Posts Tagged ‘benchmark’

Zidoo X6 Pro Android TV Box Review

October 9th, 2015 24 comments

Zidoo X6 Pro is a 64-bit ARM Android TV Boxes  based on Rockchip RK3368 processor, promising support for HDMI 2.0 and video decoding up to 4K2K @ 60Hz. While the others I’ve tried so far, such as Beelink i68,  are pre-loaded with some version of Kodi 14.2, X6 Pro comes with a modified version of Kodi 15.1. I published pictures of the Zidoo X6 Pro TV box and board a few days ago, and today I’ll review the box’ features, performance, and capabilities.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve connected a USB hard drive to one of the two USB ports, as well as a USB hub with two RF dongles for Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad and MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse, a USB keyboard, and a USB webcam. I’ve also inserted an Ethernet cable, an HDMI cable, an optical audio cable, a Class 10 micro SD card, as well as the power adapter. The boot time takes just above one minute with all those peripherals attached.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The launcher is another version of the company’s ZIUI user interface and includes widgets for date & time, and weather, as well as shortcuts to Kodi, the company’s “Explorer” file browser, Browser (Chrome), Setting, Clean up, App Lock, and About sections. There’s also a list a customizable shorting on the bottom of the interface. App lock is some sort of parental control, where you can define a password, and lock some apps, so that only persons who know the password can launch password protected apps. There are also some icons on the bottom right to indicate Bluetooth, WiFi, USB storage, and Ethernet status. The status bar is hidden by default, but you can pull it up with the mouse pointer to show software volumes button, Home, Back & Menu buttons, as well as a screenshooting icon, and power button. The user interface resolution is 1920×1080, however video output was set to 720p50, and I had to go to the settings to change video output to  3840x2160p60 (YCbCr420) as supported by LG 42UB820T 4K UHD TV used for testing.

The settings are the same as on Android Lollipop devices, but with options specific to TV boxes. Sections, sub-section and main options include:

  • Wireless & Networks – Wi-FiBluetooth, Ehernet (sic.), and a “More” section with three sections: Tethering & portable hotspot, PPPoE and VPN
  • Device
    • USB – Connect to PC
    • Sound & Notifications – Volume for media/alarm/notifications, and a Sound Device Manager to select Default Output, Spdif Passthrough, or HDMI Bitstream
    • Display
      • Screen Scale
      • Output Interface – HDMI or TV
      • HDMI Mode:
        • Auto
        • 4096x2160p @ 60Hz (YCbCr420), 50Hz (YCbCr420), 30Hz, 25Hz, or 24Hz
        • 3840x2160p @ 60Hz (YCbCr420), 50Hz (YCbCr420), 30Hz, 25Hz, or 24Hz
        • 1920x1080p @ 60 Hz, 50Hz, 30Hz, 25Hz, 24Hz
        • 1280x720p @ 60 or 50 Hz
        • 720x576p @ 50 Hz
        • 720x480p @ 60 Hz
      • Daydream
      • Cast Screen
    • Storage – Unified 12.91GB internal storage partition with 12.32 GB free for app and data

About_Zidoo_X6_ProOthers sections such as Security, Language & Input, Users… are also there, but Printing is missing. If you want the full details, watch the walk-through video embedded below.

Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth all worked reliably, however, I’ve found that HDMI output may vary if you really on the automatic detection feature, or enable automatic frame rate switching in Kodi. Once I forced it to 2160p60, it worked just fine. I also had to adjust the “Screen Scale” to 100% to make sure the user interface was not zoomed in, with some black zones on the edges.

Going into  “About device” shows “Zidoo_X6 ProI68” is the model number, and Android 5.1.1 is running on top of Linux 3.10.0. A ZDrepo Identify Code is also shown, just like in Zidoo X1. OTA firmware updated is enabled, but I already had the latest firmware, so I could not test it out. This firmware is rooted, and superuser pre-installed.

I’ve shot a walk-through video to show ZIUI user interface, and settings details.

The provided IR remote control works as advertised, including the IR learning function which I tried with power and volume keys of my TV. The range is a little shorter than usual, and it only worked reliably within 5 meters. As long as you just use Kodi or ZIUI, the remote control is fine, but I had to switch to an air mouse to navigate and use Android app more easily, and for text input. One nice detail is that the system detected my “hardware keyboard” and did not popup the software keyboard needlessly.

Google Play Store works just fine, expect for SMS / phone apps, and apps that can’t be installed due to country limitations. I also side-loaded Amazon Underground to install Riptide GP2 racing game.

There’s no power button on the unit itself, but it’s not needed, and Zidoo did a good job at handling power. A short press on the remote’s power key will show a menu with Power off, Standby, Reboot, and Auto power off.  The first three option work as expected, and auto power off let you set a timer from 30 minutes to 48 hours, in thirty minutes increment, to either power off the device, or go into standby. A long press (~3 seconds) on the power key will also turn off the device cleanly. The remote control can also be used to power on the device from your sofa.

For those interested in power consumption these are the results with either no USB devices, or one USB hard drive:

  • Power off – 0 Watt
  • Standby – 1.3 Watt
  • Idle – 3.4 ~ 4.2 Watts
  • Power off + HDD – 0 Watt
  • Standby + HDD – 2.1 Watt (HDD light does turn off)
  • Idle + HDD – 6.0 ~ 6.4 Watts

Zidoo X6 Pro appears to get a little hotter than Beelink i68 RK3368 TV box, although still in the same range, as I measured 39°C and 58°C on the top and bottom of the enclosure after running Antutu 5.7, and after 15 to 20 minutes playing Riptide GP2 the temperature went up to 40°C and 66°C. Once I noticed Kodi started to feel sluggish, and noticed the bottom temperature reached 75°C max, and a reboot did not fix the sluggishness. So I powered off the box for a few minutes, and everything worked fine again. So there might be cases where the CPU throttles due to high temperature.

Apart from the only time Kodi felt sluggish, Zidoo X6 Pro performs pretty well, and the firmware is stable. I also appreciated some details like proper power handling, a single internal storage partition, software keyboard hidden when a hardware keyboard is detected, and so on.

Video Playback with Kodi 15

As mentioned in the introduction, Zidoo X6 Pro is the first RK3368 that comes with Kodi 15.1. Not the version from Google Play, but a version modified by Zidoo, with source code modifications available for everyone to see. Videos have been played from SAMBA shares located in an Ubuntu 14.04 computer and accessed over Ethernet.

Kodi 15.1 in Zidoo X6 Pro (Click for Original Size)

Kodi 15.1 in Zidoo X6 Pro (Click for Original Size)

The refresh rate shown in Kodi’s System Info varied a lot from 11Hz to 246Hz as shown on the screenshot above, so it’s probably misreported. Before starting video playback, I went to the settings in Video->Playback, and set “Adjust display refresh rate” to “Always” to make sure I had the best playback experience. The refresh rate did change, but the output resolution changed too between 720p and 1080p, which is fine depending on the video, but the problem is that it would never go back to 2160p automatically on the video complete, and then even 4K videos were played at 1080p. So if you may want to disable automatic frame rate switching if you have a 4K TV, and plan on watching 4K videos, at least with this firmware (v1.0.15).

While I had a bad time in Kodi with Zidoo X1, Zidoo X6 Pro managed to play all video samples I tried, as well as Elecard H.265/HEVC samples, and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Bear in mind that Zidoo disabled “drop” and “skip” fields in Kodi’s live log window, so I had to purely rely on my eyes. OK does not mean perfect, as I still feel videos are a bit smoother on Amlogic devices, but these were all watchable. One small issue was the lack of Zoom option during playback, as the only option I got was for 3D videos.

However with some higher bitrate videos I started to see some issues:

  • ED_HD.avi – Video plays for about 2 seconds before the image freezes. Audio is OK, and continues. I noticed one CPU core was stuck at 100%.
  • 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) – Could be smoother
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – I experience a long buffering before playback, and when it did play, it was not very smooth, and the next buffering occurred. I also got a message reading “cache full”.

One of the key differentiating features of Zidoo’s Kodi implementation is support for 7.1 audio pass-through. So I’ve played some HD audio videos both down-mixed to PCM using Kodi and the internal player “Video” app, and audio pass-through with Onkyo TX-NR636 using HDMI pass-through with BD/DVD input, and optical S/PDIF with TV/CD input.

Zidoo_X6_Pro_Kodi_15.1_Audio_pass-throughYou’ll notice two new options for Audio output in Kodi: TrueHD capable receiver and DTS-HD capable receiver. You’ll also need to change PCM audio output in Android’s Sound settings to Spdif passthrough or HDMI bitstream as needed.

Video PCM Output
PCM Output
“Video” app
HDMI Pass-through
S/PDIF Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK, but video aspect ratio is 1:1 OK OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D+ 7.1) Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK Unreliable. Sometimes OK (TrueHD 7.1), sometimes no audio.
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK Plays 3 seconds and output a regular “beep” and stops. Unreliable. Sometimes OK (TrueHD 7.1), sometimes no audio.
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK OK (DTS-HD HR) DTS 5.1

These were the results I got during testing, but later I noticed the unreliable audio pass-through affected all TrueHD and DTS-HD audio streams. A reboot may fix the issue, but not always. Zidoo tested their boxes with an Onkyo AV receiver too, but a different model, so I wonder if there are some timing issues involved here which may cause the unreliable HD audio pass-through. You can see the problem first hand in the demo video I embedded below.

