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U5 PVR Deluxe Android Set-Top Box Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing, Teardown, and SATA HDD Assembly

April 22nd, 2017 33 comments

Last year, I reviewed U4 Quad Hybrid, an Android TV box powered by Hisilicon Hi3796M quad core Cortex A7 processor and with a combo DVB-T2/C + DVB-S2 tuner. with digital TV tuner. It worked pretty well, except for a few bugs here and there, the processor is not the most powerful, and video output & decoding is limited to 4K  @ 30Hz. The company – Shenzhen Vivant Technology – is now back with a new model called U5 PVR powered by a more powerful Hisilicon Hi3798C V200 quad core Cortex A53 processor with fast interfaces like USB 3.0, SATA, and Gigabit Ethernet, as well as support for 4K @ 60Hz via a HDMI 2.0a interface. There are actually three variations of U5 PVR with Deluxe/Slim/Normal models, and the company sent me U5 PVR Deluxe model for review. As usual, after listing the specifications, I’ll start the review by checking out the hardware, before reporting my experience with the firmware in the second part.

U5 PVR Deluxe TV Box Specifications

The TV box has some pretty impressive specifications:

  • SoC – Hisilicon Hi3798C V200 quad core Cortex A53 processor + multi-core ARM Mali-T720 processor
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR4-2133 SDRAM
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC 5.0 flash, internal SATA port for 2.5″ & 3.5″ hard drives / SSDs, micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a port up to 4K60 with HDR10 support, HDCP 1.4/2.2, AV port (composite + stereo audio)
  • Audio Output – Via HDMI, AV ports, optical S/PDIF port
  • Video Decoding – 10-bit H.265/HEVC up to 160 Mbps, H.264, MPEG-2, AVS/AVS+, VC1, VP8/VP9
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • Tuner
    • Smart Card slot
    • 4 Options
      • Combo tuner with DVB-S2/S and DVB-T2/T/C tuners
      • Dual DVB-T2/T/C tuner with two demodulators
      • Twin DVB-S2/S tuner with Disqc v1.0, v1.2, and USALS support
      • Dual ATSC 2.0 tuner with two demodulators
  • Misc – Power/standby button, power switch, 2x LED, 4-digit 7 segment front panel display, IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A ; Standby mode power consumption: 0.5 watt
  • Dimensions – 320 x 275 x 135 mm
  • Weight – 1.5 kg
  • Operating Temperature – 0 to 45 °C

The box runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with LeanBack launcher, a customized Live TV app, and support for PVR, time-shifting, and  TVHeadEnd 3.6 to steam Live TV to other devices (laptop, smartphone…). You’ll find more details hardware and software specifications in U5 PVR forums.

U5 PVR Deluxe Unboxing

The device package is really massive compared to other boxes I’ve received. I thought somebody might have sent an large oscilloscope instead…

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The package also shows one more option for tuner: single satellite tuner (DVB-S2/S). No tick on my package, so we’ll see which exact model I’ve received later.

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The box ships with a WiFi antenna, a large remote control taking two AAA batteries, and HDMI cable, a SATA cable + screws, a 12V/3A power supoply, and U5 PVR user manual. The user manual indicates that I should have gotten an RS-232 cable too, but it was nowhere to be found.

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The front panel comes with one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port, a window for the IR receiver and LCD display, two LEDs and the power button.

Both sides of the set-top box expose plenty of ventilation holes, with one side featuring the WiFi antenna connector, and the other two more USB 2.0 ports, and the Smart Card slot. The rear panles comes with two coaxial connectors (one female, one male) for the tuner, a 3.5mm AV jack, optical S/PDIF, HDMI 2.0a, Gigabit Ethernet, micro SD slot, the power jack, a mechanical power switch, and an RS-232 port used to reflash or upgrade the firmware.

U5 PVR Deluxe Teardown and SATA Drive Installation

Most TV boxes need to be opened from the bottom side of the case, and there are indeed a few screws that we could have removed to try to open the box. But since U5 PVR is supposed to take an internal hard drive, I found it would be an inconvenient way.

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So I looked into the user manual, but found absolutely nothing about installing a hard drive in the box. Then I realized the top cover was slightly elevated, and after gently pulling it I managed to take it out fairly easily.

We can see multiple mounting options with A: 2x 2.5″ HDD, B: 1x 3.5″ HDD, and C: 1x DVD. There’s only one SATA port, so I’m not sure how you would install two SATA drives, and a DVD drive would be possibly, but inconvenient unless you have a specific application that requires one DVD, or you place it on top of the case, and do not put the top cover back. There are also holes to install a fan, but I don’t have details to what type of fan is suitable. The sticker on the top left of the case read “Warranty void if seal is broken”, which does not make any sense, since that means connecting the hard drive internally would void the warranty. Anyway, I loosen the four screws, and pulled out the cover to have a better look at the board.

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The board is called “VV98C VERO 3”. A small heatsink covers the Hisilicon processor, are very next to it we can see a 16GB Samsung KLMAG2GEND-B031 eMMC 5.0 flash with 230/50MB/s sequential R/W speeds, and 6.5K/6K R/W IOPS, as well as two K4A8G16-5WG8CRC DDR4 memory chips. The tuner board comes with two Availink AVL6762TA DVB-T2/T/C demodulators, which means I got the Dual DVB-T2/T/C tuner version of U5 PVR Deluxe. Ampak AP6335 module provides 802.11 b/g/n/ac and  Bluetooth 4.0 Smart connectivity, while as we can see in the picture below, Realtek RTL8211E transceiver and PSF-2447 transformer are used for Gigabit Ethernet.

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Genesys Logic GL850G USB 2.0 hub is used for the extra USB ports since the processor only comes with a single USB 2.0 interface. The tiny 8-pin chip close to the power jack is FR9889 step-down DC to DC converter. The front panel board includes i-core HD2015E LED driver IC.

Now that we’ve had a look at the board’s main components. Let’s carry with the hard drive installation, and I’ll use a 3.5″ hard drive. First connect the 4-wire part of the cable J12 header, and the red SATA cable to the SATA port close to Ampak AP6335 module.

Connect the other part of the cable to the hard drive, place the HDD upside-down on a table, and tighten the four screws through the four “B” holes, before placing it back on top of the case as shown below.

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Tighten the four screws on the edges of the box, put back the top cover, and you’re done. In case, you prefer to use a fan, I strongly suspect that J14 3-pin header on the main board is designed for this very purpose.

I’d like to thank Shenzhen Vivant Technology for sending a review sample. Distributors and resellers may contact the company to purchase in quantities. U5 PVR Deluxe is for sale for $229.99 on Vivant Technology Aliexpress store, where you’ll also find a dual ATSC tuner board for $29.99.

NVIDIA Shield Android TV Gets Unofficial USB Tuner (ATSC/DVB) Support

March 9th, 2017 3 comments

NVIDIA Shield Android TV may only be available in a limited number of countries, but if you happen to live in a country where it’s officially sold, it can be one of the best options due its hard-to-beat price to performance ratio, and official Android TV software support from Google & Nvidia. One features it does not support out of the box  is support for digital TV tuner, but linux4all has released an unofficial firmware image adding USB TV tuner support to Android TV (7.0) on Nvidia Shield Android TV 2015 and 2017 models.

You’ll first need a supported tuner either Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD (DVB-C, DVB-T and DVB-T2), Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-850 (ATSC), Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-955Q (ATSC, QAM, Analog), or Sony PlayTV dual tuner (DVB-T). More tuners may be supported in the future. One you’ve got your tuner connected to Nvidia Shield Android TV, make sure you have the latest Android TV 7.0 OTA update, unlock the bootloader, and flash the specific bootloader as explained in the aforelinked forum post. Upon reboot you should see “USB TV Tuner Setup” in the interface. Go through it and scan channels.

Finally, connected a USB 3.0 hard drive or micro SD card with at least 50GB and select format as device storage, and you should be able to watch free-to-air TV and record it as needed using Live channels.

If you are interested in adding more tuners, fix bugs, or possibly implemented this for another Android TV TV box, you’ll find the Linux source code with change history on github.

Note that it’s not the first hack to use USB tuners on Shield, as last year somebody used Kodi + TVheadend, so the real news is here probably integration into Android TV’s Live Channels.

Via AndroidTv.News, and thanks to Harley for the tip.

Rockchip RK3328 Quad Core 64-bit ARM SoC is Designed for 4K HDR Android 7.1 & Linux TV Boxes

January 11th, 2017 15 comments

Beside RV1108 visual platform for applications, Rockchip also unveiled another processor at CES 2017 with RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor for 4K TV Box with H.265, H.264 and VP9 codecs support, HDR, HDMI 2.0, USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet and more.

rk3328-tv-boxRockchip RK3328 STB SoC specifications:

  • Processor – Quad core Cortex A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz
  • GPU – ARM Mali-450MP2
  • Memory I/F – DDR3/DDR3L/DDR4 with “large memory” support (4GB?)
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.x/1.4 up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDR10/HLG support, CVBS output
  • Video Processor
    • 4K UHD H.264, 10-bit H.265 and VP9 video decoder
    • 1080p H.265/H.264 video encoder
  • Audio – Embedded audio DAC
  • Peripherals
    • embedded USB 3.0 interface
    • Dual Ethernet interface: RGMII (reduced gigabit media-independent interface) + Fast Ethernet PHY
    • 8 channel I2S interface supporting PDM/TDM
    • TS and smart card interface, with support for CSA 2.0
  • Security – TrustZone, Secure Video Path, Secure Boot, OTP

The new processor with support Android 7.1 and Linux, as well as OP-TEE secure OS and DRM support for Widewine L1 and Microsoft PlayReady. The TS interface will allow for tuner (DVB, ATSC…) support.

The processor is quite similar to Amlogic S905X. However the GPU is a bit weaker, which is not really that important for video applications, but not so good for games, and RK3328 also offer some extra interfaces with USB 3.0, dual Ethernet including one Gigabit Ethernet MAC, and tuner support.

The company did not provide any information about pricing or availability in their press release, and has yet to add RK3328 product page to their website.

Datamax DM145S Hybrid TV Box with Digital Tuners is Powered by Amlogic S905D Processor

January 10th, 2017 9 comments

There are already several Amlogic Android TV boxes with dual tuner on the market, but so far you could not use both tuner at the same time, for example using one to watch live TV, and another to record TV [Update: WeTek Play 1st generation based on Amlogic AML87426-MX can do that]. Amlogic S905D is supposed to change that, and Datamax DM145S is the first device I’ve seen featuring the new processor.

datamax-dm14s5Datamax DM145S specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S905D Quad Core Cortex A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with ARM Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB RAM
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a + AV
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wifi, optional Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Tuner – Combination of DVB-C/T2, DVB-S2, ATSC or ISDB-T
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 115 x 115 x 28 mm
  • Weight – 200g

The device runs Android 6.0

amlogic-s905d-tv-boxI could not find the box for sale anywhere yet, but DM145S is listed on the company’s hybrid TV boxes page.

Via AndroidPC.es

SmartHomy Hybrid TV Box with DTV Tuner Triples as a Game Console & Home Automation Gateway (Crowdfunding)

December 26th, 2016 25 comments

SmartHomy Homy Player is a TV box running Android TV that includes an ATSC, DVB-T2/C,DVB-S2, or ISDB-T tuner, is said to be powerful enough to be used as a 3D gaming platform, and serves as a security system and home automation gateway using Z-Wave, Bluetooth, WiFi and IR blaster to control your things.

smart-homyHomy player specifications [Updated on January 19th, 2017]:

  • SoC – Amlogic S912 octa-core Cortex A53 processor with Mali T820MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 3 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC flash
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz with HDCP 2.2, HDR, CEC
  • Audio Output – HDMI and optical S/PDIF
  • Video / Audio Capabilities – 10-bit 4K H.265 @ 60 fps, HD audio pass-through, Dolby Digital & DTS licenses
  • DRM – Widevine Level 1, Microsoft PlayReader, Netflix license
  • Digital TV Tuner – DVB-S2 (satellite), DVB-C/T/T2 (Cable/Terrestrial), ATSC, and ISDB-T
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, Z-Wave (Plus 500 series)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Dimensions – 200 x 143 x 40 mm
  • Weight – 530 grams

The device ships with Homy Remote, a backlit Bluetooth 4.0 LE remote control that includes gyroscope, and allows to control the player with voice commands. Smart Homy appears to mostly targets the US markets as seen in the comparison table with some home automation solution, media players. and game console.

smart_homy_comparison

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It would have been a little more fair to include the non-pro version of NVIDIA Shield Android TV since the price without hard drive is also $199, and it still lacks home automation support and the tuners. While you can play games with Amlogic S912 SoC, the performance will be much lower than the NVIDIA box.

In order to maximize Z-Wave interoperability, Homy Player supports more than 50 command classes for Z-Wave devices, and the player/gateway also supports more than 70 Security Devices, including common security cameras. Configuration of home automation is allegedly simplified thanks to a “patent pending” Scene Recording System where you can easily record trigger and action using your physical devices.


SmartHomy has launched Homy Player on Indiegogo (flexible funding), where the company targets to raise $59,000 or more. A $199 pledge should get you Homy Player with the remote and an extra 64GB storage. Shipping adds $30, and delivery is scheduled for July 2017. You may also get more details on SmartHomy website.

Geniatech ATV1960 Octa-core Android TV Box Comes with a Dual TV Tuner (ATSC or DVB-T2)

November 23rd, 2016 3 comments

We now have so many Amlogic S912 Android TV boxes on the market, it becomes hard for companies to differentiate, but Geniatech is offering something different with their Geniatech/Mygica ATV1960 model thanks to a dual TV tuner support either ATSC or DVB-T2 and allowing you to watch a program, while recording another.

amlogic-s912-dvb-t2-atsc

Geniatech/Mygica ATV1960 specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S912 octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.5 GHz with ARM Mali-820MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot + 2.5″ SATA bay (cover on the bottom of the case)
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz
  • Audio Output – HDMI, and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Tuner – Dual Digital TV Tuner  (ATSC/T2); one for live watching, another for recording; EPG and PVR supported.
  • Misc – IR receiver, reset pinhole
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions –  160 x 110 x 33 mm
  • Weight – 237 grams

The exact specifications are of the device are hard to find since the people who updated the company’s website did not do such a good job. While all other Amlogic S912 TV boxes are running Android 6.0, ATV1960 is said to run Android 5.1, something that’s unlikely but possible in case the drivers for the tuners could not be re-built for Android 6.0.

mygica-atv1960We also could not see any demo of the device yet, and price and availability are not available yet. ATV1960 will likely be sold under the Mygica brand, possibly with some specifications tweaks, as the company has done in the past with other models. You can find more – but not-so-accurate – information on Geniatech ATV1960 product page.

Via ARMDevices

V-Bridge Muses DTV Modulator and Video Encoder Review – Part 2: Muses-β Turnkey Solution Demo

November 12th, 2016 No comments

V-Bridge Muses-α and Muses-β boards can be used to respectively broadcast video to DTV standard from your PC, and as a turnkey solution taking any HDMI, CVBS, or USB inputs. The VATek SoC used in those  board support various DTV standards including DVB-T, DVB-C, ATSC/QAM, DTMB, ISDB-T/TB up to full HD resolution. I’ve received an early prototype for each, and I’ve already taken pictures and show how to assemble both Muses-α and Muses-β kits in the first part of the review. Today, I’ll show a demo with Muses-β turnkey solution taking HDMI input from an Android TV box (R-Box Pro), encoding and modulating the video to DVB-T, before broadcast it to an Android STB with a DVB-T/T2 tuner (U4 Quad Hybrid). This tool could be useful to test STB featuring ATSC or ISDB-T too, as those two standards are not supported in my country, and I could instead generate signals within my office.

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U4 Quad Hybrid (Left), Muses-Beta Kit (Center) and R-Box Pro TV box (left)

You could also connect it directly to your TV, but for this review it was easier to show with an external device, and my TV is using a coaxial input instead of a female F-connector, so that made it easier. If you connect it to your TV, you could still combine your local TV station signal with Muses-Beta signal by using a 2-way splitter as shown below.

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The company provided a cable to connect the RF board to tuner directly, but you could also use the type of antenna shown above instead. The power level is -12dBm, which means it won’t affect others, and should not break any laws in your country. If you need longer range you’d need to use an amplifier, and check with your local authorities if you need any specific licenses.dtv-antenna

Now that the connection is done, let’s have a look at the LCD display, since it;s used to configure the DTV standard, frequency, and many more options. I did not have to change much for this demo. First I select DVB-T and QPSK modulation.

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Then set the frequency to 628 MHz as it’s one of the listed frequencies in U4 Quad Hybrid.
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And kept HDMI to 720i-60, as the prototype can only handle HD resolution (720p) smoothly, and while Full HD (1080p) is possible it won’t be that smooth yet, but should be in the final hardware.
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There are many options as shown in the UI chart below.

User Interface State Machine (Click to Enlarge)

LCD User Interface Options (Click to Enlarge)

If HDMI input is detected, the LCD should then soon show three full squares on the top left indicating video is being broadcast with whatever standard you’ve chosen. In order to get the signal I had to configure U4 Quad Hybrid set-top box with the frequency, bandwidth, and delivery system  I selected for the modulator.

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And it worked pretty much out of the box, as you can see from the photo below showing U4 Quad Hybrid menu overlaid over the DVB-T signal showing R-Box Pro user interface. Please ignore the vertical lines, as it’s just a problem with LG 4K TV.

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I’ve also shot a video showing the setup, and how well it works. Sadly, the video I selected does not play optimally in R-Box Pro (the video source), but I found it only after the review, and other videos are being broadcast normally without smoothness issues nor audio cuts. But the important in the video is to show how easy it is to configure the system and that it works reasonably well. Quality will obviously suffer a bit compare to the source since its re-encoded and HDMI output is set to 720p.

Latency & video quality can be adjusted using three profiles: High Quality (500ms), Average (300ms) and Low latency (200ms). You’ll find some more details in the preliminary? Muses Turnkey Product user’s manual.

The kickstarter campaign is still on-going with 21 days to go. Muses-β kit with the LCD control board – as reviewed in this post – requires a $559 pledge, but if you prefer to replace the STM32 Board and LCD display by your own control board (API will be provided), you can get Muses-β board with AV input board and RF board for $399. I’ll test the cheaper $200 Muses-α board connected to a computer in the next few days in part 3 of the review.

MUSES-α & MUSES-β DVB-T/C, ISDB-T, DTMB & ATSC Modulator Boards Review – Part 1: The Hardware

October 19th, 2016 4 comments

V-Bridge Muses digital TV modulator boards launched on Kickstarter earlier this month, with the cheaper $200 MUSES-α board modulating video from a PC, and $600 MUSES-β turnkey solution capable of broadcasting HDMI or AV + stereo input to various digital TV standards including DVB-T/C, ATSC/QAM, DTMB, and ISDB-T/TB without the help of a computer. The company sent me the two hardware kits for evaluation and review on CNX Software, and today I’ll start by showing off the hardware I received.

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I got 3 packages and a F-female to F-female cable, which means you can connect the board directly to your TV tuner without having to rely on actual RF signals, and potential legal issues that goes with it.pc-modulator-kit

The first package I open if for the PC modulator kit that include MUSES-α board, an “RF” board, as a USB cable to connect to your computer.

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MUSES-α board features Vatek A1 chip, a USB port, an Ethernet port, a power jack, and  headers for UART, I2C, TS, JTAG, RF board and GPIOs.

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The back of the board just has a Winbond flash.

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The RF board is based on Texas Instruments TRF372017 IQ modulator PLL/VCO chip, and includes an F-male connector.

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To get started you’d have to connect the USB cable, the coax cable to your TV’s tuner, as well as a 5V power supply.

The next package is the STM32 + LCD control board allowing to use MUSES-β board without PC.

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It’s made of off-the-shelf parts including DF Robots LCD keypad shield for Arduino, connected to an STM32 based board via jumper cables + some glue.

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The “STM32F4xx” board is also an off-the-shelf STM32F407ZET6 ARM Cortex-M4 board found on Aliexpress for $15.50. So what you are paying for here, is not really hardware, but all the development work required for a niche product.

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The third package includes the rest of the turnkey solution with an RF board, MUSES-β board based on Vatek B2 modulator and video encoding chip, and a video & audio input board with HDMI input, and 3 RCA connector for video composite and stereo audio input. All boards are already attached to an acrylic base, and the kit adds the top acrylic cover, some spacers and screws, and a 5V/2A power supply.

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The RF board is exactly the same as the one used with MUSES-α board, and the AV input board features Explore Microelectronics EP9555E  for HDMI input and Intersil TW9912 for CVBS input.

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MUSES-β board comes with a USB port, a power jack, headers for the RF and AV input boards, I2C, MCU connect, and a TS port. I must have a received a prototype board, so there’s also some rework that should be gone once the kit ships to backers.

MUSES-β Kit Fully Assembled - Click to Enlarge

MUSES-β Kit Fully Assembled – Click to Enlarge

Assembly is quite straightforward:

  1. Connect the STM32 board to the “MCU connect” header
  2. Optionally add the top acrylic cover
  3. Connect the 5V/2A power supply
  4. Connect the coax cable to your TV, and add video and audio input(s) to the HDMI port or CVBS + stereo audio RCA jacks
  5. Scan the channel on your TV, and enjoy

That’s exactly what I’ll try in the second part of the review, once I receive some documentation from the company.