Posts Tagged ‘bluetooth’

ESP32 Module Schematics and Board Files

November 26th, 2015 6 comments

Espressif teased about their ESP32 WiSoC with WiFi and Bluetooth LE a few weeks ago in a letter addressed to developers, but did not release that much information. The company has now released some documents in the forums (registration required) concerning ESP32 module  including PCB processing requirement, schematics and PCB layout, and bill of materials.

ESP32 Module Pinout

ESP31 / ESP32 Module Pinout

The very first modules will actually be based on ESP31 processor, which only slightly differs from ESP32 with some swapped pins. The BoM is pretty small with several capacitors and resistors, one inductance, a 26 MHz crystal, ESP31, and a Gigadevice flash.


The schematics have been designed with Orcad 16.6, so if you don’t have the program, you can read the schematics with Orcad 16.6 Lite, which is free to download. I’ve also printed the schematics to a PDF file.  I’m not sure how to open the .pcb file which should be the module’s PCB layout.

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No.1 D3 Smartwatch (Mediatek MT6261) Review

November 24th, 2015 7 comments

Since I’ve listed the specs and torn down No.1 D3 smartwatch, I’ve spent several days wearing the smartwatch / watchphone, and trying most of its features, so it’s time for a review. I’ll go through all screens of the user interface, include a video review, before providing a conclusion to this review

D3_smartwatch_smartphone_functionsCharging the watch take between 15 to 30 minutes, and you can turn it on by pressing the only button on the side of the watch for a few seconds. The first menu you are likely to see if the one with the phone functions including the Dialer, messaging, phonebook and call logs.

You can use these in two ways: with a micro SIM card inserted into the watch, or/and via your smartphone connected over Bluetooth. I mostly used the watch connected to my smartphone, but both methods worked for me. When you receive a call, it’s not quite as private as on a phone, since everyday can hear the other party talk via the watch’ speakers.

In order to synchronize contacts, logs, and receive SMS and call notifications from your Android phone to your watch, you’ll need to install BT Notification app.

Once this done you’ll get all notifications (by default) shown on your smartphone forwarded to D3 watch. The small touchscreen makes it very inconvenient to read and scroll through notifications, so it’s more useful to check if it’s an important message / email / missed call that you need to check on your smartphone.

BT Notification Permissions and App Settings (Click to Enlarge)

BT Notification Permissions and App Settings (Click to Enlarge)

The second screen, accessible via a left tor right swipe includes Bluetooth connectivity, App (QR code for BT Notification shown above and some other Chinese apps), Notification, and Settings.

No1_D3_Smartwatch_BluetoothBluetooth pairing with my smartphone was very easy and worked the first time. If you plan to listen to music on your smartphone, you may want to disconnect the watch however, as it then be used as a Bluetooth audio device. There may be an option to disable this, but I have no found it out. Each time you manually connect to the smartphone, you’ll also be asked whether you want to sync time and data from your phone.

Notification will simply let you access to all notifications received from your smartphones.

Settings has 4 menus:

  1. Common settings
    • Time & Date
    • Language – English, French, Spanish, Purtuguese, Iatlian, German, Turkish Russian and Chinese
    • Input method – ABC, abc, numeric
    • Light control (LEDs around the watch)
    • Flight mode
    • Misc
  2. Security settings – For phone lock, password
  3. Call settings – Auto redialm, call time reminder, answer mode…
  4. Restore settings

D3_Smartwatch_CameraOne more swipe from left to right will bring about the user interface with Camera, Theme, Image Viewer, and Massor icons.

The camera does work, although in camera mode the screen may be difficult to see clearly in broad sunlight, and the picture resolution is very low: 128×128. So it find it rather useless… I’ve included some sample just below.

The “Theme” will only let you choose between 3 color/background images, and you can’t customize it with one of the picture you may have taken with the camera

Image viewer is like a file manager to watch the picture saved to the micro SD card you may have installed in the watch.

“Massor” is rather funny, as it’s just an on/off button to start and stop the vibrator in the watch. I wonder what people might do with this feature…


Six camera samples (actual size / resolution)

D3_Smartwatch_Audio_player_anti-lost_BT_CameraLet’s move on to the next 4 icons…

Audio player can be useful if you don’t mind low quality and having people around listening to your music. It can play music from the micro SD card or from your smartphone over Bluetooth.

“Anti lose” may be one of the most useful features of the watch. You can locate your phone by making it ringing – make sure you don’t leave it in silent mode however -, and have the watch showing “BT Lost” message with some audio alarm when Bluetooth connection is lost. The only downside is that you may have some false positive once or twice a day with your phone safely in your pocket, but the Bluetooth connection dropping a short time, triggering the “lost phone” alarm.

Powersave can be enabled/disabled, but I have not tested it in details.

“BT Camera” can also be pretty cool, as you can use the watch as a trigger for your smartphone’s camera. Your phone camera output will show on the watch, and you can press a button to remotely take a picture. For some reasons (connection issues?) it will fail from time to time. The pictures are saved in your smartphone, as it you took the pictures directly with your phone.

D3_smartwatch_CalendarThe next menu are some software tools that include a calendar, alarm, caculator and a voice memos app.

