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MINIX NEO U1 Android Media Hub and NEO A2 Lite Air Mouse Unboxing and Teardown

December 10th, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

MINIX NEO U1 Android TV box, which the company prefers to call “media hub for Android”, has been announced last week, and has started shipping. The company sent me one sample of the Amlogic S905 device, as well as MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse which can be included with the box as part as some bundle. I’ll check out the media hub and air mouse today, as well as get a close look at the internals, before testing the device, and published a full review of MINIX NEO U1 lateron.

MINIX NEO U1 Unboxing

MINIX sent me the packages via Fedex and I received it within 2 or 3 days.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The devices comes with a simple infrared remote control, a micro USB to USB cable, a USB OTG adapter, an HDMI cable, a WiFi antenna, a 5V/3A power supply, a setup guide in English, German, Chinese and Russian, and MINIX product brochure.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The case is made of plastic, but still feels of good quality. All four side have some connectors or interfaces:

  1. Front panel – IR receiver window + power LED
  2. Side 1 – Power button, 3x USB 2.0 host ports, a micro SD slot, a Kensington lock, and a micro USB OTG port
  3. Rear panel – Two 3.5 mm jacks for speakers and microphone, HDMI 2.0 port, optical S/PDIF, Gigabit Ethernet, and power jack
  4. Side 2 – WiFi antenna connector
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The recovery button is located on the bottom of the device.
MINIX_NEO_U1_Bottom_Recovery

MINIX NEO A2 Lite Air Mouse

NEO A2 Lite is an air mouse with the following specifications:

  • Connectivity – 2.4GHz transmission with up to 10 meters range
  • Sensors – 6-axis gyroscope and accelerometer
  • Remote side and QWERTY keyboard side
  • Power – 2x AAA batteries
  • Support for Android, Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows

Air mice with keyboard are my favorite input devices for Android mini PC, and I normally use MeLE F10 Deluxe, but MINIX NEO A2 Lite does look better, and if it works well, it might well become my main input device for reviews.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The remote is a bit larger than usual, but feel sturdier and fits well in my hands. For some reasons,  I appreciate the two bumps on the side, which hold the two AAA batteries (not included), and the RF dongle which you need to connect to one of the USB port of your computer, TV or media device.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

For comparison, I’ve take two pictures of MeLE F10 Deluxe and MINIX MEO A2 Lite side-by-side.

MeLE F10 Delue vs MINIX A2 Lite - Keyboard Side

MeLE F10 Delue vs MINIX A2 Lite – Remote Side

Both have a D-pad, play/pause keys, volume +/-, mute, power button… but the MeLE air mouse also features an IR learning function, which never worked for me, but is missing from the MINIX one. I do like the mouse activation key on MINIX, as with MeLE F10 you need to press the left button to activate mouse mode, and this may trigger unwanted clicks.

MeLE F10 Delue vs MINIX A2 Lite - Keyboard Side

MeLE F10 Delue vs MINIX A2 Lite – Keyboard Side

But on the keyboard side, MINIX NEO A2 Lite might be the clear winner here, with larger keys, a layout similar to standard keyboards, and the Tabulation key which was never included in any of MeLE’s many air mice.

So all-in-all A2 Lite appears to be well-designed air mouse, but I’ll have to use it to find out if it performs as well as it looks.

MINIX NEO U1 Media Hub and NEO A2 Lite Air Mouse Unboxing Video

MINIX NEO U1 Teardown

I had to remove the four sticky rubbed pads on the bottom of the case, and loosen four screws to open the device. There’s a sticker on the side of the case, so doing so will likely void your warranty. The screws were quite firmly tightened, so I had to use a larger than usual screwdriver, i.e. not a precision screwdriver.

MINIX_NEO_U1_Heatsink

MINIX has taken cooling seriously, and they have a rather large heatsink covering most of the board including Amlogic S905, the RAM and eMMC flash chips. You’ll also notice two antennas: one external, one internal. The first impression is again one of quality.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Turning the board around will reveals a CR2032 battery for the RTC, something that’s rarely found in TV boxes, the recover button, and two SKhynix H5TQ4G63CFR DDR3 chips (2x 512MB).
MINIX_NEO_U1_fanless

I’ve also removed the heatsink to have a clear view of all components on the board.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Sadly, I could not see whether the board comes with Amlogic S905 or S905-H processor as it was not readable, so I’ll have to find out during the review. Two more SKhynix RAM chip brings the total memory to 2GB, and a 16GB Samsung KLMAG2GEND-B031 eMMC 5.0 flash is used for storage. Most companies go with low end or mainstream eMMC flash, but the part selected by MINIX is part of the new high performance 10nm-class eMMC, and capable of 230 MB/s read, and 50 MB/s write speeds, with fast random I/O (up to 6000 IOPS) according to Samsung product selection guide. They’ve carried on with their no-compromise approach while selecting Ampak AP6356S wireless module that supports 802.11 b/g/n, 802.11ac up to 867 Mbps (2×2 MIMO), and Bluetooth 4.1.  Other noticeable components include GL852G USB 2.0 hub controller, ESS323? audio codec, Realtek RTL8211F Gigabit transceiver, and Nuvoton MINI54ZDE ARM Cortex M0 MCU to handle power controls. If you are interested in hacking the device there are three headers: JDEBUG1 with 3.3V/Tx/Rx and GND, ICE1 probably for Nuvotron MCU, and JUART1 with Tx/Rx/GND.

