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Buyer Beware the TVPad

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TVPad M121

What looks like an AppleTV, runs the Android OS, and irritates me to no end? It’s the TVPad!

First off, I admit that the language barrier didn’t help the situation, but if you’re thinking of getting one of these boxes, just know what you’re getting into. The TVPad is a custom box that runs specific apps to stream video from the Internet to your television. You can actually get your own computer hardware and install the same apps, but the TVPad is packaged into one small unit to make things very convenient. I won’t comment on the legality of the product or the video streams.

Now here’s where it gets dumb, and again, my language misunderstanding could have gotten in the way. Since the TVPad is meant to connect to your television to stream Internet-based video, you assume two things:

  • The TVPad connects to your TV
  • The TVPad connects to the Internet

Not unreasonable, right? Connecting to your TV is really easy if you have HDMI. One cable and you’re done. So how about that connecting to the Internet part? Take a look at the box and the “instruction manual.”

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What would be your guess to connect the TVPad to the Internet? WiFi? I can read that on the box, and the manual shows the configuration steps. But no, you and I would be wrong. You see, the TVPad M121 does not support WiFi!! I have no idea why, and I still question this engineering decision. The only hint that WiFi isn’t on the M121 model is this statement in the configuration settings:

As a wireless network environment is uncertain, please choose the cable network for your comfort.

Translated this means suck it up and hardwire me to the Internet. Seriously?!

UntitledYou have to use the cabled Ethernet connection to get the TVPad online. You have an Ethernet cable installed in your living room by your television, right? It’s common in every household, right? Oh wait, the TVPad has a USB port. That’s the answer. You can use one of those going-out-of-style USB WiFi adapters. Those are relatively cheap now. So I got one, a name brand one that should do the trick. But no, it didn’t. There was no indication that WiFi was now enabled via this adapter. More online research that keeps point me back to the wired Ethernet port. Really? Really.

Now, I wasn’t about to string a 50-ft CAT5e cable from the router through the living and dining room to the TV. And no, we weren’t going to relocate the Road Runner drop. What next? Set up a WiFi/Ethernet bridge like a wireless basestation working in reverse. Have you tried to get an older, unsupported 802.11g router working with a WiFi bridge from another vendor? You have? Good for you! I wasn’t about to go down that possibly tortuous road. Instead, I went for the (more expensive) sure thing – the dual band, 802.11n Apple AirPort Express.

I swapped out the older 802.11g router with one AirPort Express to act as the primary router and added a second AirPort Express to bridge the wireless back to a wired connection for the TVPad. This setup was much faster than figuring out the TVPad doesn’t or won’t natively support WiFi.

Then success, bittersweet success. The TVPad with $200 more in extra equipment was finally up and running. It actually streams video well and is responsive. Just remember that you have to choose the cable network for your comfort.

Here are some pics for the heck of it.

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19 Responses to Buyer Beware the TVPad

  1. Rectech September 20, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    Sounds like someone didn’t do any research before they tried getting the wireless USB adaptor

    • Gee Why September 20, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

      Yeah, you got me there. But I still attest that if Wifi was built in and active then it would make set up so much easier and the overall experience better. When working, the box is great.

  2. kroonder October 4, 2012 at 3:20 am #

    You can get “over the mains power” (powerline) adapters for $30 or so that do 200Mbps. Plug in one near the TV/TVpad and the other near your router (I’m assuming both are running on mains power and are not battery operated). More convenient and reliable than WiFi…

    • Gee Why October 9, 2012 at 10:15 am #

      Thanks! Good suggestions on options. I had forgotten about powerline adapters. They might have worked in this house although it is older.

  3. BB November 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    what Kroonder’s suggestion worked, that how my friend have his setted up..one thing to rememeber both power inline adapter need to plug into wall outlet, extention power cord wont work

    • Gee Why November 5, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

      Thanks for the tip. The house I set up the TVPad is an older house with not many wall outlets so there are a few power strips being used.

  4. Whatis November 14, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    It most definitely supports wifi. I bought the same unit in August and set it up with wifi. I think what they meant by wifi connection being “uncertain” is maybe its not too stable. It works fine. Once in a while, when I turn it on, it won’t detect the wifi. I would have to redo the settings a bit and make tvpad feel out the signal. But eh, I’ll live.

    • Gee Why November 15, 2012 at 8:35 am #

      I think there are different hardware and software platforms floating around out there. No matter what I did, I couldn’t find anything that looked like typical wifi “stuff” – no settings, no password, nada. Doing some research online kinda gave mixed results too but the consensus was no on-board wifi. Now the hardware could have it but disabled by software, not sure. Maybe you got a model with updated hardware or software?

  5. John Sloan November 18, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    My wife bought the TVPad to allow our daughter to watch Japanese TV. I too was confused about WiFi (not) being built in, but hard wired it. The thing that really sucks is that less than one month after buying the TVPad, the app for streaming Japanese TV would never connect. TVPad tech support responded in broken english to “wait a while”. Well, it still isn’t working and we may as well have flushed a few hundred bucks down the toilet. We specifically asked whether Japanese TV was available when we watched it. I guess we failed to ask “how long” it would be available. Garbage!

    • Gee Why November 19, 2012 at 11:13 am #

      Did you take the box back to see if the software could be updated? The box I worked with was updated to get more (Chinese) sports “channels.” Maybe something similar can be done for your box?

  6. DL January 16, 2013 at 1:13 am #

    The OS on the TVpad is just Android? So, all those apps on the TVpad are just regular android apps that can be downloaded?

    • DL January 16, 2013 at 1:14 am #

      I’m just at a disconnect on why this product is so special….

      • Gee Why January 16, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

        I tried building an equivalent setup using a hacked AppleTV (first gen) and various software. While it worked, it was just too difficult for my older in-laws to use consistently. They had to use the remote to navigate to and start up the various apps then navigate around to find the video streams. Seemingly, the TVPad made this user interface part simpler.

    • Gee Why January 16, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

      I’m not an Android user so I don’t know if they are exactly the same, but I have a feeling they are. The biggest differentiator is the interface between the apps and your TV. The TVPad acts pretty close to a cable box, and I’m not sure if that’s a TVPad customization. For the less technically inclined users, this is great since all they do is channel up/down on the remote to watch the different “programs” when these programs are actually video streams provided via the Android apps.

  7. sgsdrhsr January 21, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    most ppl that buy this is so they can watch certain tv channels you couldn’t watch online/with a computer

  8. Kevin August 5, 2013 at 5:06 am #

    This is good for people who do not use computers.

    I was annoyed at the WiFi feature too. There was no indication that it was built in. Luckily I had a 25′ ethernet cable set up from a while ago, between the router and where the TV is.
    I really dislike Chinese written user manuals for all products, including my split unit AC. These vendors should hire English speaking people to write the manuals.

    Their web site is useless. Why can’t they offer instructions online? I still do not know how to use the ‘favoite’ option. Not sure what the USB port is for. Tried plug in a USB thumb drive and don’t know how to fetch from it. Also, there is a search feature. But how would I input the search characters?

    I just found out (after a year) that some Apps have multiple channels but not obvious. Wish the site could have said something. In addition, I had to record all these channels on a cheat sheet myself. I do believe that TvPad can provide the listing of Channels as a courtesy.

    • Gee Why August 5, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Yeah, I found out more about this “product line” from various forums and other sites.

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