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Posts Tagged ‘media player’

Google Unveils Android 5.0 Lollipop, Nexus 6 Smartphone, Nexus 9 Tablet, and Nexus Player

October 16th, 2014 5 comments

Android L is now formally known as Android Lollipop. Since Google already released Android L preview a few month ago, we already know what’s new in Android 5.0 Lollipop with key changes including material design user interface, ART replacing Dalvik, better battery management, 64-bit support, etc… Google also announced three hardware platforms running Android 5.0: Nexus 6 Smartphone, Nexus 9 Tablet, and Nexus Player (Android TV)

Motorola Nexus 6 Smartphone

Nexus_6
Hardware specifications:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad core Krait 450 processor @ 2.7 GHz with Adreno 420 GPU
  • System Memory – 3GB RAM
  • Storage – 32 or 64 GB eMMC – No micro SD slot
  • Display – 5.96” 1440×2560 AMOLED display (493 ppi). 16:9 Aspect ratio.
  • Connectivity – 802.11 ac 2×2 (MIMO), Bluetooth 4.1, NFC
  • Cellular Network (nano SIM):
    • North America:
      • GSM – 850/900/1800/1900MHz
      • CDMA Band Class – 0/1/10
      • WCDMA Bands – 1/2/4/5/8
      • LTE Bands – 2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/25/26/29/41
      • CA DL Bands – B2-B13, B2-B17, B2-29, B4-B5, B4-B13, B4-B17, B4-B29
    • Rest of World:
      • GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
      • CDMA – not supported
      • WCDMA Bands – 1/2/4/5/6/8/9/19
      • LTE Bands – 1/3/5/7/8/9/19/20/28/41
      • CA DL – B3-B5, B3-B8
  • Audio – Dual front-facing speakers, 3.5 mm audio
  • USB – 1x micro USB 2.0 port
  • Camera
    • 13MP rear-facing with optical image stabilization dual LED ring flash (up to 4K @ 30 fps video recording)
    • 2MP front-facing camera
  • Sensors – GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, ambient light sensor, barometer
  • Battery – 3220 mAh. Up to 330 hours in standby, up to 24 hours talk time, up to 10 hours video playbacks, about up to 10 hours internet (Wi-Fi or LTE).
  • Dimensions – 82.98 x 159 .26 x 10.06 mm
  • Weight – 184 grams

The phone is clearly high-end, but there aren’t any innovative new hardware features that I could see, and all innovation resides in Android 5.0 operating system. The phone will be vailable for pre-order starting October 29th for $649 (unlocked), and ship in sometimes November. Visit Google Nexus 6 page for details.

HTC Nexus 9 Tablet

Nexus_9

Technical specifications:

  • SoC – 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 Dual core Denver @ 2.3GHz with 192-core Kepler GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB RAM
  • Storage – 16 or 32 GB eMMC – No micro SD slot
  • Display – 8.9″ QXGA (2048×1536) IPS LCD. 4:3 aspect ratio
  • Connectivity – 802.11 ac 2×2 (MIMO), Bluetooth 4.1, NFC
  • Cellular Network – Quad-band GSM, CDMA, Penta-band HSPA, LTE
  • Audio – Dual front-facing speakers with HTC BoomSound, dual microphones, 3.5 mm audio
  • USB – 1x micro USB 2.0 port
  • Camera
    • 8MP Rear camera with  auto-focus, and LED flash
    • 1.6 MP front-facing camera
  • Sensors – GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, ambient light sensor
  • Battery – 6700 mAh. Up 9.5 hours for either Wi-Fi browsing or video playback, up to 8.5 hours for LTE browsing, up to 30 days standby with either Wi-Fi or LTE.
  • Dimensions – 153.68mm x 228.25mm x 7.95mm
  • Weight – 425g (Wi-Fi), 436g (LTE)

Nexus 9 tablets will be the first and only 64-bit ARM Android 5.0 devices at launch. The Nexus 9 will be available for pre-order on October 17, starting at $399 for the Wi-Fi/16GB version, and up to $599 for the LTE/32GB version, with shipping expected for November 3. More information is available on Google Nexus 9 page.

