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Posts Tagged ‘Android’

Xunity Eclipse Android XBMC TV Box Can Stream Live TV, TV Shows, and Movies

April 20th, 2014 No comments

There are many Android TV Box based on Rockchip RK3188 that are pre-loaded with, or least claim to support,  XBMC. Xunity Eclipse goes further as it promises to replace your satellite dihj or aerial TV with the ability to stream live TV, watch movies or TV shows thanks to their Stream platform which they integrated into XBMC.

Xunity_Eclipse

Here are the hardware specifications of the device:

  • Soc – Rockchip RK3188 (not RK3188T) quad core Cortex A9 processor with Mali 400 MP4 GPU
  • System memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage- 8 GB NAND flash
  • Video Output – HDMI v1.4. Resolutions: True 720p, 1080p, experimental 1440p
  • Audio Output – SPDIF Optical out, 5.1 DTS over HDMI
  • Connectivity -  Wi-Fi 802.11 n/g/b , 10/100M Ethernet Port
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • Power supply – Data N/A
  • Dimensions – N/A

The device runs Android 4.2 (Jelly-Bean), supports NAND recovery via dedicated recovery button & CWM (ClockWorkMod) variant, and will be updated via over the air (OTA) updates. Support will be provided via their users’ forum.

Xunity_Eclipse_RemoteThe box will be sold with an HDMI cable, a power cable, and an RF Air mouse, “pictured” above, with a QWERTY keyboard on one side, and a standard remote on the other. I consider this type of input device a must for Android TV device, so it’s a welcome addition.

You can watch the promo video to have a look at the user’s interface, and iStream in XBMC for access to Live TV in various countries, watch movies and TV shows.

This all looks very nice, but does not seem quite legal. Here’s what the company claims about piracy, basically to defer claims to third parties:

The  Xunity  Team created iStream to use only legal sources of internet media. Xunity – does not condone internet piracy or usage of third party extensions which although providing alternate and plentiful sources can affect your user experience. Xunity  does not host any files, nor does it upload them. Therefore, it cannot be held responsible for the actions of others, uploads to third party sites, or anything beyond its direct control. Xunity urges all copyright owners, to recognize that actual files and virtual links are not contained within iStream and are located elsewhere on the internet beyond the direct control of Xunity. Please direct all copyright infringement issues to the companies and websites that index virtual links and host the files and who will be happy to comply with the DMCA.

Another concern is that I could not find any actual pictures of the device, although it is supposed to start shipping this week or next. Some people in forums have also complained about slow answers, but the company claimed it would improve once the device ships.

For more information, and/or if you’d like pre-order Xunity Eclipse for $149.99 or £124.99, visit xunitytv.us. The price looks fair considering a decent air mouse is included with the box, and the company seems dedicated to provide (OTA) firmware updates and support via their forums.

Thanks to CSilie for the tip

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Embedian SMART MEN and SMART BEE SBCs Feature a TI Sitara SMARC CoM

April 19th, 2014 No comments

Embedian, an embedded company specialized in computers-on-module and single board computers, has recently unveiled SMART MEN and SMART BEE single board computers powered by their SMARC-T335X computer-on-module, compliant with the SMARC (Smart Mobility Architecture) standard, and based on Texas Instruments Sitara AM335x SoCs.

SMART MEN SBC

SBC_SMART_MEN

SMART MEN single board computer specifications:

  • SoC – Texas Instrument Sitara AM335X ARM Cortex-A8 at 600MHz, 800MHz or 1GHz
  • System Memory – 512MB DDR3 (303Mhz x 2)
  • Storage – 4GB eMMC Flash (eMMC 5.0), 4MB SPI NOR Flash, AT24C32 EEPROM, and SDHC/SDIO slot
  • Connectivity – 2 x 10/100 Mbps Ethernet (vertical RJ45)
  • Display – single channel LVDS 18-bit color depth, single channel LVDS 24-bit color depth. LCD LED backlight driver onboard
  • USB – 2 x USB 2.0 Host, 1 x USB 2.0 OTG, 1 x Serial-to-USB (Client)
  • Additional Interfaces:
    • 6 x RS232s (transceiver onboard, two with handshaking and one can be configured as RS422/RS485),  2 x SPIs, 2 x I2C
    • Audio – Microphone input and Headphones output
    • 1 x CAN Bus Header (Transceiver onboard)
    • RTC (Seiko S35390-A) backup battery onboard
    • 1 x Buzzer
    • 11 x GPIOs
    • 1 x 4-wire touch connector
  • Misc – Invisible reset jumper, external watchdog reset (reset from the power source)
  • Power Supply – 5V, typical consumption: ~2 Watts
  • Dimensions – 102 mm (L) x 145 mm (W) – (3.5″ board)
  • Temperature range – Normal Temperature: 0 ~ 60 C,  Industrial Temperature: -40 ~85 C
  • Humidity – 10% ~ 90% relative humidity, non-condensed

