Posts Tagged ‘Android’

Beelink GT1 TV Box Review – Part 2: Android Marshmallow Firmware

October 24th, 2016 4 comments

I’ve previously reviewed other Amlogic S912 TV boxes such as M12N MXQ Plus or Qintaix Q912, but Beelink GT1 has the advantage of being quite cheaper at $56 and up, but still come with many of the same features as more expensive devices. I’ve already posted pictures, and checked out the hardware design in the first part of Beelink GT1 review, so in the second part I’ll report my experience with Android, including video and audio capabilities, hardware features testing, and some benchmarks.

First Boot, OTA Firmware Update, Settings, and First Impressions

The device comes with two USB ports only, so I connected a USB hard drive to one of the port, and a USB hub to the other with the RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, as well as a USB keyboard to take screenshots. I completed the setup by adding HDMI and Ethernet cables, and connected the power supply to start the system.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

A typical boot will take 30 seconds, and brings you to the home launcher.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

You’ll find a section with date & time, and weather for your city, icon to main app (Kodi, Browser, Play Store, File Manager, Settings…), and a section with favorites, which the first time is empty, but you can easily add or remove icons as I did in the screenshot above. You’ll also have access the more favorites on the left and right of the main screen. If you’ve connect a hard drive, you’ll also get the annoying “USB device connected” window(s) at each boot just like in NEXBOX A95X TV box.


I had received the box early September, but now we are close to the end of October, so one of the first thing I did was to go to the list of apps, and start UPDATE&BACKUP app to check for any Online (OTA) firmware update.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Good, so I could update 20160819 firmware to 20160902 firmware. It did not work the first, as my USB hard drive was connected, but I repeated the update with USB mass storage devices connected to the device, nor a micro SD card, and it worked smoothly, and did not mess with my settings, nor the few apps I installed with Google Play at the time.
I went to the app again, and it found another update, so I update to firmware 20160930. I would be extra nice, if this would be handled automatically, but that’s just a minor issue. The changelog is completely useless, as they just copy “1. Optimization system 2. Minor bug fixes” for each firmware update…

I did on more check, and this was the latest version when I started the review. But before testing Kodi a few days later, I checked one more time, and I found yet another version with the exact same changelog, but a new 20161022 version which I installed successfully.


So the good news is that OTA firmware update is working fine, and Beelink is providing them fairly often at this stage. I’d also like it them to offer a detailed changelog the way Zidoo is doing.

The settings part is the same as on Qintaix Q912 Android TV box, except they’ve added HDMI CEC options, and removed “Power key  definition”
Some of the most useful options include:

  • Device
    • Network – WiFi, Ethernet, and VPN
    • Display
      • Screen resolution: Auto switch on/off, deep color mode on/off, 1080p24/50/60, 720p50/60, 4k2k 24/25/30/50/60/SMPTE, 576p50, 480p60, 1080i50/60
      • Screen position, Day Dream, HDR (Auto, On, Off)
    • Sound -> Digital Sounds -> Auto detection, PCM, HDMI, SPDIF
  • Preferences
    • HDMI CEC – See screenshot above
    • Playback settings – HDMI self-adaptation on/off (aka automatic frame rate switching)
    • More settings – Access to Android Marshmallow settings

My Onkyo AV receiver will detect Beelink GT1 through HDMI CEC, but as usual I can’t use the arrow keys on Onkyo remote to control the device. The Android TV box will also prevent me to turn of the AV receiver, even if HDMI CEC is turned off in the box. The only work around is to disable HDMI CEC (RIHD) in the receiver itself. It’s a bug common in all Amlogic TV boxes running Android 6.0.

about_mediabox_beelink-gt1The good thing with Beelink GT1 is once I configure video output to 4K 60Hz it will stay that way all the time, contrary to many other TV boxes, not only based on Amlogic or also other processors.

We can go to More Settings to access Android Marshmallow settings with all the usual options. The settings also report an internal 16GB partition, but it’s obviously an hard coded value, possibly to avoid some customer complaining about not getting 16 GB storage, but only 11 or 12 GB… The About Mediabox section shows Beelink GT1 runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29 as per About Mediabox section. The firmware is rooted.

