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U5 PVR Deluxe Android Set-Top Box Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing, Teardown, and SATA HDD Assembly

April 22nd, 2017 27 comments

Last year, I reviewed U4 Quad Hybrid, an Android TV box powered by Hisilicon Hi3796M quad core Cortex A7 processor and with a combo DVB-T2/C + DVB-S2 tuner. with digital TV tuner. It worked pretty well, except for a few bugs here and there, the processor is not the most powerful, and video output & decoding is limited to 4K  @ 30Hz. The company – Shenzhen Vivant Technology – is now back with a new model called U5 PVR powered by a more powerful Hisilicon Hi3798C V200 quad core Cortex A53 processor with fast interfaces like USB 3.0, SATA, and Gigabit Ethernet, as well as support for 4K @ 60Hz via a HDMI 2.0a interface. There are actually three variations of U5 PVR with Deluxe/Slim/Normal models, and the company sent me U5 PVR Deluxe model for review. As usual, after listing the specifications, I’ll start the review by checking out the hardware, before reporting my experience with the firmware in the second part.

U5 PVR Deluxe TV Box Specifications

The TV box has some pretty impressive specifications:

  • SoC – Hisilicon Hi3798C V200 quad core Cortex A53 processor + multi-core ARM Mali-T720 processor
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR4-2133 SDRAM
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC 5.0 flash, internal SATA port for 2.5″ & 3.5″ hard drives / SSDs, micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a port up to 4K60 with HDR10 support, HDCP 1.4/2.2, AV port (composite + stereo audio)
  • Audio Output – Via HDMI, AV ports, optical S/PDIF port
  • Video Decoding – 10-bit H.265/HEVC up to 160 Mbps, H.264, MPEG-2, AVS/AVS+, VC1, VP8/VP9
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • Tuner
    • Smart Card slot
    • 4 Options
      • Combo tuner with DVB-S2/S and DVB-T2/T/C tuners
      • Dual DVB-T2/T/C tuner with two demodulators
      • Twin DVB-S2/S tuner with Disqc v1.0, v1.2, and USALS support
      • Dual ATSC 2.0 tuner with two demodulators
  • Misc – Power/standby button, power switch, 2x LED, 4-digit 7 segment front panel display, IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A ; Standby mode power consumption: 0.5 watt
  • Dimensions – 320 x 275 x 135 mm
  • Weight – 1.5 kg
  • Operating Temperature – 0 to 45 °C

The box runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with LeanBack launcher, a customized Live TV app, and support for PVR, time-shifting, and  TVHeadEnd 3.6 to steam Live TV to other devices (laptop, smartphone…). You’ll find more details hardware and software specifications in U5 PVR forums.

U5 PVR Deluxe Unboxing

The device package is really massive compared to other boxes I’ve received. I thought somebody might have sent an large oscilloscope instead…

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The package also shows one more option for tuner: single satellite tuner (DVB-S2/S). No tick on my package, so we’ll see which exact model I’ve received later.

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The box ships with a WiFi antenna, a large remote control taking two AAA batteries, and HDMI cable, a SATA cable + screws, a 12V/3A power supoply, and U5 PVR user manual. The user manual indicates that I should have gotten an RS-232 cable too, but it was nowhere to be found.

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The front panel comes with one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port, a window for the IR receiver and LCD display, two LEDs and the power button.

Both sides of the set-top box expose plenty of ventilation holes, with one side featuring the WiFi antenna connector, and the other two more USB 2.0 ports, and the Smart Card slot. The rear panles comes with two coaxial connectors (one female, one male) for the tuner, a 3.5mm AV jack, optical S/PDIF, HDMI 2.0a, Gigabit Ethernet, micro SD slot, the power jack, a mechanical power switch, and an RS-232 port used to reflash or upgrade the firmware.

U5 PVR Deluxe Teardown and SATA Drive Installation

Most TV boxes need to be opened from the bottom side of the case, and there are indeed a few screws that we could have removed to try to open the box. But since U5 PVR is supposed to take an internal hard drive, I found it would be an inconvenient way.

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So I looked into the user manual, but found absolutely nothing about installing a hard drive in the box. Then I realized the top cover was slightly elevated, and after gently pulling it I managed to take it out fairly easily.