4K videos still played better on Zidoo X6 Pro than other boxes running Kodi 14.x, but there’s still some work to do:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK at the beginning, but then audio stops and video becomes slow
  • 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) – Mostly OK, but the video seemed to stop for a very short time (<0.5s) at one point
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t play, the system stays in user interface.
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Stays in UI
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Image quickly freezes.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play, the system stays in the user interface
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Audio/video synchronization issues, and the video could be a little smoother
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – Looks perfect until after around 20 seconds, the audio and picture stops for a very short time, some artifacts are then displayed for 2 or 3 seconds, because normal playback resumes, and 20 to 30 seconds later the issue happens again.

As a side note, one document from Rockchip in Chinese appears to imply that while 4K H.265 @ 60 fps is supposed to work, 4K H.264 is limited to 30 fps in Kodi 15.x. You can watch a demo videos showing 4K playback and HD audio pass-through capabilities and issues I found on Kodi 15.1 on Zidoo X6 Pro.

Sintel-Bluray.iso and amay.iso (Ambra – Prism of Life) Blu-ray ISO files could play, but not very smoothly especially amat.iso (3 to 4 fps), and I noticed some buffering after a while. But with knowledge that the box may overheat, I retried one morning, and both video played very smoothly.

Both 1080i MPEG2 video samples (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) played fine, but as all boxes I tested so far, Hi10p failed:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – Audio OK, video with artifacts, and picture will freeze after a while
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – Audio OK, video gets stuck after 3 to 4 seconds.

Bearing in my mind that my TV does not support 3D, I’ve still played some stereoscopic 3D videos to see if the system could decode them :

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – Plays somewhat smoothly, audio/video sync issues or delay
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Several H.264, DViX/XVid, VOB/IFO, MKV, and MP4 movies could play without issues, while most FLV videos worked, but a few could not play staying in the UI, with only audio playing.

I could play a full 1080p MKV movie (exactly 1920×800, H.264, about 2 hours long) without interruption, and the overheating issue I saw sometimes did not occur with that movie. Dropped and skipped frames were all reported to be zero, but I suspect Zidoo disabled it for some reasons.

Antutu Video Tester was installed from Google Play (Version 2.2), and upgraded to version 3.0 before running the test. Zidoo X6 Pro got only 328 points, strangely lower than Beelink i68.
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge


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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

A file (278MB for WiFi and Fast Ethernet, 885MB for Gigabit Ethernet) is transferred between a SAMBA share and the internal storage three times using ES File Explorer, and I average the results to report Wi-Fi and Ethernet performance. WiFi 802.11n @ 2.4GHz performance is average @ 2.73 MB/s, while 802.11ac (433 Mbps) @ 5.4 MB/s is one of the best I’ve seen so far.

WiFi Performance in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

WiFi Performance in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

I tested full duplex performance over WiFi for 60 seconds using “iperf -t 60 -c -d” and the results are not quite good, as I don’t think WiFi is good at transferring data in both directions.

  • WiFi 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz (65 Mbps – Good signal)

  • Wifi 802.11ac (433Mbps, sometimes 6 to 12 Mbps – Excellent signal) – Test 2:

  • Wifi 802.11ac – Test 3:

The image below is a screenshot of Conky on my Ubuntu 14.04 computer used as iperf server. I shows three tests I did with 802.11ac, and while all 3 start very fast in both direction, the transfer rate collapses after several seconds. You can see that at the end of test 3 transfer rates were 688.5 Kbit/s and 16.0 Kbit/s.Zidoo_X6_Pro_iperf_wifi_ac

Gigabit Ethernet performance is not outstanding, but still much better than for devices with Fast Ethernet, as I could transfer a file at 11.88 MB/s on average.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

iperf shows Zidoo X6 Pro is actually pretty good, and the fourth best device with Gigabit Ethernet I’ve tested, when we add the transfer rate in both directions.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

Miscellaneous Tests


I could transfer several pictures, after pairing X6 Pro with Iocean M6572 smartphone. I did notice that the option to make Zidoo X6 Pro (Bluetooth ID: rk3368) discoverable was missing, so you can find your phone, or other Bluetooth device with the TV box, but not the way around.

A Bluetooth PS3 controller clone could work just fine using Sixaxis Compatibility check using the instructions posted on How to Play Games in Android mini PCs / STBs With a PS3 Bluetooth Controller.

I had to skip Bluetooth LE tested, as my Vidonn X5 fitness band “passed away”. A Bluetooth headset pair and worked without issues.


FAT32 (micro SD card), NTFS, EXT-4 & exFAT (USB hard drive) partitions could all be mounted in read/write mode, with the only unsupported file system being BTRFS.

File System Read Write
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

A1 SD Bench results for the 3 partitions on the USB hard drive:

  • NTFS (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK4/USB3_NTFS) – Read: 24.83 MB/s , Write: 24.86 MB/s
  • EXT-4 (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK4/udisk1) – Read: 27.26 MB/s, Write: 24.26 MB/s
  • exFAT (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK4/udisk2) – Read: 25.83 MB/s, Write: 5.70 MB/s
Read and Write Speeds in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

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

Performance is acceptable for a USB 2.0 connection, but if write speed is important to you, better stick with NTFS or EXT-4, and avoid exFAT.

The Toshiba eMMC flash in X6 Pro makes it the fastest TV box I’ve tested so far with a read speed of 79.50 MB/s, and write speed of 24.02 MB/s.

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

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

USB Webcam

A UVC USB webcam was tested successfully with both Skype and Google Hangouts.


Candy Crush Saga was just fine with the air mouse. But when I switched to  a wireless gamepad with two 3D racing games, namely Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2, I could definitely confirm this is not a gaming platform, possibly because of the overheating issues I experienced before. Beach Buggy Racing was playable, but not as smooth a I like, and if I set the graphics settings to “high resolution” the gaming would still be playable, but not enjoyable… Riptide GP2 did not have a high framerate either, maybe 10 to 15 fps, and after about 10 minutes of play I got a window telling me the game was not responding: wait or close?

Zidoo X6 Pro Benchmarks

CPU-Z has still not added Rockchip RK3368 to its database, so it’s recognized as an 8 core RK3066 processor @ 1.20 GHz.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

But the rest of the information appears to be mostly correct with eight Cortex A53 cores clocked between 312 MHz and 1.20 GHz, a G6110 GPU, 2GB, and 12.91 GB storage. The model is ZIDOO_X6 Pro (rk3368_box) with 1920×1080 screen resolution, and an aarch64 Linux kernel.

For some reasons the Antutu 5.7.3 score is quite low, i.e. 24,768, against a much higher 34,171 score with Beelink i68. But that score is probably more representative of the performance, as in RK3368 vs RK3288 performance comparison, I noticed some unusual results, and Antutu looked much better than some other benchmarks for RK3368.

Still that’s quite a difference. Only storage I/O looks better for Zidoo X6 Pro.

That’s why it’s important to run some other benchmark too, such as Vellamo.
I normally run the Browser test using the Android stock browser, but in this firmware I only had Chrome Brower and WebView. The latter ended with warnings as shown by the yellow “sticker” on the right side. The Metal and multicore tests should be comparable however, and while Zidoo X6 Pro got respectively 582 and 1,012 points, Beelink i68 had significantly higher scores: 773 points, and 1288 points.

Zidoo_X6_Pro_Ice_Storm_Extreme3D Mark’s Ice Storm Extreme confirmed the lower performance of Zidoo X6 Pro in benchmarks, as Beelink i68 hot 4,248 points in that particular  benchmark. Both system are running RK3368 at 1.2 GHz maximum with an interactive governor, so I’m not sure what may explain the differences in benchmark results.


Zidoo selected high quality components when making their hardware, and for example, the Toshiba eMMC is the fastest I’ve tested so far in any Android TV boxes, and Wi-Fi and Ethernet performance is either average (802.11n and Gigabit Ethernet) or excellent (802.11ac), but the main worry is that X6 Pro may overheat, and RK3368 processor may throttle at times, greatly reducing the performance of the system. Hopefully, this can be solved with some tweaks in the kernel governor. Kodi 15.x Zidoo edition works much better than Kodi 14.2 in Beelink i68 (also based on RK3368), with TrueHD and DTS-HD audio pass-through over HDMI, and 4K video playback (H.265 @ 60fps, H.264 @ 30 fps). However it’s still far from perfect, as 7.1 channel pass-through only works intermittently using my Onkyo receiver, and a 4K H.265 video sample @ 60 fps suffered from artifacts every half minute. Hopefully, these issues will be fixed with upcoming firmware updates, as overall I find Zidoo Z6 Pro to be a promising platform with a decent firmware base and good hardware.


