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Posts Tagged ‘lollipop’

VideoStrong VS-M9RD Development Board is a Raspberry Pi Lookalike with Amlogic S905 SoC

May 11th, 2016 13 comments

VideoStrong is better known for their Android TV boxes with or without digital TV tuners, such as K1 Plus T2/S2 TV box, but the company has also designed several Amlogic based single board computers and development boards, including the latest Raspberry Pi inspired VS-M9RD board powered by Amlogic S905 quad core 64-bit ARM processor.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

VS-M9RD board technical specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S905 quad core cortex-A53 processor @ 2.0 GHz with penta-core Mali-450 GPU up to 750 MHz
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage – Optional 4 to 32 GB eMMC flash module, micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K2K
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports + mini USB OTG port
  • Expansion Header
    • 30-pin header
    • 28-pin header
    • 7-pin header with CVBS and JTAG signals
  • Debugging – 4-pin 2.54mm pitch serial console header
  • Misc – IR receiver, power and update buttons.
  • Power Supply – 5V via power jack and (maybe mini USB port)
  • Dimensions – 85 x 55mm

You’ll notice in the pictures above and below that what should be the USB hub chip and micro SD slot are not soldered, but that’s likely because they just rushed to take pictures. The company also elected to use eMMC modules just like on Hardkernel ODROID-C2, an development board based on Amlogic S905. Some of the main differences with ODROID-C2 include less memory (1GB RAM vs 2GB RAM), but more I/Os with 65-pin for expansion against 47-pin.

Raspberry_Pi_Amlogic_S905_640px

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Apart from the fact than the board will run Android 5.1.1, there’s also no firmware image, source code, and documentation right now, but this will have to be published once the board becomes available if they plan to target the maker market.

Price has not been disclosed yet. Some more details may eventually surface on VideoStrong S905 development board page.

WeTek Play+ Amlogic S905 Android Set-Top Box Features a Tuner with a SmartCard Reader and an mSATA SSD Bay

January 9th, 2016 33 comments

When WeTek announced the WeTek Core, some people were disappointed that they did not include a tuner like in the original WeTek Play, but the company has been working on a successor called Wetek Play+ that is based on Amlogic S905-H quad core processor and supports DVB-S/S2, DVB-C/T/T2, ISDB-T and ATSC tuners with a smartcard reader, as well as an extra store with an half-size SSD slot.

WeTek Play+ (Click to Enlarge)

WeTek Play+ (Click to Enlarge)

WeTek Play+ specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905-H (Revision C) quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 2.0GHz with  penta-core Mali-450MP GPU @ 750 MHz
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC 5.0 flash + micro SD card slot + mSATA SSD socket (implemented via USB to SATA)
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz with HDCP 2.2 support, and AV port
  • Audio – HDMI, AV (stereo), optical S/PDIF
  • Tuners – Support for DVB-S2, DVB-C/T/T2, ISDB-T and ATSC tuners
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports (external), 2x internal USB 2.0 ports
  • DRM / CAS – Playready and Widewine included, Smartcard reader for tuner
  • Misc – 3.5mm jack RS-232 port (TBC)
  • Power Supply –  DC 12V
  • Dimensions – N/A
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The TV box will run Android 5.1, but while I don’t have much more details about the software, I’m pretty sure it will run a recent version of Kodi, WeTek Theater for live video via the tuner, and WeCloud Antenna for IPTV channels, just like on WeTek Play.

Amlogic S905-H means the box with have the DTS and Dolby license to downmix audio on any apps, and not only Kodi, and Revision C is a new revision of the chip that apparently fixes bugs with 4K 10-bit HEVC DVB-S2 streams. I did notice the video freezing for a few seconds before resuming with some 4K DVB-S2 samples on two Amlogic S905 boxes, respectively K1 Plus and MINI MX, but I could not reproduce the issue with MINIX NEO U1 and XBMC for MINIX. I’m sure the MINIX box did not have the revision C of the processor since it’s very new, but it’s quite possible there are several bugs, and there must be a reason for Amlogic to create a new revision, so it will be something to check in the future if you want to make you sure you don’t have this bug, and want to buy a device with the latest revision.

The smartcard reader shown on the left of the first picture will be useful for people needed to have premium channels via the tuner. I’ve not been told which standard it supports yet. Since USB to SATA implementations are not exactly equal, with some Genesys Logic chips providing really poor performance, I’ve been informed that the performance was good enough to record 4K DVB streams, but I don’t have raw numbers.

I often see HDCP 2.2 and DRM mentioned in product specs, even for cheap Amlogic S905 devices, but usually they don’t have the right keys and firmware for this, and again WeTek Play+ will definitely support both.

I don’t have pricing nor availability information, but WeTek Play+ looks like a pretty good device on paper.

GeekBox and Landingship Android Overview and Benchmarks

December 21st, 2015 8 comments

This week-end I checked out GeekBox TV box, and Landingship baseboard, explained how to connect the two together and install various optional accessories such as an RTC battery and a cooling fan. GeekBox comes pre-loaded with Android 5.1 + Ubuntu dual boot image, and as I’ve already reviewed other Rockchip RK3368 TV boxes, and GeekBox is also a development platform, I’ll simply run several benchmarks on GeekBox, as well as test SATA performance with an SSD connected to Landingship carrier board in Android, before checking out the Linux part a little latter.

GeekBox_RunningThat’s no quite how you want to place the fan, but I wanted to show the USB to TTL debug board and other wires can be connected with the case closed. This allowed me to easily check whether the fan was spinning during testing, and it never did… According to one forum post, the temperature currently needs to reach 80 C for the fan to spin, so I may not have pushed the device enough for this.

First Boot and User Interface

Geekbox is very small, so you won’t quite connect as many cables and devices as usual since it simply has less ports, so I did not connect a USB hard drive this time. Once you connect the power nothing will happen, and this is normal, as you need to press the power button on the front right to turn it on. You should quickly see two blue LEDs turn on, and within 25 seconds have access to the home screen.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The system automatically detected LG 42UB800T 4K UHD television and set the video output to 2160p @ 60Hz, but as usual the user interface resolution is 1920×1080.GeekBox_Default_AppsGeekBox is also a ready to ue Android TV box with Google Play Store, Kodi, YouTube and Netflix apps pre-installed. Since the firmware supports both Linux and Android, only about 10GB of the flash is accessible in Android with a smallish 1.91GB “internal storage” partition for apps, and a 8.18GB “NAND Flash” partition for data.

GeekBox_Dual_Boot_MenuIf you press the power button on the remote for about 2 seconds, you’ll find the power menu with Power off, Reboot, and Reboot to Linux OS.

