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Posts Tagged ‘Android’

FriendlyELEC Mailbag: NanoPi NEO OLED Starter Kit, NEO Station NS-120B, and NanoPi K2 Multimedia Kit

May 28th, 2017 10 comments

FriendlyELEC will send me some review samples from time to time, and normally I just ask for one item, but they aways send a bunch of their products instead. This time I asked for a NanoPi NEO NAS Kit v1.2 to play with, but I got clearly more than what I asked for…

Let’s start with the box at the top.

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It contains “NanoPi NEO complete starter kit” selling for $29.99for $29.00 with the following items:

  • NanoPi NEO board
  • NanoHat OLED
  • Heatsink and thermal pad kit
  • Akuminum housing
  • a Mico USB cable
  • A micro SD card pre-loaded with NEO OLED Ubuntu firmware.
  • Three buttons, and screws

It’s actually not fully complete, as you’d need to provide and solder your own male headers to NanoPi NEO board. I did not have time for soldering that day, but the final results should be really neat based on pictures from their website.

If you prefer the more powerful board, the same kit is sold with NanoPi NEO2 board for $34.00. Both kits are currently out of the stock, but so you may want to add the one you like to your wish list.

Moving to those very thick yellow / orange envelopes…

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That’s two NanoPi NEO NAS kits v1.2, with the marking showing “NEO Station NS-120B”, maybe in reference to “Synology DiskStation”, but they don’t use that name in their website, which is probably a good idea. The models I received as the side plate for NanoPi NEO 2 board, but there may be more inside. I’ll check it later, since I’ll review the kit in details in a separate post.

Next up is a box with “K2” written on it.

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Unsurprisingly NanoPi K2 board powered by Amlogic S905 processor can be found inside. But we also have a heatsink +fan + thermal kit, a micro USB cable, and an IR remote control. Almost all you need for a TV box, but looking further into the big package, we’ll find an acrylic enclosure completing the kit.

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I’ve also taken closer pictures of the K2 board since it’s the first time I’ve received it.

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The board has basically the same form factor and ports as the Raspberry Pi 3, but it adds an IR receiver, more memory (2GB), Gigabit Ethernet, and a slot for eMMC modules – which are yet to be available -, but lacks MIPI CSI and DSI connectors. It should be noted however, that while FriendlyELEC mentioned both Linux and Android, they appear to focus their efforts on Android only, with no actual plans to release a Debian / Ubuntu image:

The bad news, according the the Moderator of the FriendlyArm forum, there are no plans for a debian image. Only the supplied Android 5.1 image. 🙁 Meaning its get out the uboot and the compiler and make your own with a bit of USB TTL flashing to boot.

So any Linux images would have to be done & maintained by the community. [Update: finally the company is working on a Ubuntu image too]

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NanoPi K2 board goes for $39.99, but the complete multimedia kit should cost more. The problem is that I can’t find it on their website, but if we adds individual item, namely the heatsink + fan ($5.99), RC-100 IR Controller ($2.99), micro USB cable ($1.97), and the acrylic enclosure ($1.99) to total adds up to $52.93 + shipping, which costs a little more than a TV box with similar specifications, but provides more flexibility due to the source code available for NanoPi K2.

I had two more boxes in the package with one more K2 multimedia kit and an extra acrylic enclosure, which would make a nice candidate for a future giveaway week.

 

HiSilicon Hi3796M V200 UHD DVB + H.265 STB SoC Showcased at Broadcast Asia 2017

May 25th, 2017 6 comments

Broadcast Asia international digital multimedia & entertaiment technology exhibition & conference is taking place in Singapore on May 23 – 25, and I’ve been informed that Hisilicon showcased their latest Hi3796M V200 Set-top box SoC with support for 4K DVB, H.265, and high dynamic range technology such as HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision.

