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Posts Tagged ‘Android’

Sonoff G1 AC Powered Smart Power Switch Works Over 2G GSM/GPRS

July 22nd, 2017 1 comment

Today, I’ve searched for AC powered wireless switched similar to Sonoff devices, but with ESP32 instead in order to get WiFi and Bluetooth, since the latter is better to use with a battery powered buttons. I did find a DC powered board, but no AC powered ones yet. However, as I visited ITEAD website to check if they had anything of the sort, I discovered they had a new model called Sonoff G1, similar to Sonoff TH16, but instead of using WiFi, you can use 2G GSM/GPRS to control the switch remotely.

Sonoff G1 specifications:

  • Wireless Module – ST86 quad band GSM/GPRS module
  • GSM/GPRS connectivity
    • GSM850, EGSM900, DCS1800 and PCS1900 MHz support
    • GPRS multi-slot class 10, GPRS mobile station class B
    • 1.8V, 3V  SIM card slot
    • Transmit power: Class 4 (2W): GSM850, EGSM900; Class 1 (1W): DCS1800, PCS1900
  • Relay – Up to 16A (3000 Watts max)
  • Terminals – 6 terminals for mains and load’s ground, live and neutral signals. 90~250V AC (50/60Hz) input supported
  • Misc – LEDs for power and connection status, button for manual on/off
  • Standby Power Consumption – 1.0 mW
  • Dimensions – 114 x 52 x 32mm
  • Weight – 100 grams
  • Temperature range – Operating -40°C to +80°C, but recommended is 0 to 40°C… So go figure.

Such system could be useful if you need to control devices in remote locations, as long as you are in a zone not affected by 2G sunset like China and Europe.

You’ll need to open the device to insert your own SIM card, install the usual eWelink app, scan a QR code on the device to initialize it. Once this is done, you can turn it on/off, set timers, integrate it into scenes, and share it with other permitted users. Basically anything you can do with the WiFi model, including Amzon Alexa & (soon) Google Home support, but it adds checking the remaining balance. This is explained in more details in the Wiki and links there. There’s also Sonoff G2 model for mainland China with a built-in China Mobile SIM card. You’ll have to happy with using eWelink Android/iOS app, as that model is unlikely to hackable with a custom firmware.

ITEAD sells Sonoff G1 for $19.90 plus shipping.

Phoenix OS 2.1 Android 7.1 based Desktop OS Released for 32-bit and 64-bit x86 Platforms

July 21st, 2017 8 comments

With Jide’s announcement that they’d stop working on Remix OS for the consumer market, focusing on the enterprise market instead, people who like to use Android as a desktop OS lost an option. Luckily, others have not given up on the concept yet, and Phoenix OS 2.1 based on Android 7.1 with desktop improvements has just been released for computers based on Intel/AMD 32-bit and 64-bit x86 processors.

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Phoemix OS user interface is a mix between Windows desktop with a desktop, a taskbar, and a start menu, and Android with notifications, and Back/Home/Recent buttons. The OS also supports Android apps, multi-window, window resizing, better multi-tasking, and so on.

Changelog for Phoenix OS 2.1:

  • Keyboard mapping updates to version 2.5 with smart casting for Strike of Kings.
  • The bug that window size won’t be saved after restart has been fixed.
  • Enhance the hardware compatibility, including: sound card, network adapter, etc.
  • “Start Phoenix system” shortcut supports legacy boot now.
  • Optimize the Phoenix OS downloader.

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If you want to go ahead you can download a 32-bit or 64-bit installer or ISO file. Phoenix OS is installed on a separate partition and should not interfere with your current operating system according to the x86 FAQ. Some people have commented in the announcement post linked in the introduction, and some people appear to have issues with games, installation on specific hardware, and Wifi reconnect after resume, so it may not be perfectly stable or mostly bug free yet.

Via Liliputing

PROBOX2 AVA 4K TV Box, NAS, and HDMI IN DVR Sells with an Optional Air Mouse

July 18th, 2017 2 comments

We’ve recently come across several TV boxes based on Realtek RTD1295 SoC which offers not only typical 4K Android TV box features like H.265 & VP9 video playback, and HDR support, but acts like a NAS function thanks to a SATA interface and OpenWrt, and provides an HDMI input port that allows for DVR, PiP, and UDP broadcasting functions. PROBOX2 AVA is another one of those device with the hardware extremely similar to Beelink SEA I model, but with an external antenna, and a different user interface. The box can also ship with an optional Remote+ air mouse, which could allow you to turn on the device without using the IR remote control (TBC), as I have to do with other boxes.

