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Posts Tagged ‘hdmi’

HDMI 2.1 Specification to Add Support for 4K @ 120 Hz, 8K and 10K Resolutions. New 48G Cable Required.

January 5th, 2017 3 comments

The HDMI Forum has just announced they’ve been working on HDMI specification Version 2.1 adding new video resolutions and refresh rates including 8K60 and 4K120, as well as dynamic HDR, and increased bandwidth up to 48 Gbps for uncompressed 8K videos with HDR.

hdmi-2-1

The new specification also includes support for eARC (enhanced audio return channel) with support for advanced audio formats such as object-based audio, and advanced audio signal control capabilities including device auto-detect. Game Mode VRR is another new feature from HDMI 2.1 with variable refresh rate to enable a 3D GPU to display the image at the moment it is rendered in order to reduce lag and frame tearing.

Beside 4K120 and 8K60, the new specification also handles 4K, 5K, 8K, and even 10K resolutions at various frame rates between 50Hz to 120 Hz, up to 10K @ 120 Hz. Higher resolutions and frame rates (>=4K @ 120Hz; >= 8K @ 60 Hz) will require the purchase of new HDMI 2.1 cables, and it’s not marketing scam like for 4K/HDMI 2.0 cables, as the increased bandwidth will indeed require new 48G cables. New cables with be backward compatible with earlier versions of the specification, so if you have a new 48G HDMI cable, it will work with your existing TV, set-top box, receiver, etc…

The new specification will be available to all HDMI 2.0 adopters when it is released early in Q2 2017. You’ll find a bit more info including a FAQ on HDMI 2.1 page.

Categories: Audio, Hardware, Video Tags: 10k, 8k, ces 2017, hdmi, hdr

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

December 24th, 2016 5 comments

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

First Boot, First Impressions and Setup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power Consumption and Temperature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.. and subtitle options while playing a video.

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

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

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

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

HDMIRecorder App

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

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

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

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

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

OpenWrt and NAS functions

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

You can control OpenWrt manin function in Android settings…

eweat-r9-plus-openwrt

… and fine tune OpenWrt settings through LuCi web interface.

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

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Eweat R9 Plus FTP Transfer – Click to Enlarge

eweat-r9-plus-samba-transfer

Eweat R9 Plus SAMBA Transfer

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

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

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

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

WiFi Performance

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

Throughput in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

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

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

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

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

Storage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaming

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

Eweat R9 Plus Benchmarks

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

PROS

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

CONS (and bugs):

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

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

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

Merry Christmas to all!

Full Specifications for Intel Apollo Lake NUC Mini PC’s NUC6CAYB Board Released

December 5th, 2016 6 comments

Intel unveiled Intel NUC6CAYS & NUC6CAYH NUCs to be powered by Intel Celeron “Apollo Lake” Jxxx processors, but at the time we did not have the full technical specifications. The company has now published a 66-page technical product specification for NUC6CAYB board used in both mini PCs.

intel-apollo-lake-nuc-connectorsIntel NUC Board NUC6CAYB specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron J3455 quad core processor @ 1.5 GHz to 2.3 GHz (burst) with 12EU Intel HD graphics 500 @ 250 to 700 MHz supporting DirectX 9.3/10/11.1/12, OpenCL 1.2, OGLES 3.0, OpenGL 4.3 (10W TDP)
  • System Memory – 2x DDR3L-1600/1833 SO-DIMM supporting up to 8GB DDR3L-1866 in total
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash (Sandisk, Hynix or Samsung depending on your luck), 2.5″ SATA3 bay for hard drives up to 9.5mm thick, SDXC slot with UHS-I support
  • Video Output –
    • HDMI 2.0 (4K @ 60 Hz) with HDMI CEC via MegaChips MCDP2800-BCT DisplayPort 1.2a to HDMI 2.0 Level
      Shifter/Protocol Converter
    • VGA via ITE IT6516BFN DisplayPort to VGA bridge
  • Audio – Up to 7.1 channels via HDMI, 3.5mm headset jack, 3.5mm rear speaker/TOSLINK combo jack; digital microphone (DMIC) array; Realtek ALC283 HD Audio codec
  • Video Capabilities
    • Video Decode – H.265/HEVC @ Level 5.1, H.264 @ Level 5.2, MPEG2, MVC, VC-1, WMV9, JPEG, VP8 and VP9 formats
    • Video Encode – H.265/HEVC @ Level 4, H.264 @ Level 5.2, JPEG, MVC, VP8 and VP9 formats
    • Content Protection – High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) 1.4/2.0 and PAVP 2.0.
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8111HN), Intel Wireless AC-3168 M.2 module for 802.11ac 1×1 WiFi up to 433 Mbps and Bluetooth 4.2 with internal antennas
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports on the front panel (yellow one for charging other devices even when the NUC is powered off), 2x rear USB 3.0 ports, 2x internal USB 2.0 ports via header; 1x USB port reversed for M.2 2230 type E module
  • Expansion – 1x M.2 Module supporting M.2 2230 cards (key type E) (prepopulated with Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168 module)
  • Misc – Consumer Infrared (CIR), Kensington key lock hole, hardware monitoring subsystem based on ITE IT8987D embedded controller (voltage, temperature, fan control)
  • Power Supply – 12 to 19V DC input
  • Dimensions – Board: 101.6 x 101.6mm; NUC: 151 x 111 x 51 (plastic casing with inner metal structure)
Intle Apollo Lake NUC Block Diagram - Click to Enlarge

