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Wintel W8 Review – Dual Boot Android & Windows TV Box

April 27th, 2015 8 comments

Wintel W8 (aka Kingnovel K8) is an Intel Atom Z3735F mini PC inspired from Sunchip Wintel CX-W8 (the hardware is a little different), but instead of just running Windows 8.1, the device can dual boot Android 4.4 and Windows 8.1 with Bing. I’ve already taken pictures or torn down Wintel W8, so today, I’ll focus on the software part of the review, first checking dual boot functionality and Windows 8.1 broefly ince it should be very similar to MeLE PCG03, before spending more time on Android as it’s my first Android Intel platform.

Dual boot in Wintel W8

When you boot the device, you can select Android or Windows icon, with a 10 second timeout that will boot your latest choice. There’s no menu within Windows to start Android, and vice versa, so to dual boot you need to reboot first, and select the operating systems right after UEFI. The best way to checkout how this all work is to watch the short demo below where it first boot into Android, reboot, and switch to Windows.

If you watched the video, you must have noticed that if you change OS, it will reboot again. One person on Google+ mentioned that the system is switching between the 32-bit UEFI firmware (for Windows) and 64-bit UEFI firmware (for Android), which would explain why it needs to reboot, and you have to make sure you don’t turn off the device, or a power failure occur during that process, or you may brick your device! Same thing if you mistakenly try to install Windows 8.1/10 with the 64-bit UEFI firmware.

Wintel_W8_UEFI_BIOS

Click to Enlarge

However, when I checked Aptio Setup Utility both version looked exactly the same whether I selected Android or Windows.

A Quick Look at Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 will bot in about 40 seconds on Wintel W8 because the FORESEE eMMC flash used in the hardware is not quite as fast as the Samsung Class 5 eMMC flash used in MeLE PCG03 and many other Intel Bay trail mini PCs.

Windows 8.1 Metro Interface on Wintel W8 (Click for Original Size)

Windows 8.1 Metro Interface on Wintel W8 (Click for Original Size)

Windows 8.1 with Bing is not activated in my sample, and clicking on activation failed. However, since my sample comes from Kingnovel it’s not a retail sample, and resellers can certainly request for a valid Windows NTE license if required.

Wintel W8 PC Info and Storage in Windows 8.1 (Click for Original Size)

Wintel W8 PC Info and Storage in Windows 8.1 (Click for Original Size)

Another detail you should probably pay attention when getting a dual boot firmware is the space reserved for Windows… Wintel W8 C: drive is 18.6GB large with 14.8GB free. Considering I already struggled with 32GB space on Mele PCG03, I’d really recommend trying to get a version with 64GB flash, and soon models with 128GB storage will also be up for sale.

Since I’ve already reviewed Windows 8.1 with Bing on MeLE mini PC, and that firmware customizations are not really an option with Windows, that’s all I’ve checked in the Windows side of the firmware.

Wintel W8 Review with Android 4.4

First impressions and Setup Menu

While in Windows, you’ll probably want to connect a wireless or USB keyboard and mouse, these may not be the most convenient in Android, so as usual I connected the RF dongle of my MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse to control the mini PC. I’ve also connected HDMI and Ethernet cables, before powering up the device which will boot automatically as you connect the power adapter. It also takes around 40 seconds to boot into Android.

Android Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

Android Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

The firmware is using the stock Android launcher, with a 1920×1080 resolution. Pre-installed apps include Kodi 15 Alpha 1 and Google Play Store. After setting up Ethernet, and login to the Play Store, I could install all apps required for this review just like on ARM based platforms, but I did notice some games such as Shadowgun: Deadzone, Dead Trigger, Angry Bird Star Wars, etc.. could not be installed, but many other games could. Whatsapp was also greyed out, but not Facebook or Facebook Messenger that both could be installed. I also side-loaded Amazon AppStore and installed Riptide GP2 without issues.

The settings allow you to configure Network settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet, and services including VPN, Tethering and PPPoE. There aren’t any really useful Audio settings, but Day Dream is enabled in the Display settings, and an HDMI section will allow you to compensate for overscan if needed, and select various HDMI output:Wintel_W8_About_Tablet

  • 1080p @ 60/50/30/25/24Hz
  • 1280×1024 @ 60Hz, 1360×768 @ 60Hz, 1152×864 @ 60Hz
  • 720p @ 60 or 50Hz
  • 1024×768 @ 60 Hz, 800×600 @ 60Hz
  • 720×576 @ 50Hz, 720×480 @ 60Hz (16:9 or 4:3)
  • 640×480 @ 60 Hz, 720×400 @ 70Hz

The firmware also has a separate function for video post-processing called “Intel Smart Video” that will “improve video quality by reducing noise and eliminating artifacts with interlaced content”.

Since most storage is reserved for Windows, the partition in Android is only 4.36GB out of the 32GB flash with most of it available.  Developers option can easily be enabled, and Printing menu is enabled by default, although you’ll probably prefer printing in Windows 8.1 instead.

The “About tablet” section indicate the model number is w8, and Android 4.4.4 runs on top of Linux 3.10.20. There’s also a line showing IFWI version 5.6.5, but I’m not sure what that means. The firmware is rooted. You can checkout all Android settings in the 2-minute video embedded below.

There’s an IR receiver, but it’s supposed to only work in Android, and I’m not quite sure how to set it up. One of the most important features of an IR remote control is to allow turning on and off the platform, and there’s no problem with turning off and rebooting the device in Android or Windows 8.1 with MeLE F10 Deluxe or another air mouse, but it’s just not possible to turn it back on without pressing the power button on the unit itself. If you had a power extension with a remote control, you should be able to start the box automatically.

Wintel W8 does not get hotter than ARM TV boxes, as I measured respectively 42 and 50 C on the top and bottom of the case after Antutu 5.7, and 50 and 56 after 15 minutes playing Riptide GP2.

Overall Android on Intel Atom Z3735F feels just like Android on recent ARM platforms such as Rockchip RK3288, with the exception that some games won’t install, and the games experience for some games may not be as good. The firmware is not only smooth, but extremely stable too, and I did not experience any noticeable slowdown or freezes during my testing. The only issues I had was with Kodi 15 Alpha 1 which may exit from time to time or even freeze, but it’s probably because they chose to load an Alpha version of Kodi, instead of Kodi 14.2 stable release.

Kodi 15 Android on Intel Atom Z3735F Processor

I’ve already tested Kodi on Intel both with Kodi 14.1 in Windows 8.1, and Kodi 14.2 in Linux (Ubuntu 15.04), and I was impressed by the performance in both system, although Z3735F does not support HDMI audio in Linux, so I had to use an inexpensive USB sound card instead. Let’s see how Kodi 15 Alpha 1 (pre-installed) works on Intel Atom Bay Trail-T processor by playing videos from a SAMBA share over Ethernet.

Results with video samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus Elecard H.265/HEVC samples, and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p/1080p60 – OK. However 1080p60 video renders at ~36 fps according to Kodi overlay debug info.
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8 (OK, but first time I had a greenish background, which disappeared the second time). RV9, and RV10 –play at 16 fps instead of 25 fps.
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – 360p & 720p OK. 1080p will play only about 3 seconds before freezing. I can’t go back to Kodi, and going back to the Home Screen and restarting Kodi does not work, so I had to reboot the device (Tested twice).
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Some higher bitrate videos could play more or less smoothly:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK
  • 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) – Not smooth, plays at 12 to 15 fps instead of 29.97 fps
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Not smooth, plays at 12 to 15 fps instead of 29.97 fps

HD audio codecs have been tested down-mixed to PCM using Kodi and MXPlayer, and audio pass-through has been tested with Onkyo TX-NR636 using HDMI pass-through with BD/DVD input. I enabled pass-through in Kodi for AC3 and DTS, as well as Dolby Digital transcoding, and did not change anything in Android settings.

