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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.

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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Iocean M6752 Octa-core Cortex A53 Android Smartphone Unboxing, First Boot, and Benchmarks

March 16th, 2015 7 comments

I’m quite interested in testing 64-bit ARM platform, but since mini PCs and development boards are not quite there yet, GearBest give me the opportunity to check out Iocean M6752 smartphone based on Mediatek MT6752 Octa core ARM Cortex 53 processor with 3GB RAM, 16GB flash, but running Antutu 4.4.4 (32-bit). Today, I’ll provide the complete specifications of the phone, take a few pictures, and run CPU-Z and Antutu benchmark, before writing a full review in one week or so.

Iocean M6752 specifications

The smartphone may have multiple versions with up 16 or 32GB storage, and 1, 2 or 3 GB RAM, but the one I received has the following specifications:

  • SoC – Mediatek MT6752 Octa-core 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 processor @ 1.7 GHz, with ARM Mali-T760 MP2 GPU and H.265 UHD capable video processing unit.
  • System Memory – 3GB RAM
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC + micro SD slot up to 64GB (internal)
  • Display – 5.5” capacitive touch screen “retina LTPS”; 1920×1080 resolution (Full HD)
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi , Bluetooth 4.0, GPS / A-GPS, FM Radio
  • Cellular Network
    • 2G GSM – 850/900/1800/1900MHz
    • 3G – UMTS/WCDMA 900/2100 MHz
    • 4G – 800/1800/2100MHz (FDD LTE, TDD LTE, and TS-SCDMA)
    • Two micro SIM slots; Dual SIM, dual standby (DSDS) support.
  • Audio – Speaker and microphone, 3.5 mm audio jack for headphones
  • USB – 1x micro USB 2.0 OTG port
  • Camera
    • 14.0MP rear-facing with flash light and auto-focus
    • 5.0MP front-facing camera
  • Sensors – Gravity sensor, Ambient Light sensor, Proximity sensor, Gyroscope, and Compass
  • Battery – 2,300 mAh Lithium battery.
  • Dimensions – 154.7 x 76.90 x 8.2 mm
  • Weight – 158 grams

The device runs Android 4.4.4.

Iocean M6752 Pictures

I’ve received the phone within a few days as it was shipped with DHL.
Iocean_M6752_PackageThe package contains a power adapter, a warranty card, the phone, a blue 2,300 mAh battery, a plastic case, a screen protector, and a micro USB to USB cable for charging. GearBest also included a EU to US plug adapter separately.

Iocean M6752 Smartphone and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Iocean M6752 Smartphone and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

The battery is not placed in the phone, and I also had to insert the micro SD card and SIM card, so I first had to take out the back over.

Iocean M6752 micro SIM slots and Battery (Click to Enlarge)

Iocean M6752 micro SIM slots and Battery (Click to Enlarge)

The micro SD slot in on the left, and the phone has two micro SIM slot, so I had to cut my full-sized SIM card to insert it in one of the slots. The battery still had about 50% charge I could boot the phone.

Iocean_M6752The headphone jack is on the top of the phone, the micro USB on the bottom, and power and volume buttons on the right side, and that’s all there is in terms of buttons or connectors. The phone feels really light in the hand, although it’s not particularly thin.

First Boot

If you want a better look at the phone, you can watch the video below, where I also boot the phone and quickly flick through the user interface.

Boot time is quite impressive compared to my older phone (about 10 to 15 seconds).

The phone was set to English, and Google Play was pre-installed.

Home Screen and "About Phone: (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen and “About Phone: (Click for Original Size)

The model number is indeed M6752, and it runs Android 4.4.4 on top of Linux 3.10.48+

Pre-installed Apps (Click to Enlarge)

Pre-installed Apps (Click for Original Size)

I’ve instaall Antutu, CPU-Z and Dropbox myself, but all other apps were pre-installed. SammyDress is a junk app trying to sell you woman clothes, and Z-DeviceTest just an application to get system details.

So far I haven’t found any issues with the phone, and the full HD display is sharp, and bright.

Iocean M6752 (Mediatek MT6752) CPU-Z and Antutu Benchmark

I have never tried a device with MTK6752 processor, or even a Cortex A53 based device before, so let’s extract some technical informations with CPU-Z first.

Iocean M6752 CPU-Z Data (Click to Enlarge)

Iocean M6752 CPU-Z Data (Click to Enlarge)

CPU-Z does list 8 CPUs, but somehow only reports 5 ARM Cortex A53 cores @ 468 MHZ to 1.69 GHz. It correctly detects a Mali-T760 GPU, 3GB RAM, 12.82GB internal storage (out of the 16GB eMMC flash). The model is M6752 with H560 board, and is said to be manufactured by OUSHENG. I found a company called Ningbo Ousheng Electric Appliances, but they don’t seem to be in the smartphone business at all, so they must be unrelated. All sensors appear to have been detected properly. The kernel is armv7l, so that confirm this 64-bit ARM platform runs a 32-bit Linux kernel.

