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Infocus CS1 A83 (C2107) Android Tablet Review

December 16th, 2014 4 comments

I’ve already shown some picture, listed specs and reported Antutu benchmark results for Infocus CS1 A83 Android tablet powered by Allwinner A83T octa core processor. I’ve been using this tablet as my main mobile device for about a week, and for about 3 to 5 hours a day, and I’m now ready to write a full review reporting my experience with this Full HD tablet.

General Impressions

I mainly use a tablet to browse the web, check emails, play some casual games like Candy Crush Saga, watch some YouTube videos, and Skype calls, and I could not really fault the tablet for any of these applications. Having said that, my reference device is only ThL W200 smartphone powered by Mediatek MT6589T processor with a 5″ display @ 1280×720, and for all the tasks listed Infocus tablet is much better because it’s more responsive, the 1920×1200 is crisp, and the cameras are working (for now). I could get a GPS fix quickly too, but GPS is something I tested thoroughly on the tablet.

Battery life is also good for my needs as a charge of the 3,550 mAh battery lasts for well over 24 hours, and takes 2 hours to complete (8% to 98%). They say the first impression is what count, and CS1 A83 (aka C2107) does a good job at that since it boots in about 15 seconds. I’ve only experienced two major annoyances with the volume down button, which requires a strong press to work, and Wi-Fi connectivity does not always work after getting out of standby, requiring a reboot. I worked around the latter issue, but setting Wi-Fi always on in the settings.

Benchmarks: Antutu, Vellamo, and 3DMark

Benchmarks are useful as a quick way to evaluate a device’s performance, but they should not be the only reason for your to buy a particular tablet, smaprthone, or any other device.

I’ve already run Antutu last week, but I’ll include it again today, which shows a score (26,000) a little  lower that what you’d get with an Amlogic S802 device (4x Cortex A9 @ 2 GHz + Mali-450MP6 GPU).

Infocus CS1 A83 Antutu Score (Click to Enlarge)

Infocus CS1 A83 Antutu Score (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve also run two more benchmark to evaluate browser, and multicore performance with Vellamo 3.1 , and 3D graphics with 3DMarks Ice Storm Extreme.

Vellamo 3.1 and Ice Storm Extreme Scores (Click to Enlarge)

Vellamo 3.1 and Ice Storm Extreme Scores (Click to Enlarge)

Vellamo Score browser score is about the same as LG Nexus 4 smartphone (Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro – APQ8064), and at 3,448 points for 3Dmark Ice Storm Extreme, InFocus C2107 is certainly not a gaming beast, but as we’ll see below it’s still very much usable.

Internal Storage and Wi-Fi Performance

Internal storage performance is important for overall system responsiveness, as for example while installing apps some system slow down considerably due to I/O activity, and for boot and app loading time. So far, InFocus CS1 A83 is the best device I’ve ever tested with regards to eMMC performance thanks to 58.87 MB/s read speed, and 29.36 MB/s write speed. Benchmark app used: A1 SD Benchmark. Please note that InFocus CS1 A83 us the only tablet in the chart below.

Infocus_C2107_Internal_Storage_Performance

Read & Write Speed in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve also tested the tablet Wi-Fi performance by transferring a 278 MB file over SAMBA using ES File Explorer. I obviously placed the tablet in the same location I normally place TV boxes and development boards.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

The tablet transferred the file at 2.72 MB/s (21.76 Mbps) on average which puts it in the middle of the pack. It’s quite possible I should not really compare Wi-Fi performance of a tablet with the one of media player, since these are different form factors. Your environment, including your router firmware, may also greatly impact the relative Wi-Fi performance between devices.

Performance is average, but I never lost Wi-Fi connectivity during active use. The first couple of dauys everything worked fine, but then I started to be unable to connect to my Wi-Fi router when getting out of stack. First I rebooted the tablet to work around the issue, but finally I went to Wi-Fi Settings-> Advanced (Via … green icon on top right),, and set “Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep” to always. This may affect battery life a little bit, but at least this annoying Wi-Fi issue went away.

