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Posts Tagged ‘bluetooth’

Pebble Time is the Color Version of the Pebble SmartWatch (Crowdfunding)

February 25th, 2015 6 comments

The original Pebble Watch launched on Kickstarter about 3 years ago, and after selling over 1 million watches, the company is back on Kickstarter with Pebble Time, a thinner version of the watch with an always-on color e-Paper display, a new “timeline” user interface, a microphone for voice recognition,  and 7 days of battery life.

Pebble_TimeThe complete Pebble Time specifications are not available, but the company still listed some key features:

  • MCU – Cortex M4
  • Always-on, daylight readable 64 colors e-Paper display with backlight (no touchscreen)
  • Six-axis gyrosope
  • Microphone for dictation
  • 3x tactile buttons
  • Bluetooth for connectivity with mobile devices
  • Up to 7 day battery life
  • Compatible with any standard 22mm watch band
  • Water resistant and durable
  • Silent vibrating alarms
  • Language and international character support (Chinese coming soon)

The new Timeline interface focuses on past, present and future events such as basketball score, current steps, and weather forecast, and the three buttons are used for this purpose. The watch can pair via Bluetooth to devices running iOS 8 or greater and Android 4.0+ phones and tablets.

SDK and tools will also be available for the Pebble Time, built on the work done forthe original Pebble watch with some new and upcoming features:

  •  C SDK for apps and watchfaces running natively on the watch,
  • Online development environment: www.cloudpebble.net
  • New emulator that can be used on CloudPebble or locally
  • APIs for accelerometer, compass, bluetooth messaging, background tasks, GPS and HTTP request, etc
  • (NEW) Color APIs to support the 64 colors of the new Pebble Time screen
  • (NEW) Support for PNG and APNG
  • (NEW) Timeline APIs to push information from the web into the user’s timeline (no watch or phone apps required)
  • (NEW) UI framework to create beautiful applications that take advantage of color and animations
  • (Later in 2015) Voice to text APIs: add voice recognition to your apps
  • (Later in 2015) Smart accessory port for hardware hackers.
  • (Later in 2015) Bluetooth Low Energy API. Use Pebble to control BLE-enabled objects.

The new Pebble Time has already beaten a few Kickstarter records raising $500,000 in 17 minutes, $1 million in 49 minutes, and the pledges now amount to over 7.3 million dollars with 30 days to go. The company went for a massive 30,000 early bird rewards for the watch, and it’s still available for $179 since “only” around 20,000 watches went so far, after which you’d have to pledge $199. Price includes shipping worldwide, and delivery is scheduled for May 2015.

 

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Review of Zidoo X9 Android Media Player and Video Recorder

February 11th, 2015 11 comments

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

OTA Firmware Update

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

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

Zidoo_X9_Firmware_UpdateFirmware 1.0.26 was used for this review.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

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

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

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

Zidoo_X9_Settings

The Settings menu has fix sub-sections:

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

About_Zidoo_X9

So most configuration options are done in the Android settings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Playback

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

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

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

I also played some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – Could be smoother
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Not really smooth. (18 to 24 fps for a 23.976 video). Played from NTFS partition on USDB hard drive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

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

HDMI Input / PVR Function

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

HDMI IN App Screenshot (Click for Original Size)

HDMI IN App Screenshot (Click for Original Size)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

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

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

One the other hand, Ethernet could be better.

Zidoo_X9_Ethernet_SAMBA_Performance

Throughput in MB/s

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

Zidoo_X9_Ethernet_iperfiperf output:

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

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

File transfer worked without issue using ThL W200 smartphone.

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

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

Storage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USB Webcam

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

Gaming

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

Zidoo Z9 (Mstar MSO9810) Benchmarks

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

Mstar 9810 CPU-Z (Click to Enlarge)

Mstar 9810 CPU-Z (Click to Enlarge)

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

X9 got 15,851 points in Antutu 5.6.

Antutu 5.6 Score (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 5.6 Score (Click to Enlarge)

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

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

Zidoo_X9_Vellamo

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

3DMark ICE Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

3DMark ICE Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

Conclusion

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

PRO:

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

CONS:

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

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

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Ingenic Halley is a $20 Linux based IoT Board with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 Connectivity

February 10th, 2015 5 comments

Ingenic introduced Newton2 platform for wearables a few months ago, and the kit with an AMOLED display, camera board and other accessories should go on sale in March for $80. In the meantime, the company has also been working on a lower cost internet of things (IoT) module and development kit powered by Ingenic M150 with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 targeting smart appliances, Wi-Fi speakers, smart toys, industrial control applications, and other smart devices.

Ingenic_Halley

Halley IoT Module (Click to Enlarge)

Halley IoT module specifications:

  • SoC – Ingenic M150 XBurst (MIPS) single-core processor up to 1.0GHz with 128MB LPDDR on-chip, 2D graphics GPU, VPU supporintg 720p30 H.264 video decoding.
  • Storage – 8MP SPI NOR flash (GIGA GD25LQ64)
  • Connectivity – Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and  Bluetooth 4.1 via Broadcom 43438 chip.
  • Expansion headers (2mm pitch)
    • 8-bit parallel LCD interface,
    • Audio – MIC, Line-In and headphone, 2x I2S,
    • SD card (MMC interface)
    • USB device 2.0, and USB host 1.1
    • 3x UART (2 with hardware flow control), 2x I2C, 1x SPI up to 50Mbps,
    • 5-pin JTAG
    • 2x 12-bit ADC,
    • 2x PWM
  • Power Supply – 3.3V
  • Power Consumption – 2mW (Standby, no radio); 10 mW (Standby, Wi-Fi)
  • Dimensions – 24 x 40 x 2.4 mm
Halley Module Block Diagram and Pinout

Halley Module Block Diagram and Pinout

The module is running Linux 3.10 with TCP/IP stack, and the company claims Android OS could also run on external storage. This would have to be a lightweight version of Android as only 128MB RAM is available. The development kit is comprised of the module, a baseboard, and a debug board.

Halley_Development_Kit

Ingenic Halley Devkit (Click to Enlarge)

The baseboard includes power circuitry to power the board with a micro USB port, reset and boot keys, some LEDs, a 14-pin male header, and UART connection to the debug board. It would have been good to have a micro SD slot on the back of the board, but none seems to have been included.

Even the board has not been formally launched, some documentation is already available for download including a product brief, a datasheet, and a developer’s guide. A Linux demo image and the SDK have also been released. The SDK includes a toolchain, source code for Linux and U-boot, drivers & tools, and a demo Android app (Airkiss).

M150 Block Diagram

M150 Block Diagram

It’s the first time I see details about Ingenic M150, so it might interesting to go through the specs:

  • CPU – XBurst core, 1.0GHz (MIPS-based). 32KB L1 cache, 256KB L2 cache.
  • GPU – X2D: Resizing, Rotating, Mirror, Color Convention and OSD etc.
  • VPU – Video encoder: H.264, D1@30fps. Video decoder: H.264, MPEG-1/2/4, VC-1, VP8, RV9, 720P@30fps.
  • Memory
    • On-chip 128MB LPDDR, up to 320Mbps.
    • 64-bit ECC NAND flash, 512B/2KB/4KB/8KB/16KB page size.
    • Conventional and toggle NAND flash.
  • Display
    • LCD controller with OSD: TFT, SLCD, up to 1280*720@60Hz(BPP24).
    • Embedded E-Ink controller with color engine.
  • Camera – DVP interface, up to 2048 x 2048.
  • Audio – Embedded audio CODEC; Digital DMIC controller; AC97/I2S/SPDIF interface for external audio codec; PCM interface, master and slave mode.
  • ADC – 7 channels SAR A/D controller, 12-bit resolution.
  • On-chip Peripherals
    • USB 2.0 OTG, USB 1.1 Host.
    • MMC/SD/SDIO controller.
    • Full-duplex UART port.
    • Synchronous serial interface.
    • Two-wire SMB serial interface.
  • Security – Total 256bits OTP memory.
  • Package – BGA261, 11 x 11 x 1.4 (mm), 0.5mm pitch.

