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Review of MINIX NEO U9-H Media Hub & MINIX A3 Air Mouse – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown

February 24th, 2017 4 comments

MINIX showcased MINIX NEO U9-H TV box at IFA 2016 last year, but was not ready to launch the product or provide the full details yet. The company has now completed development of their Amlogic S912-H octa-core TV box, and sent a review sample for evaluation on CNX Software together with their latest MINIX A3 air mouse with voice command function. I’ll start by listing the specifications of the TV box, take some pictures, and tear it apart to check out how it’s been designed in the first part of the review, and test the firmware in the second part which I intend to post in a few days.

MINIX NEO U9-H Media Hub specifications

One of the main difference over other Amlogic S912, is the -H suffix which means Dolby and DTS licenses have been paid for so all apps will handle those audio formats:

  • SoC – Amlogic S912-H octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.5 GHz with ARM Mali-820MP3
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC 5.0 flash, and micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz with HDMI CEC, and HDR support
  • Audio I/O – Via HDMI output, optical S/PDIF, 3.5mm headphone jack, 3.5mm microphone jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 4.1
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Misc – IR receiver, power button, Kensington Lock
  • Dual DRM Support – Play Ready 3.0 + Google Widevine Level 1
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A

The device runs Android 6.0.1 with XBMC MINIX Edition. The box does not officially support Netflix, but this apk likely based on a previously reported Netflix hack, should give you better quality than the Netflix app from Google Play.

MINIX NEO U9-H Unboxing Photos

I’ve received the box and air mouse in familiar looking packages (if you’ve ever bought anything from MINIX).

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The TV box has exactly the same shape as previous model, and ships with a WiFi antenna, a HDMI cable, a USB OTG adapter, a micro USB to USB cable in case you want to connect the box to your computer, a 5V/3A power adapter, a MINIX IR remote control, and a user’s manual in English, German, and Chinese.

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The front of the device has a plastic window for the IR receiver, and the power LED, while one of the side includes the power button, three USB 2.0 host ports, a micro SD slot, a micro USB OTG port, and a Kensington lock. The rest of the ports can be found on the rear panel: 3.5mm headphone jack, 3.5mm microphone jack, HDMI 2.0a output, optical S/PDIF, Gigabit Ethernet, and the power jack.

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You’ll also find the recovery pin hole on the bottom of the case, more exactly on the left side on the picture below.

MINIX NEO A3 Air Mouse

NEO A3 air mouse specifications include:

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

The remote ships with a user’s manual in English, and an RF dongle located in one of the two battery compartments located on the keyboard side.

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It’s actually very similar to MINIX NEO A2 Lite I’ve been using in all of my reviews for about a year.

MINIX NEO A2 Lite (Left and Top) vs NEO A3 (Right and Bottom) – Click to Enlarge

The main difference on the remote side is the microphone & settings button in the new model replacing respectively the “enter button”, which I never use since the Android button does the same, and the mute button. The keyboard side is very similar, except for some adding characters on the arrow keys.

The remote fits well in bigger hands, and I’m overall happy with my experience with A2 Lite, but I wish that space, dot, and enter did not have alternate keys, as I often have to press the Fn button to switch between mode. For example typing an IP address is not that convenient, but one the other side I understand space is limited on such keyboard, and you may have to compromise. The air mouse works well with MINIX devices, and can also be used with other devices, except that you can’t turn on TV boxes from other brands with the remote. This would require some IR learning function which has not been implemented.

MINIX NEO U9-H and NEO A3 Unboxing Video

MINIX NEO U9-H Teardown

Opening NEO U9-H is straightforward, as you just need to remove the four rubber pads on the bottom of the enclosure, and loosen four screws.

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The bottom of the board includes two SkHynix H5TQ4G63CFR-RDC DDR3 SDRAM chips (1GB RAM), the recovery switch, and a 3V battery for the real-time clock (RTC).