We can see multiple mounting options with A: 2x 2.5″ HDD, B: 1x 3.5″ HDD, and C: 1x DVD. There’s only one SATA port, so I’m not sure how you would install two SATA drives, and a DVD drive would be possibly, but inconvenient unless you have a specific application that requires one DVD, or you place it on top of the case, and do not put the top cover back. There are also holes to install a fan, but I don’t have details to what type of fan is suitable. The sticker on the top left of the case read “Warranty void if seal is broken”, which does not make any sense, since that means connecting the hard drive internally would void the warranty. Anyway, I loosen the four screws, and pulled out the cover to have a better look at the board.

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The board is called “VV98C VERO 3”. A small heatsink covers the Hisilicon processor, are very next to it we can see a 16GB Samsung KLMAG2GEND-B031 eMMC 5.0 flash with 230/50MB/s sequential R/W speeds, and 6.5K/6K R/W IOPS, as well as two K4A8G16-5WG8CRC DDR4 memory chips. The tuner board comes with two Availink AVL6762TA DVB-T2/T/C demodulators, which means I got the Dual DVB-T2/T/C tuner version of U5 PVR Deluxe. Ampak AP6335 module provides 802.11 b/g/n/ac and  Bluetooth 4.0 Smart connectivity, while as we can see in the picture below, Realtek RTL8211E transceiver and PSF-2447 transformer are used for Gigabit Ethernet.

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Genesys Logic GL850G USB 2.0 hub is used for the extra USB ports since the processor only comes with a single USB 2.0 interface. The tiny 8-pin chip close to the power jack is FR9889 step-down DC to DC converter. The front panel board includes i-core HD2015E LED driver IC.

Now that we’ve had a look at the board’s main components. Let’s carry with the hard drive installation, and I’ll use a 3.5″ hard drive. First connect the 4-wire part of the cable J12 header, and the red SATA cable to the SATA port close to Ampak AP6335 module.

Connect the other part of the cable to the hard drive, place the HDD upside-down on a table, and tighten the four screws through the four “B” holes, before placing it back on top of the case as shown below.

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Tighten the four screws on the edges of the box, put back the top cover, and you’re done. In case, you prefer to use a fan, I strongly suspect that J14 3-pin header on the main board is designed for this very purpose.

I’d like to thank Shenzhen Vivant Technology for sending a review sample. Distributors and resellers may contact the company to purchase in quantities. U5 PVR Deluxe is not for sale at the retail level yet, but you should eventually find it on Vivant Technology Aliexpress store.

Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 Phablet: Up to 8GB RAM, Up to 256 GB Storage, Bezel-free 6.4″ Display, $1,095

April 20th, 2017 7 comments

Yesterday, Xiaomi introduced Mi 6 smartphone, in what looked like to be their premium model, but it turns out they have a more powerful (and expensive) model with Mi MIX 2 Phablet/Smartphone boasting the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, but equipped with up to 8GB RAM, 256 GB flash, and a 6.4″ display with 2560×1440 resolution and virtually without any bezels.

Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snpadragon 835 octa-core Kryo 280 processor with 4x cores @ 2.45 GHz, 4x cores @ 1.9 GHz, Adreno 540 GPU with support for OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0 full, Vulkan, DX12, Hexagon 682 DSP
  • System Memory – 4, 6 or 8 GB LPDDR4X dual channel memory
  • Storage – 128 or 256 GB UFS 2.0 flash; NO micro SD card
  • Display – 6.4″ capacitive touch AMOLED display with 2560×1440 resolution
  • Audio – Speakers; microphone; 3.5mm audio jack
  • Cellular Connectivity
    • 2G – 580/900/1800/1900 MHz; CDMA EVDO: BC0
    • 3G – WCDMA B1/2/5/8; TD-SCDMA: B34/39
    • 4G – FDD-LTE: 850/900/1700/1800/1900/2100/2600MHz;  TDD-LTE: B38/B39/B40/B41
    • Dual Nano SIM card dual standby
  • Other Wireless Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
  • Camera –  19 MP dual rear camera with flash and auto focus;  13.0MP front-facing camera
  • USB – Micro USB port
  • Sensors – Ambient Light Sensor, Gravity Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Fingerprint scanner
  • Battery – 4,500 mAh Lithium battery
  • Dimensions – 15.80 x 8.19 x 0.79 cm
  • Weight – 209 grams

The phone will run MIUI 9 based on Android 7.1 Nougat, and ship with a power adapter, a USB cable, and a “SIM needle”. A few items in the specifications above are inconsistent with the features of Mi 6 smaprthone, so I guess they may be incorrect: 3.5mm audio jack is not part of Mi 6, the wireless module is probably 802.11ac + Bluetooth 5, micro USB port ? seriously? It must be a USB type C port. I also have a gut feeling the sensor list is incomplete. Nevertheless, that device looks just as powerful as some entry level to mid range computers or laptops.