SMART BEE SBC

SBC-SMART-BEE

SMART BEE single board computer specifications are extremely similar to SMART MEN SBC:

  • SoC – Texas Instrument Sitara AM335X ARM Cortex-A8 at 600MHz, 800MHz or 1GHz
  • System Memory – 512MB DDR3 (303Mhz x 2)
  • Storage – 4GB eMMC Flash (eMMC 5.0), 4MB SPI NOR Flash, AT24C32 EEPROM, and SDHC/SDIO slot
  • Connectivity – 2 x 10/100 Mbps Ethernet
  • Display – Parallel LCD 18-bit color depth, single channel LVDS 24-bit color depth. LCD LED backlight driver onboard
  • USB – 1 x USB 2.0 Host, 1 x USB 2.0 OTG
  • Additional Interfaces:
    • 3 x RS232s (transceiver onboard, two with handshaking and one can be configured as RS422/RS485),  2 x SPI, 2 x I2C
    • Audio – Microphone input and Headphones output
    • 1 x CAN Bus Header (Transceiver onboard)
    • RTC (Seiko S35390-A) backup battery onboard
    • 1 x Buzzer
    • 12 x GPIOs
    • 1 x 4-wire touch connector
  • Misc – Invisible reset jumper, external watchdog reset (reset from the power source)
  • Power Supply – 5V, typical consumption: ~2 Watts
  • Dimensions – 102 mm (L) x 145 mm (W) – (3.5″ board)
  • Temperature range – Normal Temperature: 0 ~ 60 C,  Industrial Temperature: -40 ~85 C
  • Humidity – 10% ~ 90% relative humidity, non-condensed

The only differences are mostly mechanicals with for instance, the presence of USB connectors on SMART BEE which are missing on the SMART MEN, and different number of USB, GPIOs, RS232 ports, etc.. between the two boards.

Both boards support Linux 3.2 (TI EZSDK 6.0.0 Arago or Ubuntu 13.04) or Linux 3.12 (Device Tree Support, Arago or Ubuntu 13.04), Android ICS, and Windows Embedded Compact 7. The company uses Yocto/OpenEmbedded to build embedded distributions for the boards.

The company provides a user’s manual, PinMux file for TI PinMux Utility, and a toolchain.

SMARC-T335X Computer on Module

Embedian_SMARC-T335X

The two SBC features above as comprised of a baseboard, and SMARC-T335X module which comes with the following specs:

  • SoC – Texas Instrument Sitara AM335X ARM Cortex-A8 at 600MHz, 800MHz or 1GHz
  • System Memory – 512MB DDR3 (303Mhz x 2)
  • Storage – 4GB eMMC Flash (eMMC 5.0), 4MB SPI NOR Flash, and AT24C32 EEPROM
  • Connectivity – 2 x 10/100 Mbps Ethernet
  • Display – Parallel LCD 18-bit color depth, single channel LVDS 24-bit color depth.
  • USB – 1 x USB 2.0 Host, 1 x USB 2.0 OTG
  • Additional Interfaces:
    • 3 x UARTS,   2 x SPI, 3 x I2C
    • 1x I2S
    • 3 x PWMs
    • 1 x CAN Bus
    • RTC (Seiko S35390-A)
    • 12 x GPIOs
    • 4x ADC for resistive touch screens
  • Dimensions – 82 mm x 50 mm with 31-pin MXM connector (SMARC Specification)
  • Temperature range – Normal Temperature: 0 ~ 60 C,  Industrial Temperature: -40 ~85 C
  • Humidity – 10% ~ 90% relative humidity, non-condensed

The CoM gets the same development resources plus a Carrier Board Design Guide, and Carrier Board Reference Schematics (pdf and OrCAD format). You can find further development resources on Embedian Developer Center, and via their public git repo.

All three products are available now. SMARC-T335X CoM starts at $69 per unit ($49 / pcs for 3k+ orders), SBC-SMART-BEE at $119 per unit ($89 / pc for 3k+ orders), and SBC-SMART-MEN at $159 ($129 / pc for 3k+ orders). You can find more information through Embedian’s products page.