PROBOX2 AVA specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1295DD quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz with ARM Mali-T820MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR4
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC flash, SD card slot, and 2.5″ SATA III bay
  • Video I/F
    • HDMI 2.0a output with HDR, CEC, and HDCP 2.2 support up to 4K @ 60 Hz (23.976 and 29.94Hz frame rates are also supported)
    • HDMI 2.0 input with HDCP 2.2 support for PVR, PiP, and UDP broadcasting
  • Audio I/F – HDMI with support for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD 7.1, optical S/PDIF
  • 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, IR receiver
  • Power Supply –  12V/1.5A
  • Dimensions – 200 x 125 x 21 mm

While many of the ports are placed in the same position as Beelink SEA I, the box is larger due to the external WiFi antenna. By default, the box ships with a power adapter, an IR remote control, a HDMI cable, and a user guide. The optional PROBOX2 Remote+ air mouse can be used as a game controller, an audio input for voice control, and of course an air mouse over a 2.4 GHz connection. The company (W2COMP) has sold TV boxes with Remote+ remote control for several years, and I used it during my review of PROBOX2 EX TV box in 2014.

Probox2 Remote+ with RF Dongle and User guide (Click to Enlarge)

At the time I liked the air mouse, including gaming and voice input modes, but missed the QWERTY keyboard on the back, and play/pause and trick modes keys that are useful in media players like XBMC (now Kodi). At the time, I could not turn on the device with the air mouse, so hopefully it’s something that has been addressed since then.

The device runs Android 6.0 and OpenWrt with support for Samba server, iTunes (DAAP) server, DLNA (UPnP) server, FTP server, AFP function (for Apple TimeMachine) and BitTorrent download functions as in most other RTD1295 devices. The change is the company’s APEX UI / launcher.

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PROBOX2 AVA is now up for pre-order on W2COMP for $135.00, or with Remote+ air mouse for $149.99. Amazon and eBay purchase links will be up on July 28th. More details may be found on the product page.

Le Potato Development Board Review – Part 1: Hardware and Accessories

July 17th, 2017 15 comments

Libre Computer launched AML-S905X-CC “Le Potato” board on Kickstarter last month, and since then there have been some updates such as worldwide shipping, so the board will now ship to most countries, not only in Europe or the US, and various designs of the case have been proposed. You can check the updates on Kickstarter for details.

Libre Computer Le Potato Kit Unboxing

The company also sent me a Le Potato board, but not only, as I received a complete kit…

… similar to the $99 “2GB eMMC kit” reward on KS with a board with 2GB RAM, a 64GB eMMC flash module, a HDMI cable, and a 5V/2.5A power supply with on/off switch, but a different case, cooling fan, and corresponding rubber pad and screws.

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The case exposes all external ports, and has holes on top for the fan.

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The other side includes the micro SD slot, plenty of ventilations holes, and some opening for jumper wires connected to the debug port, or some other headers.
The side of the 40-pin “Raspberry Pi” GPIO headers also has the same opening, so you could keep the case close even if you connect external hardware.

The bottom of the plate has two openings to allow for wall mounting, and four circles for the rubber pads.

The case came loose, but for good reasons, since you have to setup your board the way you want to before tightening the case. So I took about the board to have a look. I’ve already listed the specifications in the announcement post so I won’t go through hit again.

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The main change here is that the board is fitted with a small heatsink on top of Amlogic S905X processor. Note that board-only rewards in Kickstarter may not include that heatsink.

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The bottom side of the board has the remaining DDR3 memory (for the 2GB RAM board), the micro SD card slot, and if you have ordered an eMMC kit, a 64GB eMMC flash module, which you can take away.

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I visually compared it to ROCK64 flash module, and Hardkernel eMMC to micro SD card adapter, and the design is different with the two rows of pins closer on Libre Computer module.
The next step is to assemble the heatsink with four of the shorter screws, and add the rubber pads. A single longer screw will be used to keep the case tightened.

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But before that I connected the fan to 5V and GND on the 40-pin header, as well as my own USB to TTL debug board to the 3-pin serial header.

