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M12N Amlogic S912 Octa-core TV Box Review – Part 2: Android 6.0 Firmware

August 24th, 2016 No comments

Shenzhen Shiningworth MXQ Plus M12N is one of the first TV box powered by Amlogic S912 octa-core processor also bringing a faster GPU, VP9 and HDR support compared to the earlier Amlogic S905 processor. I’ve already shown the device, its accesories, and its internal degisn in the first part of MXQ Plus M12N review, so today I’ll spend time reporting my finding testing features and performance with Android 6.0 firmware.

MXQ_Plus_M12N_TV-Box_HDD_Onkyo_AV_Receiver

Setup Wizard and First Impressions

Since there are only two USB ports, I connected my USB hard drive to one, and used a USB hub to connect input devices including two RF dongles for an air mouse, and a gamepad, as well as a USB keyboard to take screenshots. I also added Ethernet and  HDMI cable, and finally connected the power supply to boot it up.

M12N_Setup_Wizard_LetterboxBut as you can see from the picture the very first boot was not quite as expected, as all I can see what a mini version of the user interface in the top left corner of my TV (please ignore the vertical line(s) in my pictures, as it is a problem with my LG 4K TV). I contacted the Shenzhen Shiningworth about this issue, and they told me to try to reboot the device… To my surprise, the issue was gone, and I’ve never been able to reproduce it.

MXQ-Plus-M12N-Setup_Wizard

The very first screen will be a welcome from the setup wizard. Select/Click on Next to select the language.M12N_Wizard_Language_Settings

You’ll only have four choices at this stage: English, simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, or Japanese. M12N_Wizard_Overscan_Settings

The Next window is for overscan compensation in case you have black zones on the edges of your TV.M12N_Wizard_Network_SettingsThe final settings in the wizard is for Network. If you have connected an Ethernet cable just click Next, but if you want to use WiFi instead set Wireless from close to open, select your access point, and enter its password. Both 2.4 and 5.0 GHz (802.11ac) networks are supported.

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Once everything done you get to the main launcher with icons for Google Play, Kodi, YouTube, Netflix, “Local” apps, All apps, a Game app (KO GameBox), and a links to Settings. There’s also a customizable bar at the bottom for favorite apps. Boot is normally achieved in less than 30 seconds.

M12N_Android_AppsThe pre-installed app are mostly pretty common, except some IPTV apps – BangTV, Mobdro, and Show Box – which I’m not familiar, and check out later in the review.

MXQ-PLus_M12N_SettingsThere are 6 main menus in the settings:

  • Networks – Wireless, Ethernet, Broadband (PPPoE), and wireless hotspot
  • Device – BlueTooth, Keyboard, HDMI CEC control, Sound settings (PCM, SPDIF passthrough, or HDMI passthrough)
  • General – Device Name (default: MXQ Plus), Date & Time, Language, and More settings (Android 6.0 settings)
  • Security – Security redirecting to Android 6.0 Security Settings, Add Account
  • Display – Adjustment, Resolution, Wallpaper, Screensaver
  • MXQ About – Device Name, System Info, Developer mode, ROM update, and Restore factory status

About_MXQ_PlusI haven’t had any problems with neither WiFi or Ethernet connectivity, and I could setup HDMI output up to [email protected] Hz, however the system would almost always revert to 1080p60 after a reboot. The mow usual annoyance that I can’t turn off my AV receiver while it’s connected to the device still occur, even if I disable HDMI CEC. I could not find any HDR options in the settings.

While we have the most useful option in Settings app,  you can still access Android 6.0 settings via General->More settings, and set other parameter like accessibility, printing, developer options, Languages and Input (with many languages), and so on.

Like most new devices to the market, the TV box has a unified partition for apps and data with 11.87 GB storage, and at the end of the review I had only used 2.99 GB with all installed apps and some files copied to the download directory. So there will be enough space for the requirements of most people.

