A few days ago, I saw some benchmark results showing Xiaomi M3 smartphone powered by Snapdragon 800 SoC getting a ridiculous score above 80,000 points in Antutu, but thought it was really odd, and it turned out to be a fake Antutu screenshot. The actual scores for Snapdragon 800, are much lower, yet one of the fastest mobile platform ever, according to benchmarks performed by Engadget, which hold of Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Tablet and Smartphone MDPs.
Engadget provided comparison of the benchmark for 12 devices, but I selected the 4 most powerful of the lot in the table below.
Exynos 5 Octa is the slowest of the lot, probably because of the maximum 1.6 GHz CPU clock used in Galaxy S4. Nvidia Tegra 4 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 appears to be evenly matched in the few benchmarks that are available for Tegra 4, with Snapdragon 800 getting a better score in Quadrant, but Tegra 4 clearly outperforming the quad core krait processor in 2 other tests. Antutu 3.x scores are almost identical. Bear in mind that Tegra 4 (1.9 GHz) and Snapdragon 800 (2.3 GHz) are both part of reference platforms in those tests, so frequency may have been boosted more than it will be in actual products, as battery life may become an issue at high frequency.
Rockchip first showcased a tablet prototype with RK3168 dual core processor at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair in April, showing lower power consumption compared to RK3066. At the time, tablets based on this processor were still in development, but this has changed as a few RK3168 tablets are now showing up in Aliexpress. Prices for 7″ Android tablets such as Cube U25GT PRO, are now about $110 as low as $75 including shipping, but this should come down as more sellers provide the devices.
Cube U25GT PRO is an updated version of the U25GT pictured above. Here are the specifications of the PRO version:
The device comes with a charger, an earphone, a USB OTG Cable, a user’s manual, and some kind of gift bag.
One of the first things I’ve noticed is the 1.2 GHz frequency, so you’ll have to expect lower CPU performance compared to RK3066 which is normally clocked at 1.6 GHz. The advantage of RK3168 over RK3066 is that it’s manufactured using 28nm process technology vs 40nm process, so it will offer better battery life. The GPU is also different as RK3168 comes with a PowerVR SGX540 compared to a Mali-400 MP4 for RK3066. I’m not sure which one has the best performance, but the benchmarks belows seem to prove the quad core Mali-400 has better performance than SGX540.
kilwatablet.com has run some benchmarks to compare Rockchip RK3168 with AllWinner A20.
AllWinner A20 vs Rockchip RK3168
The Antutu score for RK3168 is about double compared to AllWinner A20, with the biggest gaps being with RAM, CPU floating-point performance, and 3D GPU performance. They also claim A20 and RK3168 are in the same price range, but I don’t quite believe this, as A20 is about the same price as A10, and I’ve read it sells for $7.5 per unit in quantities. RK3066 usually scores between 11,000 to 12,000 in Antutu, so this confirms RK3066 should have the edge in term of performance, and the real selling point of RK3168 is its low power consumption, for decent performance.
After the release of the RK3188 Linux kernel source code last week, Ian Morrison (Linuxium) has managed to boot Ubuntu 12.04 with XFCE desktop on Tronsmart T428. However, as Tronsmart refused to release their source code, further Linux development is likely to happen on Rikomagic MK802 IV, because Rikomagic released the code for their device, so development work will be easier.
AFAIK, this is the first time Linux boots natively on RK3188 devices, so it’s still early stage (no Wi-Fi, Bt or graphics acceleration), but if you still want to give it a try here are the instructions (for T428):
Create a SDCARD with an Ubuntu 12.04 root file system on it and ensure it is labeled as “linuxroot” (Visit Slatedroid for details)
Flash t428-3.0.36-linuxium-test+-kernel.img as recovery.img with RKAndroidTool. (I can’t find the binary, and my Internet connection does not allow me to access all files right now, but you may want to follow the build instructions to get the image.) [Update: See comment for kernel binary and modules]
Reboot your mini pc, start the Terminal in Android, type “su” to become root, and finally type “reboot recovery” to reboot into Linux.
It’s safe to try as those instructions should not affect your Android installation.
Ian also ran some benchmarks from Phoronix Suite to compare Linux performance in a chroot in Android via Linux Complete Installer (T428-ubuntu-complete) and native Linux (t428-linuxium). The third column is for an RK3066 mini PC (iStick A200) running Linux natively.
