Replacing the Freebox One and big sister to the Mini 4K, the Freebox Pop is the new Android TV box from the French troublemaker of the web. Offered with a subscription at 40 euros per month, it modernizes the operator’s offering, but does not want to walk on the borders of the Freebox Delta. A balancing act that is not always easy to achieve without making some concessions.
The Freebox Pop was presented on July 7, 2020 during a press conference with the public at the premises of Free. Presented as a very accessible equipment, while being equipped with a complete technical sheet, it commercially replaces the Freebox One which disappears from the catalog, only two years after its entry into service.
At first glance, the Freebox Pop ticks all the boxes. She is too very seductive thanks to its rounded design. Its server offers many advanced functions. Its decoder runs under a recent version of Android TV. And a repeater is even offered at no extra cost. So, is the Freebox Pop the ideal, small, edgy and inexpensive Freebox? This is what we will see in this full review.
Price and availability
The Freebox Pop is already available, both for new customers and subscribers. Migration is free for all Mini 4K subscribers, otherwise there is a charge. The cost of the migration is around 50 euros. The Freebox Pop subscription is 30 euros per month the first year and 40 euros per month from the 13th month. Installation is free and termination fees, if you are departing from a competing operator, are free.
The subscription includes Internet (vDSL or Fiber at 5 Gb / s for download), television (220 channels included) and telephony (France and 110 countries abroad, with mobile for some destinations), as well as “the best moments of Ligue 1 Uber Eats ”, an application that offers you to discover the goals scored in the matches of the teams you follow and summaries. You can save up to 100 hours of programs. If you exceed this limit, you must pay 1 euro cent per additional MB per month. Alternatively, you can also delete your old recordings.
The material includes a Freebox Pop Server, a Freebox Pop Player and one Pop WiFi Repeater. You can order additional repeaters. The shipping costs are 10 euros per unit. The Freebox Pop is Multi-TV compatible: you can order an additional Player for 5 euros per month. Note that Freebox Delta subscribers can also order a Freebox Pop Player and / or a Freebox Pop Repeater to complete their installation.
The Freebox Pop also gives the right to a reduction at Free Mobile. The 2 euros / month subscription is free. And the subscription for 19.99 euros costs 9.99 euros. That is a reduction twice as high as with all other Freeboxes, including the Delta. The offer can obviously not be combined with several packages: a Freebox entitles you to a single reduced price package.
|Freebox Pop (V8)|
|Subscription price||€ 29.99 / month for one year, then € 39.99 / month|
To mobiles and landlines to 110 destinations including mainland France. & DOM
|TV and VOD offer||220 channels included and Replay services.
The best moments of Ligue 1 included
Netflix, Prime Video and Canal Play optional
|Internet speed||Optical fiber :
5 Gbit / s downstream
700 Mbit / s upstream
ADSL2 +, VDSL2
|Server connectivity||WiFi ac MU-MiMo
2 Ethernet 1 Gb / s ports
1 2.5 Gb / s Ethernet port
1 WiFi repeater included
|Decoder connectivity||1 HDMI port
1 optical audio output
1 USB 3.0 port
1 microSDXC port
TNT HD tuner
1 Ethernet 1 Gb / s port
|BONE||Android TV 9.0
OQEE TV interface
|Google Cast compatible||Yes|
|Intelligent assistant||Google assistant|
Design: circles, circles …
The design of the Freebox Pop is a evolution of the Freebox Delta. The Freebox Revolution and the Freebox Mini 4K are parallelepipeds. The angles are 90 °. And the edges are almost all straight. The Freebox Revolution allows itself a few fantasies, thanks to the good care of Philippe Starck. But it also incorporates the codes of audiovisual equipment.
The Freebox One deviated slightly from this model with a square case and rounded corners. Then, the Freebox Delta kept these rounded angles and lost one side to become a design rectangle. The Freebox Pop takes another step, moving further away from the parallelepipeds to be a succession of circular cases of varying thickness.
The larger of these three boxes, the more recognizable, is the server. It is he who has this pretty black line which contrasts so much with the all-white hull. And this detail invites observation. Because in this thick line hides a small LCD screen which is generally off. Here is another difference with the other Freebox: the case does not serve as a clock (although it does here to show you how it’s turned on), since we have smartphones and smartwatches to tell us the time.
