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Posts Tagged ‘antutu’

Imagination PowerVR “Furian” Series8XT GT8525 GPU Targets High-end Smartphones, Virtual Reality and Automotive Products

May 11th, 2017 No comments

Imagination Technologies has unveiled their first GPU based on PowerVR Furian architecture with Series8XT GT8525 GPU equipped with two clusters and designed for SoCs going to into products such as high-end smartphones and tablets, mid-range dedicated VR and AR devices, and mid- to high-end automotive infotainment and ADAS systems.

Block Diagram for PowerVR Furian GT8525 GPU – Click to Enlarge

The Furian architecture is said to allow for improvements in performance density, GPU efficiency, and system efficiency, features a new 32-wide ALU cluster design, and can be manufactured using sub-14nm (e.g. 7nm process once available). PowerVR GT8525 GPU supports compute APIs such as OpenCL 2.0, Vulkan 1.0 and OpenVX 1.1.

Compared to the previous Series7XT GPU family, Series8XT GT8525 GPU delivers 80% higher fps in Trex benchmark, an extra 50% fps in GFXbench Manhattan benchmark, 50% higher fps in Antutu, doubles the fillrate throughput for GUI, and increases GFLOPs for compute applications by over 50%.

GT8525 GPU is available for licensing now, and has already been delivered to lead customers. More details should eventually surface on PowerVR Series8XT Core page.

Yundoo Y8 Rockchip RK3399 mini PC Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, Audio & Video Playback in Kodi

May 2nd, 2017 10 comments

Yundoo Y8 is one of the first Android TV boxes / mini PCs powered by Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor to be launched. GearBest sent me a review sample, and since I’ve already taken it apart in the first part of the review, I’ll report my experience with the firmware in terms of stability and performance, as well as audio & video capabilities with TVMC (Kodi fork), and more.

First Boot, Setup, and First Impressions

I’ve first connected a few peripherals Seagate USB 3.0 drive to the USB port, a USB keyboard to one of the USB 2.0 port, and a USB hub to the other one with two USB RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse, and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad.

After adding Ethernet and HDMI cable, I pressed the power button on the unit to start it up. Please note that the remote control cannot turn on the box, so if you are comfortably seated in your sofa or lying down on your bed, you’d need to get to turn it on. The remote control can still be used to enter and get out of standby mode. A typical boot takes just around 20 seconds, and it’s one of the fastest boot I’ve seen on TV boxes.

Click for Original Size (1920×1080)

The launcher shows the time, networking and USB status icon, and weather forecast on the very top, and includes 5 sections with Home, Recommend, Online, Local, And Settings. The Home section has eight icon: TVMC media center (for of Kodi), YouTube (TV version), File Manager, Browser, TV store, K-Addons, Netflix, and Apps. The other three sections lists some pre-installed apps.

I’ve quickly tried the TV Store, and beside apps that can be found in Google Play, it also comes with some other extra apps, notably some IPTV apps that may or may not be legal in your country.

Click to Enlarge

I clicked on the Video icon to get a list of 44 apps as shown below.

The Settings section in the launcher gives access to four icons: “Settings”, “Weather” allowing you to input your city name, “Others” to change the “Theme ” (launcher colors) / enable touch sound, and Systeminfo.

The latter shows YUNDOO-Y8 model runs Android 6.0.1, and comes with 4GB memory, 32GB storage. The MAC address starts with “ac:83:f3” which looks up to “AMPAK Technology, Inc.”, so that’s the WiFi module MAC address….
The Settings menu looks familiar, as it’s just a colorized version of the Settings app found in Amlogic TV boxes.

Click to Enlarge

Some of the settings include:

  • Network – WiFi or Ethernet configuration
  • Bluetooth
  • Display – Day Dream, Calibration, and More Settings. Not that none of those allow you to change video output resolution.
  • System sounds – On/Off
  • Date & Time
  • Language
  • More Settings – Access to Android Marshmallow

Apart from Network to configure Ethernet or WiFi, Date & Time, and potentially Language, the rest of the settings are not really useful, or redirect to Android Marshmallow Settings.

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Notably, you’ll to select Display Output option there to change the HDMI resolution. My box was setup to 720p60 by default, but I had no problems changing it to 3840x2160p-60 (YCbCr420).

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Here’s the full list of options per resolution:

  • Auto
  • 4096x2160p 60 (YCbCr420)/ 50 (YCbCr420) / 30 / 25 / 24
  • 3840x2160p 60 (YCbCr420)/ 50 (YCbCr420) / 30 / 25 / 24
  • 1920x1080p 60/50/25/24
  • 1920x1080i 60/50
  • 1360x768p 60
  • 1280x720p 60/50
  • 1024x768p-60
  • 800x600p-60
  • 720x576p-50, 720x576i-50
  • 720x480p-60

My TV does not support YCrCr444 @ 50/60 using 4K resolutions, but if your TV does, you may have a few extra options (TBC).

PCM audio output, and HDMI / optical S/PDIF audio pass-through can be configured by going to Sound & notifications, and scrolling down there until Sound Devices Manager.

But I would not even bother since it does not work at all, as we’ll see in the audio & video section of the review.

Other options found in most other recent TV boxes but missing in Yundoo Y8 are “HDR” (normal as not supported by hardware), automatic frame rate switching, and Printing.

Click to Enlarge

The TV box has plenty of storage with 27.50 GB partition. The system could only recognize the NTFS partition in my hardware, no exFAT, no EXT-4 support.

The About section shows the Android firmware relies on Linux 4.4.16, and the Android security patch level is dated August 5, 2016. The firmware is rooted by default. Wireless Update app appears to connect to an update server, but I could not verify if it is working, as the company did not provide an update to “yundoo_y8-userdebug 6.0.1 MXC89L user:arron.20170328.133704 test-keys” firmware I’ve been using for the review. The “firmware update” crashes several times again while running in the background, which pops up a window from time to time.

I tested the IR remote control up to 10 meters away, and it worked without issues. I also no trouble using the IR learning function to register my TV remote control’s power button. The big downside has mentioned previously is that you can’t turn on the box with the remote control, only with the power button.

I could install all apps I needed for review via Google Play and Amazon Underground stores.

Beside not being able to turn on the device with the remote control, power handling is implemented properly. You can go into and out of standby with a short press of the remote control’s power key, and a long press will show a menu with Power off and reboot options. I measured power consumption with or without a USB hard drive attached in power off, standby, and idle modes:

  • Power off – 0.0 Watt
  • Standby – 3.0 Watts
  • Idle – 4 to 4.3 Watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.0 Watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 5.2 Watts with HDD LED on.
  • Idle + USB HDD – 6.0 Watts

I did not notice any obvious throttling during use, and after playing a 2-hour video in TVMC, I measured maximum temperatures of 52 and 51°C on the top and bottom of the case respectively with an IR thermometer. After playing Riptide GP2 for 15 minutes, the temperatures were 49 and 55°C. CPU-Z did not report a realistic value for the thermal sensor (26 °C).

Overall Yundoo Y8 left me with a positive impression at first with very good performance, fast boot times, and good stability. The main disappointment was the inability to turn on the box with the remote control, and to a lesser extend, I found the firmware update app crashing a few times a day a bit annoying, and the settings are not user-friendly, and missing a few parts that you’d normally take for granted like Printing support, and automatic frame rate switching.

Audio & Video Playback in TVMC (Kodi fork), DRM Info

TVMC media center is a fork of Kodi 16.1.

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

Starting with some Linaro media samples and Elecard H.265 samples :

  • 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
  • WebM / VP8 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK

Not bad, and all videos were played with RKCodec, meaning hardware video decoding. Automatic frame rate switching is not working, so you can’t expect perfectly fluid videos for 24 fps videos unless you manually change the resolution.

I tested videos with various bitrates:

  • ED_HD.avi (MSMPEG4vs – 10 Mbps) – OK (software decode)
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Not perfectly smooth
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

Audio supports looks promising when we look at Audio output settings in TVMC with TrueHD and DTS-HD part of the options.

Click for Original Size

However, the actual results clearly show the mini PC is not capable of leveraging any AV receiver or amplifier you may have, and now it’s only suitable for stereo audio.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(TVMC)
PCM 2.0 Output
(Video & Video Player app)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
HDMI Pass-through
(Video & Video Player app)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, video 1:1 aspect ratio Audio OK, video 1:1 aspect ratio No audio, video 1:1 aspect ratio. No audio, video 1:1 aspect ratio.
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK No audio No audio
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK No audio Loud noise (like helicopter)
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK No audio Loud noise
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK No audio Loud noise
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio No audio Loud noise
DTS HD Master OK OK No audio Loud noise
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK No audio No audio
DTS:X OK OK No audio Loud noise (never ending flatulence)

4K videos fare better, although more work is needed:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Watchable, but not perfectly smooth
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK, but could be a little smoother
  • 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) – Plays, but not that smooth
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Very low frame rate (software decode)
  • 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 somewhat plays but with a large audio delay  (4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by RK3399 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) – OK (hardware decode)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – SAMBA: Not 100% smooth; USB hard drive playback: OK
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – Not smooth at all, massive artifacts
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Not smooth at all, massive artifacts

Several videos are not quite as fluid as they could be, but a good point if 4K H.264 Hi10p video support, that the vast majority of other hardware platforms cannot handle. TVMC does not support VP9 hardware decoding, so I played the videos in Video Player instead:

  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • 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) – OK, and one of the best playback experience I’ve had with that video, although I’ve still noticed a few tiny slowdowns at times.

