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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 20 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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Review of Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta 4K/H.265 Android TV Box

October 3rd, 2014 4 comments

It’s been a little while since I unboxed Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta Android TV box, but since the product was still consider “beta” by GeekBuying, I wanted to wait for a OTA firmware update (109k4), which was released at the beginning of the week. Since I’ve already listed the technical specifications, and showed pictures of the board and device, I’ll focus on feature tests and benchmarks results in the review.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I quickly tried the basic infrared remote control, inserting two AAA batteries, and it does the job, but for Android, you really need a pointing device, so I switched to Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse during testing. I’ve connected a whole bunch of cable, and peripherals to the box including an HDMI cable, a USB hard drive, an Ethernet cable, a USB webcam, and a USB hub with RF dongles for my air mouse and gamepad, and USB flash drive. When you connect the power, it won’t start immediately, and just need to press the power button on the device to boot it up. The remote can not turn the box on. Boot time is about 35 seconds, a bit longer than the 20 seconds boot time I experienced in some other Rockchip RK3288 powered media player.

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Orion R28 TV boxes only coem with the standard Android home screen, so if you prefer a TV friendly launcher, you’d have to install one from Google Play. The task bar can be shown or hidden with the double arrows icon on the right. The user interface resolution is set to 1920×1080.

The Android settings are pretty standard. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and Data Usage menus, as well as a “More” section with VPN, Portable Hotspot, etc… can be accessed in Wireless and Networks section. Display settings include font size adjustment, overscan compensation menu, video output selection (HDMI /  YPbPr / TV), and resolution: “auto”, 1080p 24/25/30/50/60Hz, 720p 50/60, 720×576 or 720×480. If you own a 4K UHD TV, you should also get some extra options up to 4K 60Hz. “TV” mode is composite output, and you can select PAL or NTSC, whereas YPbPr will only support 480p and 720p (no 1080p). “Default Output” (PCM), “Spdif Passthough”, and “HDMI Bitstream” (HDMI pass-through) options are available in the Sound settings (pass-though not tested). The review was done using HDMI output, but I’ve also tried composite and component (YPbPr). Composite output works for PAL and NTSC, but there was the usual green bar at the bottom with NTSC. For once, I managed to make YPbPr work, but only in greyscale (Luminance Y), with the Chrominance signals apparently not outputted..

NTSC (Click to Enlarge)

Composite – NTSC (Click to Enlarge)

PAL (Click to Enlarge)

Composite – PAL (Click to Enlarge)

Component - YPrPb 720p (Click to Enlarge)

Component – YPrPb  (Click to Enlarge)

There are three version for Orion R28: Pro with 8GB flash, Meta for 16GB flash, and the upcoming Telos with 32GB flash. My model is R28 Meta with a 16GB eMMC partitioned into a 1.91GB “Internal Storage” partition for apps, and a 16 GB (black magic alert!) “NAND FLASH” partition for data, with about 11.6 GB available space. I have not checked the free space in the “Internal Storage” partition before thr review, but after installing the applications required for the review, I had just 564 MB available, so some people will want to install custom ROMs to tweak the partition allocation.

The “About device” section includes to OTA updates option: “system updates”, and “wireless update”. You’ll need to click on Wireless Update to install new firmware updated. I’ve done so with upgrading 108k4 firmware to 109k4 firmware. The OTA update did not delete my existing apps and account settings.

Wireless Update In Progress (Click to Enlarge)

Wireless Update In Progress (Click to Enlarge)

Other information include the model number: Tronsmart Orion R28, the Android version: 4.4.2, the kernel version: 3.10.0, and the vendor software version: 109k4. The firmware is already rooted.

I’ll skip the user interface / settings video here, because it’s just the same as other RK3288 TV boxes, minus a custom launcher.

I managed to install most apps via Google Play such as ES File Explorer, MX Player, Antutu, Beach Buggy Blitz, CPU-Z, etc…  Some incompatible apps include Vidonn, Fruit Ninja, and a few others. I’ll also installed Riptide GP2 through Amazon AppStore.

Power Off/standby handling is mostly OK. A short press on the remote/box power button will put the device into standby mode, and by pressing the power button again will make it active. A long press on the power button (remote/box) will pop-up the Android menu with Power Off/Silent Mode, for a proper power off. One annoyance is that you can’t power the device with the remote control, and you need to press the power button on the box itself. If you use Mele F10 Deluxe the power button is the same, and power off work, but I could not go into standby, as the screen would just turn off for one or two seconds before becoming active again. Tronsmart Meta R28 becomes pretty hot, but it’s a common “feature” for all RK3288 boxes. The maximum temperatures measured with an infrared thermometer on the top and bottom of the box were respectively 52°C and 59°C after Antutu, and 57°C and 67°C after playing Riptide GP2 for over 20 minutes.

The firmware is stable and smooth, and I only had one freeze while playing an FLV video in XBMC. I never experienced slowdowns, but boot time, and to a lesser extend app loading is not quite as fast as on HPH NT-V6 or Kingnovel R6, because the eMMC flash read throughput is not quite as high on R28, as we’ll see below.

Video Playback

All other RK3288 devices I tested came either without XBMC, or with XBMC 13 (custom version) pre-install, but Kodi 14-alpha4 came with 109k4 firmware, so it’s interested to see if there are any improvements. The test environment includes an Ubuntu 14.04 server with a SAMBA from which I play videos from Kodi/XBMC, or MX Player in case of issues, over Ethernet.

Let’s start with some videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, to which I added H.265/HEVC and VP9 videos:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK. Some hardly noticeable blinking effect in scenes with grass/trees, but it also happens on my PC, so it could be the original video.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p
    • XBMC – Audio only
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode)
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK and relatively smooth, but not as perfect as on PC (VideoLAN)
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container
    • XBMC – 360p and 720p – OK, except seeking does not work. 1080p – many scenes are not smooth, and all 4 CPU cores are maxed out due to software decode.
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode)
  • VP9 (low resolution) – OK.

This version of Kodi can handle H.265 decode by software up to 720p, MPEG-2 playback seems better, but VC1 videos are still not supported.

Next are some 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
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Audio only (That’s the VC1 codec issue in Kodi).
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

I usually play Jeelyfish-120-Mbps.mkv from a USB hard drive because of the high bitrate, but since Gigabit Ethernet is working fine, that’s the first device that can play it over SAMBA.

