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Posts Tagged ‘beelink’

Linux 4.11 Release – Main Changes, ARM & MIPS Architecture

May 1st, 2017 9 comments

Linus Torvalds has just released Linux 4.11:

So after that extra week with an rc8, things were pretty calm, and I’m much happier releasing a final 4.11 now.

We still had various smaller fixes the last week, but nothing that made me go “hmm..”. Shortlog appended for people who want to peruse the details, but it’s a mix all over, with about half being drivers (networking dominates, but some sound fixlets too), with the rest being some arch updates, generic networking, and filesystem (nfs[d]) fixes. But it’s all really small, which is what I like to see the last week of the release cycle.

And with this, the merge window is obviously open. I already have two pull request for 4.12 in my inbox, I expect that overnight I’ll get a lot more.

Linux 4.10 added Virtual GPU support, perf c2c’ tool, improved writeback management, a faster initial WiFi connection (802.11ai), and more.

Some notable changes for Linux 4.11 include:

  • Pluggable IO schedulers framework in the multiqueue block layer – The Linux block layer is know to have different IO schedulers (deadline, cfq, noop, etc). In Linux 3.13, the block layer added a new multiqueue design that performs better with modern hardware (eg. SSD, NVM). However, this new multiqueue design didn’t include support for pluggable IO schedulers. This release solves that problem with the merge of a multiqueue-ready IO scheduling framework. A port of the deadline scheduler has also been added (more IO schedulers will be added in the future)
  • Support for OPAL drives – The Opal Storage Specification is a set of specifications for features of data storage devices that enhance their security. For example, it defines a way of encrypting the stored data so that an unauthorized person who gains possession of the device cannot see the data. This release adds Linux support for Opal nvme enabled controllers. It enables users to setup/unlock/lock locking ranges for SED devices using the Opal protocol.
  • Support for the SMC-R protocol (RFC7609) – This release includes the initial part of the implementation of the “Shared Memory Communications-RDMA” (SMC-R) protocol as defined in RFC7609. SMC-R is an IBM protocol that provides RDMA capabilities over RoCE transparently for applications exploiting TCP sockets. While SMC-R does not aim to replace TCP, it taps a wealth of existing data center TCP socket applications to become more efficient without the need for rewriting them. A new socket protocol family PF_SMC is introduced. There are no changes required to applications using the sockets API for TCP stream sockets other than the specification of the new socket family AF_SMC. Unmodified applications can be used by means of a dynamic preload shared library.
  • Intel Bay Trail (and Cherry Trail) improvements – Intel HDMI audio support, patchsets for AXP288 PMIC, I2C driver, and C-state support to avoid freezes.

New features and bug fixes specific to ARM architecture:

  • Allwinner:
    • Allwinner A23 –  Audio codec device tree changes
    • Allwinner A31 – SPDIF output support
    • Allwinner A33 – cpufreq support, Audio codec support
    • Allwinner A64 – MMC Support, USB support
    • Allwinner A80 – sunxi-ng style clock support
    • Allwinner H2+ – New SoC variant, similar to H3 (mostly with a different, lower end VPU)
    • Allwinner H3 – Audio codec device tree changes, SPDIF output support
    • Allwinner V3s – New SoC support, USB PHY driver, pinctrl driver, CCU driver
    • New boards & devices – LicheePi One, Orange Pi Zero, LicheePi Zero, Banana Pi M64, Beelink X2
  • Rockchip:
    • Renamed RK1108 to RV1108
    • Clock drivers – New driver for RK3328, and non-critical fixes and clk id additions
    • Tweaks for Rockchip GRF (General Register File) usage (kitchensink misc register range on the SoCs)
    • thermal, eDP, pinctrl enhancements
    • PCI – add Rockchip system power management support
    • Add machine driver for RK3288 boards that use analog/HDMI audio
  • Amlogic
    • Add support for Amlogic Meson I2C controller
    • Add SAR ADC driver
    • Add ADC laddered keys to meson-gxbb-p200 board
    • Add configurable RGMII TX delay to fix/improve Gigabit Ethernet performance on some boards
    • Add pinctrl nodes for HDMI HPD and DDC pins modes for Amlogic Meson GXL and GXBB SoCs
    • New hardware: WeTek TV boxes
  • Samsung
    • Add USB 3.0 support in Exynos 5433
    • Removed clock driver for Samsung Exynos4415 SoCs
    • TM2 touchkey, Exynos5433 HDMI and power management improvements
    • Added Samsung Exynos4412 Prime SoC
    • Removed Samsung Exynos 4412 SoC
    • Added audio on Odroid-X board
    • Samsung Device Tree updates:
      • Add necessary initial configuration for clocks of display subsystem. Till now it worked mostly thanks to bootloader.
      • Use macro definitions instead of hard-coded values for pinctrl on Exynos7.
      • Enable USB 3.0 (DWC3) on Exynos7.
      • Add descriptive user-friendly label names for power domains. This  makes debugging easier
      • Use proper drive strengths on Exynos7.
      • Use bigger reserved memory region for Multi Format Codec on all Exynos chipsets so it could decode FullHD easily
      • Cleanup from old MACHs in s5pv210.
      • Enable IP_MULTICAST for libnss-mdns
      • Add bus frequency and voltage scalling on Exynos5433 TM2 device (along with  necessary bus nodes and Platform Performance Monitoring Unit on Exynos5433).
      • Use macros for pinctrl settings on Exynos5433.
      • Create common DTSI between Exynos5433 TM2E and TM2E.
  • Qualcomm
    • Added coresight, gyro/accelerometer, hdmi to Qualcomm MSM8916 SoC
    • Clock drivers – Updates to Qualcomm IPQ4019 CPU clks and general PLL support, Qualcomm MSM8974 RPM
    • Errata workarounds for Qualcomm’s Falkor CPU
    • Qualcomm L2 Cache PMU driver
    • Qualcomm SMCCC firmware quirk
    • Qualcomm PM8xxx ADC bindings
    • Add USB HSIC and HS phy driver for Qualcomm’s SoC
    • Device Tree Changes:
      • Add Coresight components for APQ8064
      • Fixup PM8058 nodes
      • Add APQ8060 gyro and accel support
      • Enable SD600 HDMI support
      • Add RIVA supprort for Sony Yuga and SD600
      • Add PM8821 support
      • Add MSM8974 ADSP, USB gadget, SMD, and SMP2P support
      • Fix IPQ8064 clock frequencies
      • Enable APQ8060 Dragonboard related devices
      • Add Vol+ support for DB820C and APQ8016
      • Add HDMI audio support for APQ8016
      • Fix DB820C GPIO pinctrl name
      • etc…
  • Mediatek
    • Mediatek MT2701 – Added clocks, iommu, spi, nand, adc, thermal
    • Added Mediatek MT8173 thermal
    • Added Mediatek IR remote receiver
  • GPU – Add Mali Utgard bindings;  the ARM Mali Utgard GPU family is embedded into a number of SoCs from Allwinner, Amlogic, Mediatek or Rockchip
  • Other new ARM hardware platforms and SoCs:
    • Marvell – SolidRun MACCHIATOBin board, Marvell Prestera DX packet processors
    • Broadcom – BCM958712DxXMC NorthStar2 reference board
    • HiSilicon – Kirin960/Hi3660 SoC, and HiKey960 development board
    • NXP – LS1012a SoC with three reference board; SoMs: Is.IoT MX6UL, SavageBoard, Engicam i.Core; Liebherr (LWN) monitor 6;
    • Microchip/Atmel – SAMA5d36ek Reference platform
    • Texas Instruments – Beaglebone Green Wireless and Black Wireless, phyCORE-AM335x System on Module
    • Lego Mindstorms EV3
    • “Romulus” baseboard management controller for OpenPower
    • Axentia TSE-850 Data Radio Channel (DARC) encoder
    • Luxul XAP-1410 and XWR-1200 wireless access points
    • New revision of “vf610-zii” Zodiac Inflight Innovations board

Finally here are some of the change made to MIPS architecture in Linux 4.11:

  • PCI: Register controllers in the right order to avoid a PCI error
  • KGDB: Use kernel context for sleeping threads
  • smp-cps: Fix potentially uninitialised value of core
  • KASLR: Fix build
  • ELF: Fix BUG() warning in arch_check_elf
  • Fix modversioning of _mcount symbol
  • fix out-of-tree defconfig target builds
  • cevt-r4k: Fix out-of-bounds array access
  • perf: fix deadlock
  • Malta: Fix i8259 irqchip setup
  • Lantiq – Fix adding xbar resoures causing a panic
  • Loongson3
    • Some Loongson 3A don’t identify themselves as having an FTLB so hardwire that knowledge into CPU probing.
    • Handle Loongson 3 TLB peculiarities in the fast path of the RDHWR  emulation.
    • Fix invalid FTLB entries with huge page on VTLB+FTLB platforms
    • Add missing calculation of S-cache and V-cache cache-way size
  • Ralink – Fix typos in rt3883 pinctrl data
  • Generic:
    • Force o32 fp64 support on 32bit MIPS64r6 kernels
    • Yet another build fix after the linux/sched.h changes
    • Wire up statx system call
    • Fix stack unwinding after introduction of IRQ stack
    • Fix spinlock code to build even for microMIPS with recent binutils
  • SMP-CPS: Fix retrieval of VPE mask on big endian CPUs”

Read Linux 4.11 changelog – with comments only – generated using git log v4.10..v4.11 --stat, to get the full list of changes. You may also want to checkout Linux 4.11 changelog on kernelnewbies.org.

Beelink AP42 Apollo Lake mini PC Linux Review with Ubuntu, KDE Neon, Elementary OS….

Beelink’s latest Intel mini PC offerings includes the AP34 and AP42 which are their first models using Intel Apollo Lake processors. The former uses an Intel Apollo Lake Celeron N3450 processor (burst frequency 2.2GHz, Intel HD Graphics 500 with Graphics Burst Frequency 700MHz and 12 Execution Units) while the latter uses the slightly more powerful Pentium N4200 (burst frequency 2.5GHz, Intel HD Graphics 505 with Graphics Burst Frequency 750MHz and 18 Execution Units). Both support Windows 10 (Home) and Beelink’s marketing claim they “support Linux system”. GearBest has given me the chance to review running Linux on the AP42 model so here are my findings.

Spot the difference!

Normally I first make a disk image before booting Windows or installing Linux. However initial attempts at booting a Live USB with a variety of Linux systems failed so both the reseller and manufacturer were contacted for comment. Interestingly there was no immediate reply but early indications that something was amiss was when the reseller’s advert (right) changed compared with the manufacturers advert (left).

As I’d previously had a comment on my website about using rEFInd boot manager when a system wouldn’t boot I gave it a try by manually building an Ubuntu Live USB which successfully booted. Unfortunately the ISO I had used was Ubuntu 16.04.2 and whilst it ran fine on the USB drive, it couldn’t ‘see’ the eMMC of the AP42. Further experimentation with Ubuntu 17.04 Beta 2 and a variety of kernels showed that a minimum 4.10 kernel was required in order to access the eMMC. Anyone wanting to boot an Ubuntu ISO can either manually add the rRFInd boot manager, or use the latest version of ‘isorespin.sh’ to respin the ISO with the rRFInd boot manager and optionally update the kernel.

Then having taken a disk image I booted Windows only to find that Windows was already set up with an ‘Admin’ account. Which of course gave me the opportunity to test a full Windows restore that fortunately worked.

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So with a nice clean and activated Windows system and 24 hours later due to all the updates download and installing I was able to run my usual Windows tests to given me a basic comparison with other Intel devices.

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As can be seen there is a performance increment over Cherry Trail devices including better graphics performance and the new Apollo Lake Pentium N4200 processor is overall slightly better than the earlier Celeron N3150 processor.

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​Being a passively cooled device I was interested to see whether temperature was an issue. I ran HWiNFO64’s Sensor Status utility before and after each test and rather unscientifically held the box to see how hot it was. Neither indicated that I had any reason to be concerned as whilst the box felt warm the temperature maxed out at around 70 °C and no thermal-throttling was encountered.

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Having put the device through its paces under Windows, it was time to look at Linux performance. For a comparison I was going to use the results from my Phoronix ‘mini PC’ test suite run on Intel Compute Sticks. However I initially had problems getting the ‘unpack-linux’ test to install so I decided to download the latest version directly from www.phoronix-test-suite.com rather than use the one provided through ‘apt’. And because comparing results across different versions of test software and different releases of OS is often meaningless I first had to reinstall Ubuntu 17.04 on the comparison hardware and then run the tests in parallel across each device. For those not familiar with the model names they decode as STCK1A32WFC is the Intel Compute Stick (Falls City), STK1AW32SC is the Intel Compute Stick (Sterling City) and STKM3W64CC is the Intel Compute Stick (Cedar City) with the specs listed in the above table. Unfortunately with the Phoronix Test Suite some tests give decidedly strange and confusing results even those they are the average of three runs. However, as per the Windows results there is a noticeable improvement as the power of the processor increases and the AP42 performance is as expected.

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I also ran the Octane 2 on Chrome which was also comparable with the Windows result albeit slightly lower which in iteself was slightly unusual given it is typically slightly higher in Ubuntu than with Windows normally. Interestingly Octane 2 has now been retired as it seems too many programs were cheating their scores (all too familiar).

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In terms of what works under Ubuntu it was nice to find that all the usual problem areas were fine, with working audio, WiFi, Bluetooth and SD cards (including Sandisk). I did encounter a problem with HDMI audio in that you must first select the audio device under Sound Settings before it works. And in Lubuntu this was impossible to do as only Headphones showed up until I plugged in some external speakers into the headphone jack and then after unplugging them the HDMI output option then appeared. But otherwise the device ran smoothly on Ubuntu.

Some specifics about the hardware.

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The memory is single channel and is 2x 2GB DDR3 1600 MHz…

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… and the eMMC storage is CJNB4R which is a Samsung 64GB storage chip…

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… with WiFi/Bluetooth provided by an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 chip with Bluetooth 4.2 as reported by inxi.

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Given the kernel limitation, I found running other Linuxes rather limiting. I did get OpenELEC to successfully boot and run from USB but installing would be an issue. I also tried Android-x86 and Chromium OS loaders but they were also impacted and not usable. My initial Remix attempts were unsuccessful and Phoenix took too long to download to be worth waiting for another failure. Other Ubuntu based distro ISOs worked as long as they were respun with a later kernel (I tested LinuxMint, Neon and Elementary with the latest v4.11-rc7 kernel). The only other Linux distro I tried was Debian but this was also unsuccessful due to the kernel issue, however other distros with rolling releases like Tumbleweed and Arch should be okay.

Linux Mint – Click to Enlarge

KDE Neon – Click to Enlarge

Elementary Linux – Click to Enlarge

In terms of support Beelink are somewhat lacking. Despite having released the device for nearly a month, there are still no download links for BIOS or Windows drivers. They have just added a download for the entire Windows OS, but have failed to create a forum for AP42 users. For the Linux issue, they did eventually respond with “Sorry for that we don’t allow the right of Linux now” which is a somewhat unexpected response given their advert.

So for a new device running Linux it is arguably hit and miss. Depending on what you want to run will rule out the device completely at this stage and if you are looking for flexibility it may also be too restrictive. It may be that a BIOS update addresses the current Linux limitations, but equally given Beelink’s response it could restrict Linux even further.

The price is also somewhat questionable given it has a range from US$180 to US$270 which is the current price on Amazon. In comparison a barebones Zotac ZBOX CI323 with Celeron N3150 is currently US $148 on Newegg and a barebones Intel NUC NUC6CAYS with Celeron J3455 is US $149 on Amazon so the value for money given the level of support and current Linux restrictions is worth considering before purchasing. GearBest – who sent Beelink AP42 mini PC for review – somewhat sweetens the deal, as they sell it for $179.99 including shipping with coupon GBAP42. Beside Amazon and GearBest, you can also purchase the mini PC on sites like Aliexpress and Banggood for $185 to $190.

How to Reinstall Android Firmware on Realtek RTD1295 TV Boxes

March 16th, 2017 16 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).

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    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 13 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 [Update: Linux is not supported, see comments section] . 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 12 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.