Rear and Front Facing Cameras

Rear Camera

The 8MB rear camera does the job, and it clearly delivers better pictures than ThL W200 smartphone, but it struggles in low light conditions for for still pictures and videos, I suppose like most devices. I was also impressed by its ability to take close pictures such as text on books or PCBAs thanks to its autofocus, which at times takes about 1 or 2 seconds to focus. Beside slow focus, and poor quality in low light conditions, the lack of flash may be one of the main downside.

Since photos speak more than words, I’ve include photos samples, as well as video samples at night and day time which I’ve uploaded to YouTube, such make sure you watch them at the max (native resolution).

Video Samples


Other video samples:

Font-facing camera

The 2MP front facing camera is mostly used for selfies, and video conference, so I’ve taken a few close shots of pets and statues.

I’ve also use Skype with the device, and it worked as expected, although the picture is quite dark, and I have not found a way to adjust the front-facing camera brightness, so you’d have to make sure you call in a well lit environment for an optimal visual experience.

Video Playback

In order to test video playback, I simply installed Antutu Video Tester, and run to test to find out Allwinner A83T gets a very good score of 631 points which makes it close to the top of the rankings. This app uses the stock video player test audio/video codecs, and video quality.
Allwinner_A83T_AntutuVideo_Tester_1

Allwinner_A83T_Antutu_Video_Tester_2The device fails to play a realVideo 4 video, and can’t decode ac3 (Dolby Digital 5.1) and DTS audio.

As a comparison a device such as Open Hour Chameleon (Rockchip RK3288) can play all video files, but also fails to decode AC3 and DTS (with the stock player), and only gets 263 points due to the poor video quality of Rockchip RK3288 processor (so far, and hopefully firmware upgrades can fix this). To work around the audio issue, you could also install XBMC / Kodi which (most probably illegally) decodes AC3 and DTS by software.

Battery Life

Battery life is an important feature of mobile devices. For my usage, i.e. 3 to 5 hours per day watching YouTube videos, browsing the web, checking emails, some games, and Skype video calls, a full charge is good for over 24 hours.

In order to get a more standardized evaluation of the battery life, I’ve been recommended to use LAB501 Battery Life app which provides ways to test battery life for web browsing, video playback (720p), and gaming use cases. I planned to fully charge the tablet, and stop the test when the battery level reached 15%, however for some reasons the browser test stopped at around 50% twice. A full charge sometimes stops at 98%, and won’t go to 100% even after one hour or more. Wi-Fi was on, and brightness set to 50% for all tests.

Here are the results:

  • Browsing (98% to 53%) – 229 minutes (3h50). Extrapolating a linear discharge, it would have last around 7 hours
  • Video (100% to 12%) – 397 minutes (6h37). It should be good enough for 3 to 4 full movies on a charge.
  • Gaming (99% to 15%) – 276 (4h36)

Allwinner_A83T_Dashboard_Power_SavingThe tablet also comes with a Dashboard app showing CPU, memory & Storage usage, as well as battery charge, and option to clean junk, boost memory (by killing apps), and as shown above, set some power savings parameters. I’ve only used the tablet in Normal mode, but if you need extra battery life, or a boost in performance for game, these may be options to consider.

Miscellaneous

Bluetooth

Both file transfer  and Bluetooth Smart (BLE) worked just fine. The latter was tested with Vidonn X5 smartband.

GPS

I haven’t done much testing with GPS, and at first I thought the tablet may not have GPS, because there are not options for GPS in the Settings. Eventually, Google Maps, Nike running+, and GPS test confirmed the tablet supports GPS, and can get a GPS fix relatively fast, at least when I have an internet connection. I have not tried to roam outside.