That confirms it’s one of the rare SoC with enough built-in RAM to run Linux. Renesas RZ/A1 is another one, but with only 10MB RAM, and a Cortex A9 core.

Halley IoT module and development kit will be available around March 10, for respectively $20 and $50. You can find more information, and ordering information on Ingenic’s Halley module page.

Thanks to Victor for the tip.

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Variscite Introduces TI Sitara AM437x SoM with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

January 30th, 2015 1 comment

News about Texas Instruments Sitara AM437x processors first surfaced in 2012, before being officially announced last summer. Beside TI’s own development kits, I had not seen any hardware based on the company’s Cortex A9 industrial processor, but Variscite has now unveiled their VAR-SOM-AM43 systems-on-module (SoM) powered by AM4376 , AM4378, or AM4379 SoCs.

Variscite_VAR-SOM-AM43VAR-SOM-AM43 specifications:

  • SoC – Texas Instruments AM437x single core ARM Cortex A9 processor @ 1.0GHz:
    • AM4376 – No GPU, 4x PRU @ 200 MHz
    • AM4378 – PowerVR SGX530 GPU, 4x PRU @ 200 MHz
    • AM4379 – PowerVR SGX530 GPU, 4x PRU @ 200 MHz, and EtherCAT slave support
  • System Memory – 256MB to 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 0 to 512MB SLC NAND flash, and 4GB to 32GB eMMC flash b module. 3x SD/MMC via edge connector
  • Display Interfaces – 24-bit RGB interface up to 1400×1050 resolution; 4/5-wire resistive touch support
  • Connectivity  – 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet PHY + 10/100/1000 Mbps RGMII,  802.11a/b/g/n with optional MIMO, and Bluetooth 4.0 (TI Wilink 8 WL183xMOD module)
  • Other I/Os and interfaces available via the 204-pin SO-DIMM connector:
    • Audio – Analog / digital microphone, S/PDIF, and Line In/Out
    • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host, 1x USB OTG
    • 5x UART up to 3.6 Mbps
    • 3x I2C, 4x SPI, 1x One Wire/HDP, 2x CAN bus
    • RTC (on carrier board)
    • Camera – 1x CPI
  • Power Supply – 3.3V DC; Digital I/IO: 3.3V / 1.8V
  • Dimensions – 67.8 x 38.6 x 3 mm
  • Temperature Range – Commercial 0 to 70°C; Extended: -20 to 70°C, or Industrial: -40 to 85°C
VAR-SOM-AM43 Block Diagram

VAR-SOM-AM43 Block Diagram

VAR-SOM-AM43 modules support Linux 3.14 and Yocto 1.6 (Daisy) with Qt 5, and Android 4.4 support is coming soon. Software documentation is available on the module’s Wiki, and support on Variscite’s forums. The company also provides mechanical and hardware documentation including a product brief, a datasheet, and mechanical design files (DXF) for the module, as well as schematics and a datasheet for VAR-AM43CustomBoard, the baseboard used for development and/or evaluation. TI AM437x TRM can also be downloaded directly from TI website.

VAR-AM43CustomBoard

VAR-AM43CustomBoard Carrier Board

The baseboard has the following key features:

  • SODIMM-200 socket to support VAT-SOM-AM43 system-on-module
  • External Storage – micro SD socket
  • Connectivity – 2x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Display – 18-bit 3 pair LVDS interface; 4-wire touch panel and capacitive touch panel support
  • Audio – 3.5mm jacks for heaphone and line INl; digital microphone on-board
  • Camera – Parallel CMOS sensor interface
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports (including on OTG?), 1x micro USB port for debugging
  • Serial – 2x RS232 header (UART1 / UART3), micro USB debug port, RS485 header, 2x CAN buses
  • Expansion Headers – Several headers with access to 8-channel ADC, SD/MMC interface, SPI, I2C, McASP, and GPIOs
  • Misc – RTC + CR1225 battery socket, 4x buttons.
  • Power Supply – 5V DC input, 2.5mm DC jack
  • Dimensions – 11.1 x 8.6 x 2.4 cm

A complete evaluation kit (VAR-DVK-AM43) is also available with VAR-SOM-AM43 SoM, VAR-AM43CustomBoard baseboard, a 7″ WVGA LCD with resistive/capacitive touch, a power supply, an Ethernet cable, an RS232 debug cable, boot/rescue SD cards, and a DVD with documentation and source code.

Variscite Sitara AM437x modules and development kits are available now, with pricing starting at $42 in 1K order. Further information, including hardware documentation, may be found on Variscite’s VAR-SOM-AM43, VAR-AM43CustomBoard, and VAR-DVK-AM43 product pages.

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Atmel Introduces Wi-Fi / Bluetooth Combo SoCs for the Internet of Things

January 22nd, 2015 3 comments

Atmel has recently announced two SoCs supporting Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 that target M2M and IoT applications, namely WILC3000 wireless link controller and WINC3400 network controller which both integrate a power amplifier, LNA, switch and power management unit.

WILC3000 Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

WILC3000 Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

WILC3000 and WINC3400 should share the following specifications:

  • MCU – Cortus APS3 32-bit processor
  • ROM/Flash – 256KB instruction/boot ROM (160KB for 802.11 and 96KB for Bluetooth) along with a 768 bits of non-volatile eFuse memory
  • RAM – 420KB instruction RAM (128KB for 802.11 and 292KB for Bluetooth), and a 128KB data RAM (64KB for 802.11 and 64KB for Bluetooth), as well as 160KB shared/exchange RAM (128KB for 802.11 and 32 KB for Bluetooth)
  • Wi-Fi

    • IEEE 802.11 b/g/n RF/PHY/MAC SOC (2.4 GHz)
    • IEEE 802.11 b/g/n (1×1) for up to 72 Mbps
    • Wi-Fi Direct and Soft-AP support
    • Supports IEEE 802.11 WEP, WPA, WPA2 Security, China WAPI security
  • Bluetooth
    • Version 4.0 Low Energy
    • Class 1 & 2 transmission
    • HCI (Host Control Interface) via high speed UART
    • PCM audio interface
  • On-chip memory management engine to reduce host load
  • 1x SPI, 1x SDIO, 1x I2C, and 1x UART host interfaces
  • Operating Voltage – 2.7 – 3.3 V
  • Operating temperature range – -30°C to +85°C
  • Package – 6x6mm QFN;  48 pins. WLCSP (Wafer Level Chip Scale Package) is also available.

According to the information available on Atmel website WILC3400 adds the following:

  • Fast boot options:
    • On-Chip Boot ROM (firmware instant boot)
    • SPI flash boot (firmware patches and state variables)
    • Low-leakage on-chip memory for state variables
    • Fast AP re-association (150ms)
  • On-Chip Network Stack to offload MCU:
    • Integrated Network IP stack to minimize host CPU requirements
    • Network features: TCP, UDP, DHCP, ARP, HTTP, SSL, and DNS

So as I understand it the main difference between WILC3000 and WINC3400 is that the former provides low level Bluetooth / Wi-Fi connectivity, but the IP stack must be handled on a separate MCU / processor, while the latter also embeds the IP stack and Bluetooth Smart profiles.

WILC3000 chip is available now, and a fully certified module of this chip will be available in April 2015, and WINC3400 SiP and its module will be also be available at the same time. Pricing information has not be disclosed. A WINC3400 integrated module on an Xplained Starter Kit platform is also planned for Q2 2015. A few more details can be found on WILC3000 and WINC3400 product pages, including WILC3000 datasheet.

