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Posts Tagged ‘bluetooth’

ProView S3 Affordable 3-Axis Smartphone Stabilizer Helps Shooting Better Videos (Crowdfunding)

February 5th, 2016 No comments

Smartphone stabilizers (aka gimbals) for smartphones allow you take much better videos while on the move, as they smooth the shaking that occurs when you walk, run, or bike. Stabilizers are currently available, such as KumbaCam or other white brand stabilizers, are sold for $250 to $400, but Navin, a Taiwanese company, has designed a cheap video stabilizer for smartphones with ProView S3 that starts at $125 + shipping via Indiegogo.

Proview_S3_Smartphone_Stabilizer

ProView S3 3-axis stabilizer can handle larger size smartphones, features orientation sensors, precision motors, and stabilization algorithms to provide smooth video recording.

Some of ProView S3 specifications and features include:

  • Adjustable mount from 67mm to 78 mm width
  • Wind resistant thanks to algorithms and mechanical design
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless firmware updates
  • Dual IMU sensors with tilt, roll, and pan motors.
  • Underslung shot- You can take videos upside down too…
  • 4 operational modes – Full Lock (no motor active), follow pan (pan motor active), follow tilt (tilt motor active), or full follow ()pan and tilt motors actives)
  • Single joystick for control: On/Off, mode switching, angle control.

The best way to see how well this works are video samples. They shot videos while running with two smartphones, one without the stabilizer (first video), an one with ProView S3 (second video) that the difference is clear. The second video reminds me of first person shooting games.


The crowdfunding campaign has a fixed $300,000 funding targer, so the project will only go ahead if they reach that amount. Only the first 500 gimbals (battery and charger included) are listed for $125, with the price going up as more rewards are claimed up to $160. Shipping is not included and varies from $5 (Taiwan) to between $25 and $75 to the rest of the world for the few countries I checked. Delivery is scheduled for July 2016. Beside the Indiegogo page, you can also ask questions on the company’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

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Maoxiaoer Bluetooth Smart Fishing Float Works with Android and iOS Devices

February 4th, 2016 No comments

I used to go fishing a lot when I was a kid, and if in the future I go fishing again, I’d probably just leave the phone at home to enjoy with nature. But if you tend to fall asleep while fishing, or like to fish at night, Maoxiaoer smart fishing float will alert your smartphone over Bluetooth once you get a catch, and its LED will blink.

Bluetooth_Smart_Fishing_FloatFrom the outside it jsut looks like a normal blue fishing float made of balsa, but it takes two CR425 batteries  to power LEDs and Bluetooth connectivity. The sensitivity of the float’s alarm as well as LED intensity is controlled by an app that runs on Android or iOS.

Here are some of the fishing float specifications:

  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.0 up to 15 meters
  • Sensitivity – 12 levels
  • Battery life – 8 hours
  • Color – White, black, gold
  • Dimensions – Float foot: 80 mm, float body: 160 mm, float tail: 170 mm
  • Weight – 2.5 grams

Smart_Fishing_Float

I could not find the exact same app as shown above, but the Smart Float app for Android looks quite similar.

I first found the float on DealExtreme for $52.91, but Aliexpress and GearBest are also selling it for respectively $35.99 and $39.99.

 

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Categories: Android, Hardware Tags: Android, bluetooth

FriendlyARM NanoPC-T2 Board Gets More Storage, WiFi & Bluetooth, Stays Cool, and Costs Less

February 4th, 2016 4 comments

FriendlyARM NanoPC-T1 board powered by Samsung Exynos 4412 processor with 1GB RAM and 4GB eMMC flash was unveiled at the start of 2014 for $69. The company has now announced NanoPC-T2 with Samsung S5P4418 processor with 1GB RAM, and 8GB Flash, as well as WiFi and Bluetooth, as Gigabit Ethernet all of which were missing in the first version. NanoPC-T2 also has a power management chip, and a larger heatsink, meaning that it does not suffer from overheating like NanoPi2 according to FriendlyARM.

NanoPC-T2NanoPC-T2 specifications:

  • SoC – Samsung S5P4418 quad core Cortex A9 processor @ up to 1.4GHz with Mali-400MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB 32bit DDR3 RAM
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash, and 1x SD card slot (on the bottom of the board)
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth LE 4.0 (Ampak AP6212) with on-board chip antenna and 1x IPX antenna connector
  • Video Output / Display I/F- 1x HDMI 1.4a, LVDS, MIPI DSI, 0.5 mm pitch SMT FPC seat for type-A full-color LCD (RGB: 8-8-8)
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack, 1x on-board microphone
  • Camera – 1x DVP interface, 1x MIPI CSI interface
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 type A host ports; 1x micro USB 2.0 OTG port; 2x USB 2.0 host port via 8-pin header
  • Expansions Headers – 30-pin header for GPIO, 8-pin header for power signals, reset and LED 1-2
  • Debugging – 4-pin header for serial console
  • Misc – Power switch, 1x power & 2x user LEDs, RTC battery header, boot selection button (SD card / eMMC)
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via power barrel; AXP228 PMIC
  • Dimension – 100 x 60 mm (6-layer PCB)
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The board can run Debian and Android from either anSD card or eMMC flash using the boot selection button. The Wiki page is currently empty, but should eventually have all the technical details needed to get started and more.

