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Posts Tagged ‘cpu-z’

Yundoo Y8 Rockchip RK3399 TV Box System Info and Benchmarks

April 24th, 2017 6 comments

Most 64-bit ARM processors found in TV boxes and mini PC features ARM Cortex A53 cores which are good enough to watch most videos, since video decoding is usually handled by the video processing unit. But if you want some more performance for games and web browsing, SoCs based on Cortex A72 or similar high performance ARMv8 cores would deliver much a much better experience in Android. The problem is that there aren’t many options with products such as NVIDIA Shield Android TV, and Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced. The former is potentially expensive depending where you live, and the later is targeted at the Chinese market and lacks an Ethernet port. Rockchip RK3399 SoC should fill the market void for people wanting to do more than just watching videos on their TV box, and since I’ve just received Yundoo Y8 TV box based on the processor, I’ve run some apps to check out system information, and benchmark the system.

Yundoo Y8 / Rockchip RK3399 System Info with CPU-Z

CPU-Z appears to have improved since it can now detect clusters, and could detect a processor with two clusters: 2x Cortex A72 @ up to 1.99 GHz and4x Cortex A53 @ up to 1.51 GHz, as well as a Mali-T860 (actually T860MP4).

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Yundoo Y8 runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 4.4.16, but I’ve read that other upcoming models based on RK3399 will run Android 7.1 instead.

Yundoo Y8 / Rockchip RK3399 Benchmarks

Let’s start with Antutu 6.x.

The 76,819 points achieved by the device is a big improvement compared to – for example – the 41,000 points in Amlogic S912 TV boxes. It also beats the ~71,000 points of Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced also based on a hexa-core Cortex A72/A53 processor (Mediatek MT8693), but at a lower 1.57 GHz maximal frequency, with a PowerVR GX6250 GPU,. and running Android 5.1 instead of Android 6.0.

Vellamo 2.x confirms the good performance of Rockchip RK3399: 5,275 points for Chrome Browser test, 2,492 points for Multicore test, and 2,332 points the Metal test. Amlogic S912 TV boxes gets about half that, and it’s also significantly better than Mi Box 3 Enhanced except for the metal test (2,392 points).

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The most powerful mobile/embedded GPUs will easily max out in 3Dmark Ice Storm Extreme 1.2 test, but the Mali-T860MP4 in RK3399 cannot quite do it, although with 9,906 points it’s a big improvement over the Mali-T820MP3 found in Amlogic S912 (~5,750 points), and slightly better than PowerVR GX6250 GPU in Mediatek MT8693 (9,260 points) using 1920×1080 output resolution.

Since low power processors are gone a long way in recent, I wanted to check out far it was from my main computer based on AMD FX8350 processor (125 Watt TDP) and running Ubuntu 16.04. One way to compare performance across different hardware and operating systems is to run GeekBench cross-platform benchmark.

GeekBench 4 Results for my PC:

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GeekBench 4 Android Results for Yundoo Y8:

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The single Cortex A72 core performance is about 50% of an FX8350 “Piledriver” core. Not too bad, even though the single core performance of this AMD CPU is not the best in the world. Multi-core performance is another story, as there are less cores/threads (6 vs 8), my computer throttles when all 8 cores are used (Normal score should be 10,000 to 12,000) , and it appears the Cortex A53 cores in RK3399 may not be used at all in GeekBench’s multi-core test. For reference, the latest Samsung Exynos 9 (8850) gets respectively 1,978 and 6,375 points in the same benchmarks. I’m assuming than in 4 to 5 years, we should be able to get AMD FX8350 type of performance in a mobile device.

Ethernet performance should be about the same in all RK3399 devices, and I tested with iperf with the command used in the TV box shown in brackets:

  • Full duplex (iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d):

  • Upload only (iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.104):

  • Download only (iperf -s):

So it’s working pretty well here.

Internal storage will different from box to box, and even Yundoo Y8 with 32GB storage should perform than the same box with 16GB storage, but USB 3.0 performance should remain pretty much the same across devices.

The cached read is for the internal memory (eMMC flash) which we’ll ignore here due to reason explained above. The “SD card” is the NTFS partition of my Seagate USB 3.0 drive, and results are pretty good with 94.34 MB/s sequential read, and 53.50 MB/s sequential write considering I could achieve 107 MB/s and 45 MB/s with that hard drive in my main computer.  The RAM test shows a 9684.47MB/s copy, which compared to the 3301.73 MB/s achieved by Mecool BB2 Pro Amlogic S912 TV box with DDR4 memory.

So overall the platform looks promising, and offers a significant performance boost compared to the Cortex A53 competition at an affordable price, more exactly $90 and up with 2GB RAM, 16GB storage. The downside is that since the SoC is rather new there may be a few firmware bugs at this stage, which I’ll check/report in the full review, but I’m confident they will be ironed out over time, if not in Yundoo Y8, in other RK3399 devices.

Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid STB Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, TV Center, and DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 App

March 22nd, 2017 81 comments

Last year I reviewed K1 Plus T2 S2, an Android TV box powered by Amlogic S905 quad core processor with DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 tuner support, which worked with some caveats. VideoStrong has now send me an updated model with Amlogic S912 octa-core processor, which I presented in the post entitled Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid Android STB Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown, where I listed the specifications, and showed photos of the device and the boards (main board + tuner board). I’ve now had time to play with the device, and in many respects the user experience is very similar to the one I got with KI Plus T2 S2 models, but there are also some tweaks, and a few bugs which I’ll report in the second part of the review below.

KIII Pro Hybrid TV Box Setup, Settings, & Power Consumption

The four USB ports are really convenient, as I could connect a USB hard drive, an air mouse, a wireless game pad, and a USB keyboard without the need for a USB hub. I also connected the usual Ethernet and HDMI cable, plus the cable from my Satellite dish to the DVB-S2 F connector, and the cable from my roof antenna to the DVB-T2 coaxial connector.

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Once we connect the power, the device boots automatically, and usually takes under 30 seconds to do so. The launcher is pretty much the same as KI Plus TV box.

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So I won’t go through it in details again, and will only comment on one change. Kodi is gone and been replaced by something called “TV Center”. So I clicked on it, and it showed a famous Chinese proverb “The installation isn’t installed!”. So I went to the list of apps, and click on TV CENTER, which will do the installation of this mysterious app.

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Once it’s done I can click on TV Center, and the user interface looks familiar.

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So that means they made some modifications to Kodi 17, and change the name to comply with the trademark requirements.

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The TV Center installation also automatically added some add-ons as shown in the screenshot below.

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The Setting app is exactly the same as for other recemt Amlogic TV boxes, and there’s nothing specific to DVB, so I’ll mostly skip it (If you want to see check out Qintaix Q912 review), except to show Storage & USB section that reveals 634 MB is used out of 16.00 GB. That’s obviously a fake number, and it should be around 11 to 12 GB, but the company may have chosen to do so to avoid some customer’s complains that there’s not 16GB storage, as they don’t understand the OS take places on the flash.

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It also shows NTFS and exFAT file systems are supported, but not EXT-4, nor BTRFS.