Via Embedded.com

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Categories: Hardware, Processors Tags: IoT, atmel, bluetooth, m2m, wifi

Review of CX-S806 TV Box Powered by Amlogic S812 Processor

January 4th, 2015 41 comments

I’ve already reviewed one Android media player based on Amlogic S812 processor with MINIX NEO X8-H Plus. Today, I’m going to have a look at another S812 TV box, namely CX-S806, with lower specs, and less support, but that sells for half price compared to the MINIX device. I’ve already published pictures of CX-S806 media player and board, so today I’ll focus on testing the performance and features of the device.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The package include a simple IR remote control, so I inserted two AAA batteries to give it a try, and it seemed to work OK, but as usual I switched to use Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse for the rest of the review. Since I’ve connected Ethernet and HDMI cables, a USB hard drive, a USB webcam, and a USB hub with two RF dongles for the air mouse and wireless gamepad, and a USB flash drive. The box will start automatically as you connect the power, which had to be expected since there’s no power button. The boot takes 1 minutes and 29 seconds with all devices attached, no a speed daemon, but still faster than MINIX NEO X8-H Plus which takes nearly 2 minutes to boot when all devices are connected. So it seems Amlogic S812 are not optimized to boot fast like Rockchip RK3288 media boxes.

MediaBox Launcher (Click for Original Size)

MediaBox Launcher (Click for Original Size)

The media player features the usual metro-style MediaBox launcher. The main difference is that apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus are pre-installed, and have a shortcut in the main screen. I have not tested these since I don’t have an account with them. Other noticeable pre-installed apps include Flash Player, Plex and Quikcoffice among others. The resolution was correctly automatically detected and set to 1080p, and the user interface resolution is 1920×1080.

The Settings menu is also typical of Amlogic box with four sub-sections: Network, Display, Advanced and Other:

  • Network – Enable and configure Wi-Fi or Ethernet
  • Display:
    • Automatic or manual HDMI resolution: 480p/i @ 60 Hz, 576p/i @ 50 Hz, 720p @ 50/60 Hz, 1080i @ 50/60 Hz, 1080p @ 24/50/60 Hz, or 4k2k 24/25/30Hz/smpte
    • Hide or Show status bar
    • Display Position
    • Start screen Saver (Never, 4, 8 or 12 minutes)
  • Advanced:
    • Miracast
    • Remote Control (For Rockchip/MINIX remote app)
    • Google TV Remote (for Google TV remote app)
    • CEC Control
    • Screen Orientation settings
    • No Output to USB Audio
    • Digital Audio Output (Auto, PCM, S/PDIF pass-through, or HDMI pass-through)
  • Other – System Update: Local file or OTA (No connection to server), Backup; “More Settings”: redirects to standard Android Settings.

About_MediaBox_Sunchip_CX-S806There’s a single 5.26 GB partition in the 8GB eMMC flash, and at the end of my testing, I had 1.99 GB free space. In the “About MediaBox” section in the standard Android settings, the model number is “S806″ , and the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.33. You’ll also notice the email string in the Kernel version reads “tianfeng@sunchip-To-be-filled-by-O-E-M #1″, as Sunchip is a manufacturers, so they don’t sell to end users, which also explains why OTA is not working. They told me the OTA function can be enable with their customer’s OTA servers.  I noticed GeekBuying provided an updated firmware for CX-S806, so I asked Sunchip is I could use that one, especially since the firmware in my box is dated from October 2014, and they told me it’s only for AP6330 version, and since I have the AP6210 version I didn’t need to upgrade. CX-S806 model with Amlogic S802 processor will be phased out. The firmware is rooted with supersu installed.

Google Play Store worked relatively well, although I had to install Vidonn smart band app and Antutu Video Tester with their apk, and they were reported as “Incompatible with my device”. I also download and installed Amazon AppStore in order to get the “free app of the day” Riptide GP2.

The device only supports stand by mode with the remote control, there’s no way to cleanly power off the device. A long press on the remote control power button will still go into standby. After Antutu 5.5 benchmark (excluding 3D graphics test which fails), the max. temperatures were 46°C and 51°C on respectively the top and bottom of the case, and after 5 races in Riptide GP2, the max. measured temperatures went up to 47°C and 52°C.

CX-S806 firmware is stable, and smooth, and I did not experience any slowdowns, freezes, or hang-ups while using it. Boot time is a little slow however. (1 minute 30 seconds with several USB devices attached).

Video Playback

XBMC 13.1 (built-in June 2014) is pre-installed in the box, so that’s what I used, as I never known if a company made modifications to the source code, but as we’ll see below, it miht be a good idea to install Kodi 14 instead. XBMC user interface renders at around 60 fps @ 1920×1080, somehow much faster than the 35 fps reported by XBMC 13.3 in MINIX NEO X8-H Plus. I had no problems connecting to SAMBA shares in Ubuntu 14.04 in either XBMC or ES File Explorer. Most videos have been tested with XBMC over Ethernet, but I also switched to “4K MoviePlayer” app to play some 4K videos, and MX Player for audio codecs.

Videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus some H.265/HEVC videos (Elecard), 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 – XBMC will exit/crash
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK, but could be smoother.
  • WebM / VP8 – XBMC will exit/crash
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – Audio only, and the 1080p video makes XBMC exit/crash.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – Does not play at all (Stays in XBMC UI).

I also played some higher bitrate videos:

  • 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) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Plays at 15 fps instead of 29.970, and XBMC also reports skipped frames.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (using USB drive)

High definition audio codecs below has been tested in XBMC and MX Player using PCM output, because currently XBMC is using audio software decode, while MX Player is trying to use HW decode by default:

Video PCM Output
XBMC
PCM Output
MX Player
HDMI Pass-through
XBMC
SPDIF Pass-through
XBMC
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Crash XBMC (VOB file) OK Not tested, since I don’t own an AV Receiver. If you want me to test pass-through for these audio format, you can consider donating below. I plan to buy Onkyo TX-NR636 which supports all codec tested here and costs 25,000 to 30,000 Baht locally ($760 to $900 US), Suggestions for cheaper options are welcomed.
AV Receiver Donation



Other Amount:



E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK, but videos plays at 17 to 24 fps OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK Blackscreen, and app not reponsive
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio, slow video (S/W decode)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio, slow video (S/W decode)
DTS HD Master OK No audio
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio

Blu-ray ISO are supported. Tested with Sintel-Bluray.iso. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play, but GridHD video seemed to blink during playback.

4K videos playback is not working very well in XBMC, especially since H.265/HEVC is not supported:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Audio only

4K MoviePlayer app included in the firmware performs better, except with new Bt.2020 format, 10-bit HEVC, and VP9 videos:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Shows a complete mess with some picture from the previous video, and the current video mixed, and more like a slideshow of still images rather than videos.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – “Not supported media”
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Black screen

3D video testing results are about the same as for the MINIX device:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK, but XBMC reports it playing at 50 fps instead of 60 fps.
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Please note that My Panasonic TV is not a 3D TV according to the specs, so I can only check if video decoding is working.

Most AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB, and MP4 videos could play without A/V sync issues, or noticeable frame dropped. Strangely even a VOB/IFO video (MPEG-2) played fine, while MPEG-2 videos from Linaro made the system crash, so it might a container issue, rather than a codec issue. Some FLV videos would also make XBMC exit/crash.

I also played a full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) to test stability. At first, I was a little too optimistic, and I did that over Wi-Fi, but unfortunately the movie stopped after 51 minutes due to a “connection timeout”. I started again with Ethernet, and the movie could play fully. XBMC reported nearly 14,000 frames were skipped during playback, but I found the video was rather smooth, when I checked it out.