The calendar only has a monthly view, and while you can switch between previous and next month, you can’t do much more with it.

Up to five alarms can be set, and you can configure repeat modes, as well as alert type: ring, ring + vibration, or vibration only. The latter is quite convenient if you don’t want to bother people around you.

The calculator is quite basic, and the voice memos app worked well for me to record short audio message, until it failed in the video review…

Let’s swipe the screen again to get to Motion sensor, profiles, file manager, and world clock icons.

D3_Smartwatch_Motion_Profiles_File_Manager_World_ClockIn order to save energy, the screen will auto turn off after 15 seconds of inactivity, which means you have to press the button to check the time. If you don’t like this you can enable the motion sensor and “wake-up gesture” to automatically turn on the display. In theory it looks very convenient, but in practice it will often turn on the display, even when just typing on the keyboard, so I had to disable it to avoid depleting the battery too fast.

Profiles are just the typical profiles found in phone with General, Silent, Meeting, and Outdoor.

The File manager let you delete files, create folders, rename files/folders, and more generally browse your micro SD card. By the way, while the specifications mention that the biggest supported SD card is 16GB, I had no problem using a 32GB SD card in the watch.

World Clock will show a world map, where you can point destination to get the time in other part of the world. It’s very difficult to use as the screen is just too small, and it will not always respond to taps…

No1_D3_Smartwatch_Fitness_HRMThe next user interface is for fitness / health functions with a sleep monitor, a sedentary alarm, a pedometer, and an heart rate monitor.

I have not really tried the sleep monitor, as with most fitness tracker, it’s just a gimmick features. Sedentary might be a little more useful, as the watch will tell you to exercise if you have stayed passive / remained seated for too long. You can select the time in minutes by yourself.

The pedometer is not always running in the background by default. You need to start and stop it manually. Once it is started it can run in the background, so you can go back and use other functions. The downside is that battery life drops to about half day when the pedometer is enabled continuously. Accuracy appears to be decent, possibly slightly under reporting the number of steps, as I ran 2 kilometers, and 2,100 steps were counted.

The heart rate monitor should have been a great feature, but it only takes one measurement at a time, and requires 10 seconds to do so.

D3_Smartwatch_Body_Temperature_UV_StopWatch_ECGThat’s why going to the next user interface might be a good idea with the ECG function that takes continuous measurements. Both Heart Rate and ECG app will turn on the electro-optic sensor on the back of the watch (green light), and neither seem accurate.

When I sit on a chair and relax, measurements range between 66 and 89 bpm, already a wide range… So I went to play badminton and run, and the measurements… were exactly the same… So for fun, I removed the watch from my wrist, and launch the ECG app, and the “air’s heart beat” was also between 60 to 90 bpm… Massive fail here.

BBT must be to measure body temperature, and when you wear the watch you may have the feeling it’s working at it reports 36.6 to 36.8 C, but again remove the watch from my wrist yielded the same results, and I have not tried to get a fever to test the function…

UV is supposed to measure ultra violet exposure, and let you know if it is unsafe to stay under the strong sun. Again I’m not really sure it’s working, as when I tried under the shadow a strong sun was reported…

By hey, the stopwatch is working great at least!



That’s it, I’ve gone through all of the main options in the watch user interface, so let’s talk about battery life. I’ve already mentionned that the watch would last about half day when the pedometer is running in the background. If I only enable Bluetooth, no SIM card connected, and checking the watch a few times a day, it should last around 24 hours on a charge.

A short micro USB to USB cable to provided to charge the watch, and it will fill the 380 mAh battery relatively quickly, between 15 to 30 minutes. When you connect the USB cable to a computer, a USB configuration menu should show up.
One option is Mass storage, and it will provide access to your micro SD, if any, and the other option reads “COM port”.

I checked out the output from dmesg in Ubuntu to find out what it was about:

And the watch is recognized as a GSM modem.

Let’s not forget that a smartwatch is also a watch, a D3 comes with two faces: a digital watch and an analog watch.


I’ve also covered all these features and issues in my video review.


No.1 D3 smartwatch has so many features for a super low price that you could not possibly expect everything to work flawlessly. Here’s the summary of the advantages and drawbacks of this smartwatch.


  • Ultra low price (~$23)
  • Micro SIM card slot
  • Micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Smartphone sync over Bluetooth with calls, sms, email… notifications working pretty well
  • Screen is quite readable even in direct sunlight
  • Wristband material is very flexible and should not break easily over time (TBC)
  • Lots of features including anti-loss function, Bluetooth camera remote, pedometer, etc…


  • Battery life is rather short: ~24h with Bluetooth on/no 2G; ~12h with Bluetooth and Pedometer on
  • Display not always on
  • Built-in camera is not very useful, and take low resolution pictures (128×128)
  • Heart rate monitor, body temperature, and ultra-violet measurements don’t seem to work at all.
  • Fitness functions (e.g. pedometer) are not working by default, and the app (Fundo) does not seem to record activity.
  • Difficult to read details of notifications as the screen is so small (2 lines shown at a time) and scrolling do not work very well.
  • Too many features / icons may make it cumbersome to browse the different section (customization would be good)
  • Only 2 watch faces available
  • Not waterproof

I’m looking for a smartwatch with at least one week battery life, always-on display, and always-on fitness features so No.1 D3 smartwatch does not meet my requirements. But I already knew this before the review, and it was still interesting to review a low cost smartwatch. So I would not use it as my main smartwatch, but it can be a fun device to play with. If you are in hacking things, you could also try Fernly, a reverse engineered operating system for Mediatek MT626x processor, which I’ve been told does not exactly work out of the box with MT6261 found in D3 watch, so some extra work should be needed.