I assembled the case, and tightened it with the single screw, and it fits well. The jumper wires from my USB debug board can easily pass through the openings, and I can still move the wires around, so it’s not tight here.

Since I have an eMMC flash module likely pre-installed with an operating systems, I connected the power, HDMI and Ethernet cables. The fan works, and while it’s not that noisy, it still makes a little more noise than what I’ve used to on actively cooled mini PCs or TV boxes. Personally, it does not disturbs me, but some people may be annoyed by the noise. The easily solution is not to connect the fan, as many use cases won’t require it.

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Within around 30 seconds, the board booted to a familiar TV box launched in Android 7.1.

I’m waiting for the latest Android or Linux images before completing the second part of the review. I’ll likely test the Linux images if they are ready, rather than the Android one, since I’ve tested several Android TV boxes based on Amlogic S905X previously.

If you are interested in the board, there are still 6 days before the campaign ends, with pricing started at $25 with the 1GB RAM version of the board. I understand that even if the crowdfunding campaign fails, the board will go ahead, but possibly at a slightly higher price, as they’ve committed half a million dollars to the project according to the latest update in Kickstarter.

Getting Started with MediaTek X20 Android Development Board

July 17th, 2017 No comments

Thanks to CNX for helping me get a hand on the 96Boards compliant Mediatek X20 board that was generously donated by Seeed Studio. In this article, I will walk through the steps to get the board up and running and also compile Android from the source code. The current Android is version 6.

Unboxing the Beast

Figure-1 : DHL Packet

Figure-2 : MediaTek X20 Box

Figure-3 : Standoff, board and instructions

Figure-4 : Front Facing

Figure-5 : Powerful tiny MediateTek chip

Figure-6 : Side Shot

Figure-7 : Backside Shot

Figure-8 : Multiple Antenna

First Boot Up

The board boots up from the eMMC, and the first time you boot up you will get Android screen as shown in Figure-9. This is the default Android image from the factory, which surprisingly looks like it was setup for a phone screen mode, which is not sufficient for a HDMI monitor. It would be better to install the images that are made available at Linaro website or build your own. See the other section to flash the board with different images.

Figure-9 : Out-of-the-box Android

Figure-10 : Partition mount information

Switching to Fastboot Mode

Flashing image files are done using fastboot tool in bootloader mode. There are 2 ways to switch to bootloader mode. To prepare the board to be flashed it will need pin 3 (USB Host Set) located at the back of the board as shown in Figure-11 to be set to OFF

Figure-11 : Switch OFF pin 3

Method 1

The first method requires that you boot your board into Android. Power the board and let it boot to Android. Once it boots to Android you can switch to bootloader mode by typing

Once it switch to bootloader mode you can use the fastboot to flash the image

Method 2

The 2nd method require the xflash tool which can be downloaded from the following link http://builds.96boards.org/releases/helio-x20/mediatek/aosp/16.10/mediatek-x20-aosp-16.10.tar.xz. Unzip the file and you will see something like Figure-12.

Figure-12 : Tools and Image files

Extract xflash.tar.gz and you will see something like Figure-13.

Figure-13 : Inside xflash.tar.gz

Unplug the power supply, and plug your computer USB cable to the micro USB cable of the board and run the xflash tool as follow

The location of MT6797_Android_scatter.txt can be found inside the <your_unzip_mediatek>/Images/Normal Image/ as shown in Figure-14

Figure-14: Scatter File

Power up your board after running the xflash tool. You will see print out on the screen as shown below.

Once you see the text ‘END’ the board has been switched to bootloader mode, and is ready to be flashed.

Flashing Android Image

Before flashing the new Android image make sure your board is indeed in bootloader mode by running the following command

You know that you are in bootloader mode, once you get a reply like the following

You can either flash using the image files provided by Linaro or build your own custom image. You can download a ready made image file from http://builds.96boards.org/releases/helio-x20/mediatek/aosp/16.10/mediatek-x20-aosp-16.10.tar.xz (the image file are inside the <directory>/Images/Normal Image).

The extracted mediatek-x20-aosp-16.10.tar.xz wil look like Figure-15.