The phone gets 37,008 points in Antutu 5.6.2.

Antutu 5.6.2 Results (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 5.6.2 Results (Click to Enlarge)

That’s a pretty good score for a so-called mid range smartphone, just between Google Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S5, especially Antutu does not complain about an unverified score.

I’ll have to run a few more benchmarks to confirm this good performance in the full review. I’ll use the phone mainly for browsing the web, checking email, watching YouTube videos, and playing casual games, but the rear and front camera will also be tested in bright and low light conditions, as well as battery life, video decoding capabilities, GPS performance with Running+ app. I’ll also report on potential issues I expericne with the phone, and you can let me know if you want me to test something in particular. The review should be similar to what I did for Infocus C2107 tablet, and I will only test Wi-Fi, not 3G or LTE connectivity.

I’d like to thanks GearBest for sending the smartphone for review, and if you interested you could consider purchasing the phone for $219.99 including shipping with Coupon “Iocean” via their online store. Other sellers include Tinydeal, Geekbuying, and Coolicool with price starting at $222.99.

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Samsung Introduces Faster Full-Duplex UFS 2.0 Storage for Mobile Devices

February 26th, 2015 3 comments

eMMC (embedded multimedia card) provides a boost in read and write performance compared to traditional NAND flash memories, let alone micro SD cards. Samsung has now announced the manufacturing of the first 32, 64, and 128GB embedded memory solution based on Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 2.0 standard delivering up to 350MB/s read speed and 150MB/s write speed, or 40% improvement in read speed over eMMC 5.1.UFS_vs_eMMC_PerformanceThis should help further reduce boot time, and app loading times. Moreover, while eMMC read and write operating are sequential (half-duplex), UFS 2.0 allows for full-duplex operating, meaning writing and reading can happen at the same time.

eMMC_vs_UFSUFS can achieve this feat thanks to a LVDS (Low-Voltage Differential Signaling) serial interface with dedicated read/write paths contrary to the parallel 8-bit interface used for eMMC. Combined with a Command Queue(CQ), which sorts out the commands that needs to be carried out, UFS 2.0 allows three times faster file copy, and three times the multitasking capability compared to existing solutions. Command Queue is also an improvement found in eMMC 5.1 specifications.

If you are a JEDEC member, you can download UFS 2.0 specification (JESD220B) via JEDEC Universal Flash Storage page.

Via Liliputing

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Categories: Hardware Tags: benchmark, flash, samsung, standard, ufs

Nvidia Tegra X1 Gets About 75,000 Points in Antutu

February 19th, 2015 5 comments

Nvidia Tegra X1 was expected to outperform the competition, but based on Antutu results provided by Mydrivers, the performance leap might be greater than expected, as Nvidia Tegra X1 reference tablet gets 74,997 points in Antutu 5.6.1.
Tegra_X1_AntutuAs usual caution is warranted with Antutu results, as the benchmark is easily cheated, which explains why Allwinner A80T devices can get over 140,000 points. But let’s assume Tegra X1 result is representative and compare it to its predecessor the Tegra K1. Surprisingly I struggled to find a detailed Antutu 5.x score for the Nexus 9, and I had to get the scores from that video with Antutu 5.2.0.

Nexus 9
(Tegra K1 64-bit)

Tegra X1
Reference Platform

Ratio
Antutu 57040 74977 1.31x
Multitask 11817 9217 0.78x
Runtime 4146 4758 1.15x
CPU integer 3038 11295 3.72x
CPU float-point 1939 7274 3.75x
Single-thread integer 2920 3206 1.10x
Single-thread float-point 2831 2878 1.02x
RAM operations 1424 4353 3.06x
RAM speed 4926 5920 1.20x
2D graphics 702 1705 2.43x
3D graphics* 20032 21093 1.05x
Storage I/O 2500 2586 1.03x
Database I/O 735 712 0.97x

* Resolution for Nexus 9: 2048×1536; resolutions for X1 reference platform: 3840×2160.

After completing this table, I’ve just noticed some other people got 34,000 points on the Nexus 9, still with Antutu 5.2.0. Let’s us just hope Antutu gets obsoleted very soon. Having said that the results don’t see so unrealistic with 30% improvement over Tegra K1 64-bit. Multicore tests provide a much higher score thanks to the eight ARMv8 cores in X1 vs the two ARMv8 cores in K1. CPU clock is unknown for X1since Antutu stopped reporting it. RAM “operations” are three times faster on X1 too, whatever that means, which the speed is about 20% faster. 3D graphics should be much better on X1 thanks to its 256-core Maxwell GPU, but the difference is not that great, because of the higher resolution used for X1 hardware, so the total score would certainly be higher if X1 was connected to a 2048×1536 display.

