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Yundoo Y8 Rockchip RK3399 mini PC Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, Audio & Video Playback in Kodi

May 2nd, 2017 10 comments

Yundoo Y8 is one of the first Android TV boxes / mini PCs powered by Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor to be launched. GearBest sent me a review sample, and since I’ve already taken it apart in the first part of the review, I’ll report my experience with the firmware in terms of stability and performance, as well as audio & video capabilities with TVMC (Kodi fork), and more.

First Boot, Setup, and First Impressions

I’ve first connected a few peripherals Seagate USB 3.0 drive to the USB port, a USB keyboard to one of the USB 2.0 port, and a USB hub to the other one with two USB RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse, and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad.

After adding Ethernet and HDMI cable, I pressed the power button on the unit to start it up. Please note that the remote control cannot turn on the box, so if you are comfortably seated in your sofa or lying down on your bed, you’d need to get to turn it on. The remote control can still be used to enter and get out of standby mode. A typical boot takes just around 20 seconds, and it’s one of the fastest boot I’ve seen on TV boxes.

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The launcher shows the time, networking and USB status icon, and weather forecast on the very top, and includes 5 sections with Home, Recommend, Online, Local, And Settings. The Home section has eight icon: TVMC media center (for of Kodi), YouTube (TV version), File Manager, Browser, TV store, K-Addons, Netflix, and Apps. The other three sections lists some pre-installed apps.

I’ve quickly tried the TV Store, and beside apps that can be found in Google Play, it also comes with some other extra apps, notably some IPTV apps that may or may not be legal in your country.

Click to Enlarge

I clicked on the Video icon to get a list of 44 apps as shown below.

The Settings section in the launcher gives access to four icons: “Settings”, “Weather” allowing you to input your city name, “Others” to change the “Theme ” (launcher colors) / enable touch sound, and Systeminfo.

The latter shows YUNDOO-Y8 model runs Android 6.0.1, and comes with 4GB memory, 32GB storage. The MAC address starts with “ac:83:f3” which looks up to “AMPAK Technology, Inc.”, so that’s the WiFi module MAC address….
The Settings menu looks familiar, as it’s just a colorized version of the Settings app found in Amlogic TV boxes.

Click to Enlarge

Some of the settings include:

  • Network – WiFi or Ethernet configuration
  • Bluetooth
  • Display – Day Dream, Calibration, and More Settings. Not that none of those allow you to change video output resolution.
  • System sounds – On/Off
  • Date & Time
  • Language
  • More Settings – Access to Android Marshmallow

Apart from Network to configure Ethernet or WiFi, Date & Time, and potentially Language, the rest of the settings are not really useful, or redirect to Android Marshmallow Settings.

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Notably, you’ll to select Display Output option there to change the HDMI resolution. My box was setup to 720p60 by default, but I had no problems changing it to 3840x2160p-60 (YCbCr420).

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Here’s the full list of options per resolution:

  • Auto
  • 4096x2160p 60 (YCbCr420)/ 50 (YCbCr420) / 30 / 25 / 24
  • 3840x2160p 60 (YCbCr420)/ 50 (YCbCr420) / 30 / 25 / 24
  • 1920x1080p 60/50/25/24
  • 1920x1080i 60/50
  • 1360x768p 60
  • 1280x720p 60/50
  • 1024x768p-60
  • 800x600p-60
  • 720x576p-50, 720x576i-50
  • 720x480p-60

My TV does not support YCrCr444 @ 50/60 using 4K resolutions, but if your TV does, you may have a few extra options (TBC).

PCM audio output, and HDMI / optical S/PDIF audio pass-through can be configured by going to Sound & notifications, and scrolling down there until Sound Devices Manager.

But I would not even bother since it does not work at all, as we’ll see in the audio & video section of the review.

Other options found in most other recent TV boxes but missing in Yundoo Y8 are “HDR” (normal as not supported by hardware), automatic frame rate switching, and Printing.

Click to Enlarge

The TV box has plenty of storage with 27.50 GB partition. The system could only recognize the NTFS partition in my hardware, no exFAT, no EXT-4 support.

The About section shows the Android firmware relies on Linux 4.4.16, and the Android security patch level is dated August 5, 2016. The firmware is rooted by default. Wireless Update app appears to connect to an update server, but I could not verify if it is working, as the company did not provide an update to “yundoo_y8-userdebug 6.0.1 MXC89L user:arron.20170328.133704 test-keys” firmware I’ve been using for the review. The “firmware update” crashes several times again while running in the background, which pops up a window from time to time.

I tested the IR remote control up to 10 meters away, and it worked without issues. I also no trouble using the IR learning function to register my TV remote control’s power button. The big downside has mentioned previously is that you can’t turn on the box with the remote control, only with the power button.

I could install all apps I needed for review via Google Play and Amazon Underground stores.

Beside not being able to turn on the device with the remote control, power handling is implemented properly. You can go into and out of standby with a short press of the remote control’s power key, and a long press will show a menu with Power off and reboot options. I measured power consumption with or without a USB hard drive attached in power off, standby, and idle modes:

  • Power off – 0.0 Watt
  • Standby – 3.0 Watts
  • Idle – 4 to 4.3 Watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.0 Watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 5.2 Watts with HDD LED on.
  • Idle + USB HDD – 6.0 Watts

I did not notice any obvious throttling during use, and after playing a 2-hour video in TVMC, I measured maximum temperatures of 52 and 51°C on the top and bottom of the case respectively with an IR thermometer. After playing Riptide GP2 for 15 minutes, the temperatures were 49 and 55°C. CPU-Z did not report a realistic value for the thermal sensor (26 °C).

Overall Yundoo Y8 left me with a positive impression at first with very good performance, fast boot times, and good stability. The main disappointment was the inability to turn on the box with the remote control, and to a lesser extend, I found the firmware update app crashing a few times a day a bit annoying, and the settings are not user-friendly, and missing a few parts that you’d normally take for granted like Printing support, and automatic frame rate switching.

Audio & Video Playback in TVMC (Kodi fork), DRM Info

TVMC media center is a fork of Kodi 16.1.

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I played all videos from a SAMBA share over Gigabit Ethernet, unless otherwise noted.

Starting with some Linaro media samples and Elecard H.265 samples :

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK
  • WebM / VP8 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK

Not bad, and all videos were played with RKCodec, meaning hardware video decoding. Automatic frame rate switching is not working, so you can’t expect perfectly fluid videos for 24 fps videos unless you manually change the resolution.

I tested videos with various bitrates:

  • ED_HD.avi (MSMPEG4vs – 10 Mbps) – OK (software decode)
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Not perfectly smooth
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

Audio supports looks promising when we look at Audio output settings in TVMC with TrueHD and DTS-HD part of the options.

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However, the actual results clearly show the mini PC is not capable of leveraging any AV receiver or amplifier you may have, and now it’s only suitable for stereo audio.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(TVMC)
PCM 2.0 Output
(Video & Video Player app)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
HDMI Pass-through
(Video & Video Player app)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, video 1:1 aspect ratio Audio OK, video 1:1 aspect ratio No audio, video 1:1 aspect ratio. No audio, video 1:1 aspect ratio.
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK No audio No audio
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK No audio Loud noise (like helicopter)
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK No audio Loud noise
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK No audio Loud noise
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio No audio Loud noise
DTS HD Master OK OK No audio Loud noise
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK No audio No audio
DTS:X OK OK No audio Loud noise (never ending flatulence)

4K videos fare better, although more work is needed:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Watchable, but not perfectly smooth
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK, but could be a little smoother
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC, 24 fps) – Plays, but not that smooth
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Very low frame rate (software decode)
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – The video somewhat plays but with a large audio delay  (4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by RK3399 VPU)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – OK (hardware decode)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – SAMBA: Not 100% smooth; USB hard drive playback: OK
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – Not smooth at all, massive artifacts
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Not smooth at all, massive artifacts

Several videos are not quite as fluid as they could be, but a good point if 4K H.264 Hi10p video support, that the vast majority of other hardware platforms cannot handle. TVMC does not support VP9 hardware decoding, so I played the videos in Video Player instead:

  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – OK, and one of the best playback experience I’ve had with that video, although I’ve still noticed a few tiny slowdowns at times.