The included infrared remote control works OK, but the range is limited to 4 to 5 meters.  I’ve still used an air mouse for most of the review, since that type of device is more suited to Android, and a keyboard is included.

I had no problems with Google Play store, and I could install all apps I needed for review. I also installed the free version of Riptide GP2 racing game through Amazon Underground app.

The power button on the remote control will let you turn off, enter sleep mode or reboot the device, and it works… most of the time. For some reasons, at one point the box would just reboot, when I select the Shutdown option, and I could reproduce the issue 3 times. However, later one, the problem completely disappeared and turning off the device worked 100% of the time. I cannot remember if this was done before or after applying the last firmware update (20161022). You can also turn on the device from your sofa using the remote control.

Power consumption is not too bad, but bear in mind that Beelink decided to keep USB and Ethernet on in standby mode:

  • Power off – 1.0 watt
  • Standby – 2.0 watts
  • Idle – 2.4 watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 1.1 watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 4.0 watts (USB HDD + Ethernet still on)
  • Idle + USB HDD – 4.4 watts

That’s an advantage if you download files in the background for example, but if you want to save power, then power off mode is recommended. Ideally, power off consumption should be a bit lower than 1.0 watt.

Beelink GT1 did not get overly hot during testing. The maximum top and bottom covers’ temperatures after Antutu were respectively 47 and 51 °C, and about 47°C and 59°C after playing Riptide GP2 for 20 minutes.

Based on several comments I had read last month, and earlier this month, about apps crashing, some green screen flickering, and even Kodi forums recommending to avoid Amlogic S912 TV boxes and giving the “Buggiest Android Kodi Box award of the quarter” to “any Amlogic S912 box running Android Marshmallow 6.0”, so I was expecting a lot of troubles with the device. However, my experience was actually pretty good, as the firmware was responsive, I did not experience apps crashing nor random reboot at any times, never saw the green screen issue, and as we’ll see below, Kodi worked reasonably well for a cheap device. So either I was lucky, or the firmware update since then, helped fixed many of the issues. This does not mean it’s perfect, as it still have HDMI CEC issues, small pointer at 4K resolution, and other small bugs.

Video & Audio Playback with Kodi 16.1, Antutu Video Tester 3.0, and DRM Support

Beelink GT1 comes pre-loaded with a version of Kodi, but I’m not sure which, as while in Google Play I saw a few apps needed some upgrade, and I just clicked on upgrade all, and I only saw too late than it would mean an “upgrade” to Kodi 16.1 from Google Play. But finally, I found it may not be a bad idea, as usually I test the pre-installed version of Kodi, but for that review I can see how Kodi 16.1 from Google Play works on an Amlogic S912 TV box.

Some piracy add-ons are installed in the box by default, and an installation from the Play Store, will not remove them. I first went to the settings to make sure Video->Playback->Adjust display refresh rate is set to Always, as I had already enabled HDMI self-adaption in Android settings.

I played all videos from a SAMBA share over Gigabit Ethernet, unless otherwise stated.

Starting with some 1080p (and 720p) videos from Linaro media samples, and Elecard:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container – 1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – 1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK (software decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 1080p – Not smooth (software decode)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK

Automatic refresh rate switching is not working as on most other Amlogic TV boxes. VP8 is not playing smoothly because it’s relying on software decide. More videos with various bitrates:

  • ED_HD.avi (H.264 / 10 Mbps) – Not smooth
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK, excepting while panning in some scenes due to 60 Hz video output. If I manually switch to 24 Hz, the video is smooth.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Could be smoother
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

Not quite perfect, but pretty much the expected behavior on most Amlogic devices. Dolby and DTS audio testing was then performed using both PCM output (stereo downsampling) through my TV speakers, and HDMI pass-through via Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver. Kodi audio options only allow DTS and AC3 pass-through, and there was nothing about TrueHD, nor DTS HD.