Infocus_CS1_A83_GPS_testGaming

I’ve played Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Bleach, and Riptide GP2 on the device, and all three games played rather nicely, albeit I noticed a little of sluggishness in Candy Crush Saga. The two racing games played quite well, but it’s probably because they adapt the level of details to the device used.

Others

Multitouch app showed the touchscreen supports five touch points max.

The auto brightness works, but is not really well suited to my eyes / preferences, so most of the time, I set the brightness manually. The good thing is that in the dark, I can set the brightness low enough, so that I don’t need third party apps like Lux Lite. I wish it would be possible to teach the device the level of brightness depending on lighting conditions.

The stereo speakers at the back of the tablet are clear and loud, much louder than my smartphone speakers, but this is probably to be expected.

Video Review

I’ve also shot a video review to show a bit more of different options, benchmark results, gaming (Candy Crush Saga, and Riptide GP2), GPS, PDF reader (Acrobat) performance with a large PDF file (ODROID mazagine), and more. The video has been shot with a sports camera, explaining the lens distortion (fisheye effect).

Conclusion

I really like this tablet, as the screen is sharp, performance is good enough for my need, as well as battery life. The main annoyances for me are the Volume down button not working well, and auto-brightness not configurable.

Here are the list of cons and pros based on my experience.

PROS

  • Clear and crisp 1920×1200 display
  • Fastest internal storage I’ve tested so far
  • Good video playback (based on Antutu Video Tester results)
  • Decent Battery Life – > 24 hours on a charge for my usage
  • Auto focus allows for clear pictures even at close distance (in good light conditions).

CONS

  • Volume down only working when pressing hard (Probably only with my early sample)
  • Wi-Fi may fail to reconnect after getting out of standby (Work around -> Set Wi-Fi always on).
  • Video / still picture quality poor in low light conditions, and lack of flash
  • Some games may feel a little sluggish (Candy Crush Saga)
  • Front-facing camera image is darker than usual in Skype, but this may be a Skype issue, rather than a problem with the tablet’s camera (TBC)
  • Auto-brightness can’t be customized (but it should be fixable via a paid app)

Allwinner and Foxconn sent me an early sample of the tablet, and it’s not available for sale just yet. I’m not even sure of the exact name, maybe it will be sold as InFocus C2107, or maybe InFocus CS1 A83. Price on the invoice was $170. As reference, I’ve checked the price for Amlogic M802 / Mediatek MT6592 tablets with a 7″ display using 1080p or 1920×1200 resolution, 2GB RAM, 16GB flash, and other similar specifications which should provide similar performance than the Infocus tablet.  On such model is Chuwi-VX3, which sells for about $180 to $190 but also includes 3G support, so Infocus CS1 A83 should be cheaper than this model, and $150 to $170 including shipping would be a competitive price (IMHO).

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Inphic i8 Android Media Player Supports VP9 and H.265 Video Codecs, Features Allwinner H8 Processor

December 15th, 2014 1 comment

Allwinner H8 a new octa-core Cortex A7 processor for low cost Full HD media players with H.265 & VP9 codec support, and one the first product using the new Allwinner H-Series processor is Inphic i8, which sells for as low as 349 CNY (~$57) on JD.com and it’s also available on Taobao for 499 CNY (~$80). Some Inphic i8 boxes are available on Aliexpress, but so far all models are based on Allwinner A31s, promoted as quad core processor eight core GPU boxes, so don’t be fooled.

