I received my Vero in the post yesterday and after a morning of setting it up and optimising it to my tastes I thought I would share my initial thoughts. By way of background, I am a longtime RaspBMC user, although for the past 6 months have been using openELEC on Raspberry Pi Model B as I found it much faster.
Sam - I’d be keen to hear your views on some of the points raised below.
What’s in the box?
Everything was very well packaged and protected. In the box was the Vero itself - even smaller than I was expecting - a remote control, a solid power adaptor and an HDMI lead. There was also a very nice looking colour card which pointed me towards the OSMC quick start page. All good so far, although my only piece of feedback here would be to suggest that for true HTPC novices (target market?) the card should really contain the top 5 ‘must know’ pieces of information rather than just a weblink. Minor stuff though.
This was all easy enough. One of the things which attracted me to Vero was the fact it would be able to handle DTS, 5.1, multichannel sound etc. The quickstart page recommended I used the Optical out if I wished to activate these features and pointed me to the correct settings page to toggle the audio output accordingly. I found that the optical was unable to correctly process and sen 5.1 FLAC files to my AV receive - some reading online showed me this is a common issue with the optical output so I removed this and sent everything through HDMI. Once this was activated and I had toggled the right settings I was delighted to find I was receiving discrete 5.1 channel surround sound from my Vero. Sam - I would suggest amending this on the QuickStart page; the vast majority of people with AV receivers will be using HDMI which negates the need to use the optical out to the receiver.
This was the first time I have used OSMC. I’ve given it a few hours of solid use and unfortunately it just isn’t to my tastes. I recognise that this is highly subjective so please don’t take it as a criticism. I have reverted back to the Amber skin which I have been using for years and it now looks exactly how I would like it to.
As per Sam’s advice, I manually checked for updates when I first booted the Vero. As expected, it downloaded a ton of updates and prompted me to restart the machine. I restarted and it dropped into the classic blue screen updating view with a progress bar. Unfortunately, after about 20 minutes the bar had been fixed at 44% for a long time and I deduced that the system had hung. Again, this would be quite disconcerting for a novice. I power cycled the device and thankfully it had not lost any data, just booted back into Kodi. This morning I attempted the update procedure again and this time it seemed to work smoothly and quickly.
Nothing to fault here. The components must be of a good quality as both picture and sound are excellent. As previously mentioned, the 5.1 surround is superb and something I’ve been really missing from my previous Pi setup.
I must say I’m a bit disappointed with the overall speed performance of the device. For processor intensive tasks such as a couple of streaming addons I’ve been using for years the speed performance is a definite improvement and for that I’m thankful. Overall however, the interface is certainly a lot slower than my Raspberry Pi openELEC setup which positively glided through the menu system. I don’t really understand why this is, the technical specs of the Vero are a beast in comparison, it should be making mincemeat of these menus. Boot / reboot times are very fast, as you would expect. I’m not saying the device is slow, it’s perfectly usable, but it is noticeably slower than my previous setup - it is struggling with the music visualisations for example, something I haven’t experienced since the earlier days of RaspBMC.
HDMI-CEC just will not work for me. This was always one of the huge pluses of the Pi setup, particularly as my wife found using the TV control so intuitive. I’m not sure if this is a fault or not, my Pi CEC would not work when plugged into the AV receiver HDMI either. I expect it is a hardware issue my end with the Onkyo AV receiver but I’m out of ideas on how to solve it.
Thankfully, the Vero comes with a custom remote control which mitigates the issue for me. The jury is out on the remote still in my house - it looks great, and is pretty miniature which is good for keeping the room clutter free. The buttons are quite clicky, which I don’t really like, but again that’s subjective. I’m probably only getting an 80% success rate with button presses which is frustrating and feels like you’re fighting against the Vero. I’m not sure why this is, I suspect it’s software lag of some kind so hopefully this will improve.
Overall, I applaud Sam for a fantastic project which he’s seen through to fruition. Yes it was delivered late (note of advice, particularly for IT projects - always try and underpromise / overdeliver) but the fruits of labour are obvious. At the moment, it isn’t without gripes and I would expect to see some big performance improvements over the next few months. The speed performance of the device is really disappointing compared to openELEC on the Pi and I will probably do some reading to see how easy installing openELEC would be on this device. Right now, I don’t think it’s worth £134.99 but this opinion could move if more improvements are delivered. I also don’t think a novice could dive in and start using one of these devices but that may also change over time. Personally, if it hadn’t have been for the ability to be finally able to access DTS / 5.1 sound content then I would be really disappointed with the device as it would have offered nothing over my previous Pi setup (in fact, being critical, it would have offered less).
Overall, a solid start but a long way to go.