Video PCM Output
Kodi
PCM Output
MX Player
HDMI Pass-through
Kodi
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but the video could be smoother No audio OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio Dolby 5.1
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio Dolby 5.1
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio Dolby 5.1
DTS HD Master OK No audio Dolby 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio Dolby 5.1

So the firmware does not support any advanced audio codec as shown with MX Player results, so but since Kodi implements its own audio decoding by software all formats can be down-mixed in Kodi. Lossless audio codecs HDMI pass-through is not supported, but again Kodi handle that by transcoding unsupported audio codec to Dolby Digital 5.1. I’d like to note however that enabled HDMI pass-through makes Kodi relatively unstable, as it might randomly exit when starting to play videos.

Sintel-Bluray.iso could play so unencrypted Blur-ay ISO are supported The two 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play, but GridHD video would sparkle. Both Hi10p H.264 videos failed to play:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – No audio / no video. Back screen.
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – No audio / no video. Back screen.

Bay Trail-T processors can’t output to 2160p (4K UHD), but they should still decode H.264 videos up to 2160p30:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – 10 fps
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – 10 fps
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t start
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Won’t start
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – 10 fps
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Kodi will exit
  • tears_of_steel_4k_H264_24fps.mov – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, plays @ ~20 fps.

My LG 42UB820T television does not support 3D, but I still tested whether the platform could decode some stereoscopic 3D videos:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – Looks OK, but plays at 36 fps instead of 60 fps
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Looks like a still picture slideshow
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

All my AVI, MKV, IFO and MP4 videos (720p/1080p) could play fine without issues such as A/V out-of-sync. Most FLV videos played, but some only had audio with black screen. A full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) could play without interruption and no dropped or skipped frames at all for the whole duration.

Kodi 15 Alpha 1 is not that bad on Intel platform, but it certainly does not perform as well as Kodi 14.x in Windows 8.1, with some videos not playing smoothly, HDMI audio pass-through makes Kodi unstable, and Kodi may exit while starting videos. So I’d still recommend using Kodi inside Windows 8.1 instead of Android 4.4.

Links to various video samples used in this review and be found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and especially in its comments section.

I’ve also run Antutu Video Tester where Wintel W8 gets 460 points about of 700+ possible despite failing to play a fair amount a video due to lack audio codec and HEVC video codec among other things.

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

It’s not quite as good as HiSilicon (700+ points), or Allwinner (600+) platforms, but still better than the score I got with Open Hour Chameleon (Rockchip RK3288): 262 points.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’ve tested networking performance by transferring a 278MB file over SAMBA three times with ES File Explorer. Wi-Fi performance is very good with an average transfer rate of 3.58 MB/s, making it one of the best 802.11n performer.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve repeated the same test with the 10/100M Ethernet connection, which achieves 6.78MB/s which is quite good for a Fast Ethernet connection.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Run iperf instead with the command iperf -t 60 -s server_ip -d confirms the good performance.

Wintel_W8_iperf

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

[  4] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 33327
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.111, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  272 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 59163 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   652 MBytes  91.2 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   423 MBytes  59.1 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I had mixed results with Bluetooth. Photo transfers over Bluetooth between Iocean M6752 smartphone and the box worked fine, but Vidonn X5 smartband (Bluetooth Low Energy) could not be found by the relevant app, and my Wireless PS3 gamepad clone failed to connect with Sixaxis Compatibility checker, although the drivers appears to be there.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be mounted by the system. However, only the NTFS partition of my Seagate USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed.

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

The system also only appear to support one USB storage device at a time, so when I connected my USB flash drive it automatically unmounted the NTFS partition on my hard drive with a notification popping up as follows:

Warning: One more MSC devices attached
Warning:  only one USB mass storage device can be used.

I ran A1 SD Bench to benchmark USB hard drive and internal flash performance, but I have to gave with the former, since I could not find a supported mount point. in ES File Explorer it shows as usb://1004/USB3_NTFS, where USB3_NTFS is the volume name, but this string is not recognized in A1 SD bench.

Read and Write Speed in MB/S (Click to Enlarge)

Read and Write Speed in MB/S (Click to Enlarge)

So finally, I only tested the eMMC which turns not to be so bad after all. It’s still much slower than the 160MB/s achieved with CrystalDiskMark on MeLE PCG03 in Windows 8.1, but compared to Android TV boxes, the read speed is acceptable, and the write speed is very good.

USB Webcam

I could install Skype and Google Hangouts, but once I connected my USB webcam I lost all input to the mini PC (keyboard and air mouse unresponsive) for 30 seconds or so before I could use the system again.

The camera was detected in Google Handhouts (Camera icon shown), but I could not get any image during calls. I tried to call “Echo / Sound Testing services” but I could get the lady voice at all despite the system audio working. Trying to call a real person, who just get me the Android home screen, and start Skype again.

Conclusion: if you want to use Skype / Hangouts on Wintel W8, use Windows 8.1…

Gaming

My three usual test games namely Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2 could all be installed and run on the box. I control Candy Crush Saga with the air mouse, and game play was nice and smooth. I then then switched to Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad for Beach Buggy Racing and Riptide GP2. The former was behaving just like on higher end Android TV boxes, with a higher framerate even with quality settings set to the maximum. Riptide GP2 was playable with high quality settings, but far from optimal, and the user experience appeared to deteriorate with time. I played  15 minutes (5 races), and the game felt slower at the end.

As mentioned in the “First impressions” section, some famous games (Dead Trigger, Shadowngun…) can’t be installed on the platform, and I’m assuming it might be because these have not been ported to x86 target (TBC), so to play Android games better go with Rockchip RK3288, Tegra K1/X1 or Qualcomm Snapdragon S8xx based platforms.

Wintel W8 Android Benchmarks

Before running benchmarks per se, let’s see what CPU-Z has to show for this Intel mini PC.

CPU-Z _ Intel Atom Z3735F Mini PC (Click to Enlarge)

CPU-Z _ Intel Atom Z3735F Mini PC (Click to Enlarge)

It correctly detects an Intel Atom Z3735F processor @ 498 MHz to 1.83GHz processor with HD Graphics. The screen resolution is 1920×1080, total RAM 1887 MB, and it has 4.36GB reserved for Android OS.

Wintel_W8_AntutuWintel W8 got 30,682 points in Antutu 5.7, which is fairly similar to the score with MeegoPad T01 running Android-x86, and I have compared to Rockchip RK3288 processor.  Rockchip RK3288 devices now get around 36,000 to 39,000 points.

Wintel_W8_VellamoBut Antutu can easily be cheated, so I’ve also run Vellamo 3.x, and compare it to the results I got with HPH NT-V6, another Rockchip RK3288 TV Box.

Vellamo 3.x Test Wintel W8
Intel Atom Z3735F
HPH NT-V6
Rockchip RK3288
Browser 2,683 2,549
Multicore 1,423 2,003
Metal 1,077 1,457

The Intel platform slightly outperform the ARM device in the browser test with the stock Android browser, but Rockchip RK3288 clearly has the edge in  metal and multicore benchmarks.

3DMark_Ice_Storm_ExtremeFinally, 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme shows the limitations of the Intel GPU, as 4771 points is significantly lower than 6,400 points in Allwinner A80 platforms (PowerVR GC6230), and 7,000+ points with ARM Mali-T764 GPU found in Rockchip RK3288.

