LAS VEGAS – Android gaming consoles are nothing new, but Emtec’s Gembox might be one of the most versatile and compact we’ve seen yet. In addition to playing tons of Android games from both Google Play and Emtec’s own game shop, the $99 Gem Box can stream PC games from Steam, and tap into a big library of triple-A titles from GameFly’s streaming service.
Measuring just 3.3 x 3.3 x 0.94 inches, the Gem Box is an adorably tiny, black-and-blue brick that will barely take up any space on your entertainment center. The system includes a lightweight and fairly comfortable Xbox 360-esque controller that can double as an Android gamepad for any of your mobile devices.
While the Gem Box looks and behaves like many of its competitors, it could end up having a big edge in terms of sheer library. The $99 console can tap into GameFly’s new game-streaming service, which is currently limited to Amazon’s Fire TV, as well as Samsung Smart TVs.
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GameFly Streaming gives the Gem Box a fairly decent library of console-quality games from years past, including Sleeping Dogs, Batman: Arkham Asylum and a good chunk of the LEGO games. I played some Dirt 3 on the Gem Box using the service, and while there was just enough blurriness to remind me that I was streaming the game, the title still ran smoothly and looked about as crisp as its Xbox 360 version would.
While the Gem Box’s $99 price tag and selection of Android games, media apps and triple-A titles are all comparable to Amazon’s Fire TV, it has one secret weapon that Amazon’s box doesn’t: the ability to stream PC games from your computer’s Steam library right to your TV. Enjoying that same convenience would otherwise require Valve’s $50 Steam Link (which does nothing but stream Steam games), or Nvidia’s much pricier Shield TV.
Guts-wise, the Gem Box is powered by a quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM and packs 16GB of storage (which you can expand via microSD). If you want some extra control when watching shows and movies, you can purchase a separate media remote that features a full QWERTY keyboard on its backside.
Given just how much content the Gem Box could stream for less than $100, it has the potential to be a serious rival to platforms such as Fire TV and Roku. We’re eager to see how the final product stacks up to our current favorite streaming players when it arrives later this year.