GeekBox CPU-Z

CPU-Z is still not aware of Rockchip RK3368 processor, detect the eight cores still clocked at

GeekBox_CPU-ZAndroid 5.1.1 is running on top of Linux 3.10, just like on other RK3368 devices like Zidoo X6 Pro. The firmware is rooted, and kernel is a 64-bit one (Aarch64).

Antutu 6.0 Benchmark

Antutu 6.0 is the new release of the popular benchmark, and it’s the first time I run it on a Rockchip RK3368 platform.

GeekBox_Antutu_6.0Interestingly enough, the 35,069 points score in Antutu 6.0 with Geekbox is quite similar to the score (34,171 points) in Beelink i68 and Antutu 5.7.1. You can get the detailed results for GeekBox here, where you’ll see that contrary to Amlogic S905 SoC with a weaker GPU, the PowerVR G6110 GPU in RK3368 managed to complete Marooned 3D graphics test. However, Amlogic S905 TV boxes are still found to be slightly faster in Antutu 6.0 with 36,741 points for Tronsmart Vega S95 Telos, and for MINIX NEO U1 media hub.

Vellamo 3.2 Benchmark

I’ve also run Vellamo 3.2 to have a better comparison with some other Android TV boxes.

GeekBox_Vellamo_3.2The comparison chart shows the Browser results are pretty much equivalent between devices based on Amlogic S812 / S905, and Rockchip RK3368, while somehow Rockchip octa-core processor features lower in the multicore scale. and MINIX NEO U1 has a non-negligible edge for the Metal score.

Vellamo_TV_Box_ComparisonAll devices are running Android 5.1, except MINIX NEO X8-H Plus with an Android 4.4 firmware at the time of the review.

WiFi and Ethernet Performance

I’ll test WiFi 802.11n @ 2.4GHz, and WiFi 802.11ac by transferring a file between SAMBA and the internal storage, while using iperf to test full duplex performance of the Gigabit Ethernet port.

802.11n (130 Mbps connection) throughput was a little disappointing @ 1.99 MB/s or less than average, but 802.11ac (468 Mbps connection in Android settings) was relatively decent @ 4.25 MB/s (34 Mbps), although we may have expected more out of AP6354 867 Mbps WiFi module, and something closer to Mygica ATV1900AC or MINIX NEO U1 performance. For some reasons, the upload speed was much faster (39 seconds on average) than the download (about 1 minute 30 seconds), and if download speed was equivalent to upload speed, GeekBox would have had a similar throughput as ATV1900AC TV box.

Throughtput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughtput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve run iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d to test Gigabit Ethernet throughput in both directions, and Geekbox does work, although performance is not outstanding. At least the transfer does not collapse on one side of the transfer, and the Ethernet performance is similar to other RK3368 devices.

Throuthgput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

Storage Performance

I’ve started by running A1 SD Bench on the 8.18 GB internal storage partition, where the read and write speeds were respectively 49.22MB/s and 10 MB/s. That’s above average, but I would have wished an eMMC with a faster write speed to have been included with an RK3368 device selling for a premium.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

I’ll skip, direct USB performance simply because Landingship had a SATA port, that is also implemented via a USB to SATA bridge (JMicron JM20329). So I open GeekBox to take out the board, and insert it into Landingship where I have connected a 2.5″ SSD drive that I got with CubieTruck Metal Kit.

GeekBox_LandingshipI move the power supply cable to the baseboard jack, and still had to press the power button on GeekBox board to start the board. I have two partition on the drive: one EXT-4 partition mounted in /mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK0/udisk1, and one NTFS partition mounted in /mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK0/(1). So I used custom location option in A1 SD bench to test the performance:

  • EXT-4 – Read: 24.3 MB/s; Write: 27.04 MB/s
  • NTFS – Read: 21.37 MB/s ; Write: 29.51 MB/s

So for some odd reasons read speed is slower than write speeds,. I also had to run the benchmark on the EXT-4 partition three times, as the first two times, A1 SD bench would just exit by itself. The write speed is quite OK for a USB 2.0 connection, but the read speed could probably be improved (with some software tuning?).

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

For reference that SSD achieved close to 180 MB/s read speed and 36MB/s write speed in Bonnie++ benchmark while connected to the SATA port of CubieTruck board (Allwinner A20).

The good thing is that I have not found any major flaws with the Android benchmarks, and GeekBox performance is above average in most tests, except 802.11n WiFi with my setup, but not outstanding. The main advantages of the platform are operating systems support (Android, Ubuntu, and Light Biz OS), hackability with expansion headers and hardware add-ons such as touch screen panel, and hopefully a community that will grow overtime.

I’d like to thanks GeekBuying for sending a GeekBox kit for review. If you are interested, and GeekBox sells for $109.99 shipped, and you can also get Landingship baseaboard for $29.99, and other accessories on the same page. Support is also available on GeekBox forums, and if you want to modify or improve Android 5.1 operating system for the platform, you’ll find the SDK on Github.

[Update: Since I plan to use a firmware image running Ubuntu (Actually Lubuntu) only instead of the dual boot image, I’ve quickly tried the dual boot in GeekBox with the pre-loaded firmware.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

Ubuntu has it own 3.0GB partition, and can also access the 8.18GB “NAND Flash” partition found in Android. Clicking on Reboot2Android icon will pop-up a menu asking you whether you’d like to reboot to Android system.

]

The next step will be to checkout Ubuntu and Light Biz OS. I’m not sure in which order yet….

Is Console OS just a Scam Based on a Fork of Android-x86 with Little Modifications?

December 13th, 2015 14 comments

Console OS is supposed to be a version of Android Lollipop running on various Intel platforms, and optimized for desktop use with new features like DVR support for digital TV tuners, a desktop friendly file manager, and so on. The project launched on Kickstarter and was successful enough to raise $78,497 from 5,695 backers. But according to Chih-Wei Huang, Android-x86 project leader, and Console OS users, the Console OS developer simply forked Console OS, with some minor modifications like changing the project name, and under-delivering on the promised features.

Console_OS_Android_OSThe first part is fine, as that’s the beauty of open source code, you can fork somebody else work, and add your own improvement, and long as you keep the license and credits, that’s what open source is all about.

Now the project raised funds specifically for development, and as promised the source code is available on github. Here what has been allegedly changed against Android-x86:

Console OS did keep the Android-x86 copyright and previous developers names, so they did not just steal the code from Android-x86, and claimed it their own, at least in the source code:

This was also posted on ConsoleOS facebook page, which adds that not all code is on github right with more coming soon including:

  • Support for systems other than BayTrail-T (Core, etc)
  • A few bug fixes (rotation issues, etc)
  • Enabling Intel drivers (we’ll explain what’s up on that shortly)
  • Windows installer (so we recommend only installing on systems dedicated to Console OS)
  • Anything we can’t post on GitHub (stuff we can only ship in finished/compiled builds) – things like additional live wallpapers, ARM translation support, additional codecs, etc.