Going to About MediaBox section shows MXQ Plus running Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29. The firmware is not rooted. The company told me that OTA firmware is supported, but it won’t work through UPDATE&BACKUP app, which reports OTA failure connecting to server, and instead you’d have to go to Settings->MXQ About->ROM update. I have not been able to confirm whether it works since the company has not release a new firmware since I’ve received the device.

While I used MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse for most of the review, I’ve also quickly tested the infrared remote control, and it works with a range up to 10 meters.  Google Play store worked well, except for BLE (Bluetooth LE) app such as Mi Fit or Vidonn Smartband, which I had to side-loaded. I had no problem installing the free version of Riptide GP2 through Amazon Underground.

Power handling is OK with a short press on the power button of the remote control making the device go into standby, and a long press, popping up a window to power it off cleanly. I could also use the remote control to power it back on.

I measured power consumption in 6 different configurations:

  • Power off – 0.4 watt
  • Standby – 0.4 watt
  • Idle – 3.0 to 3.4 watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.4 watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 1.0 watt (HDD LED was turned off)
  • Idle + USB HDD – 4.2 watts

All good numbers, and behaviors. Unless you consider the 30+ watts consumed by my A/V receiver which I can’t power off while connected to MXQ Plus M12N…

Thermal design as seen in the teardown post with two thick thermal pad connecting the processor to the metal case, was not very convincing, but during use the case does not get very hot. After Antutu 6.x, top and bottom temperatures were both 41°C max, and after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 minutes, the temperatures only went up to 43°C and 45°C respectively. The game frame rate was also constant during the whole duration of the game.

Considering Amlogic S912 is a brand new processor, and putting aside the very first boot letterbox issue. my first impressions were quite good with MXQ Plus M12N with the stable and responsive firmware most of the time. Other small annoyances and bugs included the lack of status and notification bars, the device preventing me from turning off my A/V receiver, and in two or three occurrences having the system ask whether I wanted to close or wait for an unresponsive app.

A Quick Look at IPTV apps

As previously mentioned 3 IPTV apps are installed.

BangTV plays Chinese TV stations in Mandarin, but also some in foreign languages (Russian, French, Arabic…) in SD resolution.

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Mobdro app categorizes live video feeds by Channels, News, Shows, Movies, Sports, and Music, and more.

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Once you enter a category, you will be presented by a list of channels with logo and descriptions.

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I could play Sky Sports F1 from the list in SD resolution, and it worked well, except the quality was rather low. Watching sports on TV is often a paying endeavors, so I assume this may not be legal everywhere…

Finally Show Box app starts in the News section, which you can navigate to access various entertainment news about movies and TV shows.

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But you can also select Movies and TV shows in the left sidebar, which brings you to a list of movies.

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I selected one, and it looks like it’s pointing to stream or download the movie through bittorrent.

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I’ve checked Tarzan for two minutes and it could stream fine at 720p (with somewhat low quality)… Again it may not be fully legal in all locales…

Video and Audio Playback with Kodi, Antutu Video Tester, and DRM information

I’ll switch to local video playback. The first time you start Kodi, you’ll be asked whether you want to install Add-ons. I selected “Not install” myself, since I don’t need it for review.

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Kodi 16.1 is installed, probably a custom version built on July 4, 2016.

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I’ll play all videos from a SAMBA share over an 100Mbps Ethernet connectivity, unless otherwise stated (HDD = played from USB hard drive).

I’ve started with some Linaro media samples, and Elecard H.265 videos:

  • 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) – 1080p – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK (software decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p – OK (ff-vp8 software decode), 1080p – some frames are skipped
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK

I enabled automatic refresh rate in Kodi, but this did not work well.

Videos with various bitrates were next:

  • ED_HD.avi (H.264 / 10 Mbps) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – Not 100% smooth (software decode)
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Audio only, stays in UI
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – HDD: OK

The worry here is that the system can’t play some videos with software decode that could be played without issues in Amlogic S905X devices like MINI M8S II, so it could be the CPU is throttling under load.