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Android 4.1 vs Android 5.0 Performance Comparison

February 18th, 2015 13 comments

Most of the time people compare the performance of different hardware platforms, but since Wandboard released an Android 5.0 image in the last few days, I wondered what difference two years of software development may make by comparing benchmark results. So I ran both Antutu 5.6.1 and Vellamo 3.1 on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean (android-4.1.2-wand-dual-20130411.zip) and the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop firmware for Wandboard Dual (Freescale i.MX6 Dual) development board.

Android 4.1.2 Benchmark Results

Antutu 5.6.1

wandboard_dual_jelly_bean_antutu_5.6.1Vellamo 3.1

wandboard_jelly_bean_vellamo_3.1You’ll notice the yellow triangle on the top right corner of the multicore and browser results due to some warning related to missing CPU frequency information, and a DOM timeout.

Android 5.0 Benchmark Results

Antutu 5.6.1

wandboard_lollipop_antutu_5.6.1The 2D graphics looked weird at some point as it zoomed out on1/4 of the display. The screenshot did not show the total score, so I added it manually to the picture above.

Vellamo 3.1

wandboard_lollipop_vellamo_3.1Vellamo did not report any anomalies during testing.

Comparison Table

The overall scores are disappointing, and I was really expecting to show how much faster Lollipop is compared to Jelly Bean, but maybe further performance improvements will come as Wandboard’s Lollipop image is a beta release. The detailed scores show some striking differences. In my previous comparison I used delta in percentage, but that confused some people, so instead I’ve used the ratio between Lollipop and Jelly Bean, meaning a ratio of 1 has the same performance, a Lollipop is faster with a ratio greater than 1, and Jelly Bean is faster with a ratio smaller than 1.

Android 4.1.2
Linux 3.0.35
Android 5.0
Linux 3.10.53
Ratio
Antutu 10,710 8,998 0.84
Multitask 2,242 1,805 0.81
Runtime 807 107 0.13
CPU integer 711 565 0.79
CPU float-point 759 616 0.81
Single-thread integer 1,039 833 0.80
Single-thread float-point 881 715 0.81
RAM operations 671 518 0.77
RAM speed 639 802 1.26
2D graphics 604 570 0.94
3D graphics (1280×720) 1,806 2,057 1.14
Storage I/O 311 300 0.96
Database I/O 240 110 0.46
Vellamo Metal 339 338 1.00
Vellamo Browser 994 936 0.94
Vellamo Multicore 763 697 0.91

Lollipop is only faster in the RAM speed and 3D graphics Antutu benchmarks, but slower for all other tests. The runtime test is much slower, maybe because of the switch between Dalvik and ART. I used the same micro SD card for the testing, yet database I/O is over 50% on Lollipop. I did get some error messages in the serial console with Lollipop when the system frees memory, but maybe that’s the normal process of Android killing background processes to reclaim memory:

lowmemorykiller: Killing 'tutu.ABenchMark' (2140), adj 647,                     
   to free 55324kB on behalf of 'kswapd0' (40) because                          
   cache 109784kB is below limit 112500kB for oom_score_adj 529                 
   Free memory is -6284kB above reserved

Other differences between Jelly Bean 4.1 and Lollipop include a unified image for Solo, Dual and Quad versions of the board since the board files have been replaced by device tree, and the SD card image is now 8GB, instead of 4GB.

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Review of Zidoo X9 Android Media Player and Video Recorder

February 11th, 2015 12 comments

Zidoo X9 is quite a unique product on the market, as it’s the only low cost Android platform that I know of that features an HDMI input port with recording capabilities. The hardware is actually based on Kaiboer F5, with some modifications, but the latter focuses on the Chinese market, while Zidoo X9 targets oversea markets with an English firmware by default. I took pictures of Zidoo X9 and its board about a month ago, but a busy schedule and some initial issues with Google Play Store delayed the review. Finally, I’ve completed testing of the device, and ready to share my findings about performance, stability, and features in this review.

OTA Firmware Update

I’ve had to go through two firmware updates before carrying on with the review, and this part is working great, and they even include a detailed changelog with each release, which they also publish on their blog. Normally a window will pop-up once the firmware is available, but you can also go to App Manager->OTA Update to perform an online update, a local update, and/or check the update log.

Zidoo_X9_OTA_Firmware_UpgradeOnce the download is complete, it will reboot to complete the update.

Zidoo_X9_Firmware_UpdateFirmware 1.0.26 was used for this review.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The package include a IR remote control which works fine with their user interface, and you’ll need the “Menu” key in the HDMI IN app, so even though I used Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse in many case, I still had to revert to used Zidoo X9 remote from time to time. I’ve connected my USB hard drive to the USB 3.0 port of the device, a USB keyboard, a USB hub with two RF dongles, a USB flash drive, and a webcam, HDMI and Ethernet cables, as well as a DVB-T2 set-top box to the HDMI input port. Boot time takes about 35 seconds. The LCD display ion the front panel shows “Boot”m “Hello”, and finally the current time.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The user interface is quite different from other Android media players, and I find it quite eye-pleasing, but I also noticed I need more key presses than usual to navigate the menus. There are mostly folders (Browser, Media Center, Video, Music, Game, Other Apps) with relevant apps, as well as direct shortcuts to Google Play, the App Manager (list of apps), and HDMI IN app that handle HDMI input and video recording function.