Intle Apollo Lake NUC Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

The board will be used in NUC6CAYH Kit with power adapter, no memory, no eMMC, no OS, as well as NUC6CAYS Kit with power adapter, preinstalled with 2GB 1600MHz SO-DIMM, and 32GB eMMC with Microsoft Windows 10 Home.

The specifications mention that Microsoft Windows 10 Home and Microsoft Windows 10 Pro operating systems are supports, and that “other operating system (OS) support may be available”. It’s very likely Linux be supported, and if you plan to run Linux the barebone kit is probably more suitable albeit you’ll lose the eMMC flash, and instead would have to install the OS on a SATA SSD or hard drive.

The other things that’s unclear right now are the price and availability for the new NUCs, but the wait should be almost over.

Via Liliputing and NUC Blog

NanoPi S2 Quad Core ARM Linux Board Comes with WiFi & BT Connectivity, HDMI, LVDS, and LCD Interfaces

October 28th, 2016 12 comments

FriendlyARM has released a bunch of Allwinner based NanoPi Allwinner boards recently, but they also have some Samsung/Nexcell S5P ARM Cortex A9 boards in their portfolio, and the latest is NanoPi S2 with Samsung S5P4418 quad core processor, three display interfaces, a camera interface, wireless connectivity through WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, a 40-pin “Raspberry Pi” header, and more.

nanopi-s2

NanoPi S2 specifications:

  • SoC – Samsung/Nexcell S5P4418 quad core Cortex A9 processor @ 400 MHz to 1.4 GHz with Mali-400MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash  + micro SD slot
  • Video Output / Display I/F – micro HDMI port up to 1080p60, 24-pin LCD RGB interface, 24-pin LVDS interface
  • Audio – 3.5mm audio jack, micro HDMI
  • Camera – 24-pin DVP camera interface
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0 classic & LE (AP6212 module); IPEX/u.FL antenna connector
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 Host, 1x micro USB port for data and power
  • Expansion Headers
    • 40-pin Raspberry compatible header with GPIOs, UART, SPI, I2C, PWM, etc..
    • Unpopulated ADC header
  • Debugging – 4-pin serial header
  • Misc – 1x power LED, 1x system LED, 2x user keys, unpopulated RTC header, heatsink mounting holes
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via micro USB port; AXP228 PMU with software shutdown and wake-up functions.
  • Dimensions – 75 x40 mm (8-layer PCB)

The hardware is quite similar to NanoPi 2 board, but it replaces one of the micro SD slot by an eMMC flash, adds an LVDS connector, an audio jack, an ADC header, and mounting holes with an heatsink.

samsung-s5p4418-development-boardSoftware support for NanoPi S2 is basically the same as for NanoPi 2 with Android 5.1 and Debian 8 images provided, both relying on Linux 3.4. You’ll find hardware and software documentation on the Wiki.

NanoPi S2 board sells for $45 plus shipping directly on FriendlyARM website. Bear in mind that it does not sell with an heatsink, and I could find one in the “optional accessories” section (yet). [Update: The company confirmed it works with the heat sink for T2/T3]

Zidoo X8 Android TV Box, OpenWrt NAS, and HDMI Recorder Sells for $109

October 24th, 2016 16 comments

I posted my review of Zidoo X9S Android TV box, HDMI recorder and OpenWrt NAS a few days ago, and despite some limitations with regards to 4K video playback, the device is working pretty well. The $140 price tag might be a little more than some people are ready to pay, and the good news is that the company has now launched a cheaper model based on the same processor called Zidoo X8, without the external SATA port, and less storage.