None of those tests do not require a graphical interface, and results are pretty close. Native Linux has a slight advantage with many of them, but for some reasons Linux running in Android appears to have a clear edge for PyBench.
PicUntu developers are already aware of this progress, so you can expect RK3188 PicUntu soon. Further details are available on Mini PC G+ Community including logs, kernel config, and some documentation.
USB – 1x USB Host 2.0, 2x micro USB ports including one for power, one USB Host (or OTG?)
So the specs are comparable to other devices.
QC802 Unboxing Pictures
The package contains the device itself, a 5V/2Apower supply, an HDMI cable, a micro USB to USB cable for power, a micro USB to USB adapter and a user manual. There’s also an unboxing video.
The picture of the device shows the 2 microUSB ports, the microSD slot, the full USB port, and HDMI output. They also mention there’s a recovery button to reflash the firmware in case of issue.
First Boot and First Impressions
After connecting your input devices to the USB posts, the device to your TV’s HDMI port, and connected the power adapter, you should see a standard Android Home Screen after a few seconds.
Volume -/+, power, and full screen icons are all available in the status bar, so that’s a positive. AndroidPC.es guys mentioned that the power button will actually fully turn off your device, and not only the display signal.
Looking into the settings menu, the device runs Android 4.1.1 on top of Linux kernel 3.0.36+, but Android 4.2 firmware is expected soon. Out of the 8GB NAND flash, 1GB is reserved for apps, and the rest of data.
They found Google Play to work well on the device, and only failed to install one app called Mitele (incompatible device), a Spanish video-on-demand service.
QC802 uses Realtek RTL8188EUS, and features an internal antenna fixed to the casing. Performance was found to be pretty good, but there was some disconnections from time to time, but apparently the issue could be fixed with an app called Wifi Fixer to make sure the connection is always active.
They also tested Bluetooth with Bluetooth File Transfer app, and found no issues transfer between their smartphone and the device in either direction.
They ran Antutu, Nenamark 2, Vellamo and Epic Citadel benchmarks on the device.
The Antutu score (11,735) is quite lower than other RK3188 mini PCs I’ve used which normally achieve close to 15,000 with the stock ROM (e.g. MK908), and around 17,000 with custom ROMs. However, a closer look at the score shows 0 points for 2D and 3D tests so something clearly went wrong with this benchmark. The CPU and RAM scores are about the same as MK809 and T428.
Other benchmarks provide expected results: Nenamark 2 renders at 60.0 fps (the maximum achievable), Vellamo 1500 (HTML5) / 548 (Metal), and the device gets 4,053 pts in 3Dmark.
MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 720p/1080p – Audio/Video OK
MPEG4 codec, AVI container 720p/1080p – Audio/Video OK
VC1 codec (WMV), 720p/1080p – Audio/Video OK
Real Media (RMVB) 720p RV8/RV9/RV10 – Video OK (No audio in test files)
WebM 480p/720p/1080p – Audio/Video OK.
They could also play Bluray video at about 10Mbps and 20 Mbps, as well as a MOV file @ 14 Mbps from a USB mass storage device. However, I don’t know the storage source (network, USB, or flash).
They also streamed flash videos from the Android web browser smoothly.
2GB RAM improve fluidity between apps. (cnxsoft: One of the main advantage of having 2GB RAM over 1GB RAM to me, is that you can switch from one application to the other without have to fear Android will kill your app. This is especially true for games).
RK3188 performance makes everything very responsive.
Good performance of the GPU.
The firmware still needs adjustment, and an update will be available soon.
The wifi signal enters low power mode when not in use.
If you’re mainly using your Android mini PC or STB to stream videos over the web or your local network, Wi-Fi performance is actually more important than CPU performance, and I’ve recently had quite a few issues with Wi-Fi with both T428 (RK3188 / Broadcom Wi-Fi module) and CS868 (AllWinner A31 / Realtek Wi-Fi module), which were only fixed after upgrading my router firmware. So I’ve decided to re-test most of the mini PCs I own with the upgraded router firmware, and the number are highly confusing, and I found out there’s probably be no easy to way to estimate the overall Wi-Fi performance of any device, and it’s most probably highly dependent on the router used, and its firmware version.