It’s then very easy to complete take out the board, as you can simply pull it out. MINIX is always serious when it comes to cooling, and again they’ve used a large heatsink in their latest model, which means there should be no GPU or GPU throttling  issue. The two wireless antennas are connected to u.FL connector with some glue to keep them in place during transport.

The heatsink has a thermal that fits right on top of Amlogic S912-H SoC, which on the top of the board is connected to two more  SKHynix chip brings the total memory to 2GB, and a 16GB Samsung KLMAG1JENB-B041 eMMC 5.1 flash with 285/40 MB/s read/write sequential performance, and 8K/10K random R/W IOPS, so I/O performance should be very good.

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Network connectivity is achieved via a Realtek RTL8211F transceiver, and a RJ45 jack with built-in transformer, as well as the same Ampak AP6356S wireless module found in MINIX NEO U1, and supporting 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi up to 867 Mbps (2×2 MIMO) and Bluetoth 4.1 LE. Other components include Genesys Logic GL852G USB 2.0 hub controller, ES8323 audio codec, and Nuvoton MINI54ZDE ARM Cortex M0 MCU to handle power controls. wjhich were also used in NEO U1 TV box. MINIX also kept the same debug headers with JDEBUG1 with 3.3V/Tx/Rx and GND, ICE1 possibly for Nuvotron MCU, and JUART1 with Tx/Rx/GND. So the hardware looks just as solid as in NEO U1, and the eMMC flash that has been upgraded to a new and faster model, which should help a bit with boot time, apps loading times, and overall performance.

That’s it for the hardware, we’ll have to see if firmware is working as well as on their MINIX NEO U1 model, and I’ll publish a review sometimes next week after completing testing.

MINIX NEO U9-H will be officially released on Friday March 3, with pricing as follows:

  • MINIX NEO U9-H = US$139.90 / 154.90EURO
  • MINIX NEO A3 = US$34.90 / 39.90EURO
  • MINIX NEO U9-H + NEO A3 = US$159.90 / 174.90EURO

GearBest has already listed the device on their site, but it’s currently out of stock, since it will only launch in one week. However, MINIX also told me they had some limited stocks in their Amazon US, Amazon UK, and other Amazon stores.

ODROID-XU4 Development Board Price Drops to $59, Now Supports Linux 4.9 LTS

February 23rd, 2017 36 comments

ODROID-XU4 development board powered by Samsung Exynos 5422 octa-core processor launched in summer 2015, but even after two years, it’s one of the fastest, if not the fastest, low cost development board on the market. It is also equipped with Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 ports, but so far at $74, it was quite much expensive than slower peers. Hardkernel has now decided to lower the price to $59 plus shipping, which is really a good deal in terms of price/performance, and you’ll also benefit from close to two years development, as the board now supports Linux 4.9 with updates promised until early 2019.

Here’s a reminder of the technical specifications:

  • SoC – Samsung Exynos 5422 quad core ARM Cortex-A15 @ 2.0GHz + quad core ARM Cortex-A7 @ 1.4GHz with Mali-T628 MP6 GPU supporting OpenGL ES 3.0 / 2.0 / 1.1 and OpenCL 1.1 Full profile
  • System Memory – 2GB LPDDR3 RAM PoP (750 MHz, 12GB/s memory bandwidth, 2x32bit bus)
  • Storage – Micro SD slot (up to 64GB) + eMMC 5.0 module socket (16, 32, and 64GB modules available)
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4a port up to 1080p
  • Audio Output – HDMI, optional S/PDIF out via USB module
  • Network Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, and optional USB Wi-Fi dongle with antenna
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 host port, 1x USB 2.0 ports
  • Expansion – 30-pin header for access to GPIO, IRQ, SPI and ADC signals + 12-pin headers for GPIOs, I2S, and I2C
  • Debugging – Serial console header
  • Misc – Power and RGB LEDs, cooling fan header, power button, RTC
  • Power Supply – 5V/4A power adapter (recommended) using 5.5/2.1mm barrel.
  • Dimensions – 82 x 58 x 22 mm
  • Weight – 60 grams with fan; 38 grams without cooler

One reason why the price is cheaper, is that the 5V/4A power adapter is not included by default, and if you don’t have your own, it will add $5.50.You’ll also find a list of accessories such as eMMC modules, enclosure, Cloudshell NAS kit, expansion boards, displays, etc… on the product page linked in the introduction.