The reason why we don’t have clear specifications is because Xiaomi has not formally launched the device, but GearBest has listed the phone/phablet on their website, with three models:

  • 4GB RAM / 128 GB flash – $848.91 shipped
  • 8GB RAM / 128 GB flash – $951.37 shipped
  • 8GB RAM / 256 GB flash  – $1094.81 shipped

It’s also possible, GearBest is playing it safe, and gave higher prices before the product is formally announced, and while they are gathering emails to send “Arrival Notices” later on. We’ll know the real price of the phone once Xiaomi introduces it in China.

Via AndroidPC.es

Xiaomi Mi 6 Smartphone is Powered by Snapdragon 835 Processor, Comes with 6GB RAM, Up to 128GB Storage

April 19th, 2017 8 comments

Xiaomi has unveiled its latest phone with Mi 6 smartphone equipped with a 5.15″ display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core processor, 6GB RAM, 64 or 128GB storage, and more.

Xiaomi Mi 6 specifications:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snpadragon 835 octa-core Kryo 280 processor with 4x cores @ 2.45 GHz, 4x cores @ 1.9 GHz, Adreno 540 GPU with support for OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0 full, Vulkan, DX12, Hexagon 682 DSP
  • System Memory – 6GB LPDDR4X dual channel memory
  • Storage – 64 or 128 GB UFS 2.0 flash; NO micro SD card
  • Display – 5.15″ capacitive touch display with 1920×1080 resolution, 428ppi
  • Audio – Speakers; microphone; NO 3.5mm audio jack
  • Cellular Connectivity
    • 2G: GSM 2/3/5/8; CDMA: BC0
    • 3G: WCDMA B1/2/5/8; TD-SCDMA: B34/39
    • 4G: FDD-LTE: B1/3/5/7/8, TDD-LTE:38/39/40/41
    • Dual Nano SIM card dual standby
  • Other Wireless Connectivity – Dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BEIDOU
  • Camera –  12.0MP+12.0MP dual back camera;  8.0MP front-facing camera
  • USB – USB type C port
  • Sensors – Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Distance sensor, Ambient light sensor, Hall sensor, electronic compass, barometer
  • Battery – 3,350mAh Lithium battery
  • Dimensions – 145.17 x 70.49 x 7.45mm
  • Weight – 168 grams

The phone runs MIUI 8 based on Android 7.1, and the company claims its Antutu score is over 180,000 points. With those specifications Xiaomi Mi 6 would be a great candidate for convergence applications, but AFAIK the company has not provided any “desktop experience” software, nor docking station.

The phone ships with a USB tType-C cable, an eject pin for the SIM card slots, a user manual, and a power adapter. The 4GB/64GB sells in China for 2,499 CNY ($362), and 6GB/128GB version for 2,899 CNY ($USD421). GeekBuying has already started to take pre-orders for respectively $481.99 and $565.99 shipped, with actual shipping scheduled for in about one month.

Rockchip Introduces Three Tablet SoCs: RK3126C, RK3326, RK3366, and RK3368H Processor for 2-in-1 Laptops

April 19th, 2017 4 comments

Rockchip has launched four more processors at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair 2017, with three SoCs specifically targeting tablets namely RK3126C, RK3326 and RK3366, and one SoC, RK3368H modified from RK3368, designed to provide a lower cost alternative to RK3288 and RK3399 for 2-in-1 hybrid laptops and tablets.

The company only provided limited information with regards to the tablet SoCs specifications:

  • RK3126C quad core processor supporting 1080p video decoding and HD (720p?) displays for entry-level tablets
  • RK3326 quad core ARM Cortex A35 processor with a quad core Mali GPU, DDR3/LPDDR memory interface, 1080p60 H.264, MPEG-4/-2 video decoding, and 1080p30 H.264 video encoding
  • RK3366 quad core ARM Cortex A53 processor with a quad core Mali GPU, DDR3/LPDDR memory interface, USB 3.0 interface, and 4K H.265 video decoding

All three processors will be running Android 7.1. I could not find any tablets based on the processor yet, so we may have to wait a few more month.

We have more details about RK3368H processor since it’s an update of RK3368 processor, and a tablet was showcased at the event.