NanoPC-T2 board will launch on February 28, 2016 for $59 + shipping on FriendlyARM shop. Individuals based in South and North America will instead be able to purchase it from Andahammer.

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Ugoos UT4 Android 5.1 TV Box Review

January 19th, 2016 2 comments

Ugoos UT4 is one of many Rockchip RK3368 TV boxes available on the market today, but it’s one of the model with higher-end specifications including  2 GB RAM, and 16 GB flash, as well as Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac WiFi, Ugoos offers regular firmware updates for their devices, and as I found out in Ugoos UT4 specs and teardown post, the mini PC features a fan to keep the device cool at all times. Today, I’ll focus on reviewing the firmware including video playback capabilities, performance and whether advertised features work as they should.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Before powering on the device, I connected some cables (Ethernet, HDMI, optical audio, AV to speakers), and made use of all four USB ports with a USB hard drive, a webcam, a keyboard, and a USB hub with two RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, and to power my external speakers that are connected to the AV port. Finally, I inserted the power cable, and UT4 booted automatically with a typical boot time being 25 to 30 seconds, or one of the fastest start-up time I’ve experienced lately.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

So Ugoos has decided not to include a TV launch with their device, and instead go with the typical Android Home Screen with some pre-installed apps including Settings, a File Manager, the Play Store, the list of Apps, Kodi, YouTube, and Chrome. The status bar can be hidden easily by clicking on the double down arrow icon on the right of the power icon. The notification bar at the top does not get out of the way in all apps, which may annoy some people… But it does disappear in Kodi and the games I tried. There’s also a small display bug when you hide the taskbar, and the gray icon highlighter, shown on the Settings icon in the screenshot above, will be have an incorrect vertical alignment afterwards (too high).

The box automatically detected the TV is HDMI 2.0 capable and set the video output to 2160p @ 60 Hz. However, I noticed later on that the resolution had changed to 1080p60 or even 720p60, so it’s better to go in the settings (Display->HDMI mode) to set this manually. I could also confirm that the AV port worked with my speakers. Both HDMI audio and AV are always enabled.

The most useful options inside Android Lollipop settings include:

  • Wireless & Networks – Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Data usage for Wi-Fi and Ethernet, Bluetooth, and a “More” section with: Airplane mode, Tethering & Tethering & portable hotspot, PPPoE and VPN
  • Device
    • USB – Connect to PC
    • Sound & Notifications – Volume for various sounds, notification settings, and a Sound Device Manager to select Default Output, Spdif Passthrough, or HDMI Bitstream
    • Display
      • Wallpaper, sleep, Daydream, font size, screen rotation
      • Cast Screen
      • Screen Scale
      • Output Interface – HDMI only
      • HDMI Mode:
        • Auto
        • 4096x2160p @ 60Hz (YCbCr420), 50Hz (YCbCr420), 30Hz, 25Hz, or 24Hz
        • 3840x2160p @ 60Hz (YCbCr420), 50Hz (YCbCr420), 30Hz, 25Hz, or 24Hz
        • 1920x1080p @ 60 Hz, 50Hz, 30Hz, 25Hz, 24Hz
        • 1280x720p @ 60 or 50 Hz
        • 720x576p @ 50 Hz
        • 720x480p @ 60 Hz
    • Storage – Two partitions: 3.87 GB “Internal storage” with 3.57GB free, and a  9.12 GB “NAND FLASH” partition

About_Ugoos_UT4While there’s no unified partition in the device, the 3.87GB internal partition should be large enough for most people. Usual settings like Accounts, Language & Input, Printing, accessibility are all enabled.

Going into “About device” shows UGOOS-UT4 model number is running Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.10.0. There’s also “vendor software version” reports that’s UGOOS_UT4_V0.0.1.b on my device. OTA firmware updates appear to be working, but my system was detected as being up to date so I could not test it. The firmware is not rooted by default.

While I prefer using air mice like MeLE F10 Deluxe or MINIX NEO A2 Lite with Android TV boxes, an infrared remote control is normally included. So I added two AAA batteries to test the provided remote, and while it works, the range was rather short, and if I stood more than 4 meters away, key presses started to get unreliably detected. I tried with two sets of batteries, and the result was the same.