Conclusion

When it comes to Windows 8.1, I don’t believe there’s much difference between vendors with a given processor, in that case Intel Atom Z3735F, except with eMMC speed, and thermal management. Wintel W8 does not seem to overheat at all, and although the eMMC may not be quite as fast as other low cost bay Trail mini PC I find it’s still acceptable. But dual boot with Android is the selling point of this device, and the Android firmware is actually fairly good with Google Play support, and very stable, but some applications like Office, Kodi, and Skype should still better run in Windows 8.1, and 3D graphics performance is a little weak compared to recent ARM targets.

PRO:

  • Dual boot image with Windows 8.1 with Bing and Android 4.4
  • Google Play pre-installed.
  • Relatively fast processor
  • Stable and fast firmware.
  • Very good Wi-Fi and Ethernet (10/100M) performance

CONS:

  • 32GB internal storage may not be enough for many people: 18GB in Windows 8.1, 4GB+ in Android, and it’s a bit slower than other Intel Atom mini PCs, but performance is still decent.
  • 3D graphics performance is a little weak, and some games can’t be installed in Android.
  • Pre-installed Kodi 15.1 Alpha 1 is not quite as stable, and video playaback is not as good as in Windows 8.1, so use Kodi 14/15 in Windows 8.1 instead
  • Skype and Hangouts not working in Android, but should be OK in Windows 8.1
  • Bluetooth Low Energy not supported
  • Windows 8.1 is not activated (in my sample)

The dual boot firmware helps Wintel W8 being a better device, as some of the cons, such as average Kodi or poor Skype support in Android, can easily be worked around by rebooting into Windows. So this type of device could really be great with 64 or 128GB internal storage, as with 32GB it’s likely to be frustrating over time, with the user having to free space regularly.

Kingnovel provide their K8 box for reviews, and resellers / wholesalers can purchase it in quantities (with 32, 64 or 128GB storage) by contacting the company via their Kingnovel K8 product page, or alternatively you could consider Kingnovel K8-II based on the same hardware but with a metal case instead. Individuals can pre-order Wintel W8 with the same dual boot firmware on the partner’s Aliexpress store or Geekbuying* for $126, although I’m not 100% whether Windows 8.1 with Bing is properly licensed, or they simply use the tablet version. Another model called Wintel CX-W8 can be purchased on Aliexpress for less than $100, but with Windows 8.1 only, and most definitely without a proper Windows license at that price.

[Update: * I’ve been told the following:

Geekbuying website which shows the K8 is not released by Kingnovel…
Actually, There are two original manufacturers for K8, There is a true situation need clarify to you.Our software is not the same as other’s.  our software is “A key switch external” for Android OS and Windows OS. it is very stable for running system.their software is “A key switch internal” for Android OS and Windows OS. It need to upgrade bois every time once switched. it will occur big risk for drop procedure easily.
So basically, that should mean Kingnovel K8 should not be easily brickable like Wintel W8 sold on Geekbuying]
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HPC Performance & Power Usage Comparison – Intel Xeon E3 vs Intel Atom C2720 vs Applied Micro X-Gene 1 vs IBM Power 8

April 14th, 2015 6 comments

Last year, the CERN published a paper comparing Applied Micro X-Gene (64-bit ARM) vs Intel Xeon (64-bit x86) Performance and Power Usage, and they’ve now added IBM Power 8 and Intel Atom Avoton C2750 processor to the mix in a new presentation entitled “A look beyond x86: OpenPOWER & AArch64“.
ARM_x86_Power_8_Test_Systems
So four systems based on Intel Xeon E3-1285L, Intel Atom C2750, Applied Micro X-Gene 1, and IBM Power 8 were compared, all running Fedora 21, except the HP Moonshot 1500 ARM plarform running Ubuntu 14.04 and an older kernel. All four systems use gcc 4.9.2, and Racktivity intelligent PDUs were used for power measurement.

I’ll just share some of their results, you can read the presentation, or go through the benchmark results to find out more.

HEP-SPEC06_Results

HEP-SPEC06 Benchmark (Click to Enlarge)

HEP-SPEC06 is a new High Energy Physics (HEP) benchmark for measuring CPU performance developed by the HEPiX Benchmarking Working Group, and here it’s not surprising to see the low power solutions under-perform the more powerful Intel Xeon and Power 8 processors, with the latter taking the crown.

Geant_4_ParFullCMS

Geant 4 ParFullCMS (Click to Enlarge)

Geant 4 simulates the passage of particles through matter, something that you would expect the CERN to do regularly. Intel Xeon E3 outperforms  IBM Power8 processor here.

But let’s move on to power consumption, and performance per watt.

Idle Power Consumption (Click to Enlarge)

Idle Power Consumption (Click to Enlarge)

IBM OpenPower 8 has a much higher power consumption than other systems, and HP Moonshot ARM 64-bit X-Gene 1 consumes more than both Intel servers. The chart under full load (not shown here) also shows a similar pattern.

HEP_SPEC06_Per_Watt

HEP-SPEC06 per Watt (Click to Enlarge)

When it comes to performance per watt however, both HP Moonshot ARM and Power 8 systems are the least efficient here, and Intel systems provide the best ratio. Bear in mind that X-Gene 1 is manufactured with a 40nm process, while Applied Micro X-Gene 2  and 3 will be manufactured using 28nm and 16 nm FinFET processes, so some large efficiency gains could be expected here.

We may find out soon, as the CERN expects to add these two new processors, as well a Cavium ThunderX to their benchmarks in the future.

Thanks to David for the tip.

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How to Compare Systems Benchmarked with Phoronix Test Suite

April 10th, 2015 2 comments

Phoronix Test Suite is an open source benchmark for Linux, Solaris, Mac OS X, Windows & BSD operating systems, but in practice it’s mostly used for Linux OS since other benchmarks solutions are available in Windows, while choices are more limited in Linux.

ODROID-XU3-Lite_Phoronix_Intel_Core_i3_radxa_proThere are many benchmarks to choose from, and you can select the ones you want by running a “batch-benchmarks” from the command line. I’ve done so when testing performance of ODROID-XU3 Lite and Cubieboard4 boards in Ubuntu, and once the tests are completed, the results will be automatically uploaded to openbenchmarking.org.

From there, it’s quite easy to compare recent results as you’ll get an “add to comparison” option on the site, and you can pick a few results.

Phoronix_Add_to_ComparisonYou can select a few systems, and then click on “Compare Results” to get a side-by-side comparison.

If you want to compare your system to an existing system, you can go to existing results (e.g. for HummingBoard), and run the following command on your machine:

phoronix-test-suite benchmark 1504108-LI-HUMMINGBO42

So far, it’s easy. However, I’ve been struggling to compare older results on the site, as I could not find any add to comparison in any of the individual tests. So for example, if you have the following three benchmarks links:

  • ODROID-C1 Debian – http://openbenchmarking.org/result/1504072-LAWB-ODROIDC70
  • Raspberry Pi Board B+ & B boards + Freescale i.MX6 board + Orange Pi – http://openbenchmarking.org/result/1504058-DE-1409189KH88
  • Cubieboard4 – http://openbenchmarking.org/result/1503312-LI-20150331136

You can go to each page to see the results, but unless I missed something, there’s no comparison option on the site itself. However by checking the comparison URL generated on openbenchmarking.org, I found out you can just add the codes to the URL with commas in order to compare the results.

