, HD (720p) at 60fps and 50fps, interlaced full HD (1080i) at 60fps and 50fps for non-native full HD panels, and should you need it, lower video quality as well. While your exact picture quality will depend largely on your TV’s panel, the Nokia Media Streamer’s picture processor inherently appeared to render oversaturated content on neutrally balanced displays. This, though, isn’t a wholesome problem – you can tune the overall image quality and white balance manually to fit your viewing preferences.
However, HDR content upscaling is not all that pleasant or enjoyable. This pushes the contrast levels a bit too far for most neutral viewing preferences, and for most viewers looking for the average sports and mid-range content streaming needs, it would be a better idea to simply stick to the native dynamic range on offer by the TV. The Nokia Streamer, thus, isn’t quite for super discerning viewers – they have most likely either upgraded their TV or gotten a streaming device, already.
In essence, the Nokia Media Streamer tries to offer you the right set of features, and for the most part, it does not get things drastically wrong. It offers support via the Android app ecosystem, which is the de facto standard in smart TVs nowadays. It offers full HD playback comfortably, but somewhat mars the experience by over-processing the output image quality. As a result, its HDR processing looks a tad too far turned up, and for most older generation LED TVs, this can cause a jarring result in terms of contrast and colours. The slow app load times further eat into the experience.
Design and ergonomics: The idea was right; the execution, not
The one thing that I actually liked about the Nokia Media Streamer is its overall design. It is shaped like a hockey puck with square edges, fits easily in a palm, and hardly weighs anything of significance. In comparison to the Fire TV Stick’s upright USB stick design, the Nokia Media Streamer would be easier to fit behind more TVs. it connects via a microUSB cable on one end, while on the other it tethers to the TV via HDMI. what totally ruins the aesthetic is the added IR receiver, which is both good and bad. It helps add the IR operation functionality to the Media Streamer, but the dangling wire can potentially ruin the aesthetic of your TV mount in the living room.
The standardised Nokia media remote is the same as what we had reviewed with the Nokia 50-inch 4K TV with Onkyo soundbar. While the overall ergonomics work mostly fine, the remote could easily have been lighter and smaller. Furthermore, despite the chunky buttons, the general button feedback is not all that great, either. The added Zee5 shortcut button is also a rather redundant addition on our books, since it narrows down the wider appeal that having a button for Amazon Prime Video or Hotstar would have enabled.
Verdict: Not the most compelling case to consider
In the end, the Nokia Media Streamer simply fails to upset the Amazon Fire TV Stick, and does not offer a very compelling case for itself against the likes of Xiaomi’s Mi TV Stick. While the absence of 4K streaming support is not an issue, the rest of its performance quirks make for a somewhat incomplete experience. It also misses out on additional apps such as Apple TV+, which is compatible with Amazon’s Fire TV platform. In the end, at Rs 2,799, the Nokia Media Streamer may not be the best way to upgrade your old TV.