Asus Nexus Player

Nexus_PlayerNexus player specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom quad core processor @ 1.8GHz with Imagination PowerVR Series 6 Graphics 2D/3D Engine.
  • System Memory – 1GB RAM
  • Storage – 8GB storage
  • Video Output – HDMI up to 1080p60
  • Connectivity – 802.11ac 2×2 (MIMO), Bluetooth 4.1
  • USB – 1x micro USB port
  • Power – 18W DC power (12V/1.5A?)
  • Dimensions – 120mm x 120mm x 20mm
  • Weight – 235g

The media player will come with a voice search capable Bluetooth Smart (BLE) remote control with two AAA batteries, a power adapter, a quick start guide, and a warranty, safety and regulatory booklet. There’s also an optional wireless gamepad. There’s no Ethernet port, so you’d have to make sure your Wi-Fi network is up to the task. It should be no issue for high definition online videos, but depending on your environment, it might become problematic to playback videos such as Blu-ray rips from your NAS (If that’s even supported/allowed on Android TV).

Nexus Player will go up for pre-order October 17 for $99, and start shipping on November 3. The gamepad will be $39. More information may be found on Google Nexus Player page.

If you don’t feel like buying a new devices, you’ll still get Android 5.0 Lollipopon your Nexus 4, 5, 7, 10 as well as “Google Play edition” devices in the coming weeks. Android 5.0 SDK and Nexus (preview) images will be released on October 17.

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Android TV Boxes with ATSC Tuner: Geniatech ATV1220A and Vigica C70A

October 15th, 2014 1 comment

It’s relatively easy to find an DVB-T2 Android TV box, and DVB-S2 TV boxes are less common, but last time I checked I could not find any Android media player with ATSC tuners to watch free-to-air channels in North America, South Korea, and a few smaller countries. But now there are at least two models Geniatech / Mygica ATV1220A, and Vigica C70A, both powered by Amlogic AML8726-MX dual core processor.

ATV1220(A) TV Box

ATV1220(A) TV Box

I’ve also written about Geniatech ATV1220 at the beginning of the year, which only came with a DVB-T2 tuner at the time. There’s now an ATSC version, but the rest of the specifications are identical.

So instead I’ll have a closer look at the technical specifications listed for Vigica C70A:

  • SoC – AMLogic AML8726-MX dual core Cortex A9 @ 1.5 GHz + Mali-400 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage –  4GB NAND flash + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4a, AV
  • Audio – HDMI, AV, coaxial S/PDIF
  • Terrestrial Digital TV – ATSC tuner, 1x RF IN, 1x RF OUT
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 12V/1.5A DC
  • Dimensions – N/A
  • Weight – N/A
Vigica_C70A_ATSC_Android_TV_Box

Vigica C70A

The product comes with an IR remote control, a power adapter, an AV cable,  and a user’s manual. The specifications are nearly identical to ATV1220A, except it only features with two USB port (vs four), uses a 3.5mm jack instead of RCA connector for AV output, and adds coaxial S/PDIF. Both Android STBs run Android 4.2.2 with an ATSC app, and C70A runs the MediaBox launcher found in most recent Amlogic TV boxes on the market. There are many screenshots on Aliexpress.

Genaitech ATV1220A is available on Aliexpress for $109, and Vigica C70A can be bought from several sellers on Aliexpress, Ebay, and Amazon US for $124.

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Allwinner A80 Android TV Boxes Coming Soon, Starting with Zero Devices Z8C Alice

October 12th, 2014 16 comments

Allwinner A80 based tablets such as Onda V989, and development boards such as A80 OptimusBoard started to ship one to two months ago, but there was absolutly no news about Android mini PCs / media player based on the latest Allwinner processor. This is about to change as ZeroDevices twitted about their Z8C Alice TV Box, apparently designed by Sunchip, and in collaboration with a UK based digital signage company called Eclipse Digital Media.

