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Posts Tagged ‘android tv’

Google Releases Android O Developer Preview 2, Announces Android Go for Low-End Devices, TensorFlow Lite

May 18th, 2017 No comments

After the first Android O developer preview released in March, Google has just released the second developer preview during Google I/O 2017, which on top of features like PiP (picture-in-picture), notifications channels, autofill, and others found in the first preview, adds notifications dots, a new Android TV home screen, smart text selection, and soon TensorFlow Lite. Google also introduced Android Go project optimized for devices with 512 to 1GB RAM.

Notifications dots (aka Notification Badges) are small dots that show on the top right of app icons – in supported launchers – in case a notification is available. You can then long press the icon to check out the notifications for the app, and dismiss or act on notifications. The feature can be disabled in the settings.

Android TV “O” also gets a new launcher that allegedly “makes it easy to find, preview, and watch content provided by apps”. The launcher is customizable as users can control the channels that appear on the homescreen. Developers will be able to create channels using the new TvProvider support library APIs.

I found text selection in Android to be awkward and frustrating most of the big time, but Android O brings improvements on that front with “Smart Text Selection” leveraging on-device machine learning to copy/paste, to let Android recognize entities like addresses, URLs, telephone numbers, and email addresses.

TensorFlow is an open source machine learning library that for example allows image recognition. Android O will now support TensorFlow Lite specifically designed to be fast and lightweight for embedded use cases. The company is also working on a new Neural Network API to accelerate computation, and both plan for release in a future maintenance update of Android O later this year.

Finally, Android Go project targets devices with 1GB or less of memory, and including optimization to the operating system itself, as well as optimization to apps such as YouTube, Chrome, and Gboard to make them use less memory, storage space, and mobile data. The Play Store will also highlight apps with low resources requirements on such devices, but still provide access to the full catalog. “Android Go” will ship in 2018 for all Android devices with 1GB or less of memory.

You can test Android O developer preview 2 by joining the Android O beta program if you own a Nexus 5X, 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel, Pixel XL, or Pixel C device.

NVIDIA Shield Android TV Gets Unofficial USB Tuner (ATSC/DVB) Support

March 9th, 2017 3 comments

NVIDIA Shield Android TV may only be available in a limited number of countries, but if you happen to live in a country where it’s officially sold, it can be one of the best options due its hard-to-beat price to performance ratio, and official Android TV software support from Google & Nvidia. One features it does not support out of the box  is support for digital TV tuner, but linux4all has released an unofficial firmware image adding USB TV tuner support to Android TV (7.0) on Nvidia Shield Android TV 2015 and 2017 models.

You’ll first need a supported tuner either Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD (DVB-C, DVB-T and DVB-T2), Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-850 (ATSC), Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-955Q (ATSC, QAM, Analog), or Sony PlayTV dual tuner (DVB-T). More tuners may be supported in the future. One you’ve got your tuner connected to Nvidia Shield Android TV, make sure you have the latest Android TV 7.0 OTA update, unlock the bootloader, and flash the specific bootloader as explained in the aforelinked forum post. Upon reboot you should see “USB TV Tuner Setup” in the interface. Go through it and scan channels.

Finally, connected a USB 3.0 hard drive or micro SD card with at least 50GB and select format as device storage, and you should be able to watch free-to-air TV and record it as needed using Live channels.

If you are interested in adding more tuners, fix bugs, or possibly implemented this for another Android TV TV box, you’ll find the Linux source code with change history on github.

Note that it’s not the first hack to use USB tuners on Shield, as last year somebody used Kodi + TVheadend, so the real news is here probably integration into Android TV’s Live Channels.

Via AndroidTv.News, and thanks to Harley for the tip.

Xiaomi Mi Box (US) Android TV TV Box Review

February 12th, 2017 27 comments

Introduction

The Mi Box is the first Xiaomi product I have used. I received it beginning of December and have been using it regularly since then. I have received 3 updates which went through uneventfully. I was very pleased with this box. I ended up getting one for my in-laws and one for my 4 year old sons bedroom. The UI worked as expected. I have an Nvidia Shield Android TV, and the Mi Box complements it very well. Having Plex Server running on the Shield and Plex on the Mi Box is pretty fantastic to easily share content. Not to mention way more cost effective than putting a Shield in every room.

What’s Inside

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The build quality is good. The power supply puts out 5.2v which is not typical.