I also tested PCM output (stereo downsampling) via Kodi and MX Player/MoviePlayer app using my TV’s speakers, and HDMI pass-through in both using Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver for advanced audio codecs.

Audio Codec in Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi 16.1)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MoviePlayer or Video Player)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi 16.1)
HDMI Pass-through
(MoviePlayer or Video Player)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK but video not smooth No audio Dolby D 5.1 detected, but audio starts with noises, video not smooth OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1, but with 3 audio cuts OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio no audio Video plays in slow motion without audio
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio no audio TrueHD 5.1
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio no audio TrueHD 7.1
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 Dolby D 5.1continuous beep
DTS HD Master OK No audio DTS 5.1 with 2 audio cuts DTS 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio DTS 5.1 with 1 audio cut DTS 5.1
DTS:X OK No audio DTS 5.1 DTS 5.1

No audio with PCM output using apps other than Kodi is expected since the processor is Amlogic S912, and not Amlogic S912-H with the proper Dolby and DTS licenses. HDMI pass-through is still in a sorry state, especially in Kodi. It’s still usable in other apps, as long as you are satisfied with 5.1 audio.

4K video playback is pretty good however, at least for supported HW codecs:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • 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) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps) – OK.
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (as expected since hardware is not supposed to support it)
  • 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) – HDD: Slow motion, and many artifacts (Not supported by S912 VPU, software decode)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 30 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – HDD: Not perfectly smooth for either NTFS or exFAT partitions
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – OK watchable but not 100% perfectly smooth.

I had already written about 4K video playback on Amlogic S912 SoC, and if you haven’;t seen it already you can watch some of the videos above playing in M12N in the embedded video below.

Sintek-4k.iso & amat.iso (non encrypted) Blu-Ray ISOs, and two MPEG2 1080i videos could all play without an issues. I was expecting Amlogic S912 to handle 1080p 10-bit H.264 video software decoding thanks to its 8 cores @ 2.0 GHz, but while a 720p Hi10p would play perfectly with audio, video and subtitles, the 1080p Hi10p video was not perfectly smooth, and even suffered from artifacts and audio cuts from time to time. The culprit could be M12N specific thermal design, so the issue will have to be confirmed or disproved with some other S912 models.

My TV does not support 3D videos, but I normally still checked if the TV box can decode the videos, and Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver is capable of detecting 3D content (shows 3D icon) for MVC videos as shown in  Zidoo X1 II review, so I check whether the 3D icon is lit up:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only, stays in UI.
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK
  • 3D-full-MVC.mkv (Full-frame packed MVC 3D MKV) – 2D only, 3D icon not shown on Onkyo receiver
  • ISO-full3D-sample.iso (Full-frame packed MVC 3D ISO) – 2D only, 3D icon not shown on Onkyo receiver

I completed Kodi videos testing by playing various VOB/IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4, XViD/DViX, and MKV 720p and 1080p videos from my library and all could play fine. I also played one complete video for 2 hours without issues.

I’ve also run Antutu Video Tester 3.0 benchmark, and MXQ Plus got 895 points, which is quite similar to the 909 points achived on MINI M8S II. The best devices normally get over 1,000 points.

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DRM info shows only Widewine Level 3 is supported. No surprise here.

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YouTube works fine, but is limited to 1080p max.

Video samples used in Kodi for this review can be downloaded via links in the comments section of my video sample post.

Network Performance

I copied a 278MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal storage test WiFi performance, both using 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, and 802.11ac @ 433 Mbps.

M12N_802.11ac_WiFiResults are below average, and during the 802.11n test, I even got a stalled and failed transfer. Performance is also asymmetric with “downloads” (SAMBA-> flash) faster than uploads (flash to SAMBA). 802.11n achieved 1.6 MB/s on average, while the file was transfered @ 1.9 MB/s over 802.11ac on average.