Again, I’d like to thank Tinydeal for providing a sample for review. They sell the item for $22.99 including shipping. Alternatively No.1 D3 smartwatch can also be purchased from GearBest, Aliexpress, Amazon US and others.

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NO.1 D3 Smartwatch Specs, Unboxing and Teardown

November 19th, 2015 9 comments

There are now many wearables, including fitness bands and smartwatches, on the market, but to me many fail on battery life, visibility, and price. The one that would match my requirements the best would be SMA-Q smartwatch, but in the meantime, I’m also interested in testing some more wearables at different price points. Tinydeal sent me NO.1 D3 smartwatch that sells for just $22.99 shipped. I’ll go first through the specifications, before checking of the watch more closely, and in a few days writing a review of the device.

NO.1 D3 Smartwatch Specifications

You should not expect much for this price, but the watch is surprisingly feature-packed (as taken from tinydeal website):

  • SoC – Mediatek MT6261 processor with 32Mbit RAM, 32Mbit Flash
  • Storage – Internal micro SD slot up to 16GB
  • Display – 1.22″ capacitive touchscreen IPS display with 128×128 resolution
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 3.0
  • Cellular – 1x micro SIM card slot supporting 2G (GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz)
  • Camera – 0.3MP camera on top of the watch
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for charging
  • Sensor – Gravity Sensor, thermometer, heart rate monitor, UV monitor
  • Battery – 350 mAh LiPo battery good for 36 hours in standby time.
  • Waterproof Rating – “Normally Water Resistant”
  • Languages – Chinese, English, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish
  • Dimensions – 250 x 42 x 11 mm
  • Weight: 38 g

The watch ships with a short USB cable, and a user’s manual in English and Chinese. It is compatible with Android 4.3 or above. Features include Bluetooth notifications, call & SMS Reminder, body thermometer, pedometer,  heart rate monitor, sleep monitor, local and remote camera, time display, sedentary reminder, phonebook sync, Bluetooth dialing, hand-free calls, UV Monitor, Anti-Lost, and more..

NO.1 D3 Smartwatch Unboxing

I received the package via DHL, and one advantage of the cheap price is that there’s no custom duty to pay.

That’s the retail package with some of the key features on the side.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The watch comes with a micro USB to USB cable charging, and a simple user’s manual in both English and Chinese with parts of the specifications differing slightly from the specs on Tinydeal.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The wristband is made of some very flexible rubber, and I believe it should last longer than some other plastic bands I used in the past. You’ll have notice the heart rate monitor sensor on the back of the watch above.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The only interfaces are one button on one side, and a micro USB port on the other. You can find the camera on the top of the watch, which makes it easy to take horizontal pictures while looking at the watch.

NO.1 D3 Smartwatch Teardown

This teardown is a little different from others, as most of the time end users don’t really need to care about it, but the first steps are useful if you want to replace the battery, or more importantly insert a micro SIM card or micro SD card inside the watch.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The first step is to pop out the plastic back cover with your fingernails.  At this point it’s very clear the watch is not waterproof, except some drops of rain… The battery is not a 350 mAh LiPo as in the specs, but a 380mAh Li-Ion battery. You can press the bottom side of the battery to take it off.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

You’ll then find the IMEI number, a micro SIM slot in the center, and a micro SD slot on the right. Most people won’t need to open it further, and if you do you’ll lose the warranty after removing the four screws.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

This will loosen the wristband, and show a little more about the components.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I did not want to take too many risks, since I still want to review the watch, and I only managed to peak at one component: FT6236GMA touchscreen IC. It should be possible to take out the HRM sensor, and check in my details. But for now I reassembled the watch, and inserted a 32GB micro SD card which was later on properly recognized by the system.
Time to charge the watch, before playing a little more.


The charge was very fast as in less than 15 minutes the watch was fully charged, but I’m not sure whether the battery already had some charge before. That’s something I’ll have to check out during the next few days.

I’d like to thanks Tinydeal for providing a review sample. If you are interested, you could purchase from them for $22.99 including shipping, but the watch can also be bought from other e-retailers including GearBest, Aliexpress, Amazon US and others.

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GTEK GP100 Rugged Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers Can Be Used in the Bathroom and Outdoors

November 12th, 2015 3 comments

I normally put my smartphone on a shelf to listen to music while taking a bath or showering, and a few years back I thought about using Bluetooth speakers, but few solutions were waterproof, and/or the price must have been high, so I forgot about it. Following a post on about GTEK speakers, I found out there are now many waterproof Bluetooth speakers to choose from with prices starting as low as $7.

