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Posts Tagged ‘bluetooth’

Orange Pi 2G-IOT Board Based on RDA8810PL Cortex A5 Processor to Support Bluetooth and GSM

January 8th, 2017 54 comments

[Update: The board featured below was initially announced as Orange Pi Zero Plus, but considering it may have confused people as it is not at all compatible with Orange Pi Zero, it has been renamed to Orange Pi 2G-IoT]

Linaro mentioned Orange Pi i96 board last fall at Linaro Connect US. It was supposed to be a $9.99 board powered by an RDA Micro Cortex A5 processor with 2Gbit RAM and 4Gbit NAND flash on-chip. There has not been any news since then, but Shenzhen Xunlong has apparently gone ahead with an RDA Micro Cortex A5 board since they’ve posted some pictures of Orange Pi Zero Plus (Note: very slow server) with an RDA Micro ARM Cortex A5 processor.

orange-pi-zero-plusOrange Pi 2G-IoT preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – RDA Micro 8810PL ARM Cortex A5 processor @ up to 1.0 GHz with 2Gbit (256 MB) on-chip LPDDR2 RAM, 4Gbit (512 MB) on-chip SLC NAND flash , 256KB L2 cache, Vivante GC860 3D GPU, and GSM/GPRS/EDGE Modem (Download datasheet)
  • External Storage – micro SD slot
  • Display I/F – LCD connector up to qHD resolution
  • Video – Decoding up to 1080p30, encoding up to 1080p30 H.264
  • Audio I/F – 3.5mm audio jack, one built-in micorphone?
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth and GSM/GPRS/EDGE with SIM card slot
  • Camera – MIPI CSI-2 connector for camera sensor up to 2MP
  • USB – 1x USB host port, 1x micro USB port (for power?)
  • Expansion – 40-pin GPIO header with SPI, I2C, ADC, GPIOs, PWM, etc…
  • Misc – 8 selection jumpers, button
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port; maybe one pin on header
  • Dimensions – ~70 x 44 mm(estimated)
  • Certifications – CE and FCC based on PCB silkscreen

rda-8810pl-development-boardWe don’t have much more info about the board, but since the processor is used in a few Android phones such as Aqua G2 or Challenger V40LD, so Android 4.4 Kitkat should be available for the board. Linaro, although they might not be involved, also mentioned an Ubuntu Linux for Orange Pi i96 board, so an Ubuntu Linux image is very likely to be provided. If Linaro has been involved in the kernel/software development, then you should expect somewhat OK support, but if they haven’t, I’m expecting a world of pain at the beginning, at least compared to the relatively well community supported Allwinner H3 based Orange Pi boards. If you intend to use the SIM card, you may want to check if your country has any plans to phase out of 2G, as several have already done so, and many others will shutdown 2G networks in the next few years.

The board is scheduled to be launched right after Chinese New Year in the first half of February. We don’t have pricing info, but I’d expect it to costs less than $10 + shipping as it was the price announced for Orange Pi i96 board, and you can get a complete Android RDA8810PL phone for around $25.

Qorvo GP695 “Smart Home” SoC Integrates 802.15.4, Zigbee 3.0, Thread, and Bluetooth LE

January 4th, 2017 No comments

GreenPeak Technologies ultra-low power, short range RF communication technology company was acquired by Qorvo last year, and Qorvo has recently announced a GP695 system on chip (SoC) for smart home devices part of GreenPeak’s previous family of devices, and supporting multiple short range RF protocols.

qorvo-gp695GP695 key features:

  • MCU Core – ARM Cortex M4
  • Connectivity
    • IEEE 802.15.4
    • ZigBee 3.0
    • Thread
    • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
    • Qorvo Wi-Fi interference mitigation technology

GP695 has been designed to be used in device such as a door locks, smart HVAC, smart security systems, connected video doorbells and intercoms, lightbulbs, smoke alarms, and leak detectors, and complements GP712 multi-protocol SoC designed for smart home gateways.

Qorvo will feature live demonstrations of its smart home and IoT solutions at its booth during CES 2017, at Sands Expo, Halls A-D Booth #42114. There’s very limited public information, and no product page could be found in their website.