Audio Codec in Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi 16.1)
PCM 2.0 Output
(Video Player)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi 16.1 )
HDMI Pass-through
(Video Player)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but slow video No audio  DD 5.1, but slow video OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 & no audio Slow video, and no audio HDMI icon blinking on AV receiver
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 & no audio OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 & no audio OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 & no audio DD 5.1 with beep (the app switched to the DD 5.1 track in the video)
DTS HD Master OK No audio DTS 5.1 DTS 5.1
DTS 5.1
DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636) OK No audio DTS 5.1 DTS 5.1

So that’s clearly not as good as more expensive Android TV box, as Amlogic S912 does not include Dolby nor DTS license (required for stereo downsampling for most apps), but it’s still slightly better than most cheap TV boxes, as HDMI pass-through works for DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 in Kodi, and TrueHD also supported in other video apps like Video Player or MoviePlayer. I did not notice any audio cuts with HDMI audio pass-through, as I experienced in many other devices.

Time for some 4K videos:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) –  OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (not supported by S912 VPU)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) –  OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – ~1 fps, lots of artifacts (not supported by Amlogic S912 VPU)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – SAMBA: bufferring a lot; USB HDD: Slow motion
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays but could be a bit smoother

So overall, 4K video playback is pretty decent on Beelink GT1.

Sintek-4k.iso & amat.iso Blu-Ray ISO’s samples, and MPEG2 1080i videos could play just fine. A 720p Hi10p video could play smoothly with subtitle and audio, but 1080p is not smooth, as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes. Since Hi10p relies on software decode, you need more powerful hardware, and I expect Rockchip RK3399 based TV boxes to easily handle Hi10p 1080p videos, but not 4K ones.

I’ve also tested some 3D stereoscopic videos only to see if the device could decode them since my TV does not support 3D:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Black screen, audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

I also tested a bunch of other videos including MKV, VOB/IFO, AVI, XViD/DViX, MP4, and FLV videos and I had no problem whatsoever.A full 2-hour 1080p H.264 movie could fully play from the SAMBA share without issues

Antutu Video Tester 3.0 benchmark reports 866 points, roughly the same as on other Amlogic S912 I’ve tested so far.


DRM info reports Widevine Level 3 is supported.


Click to Enlarge

YouTube app could play videos up to 1080p.

WiFI & Ethernet Performance

I copy and paste a 278MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash using ES File Explorer in order to evaluate WiFi performance. Beelink GT1 achieved a lowly 1.7 MB/s on average with 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, but a more respectable 4.36 MB/s with 802.11ac (434Mbps Link Speed). It should be noted that download and upload speeds are asymmetrical, and downloads reach about 6.0 MB/s using 802.11ac, and ~2.2 MB/s with 802.11n.

Throughtput in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Gigabit Ethernet works pretty well, as shown with iperf full duplex results:

Miscellaneous Tests


I could pair Beelink GT1 TV box () and Vernee Apollo Lite smartphone in order to transfer a few pictures. Smart Movement has no issue connecting and synchronizing data to my Bluetooth LE fitness tracker, and I could listen to audio through SPORTS-S9 Bluetooth headset.

Since the firmware is already rooted, so I tried Sixaxis app with PS3 Bluetooth game controller close as explained in the post entitled “How to Play Games in Android TV Boxes With a PS3 Bluetooth Controller“, and it worked perfectly. So Bluetooth appears to be working very well on that device.


NTFS and exFAT partitions on a 1 TB USB 3.0 Seagate hard drive could be mounted, but not BTRFS nor EXT-4 ones. a FAT32 micro SD card could also be mounted in read/write mode.

File System Read Write
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

A1SD bench app confirmed results found in most Android TV boxes with USB 2.0 ports, with 30+ MB/s for read speed for both NTFS and exFAT file systems, but a much lower sequential write for exFAT (6.8 MB/s) compared to NTFS (22.37 MB/s).

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

The eMMC flash performance is clearly above average at 57.60 MB/s read speed, and 30.71 MB/s write speed.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s – Click to Enlarge


I played Candy Crush Saga with the air mouse, and as Beach Buggy Racing with the wireless gamepad are both games played perfectly, even with graphics set to the highest settings in the latter. Riptide GP2 had acceptable performance even with “highest resolution” setting, not quite as smooth as on devices with a better GPU, such as Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced, but as expect just the same as other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and the best Amlogic S905 TV boxes. I played the game for 15 to 20 minutes, and performance was constant throughout.