High definition audio codec could play (downsampled) in XBMC and MX Player:

  • AC3 – OK (but aspect ratio set to 1:1 is Kodi)
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

Kodi handled a Blu-ray ISO file (Sintel-Bluray.iso) properly.

Yet again none of my 4K video samples could play successfully in Kodi, with somewhat better results in MX Player:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4

    • Kodi – OK most of the time, but skips about 60 frames at the end of the video (The image will freeze before the end of the video).
    • MX Player – Not so smooth, and audio stops well before the video is complete (audio/sync issue?)
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv
    • Kodi – Many frames dropped.
    • MX Player – Severe decoding issues. Like I see the garbled video in five small screens.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265)
    • Kodi – Slow motion
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode)
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265)
    • Kodi – Slow motion
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode)
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265)
    • Kodi – Slow motion.
    • MX Player – Plays with S/W decode in slow motion.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9)
    • Kodi – Won’t start.
    • MX Player – Slow motion (maybe 1 to 3 fps)

Finally, I went through my video library with AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB and MP4 videos. Some FLV video would make the system freeze, requiring an hard reset. At least one video suffered from audio/video sync issues. I could play a  complete 1080p video (1h50) in Kodi, so at least the system appear to be stable, even if many videos can’t be played smoothly. This is not unique to Tronsmart Orion R28 by the way, as other RK3288 boxes are also pretty poor when it comes to video playback.

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’ve now testing both 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi with TP-Link TL-WR940N router, and 5GHz (802.11n/ac) with TP-Link TL-WDR7500 (Archer C7) router. The test consists in transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa. ES File Explorer is used for this purpose, and the test is repeated three times. But before going through the test results, here’s an interesting image…

Tronsmart_Orion_R28_Meta_WiFi_SignalWhereas I get about -49 dB on my phone, the Wi-Fi signal strength in Orion R28 is much lower (-68 dB). As an experiment, I’ve also removed the Wi-Fi antenna in case it was just a bad contact, but it drops to about -82 dB, so there’s another problem somewhere else. That means in Android I only get a “fair” signal, instead of the “excellent” I normally get with other devices in my office, behind just 6 meters (+wall) from the router.

Wi-Fi Throughput in MB/s

Wi-Fi Throughput in MB/s

The weak signal did not seem to affect 802.11n transfer rate, bt may have impacted 802.11ac which ended up being slower than 802.11n… However, I’d expect it to affect range quite a bit, as normally I get signal that weak when I’m in the garden about 15 meters from the router.

At last! An Android mini PC where Gigabit Ethernet works for me! I could transfer a 885 MB file between the internal flash and SAMBA @ about 14 MB/s on average.

Ethernet Throughput in MB/s

Ethernet Throughput in MB/s

Although this test usually works well with Fast Ethernet, the internal storage’s read/write speed will be the bottleneck with Gigabit Ethernet transfer, so transferring from SAMBA to flash is significantly slower (11.8MB/s) than from flash to SAMBA (19.66 MB/s), and even more so from USB HDD to SAMBA (28.5 MB/s), yet it gives an idea of actual file transfer performance between the network on the device.

In order to  get a true estimate of Gigabit Ethernet performance,  I used iPerf app and iperf in my Ubuntu PC, using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line in Android. Gigabit Ethernet first, followed by Fast Ethernet:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.110, TCP port 5001
 TCP window size:  425 KByte (default)
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 [  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 58157 connected with 192.168.0.110 port 5001
 [ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
 [  6]  0.0-60.0 sec  5.22 GBytes   747 Mbits/sec
 [  4]  0.0-60.0 sec  5.74 GBytes   822 Mbits/sec
 [  5] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.110 port 37834
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 Client connecting to 192.168.0.110, TCP port 5001
 TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 [  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 58259 connected with 192.168.0.110 port 5001
 [  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   655 MBytes  91.6 Mbits/sec
 [  5]  0.0-60.1 sec   661 MBytes  92.4 Mbits/sec

Fast Ethernet performance is excellent, very close to the theoretical 100 Mbps achievable, and I’d assume Gigabit Ethernet performance will please most people with 747 Mbps and 822 Mbps.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooth transfer from phone to Android media player is working fine.

The device is rooted, and I could confirm my PS3 Bluetooth gamepad clone is properly recognized with Sixazis Compatibility Checker.

However, I failed to connect to my Vidonn X5 activity tracker, so it could mean Bluetooth Low Energy (Smart) is not working.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be automatically mounted and accessed by the systems.
For once, I could see four partitions in ES File Explorer (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK2 directory), but as usual only the FAT32 and NTFS partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted.

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

I benchmarked the NTFS partition (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK2/USB3_NTFS) with A1 SD Bench. Read transfer rate: 27.50 MB/s, write transfer rate: 22.68 MB/s. Both numbers are not that great, but I suppose still acceptable. Orion R28 is on the right on the chart.

Orion_R28_USB_Harddrive

The eMMC flash has a decent write speed (13.58 MB/s), but the read speed (20.19 MB/s) is over half of other competing products based on Rockchip RK3288. The latter will mostly affect boot time, and app loading time during normal use.

Tronsmart_Orion_R28_eMMC_Performance

USB Webcam

I could make a video call with my UVC USB webcam in Skype with both audio and video working, but I had to make a few tries, and Skype hung a few times with Android asking me to kill or wait for Skype to respond.

Google Hangout recognized my webcam, and could make a video call, unfortunately all I got was a black screen. Audio worked however.

Gaming

I played Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2. As usual ran very nicely on RK3288 thanks to the Mali-T764 GPU. I played Candy Crush Saga with Mele F10 Deluxe, and the two racing games with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad. Both Beach Buggy Blitz and Riptide GP2 were smooth with maxed out graphics settings, although the latter would benefit from an even faster GPU at times. Temperature measurements after playing Riptide GP2 for over 20 minutes: 57°C (top) and 67°C (bottom).

Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta Benchmark

No surprise here with 36,865 points in Antutu 5.1. It’s slightly faster than NT-V6 because the processor is clocked at 1.8 GHz instead of just 1.6 GHz.

Orion_R28_Meta_Anutut_5.1

Vellamo 3.x scores are just as expected, and comparable to other Rockchip RK3288 mini PCs.