Rugged_Waterproof_Bluetooth_SpeakersBut I found GTEK GP100 speakers quite interesting, as beside being waterproof (IPx7), there are also rugged and suitable for outdoor activities, come with a 3,000 mAh battery good for 8 to 10 hours, and can fit into your bicycle bottle’s holder.

Some of key features of GTEK GP100 (GT-D201):

  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 3.0 (Website also says Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR); 10 meter range
  • Speakers – 2x 5W (or 3W?); 80db+ SNR; 80Hz – 18Khz frequency range; 4 Ohm
  • Battery – 2,500 / 3,000 mAh
  • IP Rating – IPX7
  • Materials – Silicone rubber + ABS + metal

Outdoor_Bluetooth_SpeakersYou can check the demo, and other models by GTEK in Charbax’s video.

I could not find them on Aliexpress,. but the factory price is said to be $15 per unit for 1k order, so they may end up selling for about $30 to $40. A few more details can be found on GTEK GT-D201 product page.

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Categories: Audio, Hardware, Video Tags: bluetooth

Poynt Android Point-of-Sales Terminal Accepts Cards, NFC, Bluetooth and QR Code Payments

November 2nd, 2015 No comments

Poynt Smart Terminal is an Android based payment terminal with a small screen facing the customer, and a larger screen facing the sales staff, that accept payments from various sources such a magnetic strip or chip (EMV) cards, Bluetooth, NFC (e.g. for Apple Pay), or QR code. The company has made a developer’s kit with the hardware and SDK available a few months ago.

Merchant-facing side (Click to Enlarge)

Merchant-facing side (Click to Enlarge)

While the exact hardware specifications have not been disclosed, we can still look into the main features and ports of this payment terminal:

  • Displays
    • Merchant facing – 7″ touchscreen display (1280×800)
    • Customer facing – 4.3″ touchscreen display (800×480)
  • Connectivity – GSM/3G/4G modem, NFC, Bluetooth, and WiFi
  • Payment – Hybrid EMV / MSR reader slot, QR and barcode scanner, Bluetooth, NFC
  • Audio – Speaker and microphone
  • Camera – Merchant facing camera
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for charging and possibly external devices (e.g. printers)
  • Misc – Thermal printer, Power, printer release, and volume buttons
  • Power – Lithium-on battery. Charged via charging pins or micro USB port
Customer-facing side (Click to Enlarge)

Customer-facing side (Click to Enlarge)

Three applications are pre-installed on the device: Terminal, Register and Insights, and the company has signed up with other developers including Vend (POS), Kabbage (SMB credit lines), Swarm (store analytics), Boomtown (tech support), Bigcommerce (online storefronts) and Intuit (back office).

Developers can purchase a development kit for $499 including a smart terminal and some other unspecified goodies, and/or request the free Poynt SDK to develop apps for the payment terminal, as well as access the API documentation on Poynt’s developer page. The hardware in the development is a “limited developer edition” without the same security controls as the product that will be sent to merchants in order to ease debugging.

If you are a merchant interested in the solution, or just curious to find out more details, you can check out

Thanks to Nanik for the tip.

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Categories: Android, Hardware Tags: Android, bluetooth, nfc, payment, pos, wifi

NanoPi2 is a Tiny Board with Samsung S5P4418 Processor, WiFi and Bluetooth Connectivity

October 30th, 2015 21 comments

FriendlyARM released NanoPi board this summer, a small and inexpensive development board based on Samsung S3C2451 ARM9 processor with both WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. The company has now unveils a more powerful, and slightly wider, version with NanoPi2 featuring Samsung S5P4418 quad core Cortex A9 processor with 1GB RAM, AP6212 wireless module, a new HDMI output, and the same connectors for I/Os and LCD displays.

NanoPi2NanoPi2 specifications:

  • SoC – Samsung S5P4418 quad core Cortex A9 processor @ up to 1.4GHz
  • System Memory – 1GB 32bit DDR3
  • Storage – 2 x Micro SD Slot
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth LE 4.0 via AP6212 module
  • Video Output / Display I/F- 1x HDMI 1.4a, 0.5 mm pitch SMT FPC seat for type-A full-color LCD (RGB: 8-8-8)
  • Camera – 24-pin DVP interface
  • USB – 1x USB Host port; 1x micro USB 2.0 OTG port for power and data
  • Expansions Headers – 40-pin Raspberry Pi compatible header with UART, I2C, SPI, GPIOs…
  • Debugging – 4-pin header for serial console
  • Misc – User and reset buttons, power and user LEDs, RTC battery header
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via micro USB port
  • Dimension: 75 x 40 mm (6-layer PCB)
  • Weight – 22 g

The board boots from a micro SD card (on the right below) with either Android 4.4.2 or Debian.


NanoPi2 Wiki describes the board, shows how to install the images, build U-boot, Linux 3.4.x and Android, and provides links to the schematics and mechanical files (PDF). The Debian Image Build System (DIBS) and other tools can also be found on ARMWorks github account.

Unfortunately, I could not find the datasheet for S5P4418 processor [Update: here’s S5P4418 user’s manual], but one Chinese company mentions it’s an upgraded version of Exynos 4412, and I’ve passed their comparison table through Google Translate.