Beelink GT1 Benchmarks

Let’s start with CPU-Z. Beelink has not updated the firmware to reflect Amlogic S912 is actually limited to 1.5 GHz (1.65 GHz in best case), but apart from that we have the same values as on other S912 TV boxes. The manufacturer is Netxeon (Beelink is their brand), and the board is named q201_9377.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Antutu 6.x results varied quite a bit, with the first run achieving only 37,013 points, and another run around one hour latter getting 41,287 points, or about the same as M12N MXQ Plus TV box. RAM speed tests seems to be especially variable on Amlogic S912 devices.
Vellamo returned results slighly better to what I got with Qintaix Q912, namely 792, 1,488, and 2,858 points for respectively Metal, Multicore, and Browser benchmarks, against 787, 1,422, and 2,336 points for the Qintaix device. M12N did not manage to complete the Multicore test.


Beelink GT1 works relatively well for this price, with a responsive and very stable firmware, most features working just fine, Kodi 16.1 working with DTS and Dolby audio pass-through, very good storage performance, but of course you can’t expect the same level support as more expensive devices, so for example TrueHD and DTS-HD are not working, automatic frame rate switching neither, and there are still some bugs common to other Amlogic Android Marshmallow devices.


  • Stable and responsive Android 6.0 firmware
  • Good 4K video support for VP9, H.265 and H.264 codecs in Kodi 16.1
  • HDMI audio pass-through for Dolby 5.1 & DTS 5.1 i Kodi 16.1, plus TrueHD 5.1/7.1 in Video Player & MoviePlayer (and other video apps relying on Android APIs)
  • Fast eMMC flash leading to fast boot and app loading times
  • Good Gigabit Ethernet performance, and decent WiFi 802.11ac performance (with my setup)
  • Google Play Store works fine
  • Good Bluetooth support with file transfer, BT audio, Bluetooth LE, and Sixaxis controller (PS3 gamepad) all working
  • OTA firmware update, and frequent firmware releases (about once a month so far)
  • Support forums (with Beelink more or less active)

CONS (and bugs)

  • HDMI audio pass-through not working for TrueHD and DTS HD 7.1 in Kodi 16.1, Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD 7.1 not supported in other apps
  • Automatic frame rate switching not working properly in Kodi and other apps (e.g. Video Player)
  • Overall performance and user experience very similar to Amlogic S905 TV boxes, except for Android 6.0, VP9 and HDR support.
  • 802.11n WiFi performance under average (with my setup)
  • Potential issue with Shutdown not working all the time (it will reboot instead). N.B.: I can not reproduce it easily.
  • HDMI CEC bug keeps my A/V receiver on (when pressing the power button on the receiver), even when HDMI CEC is disabled (unless I disable CEC in the receiver itself)
  • DRM: Only supports Widevine Level 3
  • Dolby & DTS licenses not included (Only a problem for apps other than Kodi, for people not using HDMI or S/PDIF audio pass-through). This would require Amlogic S912-H (Dolby+DTS) or S912-B (Dolby only) processor
  • Minor – Mouse pointer quite small when 4K video output is selected
  • Minor – “USB device connected” window(s) always autostart at boot time when USB mass storage device is connected.

Beelink GT1 price makes it attractive compared to other Amlogic S912 devices, but you don’t already gain much compared to cheaper, and some would argue more stable, devices based on Amlogic S905 processor, beside an upgrade to Android 6.0, VP9 video decoding, and HDR support.

I’d like to thank Netxeon/Beelink for sending the review sample. Resellers and distributors can purchase in quantities directly with the company, while individual will be find Beelink GT1 on Amazon US for $66.97, GearBest for $55.99 with GBGT1 coupon, and from several sellers on Aliexpress for $59.99 and up.

Zidoo X8 Android TV Box, OpenWrt NAS, and HDMI Recorder Sells for $109

October 24th, 2016 12 comments

I posted my review of Zidoo X9S Android TV box, HDMI recorder and OpenWrt NAS a few days ago, and despite some limitations with regards to 4K video playback, the device is working pretty well. The $140 price tag might be a little more than some people are ready to pay, and the good news is that the company has now launched a cheaper model based on the same processor called Zidoo X8, without the external SATA port, and less storage.