Orion_R28_Meta_Vellamo

Ice Storm Extreme benchmark score (7,513) is about the same as other RK3288 TV boxes, even in the higher range, as these report scores between 7,000 and 7,500+.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Conclusion

Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta comes with a fast processor, excellent 3D graphics performance, and a decent, although not outstanding eMMC. The firmware feels smooth, and I only experience one system freeze in XBMC/Kodi while playing an unsupported video file. It’s also the only Android mini PC where Gigabit Ethernet actually works for me, so this is a big plus, although issue with other models maybe only be due to interoperability problems with my   Gigabit switch. There are also some downside like weak Wi-Fi signal, yet with above average Wi-Fi performance, and video playback needs improvement, especially in XBMC/Kodi, but other Rockchip RK3288 media players have the exact same issues.

PRO:

  • Fast new processor
  • Good platform for games with excellent 3D graphics performance, and support for RF and Bluetooth (PS3) gamepads.
  • Stable and fast firmware.
  • First and only box with working Gigabit Ethernet so far (for me).
  • Video Output – 1080p support 24, 25 ,30 , 50 and 60 Hz output. 4K @ 60Hz should be supported (not tested). Composite is working.
  • Support for OTA update
  • Support forums
  • Proper power off/standby handling.

CONS:

  • Kodi/XBMC has too many issues: VC1 not supported, H.265 only supported by software, audio/video sync issue, few 4K videos could play properly, may hang system, etc…
  • Weak Wi-Fi signal, although performance is OK.
  • Video output – Component does not fully work  (grayscale only)
  • Webcam not working properly (black screen) in Google Hangouts. OK in Skype but the app does not seem very stable.
  • Bluetooth Low Energy may not be working

Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta can be purchased for $119.99 on GeekBuying or Aliexpress, You can also get a cheaper model without 802.11ac support (just 802.11 n/g/n) and only 8GB eMMC, called Orion R28 Pro, for $99.99 on GeekBuying or Aliexpress.

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Review of Nagrace HPH NT-V6 Android Mini PC Powered by RK3288 with 4GB RAM, 32GB Internal Storage

September 30th, 2014 8 comments

Last week-end, I finally received TP-Link TL-WDR7500 router (Chinese variant of Arched C7) router, so I could complete my review of Nagrace HPH NT-V6 including 802.11ac Wi-Fi. I’ve already listed the specifications, and taken a few pictures of the device and the board, and today I’ll focus on the test results. I’ll start by giving my first impressions, going through the user interface and settings, before testing video playback, as well as benchmarking networking, storage and overall system performance, playing some games, and testing most hardware features of this mini PC.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

A simple infrared remote control is provided with the device, and I’ve quickly tried it by inserting two AAA batteries, and it works fine, but for the rest of testing I switched to Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse to control the device, as it’s much more user friendly than any IR remote. Before booting up the device, I’ve connected an HDMI cable, a USB hard drive, an Ethernet cable, a USB webcam, and a USB hub with RF dongles for my air mouse and gamepad, and USB flash drive. Finally connect the power supply to boot the device in about 20 seconds.

NT-V6 User Interface (Click to Enlarge)

NT-V6 User Interface (Click to Enlarge)

The company has made their user interface, but in a similar style than the one common found in Amlogic S802 devices. On the top right, you’ve network status (Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Bluetooth). The status bar won’t show in the main menu, but in some other apps and settings, you’ll be able to access it. A large section with 9 folders can be found on the left with Movie (Videoplayer), XBMC (yes a folder too containing XBMC, so you have to click twice), Music, Game, Browser, Stream (Youtube and Netflix), Screencast, Social and Market. On the right, you’ve got the time, and weather (that does not work), and four more icons: “My Device” (Actually a file manager), “All Apps”, “Settings”, and “All Tasks Killer”. The user interface resolution is set to 1920×1080.

The Android settings are very similar to other RK3288 TV box. The Wireless and Networks menu comes with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and Data Usage sections, as well as a “More” section with VPN, Portable Hotspot, etc… Display settings let you set the font size, adjust the screen size, select between HDMI, YPbPr (Component), and “TV” (Composite) video outputs, and the resolution: “auto”, 1080p 24/25/30/50/60Hz, 720p 50/60, 720×576 or 720×480. I don’t own a 4K UHD TV, but if I did, there should also be some 4K options. You can choose between “Default Output” (PCM), “Spdif Passthough”, and “HDMI Bitstream” (HDMI pass-through) in the Sound settings. HDMI video output is working, but composite and component (YPbPr) video outputs failed to work. An AV cable was not included, so I used some other cables, and I could only see a black screen. Audio (L/R) works fine.

What about HDMI In? I’ve connected Orino R28 meta to the HDMI input port of the NT-V6, clicked on HDMI IN app, and I could see R28 user interface, but apart from that I could not do much. Things like Android notifications of the “host” won’t show up, as as it stands the HDMI In function is just like a cheap HDMI switcher. To go back to main user interface, simply press the back key on the remote.

The version of HPH NT-V6 I got comes with a 32GB eMMC, other options includes 8, 16 or 64 GB, which is partitioned into a 1.91GB “Internal Storage” partition for apps, and a 25.99 GB “NAND FLASH” partition for data. After I installed all applications I needed for this review, I was left with 568 MB available. It would have been preferable to design the system with a single flash partition, or make the “Internal Storage” a bit bigger. Nevertheless with 26 GB for data, there’s plenty of data, even to download and place movies directly from eMMC flash.

The “About device” section only lists the model number (HPH-F0-N6) and the Android version (4.4.2). It’s running on top of Linux kernel 3.10.0, but it’s not indicated in this section. The firmware is not rooted, and NT-V6 is another device with a USB A receptacle, instead of a micro USB port, and I could not root it via the OTG port since I don’t have a proper cable. There’s a System Update app for OTA firmware upgrades, and the firmware version is currently 1.1.9 in my device. I’m not 100% sure it works, because I have not received a firmware upgrade yet.

In the video below, I boot the device, and go though the user interface, and system settings.

