We’ve had a first glimpse at RK3368 Android TV Boxes when Rockchip showcased X6 TV box during one of their events. However, that box was targeting the Chinese market only, but Eny Technology informed me they are about to launch EKB368 TV box destined to overseas markets.
Eny EKB368 specifications:
SoC – Rockchip RK3368 octa core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.5 GHz with PowerVR G6110 GPU with support for OpenGL ES 1.x/2.0/3.x, OpenGL 3.2, DirectX 9.3, OpenCL 1.2 EP, and Renderscript
System Memory – 2 GB DDR3 (Option: 1GB)
Storage – 8GB NAND flash (Options: 4GB/8GB/16GB/32GB) + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0 (AP6335 by default)
USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
Power Supply – 5V/2A
Dimensions – N/A
Remember that although RK3368 has eight 64-bit ARM cores, these are “LITTLE” Cortex A53 cores @ 1.5 GHz instead of the faster Cortex A17 cores @ 1.8GHz used in RK3288, meaning RK3368 product performance should be lower RK3288, but obviously from a marketing point of view “64-bit octa core ARM processor” looks great. Eny is normally not using eMMC flash in their product, but slower NAND flash instead, so you cannot expect very fast boot time or apps loading times. However, network connectivity is pretty good on paper with Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac, HDMI 2.0 is supported, and Android 5.1 should also offer a performance boost compared to Android 4.4 used in RK3288 mini PCs.
Pricing is not public yet, but the box should start selling next month. To get a rough idea of the price, Gabe found out CSA90 TV box also powered by RK3368, but with only 1GB RAM, sells for $76.99 including shipping by EMS, so at least pricing of RK3368 mini PCs should be fairly competitive.
Action Semi ATM7039 quad core Cortex A9 processor was launched in 2013 and can be found in low cost tablets, but the company has now launched ATM7039S processor, with similar features but adding 4K video support for OTT boxes, and Kaiboer F5 Plus is one of the first product to feature the new processor.
Kaiboer F5 Plus specifications:
SoC- Actions Semi ATM7039S quad core ARM Cortex A9r4 with PowerVR SGX544MP GPU
System memory – 2GB DDR3
Storage – 16GB + micro SD card slot (up to 32GB)
Video & Audio Output – HDMI 1.4b with HDCP 1.1 + AV port (RCA)
Video playback support – Up to 4K @ 30Hz – AVI, WMV, MOV, MKV, RM/RMVB, MP4/M4V, DivX/Xvid,FLV, 3GP, DAT, VOB, MPG/MPEG, AVS, ASF, TP, TRP, TS, M2TS/MTS. H.265, h.264, etc…
Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, and Bluetooth 4.0
USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
Misc – Power LED, reset button
Power Supply – 5V/2A
Dimensions – 187 x 128 x 24mm
The box is said to run YunOS 2.1 (Aliyun OS), based on AOSP, and it ships with a power supply, an HDMI cable, and a remote control. Kaiboer is not really interested in overseas market, so the interface will most probably only be only in Chinese, and you can have a glimpse in the review on imp3.net.
Most ARM based mini PCs come with 1 or 2GB RAM, with few exceptions like Nagrace HPH NT-V6 or Tronsmart Draco AW80 Telos featuring 4GB RAM, but they are mostly optimized for Android, and although they can also run Linux desktop distributions there are often caveats with lack of hardware video decoding for example. Solidrun has now added a new model to its Cubox-I mini PC family with Cubox-I 4×4 powered by Freescale i.MX6 quad core processor coupled with 4GB RAM, and it’s also one of the few mini PCs coming with an eSATA port.
Storage – microSD card slot, eSATA II (3 Gbps) connector
Video Output – HDMI 1.4 with 3D support
Audio Output – HDMi, optical S/PDIF
Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet (up to 470Mbps), WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
USB – 2x USB 2.0 host, 1x micro USB to RS232 port for console access
Misc – InfraRed receiver and transmitter, RTC with backup battery
Power Supply – 5V/3A via 2.1/5.5mm power jack
Dimensions – 55 x 55 x 42 mm
Cubox-i Block Diagram
CuBox-i 4×4 will ship with a 110V/220V power adapter, and a 8GB Micro SD Class 10 card preloaded with OpenELEC/Kodi or Android 4.4.2 KitKat, but you can also download GeexBox XBMC, Debian, Arch Linux ARM, OpenSUSE, and other Linux based operating systems for the platform.