Zidoo_X9_Settings

The Settings menu has fix sub-sections:

  • System – Standard Android Settings
  • Weather – To display the weather for your city on the top left of the home screen.
  • Parental Control
  • Clean Up – Task Killer, Cache Cleaner, APK File, and APP Manager (to uninstall apps)
  • Base Settings – Screen Saver Delay, Themes (Background image), Key Sound, and Use Featured Data (Probably for weather on home screen)
  • About – Provides info about the system

About_Zidoo_X9

So most configuration options are done in the Android settings.

Wireless & Networks section includes Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Data use, and More… sub menus, the latter only listing Portable hotspot options. Sound options only provide S/PDIF option between PCM or RAW (for pass-through), but this also is also used to for HDMI audio pass-through. The Display sections let you adjust the screen scale, and select the resolutions: 4K2KP_30, 4K2KP_25, 1080P_60, 1080P_50, 720P_60, 720P_50, 576P_60 and 480P_60. I could set 4K @ 30Hz on an LG 42UB820T UHD television without issues.

Two partitions are aAbout_Box_Zidoo_X9vailable in the 8GB eMMC flash: “Internal Storage” with 1.97 GB total space for apps, and “SD CARD” with 3.49GB space for data. The “About Box” section confirms the model number is “ZIDOO_X9″, and that the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux 3.1.10, so not such a recent kernel. The firmware is rooted

Google Play Store caused me some troubles…  Although I could login, each time I would enter the app the message “Check your connection and try again” would be displayed despite having no internet connection issue with the web browser for example. So I was unable to use the Play Store, even after clearing the cache, removing and re-adding my account, and even after factory reset… I was advise to wait for the new firmware (1.0.26), but even after an update the problem subsisted. But Zidoo had written a blog post about the issue saying to try between Wi-Fi and Ethernet. So I switched to Wi-Fi, but no luck, Finally I did a factory reset, configured Wi-Fi, and finally I could access the Play Store. Once the connection is up, it works just fine. Only a few applications could not be installed such as CNBC and Real Racing 3, but these can seldom be installed on Android mini PCs, maybe because of my location?  I also installed Amazon AppStore to get Riptide GP2 game.

You can check the user interface, Kodi, and HDMI IN application in the video below.

There’s no standby mode with this device, it’s only power on and off, and you can do with with the remote control. I measured the temperature after Antutu 5.6 benchmark and 15 minutes of play in Riptide GP2, and the max. measured temperatures on top and bottom of the enclosure were respectively 37°C/43°C, and 37°C/50°C. But it did not seem quite right, and since I used a IR thermometer and the enclosure of Zidoo X9 is bright, the reading might be incorrect, so after adding some black stick tape, and a few hours of use, I check the top temperature again, and instead of 37°C, I got 45°C, which seems more like it. So the system gets a little hot, but it’s not out of control.

The system works well most of the time, but I’ve experienced several crashes for their internal apps, as well as Kodi. You can also one hang up in the video above, so system stability does need some improvement.

Video Playback

The box comes with Kodi 14.0-RC3 Zidoo edition (built on  December 2014). The system info reports 1920×1080@60Hz screen resolution rendered at about 30 fps.  I had some problems to connect to my SAMBA shares at first, but somehow it eventually worked.  Videos have normally been tested via Ethernet using Kodi, unless otherwise stated.

Some results with samplemedia.linaro.org video samples, plus some H.265/HEVC videos (Elecard), and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p/1080p60 – OK, but the 1080p60 video only renders at 30 fps according to Kodi
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK, but framerate oscillates between 22 and 25 fps (video is 25 fps)
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – Won’t play
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – 360p OK, Audio only for the other two videos.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

I also played some higher bitrate videos:

  • 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) – Could be smoother
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Not really smooth. (18 to 24 fps for a 23.976 video). Played from NTFS partition on USDB hard drive.

High definition audio codecs have been tested downmixed to PCM using XBMC and MXPlayer, and audio pass-through has been tested with Onkyo TX-NR636 using HDMI pass-through to BD/DVD input, and S/PDIF pass-through using TV/CD input on the receiver. Pass-through is enabled in Android Settings (Sound->S/PDIF->RAW) for both HDMI and optical S/PDIF, as well as the proper settings in Kodi, as done here.