Via LinuxGizmos

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Embedded Linux Conference 2014 Schedule

April 19th, 2014 No comments

The Tenth Embedded Linux Conference (ELC 2014) will take place on April 29 – May 1, 2014 at the San Jose Marriott in San Jose, California. The event will feature 90+ sessions on embedded Linux, Android and IoT with over 450 attendees expected to attend. It will also be co-located with Android Builders Summit and the AllSeen Alliance Hackfest. Even if you can’t attend it’s still interesting to see what will be discussed at the event to get a grasp of on-going developments, learn a few things about different optimization techniques, and so on. So I’ve gone through the sessions’ description, and I’ve designed my own virtual schedule with sessions that could be of interest.

Embedded_Linux_Conference_2014April 29

Linux has taken the embedded world by storm.  Billions (with a ‘B’) of devices have now shipped with a Linux kernel, and it seems unstoppable.  But will the next 10 billion devices ship with Linux or with something else?  How can Linux be specialized for deeply embedded projects, as characterized by the Internet of Things, while still maintaining the network effects of community cooperation and sharing?  Is this possible or even desirable?  The startling truth might be revealed at this keynote. Or, Tim might just rant a bit about device-tree… who knows?

The past year has seen a remarkable growth of interest in super-low-power and super-low-form-factor computing, in the form of ‘wearables’, the ‘Internet of Things’, and the release of exciting new hardware such as Intel’s Quark and Edison SoCs. Taking advantage of this super-small hardware also implies the need for super-small operating systems and applications to match. This talk will describe a super-small-footprint Linux distribution called ‘microYocto”. The main focus will be the kernel and how we achieved what we think is close to the minimal possible kernel footprint, both in terms of static text size and dynamic memory usage. We’ll talk about the tools and methodologies we used and developed to analyze the problem, such as tracing and machine simulation, and will describe the various technologies developed and applied to achieving this minimalistic system.

Many community resources exist about boot time reduction. However, few of them are up to date and share the exact time savings that can be achieved on recent systems. This talk will detail today’s most efficient techniques to reduce boot time. For each of them, figures will be shared, obtained from recent boot time reduction projects and from the preparation of Free Electrons new workshop on this topic. If you attend this talk, you will know which optimization techniques are worth using first, and will save time not exploring techniques that won’t make a significant difference in your project. Don’t tell your boss, and this will leave your more time to contribute to community projects!

In this talk, Chris will describe the internal workings of the Android graphics stack from the Application layer down through the stack to pixels on the screen. It is a fairly complex journey, taking in two different 2D rendering engines, applications calling OpenGL ES directory, passing buffers on to the system compositor, Surface Flinger, and then down to the display controller or frame buffer. All this requires careful synchronisation so that what appears on the screen is smooth, without jitter, and makes efficient use of memory, CPU, GPU and power resources.

Linux-based platforms such as the Beaglebone and Raspberry Pi are inexpensive powerhouses. But, beyond being cool on their own, what else can you do with them? This presentation will step you through the process of building a Wi-Fi enabled, Linux-based robot that you can build without breaking the bank and without special knowledge of robotics and robotic controls.

Since last year, we have been working on supporting the SoCs from Allwinner, a Chinese SoC vendor, in the mainline kernel. These SoCs are cheap, wide-spread, backed by a strong community and, until last year, only supported by an out-of-tree kernel. Through this talk, we would like to share the status of this effort: where we were a year ago, what solutions were in place, where we are currently, and what to expect from the future. We will also focus on the community around these SoCs, the work that is done there, etc.

April 30

GCC is an optimizing compiler, currently most common compiler to build software for Embedded Linux systems like Android, Yocto Project etc. This tutorial will introduce specific optimizations and features of GCC which are less known but could benefit optimizing software especially for embedded use while highlight the effect of common optimizations. While it will focus on squeezing most out of GCC, it will also cover some of “pessimizations” to avoid and will tip the developer to write code thats more conducive (compiler friendly) for general optimizations. They will also get some contrast with other compilers when needed.

Throughout the last two years, a team of engineers at Free Electrons has been involved in mainlining the support for several ARM processors from Marvell, converting the not-so-great vendor-specific BSP into mainline quality code progressively merged upstream. This effort of several hundreds working days, has led to the integration of hundreds of patches in the kernel. Through this talk we would like to share some lessons learned regarding this mainlining effort, which could be useful to other engineers involved in ARM SoC support, as well as detail the steps we have gone through, the mistakes we’ve made and how we solved them, and generally our experience on this project.

This BoFs is intended to bring together anybody that tests the Linux kernel to share best practices and brainstorm new ideas. Topics may range from .config testing, module/built-in drivers, test methods and tools for testing specific driver subsystems, VM/scheduler/interrupt stress testing, and beyond. The discussion is targeted at Linux kernel developers, test engineers, and embedded Linux product teams/consultants with the common task of testing Linux kernel integrity. Attendees should have a firm grasp of building and deploying the kernel as well as kernel/userspace kernel APIs.