Sintel Blu-Ray ISO file could play fairly well. AMAT ISO blu-ray file started in the menu, and I could start playing the video, but for whatever reason audio switches quickly and repeatedly between the AC3 and TrueHD audio track, so I did not get any audio at all. Other videos with multiple audio tracks did not have this issue.

Two 1080i MPEG-2 video could play just fine. Since I was pleasantly surprised to see 4K 10-bit H.264 video playback working, I was hopefully with lower resolution videos, but I did not turn out that way.

  • Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – OK for video, audio and subtitles
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – Crashes TVMC app (tried 3 times).

I’m assuming RK3399 VPU does not like “16 ref” in the 1080p video.  I tried to disable hardware acceleration in the settings, but RKcodec seems to be hard-coded in the app, so it did not change anything. If I play Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu video with “Video Player” app, all I get is a still image with the audio playing in the background for a while. I installed MX Player to work around the issue. I enabled the SW decoder in the app, and Rockchip RK3399 CPU was powerful enough to play the 1080p hi10p video smoothly with video, audio, and subtitles. In an ideal world, TVMC should detect if a video has a problem, and automatically fallback to software decoding…

I played some stereoscopic 3D videos to find out if they could be decoded as LG 42UB820T – the TV I use for review – does not support 3D:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Playing with lots of artifact (No dual 4K decoder required for 3D 4K in RK3399).
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

I completed TVMC/Kodi testing by playing full length movies with various container/codec combinations such as VOB, IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4, and DivX, and all played. The 2-hour video test also completed with any issues. You’ll find all samples mentioned above in the video samples post.

Both YouTube TV and YouTube Mobile apps are installed, and both work very well, as long as you close your eyes. If you happen to open your eyes by mistake, you’ll find out videos are all played at around 10 to 15 fps. So YouTube is not really usable to play videos with the current firmware..

DRM Info shows no DRM is supported whatsoever.

Click to Enlarge

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’ve already tested Gigabit Ethernet in RK3399 benchmarks post with iperf, and performance is excellent (881 Mbps upload, 939 Mbps download). But I’ve repeated the test to copy a 885 MB file from SAMBA to the flash and vice versa. The average file copy transfer rate is 11.57 MB/s, but there’s a big difference between download speed (18.06 MB/s) and upload speed (8.5 MB/s). So I guess there may be a problem with SAMBA in Android 6.0 since it happens with other boxes with this operating system too.

Throughput in MB/S – Click to Enlarge

I repeated the test with a a 278MB file using ES File Explorer to test 802.11ac WiFi performance. Average: 1.6 MB/s; download:  3.2 MB/s; upload: 1.09 MB/s.

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

It does not look too good on the chart, but the main problem here appears to be related to SAMBA performance, and iperf shows about the same 802.11 WiFi performance in either direction.

WiFi download:

WiFi upload:

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I manage to pair Yundoo Y8, shown as “TV Box”, with my Vernee Apollo Lite Android smartphone, but only from the smartphone, as originating pairing from  the TV box would lead to an “Invalid key” error. Once pairing was successful, I could transfer three photos from my phone to the box over Bluetooth. I used  X1T bluetooth earbuds to listen to audio while watching some YouTube videos (@ 10 fps), and managed to get my PS3 Bluetooth gamepad clone working with Sixaxis app.

Storage

As we’ve previously seen, file systems support is limited to NTFS, and FAT32.

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

Storage performance was tested with A1 SD bench app, and performance on the NTFS partition of my USB 3.0 hard drive was very good @ about 95 MB/s for sequential reads, and 54 MB/s for sequential writes.

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

The internal storage did not work so well because of a cache read, but for reference the values were: 147.17 MB/s for seq. read, and 49.32 MB/s for seq. write. Nevertheless, the 32GB used in the TV box has pretty good performance  – despite being the lowest end 32GB eMMC flash from Samsung -, and I did not notice any slowdowns and the dreaded “app is not responding” window during use. If you purchase Yundoo Y8 with a 16GB flash expect lower storage performance, but I’m not convinced it would lower the performance much.

Read & Write Speed in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

I still included the device in the chart above, but keep in mind that the blue (Read) should be shorter than on the chart.

Gaming

Beside getting two fast ARM Cortex A72 cores, Rockchip RK3399 SoC also comes with Mali-T760MP4 GPU that’s almost twice as fast as the most popular TV box solutions such as Amlogic S912. I’ve started with easy game to check there was no bug in that early hardware, and Candy Crush Saga & Beach Buggy Racing easily passed the test, with the latter playing very smoothly even with maximum graphics settings. But even other platforms can manage that. So I switched to Riptide GP2, and to my surprise performance, in terms of frame per second, did not feel any better than on lower end TV boxes, although I could see a few more details, like crowds, in the game. That’s a different result compared to Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced with Mediatek MT8693 Cortex A72/A53 processor + PowerVR GX6250 GPU, where I experienced both better quality/more details, and a much higher frame rate. 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme benchmark results are quite similar in both platforms (9,xxx points), so I wonder if this could be software problems, or possibly to game added too many details on that processor. I also switched video output from 4K to 1080p, but it did not make any difference.

I played Riptide GP2 for over 15 minutes, and performance was stable and constant throughout.

Yundoo Y8 Benchmarks

I’ve already run several benchmarks, and invite you to read “Yundoo Y8 Rockchip RK3399 TV Box System Info and Benchmarks” for details.

Conclusion

Yundoo Y8 mini PC works reasonably well, and you’ll get a boost in performance while doing tasks like web browsing. 3D graphics performance looks very good in benchmark, but somehow it did not translate into better performance in the games I’ve tried. Storage (both USB 3.0 + internal), and networking performance (WiFi + Gigabit Ethernet) are all very good, so we have a good hardware base here. People mostly wanting a TV box to play videos may be disappointed, as it may not be worth to pay extra, as while most videos are playing in TVMC (Kodi 16.1 fork), features like automatic frame rate switching and audio pass-through are not working at all, and the hardware does not come with HDR support.

PROS

  • Powerful hardware with firmware relatively stable and responsive at this early stage
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4096x2160p 60Hz; 24/25/30/50/60 Hz refresh rates supported
  • 10-bit H.265 and 10-bit H.264 (hi10p) video supported in TVMC up to 4K resolutions. 4K VP9 well supported in Video Player app.
  • Excellent networking performance for Gigabit Ethernet, and good 802.11ac WiFi performance
  • USB 3.0 storage delivers the expected performance
  • Fast internal storage (32GB version) lead to fast boot and app loading times
  • Good 3D graphics performance as reported in benchmarks
  • Power implementation is OK: 0 watt in power off mode; off/reboot/standby selection possible.
  • OTA firmware update appears to have been implemented (but not used in the first released of the firmware on March 28th)

CONS (and bugs)

  • TVMC/Kodi issues
    • no support for automatic frame rate switching
    • audio pass-through does not work at all
    • VP9 HW decode is not supported
    • Some videos are not as smooth as usual
    • no zoom option while playing videos.
  • Audio pass-through does not work in other video apps either (after enabling HDMI bitstream)
  • YouTube (TV & Mobile) apps can not play any video smoothly (maybe ~10 fps)
  • The remote control cannot be used to turn on the TV box
  • 3D graphics performance in games not as good as expected (compared to Mi Box 3 Enhanced).
  • System Update app crashes several times a time
  • Settings – Settings App lacks options, so we need to go to Android Settings to set HDMI output, Audio device, etc… Printing option is also gone.
  • Some potential issues with SAMBA performance, especially upload.

I’d like to thank GearBest for sending a sample for review, and you could purchase the mini PC on their website for $109.99 with coupon GBYDY8, or $90 with coupon GBYDY816 for the 2GB/16GB version. I could not find other websites with the device.

Yundoo Y8 Rockchip RK3399 TV Box System Info and Benchmarks

April 24th, 2017 6 comments

Most 64-bit ARM processors found in TV boxes and mini PC features ARM Cortex A53 cores which are good enough to watch most videos, since video decoding is usually handled by the video processing unit. But if you want some more performance for games and web browsing, SoCs based on Cortex A72 or similar high performance ARMv8 cores would deliver much a much better experience in Android. The problem is that there aren’t many options with products such as NVIDIA Shield Android TV, and Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced. The former is potentially expensive depending where you live, and the later is targeted at the Chinese market and lacks an Ethernet port. Rockchip RK3399 SoC should fill the market void for people wanting to do more than just watching videos on their TV box, and since I’ve just received Yundoo Y8 TV box based on the processor, I’ve run some apps to check out system information, and benchmark the system.

Yundoo Y8 / Rockchip RK3399 System Info with CPU-Z

CPU-Z appears to have improved since it can now detect clusters, and could detect a processor with two clusters: 2x Cortex A72 @ up to 1.99 GHz and4x Cortex A53 @ up to 1.51 GHz, as well as a Mali-T860 (actually T860MP4).