When the screen turns on, it is to give information. The connection steps. Downloading an update. An authorization for a system modification from Freebox OS or Freebox Connect (we will come back to this). Or the display of a QR Code to facilitate connection to the WiFi network. You can also view this QR Code from the mobile application. But it’s so much more fun from this screen! On the front of the server, you also find a notification LED to know at a glance whether the Freebox is on, connected or … if it is resting.
The smallest box (above), the most different from the other two, is the decoder. He is black. It has no screen, but takes advantage of a Notification LED that lights up when active. Instead of the server screen is the Operator’s Claw. The artists sign their works. So why by ISPs? At the rear you find the huge coaxial socket for the TNT tuner. It’s ugly, you might as well be clear. Fortunately, this is not too visible once the decoder is placed on a piece of furniture.
Last box (below): the repeater. Of intermediate size, it is all white. It is also marked with the signature of its designer. And it is also equipped with an LED. But it’s the most useful of those fitted to the three boxes. Because not only does it indicate whether the repeater is plugged in and connected, but it can also indicate the signal strength with the server. If the repeater is too far away, you have a loss of speed. So a loss of performance. If it’s too close, you might as well not put it on. This indicator is therefore used to properly place the repeater. It’s extremely convenient!
We wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t tackle the remote. That of the Freebox Pop is a simplified version of the Freebox Delta and Freebox One remote controls. It is Bluetooth compatible (you will need to pair it on the first start) and it works with two LR3 batteries. Too bad, it would have been more ecological and economical if it ran on a rechargeable battery.
From top to bottom, you find the power button, a notification LED and the microphone for voice commands; the dedicated Netflix, Prime Video and Free keys (leading to the Oqee interface); the Google Assistant button and the “Home” button of Android TV; a circular directional cross underlined by the “Return” key. The volume and TV channel controls surrounding the “mute” button. And finally the 10-digit numeric keypad.
Installation: very simple and quick
Let’s talk about the installation of the Box. When you receive your Freebox Pop, it is stored in three different boxes (seen previously). On the one hand, the server. Another is the decoder. And in the third, the mesh repeater. Our test was carried out with an optical fiber line. But the principle remains the same with a vDSL subscription. Let’s unpack each box. In the first, you will find out everything you need to plug in the server: cable for vDSL and fiber optic connection and wall outlet for power. No Ethernet cable provided here. The message is clear: we must prioritize WiFi.
Connect the box to your telephone wall jack (or the fiber optic box), then plug in the USB type-C power jack. The Freebox Pop Server turns on and performs the various connection steps (including updates). Once ready, it displays the time on its screen. You can then go to Freebox OS or Freebox Connect to customize the server behavior. Go to the section dedicated to these two applications to find out more.
If you open the Player box, you will find the black Pop decoder, the remote control, a power cable and an HDMI cable. No Ethernet cable here either… Start by plugging in the HDMI cable, possibly an Ethernet cable and an optical audio cable. Then turn on the Freebox Pop Player by plugging in the power cable. On its first launch, you must pair the remote control with the box. So make sure you put the batteries in. If you have not changed the SSID of the WiFi network, the Player connection should be automatic.
When starting for the first time, the Player box will also make a few updates (at least one), then offer you to perform the entire procedure. recording with your Android smartphone (if you have one). We advise you to do this: once the double authentication has been completed, everything is automatic and the Freebox Pop will appear in your Google account (including the Play Store). Otherwise, you will have to enter your account with the remote control and the virtual keyboard. It’s slower.
After the initialization process is complete, Android TV will offer you to install the compatible applications that you have previously purchased or installed (if they were free). Then you are taken directly to Oqee. There again, you will create an “adult” account which will serve as a referral for paid programs and prohibited to minors.
Finally, let’s open the repeater box. There aren’t many items in this box: the repeater, a wall outlet for power and … an ethernet cable? We did not find the configuration useful to take advantage of this cable. Can the repeater also serve as a router for a device connected by Ethernet? Or, can we connect the router to a CPL if the room to be used in WiFi is very far from the server? We will update this test when we have a response.