After successfully registering my Google account, Google Play Store complains I was unauthorized to access my list of apps… But I rebooted, and it worked quite well afterwards. I could install all apps I needed for review, except Hplus Watch for F68 Bluetooth LE smart watch, which I had to sideload. I could also install Riptide GP2 using Amazon Underground app.

At first, power handling appears to be properly implemented, as when you press the power key for a short time it goes into standby / sleep mode, and a long press – or clicking on the power icon in the task bar – pops up a menu with: Power off, Reboot, Sleep, Reboot bootloader. However while Reboot and Sleep modes are working fine, power off  and reboot bootloader modes do not seem to work. The screen does go black, but the power LED is still on, power consumption is high (~7 watts), and there’s no way to power it on again, except by powering cycling the device.

I still tested power consumption, but bear in mind power off mode simply hangs, so the consumption is higher than normal, and hopefully Ugoos can fix it in the next firmware. I tested power consumption without any USB device, and with a USB hard drive:

  • Power off – 4.0 Watts (system hangs)
  • Standby / Sleep  – 1.3 Watt
  • Idle – 4.2 Watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 6.0 Watt (system hangs)
  • Standby / Sleep + USB HDD – 3.1 Watt
  • Idle + USB HDD – 6.4 Watts

So for the current firmware, I’d recommend to only use Sleep mode. Idle power consumption is also a little higher (1 Watt extra) compared to Kingnovel R8, another RK3368 TV box, and while there could be various reasons for it, the fan is likely the culprit here.

Since I’m talking about the fan, I’d like to mention it is rotating all the time, not only when the processor gets hot. Compared my computer, it’s very silent, but if I turn off my main computer, I can clearly hear the fan, even standing at about 2 meters away. I don’t find it noisy at all or disturbing, but it may be an issue for some people.

The fan clearly helps with temperature, as after running Antutu, the temperature was just 38 and 41°C on the top and bottom of the case, and it only went up to 40 and 44°C after 30 minutes playing Beach Buggy Racing and Riptide GP2.

Beside the power off issue, Ugoos UT4 is a good device with fast boot and app loading, and I only had slowdowns once or twice. So overall it’s a very responsive system, and performance can be sustained over time thanks to the cooling fan. There are also a few display bugs like icon highlight alignment when hiding/showing the task bar, and the notification bar may be an annoyance with some apps.

Video Playback with Kodi

Ugoos UT4 comes pre-loaded with a version Kodi 15.2-rc1 likely modified with specific patchsets to add Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD passthrough to RK3368, and it’s actually been compiled almost the same day as the source code release.
Ugoos_UT4_Kodi_15.2

I’ve played all videos from a SAMBA share in Kodi over Ethernet, unless otherwise noted. I’ve also enabled Automatic frame rate switching in Kodi, but unfortunately it did not work at all, so some videos may suffer from micro stuttering.

Linaro media samples, Elecard H.265 samples, and low resolution VP9 video could all play fairly well, except Real Media videos:

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

I then switched to some video with various frame rates

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Could be smoother
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK from the network, except a micro pause occurs after about 2 seconds playback.

The next step was to test audio capabilities of the device using HDMI and S/PDIF pass-through in Kodi, and PCM output (downmixing) in both Kodi and Video Player.  I selected the output in Android Settings->Sound & Notifications->Sound Device Manager and chose Default Output, Spdif Passthrough, or HDMI Bitstream accordingly. For audio pass-through, I also configured Kodi as shown below.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Video PCM Output
(Kodi)

PCM Output
(Video Player)

HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
S/PDIF Pass-through
(Kodi)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK
video 1:1 aspect ratio
No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio OK (Dolby D+ 7.1) Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio No (TrueHD 7.1)
DTS HD Master OK No audio DTS 5.1 only OK (DTS 5.1)
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio DTS 5.1 only OK (DTS 5.1)

Audio downmixing and pass-through are working well in Kodi, but since Dolby and DTS licenses are not included most other video players and online video services won’t support Dolby and DTS audio, unless you are passing the audio through an AV receiver.

Some 4K videos can be played, but there are still some issues, and there’s no miracle as VP9 and 10-bit H.265 codecs are not supported by Rockchip RK3368 VPU:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK most of the time, but a freeze lasting 9 seconds occurred at the 4 seconds mark (apparently not related to buffering).
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK, but a micro pause happened once.
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t play, stays in UI
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Black screen
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Freeze at the beginning and get stuck there.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play, stays in UI
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not very smooth and massive audio delay (4K H.264 @ 60 fps not supported by RK3368)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – Won’t play, stays in UI
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – Won’t play, stays in UI

Both Sintel-Bluray.iso and amat.iso (Ambra – Prism of Life) Blu-ray ISO could play smoothly, as well as two 1080i video samples.

