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HiMedia Q30 (Hisilicon Hi3798MV200) Android TV Box Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

June 12th, 2017 5 comments

I’ve often read praises about HiMedia TV boxes in the comments section of this blog, but so far, I had never tested any of their products. This is about to change, since the company has sent me their latest HiMedia Q30 TV box running Android 7.0 on Hisilicon Hi3798MV200 processor, a cost-down version of Hi3798CV200 processor with the same CPU,a lower-end Mali-T450 GPU, about the same media capabilities, and less I/Os. I’ll start the review by checking out the TV box and accessories, as well as the PCBA, before reporting the experience with Android 7.0 firmware in several weeks.

HiMedia Q30 TV Box Unboxing

I received the device is a package that read “HIMEDIA Q30” and “Android TV Box”, and shows some of the key features like 4K @ 60 fps, 10-bit HEVC, HDR and Kodi support.

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The devices ships with an IR remote control with IR learning function for 5 keys, a HDMI cable, a 5V/2A power supply, and “3D/4K Smart TV Box Quick Guide”.

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The” Quick Guide” is quite basic, but contrary to most competitors, it’s actually useful with a description of the remote control and how to configure the TV keys with the IR learning function, QR code for the Hishare and Hicontrol mobile apps…

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.. a connection guide depending on your setup, some basic configuration for network and UI, and the different ways to do a firmware update.

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The box itself is made of an outer shell made of metal, and the body inside include the front and rear panels is made of plastic.

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The front panel includes the power button and two LEDs, as well as the IR receiver window, while one of the side features a USB 2.0 port and SD card, and the other side one USB 3.0 port, and another USB 2.0 ports. The rear panel comes with an external WiFi antenna, optical S/PDIF output, RCA connectors for composite video and stereo audio, an HDMI 2.0 port, a Fast Ethernet port, the recovery pinhole, and the power jack.

HiMedia Q30 TV Box Teardown

Usually, we’d open the TV boxes by loosening some screws on the bottom of the case, but there aren’t any in Q30. As a side note, the MAC address starts with 00:66:DF which does not look up to anything.In order to open the device we need to loosen the four screws on each corner the rear panel to take it out, and squeeze the end of the WiFi antenna to take it out, and slides out everything through the metal inner shell.

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The processor and memory (2GB RAM) are covered by a thin black heatsink. An 8GB Samsung KLM8G1WEPG-B031 eMMC 5.0 flash is used for storage with the following performance according to Samsung eMMC flash table: 140 MB/s sequential read speed, 8MB/s sequential write speed, 5K/0.6K R/W IOPS. That’s the cheapest eMMC flash, and the one with the weakest performance, from Samsung in the table. The Ethernet PHY is built inside the Hisilicon processor, so there’s only a KMS-1102NL transformer for 10/100M Ethernet, while 802.11 b/g/n WiFi is implemented through a Realtek RTL8188ETV module. Other ICs include Genesys GL850G USB 2.0 hub, and 3PEAK TPF632A stereo line driver. The serial console should be available via a 4-pin header located between a LED and the Samsung flash, and there apepars to be footprint for another S/PDIF port and 3.5mm YPbPr  (video component) jack.

There’s no much to see on the other side of the board.

I’d like to thank HiMedia for sending the review sample. The TV box does not appear to be available for retail just yet, and the company has not listed it in their website either, but by the time time I complete the second part of the review, HiMedia Q30 should be available for sale.

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.

HiMedia Q30 TV Box is Powered by HiSilicon Hi3798M V200 Processor

May 19th, 2017 4 comments

HiSilicon Hi3798M V200 processor is a cost-down version of Hi3798C V200 processor with a cheaper Mali-450MP GPU, a single Gigabit Ethernet MAC, a single USB 3.0 port shared with SATA and PCIe interface. One of the first devices with the processor will be Himedia Q30 TV box based on Himedia Q3 design.

HiMedia Q30 specifications:

  • SoC – HiSilicon Hi3798M V200 quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor with an ARM Mali-450MP GPU supporting OpenGL ES2.0/1.1, OpenVG1.1, EGL, and
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash, SD card slot
  • Video Output – 1x HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz, 1x composite video (RCA); Imprex 2.0 PQ engine with support for HDR/HLG/SLF/HDR to SDR, BT.709, and BT.2020
  • Audio Output – HDMI, stereo audio (RCA), optical S/PDIF port
  • Video Engine –  HiVXE 2.0 with support for HEVC 10-bit 4Kx2K @ 60 fps, H.264 4K2K @ 30 fps
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (2.4 GHz) with one external antenna
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 host port, 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button, power LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A (TBC)
  • Dimensions – 170 x 115.5 x 24.5mm

The TV box runs Android 7.0 operating system with a 1920×1080 user interface. According to a YouTube video, the box should launch later this month, and resellers should already be able to inquire about the device through Alibaba.

Via AndroidTVBox.eu

Rockchip RK3328 Powered T98 4K Ultra HD TV Box Comes with 2GB RAM

May 10th, 2017 2 comments

We’ve already seen one of the first Rockchip RK3328 4K UHD TV boxes with A5X Plus Mini model now selling for $34.60, but with only 1GB RAM. There’s now another model called T98 with 2GB RAM, and mostly the same other specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.5 GHz with Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + micro SD card up to 32 GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDR10 and HLG support, 3.5mm AV port (composite video + stereo audio)
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codec – 4K VP9, H.265 and H.264. 1080p VC-1, MPEG-1/2/4, VP6/8
  • Connectivity – Fast Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (No Bluetooth)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Misc – IR receiver, power LED
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions & Weight –  14.7 x 10 x 2 cm; 141 grams

Th device runs Android 7.1, and ships with a HDMI cable, an IR remove control, a power adapter, and a user manual. It’s always frustrating when a USB 3.0 capable device is only equipped with Fast Ethernet, but in this case, we just don’t know whether Gigabit Ethernet is supported or not, as the company did not mention, and RK3328 supports both 10/100M and 1000M Ethernet, with the latter requiring an extra Gigabit Ethernet transceiver chip. I’ve seen an Alibaba link mentioning Gigabit Ethernet for T98, but I’m not sure it should be trusted because it mixes Amlogic S905 and Rockchip RK3328 specifications…

T98 is sold on Aliexpress for $47.70 including shipping.

Via AndroidPC.es

Mecool KI PRO Hybrid Android TV Box with Amlogic S905D SoC, DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 Tuners Sells for $80

May 8th, 2017 50 comments

VideoStrong has become popular among people wanting an Android TV box with a tuner thanks to their affordable and customizable products such as K1 Plus T2 S2, or KIII Pro coming with DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 tuners. AFAIK, all there products so far came with a single demodulator meaning you could watch or record satellite or terrestrial TV, but not do both at the same time, for example watching a channel via DVB-S2, and recording one via DVB-T2. Amlogic S905D is supposed to support this, and upcoming products like Sen5 Android set-top box do come with two demodulators. Mecool KI PRO – based on the processor – has just been launched, pre-selling for $79.99 on Banggood with shipping scheduled for mid May.

Mecool KI Pro specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905D quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with  Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR4
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60Hz with support for HDR10 and HLG, and 3.5mm AV (composite video) jack
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV (stereo audio), optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs – 10-bit H.265, and VP9 Profile 2 up to 4K60, H.264 up to 4K30, AVS+ and other codecs up to 1080p60
  • Tuner – DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 tuners with two connectors
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.1 LE
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button and LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply –  DC 12V/1A
  • Dimensions – 130 x 120 x 32 mm
  • Weight – 163 grams

Another advantage of the device is that it runs the latest Android 7.1 operating system. The interface looks the same as with older devices, so I’d expect the same DTV app to be used in the box. KI Pro ships with a HDMI cable, a remote control, a power adapter, and a user manual. You may be able to find (more or less accurate) details on the manufacturer’s page.

Thanks to Natsu for the tip.

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

March 22nd, 2017 78 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.

$44 A5X Plus Mini TV Box Runs Android 7.1 on Rockchip RK3328 Processor

March 15th, 2017 19 comments

Rockchip introduced RK3328 processor for TV boxes at CES 2017. The processor is based on a quad core Cortex A53 processor and a Mali-450MP is some other competitors such as Amlogic S9xx series, but what made the processor stand out is that it already supports Android 7.1, and includes a USB 3.0 port. A5X Plus Mini is one of the first TV box based on the processor, and the first “Chinese” TV box I’ve seen running Android 7.x Nougat.

A5X Plus mini specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.5 GHz with Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB RAM
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + micro SD card
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDR10 and HLG support, 3.5mm AV port with composite video and stereo audio
  • Video Codec – 4K VP9, H.265 and H.264. 1080p VC-1, MPEG-1/2/4, VP6/8
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Misc – IR receiver, power LED
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions & Weight –  TBD (Fits in hand)

The box runs Android 7.1 with Kodi 17.1 pre-installed, and ships with an HDMI cable, a power adapter, an IR remote control, and a user’s manual in English. Sadly the Fast Ethernet makes the USB 3.0 port advantage pretty much useless, as the bottleneck will be the network.

Since it’s a new processor with a new Android SDK, I’d expect a few issues at least in the first months. If you are interested in the device, you can purchase it for $44 including shipping on Aliexpress.

Via AndroidPC.es

Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid Android STB Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown

March 13th, 2017 35 comments

K1 Plus T2 S2 review has been a popular post on CNX Software, as many people tried to improve their experience with the device. VideoStrong has just send an updated version of their DVB-T2 + DVB-S2 TV box with Mecool KIII Pro octa-core Hybrid STB powered by an Amlogic S912 processor combined with 3 GB RAM and 16GB storage, and the same dual tuner configuration. I’ve started the review by posting some pictures of the hardware, inside out, before reporting my experience with Android, especially the DTV part, in a few weeks.

KIII Pro Specifications

  • SoC –  Amlogic S912 octa core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with  Mali-T820MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 3 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60Hz with support for HDR10 and HLG, and 3.5mm AV (composite video) jack
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV (stereo audio), optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs – 10-bit H.265, and VP9 up to 4K60, H.264 up to 4K30, AVS+ up to 1080p60
  • Tuner – Combo DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 with two connectors
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button and LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply –  DC 12V/12A
  • Dimensions – 130 x 120 x 32 mm
  • Weight – ~190 grams

The box runs Android 6.0 with Kodi 17 pre-installed.

KIII Pro Unboxing

I received the device in a white retail package marked “KIII Pro Octa-core Hybrid STB” and “OTT TV BOX”.

The bottom of the package has some of the specs.The set-top box ships with a 12V/1A power supply, a largish IR remote control taking two AA batteries, an HDMI cable, and a user’s manual in English.

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The enclosure is very similar to K1 Plus with the edges “smoothed” out.

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The power bottom can conveniently be found on the top cover, one side has four USB 2.0 host ports, a micro SD, and the rear panel features a DVB-T2 coaxial connector, a DVB-S2 F connector, CVBS/LR composite + stereo audio 3.5mm jack, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a HDMI 2.0a port, optical S/PDIF, and the power jack.

KIII Pro Teardown

Let’s open the thing. We’ll have to start with the bottom cover. First we’ll notice a D0:76:58 MAC address which is not registered with IEEE, but the company previously explained that it was for “localized network, and it is the only ID for empowering applications to activate, specially IPTV applications”. Then, the box can be wall-mounted via two “hooks”, which can be convenient in some use cases. Finally, there’s a recovery pinhole on the right of the sticker in order to reinstall firmware if your box does not boot anymore.

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We don’t need to remove all rubber pads, as there are two just screws holding the case together. One under the bottom left rubber pad, and one under the QC sticker, which you need to pierce through. Once we’ve removed those two screws, the box comes apart easily.


We have two boards: main board with heatsink on the CPU, and a yellow board with the tuner circuitry.

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We’ll find two SpecTek DDR3 SDRAM chips: PE029-125 (512 MB) and another chip market “512X16DDR3” (1 GB) for a total of 1.5 GB RAM on this side of the board. The flash is covered by a sticker, which I have not removed, so we’ll see how storage performs in benchmarks. Gigabit Ethernet is done using Realtek RTL8211F transceiver, and Pulse H5900L transformer, while AC WiFi  and Bluetooth LE is implemented via a module marked “KM63351412” which could be equivalent to AP6335 module found in some other devices. Other chips include GL852G USB hub, and DIO2133 audio driver. If you want to hack the board, the serial console should be available via an unpopulated 4-pin header on the bottom left of the photo above.

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The other side of the CPU board comes with a micro SD card slot, and 1.5 GB extra RAM to bring the total to 3GB. We can also see extra cooling with a thick metal plate, covered by a black sheet, itself covered by a thin plastic transparent sheet on the bottom of the enclosure.

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S2&T2_R848_REV1.2 tuner board looks very similar to KI Plus tuner board, but just upgraded from Revision 1.0 to Revision 1.2, and featuring the same Availink AVL6862TA DVB-C/T/T2 + DVB-S/S2 demodulator, but they changed Rafael Micro R848 tuner chip to R912 model, which is not documentation on Rafael Micro website yet.

If you are interested in purchasing KIII Pro in quantities, you may inquire Videostrong via their Alibaba page. Mecool KIII Pro can also be purchased online on sites such as GearBest ($117.99), which by the way currently has promotions for their 3rd anniversary, as well as several shops on Aliexpress ($141 and up) and Banggood ($133.99).

[Update: Part 2 of the review is up @ Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid STB Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, TV Center, and DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 App]