Connecting the mesh router to the Freebox Pop Server is automatic, even if you have changed the SSID and password for the connection. The maximum indicative distance is two rooms, but this may vary depending on the accommodation: thick walls, large rooms, corridors, doors, furniture, etc. The indicator light on the front tells you if you are far away (three WiFi signal bars), rather far (two bars), very far (only one bar) or too far (red light). So adjust your distance.
Connection and network: a funny choice
Now let’s talk about on-board technologies. And let’s start with the server again. This is equipped for a vDSL and fiber connection. This offers a speed of 7 Gb / s downhill and 700 Mb / s upstream. You will also find a telephone socket (for those who still use a landline) and a USB type-C port which is used exclusively for powering the box.
There are also three Ethernet ports. They are all different: a gigabit port, a powered gigabit port (to serve data and power to a connected device, such as a webcam), and a 2.5 gigabit port. The server is also equipped with a USB 3 type-A port (on the right in the photo). You can plug in an external hard drive, USB stick, etc. Finally, the box is compatible WiFi ac dual band MU-MiMo (and not WiFi 6…), WPA3, and Bluetooth 5.0. The server is DLNA and UPnP compatible.
Three remarks. First, the number of Ethernet ports is declining compared to the Mini 4K for example. If you want to connect the Freebox Pop Player, your connected television, a game console, a NAS, a multimedia hard drive (the Shield TV or an Apple TV, for example) and a modern sound bar, you will have to make choices. .
Then, the WiFi ac connection is sufficient in most cases. However, it must overcome two problems. First, reducing the number of Ethernet ports. And therefore by extension an increase in wireless connections. Second, the absence of Freeplugs (Powerline boxes which also serve as a power supply). This forces the user to choose between an Ethernet cable or a WiFi connection to link the server and the decoder. The latter being compatible 4K HDR, it goes without saying that the WiFi connection is very busy. And sometimes we have the impression that a WiFi 6 modem would have been welcome.
Finally, the interest of Bluetooth in the server is quite limited. We don’t feel like we’ve needed this connection until now. Maybe it is necessary to associate the server with the mesh repeater (photo above)? It is quite possible, because the mesh router is also Bluetooth 5.0 compatible. It is also Ethernet compatible (the curious presence of which we have already mentioned) in addition to the MU-MiMo dual-band WiFi ac connection.
Let’s move on to the Player. On the connection side, it has a huge coaxial antenna socket connected to an integrated TNT HD decoder that a minority of users will be delighted to find here. A very small minority (which is not growing). Next to it, you will find the optical audio port, the HDMI port (version 2.1 to pass 4K HDR) and an Ethernet port, if you still have room to connect the decoder to the server. This one is only for that anyway.
The power here is not provided by a USB type-C port, but a common circular port. On the sides, you find two other ports: one microSD port and, at its opposite, a USB 3 type-A port. The first is clearly incidental. This is especially true on the Freebox Pop, since it is compatible with Android TV and Chromecast. If you want to view content like vacation photos or movies (see a YouTube video, even if the platform is preinstalled), just use Chromecast and you’re good to go. Also, the bandwidth of the microSD is low enough to play a movie on it.
The second is essential. We would even have liked to have a second (even if it means removing the microSD port). In fact, very few applications installed on the decoder are able to fetch content connected to the server. VLC is one of them. The others will simply access the peripherals plugged into the Player (like a smartphone). Note that you can plug in a hard drive and dedicate it to video recording.
Management of the Box: the king’s choice
To manage your Freebox and your home network, you have access to three tools: Freebox OS, Freebox Connect and the Freebox application. The first is the most important: it is a virtual desktop accessible from a web browser. From here you can do everything on your Box. First use, often useful for troubleshooting: check the status of the connection and the Box.
Then, from Settings, you can manage the built-in ad blocker, configure a VPN client, manage ports (redirect for example) and, for professionals, DNS and domain names. You can also manage WiFi and guest WiFi, DHCP server IP range, enable or disable network sharing (Mac and PC), FTP server, UPnP and AirMedia protocol, etc. It’s very comprehensive.