Zero_Devices_Z8C_AlicePreliminary technical specifications that we can infer from the picture above:

  • SoC – AllWinner Ultra Core A80 4x Cortex 15, 4x Cortex A7 big.LITTLE processor with Imagination Technologies PowerVR GC6230 GPU with support for OpenGL ES 1.1/2.0/3.0, Directx 9.3
  • System Memory – N/A
  • Storage – ?? GB eMMC + SD card slot + SATA port (most probably via a USB 2.0/3.0 bridge)
  • Video  Output – HDMI + AV port
  • Audio – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, probably Bluetooth too
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 OTG port, 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – IR receiver (not soldered on the picture above).
  • Power Supply – N/A
  • Dimensions – N/A

There’s a header at the back of the picture that might be used to connect a small board with for power button, and/or LEDs (TBC). The four through holes very close to the power barrel and S/PDIF connector is most likely the UART pins. Zero Devices also started a thread on Freaktab, where they posted a picture with showing the device get 54,253 points in Antutu. For some reasons, Antutu scores reported with devices and boards powered by Allwinner A80 have varied a lot from just a little over 30,000 to 65,000 depending on the firmware used, so any score should be taken with a grain of salt.

Pricing and availability are unknown at this stage.

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MXQ S85 Android TV Box (Amlogic S805) Review

October 11th, 2014 19 comments

MXQ S85 and EM6Q-MXQ are two main Full HD H.265 Android media players based on Amlogic S805 currently selling on Chinese online stores. I’m lucky enough to have received both, and I’ve already completed the review for EM6Q-MXQ, so today I’ll complete MXQ S85 review and compare both devices. I’ve already taken picture of the device, accessories, and checked out the board’s components in my unboxing post, so in this post, I’ll focus on the user interface, evaluate performance, and test most hardware features of this media player.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve started by a quick test of the IR remote control, and it works as expected after inserting two AAA batteries, before switching to Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse for convenience. I’ve connected all ports of the device except the S/PDIF output: Ethernet cable, HDMI and AV cables, micro SD card, USB hard drive, USB webcam, and a USB hub with two RF dongles for my air mouse and gamepad.  I’ve connected the power, pressed the power button opn the top of the box, a Blue LED turns off, “Google TV” icon appears on TV and in a little more than 40 seconds the boot completes. It’s not quite as fast as higher RK3288 TV boxes (20s), but it’s much better than the boot time on EM6Q-MXQ (1m 50s), so the flash must be faster.

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

The user interface is the Android Home screen, but you can also switch the MediaBox launcher with a Metro-style user interface found in many Amlogic S80X TV boxes, by going to the “Home” section in Android settings. The box automatically selected 1080p60 Hz video output, and the user interface resolution is 1920×1080 as you can infer from the screenshot above. I’ve noticed that switching to 720p still keep the user interface to 1920×1080 resolution, so there’s no performance gain doing so.

The “Setting” menu is based on the same Metro-style interface as EM6Q-MXQ with four sub menus: Network, Display, Advanced and Other. I’ve highlighted difference in bold.

  • 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 @ 24/50/60 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.

So it’s exactly the same as EM6Q-MXQ, except the current firmware also supports 1080p @ 24 Hz.

I’ve also tested composite output, and both 480 CVBS and 576 CVBS settings worked fine. There’s no component (YPbPr) output in this box.

I have not made a video for MXQ S85, because it’s very similar to EM6Q-MXQ, except you have the option to switch between the Android home screen or MediaBox launcher, 1080p24 is supported, and S85 is a little more responsive. But you can watch the video I shot for EM6Q-MXQ if you haven’t already where I walk through the user interface and settings, XBMC user interface (1920×1080 UI rendered at 30 fps), and show H.265 video playback in MX Player.