Google Play Store mostly works. I could install most apps, install a paid app, such as ES File Explorer, MX Player, Antutu, Beach Buggy Blitz, CPU-Z, etc…  Vidonn activity tracker app was reported as “incompatible with your device”. I discover an easy way to quickly scan through compatible apps that you’ve installed in other devices previously with the same account. Go to My Apps->All in the Play Store, and you can scroll down to see which apps are already installed, or incompatible. You can also select multiple apps, and click Install for bulk installation. Since I got Riptide GP2 as a “free app of the day”, I installed Amazon AppStore to install the game.

Power control work as it should. A short press on the remote will put the device in standby mode, and you start it again but pressing the remote button again. A long press on the power button will pop-up the Android menu with Power Off/Airplane Mode/Silent Mode, in order to achieve true power off. A press on the box button will have the same effect. When the device is powered off, you can press the remote power button, or the power button on the media player, although I’ve found the latter does not always work… It takes 3 to 4 second for power LED to run blue after pressing the power button, so it’s a bit confusing at times. and you need to wait 4 seconds to make sure you’ve really powered the device on. Both the included remote control and Mele F10 Deluxe could power on/off NT-V6. As with other RK3288 devices, the case may become hot. After Antutu benchmark, the maximum temperatures measured with an infrared thermometer on the top and bottom of the box were respectively 58°C and 64°C, and 58°C and 66°C after playing Riptide GP2 for over 20 minutes.

HPH NT-V6 mini PC is very stable, and I never had a reboot and hang up during my 6-8 hours testing. Boot time (20s) and XBMC load time (2s) are very similar to Kingnovel R6 as both integrate a fast eMMC flash.

Video Playback

Video playback results are the same as Kingnovel R6 (previously known as K-R68), so I invite you to visit R6 review for video testing. To summarize, a version of XMBC 13 alpha12 is pre-installed, and suffers from not-so-smooth MPEG2 playback (in some files), lack of support for VC1, some 4K videos are not smooth at all, as well as audio/sync issues.

What’s different however is that I could play some HEVC/H.265 videos in XBMC:

  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (Elecard 360p / 720p / 1080p) – Audio only
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts – Won’t start to play

I’ve also test some VP9 videos. They can’t be played in XBMC, but can in MX Player:

  • out9.webm (low resolution) – OK. H/W decode according to MX Player.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (3840×2160) – Maybe 1 or 2 frames per second, still with H/W decode according to MX Player, but internally it’s certainly using S/W decode.

I also played a complete FullHD video (1h50) with XBMC to test stability. I had the same slow XBMC exit as with other boxes, which does not happen all the time, and apparently only during scanning or other background tasks.

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)

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 repeating the test three times. I now have two routers, but I’ll keep testing 2.4GHz Wi-Fi with my old TP-Link TL-WR940N router, and test 5GHz Wi-Fi with TP-Link TL-WDR7500 (Archer C7) which also support 802.11ac. I already tested NT-V6 in TL-WDR7500 review, and found the connected with NT-V6 to be unstable, and not that fast. That was on Sunday… But on Monday I tested it again, and the performance and stability was much better. I have no idea why. The only differences are: it was raining on Monday, and I was the only  one using Wi-Fi, whereas on week-ends, TL-WR940N may get 4 to 5 connected clients. So it went from 1.92 MB/s to 3.91 MB/s average speed with 802.11n, and 3.02MB/s  to 4.85 MB/s with 802.11ac, the best performance I ever got with Wi-Fi.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

The top line is with 802.11ac, and the second line with 802.11n @ 2.4GHz. But as I said this chart may overestimate the actual Wi-Fi capabilities of NT-V6, and performance seem irregular… Using “sunday” results, 802.11ac would have been in third position in the chart, and 802.11n between Vega S89 and VidOn.me AV200.

And now Ethernet…. I had rather disappointing performance with Fast Ethernet, and still more problems with Gigabit Ethernet… I should really buy another Gigabit switch to make sure that’s not the root cause.

Fast Ethernet Performance in MB/s

Fast Ethernet Performance in MB/s

I could actually get a Gigabit Ethernet connection, but I got a transfer rate of 250 KB/s from network to flash, and 1.8MB/s from flash to network…

In order to get a “pure” network test, 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. It clearly show some issues with both Fast and Gigabit Ethernet, and whereas one direction has good performance, the other is problematic (100Mbps first, then Gigabit):

Client connecting to 192.168.0.108, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 35429 connected with 192.168.0.108 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]  0.0-60.1 sec   672 MBytes  93.8 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.1 sec  81.0 MBytes  11.3 Mbits/sec
Client connecting to 192.168.0.108, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 35764 connected with 192.168.0.108 port 5001
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec  6.16 GBytes   882 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.9 sec  16.5 MBytes  2.27 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

File transfer over Bluetooth works fine. I use ThL W200 Android smartphone to send a picture to NT-V6.

I skipped Sixaxis test for PS3 Bluetooth Gamepad support, because the firmware is not rooted, and I’m not sure how to root it without OTG cable.

Vidonn X5 activity tracker was used to test Bluetooth 4.0 LE. I could not install Vidonn app from Google Play (incompatible), so I instead installed vidonn.apk, and successfully connected to my wristband to get the data. Note-to-self: make sure to set the time on the mini PC before making the connection to the wristband, or it will mess with the data…

Storage

The system could detect and mounted a micro SD card and USB flash drive formatted with FAT32.
It seems nobody is interested in having EXT-3/4 working for external storage in Android, and as usual only the NTFS and FAT32 partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted.

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

I benchmarked the eMMC and the NTFS partition on my hard drive with A1 SD Bench. There does not seem to be a standard for mount points in Android, and firmware from various (SoC) vendors, have different mount points. In this firmware, the NTFS partition is located in /mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK2/USB3_NTFS. The read speed was 35.62MB/s, and the write speed of 15.08MB/s, so NT-V6 gets both the best read speed, and the worst write speed of all devices I tested.

MB/s

USB NTFS Performance in MB/s

Hopefully, the only solution is some optimization for NTFS writing speed.

The Samsung eMMC found on the board has very good performance, reading at 55 MB/s, and writing at 18 MB/s.

MB/s

MB/s

Beside fast loading times, a product with a fast eMMC is much less likely to experience slowdowns.

USB Webcam

I could test audio successfully with the Echo service in Skype, but unfortunately although my webcam appeared to be detected in both Skype and Google Hangouts, I could only see a black screen during video calls.