You will also find a file explorer, to consult, download and upload documents on network drives or connected to USB (on the server, but not on the decoder), a download manager (accessible only if you have a hard drive that you need to format), the profile manager (those from Oqee, not those from Android TV) with the ability to disable an associated device connection on the fly, the interactive program guide and recordings manager, as well as a network device browser. All of this is super practical. And you can even access it outside of your home.
Freebox Connect offers some of the services of Freebox OS. Viewing the connection status. List of connected devices (Freebox or other). Retrieving the QR Code for tethering (if you have not configured the guest network). Viewing profiles with possible deactivation of devices linked to each account. The Freebox Connect application is also used to restrict access to the network (WiFi or Ethernet): For example, you can authorize only certain devices, or block others. It’s faster and more convenient than with Freebox OS. Unlike Freebox OS, it does not allow you to view files on network storage spaces. And, curiously, the application does not always detect the Player when it is connected to the server by Ethernet.
Let’s finish with the Freebox application. She was developed for the Freebox Delta, but it works well enough with the Freebox Pop (as with all the others) to manage the server. However, the TV part is specific to the Delta decoder. So that some services (such as remote viewing of TV channels) do not work. The entire server part is operational: connection status, list of connected devices, retrieval of the WiFi network QR Code, etc. The Parameters section takes up the Freebox OS tree structure. The “Profile” section is also accessible under the former name ” Parental control “. Finally, if you have connected a hard drive to this box, you can browse the tree structure and even launch a file remotely if you have a compatible application. Excellent!
Interface Free by Oqee
When you turn on the decoder part of the Freebox Pop, you arrive directly on the Oqee interface, the famous interface developed for the Freebox Pop. This interface offers recommendations and thumbnails, with program previews. Note that in the screenshot, some areas of this interface are blocked. So you won’t see them below.
The interface consists of seven tabs: ” For you », With recommendations, Chains, to access live channels classified by their identifier (and even start a program from the beginning, even if you are late), Replay, which brings together the broadcasting services of delayed programs, TV guide, to access the summary table of current and upcoming programs and schedule a recording, Recording, to watch the recordings stored on your hard disk (disk which must be formatted by the Freebox and dedicated to this task), VOD, to pay you a film session on the sofa (with Canal VOD), and App.
App is simply a shortcut to the Android apps preinstalled on the Freebox Pop: Netflix, Prime Video, Free Ligue 1 Uber Eats, Canal Play, VLC and YouTube. Interesting choice here from Free than to preinstall VLC, a video file player notoriously known to be used by those who download movies illegally.
Recommendations work with a profile system that is different from Google profiles. Another use of an Oqee profile is parental control. The first registered profile must be that of an adult who will have access to the control settings for purchases, subscriptions and adult content. The refresh of TV rights, for Canal + for example, goes through this interface.
In use, if you watch live tv and you often record shows that don’t go on replay, Oqee is an interesting interface, but not revolutionary in itself, with advanced services often coming in. duplicate Android TV and preinstalled applications. If you are a fan of replay, the dedicated tab is a good place that brings together all the services. But if you don’t consume linear television, Oqee will most certainly be incidental.
Android TV: the real interface of the Freebox Pop
The Freebox Pop decoder runs on Android TV. But which version, would you ask us? And you would be right to ask. Because there are obviously different versions of Android TV and not all digital set-top boxes are as up to date as Nvidia’s Shield TV. The Freebox Pop runs under Android TV 9. This version is the most recent. It is therefore used to install the most recent games and applications. This is one of the advantages compared to the Freebox Mini 4K, which was no longer updated by Free, making the Box incompatible with certain VOD services, such as Amazon Prime Video.
The Android TV interface is relatively straightforward. There is a single screen which is divided into ” chain », Thematic and (more or less) practical shortcuts. We mentioned this interface a lot during our Shield TV test. Note that we have not received the new interface with Google’s “Staff Picks”, this promotional space supposedly being deployed.
The first chain from the top is used to host applications, preinstalled or not. You must manually add them for them to appear there (by simply pressing the “+” sign on the far right of the line). Otherwise, to open the applications drawer, you must keep pressing the “Home” button until it appears. Applications are presented first and games second. Simplified access to the Play Store is also available there.