About_MXQ_S85MXQ-S85 comes with an 8GB NAND flash with a single partition (8.00 GB – black magic again…), and at the end of the review I still had 4.01 GB free. Looking into “About MediaBox” section, we can find out that the model number is “S85″, and the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.33. The firmware is rooted, and after I started the review I found firmware 106k4 (an updated to version 105k4 used for the review), which you can probably flash with Amlogic USB flash tool, but I have not tried.

All apps I needed for the review could be installed with Google Play Store including Antutu, 3D Mark, ES File Explorer, MX Player, Beach Buggy Blitz, A1SD benchmark, Sixaxis Controller, etc… However, as I scrolled through the list of apps installed on other Android devices, there were a few incompatible apps notably some messaging apps (Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp), Instagram, Google Translate, and a few others. But you can usually work around these issues by spoofing your device name with an app (paid), or changing build.prop. I’ve also downloaded and installed Amazon AppStore, in order to play Riptide GP2.

Albeit the box features a power button, power handling is not perfect, as a clean power off is not possible. You can either use the remote control power button to enter and exit standby, and the power button on the unit, can be used to achieve real power off, and to turn the device on, but it’s and hardware power off which powers off the device immediately, Android does not cleanly shuts down. The device temperature is pretty cool: 40°C and 46°C measured with an infrared thermometer respectively on the top and bottom of the box, right after running Android 5 benchmark. And after playing Riptide GP2 for about 10 minutes (at which stage the game froze), the maximum temperature on top and bottom reached 42°C and 46°C…

The system very pretty stable, but just like with EM6Q-MXQ, attempting to play a 4K video in XBMC will freeze the system requiring a hard reboot. However, the flash is fast enough no to experience various slowdowns, or making apps randomly exit. Android did pop up the “app not responding” windows at load time for some games, so it’s not perfect, but answering “wait” will start the games normally. Nevertheless, although it’s clearly not as snappy as the latest Amlogic S802 or Rockchip RK3288 based mini PCs, I did not find MXQ S85 frustrating to use, unlike EM6Q-MXQ.

Video Playback

Videos were playing from SAMBA share in Ubuntu 14.04 over Ethernet using XBMC 13.1 pre-installed in the system, switching to MX Player for videos that failed to play. I had no problems connect to SAMBA with XBMC and ES File Explorer.

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

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK but not that smooth (S/W decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p OK, 720p some rare parts in slowmo, 1080p plays in slow motion all the time.
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container
    • XBMC – Audio only
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode), but seeking does not work properly. It will switch to S/W decode, and the video becomes unwatchable.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video)
    • XBMC – Won’t even start
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode).

Then I played 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 (Played from USB hard drive)

Videos with high definition audio codec could be played in XBMC (with performance issues), but not in MX Player (except AC3):

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

A Blu-ray ISO video (Sintel-Bluray.iso) played perfectly in XBMC.

I tested over a dozen other videos from my library (AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB/IFO, and MP4 containers), and they could all play with any A/V sync issues. I also watched a complete 1080p video (1h50 / MKV / 3GB), so no problem with stability either.

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)

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. Wi-Fi transfer speed is still pretty good @ 2.95 MB/s on average, although not quite as fast as EM6Q-MXQ media player.

Wi-Fi Transfer Rate in MB/s

Wi-Fi Transfer Rate in MB/s

Ethernet worked at 100 Mbps connected to my Gigabit Ethernet switch, with performance similar its competitor. Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta is way ahead, simply because it’s the only box I have that actually supports Gigabit Ethernet.

Ethernet Transfer Rate in MB/s

Ethernet Transfer Rate in MB/s

For a raw benchmark of Ethernet performance, I ran iPerf app using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line. It does not quite maxes out Fast Ethernet bandwidth like Rockchip RK3288, but results are similar to EM6Q-MXQ just like with the test above.