My router is TP-LINK WR940N, a 300 Mbps Wireless N router with three antennas. Since I bought it, I had never upgraded the firmware (3.9.18 Build 100104 Rel.36350n) from 2010. When I test Android mini PCs or media players, I always place the device is the same area which is about 5 meters from the router, but not line of sight, and I transfer a 278 MB file from a SAMBA share in a PC running Ubuntu. I use ES File Explorer to perform the transfer, and I check the time with a stop watch. I write the time, and calculate the throughput. In theory, the NAND flash write speed could also be a bottleneck, but considering the throughput are always less than 3MB/s, and the file is only 278MB, which is less than the amount of RAM, I believe it should not impact the results.
Here are the results I got with the old router firmware since I started doing this test.
Wi-Fi Throughput in MB/s
Matricom G-Box Midnight MX2 is the fastest by a wide margin, and T428 and CS868 have pretty poor performance because they often lost the signal during the transfer.
As I explain in CS868 review, upgrading the router firmware completely changes the performance of CS868, and improves T428 significantly. So equipped with my “new” router with firmware 3.13.9 Build 120201 Rel.54965n, I tested the devices again to see if results would be much different, and if we could find some patterns, e.g. Realtek Wi-Fi module perform better or not. I performed the file transfer three times on each device, to make sure there was not too much variation between transfers.
The updated results show CS868 far ahead, while G-Box Midnight MX2 is not that good anymore, and may have been negatively impacted by my router firmware upgrade. That’s the complete opposite of earlier results.
Wi-Fi Throughput in MB/s
The table below shows more details about the tests and the devices.
Worked the first time, but then failed to transfer the file completely 4 times, so I gave up
I dropped E-Great H5 and Droid Stick A2 from the tests due to lack of time, and Measy U2C is not included into the chart because it could not reliably transfer the file, and I only managed to fully transfer the file once, over 5 attempts. This also happened once with T428, but the 3 other tests worked. As I previously assumed, the connection speed, be it 65 Mbps, 135 Mbps or 150 Mbps, does not actually matter. The conclusion of those tests is a bit disappointing, as the only one I can make is that you can’t really make conclusions. If I had only use the original router firmware, I would have said CS868 Wi-Fi is a disaster, but after firmware upgrade of the router, CS868 is the best ever mini PC I’ve ever seen when it comes to Wi-Fi throughput, and is clearly ahead of any other devices. Bear in mind CS868 only has a chip antenna, and can still easily outperform other device with an standard internal antenna.
With regards to Wi-Fi modules, Realtek RTL8188EUS is both at the top of the chart and the bottom with the new router firmware, so the overall performance seems to depend on overall system design, and the interoperability with the router. One of the advantage of devices based RTL8188 is that the drivers source code is available, Mediatek MT5931 source has recently been “leaked”, but I don’t think Broadcom IC source is available.
Kimdecent sells some cheap RK3188 mini PCs such as QC802 for $76, but instead of sending me yet another RK3188 device, they agreed to send CS868, an HDMI TV dongle powered by AllWinner A31 quad core processor, so that I could review it. This mini PC comes with 2GB RAM and 16GB Flash, the latter being larger than the 8GB flash found in most other devices, and is available for $95 on Kimdecent Aliexpress store. More details about the specifications are available on Unuiga U28 post since the hardware is the same. In theory, AllWinner A31 has a much slower CPU than Rockchip RK3188, but its PowerVR 544MP2 GPU should outperform the Mali-400 MP4 found it the Rockchip processor, and A31 supports 4K2K video decoding. In this post, I’ll show some unboxing picture, give my first impressions, test Wi-Fi performance, video playback capabilities, and run some benchmarks.
CS868 Unboxing Pictures
I received the device in a parcel with lot of bubble wraps, so the package was not damaged, but there’s not much to say about the package as it’s just a no name “mini PC for Android OS” without specifications, or other useful information.
CS868 mini PC and its Accessories (Click to Enlarge)
Inside the package, we’ll find CS868 mini-PC with a metallic casing, a short HDMI cable, a 5V/2A power supply, a microUSB to USB cable for power, and microUSB to USB female cable for the microUSB OTG port of the device, and a not-so-useful user’s manual in English and Chinese explaining how to use Android on mini PCs.