Sintel Blu-Ray ISO file could play fairly well. AMAT ISO blu-ray file started in the menu, and I could start playing the video, but for whatever reason audio switches quickly and repeatedly between the AC3 and TrueHD audio track, so I did not get any audio at all. Other videos with multiple audio tracks did not have this issue.

Two 1080i MPEG-2 video could play just fine. Since I was pleasantly surprised to see 4K 10-bit H.264 video playback working, I was hopefully with lower resolution videos, but I did not turn out that way.

  • Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – OK for video, audio and subtitles
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – Crashes TVMC app (tried 3 times).

I’m assuming RK3399 VPU does not like “16 ref” in the 1080p video.  I tried to disable hardware acceleration in the settings, but RKcodec seems to be hard-coded in the app, so it did not change anything. If I play Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu video with “Video Player” app, all I get is a still image with the audio playing in the background for a while. I installed MX Player to work around the issue. I enabled the SW decoder in the app, and Rockchip RK3399 CPU was powerful enough to play the 1080p hi10p video smoothly with video, audio, and subtitles. In an ideal world, TVMC should detect if a video has a problem, and automatically fallback to software decoding…

I played some stereoscopic 3D videos to find out if they could be decoded as LG 42UB820T – the TV I use for review – does not support 3D:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Playing with lots of artifact (No dual 4K decoder required for 3D 4K in RK3399).
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

I completed TVMC/Kodi testing by playing full length movies with various container/codec combinations such as VOB, IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4, and DivX, and all played. The 2-hour video test also completed with any issues. You’ll find all samples mentioned above in the video samples post.

Both YouTube TV and YouTube Mobile apps are installed, and both work very well, as long as you close your eyes. If you happen to open your eyes by mistake, you’ll find out videos are all played at around 10 to 15 fps. So YouTube is not really usable to play videos with the current firmware..

DRM Info shows no DRM is supported whatsoever.

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Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’ve already tested Gigabit Ethernet in RK3399 benchmarks post with iperf, and performance is excellent (881 Mbps upload, 939 Mbps download). But I’ve repeated the test to copy a 885 MB file from SAMBA to the flash and vice versa. The average file copy transfer rate is 11.57 MB/s, but there’s a big difference between download speed (18.06 MB/s) and upload speed (8.5 MB/s). So I guess there may be a problem with SAMBA in Android 6.0 since it happens with other boxes with this operating system too.

Throughput in MB/S – Click to Enlarge

I repeated the test with a a 278MB file using ES File Explorer to test 802.11ac WiFi performance. Average: 1.6 MB/s; download:  3.2 MB/s; upload: 1.09 MB/s.

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

It does not look too good on the chart, but the main problem here appears to be related to SAMBA performance, and iperf shows about the same 802.11 WiFi performance in either direction.

WiFi download:

WiFi upload:

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I manage to pair Yundoo Y8, shown as “TV Box”, with my Vernee Apollo Lite Android smartphone, but only from the smartphone, as originating pairing from  the TV box would lead to an “Invalid key” error. Once pairing was successful, I could transfer three photos from my phone to the box over Bluetooth. I used  X1T bluetooth earbuds to listen to audio while watching some YouTube videos (@ 10 fps), and managed to get my PS3 Bluetooth gamepad clone working with Sixaxis app.

Storage

As we’ve previously seen, file systems support is limited to NTFS, and FAT32.

File System Read Write
NTFS OK OK
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
exFAT Not mounted Not mounted
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK

Storage performance was tested with A1 SD bench app, and performance on the NTFS partition of my USB 3.0 hard drive was very good @ about 95 MB/s for sequential reads, and 54 MB/s for sequential writes.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

The internal storage did not work so well because of a cache read, but for reference the values were: 147.17 MB/s for seq. read, and 49.32 MB/s for seq. write. Nevertheless, the 32GB used in the TV box has pretty good performance  – despite being the lowest end 32GB eMMC flash from Samsung -, and I did not notice any slowdowns and the dreaded “app is not responding” window during use. If you purchase Yundoo Y8 with a 16GB flash expect lower storage performance, but I’m not convinced it would lower the performance much.

Read & Write Speed in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

I still included the device in the chart above, but keep in mind that the blue (Read) should be shorter than on the chart.

Gaming

Beside getting two fast ARM Cortex A72 cores, Rockchip RK3399 SoC also comes with Mali-T760MP4 GPU that’s almost twice as fast as the most popular TV box solutions such as Amlogic S912. I’ve started with easy game to check there was no bug in that early hardware, and Candy Crush Saga & Beach Buggy Racing easily passed the test, with the latter playing very smoothly even with maximum graphics settings. But even other platforms can manage that. So I switched to Riptide GP2, and to my surprise performance, in terms of frame per second, did not feel any better than on lower end TV boxes, although I could see a few more details, like crowds, in the game. That’s a different result compared to Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced with Mediatek MT8693 Cortex A72/A53 processor + PowerVR GX6250 GPU, where I experienced both better quality/more details, and a much higher frame rate. 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme benchmark results are quite similar in both platforms (9,xxx points), so I wonder if this could be software problems, or possibly to game added too many details on that processor. I also switched video output from 4K to 1080p, but it did not make any difference.

I played Riptide GP2 for over 15 minutes, and performance was stable and constant throughout.

Yundoo Y8 Benchmarks

I’ve already run several benchmarks, and invite you to read “Yundoo Y8 Rockchip RK3399 TV Box System Info and Benchmarks” for details.

Conclusion

Yundoo Y8 mini PC works reasonably well, and you’ll get a boost in performance while doing tasks like web browsing. 3D graphics performance looks very good in benchmark, but somehow it did not translate into better performance in the games I’ve tried. Storage (both USB 3.0 + internal), and networking performance (WiFi + Gigabit Ethernet) are all very good, so we have a good hardware base here. People mostly wanting a TV box to play videos may be disappointed, as it may not be worth to pay extra, as while most videos are playing in TVMC (Kodi 16.1 fork), features like automatic frame rate switching and audio pass-through are not working at all, and the hardware does not come with HDR support.

PROS

  • Powerful hardware with firmware relatively stable and responsive at this early stage
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4096x2160p 60Hz; 24/25/30/50/60 Hz refresh rates supported
  • 10-bit H.265 and 10-bit H.264 (hi10p) video supported in TVMC up to 4K resolutions. 4K VP9 well supported in Video Player app.
  • Excellent networking performance for Gigabit Ethernet, and good 802.11ac WiFi performance
  • USB 3.0 storage delivers the expected performance
  • Fast internal storage (32GB version) lead to fast boot and app loading times
  • Good 3D graphics performance as reported in benchmarks
  • Power implementation is OK: 0 watt in power off mode; off/reboot/standby selection possible.
  • OTA firmware update appears to have been implemented (but not used in the first released of the firmware on March 28th)

CONS (and bugs)

  • TVMC/Kodi issues
    • no support for automatic frame rate switching
    • audio pass-through does not work at all
    • VP9 HW decode is not supported
    • Some videos are not as smooth as usual
    • no zoom option while playing videos.
  • Audio pass-through does not work in other video apps either (after enabling HDMI bitstream)
  • YouTube (TV & Mobile) apps can not play any video smoothly (maybe ~10 fps)
  • The remote control cannot be used to turn on the TV box
  • 3D graphics performance in games not as good as expected (compared to Mi Box 3 Enhanced).
  • System Update app crashes several times a time
  • Settings – Settings App lacks options, so we need to go to Android Settings to set HDMI output, Audio device, etc… Printing option is also gone.
  • Some potential issues with SAMBA performance, especially upload.

I’d like to thank GearBest for sending a sample for review, and you could purchase the mini PC on their website for $109.99 with coupon GBYDY8, or $90 with coupon GBYDY816 for the 2GB/16GB version. I could not find other websites with the device.