The About section shows the model is indeed KIII pro running Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29. The firmware is rooted by default.

OTA update appears to be supported, but at the time of the review, there was no update available.

I tested the provide IR remote by adding two AA batteries, and it works well up to 10 meters. For most other TV boxes, I’d recommend to use an air mouse, bu in the case of KIII Pro, you’ll need to keep using the remote control in order to support DTV app for DVB-S2/DVB-T2 properly, maybe switching to an air mouse or wireless keyboard + touchpad for some other Android apps. One recurring issue in most TV boxes is still present in KIIIPro however: the mouse cursor is rather small when you set your TV to 4K resolution.

I could install all apps I needed through Google Play, and Amazon Underground without issues.

The set-top box has only two power modes: off or on, and there’s no standby mode. I can turn the device on or off using the IR remote control or the power button.

Power consumption is pretty high in power off, as I tested different options with or without the USB hard drive, but I found a lot of variability with testing:

  • Power off – Test 1: 5.1 Watt; Test 2: 2.2  Watts; Test 3: 3.1 Watts
  • Idle – 7.2 Watts, then 4.3 Watts (2nd try)
  • Power off + HDD – Test 1: 5.1 Watt; Test 2: 2.2  Watts; Test 3: 3.1 Watts
  • Idle + HDD – 9.3 Watts then 8.1 Watts (2nd try)

The good news is that USB ports are turned off in power off mode, so at least the extra power consumption does not come from those ports.

Temperature is a little higher than other boxes, but I’ve not encounter massive CPU throttling during my tests. After playing a 2-hour video the maximum top and bottom temperatures as measured with an IR thermometer were respectively 53°C and 57°C, while after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 to 20 minutes the temperatures were 51°C and 57°C, but I did not notice any lower framerate in the game as the time went on. I quickly started CPU-Z after quitting the game, and the reported temperature in the app was a high 89°C, so in some conditions performance degradation due to high temperature might be possible, I just did not experience it during my tests. FYR, room temperature was around 30 °C during testing.

KIII Pro Android firmware feels very much like any other Amlogic S912/S905X TV boxes, and it was responsive without any critical bugs. The only small annoyances were the somewhat loud music during the boot animation, the small cursor at 4K resolution, and the relatively high power consumption in power off mode.

Video & Audio Tests with TV Center (Kodi), and DRM Info

As we’ve seen in the section above, Kodi is not installed per se, but instead the box comes with an installer for a fork of Kodi 17.0-RC3 called TV Center.

I enabled “Adjust display refresh rate” in Kodi settings,and started by playing 4K video over Ethernet from a Linux SAMBA share:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Not always smooth
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC, 24 fps) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – The video plays in slow motion and audio delays (NB: 4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by S912 VPU)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Plays at around 1 to 2 fps (expected since it relies software decode as S912 VPU does not support 10-bit H.264)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – USB hard drive playback: Not smooth as on all other Amlogic TV boxes.
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays, but not always perfectly smooth as with all Amlogic S912 TV boxes.

4K video capabilities are pretty much the same as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, except for HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 that was worse than usual. Automatic frame rate switching is not working again as is the case on most other S912 boxes, except MINIX NEO U9-H.

Next up I enabled HDMI audio pass-through in Kodi, and since TrueHD is not part of the list, I also enabled Dolby Digital (AC3) transcoding.

Here are the results of my tests with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MX Player / Video Player app)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but video not smooth at all OK Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1), Video not smooth
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK Video not smooth, and audio cuts No audio
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
DTS HD Master OK No audio No audio and black screen
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK No audio and black screen
DTS:X OK No audio No audio and black screen

That’s pretty bad if you plan to use HDMI audio pass-through, except for Dolby Digital 5.1 / AC3. The first video has often problem on Amlogic TV boxes in Kodi, but most AC3 video should work fine. A good news is that AC3 is working via MX Player, so if you receive live TV channels with AC3 audio through the DTV app, it should be able to decode AC3 audio properly, something that was not possible in K1 Plus T2 S2.

I also played a 2-hour video to check for stability. The first time, TV CEnter app crashed with the message “Unfortunately TV Center has stopped” after about 5 minutes, and my second attempt was not completely trouble free either, as the video stopped at around the 50 minutes marked, and the system went back to TV Center UI, but I could select the video again, was offered to resume from 49:21, and it could play until the end.

KIII Pro supports Widevine Level 3 DRM. That means no Netflix HD like on most competing Android media players.

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DTV App for DVB-S/S2 and DVB-T/T2

Now to the most important features of KIII Pro hybrid set-top box: DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 tuner support. The box is using the same DTV app as on K1 Plus T2 S2 with only minor modifications. The first time you launch the app, you should get the following message indicating there aren’t any channels yet, and asking you to scan for channels.

Once you agree, you’ll be ask to select DVB S/S2 or DVB T/T2.

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I’ve gone with the latter first, and I’ll redirect you to the post entitled “How to Configure DVB-S2 and DVB-T2 Tuners in K1 Plus Android DTV Receiver” since the procedure is the same. I got 26 channels for my T2 scan, but somehow I got 30 channels on K1 Plus T2 S2. So I went to check the settings, and this time the Area Setting was already set to Thailand, either automatically, or it was done before sending the device.

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Anyway I could watch both HD and SD channels without any problems, and signal strength are quality are both at 100% or close to it all the time.

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The EPG looks exactly the same, and it still has problems with Thai encoding or font.

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But before testing other features, let’s configure our satellite dish. Press the Menu key on the remote control, select Installation,

and then DVB S/S2.

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You’ll be able to select your satellite from a list, or define your own as I showed in K1 Plus T2 S2 setup guide and review. I did not show Motor Settings last time, so I’ve taken two screenshots one showing DiSEQc 1.2 support…

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… and the other USALS support. I have not tested either since I don’t own a motorized satellite dish.

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Once you are happy with the setting go to Multi Scan menu to see your satellite list, and press the Blue button on the remote control to start scanning.

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I got 25 TV channels and 7 radios after selecting a Blind Scan and FTA (free-to-air) channels only. Last year, I got 55 TV channels and 5 radio with the same “Thaicom2” satellite. Go figure… Signal strength and quality are quite lower in my case at around 55% and 50% respectively. There are some channels without signal, just as with K1 Plus T2 S2.

One nice improvement is that you don’t need to select between DVB-T2 or DVB-S2 when you start DTV app, as all your channels are shown in the list.

I tried EPG scheduling to start playback or record video, and it works exactly like before.

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So  I setup a few “timers, and watched a DVB-T2 channel live, and one minute before a schedule recording on MONEY channel (DVB-S2) the following window overlaid the video:

I did not press any button, and one the count down expire, it switched to MONEY channel automatically (good), and I got the message “recording complete” (bad). I could reproduce this bug several times. I noticed if I schedule a recording on a channel, and stay on that channel it will work fine.