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

CX-S802_Antutu_Video_TesterAntutu Video Tester could play all files, and gave 675 points to the device. That compares to 263 points for Open Hour Chameleon (RK3288), and 631 points with Infocus CS1 Allwinner A83T tablet, with the best devices scoring just over 700 points.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

Networking is one part of the specs where CX-S806 is much weaker than MINIX NEO X8-H Plus as it comes with Fast Ethernet + 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi, while the latter features Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. To test performance, I transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share (Ubuntu 14.04) and the internal flash using ES File Explorer, repeating the test three times, and averaging results. CX-S806 averages 2.76 MB/s (22.08 Mbps) with 802.11n, right in the middle of the pack.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve done the same test transferring the file over Ethernet, and the performance is one of the best of the 10/100M platforms.

CX-S806_Ethernet_Performance

Throughput in MB/s

I’ve also checked the raw Ethernet performance with  iPerf app using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line:

Throughput ion Mbps

Throughput ion Mbps

And here, it seems Ethernet is a weak point in Amlogic SoCs, as none can reach the level of performance of RK3288 (when it works) or Exynos 5422.

iperf output:

------------------------------------------------------------
 Client connecting to 192.168.0.111, TCP port 5001
 TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 [  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 37479 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 5001
 [ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
 [  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   569 MBytes  79.6 Mbits/sec
 [  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   491 MBytes  68.6 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Just like MINIX NEO X8-H Plus, CX-S806 is advertised as “bluedroid″, and I had no problem pairing the device with ThL W200 smartphone, and transferred pictures over Bluetooth.

I could use mmy PS3 wireless gamepad clone with Sixaxis Compatibility Checker by following these instructions.

Vidonn X5 activity tracker was used to test Bluetooth Low Energy )Bluetooth Smart), and Vidonn smartb and could could the device, but for some reasons it could not retrieve data afterwards, and showed the message “No bracelet connected”.

Storage

There’s no (micro) SD slot in this device, but a USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be recognized and mounted by the system. NTFS and FAT32 partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed, but no the other file systems.

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

A1 SD Bench was used to test storage performance in Android. The first time I run the test I only got a read speed of 11.42 MB/s, and a write speed of 8.92 MB/s for the NTFS partition in my USB hard drive (mounted in /storage/external_storage/sda1). That’s an extremely low score, and since I noticed a decreased in performance in my updated WeTek Play review, I decided to run the hard drive through a disk check and defragmentation in a Windows netbook. I did not expect much difference, since I only use this hard drive for reviews, seldom writing data, except to test write support and SAMBA to USB storage performance, and run A1 SD Bench. But somehow, I got a massive performance boost with 24.50 MB/s read speed, and 27.57 MB/s write speed. So it’s quite possible some of my latest reviews (WeTek Play 2nd Review, MINIX NEO X8-H Plus, …) under-reported USB NTFS performance.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

The 8GB eMMC flash in the device achieves 24.47 MB/s (read) and 12.57 MB/s (write), which places the box slightly below average.

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

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

USB Webcam

Skype was pre-installed, and I installed Google Hangouts from the play store. Both app worked pretty well, the Echo service audio was rather clear, video worked, and I could even send a video message, something that often makes other boxes crash. Hangouts worked well too.

Gaming

Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2 were used to test gaming performance.  I played Candy Crush Sage with MeLe F10 air mouse, no problem here. Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad was automatically recognized by both Beach Buggy Racing  and Riptide GP2, but if I set the resolution to the highest level, the games were not particularly smooth. Changing the settings for a smoother framerate made the gaming experience much more enjoyable.  Riptide GP2 did not have the freeze issues found in some other Amlogic devices It could be because of better firmware, or because Riptide GP2 developers fixed a bug.

CX-S806 (S812) Benchmarks

I started to run CPU-Z again to compare it to what I got with MINIX NEO X8-H Plus.

CX-S806-CPU-ZThe app reports the same processor with four ARM Cortex A9 cores clocked between 24 MHz and 1.99 GHz coupled with a Mali-450MP GPU. The model is S806 (n200), the resolution 1920×1080 (240dpi) and the system has 1,606 MB RAM available to Android with 5.26 GB internal storage. Interestingly, n200 is the same code as MINIX NEO X8-H Plus.

Antutu 5.5 fails to complete, stopping at the 3D graphics test, so I only got a partial Antutu score of 22,369 points. If the 3D graphics score had been the same as for the MINIX device (9,296), the total score would have been 31,665.

CX-S806_Antutu_5.5_No_3D_GPU
The media player got virtually equal scores in Vellamo 3.1 for Metal Benchmark (766) and Browser benchmark (1789), but for some reasons, it only achieved 1253 points in the Multicore against over 1,800 for the MINIX device. Go figure…

CX-S806_Vellamo

Conclusion

CX-S806 media player mostly does the job, and its firmware is stable. Performance of storage, Wi-Fi and Ethernet are all average, but the results match the relatively low price of the device, and I could not really find any really weak point. Amlogic S812 SoC is also good enough for most tasks, except some 3D games with max graphics settings. As with so many other platforms, you may have to juggle between two media players app with XBMC for most videos, and 4K MediaPlayer for 4K videos, especially H.265 videos. The XBMC version installed in the device (XBMC 13.1) is quite buggy too, but replacing it with Kodi 14 or SPMC might improve things.

PRO:

  • Firmware is stable, and fast.
  • Video Output – Supports 1080p24/50/60 (but not 25/30 Hz), and 4K2K up to 30Hz/SMPTE
  • 3D games play without issues (Although you may have to decrease 3D rendering quality for a smoother experience)
  • H.264 / HEVC 4K video playback with 4K MoviePlayer app
  • High Antutu Video Tester score (685).
  • USB webcam works well with Skype and Google Hangouts

CONS:

  • XBMC 13.1 installed in the device is buggy (Some MPEG-2, VP8 and FLV videos make the system crash)
  • H.265 / HEVC not supported in XBMC
  • No real power off, only standby on/off is possible.
  • Boot time could be faster. 1 minute 30 seconds with several USB devices connected.
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) may not work reliably.

The lack of OTA firmware update server would have made it to the CONS too, if Sunchip (who provided the box for review) was not a manufacturer, and sold directly to end users. Instead the company relies on their customer to setup the update servers. There’s also an unofficial OpenELEC image for the device.

You can contact Sunchip via their CX-S806 product page (Contact link is on top), if you plan to purchase in quantities.  Individuals can purchase the box for $80 on Amazon US, Ebay, GeekBuying, as well as Aliexpress. The model might be slightly different depending on sellers, as CX-S806 may come with AP6210 wireless module (2.4 GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi) as in this review, or AP6330 module (2.4GHz/5GHz Wi-Fi). Sometimes you’ll get 1GB RAM, while other times 2GB RAM, and older models with S802 processor may still be sold, so make sure you check the specs carefully wherever you purchase the box.

Disclaimer: Although this post is not sponsored, Sunchip is currently a sponsor of CNX Software.

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WeTek Play Review with Android 4.2.2 Firmware v1.1.1

December 29th, 2014 11 comments

I had already reviewed WeTek Play Android DVB-S2 STB this summer, but at the time it was still an early sample, so the company asked me to review it again with the latest firmware that includes bug fixes and new features such as WeCloud Antenna IPTV service with over 180 Live TV channels, now that they’ve officially launched WeTek Play with either a DVB-S2 tuner as in my sample, a DVB-T/T2/C tuner, or no tuner at all. You can find pictures of WeTek Play in my unboxing post. As usual the review will include my first impressions, video testing, and various benchmark, but I’ll also have sections for WeCloud Antenna Live TV over IP service, and WeTek Theater for live TV from my satellite dish.