Hiliscon Hi3796M V200 Board and DVB Tuner – Click to Enlarge

Key features and specifications of Hi3796M V200 processor:

  • CPU – Quad core ARM Cortex A53
  • GPU – ARM Mali-450MP
  • Memory – DDR3, DDR3L, DDR4
  • Video Output – 1x HDMI 2.0a Tx with HDCP 2.2
  • Video format – HEVC, H.264, MPEG2, MPEG4, VC1, VP9, AVS 2.0
  • HDR – HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, HDR and SDR conversion
  • HiVXE 2.0 VPU – Decoder – 4K60 10-bit; Encoder – HEVC/H.264 1080p30 or 2x 720p30
  • Ethernet – 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x Fast Ethernet
  • USB 2.0 – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • SATA & PCIe & USB 3.0 – USB 3.0, SATA 3.0, PCIe 2.0 host interface (optional); cnxsoft’s note: all ports are likely multiplexed, so only one is usable.
  • Transport Stream I/F – 2x TS In + 2x TS In or Out + 1x Cable IF in
  • SDIO – 2x SDIO 3.0
  • Security – Advanced DRM, and CAS (NOCS3.X), and hardware video watermark. TrustZone

The company can provide Android 7.0 and Linux SDKs with middleware and RDK for the processor and development board. HiVXE 2.0 is also said to support PiP and video transcoding. Hardware video watermark ability allows the processor to meet MovieLabs UHD premium service delivery requirements.

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It appears the company will also offer a user-friendly way to watch VR videos / 360° videos on the TV by using a mobile app or remote control to navigate in all directions while the video is playing.

I could not find any information at all on the web about Hi3796M V200 processor, so thanks to Ovi for sending pictures directly from the Broadcast Asia exhibition, and allowing us to discover this new multimedia processor.

MinnowBoard Turbot Quad Core Open Source Hardware Board is now Shipping for $190

May 24th, 2017 2 comments

MinnowBoard Turbot Quad Core board was announced last autumn, with shipping expected in December 2016, but there may have been delays as the MinnowBoard foundation has just announced that the Intel open source hardware board is now shipping.

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MinnowBoard Turbot Quad “MBT-4220” board specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom E3845 quad core Bay Trail-I processor @ up to 1.92 GHz with Intel HD graphics @ 542 / 792 MHz (10W TDP)
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3L 1067 MT/s (Soldered)
  • Storage – 1x SATA2 3Gbps, 1x micro SD card slot, 8 MB SPI Flash for firmware (Tianocore UEFI, Coreboot, SeaBIOS)
  • Video & Audio Output – 1x micro HDMI connector
  • Connectivity – 10/100/1000M Ethernet RJ-45 connector (with Intel i211 instead of Realtek NIC on dual core MinnowBoard)
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 host, 1x USB 2.0 host
  • Debugging – Serial debug header
  • Expansion headers
    • Low-speed expansion (LSE) port – 2×13 (26-pin) male 0.1″ pin header with access to SPI, I2C, I2S Audio, 2x UARTs (TTL-level), 8x GPIO (including 2x supporting PWM), +5V, and GND
    • High-speed expansion (HSE) port –  60-pin high-density connector with access to 1x PCIe Gen 2.0 Lane, 1x SATA2, 1x USB 2.0 host, I2C, GPIO, JTAG, +5V, and GND
  • Power Supply – 5V/4A DC input via 2.5mm center pin positive power jack; 5V DC output via  2-pin header
  • Dimensions – 99 x 74mm
  • Temperature Range –  0 to 40 °C; wider range possible with larger heatsink.
  • Certifications – FCC Part 15 Class A, CE Class A, IEC-60950, RoHS/WEEE

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The board can run Debian GNU/Linux, Windows 10 IoT, Windows 8.1, Android 4.4, Ubuntu, and Yocto Project Custom Linux with source, firmware image, documentation, and hard design files available via the tutorials and github.

The board can be purchase for around $190 on Mouser or Netgate.

 

Foxconn Bandott STB is an Amlogic S905D TV Box with Dual HDMI Input, Netflix 4K Support

May 22nd, 2017 1 comment

So far, we’ve seen two dual tuner set-top boxes powered by Amlogic S905D processor with Sen5 Android STB and Mecool KI Pro, but earlier this year, Foxconn launched Bandott set-top box based on the processor, with any tuner, but two HDMI inputs, and Widevine L1 and PlayReady 3.0 support allowing for 4K video playback for premium services like Netflix (see Bandott page), CatchPlay, iqiyi, and myVideo.

