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Review of EM6Q-MXQ Android Quad Core Media Player

September 23rd, 2014 No comments

After taking a few pictures of Eny EM6Q-MXQ Android media player, it’s time for a full review. I’ll first give my first impressions and go through the user interface, test video playback, test the system, network, and storage performance, try a few games, and check various hardware ports are working as they are supposed to do.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve inserted two AAA batteries in the provided infrared remote control to check it’s working, and it’s usable in the main user interface and XBMC, but once you start using most Android apps it’s useless, so I quickly switched to  Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse. Before powering up the device, I’ve connected an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable, and made with use of the 4 USB ports by connecting two RF dongles (Air mouse and gamepad), a USB hard drive, and a UVC USB webcam. The box lacks a power button, so it starts as soon as you connect the power supply. The boot is pretty slow as it completes in about 1 minute 50 seconds…

EM6Q-MXQ Launcher (Click for Original Size)

EM6Q-MXQ Launcher (Click for Original Size)

The user intefaface is exactly the same as found in Amlogic S802 TV boxes such as M8 and Vega S89. With some big icons that are folders for apps, and a link to a custom Setting menu, and there’s a customizable shortcut bar at the bottom with smaller icons. The status bar is disabled by default, but I prefer to have it when using it with an air mouse, so I restored it via the Setting menu. The first boot, the resolution was automatically detected to 720p, but I changed that to 1080p60, and the resolution is indeed 1920×1080.

The “Setting” menu provides access a Metro-style interface for settings with four sub menus: Network, Display, Advanced and Other.

  • Network – Enable and configure Wi-Fi or Ethernet
  • Display:
    • Automatic or manual HDMI resolution: 480p/i @ 60 Hz, 576p/i @ 50 Hz, 720p @ 50/60 Hz, 1080i @ 50/60 Hz, or 1080p @ 50/60 Hz
    • CVBS Mode Setting: 480 CVBS or 576 CVBS (if Composite output selected on TV).
    • Hide or Show status bar
    • Display Position
    • Screen Save (Never, 4, 8 or 12 minutes)
  • Advanced:
    • Miracast
    • Remote Control (app)
    • CEC Control
    • Location for weather(Chinese cities only)
    • Screen Orientation settings
    • Digital Audio Output (Auto, PCM, S/PDIF pass-through, or HDMI pass-through)
  • Other – System Update: Local file or OTA (not working), Backup, and “More Settings” for standard  Android Settings.

I’ve tested the device using HDMI set to 1080p60 most of the time, but there’s also an AV port for connect to the composite input and RCA stereo audio port of older TVs, and it worked just fine for 480 CVBS and 576 CVBS settings.. Component (YPbPr) output however is not supported.

You can watch a video with the user interface walk-through, XBMC user interface, and H.265 video playback in MX Player.

In the standard Android Settings, About_MediaBox_hd18qEM6Q-MXQ’s 8GB NAND flash has a single partition (5.26 GB) with 4.95 GB free for both apps and data. The “About MediaBox” section indicates the model number as “hd18q″, that happens to be the name of the board, and the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.33. Root Checker confirmed the firmware is rooted. which can be convenient if you don’t have the right cable for the full-size USB OTG port on the device. The company gave me a link to the firmware (September 3), which brings peace of mind in case something goes wrong.

I could install all apps I tried with Google Play Store including Antutu, 3D Marks, ES File Explorer, MX Player, Beach Buggy Blitz, etc…  I did not try paid apps, as the only one I have requires Bluetooth, that’s not built-in into the device. I could also install Riptide GP2 via Amazon AppStore.

There’s no power button on the device, and the remote control only allows you to enter and leave standby mode, so the only way to actually power off the device is to disconnect the power adapter. The latest ARM based mini PCs powered by Amlogic S802 and Rockchip RK3288 get pretty hot, but as expected with a Cortex A5 processor, the temperature is pretty much under control. I measured 39°C and 51°C with an infrared thermometer respectively on the top and bottom of the box, right after running Android 5 benchmark. After playing Riptide GP2 for 20 minutes at 1080p, and a few hours of usage previously,  the maximum temperature on top and bottom reached 42°C and 65°C…

The system itself is very stable, and it only freezes when I try to play a 4K video in XBMC (100% reproducible). However, apps often exit for no obvious reasons. which in theory, could be some bugs within the apps themselves, but it happens a bit too often to my liking… Amlogic S805 is not designed to be the fastest processor around, but while the box runs smoothly most of the times, at other times the box is really sluggish, and becomes frustrating to use. It’s probably not because of the processor, but rather the NAND flash with poor performance, resulting on slow loading times (Close to 2 minutes boot time, XBMC loads in 12 seconds), and in a few instances, I’ve experience very high CPU usage (e.g. 10) with the blue bar (I/O interrupt time) taking most of the load. This compares to 20 seconds boot time, and 2 seconds XBMC start time on recent RK3288 devices with an eMMC. During high load, it may take over 5 seconds to reach the launcher after pressing the Home key of the remote, compared to virtually instantaneous access when there’s no I/O activity.