Wandboard QuadPLUS Development Board Gets i.MX 6QuadPlus Processor, 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1

April 16th, 2017 13 comments

The first Wandboard development boards launched in 2012 nearly 5 years ago based on Freescale i.MX6 Solo and Dual processor, with Wandboard Quad launched a few months later. The boards were fairly popular at the time due to their better specifications, and especially Freescale’s much better documentation and software compared to the competition such as Broadcom (Raspberry Pi) and Allwinner (Cubieboard). Since the boards are based on TechNexion EDM system-on-modules they could also be used by companies working on their own products based on the system-on-module. It’s also a good platform if you want to test various version of Android, because the company released Jelly Bean, Kitkat, Lollipop, and Marshmallow images for the boards, and I’m expecting a Lollipop version soon.

However, albeit the company worked on other NXP boards such as PICO-IM6UL Android Things, there had not been any hardware upgrade for Wandboard for nearly 4 years, but last month Wandboard QuadPLUS was released with NXP i.MX 6QuadPlus processor boasting a faster GC2000+ GPU, an upgrade to 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity, the addition of a power management IC, and a fix for HDMI EDID + CEC.

Wandboard QuadPLUS without Heatsink – Click to Enlarge

Wandboard QuadPLUS board specifications:

  • SoC – NXP i.MX 6QuadPlus quad core Cortex A9 processor @ 1.0 GHz + Vivante GC2000+ 3D GPU + Vivante GC355 + Vivante GC320 2D compositor
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM
  • Storage – 2x micro SD card slot + SATA connector
  • Video Output – HDMI with CEC
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, S/PDIF (optical), 3x 3.5mm jacks for Line In, Line Out, and Mic In.
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet (Atheros AR8035) + Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac + Bluetooth 4.1 (Broadcom BCM4339)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port, + 1x mini USB OTG port
  • Debug – 1x RS232 port; UART & JTAG via through holes
  • Expansion Headers
    • 4x 20-pin headers with GPIO, I²C, PWM, SATA, SPI, UART…
    • 4-lane MIPI CSI connector
  • Power Supply – 5V DC via power barrel (5.5/2.1mm) ; NXP MMPF0100 PMIC
  • Dimensions – 95 mm x 95 mm
  • Weight – 100 grams

Beside Android, the board can also run Ubuntu, and Linux built with the Yocto Project. The company also introduced an official camera module for the board with CAM-OV5645 module based on Omnivision OV5645, and supported in Linux 4.1.15 and greater.

Wandboard QuadPLUS is sold for $139, CAM-OV5645 camera module for $25 directly on TechNexion website. The price of older boards have also been reduced by $10. You’ll find more details on Wandboard.org with firmware and source code downloads, a Wiki page, and forums, but most information has not been updated to include QuadPLUS board.

Thanks to Fran for the tip.

New Espressif ESP32 Single and Dual Core Processors in 5x5mm Package, Optional Embedded Flash Coming Soon

April 4th, 2017 8 comments

Espressif ESP32 was launched last year as a dual core Tensila processor with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, relying on external flash for storage, and packaged into a QFN48 6x6mm package. Espressif recently updated ESP32 datasheet, and the guys at ESP32net noticed three new versions of the processor with a QFN48 5x5mm package, one version including 2 MBytes embedded flash, and another version with a single core.

The three new versions of ESP32 all come with the same WiFi 802.11b/g/n ad Bluetooth 4.0 LE connectivity and a QFN 5×5:

  • ESP32-D0WD dual core processor without embedded flash
  • ESP32-D2WD dual core processor with 16 Mbit embedded flash
  • ESP32-S0WD single core processor without embedded flash

ESP32-D0WD different with ESP32-D0WDQ6 is only the smaller package, while ESP32-D2WD brings 2MB embedded flash too possibly lowering the price of current solution with external flash, and ESP32-S0WD might be closer to ESP8266 price thanks to its single core, while still offering Bluetooth Smart support on top of WiFi.

Other interesting – but so far unused – parts of the nomenclature are that future ESP32 version may support 802.11a (AFAIK no that commonly used), as well as 802.11ac for higher WiFi throughput, which would also mean a dual band (2.4 / 5GHz) ESP32 processor (ESP32-D0CD or ESP32-D2CD) might be manufactured in the future.

Thanks to Nanik for the tip.

Categories: Espressif Tags: 802.11ac, ble, esp32, espressif, IoT, wifi

MINIX NEO U9-H Media Hub Review – Part 2: Android 6.0 Firmware & Kodi 17

March 1st, 2017 32 comments

MINIX NEO U9-H is the successor of MINIX NEO U1 media hub with an upgrade from four to eight cores with Amlogic S912 processor, as well as added support for VP9 and HDR. The company sent me a sample, and I’ve already checked out NEO U9-H hardware in the fist part of the review, so I’ll report by testing results in Android 6.0 and Kodi 17 in the second part. Since the user interface & many of the features have not changed, I’ll refer to MINIX NEO U1 review from time to time.

Click to Enlarge

First Boot, OTA Firmware, Settings and First Impressions

I connected the MINIX A3 air mouse RF to one of the USB port, a USB 3.0 hard drive to another, and a USB hub to the last one with Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, a USB keyboard to take screenshots for the review, and a USB webcam. There’s also micro USB port, which you could use with the provided USB OTG adapter, but I have not used it. Last I also added USB powered speakers to the USB hub, and connected them to the 3.5mm audio jack. I also connected HDMI and optical audio cable to Onky TX-NR636 AV receiver, and an Ethernet cable to a Gigabit Ethernet swtich. Finally, I added the provided 5V/3A power supply, and pressed the power button on to start it all up. A typical boot takes around 30 seconds, and the first time, you’ll be asked to select between MINIX METRO or Launcher3 “Homes”.

I prefer MINIX METRO (below) as it’s more suited to larger screens, especially when you sit several meters from the TV. It’s the same launcher which I already described in MINIX NEO U1, except possibly for the weather indicator in the time/date window, and the mass storage devices ‘ Label is shown on the top right corner. I’d wish the WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth,and VPN icons on the top left were clickable, but they are not.

Click for Original Size

Launcher3 is basically the launcher you’d get with stock Android plus MINIX background image. You’ll also notice the larger mouse pointer which makes it convenient to use several meters away.

Click for Original Size

The box comes with some pre-installed apps like ES File Explorer, Kodi, YouTube, Google Play, AirDroid, MINIX Power Menu & System update apps, YouTube, Skype,  and so on.

MINIX has supported OTA firmware updates in all of their devices, so I tried with System Update app, but I could not test it there was no update to MHC16G20170216 firmware at the time.If you want to get an idea of how long you may expect to get firmware update, you can look at the forum for older products such as MINIX NEO X8-H. Eleven firmware updates have been released with the first “stock” firmware released on November, 2014 and the last (FW011) firmware released in January 2017, so it has been supported for over 2 years so far.

The Settings app is the same as with other Amlogic devices, and similar to MINIX NEO U1, so I’ll focuses on different and/or specific features.

Click to Enlarge

Once you enter the Display menu, you’ll find some typical features as well as  “Force RGB output” which may solve color / pink screen issues with some older TV, and HDR specific to Amlogic S905X/S912 processor.

If you enter the Audio settings, you’ll get options to select PCM, HDMI or SPDIF audio (pass-through), as usual, but there’s  also the Device Manager menu to select audio input and output devices.

In my setup I had three input device to choose from: on-board Mic input (3.5mm mic jack), USB-Audio – SAGE AiR Mouse (MINIX A3), and USB-Audio – Venus USB 2.0 camera, which will be important for voice commands, and video conferencing.

The output devices selection will be less useful for most people, as you can only select Auto or HDMI, as 3.5mm audio jack and S/PDIF are all outputted at the same time, and, only USB devices such as a USB sound card will show up.

You also have the same HDMI CEC, Playback settings and power key definition (standby or power off) as in MINIX NEO U1. There are three options for HDMI self-adaptation (automatic frame rate switching):

  • OFF – no processing
  • Level 1 – 23.976fps videos are processed under 1080p60Hz mode;
  • Level 2 – Switching TV’s output according to source video fps

If you go to Advanced Settings you’ll reach Android Marshmallow settings, and the main difference compared to competing Amlogic TV box, but already present on MINIX NEO U1 are “MCU settings” where you can enable autostart (no need to press power button), RTC alarm, and upgrade the MCU firmware.If we go into the Storage & USB section, we’ll find out a 10.89GB partition is available to the user, with about 1 GB used.