TCP window size: 136 KByte (default)
————————————————————
[ 6] local 192.168.0.104 port 57781 connected with 192.168.0.106 port 5001
[ ID] Interval Transfer Bandwidth
[ 4] 0.0-60.0 sec 476 MBytes 66.5 Mbits/sec
[ 6] 0.0-60.0 sec 566 MBytes 79.1 Mbits/sec

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Contrary to the version of EM6Q-MXQ I reviewed, MXQ S85 comes with Bluetooth.

I could transfer pictures from my Android phone to the box over Bluetooth, Sixaxis Compatibility Checker appeared to support PS3 wireless gamepads, but my controller was not recognized.

Bluetooth LE (Smart) was tested with Vidonn X5 activity tracker, but unfortunately the app could not locate the device over BLE.

Storage

FAT32 formatted micro SD card and USB flash drive could be recognized and properly mounted by the system
Only NTFS and FAT32 partition on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed. That’s common to all Android mini PCs I tested, except A80 OptimusBoard which could mount the EXT-4 partition too (but in read-only mode).

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

A1 SD Bench was used to benchmark USB hard drive and internal flash performance. The read speed was 16.92 MB/s, and the write speed of 21.87MB/s fore NTFS partition in /storage/external_storage/sda1, both results being weak.

MXQ_S85_USB_NTFS_Benchmark

USB HDD (NTFS) Read and Write Speeds

The NAND flash speed is clearly not outstanding at 15.8 MB/s (read) and 6.83 MB/s (write), but still better than EM6Q-MXQ, and apparently good enough for a smooth operation of the device most of the time.

MXQ_S85_NAND_Flash_BenchmarkUSB Webcam

I had troubles with both Skype and Google Hangouts with my USB webcam. I did manage to see the image in Skype once, but never long enough to make a phone call. The camera is not detected at all in Hangouts.

Gaming

Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2 could run on the box. I played Candy Crush Saga with my air mouse, and switched to Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad for Beach Buggy Blitz and Riptide GP2. For each game, the system showed up pop up with “App XXX is not responding. Do you want to close it?”, but selecting “Wait” could load the games just fine. Beach Buggy Blitz framerate felt good using the default settings (low res), but I did notice some very short freezes (<1s) from time to time. Riptide GP2 is not really enjoyable with default settings (high resolution), but lowering the resolution makes it relatively enjoyable to play. Riptide GP2 freezing I encountered on other Amlogic s802/S805 devices, and Allwinner A80 development board occurred yet again, after just around 10 minutes of play time. I’m not sure if the game itself is buggy, or the GPU drivers/libraries are. I checked the maximum temperature on the top and bottom of the device at that time, and I got 42°C and 46°C.

Even if games can run, the gaming experience is not great, and you should really consider spending more to get a Rockchip RK3288, or not as good, Amlogic S802 devices if you are really interested in playing games. Nvidia Tegra K1 devices should even be better but in a completely different price category.

MXQ S85 Benchmarks

CPU-Z shows the device is indeed powered a quad ARM Cortex A5 processor clocked between 24 MHz and 1.49 GHz, but instead of using a performance governor, MXQ S85 is using a hotplug (on-demand). The board is m201, which can be a useful thing to know in case you download firmware files. FYR, EM6Q-MXQ is based on hd18t board.

Amlogic_S805_CPU-Z_MXQ_S85

The devices gets 16,448 points in Antutu 5.1 which is consistent with the score I got with EM6Q-MXQ (16,647).

MXQ_S85_Antutu_5.1

There are some differences in Vellamo 3 however, with a lower Browser score (812 vs 1061), a higher multicore score (1319 vs 1139). The metal score is about the same.

Vellamo_3_MXQ_S85

Ice Storm Extreme test in 3DMark is about the same with 2,308 points (vs 2,325 for EM6Q-MXQ), and clearly shows the relatively low performance of the quad core Mali-450MP GPU used in S805 compared to high-end SoC with better GPUs.

S85_3D_Mark_Ice_Storm_Extreme

Conclusion

MXQ S85 is actually a pretty good device and performance considering the price (<$50). Wi-Fi and Ethernet are pretty decent, video codecs/containers is quite good in XBMC, and H.265 can be played in MX Player, but not yet in XBMC. The firmware is pretty stable, and I did not come across massive slowdowns like in EM6Q-MXQ.