Rockchip RK3368H key specifications:

  • CPU – Octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ 1.5 Ghz
  • GPU – Imagination PowerVR SDX6110 GPU @ 600 MHz
  • Memory I/F – 32-bit DDR/LPDDR
  • Display I/F  – Full HD Display supported
  • Video – 4K H.265 and H.264 video decoding
  • Ethernet and HDMI port “reduced” (likely meaning removed) for lower costs
  • 28nm process

The processor can run Android 7.1 operating systems, including desktop optimized version such as Remix OS, Phoenix OS, or Light Biz OS. The company claims the tablet shown above gets around 48,000 points in Antutu benchmark. Netbook Italia also posted a video of the tablet (in Italian) showing it’s made by Chiptrip, but they have not updated their MID page with the new tablet just yet.

Via AndroidPC.es

Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE Selects Two Winners for Commercial Medical Tricorders

April 18th, 2017 No comments

Healthcare takes around 10% of worldwide GDP, and while in some cases an increase in the healthcare to GDP ratio means better care for people, in other cases it may  lead to a decrease in the population’s living standards. There are political, business, and legal issues involved in the costs, but overtime I’m confident that technology can both improve care and lower the costs, in some instances dramatically, especially if open source designs become more common, and there’s some work in that respect with open source projects for prosthetics, opthalmoscope, and even surgical robots. Some commercial projects also aim(ed) to lower the costs of diagnosis tools such as Sia Lab’s medical lab dongle or Scanadu medical tricorder. The latter project sadly did not manage to pass FDA approval, and the company will stop supporting it on May 15, 2017, but that does not mean others have given up on developing a Star Trek like tricorder project, and Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE – which aims at diagnosing 13 disease states – selected two winners for the competition: Final Frontier Medical Devices and Dynamical Biomarkers Group.

Final Frontier Medical Devices DxtER Tricorder

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Final Frontier Medical Devices is a US based team of engineers and medical professionals that realized 90% of patients going to emergency services just wanted a diagnostics for their problem, and decided to work on a DxtER tricorder, which “includes a group of non-invasive sensors that are designed to collect data about vital signs, body chemistry and biological functions. This information is then synthesized in the device’s diagnostic engine to make a quick and accurate assessment”.

Final Frontier Mediacal Devices got $2.5 million for their achievements, not bad considering they worked part-time on the project. The video below explains a little more about the team, their work, and the problem they try to solve, but does not give much details about the actual product and different sensors used.

DxtER cannot identify all 13 conditions from the XPRIZE challenge, but their algorithms are said to be able to diagnose 34 health conditions including diabetes, atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, urinary tract infection, sleep apnea, leukocytosis, pertussis, stroke, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.

That aren’t much more details in DxtER’s product page for now.

Dynamical Biomarkers Group Tricorder

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Dynamical Biomarkers Group is a 39 persons team based in Taiwan, supported by HTC Research, and  led by Harvard Medical School Associate Professor Chung-Kang Peng. The team got the second prize, still a cool $1 million, for their tricorder prototype comprised of three modules:

  • Smart Vital-Sense Monitor – Temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and oxygen saturation.
  • Smart Blood-Urine-Breath Test Kit – Analyze fluids or breath dynamics to diagnose conditions such as urinary tract infection, diabetes, and COPD
  • Smart Scope Module – Bluetooth enabled magnifying camera to obtain high-resolution images of the skin and tympanic (ear) membrane. Used for diseases such as melanoma or otitis media.

These modules allow “physiologic signal analysis, image processing, biomarker detection”, and have been designed to be easy to use through a smartphone with an app that guide the patient through specific tests to generate a diagnosis.

The video below, again does not give much details about the product itself, but present the team, and explain the motivations such as controlling the cost of medical resources in Taiwan, and especially providing quality healthcare in rural areas of Greater China.

From the video, they seem to have greater resources for development than the US based team. Some more details about the tricoder can be found in the Center for Dynamical Biomarkers’ (DBIOM) XPRIZE page.

Via Liliputing

RDA Micro RDA8810 Android SDK with Linux & U-boot Source Code for Orange Pi 2G IoT Board Released

April 18th, 2017 22 comments

Orange Pi 2G IoT board was released a couple of weeks ago, shortly followed by Android and Ubuntu images, but since it was not based on Allwinner, but an RDA Micro  8810PL processor, we did not have any source code so far, which can be a real problem for a development board… Shenzhen Xunlong has now managed to upload a 6.7GB Android SDK to MEGA, with the link published via Orange Pi Resources page.