So the URL comparing all three results above would be:

http://openbenchmarking.org/result/1504072-LAWB-ODROIDC70,1504058-DE-1409189KH88,1503312-LI-20150331136

It’s quite simple, but I wished I had found out before…

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Categories: Linux Tags: Linux, benchmark, how-to, phoronix, tools

Xiaomi Mi Box Mini Review

April 4th, 2015 21 comments

After showing pictures of Xiami Mi Box Mini, it’s now time for a “review”, but a bit different from my other reviews, or Xiaomi tiny media player is much different. First the firmware is in Chinese only, and there’s only one external port HDMI output. So first I’ll show the user interface is Chinese, then explain how you can install your own Android apps, and finally run some benchmark to evaluates Mediatek MT8568, Wi-Fi and storage performance.

Xiaomi Mi Box Mini Setup and Chinese User Interface

The device is super small, but in my case it was almost too big, as it takes enough space to potentially cause problems with the adjacent plug.

Mibox_mini_power_extension

This little issue will of course depend on your power extension.  You then need to connect the 1.5 meter HDMI cable, which should be long enough for most setups, and you’ll see some guide asking you to remove the plastic sheet under the battery on the Bluetooth remote, and showing how to use the remote (I guess).

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_SetupAfter that you need to configure Wi-Fi, which should be relatively straightforward even you can’t read a word a Chinese, and then you get to the user interface.Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_User_InterfaceWe are told the box runs Android, but all visual traces of that are gone including the setup.

I’ve recorded a video of the user interface with Zidoo X9 recorder to show what you’d get.

So if you can’t read Chinese, you’ll be up for a struggle, and the only think you may be able to use is Miracast function, although I had mixed luck making it work with my mobile phone (M6752). Alternatively, there’s a QR code in the user manual linking to an app that will allow you to display your mobile’s photos and videos on the big screen.

If you are an oversea Chinese you may have though it could have been a nice option to watch Chinese shows and movie online, but unfortunately most of the content is only copyrighted for China viewing, or you’d need to setup a VPN.

Xiaomi_Movie_Copyright_China_OnlyI’ve been told the two lines in the picture above translated into “Your current region does not support the playback of this channel” and “Downloading source information” so no Fast and Furious 7 for me…

There’s an option to enable adb.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_adb

But I had no luck connecting to the box with adb over Wi-Fi, and whatever setting I choose adb port is not open.

sudo nmap -sS 192.168.0.109

Starting Nmap 6.40 ( http://nmap.org ) at 2015-04-03 16:27 ICT
Nmap scan report for 192.168.0.109
Host is up (0.0065s latency).
Not shown: 994 closed ports
PORT     STATE SERVICE
1080/tcp open  socks
5000/tcp open  upnp
7000/tcp open  afs3-fileserver
7100/tcp open  font-service
9003/tcp open  unknown
9876/tcp open  sd
MAC Address: 10:48:B1:95:5D:86 (Beijing Duokan Technology Limited)

Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 28.07 seconds

Finally, as I tried the box, I got a pop-up for a new firmware that I happily installed. Unfortunately, I turned out to be a bad idea since this also removed the menu required to side-load apks to the board. So I had to downgrade the firmware, something that’s very easy to do since there’s an option for that.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Firmware_DowngradeSimply go to the firmware upgrade menu, and click on the right button, a window will pop-up asking if you really want to downgrade from MIUI TV 1.3.72 to MIUI TV 1.3.76. Accept by selecting the left button.

Changing Xiaomi Mi Box Mini Language and Side-loading Apps

A shop posted video instructions to help users change the language and load apps, including Google Play. To do so, click on the third icon from the left in the launcher, and select the fifth option on the top menu.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Remote_Connection

If the third Blue option is missing, then your firmware may have removed the option to side-load apps, and should you try to downgrade the firmware as mentioned above. If you can’t do that, I don’t know other solutions to change to English and install apps.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Side-load_appsUpon entering the third options, you’ll ne shown an address, in my case http://192.168.0.109:6095/443 that you need to type in your mobile or computer’s browser, and will allow you copy files to the device over Wi-Fi.

Xiaomi Mi Box Mini File Uploader (Click to Enlarge)

Xiaomi Mi Box Mini File Uploader (Click to Enlarge)

A bunch of apk have been provided, including Google services, Google Play, and YouTube, but unfortunately, so the only one you really need to download is Shafaguanjia.apk, as it will allow you to access Android settings, and change the language and input method, as well as upload more apk, which may fail with the Xiaomi uploader. Once the file is transfered to Mi Box Mini, you’ll get the usual installation prompt asking to review permissions before installation, and installation is complete, you should see “Shafa Market” app (in Chinese) shown in the right of the main screen.

Start the app, select the Setup icon to enter the “standard” Android settings, scroll down until your the the options for Language (“A” icon), select the first options, and you should be able to select English, simplified Chinese, or traditional Chinese as shown in the picture below.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_English

Now get a bunch of apk you want to install, for example with APK Downloader, and since the default web uploader does not seem to work for all apk, instead go to the last option to the right of the top menu in Shafa market, and click on the bottom right icon (Computer + Smartphone) in order to get another address to upload, for example http://192.168.0.109:8899.

Shafa_Market_Apk_installation

Upload Option in Shafa Market

The webpage is similar to the Xiaomi one, with a single green button to browse your local storage and install apps.

Shafa_Market_Apk_DownloaderI’ve installed a bunch of application include ES File Explorer, Antutu, Vellamo, CPU-Z, Google Play, Chrome (there’s no web browser by default), Amazon appstore, Kodi 14.2, and so on. For some unknown reasons, Firefox Android browser was transfer to Xiaomi box but the installation window did not show up. Once you have installed Shafa Market, you can safely upgrade your Xiaomi Mi Box Mini firmware.

Xiami_Mi_Box_Mini_App_InstallationThe Bluetooth is a standard remote, e.g. not a magic remote with pointer, so many android apps won’t work. You should be able to work around this by using a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, but I don’t happen to have any, and since the device is not rooted it might not be possible to install a server (e.g. DroidMote) to be used with a smartphone remote app. So I had to give up on using Amazon Appstore, 3Dmark benchmark, and iperf, and I did not even bother side-loading any games for that reason. Chrome browser is working, but you may have to select “Request desktop site” with the menu key in order to be able to click on links…

If you want to see I’ve shot another video with the user interface in English and a few extra apps.

Since I forgot to include Kodi in the video above, and I’m sure some people would ask, I’ve also tried to play a few samples including Sintel Blu-ray in Kodi 14.2 from a SAMBA share. It sort of work for some videos, but in many cases the system struggle to have a decent framerate, or there are massive artifacts.

Xiami Mi Box Mini Benchmarks

Mediatek MT8685 is a completely new processor to me, so I had to run CPU-Z first.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_CPU-ZThe processor indeed features  four Cortex A7 cores @ 598MHz to 1.51 GHz with a Mali-450 MP GPU.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Forrestgump_CPU-ZThe board is called forrestgump, the screen resolution is 1920×1080, and there’s just 968 MB RAM, and 2.13 GB storage available from the internal flash.

The box gets 21,091 points in Antutu 5.6.1, but the score is probably higher than it should because it was only performed on part of the screen (830×1080 instead of 1920×1080), hence affecting 2D and 3D graphics scores positively.

Antutu 5.6.2 on Mi Box Mini (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 5.6.2 on Mi Box Mini (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve also run Vellamo 3.1 which in most cases places Xiaomi Mi Box Mini close LG Nexus 4 smartphone powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad core processor (APQ8064).

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Vellamo_3.1You can get the comparison charts for Multicore, Metal, and Browser.