The board can run various official or community-developed operating systems such as Ubuntu 16.04 + OpenGL ES + OpenCL, Android 4.4 to Android 7.0, Debian Jessie, Kali Linux 2.0, Arch Linux ARM, etc… and it is also supported by the Yocto Project. You’ll find the images and documentation on the Wiki, the source code is available on Github, and support in the active odroid forums and/or #odroid IRC channel.

Beelink SEA I Android TV Box, OpenWrt NAS, and HDMI Recorder Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

February 23rd, 2017 6 comments

Realtek RTD1295 SoC is so far found in devices running Android & OpenWrt, and equipped with an HDMI input port for recording, PiP, and UDP broadcasting. I have already reviewed Zidoo X9S with an external SATA port, and Eweat R9 Plus with a 3.5″ SATA bay, and I’ve now received Beelink SEA I offering another option thanks to 2.5″ SATA bay, and a lower price of $98.99 and up using coupon GBSEA16 with the 2GB/16GB version, or GBSEA32 with the 2GB/32GB version. As usual, I’ll start with some photos and a teardown in the first part of the review, before testing the firmware in more details.

Beelink SEA I Unboxing Photos

I’ve received the box in the retail package below showing some of the features like 4K video playback, picture-in-picture thanks to the HDMI input, and supports for games and apps.

Beelink SEA I comes with either 16GB or 32GB eMMC flash for storage, and I received the 16GB version.

The box ships with a 12V/1.5A (18 Watts) power supply, anHDMI cable, an IR remote control with IR learning function, and a short user’s manual.

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Contrary to its competitors which are all equipped with a metal case, SEA I comes in a plastic case, slightly wider than typical TV boxes to accommodate for the 2.5″ SATA bay.

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The front panel includes an LCD display, an IR window, and power LED, one of the side comes with a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 host port, and an SD card slot, while the rear panel features one HDMI 2.0 output, one HDMI 2.0 input, a Gigabit Ethernet port, optical S/PDIF, and the power jack.

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If you want to insert an hard drive, you can do so by turning the box around, pushing out the cover, and inserting a 2.5″ hard drive up to 6TB in the slot.

It’s very easy to do, and does not require any tools.

Beelink SEA I Teardown

In order to open the device, we’ll need to remove the two rubber pads at the bottom of the case, loosen the two screws underneath, and use some ridig plastic tool to pop out the bottom cover.

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There’s no much to see on the back side of the PCB, so we can loosen 6 screws, then pull out the board around the LCD area in order to take it out from the plastic enclosure. We can see cooling is achieved with a thermal pad placed on top of RTD1295DD SoC and stuck on a metal shield, which is then in contact with another thermal pad placed on top of a thick metal plate. We’ll have to see how effective it is during testing…

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The company used a 16GB Samsung KLMAG1JENB-B041 eMMC 5.1 flash for storage with 285/40 MB/s read/write sequential performance, and 8K/10K random R/W IOPS, so they did not cut costs on that part, since the theoretical numbers are pretty good. The board also comes with two Samsung K4A8G165WB-BCRC DDR4 SDRAM  chips (2GB RAM). Networking is implemented with an 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 LE module based on Realtek RTL8821AU, and H2403N transformer for Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. There’s also a chip marked S342 2227, but I’m unclear what it is for, maybe some sort of PMIC. Beelink SEA I is also one of the rare TV boxes with an RTC battery, and if you’re interested in working on the board, for example for RTD1295 mainline Linux kernel, the serial console is clearly marked on an unpopulated header on the right of “Beelink” silkscreen.

The front panel display is controlled via “AIP1618E0” display controller, but I could not find any references online.