A closer look at the device reveals a fully metallic casing, HDMI male connector, a micro USB OTG port, a micro SD card slot, another micro USB port for power, and a full USB host port. There are lots of ventilation hole on both side for cooling the device.
Since Cortex A7 is supposed to have a lower power consumption, I’ve tried to power the device directly from the USB port of my TV, unfortunately it won’t go further than the boot animation. So I’ve connected the RF adapter for the Mele F10 to the USB port, and used the provided power adapter to power the device, and after a few seconds, the device will boot and you’ll have to choose between 2 launchers:
Standard Android Home Screen
A 3D launcher designed for TV
I’ll keep using the standard Home Screen since I find it a bit more convenient with the input device I use. We have the Volume buttons, and a power button in the status bar, but no option to go to full screen. You’ll also notice a 4K widget, which is an interesting media player I’ll describe in more details in the video section.
I’ve gone to the setup menu to configure Wi-Fi. The device also supports Wi-Fi direct, but not Bluetooth, nor Ethernet, ven with external USB dongles. You can also setup to device for VPN access, as a hotspot, and add a 3G USB dongle. The screen section lets you select 720p, 1080i, and 1080p modes at either 50 or 60 Hz, and you can also choose 1080p24. A slider is also available to let you zoom in/out to adjust your screen overscan if needed. There’s an option for Audio output, but clicking on it, just exits the Settings, so audio pass-through is not available. Screen Lock option is available in the System Settings, so if you require your device to be lock this should be possible (I haven’t tried). Developer options all seem available including USB debugging, CPU usage, GPU usage and more. In the “About tablet” section, we find out CS868 is indeed the model, and this device runs Android 4.1.1 on top of Linux 3.3.0. The firmware is dated 2013/05/06, it’s rooted, and can be downloaded via Kimdecent website.
Google Play worked fine, and I could install most apps I tried such as Antutu, Angry Birds Star Wars, MX Player, YouTube, Dead Trigger, and more. The only exception was Sixaxis Controller, but this is normal behaviour, as the device does not support Bluetooth.
The system is pretty responsive, although It does not feel as fast as RK3188 devices, and I can experience slowdowns just after boot, give it one or two minutes to be fully responsive, and while installing many apps via Google Play. The device did not hang during use, but there are still some annoying issues. I lost audio 3 times during my few hours of testing (reboot required), Wi-Fi failed to initialize once (reboot again), and at one point the device was stuck in the boot animation “AllWinner Tech A31 Quad Core” forever. Restarting the device did not help, so I had to flash the firmware via PhoenixUSBPro.
Contrary to my habits where I have one and only section for Wi-Fi and video testing, today I’ll reserve a full section to Wi-Fi, as I have a story to tell…
As I started to test video playback, and noticed very similar problem to what I experienced with Tronsmart T428, that is 1080p video would just no play smoothly. So I stopped video playback testing, and went straight to my “transfer a file from SAMBA to flash over Wi-Fi” test. The result was catastrophic, as a 278MB file took 7m 46s to transfer, at an average rate of about 600KB/s, by far the worst result I’ve ever seen (Other devices usually take 3 to 4 minutes to transfer this file). Real-time transfer speed shown in ES File Explorer fluctuated greatly but never went over 1MB/s. Two consecutive devices with terrible Wi-Fi performance? Impossible!
I remember once I had a USB Wi-Fi dongle that was extremely slow using mixed 802.11b/g/n setting in my router, and the performance improved massively by setting the router to use 802.11g only. So I did that, and the performance improved, but not enough to my taste: 5m 45s (~800KB/s) , and the transfer started very fast at 1.60M/s until 80%, to collapse at the end around 200KB/s.
Then I had an unthinkable idea, what if my router (TP-LINK WR940N v1) , or rather its firmware, was the cause of my Wi-Fi misery?
I went to the router setup interface and found some information about the firmware:
Hardware version WR940N v1/WR941N v4 00000000
Firmware: 3.9.18 Build 100104 Rel.36350n.
A Google search quickly directed me to the firmware download page of my router, with a more recent firmware: 3.13.9 Build 120201 Rel.54965n. So it looked like my firmware was just over 2 years older than the latest available version, I downloaded the file, and upgraded it.