MEGA has a download limit which depends on how much traffic they get at the time, and after 5.3 GB download,  I was asked to register for a PRO account, or wait for four hours before resuming the download. If you want to avoid this limit for any large MEGA download, you can run megadl instead. That’s what I did in Ubuntu 16.04 (remember to escape any special characters with \):

Once the download is done, none of the files have extension, but the first file is a gzip compressed files, while others are just raw data, so I concatenated all 6 files into a gzip file before uncompressing it, at which point I realized it was a tar file too:

The company has made it unnecessary difficult for that part, but I was finally successful, and that’s what the content of the SDK looks like.

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The Android SDK  relies on Linux 3.10.62, and I’ve been told while the Android part is quite poor, the Linux part looks better, even though the version is not quite the latest. U-boot source code is also included, and part of the 2G modem code can be found in the modem directory.

I got the news through ParrotGeek1 who plans to rebase the code to Linux 3.10.105, and release a Debian image. He has setup a RDA8810 github account with the Linux kernel. So you’ll have to be patient, or join the fun to get a better Linux image. There’s no clear roadmap for Orange Pi 3G-IoT or 4G-IoT based on other RDA Micro processors, but that would certainly help motivating a few more people if such boards were planned.

Bben to Launch an Apollo Lake HDMI TV Stick Powered by Intel Celeron N3450 Processor

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

Intel is planning to launch “Michigan City” Apollo Lake Compute Sticks sometimes with year, but Bben, after launching MN17A Apollo Lake mini PC, may be able to launch their own Celeron N3450 TV stick before Intel does, as Netbook Italia reports the company showcased such product at the Hong Kong Global Sources Electronics Fair.

Bben Applo Lake “Micro Computer” (foreground) vs Cherry Trail Stick (background)

Bben Micro computer  specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron N3450 quad core processor @ 1.1 GHz / 2.2 GHz, 12 EU Intel HD graphics 500 @ 200 MHz / 700 MHz; 6W TDP
  • System Memory – 2 to 4GB DDR3
  • Storage – 32 or 64 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI port (likely limited to 1.4 version with 4K @ 30 Hz max resolution/framerate)
  • Audio – HDMI + 3.5mm audio jack
  • Connectivity – Dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.2
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • Misc – Fan and ventilation holes
  • Power Supply – TBD via power barrel
  • Dimensions & Weight – TBD (Metal housing)

The stick, whose name is still to be decided, will run Windows 10 or Android (version TBD), including a dual boot version. The first part of the video below introduced the Cherry Trail TV sticks, before a short description of the Apollo Lake one, and other products.

The new TV stick should be released this summer for a yet-to-be-determined price. You’ll likely be able to purchase it from Bben Official Aliexpress store once it comes out.

Mirabook is Laptop Dock for Smartphones, Development Boards (Crowdfunding)

April 17th, 2017 5 comments

Motorola Lapdock may have been ahead of its time, as laptop docks for smartphone are back in vogue with products like NexDock, and Apple could soon launch their own iPhone laptop dock. Another option is Miraxess Mirabook laptop dock with a 13.3″ display, and a battery lasting up to 24 hours, that works for smartphones, development boards, and HDMI TV sticks thanks to its USB type C port.

Mirabook specifications:

  • Display – 13.3″ IPS display with 1920×1080 resolution (non-touch, except if they raise $2 millions…)
  • Audio – Speakers, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Video Output – HDMI port
  • Storage – SD card slot
  • QWERTY keyboard & multi-touch trackpad
  • USB
    • Integrated USB type C cable to connect to phone, board or HDMI TV stick
    • USB type C port to charge the Mirabook battery
    • 2x USB type A host port
  • Battery – TBD capacity good for 24 hours while charging your phone
  • Dimensions – 320 x 220 x 15 mm
  • Weight – 1 kg

The solution relies on SlimPort to provide video & audio over USB as it works for many products, and does not require as much (CPU) resources as DisplayLink. The latter will however be considered as a stretch goal if the campaign raises over $300,000.

The company explains that “convergence” operating systems such as Windows Continuum, Samsung DeX, Auxens Oxi OS, or Remix Singularity, are particularly well suited for the Mirabook, as they provide a desktop experience when the phone is connected to a larger display. They also mentioned Leena OS which I had not come across before, and works on any Android 4.2 or greater smartphone with a free version supporting multi-window, web apps, and a browser, and a Pro version  adding some extra features like a native PDF reader, and the possibly to put icons on the desktop.

The project has launched on Indiegogo with Miraxess aiming to raise at least $50,000. A $180 Early bird pledge should get you a Mirabook, while the retail price after the Indiegogo campaign is expected to be $299. Shipping will add around $15, and delivery is scheduled for December 2017.

Via Liliputing