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Xtream Codes IPTV Panel 2.4.2 Review – Part 4: Tutorial to Change the Main Server, Backup & Restore the Database

March 20th, 2017 3 comments

This is the fourth part of a review about Xtream Codes IPTV Panel, software to become your own content provider, and manage streams, clients, and resellers. The first three parts:

  1. Review of Xtream-Codes IPTV Panel Professional Edition – Part 1: Introduction, Initial Setup, Adding Streams…
  2. Xtream Codes IPTV Panel Review – Part 2: Movie Data Editing, Security, Resellers, Users and Pricing Management
  3. Xtream-Codes IPTV Panel Review – Part 3: Updates and New Features for Version 2.4.2

Main Server Change – Part 1: New Server

Changing your Main Server could bring you troubles, if you do not know what you are doing. Many different reasons to change the Main server such as  crashes, new one. making a Load Balancer to be a Main Server…

Remember, it’s all about the existing backup, and you’ll restore your backup later, after successfully changing the Main Server. That is not difficult and everybody can do it. But if you install your backup with your former configurations-Servers etc, it will need some corrections after the backup install is finish, and for example all your Clients, Servers ( and your Old Main Server) will be in again after you install your backup.

I’ll try to explain what that’s all about and show different examples.

  1. Changing the Main Server sounds and looks pretty easy, piece of cake, right?

But let me tell you, it’s not! Be absolutely sure about what you are doing before. We start with “Manage Server” left side in the Panel.

Then you scroll down to the end and you’ll see this:

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Warning: Make sure that you took all necessary steps before you press this button, all will be gone in a flash… BEFORE YOU Press MAIN SERVER CHANGE

Step 1: Do a Manuel Backup; this is still possible, since Xtream-Codes thought it would be a good idea to take the manually install Backup-Button off the road, for later installing your FULL BACKUP again by yourself!. NOT A GOOD IDEA, Xtream-Codes!

Step 2: Do a fresh automated backup on Xtream-Servers.

  • Database Manager—Remote Backup Now

Step 3: Take your time to think about your scenario! What do you want to do? Changing to a brand new Main? Formatted the old one only? Making an Existing Load balancer Main now? You see? Different procedures. It needs different preparing on this step of the game.

You have to think about the existing BACKUP, with all your clients and streams in, right? Or you want to loose them? I guess not. Again, think about, that the backup and later installing of your backup contains all your streams, clients etc…but also the old Server configurations.

Have also your ROOT ACCESS from the Panel at hand, because after pressing the CHANGE-Main Button…it happened a few times, that I could not login anymore in the CMS without root user/pass. You can find this Root USER/PASS in your Client Area WHMCS with Xtream-Codes,

Click My SERVICES—-

Press this then after:

And you see all what you need after:

We now change the Main to a NEW ONE:

After pressing the Button

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A warning pops up, asking, “Are you Sure”?

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We press OK! Seat belt on, and then this should come (In former versions I was simply getting kicked out the CMS, and have to login with Root user/pass only, Admins could not. This seemed to be fixed to a friendlier follow up now…)

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Now you put your NEW MAIN’s IP and SSH ROOT Password in, also your MYSQL ROOT Password, if any. If you are not sure, then in most cases simply put your ROOT SSH in again. Also, check the SSH Port, standard is Port 22, except if you changed it before. Don’t care about the rest now; you can change it later easily. Your New MAIN SERVER will install now, if all necessary data’s was right. And after a couple of Minutes, your New Main is installed

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After Installation of your NEW Main is finished, you want to restore the backup. Like I said, Xtream-Codes gives you right now (Sure that they will bring it up again) only the choice to install a Remote Backup from Xtream Codes Servers. To do this, you do as follows: Go DATABANK Manager and you see all your Remote Backups

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Right click the curved red and green arrow (load Backup), and after you choose your Remote Backup, this shows up:

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Press OK, and you see that Databank with all your Values is restored.

NEXT STEP, like I mentioned already above: after your Backup is installed, you will see, that your former OLD MAIN SERVER seems to be installed again! YOU HAVE TO GO ‘EDIT-SERVER…EDIT MAIN… and CORRECT IP AND SSH! This will do it then!.

And after successful installing the new Main (if he is a brand new one) , and installing the Backup then after, you Main will show the former IP of your Main, cause he was still in the installed backup in!

No problem at all, simply go edit Main-Server, insert again IP and SSH Root Password, and right SSH port, commonly Port 22, if you don’t changed it in your New Main.

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It also appears that your Load Balancers need a FULL REMAKE

PRESS FULL REMAKE ALL LB’s

AFTER PRESS FULL REMAKE ALL LOAD BALANCERS, HERE WE GO

It is possible, that you have to have to repeat this action with remaking all Load balancers. But be assured, it will work.

This was Part 1 of CHANGING the MAIN SERVER. I guess you know, what follows later, the little bit more complicated procedure of Changing The Main under different scenarios:

  1. We make an existing Load balancer to a NEW MAIN
  2. The preparation to do this

Changing Main Server – Part 2: Convert Load Balancer to Main Server

Scenario: We want a running Load balancer as a new Main Server! The right now “running” Main we want to send in retirement, right? This example requires that you have a few Load Balancers up and running. In case you have only 2 dervers in total, it’s not so complicated at all. Like I said above, each scenario is different. There are Admins with 20 or more Load balancers, and there are small ones, with 2 or 3 in total.

Do exactly Step by Step as follows, no twisting, no turning, no upside down please.. 🙂

Step 1: You go to TOOLS left Side, and transfer temporarily all streams from the future Main Server to another Load balancer of your choice! That’s how I have done it, not sure it will work later if you go another way, letting the streams on the future Main (the Server is a LB right now), but we have to delete this Server later out of the Panel configuration to make him Main! Reason: After we push the Remote-Backup back in, he will appear as a Load balancer again, and we can’t make him a Main Server without deleting him in the Panel.

Go exactly this way right from the start! NO REMOTE BACKUP BEFORE!! (Still hope that Xtream-Codes will implement the old feature back in soon, because not many can handle phpmyadmin, to implement a databank backup by their own later, or they should put a “hint or kind of warning” in before, something like Remote Backup now? Just in case the Admin forget it! Remember also, that the cron job “Remote Backup” is only once each 24 hours, so better do this manually Remote Backup before.)

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In general, a good idea in safety reason, the Remote Backup’s, it is a way more safe then before. Here we go now:

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After you’ve transferred your Main Server’s streams to another server, check first, the Main is really empty, it will need sometimes 1 or 2 or more minutes, depending of the quantity of your transferred streams. Now we have an empty Main, it’s the one, we do not need anymore after.

We have also to transfer the streams from the Load balancer we want as a NEW MAIN, making him completely empty. No streams on it. We do the same with the Load balancer we want as Main now! We are transferring his streams to another Load balancer the same way we have done before with the Main who has to go.

Step 2:

We do a REMOTE BACKUP after we transferred all streams, and to be on the safe side, a manual Backup to your Computer as well. First you press BACKUP DATABASE (the Backup File will load down to your computer), and direct after, we press REMOTE BACKUP NOW (Backup is loaded into Xtream Codes Server).

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Step 3:

We go MANAGE SERVER and at the bottom we see Main-Server-Change again:

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Let’s summarize what we have done.

  1. We have the Main and the future MAIN now with no Streams on it
  2. We are still in the process to change our Main Server
  3. Backups are already made (we are with an empty Main Server and an empty Load balancer right now)
  4. We have all our necessary data’s, IP and SSH Root Pass from the Load Balancer we want to put as a New Main. Login data’s ROOT for our CMS, just in case…

After that, we go MANAGE SERVERS-EDIT SERVER-DELETE SERVER.

We delete the Load balancer we want as NEW MAIN. Now we can press the Button Main Server Change.

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All necessary follow up’s standing already in Part 1 above!

We are ready to go!

  • Just in case you forgot or out of whatever reason you prefer to do a manually “load” of your saved databank backup, it’s also possible with phpmyadmin later.
  • In case you cannot do, open a ticket, XC is happy to help you out!
  • Don’t forget, Xtream-Codes support is not open 24/7!
  • And one of the most important last steps, after successfully installed the new Main, don’t forget to switch the old former MAIN OFF!
  • Switch him off, or make a new install! and sure you have to sort out your streams later, balancing them again.
  • In all other cases, like you have only 2 Servers, the procedure is similar and not complicated, cause of your limited streams, and clients. This example was written in case you got a few more Load Balancers running.
  • Don’t hesitate to open a ticket in case you are in trouble, Xtream Codes will help you in any cases.

I hope this little How-To helps you guys a little.

Ray

Xtream-Codes IPTV Panel Review – Part 3: Updates and New Features for Version 2.4.2

March 8th, 2017 No comments

This is the third part of Xtream-Codes IPTV Panel review. IPTV Panel Professional Edition is a software to build your own IPTV Server from scratch. It supports all common Streaming Protocols as an Input and it is powered by FFmpeg & nginx. If you have not done so already, you may consider reading the first two parts:

  1. Review of Xtream-Codes IPTV Panel Professional Edition – Part 1: Introduction, Initial Setup, Adding Streams…
  2. Xtream Codes IPTV Panel Review – Part 2: Movie Data Editing, Security, Resellers, Users and Pricing Management

Here are the major changes since Part 2:

And part of the company’s announcement of the release:

Why choose IPTV Panel Pro?

IPTV Panel is powered by many Open Source Tools. These are only few reasons why we believe our software is different from our competitors:

Stability: Our software is powered by FFmpeg to do the Restreaming & Transcoding of your streams. FFmpeg is the leading multimedia framework, able to decode, encode, transcode, mux, demux, stream, filter and play pretty much anything that humans and machines have created. It supports the most obscure ancient formats up to the cutting edge. No matter if they are designed by some standards committee, the community or a corporation.

Security: We provide an Addon who will increase the security of your Streams even more. We guarantee that it will be hard, even impossible for someone, to steal your streams.

Fast & Lightweight: We are using NGinx to serve the Streams to your Client’s, which is one of the fastest (if not the fastest) & most stable Web Server currently. Our solution can be used even in a simple VPS. Everything has been optimized & tuned.

True Load Balancer: When it comes to load balancing, the iptv panel has been made in such way that lets you add your own external servers. By adding a new external server into the current installation offers you many advantages. You can split the load, you can change the streaming flow, you can add/change servers of your Videos and much more

Statistics & Interface: We have built our solution in a way that you can find what you want fast and easy. No matter how many external servers you added, you have everything in one place, you can search, export Statistics, view Client’s Connections from one single interface.

Let’s got to work and test the new Version 2.4.2.

You will notice that the fingerprint addon is now free but it is limited to ONLY send one messages to a specific client and not massive as the pay version add-on does.

Complete Changelog: https://forum.xtream-codes.com/topic/3552-v242-released/

Before getting down-under, here are some very useful advices right in the beginning of Part 3:

Flood Setting (General Setting-Security Settings)

As you can see, the optimal setting for most users is 80 in Flood Limit, and 2 in Request Frequency. This setting will block ONLY customers with no valid or expired Lines! Their IP simply will be blocked and can be seen in BLOCK IP/CIDR Section later, where you are able to unblock as well if you want.

We also see the “XC Support ALLOW AUTO-LOGIN”. This you activate by putting YES in.

If you create a Ticket with XC Support, just tell in the Ticket your CMS Address (URL of your Panel) and inform them, that you activated Auto Login.(Don’t forget to set it to NO after your ticket is closed)

MAG BOXES and Co, like TVIP and BLOMC Boxes, Emulators, Clones and other Stalker Middleware Boxes!

Advice: Pay attention that you have the latest Firmware installed.

Many problems for inexperienced users of the Panel can occur, like the Box gets blocked, cannot load the Portal, or you do the most common mistake in choosing an image to lock the MagBox. (my opinion: inexperienced user’s should not lock the mag boxes with an image. If you have detect Reshare/IP Lock Plugin, you can lock him with IP-LOCK feature.)

Hint: Many clients are having trouble to put the Portal in their boxes, after they bought it, so I’ve included a useful video showing how to put a Portal in a MagBox for your customers.

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You can do as follows to unlock the MagBoxes:

Run on Database Manager the command:

Update: This feature was taken OFF from Xtream-Codes a couple of days ago… Not a good decision, more Tickets will be created as a result, I guess.

Look once a while into your SECURITY CENTER

Suspicious Files will be seen there, on all of your servers, as well as intruders or hacking attempts.

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The “DASHBOARD” has now the much asked for  Clients’s Connection Geo again, what we know from the older Version 1.

The meaning of the shown geographical connects is, it shows all CLOSED CONNECTIONS. (It would be more useful if it would show the actual real-time connects out of the countries, or is “show from yesterday” such important ? Maybe I am wrong..:))

Hint: After pressing the FIX & OPTIMIZE Button in Database Manager, all current so called “closed” connections are gone….(Guess, starting all over the counting of “all closed conections..still looking for a sense in this..)

Update: The function to install a manually downloaded Databank Backup is also gone now after a few more “pushed” Pre-Updates from Xtream Codes. (Opinion: Not a good idea at all! I think it has to be implemented again)

Before v.2.4.2

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And after Update to v.2.4.2

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The Clients’s Connection Geo

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The huge and most important Section of creating Sub-Resellers from a Reseller-Panel (Since Version 2.3.1)

I must say, why not before? Great idea, great feature! Giving your Reseller A the choice to create a Sub-Reseller B!

So far so good, if there would not be the pricing sector. I try to bring here light into the darkness.

Let’s start with “how to activate” this feature, for the Admin of the panel.

Here we go: MANAGE GROUP MEMBERS; edit the Group-Member of your choice

Then you see 4 Choices in Section Section SubResellers

  • Can Resellers in this Group create SubResellers
  • Credits Cost for Creating Subresellers
  • Can resellers alter the packages prices of their sub-resellers
  • Can Resellers select specific packages to assign to their subresellers

Now I will try to explain the most important part for Admin’s and also Resellers.

Who create a Sub-Reseller. The Margin, the pricing.

A lot of confusion about that, as most of the Admin’s also the Resellers’, who create a Sub-Reseller. Note: Only Reseller A can create a Sub-Reseller B, and that is then the end of the line, a Sub-Reseller can not create another Sub-Reseller.

Pricing, Margins and about Profits

We call here in the following examples with ADMIN (the Owner of the Panel), Reseller A (created from the Admin) and Sub-Reseller B (created from Reseller A).

Admin charges Reseller A with 1 Credit / 1 Euro.

Reseller A creates a Sub-Reseller B, and now Reseller A sells Credits to Sub-Reseller B, right? But for sure Reseller A wants to make a profit, remember, Reseller A pays 1Credit/1Euro already, so his created Sub-Reseller B should be charged more than 1 Euro for 1 Credit, right? The easy way for Reseller A would be to calculate in percentage, meaning: If he wants 50% Profit, he has to charge Sub-Reseller B 1.50 Euros for 1 Credit.

Other way, if the Admin charges the Reseller A 5 Euros for 1 Credit, then Reseller A could theoretically charge every price what is over his own price of 5 Euros.
Example: 1 Month – 1 Credit (Reseller A’s price is 5 Euro, he charges the Sub-Reseller B 7 Euros).

I hope that brings a little light in Reseller-SubResellers pricing politics.

Here’s what the official text says about this all:

We prepared a Subreseller system for you, and to prevent any downtime, we just applied the new system, in all the current v2.3.1 panels. If you are reading this, and you have the new version v2.3.1, you should have the new system embed.

This system gives the ability to groups where the Reseller status is ON, to be able to make their own reseller which we call subreseller.A subreseller has similar features and abilities like the Main Reseller, with the difference that his Users, Credits & Packages are being controlled by his owner.
Features

Reseller can make their own resellers (subresellers)
Resellers can remove some of the packages for their subresellers
Resellers can adjust different credit costs for any of the packages that are assigned by the administrator
Subresellers users & credits, are being controlled by the resellers who made them
Administrator can edit the permissions from the Admin Panel -> Manage Member Groups
Administrators can now edit the Packages and apply different credit costs per Reseller (the current system is per group). Now he can do both. ( Manage Registered Users -> Edit -> Assign Packages )

Reseller A sees this in his Panel:

New “TOOLS” Section (Very Useful)

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Many new features, like changing Streams DNS old2new, transfer Live-Streams from a server of your choice to another; fix Vod’s names (the VOD name should be correct and exactly match), Reset all ISPs restrictions for all your users (in case you activated IP Lock before, ex: customer at home with box on ISP A, his mobile phone on ISP B)

Update IMDB Details (needs some overhaul, not correct working in tests)

Clear different kind of Log’s, MagBox events and more.

Conclusion: Highly Useful

Movies Section

I know definitely now, like I mentioned already in Part 1 and 2, that the developers are not great fan’s with movies. There is still the almost whole range of movie editing section missing, and I would also like to see, that a Movie and a Stream could directly being assigned into a bouquet.

By the way…I never really managed to sort the categories out. Meaning that a category could be moved around of choice, up or down. At first place, at the end. And so on.

There is a section MANAGE CATEGORIES, but I must confess, I never came clear with this. Sorting categories works by pressing one “category” down, and move it up or down. Results are shown only in Magboxes later. VLC & Co? No chance at all. All mixed up. Stream Tools seemed promising, But somehow I missed here something, I guess. For me useful only in deleting streams and even mass delete is of no problem.

The ALL-NEW BOOST Setting in v. 2.4.2 (ATTN. ONLY FOR MAIN-SERVER)

To go there, MANAGE SERVERS, edit Main…Performance Settings, activate BOOST PERFORMANCE to YES.

Requirements to activate this BOOST

The Bad News: Totally EMPTY MAIN SERVER, not one single Stream on it, and no VOD, completely empty!
The good News: Before v.2.4.2 the recommendation was a 40-core Beast! You read it right, a “cheap” 40-core EMPTY Main was necessary, to enjoy the boost.

This is not necessary anymore, since update to 2.4.2! A minimum 8-core to 16-core will do the job now, if you should decide to use this boost, yhat results in more stability, and even faster stream connects, panel and on client side.

My personal recommendation is, minimum 32GB RAM with a 16-core server.

This gave me good results in extensive testings.

The ALL-NEW GUI of the Dashboard

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As we can see in the first picture, the usage of the network is continuous measured, and absolutely exact! In case of overloading your bandwidth, you will be warned about.

For Security Lovers.

As you see, with Xtream-Codes Backups Cronjob’s, you will be safe and sound, always. You even will be warned if your peer uses a HIGHLY UNSAFE cracked Panel Version v.1 with YOU BET…BACKDOORS!

Pros

  1. Amazing new features, too much to count even, everything is possible!
  2. Faster then ever, more stable then ever before
  3. Very fast reconnects of streams, with no kind of interrupts for clients.
  4. Highly flexible kind of configurations possible
  5. Compared to competitors, very cheap prices
  6. Brilliant Security settings
  7. Great and responsive Support (Thanks to Despoina and colleagues)
  8. Easy understandable GUI (if you invest a little time in the beginning)
  9. Brilliant and superfast transcoding
  10. Xtream-Codes even creates new long awaited Plugin for E2 (soon released)

Cons

  1. No assignment of streams or Vod’s direct into a bouquet till now possible
  2. Categories sections should be more flexible, regarding sorting the Lists
  3. NO REAL MOVIE EDITOR SECTION! Still….

Conclusion

Xtream-Codes is just on the jump to be a big player in the IPTV scene. It is to hope that the developers will go on and listen to the needs of their clients, like they do till now. I want to thank the Developers and the whole XC-Team for the support I received during the last months. You do an amazing job, and it was my pleasure to be a part of Xtream Codes.

Netgem SoundBox is a Speaker with Built-in Set-Top Box Features

February 25th, 2017 1 comment

Netgem, a company specializing in Connected TV & Home, has sent a press release about profit growth, and two new “innovations int its smart home roadmap” with voice control with Amazon, and SoundBox, a connected speaker which embeds set-top box technology.


Netgem does not sell directly to consumers, but instead sell its products and solutions to service providers, and they have not provided a great deal of technical details. But we still know the company has improved Netgem Home Platform, a cloud service allowing the deployment and management of multi-screen features, content discoverability, with support for multi-room, multi-source music service through technology from Voxtok.

SoundBox will then offer both video and audio service, and be controlled by voice using Amazon Alexa. The SoundBox will be customized for each Telco to adapt to the needs of local markets.

A few more details may eventually surfaced on Netgem’s SoundBox product’s page. They’ll also demonstrate their solutions at Mobile World Congress 2017.

Xtream Codes IPTV Panel Review – Part 2: Movie Data Editing, Security, Resellers, Users and Pricing Management

October 4th, 2016 13 comments

Dear readers, after part 1 of Xtream Codes Panel v.2.2.0 EVO review, here is part 2. I tried hard to get all in two parts, but “to be exhaustive” there will also have to be a part 3…

Movie Editing Section

xtream-codes-movie-editing

As we can see, it’s only possible to assign a movie into a single category, a SELECT BOUQUET Option under the Category would be more then useful. So while Movie Editor Section is useful right now, it still needs improvement.

Also taking each movie by hand for editing, after, for example, a Main server crash or changing the Main, is really something, a waste of time. Some of the issues / possible improvements include:

  • No mass edit of movies to bouquets
  • If changing the category of a movie, I found no working method to change in a bulk.. Even if I tried to delete the “content” of a bouquet, it was denied.
  • Left Hand Section, Mass Edit Streams allows only live streams to be edited.
  • Stream Tools! To be able to delete the falsely assigned movies. With the result of the complete addition process later on, and the transcoding process has to be repeated all over again…
  • I strongly advice customers/user’s of the Xtream Codes Panel to name their movies in a kind of unique, retrievable way later on. If not, and if you try to sort them later by assigning them in to a bouquets, you stand in front of all the movies, the way you loaded them up. No kind of Movie editing (re-naming) possible, before you load them to transcode. The mass edit movie section is simply missing.
  • This great piece of Software NEEDS A MOVIE EDITING SECTOR

The options available right now:xtream-codes-movie-editing-options

xtream-codes-movie-editing-subtitles-transcoding

  • Manage Categories has to be more specific to meet the needs of the customer.
  • Right now I was not able to really sort the categories to my preferred sequences. Did I miss here options? I couldn’t find it.
  • Edit Category function is limited to change the name only.

xtream-codes-movie-editing-category

  • Again, if you have already tons of movies assigned to a category there’s no other way to assign them in a bulk right now. A time waster.

General Warnings

To be on the safe side, do not fill your HDD up to the limit. Max 70% should give more stability.

Attention: If you rent a dedicated server, seeing the offer for example, let’s say 2x 2TB, you should know that after a normal install, you’ll only get 2TB. That is because one is mirrored, in case you loose the first partition, it would be fatal, right?

So, better let it this way, do not use the whole size. Agreed?

Having issues with reconnecting interrupted streams, I filled Xtream Codes panel with over 200 streams, and around 500 movies. I checked the stopped streams, and most connected again after manually pressing the “start/restart stream” button. But these are rare cases only, overall I must say the platform is absolutely stable.

I found a few times the ‘Guilty-ONE” for this: It was not Xtream Codes Panel, it was the miserable Streams I got from a friend for testing purposes.

Security settings (Fight the Intruders by blocking them)

Handle this setting carefully! Especially if you give a trial List to a customer, he will zapp through the channels quickly, or VLC crash often, how we all know..

Wrong or too hard settings will block him immediately.

A good setting should be as follows:

  1. General Settings->Security Settings->Flood Limit to 6 or 8
  2. Request Frequency in Seconds to 1.

Security Settings Section

Back to the Security “plugins”

xtream-codes-security-pluginsBLOCK IP/CIDR

xtream-codes-security-block-ip-cidr

We see the IP’s or better, the intruders (hint: After you set-up the Flood Limits in General-Security/Settings)

Here we go, nice to look at… but why not show directly the “customer by name with IP”?. In the end, we have to make the decision whether to unlock the IP or keep him locked. It’s only working if a server with a fixed IP started the attack, dynamic IP’s appear soon then if the IP changed.

And in case no internal customer, let’s say a simple “from outside” or no customer would be a great help. Going through the log files  to find out if it us a customer or instead a competitor trying to slow down your server (we are all nosy, aren’t we?) makes no sense and no fun. Reason: time extensive if dozens or hundreds of logs!

Live Streams-Video on Demand Section

Manage Stream/Add New Stream

xtream-codes-live-streams-vodThere is also one relatively “unique” function; you should handle with care, or best ask the seller of the LEGITIMATE streams, if he allows that you use the “Use Direct Source & don’t restream it”. This means all coming traffics are not on your side, the connected server takes it all. You should be able to see the other side. But I guess you know already.

You can also redirect the Stream to the Original Source, so that your customers connect through your own DNS. Doing so, setting to yes, your URL will show up in the Bouquet List later. But again, be aware, choosing NO, your user will not connect to your server in any case. I tested it by letting the user connect over my DNS. I thought, I would see any client connecting through my DNS, but you will not, in both cases. No matter Client Connection Logs or in Manage Lines, he is simply invisible to you. I guess, after all not the smartest idea.

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Security Section

General settings->Security Settings

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Useful if you find the “right” setting. The Flood Limit shows the number of requests specified in “Request Frequency”. I started with 5 requests within 3 seconds, result: I got blocked myself and no idea why. I just watched one channel, no fast channel switching, no nothing. This seems to getting interesting, I thought.

Switched to 8 requests in 3 seconds range. Activated my test users… Result: 2 Android boxes getting blocked.

Mhhhh, I go deeper in this then after, and because of English is not my native language, haha, we “none-english” have sometimes a problem to understand the language. And…I found it! My mistake! Definitely to 90% only, haha! And 10% I give to Xtream Codes back, because they should really be more specific about this classy feature, which is highly useful!

Advice: Give 3 options, or 4, the ordinary customer can use! Like: LOW-Standard-HIGH-HYPER Settings, pre-configured! (Also the option for manual settings).

I know I know…but remember this: Many customers are not common with these terms; they simply do mistakes resulting in blocking customers who do nothing wrong at all, which could lead to losing customers.

Standard should be: 10:1, or 20:1 ((flood limit:request frequency), but hard to say for sure in my opinion. And even this could maybe cause some troubles, if a nervous user zapping the channel’s in a lightspeed and the playlist is huge…

For example: Each zapping under 1 second is 1 evil request, collected and memorized by the panel! 10:1  means, 10 times under 1 second is OK, but then… the 11th try would blocked them! This is a hard decision to make for each panel user, if he has a huge playlist with many customers. Some customers could complain, if they get blocked, and I don’t want to talk about the non-stop checking the Security Settings, and look for blocked IPs.

Recommendation: Invest in a DDOS Protection with your server, every hosting provider is offering this. Also let this setting to OFF (0) in the beginning, and get used to everything first. You can then implement the settings you are comfortable with lateron.

Resellers – Registered Users Section

xtream-codes-users-resellers

Reseller Section

Registered Users and Reseller

When I started to work with the panel and getting used to it, this was the first category I started with. I expected something like: REGISTER RESELLER, or similar. Registered means already already registered, right?

Let’s start with “Register New User”. This feature is mainly used, to create a new RESELLER of yours, a now you want to give him access to a reseller panel. Let’s create one!

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As we can see, you have to provide the follwing details for the new user (reseller in this case):

  • Username (Whatever you want to call the reseller)
  • Password (Please 6 digits minimum, out of security reasons, phrases are also useful)
  • E-Mail (Email address of your reseller, without one you can not create a new reseller)
  • Default Language (right now only English is possible)
  • Group Members (see the next Section, Group Members)
  • Reseller DNS (Reseller Only) – Here you can specify the reseller’s own DNSs
  • Credits (reseller Only) – The amount of money the Reseller payed you, usual is 1 credit = 1 UK pound or other currencies)

Section Manage Group Members

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First of all, a little explanation here on this important part. As we’ve already seen above, we can “register” a new user, reseller in this case with “REGISTER NEW USER” option (I would rather see a “Create new Reseller” button). But here is the point: If you register a new future reseller, you have to assign the payment formalities later (ex: 300 Euro = 300Credits), but also how much for 1 month, 3 months or any other kind of subscription (time frame), and the reseller can create lines for his own customers later, and see his own costs each time.

Assigning them (the resellers) all in one category, named reseller, let you later no choice to give different kind of subscription prices. (ex: Reseller A 1 month =6 Euro, Reseller B 1 month 8 Euro), so that’s why Xtream Codes has a great feature in creating groups.

You can simply create a new “group”, let’s say Group elcap in my case, and assign reseller A to it. Now your Reseller A is a Group Member of “elcap” group. Next step, you want to give him prices and time frames of each line he creates.

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As you can see, I created the trials , 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and 12 months, and also a VOD package for the reseller part of group elcap.

You start with Resellers -> New Package (Adds a new Package)

xtream-codes-resellersWe see the following options after clicking on New Package:xtream-codes-resellers-new-package-1

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You first need to name the package, mark it as Trial or Official Package (1-12 month or else later, you are free in your decision), you can even pair the line with the ISP provider of your client by first connection. (Attn.: need additional plugin to buy).

Useful only if you create a Package for a RESTREAMER (Restreamers are able to put your bouquets/packages on their server(s) and use them as there own streams), as they have a fixed IP in any case.

In this example we give 20 connections to a Restreamer

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Meaning: You can give your whole LEGITIMATE stream list, or assorted ones, like a bouquet you filled with specific streams before. In any case, your Restreamer you are selling to, is only able to open 20 connections on his server. The amount of connections you assign to him is what he pays for.

Settings Prices with Manage Packages

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Edit a packagextream-codes-resellers-edit-package

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A complete option to edit your before assigned package (Manage Package->Edit Package).

Here’s the output of my own created packages Create them for your own needs, everything is possible!

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Manage ROOT (Registered Users)

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By clicking on Manage Root you get the following options:

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Here you can change your ROOT username/password given by Xtream Codes for your panel.

You can change both passwords here later, if you do not wish to use the old ones once given from Xtream Codes after you ordered and paid for your panel. Handle this carefully, write it down and copy it to safe locations, just in case of a crash of the main server (see upcoming part 3, with simulated crash of the Main server)

I initially planned to finish this review into two parts, but there are so many options, I have to do at least one more part.

I also have to repeat Options and Features for better understanding later on. See you guys on Part 3 soon, which should include:

  1. Changing the Main Server (through my extended kind of tests, I worked a couple of days on this, and the results should benefit all of us who are using this software and working with it.)
  2. Finishing the features for good, I promise
  3. The “Have’s” and the “Have Not’s
  4. Enumerations of the Top 5 settings to use
  5. Results after a new installation (Simulated Crash of the Main Server)
  6. The Pro’s & the contra’s
  7. The Competitors of Xtreme-Codes Panel
  8. Be aware of some kind of hosting services (Strange experiences with 2 “Big Ones”! Troubleshootings)
  9. The Conclusion
  10. Preparing a little Manual (PDF format, to help you guys)

[Update: During finishing my work on the huge Part 3 of the Review Xtream Codes Panel Version.2.2.0 EVO, there was yesterday, 08th October, an update to Version 2.3.0 EV0, with a lot of new Features and Improvements!