  • Recent Android 5.1 OS firmware is both responsive (most of the time) and stable
  • Kodi 15.1 with 3D MVC, 7 channel audio pass-through, and H.265 / 4K hardware decoding
  • HDMI 2.0 video output works up to 2160p60 Hz
  • Good Ethernet and WiFi performance
  • Best eMMC performance of Android TV boxes I’ve tested, and with a unified 12.9GB flash partition for data and apps.
  • Support for FAT32, NTFS, EXT-4, and exFAT file systems
  • Proper power handling, also including timer to power off/go into standby
  • USB webcam is working in Skype and Hangouts
  • OTA firmware update
  • GPL compliance for Kodi (but not the Linux kernel)


  • *The box may overheat, leading the CPU to throttle, and bringing user experience which reminded me of single core Cortex A8 processor. Solution: et the box cool down for a little while. It happened while using Kodi, and playing Riptide GP2. I could still watch a full 2-hour 1080p movie without the heat issue occurring however.
  • Kodi 15.1 works better than on other boxes but there are still some issues
    • *7.1 channel audio pass-through is unreliable, at least with Onkyo TX636-NR AV receiver. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not (with the same video).
    • Automatic frame rate switching will also change output resolution. For example if HDMI output is set to 2160p60, and you play a 1080p24 video, it will switch to 1080p24 video output (OK), but once it is finished, the video output will stay at 1080p resolution, even for 4K videos
    • 4K H.265 @ 60 fps plays, but in the video sample I used I had artifacts for about 2 seconds, every 20 to 30 seconds.
    • I could not access zoom options in most videos (minor issue)
    • Auto-repeat is ON by default (minor issue)
    • In some instances, Kodi may be quite slow to exit
  • *Benchmark results significantly lower than in Beelink i68 (also based on RK3368), even with Antutu Video Tester 3.0.
  • *3D games like Beach Buggy Racing and Riptide GP2 suffer from relatively low frame rate

[Update 1: All items marked with * may be temperature related (it’s the weather!). Other people have reported HD audio pass-through worked fine, and had higher Antutu score than the one I reported. During the review the temperature was 28 to 30 C (with aircon), but in the last few days the temperature has dropped to 22 to 24C, and Antutu is now much higher (~34,000 points), and HD audio pass-through appears to be stable. See comments for details.]

[Update 2: After looping a 4K video for one hour, and running Antutu again, the score went all the way down to around 12,600 points, so Zidoo X6 Pro can’t sustain the performance with its current firmware.]

Both Zidoo and Geekbuying provided a sample for this review. Distributors may consider contacting Zidoo via the product page to order in quantities, while individuals may purchase Zidoo X6 Pro on Geekbuying for $99. Few sellers currently sell the box, as Geekbuying might have the exclusivity, but I also found the products listed on on eBay ($120) and Aliexpress ($109).


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ARM TechCon 2015 Schedule – IoT, Servers, 64-bit ARM, Power Usage Optimization, and More

October 1st, 2015 No comments

ARM_TechCon_2015The ARM Technology Conference (ARM TechCon) will take place on November 10 – 12, 2015, in Santa Clara Convention Center, and just like every year, there will be a free exposition for companies to showcase their latest innovation and/or products, as well as a technical conference with sessions and workshops sorted into various tracks:

  • Automotive/Embedded Vision
  • Embedded
  • IoT
  • Mobile/Connectivity
  • Networking Infrastructure/Servers
  • Tools & Implementation
  • Wearables/Sensors
  • ARM Training Day
  • Sponsored Vendor Training
  • Special Event
  • General Event
  • Software Developers Workshop

You can find the complete schedule on ARM TechCon website. Although I won’t attend, I’ve created my own virtual schedule with some of the sessions I found interesting.

Tuesday – November 10

  • 8:30 – 9:20 – ARM Vision for Thermal Management and Energy Aware Scheduling on Linux by Ian Rickards (ARM), Charles Garcia-Tobin (ARM), Bobby Batacharia (ARM)

This talk will cover the history and where are we going, for ARM’s Power Software (IPA, EAS, and some concepts for the future).

ARM will detail the latest update on our thermal control software Intelligent Power Allocation (IPA) which has just been released in mainline Linux 4.2. The tuning and implementation flow allow IPA to be easily deployed in Linux-based devices including Android.

We will also introduce ‘Energy Aware Scheduling’ (EAS) which is a new development by ARM/Linaro to allow the Linux scheduler to make the most energy efficient decisions using a generic energy model based approach. EAS includes improved upstream Linux support for ARM “big.LITTLE” systems and other advanced multi-cpu topologies.

  • 9:30 – 10:30 – Innovation is Thriving in Semiconductors by Mike Muller (ARM)

The human capacity to find a path past difficult challenges is astonishing. Though traditional silicon scaling is more complex at advanced geometries, electronics design innovation is more robust than ever as engineers devise new ways to improve the latest chips. ARM CTO Mike Muller will describe advances in design innovation spanning low power, trust, and architectural innovation all the way from sensors to server and beyond. And he’ll unveil the latest technology achievements from ARM in his signature lively, humorous and engaging style.

  • 10:30 – 11:20 – IoT Prototyping 101: The All-in-One Platform by Steven Si (MediaTek)

Power efficiency, connectivity and size are top priorities for any developer looking to prototype innovative IoT devices. Best utilizing these key features with ARM’s technology will be the spotlight of this session a live demonstration of how a developer at any level can create the next big thing in IoT. Skills to be shown: connecting sensors; using a cloud interface to build a virtual device; sending data from the device to the cloud and communicating with other smart devices. (cnxsoft: possibly using LinkIt ONE platform)

  • 11:30 – 12:20 – Khronos APIs for Fast and Cool Graphics, Compute and Vision by Neil Trevett (Khronos)

Discover how 100 companies cooperate at the Khronos Group to create open, royalty free standards that enable developers to access the power of hardware to accelerate the demanding tasks in cutting-edge mobile applications including heterogeneous parallel computation, 3D graphics and vision processing. This session includes the latest updates to API standards including OpenGL, OpenCL, OpenVX, and the recent Vulkan new generation graphics and compute API. The session will explore how modern APIs will accelerate the availability of compelling experiences such as neural-net based driver assistance, virtual and augmented reality, and advanced environmental tracking and 3D reconstruction on ARM-based devices

  • 13:00 – 15:00 – Boosting Performance from ‘C’ to Sky with Custom Accelerators on ARM-based FPGAs by Shaun Purvis (Hardent)

Offloading tasks to specialized hardware, such as a GPU or FPU, is a common approach to boosting software performance. However, the fixed nature (i.e. hard-silicon) of such hardware places an upper limit on just how much performance can be boosted. In order to break down this barrier, some modern SoCs have combined ARM processing power with programmable logic allowing software to be offloaded to custom, scalable, accelerators. With accelerators that can be tailored to specific needs, suddenly the sky’s the limit! But that’s not all. Combining these SoCs with modern tools allows designers to migrate high-level functions directly to hardware, skipping all the hardware design in between. This presentation will introduce one such tool and discuss the design methodology that takes a software-defined system and turns it into a custom hardware accelerated one.

  • 15:30 – 16:20 – Bringing Mali, the Android GPU of Choice, to Wearables by Dan Wilson (ARM Ltd.)

In this talk we will look at the trends for the use of graphics processors in Wearable devices and how the technical requirements of this space differ from that of smartphones and other segments. We look specifically at the ARM Mali GPU Utgard architecture which provides the perfect fit for Wearable designs and describe how this architecture has been implemented to create ARM’s latest ultra-low-power Mali GPU.

  • 16:30 – 18:00 – Efficient Interrupts on ARM Cortex-M Microcontrollers by Chris Shore (ARM)

Most real-time embedded systems make extensive use of interrupts to provide real-time response to external events. The design of the interrupt architecture is crucial to achieve maximum system efficiency. When designing software for devices based on ARM’s Cortex-M microcontroller cores, it is important to understand the interaction between interrupt priority, sub-priority, tail-chaining and pre-emption to achieve the most efficient design. This session will examine various use cases and give practical advice to software developers.

Wednesday – November 11

  • 8:30 – 9:20 – How (Not) to Generate Misleading Performance Results for ARM Servers by Markus Levy (EEMBC) & Bryan Chin (Cavium)

Cloud workloads are putting unique demands on SoCs and other system-level hardware being integrated into scale-out servers. Traditional benchmarks address the suitability of processors for different tasks. However, many factors contribute to the whole system performance memory, disks, OS, network interfaces, and network stack. In addition, the manner of generating workloads can affect the results. This session uses a case study from Cavium’s ARM-based Thunder X system and the EEMBC cloud and server benchmark, to present results that demonstrate how subtle test environment variations can obfuscate benchmark results and how a properly designed benchmark can overcome these obstacles.

  • 9:30 – 10:30 – Keynote by Simon Segars (ARM’s CEO)
  • 10:30 – 11:20 – Pentralux Flexible Digital Displays on Paper, Plastic, Cloth & Synthetics by Mathew Gilliat-Smith (DST Innovations), Anthony Miles (DST Innovations)

DST Innovations has created a flexible digital display proof of concept produced on plastic, paper, cloth or synthetic substrates. It’s integrated with the ARM mbed OS and will be suitable for developers and designers to integrate into third party products. Initially the digital screens will be for informational or promotional data and video. Being bright, safe, robust and requiring little power, the design parameters will be significant and far reaching for the wearable sector in thousands of clothing, fashion, promotional and other commercial concepts. The screens will offer inter-connectivity through the mbed ecosystem to receive transmitted IoT cloud generated data.

  • 11:30 – 12:20 – Are you ready for USB Type-C? by Ravi Shah (NXP Semiconductors) & Andy Lin (NXP Semiconductors)

USB Type-C offers new features and benefits like reversible plug orientation, improved data rates up to 10 Gbps as well as an unprecedented, scalable, 100 W power-delivery capability that can power higher wattage devices and support faster charging. This session will review the features, benefits and applications it is being designed into today. In addition, design considerations and lessons learned from the field will be reviewed.