I’d like to thank Beelink for sending the review sample. If you are interested in the device, you could purchase it on GearBest as mentioned in the introduction, while if you plan to purchase in quantities, you may want to contact Beelink directly instead.

Remix Singularity to Bring Remix OS Desktop Optimized Operating System to Android Smartphones

February 22nd, 2017 No comments

Android is great to consume content, but is a real pain to create content, as operation like copy/paste and multi-tasking you take for granted in desktop OS like Ubuntu or Windows are not well supported in Android. But Jide Technology saw an opportunity and many users are familiar with Android on their phones and tablets, and some on Android TV boxes, so they created Remix OS, based on Android, but with desktop optimization such as better multi-tasking, multi-window support, improved mouse and keyboard integration and so on. They started with a tablet, and then also worked on ARM based Android TV boxes and laptops, as well as support for x86 computers. The company has now unveiled Remix Singularity which aims to bring Remix OS to smartphones in a similar manner to Windows Continuum or Ubuntu Convergence.

But beside just mobile and desktop (PC) modes, Remix Singularity will also allow to use your smartphone in TV modes, meaning it will be a smartphone on the go, a computer when connected to a monitor, mouse and keyboard, and a media player while connected to your TV. The company also mentions that you can use Remix Singularity on your smartphone with your laptop, but did not provide much other details so far, apart from a short demo video.

Remix Singularity, aka Remix OS for Mobile will become available this summer, likely for a limited number of popular smartphones.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SBCs: Inforce 6640, iWave iW-RainboW-G25S, and DragonBoard 820c

February 20th, 2017 5 comments

We’ve already covered Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 system-on-modules such as Intrinsyc Open-Q 820 and Inforce 6601, which can be used with baseboards that are suitable for development, but so far I had not seen a single board computer (SBC) powered by the processor optimized for mass production and suitable for integration into products. Bu this is about to change, as three Snapdragon 820 SBCs are now (or soon will be) available with Inforce Computing 6640, iWave iW-RainboW-G25S, and DragonBoard 820c.

Inforce 6640 SBC

Inforce Computing 6640 Single Board Computer specifications:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core Kryo processor with 2x cores @ up to 2.2GHz, 2x cores @ up to 1.6GHz, Adreno 530 GPU, Hexagon 680 DSP
  • System Memory – 4GB LPDDR4
  • Storage – Up to 64GB UFS 2.0 flash, microSD slot
  • Video Output / Display Interface – 2x 4-lane MIPI-DSI DPHY 1.2 , 1x HDMI 2.0 interface for touch screen displays
  • Audio – WDC9335 audio codec; 4x line out; 1x stereo headphone out; 3x mic in
  • Camera – 2x 4-lane MIPI-CSI supporting sensors up to 28MP
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet (Atheros 8151), 802.11ac WiFi + Bluetooth 4.2 LE (QCA6174A), GPS/GNSS module (WGR7640)
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 host port, 1x micro USB 2.0 OTG port
  • Expansion – 34-pin “PAC” expansion header with I2C, SPI, UIM, UART, serial console, 12x GPIO
  • Power  Supply — 12VDC @ 3A; PM8996 PMIC, PMI8996 charger
  • Dimensions — 100 x 70mm (Pico-ITX)
  • Temperature Range – 0 to 55°C (commercial range)

The company currently provides Android 6.0.1 and Android 7.0 BSPs, but based on the comments section on a related Linux Gizmos article, Inforce Computing is working on a Linux BSP that should be released by the end of March.