Several vendors are getting ready to start enabling the upstream kernel for their upcoming 64-bit ARM platforms, and it opens up a few questions on things that are not quite sorted out yet, especially on the embedded and mobile platforms. This is an open discussion on the issues these maintainers are anticipating, and what we should do about it.

Communication between components is necessary for effective power management in mobile devices. The System Power Management Interface, also known as SPMI, is a standardized bus interface intended to provide power-management related connectivity between components. Josh Cartwright will provide a high-level architectural overview of SPMI and discuss how to leverage the Linux Kernel software interfaces (expected to land in 3.15) to communicate with devices on the bus.

May 1

While Android has been created for mobile devices — phones first and now tablets — it can, nonetheless, be used as the basis of any touch-screen system, whether it be mobile or not. Essentially, Android is a custom-built embedded Linux distribution with a very elaborate and rich set of user-space abstractions, APIs, services and virtual machine. This one-day workshop is aimed at embedded developers wanting to build embedded systems using Android. It will cover Android from the ground up, enabling developers to get a firm hold on the components that make up Android and how they need to be adapted to an embedded system. Specifically, we will start by introducing Android’s overall architecture and then proceed to peel Android’s layer one-by-one.

This half-day workshop is aimed at embedded developers that want to use Android in their embedded designs.

The MIPS processor cores are widely used in embedded platforms, including TVs and set-top-boxes. In most of those platforms dedicated graphics hardware exists but it may be specialized for its use in audio and video signal processing: rendering of web content has to be done in software. We implemented optimizations for the software-based QPainter renderer to improve the performance of Qt —including QtWebKit— in MIPS processors. The target platform was the modern 74kf cores, which include new SIMD instructions suitable for graphics operations (alpha blending, color space conversion and JPEG image decoding), and also for non-graphics operations: string functions were also improved. Our figures estimate that web pages are rendered up to 30% faster using hand-coded assembler fast-paths for those operations.

Software Freedom Conservancy announced last year a renewed effort for cross-project collaborative GPL compliance efforts, including copyright holders from BusyBox, Linux, and Samba. Conservancy uses an internal system of communication and collaboration to take input from stakeholders to discuss and engage in compliance activity to ensure compliance with the GPL throughout the technology industry and particularly in the embedded device market. Compliance with the GPL is the responsibility of copyright holders of the software, and Conservancy helps those copyright holders pursue the work, so those developers can focus on coding. In this talk, the President of Conservancy will discuss how Conservancy handles compliance matters, what matters it focuses on, and how the copyright holders that work with Conservancy engage in a collaborative effort to ensure compliance with the GPL.

Ubuntu Touch is the new Ubuntu-based OS for phones and tablets. Announced at the beginning of 2013, it gives a new UI and design proposal, but also a new way of developing and supporting many different devices, using either the Android HAL or the traditional Linux stack to build the platform. This talk will go over the Ubuntu Touch internals, presenting the technical decisions and also the work that was done to bootstrap this new platform (camera, radio, video decode, GLES and etc) and the future challenges to support a single stack across mobile and the traditional desktop.

These are just a few sessions out of the 90+ sessions available at the Embedded Linux Conference and Android Builder Summit. You can check the full schedule to find out which sessions are most interesting to you.

If you’d like to attend the event, you’ll need to register online.

The attendance fees have significantly gone up compared to last year, at least for hobbyists, but include entrance for both ELC and Android Builder Summit:

  • Professional Registration Fee - US$600 (Was US$500 until March 29, 2014)
  • Hobbyist Fee – US$150
  • Student FeeUS$150

After the events, many videos are usually uploaded by the Linux Foundation, and you should be able to find the list of talks with links to presentation slides oneLinux.org.

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Review of M8 Android Kitkat TV Box Powered by Amlogic S802 SoC

April 17th, 2014 10 comments

A few days ago, I wrote an Unboxing and Specs post about the M8, an Android TV Box powered by Amlogic S802 quad core Cortex A9 processor. The review took a little as I was waiting for a new firmware. I’ve now upgraded this S802 Box, and been able to complete a review. As usual , I’ll start by giving my first impressions, have a look at the user interface and settings, test different king of video files, evaluate Wi-Fi performance, and try to cover most hardware features including Bluetooth, external storage, USB webcam, and so on. The overall user’s experience, is very similar to Tronsmart Vega S89, but there are some notable differences I’ll go through during the review.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Shenzhen Tomato sent me a sample unit which they call TM8 (Tomato M8?), but I’ll just refer to the device as M8 in the review. The device comes with a simple IR remote comes, but did not include two AAA batteries. I only use the remote shortly, as I prefer using an RF remote with Android, and I used Mele F10 air mouse during testing which includes a QWERTY keyboard, and a gyroscope to easily move the mouse pointer. Beside the IR remote, the sample I received only included a 5V/2A power supply, so i also had to take a spare HDMI cable. Retail versions of the box may included an HDMI cable however. Before connecting the power, I’ve connected an Ethernet cable, an HDMI cables, and the Mele F10 USB RF dongle. There’s no power button on the device, so as soon as you connect the power, a blue LED lits up, and the device boots to the same Windows 8 / Metro-style user’s interface as Tronsmart Vega S89.