PRO:

  • The firmware is stable, relatively smooth to operate, and only hung when trying to play 4K videos
  • Good XBMC support.
  • HEVC/H.265 hardware video decoding support. Working in MX Player, but not with XBMC (yet)
  • Very good price/performance ratio.
  • Good Wi-Fi, and decent Ethernet performance
  • Video Output – Supports 1080p24/50/60 (but no 25/30 Hz), and composite output (NTSC/PAL).

CONS:

  • Despite having a power button, power off is not perfect (no clean power off)
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (mostly used for wearables) is not currently supported.
  • OTA firmware upgrade is not working
  • USB / NTFS storage performance is disappointing.
  • USB webcam did not work reliably for me in either Skype and Hangouts.
  • “App xxx not responding” message may appear while loading large apps such as games.

Gearbest provided the sample for review, so if you are interested in purchasing you could do so on their site for $47.99 (with MXQBCM coupon), or for $45.99 (with MXQCM coupon) for the version without Bluetooth. Coupons are valid until November 30, 2014. MXQ-S85 can also be found on other stores including DealExtreme, Amazon US, Dealsmachines, and Aliexpress.

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Kaiboer Q8 Android Media Player Features USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, and a 2.5″ SATA Bay

October 8th, 2014 8 comments

Kaiboer Q8 may look like an alarm clock radio, but it’s definitely an upcoming Android media player powered by Mstar 9810 SoC with 2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and an internal 2.5″ SATA bay. The company had previously launched three MSO9810 Android STBs, two of which did not support hard drives, and one with a 3.5″ SATA bay, so this new product fills the void for 2.5″ hard drives.

Kaiboer_Q8Kaiboer Q8 specifications:

  • SoC – Mstar MSO9180D1R Quad core ARM Cortex A9 @ 1.5GHz with a quad-core ARM Mali-450MP GPU.
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC + microSD card slot + internal SATA bay for 2.5″ drives
  • Video I/O – HDMI in, HDMI out (All models)
  • Audio I/O – HDMI in/out, optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs –  Up to 4K. MPEG-1/2, MPEG-4, DivX, H.264, H.265 VC-1, H.263, Real Media, MVC, etc…
  • Audio Formats – MPEG, WMA, WAV, APE, OGG, FLAC, ACC, Dolby Digital, DTS…
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x USB3.0 port
  • Front panel – LED display wit 5 digits and various icons
  • Misc – Power and back buttons, and D-Pad on device, with another power button on the rear panel.
  • Power Supply – N/A
  • Dimensions – N/A

Kaiboer_Q8_Rear_Panel_with_SATA_bayHard drives can simply be inserted in the slot you can see on the rear panel above. This media player is said to run Android 4.3, and the package should include an IR remote control among other accessories. Kaiboer seems fully focused on the Chinese market, and I’m not aware of any English version of their firmware for previous models, so even the hardware looks quite interesting, and it should become available on Aliexpress, most people may want to skip this product, unless the company has changed their stance about oversea markets. It might be possible to change the language to English in the settings, and I’m not 100% sure Google Play Store is pre-installed, so it might have to be manually installed.

There’s no word about pricing nor availability at this stage, but you can find more information on Kaiboer Q8 product page (in Chinese).

Via AndroidPC.es

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Can Rockchip RK3288 Android TV Boxes Play Videos at True 4K UHD / 2160p Resolution?