I do wish it had more USB ports. A single USB is inadequate. I found myself swapping USB out frequently during testing. There is optical audio and it has the round form factor. Luckily the cable I had had the adapter attached to the end, and it worked fine. No Ethernet adapter is present either.

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Teardown Photos

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Android TV UI

For anyone unfamiliar with Android TV UI I took a few screen shots. Across the top in the first screen capture a recently used/suggestion line appears. The top line will update based on your usage games, TV shows, YouTube, news etc.

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Not all apps populate this. HBO GO, Plex, Netflix, do update. Immediately below there is a MI Box Recommends section which is static.

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I was able to disable it under setting > apps to unclutter the main screen. These screenshots were taken when I first plugged in the box. I personally like the UI of Android TV and appreciate that Google ensures all apps to work with remotes and a mouse/touchpad is not necessary.

 

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Casting

Another thing that I was forced to use because DirecTV Now does not have an Android TV app yet, is the casting feature. I had it on the Shield but never really used it. Between casting my screen from my phone to most video apps I found it very easy to use. My son will navigate YouTube Kids on his tablet and cast to the TV. This is a feature you won’t find on most android boxes and I found it very convenient and easy to use.

Voice Search

During my usage and showing my son how to use the voice search I grew to like it a lot. Voice searching that is able to return YouTube, Netflix and other video apps is really convenient. My son is 4 and doesn’t speak very clearly yet but it does a good job of recognizing his voice allowing him to find the video’s he wants. (minecraft, lego, minecraft, lego, minecraft, lego) 🙂

Passthrough and Auto Framerate

I spent many many hours trying to find a good combination in Kodi/SPMC/TVMC/FTMC and couldn’t get it to work consistently. DTS only worked for me. I hope they resolve this with software in the future.

Benchmarks/Testing

This is not really fair but I performed a side by side comparison of 3DMark: Xiaomi Mi Box vs Nvidia Shield. I thought it would be interesting to see. Fear not, the Mi Box does well with light gaming. I had no problems playing games that didn’t require a controller.

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WiFi is fair at about 15Mbps on my busy Unifi 2.4 GHz network. I also have a 5GHz N built into my router and strictly using it for testing. I was able to get about 30 Mbps throughput. I still prefer a wired connection when possible and was able to use a USB to Ethernet adapter on the MI Box. I moved 2 files below one on 2.4ghz and one on 5ghz. I don’t have an AC network to test.

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I ran a few other tests and info apps below.

Widevine Level 1 Supported – Click to Enlarge

36,151 points in Antutu – Click to Enlarge

Amlogic @ 2.02 GHz – Click to Enlarge

MIBOX3 board name: once – Click to Enlarge

While reviewing

So not all apps are available due to the restrictions of Android TV and Google necessitating the apps be remote friendly. But you might run into a situation where you want to side load. If you have a air mouse or some other hid device connected it’s not a big deal. In order for to launch them in the past you loaded sideload launcher from the play store, It allows you to see all apps regardless if they are Android TV optimized. It works and is pretty easy. While reviewing I ran across a pretty neat app. TV App Repo. It makes sideloading even better.  What it does is create a small app that is basically a shortcut to your side loaded non Android TV app. Now all the apps can be launched from main screen without navigating to the sideload launcher sub menu. It worked on the few I tested. On the community addition, there are a few apps that it hosts one of which was Amazon Prime video. But I didn’t have luck getting videos to play other than trailers.

Final Thoughts

I wasn’t going to perform any benchmarking on this box. I don’t think that it is relevant. But I knew it would be crucified. This box was in my opinion built to consume media and I think it does it very well. All the streaming media apps worked great. The only drawback is that HDMI passthrough and auto framerate switching did not work consistently enough in Kodi or Plex. Streaming from HDHomerun works well even over WiFi. Amazon Prime Video is missing from this box. I did try some other methods to watch and only was able to cast from a web browser successfully.

During testing I didn’t use Kodi much and stuck with the main streaming apps that are optimized for Android TV. I hope Koying, the maintainer of SPMC, a fork of Kodi, brings some love to the Mi Box in the near future or even the Kodi team.

If you’re not an audiophile this will make a great box to stream with and hopefully save some money. If you are an Audiophile the Mi Box complements the Nvidia shield on other TV’s where surrounds sound doesn’t matter.

I would like to thank Gearbest for sending a review sample and their patience while I reviewed it. I really like to use the products for a while and get a good feel for them. If you are thinking about getting a Mi Box, it helps CNX by clicking & purchasing through this link.