Let’s try that file transfer test again: 1m 30s, or 3.09MB/s. That’s the fastest speed I’ve ever seen with any of the little devices I tested. Of course, I can’t use that number to compare to other devices without repeating the test for the earlier devices (which I may do), but at least Wi-Fi transfer speed won’t be the limitation for the video playback tests.
The moral of the story is that if one of your Android mini PC has poor Wi-Fi performance, don’t start to open the case and try to add an external antenna, check your router has the latest firmware revision first. I’ll have to check the effect this new router firmware has on T428 as well.
CS868 Video Playback
I’ve installed MX Player for this purpose, and made sure the hardware decoder is used, or mention it if software decode is used instead.
Let’s started with samplemedia.linaro.org videos from a CIFS/SAMBA share in Ubuntu 13.04:
VC1 codec (WMV) – Video OK, but audio suffers from short static noise (<1 second) from time to time
Real Media (RMVB) 720p – OK for RV8/RV9/RV10, but MX Player switched to SW decode
WebM 480p/720p/1080p – OK
I’ve also played several movies in AVI, VOB and MKV container formats, and they could all play, although for some files buffering at the start was pretty long (20 to 30 seconds), and some, but not all, appeared to suffer from audio/video sync issues. MOV videos from my Canon point and shoot camera will buffer as with all other devices I’ve tried (over Wi-Fi). The status bar will automatically hide when playing videos.
I’ve also tried higher bitrate videos:
ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – The start is OK, but in some scenes where the bitrate must increase a lot, the video is very choppy.
big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
hddvd_demo_1080p.mkv (1080p VC1 – 17.5 Mbps) – The video can’t play smoothly most of the time.
There’s very good support for different audio codecs on the device:
AC3 – OK
Dolby Digital 5.1 and Digital+ 7.1 – OK
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK
I’ve also tried with one of my 4K2K video samples: HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4. At 60Mbps, it’s impossible to play over Wi-Fi, so I copied to the flash, and played it with MX Player. The only problem is that is uses software decode on that file, so I had to revert to using 4K Video Player included with the device, and it played perfectly.
4K VideoPlayer really showcases the power of AllWinner A31 VPU, as you can see your video file lists in thumbnail, and all 15 thumbnails are playing your videos. You can also open several videos and arrange them in different windows. I tried with 4, and they all seemed to play simultaneously smoothly. Watch the video below to see what it looks like. It may not be that useful, but I find it’s pretty neat.
I’ve installed both Antutu 3.3, and Quadrant, but the latter refused to run.
T428 got about 15200 points, and as expected CS868 gets a lower score with 10,559 points. The RK3188 device is almost twice as fast when it comes with RAM, and CPU integer and floating point scores, which is due both because of the difference architecture (Cortex A7 vs Cortex A9), and frequency (1.0 GHz vs 1.6 GHz). The GPU scores are about the same, although I expected A31 to outperform RK3188 in this particular test. The flash write speed seems much better in CS868 compared to T428 (35.8MB/s vs 7.1 MB/s), but I’m not sure how reliable this test is.
Quadrant and Antutu system information show the CPU frequency ranges between 120 and 1008 MHz, the screen resolution is 1280×720, there’s a total of 1660 MB RAM available to the system, the rest being probably reserved for the VPU, and about 1200 MB are available. The 16GB NAND flash is partitioned into 2 partitions: a 1GB partition for apps with 746MB available, and a 12.24 GB partition that is basically empty.
CS868 looks like a pain to open, so I skipped that part. Luckily, Linuxium did it before me, and we can still have a look inside.
Click to Enlarge
The board is fitted with a largish heatsink.
(Click to Enlarge)
Once we removed it we can see AllWinner A31, the 16GB flash, and 4 RAM chipsets, but the pictures are quite not clear enough the see the name of the components. [Update: Better pictures are now available on G+ Mini PCs' Community]
(Click to Enlarge)
On the other side, we’ve got four more RAM chipsets, and flash, as well as what looks like a Realtek Wi-Fi module. There are also 6 pads (LED, 3V3, D-, D+, GND, and WPS), but none of those should be useful for serial access. Maybe it’s now possible to debug using D-/D+ pins (USB), I don’t know.