October 6th, 2014 22 comments

[Update: The post has now been updated, after it was clear one of MX Player options was misunderstood. The conclusion remains the same]

Over the last few years there have been complains about Android TV boxes decoding 1080p video, rendering them to a 720p frame buffer, and upscaling them back to 1080p resolution for video output, so you ended up playing 1080p videos at a real 720p resolution. I never investigated the issue in details, and thanks to new media players now coming with a 1080p user interface / framebuffer, the debate for 1080p has more or less ended, and instead it has moved to 4K media players. A few days ago, 4K test patterns (actually 2160p / 3840×2160) were released as a PNG picture, and an lossless H.264 MKV video so that 4K resolution could be tested. The reason for having both a picture and a video is because both may go through different hardware path as I explained the aforementioned post. I don’t have a 4K TV myself, but Javi, working for Asiapads, tested both the picture and video on the upcoming Zero Devices Z5C Thinko HDMI TV stick powered by Rockchip RK3288 with a Samsung UHD TV.

First the bad but expected news. Even if you set 3840×2160 video output in the device, the user interface resolution remains at 1920×1080, so if you display the 4K test pattern, comprised of a grid of black and white pixels, you would only see a gray background, or an image with a low resolution. So if what you are looking for is a device to play games, browse the web for super sharp text, you’ll need to find another solution, probably a full blown computer with a graphics card capable of handling 4K UHD resolution.

What about video playback? The first challenge is to find a player that will actually play the video, because it seems most player won’t have lossless H.264 at all. To play 4K_video_test_pattern.mkv, you need to do the following:

  1. Install MX Player app
  2. Play 4K_video_test_pattern.mkv in MX Player, and on the top of the app click on H/W to select S/W decoder
  3. Click on the icon on the right of the Next button to adjust the aspect ratio to “100%” so that the image is not distorted. fit to screen.
  4. Click on pause to have time investigating

Here are the results on Zero Devices Z5C Thinko at 3180×2160 @ 30 Hz. [Update: this picture is based on 100% setting in MX Player, which zooms the video, so in any screen resolution, all pixels will be seen, even if you use 320x240.... But as we'll see below, even in 100% mode we can determine whether a device supports 4K or not]

4K_test_pattern_RK3288and if the device is set to 1080p resolution:

4K_Test_Pattern_1080pThe pictures are not taken with the same level of camera zoom, but it still seems convincing. 4K looks much better, so it must be that RK3288 Android devices really output 4K after all.

I also tried this yesterday on A80 OptimusBoard (AllWinner A80) connected to a Full HD Panasonic television, and I could clearly see some black and white dots [Update: Because I used "100%" mode which turn out actual show all pixel (even off screen) and in effect zooms the video], so I decided to take a picture too

4K_vs_UHD_test_patternThe left part above is taken from the picture of the Samsung 4K TV, and the right part is taken from a picture of my Panasonic FHD (1080p) TV, and it becomes pretty obvious what happened here. First on the top of the number “4” there are 6 dots on both pictures, so that’s the first oddity. But when you look at the red dots on both pictures, it’s pretty clear to see what happened. For each black and white dots on the UHD display there are two red dots, but only one on my FHD television. The conclusion is that MX Player very cleverly interpolated the dots to re-create a 1-pixel grid at 1080p resolution, and the real picture quality output from the Rockchip RK3288 is actually 1080p despite outputting a 3840×2160 signal to the TV, so “4K” does indeed appear to be a marketing trick rather than a reality, as it applies to video decoding and output capability only, but the image is downscaled at some stage before being upscaled again. The same is most probably true for Amlogic S802 based Android media players too. I’m pretty confident with my conclusions, but I’d be glad to read other opinions. The only thing I don’t understand is why 1080p video output on Z5C Thinko looks so much different than 2160p.

The left part above is taken from the picture of the Samsung 4K TV, and the right part is taken from a picture of my Panasonic FHD (1080p) TV, both using 100% mode in MX Player, which explains why all pixels are shown. But if you look on the 1080p TV, only one pixel is used for each black or white dots, whereas on the 4K TV, it’s clear 4 pixels (2×2) are used for each dot, meaning the true video resolution is actually 1080p, as if it was 4K UHD (aka 2160p), there would be one pixel per dot in 100% mode.