Click to Enlarge

Yundoo Y8 runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 4.4.16, but I’ve read that other upcoming models based on RK3399 will run Android 7.1 instead.

Yundoo Y8 / Rockchip RK3399 Benchmarks

Let’s start with Antutu 6.x.

The 76,819 points achieved by the device is a big improvement compared to – for example – the 41,000 points in Amlogic S912 TV boxes. It also beats the ~71,000 points of Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced also based on a hexa-core Cortex A72/A53 processor (Mediatek MT8693), but at a lower 1.57 GHz maximal frequency, with a PowerVR GX6250 GPU,. and running Android 5.1 instead of Android 6.0.

Vellamo 2.x confirms the good performance of Rockchip RK3399: 5,275 points for Chrome Browser test, 2,492 points for Multicore test, and 2,332 points the Metal test. Amlogic S912 TV boxes gets about half that, and it’s also significantly better than Mi Box 3 Enhanced except for the metal test (2,392 points).

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The most powerful mobile/embedded GPUs will easily max out in 3Dmark Ice Storm Extreme 1.2 test, but the Mali-T860MP4 in RK3399 cannot quite do it, although with 9,906 points it’s a big improvement over the Mali-T820MP3 found in Amlogic S912 (~5,750 points), and slightly better than PowerVR GX6250 GPU in Mediatek MT8693 (9,260 points) using 1920×1080 output resolution.

Since low power processors are gone a long way in recent, I wanted to check out far it was from my main computer based on AMD FX8350 processor (125 Watt TDP) and running Ubuntu 16.04. One way to compare performance across different hardware and operating systems is to run GeekBench cross-platform benchmark.

GeekBench 4 Results for my PC:

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GeekBench 4 Android Results for Yundoo Y8:

Click to Enlarge

The single Cortex A72 core performance is about 50% of an FX8350 “Piledriver” core. Not too bad, even though the single core performance of this AMD CPU is not the best in the world. Multi-core performance is another story, as there are less cores/threads (6 vs 8), my computer throttles when all 8 cores are used (Normal score should be 10,000 to 12,000) , and it appears the Cortex A53 cores in RK3399 may not be used at all in GeekBench’s multi-core test. For reference, the latest Samsung Exynos 9 (8850) gets respectively 1,978 and 6,375 points in the same benchmarks. I’m assuming than in 4 to 5 years, we should be able to get AMD FX8350 type of performance in a mobile device.

Ethernet performance should be about the same in all RK3399 devices, and I tested with iperf with the command used in the TV box shown in brackets:

  • Full duplex (iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d):

  • Upload only (iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.104):

  • Download only (iperf -s):

So it’s working pretty well here.

Internal storage will different from box to box, and even Yundoo Y8 with 32GB storage should perform than the same box with 16GB storage, but USB 3.0 performance should remain pretty much the same across devices.

The cached read is for the internal memory (eMMC flash) which we’ll ignore here due to reason explained above. The “SD card” is the NTFS partition of my Seagate USB 3.0 drive, and results are pretty good with 94.34 MB/s sequential read, and 53.50 MB/s sequential write considering I could achieve 107 MB/s and 45 MB/s with that hard drive in my main computer.  The RAM test shows a 9684.47MB/s copy, which compared to the 3301.73 MB/s achieved by Mecool BB2 Pro Amlogic S912 TV box with DDR4 memory.

So overall the platform looks promising, and offers a significant performance boost compared to the Cortex A53 competition at an affordable price, more exactly $90 and up with 2GB RAM, 16GB storage. The downside is that since the SoC is rather new there may be a few firmware bugs at this stage, which I’ll check/report in the full review, but I’m confident they will be ironed out over time, if not in Yundoo Y8, in other RK3399 devices.

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

April 19th, 2017 8 comments

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

Xiaomi Mi 6 specifications:

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

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

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

Rikomagic RKM R1 Mini Projector Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, Kodi, Touchpad, and HDMI Input

April 10th, 2017 1 comment

Rikomagic RKM R1 is a projector running Android 4.4.4, and powered by Rockchip RK3128 quad core Cortex A7 processor with 1GB RAM, and 32GB storage. It has a particular feature as it comes with a touchpad on the top of the case as we’ve seen in the unboxing and teardown part of the Rikomagic R1 review. Today, I’ll report my experience with the projector playing games in Android, 1080p videos with Kodi 14.2, using the touchpad, and connecting a laptop through the HDMI input port. I’ll also run some benchmarks as usual.

RKM R1 Android User Experience and HDMI Input

I wanted to relax and use the projector on the bed pointing to the ceiling. RKM R1 comes with a tripod, but it’s quite small, not the projector would fall off, so I used my own tripod, connected a USB keyboard, and the USB RF dongle for Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad as I planed to play some games.

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I turned it on, and it was already all good to use, as I had already configured WiFi using the touchpad and USB keyboard, and installed various apps and games using Google Play, all without any issue whatsoever. It was a big difference in terms of user-friendlyness compared to Doogee P1 projector when it comes to initial setup, as you don’t need to go through various steps to scan a QR Code, install the control app on your smartphone and so on.

I had my (thick) curtain closed, and once I adjusted the focus with the wheel on the side of the projector the output projector looks like that.

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I would have wished for a brighter picture, so RKM R1 is better suited in really dark room or at night. If you want more control about the display there’s a setting section for this. The auto-rotate screen has nothing to do with landscape or portrait like in tablets or phone, but makes sure the bottom of the screen always faces down. For example, if you move the projector from the bed and turn it up to screw on the ceiling it will rotate the display 180 degrees so that it shows properly.

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I started playing Beach Buggy Racing with the gamepad, and it worked very smoothly in the tutorial, but then I noticed some degradation of performance in gameplay. Note that the framebuffer resolution is set to 1280×720 which makes it easier compared to most recent TV boxes where it is set to 1920×1080. Before considering we are using an old Mali-400MP GPU, it’s not too bad, the game as set the maximum graphics setting by default probably due to the low resolution.

By default the volume was very, so I used the remote control to turn up the volume, and while I could hear music and audio effects during the game, the quality was quite poor. I decided to connect my headphones to the 3.5mm audio jack, and the audio was quite saturated. I could eventually find a sweet spot by not pushing the audio jack fully, but obviously it’s not ideal. I would not say the fan is very noisy, but it will be a problem for some people, as it’s noisier than some mini PCs I’ve tried in the past.

I moved the projector outdoors evening time, and connected some USB powered speakers, but sill using the 3.5mm audio jack. I have not mention the power supply simply because the projector is battery powered, and I can last 4 to 5 hours for the projector on playing videos at times, and in the launcher at other times.

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Instead of playing games, I decided to start YouTube to play a few videos, and the only problem I really had was to switch to full screen mode. For some reason the full screen icon on shows a very short time, and when using the touchpad to go full screen I would often switch to another video or jump to the end of the current video. Apart from that, no problem, and the quality is OK, just like the one you may get if you watch a sports event at a bar. Of course this is standard resolution, so don’t expect miracles.

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The touchpad supports multi-finger gestures such as taping with two fingers for going back, or sliding with two fingers upwards for page up, and downwards or page down.

RKM R1 also comes with an HDMI input which can be convenient for presentation or any media that you prefer to play on another device. I connected CHUWI Laptbook 14.1 Windows 10 laptop, and enabled HDMI Input in the settings.

Within a few seconds I could the Windows 10 desktop from my laptop on the projected display, opened a few apps, and played a YouTube video. No problem, except audio saturation in the speakers. Audio really seems to be one of the weaknesses of this projector.

You can watch a quick demo of RKM R1 projector in the embedded video below.

Rikomagic RKM R1 Kodi Video Playback

As beside Android 4.4.4, it’s also running the older Kodi 14.2, so RKM R1 feels some sort of time machine, going back about 2 years in times.

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Since the projector resolution is 854×480 native, and the video decoder is limited to 1080p60, I’ll skip the usual 4K video decoding and audio pass-through (since there’s no hardware for it), and only went through some 1080p videos (Linaro samples) played over a SAMBA share:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container – 1080p – Plays, but frequent buffering
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – 1080p – Audio only, frequent audio cuts
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Plays in slow motion (software decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 1080p – Plays in slow motion (software decode), frequent buffering.
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – 1080p – Not smooth at all (software decode)

That was no good, so I repeated the tests from a USB hard drive instead, and while I could browse the hard drive, none of the videos would start to play. Last change with a USB flash drive instead (lower power consumption):

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container – 1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – 1080p – Audio only, and it cuts after a while (stuck at 00:08 time mark)
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Plays in slow motion (software decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 1080p – Plays in slow motion
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – 1080p – Not smooth at all (software decode)

So it’s clearly not the best platform for Kodi, but if you are only playing the most common videos codec like H.264 or MPEG2, you’ll probably do fine.

Rikomagic RKM R1 System Information

During the teardown I found two flash chips, and since there were advertised as 16 Gbit each on several websites, I believed there was only 4GB storage on the projector, but apparently this is a mistake as there’s just under 32 GB flash on the board with a 1.91GB internal storage partition, and a 32GB (less than that in reality, maybe ~28GB) “NAND flash” partition. The firmware is rooted by default.

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The system completely lacks DRM, but considering the projector is only running Android 4.4, I’m not even sure that’s a problem.