Inphic_i8Inphic i8 (Allwinner H8) specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner H8 octa-core Cortex-A7 processor @ 2.0GHz with PowerVR SGX544 GPU up to 720MHz
  • System Memory – 1GB or 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8, 16, or 32GB internal storage
  • Video Output – HDMI up to 1080p, Composite output (RCA)
  • Audio Output – HDMI, and Left / Right RCA connectors
  • Video Codecs
    • Multi-format 1080p@60fps video playback, including H.264 BP/MP/HP, VP8, MPEG1/2, MPEG4 SP/ASP GMC, H.263 including Sorenson Spark, WMV9/VC-1, JPEG/MJPEG, etc
    • H.265/VP9 1080p@30fps video playback
    • H.264 1080p@60fps or 720p@120fps video encoding
  • Audio Format/Codecs – AAC-LC/HEAAC/HE-AAC v2, AC3 (Dolby Digital), AMR-NB, DTS, MP3, OGG, RA_COOK, WMA, WMA, LPCM/PCM/ADPCM, FLAC
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 2x USB host ports
  • Power Supply – 5V/1.5A
  • Dimensions – 175 x 116 x 32 mm
  • Weight – 192 grams

Inphic_i8_ports

The package should also include HDMI and AV cables, a power adapter, a remote control, and a power supply. The box is said to be running Android KitKat 4.4.2, with support for Google Play, XBMC / Kodi , and  Skype, as well as Airplay, DLNA, and Miracast. The Chinese websites instead report the OS is YunOS, so it’s possible there will be a Chinese version, and an international version.

“H.265 Hardware Decoder” is explicitly listed on the product page, but Allwinner also claimed support for H.265 and VP9 codec in Allwinner A80 processor,  but after testing actual products such as Draco AW80, it turns out it’s probably only software decode, or maybe GPU accelerated (GPGPU with OpenCL) instead of being actually supported by the VPU. Products will have to be tested to make sure these two codecs are properly supported. I’m currently testing Infocus CS1 A83 tablet, based on Allwinner A83T processor with the same CPU and GPU as Allwinner H8, and Antutu Video Tester reports a score of well over 600 points, which shows the tablet has good video playback capabilities and quality, so this looks promising if both A83T and H8 share the same video engine.

Since the box sells for $57 in China, I’d expect it to be available for $70 to $80 on Aliexpress sooner than later. More details can be found on Inphic i9 product page, where they mention 4K support, but I believe these claims can be discarded since H8 only supports 1080p decoding and output.

Via Home Theater Life on Google+ MINI PC Community.

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Linux 3.18 Released

December 10th, 2014 2 comments

Linus Torvalds released Linux Kernel 3.18 last Sunday:

It’s been a quiet week, and the patch from rc7 is tiny, so 3.18 is out.

I’d love to say that we’ve figured out the problem that plagues 3.17 for a couple of people, but we haven’t. At the same time, there’s absolutely no point in having everybody else twiddling their thumbs when a couple of people are actively trying to bisect an older issue, so holding up the release just didn’t make sense. Especially since that would just have then held things up entirely over the holiday break.

So the merge window for 3.19 is open, and DaveJ will hopefully get his bisection done (or at least narrow things down sufficiently that we have that “Ahaa” moment) over the next week. But in solidarity with Dave (and to make my life easier too ;) let’s try to avoid introducing any _new_ nasty issues, ok?

Linus

Linux 3.17 added support for Xbox One controllers, USB device sharing over IP, more secure random numbers, several modifications for perf and more.

Some of the changes made to Linux 3.18 include:

  • Performance improvements for the networking stack thanks to bulk network packet transmission, which “allows a relatively small system to drive a high-speed interface at full wire speed, even when small packets are being transmitted.”
  • Faster suspend and resume by replacing a 100ms polling loop with proper completion notification. This will mostly be noticeable on systems with a large number of cores. Git pull.
  • Berkeley Packet Filter bpf() system call. “The hooks to use this code (in tracing and packet filtering, for example) will take a little longer, but the core support for a “universal virtual machine” in the kernel is now present.”
  • Nouveau drivers for Nvidia GPUs now supports basic DisplayPort audio
  • Several filesystems improvements, notably for BTRFS and F2FS
  • Audio hardware. Codecs: Cirrus Logic CS35L32, Everest ES8328 and Freescale ES8328; others: Generic Freescale sound cards, Analog Devices SSM4567 audio amplifier

New features and improvements specific to the ARM architecture include:

  • Allwinner
    • Allwinner A31/A23 –  RTC  & Watchdog
    • Allwinner A23 – MMC, pinctrl, DMA and I2C
    • New boards: Olimex A20-OLinuXino-Lime, Merrii Hummingbird A20, and HSG H702 tablet board.
  • Rockchip
    • Added new clock-type for the cpuclk
    • Ethernet: Added support for Rockchip SoC layer device tree bindings for arc-emac driver, and emac nodes to the rk3188 device tree.
    • Added driver for Rockchip Successive Approximation Register (SAR) ADC.
    • RK808 PMIC: Added regulator driver, clkout driver, and mfd driver.
  • Amlogic – Added MesonX support, only Meson6 for now (Amlogic AML8726-MX). DTS for Geniatech ATV1200 media player
  • Added basic support for BCM63138 DSL SoC, Texas Instruments AM57xx family, Atmel SAMA5D4, Qualcomm IPQ8064, Renesas r8a7794 SoC,
  • New Device tree files for various board and products: Gateworks GW5520, SAMA5D4ek board,  i.MX1 Armadeus APF9828, i.MX1 ADS board, Technexion Thunder support (TAO3530 SOM based, Sony Xperia Z1, IFC6540 board, CM-QS600 SoM,  etc…

I could find a few changes for MIPS architecture in Linux 3.18 too:

  • SEAD3: Nuke PIC32 I2C driver.
  • Loongson: Make platform serial setup always built-in
  • Netlogic: handle modular USB case & AHCI builds
  • tlbex: Fix potential HTW race on TLBL/M/S handlers
  • cpu-probe: Set the FTLB probability bit on supported cores
  • fix EVA & non-SMP non-FPU FP context signal handling
  • Etc.. You can find a few more changes @ http://lwn.net/Articles/623825/

A more thorough changelog for Linux 3.18 will soon be published on Kernelnewbies.org. Remember to also check ARM architecture and drivers sections, for more details about changes related to ARM platforms.

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Allwinner H3 is a Quad Core SoC for Sub $50 4K H.265 Media Players

December 8th, 2014 6 comments

Allwinner launched their H-series processors (Homlet) for home entertainment with Allwinner H8 octa-core processor, supporting HEVC up to 1080p, which will find its way into media players selling between $50 and $80. The company has now added Allwinner H3 quad core processor, selling for just $6, which will be available in $35 to $50 OTT TV box later this month, and include support for 4K UHD H.265/HEVC video playback.

Allwinner_H3_BLock_Diagram

Allwinner H3 Block Digram

Key features of Allwinner H3:

  • CPU –  Quad core Cortex A7
  • GPU – Mali-400MP2 up to 600 MHz
  • Memory I/F
    • LPDDR2, LPDDR3, DDR3, DDR3L SDRAM
    • 8-bit SLC, MLC, TLC, EF NAND with 64-bit ECC
    • SD, eMMC, tSD, fSD, and efSD
  • Video
    • Decoding – H.265/HEVC and H.264 up to 4K@30 fps, H.264 BP/MP/HP, VP8, MPEG1/2, MPEG4 SP/ASP GMC, H.263 including Sorenson Spark, WM9/VC1, JPEG/MJEPG up to 1080p60
    • Encoding – H.264 up to 1080p30
  • Video Output – HDMI with HDCP, CEC, 3D function, CVBS, and dual independent display support.
  • Camera – 8-bit YUV222 CMOS interface, CCIR656 protocol for PAL and NTSC, 5M pixel camera sensor
  • Security – Trustzone, mainstream DRM solutions support, secure boot, secure storage, and firmware signature
  • Integrated Peripherals:
    • Audio codec
    • 3x USB EHCI/OHCI, USB 2.0 DRD
    • 100M Ethernet PHY
    • CIR, UART, LRADC, SDIO

The company mentions that while the CSI camera supports up to 1080p30 video recording, USB camera are limited to  720p30. This processor will be found in OTT TV boxes that compete with Realtek RTD1195 media players, as both platforms feature low power ARM Cortex A7 cores, albeit dual core vs quad core, a slow Mali-400MP GPU, and support for 4K UHD video playback with the latest H.265 video codec. However, Allwinner H3 loses out to its competitor by lacking SATA, Gigabit, and USB 3.0 interfaces, so H3 based products might become cheaper media players, but they won’t have the NAS compatibilities of the Realtek processor.