Hi10p videos have the same problem as on other Android TV boxes in Kodi:

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

This will likely only be possible with the upcoming Rockchip RK3229 and RK3399 SoCs that natively support 10-bit H.264.

LG 42UB820T 4K UHD television does not support 3D, but I still played some 3D videos to check 3D decoding capabilities of Ugoos UT4:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – Plays in slow motion, and some audio delay
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Blackscreen with audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Finally, I tested various other videos in my library (VOB/IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4, XViD, DiVX, FLV and MKV), and I did not notice any issues, except for some FLV that could not play.

The stability test consisting of a 2-hour movie was successfully, and the movie played in its entirety reasonably smoothly, but not perfectly due to the mismatch between the video frame rate and the TV refresh rate. I also notice it was impossible to access the zoom menu while playing the video. During my testing, I adjusted the volume to the maximum while playing some videos, only to notice it was reverted back to some other values when playing another video.

Ugoos UT4 achieved 730 points in Antutu Video Tester 3.0. That’s not quite as high as on Amlogic S905 TV boxes (~900 points), but still a good progress over Beelink i68 (532) or Zidoo X6 Pro (328) scores.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

DRM info reports that neither Widewine nor PlayReady DRM are installed.
Ugoos_UT4_DRM_Info
However, since Netflix is now available internationally, I did have a try, and was able to stream a video at SD resolution. So either the lack of DRM for standard definition streaming is not an issue with Netflix, or the app reported incorrect information.

If you want to reproduce most of the tests above, you can download the video samples (mostly in comments section).

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I transfer a 278MB file between a network share (SAMBA) and the internal storage, and vice versa, using ES File Explorer in order to evaluate WiFi performance. The results for Ugoos UT4 are pretty good as 802.11n connection achieved 3.18 MB/s on average, and 802.11ac 5.87 MB/s,  one of the top three results, and about equivalent to MINIX NEO U1 WiFi performance.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

I repeated the same test with Gigabit Ethernet, but instead of using a larger 885 MB file, and the average transfer rate was 9.4 MB/s, which for some reasons is quite lower than other devices I tested, possibly due to the low write speed of the flash, as we’ll see below. Having said that, it’s not that far from other Rockchip RK3368 based mini PCs file transfer throughput.

Throuput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Since as Gigabit speeds, file transfer rate is likely to be limited by storage performance, it’s important to also test raw network performance, which I did with iperf -t 60 -c “server-ip” -d command in Android.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

Here the performance is slightly over average, and very similar to other Rockchip RK3368 TV boxes such as Zidoo X6 Pro or Beelink i68.

iperf output:

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Ugoos UT4 supports Bluetooth 4.0 LE, and shows as rk3368 Bluetooth device like most other device based on the same processor.  While I could pair it with my iocean MT6752 smartphone, and initiate photos transfer, it eventually failed with the message “Request can’t be handled correctly”, on both the device and my phone.Ugoos_UT4_Bluetooth_Issue

I has more luck connecting to a Bluetooth headset that I used to watch a 1080p YouTube video. I also tested Bluetooth LE (BLE) with F68 smartwatch successfully. Since the firmware is not rooted, I skipped the test with my PS3 gamepad clone using Sixaxis Controller app.

Storage

The mini PC could mount NTFS & EXT-4 partitions on my USB hard drive,  as well as an SD card formatted with FAT32, but it could not handle exFAT, nor BTRFS partitions.

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

USB storage performance, tested with A1SD bench, is average with respectively 21.98 MB/s and 27.01 MB/s read and write speeds for NTFS, and 22.44 MB/s and 26.17 MB/s for EXT-4.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read (Blue) and Write (Red) Speeds in MB/s

The internal storage (Samsung eMMC 5.0) has a good read speed (~60MB/s), but write speed is limited to less than 10MB/s, which probably explains why I experienced two or three slowdowns during this review.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Gaming

Candy Crush worked well with NEO A2 Lite air mouse, but that’s not a surprise. I then use a wireless gamepad to play Beach Buggy Racing and Riptide GP2, and both games were very smooth with default settings. I maxed out the graphics settings to “High Resolution”, while Beach Buggy Racing was just as smooth, Riptide GP2 was a little less so, but still very playable, and decided to perform my stability test with those settings. After playing around 15 minutes with Beach Buggy Racing, and then 20 minutes with Riptide GP2, the graphics performance was just the same all the way, so the cooling fan is doing its job.

Ugoos UT4 Benchmarks

Before running the benchmark, I ran CPU-Z, which detected UGOOS-UT4 model with an octa-core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.20 GHz, and a PowerVR G6110 GPU. So the company did not try to boost the CPU clock frequency despite the presence of the fan.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The TV box got 39,032 points in Antutu 6.0.1, and managed to pass all tests, including Marooned graphics.
Ugoos_UT4_Antutu_6.0The score cannot be compared to Antutu 5.x, and the only other scores I have are 38,032 points for MINIX NEO U1 (Amlogic S905) and 35,069 points for GeekBox (Rockchip RK3368). That’s interesting that Ugoos UT4 is over 10% faster in Antutu than GeekBox that is a very a similar platform.