Console OS also provided an update on December 8, answering to Android-x86 project rip-off accusations, claiming that only about 70% of our code is on GitHub for now with more to come as shown above.

That might be true, but after one year and a half, backers are really unhappy with the images provided so far, and a far cry of what was promised as shown in the table, even comparing its superiority to Android-x86, and other Android in Intel/AMD solutions, which in hindsights is rather ironic.Console_OS_BlueStacks_Android-x86_Android-IAWhile I don’t think the project was a planned scam from the start, because Mobile Media Ventures (MMV) is at least being active in replying to backers on Kickstarter, and did not simply take the money and run, the developers may have under-estimated the work to be accomplished, and development did not go according to plans, with the backers having likely thrown their money into a project that won’t deliver all promised features, if any at all. So it’s likely more incompetence than an outright scam.

But Android-x86 project leader has quite a different opinion:

If he does make some improvements based on the android-x86 code, I’m glad to see so.

However, cheating the world that he is developing something amazing on Kickstart in 2014 but finally just copied an open source project that he degraded at first (see the competitive chart on his site) is very immoral.

When Kickstart campaign began in 2014, he promised you “A” (a much better stuff) and accept your money, but now he just deliver you “B” (a totally different stuff). If you are a backer, can you accept? If this is not a scam, what is a scam?

IMO, Christopher Price and his Console OS is *a cancer* that lives by the nutrient of android-x86.If we can’t cut it immediately, he will continue  absorbing the effort of android-x86 and finally choke this project.

[Update: See Console OS answer in comments:

We wish we had been contacted prior to this article. There were and are clear reasons why we had to delay things after out Kickstarter ended. Most notably, after our Kickstarter ended, Intel decided to abandon Android-IA for the PC. While we tried, and spent far more than raised via Kickstarter, to take on maintaining Android-IA… we realized Intel had simply cut back support too much. After many meetings with Intel, we decided the best path forward for Console OS was to rebase on Android-x86, and resume our original goals by fusing and integrating Android-IA drivers from Intel mobile devices. We’re proud and committed to that path.

P.S. And by the way – our GitHub, as it notes on the main Console OS GitHub repo, is not yet fully live. Much of this criticism of our stack, and how it forks Android-x86 (with full attribution), is premature.

]

PINE A64 Development Board Kickstarter Campaign is Up

December 9th, 2015 13 comments

As previously announced, PINE64 $15 64-bit ARM Linux computer was due to launch on December 9, and the Kickstarter campaign is now up, and the shipping costs are $7 to the US, and $12 to the rest of the world.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The name have changed to PINE A64 and PINE A64+ since the first announcement, but the specifications have mostly not changed for th two boards with an Allwinner quad core Cortex A53 processor, 512MB to 1GB RAM, a micro SD slot for storage, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 1.4, USB ports, and some other expansion headers for I/Os, displays or cameras. The PINE A64+ however now has an option for 2GB for $29, and we’ve got a bit more information about optional modules and accessories:

  • Wireless module with WiFi and Bluetooth adapter
  • Zwave adapter
  • 7″ LCD touchpanel (PINE64+ only)
  • Dry contact I/O board
  • 5MP MIPI CSI camera
  • Various sensors
  • Various remote controls / air mice
  • 8,000 mAh battery

PINE64_Accessories

These are offered as part of kits:

  1. PINE A64+ 4K media computer with an 8GB Micro SD pre-loaded with Android 5.1, an IR receiver and remote control, a power supply, and an enclosure. Price: $59 for 1GB RAM, $69 for 2GB RAM
  2. PINE A64 IoT package with an 8GB micro SD pre-loaded with openHAB software, 802.11n Wifi + Bluetooth 4.0 module, Z-Wave Plus IO Card, a power supply, and an enclosure. Price: $59 for 1GB RAM, $69 for 2GB RAM
  3. PINE A64+ with touchscreen with a 64GB micro SD pre-loaded with Android 5.1 OS, 802.11n Wifi + Bluetooth 4.0 module, the power supply, a 7″ LCD touchscreen panel, and an enclosure. Price: $89 for 1GB RAM, $99 for 2GB RAM

The other things we’ve learned is that the boards will become available as soon as February 2016 for early bird backers, and later comers should get it in March or April, with the kits shipping in April or May 2016. One thing remains unclear: the company has been evasive about the processor used, and while the name implies it should be Allwinner A64, several pictures on Kickstarter still show Allwinner R18 processor.

[Update: On the software, while Android 5.1 should be supported by Allwinner, and openHAB by openHAB themselves since the CEO is an advisor to the campaign, Linux support is less certain, as the engineering manager for the project has already asked for – what looks like free – help from sunxi-linux and armbian communities]

MXQ S905 / G9C 4K Android Media Player Unboxing and Teardown

December 8th, 2015 4 comments

Beside Tronsmart Vega S95 Telos, I’ve received another Amlogic S905 device with MXQ G9C, which was the first Amlogic S905 TV box to have surfaces in the news back in June, and a sample has been sent to me by Shenzhen Tomato. Since the company provides ODM/OEM services instead of catering to end users, the specs are flexible, but the device I received is with the default configuration namely 1GB RAM and 8GB flash, and with similar specs to Beelink MINI MX or KI Plus for example. Today, I’ll start by checking out the hardware, before reviewing the full package a little later.

MXQ S905 / G9C TV Box Unboxing

I received the parcel via DHL, with the device in a retail white brand package reading “MXQ”, “S905”, and “IPTV box”, with some features on the back such as Airplay, DLNA, Miracast, or Widewine, Playready, and Verimatrix. But I’m pretty sure the three DRM solutions have not been implemented in the box I’ve received…

G9C_PackageThe device comes with an HDMI cable, an infrared remote control, a 5V/2A power supply, and a user’s manual in English.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The top of the case is quite reflective as you can see from the pictures…

MXQ_S905_TV_Box

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On the front we’ve got two LEDs and a small window for th IR receiver, while one side features two USB 2.0 host ports, and a micro SD slot. HDMI 2.0 and AV video output, optical S/PDIF, Gigabit Ethernet, and the power jack are all found in the rear panel.