Figure-15: All image files

Copy all the different files inside /Normal Image and /Special Image to a separate folder and flash the files using the fastboot command as follows:

Building From Source

Android 6.0 is supported on the X20 board. Use the following command to checkout the AOSP source code

You will need to download the binary drivers from Linaro website. The driver binary can be downloaded from https://builds.96boards.org/releases/helio-x20/mediatek/aosp/latest/. Download the file called sla.tar.gz and unzip it. You will see something like Figure-16.

Figure-16 : Content of sla.tar.gz

Copy the contents of device/, prebuilts/ and vendor/ into the AOSP directory. After completing the copy steps follow the steps below to start compiling

  1. source build/envsetup.sh
  2. lunch
  3. You will be shown the selection like Figure-17

    Figure-17 : Lunch menu

  4. Select 8 (or even 9)
  5. make -j10

Once the build process is complete, you will see list of files as shown in Figure-18.

Figure-18 : Local image files

The image files are now ready to be flashed to the board. Use the same flashboot commands as above to flash the new compiled image.

Mediatek X20 Board Info and Antutu Benchmark

I’ll complete this guide by showing the info provided by CPU-Z and Antutu benchmark for the board for people wanting such details.

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If you’re interested in the board, you can purchase it for $199 plus shipping on Seeed Studio.

References:

  1. http://builds.96boards.org/releases/helio-x20/mediatek/aosp/16.10/
  2. http://www.96boards.org/documentation/ConsumerEdition/MediaTekX20/Downloads/ThirdParty/AOSP/LinuxFastboot.md/

ROCK64 Board Review – Part 1: eMMC Flash Module, Android 7.1 Firmware, Benchmarks, and Kodi

July 16th, 2017 17 comments

ROCK64 is the second ARM Linux development board by Pine64 that is based on Rockchip RK3328 processor, instead of Allwinner 64 for Pine A64 board, and while both processors comes with four Cortex A53 cores, the Rockchip processor offers a faster GPU, 4K @ 60 Hz video support, as well as USB 3.0 support. I’ve got a sample with an eMMC flash module, and I’m going to test it first with Android 7.1, since those were the only firmware images currently available on the Wiki, but Linux will be available before the board ships publicly at the end of July.

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Rock64 Linux Ports Status

There are now at least three Linux ports in progress:

  1. ayufan’s Debian Jessie and Ubuntu Xenial images which are now in pre-release, but should officially be released next week.
  2. Arch Linux ARM with no pre-built Rock64 images yet
  3. Fedora 25 minimal Image
  4. The Yocto Project support is also being worked on with the first release planed for August

I’ve got some comments on IRC, that ayufan images supports GPIO(s), Mali hardware graphics acceleration – but performance needs to be tuned -, as well as hardware video decoding but 4K videos are not playing that well right now. I’ll make sure to try one of ayufan image, before the boards ship on July 31st.

eMMC Flash Module Compatibility with ODROID Boards

ROCK64 board can boot from micro SD card or an eMMC flash module, with the latter likely to provide better performance than most SD cards, and you won’t have to worry about fakes. The eMMC flash module is not a new idea, as Hardkernel has offered those with their ODROID boards for year. And I read that Pine64 eMMC flash module would be compatible with ODROID boards, which would be good news if you already own any of Hardkernel ones. I tested compatibility the easy way, as I connected Pine64’s eMMC flash to Hardkernel eMMC to micro SD adapter…

and plugged it in to a card reader in my computer, and I could access “system” and “Volumn” partitions on the eMMC flash module part of the pre-installed Android image.So ODROID users can rejoice, as you may not need to buy extra eMMC flash modules to play around with ROCK64 board.

Installing Android 7.1 on ROCK64 Board

ROCK64 board firmware update to the eMMC flash module works just like firmware update on Rockchip TV boxes, i.e using Android_Tool program in Windows, or upgrade_tool (now renamed rkdeveloptool) in Linux. You’ll also need a USB male to male connected between your computer and the board. If you plan to run Android from a micro SD card instead, you can use the same image, but flashing it via SD_Firmware_Tool from Windows.  Eventually Pine64 installer program, based on Etcher, will probably be updated to support ROCK64 board, and handle both download and flashing to the micro SD card.