Exynos 4412



I/O Voltage Levels



No level conversion needed




Meets more requirements


4x dual channel DDR3

2-channel DDR3

Easier wiring and impedance control


Needs an external PHY


Eliminate the need for external chip




Supports LVDS directly without an external chip

I/O functions

Some I/Os support interrupts

All I/Os support interrutps


Requires DM9000, which costs more  (12RMB ~ $1.9)

Built-in Gigabit Ethernet, and you can use a 3RMB (~50 cents) chip to support 10/100/1000M Ethernet

Lower cost

NanoPi2 board sells for $32, and you can also purchase a kit with a 7″ resistive LCD for $65. Alternatively, 4.3″ and 7″ can be purchased separately for $25 and $35. Sadly shipping is monstrous, as I was asked for respectively $32 and $65 extra for shipping and handling for the board only and 7″ LCD kit with NanoPi2 board. Both match exactly the costs of the board and kit, so hopefully it’s a temporary mistake.

You can find more details and/or buy the board on NanoPi2 product page, as well as on Andahammer, where people from North America should be able to buy with lower shipping fees.

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Kingnovel R8 Android TV Box Review (VLC Edition)

October 25th, 2015 7 comments

Kingnovel R8 is one of the many Rockchip RK3368 based TV boxes on the market, and since I’ve already provided the specs, as well as pictures of the device and board, I’ll carry on with the review today. While I’m usually testing video playback in Kodi, I’ve only spent a short time with Kodi 15.2 on this box, and instead switched to VLC (aka VideoLAN), an another open source media player, and my favorite program to watch videos in my Ubuntu computer. Of course, I’ve also tested most hardware features and performance of the device.

First Boot, and First Impressions

Since I like to test worst case scenarios, I also make sure I use all the ports of the devices, and connected a USB hard drive, USB RF dongles, USB webcam, and relevant cables to the device before powering it up. Once you connect the power, I recommend you have some tea while waiting for the boot to complete, as it will usually take around 2 minutes and 20 seconds.


Click for Original Size

The launched is called Carbon Metro and includes Kodi, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Netflix, a Web Browser and a link to “Setting”.

Apps Center

Apps Center

There’s also an Apps Center, which would have been better called “Favorites”, as you can add and remove shortcuts as needed…

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

… as well as “Smart Apps” which simply lists all installed app, in some random order…About_R8

I’m not going through the whole settings today, as they look exactly like the ones in Zidoo X6 Pro up to the “Ehernet” typo, except printing is also enabled. The 8GB partition has been partitioned in to a 2.91GB “internal storage” partition with 1.89 GB free, and a 2.88GB “NAND flash” partition. I could not see any major issues with settings, and I could change video output to 2160p60 with the user interface resolution fixed at 1920×1080, and I had no problem with Ethernet and WiFi connection to my router.

The About device section only shows a generic “rk3368-box” model name with Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.10.0.

I’ve added two AAA battery to the remote control, and I have to say the remote is pretty nice to use (for an IR remote) thanks to its compact size and fits well into my hand, and I tested up to 10 meter without issues. Having said that I only used it a few minutes, and switched to an air mouse instead which is much more convenient in Android.

I could install all apps I needed for the review from Google Play store or Amazon Underground, after side-loading the latter.

Power control is mostly implemented correctly with standby and power off working fine. A short press on the remote power button will go into standby, and a long press will pop-up a menu asking you to confirm you want to power off the device. Once in power off mode, you can use the remote control to turn it back on. However, power measurements showed some flaws:

  • Power off – 0 Watt
  • Standby – 0.4 Watt
  • Idle – 2.4 ~ 3.2 Watts
  • Power off + HDD – 2.1 Watt (HDD light still on)
  • Standby + HDD – 1.2 Watt (HDD light does turn off)
  • Idle + HDD – 5.0 ~ 5.4 Watts

So as long as you don’t connect any USB devices all is fine, but if you leave your USB hard drive attached is will still be powered on in power on, although it’s completely turned off in standby mode. When I connect all USB devices used for review, the power off consumption goes up to 3.1 Watts.

One good news is that the box temperature stays in control, and the Rockchip processor does not massively throttle like in Zidoo X6 Pro. The maximum temperature on the top and bottom of the device was respectively 41°C and 54°C after Antutu benchmark, and 42°C and 57°C after playing Riptide GP2 for 15 minutes.

The firmware does not seem to have massive bugs and never frozen, but Android would very often show the messages “Carbon Metro is not responding” or “Unfortunately Carbon Metro has stopped”, either because of poor implementation of the launcher itself, or more likely, the very slow NAND flash used R8 TV box. Switching from an app to Android home screen by pressing the home button on the remote will normally take 5 seconds, and apps don’t start very fast either, and sometimes the system feels rather sluggish. So unfortunately the first impressions were not very good mostly due to very slow boot time, launcher issues, and overall sluggishness.

Video Playback

A Quick Look at Kodi

Even though I’m going to focus on VideoLAN in this review, I’ve still had a look at Kodi. I was somewhat impressed than Kodi 15.2 is pre-installed, as the firmware is a few weeks old, and many still used Kodi 14.2.