Inforce 6640 board can be purchased for $289 directly on the product page, where you’ll also find some info, and some documentation.

iWave iW-RainboW-G25S

The second board of our list is made by iWave Systems Technologies, based in Bangolore, India, and comes with the following specifications:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core Kryo processor with 2x cores @ up to 2.2GHz, 2x cores @ up to 1.6GHz, Adreno 530 GPU @ 624 MHz, Hexagon 680 DSP
  • System Memory – 3GB LPDDR4 expandable to 6GB
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash expandable to 128 GB, microSD slot
  • Video Output / Display Interface – micro HDMI connector, 2 lanes MIPI DSI connector via 30P connector
  • Audio – WCD9335 audio codec; audio in/out jack;
  • Connectivity – 802.11 ac WiFi + Bluetooth 4.1, GPS (WGR7640)
  • USB – 1x micro USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 type C connector (optional)
  • Expansion – 30-pin connector with MIPI DSI,  4 lanes MIPI CSI up to 28MP @ 30 fps, 3x I2C, 2x GPIO
  • Misc – 3x tactile switch, console debug header
  • Power  Supply — 5VDC via micro USB port, 3.7V Li-Ion connector, PM8996 PMIC, PMI8996 charger
  • Dimensions – 56 x 50 mm

The company only mentions Android 6.0 Marshmallow support for the board, and expects it to be used for augmented & virtual reality applications, high end wearables,
video analytics, 4K digital signage, 4K camera, connected home & entertainment, location based services, infrastructure management, indoor navigation, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and other high-end embedded computing applications.

You’ll need to request a quote to get the price for the board, and you can do so, as well as get a few more details, on the product page.

Arrow Dragonboard 820c

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I first found out about DragonBoard 820c, when I covered DragonBoard 600c development board last summer, but at the time there was not enough information to write a separate article. The board has now been listed on Arrow, and appears very similar to 600c board, so we have a few more details including basic preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
  • System Memory – 3 GB LPDDR4
  • Storage – 32 GB UFS Flash + micro SD slot, maybe an mSATA slot?
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0
  • Audio – Via HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack (TBC)
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port,
  • Camera – Support for up to 3x image sensors up to 28 MP.
  • Expansion
    • 1x 40 pin low speed expansion connector
    • 1x 60 pin high speed expansion connector
    • 1x 16-pin & 40-pin audio expansion connector
    • 1x 24 pin female header (not found on DragonBoard 600c)
  • Misc – Volume, power & reset buttons. 6 LEDS (4x user, 1x Wifi, 1x Bluetooth)
  • Power Supply – +6.5 – 18V DC input
  • Dimensions – 100 x 100 mm compliant with 96Boards CE Extended specifications

The page on Arrow states that:

This board only supports the Android operating system at this time.  There is NO Linux support for this board from Arrow, Qualcomm, or Linaro.org.  Only the Hardware Manual and Android User Manual are available as documentation.

However, a Wiki page on Linaro website explains how to install Debian and Open Embedded on the board, and DragonBoard 820c is supported by the Yocto Project, or at least there’s work done on it.

Contrary to the other boards, DragonBoard 820c does not appear to be available just yet, and price is  not known either.

9Tripod X3399 SoM and Development Board are Powered by Rockchip RK3399 Hexa Core Processor

February 17th, 2017 2 comments

9Tripod (九鼎创展) has just launched X3399 system-on-module powered by Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core Cortex A72/A53 processor, and as well as a corresponding development board for people wanted to get started quickly before designing their own baseboard.

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X3399 core board preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core big.LITTLE processor with two ARM Cortex A72 cores up to 2.0 GHz, four Cortex A53 cores, and a ARM Mali-T860 MP4 GPU with OpenGL 1.1 to 3.1 support, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL and DX 11 support
  • System Memory – 2GB LPDDR3 (2x Samsung K4E8E304EE-EGCF)
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC 5.0 flash (Samsung KLM8G1GEND-B031)
  • IOs – 204-pin to be soldered on baseboard
  • PMIC – Rockchip RK808-D
  • Dimensions – 55×55 mm

9Tripod does have a forum in English, but the company provides most of the information in Chinese.  I could not find details about Linux or Android images and source code, except a few mentions of Linux Qt, Ubuntu, and Android OS on a WIP Wiki, and that the bootloader used is xboot open source bootloader managed by 9Tripod community. There are some PDF documents with more details, but I failed to download them even after registration. If somebody could download them, and re-uploaded them somewhere, it would be appreciated.