M8 Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

M8 Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

At the top of the screen there are status icons (Ethernet/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/Storage), the weather (only Chinese cities are available in the settings), as well as the time and date. There are also six main menus, the same a Vega S89, but with different apps: Online Video (One Chinese app), My recommend (favorite apps), Setting, The firmware in M8 as quite a few Chinese apps, which were not present or removed from Vega S89 firmware. There are also shortcuts on the bottom of the screen with 4K player, Music, Chinese IPTV app, and APK installer by default. You can add and remove the ones you want as you wish, and I’ve done this with XBMC and Play Store as you can see from the screenshot. The user interface resolution is 1920×1080.

The “Setting” menu gives you access to the settings shown in the same Metro-style with four sub menus: Network, Display, Advanced and Other.

Advanced Setup (Click for Original Size)

Advanced Setup (Click for Original Size)

The network settings allow you to select Ethernet or Wi-Fi, the display settings has exactly the same options as Vega S89: autodetect resolution, UHD / 4K output support, hide or show the status bar, adjust the display size, and screensaver. I’ve enabled the status bar, as it’s more more convenient to use that way, and the bar automatically hides when you play videos. The Advanced menu will let you start Miracast (Source only, not a display), enable the software Remote control (RemoteIME.apk, adjust CEC controls, set your location (only Chinese cities are available), set the screen orientation, and select digital audio output (PCM, SPDIF pass-through, HDMI pass-through). The Other button will give some details about the Android version (4.4.2) and kernel version (3.10.10). There’s also an OTA System Update menu, which does not work. You can access the standard Android settings by going through Setting->Other->More Settings. The Android settings in this box are based on the phone interface, not the tablet one, which requires a few more clicks.

You can check the user’s interface and settings in the video below. If you have already watched Vega S89 UI walk-through video, you may have well skip this one as it’s the same, except from the pre-installed apps which are a little different.

I’ve used HDMI output with 1080p during my testing, which was automatically detected as I started the device. But If I switch to manual mode, I can also see 4K video output at 24, 25 and 30 Hz, and as well as 4K SMPTE.  There’s also an AV output, which is automatically used, if HDMI is not detected. It works fine including stereo audio output. Once you are using AV output, you can go to the setup menu to select between 480cvbs and 576cvbs. To switch back to HDMI, insert the HDMI cable. and select the input on your TV. A reboot is not necessary.

M8_About_MediaboxThere’s 5.75 GB space reserved for the user out of the 8GB NAND flash, and right after firmware upgrade, there’s over 5GB free space on the single partition available. The firmware was rooted. Looking into the “About MediaBox” section shows the model number is  “K200″, and just like the custom settings section, it shows Android 4.4.2 is running on top of Kernel 3.10.10.

I could install most applications from Google Play Store including Facebook, ES File Explorer, Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Vellamo, Candy Crush Saga, etc… Sixaxis Controller failed to install returning an error in Google Play. It’s the same behavior as Vega S89, and I’ve been told all paid apps won’t install. I’ve also installed the Amazon Play Store, to use one of the free app of the day I previsouly downloaded on another device (Riptide 2).

As mentioned previously there’s no power button on the device, and all you can do is to used the IR remote to enter and exit standby mode. A real power off will require you to disconnect the power.    I’ve checked the temperature of the box after running a 3D game. The top was 55 °C, the bottom 43 °C, with my room temperature around 28 °C. This is exactly the opposite of Tronsmart Vega S89 where the top is “cool”, but the bottom is hot.

As expected performance is good, and the system is extremely responsive, but the firmware is not that stable, as I experienced several hangs up / freezes, requiring a power cycle. This happened during benchmarks, gaming and while taking screenshots. In two instance, the device apparently turned itself off automatically (Blue LED off), maybe due to overheating. I also had some text input issues from times to times (double characters) using Mele F10, and it also happened with Vega S89 but I forgot to mention it.