The system could also mount both NTFS and exFAT partitions, but not EXT-4.

If we go into About MediaBox, we’ll see the model number is indeed NEO-U9-H, and that it runs Android 6.01 on top of Linux 3.14.29 with the Android security patch dated on August 1st, 2016. The firmware is not rooted, but if that’s something you need I’m pretty sure a method will show on the forums in due time, although I’d prefer a switch in Android option to root and unroot the box as needed.

I shortly testing MINIX IR remote control and it worked at least for up to 10 meters. However, I really recommend getting MINIX A3, or if you don’t need voice input, MINIX A2 Lite air mouse, as it makes a big difference when using various Android apps. If you already own a box with MINIX A2 Lite air mouse, don’t worry that it will interface with MINIX A3 and control two devices at the same time, as my A2 Lite would not work with my A3 USB dongle. Voice input works fine as tested with Voice Search app. Press the microphone key on the remote to enable it, and you can now use “OK Google”, as you’d do on your smartphone. Just make sure Audio device input is set to the remote control. If you want to turn off the microphone, simply press the microphone key on the remote control. MINIX NEO A2 worked well up to 10 to 12 meters, and I could even see the mouse cursor at that distance.

I could install all apps I needed through Google Play, and the free version of Riptide GP2 via Amazon Underground. However, when I tried the free version of Riptide GP: Renegade it to “update your Amazon App to Amazon Underground to start experiencing actually free”. I had already isntall it, but clicked on Update Now anyway, and after update I had the exact same error message.

Click to Enlarge

That’s probably an issue with Amazon itself than with the box.

Power handling appears to be implemented exactly the same way as MINIX NEO U1, so you can go into standby, reboot, or power off the device with the remote control, or the power button. You can also power the device back on using either the IR remote control or MINIX A3 air mouse.

Power consumption is also similar to the previous model, as measured with or without hard drive using a power meter:

  • Power off – 0.1 Watt
  • Standby – 0.4 to 1.1 Watts (most of the time on 0.4)
  • Idle – 3.0 Watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.1 Watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 1.2 Watts with the HDD LED off. Be patient it may take about one minute to reach this power level with a hard drive connected.
  • Idle + USB HDD – 5.0~5.4 Watts

As expected, MINIX NEO U9-H dissipate power well thanks to its large heatsink. I measured 36°C and 37°C respectively on the top and bottom of the case after Antutu 6.0, and the temperature went up to 44°C and 49°C after playing a 2-hour 1080p H.264 video in Kodi, and 47°C and 54°C after playing and Beach Buggy Racing & Riptide GP2 for around 30 minutes. I quickly went to CPU-Z after exiting the game, and found the CPU temperature was 71°C.

So my first experience with MINIX NEO U9-H was even better than the very good one I had with MINIX NEO U1, since some of the bugs found the first firmware for the previous model, e.g. device stuck in standby mode, video output falling back from 4K @ 60 Hz to 1080p60 from time to time…, could not be reproduced with the new model.

Video & Audio Playback with Kodi 17.1-RC1, DRM Info

MINIX recommends the use of their XBMC MINIX Edition fork of Kodi for MINIX NEO U1, but with their new model, the company told me Kodi 17 worked well in U9-H, so I just use the pre-installed version: Kodi 17.1-RC1.

Click to Enlarge

I’m tested various video container formats, and video/audio codec playing files from a SAMBA share via (Gigabit Ethernet), unless otherwise noted.

Linaro media samples and some Elecard H.265 samples could also play fine except for VP8 1080p sample:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK
  • WebM / VP8 480p/720p – OK; 1080p: Not perfectly smooth (Note: software decode)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK

I also enabled automatic frame rate switching in Kodi and Android settings (HDMI Self-adaption level 3), and it worked very well, which I think is a first amond the 8 or 9 Amlogic S912 I’ve tested so far.

Next up are some videos with various bit rates:

  • ED_HD.avi – Not smooth at all
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – First time: image freezes after a few seconds; second try: OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Not perfectly smooth
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

So the Jellyfish video plays better than in MINIX NEO U1 (Amlogic S905), but some other problems have showed up with other videos.

I’ve then checked out audio capabilties of the TV box with PCM (stereo) output, as well as HDMI and S/PDIF pass-through in Kodi. I also tested PCM (downmix) with MX Player to make sure those DTS and Dolby licenses are indeed valid for any apps. I could configure Kodi to pass-through AC3, E-AC3, DTS, TrueHD, and DTS-HD.

Click to Enlarge

MINIX NEO U1 did not support DTS-HD when it launched in December 2015 (firmware updates have fixed that), but MINIX NEO U9-H passed most tests just fine.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MX Player / Video Player app)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
S/PDIF Pass-through
(Kodi)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D+ 7.1) OK (Dolby D+ 7.1)
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio OK (TrueHD 5.1) Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF, and will show as PCM 2.0 or Dolby D 5.1 depending on whether AC3 transcoding is enabled in Kodi
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK Switch to AC3 audio track (beep), as TrueHD is not supported TrueHD 7.1*
DTS HD Master OK OK OK (DTS-HD Master) OK (DTS 5.1)
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK OK (DTS-HD HR) OK (DTS 5.1)
DTS:X OK OK DTS-HD Master* OK (DTS 5.1)

* My AV receiver (Onkyo TX-NR636) does not support Atmos nor DTS:X, so the fallback to respectively TrueHD and DTS HD Master is normal. So overall HDMI and optical S/PDIF pass-through is working well with my test samples, downmixing from Dolby Digital and DTS to stereo audio works, and the only problem is the lack of downmixing of Dolby TrueHD / Atmos audio in video apps that respect Dolby & DTS licenses.

4K video can now be played pretty well in Kodi, almost as well as with MX Player:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC, 24 fps) – Not smooth at all, and the problem gets worse when automatic frame rate switching is enabled.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK, but it played for about 2 seconds, then buffered for a few more seconds before resuming playback normally
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – The video plays in slow motion (4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by S912 VPU)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Plays at around 2 fps (as expected since it uses software decode as S912 does not support 10-bit H.264)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – USB hard drive playback: Not smooth
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays, but not always perfectly smooth as with all Amlogic S912 TV boxes.

It’s all good, except for one 10-bit H.265 video that won’t play smoothly at all. Other problems are related to limitation of Amlogic S912 processor like the lack of support for 10-bit H.264, and 4K H.264 is limited to 30 fps, and very high bitrate videos (~240 Mbps) cannot be played smoothly.

Sintel and AMAT ISO blu-ray files and 1080i MPEG videos could play just fine. Lower resolution Hi10p (10-bit H.264) could play, but 1080p was not that smooth:

  • Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – OK for video, audio and subtitles
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – OK for audio and susbtitles, but the video was not smooth

While my TV (LG 42UB820T) does not support 3D, but I played some stereoscopic 3D videos to find out if they could be decode:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Stays in UI
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Some movies fron my library with various container/codec combination such as VOB, IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4 and MKV could all play just fine. However, I noticed some micro audio cuts in some videos with AC3 and HDMI audio pass-through enabled. I could not reproduce the issue with all videos, and using optical S/PDIF instead of HDMI solved the issue. Finally, I could play a complete 2-hour video. You’ll be all sample mentioned above here.

I’ve decided not to report Antutu Video Tester in my reviews, since Antutu appears to have stopped development, and the app has been removed from Google Play.

DRM Info results are however quite interesting.