Video Playback

I played videos from a SAMBA share over Ethernet using XBMC, only switching to MX Player in case of issues. At first, I had some permissions issues connecting to a specific shared folder in XBMC, but eventually I could connect to SAMBA with both XBMC and ES File Explorer,

I started with videos from samplemedia.linaro.org, H.265/HEVC videos by Elecard, as well as a new VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK, but there’s a regular blinking effect (about 1sec) in  some scenes, especially visible with the grass and trees. The same issue happens in many devices.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK but not that smooth (S/W decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p OK, 1080p plays in slow motion
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container
    • XBMC – Audio only
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode), but if you jump to another time in the video it will switch to S/W decode. Probably a bug in MX Player.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video)
    • XBMC – Won’t even start
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode).

Once I mostly lost control with the keys in XBMC, and I could only use the mouse pointer and the OK button. Same result with Mele F10 Deluxe or the included IR remote control. Restarting XBMC fixed the issue.

Now some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – XBMC: audio only; MX Player: black screen only, no audio.
  • 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 could be smoother, and XBMC reports skipped frames regularly.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (Play from USB hard drive)

High definition audio codec could be decoded (PCM output) in XBMC, but performance could be better:

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 – OK &
  • True HD 7.1 – Some audio cuts playing from SAMBA, OK from USB hard drive
  • DTS-MA – OK
  • DTS-HR – SAMBA: Audio completely cuts after a few seconds. USB: No problem with audio, but video feels slow.

Sintel-Bluray.iso video could play in XBMC, meaning Blu-ray ISO files are supported.

I also played some AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB and MP4 videos in my library. They could all play, and I did not notice any A/V sync issues, or other obvious problems with playback. I also tested XBMC stability by playing a complete 1080p video (1h50). Sometimes XBMC refuses to exit immediately, and I need to press the “Home” button to get the the main menu. This must be an XBMC issue, as I’ve had this problem in some other devices previously.

Links to various video samples used in this review and be found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

In order to test network performance, I simply transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share (Ubuntu 14.04) and the internal flash, and vice versa, repeating the test three times with ES File Explorer. I left the Ethernet connected when I first tested Wi-Fi performance, and with the numbers I got during transfer, I decided to disconnect the Ethernet cable to make it was not done over Ethernet, as throughput peaked at up 5.0MB/s, whereas I’m usually lucky to see 3MB/s for most other devices. But this was all real, and when it comes with Wi-Fi performance, EM6Q-MXQ is truly amazing, and crushes the competition with an average throughput of 3.84 MB/s.

EM6Q-MXQ_Wi-Fi_Performance

Wi-Fi Performance in MB/s

I wonder if the internal Wi-Fi antenna connection to a stainless steel plate inside the case has anything to do with it.

Ethernet worked fine @ 100Mbps even connected to my pesky Gigabit switch.

EM6Q-MXQ_Ethernet_PerformanceI’ve also tested Ethernet performance with iPerf app to get a raw number using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line. It does not max out the Ethernet bandwidth but I suppose the results are still decent, even though not outstanding. As reference, Kingnovel R6 achieved over 90 Mbits/sec in both directions via a Fast Ethernet switch.

Client connecting to 192.168.0.102, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 47764 connected with 192.168.0.102 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   570 MBytes  79.7 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   484 MBytes  67.7 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

EM6Q-MXQ does not support Bluetooth, at least the model I have, does not.

Storage

FAT32 formatted micro SD card and USB flash drive could be recognized and properly mounted by the system
I’ve also connected my USB 3.0 hard drive, and only NTFS and FAT32 could be mounted automatically, as for some reasons EXT-4 does not seems to be supported by Android.

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

I’ve run A1 SD Bench  to benchmark performance of the USB hard drive and internal flash, starting with the NTFS partition in /storage/external_storage/sda1. The read speed was 30.35MB/s, and the write speed of 31.79MB/s, both of which are the best readings I’ve ever got, but only marginally better than the competition. We should probably expect very little variability between devices using USB 2.0, and see some performance boost and more variability with devices that support USB 3.0.

USB Hard Drive Throughput in MB/s

USB Hard Drive Throughput in MB/s

A slow internal storage can make a device behave very poorly, especially during write operation, and unfortunately the NAND flash used cripples a device that would otherwise be a pretty decent product.

Internal Storage Read and Write Speed (MB/s)

Internal Storage Read and Write Speed (MB/s)

This confirms the NAND flash is the likely cause of slow boot time, and apps loading times, as well as temporary, but annoying, slowdowns when flash is written to, for example while installing apps.

USB Webcam

My USB webcam with built-in microphone worked with Skype. I could test audio successfully with the Echo service in Skype, and I could see the video from the camera while making a call. Google Hangouts could detect the webcam, I could start a video call (ringing), and the webcam image was displayed albeit at a very slow framerate (1 or 2 fps), but after a few seconds massive colorful artifacts started to show up.

The Android camera is pre-installed, and I could take a few shots, and record a video.

Gaming

As usual, I’ve tested Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2. I played Candy Crush Saga with my air mouse, and at the beginning audio cut due to I/O interrupts (kswapd0, irq/60-sdio processes), and logging into Facebook was sluggish as hell, but once actually playing the game, everything worked pretty well, and smoothly.

I played the two other games with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad. Beach Buggy Blitz just as smooth as more recent processors (S802, RK3288) with default setting,s but when I maxed out the graphics settings, it was still very playable, but the framerate was impacted. Riptide GP2 was playable, but not perfectly smooth, actually not that much different from Amlogic S802. Decreasing the graphics quality improves playability (frame rate). I’ve raced on several circuits, and after the third circuits, I noticed the 3D image froze once. Playing a fourth games, it was clear I had the same problem as with Amlogic S802 (Probox2 EX), where the 3D image with just stop for a few seconds, before resuming, stop again and so on, but the 2D graphics (position on track) will still render properly and continuously.  So I checked the temperature and I got 42°C and 65°C on the top and bottom of the enclosure. I could be Mali-450MP GPU overheats due to the workload of this specific game, and does not work properly.

EM6Q-MXQ / Amlogic S802 Benchmarks

Since it’s the first device with Amlogic S802, I had to run CPU-Z.

Amlogic_S802_CPU-ZThe app correctly detect a quad core Cortex A5 @ 1.49 GHz with a Mali-450 MP GPU. The scaling governor is set to performance which explains why the cores’ frequency is set to 1488 MHz, as the developers preferred to give full performance to the system, since there’s no overheating issues. The screen resolution is set to 1920×1008 (not 1080 because I enabled the status bar on) with 1280×672 resolution in dp. 825 MB RAM is available to the system, and 5.26 GB internal storage as mentioned previously.

EM6Q-MXQ_Antutu_5.1

The device gets 16,647 points in Antutu 5.1, and is right at the bottom of the scale in the graphics chart. For reference RK3188 based device usually have a score just above 20,000, so I suppose this score is to be expected because of the slower CPU cores, and despite the faster GPU.  I’ll make a side-by-side comparison with Amlogic S802 in a separate post.

EM6Q-MXQ got 3985 points in Quadrant, close to the score of Asus Transformer Pad (TF201) tablet based on Nvidia Tegra 3.

Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)

Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve also run Vellamo 3.x which shows a performance similar to Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone (Exynos 4).

Vellamo_Amlogic_S805_EM6Q-MXQFor comparison with other devices, you can download Metal, Multicore, and Browser comparison charts.

Ice Storm Extreme test in 3DMark really shows the lower performance of the quad core Mali-450MP GPU used in S805 (Mali-450 MP2?) against something like Mali-T764 found in RK3288 SoC that gets a score three times higher. I haven’t tested Amlogic S802 with an eight core Mali-450 MP6 GPU yet.

3DMarks ICE Storm  Ultimate (Click to Enlarge)

3DMarks ICE Storm Ultimate (Click to Enlarge)

Conclusion

EM6Q-MXQ could really have been a low cost device with pretty good performance, where it not for the subpar NAND flash used in this hardware. Wi-Fi is the best I’ve ever seen, and by a large margin, video decoding is pretty good, although H.265 is still not supported in XBMC, and the firmware is stable, despite apps exiting randomly at times, but I wonder if it’s related to the I/O performance, and the app are just killed because the system does not respond fast enough.