Video PCM Output
Kodi
PCM Output
MX Player
HDMI Pass-through
Kodi
SPDIF Pass-through
Kodi
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but I could see tearing on the bottom of the video OK Dolby Digital  detected, but frequent audio cuts Dolby Digital  detected, but frequent audio cuts
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK Dolby Digital detected, but frequent audio cuts Dolby Digital detected, but frequent audio cuts
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 Makes Kodi crash Video Stuck at 00:00, eventually leading to “MX Player is not responding” Makes Kodi crash Makes Kodi crash
TrueHD 5.1 Video plays in slow motion OK No audio (PCM shown on receiver) Audio formats not supported via S/PDIF
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK No audio (PCM shown on receiver)
DTS HD Master OK “This audio format (DTS) is not supported” No audio (PCM shown on receiver)
DTS HD High Resolution OK “This audio format (DTS) is not supported” No audio (PCM shown on receiver)

Using “Explorer” app, AC3 and E-AC3 pass-through works, and TrueHD and DTS-HD can also be heard but down-mixed to Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1. I’ve been informed that stock Android does not support HD pass-through (TrueHD and DTS-HD), so it would require customization from the manufacturers. If you need this feature, you should go with Linux or Windows HTPC, bearing in mind that the hardware also needs to support it.

I’ve successfully tested Blu-Ray ISO with Sintel-Bluray.iso. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play

Previously I reported that Zidoo X9 was the only platform that could support both photo and video playback at true 4K resolution among 5 others ARM devices running Android, and this is still true, but unfortunately it can’t play any of my 4K videos samples smoothly in Kodi:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Not smooth. ~15 fps instead of 29.976 fps
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – No smooth. 15 to 20 fps instead of 24 fps
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Does not even start (stays in Kodi UI)
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Does not even start (stays in Kodi UI)
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  Does not even start (stays in Kodi UI)
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Does not even start (stays in Kodi UI)
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Extremely slow. Kodi reports 9 to 10 fps, but it feels closer to 3 fps.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Does not even start (stays in Kodi UI)
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Not smooth
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Audio only, shows last frame of previous video.

Playing 4K videos in Kodi is not really an option, so I tried in the sample in “Explorer” app that comes with the firmware:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Plays OK, but could be smoother.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – “media server died”
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Shows one image and plays crappy audio
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Audio only + message “video media error unsupport format”

Although you can’t really play 4K videos in Kodi, Explorer app does a decent job.

I also tested some 3D video, despite my 4K TV not supporting 3D, to check 3D video decoding:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – Plays at 20 fps instead of 60 fps
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

No device so far has been able to support 2160p 3D video, probably as it would need to support 3840×4320 video decoding.

One the other hand, Kodi managed to play all my AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB, and MP4 videos without A/V sync issues, and at a decent framerate.  One annoying bug is that sometimes when you start a video, all you get is a black screen, you have to go back and try agin, and the video will play.

I perform stability testing on my USB hard drive (since SAMBA did not work at the time) with a 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB). Kodi played the most at the right framerate, and only reported 20 dropped frames, instead of the often-reported 14,000 skipped frames on some other Android media players.

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

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

Zidoo X9 gets 698 points on Antutu Video Tester, a very good score (Maximum so far is 704). Audio failed to play only once, and quality is good based on that benchmark.

HDMI Input / PVR Function

HDMI input is the main selling point of the device, and it can be used with HDMI IN app only, which brings the following user interface.

HDMI IN App Screenshot (Click for Original Size)

HDMI IN App Screenshot (Click for Original Size)

You can see the recording path to the internal flash or external USB storage. If a USB hard drive or flash drive is connected it will create HdmiRecorder directory in the first partition by default, so this is what I used. You can send select the resolution (VGA, 720p or 1080p), the video container (MP4 or TS), and optionally the start time (called Bespoke here), and the length of the recording. You can click on Start Record to record immediately, or Add record to schedule a recording. For some reasons, I was unable to schedule multiple recordings, but the one I set started right on time. You can access the List of recorded video with the List tab on the left of the menu.

The user interface will quickly disappear (within 5 seconds) if there’s no user activity, but you can press the Menu button on the remote control to bring it back. Once you start recording, a red record button will be overlaid on the top right of the TV. You can stop recording anytime, by pressing the “Stop Record” button in the menu.

I’ve tested different use cases, and you can download the samples below to check yourself too:

Please bear in mind the videos won’t play in Totem or VideoLAN. I could play them in my PC with Kodi 14 and KMPlayer.  The first three videos look pretty good to me, although some lines appear when panning in the first video (“Hello Kitty” Funerals), but it could be the original video. When I play the PC video in full screen, it almost feels the same as the original, so I’m rather impressed by the the quality. The text may not be quite as sharp as the original, but still pretty good to me. However, when scrolling in Firefox we can clearly notice it’s a video, as the text becomes blurry.