ESP32-WROVER-KIT Devkit Supports Espressif ESP32 Modules, Includes a 3.2″ LCD Display

December 30th, 2016 4 comments

Yesterday Olimex wrote a blog post informing us that ESP32-CoreBoard was back in stock, one the many ESP32 boards launched late this year, but still hard to get. The company also mentioned they’d have limited quantity of the new ESP32-WROVER with JTAG and LCD display together with the picture below.

esp32-wrover-esp32-lcd-kit

ESP32 is quite more powerful than ESP8266 so it makes sense to have an ESP32 development kit with an LCD display. A quick DuckDuckGo search led me to ESP-WROVER-KIT Getting Started Guide, where we can find more details including the overall specifications:

  • Compatible with ESP-WROOM-32 and ESP32-WROVER modules based on ESP32 dual core Tensilica L108 processor clocked at up to 240 MHz with WiFi and Bluetooth LE connectivity
  • Storage – Micro SD slot
  • Display – 3.2″ LCD display connected via SPI
  • USB – 1x micro USB port
  • Expansion
    • 8-pin UART header
    • 6-pin SPI header
    • 48-pin header for I/Os and camera interface (standard OV7670 camera module supported)
  • Debugging – JTAG through USB interface (FTDI FT2232HL) or 14-pin header
  • Misc – CTS/RTS jumper; power selection (EXT or USB); RGB LED; boot & reset (EN) buttons
  • Power Supply – 5V DC input; 5V to 3.3V LDO chip
  • Dimensions – 85.2 x 79.0 mm
ESP-WROVER-KIT Block Diagram - Click to Enlarge

ESP-WROVER-KIT Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

The rest of the getting started guide explains how to configure jumpers to set the power source, serial flow control, and JTAG. It also shows how to access the serial console with a typical 115200 8N1 connection, as well as compile and load a simple hello program with ESP-IDF SDK in Windows and Linux.

Image Source: HackerBoads

Image Source: HackerBoards

Beside the development kit itself, I also discovered the new ESP32-WROVER module with the same feature as ESP-WROOM-32 plus an extra 32Mbit pSRAM chip and an external antenna connector.

esp32-wrover

ESP32-WROVER Photo via ESP32 Twitter Account

The kit should be available in January based on Olimex’ blog post, but we don’t have any pricing info yet.

LG TONE Wireless Bluetooth Speakers & Earbuds Get Charged with a Neckband

December 29th, 2016 No comments

Battery powered Bluetooth speakers are very common, and Bluetooth earbuds even more, but both are normally designed for different use cases. Last year ZAGG decided to bring both into a single product that you wear around your neck: Flex Arc Wireless Bluetooth earbuds + speakers now selling for about $56. The obvious advantage is that it includes larger battery than you can fit in earbuds and most Bluetooth headsets.

LG TONE Studio

LG TONE Studio

ZAGG will soon be getting some competition as LG has designed two Bluetooth audio products leveraging your neck with LG TONE Studio (HBS-W120) equipped with a Hi-Fi DAC, 4 speakers, and two earbuds, and LG TONE Free (HBS-F110) with 2 “true wireless” earbuds that can be storage and charged in their neckband. The latter can also vibrate for incoming calls and text messages. An extra charging cradle is also provided for use cases when the neckband might not be convenient.

lg-tone-studio

LG TONE Free

LG will officially unveil both products at CES 2017, so we should learn more about them in a week time, possibly including how much they actually cost.

Via Liliputing

Categories: Audio, Hardware Tags: audio, bluetooth, ces 2017, lg

Eweat R9 Plus TV Box Review Part 2 – Android, OpenWrt, and HDMI Recording

December 24th, 2016 5 comments

Eweat R9 Plus is a device powered by Realtek RTD1295 SoC combining main functions: Android 6.0 TV box, OpenWrt NAS/router, and HDMI recorder thanks to its HDMI input port. It competes directly with Zidoo X9S which has the same features, except while Zidoo X9S has no internal SATA bay and your 2.5″ hard drive just hang outside the box, Eweat R9 Plus comes with an internal 3.5″ SATA bay that makes it much neater on your furniture… We’ve already seen that in the first part for review “Eweat R9 Plus unboxing and teardown“, and I was impressed by the hardware, but the software is even more important, and that’s what I’m going to check out in the second and final part of this review.

First Boot, First Impressions and Setup.

I’ve first inserted a 1TB 3.5″ SATA drive in the device, and then I connected an extra USB 3.0 hard drive, HDMI and Ethernet cables, two USB dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, and a USB keyboard to take screenshots, as well as U4 Quad Hybrid Android TV box to the HDMI input.

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Click to Enlarge

Connect the power, press the mechanical power switch on the back, and the device will boot, typically in about 40 seconds, to the main launcher. There’s no setup wizard like in Zidoo X9S, so you’d have to change configuration separately.

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Click to Enlarge

The top left corner includes status icons for USB, Ethernet, Bluetooth, and WiFi, and the top right corner shows the current date and time. The first time the time and date were not correctly update, and I did not get any IP address from my router… That’s because I connected the Ethernet cable to the WAN port, but once I connected it to the LAN port, everything worked fine. It’s just WAN and LAN markings are not quite correct…. Let’s go back to the launcher with 7 large icons, the “R9 Plus” icon is linked to Chrome browser (so we have two Chrome links), apps to the list of apps, EWMC links to Kodi 16.1, and 4K to the local file browser/media player. We also have 3 shortcuts on the botton that can be customized to your needs. Sadly, there’s no status nor notifications bars which can be a pain in some use cases. The small blue “rocket” on the of EWMC icon, is actually the mouse cursor (red in reality, but the screenshot app turns that blue).

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Click to Enlarge

The system comes with a bunch of apps including Netflix, HDMIRecorder, and QuickSupport, and I could install my own without any issues using Google Play and Amazon Underground.

eweat-r9-plus-displayThe front panel display on the unit is a little more useful than most, as it will show the current time of the day when not playing videos or music, and instead display the current video time with 4K video player, but not Kodi, while playing media files.

If you are interested to find out more about the settings, I invite you to check the Settings section of Zidoo X9S review, as Eweat R9 Plus has basically the same settings, except only “Auto 1080p24” option is available in the Display section, Deep Color Mode (AUTO, 12-bit, 10-bit, OFF) is gone, and the Playback section is missing together with “Auto 29.97/59.94 Hz”, “Force SD audio”, “Enable low performance mode (less buffer for playback)”.

I could set the resolution (“TV System”) to 3840x2160P @ 60Hz without any issues, but I’ve noticed the video output will sometimes fall back to 720p or 1080p after a power cycle. I could not find any option to adjust overscan either, so I had some black zone on all edges of my TV. Those are issues, but the latter at least should be easy to fix via firmware upgrades.

Once I found that LAN is actually WAN, and WAN is LAN, I had no troubles at all with Ethernet and WiFi, and OpenWrt options are also exactly the same as on Zidoo X9S.

You only get 9.31GB of the 16GB in Android because some part is reserved to OpenWrt, but it still more than the 8.91GB I had on X9S. In theory it should be plenty enough, but after a day or two of use, my internal storage was completely full, despite not installing that many apps.

android-storage-fullEventually I found that since my 1TV hard drive had millions of files, Android’s “Media Storage” activity had created two very large databases. Disabling Media Storage fixed the issue, and after clearing the data from “Media Storage” I had close to 8GB free. Alternatively you can add an empty .nomedia files in the directory you do not want to system to scan, for example the root of the harddrive if you don’t want it to scan anything.

Going into the About device section, we can see “R9Plus” model runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 4.1.17.

about-device-r9plusThe firmware is rooted, and OTA firmware update is done with SystemUpdate app, and I could upgrade from R9PLUS_V1.1_20161130 version to R9PLUS_V1.02_20161217 version which I used in most of the review. I had to disconnect the USB drive, or the update will fail. You can leave the SATA drive inside the box during firmware upgrades.

eweat-r9-plus-firmware-updateThe update went well, and did not mess with my settings, apps, and media files.

The included IR remote worked fine up to 10 meters, but I’d really wish higher end devices such as R9 Plus would ship with an air mouse by default. I had to jungle between the IR remote control and MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse quite often depending on the app I used. Realtek apps such as HDMIRecorder, 4K media player, and File Manger may work better with the infrared remote control.

Eweat R9 Plus firmware is stable and responsive, but there are a few small bugs here and there that should be fixed, like the lack of screen scale option, video output resolution set by the user is not always used after a reboot, there’s no status nor notification bars, etc… I’d also wish such higher-end systems would come with an air mouse with keyboard by default to be able to fully control the TV box with a single remote.

Power Consumption and Temperature

Power control support is basic with only on or off, no standby or reboot, but the power consumption numbers are OK, albeit a little higher than Zidoo X9S, maybe because of the 3.5″ SATA drive instead of 2.5″ SATA drive:

  • Power off (SATA HDD) – 0.3 Watt
  • Idle (SATA HDD) – 9.2 Watts
  • Power off + SATA & USB HDD – 0.3 Watt
  • Idle + SATA & USB HDD –  11.2 to 12 Watts
  • SATA HDD (Copy file to SAMBA share) + Play 4K video from USB HDD + miniDLNA in the background – 18 to 19 Watts

If you has a drive with many files, miniDLNA – enabled in OpenWrt settings as DMS (Digital Media Server) – will take a lot of CPU and I/O resources, so if you don’t need it, make sure to disable it. Idle power consumption numbers are with DMS disabled.

While there’s no standby mode, we’ve seen with Zidoo X9S that standby mode is not that useful as networking and drives are all turned off. It’s just must faster to boot than from power off mode. Most cheap Android TV boxes cannot handle more than one USB hard drive, but Eweat R9 Plus had no troubles with a SATA hard drive and a USB 3.0 drive. It might be possible to add yet another USB 3.0 drive, as the power supply has a 30 Watts capacity.

It’s no surprise that with a large metal case, the device stays relatively cool at all times. The maximum temperatures measured with an IR thermometer on the top and bottom of the device were 35 and 37 °C respectively after Antutu benchmark, and 40 and 50 °C after playing Riptide GP2 for 15 minutes.

Video & Audio Playback with Kodi 16.1 and 4K App, Antutu Video Tester, and DRM Support

R9 Plus comes with Kodi 16.1 (EWMC) and 4K app to browse and play media files with the internal player. So I’ve started by testing 4K videos with both. Bear in mind that while Realtek RTD1295 supports 10-bit HEVC/H.265 up to 60 fps @ 4K, H.264 is limited to 24 Hz, which will be a problem with you shot 4K H.264 30 fps videos with a camera or your smartphone, and 4K VP9 @ 60 fps is supposed to be supported, and with DDR4 memory I had hope some progress may be made here, but unfortunately the limit is really 30 fps, which could be an issue with some (downloaded) YouTube videos. Out of Specs videos are prefixed with OoO.

Kodi 16.1 4K App
OoO – HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) Not smooth Not smooth, although better than Kodi
sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) Not smooth OK
Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) 1st try: 1 second and exit
2nd try: OK
OK
Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) 1st try: 1 second and exit
2nd try: OK
OK
Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) 1st try: 1 second and exit
2nd try: OK
OK
MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) OK OK
phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) OK OK
BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) Not perfectly smooth OK
OoO – big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 Not smooth at all Not smooth
OoO – big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 Not smooth at all, and artifacts Not smooth, audio delays
Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) 1st try: Still image (first frame) + audio
2nd try: OK
OK
Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) OK OK
Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) 1st try:plays a few frame, then freezes, audio still playing
2nd try: OK
OK
OoO – 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) 1fps, audio cuts Can’t play
OoO – Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) Not smooth Slow motion
tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) Unwatchable, and many audio cuts Not smooth audio cuts
The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) Not smooth at all, some audio cuts Not smooth, no audio

For some reasons Kodi 16.1 will fail to start playing some videos the first time, but play them the second time. Just like on Zidoo X9S – but worse – Kodi 16.1 implementation is not as good as the internal player, so for best user experience you’d have to use the 4K player. Automatic refresh rate switching works with 4K app, with 23.975/24Hz, 25 Hz, 29.97 Hz and 59.94 Hz with the latest firmware. It does not work at all with Kodi.

For so the audio tests, I’ve stopped using Kodi, and only used 4K app with PCM 2.0 downmixing and audio pass-through via HDMI.

Audio Codec in Video PCM 2.0 Output HDMI Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK Audio OK (DD 5.1), but wrong aspect ratio
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK (DD 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK (Dolby D+ 7.1)
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK TrueHD 7.1
DTS HD Master OK OK (DTS-HD MSTR)
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK (DTS-HD HR)
DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636) OK DTS-HD MSTR

So HDMI audio pass-through is working very well, and I did not experience some of the audio cuts I had on Zidoo X9S with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver. Those may have been fixed since Zidoo X9S review however.

Below are a few screenshots from 4K video app starting with the list of storage devices/partitions…

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… the menu available once you’ve selected a storage device…

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.. and subtitle options while playing a video.

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I’ve also quickly tested Blu-ray ISOs (Sintel and Amat videos) and both could play. Finally, I play a 2-hour 1080p video to make sure the system can play a full movie, which I does.

Antutu Video Tester score (820 points) is a little lower than on Zidoo X9S (888).

eweat-r9-plus-antutu-video-testerBut the videos that failed are exactly the same:

zidoo-x9s-antutu-video-tester-resultsDRM info crashed each time, just like on X9S, so there’s problably no DRM support at all.

HDMIRecorder App

Eweat R9 Plus HDMIRecorder, as its name implies, allows you to record video from an HDMI input source. It can record up to 1080p @ 30 fps using H.264 codec in TS or MP4 container format, with a bitrate up to 10Mbit/s.