Throughput in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

For Fast Ethernet, I instead ran iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d to test full duplex transfer, a worse case scenario, and performance is good:

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

After pairing my Android smartphone with “MXQ Plus” I could transfer a couple of photos over Bluetooth. I side-loaded Mi Fit, and it recognized and sync data with Xiaomi Mi Band 2 fitness band, however the app was displayed in portrait mode.

Xiaomi_Mi-Fit_Portrait

I skipped Sixaxis app test with my PS3 Bluetooth game controller clone since the firmware is not rooted, and for some reasons the TV box completely failed to detect my Bluetooth headset.

Storage

My Seagate USB hard drive with 4 partitions got NTFS and exFAT partions recognized and mounted  and a FAT32 micro SD could also be moutned in read/write mode.

File System Read Write
NTFS OK OK
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
exFAT OK OK
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK

Once I tried to copy a file from NTFS to exFAT in ES File Explorer but it failed due to permissions issues. I had not such issues with File Manager app. A1SD bench app shows fast sequential read speed in both partitions with 30MB/s (NTFS) and 33.86MB/s (exFAT), but write speeds are on the low side at respectively 6.42MB/s (NTFS) and 23.83MB/s (exFAT). I checked the NTFS partition with ntfsfix in my PC, and repeated the benchmark but the write speed was still very low.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

I repeated the test for M12N Samsung eMMC flash, and the results were excellent with 99.00 MB/s read speed and 69.40 MB/s write speed, which really makes me wonder why the box are the “unresponsive” app issue.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Gaming

I’ve already written a specific post about Gaming on Amlogic S912 TV box, and performance is clearly better than on Amlogic S905 TV boxes. The included retro gaming app “KO Gamebox” is also interesting. You can see the performance in several games in the video below.

MXQ Plus M12N Benchmarks

I’ll refer to you to the post entitled M12N Amlogic S912 TV Box Benchmarks for details, but let’s say results are disappointing, and I was expecting a larger performance jump compared to Amlogic S905 platforms.

Antutu_6_Amlogic-S912_M12N

Conclusion

MXQ Plus M12N works reasonably well with a stable and responsive firmware, good 4K video playback in Kodi, and decent gaming performance, however it feels like the device does not fully leverage Amlogic S912 processor performance based on benchmark results and video software decoding performance, and it still has some bugs like lack of HDMI audio pass-through in Kodi, and no automatic frame rate switching, problem with remembering HDMI resolution, slow WiFi, and so on.

PROS

  • Recent, stable, responsive (most of the time) Android 6.0 firmware
  • Good 4K videos playvack for VP9, H.265 and H.264 in Kodi
  • HDMI audio pass-through for Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1, and TrueHD 5.1 and 7.1 in Video Player/MoviePlayer
  • One of the fastest internal storage I’ve seen in any TV boxes leading to reasonably fast boot (< 30 seconds)
  • Good 3D gaming performance
  • Proper power handling, and low power off, standby, and idle power consumption
  • OTA firmware update support (not tested since no new firmware)
  • exFAT, NTFS, and FAT32 file system support for external storage
  • IR remote control working up to at least 10 meters
  • Bluetooth file transfer and BLE are working

CONS

  • HDMI audio pass-through and automatic frame rate switching not working properly in Kodi. Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD 7.1 not supported in other apps
  • Disappointing performance compared to Amlogic S905 TV boxes (only ~ +10/15% boost in many benchmarks), and some videos (10-bit h.264) are not playing as well as in Amlogic S905X devices using software decode. Possibly a thermal design issue
  • User set HDMI output mode is not always remember, often falling back to 1080p60 after a reboot, even if I set it to 4K 60Hz previously.
  • “App not responding” issue appearing from time to time (not too often, but still noticeable)
  • Poor WiFi performance
  • Likely HDMI CEC issue as the device will not let me turn off my A/V receiver even after disabling HDMI CEC or automatic HDMI output
  • Bluetooth audio may not be working
  • Lack of status and notifications bars
  • 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)

The manufacturer, Shenzhen Shiningworth, provide the sample for review, and wholesalers and distributors can contact the company to purchase in quantities. They also sell the MXQ Plus M12N to individuals on Aliexpress for $69.90. Alternatively you can buy their customers’ design, with a slightly different firmware, such as Acemax M12N for $65 on GearBest, or $69.99 on Aliexpress, as well as ENYBOX X2 sold on GeekBuying for $79.99.