OTA Firmware Update

But first of all, I’ll test OTA firmware update, as many companies claim to support OTA updates, but you often end up have to sideload the firmware, or worse, use some Windows based upgrade tool. I already already updated the firmware to Firmware v1.1 last week which added WeCloud Antenna app, CPU overclocking, and 1080p24 support among other features, but as I clicked on WeTek Update icon in the main menu, I was greeted with the message “There is a new update available!” as shown below.
WeTek_Play_V1.1.1_Firmware_UpdateWeTek Play v1.1.1 firmware adds support for Google Widevine, useful for online video apps like Voyo, HBO GO, etc…, and EXT2/3/3 file system support for external hard drives, as well as various other improvements. You can to enter mouse mode with the remote, to scroll down, and click on Download. After the download is complete (a few hundred megabytes), click on Update Now, and Start Update to complete the process.
WeTek_Play_V1.1.1_Firmware_Update_ApplyAfter a short time, the system will reboot into recovery mode with the typical Android update logo, and complete the installation.

Android_Firmware_Update_LogoThe box will then boot into Android automatically, so it just takes three clicks to update the firmware, with very little interaction from the user. Ideally, I’d prefer a one-click update, but overall it was an hassle free experience, and it also kept all my settings, and apps.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

WeTek Play come with an RF air mouse also integrating an IR transmitter to handle power on and off, which also means you can turn on and off comfortably from your sofa using the provided remote control. The air mouse works quite well, and a button at the back allows to conveniently switch between mouse or remote control modes. There’s no QWERTY keyboard on the air mouse, so I also use Mele F10 Deluxe to input text when needed, also it should be possible to use the soft keyboard together with mouse mode to input short texts. You’ll also need two AAA, as there’s no built-in battery in WeTek remote control / air mouse. The “recent apps” key on the remote does not seem to do anything, but it might be I got an early engineering sample. I’ve also connected an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable, my satellite dish cable, a USB hard drive, and a USB hub with a webcam, two RF dongles for MeLe air mouse and a Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad, as well as a USB flash drive.

The boot takes 90 seconds, which lasts much longer than the 40 seconds I had for my initial review. Just in case some of the devices caused issues, I disconnected all USB devices, and tried again. Results: 64 seconds, so at least one of the device slows down boot time by 25 seconds, but for some reasons (extra features, or apps installed), booting take 65 seconds instead of 40 seconds during my first review.

Normally, the very first time you boot the device, you should go through a Welcome Wizard to select your language, network connectivity, check for the latest firmware (OTA update), activate your device, login to  Google Play, and optionally configure your satellite reception. But since I had done that in August already, I did not have to do it again even after the firmware update. The main screen has not changed.

Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

From top to bottom, and left to right, we’ve got the date, time, and weather forecast (and I could find Chiang Mai this time!) on the top row, then 5 icons for TV (WeCloud Antenna / WeTek Theater), Apps, Web, Local (File manager), and XBMC, and in the last row some user configurable shortcuts. On the left side of the screen four more icons are accessible for Settings, Power Off, Connected to Internet (Network settings) and Recent Apps, as well as shortcuts to connected external USB drives. The user interface is 1280×720, but for some reasons when I take screenshots with Screenshot Ultimate app the captured image is 1280×1080, with an offscreen black zone.

The “Setting” icon takes you to a “WeTek Settings” page with access to Android Settings, Weather Settings, and WeTek Services. The weather settings let you set your location, temperature unit, and update period (default is 30 minutes). WeTek Services are actually part of the Android Settings, and you can activate your device, check services status, as well as Backing up your setting in the cloud thanks to partnership with Box.com, but it’s not something I tried. There’s also a new option for WeControl, an app to control the box from your Android smartphone or tablet.

About_WeTek_PlayThe Android settings are mostly the same, except for some extra features and options. The Wireless & Networks section has not changed at all with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, Data usage, and “More” for VPN and portable hotspot support. Digital audio output menu has been added in the Sound section to select PCM, SPDIF passthrough, or HDMI passthrough. The Display section is mostly the same with  overscan, but they’ve added 1080p 24 Hz to video output selection: 480cvbs / 576cvbs, 480i / 576i, 720p, 72p50, 1080p, 1080p24, 1080p50, 1080i and 1080i50. Another new option is HDMI-CEC to enable/disable HDMI-CEC, select One key Play, One key power off, and auto change language. A single 1.89GB partition is available for apps and data out of the 4GB NAND flash, and it can fill up pretty quickly, as at the end of the review, I only had 240 MB free space, but that includes all apps I had to install for the review, plus screenshots, and a 280MB video I used for testing networking performance. The company also added a new Overclock section, to boost the device performance a little bit. The “About WeTek” section displays the model number “WeTek Play”, and Android 4.2.2 is running on top of Linux kernel 3.0.50, just like for the earlier firmware.

My system was already connected to Google Play from my previous review, so i mostly add to update apps, and install a few ones. WeTek Play is a device certified by Google and include Google Widewine DRM which means apps should work pretty well, including some online video app that may not work with most Android TV boxes. But for some reasons, the Play Store reported Antutu, Antutu Video Tester, and iPerf as being incompatible with my device. When I updated the app it often got stuck “waiting for network”, but it’s most likely due to network issues that I had with Ethernet and Wi-Fi, and the company told me the networking issues were only happening with engineering samples, and retail products won’t be affected.

You can turn on and off the system cleanly from the power button on the unit or the remote control. There’s no standby mode, only on and off. You won’t see the power on message as in other Android boxes, but there’s will be an animation duplicating the effect on old TVs, and once the box is really off, you’ll see the LED on the unit turn red. I used the box with Overclocking on all the time, and after Antutu benchmark, I measured the max. temperature to be 52°C on the top, and 60°C on the bottom, with exactly the same temperature measurements after 15 minutes playing Riptide GP2.

Amlogic AML8726-MX processor is an older processor, and at times reaction times may be a little slow, like 2 or 3 seconds after click, so a few times I ended up clicking twice. The flahs is a little slow too, so when you install or update apps, you should probably not expect to do other tasks. It’s also possible the issue may have been amplified as I got “space running low” warning a few times. Apart from that, the firmware is rock solid, and most of the time responsive enough. Despite the 12V/1.5A (18W) power adapter, if I connect all USB devices mentioned above, the hard drive partitions won’t mount, so I had to remove the USB flash drive to make it work.

Video Playback

XBMC 14.0–alpha1 is pre-installed in the firmware, and that’s probably the exact same version of in August, and it was compiled in June 4, 2014. Since WeTek is a Kodi sponsor, it’s probably a good idea to simply install Kodi 14 from kodi.tv, but as usual, I simply tested the version provided in the firmware, as it’s what most people would use. The videos are played from a SAMBA share using the Ethernet connection of the device. I had already configured SAMBA in XBMC and ES File Explorer without issues in my previous review, so I did not have to reconfigure again. Unsurprisingly, the results are very similar to the August firmware.

Videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus H.265/HEVC and VP9 (low resolution) videos:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK, but the 1080p video is playing at 20 fps instead of 25 fps as reported by XBMC debug screen.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 all play, but only at 12 fps instead of 50 fps (software decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p OK, 720p playing @ 17fps with some audio cuts, 1080p playing in slow motion and frequent audio cuts (Software decoded, VP8 not supported by AML8726-MX)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – 360p OK, 720p playing @ 12 fps with audio cuts, 1080p slideshow and frequent audio cuts

I’ve also tested some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – audio only
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – Beginning is slow but after it’s OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Plays at 15 fps instead of 29.975 fps.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Does not show video (Played from USB drive)

High definition audio codecs below has been tested in XBMC and MX Player using PCM output, because currently XBMC is using audio software decode, while MX Player is trying to use HW decode by default:

Video PCM Output
XBMC
PCM Output
MX Player
HDMI Pass-through
XBMC
SPDIF Pass-through
XBMC
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1  OK  OK Not tested, since I don’t own an AV Receiver. If you want me to test pass-through for these audio format, you can consider donating below. I plan to buy Onkyo TX-NR636 which supports all codec tested here and costs 25,000 to 30,000 Baht locally ($760 to $900 US), Suggestions for cheaper options are welcomed.
AV Receiver Donation



Other Amount:



E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1  OK (But 100% CPU usage)  OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1  OK  Video starts, but then hangs without buffering. Network issue?
TrueHD 5.1  Audio cuts, and video choppy  No audio
TrueHD 7.1  Audio cuts, and video choppy  No audio
DTS HD Master  Audio cuts  No audio
DTS HD High Resolution  Audio cuts  No audio

I’ve have re-tried the “PCM output – XBMC” test by playing video from a USB hard drive, and perform is much better, but I still got one or two audio cuts while playing TrueHD and DTS-HD audio files, so the system won’t support high bitrate videos with “advanced” audio codecs very well, at least via PCM output. I suppose it might be better using pass-through (if it works), as the box won’t need to decode audio.

Sintel-Bluray.iso could play OK, although XBMC reported playback at 20 to 22 fps instead of 24 fps. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play. 4K videos are not supported by AML8726-MX, but I still tried to play two to make sure XBMC does not crash, and the system simply played the videos with audio only.
I’ve also tested 1080p SBS (Side-by-Side) and Over/Under 3D videos. My current Panasonic TV is not a 3D TV according to the specs, so I can only check if video decoding is working.

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – Audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

I also tested several AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB/IFO and MP4 videos, and the majority of videos could play fine without audio/video sync issues, and at or close to native frame rate. Only some FLV videos would not play, only outputting audio. A 2-hour video could be played until the end, but around the 19 minutes mark, the video paused automatically (maybe network issue in my engineering sample), but I could resume without issues. XBMC reported around 14,000 skipped frame in this video, which happens with some other media boxes too.

So overall WeTek Play is fairly good at playing videos, but it won’t support VP8/VP9 and H.265 video files very well because AML8726-MX does not support these video codecs, and if you plan to play Blu-ray with some lossless high-definition audio codecs, playback might not be super smooth over the network, but a bit better from the USB hard drive.

I’ve also installed Antutu Video Tester, but the test got stuck at 40%, so I could not get a score.

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

WeTek Theater DVB-S2 / PVR App

The TV icon in the main screen will pop-up a window asking you to select between WeCloud Antenna (IPTV) or WeTek Theater (DVB), and you can make the default selection permanent, or be prompted each time. If you make the selection permanent, a long press on the TV icon, will pop-up the selection prompt again.

WeTek Theater was already part of this summers’ firmware, but at the time I had to input Thaicom 5 satellite coordinates (78.5° East) manually, while this time I just had to chose from a list of satellites, which makes setup much easier. I could not filter satellites by location/country however.

WeTek_Theater_Dish_Setup

To complete the setup, press 1 Scan channels,  select “Blindscan” mode, FTA channels, and All. I ended up with  66 TV channels and 25 radios. You can actually select FTA (Free-to-air) or Crypted channels, and since there’s no smartcard slot, I though only FTA channels would be available, but apparently a method (probably more or less legal) to decoded crypted channels using OSCAM (Open Source Conditional Access Module) as been posted on some forums. I have not tried. Nevertheless once scanning is complete, you can press OK, and start watching TV.

The EPG (Electronic Program Guide) is also available, but it may not support some languages such as Thai, as you can see from the screenshot below.

Wetek_Play_EPG_DVBYou can switch to mouse mode, and click on one of the program for scheduling viewing or recording to an external USB mass storage device. The “Book List” option will display current bookings. The system currently does not handle programming overlap, so for example if program A is shown between 22:00 and 22:30 and program B is shown between 22:15: and 23:30, there won’t be any warnings.

I’ve tried the PVR function manually on Thairath HD, one of the few HD channels available, by pressing the record button on the remote, and it works pretty well. The shows are recorded in TVRecordFiles in your chosen USB mass storage, and you can play them back with XBMC, or another video player app. TimeShifting function is available in the setup. Strangely, I could not find a working setup button in the remote, so to enter setup, I press the EPG key, and the back key. There are for main menu in WeTek Theater settings: Antenna Settings (For inital setup), Channel Options, Video Settings (aspect ration, and language options for audio and subtitles), and System (subtitle on/off, parental rating, passwordm, TTX region..). The most interesting part is Channel Options where you can edit channels, set some EPG settings, set or check the record storage and path,  manage PVR recordings, use TimeShifting, and enable/disable TS recording. TimeShifting is working as expected, recording 10 minutes of live video by default.

You may want to watch the embedded video in the next section to see WeTek Theater in action.

WeCloud Antenna IPTV Service

WeClodu Antenna is a complete new app introduce in the latest firmware, and currently includes over 180 Live TV channels from various countries. This service requires online activation, and you’ll be provided a card with a code, that you need to input on WeTek Signup page. If you don’t perform this step, trying to access WeCould Antenna app will results in error messages such as “lease provide username, password, UID and device type (ios, android, …)” or “Wrong username or password”. Once you’ve activated your device online, you should see a list of live TV channels with some EPG data.

WeCloud_Antenna_Live_Channels

Live Channels (Click for Original Size)

You can scroll down many channels. If you don’t watch BBC Word News, Bloomberg, ProSieven Max, you can re-arrange the listing in your online profile in WeTek website. You can also filter channels by clicking the top left blue icons (three horizontal bars), and select categories such as Music, Cultural, Italy, Arabic, Turkish, Sports, and so on.

You can also access EPG data for the channels that provide it in the EPG section.

WeCloud_Antenna_EPG

EPG (Click for Original Size)

In this view, you can click on a program, and setup a reminder. Contrary to WeTek Theater, you can only set viewing reminders, and it’s not currently possible to record live TV channels on WeCould Antenna. The settings include your contact details, and subscribed packages, currently only WeCloud Antenna. I’ve included a screenshot of BBC News so that you can evaluate the video quality.

BBC News Screenshot (Click for Original Size)

BBC News Screenshot (Click for Original Size)

WeCloud Antenna may be listed as a subscribed package, but the company confirm it will stay free, and no recurring yearly fees are needed. However, they may add some premium channels later on. I’ve also been promised a link to the 180 channels, which I’ll add later on. From what I’ve seen all channels in that list are legally free, no so piracy is involved.

For more details, about WeTek Theater and WeCloud Antenna, you may want to watch the video review below.

 Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

The network test consist in transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa, repeating the test three times. There’s a problem with Wi-Fi apparently because the box I have is an early engineering sample, and also when I opened the box, I broke the internal antenna connection, and I had to resolder it.  This means my sample a only a fair signal strength (2 bars out of 4), and from time to time transfer stalls. Ethernet also has some problem, as transfer may stall randomly during transfer in ES File Explorer. However, I managed to get iperf benchmark over Ethernet working OK for 60 seconds (the length of the test), and when it works, performance is acceptable.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

iperf log:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.107, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  178 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 56818 connected with 192.168.0.107 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   562 MBytes  78.5 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   438 MBytes  61.2 Mbits/sec

The company told me the retail products would not have the Ethernet and Wi-Fi issues my engineering samples had, so I won’t take these into account in my conclusion.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

WeTek Play failed to find Infocus CS1 A83 tablet, but the tablet could fid the TV box, and the devices could pair just fine, and I managed to transfer pictures from the tablet to the TV box without issues.

I managed to use my Sony PS3 wireless gamepad clone using Sixias Compatibility Checker app.

