Why the EMAGINE might be a useful part of my entertainment center

It’s 2013, and my media consumption hasn’t changed much from 2011. I still like watching TV series as they come out or back-to-back (and Netflix is smart with House of Cards – back-to-back from the start). Attached to my TV is the same device I’ve owned for several years that decodes digital compressed video – I just transfer content to its hard disk, and play off the device.

Nowadays, you can buy an Apple TV in Malaysia, but it’s not something I’ve thought of picking up. I’ve thought now for over five years that YouTube is an MTV replacement. This being the MTV of yesteryear when the focused on music videos (not today with all their content play). YouTube is so much more now though – I can get educated, entertained, or just plain switch off watching it.

Amateur hour on YouTube is fast disappearing. Lots of professional created content exists there, and I’m happy to watch it. This is the first step to disrupting Hollywood.

So, I’ve got the choice of an Apple TV to watch iTunes based content. Or maybe I can AirPlay stuff from my laptop. Or I can continue to use my current setup which is loading the hard disk with data. This doesn’t allow me to enjoy YouTube and other stuff on my TV though…

Enter the EMAGINE. I was invited to the launch so I got to play with the device a little. Device costs RM399. It runs Linux (currently no sources online; no API information online for developers). I like that they support local content channels like Eumakh and more. Their company backing it, SelecTV looks interesting with minimal media hype from the usual channels (they are a Malaysian MNC with investment from MAVCAP + Intel Capital).

Their motto: “open platform to create a new experience in media consumption & delivery”.

They have figured out a way to play YouTube videos without showing the ads. I don’t know if this affects how content producers get paid out (because if it does, I’d rather watch the ads). One big problem I find with podcasts and youtube for example is there is no curated content. Sometimes I just want to lie back and see what’s on, not pick what to watch. This is where the cable experience still rocks. Luckily, they have curated channels on EMAGINE. 

All the demos were focused on YouTube. More great quality content is on Vimeo too. And other sites. Remember that YouTube has local peers in Malaysia, but the other services don’t. So even with a 5mbps cable connection, you may not rock hard. Buffering, etc. is going to affect the first time experience.

Some other interesting bits: Karaoke on the box with some 50,000 songs. This is a paid service. Great interface compared to going to a KTV, but I’d pass (I’m not the target market). The idea of shopping from your TV, i.e. using Lazada currently, is quite smart (I hope to see more TV shopping). The potential to get pay-per-view TV exists, but there is no content there because well, getting content is hard (er, expensive).

There’s no spinning disk so this isn’t a PVR. It comes with 3 USB ports, so I presume you can hook up your own hard disk and enjoy watching downloaded content. There is music options, but the company seems to only want to focus on video. It comes with Intel WiDi which may or may not support Miracast. Bottom-line: I want my Macbook Air or iPad or Nexus 7 sending content to my TV via wireless. If this stuff can’t work, advertising WiDi is a cop out.

I was told that the comparison might be to the cheaper Roku box. I don’t have one or haven’t played with one before, so I reserve comments here.

I like the partnership with Lazada. Its the only place you can order an EMAGINE box. It presumes you’re already internet connected. My ideal box is something I’d write about in another post, but in the meantime while I think about that, I may think about the EMAGINE. Of course, I myself don’t stay in front of my TV often enough so its still up in the air. 


  1. Pradeesh says:

    anyway I hope that they would release the source or even the API. It would be amazing to customize or pimp this device

  2. bob says:

    Yes, it should be open, as I guess it is using GPL 2.0 code somewhere in there, and they wouldn’t want to violate the GPL would they? 

  3. James says:

    Hey Colin thanks for saying a few words about EMAGINE here. It’s well written and well balanced! Thought I’d share some info on some of the questions raised. On YouTube without ads, it’s a YouTube functionality that is enabled by YouTube itself, no hacks involved. It’s part of their drive for the YouTube lean back experience :) On WiDi, it’s a feature enabled by the Intel chipset and platform that EMAGINE runs on. Intel in far behind Apple I guess in this case, but it’s still a feature that WiDi enabled laptop owners can use, so we thought it would be fair to highlight the capability even if users are the minority. As for miracast – it’s kinda still up in the air at the moment for the current version of WiDi enabled by Intel in the EMAGINE unit, even though Intel has “embraced it” with WiDi 3.5. But if it can be enabled, we will :)

    For a comparison to Apple TV & Roku, this thread may be interesting if you have the time –

    • colincharles says:

      thanks for the awesome feedback james, and the pointer to the discussion. i can’t wait to buy my emagine when i’m back in town