G9C Android TV Box Teardown

Most devices come with a 2 parts shell fastened with screws, which are sometimes found under rubber pads.
G9C_OTT_TV_BoxSo I removed all four pads, and there was nothing, so you can leave them alone, if ever you need to open the device… So instead I stuck a sharp plastic under the top cover, and found out it was was glued to the rest of the case, not unlike Voyo V2 mini PC, but with a stronger cover, and much weaker glue, so I did not have to break anything… 🙂
MXQ_S905_Case_Open

The white rectangle is an LED that will lit the MXQ sign on top of the device once it is turned on. To further open the device, I had to loosen four screws, and again use the little green tool above to pop-up the internal cover.

MXQ_S905_Heatsink_WiFi We are slowly getting there. Amlogic S905 is cooled via a thermal pad attached to a thick metal plate. Let’s take out three more screw to complete take out the board, and have a closer look.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

So Amlogic S905 processor is coupled with two NANYA NT5CB256M16DB-EK DDR3 chips (512MB + 512 MB), and a Samsung KLM8G1WEPD-B031 8GB eMMC 5.0 flash. The wireless module is Ampak AP6212 supporting 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz) and Bluetooth 4.0, and Gigabit Ethernet is implemented with Realtek RTL8211F transceiver and GST5009 magnetics module. The board silkscreen reads G9_V1.0, but a sticker described the board as being G9C-G V1.0 instead.  The 4-pin header on the bottom right under the micro SD slot are for the serial console, and there’s a separate 9-pin headers for some separate functions. The firmware recovery button is located right being the AV port.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

There’s not much to see on the bottom of the board, except the GND, Tx and Rx markings for the serial console.

Shenzhen Tomato kindly provided the sample for review, and if you are a distributor, or have a specific project that could make use of this hardware, you could contact the company via their G9C product page. I could not find G9C for sale on e-retailers, but one shop on DHGate offers a similar M95 box for $69.00 including shipping (but you have to purchase 10 or more).

Review of Beelink MINI MX TV Box with MX Player

December 4th, 2015 288 comments

Beelink MINI MX Amlogic S905 Android media player has similar features, and costs about the same as K1 Plus TV box I reviewed last week, so it would be interesting to compare both. While specifications are similar there are some differences. For example, MINI MX lacks AV output, and only features two USB ports against four for K1 Plus, but it supports Gigabit Ethernet which could be an advantage while playing high bitrate 4K videos, as well a Bluetooth 4.0. I’ve already provided pictures and torn down MINI MX, so today is time for the full review and a comparison with K1 plus.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I connected my USB 3.0 hard drive to one of the USB port, and a USB hub to tghe other port with a USB webcam, a USB keyboard, and two RF dongles for a gamepad and an air mouse. I also inserted the usual HDMI, optical audio and Ethernet cables, and connected the 5V/3A power supply. The boot usually takes a little over 50 seconds, only a little slower than K1 Plus (48 seconds).

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

I think I’ve seen this launcher before, although don’t quite remember on which device exactly. It includes 6 large icons, with 4 of those (Online Video, Recommend, Music, and Local) being some folders for apps, and My Apps providing access to all installed app, and Settings to the usual Amlogic settings app. There are also customizable shortcuts on the bottom of the screen, and status icons and date & time on the top.

Some of Pre-installed Apps

Some of Pre-installed Apps

The list of pre-installed app is pretty standard, except APP4TV app linking to some streaming apps like Netflix or Hulu, and KodiMate which will install some add-ons for Kodi. More on this latter.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The settings app is exactly the same as on K1 Plus, except for the add accessory option to add Bluetooth devices. Apart from that, the list of the main options remain the same:

  • Network – WiFi, Ethernet, and VPN configuration
  • Display
    • Screen resolution: Auto, 480p-60Hz, 576p-50Hz, 720p 50/60Hz, 1080i 50/60Hz, 1080p 24/50/60Hz, 4K2K 24/25/30/50/60Hz or SMPTE
    • Screen position
    • Screen rotation (middle port, force land, original)
  • Sound – System sound (On/Off), and Digital sounds (Auto detection, PCM, HDMI or SPDIF)
  • Preferences – HDMI CEC (But not working: “This remote device does not support CEC”), and Play back settings with “HDMI self-adaption” On/Off.
  • Remote & accessories – Add accessories for Bluetooth

About_MINI_MXWiFi, Ethernet and Bluetooth all worked OK, and I could set video output to 4k2k 60Hz. However, the same problem (as in K1 Plus) occur, with the video output sometimes falling back to 1080p50.

More Settings will lead you to Android 5.x Android settings with all standard options including Bluetooth, Printing, Language & input, etc… The internal storage is comprised of a unified partition (wrongly reported as being 8GB large), and with around 4.25GB free space, just like one KI Plus

Going int to “About Mediabox” section shows  MINI MX “model number” running Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux kernel 3.14.29, and the firmware build was s905_102L1. You can also go to a System update menu in this section, and the good news is that it’s working, and I got the firmware updated to s905_103L1, while NOT getting my data and apps wiped out. But unfortunately it was only released after I finished testing, so I did not test Dec 4 firmware in details. Nevertheless that’s a big plus against K1 Plus here. The firmware is also rooted by default.

MINI_MX_OTA_Firmware_Update

I could use the provided infrared remote control up to 10 meters, but it’s quite directional, so you have to make sure you point it to the device, especially once you start getting over 5 meters away. There’s no IR learning function in this remote, and HDMI-CEC is not working either. I did not use the remote control very long, and fully switch to MeLE F10 Deluxe for the rest of the review, especially since the status bar can be shown and hidden easily.

I could install most apps required for the review from the Google Play Store, except Antutu Video Tester, which I normally side-load anyway. Applications that require telephony / SMS, GPS or limited to specific country can’t be installed, and that’s fine. I also installed Riptide GP2 from Amazon Underground since I got it for free over there.

If you want to see some details about the settings I did not cover here, you can watch the user interface walk-though video.

The device can be cleanly powered on and off with the remote control. Standby mode is not implemented, which mean you’ll need to wait 50 seconds or so each time you boot the device. There’s no power button on the unit.

I’ve also done some powered measurements with in power on and idle states both with a USB hard drive connected and without:

  • Power off – 1.0 Watt
  • Idle – 2.2 Watts
  • Power off + HDD – 1.0 Watt
  • Idle + HDD – 3.3 Watts

MINI MX seems to consume a little less than K1 Plus in power off mode (1.3W), and much lower in idle mode, where I could not K41 Plus to get below 6 Watts in idle mode. It’s not perfect though, as there’s still some residual power used in power off mode, and the best device will just show 0 or 0.1 Watt while powered off.

Beelink MINI MX stays quite cool, as I measured 39°C and 44°C on the top and bottom of the case after running Antutu 5.7.1, and after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 minutes (although not with maxed out graphics settings), the maximum temperature went up a little to 45°C and 48°C.