Ugoos_UT4_VellamoI’ve also run Vellamo 3.0, and results confirm a performance boost compared to other Rockchip RK3368 devices such as Beelink i68 or GeekBox in all three tests: Browser, Metal and Multicore.

Ugoos_UT4_VellamoOther platforms in the chart are based on Amlogic S905 (Neo U1, and K1 Plus), and Amlogic S812 (WeTek Core and Neo X8-H Plus). So proper cooling appears to provide some performance boost even in benchmark that do not last that long.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Finally, Ugoos UT4 achieved 5,121 points in 3DMark’s Ice Storm Extreme that compared to 4,248 in Beelink i68 or 4,327 in MINIX NEO U1.

Conclusion

All in all, Ugoos UT4 is a pretty good device with responsive firmware, decent Kodi support including working 4K H.264 and H.265 video playback, and audio pass-through for DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD, very good WiFi performance for 802.11ac, and thanks to the cooling fan a performance that stays high over time, and allows Ugoos UT4 to outperform other Rockchip RK3368 devices I’ve tested so far. However, it would have been even better if an eMMC flash with a higher writing speed had been chosen to completely eliminate some rare slowdowns, the firmware has still a few bugs, including power off and Bluetooth file transfer that do not work, and the lack of automatic frame rate switching in the pre-installed version of Kodi 15.2.

PROS

  • Stable firmware, and responsive most of the time
  • Constant performance throughout thanks to the cooling fan, which provides better performance than equivalent RK3368 based devices
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 2160p 60Hz; 24/25/30/50/60 Hz refresh rates supported, and AV
  • Fairly good Kodi support with working 4K H.265 video playback, and Dolby 5.1, Dolby+7.1, DTS-HD and TrueHD audio pass-through via HDMI and S/PDIF.
  • Very good WiFi performance, especially 802.11ac, and 802.11n is above average.
  • Fast read speed of internal storage, leading to fast boot time (< 30 seconds) and app loading
  • 4 USB ports  allow for good expandability
  • 3D games are running well, even after playing for several minutes

CONS

  • Powering off the device does not work (UT4 appears to hang)
  • Kodi issue – Automatic frame rate switching is not working, some videos will freeze a short time a few seconds after the beginning of the video, most videos don’t have the option to adjust the zoom level.
  • Bluetooth file transfer does not work, at least with my smartphone
  • IR remote control has a relatively short range (4 meters)
  • No Dolby and DTS licenses, so there will be no audio if you use PCM output in some applications (Kodi is OK).
  • Lack of Widewine and PlayReady DRM which might be an issue with some premium video streaming apps, or a least limit their capabilities.
  • Relatively slow write speed of the internal storage may lead to some slowdowns (does not happen often)
  • The fan is always spinning, and audible in quiet room at one or two meters (I don’t really notice it personally, but some people may do).
  • UI bugs – Icon highlight misalignment when hiding or showing the task bar, volume settings may not be remembered

Ugoos sent me the sample for review, and if you are planning in purchasing in quantities, you could contact the company via their Ugoos UT4 product page. Individuals can purchase Ugoos UT4 for $103.90 on Ugoos Aliexpress store, as well as GearBest, GeekBuying, and probably some other online shops.

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PixiePro Board Combines NXP i.MX6Q Processor with WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS, and a 3G Modem

January 16th, 2016 6 comments

Saying that the market now provides a wide range of development boards is probably an understatement, but Code Ing has found out that most hobbyist boards had limited on-board wireless connectivity with WiFi and Bluetooth basically the best you could expect, with any extra wireless functionality requiring USB dongles. So the company designed PixiePro single board computer powered by NXP i.MX6Q quad core Cortex A9 processor with on-board wireless connectivity including WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS/GLONASS, NFC and a 3G module.

PixiePro_Board

PixiePro board specifications:

  • SoC – NXP i.MX6Q quad core Cortex A9 processor @ 1 GHz with Vivante 2D and 3D GPUs
  • System Memory – 2GB 64-bit DDR3
  • Storage – 2x UHS-I micro SD card slot up to 104 MB/s
  • Video Output – micro HDMI up to 1080p60
  • Audio Output – HDMI and 3.5mm mini TOSLINK optical port/Line Out
  • Connectivity
    • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO with two antenna connectors
    • Bluetooth 4.2 LE, 2.1 + EDR
    • NFC – ISO 14443A/B, 18092, 15693, NFCIP-1, NFC Forum with one antenna connector
    • Cellular – UMTS/HSPA+ 3G module (Quectel UC20) with SIM card slot and 2x 3G antenna connectors (main and RX diversity)
    • GPS/GLONASS with antenna connector
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Sensors – 9-axis IMU (accelerometer, gyro and magnetometer)
  • Expansion – Two 60-pin expansion connectors for Gigabit Ethernet, 1x PCIe, SDIO, 2x MIPI, SATA-II, RGB666, USB 2.0 HS, CAN, SPI, 2x UART, 2x I2C, and GPIOs
  • Debugging – 4-pin debug port for serial console
  • Misc – Reset button, RTC + battery
  • Power Supply – 5V DC input
  • Dimensions – 91 x 52 mm
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Since the two expansion headers are not exactly convenient for experimentation, the company will design a low cost adapter called PinsBoard that will fit into the 60-pin connector and provide a Raspberry Pi compatible header.

The board currently supports Arch Linux ARM, and they have a Wiki with some documentation, including guides for WiFi, Bluetooth and 3G, as well schematics in PDF. You can also get support via their Forums.

The board was first showcased at FTF 2015 last year, where it was called PixieBoard, so there should already be some out in the wild. The company has launched the board in mid December for $99.50 + shipping, which unless you are based in the US, will add $30 to $50 to the cost. You can find all details on Treats4Geeks.com.

Thanks to Guillaume for the tip.

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Misfit Specter is a Bluetooth Headset with Fitness Tracking Functions

January 12th, 2016 No comments

Smart wearables are quite a new type of devices, and I inf interesting companies are trying various solutions from the now ubiquitous smart watches and fitness tracker, to smart clothings such as connected T-Shirts. Misfit, a company specialized in wearables and fitness trackers, have decided it could be a good idea to have Bluetooth earphones that can track your activity and sleep, beside allowing you to listen to music, or answering calls.Misfit_SpecterThe company did not release the technical specifications, but Misfit Specter headset features the following functions:

  • Connectivity – Bluetooth
  • Smartpause magnetic ear buds
  • Dedicated voice call microphone
  • Stereo microphones for ambient noise
  • Track activity and sleep – Monitor steps, distance, calories, and sleep duration and quality
  • Battery – Good for 10 hours of music

Since you are probably not going to wear earbuds 24/7, these are mostly useful while you exercise and listen to music, and while sleep tracking at first feels strange for this type of product, Liliputing reports that they could be used to monitor sleep in an airplane. Other potential functions of the earphones include taking a picture or selfie while used as a remote for your phone/camera, turning on/off smart light bulbs, anti-loss, and controlling your PowerPoint presentation via the company’s Link App.

Misfit Specter should launch in Q2 2016 for $100 to $200. Check out the product page for a few more details.

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Categories: Audio, Hardware Tags: bluetooth, misfit, wearables

F68 Smart Watch Review

January 8th, 2016 3 comments

After No.1 D3 and SMA-Q smartwatches, Makibes F68, or just F68, is my third attempt at reviewing a smartwatch, and on paper it matches all of my main requirements namely always-on display, fitness tracking with heart rate monitor, one week of battery life, and IP67 ingress protection rating to have some waterproofness. I’ve already taken pictures of the device, so today I’ll go through the user interface on the watch, and Android app, and report my experience after using the watch for over 10 days.

F68_Watch_Review

The watch has an e-Paper display with decent viewing angles, and very good readability during the day, however at night, you’ll need to find the light switch or use a torchlight, as the watch does not have backlight at all, and it’s unreadable. There’s actually no buttons at all and everything is controlled via the touchscreen, and/or the app available for Android or iOS. The imain menu of the interface can be accessed by swiping up or down, with the options within one menu are accessed by swiping right to left.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I’d normally like to have time, date and step count displayed on the main watch face, but there’s clearly no space once all features are enabled on F68. The top line has up to 5 icons for: battery level, Bluetooth connection status, SMS notification ON, phone notification ON, and alarm. The center of the screen shows the time, date and day of the week, while the bottom part has up to four icons to indicate whether the  pedometer, sedentary reminder, sleep monitoring, and heart rate monitor are enabled.

The time and date are set automatically when connecting the watch to your smartphone, but you can also swipe horizontally to manually set the date and time.

F68_PedometerIf we swipe down once, there’s usually a lock screen (which I disabled), before we can access the pedometer, with the top “Running man” icon use to disable or enable the feature. This screen shows the step count, estimated calories burnt and distance for the current day. You can swipe to the right to access the data from the last seven days. When you swipe up back to the time, it’s quite easy to disable the pedometer by mistake, so make sure it is still enabled by checking out the bottom left icon is on.

