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Archos Unveils “Connected Objects” Home Automation and IoT Systems

December 31st, 2013 1 comment

There has been many home automation and Internet of things projects featured on crowdfunding sites this year, and IoT products such as smartwatches, fitness bands, smart sockets, connected lights… have started to take off. Archos plans to leverage this trend with their Connect Objects offerings divided in two parts: Connected Home and Connected Self.

Archos Connected Home

ARCHOS_Connected_Home
Archos Smart Home is a system that let you monitor and control your home via your smartphone or tablet using the company’s Smart Home App and Connected Objects. The set will come with a 7″ tablet, a mini cam, a USB data cable and documentation. It’s not clear right now if others objects: motion ball, weather tag, movement tag, and smartplug, will be part of the set or need to be purchased separately.

Key features of Smart Home Tablet:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3168 dual core Cortex A9 processor with Mali-400MP4.
  • System Memory – 512 MB RAM
  • Storage – 8GB flash + micro SD (compatible with cards up to 64GB)
  • Display – 7″ display – 1024×600 resolution
  • Connectivity – Dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth
  • Ports – micro USB 2.0 OTG, mini HDMI output, 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Camera – 0.3MP from camera

The specs also list Android 4.2.2, but as you’ll see below all objects are connected via Bluetooth 4.0 LE, so the operating system will likely be upgraded to Android 4.4.x or this may not work that well.

Connected Objects details:

  • Mini Cam – VGA camera with 3x CR2450 batteries.
  • Motion Ball – Infrared motion detection device with 3x CR2450 batteries.
  • Movement Tag – Movement detection device using accelerometer and magnet contact powered by one CR2430 battery.
  • Weather Tag – Measures temperature (±0,3 degree; -10° to + 50°) and humidity (±1%; 0% to 100%). Powered by one CR2430 battery.

All connected objects are waterproof, and use Bluetooth 4.0 LE for connectivity with a maximum range of 26 meters indoor. There’s also an Archos Smart Plug that you can turn off/on remotely but no details are provided on Archos website.

You can use this system for security purpose, convenience, and to save electricity. The Smart App let you edit different scenario such as:

  • The motion detector detects presence outside, the mini cam takes a picture, and sends it to your email.
  • If it is freezing outside, set the alarm a few minutes before, to allow you to spend some time to de-ice the car.
  • Switch the hall light on when you open the hallway door during the night, automatically switch off after 5 min.

Archos Connected Self

Archos_Connected_Self
Archos will connect your body to the Internet (seriously) using the company’s Connected Self app for Android and iOS via three Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices:

  • Archos Connected Scale – Automatically synchronizes your weigh-ins to your mobile device wirelessly so you can track your readings on the app. Internal memory can store up to 30 measurements, automatically supports 4 users, and the scale has a 180kg capacity.
  • Archos Activity Tracker – Monitors steps and calories burned, and synchronizes your daily activity to your mobile device wirelessly. The app also lets you set goals, and share your activity on Facebook. The lithium battery is rechargeable via USB, and the device can be used for 7 days on a charge.
  • Archos Blood Pressure Monitor – Automatically synchronizes your systolic, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate readings to your mobile device wirelessly. The monitor needs to be wrapped around your wrist.

Albeit not part of Connected Objects offering, Liliputing reports Archos will launch a smartwatch compatible for iOS and Android that will sell for just $50, as well as a Smart Tracker for your pet(s).

I could not find availability nor pricing information at this stage, further information is available on Archos Connected Objects page, and we may also learn more at CES 2014.

Thanks to Didier (my brother) for the tip.

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Mini Review of Jynxbox Live, a $350 Android Live TV Streaming Box

December 27th, 2013 3 comments

A few days ago I showed some unboxing pictures and videos for Jynxbox Android M6 and Jynxbox Live, followed by Jynxbox Android M6 review, and today I’ll quickly review Jynxbox Live, an Android TV Box that based on Rockchip RK3066 (full specs available in unboxing post) that can stream over 200 live TV channels after install a Live TV app / crack, and happens to cost a “mere” $350 allegedly because it give access to these live TV channels.

Jynxbox_LiveFrom the outside, Jynxbox Live looks very much like any other Android TV box, with HDMI, Ethernet, S/PDIF, three USB ports, a micro SD slot, a few LEDs, and a Wi-Fi antenna. To get started I’ve connected the provided HDMI cable to the box and my TV, as well as an Ethernet cable, before powering up the device with the USB power supply. After a few seconds wait, you’ll get the Windows 8 Metro like interface shown below.

Jynxbox_Live_Interface

YouTube, Hulu Plus, Vimeo are pre-installed, and about 20 extra apps such as Netflix, ShadowGun are available via JynxMarket. The Video icons let you play files from a micro SD card, or USB drive, and the Settings menu takes you to the standard Android Settings. In the “About device” section, the box is called Jynxbox_LiveV2, and runs Android 4.2.2.

In the unboxing post, you’ll have noticed a remote control with many buttons such as PVR, DVR info, VOD, Record. etc…, but these are not used at all with this system.

The pre-installed fimware does not justify the $350 price tag at all, but Jynxbox Live manufacturer must have seen Simple.TV DVR selling for $400 by legally providing lifetime live TV via ATSC/Cable tuners as well as recording services, and decided they could just do something similar by providing a Live TV app / crack? to provide Internet based Live TV for $350. However, I’m doubtful of the legality of the whole thing, maybe not for all channels, but at least a few of them.

For review purpose, I tried to install the Live TV app, and it replaced the Video icon, by Live TV, but I can only access 10 channels, and none of them will stream. I also get a message saying “download file failed” when I start the live TV app. I’m guessing the URL may be blocked where I live, as it’s working for other people.

You can have a look at Jynxbox Live device, its user interface, and available apps in the short video below.

If you want to learn more about Live TV app, you can watch the video showing how to install Live TV, and read some impressions from DDSPROS forums. According to one user from this forum nearly 300 channels are currently available:

1. WABC 72. TVA Nouvelle 143. ZEE TV 214. Bein Sport
2. WCBS 73. LCN Nouvelle 144. Headlines Today 215. Nederland 1
3. WNBC 74. Historia Canada 145. GMA Pinoy TV 216. Neederland 3
4. WIPX 75. Canada CBFT 146. GMA Life TV 217. Sport TV Live HD
5. The Outdoor Channel 76. CW11 147. Greek Cinema 218. Sport TV1 HD
6. Univsion 77. Movie Time 148. Media Cosmos Greek 219. More 4 UK
7. Galavision 78. GSN TV 149. MBC 3 220. E4 UK
8. Tru TV 79. Playboy Espanol 150. OTV Lebanon 221. Nederland 2
9. ABC Family 80. Playboy TV 151. SANSKAR TV 222. Channel 4 London
10. UFC WWE BOXING 81. XCITE 152. G Punjab 223 Sport TV 2 HD
11. Unimax 82. Juicy 153. Sony AATH 224. BBC TWO
12. Univision Sport 83. RKTV 154. KIRAN TV 226. ITV London
13. Encore Suspense 84. Hustler TV 155. Art America 227. BBC One
14. Azteca America Este 85. XTSY 156. Iqraa TV 228. BBC Four
15. Fox Desportes 86. RDI 157. Express news 229. Bein Espanol
16. Nicelodeon Teen 87. HBO 1 158. SET USA 230. SKY Sports F1
17. Soap Net 88. OWN 159. TV Asia 231. SKY Sports 2
18. CNN 89. Nickelodeon 160. Sahara one 232. SKY Sports 3
19. Cine Latino 90. Series Plus 161. B4U Music 234. BT Sport 1
20. Baby TV 91. arTV 162. AAJTAK 235. BT Sport 2
21. Telemnudo 92. CinePop 163. TARA Music 236. TBS
22. History Channel En Espanol 93. Zeste 164. Hayatcine 237. Good Life Israel
23 ESPN ESP 94. H2 165. Kahera 238. Kalaignar TV
24. Encore Action 95. KAIRALI 166 AL Yawm 239. Globo TV
25. USA Network 96. NTV 167. ALHAYAT Added New Channels
26. Comedy Central 97. Channel I 168. Arabica Music 240. RPT 2
27. HBO 2 98. CENE Bangla 169. ARY Zauq 241. RPT Informacao
28. QTV 99. GEO 170. Zing USA 242. Euro Sport
29. Galavision 100. AAG TV URDU 171. ETV Bangla 243. Sky Sports 4
30. UMU 101. Sony Mix Hindi 172. Art Hekayat 244. SIC KIDS
31. RAI News 102. SURYA Malayalam 173. Sony SAB USA 245. Porto Canal
32. Tarab 103. Times Now Hindi 174. MH One 246. Channel 5 UK
33. MLife TV 104. Zoom Hindi 175. Maasranga TV 247. TV124
34. Ary Muzik 105. MTV 176. Alahly TV 248. CBeebies BBC
35. APCLR 106. ASTHA 177. GEO TV USA 249. ESPN US
36. Jus One 107. Sirripoli Tamil 178. ARY Digital USA 250. ESPN News
37. Univision 108. Kalagnar TV Tamil 179. PTV 251. ESPN 2
38. CTV Toronto 109. ABH JN 180. TV one Global 252. OMNI 1
39. NBC 110. Star Vijay International 181. ARY News 253. OMNI 2
40. HGTV 111. SUNTV Tamil 182. Zee Cinema 254. Epix Drive-In
41. CBS Seattle 112. KTV Tamil 183. SETMX 255. Super Channel 1
42. MFEST 113. Israeli Network 184. ZEE Business 256. Super Channel 2
43. MFUN 114. ISRakids TV 185. Willow TV 257. Fox Soccer Plus
44 HBO Canada West 115. Star Plus Hindi 186. Zee Smile 258. Al Arabiya
45. TSN 116. Life OK TV 187. BGMG 259. MBC
46. Teletoon 117. ATN Bangla 188. Zee Kannada 260. Nile Drama
47. TVS 118. BBC American 189. PFC 261. Dream 2
48. RDS2 119. ART MV 190. One World Sports 262. Al Jadeed
49 Global Montreal 120. Al Jazeera News 191. Antenna 1 Greece 263. NBN
50. TreeHouse TV 121. FUTUR 192. RAI Italia 2 264. Abu Dhabi 1
51. E! Entertainment 122. Dandana TV 193. ABC HD 265. MBC Masr
52. TOONF 123. JUS Punjab 194. FOX HD 266. NOURSAT
53. Documentary 124. RAI World Premium 195. Animal Planet HD 267. MBC Drama
54. Golf Channel 125. CTS 196. Food Nework HD 268. Aapka Colors
55. G4 Tech TV 126. MTV AL Lubnaniya 197. TV ASP 269. Sahara Filmy
56 GOLTV 127. AGHAPY TV 198. EQ HD 270. Dunya TV
57. Travel + Escape 128. AAJUSA 199. A&E HD 271. TV9 Gujarat
58. ESPN Classic 129. GET Punjabi 200. TMN Encore Movies HD 272. Alpha etc Punjabi
59. Discovery Science 130. JAYA Plus 201. Military Channels 273. PTC Punjabi
60. ABC Spark 131. ASIA Net USA 202. Tamil Vision 274. Get Punjabi
61. Showcase C 132. Asia Net Plus 203. RDS HD 275. JAYA TV
62. ABC World News 133. Asia Net News 204. WILD TV 276. JAYA Max
63. TCM 134. Asia net Movies 205. Investigation Discovery 277. JAYA Movie
64. Sports Net Pacific 135. MRNGA 206. National Geographic 278. Bangla Vision
65. Vision TV 136. Record 207. NBA TV America HD 279. TV Columbia
66. PBS E 137. SIC Noticias 208. Sportsman Channel 280. Univision Deportes 2
67. The Fight Network 138. SIC 209. Pasiones Estados Unidos 281. Band International
68. TSN M 139. NDTV 210. TLC HD 282. Band News
69. CNN Espanol 140. NDTV Good times 211. FX HD 283. Visat Explorer
70. Disney Junior 141. SUN Music 212. CBC Montreal 284. TV1
71. SRC-M 142. ADITHYA TV 213. Ultisma Argentina

Theather In a Box provided Jynxbox Live for review.

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Canonical Releases Ubuntu and Android Dual Boot Developer Preview

December 24th, 2013 2 comments

Canonical announced Ubuntu for Phones at the very beginning of the year, and the operating systems have been ported to several phones since then. The only problem is that if you just want to try it, you’d have to replace your Android installation. To work around this problem, Canonical just released Ubuntu and Android dual boot developer preview, that installs both OS on your smartphone, and one app in Ubuntu and Android, let you choose whether you want to boot Ubuntu or Android.

Ubuntu_Android_Dual_Boot

The installation requires rewriting the Android recovery partition, and changes the partition layout, so Canonical only recommends Ubuntu Dual boot to developers, in case something goes wrong during installation. Having said that, the installation instructions do not seem particularly difficult to follow, as it’s just the case of running one script (dualboot.sh), after you’ve made sure your device is rooted, connected your phone to a Linux PC via USB, and installed some tools.

Several Android 4.2 or higher flavors are supported including stock firmware, AOSP and CyanogenMod, and even though the company has only tested it with the Google Nexus S4, it should work, in theory, on the Galaxy Nexus, as well as the Nexus 7 and 10 tablets. We might also get devices ported to Ubuntu Touch by the community, eventually support dual boot.

Ubuntu uses the recovery partition, so this mode is not available for Android, and booting into recovery will just boot into Android. This looks similar to how Linux on Rockchip RK3xxx works, including Android / Linux dual boot.

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Jynxbox M6 Android TV Box Review

December 20th, 2013 10 comments

I’ve shown some unboxing pictures and video of Jynxbox Android M6 earlier this week, and today I’ll write a review of this AMLogic AML8726-M6 dual core Android media player. I’ll start with my first impressions, go through the different settings, test video playback, wi-fi performance, and reports about different miscalleous tests: Bluetooth, USB mass storage, USB webcam, etc…

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

First, you’ll need to insert the provided AAA batteries in to the remote control. Opening the remote is a bit tricker than I would like as the cover does not come off that easily. Before powering up the device, I’ve connected the provided HDMI cable between the device and my HDTV, and an Ethernet cable to my hub. The first Ethernet cable would not click with in the device RJ45 connector, although it works with my laptop and other devices, but using another one worked just fine. Connecting the power adapter will boot the device immediately (no power button on the device), we’ll quickly see an Android logo, and after a few more seconds we’ll get the home screen shown below.

Jynxbox Android M6 Home Screen

Jynxbox Android M6 Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

This launcher will provide access to Google Play store, the stock Android web browser, a file manager, a MediaCenter (not tested), the Facebook app, and XBMC Frodo 12.2. The top menu gives access to the Media Player section (3 apps for Picture, Music, and Video), Online Media (YouTube pre-installed only), Games (Angry Bird pre-installed only), the list of all Apps, and Settings.

There’s no direct way, or I haven’t found any, to switch to the stock Android home screen, but since the device comes with an IR remote, this type of interface is better to use. XBMC is also well suited to IR remote. However, if you’re going to use other part of Android, and for user input, it’s much better to get an RF remote / air mouse such. as . That’s exactly what I’ve done for the first time setup, by connecting a Mele F10 air mouse. For the rest of the review, mainly XBMC, I’ve used the IR remote, and it’s doing a good job there.

Lets’ go through the settings menu, which looks the same as other AMLogic based Android TV boxes I’ve tried.

You’ll have options to configure Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet for connectivity. Bluetooth is not built-in, but I’ve added a Bluetooth USB dongle, and it was properly recognized. You can only use Wi-Fi or Ethernet at a time, not both. I’ve found that enabling Ethernet will stop Wi-Fi,m and vice versa, which is fine by me. There are also options to configure VPN, portable hotspot, and mobile networks, but I haven’t tried any of these.

Jynxbox_Android_M6_About_deviceThe display menu will let you choose different video output resolution (480p/i, 576p/i, 720p50, 720p60, 1080i50, 1080i60, or 1080p60), as well as CVBS/YUV output modes. The default resolution is set to 720p60. CVBS (composite) worked pretty well considering the resolution, but make sure you change the font size to HUGE to read anything clearly. YUV (component) output would only show in gray even after trying several combinations, as if only the luminance signal was available. Having said that, it’s unlikely you’d use component output with this player, as there’s no SPDIF output, so you’d get no audio, unless your audio systems accept HDMI in. There’s also submenu to adjust the screen position in order to compensate for over/under scan. The audio settings will let you choose between PCM (downsampling), SPDIF out, or HDMI pass-through.

Jynxbox M6 has a 4GB flash, and the storage is partitioned so that apps get 1.29GB (258MB used), the internal SD card 894 MB, the rest being used by the system. Developer Options are already visible with lots of different options available, but not enabled by default. Finally, looking into the “About device” section shows the device name is  “Jynxbox M6″, and it’s running Android 4.1.2 with Kernel 3.0.8.

The firmware comes already rooted. I could install all applications I tried including ES File Explorer, Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Vellamo Candy Crush, Raging thunder 2, Sixaxis Controller, etc… All apps I tried could run just fine with the exception of Antutu which failed to run the 3D benchmark. The power button on the remote control, just put the device in suspend mode, and does not completely turn it off.

The firmware appears to be very stable, and  I did not experience a single crash or hand, and it’s rather smooth considering it’s a dual core media player. You can have a look at the demo below showing the custom launcher / interface, a settings walked through, and a test of XBMC to show the add-ons and hardware accelerated video playback. An interesting point is that XBMC comes with several add-ons pre-installed including Navi-X, Xunity Maintenance, Pandora, Simply Movies, etc.. These give you access to TV shows, movies, music, in more or less legal ways…

Video Playback in XBMC

XBMC is very much a key selling point of the device, as it’s even a large part of the home screen, so I’ve used XBMC directly to play videos from SAMBA shares, just like I did with the GBox Midnight MX2. XBMC is rather smooth being rendered at about 35 to 40 fps @ 1280×720 resolution. The MX2 was a bit smoother at 50 fps.

I started with the videos from samplemedia.linaro.org:

  • 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), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – Do not play
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p OK, 720p seems like slow motion at time, 1080p is very slow with plenty of audio cuts. This is probably due to software decoding for this codec.

Since I’ve connected the device via Ethernet, I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – Black screen audio only.
  • 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) – OK, but with some artifacts at the very beginning.

The box passed all high-end audio codec tests with flying colors:

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

Please note that I used PCM mode (audio downmixing) to playback those files, but HDMI pass-through should work as well, as long as if your TV or home theater system supports it. Some videos were a bit choppy however, due to high bitrate, but since this particular section of the video test aims at testing audio support, I ticked OK. [Update: The TrueHD 5.1 video had some audio cuts during video playback from the network. I also tried all videos from a USB drive, and they could all play.]

I ended the video test by playing several videos and movies using AVI, MKV, VOB, FLV… container formats. They could all play just fine, and I could not notice any issues such as audio/video sync issues or frame skipping, which have happened on other platforms.

Wi-Fi Performance

Time to disable Ethernet and connect to my Wi-Fi router to test Wi-Fi performance. As usual, I transferred a 278 MB video files between SAMBA and the internal flash. I repeated the test three times, and on average it took 3:28 (1.33 MB/s), which is not particularly fast compared to other android TV boxes and mini PCs, but still fast than G-Box Midnight MX2.

Jynxbox_Android_M6Please bear in mind there are many factors when it comes to Wi-Fi performance, and the results you’ve got with your setup may be completely different than the ones I’ve gotten here.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I’ve connected a USB Bluetooth dongle to the device, and the dongle was properly recognized. I could then pair it with my phone and transfer a file. However, the current firmware is not compatible with Sixaxis (no HCI library available), so your Bluetooth game controller will not work with the current firmware. Tested with that method.

External Storage

My USB flash drive was automatically recognized by the media player, so external USB hard drives should also work, provided there’s enough power. I also inserted a microSD card in the device’s reader, and it also work fine.

USB Webcam

I tested two webcams, an old Logitech webcam, and a noname webcam, and neither of them could be detected by the system. So Skype and Google hangout are not usable with the current firmware.

Gaming

I’ve tested 3 games: Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and Racing Thunder 2. They could all run, but as with all other Android TV box there are caveats. The IR remote can not be used to play any of these games, so you’ll need to connect a mouse, or an air mouse to control the games.

I used Mele F10, and I could play the three games above. No problem (that I could find) with Angry Birds. Candy Crush is working fine, except that is you are connected via Ethernet, you won’t be able to connect to Facebook to synchronize your levels. Switching to Wi-Fi fixes this. Racing Thunder 2 also ran smoothly, however it’s quite awkward to control the game with the mouse, as you have to click left and right of the car to turn.

As mentioned in the Bluetooth section, wireless Gamepad (sixaxis) do not work. The best way to control the system with games is probably to use DroidMote app.

Jynxbox Android M6 Benchmarks

Antutu 4.x completed the benchmark early at it failed to run the 3D benchmark, and gave an irrelevant scores. Quadrant, and Vellamo run just fine however. An interested note is that Antutu detect the processor as being Samsung Exynso 4412, but CPU-Z and Quadrant confirmed the device features an AMLogic processor. The product name is stvmx, and the board name is stv_mbx_mx.

Jynxbox_M6_QuadrantJynxbox M6 gets 2907 points in Quadrant which is just on top of some older dual core systems such as Galaxy Nexus and Motorola Atrix 4G.

With Vellamo benchmark, the system got 425 points in the Metal test, and 1087 points in the HTML5 test, which again places it in the same performance range as Samsung Galaxy Nexus (running Android 4.3).

Inside Jynxbox Android M6

Once the firmware review was completed, I decided to give another try with opening the enclosure. After forcing a bit more than usual with a flat-headed precision screwdriver, I managed to open it via the opening at the button of the case, breaking one or two plastic clips in the process. You’ll also have to unscrew four internals screw to completely remove the board from the case.

Jynbox_M6_Casing_InternalsA Wi-Fi antenna with an SMA connector plug it connected to the plug, and a 3 to 4mm thick metallic round is fixed to the bottom of the case, which explains why the device is heavy (170g.) relative to its size.

Jynxbox M6 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Jynxbox M6 Board (Click to Enlarge)

The top of the board features a large metallic shield, all the connectors, and at the bottom left, a 4-pin header that is most likely the UART pins used to access the serial console. The PCB markings shows RMX1212 as the board name. The MAC address starts with ACDBDA which belongs to “Shenzhen Geniatech”, so they are probably the one who designed and manufactured the box.

Conclusion

Jynxbox Android M6 is another good Android media player based on AMLogic AML8726-MX. It’s very stable, runs smoothly, XBMC is running great with lots of add-ons pre-installed, and it could play most video files I tested, except Real Media, and WebM/VP8 struggles at higher resolution (720p/1080p). Like other AMLogic boxes, it can’t play Elephabnt Dream test files. Audio decoding was perfect with all files I tried, and I did not experience any audio/video sync issues. This device appears to have slightly better XBMC and video support than Matricom GBox Midnight MX2 and Tronsmart Prometheus, but I haven’t tested these for a few months, and the updated firmware may have improved too.

The device is very small and nice, although it’s some what heavy. But it appears to have been designed that way on purpose, so that it does not move around. The remote control is small and nice, and does the job in XBMC and the user interface, thanks to little things like a Play/Pause button, but for any other Android apps, you’d better use standard USB or Wireless keyboard and mouse, or an air mouse.

The are still a few downsides, but mostly minor depending on your usage. I only got a black and white  display with component (YUV) output, sixaxis Bluetooth game controller are not supported, neither are USB webcams. Contrary to many other products with are already running Android 4.2.2, the firmware is still based on Android 4.1.2, and features such as Miracast (Wi-Fi) Display are not available.

Jynxbox Android M6 has very similar hardware and features, notably XBMC support, compared to Tronsmart Prometheus (See review), and Matricom GBox Midnight MX2 (See review), and its strong points are a smaller, nicer form factor, and pre-installed XBMC add-ons. Having said that at $119 it’s a little more expensive than both the G-Box Midnight MX2 ($97), and  the Tromsmart Prometheus ($89.99), but the former does not include an HDMI cable, and the later lacks a remote control.

I’d like to thanks theatertvbox.tv again for sending a unit for review.

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Android 4.2 Laptop Boasts 13.3″ Display, Dual Core WM8880 SoC

December 9th, 2013 7 comments

Charbax has just found a 13.3″ laptop powered by WonderMedia WM8880 dual core Cortex A9 processor running Android 4.2 manufactured by Shenzhen Honlin, and selling for about $108 in China (retail or factory price?). That’s the first time I see a Chinese ARM based laptop with a somewhat decent screen, so I went to Aliexpress to find the device or a similar one, and after going through all the 13.3″ Android tablets, I found a no brand laptop, model GA1331F, sold by Shenzhen GA Technology Development with apparently the same specs for  about $170 including shipping via EMS.

Android_Laptop_13.3GA1331F Laptop specifications:

  • SoC – WonderMedia WM8880 Dual-Core ARM Cortex A9 @ 1.5GHz with Mali-400 MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3 RAM @ 1033MHz, with an option to get 2GB
  • Storage – 8GB or 16GB MLC NAND flash, SD card slot (Up to 32GB)
  • Display – 13.3″ LCD screen (1280 x 800)
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v3.0. 3G via external USB dongle.
  • Camera – 0.3MP front facing camera
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0
  • Video Output – HDMI
  • Audio – Mic and headphone jacks, and built-in stereo speakers
  • Keyboard – Standard English 78 keys with build-in touch pad
  • Battery type – 3000mAH, 3.7V Li-on, good for 6 hours (typical use).
  • Dimensions – 32.8x23x2.8cm
  • Weight – 1.1 kg

This laptop runs Android 4.2, but if we are to believe the description on Aliexpress it can also dual boot to Windows CE 6.0. It comes with a power adapter, a manual, a warranty card, and CD with drivers…

Wondermedia WM8880 is one of the cheapest dual core processor available on the market today, and can be found in tablets for about $40 in China, and around $60 in the rest of the world. That’s the retail price. The 13.3″ display, casing, and all the extra ports add quite a lot to the cost, and at $170, it’s just about $30 less than the cheapest 13.3″ Intel laptop I could find, for much lower performance, albeit most probably, a better battery life.

You can watch Charbax video about the 13.3″ Android laptop.

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ThL W200 Smartphone Review (Mediatek MT6589T)

December 1st, 2013 4 comments

I’ve received ThL W200, a smartphone powered by Mediatek MT6589T SoC, at the beginning of week (Check specs and unboxing pictures), and after about a week of use, it’s time for a review. First I’ll go through my first impressions, test of different features such as the camera, GPS, and Bluetooth, and finally run some apps to get system information and benchmarks for this phone.
ThL_W200

ThL W200 Review

This smartphone feels very light, but the build quality is good, and as explained in my unboxing post, comes with power, volume -/+, and menu/home/back buttons. You’ll also find rear camera + flash, front camera, the light sensor, and the notification light.

First impressions

The phone boots to the standard Android home screen, as shown above, with English as the default language, and comes with Google Play Store, and no Chinese apps. The 720p screen provide a sharp and clear display, and I’m pretty happy about this part. Unsurprisingly, Android is very smooth and fast in this quad core smartphone. I had no problem installing and running over 30 applications including the benchmarks (Antutu, quadrant, vellamo, …), social apps (Facebook, twitter, line…), games (Subway Surfers, Candy Crush, Raging Thunder 2), and diverse other apps including YouTube and Firefox. The only app which crashes from time to time is Nike+ Running, but only at the very start of a run.

Bluetooth

I could not pair the phone from Ubuntu 13.10. Ubuntu’s Bluetooth Manager could find the device, and ask me to confirm the pin was correct, but nothing showed on the phone. I could successfully pair the computer from the phone however. Finally, I could send files (around around 100 to 150 kB/s), but not browse the phone from my Ubuntu PC. I finally unable to find a quick way to confirm the Bluetooth version, although it should be possible to install hciconfig / hcitool to get more info. DealExtreme says it’s Bluetooth 4.0, but others mention Bluetooth 2.1 instead. The file transfer speed above also confirms EDR is supported.

GPS

Initially, I could get my location pretty fast in Google Maps, but the app used mobile network location techniques, and GPS was not used. This is only when I started to use Nike+ Running that I discovered there was a serious problem with GPS, as it was unable to lock GPS after over 10 minutes outdoor in the countryside. It turns out mediatek GPS is just fine, but somehow the end users have to configure this manually, and/or run some third party apps to configure GPS in an optimal manner. I wrote instructions to configure Mediatek GPS for a much faster lock. Please also make sure to read insightful comments in the linked post. Once GPS is configured properly, apps could lock GPS within 5 to 10 seconds, although in some instances in may take around one minute. By default, GPS is really poor in this phone, and apparently in all Mediatek phone, but once you’ve configured it correctly, it works just fine. This is quite silly from Mediatek, not to provide optimal settings, or at least an app to help users configure GPS.

Cameras

In good light conditions, the rear camera takes decent photos, but in most cases the shots will be somewhat disappointing. Close ups are often blurry, and I’ve taken two red / orange flowers photos where details are lost and colors seem unnatural. For testing purpose, I used the default “Normal” mode in the camera app, and better photos may be obtained with other settings.

I’ve also shot a short 15 seconds video @ 720p, which could be better, but still acceptable as there does not seem to be frame dropped. Download link (~16MB)

The front camera quality is pretty decent for what it’s supposed to do. Close face shot. I haven’t tried video conference via Skype or Google Hangout.

Audio and Calls

I haven’t made any standard call, but did a test call with Line, and audio quality was decent, and sound was clear via the headphones. The provided headphones are OK, except for the lack of volume button. The rubber earbuds fit well in my ears, with the drawback that I could hear all movement of the cable while walking with low volume.

The speaker is loud enough for me.

Battery

That’s no surprise that I have to charge the phone everyday with the 1,750 mAh battery included. I normally enable Wi-Fi, Location services, and Sync at all times, but Bluetooth is usually turned off, and brightness set to automatic. I did not use 3G data, only Wi-Fi. With these settings, the battery won’t last 24 hours on a charge, and heavier users may have to charge the smartphone twice a day, or somehow charge and use the second battery included with the phone. It’s probably the case with most recent phones, but at no time, the phone got warm during use.

Misc

I’ve also tried Miracast with MK908 mini PC using WiDisplay application that comes with the latest firmwares.  The good news is that it works, and you can mirror the display. It’s convenient to show pictures but there’s clearly a hit in terms of video quality as lossless encoding artifacts are obvious. Video playback is better, but I’m usually playing YouTube videos at 360p so that may be why I’m satisfied. I’ve also tried Raging Thunder 2, a car racing game, via Miracast, and it’s unfortunately unplayable. The game is very smooth in the phone, but sometimes there will be so many frames skipped,  and longish delays that I spent more time hitting the walls than on the road. I’m assuming the problem is with a poor Wi-Fi (direct) connection between the phone and MK908, even though device were less than 1 meter apart.

Another annoying issue with the current firmware at least, is that the notification light simply does not work. There is a fix – which I have not tried yet – where you can to root your phone, and replace lights.default.so file. Everything is explained here. Another small annoyance, at least to me, is that the only way to wake up the phone from sleep mode is to use the power button, the home button does not work, probably because it’s not a physical button.

System Information and Benchmarks

In order to get some system information, I’ve run CPU-Z app.

ThL_W200_CPU-ZThe processor is clocked between 497 MHz and 1.51 GHz, the board name is bird89_wet_a_jb2, screen resolution 720×1280, and there are 5 sensors. Everything seems to match the listed specs. Good. There’s no G-Sensor according to Antutu, but I’d assume an orientation sensor is just the same, isn’t it?

Antutu

ThL_W200_Antutu_4

With 16,412 points, ThL W200 has about the same performance as Google / LG Nexus 4 in Antutu 4, barely beating HTC One X.

Quadrant

ThL_W200_QuadrantThL W200 is again clearly again of HTC One X in Quadrant with 5911 points. Mainly thanks to the CPU, and to a lesser extend memory and I/O throughput, but 2D graphics performance seems subpart. Nexus 4 gets about 5,000 in Quadrant, so ThL W200 appears to be better here.

Vellamo

ThL_W200_VellamoThL W200 appears to outperform the Nexus 4, albeit only slighly, in Bare metal and HTML5 Vellamo benchmarks.

Nemamark 2

Thl_W200_NenamarkAgain, a decent performance from the Mediatek quad core phone with Nenamark 2.

ThL W200 performance is excellent, on part, and in some cases better than, LG Nexus 4, a smartphone powered by Qualcomm APQ8064 Snapdragon quad core processor, released about a year ago, and usually selling for well above $300 in most places, although it’s also available from Google Play in the US for $199 excluding shipping. However, one important “feature” you’ll lose with ThL W200 over the Nexus 4 is that ability to download and install the latest version of Android when it comes out. Whereas Android 4.4 Kit Kat is now available for Nexus 4, ThL W200 is still stuck with Android 4.2.1, and IMHO, is unlikely to get an upgrade. Source code won’t be available either.

Conclusion

Overall, I’m very satisfied with ThL W200. It’s very fast, it just works, and I did not experience lock-ups, crashes, overheating issues, and the 720×1280 display is sharp and bright. As mentioned above, the only app that crashed on the phone was Nike+ Running. I initially had some issues with GPS, but managed to fix them by software. Bluetooth was not straightforward either, but I’m not 100% sure where the blame lies: Ubuntu 13.10, my Bluetooth USB dongle, or the phone itself. I’m however a bit disappointed by the rear camera, and the battery capacity is a bit on the low side. But if you can live with these two, it’s really a nice and cheap phone. Another plus is that many people have already bought this phone, and there’s a longish thread on XDA Developers Forum, where you may get help in case something does not work right. This will also be my main phone, so I may also be able to help.

By the way, it’s currently on sale in DealExtreme for Black Friday / Cyber Monday, with the black version selling for $175.50 and the white one for $177.20.

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HiMedia Q5II Android STB Features HiSilicon Dual Core SoC, a 2.5″ SATA HDD Bay, and Supports XBMC Hardware Decode

November 28th, 2013 7 comments

Many Android set-top boxes are based on application processors mainly targetting tablets such as Rockchip RK3188, and media capabilities including video quality, and audio pass-through are not always optimal, or not working at all. On the contrary, HiMedia Q5II, an Android 4.2 media player, is powered by HiSilicon 3718 (or is it Hislicon 3716C V200?), a dual core Cortex A9 SoC designed specifically for media players. It also features an external SATA slot, HDMI and composite video output, optical and coaxial S/PDIF, and I’ve just found out the company worked on making video hardware decoding work with XBMC.

HiMedia_Q5_IIHiMedia Q5II specifications:

  • SoC – HiSilicon Hi3716C V200 dual core ARM Cortex A9 @ 1.6GHz + ARM Mali-400MP4 GPU. N.B.: HiMedia indicates the processor is Hi3718, but most resellers give specifications with a dual core processor called 3716C… Hi3718 is not listed at all in HiSilicon website, and Hi3716C is a single core processor. So I’d guess it might be Hi3716C V200 which is a dual core Cortex A9 processor.
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 4 GB NAND Flash, hot swapable SATA slot, and MMC/SD 2-in1 card reader
  • Video Out – HDMI and composite
  • Audio Output – HDMI, L/R stereo (RCA), and optical & coaxial S/PDIF
  • Video Containers – ts, m2ts, tp , trp , mkv, mp4, avi , rm , rmvb , wmv, asf , flv, vob, dal , mpg, mpeg
  • Video Codecs – MPEG1/2/4, H.264/AVC, MVC,VC1, XVID, DiVX , REALVIDEO8/9/10, VP6
  • Audio Format – MP3, wma, aac, ape, flac, mka
  • 3D Video – side-by-side , up-and-down , Blu-ray 3D
  • Video modes – PAL, NTSC, 720p, 1080i (50/60Hz), 1080p (50/60Hz)
  • Display – LED display on front panel
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, and 802.11n Wi-Fi with external antenna
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 Host ports
  • Power Supply – 12V/2.0A
  • Dimensions – 170 x 115 x 24.5 mm
  • Weight – 500g ??

HiMedia_Q5II_Rear_PanelThe device runs Android 4.2 with a custom user interface, but you can also switch the standard Android interface. The power is controlled by an MCU, which means the main SoC is turned off, or in deep sleep mode, while the player is in standby, which should result in lower standby power consumption. The company claims audio downmix and pass-through are both fully supported for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA (7.1)
lossless HD-Audio format, as well as DTS / Dolby Digital (5.1).
The device come with a remote control, a power adapter, a SATA cable, an HDMI Cable, and a Quick Start Guide, which you can also download here. It shows how to connect the STB to your audio amplifier among other things.

HiMedia provides 2 applications to interact with their set-top boxes via your smartphone or android:

  • HiShare – Wirelessly shares media files (video/audio/photo) from your Android smartphone or tablet to your HDTV.
  • HiControl – Transforms Android smartphone or tablet into a touchscreen and remote control.

The video below filmed at the Hong Kong Electronic Fair by tablet republic shows XBMC with hardware video decoding running on the Q5 II.

The latest firmware for HiMedia Q5II is available from their website, and dates from the 23rd of October, and it may or may not include XBMC hardware decoding capability.

If the processor is indeed HiSilicon Hi3716C V200, it is supported by Linaro, or at least they work on it, so it might also be a fun platform to hack around, install Linux, or get the source code for the Android kernel.

HiSilicon 3716C V200 Block Diagram

HiSilicon 3716C V200 Block Diagram

The box has been released in September, and can be found in Aliexpress or W2COMP for $129.99, and Amazon for $154.99. Despite the extra features such SATA, Aluminum casing, 3D Blu-ray decoding, etc…, the device seems a little pricey compared to other dual core Android STBs on the market. Further details ar available in Chinglish on HiMedia Q5 II page.

Via Eddy’s Lab

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