I’ve also tried to run 3DMark, but I could not download Ice Storm package due to input issues.

I can’t report about Wi-Fi performance either since ES File Explorer failed to copy a file from SAMBA to flash, and I could not use iperf, again due to input issues as the software keyboard would not show up when needed…

I still managed to run A1SD bench to evaluate internal storage performance, but there’s no little storage, that the utility detected Cache reads. The reported read speed is 57.11 MB/s, and write speed is 12.41 MB/s.

Mibox_mini_storage_performance

Read & Write Speed in MB/s

Conclusion

If you live in China, Xiao Mi Box Mini may be a nice little device giving you access to lots of content. If you can read Chinese, and live overseas, be prepared to setup a VPN to China, and you may access the many online videos and movies, but if you don’t read a word of Chinese, switching to English will require some efforts, and many apps won’t work as expected, unless possibly if you get a Bluetooth air mouse or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Provided the latter work, you could get a decent little box for web browsing, some casual gaming, watching videos and so on. Just don’t expect Google Play, YouTube. etc… to work.

In case you’d still like to give it a try, GearBest, who kindly provided a sample for review, sells it  for $42.98 with coupon MIBOX, but you can also purchase on other websites such as GeekBuying, Aliexpress, or eBay for around $50.

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Cube i7-CM is an Ubuntu Tablet Powered by Intel Core M-5Y10 Processor

April 4th, 2015 7 comments

Alldocube is a Chinese company known for its Cube Android tablets, and more recently, it has launched some Windows 8.1 tablets. The company has now announced its first Ubuntu tablet with Cube i7-CM featuring a recent low power Broadwell-Y Core M-5Y10 processor.

Cube_i7_CMCube i7-CM tablet specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Core M-5Y10 dual core / four threads processor @ 800 MHz (Burst freq: 2.0 GHz) with 4MB cache, and Intel HD graphics 5300 (4.5W TDP)
  • System Memory – 4GB RAM
  • Storage – 64GB eMMC + micro SD card slot (up to 32GB)
  • Display – 11.6″ capacitive touchscreen; resolution: 1920×1080; 10-point touch.
  • Video Output – micro HDMI
  • Audio – 3.5mm headphone jack, dual speaker, microphone, and HDMI
  • Connectivity – Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Cellular (Data only, single SIM card slot)
    • 4G – FDD-LTE Band 1/3/7 & TDD-LTE 38/39/40/41
    • 3G – WCDMA:900/2100MHz
    • 2G – GSM:850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • Camera – 5MP Rear camera, 2MP front-facing camera
  • USB – micro USB OTG 3.0 port
  • Misc – Power, Vol +/- and home button
  • Battery – 5,000 mAh battery (not removable)
  • Dimensions – 299 x 180 x 9.5mm
  • Weight – 840 grams

The tablet is sold with a charger and a USB cable, but an optional Bluetooth keyboard can be purchased separately to transform it into an Ubuntu laptop. It’s not quite sure which version of Ubuntu is pre-installed, either the Chinese version (Kylin) as shown above, or the standard one as shown below.

Ubuntu_Laptop_Core-MCore M-5Y10 is a relatively new processor, and although it’s quite faster than other low power Intel Celeron / Pentium processor, it’s also significantly more expensive. Liliputing recently reviewed a Core-M laptop, and compared performance to other Intel machines, with in some cases results not much better than Pentium N3530 Bay Trail-M processor, but others matching, or even outperforming Core-i3-4012y performance.

Core-M-5Y10_Benchmark

Alldocube will sell 100 pieces of the Ubuntu tablet for $399 on Aliexpress starting on April 5, after which the price is likely to move up to its current $532, and $620 with the Bluetooth keyboard / dock. Please note that the 64GB version is running Ubuntu, while the 128GB version is allegedly running an unlicensed version of Windows 8.1.

Via Liliputing and GizChina

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Cubieboard 4 Ubuntu Review – Setup, Usability, and Performance

April 1st, 2015 6 comments

Cubieboard4 is a development board powered by Allwinner A80 octa-core processor with 2GB RAM and 16GB eMMC. I’ve already shown how to get started with the board using the pre-installed Android 4.4 image, and run some benchmarks in Android, so now it’s time to check out the Ubuntu Linaro 14.04 image provided by CubieTech. I’ll show how to install and setup Ubuntu 14.04 on the board using a micro SD card, run desktop applications like Chromium, Libre Office, and son on on the board, and complete the review with some Linux benchmarks.

Setting up Ubuntu on Cubieboard4

Firmware images for Cubiebord4 can be downloaded @ http://dl.cubieboard.org/model/cc-a80/Image/. Currently Android 4.4, Debian server, Ubuntu Linaro server, and Ubuntu Linaro desktop with LXDE desktop environment. That’s the latter I’ll use for the experiment, and two images are available:

  • linaro-desktop-cb4-card-hdmi-v0.4.img.7z – Bootable image from micro SD card
  • linaro-desktop-cb4-emmc-hdmi-v0.4.img.7z – Installation image to eMMC to be written to micro SD card (and not via PhoenixSuite).

I’ve just downloaded and flash the “card” image to a 32GB Class 10 micro SD card in a terminal windows in a Linux computer:

wget http://dl.cubieboard.org/model/cc-a80/Image/ubuntu-linaro/ubuntu-linaro-v0.4/linaro-desktop-cb4-card-hdmi-v0.4.img.7z
7z x linaro-desktop-cb4-card-hdmi-v0.4.img.7z
sudo dd if=linaro-desktop-cb4-card-hdmi-v0.4.img | pv | sudo dd of=/dev/sdX bs=16M

where X is the letter of your SD card, which you can check with lsblk. Be very careful as using the wrong letter may wipe out your hard drive, and you may consider using a virtual machine to be extra safe. This step also be done in a Windows computer with 7-zip and Win32DiskImager utilities.

Now insert the micro SD card into the board, connect the necessary cable, and power it on. After around 35 seconds, maybe a little more the first time, I get a usable desktop. Your own boot time will obviously be impacted by your micro SD card performance.

Cubieboard4_Ubuntu_LXDE

Lubuntu Desktop (Click for Original Size)

Firefox and Nautilus are not part of the default image, but I’ve installed them with apt-get, and added shortcuts to the desktop.

Usually, you need to run gparted or resize2fs to make full use if your SD card capacity, but this is automatically taken care of by the image, and my root partition was automatically extended to 30GB:

linaro@cubieboard4:~$ df -h
Filesystem       Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/root         30G  4.2G   25G  15% /
devtmpfs         814M  4.0K  814M   1% /dev
none             4.0K     0  4.0K   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
none             163M  476K  163M   1% /run
none             5.0M     0  5.0M   0% /run/lock
none             814M     0  814M   0% /run/shm
none             100M  4.0K  100M   1% /run/user
/dev/mmcblk1p2   128M  5.6M  123M   5% /media/mmcblk1p2
/dev/mmcblk1p7   756M  587M  170M  78% /media/linaro/57f8f4bc-abf4-655f-bf67-946fc0f9f25b
/dev/mmcblk1p10  630M   11M  620M   2% /media/linaro/57f8f4bc-abf4-655f-bf67-946fc0f9f25b1
/dev/mmcblk1p1   5.7G  3.4G  2.4G  59% /media/linaro/57f8f4bc-abf4-655f-bf67-946fc0f9f25b2
/dev/mmcblk0p1    12M  6.1M  5.9M  51% /media/linaro/29BC-6723

Since I’m connected to Internet via an Ethernet connection I did not have to configure anything else, except the timezone set with:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure tzdata

At this stage, you’ve got a fully workable ARM Linux computer, although if you want to use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and/or a printer more configuration work is required, but I haven’t tried any of these.