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You can see the list of recording above on my USB hard drive with some started manually (REC key on remote), and several scheduled. All the 0 bytes videos are due to the bug described above. So schedule does not work 100% reliably. However I noticed different current times (shown in top right of EPG) with different channels, for example it was 13:10 on a DVB-T2 channels, and 13:18 on a DVB-S2 channel, so this might explain some of the issues.. Please note that if you schedule program, and turn off the box, it won’t automatically start to record, and some comments in case try to run DTV app in the background and do other things. The DTV app must run in foreground in other to record videos.

I was more lucky with TimeShifting. Pressing the play/pause key on the remote control, will ask you to select a storage device, and you’ll be able to pause and play live TV within a default 5 minutes period, but this is adjustable in the settings. Note that you need external storage, as this won’t work from the flash.

Advanced users will be able to access CCcam, BISS, and PowerVU setting, by pressing the Menu key, selecting Installation and DVB S/S2, and from there enter 111111 on the remote (6 times character 1) to access Smart Data Manager menu.

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I have not done a video again since it’s so similar to the previous model, with just a few minor changes to the user interface, and if you want to check out DTV app into more details, I invite you to watch K1 Plus T2 S2 video review.

Networking (WiFi & Ethernet)

I’ve checked WiFi performance by transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash (and vice versa) using ES File Explorer. I’ve only tried 802.11ac (connected @ 265 Mbps) , and again performance was asymmetric with the download @ 3.70 MB/s and upload @ 1.44 MB/s, and average @ 2.1 MB/s which makes it similar to other recent Amlogic TV boxes.

Throughput in MB/s

However, last time I reviewed MINIX NEO U9-H which had disappointing WiFi results with the same tests, as it was much slower than MINIX NEO U1 despite ahving the same WiFi module and overall system setup. MINIX them showed me their own tests with different routers showing similar performance between NEO U1 and NEO U9-H, so Amlogic may have completely blown up their SAMBA implementation in their Android 6.0 SDK (NEO U1 runs Android 5.0, U9-H runs Android 6.0).

For that reason, I also tested 802.11ac download speed using iperf “download” test:

That’s 216 Mbps (~27 MB/s) with a raw TCP transfer, and while SAMBA is not supposed to be the fastest network protocol, performance should not drop as low as 3.7 MB/s (over 7 times slower) for the SAMBA download unless something is really wrong.

I also tested Gigabit Ethernet with iperf but using a dual duplex test, and performance is fine.

Doing a SAMBA download over Gigabit Ethernet gets a 885 MB file transfer in 59 seconds (15 MB/s) to the internal flash, which is pretty much normal. So it looks like the issues occur when combining WiFi with SAMBA. SAMBA performs fine with Ethernet, and WiFi raw TCP transfer speed is OK.

Storage

KIII Pro supports exFAT, NTFS, and FAT32 file systems, but not EXT-4 and BTRFS. Benchmarks with A1SD bench shows you should avoid exFAT to record videos with the DTV app, as write speed is rather low (1.35 MB/s), and the write speed (156.09 MB/s) is just incorrect as it is what triggered the “Cached read” in the screenshot below.

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That means your only option is to use NTFS for external storage if you want to support larger video files. Performance is good at 44.43 MB/s for read speed, and  16.74 MB/s write speed.

The eMMC flash (“SD card” in screenshot) performance is not outstanding, but at 41.34 MB/s (read) and 18.29 MB/s (write) is good enough for the system to boot fast, and feel responsive at all times.

KIII Pro Benchmarks

CPU-Z correctly reports an octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.51 GHz with an ARM Mali-T860 GPU. Model KIII Pro is using q20x board, and the pp shows with 2825 MB total RAM, and 11.87 GB internal storage (the real value, but the 16GB shows in Android settings).

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Since I’ve reviewed so many Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and only ran Antutu 6.x benchmark to make sure there was no hidden issue, and the 40,330 points achieved by the TV box is within the normal range.

Conclusion

KIII Pro comes with typical performance and flaws of other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, with Android 6.0 firmware working well, TV Center (Kodi 17 fork) playing 4K videos relatively well, supporting DD 5.1 pass-through, but not the full range of audio codec, and lacking support for automatic frame rate switching. The device is however unique thanks to its dual tuner with DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 inputs, and the DTV app is about the same as on the previous model (K1 Plus T2 S2), but merges channels from both sources instead of having to choose at launch. Sadly some of the same bugs and shortcomings linger such as font encoding issues, and inablity to run PVR process in the background.

PROS

  • Stable and Responsive Android 6.0 firmware
  • Decent 4K video playback in TV Center (Kodi fork)
  • Support for Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3) HDMI pass-through and downmixing in all apps
  • DVB-S/S2 & DVB-T/T2 support via DTV app with timershifting, EPG, and PVR support
  • Good 802.11ac WiFi and Ethernet performance
  • OTA firmware update (App is there, but not fully tested as no new firmware available during the review)

CONS (and Bugs)

  • DVB issues and shortcomings:
    • DVB S/S2 signal strength and quality is only around 50 to 55% (on my setup and for others too), which could lead to problems get signals for some channels
    • Thai font encoding issues
    • In some conditions, scheduled recordings will start on time, but stop immediately resulting in an empty video.
    • PVR function does not work in background, so the DTV app must be on the foreground at all time, and the box cannot be turned off when using schedules/timers.
  • HDMI audio pass-through not working (in TV Center) for Dolby Digital+ 7.1, TrueHD and DTS / DTS-HD
  • Automatic frame rate switching is not working in Kodi
  • Potential instability issues with TV Center – The 2-hour video test failed twice: 1st time: crash after 5 minutes; 2nd time the video stopped after about 50 minutes, but I could resume. N.B.: I did not experience other crashes while testing video samples.
  • Mediocre WiFi + SAMBA performance like in other S905X/S912 TV boxes with Android 6.0.
  • Relatively high power consumption (2.2 to 5.1 Watts) in power off mode
  • While I have not noticed obvious CPU or GPU throttling during my tests, temperature does get high (89 °C reported in CPU-Z)
  • Minor issues – Very small mouse pointer @ 4K resolutions, loud music during boot logo

Finally, I also have a user-friendliness remark. If you are just going to use TV Center and DTV app, the provided IR remote control will do, but if you are going to also use other Android apps, I normally recommend to replace the IR remote control with an air mouse. It’s not really possible/practical with KIII Pro, as DTV app has been designed around the IR remote control with keys such as MENU, PVR, REC, EPG… That means you’ll need juggle with both the IR remote control and an air mouse in order to fully enjoy all capabilities of the device. It would be really nice if VideoStrong could come up with an (optional) air mouse with keyboard that also supports DTV app.

Resellers and distributors may inquire Videostrong via their Alibaba page to purchase KIII Pro in quantities. Individuals can purchase KIII Pro Android set-top box on  GearBest ($117.99), Aliexpress ($141 and up), Banggood ($133.99), and other online retailers.

Rikomagic MK22 Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, Video & Audio in Kodi, Benchmarks…

November 7th, 2016 4 comments

Rikomagic MK22 is one of the many Android TV boxes powered by Amlogic S912 octa-core processor with typical hardware specifications such as 2GB RAM, 16GB flash, Gigabit Ethernet and dual band WiFi. I’ve already taken the box apart to check out the hardware in the first part of the review, so I’ll focus on the firmware, but I’ll keep it short focusing on typical problem areas, as I’ve already reviewed a bunch of other Amlogic S912 TV boxes such as Qintaix Q912 or Beelink GT1.

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First Boot, Firmware Update, and First Impressions

After having connected all usual cables and  accessories include a 1TB USB hard drive, and RF dongles for my air mouse and wireless gamepad, I booted the device, and after around 45 seconds (typically), I got to the main launcher.

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Since I received the device about a month ago, I decided to go to the UPDATE&BACKUP app to see if there was any OTA firmware update, and unfortunately, as you can see from the screenshot below online update was not enabled in the device with the error: “Check Failed! Check Your OTA Servier Argent” (sic).

update-backup-fail

So I went to Rikomagic download page, and I could find a new firmware, the latest USB burning tool, and instructions. It did not go very smoothly, but I still managed to flash the firmware, and I explained the issues I came across in details in the post entitled USB Burning Tool Still Sucks in 2016. Still that was a disappointment to have to go through this, as the vast majority of TV boxes now support OTA firmware update through the network or SD cards, a much more user-friendly way to upgrade the firmware. The company explained that my early sample did not support OTA firmware update, but it should now. I tried again UPDATE&BACKUP, and got the same error, until I found another firmware update app called WirelessUpdate.

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It won’t detect a new firmware since I have RKM MK22_161031 firmware released a week ago, but it did seem to properly check the status from the OTA server, telling that was not new update.

I won’t go into much details about the settings, as you can check my other S912 reviews for all options, for example M12N review. HDMI CEC, Playback settings (HDMI Adaptation), and Power key definition were all present in MK22 firmware. I had no troubles with settings Ethernet, WiFi, and the system automatically set my TV to 2160p @ 60 Hz and kept it that way throughout. I did not have the typical HDMI CEC issue turning on my AV receiver against my will. So it appears Rikomagic fixed some of the issues I encountered in early S912 TV boxes.

about-mediabox-rkm-mk22

I could also enter Android Marshmallow settings, and access all usual options. A single unified 11.38GB partition is used for both apps and storage from the 16GB eMMC flash, and the system runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux kernel 3.14.29. The firmware is rooted.

The provide remote control worked fine for up to 8 meters, as further away some keys would be missed. I reverted to MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse for most of the review because its mouse mode and QWERTY keyboard make it so much easier in most Android apps.

I could also power on and off (long press) the system with the remote, and make it enter standby (short press), with the following power consumption numbers when all accessories, include a USB hard drive, are connected:

  • Power off – 0 Watt
  • Standby – 5.1 Watts
  • Idle – 6.2 Watts

Temperature wise the box top and bottom temperatures reach 44 and 52 °C max after Antutu 6.x benchmark, and after 15 minutes playing Riptide GP2, they rise to about 47°C and 59°C respectively. I could not notice any performance degradation over time in the game, and performance was the same as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes.

After my initial frustration with having to upgrade the firmware using Windows based Amlogic USB burning tool, the device actually performance well, just like other entry-level Amlogic S912 TV boxes, with the advantage of having several bugs fixed (HDMI CEC bug gone, HDMI video setting constant, …). Google Play also worked with any problems and could install all apps I normally use for reviews.

4K Video & Audio playback in Kodi 16.1, DRM Info

While some Amlogic S912 TV boxes are pre-loaded with Kodi 17.0 (alpha / beta), Rikomagic MK22 comes with the stable version of Kodi 16.1, possibly with some tweaks, as well as pre-installed add-ons.

mk22-kodi-16-1
Again, I’ll be quick in this review, as Amlogic S912 video playback performance is well known.  So I’ve only tested 4K videos, and checked whether automatic frame rate switching and HDMI audio pass-through are working. All videos were playing through the Gigabit Ethernet connection from a SAMBA share, unless otherwise noted (HDD = played from USB hard drive).

4K videos are playing reasonably well, although 2 had some unusual issues:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) –  OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – First time: Video exited early (after 2 to 3 seconds). Second time: 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) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Started well, but after 30 seconds or so the image froze with the audio still playing in the background.
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (hardware does not support this type of video)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK (although video did not seem as sharp as usual)
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) –  OK
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – HDD: Not smooth
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays but could be smoother.

Automatic frame rate switching is not working just like on other Amlogic S912 devices, even after setting it in both Kodi and Android (HDMI Adaptation).

HDMI audio passthrough works for 5.1 channel audio, and I could not detect any audio cuts during testing contrary to what happens on some other devices:

  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – Audio OK, but video not smooth
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – OK
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio
  • TrueHD 5.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio
  • TrueHD 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio
  • Dolby Atmos 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio
  • DTS HD Master – DTS 5.1
  • DTS HD High Resolution – DTS 5.1
  • DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636) – DTS 5.1

So if all you really is Dolby and DTS 5.1, MK22 should be good enough, but TrueHD and DTS HD audio formats are not supported, at least in Kodi.

MK22 support Widevine Level 3 according to DRM Info, which may be useful for some premium video streaming app. This DRM level is only good enough for SD resolution on Widewine “protected” apps, as Level 1 would be required for HD and UHD resolution.

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Networking and Storage

In order to evaluate WiFi performance, I copy a 278 MBfile between the internal storage and a SAMBA server using ES File Explorer in both direction. As with many recent boxes, MK22 also experience an asymmetric performance between download and upload, with the latter about twice as slow. On average Rikomagic MK22 achieves 1.6 MB/s throughput using 802.11n, not a very high performance even for 802.11n, but what’s surprising is that all Amlogic S912 TV boxes are very closely tied for 802.1n WiFi performance, so there may be an issue with Amlogic SDK, or some other limitations.

WiFI throughput in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

WiFi throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Internal performance is also important for fast loading times and overall system performance, and the eMMC used in MK22 has very good performance with 63.65 MB/s read speed, and 20.23 MB/s write speed.

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

That means there should not be visible slowdowns due to I/Os (provided random I/Os are fast too), and indeed during testing I did not experience any slowdowns, and found apps to load rapidly. Somehow boot time could be a bit faster with such performance.

I also tested file systems support and found FAT32, NTFS, and exFAT file systems to be supported by the device.

Rikomagic MK22 System Info and Antutu Benchmark

CPU-Z reports Amlogic S912 clocked at 1.51 GHz, so Kudos to Rikomagic here, as they are the first to report the real CPU frequency of that processor. The board name is q6330, framebuffer resolution is set to 1920 x 1080, and there’s indeed 2GB RAM (1807MB due to hardware buffers), and 11.38 GB storage available to the user.