Video Playback

XBMC 13.0-beta 1 is pre-installed on the device, so I’ve used XBMC for video testing. I only used MX Players in case of errors, and to double check Dolby / DTS audio.. The videos are played from a SAMBA share on Ubuntu 13.10 using the Ethernet connection of the device. I had no problem for SAMBA configuration in XBMC nor ES File Explorer.

I started with the videos from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus some videos with H.265/HEVC codec from Elecard:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – Failed. Nothing happens.
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p/1080p is – OK. (1080p failed in Vega S89)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container, 360p/720p/1080p
    • XBMC – Audio only then crash,
    • MX Player – Can play and audio works, but everything is in slow motion with many frames skipped.

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – No video, audio only.
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK. No audio/video sync issues as in Vega S89.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Video is supported but some frames are skipped.

I’ve also tested common audio codecs below, using PCM in XBMC, and I got the same results as with Vega S89:

  • AC3 – Can decode audio, but video was very slow
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

MX Player, however, won’t output any audio when playing these files using the H/W decoder.

Sintel-Bluray.iso, a free Blu-ray ISO file, could play just fine in XBMC, and I could also navigate between the eight chapters of the video.

I’ve tested several 4K Videos in MX Player (XBMC does not work – audio only):

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (60 Mbps) – OK
  • Sintel.2010.4K.mkv – Frequent pauses (buffering?) during playback after enabling S/W decode for AC3 5.1 audio. No audio output using the H/W audio decoder.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – Slow motion video playback in MX Player…

I also tested several AVI, MKV, FLV and MP4 videos, and they could all play, except one FLV which only had audio output. I did not experience the audio/video sync issues I found in Vega S89 in any of the videos.

Links to various video samples used in this review and be found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Wi-Fi Performance

Using ES File Explorer, I’ve transferred a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa, repeating the test three times. I’ve tried testing the transfer at different times to avoid the issues I had with Vega S89. But the results were more or less consistent. Wit5h this device there’s a clear difference in performance between transfers between SAMBA to the flash, and vice versa. Transferring the file between flash and SAMBA took between 3:16 and 4:54, but in the reverse direction it took between 5:51 and 7:47.  The transfer times averaged a poor 5:02 (0.92 MB/s), which makes M8 the laggard among devices I’ve tried.

M8_Wi-Fi_PerformanceI’ve tried to play some of the 1080p videos from Linaro samples, and none of them could play without pauses due to buffering.

I’ll add the usual disclaimer about Wi-Fi: “Please bear in mind there are many factors when it comes to Wi-Fi performance, and the results you’ve got with your setup may be greatly different from the ones I’ve gotten here.”

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooh is built-in in this Android TV Box, and you can enabled it only from the standard Android settings, as there’s no option in the Metro style settings. M8 won’t find any devices (I have a Linux PC with a Bluetooth dongle and an Android phone). How I can pair my phone (ThL W200) to M8. Unfortunately it does not seem to work that well, as I failed to transfer any files, as there’s no notifications after sending a picture from either direction. My Ubuntu PC can detect M8, but fails to pair.

I’ve skipped Sixaxis Compatibility Check (free app), as M8 can’t install paid apps, and in this case, Sixaxis Controller.

External Storage

I could use both an SD and a USB flash drive formatted to FAT32 successfully, and played some MP3 and videos.

USB Webcam

I could use a low cost no brand USB webcam with Skype. Video was OK, the “Echo Test” in Skype could record my voice using the webcam mic, and repeat my voice. I could also start a video call in Google Hangouts, something that did not work with Vega S89.

Gaming

I’ve tested  games: Angry Birds Star Wars, Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide 2. The first two are simple games that play fine on all recent dual core or quad core hardware. I’ve configured Beach Buggy Blitz to maximum graphics settings, and it could still run smoothly. Riptide 2 could run very well too. With the Mali-450MP6 GPU there should not be any problems running the vast majority of Android games with high graphics details.

Since we can’t install paid app, I could not test Sixaxis controller. I found it’s usually difficult to play games on Android TV devices, but I’ve seen SomeCoolTechs video review of the Vega S89 using G910 bluetooth gamepad that works with many games without much hassle, which I may have to check out. You could also use with your smartphone as a controller using Droidmote.

M8 / TM8 Benchmarks

CPU-Z gives bascially the same information for M8 as for Vega S89. The CPU is reported as a quad core Cortex A9 r4p1 clocked between 24 MHz to 1.99 GHz with an ARM Mali-450 GPU, and the board is also the same: k200. However, the firmware won’t be fully compatible as Vega S89 Elite (8 GB flash) uses AP6220 Wi-Fi module (2.4 GHz), and Vega S89 (16 GB) and M8 (8GB) uses AP6330 (2.4/5GHz).