CS868 mini PC has potential, but as it stands the firmware need some improvements, as HDMI audio may cut, and once Wi-Fi failed to initialize. I also had to re-install firmware since the device refused to boot, however I may be partially at fault here, as several times I just disconnected and reconnect power to reboot the device without using the power button first. Performance wise, CPU performance is much slower than RK3188 based devices, and 3D GPU tests appear to be roughly equal according to Antutu, so A31 devices may have to be priced lower than RK3188 to become more interesting. Video playback is where CS868 stands out, it managed almost all files I threw at it, with the only issue being WMA audio, and some long buffering time with a few videos. HDMI pass-though could be a nice feature to have for some.
Concerning Linux support, the main advantage of AllWinner A31 devices such as CS868 is that the source code for Linux and U-boot is already available, and this may take a few more months before RK3188 source shows up. However, performance in Linux is likely to be poor for a quad core devices, and GPU acceleration won’t be available due to the PowerVR GPU. Ian Morrison ran a subset of Phoronix Suite tests in a chroot in Android, and found that for some tests results are about the same or even lower than Rockchip RK3066 devices, mostly those relying on single core performance.
Geekbuying was kind enough to send me another RK3188 mini PCs for review. Tronsmart T428 is very similar to MK908 I reviewed earlier, with 2GB RAM and 8GB flash, but the latest device runs Android 4.2.2, its Wi-Fi module supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, and T428 can also be used as a Miracast Display. Geekbuying sells for the device for $96.99 including shipping, but before to buy the device I strongly recommend you read the review. I’ll post some unboxing pictures first, then carry on with my first impressions, video playback capabilities, Wi-Fi performance and some benchmarks.
Tronsmart T428 Unboxing
I received the device is in the package below.
Tronsmart T428 Packaging (Click to Enlarge)
T428 comes with a short HDMI cable, a 5V/2A power supply, and a USB to microUSB cable for power.
A close look at this mini PC shows the casing is made of plastic and metal (on the lengths), comes with an HDMI male port (my preference), a USB port, a microUSB port for power, an LED, a microSD slot, and a recovery button.
I’ve connected Mele F10 RF adapter to the USB host port, T428 to the HDMI port of my TV, and the power supply to the micro USB port of the device, and we’re ready to go. After a little while, we get a standard Android Home Screen (All apps added by me).
Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)
We’ve got Vol-/+ buttons, Power Button, and sometimes, but not always, the full screen icon… So mostly all good here.
I’ve gone to the setup menu to configure Wi-Fi. The device also supports Wi-Fi direct, Bluetooth (built-in), and you can setup to device with VPN, as a hotspot, and add a 3G USB dongle, but there’s no Ethernet option. The screen section lets you select 1080p or 720p modes at either 50 or 60 Hz, as well as 576p50 and 480p60. There’s also a slider to let you zoom in/out to adjust the UI to your screen. There’s no option for HDMI audio output, so HDMI audio pass-through is not available. There are plenty of options available in Developer options including USB debugging, CPU usage, GPU usage and many more. In the “About device” section, the model number is T428, and the device is running Android 4.2.2 with Linux kernel 3.0.36+… The firmware version is 2013/04/19.
I’ve installed several applications with Google Play including Antutu, ES File Explorer, Angry Birds 3D, MX Player, YouTube, Facebook.., and everything went smoothly. The firmware does not come rooted, but RK3188 rooting instructions (Windows only) worked fine.
All applications could run smoothly, and the firmware is stable, and the only issue I encountered, which I reckon is a major one, is that Wi-Fi signal will drop from time to time [Update: I resolved Wi-Fi stability issue by updating my router firmware, see CS868 review for details] . T428 does not overheat. I’ve also managed to pair a Sixaxis game controller (not possible with MK908 firmware), but I haven’t been able to play games yet, since more work is needed (Droidmote setup). But that’s for another blog post. [Update: I wrote instructions showing how to play Games with a PS3 Bluetooth controller]
T428 Video Playback and Wi-Fi Performance
I’ve just installed MX Player to test video playback, making sure H/W decoding is enabled for the video I tested.
I started testing with samplemedia.linaro.org videos from a CIFS/SAMBA share in Ubuntu:
H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK, but the video plays for 1 or 2 seconds, then freezes to buffer a few seconds, then plays normally until the end. So this issue is minor, and mainly annoying for reviewers…
MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p - OK.
MPEG4 codec, AVI container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK.