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CPU-Z wrongly reports a “Rockchip RK3066” processor, but it gets the rest correct with a quad core Cortex A7 processor clocked at 216 MHz to1.20 GHz with a Mali-400MP GPU. Android 4.4.4 runs on top of Linux 3.10.0 in rk30sdk board. 999MB total RAM is available to the system, but at the time I ran CPU-Z only 448 MB was available.

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Rikomagic RKM R1 Benchmarks

Antutu 6.x confirms Rockchip RK3128 is not exactly a beast, and the projector performance may not satisfy everybody, depending on which apps you play to run. Performance may not be that important if you only plan to watch videos, or use the HDMI input.

While the processor is slow I never had “app not working: windows, likely because the internal flash performance is quite decent at 39.91 MB/s (R) and 31.46 MB/s (W)

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Finally, let’s have a look at network performance by copying a file over WiFi + SAMBA with ES File Explorer in both direction. The results are rather weak (1.8 MB/s on average), and may explain why some videos were buffering in Kodi.

WiFi Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

I also did some tests with iperf in case the culprit is SAMBA as with Amlogic Android Marshmallow firmware, but results with iperf are also rather low (about 3 MB/s):

Upload:

Download:

Conclusion

Rikomagic RKM R1 Android projector works much better than Doogee P1, is much easier to use, and also comes with HDMI input. The projector is also mostly bug free, and I had almost no problems playing YouTube videos, but that does not mean the user experience is perfect. First the processor is quite low end, and relying on older software like Android 4.4 and Kodi 14.2, possibly because of all the extra work needed to make the DLP projector work.

PROS

  • Mostly bug-free and responsive firmware
  • Projector works well in dark room
  • The touchpad on top of the project is an amazing idea, and works really well, also supporting multi-finger gestures.
  • HDMI input to connect another computer or laptop
  • Built-in battery  that last about 4 to 5 hours with the projector
  • Google Play install, and no problem to install and use apps such as YouTube
  • OTA firmware update appears to be supported

CONS

  • Low end SoC with quad core Cortex A7 and Mali-400MP GPU
  • The projector runs somewhat older software: Android 4.4 and Kodi 14.2
  • Kodi 14.2 does not work with all video codec, for example H.265 and VC1 are not supported
  • WiFi performance is rather poor
  • Built-in speaker of low quality, and audio is often distorted or saturates via the 3.5mm audio jack (headphone and external speakers)
  • Lack of DRM support
  • Higher brightness would be beneficial in some situations
  • Focus appears to be slightly different on left and right sides of display (at least with my sample)

I’d like to thank Rikomagic for providing a sample, and if you are interested you could purchase the projector for around $246 shipped by DHL, or if you plan to order in quantities, contact the company via the product page.

Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid STB Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, TV Center, and DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 App

March 22nd, 2017 76 comments

Last year I reviewed K1 Plus T2 S2, an Android TV box powered by Amlogic S905 quad core processor with DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 tuner support, which worked with some caveats. VideoStrong has now send me an updated model with Amlogic S912 octa-core processor, which I presented in the post entitled Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid Android STB Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown, where I listed the specifications, and showed photos of the device and the boards (main board + tuner board). I’ve now had time to play with the device, and in many respects the user experience is very similar to the one I got with KI Plus T2 S2 models, but there are also some tweaks, and a few bugs which I’ll report in the second part of the review below.

KIII Pro Hybrid TV Box Setup, Settings, & Power Consumption

The four USB ports are really convenient, as I could connect a USB hard drive, an air mouse, a wireless game pad, and a USB keyboard without the need for a USB hub. I also connected the usual Ethernet and HDMI cable, plus the cable from my Satellite dish to the DVB-S2 F connector, and the cable from my roof antenna to the DVB-T2 coaxial connector.

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Once we connect the power, the device boots automatically, and usually takes under 30 seconds to do so. The launcher is pretty much the same as KI Plus TV box.

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So I won’t go through it in details again, and will only comment on one change. Kodi is gone and been replaced by something called “TV Center”. So I clicked on it, and it showed a famous Chinese proverb “The installation isn’t installed!”. So I went to the list of apps, and click on TV CENTER, which will do the installation of this mysterious app.

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Once it’s done I can click on TV Center, and the user interface looks familiar.

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So that means they made some modifications to Kodi 17, and change the name to comply with the trademark requirements.

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The TV Center installation also automatically added some add-ons as shown in the screenshot below.

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The Setting app is exactly the same as for other recemt Amlogic TV boxes, and there’s nothing specific to DVB, so I’ll mostly skip it (If you want to see check out Qintaix Q912 review), except to show Storage & USB section that reveals 634 MB is used out of 16.00 GB. That’s obviously a fake number, and it should be around 11 to 12 GB, but the company may have chosen to do so to avoid some customer’s complains that there’s not 16GB storage, as they don’t understand the OS take places on the flash.

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

The About section shows the model is indeed KIII pro running Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29. The firmware is rooted by default.

OTA update appears to be supported, but at the time of the review, there was no update available.

I tested the provide IR remote by adding two AA batteries, and it works well up to 10 meters. For most other TV boxes, I’d recommend to use an air mouse, bu in the case of KIII Pro, you’ll need to keep using the remote control in order to support DTV app for DVB-S2/DVB-T2 properly, maybe switching to an air mouse or wireless keyboard + touchpad for some other Android apps. One recurring issue in most TV boxes is still present in KIIIPro however: the mouse cursor is rather small when you set your TV to 4K resolution.

I could install all apps I needed through Google Play, and Amazon Underground without issues.

The set-top box has only two power modes: off or on, and there’s no standby mode. I can turn the device on or off using the IR remote control or the power button.

Power consumption is pretty high in power off, as I tested different options with or without the USB hard drive, but I found a lot of variability with testing:

  • Power off – Test 1: 5.1 Watt; Test 2: 2.2  Watts; Test 3: 3.1 Watts
  • Idle – 7.2 Watts, then 4.3 Watts (2nd try)
  • Power off + HDD – Test 1: 5.1 Watt; Test 2: 2.2  Watts; Test 3: 3.1 Watts
  • Idle + HDD – 9.3 Watts then 8.1 Watts (2nd try)

The good news is that USB ports are turned off in power off mode, so at least the extra power consumption does not come from those ports.

Temperature is a little higher than other boxes, but I’ve not encounter massive CPU throttling during my tests. After playing a 2-hour video the maximum top and bottom temperatures as measured with an IR thermometer were respectively 53°C and 57°C, while after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 to 20 minutes the temperatures were 51°C and 57°C, but I did not notice any lower framerate in the game as the time went on. I quickly started CPU-Z after quitting the game, and the reported temperature in the app was a high 89°C, so in some conditions performance degradation due to high temperature might be possible, I just did not experience it during my tests. FYR, room temperature was around 30 °C during testing.

KIII Pro Android firmware feels very much like any other Amlogic S912/S905X TV boxes, and it was responsive without any critical bugs. The only small annoyances were the somewhat loud music during the boot animation, the small cursor at 4K resolution, and the relatively high power consumption in power off mode.

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

As we’ve seen in the section above, Kodi is not installed per se, but instead the box comes with an installer for a fork of Kodi 17.0-RC3 called TV Center.

I enabled “Adjust display refresh rate” in Kodi settings,and started by playing 4K video over Ethernet from a Linux SAMBA share:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Not always smooth
  • 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 (NB: 4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by S912 VPU)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Plays at around 1 to 2 fps (expected since it relies software decode as S912 VPU does not support 10-bit H.264)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – USB hard drive playback: Not smooth as on all other Amlogic TV boxes.
  • 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 not always perfectly smooth as with all Amlogic S912 TV boxes.

4K video capabilities are pretty much the same as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, except for HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 that was worse than usual. Automatic frame rate switching is not working again as is the case on most other S912 boxes, except MINIX NEO U9-H.

Next up I enabled HDMI audio pass-through in Kodi, and since TrueHD is not part of the list, I also enabled Dolby Digital (AC3) transcoding.

Here are the results of my tests with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MX Player / Video Player app)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but video not smooth at all OK Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1), Video not smooth
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK Video not smooth, and audio cuts No audio
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
DTS HD Master OK No audio No audio and black screen
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK No audio and black screen
DTS:X OK No audio No audio and black screen

That’s pretty bad if you plan to use HDMI audio pass-through, except for Dolby Digital 5.1 / AC3. The first video has often problem on Amlogic TV boxes in Kodi, but most AC3 video should work fine. A good news is that AC3 is working via MX Player, so if you receive live TV channels with AC3 audio through the DTV app, it should be able to decode AC3 audio properly, something that was not possible in K1 Plus T2 S2.

I also played a 2-hour video to check for stability. The first time, TV CEnter app crashed with the message “Unfortunately TV Center has stopped” after about 5 minutes, and my second attempt was not completely trouble free either, as the video stopped at around the 50 minutes marked, and the system went back to TV Center UI, but I could select the video again, was offered to resume from 49:21, and it could play until the end.

KIII Pro supports Widevine Level 3 DRM. That means no Netflix HD like on most competing Android media players.

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

Now to the most important features of KIII Pro hybrid set-top box: DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 tuner support. The box is using the same DTV app as on K1 Plus T2 S2 with only minor modifications. The first time you launch the app, you should get the following message indicating there aren’t any channels yet, and asking you to scan for channels.