M8_CPU_Z

The rest is also exactly the same including pixel resolution (1920 x 1008), “dp” resolution (1280 x 672) 1578 MB RAM (available to Android), and 5.75 GB flash for the user.

Antutu 4.3.3 (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 4.3.3 (Click to Enlarge)

M8 gets 24,133 in Antutu from, the play store, against 22,603 for Vega S89 Elite. In Vega S89, Antutu detailed results showed “4x cores @ 1104 MHz”, but in M8 it shows correctly “4x cores @ 1992 MHz”. Firmware is newer in the M8, so this may one reason. Some people have reported reaching 30,000 points in Antutu, with allegedly the same firmware, so I wonder if it’s because of some thermal management, as my room is relatively warm at 28 degree C. Just as with Vega S89, the GPU benchmarks have been run in portrait mode (607×1080), instead of full screen mode, which means other apps are likely to have issues too. I’d like to point out M8 failed to completely run Antutu once or twice, so it may be possible they’ve extracted some more performance as the expense of stability.

Quadrant (Click to Enlarge)

Quadrant (Click to Enlarge)

With 6536 points, M8 gets a significantly better score than Vega S89 Elite (5363) in Quadrant.

Vellamo failed to run completely in M8.

Conclusion

M8 / TM8 has very performance, unfortunately the firmware is not always stable, and there still quite a few issues that needs to be fix.

Let’s summarize the PROS and CONS

  • PROS
    • Smooth and fast firmware.
    • Android 4.4 Kitkat
    • XBMC 13 pre-installed
    • Blu-Ray ISO and 4K video playback
    • 1080p user interface
    • 4K video output up to 30 fps supported
    • Good Ethernet performance (60 Mbps video playback OK)
    • Good video formats/codecs support
    • USB webcam works with Skype and Google Hangouts
    • HDMI CEC support
  • CONS
    • Stability problems. Not catastrophic, but the device may still hang a few times. Could it be temperature related?
    • Bluetooth not working.
    • Poor Wi-Fi performance.
    • Can’t install paid apps via Google Play.
    • Sometimes non-optimal user’s experience:
      1. Need to switch between XBMC and MX Player depending on video files
      2. Multiple input devices required, e.g. if you use an air mouse, you still need to access the IR remote to put the device into Standby.
      3. Bluetooth not available from default settings menu
      4. Only Chinese cities available for weather
    • H.265 not working smoothly (frames skipped). Probably not fixable (not supported by hardware, and GPGPU not supported by Mali-450)
    • DTS, Dolby, AC3 not supported by hardware, but software decoded in XBMC (Can’t be fixed, SoC related)

As with Vega S89, the firmware needs some work. The main problems are the stability of the firmware, and Wi-Fi performance is very poor. Bluetooth does not appear to be working properly either, at least with my phone. Compared to Vega S89, M8 however provides a better video playback experience without any audio/video sync issues, and the USB webcam could be used with both Skype and Google Hangouts. There’s the same need to jungle between XBMC, and MX Player depending on the video codecs or container formats used.

I’d like to thanks Shenzhen Tomata for providing a sample, and if you’re planning to buy M8 in quantity you could consider purchasing via the company Alibaba website. Individuals can purchase the box through Aliexpress or GeekBuying for about $100.

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Rockchip RK3288 based Android and Chromium OS Tablets and TV Boxes (Video)

April 14th, 2014 2 comments

After the first RK3288 Android TV boxes started to be promoted on Alibaba, and the first RK3288 board was shown, Rockchip is currently showing their quad core Cortex A17 processor in reference designs, tablets, and TV boxes running Android or Chromium OS at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair.

RK3288 TV Box Reference Designs

RK3288 TV Box Reference Designs

Charbax interviewed the company, and the first demo was a development board connected to an LCD display running Chromium OS, which is said to handle 30 tabs without issues.

Rockchip RK3288 is now advertised as being a quad core Cortex A17 with a Mali-T764 GPU, but when Rockchip representative was asked, he strangely denied to comment on whether it was a Cortex A12 or A17, as both are very similar. He also said the GPU was a Mali-T760MP4… If this seems all confusing that’s because it is… Some interesting things are H.265/HEVC support for 4K2K videos, and HDMI 2.0 for 4K @ 60 fps video output.

Moving on, some TV boxes and boards, such as the reference designs pictured above, were quickly shown, followed by several Android tablets that can boot in about 8 seconds.

Finally, we’ve been told the products should be available in the next few weeks. Based on several comments from people involved in development of such devices, I’d expect the first RK3288 devices to be available early summer (end of June, beginning of July), which tablets possibly becoming available a little earlier.