PRO:

  • Best Wi-Fi performance I’ve ever experienced in a TV box, and by a wide margin.
  • The system is rather stable, and only hung once when trying to play a 4K video
  • Both 720p and 1080p user interfaces are supported
  • Decent video playback capabilities.
  • HEVC hardware video decoding support. Working in MX Player, but not with XBMC (yet)
  • Webcam supported in Skype (but the image was garbled in Google Hangouts)
  • 4x USB 2.0 host port available

CONS:

  • Very slow internal storage, leading to severe slowdowns especially while installing apps, or other write operations.
  • Apps may exit suddenly for no reason, maybe related to first point above.
  • Slow boot time, and apps loading times, most probably related to first point above
  • No proper power off (standby only)
  • Lack of Bluetooth support (No Bluetooth module)
  • No option for 24Hz, 25Hz, 30Hz video output

Eny Technology EM6Q-MXQ can be purchased on Aliexpress for about $70 including shipping. In that link, bothEM6Q-MXQ and MXQ S85 are listed so you’ll need to check the USB port (4x port with EM6Q-MXQ only), and/or the Red MX stripe found in S85 version. Resellers can visit EM6Q-MXQ product page to contact the company for larger orders.

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Unboxing of Nagrace HPH NT-V6 Android TV Box with HDMI In, Rockchip RK3288 Processor

September 22nd, 2014 16 comments

Thanks to Nagrace Times Technology, I’ve got a new Rockchip RK3288 Android mini PC to play with. HPH NT-V6 model is higher end compared to the other ones I’ve received including Uyesee G1H, Kingnovel R6 and Orion R28 Meta, because it comes with 32GB eMMC, HDMI In, and a AP6335 Wi-Fi module providing 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity. I’ll start by listing the device specifications, take some pictures of the device and the board, and I’ll write a full review probably next week as I have some other hardware to test first.

Nagrace NT-V6 specifications

The company provides various memory and storage options for this product, and if Linux based operating systems such as Ubuntu or Chrome OS end up being properly supported on Rockchip RK3288, Nagrace NT-V6 could end up bring a very nice mini PC:

  • SoC -  Rockchip RK3288 quad core ARM Cortex A12/A17 processor @ 1.8 GHz with ARM Mali-T764 quad-core 3D GPU with support for OpenGL ES 1.1/2.0/3.0, OpenVG 1.1, OpenCL 1.1, RenderScript, and DirectX11
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3 (Optional 4GB DDR3)
  • Storage – 8GB flash (16, 32, and 64GB optional) + micro SD slot
  • Video Output / Input
    • HDMI 2.0 output up to 4K @ 60fps
    • AV output (3.5 mm jack)
    • HDMI 1.4 Input up to 1080p60
  • Audio Output – HDMI,  AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n and 802.11ac Wi-Fi with external antenna, and Bluetooth 4.0 (AP6335 module)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x Micro USB OTG
  • Camera – 5M auto focus (optional, not included in sample I’ve received)
  • Misc – Power button and LED, IR receiver, recovery button
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A
  • Dimensions –  115 x 115 x 23 mm (excluding Wi-Fi antenna)
  • Weight – 250 grams

HPH NT-V6 runs Android 4.4, like most of the the boxes currently on the market.

NT-V6 Unboxing Pictures

The company sent me the box via DHL, and the media player can be found in the package below. The back of the package lists options for 2 or 4 GB RAM, and 8, 16, 32 or 64 GB flash, so there will most certainly be an option for 4GB RAM and 64GB (eMMC) flash.
Nagrace_NT-V6_Package
An HDMI cable (1 meter), an IR remote control requiring two AAA batteries (not included). a Wi-Fi antenna, a 5V/3A power supply, a user’s manual, and an enclosure protection film can be found in the package together with the box.

Nagrace NT-V6 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Nagrace NT-V6 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

There’s nothing on the front of the device (where the power LED and IR receiver are located), a power button and antenna connector can be found on one side, AV output, a recovery button, a micro SD slot, a full-size USB OTG port, and HDMI IN are located on the other side, and the rear panel comes with the following ports: Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 2.0 host ports, HDMI 2.0 output, optical S/PDIF, and a DC power barrel.

Nagrace NT-V (Click to Enlarge)

Nagrace NT-V (Click to Enlarge)

The top of the case is a fingerprint magnet which may be why a protective film has been included.

You can also watch the unboxing video if you please.

 HPH NT-V6 Board

Let’s open the box to see what’s inside. There aren’t any screw holding both parts of the case together, but you’ll find a small opening between the gray and black parts just below the USB OTG port, where you can insert a flat-headed precision screwdriver to start popping out the bottom of the enclosure.

Bottom of NT-V6 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of NT-V6 Board (Click to Enlarge)

The board name is TRN6A V10, and it looks like I may have received the version with 4GB RAM and 32 GB eMMC based on markings on the sticker. You’ll also find ribbon connectors on the bottom left of the photo, probably for the camera interface, and maybe LVDS? You need to remove four screws to completely take out the board from its case.

NT-V6 Board (Click to Enlarge)

NT-V6 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Again, a stainless place is screwed on the top of the enclosure for power dissipation reasons, but I’m not sure how efficient that is.  There’s also a heatsink, a bit larger than in the other RK3288 boxes, on top of the quad core SoC and the RAM chips. I have not dared to unglue it before testing the device. The wireless module is indeed AP6335 for 802.11 b/g/n, 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.0. Samsung KLMBG4WEBC-B031 is a 32GB eMMC 5.0 flash that can achieve 200MB/s read and 50MB/s write in theory, and there’s another empty emplacement to add another eMMC flash. Just under the flash, there’s another unpopulated connector (mini PCIe?). Lontium LT8641SX is a very recent HDMI 1.4 switch chip that provides up to 3x HDMI 1.4 input channel and 1x HDMI 1.3/ 3 MHL 2.0 input channel, so it’s obviously the chip handling HDMI input here.

That’s all for today for this exciting device. The version with 2GB RAM and 16 GB eMMC is available on Aliexpress for $129 + shipping, and the one with 32GB eMMC/4GB RAM as I received can be purchased for $189 including shipping by DHL or EMS. You may also want to visit Nagrace NT-V6 product page if you want to contact the company to order in quantities.

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Unboxing of Eny EM6Q-MXQ Android TV Box Powered by Amlogic S805 Processor

September 20th, 2014 2 comments

EM6Q-MXQ is an Android TV box based on Amlogic S805 quad core Cortex A5 processor, with a quad core Mali-450MP GPU, 1GB RAM, and 8GB flash. The company sent me a sample for review, so today I’ll start with some pictures, and follow up with a full review in a few days.

EM6Q-MXQ Unboxing Pictures

The box comes with a brand-less “OTT TV BOX” package.
EM6Q-MXQ_Package

The media player comes with an HDMI cable (1.2m), a remote control requiring two AAA batteries, a 5V/2A power supply, and a user’s manual in English and Chinese.

EM6Q-MXQ and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

EM6Q-MXQ and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

The box features an LED and an IR receiver at the front, 3 USB 2.0 ports and an SD card slot on the side, with most ports on the rear panel: another full size USB port (OTG), coaxial S/PDIF, AV output, HDMI output, 10/100M Ethernet, and DC in.

EM6Q-MXQ (Click to Enlarge)

EM6Q-MXQ (Click to Enlarge)

There’s also MAC address on the bottom of the casing starting with C44EAC that looks up to Shenzhen Shiningworth Technology Co., Ltd found in some other Amlogic products.

Unboxing Video:

EM6Q-MXQ Board / PCBA

Opening the device is fairly easy. You first need to stick out the four rubber pad on the bottom of the enclosure, then untighten the four screws, before pulling out the bottom of the case with a flat screw driver:

Bottom of EM6Q-MXQ Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of EM6Q-MXQ Board (Click to Enlarge)

Nothing much to see on the bottom of the board, except the serial console pins close to the USB ports.

EM6Q-MXQ Board and Stainless Plate (Click to Enlarge)

EM6Q-MXQ Board and Stainless Plate (Click to Enlarge)

There are no other screws to remove, simply pull out the board from the enclosure to take it out. There’s a stainless plate attached to the top of the enclosure, but I’m not sure what its purpose exactly is, because it does not touch anything in the case. I’ve also remove the heatsink to get a real look at the board with marking HD18Q_V0.95.

HD18Q Board (Click to Enlarge)

HD18Q Board (Click to Enlarge)

We can get confirmation that USB-4 is indeed a USB OTG port, the recovery button is located right behind the AV output port, and the USB Wi-Fi module is based on Realtek RTL8188ETV. The 8GB eMMC NAND flash is FORESEE NCFSES76-08G, and two RAM chips (NANYA NT5CB256M16CP-01) are used to get 1GB RAM.