I started to experience some issues with OpenELEC. By default it seems the resolution was set to 1280×1024, and Zidoo X9 did not like that, reporting an error, so I switched to 1920×1080, and everything worked again. Another bad news is that audio pass-through does not work. If I play n AC3 video using this flow: OpenELEC on my PC->HDMI port of Zidoo->Onkyo TX-NR636 AV Receiver->TV, the receiver will probably detect Dolby Dolby 5.1, and I can hear the audio just fine, but the recorder won’t handle AC3, and just record AAC (for all videos), so audio is just silent here. Another problem is the quality of the video itself, and it’s quite choppy at time, and I can see obvious horizontal lines in some scenes too. The original video is 60 fps, my PC plays it at 51 to 52 fps, and output 1080p50, while the recorded video is 29.976 fps.

I did try TrueHD audio pass-through but this made OpenELEC lose video output, but it’s the same when I connect my PC to a Sharp TV, so OpenELEC must not like try to pass TrueHD to an HDMI input that does not support it…

Some people have asked about HDCP, but I don’t have devices, and checking in AMD Catalyst Control Center did not report anything about HDCP when I connected my PC to Zidoo X9. I’ve been told that you should be able to record PS3 output by entering the game first, then inserting the HDMI cable to the HDMI Input of the recorder. maybe something similar is feasible with a Cable STB, and some other devices.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share (Ubuntu 14.04) and the internal flash of the device in order to test network performance. This is done with ES File Explorer three times, and I average the results. My testbed has now changed since I got a 4K TV and AV receiver, and the device under test is now a little closer to the Wi-Fi router, around 5 meter + wall, instead of around 6 meters + wall. I’ve made the assumption that it should not much change the results, but maybe this is something to look into. With that warning out of the way, Zidoo X9 is the best  802.11n platform tested so far with an average transfer rate of 4.43 MB/s over Wi-Fi.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

One the other hand, Ethernet could be better.

Zidoo_X9_Ethernet_SAMBA_Performance

Throughput in MB/s

The below average Ethernet performance can also be confirmed with iPerf using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line:

Zidoo_X9_Ethernet_iperfiperf output:

TCP window size: 85.3 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  4] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.105 port 59341
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.105, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 48609 connected with 192.168.0.105 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   567 MBytes  79.2 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   290 MBytes  40.5 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

File transfer worked without issue using ThL W200 smartphone.

Sony PS3 game controllers can’t be used because Sixaxis Compability Checker “could not load Bluetooth library”.

I could connect Vidonn X5 activity tracker over Bluetooth Low Energy to retrieve my fitness data.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and a USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be mounted and access. NTFS, EXT-4 and exFAT partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed, and only BTRFS failed.

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

I ran A1 SD Bench to measure I/O performance of both internal and USB storage. My hard drive is connected to the USB 3.0 port for the device, and it did show for the read/write of the three partitions:

  • NTFS – Read: 44.33 MB/s; Write: 48.95 MB/s
  • EXT-4 – Read: 52.41 MB/s; Write: 62.00 MB/s
  • exFAT – Read: 52.51 MB/s; Write: 43.31 MB/s

So for this device, EXT-4 appears to be the best choice, at least for sequential read/write.

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

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

We’ve got one of the best Android media player on the market when it comes to USB mass storage performance, but unfortunately just like BFS 4KH it can’t really be leverage as both devices are limited by their Fast Ethernet port.

The 8GB eMMC flash in the device achieves 29.95 MB/s (read) and 15.30 MB/s (write), a good performance overall, with nice balance between read and write speeds.

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

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

USB Webcam

I installed Skype and Google Hangout. I managed to make the “Echo Service” call in Skype, but most of the time video calls failed, and I could only see the actual webcam image once, while most of the time a black screen was shown. The webcam icon showed in Google Hangout, and I could click to start a call, but I got no image at all. So neither Skype nor Hangouts worked at all for me, except for voice calls on Skype.

Gaming

Three usual games: Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2.  I played Candy Crush Sage with MeLe F10 air mouse, and the game was as smooth as on other recent devices. However, I did notice some delays with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad in Beach Buggy Racing, and the game was not that smooth even with graphics options set to “highest framerate”.  No delays in Riptide GP2, but again, although it’s playable, it’s certainly not as enjoyable as on more powerful  platforms. On the plus side, none of the games froze at anytime, even after over 20 minutes of play.

Zidoo Z9 (Mstar MSO9810) Benchmarks

I had never used a product based on Mstar MSO9810 so I went through all benchmarks I normally run for my reviews. But before that, I checked out CPU-Z information.

Mstar 9810 CPU-Z (Click to Enlarge)

Mstar 9810 CPU-Z (Click to Enlarge)

An Mstar Semiconductor quad core ARM Cortex A9 r4p1 processor @ 1.45 GHz is detected, together with a Mali-450MP GPU. The model number is Zidoo_Z9 (full_lemon) with the board simply called “lemon”, and the hardware “napoli”. Not quite sure what the difference is between “board” and “hardware”. 1579 MB RAM is available in total, the rest most probably being reserved for the GPU and VPU, with 1.97GB internal storage (CPU-Z only report the first partition).

