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Vorke Z3 Rockchip RK3399 TV Box Review – Part 2: Android 6.0 Firmware

July 6th, 2017 11 comments

Vorke Z3 is another mini PC / TV box powered by Rockchip RK3399 hexa core processor with two Cortex A72 cores, and two Cortex A53 cores making it theoretically one of the fastest TV boxes on the market, excluding NVIDIA Shield Android TV which is well ahead of the competition, albeit with poor worldwide availability. I’ve have already shown Vorke Z3 hardware inside out, so in the second part of the review, I’ll focus on testing the firmware including video playback, and the system performance, and see how it compares to the similar Yundoo Y8, which I reviewed last month.

First Boot, Setup, and First Impressions

One the selling point of Vorke Z3 is its SATA connector, so I connected a 1TB 3.5″ SATA drive first, as well as Seagate USB 3.0 drive (1TB) to the USB 3.0 port, I also added a USB hub to connect a USB keyboard, as well as two USB RF dongles for Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad. and MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse. I did not use the USC type C port at that point, but we’ll see later that it can be used for firmware update, remote storage access, and video output.  I completed the hardware setup by plugging in Ethernet, HDMI, and power cables.

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Press the mechanical power switch on the rear panel in order to start the box, with a typical boot taking around 30 seconds. That’s acceptable, but I was expecting a faster boot with the high end eMMC flash used together with the powerful processor. The first time, you may be asked to choose between Launcher3 (Stock Android Home screen similar to what you get on your phone) better if you are close to the screen using the box as a mini PC,

or the familiar MediaBox Launcher better suited to TV use, if you are seated a few meters from the screen.

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Below are the pre-installed app (minus RKMC which I installed manually) in the stock firmware.

YouTube, Hulu Plus, and Netflix are installed, but you’ll notice Kodi is missing, and there’s a good reason for this as we’ll find out below…

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The Settings are pretty much standard, but when you go to Display Output, you’ll see HDMI and HDMI1 output, because the mini PC can handle two display if you connect a compatible USB type C to HDMI dock to the device, and you can either mirror the displays, or extend the desktop. I don’t have such dock, and GeekBuying did not seem interested in sending me one, so I did not test that part, but it’s something to keep in mind. [Update: I’ve tested it with Dodocool DC30S USB Type C work, and it works, except for “display different content for double screen”, it will just mirror the screen]

I could still go to the HDMI section, and configure video output up to 4096×2160 @ 60 Hz. What I found out is that the system will not keep the setting, and it will just jump aroud 4K @ 30 Hz, 1080p60 or 720p60 between reboots. The Sound & Notification section does not include “Sound Devices Manager”, so you can’t enable audio pass-through, so if you want to do that you’d have to use the blue “Settings” app instead. The settings do not have any options for CEC or HDR, with the latter not supported by the hardware.

The screenshot above was taken at the end of the review, and I still had plenty of space out of the 26.74GB partition. USB3_NTFS is the NTFS partition of my four partitions USB drive, meaning exFAT, EXT-4 and BTRFS file systems are not supported. “USB Drive” is actually the SATA drive, and is a misnomer as the hardware implementation relies on a PCIe to SATA bridge. In case you planed to use the device as a mini PC connected to your printer, you may want to know Printing settings are missing.

The About section shows the device name is indeed VORKE Z3, and it runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 4.4.166 with the Android security patch dated August 2016. The build machine’s hostname is sunchip-CS24-TY, so it’s quite possible Sunchip is being the software and hardware design. Two versions of the firmware are available with either root or no root, so you could install the one you prefer using AndroidTool (Windows) or upgrade_tool (Linux).

The IR remote control is pretty basic, and I assume most people will used the own input device be it a an air mouse or the smartphone app. It did the job but only up to 4 meters, farther than this, and some key presses will be missed. I had no troubles installing apps via Google Play and Amazon Underground stores.