Click for Original

Kodi is also pre-loaded with TVAddons which I previously tried, provides lots of pirated content, and is despised by Kodi’s developers.

Firstly, I went to Kodi settings to enabled Dolby and DTS pass-through, and automatic frame rate switching, as well as the Android settings to set audio output to HDMI pass-through. Then I played three videos in Kodi via Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver, all of which are in theory supported by RK3368 processor:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_normal.mp4 (H.264 @ 1080p60 + AC3) – Video OK, and the AV receiver showed “Dolby D 5.1”, but it sometimes switched to “Unknown” and audio was cut for less than one second, before resuming audio and “Dolby D 5.1” output.
  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (4K H.264 @ 30fps + AAC) – The video was not very smooth.
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps + AC3) – The video was not smooth, and audio played fine (Dolby D 5.1) was a while before continuously making a “machine gun” like noise.

Finally, I’m very happy not too have gone through the torture that would have been to run a full video playback test with Kodi on this firmware. You’ll probably want to find another version of Kodi maybe from Google Play, or the version recently released by Zidoo which has been specifically optimized for RK3368.


If you are interested in the open source nature of VLC for Android, and want to check it out yourself you can follow the instructions to get the code and build VLC. The app is available in Google Play, but there are two versions:

  • VLC for Android beta – Version 1.0.0 last updated on December 9, 2014 with 50 to 100 millions installs.
  • VLC for Android – Version 1.6.6 last updated on October 23, 2015 (But I tested version 1.6.0 released October 16, 2015) with 10 to 50 millions installs

If you only look at the app title, you may have thought the beta version has the latest developments, but checking the details clearly shows the beta version is not updated anymore, so you’ll want to install VLC for Android, which is exactly what I did.

The first boot might slow as the app will scan for media files on your system, especially if you have connected an hard drive with lots of videos or/and pictures, and since this happens in the foreground, you’ll have to be patient. Unfortunately after a while the app would just exit without any crash log files (vlc_logcat_<…>.log) in the root of my “internal SD card”. That problem is reproducible 100% of the time, maybe because I have two many files, or maybe because I have multiple partitions with the same directory structure (double files), and somehow that confuses the app. Since I normally play videos over SAMBA, I just disconnect the hard drive, and the app started normally, but then I found out that SAMBA is not supported by the app in VLC Android FAQ. You should be able to work around that by mounting the network shares with another app, but instead I just copied the sample videos in a USB flash drive, and after the scan I could see all my videos. Yeah!

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The videos are grouped by filename, and all Big Buck Bunny videos were in one single “group”. This looks nice, but for testing purpose it’s much easier for me to get a file list.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

It works, but the user interface is clearly optimized for phones, as a lot of space is unused.

All good so I started by playing 1080p video samples found in, but unfortunately I only got a black screen (without mouse pointer or volume display possible) with audio playing fine. So I went to the settings and following some recommendations from the Android FAQ.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The settings page shown above have various option for subtitle, video orientation, background video playback and so on, but I went into the hardware acceleration menu and try all four options, and only “disabled” worked for me. Please note that you may have to quit and restart the app for it to work.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Then I went into the Performance section, and forced video chroma to YUV as it’s supposed to provide the best performance, and it also worked on the device.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Finally, I had a look into the advanced options, and check the audio output which allowed selection between AudioTrack and OpenSL ES. I simply kept the default settings.

Based on these settings, here are the results for Linaro’s 1080p video samples, plus a low resolution VP9 sample, and Elecard H.265 videos:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – Not 100% smooth
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container – Pretty good, but I did notice some frame “flashes” 2 or 3 times (Like a white frame or older frame is shown during playback)
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container – OK, but I did notice some frame “flashes” 2 or 3 times
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – Not perfectly smooth
  • Real Media (RMVB) (720p / 5Mbps) – Artifacts, and video freezes before the end
  • WebM / VP8 – Most of the time the video plays fine, but some frame flashes occurred
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – Black screen and audio
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – Artifacts

Even saying that it’s not very good is an euphemism. VLC developer did say that the program may not work on all platform, and Rockchip RK3368 is one of these. Nevertheless, I still enabled HDMI audio pass-through in Android settings to see if HD audio would be passed through to my AV receiver:

  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 (VOB file) – VLC reported that a “Serious error occurred and VLC had to close”
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – PCM 2.0 only
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – PCM 2.0 only
  • TrueHD 5.1 – PCM 2.0 only, and the video was not smooth
  • TrueHD 7.1 – PCM 2.0 only
  • Dolby Atmos 7.1 – the receiver showed PCM 2.0, but the audio felt like some extra-terrestrial life form was trying to enter in contact with me…
  • DTS HD Master – PCM 2.0 only
  • DTS HD High Resolution – PCM 2.0 only.

So with hindsights, it was not such a good idea to run VLC on an Android TV box, as the app is probably optimized to run on the most popular phones or mobile SoCs like Qualcomm, Samsung, or Mediatek.