Coowell V4 Android mini PC with Camera Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

August 24th, 2016 No comments

Coowell V4 is one of the rare Android mini PCs with a built-in camera. It is powered by Rockchip RK3368 octa-core processor combined with 2GB RAM and 16GB flash. GearBest asked me whether I wanted to review it, and since I was curious about the camera, I took the offer up. Today, in the first part of the review I’ll start by checking out the device and its accessories, and tear it down to find more about the hardware design, before specifically testing the camera in the second part of the review in a similar way to what I did for HD23 review.

Coowell V4 Unboxing

The device comes in a black retail package with SMART MEDIA HUB text. The only icon that may cause troubles at custom might be the Android logo and text lacking TM.

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There’s also sticker on the side indicate Model: V4. SO there may be several “Smart Media Hub” models from the company.

The box ships with a 5V/2A power supply, HDMI and AV cables, an IR remote control with IR learning function (5 keys) taking two non-included AAA batteries, and a generic user’s manual in English that does not show or explain anything about the camera.

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The device itself is fairly small, and fits easily in the hand. We’ve got the retractable camera on the top as well as the power button.

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The front panel only has the IR receiver window, one side features a USB 2.0 port and micro SD slot, while most ports can be found in the rear panel: WiFi antenna, one more USB 2.0 host, optical S/PDIF, HDMI 2.0 output, one micro USB OTG port, and the power jack.

Coowell V4 Teardown

In order to open the device, we’ll need to turn it upside down, and we”ll notice both the model name “Smart Media Hub V4” and the recovery switch on the bottom right. But what we are interested in here are the four rubber pads on the corners. We have to take them out, and loosen four screws.

Smart_Media_Hub_V4

Then use sharp and rigid plastic tool to pop the top cover up.
Coowell_V4_TeardownThe camera is connected to the main via a MIPI CSI ribbon cable. I’ve lifted the black part of the connector to take the cable out, and have a closer look at the main board first.
XT-Z4-V13_BoardRockchip RK3368 processor is covered by an heatsink, and connected to a 16GB SKhynix H26M52003EQR eMMC flash and two SKhynix H5TC4G63AFR DDR3L memory (1GB). Networking connectivity is achieved with AP6335 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 module, as well as Realtek RTL8211E GbE transceiver and NS892407 Gigabit Ethernet transformer module. Other ICs include Rockchip RK1000-S audio codec and TV out chip, and Genesys GL852G USB 2.0 hub controller. We’ll find the IR receiver, power button, and a built-in microhone in the bottom of the picture. The board is named XT-Z4-V13.

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Some clips hold the board in place, but it’s easy to completely take it out of its enclosure. We’ll find two more DDR3L chips on the back of the board bringing the total to 2GB RAM. A sticker also mentions Z4S-V13, and that it is the 16G/2G version.

But let’s go back to the camera on the top cover. We’ll need to loosen four more screws, and push 4 pairs of clips to take out the camera.

TV_Box_Camera_Teardown

It’s then easy to open it by inserting a tool on the side of the module, which contains a GC2145 2MP image sensor if the markings on the cable are to be trusted.

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Mini_PC_Camera_module

I’d like to thank GearBest for sending a sample for review, and if you are interested you could considering purchasing Coowell V4 from their online store for $69.99 including shipping. Alternatively the TV box can also be found on Aliexpress for $68 and up.

Android 7.0 Released, LG V20 Android Nougat Smartphone Coming Soon

August 23rd, 2016 4 comments

Since Google has changed their way of releasing new version of Android, as they are now taking input from developers using preview releases, we’ve known the main changes in Android 7.0 for a while including multi-window support, improved security, virtual reality support, Vulkan API, a new JIT/AOT compiler, and so on. The company has now made it official, and released Android 7.0 earlier today.