  • 12:30 – 13:20 – From Concept to Reality: Advancing ARM-based Enterprise SoCs – Presented by Applied Micro Circuits Corporation by Dr. Paramesh Gopi (Allied Micro Circuits Corporation)

No abstract…

  • 14:30 – 17:20 – STM32L7 Hands-On Workshop by James Lombard & Steve Miller (STMicroelectronics)

Thursday – November 12

  • 8:30 – 9:20 – All Things Data: Healthcare by Pierre Roux (Atmel)

Examples of IoT are everywhere, including digital home, remote resourcing monitoring and automation, but what gets less attention is how the IoT will impact healthcare with the combination of technologies that leverages big data and analytics that go along with it.

This talk will look at opportunities, hurdles and the skills required to make the most of this intersection of Internet-connected physical objects and the deluge of data. It will examine new generation of data analytics for use cases associated with our changing world and, examine the role big data analytics will play in the future of the healthcare industry.

  • 10:30 – 11:20 – The ARM Cortex-A72 processor: Delivering high efficiency for Server Networking and HPC by Ian Forsyth,  Director of Marketing, ARM

New content-rich features, services and evolving business models are transforming network architectures, giving rise to the Intelligent Flexible Cloud (IFC). Architects are decentralizing intelligence to deliver required flexibility and to cope with increased traffic demands. This, in turn, is driving new classes of SoCs, enabled by technology standards including software-defined networking (SDN) and network functional virtualization (NFV). These require significant throughput-per-watt efficiencies within networking and servers. This talk will explore how the latest Cortex-A72 CPU offers compelling performance and throughput to meet the requirements of these future workloads.

  • 11:30 – 12:20 – Porting to 64-bit on ARM by Chris Shore (ARM)

With the introduction of the A64 instruction set in ARMv8-A, many developers need to port existing code to work in a 64-bit environment. At the coding level, this presentation will cover porting C code, assembly code and NEON code. Issues covered will include data typing and type conversion, pointers, bitwise operations, differences in the SIMD register bank layout, mapping of assembly instructions. At a system level, we will cover maintenance operations and extensions to the security architecture.

  • 13:30 – 14:20 – Keynote- The Hard Things About the Internet of Things by Colt McAnlis (Google)
  • 14:30 – 15:20 – Wearable System Power Analysis and Optimization by Greg Steiert (Maxim Integrated), Jesse Marroquin (Maxim Integrated)

This session will demonstrate how to extend battery life by showing the real world impact of system level architecture decisions. The session will introduce a technique for measuring battery current and then use that technique to compare the power efficiency of different system implementations. Tradeoffs analyzed will include: power architecture, operating voltage, sensor data interfaces, DMA, SIMD.

Takeaway: a method for measuring real time power consumption,  advantage of operating at the lowest voltage possible with efficient regulators, tradeoffs of different sensor interfaces and of different micro-controller architectures (peripherals/M0+/M3/M4)

  • 15:30 – 16:20 – Improving Software Security through Standards Compliance and Structural Coverage Analysis by Shan Bhattacharya (LDRA)

This presentation will focus on secure software best practices. Ensuring the security of embedded devices involves more than simply using vulnerability preventive programming. However, paying attention to and leveraging security standards such as CWE/CVE, CERT C and even CERT Java, will certainly improve the probability of delivering a secure and effective system.

  • 16:30 – 17:20 – Top Android Performance Problems of 2015 by Colt McAnlis (Google)

When you look at performance problems all day, you’re bound to lose your hair. So rather than balding early yourself, Colt McAnlis will walk you through the top performance problems that dominated 2015. This talk will cover the range of issues from Memory, to Rendering, to Networking, listing specific topics that have shown up in many of the top apps in Google Play. We’ll even take some time to look at the differences in some form factors, and how you should plan around that.

  • 17:30 – 18:30 – Happy Hour :)

If you are going to attend, you can register online. While as usual, going to the expo and attending vendor’s sponsored sessions is free, there are different passes to join the conference sessions, ARM training day, and software developers workshops. The earlier you register, the cheaper.

Conference Pass ARM Training Day Software Developers
Expo Pass
Super Early Bird
(Ends July 24)
$599 $199 $99 Free
Early Bird
(Ends Sept. 4)
$799 $249 $149 Free
(Ends Oct. 30)
$999 $299 $199 Free
Regular/Onsite $1249 $349 $249 Free

There are also discounts for groups, students, press & media, and government employees. You can check details on ARm TechCon 2015’s Passes & Prices page.

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Study Shows Octa Core Processors Bring Little Over Quad Core Processors in Mobile Devices

September 1st, 2015 5 comments

Silicon vendor are now launching 8-core and even 12-core processors for mobile devices, and I can see some advantages in terms of power consumption in processors leveraging big.LITTLE processing with low power ‘LITTLE’ cores running light tasks such as audio or video playback, while performance ‘big’ cores running much demanding tasks. However, some processors, such as RK3368, feature the same eight cores, and in real-use don’t bring that extra bit of performance or lower power consumption, except in very specific cases. So the only “advantage” of this type of processor is a marketing one, with keyword like “Octa-core”, “64-bit”, etc… Last year, I found out, that more powerful cores may be more important than many cores, when I tested Allwinner A80 processor with PVRMonitor to check CPU usage per core in real-time, and in Antutu, while Browsing the web or playing games, only a few cores were used most of the time, and rarely all eight cores were needed.

PVRMonitor showing only 4 Cores out of 8 Cores Used during 3D Graphics Tests in Antutu

PVRMonitor showing only 4 Cores out of 8 Cores Used During 3D Graphics Test in Antutu

Moor Insight and Strategy, a high-tech analyst firm, benchmarked five smartphones in order to find out whether the number of cores mattered, and when possible disabled a few cores during testing to get an idea of the performance difference between 2-, 4- and 8- core performance.

The five smartphones under test were:

  • LG G4 with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 2x Cortex-A57 + 4x Cortex-A53 processor (6 cores) – Android Lollipop
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 with Samsung Exynos 7420 4x Cortex-A57 + 4x Cortex-A53 processor (8 cores) – Android Lollipop
  • Xiaomi Mi 4i with Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 8x Cortex-A53 processor (8 cores) – Android Lollipop
  • HTC Desire 820S with MediaTek MT6752 8x Cortex-A53 processor (8 cores) – Android Kitkat
  • LG G Flex 2 with Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 4x Cortex-A57 + 4x Cortex-A53 processor (8 cores) – Android Lollipop

The three benchmarks:

They also ran YouTube v10.24.57 and WeChat v6.2 apps, as well as Qualcomm Trepn Profiler to measure clock speed and load, and 3D CPU manager to disable cores on devices that supported (rooted + hotplug support) it, which sadly, meant only LG G Flex 2 and Xiaomi Mi 4i.


6 and 8 Core Smartphones Results in PCMark

One of their first remark was to notice that LG G4 with its 6-core processor outperformed almost all smartphones based on 8-core processors. This should have been expected since two of the eight cores smartphone are only running low power (and performance) Cortex A53 cores while LG G4’s Snapdragon processor comes with both A57 and A57 cores, but I guess it still shows to consumers that an 8-core is not necessarily faster than 6-core smartphone.

The more interesting part of the study is when they disable cores with on the same device with 3D CPU Manager.

PCmark_2_4_8_coresThe chart above shows that PCMark results are the same with 2, 4, 6 or 8 on Xiaomi Mi 4i, and results only drop on LG G Flex when switching from 4 to 2 cores, and the only reason is that only two Cortex A53 cores were active, while at lest two Cortex A57 cores were active when  4 to 8 cores were enabled.

Basemark_X_LG_G_Flex_2In 3D graphics tests with Basemark X, there was little differences between 2, 4, 6 or 8 cores activated, and amazingly they even noticed a slightly better performance with 2 cores compared to 8 cores. They repeated the tests several times with the same, and assumed it might be due to thermal throttling as the processor would heat more with 8 cores…

CamSpeed_Gold_Xiaomi_Mi_4iThe camera benchmark however showed a clear improvement with 4 cores over 2 cores (the same Cortex A53 cores), but very little improvement when 6 or 8 core were enabled.

Finally, while testing apps they found out that YouTube would play 1080p video in Xiaomi Mi 4i with 2 cores enabled, except when UI calls may cause a slowdown, which disappeared with 4 cores or higher. Unsurprisingly, WeChat ran perfectly fine on two cores…

Their conclusion was that CPU core count was not an accurate measurement of performance or performance, and that more CPU cores is not always better. They called on phone manufacturers and carriers to stop promoting the number of cores as a selling point, and instead improve benchmark practices and education.

If you feel like it, you can also watch the 49-minute benchmark session.

The white paper can be downloaded here.

Via ExtremeTech and thanks to Milkboy for the tip!

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Tronfy MXIV Telos TV Box Review with Android 5.1

August 31st, 2015 16 comments

Tronfy MXIV Telos is a TV box powered by Amlogic S812 processor running Android 5.1 Lollipop and costing just above $90 (with coupon), so it will be interesting to find out how it performs compared to Mygica ATV1900AC also based on Amlogic S812 SoC, and Android Lollipop firmware (version 5.0.2), which I reviewed recently, and sells for $169. I’ve already checked the hardware in Tronfy MX4 Telos Unboxing and Teardown, so today I’ll check how the device actually performs.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I started by connecting peripherals: A USB hard drive to one of the USB port, and a USB hub to the other USB port with a webcam, and two RF dongles for an air mouse and a wireless gamepad, as well as HDMI and Ethernet cables, and the power supply. I then had to press the power button on the unit to start it up, and the boot took a long 1 minute 38 seconds to complete with all peripherals, or 48 seconds without any USB devices connected. That’s not the best performance, but almost exactly the same slow boot as experienced with the Mygica box.

