Formuler Z Prime: the ultimate TV streaming box or nothing but hot air?
Product test

Formuler Z Prime: the ultimate TV streaming box or nothing but hot air?

Philipp Rüegg
Translation: Eva Francis

An Android streaming box with 4K resolution that supports IPTV, comes with pre-installed Kodi software and is suitable for gaming? And all of this for 100 francs? Jack of all trades device or a guaranteed let-down?

The more demanding amongst us are not satisfied with regular cable or satellite TV. Luckily, there are more than enough options to get entertainment onto your telly. Some opt for a media server or IPTV, Formuler Z Prime being one possibility. Formuler Z Prime is an Android streaming box with 4K resolution that supports IPTV and promises even more than that.

Ample equipment

It’s not much of an eye-pleaser and can’t hide its low price for long, either. It looks and feels like cheap plastic. But then again, who cares what such a box looks like; it’s usually hidden away somewhere anyway. On paper, Z Prime does better: 4K with 30fps, 8GB storage, microSD slot, WLAN and Ethernet, USB 3.0, infrared sensor. Equipped with an (outdated) Android operating system (Kitkat 4.4.2) with own interface, pre-installed Kodi software and IPTV support. And 3D gaming. OMG. All of this comes with a rather standard remote control.

Z Prime is connected to your TV via HDMI 1.4 terminal. Once you’ve plugged in the power supply, you’re ready to go. WLAN or LAN are possible to establish an internet connection. I chose LAN, which allows for 100Mbit maximum. After a short firmware update, I was welcomed by a minimalistic home screen with six apps; Kodi, Youtube and Google Play were three of them. Formuler’s own app store and an app to install IPTV services were also available.

You need to create a second home screen to see more than six apps.

Navigating Play Store by pointer

To start off, I logged into Google Play and felt like I was in a time machine when I was asked to type in my password on the outdated Android keyboard. I would have liked to install a few streaming apps, but navigating with the arrow buttons of the remote control proved tricky. Instead, I had to activate a pointer on the remote control and navigate it using the arrow buttons. So much for official Google Play Store support. And although the Kodi app was pre-installed, it was an old version. Then again, installing Netflix, HBO Now and co. was no problem.

Next, I had a look at the Formuler Store. The selection was rather small. There were four games, a few apps such as Netflix, Plex and YouTube and some IPTV apps for own TV channels – which can also be streamed online. Sky Go was the only one of them I’d heard of before.

Navigating through the Play Store by mouse pointer. Not ideal, to say the least.

I decided to give Kodi a try and connected it to my NAS where my movies and series are stored. Instant success, the synchronisation started – until it ended a few seconds later. «Failed to communicate with the server» is what it said. I was still able to access my library, but didn’t get previews or additional information about the files. When I pressed play, the movie started playing straightaway. I could even watch, fast-forward and rewind 12GB movies without interruption. Only 5.1 Surround Sound wasn’t possible. Personally, I find that a no-go, but stereo would do for most people. I only had one 4K movie in my library and whenever I wanted to play it, I was taken back to the home menu and told that the IPTV app was looking for updates. Great stuff.

Miracast also allows you to send files from compatible devices directly to your Prime Z.

Not suitable for gaming

Formuler Z might lure with 3D gaming, but there was no way I was going to play one of those four desolate pre-installed games, so I installed the app «Moonlight Game Streaming», which allows you to stream your collection of games from your PC to another device. That’s if you have a current GeForce graphics card and GeForce Experience is installed. Unfortunately, 1080p was enough to keep games from running smoothly and the performance was so bad that they stuttered and jagged. I tried out 4K/30fps just for fun, but this made it a nightmare to play even old adventure games.

Formuler Prime Z next to the Nvidia Shield and the Steam Link.

Yet, Netflix and co. ran smoothly and with no problems at all. But that was the very least I’d expected. One of the main attractions of the Z Prime is that it supports IPTV, either by downloading one of the available apps from the Formuler Store or by connecting to your desired service manually using the MYTV Online app. However, Swisscom TV and similar services have their own box sets. This makes it impossible to connect to them (at least not in any legal way). But there are quite a few sites that offer IPTV login details, so if you are into those kinds of services, the Prime Z might be for you.

The Prime Z is by far the most bulky of the three.

My conclusion: half-baked solution with limited functionality

You get what you pay for with the Formuler Prime Z. A streaming box with 4-year old Android version, inconvenient Google Play Store and without 5.1 surround sound. Instead, it has several terminals such as infrared and memory expansion possibilities. Yet, the main use of the Formuler Prime Z is in combining it with IPTV. It’s good enough for that. Apart from that, its price is the only advantage over Nvidia Shield or Apple TV.

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Being the game and gadget geek that I am, working at digitec and Galaxus makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop – but it does take its toll on my wallet. I enjoy tinkering with my PC in Tim Taylor fashion and talking about games on my podcast To satisfy my need for speed, I get on my full suspension mountain bike and set out to find some nice trails. My thirst for culture is quenched by deep conversations over a couple of cold ones at the mostly frustrating games of FC Winterthur. 

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