Home > Android, Hardware, Rockchip RK31xx, Video > Tronsmart T428 mini PC Review

Tronsmart T428 mini PC Review

Geekbuying was kind enough to send me another RK3188 mini PCs for review. Tronsmart T428 is very similar to MK908 I reviewed earlier, with 2GB RAM and 8GB flash, but the latest device runs Android 4.2.2, its Wi-Fi module supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, and T428 can also be used as a Miracast Display. Geekbuying sells for the device for $96.99 including shipping, but before to buy the device I strongly recommend you read the review. I’ll post some unboxing pictures first, then carry on with my first impressions, video playback capabilities, Wi-Fi performance and some benchmarks.

Tronsmart T428 Unboxing

I received the device is in the package below.

Tronsmart T428 Packaging (Click to Enlarge)

Tronsmart T428 Packaging (Click to Enlarge)

T428 comes with a short HDMI cable, a 5V/2A power supply, and a USB to microUSB cable for power.

Tronsmart_T428_Accessories

A close look at this mini PC shows the casing is made of plastic and metal (on the lengths), comes with an HDMI male port (my preference), a USB port, a microUSB port for power, an LED, a microSD slot, and a recovery button.

Tronsmart T428 (Click to Enlarge)

Tronsmart T428 (Click to Enlarge)

You can watch my unboxing video.

First Boot, Settings, and First Impressions

I’ve connected Mele F10 RF adapter to the USB host port, T428 to the HDMI port of my TV, and the power supply to the micro USB port of the device, and we’re ready to go. After a little while, we get a standard Android Home Screen (All apps added by me).

Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

We’ve got Vol-/+ buttons, Power Button, and sometimes, but not always, the full screen icon… So mostly all good here.

T428_About_DeviceI’ve gone to the setup menu to configure Wi-Fi. The device also supports Wi-Fi direct, Bluetooth (built-in), and you can setup to device with VPN, as a hotspot, and add a 3G USB dongle, but there’s no Ethernet option.  The screen section lets you select 1080p or 720p modes at either 50 or 60 Hz, as well as 576p50 and 480p60. There’s also a slider to let you zoom in/out to adjust the UI to your screen. There’s no option for HDMI audio output, so HDMI audio pass-through is not available. There are plenty of options available in Developer options including USB debugging, CPU usage, GPU usage and many more.  In the “About device” section, the model number is T428, and the device is running Android 4.2.2 with Linux kernel 3.0.36+… The firmware version is 2013/04/19.

I’ve installed several applications with Google Play including Antutu, ES File Explorer, Angry Birds 3D, MX Player, YouTube, Facebook.., and everything went smoothly. The firmware does not come rooted, but RK3188 rooting instructions (Windows only) worked fine.

All applications could run smoothly, and the firmware is stable, and the only issue I encountered, which I reckon is a major one, is that Wi-Fi signal will drop from time to time [Update: I resolved Wi-Fi stability issue by updating my router firmware, see CS868 review for details] .  T428 does not overheat. I’ve also managed to pair a Sixaxis game controller (not possible with MK908 firmware), but I haven’t been able to play games yet, since more work is needed (Droidmote setup). But that’s for another blog post. [Update: I wrote instructions showing how to play Games with a PS3 Bluetooth controller]

T428 Video Playback and Wi-Fi Performance

I’ve just installed MX Player to test video playback, making sure H/W decoding is enabled for the video I tested.

I started testing with samplemedia.linaro.org videos from a CIFS/SAMBA share in Ubuntu:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK, but the video plays for 1 or 2 seconds, then freezes to buffer a few seconds, then plays normally until the end. So this issue is minor, and mainly annoying for reviewers…
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p -  OK.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK.
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 480p/720p/1080 OK, but there’ a thin line with artifacts at the bottom of the screen
  • Real Media (RMVB) 720p – OK for RV8/RV9/RV10.
  • WebM 480p/720p/1080p – OK

I’ve also tried several full movies (AVI and MKV), and I did not notice buffering issues. Video playback looks relatively bad here, but this is only a Wi-Fi issue, as the signal drops, and sometimes completely cuts off. [Update: A new router firmware mostly fixed the performance issue with this device, so I've also added audio codec and high-bitrate testing below]

T428 supports the following high-quality audio codecs:

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 and Digital+ 7.1 – OK
  • Dolby TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

Even after firmware update, higher bit rate videos can’t play smoothly:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – It seems to start out somewhat OK, but quickly become unwatchable.
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – The device can’t play the video smoothly.