The following strings are thematic recommendations according to your profile Google (which is therefore not the same as the Oqee profile, and that’s a bit of a shame). You will find there pell-mell YouTube, Play Store, Netflix, Prime Video, MyCanal and other VOD or replay platforms that you could have added. Of course, it is possible to add, remove and move the channels according to your preferences.
The Freebox Pop Player is an Android TV box: this means that you have access to the Play Store (to download the applications and update them if this is not done automatically), at Google assistant (accessible directly from the remote control) and much more. This is also where you will be able to connect the box with Bluetooth accessories, such as a game controller (the remote control is not as equipped as a Wiimote). The Freebox comes with a few preinstalled applications: Free by Oqee, Netflix, Prime Video and MyCanal, of course, but also VLC and Facebook Watch.
Performances of the Freebox Pop Player
The Play Store is good. But what can you really use with the Freebox Pop while maintaining a certain fluidity? To answer this question, we turn to the eternal benchmarks. The Pop Player is equipped with a 1.8GHz Armlogic S905X2 quad-core chipset, of 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. A sufficient configuration to display movies in 4K HDR. But what about video games? Yeah, that’s what matters to us, right?
We have therefore downloaded some tools to verify the real power of the platform so much vaunted by Xavier Niel during the conference in July. And, as much to say that the Freebox Pop is sufficiently equipped to be able to install some fun applications and enjoy it in good conditions. Below are screenshots of tests performed with GFXBench and 3DMark.
With this setup, we launched a few games and several emulators. As you can see from the screenshots below, we have tested Dead Trigger 2 from Madfinger, of course, but also Oceanhorn, excellent “Zelda-like” developed by Cornfox & Bros. Both games run very well, although there are some slowdowns. On the emulator side, we played with games Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 1. Expect little more from the platform.
Unlike smartphones, equipped with a touch screen, a controller is clearly mandatory if you want to play with the Freebox Pop. All standard Bluetooth controllers are natively supported. But in the majority of cases you will need to configure the controller according to the game. Dead Trigger 2 is the perfect example of a game that has been optimized for touch screens where you have to manually configure the buttons. For Oceanhorn, the reverse is true: no need to go through this tedious phase.
Let’s talk about connectivity, in particular that between the Player and the Server. We have sometimes met some slowdowns on the TV side in Full HD. We know this is not a fiber optic problem. We believe this to be a WiFi issue, as slowdowns are (much) rarer when the two boxes are connected to each other via Ethernet. There is clearly a congestion on the WiFi level that could have been avoided if Free had opted for WiFi 6. Always the same debate …
The Freebox Pop is a good Box. And the offer that supports it is a good offer. Internet 5 Gb / s. 4K HDR display. Return to zero of the TV programs that have started. Android TV 9 on board. WiFi repeater included. A 10 euros reduction on the unlimited Free Mobile plan. These are the strongest assets of this Box. Vis-à-vis the competition, this offer is clearly above. And compared to the Freebox Revolution and the Freebox Delta, it could satisfy subscribers even more thanks to Android TV and its value for money.
There are a few points that may be upsetting. First, the lack of WiFi 6 while the connection of the Freebox Pop tends to rely heavily on the wireless network: repeater to increase the range of WiFi, absence of Freeplugs, reduction in the number of Ethernet ports. It’s for all these reasons that we don’t understand the lack of WiFi 6.
Two other details are incomprehensible. First, the presence of a microSD card reader. What good can it do when a Chromecast is built into the box? Maybe to watch a movie? So, plug in a hard drive or a USB stick? Then, the absence of a real hard drive in the Player for records managed by Oqee. This is an unusual choice for Free, which has always built in storage space inside its set-top boxes.
The price difference with the Mini 4K (not to mention the Free Mobile reduction) is not always justified, even for football fans. They will never be content to watch only the goals scored by their favorite team: they will want to watch the whole game! On the other hand, Prime Video subscribers, weaned by the incompatibility of the Mini 4K with their favorite streaming service, would do well to go for this new box.