It’s not possible to cleanly power off the device with the remote control, only the mechanical switch on the back can do this, so instead you can only go in or out of standby.  I measured the power consumption with or without SATA and/or USB hard drive(s) attached in power off, standby, and idle modes:

  • Power off – 0.0 Watt
  • Standby – 5.1 Watts
  • Idle – 5.1 Watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.0 Watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 8.1 Watts
  • Idle + USB HDD – 9.1 Watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.0 Watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 10.3 Watts
  • Idle + USB HDD – 11.2 Watts

After playing a 2-hour H.264 video in Kodi, I measured maximum temperatures of 37 and 40°C on the top and bottom of the case with an IR thermometer, but the temperature felt a little higher than that when touching the surface with my hand, maybe it’s made of a material that interferes with measurements. After playing Riptide GP2 for around 15 minutes, the temperatures went up a little to 39 and 42°C, and gameplay was OK overtime, but only similar to what I experience on Yundoo Y8 or Amlogic S912 TV Boxes, and not as smooth as on Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced. CPU-Z always reports 26 °C, so it’s not usable as an alternative temperature measure. I also noticed the box got quite hot (44 °C with IR thermometer) when I turned off the display, and let the UI in the launcher doing nothing. I did not notice any sharp drop in performance during use, but thermal throttling is happening as we’ll see in the Benchmark section.

I like the SATA port and USB type C port supporting data and video in Vorke Z3, and I found the firmware to be rather stable and very responsive. However, there are many small issues like no clean power off, HDMI setting is not remembered properly, so settings like Printing, CEC, Audio device, and automatic frame rate switching are missing from the main Setting app. The IR remote control does not feel very good either, and range was rather short.

Kodi & RKMC Video Playback, DRM Info, and YouTube

Kodi is not installed so I went to the Google Play store to install Kodi 17.3, and naively expected most videos to play fine. Those are my results for 4K video samples:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK, but not perfectly smooth
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – Stays in UI
  • 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) – Stays in UI
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC, 24 fps) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – ~5 fps (software decode)
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Stays in UI
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Slideshow + audio delay  (4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by the VPU in Rockchip RK3399 SoC)
  • 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) – Stays in UI
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – Stays in UI
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – First try: Kodi hangs; Second try: ~2fps + artifacts (software decode)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – HDD: OK
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – ~5 fps, massive artifacts (software decode)
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – ~5 fps, massive artifacts (software decode)

Wow… I don’t think I can remember any platform that failed that badly. But I usually use the pre-installed Kodi app, which in this case was missing, so maybe that’s why. I’ll give up on Kodi 17.3 for now, but I remember somebody mentioned RKMC 16.1 would work better on Rockchip device. I did some research, and installed RKMC in the box. I made some mistake doing so, reinstalled the firmware and lost all my screenshots in the process. So maybe sure you backup any files before messing with the system partition or config files.

But what about the results with RKMC and my 4K videos samples?:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK, but not perfectly smooth
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK, but not perfectly smooth
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  Crash
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Crash
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Stays in UI + hang
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC, 24 fps) – Crash
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – ~5 fps (software decode)
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Stays in UI + hang
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Almost smooth + audio delay  (4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by the VPU in Rockchip RK3399 SoC)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – Crash
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – Stays in UI + audio
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – Stays in UI + audio
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – OK (hardware decode)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – HDD: OK
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – ~5 fps, massive artifacts (software decode)
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – ~5 fps, massive artifacts (software decode)

So H.265 video won’t play, VP9 will, but are unwatchable with software decode, and only H.264 videos are playing relatively well.

I got more insights in my RKMC post with Superceleron commenting:

Well don’t expect miracles, besides that is a old kodi fork dont have python 2.7 and it have subtitles security flaw.
On my tests, on A7 version of rk sdk use kodi 18 nightly it will play ok almost all codecs. (i just made a custom rom for A95X-R2 so i know it plays it ok)
On A6 forget it, i had to make some mix custom roms to make it work with FTMC.. it now plays almost all codecs (it crashes with RKCodec on H264 10bits, but mediacodec play ok but max 720p)
Rockchip never learns….

and

Yes need to wait for it, or simple try one of my roms for 3399 like for the Yundoo Y8 or H96 Max.
It will work lot better than stock, i fixed the play of VP9 in Hw in FTMC but still crash in H264 10bits, and cant play Youtube 4k due to codec issue!