Linaro Home Group Releases “AOSP” Android TV for Hikey Board

February 3rd, 2017 1 comment

The Linaro Home Group (LHG) was setup to work on “open source software for ARM-based set top boxes, smart TVs, media boxes, TV dongles and home gateway products”, and after having worked on OP-TEE (Open Portable Trusted Environment Execution) firmware as one of their first endeavors, they’ve now ported Android Open Source Project (AOSP) Android TV to 96Boards compliant Hikey board.

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Android TV is based on Android, but adds the TV Input Framework and the Lean Back APIs with the user interface designed for larger displays. LHG has not changed the apps and higher level software from AOSP, but they’ve made sure it could work on Hikey board by working on the Linux drivers and Android user space stack to make sure the Live TV App and Android TV Channel Service implemented in AOSP can work properly on the hardware.

If you want to try it on your own Hikey board, you can do so by building AOSP Android TV from sources.

Hikey Board – Click to Enlarge

Now that does not mean any random Chinese TV box manufacturer will be able to ship TV boxes running “Android TV” instead of Android for phone or tablet, as AOSP lacks Google Mobile Services (GMS), and Android TV solutions must be licensed and approved by Google, and must pass various tests such as the Android Compatibility Test Suite (CTS), the Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) and various audio & video performance criteria. But at least most of the low level software should be taken care of, so it would simplify and speed up development.

Android TV Sample App – Click to Enlarge

Hikey board hardware complies with 96Boards “Consumer Edition” specifications, but lacks typical TV box features such as an IR receiver, which is why 96Boards TV Platform specifications were published last year. LHG probably started with Hikey because development has been going on for a longer time, and the platform is more mature, but one of the next steps will be to work on 96Boards TV Platform compliant boards such as HiSilicon Poplar board.

SmartHomy Hybrid TV Box with DTV Tuner Triples as a Game Console & Home Automation Gateway (Crowdfunding)

December 26th, 2016 25 comments

SmartHomy Homy Player is a TV box running Android TV that includes an ATSC, DVB-T2/C,DVB-S2, or ISDB-T tuner, is said to be powerful enough to be used as a 3D gaming platform, and serves as a security system and home automation gateway using Z-Wave, Bluetooth, WiFi and IR blaster to control your things.

smart-homyHomy player specifications [Updated on January 19th, 2017]:

  • SoC – Amlogic S912 octa-core Cortex A53 processor with Mali T820MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 3 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC flash
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz with HDCP 2.2, HDR, CEC
  • Audio Output – HDMI and optical S/PDIF
  • Video / Audio Capabilities – 10-bit 4K H.265 @ 60 fps, HD audio pass-through, Dolby Digital & DTS licenses
  • DRM – Widevine Level 1, Microsoft PlayReader, Netflix license
  • Digital TV Tuner – DVB-S2 (satellite), DVB-C/T/T2 (Cable/Terrestrial), ATSC, and ISDB-T
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, Z-Wave (Plus 500 series)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Dimensions – 200 x 143 x 40 mm
  • Weight – 530 grams

The device ships with Homy Remote, a backlit Bluetooth 4.0 LE remote control that includes gyroscope, and allows to control the player with voice commands. Smart Homy appears to mostly targets the US markets as seen in the comparison table with some home automation solution, media players. and game console.

smart_homy_comparison

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It would have been a little more fair to include the non-pro version of NVIDIA Shield Android TV since the price without hard drive is also $199, and it still lacks home automation support and the tuners. While you can play games with Amlogic S912 SoC, the performance will be much lower than the NVIDIA box.

In order to maximize Z-Wave interoperability, Homy Player supports more than 50 command classes for Z-Wave devices, and the player/gateway also supports more than 70 Security Devices, including common security cameras. Configuration of home automation is allegedly simplified thanks to a “patent pending” Scene Recording System where you can easily record trigger and action using your physical devices.


SmartHomy has launched Homy Player on Indiegogo (flexible funding), where the company targets to raise $59,000 or more. A $199 pledge should get you Homy Player with the remote and an extra 64GB storage. Shipping adds $30, and delivery is scheduled for July 2017. You may also get more details on SmartHomy website.