X9 got 15,851 points in Antutu 5.6.

Antutu 5.6 Score (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 5.6 Score (Click to Enlarge)

Quite surprising for a quad core Cortex A9 processor (in a bad way), because that’s lower than score I got (16,500+)  with Amlogic S805 Cortex A5 platforms such as MXQ S85. It’s always possible one is cheating more than the other, and looking at the detailed scores, integer and floating point performance is better with Mstar as it should be, but RAM speed is rather poor (853 vs 1590), while graphics performance is slightly better, and I/O too. So memory bandwidth seems to be the issue here.

Vellamo 3.1 score for Metal Benchmark (534), Browser benchmark (1151), and Multicore benchmark (718) are mixed against Amlogic S805 with respectively 551, 1319, and 816 (but some test were skipped). So it more or less confirms Mstar 9810 performance is quite close to Amlogic S802.

Zidoo_X9_Vellamo

Mali-450MP GPU found in Mstar 9810 might be clocked at a higher speed (and/or use a different amount of cores MP2 vs MP4), as it gets a little over 3,000 points vs 2,325 points in EM6Q-MXQ.

3DMark ICE Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

3DMark ICE Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

Conclusion

Zidoo X9 is a unique product on the market thanks to its HDMI input, and video recording function, which works pretty well with some caveats. Wi-Fi is excellent, and storage performance (eMMC and USB 3.0) is also very good. The firmware works well most of the time, but a few internal apps tend to crash a bit too often to my liking, and Kodi really needs some work. The good news is that the development team seems dedicated to regular firmware updates, and is looking into users’ issues.

PRO:

  • HDMI Input with PVR function works relatively well.
  • Both 4K videos and pictures are actually displayed at 4K resolution.
  • H.264 / HEVC 4K video playback with “Explorer” app
  • Audio pass-through in “Explorer” app works for AC3 and E-AC3, TrueHD and DTS-HD are down-mixed to Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1 however.
  • High Antutu Video Tester score (698).
  • Excellent Wi-Fi performance
  • Good performance for eMMC, and USB 3.0 hard drive
  • NTFS, EXT-4, exFAT and FAT32 file systems are fully supported.
  • Good looking user interface
  • Clean power off  and on from remote control
  • Regular OTA update with detailed changelog
  • Blog and support forums

CONS:

  • Some Zidoo apps  (e.g. Settings) may crash, or even hung the system. I have not really found issues with the firmware itself, while running apps from Google Play however.
  • Kodi 14.0 has some issues
    • None of my ten 4K video samples would play at an acceptable frame rate
    • H.265 / HEVC not well supported in XBMC
    • Sometimes a video won’t start (Black screen), and re-trying will usually work
    • It may crash with some videos
    • Audio pass-through is not working is a satisfying manner even with AC3 / E-AC3 (frequent audio cuts)
  • Performance underwhelming for a Cortex A9 processor based on Benchmarks, which ends up being equivalent to Amlogic S805 due to slow memory bandwidth.
  • Skype and Google Hangouts did not work for me
  • Sony PS3 controller can’t be used (required Bluetooth library missing)
  • HDMI IN app – I could not schedule multiple recordings, some “lines” may be apparent in the recordings, can’t record AC3 audio pass-through.
  • Lack of 1080p24 / 4K24 video output option

I’d like to thanks GearBest for sending the sample for review, and if you are interested in the device, you could purchase from their shop for $119.99 including shipping with ZDX9CN coupon.  Other shipping options include Amazon US ($165)GeekBuying ($115.99 with BFCIGPHO coupon) or Ebay ($149.99).

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MeLE PCG03 mini PC Review and Benchmarks with Windows 8.1 with Bing

January 29th, 2015 11 comments

MeLE PCG03 is an Intel Atom Z3735F mini PC with 2GB RAM, and 32GB eMMC. I’ve already posted some pictures of the device and board, and since Windows 8.1 with Bing NTE (with proper license) is installed, I’ll first test the device with Microsoft OS as reference, before trying Ubuntu or/and Android.

MeLE PCG03 Setup

The computer comes only with a power adapter, so you’ll need to find an HDMI or/and VGA cable for your display(s), and USB keyboard and mouse to get started. Optionally, you’ll also want an Ethernet cable, and since storage is limited an extra storage device be it a USB hard drive, flash drive, or SD card.

Once all is connected you can press the power button on the left side to boot the device. The boot normally takes about 20 seconds, but the first time, you’ll go through the usual Windows 8.1 setup (I assume), including country, time zone and language selection: 中文简体, 中文繁體, English, Français, Deutsch, Italiano, Nederlands, espanol, Português (Brazil or Portugal), русский, Čeština, slovenščina, ,فارسی Polski, українська, العربية  or .עברית If your local language is not listed then you are out of luck.