The first TV boxes powered by Allwinner H3 processor are expected later this month.

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Allwinner A83T Tablet Unboxing, First Boot, and Benchmarks

December 6th, 2014 11 comments

Allwinner & HonHai Procesion Industry, better known as Foxconn, sent me an Infocus tablet based on Allwinner A83T processor with eight Cortex A7 cores up to 2GHz, and a PowerVR SGX544 GPU. Today, I’ll list the specifications of this tablet, show unboxing pictures, first boot video, and run Antutu benchmark.

Infocus New Tab CS1 A83 / C2107 Specifications

The invoice calls the tablet “New Tab CS1 A83″, but Android reports the model as C2107, so I’m not fully sure what will be the actual name. It might well be New Tab CS1 A83, as I could find an Infocus an earlier Infocus New Tab CS1 tablet powered by Allwinner A31.

Anyway, here are the specifications I could derive from the device, and running Antutu/CPU-Z on the device:

  • SoC – Allwinner A83T octa-core ARM Cortex-A7 @ 2.0 GHz with PowerVR SGX544MP GPU supporting OpenGL ES 2.0/1.1, OpenCL 1.1, DX 9.3.
  • System Memory – 2 GB RAM
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC + micro SD slot
  • Display – 7″ capacitive touchscreen, 1920×1200 resolution.
  • Audio – 3.5mm headphone jack, stereo speakers
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Camera – 8.0 MP rear camera, 1.9 MP front-facing camera
  • USB – 1x micro USB OTG?
  • Sensors – Orientation, G-sensor, accelerometer, magnetometer, light sensor, gyroscope
  • Misc – Power and volume buttons,
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port
  • Battery – 3250 mAh (TBC, based on older CS1 specifications)  3,550 mAh (Liliputing opened the tablet)
  • Dimensions – 190 x 108 x 89 mm
  • Weight – 290 grams

Infocus CS1 A83 Pictures

I got the tablet from Foxconn Hong Kong via DHL, in the following white Infocus package.

Infocus_C2107_PackageThe tablet comes only with a 5V/2A and its USB cable, but it might be because I’ve got an early sample, and once it become available, there may be a user’s manual, screen protector, and many other accessories like a pair of headphones.

Allwinner A83 Tablet and power Adapter (Click to Enlarge)

Allwinner A83 Tablet and power Adapter (Click to Enlarge)

On the front, we’ve got the display and the 2MP front-facing camera. Stereo speakers are located on the bottom of the back of the tablet, and the rear camera on the top.

Infocus_New_Tab_CS1_A83

Infocus New Tab CS1 A83 (Click to Enlarge)

The other ports are power and vol +/- buttons on the side, and micro USB port, headphone jack and micro SD card slot on the top of the device.

Infocus_CS1_Buttons_PortsFirst boot

The tablet came fully charged, and pressing the power button one or two seconds boots the tablet, and Infocus tablet boots in just 15 seconds, it’s the fastest boot ever for the Android devices I’ve reviewed so far. You can watch the video below to see the unboxing and first boot for this tablet.

At first I thought Google Play was not installed in the tablet because I did not see the Google Play Store app in the list of apps.

App List and About Tablet Screenshots (Click for Original Size)

App List and About Tablet Screenshots (Click for Original Size)

But I eventually found out the Play Store was installed when I accessed it in Chrome, and looking again in the list of apps, the small icon on the top right is for the Play Store.  I don’t know if this is standard in all Android 4.4 tablet, or Foxconn customized it. The About Tablet section in Android section shows the model number is C2107, the processor UltraOcta-A83, and Android 4.4.4 runs on top of Linux 3.4.39.