MediaBox Launcher (Click for Orignial Size)

MediaBox Launcher (Click for Orignial Size)

LightHome (Click for Orignial Size)

LightHome (Click for Original Size)

You’ll get to  choose between two launchers: MediaBox or LightHome. The user interface resolution is 1920×1080, as you can see from the screenshots. I’ve just picked LightHome for the rest of the review.  The top right icons indicate network connectivity, and the maginifier redirects to Google Now. Weather, date and time information is displayed on the left side, and shortcuts to Kodi, Eshare, Flix Universe, the Browser, Google Play Store, the list of apps, a file browser, and Settings, as well as Favorites are placed in the center of the screen, There’s also a “kill running apps” button and a widget for CPU, memory and storage usage.

Let go to the Settings app.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Again that’s basically the same app as in ATV1900AC, and I’ve found it to be quite unstable: going to Network, changing between 12h/24h time display, adjusting screen rotation, etc… will always crash the app, so instead I went to “More setting” to access Android Lollipop settings and configure WiFi and Ethernet there.

Some useful settings include:

  • Network (crash)
  •  Display
    • Screen resolution: Auto, 480p-60Hz, 576p-50Hz, 720p 50/60Hz, 1080i 50/60Hz, 1080p 24/50/60Hz, 4K2K 24/25/30Hz or SMPTE
    • Screen position
    • Screen orientation (crash)
  • Sound – Digital sound (crash)
  • Preferences – HDMI CEC (crash)

Tronfy_MXIV_Telos(crash) means the settings look interesting, but I could not access it, since it would just crash the Settings app. At least, there isn’t three ways to access settings like in Mygica ATV1900AC, there’s only two, but most options are not accessible.. I could change the resolution to 4K30 and that one worked fine.

The 16GB flash has reportedly a single 16GB partition (which is impossible) with 10.55 GB space (perfectly believable), which means you’ll have plenty of space for both apps and data.

The “About device” section reports the model number is MXIV Telos, the device runs Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.10.33, and the firmware version is 102L1. There’s also a “System Update” section there, and the system appears to connect to a download server, but there wasn’t any new firmware while I tested it, so I cannot confirm whether OTA upgrades are working properly. The firmware is rooted.

I used MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse for most of the review, but I also quickly tested the IR remote control to check whether it was working OK, and the range is not too bad, as I only started to lose a few key presses at around 8 meters from the box.

Google Play Store worked very well, and I could install all apps I needed for review, and most apps I installed on other devices could also be installed, except apps that can’t be installed due to country restrictions. Sadly, after a while, the message “Unfortunately, Google Play Services has stopped” started popping-up every 5 seconds or so, whether I was actively using the Play Store or not, so the system became very difficult to use. I’m not the only one to have had this problem as others reported the issues on Samsung Galaxy phones, and provided a fix. I followed the instructions and could disable Google Play Services, but as I restarted the device, re-enabled the services, and updated it, the problem resumed, so I just disabled the services again to be able to use the device. If Google Play Services is disabled or not updated to the latest, applications such as the Google Play Store or Hangouts won’t work.

I’m pleased to say that Tronfy MVIV power controls work perfectly, as it’s possible to cleanly turn off and on the device, or go into standby using either the remote control or the power button on the device. The device also stays relatively cool, as the maximum temperature reached after Antutu 5.7.1 benchmark were respectively 42°C and 53°C on the top and bottom of the case.

The firmware itself appears to be stable and responsive, and I did not get any hangs up, but the settings is barely usable, and trying to access many settings will simply crash the app, so for example you can’t configure the audio device, meaning pass-through options are not accessible. Just like with Mygica box, the ART runtime used in Lollipop boosts app loading times, especially for games which load much faster than I’m used to.

Video Playback

Kodi 14.2 (customized or not) is installed and configured with Aeon Nox skin, but since there’s recently been a fix for Amlogic on Kodi 15.x that has been backported to Kodi 15.1 found on Google Play, I asked Tinydeal whether I should test the pre-installed Kodi 14.2 or the latest version, and they recommended  I keep using Kodi 14.2, so that’s what I tested.

Kodi_14.2_Aeon_noxBut first, I’ve taken a few screenshot to show what get while running Kodi. Kodi_14.2_Tronfy_system_info I’ve set the output to 1080p60 to check the framerate, and it’s indeed close to 60 fps, before switching back to 4K30 for testing. tronfy_mxiv_kodi_appsThey also have a few apps pre-installed.

kodi_traktShortly after starting Kodi, I was also ask to authorize Trakt, which automatically tracks the TV shows and movies you are watching, but I simply click on “No Thanks”.

All videos were played other Ethernet with the box connected to a SAMBA share. Let’s start with results with video samples from, Elecard H.265/HEVC samples, and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – OK could be smoother (Kodi live log also reports ~20fps instead of the native 25 fps)
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Software decode @ ~20 fps instead of 25 fps
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p OK. 1080p could be a little smoother (18 fps instead of 25 fps)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – 360p: OK; 720p: 15 fps. 1080p:  plays at ~12fps with audio cuts
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

The results here are very similar to what I got on the Mygica device, and again the results are basically the same for higher bitrate videos, except for one little detail:

  • ED_HD.avi – audio only
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – Plays but at the wrong size (postcard like, zoomed out)
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – 15 fps instead of 29.970 fps and zoomed out
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Plays OK from network (Gigabit), but again zoomed out.

This is what it looks like when the system plays the video at the wrong size (zoomed out) :

Tronfy_MXIV_Telos_Kodi_PostcardNormally I use my AV receiver to test both PCM output and HDMI / (SPDIF) pass-through with videos using HD audio codec, but since I can’t set HDMI pass-through via the settings, I skipped the pass-through test, and the results with videos down-mixed to PCM are already depressing:

  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – Audio OK, but video not very smooth
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – Audio OK, but video zoomed out
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – audio only (black screen)
  • TrueHD 5.1 – Audio OK, but video zoomed out
  • TrueHD 7.1 – Audio OK, but video zoomed out
  • Dolby Atmos 7.1 – OK! Yeah!
  • DTS HD Master – Audio OK, but black screen
  • DTS HD High Resolution – Audio OK, but video zoomed out

Sintel-Bluray.iso Blu-ray ISO video and 1080i videos could play smoothly and in full screen.

Hi10p videos decoded with some artifacts in like ATV1900AC, but the video were again zoomed out:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – Audio & subtitles OK, and video plays with with some artifacts (wrong size)
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – Audio & subtitles OK, and video plays with with some artifacts. (wrong size)

4K videos also have mixed results with only two videos that are watchable:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Video zoomed out
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  Playing @ 2 to 3 fps
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Playing @ 2 to 3 fps
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t play at all
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Plays @ 3 to 4 fps.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Plays at 3 to 4 fps
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play at all.
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Looks OK to be, but Kodi reports ~25 fps for a 30 fps video
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Plays in slow motion, audio/video sync issues, and audio cuts
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – Only shows a still image, frequent audio cuts

I’ve also added a 4K 60fps H.265 video sample to my test procedure since some new processors can now support H.265 at 60 frames per second (in theory).  Software decoding explains why some video play at very low framerate.

LG 42UB820T 4K TV, which I use for all my reviews, does not support 3D, but I check whether the system can decode some stereoscopic 3D videos:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only, black screen.
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Following the catastrophic results with Kodi in this box, I just decided to skip video testing of AVI, MKV, VOB and MP4 movies, as I don’t see why I have to waste my time further with such a poor product. I did start the stability test with a complete 1080p MKV movie (~2 hours), but after seeing the video was only displayed at quarter size on the top left corner, I just laughed and stopped the test.
Video samples can be downloaded from “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Wi-Fi and Ethernet Network Performance

I’ve transferred a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the flash in both directions using ES File Explorer to test WiFi network performance. WiFi performance is pretty both with 802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4GHz (2.72 MB/s over a 65 Mbps link) and 802.11ac (4.15 MB/s over a 433 Mbps link).

WiFi Throughput in MB/s

WiFi Throughput in MB/s

For some reasons the system could only transfer in one direction with iperf, using “iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d” command line:

  • wifi 802.11n:
  • wifi 802.11 @ 5 GHz n/ac:

Just to make sure there wasn’t any issues with my test setup, I install iperf in my Android tablet, and ran the test, and it could transfer in both directions.

I repeated the file transfer test over Gigabit Ethernet with a 885 MB file, and the results were best I’ve seen so far, just above Mygica ATV1900AC results.

Ethernet Throughput in MB/s

Ethernet Throughput in MB/s

Since with Gigabit Ethernet that test is often bound by the internal storage write and read speed, I also ran iperf, which showed the exact same oddity as with WiFI:

Miscellaneous Tests


Bluetooth is built-in, and everything I tried just worked straightaway:

  • File transfer with smartphone
  • PS3 game controller with Sixaxis Controller app following these instructions.
  • Bluetooth Low Energy support with Vidonn X5 fitness tracker
  • A Bluetooth headset


FAT32 (micro SD card), and the NTFS and exFAT partitions of a USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted, and there was no problem with the SD card, however while the two partitions on the HDD are about 250GB large, but the system would only show 10MB partitions with 10MB free instead, basically meaning my hard drive was mounted as read only. The same bug occurred with Mygica ATV1900AC.