Antutu Video Tester 3.0

I installed Antutu Video Tester 3.0 manually and the results were in line with other RK3368 mini PCs with a score of 516 points.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’ve transfer a 278MB file between the internal flash and a SAMBA share to test WiFi performance. Kingnovel R8 has one of the weakest WiFi performance I’ve tested so averaging 1.24 MB/s, and in the second test the transfer stalled a few times. Had it not stalled performance would have been higher, but not much, probably around 1.5 MB/s.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

I did the same test for Gigabit Ethernet, but with a larger 885 MB file, and the file was transferred at 10 MB/s. This is slower than most devices with Gigabit Ethernet device, but as we’ll see later the bottleneck should be the slow NAND flash, just like in WeTek Core TV box.

R8_Ethernet_PerformanceSo I’ve also tested dual duplex raw performance for one minute using “iperf -t 60 -c -d” command line, and the performance is OK at around 600 Mbps in both directions. Kingnovel_R8_Ethernet_iperfiperf output:

Miscellaneous Tests


I’ve tested Bluetooth transferring photos using Iocean M6572 smartphone, and a Bluetooth audio headset. Both worked.


A micro SD card formatted with FAT32, as well as NTFS &, EXT-4 partitions in my USB hard drive could be access in read/write mode, but not exFAT nor BTRFS.

File System Read Write
exFAT Not mounted Not mounted
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

A1 SD Bench results for the 2 partitions on the USB 3.0 hard drive:

  • NTFS (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK4/USB3_NTFS) – Read: 23.92 MB/s , Write: 16.75 MB/s
  • EXT-4 (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK4/udisk1) – Read: 25.18 MB/s, Write: 17.28 MB/s

Performance is acceptable for a USB 2.0 connection, but write speed should be optimized.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

The internal storage felt slow at boot time and during usage with some apps, including the launcher, often becoming irresponsive. A1SD benchmark confirmed the impressions,  as the flash could only achieve 14.02 MB/s reads, and 4.85 MB/s writes.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Some other products like WeTek Play and WeTek Core also have slow internal storage, but somehow they’ve managed to setup their firmware in a way that it does not affect the user experience much.


Candy Crush Saga worked without issues as in most devices, and Riptide GP2 was quite smooth, and remains very much playable after changing the graphics settings to the “highest resolution”.

Kingnovel R8 Benchmarks

If you still thought RK3368 would be clocked @ 1.5 GHz as advertised, that’s the third device were CPU-Z shows it clocked @ 1.20 GHz maximum. The board model is simply rk3368_box.

I’ve only run Antutu 5.7.3 benchmark this time, and R8 achieved 31,609 points, a bit below to the 34,101 points  I got with Beelink i68, but still well above the ~25,000 points in Zidoo X6 Pro which throttles a lot. (Note that X6 Pro will also get ~34,000 points if you run Antutu right after booting, but the score will decrease if your run Antutu after using the box for a while, and once I even managed to bring the score down to around 11,000 points after playing a 4K H.265 videos at 60 fps for one hour).


This time I’ve got a two parts conclusion: one for VLC on TV boxes, one for Kingnovel R8 specifically.

VLC on TV Boxes (powered by Rockchip RK3368 processor)

VLC for Android has been installed on tens of millions of devices, and the app has a pretty good rating of 4.3 out of 5. However, it’s quite likely developers are focusing their efforts on popular smartphones and tablets powered by Qualcomm, Samsung and Mediatek processors, as my VLC experience on Kingnovel R8 TV box was very poor without hardware acceleration support, and software decoding struggling with 1080p videos. I could not connect to network shares either, but all these potential issues are pointed out in the FAQ.

Since VLC is my favorite player in Linux, I was hoping for more, but unfortunately it should be avoided in (Rockchip) TV Box. That does not mean VLC won’t run well on any TV boxes, as the app supports Android TV operating system, and an earlier preview version had been tried on Nexus Player.

Kingnovel R8

Sadly Kindnovel R8 is yet another disappointing TV box both due to firmware (e.g. sluggish launcher), and hardware issues (e.g. slow NAND flash). I’ve compiled some of the pros and the cons for the device.


  • Android 5.1 firmware with Kodi 15.2
  • HDMI 2.0 video output works up to 2160p60 Hz
  • Good Ethernet performance
  • Proper power handling with standby & power off but one caveat: USB power is not turned off in power off mode.
  • I did not notice any overheating issues
  • The IR remote is nice and small with a good range (>10 meters)
  • 3D games played fairly well


  • NAND flash is slow, and the firmware may feel slow at times with “app unresponsive” messages popping up from time to time, especially the launcher. This also explains a 2 minutes 20 seconds boot time (when USB devices are attached to the device)
  • It takes 5 seconds to go from the current app to the home screen
  • Kodi 15.2 did not well with the three videos I tried: Neither 4K H.264 @ 30fps and 4K H.265 @ 60 were smooth, and HDMI audio pass-through was not reliable (Audio cuts while playing). Kodi may also be quite slow to exit at times as in many other devices, and that version is pre-loaded with TVaddons (piracy issues).
  • WiFi performance is one of the worst I experienced in TV boxes
  • USB power is not turned off in power off mode (but it is in standby mode)

The issues might be eventually fixed, and if you are a distributor you may either request Kingnovel to improve the firmware responsiveness, or ask them to provide a faster flash device.