The step does not seem to be very accurate, and get widely variable results days after days. For example after a 9 kilometer run, the step count only increased just over 4000 steps, or about 2.20 meters per step, which is clearly impossible with the way I run… If you are in the pedometer mode, you can usually see the count going up in real-time, but there are time when it will not move at all. So I guess a firmware update might be needed here…

F68_Watch_Heart_Rate_MonitorOne more menu down we access the heart rate monitor. An empty heart means it is turned off, a “running man” icon means the HRM is enabled in sports mode, and another icon is for “healthy heart rate” mode. I can see the green LED is on in sports mode, but not always in the other mode, so maybe it’s measuring continuously in sports mode, and only sometimes in the other one. You can also swipe right to enable hear rate alerts with minimum and maximum values.

I have not tried this, because in the same 9km run, I had troubles with reliability again. At the beginning, the watch showed plausible values (150 to 160 bpm), but after a few minutes it dropped to the 80 bpm range as I was still running, and it lasted for about 15 to 20 minutes, before going up to around 150 bpm. Having said that I’m also enabled “All day HRM” in the Android app, which takes measurements every few minutes , and the data appears to be plausible with low heart rate when I sleep, slightly higher when I get and do about my daily business, and higher when doing some more demanding activities. So I’m not sure what happened during the run, maybe the sweat or position of the watch.

Makibes_F68_Smartwatch_Sedentary_Sleep_Stopwatch_AlarmGoing down in the interface once more, we can see four icon for sedentary alert, sleep monitoring, stopwatch, and alarm.

F68_Sedentary_Reminder_Sleep_MonitoringThe sedentary reminder  can be enabled/disabled with the top icon, and the options allows for a delay of 30 minutes and up by 15 minutes increments. However, it was never triggered when I tried it… I don’t find sleep monitoring very useful, but I still tried it once night, and it showed the sleep time correctly from midnight.

F68_Smart_Watch_Stopwatch_AlarmThe stopwatch works, but you can only start it and stop it. There’s no intermediate time like on standard watches. The alarm can be set from the watch or the smartphone app, and vibrates when the time is up.

F68_Watch_Settings

The next menu shows icon for user data, Bluetooth, system, and info.

F68_Watch_User_DataThe user settings let you configure gender, age, weight, and height, but it’s something much easily done from the mobile app.

F68_Bluetooth_On_Off

You can manually turn on or off Bluetooth. If the lock is closed, Bluetooth is turned off, if it is opened it it turned on. You can also see the Bluetooth ID at the bottom of the screen e.g. SPORT 91AF.

F68_Factory_Reset_Firmware_VersionThe system menu will let you reset to factory settings, or power off the watch, while the information will show the firmware version and serial number, in my case the firmware was SPORT v1.79.1.

I have not taken pictures for the notifications but they basically work and you see it in the review video further below. The information is quite basic as only an envelop icon is shown for SMS, and a phone icon and caller ID when you receive a call. You can’t take any action from the watch, but at least you are information when your smartphone get an SMS or phone call. It also support QQ, WeChat, Facebook and Twitter, but I did not really try those.

Which brings me to the mobile app called HPlus Watch and available for Android and iOS.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

After enabling Bluetooth in the watch and your smartphone, you’ll want to pair it with your phone. It will show as SPORT XXXX as shown in the watch, and I had no problem to connect. One you have installed the app, you can input your goal, and data, and the app will calculate your BMI. I did so, and the app told that I was … Fat! (what? impossible, this is clearly a bug :)).

You can also configure a few alarms with a work schedule where you can set the time and date of the week for specific actions such asgetting up, exercise, reading, watching a ball game… , as well as another alarm clock. I did not try the work schedule, but as previously mentioned the alarm is working, and the watch vibrates when the time is up.

I also enabled incoming calls and message notifications, as well as Facebook notifications in “Social notice” menu. I mostly receive Facebook Page Manager notifications, and they never showed on the watch, but maybe it’s only working for Facebook app.

F68_Social_Networks_Screen_Saver

I’ve also enabled All day HR to have the watch monitor my hear rate all day, and it seemed to work, and did not seem to affect the battery life much. If you don’t like the lock screen you can disable it by settings “Screen saver timer” to 255.

If you want to check your data you can go to the dashboard to see a chart with your step count and heart rate for the current day, as well as number for the estimated distance and total calories.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Yesterday data is rather useless, and I challenge you not to laugh when you read the associated text.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The data summary with weekly and monthly charts is a little more interesting, but we cannot access the detailed chart for a given day.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Real-time HR will show a chart of your heart rate for the last few hours, but you’ll have to make sure Bluetooth is connected, as it will look like the right side of the chart.