BANDOTT BA101 specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S905D quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.5 GHz with penta core Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM
  • Storage – 8GB flash
  • Video Output – 1x HDMI 2.0b (HDCP)
  • Video Input – 2x HDMI 1.4
  • Audio Output – HDMI, and 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet,  dual band Wi-Fi 802.11ac/b/g/n (2×2), Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1 x USB 2.0
  • DRM – Widevine L1 and PlayReady 3.0

The box runs Android TV 6.0, and was unveiled in January. Foxcon is a large company, and few TV boxes support Netflix 4K, so why was it not all over the news? That’s because the box is sold in Taiwan only through FLNet market place, owned by Foxconn. Some reports indicate the box is free, but you have to pay a deposit and a monthly fee for services. The user interface is said to support English and traditional Chinese, and Bandott BA101 is listed in Netflix website which confirms 4K support, and limitation to Taiwan only. They plan have to have one million subscribed in Taiwan, but there’s no word about launching the device for oversea markets.

Via MiniPC DB

Android Play Store Tidbits – Blocking Unlocked/Uncertified/Rooted Devices, Graphics Drivers as an App

May 20th, 2017 10 comments

There’s been at least two or three notable stories about the Play Store this week. It started with Netflix not installing from the Google Play Store anymore on rooted device, with unclocked bootloader, or uncertified devices, and showing as “incompatible”. AndroidPolice contacted Netflix which answered:

With our latest 5.0 release, we now fully rely on the Widevine DRM provided by Google; therefore, many devices that are not Google-certified or have been altered will no longer work with our latest app and those users will no longer see the Netflix app in the Play Store.

So that means you need to  Google Widevine DRM in your device, which mean many Android TV boxes may stop to work with Netflix. You can check whether you device is certified by opening Google Play and click on settings, Scroll to the bottom and check Device Certification to see if it is Certified or Uncertified (H/T jon for the tip).

I tried this in my Chinese phone, and unsurprisingly it is “Uncertified”. AndroidPolice however successfully tested both Netflix 4.16 and Netflix 5.0.4 on an unlocked Galaxy S tab with Level 3 DRM and both worked. So the only drawback right now is that you can’t install Netflix from the Play Store, but it still works normally. Some boxes do not come with any DRM at all, which you can check with DRM info, and they may not work at all (TBC).

We’ve know learned this will not only affect Netflix, as developers will now be able to block installation of apps that fail “SafetyNet” as explained at Google I/O 2017:

Developers will be able to choose from 3 states shown in the top image:

  • not excluding devices based on SafetyNet
  • excluding those that don’t pass integrity
  • excluding the latter plus those that aren’t certified by Google.

That means any dev could potentially block their apps from showing and being directly installable in the Play Store on devices that are rooted and/or running a custom ROM, as well as on emulators and uncertified devices ….. This is exactly what many of you were afraid would happen after the Play Store app started surfacing a Device certification status.

This would mean it might become more complicated to install apps from the Google Play store on some devices, and we may have to start to side-load apps again, or use other app store. That’s provided they don’t start to stop apps running all together. The latter has been possible for year, as for example many mobile banking apps refuse to run on rooted phones.

I’ll end up with a better news, as starting with Android O it will be possible to update Graphics Drivers from the Play Store, just like you would update an app. Usually, a graphics driver update would require an OTA firmware update, or flash a new firmware image manually, and it’s quite possible this new feature has been made possible thanks to Project Treble.

Categories: Android Tags: Android, app, driver, drm, google, gpu, netflix, oreo

HiMedia Q30 TV Box is Powered by HiSilicon Hi3798M V200 Processor

May 19th, 2017 4 comments

HiSilicon Hi3798M V200 processor is a cost-down version of Hi3798C V200 processor with a cheaper Mali-450MP GPU, a single Gigabit Ethernet MAC, a single USB 3.0 port shared with SATA and PCIe interface. One of the first devices with the processor will be Himedia Q30 TV box based on Himedia Q3 design.

