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E3 2013: Impressions: Sunflex unu Smart Entertainment Hub
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E3 2013: Impressions: Sunflex unu Smart Entertainment Hub

Nathan looks at the tablet-friendly unu Smart Entertainment Hub from Sunflex.

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Stuck way, way back in E3’s No Man’s Land section was the unu Smart Entertainment Hub, a diminutive Android-powered gaming console / media hub concoction designed by our favorite German accessory maker Sunflex (better known here in the States as Snakebyte).

Sunflex is touting unu as “the world’s first universal entertainment hub”, essentially a smart tv for any compatible display in your home. The unu platform is actually the Android-powered 7” tablet, which can be used independently as a regular tablet or as a central hub when docked via stand to a HDTV for all your game playing and media watching pleasure. Input devices to help control the device are the Bluetooth-powered air mouse and gaming controllers. The air mouse itself is immediately familiar, with its media navigational buttons and circular touchpad on one side and QWERTY keyboard on the other. I couldn’t help but think of the many failed Google TV models, especially after seeing the air mouse for myself.

The unu interface I experienced was pretty sparse but that should change as new apps and other applications join its virtual desktop. unu is compatible with the Google Play store, meaning your apps won’t come from a curated marketplace.

Unlike MadCatz’s M.O.J.O. Sunflex wasn’t coy about sharing unu’s specs, and I’ll give them credit for being realistic. The tablet is powered by a RockChip 1.6Ghz quad-core CPU (with a Mali 440 Quad Core GPU) with 8GB of onboard storage, 2 Micro USB ports, Mini HDMI, and a Micro SD Card for extra storage. The 7” tablet sports a respectable, if unimpressive, 1280 x 800 IPS display that’s good enough for most tasks and gaming. Colors were bright, viewing angles decent, and text was easily legible – all critical things when you consider unu also doubles as a standalone tablet (yes, you can even read books on the thing). unu is capable of running movies at full 1080p, though I wasn’t able to see how the hardware performed with any media, movies or games.

A Sunflex rep informed me unu won’t be a powerhouse gaming console, and was designed more for those who enjoy casual-style gaming and are looking to enjoy an easy-to-use media hub without the fuss. This isn’t as controversial as it might sound, as many of the best Android games are exactly that — casual gems that require little processing power.

As with MadCatz a major advantage to being designed by Snakebyte was their experience with gaming controllers, and unu’s wireless gaming controller was just that – a Bluetooth-sporting controller molded after the familiar designs of today’s home consoles, with dual analog, PlayStation-style d-pad, face and trigger buttons, as well as an Android-friendly navigation panel on the undercarriage. It felt pretty good in my hands and the analog sticks had a good pull to them, but Snakebyte controllers can be hit-or-miss, so we’ll have to see how well the controller holds up under serious playtime. There’s no multi-touch pad, sadly, though pairing the controller with unu’s air mouse may help eliminate this deficit and give unu a slight edge over the glut of most Android gaming consoles.

I’m anxious to test unu for myself as I’m intrigued to see how an Android-powered console with lowered-expectations and substantial media possibilities can assist my current HDTV setup. And the fact that it’s a standalone tablet, coupled with the air mouse controller, may address many of my biggest concerns with most of these Android consoles: how to solve the inherent problems of bringing tablet-designed touchscreen gaming to home displays. This is something most of the competition either doesn’t address or doesn’t seem to care about, and may ultimately spell their doom. I’m not sold on any of them at this point, but definitely color me interested in the unu.

Sunflex’s unu Smart Entertainment Hub is expected to ship in two distinct flavors: Media Edition ($199) and Gaming Edition ($249). Both sets include the 7” tablet, air mouse remote, docking station, HDMI cable, while the Gaming Edition also packs the wireless gaming controller into the mix. Let’s see how well they handle the launch in a sea of competition.

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About the Author: Nathan Evans