Zidoo X8 specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1295 quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz with ARM Mali-T820 MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot + SATA 3.0 interface
  • Video I/O – HDMI 2.0a output, AV output and HDMI 2.0 input (Support up to 4K60 input, but record/stream up to 1080p @ 30 Hz)
  • Audio I/O – HDMI in and out, AV, S/PDIF output
  • Video Playback – HDR, 10-bit HEVC/H.265 up to 4K @ 60fps, H.264 up to 4K @ 24 fps, VP9 up to 4K @ 30 fps, BDISO/MKV, 3D videos, etc… automatic frame rate switching
  • Audio Features – DTS HD and TrueHD 7.1 channel audio pass-through
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 (RTK8821)
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, VFD display, restore pin hole.
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A
  • Dimensions – TBD

The media center runs Android 6.0 and OpenWrt simultaneously, and ships with  a remote control, an HDMI cable, a power adapter, and a user’s manual.


So the only thing really missing compared to Zidoo X9S is the external SATA port, but since there’s still a USB 3.0 port, you’ll still have decent storage performance. I’d expect the firmware to work as well as on Zidoo X9S with HDMI audio pass-through up 7.1, automatic frame rate switching, and 4K video playback to work very well with Media Center app, but a little less well, especially for videos, using ZDMC (Kodi 16.1 fork) internal player. HDMI input will also you to setup a PiP window, record videos to your hard drive, or stream videos to the network, while OpenWrt will add support for NAS functions such as SAMBA share, FTP, Bittorrent downloader, and more.

Zidoo X8 is currently selling for $109 on GeekBuying, or about $30 to $40 cheaper compared to Zidoo X9S. You’ll also find a few sellers on Aliexpress, and it should be sold on Amazon US soon.

Aikun Morphus X300 Android Game Console with 3D Display Integrates Detachable Game Controllers

October 23rd, 2016 7 comments

Earlier this week, Nintendo unveiled their innovative switch game console that can be used in various configuration such as a portable game console, and a TV connected game console by inserting the portable game console into its dock, and detaching the game controllers on each side of the display. There are many ways to play with the console in single or multiplayer mode, and the best way to understand what’s possible is to check out the video on Nintendo Switch product page. Few other details were provided but we do know it’s based on a custom Nvidia Tegra processor, and it should be available in March 2017. It turns out Aikun is already selling a similar concept with their Morphus X300 game console, available on for 299 GBP, and slated to ship next month.


Gaming performance should be much lower than Nintendo Switch but still enough for many Android games, and it incldues a glasses-free 3D display too. Morphus X300 specifications:

  • SoC – Unamed Octa Core ARM Cortex-A7 processor @ up to 1.7GHz / 2.0 GHz with an octa Core Power VR SGX544 MP2 GPU @ 700 MHz (It might be some Mediatek processor based on the advertised CPU frequencies, but I could not pinpoint the exact part number)
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash (64GB optional) + micro SD card slot up to 64 or 128 GB
  • Display – 8″ capacitive touch and glasses-free 3D active SBS IPS display with 1280×800 resolution.
  • Video Output – micro HDMI port
  • Camera – 8.0MP rotatable camera with auto focus
  • Connectivity – Dual Band WiFi 802.11b/g/n/a, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Controllers – Two X300 Elite sliding controllers with range up to 10 meters (2.4GHz RF), 1,600 mAh battery
  • Battery – 5200mAh Li-ion battery
  • Dimensions – tablet: 218.5 x 131.5 x 11.3mm; controller: 111 x 60 x 38.5 mm
  • Weight – 480 grams without controller, 650 grams with controllers

The game console runs Android 5.1.1, and ships with the two controllers, a travel adapter, a micro USB cable, and a Quick Start Guide.

Charbax interviewed the company a few days ago, where you’ll find a demo of the system in the video below.

Aikun Morphus X300 will also soon be available on Amazon US for $249, Amazon Europe websites for 249 Euros, and Amazon Japan for 28,999 JPY. More details can be found the product page.

Test Widevine & PlayReady DRM, HDCP 1.x/2.x, 4K VP9 and H.265 in Android with Exoplayer App

October 21st, 2016 2 comments

I first heard about ExoPlayer in an Android TV Overview presentation at Linaro Connect 2014, but I never really looked into it. The source code is available on Github, and I’ve been given ExoPlayer.apk as it can be used to test UHD H265 support, HDCP 1.x, HDCP 2.x compatibility, PlayReady & Widevine DRM using different format and so on.