HiMedia Q30 specifications:

  • SoC – HiSilicon Hi3798M V200 quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor with an ARM Mali-450MP GPU supporting OpenGL ES2.0/1.1, OpenVG1.1, EGL, and
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash, SD card slot
  • Video Output – 1x HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz, 1x composite video (RCA); Imprex 2.0 PQ engine with support for HDR/HLG/SLF/HDR to SDR, BT.709, and BT.2020
  • Audio Output – HDMI, stereo audio (RCA), optical S/PDIF port
  • Video Engine –  HiVXE 2.0 with support for HEVC 10-bit 4Kx2K @ 60 fps, H.264 4K2K @ 30 fps
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (2.4 GHz) with one external antenna
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 host port, 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button, power LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A (TBC)
  • Dimensions – 170 x 115.5 x 24.5mm

The TV box runs Android 7.0 operating system with a 1920×1080 user interface. According to a YouTube video, the box should launch later this month, and resellers should already be able to inquire about the device through Alibaba.

Via AndroidTVBox.eu

Sen5 Amlogic S905D TV Box Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, Kodi 17, and DVB-T2 & S2 App

May 19th, 2017 5 comments

Sen5 is one of the first Android TV boxes powered by Amlogic S905D processor, and comes with two tuners (DVB-C/T/T2 and DVB-T/T2) with two demodulators that should allow for recording on one tuner, while watching the other, or recording two channels at the same time. We’ve already check out the hardware in the first part of the review, and seen a glimpse of the neat user interface, so today I’ll report about my experience with the device.

Sen5 Android Set-Top Box First Boot, Setup Wizard, & First Impressions

The STB comes with two USB ports so I used one for the hard drive, a necessity if you plan to use the PVR function, and connected a USB hub to the other with RF dongles for an air mouse and a gamepad, as well as a USB keyboard to take screenshots. I also connected Ethernet and HDMI cables, as well as my terrestrial antenna to the coaxial “DVB-T2” input, and my satellite dish to the DVB-S2 F-connector.

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Finally I connected the power, after a several seconds after the “Amlogic S905D” and “MBOX” boot logo I go to  a setup wizard asking me to select the language…

The next step is the output resolution, and the system auto-detected 4K2K-60Hz maximum resolution from LG 42UB820T 4K UHD TV.Screen adjust is used for overscan, but if you have a recent TV, you should not really need to use since you can always understand with settings like “just scan”.Step 4 is the selection between Ethernet and WiFi.This is followed by Date & Time configuration.Finally, you’ll be asked to select between “Scan TV channel”, “Login to Google Play Store”, and “Go to Home page”.

I selected the later at this stage, and the beautiful “NesTV” launcher appeared. A typical boot takes around 35 seconds with this box.

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You’ll get date, time, and weather on the top left, 6 main icons in the center for TV (DVB) app, IPTV & VOD (both required a login I did not have), YouTube, Kodi, and the list of app. The bottom include an “Add/Remove” button to organize favorites.

The top right row includes some convenient shortcuts showing (from left to right):

  • Free memory – Clicking on it will cleaned up memory
  • USB status – Redirects to File Browser
  • Network Status (Ethernet or WiFi) – Redirects to Network settings
  • Bluetooth Status – Redirects to Bluetooth settings
  • Download – Shortcut for easy access to Download direction
  • Notifications – Will display notifications on the left of the screen (See screenshot below)
  • Backup & Restore & Update button
  • Ookla – Measures your Internet connection performance
  • Settings – Redirect to Amlogic’s Settings app

The preview zone is black until your scan channel after which it will show a preview of the last selected channel (with audio).

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The pre-installed apps can be found below.

The Setting app is about the same as on other Amlogic Android 6.0 TV boxes, but it’s still worth noting HDMI CEC, HDR and Playback settings (for HDMI self-adaptation) options are there. The only new menu is MediaScan which lets you decided whether to automatically scan USB drives in the background (disabled by default).