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RKM-MK22 achieved 40,827 points in Antutu 6.x, a score in line with other Amlogic S912 Android TV boxes I’ve tested so far.

rkm-mk22-antutu-score

Conclusion

I found Rikomagic MK22 to be stable and working mostly as expected, with some bugs corrected compared to earlier S912 TV box models under reviews, but with limitations frequently found in entry-level Amlogic S912 TV boxes with lack of support for automatic frame rate switching and HD audio (TrueHD, DTS HD) pass-through in Kodi, as well as DRM limited to Widewine Level 3. WiFi 802.11n is reliable, but performance is a bit weak, although similar to what you get with other Amlogic S912 devices. Storage speed is very good which ensure fast loading times and a responsive system. A big let down was lack of OTA firmware update, as I had to run USB burning tool to upgrade the firmware, but the company told me that from now on OTA firmware will be provided.

Rikomagic MK22 TV box can be purchased on the company’s Aliexpress store for $93.90 including shipping, or quite higher than equivalent competitors products. The Android box is also listed on GearBest, but still shown as “out of stock”.

VR SKY CX-V3 Android VR Headset Review – Part 2: GUI, 360° and VR Videos, and Issues

September 25th, 2016 18 comments

VR SKY CX-V3 is an Android virtual reality headset powered by Allwinner H8vr processor and featuring a 1080p display. I had read VR requires 2K or 4K displays to be useful, but since that’s my very first VR headset, if we don’t count the a Google Cardboard clone as one, I did not mind testing one with a 1920×1080 display, and it ended up being an interesting learning experience.

I’ve already shown the hardware with the various buttons, touch interfaces and lenses in the headset, as well as accessories like the charger and headphone in the first part of the review, so today, I’ll go through the interfaces, what works, and mention the issues I had with the device.

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If you’ve never used a virtual reality headset before, you’ll definitely want to read the user manual, which for once is written in proper English, both for entertainment value, and learn how to actually use it. They must have been inspired from other VR headset manuals, as the health and safety warnings have a North American touch to them.

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You are even suggested to consult your doctor if you are pregnant, elderly, or suffer from a list of various diseases. Other pages mentions convulsions occurring for one in 4000 persons, and all sort of potential for injuries. It almost makes you regret your purchase, and give second thoughts about actually using the device.

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Childern under 13 years old should not use the headset without adult supervision, and avoid prolonged use. I totally agree with the latter though, but it’s not really comfortable to use for extended period of times due to head and eye strains. There are about ten pages about potential hazards and health issues.

The manual also explicitly warns that:

When you are wearing glasses, do not wear VR Sky. Doing so may lead to facial injuries. If you need vision correction lenses, it is recommended, it is recommended that you wear contact lenses using VR Sky.

My myopia is too strong to use the headset without correction, and since I’m not going to wear contact lenses, I called the warning “BS”, and tried using it with my glasses.

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I had no particular issues doing so, but obviously it’s tight, and how well it fits will depend on your glasses’ dimensions. The headset does not push the glasses down, so there’s no added pressure on the nose, as long as you set the head straps properly.

After having charge the headset with the provided charger, or any 5V phone charger, it’s time to press the power button to get started. The boot should complete in less than one minute, and you will be in Nibiru 360 degree user interface.

nibiru-virtual-reality-user-interface

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Since we have a 1920×1080 display, you’ll have one 960×1080 image in each eye, which explains the look of the screenshot above. You are located in a room with sofa, tables and lights on the back, and large windows with night view on the city, and you can move head left and right and up and down will allow you to navigate in the menu with five icons: Apps, Theater, Pano, Photos, and Tools. Theater app will put you in an actual theater and stream from a list of 2D or 3D videos, and Pano app (shown below) will do something similar but for 360 & VR videos, and requires you to download videos before playing. All preinstalled apps worked well, but content is not really exciting, as those are only demo videos.

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Before going a bit more through the user interface and apps, let’s get familiar with the user inputs on the headset.

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On the left side of the headset, we have the switch button (power on/off & standby), and the Nibiru button used to enable/disable the mouse pointer, brightness adjustment, switch to VR mode (aka 3D mode), and close the app.

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Nibiru Button Options

On the right side, we’ll find the touchpad, similar to a D-Pad with OK button in the center, and used browsing menu left <-> right, and up <-> down, the back button, as well as the volume buttons.

Nibiru main user interface always have a selection dot, so you don’t need to enable “head mouse” mouse, but in many apps you’ll need to enable the mouse pointer and control it with head movement.

In order to do anything useful with the headset, you’ll need to configure WiFi first. To do so, enter Tools->Settings menu, and select WiFi.

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It should list available access point, and you can input the password using the software keyboard using both head movement, and the center of the touchpad to validate each character.

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Software Keyboard used with YouTube – Click to Enlarge

I had no problem connecting to WiFI. The first time it’s quite fun to type text that way, but it’s quite slow, and very soon it will become frustrating. So I connected a USB keyboard instead, and look though the opening around the nose, or lifting the headset, in order to type. That’s where using a smartphone + VR headset kit proves more convenient than all-in-one solutions, as first setup and app installation is much easier that way. In theory voice search would help, but Google Search app could not hear me at all through the provided headset which appears to include a microphone.

I went to the list of app, start Google Play Store, logged in with my credentials, and went to my PC on play.google.com to installs to “Allwinner Eagle” device, which is how SKY VR CX-V3 is recognized.

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It worked quite well as I could install Cardboard, a few other virtual reality apps, Asus File Manager to copy files to/from my computer, Kodi 16.1, CPU-Z, and Antutu, but no Antutu 3D.

CX-V3 kit is also supposed to supported OTA firmware update, and when I click on “Check online”, it’s telling it has add a file to the download queue, but after one day, I still did no get a new firmware. Maybe I missed something here.

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So I used the default firmware for review: Nibiru 2.00.001 apparently released on June 14, 2016. The model number is VR0061.

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Let’s play with Google Cardboard app now, which had no problem detecting my VR kitas Nibiru OSVR0061.

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But then I would see two nearly identical mirror images in each eye with a bar in the middle. That’s where you need to press the Nibiru button and enable VR mode in order to enter 3D mode. The only problem is that if I keep my two eyes opened the results will show an overlapped image, and that’s when I discovered a big problem with that headset: fixed IPD (Inter-pupil distance) allegedly set to 64mm, which means it can’t be calibrated. I asked somebody else to try, and they said it worked just fine for them. We measured the distance between the center of each pupil to be 65mm for me, and 60 mm for the other person. So when you purchase a virtual reality headset make sure it supports “adjustable IPD”, or it may not work properly with virtual reality applications. This won’t be a problem to navigate the menus, watch 360 degree videos, or even 2D videos. Some 3D/VR video play just fine, while others will exhibit the same issue.

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I tried again with another Virtual Reality app from the Google Play store, namely, VR Roller Coaster, and I had the same issue.

So I can’t use VR applications due the space between my eyes being too bad, but I surely can play 360° Videos in YouTube. Except I could not do that either. The cardboard icon normally shown in  360° Videos in  my smartphone (as shown below) could not be seen in the YouTube app running in the virtual reality headset.

youtube-cardboard

No Cardboard Icon for Nibiru

That means I would see all pixels of the video in a rectangle, so pretty much useless.