Click to Enlarge

MINIX NEO U9-H supports both Widevine K1 and Microsoft Playready DRM, which means you could get full HD and 4K UHD resolution for some premium apps. However, it is not a certified Netflix device, so if you install Netflix app from Google Play, you’d still be limited to standard definition. However, as previously reported, you should be able to install a Netflix apk that allows HD resolution for any Widevine L1 capable device. I don’t have a Netflix account, so I have not tested myself. YouTube is working fine up to 1080p.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’ve transfered a 278MB file between a network share (SAMBA) and the internal flash for three times using ES File Explorer, and averaged the results in order to evaluate WiFi performance, testing both 802.11ac and [email protected] GHz. Results are sadly underwhelming. [Update: WiFI performance is OK, but WiFi + SAMBA performance suffers. That’s likely an Amlogic Android SDK issue. See comments]

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

I’ve highlighted both MINIX NEO U1 and NEO U9-H results in the chart above as they make use of the same Ampak module for WiFi, but I got much different results, despite the same testing conditions.

802.11ac performance was 2.3 MB/s on average, and 802.11n achieved 1.5 MB/s both of which are below average, but consistent with the performance I got with other Amlogic S912 devices.  The chart however makes it worse than it really is, because download speed was 5.6 MB/s for 802.11ac, and 2.1 MB/s for 802.11n, with upload transfer rate being much lower, and causing the average to be rather low. Note that WiFi results may vary a lot depending on your setup.

I repeated the same file transfer, but with a 885MB file, for Gigabit Ethernet, and the average performance (10.05 MB/s) is somewhat OK, but I got the same behavior as with MINIX NEO U1 with the transfer much faster for download (16.4MB/s) , and slower for upload (7.64 MB/s).

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Since in most case the eMMC flash is the bottleneck for file transfers over Gigabit Ethernet, I also ran iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d to test raw dual duplex performance, and it’s not too bad:

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

MINIX NEO U9-H advertises itself properply as NEO U9-H, and not some other funny code, and I had no problems pairing it with Vernee Apollo Lite Android smartphone, and could transfer a few photos. I could also connect X1T bluetooth earbuds and used it while watching some YouTube videos. I skipped Sixaxais app testing (for PS3 gamepads) since the firmware is not rooted.

Storage

My USB hard drive has four partitions for NTFS, EXT-4, exFAT and BTRFS, and only the NTFS/exFAT partitions could be mounted. A FAT32 micro SD card could also be mounted

File System Read Write
NTFS OK OK
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
exFAT OK OK
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK

USB storage performance was tested with A1 SD bench app, and read performance was very good (for a USB 2.0 port) with both file systems, but as usual exFAT is very slow to write to @ 6.66 MB/s.

The results were very good for the internal storage with 119.86MB/s read speed and 45.99 MB/s write speed. Note that the read speed is cached, meaning it should be faster than if read directly on the storage device itself, but probably not that different considering theoretical read speed is 285 MB/s for the flash, probably lower for the eMMC controller in Amlogic S912.

Internal Storage Read & Write Speed in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Overall I found that applications started fast, and I had no slowdown or “app not responding” due to I/O access to the eMMC flash.

USB Webcam

I connected the UVC webcam to the box shown in the first picture of this review, logged in to Skype, and successfully run the Echo/Service audio call test, and made a video calls. I had problems last year for MINIX NEO U1 on Google Hangouts, but NEO U9-H works perfectly well with Google Hangouts.

Gaming

Amlogic S912 is know a well known platform, as gaming works just as well as on other devices, if not better since cooling is well implemented.  First, I played Candy Crush Saga with NEO A2 air mouse, and switch to Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad to play Beach Buggy Racing using maximum graphics settings. Both games played perfectly smoothly. As with other Amlogic S912, Riptide GP2 is a bit more demanding, playing very smoothly with default settings, the framerate felt lower with maximum graphics settings, probably around 25 fps most of the time, with some drops to ~15 fps from time to time.

I also played both 3D racing games for a total of 30 minutes, and performance was constant throughout, meaning the large heatsink is doing its job in preventing CPU and/or GPU throttling.

MINIX NEO U9-H Benchmarks

CPU-Z correctly reports an octa-core Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.51 GHz with a Mali-T820 GPU. The model number is NEO-U9-H (q200), with 10.89 GB internal storage, 14790 MB RAM, and a framebuffer resolution set to 1920×1080.

Click to Enlarge

The first time I ran Antutu 6.x, the device achieved about 38,500 points quite lower than 41,000+ points I got in most other Amlogic S912 TV boxes. I ran it a short time after boot, so maybe there was background tasks at the time, I retried later, I got a 40,543 points, more in line with other competing TV boxes.

I also ran Vellamo 3.x benchmark to double check for issues.

MINIX NEO U9-H achieved 1,239 points, 912 points and 2,338 points for respectively multicore, metal and Chrome Browser tests, which compares to 1,130, 1,012 points and 2,758 points (Not Chrome Browser, Stock Browser). Multicore results has a yellow mark because it failed one of the test, just like M12N, but not other Amlogic S912 boxes:

Sysbench issue with Finepar: Invalid CPU mode

Conclusion

MINIX did again a good job with MINIX NEO U9-H thanks to very good hardware, stable & responsive firmware implementation, working smoothly at all times thanks to good thermal design. 4K video playback works well, I think it’s the first time I see automatic frame rate switching work on Amlogic S912 processor,  and audio pass-through is working fine with TrueHD and DTS-HD. The first version of the firmware also has less bugs than the one I reviewed on MINIX NEO U1 media hub, and slightly better performance. NEO U9-H also adds new features such as HDR, 4K VP9 decoding, Dolby & DTS license used for audio downmixing in all apps, and DRM Widevine Level 1 + Microsoft PlayReady. The only real downside compared to NEO U1 is that WiFi performance is not quite as good, despite using the same Ampak wireless module.

PROS

  • Stable and responsive Android 6.0 OS
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 2160p 60Hz; 24/25/30/50/60 Hz refresh rates supported; HDR should be supported too (not tested)
  • Very good Kodi 17 support with 4K H.265 (10-bit), VP9 and H.264 video playback,automatic frame rate switching
  • Dolby 5.1, Dolby+7.1, DTS HD and TrueHD audio pass-through working via HDMI and S/PDIF (for supported formats).
  • Dolby & DTS license means those audio formats work in all apps.
  • Well implemented power handling with off/standby/reboot mode, managed via an upgradable MCU, low off and idle power consumption
  • Widevine L1 and MicroSoft PlayReady DRM suppored
  • USB webcam working with Skype and Google Hangouts
  • OTA firmware upgrade with frequent update expected (based on previous models history)
  • Active support forums

CONS (and bugs)

  • Some videos with AC3 have micro audio cuts when HDMI pass-through is enabled, at least on my AV receiver. The problem goes away via optical S/PDIF
  • TrueHD dowmixing to stereo audio did not work in MX Player and Video Player apps.
  • WiFi performance is below average for both 802.11n and 802.ac, but similar to other Amlogic S912 TV boxes. Your mileage may vary. [Update: See comments’ section. WiFi performances looks, but combining SAMBA + WiFi is problematic. Likely an Amlogic Android 6.0 SDK issue]
  • List of apps shown in chronological order instead of alphabetical
  • A few videos do not play smoothly in Kodi but should: VP8 @ 1080p, one 10-bit HEVC video with no audio, “elephant dream” sample, “HD DVD” sample.
  • Potential buffering issue with some rare videos – Starts fast, plays for 1 or 2 seconds, buffers for 10 seconds then play again normally

If you’re going to spend the money on MINIX NEO U9-H, I really recommend you add NEO A2 Lite or NEO 3 air mouse, with the latter adding microphone input. Both air mice have the same design, feel comfortable in your hand, and work well as remote control, air mouse, and keyboard, as long as it’s for typing short texts like search query, user name / password, etc…

If you already own MINIX NEO U1, there’s probably little reason to upgrade, as performance will feel similar, except if you need 4K VP9, HDR, Widevine L1, or/and Microsoft PlayReady DRM support.

MINIX NEO U9-H media hub + NEO A3 air mouse sell for $159.90 / 149.90 GBP on Amazon US and Amazon UK, and are listed on GeekBuying, GearBest, and other online retailers with sales starting officially on March 3rd outside of Amazon.