File System Read Write
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

So once again I could not test USB storage performance, and I simply ran A1 SD Bench app to benchmark the eMMC flash performance, which read at 26.33 MB/s and wrote at 21.83 MB/s on average.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

The combined read+write performance is about the same as Mygica ATV1900AC here, not too bad for a significantly cheaper device…

USB Webcam

Skype worked fine both with the Test /Echo Service audio call, and a video call, however I could not run Google Hangouts since I only tested it after I had to disable Google Play Services.


Unsurprisingly, gaming performance on Tronfy MX4 Telos was exactly the same as with ATV1900AC: Candy Crush and Beach Buggy Racing were both very smooth with default graphics settings, but Beach Buggy Racing was not quite enjoyable with maxed out graphics settings, albeit still playable.

Tronfy MXIV Telos Benchmarks

For some reasons, Amlogic S812 processor was limited to 1608 MHz in Mygica ATV1900AC, but it runs at full speed in MXIV Telos (1.99 GHz). The board name is n200.

Tronfy_MXIV_Telos_CPU-ZSo it should be no surprise that Antutu 5.7.1 score is a bit higher at 35,519 points against 34,137 points for ATV1900AC

Tronfy_MXIV_Telos_AntutuHowever, 3DMark score was about the same with 5,897 point for MX4 against 5,834 for Mygica platform.


Tronfy MXIV Telos hardware hold itself pretty well against Mygica ATV1900AC, with similar Gigabit Ethernet and storage performance, and pretty good WiFi performance, although not as perfect as on Mygica TV box, and it also has some extras like Bluetooth support and power control circuitry. I was a bit disappointed by the firmware on Mygica because there were still a bit too many bugs, but somehow MXIV Telos managed to do much worse, and it really feels like they had the hardware ready, and just load Amlogic Android 5.1 SDK onto the device and shipped it without any testing: Kodi is barely usable, many settings are not reachable because the Setting app will crash, my hard drive is read-only, and Google Play Store simply stopped to work after a while. Although to be fair, I’m not sure the latter is 100% related to that particularly firmware since people also had the same issues on Samsung Galaxy phones.


  • Android Lollipop firmware
  • Very good Ethernet and good WiFi performance
  • Relatively fast internal storage
  • Video Output – 1080p 24/50/60 Hz, 4K @ 24/25/30Hz, etc…
  • Hardware video decoding for H.265 4K up to 30Hz in “4K MoviePlayer”
  • Bluetooth works for file transfer, Sixaxis gamepad, Bluetooth low energy, and Bluetooth headset.
  • Power handled by MCU with support for proper power off.
  • Skype works fine
  • Two launchers available


  • Pre-installed Kodi is a disaster: many videos play at the wrong size (Zoomed out in the top left corner), several videos can’t play at all (black screen), H.265 is not working, audio pass-through is not working
  • Dolby and DTS audio not supported outside of Kodi.
  • Settings app will crash, so several settings are not accessible including audio output selection (PC/pass-through).
  • Incorrect partition size detected on USB hard drive leading to read-only partitions
  • Slow boot time (100 seconds will USB devices attached)

The hardware base is good, so you’d either have to rely on Tronfy to release a new firmware with bug fixes, or find another firmware compatible with n200 board, or try various versions of Kodi (this won’t fix the USD HDD nor Settings app issues though..) for it to be usable.

Tinydeal kindly provided Tronfy MXIV Telos sample for review, and in case you are interested, you can purchase it on their website for $91.85 with coupon tronfy4. As mentioned in the unboxing post, the hardware is based on Beelink MXIII Plus, that can be found on Gearbest, Geekbuying, eBay, Aliexpress, but you need to carefully check the specifications, as memory, storage and network connectivity options may vary.

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The First Intel Core M Skylake-Y Low Power Processors: Core M3 6Y30, M5 6Y54, M5 6Y57 and M5 6Y75

August 28th, 2015 5 comments

Last year, Intel unveiled Core M Broadwell-Y processors with 4.5W TDP aimed at laptops and tablets, and offering a middle ground between the performance achieved by Atom/Celeron/Pentium processor and the more powerful Core i3/i5/i7 processors. CPU World has now released details about the new Skylake-Y Core M processor that still feature 2 cores and 4 threads, as well as a TDP of 4.5W.


There are now four models:

Model Cores /
Frequency /
Graphics GPU
Core m3 6Y30 2 / 4 900 MHz / 2.2 GHz 4 MB HD 515 300 / 850 MHz 4.5 Watt
Core m5 6Y54 1.1 / 2.7 GHz 300 / 900 MHz
Core m5 6Y57 1.1 / 2.8 GHz 300 / 900 MHz
Core m5 6Y75 1.2 / 3.1 GHz 300 / 1000 MHz

The processors have the same number of cores and thread, the same amount of L3 cache, and the same HD515 GPU, which the only differences appearing be to the CPU and GPU frequencies.  The SoCs are sais to all have up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s ports, 10 lanes of PCI-Express interface, 6x USB2 & USB3 ports, eMMC 5.0 interface, as well as support for DDR3L-1600 and LPDDR3-1866 memory. Although they are rated at 4.5 Watt TDP and 3 Watt SDP, they can also run at 7 Watt TDP (cTDP up) if need be.

None of the processors are listed on Intel website at this time, and information is limited, but there are some benchmark results for a system based on M3 6Y30 processor, which you can compare to other systems.

Intel_Core-M_Skylake_BenchmarkSeveral products based on Skylake-Y processors have already been leaked to the press including HP Pavilion x360 and HP Spectre  X2, as well as an update to Asus Zenbook UX305.

Via Liliputing

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Categories: Intel Core M Tags: benchmark, intel, laptop, skylake

Review of Mygica ATV586 Android Set-Top Box with DVB-T2 Tuner

August 27th, 2015 10 comments

I’ve already tested some Android TV boxes with tuners such as HD18T (DVB-T2) and WeTek Play (DVB-S2) , but they were all based on Amlogic AML8726-MX dual core processor. Geniatech recently sent me Mygica ATV586 quad core Android DVB-T2 receiver based on Amlogic S805 processor. I’ve already taken a few pictures, and look at the hardware components,  so today, I’ll write the review, mainly focusing on the live TV program capabilities including PVR and Timeshifting.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve connected a hard drive, a webcam, MeLE F10 Deluxe RF dongle, and a keyboard (for screenshots) to the device’s USB ports, as well as HDMI and Ethernet cables, and a TV antenna cable, before connecting the 5V power adapter to start the device. When everything is connected, the boot takes about 1 minute 35 seconds, but without USB devices, it drops down to 44 seconds. Boot time is not something that Geniatech appears to focus on, as also had slow boot times with Mygica ATV1900AC.

ATV586_Setup_WizardIt all then start with a Welcome screen, leading to a wizard to configure the language (English, Simplified Chinese, or Traditional Chinese) , the Screen resolution and scaling, and networking connectivity (Ethernet or WiFi). What’s missing from the wizard is timezone selection, so you’ll have to configure it in the Android settings, and it’s quite important to do so, if you plan to use EPG to record videos.

Click to Enlarge

Click for Original Size (1920×1080)

Once this done, you’ll get to the user interface with shortcuts to favorites, as well as icons launch Kodi, Mygica and Google Play Stores, access the list opf apps and settings, as well as a black window reading “No Program,  Please click ‘Here’ to scan!”. I did that, and at the beginning all I had was a black screen, but I went back again, and I was able to access the Search menu, set the country to “Thailand”, and start scanning for channels.

Mygica_ATV586_Country_SelectionOther supported countries include France, Myanmar, Taiwan, Canada, Israel, Singapore, Russia, UK, Italy, Australia, and Colombia. The “DTV player” user interface is actually exactly the same as in HD18T, except the list of countries is longer, and all features work as expect. Once scanning was completed, there was 30 TV channels detected in either SD or HD resolutions.

ATV586_DVB_Scan_CompleteYou can now watch the TV channels you wish, but I’ll get back to that later. Going back to the home screen, you’ll see the latest selected TV channel displayed in that black window. I find this rather annoying personally, but it’s probably just a matter of preference.

ATV586_Home_Screen_Live_TVNow let’s check the settings.

ATV586_SettingsIf they look familiar, it’s because it’s the usual Amlogic settings found in MXQ S85, EM6Q-MXQ, MINIX NEO X6, and most other Amlogic TV boxes but with a different background. The settings are mostly the same as in MINIX NEO X6:

  • Network – Enable and configure Wi-Fi or Ethernet
  • Display:
    • Automatic or manual HDMI resolution: 480p @ 60 Hz, 576p @ 50 Hz, 720p @ 50/60 Hz, 1080i @ 50/60 Hz, or 1080p @ 24/50/60 Hz
    • Hide or Show status bar
    • Display Position
    • Screen Save (Never, 4, 8 or 12 minutes)
  • Advanced:
    • Miracast
    • Remote Control (app)
    • Google TV Remote
    • CEC Control
    • Digital audio auto-detection
    • Digital Audio Output (Auto, PCM, SPDIF passthrough, or HDMI passthrough)
  • Other – System Update: Local file or OTA, and “More Settings” for standard Android Settings.

About_ATV586The system set the resolution to 1080p50 automatically, and I used this setting. WiFi and Ethernet could connect without issue, but Bluetooth failed. Bluetooth can only be found in the standard Android settings

ATV586 comes with 8 GB storage with a single 6.95GB partition, and 4.30 GB free. The “About device” section reports model number is “XS″, and the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.33, just like other S805 boxes I tested previously. The firmware is rooted.