ZTE XZ296702 is a dual core Cortex A9 processor with a Mali-400 GPU that targets Android set-top boxes and media players, and while Charbax filmed a video with ZX296702-AD1 development board at Linaro Connect HK, initial patchsets were recently submitted to the Linux ARM Kernel mailing list for XZ296702 SoC and the development board.
There aren’t any product page for ZX296702 processor, so instead let’s have a look at the board’s specifications:
SoC – ZTE ZX296702 dual core ARM Cortex A9 processor with Mali-400 GPU
System Memory – 512 MB RAM
Storage – 4GB flash + micro SD card
Video Output – HDMI + AV (RCA)
Audio Output – HDMI + Stereo audio (2x RCA)
Connectivity – Ethernet and Wi-Fi
USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
Power Supply – 5V
Considering the board is running Android 4.4, the specs are quite low end, however the developers claim to have performed memory optimizations, and improved the boot time to 10 seconds (Closer to 17 seconds based on the video below) in order to make the box feel like a higher-end device. I’ve been reviewing several products with higher end processors like Rockchip RK3288, Allwinner A80 or Mediatek MT6752, and fast eMMC flash, and the best devices can only boot in 15 to 20 seconds. So what kind of sorcery is that?
The developers explain that their reference platform used to boot in 30 seconds, but they’ve used open source tools, namely TuxOnice, to save RAM into the flash, and at boot time it will simply copy/uncompress the saved RAM back to memory, in the same way you use hibernation on your laptop.
ZTE ZX296702 processor is likely to be found only in ZTE set-top boxes for the Chinese and overseas market,s but I’ve also found the processor listed for sale on a Chinese website.
We’ve already seen Android set-top boxes powered by ALi M3733 dual core Cortex A9 processor with either DVB-T2 or DVB-S2 tuners. Zidoo, the maker of Zidoo X9 Android HDMI player and recorder, have unveiled a new model based on ALi processor dubbed Zidoo D1 that will come with a DVB-T2 tuner, and they’ve also released a video giving a better glimpse of the user interface used in ALi M3733 media players.
The hardware specs are very similar to Uyesee L100T2:
SoC – ALi M3733 dual core Cortex A9 processor with a dual core Mali-400 GPU
System Memory – 512 MB or 1GB DDR3
Storage – 4 or 8 GB NAND flash
Video & Audio Output – HDMI 1.4 up to 1080p + 3.5mm AV jack
DVB-T and DVB-T2 with male and female IEC 169-24 connectors for loop and output.
Frequency – 104-862MHz (VHF/UHF)
Demodulation – QPSK, 16QAM, 64QAM for DVB-T; QPSK, 16QAM, 64QAM, 256AM for DVB-T2
FFT mode – 2K,8K for DVB-T; 1K, 2K, 4K, 8K, 16K, 32K, 32K ext. for DVB-T2
FEC Code rate – 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, 5/6, 7/8 for DVB-T; 1/2, 3/5, 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, 5/6 for DVB-T2
Guard interval – 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32 for DVB-T; 14, 5/32, 1/8, 5/64, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64, 1/128 for DVB-T2
Bandwidth – 6MHz, 7MHz, 8MHz
De-multiplexer – MPEG2 ISO/IEC 13818-1
Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports including one OTG port
Misc – IR receiver, recovery button, On/Off switch
Power Supply – 5V/2A
Dimensions – 18.2 x 12 x 1.7 cm
Even the tuner part is exactly the same, and the main difference with Uyesee DVVB-T2 receiver is that they are using a 3.5 mm jack with composite and stereo audio instead of RCA connectors.
The video above shows the user interface, and the DVB part starts at 1:27, where you can see support for scanning, EPG, and other functions associated with free-to-air TV, except recording and time-shifting, which hopefully will be implemented later. I’ve been told the 512MB RAM version won’t be able to record TV channels, and you’ll need the 1GB RAM version to do so.
I don’t have pricing and availability information for Zidoo D1, but the first Uyesee L100T2 samples should be available right now, and sell for $45 + shipping, so you may be able to purchase them online for about $60 including shipping in a few weeks. Zidoo D1 is likely to be slightly more expensive, as Zidoo generally puts lots of efforts on the software side, and releases firmware often, at least it’s my experience with Zidoo X9. More pictures can be found on Zidoo D1 product page.
TBS launched their Matrix 2910 media player based on Freescale i.MX6 Quad processor in 2013, and what made the platform especially interesting was support for the company’s USB DVB tuners in their Android and Ubuntu images. The company has now unveiled its successor with TBS 2980 Matrix 2 powered by Allwinner A80 octa core processor that will also support USB DVB-T2, DVB-C & DVB-S2 tuners.
Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 2x USB 2.0 host ports
Misc – IR receiver, reset button
Power Supply – 5V/3A
Dimensions – 101 x 101 x 31 mm
Weight – 400 grams
Matrix 2 is significantly smaller than other Allwinner A80 devices like Tronsmart Draco AW80, mostly because it lacks the rather slow SATA port. The box runs Android 4.4 with Kodi pre-installed, and will ship with a power adapter, a remote control, and a user’s guide. I’ve also been told the mini PC will also boot Debian server or Ubuntu Linaro desktop distributions from the micro SD card.
The list of supported USB tuners are not been provided, but I do know TBS 5520 multi-standard USB tuner will be used for development, and it supports DVB-S/S2, DVB-C/C2, DVB-T/T2, and ISBT standards, so all these should be covered. It’s quite likely tuners supported by the original Matrix mini PC will also be supported on Matrix 2.
Popcorn Hour VTEN a Linux based media player powered by Sigma Designs SMP8757 ARM Cortex A9 processor. Contrary to the many Android TV boxes I tested in the last few years, the device is dedicated to media playback, even though it has an App Store with 59 apps including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. I’ve already taken a few pictures of the device and board, so today, I’ll go through the user interface, quickly test the app store, go through my library of video test files, and check if HDMI audio pass-through is indeed working.
Popcorn Hour VTEN User Interface
I’ve connected VTEN to an Ethernet Gigabit switch, the HDMI port to Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver which itself is connected to LG 42UB820T 4K UHD TV, and the 5V/3A power supply. Pressing the On/Off switch at the back of the player will start it, and the boot takes just under one minute.
The user interface (1280×720 resolution) is quite simple, not necessarily a disadvantage for a media player, with the date, time and weather (if applicable) on the top, as well as icons on the bottom namely: Apps Market, Local Media, Recently Played, Shortcut, Setup, Setup Wizard, and Network Media.
I assume most people will simply ignore the Apps Market. It’s quite slow to navigate, and only features 59 apps to date, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter app. However, if you don’t have another device to watch YouTube on your TV, you may still consider using it.
The Setup Wizard will allow you select your language, configure the network, and set the time and your location for weather. The Setup is fairly complete with preferences, personalization options (e.g. wallpaper, icon and text colors…), audio options with downmix / pass-through selection for most codecs including PCM, DTS and AC3 (Dolby), video options including resolution up to 1080p60 or 4K 30Hz, default zoom, aspect ratio, 3D output, and so on. You can also configure the network (IP / Proxy), manage network shares (SAMBA / NFS), configure parental control, set BD/Audio CD options, and upgrade the firmware.
The first time I booted the box, I quickly got a pop-up windows asking me if I wanted to upgrade the firmware. I went through the process, which downloaded the firmware and install it without any issues.
I used this “1 April 2015″ firmware for the complete review.
Local Media and Network Media allows you to respectively play files from USB or eSATA drive, or SAMBA or NFS shares. I did all testing from a SAMBA share, but while a USB flash drive was recognize, a Seagate USB hard drive with multiple partitions (NTFS / EXT-4 / exFAT / BTRFS) was simply ignore by the player. I could not test eSATA since I do not have any compatible drive. Finally the Shortcut is used for quick access to directories in Local Media or Network Media apps.
The best way to have a complete look at the user interface is to watch the video below, where I also test HDMI pass-through with DTS-HD MA 7.1 and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 videos, as well as 4K videos with H.264 and 10-bit HEVC / H.265.
Video Playback and Audio Pass-through Testing
I played my library of video test files from a SAMBA share running in an Ubuntu 14.04 computer with the Network Media app. The system had no issues finding my workgroups, and the PCs on the local network. The only inconvenience is that I had to input the username and password with the software keyboard using the remote control, but I guess that’s OK since it should be a one time thing.
I’ve started with some video samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus H.265 videos by Elecard, and a low resolution VP9 video:
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), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – Failed. Network Media app reports “No content found”. .rmvb files are probably filtered out
WebM / VP8 – Failed. Network Media app reports “No file listed”, as .webm files are filtered out
H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – 360p, 720p and 1080p – OK
WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – Failed. Network Media app reports “No content found”. (webm file)
All files play very well, expect VP8/VP9 and RealMedia because the file extensions are supported, and did not show in the player.
Let’s move to some higher bitrate videos:
ED_HD.avi – Audio only.
big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Plays, but could be smoother (Most players are troubles playing this file smoothly).
Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK
The Jellyfish video played fine over the Gigabit Ethernet connection, which is good news, however, I’ve seen some buffering with some other lower bitrate videos, so I wonder is Ethernet is 100% stable all of the time (TBC).
Most Android media player don’t support HD Audio pass-through via HDMI with codecs like DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD, but Sigma Designs solution have been supporting HDMI audio pass-through for years. So I’ve check using Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver via HDMI and optical S/PDIF, and I’ve also made sure to check whether downmix is working for all tested codec.
Here are the settings I used for HDMI audio pass-through.
And the results of my tests:
Video’s Audio Codec
optical SPDIF Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1
Dolby Digital+ 7.1
Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Dolby TrueHD 7.1
DTS-HD High Resolution
So HDMI audio pass-through worked perfectly for me, and VTEN is the first device I’ve tested that support DTS-HD and TrueHD pass-through with 7.1 channels. However, if you don’t own an AV receiver, but still want to play video with Dolby TrueHD audio, you’re out of the luck, at least with this firmware version. The first line of the release notes of the firmware reads “Improve on Dolby TrueHD pass-through audio drop or audio-out-of-sync problems (reduce chance of happening)”, but I encountered this bug a few times during testing. The only solution is currently to stop the video, and resume where you stopped.
Sintel-Bluray.iso (unencrypted Bluray ISO) could play fine, as well as two 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg). However, I could only get audio with Hi10p H.264 videos:
[Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – Audio only / black screen. Shows 1,000 fps in Info overlay.
[1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – Audio only / black screen. Lots of buffering despite low bitrate.
VTEN supports 4K output up to 2160p 30Hz via HDMI 1.4 output, so I tested a few 4K videos with relative success:
HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK (Appears cleaner than on other platforms, not white dots on black)
Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK, but seeking is not working.
phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Not listed in Network Media app
BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – WBlack screen and no audio
tears_of_steel_4k_H264_24fps.mov – OK
big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Plays OK (up to 30 fps), but I’ve noticed audio and video are out of sync
Overall 4K video playback is one of the best I’ve experienced so far. I’ve also check videos and pictures are not somehow downscaled but playing a 4K video test pattern, and taking a close up, as I did for 6 other ARM based 4K players.
The 4K video looks very sharp, and we can clearly see black and white pixels of the pattern video.
But jpg or png pictures are not quite as clear, so they must have been software decoded to the 720p frame buffer, instead of being rendered on an hardware scaler @ 4K resolution.
The latest Popcorn Hour model supports 3D videos, and despite my TV not supporting 3D, I’ve also checked 3D decoding capability of the platform:
bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Black screen, audio only
Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK
I’ve never manage to play the 2160p 3D video on any video, as it must require two 2160p hardware video decoders capable of decoding the top and bottom videos in the file.
