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Posts Tagged ‘beelink’

How to Reinstall Android Firmware on Realtek RTD1295 TV Boxes

March 16th, 2017 8 comments

I started playing with Beelink SEA I TV box nearly two weeks ago, but I soon realized there was a big problem, while I could get an IP address with both Ethernet or WiFi, I could not access Internet, nor the local network with the box, and even ping would not work. So I contact Beelink to find a solution, and they believed I may have a problem with the firmware on my box, and recommended to re-flash it.

Great. I asked the firmware, and the company eventually provided me with two files:

Those are baidu link which may be slow to download outside of China, so the company also provided a mirror later. The customer representative told me those were “Lines brushes Pack” firmware, and after lots of email back and forth. I finally got proper instructions which should work for Beelink SEA I, but also other Realtek RTD1295 boxes such as Zidoo X9S or Eweat R9 Plus. Note that this method is only useful in case something really goes wrong, as the device normally support OTA firmware updates.

First you’ll need a Windows computer or laptop, and a USB male to USB male cable., before following the firmware recovery instructions they use at the factory.

  1. Download setup.exe
  2. Click on setup.exe to install Microsoft Visual C++ 2012 and .NET Framework 4.6.
  3. Now reboot as instructed, and right click on setup.exe to run it as an administrator, and install rtk_usb_mp_tool. If you don’t run it as Administrator you’ll run into permissions issues and the installation will fail.
    This will also install the USB drivers for “USB REDIRECTION” device. By default, this is install in {HOME}/rtk_usb_mp_tool directory
  4. Now you can start the program “rtumdfsample.exe”

    The window size is about 1300 x 900, and cannot be resized, so I allow you to curse or (gently) bang your head on the wall if you run this on a netbook or laptop with 1366×768 resolution or lower. You’ll feel better 🙂
  5. Now insert the USB cable between your computer and the USB 3.0 port of the device, and turn on the box. The display on the box should always show “boot”, and the top logo should change from the yellow fear to a green Android once you device is detected over USB.
  6. Now Click on “Open” button in the Install section of the user interface, to load the firmware file (in my case SEAI_101M0_16G_20170225.img).

    Click to Enlarge

    The top left icon will turn red, and update the firmware.

  7. Once it gets to 100%, you are done. Disconnect the USB cable, and restart the device into your freshly burned firmware.

The goods news is that networking works, I get the weather forecast within the launcher. The bad news is that the display turns off after 5 seconds, until I disconnect and reconnect the HDMI cable, and goes off again 5 seconds. At least the firmware update method worked…

Beelink AP42 Apollo Lake Mini PC Comes with a VESA Mount, an M.2 SSD Slot

March 2nd, 2017 9 comments

Beelink has launched an update to their Beelink BT7 Cherry Trail mini PC with Beelink AP42 using a similar mechanical design, but upgrading the processor to an Intel Pentium N4200 coupled with 4GB DDR3 memory, and a 64GB eMMC flash. Like the previous model it can be mounted behind a VESA compatible monitor or TV, and can also be upgraded with your own M.2 SSD.

Beelink AP42 specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Pentium N4200 quad core Apollo Lake processor @ 1.10 GHz (baseline) / 2.50 GHz (burst) with Intel Gen9 HD graphics @ 200/750 MHz with 18EU (6W TDP)
  • System Memory – 4 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 64 GB eMMC storage, SD card slot, M.2 SSD slot up to 320 GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 up to 4K @ 30 Hz
  • Audio – 3.5mm headphone jack and HDMI
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 3.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button and LED, reset pinhole
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A (TBC)
  • Dimensions –  11.90 x 11.90 x 2.00 cm
  • Weight – 337 grams

The current product page mentions that both Windows 10 and Linux are supported. The mini PC will ship with a power adapter, and an user manual in English. Based on the pictures on GearBest, the VESA mount and fixtures should also be included, and looks to be the same as the one coming with Beelink BT7.

I’ve reviewed Beelink BT7 mini PC last year, and found that it would throttle from time to time, and while I found the fan to be quiet, some people commented that it was noisy. Beelink AP42 should also have a fan, but hopefully the company has done some work to improve thermal design, and fan noise.

Beelink AP42 is sold on GearBest for $210.47 including shipping with EU, UK, or US plug, and pre-loaded with Windows 10 [Update: GBAP42 coupon brings the price down to $179.99]. Delivery is scheduled for March 7 to 15, so you’d have to wait a few days to get it shipped. I could not find a Linux version, and maybe there’s none, you may just have to install your preferred distributions yourself.

Via AndroidPC.es

Beelink SEA I Android TV Box, and HDMI Recorder Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

February 23rd, 2017 12 comments

Realtek RTD1295 SoC is so far found in devices running Android & OpenWrt, and equipped with an HDMI input port for recording, PiP, and UDP broadcasting. I have already reviewed Zidoo X9S with an external SATA port, and Eweat R9 Plus with a 3.5″ SATA bay, and I’ve now received Beelink SEA I offering another option thanks to 2.5″ SATA bay, and a lower price of $98.99 and up using coupon GBSEA16 with the 2GB/16GB version, or GBSEA32 with the 2GB/32GB version. As usual, I’ll start with some photos and a teardown in the first part of the review, before testing the firmware in more details.

Beelink SEA I Unboxing Photos

I’ve received the box in the retail package below showing some of the features like 4K video playback, picture-in-picture thanks to the HDMI input, and supports for games and apps.

Beelink SEA I comes with either 16GB or 32GB eMMC flash for storage, and I received the 16GB version.

The box ships with a 12V/1.5A (18 Watts) power supply, anHDMI cable, an IR remote control with IR learning function, and a short user’s manual.

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Contrary to its competitors which are all equipped with a metal case, SEA I comes in a plastic case, slightly wider than typical TV boxes to accommodate for the 2.5″ SATA bay.

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The front panel includes an LCD display, an IR window, and power LED, one of the side comes with a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 host port, and an SD card slot, while the rear panel features one HDMI 2.0 output, one HDMI 2.0 input, a Gigabit Ethernet port, optical S/PDIF, and the power jack.

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If you want to insert an hard drive, you can do so by turning the box around, pushing out the cover, and inserting a 2.5″ hard drive up to 6TB in the slot.

It’s very easy to do, and does not require any tools.

Beelink SEA I Teardown

In order to open the device, we’ll need to remove the two rubber pads at the bottom of the case, loosen the two screws underneath, and use some ridig plastic tool to pop out the bottom cover.

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There’s no much to see on the back side of the PCB, so we can loosen 6 screws, then pull out the board around the LCD area in order to take it out from the plastic enclosure. We can see cooling is achieved with a thermal pad placed on top of RTD1295DD SoC and stuck on a metal shield, which is then in contact with another thermal pad placed on top of a thick metal plate. We’ll have to see how effective it is during testing…

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The company used a 16GB Samsung KLMAG1JENB-B041 eMMC 5.1 flash for storage with 285/40 MB/s read/write sequential performance, and 8K/10K random R/W IOPS, so they did not cut costs on that part, since the theoretical numbers are pretty good. The board also comes with two Samsung K4A8G165WB-BCRC DDR4 SDRAM  chips (2GB RAM). Networking is implemented with an 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 LE module based on Realtek RTL8821AU, and H2403N transformer for Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. There’s also a chip marked S342 2227, but I’m unclear what it is for, maybe some sort of PMIC. Beelink SEA I is also one of the rare TV boxes with an RTC battery, and if you’re interested in working on the board, for example for RTD1295 mainline Linux kernel, the serial console is clearly marked on an unpopulated header on the right of “Beelink” silkscreen.

The front panel display is controlled via “AIP1618E0” display controller, but I could not find any references online.

I’d like to thank Beelink for sending the review sample. If you are interested in the device, you could purchase it on GearBest as mentioned in the introduction, while if you plan to purchase in quantities, you may want to contact Beelink directly instead.

Intel Atom x7-Z8700 (Cherry Trail) vs Intel Pentium N4200 (Apollo Lake) Benchmarks Comparison

February 7th, 2017 11 comments

Mini PCs based on Intel Apollo Lake processors have started selling, and they supposed to be upgrades to Braswell and Cherry Trail processor. I’ve recently had the chance to review Voyo VMac Mini mini PC powered by Intel Pentium N4200 quad core processor, that’s the fastest model of the Apollo Lake N series, and of course I ran some benchmarks, so I thought it would be interesting compare the results I got with an Atom x7-Z8700 “Cherry Trail” mini PC, namely Beelink BT7 which I reviewed last year.

Both machines are actively cooled with a small fan, and storage performance is similar, albeit with a slight edge for the Apollo Lake SSD. A ratio greater than one (green) means the Apollo Lake processor is faster, and if it is lower than one (red) the Cherry Trail processor win.

Benchmark Beelink BT7
Intel Atom x7-Z8700 @ 1.6 / 2.4 GHz (2W SDP)
Voyo (V1) Vmac Mini
Intel Pentium N4200 @ 1.1 / 2.5 GHz (6W TDP)
Ratio
PCMark 8 Accelerated
Overall Score 1,509 1,846 1.22
Web Browsing – JunglePin 0.59309 s 0.52267 s 1.13
Web Browsing – Amazonia 0.19451 s 0.18459 s 1.05
Writing 8.53975 s 6.89837 s 1.24
Casual Gaming 7.96 fps 10.38 fps 1.30
Video Chat playback 29.99 fps 30.02 fps 1.00
Video Chat encoding 301 ms 196.66667 ms 1.53
Photo Editing 0.65544 s 0.45915 s 1.43
Passmark 8
Passmark Rating 846 1,052.1 1.24
3DMark
Ice Storm 1.2 23,999 23,511 0.98
Cloud Gate 1.1 2,185 2,347 1.07
Sky Diver 1.0 1,131 1,384 1.22
Fire Strike 276 267 0.97

The performance is usually faster in the Apollo Lake processor by  between 5 to 50+% depending on the tasks with video encoding and photo editing gaining the most. Browsing is only marginally faster by 5 to 13%. PCMark8 reports a 30% higher frame rate for casual gaming, but 3DMark does not how that much improvement, and in some cases not at all, except for Sky Diver 1.0 demo. Intel Atom x7-X8700 SoC comes with a 16EU Intel HD graphics Gen 9 @ 200 / 600 MHz, while the Pentium SoC comes with 18 EU (Execution Unit) of the same gen9 GPU @ 200 / 750 MHz, and should be a little faster in theory.

So based on those results, there’s a clear – although incremental – performance improvement using Apollo Lake over Cherry Trail, but depending on the use case it may not always be noticeable in games or while browsing the web.

Beelink SEA TV Box with Realtek RTD1295, HDMI Input and Internal SATA Bay Sells for $105 and Up

January 24th, 2017 7 comments

I’ve already reviewed two Android TV boxes powered by Realtek RTD1295 processor, namely Zidoo X9S and EWEAT R9 Plus. They are quite interesting devices as beside supporting video & audio playback nicely (minus 4K H.264 @ 30fps), they also serve as a personal NAS thanks to their SATA interface and OpenWrt operating system running alongside Android, as well as a HDMI recorder and streamer thanks to the HDMI input. Zidoo firmware is a little better, but it only comes with external SATA, while EWEAT R9 Plus comes with a neat internal 3.5″ SATA bay inside a metal case. The downside is that it’s quite expensive at $200 shipped. If you’d like a Realtek RTD1295 solution with a SATA bay, but would like something more cost effective, Beelink SEA TV box with might be for you.

Beelink SEA specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1295 quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz with ARM Mali-T820MP3
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR4
  • Storage – 16 or 32 GB eMMC flash + SD slot up to 128GB + 2.5″ SATA bay supporting up to 6TB SATA III drives with either 7.5 or 9.5mm thickness
  • Video I/F –  HDMI 2.0a output with HDR, CEC, and HDCP 2.2 support, AV composite output, HDMI 2.0 input
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, optical S/PDIF, AV port (stereo audio)
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Misc – Power LED, RTC + battery
  • Power Supply –  12V/1.5A
  • Dimensions – 188 x 119 x 20mm

Like its competitors, the device runs Android 6.0. There’s no mention of OpenWrt at all, but I’d be surprised if they removed it from the firmware. HDMI input allows video recording, video streaming, & PiP function from a separate video source. The device ships with an IR remote control, an HDMI Cable, a power adapter, and a user’s manual in English.

Beelink SEA is now listed for pre-order on GearBest for $104.99 with 2GB RAM/16GB storage, and $114.99 in 2GB/32GB configuration. Shipping is expected to start on March 1st… You may find a few more details on Beelink SEA product page.

RetrOrangePi 3.0 Retro Gaming & Media Center Firmware Released for Orange Pi H3 Boards and Beelink X2 TV Box

December 28th, 2016 10 comments

RetrOrangePi is a Linux distribution based on armbian transforming Allwinner H3 boards – mostly Orange Pi boards, but also Banana Pi M2+ and NanoPi boards – into entertainment centers to play retro games, and watch/listen media files (videos/music) using Kodi. If you don’t have a development board, or would prefer a complete solution with casing and power supply, Beelink X2 TV box is also supported. The developers had been recently working on rectifying some GPL issues, and they have released RetrOrangePi 3.0 images right before Christmas.

retrorangepi

RetrOrangePi 3.0 changelog and key features:

  • Full Armbian 5.23 Jessie Desktop version with kernel 3.4.113 (backdoors fixed)
  • Slim version 1st release (less than 2 GB) coming soon
  • OpenELEC (Kodi Jarvis 16.1) with CEC support by Jernej Škrabec
  • RetroPie-Setup version 4.1
  • New Kodi Krypton beta6 version
  • New emulationstation-ROPI branch forked from jacobfk20 with gridview, on screen keyboard with easy wifi config and storage check with additional features added by ROPi team: display settings, OpenELEC / Desktop launcher and background music switcher integrated into main menu.
  • New Plug n’ Play feature – USB roms autoload (reads from /media/usb0) (buggy)
  • New dummy roms feature (most common platform shown)
  • New splash video on 1st boot by Rafael Spirax
  • New default splashscreen (from Libretro)
  • New custom ES splashscreen by Francois Lebel @MagicFranky
  • OpenELEC ROPI addon already installed
  • Retroarch with XMB menu driver (Lakka)
  • Better looking video with bilinear filtering (smoothness) or scanlines by default
  • Most retroarch cores updated (FBA, PCSX etc)
  • New and improved content:
    • AdvanceMAME (newer romset, more compatibility, better performance in some games: Elevator Action Returns, Street Fighter the Movie, Star Wars Arcade, Judge Dredd, Sega Sonic The Hedgehog etc)
    • Amiga (FS-UAE emulator, fullscreen now, diskette sound, launcher)
    • Atari 5200
    • Atari 8bit (models 400 800 XL XE)
    • Coco / Tandy
    • Colecovision (ColEm emu Custom Coleco BlueMSX core)
    • Creativision
    • Daphne (Philips Cdi emulator)
    • Dosbox (GLES version)
    • Dreamcast (fixed reicast-joyconfig)
    • Duke Nukem port (fixed tint color)
    • Game and Watch (fixed shortcuts)
    • Intellivision
    • OpenMSX (with .dsk support) PPSSPP (new version 1.3 from odroid repo)
    • TI99/4A (Texas Instruments)
    • Wolfenstein3D port

There are two ways to download the images:

  • BitTorrent – 16.0 GB download with images for all boards
  • Main server (http) – 1.6 GB compressed firmware image for your board.

If you download from the main server, you’ll get a warning saying you can’t sell hardware pre-installed with the image:

RetrOrange Pi is a non profit project.
It consists of a basic Retropie setup with most Libretro cores on top of an Armbian Jessie Desktop version pre-installed.
It includes an OpenELEC fork as well.
Much of the software included in the image have non-commercial licences. Because of this,
selling a pre-installed RetrOrange image is not legal, neither is including it with your commercial product.
As it relies on other people’s work with our own features, we won’t be offering any help in customizations to avoid rebranding or reselling.

It will be interesting to see what happens with RetroEngine Sigma project on Indiegogo that is very likely based on RetrOrangePi image for Orange Pi Lite board.

Anyway, since BitTorrent download was very slow, I downloaded RetrOrangePi-3.0.Orangepione.img.tar.gz from the main server for my $3.69 Orange Pi One board (there was a promo in September), extracted it, and flashed it to a 32GB card (8GB is enough) in Linux:

Replace sdX by your own SD card device in the 3rd command above. You can also do this in Windows with Win32DiskImager. Once it is done, insert the micro SD card in your board or TV box, prepare a gamepad, and connect all relevant cables.

orange-pi-orange-gaming

If you have connected the serial console (completely optional), or want to access the system through ssh, you can login with pi/pi or root/orangepi credentials:

Most people will just follow the instructions on the TV. We’ll get through a bunch of animation and logos during the boot.Note: Please ignore the vertical lines on the photos, as there’s just an issue with my TV.

retrorangepi-3-0-logo
The first time the system will resize the SD card to make use of the full SD card capacity, and generate SSH keys.
retrorangepi-installationOne more “Loading…” logo…

retrorangepi-loading

If you have connected a gamepad (highly recommended), you’ll be ask to configure the keys. Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad was automatically detected, and I could easily set all keys up.

retrorangepi-gamepad-configurationOnce all is well and done, you’ll get to the main menu to select emulator or Kodi.

retrorangepi-user-interfaceMost emulators do not come with ROMs due to license issues, so you’d have to find the ROMs yourself, and install them via a USB drive, or copy them directly into the board over the network, for example with scp. If you want to try to play some games straightaway, you can do so by going to the PORTS sections with 13 games available including Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein 3D, CannonBall, Duke Nukem 3D, Super Mario War, etc…
retrorangepi-ports-pre-installed-games
I tested shortly tested Wolfenstein 3D and Quake, as well as launched Kodi 17 (Beta 6) in the demo video below.

Beelink GT1 TV Box Review – Part 2: Android Marshmallow Firmware

October 24th, 2016 28 comments

I’ve previously reviewed other Amlogic S912 TV boxes such as M12N MXQ Plus or Qintaix Q912, but Beelink GT1 has the advantage of being quite cheaper at $56 and up, but still come with many of the same features as more expensive devices. I’ve already posted pictures, and checked out the hardware design in the first part of Beelink GT1 review, so in the second part I’ll report my experience with Android, including video and audio capabilities, hardware features testing, and some benchmarks.

First Boot, OTA Firmware Update, Settings, and First Impressions

The device comes with two USB ports only, so I connected a USB hard drive to one of the port, and a USB hub to the other with the RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, as well as a USB keyboard to take screenshots. I completed the setup by adding HDMI and Ethernet cables, and connected the power supply to start the system.

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A typical boot will take 30 seconds, and brings you to the home launcher.

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You’ll find a section with date & time, and weather for your city, icon to main app (Kodi, Browser, Play Store, File Manager, Settings…), and a section with favorites, which the first time is empty, but you can easily add or remove icons as I did in the screenshot above. You’ll also have access the more favorites on the left and right of the main screen. If you’ve connect a hard drive, you’ll also get the annoying “USB device connected” window(s) at each boot just like in NEXBOX A95X TV box.

Android_6.0_USB_Harddrive

I had received the box early September, but now we are close to the end of October, so one of the first thing I did was to go to the list of apps, and start UPDATE&BACKUP app to check for any Online (OTA) firmware update.

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Good, so I could update 20160819 firmware to 20160902 firmware. It did not work the first time, as my USB hard drive was connected, but I repeated the update without USB mass storage devices connected to the device, nor a micro SD card, and it worked smoothly, and did not mess with my settings, nor the few apps I installed with Google Play at the time.
beelink-gt1-ota-20160930
I went to the app again, and it found another update, so I update to firmware 20160930. I would be extra nice, if this would be handled automatically, but that’s just a minor issue. The changelog is completely useless, as they just copy “1. Optimization system 2. Minor bug fixes” for each firmware update…

I did on more check, and this was the latest version when I started the review. But before testing Kodi a few days later, I checked one more time, and I found yet another version with the exact same changelog, but a new 20161022 version which I installed successfully.

beelink-gt1-ota-20161022

So the good news is that OTA firmware update is working fine, and Beelink is providing them fairly often at this stage. I’d also like it them to offer a detailed changelog the way Zidoo is doing.

The settings part is the same as on Qintaix Q912 Android TV box, except they’ve added HDMI CEC options, and removed “Power key  definition”
amlogic-cec-control
Some of the most useful options include:

  • Device
    • Network – WiFi, Ethernet, and VPN
    • Display
      • Screen resolution: Auto switch on/off, deep color mode on/off, 1080p24/50/60, 720p50/60, 4k2k 24/25/30/50/60/SMPTE, 576p50, 480p60, 1080i50/60
      • Screen position, Day Dream, HDR (Auto, On, Off)
    • Sound -> Digital Sounds -> Auto detection, PCM, HDMI, SPDIF
  • Preferences
    • HDMI CEC – See screenshot above
    • Playback settings – HDMI self-adaptation on/off (aka automatic frame rate switching)
    • More settings – Access to Android Marshmallow settings

My Onkyo AV receiver will detect Beelink GT1 through HDMI CEC, but as usual I can’t use the arrow keys on Onkyo remote to control the device. The Android TV box will also prevent me to turn of the AV receiver, even if HDMI CEC is turned off in the box. The only work around is to disable HDMI CEC (RIHD) in the receiver itself. It’s a bug common in all Amlogic TV boxes running Android 6.0.

about_mediabox_beelink-gt1The good thing with Beelink GT1 is once I configure video output to 4K 60Hz it will stay that way all the time, contrary to many other TV boxes, not only based on Amlogic or also other processors.

We can go to More Settings to access Android Marshmallow settings with all the usual options. The settings also report an internal 16GB partition, but it’s obviously an hard coded value, possibly to avoid some customer complaining about not getting 16 GB storage, but only 11 or 12 GB… The About Mediabox section shows Beelink GT1 runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29 as per About Mediabox section. The firmware is rooted.

The included infrared remote control works OK, but the range is limited to 4 to 5 meters.  I’ve still used an air mouse for most of the review, since that type of device is more suited to Android, and a keyboard is included.

I had no problems with Google Play store, and I could install all apps I needed for review. I also installed the free version of Riptide GP2 racing game through Amazon Underground app.

The power button on the remote control will let you turn off, enter sleep mode or reboot the device, and it works… most of the time. For some reasons, at one point the box would just reboot, when I select the Shutdown option, and I could reproduce the issue 3 times. However, later one, the problem completely disappeared and turning off the device worked 100% of the time. I cannot remember if this was done before or after applying the last firmware update (20161022). You can also turn on the device from your sofa using the remote control.

Power consumption is not too bad, but bear in mind that Beelink decided to keep USB and Ethernet on in standby mode:

  • Power off – 1.0 watt
  • Standby – 2.0 watts
  • Idle – 2.4 watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 1.1 watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 4.0 watts (USB HDD + Ethernet still on)
  • Idle + USB HDD – 4.4 watts

That’s an advantage if you download files in the background for example, but if you want to save power, then power off mode is recommended. Ideally, power off consumption should be a bit lower than 1.0 watt.

Beelink GT1 did not get overly hot during testing. The maximum top and bottom covers’ temperatures after Antutu were respectively 47 and 51 °C, and about 47°C and 59°C after playing Riptide GP2 for 20 minutes.

Based on several comments I had read last month, and earlier this month, about apps crashing, some green screen flickering, and even Kodi forums recommending to avoid Amlogic S912 TV boxes and giving the “Buggiest Android Kodi Box award of the quarter” to “any Amlogic S912 box running Android Marshmallow 6.0”, so I was expecting a lot of troubles with the device. However, my experience was actually pretty good, as the firmware was responsive, I did not experience apps crashing nor random reboot at any times, never saw the green screen issue, and as we’ll see below, Kodi worked reasonably well for a cheap device. So either I was lucky, or the firmware update since then, helped fixed many of the issues. This does not mean it’s perfect, as it still have HDMI CEC issues, small pointer at 4K resolution, and other small bugs.

Video & Audio Playback with Kodi 16.1, Antutu Video Tester 3.0, and DRM Support

Beelink GT1 comes pre-loaded with a version of Kodi, but I’m not sure which, as while in Google Play I saw a few apps needed some upgrade, and I just clicked on upgrade all, and I only saw too late than it would mean an “upgrade” to Kodi 16.1 from Google Play. But finally, I found it may not be a bad idea, as usually I test the pre-installed version of Kodi, but for that review I can see how Kodi 16.1 from Google Play works on an Amlogic S912 TV box.

beelink-gt1-kodi-16-1
Some piracy add-ons are installed in the box by default, and an installation from the Play Store, will not remove them. I first went to the settings to make sure Video->Playback->Adjust display refresh rate is set to Always, as I had already enabled HDMI self-adaption in Android settings.

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

Starting with some 1080p (and 720p) videos from Linaro media samples, and Elecard:

  • 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 – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK (software decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 1080p – Not smooth (software decode)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK

Automatic refresh rate switching is not working as on most other Amlogic TV boxes. VP8 is not playing smoothly because it’s relying on software decide. More videos with various bitrates:

  • ED_HD.avi (H.264 / 10 Mbps) – Not smooth
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK, excepting while panning in some scenes due to 60 Hz video output. If I manually switch to 24 Hz, the video is smooth.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Could be smoother
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

Not quite perfect, but pretty much the expected behavior on most Amlogic devices. Dolby and DTS audio testing was then performed using both PCM output (stereo downsampling) through my TV speakers, and HDMI pass-through via Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver. Kodi audio options only allow DTS and AC3 pass-through, and there was nothing about TrueHD, nor DTS HD.

Audio Codec in Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi 16.1)
PCM 2.0 Output
(Video Player)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi 16.1 )
HDMI Pass-through
(Video Player)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but slow video No audio  DD 5.1, but slow video OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 & no audio Slow video, and no audio HDMI icon blinking on AV receiver
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 & no audio OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 & no audio OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 & no audio DD 5.1 with beep (the app switched to the DD 5.1 track in the video)
DTS HD Master OK No audio DTS 5.1 DTS 5.1
DTS 5.1
DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636) OK No audio DTS 5.1 DTS 5.1

So that’s clearly not as good as more expensive Android TV box, as Amlogic S912 does not include Dolby nor DTS license (required for stereo downsampling for most apps), but it’s still slightly better than most cheap TV boxes, as HDMI pass-through works for DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 in Kodi, and TrueHD also supported in other video apps like Video Player or MoviePlayer. I did not notice any audio cuts with HDMI audio pass-through, as I experienced in many other devices.

Time for some 4K videos:

  • 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) – OK
  • 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 (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) – ~1 fps, lots of artifacts (not supported by Amlogic S912 VPU)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – SAMBA: bufferring a lot; USB HDD: Slow motion
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays but could be a bit smoother

So overall, 4K video playback is pretty decent on Beelink GT1.

Sintek-4k.iso & amat.iso Blu-Ray ISO’s samples, and MPEG2 1080i videos could play just fine. A 720p Hi10p video could play smoothly with subtitle and audio, but 1080p is not smooth, as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes. Since Hi10p relies on software decode, you need more powerful hardware, and I expect Rockchip RK3399 based TV boxes to easily handle Hi10p 1080p videos, but not 4K ones.

I’ve also tested some 3D stereoscopic videos only to see if the device could decode them since my TV 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) – Black screen, audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

I also tested a bunch of other videos including MKV, VOB/IFO, AVI, XViD/DViX, MP4, and FLV videos and I had no problem whatsoever.A full 2-hour 1080p H.264 movie could fully play from the SAMBA share without issues

Antutu Video Tester 3.0 benchmark reports 866 points, roughly the same as on other Amlogic S912 I’ve tested so far.

beelink-gt1-antutu-video-tester

beelink-gt1-antutu-video-tester-partial-support
DRM info reports Widevine Level 3 is supported.

beelink-bt1-drm-info

Click to Enlarge

YouTube app could play videos up to 1080p.

WiFI & Ethernet Performance

I copy and paste a 278MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash using ES File Explorer in order to evaluate WiFi performance. Beelink GT1 achieved a lowly 1.7 MB/s on average with 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, but a more respectable 4.36 MB/s with 802.11ac (434Mbps Link Speed). It should be noted that download and upload speeds are asymmetrical, and downloads reach about 6.0 MB/s using 802.11ac, and ~2.2 MB/s with 802.11n.

Throughtput in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Gigabit Ethernet works pretty well, as shown with iperf full duplex results:

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I could pair Beelink GT1 TV box () and Vernee Apollo Lite smartphone in order to transfer a few pictures. Smart Movement has no issue connecting and synchronizing data to my Bluetooth LE fitness tracker, and I could listen to audio through SPORTS-S9 Bluetooth headset.

Since the firmware is already rooted, so I tried Sixaxis app with PS3 Bluetooth game controller close as explained in the post entitled “How to Play Games in Android TV Boxes With a PS3 Bluetooth Controller“, and it worked perfectly. So Bluetooth appears to be working very well on that device.

Storage

NTFS and exFAT partitions on a 1 TB USB 3.0 Seagate hard drive could be mounted, but not BTRFS nor EXT-4 ones. a FAT32 micro SD card could also be mounted in read/write mode.

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

A1SD bench app confirmed results found in most Android TV boxes with USB 2.0 ports, with 30+ MB/s for read speed for both NTFS and exFAT file systems, but a much lower sequential write for exFAT (6.8 MB/s) compared to NTFS (22.37 MB/s).

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

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

The eMMC flash performance is clearly above average at 57.60 MB/s read speed, and 30.71 MB/s write speed.

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

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

Gaming

I played Candy Crush Saga with the air mouse, and as Beach Buggy Racing with the wireless gamepad are both games played perfectly, even with graphics set to the highest settings in the latter. Riptide GP2 had acceptable performance even with “highest resolution” setting, not quite as smooth as on devices with a better GPU, such as Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced, but as expect just the same as other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and the best Amlogic S905 TV boxes. I played the game for 15 to 20 minutes, and performance was constant throughout.

Beelink GT1 Benchmarks

Let’s start with CPU-Z. Beelink has not updated the firmware to reflect Amlogic S912 is actually limited to 1.5 GHz (1.65 GHz in best case), but apart from that we have the same values as on other S912 TV boxes. The manufacturer is Netxeon (Beelink is their brand), and the board is named q201_9377.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Antutu 6.x results varied quite a bit, with the first run achieving only 37,013 points, and another run around one hour latter getting 41,287 points, or about the same as M12N MXQ Plus TV box. RAM speed tests seems to be especially variable on Amlogic S912 devices.
beelink-gt1-antutu-benchmark
Vellamo returned results slighly better to what I got with Qintaix Q912, namely 792, 1,488, and 2,858 points for respectively Metal, Multicore, and Browser benchmarks, against 787, 1,422, and 2,336 points for the Qintaix device. M12N did not manage to complete the Multicore test.

beelink-gt1-vellamo
Conclusion

Beelink GT1 works relatively well for this price, with a responsive and very stable firmware, most features working just fine, Kodi 16.1 working with DTS and Dolby audio pass-through, very good storage performance, but of course you can’t expect the same level support as more expensive devices, so for example TrueHD and DTS-HD are not working, automatic frame rate switching neither, and there are still some bugs common to other Amlogic Android Marshmallow devices.

PROS

  • Stable and responsive Android 6.0 firmware
  • Good 4K video support for VP9, H.265 and H.264 codecs in Kodi 16.1
  • HDMI audio pass-through for Dolby 5.1 & DTS 5.1 i Kodi 16.1, plus TrueHD 5.1/7.1 in Video Player & MoviePlayer (and other video apps relying on Android APIs)
  • Fast eMMC flash leading to fast boot and app loading times
  • Good Gigabit Ethernet performance, and decent WiFi 802.11ac performance (with my setup)
  • Google Play Store works fine
  • Good Bluetooth support with file transfer, BT audio, Bluetooth LE, and Sixaxis controller (PS3 gamepad) all working
  • OTA firmware update, and frequent firmware releases (about once a month so far)
  • Support forums (with Beelink more or less active)

CONS (and bugs)

  • HDMI audio pass-through not working for TrueHD and DTS HD 7.1 in Kodi 16.1, Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD 7.1 not supported in other apps
  • Automatic frame rate switching not working properly in Kodi and other apps (e.g. Video Player)
  • Overall performance and user experience very similar to Amlogic S905 TV boxes, except for Android 6.0, VP9 and HDR support.
  • 802.11n WiFi performance under average (with my setup)
  • Potential issue with Shutdown not working all the time (it will reboot instead). N.B.: I can not reproduce it easily.
  • HDMI CEC bug keeps my A/V receiver on (when pressing the power button on the receiver), even when HDMI CEC is disabled (unless I disable CEC in the receiver itself)
  • DRM: Only supports Widevine Level 3
  • Dolby & DTS licenses not included (Only a problem for apps other than Kodi, for people not using HDMI or S/PDIF audio pass-through). This would require Amlogic S912-H (Dolby+DTS) or S912-B (Dolby only) processor
  • Minor – Mouse pointer quite small when 4K video output is selected
  • Minor – “USB device connected” window(s) always autostart at boot time when USB mass storage device is connected.

Beelink GT1 price makes it attractive compared to other Amlogic S912 devices, but you don’t already gain much compared to cheaper, and some would argue more stable, devices based on Amlogic S905 processor, beside an upgrade to Android 6.0, VP9 video decoding, and HDR support.

I’d like to thank Netxeon/Beelink for sending the review sample. Resellers and distributors can purchase in quantities directly with the company, while individual will be find Beelink GT1 on Amazon US for $66.97, GearBest for $55.99 with GBGT1 coupon, and from several sellers on Aliexpress for $59.99 and up.

Test Widevine & PlayReady DRM, HDCP 1.x/2.x, 4K VP9 and H.265 in Android with Exoplayer App

October 21st, 2016 2 comments

I first heard about ExoPlayer in an Android TV Overview presentation at Linaro Connect 2014, but I never really looked into it. The source code is available on Github, and I’ve been given ExoPlayer.apk as it can be used to test UHD H265 support, HDCP 1.x, HDCP 2.x compatibility, PlayReady & Widevine DRM using different format and so on.

ExoPlayer Demo - Click to Enlarge

ExoPlayer Demo – Click to Enlarge

So I installed it on Beelink GT1 Android TV box which I’m currently reviewing, and only include basic Widewine Level 3 DRM, and certainly does not support HDCP features.

There are 9 sections in the app to test various videos and DRM schemes:

  • YouTube Dash
  • Widevine Dash Policy Tests (GTS) – Widewine with or without HDCP, with or without secure video path
  • Widevine HDCP Capabilities Tests – NoHDCP, HDCP 1.0, HDCP 1.1, HDCP 2.0, HDCP 2.1, HDCP 2.2, and HDCP no digital output
  • Widevine Dash MP4, H264 – Various resolution (SD, HD, UHD) for clear or secure videos
  • Widevine Dash WebM, VP9
  • Widevine Dash MP4, H.265
  • SmoothStreaming – Super speed or Super speed (PlayReady)
  • HLS – Apple master playlist, Apple TS media playlist, Apple ID3 metadata, etc…
  • Misc – Various video & audio formats and codecs (MKV, FLV, Google Play videos…)

I tested a few the tests without HDCP nor secure data requirement will work just fine. Widevine secure SD (MP4, H.265) would work fine, but as expect Widevine Secure HD and UHD would not work, and only show a black screen with audio since Level 1 DRM is not supported by my device.

Then I switched to Widewine HDCP 2.2, and to my surprise the video could play… I later found out that HDCP does not kick-in immediately, and if I play the video for a longer time, the video will stop after 9 seconds because Beelink did not get the HDCP 2.2 license for their box.

AFAIC, there’s automatic testing, and each test must be started manually. But it’s still a useful if you are interested in copy protection schemes supported by your Android device.

I’ll complete the post with something unrelated with ExiPlayer, but still interesting to check HDCP support if you own an Amlogic device, as there are some commands to check the status of HDCP:

  • Show whether the TV is currently working with HDCP 2.x or HDCP 1.x:

22 = HDCP2, 11 = HDCP1, off = HDCP not enabled right now

  • Check HDCP authentication status:

1=authenticated ok, 0 = failed to authenticate.

  • HDCP keys for device

00 = no HDCP key, 14 = has HDCP1_key, 22 = has HDCP2_key

  • Check TV HDCP version

22 = TV supports HDCP2, 14 = TV supports HDCP1)

  • Disable HDCP protection: