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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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MINIX NEO X8-H Plus Review

December 12th, 2014 18 comments

I posted pictures of MINIX NEO X8-H Plus media player a few days ago, and in this post I will report my impressions and testing results for the box, the first Amlogic S812 device I’ve fully reviewed so far, which adds H.265 video decoding up to 2160p, Gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi to the original MINIX NEO X8-H. You can check my previous post for the full specifications of MINIX NEO X8-H Plus.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The package includes both MINIX IR remote, and MINIX NEO M1 RF air mouse. I did not use the infrared remote at all, and instead I mostly used the provided air mouse, together with Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse when I needed to input text, or for comparison. NEO M1 comes with a built-in battery, and Off/On button, and can be used as a standard remote control, or as a wireless mouse. In most cases it works fairly well, but inputting text may be a little cumbersome as you need to use the software keyboard, and I’ve noticed when I scroll several times, for example in Google Play going through my list of apps, its behavior becomes erratic, and frustrating to use. I’m tried to charge the NEO M1 again, and re-calibrate it, but it did not help. I’ve also disconnected the other RF dongles to make sure there was no interferences. The Mele F10 (Deluxe) does not have this problem, so overall the “air mouseness” of NEO M1 isnot as good as the one of Mele air mice.

I’ve connected an Ethernet cable to my Gigabit hub, an HDMI cable, an SD card, a USB hard drive, a USB webcam, and a USB hub with three RF dongles for the two air mice, a wireless gamepad, and a USB flash drive. After connecting the power, you need to press the button to start the device. The boot took a massive 1 minute and 54 seconds, which seems really slow for a recent high-end device. So I removed all USB devices, and boot time decreased to one minute, better, but not really a fast booting beast. For refernce some RK3288 devices boot in 20 seconds with all devices connected.

Android Home Screen in NEO X8-H Plus (Click for Original Size)

Android Home Screen in NEO X8-H Plus (Click for Original Size)

The status bar is hidden by default, but you can simply pull it up if you need it. As with other MINIX NEO device you can choose between MINIX Metro launcher, or the default Andrid Home Screen as shown above. If you want to checkout the user interface in more details, read my review of MINIX NEO X6, which includes screenshots of MINIX Metro, and a video walk-through.

The resolution was correctly automatically detected and set to 1080p, and the user interface resolution is set to 1920×1080. Although I connected the box to Ethernet, Wi-Fi was selected in the settings, so I had to go into settings before I get an Internet connection. Small detail.

The Settings menu is very similar to NEO X6 with a MINIX green and grey skin with four sub-sections: Network, Display, Advanced and Other, but it adds some extra options highlighted in bold:

  • 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)
    • Dolby DRC settings – On/Off, and DRC mode selection (LINE or RF)
  • Other – System Update: Local file or OTA (connects to server OK), Backup; “More Settings”: redirects to standard Android Settings.

4K video output and S/PDIF are extra hardware options supported by MINIX NEO X8-H Plus. DRC stands for Dynamic Range Control, and it aims to improve audio quality in various environments.  Here’s an explanation of what it does (Source: Dolby Metadata Guide):

Different home listening environments present a wide range of requirements for dynamic range. Rather than simply compressing the audio program at the transmission source to work well in the poorest listening environments, Dolby Digital encoders calculate and send Dynamic Range Control (DRC) metadata with the signal.
This metadata can then be applied to the signal by the decoder to reduce the signal’s dynamic range. Through the proper setting of DRC profiles during the mastering process, the content producer can provide the best possible presentation of program content in virtually any listening environment, regardless of the quality of the equipment, number of channels, or ambient noise level in the consumer’s home.
Many Dolby Digital decoders offer the consumer the option of defeating the Dynamic Range Control metadata, but some do not. Decoders with six discrete channel outputs (full 5.1-channel capability) typically offer this option. Decoders with stereo, mono, or RF-remodulated outputs, such as those found on DVD players and set-top boxes, often do not. In these cases, the decoder automatically applies the most appropriate DRC metadata for the decoder’s operating mode.

Most people won’t probably use this, but in case you want to turn it on, I understand you should probably select LINE if you own a 5.1/.1 capable AV receiver, and to RF for other audio receivers / TV. Corrections are welcome.

NEO-X8H-PLUSMINIX NEO X8-H Plus features a 16 GB eMMC flash with a single 12.48 GB partition, with plenty of free space (11.5GB+). In the “About MediaBox” section of Android settings, the model number is “NEO-X8H-PLUS″ , and the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.33. The firmware is not rooted, and I did not try to root it either, but the micro USB OTG port means it should be feasible. At first, I thought NEO X8, NEO X8-H, and NEO X8-H Plus shared the same firmware, and seeing a new release, I tried to update my box, but don’t do that, as a separate firmware is available for NEO X8-H Plus. The latest release is dated November 22, 2014, but since only recovery mode changed, I kept the pre-installed firmware (November 14, 2014). I tried the online OTA update, but after a slow checking on the server, it just reported “no updates available”. MINIX seems to have a two weeks window between the firmware update, and the availability of their OTA server(s) in Hong Kong.

Google Play Store worked pretty well, and I did not need to side-load any apps for this review. The only apk I installed was Amazon AppStore, in order to play Riptide GP2.

The power button on the side of the box cane be used to power on the device, enter and exit standby mode (short press), and call the power menu (long press) showing “Sleep”, “Restart”, or “Power Off”. NEO M1 power button can only be used for standby mode, as a long press does nothing. Mele F10 Deluxe can only be used to enter standby mode, but not exit it, probably because the power key is an Infrared key on NEO M1, and Mele code is different. You can still power on the device with any remote by clicking on the “soft” power button on the task bar to activate the power menu. It’s not possible to turn on the box with the remote control. NEO X8-H Plus does not overheat. After Antutu 5.3 benchmark, the max. temperature was 38°C and 44°C on respectively the top and bottom of the case, and after 4 races in Riptide GP2, the max. measured temperatures went up to 45°C and 55°C.

MINIX NEO X8-H Plus is fast, and stable. I never experienced slowdowns, freezes, or hang-ups. The only time I felt there may be issue is when doing repeated scroll downs with NEO M1 air mouse, where the mouse pointer did not feel responsive, but this had nothing to do with the device, only the air mouse limitation, as I had no such repeatable issues with Mele F10 Deluxe.

Video Playback

MINIX NEO X8-H Plus came with XBMC 13.3 MINIX Edition pre-installed, and contrary to my review with MINIX NEO X6, I did not install XBMC 13.3.3 Beta MINIX Edition, which supports automatic refresh rate switching, and better support for .ts files, and just kept using the release version (Built on July 28, 2014). So I installed it to give it a try. XBMC user interface renders at around 35 fps @ 1920×1080. 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, but I also switched to “4K MoviePlayer” app to play some 4K videos.

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 – Mostly OK, but some people may feel a slowdown @ 1080p. 480p/720p playback at 24 fps (instead of 25 fps), and 1080p at 20 fps.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK, although XBMC reports 720p/1080p video playing at 22 fps instead of 25 fps.
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – Audio only, and the 1080p video makes XBMC exit.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – Does not play at all (Stays in XBMC UI).

I wanted to install the “Frequency Switcher” in the Video Add-ons, but all I got was a message saying the platform was not supported. So no automatic refresh rate switching is possible for now, at least with this version of XBMC.

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

As usually I played high definition audio codec using HDMI PCM output since I don’t have an AV receiver, and all files played perfectly including audio and video:

  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – OK
  • Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 / 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-HD MA & HR– OK

Blu-ray ISO are supported. Tested with Sintel-Bluray.iso. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play.

4K videos playback is quite a disaster in XBMC, especially since this version of XBMC does not seem to support HEVC:

  • 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

If you are a regular reader, you may noticed that I added two new videos, one 10-bit HEVC/H.265 sample by NGCodec, and a BT.2020/Rec.2020 sample.

Since most videos did not play, I reverted to 4K MoviePlayer app install in the box which yields to better results:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – “Not supported media”
  • 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) – Fails to play.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Shows the first image, but get stuck at 1 second.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Plays but with several wide horizontal bluish / purplish bands with some transparency in from of the video.

Please note that XBMC-13.3.3 Beta 6 apparently support 4K playback support for X8-H PLUS, but people also report AV sync issues in the beta version. (I’ve seen that after testing).

I’ve also added one SBS (Side-by-Side) 3D videos to Over/Under 3D videos. My Panasonic TV is not a 3D TV according to the specs, so I can only check if video decoding is working. NEO X8-H appears to handle 1080p well, but can play my 3D 4K video:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK, but XBMC reports it playing at 57 fps instead of 60 fps. Hardly noticeable to me.
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Most AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB, and MP4 videos could play without A/V sync issues, or noticeable frame dropped. However, I could not play IFO files, only VOB, and I noticed XBMC sometimes report videos are not played at the original frame rate. For example, while playing a complete 1080p video (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) to test stability, I noticed the frame rate oscillated between 22 and 26 fps, instead of 23.970 fps of the video. I’m not sure if this is expected, or improvements are needed. Nevertheless, I had no problem to play the movie fully, but over 14,000 frames were skipped as reported in XBMC live debug log.

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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share (Ubuntu 14.04) and the internal flash using ES File Explorer in order to evaluate network performance of Wi-Fi, repeating the test three times, and averaging results. NEO X8-H Plus support both 802.11n and 801.11ac, so I tested both. The first one with my older TP-Link TL-WR940N, and the second standard with TP-Link TL-WDR7500 (Archer C7). The device averages a disappointing 2.11 MB/s with 802.11n, and a more respectable 3.50 MB/s with 802.11ac.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

The actual performance you get may vary depending on the router used, and your environment.

Transferring a 885MB files over Ethernet showed similar performance as other Gigabit Ethernet devices, but this tests is mostly bound by the internal flash performance.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Transferring a file from a FAT32 partition on a USB hard drive to a SAMBA share (SSD drive) was done at a higher 24.58 MB/s

Checking the raw Ethernet performance with  iPerf app using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line, showed some serious limitations of NEO X8-H Plus (or Amlogic S812), although they can’t really be seen for typical usage:

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

------------------------------------------------------------
 Client connecting to 192.168.0.106, TCP port 5001
 TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 [  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 39357 connected with 192.168.0.106 port 5001
 [ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
 [  6]  0.0-60.0 sec  1.26 GBytes   180 Mbits/sec
 [  4]  0.0-60.0 sec  1.67 GBytes   239 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

MINIX NEO X8-H Plus is advertised as “bluedroid″, and after pairing, the first transfer failed for some reasons. Subsequent photo transfers worked just fine.

I skipped Sixaxis Compatibility Checker test, since I was lazy to root the device.

The AP6335 wireless module used in this device is supposed to support Bluetooth 4.0 BLE. So I tested with protocol with Vidonn X5 activity tracker, and successfully connected using its Smartband app, and retrieved my “fitness” data.

Storage

Both a USB flash drive and a micro SD card 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 not the EXT-4 and BTRFS partitions, as with most devices, the exceptions being Open Hour Chameleon and M-195, which also support EXT-4.

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

A1 SD Bench app can test the read and write performance of any storage device in Android, and that’s what i used to evaluate the eMMC and USB NTFS performance. The read speed was 23.83 MB/s, and the write speed 20.06MB/s for NTFS partition in my USB hard drive (mounted in /storage/external_storage/sda1). Good devices with USB 2.0 normally get close to 30MB/s in both directions, so NEO X8-H Plus is a bit of a weak player here. Results well above 30MB/s are only achievable via USB 3.0 ports.

Read & Write Speeds in MB/s

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

The 8GB eMMC used in the device only achieves 14.27  MB/s (read) and 12.43 MB/s (write), which again is quite disappointing, especially the read speed, for a supposedly high-end device, and this explains the rather slow boot time.

Read & Write Speeds in MB/s

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

The device are now classified with the total read + write speeds, and NEO X8-H Plus is close to the bottom of the scale.

USB Webcam

I could install both Skype and Google Hangouts, but Skype refused to make any calls (nothing happened), even using Skype “Echo / Sound Test Service”. I could make a call successfully with Google Hangouts but something the image was garbled.

Gaming

I played the three usual suspects: Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2, and all three games worked very well.  I played Candy Crush Sage with the air mouse and . Beach Buggy Blitz and Riptide GP2 with  Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad, and both games were very smooth even with settings maxed out. Riptide GP2 advanced settings set all settings enabled and to high, except Shader Complexity was set to low, and Physicals Wakes & Shadow Details were greyed out. Riptide GP2 usually came to a halt after several minutes of play, but it did not happen in this device. It’s however unclear if it’s because of an updated firmware, or Riptide GP2 developers fixed some of the issues.

MINIX NEO X8-H Plus / Amlogic S812 Benchmarks

CPU-Z correctly reports a processor with four ARM Cortex A9 cores clocked between 24 MHz and 1.99 GHz coupled with a Mali-450MP GPU. The model is NEO-X8H-PLUS (n200), the resolution 1920×1080 (240dpi) and the system has 1,605 MB available to Android with 12.48 GB internal storage.

Amlogic_S812_NEO_X8-H_Plus_CPU-ZMINIX NEO-X8-H Plus gets 31,204 points which is the highest score I’ve seen for a device based on Amlogic S802/S812 processors so far, probably due to firmware optimizations.
MINIX_NEO_X8-H_Plus_Antutu
In Vellamo 3.1, the media player gets 792 points for the Metal benchmark, 1,808 points for the Multicore test, and 1,880 points for the Browser benchmark.

MINIX_NEO_X8-H_Plus-VellamoThe device gets 6056 points in 3DMarks Ice Storm Extreme, lower than the score obtained in Rockchip RK3288 and Allwinner A80 devices, but it’s expected for a Mali-450MP GPU.

MINIX_NEO_X8-H_Plus_Ice_Storm_ExtremeConclusion

MINIX NEO X8-H firmware is extremely stable, and the user experience is smooth, but when you get into performance of individual components like Wi-Fi, Ethernet, eMMC flash, and USB storage the performance is disappointing, especially for an relatively expensive device. XBMC playback is quite good, except for H.265 and 4K, but that’s probably becaue the XBMC version in the current firmware, is not the latest one, and current beta XBMC app looks more promising..

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.
  • Good power handling, although the device can’t be turned on with the remote control.
  • Air mouse included in package
  • H.264 / HEVC 4K video playback with 4K MoviePlayer app
  • USB webcam works with Google Hangouts
  • Support forum and community

CONS:

  • Wi-Fi, Ethernet, eMMC, and USB / NTFS storage performance is disappointing for a device at this price.
  • USB webcam did not work reliably in Skype
  • The remote control can’t power on the device.
  • Poor 4K support, and H.265 supported in included XBMC version. (Will be fixed in subsequent XBMC apk updates)
  • Relatively slow boot time. 1 minute without USB devices, almost 2 minutes with several USB devices connected.
  • Air mouse is not as good as some other product in the market such as MeLe F10 Deluxe, because in some circumstance it may be difficult to control the mouse pointer.

I’d like to thank GearBest for providing the sample for review, and if you are interested in this device you may consider buying from Gearbest for about $160 including shipping. Other shipping options includes Amazon US, DealExtreme, TinyDeals, GeekBuying, and many others. Prices are about the same for every seller.

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Zero Devices Z5C Thinko 4K H.265 TV Stick Review

November 26th, 2014 No comments

Zero Devices Z5C Think is one of the rare HDMI TV sitck powered by Rockchip RK3288 quad core Cortex A12/A17 processor available on the market. I’ve already take a few pictures of the device and internals, so today I’ll focus on testing the firmware, and performance of this thin and nice looking TV stick.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

There was a time when HDMI stick were powered by much slower, but power efficient processor based on Cortex A5 cores. One of these was CX-01 mini PC, and they could be powered by the USB port of the TV without problems. Now the processor are much more powerful, so normally you can’t power the device directly from the TV, but since I’ve seen people claim it was possible to drive RK3288 stick directly from the USB port of some TVs, I gave it a try, connected the stick to my Panasonic TV via the HDMI cable extension, as the two HDMI ports on my TV are too close, connected the micro USB to USB cable to my TV, and the power LED turned on, but the screen would stay black, and the TV display the message “Overcurrent error on USB device occured. Please remove the USB device and switch off the TV by mains power switch”.

Overcurrent_error_panasonic_TVSo that did not work out, but it was expected, and it’s not a problem with the stick, just that the TV can’t handle device with high power requirements.

So instead I used the power supply, and added a RF dongle for the Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse. Boot time is one of the best on the market so far, as it takes just 25 seconds between the time connecting the power supply, and getting to the Android Home Screen.

Android Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

Android Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

But the very first time, you’ll get through a wizard that let you select simplified Chinese, English or Others languages, scale your display for overscan compensation, and configure Wi-Fi. Unfortunately the first time, it did not find any Wi-Fi access point, so I went to Android Settings to check, and there was no MAC address either, probably meaning the Wi-Fi module was not detected. But everything got back to normal after a reboot, and Wi-Fi worked just fine.

Let’s have a look at the e Android settings. The Wireless & Networks sections comes with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet (for external USB dongle), and Data Usage menus, as well as a “More” section with VPN and Portable Hotspot. The Display settings mainly include font size adjustment, overscan compensation menu, and HDMI resolution selection between 9 modes: 1080p 24/25/30/50/60Hz, 720p 50/60, 720x576p-50 or 720x480p-60. Options for 4K output will be display if you own a 4K UHD TV. You can select the “Sound Output Device” in the “Sound Devices Manager” either “Default Output”, “Spdif Passthough” (which is not available on the stick), and “HDMI Bitstream” (HDMI pass-through).

About_Z5C_ThinkoThe 8GB eMMC is partitioned into two partitions:  a 0.95 GB “Internal Storage” partition for apps with 658 MB free, and a 8 GB (black magic yet again) “NAND FLASH” partition for data, with about 5.20 GB available space.

The “About Z5C Thinko” section reports the model number is Z5C, and it’s running Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux 3.10.0, and the vendor software version is 1.0.3. There’s also a System updates menu, that appears to properly connect to a server, but no new firmware was available at the time of the review.

Google Play works pretty well, and I could install apps such as ES File Explorer, Antutu, Beach Buggy Blitz, CPU-Z, etc…, with the only incompatible apps I’ve noticed being Vidonn Smartband app (as usual), and Real Racing 3. I’ve also installed Riptide GP2 through Amazon AppStore. However, I quickly ran out of space because of the sub 1GB app partition.

There’s no power button, and not proper power handling with this stick. Pressing the power button on the status bar will come up with a power off menu, but all it will do it reboot the device. Pressing the power button on Mele F10 Deluxe will simply blink the screen for one second, but it’s probably a remote key handling issue, which I’ve seen on another device, so after a fix, standby should be supported. But there’s probably nothing to be done to support power off, since it’s probably the way the hardware has been designed.

One of the biggest problems with Z5C Thinko is that it gets really hot, and sometimes hot enough to have the chip reboot itself. After Antutu, I could measure between 55 to 90°C, with the temperature especially hot on top of the Rockchip SoC, and close to the HDMI connector, since that’s where the heatsink spans.  The maximum temperature I got was 118°C. During idle time (i.e. in the home screen), the temperature is between 45 to 55°C, and in Kodi user interface it goes up to about 70°C. I’d like to point out the temperature varies a lot (-/+ 20°C on one given spot), probably because of the ventilation holes. So sometimes my IR thermometer may point to the plastic case, but sometimes I might measure the temperature directly from the heatsink, at least that’s my theory.

As long as you don’t perform demanding tasks, the firmware is mostly stable and smooth, but there are also various bugs, as I had to reboot to get Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work, USB storage connection may not be reliable, and because of the high temperature, it’s basically impossible to play 3D games, and even playing videos for over one hour may cause reboots. The tiny app partition is also annoying, but it’s something that’s easily fixable with a firmware update.

Video Playback

Kodi alpha 14 was pre-installed in the stick,. and it even let me know I should update, but since I don’t know whether the XBMC/Kodi version installed as been customized or not, I’ve tried using that version. Normally I play video from a SAMBA share, but for some reasons Kodi did not manage to find my computer, as it happened frequently in my previous review. So I switched to using my USB hard drive. I tried to connect it via the micro USB OTG port with the OTG adapter, but it was not recognized, and I tried a USB flash drive, but same problem. So instead I attached a USB hub to the single USB host port of the Android dongle, and my hard drive LED went on, but at first I could not see any partition in Kodi or ES File Explorer. I rebooted, and it worked, but since relatively unstable. So instead I installed SPMC from Google Play, and … it did not anything in the Video menu. So I ended playing videos from a SAMBA share using ES File Explorer and MX Player:

I played 1080p videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, and one extra 1080p H.265/HEVC videos:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container – It’s playing, but not very smooth.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – OK
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – OK

Some higher bitrate videos had troubles to play because I was over Wi-Fi:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK, no problem even in fast moving scenes
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – Playing OK, but buffering often
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – Playing OK, but buffering often
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Playing OK, but buffering often

Please note that most Android media player won’t be able to play these files smoothly over Wi-Fi + SAMBA, so the results are not really surprising.

High definition audio codec could play (downsampled) in MX Player, but since some of these are high bitrate I had buffering and audio cut issues:

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK (5.1), audio cuts and buffering (7.1)
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – Black screen only
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR –  Audio cuts and buffering

I tried to play Sintel-Bluray ISO, but it would load forever in MX Player.

4K video playback is about the same as with other RK328 boxes in MX Player, i.e. not that good:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Frequent audio  cut, and video in slow motion. It’s a 60 Mbps video so it can’t be realistically be played over Wi-Fi.
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – Severe decoding issues with heavily distorted image
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK (H/W decode)
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK (H/W decode)
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  Slow motion
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Slow motion (maybe 1 to 3 fps)

This morning I tried again Kodi with SAMBA, and it worked for some reasons, so I tried the 4K videos in Kodi as well:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – First time black screen only, second try: plays but with many skipped frames, and then buffering.
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – Buffering a lot becasue bitrate is too high for Wi-Fi, but when video plays it’s not smooth either with many dropped and skipped frames.
  • 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.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Kodi reports it plays at 8 to 10 fps, but it feels even slower than that. All four core at at 100% CPU usage.

I skipped the usual AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB, FLV and MP4 videos testing, but I still did play a 2-hour video (1080p / mkv / h.264) to test stability. The video did not feel very smooth, so I enabled Kodi debug overlay by pressing the ‘o’ key, and I regularly saw dropped and skipped frames, and the frame rate oscillated between 10 to 26 fps for that 24 fps video. Nevertheless, when I play the 2-hour video, I usually go to do something else, coming to check a few times, and after about one hour, I noticed I got back to the Android home screen. I did not connect the stick to my UPS, and I thought I heard a “micro” power failure (1 or 2 seconds), so I tried again, but it did play for one hour or so, and suddenly I saw the black, and shortly after the boot logo. So I rushed to scan the dongle with my infrared thermometer, and I go an amazing maximum temperature of 118 °C!

So proper video playback does not seem possible yet on Rockchip RK3288, and the small form factor even amplifies the issues, as it can’t play a full movie, at least at my room temperature (28 °C).

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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi)

I’m transferring a 278 MB between SAMBA and the internal flash, and vice versa, for three times in ES File Explorer to get an idea of the Wi-Fi performance, and at 2.62 MB/s on average, the performance is decent, but not clearly outstanding. The good thing is that there was very little variation between the tests, so performance is not that great, but it’s reliable.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Sixaxis Compatibility Checker indicated the driver in Z5C can handle Sony PS3 controller, but when I used my controller clone, I got the message “Fake controller detected, attempting workaround”, but it just got stuck there.

Right after, sixaxis test, I tried to enable Bluetooth in the Android settings, but it did not work. A reboot fixed that, and I guess is the Sixaxis app may have caused troubles with Bluetooth. I could then pair my phone with Z5c, and transfer pictures.

I install the APK for my Vidonn X5 fitness tracker in order to test Bluetooth Smart (BLE). The smart band could be detected, and the dongle retrieve data from it successfully.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be mounted and accessed.
Using my USB 3.0 hard drive was more problematic, as at times, it would just umount itself, or even not be recognized at all. But when it worked, it could detect all four partitions, but only mount the FAT32 and NTFS partition.

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

Due to stability issues, and I believe people are less likely to connect a USB hard drive to their stick than a full box, I skipped USB / NTFS benchmark, but still used A1 SD Bench to check the Samsung eMMC performance.

Read & Write Speed in MB/s

Read & Write Speed in MB/s

The eMMC flash has very good read speed (34.26 MB/s), but the write speed (6..62 MB/s) is not quite as good. Strangely, it’s still faster than the 6MB/s listed in Samsung eMMC product brief.  The fast read speed explained the quick boot time (25s), but I did not notice slowdowns due to the write speed.

Gaming

Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2 were the three games used for testing. No problem with Candy Crush Sag, as expected. I played the two racing games with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad, which works just fine as usual. Beach Buggy Blitz was ultra-smooth with maxed out graphics settings, but I decided to try to play a few races, and check the temperature with that games. At the second race, the stick rebooted automatically, and I measured up to 105 °C, and I was quite surprised, as it was the first time (I played games, before I played videos) I got a temperature over 100 °C with an Android gadget. I decided to let the stick cool down for about 2 minutes, which I reckon is way too short,  before “playing” Riptide GP2.  As you may gues,s I did not end-up playing very long, as the device rebooted very soon, and I measured a maximum temperature of 110 °C.

Z5C Thinko Benchmarks

I expected the CPU frequency to be lower in a tiny HDMI adapter, compared to the easier to cool down full size TV box, so I ran CPU-Z to check the information, and the maximum CPU frequency is still 1.8 GHz, which at least partially explained the very high temperature I got.Z5C_Thinko_CPU-Z

The CPU is still detected as a Rockchip RK3066 with eight Cortex A12 core clocked between 312 MHz and 1.8 GHz, so it seems CPU-Z developers are not that interested in keeping up to date with Chinese SoCs by Allwinner or Rockchip.The total memory is correctly reported as 2019 MB, and internal storage has 0.95 GB because the app only included the first partition.

Z5C_Thinko_Antutu

Antutu 5.3 score is quite lower than other Rockchip RK3288 devices. Z5C Thinko gets 29,001 points, whereas TV boxes such as Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta get around 37,000 points. If we look into the details of the scores, Z5C takes a hit with UX, RAM, and CPU tests, but the GPU performance is exactly the same. Storage I/O is also weaker probably because of the slower eMMC write speed. So a more aggressive governor must have been implemented, or the 1.8GHz frequency reported by CPU-Z and Antutu is incorrect.

Conclusion

Zero Devices Z5C Thinko is small, looks great, and comes with a powerful Rockchip RK3288 processor. But unfortunately, there are just oo many problem with the firmware right now, include potential unreliable USB hard drive support, poor video playback (mostly common to other RK3288 devices), and most importantly high temperature issues, which makes 3D gaming, continuous video playback, and other tasks that may require a sustained load currently impossible, as the stick will just reboot to “save” itself.

PRO:

  • Fast new processor
  • Gook looking, thin, and small. One of the rare TV sticks based on Rockchip RK3288 processor
  • Fast boot (25 seconds)
  • 4K and H.265/HEVC support (although it needs improvement)
  • Video Output – 1080p support 24, 25 ,30 , 50 and 60 Hz output. 4K @ 60Hz should be supported (not tested).
  • Support for OTA update (server detected, but not tested since no new firmware was available at the time)
  • Bluetooth features seems to all work (File transfer, BLE, and maybe Sixaxis)

CONS:

  • Gets extremely hot (I measured up to 118 °C), leading to reboot, and it might affect the useful life of the device.
  • No power button, or proper power off handling, which can lead to data loss.
  • Many issues with video playback including dropped/skipped frames,  and it failed the 2-hour movie playback, because of issue #1 (temperature).
  • 3D games are unplayable due to temperature issues
  • Potential USB hard drive issue (unreliable)
  • USB OTG adapter does not seem to work, at least with USB mass storage devices.
  • At first boot, Wi-Fi module was not detected. Fixed after reboot, and the problem did not occur again.
  • The internal storage partition is only 0.95 GB, and it can be full after installing a few apps.

So at this stage, Z5C Thinko can probably only be used reliably as a portable mini PC to browse the web, check emails, and interact in social networks. But they’ve got some serious work to do when it comes to video playback, USB support, 3D gaming, and overall bug fixing. The temperature issue may only be fixable by lowering the CPU frequency to 1.2 or 1.4 GHz, and for 3D gaming the GPU may also have to be clocked down, but then you’ll end up with a much less powerful platform than existing RK3288 solutions.

Zero Devices Z5C Thinko can be purchased for $94.99 on Asiapads including shipping. The company also offers a USB + Ethernet Hub for an extra $5.

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MINIX NEO X6 Media Hub Review

November 18th, 2014 8 comments

Last week-end, I took a few pictures of MINIX NEO X6 media hub, and had a look at the company’s firmware and forum support which indeed seems to be good. Today, I’ve completed the full review of MINIX NEO X6, and I will compare it to two of its lower priced competitors: MXQ S85 and EM6Q-MXQ.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The IR remote control works fine, including continuous up ad down pressing, but I switched to using Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse for convenience. I’ve connected an Ethernet cable, an HDMI cable, a micro SD card, a USB hard drive, and a USB hub with two RF dongles for my air mouse and gamepad, a USB flash drive, and a UVC webcam. I’ve connected the power, pressed the power button on the side of the box, but nothing happened at first… You have to press the button one second or more to start the box, then the blue LED turns off, a MINIX logo show ups, a few seconds later a short MINIX animation, and the first screen greets you asking to choose between “Launcher” and “MINIX METRO”, respectively the default Android home screen, or MINIX customized user interface. The boot takes about 1 minutes and 30 seconds. By comparison MXQ S85 takes a little over 40 seconds, and EM6Q-MXQ about 1m 50s.

MINIX Metro Interface (Click for Original)

MINIX Metro Interface (Click for Original)

The status bar is hidden by default, and I simply pulled it up with the mouse pointer to take a screenshot. But before carrying on with the review, I noticed the company released Firmware 002 for MINIX NEO X6, so I decided to check the Update app in Android (on Monday), but the new firmware was not on the update server.  I even asked if they had a schedule to push the OTA update, but I did not receive an answer in time for the review. So instead, I used the standard firmware update method which involves USB Burning Tool for Windows, and pressing the recovery button. I was a pain, I did it in VirtualBox, but after one error, it finally successfully updated the firmware.

Back to the review. For some reasons, my TV resolution was automatically detected to be at 720p60, so i changed the settings to 1080p60 manually. I’ve noticed that switching to 720p still keep the user interface to 1920×1080 resolution, so there’s no performance gain doing so.

The Settingd menu is based on the same Metro-style interface found in most Amlogic boxes, but with MINIX green and grey skin with four sub-sections: Network, Display, Advanced and Other. I’ve highlighted the differences with MXQ-S85 in bold, and crossed the deleted options.

  • 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, or 1080p @ 24/50/60 Hz
    • CVBS Mode Setting: 480 CVBS or 576 CVBS (if Composite output selected on TV).
    • Hide or Show status bar
    • Display Position
    • Screen Save (Never, 4, 8 or 12 minutes)
  • Advanced:
    • Miracast
    • Remote Control
    • Google TV Remote
    • CEC Control
    • Location for weather (Chinese cities only)
    • Screen Orientation settings
    • Digital Audio Output (Auto, PCM, S/PDIF pass-through, or HDMI pass-through)
    • No Output to USB Audio
  • Other – System Update: Local file or OTA (connects to server OK), Backup, and “More Settings” for standard Android Settings.

CVBS and S/PDIF options have been removed since those two ports are not available in MINIX NEO X6, and they rightly removed the “Location for weather” because the services only works for Chinese cities. “No Output to USB Audio” is enabled by default, and it’s probably there to avoid audio capable air mouse, such as Mele F10 Pro, to takeover HDMI audio output automatically.

I’ve made a video to show MINIX NEO X6 user interface, system settings, as well as H.265 video playback and automatic refresh rate switching which both work in XBMC 13.3.3 MINIX Edition.

About_MINIX_NEO_X6MXQ-S85 comes with an 8GB eMMC flash with a single 5.32GB partition, with a little under 4GB free by the end of my review. The model number is reported as being “NEO-X86″ in “About MediaBox” section, and the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.33. The firmware is not rooted, and I have not rooted it, but since a USB cable is provided for the OTG port, and the firmware upgrade procedure worked, it should be able to root the device.

I had no problem installing apps with Google Play Store including the something problematic Vidonn Smartband app, a paid app, and messenger apps (Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp) which would not install in MXQ S85 TV Box. I’ve also installed Amazon AppStore, in order to test Riptide GP2.

MXQ S85 could not be powered off cleanly, but MINIX NEO X6 has no such problem. The power button on the side of the box is used to power it on (need to press 1 second or more), and the remote control or the soft power button in the status bar are used to pop-up a menu to let your “Sleep”, “Restart”, or “Power Off”. The only downside is that you cannot turn on the media player with the remote control, and you have to get up to press the power button on the device. It must be the coolest device I ever tested (no pun intended), the maximum temperature measured after Antutu 5.2 was 37°C and 45°C respectively on the top and bottom of the box.  After playing Riptide GP2 for nearly 30 minutes, the maximum temperature on top and bottom reached 40°C and 46°C.

MINIX NEO X6 firmware is rock solid, as during my testing I did not experience any noticeable slowdown, crash, or freeze. One game did fail to load once, but at the second attempt it worked just fine. For some reasons, I also had problems to connect the SAMBA shared in XBMC at first, but finally I could connect. I never had the message “app not responding” pops up like in MXQ S85 and EM6Q-MXQ.

Video Playback

Firmware 002 comes with XBMC 13.3 MINIX Edition pre-installed, but I saw they have XBMC 13.3.3 Beta MINIX Edition recently released with automatic refresh rate switching, something I only heard was possible in Linux so far (with ARM hardware), and better support for .ts files. So I installed it to give it a try. The 1080p XBMC user interface is rendered at about 30 fps with this hardware. Normally, I’d play video from a SAMBA share in Ubuntu 14.04, but for some reasons I got the message “Connection Refused”, albeit I got it working just fine with ES File Explorer. So most of the video test were made from a USB hard drive.

I started with videos 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 – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK but not that smooth (S/W decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p OK, 1080p plays in slow motion all the time, and audio is cut.
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – OK, but it’s not possible to seek in the file.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

I also successfully tested automatic refresh rate switching with the HEVC / 1080p video @ 24 fps, where my TV output 1080p24 automatically, and reverts to 1080p60 after I interrupt video playback.

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) – OK, but could be smoother, and XBMC reports skipped and dropped frames regularly.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (Played from USB hard drive)

Next are some videos with high definition audio codec:

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / 7.1 – OK, but I got some noticeable skipped/dropped frame in the 7.1 video.
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA – OK
  • DTS-HR – Audio is OK, I got some noticeable skipped/dropped frame in the video.

Sintel-Bluray.iso played OK in XBMC, so Blu–Ray ISO files are supported.

As with other Amlogic S805 based Android TV boxes, AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB/IFO, and MP4 videos could all play fine, without A/V sync issues, or noticeable frame dropped. I also watched a complete 1080p video (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) to test stability, and no issue here either. So overall, video playback capabilities of NEO X6 are quite impressive.

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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

A 278 MB file is transferred between a SAMBA share (Ubuntu 14.04) and the internal flash, and vice versa, to test the network performance, repeating the test three times with ES File Explorer. Wi-Fi transfer speed is very good @ 3.01 MB/s on average, about the same as MXQ-S85, but not not quite as fast as the outstanding Wi-Fi performance of EM6Q-MXQ media player.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Ethernet worked fine at 100 Mbps connected to my Gigabit Ethernet switch, with performance a little better than other Amlogic S805 players.

MINIX_NEO_X6_SAMBA_Flash_Copy

Throughput in MB/s

I ran iPerf app using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line, to get a raw Ethernet performance number, and it confirms NEO X6 is still the best in its category (S805 boxes have green dots):

MINIX_NEO_X6_iPerf

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.105, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 48372 connected with 192.168.0.105 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   625 MBytes  87.4 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.1 sec   564 MBytes  78.7 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooth file transfer works as expected. MINIX NEO X6 is advertised as “m201″, and I did not experience any issues while transferring pictures from my Android phone to the box.

I skipped Sixaxis Compatibility Checker test, as the device is not rooted, and I did not try to root it.

I used Vidonn X5 fitness band to test Bluetooth Smart (BLE), but the app could NOT locate the smartband.

Storage

USB flash drive and a micro SD card formatted with FAT32 could be accessed by the system. NTFS and FAT32 partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed, but the EXT-4 and BTRFS partitions were completely ignored as usual.

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

USB hard drive and internal flash performance were tested with A1 SD Bench app. The read speed was 18.87 MB/s, and the write speed 22.37MB/s for NTFS partition in my USB hard drive (mounted in /storage/external_storage/sdb1). Both results are not very good, but equivalent to what I got with MXQ S85, yet much slower than EM6Q-MXQ.

Transfer Rate in MB/s

Transfer Rate in MB/s

MINIX claims to have use an eMMC flash with NEO X6, and the benchmark results indeed shows its the fastest S805 device when its comes to internal storage read and write speeds, achieving respectively 23.23 MB/s (read) and 9.95 MB/s (write), which makes sure the apps load a bit faster. Boot should also be faster, but for some reasons it’s not the case, at least against MXQ S85.

Read / Write Speed in MB/s

Read / Write Speed in MB/s

USB Webcam

I could make an audio call with Skype using the “Echo Service”, and the webcam was recognized and working, but although I could record a video message, it would never show up, and I could not share it with my contact. Google Hangouts also recognizes the USB webcam, but the image freezes a lot, so it’s currently unusable.

Gaming

I played the three usual suspects: Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2. Candy Crush Saga was responsive enough, and I crushed candy with my air mouse. I used Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad for Beach Buggy Blitz and Riptide GP2. Beach Buggy Blitz exited while loading the first time, but after that it worked. The quad core Mali-450 GPU is powerful enough to handle this game at a decent frame rate with the default settings (low graphics settings), even at 1080p. The system struggles a bit more with Riptide GP2, but changing the graphics quality to “Smoother Framerate” improve the user experience. I played several races waiting for the usual freeze in Riptide GP2 on Amlogic devices, but I decided to give after the 7th races (about 30 minutes), as the game was still running good. I’m not sure if Amlogic or MINIX did something to the firmware, or Vector Unit changed something in their game.

3D games are working and, NEO X6 appears to be more stable than other Amlogic devices, but if gaming is important to you, you should still consider a faster devices based on Rockchip RK3288 processor for instance.

MINIX NEO X6 CPU-Z & Antutu Benchmark

I failed to have a look at the board in MINIX NEO X6 unboxing post, but CPU-Z provides some interesting insights, which could explain some of the close results with MXQ S85 in several benchmarks above. The model number is reported as NEO X6 (m201), whereas MXQ-S85 was reported as S85 (m201). At first I thought the board could be virtually the same, except MINIX took out S/PDIF, and replaced a standard NAND flash, by an eMMC flash, but the connectors placement are quite different, so they must really be different, and I’m not sure what m201 means in this case.

MINIX_NEO_X6_CPU-Z

The media hub gets 1716,448 points in Antutu 5.2, which is a bit faster than the scores achieved by EM6Q-MXQ (16,647), and MXQ S85 (16,448), mostly because the CPU is clocked at 1,536 MHz instead of 1,488 MHz, and faster I/Os.

MINIX_NEO_X6_Antutu

Conclusion

There’s no doubt MINIX NEO X6 is a good device. Firmware is very stable, I did not experience slowdowns, video playback is excellent, with rare features like H.265 support in XBMC, and automatic refresh rate switching, Ethernet and Wi-Fi both offer good throughput, 3D games won’t hang like in most Amlogic boxes, and the main downside is probably the rather poor USB / NTFS read and write performance, which becomes an issue in case you have very high bit rate videos (120 Mbps+) stored on a USB hard drive.

PRO:

  • Firmware is stable, and relatively fast (considering the processor involved)
  • Excellent XBMC support including H.265/HEVC support, and automatic refresh rate switching.
  • Good Wi-Fi, and Ethernet performance
  • Video Output – Supports 1080p24/50/60 (but not 25/30 Hz)
  • 3D games play without issues. (Performance is not optimal however due to the GPU/CPU)
  • Good power handling, although the device can’t be turned on with the remote control.
  • OTA firmware update
  • Webcam works with Skype
  • Support forum and community

CONS:

  • USB / NTFS storage performance is disappointing.
  • Bluetooth Low Energy / Smart is not currently supported.
  • OTA firmware upgrade connects to server, but firmware files may not be uploaded to the update server in a timely manner. (TBC)
  • USB webcam did not work reliably in Google Hangouts.
  • The remote control can’t power on the device.
  • Lacks optical S/PDIF output
  • Relatively slow boot time (1m30s) despite eMMC flash

MINIX NEO X6 media hub is clearly a better device compared to the low cost MXQ S85 and EMQ6-MXQ media players, albeit its outperformed in some individuals tests. Overall, there are less issues, XBMC runs better, and if support and regular firmware updates, probably for a year based on experience with previous MINIX devices, are important to you, it could be worth paying double price to buy MINIX NEO X6 instead of MXQ S85. For $100, you could also buy one of the many Rockchip RK3288 media player, and if video playback is not your focus, web browsing and gaming will be much faster, but if your main usage will be to play 1080p videos, including with the latest HEVC/H.265, NEO X6 capabilities are greater than on any of the RK3288 TV boxes I’ve tested so far. Devices based on Amlogic S812 will also be an option, in theory providing both the same excellent video playback (up to 4K), and much faster CPU/GPU performance, but it’s something I’ll test soon.

Tinydeal provided the sample for this review, and if are interested in the device, you could buy  MINIX NEO X6 for $99.99 including shipping on Tinydeal.  It is quite popular. so it can be found on many online resellers including DealExtreme, Amazon, Pandawill, GeekBuying, etc…

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Tronsmart Draco AW80 Octa core Android TV Box Review

November 9th, 2014 53 comments

Tronsmart Draco AW80 (click for full specs) is the first octa core Android TV box / mini PC thanks to Allwinner A80 processor. Draco AW80 Meta model comes with 2GB RAM / 16GB eMMC, and the upcoming Draco AW80 Telos will feature 4GB RAM and a 32GB eMMC. Geekbuying sent me the Meta version for review, and since I’ve already posted pictures of the device and board, today I’ll post my findings after testing the unit.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve inserted two AAA batteries in the provided remote control, and it works as expect, but as usual, I’ve used Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse to control the device during my testing, since it’s impossible to use most apps with an IR remote control, XBMC/Kodi being one exception. I’ve connected an HDMI cable, a USB 3.0 hard drive to the USB 3.0 OTG port of the TV box, an Ethernet cable, a USB webcam, inserted an SD card, as well as a USB hub with RF dongles for my air mouse and Mars G01 gamepad, and USB flash drive. There’s no power button, and the board boots immediately as you connect the power. It takes about 44 seconds to complete, which is quite slower than the 20 seconds with Rockchip RK3288 TV boxes coming with a fast eMMC such as HPH NT-V6 or Kingnovel R6.

Android Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Android Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

We’ve got a clean Android home screen without any icon. The output resolution was 720p by default, but I switched to 1080p60.

About_Draco_AW80Let’s go to the Android Settings. The Wireless and Networks menu features the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and Data Usage sections, as well as a “More” section with VPN, and Tethering & portable hotspot.… You can enable pass-through in the Sound Settings, and select three audio output modes: “AUDIO_CODEC”, “AUDIO_HDMI” and “AUDIO_SPDIF”. The dpi settings are set so that he box is better used as a mini PC (1 meter from screen) rather than a TV (e.g.3 to 4 meters) and the font size is quite small, so you may want to change the font to “Huge” if you are using the device as a TV box. The Display menu also let should select several output modes: 720p 50/60, 1080p 24/50/60 or 4K 30 for HDMI ,and PAL or NTSC for composite output. I’ve only used HDMI, not composite output.

The 16 eMMC flash in Tronsmart Draco AW80 Meta is partition in a single 12.04 GB “internal storage” partition for apps and data, with over 11.2GB available space. There are also some options to “enable media scanning” on SD card and USB, and enable “Blu Ray directory play mode”, but I’m not sure what’s the exact use of these functions.

The “About Box” section lists the model number as Draco AW80, and Android 4.4.2 running on top of Linux kernel 3.4.39. The build number is jaws_tvd_p1-eng 4.4.2 KOT49H 20141024 test-keys, which jaws_tvd_p1 being the board/platform name. The firmware is  rooted, and the “System Update” (no s) menu can perform OTA updates. I haven’t been able to test this feature, as there’s no new firmware, but the server check seemed to work.

In the video below, I boot the device, and go though the system settings, and play a video in Kodi.

I could install all apps required for the review from Google Play Store, except Vidonn activity tracker app again reported as “incompatible with your device”. This happens with many devices, so it could be any issues wit hthe app, rather than the firmware. I’ve also downloaded and installed Amazon AppStore in order to load Riptide GP2 game, which I got as a “free app of the day”.

Power handling may look like a detail, but the lack of power off function may lead to flash corruption because you need to cut the power from the mains, so I first was disappointed when I discovered Draco AW80 did not have power button in the unit itself. But luckily, they’ve done things right after all. The first time you connect the power supply, the box will start automatially, but you can use the remote control (Mele F10 Deluxe also work) to put the box in to standby (short press), or power the device off (long press). You can also turn it back on with the remote control power key, so you don’t need to get up from the sofa…. Thanks to the large heatsink and metallic enclosire, the box stays pretty cool, and after Antutu benchmark, the maximum temperatures measured with an infrared thermometer on the top and bottom of the box were respectively 39°C and 41°C.

Draco AW80 firmware is very stable, and the box feels fast and snappy, with a performance “feeling” pretty similar to Amlogic S802 and Rockchip RK3288 based devices. I did not have any problems of the box hanging, except with Riptide GP2 as we’ll see below.

Video Playback

This media player comes pre-loaded with Kodi 14-alpha 3. Normally, I would use a SAMBA share to play video over Ethernet, but at first XBMC/Kodi failed to find any network shares, so instead I played most videos from a USB hard drive, and only switched to SAMBA + Gigabit Ethernet later for the remaining videos, once I manage to connect. If Kodi had problem to play a particular video, I switched to MX Player for further testing.

Videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus H.265/HEVC video by Elecard, and a low res VP9 sample:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p
    • Kodi – It can play smoothly at first, but after several seconds, many frames are dropped, leading to a slow motion effect.
    • MX Player – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK. Smoother than other ARM platforms.
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container
    • Kodi – XBMC simply exits once I tried to play these samples
    • MX Player – Black screen with H/W decode. The videos can only be played by selecting S/W decode, which looks OK for 480p/720p, but can be choppy in some scenes @ 1080p.
  • Vp9 (low re) – OK

Most videos can play, even though I had to switch to MX Player for smooth MPEG2, but H.265 / HEVC video completely failed to play with both players.

Higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK, no problem even in fast moving scenes
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK at first, for some frames are skipped and dropped near the end.
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK, but many frames are dropped, so the video does not feel that smooth.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK both from USB and SAMBA (Ethernet).

High definition audio codec:

  • AC3 – OK, but aspect ratio strangely set to 1:1.
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

Sintel-Bluray.iso could play well in XBMC/Kodi, so Blu-Ray ISO are also supported.

Yet again 4K videos are a disappointment, especially with the latest HEVC/VP9 codec, but none of the recent devices can handle all of these properly.

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4

    • Kodi – OK most of the time, but some frames are skipped
    • MX Player – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK!
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – Slow motion (S/W decode) in Kodi, and even in MX Player where the app (incorrectly) mentions H/W decode.
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – Slow motion (S/W decode) in Kodi, and even in MX Player where the app (incorrectly) mentions H/W decode.
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts – Slow motion (S/W decode) in Kodi, and even in MX Player where the app (incorrectly) mentions H/W decode.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (3840×2160)
    • Kodi – The app exits
    • MX Player – S/W decode, super slow as with HEVC videos

I’ve also been asked to try 1080i MPEG2 videos, so I did just that:

  • GridHD.mpg – OK
  • Pastel1080i25HD.mpg – OK

Finally, I played some several AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB and MP4 videos all from the SAMBA share, and they could all play. However, I could notice some serious dropped / skipped frame issues in a t least two videos, sometimes it plays smooth for a while, and suddenly frames start to be dropped. I could not find a sure way to reproduce the issues.

In order to test stability, I also played a 1080p H.264 MKV video (1h50), and I had no problem. I did not notice frames dropped during my periodic checks, but Kodi did report 522 dropped frames, and 1021 skipped for the whole movie. As a side note, Kodi/XBMC normally makes use of all cores available on a platform, but with Allwinner A80 only two cores are used.

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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

In order to evaluate network performance, I transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa, using ES File Explorer, and repeat the test three times. Since Draco AW200 support both 802.11 b/g/n (2.4/5.0Hhz) and 802.11ac (5.0GHz), I use both my default router TP-Link TL-WR940N router for 802.11n, and TP-Link TL-WDR7500 (Archer C7) for 802.11ac testing. Wi-Fi performance of this mini PC is quite good reaching 2.89 MB/s (23.12 Mbps) for 802.11n, and 4.010 MB/s (32.08 Mbps) for 802.11ac with a reported link at 390 Mbps.

Draco_AW80_Wi-FI_Performance

Draco AW80 Wi-Fi Throughput (MB/s)

This mini PC is one of the few devices I’ve tested with a properly working Gigabit Ethernet connection, the only other being Orion R28 Meta, also from Tronsmart. I’ll also tested it by copying a file between SAMBA and the internal flash for reference only, since the transfer is limited by the flash writing speed, but this still gives an idea of time it would take to copy a file.

SAMBA  Flash File Copy Over Ethernet in MB/s

SAMBA Flash File Copy Over Ethernet in MB/s

As we’ll see below, the fastest storage option in this box is a USB hardware drive formatted with FAT32, where I can transfer a 928MB file between SAMBA and USB FAT32 in 44 seconds (21.09 MB/s), and from USB FAT32 to SAMBA (SSD) in just 35 seconds or about 26.50 MB/s.

Draco_AW80_Gigabit_Ethernet_Performance

Throughput in Mbits/sec

For a raw network performance number, I also used iPerf app and iperf in my Ubuntu PC, using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line in Android. I’ve only tested Gigabit Ethernet, and skipped Fast Ethernet.

In the chart above, but Kingnovel K-R6 and HPH NT-V6 only transfer data quickly in one directory, and are painfully slow in the other directory. Draco AW80 Meta could make a transfer at 736 Mbits/sec in on direction, but only 234 Mbits/sec in the other. as you can see from iperf output below:
------------------------------------------------------------
 Server listening on TCP port 5001
 TCP window size: 85.3 KByte (default)
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 [ 4] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.102 port 43225
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 Client connecting to 192.168.0.102, TCP port 5001
 TCP window size: 204 KByte (default)
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 [ 6] local 192.168.0.104 port 38064 connected with 192.168.0.102 port 5001
 [ ID] Interval Transfer Bandwidth
 [ 4] 0.0-60.0 sec 5.14 GBytes 736 Mbits/sec
 [ 6] 0.0-60.0 sec 1.63 GBytes 234 Mbits/sec

I’ve got about the same numbers with A80 OptimusBoard, a development board powered by Allwinner A80, so the asymmetric performance may be due to limitations of the Allwinner octa core processor (TBC).

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I could transfer a few pictures by pairing “Draco AW80″ to my ThL W200 Android smartphone.

I managed to connect my PS3 wireless controller clone to the device with Sixaxis Compatibility Checker app, and get the device recognized by following those instructions.

I installed vidonn.apk manually, since It’s reported as not compatible in Google Play, and my Vidonn X5 activity tracker could connected to the device with Bluetooth 4.0 LE, and data was synchronized properly.

So full mark for Bluetooth!

Storage

Both a micro SD card and USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be mounted and accessed by the system
NTFS and FAT32 partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted, and read/written to, but as usual EXT-4 and BTRFS are not working.

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 benchmark performance of the internal flash and USB 3.0 partitions. I also planned to test the SATA connector, but taking out the hard drive from the USB enclosure prove a bit more challenging than expected, so I skipped that part. I set the custom location to /mnt/usbhost0/8_17 in the benchmark app to test the NTFS partition. Since my external drive is a USB 3.0, and it can deliver 100+ MB/s read speed, and 46 MB/s write speed (NTFS partition) in my PC, I was expecting some very good results. But I quickly got disillusioned, as it’s even slower than some other devices with a USB 2.0 connection. The read speed was 25.29MB/s, and the write speed of 12.57MB/s.

Draco_AW80_USB_NTFS_Performance

Read and Write Speeds in MB/S

Draco AW80 has actual the slowest USB NTFS write speed ever recorded. I also experienced a slow write speed with A80 OptimusBoard, even worse at 3 to 4MB/s, but never published due to other issues, so I’m simply guessing Allwinner SDK has not been optimized for NTFS performance. To prove the point, I also tested the FAT32 partition (/mnt/usbhost0/8_19), achieving a more respectable 36.32 MB/s and 24.61 MB/s for respectively read and write speeds. These are still USB 2.0 kind of numbers however…

I haven’t tested SATA, but since it’s based on a USB 2.0 to SATA bridge, you should experience a similar or slower performance compared to the USB 3.0 hard drive.

The Samsung eMMC found on the board has pretty decent performance, but quite far from the theoretical values (160/50 MB/s) with 32.41 MB/s read speed,, and a 11.06 MB/s write speed.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

It’s not quite as fast as some RK3288 devices, which partially explains the relatively slow boot time. Nevertheless that’s fast enough, and I only experienced a severe slowdown once (mouse pointer stuck for 2 or 3 seconds) while I installed multiple apps.

USB Webcam

Skype works OK, both with Echo service in Skype, and making a call. However, once I tried to record a video message, and it looked OK during recording, but the video was corrupted when I played it.

Google Hangouts is basically unusable, as it quits whenever I start a chat session.

Gaming

The three usual games where used to test gaming: Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2. I played Candy Crush Saga with Mele F10 Deluxe, and it was nice and smooth as expected, and the two racing games with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad. Beach Buggy Blitz is ultra smooth even with graphics settings set to the maximum. However, I had great problems while playing Riptide GP2. The first time, the image simply froze after 6 seconds in my first race, but I had used to box a few hours before. So I waited for a little while bit, and restarted the box. I could play one full race relatively smoothly, but in the second race the image froze again. Sometimes, the races won’t even load, so it was quite a disaster with that. So I also had to skipped the temperature measurement after the game, so I would not play it for more than 3 to 4 minutes if I was very lucky.

Tronsmart Draco AW80 Meta Benchmark

Before benchmark the device, I ran CPU-Z app toget some more information. An octa core processor is detected with ARM Cortex A15 cores, so it seems CPU-Z does not handle heterogeneous CPU architectures for now. The GPU is correctly detected as an Imagination Technologies PowerVR Rogue G6230. The model is called Draco AW80 (jaws_tvd_p1), with 1624 MB RAM (the rest being used by the GPU. VPU, and other hardware blocks), and the storage partition is 12.04 GB just like in the Android settings. The screen resolution in pixel and dp are the same at 1920×1032, which explains why the font looks small. Other systems often have a lower dp resolution, but if you plan to use the system as a computer a higher resolution in dp is better.

Draco_AW80_Allwinner_A80_CPU-Z

With 49,657 points (unverified), Draco AW80 is by far the fastest Android mini PC on the market, at least according to Antutu. Having said that, silicon vendors and manufacturers tend to try to cheat with Antutu, so the score should not be blindly relied upon.

Tronsmart_Draco_AW80_Antutu_5.0

That’s why i could be useful to run other benchmark, such as Vellamo 3.x.

Tronsmart_Draco_AW80_VellamoFor some reasons the scores are significantly lower than on Rockchip RK3288 (Nagrace HPH NT-V6) for all three benchmarks: 2,109 points for the Browser test (vs 2,549), 1,138 points for the Metal test (vs 1,457), and 1,352 points for the multicore test (vs 2,003). The latter is all the more surprising because Cortex A15 cores are supposed to be faster than Cortex A12/A17 cores, and Allwinner A80 has 8 cores to play with (4x A7, 4x A15) instead of the four Cortex A12/A17 on RK3288. Maybe the scheduler reduces the frequencies of the cores if they all run simultaneously. I’ll write a separate post to compare all these results side-by-side between A80 and RK3288.

Ice Storm Extreme benchmark score (6,461) in 3DMark is also lower compared to Rockchip RK3288 based media players which score between 7,000 and 7,500 at 1080p resolution.

Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

Conclusion

Tronsmart Draco AW80 has some exciting specifications with a fast octa-core processor, high speed interfaces like USB 3.0, SATA, and Gigabit Ethernet, and the potential to support Linux. The device feels fast indeed, and stable, with very good Wi-Fi and working Gigabit Ethernet (a rare thing!). Video playback is OK most of the time, but VP9 and H.265 are simply not properly supported in either Kodi and MX Player, and I’ve noticed some apparently random issues with skipped frames while playing some videos. USB 3.0 performance is disappointing, and if you thought SATA would bring a boost in storage performance, I would not hold my breath (not tested) as it’s implemented via a USB 2.0 to SATA bridge. So all in all it’s a pretty good device, but maybe not just as good as could have been expected from the specs.

PRO:

  • Fast new processor, the only octa core mini PC / TV box in the market (excluding some ODROID development boards)
  • Very good 3D graphics (when ti works)
  • Stable and fast firmware.
  • USB 3.0, and SATA interfaces (with caveats)
  • Very good Wi-Fi performance, and Gigabit Ethernet working
  • Video Output – 1080p support 24, 50 and 60 Hz output. 4K @ 30Hz should be supported (not tested).
  • Proper power off/standby handling.
  • Aluminum casing and heatsink keep the device cool (40 C).
  • Webcam supported in Skype
  • Bluetooth well supported – File transfer, Bluetooth Smart (BLE), Sixaxis gamepad
  • OTA update appears to be supported
  • Support forum

CONS:

  • Some 3D games may have problems to run, at least, Riptide GP2 is basically unplayable for me due to the game freezing.
  • H.265 / VP9 codec not supported properly in both Kodi/XBMC and MX Player
  • Skipped frame issues in some videos (appears to start randomly).
  • Google Hangouts can be used with webcam (can’t start chat).
  • Slow write speed on NTFS/USB partition, USB 3.0 performance slower than most TV boxes with USB 2.0 port. SATA should be the same (USB 2.0 to SATA bridge)
  • Gigabit has an asymmetric performance (720Mbps / 220 Mbps) according to iperf, but still good enough for most use cases.

Tronsmart Draco AW80 Meta reviewed in this post sells for $149 on GeekBuying, and the upcoming Draco AW80 Telos with 4GB RAM and 32GB eMMC flash is available for pre-order for $199, and is expected to ship by the end of the month. You can also purchase either model on Aliexpress or DH Gate.

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Nordic Semi Announces nRF51 DK Arduino Compatible Board, and nRF51 Dongle with Bluetooth Smart, ANT, and 2.4GHz Connectivity

October 29th, 2014 No comments

Nordic Semiconductor has introduced two new low cost development boards supporting Bluetooh LE, ANT/ANT+, and proprietary 2.4GHz applications based on their nRF51 series SoCs: nRF51 DK, an Arduino UNO Rev.3 compatible board that can be used for various IoT and wearables applications, and nRF51 Dongle, a USB dongle to connect to a PC or board, which can be useful for packet sniffing and BLE peer connection.

nRF51 DK Development Board

nRF51_DK

Key features listed for the board:

  • SoC – Supports nRF51822 (BT/2.4Ghz) and nRF51422 (BT/ANT) SoCs based on an ARM Cortex M0 processor, with 128kB or 256kB flash memory, and 16kB or 32kB RAM.
  • Connectivity
    • Bluetooth Smart, ANT/ANT+ and 2.4GHz proprietary
    • Integrated PCB antenna
    • Connector for RF measurements
  • Expansions Headers
    • Arduino Uno Rev. 3 compatible connector for use with 3rd party shields
    • All I/O and interfaces available via connectors
  • Debugging
    • Segger J-Link OB and ARM CMSIS-DAP Program/Debug supported
    • Support for Program/Debug of external target boards
    • Pins for power consumption measurements
  • Misc – 4x user LEDs, 4x user buttons, power switch, reset button coin-cell battery holder (back of the board)
  • Power Supply – 3.6v -1.6v, battery and USB, external
  • Dimensions – 101 x 63 mm
nRF51 DK Pinout

nRF51 DK Pinout

nRF51 DK board supports Keil MDK, IAR Workbench, and GCC toolchains, as well as ARM mbed for rapid prototyping and development using mbed’s cloud-based IDE and toolchain. Software architecture is divided into two layers: Application, SoftDevices, the company’s embedded protocol stacks that include Bluetooth Smart peripheral stack, Bluetooth Smart B-link central stack, Bluetooth Smart concurrent central/peripheral/broadcaster/observer stack, ANT/ANT+ 8 link stack, and Bluetooth Smart peripheral/ANT 8-link stack. Documentation and tools including user’s guides, development tools and drivers, hardware reference files, can be downloaded on Nordic website, sometimes publicly, but most of the times after purchasing nRF51 DK kit. The board also supports OTA-DFU (Over The Air Device Firmware Update) for on-field wireless firmware updates.

The kit includes nRF51 DK board, a CR2032 battery, and 5x nRF51 Series SoC samples, and can be purchased for $69 from Nordic Semi’s distributors, such as Digikey or Mouser. More details can be found on Nordic’s nRF51 DK product page.

nRF51 USB Dongle

nRF51_DonglenRF51 Dongle is a tiny USB dongle that can comes with a user button, an RGB LED, a few GPIO headers, and be used for software development on the nRF51 Series SoCs, and is especially useful when used in conjunction with the company’s nRF Sniffer and Master Control Panel (MCP) firmware and software. nRF Sniffer tool capture BLE packets, which can be viewed in the well-known Wireshark network capture and analysis utility.

Key features listed for nRF51 Dongle:

  • Connectivity – Bluetooth Smart, ANT and 2.4GHz
  • Supports Master Emulator – Bluetooth Smart Peer connection firmware
  • Debugging:
    • Virtual COM port interface through UART
    • Segger J-Link OB and ARM CMSIS-DAP Program/Debug supported
  • Misc – User-programmable RGB LED and button, 6x solder pads for GPIO/interface connections
  • Dimensions – 16 x 28 mm

Development is done very much the same way as with nRF51 DK, including the same toolchains from Keil, IAR, GCC. and ARM (mbed), SoftDevices stacks, and it also support OTA-DFU.

Documentation and tools can be downloaded from nRF51 Dongle page, and the board is available for $49 from various distributors such as Mouser or Digikey.

Via Embedded.com

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MXQ S85 Android TV Box (Amlogic S805) Review

October 11th, 2014 32 comments

MXQ S85 and EM6Q-MXQ are two main Full HD H.265 Android media players based on Amlogic S805 currently selling on Chinese online stores. I’m lucky enough to have received both, and I’ve already completed the review for EM6Q-MXQ, so today I’ll complete MXQ S85 review and compare both devices. I’ve already taken picture of the device, accessories, and checked out the board’s components in my unboxing post, so in this post, I’ll focus on the user interface, evaluate performance, and test most hardware features of this media player.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve started by a quick test of the IR remote control, and it works as expected after inserting two AAA batteries, before switching to Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse for convenience. I’ve connected all ports of the device except the S/PDIF output: Ethernet cable, HDMI and AV cables, micro SD card, USB hard drive, USB webcam, and a USB hub with two RF dongles for my air mouse and gamepad.  I’ve connected the power, pressed the power button opn the top of the box, a Blue LED turns off, “Google TV” icon appears on TV and in a little more than 40 seconds the boot completes. It’s not quite as fast as higher RK3288 TV boxes (20s), but it’s much better than the boot time on EM6Q-MXQ (1m 50s), so the flash must be faster.

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

The user interface is the Android Home screen, but you can also switch the MediaBox launcher with a Metro-style user interface found in many Amlogic S80X TV boxes, by going to the “Home” section in Android settings. The box automatically selected 1080p60 Hz video output, and the user interface resolution is 1920×1080 as you can infer from the screenshot above. I’ve noticed that switching to 720p still keep the user interface to 1920×1080 resolution, so there’s no performance gain doing so.

The “Setting” menu is based on the same Metro-style interface as EM6Q-MXQ with four sub menus: Network, Display, Advanced and Other. I’ve highlighted difference in bold.

  • 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, or 1080p @ 24/50/60 Hz
    • CVBS Mode Setting: 480 CVBS or 576 CVBS (if Composite output selected on TV).
    • Hide or Show status bar
    • Display Position
    • Screen Save (Never, 4, 8 or 12 minutes)
  • Advanced:
    • Miracast
    • Remote Control (app)
    • CEC Control
    • Location for weather (Chinese cities only)
    • Screen Orientation settings
    • Digital Audio Output (Auto, PCM, S/PDIF pass-through, or HDMI pass-through)
  • Other – System Update: Local file or OTA (not working), Backup, and “More Settings” for standard Android Settings.

So it’s exactly the same as EM6Q-MXQ, except the current firmware also supports 1080p @ 24 Hz.

I’ve also tested composite output, and both 480 CVBS and 576 CVBS settings worked fine. There’s no component (YPbPr) output in this box.

I have not made a video for MXQ S85, because it’s very similar to EM6Q-MXQ, except you have the option to switch between the Android home screen or MediaBox launcher, 1080p24 is supported, and S85 is a little more responsive. But you can watch the video I shot for EM6Q-MXQ if you haven’t already where I walk through the user interface and settings, XBMC user interface (1920×1080 UI rendered at 30 fps), and show H.265 video playback in MX Player.

About_MXQ_S85MXQ-S85 comes with an 8GB NAND flash with a single partition (8.00 GB – black magic again…), and at the end of the review I still had 4.01 GB free. Looking into “About MediaBox” section, we can find out that the model number is “S85″, and the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.33. The firmware is rooted, and after I started the review I found firmware 106k4 (an updated to version 105k4 used for the review), which you can probably flash with Amlogic USB flash tool, but I have not tried.

All apps I needed for the review could be installed with Google Play Store including Antutu, 3D Mark, ES File Explorer, MX Player, Beach Buggy Blitz, A1SD benchmark, Sixaxis Controller, etc… However, as I scrolled through the list of apps installed on other Android devices, there were a few incompatible apps notably some messaging apps (Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp), Instagram, Google Translate, and a few others. But you can usually work around these issues by spoofing your device name with an app (paid), or changing build.prop. I’ve also downloaded and installed Amazon AppStore, in order to play Riptide GP2.

Albeit the box features a power button, power handling is not perfect, as a clean power off is not possible. You can either use the remote control power button to enter and exit standby, and the power button on the unit, can be used to achieve real power off, and to turn the device on, but it’s and hardware power off which powers off the device immediately, Android does not cleanly shuts down. The device temperature is pretty cool: 40°C and 46°C measured with an infrared thermometer respectively on the top and bottom of the box, right after running Android 5 benchmark. And after playing Riptide GP2 for about 10 minutes (at which stage the game froze), the maximum temperature on top and bottom reached 42°C and 46°C…

The system very pretty stable, but just like with EM6Q-MXQ, attempting to play a 4K video in XBMC will freeze the system requiring a hard reboot. However, the flash is fast enough no to experience various slowdowns, or making apps randomly exit. Android did pop up the “app not responding” windows at load time for some games, so it’s not perfect, but answering “wait” will start the games normally. Nevertheless, although it’s clearly not as snappy as the latest Amlogic S802 or Rockchip RK3288 based mini PCs, I did not find MXQ S85 frustrating to use, unlike EM6Q-MXQ.

Video Playback

Videos were playing from SAMBA share in Ubuntu 14.04 over Ethernet using XBMC 13.1 pre-installed in the system, switching to MX Player for videos that failed to play. I had no problems connect to SAMBA with XBMC and ES File Explorer.

I started with videos from samplemedia.linaro.org, H.265/HEVC videos by Elecard, as well as a (low resolution) VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK but not that smooth (S/W decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p OK, 720p some rare parts in slowmo, 1080p plays in slow motion all the time.
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container
    • XBMC – Audio only
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode), but seeking does not work properly. It will switch to S/W decode, and the video becomes unwatchable.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video)
    • XBMC – Won’t even start
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode).

Then I played some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – XBMC: audio only; MX Player: black screen only, no audio.
  • 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) – OK, but could be smoother, and XBMC reports skipped frames regularly.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (Played from USB hard drive)

Videos with high definition audio codec could be played in XBMC (with performance issues), but not in MX Player (except AC3):

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA – OK
  • DTS-HR – SAMBA: Audio completely cuts after a few seconds. USB: No problem with audio, but video feels slow.

A Blu-ray ISO video (Sintel-Bluray.iso) played perfectly in XBMC.

I tested over a dozen other videos from my library (AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB/IFO, and MP4 containers), and they could all play with any A/V sync issues. I also watched a complete 1080p video (1h50 / MKV / 3GB), so no problem with stability either.

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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

A 278 MB file between a SAMBA share (Ubuntu 14.04) and the internal flash, and vice versa, repeating the test three times with ES File Explorer. Wi-Fi transfer speed is still pretty good @ 2.95 MB/s on average, although not quite as fast as EM6Q-MXQ media player.

Wi-Fi Transfer Rate in MB/s

Wi-Fi Transfer Rate in MB/s

Ethernet worked at 100 Mbps connected to my Gigabit Ethernet switch, with performance similar its competitor. Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta is way ahead, simply because it’s the only box I have that actually supports Gigabit Ethernet.

Ethernet Transfer Rate in MB/s

Ethernet Transfer Rate in MB/s

For a raw benchmark of Ethernet performance, I ran iPerf app using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line. It does not quite maxes out Fast Ethernet bandwidth like Rockchip RK3288, but results are similar to EM6Q-MXQ just like with the test above.

TCP window size: 136 KByte (default)
————————————————————
[ 6] local 192.168.0.104 port 57781 connected with 192.168.0.106 port 5001
[ ID] Interval Transfer Bandwidth
[ 4] 0.0-60.0 sec 476 MBytes 66.5 Mbits/sec
[ 6] 0.0-60.0 sec 566 MBytes 79.1 Mbits/sec

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Contrary to the version of EM6Q-MXQ I reviewed, MXQ S85 comes with Bluetooth.

I could transfer pictures from my Android phone to the box over Bluetooth, Sixaxis Compatibility Checker appeared to support PS3 wireless gamepads, but my controller was not recognized.

Bluetooth LE (Smart) was tested with Vidonn X5 activity tracker, but unfortunately the app could not locate the device over BLE.

Storage

FAT32 formatted micro SD card and USB flash drive could be recognized and properly mounted by the system
Only NTFS and FAT32 partition on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed. That’s common to all Android mini PCs I tested, except A80 OptimusBoard which could mount the EXT-4 partition too (but in read-only mode).

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 benchmark USB hard drive and internal flash performance. The read speed was 16.92 MB/s, and the write speed of 21.87MB/s fore NTFS partition in /storage/external_storage/sda1, both results being weak.

MXQ_S85_USB_NTFS_Benchmark

USB HDD (NTFS) Read and Write Speeds

The NAND flash speed is clearly not outstanding at 15.8 MB/s (read) and 6.83 MB/s (write), but still better than EM6Q-MXQ, and apparently good enough for a smooth operation of the device most of the time.

MXQ_S85_NAND_Flash_BenchmarkUSB Webcam

I had troubles with both Skype and Google Hangouts with my USB webcam. I did manage to see the image in Skype once, but never long enough to make a phone call. The camera is not detected at all in Hangouts.

Gaming

Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2 could run on the box. I played Candy Crush Saga with my air mouse, and switched to Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad for Beach Buggy Blitz and Riptide GP2. For each game, the system showed up pop up with “App XXX is not responding. Do you want to close it?”, but selecting “Wait” could load the games just fine. Beach Buggy Blitz framerate felt good using the default settings (low res), but I did notice some very short freezes (<1s) from time to time. Riptide GP2 is not really enjoyable with default settings (high resolution), but lowering the resolution makes it relatively enjoyable to play. Riptide GP2 freezing I encountered on other Amlogic s802/S805 devices, and Allwinner A80 development board occurred yet again, after just around 10 minutes of play time. I’m not sure if the game itself is buggy, or the GPU drivers/libraries are. I checked the maximum temperature on the top and bottom of the device at that time, and I got 42°C and 46°C.

Even if games can run, the gaming experience is not great, and you should really consider spending more to get a Rockchip RK3288, or not as good, Amlogic S802 devices if you are really interested in playing games. Nvidia Tegra K1 devices should even be better but in a completely different price category.

MXQ S85 Benchmarks

CPU-Z shows the device is indeed powered a quad ARM Cortex A5 processor clocked between 24 MHz and 1.49 GHz, but instead of using a performance governor, MXQ S85 is using a hotplug (on-demand). The board is m201, which can be a useful thing to know in case you download firmware files. FYR, EM6Q-MXQ is based on hd18t board.

Amlogic_S805_CPU-Z_MXQ_S85

The devices gets 16,448 points in Antutu 5.1 which is consistent with the score I got with EM6Q-MXQ (16,647).

MXQ_S85_Antutu_5.1

There are some differences in Vellamo 3 however, with a lower Browser score (812 vs 1061), a higher multicore score (1319 vs 1139). The metal score is about the same.

Vellamo_3_MXQ_S85

Ice Storm Extreme test in 3DMark is about the same with 2,308 points (vs 2,325 for EM6Q-MXQ), and clearly shows the relatively low performance of the quad core Mali-450MP GPU used in S805 compared to high-end SoC with better GPUs.

S85_3D_Mark_Ice_Storm_Extreme

Conclusion

MXQ S85 is actually a pretty good device and performance considering the price (<$50). Wi-Fi and Ethernet are pretty decent, video codecs/containers is quite good in XBMC, and H.265 can be played in MX Player, but not yet in XBMC. The firmware is pretty stable, and I did not come across massive slowdowns like in EM6Q-MXQ.

PRO:

  • The firmware is stable, relatively smooth to operate, and only hung when trying to play 4K videos
  • Good XBMC support.
  • HEVC/H.265 hardware video decoding support. Working in MX Player, but not with XBMC (yet)
  • Very good price/performance ratio.
  • Good Wi-Fi, and decent Ethernet performance
  • Video Output – Supports 1080p24/50/60 (but no 25/30 Hz), and composite output (NTSC/PAL).

CONS:

  • Despite having a power button, power off is not perfect (no clean power off)
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (mostly used for wearables) is not currently supported.
  • OTA firmware upgrade is not working
  • USB / NTFS storage performance is disappointing.
  • USB webcam did not work reliably for me in either Skype and Hangouts.
  • “App xxx not responding” message may appear while loading large apps such as games.

Gearbest provided the sample for review, so if you are interested in purchasing you could do so on their site for $47.99 (with MXQBCM coupon), or for $45.99 (with MXQCM coupon) for the version without Bluetooth. Coupons are valid until November 30, 2014. MXQ-S85 can also be found on other stores including DealExtreme, Amazon US, Dealsmachines, and Aliexpress.

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KDDI Unveils Tiny BLE/Zigbee Development Board Running Mozilla Firefox OS

October 6th, 2014 3 comments

KDDI has recently announced Open Web Board, an HDMI TV stick powered by Rockchip RK3066, and running Firefox OS, just like the recently announced MatchStick. The board is however aimed at embedded and web developers who want to create apps for Firefox OS, and interface with external devices over Bluetooth Low Energy or Zigbee (optional module) communication, optionally using Gluin, a web based graphical “application development tool that enables simple linking programming between electronic devices”.

Open Web Board (Click to Enlarge)

Open Web Board (Click to Enlarge)

Open Web Board specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3066 dual core Cortex A9 processor @ 1.6 Ghz with Mali-400 MP4 GPU
  • System Memory – 1 GB RAM
  • Storage – 8 GB flash
  • Video Output – HDMI
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port, 1x micro USB for power
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (AP6210 module), Bluetooth 2.1 (HFP/A2DP/AVRCP)/4.0 GATT. and optional Zigbee via external module
  • Dimensions – Small

This dongle runs Firefox OS 1.4. KDDI showcased the board at Mozilla Open Web Day in Tokyo yesterday (05/10/2014), with ToCoStick wireless (Zigbee?) dongle as shown in the picture above.

Screenshot of Gluin Graphical Development Tool

Screenshot of Gluin Graphical Development Tool

KDDI launched a developer website called “au Firefox OS Portal Site” (Japanese), although it appears mostly under constructions at this stage with limited information. I could not find price information, and it will probably only be available in Japan. However, somebody already ported MatchStick Firefox OS firmware to MK808. so you may be still be able to play with KDDI solution as long as they release the full source code, if you own another Rockchip RK3066 mini PC.

Via Liliputing and Mini PCs Community.

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