Bluetooth Low Energy is not supported, because the system is running Android 4.2. We would have to wait for Android 5.0 firmware release to test whether this feature works.

External Storage

I could use an SD card formatted to FAT32 successfully. I’ve also connected my USB 3.0 hard drive with NTFS, EXT-4, FAT32, and BTRFS partitions, all partitions could mount, except BTRFS. However, the EXT-4 partition is read only so you can’t write to it.

File System Read Write
NTFS OK OK
EXT-4 OK Failed
FAT32 OK OK
BTRFS Not supported

I used A1 SD Bench to test internal storage and USB NTFS performance. I set the custom path to /storage/external_storage_sda1 for the NTFS, and the read speed ended up being 22.23 MB/s, and the write speed 11.27MB/s, strangely significantly lower than the ~25MB/s I got for both in my first review. Maybe I should defragment my NTFS partition from time to time… Not sure why though, as very little data is written to it, except during benchmarks.

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

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

A1SD reported the 4GB NAND flash in this system is the slowest ever with 9.5MB/s read speed, and a lowly 1.13 MB/s write speed, however I wonder if this results has not been impacted by the low disk space I had when doing the benchmark, as the device should really be unusable at times if it really had a 1.13 MB/s write speed, and I’m not sure we should trust these results.

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

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

USB Webcam

My UVC USB webcam could be used with both Skype and Google hangout, but the system felt like freezing when the video was on, and I could not move the mouse at all for several seconds at time, so to recover I had to press the Home button.

Gaming

I’ve tested three games: Candy Crush Saga, the new Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptitde GP2,  I used WeTek air mouse to play candy crush,  and Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad to play the two other racing games. All three games were very playable most of the time, but the advanced quality settings in Riptide GP2 automatically disabled some graphics features that are normally enabled in more powerful platform such as boxes based on Rockchip RK3288 processor. Riptide GP2 also also started to act funny after the third race where the 3D graphics started to freeze for short period of time, before resuming. Mars G01 gamepad can also be used in Android home screen, but the OK button is “X” instead of “A”.

WeTek Play Benchmark

I run CPU-Z to see the effect of enabling overclocking but I saw no differences with the max frequency reported to be 1.5 GHz. So instead I’ve been told they simply set the governor to “performance” when this is enabled. Last time, I got a score of 12,951 points in Antutu, but with Antutu 5.5, the new firmware, and performance governor the score went up to 14,365 points.

WeTek_Play_AntutuI also ran Vellamo 3.1 to get an alternative benchmark, and it confirms the hardware performance is rather low end by today’s standard.

WeTek_Play_Vellamo

Conclusion

By the end of 2014, WeTek Play is rather a low end hardware with a dual core Cortex A9 processor, 1GB RAM, 4GB flash, and at times, you can feel some limitations of the hardware, with sluggishness become apparent from time to time. However, the system is very stable, and WeTek has probably extracted the best in term of performance they could extract from the chosen hardware. I could not recommend this device is you main use to browse the web or play games, but if you just want to watch 1080p videos, watch one of the 180 Live TV channels, or live TV via the DVB-S2 (or DVB-C/T/T2 tuner found in other the other WeTek play model), and use the EPG and PVR function, it does the job.

PRO:

  • Stable firmware
  • User friendly remote control with IR for power, and air mouse function, and all buttons you would expect in Android
  • DVB-S2 tuner with very good app (WeTek Theater) supporting EPG, PVR, and TimeShifting features
  • Live TV app (WeCloud Antenna) with access to over 180 free-to-air channels from the Internet
  • Google Certified Device, also including Widevine Level 1 and Level 3 DRM required by apps like Voyo, HBO GO.
  • Decent video playback, except for VP8 (VP9) and H.265 which are only decoded by software, some high bitrate videos, and some 3D videos.
  • Support for multiple firmware image including Android and Linux, as well as support for CMW  and TWRP recoveries – See (old) list here, and download page on WeTek website. Android 5.0.2 firmware is currently worked on, as well as Android TV.
  • OTA updates (Tested successfully), Cloud backup (not tested)
  • 1080p 24Hz has now been added
  • Proper power handling (Clean on/off from remote control or unit)
  • External serial console port (for developers and troubleshooting)
  • Support Forums

CONS:

  • Older hardware which may feel sluggish at times, especially if you are used to faster platforms.
  • Some languages are not supported in WeTek Theater EPG (e.g. Thai languages)
  • UI set to 720p, which could be an issue for people requiring “true” 1080p output.
  • Automatic frame rate switching not available.
  • External USB hard drive partitions may not mount if you have some other USB devices, despite a 18W power supply.
  • Skype and Google Hangouts detect the camera, but are very slow (unusable)

I also had some critical issues with Ethernet and Wi-Fi transfers (stalling), but the company told me if was because I had an engineering sample, and these issues have all been fixed for the retail products, so I have not listed these in the CONS, trusting the company claims.

WeTek Play with DVB-S2 tuner can be purchased on the company’s website for 108.86 Euros including VAT and international shipping, so you should be able to pay less if you live outside European Union. A DVB-C/T/T2 version is available for the same price, and a version without tuner is sold for 98.86 Euros.

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Infocus CS1 A83 (C2107) Android Tablet Review

December 16th, 2014 4 comments

I’ve already shown some picture, listed specs and reported Antutu benchmark results for Infocus CS1 A83 Android tablet powered by Allwinner A83T octa core processor. I’ve been using this tablet as my main mobile device for about a week, and for about 3 to 5 hours a day, and I’m now ready to write a full review reporting my experience with this Full HD tablet.

General Impressions

I mainly use a tablet to browse the web, check emails, play some casual games like Candy Crush Saga, watch some YouTube videos, and Skype calls, and I could not really fault the tablet for any of these applications. Having said that, my reference device is only ThL W200 smartphone powered by Mediatek MT6589T processor with a 5″ display @ 1280×720, and for all the tasks listed Infocus tablet is much better because it’s more responsive, the 1920×1200 is crisp, and the cameras are working (for now). I could get a GPS fix quickly too, but GPS is something I tested thoroughly on the tablet.

Battery life is also good for my needs as a charge of the 3,550 mAh battery lasts for well over 24 hours, and takes 2 hours to complete (8% to 98%). They say the first impression is what count, and CS1 A83 (aka C2107) does a good job at that since it boots in about 15 seconds. I’ve only experienced two major annoyances with the volume down button, which requires a strong press to work, and Wi-Fi connectivity does not always work after getting out of standby, requiring a reboot. I worked around the latter issue, but setting Wi-Fi always on in the settings.

Benchmarks: Antutu, Vellamo, and 3DMark

Benchmarks are useful as a quick way to evaluate a device’s performance, but they should not be the only reason for your to buy a particular tablet, smaprthone, or any other device.

I’ve already run Antutu last week, but I’ll include it again today, which shows a score (26,000) a little  lower that what you’d get with an Amlogic S802 device (4x Cortex A9 @ 2 GHz + Mali-450MP6 GPU).

Infocus CS1 A83 Antutu Score (Click to Enlarge)

Infocus CS1 A83 Antutu Score (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve also run two more benchmark to evaluate browser, and multicore performance with Vellamo 3.1 , and 3D graphics with 3DMarks Ice Storm Extreme.

Vellamo 3.1 and Ice Storm Extreme Scores (Click to Enlarge)

Vellamo 3.1 and Ice Storm Extreme Scores (Click to Enlarge)

Vellamo Score browser score is about the same as LG Nexus 4 smartphone (Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro – APQ8064), and at 3,448 points for 3Dmark Ice Storm Extreme, InFocus C2107 is certainly not a gaming beast, but as we’ll see below it’s still very much usable.