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The company also provides X399BV1 development board with the RK3399 system-on-module soldered on, and the following (preliminary) specifications:

  • Storage – micro SD card
  • Video Output / Display IF – HDMI 2.0, 2x MIPI DSI connector, 1x MIPI DSI dual connector
  • Audio – Via HDMI, optical S/PDIF 3.5mm headphone jack, left and right speaker headers, 2x on-board microphones
  • Camera – MIPI CSI connector, CIF camera connector
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, Ampak AP6354 wireless module with 802.11 n/g/n/ac WiFi 2x2MIMO, and Bluetooth 4.1 LE, micro SIM slot
  • USB – 1x USB type C port, 1x USB 3.0 port, 2x USB 2.0 host ports.
  • Serial- DB9 RS-232 port, TTL UART connector
  • Misc – Buttons, RTC + battery slot

The specifications above have been derived from the board’s photos only. I could not figure the two “connectors” on the bottom of the board are for. An IO header appears to be completely missing from the board, a big omission for a “development” board.

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9Tripod X3399 CoreBoard can be purchased for 599 CNY on Taobao (~$87) , while the developer board goes for 999 CNY ($145). If you don’t need a system-on-module for your own project, and/or can’t read Chinese, you’ll probably be much better served by Firefly-RK3399 development board instead.

$140 R-TV BOX K99 Android 6.0 mini PC Comes with Rockchip RK3399 SoC, 4GB RAM, 32GB Storage

February 16th, 2017 5 comments

We will the first hardware platforms shipping with a Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor later this month and in March, with Firefly-RK3399 development board, and various TV boxes / mini PCs such as Vorke Z3, Yundoo Y8, and Remix IO+. Another option is “R-TV BOX K99” with 4GB RAM, 32GB storage, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.1ac WiFi… that’s currently up for pre-order on GeekBuying for $139.99, and scheduled to ship in 3 days.

R-TV BOX K99 specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3399 hexa core processor with 2x ARM Cortex A72 cores @ up to 2.0 GHz, 4x ARM Cortex A53 cores, Mali-T860MP4 GPU @ 800 MHz with support for OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL, DX11, AFBC (frame buffer compression)
  • System Memory – 4GB DDR3
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC 5.1 flash + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz
  • Video Codecs – 4K 10-bit H.265, H.264 & VP9 decoding up to 60 fps
  • Audio Output – HDMI, optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi (867 Mbps) + Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB type C port with OTG mode, and DisplayPort 1.2 video/audio support
  • Misc – Power button, recovery port
  • Power Supply – 5V/2.5A
  • Dimensions & Weight – N/A

K99 runs Android 6.0 operating system, and ship with a power adapter, an IR remote control, a HDMI cable, and a user’s manual.

Please note that Rockchip RK3399 is not a TV box SoC, and lacks the latests features like HDR, and HD audio (TrueHD / DTS HD) pass-through is not guaranteed to work. However, you’ll still be able to watch most videos, and performance will be much better than previous generations leading to smoother games, and faster web browsing and general user experience. From that point of view, Rockchip RK3388 boxes might be seen as Android mini PCs, rather than TV boxes focusing on the best AV experience. We’ll have to see what the first reviews reveal to find out.

Review & Quick Start Guide for Khadas Vim Pro Development Board with Ubuntu 16.04

February 11th, 2017 32 comments

Khadas Vim is the only Amlogic S905X development board I’m aware of. There are 4 or 5 versions of the board, but currently only two models are sold: Khadas Vim with 8GB flash and single band WiFi + BLE 4.0, and Khadas VIM Pro with 16GB flash, and dual band WiFi + BLE 4.2. SZWesion, the company behind the board, has sent Khadas Vim Pro for evaluation. Today, I’ll take a few pictures of the board and its accessories, and report my experience playing with Ubuntu 16.04.2 on the board. They’ve also released Android, LibreELEC, and dual boot Android/Ubuntu (for Vim Pro only) images, which you can find in the firmware resources page.