Ebox T8 V Octa-Core Android TV Box Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, EBMC, and Benchmarks

January 25th, 2017 1 comment

EBox T8 V (version 5) is the new EntertainmentBox.com  TV box specially geared towards the UK market with its choice of apps and online shop based in the United Kingdom. It’s an upgrade to EBox T8-4 I reviewed last year, replacing Amlogic S905 quad core processor by Amlogic S912 octa-core processor, but keeping most of the same features including the SATA bay and EBox user interface. Since we’ve already checked out the hardware, likely based on Zoomtak U Plus, I’ll focus on the firmware in the second part. It will be a shorter reviewed than usual since I have already tested many Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and I’ll refer to T8-4 review when the user interface is identical, and instead focus on what has changed, and the usual suspects like audio pass-through, 4K video playback, DRM support, WiFi performance, etc…

EBox T8 V Setup Wizard, Setup, OTA Firmware Update, and Default Apps

I had already plugged the provided 1TB SATA drive into the device during the unboxing post, but I’ve also connected another USB hard drive, as well as HDMI and Ethernet cables, the RF dongle for S77 Pro air mouse that came with the box, a USB keyboard to take screenshots, and finally the power cord.

Click to Enlarge

The power button on the box should be red, so if you want to start the TV box, press the button on the box, or the power button on the IR remote control, the power button will change to blue color, and the display will show “boot”. If you want to use the air mouse to turn on the device, you’ll need to use the IR learning function to learn the power key from the IR remote control. I’ve tried and it works well. The boot normally takes around 30 to 35 seconds. Note that the boot animation includes some music, which can be annoying if other people sleep, and you forgot to turn the volume down…

The first time, you’ll go through a setup wizard for language, screen scale network, since nothing has changed here, I invite you to check EBox T8-4 Setup Wizard & Configuration section of my previous review for details.

Beginners Launcher – Click for Original Size (1920×1080)

The launcher is also the same, but you now have an option to switch between the “beginners launcher”, which includes Ebox Apps Hub and Ebox app for support, and the more barebone “experienced launcher” shown below.

Experienced Launcher – Click to Enlarge

The Experienced Launcher setting interface is exactly the same as in T8-4, but the company made another Settings app for the Beginners Launcher.

Click to Enlarge

As fas I could tell however, all settings were the same, but just presented in a different way. The Speed Test is new, but it’s just an Ookla speed test to check your ISP performance. Note my fiber optic connection is 20/10 Mbps to the bandwidth was maxed out in that test.
The Advanced icons redirect to the familiar Amlogic Settings app.

It’s also interesting to quickly check out the system info that shows the model number is q201_9377, which can be useful in case you’ll want to use an alternative firmware. Few people will likely try that, since you pay extra for firmware and support for the box.

Click to Enlarge

The list of app is what makes this box further different from the competition with UK specific apps such as BBC iPlayer, FilnOn Live, and WookieSports, with the latter not present in T8-4.

The company did not include TVCatchUp app this test, but for people who wants to watch UK programs but live outside the country, IPvanish app was added to let you setup VPN. You may want to check Installed App & IPTV streaming section in T8-4 review for details about the UK streaming apps.

Finally, I went to EBox OTA, it could find a new firmware, and the upgrade went smoothly.

Click to Enlarge

Check out OTA firmware section of my previous review for more info about that.

Power consumption is fine with 0.2W is power off mode with the two hard drives connected, and around 8 Watts at idle. The air mouse also worked well, and once you’ve programmed the IR remote control’s power button to the air mouse, you won’t need the IR remote at all. If you exclusively run Kodi (EBMC) then the IR remote control might be a little better since you can access some features like Zoom, aspect radio, and audio directly from the remote, and you won’t need a mouse pointer at any times.

The user experience of the new T8 V was very much like the one of the previous model with the firmware working well, except that I had a “App not Responding” window appear twice, and the mouse cursor is quite small when you set video output to 4K.

Video and Audio Support in EBOX MC (Kodi 16.1) & DRM Info

EBOX Media Center (EBMC) is based on SMPC 16.4, itself a fork a Kodi 16.1 with optimization for Amlogic processors.

Click to Enlarge

Before playing any videos, I disabled amcodec as instructed in a paper included with EBOX T8 V package.

I also enabled automatic frame rate switching via “Adjust display refresh rate” option….

… as well as audio pass-through, with Dolby and DTS. Note that DTS-HD and TrueHD options are missing, and as we’ll see below not working, so you’d better enable Dolby Digital (AC3) Transcoding too.

I played 4K videos over a SAMBA share using Gigabit Ethernet:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) –  OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – plays, but not perfectly smoothly
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (OK, not supported by Amlogic S912)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) –  OK
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Slow motion
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK, but not perfect at all times.
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays but could be smoother

4K video playback working about as well as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, but automatic frame rate switching does not work, so if the video output is set to 4K @ 60 Hz, and you play a 24 fps video it might not be as smooth as it could be.

HDMI audio-pass through works but is limited to Dolby and DTS 5.1. Tested with Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver.

  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – OK (Dolby D 5.1)
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – OK (Dolby D 5.1)
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • TrueHD 5.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • TrueHD 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • Dolby Atmos 7.1 – PCM 2.0 with audio *
  • DTS HD Master – DTS 5.1 only
  • DTS HD HR – DTS 5.1 only
  • DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636) – DTS 5.1 only

* If you set “Dolby Digital (AC3) Transcoding” in the settings, audio will be transcoded, and output Dolby D 5.1 audio.

DRM Info – Click to Enlarge

DRM Info apps shows Widevine Level 3 is supported.

EBox T8-4 Benchmarks – Antutu, Storage and Networking

I’ve run Antutu 6.x to make sure the system did not have any issue with performance, and T8 V achieved above 41,000 points, in line with the scores of other Amlogic S912 TV Boxes.

The 1TB internal hard drive (NTFS) shipped with the device was properly recognized with performance ~30 MB/s you’d expect from USB 2.0, while my external hard drive NTFS and exFAT partition could be mounted, and also delivered as expected with the recurring low write speed (5.88 MB/s) on exFAT partitions typical of the vast majority of Android TV boxes. Note that the 44.50 MB/s read speed for the exFAT partition is likely wrong, and affected by the slow write speed.

Click to Enlarge

Internal storage performance (35.01MB/s & 12.15 MB/s) is OK without being outstanding, and works well enough.

My very first experience with WiFi did not quite go accordingly to plans, as the box hung when I enabled WiFi in the settings. My second attempts was successful with a 433 Mbps connection to my 802.11ac router. Performance was however underwhelming with an average of 2.4 MB/s transfer rate, that’s quite typical of Amlogic S905X and S912 TV boxes.

WiFi Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Conclusion

EBox T8 V offers user experience very similar to EBox T8-4, with slightly faster performance, decent 4K video playback which adds VP9 support, better support for audio pass-through albeit limited to Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, and a few pre-installed video streaming app for the UK. I did not have any issues with the internal hard drive this time, but WiFi performance is not quite as good as on EBox T8-4.

PROS

  • Stable and responsive firmware
  • Easy to setup & e thanks to setup wizard, and bundled Air mouse.
  • 4K video playback in EBMC (based on SPMC) with H.264, H.265 and VP9 well supported
  • HDMI audio pass-through working for DTS and Dolby Digital (AC3) 5.1
  • Pre-installed IPTV apps for the UK market such as BBC iPlayer and Filmon, as well as a VPN app.
  • 2.5″ internal SATA bay
  • OTA firmware update
  • Good customer support with Live chat, forums, and online documentation

CONS

  • HDMI audio pass-through does not work for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD
  • Automatic frame rate switching is not working
  • WiFi performance could be better
  • DRM support limited to Widewine Level 3
  • No Dolby and DTS licenses
  • Small mouse pointer when 4K is selected
  • Boot animation includes some music (potential issue at night).

EBox T8-4 + S77 Pro air mouse + 1 TB HDD bundle I reviewed can be purchased for 185.87 GBP including VAT (~$234 US), but you can also purchase the box with the standard IR remote control only for 104.99 GBP including VAT (~$132 US), or select other bundles with gamepad and/or wireless keyboard.