I could also install Kodi, and play 2D videos without issues, except they all look like SD resolution to due the display. I tried some 3D videos stereoscopic videos (under/over and side-by-side) and 3D MVC videos, but It did not work even after enabling 3D support in the app. I think this type of device is not suitable for this type of videos. I’m here to learn, if you know do let me know what kind of 3D video I could use…

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Finally, in the name of science, I side-loaded two apps for people old enough to drive without being accompanied, and while the apps could run, and I could navigate through the list of videos, both would crash when starting streaming…

I’ll complete this review by showing some of the information returned by CPU-Z app.

sky-vr-cx-v3-cpu-z-soc

Allwinner octa-core processor up to 1.8 GHz with PowerVR SGX544MP GPU…sky-vr-cx-v3-cpu-z-device

The model is called Eagle (eagle_fvd_p1) as reported in Google Play store, the brand is Nibiru, the resolution 1920×1080, and there’s 1761MB RAM in total, and 12.04GB storage available to the user.sky-vr-cx-v3-cpu-z-systemThe package clearly states CX-V3 is running Android 5.1, but CPU-Z disagrees as it is instead reporting Android 4.4.2 running on top of Linux 3.4.39 kernel. The device is rooted. I have not been able to find the developer settings, and could not enable adb. [Update: adb over WiFi is not working, but it’s enabled over the micro USB port. You can also access Android settings & developer options by clicking several times on “VR Version” row in “About Device” section of Nibiru interface]

While in Nibiru interface you have 960×1080 pixel in each eye, non-VR apps like CPU-Z will be shown using 864×486 per eye.

I’d like to thank GearBest for sending a Android VR headset for review, and in case you are interested in the device, they sell it for 117.74$ with coupon LHSKY. VR SKY CX-V3 Android VR Headset can also be bought on DealExtreme, eBay, Aliexpress, and GeekBuying for various prices.

Zidoo X9S Realtek RTD1295 Android & OpenWrt TV Box System Info & Benchmarks

September 9th, 2016 19 comments

Zidoo X9S is the first Android TV box based on Realtek RTD1295 quad core Cortex A53 processor that I’ve received for review. So in this post, I’ll show some system information with CPU-Z, and Android & OpenWrt Settings, and run typical Android benchmarks such as Antutu 6.x, Vellamo, and 3Dmark.

Zidoo X9S / Realtek RTD1295 Android System Info

CPU-Z detects Realtek RTD1295 is a quad core ARM Cortex A53 processor clocked between 600 MHz and 1.4 GHz with an ARM Mali-T820 GPU, and uses an unknown governor… But in adb shell, tje command “cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_governor” reports an ondemand governor is used.

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The system runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 4.1.17 (I think it’s the first time I see a Linux 4.x kernel used in a TV box…), and with 1920×1080 resolution. Total RAM is shown to be 1672 MB, most probably because some RAM is reserved for the GPU and VPU out of the 2GB RAM. There’s only 8.91 GB internal storage out of the 16GB eMMC flash, which is quite lower than on other TV boxes, but there’s at least one reason for this: OpenWrt is also running in the box. Zidoo however told they plan to optimize this in order to offer more space to the user.

realtek-rtd1295-storage-ntfs-exfat-ext4-sata-usb3Another interesting aspect of Realtek RTD1195 is support for USB 3.0 and SATA storage, and with the 12V/3A power supply that comes with the box, I could connect both a USB 3.0 hard drive to the USB 3.0 port, and a SATA drive (CNXSoft shown above) to the external port.  My USB 3.0 drive has 4 partitions, and with the exception of BTRFS, all other file systems could be mounted: NTFS, exFAT, and EXT-4. NTFS is implemented with Paragon NTFS, a commercial implementation, which usually delivers much better performance than NTFS-3G.

Zidoo X9S / Realtek RTD1295 OpenWrt System Info

So let’s have a look at OpenWrt. First I can see some OpenWrt process within Android using adb shell:

and I also scan Zidoo X9S IP address from my Ubuntu machine to discover a few oen ports:

So there are port SSH and HTTP ports running, but you can’t access SSH just yet, as you need to set the root password first. To do, you can access the configuration page from Zidoo (http://127.0.0.1), or any browser on your LAN (http://[ZIDOO-X9S IP address]). zidoo_openwrt_rtd1295_luciIt should redirect you to LuCI interface, and you can login with no root password. There’s a security issue here, as your personal files may be exposed if you forget to set the root password, or to disable OpenWrt if you don’t need it.

zidoo-openwrt_set_password In order to set the root password, go to System->Administration input your password, and click on Save & Apply.

Now that we have configured the system, we can check the status, and see that it’s running OpenWrt Chaos Calmer 15.04.

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You can also enable/disable some OpenWrt services within Android itself by going to Settings->More->Openwrt Settings.

Zidoo X9S / Realtek RTD1295 Benchmarks

Zidoo X9S got 34,973 points in Antutu 6.x, in the expected range for a quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz. The result is  a little lower than  Antutu 6.x for Amlogic S905 processor @ 1.5 Ghz.

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The 3D score is quite faster thanks to the Mali-T820MP GPU, but UX, CPU and RAM scores are lower.

Moving on to Vellamo, Zidoo X9S got 1,457 for Multicore, 831 for Metal, and 2,638 for Browser using Chrome (the stock browser is not an option in X9S firmware). This compares to 1,589 for Multicore and 1,235 for Metal achieved by MINIX NEO U1 TV box based on Amlogic S905 SoC. The browser score for the latter (2,157 points) is not directly comparable since it was done with the stock Browser, not Chrome.
vellamo_zidoo-x9s
Finally, I’ve tested 3D graphics performance again using 3D Ice Storm Extreme 1.2.

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The total score (4,574 points) is surprisingly only slightly higher than on Amlogic S905 with Mali-450MP GPU (4,327), and significantly lower than on Amlogic S912 with ARM Mali-T820MP3 (5,752), which is supposed to have the same GPU as Realtek RTD1295, maybe it’s clocked lower on the latter, or RAM performance has an impact on the score. Zidoo X9S does not come with any heatsink on the processor, but instead a metal shield covered with “graphite nano thermo material”, so it might be a cooling issue too.

Review of Vernee Apollo Lite Smartphone with Mediatek Helio X20 SoC – Part1: Unboxing, First Boot and Benchmarks

August 31st, 2016 6 comments

Vernee Apollo Lite is the little brother of Vernee Apollo, both based on Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core Cortex A72/A53 SoC, but with the Lite version having lower hardware specs otherwise, and being one of the few ARM Cortex A72 smartphones selling for less than $200 (at least in China). Tomtop, a Chinese online store, sent me a sample for review, and today, I’ll start by going through the tech specs, then check out the phone design and its accessories, and finally run a few benchmark, before posting a more detailed review in one or two weeks, where I’ll have more experience and feel about the phone.