The firmware is stable, but feels sluggish at times, where I may have to wait 1, 2 or 3 seconds before I can move the mouse pointer, and it miay take 5 to 8 seconds to go back the launcher after exiting an application.

Video Playback on Beelink MINI MX

Kodi 15.2 is pre-installed in the device without add-ons, and this time I had no problem with an incorrect resolution being reported, even when settings the resolution to 4K 60 Hz.

MINI_MX_Kodi Kodi_15.2_MINI_MXAs mentioned before I noticed an app called KodiMate in the firmware, so I started it.

KodimateLots of plugins for Kodi apparently. So I clicked on AllPlugins and it downloaded some files, and installed Kodi add-ons, including the infamous Navi-X or 1 Channel add-ons, which are banned on Kodi forums.

Kodi_15_Add-ons_MINI_MXI guess they’ve done that to avoid getting caught at the customs, as the box is shipped without any piracy add-ons, but the user can easily install them at home.

One Kodi developer informed me that Kodi was not ready for Amlogic S905, but I still gave it a try in case Netxeon or their partners worked on Kodi. Unless otherwise noted, all videos are played over Ethernet from a SAMBA share.

I started with Linaro media samples, Elecard H.265 samples, and low resolution VP9 video, and I was pleasantly surprised not to get the letterbox issues as in K1 Plus.

  • 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
  • WebM / VP8 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – 360p and 720p OK, 1080p some massive audio delay or AV sync issue, and not very smooth
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Not too bad actually, although H.265 hardware decode does not seem implemented. But then I tested with audio video samples in Kodi, and MX Player, and things started to get bad in Kodi for some reasons, and DTS and Dolby are not supported by the system, except if you use audio pass-through.

Video PCM Output
(Kodi)

PCM Output
(MX Player)

HDMI Pass-through
(MX Player)
S/PDIF Pass-through
(MX player)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, video not smooth No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 Audio OK, video not smooth No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio, and slowmo video No audio Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 5.1 Audio OK, video in slow motion No audio OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 Audio OK, video in slow motion No audio OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 Audio OK, video not smooth No audio Continuous beep and Dolby D 5.1 shows in AVR
DTS HD Master Audio OK, video not smooth No audio DTS 5.1 only DTS 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution Audio OK, video not smooth No audio DTS 5.1 only DTS 5.1

I still tried 2 4K videos in Kodi 15.2:

  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  Plays at 3 to 4 fps
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Starts in slow motion, and then play with massive artifacts

I wanted to show it in video, but I shot the video about an upgrade to 103L1 firmware which also includes Kodi 16.0 Beta. The artifacts are gone, but Kodi is crashed/exited for both videos.

So I’ve just switched to ES File Explorer + MX Player for the remainder of the test, starting with 4K videos:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK from USB HDD, but buffering a lot from network.
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK, but no audio.
  • 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 from USB HDD, but gets stuck while streaming from network
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Will stop after a few seconds while playing from SAMBA share
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK from USB HDD, but stopping after a short while while playing from network.
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Audio/video synchronization issues, and the video is not very smooth
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK, but no audio.
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – Very good USB HDD, but won’t play at all from network (Black screen only)
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – Plays fine most of the time OK, but it will freeze and the same exact point every time for several seconds. (tested on USB drive only).

The results are very similar between Video Player – as tested with K1 Plus -, and MX player. I’m a little disappointed that the Gigabit Ethernet connection does not improve playback from the SAMBA share, so there must be a another bottleneck.

I’ve also tested some other videos with various bitrates

  • ED_HD.avi – Not very smooth at all, and no audio
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – Video OK, but no audio
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK, but the video buffered once
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Could be smoother, and no audio
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Not 100% smooth, but no buffering while playing from network… Same results on USB drive

The last one is interesting… That 120 Mbps video is the video with the higher rate in my video test files, but the network can cope fine, although video decoding not being optimal. The videos is a 1080p H.264 video at 24 fps without audio.

Just like Video Player, MX Player can’t handle Blu-ray ISO files reporting “can’t play this link”. My two 1080i video samples could play fine, and the two hi10p video had the usual issues, and MX Player lacks support for subtitles:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – Audio OK, some video artifacts, and no subtitles
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – Audio OK, more artifacts, and no subtitles

Although LG 42UB820T UHD television does not support 3D, I’ve still tested some stereoscopic 3D videos check decoding:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – MX Player exits immediately
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

I’ve also tested some longer movies, or video clips, and MX Player does not support IFO files, but I had no troubles with VOB, MKV, AVI, MP4 and MKV video, except for the lack of DTS/Dolby support with PCM output, as I did not get audio at all when these codecs were used.

Previously I also tested a 2-hour video in Kodi 15.2, and it plays all the way without issues, except that there was some stutter when the camera was panning, probably due to the lack of automatic frame rate switching support.

MINI MX got 891 points in Antutu Video Tester 3.0, or a little lower than the 906 point in KI Plus, but still without many unsupported videos.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I’ve also included the result from DRM Info, which shows Widewine nor PlayReady are installed, and the former may be any issue for some video streaming apps such as Netflix.
MINI_MX_DRM_Info If you want the video samples used in my reviews, please visit “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments section.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

MINI MX could transfer a 278MB file @ 1.5MB/s on average between the flash and a network share (SAMBA), which makes the device only of the worst performer.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Gigabit Ethernet, tested with a large file, was much better in both direction (flash to SAMBA, and SAMBA to flash) with an average transfer rate of 15.7 MB/s, one of the best in all devices I’ve tested.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

However since with Gigabit Ethernet, this test is also impacted by the internal storage read and write speeds, it’s always good to test raw performance with iperf. I’m using a full duplex transfer for 1 minutes with the command line “iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d“. But most of the time, it seems to kill Ethernet connectivity, so the test would not complete, and I was unable to browse the web anymore. So I rebooted, and it went a little further but full duplex is not handled very well with an excellent 894 Mbit/sec in one direction, but only 16 Mbit/sec in the other.

Thoughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

You can also check iperf output:

There’s again a problem with the timings showing 2204.7 seconds instead of 60 seconds.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Contrary to Videostrong KI Plus, Beelink MINI MX does support Bluetooth, and it worked pretty well, as I could transfer photos over Bluetooth with my smartphone, listen to YouTube music videos via a Bluetooth headset, and pair No.1 D3 smart watch with the device. Since the firmware is rooted, I could also successfully use a PS3 Bluetooth game controller with Sixaxis.

Storage

The same “10 MB free space bug” found in Amlogic Android Lollipop SDK also occurred here with the NTFS & exFAT partitions on my USB hard drive. My FAT32 micro SD card could be mounted fine, and I got access to all the space..