I’d like to thanks Kingnovel for providing the sample for review, which can be ordered in quantities from the company, see R8 product page. While I would not recommend it, individuals can purchase “R8 TV box” on GeekBuying, Ebay, Banggood, or Aliexpress with prices starting at around $76, but the hardware in the device may be slightly different than the one reviewed (e.g. 2GB vs 1GB RAM), and the provided IR remote control is different.

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Compulab Unveils Texas Instruments Sitara AM5718 / AM5728 SoM and Single Board Computer

October 19th, 2015 1 comment

After last week formal launch of Texas Instruments Sitara AM572x processor, and Beagleboard-X15 development board, Compulab has now introduced  CL-SOM-AM57x System-on-Module based on TI Sitara AM5718 or AM5728 SoC, as well as the corresponding SBC-AM57x single board computer.  Both target industrial automation and control systems, and network connectivity options also make them suitable for networking, communications and IoT applications.

Compulab SOM-AM57X with AM5728 Processor

Compulab CL-SOM-AM57X with AM5728 Processor

CL-SOM-AM57X module specifications:

  • SoC – Texas Instruments Sitara AM5728  or AM5718 SoC with:
    • Dual (AM5728) or single (AM5718) Cortex A15 processor @ up to 1.5 GHz
    • Dual core PowerVR SGX544 3D GPU, Vivante GC320 2D GPU
    • Two Cortex M4 cores @ 212 MHz
    • Dual TMS320C66x DSP @ 700 MHz
    • Video IVA-HD 1080p video sub-system
    • Four 32-bit PRUs (Programmable Real-time Units)
  • System Memory – 512MB to 4GB DDR3
  • Storage – 4 to 32GB on-board eMMC, 512MB to 1GB on-board SLC NAND
  • Connectivity – On-board WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n + Bluetooth 4.1 BLE (TI WiLink 8), 2x Gigabit Ethernet PHY
  • Audio – WM8731 audio codec with stereo line-out, line-in, mic
  • Connector – 204-pin SO-DIMM edge connector with
    • Video / Display IF:
      • 24-bit parallel RGB up to 1920 x 1200
      • HDMI 1.4a up to 1920 x 1200
      • LVDS up to 1920 x 1080
      • 4-wire resistive touch-screen controller
    • 2x PCIe x1 Gen. 2
    • 1x SATA-II, 3Gbps
    • 1x USB 3.0 dual-role + up to 3x USB2.0 host ports
    • Up to 9 UART ports
    • Up to 3 MMC/SD/SDIO interfaces
    • Up to 2x I2C, 4x SPI, 2x CAN, 87x GPIO, etc…
    • PRU signaling – 28x EGPI, 32x EGPO, 1x industrial Ethernet, 1x MII, 2x capture interface (eCAP), etc…
  • Misc – RTC
  • Power – 4.2V to 5V (TOS659037 PMIC)
  • Dimensions 60 x 68 x 5 mm
  • Temperature Range (Operational) – Commercial: 0° to 70° C; Extended: -20° to 70° C; Industrial: -40° to 85° C

The company has not publicly released details about software and documentation yet, but they did mention that “CL-SOM-AM57x is provided with comprehensive documentation and ready-to-run SW packages for the Linux operating system”.

SBC-AM57X Single Board Computer (Click to Enlarge)

SBC-AM57X Single Board Computer (Click to Enlarge)

You can combine CL-SOM-AM57x SoM with SB-SOM-AM57x carrier-board for development, or to use SBC-AM57x industrial single-board computer for deployment with the following specifications:

  • Extra Storage – mSATA socket / SATA connector, full size SD card slot
  • Video Output – 1x HDMI 1.4a, 1x DVI,
  • Display I/F – 1x LVDS (100-mil header),  1x Parallel RGB interface and  resistive touch-screen interface (FPC connector) supporting Startec KD050C 5″ 480×800 TFT LCD panel
  • Audio – 3.5mm jack for analog stereo output, line-in, microphone
  • Connectivity – 2x Gigabit Ethernet connector (RJ45) + WiFi/BT on SoM
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB 3.0 OTG port
  • Expansion Slots – 2x mini-PCIe socket, full-size,
  • Expansions Headers – 100-mil headers for LVDS, Ethernet, GPIOs, CAN, I2C, SPI, USB, etc..
  • Supply voltage – Unregulated 8V to 15V DC jack
  • Dimensions – 160 x 136 x 22 mm

A complete development kit include both the modules and baseboard, as well as the WiFi antenna and cable, a serial port cable, an HDMI to DVI cable, a USB cable and adapter, an LCD panel together with adapters & cables for generic LCD panel interface, and a 12V power supply.

CL-SOM-AM57x will be available in December 2015 starting at $96 in low quantities for SOM-AM57x-C1500-D05-U2 with minimal specifications including AM5718 and 512MB RAM, and without on-board storage, wireless module, LVDS transmitter, etc… The carrier board will be $81 per unit for 1K orders. More information – including pricing details – is available on CL-SOM-AM57x and SBC-AM57x product pages.

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