The only problem I found during the first few minutes of usage is with the volume down button. I need to press it quite hard, and it won’t work. I don’t have this problem with the volume up button.

Allwinner A83 / Infocus C2107 Tablet Benchmarks

Alwinner A83T is a very new processor, so I ran CPU-Z to get information about both the processor and the tablet.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

CPU-Z correctly detects the processor as an octa-core Cortex A7 clocked between 480 MHz and 2.02 GHz, and with an Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX 544MP GPU. The model number is C2107 (C2107_CN) and the manufacturer Infocus. Kernel developers may be interested to learn / know AllwinnerA83T is an sun8i platform. Screen resolution is 1920×1200 pixels, 1506 MB RAM is accessible in Android (the rest being used for the VPU, and other hardware buffers), and the internal storage partition 12.40 GB.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The battery capacity (1,000 Mah) reported by CPU-Z is most probably incorrect. The tablet has a bunch of sensors as reported in the specifications.

Now time for Antutu 5.3 benchmark.

Infocus CS1 A83 Antutu Score (Click to Enlarge)

Infocus CS1 A83 Antutu Score (Click to Enlarge)

With 26,326 points, Infocus New Tab CS1 A83 is a mid range tablet, with a score between Xiaomi MI 2 (Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro – APQ8064) and Xiami Redmi Note (Mediatek MT6592).

That’s all for today. I plan to use the device for about a week, mainly browsing the web, checking email, watching videos, and playing games. I’ll also make sure to test the rear and front camera, evaluate the battery life (Is there a standard tool), runs some more benchmark, and report any issues I may have had in the full review. let me know if you’d like me to test anything specific.

The tablet is not currently up for sale, but the proforma invoice I received specifies the price is $170 per unit.

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AllWinner A80 Octa Core big.LITTLE Processor CPU Usage Under Various Loads in Android 4.4 (Video)

November 23rd, 2014 4 comments

Allwinner A80 is one of the few octa core processors featuring ARM’s big.LITTLE technology currently available on the market. The processor comes with four ARM Cortex A15 (big) cores, and four ARM Cortex A7 (LITTLE) core, and tasks will be scheduled to different processor depending on the load to optimize power consumption on mobile devices. However, earlier big.LITTLE processors like Samsung Exynos 5410 has some serious limitations, as they only supported “cluster migration” meaning you could only use the Cortex A7 cluster or Cortex A15 cluster at any given time, so Exynos 5410 could only make use of four cores at most due to hardware limitations. They also used to be two software implementations: In-kernel Switching (IKS) and Global Task Scheduling (GTS). The former could only handle one type of core at the same, and the latter, which I believe is now used in all new devices, can handle any combination of cores, so an octa core big.LITTLE SoC can indeed make use of all its eight cores.

Antutu_3D_CPU_Usage
To make sure it was the case with Allwinner A80 SoC, I did a little test using PVRMonitor app on Tronsmart Draco AW80 mini PC. I did this test to check all eight cores can be used, and to see which cores and how many cores are used for various loads such as multi-tab web browsing and gaming. The scheduler was set to Performance with No-frills CPU Control app.

I’ve run Antutu, the Android stock Browser with multiple tabs open, and Beach Buggy Blitz 3D racing games in the video above. The takeaway for this short test is that Allwinner A80 can run its eight cores simultaneously, but in typical use, it’s rare to see more than four cores used simultaneously. I forgot to include video playback in the video, so I tried to play 4K videos and H.265 videos with Kodi 14, and normally (hardware video decoding) only two Cortex A15 are used (around 30% per core),  and when software video decoding is needed (H.265), at most four cores are used, so it looks like Kodi has not been optimized yet to make full use of octa systems, at least on Allwinner A80.