ExoPlayer Demo - Click to Enlarge

ExoPlayer Demo – Click to Enlarge

So I installed it on Beelink GT1 Android TV box which I’m currently reviewing, and only include basic Widewine Level 3 DRM, and certainly does not support HDCP features.

There are 9 sections in the app to test various videos and DRM schemes:

  • YouTube Dash
  • Widevine Dash Policy Tests (GTS) – Widewine with or without HDCP, with or without secure video path
  • Widevine HDCP Capabilities Tests – NoHDCP, HDCP 1.0, HDCP 1.1, HDCP 2.0, HDCP 2.1, HDCP 2.2, and HDCP no digital output
  • Widevine Dash MP4, H264 – Various resolution (SD, HD, UHD) for clear or secure videos
  • Widevine Dash WebM, VP9
  • Widevine Dash MP4, H.265
  • SmoothStreaming – Super speed or Super speed (PlayReady)
  • HLS – Apple master playlist, Apple TS media playlist, Apple ID3 metadata, etc…
  • Misc – Various video & audio formats and codecs (MKV, FLV, Google Play videos…)

I tested a few the tests without HDCP nor secure data requirement will work just fine. Widevine secure SD (MP4, H.265) would work fine, but as expect Widevine Secure HD and UHD would not work, and only show a black screen with audio since Level 1 DRM is not supported by my device.

Then I switched to Widewine HDCP 2.2, and to my surprise the video could play… I later found out that HDCP does not kick-in immediately, and if I play the video for a longer time, the video will stop after 9 seconds because Beelink did not get the HDCP 2.2 license for their box.

AFAIC, there’s automatic testing, and each test must be started manually. But it’s still a useful if you are interested in copy protection schemes supported by your Android device.

I’ll complete the post with something unrelated with ExiPlayer, but still interesting to check HDCP support if you own an Amlogic device, as there are some commands to check the status of HDCP:

  • Show whether the TV is currently working with HDCP 2.x or HDCP 1.x:

22 = HDCP2, 11 = HDCP1, off = HDCP not enabled right now

  • Check HDCP authentication status:

1=authenticated ok, 0 = failed to authenticate.

  • HDCP keys for device

00 = no HDCP key, 14 = has HDCP1_key, 22 = has HDCP2_key

  • Check TV HDCP version

22 = TV supports HDCP2, 14 = TV supports HDCP1)

  • Disable HDCP protection:

Remix IO Aims to be Your $99 Android 7.0 TV Box, Mini PC, and Game Console (Crowdfunding)

October 21st, 2016 7 comments

You can use any Android TV box to watch movies on your TV, play some games as you would on a game console, and perform tasks such as checking email, browsing the web or editing documents like you’d do on your computer. However, this is not always as straightforward and/or user-friendly as it could be, so Jide Technology worked on Remix OS, a fork of Android, to make the experience more PC-like when needed. Recently they’ve also worked on improving gaming and a TV interface, and the company has now launched a new Kickstarter campaign for Remix IO Android mini PC based on Android 7.0 and including software improvements to create an all-in-one device acting as a TV box, mini PC, or game console.


Remix IO specifications:

    • SoC – Rockchip RK3368 Octa-Core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.5GHz with Imagination PowerVR SGX6110 GPU
    • System Memory – 2GB DDR3L
    • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + microSD card slot up to 128GB
    • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 port up to 4K @ 60 Hz, VGA port
    • Audio Output – HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack,
    • Connectivity – Ethernet port, dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
    • USB – 4x USB Type-A 2.0 host ports
    • Misc – Power button, and 2x LEDs, cooling fan and heatsink
    • Power Supply – 9V/2A power supply

It will ship with an IR + BT 4.0 remote control.

Remix IO will run the latest version of Remix OS upgrade to Android 7.0 Nougat with a large collection of apps accessible from Google Play Store, TV and PC modes, muti-user support, and a gaming toolkit. Apps will have different behavior and look in TV and PC modes, for example, YouTube for Android TV app will be launched in TV mode, and the standard YouTube app in PC mode. The gaming toolkit allows users to to map touch controls to keyboard, mouse, and game controller inputs.