Despite the name and enclosure being similar to MXQ S85, both devices are different as one feature optical S/PDIF output, and the other coaxial S/PDIF, and the number of USB ports are different (2x USB + 1x micro USB vs 4x USB). Eny Technology EM6Q-MXQ  can be purchased on Aliexpress for about $70 including shipping (You’ll need to sort between EM6Q-MXQ and MXQ S85 manually by checking the USB port, and/or the Red MX stripe in S85 version). If you are interested in buying in quantities, you can visit EM6Q-MXQ product page to contact the company.

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$60 EC-U6D Android Media Player Powered by Realtek RTD1195 Supports 4K/HEVC, USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet

September 20th, 2014 6 comments

RTD1195 is only a dual core Cortex A9 A7 processor, but supports high speed interfaces like USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet, as well as 4K/H.265 hardware decoding, and Realtek has a long history with set-top boxes, so video playback might be better than some other platforms, such as the ones based on Rockchip processors. Egreat and Mele are both working on Realtek RTD1195 based Android media players, but none of the models from these two companies are available yet. EC Tech has listed their EC-U6D Android TV box on Aliexpress for $59.99 including shipping, so it competes on price with Amlogic S805 TV boxes powered by a quad core Cortex A5 processor, with H.265 hardware decoding, but that only support Fast Ethernet (for now), 1080p video output and decoding, and USB 2.0.

Realtek_RTD1195_Media_Player_EC-U6D

EC-U6D specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1195 dual core ARM Cortex A9 A7 processor @ 1.4 GHz with Mali-400MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB flash (16 / 32GB optional) + micro SD slot
  • Video Output / Input  – HDMI 1.4 up to 4K30 / 1080p60, HDMI In, and AV.
  • Audio – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs
    • Decoding -  H.265, H.263, H.264, AVS, VC-1, RV, VP6/VP8, Sorenson, Spark, MVC up to 1080p60
    • Encoding – H.264, H.265, VP8, and MVC up to 1080p]
    • H.264, H.265 data rate – Up to 60 Mbps
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi. No Bluetooth>.
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0
  • Misc – IR receiver, power LED
  • Power – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – N/A

The box runs Android 4.4 with XBMC pre-installed, and comes with a power adapter, a remote control, an HDMI cable, and a user’s manual.

There are lots of discrepancies in both the Aliexpress and EC Technology EC-U6D pages however.  Both titles mention USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet support, but the text inside the product page only mentions 2x USB 2.0 host ports, and 10/100M Ethernet. The Aliexpress page also mentions 802.11ac support, and Mali-T764 GPU also pops up in the specs, but both are certainly mistakes. Despite being capable of outputting 4K, video decoding is said to be limited to 1080p, but I believe it does support 4K video decoding based on specs listed for the Mele and E-great media players. The specs also mention RF input and output, but I’m not quite sure what means unless the box also comes with a tuner… If all these features are indeed correct, the $60 price tag seems almost too good to be true. The listed price on Alibaba is $32 to $40.

If you are about to say “still no SATA”, other RTD1195 models from Mele, Egreat A9, as well as EWEAT EW902 will come with an external SATA port, or a SATA bay, but none of these are currently listed on Aliexpress or other e-retailer sites.

Thanks to Gabe for the tip.

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MXQ S85 Android TV Box Based on Amlogic S805 is Available for $50

September 17th, 2014 2 comments

Android media players powered by Amlogic S805 quad core processor such as TV110 are already pretty cheap at around $60, but there’s currently a deal on Gearbest where you can get MXQ S85 for less than $50 without Bluetooth and about $55 with Bluetooth by using BackToSchool8 coupon to get 8% discount. Prices include shipping.

MXQ_S85MXQ S85 specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S805 quad core ARM Cortex A5 @ 1.5GHz with quad core Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB NAND flash + micro SD slot (up to 32GB)
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and optional Bluetooth 4.0.
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4, AV output
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, optical S/PDIF
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports + 1 x micro USB OTG port
  • Misc – IR sensor
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 11.4x 11.4 x 2.3 cm
  • Weight – 137 grams

The box ships with a power adapter, HDMI and AV cables, 1x OTG cable. an IR remote control, and user’s manual. The operating is Android 4.4.2.  There’s no mention of Wi-Fi module, but it’s likely the version without Bluetooth features AP6210 (2.4Ghz Wi-Fi), and the other AP6330 (dual band Wi-Fi + BT 4.0). This type of device should be good if you only plan to play 1080p videos (no 4K), and require HEVC video playback.

Via AndroidPC.es

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Creating and Flashing an Android Image from Rockchip RK3288 SDK

September 17th, 2014 10 comments

Following up on my post explaining how to build Android for RK3288 TV box, I’ve generated a firmware image, and flashed it to Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta TV box to see if it could boot properly. There’s basically no information in the Andoird SDK explaining how to do basic things like building from source, and generating and flashing the resulting image, so I’d like to thanks Linuxium, Droidmote and Naobsd for their various tips.

Launcher Part of Android SDK for RK3288 (Click for Original Size)

Launcher Part of Android SDK for RK3288 (Click for Original Size)

Since I’ve built everything from source, I’m using a Linux machine, but you should be able to create and flash the Android image in Windows using tools in RKTools/windows folder.

First let’s copy the required, and freshly built, files to create the firmware:

cp rockdev/Image-rk3288/* RKTools/linux/Linux_Upgrade_Tool_v1.2/rockdev/Image/
cp RKTools/rk3288-3.10-uboot-data1G.parameter.txt RKTools/linux/Linux_Upgrade_Tool_v1.2/rockdev/parameter
cp RKTools/bootloader/uboot-emmc/RK3288Loader_uboot_Apr212014_134842.bin RKTools/linux/Linux_Upgrade_Tool_v1.2/rockdev/
cd RKTools/linux/Linux_Upgrade_Tool_v1.2/rockdev/

We’ll also need to edit package-file follows (I only had to change the bootloader field):

# NAME Relative path
#
#HWDEF HWDEF
package-file package-file
bootloader RK3288Loader_uboot_Apr212014_134842.bin
parameter parameter
misc Image/misc.img
kernel Image/kernel.img
boot Image/boot.img
recovery Image/recovery.img
system Image/system.img
backup RESERVED
#update-script update-script
#recover-script recover-script

And now create the firmware file:

./mkupdate
start to make update.img...
Android Firmware Package Tool v1.0
------ PACKAGE ------
Add file: ./package-file
Add file: ./RK3288Loader_uboot_Apr212014_134842.bin
Add file: ./parameter
Add file: ./Image/misc.img
Add file: ./Image/kernel.img
Add file: ./Image/boot.img
Add file: ./Image/recovery.img
Add file: ./Image/system.img
Add CRC...
Make firmware OK!
------ OK ------
********RKImageMaker ver 1.61********
Generating new image, please wait...
Writing head info...
Writing boot file...
Writing firmware...
Generating MD5 data...
MD5 data generated successfully!
New image generated successfully!
Making update.img OK.
Press any key to quit:

The firmware file update.img can be flashed with upgrade_tool in Linux, or AndroidTool in Windows. Orion R28 also supports updates from SD card, but I don’t know how to generate such images (yet).

First you need to enter recovery mode. Connect the USB OTG port of your device to your PC, insert a toothpick in the AV port of your device to press the recovery push button (location of recovery button will differ between products), turn on the device, and release the button after a few seconds.

The first time I used upgrade_tool, I got the error “Creating Comm Object failed!”,  changing udev rules in Ubuntu will fix the issue (Source Radxa website):

sudo sh -c 'echo SUBSYSTEM==\"usb\", ATTR{idVendor}==\"2207\", MODE=\"0666\", GROUP=\"plugdev\" > /etc/udev/rules.d/51-android.rules'
sudo udevadm control --reload-rules
sudo udevadm trigger

Orion_R28_106k8Finally flash the firmware:

./upgrade_tool uf rockdev/update.img
Loading firmware...
Support Type:RK32 FW Ver:4.4.02 FW Time:2014-09-17 14:55:05
Loader ver:0.02 Loader Time:2014-04-21 15:36:59
Upgrade firmware ok.

Now cross your fingers, and restart your TV box: Google TV logo… Android animation… and after asking a few questions about Google Play, the system asks you which launcher you want to select: stock Android, or a custom launcher as shown in the top of this post. That means it works! Great!

Unfortunately, I quickly realized Ethernet does not work, as the MAC Address is 00:00:00:00:00:00, and the firmware version of the SDK (106k4) does not match with the firmware version originally flashed into Orion R28 Meta (108k4), and they’ve now updated it to 109k4. Wi-Fi did work fine however, I could login to Google Play, and install ES File Explorer. XBMC 13.1 Gotham is also part of that firmware, but won’t work that well based on testing from other RK3288 TV boxes.

I had initially planned to test Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta with the firmware built from the SDK, but unfortunately the SDK and actual released firmware are out of sync, which means the SDK is not really useful, and I don’t think the manufacturers are interested in released up-to-date source code. So instead I’ll do some hardware testing using the provided firmware.

If you want to play around Rockchip RK3288, including testing Ubuntu on your device, you may want to checkout Firefly-RK3288 Wiki, now updated with English instructions partially inspired from Radxa and Androtab websites.

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Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta RK3288 TV Box Unboxing

September 13th, 2014 13 comments

GeekBuying sent me one of their Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta (Beta) Android TV boxes powered by Rockchip RK3288 SoC. This model comes with 2GB DDR3, 16 eMMC, and 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi. R28 Mega is the mid-range model, and there are two others models R28 Pro (entre-level) and R28 Telos (premium). I’ve already listed specifications for the three Tronsmart Orion R28 models. Today, I’ll show some picture of the device, and the board to find out more about the design of the product. Before reviewing the product in another post, I’ll probably build the image using the provided Android 4.4 SDK (provided I can download it), and perform the full review next week with the resulting firmware.

Tronsmart Orion Meta R28 Unboxing

I’ve received the parcel via DHL within 2 days. The same package will be used for all three models, but you’ll have a sticker on the side for Pro, Meta or Telos, as well as specifications at the back with options for 2 or 4 GB RAM, 8, 16 or 32 GB eMMC, and 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac or 802.11 b/g/n.
Tronsmart_Orion_R28_Meta_PackageThe box comes with an external Wi-Fi antenna, a IR remote control requiring 2x AAA batteries (not included) a micro USB to USB cable, an HDMI cable, and a 5V/3A power adapter. There’s also a user’s manual in English that I forgot to include in the picture below.

Tronsmart_Orion_R28_Accessories

Orion R28 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

There’s a new good trend for power buttons which are now located on the top of the boxes that I recently received, and it’s the same for Orion R28. On the front panel, there’s just the window for the IR receiver, two USB 2.0 ports and a micro SD slot can be found on the side, and the rear panel has most of the ports: DC in barrel, AV output, optical S/PDIF, Gigabit Ethernet, antenna connector, HDMI 2.0 output, another USB 2.0 host port, and a micro USB OTG port. A micro SD card with the SDK was supposed to be included, but they forgot to include it in my package, so instead I’ll have to download it (link provided at the end of this post).

Tronsmart Orion R28 (Click to Enlarge)

Tronsmart Orion R28 (Click to Enlarge)

Markings for FCC and CE are written on the package, but on the bottom of the enclosure I can only see a CE marking.

Unboxing video:

Tronsmart Orion Meta R28 Board

Now let’s open the enclosure. Removing the two rubbers pads on the bottom reveals three screws. After I had untightned them I expected the box to open easily, but it would not come off despite all my efforts… That’s because there’s another screw, under the “Tronsmart Orion R28″ sticked. After you remove that one, it becomes much easier…

Orion R28 Meta Board (Click to Enlarge)

Orion R28 Meta Board (Click to Enlarge)

The wireless module is indeed AP6335 which supports 802.11 b/g/n, 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.0. Sandisk SDIN7DP4-16G is a 16GB eMMC, and RK1000 chip is used for composite output. Access to the serial console should be very easy since there are the four through holes for Tx, Rx, GND and 5V on the top right. Other accessible I/Os are I2C and UART3 (bottom right), and 4 more pins for USB. The board name is not readable as they’ve stuck a “Tronsmart Orion R28″ sticker on top.

Bottom of Orion R28 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of Orion R28 Board (Click to Enlarge)

The only noticeable chip on the back of the board is Realtek RTL8211E Gigabit Ethernet transceiver.

Rockchip RK3288 Soc and RAM (Click to Enlarge)

Rockchip RK3288 Soc and RAM (Click to Enlarge)

Removing the heatsink is easy as there’s just two small bits with springs holding it. Instead of using thermal pad like in Kingnovel K-R68, there’s some thermal paste between the heatsink and Rockchip RK3288. Four DDR3 memory chips (MIRA P3P4GF4BLF) are used to get 2GB RAM.

That’s all for today,. The next step is to download the Android SDK (if somebody can re-upload it to mega.co.nz, it would be help Link to mega.co.nz mirror. Thanks Kostas!), build the Android image, and flash it to the box. You can pre-order the final version of Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta for $119.99 on GeekBuying, but if you don’t need 802.11ac, and can do with 8GB eMMC instead of 16GB, the Orion R28 Pro goes for $99.99.

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