So in Android mini PCs, there’s usually very little gain from an octa core processor instead of a quad core processor, unless you run apps that can make use of all cores such as video transcoding apps, or you want it convert it into a Linux mini PC to compile software or run a server.

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Android 5.0 Lollipop Coming to Allwinner A33 & A80, Rockchip RK3288, and More…

November 17th, 2014 11 comments

I can often see questions requesting whether SoC XYZ will support Android 5.0 Lollipop. The good news is that last week, I’ve read lots of news about Android 5.0 support on various devices including Nvidia Shield tablet, Motorola G & X smartphones, and of course the Google Nexus devices. A developer (Nanik T.) also ported Android Lollipop to ODROID U3 development board based on Exynos 4412, and he mentioned that “porting was pretty straight forward as KK and 5.0 does not have a lot of differences in terms of HAL”, which means there’s hope for more recent devices and SoCs getting the update.

Rockchip_RK3288_LollipopChinese SoC vendors are also getting the word out that they are working on Android 5.0. Rockchip announced Lollipop support for RK3288 processor (original news in Chinese) probably coming to tablets first, and Android TV boxes later. They used their reference platforms in the provided pictures, and did not publish ETA for public availability.

Allwinner also showcased Android 5.0 on an Allwinner A33 tablet (see embedded video below), and I’ve been told Android 5.0 and Chrome OS would soon be released for Android A80 too.

XDA Developers also reported some other smartphones got the Lollipop treat.

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How-to Install Ubuntu on Allwinner A80 Powered pcDuino8 and A80 OptimusBoard

November 17th, 2014 8 comments

Last month, pcDuino released Android 4.4 and Ubuntu images for pcDuino8 board powered by Allwinner A80 octa core processor, and since it’s the same board layout as A80 OptimusBoard, I decided to try it out, but it failed as the update script would try to flash it to a partition that’s too small for the root file systems. But last week, Ian Morrison and Minidodes gave it another try, and successfully booted Ubuntu, or more exactly Lubuntu, on A80 OptimusBoard.

Lubuntu Screenshot in A80 OptimusBoard

Lubuntu Screenshot in A80 OptimusBoard

Both their screenshot reports sun9i platform in /proc/cpuinfo, so that’s definitely Allwinner A80, but only one core is shown. I’m not sure if it’s because the other are idled and don’t show, or for some reasons, the kernel only supports one core at this stage.

Anyway, here’s how they did to install Lubuntu:

  • Flash the kernel (pcduino8_kernel_livesuit_20141008.img) with PhoenixCard or Livesuit first. See instructions to use Livesuit with A80 OptimusBoard.
  • Extract the rootfs (pcduino8_ubuntu_20141008.rar) to an SD card or USB flash drive. There should be two files: pcduino8_ubuntu_20141008.img and update.sh.
  • Boot the board, but don’t insert the SD card or USB flash drive yet.
  • update.sh script will attempt to copy the rootfs to /dev/nandd, but there’s not even space, so it will fail. So instead login as root (no password) and kill update.sh: ps ax | grep update, kill “pid”.
  • Now connect the mass storage device to pcDuino3 / A80 Optimusboard, and mount it to /mnt
  • Flash the Ubuntu image to /dev/mmcblk0p1:
    dd if=pcduino8_ubuntu_20141008.img of=/dev/mmcblk0p1 bs=1M
    sync
  • Now reboot the board and interrupt the boot sequence to enter U-boot, and use ‘env’ to change the bootargs with mmc_root to /dev/mmcblk0p1 and init to /sbin/init.
  • Save the environment with env save, and boot the board to start Ubuntu.

I have not tried (yet), since I’m busy with other hardware, so let me know if the instructions above need improvement. [Update: the procedure may depend on the Android firmware / flash partition, as described in the comments section]

On a side note, Merrii released some new SDKs for A10, A20, A31, and A80.

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