Currently there are two Android images provided via the Wiki:

  • Stock Android 7.1 [20170712] Engineering version released by the company
  • Community Build Android TV 7.1 [ver 0.1.8] by ayufan

I’ll use “Stock Android 7.1” for this review, since I’m not a big fan of Android TV, and both download are slow, with the Pine64 server easily winning the download race against github. 🙂

Since I’m a Ubuntu user, I went with the Linux method. Let’s install the update_tool, and uncompress the firmware image first. After download run:

After connecting a jumper – or something else to short both pins – as shown in the picture above with a red circle, I connected the power supply, and a USB cable between the top USB 2.0 port and my computer in order to enter MaskROM mode, and finally removed the jumper before running:

This should take a couple of minutes with the following output:

Firmware update is done.

Android 7.1 “Engineering Version”  Launcher, Settings and Benchmarks

So we can connect the board with everything we need.

The first time. I’m asked to choose between “ROCK64 Launcher” and “ROCK64 Launcher”, and you’ve got to love the choice offer here.
I just selected the first one (com.cloudmedia.rock64launcher) and it did not work quite as expected…

I tried to open the app again, but it did not work, so I just restarted the board, and could finally access the launcher [Update: The second launcher works better apparently]. Note that the framebuffer resolution is only 1280×720 instead of the more common 1920×1080 on this type of hardware.

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One small problem though… While the USB keyboard would work, my air mouse’s RF dongle connected to the top USB dongle would not be recognized. I had to move it to the lower part to make it work. Nothing would work on that upper USB port, so I guess it’s stuck in device mode, and could not find an option in Android to change that. So I connect a USB Hub with the USB keyboard and RF dongle, and it would not work either. After unplugging and replugging the hub, I was finally able to use at the same time.

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The settings will show on the right side of the screen, I just composed the screenshot above to show both resolution options up to 4096x2160p60(YCrCr420), and maybe 4096x2160p60(YCrCb444), which may have seen filtered out since LG 42UB820T television used for review is not supporting that mode.


The storage section shows 3.08GB used out of 14.45GB from the 16GB eMMC flash module, and the system could mount both NTFS and EXT4 partitions from the USB 3.0 hard drive, but not exFAT nor BTRFS.That image is based on Android 7.1.2 plus Linux 3.10.104, and a fairly recent April 5,2017 security patch.


Above is the list of pre-installed app in that image. I went to Google Play Store to install a few apps, and many were grayed out and impossible to install. I still managed to install Antutu and DRM Info. I ran the former, keeping in mind that without heatsink, the score may not be that good. 34,811 points in Antutu 6.x without heatsink is not bad, especially considering the room temperature was close to 30 ºC. I actually got a lower score with Rockchip RK3328 TV boxes like A95X R2 with only 33,117 points, also using the same 1280×720 resolution. DRM Info returns no support for Widevine DRM at all, not really surprising.

In order to install more apps, I decided to download APKPure apk via the installed Lightning web browser, and somehow the board became rather unresponsive, as is there was lot of I/Os in the background. After killing the browser twice when getting the “app not responding” window, I finally manage to download and install APKPure.

Damn, it will launch in portrait, a frequent bug on TV boxes running Android…. 4 or 5 years ago. So I decided that maybe I should give ayufan Android image a try after all, since the “Engineering Version” image has soon many bugs right now. As I finished testing I was also informed that “the stock build listed as engineering, we still tuning on 4K playback”, and that “eventually this tuning will roll into ayufan TV build around end of this month when ROCK64 production board roll out”. So eventually people will be directed to use Android TV 7.1 OS, and you should still keep in mind that there’s still 2 weeks before the board ships so many bugs will be ironed out.

Android TV 7.1 “ayufan” Firmware

As I tested the “Engineering” image, Android TV 7.1 firmware could complete to download (it tool around 6 hours), and I uncompress it, and flashed it using the same method as above:

I had no troubles to access to the launcher this time, and both USB 2.0 ports are working.

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The resolution is still 1920×1080, so that’s also an improvement.

Android TV firmware does not play nice with my air mouse however, as in many sections, mouse clicks are not supported, and the Home key has no effect. Doing searches in Google Play is a nightmare, as it will randomly switch to “voice mode” when I type with a keyboard or air mouse.

I could not find Chrome, nor Firefox in Google Play, so instead I installed some other “TV Browser”, and the download would not start, so instead I download APKPure in my computer, and installed it from ES File Explorer. The same portrait orientation occurred again, so I gave up, and side-loaded CPU-Z, A1SD Bench, and iperf from ES File Explorer.