Second Generation NVIDIA Shield Android TV Box Photos Leaked Ahead of Launch

December 20th, 2016 15 comments

NVIDIA Shield Android TV box may have launched in the first part of 2015, but even at the end of 2016 it’s still one of the best Android TV boxes with a powerful Tegra X1 processor, 3GB RAM, 4K video support, HD audio pass-through, the fastest GPU found in TV boxes so far, Netflix HD & 4K certified, and more. The company is allegedly preparing to launch a new model, and some photos have been leaked to Android Police.

nvidia-shield-android-tv-box-2The design of the box looks basically identical to the new model, but it comes in two different sizes maybe because of extra ports and internal storage, and the game controller has been re-designed with a mix of triangular shapes.

What we don’t know are the specifications. The company may have done a simple refresh, keeping Tegra X1 processor, increasing the memory and storage capacity, and possibly adding some extra interfaces, or they went with one of their new more powerful SoC initially targeting the automotive market: Parker SoC with two Denver custom ARMv8 cores, four Cortex A57 cores, and 256-core Pascal GPU, or Xavier SoC with 8x custom ARMv8 cores, and a 512-core Pascal. The latter has only been unveiled recently, and supports 8K video with HDR, so it’s probably way too early for that… Another possibility is that the company designed a new unannounced SoC specifically designed for TV boxes.

We’ll hopefully find out more at CES 2017 in about two weeks time. This could also mean some good deals for the first generation hardware once the box is officially unveiled.

Via Liliputing

ZTE ZXV10 B860H is an Another Android TV Media Player based on Amlogic S905X Processor

October 17th, 2016 4 comments

It looks like Xiaomi Mi Box (US) will have some competition, as ZTE is about to introduce their ZXV10 B860H TV box at Broadband World Forum 2016 in London. The device will run Android TV on a quad core Amlogic processor, which can only be Amlogic S905X, the same processor used in the Xiaomi box,  since VP9 is now a requirement for Android TV operating system, and HDR is part of the specifications.

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ZTE ZXV10 B860H “Android TV” box specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905X (-H?) quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with penta-core Mali-450MP GPU @ 750 MHz
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM
  • Storage – 8GB flash
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDCP 2.2, CEC, HDR10 and HLG HDR
  • Video Codecs – VP9 Profile-2 & H.265 MP-10 up to 4K @ 60 fps, H.264 AVC up to 4K @ 30 fps, H.264 MVC up to 1080p60
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi 2×2, and Bluetooth 4.1

One obvious advantage over the Xiaomi device is the presence of an Ethernet port. B860H runs Google’s Android TV OS, and is said to be “fully integrated with ZTE’s Smart Home Services such as Multi-Screen, HD Video Call, Family Album, Home IoT Network and Voice Assistant”.

Price and availability have not been revealed yet, but we may learn more tomorrow with the official announcement. For reference Xiaomi Box is sold for $69 in the US, so ZTE B860H will have to be priced about the same to be competitive.

Android TV 6.0 Ported to Raspberry Pi 3 with 2D/3D GPU Acceleration, but no Hardware Video Decoding (Yet)

June 7th, 2016 20 comments

Google might be working on Android or Brillo for Raspberry Pi 3, with a new repository created in AOSP, meaning that, if that’s Android,  you won’t probably get the Google Mobiles Services by default, but those can be side-loaded to get access the the Play Store, Youtube, etc… In the meantime, a group of developer have been working Android 6.0 TV port for Raspberry Pi 3. That’s the same team who worked on previous images for Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Pi 2 boards using “peyo” port, and that did not have any support for 2D/3D graphics acceleration, nor hardware video decoding.

Raspberry_Pi_3_Android_TVBut they’ve made some improvements for their Android TV 6.0.1 release for Raspberry Pi 3, as 2D/3D GPU acceleration is enabled using the Mesa drivers, and Kodi user interface, game emulators, WelGL in Chrome browser all work relatively well using 1280×720 frame buffer resolution as you can see from the videos uploaded by Geek Till it Hertz and ETA Prime.

The downside is that you’ll need to side-load apps, and that hardware video decoding does not currently works, so 1080p videos won’t play smoothly. This will certainly change once support makes it to AOSP , but in the meantime you should not expect video playback to work very well in that image, but you’ll be better off staying in Linux if video playback is important to you.

Kodi_16.1_Android_Raspberry_PiYou can get the source code on github, download the firmware image (extract it and flash it with dd / Win32DiskImager), and post comment or ask question on the dedicated Google Groups thread.

Via Liliputing.