So, I will need a little longer to finish the Part 3, please stay tuned.]

Review of Xtream-Codes IPTV Panel Professional Edition – Part 1: Introduction, Initial Setup, Adding Streams…

September 22nd, 2016 9 comments

Today I’ll start the review of one of the streaming software available on the market, with version 2.2.0 EVO of IPTV Panel Professional Edition developed by Xtream-codes.

The Software is mainly used for the so-called IPTV broadcasting, but also with great potential for all kind of other content delivery applications such as audio and business streaming, cloud video transcoding, and all other kind of global streams.

What is IPTV?

Wikipedia definition:

Internet Protocol television (IPTV) is a system through which television services are delivered using the Internet protocol suite over a packet-switched network such as a LAN or the Internet, instead of being delivered through traditional terrestrial, satellite signal, and cable television formats. Unlike downloaded media, IPTV offers the ability to stream the media in smaller batches, directly from the source. As a result, a client media player can begin playing the data (such as a movie) before the entire file has been transmitted. This is known as streaming media.

IPTV services may be classified into three main groups:

  • Live television, with or without interactivity related to the current TV show;
  • Time-shifted television: catch-up TV (replays a TV show that was broadcast hours or days ago), start-over TV (replays the current TV show from its beginning);
  • Video on demand (VOD): browse a catalogue of videos, not related to TV programming.

IPTV is distinguished from Internet television by its ongoing standardisation process (e.g., European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and preferential deployment scenarios in subscriber-based telecommunications networks with high-speed access channels into end-user premises via set-top boxes or other customer-premises equipment.

This review will contain results mainly for the “end-user” or business owner, who already owns or bought legitimate streams, as Xtream-codes IPTV software does not provide any video streams, and “only” helps distributing your content.

If starting from scratch, producing your self-made streams, it’s already professionally explained in the video below using Xtream-codes IPTV panel on AMD MOI Pro IPTV streaming server.

I would love to do this by myself, but I would be in need of the necessary hardware. TBS can provides future producers of streams with all the required and necessary hardware.

Installation Process

After you registered at https://xtream-codes.com and placed your order, you get access (after payment) to your unique default root username, default root password, and your CMS Address.

You can now login with both credentials, and start adding your server addresses. Your Server IP and SSH Password is required, and the whole process is pretty straightforward.

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If necessary, you can add a second Load balancer Server by the same method. If you need more Load balancers (LB’s) in the future, you will have to pay an extra Fee. Xtream-Codes call this “plugins”, but I guess it’s a simple SSH Protocol.

They activate on their server side, like: 2/4/6 LB’s…. Again, the first LB is free of charge.

The Graphical User Interface (GUI): Xtream-Codes Panel

xtream-codes-iptv-guiIf you are confronted the very first time with it, it might be confusing at first with all the available options, but be assured, that after 1 or 2 days you’ll be getting used to it. Many features and possibilities are waiting for you, and it also a few have’s and have not’s. Let’s start with the “have’s!

One of the great features in version 2.2.0 Evo is the Transcoding process. Here a general overview of the 2 Versions: Profesional and Minimal Editions.

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Xtream-Codes also offers a Minimal Edition of this software for a cheaper monthly price (19 Euros per month vs 59 Euros per month)

xtream-codes-iptv-panel-minimal-editionAs you might expect, the professional edition adds several features including:

  • Load Balancing by adding servers (1 is free, all others must be bought)
  • Manage all servers in a very simple and powerful interface
  • MAG Devices Support
  • New powerful transcode System supporting almost every function
  • Every stream is playable (more protocols support)
  • Faster zapping time (instant)
  • Powerful Logging & Search System
  • Stream Statistics
  • Http Live Streaming (HLS) Output
  • iOS/Android Client Area Portal
  • More lightweight

The Menus & Options  of the Panel

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The Transcoding or Video-Conversion process

This is one one of the “Highlights” of Xtream-Codes IPTV Panel. I’ve tested over a hundred different kinds of formats, from Blu-ray-MKV, different AVI’s, FLV, MP4, WMV, MOV and OGG. Each time the transcoding process was successful.

I also tested quite a few homemade AVI’s without transcoding, all watchable later on. But for professional hosting, large sized movies should be encoded before transferred to your server, in my opinion. The reason is mainly the later ability for your future customers to watch the movie streams, without any kind of freezings or bufferings. Due to Internet limitations, and nowadays also server bandwidth problems, the movies should be transcoded in 720p maximum and the file size should be around +/- 1GB each. The bitrate should be somewhere around 2 – 3000k maximum. This would later almost guarantee the freeze free availability of the stream, if the user owns a decent Internet connection. Not everybody have an 200 Mbit/s and up broadband connection.

Sure, there are higher bitrates possible and many customers already crying for lossless FHD’s streams. In my eyes often a wishful thinking. Too many components playing a huge role in the Internet world, and last but not least there’s always the question of bandwidth.

encoding-vs-transcoding

“What’s the difference between encoding and transcoding?” was one of the first questions I had when I started working with video’s and IPTV streaming. I had always used them interchangeably and after a quick Internet search I was surprised that I did not find a clear answer.

While encoding and transcoding both represent ways of converting files between formats, there is a distinct difference:

  • Encoding, by definition, takes analog source content and converts it to a digital format. For example – converting a video on a VHS tape to an mpeg file or a video DVD.
  • Transcoding takes an existing digital format and converts it to a different digital format, like taking a sample video and converting it to an adaptive bitrate format such as HTTP-Live-Streaming.

Despite the clear differences by definition, I’ve noticed that only technical experts tend to use the term with distinction. People getting started with video are often left behind and confused between the terms like I was. I hope that with this short note, we were able to shed some light on this myth….

Here you can see the different kinds of VIDEO and AUDIO transcoding codecs available:

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The Preset option allows you to select between ultra fast and very slow transcoding options, which should also affect the video quality.

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The Video Profile option (in my opinion too many Apple’s…)

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Setting the average video bitrate

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Other Transcoding Options

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Main server and load balancer monitoring

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3rd Load balancer

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Load Balancer Settings

Load balancing Chart? What this feature is doing exactly? As stated before, IPTV Panel Pro has load-balancing mode that will redirect your users automatically to other servers in a case of huge load. The load-balancing chart is being used to control the SOURCE flow or how the stream source will be transferred to your servers.

You can draw any flow you want depending on your needs.

iptv-load-balancerBoth servers will take the stream from the source in the configuration above.

iptv-load-balancer-proxy

In this case, the server “Load balancer 1” will read the stream from the source and at the same time he will transfer the same stream to the second server.

Implementing LEGITIMATE Streams in your Panel and Managing Streams

Attention: Many customers make here a major mistake, with the result of missing audio and other misbehaviors in the stream later. What Video & Audio Codec should I use if I transcode later?

Xtream Codes has added many video & audio codecs but not all of these codecs are supported for IPTV use. To be on the safe side, you should always use the H.264 as video codec and AAC as audio codec for IPTV use.

iptv-panel-live-stream

As we can see, importing a live stream, a movie or a radio broadcast stream was never that easy. We start by adding a live stream.

Two options here: One single stream, or multiple streams! If you import multiple streams, you need the file/stream list containing all of your streams.

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We have several options later, how the streams can act. For better understanding, it’s theoretically possible that you “restream” your legitimate bought streams later. In other words…in some cases, you may want to sell these streams to other resellers.

Through this setting you can block your streams to be “restreamed” later on, if you really try to sell some of your streams in time by choosing a category or bouquet later for your customer. Streams marked here as “yes” will not work for your customer.xtream-codes-restream-block

xtream-codes-stream-control Very useful are the “Quicktools” in the Manage-Streams Section:

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Adding a New Movie

You can also add a movie you uploaded to your server previously, or even from a remote source.

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If you add a movie from your own server, it works over the integrated file browser, while if you want to stream from a remote location, simply type in the location.

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You can set read “Input Source in Native Frames”, and  if you are transcoding, set it to YES.xtream-codes-imdb-database

You like to have a picon for your Movie? Here you can add a IMDB ID.

But here we go…Movies! It is common in this business, that once a while a server is having issues, and most times the load balancer also gives up. If this happens, and no matter the backup of your data bank, you are in troubles. You may have tons of movies in backup, and must re-assign them all again to a server manually.

This feature is definitely missing in the editing movies section. There are only 3 parts: Add New Movie, Import Multiple Movies and Manage Movies.

The scenario: You transfer in an emergency case over ssh protocol sftp-wise all your movies to an other server. You set up a new OS or reinstall one, and you get a new root password. After making a new server with Xtream Codes Panel, so far, so good. But you have to assign them later, all of them! A mass-edit regarding assigning movies to the main server or one of the load balancers would do it! Saving a dramatic amount of time for a customer. I repeat myself here, I mentioned that above already, regarding “add a new stream”. No reason for me to think of right now, that it should not be possible to assign this stream to a bouquet, and not only in to a category.

Adding a New Radio

It’s the same procedure as adding a video stream. You can import a single or multiple Streams from a file.

Creating new Client/Customer Lines xtream-code-user-details-2

Creating a new customer line is a piece of cake; just fill up the necessary fields. Like user, a unique password if you wish so, you even can use the created line in a stalker portal, but watch out then, please read:

xtream-codes-iptv-panel-mag-devices

If a customer has a MagBox for example, the better option is to bind the box over the MAC address. It is even possible to bind a before created simple m3u Playlist to a newly created MAC address. Simply go to “Add New Mag Device” and associate the existing line to it.

xtream-codes-iptv-panel-mag-stbPortals for Mag-Devices are like “http://yoursite.com:port/c/”

Features, Options, Security

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Restreamers Finder

Another useful feature is the so-called Restreamers Finder. In these days there are many restream software’s for ordinary users on the market, like Hola addons for Android Systems and many more.

Block User Agent

Not absolutely clear about this feature. What is a “User Agent”? A User Agent is normally a short string that web browsers and other applications send to identify themselves to web servers. Unfortunately, most browsers falsify part of their User-Agent header in an attempt to be compatible with more web servers. Useful, but I find that the manual assigning of each single user agent is a hell of a work. There are preconfigured block lists already in the Internet and it would be from great help, if Xtream Codes would allow loading a whole list.

Block IP/CIDR

IP blocking is clear, but what is a CIDR? Classless inter-domain routing (CIDR) is a set of Internet protocol (IP) standards that is used to create unique identifiers for networks and individual devices.

The IP addresses allow particular information packets to be sent to specific computers. Shortly after the introduction of CIDR, technicians found it difficult to track and label IP addresses, so a notation system was developed to make the process more efficient and standardized. That system is known as CIDR notation.

Resume? Absolutely useful!

There is still some work to do specially in the editing sector, one of the most important parts of streaming software:

  • Searching for Bad Movies (a dog’s work if hundreds/thousands of movies)
  • Adding a new stream and assign it direct into a bouquet, would be more then useful.
  • Mass edit Movies features (ex:Assign Movies to a server in bulk)

Part 2 (…coming soon)

  1. Finishing the part of the most important features
  2. Comparison the “Have’s” and “Have Not’s”
  3. Results after a new installation (Simulated Crash of the Main Server)
  4. The Pro’s
  5. The Contra’s
  6. The Competitors of Xtreme-Codes Panel
  7. Be aware of some kind of hoster (Strange experiences with 2 “Big Ones”! Troubleshootings)
  8. The Conclusion and resume

Ending the first part, I want to say thanks to Xtream-Codes for giving me the tools and the necessary “LB Plugins” (Naaaa, not a plugin, Xtream-Codes! Call it a Addon better!) to start.

[Update: Part 2 is up @ Xtream Codes IPTV Panel Review – Part 2: Movie Data Editing, Security, Resellers, Users and Pricing Management ]

KowanTV Click Linux IPTV Box Review

August 25th, 2016 8 comments

CNXSoft: Ray reviews Amlogic S812 powered Linux based KowanTV Click TV box with allegedly access to over a thousand free IPTV channels. While the hardware is pretty standard, you pay a (hefty) premium to access their IPTV servers, and it reminds me of Jynxbox Live which I reviewed a few years ago.

I received one these rare Linux stream boxes. It’s called TVone Entertainment hub, advertised as: KowanTV Click To Play Entertainment Hub European American TV Channels Live Broadcast Video on demand IPTV BOX 1000+ Free Channels, and provided by GeekBuying for this review.

KowanTVKowanTV Click Specifications

System
Operating System Embedded Media OS( linux )
CPU Amlogic S812( ARM cortex-A9 )
GPU Mali-450 Octo-core
RAM 2GB RAM
ROM 8GB Flash Memory
Communication
Wifi Connectivity IEEE 802.11 b/g/n  2.4GHz/5GHz
Ethernet 10/100M
Bluetooth Yes
Media
Video Supported Video (up to 4K) – MPEG1/2/4,  H.264,  H.265,AVC, VC-1 , RM/RMVB , Xvid , DviX3/4/5/6, RealVideo 8/9/10
Audio Supported MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, OGG, AC3, DDP, TRUEHD, DTS, DTS HD, FLAC, APE
Picture Supported JPEG, GIF, TIFF, BMP, PNG
Resolution 4K*2K
Range RF Remote Receiver  15M
Dolby Digital Decoder Up to 7.1
Internet Requirements Supports most standard dsl connections ADSL, ADSL 2 and ADSL 2+ , cable Internet and Wifi (including 3 g and 4 g speeds )
Interfaces
HDMI Port HDMI 1.4
Other Interfaces HDMI, Optical Audio, Ethernet, USB 2.0*2,DC IN
Dimensions & Weight
Dimensions 135*125*27mm/5.31*4.92*1.06in; Product 12.8*10.6*2.2cm/5*4.2*0.9inches
Weight 550g/19.40oz; Product 264g/9.45oz
Package Contents
1 x KowanTV Entertainment Hub
1 x Kowan RF Remote
1 x HDMI cable
1 x Power adapter (A right AC Adapter will be sent as your shipping country)
1 x Micro USB Remote Charger Cable
1 x Set-up Guide

Unboxing and first impressions

After opening the package, we see the top of the box and the fancy looking RF remote, covered in soft foam, a USB 2.0 to Micro USB (1 meter), and a HDMI cable v.1.4 (1.5 meter) together with a quick setup manual and the power supply.

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On first sight, all looks from high quality in a straight forward design. But stay tuned, this box will show some surprises.

One of the big “advertisements” of this box is, that it would come with a preload (or after OTA updates) of over 1000 Channels. The company also provided a comparison table showing differences with “standard Android TV boxes”. Kowan TV1 is the box being reviewed here, as Kowan TV2 also include dual DVB-T2/C & DVB-S2 tuner.

KowanTV_vs_Android_TV_Box

Surprisingly the number of TV stations after my first connection was just 95 channels.

I got suspicious and tried to figure out, what’s really behind the Kowan TV1! The firmware is simply a kind of modified Linux/Kodi Modification, similar to Arnubox Mach 10 Pure Linux! A mixture of renewable OTA TV links and a integrated Kodi styled Addon GUI.

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It reminded me directly of my bad experiences with Arnubox Mach 10, with similar specifications, also using Amlogic e S812 ARM Cortex-A9 processor with an octa-core Mali-450MP GPU.

I tested the quality of the “live links” and it was a new experience. Never ever before I saw streams such bad video streams, almost all in a range between 500 and 800k, meaning they are not watchable on big screens at all. Most streams are delivered by FilmON add-on.

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I connected 3 different brands of Wireless mouses without success, and even Mele F10 Deluxe did not work. Then I tried a standard USB keyboard, no success either. This box only seems to work with the original remote, a handicap what could be fatal one time.

The box is also advertised with Bluetooth capability, but I could not find any such setting in the settings menu or anywhere else, so I guessed it might be some sort of permanent Bluetooth connection, and tried different devices with “searches”…result: none at all. So one way to work around the issue could be to use a USB Bluetooth dongle instead, which I did, but again unsuccessfully…

After connecting my Samsung soundbar HW-K950, Kowan TV1 box showed us its first bright side, as it delivered a real Dolby experience. After a web search, I found out that a box with the same promises and advertisements was advertised in 2011. So it looks like a remake of a hard-to-sell device…

Video Test Results

Resolution Video Format Local Playback Network (Wi-Fi/LAN) Playback
720p (1280*720) AVC ([email protected]) Playing correctly Playing correctly
1080p (1920*1080) AVC ([email protected]) Playing correctly Playing correctly
 2160p (3840*2160) HEVC (H.265) – 10Bit Playing correctly Playing correctly with pre-Buffering
4K (4096*2304) AVC ([email protected]) Playing correctly Playing correctly with pre-Buffering
4K TS HEVC files HEVC (H.265) Does not play / play with artifacts and stutter Does not play / play with artifacts and stutter

Conclusion

KOWAN TV1 Linux seems like a promising system. It shows great performance, but I also experienced issues with connecting built-in Kodi addons to servers (both through Ethernet and WiFi), signing-in into YouTube, some add-ons did not work, and the remote control was useful but quite flawed.

The biggest disappointment was, that this box delivers the advertised “over 1000” channels only by using pirate Kodi addons only. As I mentioned previously, I also manged to get 95 live channels, and half of them would not even open because of endless pre-buffering, so it was more then disappointing.

On the bright side, this “Kodi machine” has good picture quality, and managed to play almost anything thrown at it (within Amlogic S812 chipset limitations – no TS files). Local network performance proved to be quite good, though with long pre-buffering for heavy 4K content. There are also some services reminiscent of the old NMT (network media tanks), which allows things, like torrent download and playback, and other interesting options.

PROS

  • Live Streams with EPG
  • Very nice Remote with keyboard function including backlight and rechargeable battery via a micro USB port. Range tested up to 12/15 meters
  • Relatively easy to handle GUI
  • No Temperature issues

CONS

  • The price… definitely.
  • Works only with original remote control
  • Nothing more than a modified Linux running Kodi in the background.
  • 95 “live Streams” are delivered through Kodi’s IPTV simple client, which once a while needs an update over the so-called update when starting the box! There would be a premium package to book later on, but this is normally free (FilmOn licensed live stream Inc.).
  • If you want to watch movies, you have to launch Kodi add-ons, with long pre-bufferings and all kind of bad effects delivered by these freebies.
  • The whole experience is within the confines of Kodi, there’s no getting out.
  • The Channel update experience was less than encouraging, as the device was unable to connect to the update server quite a few times. Much like most of other “pure Linux” based TV boxes, a manual update through a USB/SD Card is not possible since the  firmware is not public

Entertainment systems running on Linux never really made their way to the end consumers in the past through their handicap to be married to Kodi only somehow. More successful Linux boxes, such as the Mag boxes, use different middleware  offering end users a simple way to connect to a IPTV portal. I wish Kowan TV1 would have gone this way in compiling a real hybrid able to run a nicely done GUI with Kodi together with portal compatibility. This would have made it a real unique box with potential, and not ending up being an overpriced Kodi Entertainment System, although the name Kodi does not appear at all in the the modified GUI.

The specifications are about the same as any of the other Amlogic S812 based boxes out there, and the main difference remains the operating system. The manufacturer markets the box as better than its Android counterparts, but I found it to be a mixed bag.

The default skin that was custom made for the box, requires some getting used to, if you are used to the standard confluence Kodi skin. But it works quite well, If you come from Android, or even Windows boxes, this Linux box will require some adjustments. It might be the right fit for you, but you will need to know that it’s Kodi only, and there is nothing else, no matter the modified GUI, which is on the other hand, an improvement to standard Kodi systems, for an inexperienced or older user.

Did I like it? Not really. I was disappointed with some of the issues I found as my expectations were higher for a dedicated box.

Would I recommend it? I would, but only for people with limited technical understandings and who just need a capable kind of Entertainment/Kodi box, and are willing to live with its limitations, and extremely higher than average price.

GeekBuying kindly provided the sample for review, and if you still want to purchase it, you can do on on their website for $199 (No typo). Free shipping and a free Tenda F3 N300 wireless router somewhat soften the high price tag. It can also be found on Aliexpress and eBay for the same price.

M12N Amlogic S912 Octa-core TV Box Review – Part 2: Android 6.0 Firmware

August 24th, 2016 45 comments

Shenzhen Shiningworth MXQ Plus M12N is one of the first TV box powered by Amlogic S912 octa-core processor also bringing a faster GPU, VP9 and HDR support compared to the earlier Amlogic S905 processor. I’ve already shown the device, its accesories, and its internal degisn in the first part of MXQ Plus M12N review, so today I’ll spend time reporting my finding testing features and performance with Android 6.0 firmware.

MXQ_Plus_M12N_TV-Box_HDD_Onkyo_AV_Receiver

Setup Wizard and First Impressions

Since there are only two USB ports, I connected my USB hard drive to one, and used a USB hub to connect input devices including two RF dongles for an air mouse, and a gamepad, as well as a USB keyboard to take screenshots. I also added Ethernet and  HDMI cable, and finally connected the power supply to boot it up.

M12N_Setup_Wizard_LetterboxBut as you can see from the picture the very first boot was not quite as expected, as all I can see what a mini version of the user interface in the top left corner of my TV (please ignore the vertical line(s) in my pictures, as it is a problem with my LG 4K TV). I contacted the Shenzhen Shiningworth about this issue, and they told me to try to reboot the device… To my surprise, the issue was gone, and I’ve never been able to reproduce it.

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The very first screen will be a welcome from the setup wizard. Select/Click on Next to select the language.M12N_Wizard_Language_Settings

You’ll only have four choices at this stage: English, simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, or Japanese. M12N_Wizard_Overscan_Settings

The Next window is for overscan compensation in case you have black zones on the edges of your TV.M12N_Wizard_Network_SettingsThe final settings in the wizard is for Network. If you have connected an Ethernet cable just click Next, but if you want to use WiFi instead set Wireless from close to open, select your access point, and enter its password. Both 2.4 and 5.0 GHz (802.11ac) networks are supported.

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Once everything done you get to the main launcher with icons for Google Play, Kodi, YouTube, Netflix, “Local” apps, All apps, a Game app (KO GameBox), and a links to Settings. There’s also a customizable bar at the bottom for favorite apps. Boot is normally achieved in less than 30 seconds.

M12N_Android_AppsThe pre-installed app are mostly pretty common, except some IPTV apps – BangTV, Mobdro, and Show Box – which I’m not familiar, and check out later in the review.

MXQ-PLus_M12N_SettingsThere are 6 main menus in the settings:

  • Networks – Wireless, Ethernet, Broadband (PPPoE), and wireless hotspot
  • Device – BlueTooth, Keyboard, HDMI CEC control, Sound settings (PCM, SPDIF passthrough, or HDMI passthrough)
  • General – Device Name (default: MXQ Plus), Date & Time, Language, and More settings (Android 6.0 settings)
  • Security – Security redirecting to Android 6.0 Security Settings, Add Account
  • Display – Adjustment, Resolution, Wallpaper, Screensaver
  • MXQ About – Device Name, System Info, Developer mode, ROM update, and Restore factory status

About_MXQ_PlusI haven’t had any problems with neither WiFi or Ethernet connectivity, and I could setup HDMI output up to [email protected] Hz, however the system would almost always revert to 1080p60 after a reboot. The mow usual annoyance that I can’t turn off my AV receiver while it’s connected to the device still occur, even if I disable HDMI CEC. I could not find any HDR options in the settings.

While we have the most useful option in Settings app,  you can still access Android 6.0 settings via General->More settings, and set other parameter like accessibility, printing, developer options, Languages and Input (with many languages), and so on.

Like most new devices to the market, the TV box has a unified partition for apps and data with 11.87 GB storage, and at the end of the review I had only used 2.99 GB with all installed apps and some files copied to the download directory. So there will be enough space for the requirements of most people.

Going to About MediaBox section shows MXQ Plus running Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29. The firmware is not rooted. The company told me that OTA firmware is supported, but it won’t work through UPDATE&BACKUP app, which reports OTA failure connecting to server, and instead you’d have to go to Settings->MXQ About->ROM update. I have not been able to confirm whether it works since the company has not release a new firmware since I’ve received the device. [Update: The company has now pushed a new firmware on their OTA server, and I’ve tested it. See section below]

While I used MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse for most of the review, I’ve also quickly tested the infrared remote control, and it works with a range up to 10 meters.  Google Play store worked well, except for BLE (Bluetooth LE) app such as Mi Fit or Vidonn Smartband, which I had to side-loaded. I had no problem installing the free version of Riptide GP2 through Amazon Underground.

Power handling is OK with a short press on the power button of the remote control making the device go into standby, and a long press, popping up a window to power it off cleanly. I could also use the remote control to power it back on.

I measured power consumption in 6 different configurations:

  • Power off – 0.4 watt
  • Standby – 0.4 watt
  • Idle – 3.0 to 3.4 watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.4 watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 1.0 watt (HDD LED was turned off)
  • Idle + USB HDD – 4.2 watts

All good numbers, and behaviors. Unless you consider the 30+ watts consumed by my A/V receiver which I can’t power off while connected to MXQ Plus M12N…

Thermal design as seen in the teardown post with two thick thermal pad connecting the processor to the metal case, was not very convincing, but during use the case does not get very hot. After Antutu 6.x, top and bottom temperatures were both 41°C max, and after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 minutes, the temperatures only went up to 43°C and 45°C respectively. The game frame rate was also constant during the whole duration of the game.

Considering Amlogic S912 is a brand new processor, and putting aside the very first boot letterbox issue. my first impressions were quite good with MXQ Plus M12N with the stable and responsive firmware most of the time. Other small annoyances and bugs included the lack of status and notification bars, the device preventing me from turning off my A/V receiver, and in two or three occurrences having the system ask whether I wanted to close or wait for an unresponsive app.

A Quick Look at IPTV apps

As previously mentioned 3 IPTV apps are installed.

BangTV plays Chinese TV stations in Mandarin, but also some in foreign languages (Russian, French, Arabic…) in SD resolution.

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Mobdro app categorizes live video feeds by Channels, News, Shows, Movies, Sports, and Music, and more.

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Once you enter a category, you will be presented by a list of channels with logo and descriptions.

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I could play Sky Sports F1 from the list in SD resolution, and it worked well, except the quality was rather low. Watching sports on TV is often a paying endeavors, so I assume this may not be legal everywhere…

Finally Show Box app starts in the News section, which you can navigate to access various entertainment news about movies and TV shows.

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But you can also select Movies and TV shows in the left sidebar, which brings you to a list of movies.

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I selected one, and it looks like it’s pointing to stream or download the movie through bittorrent.

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I’ve checked Tarzan for two minutes and it could stream fine at 720p (with somewhat low quality)… Again it may not be fully legal in all locales…

OTA Firmware Update

Note: this section had been added after the review since the company only pushed the new firmware one day later.

So soon after starting the device, I got a pop-up window prompting for an Update together with a short changelog.

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I clicked “Yes” and then… nothing. I asked the company if this was normal, and was informed that download occurs in the background, and a down arrow is shown during the process.

Amlogic_S912_Firmware_Update_Icon

So I minded my own business doing other things for a few minutes, and finally I got another pop-up asking me to applying the update.MXQ_Plus_M12N_Firmware_Download_CompleteI clicked “Yes”, the system rebooted, applied the update, and then complete the installation for a reboot. Around 5 minutes later everything was completed, and I still had my files and apps. So no problem and it went smoothly.

Video and Audio Playback with Kodi, Antutu Video Tester, and DRM information

I’ll switch to local video playback. The first time you start Kodi, you’ll be asked whether you want to install Add-ons. I selected “Not install” myself, since I don’t need it for review.

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Kodi 16.1 is installed, probably a custom version built on July 4, 2016.

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I’ll play all videos from a SAMBA share over an 100Mbps Ethernet connectivity, unless otherwise stated (HDD = played from USB hard drive).

I’ve started with some Linaro media samples, and Elecard H.265 videos:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK (software decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p – OK (ff-vp8 software decode), 1080p – some frames are skipped
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK

I enabled automatic refresh rate in Kodi, but this did not work well.

Videos with various bitrates were next:

  • ED_HD.avi (H.264 / 10 Mbps) – Not 100% smooth (software decode)
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Audio only, stays in UI
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – HDD: OK

The worry here is that the system can’t play some videos with software decode that could be played without issues in Amlogic S905X devices like MINI M8S II, so it could be the CPU is throttling under load.

I also tested PCM output (stereo downsampling) via Kodi and MX Player/MoviePlayer app using my TV’s speakers, and HDMI pass-through in both using Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver for advanced audio codecs.

Audio Codec in Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi 16.1)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MoviePlayer or Video Player)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi 16.1)
HDMI Pass-through
(MoviePlayer or Video Player)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK but video not smooth No audio Dolby D 5.1 detected, but audio starts with noises, video not smooth OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1, but with 3 audio cuts OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio no audio Video plays in slow motion without audio
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio no audio TrueHD 5.1
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio no audio TrueHD 7.1
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 Dolby D 5.1continuous beep
DTS HD Master OK No audio DTS 5.1 with 2 audio cuts DTS 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio DTS 5.1 with 1 audio cut DTS 5.1
DTS:X OK No audio DTS 5.1 DTS 5.1

No audio with PCM output using apps other than Kodi is expected since the processor is Amlogic S912, and not Amlogic S912-H with the proper Dolby and DTS licenses. HDMI pass-through is still in a sorry state, especially in Kodi. It’s still usable in other apps, as long as you are satisfied with 5.1 audio.

4K video playback is pretty good however, at least for supported HW codecs:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • 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) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps) – OK.
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (as expected since hardware is not supposed to support it)
  • 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) – HDD: Slow motion, and many artifacts (Not supported by S912 VPU, software decode)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 30 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – HDD: Not perfectly smooth for either NTFS or exFAT partitions
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – OK watchable but not 100% perfectly smooth.

I had already written about 4K video playback on Amlogic S912 SoC, and if you haven’;t seen it already you can watch some of the videos above playing in M12N in the embedded video below.

Sintek-4k.iso & amat.iso (non encrypted) Blu-Ray ISOs, and two MPEG2 1080i videos could all play without an issues. I was expecting Amlogic S912 to handle 1080p 10-bit H.264 video software decoding thanks to its 8 cores @ 2.0 GHz, but while a 720p Hi10p would play perfectly with audio, video and subtitles, the 1080p Hi10p video was not perfectly smooth, and even suffered from artifacts and audio cuts from time to time. The culprit could be M12N specific thermal design, so the issue will have to be confirmed or disproved with some other S912 models.

My TV does not support 3D videos, but I normally still checked if the TV box can decode the videos, and Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver is capable of detecting 3D content (shows 3D icon) for MVC videos as shown in  Zidoo X1 II review, so I check whether the 3D icon is lit up:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only, stays in UI.
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK
  • 3D-full-MVC.mkv (Full-frame packed MVC 3D MKV) – 2D only, 3D icon not shown on Onkyo receiver
  • ISO-full3D-sample.iso (Full-frame packed MVC 3D ISO) – 2D only, 3D icon not shown on Onkyo receiver

I completed Kodi videos testing by playing various VOB/IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4, XViD/DViX, and MKV 720p and 1080p videos from my library and all could play fine. I also played one complete video for 2 hours without issues.

I’ve also run Antutu Video Tester 3.0 benchmark, and MXQ Plus got 865 points, which is quite similar to the 909 points achieved on MINI M8S II. The best devices normally get over 1,000 points.

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DRM info shows only Widewine Level 3 is supported. No surprise here.

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YouTube works fine, but is limited to 1080p max.

Video samples used in Kodi for this review can be downloaded via links in the comments section of my video sample post.

Network Performance

I copied a 278MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal storage test WiFi performance, both using 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, and 802.11ac @ 433 Mbps.

M12N_802.11ac_WiFiResults are below average, and during the 802.11n test, I even got a stalled and failed transfer. Performance is also asymmetric with “downloads” (SAMBA-> flash) faster than uploads (flash to SAMBA). 802.11n achieved 1.6 MB/s on average, while the file was transfered @ 1.9 MB/s over 802.11ac on average.

Throughput in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

For Fast Ethernet, I instead ran iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d to test full duplex transfer, a worse case scenario, and performance is good:

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

After pairing my Android smartphone with “MXQ Plus” I could transfer a couple of photos over Bluetooth. I side-loaded Mi Fit, and it recognized and sync data with Xiaomi Mi Band 2 fitness band, however the app was displayed in portrait mode.

Xiaomi_Mi-Fit_Portrait

I skipped Sixaxis app test with my PS3 Bluetooth game controller clone since the firmware is not rooted, and for some reasons the TV box completely failed to detect my Bluetooth headset.

Storage

My Seagate USB hard drive with 4 partitions got NTFS and exFAT partions recognized and mounted  and a FAT32 micro SD could also be moutned in read/write mode.

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

Once I tried to copy a file from NTFS to exFAT in ES File Explorer but it failed due to permissions issues. I had not such issues with File Manager app. A1SD bench app shows fast sequential read speed in both partitions with 30MB/s (NTFS) and 33.86MB/s (exFAT), but write speeds are on the low side at respectively 6.42MB/s (NTFS) and 23.83MB/s (exFAT). I checked the NTFS partition with ntfsfix in my PC, and repeated the benchmark but the write speed was still very low.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

I repeated the test for M12N Samsung eMMC flash, and the results were excellent with 99.00 MB/s read speed and 69.40 MB/s write speed, which really makes me wonder why the box are the “unresponsive” app issue.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Gaming

I’ve already written a specific post about Gaming on Amlogic S912 TV box, and performance is clearly better than on Amlogic S905 TV boxes. The included retro gaming app “KO Gamebox” is also interesting. You can see the performance in several games in the video below.

MXQ Plus M12N Benchmarks

I’ll refer to you to the post entitled M12N Amlogic S912 TV Box Benchmarks for details, but let’s say results are disappointing, and I was expecting a larger performance jump compared to Amlogic S905 platforms.

Antutu_6_Amlogic-S912_M12N

Conclusion

MXQ Plus M12N works reasonably well with a stable and responsive firmware, good 4K video playback in Kodi, and decent gaming performance, however it feels like the device does not fully leverage Amlogic S912 processor performance based on benchmark results and video software decoding performance, and it still has some bugs like lack of HDMI audio pass-through in Kodi, and no automatic frame rate switching, problem with remembering HDMI resolution, slow WiFi, and so on.

PROS

  • Recent, stable, responsive (most of the time) Android 6.0 firmware
  • Good 4K videos playvack for VP9, H.265 and H.264 in Kodi
  • HDMI audio pass-through for Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1, and TrueHD 5.1 and 7.1 in Video Player/MoviePlayer
  • One of the fastest internal storage I’ve seen in any TV boxes leading to reasonably fast boot (< 30 seconds)
  • Good 3D gaming performance
  • Proper power handling, and low power off, standby, and idle power consumption
  • OTA firmware update support
  • exFAT, NTFS, and FAT32 file system support for external storage
  • IR remote control working up to at least 10 meters
  • Bluetooth file transfer and BLE are working

CONS

  • HDMI audio pass-through and automatic frame rate switching not working properly in Kodi. Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD 7.1 not supported in other apps
  • Disappointing performance compared to Amlogic S905 TV boxes (only ~ +10/15% boost in many benchmarks), and some videos (10-bit h.264) are not playing as well as in Amlogic S905X devices using software decode. Possibly a thermal design issue
  • User set HDMI output mode is not always remember, often falling back to 1080p60 after a reboot, even if I set it to 4K 60Hz previously.
  • “App not responding” issue appearing from time to time (not too often, but still noticeable)
  • Poor WiFi performance
  • Likely HDMI CEC issue as the device will not let me turn off my A/V receiver even after disabling HDMI CEC or automatic HDMI output
  • Bluetooth audio may not be working
  • Lack of status and notifications bars
  • DRM: Only supports Widevine Level 3
  • Dolby & DTS licenses not included (Only a problem for apps other than Kodi, for people not using HDMI or S/PDIF audio pass-through)

The manufacturer, Shenzhen Shiningworth, provided the sample for review, and wholesalers and distributors can contact the company to purchase in quantities. They also sell the MXQ Plus M12N to individuals on Aliexpress for $69.90. Alternatively you can buy their customers’ design, with a slightly different firmware, such as Acemax M12N for $65 on GearBest, or $69.99 on Aliexpress, as well as ENYBOX X2 sold on GeekBuying for $79.99.

EBox T8-4 Review – A 4K Android TV Box Bundle Geared Towards the UK Market

July 24th, 2016 2 comments

I’ve already taken some pictures of the device and board in part 1 of EBox T8-4 review, so today, I’m going to report my experience with the Android 5.1 firmware for this Amlogic S905 TV box, air mouse, and wireless gamepad, specifically targetted to users leaving in the United Kingdom, but since the hardware is based on Zoomtak T8V, it may also be informative to international users, although the firmware, mostly launcher and IPTV services, will be different.

EBox T8-4 Setup Wizard & Configuration

Since I’ve already inserted an internal SSD into the SATA bay of the device, I did not connect an external USB harddrive, and only connected HDMI and Ethernet cables,  plus the RF dongle for the included air mouse, a USB keyboard to easily take screenshots, and of course the power cord. The power button will be red at this stage. If you want to start the TV box, you either need to press the button on the box, or the power button on the remote control, the power button LED will change to blue, and the display will show “boot”.

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A typical boot takes around one minute, but for the very first boot, you’ll be asked to go through setup wizard similar to what we find in few others boxes like WeTek Core or ARNU Box.EBox_T8-4_Setup_Wizard

Click Next to “select” your language.. English only for now.

EBox_T8-4_Language_Selection

Next window is to adjust the screen in order to remove any black orders on the edges of the screen. If you are using HDMI output, most TV should have a setting to underscan. For example it is called “Just Scan” on LG televisions. That way you don’t need to adjust the screen at all, and you can keep it at 100%.

EBox_T8-4_Adjust_ScreenThe next step is for network configuration for either Ethernet or WiFi.

EBox_T8-4_Setup_Wizard_Ethernet_Configuration EBox_T8-4_Setup_Wizard_WiFi_ConfigurationThe system correctly detected my three access points @ 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz, but I carry on with Gigabit Ethernet, and click on Finish button to access the main user interface.

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The launcher include EBOX MC fork of Kodi 16.1, EBOX APPS Hub folder with custom apps from the company including EBox  App to access support channels, EBox Apps app store, EBox OTA for firmware update, etc…, as well as icons to access all apps, the browser, settings, and to clean the memory.

Sadly, that’s another wizard that does not ask you to set your timezone, but maybe in that case it is understable since it’s designed for the British public and already set to the right timezone. Any I went through the settings, which looks quite similar as other Amlogic TV boxes.
EBox_T8-4_Settings_Network

You can change network configuration as needed, as well as display settings.EBox_T8-4_Settings_Display

HDMI auto-detection is ON by default, and it set the resolution to 1080p50 by default, so I disabled it and manually selected 4k2k-60Hz mode. Sadly it looks like it does not always remember that setting after a reboot.EBox_T8-4_Settings_Advanced

Advanced options are for Miracast, CEC Control is not working for me (same results as with all other Amlogic TV boxes I’ve tested), and you can also configure audio output to PCM, SPDIF or HDMI.EBox_T8-4_Settings_Others

Other settings show some system information: Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29 running on p200_2G platform. More Settings lead to another familiar setup menu.
EBox_T8-4_Settings

This is where I enabled HDMI adaptation (automatic refresh rate) via Play back settings, and set the correct timezone (Date & Time). You can access Android Lollipop settings by selecting “More setting”, so you’ve got three different settings user interfaces, which should really be unnecessary….

EBox T8-4 OTA Firmware

The company informed me by email of a new firmware update, so I updated it right before going further, by entering the System Update menu, but you can click on EBox OTA to enter the update app too. After clicking to check updates, I got a popup window “ROM update available”.

EBox_OTA_Firmware_Update

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So I start the download…

EBox_OTA_Firmware_Download

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Which was reasonably fast, and been asked whether I want to Wipe Data and/or Wipe Cache when installing the firmware. I always wipe the cache, but I avoid wiping the data since I like to keep my data (screenshots) and apps installed via Google Play.

EBox_T8-4_Wipe_Data_Wipe_Cache
Once I click on Install, I get another window explaining the box will reboot into recovery mode, flash the ZIP file, and automatically reboot.

EBox_T8-4_Install_Firmware

So I click in Install against and this time the box reboots, shows me an animation with a green Android logo amd a progress board, and after 3 to 5 minutes, reboot the the main launcher and the update is complete. That part was flawless.

Entertainmentbox.com Customer Support

However, I had a big hiccup with the firmware, after spending much time taking screenshoot, and testing apps, I tested on and off, and power consumption, and all of a sudden the device would not boot to the launcher, and all I could see if a blueish background photo (the vertical line is just an issue with my TV).

EBox-T8-4_DeadI sent an email to my contact in the company about the issue, but since it was a Saturday, I was not sure when I’d get an answer, so I went to their website, and saw a “Chat Now – Online”  section on the bottom right of the page, so I decided to give it a try and asked my question about the box being stuck at boot time.

Within a few seconds, a support person called Vikram told me to try to factory rest the box, and provide a link with detailed instructions, and the chat was over in about one minute. I followed the instructions, which involved wiping the data, but I tried to only wipe the cache as I wanted to keep my data, and I did not work.

I wanted to try to re-install the firmware without wiping out the data instead. So I went back to start a new chat to ask about the firmware since I could not find T8-4 on their firmware page. Again Vikram answered within a few seconds, and said he was aware of the issue, and forwarded to the persons in charge. Again efficient, polite and to the point, so my experience with support was very positive, although my problem was not resolved.

Eventually, I got answer from my contact, as they had uploaded T8-4 firmware with clear instructions. So I copied the file to a USB flash drive, went into recovery, and flashed the firmware apparently successfully, but it did not resolve my issue. So I ended up wiping out the data, and lost all my files and installed app, wasting a few hours of work.

The reasons was that EBox Play app (now removed from the firmware) that allows you to play retro games was not compatible with Android 5.1, and messed up with the firmware.

Anyway, while I was clearly not happy about that annoying firmware bug and wasted time, Entertainmentbox.com customer support appears to be very good. They also have support forums.

Installed Apps and IPTV Streaming

The TV box comes with some interesting apps including popular video streaming and on-demand app in the UK such as BBC iPlayer, FilmOn, and TVCatchUp.

EBox_T8-4_App_List_1BionicTCP should be interesting too on other devices, especially if you have troubles with streaming videos, as it allows you to tweak TCP buffers to allow for larger buffers possibly improve the streaming experience.

EBox_T8-4_App_List_2
So I had a quick try of the IPTV apps, although I’m not based in the UK.

Let’s start with Filmon.TV app which sorts live TV streams by country or categories.

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You can then select one category, and a stream from the list to watch live TV, in full screen or within the interface.

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There’s also an online TV guide (EPG) available from the app.

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After a while, the app will ask you to register. I think it’s free to watch SD channels, but you may have to pay to watch HD TV. (TBC)

TVCatchup is a service that allows to watch live TV even if you missed the right time when it was broadcasted. When the app start I’ve been asked to confirm I’m indeed based on the UK… to which I agreed…

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I could get the list of channels, and programs, but was unable to play any videos, most probably because I’m not actually in the UK…

TVcatchUp_ChannelsYou can also access the EPG from the app. You’d think free channels like Aljazeera would work from anywhere, but it did not play either.

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Finally, BBC iPlayer.. It asked me to install BBC Media Player, which I did, but then I could not stream any video due to geo-blocking.

BBC_iPLayer

BBC_iPLayer_Content_Not_WorkingSo the pre-installed app are interesting if you are based in the UK, and wants something easy to setup. If you live overseas, you’d have to use a VPN, or some DNS services like StrongDNS.

Video and Audio Support in EBOX MC (Kodi 16.1)

EBOX MC (EBMC) used Confluence skin with a different background image.

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It is based on Kodi 16.1 with possible some customizations under the hood.

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Since I’ve reviewed so many Amlogic S905 TV boxes, I’ll just try 4K videos, and audio capabilities (e.g. HDMI pass-through). All files will be played from a SAMBA share.

4K video samples:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265 @ 30 fps) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265 @ 30 fps) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265 @ 30 fps) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • 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
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 30 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Won’t start to play, and stays in UI.

So no problem playing most 4K video samples with the codecs supported by Amlogic S905 SoC (i.e. excluding H.264 4K @ 60 fps, and 10-bit H.264) expect a very high bitrate H.264 video. However, please note that automatic refresh rate switching is not working, even after it is configured in both the system and EBMC.

Time to test audio.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi/EBMC)
PCM 2.0 Output
(Video player)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi/EBMC)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK but video not smooth No audio Audio OK but video not smooth
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (OK), but frequent short noise
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
DTS HD Master OK No audio DTS 5.1 with frequent short (0.5s) noise
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio DTS 5.1 with frequent short (0.5s) noise
DTS:X OK No audio DTS 5.1 with frequent short (0.5s) noise

As expected Ebox T8-4 does not have the DTS and Dolby licenses for audio down-mixing since it’s using Amlogic S905, and not S905-H, but that’s a disappointment to find out that HDMI pass-through is basically unusable even for 5.1 channel audio due to a short noise that happens every 5 to 10 seconds, at least with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver.

Gaming with Ipega PG-9028 Bluetooth game controller

I’m normally using Tronsmart Mars G01 RF gamepad in my review, but since the bundle I received includes a Bluetooth gamepad, that’s what I used with Riptide GP2 installed from Amazon Underground. At first, I had troubles pairing the gamepad as I only pressed the Home key, but then I was asked to press Home and X blue buttons together, and the gamepad would show a new device Bluetooth MAC address, and once paired show it as PG-9028.

PG-9028_Bluetooth_PairingSubsequently, you’ll just need to press the Home button to connect the gamepad to the TV box. I had then no issue navigating the user interface with B button for “Back”, A button for “Accept”, and the top left joystick to move around the launcher, and start Riptide GP2.

The game was a fluid as on other good Amlogic S905 TV boxes, so I set the graphics setting to the maximum, and played for over 15 minutes without any degradation of performance over time. The device stayed cool at all time, and the top and bottom temperatures of the case were respectively 36° C, and 39° C.

Other interesting features of the gamepad include the touchpad area to control the mouse pointer, and the five buttons at the bottom for volume, play/pause, back and next, which makes it suitable to control Kodi/EBMC. It is also possible to place your smartphone on top of the gamepad, if you want to play games on the phone instead of the TV box. You’ll find detailed pictures of the controller in the first part of the review.

EBox T8-4 Benchmarks – Antutu, Storage and Networking

Amlogic S905 is a now extremely well known platform, so I just ran Antutu 6.1.4 to double check there wasn’t any issue.

EBox_T8-4_Antutu

35,473 point is typical for this kind of device. All good.

I also tested internal storage performance A1SD bench, and the eMMC flash is reasonable fast @ 26.21 MB/s for sequential read, and 14.80 MB/s for sequential write.

Read/Write Speed in MB/s

Read/Write Speed in MB/s

One of the key selling point of the device is the presence of an internal 2.5″ SATA bay. I started by inserting an SSD with both NTFS and EXT-4 partitions, but it was mounted as a USB device with 0 MB size, so I switched another 1TB hard drive formatted with NTFS inside a Linux machine, which was a little loose in the SATA bay but still inserted to the SATA connector, and this time it was not detected at all. When I removed it, it was warm so I assume it got power. It’s quite possible the hard drive needs to be prepared inside a Windows computer to work with the box, based on a video for their older T8-3 box. That part was very disappointing.

Let’s switch to network performance with Gigabit Ethernet and iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d command for full duplex transfer.

So the system cannot handle full duplex transfer very well, with the speed in one direction very fast (as it should), but very slow in the other direction. That test is worse case scenario though, and unless you plan to use the box as a server too, it should not be an issue, and I had no problem streaming 60 Mbps+ videos.

I’ve tested 802.11ac by transferring a 278MB file from SAMBA to the flash and vice versa 3 times using ES File explorer. For some reasons download was much faster than upload @ 5.67 MB/s vs 2.89 MB/s, and on average the transfer rate was a decent 4.27 MB/s.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Other remarks

The included air mouse is very convenient with mouse mode, remote side, and QWERTY keyboard side, and while usually I have to switch to the IR remote control to power on other devices, T8-4 can be powered on with that air mouse too. The air mouse function works well, the keyboard includes the media player keys (play/pause, etc..), and the only two downsides I found is the lack of tabulation key, and Alt key Blue on black markings are hard to read, at least with my eyesight (I need to remove my glasses to read them).

Power handling have been properly implemented too, but with only power on and power off modes. Power consumption is 0.2 watts in power off mode, 5.0 watts at idle with SSD, and 5.2 watts at with (non-detected) HDD.

I had no problem at all with Google Play with free and paid app, and Amazon Underground.

Conclusion

EBox T8-4 Android TV box performs well over time (no overheating), delivers good video playback performance in Kodi (EBMC), include pre-installed IPTV streaming app for the UK, and provide a good overall user experience, but there are still some issues that need to be fixed such as very poor HDMI pass-through implementation, and problems with internal SATA bay.

PROS

  • Complete easy to setup and use bundle with TV box, air mouse, and wireless Bluetooth gamepad
  • Stable and responsive firmware
  • Good 4K video playback performance in Kodi with both H.264 and H.265 videos
  • (Legal) pre-installed IPTV app for the UK market like BBC iPlayer, Filmon, and TVCatchup
  • Gigabit Ethernet and good 802.11ac WiFi performance
  • 2.5″ internal SATA bay (see CONS too!)
  • OTA firmware update
  • Good customer support with Live chat, forums, and online documentation

CONS

  • HDMI audio pass-through is not working well, with only 5.1 channel audio support, and I got short white noise for almost all videos.
  • No Dolby / DTS licenses
  • My 2.5″ SSD (NTFS + EXT-4) and HDD (NTFS) were not recognized by the system
  • DRM support limited to Widewine Level 3
  • (Minor) Settings are spread over  3 menus
  • (Minor) Somewhat slow boot (One minute)
  • I loss all my data and installed apps after a while due to a bug in the firmware (But it should be now be fixed, and I could not reproduce the issue).

The main thing I like about EBox T8-4 bundle is that it’s easy to setup and comes with everything you may need to watch local and live TV (in the UK), the included air mouse and Bluetooth gamepad just work out of the box, without headache due to potential interoperability issues.

EBox T8-4 + S77 Pro air mouse + Ipega Bluetooth gamepad bundle I reviewed can be purchased for 108.33 GBP exc. VAT ($142 US), but you can also purchase the box alone for 79.16 GBP exc. VAT (~$104 US), or select other bundles with different input devices and/or an included 1TB hard drive (which could mitigate the issues I had).