CPU-Z shows a quad core Cortex A53 processor clocked at up to 1.51 GHz with a Mali-450MP GPU…

… and that I got the 1GB RAM version of the board (there are also 2GB and 4GB version), and the “screen resolution” is 1920×1080 as we’ve seen above.

This image is also based on Android 7.1.2 with Linux 3.10.104 kernel.

I used A1SD bench for storage benchmarks in Android which reports sequential speeds only.

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The “Cache read” is the internal memory so the 90.80 MB/s read speed is invalid. The 35.39MB/s write speed should be correct, and is not too bad with a flash. We’ll find more about the eMMC flash module once I run iozone3 benchmark in Linux. USB storage is working OK, with the EXT-4 partition (Red SD card) achieving 94.13 and 90.93 MB/s W/W speeds, and the NTFS partition (Yellow SD card) getting 92.82 MB/s and 62.66 MB/s not that from what I get on my computer with that mechanical hard drive. Other people have tested performance up to 300 MB/s on SSD drive connected to the USB 3.0 port of ROCK64 board. The important part is that performance maxes out Gigabit Ethernet bandwidth, which with EXT-4 file system it nearly does.

Speaking about Ethernet, I tested Gigabit performance by using iperf for 60 seconds for a full duplex transfer:

Not too bad, but it looks like it can not (currently) transfer close to max speed in both direction at the same time. If you are using it as TV box, it will not matter a bit however.

I also tested a few 4K videos from the USB 3.0 drive in Kodi 17.3 installed from Google Play since I was told it should work OK…:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – Audio OK, but video is a slidehow despite hardware video decoding with amc-h264 codec
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) – Shows previous video still with many green lines. I had very difficult controls from the air mouse, so I powered cycled the board.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) – Audio OK, but video is a slideshow despite using hardware decoding with amc-h265
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – Audio OK, but video is a slideshow with the picture refresh every ~6 seconds
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – Several audio cuts, and slideshow
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Video will freeze after a few seconds
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – Maybe 1 fps with amc-VP9 (HW)

All videos above are using hardware video decoding according to Kodi overlay info. I tried Big Buck Bunny 1080p60 sample, but the video was not watchable either. It would play, but not smoothly. CPU temperature should not be the problem, as I measured around 65 °C with a IR thermometer. I skipped HDMI audio pass-through, since I was told it would not work, and I can’t play videos properly in Kodi with the current firmware. Better video playback and HDMI audio pass-through are all being worked on right now.

So Android support does not look too good right now, and while I’m hopeful the most critical issues will be fixed by the time, people get the board next months, there are so many problems that, it’s likely many other bugs will still have to be fixed, so you may have to be patient if you have ordered  a board in order to run Android.

ROCK64 can be pre-ordered for $24.95 with 1GB RAM, $34.95 with 2GB RAM, and $44.95 with 4GB RAM on Pine64 website. You may want to add a power supply, and optionally the eMMC flash module to your order. Remember that you’ll also need a USB male to male if you want to flash the firmware to the eMMC flash. It’s not needed if you run Android from a micro SD card. You can find some tips to order a proper micro SD card in the article entitled  “Micro SD Cards for Development Boards – Classes, Tools, Benchmarks, Reliability, and Tips & Tricks“.

Bqeel MVR9 TV Box Review – Part 1: Specifications, Unboxing and Teardown

July 14th, 2017 6 comments

All Rockchip RK3328 based 4K TV boxes I’ve seen so far come with Fast Ethernet, not Gigabit Ethernet, with the exclusion of Rock64, which is not a TV box, but a development board. But Nagrace sent me Bqeel MVR9 box that comes with Gigabit Ethernet, in order to write a review. I’ll start by having a look at the hardware first, before experimenting with the firmware in several weeks.

Bqeel MVR9 Specifications

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor with ARM Mali-450MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR4 @ 1066 MHz
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDR10 and HLG support, 3.5mm AV port (composite video)
  • Video Codec – 4K VP9, H.265 and H.264, 1080p VC-1, MPEG-1/2/4, VP6/8
  • Audio Output – Via HDMI, and AV (stereo audio) ports; optical S/PDIF
  • Audio Features – Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD via RKMC
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 ports (including one OTG port), 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Misc – IR receiver, recovery button
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A
  • Dimensions –  115 x 115 x 23 mm
  • Weight – ~200 grams

The box runs Android 7.1.1, and the company told me YouTube 4K is supported, they added support for DRM (but only Widevine Level 3 for now), and BD ISO  & 3D Blu-ray can be played in RKMC.