Gaming

Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2 all worked pretty well. I played Candy Crush Saga with Mele F10 Deluxe, and the two racing games with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad. Beach Buggy Blitz is super smooth all the time, even after maxing out graphics settings. Riptide GP2 is very playable as well, but not optimal all the time, but clearly mini PCs based on Rockchip RK3288, and much better than the rest of Chinese Android mini PCs thanks to its Mali T-764 GPU. I played the latter game for over 20 minutes to test stability, and I did not encounter any specific issues. Temperature measurements after game: 58°C (top) and 66°C (bottom).

Nagrace HPH NT-V6 Benchmark

CPU-Z app returns similar data as other TV boxes with Rockchip RK3288 processor being a four Cortex A12r0p1 core processor with a Mali-T764 GPU, except this time, the CPU frequency is between 312 MHz and 1.61 GHz, instead of topping at 1.8GHz for other devices.. I could also check there’s indeed 4GB RAM installed with over 2700 MB free.HPH_NT-V6_CPU-Z

NT-V6 could achieve G1H got 35,321 points in Antutu 5.1, a bit lower than Kingnovel R6 score (37,428), most probably because of the lower CPU frequency.

HPH_NT-V6_Antutu

I had not run Vellamo 3.x  test in R6 media player, but the scores in NT-V6 are better than the ones for Uyesee G1H.

HPH_NT-V6_Vellamo_3

Ice Storm Extreme benchmark score (7,056) in 3DMark is however a bit lower than the two other RK3288 box I tested (7,278 and 7,531).

Ice Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

Ice Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

Conclusion

Nagrace HPH NT-V6 is a pretty good hardware with a fast processor, excellent 3D and eMMC storage performance. The firmware is stable, and provides a smooth user experience, without slowdowns. Wi-Fi can be excellent too, but stability may be an issue. As with other Rockchip RK3288 devices I’ve tested,  video playback in XBMC is rather disappointing, but at least there’s partial HEVC/H.265 codec support. partial, nbecause only some caontainers appear to be supported.

PRO:

  • Fast new processor
  • Excellent 3D graphics performance for games
  • Stable and fast firmware.
  • Memory and Storage capacity (4GB / 32GB)
  • Excellent Wi-Fi performance, when it works
  • Fast eMMC, both for reading and writing speeds.
  • Both 720p and 1080p user interfaces are supported
  • Video Output – 1080p support 24, 25 ,30 , 50 and 60 Hz output. 4K @ 60Hz should be supported (not tested).
  • Partial HEVC/H.265 video decoding support in XBMC.
  • OTA update appear to be support
  • Proper power off/standby handling.
  • HDMI In

CONS:

  • XBMC has too many issues: VC1 not supported, H.265 support only partial, audio/video sync issue, some MPEG-2 and XVID videos are skipping frames, some of the 4K videos I used could play properly, etc…
  • Some MPEG-2 file won’t play smooth in either XBMC or MX Player
  • Potential Ethernet issues, confirmed with my Gigabit switch (D-Link DSG-1005A) and 10/100Mbps D-Link router (configured as a switch).
  • Video output – Component and composite do not work atall (black screen)
  • Webcam not working properly (black screen) in Skype and Hangouts
  • Relatively slow write speed on NTFS/USB partition.
  • Wi-Fi may be unstable at times
  • HDMI In support is quite basic (only as HDMI switcher)

HPH NT-V6 with 4 GB RAM and 32 GB eMMC (as reviewed in this post) purchased for $189 including shipping by DHL or EMS, but there’s also a 2GB RAM/16GB eMMC available on Aliexpress for $129 + shipping. I’ve also been told Ugoos UT3 is based on the same board (TRN6A), but should have a different firmware. It is listed on Chinavasion for $149.99, and DealsPrime for $134.99 (bot 2GB/16GB versions). Resellers and distributors can check out Nagrace NT-V6 product page to order in quantities.

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Getting Started with LinkIt ONE Development Kit for Wearables & IoT

September 21st, 2014 2 comments

After going through WRTnode Quick Start Guide, it’s now time to play with LinkIt ONE, the IoT development board from Mediatek designed by Seeed Studio. LinkIt ONE is the first Hardware Development Kit (HDK) for Mediatek LinkIt, so there may be a LinkIt TWO, and/or other hardware platforms in the future.

LinkIt ONE specifications

Let’s quickly go through the specifications first:

  • Processor – Mediatek MT2502A (Aster) ARM7 EJ-STM processor @ 260 MHz
  • System Memory – 4 MB
  • Storage – 16MB Flash for firmware + micro SD slot shared with SIM slot for up to 32GB additional storage
  • Connectivity:
    • Wi-Fi – 802.11 b/g/n (MT5931) with external antenna
    • Bluetooth – BR/EDR/BLE(Dual Mode)
    • GPS – Mediatek MT3332 with external antenna
    • GSM/GPRS – 850/900/1800/1900 MHz band, Class 12 GPS with external antenna
  • Audio – 3.5mm headphone jack (including mic support) – Support for MP3, AAC, and AMR codecs.
  • Serial – Software Serial (Serial), and Hardware Serial (Serial1, D0 & D1)
  • Expansion Headers
    • Arduino UNO headers including digital I/Os, 3x analog input, PWM, I2C, SPI, UART3 etc..
    • UART and I2C Seeed Studio Grove interfaces
  • Power
    • 5V via micro USB
    • I/O – DC Current Per I/O pin: 1mA
    • Li-Po Battery Support
  • Dimensions – 8.4 x 5.3 cm

LinkIt ONE Unboxing

I’ve received the kit in a package reading “LinkIt ONE – The Ultimate Development Board for Wearables and Internet of Things”.

LinkIt_ONE_PackageThe back of the package has some explanation about various features and capabilities of the board and two links:

LinkIt ONE, Antennas, and Battery (Click to Enlarge)

LinkIt ONE, Antennas, and Battery (Click to Enlarge)

Beside LinkIt ONE board, the package comes with three antennas (Wi-Fi, GPS, and GPRS), as well as a 1000mASh Li-Po battery.

LinkIt ONE (Click to Enlarge)

LinkIt ONE (Click to Enlarge)

The Grove interface are the two headers just above LinkIt ONE marking with UART and I2C connectivity use to add modules made by Seeed Studio, but you can also connect Arduino shields using the Arduino UNO compatible headers. The board can be powered by the micro USB port on the left, or a battery connected to the connector on the bottom left. Power source is selected by a switch (USB / BAT). The headphone jack (stereo + mic) is located on the top right.

Back of LinkIt ONE Board (Click to Enlarge)

Back of LinkIt ONE Board (Click to Enlarge)

On the back of the board, there’s a SIM/ micro SD card slot combo, and a metallic shield (for EMI) covering the main components, mostly MT2502A, since the SoC integrates memory, MCU, Bluetooth, and the PMU into a single chip. You’ll find the three antenna connectors on the right of the picture.

LinkIt ONE Quick Start Guide

At first I went to http://labs.mediatek.com/linkit to download LinkIt SDK, after registering with Mediatek Labs. You can also optionally download the Hardware Reference Guide with the datasheets for Aster (MT2502A), Wi-Fi (MT5931), and GPS (MT3332) chips, as well as schematics and PCB layout in Eagle format, and high resolution pinout diagram which I reproduced below.

LinkIt ONE Pinout Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

LinkIt ONE Pinout Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

The SDK file is named Mediatek_Linkit_SDK_for_Arduino_1_0_34.zip that contains a file called Mediatek_Linkit_SDK_for_Arduino_1_0_34.exe. Alright, time to start a Windows 7 VM… The Wiki however states that “Arduino IDE for LinkIt ONE supports Windows only. Mac and Linux will be supported in the near future.

At first I failed to install the SDK, but I found I’ve found better resources in LinkIt ONE Wiki, which also links to LinkIt Developer’s Guide, explaining you need to get the Arduino IDE.

So first, you need to retrieve the LinkIt ONE IDE (modified version of Arduino IDE?) from github. There are several methods, but let’s just download the ZIP file (145MB), and extract it. Go to LinkIt-ONE-IDE-Master/drivers/mtk directory, and click on InstallDriver to install the drivers. Now connect the board to your PC with a micro USB to USB cable. If you use VirtualBox, you’ll also need the VirtualBox Extension Pack to access USB devices. In VirtualBox, LinkIt ONE is referred to as “Mediatek Inc Product [0100]” in Devices->USB Devices menu. The installation should complete as follows with two new COM ports.

LinkIt-ONE_Drivers

So now, you can install the the LinkIt SDK, pointing the installation directory to LinkIt IDE directory (LinkIt-ONE-IDE-Master).

LinkIt_SDK_For_Arduino_1.0Click Next a few times to complete the installation,. We don’t really need to install Mediatek USB drivers (last step), as we’ve done that already.

Now start the Arduino IDE by clicking on Arduino(.exe) in LinkIt-ONE-IDE-Master folder, and configure it to use the board by selecting Tools->Board->LinkIt ONE.

Arduino_IDE_LinkIt_ONEYou’ll also need to select the COM port corresponding to MTK USB Debug Port (COM6 in my case) with Tools->Port. Port was grayed out at first, but resetting the board fixed the issue.

The first project you usually try is Blink, that simply blinks an LED on the board. So let’s do it. The procedure is exactly the same as the one followed for an Arduino board. To load the project, click on File->Examples->01. Basics->Blink. Make sure the switch on the left of LinkIt ONE marking on the board is set to SPI, and upload the program by selecting File->Upload or clicking directly on the Upload icon (->). The transfer should complete within a few seconds, and a green LED blink on the board shortly after.

Seeed Studio also sells “Sidekick Basic Kit for LinkIt ONE” with a breadboard, passive components (resistor, capacitor,…), sensors (thermistor Photo resistor ..), a servo, and a buzzer to interface with LinkIt ONE board, and provide a tutorial with 10 examples showing how to use the kit. I haven’t received it, but their “Hello World” tutorial just blinks an external LED, so I’ve tried it out as well with some off-the-shelf components.

LinkIt ONE Hello World (Click to Enlarge)

LinkIt ONE Hello World (Click to Enlarge)

The wiki mentions you can load the program with File->Examples->Starter Kit for LinkIt->Basic->L2_Control_LED, but there’s no Starter Kit for LinkIt entry. Maybe I need to install something else, but I could not find any download links. Nevertheless, the code is included in the wiki, so I just created a new project with the code:

const int pinLED = 3;                      // LED connect to D13
 
void setup()
{
  pinMode(pinLED, OUTPUT);                // set direction of D13-OUTPUT
}
 
void loop()
{
  digitalWrite(pinLED, HIGH);             // LED on
  delay(3000);
  digitalWrite(pinLED, LOW);              // LED off
  delay(100);
}

With I then uploaded to the board, and the LED is lit for 3 seconds, and off for a short time (100ms) as expected.

That’s all for the quick start guide. To go further, you can check the wiki, and developer’s guide mentioned above, and read the LinkIt API Reference for full details of the APIs for MediaTek LinkIt development platform.

LinkIt ONE is available now for $79 on Seeed Studio, and you may also consider pre-ordering “Sidekick Basic kit for LinkIt ONE” for $29.90 (Shipping on October 22) to have some fun interfacing LEDs, sensors, a servo, etc.. to the board, by following the related tutorials.

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Review of Kingnovel K-R68 (R6) Android Mini PC

September 9th, 2014 9 comments

I’ve already listed specs, and shown a few pictures of Kingnovel K-R68 (R6) Android media player based on the latest Rockchip RK3288 quad core processor. I’ve now gone through all my usual tests, so today, I’ll write the review, going through the user interface, testing video playback, reporting one various performance benchmarks including network and storage performance, tested most hardware features, and played a few games.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Albeit there’s an infrared remote control with the device. I’ve not used it all, especially, as we’ll see below the default user interface is the stock Android home screen. As usual, I’ve connected an RF dongle to use Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse. Before powering up the device, I’ve also connected an HDMI cable, a USB hard drive, and an Ethernet cable. Albeit there’s a power button, the device will boot automatically as you connect the power adapter, and the boot completes in just over 20 seconds.

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

The status bar is shown by default with a power (Standby or Reboot) button, volume buttons, the back, home, and app list icons, as well as an icon to hide the status bar. I’ve enabled the screenshot button in the settings. The user interface defaults to Chinese as shown in the screenshot above, so I had to go to the settings to change the language. The resolution was set to 1920×1080.

The Settings are basically the same as Uyesee G1H, but with some colorful icons on the left, instead of the usual black and white icons, and there’s no “Home” to select between launchers. The Wireless and Networks section features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and Data Usage sections, as well as a “More” section with VPN, Portable Hotspot and so on. You can choose between “Default Output” (PCM / Down-mixing), “Spdif Passthough”, and “HDMI Bitstream” (HDMI pass-through) in the sound settings, (Not tested, as I don’t have audio receiver). The Display settings include options to adjust for overscan, select HDMI, YPbPr, and “TV” (Composite) video output, as well as the resolution: “auto”, 1080p 24/25/30/50/60Hz, 720p 50/60, 720×576 or 720×480. Again it’s exactly as the previous RK3288 sample I tested (G1H). 4K options should also show if the box is connected to  4K TV, Most of the tests have been done using HDMI output, but I also tested composite and component (YPbPr) video outputs.

Composite (NTSC) - Click to Enlarge

Composite (NTSC) – Click to Enlarge

Composite (PAL) - Click to Enlarge

Composite (PAL) – Click to Enlarge

Component (720p) - Click to Enlarge
Component (720p) – Click to Enlarge

Composite works, but in NTSC mode I had a green line on the bottom, which I could not hide with the “Screen Scale” menu. I had no such problem in PAL mode.  I had the same problem with Component (YPbpr) output as with my other RK3288 device, as only the Chrominance signal would apparently be displayed. Resolutions selectable with YPbPr are only 720p, 720×576 (PAL) and 720×470 (NTSC), and there’s no option for 1080p.

About_K-R68K-R68 features a 8GB eMMC flash partitioned with a 1.91GB “Internal Storage” partition for apps with 1.53 GB free, and a 4.27 GB “NAND FLASH” partition for data. A single partition for apps and data would be ideal, but this partitioning should work fine for most people. The “About device” section reports the model number as “rk3288″, Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.0. The firmware is not rooted, and I don’t have male to male USB cable, so I could not root it via the OTG port. In this review, I won’t show a video of the settings and user interface, because it’s just the same as Uyesee G1H, apart from a different home screen (pictured above), and colorful icons in the settings menus.

Google Play Store works as expected, and I could install most apps such as ES File Explorer, MX Player, Antutu, Quadrant, Beach Buggy Blitz, etc…  and even paid apps such as Sixaxis Controller installed properly. Vidonn activity tracker app was reported as “incompatible with your device”. I also installed Amazon AppStore after downloading it via the stock browser, and loaded Riptide GP2 on the device.

I haven’t used the remote control, but the power button on the status bar only lets you reboot and put the device into standby. Press the Power button on Mele F10 deluxe also brings the same menu. The power button on top of the device can only be used to power off the device completely, and to do so, you’ll need to press it for 10 seconds. The enclosure also gets pretty hot. The maximum temperatures measured with an infrared thermometer on the top and bottom of the box were respectively 46 °C and 56 °C after running Android 5 benchmark, and after playing Riptide GP2 for 30 minutes at 1080p (right after playing a 1080p movie for 2 hours), the measured max. temperatures reached 58 °C and 77 °C…

The firmware is stable and fast. I had no reboot and hang ups during my testing. Thanks to fast eMMC, apps loading times can be impressive, for example XBMC loads in less than 2 seconds, and I never had slowdowns as experience in Uyesee G1H while installing apps. The user interface resolution is 1080p by default, but if you want some extra performance for some games for example, you can switch to 720p if you wish.

Video Playback

Contrary to Uyesee G1H, Kingnovel K-R68 comes pre-loaded with XBMC. So I played videos from a SAMBA share over Ethernet using XBMC, only switching to MX Player in case of issues. I had problems with Gigabit Ethernet again (instability), so I used a 10/100M hub between the device and my Gigabit switch (D-Link DSG-1005A), and the connection was perfectly stable. So all results are based on XBMC playback unless otherwise stated.

I started by playing videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, and H.265/HEVC video by Elecard:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p
    • XBMC – OK, but smoothness could be better.
    • MX Player – Video playing at an estimated 2 to 4 fps, with most frames skipped
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p
    • XBMC – Audio only
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode)
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK and relatively smooth, also not perfect like on PC (VideoLAN)
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container
    • XBMC – Audio only
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode)

So XBMC can’t play H.265, no VC1 videos, and MPEG-2 play, but are not super smooth.

Next are some 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
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Audio only (That’s the VC1 codec issue in XBMC).
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

All high definition audio codec could play (downsampled) in XBMC:

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

Sintel-Bluray.iso Blu-ray ISO file could play just fine in XBMC.

None of the 4K videos could play without issues in XBMC. The HEVC/H.265 video were all played in MX Player:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4

    • XBMC – OK most of the time, but skips about 60 frames at the end of the video (The image will freeze before the end of the video).
    • MX Player – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv
    • XBMC – Played in slow motion, unwatchable.
    • MX Player – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK (H/W decode), but some white “fog” appears on the black background
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK (H/W decode)
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts – Plays with S/W decode (MX Player reports codec not supported by H/W).

Finally, I played some Several AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB and MP4 videos in my library. Most could play, but several had audio/video sync issues, a number of FLV videos could not play at all, and one XVID video had lot of frames skipped during playback. A complete 1080p video (1h50) could be played in XBMC without issues. Once XBMC refused to exit, as clicking on the exit button did not work at all, but I could not reproduce the issue. Overall, the XBMC experience is disappointing, but if you combine MX Player and XBMC capabilities most videos can be played.

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)

The network test consists in transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa, repeating the test three times using ES File Explorer. Wi-Fi performance is excellent and very consistent, as transfer times were all between 1m42s and 1m44s, averaging a cool 2.69 MB/s.

Wi-Fi Performance in MB/s

Wi-Fi Performance in MB/s

While I’m with Wi-Fi testing, I also ran Rockchip’s “Wi-Fi display” app, but even though the display was detected by my phone and “successfully” connected, mirroring did not work at all. I tried several times, but my subsequent attempt all failed to connect at all.

As mentioned previously, I had stability problems (again) with Gigabit Ethernet, so I could only properly test Fast Ethernet performance. Using the same test procedure as Wi-Fi, K-R68 shows very good performance compared to other solutions I’ve tested.

Kingnovel_K-R68_EthernetThis test is not a pure network performance test, as it may be affected by storage write performance. Having said that, I’ve experience similar results writing to flash or USB hard drive for all devices under test.

Under Linux, you can test network performance with iPerf, and it turns out iPerf app is also available for Android. So I gave it a try using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line. This runs a “dualtest” (a bidirectional test simultaneously) for one minute, and based on the test results, there’s definitely an issue with Gigabit Ethernet, but only in one direction (872 Mbps vs 314 Kbps), but Fast Ethernet is running great:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.107, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  425 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 37734 connected with 192.168.0.107 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec  6.09 GBytes   872 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-63.4 sec  2.38 MBytes   314 Kbits/sec
[  5] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.107 port 51937
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.107, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 37843 connected with 192.168.0.107 port 5001
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   654 MBytes  91.4 Mbits/sec
[  5]  0.0-60.1 sec   658 MBytes  91.8 Mbits/sec

I’ve tried different Cat5e Ethernet cable with it did not solve the issue.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I could easily pair K-R68 to my Android smartphone (ThL W200) over Bluetooth, and transfer a picture.

Since the firmware is not rooted, and I’m not sure how to root it, I had to skip Sixaxis test for PS3 Bluetooth Gamepad support

Vidonn X5 activity tracker suppoert Bluetooth 4.0 LE, so I installed the Android app, and successfully connected to my wristband to get the data.

Storage

FAT32 formatted micro SD card and USB flash drive could be recognized and properly mounted by the system
I’ve also connected my USB 3.0 hard drive with NTFS, EXT-4, FAT32, and BTRFS partitions, and as usual only NTFS and FAT32 could be mounted automatically.

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 run to benchmark the NTFS partition (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK2/USB3_NTFS). The read speed was 29.47MB/s, and the write speed of 24.63MB/s, both of which are pretty consistent with the results achieved with other devices, albeit the write speed was the weakest of the products tested by a small margin.

K-R68_USB_Write_SpeedThe internal storage read and write speeds are very important to apps loading time, and overall system performance, and K-R68 excels in this benchmark, at least compared to Uyesee G1H, and Probox2 EX.

K-R68_eMMC_PerformanceThe fast eMMC write speed explains why I never felt slowdowns during my testing, contrary to what happened with G1H.

USB Webcam

Using a white brand UVC USB webcam with built-in microphone. I could test audio successfully with the Echo service in Skype, and I could see the video, but as I tried to leave a video message, the app exited.

Google Hangouts could detect the webcam (Video icon at the top right of the screen), and I could start a video call, but the webcam image was not shown.

Gaming

I’ve tested three games: Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2.

I played Candy Crush Saga with my air mouse, and used Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad in the two other games.  Beach Buggy Blitz was super smooth even with graphics settings maxed out and 1080p resolution, and Riptide GP2 was very smooth most of the time, and albeit not perfect, RK3288 devices are a massive jump in terms of playability compared to earlier generation of chip, and even Amlogic S802. I’ve also tested stability by playing Riptide GP2 for 30 consecutive minutes, and everything runs fine, but the bottom of the device can get pretty hot (Over 75 °C). Thanks to the rubber pads, it does not touch the table though. The top is much cooler at around 55 °C.

Kingnovel K-R68 Benchmark

CPU-Z app returns the exact same data as for G1H TV box, that is a Rockchip processor with four Cortex A12 cores @ 126 MHz to 1.80 GHz with a Mali-T764 processor. Only the firmware version differs.

G1H got 39,273 in Antutu 4.x @ 1080p resolution. Since them Android 5 has been released, and K-R68 got 37,428 points between Redmi Note (MediaTek MT6592) and Xiaomi Mi3 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 800). Results between Antutu 4.x and Antutu 5.x are not directly comparable.

Antutu 5 Results for Kingnovel K-R68 (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 5 Results for Kingnovel K-R68 (Click to Enlarge)

I had no luck with Quadrant, as I was greeted with gray screen when I wanted to start the test.

I’ve run Ice Storm Extreme test in 3DMark to see if there was any improvement compared to G1H score.

3DMark Ice Storm Extreme Results (Click to Enlarge)

3DMark Ice Storm Extreme Results (Click to Enlarge)

A score of 7,531 points, is only slightly higher than than 7,278 points achieved by G1H, and is about the same as the one achieved on a smartphone based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 801. However many recent devices based on Qualcomm 800 and greater get a score above 10,000 or simply maxes out the test.

Conclusion

Kingnovel K-R68 hardware has massive potential with a fast processor, outstanding 3D performance, and excellent Wi-Fi and eMMC storage performance. The firmware is stable and provides a smooth experience, but if you are looking for a device well supported by XBMC, it’s not there yet. Having said that, I’ve only tested the XBMC version provided with the sample (Gotham 13.2), and there are some version that may have better support include HEVC hardware decoding such as Beyond XBMC 3.4 (beta) and an XBMC version released for Firefly-RK3288 development board.

PRO:

  • Fast new processor
  • Excellent 3D graphics performance for games
  • Stable and fast firmware.
  • Excellent Wi-Fi performance
  • Fast eMMC, both for reading and writing speeds.
  • Both 720p and 1080p user interfaces are supported
  • Video Output – 1080p support 24, 25 ,30 , 50 and 60 Hz output which may be important for some videos. 4K @ 60Hz should be supported thanks to HDMI 2.0 (not tested).
  • HEVC video decoding support
  • Webcam supported in Skype (although it did not seem to work with Google Hangouts)

CONS:

  • XBMC has too many issues: VC1, H.265 not supported, audio/video sync issue, some MPEG-2 and XVID videos are skipping frames, none of the 4K videos I used could play properly, etc…
  • Some MPEG-2 file won’t play smooth in either XBMC or MX Player
  • Potential Gigabit Ethernet issues, at least confirmed with my switch (D-Link DSG-1005A).
  • No proper power off (standby only)
  • The enclosure (bottom) can get pretty hot, with temperatures over 75+ C after long periods of 3D gaming.
  • Video output – Component only output the Luminance signal with my TV, composite (NTSC) has a green bar at the bottom, no problem for PAL.

If you are a distributor, you may want to visit Kingnovel K-R68 page for some details, and possibly contact the company. The box does not seem to be selling on e-retailer sites yet, or it’s sold under another model name. The box  appears to be sold on Geekbuying under the model name R6 for $107.99.

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