Beelink SEA TV Box with Realtek RTD1295, HDMI Input and Internal SATA Bay Sells for $105 and Up

January 24th, 2017 12 comments

I’ve already reviewed two Android TV boxes powered by Realtek RTD1295 processor, namely Zidoo X9S and EWEAT R9 Plus. They are quite interesting devices as beside supporting video & audio playback nicely (minus 4K H.264 @ 30fps), they also serve as a personal NAS thanks to their SATA interface and OpenWrt operating system running alongside Android, as well as a HDMI recorder and streamer thanks to the HDMI input. Zidoo firmware is a little better, but it only comes with external SATA, while EWEAT R9 Plus comes with a neat internal 3.5″ SATA bay inside a metal case. The downside is that it’s quite expensive at $200 shipped. If you’d like a Realtek RTD1295 solution with a SATA bay, but would like something more cost effective, Beelink SEA TV box with might be for you.

Beelink SEA specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1295 quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz with ARM Mali-T820MP3
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR4
  • Storage – 16 or 32 GB eMMC flash + SD slot up to 128GB + 2.5″ SATA bay supporting up to 6TB SATA III drives with either 7.5 or 9.5mm thickness
  • Video I/F –  HDMI 2.0a output with HDR, CEC, and HDCP 2.2 support, AV composite output, HDMI 2.0 input
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, optical S/PDIF, AV port (stereo audio)
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Misc – Power LED, RTC + battery
  • Power Supply –  12V/1.5A
  • Dimensions – 188 x 119 x 20mm

Like its competitors, the device runs Android 6.0. There’s no mention of OpenWrt at all, but I’d be surprised if they removed it from the firmware. HDMI input allows video recording, video streaming, & PiP function from a separate video source. The device ships with an IR remote control, an HDMI Cable, a power adapter, and a user’s manual in English.

Beelink SEA is now listed for pre-order on GearBest for $104.99 with 2GB RAM/16GB storage, and $114.99 in 2GB/32GB configuration. Shipping is expected to start on March 1st… You may find a few more details on Beelink SEA product page.

Mecool BB2 Pro Review – TV Box with DDR4 Memory – Part 2: Android Firmware, Benchmarks, Kodi

January 12th, 2017 10 comments

Most Android TV box comes with DDR3 or DDR3L memory, but Mecool BB2 Pro comes instead with 3GB DDR4 memory that’s supposed to offer 50% increased memory bandwidth. That’s why I was interested in reviewing the box. I’ve already checked out BB2 Pro hardware in the first part of the review, so the second part will focus on the firmware, video playback in Kodi 17, and benchmarks to find out if there’s any improvement over other Amlogic S912 using DDR3 memory. It’s not the first DDR4 box I’ve tested however, as Eweat R9 Plus powered by Realtek RTD1295 processor also included DDR4 memory, but based on my tests, there’s was no noticeable differences with Zidoo X9S based on the same processor, but with DDR3 memory. But this time, we’ll see if it is any different with Amlogic platforms.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I connect a USB 3.0 hard drive to one of the USB 2.0 port, and a USB hub to the other port with two RF dongle for an air mouse and a gamepad, as well as a USB keyboard. I completed the setup with HDMI and Ethernet cables, and finally the power supply.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The system will boot automatically when you connect the power, no need to press the power button, and the boot will typically take around 25 seconds. Please note the boot animation logo could with some music, so the boot is not silent, which may be annoying if you want to use the box while others are sleeping, and turned on the TV before the box.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The launcher will look similar to regularly readers as it’s exactly the same as the one found in K1 Plus, another TV box also made by Videostrong. The notification bar is enabled by default, but not the status bar which can be enabled in the settings. This option should really be present in all boxes.

mecool-bb2-pro-appsThe list of preinstalled apps include the Play Store, Kodi, Netflix and others. You’ll also notice Kodi Updater, an app to update the likely-custom version of Kodi used in the box.

bb2-pro-kodi-updaterMy version was Kodi 17.0-Beta3 and was the latest available at the time.

The settings are also basically the same as in K1 Plus, and other Amlogic S905/S905X/S912 TV boxes. I had no troubles using WiFi and Ethernet, and set my resolution to 4k2k-60Hz supported by LG 42UB820T Ultra HD TV. Some less common settings include RGB mode (maybe to fix some pink screen issues), and Status bar (on/off), and there are settings for HDR and HDMI self-adaptation (auto framerate switching).

The internal storage has a single unified partition with 762MB used. The total capacity is reported to be 16.00GB but that’s obviously a hard-coded value, possibly to avoid customers complaining there’s not 16GB storage in their 16GB TV box box.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The box could also mount NTFS and exFAT file systems in the USB hard drive. A FAT32 micro SD was also supported.

The “About MediaBox” section report the model number is BB2 Pro running Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29. The firmware is rooted. OTA firmware update appears to have been implement through “Update” app, but it would detect no new firmware, so I could not test it.
bb2-pro-about-mediabox Google Play Store worked just fine, except for Bluetooth LE apps such as Mi Fit or Vidonn Smartband. Albeit it should be easy to fix, this is an issue common to almost all Amlogic S912 TV boxes. I also install the free version of Riptide GP2 through Amazon Underground.

I had no troubles using the infrared remote control up to 10 meters, and the IR learning function worked too. However, I used MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse for most of the review since it’s more convenient in Android. I’d recommend an air mouse with keyboard and IR learning function (to be able to turn on the device) for the best user experience.

A short press on the power button of the remote control will trigger standby mode, while a long press will pop-up a window to confirm you confirm to power off the define. I could also restart the box from the power button from the remote and the unit.

Power consumption measured in 6 different configurations:

  • Power off – 1.0 watt
  • Standby – 1.3 watt
  • Idle – 3.0 watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 1.0 watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 1.4 watt
  • Idle + USB HDD – 4.2 watts

Idle power consumption is the same as M12N TV box, but power off power consumption is a bit on the high side possibly partially because of the red LED that is quite bright.

This time I only measured the temperature on the top of the case, as the bottom is bright and my IR thermometer reported wrong values for the bottom. The top of the case temperature was 39°C max after Antutu 6.x, and 44°C max after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 minutes. I also checked the soc-thermal value in CPU-Z after the games and it was 78°C, against around 55 °C in idle mode. Riptide GP2 played fine, but not perfectly smooth, like on other Amlogic S912 TV box, and performance was constant. I did not notice any obvious improvement over S912 TV boxes using DDR3 memory.

Mecool BB2 Pro feels like using other Amlogic S912 TV boxes with a stable firmware, and good performance overall, but again I could not really noticed any performance boost from DDR4 memory.

Video and Audio Playback with Kodi, Antutu Video Tester, and DRM info

BB2 Pro runs Kodi 17 Beta 3, or at least a custom version of it with TVaddons.org add-ons installed. I played most videos samples from a SAMBA share through Gigabit Ethernet.

4K video playback was OK, but for whatever reason I could not play any VP9 videos:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Won’t play, stays in UI.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps) – OK.
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (as expected since the VPU does not support 4K H.264 over 30 fps)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) –  OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – HDD: Slow motion, and many artifacts (Not supported by S912 VPU, software decode)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 30 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – HDD: Not smooth
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video) – Won’t play, stays in UI.
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) –Won’t play, stays in UI.

I also tried the 3 VP9 videos above with MoviePlayer with all I got was a black screen. That’s too bad, as I wanted to see if DDR4 memoryu would improve “Curvature of Earth” playback that is not 100% smooth on all other devices I’ve tested. Automatic frame rate switching is not working in Kodi, and MoviePlayer, so you won’t get perfect playback for 24 fps videos, unless you set the frame rate manually.

Audio support is not quite perfect, just like in other Amlogic S912 TV boxes I’ve tested. PCM output (stereo downsampling) works with Kodi, but not MX Player/MoviePlayer apps, and HDMI pass-through using Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver is a disaster in Kodi, and somewhat works with MoviePlayer.