So at this stage, I’d recommend not to buy any Rockchip RK3399 TV box if you want to play videos in Kodi, and wait for Android 7.1 firmware which is expected sometimes in the next few weeks or months. If you already have one, and/or are ready to waste some time, you could try TVMC that works somewhat in Yundoo Y8, or use one of the aforementioned ROMs on Freaktab.

I’ll skip video testing in this review, and if time permits perform tests again once Android 7.1 firmware and Kodi 18.0 are released.

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I still checked DRM info, and there’s no DRM support at all, except for something called CENC ClearKey.

YouTube worked well for me up to 1080p. Video is rendered to the framebuffer (I can take screenshot of it), which should explain the resolution limitation, and mean that it’s likely using software decode.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

As I connected to my 802.11ac router, I noticed the Link Speed was 526 Mbps when I checked, so better than the usual 433 Mbps you get on most other devices.

I first tested WiFi 802.11ac throughput by transferring a 278MB file beetween SAMBA and the internal flash and vice versa using ES File Explorer. There’s again a serious problem with SAMBA implementation, as download speed was fairly good @ 3.00 MB/s, but upload speed drop to 1.06 MB/s only, leading to a well below average average speed.

Throughput in MB/s

But iperf tests below show 802.11ac performance is actually quite good in both directions, so the real problem is with SAMBA implementation/configuration in the firmware.

WiFi 802.11ac upload:

WiFi 802.11ac download:

I repeated the SAMBA test with a larger 885 MB file over Gigabit Ethernet, and I confirmed the same issue as it took 49 seconds to upload the file from the server, and 1 minute and 52 seconds to upload the file.

I also run iperf again for Gigabit Ethernet using full duplex option:

I was expecting higher numbers, but those values will be good enough for most people.

Storage Performance

I used A1SD Bench to evaluate sequential performance of internal storage, USB 3.0 and SATA interfaces.

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In theory, the Samsung eMMC flash used is very good, and results from the benchmark confirm this with 157.63 MB/s read speed, and 124.80 MB/s write speed. That’s the best performance I’ve ever gotten from an Android device.

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

Sure enough, I never had troubles with “app is not responding” or app beings slow to load.

USB 3.0 and SATA performance is also pretty solid, especially sequential read speed. Write speed was actually 100 MB/s the first time I tried with SATA, but after I had to reinstall the firmware, I never managed to get back to that result with the speed limited to around 72 MB/s.

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

Nevertheless, results are fairly good, and SATA should provide a little more performance than USB 3.0.

Vorke Z3 Benchmark & System Info

CPU-Z reports a dual cluster “RK3066” processor with two Cortex A72 cores @ 1.99 GHz, and four Cortex A53 cores @ 1.51 GHz, and an ARM Mali-T860 GPU.

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VORKE Z3 (rk3399_box) uses a 1920×1080 framebuffer resolution, comes with 3878MB total RAM (the rest being used by hardware buffers), and 26.74 GB interface storage.

Antutu 6.x score varies a lot between 69k and 78k due to thermal throttling. But if I run the benchmark right after boot, I get the result below, roughly the same as Yundoo Y8 one (76,819 points).

Vellamo 2.x results would also varies due to thermal throttling, but also because for some reasons SunSpider test would fail to run from time to time, as shown by the yellow mark on the first Chrome Browser test.
For some reasons, Chrome Browser result is much lower (4,512) compared to the 5,275 points I got with Yundoo Y8, but Multicore (2,587 vs 2,492) and Metal (2,311 vs 2,332) results are roughly the same.

3DMark’s Ice Storm Extreme results was also slightly lower with 9,726 points compared to 9,906 points for Yundoo Y8.

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At one point I only got 6,7xx points, but it was not because of overheating, and was instead due to the system randomly changing resolution and refresh rate, with the video output set to 3840×2160 @ 30 Hz at the time, limiting the framerate to 30 fps max.