Going to Android settings, we can see 5.27 GB is already used out of 8 GB storage, and that is before I installed any app. The flash was almost full by the end of the review.

NTFS and exFAT file systems are supported, but not EXT-4, nor BTRFS.

The About section indicates the model is called SH8B7AV_SF001 and runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29, the same as most other Amlogic S9xx boxes.. Android security patch is date August 1, 2016. The firmware is not rooted. OTA firmware update appears to be implemented, with the Update app communicating with the firmware update server, but I did not get any updates since March 29th.

The IR remote control works well up to 10 meters, and I also appreciate shortcuts key to app list, Play Store, YouTube, etc.. The remote control is also absolutely necessary to use with the TV app, which relies color button (red/green/yellow.blue) and special keys like EPG. Since an air mouse or wireless keyboard with touchpad is necessary in many Android apps, I ended switching between the remote control, and MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse depending on which app I used. I wishes such Android Set-top boxes would come with an optional air mouse that also support the TV app.

Google Play and Amazon Underground worked just fine, and I could install all apps I needed for the review.

The set-top box supports standby and power off mode. That’s the theory, because in practice, the box will reboot maybe 95% of the time when I try to turn it off (long press on remote control power key). Standby is working fine. The power button on the unit itself does not work at all for me. Maybe it’s just a problem with the sample.

I tested power consumption with or without the USB hard drive:

  • Standby – 0.3 Watt
  • Idle – 4.4 to 5.0 Watss
  • Standby + HDD – 0.3 to 0.4 Watt
  • Idle + HDD – 6.0 to 6.3 Watts

A reliably working power off would be nice though. I gave up on measuring power off, since it was so difficult to enter in this mode. At least power consumption is sufficiently low in standby mode, and there are reasons (scheduling) to prefer standby over power off, as we’ll see below.

Sen5 does get a little hot over time.After playing a 2-hour H.264 1080p movie in Kodi, max. top and bottom temperatures were 51 and 61 °C respectively, and as I went to CPU-Z to check the CPU temperature, soc_thermal was 84 °C. The movie frame rate did not feel “optimal” at the end either. Riptide GP2 game frame rate also suffered over time, and temperature after playing 15 minutes were 48°C (top) , 56°C (bottom) and 79°C (CPU-Z).  The idle temperature reported in CPU-Z is also a not-so-cool 73 °C. Hopefully, the company will find a solution before selling the box retail.

An Amlogic S905D TV box is very much like other Amlogic S905(X) TV boxes with a fairly stable and responsive firmware. But Sen5 box stands out thanks to NesTV launcher which looks really nice, and comes with some useful features and shortcuts. The remote control is also well designed, although I’d like it to have air mouse and keyboard functions. The two main issues I encountered were overheating, and the inability to power off the box reliably.

Video & Audio Tests with TV Center (Kodi), and DRM Info

Sen5 comes with Kodi 17 pre-installed.

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After enabling “Adjust display refresh rate” in Kodi settings, and  HDMI self-adaptation, I played 4K videos over Gigabit Ethernet /SAMBA:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Choppy at the end of the video
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – 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, 24 fps) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – The video plays in slow motion and audio delays (As expected, as 4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by S905D 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) – Plays at around 1 to 2 fps (expected since it relies software decode)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – USB hard drive playback: Not smooth
  • 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 smoother

My experience with 4K video playback was inline with other Amlogic S912/S905X TV boxes, except possibly with HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4.Automatic Another common state of affair is that automatic frame rate switching is not working, and  MINIX NEO U9-H is the only exception to this rule for recent Amlogic TV boxes (that I tested).

I enabled HDMI Passthrough in Android settings…and in Kodi. Some whatever reasons, there are no option to select AC3/ DTS, TrueHD, or DTS HD like in other devices. You can only enable or disable “Allow passthrough”.