VC1 codec (WMV) – 480p/720p/1080 OK, but there’ a thin line with artifacts at the bottom of the screen
Real Media (RMVB) 720p – OK for RV8/RV9/RV10.
WebM 480p/720p/1080p – OK
I’ve also tried several full movies (AVI and MKV), and I did not notice buffering issues. Video playback looks relatively bad here, but this is only a Wi-Fi issue, as the signal drops, and sometimes completely cuts off. [Update: A new router firmware mostly fixed the performance issue with this device, so I've also added audio codec and high-bitrate testing below]
T428 supports the following high-quality audio codecs:
AC3 – OK
Dolby Digital 5.1 and Digital+ 7.1 – OK
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK
Even after firmware update, higher bit rate videos can’t play smoothly:
ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – It seems to start out somewhat OK, but quickly become unwatchable.
big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – The device can’t play the video smoothly.
To confirm Wi-Fi sucks big time, I’ve copied one 278 MB file between the network share and the NAND flash, and it took 4 minutes 04 seconds (1.14MB/s). I’ve never seen a device with such bad Wi-Fi before. Hopefully this is only a firmware issue. During the transfer in ES Explorer, I can see real-time transfer speed oscillate between 70KB/s and 1.50 MB/s. So it’s not a constant speed, it fluctuates heavily, contrary to all other devices I’ve reviewed. I’ve also removed Mele F10 2.4GHz adapter, just in case it negatively affects Wi-Fi performance, but the result is the same when I use USB keyboard and mouse. There’s an Android 4.1.1 firmware that may fix the issue, but I haven’t tried it.
Wifi Update: After updating the router firmware, I can transfer the same 278 MB file in 3m 02s (1.53MB/s), at regular speed, and the Wi-Fi signal does not drop any more. Since I’ve updated the router firmware, I can’t use my historical test results for comparison, and the only other device I’ve tested in this configuration is CS868 mini PC, which transfer tshe same file in 1m 30s (> 3MB/s). So even though Wi-Fi is snow table, and perfectly usable, the performance may not be optimal.
T428 Antutu and Quadrant Benchmarks
The device could achieve good results with both Antutu and Quadrant benchmarks.
With 15207 points, T428 scores a little higher than MK908 (14,464), but both are still on the same range. Finless ROM can boost the score to about 17,000.
Tronsmart T428 Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)
Tronsmart T428 gets about the same score as HTC One X smartphone (Snapdragon S4 or Tegra 3).
Contrary to MK908, 2D and 3D tests were very smooth in both benchmarks. System information section shows the frequency can oscillate between 312MHz and 1.6GHz, the SDK is rk31sdk, and the board is said to be rk30board. The resolution is 1280×672, there’s 1606.7MB RAM available out of 1914.7MB (After running advanced task manager). The “internal partition” is 504MB large with just 76.41MB available, and there’s 5.24GB available in the “NAND flash” (data partition) out of 5.82GB.
Inside Tronsmart T428
Sorry nothing here today. I’ve tried to open the device, but failed, as some part of the casing seem glued, and as I pushed the metallic part of the casing, I could see I bended them a bit too much to my taste. I’ve also been told there’s no easy way to open it, so if you want an hackable device, this may not be the one for you.
[Update: Ian Morrison managed to open it (Click for pictures), but he mentions it's not designed to be opened, an you're likely to damage the case trying to do so]
Tronsmart T428 is fast, smooth and stable (as in no crashes or hung system) just like MK908, unfortunately Wi-Fi performance ruins it all. This is a shame as all other aspects of. [Update: Wi-Fi has become stable after a router (TP-Link WR940N) firmware upgrade]. This device seems promising: Full screen and power buttons, Miracast Display support, all video codecs I’ve tried seems to be supported fine, support for 5GHz can help if there are lots of 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi hotspots in your location …
Considering the terrible Wi-Fi performance, I can’t recommend Tronsmart T428 at this stage, and you’d better go with Tronsmart MK908 which works much better, at least until we’re sure a new firmware can fix WLAN reliability and performance issues. After resolving T428 / TP-Link router interoperability issues by updating the router firmware, my assessment of T428 has completely changed, and the device is actually pretty good, with only minor issues, such as an internal flash partition for apps that I find too small (504MB), and fills up too quickly, the lack Ethenet support (USB dongle), no support for HDMI pass-through…