File System Read Write
NTFS OK No (10 MB free space)
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
exFAT OK No (10 MB free space)
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK

That means I had to skip USB storage benchmarks, and only ran A1 SD bench app on the internal. with the app reporting 27.62MB/s read speed and 15.95 MB/s write speed. A pretty decent results for a low cost TV box.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

And that makes me scratch my head as to why I regularly experience some slowdowns, and it may take over 5 seconds to get back to the home screen…

Gaming

In my last review I said I had never seen Candy Crush Saga on any devices, except the lower end ones based on single or dual core Mali-400 GPU, but for some reasons, I had some serious stability problems with the game on the platform. As I ran the game, the volume was a little high, so I tried to lower it, but the system would not react at all, and the game exited, or crashed, 4 times. So I tried to reboot, and could finally start to play, but I had some moments where the pointer should be stuck, the audio would cut, and finally the game exited…

Somehow Beach Buggy Racing was much better, even with the graphics quality set to the maximum  “high resolution”. It played quite smoothly, but with some very short freezes (<0.5 second) from time to time.

Riptide GP2 was also interesting, and while it was very playable with default settings, it would just exit/crash when I tried to set the quality settings to the maximum, 100% reproducible. So I set it to one bar less, and the game could run for a while, before exiting as I tried to play… So I went back to default setting and I could play 4 to 5 races for about 15 minutes. When I exited the app manually, it took 8 to 9 seconds to go back to the launcher.

Beelink MINI MX Benchmarks

CPU-Z still detects a quad core Cortex A53 processor @ up to 2.02 GHz with a Mali-450MP GPU, with the board being called “p200”.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The Antutu 5.7.1 score was 28,390 points or about the same as K1 Plus.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Conclusion

While the firmware is mostly stable, I did experience some slow downs that didn’t seem related to a slow flash, and games were somewhat unstable for some reasons. This review also confirmed that Kodi 15 nor 16 is ready for Amlogic S905, but that does not stop manufacturer from pre-loading their half-baked version, so I had to test video with MX Player, which was much better, and similar to K1 Plus. Gigabit Ethernet performance was pretty good, but somehow it did not help with videos played from the network, while WiFi performance was very poor. So while MINI MX has potential, Beelink/Netxeon still have some work to do to make it a usable device.

PROS

  • Recent Android 5.1 OS firmware
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 2160p 60Hz; 24/25/30/50/60 Hz refresh rates supported
  • Good 4K H.265 (10-bit) and H.264 video playback in MX Player (USB HDD only, not from network)
  • Good Gigabit Ethernet performance
  • Dolby 5.1 and DTS audio pass-through is working.
  • Proper power handling
  • OTA firmware update is working.
  • Built-in Bluetooth works fine
  • Very good price/performance ratio, provided issues are fixed

CONS

  • The firmware experiences slowdowns at times, and it may take 5 to 9 seconds to go back to the launcher after exiting an app.
  • Pre-installed Kodi 15.2 (102L1 firmware) or 16.0 Beta (103L1 firmware) are not really usable
  • HDMI – Dolby Digital 7.1+, TrueHD / Atmos, DTS HD audio pass-through not working; CEC not working; Video output resolution set in settings is not always used at next power on.
  • Gigabit Ethernet does not seem to help with playing videos over SAMBA
  • Missing DTS and Dolby support for PCM output
  • No DRM installed, even Widewine Level 3 required for SD playback on relevant apps.
  • Poor WiFi performance
  • Stability issues with games including Candy Crush Saga
  • USB hard drive partitions (NTFS / exFAT) reported as having 10MB free only, basically rendering the partitions read-only.

Both Beelink MINI MX and Videostrong K1 Plus have issues, many of them overlap in both devices as their firmware is based on the same Amlogic SDK, and the products are been rushed to market. I can’t really recommend any device right now, but working OTA firmware updates for MINI MX does bring some peace of mind. You’d also have to consider whether you need Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth (lacking on K1 Plus, but present on MINI MX), or AV output and more USB ports as found on K1 Plus. I understand two issues – DRM and DTS & Dolby support – can’t be fixed with firmware upgrades, so I’d wait if you need either or both.

I’d like to thanks GearBest again for providing Beelink MINI MX sample for review. If you’d like to go ahead and purchase the device, you could do from their shop for $40.89 including shipping. You can also find the TV box on some other e-retailed such as GeekBuying ($44.99), eBay, Amazon US ($55), and others.

K1 Plus Amlogic S905 TV Box Review

November 28th, 2015 65 comments

Videostrong KI Plus is one of the first Amlogic S905 TV boxes to be launched on the market, and it also happens to be one of cheapest model selling for around $45 on various sites, and it’s even available for $39.99 on GearBest for Black Friday / Cyber Monday. I’ve posted the specifications and pictures of the device previously, and after updating the firmware, I’ve finally completed the review.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

As usual, I’ve connected a whole bunch of cables and peripherals to the device to make the power supply can handle it, including a USB hard drive, a USB webcam, a USB keyboard, a USB hub with two RF dongles for Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad and MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse, as well as a HDMI, optical audio and Ethernet cables, and a speaker connected to the 3.5mm AV jack and powered by one of the USB port of the device. Turn on the power, and the device will boot automatically (no need to press the power button), with a typical boot taking around 48 seconds.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The launcher is quite basic, which can be advantage for a TV interface, with the time, a list of customizable shortcuts which including IPFox and Private Live TV by default, and 5 icons on the bottom for Kodi 15.2, Explorer file manager, the list of apps, settings, and a web browser. There are also some icon on the bottom right for networking and storage. IPFox asks you to scan a QR code to buy something, and Private Live TV will download an IPTV plugin and work out of the box with various TV channels including Sky Sports F1…

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

I quickly tried one of the streams and it worked OK.

The settings’ user interface is basically the same as found as on Android 5.1 Amlogic S812 TV boxes such as WeTek Core, minus some features like automatic frame rate switching.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The most interesting settings include:

  • Network – WiFi, Ethernet, and VPN configuration
  • Display
    • Screen resolution: Auto, 480p-60Hz, 576p-50Hz, 720p 50/60Hz, 1080i 50/60Hz, 1080p 24/50/60Hz, 4K2K 24/25/30/50/60Hz or SMPTE
    • Screen position
    • Screen rotation (middle port, force land, original)
  • Sound – System sound (On/Off), and Digital sounds (Auto detection, PCM, HDMI or SPDIF)
  • Preferences – HDMI CEC (But not working: “This remote device does not support CEC”), and Play back settings with “HDMI self-adaption” On/Off. I don’t really understand what that means…

I had no problem to connect to my WiFi router, and setting video to 4k2k 60Hz also worked perfectly via Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver or LG UHD TV. However, the box did not always keep my video output settings, often falling back to 1080p50. I only tested the AV port by connecting it to my speakers, and it worked fine with both HDMI audio and stereo audio outputted at the same time.

About_Mediabox_K1_PlusYou can get to Lollipop Android settings by selecting More Settings. Bluetooth is not built-in into the device, and is completely missing from the settings, so even if you decided to connect a Bluetooth USB dongle it would not work. All other usual settings appear to be here including Printing, Language & input, accessibility and so on. A single 4.66GB partition is used for both app and data with around 4.21GB free space.

The “About Mediabox” section reports KI Plus model running Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux kernel 3.14.29. There’s also a link to the Update&Backup app in this section, but OTA firmware update is not enabled. The sample was sent to my by a manufacturer (Videostrong), and they probably rely on their customers to handle this. This firmware is not rooted by default.

The IR remote control work pretty well, and I could use it reliably as far as 10 meters. The IR learning function is also doing its job and I could program with TV’s remote control Volume, power, and TV input keys. I have no used the remote that much since I prefer using MeLE F10 Deluxe remote control in Android that’s much more user friendly that IR remotes. Since the status and notification bars are missing, I had to use the Home key on the IR remote during testing…

Google Play Store did not work well at all the first time, with most application being incompatible with this device. That’s why I delayed the review, and after installing a new firmware, everything works pretty well. Applications that require telephony, Bluetooth, and GPS can’t be installed, but that’s fine, as well as the ones which can’t be installed where I live (country limitations). Finally I installed Amazon Underground to load and play Riptide GP2 3D racing game.

Power handling has been implemented correctly as I could cleanly power off the device with either the power button on the unit and the remote control. The remote control can also be used to power on the device. There’s no standby mode, so the device will fully boot each time you turn it on.

For those interested in power consumption, I’ve done some measurements both without USB devices, and one USB hard drive in two modes:

  • Power off – 1.3 Watt
  • Idle – 3.2 ~ 3.4 Watts
  • Power off + HDD – 1.3 Watt
  • Idle + HDD – 6.1 ~ 7.4 Watts

There’s still some residual power used in power off mode, but at least the USB ports are turned off.

Temperature is under control most of the time, except possibly when playing games. I measured 42°C and 53°C on the top and bottom of the enclosure after running Antutu 5.7, but after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 minutes the temperature went up to 50°C and 62°C, and I noticed a lower frame rate in the game.

After updating the firmware, the first impressions were quite good, as despite its low cost, the system was responsive, and stable, which everything from networking to video output working fine, except for video output changing randomly? after a power on.

Video Playback on KI Plus

I usually playing videos from a network share over Ethernet and using whatever Kodi version is pre-installed on the device. So far none of manufacturers have used Kodi from Google Play, and Videostrong is no exception. So I have some Kodi 15.2 app in the device with various add-ons.

Amlogic_S905_Kodi_15.2

For some reasons, the resolution is shown as 1280×720 @ 60Hz in the System information when the video output is set to 4k2k-60Hz, and despite the framebuffer being set to 1920×1080 as we’ve seen with some of the screenshots above.

Kodi_1280x720But when I went ahead with testing videos samples found on linaro website, I realized something was clearly wrong:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – Letterboxed
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  1080p – Letterboxed
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 1080p – Letterboxed
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – Letterboxed
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (1080p) – Letterboxed
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

So while all videos could play, most of them would be letterboxed.

Kodi_Letterbox_Amlogic_S905
So with this bug in mind, and my contacts telling me either Amlogic had not spent much resources on Kodi this time, or that many patchsets were still submitted to Kodi to fix Amlogic S905 support, I decided to give up on Kodi on this device, and instead do all my testing with Video Player app in Android. That means you’ll either need to wait for Kodi 16, or go with the daily builds.

Later, I still decided to give Kodi a try with the “reliability” test, playing a 2-hour 1080p movie… and I worked just fine, with a some 3800 skipped frame reported by Kodi’s log overlay maybe because the mismatch between video output and video frame rate. So I was confused, until I saw the video output bug kicked in to force video out to 1080p50, and the System info reported 1920×1080 @ 50Hz…

Amlogic_S905_1080p_kodiSo that means Kodi 15.2 pre-loaded in the box works at 1080p resolution, but has a bug at 4K. VideoStrong should provide a 4K TV to their developers…

I did not re-test the videos at 1080p in Kodi 15.2, as I’m expecting 2 to 3 more Amlogic S905 TV boxes, and I’ll ahve plenty of opportunities to test Kodi on Amlogic S905, so instead I’ll report results in Video Player, using Ethernet, unless otherwise stated.

Linaro samples, plus Elecard H.265, and a low res VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (1080p) – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

I started to see some issues, when I switched to some higher bitrate videos :

  • ED_HD.avi – Blackscreen
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – Video OK, but no audio
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Could be smoother, and no audio
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Not very smooth (played from USB hard drive, as Fast Ethernet could not handle this file).

The audio issues are probably due of the lack of DTS and Dolby licenses, and I could confirm it in the audio test below.

Video PCM Output HDMI Pass-through S/PDIF Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 No audio No audio Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 5.1 No audio OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 No audio  OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 No audio Continuous beep and Dolby D 5.1 shows in AVR
DTS HD Master No audio DTS 5.1 only DTS 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution No audio DTS 5.1 only DTS 5.1

So if you don’t have AV receiver you are out of luck to get any audio, unless you use Kodi, which may not work that well right now, or some other app that also decoded DTS and Dolby by software.

One of the main selling point of Amlogic S905 SoC is support for 4K video including 10-bit HEVC, and it’s doing a pretty good job, as long as you play from a USB hard drive:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK from USB HDD, but buffering a lot from network.
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK, but no audio.
  • 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 from USB HDD, but buffering often from network
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – 3 to 4 fps
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK from USB HDD (first time ever!), but buffering from network, or even stopping in some instances.
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Audio/video synchronization issues, and the video could be a little smoother
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – Excellent video decoding, but no audio…
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – Perfect from HHD, but buffering a lot from SAMBA share.
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – Most of the time OK, but it will freeze and the same exact point every time for several seconds. (tested on USB drive only)

You can watch a demo with most of these files via the post entitled “H.264 & H.265 4K Video Playback on Amlogic S905 Android TV Box“. While VP9 and H.264 @ 60 fps are not supported by current revision of S905 processor, I understand a new revision of the silicon should support VP9.