Google Play Store worked OK, and I could install most app needed for review through the store, except Vidonn Smartband. I also scrolled through the list of apps of I previously installed on other devices, and some other apps were incompatible: Thailand Post & Track, Plants vs Zombies 2, and the usual SMS and GPS apps. For overall Play Store support is good, and better than with the company’s ATV1900AC mini PC.

There’s no power button on the unit, and a short press on the remote will go to standby mode, while a long press will show a menu asking whether you want to go into Standby or Reboot, meaning there’s no clean power off option. Talking about the remote control, the included Mygica KR-21 remote works pretty well with the DTV app (except to input recording time) and Kodi, and the range is very good, as it was still working 10 meters away. You’d still want to use another input device (air mouse, wireless keyboard, smartphone app..) to use a web browser, a play some games… As with other S805 devices, the temperature is pretty cool, as the maximum temperature  of the top and bottom of the case was respectively 45°C and 43°C after running Antutu 5.7.

The firmware is very stable, but at times it feels a bit sluggish, especially while apps are installed or are updating, as well as inside “DTV Player” app used to watch DVB-T2 channels, as it does not always feel as responsive as it should.

Video Playback

Since I’ve already reviewed three Android 4.4 boxes based on Amlogic S805, results were mostly satisfactory, and my time is limited, I’ll refer you to MXQ S85 review for Kodi performance under the platform. I still quickly tested H.264 and H.265 in Kodi 14.2 “Mygica Edition” as well as HDMI pass-through. 1080p H.264 video played perfectly, but a 1080p H.265 video would only play at 10 fps due to software decoding.

Playing audio through my AV receiver using HDMI pass-through would only generate noise for Dolby and DTS audio, even after settings Kodi and the system to use HDMI pass-through.

Finally, I’ve also run the latest Antutu Video Tester 3.0 to get a reference point for Amlogic S805 platforms.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

683 points is quite lower than Amlogic S812 based ATV1900AC’s 1,059 points, but it was probably to be expected since Amlogic S805 does not support 4K videos. It’s still higher than the mere 532 points achieved by Beelink i68 (RK3368). Please note again that Antutu Video Tester 2.2 and Antutu Video Tester 3.0 scores can’t be compared as for example, ATV586 got 490 points in version 2.2.

Tuner App in ATV586

The main selling point of this device is support for digital tuners, DVB-T2 in the device under test, or ATSC in the other version. I’ve already explained about first time setup and autoscan in the first section of this review, so let’s look at overlay data and menu.

ATV586_Overlay_MenuWe’ve got the channel number and name and some EPG info with current program and upcoming program, and as well as icons to adjust the aspect ratio (16:9, 4:3, full), access EPG, select the audio language, configure TeleText and record the current program.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The EPG data looks great, as the device got data for 7 days for all channels, and for once, the app also supports complex languages such as Thai. You can then select one or more programs from the program guide, and schedule a recording once, daily or weekly.

EPG_Record_ProgramOnce you have scheduled a few recording, you may want to press the red button on the remote control to access the schedule list.

EPG_Schedule_ListOne minute before the program is set to start, a pop-up window will show up asking you to go to the app, or it will go there within one minute. That means background recording is not possible, DTV Player app must be in the foreground in order to record a program, and you can’t do any other tasks during recording. You could also record a program manually, by pressing the record button, and inputting the time in minutes. The app will automatically detect external storage, and partitions available to record program. It will select one automatically, and create a directory called TVRecordFiles, which you can access with Kodi to playback later, or via the PVR Manager in the settings menu of DTV Player app.

The setup menu will let you change the default recording path, set TimeShilting time, enter TimeShitfing mode, and some other settings which you can see in the video where I show Live TV features in ATV586, or in HD18T mini review as the options are the same.

Overall the implementation is much better than in HD18T, as everything works, however I found the responsiveness of the app could be improved, and more importantly, sometimes the video will be choppy, audio cut, and/or audio & video may be out of sync, especially while changing channels, but this should only last a few seconds.

Finally, the user’s manual mentions DTV Viewer app that’s supposed to stream live TV to up to 2 mobile device. The QR code redirects to DTV Viewer on Google Play, but the link is not working at the time of writing, and the company did not reply to my email asking for clarifications.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’m using a 278 MB file transferred between a SAMBA share and the internal flash to test network performance, repeating the test three times with ES File Explorer. Wi-Fi transfer speed is a little disappointing @ 2.1 MB/s on average, quite lower than MXQ S85 or EM6Q-MXQ reaching close to 3MB/s.

Throughput in MB/s

WiFi Throughput in MB/s

iperf looks even worse, maybe because I’m using full duplex transfer (iperf -t 60 -c server -d):

Over Ethernet, the file could be transfered at 5.5 MB/s, not a fantastic result, but in line with other Amlogic S805 devices.

Throughput in MB/s

Ethernet Throughput in MB/s

I’ve also included iperf result over Ethernet for reference:

Miscellaneous Tests


There’s no built-in Bluetooth.


A FAT32 (micro SD) partition, as well as NTFS and exFAT partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed in read/write mode.

File System Read Write
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

USB hard drive and internal flash performance were tested with A1 SD Bench app. The read and write speeds were respectively 18.91 MB/s, and  23.27MB/s for the NTFS partition (mounted to /storage/external_storage/sda1), not an exciting results, but again pretty much in line with MXQ S85 performance. exFAT performance was even lower at 13.70MB/s and 2.12 MB/s, or the lower combined (R+W) performance I’ve reported so far. Make sure you use an NTFS drive on this device…

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

The internal storage reads at 22.87Mb/s and writes at 12.18 MB/s, less than average among all devices, but still the fastest storage I found in the four Amlogic S805 devices I tested. It’s right above MINIX NEO X6, and much better than MXQ S85, so I wonder where the sluggishness I experience during testing comes from…

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

USB Webcam

The “Test / Echo Service” in Skype worked, as well as a normal call, and the same could be said about Google Hangouts. Both apps used a UVC webcam connected to a USB port of the device.


Please refer to previous reviews for gaming performance on Amlogic S805 platforms.

Mygica ATV586 Benchmarks

Again, I’ll keep it short here since S805 is a well known and tested platform by just running CPU-Z and Antutu 5.7.1 in order to make sure the system performs as expected.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The surprise here is that they boosted the CPU frequency to 1.61 GHz instead of 1.49 GHz in the other platforms I tested. It’s not the first time an Amlogic S805 is clocked as that frequency though, as I had read about the higher clock for ODROID-C1(+) board firmware. The rest of the information is pretty much as should be expected. The model name is XS and the board name stvm8b.


Click to Enlarge

The higher frequency shows in Antutu 5 score, as ATV586 gets 18,071 point, while for instance, MXQ S85 got 16,448 points with the firmware I tested in October 2014.


Mygica ATV586 is the first quad core Android box with tuner that I’ve tested, and the implementation of the DTV software, is way better than I experienced in HD18T DVB-T2 receiver, as multiple countries are supported, EPG, PVR and Timeshifting functions are all working. Performance is also on par with other Amlogic S805 TV boxes such as MINIX NEO X6 or MXQ S85. However, I did notice some slowdowns in the system and “DTV player” app from time to time, something I hope can be solved in subsequent firmware upgrades


  • Well tested platform (Amlogic S805) and stable firmware.
  • All DTV features advertised work out of the box: Autoscan, EPG, PVR, TimeShifting, complex languages (at least Thai) are handled correctly
  • HEVC/H.265 hardware video decoding support. Working in MX Player, but not with Kodi “Mygica Edition” yet
  • USB webcam worked in Skype and Google Hangouts
  • Future update: Streaming live TV to up to two Android smartphone or tablet using DTV Viewer app


  • System and DTV Player app may experience noticeable slowdowns. For the latter, video and audio are often affected for several seconds right after switching channels.
  • Wi-Fi performance is less than average
  • Power not controlled by MCU (only standby or reboot are available)
  • USB exFAT storage performance is very poor (NTFS is OK)
  • Audio pass-though is not working in Kodi
  • No Bluetooth

Mygica ATV586 is available now, and can be purchased either in quantity directly from Geniatech/Mygica with either a DVB-T2 or ATSC tuner, or online for $109 on Mygica Aliexpress store.

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Phytium Mars is an Upcoming 64 Core ARMv8 Processor for Servers

August 26th, 2015 3 comments

Several server SoCs with a large number of ARMv8 cores have been announced in the past with products such as Cavium ThunderX featuring 48 64-bit ARM cores and EZTile TILE-Mx100 with 100 ARM Cortex A53 cores. Phytium Technology, a Chinese startup funded in 2012, has showcased its work on Mars processor with 64 custom design ARMv8 cores at Hotchips 2015 conference.

Phytium_MarsCharles Zhang, director of research for Phytium, made the presentation entitled “Mars: A 64-Core ARMv8 Processor” at the conference, and a PDF version is available on Hotchips 2015 website (Conf. Day 1 section) but unfortunately it’s password-protected and only accessible by attendees. Last year, they made all presentations publicly downloadable in December, so hopefully it will be the same this year. In the meantime, I relied on an articles published on EETimes and, the latter reproduced some of the slides, to get some of the specs and features:

  • 64 custom designed ARMv8 “Xiaomi” core up to 2.0 GHz
  • Cache – L1 I-Cache and D-Cache, 32MB L2 cache, 128MB L3 Cache
  • Memory – 16 DDR3-1600 channels
  • ECC and memory protection on all caches, tags and TLBs
  • Expansion – 2x 16-lane PCIe 3.0 interfaces
  • Performance – 512GFLOPS, 204 GB/s memory bandwidth, 32GB/s I/O bandwidth
  • Manufacturing process – 28 nm
  • Die size / Package – 640 mm2; FCBGA package with ~3,000 pins
  • TDP – 120 Watts
Xiaomi Core Block Diagram

Xiaomi Core Block Diagram

Mars design has not yet taped out, but the company perform some simulations with SpecCPU 2006 base and rate benchmark, where the chip achieved 672 points and 585 points for respectively integer and floating-point performance.