Audio Codec in Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi 17 Beta 3)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MoviePlayer)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi 17 Beta 3)
HDMI Pass-through
(MoviePlayer)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK but video not smooth No audio Dolby D 5.1 (OK), but video not smooth Dolby D 5.1 – OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK Dolby D 5.1 – OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 – no audio Dolby D+ 7.1 – OK
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 – no audio TrueHD 5.1 – OK
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 – no audio TrueHD 7.1 – OK
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 Dolby D 5.1 – continuous beep
DTS HD Master OK No audio Black screen, no audio DTS 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio Black screen, no audio DTS 5.1
DTS:X OK No audio Black screen, no audio DTS 5.1

BB2 Pro got 851 in Antutu Video Tester 3.0 benchmark, a little less than in other Amlogic S912 based TV boxes.

mecool-bb2-pro-antutu-video-testerThe three videos with “partial support” are exactly the same as on other devices.
antutu-video-tester-partially-supportDRM Info app reports Widevine Level 3 DRM is supported by the device.

bb2-pro-drm-info

Click to Enlarge

Network (WiFi + Ethernet) Performance

In order to test WiFi performance, I copied a 278MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal storage – and vice versa – using ES File Explorer, both using 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, and 802.11ac (433 Mbps). The results are not that good, although download speed is quite faster than upload speed.

WiFi Throughput in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

WiFi Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge!

Sadly those poor WiFi numbers are quite typical of Amlogic S912 TV boxes. Note that download speed for 802.11ac was 5.05 MB/s on average, so not so bad, but upload speed @ ~1.5 Mb/s brought the average down significantly.

For some strange reasons Gigabit Ethernet suffered from the same issue, as transferring a 885MB file took 50 seconds to download (17.7 MB/s), but  2 minutes 18 seconds to upload back to my local server (6.41 MB/s). I’ve never seen that problem on other devices. My SAMBA server is connected via Gigabit Ethernet and uses a SATA drive (not USB) capable of 100 MB/s writes.

Trying a full-duplex transfer with iperf confirmed the issue:

Asymmetric performance happens more often with iperf since transfers occur in both direction at the same time. Nevertheless there seems to be some minor issues with Ethernet.

Storage performance

We’ve already seen the system could handle NTFS, exFAT and FAT32 file systems for external storage, so I tested the performance of both NTFS and exFAT partition on my hard drive as well as the internal memory using A1 SD bench app.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Note that both internal memory and exFAT partition had “cache reads”, which means reading operation was at least partially done from RAM. We can discard read results for both, especially since 65.71 MB/s is totally impossible over USB 2.0. What we can see however if that exFAT write speed is quite poor, but again that’s common to almost all TV boxes I’ve review. USB 2.0 NTFS partition read performance is about the best you can get through USB 2.0, and write performance is OK. The eMMC flash write speed is quite good @ 48.57 MB/s, so read speed is likely to be good too, but lower than the 104.58 MB/s reported by the app due the “cached read”.

Gaming

As I looked for benefit from DDR4 memory in this review, I was hoping that maybe games would benefit one way or other. Riptide GP2 with maximum graphics settings seemed to perform just like other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, that is… playable, but not extra smooth like on Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced for example. Performance was constant over the 15 minutes I played the game, so I did not notice any overheating and throttling issues.

Mecool BB2 Pro Benchmarks

So far I have to say I could not notice any user experience benefit from using DDR4 memory, but maybe benchmarks could give a different picture. Let’s check CPU-Z first.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The device is BB2 PRO (q20x) with 8x Cortex A53 cores @ up to 1.51 GHz and a Mali-T820 GPU as expected. Other settings are as expected, and we can see the real internal storage capacity available to the user: 11.87 GB. That’s perfectly normal once we take into account the space taken with the bootloader and Android operating system.

Then I ran Antutu 6.x and compared the results to M12N TV box benchmark results.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

BB2 Pro got 363 points extra, but we can consider both devices had about the same performance. RAM test should be interesting and BB2 Pro was about 12% faster. So maybe there’s some benefit, but very minor based on those Antutu results.
mecool-bb2-pro-vellamo
Vellam score is about the same story with BB2 Pro getting 1,488, 1,020 and 2,811 points for respectively multicore, metal, and browser tests, against 1,103 (test failed to complete), 1,052 and 2,758 points on M12N. If we discard the multicore that failed to complete on M12N, results are basically the same.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The last benchmark of this review, 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme, shows a little improvement as BB2 Pro got 6,000 points against 5,732 points for M12N. But it’s hard to tell if it is because of the DDR4 RAM, or some improvements of the GPU drivers. If we look into details of the score, most of the improvement is with the Physics score & test (9263 point / 29.4 fps vs 8163 / 25.9 fps).

Conclusion

I have not been able to find a single use case showing a clear benefit from using DDR4 memory instead of DDR3 memory. Apart from that Mecool BB2 Pro works reasonably well, it feels fast enough and the firmware is stable. However, it also comes with most of the same caveats found in other Amlogic S912 TV box, including mediocre WiFi performance, lack of HDMI audio pass-through support in Kodi (except Dolby Digital 5.1) and DTS HD 7.1 not working in the local player (MoviePlayer), automatic framerate switching not working at all, and for some reasons I could not play any VP9 in the device.

PROS

  • Responsive and stable Android 6.0 firmware
  • Acceptable 4K H.265 and H.264 video playback in Kodi 17and MoviePlayer apps
  • HDMI audio pass-through for Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1, and TrueHD 5.1 and 7.1 in MoviePlayer
  • Good internal storage performance leading to fast boot time (<25 seconds), and overall good system performance
  • exFAT, NTFS, and FAT32 file system support for external storage
  • IR remote control working up to at least 10 meters and IR learning function
  • OTA firmware update support (could not confirm whether it is working since no new firmware has been released yet)
  • Option to disable/enable status bar in settings

CONS (and bugs)

  • HDMI audio pass-through and automatic frame rate switching not working properly in Kodi, except for Dolby Digital 5.1
  • HDMI DTS-HD MA/HR 7.1 not supported in MoviePlayer (uses DTS 5.1 instead)
  • BB2 Pro firmware won’t play VP9 videos; tested with Kodi and MoviePlayer apps
  • Mediocre WiFi performance, especially for uploads. Ethernet is also somewhat slow for uploads (no problems for downloads).
  • DRM: Only supports Widevine Level 3
  • Dolby & DTS licenses not included (Only a problem for apps other than Kodi, for people not using HDMI or S/PDIF audio pass-through)
  • Power off power consumption on the high side (1 watt)
  • Boot logo includes some music (not too high volume, but it can be an issue if you start the box at night, and forgot to mute or lower the volume)
  • Google Play can’t install apps with Bluetooth LE requirement

I’d like to thank VideoStrong for providing a sample for review. Distributors and resellers may contact the company via the product page to purchase in quantities. Mecool BB2 Pro can also be purchased for $66.66 and up on Banggood, GearBest, and eBay, or  about the same as YokaTV KB2 with 3GB DDR3 instead of 3GB DDR4, but 32GB storage instead of just 16 GB, with the rest of the specifications being equal.

Xiaomi Router HD AC2600 WiFi Router Comes with up to 8TB Storage

January 6th, 2017 8 comments

Xiaomi has unveiled a new WiFi router at CES 2017. Mi Router HD is an AC2600 WiFi router that’s also use as a personal NAS with a “surveillance-class” hard drive with up to 8TB capacity.

mi-router-hd

Mi Router HD key features:

  • SoC – Qualcomm IPQ8064 quad core network processor with a dual-core Qualcomm Krait CPU @ 1.4 GHz for control plane and applications, and a dual-core 730 MHz Network Subsystem (NSS) to accelerate packet processing.
  • 4×4 multi-user 802.11ac MIMO router, supports up to 2600 Mbps transfer speeds
  • 4 high-gain PCB array antennas
  • Built-in surveillance-class hard drive of up to 8TB
  • Automatically back up all your devices, supports Time Machine
  • Automatically syncs with Dropbox
  • Integrates with Sonos audio system

The router will launch this trimester in China with either 1TB hard drive for under $200, or an 8TB hard drive for under $500. It will very likely be sold through Aliexpress, GearBest, GeekBuying and other websites to the rest of the world once it is launched.

In other news, the company also introduced an ultra thin “4.9mm” TV, which will be much more difficult to get out of China due to shipping and other logistical issues…

Via Hugo Barra on Facebook.