Those are the results with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver. PCM 2.0 is without pass-through using my TV speakers, and I used both Kodi (which handle audio its own way), and MoviePlayer app.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MoviePlayer)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
HDMI Pass-through
(MoviePlayer)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, video not smooth No audio Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1), Video not smooth OK (Dolby D 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 OK (DD+ 7.1)
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 Beep (AC3 audio track)
DTS HD Master OK No audio PCM 2.0 DTS 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio PCM 2.0 DTS 5.1
DTS:X OK No audio PCM 2.0 DTS 5.1

Kodi is not usable with your AV receiver, except for Dolby Digital 5.1 / AC3, while MoviePlayer requires you to own an AV receiver if you want to have any audio on videos with only Dolby or DTS audio track(s).

I could play a 2-hour movie over SAMBA, but as mentioned previously the frame rate seemed to drop slightly at the end due to over heating.

Sen5 supports Widevine Level 3 DRM, meaning no HD support on some premium apps like Netflix. YouTube worked well, even while recording live TV in the background.

DTV App for DVB-S/S2 and DVB-T/T2

Let’s get started with the TV app. The first time you’ll go through the “TV First Installation” wizard.

You can select aspect ratio, zap mode (black screen or freeze), subtitle, LCN, and DVB Type between DVBS-DVBT/T2 or DVBS-DVBC. I did not change any of the settings and kept going with DVBS-DVBT/T2.The next window will let you start scan, and load channels from USB, the Internet, and another STB. I just clicked on Start Scan which brought me to the TV menu.

If you’re going to change any “installation” setting for satellite or DVB-T/T2/C, you’ll be asked for a password “0000”.

Going into Dish Settings, I could select Thaicom 5/6 satellite, as I normally do, but I was a little confused since I had to select between C-band and Ku-band. I eventually figured I had to select C-band, as I would not get any channels with Ku-band selection.

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The first time I did a “standard scan” as shown above, and I got only 13 channels, far below what I would expect especially I select both free-to-air and paid channels. So I restarted a Blind Scan instead again on Thaicom 5/6 (78.5E C-band).

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I ended up with 387 TV channels including premium (marked with $) and free channels.

You can select channels by CAS type using the blue button on the remote control for example to select the Free channels. The paid channels should be accessible via the smart card reader provided you have the right card. But it’s not something I could try.

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Next up I had to configure DVB-T2. It took me a couple of minutes to find out I had to use the drawer key (on the left side of the Blue HOME key) in order to bring the TV menu back up.

I selected auto scan, input the country, before running the scan.

It found 25 channels, but no radio channels.I could watch DVB-T2 channels. but some HD channels have low quality sometimes dropping below 25% and the channels freezing. I have not noticed the same issue with SD channels, and sometimes the same HD channels do not have any problem.

The “I” button on the remote shows some of the info about the current channel including channel number abd name, date and time, current and next program name and time, audio, S2/T2, and CAS information, as well as signal strength and quality.

I’ll go through other options in TV menu before checking out the other features of the app. The Edit Channels section allows you to set favorites, and organize channels as you see fit.

The PVR and Timers section will give you access to the list of already recorded program, and current timers / schedules (see further below for details).

The Add-on menu allows you to add favorites, so you can quickly jump from the TV app to whatever other you may want. Not very useful IMHO, as you could do the same by pressing the Home key and selecting shortcuts in the main launcher.

Finally there are various TV settings. The only problem is that none of the options would work for me, as each option would just go back to the main launcher. You can access the program guide by pressing the EPG button on the remote control. Encoding is handled properly with DVB-T2 channels, and there’s a problem with Thai language with satellite channels, probably because the software does not use the right encoding.

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Burmese language is barely better.

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Anyway, you can still browser channels and the program guide, and add or remove “timers” to record or play videos at any given time.

By default all timers are set to record once, but you can go to the list of timers (drawer button-> PVR and Timers-> Timer), and change the option.

The repeat mode is quite versatile, as you can select daily, weekly, and even select the days to record during the week.