Cubieboard4 Usability as a Desktop Computer

The image is quite minimal, and beside Pacman file manager and a few other small programs, only Chromium browser is already installed. So I installed Firefox, Libre Office, Nautilis and Gimp with apt-get:

sudo apt-get install libreoffice nautilus firefox gimp

The system is quite responsive, although programs don’t quite load as fast as from an SSD or eMMC, and you need to wait a few seconds for Chromium or Libre Office to load.

Since the font looked quite poor in Chromium, I installed Firefox, but I had the same results. So finally I installed Ubuntu fonts:

sudo apt-get install ttf-ubuntu-font-family

and configured the web browsers accordingly leading to much better font rendering.

I’ve run the following tests in Cubieboard4 to show the performance, and what is working or not:

  1. 30 seconds boot
  2. List of installed applications
  3. LibreOffice (Writer)
  4. Chromium – Multi-tabs, YouTube (embedded / full screen; VP9), and Candy Crush Saga (Flash game) in Facebook
  5. 3D hardware acceleration with es2gears and glmark2-es2
  6. 1080p video playback with VideoLAN
  7. Power off

I also ran htop in a terminal to show the eight cores CPU usage. Sorry the video is not quite straight and audio is poor with SJ1000 camera.

The system is working quite well, except with YouTube videos which are not so smooth, because YouTube has now mostly switched to VP9 codec, and 3D support failed with “DRI2: failed to authenticate”. Candy Crush Saga worked fine, although not amazingly smooth, but performance is not that much different from my regular Ubuntu PC for that game. 2D hardware acceleration is supposed to be implemented (a80-xf86-video-fbturbo), but I’m not quite sure how to formally test this. H.264 and MPEG4 video could be played in VideoLAN with only one CPU core use confirming hardware video decoding support, but MPEG2, VC1 and H.265 codecs all failed.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

In the screenshot above, I play Big Buck Bunny in VideoLAN on the top left corner, but since hardware video decoding is activated, the video won’t show in the screenshot, which is perfectly normal.

Even though Cubieboard4 Ubuntu support is not too bad right now, I still think ODROID-XU3 Lite delivers a better Linux experience, especially when using an eMMC module, as programs load faster, 3D acceleration is working, as well as Kodi with hardware video decoding. The only downside is that flash (Chromium + pepperflash) did not work when I tried on XU3 Lite, but this may have been fixed by now.

Cubieboard4 Performance Testing in Linux

Phoronix Suite Benchmarks

I’ve installed the latest version of Phoronix Test Suite to run a few benchmarks in Linux:

sudo apt-get install php5-cli php5-gd 
wget http://phoronix-test-suite.com/releases/repo/pts.debian/files/phoronix-test-suite_5.4.1_all.deb
sudo dpkg -i phoronix-test-suite_5.4.1_all.deb

After configure the test suite for batch benchmark with

phoronix-test-suite batch-setup

I decide to run the same three tests as on ODROID-XU3 Lite, encoding MP3, compressing files, and performing some HTTP server tasks:

phoronix-test-suite batch-benchmark pts/encode-mp3 pts/compress-7zip pts/apache

Unfortunately, apache failed to compiled, so only the MP3 and 7-zip test completed.

Cubieboard4_vs_ODROID-XU3-Lite_MP3So the only direct comparison with the test I’ve done between ODROID-XU3 Lite and Cubieboard4 is for MP3 encoding, and in this test the Exynos platform is faster, but the Allwinner A80 board still compares favorably to slower or/and older ARM board like Radxa Rock, ODROID-C1, or PCDuino (cpu test) in 7-Zip test, especially this test runs on all available cores.

7-Zip_Cubieboard4_Radxa_Rock_ODROID-C1

 Mainline kernel compilation

Now let’s see how fast the board build Linux 3.19.

sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev gcc make git exuberant-ctags
git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git
cd linux-stable
git checkout -b stable v3.19

Mainline kernel requires gcc 4.9 to build, but Ubuntu 14.04 only comes with gcc 4.8.2, so let’s install the new compiler. Since add-apt-repository is missing, we have to install the relevant package first:

sudo apt-get install software-properties-common

We’ll also need to edit /etc/lsb-release to replace DISTRIB_ID=Linaro by DISTRIB_ID=Ubuntu temporarly, as the toolchain repo has never heard about a Linaro distribution, and then we can complete gcc 4.9 installation.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-toolchain-r/test
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gcc-4.9

Allwinner enginners themselves are not directly involved in mainline kernel develompent, but they are usually in the loop when members of linux-sunxi community send patchsets to the ARM Linux kernel mailing list, which mean Allwinner processor are supported in mainline kernel, albeit with limitation. Allwinner A80 codename is sun9i, and we can see a device tree file for A80 OptimusBoard:

linaro@cubieboard4:~/linux-stable$ ls -l arch/arm/boot/dts/ | grep sun9
-rw-rw-r-- 1 linaro linaro   3561 Apr  1 13:23 sun9i-a80-optimus.dts
-rw-rw-r-- 1 linaro linaro  12608 Apr  1 13:23 sun9i-a80.dtsi

Nevertheless, I’ve built the kernel using sunxi default config used for all Allwinner platforms:

make sunxi_defconfig
time make -j8 CC=gcc-4.9
...
OBJCOPY arch/arm/boot/zImage
Kernel: arch/arm/boot/zImage is ready

real    6m36.198s
user    34m6.070s
sys    4m32.100s

So Cubieboard4 took 6 minutes on 36 seconds to build Linux 3.19, while ODROID-XU3 Lite took 5 minutes 43 seconds to build Linux 3.18, not too bad, but this is show some performance advantage for the Exynos processor.

Video Transcoding with avconv

Ideally video transcoding should not be done by software, since most ARM processors can handle MPEG2 to H.264 transcoding using the VPU, but this can still be useful to evaluate a processor performance, so just like for ODROID-XU3 Lite, I’ve converted a short MPEG2 into H.264 with avconc:

sudo apt-get install libav-tools
time avconv -i big_buck_bunny_1080p_MPEG2_MP2_25fps_6600K.MPG \
-vcodec libx264 -minrate 300k -maxrate 300k -bufsize 1835k bbb-h.264.avi
avconv version 9.11-6:9.11-2ubuntu2, Copyright (c) 2000-2013 the Libav developers
 built on Mar 24 2014 06:21:10 with gcc 4.8 (Ubuntu/Linaro 4.8.2-17ubuntu1)
Guessed Channel Layout for Input Stream #0.1 : stereo
Input #0, mpeg, from 'big_buck_bunny_1080p_MPEG2_MP2_25fps_6600K.MPG':
 Duration: 00:00:44.74, start: 0.240000, bitrate: 7159 kb/s
 Stream #0.0[0x1e0]: Video: mpeg2video (Main), yuv420p, 1920x1080 [PAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], 9792 kb/s, 24.75 fps, 25 tbr, 90k tbn, 50 tbc
 Stream #0.1[0x1c0]: Audio: mp2, 44100 Hz, stereo, s16p, 160 kb/s
[libx264 @ 0x6c9c0] using SAR=1/1
[libx264 @ 0x6c9c0] MB rate (734400000) > level limit (2073600)
[libx264 @ 0x6c9c0] using cpu capabilities: ARMv6 NEON
[libx264 @ 0x6c9c0] profile High, level 5.2
Output #0, avi, to 'bbb-h.264.avi':
 Metadata:
 ISFT : Lavf54.20.3
 Stream #0.0: Video: libx264, yuv420p, 1920x1080 [PAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], q=-1--1, 90k tbn, 90k tbc
 Stream #0.1: Audio: libmp3lame, 44100 Hz, stereo, s16p
Stream mapping:
 Stream #0:0 -> #0:0 (mpeg2video -> libx264)
 Stream #0:1 -> #0:1 (mp2 -> libmp3lame)
Press ctrl-c to stop encoding
frame= 1037 fps= 6 q=56.0 size= 30759kB time=40.60 bitrate=6205.9kbits/s

It took  3 minutes 3 seconds to convert the 44 seconds video, so just like with the Exynos board it’s not possible to transcode a 1080p video @ 25 fps in real-time by software, at least with avconv, and the parameters I used. ODROID-XU3 Lite was a bit faster however, managing to convert the same video in 2 minutes and 33 seconds.