Several AVI, MKV, IFO and MP4 videos (720p/1080p) could play smoothly, and without A/V sync issues. I had a bit less luck with FLV videos as only about 50% would work. One made the app restart, and I had a black screen and no audio for many of them. I also played a full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) with any troubles. The box does not really get hot, and the maximum temperature I measured with an IR thermometer was 41 C.
You can checkout my “video samples” post for links to sample videos, especially the comments section.
Popcorn Hour VTEN is a pretty decent 4K media player, and it’s actually one of the best 4K and H.265 device I’ve tested so far, as well as the only one that supports both DTS-HD Master / High Resolution, and Dolby TrueHD HDMI audio pass-through. The player is also using the same high quality metal enclosure as in Open Hour Chameleon which ensure a relatively cool operation.
That’s not to say there aren’t any issues or limitations. For example, the device could not recognize any partitions on my hard drive (NTFS/ EXT-4 / exFAT / BTRFS), some video containers format are filtered out like webm and rmvb, and I had trouble playing several FLV videos, as well as Hi10p videos, and a black screen was all I got. I’ve also come across several bugs, such as losing audio after seeking or using trick mode while playing videos with HDMI audio pass-through enabled (Not reproducible with all files), and in one case I had video and audio were out of sync. Hopefully, Cloud Media will work through all these issues over time, and make VTEN an even better device.
Cloud Media (aka Syabas) sent me their latest Popcorn Hour VTEN media player. It supports HDMI output up to 4K, H.265 video codec, and features an eSATA connector, as well as optical and coaxial S/PDIF connectors. Today, I’ll show some pictures of the kit, and teardown the box to checkout the hardware, and in a few days, I’ll report on the user interface, video playback, and HDMI audio pass-through capabilities.
Popcorm Hour VTEN Unboxing
The unexpected device was sent via Fedex in the package shown below.
It lists some of the key features such as H.265, DSD (Direct Stream Digital), FLAC, Matroska, UPnP, 3D, and 4K Ultra HD support, as well as the specs, and more features and package content in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Swedish, and Danish.
Popcorn Hour VTEN, Remote, Cables, Power Supply, User’s Guide, and Warranty (Click to Enlarge)
The box comes with an IR remote control and two AAA batteries, an HDMI cable, a SATA cable, a 5V/3A power supply, a quick start guide, and a warranty document.
Popcorn Hour V10 (Click to Enlarge)
The device itself looks very similar to Open Hour Chameleon, as they basically used the same metallic enclosure.
VTEN (aka V10) media player comes with two LEDs and the IR receiver window on the front panel, an SD card slot and a USB 2.0 host port on one side, with the rest of the port all available on the rear panel: an IR extension jack, optical and coaxial S/PDIF output, HDMI output, an Ethernet port, another USB 2.0 port, the eSATA port, an On/Off switch, and the power barrel.
Popcorn Hour VTEN Teardown
Opening the case is pretty easy, as all you need to do is to loosen four screws on the bottom.
Bottom of PCH V10 Board (Click to Enlarge)
The only interesting bit on this side is the MAC address with 00:06:DC prefix looking-up to “Syabas Technology (Amquest)”. To completely remove the board from the enclosure, you need to loosen two screws on the rear panel, and the four screws holding the PCB in place, before sliding the board out.
Just like with the Chameleon. thermal design has been neatly done with an aluminum ingot screwed to the metallic enclosure, and a thermal pad providing contact with the Sigma Designs processor.
Top of PCH V10 Board (Click to Enlarge)
The full name of the processor is “Sigma Designs SMP8757B80-CBE3 Secure Media Processor”. An SK Hynix H27U4G8F2ETR NAND flash provides 512MB internal storage, and two SK Hynix H5TQ4G63AFR DDR3 chips 1GB system memory. One of the two headers might provide access to the serial console for some hacking. There’s no wireless module for WI-Fi or Bluetooth, so an external USB dongle is required if you need wireless connectivity.