The company will also provide 2 sets of SDKs to backers with a vanilla AOSP SDK to port stock Android into Remix IO, and a Remix OS SDK to customize features and look, and also modify the kernel, for example to add support for extra hardware peripherals.

Jide has already raised over $250,000 for Remix IO, but the $99 early board pledge for the box is still available. After 4000 units, the price goes up to $109, and you can also pledge for rewards with multiple units to get a discount. Shipping adds $10, and delivery is planned for March 2017,  except for the developer pledge, where backers should get Remix IO board in January 2017, before getting another Remix IO in March.

HiSilicon Kirin 960 Octa Core Application Processor Features ARM Cortex A73 & A53 Cores, Mali G71 MP8 GPU

October 20th, 2016 1 comment

Following on Kirin 950 processor found in Huawei Mate 8, P9, P9 Max & Honor 8 smartphones, Hisilicon has now unveiled Kirin 960 octa-core processor with four ARM Cortex A73 cores, four Cortex A53 low power cores, a Mali G71 MP8 GPU, and an LTE Cat.12 modem.


The table below from Anandtech compares features and specifications of Kirin 950 against the new Kirin 960 processor.

SoC Kirin 950 Kirin 960
CPU 4x Cortex A72 (2.3 GHz)
4x Cortex A53 (1.8 GHz)
4x Cortex A73 (2.4 GHz)
4x Cortex A53 (1.8 GHz)
or LPDDR4-1333
(hybrid controller)
GPU ARM Mali-T880MP4
@ 900 MHz
ARM Mali-G71MP8
@ 900 MHz
Interconnect ARM CCI-400 ARM CCI-550
1080p H.264
Decode & Encode2160p30 HEVC
2160p30 HEVC & H.264
Decode & Encode2160p60 HEVC
Camera/ISP Dual 14bit ISP
Dual 14bit ISP
Sensor Hub i5 i6
Storage eMMC 5.0 UFS 2.1
Balong Integrated
UE Cat. 6 LTE
UE Cat. 12 LTE
4x CA
4×4 MIMO

ARM claims 30% “sustained” performance improvement between Cortex A72 and Cortex A73,  but the GPU should be where the performance jump is more significant, as ARM promises a 50 percent increase in graphics performance, and a 20 percent improvement in power efficiency with Mali G71 compared the previous generation (Mali-T880). Kirin 960 also integrates twice the GPU cores compared to Kirin 950, and some GPU benchmarks provided by Hisilicon/Huawei confirm the theory with over 100% performance improvement in both Manhattan 1080p offscreen and T-Rex offscreen GFXBench 4.0 benchmarks.

The first smartphone to feature Kirin 960 is likely to be Huawei Mate 9 rumored to come with a 5.9″ 2K display, 6GB RAM, and 256 UFS flash.

TOPEET iTOP4412 Exynos 4412 Boards Support Up to 3 LCD Displays, GPS, 3G, 4x UARTs, etc…

October 20th, 2016 No comments

Beijing TOPEET Electronics iTOP4412 board based on Samsung Exynos 4412 quad core Cortex A9 processor, and a developer has very recently committed patchsets to mainline Linux kernel to add support for the board. Exynos 4412 is not quite the latest and most powerful processor, but the board is still interesting due to mainline Linux support, and some hardware features like interfaces for up to 3 LCD displays plus HDMI, two DB9 serial interfaces, two camera interfaces, and more.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

iTOP4412 is comprised of the company’s Exynos 4412 SoM and a baseboard with the following specifications:

  • SoC – Samsung Exynos 4412 quad-core Cortex A9 clocked at up to 1.4GHz-1.6GHz + ARM Mali-400MP4 GPU @ 440MHz
  • System Memory – 1 GB dual channel DDR3
  • Storage – 4GB eMMC flash and microSD slot
  • Video Output / Display IF – HDMI 1.4 port, 2x LVDS interfaces (including one via an HDMI connector?), 1x LCD RGB interface
  • Audio I/O – 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks, and HDMI
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB 2.0 OTG port
  • Connectivity – 10/100Mbps Ethernet + WiFi header
  • Serial – 2x DB9 serial ports
  • Camera – Camera header (0.5 to 2.0MP camera) + MIPI CSI header
  • Other Expansion headers – A/D header, UART+Keypad+GPS header, 20-pin GPIO header, and JTAG header
  • Misc – Reset button, power switch, DIP switch, 5 user keys (Home, Back, Sleep, Vol+/-), RTC + battery, buzzer
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via power barrel
  • PCB Dimension – 190 x 110 mm