To confirm Wi-Fi sucks big time, I’ve copied one 278 MB file between the network share and the NAND flash, and it  took 4 minutes 04 seconds (1.14MB/s). I’ve never seen a device with such bad Wi-Fi before. Hopefully this is only a firmware issue. During the transfer in ES Explorer, I can see real-time transfer speed oscillate between 70KB/s and 1.50 MB/s. So it’s not a constant speed, it fluctuates heavily, contrary to all other devices I’ve reviewed. I’ve also removed Mele F10 2.4GHz adapter, just in case it negatively affects Wi-Fi performance, but the result is the same when I use USB keyboard and mouse. There’s an Android 4.1.1 firmware that may fix the issue, but I haven’t tried it.

Wifi Update: After updating the router firmware, I can transfer the same 278 MB file in 3m 02s (1.53MB/s), at regular speed, and the Wi-Fi signal does not drop any more. Since I’ve updated the router firmware, I can’t use my historical test results for comparison, and the only other device I’ve tested in this configuration is CS868 mini PC, which transfer tshe same file in 1m 30s (> 3MB/s). So even though Wi-Fi is snow table, and perfectly usable, the performance may not be optimal.

T428 Antutu and Quadrant Benchmarks

The device could achieve good results with both Antutu and Quadrant benchmarks.

T428_Antutu_640px

With 15207 points, T428 scores a little higher than MK908 (14,464), but both are still on the same range. Finless ROM can boost the score to about 17,000.

Tronsmart T428 Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)

Tronsmart T428 Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)

Tronsmart T428 gets about the same score as HTC One X smartphone (Snapdragon S4 or Tegra 3).

Contrary to MK908, 2D and 3D tests were very smooth in both benchmarks. System information section shows the frequency can oscillate between 312MHz and 1.6GHz, the SDK is rk31sdk, and the board is said to be rk30board. The resolution is 1280×672, there’s 1606.7MB RAM available out of 1914.7MB (After running advanced task manager). The “internal partition” is 504MB large with just 76.41MB available, and there’s 5.24GB available in the “NAND flash” (data partition) out of 5.82GB.

Inside Tronsmart T428

Sorry nothing here today. I’ve tried to open the device, but failed, as some part of the casing seem glued, and as I pushed the metallic part of the casing, I could see I bended them a bit too much to my taste. I’ve also been told there’s no easy way to open it, so if you want an hackable device, this may not be the one for you.

[Update: Ian Morrison managed to open it (Click for pictures), but he mentions it's not designed to be opened, an you're likely to damage the case trying to do so]

Conclusion

Tronsmart T428 is fast, smooth and stable (as in no crashes or hung system) just like MK908, unfortunately Wi-Fi performance ruins it all.  This is a shame as all other aspects of. [Update: Wi-Fi has become stable after a router (TP-Link WR940N) firmware upgrade]. This device seems promising: Full screen and power buttons, Miracast Display support, all video codecs I’ve tried seems to be supported fine, support for 5GHz can help if there are lots of 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi hotspots in your location …

Considering the terrible Wi-Fi performance, I can’t recommend Tronsmart T428 at this stage, and you’d better go with Tronsmart MK908 which works much better, at least until we’re sure a new firmware can fix WLAN reliability and performance issues.
After resolving T428 / TP-Link router interoperability issues by updating the router firmware, my assessment of T428 has completely changed, and the device is actually pretty good, with only minor issues, such as an internal flash partition for apps that I find too small (504MB), and fills up too quickly, the lack Ethenet  support (USB dongle),  no support for HDMI pass-through…

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Categories: Android, Hardware, Rockchip RK31xx, Video Tags: Android, antutu, benchmark, geekbuying, jelly bean, mini-pc, quadrant, review, tronsmart
  1. Patola
    May 14th, 2013 at 17:56 | #1

    And what about T428′s alleged serial pins? Did you test them?

  2. May 14th, 2013 at 18:33 | #2

    @Patola
    I did not even manage to open the enclosure.

  3. S
    May 14th, 2013 at 19:48 | #3

    As a general remark: Why are you using MX Player instead of XBMC? XBMC using libstagefrigt promises to be a much better solution; especially if 5.1 sound can be passed thru ia HDMI to a proper receiver…..

  4. May 14th, 2013 at 20:10 | #4

    @S
    I believed it does not work yet with RK3188. I’ve read the only solution is to use XBMC custom XAF which uses external players such as MX Player. There’s no option to select HDMI pass-through (for now) in the 2 RK3188 devices I’ve tested.

  5. May 15th, 2013 at 02:22 | #5

    I use BS Player (paid) and VPlayer (paid) because I like them better than MX. Both offer h/w or s/w decoding, also.

  6. May 15th, 2013 at 14:05 | #6

    You must plug adapter to USB cable, not to USB port. When adapter is so close to WiFi module you will have network transfer issue.

  7. May 15th, 2013 at 14:52 | #7

    @androx
    :). When I wrote “the power supply to the micro USB port of the device” I obviously meant “Connect the power supply to the micro USB port of the device using the micro USB to USB cable provided…”.

  8. Salah
    May 16th, 2013 at 17:07 | #8

    What about the network performance with a usb to ethernet adapter ? Is it full speed (~10MB/s) ?

  9. May 17th, 2013 at 09:45 | #9

    @Salah
    I don’t have one, so I haven’t been able to try.

    Interestingly, I’ve been told some people on freaktab think T428 has better Wi-Fi than MK908. (I can’t find the link, since the site if not part of Google index). So it could be hit or miss, or some issues with specific routers.

  10. Journey
    May 18th, 2013 at 00:07 | #10

    Kind of strange. I ordered the T428 at the end of April and it arrived yesterday. I did not do any pre-reading and loaded xbmc froyo 12.1 stable version and it runs great. I have read some have crashes and some don’t run at all. Also, some report antutu does not run, but mine (and yours) run great.

  11. Nickyp
    May 19th, 2013 at 11:40 | #11

    Hi – just got mine yesterday, very pleased with it but many minor issues. Here are my experiences so far, learn and be prepared :-)

    WIFI/ETHERNET: I had issues with wi-fi upon first connection – wouldn’t connect at all. Somehow it seemed to resolve itself and now no issues especially when I was closer to the router. I also used an ethernet/USB cable and that was fantastic but after an hour or so it kept cutting out, not sure what that issue is. I will test the cable with another device to see if it’s the device or the cable. Later on I moved much further away from the router and the wireless connection was fine and stable but slow. Tried the cable again later and same thing, OK for a while and then cut out.

    SD CARD : I bought one and pushed it in as you normally would. It will not come out now – anyhow it’s 16 gig so it will have to do forever. Luckily it was a good quality one :-) Seems to be no easy way to open this device.

    AUDIO: Audio out is through HDMI only. There is no audio in. As a workaround I tried a bluetooth headset (Nokia BH108) which connected well but could not use it through Skype (Skype kept closing upon connection). In fact any apps that require mic input will not start (crash to home page). As far as mic input goes I did ask Geekbuying. They said I could use a USB audio card but when I asked them for a recommendation I got no reply.

    VIDEO: T428 is set to 1080p from factory – my old TV has 1080i. Didn’t work, just got a band of flashing lines. There is no easy way to change this unless you have a 1080p monitor lying around. I went out and bought a Samsung HDMI TV/Monitor with sound. NOTE: You cannot use a monitor without speakers/sound output or you will get no sound.

    If you have access to a friends 1080p TV/Monitor with HDMI input, you can change the SCREEN resolution within android to 720p, then close/shutdown the t428 so it saves it internally. It then worked on my older TV which supports 720p.

    CHROME: installed version is OK. After update from the play store it became terrible, had to uninstall updates back to stock.

    USB DRIVES : Could not get any to work (seemed to recognise them all, I tried 6 different devices, sticks, card reader and an external Hard drive, but none would open)

    USB WEBCAM with mic: Tried to use a microsoft webcam with built-in mic. Webcam wasn’t recognised by any app, and the mic was not recognised by any app.

    WIRELESS KEYBOARD AND MOUSE : Logitech, worked fine.

  12. May 19th, 2013 at 14:22 | #12

    I’ve updated the post since I solved the Wi-Fi issues with a router firmware upgrade.

    @Nickyp
    I often got microSD stuck into those device, and I had to open the cases to get those back. I did not find a safe way to open T428 either.

  13. Nickyp
    May 20th, 2013 at 11:12 | #13

    Update on ETHERNET: I found the following, and it works every time. After booting up, I have to unplug then reinsert the USB to Ethernet adaptor. It will then work fine for as long as you want. Streaming HD sweetly from Youtube for as long as I wanted. Here is the probelm. If you go to SETTINGS for any reason the Ethernet adaptor stops working and things start freezing up. You don’t have to do anything in settings, just merely going to the settings page causes this problem: solution is to get out of settings when you can then remove and reinsert the usb/ethernet adaptor. It will work forever again until you go to settings.

  14. Nickyp
    May 20th, 2013 at 11:15 | #14

    BTW if anyone figures out to get mic input into one of these and gets SKYPE etc. working without crashing on the T428 be sure and let us know how you did it!

  15. May 20th, 2013 at 23:13 | #15

    How did you take the screenshots for the article? I assume the normal phone screenshot method wouldn’t work as well?

  16. May 21st, 2013 at 09:13 | #16

    @Scott
    I’ve installed one the screenshot utility available on Google Play. They’ll show an icon overlaid on top of the UI, you click on it, and it takes a screenshot.

  17. Nickyp
    May 23rd, 2013 at 11:44 | #17

    Update on Stock 4.2 Rom (Link on Geekbuying Website): I installed this last night.This 4.2 Rom has worked very well for me. It has increased speed for sure, All my usb drives are now recognised and usable, including card reader, memory stick and even a seagate usb external drive. Wireless and Ethernet are working well. The only issue now for me is audio input which hopefully can be resolved with a usb audio device. Then, it is entirely feasible for me to dump the desktop.

  18. May 31st, 2013 at 11:06 | #18

    New firmware upgrade for T428 with several fix for Netflix, USB mass storage devices, USB webcams…:
    http://blog.geekbuying.com/index.php/2013/05/30/tronsmart-t428-new-android-4-2-firmware-download-netflix-bluetooth-all-ok/

  19. Rinus
    June 8th, 2013 at 23:32 | #19

    I connect à WD essential to my t428 but is is not recogniced, i have android 4.2.2 an d finales 1.4 rom installed

  20. nickyp
    June 9th, 2013 at 18:55 | #20

    @cnxsoft
    Alas, this new Rom does not fit the audio device input problem.

  21. June 9th, 2013 at 19:23 | #21

    @nickyp
    Does that means the mic in your webcam does not work with this device? They must have tested audio with Skype, or that’s pretty useless…

  22. JD1
    July 29th, 2013 at 10:13 | #22

    Any advice on using the T428 with Google Play? I seem to download SD version of videos even though the device is HD capable. Fast forward or backward seems to cause the device to “sit there”. I noticed the device won’t make use of the 8GB SD card I installed.

  23. RODER
    October 31st, 2013 at 02:43 | #23

    please!!! my T428 it restar alonee!! .. i dont no have to do.. help me please, im from argentina. Change the rom but the problem still. (sorry for my english) .. any suggestion ??

  1. May 17th, 2013 at 15:05 | #1
  2. May 22nd, 2013 at 19:35 | #2
  3. June 9th, 2013 at 19:30 | #3
  4. June 15th, 2013 at 10:40 | #4