Here are some background between the base and rate benchmark to make it clearer to what is actually tested here:

The SPEC CPU 2006 benchmark has several different ways to measure computer performance. One way is to measure how fast the computer completes a single task; this is a speed measurement. Another way is to measure how many tasks a computer can accomplish in a certain amount of time; this is called a throughput, capacity or rate measurement.

  • The SPECspeed metrics (e.g., the SPECint 2006 benchmark) are used for comparing the ability of a computer to complete single tasks.
  • The SPECrate metrics (e.g., the SPECint_rate 2006 benchmark) measure the throughput or rate of a machine carrying out a number of tasks.

If we check published integer rate benchmarks results, Phytium Mars would have roughly the performance of four AMD Opteron 6174 deca-core processors (Max TDP: 115 Watt / processor) or two Intel Xeon E5-2643 v3 deca-core processors (135 W TDP / processor).

No date was provided for the launch of Mars SoC.

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Review of Tronsmart Ara X5 Windows 10 mini PC with Intel Atom X5 Processor

August 24th, 2015 24 comments

Tronsmart Ara X5 is one of the first mini PC featuring a Cherry Trail processor, more exactly Atom x5-8300 quad core processor manufactured with 14nm process. Price and max TDP are similar to Atom Z3735F Bay Trail-T processor found in many mini PCs designed in China, so it will interesting to compare the two platforms. Yesterday, I took some photos of the device, and found out the design was comprised of a baseboard and system-on-module, but today, I’ll focus on testing the device in Windows 10, checking everything works as it should, as well as running some benchmarks, verifying the Windows license status, test H.265 video playback in Kodi, and more.

Tronsmart Ara X5 Setup

I had not much to do the first time I booted the device, as it was already configured to use English, and the system logged in with user “User” without password. I still double checked the screen resolution,as it was set to 1920×1080 (Recommended), but there are also option for 4K resolutions such as 4096×2160 or 3840×2160.

Ara_X5_resolutionI set it to 3840×2160 and 4096×2160, and both resolution worked fine with an LG 4K TV. However, the system does not support HDMI 2.0, so the refresh rates are limited to 23 Hz, 24Hz, 25Hz, 29Hz and 30Hz for 3840×2160 and 23 and 24Hz for 4096×2160 in Intel HD Graphics Control Panel.

Ara_X5_Refresh_RateThis probably explains why 1080p is recommended over 4K, since the refresh rate can be set up to 60 Hz, and if you are using another resolution a warning window will show up.

Windows_10_1080p_warningBut the image quality seem fine once I switch the 4K. Here’s a screenshot of the desktop. Click for full resolution.

Ara_X5_4K_UHD_Windows_10So if you want to watch 4K movies setting the resolution to 3840x2160p @ 24Hz will be appropriate, but for gaming you’ll want to switch back to 1080p60. After changing the resolution, you’d better reboot or some apps won’t display correctly. For example, Kodi 15.1 would only show the top left quarter of its interface.

The system supports both HDMI and stereo audio, so you may need to configure the audio output too. Simply right click on the speaker icon on the bottom right of the screen, and select Playback devices in order to set Speakers or your TV or AV receiver as the default audio playback device.


I could use both my TV speakers using the HDMI connection, and external speakers connected to the 3.5mm audio jack of the mini PC. That’s all I had to do for the initial setup of the computer.

Tronsmart Ara X5 System Info

Let’s check the System Info.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Tronsmart Ara X5 indeed features Intel Atom x5-Z8300 quad core processor @ 1.44GHz (base frequency) as well as 2 GB RAM, but contrary to Z3735F systems that ship the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 or 10, Ara X5 runs the 64-bit version of Microsoft operating system, which could indirectly be good news for Linux support. Windows 10 Home is activated and appears to have a proper license.

ara_x5_disk_spaceThe 28.5 GB partition on the eMMC flash had 14.3GB free space after installing Firefox and Adobe Flash.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The Device Manager shows the list of devices, such as ASIX AX88772C USB 2.0 to Fast Ethernet controller, Broadcom 802.11 a/b/g/n/ wireless adapter, or a Realtek audio codec.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

HWiNFO64 detects Atom x5-Z8300 processor and its Gen8 GPU correctly, and you’ll find out that according to this tool, x5-Z8300 has the same list of features as Z3735F processor in Mele PCG03 mini PC. The memory is clocked a little higher at 800 MH instead of 677 MHz in MeLE PCG03, but the Gen8 GPU is clocked at 400 MHz, instead of 620 MHz for the Gen7 GPU found in Z3735F SoC.

Aptio Setup Utility complies with UEFI 2.4, and contrary to most Z3735F device that ships with a 32-bit UEFI binary, that one is loaded with a 64-bit UEFI and Secure Boot is disabled by default, both of which should make installing Linux distributions such as Ubuntu a little easier.


Tronsmart Ara X5 Benchmarks

PCMARK 8 is a pretty good benchmark for Windows, as it emulates real task such as video conference, word processing, photo editing and so on. I normally run PCMARK 8 HOME CONVENTIONAL 3.0 test, and in this version claims it does not know that processor yet reports it correctly as x5-Z8300.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Tronsmart Ara X5 gets 1,048 points, while MeLE PCG03 got 1,052 points in Windows 10. So if you were expecting a small boost in performance you’ll be disappointing. I’ve compared the detailed benchmark results in my Z3735F vs x5-Z8300 post, and there are some variations in the scores, with Ara X5 getting a small edge for gaming, while losing out in most other tests.

The internal storage is a Sandisk eMMC flash, and although performance is acceptable, it’s much small than the Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash used in MeLE PCG03.

Ara_X5_CrystalDiskMarkWhile Tronsmart mini PC achieves 92.07 MB/s and 36.50MB/s read and write speeds, MeLE PCG03 delivered respectively 165.5 MB/s and 72.55 MB/s.

I’ve also run some network benchmarks with iperf2 for Windows using “iperf.exe -t 60 -c -d” command line

Fast Ethernet:

Although it’s still very much usable, Ethernet performance is not the best there is, as it’s far from the 90 Mbits/sec achieved with the best devices over a Fast Ethernet connection. Gigabit Ethernet is not supported.

Fast Ethernet Throughput in Mbps

Fast Ethernet Throughput in Mbps

WiFi 802.11n 2.4GHz:

I have less data for WiFi performance with iperf, but Ara X5 seems less than average @ 1.8 to 2.2 MB/s.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

Having said that, it was much better than an Intel NUC running Windows 10 with a 7620N mPCIe wireless card which frequently has lots of packet losses and a ping > 2s in the local network, while Ara X5 worked just as expected.

Tronsmart Ara X5 Usability Testing

I’ve also tested the various programs in the device, that may often be problematic in low end devices, and shot a video with the following:

  • 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 15.1 with 1080p & 4K H.265 video playback at 1080p50 and 3840x2160p25.

I had some troubles scrolling the webpages in Firefox with the scrolling wheel of my mouse, as it was jittery going up and down at times, instead of simply going down, but let’s say it’s a minor issues. Both embedded and fullscreen 1080p videos in played very well in YouTube, until I was called for lunch, and came back later to find out the videos were rather choppy. The temperature at the top and bottom of the box was respectively 57 and 52 degrees C, so I paused the video and waited a few minutes, and the video was smooth again. Candy Crush Saga was playable in Firefox, but the animations were rather slow..

Even with the better GPU, I did not find Asphalt 8 that enjoyable to play as I like higher framerates, and although H.265 video decoding for 1080p and 4K videos is OK at 1080p resolution, once you switch to 3840×2160 in Windows 10, 4K videos are not smooth enough for an enjoyable experience. Hopefully, that’s something that Intel, Microsoft, or Kodi developers can improve on.

In theory, the USB 3.0 port is a useful addition to expand storage, since the flash can fill up pretty quickly if you intend to use the system as a desktop computer and install many programs, but unfortunately a Seagate Expansion USB 3.0 drive did not work in the USB 3.0 port with the message “USB device not recognized”, but working just fine in the USB 2.0 port. A USB 3.0 flash drive was properly recognized in the USB 3.0 port, but I could not insert it perfectly perpendicularly to the rear panel since it’s a bit too close to the HDMI cable, and I assume some people will require a USB hub to connect their thumb drives as there may be too little space.

Tronsmart Ara X5 is not a bad device, but apart from H.265 1080p videos, there are not many things you could not do just as well with an Atom Z3735F based device, and there are also quite a few bugs, which may be related to Windows 10, directly or indirectly, as the apps or drivers may not have been fully ported and optimized since the OS and processor are so recent.

I’d like to thanks Geekbuying again for providing the device for review. They sell it for $149.99 including shipping [Update: use UTJOOOWW coupon for $20 discount], with delivery scheduled for August 31, and you may want to play their lottery to win coupons. It can also be purchased on Ebay for $159.99 and soon more online sellers should list the product.

Next Step… Trying Linux, but so far I can’t get UEFI to list my flash drive as a boot device…

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