The board is shipped with a power adapter, a serial cable, a USB cable, a HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable, and a CD ROM with schematic (PDF), the baseboard PCB (Allegro), source code for the drivers, chip and LCD data sheet, development environment tools and product manuals. There’s also a github account that’s not been updated for a over a year but include the Linux kernel used in the Android 4.4 image, u-boot, Linux rootfs, and Android SDK.

The hardware described above is iTOP4412 精英版 (Elite Edition), but there’s also iTOP4412 全能版 (Almighty Edition) with built-in GPS, 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth, four DB9 serial port, and more. That model apparently comes with an Exynos 4412 module with 2GB RAM and 16GB eMMC flash.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Bear in mind that Hardkernel phased out ODROD-U3 board because they could not source Exynos 4412 SoC last year or so, so long term availability of the boards are unclear. You can however purchase iTOP4412 Elite board on Banggood for $128.53. In case the company decided to phase out their iTOP4412 boards and SoM, you should be able to fallback on the company’s solutions based on Samsung S5P4418 and S5P6818 processors. More details can be fond on TOPEET website (Chinese only).

Thanks to Nobe for the tip.

Ferguson Ariva 4K Android STBs Come with Digital TV Tuners, a Pay TV Card Reader, and a SATA Bay

October 19th, 2016 19 comments

We already have a choice of Android TV boxes with digital TV tuners (DVB-T2, DVB-S2, ATSC…) with devices like K1 Plus T2 S2, U4 Quad Hybrid, and Wetek Play 2, but Ferguson, a company based in Poland, has two other options based on Amlogic S905 processors with their Ariva 4K and Ariva 4K Combo with one or two tuners, a Pay TV card reader which is not available on competitors’ models, and 2.5″ HDD bay in the bottom of the case implemented via a USB 2.0 to SATA bridge.

ferguson-ariva-4kAriva 4K & 4K Combo specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905-B quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with Mali-450MP GPU

    RCU660 Universal RCU - Click to Enlarge

    RCU660 Universal RCU – Click to Enlarge

  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + slot for HDD mounting (on the bottom) + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz and AV port
  • Audio – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Audio Decode – Dolby Digital/Digital Plus, MPEG, OGG, OGA, FLAC, ALAC, Ape, M4A, RM, MPEG-1 Layer1/2, MPEG-2 Layer II (DTS pass-through)
  • Tuners
    • Ariva 4K – DVB-S/S2 tuner & demodulator via LNG IN F-Female connector
    • Ariva 4K Combo –  DVB-S/S2 tuner & demodulator via LNG IN F-Female connector + DVB-T/T2/C tuner & demodulator via ANT IN IEC-Female connector
    • DiSEqC 1.0, 1.1 and DiSEqC 1.2, USALS (Universal Satellites Automatic Location System) support
    • Card reader for pay-per-view television / conditional access (CAS)
    • PVR functions – Record, time-shifting with support for FAT32 and NTFS file systems
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, recovery pin hole, power button, and front panel LCD display
  • Power Supply –  12V/2.0A (24W); >0.5W in standby mode
  • Dimensions – 258 x 158 x 43 mm
  • Weight – 800 grams

The device runs Android 5.1, and ships with RCU660 universal IR remote control, and an instruction manual available in English, German, Polish, and Spain.


Ariva 4K Combo – Click to Enlarge

Usually, I don’t even look at the user manual since it’s normally useless, but Ferguson put a lot of efforts and details in their 42 pages manual, so it might be useful. If you can read Polish there’s also a Wiki. They also have a YouTube account explaining how to configure their devices, for example using USALS when you have a motorized satellite dish that can handle multiple satellite as shown below.

Ferguson Ariva 4K Android TV boxes can be bought on for 179 Euros, and 189 Euros for the Combo version including VAT. You’ll also find some more details on Ferguson website.