Cubieboard4 can be purchased for $125 + shipping on R0ck.me, Eleduino, Seeed Studio, or others, and it’s also listed on Amazon US for $138.99 including shipping.

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Cubieboard4 Benchmarks in Android

March 25th, 2015 1 comment

Last time I tried running benchmarks in an Allwinner A80 board (A80 OptimusBoard), it either rebooted during the benchmark, or had fairly disappointing results for example for USB storage. I documented my findings in a post entitled “Current Performance and Stability Issues on AllWinner A80 OptimusBoard Development Board” which was written in October 2014. But a few months have passed, and since Cubieboard4 is another hardware platform, so I was interested in running benchmarks including storage and networking performance testing on the new board to see if any progress was made.

Cubieboard4 Android Benchmarks – Antutu, Vellamo, and 3DMarks

Manufacturers can add the key ro.sys.hiritsu to build.prop in order to artificially inflate their Antutu scores with Allwinner A80 processor. So before running Antutu, I checked /system/build.prop in the firmware, and found out no trace of this variable, which can only be good for CubieTech reputation.

Cubieboard4_AntutuCC-A80 board, the other name for Cubieboard4, got 36,374 point in Antutu 5.6.2, which is similar to what Allwinner A80 cheating hardware platforms get with Antutu X, a version of Antutu that prevents cheating. So that means performance is as expected here.
Cubieboard4_Vellamo
The board gets 1172 points for Metal, 1482 points for Multicore, and 2455 points for Chrome Browser tests which compared to respectively 1138, 1352, and 2109 (Stock Browser) for Tronsmart Draco AW80 Meta, an Android media player also based to Allwinner A80.
Cubieboard4_3DMark
3DMark’s Ice Storm Extreme score is more interesting, as the board gets 8,213 points against only about 6,500 for Tronsmart Draco AW80, and 7,000 to 7,500 points for Rockchip RK3288, so there may have been some GPU drivers optimization since then, or they simply clocked the GPU at higher speed.

Cubieboard4 Storage Performance

We already knew the eMMC – with advertised 25MB/s read and write speed – would not break records, but at least its A1 SD benchmark reports speeds so no far off from the advertised rates at around 19.50 MB/s in both directions, placing the board in the middle of the pack, with very good write speed, but below than average read speed.

Cubieboard4_eMMC

eMMC Flash – Read and Write Speed in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Cubieboard4 features an USB 3.0 OTG port and an OTG adapter which allowed me to connect my Seagate USB 3.0 hard drive to the board. Unfortunately, the drive could not be powered via this port, albeit a USB 2.0 flash drive worked just fine. So I had to fallback to connecting my HDD to one of the USB 2.0 ports. I was interested in checking NTFS performance since it was poor on A80 OptimusBoard, but unfortunately, CC-A80 firmware would only mount EXT-4 and exFAT partitions of the drive.

Cubieboard4_USB_2.0_EXT-4

Read and Write Speed in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

A1 SD reports 21.63 MB/s read speed and 18.17 MB/s write speed for the EXT-4 partition slightly outperforming the underwhelming performance of Draco AW80 media player. What about exFAT? Write is 3.16MB/s, and read a massive 239.04MB/s? The latter is clearly impossible over USB 2.0, and happened because of the slow write speed resulting in a ~400MB test files that was cached and read from the RAM, so I did not include this results in the chart. So USB storage does not look promising on the board at least for now.

Cubieboard4 Networking Performance

Gigabit Ethernet performance measured with iperf Android app and the following command line iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d, showed the same asymmetric transfer rates over Ethernet as Draco AW80 with one side getting 712 Mbits/sec and the other 216 Mbits/sec.

Throughput in Mbps (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in Mbps (Click to Enlarge)

iperf output:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.112, TCP port 5001
 TCP window size: 144 KByte (default)
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 [ 6] local 192.168.0.104 port 52303 connected with 192.168.0.112 port 5001
 [ ID] Interval Transfer Bandwidth
 [ 6] 0.0-60.0 sec 1.51 GBytes 216 Mbits/sec
 [ 4] 0.0-60.0 sec 4.97 GBytes 712 Mbits/sec

I’m not using iperf for Wi-Fi to make use of my older data, and because Wi-Fi is normally slow enough not to be impacted by internal storage performance, and instead transfer a 278MB file over SAMBA via ES File Explorer. I’ve tested both 5.0 GHz (802.1n) with TP-link TL-WDR7500 router and 2.4 Ghz with my older TP-Link TL-WR940N.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Wi-Fi performance is quite below average, and I was a bit surprised to see 5.0GHz to be faster than 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, as in my environment there are only these two routers. Maybe the newer router simply have better performance.

In conclusion, Allwinner A80 is a powerful processor, and in tasks where you need raw CPU or GPU power it should deliver, but USB 3.0 is just not working at least with my hard drive, read and write speed over USB 2.0 appears weak, and both wired and wireless performance are somewhat underwhelming. Some of these issues have been known for over 6 months on Allwinner A80 platforms, so I’m not sure there are some silicon issues, or it just takes an awful lot of time to improve the firmware.

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Iocean M6752 Smartphone Review

March 24th, 2015 No comments

Last week I provides specs, took some pictures, and run Antutu benchmark on Iocean M6752, a 64-bit ARM smartphone powered by Mediatek MT6752 octa-core Cortex A53 processor with 3GB RAM, 16 GB eMMC, and a 5.5″ FullHD display. I’ve been using the device as my main smartphone for over a week, and I’m now ready to write a full review for the phone.

General Impressions

At first the material and color used on the back cover feels a little strange, but I quickly got used it, and the build quality seems pretty good, and the phone is very light. I must have made one or two calls during the week, and I mainly use my smartphone to check emails, run social network apps, browse the web, play some casual games like Candy Crush Saga, watch YouTube videos, and make Skype calls, and for these tasks I could not really fault the tablet for any of these applications. I was not a believer in Full HD display for smaller phablet screen, but now that I have tried, I can say the 1920×1080 display looks significantly sharper than the 720p display on my older ThL W200 smaprthone.

Battery life is decent, although it might be a challenge to get a day of battery life at time. I also noticed the charge drop from 100% to 85% overnight with cellular and Wi-Fi enabled at night, which still seems a little more than I would have expected. The phone boot in about 20 seconds, and I have to say overall I could not fault the phone during my week of testing, except for GPS.

Benchmarks: Antutu, Vellamo, and 3DMark

I’ve alread shared the Antutu results last week, but here’s it is again today. With 37,008 points in Antutu 5.6.2, Iocean M6752’s score is not quite as high as the latest flagship models Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Meizyu MX4 or OnePlus One, but it’s still pretty good, as it places it between Google Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S5 both based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 800.