Vernee Apollo Lite Specifications

I had posted some specs about the phone when it was first released, but they were incomplete at the time, and Vernee now released the full specs for their Apollo Lite:

  • SoC – Meaitek Helio X20 (MT6797) deca-core processor with 2x Cortex A72 cores, 4x Cortex A53 cores, and 4x low power Cortex A53 cores, as well as ARM Mali-T880MP4 GPU
  • System Memory – 4GB LPDDR3 RAM
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash  + micro SD card slot (up to 128GB) share with one nano SIM card slot
  • Display – 5.5″ full HD (1920×1080) 2.5D display with Gorilla Corning 3 glass; 5-point touch
  • Camera – 16.0MP rear camera with dual LED flash, 5.0MP wide angle front-facing camera. Video up to 4K2K @ 30fps; 1080p @ 60fps
  • Cellular Network
    • 2G – GSM 900/1900/2100MHz
    • 3G – WCDMA 900/2100MHz
    • 4G – FDD-LTE 800/1800/2100/2600MHz
    • Dual SIM dual standby (DSDS): 1. Micro SIM + Nano SIM; 2. Micro SIM + micro SD card
  • Wireless Connectivity – Dual band 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, A-GPS
  • USB – USB Type-C OTG port
  • Misc – Pressure type fingerprint scanner, gyro, compass, hall effect, gravity sensor, ambient light sensor, touch sensor, LED notification light
  • Power Supply – 5V/7V/9V @ 2.0A/12V @ 1.5A power supply compatible with Pump Express 3.0
  • Battery – 3,180 mAh LiPo battery
  • Dimensions – 152 x 76.2 x 9.2 mm
  • Weight – 175 grams

The phone runs Android 6.0.

Vernee Apollo Lite Unboxing

The device comes in a black retail package with “Vernee Apollo Lite” text on the top, and some specifications on the bottom of the package.

Vernee_Apollo_Package

The phone ships with a 5 to 12V fast charger, a USB-C to USB cable, a user manual, a card with a QR code linking to www.vernee.cc, and a “SIM needle”.

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Apollo Lite smartphone build quality feels good and sturdy. The screen is slightly curved on the edges (hence the “2.5D display” I suppose), with the front having the usual camera and light sensor, and the back a camera with dual color LED flash, and the finger print sensor right under it.

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The bottom of the phone include two speakers and the USB type C port used for charging, and since its a USB OTG port according to the specs, you should also be able to connect other USB devices with the right adapter.

Vernee_Apollo_Lite_Speakers_USB-C

The 3.5mm audio jack is not dead yet after all, and you can find one on the top of the device.

Vernee_Apollo_Lite_Headphone_Jack

One of the side features the power and volume buttons….Vernee_Apollo_Lite_Buttons…while the other side has two slots for your Micro/Nano SIM card(s) and/or micro SD card. This is where you need the “SIM needle” to pull out the two slots where you can place your cards. The top one supports SIM and SD cards, the bottom one only SIM cards.

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The enclosure does not seem designed to be easily opened, so I’m unsure whether the battery is replaceable.

You can also watch the unboxing video if you please.

Vernee Apollo Lite First Boot and OTA Update

The phone is little slow to boot, as it typically does so in about one minute, but hopefully, it’s not something you’ll often have to do. The device is using stock Android Launcher, and you have all basic apps (I installed Antutu and CPU-Z myself) you’d expect including Google Play Store.

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The About section reports the phone is named “Apollo Lite” and runs Android 6.0 on top of Linux 3.18.22. The source code has not been released yet, but people have been asking in the Forums in the last week or so, as Vernee has done so for some other of their phones.

After I installed a 32GB micro SD card in phone, I was asked whether to use it as Internal storage or Portable storage, and I went for the former. After micro SD card format completed, I had about 54 GB device storage. After connecting to WiFi, I also went to check for firmware update, and one released two days ago (29/08/2016).

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I could download it, but sadly it failed to apply showing the Android logo with Error string. I also noticed many apps, including Firefox and QR Droid, are crashing when I attempt to start them. So that’s not really the best of start. I’ll check out the forums to see if I can get some help, and solve my issues.

Vernee Apollo Lite System Info and Antutu Benchmark

Luckily both CPU-Z and Antutu 6.0 are running just fine. The first properly detect Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core processor, and an ARM Mali-T880MP GPU.

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The reported CPU frequencies are likely wrong however, as all cores should not be able to reached 1.85 GHz. Vernee is the new brand of NewBund, so that’s why the company is listed as the manufacturer. The screen resolution is 1080×1920 with 400 dpi, there’s 3842MB RAM in total, and 25.16GB available from the internal eMMC flash.

Antutu 6.x score is the fastest of all devices I own with 81,623 points, helped with Cortex A72 cores, and a fast ARM Mali-T880MP GPU.

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That’s all for today. Tomtop kindly provided the sample for review, and if you’d like to purchase one you can do so on their website for $225.99 including shipping, and even bring that down to $218.99 with APOLLO7 coupon ($7 discount). The phone can also be purchased on a variety of other online shops including GearBest, GeekBuying, eBay, and Aliexpress for $227.99 and up.

M12N Amlogic S912 TV Box Benchmarks

August 17th, 2016 19 comments

Since Shenzhen Shiningworth MXQ Plus M12N is my first TV box powered by Amlogic S912 octa-core processor, I’ve decided to write a separate post to show system information with CPU-Z, and benchmark results with Antutu 6.x, Vellamo 3.x, and 3Dmark Ice Storm Extreme. Please note that it may not be representative of all Amlogic S912 boards, as mentioned in the teardown post, there are some concerns about the thermal design of M12N TV box.

M12N / Amlogic S912 System Info

I’ve merged CPU-Z’ SOC, DEVICE and SYSTEM data into a single table.

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The app correctly detects an 8 core Cortex A53 processor @ 100 MHz to 2.02 GHz with an ARM Mali-T820 GPU. The brand for this particurlar device is MXQ, and Model m12n. Frame buffer resolution is 1920×1080, and memory and storage data are both OK for a box with 2GB and 16GB flash. The device runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29.

M12N / Amlogic S912 Benchmarks

With 8 cores and a faster GPU, I was expecting a much higher Antutu 6.x score with Amlogic S912.

Antutu_6_Amlogic-S912_M12N
The box however only achieved 41,303 points in Antutu 6.2, which compared to 38,032 points on Amlogic S905 based MINIX NEO U1 running Android 5.1 with the same Android 6.x benchmark. The 3D score is naturally higher because of the fast GPU, and also begin the MaliT-820MP3 GPU also supports OpenGL ES 3.1, which was skipped on Amlogic S905. UX, CPU and RAM scores are about the same, or slightly lower in Amlogic S912. So there’s a problem here either because of thermal design, or Android 6.0 Amlogic SDK still needs some work. I launched the benchmark again another day, and got 38,798 points.. 3D was a little higher (9,353), UX and CPU slightly lower (14,088 + 12,414), but RAM test collapse d to 2,943 points.

Vellamo 3.2 offers some more perspective, and one of the Multicore tests failed (see yellow “warning” triangle) because of a “Sysbench issue with Finepar: Invalid CPU mode”.
Vellamo_AMlogic_S912_M12N
For reference, MINIX NEO U1, one of the fastest and most stable Amlogic S905 TV boxes, got respectively 1,587, 1,235, and 2,157 points for Multicore, Metal, and Browser scores. Again, that’s not a pretty picture for Amlogic S912 or M12N TV box.

3Dmark Ice Storm Extreme provides a slightly more positive picture.

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M12N achieved 5,752 points, against only 4,327 points for MINIX NEO U1. You’ll also note the CPU frequency appears to maxes out at 1.5 or 1.6 GHz instead of the claimed 2.02 GHz. M12N score is quite lower than the 7,512 points achieved in Rockchip RK3288 (ARM Mali-764 GPU) based Tronsmart Orion R28 running Android 4.4, and released in 2014.

Results are quite lower than what I would have expected, so there could be a problem with cooling (despite the rather short Android benchmarks), and/or Android 6.0 Amlogic SDK or M12N firmware might need some more work.

Pine A64 Board Quick Start Guide & Benchmarks with Android 5.1

May 31st, 2016 15 comments

Pine A64 is one of the development boards with the best cost/performance ratio, as it sells as low as $15 + shipping. I received Pine A64+ board with 2GB RAM at the end of last month, and decided to start playing with Android, as Linux distributions such as Longsleep Ubuntu appear to require a little more work. So in this post, I’ll report my experience with installing and running Android 5.1 on the board, and share some Android benchmark results.

Pine A64 Board Pictures

You’ll receive the board in cardboard package with Pine64 branding.

Pine_A64_package

You can check which version of the board you’ve been sent on the side of the package: PA64512 (512 MB RAM), PA641GB (1GB RAM), or PA642GB (2GB RAM).
Pine_A64_Version

The top of the board has been photographed often but here it is again. I’ve been sent the 2GB version without wireless module.

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The bottom of the board has two RAM chips, and not much else.

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I was quite surprised by the size, as it’s quite bigger than I expected.

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From top left to bottom right: Raspberry Pi 2, Raspberry Pi Zero, Orange Pi One, ODROID-XU3, and Pine A64

Installing and Running Android 5.1 on Pine A64 Board

The list of Android and Linux firmware images can be found on Pine64 Wiki. The latest version of Android 5.1 has been released on May 5 2016 with SD card images for 8, 16, 32, and 64GB capacity, as well as Phoenix Card image with need to be installed with Windows or Linux tools. The only advantage of the Phoenix Card image is that it will not waste any bytes on your micro SD card, but since it should be negligible, I went ahead with the 32GB SD card image version:

I did so in a Ubuntu 16.04 computer, but other Linux distributions will have similar instructions, and in Windows you can either follow the instructions below with Windows for Linux subsystem or instead used Win32DiskImager program.

Once you’ve insert your SD card inside your computer (mine was a Toshiba class 10 32GB micro SD), check the device name with lsblk, which should be /dev/sdX or /dev/mmcblkY, with X some letter, and Y some numbers. I’ll call it <sd_device> below. First unmount partitions.

Normally, I’d use one command to extract, and once command to flash the image to the SD card, but since I was in a TV stick with 18GB free storage, I instead use a one liner to uncompress the 1.1 GB firmware and flash it to the micro SD card:

Now remove the micro SD card from your computer, insert it into the micro SD slot on Pine A64, connect Ethernet, a USB mouse and keyboard, and the power. My first board (and an early Android image) would not boot, so I connected the serial console to the EULER header: GND to pin 34, Tx to pin 30 and Rx to pin 29.

Pine_A64_Serial_Header

I ran minicom configured with /dev/ttyUSB0 115200 8N1 to find out what was going on:

The RAM clearly failed to initialize, so I reported this on the forum, and others had the same issue. I was sent another board, which booted just fine… sort of. The bootloader logo came very quickly, but then nothing happened, so I connect the serial console gain (I think a USB to TTL board is a must with Pine A64 at this stage of development), and I noticed a lot of erase operation on the micro SD card:

After 5 minutes it became quiet, and I though briefly the Android home screen, but it quickly fell back to another boot logo, and got stuck there. So I rebooted the board, and I got to the stock launcher in a little over one minute.

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The Android firmware appears to be based on the smartphone version instead of the table version used in most Android TV boxes. A few apps are pre-installed such as the Google Play Store and ES File Explorer.

Pine_A64_Android_Apps

I could login to the Play Store, but soon I found that network connectivity did not seem to work well at all, and although I could browser app, the system was unable to download any, and later one I got an error message about network timeout while checking out apps. Internet connectivity issues do happen, and it’s seldom a problem with the board, so I went to ES File Explorer to install the apk manually through my SAMBA share, but networking was also unreliable on my LAN, which is not normal at all. The symptom was very similar to early Rockchip RK3288 TV boxes with Gigabit Ethernet, the link would show a Gigabit Ethernet connection, but the connection itself was unreliable, So I disconnected the board from my Gigabit switch (D-Link DGS-1005A), and instead connected it a 10/100M switch, and everything started to work as expected, so I installed apps from Google Play. The good news is that a firmware update might be able to fix the Gigabit Ethernet issue, if the root cause is the same as on RK3288.

Pine_A64_Android_Storage

My 32GB SD card has 26.27 GB usable by the user on a single unified partition.

Pine A64 Android Benchmarks

Let’s start with CPU-Z first to find a little more about the system.

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Allwiner A64 processor has 4 Cortex A53 cores clocked at 480 MHz to 1.34 GHz with a Mali-400 MP2 GPU. The model is PINE A64 (tulip_chiphd), and the hardware 50iw1p1. The app detected 1987 MB RAM for the system with 26.27 GB for storage, and the resolution is set to 1920×1080.  The system runs Android 5.1.1 on top of a 64-bit Linux 3.10.35 kernel.
Pine_A64_Antutu_6.1.4

We should not expect a Cortex A53 @ ~1.4 Ghz with a weak Mali-400MP2 GPU to get an amazing score, and the board got 24,568 points in Antutu 6.1.4, which is barely above the 21,500 points I got with Rockchip RK3229 quad core Cortex A7 based Zidoo X1 II TV box, and quite below the 35,000+ points in Amlogic S905 or Rockchip RK3368 based hardware platforms.

Pine_A64_Vellamo

Vellamo pretty much confirm the performance with 1,292 points for multicore, 648 for Metal, and 1,610 for browser benchmarks, which compares to respectively 1,572, 763 and 2,002 points in K1 Plus TV box powered by Amlogic S905 quad core Cortex A53 @ 2.0 GHz.

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3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited was used to get a score for the GPU, and 1,701 points is on the low side, but expected.

Finally, I tested the Ethernet connection using iperf for Android performing a full duplex transfer:

The results connected to my Ethernet switch are just fine:

But switching to my Gigabit Ethernet switch confirm the problem I had earlier as the transfer only properly occurred in one direction instead of both:

Overall performance is as expected, expect for Gigabit Ethernet, with only Fast Ethernet working reliably with my setup.

If you are interested in the board, you can purchase it on Pine64 online store for $15 (512MB RAM), $19 (1 GB RAM) or $29 (2GB) + shipping. Please note that the 512 MB version is only suitable for Linux distributions, and Android requires at least 1GB RAM.