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Click to Enlarge

It will also record audio, and you can select the output with the “Path” field. It will create a new “hdmi” directory to store the recorded videos.

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Once recording has started, it will work in the background (see recording info in the top right corner below) and you can browse the web, watch other videos, and so on during recording.

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I could then connect to the device via SAMBA, and play with the recorded video with both Totem player ad VLC in my Ubuntu 16.04 computer.

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That part works fine, and looks similar to Zidoo HDMI In app, however it lacks some goodies like PiP support and UDP broadcasting found in Zidoo X9S. So if so those functions are important to you, Zidoo X9S clearly has an edge of Eweat device here.

OpenWrt and NAS functions

If you want to learn more about settings up OpenWrt on Eweat R9 Plus, I’ll redirect you to OpenWrt and NAS functions section of Zidoo X9S review as all features are identical.

You can control OpenWrt manin function in Android settings…

eweat-r9-plus-openwrt

… and fine tune OpenWrt settings through LuCi web interface.

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I tested SAMBA, FTP, and Bittorrent. Performance on Eweat R9 Plus was very good with FTP transfer at ~105 MB/s, and 40 MB/s for SAMBA file copy to the internal SATA, very similar to Zidoo X9S with respectively about 90 MB/s and 50 MB/s.

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Eweat R9 Plus FTP Transfer – Click to Enlarge

eweat-r9-plus-samba-transfer

Eweat R9 Plus SAMBA Transfer

Contrary to my experience with Zidoo X9S, BitTorrent worked just fine and the transfer quickly saturated my 20 Mbps Internet connection.

eweat-r9-plus-bittorrentBear in mind that firmware evolves overtime and it’s quite possible Zidoo has already fixed the issue.

This time I also tested OpenWrt opkg system manager to see if it would work. After connecting to the device through ssh, I tried to update the packages and it failed miserably:

So if you want to install packages, you’d probably have to build them yourself, or copy and install opkg packages built for ARM architecture manually.

WiFi Performance

We’ve already seen Gigabit Ethernet works perfectly above with transfers at 105 MB/s through FTP basically saturing the Gigabit Ethernet bandwidth, so I’ll only focus on WiFi in the network performance section. Eweat R9 Plus has excellent WiFi performance with both 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, and 802.11ac (433 Mbps), roughly matching Zidoo X9S equally good performance.

Throughput in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

All you need to know is that Eweat R9 Plus is one of the top devices for WiFi  for all devices I’ve tested over the year.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I could pair Vernee Apollo Lite Android smartphone with “Realtek Bluetooth”, however once I started transferring files from my phone to the device, I either got the message “Unfortunately Bluetooth has stopped”, and when lucky, the transfer was initiated with Eweat R9 Plus showing an overlay message reading “”Incoming file from another device, please confirm…”. That’s all good but since there’s no notification bar, and no pop-up window, I had no idea where to confirm the transfer, and it eventually time out. I could not test Bluetooth Low Energy, because all my device are either broken or lost.

Bluetooth is not completely useless however, as I could get Sixaxis to work with my PS3 BT gamepad clone, and I paired X1T Bluetooth earbuds successfully, and listen to a YouTube video.

Storage

Eweat R9 Plus could mount NTFS, EXT-4, and NTFS partitions on a 1 TB USB 3.0 Seagate expansion harddrive with only BTRFS failing to be recognized. A FAT32 micro SD could also be mounted in read/write mode, as well as my SATA drive formatted with NTFS.

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

A1SD bench app shows excellent sequential read and write for the SATA interface, a decent performance for all supported file systems through USB 3.0:

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  • USB 3.0 + NTFS – Read: 37.93 MB/s – Write: 39.28 MB/s
  • USB 3.0 + EXT-4 – Read: 37.67 MB/s – Write: 39.43 MB/s
  • USB 3.0 + exFAT – Read: 37.04 MB/s – Write: 39.28 MB/s
  • SATA + NTFS – Read: 140.78 MB/s – Write: 86.30 MB/s

Eweat R9 Plus looks faster than Zidoo X9S using SATA + NTFS, but bear in mind that the hard drive used was different, so it may explain the difference. However, Zidoo was quite better for USB 3.0 using EXT-4 and NTFS, but quite poor for exFAT, which R9 Plus appears to support well.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Read and Write Speed in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

I also measured internal storage performance, but unfortunately A1SD bench reported “Cached Read”, so the read speed is not valid. The write speed of about 55 MB/s is however, and this is quite good. The actual read speed in the chart below should be lower than 140+ MB/s, but usually read speed is faster than write speed, so performance should still be good.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Gaming

I played Candy Crush Saga with the air mouse, and Beach Buggy Racing (with max quality) using a gamepad, and both games played perfectly well. Then I switched to Riptide GP2, again with maximum resolution settings. It’s started begin playable – but not quite 60fps – just like on Amlogic S905/S912 TV boxes, and Zidoo X9S, but then I noticed the image would freeze from time to time, and after a race was completed,  it may have a 10 seconds black screen before going to the main menu. So I checked the CPU usage in OpenWrt (SSH terminal), and notice miniDLNA with a high CPU usage. So I disabled DMS in Android’s OpenWrt settings, miniDLNA stopped running, and I could play the game for 15 minutes more without issues, nor performance degradation over time.

Eweat R9 Plus Benchmarks

Let’s start with CPU-Z.. R9PLUS (rtk_kylin32) model with a quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz and a Mali-T820 GPU, so no surprise here.

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The device reached 36,076 points in Antutu 6.2 against 34,976 points for Zidoo X9S Antutu score.
eweat-r10-plus-antutu

There are a few potential explanations for the small difference: 1. R9 Plus firmware is more recent, 2. it’s winter here (~ 22 °C), and 3. R9 Plus has DDR4 ram instead of DDR3 RAM. However the strange thing is that R9 Plus RAM score is 3,046 points, but Zidoo X9S got 3,960 points which does not make any sense.

eweat-r9-plus-vellamo
Vellamo 3.x scores are pretty similar with R9 Plus getting 1,430, 881 and 2,539 points for respectively multicore, metal, and Chrome Browser benchmarks, against 1,457, 831 and 2,638 points for Zidoo X9S. So it looks like DDR4 memory does not help for any benchmarks, including 3Dmark’s Ice Storm Extreme.

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4,359 points for Eweat R9 Plus against 4,574 for X9S.

Conclusion

Eweat R9 Plus is a solid device, and I really like the internal 3.5″ SATA bay, internal and external storage, as well as networking performance is really outstanding too. However I would have wished the firmware to have fewer bugs, and just like for Zidoo X9S, Realtek RTD1295 SoC has some limited 4K capabilities when it comes with H.264 and VP9. Getting the optimal performance may require some tweaks like disabling some server services.

PROS

  • Responsive and stable Android 6.0 firmware
  • 4K app plays 4K H.265 videos very well with automatic frame rate switching, and HDMI audio pass-through for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD audio
  • Excellent Ethernet and WiFi performance
  • Excellent internal and SATA storage performance, and good USB 3.0 performance
  • NTFS, EXT-4, exFAT, and FAT32 file systems are well supported
  • HDMI Input (up to 4K60 input) with video recording up to 1080p30 (4K input is also supported but record at 1080p30 max)
  • OpenWrt NAS functions such as SAMBA, FTP, and BitTorrent running at the same time as Android, as well as router functions thanks to its two Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Proper power handling with power off, standby, and reboot, and low power consumption in off/standby modes. The provided 36W power supply also allows the connection of multiple hard drives.
  • Dolby & DTS audio licenses are included, so audio will work in any apps
  • OTA Firmware update
  • Good hardware design with internal 3.5″ SATA bay

CONS (and bugs):

  • Realtek RTD1295 VPU limitations:
    • 4K H.264 up to 24 fps which will be an issue for 4K videos recorded with some actions cameras (GoPro/Xiaomi Yi) and smartphones
    • 4K VP9 up to 30 fps, as 60 fps is not well supported. This will be an issue for some 4K videos downloaded from YouTube
  • Kodi 16.1 (EWMC) is not really working that well with many 4K videos not playing smoothly (even those within specs) and automatic frame rate not working. So 4K app is recommended
  • No DRM support (DRM info app will crash)
  • HDMI input works, but does not include features like picture-in-picture and UDP broadcasting found in Zidoo X9S
  • You’ll probably have to use both the include IR remote control AND a air mouse or other input device to fully use the device. A air mouse specifically designed for the box would be a plus.
  • Scale screen option missing in firmware, so I had black edges on my TV the whole time (should be easy to fix with firmware update)
  • No option for status and notifications bars
  • Bluetooth file transfer is unreliable (crash) and there’s no way to confirm file transfer (related to notification bar above)
  • Tweaks may be needed (e.g. disable Media Storage and DMS) for optimal performance if you have a hard drive with many files.
  • The system will not always remember the video output set by the user (e.g. 4K 60 Hz set, but falls back to 1080p or 720p).