Khadas Vim Pro Unboxing and Photos

My parcel included Khadas package that looks like a book, an HDMI cable, and the same IR remote control sent with GeekBox, the first board made by the company, and powered by a Rockchip RK3368 processor.


You can indeed open the package like a book, and you’ll find the board and a USB to USB type C cable inside, as well as some basic specifications.

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You can verify you’ve got the right model on that back of the package which shows the memory and storage, in my case 2 GB + 16 GB.

The board comes with a neat acrylic case with opening for headers and ports. The top of the board features a 40-pin header, the Amlogic S905X processor (no heatsink), two RAM chips, the eMMC flash, the wireless module (AP6255), and most ports with two USB 2.0 ports, a USB type C port, HDMI 2.0a, and Fast Ethernet. There’s also a separate header close to the USB-C port giving access to Vin in case you don’t want to power your board through USB.

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There’s also 2-pin battery connector on the left of the board for the real-time clock (RTC). The bottom side of the board includes two more RAM chips, and the micro SD slot.

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Power, “function” and reset buttons can also be found on the side of the board, and there’s an IR receiver on the right of the 40-pin header.

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Ubuntu 16.04 on Khadas Vim (Pro)

While you can download the firmware on the “Firmware Resources” page, I recommend you check the Announcements & News section on the forums, as they normally include a changelog and some tips to configure your board. An Ubuntu 16.04 + XFCE image was released last month, but the company uploaded a Ubuntu 16.04.2 server image yesterday, so that’s the one I’m going to use today. A new Ubuntu 16.04 + XFCE image with better graphics support will be released sometimes next week.

My plan is to do the update in my Linux computer. The firmware is distributed through Mediafire, so you’ll have to download it through your web browser. I also downloaded  Vim_Uboot_170121.7z on the Firmware Resources pge since it’s needed for the SD card update method. Once we’ve got the firmware and U-boot binaries we can extract them with 7z.

Now insert the micro SD card inside your computer, find the device with lsblk, and check if it has more than one partition. Replace /dev/sdX with your own device.

If it has no partition or more than one, you’ll need to change the partition table using tools like fdisk, or gparted. The instructions provided on Khadas website are basically the same as I wrote in the post “How to Create a Bootable Recovery SD Card for Amlogic TV Boxes“.

Mount the partition, for example by removing and re-inserting the micro SD card into your computer, and copy two files needed for update:

Eject the micro SD card:

Now connect your board with the cables would want to use (e.g. Ethernet, HDMI. etc…), and possibly connect a USB to TTL debug board to access the serial console in case of errors. I also connect a USB hub with my RF dongles for air mouse, and a USB keyboard.

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The board comes pre-loaded with Android 6.0.1 with Linux 3.14, so you can connect the power first to make sure the board is working properly. Note that you’ll need to provide your own USB power supply. I used a 5V power supply, and not a fast charger found in some phone and starting at 12V. Now we can insert the micro SD card we’ve just prepared into the board, and boot into Upgrade Mode by keeping pressing on the power button (closest to the 40-pin header), pressing a short time on the reset button (closest to the USB port), and releasing the power button two or three seconds later. At this point, you should get a firmware upgrade interface on the HDMI display with a green progress bar, and once completed you’ll get a “Successful Android” logo.

This is what it looks like in the serial console during the update:

So I pressed Control-C in the serial console (if you have not set it up just reboot the board), and it failed to boot with the multiple error messages:

I contacted SZWesion about the issue, and they told me the SD card method did not work despite being documented on their website, and I had to use Amlogic USB Burning Tool in Windows instead. So I fired up a Windows 7 virtual machine, and I had no problem (for once) flashing the “update.img” file extract from Vim_Ubuntu-server-16.04_V170211.7z to the board.

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This time it works and the board booted properly. Here’s the complete boot log for reference: