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Posts Tagged ‘benchmark’

Rockchip RK3399 Benchmarks Appear on GeekBench

September 28th, 2016 29 comments

Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor with ARM Cortex A72 and A53 cores and a Mali-T860MP GPU will soon be found in TV boxes, development boards, tablets, Chromebooks, virtual reality headset and more, and is widely expected to offer a significant performance boost against previous Rockchip processors, including RK3288, and outperform SoCs from competitors like Amlogic and Allwinner.

We can have a first clue about the performance as Rockchip RK3399 boxes and one tablet are now showing up on GeekBench.

rk3399-benchmarks

The box is clocked at 1512 MHz, while the tablet is limited to 1416 MHz, but overall single-core score is about 1350 points, while multi-core score hovers around 2,550 points. I’m not that familiar with GeekBench so number don’t tell me anything. Let’s compare it against RK3288 which CPU-wise is the fastest processor I known of from Chinese silicon vendors targeting TV boxes.

rk3399-vs-rk3288There’s a significant single-core performance boost (+73%), and lower multi-core delta (+30%) as expected since RK3399 has 2 fast Cortex A72 cores, 4 low power Cortex-A53 cores, against 4 fast Cortex-A17 cores for RK3288. If you look into the details AES is over 10 times faster on RK3399, so there must be some special instructions used here, or AES hardware acceleration.

Rockchip RK3399 “reference” TV box also has 4GB RAM, so I’m expecting RK3399 devices to come with 2 and 4 GB versions.

RK3399 vs Tegra K1

RK3399 vs Tegra K1

Rockchip RK3399 is also faster than Nvidia Tegra K1 quad core Cortex A15 @ 2.2 GHz for single thread performance, and about equivalent for multi-core tests.

[Update: I also found GFXBench 3D graphics results for RK3399, and compared it to Nvidia Tegra K1.

rk3399-gpu-benchmarkThe Mali-T860MP used in RK3399 is still far from the performance delivered by the Kepler GPU in Tegra K1.

Now if I compare the results to RK3288 (Mali-T764 GPU) based Ugoos UT3s TV box, the score on RK3399 (Mali-T860MP4) is also lower.

rk3399-vs-rk3288-gpuWe’ll have to wait and see here, as we don’t know at which frequency the GPU is running. Both GPUs are supposed to have the same performance according to Wikipedia.]

Thanks to Feelgood for the tip.

Amlogic S905 vs Amlogic S912 Benchmarks Comparison

September 19th, 2016 11 comments

Amlogic has unveiled three new processors this year with Amlogic S905X, S912 and S905D. The latter is not found in devices yet, we’ve seen Amlogic S905X is a bit slower than Amlogic S905, but surely Amlogic S912 with eight Cortex A53 cores and its “multi-core high performance 3D GPU”, namely ARM Mali-T820MP3 must deliver a significant boost in performance. I now have full benchmarks results for two devices: M12N MXQ Plus and Qintaix Q912. M12N is the fastest devices of the two according to benchmarks, and I’ve been told YokaTV KB2 has about the same Antutu score (41K points) as M12N, so I feel confident enough that we have relevant benchmark’s results to compare Amlogic S912 and Amlogic S905 performance using M12N (MXQ Plus) and MINIX NEO U1 TV boxes.

amlogic-s905-vs-amlogic-s912

The comparison table below contains scores for Antutu 6.x, Vellamo 3.x, and 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme. MINI NEO U1 runs Android 5.1, while M12N runs Android 6.0, so once/if MINIX NEO U1 gets an Android 6.0 results may differ, likely improve a little bit. It’s also possible Android 6.0 SDK is not that mature, and over time, Amlogic S912 results may improve somewhat too, but nevertheless the results give an overview of the performance that you can expect from devices today (September 2016). Results in green means Amlogic S912 is faster.

Amlogic S905 Amlogic S912 Ratio
CPU* Quad core Cortex A53 @ 1.536 GHz Quad core Cortex A53 @ 1.536 GHz +
Quad core Cortex A53 @ 1.0 GHz
GPU Penta-core ARM Mali-450MP ARM Mali-T820MP3
Antutu 6.x
Overall 38,032 41,303 1.09
3D (1920×1080) 3,979 8,782 2.21
UX 15,690 14,902 0.95
CPU 13,458 13,418 1.00
RAM 4,905 4,201 0.86
Vellamo 3.x
Metal 1,235 1,052 0.85
Multicore 1,589 1,422** 0.89
Browser 2,157 2,758 1.28
3DMark – Ice Storm Extreme v1.2
Total score 4,327 5,752 1.33
Graphics score 3,698 5,304 1.43
Physics score 10,689 8,163 0.76

* CPU-Z and other tools will report 2.02 GHz for both processor, since it’s what’s reported by the kernel, but the actual frequency should be limited to 1.536 GHz, although it might be possible to run up the clock to 1.65 GHz with a firmware change. Amlogic S912 is an octa-core processor using big.LITTLE processing, and the LITTLE cores are clocked at 1.0 GHz according to the values returned by the kernel.

** M12N firmware had a problem to complete one of the Multicore tests, so instead I used the results from Qintaix Q912 since all tests passed, and should be more relevant to the actual performance of Amlogic S912.

So overall, there’s very little performance difference between Amlogic S905 and Amlogic S912, except for 3D graphics where the Mali-T820MP3 GPU used in S912 has a slightly edge over the penta-core Mali-450MP used in S905, with performance improvements up to 1.43x in 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme graphics score. The Antutu 3D score is 2.21 times higher, but it’s because Mali-T820MP3 supports OpenGL ES 3.1, and Mali-450MP does not.

They are however other advantages of Amlogic S912 over Amlogic S905 TV Boxes including Android 6.0 firmware by default, 4K VP9 hardware decoding, and HDR (High Dynamic Range support). Now, if you don’t care about the last three, there are very little incentives to upgrade from Amlogic S905 to Amlogic S912, and if you don’t own a TV box yet, buying an Amlogic S905 TV box would offer a better price to performance ratio, all other specs being equal.

Qintaix Q912 Android Box Review – Part 2: Android 6.0, Kodi 17, Benchmarks, etc…

September 18th, 2016 6 comments

Qintaix Q912 is one of the many octa-core Android boxes based on Amlogic S912 processor. I’ve already shown photos of the device and its internal design in the first part of Qintaix Q912 review, so today I’ll report the results of my testing with Android firmware, video & audio capabilities in Kodi 17 Alpha 3 (pre-installed), features supports, benchmarks, and other comment. I will also be interesting to find out how it compares to M12N TV box, also based on Amlogic S912 processor.

qintaix-q912-boot

First Boot, Settings, and First Impressions

I’ve connected all necessary cables including HDMI and Ethernet, added some USB devices including two 2.4 GHZ USB dongles for my air moues and wireless gamepad, a USB keyboard to take screenshots, and a USB 3.0 hard drive to the USB 2.0 ports of the device. Once you apply power, the LED is turn red, and you need to press the power button on the unit ot the remote control to start the TV box. The front panel display will show “Boot”, and within a typical 40 seconds you should be to the launcher, after which the display will show the current time.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

It’s your typical TV launcher with large icon links to common apps or folders of apps (not customizable), and shortcut row will smaller icons that can be added or removed as you wish.

The Settings app is different from M12N. but basically the same as other Amlogic TV boxes.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The most relevant / notable settings 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
    • Playback settings – HDMI self-adaption on/off (aka automatic frame rate switching)
    • Power key definition – Suspend and resume, shutdown
    • More settings – Access to Android Marshmallow settings

By default, the box will select the high possible resolution on your TV, and for mine to was 4K2K SMPTE (4096×2160 @ 24 Hz), but I switched back to 4K2K-60Hz (3840×2160) for testing. Like with most Amlogic TV box, Qintaix Q912 has problems to remember my settings, and will often revert to 1080p60. One possible reason is that it is connected to an Onkyo A/V receiver before being connected to the TV, and sometimes the receiver is turned on, and other time turned off.  Once the receiver is turned on, I can’t turn it off anymore using either its remote control or the power button on the unit, as the box will always turn it back on. That’s a very annoying issue that’s been happening with all recent (Android 6.0) Amlogic TV boxes. This is some HDMI CEC issue, as if I disable HDMI CEC (RIHD) in the receiver the problem goes away. That however means I can’t control the TV over CEC using the receiver’s remote control anymore…

As mentioned in the list of “Notable settings”, we can access Android 6.0 settings through More settings icon, and configure other aspect of the device such as portable hotpost, printer, developer options, accessibility, printing, Languages and Input, etc…

A single 11.49 GB internal partition is used for apps and data, a capacity that should be plenty enough for most people. Just like M12N, Qintaix Q912 is running Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29 as per About Mediabox section. The firmware is rooted. OTA firmware update is currently not supported, but I could install the latest firmware (dated 06 September 2016) via UPDATE&BACKUP app using a USB flash drive. The company also informed me that network firmware updates will be enabled later on.

The included infrared remote control works fine, and I could use it up to 10 meters, where I started getting some misses (maybe 1 out of 10). The IR learning function worked too, as I tested it with the power and volume keys of my TV remote control. I still used MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse for the review, since it’s just much more convenient to use that the IR remote control.

The Google Play store worked better than on other box, especially since I could also installed Bluetooth LE apps such as Mi Fit or Smart Movement. I also installed Amazon Underground to play the free version of Riptide GP2 game.

Power handling has been well implemented. The TV box will go into standby after a short press on the power button of the remote control, and into power off mode with a long press. As seen above, you can also configure the short press to go directly into power off mode. You can also turn the TV box back on using the remote control or the power button on the unit

Power consumption figures are also pretty good, since my power meter did not detect any power draw in power off mode, but standby mode appears to be pretty much useless:

  • Power off – 0.0 watt
  • Standby – 3.1 watts
  • Idle – 3.1 watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.0 watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 5.1 watts
  • Idle + USB HDD – 5.1 watts

As we’ve seen with the teardown, Qintaix Q912 comes with a heatsink on top of Amlogic S912 processor, as well as a metallic  enclosure, but the board is not in contact with the case at all. Still, during use the case feels fairly hot, and actually feeling hotter at the touch that what my IR thermometer is reporting with top and bottom temperatures of  40 and 44 °C max after Antutu 6.2, and about 43°C and 46°C respectively after playing Riptide GP2 for 15 minutes.

I did not find any major issues with Qintaix Q912 firmware, which I found fast and very stable, although I still got a couple of “Unresponsive app”. I also like that they kept the notification bar, albeit removed the status bar, and they still have that annoying HDMI CEC bug preventing me to turn on my A/V receiver. The device also have the exact some IPTV apps, namely FilmOn, Modbro, and Showbox, that I covered in MXQ Plus M12 TV box review.

Video and Audio Playback with Kodi 17, Antutu Video Tester, and DRM info

Contrary to most other TV boxes I’ve reviewed which come with the stable version of Kodi, currently Kodi 16.1, or somethimes a fork, Qintaix Q912 is pre-loaded with Kodi 17.0 Alpha  3 built on July 31st.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

And like many TV box, they’ve also installed piracy add-ons, many of which are not working…

kodi-17-add-onsAnyway, I’m only testing local video playback in Kodi, and I’m done so from a SAMBA share using the Gigabit Ethernet connection.

Most Big Buck Bunny videos from Linaro media samples and Elecard are playing just fine:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Could be a little smoother (software decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p: OK (ff-vp8 software decode); 1080p: not smooth
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK

Automatic refresh rate switching is not working in Kodi 17.0, at least in this device.

Videos with various bitrates were next:

  • ED_HD_10Mbps_1080p_MPEG-4.avi (MPEG-4 / 10 Mbps) – Not smooth at all, barely watchable (msmpeg4v2 software decode)
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Won’t play
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

Dolby Digital and DTS support was tested with four use case: PCM 2.0 output (stereo downsampling) or HDMI audio pass-through via Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver, using Kodi and MoviePlayer apps.

Audio Codec in Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi 17 Alpha 3)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MoviePlayer)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi 17 Alpha 3)
HDMI Pass-through
(MoviePlayer)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK but video not smooth No audio Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1), video not smooth OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 Video plays in fast forward, without time to setup audio
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 TrueHD 5.1
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 TrueHD 7.1
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 Dolby D 5.1 – continuous beep
DTS HD Master OK No audio Black screen, no audio DTS 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio Black screen, no audio DTS 5.1
DTS:X OK No audio Black screen, no audio DTS 5.1

Results are pretty much the same as other Amlogic Android 6.0 TV boxes.

For most videos, 4K video playback is not too bad in Kodi 17.0:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Not always smooth
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps) – OK.
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Some frames are “jumping”
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (as expected since hardware is not supposed to support it)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) –  OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – 0.5 to 1 fps (software decode)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 30 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Not smooth at all from either HDD or network
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video) – OK, except for one massive slowdown for 2 to 3 seconds.
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – OK most of the time, but I can see some frame drops from time to time

The video above were tested using 4K60Hz (3840×2160), and the video show properly, but I previously also tested 4KSMPTE (4096×2160 @ 24 Hz) and some black bands showed on the left and right edges of the TV. You can watch Kodi 17.0 setup and video playback in Qintaix Q912 below.

Blur-ray videos (Sintek-4k.iso & amat.iso) and two MPEG2 1080i videos could play fine. I basically had the same results as on M12N for 10-bit H.264 videos with a 720p sample playing fine, but a 1080p sample not being smooth enough. Kodi 16.1 would enable subtitles by default in those two videos, but Kodi 17.0 Alpha 3 requires the user to manually enable subtitles.

LG 42UB820T Ultra HD television does not support 3D videos, but my Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver does, and could detect 3D content (3D icon on) for MVC videos as shown in Zidoo X1 II review, and for others it’s still interesting to see if the box can decode them:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Won’t play at all
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK
  • 3D-full-MVC.mkv (Full-frame packed MVC 3D MKV) – 2D only, 3D icon not shown on AV receiver
  • ISO-full3D-sample.iso (Full-frame packed MVC 3D ISO) – 2D only, 3D icon not shown on AV receiver

I also played one complete 1080p H.264 video for 2 hours without issues through the network (SAMBA share), and I completed Kodi 17 testing by check out various video from my library with IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4, XViD/DViX, and MKV 720p and 1080p videos. Most could play just fine, but I noticed some FLV video had no audio, and IFO/VOB files would not play smoothly at all.

MXQ Plus M12 previously achieved 865 points in Antutu Video Tester 3.0 benchmark, and Qintaix Q912 got a slightly lower score with 849 points.qintaix-q912-antutu-video-testerThe three “partially support” videos could not play smoothly enough.

amlogic-s912-tv-box-video-not-smooth DRM info reports Widevine Level 3 is supported.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I also quickly tested YouTube, and it supports up to 1080p. Video samples can be downloaded via links in the comments section of that video sample post.

Network Performance for WiFi and Ethernet

Qintaix Q912 has a dual band WiFi module (AP6330), and I could connect to both 2.4 and 5.0 GHz access point, but no support for 802.11ac, so I only tested performance of 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz by copying a 278MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal storage several times in either direction. The result is disappointing since the transfers averaged 1.69 MB/s, one of the poorest results among the devices I’ve tested. At least, even if the performance is far from outstanding, WiFi is very stable.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

There’s also some asymmetry between download and upload speeds, with the former reaching about 2 MB/s. You may have noticed two external antennas on Qintaix Q912, but one of them is not connected to anything, and is only there to make the box prettier.

I found Gigabit Ethernet to be working well, and tested full duplex performance with “iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d” command line:

It’s not exactly reaching 1 Gbps, but in a TV box it should not matter than much, especially the device/SoC only support USB 2.0 ports.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I could easily pair Vernee Apollo Lite smartphone to the box, and transfer a few pictures over Bluetooth, however I was not so lucky with my Bluetooth 3.0 headet (Sport-S9) which was not detected at all, and a Bluetooth 4.0 LE fitness tracker that was detected, but the TV box asked me for a pin number, which usually is not the case for this device, and pairing failed. I tried a few times and different pin code, and after pressing Cancel, the device (SH09) was shown to be paired… Sadly Smart Movement app used with the tracker would not find the device at all.

Since the firmware is rooted, I also tried my PS3 wireless gamepad clone with Sixaxis Compatibility Checker, and I could configure and use the game controller.

Storage

I used a 1TB Seagate USB hard drive set-up with 4 partitions, and a FAT32 micro SD card to test file system support.

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

I also use A1SD bench app to test the two partitions on the USB hard drive (NTFS & exFAT), and read speed was OK for both (NTFS: 34.88 MB/s; exFAT: 39.88 MB/s), but write speed is better on NTFS: 16.08 MB/s vs 4.83 MB/s. I had to test exFAT on two different days. The first day I only got R: 4.83 MB/s; W: 0.97 MB/s, after running the benchmark twice on the partition, maybe because another process was busy going through the file system…

I ran A1SD bench again to evaluate internal storage performance, and sequential read and write speeds were decent at 40.36 MB/s and 12.94 MB/s respectively.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Gaming

I’ve detailed gaming on Amlogic S912 using M12N TV box, and last time I could clearly see a different in performance between Amlogic S905 and Amlogic S912, although games like Riptide GP2 were still not clearly as fluid as on Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced. So I expected the same results on Qintaix Q912, but I have to say performance feel just like on Amlogic S905 here: Candy Crush Saga and Beach Buggy Racing are both very smooth, but Riptide GP2 using max resolution settings had a lower framerate closer to Amlogic S905. Still performance was stable throughout my 15 minutes playing the game.

Qintaix Q912 Benchmarks

CPU-Z detects an octa-core Cortex A53 @ up to 2.02 GHz with a Mali-T820 GPU. The info is correct from the Linux kernel point of view, but as we’ve previously seen Amlogic S912 is most likely running at 1.5 GHz maximum here.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The device’s board is q6330, an information that can be useful if you want to try alternative firmware. Resolution is 1920×1080, total RAM 1775 MB as some is used by the GPU and/or GPU, and internal storage has a 11.49 GB capacity as reported above.

I was disappointed by Amlogic S912 benchmarks in M12N TV box, so I was expecting a little more in Qintaix Q912, but on the contrary the score was even lower at 35,966 points in Antutu 6.2.
qintaix-q912-antutu-6

Scores in Vellamo were also lower for Metal (787 vs 1,052)and Browser (2,336 vs 2,758), but better for multicore (1,422 vs 1,130) likely because Qintaix Q912 passed all tests, but M12N failed one.
vellamo-qintaix-q912
3Dmark Ice Storm Extreme confirmed the lower performance in benchmark with 4,713 points against 5,752 points in MXQ Plus M12N.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

That may explain why gaming did not feel thtat good. For reference, Amlogic S905 TV boxes typically achieve about 4,300 points.

Conclusion

Qintaix Q912 TV box works reasonably well overall, but they’ve decided to use Kodi 17.0 Alpha 3 which does not bring much compare to Kodi 16.1, and does not perform as well with all video. Once we dig into benchmarks and play game, we also quickly realize the TV box has about the same performance as Amlogic S905 devices, meaning you pay a premium without any obvious benefits.

PROS

  • Recent Android 6.0 firmware that is both responsive and stable, and includes a slightly different launcher
  • Mostly fine 4K video support for VP9, H.265 and H.264 codecs in Kodi 17
  • HDMI audio pass-through for Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1, and TrueHD 5.1 and 7.1 in Video MoviePlayer
  • Proper power handling, and low power off & idle power consumption
  • exFAT, NTFS, and FAT32 file system support for external storage
  • IR remote control working up to at least 10 meters
  • Google Play Store support better than some other device (e.g. for Bluetooth LE app)
  • Bluetooth file transfer and Sixaxis controller (PS3 gamepad) working
  • Metal case with front panel display showing time

CONS

  • HDMI audio pass-through and automatic frame rate switching not working properly in Kodi, and DTS-HD even lead to black videos with no audio at all. Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD 7.1 not supported in other apps
  • Kodi 17.0 Alpha 3 used in the firmware does not handle video playback of all videos as well as Kodi 16.1 (stable version): e.g. issues with VOB, no audio in FLV, etc…
  • Performance equivalent to quad core Amlogic S905 TV boxes according to benchmarks and gaming experience
  • HDMI output mode is often falling back to 1080p60, even when manually set to 4K 60Hz. (The system may be confused when I turn on the TV or AV receiver on and off).
  • WiFi: Mediocre yet stable (e.g. no stall) WiFi performance. Only one external antenna used out of the two external antennas.
  • HDMI CEC not disabled by default and no CEC option. HDMI CEC bug keeping my A/V receiver on.
  • Bluetooth: BT 3.0 audio headset not found at all, Bluetooth LE fitness tracker detected, but pairing fails, and app can’t sync.
  • 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 processor.

I’d like to thank Qintex Tech for sending a review sample, and if you plan to order in quantities, you can do so directly from the company. The TV box can also be found on Aliexpress for $73.50 and up, or Amazon US for $122.

Vernee Apollo Lite Helio X20 Smartphone Review – Part 2: Android 6.0 Firmware

September 11th, 2016 8 comments

I’ve already taken pictures and shown Antutu benchmark in the first part of Vernee Apollo Lite review, an Android 6.0 smartphone powered by Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core processor. Now that I’ve had time to play with the phone for over 10 days, I’ve ready to report my experience and write the second part of the review about performance, features, and issues I encountered with the phone.

vernee-apollo-lite-mediatek-helio-x20-smartphone

General Impressions

First, the build quality feel pretty good, the phone is light and slim. I’ve only called once or twice, and voice quality was good, but I mostly use my phone over WiFi to browse the web, check emails, watch YouTube, and access social networks. More rarely, I also use GPS while running and during trip, and play some games. To be honest, the first few days did not work as expected, as many apps would either be much slower than last year Iocean M6752 smartphone or failed to start entirely with the message “Unfortunately app has stopped”. Fortunely, I eventually found that Android 6.0 Adoptable Storage was the source of those two issues, as when I installed a 32GB Class 10 micro SD card I used as storage device, and most app would install on the micro SD card, which has very good sequential speeds, but terrible random I/Os performance. The latter explain apps were not always responsive, and some apps simply don’t like to be installed on an SD card – at least on Apollo Lite Android firmware – like Firefox or MAPS.me, while others lose the ability to access Widget such as Adsense. Once I found out about the issue, I moved most apps back to internal storage, and everything felt much faster, and I could run Firefox, MAPS.ME, and access Adsense Widget.

However, I have to say it’s hard to really notice a big difference in terms of performance between my older Mediatek MT6752 octa-core Cortex A53 based Iocean M6752 phone, and Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core Cortex A72/A53 based Vernee Apollo Lite phone for most tasks, except for some 3D games, and handling large PDF files.

One big improvement over Iocean phone is the battery, since it’s much bigger on Vernee Apollo Lite, and usually last well over 24 hours with 3 to 4 hours of active browsing and/or YouTube watching per day. Charging is much faster too, and while Iocean would take over 3 hours to charge, I can charge Apollo Lite in just one hour from about 10% to 100% thanks it is fast Pump 3.0 charger. Overnight battery discharge rate is however a little high with WiFi and 3G (calls) enabled, as the charge goes down between 20 to 25%, meaning if my phone was fully charge before going to bed, I’d only get 75 to 80% charge in the morning.

Once I found a workaround for the issues related to adoptable storage, I was very happy with the phone, although a better rear camera, and slightly more accurate GPS would have been a bonus.

Benchmarks: Antutu, Vellamo, and 3DMarks

I’ve reproduced Antutu 6.2.1 benchmark results for people who have not read the first part of the review.

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Click to Enlarge

A comparison with other models reveals Apollo Lite is right between 360 N4 smartphone (also based on Helio X20 processor) and iPhone 6 performance.

antutu-6-2-1-vernee-apollo-lite

Vellamo benchmark shows Vernee Apollo Lite performance is roughly equivalent or even a little better than Samsung Galaxy S6 with Exynos 7420 Octa processor, or LG G Flex 2 with Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor.

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Click to Enlarge

So far, I’ve always tested graphics performance using 3Dmark Ice Storm Extreme in my mobile and TV box reviews, but the ARM Mali-T880 GPU found in Mediatek Helio X20 SoC is a bit too fast for the task, and the score maxed out, despite frame rate not always topping at 60 fps.

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Click to Enlarge

So instead I ran Ice Storm Unlimited, where Apollo Lite score 15,637 points, which almost places it in the top 200 Android & iOS devices for this benchmark.

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The GPU also supports 3Dmark Sling Shot, the reference benchmark for OpenGL ES 3.1, and the smartphone got 995 points. Since there are less OpenGL ES 3.1 capable devices, or simply because this benchmark is less popular, Apollo Lite would be ranked in 68th position among phones powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor.

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Storage and Wi-Fi Performance

A1 SD Benchmark app was use to test the performance of the internal storage (32GB eMMC flash), and my micro SD card, and Vernee seems to have gone with a cheaper eMMC flash only capable of 36.25MB/s read speed, and 12.05 MB/s write speed. The Class 10 SD card I used has much higher performance with 92.76MB/s and 55.92 MB/s write speed. However, you must remember those are sequential speed tests, and for app IOPS also matter a lot, and based on my experience app installed in internal memory run much faster than the one installed in the SD card, so that’s something to keep in mind.

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You can see from the chart below with mobile devices (smartphones / tablets) with a green dot, that Vernee Apollo Lite does not exactly have the fastest storage.

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

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

I transfered a 278 MB file over SAMBA using ES File Explorer three times to test 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz and 802.11ac performance, and I placed the smartphone in the exact same location where I usually review TV boxes and development boards in order to have results that can be comparable.

Throughput in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

The results are quite surprised because Vernee Apollo Lite has both one of the worst WiFi performance with 802.11n @ 2.4GHz averaging 1.4 MB/s, and one of the best 802.1ac performance averaging 6.5 MB/s in my environment. Download and upload speeds are similar with 802.11n, but there’s an asymmetry with 802.11ac, as downloads average 9.5 MB/s, and uploads only 5 MB/s.

Rear and Front Facing Cameras

Rear Camera

I’ve taken photos with different focus points, and light conditions using “high quality” settings with renders 5376×3024 resolution JPEG images with quality set to 95. You can find 26 photo samples in the linked Google Photo album.

Click to Access Photo Album

Click on the Image to Access the Photo Album

The way the camera focus works is a little weird, as it only relies on focus before you press the button, and once you press the button, it assumes focus is already done, and shots immediately. In my case, this led to many pictures looking a little blurry or washed out due to a lack of good focus.

I also shot two videos using the default settings (medium). The first one during day time.

Video details: 3gp container, H.264 video codec @ 17087 kbps, MPEG-4 AAC stereo @ 48,000 Hz / 12 kbps, 1920×1080 resolution, 30 fps.

The second one during night time.


Video details: 3gp container, H.264 video codec @ 8250 kbps, MPEG-4 AAC stereo @ 48,000 Hz / 12 kbps, 1920×1080 resolution, 14 fps.

So overall, the rear camera is clearly not the strong point of this smartphone.

Front Camera

I’ve also take a few pictures with the front camera, which can be found in a Google Photo album. The images native resolution is 2560×1920.

vernee-apollo-lite-front-camera

Click on the Image to Access the Photo Album

I also made a 1h30 video call with Skype using the front camera, and the quality was perfectly satisfying.

Video Playback

I manually installed Antutu Video Tester 3.0 app in the phone in order to evaluate video playback, and Apollo Lite got 849 points, which remains acceptable, but still not reaching the best devices that achieve a little over 1,000 points.

vernee-apollo-lite-antutu-video-tester-3-0

The partially supported videos were so, because of failed audio playback of AC-3, DTS, and Flac audio.

vernee-apollo-lite-audio-failure Seven videos completely failed to play, but it’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason since for example, MKV files could be played, as well as videos with AVC codec, but a particular MKV + AVC video failed to play at all.

vernee-apollo-lite-video-failure

Battery Life

Vernee Apollo Lite battery is the most significantly improved over my previous phone. The large 3,180 mAh battery allows for well over 24 hours of use, with my typical use case being 3 to 4 hours a day browsing the web, watching YouTube videos, and checking emails. My previous phone, Iocean M6752, would barely last from morning to evening, but not quite reaching bed time.

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Click to Enlarge

Another big improvement is that charging from basically 0% to 100% just takes one hour, while Iocean M6752 would take 3h30 to charge to 100% (one hour to 90%) while new, and 18 months, it’s even slower to reached an acceptable charge level.

In order to give a more formal evaluation of battery life, I ran LAB501 Battery Life app‘s web browsing, video playback (720p), and gaming tests. I started from a full charge until the battery  level reached about 15%, with Wi-Fi & cellular (3G, no data) enabled, and brightness set to 50%.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Vernee Apollo Lite results

  • Browsing (100% to 15%) – 467 minutes (7h47).
  • Video (100% to 15%) – 396 minutes (6h36), or about 3 to 4 typical movies.
  • Gaming (100% to 15%) – 261 minutes (4h21)
vernee_apollo_lite-battery

Battery life in minutes

Vernee Apollo Lite’s 3,180 mAh battery, compares to the 2,300 mAh battery in Iocean M6752 smartphone, and 3,550 mAh battery in Infocus CS1 A83 7″ tablet.

The only real downside about battery life is that “Phone Idle” may consume a little too much, as the battery level drops between 20 and 25% overnight. Some members of Vernee complained about this since “OTA-2” firmware update, so a subsequent firmware update may improve this.

Miscellaneous

Bluetooth

I could pair the phone with other Android devices, and transfer photos and files between them. Bluetooth LE works fine too, as I could retrieve fitness data from my Bluetooth 4.0 smart fitness band using Smart Movement app. I also used a Bluetooth 3.0 audio headset successfully.

GPS

GPS fix is super fast, as test with GPS Test, and maps app such as Google Maps or MAPS.ME. Accuracy is not perfect however when using Nike+ Run Club, the new version of Nike+ Running. The screenshot above shows the map and running path as shown from the app when WiFi and GPS “High accuracy” are enabled, and when only GPS device is used with WiFi disabled.The latter was tested since I’ve previously found out that disabling WiFi could greatly improve GPS accuracy.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I follow a road around a stadium, so it should be a nice regular ellipse like shape, and it’s not perfect both in “High accuracy” mode with GPS , WiFi, and Cellular network, and in “Device only” mode with WiFi disabled. It’s basically the same. The undulations are about 5 to 15 meters which may be within GPS accuracy (TBC).

One problem I have with Nike+ Run Club is that the screen will turn off after 30 seconds (or whatever settings are set in Android), while the old app Nike+ Running had no such issues. I’ve worked around the issue by setting Settings->Display->Sleep to 30 minutes in Android settings before I go for a run.

Gaming

Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Bleach, and Riptide GP2 all played very smoothly as expected with an ARM Mali-T880 GPU. So I tried a more demanding 3D racing games with CSR Racing 2, and again it felt the game was rendered at 60 fps, or close to this framerate.

Others

Multitouch app reports the touchscreen supports 5 touch points. The smartphone looks like it has stereo speakers since it has two sets of holes on the bottom side. However, I can mute the phone, by covering one of the hole… I’d say audio quality through the speaker is only average, and I recommend using headphones whenever possible, or external speakers. I also find myself often muting the phone inadvertently by placing my thumb right on the speaker location. It would have been much better to place the speaker on the back of the phone instead.

Video Review

If you’d rather see the smartphone in action, I’ve shot a video showing some of the settings, benchmark results, the camera function, GPS fix speed, gaming with Riptide GP2 and CSR Racing 2, handling a large PDF, and show there are no stereo speakers, but only one speaker.

Conclusion

Vernee Apollo Lite has good firmware, fast and stable (after I moved apps to internal storage), with performance similar to Samsung Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6 according to benchmarks, 802.11ac performance is one of the best I’ve seen, and the battery life is much better (~ 24 hours) and charging times much shorter than my previous Mediatek phone.. However it’s not quite perfect, as the camera does not always deliver pretty pictures, which has probably more to do with the firmware than the hardware itself, the company has gone cheap with the eMMC flash, 2.4 GHz 802.11n performance is poor, despite being stable,

PROS

  • Fast Mediatek Helio X20 (M6797) deca-core processor
  • Plenty of memory (4GB RAM)
  • Good 1920×1080 display
  • Excellent Wi-Fi 802.11ac performance
  • Outstanding gaming performance
  • Long battery life, and short charing time (~1 hour)
  • Fast GPS fix, and relatively accurate
  • OTA firmware update support
  • Support forums

CONS

  • Photos taken with the rear camera are not always very clear, with what looks like an auto-focus issue.
  • 4K video recording is supported by Helio X20, but not implemented in the current firmware.
  • Adoptable storage option with micro SD card may cause problems with apps crashing or losing features like widget support.
  • Poor WiFi performance while using 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz (with my router)
  • eMMC flash with average performance leading to longer boot time (~35 to 40 seconds) and app loading times (CSR Racing 2 feels especially slow to load races)
  • The back of the phone gets rather warm when running benchmarks or playing games.
  • Mono speaker only, and quality is just average. It’s also poorly placed on the bottom side of the phone where it is easy to cover it up.
  • GPL source code not released yet

Tomtop kindly sent Apollo Lite smartphone for review, and if you are interested in the phone, you could consider purchasing it from them for $209.99 including shipping with ApolloLite068 coupon. There are also several other sellers offering the phone including GearBest, GeekBuying, eBay, and Aliexpress for $227.99 and up.

Zidoo X9S Realtek RTD1295 Android & OpenWrt TV Box System Info & Benchmarks

September 9th, 2016 19 comments

Zidoo X9S is the first Android TV box based on Realtek RTD1295 quad core Cortex A53 processor that I’ve received for review. So in this post, I’ll show some system information with CPU-Z, and Android & OpenWrt Settings, and run typical Android benchmarks such as Antutu 6.x, Vellamo, and 3Dmark.

Zidoo X9S / Realtek RTD1295 Android System Info

CPU-Z detects Realtek RTD1295 is a quad core ARM Cortex A53 processor clocked between 600 MHz and 1.4 GHz with an ARM Mali-T820 GPU, and uses an unknown governor… But in adb shell, tje command “cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_governor” reports an ondemand governor is used.

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The system runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 4.1.17 (I think it’s the first time I see a Linux 4.x kernel used in a TV box…), and with 1920×1080 resolution. Total RAM is shown to be 1672 MB, most probably because some RAM is reserved for the GPU and VPU out of the 2GB RAM. There’s only 8.91 GB internal storage out of the 16GB eMMC flash, which is quite lower than on other TV boxes, but there’s at least one reason for this: OpenWrt is also running in the box. Zidoo however told they plan to optimize this in order to offer more space to the user.

realtek-rtd1295-storage-ntfs-exfat-ext4-sata-usb3Another interesting aspect of Realtek RTD1195 is support for USB 3.0 and SATA storage, and with the 12V/3A power supply that comes with the box, I could connect both a USB 3.0 hard drive to the USB 3.0 port, and a SATA drive (CNXSoft shown above) to the external port.  My USB 3.0 drive has 4 partitions, and with the exception of BTRFS, all other file systems could be mounted: NTFS, exFAT, and EXT-4. NTFS is implemented with Paragon NTFS, a commercial implementation, which usually delivers much better performance than NTFS-3G.

Zidoo X9S / Realtek RTD1295 OpenWrt System Info

So let’s have a look at OpenWrt. First I can see some OpenWrt process within Android using adb shell:

and I also scan Zidoo X9S IP address from my Ubuntu machine to discover a few oen ports:

So there are port SSH and HTTP ports running, but you can’t access SSH just yet, as you need to set the root password first. To do, you can access the configuration page from Zidoo (http://127.0.0.1), or any browser on your LAN (http://[ZIDOO-X9S IP address]). zidoo_openwrt_rtd1295_luciIt should redirect you to LuCI interface, and you can login with no root password. There’s a security issue here, as your personal files may be exposed if you forget to set the root password, or to disable OpenWrt if you don’t need it.

zidoo-openwrt_set_password In order to set the root password, go to System->Administration input your password, and click on Save & Apply.

Now that we have configured the system, we can check the status, and see that it’s running OpenWrt Chaos Calmer 15.04.

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You can also enable/disable some OpenWrt services within Android itself by going to Settings->More->Openwrt Settings.

Zidoo X9S / Realtek RTD1295 Benchmarks

Zidoo X9S got 34,973 points in Antutu 6.x, in the expected range for a quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz. The result is  a little lower than  Antutu 6.x for Amlogic S905 processor @ 1.5 Ghz.

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The 3D score is quite faster thanks to the Mali-T820MP GPU, but UX, CPU and RAM scores are lower.

Moving on to Vellamo, Zidoo X9S got 1,457 for Multicore, 831 for Metal, and 2,638 for Browser using Chrome (the stock browser is not an option in X9S firmware). This compares to 1,589 for Multicore and 1,235 for Metal achieved by MINIX NEO U1 TV box based on Amlogic S905 SoC. The browser score for the latter (2,157 points) is not directly comparable since it was done with the stock Browser, not Chrome.
vellamo_zidoo-x9s
Finally, I’ve tested 3D graphics performance again using 3D Ice Storm Extreme 1.2.

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The total score (4,574 points) is surprisingly only slightly higher than on Amlogic S905 with Mali-450MP GPU (4,327), and significantly lower than on Amlogic S912 with ARM Mali-T820MP3 (5,752), which is supposed to have the same GPU as Realtek RTD1295, maybe it’s clocked lower on the latter, or RAM performance has an impact on the score. Zidoo X9S does not come with any heatsink on the processor, but instead a metal shield covered with “graphite nano thermo material”, so it might be a cooling issue too.

MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC Review – Part 2: Windows 10 and Benchmarks

September 8th, 2016 6 comments

I’ve listed specifications and posted photos of MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC in the first part of review, and while NEO Z83-4 is yet another Intel Atom x5-Z8300 device, it’s clear the company has made specific efforts for the thermal design with a large heatsink and aluminum bottom cover, and provided a solid 12V/3A power supply. So in the second part of the review, I’ll check how Windows 10 performs in the device, and run some benchmarks to compare it to other low power Intel mini PCs.

MINIX NEO Z83-4 Setup & System Information

If you’ve connected USB mouse and keyboard, HDMI and Ethernet, a USB 3.0 hard drive to the USB 3.0 port, and the power cord. Pressing the power button on the right side will boot the device.

minix-neo-z83-4_connected

A typical boot will take around 30 seconds to the desktop. My system was already configured with Z83-4 user, possibly because MINIX tested the device before sending it to me, but for the first boot, users should normally go through Windows 10 setup to select the language, configure networking and so on.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

System and Security->System in the control panel shows Z84-3 runs Windows 10 Home 64-bit (activated), and features an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor @ 1.44 GHz with 4GB RAM.minix-neo-z83-4-storageIf we check My Computer we can see the C: drive (eMMC flash partition) has a total capacity of 28.6GB with about 13.1 GB free, and the system also detected partition on my USB hard drive formatted with exFAT and NTFS file systems.

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I’ve take the Device Manager screenshot for people wanting more details about the drivers, and runs HWiNFO64 to show a system summary.

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There’s no surprise here, and the info is basically the same as other x5-Z8300 mini PCs such as Tronsmart Ara X5.

MINIX NEO Z83-4 Benchmarks

I’ve only run PCMARK 8 HOME 3.0 Accelerated benchmark, and skipped the “baseline” benchmark, as systems based on Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor have been benchmarked so many times.

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The results (1,543 points) confirms the system runs well, and NEO Z83-4 even slightly beats the more expensive MINIX NGC-1 Braswell mini PC, which achieved 1,492 points in the same test. It’s also better than Voyo V3 Intel Atom x7-Z8700 mini PC, which in theory should have a better score.

3DMarks results are also as expected, and a bit lower than NGC-1 since Intel Celeron N3150 has a faster GPU.

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You can find MINIX NEO Z83-4 detailed results for Sky Driver 1.0, Ice Storm Extreme 1.2, and Fire Strike 1.1. I also ran Ice Storm 1.2 since that one of the tests I use for comparison with other platforms, and for some reasons, it’s significantly lower than Ara X5 (16,000 vs 19,000).

The device got 656.3 points in PassMark 8 benchmark, a result quite lower than other faster mini PC with Atom x7 or Braswell processors, but the benchmark is quite shorter in duration, so CPU throttling is not a factor in most cases.

minix-neo-z83-4_passmark-8

The eMMC flash performance is average however, since 32GB storage device are often a bit slower than their larger counterparts (64 / 128 GB), but still acceptable.

neo-z83-4-crystaldiskmark-emmc-flashI also tested USB 3.0 throughput, and close to 100 MB/s is about where it should be.
neo-z83-4-crystaldiskmark-usb-3-0-ntfs
MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC has good networking options as it supports both Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac WiFi, and I had no issue connecting to my TP Link AC router the first time.

minix-neo-z83-4_wifi-ac

However, subsequent attempts all failed, with the Device Manager reporting an error with Broadcom 802.11ac WDI SDIO Adapter.

minix-neo-z83-4-broadcom_802-11ac_problemI’m unable to connect to any wireless networks when that happens. But I can either restart the PC, or faster, disable and re-enable the adapter, and I can connect to my two 2.4 GHz networks including one of the same TPLink AC router, but connecting to the 5 GHz access point will always cause the driver to fail…

[Update: I’ve re-tried this morning, and could connect to 5 GHz WiFi… iperf results with full duplex test:

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

WiFI AC performance is quite good in this test. I also performed the test in one direction only (iperf.exe -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104):

That’s Fast Ethernet type of performance, and with my setup it’s an excellent result.

end of update]

So I reverted to Gigabit Ethernet to test the performance with iperf 2 using iperf.exe -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d command line:

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

Performance is OK without being outstanding.

The table below compares the results to some competitors including Tronsmart Ara X5, Kangaroo Mobile Desktop, MINIX NGC-1, Intel NUC5CPYB, Voyo V3, Beelink BT7, and Vorke V1. Results for Ice Storm 1.2 are divided by 20 to make the graphics more readable.

minix-neo-z83-4_vs_ngc-1_vs_tronsmart_ara_x5_vs_voyo-v3_vorke-v1_beelink_bt7One oddity is that NEO Z83-4 has the weakest GPU score, even slightly lower than Tronsmart Ara X5, and storage and passmark results are about equivalent. PCMark 8 is the only benchmark that seems to show the strength of the platforms.

MINIX NEO Z83-4 Usability and Stress Testing

I’ve run most of the same test as on other mini PCs with 4GB RAM to see how well they can be used as desktop PC replacement, or at least as an Entry level computer, by running multiple programs, playing games, etc… I replaced my Kodi test, with always the same decent results in those Atom mini PCs, by checking out MINIX options in the BIOS.

  • Multi-tasking – Using Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, and Gimp at the same time
  • Web Browsing
    • Loading multiple tab with CNX Software blog in Firefox
    • Playing 1080p YouTube Videos in Firefox 48
    • Playing a flash game (Candy Crush Saga) in Firefox
  • Gaming with Asphalt 8
  • MINIX UEFI Settings

MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC did well for all of those tests considering it’s a long end PC, and the performance is solid and constant. Adobe flash CPU usage was quite high in Firefox, and may perform better in Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

I also ran OCCT 4.4.2 system stress tool for three hours, and the computer stayed cool all the time only reaching 63 C max, with an average CPU frequency of 1.6 GHz between the base frequency (1.44 GHz), and the maximum burst frequency (1.84 GHz).

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MINIX Feature Configuration in BIOS / UEFI

MINIX has also fone some work in the BIOS. So I’ve check their options in Aptio Setup Utility. Press Esc to enter the BIOS when the system boots.

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Then go to Advanced->MINIX Feature Configuration.

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You’ll find option to select between Apple or Nokia/Samsung earphone types for the 3.5mm audio jack, AC Power On if you want the computer to automatically start (without pressing the button) when power is applied, Wake-on-LAN, or RTC wake-up to set a specific date, or specific hour of the day to automatically turn on the computer.

Conclusion

I’ve quite pleased with MINIX NEO Z83-4 mini PC as the performance is stable, and for desktop tasks just as good, if not better, as some other mini PCs based on more powerful Intel Atom x7-Z8700 and Celeron Braswell processors. I also like the extra options in the BIOS, which are not always found in cheaper models, and the only major downside I found is some issue with Broadcom WiFi driver which reports an issue after attempting to connect to my 5.0 GHz / 802.11ac access point, despite initially working [Update: I tried again the day after, and I had no problem connecting to 802.11ac WiFi with very good performance]. 3D Graphics performance appears to be a little lower than expected too, and storage performance is average, if not below average.

Price is also higher than somewhat similar models, but considering the extra features (802.11ac, 4GB, GbE, UEFI options…), it may still be worth paying a little extra. MINIX NEO Z83-4 is much more aggressively priced compared to MINIX NGC-1, as it will sell for $169.90, 169.90 Euros, or 144.90 GBP once it launches on September 16.

[Update: MINIX NEO Z83-4 can be bought on Geekbuying for $169.99 shipped]

Coowell V4 Android TV Box Review – Part 2: Camera, Skype, Google Hangouts and Duo

September 4th, 2016 7 comments

Coowell V4 Android TV box is based on Rockchip RK3368 octa-core processor with 2GB RAM, and 16GB flash, and also includes a camera. In part 1 of Coowell V4 review, I have already taken photos of the device, and torn down the device to have a closer look at the board, and the camera which is based on a GC2145 2MP image sensor. Today, I’ll mostly test the camera and microphone, including firmware compatibility with Skype, Google Hangouts, and the latest Duo by Google app. Finally, it’s been a while since I’ve tested a RK3368 TV box, so I’ll run CPU-Z and Antutu again.

Coowell V4 Hardware Setup and Launcher

Coowell V4 hardware setup is pretty usual, and I connect an Ethernet port, and the USB RF dongle for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse, as well as a USB keyboard to take screenshots. However, while normally I’d use my own HDMI cable, I had to use the provided cable since the device features a mini HDMI port.

Android_TV_Box_Camera_Coowell-V4Once you connect the power the power button LED on the unit turns red, and you need to press the button to boot it up, with the LED switching to blue color. A typical boot takes about 30 seconds. If you don’t use the camera, you can fold it down when you don’t use it if you have privacy concerns.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The launcher is optimized for TV use, and the user interface has a 1920×1080 resolution. It includes shortcuts to other “folders” like Online Video, My recommend, My Apps, Music, or Local, and a shortcut to Settings. It also features a customatizable row of shortcut right under the main buttons. The status bar is there. but can also be hidden. I went to the settings to check video output was set to 4K 60Hz, and it was the case.

Coowell V4 Camera

But let’s get to the main selling point of the TV box: its camera. I’ll start with the camera app.

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The quality is what you’d expect from a 2MP camera, and it will save 1600×1200 JPEG photos, and record 1280×720 MP4 videos.

Coowell V4 Video Conference

Most people who probably such TV box for video conference purpose, so I’ve tried what I consider the most popular video conference apps in Android: Skype, Google Hangouts, and the latest Duo by Google. I’ll describe my experience first, but you can also jump directly to the video demo further below if you want.

Skype

Skype is pre-installed, but I still tried to install the latest version with Google Play, and for some unknown reason type “skype” would make Google Play crash just went I typed the letter “e” with the air mouse. When I tried the pre-installed Skype, I could register an account and login, but calls would not work. So I searched in Google Play again using the USB keyboard, and it let me update the app.

I could use the Echo services to test audio calls successfully, and I also successfully called another laptop for a video call.

Google Hangouts

I had no problem install the app from Google Play, and the first time I tried I got both the caller and callee videos on the screen, but subsequently I lost video on the Android TV box, but both video feeds would still show on the laptop, and audio was still working. So there may have been a network issue in one direction…

Google Duo

Duo is the latest one to one video calling app by Google, which is supposed to be very easy to use compared to something like Hangouts. SO I was eager to test it, but it’s incompatible with the TV box. [Update: I’ve just tried Duo on my phone ,and it requires a phone number, so that’s probably why it won’t work on any TV boxes]

Coowell-V4-Google-Duo

You can watch the device in action with the Camera app, Skype and Google Hangouts in the short video below.

Coowell V4 System Info and Antutu Benchmark

I think my latest RK3368 TV box review was with Zidoo X6 Pro in October 2015, so it’s probably a good idea to check if any have changed since then by running CPU-Z and Antutu 6.x.

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While all other devices with Rockchip RK3368 showed it clocked at up to 1.2 GHz, but RK3368 inside Coowell is instead clocked at up to 1.51 GHz, not that we should not always blindly trust CPU frequencies returned by the kernel. Other info shows 2GB RAM, 12.42 GB internal storage, 1920×1080 screen resolution, and Android 5.1.1 running on top of Linux 3.10.0.

So with that faster CPU clock, we should expect a higher Antutu score, right?

Coowell-V4_Antutu-6

Nope. The score was just 23,445 points, while this type of device should have a score in the 3x,xxx. I repeated the test again in case something went wrong, but the device only achieved 22,870 points in my second try. I also noticed audio noise instead of music, during 3D graphics benchmarks for both tests.

GearBest kindly provided Coowell V4 review sample, and they are currently selling it for $72.30 shipped. You’ll also find the device on Aliexpress for $68 and up, as well as eBay and Amazon US.

Review of Vernee Apollo Lite Smartphone with Mediatek Helio X20 SoC – Part1: Unboxing, First Boot and Benchmarks

August 31st, 2016 4 comments

Vernee Apollo Lite is the little brother of Vernee Apollo, both based on Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core Cortex A72/A53 SoC, but with the Lite version having lower hardware specs otherwise, and being one of the few ARM Cortex A72 smartphones selling for less than $200 (at least in China). Tomtop, a Chinese online store, sent me a sample for review, and today, I’ll start by going through the tech specs, then check out the phone design and its accessories, and finally run a few benchmark, before posting a more detailed review in one or two weeks, where I’ll have more experience and feel about the phone.

Vernee Apollo Lite Specifications

I had posted some specs about the phone when it was first released, but they were incomplete at the time, and Vernee now released the full specs for their Apollo Lite:

  • SoC – Meaitek Helio X20 (MT6797) deca-core processor with 2x Cortex A72 cores, 4x Cortex A53 cores, and 4x low power Cortex A53 cores, as well as ARM Mali-T880MP4 GPU
  • System Memory – 4GB LPDDR3 RAM
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash  + micro SD card slot (up to 128GB) share with one nano SIM card slot
  • Display – 5.5″ full HD (1920×1080) 2.5D display with Gorilla Corning 3 glass; 5-point touch
  • Camera – 16.0MP rear camera with dual LED flash, 5.0MP wide angle front-facing camera. Video up to 4K2K @ 30fps; 1080p @ 60fps
  • Cellular Network
    • 2G – GSM 900/1900/2100MHz
    • 3G – WCDMA 900/2100MHz
    • 4G – FDD-LTE 800/1800/2100/2600MHz
    • Dual SIM dual standby (DSDS): 1. Micro SIM + Nano SIM; 2. Micro SIM + micro SD card
  • Wireless Connectivity – Dual band 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, A-GPS
  • USB – USB Type-C OTG port
  • Misc – Pressure type fingerprint scanner, gyro, compass, hall effect, gravity sensor, ambient light sensor, touch sensor, LED notification light
  • Power Supply – 5V/7V/9V @ 2.0A/12V @ 1.5A power supply compatible with Pump Express 3.0
  • Battery – 3,180 mAh LiPo battery
  • Dimensions – 152 x 76.2 x 9.2 mm
  • Weight – 175 grams

The phone runs Android 6.0.

Vernee Apollo Lite Unboxing

The device comes in a black retail package with “Vernee Apollo Lite” text on the top, and some specifications on the bottom of the package.

Vernee_Apollo_Package

The phone ships with a 5 to 12V fast charger, a USB-C to USB cable, a user manual, a card with a QR code linking to www.vernee.cc, and a “SIM needle”.

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Apollo Lite smartphone build quality feels good and sturdy. The screen is slightly curved on the edges (hence the “2.5D display” I suppose), with the front having the usual camera and light sensor, and the back a camera with dual color LED flash, and the finger print sensor right under it.

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The bottom of the phone include two speakers and the USB type C port used for charging, and since its a USB OTG port according to the specs, you should also be able to connect other USB devices with the right adapter.

Vernee_Apollo_Lite_Speakers_USB-C

The 3.5mm audio jack is not dead yet after all, and you can find one on the top of the device.

Vernee_Apollo_Lite_Headphone_Jack

One of the side features the power and volume buttons….Vernee_Apollo_Lite_Buttons…while the other side has two slots for your Micro/Nano SIM card(s) and/or micro SD card. This is where you need the “SIM needle” to pull out the two slots where you can place your cards. The top one supports SIM and SD cards, the bottom one only SIM cards.

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The enclosure does not seem designed to be easily opened, so I’m unsure whether the battery is replaceable.

You can also watch the unboxing video if you please.

Vernee Apollo Lite First Boot and OTA Update

The phone is little slow to boot, as it typically does so in about one minute, but hopefully, it’s not something you’ll often have to do. The device is using stock Android Launcher, and you have all basic apps (I installed Antutu and CPU-Z myself) you’d expect including Google Play Store.

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The About section reports the phone is named “Apollo Lite” and runs Android 6.0 on top of Linux 3.18.22. The source code has not been released yet, but people have been asking in the Forums in the last week or so, as Vernee has done so for some other of their phones.

After I installed a 32GB micro SD card in phone, I was asked whether to use it as Internal storage or Portable storage, and I went for the former. After micro SD card format completed, I had about 54 GB device storage. After connecting to WiFi, I also went to check for firmware update, and one released two days ago (29/08/2016).

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I could download it, but sadly it failed to apply showing the Android logo with Error string. I also noticed many apps, including Firefox and QR Droid, are crashing when I attempt to start them. So that’s not really the best of start. I’ll check out the forums to see if I can get some help, and solve my issues.

Vernee Apollo Lite System Info and Antutu Benchmark

Luckily both CPU-Z and Antutu 6.0 are running just fine. The first properly detect Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core processor, and an ARM Mali-T880MP GPU.

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The reported CPU frequencies are likely wrong however, as all cores should not be able to reached 1.85 GHz. Vernee is the new brand of NewBund, so that’s why the company is listed as the manufacturer. The screen resolution is 1080×1920 with 400 dpi, there’s 3842MB RAM in total, and 25.16GB available from the internal eMMC flash.

Antutu 6.x score is the fastest of all devices I own with 81,623 points, helped with Cortex A72 cores, and a fast ARM Mali-T880MP GPU.

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That’s all for today. Tomtop kindly provided the sample for review, and if you’d like to purchase one you can do so on their website for $225.99 including shipping, and even bring that down to $218.99 with APOLLO7 coupon ($7 discount). The phone can also be purchased on a variety of other online shops including GearBest, GeekBuying, eBay, and Aliexpress for $227.99 and up.