So I’m very pleased with that I’ve seen on the hardware side both with MINIX NEO A2 Lite Air Mouse, and NEO U1 TV box which makes use a much better components than the other Amlogic S905 devices I’ve seen so far. Quality does come at a price however, as MINIX NEO U1 sells for $129.99 on Amazon US, Amazon UK, DX.com, GearBest, GeekBuying and others, while the bundle with NEO A2 Lite goes for $149.99, and the air mouse is also sold separately for $29.99 shipped.

That’s for the hardware, and I’ll have to see if DTS and Dolby are supported, DRM implemented, and other bugs found in earlier Amlogic S905 TV boxes have been fixed or improved. An OTA firmware update is schedule for this week-end, with “big improvements to the KODI performance”, so I’ll wait for this before starting to test the device.

  1. Jim st
    December 10th, 2015 at 17:01 | #1

    Does anyone have any reasonable launcher? Most of them look like something that would be a home on an old IBM PC Color or Radioshack CoCo computer.

    Google has a reasonable launcher by default, which i’ve yet to see on these things. The one I have at the moment, which you reviewed a few years ago, is something called a UFO or such, and it has gotten unstable.

    Luckily all it has to do is install and run BSPlayer for me, but someday it will probably quit being useful.

    I’d like something with a reasonable pad type launch screen.

  2. Someone from the other side
    December 10th, 2015 at 17:16 | #2

    Looks like a quality box but seriously, 130 USD for AMLogic 905???

  3. December 10th, 2015 at 17:24 | #3

    @Jim st
    The default launcher on the U1 is the Metro launcher, but you can opt for the standard google now launcher too.

  4. Cen
    December 10th, 2015 at 20:00 | #4

    can I somehow pack a Linux onto it?

  5. December 10th, 2015 at 23:07 | #6

    @Someone from the other side

    Yea price is def going to be a hard pill to swallow for some but for others the HW + SW support offered may still make it worth it

  6. Cen
    December 10th, 2015 at 23:31 | #7

    @cnxsoft
    something like a noiseless internet surfstation… so a desktop ontop would be nice.

  7. Tom Jones
    December 11th, 2015 at 00:40 | #8

    You really don’t want to buy this box as the s912 SoC is coming just around the corner (VP9, USB 3.1, eMMC 5.0, and HDCP 2.2 support):
    http://www.elezine.com/2015/11/amlogic-s912-soc-roadmap-development-usb-3-1-sampling-2016-q1/

  8. Curmudgeon
    December 11th, 2015 at 06:10 | #9

    @Someone from the other side
    Nice to see that some serious thought has gone into thermal engineering. I expect the benchmarks, in due course, will show that the big heat sink and the use of premium interfacing components will allow the AMlogic S905 to finally express its potential, after so many implementations that were just designed to be cheap, first and foremost.

  9. December 11th, 2015 at 09:43 | #10

    Changelog for new firmware: http://www.minixforum.com/threads/neo-u1-stock-firmware-fw003-20151210.9550/#post-77956

    Looks like they’ve fixed some issues I found in previous devices…

  10. December 11th, 2015 at 09:50 | #11

    @Tom Jones
    I’ve heard Amlogic S912 would be canceled, and replaced by S908 to be released in Q3 2016. So that would mean properly working devices in Q4 2016 or early 2017.

  11. dewettie
    December 11th, 2015 at 09:53 | #12

    @Tom Jones
    On several posts on cnx-software it said the S912 was cancelled and will be replaced by a slower S908 sometime next year.

  12. Javi
    December 11th, 2015 at 12:58 | #13

    As I know the S912 will be real, for now it is not cancelled.

    S908 will be the “cost down” version of S905.

    Some specs. as GPU are not clear yet.

    Just confirmed with Amlogic, so, for now, no changes.

  13. Gimmy88
    December 11th, 2015 at 15:56 | #14

    Hi,

    have someone tested this box with film/video file?
    Before buying it i would like to know these performance.

    Thank you!

  14. Curmudgeon
    December 13th, 2015 at 02:57 | #15

    @Javi
    Reading between the lines, it seems to me that Cortex A35 would be very helpful in producing a “cost down” version of S905. Q3, 2016 seems like a reasonable prospect.

  15. December 13th, 2015 at 10:31 | #16
  16. December 14th, 2015 at 12:18 | #17

    I could not use the gyro functions of the A2 lite. Am I missing something? I tried in Asphalt 8 and Walking War Robots.

  17. December 14th, 2015 at 12:18 | #18

    Gimmy88 :
    Hi,
    have someone tested this box with film/video file?
    Before buying it i would like to know these performance.
    Thank you!

    Try my review: http://www.eyalo.com/1202/minix-neo-u1-review/

  18. December 14th, 2015 at 17:10 | #19
  19. jim stephens
    December 14th, 2015 at 17:47 | #20

    @Oren
    Thanks, Oren. I’ll take a look at it.

    I have a couple of units that do not have the generic builds, but are tv boxes which have not reacted nicely to the other launchers. Not sure why, they are black boxes. Cheap and work, but black boxes. I bought a couple of units with such as the Radxa Rockchip processor because of the performance, but the android interfaces have sucked.

    I guess the logjam of not having drivers have delayed getting out such releases as Lolipop and Marshmallow to the units out there. Android 4.4 stuck at Jelly Bean are still the norm for the closed in units.

    And if I understand there are either NDA protections or binary blobs that stop porting drivers for better graphics and video to the units.

  20. April 26th, 2016 at 11:19 | #21

    For reference, I had to change the batteries of MINIX NEO A2 Lite after about 5 months.

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