Antutu 5.6.2 Results (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 5.6.2 Results (Click to Enlarge)

It’s always better to run a few other benchmarks, as Antutu score is easily cheated, so I also ran Vellamo 3.1 and 3DMark’s Ice Storm Extreme benchmarks.

Vellamo 3.1 and Ice Stoerm Extreme Benchmark Results

Vellamo 3.1 and Ice Storm Extreme Benchmark Results

Vellamo 3.1 scores confirm the very good performance of the device, but 3Dmark benchmark score shows the limitations of the dual core Mali-T760 GPU used in the Mediatek processor, as for example Allwinner A80 gets around 6,500 points (PowerVR) and Rockchip RK3288 over 7,000 points (Mali-T764).

Vellamo 3.1 Comparison (Click to Enlarge)

Vellamo 3.1 Comparison (Click to Enlarge)

Internal Storage and Wi-Fi Performance

I used A1 SD Benchmark to test the performance of the internal storage. The results are pretty amazing, with 114.17 MB/s read speed and 77.79 MB/s write. However the utility reported “cache reads”, and this should obviously overstates the performance of the flash, but this is probably due to the 3GB RAM available in the system allowing for lots of caching.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Despite the probably inaccurate results, the flash is certainly fast, as the phone boots in 20 seconds. For reference, Infocus CS1 A83 tablet, second on the chart, boots in 15 seconds, and HPH NT-V6 (Rockchip RK3288) in 20 seconds, so the flash performance should still be at near the top.

Wi-Fi performance was tested by transferring a 278 MB file over SAMBA using ES File Explorer three times, and I placed the smartphone were I normally place TV boxes and development boards for a fair comparison.

Wi-Fi Performance in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Wi-Fi Performance in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Wi-Fi performance is excellent, as M6752 phone managed to transfer the file @ 4.1 MB/s on average (32.8 Mbps) only outperformed by two other devices, including one with 802.11ac Wi-Fi that’s not available with the phone.

Please note that the testing environment, including your router firmware, may greatly impact the relative Wi-Fi performance between devices.

It would have been nice to test 3G and LTE download/upload speed, but I don’t even have a 3G SIM card, and LTE is not supported yet where I live.

Rear and Front Facing Cameras

Rear Camera

The 14MP camera does an excellent job, just as good if not better than my Canon point and shoot camera, and better a very clear during day time, but as usual still pictures and videos in low light conditions are not very good. The auto-focus works well, and close shots including small text are clear. The  flash also does it job at night for close subjects. Video records only at 1280×720 by default, and I have not found a way to change the resolution in the camera app. Still picture default resolution is 4096×2304.

You can check photos samples, as well as video samples shot during day time, at dusk, and a night below that should be watch at 720p resolution. The original day and dusk videos are recording in 3GP format with H.264 video coded at 30 fps amd AAC stereo audio, but the night video drops to 17 fps.

Here’s the day time video.

Dusk video – http://youtu.be/POdcc-MUL1w

Night video – http://youtu.be/honLvSGV1Gk

Front-facing camera

The 5MP front-facing camera is OK, as long as the subject is not moving too much, and I’ve also used it in a Skype call without issues. Here are a few samples. Resolution is 2560×1440.

Video Playback

I installed Antutu Video Tester to test video playback on the smartphone, and results are mediocre with only 382 points against 700+ for the best device out there.

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu Video Tester Results

Many audio formats are not supported including wmav2, dts, ac-3, and flac. The processor also does not support 4K videos at all. It might be possible to improve video playback by installing thrird party media player apps like MX Player or Kodi.

Battery Life

I probably used the phone 3 to 5 hours a day browsing the web, checking email, watching YouTube video and playing some games, and a full charge in the morning would take me to the evening for sure, but maybe not up to late at night.

I used LAB501 Battery Life app to test battery life for web browsing, video playback (720p), and gaming. I started from a full charge until the battery  level reached about 15%, with Wi-Fi and Cellular on, and brightness set to 50%:

  • Browsing (100% to 14%) – 303 minutes (5h05).
  • Video (100% to 12%) – 255 minutes (4h15). So good for about 2 full movies on a charge.
  • Gaming (100% to 15%) – 166 minutes (2h46)

So this confirms the 2,300 mAh battery will be depleted pretty quickly, at least compared to the results I got with Infocus CS1 A83 tablet with a bigger 3,550 mAh battery, but also a larger 7″ screen.

It took the phone 3h30 to fully charge from 0% to 100%. You can however get a 90% charge is about 10 hours, so the last 10% may take a lot of time.

Miscellaneous

Bluetooth

I could pair with my other mobile devices without issues, and transfer pictures in either direction. Bluetooth Smart (BLE) also work, as I could retrieve fitness data from Vidonn X5 smartband.

GPS

When I ram Google Maps, and GPS test app at home (with Wi-Fi on), GPS seems to worked pretty well. But then I went for a short run, and checked GPS “performance” with Nike+ Running. This is a road around a stadium, so the tracking should look like an ellipse. Just for yourself…

Nike+_Running_Iocean_M6752I did wait for a GPS fix before running, and the phone was placed on my left arm, so it should have had line of sight to GPS satellites during the run. GPS is the weakest point of this smartphone. I just used the default settings, and I have not tried some Mediatek GPS hacks yet.

[Update: Turning Wi-Fi off will greatly improve accuracy]

Gaming

Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Bleach, and Riptide GP2 all played very smoothly, even with high graphics details thanks to the Mali-760MP2 GPU.

Others

The touchscreen supports 5 touch points according to Multitouch app.

The smartphone has stereo speakers on the back, but they sound quite poor, and are nowhere near the good quality I get with Infocus C2107 tablet, so if you plan to use that smartphone to listen music with other people, you’ll definitely want to use external speakers.

Video Review

If you want to get more details about the phone, I’ve filmed a video going through the user’s interface (mostly settings), showing some benchmark results, tryout a largish PDF in acrobat reader, playing Candy Crush Saga and Beach Buggy Racing, and more. The fisheye effect in the video is due to my using an action camera (SJ1000).

Conclusion

Iocean M6752 is really a great smartphone for the price, with a large and sharp screen @ 1920×1080 resolution, excellent Wi-Fi performance, a fast processor, lots of RAM, provides performance close to flagship models from better known brand, and most features works very well. Unfortunately, GPS does not seem reliable, video recording seems to be limited to 720p30, video playback is not so good (according to Antutu Video Tester), and it would be nice to have a couple extra hours out of the battery.

PROS

  • Relatively fast 64-bit ARM processor
  • Lots of memory (3GB RAM)
  • Clear and crisp 1920×1080 display
  • Outstanding performance for internal storage and Wi-Fi.
  • Pictures looks good in good lighting conditions, both for close ups and landscape shots.
  • Good gaming performance
  • OTA update (first time ever I get an OTA update on one of my Android phones…)

CONS

  • GPS is a disaster. It will lock relatively fast, but may not be very reliable.
  • Antutu Video Tester score is a little low (<400) mostly because of audio codec failures, and 2160p videos are not supported.
  • A slightly longer battery life would be nice, although it should be good enough from morning till evening.
  • Video recording might be limited to 720p, and quality is pretty poor at night.
  • Rear speakers do not sound very good

GearBest provided the Iocean M6752 smartphone for review, and if you think this might be a phone you’d like to get, the company offers the phone for $219.99 including shipping with Coupon “Iocean”. Other sellers include Tinydeal, Geekbuying, and Coolicool with price starting at $222.99.

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