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Mixtile LOFT-Q Board and LOFT Kit mini PC Powered by AllWinner A31

April 13th, 2014 8 comments

Recently most development around AllWinner, at least for Linux, is focusing on AllWinner A20, and there are several AllWinner A20 board and development platforms available on the market such as Cubieboard2, A20-OLinuXino, IBOX and more. But apart from the team at Free Electrons, few people seem to be working on AllWinner A31, so there are few development platform available, if we exclude consumer products such as tablets and Android TV Boxes. There’s now an AllWinner A31 development board thanks to Mixtile LOFT-Q board, which also comes in LOFT Kit to make a complete mini PC with enclosure.

Mixtile LOFT-Q Board

Mixtile LOFT-Q Board

Mixtile LOFT-Q specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner A31 quad core ARM Cortex-A7 processor with PowerVR SGX544 MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB 64-bit DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC (ver 4.51), SATA III connector for 2.5″ drives, and SD card Slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 up to 1080p
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 1 headphone/TOSLINK composite jack, 2 onboard MIC
  • Connectivity – 10/100/1000M Ethernet, WiFi 802.11 a/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and Zigbee (TBC – Confimed)
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host post, 1x micro USB 3.0 device port
  • Debugging – UART debug connector, JTAG connector
  • Expansion header – 180-pin header with access to I2C, SPI, LCD, MIPI DSI, RGB/LVDS, CSI, MIPI CSI, ADC, CTP, RTP, SPDIF-OUT, SPDIF-IN, GPIO, etc…
  • Sensor – Acceleration sensor, IR receiver
  • Misc- Battery slot for RTC
  • Power – 12V/4A (48W)

The company says the board is running an open source version of U-Boot and the Linux Kernel, the board can decode 4K videos, and support Blu-ray video playback. It can be used as an external USB hard drive when connected via the micro USB 3.0 port. The binary images and source code are not there yet, but they should eventually show up in http://www.mixtile.com/downloads/, as they did with their previous Garage board powered by Exynos 4412. Documentation for the previous board appears to be limited, but they still released the schematics (PDF).

Mixtile Loft Kit

Mixtile Loft Kit

The board will also be available as part of a kit called LOFT Kit adding a tempered glass cover, an aluminum frame and baseplate, 2 silicon rubber pads and a thermal pad, an hard disk holder, a 12V/4A power adapter, and an assembly manual.

There’s no word about pricing nor availability at this stage, but you can find some more information on Mixtile website, and the board will probably first show up for sale on that taobao store.

Thanks to Nanik for the tip.

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MINIX Unveils NEO X8 and X8s Android TV Boxes Powered by Amlogic S802 & S802-H SoCs

April 13th, 2014 6 comments

MINIX has been providing Rockchip based Android TV boxes for a couple of years notably with their NEO X5 and NEO X7. They will now also offer devices powered by Amlogic with NEO X8 and NEO X8s respectively powered by S802 and S802-H quad core SoC. The advantage of the former is that it fully supports DTS and Dolby decoding and pass-through.
MINIX_NEO_X8sLet go through the hardware specs of both devices:

  • SoC
    • NEO X8 – Amlogic S802 quad core cortex A9r4 @ 2 GHz with Mali-450MP6 GPU
    • NEO X8s – Amlogic S802-H quad core cortex A9r4 @ 2 GHz with Mali-450MP6 GPU including Dolby and DTS support.
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB (X8) / 16GB (X8s) eMMC + SD/MMC card reader
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, dual band support for X8s, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4b up to 4K @ 30 fps, with CEC support
  • Audio Output – Hdmi, 3.5mm stereo jack, optical S/PDIF
  • Video Container Formats – DAT, MPEG, MPE, MPG, TS/TP, VOB, ISO, AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, FLV, MKV, M2TS, MTS, M4V, WMV, ASF, RM/RMVB, etc…
  • Audio Formats – MP2, MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG, OGA, FLAC, ALAC, APE, AAC etc… NEO X8s only: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, and DTS
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – IR receiver.
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A

Both devices will run Android 4.4 Kitkat. 4K2K video decoding and output are supported, as well as 1080p video encoding.

From an hardware specs perspective, NEO X8 is very similar to the two other Amlogic S802 STBs I’ve received, namely M8 and Tronsmart Vega S89, but NEO X8s is the first Android TV Box I’ve ever seen being announced with S802-H for proper Dolby and DTS support.

Pricing has not been announced, but the company expects their new devices to be available by the end of May. A new air mouse, NEO M1, has also been announced with “six-axis gyroscope support and built-in anti-shake technology for superior accuracy and control”.

Via Facebook. Thanks to Luis and Tadej for the tip.

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