Internal Storage and Wi-Fi Performance

Internal storage performance is important for overall system responsiveness, as for example while installing apps some system slow down considerably due to I/O activity, and for boot and app loading time. So far, InFocus CS1 A83 is the best device I’ve ever tested with regards to eMMC performance thanks to 58.87 MB/s read speed, and 29.36 MB/s write speed. Benchmark app used: A1 SD Benchmark. Please note that InFocus CS1 A83 us the only tablet in the chart below.

Infocus_C2107_Internal_Storage_Performance

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

I’ve also tested the tablet Wi-Fi performance by transferring a 278 MB file over SAMBA using ES File Explorer. I obviously placed the tablet in the same location I normally place TV boxes and development boards.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

The tablet transferred the file at 2.72 MB/s (21.76 Mbps) on average which puts it in the middle of the pack. It’s quite possible I should not really compare Wi-Fi performance of a tablet with the one of media player, since these are different form factors. Your environment, including your router firmware, may also greatly impact the relative Wi-Fi performance between devices.

Performance is average, but I never lost Wi-Fi connectivity during active use. The first couple of dauys everything worked fine, but then I started to be unable to connect to my Wi-Fi router when getting out of stack. First I rebooted the tablet to work around the issue, but finally I went to Wi-Fi Settings-> Advanced (Via … green icon on top right),, and set “Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep” to always. This may affect battery life a little bit, but at least this annoying Wi-Fi issue went away.

Rear and Front Facing Cameras

Rear Camera

The 8MB rear camera does the job, and it clearly delivers better pictures than ThL W200 smartphone, but it struggles in low light conditions for for still pictures and videos, I suppose like most devices. I was also impressed by its ability to take close pictures such as text on books or PCBAs thanks to its autofocus, which at times takes about 1 or 2 seconds to focus. Beside slow focus, and poor quality in low light conditions, the lack of flash may be one of the main downside.

Since photos speak more than words, I’ve include photos samples, as well as video samples at night and day time which I’ve uploaded to YouTube, such make sure you watch them at the max (native resolution).

Video Samples


Other video samples:

Font-facing camera

The 2MP front facing camera is mostly used for selfies, and video conference, so I’ve taken a few close shots of pets and statues.

I’ve also use Skype with the device, and it worked as expected, although the picture is quite dark, and I have not found a way to adjust the front-facing camera brightness, so you’d have to make sure you call in a well lit environment for an optimal visual experience.

Video Playback

In order to test video playback, I simply installed Antutu Video Tester, and run to test to find out Allwinner A83T gets a very good score of 631 points which makes it close to the top of the rankings. This app uses the stock video player test audio/video codecs, and video quality.
Allwinner_A83T_AntutuVideo_Tester_1

Allwinner_A83T_Antutu_Video_Tester_2The device fails to play a realVideo 4 video, and can’t decode ac3 (Dolby Digital 5.1) and DTS audio.

As a comparison a device such as Open Hour Chameleon (Rockchip RK3288) can play all video files, but also fails to decode AC3 and DTS (with the stock player), and only gets 263 points due to the poor video quality of Rockchip RK3288 processor (so far, and hopefully firmware upgrades can fix this). To work around the audio issue, you could also install XBMC / Kodi which (most probably illegally) decodes AC3 and DTS by software.

Battery Life

Battery life is an important feature of mobile devices. For my usage, i.e. 3 to 5 hours per day watching YouTube videos, browsing the web, checking emails, some games, and Skype video calls, a full charge is good for over 24 hours.

In order to get a more standardized evaluation of the battery life, I’ve been recommended to use LAB501 Battery Life app which provides ways to test battery life for web browsing, video playback (720p), and gaming use cases. I planned to fully charge the tablet, and stop the test when the battery level reached 15%, however for some reasons the browser test stopped at around 50% twice. A full charge sometimes stops at 98%, and won’t go to 100% even after one hour or more. Wi-Fi was on, and brightness set to 50% for all tests.

Here are the results:

  • Browsing (98% to 53%) – 229 minutes (3h50). Extrapolating a linear discharge, it would have last around 7 hours
  • Video (100% to 12%) – 397 minutes (6h37). It should be good enough for 3 to 4 full movies on a charge.
  • Gaming (99% to 15%) – 276 (4h36)

Allwinner_A83T_Dashboard_Power_SavingThe tablet also comes with a Dashboard app showing CPU, memory & Storage usage, as well as battery charge, and option to clean junk, boost memory (by killing apps), and as shown above, set some power savings parameters. I’ve only used the tablet in Normal mode, but if you need extra battery life, or a boost in performance for game, these may be options to consider.

Miscellaneous

Bluetooth

Both file transfer  and Bluetooth Smart (BLE) worked just fine. The latter was tested with Vidonn X5 smartband.

GPS

I haven’t done much testing with GPS, and at first I thought the tablet may not have GPS, because there are not options for GPS in the Settings. Eventually, Google Maps, Nike running+, and GPS test confirmed the tablet supports GPS, and can get a GPS fix relatively fast, at least when I have an internet connection. I have not tried to roam outside.

Infocus_CS1_A83_GPS_testGaming

I’ve played Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Bleach, and Riptide GP2 on the device, and all three games played rather nicely, albeit I noticed a little of sluggishness in Candy Crush Saga. The two racing games played quite well, but it’s probably because they adapt the level of details to the device used.

Others

Multitouch app showed the touchscreen supports five touch points max.

The auto brightness works, but is not really well suited to my eyes / preferences, so most of the time, I set the brightness manually. The good thing is that in the dark, I can set the brightness low enough, so that I don’t need third party apps like Lux Lite. I wish it would be possible to teach the device the level of brightness depending on lighting conditions.

The stereo speakers at the back of the tablet are clear and loud, much louder than my smartphone speakers, but this is probably to be expected.

Video Review

I’ve also shot a video review to show a bit more of different options, benchmark results, gaming (Candy Crush Saga, and Riptide GP2), GPS, PDF reader (Acrobat) performance with a large PDF file (ODROID mazagine), and more. The video has been shot with a sports camera, explaining the lens distortion (fisheye effect).

Conclusion

I really like this tablet, as the screen is sharp, performance is good enough for my need, as well as battery life. The main annoyances for me are the Volume down button not working well, and auto-brightness not configurable.

Here are the list of cons and pros based on my experience.

PROS

  • Clear and crisp 1920×1200 display
  • Fastest internal storage I’ve tested so far
  • Good video playback (based on Antutu Video Tester results)
  • Decent Battery Life – > 24 hours on a charge for my usage
  • Auto focus allows for clear pictures even at close distance (in good light conditions).

CONS

  • Volume down only working when pressing hard (Probably only with my early sample)
  • Wi-Fi may fail to reconnect after getting out of standby (Work around -> Set Wi-Fi always on).
  • Video / still picture quality poor in low light conditions, and lack of flash
  • Some games may feel a little sluggish (Candy Crush Saga)
  • Front-facing camera image is darker than usual in Skype, but this may be a Skype issue, rather than a problem with the tablet’s camera (TBC)
  • Auto-brightness can’t be customized (but it should be fixable via a paid app)

Allwinner and Foxconn sent me an early sample of the tablet, and it’s not available for sale just yet. I’m not even sure of the exact name, maybe it will be sold as InFocus C2107, or maybe InFocus CS1 A83. Price on the invoice was $170. As reference, I’ve checked the price for Amlogic M802 / Mediatek MT6592 tablets with a 7″ display using 1080p or 1920×1200 resolution, 2GB RAM, 16GB flash, and other similar specifications which should provide similar performance than the Infocus tablet.  On such model is Chuwi-VX3, which sells for about $180 to $190 but also includes 3G support, so Infocus CS1 A83 should be cheaper than this model, and $150 to $170 including shipping would be a competitive price (IMHO).

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