Moreover, If I play the video in MX Player using “fit to screen” on the TV, the background is clearly gray, as expected, and I understand Javi could only see the white and grey dots on his 4K UHD when using 100% mode in MX Player. So the  conclusion is clear: Rockchip RK3288 based Android devices, and probably Amlogic S802 Android devices, can not output true 4K videos / images, so it’s just a marketing trick, with the devices being capable of decoding 4K UHD videos, and outputting 4K UHD to your TV, but unfortunately the video is downscaled, before being upscaled in the process, so what you see on your new shiny 4K TV is actually a video rendered @ 1080p resolution.

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Unboxing of MXQ S85 Android Media Player Powered by Amlogic S805 Processor

October 5th, 2014 15 comments

Gearbest sent me MXQ S85 Android media player powered by Amlogic S805 quad core processor with 1GB RAM, 8GB internal storage, and Ethernet/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity. MXQ S85 looks very similar to EM6Q-MXQ, another Amlogic S805 based Android STB, which I reviewed last week, but these are two distinct hardware platforms. Today, I’ll take some pictures of the devices, and the board to see which components are used, and who made the board, and I’ll write a full review in a few days.

MXQ S85 Pictures

I’ve received the parcel via DHL in the nameless package below where they just indicate it’s and Android TV box with a quad core processor, quad core GPU, pre-loaded with XBMC, and supporting HEVC / H.265

MXQ_S85_Package

The package contains the box, HDMI and AV cables, an OTG adapter, a 5V/2A power supply, an IR remote requiring two AAA batteries, and a user’s manual in English. The company also included a US plug adapter outside the product package.

MXQ S85 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

MXQ S85 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

One quick way to differentiate between MXQ S85 and EM6Q-MXQ is the MX test on top of a red band that’s specific to MXQ Q85.

MXQ S85 (Click to Enlarge)

MXQ S85 (Click to Enlarge)

There’s a power button right on the center on the top of the enclosure. On one side, we’ll find a micro SD card slot, a micro USB OTG port, as well two USB 2.0 ports, and on the rear panel, we can see the DC power jack, the AV output (composite + stereo audio), an Ethernet port, and HDMI port, and optical S/PDIF.

If you prefer an unboxing video, here it is.

MXQ S85 Board Pictures

There aren’t any screws on the outside of the case, so you need to use a flat-head precision screwdriver to pop-up the bottom of the enclosure.

Botton of MXQ S85 PCB (Click to Enlarge)

Botton of MXQ S85 PCB (Click to Enlarge)

The sticker make it clear it’s yet another board made by Shenzhen Netxeon Technology, and that the board features on Amlogic S805 with 1GB RAM, 8GB storage, and AP6210 Wi-Fi module. There are also some though holes that could be interesting,. But let’s remote four screws to completely take the board out of the case.

MXQ S85 Board (Click to Enlarge)

MXQ S85 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Contrary to EM6Q-MXQ, there aren’t any metallic plate inside the enclosure so the box is much lighter, and we’ll have to see if it has any consequence with regards to power dissipation. There’s no heatsink either, but instead a gray sticker, which I peeled and put on the left side in the picture. The board is named S85_V2.0_20140716, and definitely made by Netxeon… Beside the S805 processor, two MIRA P3P4GF4BLF DDR3 chips, and a 8GB 29F64G08CBABA NAND flash are soldered on the board. We can also confirm AP6210 is indeed the Wi-Fi module (2.4GHz) chosen for this product. Some of my readers bought TV110 media player, also powered by Amlogic S805,  and they are now unable to flash an updated firmware since there is no recovery button, but luckily S85 does feature one just at the back of the AV output jack. There are also three unconnected header including one that looks like a JTAG header, and the one of the two 4-pin headers must be used to access the serial console.

Gearbest currently sells MXQ S85 for a little over $50. There are two versions: one without Bluetooth, and one with, which costs about $6 more. Other shopping options include Dealsmachines ($49 – allegedly with Bluetooth), DealExtreme, Amazon US, and Aliexpress.

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