Conclusion

I did not have the best experience with Vorke Z3 due to my struggle with Kodi and RKMC, and various smaller issues like HDMI output resolution & framerate randomly changing between reboots, lack of proper power off mode, some overheating, etc… But there are also some positives like excellent internal storage performance, good USB 3.0 and SATA performance, a USB type C port supporting data, and video output, and very good WiFi performance, so I’m hoping the upcoming Android 7.1 Nougat firmware will greatly improve the device usefulness.

PROS

  • Good overall performance and stable firmware
  • Fastest internal storage I’ve seen in any TV box
  • Fast USB 3.0 and SATA interfaces for external storage
  • Very good 802.11ac WiFi performance
  • USB type C port with support for data and video output (via an external dock).
  • OTA firmware update appears to be supported

CONS

  • The device is unusable with Kodi 17.3, or RKMC with most videos failing to play properly
  • Overheating leading to CPU / GPU throttling (The performance degradation is noticeable in benchmarks, but I have not really experienced it during normal use after playing a 2-hour video, or playing games for 15 minutes)
  • HDMI video output setting is not properly remembered, and it may be 720p, 4K30, 1080p60 at next boot.
  • No clean power off mode (mechanical switch only)
  • Only NTFS and FAT32 files systems are supported, no EXT-4, no exFAT
  • Lack of DRM support
  • Poor upload speed to SAMBA server

GeekBuying sent the device for review, and in case you are interested you could buy Vorke Z3 for $149.99 shipped with VORKEZ3F coupon on their website. You’ll also find the device from various sellers on Aliexpress.

Review of Vorke Z3 Android Mini PC with SATA – Part 1: Unboxing & Teardown

June 6th, 2017 6 comments

After Yundoo Y8 review, I’ve received another Rockchip RK3399 mini PC for review: Vorke Z3, which was sent to me by GeekBuying. Both devices are quite similar for Vorke Z3 adds an external SATA interface, and two external high-gain antennas. I was also expecting Android 7.1 Nougat on Z3, but I’ve been told the current SDK has too many bugs, so the device still ships with Android 6.0.1. I’ll start the review by looking into the hardware inside out, before reporting on my experience with the firmware in the second part in a few weeks.

Vorke Z3 Unboxing

The retail package is quite bland, but most people will probably not care a bit about this little detail.

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The devices ships with a 12V/2A power supply, a simple IR remote control, a HDMI cable, a SATA cable, and Vorke Z3 “4K media player” user manual.

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The device feels of good quality with its metal enclosure. The front panel is characterised by its long ventilation holes, one of the sides come with a USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port, a micro SD slot, and the SATA connector, and the rear panel features the rest of the connectors and ports: two WiFi antennas, a 3.5mm audio jack, optical S/PDIF output, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0 port, USB type C port with USB 3.0 and DisplayPort 1.2 (requires separate adapter), power jack, and power switch.

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Vorke Z3 Teardown

You can disassemble the device by loosening the four screws on the bottom of the case. I started with a precision screwdriver, but I had to upgrade to a larger screwdriver since the screws were too difficult to take out.

I actually damaged one with the precision screwdriver, and I could only remove three, so I had to very lightly bend and rotate the bottom cover.

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There’s no much to see here, except the RTC battery, and a sticker for “R99-V2.0” board. If we remove four more screws, and disconnect the cables to the power switch we can ckeck out the board with the processor, memory and eMMC flash covered by a large heatsink.

The heatsink is very easy to remove, and includes a large white thermal pad underneath. Rockchip RK3399 processor is connected to a “Mainstream” 32GB Samsung KLMBG4GEND-B031 eMMC 5.0 flash (250/100 MB/s R/W, 6.5K/12K R/W IOPS) which should provide very good performance, and two Samsung K4E6E304EE-EGCE LPDDR3 RAM chip (4GB RAM).

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Gigabit Ethernet is implemented via Realtek RTL8211E transceiver coupled with a SWAPNET NS892407 transformer, and while an Ampak AP6356S wireless module brings 802.11ac 2×2 WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 LE connectivity to the device, and is indeed connected to the two antennas, contrary to some other devices that use dual antennas for aesthetic purposes. SATA has been properly implemented as R99 board designers leveraged Rockchip RK3399 PCIe interface with ASMedia ASM1061 x1 PCI Express to 2x SATA 3.0 ports. Other chips include Rockchip RK808-D PMIC, and Everest Semi ES8316 low power audio codec.