You’ll also have to create a local account, or sign-in with an MSN account, and you should be done. So the process is pretty much straightforward.

Windows 8.1 Interface (Click for Original)

Windows 8.1 Interface (Click for Original)

mele_pcg03_resolution

Click to Enlarge

The screenshot above is after cleaning up the junk a bit, and adding my own app. The box is connected to my 4K TV, but the maximum resolution supported by the device is 1920×1080, and the lowest 1024×768. You may also connect an extra monitor via the VGA port for a dual display setup. I’ll demo this below in this post.

Mele PCG03 System Info

Let’s get some more details about the system.
mele_pcg03_PC_info
As advertised the system comes with a Z3735F processor, 2GB RAM, and the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 with Bing activated. I also received a Windows Update while testing. The company also told me it would be possible to recover the firmware, but did not provide a link. They’ve just provided their FAQ explaining how to upgrade the firmware, and configure other things like audio and video output.

mele_PCG03_storageThere’s a 28.7GB partition out of the 32GB eMMC, and about 16 GB free space. The screenshot above is after installing Firefox and Crystal Disk Benchmark.

mele_pcg03_device_manager_large

Click to Enlarge

The Device Manager shows the list of devices, but we already knew about the hardware with tear-down. Realtek RTL8723 (BS) is also used in Meegopad T01 and Pipo X7, which should be good news for Android and Linux support.

mele_pcg03_hwinfoI ran also HWiNFO32 to get more details about the CPU, which is incorrectly detected as Z3735D, but the other information should be correct, as both processor are very similar.

In case you wonder about the BIOS, it’s basically the same AMI Bios as other Intel Atom Z3735F devices.

AMI BIOS UEFI 2.3 (Click to Enlarge)

AMI BIOS UEFI 2.3 (Click to Enlarge)

You can watch that video to see all options. This is for MeegoPad T01, but the BIOS is bascially the same, except the one in PCG03 has been built one month earlier.

MeLE PCG03 Benchmarks

PCMARK 8 is a standard benchmark for Windows, and covers lots of area include office use, video conferencing, gaming, web browsing and so on. I downloaded the basic version, and ran the baseline test.

mele_pcg03_pcmark_8

PCMark 8 on MeLE PCG03 (Click to Enlarge)

MeLE PCG03 gots 1,105 points in PCMARK 8 HOME CONVENTIONAL 3.0 test. The software somehow detected an Intel Core i7-5960X…
It’s the first time I’ve run this benchmark so looked for some comparison online. For example an Intel Core i7-920 processor with Nvidia GeForce GTX770 gets 2,610 points. I was expecting a larger gap, but if you look into the details, you’ll find that Casual gaming  is 10 times faster in the more powerful computer.

I measured the temperature on top and bottom of the enclosure right about the benchmark at respectively 39 °C and 46 °C, so that part is under control.

The internal storage is a Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash, and performance does show.

mele_pcg03_disk_benchmarkMeLE PCG03 Usability Testing

Benchmarks are nice, but nothing it worth and hands-on experience, so I’ve shot a video showing the device, some settings including storage and display,  and tasks that may be challenging in competing ARM Linux hardware platforms:

  • Web Browsing in Firefox
    • Loading CNX Software
    • Playing an Embedded Video
    • Playing a 1080p Video in Full Screen mode
    • Playing a flash game  (Candy Crush Saga)
  • Gaming with Asphalt 8
  • Kodi with 4K video playback
  • Dual display support with HDMI TV and VGA monitor

The refresh rate of my camera and the 4K TV does not match, so at time (desktop and web browsing), the video is a pain to watch but hopefully, it will give an idea of the performance and capabilities of this mini PC.

So overall the device is quite usable, but I experienced obvious stuttering while playing 1080p YouTube videos (Embedded or Full Screen), and animation in Candy Crush Saga were pretty slow. The good news was I could play some 4K videos in Kodi (albeit outputted to 1080p), and Asphalt 8 is running reasonably well, although a higher frame rate would be nice. With the wave of Intel Bay Trail mini PC, the VGA port is clearly a strong point of this box, especially dual display is working as it should. If you really intend to use this device as a PC for web browsing, emails (Outlook. Thunderbird),  and an office suite, you’ll likely to run out of space pretty quickly, so an external storage device is a must.

Mele_PCG03_Blue_Screen_Of_Death

If you miss Microsft BSOD, don’t worry it’s alive and well! :) This happened when I connected the hard drive via a USB hub, instead of directly to a USB port on the device. Maybe a power issue?

That’s all for today. I’ll write a separate post to thoroughly test video playback in Kodi Windows, and then try alternative operating systems such as Ubuntu and Android, and compare how they perform versus Windows 8.1.

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