Timers and PVR are working quite well, and I had no troubles recording videos on either DVB-T2 or DVB-S2. Since the box has two demodulators, you can even record on DVB-T2 and watch DVB-S2 channels and vice-versa, as shown in the photo below (ONE HD is a DVB-T2 channel)

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Later on, I also discovered that during recording the list of unavailable channels will be grayed out, and you can still watch channels both on DVB-T2 or DVB-S2, as long as the channel on the busy input is one the same stream.

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Another thing impossible on VideoStrong set-top boxes is background recording, so as I recorded a channel, I pressed the HOME key, went to browse the web, and then watch a YouTube video. I came back to the TV app and discovered the recording was still taking place, and later on I could verify the video was properly recorded, and I did not notice any stuttering or obvious artifacts. So that’s a big plus compare to existing solutions. In theory, you should be able to record live TV on DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 at the same time, but the timer software detects a conflict if you do so.

I did one last test with schedules. I setup a recording at 16:30, and put the device into standby, waiting for the time… To my surprise, Sen5 STB started automatically at 16:30, but for whatever reason the recording only started 10 minutes later, at 16:40. So it looks like the capability is there, but it’s still buggy.  Timeshifting is working using the play/pause key, and you can also record manually using the record button on the remote control.

You can play the recordings in the TV app, but if you prefer to use another player, you’ll find the files in the DVBRecordFiles directory on your hard drive with a subdirectory for each recording.

The TV app will split large files into 2GB files probably because of hard drives still using FAT32, and despite mine using NTFS file system. info.amri is a binary file with some details about the recording, but it also contains some visible strings like the program name and TV channel name.

You can find some SD and HD recordings from DVB-T2 or DVB-S2, as well as info.amri file in MEGA. I had no troubles playing the DVB-T2 recording in my computer, but I had neither Totem, nor VLC could play the DVB-S2 recording, and I had to use

You’ll find a demo with the TV app in the video below.

Networking (WiFi & Ethernet)

WiFi performance was first tested by transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash (and vice versa) using ES File Explorer. The box only support 2.4 GHz WiFi, and the transfer rate was 1.5 MB/s on average.

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

The performance is not very good, but similar to other Amlogic TV box due to the poor SAMBA performance. However, during testing I had other problems, with the first transfer failing after about 60%, which I could complete by clicking on Retry, and another transfer failing to start completely.

I also ran iperf for 60 seconds on both direction to get a raw benchmark value:

WiFi upload:

WiFi download:

Gigabit Ethernet is however working pretty well as least with iperf.

Iperf upload:

iperf download:

iperf full duplex:

A SAMBA to flash copy was limited by the write speed of the flash, and occurred at about 9.8 MB/s. Flash to SAMBA performance was worse because of the poor SAMBA implementation in Amlogic Android 6.0 SDK @ 5.9 MB/s.

Storage

FAT32, NTFS, and exFAT file systems are support, but as is often the case not EXT-4 and BTRFS. As usual USB storage benchmarks show that exFAT should be avoided as slow write speed may impact recorded videos. NTFS performance is however OK, and the eMMC flash used in the box does not have the best performance on the market, but I have not noticed any specific slowdowns, it may just take a little longer to install some apps.

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I’ve drawn a red line on exFAT – USB 2.0 and internal memory read results because they were cached read, and the internal memory can clearly NOT be read @ ~629 MB/s.

Bluetooth

I could pair Vernee Apollo Lite Android smartphone to the box and transfer several photos without any problem, but there was not a direct and easy way to click to see the files after the transfer, so I had to go to the FileBrowser app and into the bluetooth directory to check the files. I also watched a YouTube video after easily pairing X1T earbuds, and the box also detected the SimpleBLE demo I had running on a ESP32 board, so Bluetooth LE should also work.

Sen5 and Amlogic S905D Benchmarks

That’s my first Amlogic S905D device, so let’s run CPU-Z first. It’s impossible to distinguish S905D to  S905/S905X as they are all shown to be quad core Cortex A53 processors @ up to 1.51 GHz with a Mali-450 MP GPU.