Android_Nougat

Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, Pixel C, and Android One smartphones will receive an OTA update with the new firmware, and some other phones enrolled in Android Beta program will also get Android 7.0, but older Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 devices won’t.

LG_V20_Android-7.0_SmartphoneGoogle and LG also unveiled the upcoming LG V20, the first smartphone to ship with Android 7.0. Few details have been provided so far

The LG V20 builds upon the premium and rich multimedia smartphone experience of last year’s LG V10. It will be tuned to take advantage of many of the best features of Nougat, including Vulkan-supported graphics for more immersive gaming while also delivering better battery performance with Doze. Consumers will also enjoy new productivity features such as Direct Reply, which lets users respond quickly to text messages or update tasks using the notification interface.

LG V10 is a 5.7″ QHD smartphone powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 hexa-core application processor, so we should expect something similar or better, but really find more details once the phone is formally launched on September 6th, 2016.

More details about Android Nougat and firmware releases can be found on Android 7.0 page.

YOKATV KB2 Amlogic S912 TV Box Comes with 32GB Internal Storage

August 22nd, 2016 11 comments

Most Android TV boxes now come with either 8 or 16GB, and in my experience it’s usually enough for most users. However, as we’ve seen recently, while not being as powerful as Nvidia Shield Android TV box, Amlogic S912 TV boxes are suitable for gaming, and games may use a lot of space, and for example a PSP street fighting game took 500 MB space when I tested it. So if you need more storage space, you may consider devices such as YOKATV KB2 that comes with 32GB eMMC flash.

YoKATV_KB2

YOKATV KB2 specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S912 octo-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 2.0GHz with ARM Mali-T820MP3 GPU @ up to 750MHz
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash, micro SD slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a with HDR, CEC and (maybe) HDCP 2.2 support + 3.5mm AV jack
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, and Bluetooth 4.0 with external antenna
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, power/standby LED, recovery pin hole
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 109 x 109 x 21 mm
  • Weight – TBC

The device runs Android 6.0 with Kodi 17.0, and ships with IR remote control, a HDMI cable, a power adapter, and a user’s manual.

Amlogic_S912_32GB_StorageI first found about KB2 on GeekBuying where it is sold for $84.99, but the remote control is exactly the same as MECOOL BM8, and naming scheme is typical of Videostrong, so the latter is likely the manufacturer. I have not found any specific info about Videostrong KB2, nor MECOOL KB2 yet, but MECOOL BB2 look and specs are very similar, except the 32GB flash is replaced by a 16GB flash. KB2 is also only found under YokaTV brand in Alibaba, so it’s possible the companies have signed an exclusivity deal for the 32GB storage version, which appears to be based on Videostrong KB3 TV box design.

Mini Review of MECOOL BM8 TV Box with Android 6.0 and Kodi 17.0

August 22nd, 2016 35 comments

CNXSoft: An other review by Ray for an Amlogic S905X powered TV box provided by Videostrong.

MECOOL BM8 specifications

The specifications are pretty standard, except for the large flash:

  • SoC – Amlogic S905X quad core Cortex A53 @ 2.0GHz with a penta-core Mali-450MP GPU
  • Memory – 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash + card reader for SD/SDHC/MMC cards
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K*2K “super HD video” with HDR support and AV outputs
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 port
  • Supports HEVC (H.265) decoding

The TV box runs Android 6.0.

Unboxing

The box comes with 3 different Power Adapters, a HDMI cable, power supply and a completely oversized (20cm/5cm) remote control with  “learning modes ability”. No manual was inside the box.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The Videostrong MECOOL BM8 is a 4-core Android TV box, very small and astonishingly smart. Both its length and width are only 95mm and the height is just at a amazing 19mm. You can hold it in your palm.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Review / Impressions

Videostrong MECOOL BM8 is one of the new Android 6.0 TV Box models in 2016. Android 6.0 is to improve user experience compared with other versions of TV Boxes. People can install or uninstall software, games and application programs more convenient and easily. Android 6 is supposed to handle the old memory handling of older Android versions better and more effective.