zidoo-x8

Zidoo X8 specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1295 quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz with ARM Mali-T820 MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot + SATA 3.0 interface
  • Video I/O – HDMI 2.0a output, AV output and HDMI 2.0 input (Support up to 4K60 input, but record/stream up to 1080p @ 30 Hz)
  • Audio I/O – HDMI in and out, AV, S/PDIF output
  • Video Playback – HDR, 10-bit HEVC/H.265 up to 4K @ 60fps, H.264 up to 4K @ 24 fps, VP9 up to 4K @ 30 fps, BDISO/MKV, 3D videos, etc… automatic frame rate switching
  • Audio Features – DTS HD and TrueHD 7.1 channel audio pass-through
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 (RTK8821)
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, VFD display, restore pin hole.
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A
  • Dimensions – TBD

The media center runs Android 6.0 and OpenWrt simultaneously, and ships with  a remote control, an HDMI cable, a power adapter, and a user’s manual.

zidoo-x8-ports

So the only thing really missing compared to Zidoo X9S is the external SATA port, but since there’s still a USB 3.0 port, you’ll still have decent storage performance. I’d expect the firmware to work as well as on Zidoo X9S with HDMI audio pass-through up 7.1, automatic frame rate switching, and 4K video playback to work very well with Media Center app, but a little less well, especially for videos, using ZDMC (Kodi 16.1 fork) internal player. HDMI input will also you to setup a PiP window, record videos to your hard drive, or stream videos to the network, while OpenWrt will add support for NAS functions such as SAMBA share, FTP, Bittorrent downloader, and more.

Zidoo X8 is currently selling for $109 on GeekBuying, or about $30 to $40 cheaper compared to Zidoo X9S. You’ll also find a few sellers on Aliexpress, and it should be sold on Amazon US soon.

Zidoo X9S Android TV Box HDMI Input Testing – Video Recording, PiP, and UDP Broadcasting

October 10th, 2016 8 comments

One of Zidoo X9S media center‘s key features is its HDMI Input port with support for PVR, picture-in-picture, and video broadcasting over UDP. The company has come a long way since the implementation of HDMI input on Zidoo X9 TV box, which would only support PVR function, and exclusively work in the foreground.

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For this review, I connected K1 Plus T2 S2 Android TV box to the HDMI input of Zidoo X9S, and started HDMI In app.zidoo-x9s-hdmi-input-appThe first good news is that HDMI input does work, as we can see K1 Plus user interface preview inside Zidoo X9S’ HDMI IN app. Before testing all features, let’s go through the options for Video, Audio, and Output.

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You can select various video resolution up to 1080p, but I left it to Auto, which for this test meant 1080p. Framerate cannot be changed and is set to Auto, while bitrate ranges from 1M to 10M. For local video recording 10M should be a good option, but if you broadcast the video over the network, it would be wise to lower the bitrate to something more manageable, even if you are using Ethernet because the video may not be perfectly smooth at 10Mbps.

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I don’t expect most people will change Audio settings, but the sample rate is configurable from 8,000 to 96,000 with the default being 48,000, and the number of channels can be adjusted between one and two.

The output mode allows you to select between “File” and “Broadcast” recording. If File is select, the second option will be video duration (HH:MM:SS), and the third the recording path (which I set to a directory in the SATA drvie), while if Broadcast is selected you can choose between Multicast, Broadcast, or Unicast with the default addresses being respectively: 239.0.0.1:7878, 255.255.255.255:7878, and some IP address:7878.

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The + icon on the bottom right will let you set a start time (Reservation time) to record to File or start a broadcast, the clock icon will show the list of current scheduled events (called “My Reservations”), and the settings icon provides a list of options such as enabling audio in PiP mode.

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As you can see from the screenshot above you can schedule any type of “recordings” either to a file or broadcasted to the network using various settings for each schedule. It works well, but the box needs to be running at all time. If you set Zidoo X9S to standby mode, it won’t wake up and start recording.

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Settings include HDMI 2.0, because Zidoo X9S suports HDMI 2.0 input up to 4K 60 Hz, although it will record the input at 1080p30 max. If the input is 60 Hz, it will record at 30 fps, and 50 Hz to 25 fps.

Let’s play with the main features, start with PiP (Picture-in-Picture), which could start from from the HDMI IN app, or the PiP icon on the taskbar.

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The first time it will show on the top right corner, but you can move it around and resize it as your please with an air mouse. There are also icon to put it into full screen mode, and close the PiP window. You can then play with other app like the web browser, or even play another videos from any video app in Android. I was very pleased with PiP support, as I could not find any faults, and you’ll see a demo in the video embedded at the end of this post. A quick option to turn on/off the volume for the PiP window would be nice (a simple firmware update could do this), since for example you do some tasks waiting for the program in PiP to start (in silent mode), and then switch to full screen and enable audio. Now you have to go back to HDMI IN app to enable PiP audio for this to work.

The very first time I used HDMI input function, I had no audio at all. I made sure volume was not mute or low on Zidoo X9S, K1 Plus, and my TV, but I still had no audio. So I went to the Settings-> Sound & Notifications->HDMI Rx Audio format, and try to switch from PCM to RAW. I also changed some audio settings in K1 Plus, and suddenly I had audio for 5 seconds, and it stopped again for no obvious reasons. Eventually, audio came back, and I could not reproduce the issue at all. I’m not entirely sure what may have happened here. I’ve tested this with firmware V1.2.3, and the upcoming firmware V1.2.4 includes fixes for “abnormally sound recorded from HDMI IN”, so maybe this will help avoiding the issues I had too.

Video recording to the hard drive works well too, and the part I really appreciate is that it can take place in the background, meaning you can still use the box while it’s recording, something that was not possible when I tested Zidoo X9 (no S) in 2015. You’ll have the REC icon showing on the top right of the user interface at all time.

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Browsing the web, and playing app should not affect the recording, if you use an app consistently using multiple cores and/or having lots of I/O request on the recording devices it may degrade the recording. I don’t have any device requiring HDCP, so I have not been able to test that part.

Finally, I experienced with UDP broadcasting using Multicast protocol.

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You can see the video input is 4K 60 and is converted to 1080p30, just like for video recording to the hard drive. However, the very first time I tried this feature, I got the message “Start broadcast failed…”, and Start Record would also fail with “Start hdmi in record failed…” Very odd since recording to file previously worked. After 30 minutes, I found that the culprit was Settings-> Sound & Notifications->HDMI Rx Audio format set to raw, and whatever settings in K1 plus (PCM or HDMI pass-through), Zidoo X9S would refuse to start streaming or recording the video. Settings HDMI Rx Audio format back to PCM fixed the issue, and I could start UDP streaming. That also means if you can’t record AC3 / Diolby Digital 5.1 audio

So I open VideoLAN (VLC) in my computer, to open a Network Stream using udp:[email protected]:7878 address, and it worked just fine.

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The video uses H.264 codec and AAC stereo audio. It’s not quite as smooth as the original input, possibly because of the framerate convertion. It’s particularly obvious when looking at the scrolling ticker in the video. I still found it was watchable.

So I decide to try another client at the same time, and installed VideoLAN on my Android smartphone (Vernee Apollo Lite), and all I got was a green screen with some artifacts at the top.

videolan-android-udp-streaming-zidoo-x9sSince the stream was working with VideoLAN Linux program, this has to be a problem with VideoLAN, or a compatibility issue between HDMI IN app and VideoLAN Android app. So I searched for alternative UDP streaming apps, and at first found one designed for security cameras that was not really suitable for watching video. But finally I found that GoodPlayer app would do the job on my phone.

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That means you can stream videos from Zidoo X9S to multiple devices, and both on computers and mobile phones. What you can’t do is record to file and stream to the network at the same time.

You can watch HDMI In app in action in the video below.

While HDMI IN implementation is not 100% perfect, that’s a massive improvement over my first experience with Mstar based Zidoo X9 Android TV box in 2015, and the HDMI input port on Zidoo X9S can be useful for various use cases.

Zidoo X9S (Realtek RTD1295) Android TV Box Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

September 7th, 2016 21 comments

Zidoo X9S is one of the first Realtek RTD1295 based TV boxes coming to market, and it has some pretty special features like running both Android 6.0 and OpenWrt simultaneously, HDMI input support for video recording and PiP, an external SATA interface, 4K media capabilities including HDMI 2.0a output, 4K 60 fps H.265 and VP9 & 4K 24 Hz H.264 video decoding, as well as HDR and 3D support. You can find the full Zidoo X9S specification in my previous post. The company has now sent me an early review sample, and in the first part of the review you’ll post photos of the devices and accessories, and perform a teardown to find out more about the electronics and thermal design. Later on I’ll publish articles with benchmarks, video performance, and the complete review.

Zidoo X9S Unboxing

The box comes in a light green retail package showing some of the key features like 3D, 10-bit HEVC, Ultra HD, HDMI 2.0, HDR. etc…

Zidoo-X9S_Package

The bottom of the package lists the specifications.

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The devices comes with a SATA cable for 2.5″ “laptop” hard drives or SSDs, a HDMI cable, a 12V/3A power supply that should be good enough to handle a SATA drive plus a USB 3.0 drive, an IR remote control with IR learning function, two large WiFi antennas, a guarantee card, and Zidoo X9S “simple manual” in English.

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The case is made of aluminum alloy, and the device feels of good quality. It’s also quite larger than most recent Android TV boxes released to market

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The front panel includes a VFD display and a window for the IR receiver, while one of the side features the SATA interface, one USB 3.0 port, and two USB 2.0 ports. The rear panel comes with two WiFi antenna connector, a Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI input and output, AV (composite + audio stereo) jack, optical S/PDIF, a firmware recovery pinhole, a micro SD slot, the power jack, a mechanical on/off switch for power.

Zidoo X9S Teardown

You’ll need to loosen the four screws on the bottom of the case in order to take out the metal bottom cover, which comes out very easily.

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There’s no direct contact between the board and metal cover, but we’ll notice a shield covering the processor, memory and storage chips. [Update: The black part on top of the shield is “graphite nano thermo material” which helps with cooling]

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The shield is soldered to the board, so I have not attempted to remove it, and the bottom of the board reveals the micro SD slot, Genesis Logic GL852G 4-port USB hub, and Titan Micro TM1628 LED Controller found on the small board used by the front panel display.

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After removing three more larger screws, I can access the top of the board named “GPT X9S_1295_V1.0”.

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Again there’s a soldered shield on the top of main ICs, so we can’t check out the SoC, RAM, and eMMC flash chips. But we’ll find a battery for the RTC, Realtek RTL8821AU USB 2.0 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0? chip, and SG24002 10/100/1000M transformer for Gigabit Ethernet (GbE PHY and MAC are inside RTD1295 chip). The serial console / UART header appears to be located between the USB 3.0 and SATA ports. The latter should be a “true” SATA port since SATA is supported natively by Realtek RTD1295 SoC.

I’d like to thank Zidoo for sending an early sample for review, and resellers and distributors can contact the company to purchase in quantities. Zidoo X9S can also be pre-order for $149 on GeekBuying, as well as a few shops on Aliexpress for the same price.

[Update: Zidoo X9S review part 2 is now up @ Zidoo X9S Android Media Center Review – Part 2: Android Firmware & OpenWrt (NAS Functions)]

Zidoo X9S Android TV Box, OpenWrt NAS, and HDMI Recorder is Now Up for Pre-order for $149

August 13th, 2016 10 comments

Zidoo X9 was one the first Android TV boxes with HDMI input that supported video recording and PiP, and back in April, the company unveiled a new and more powerful model called Zidoo X9S with many of the same features, but based on Realtek RTD1295 64-bit processor, and with NAS features. GeekBuying has just informed me that they had started to take pre-orders for Zidoo X9S for $149 with shipping scheduled to start on August 31st.

Zidoo_X9S_TV_Box

Zidoo X9S specifications have slightly changed since the announcement, and the case has been redesigned:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1295 quad core Cortex A53 processor with ARM Mali-T820 MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC + SATA 3.0 external interface + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video I/O
    • HDMI 2.0a output up to [email protected]; supports 23.976 and 29.94 Hz outputs
    • HDMI 2.0 input for recording,  UDP streaming, and picture-in-picture
    • AV output (composite)
  • Audio I/O – HDMI out with 7.1 ch pass-through support, HDMI input, AV (stereo audio), 1x S/PDIF output
  • Video Playback – HDR, 10-bit HEVC/H.265 up to 4K @ 60fps, H.264 up to 4K @ 24 fps, VP9 up to 4K @ 60 fps, BDISO/MKV, etc… automatic frame rate switching
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 (RTK8821 module) with two external antennas
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, VFD display on front panel, mechanical power switch, restore pin hole for firmware recovery/update, RTC with replaceable battery
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A
  • Dimensions – 187 x 127 x 27 mm (aluminum alloy enclosure)

The product runs Zidoo OS based on Android 6.0 with ZDMC fork of Kodi 16.1, as well as OpenWrt, and will ship with a remote control, an HDMI cable, a SATA cable, a power adapter, and a user’s manual.

Zidoo-X9S_Ports

It looks like both Android and OpenWrt runs on the Realtek processor, so I’d assume the latter is running in a VM or a hypervisor is used to run both operating systems at the same time. A few more details, including screenshots of the Android user interface, can be found on Zidoo X9S product page. I have not found the device for sale on other places yet, but Zidoo TV Box/NAS/Recorder should soon be found on other shops too, unless GeekBuying got the exclusivity for the launch.