I’d like to thank GeekBuying for proving Vorke Z3 review sample. You can purchase the mini PC from their website for $164.99 shipped. Vorke is a GeekBuying brand so you won’t find it in many websites, but a few resellers on Aliexpress do offer the box.

Continue reading Vorke Z3 Rockchip RK3399 TV Box Review – Part 2: Android 6.0 Firmware

Voyo VMac Mini mini PC Benchmarks with Intel Celeron N3450 Apollo Lake Processor

January 27th, 2017 5 comments

Following up yesterday’s post about Voyo VMac Mini mini PC benchmarks with Intel Pentium N4200 processor, I’ve switched to its cheaper little brother powered by Intel Celeron N3450 processor and performed the same benchmarks to compare the performance difference with the Pentium version, as well as older Braswell and Cherry Trail systems.

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I’ve run HWiNFO64 before running the benchmarks to get more details about computer, and especially the processor. Celeron N3450 is a quad core processor clocked at 400, 800, and 1,100 MHz, and up to 2.2 GHz in burst mode. It’s quite similar to Pentium N4200, except the later has a higher burst frequency (2.5 GHz), and a better GPU with 18 EU, instead of just 12 EU on the Celeron. My exact version of the processor is stepping B0/B1 with sSPEC SR2YA/SR2Z6. I forgot to comment about supported features compared to Cherry Trail and Braswell processors yesterday, and Apollo Lake processors do support some extra CPU features including RDSEED for random generators, SHA for SHA-1 & SHA-256 hashs, SMAP (Supervisor Mode Access Prevention), and MPX (Memory Protection Extensions).

Let’s move on with the benchmarks staring with PCMark 8 Home Accelerated 3.0.

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Voyo VMac mini N3450 got 1,566 points, which compares to 1,846 points with the Pentium N4200, and 1,543 points for MINIX NEO Z83-4 powered by an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor. I have expecting a higher score here, so I ran the test again and got 1,595 points only marginally higher.

The PassMark PerformanceTest 8.0 score is more in line with the expectations as VMac Mini (N3450) achieved 935.3 points, against 1052.1 points for the Pentium N4200 model, and 845.9 points for Beelink BT7 (Atom X7-Z8700).

I’ve also run PerformanceTest 9.0 for future reference, and comparison with Voyo VMac Mini with N4200 SoC.

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Results: 998.4 points which compared to 1087.0 for N4200. The performance delta roughly matches theory, especially once we look into the details with the CPU mark also identical, but 2D & 3D graphics quite faster.

Talking about graphics performance, I also ran 3D graphics specific benchmarks with 3D Mark’s Ice Storm 1.2 (18,892 points), Cloud Gate 1.1 (2,130 points), Sky Driver 1.0 (941 points), and Fire Strike 1.1 (262 points).

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Let’s compare the results against other mini PCs & TV sticks including Cherry Trail systems such as MINIX NEO Z83-4 & Voyo V3, Braswell computers like MINIX NGC-1 and Vorke V1, as well as an Intel Computer Stick powered by Core M processor.

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Note: Ice Storm scores divided by 10, Fire Strike scores multiplies by 4 for scale.

Based on those benchmarks, the performance of Voyo VMac Mini with Intel Celeron N3450 (Red on chart) is nearly identical to the one of Vorke V1 based on Intel Celeron J3160 (Dark green on chart) both for a general computing benchmark like PCMark 8, and 3D graphics. Fire Strike however failed to run on Vorke V1. Both N3450 & J3160 SoC come with a 12EU HD Graphics gen9 GPU which may explain the similar performance for graphics. Overall the performance differences between Cherry Trail / Braswell and Apollo Lake processors are more incremental, than a big jump in performance, and for many tasks you’re unlikely to see much differences between systems, except for the more expensive Core M computers and sticks. Anyway, thats’ what I intend to find out in the review.

I’d like to thank GeekBuying for sending the sample for review, and if you are interested you can buy Voyo VMac Mini (N3450) for $199.99.

Review of Voyo VMac Mini PC with Celeron N3450 / Pentium N4200 SoC – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

January 24th, 2017 14 comments

I received my first Apollo Lake device yesterday with CHUWI LapBook 14.1 laptop,  and today I got two more with Voyo VMac Mini powered by Intel Celeron N3450 processor sent by GeekBuying, and the version powered by the more powerful Pentium N4200 processor sent by GearBest. I’ll start by checking out the hardware today, before reviewing one of the models, and comparing performance through benchmarks for both mini PCs a little later.

Voyo VMac Mini Unboxing

Both packages look identical, but the N3450 model has a sticker with basic specs, while the N4200 model did not have anything to indicate which model I received. However, GearBest left a paper inside the package confirming they sent the N4200 version.

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When I first read the markings on the package, I read “Mac Mini” instead of “VMac Mini”, so if you happen to live in a country where customs care about those things, your device may end being confiscated for trademark infringement. Note that there was no mention of “VMac mini” on the invoice or DHL package itself, so customs will only find out if they open the parcel. If you’re concerned about that maybe you could ask the seller to add a sticker to hide those words…

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GeekBuying sent the “Tyrant Gold” model as picture above, with the package including a 12V/3A power supply, a mini HDMI to HDMI cable, WiFi USB dongle (no built-in WiFi in the device), a “Specifications” user’s guide, and another document in Chinese. The lack of WiFi may be an advantage for some people who do not want WiFi at all in their device.

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GearBest sent instead the “Royal Blue” model show in the left side above. The front panel features a power LED and button, with all other ports located on the rear panel: power jack, Gigabit Ethernet port, micro SD card slot, audio jack, mini HDMI port, and three USB 3.0 ports.

You can watch the unboxing video if you are interested.

Voyo VMac Mini Teardown

I had to remove the four rubber pad on the bottom of the case, and loosen four screws. After you’ve removed the screws, simply shake the box a bit to make the bottom cover fall.

I normally use a precision screw drive to open the box, but since the screws were quite tight, I had to upgrade to a stronger screwdriver.

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Beside the RTC battery there’s not much to see on the board itself. However, you may have notice the bottom cover is attached to what looks like a 2.5″ SATA drive holding mechanism. There’s also a 9-pin SATA_CONN1 connector, as well as EDPCON1 and unsolder 40-pin connector on the board, so it could potentially be used in other mini PC with a different set of features.

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While Voyo VMac Mini does NOT support 2.5″ SATA drives, I wanted to try to insert one, and it fits perfectly with even the mounting hole aligned, so I would not be surprised to see a “Voyo VMac HDD” mini PC being sold with support for hard drives in the near future. After removing eight more screws I could access to the other side of the motherboard.

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The mini PC is actively cooled, and RAM and storage are user replaceable/upgradeable with currently SKHynix HMT351S6CFR8C-PB 4GB PC3-12800 SO-DIMM memory, and the same FORESEE FSSSDBEBCC-128G M.2 NGFF SSD used in Voyo V3 mini PC. Please note that there’s also a 32GB eMMC flash placed under the heatsink and fan together with the processor.

I’d like to thank GearBest amd GeekBuying for sending the samples for review. GearBest sells the more powerful Voyo VMac Mini (N4200) for $235, while GeekBuying sells Voyo VMac Mini (N3450) for $199.99.