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Antutu would just crash each time I start it, so I ran Vellamo instead to check the performance.
1,540 for Multicore, 919 for Metal, and 1,887 for Browser are comparable to the results I got on Amlogic S905X boxes (1,491 / 910 / 1,855).

Conclusion

Sen5 device is the first true dual tuner Android set-top box I have reviewed, as I was able to record one channel, and watch another at the same time. It also supports background recording, and wakeup from standby to start recording a video, both of which are impossible in all other Android STBs I have reviewed. NesTV launcher is also eye-pleasing, and includes really convenient shortcuts.  The box is not perfect however, as it still has some serious bugs like DVB-T2 channels freezing from time to time, WiFi failures (at least with SAMBA), and overheating issues. There are also various smaller bugs which hopefully will be fixed once the box is sold to end users.

PROS

  • Dual independent DVB-S/S2 and DVB-C/T/T2 tuner allowing for recording and watching live TV at the same time;
  • EPG, Timeshitfing, and PVR function working reasonably well
  • Exclusive Tuner Features (for an Android TV box) – Support for recording from standby mode (with caveat), and background recording (e.g. you can watch YouTube, browse the web, or play games while recording)
  • Beautiful & user-friendly NesTV launcher (I also found out after the review that there’s a mobile app for it)
  • Good 4K video playback in Kodi 17 works well
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 works in all apps including Kodi, TrueHD and DTS HDMI audio pass-through works with MoviePlayer app (and likely most other apps including the TV app, but not Kodi)
  • Excellent Ethernet performance
  • Bluetooth is working well for file transfer, audio headset, and BLE
  • Support for smartcards (not tested)

CONS

  • DTV app issues and shortcomings
    • DVB-T2 channels may freeze from time to time
    • Encoding problems with data from satellite channel, at least for Burmese and Thai languages
    • It’s not possible to record two videos (one in DVB-S2 / one in DVB-T2) at the same time as the app reports a scheduling conflict
    • When the box is in standby and a program is schedule, the box will wake up, but recording will only start a few minutes later (10 minutes in my case)
  • The box may overheat potentially leading to video become choppy over time, and games less smooth
  • Power off mode does not work reliably (will reboot most of the time), and the unit power did not work for me at all
  • SAMBA + WiFi performance is poor, and connection can be unreliable
  • Kodi issues: automatic frame rate switching does not work, pass-through is limited to AC3/ Dolby Digital 5.1
  • DTS/Dolby audio down-mixing does not work in Android apps like MoviePlayer or Video Player; DTS-HD pass-through does not work (DTS 5.1 only) in such apps.

I’d like to thanks Shenzhen Sen5 for providing a sample for review. AS previously mentioned, the product is not available for retail yet, but interested resellers and distributors may contact the company via their website.

Android Studio 3.0 Preview Release with Support for Kotlin Programming Language, Android O Preview Images

May 18th, 2017 No comments

Most Android apps used to be programmed in Java with the Eclipse IDE, then Google introduced Android Studio in 2013 which has now replaced the latter, and with the release of Android Studio 3.0 Canary 1 preview, the company is now offering developers to program apps using Kotlin language instead of Java.

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Kotlin programming language is 100% compatible with Java language, and you can even mix Kotlin and Java in your code. Kotlin can make your code much more simple while declaring classes, and it has a few other improvements over Java. Android Studio also include a Java to Kotlin converter. The language has already been used by Expedia, Flipboard, Pinterest, Square, and others.

Android Studio 3.0 also brings many other improvement, such as performance profiling tools for the CPU, memory, and networks showing your app performance in real-time, and faster Gradle builds for large sized app projects.

Android Studio 3.0 also brings changes specific to the Android platform development such as:

  • Support for Instant App development
  • Inclusion of the Google Play Store in the Android O emulator system images
  • Font resources management
  • New wizards for Android O development, etc..

The video below gives a good overview of the many changes done in Android Studio 3.0.

You can download Android Studio 3.0 Canary 1 for Linux, Windows, or Mac to give it a try. It’s also a good way to try Android O, if you don’t own a recent Nexus or Pixel device, or don’t want to flash a beta image to your phone.