Eweat also lacks a community forum like Zidoo, but as long as they keep firmware updates rolling, it may or may not matter to you. Overall, Eweat R9 Plus is also a good device combining 4K TV box, OpenWrt NAS, and HDMI recording functions. Whether that’s right for you depends on your requirements and budget.

The manufacturer sent me the review sample directly. Distributors can inquire the company to purchase in quantities, but if you just need one or a few you can purchase it on Aliexpress for $175.99 plus shipping (about $200) on Aliexpress.

Merry Christmas to all!

Quectel SC20 Smart LTE Modules with WiFi, BLE and GPS Run Android 5.1

December 15th, 2016 1 comment

Google may just have released Android Things operating systems for IoT applications, but its big brother – Android – has already gotten into some other IoT systems such as Quectel SC20 module powered by a Qualcomm processor and supporting LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth LE, and GNSS functions.

quectel-sc20Quectel SC20 comes in different flavors to cater for various markets, but all module share most of the same specifications:

  • SoC – Unnamed Qualcomm processor
  • System Memory – TBD
  • Storage – 8GB flash
  • Cellular Connectivity – FDD LTE, TDD LTE, TD-SCDMA, EVDO/DCMA, WCDMA, and GSM; antenna: MIMO 2×2, supports Rx-diversity
  • Other Wireless Connectivity
    • WiFi – 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n (SC20-CE/-W); Dual band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (SC20-E/-A/-AU/-J)
    • Bluetooth 2.1+EDR/3.0/4.1 LE
    • GNSS – GPS, GLONASS, and BeiDou
  • Interfaces
    • LCD – 4x lanes MIPI-DSI, 1.5Gbps each, HD (720p) @ 60fps
    • Camera – MIPI-CSI, up to 1.5Gbps per lane, supports two cameras
      • 2-lane MIPI_CSI for rear camera, up to 8MP
      • 1-lane MIPI_CSI for front camera, up to 2MP
    • Touch Panel Capacitive-screen
    • USB 2.0 Device High Speed, 480Mbps
    • 2x USIM 1.8V/3V
    • 25x GPIO, 3x I2C, 2x high-speed UARTs
    • SDIO – 1x SDIO 3.0, 4bit SDIO
    • PWRKEY
    • 4 pads for antennas: main, diversity, GNSS, Wi-Fi/BT
    • 3x ADC (BAT_SNS, BAT_THERM, ADC)
  • Audio – MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC, AMR-NB, – WB, G.711, WMA 9/10 Pro
  • Video
    • Encode – 30fps 720p (H.264), 30fps WVGA (MPEG-4/VP8)
    • Decode – 30fps 720p (H.264/MPEG-4/VP8/H.265 DivX4/5/6), 30fps WVGA (H.263)
  • Dimensions – 40.5 x 40.5 x 2.8mm
  • Weight – ~9.6 grams
  • Temperature Range – Operating: -40°C ~ +85°C
  • Compliance – CCC/CE/FCC/GCF/PTCRB/AT&T/ACMA RCM/Verizon (Many still work-in-progress)

I first found about the module, as SinoVoip showcased some pictures of their next BPI-SC20 board using Quectel SC20-CE, but they did not provide other details.

banana-pi-bpi-sc20Nevertheless it was easy enough to find Quectel SC20 product page listing all the specs above, plus details about LTE, WCDMA, etc… bands, Rx/Tx power levels, and more. Six models of the module will be available: SC20-W with WiFi and BLE only, as well as country or zone specific variants: SC20-CE, SC20-J,  SC20-AU, SC20-A, and SC20-E with different supported cellular bands and standards.

The company is also said to have an evaluation board with a display and two cameras, with the processor used part of – or similar to – Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 series.

$24 Winkel Arduino Compatible Board Includes WiFi, Bluetooth, 2.4 GHz RF, and an RTC (Crowdfunding)

December 13th, 2016 3 comments

There are plenty of Arduino compatible boards with WiFi based on ESP8266 WiSoC going for around $5 to $10, and with ESP32 processor, we are starting to have $15 to $20 boards with both WiFi and Bluetooth, but while ESP-IDF SDK has been progressing nicely, some parts of Bluetooth functionality are still not implemented. Winkel board offers an interesting alternative by offering WiFi, Bluetooth, 2.4GHz ISM, and an RTC for $24.

winkelWinkel board specifications:

  • MCU – Microchip/Atmel ATmega128 MCU @ 16 MHz with 128KB flash memory, 4KB SRAM, 4KB EEPROM
  • Connectivity
    • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n via ESP12E module based on ESP8266
    • Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR via HC-05 module
    • RF Radio – NRF24l01 2.4 GHz ISM radio. (Note: It might be possible to use it for Bluetooth LE connection, see here and there).
  • I/Os (through both Atmel MCU and ESP8266)
    • 38x Digital I/Os
    • 7x PWM Digital I/Os
    • 8x Analog Inputs
  • USB – micro USB port for programming and power
  • Misc – DS3231 Real-Time Clock + CR2032 battery slot, a few LEDS, reset button, jumper for OTA mode, ISP header, optional MPU-6050 Gyro+accelerometer mount
  • Power Supply – 5 V
  • Dimensions – TBD
Click to Enlarge

Winkel Pinout Diagram – Click to Enlarge

Winkel board can be programmed with the Arduino IDE via a micro USB cable, but you could also program the Atmel MCU over Bluetooth, and ESP12 module over WiFi without any cable required, a must if you want to update your firmware while the board is already in a case or hard to access. Thanks to the company’s “Smart Opt system” individual components can be power on and off individually, so that unused module don’t draw power. Source code for the firmware and code samples can be found on github.

arduino-esp8266-rtc-hc05

Rishi Hegde of Mintbox Technologies informed me that the board has now been launched on CrowdSupply with the company aiming to raise at least $1080. A $21 early bird pledge should get you the board will all modules (the price will be $24 after the first 50 boards are gone), but if you only want the core boards, and add your own modules, you could also pledge $12 to get the board with Atmel ATMega128 MCU and a micro USB port only. Shipping is free to India and the US, but adds $9 to the rest of the world, with delivery expected in March 2017. More details may be available in Mintbox Technologies’ Winkel product page.

STMicro SensorTile is a Tiny STM32 Module with Bluetooth 4.1 LE and Four Sensor Chips

December 8th, 2016 No comments

STMicroelectronics SensorTile is a 13.5 x 13.5mm sensor board based on STM32L4 ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller, a MEMS accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, pressure sensor, a MEMS microphone, as well as a 2.4Ghz radio chip for Bluetooth 4.1 Low Energy connectivity for wearables, smart home, and IoT projects.

stmicro-sensortile

SensorTile hardware specifications:

  • MCU – STMicro STM32L476 ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller@ up to 80 MHz with 128 KB RAM, 1MB flash
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.1 Smart/LE via BlueNRG-MS network processor with integrated 2.4GHz radio compliant with
  • Sensors
    • LSM6DSM 3D accelerometer + 3D gyroscope
    • LSM303AGR 3D Magnetometer + 3D accelerometer
    • LPS22HB pressure sensor/barometer
    • MP34DT04 digital MEMS microphone
  • I/Os – 2x 9 half holes with access to UART, SPI, SAI (Serial Audio Interface), I2C, DFSDM, USB, OTG, ADC, and GPIOs signals
  • Debugging – SWD interface (multiplexed with GPIOs)
  • Power Supply Range – 2V to 5.5 V
  • Dimensions – 13.5 x 13.5 mm
SensorTile's Functional Block Diagram - Click to Enlarge

SensorTile’s Functional Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

Software development can be done through a sets of APIs based on the STM32Cube Hardware Abstraction Layer and middleware components, including the STM32 Open Development Environment. The module is supported by Open Software eXpansion Libraries, namely Open.MEMS, Open.RF, and Open.AUDIO, with various example programs allowing you to get started. Several third-party embedded sensing and voice-processing projects also support the module. The module also comes pre-loaded with BLUEMICROSYSTEM2 firmware, and can be controlled with “ST BlueMS” app found on Apple Store and Google Play.

sensortile-kit

But the best way to get started is with SensorTile kit including SensorTile core module and:

  • STLCR01V1 cradle board with a footprint for SensorTile core board, HTS221 humidity and temperature sensor, a micro-SD card socket, a micro USB port, a lithium-polymer battery (LiPo) charger, and a SWD header.
  • A LiPo rechargeable battery and a plastic case for the cradle board, SensorTile module, and battery
  • STLCX01V1 Arduino UNO R3 compatible cradle expansion board with analog stereo audio output, a micro-USB connector for power and communication, a reset button and a SWD header.
  • A programming cable

I could not find a price for SensorTile core module, but STEVAL-STLKT01V1 SensorTile kit can be purchased for $80.85 directly on STMicro website or their distributors. Visit SensorTile kit’s product page for further information include hardware design files, quick start guide, software and firmware downloads, purchase links, and more.