Vorke Z3 Rockchip RK3399 TV Box to Launch in February 2017

December 20th, 2016 16 comments

I was expecting devices based on Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor to launch by the end of this year, that is about right now, but finally it looks like products will only start the show by the end of Q1 2017, as Firefly-RK3399 development board is scheduled to ship to backers in March 2017, while GeekBuying has started teasing us with their Vorke Z3 TV box powered by Rockchip RK3399 with 4GB RAM slated to launch in February 2017. [Update: Vorke Z3 is now up for sale for $169.99 including shipping]

vorke-z3Vorke Z3 preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor with  2x ARM Cortex A72 cores at up to 2.0GHz, 4x Cortex A53 cores, and an ARM Mali-T860MP4 GPU
  • System Memory – 4GB LPDDR3
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash, external SATA interface (hopefully implemented via the PCIe interface), micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz
  • Video Decoder – 4K H.265 and VP9
  • Audio Output – HDMI, 3.5mm audio port, optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi up to 1200 Mbps (300 Mpbs + 867 Mbps)
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB type C port (for data and power external devices?)
  • Misc – IR receiver, mechanical power switch
  • Power Supply – TBD
  • Dimension & Weight – TBD

rockchip-rk3399-android-tv-boxThe box will run Android 6.0, and currently gets about 72,500 points in Antutu 6.x with 16,519 points for 3D graphics, 25,805 points for UX, 25,905 points for CPU, and 4254 points for RAM tests. There’s hope a good Linux support on Rockchip RK3399, as Google and Rockchip are working on RK3399 Chromebooks, actively committing code to mainline kernel, and Firefly has ported Ubuntu 16.04 to their RK3399 development board with 3D graphics acceleration, and hardware video decoding is coming.

rk3399-sataPrice has now been announced yet, but for reference, Firefly-RK3399 development board with 4GB RAM and 32GB storage is now offered with all accessories for $199 on Kickstarter, and Remix IO+ TV Box also sells with 4GB/32GB configuration sells for $139 shipped, so I’d expect Vorke Z3 to sell for about the same price.

International Black Friday 2016 Deals and Coupons

November 23rd, 2016 12 comments

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2016 are coming up in the next few days, and while people living in the United States will surely have plenty of local deals, people living in the rest of the world can also benefit from the festival thanks to deals provided by Chinese online sellers. I’ll go through a list of event from some of the major shops for Black Friday 2016.

gearbest-black-friday-2016

GearBest Black Friday 2016 will offer some discounts (but certainly not 80% off) as well as coupons:

  • US Warehouse – 10% OFF with GBNY10 coupon – Validity: October 31 – December 31
  • Site-wide (New Buyers Only) – 10% OFF with GBNEWNOV coupon – Validity: November 21 – 29
  • Site-wide – 8% OFF with GBAFFNOV coupon – Validity: November 21 – 29
  • EU Warehouse – 8% OFF with EUK10off coupon – Validity – November 11 – 29
  •  2% discount for payment by Paypal (up to $2) – Validity – November  25 – 29

 

geekbuying-black-friday-2016

Geekbuying’s Black Friday “Crazy Discount” has started on November 14th, and will last until November 27th. BLACK6 coupon will give you 6% discount site-wide, and customers who purchase $350 or more in the last three month will be able to get a 10% disctoun by sharing the promotion on their social networks. They also have various discounts for all kind of devices for example Vorke V1 mini PC for $159.99 (ands lower for a 72-hour Shopping Carnival on Nov 24), KII Pro TV box with tuner for $74.99, and so on.

Three customers who purchased items during the promotion period will also be randomly selected to respectively win OnePlus X smartphone, GeekBox TV box, and N.01 D6 smartwatch.

black-friday-2016-dx

DealExtreme Black Friday 2016 event consists of several sub-event:

  • 10% MVP (Most Valuable Products) Refund – Validity: November 15 – 24
  • Favorite free gifts for orders over  $40 (gift value $1 to $6 depending on day). Validity: Up to November 24th
  • Brands Advantages – Mostly discounts for smartphone brands
  • Black Friday Flash Sales on November 25th only.
  • Cyber Monday with 4000+ desktop calendars given away

cyber-week-aliexpress-2016

Finally, CyberWeek & Black Friday is taking place now in Aliexpress. Part of the activities include games from the mobile app only to win coins to exchange for $2 or $8 coupons.

The company also has promotions where you can get store coupons or discounts for categories such as Consumer Electronics or Phones Tablets & Accessories. The coupons I’ve seen range between $1 to $10.

Please free to comment if you know of other deals, or even specific deals that you’d think would be interesting to CNX Software readers.

November 11 Singles’ Day Promotions in Chinese Online Stores

November 10th, 2016 5 comments

November 11 is Single’s day in China, and just like Valentine’s day, it is used for commercial purpose to make people buy stuffs. It’s also Black Friday before Black Friday, as Chinese online stores will also offer discounts to their customers, and this remains true for stores catering to oversea customers, so you may find a few interesting deals from 11.11 day festivities around the web. I’ve gathered a few of the offers from the most popular Chinese sites catering to overseas markets.

11-11-promotion

GeekBuying has an “11.11 Carnival” that actually started on November 1st, and ending on November 12th. They have promotions changing every day, as well as some coupons such as DB1111 $15 coupon if you spent over $215.

Aliexpress calls it “11.11 Global Shopping Festival” instead. You can buy coupons for half price, and check out for products with the red SALE icon on the left of the price as shown in the screenshot below. Just don’t believe the 50% discount, and you’re likely to have just a few dollars off.

aliexpress-11-11

So if it’s not November 11th yet on such device, you’ll see an inflated price, but if you wait until Singles’ Day you’ll get the price shown in red.

Next up is GearBest’s “11.11 Sales Storm” which will last until November 14th, and offers flash sales for various items. Again don’t expect for miracles, unless maybe you are lucky. For example, Beelink GT1 is $55, about $1 or $2 cheaper than usual.

gearbest-11-11

I could not find any specific 11.11 promotion on DealExtreme, but Banggood Singles Day event has some snap up sales, e.g. T95Z Plus for $11.11, which will be close to impossible to get since those are obviously stock limited, as well as some coupons for various caterogies, and for instance you can get an 8% discount using ele1111 for electronics category.

MK808B Pro Amlogic S905 Android TV Stick Unboxing and Teardown

April 5th, 2016 11 comments

MK808B Pro TV stick is the successor of the popular MK808B Plus and before that MK808B Android TV dongles with an upgrade to Amlogic S905 processor with 4K support. GeekBuying sent me a sample for evaluation, so I’ll start by checking the hardware before testing the device thoroughly in the full review.

MK808B Pro Unboxing

I received the stick in a package larger than I expected, but apparently about the same as the previous models (which I had not reviewed).

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

But that’s because of the included accessories: a 5V/2A power supply, a USB cable, a mini USB OTG adapter, a mini HDMI to HDMI cable, and a user’s manual.

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Click to Enlarge

Apart from the markings “MK808B PRO” and “4K Ultra HD”, the device looks the same as the older models.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

A mini USB port for power, and a USB 2.0 host port can be found on one end, with a micro SD slot on the side.

MK808B_Pro_mini_HDMI MK808B_PRO_OTG

A mini HDMI port on the other end, and a mini USB OTG port (hence the provided USB OTG adapter) on the other side. There are also ventilation holes on both sides of the device.

MK808 Pro Teardown

I used my favorite green plastic tool to separate the two parts of the case by starting right above the opening on top of the micro SD slot.
MK808_PRO_Teardown
The first remark is that there’s very little in the way of cooling with a think and hard black sheet covering the processor and partially two RAM chips. So that probably means the stick will run slower than most TV boxes based on Amlogic S905, as they may need to limit the processor frequency to keep it cool.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

If we take it out, we can indeed see Amlogic S905 processor and two PE029-125 F1606 RAM chips (1GB in total) with some “S” logo. I’ve tried to scan the QR like code on the chip without luck, and I still have no idea which company makes these [Update: the company is SpecTek, a a wholly owned division of Micron Technology].  The board name is MK808B_S905_D16. You may also have noticed the push button on the top right corner of the board that is most likely used to enter recovery mode in order to update the firmware, and accessible via a hole on the top of the case.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The other side of the board features a 8GB SKhynix flash and a wireless module based on Realtek RTL8723BS for Wifi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.

GeekBuying kindly sent the review sample, and if you’d like to order one, you could consider purchasing it from their shop for $34.99 including shipping. The stick is also listed on Aliexpress for $36 and up, and eBay for $39.99.