Bqeel MVR9 Unboxing

I received the device in a black box reading “Smart Your TV, Color Your life”.

The box comes with a 5V/3A power supply that should be enough even if you connect a USB 3.0 hard drive, a male to male USB cable (for firmware recovery), a HDMI cable, an IR remote control, a TV box user manual, and remote control user manual.

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The box is made of plastic with the power button on one side, the AV port, recovery pinhole, micro SD card, a USB OTG port, and USB 3.0 port on the other side.

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The rear panel includes a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, a HDMI 2.0a output port, optical S/PDIF output, and the DC jack.

Bqeel MVR9 Teardown

We’d normally open the box by loosening some screws hidden under rubber pads, but there’s nothing there.

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So instead, I just had to unclip the bottom cover. There’s not much to see on that side of the board, except the sticker that reads TRN9-V10 2G+16G. So I loosened four screws to completely take out the board of the case.We can see two methods use to keep the box cool. First a black heatsink on top of Rockchip RK3328 processor, and a thick gray plate on top of the box.

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The board appears to have been designed by T-Chip, which should be the same company that makes the Firefly boards. The processor is connected to one 16GB Samsung KLMAG1JENB-B041 eMMC 5.1 flash that in theory delivers 285/40 MB/s sequential R/W speeds, and 8K/10k random R/W IOPS, as well as two Samsung K4A8G165WB-BCRC DDR4-2400 SDRAM chips @  (2GB in total). So the company has used some pretty decent storage and memory chip in the design, which should help with performance. They coupled a Realtek RTL8211F transceiver with Mnova MS0860 transformer for Gigabit Ethernet, and use Realtek RTL8723BS module for wireless connectivity (802.11 b/g/n WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0 LE).

Other notable chips include Rockchip RK805-1 PMIC, FE1.1s USB 2.0 hub, and TI DRV632 stereo audio line driver. We’ll notice a 3-pin header on the bottom left of the board which should be an alternative location for the IR receiver, and close to it a footprint to connect a fan. The UART debug interface is clearly marked with RX, TX, and GND, but not the most convenient, as you’d need to solder wire to solder pads.

I’d like to thank Nagrace for sending the review unit. There’s no product page, no price info right now.

H96 Pro Octa Core TV Dongle Runs Android 7.1.1 on Amlogic S912 Processor

July 13th, 2017 11 comments

That one will be confusing as H96 Pro is already a TV box, but somebody must have thought that model number was so good, it had to be re-used in another products. So I present to your H96 Pro TV dongle powered by the same Amlogic S912 processor running Android 7.1.1 Nougat. It’s not the first octa-core HDMI TV stick, as we’ve seen MeegoPad A02 (Allwinner A83T) and NEXBOX 809VI (Rockchip RK3368) in the past, but AFAICR I have not come across Amlogic S912 sticks before.

H96 Pro HDMI TV stick specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S912 octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.5 GHz with ARM Mali-820MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash, micro SD slot up to 32GB
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0a male connector with HDR support
  • Video Codec – 4K H.265 and VP9 @ 60 fps, 4K H.264 @ 30 fps
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (2.4GHz), and Bluetooth 4.1 + EDR
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port
  • Dimensions – TBD
  • Weight –  200g (TBC, probably a bit lighter than that)

As mentioned previously the stick runs Android 7.1.1, and ships with a micro USB cable for power, and a user manual in English. I’m a bit sad they somewhat crippled a 4K TV stick by not using a 802.11ac WiFi module. The product page claims that you can power it from your TV or projector USB port, but that may not always work, as such USB port may not deliver enough power for the stick to work reliably at all times. In the past, I could not even boot using that method with other TV sticks. So plan for an external USB power support to make sure. I would have thought by now that MHL would be a more common features in such TV dongle since many TVs now support MHL. Thermal management may also be an issue in such tight package.

I first found H96 Pro TV dongle GearBest where it is sold for $53.15 including shipping, but Aliexpress has better deals, including one seller offering it for $46.99 shipped.