Video Player reports “can’t play this video” when I try to play Blu-ray ISO files such as Sintel-Bluray.iso and amay.iso, so I think it’s just not supported by the app. 1080i MPEG2 video samples (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) played OK, but Hi10p had the same artifacts issues as on Kodi on Amlogic S812, and lacked the subtitles.

I’ve played some stereoscopic 3D videos to see if the system could decode them (my TV does not support 3D):

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only (Would require a dual 4K decoder)
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Lack of DTS/Dolby support was the main issue when I played several H.264, DViX/XVid, VOB, MKV, and MP4 movies, as many did not play audio at all, and Video Player app can not handle FLV videos, nor IFO files (although VOB is OK).

I installed Antutu Video Tester 3.0 manually, and the score (906 point) is pretty good, although not quite as high as on Amlogic S812 devices (1,000+ points).

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

If you are using premium video streaming applications such as Netflix, it might be important to check whether the level of DRM support, or whether any DRM is actually installed. This could easily be checked thanks to DRM Info app.

DRM_info_K1_PlusAnd sadly, even the basic Widewine security Level 3 is not installed. As a reminder, Widewine Level 1 is required for HD and UHD video playback.

Visit “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments section for links to video samples.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

A 278MB file is transferred between a SAMBA share and the internal storage three times using ES File Explorer in order to test WiFi and Fast Ethernet performance. But during the first test,  I only did it twice because the transfer rate was stable but stuck at 130 KB/s during the whole transfer, and it took over 30 minutes for each transfer. Clearly the worst result ever, and at the time my phone could transfer the same file at over 2MB/s. But I tried again, before publishing the results, and the results are much better @ 3.45 MB/s , but I can’t explain what happened…

Performance in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Amlogic S905 SoC can support Gigabit Ethernet, but K1 Plus is only fitted with Fast Ethernet components, and file transfer performance is under average at about 6MB/s (48 Mbps).

Performance in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

It looks better while using iperf with “-t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” to test dual duplex transfer for 60 seconds, with a very good Fast Ethernet performance.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is not support by KI Plus.

Storage

FAT32 (micro SD card), NTFS, & exFAT (USB hard drive) partitions could all be mounted, but the same bug as on Amlogic S812’s Android 5.1 firmware meant the free space was wrongly reported as 10MB, making the NTFS and exFAT partition basically read-only.

File System Read Write
NTFS OK Not really (10 MB free space)
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
exFAT OK Not really (10 MB free space)
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK

I had to skip USB storage benchmarks, but I could still check out the internal storage with A1 SD bench app, which reported 22.71MB/s read speed and 8.67 MB/s write speed.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Clearly not the best performance, but it was to be expected for a $40 products, and I have not found it to affect the performance of the device much.

Gaming

I have never seen Candy Crush Saga on device expect when using SoC with Mali-400 GPU, and it played without issue on K1 Plus ising an air mouse. Beach Buggy Racing felt a little sluggish, and once I boosted the graphics settings to “high resolution” it started to become choppy, and at time the game seems to be slow to respond to gamepad inputs. Riptide GP2 was about the same story, but it started pretty well, then set the graphics setting to high resolution, and the game was quite not as smooth, and the game even exited/crashed once. Furthermote, I noticed the frame rate to get worse, the more I played, so the GPU must be throttling when the SoC gets hot, leading to performance degradations. So Amlogic S905 does not seem the best platform for gaming, and better stick with the more powerful Amlogic S812 or Rockchip RK3288 SoCs.

K1 Plus Benchmarks

Before running any benchmarks, let’s see what CPU-Z detects…

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The app does not know Amlogic S905 processor, but it probably detects an ARM Cortex A53 quad core processor clocked between 100 MHz and 2.02 GHz, coupled with an ARM Mali-450MP GPU. The model is called KI Plus (p20x), the board p20x, the UI resolution is set to 1920×1080, there’s 807MB total RAM in the system, and 4.66GB internal storage. It’s running an aarch64 Linux kernel version 3.14.29 as reported previously.

K1_Plus_Antutu_5.7.3
I had already run Antutu 5.7.3 to compare Amlogic S905 and Rockchip RK3368 performance, but following the firmware update, I ran it again, and it yielded a marginally higher score of 29,167 points.

Please also find Vellamo 3.0 and 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme results below for reference.

K1_Plus_Vellamo_3.0

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Conclusion

It’s quite amazing that you can now get an Android TV box with 4K video playback and HDMI 2.0 support for about $40. However, there’s still work to be done, as while their a good based with a reasonably good user interface, and surprisingly smooth video playback at 2160p resolution using Video Player app, the pre-installed Kodi 15.2 version was unusable at 4K resolution with most videos letterboxed, DTS and Dolby licenses are missing, there’s no DRM installed at all, and various other bugs need to be fixed.

PROS

  • Recent Android 5.1 OS firmware that is both responsive and stable
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 2160p 60Hz; 24/25/30/50/60 Hz refresh rates supported; AV port (tested with speakers)
  • Impressive 4K H.265 (10-bit) and H.264 video playback in Video Player app
  • Dolby 5.1, DTS and TrueHD audio pass-through is working.
  • Proper power handling
  • IR remote support IR learning function, and has a good range (>10 meters)
  • 4x USB ports
  • Very good value for money (once issues can be resolved)

CONS

  • Pre-installed Kodi 15.2 version does not work well for 2160p video output is selected (1080p output looks better); automatic frame rate switching is not working either.
  • HDMI – Dolby Digital 7.1+, DTS HD and Atmos pass-through not working; CEC not working; Video output resolution set in settings is not always used at next power on.
  • Missing DTS and Dolby support for PCM output
  • No DRM installed, even Widewine Level 3 required for SD playback on relevant apps.
  • WiFi performance may be erratic (TBC), very good sometimes, and near stall speed at others.
  • 3D games such as Beach Buggy Racing and Riptide GP2 are not playing very smoothly, and performance may degrade with play time (and higher heat).
  • No option to show status and notification bars, no Download icon in app list.
  • Lacks Bluetooth support
  • USB hard drive partitions (NTFS / exFAT) reported as having 10MB free only, basically rendering the partitions read-only.

There are also IPTV apps that depending on your point of view can be PROS or CONS, and OTA firmware update is missing, but this may be due to Videostrong being a manufacturer, and not a brand, so they rely on their customer to handle firmware updates with their own servers and branding.

Videostrong was kind enough to send this first Amlogic S905 box sample for review, and if you are a distributor or resellers, you could contact the company via their Alibaba product page. Individual can purchase K1 Plus (aka Ki Plus) on retail sites starting at $39.99 including shipping on GearBest, GeekBuying, eBay, Amazon US, Aliexpress and others.