Finally, I’ll have a few words about the waterproofness and battery life of the watch, and I have to say I’m very pleased with the former, and relatively satisfied with the latter. I wore the watch while taking showers, and spent 15 minutes swimming and playing in a swimming pool (although you are not exactly supposed to do that with IP67 devices), and there was no issue with humidity going into the watch at all. However, one downside is that the touchscreen display is active, and the user interface can be changed because of the flow of water. For example, I managed to factory reset the watch once while taking a shower, and that’s the reason why you may want to keep the lock screen on. In my opinion, a touchscreen display is not really ideal for a sports watch, and button would be preferable, and even if you don’t swim, you may run early morning or in the evening, and condensation will form on the face making the touchscreen hard to use for example if you want to switch between pedometer and HRM interface.

The battery is supposed to last one week on a charge, but with Bluetooth on most of the time ,and the pedometer activated I could get 3 to 4 days on a charge, usually 4 days, or even a little more. Charging is also convenient with the magnetic dock, and quite fast, as a full charge takes around 45 minutes.

Video Review

Conclusion

F68 smartwatch has a limited number of features, but does much of what it’s supposed to do reasonably well, however I found the step count and heart rate monitor to provide unreliable data, appearing to work well at time, but then providing clearly bogus data.

PROS:

  • Always-on e-Paper display, readable under sunlight
  • Good Bluetooth connectivity, i.e. no problem with Bluetooth as with SMA-Q
  • Decent battery life (around 4 days)
  • SMS and calls notifications working OK.
  • Most features work as advertised
  • Waterproof (IP67). Tested under shower, and swimming. The latter is not guaranteed with IP67 however
  • HPlus watch app is not too bad
  • Cost effective (~$30)

CONS

  • No backlight for night use
  • Pedometer and heart rate monitor do not seem to work reliably all the time.
  • Touchscreen display is active under water, and the flow can change your settings.
  • Notification support is basic, only icon for SMS, icon + caller ID for phone calls, and few social networks supported.
  • No way to access details of data outside of the current day, e.g. fitness chart for yesterday, or other days.
So if they could just improve the pedometer and HRM reliability it would be quite a decent device, although not perfect because of the lack of backlight for night reading, and the choice to go with a touchscreen display for a sports watch.
I’d like to thanks GearBest for provide Makibes F68 sports smart watch for review, and they sell it for $34.89 in blue, orange, or black. You could also shop on GeekBuying, and eBay for roughly the same price.
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Hexoskin Smart T-Shirt Keep Tracks of Your Activity with 42,000 Data Points per Minute (Crowdfunding)

January 8th, 2016 1 comment

There are now many smartwatches with electro-optic hear rate monitors, but based on my short experience so far, if you want something  accurate and reliable, you’d still better use a chest trap. Another potentially more comfortable option would be to use Hexoskin Smart T-shirt, and on top of the usual fitness data (step count, calorie burn, distance and heart rate), also measure your breathing rate and volume. The T-shirt also supports Bluetooth Smart to send back all the data to your smartphone or other devices such as bike computers or smart watches.
Hexoskin_Smart_T-ShirtThe company already has Bluetooth Classic T-Shirt, but there latest versions will offer longer battery life and Bluetooth 4.2 LE connectivity. Hexoskin T-shirt 2016 specifications:

  • Bluetooth Smart 4.1 connectivity via Cypress EZ-BLE PRoC module
  • Heart rate, RR intervals, fatigue and stress indicator (Heart Rate Variability).
  • Breathing rate and breathing volume.
  • Activity intensity, peak acceleration, steps and cadence.
  • Analog 256Hz ECG data
  • Analog dual-channel 128Hz breathing sensors
  • Analog 3D 64Hz acceleration.
  • battery – 30+ hours of battery life, 600+ hours of standalone recording.
  • Material – Made of high-quality Italian textiles that’s lightweight, dries quick dry, anti-odor, and provides UV protection.

Hexoskin’s sensors gather 42,000 data points per minute to provide an accurate and detailed activity reports, either via the company’s Hexoskin app which displays full cardiac, breathing, and movement data, or third-party apps such as Strava, Runkeeper, Runtastic, Endomondo, and MapMyRun that mostly use the T-shirt as an heart rate monitor.

Hexoskin_How_Does_it_Work

Hexoskin_App

The data can be seen on real-time on your iOS or Android mobile device, but it is also sent to the company’s server, where it is stored securely. The T-shirt is also compatible with devices such as Tomtom Runner, Suunto Ambit3, Wahoo bike computers, a few Polar devices, and more.

The new Hexoskin Smart T-shirt has now launched on Indiegogo, and has already raised well over its $50,000 funding target. If you already own a previous version of the T-shirt, you can pledge $179 for the new BLE smart device only, while a complete kit with the T-shirt require pledges starting at $299 and greater. You can find more about their previous T-shirt on Hexoskin website.

If you are interested in smart clothing, I’ve also noticed ARM uploaded videos about Li-Ning smart shoes for fitness tracking, and Heddoko Smart Clothing used for body tracking in order to control user interfaces for example.

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