Mecool_BM8_Android_Launcher

Videostrong MECOOL BM8 comes with Android 6.0.1 OS, an impressive 2GB RAM, and a massive 32GB storage. It provides users with a better experience to enjoy 4K Ultra HD video. Crispy Pictures and a fantastic sound quality are delivered by this very well designed box.

The device booted in just 13.8 seconds the first time, and the second time even faster. This box reboots in a shocking 11.4 seconds! Boot times are with a 500GB USB HDD and a MeLe F10 Deluxe remote. Those are the best results I ever saw so far with an Android box!

I tested Bluetooth with my iPhone 5S, and it worked flawlessly. MeLe F10 Deluxe air mouse also just worked with out issues. I could install all apps I wanted with the Google Play store.

Kodi is working in a glance, gone the times, where we have to wait endless time, before Kodi switched off, now in 1 to 2 seconds done. The Box comes with a Krypton 17.0 (compiled 28. July 2016.)

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

By my opinion not a good choice, Krypton Kodi is still in “pre-release” and if you want to install a “build” later on, you may have to uninstall and go for the latest Jarvis Release 16.1. Not many builds made for Krypton right now.

In the apps Section we find a Kodi ADD-ons updater. What this App really does, stays unknown, no update to find, because of the newest version already installed.

Truly one of the better boxes. I never have had any kind of “bad feeling”, by using and testing this box. Big Points collect this box in the field of IPTV and streaming. Glas clear picture, crispy sound. I connected my Samsung Dolby Soundbar, and the result was great. So it should be and has to be!

I am not a big fan of fancy lab testing, these results are often not to read or to handle for the ordinary customers. A TV Box should give no headache, so easy is that, and I must say, this box gives the buyer no headache or trouble at all. I highly recommend this box for the average use.

Benchmarks

Vellamo 3.2:  Browser 2026; Metal 1057; Multicore 1520

Mecool_BM8_Vellamo

Antutu 6.2.1: Overall 34429;  3D 3026; UX 13714; CPU 12396; RAM 5293

Mecool_BM8_Antutu

Conclusion

IPTV Fan? This Box is for you! Kodi Fan? This Box is for you!

  • Pros:
    • Speedy LAN, great Wi-Fi, perfect Bluetooth 4.0
    • Highly stable, smooth and fast firmware
    • Superfast booting
    • Nicely designed, small and compact
    • Very good value for the money
    • No temperature issues
  • Cons
    • Again the Remote, to huge, to unhandy

Wholesalers can purchase MECOOL BM8 from Videostrong on Alibaba. I could not find the device on any Chinese online stores at this time [Update: Geekbuying offers MECOOL BM8 for $68.99], but GearBest sells a similar looking – but with lower specs (1GB/8GB) – MECOOL HM8 TV box for $29.75 including shipping.

Using M12N Android Amlogic S912 TV Box as a Game Console (Video)

August 21st, 2016 10 comments

When Amlogic announced S912 processor, they mentioned it would target not only 4K OTT and IP set-top boxes, but also gaming consoles thanks to a faster and better Mali-T820MP3 GPU compared to the Mali-450MP GPU found in their previous S905 and S805 processor, and we’ve already seen that S912 is indeed faster in 3D benchmarks.

So I decided to play several games to show the performance, the pre-loaded retro gaming app, and for people who have never used a TV box to play games show what it looks like, and how to play using M12N TV box, in conjunction with MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad.

M12N_Amlogic_S912_GamingI played four games downloaded from the Play Store or Amazon Underground:

  • Candy Crush Saga with air mouse
  • Beach Buggy Racing and Riptide GP2 with the gamepad
  • Dead Trigger with the air mouse in menus, and the gamepad during the game (requires key mapping)

All four games played just fine in the box, and Riptide GP2 framerate was noticeably higher than on Amlogic S905 TV boxes when “highest resolution” setting is selected. If you don’t want to purchase an air mouse or/and game pad, it should also be possible to use your smartphone with the remote app, but it’s not something I’ve tested.