Once you agree, you’ll be ask to select DVB S/S2 or DVB T/T2.

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I’ve gone with the latter first, and I’ll redirect you to the post entitled “How to Configure DVB-S2 and DVB-T2 Tuners in K1 Plus Android DTV Receiver” since the procedure is the same. I got 26 channels for my T2 scan, but somehow I got 30 channels on K1 Plus T2 S2. So I went to check the settings, and this time the Area Setting was already set to Thailand, either automatically, or it was done before sending the device.

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Anyway I could watch both HD and SD channels without any problems, and signal strength are quality are both at 100% or close to it all the time.

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The EPG looks exactly the same, and it still has problems with Thai encoding or font.

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But before testing other features, let’s configure our satellite dish. Press the Menu key on the remote control, select Installation,

and then DVB S/S2.

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You’ll be able to select your satellite from a list, or define your own as I showed in K1 Plus T2 S2 setup guide and review. I did not show Motor Settings last time, so I’ve taken two screenshots one showing DiSEQc 1.2 support…

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… and the other USALS support. I have not tested either since I don’t own a motorized satellite dish.

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Once you are happy with the setting go to Multi Scan menu to see your satellite list, and press the Blue button on the remote control to start scanning.

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I got 25 TV channels and 7 radios after selecting a Blind Scan and FTA (free-to-air) channels only. Last year, I got 55 TV channels and 5 radio with the same “Thaicom2” satellite. Go figure… Signal strength and quality are quite lower in my case at around 55% and 50% respectively. There are some channels without signal, just as with K1 Plus T2 S2.

One nice improvement is that you don’t need to select between DVB-T2 or DVB-S2 when you start DTV app, as all your channels are shown in the list.

I tried EPG scheduling to start playback or record video, and it works exactly like before.

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So  I setup a few “timers, and watched a DVB-T2 channel live, and one minute before a schedule recording on MONEY channel (DVB-S2) the following window overlaid the video:

I did not press any button, and one the count down expire, it switched to MONEY channel automatically (good), and I got the message “recording complete” (bad). I could reproduce this bug several times. I noticed if I schedule a recording on a channel, and stay on that channel it will work fine.

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You can see the list of recording above on my USB hard drive with some started manually (REC key on remote), and several scheduled. All the 0 bytes videos are due to the bug described above. So schedule does not work 100% reliably. However I noticed different current times (shown in top right of EPG) with different channels, for example it was 13:10 on a DVB-T2 channels, and 13:18 on a DVB-S2 channel, so this might explain some of the issues.. Please note that if you schedule program, and turn off the box, it won’t automatically start to record, and some comments in case try to run DTV app in the background and do other things. The DTV app must run in foreground in other to record videos.

I was more lucky with TimeShifting. Pressing the play/pause key on the remote control, will ask you to select a storage device, and you’ll be able to pause and play live TV within a default 5 minutes period, but this is adjustable in the settings. Note that you need external storage, as this won’t work from the flash.

Advanced users will be able to access CCcam, BISS, and PowerVU setting, by pressing the Menu key, selecting Installation and DVB S/S2, and from there enter 111111 on the remote (6 times character 1) to access Smart Data Manager menu.

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I have not done a video again since it’s so similar to the previous model, with just a few minor changes to the user interface, and if you want to check out DTV app into more details, I invite you to watch K1 Plus T2 S2 video review.

Networking (WiFi & Ethernet)

I’ve checked WiFi performance by transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash (and vice versa) using ES File Explorer. I’ve only tried 802.11ac (connected @ 265 Mbps) , and again performance was asymmetric with the download @ 3.70 MB/s and upload @ 1.44 MB/s, and average @ 2.1 MB/s which makes it similar to other recent Amlogic TV boxes.

Throughput in MB/s

However, last time I reviewed MINIX NEO U9-H which had disappointing WiFi results with the same tests, as it was much slower than MINIX NEO U1 despite ahving the same WiFi module and overall system setup. MINIX them showed me their own tests with different routers showing similar performance between NEO U1 and NEO U9-H, so Amlogic may have completely blown up their SAMBA implementation in their Android 6.0 SDK (NEO U1 runs Android 5.0, U9-H runs Android 6.0).

For that reason, I also tested 802.11ac download speed using iperf “download” test:

That’s 216 Mbps (~27 MB/s) with a raw TCP transfer, and while SAMBA is not supposed to be the fastest network protocol, performance should not drop as low as 3.7 MB/s (over 7 times slower) for the SAMBA download unless something is really wrong.

I also tested Gigabit Ethernet with iperf but using a dual duplex test, and performance is fine.

Doing a SAMBA download over Gigabit Ethernet gets a 885 MB file transfer in 59 seconds (15 MB/s) to the internal flash, which is pretty much normal. So it looks like the issues occur when combining WiFi with SAMBA. SAMBA performs fine with Ethernet, and WiFi raw TCP transfer speed is OK.

Storage

KIII Pro supports exFAT, NTFS, and FAT32 file systems, but not EXT-4 and BTRFS. Benchmarks with A1SD bench shows you should avoid exFAT to record videos with the DTV app, as write speed is rather low (1.35 MB/s), and the write speed (156.09 MB/s) is just incorrect as it is what triggered the “Cached read” in the screenshot below.

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That means your only option is to use NTFS for external storage if you want to support larger video files. Performance is good at 44.43 MB/s for read speed, and  16.74 MB/s write speed.

The eMMC flash (“SD card” in screenshot) performance is not outstanding, but at 41.34 MB/s (read) and 18.29 MB/s (write) is good enough for the system to boot fast, and feel responsive at all times.

KIII Pro Benchmarks

CPU-Z correctly reports an octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.51 GHz with an ARM Mali-T860 GPU. Model KIII Pro is using q20x board, and the pp shows with 2825 MB total RAM, and 11.87 GB internal storage (the real value, but the 16GB shows in Android settings).

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Since I’ve reviewed so many Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and only ran Antutu 6.x benchmark to make sure there was no hidden issue, and the 40,330 points achieved by the TV box is within the normal range.

Conclusion

KIII Pro comes with typical performance and flaws of other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, with Android 6.0 firmware working well, TV Center (Kodi 17 fork) playing 4K videos relatively well, supporting DD 5.1 pass-through, but not the full range of audio codec, and lacking support for automatic frame rate switching. The device is however unique thanks to its dual tuner with DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 inputs, and the DTV app is about the same as on the previous model (K1 Plus T2 S2), but merges channels from both sources instead of having to choose at launch. Sadly some of the same bugs and shortcomings linger such as font encoding issues, and inablity to run PVR process in the background.

PROS

  • Stable and Responsive Android 6.0 firmware
  • Decent 4K video playback in TV Center (Kodi fork)
  • Support for Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3) HDMI pass-through and downmixing in all apps
  • DVB-S/S2 & DVB-T/T2 support via DTV app with timershifting, EPG, and PVR support
  • Good 802.11ac WiFi and Ethernet performance
  • OTA firmware update (App is there, but not fully tested as no new firmware available during the review)

CONS (and Bugs)

  • DVB issues and shortcomings:
    • DVB S/S2 signal strength and quality is only around 50 to 55% (on my setup and for others too), which could lead to problems get signals for some channels
    • Thai font encoding issues
    • In some conditions, scheduled recordings will start on time, but stop immediately resulting in an empty video.
    • PVR function does not work in background, so the DTV app must be on the foreground at all time, and the box cannot be turned off when using schedules/timers.
  • HDMI audio pass-through not working (in TV Center) for Dolby Digital+ 7.1, TrueHD and DTS / DTS-HD
  • Automatic frame rate switching is not working in Kodi
  • Potential instability issues with TV Center – The 2-hour video test failed twice: 1st time: crash after 5 minutes; 2nd time the video stopped after about 50 minutes, but I could resume. N.B.: I did not experience other crashes while testing video samples.
  • Mediocre WiFi + SAMBA performance like in other S905X/S912 TV boxes with Android 6.0.
  • Relatively high power consumption (2.2 to 5.1 Watts) in power off mode
  • While I have not noticed obvious CPU or GPU throttling during my tests, temperature does get high (89 °C reported in CPU-Z)
  • Minor issues – Very small mouse pointer @ 4K resolutions, loud music during boot logo

Finally, I also have a user-friendliness remark. If you are just going to use TV Center and DTV app, the provided IR remote control will do, but if you are going to also use other Android apps, I normally recommend to replace the IR remote control with an air mouse. It’s not really possible/practical with KIII Pro, as DTV app has been designed around the IR remote control with keys such as MENU, PVR, REC, EPG… That means you’ll need juggle with both the IR remote control and an air mouse in order to fully enjoy all capabilities of the device. It would be really nice if VideoStrong could come up with an (optional) air mouse with keyboard that also supports DTV app.

Resellers and distributors may inquire Videostrong via their Alibaba page to purchase KIII Pro in quantities. Individuals can purchase KIII Pro Android set-top box on  GearBest ($117.99), Aliexpress ($141 and up), Banggood ($133.99), and other online retailers.

MINIX NEO U9-H Media Hub Review – Part 2: Android 6.0 Firmware & Kodi 17

March 1st, 2017 32 comments

MINIX NEO U9-H is the successor of MINIX NEO U1 media hub with an upgrade from four to eight cores with Amlogic S912 processor, as well as added support for VP9 and HDR. The company sent me a sample, and I’ve already checked out NEO U9-H hardware in the fist part of the review, so I’ll report by testing results in Android 6.0 and Kodi 17 in the second part. Since the user interface & many of the features have not changed, I’ll refer to MINIX NEO U1 review from time to time.

Click to Enlarge

First Boot, OTA Firmware, Settings and First Impressions

I connected the MINIX A3 air mouse RF to one of the USB port, a USB 3.0 hard drive to another, and a USB hub to the last one with Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, a USB keyboard to take screenshots for the review, and a USB webcam. There’s also micro USB port, which you could use with the provided USB OTG adapter, but I have not used it. Last I also added USB powered speakers to the USB hub, and connected them to the 3.5mm audio jack. I also connected HDMI and optical audio cable to Onky TX-NR636 AV receiver, and an Ethernet cable to a Gigabit Ethernet swtich. Finally, I added the provided 5V/3A power supply, and pressed the power button on to start it all up. A typical boot takes around 30 seconds, and the first time, you’ll be asked to select between MINIX METRO or Launcher3 “Homes”.

I prefer MINIX METRO (below) as it’s more suited to larger screens, especially when you sit several meters from the TV. It’s the same launcher which I already described in MINIX NEO U1, except possibly for the weather indicator in the time/date window, and the mass storage devices ‘ Label is shown on the top right corner. I’d wish the WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth,and VPN icons on the top left were clickable, but they are not.

Click for Original Size

Launcher3 is basically the launcher you’d get with stock Android plus MINIX background image. You’ll also notice the larger mouse pointer which makes it convenient to use several meters away.

Click for Original Size

The box comes with some pre-installed apps like ES File Explorer, Kodi, YouTube, Google Play, AirDroid, MINIX Power Menu & System update apps, YouTube, Skype,  and so on.

MINIX has supported OTA firmware updates in all of their devices, so I tried with System Update app, but I could not test it there was no update to MHC16G20170216 firmware at the time.If you want to get an idea of how long you may expect to get firmware update, you can look at the forum for older products such as MINIX NEO X8-H. Eleven firmware updates have been released with the first “stock” firmware released on November, 2014 and the last (FW011) firmware released in January 2017, so it has been supported for over 2 years so far.

The Settings app is the same as with other Amlogic devices, and similar to MINIX NEO U1, so I’ll focuses on different and/or specific features.

Click to Enlarge

Once you enter the Display menu, you’ll find some typical features as well as  “Force RGB output” which may solve color / pink screen issues with some older TV, and HDR specific to Amlogic S905X/S912 processor.

If you enter the Audio settings, you’ll get options to select PCM, HDMI or SPDIF audio (pass-through), as usual, but there’s  also the Device Manager menu to select audio input and output devices.

In my setup I had three input device to choose from: on-board Mic input (3.5mm mic jack), USB-Audio – SAGE AiR Mouse (MINIX A3), and USB-Audio – Venus USB 2.0 camera, which will be important for voice commands, and video conferencing.

The output devices selection will be less useful for most people, as you can only select Auto or HDMI, as 3.5mm audio jack and S/PDIF are all outputted at the same time, and, only USB devices such as a USB sound card will show up.

You also have the same HDMI CEC, Playback settings and power key definition (standby or power off) as in MINIX NEO U1. There are three options for HDMI self-adaptation (automatic frame rate switching):

  • OFF – no processing
  • Level 1 – 23.976fps videos are processed under 1080p60Hz mode;
  • Level 2 – Switching TV’s output according to source video fps

If you go to Advanced Settings you’ll reach Android Marshmallow settings, and the main difference compared to competing Amlogic TV box, but already present on MINIX NEO U1 are “MCU settings” where you can enable autostart (no need to press power button), RTC alarm, and upgrade the MCU firmware.If we go into the Storage & USB section, we’ll find out a 10.89GB partition is available to the user, with about 1 GB used.

The system could also mount both NTFS and exFAT partitions, but not EXT-4.

If we go into About MediaBox, we’ll see the model number is indeed NEO-U9-H, and that it runs Android 6.01 on top of Linux 3.14.29 with the Android security patch dated on August 1st, 2016. The firmware is not rooted, but if that’s something you need I’m pretty sure a method will show on the forums in due time, although I’d prefer a switch in Android option to root and unroot the box as needed.

I shortly testing MINIX IR remote control and it worked at least for up to 10 meters. However, I really recommend getting MINIX A3, or if you don’t need voice input, MINIX A2 Lite air mouse, as it makes a big difference when using various Android apps. If you already own a box with MINIX A2 Lite air mouse, don’t worry that it will interface with MINIX A3 and control two devices at the same time, as my A2 Lite would not work with my A3 USB dongle. Voice input works fine as tested with Voice Search app. Press the microphone key on the remote to enable it, and you can now use “OK Google”, as you’d do on your smartphone. Just make sure Audio device input is set to the remote control. If you want to turn off the microphone, simply press the microphone key on the remote control. MINIX NEO A2 worked well up to 10 to 12 meters, and I could even see the mouse cursor at that distance.

I could install all apps I needed through Google Play, and the free version of Riptide GP2 via Amazon Underground. However, when I tried the free version of Riptide GP: Renegade it to “update your Amazon App to Amazon Underground to start experiencing actually free”. I had already isntall it, but clicked on Update Now anyway, and after update I had the exact same error message.

Click to Enlarge

That’s probably an issue with Amazon itself than with the box.

Power handling appears to be implemented exactly the same way as MINIX NEO U1, so you can go into standby, reboot, or power off the device with the remote control, or the power button. You can also power the device back on using either the IR remote control or MINIX A3 air mouse.

Power consumption is also similar to the previous model, as measured with or without hard drive using a power meter:

  • Power off – 0.1 Watt
  • Standby – 0.4 to 1.1 Watts (most of the time on 0.4)
  • Idle – 3.0 Watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.1 Watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 1.2 Watts with the HDD LED off. Be patient it may take about one minute to reach this power level with a hard drive connected.
  • Idle + USB HDD – 5.0~5.4 Watts

As expected, MINIX NEO U9-H dissipate power well thanks to its large heatsink. I measured 36°C and 37°C respectively on the top and bottom of the case after Antutu 6.0, and the temperature went up to 44°C and 49°C after playing a 2-hour 1080p H.264 video in Kodi, and 47°C and 54°C after playing and Beach Buggy Racing & Riptide GP2 for around 30 minutes. I quickly went to CPU-Z after exiting the game, and found the CPU temperature was 71°C.

So my first experience with MINIX NEO U9-H was even better than the very good one I had with MINIX NEO U1, since some of the bugs found the first firmware for the previous model, e.g. device stuck in standby mode, video output falling back from 4K @ 60 Hz to 1080p60 from time to time…, could not be reproduced with the new model.

Video & Audio Playback with Kodi 17.1-RC1, DRM Info

MINIX recommends the use of their XBMC MINIX Edition fork of Kodi for MINIX NEO U1, but with their new model, the company told me Kodi 17 worked well in U9-H, so I just use the pre-installed version: Kodi 17.1-RC1.

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I’m tested various video container formats, and video/audio codec playing files from a SAMBA share via (Gigabit Ethernet), unless otherwise noted.

Linaro media samples and some Elecard H.265 samples could also play fine except for VP8 1080p sample:

  • 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
  • WebM / VP8 480p/720p – OK; 1080p: Not perfectly smooth (Note: software decode)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK

I also enabled automatic frame rate switching in Kodi and Android settings (HDMI Self-adaption level 3), and it worked very well, which I think is a first amond the 8 or 9 Amlogic S912 I’ve tested so far.

Next up are some videos with various bit rates:

  • ED_HD.avi – Not smooth at all
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – First time: image freezes after a few seconds; second try: OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Not perfectly smooth
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

So the Jellyfish video plays better than in MINIX NEO U1 (Amlogic S905), but some other problems have showed up with other videos.

I’ve then checked out audio capabilties of the TV box with PCM (stereo) output, as well as HDMI and S/PDIF pass-through in Kodi. I also tested PCM (downmix) with MX Player to make sure those DTS and Dolby licenses are indeed valid for any apps. I could configure Kodi to pass-through AC3, E-AC3, DTS, TrueHD, and DTS-HD.

Click to Enlarge

MINIX NEO U1 did not support DTS-HD when it launched in December 2015 (firmware updates have fixed that), but MINIX NEO U9-H passed most tests just fine.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MX Player / Video Player app)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
S/PDIF Pass-through
(Kodi)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D+ 7.1) OK (Dolby D+ 7.1)
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio OK (TrueHD 5.1) Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF, and will show as PCM 2.0 or Dolby D 5.1 depending on whether AC3 transcoding is enabled in Kodi
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK Switch to AC3 audio track (beep), as TrueHD is not supported TrueHD 7.1*
DTS HD Master OK OK OK (DTS-HD Master) OK (DTS 5.1)
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK OK (DTS-HD HR) OK (DTS 5.1)
DTS:X OK OK DTS-HD Master* OK (DTS 5.1)

* My AV receiver (Onkyo TX-NR636) does not support Atmos nor DTS:X, so the fallback to respectively TrueHD and DTS HD Master is normal. So overall HDMI and optical S/PDIF pass-through is working well with my test samples, downmixing from Dolby Digital and DTS to stereo audio works, and the only problem is the lack of downmixing of Dolby TrueHD / Atmos audio in video apps that respect Dolby & DTS licenses.

4K video can now be played pretty well in Kodi, almost as well as with MX Player:

  • 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, 24 fps) – Not smooth at all, and the problem gets worse when automatic frame rate switching is enabled.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK, but it played for about 2 seconds, then buffered for a few more seconds before resuming playback normally
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – The video plays in slow motion (4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by S912 VPU)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Plays at around 2 fps (as expected since it uses software decode as S912 does not support 10-bit H.264)
  • 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 not always perfectly smooth as with all Amlogic S912 TV boxes.

It’s all good, except for one 10-bit H.265 video that won’t play smoothly at all. Other problems are related to limitation of Amlogic S912 processor like the lack of support for 10-bit H.264, and 4K H.264 is limited to 30 fps, and very high bitrate videos (~240 Mbps) cannot be played smoothly.

Sintel and AMAT ISO blu-ray files and 1080i MPEG videos could play just fine. Lower resolution Hi10p (10-bit H.264) could play, but 1080p was not that smooth:

  • Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – OK for video, audio and subtitles
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – OK for audio and susbtitles, but the video was not smooth

While my TV (LG 42UB820T) does not support 3D, but I played some stereoscopic 3D videos to find out if they could be decode:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Stays in UI
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Some movies fron my library with various container/codec combination such as VOB, IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4 and MKV could all play just fine. However, I noticed some micro audio cuts in some videos with AC3 and HDMI audio pass-through enabled. I could not reproduce the issue with all videos, and using optical S/PDIF instead of HDMI solved the issue. Finally, I could play a complete 2-hour video. You’ll be all sample mentioned above here.

I’ve decided not to report Antutu Video Tester in my reviews, since Antutu appears to have stopped development, and the app has been removed from Google Play.

DRM Info results are however quite interesting.

Click to Enlarge

MINIX NEO U9-H supports both Widevine K1 and Microsoft Playready DRM, which means you could get full HD and 4K UHD resolution for some premium apps. However, it is not a certified Netflix device, so if you install Netflix app from Google Play, you’d still be limited to standard definition. However, as previously reported, you should be able to install a Netflix apk that allows HD resolution for any Widevine L1 capable device. I don’t have a Netflix account, so I have not tested myself. YouTube is working fine up to 1080p.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’ve transfered a 278MB file between a network share (SAMBA) and the internal flash for three times using ES File Explorer, and averaged the results in order to evaluate WiFi performance, testing both 802.11ac and [email protected] GHz. Results are sadly underwhelming. [Update: WiFI performance is OK, but WiFi + SAMBA performance suffers. That’s likely an Amlogic Android SDK issue. See comments]

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

I’ve highlighted both MINIX NEO U1 and NEO U9-H results in the chart above as they make use of the same Ampak module for WiFi, but I got much different results, despite the same testing conditions.

802.11ac performance was 2.3 MB/s on average, and 802.11n achieved 1.5 MB/s both of which are below average, but consistent with the performance I got with other Amlogic S912 devices.  The chart however makes it worse than it really is, because download speed was 5.6 MB/s for 802.11ac, and 2.1 MB/s for 802.11n, with upload transfer rate being much lower, and causing the average to be rather low. Note that WiFi results may vary a lot depending on your setup.

I repeated the same file transfer, but with a 885MB file, for Gigabit Ethernet, and the average performance (10.05 MB/s) is somewhat OK, but I got the same behavior as with MINIX NEO U1 with the transfer much faster for download (16.4MB/s) , and slower for upload (7.64 MB/s).

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Since in most case the eMMC flash is the bottleneck for file transfers over Gigabit Ethernet, I also ran iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d to test raw dual duplex performance, and it’s not too bad:

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

MINIX NEO U9-H advertises itself properply as NEO U9-H, and not some other funny code, and I had no problems pairing it with Vernee Apollo Lite Android smartphone, and could transfer a few photos. I could also connect X1T bluetooth earbuds and used it while watching some YouTube videos. I skipped Sixaxais app testing (for PS3 gamepads) since the firmware is not rooted.

Storage

My USB hard drive has four partitions for NTFS, EXT-4, exFAT and BTRFS, and only the NTFS/exFAT partitions could be mounted. A FAT32 micro SD card could also be mounted

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

USB storage performance was tested with A1 SD bench app, and read performance was very good (for a USB 2.0 port) with both file systems, but as usual exFAT is very slow to write to @ 6.66 MB/s.

The results were very good for the internal storage with 119.86MB/s read speed and 45.99 MB/s write speed. Note that the read speed is cached, meaning it should be faster than if read directly on the storage device itself, but probably not that different considering theoretical read speed is 285 MB/s for the flash, probably lower for the eMMC controller in Amlogic S912.

Internal Storage Read & Write Speed in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Overall I found that applications started fast, and I had no slowdown or “app not responding” due to I/O access to the eMMC flash.

USB Webcam

I connected the UVC webcam to the box shown in the first picture of this review, logged in to Skype, and successfully run the Echo/Service audio call test, and made a video calls. I had problems last year for MINIX NEO U1 on Google Hangouts, but NEO U9-H works perfectly well with Google Hangouts.

Gaming

Amlogic S912 is know a well known platform, as gaming works just as well as on other devices, if not better since cooling is well implemented.  First, I played Candy Crush Saga with NEO A2 air mouse, and switch to Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad to play Beach Buggy Racing using maximum graphics settings. Both games played perfectly smoothly. As with other Amlogic S912, Riptide GP2 is a bit more demanding, playing very smoothly with default settings, the framerate felt lower with maximum graphics settings, probably around 25 fps most of the time, with some drops to ~15 fps from time to time.

I also played both 3D racing games for a total of 30 minutes, and performance was constant throughout, meaning the large heatsink is doing its job in preventing CPU and/or GPU throttling.

MINIX NEO U9-H Benchmarks

CPU-Z correctly reports an octa-core Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.51 GHz with a Mali-T820 GPU. The model number is NEO-U9-H (q200), with 10.89 GB internal storage, 14790 MB RAM, and a framebuffer resolution set to 1920×1080.

Click to Enlarge

The first time I ran Antutu 6.x, the device achieved about 38,500 points quite lower than 41,000+ points I got in most other Amlogic S912 TV boxes. I ran it a short time after boot, so maybe there was background tasks at the time, I retried later, I got a 40,543 points, more in line with other competing TV boxes.

I also ran Vellamo 3.x benchmark to double check for issues.

MINIX NEO U9-H achieved 1,239 points, 912 points and 2,338 points for respectively multicore, metal and Chrome Browser tests, which compares to 1,130, 1,012 points and 2,758 points (Not Chrome Browser, Stock Browser). Multicore results has a yellow mark because it failed one of the test, just like M12N, but not other Amlogic S912 boxes:

Sysbench issue with Finepar: Invalid CPU mode

Conclusion

MINIX did again a good job with MINIX NEO U9-H thanks to very good hardware, stable & responsive firmware implementation, working smoothly at all times thanks to good thermal design. 4K video playback works well, I think it’s the first time I see automatic frame rate switching work on Amlogic S912 processor,  and audio pass-through is working fine with TrueHD and DTS-HD. The first version of the firmware also has less bugs than the one I reviewed on MINIX NEO U1 media hub, and slightly better performance. NEO U9-H also adds new features such as HDR, 4K VP9 decoding, Dolby & DTS license used for audio downmixing in all apps, and DRM Widevine Level 1 + Microsoft PlayReady. The only real downside compared to NEO U1 is that WiFi performance is not quite as good, despite using the same Ampak wireless module.

PROS

  • Stable and responsive Android 6.0 OS
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 2160p 60Hz; 24/25/30/50/60 Hz refresh rates supported; HDR should be supported too (not tested)
  • Very good Kodi 17 support with 4K H.265 (10-bit), VP9 and H.264 video playback,automatic frame rate switching
  • Dolby 5.1, Dolby+7.1, DTS HD and TrueHD audio pass-through working via HDMI and S/PDIF (for supported formats).
  • Dolby & DTS license means those audio formats work in all apps.
  • Well implemented power handling with off/standby/reboot mode, managed via an upgradable MCU, low off and idle power consumption
  • Widevine L1 and MicroSoft PlayReady DRM suppored
  • USB webcam working with Skype and Google Hangouts
  • OTA firmware upgrade with frequent update expected (based on previous models history)
  • Active support forums

CONS (and bugs)

  • Some videos with AC3 have micro audio cuts when HDMI pass-through is enabled, at least on my AV receiver. The problem goes away via optical S/PDIF
  • TrueHD dowmixing to stereo audio did not work in MX Player and Video Player apps.
  • WiFi performance is below average for both 802.11n and 802.ac, but similar to other Amlogic S912 TV boxes. Your mileage may vary. [Update: See comments’ section. WiFi performances looks, but combining SAMBA + WiFi is problematic. Likely an Amlogic Android 6.0 SDK issue]
  • List of apps shown in chronological order instead of alphabetical
  • A few videos do not play smoothly in Kodi but should: VP8 @ 1080p, one 10-bit HEVC video with no audio, “elephant dream” sample, “HD DVD” sample.
  • Potential buffering issue with some rare videos – Starts fast, plays for 1 or 2 seconds, buffers for 10 seconds then play again normally

If you’re going to spend the money on MINIX NEO U9-H, I really recommend you add NEO A2 Lite or NEO 3 air mouse, with the latter adding microphone input. Both air mice have the same design, feel comfortable in your hand, and work well as remote control, air mouse, and keyboard, as long as it’s for typing short texts like search query, user name / password, etc…

If you already own MINIX NEO U1, there’s probably little reason to upgrade, as performance will feel similar, except if you need 4K VP9, HDR, Widevine L1, or/and Microsoft PlayReady DRM support.

MINIX NEO U9-H media hub + NEO A3 air mouse sell for $159.90 / 149.90 GBP on Amazon US and Amazon UK, and are listed on GeekBuying, GearBest, and other online retailers with sales starting officially on March 3rd outside of Amazon.

Ebox T8 V Octa-Core Android TV Box Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, EBMC, and Benchmarks

January 25th, 2017 1 comment

EBox T8 V (version 5) is the new EntertainmentBox.com  TV box specially geared towards the UK market with its choice of apps and online shop based in the United Kingdom. It’s an upgrade to EBox T8-4 I reviewed last year, replacing Amlogic S905 quad core processor by Amlogic S912 octa-core processor, but keeping most of the same features including the SATA bay and EBox user interface. Since we’ve already checked out the hardware, likely based on Zoomtak U Plus, I’ll focus on the firmware in the second part. It will be a shorter reviewed than usual since I have already tested many Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and I’ll refer to T8-4 review when the user interface is identical, and instead focus on what has changed, and the usual suspects like audio pass-through, 4K video playback, DRM support, WiFi performance, etc…

EBox T8 V Setup Wizard, Setup, OTA Firmware Update, and Default Apps

I had already plugged the provided 1TB SATA drive into the device during the unboxing post, but I’ve also connected another USB hard drive, as well as HDMI and Ethernet cables, the RF dongle for S77 Pro air mouse that came with the box, a USB keyboard to take screenshots, and finally the power cord.

Click to Enlarge

The power button on the box should be red, so if you want to start the TV box, press the button on the box, or the power button on the IR remote control, the power button will change to blue color, and the display will show “boot”. If you want to use the air mouse to turn on the device, you’ll need to use the IR learning function to learn the power key from the IR remote control. I’ve tried and it works well. The boot normally takes around 30 to 35 seconds. Note that the boot animation includes some music, which can be annoying if other people sleep, and you forgot to turn the volume down…

The first time, you’ll go through a setup wizard for language, screen scale network, since nothing has changed here, I invite you to check EBox T8-4 Setup Wizard & Configuration section of my previous review for details.

Beginners Launcher – Click for Original Size (1920×1080)

The launcher is also the same, but you now have an option to switch between the “beginners launcher”, which includes Ebox Apps Hub and Ebox app for support, and the more barebone “experienced launcher” shown below.

Experienced Launcher – Click to Enlarge

The Experienced Launcher setting interface is exactly the same as in T8-4, but the company made another Settings app for the Beginners Launcher.

Click to Enlarge

As fas I could tell however, all settings were the same, but just presented in a different way. The Speed Test is new, but it’s just an Ookla speed test to check your ISP performance. Note my fiber optic connection is 20/10 Mbps to the bandwidth was maxed out in that test.
The Advanced icons redirect to the familiar Amlogic Settings app.

It’s also interesting to quickly check out the system info that shows the model number is q201_9377, which can be useful in case you’ll want to use an alternative firmware. Few people will likely try that, since you pay extra for firmware and support for the box.

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The list of app is what makes this box further different from the competition with UK specific apps such as BBC iPlayer, FilnOn Live, and WookieSports, with the latter not present in T8-4.

The company did not include TVCatchUp app this test, but for people who wants to watch UK programs but live outside the country, IPvanish app was added to let you setup VPN. You may want to check Installed App & IPTV streaming section in T8-4 review for details about the UK streaming apps.

Finally, I went to EBox OTA, it could find a new firmware, and the upgrade went smoothly.

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Check out OTA firmware section of my previous review for more info about that.

Power consumption is fine with 0.2W is power off mode with the two hard drives connected, and around 8 Watts at idle. The air mouse also worked well, and once you’ve programmed the IR remote control’s power button to the air mouse, you won’t need the IR remote at all. If you exclusively run Kodi (EBMC) then the IR remote control might be a little better since you can access some features like Zoom, aspect radio, and audio directly from the remote, and you won’t need a mouse pointer at any times.

The user experience of the new T8 V was very much like the one of the previous model with the firmware working well, except that I had a “App not Responding” window appear twice, and the mouse cursor is quite small when you set video output to 4K.

Video and Audio Support in EBOX MC (Kodi 16.1) & DRM Info

EBOX Media Center (EBMC) is based on SMPC 16.4, itself a fork a Kodi 16.1 with optimization for Amlogic processors.

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Before playing any videos, I disabled amcodec as instructed in a paper included with EBOX T8 V package.

I also enabled automatic frame rate switching via “Adjust display refresh rate” option….

… as well as audio pass-through, with Dolby and DTS. Note that DTS-HD and TrueHD options are missing, and as we’ll see below not working, so you’d better enable Dolby Digital (AC3) Transcoding too.

I played 4K videos over a SAMBA share using Gigabit Ethernet:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) –  OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – plays, but not perfectly smoothly
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (OK, not supported by Amlogic S912)
  • 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
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Slow motion
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK, but not perfect at all times.
  • 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

4K video playback working about as well as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, but automatic frame rate switching does not work, so if the video output is set to 4K @ 60 Hz, and you play a 24 fps video it might not be as smooth as it could be.

HDMI audio-pass through works but is limited to Dolby and DTS 5.1. Tested with Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver.

  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – OK (Dolby D 5.1)
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – OK (Dolby D 5.1)
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • TrueHD 5.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • TrueHD 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • Dolby Atmos 7.1 – PCM 2.0 with audio *
  • DTS HD Master – DTS 5.1 only
  • DTS HD HR – DTS 5.1 only
  • DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636) – DTS 5.1 only

* If you set “Dolby Digital (AC3) Transcoding” in the settings, audio will be transcoded, and output Dolby D 5.1 audio.

DRM Info – Click to Enlarge

DRM Info apps shows Widevine Level 3 is supported.

EBox T8-4 Benchmarks – Antutu, Storage and Networking

I’ve run Antutu 6.x to make sure the system did not have any issue with performance, and T8 V achieved above 41,000 points, in line with the scores of other Amlogic S912 TV Boxes.

The 1TB internal hard drive (NTFS) shipped with the device was properly recognized with performance ~30 MB/s you’d expect from USB 2.0, while my external hard drive NTFS and exFAT partition could be mounted, and also delivered as expected with the recurring low write speed (5.88 MB/s) on exFAT partitions typical of the vast majority of Android TV boxes. Note that the 44.50 MB/s read speed for the exFAT partition is likely wrong, and affected by the slow write speed.

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Internal storage performance (35.01MB/s & 12.15 MB/s) is OK without being outstanding, and works well enough.

My very first experience with WiFi did not quite go accordingly to plans, as the box hung when I enabled WiFi in the settings. My second attempts was successful with a 433 Mbps connection to my 802.11ac router. Performance was however underwhelming with an average of 2.4 MB/s transfer rate, that’s quite typical of Amlogic S905X and S912 TV boxes.

WiFi Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Conclusion

EBox T8 V offers user experience very similar to EBox T8-4, with slightly faster performance, decent 4K video playback which adds VP9 support, better support for audio pass-through albeit limited to Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, and a few pre-installed video streaming app for the UK. I did not have any issues with the internal hard drive this time, but WiFi performance is not quite as good as on EBox T8-4.

PROS

  • Stable and responsive firmware
  • Easy to setup & e thanks to setup wizard, and bundled Air mouse.
  • 4K video playback in EBMC (based on SPMC) with H.264, H.265 and VP9 well supported
  • HDMI audio pass-through working for DTS and Dolby Digital (AC3) 5.1
  • Pre-installed IPTV apps for the UK market such as BBC iPlayer and Filmon, as well as a VPN app.
  • 2.5″ internal SATA bay
  • OTA firmware update
  • Good customer support with Live chat, forums, and online documentation

CONS

  • HDMI audio pass-through does not work for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD
  • Automatic frame rate switching is not working
  • WiFi performance could be better
  • DRM support limited to Widewine Level 3
  • No Dolby and DTS licenses
  • Small mouse pointer when 4K is selected
  • Boot animation includes some music (potential issue at night).

EBox T8-4 + S77 Pro air mouse + 1 TB HDD bundle I reviewed can be purchased for 185.87 GBP including VAT (~$234 US), but you can also purchase the box with the standard IR remote control only for 104.99 GBP including VAT (~$132 US), or select other bundles with gamepad and/or wireless keyboard.