MXQ Plus M12N TV box also includes KO GameBox app [Update: I’ve been informed the app may contain adware and malware] simply shown as “Game” in the main menu.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The app has some Chinese logos, and the interface and games are all available with English language. All games appear to be retro games, and include classic like Super Mario Bros. None of the games are installed in the box, but the app will allow you to download them from various mirrors. I tried Fate/Unlimited Codes street fighting PSP game, and it worked well with Tronsmart gamepad. The app also exposes a QR code to download KO TVGame Assistant app in order to use your Android phone as a gamepad.

KO Gamebox Assistant App

KO TVGame Assistant App

You can see all games mentioned above tested in MQX Plus M12N TV box in the video below.

If you want to purchase the setup I used, you can get Shenzhen Shiningworth M12N on Aliexpress for $69.99, Tronsmart Mars G01 RF gamepad for $25.99, and/or MINIX NEO A2 Lite  air mouse for the same price. Of course, you’d have pretty much the same experience with any of the other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and the gamepad or/and air mouse of your choice.

Amlogic Releases Linux 3.14 Source Code for S905X, S905D, and S912 Processors, Has Started Working on Linux 4.4 / Android 7.0

August 19th, 2016 21 comments

Amlogic has just released buildroot with Linux 3.14 with support for Amlogic S905X (p212 board), S905D (p230 board), and S912 (Q200 board) processors, and the company appears to have started working on Linux 4.4 likely for future support for Android 7.0.

Amlogic_S912_Linux_BuildrootYou can check the source code as follows:

You’ll need to make sure you have gcc-4.9. If you running Ubuntu 16.04, you should already be good, otherwise you’ll need to download Linaro gcc 4.9 toolchain, and you can select one of three boards config (Q200 / S912 as example) and start building the code:

If you are interested in S905X or S905D instead, use respectively mesongxl_p212_release_defconfig or mesongxl_p230_release_defconfig.

Separately, you can also find buildroot for Linux 4.4, but this is very likely very early work, and should be used together with Amlogic Android 7.0 SDK once it is released.

Magic Device Tool Helps You Switch Between Android and Ubuntu on Supported Phones

August 19th, 2016 5 comments

There have only been a few phones released with or supporting Ubuntu so far, and those phones will normally be able to run Android too since Ubuntu Touch relies on Android drivers, and you may decide that Ubuntu is not for you and switch back to Android, or the contrary, if you’ve purchased an Android phone, you may want to install Ubuntu instead. In order to simplify the task of installing operating systems, Marius Quabeck has developed “Magic Device Tool“.

Magic_Device_ToolAs you can see from the screenshot above, 13 phones and tablets are currently supported. You’ll need a computer with Ubuntu 15.04 or greater to install the tool, and I’ve done so on Ubuntu 16.04:

The script will also install phablet-tools if it is not already installed,  so if you are not root, you’ll need your account to be member of sudoers. Once the initial setup is done, you’ll get to choose your phone as shown in the first screenshot. I don’t own any in that list, but I selected LG Nexus 5 to give it a try.

Nexus_5_Android_UbuntuYou’ll be asked whether you want to install Ubuntu, OpenStore alternative app store for hacks, developer tools and app previews, Cyanogenmod 13, the Android factory Image, TWRP recovery, or instead lock or unlock the bootloader. I selected [1] Install Ubuntu -> [1] Choose a channel to flash (Will remove existing apps/data) -> [1] stable, and the flash procedure was about to go ahead:

You’d need your Nexus 5 phone connected to your PC via a USB cable to complete the procedure, but I canceled since I don’t own the hardware required (yet).

The utility can also install PhoenixOS on some phones, and it will soon be improved to include an Android backup/restore option, so you can reflash Android will all your settings and apps.

Via UbuntuFun.de and Ubuntu Australia on G+