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Posts Tagged ‘media player’

ZRRO Android Game Console Includes a Hover and Touch Controller (Crowdfunding)

February 18th, 2015 1 comment

Android games are fun to play… on smartphones and tablets, but if you want to play such games on a TV screen via an Android mini PC, it can become more problematic, as most of the games were designed for touchscreen, so you have to be prepare to juggle between input devices.. In my reviews, I have to play Candy Crush Saga with an air mouse, and I switch to a wireless gamepad for racing games such as Riptide GP2 or Beach Buggy Racing, while some games are simply not playable at all without touch emulation, unless you install a software remote such as Droidmote on your smartphone, and use the latter as a controller, which may not be ideal either. ZRRO, an Israeli company, came with a new package comprised of an Android game console (ZRRO Box), and a game controller (ZRRO Pad) featuring a hover and touch surface to play games, and a few buttons to control android.

ZRRO_BOXZRRO Box preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S802 quad core Cortex A9 processor @ 2.0 GHz with 8 core Mali-450MP6 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM
  • Storage – 16GB flash + micro SD slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4a up to 4K @ 30Hz (for videos and pictures)
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Power Supply – N/A
  • Dimensions – N/A
  • Weight – N/A

ZRRO_PAD

ZRRO Pad specifications:

  • Multi-finger hover & touch finger powered by Ztouch technology combining mutual capacitance and self-capacitance sensors
  • Buttons – On/Off, Volume, Recent, Home, and Back

So they did not provide that many technical details,. but I assume the controller communicates with the box via a 2.4GHz RF connection, as commonly found on many other input devices. If you wonder if you could just buy the controller, the answer is unfortunately no, simply because the Android firmware needs to be modified.

The company intends to raise $200,000 via a Kickstarter campaign, and after about a day, they’ve managed to reach over $50,000 so far. The cheapest Early bird perk ($149) is now sold out, but there’s still a $179 early bird perk including ZRRO Box, Pad, and Armor (a case). Once these are sold your you can get the box and controller for $199. Delivery is scheduled for October 2015, and shipping is included.

Via Liliputing.

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M9 Android TV Box Based on Amlogic S812 Sells for $63 (Promo)

February 16th, 2015 8 comments

M9 (aka E8 Plus) is yet another Android media player powered by Amlogic S812 with 2GB RAM and 8GB flash, but it’s currently selling for $62.71 including shipping on Aliexpress from a seller with positive feedback. The offer is valid for 17 hours more.
M9_TV_BoxM9 specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S812 quad core cortex A9r4 @ 2 GHz with octa-core Mali-450MP6 GPU @ 600+ MHz
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB NAND flash + SD card socket
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4b up to 4K2K @ 30 Hz, AV port
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs – 4k2k H.264, H.265 UHD, HD MPEG1/2/4, AVC/VC-1, RM/RMVB, Xvid/DivX3/4/5/6, RealVideo8/9/10,
  • Audio Formats/Codecs – MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG, FLAC, APE, AC3, AAC etc… Dolby TrueHD & DTS-HD pass-through
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button and LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – N/A
  • Weight – N/A

M9_Rear_Panel
The device runs Android 4.4, and ships with an HDMI cable, an IR remote control, a power supply, and a user’s manual in English.

I’ve checked some other shops, and the $63 price tag seems to be a pretty good deal, compared to $90 on Ebay, and about $80 with other Aliexpress sellers.

Thanks to Gabe for the tip.

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Egreat A9 Quad Core Android Media Player Comes with HDMI Input, a 3.5″ SATA Bay

February 13th, 2015 13 comments

Egreat A9 was first shown in spring last year with a Realtek RTD1195 processor, but it’s only now that I could see it for sale. But just like Zidoo X9, the device is now powered by Mstar MSO9810 quad core processor, and features an HDMI input port with PVR capabilities, but adds an internal 3.5″ SATA bay, double the internal storage (16GB eMMC), as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port.

Egreat_A9Egreat A9 specifications:

  • SoC – Mstar MSO9180-DB2 quad core Cortex A9 processor up to 1.5GHz with an ARM Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC flash + 3.5″ internal SATA bay
  • Video Output / Input –  HDMI 1.4b output up to 4K30, HDMI input (1080p) with PVR support
  • Audio I/O – HDMI Out and In, and optical S/PDIF
  • Video Containers & Codecs
    • DAT, MPEG, MPE, MPG, TS, TP, VOB, ISO, AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, FLV, MKV, M2TS, MTS, M4V, WMV, ASF
    • 3D Video – FramePackaging 3D, Left / Right Side-by-Side 3D, Up / Down Side-by-Side 3D, Checkerboard
    • 4K/2K H.265/HEVC hardware decoding
  • Audio Support
    • DD/DD+/Dolby True-HD/DTS/DTS-HD MA/MP2/MP3/WMA/WAV/OGG/OGA/FLAC/ALAC/APE/AAC
    • Audio Pass-Through – Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, DTS-HD MA
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, Dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (MT7632 module), Bluetooth 4.0. Dual external antennas.
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 3x USB 2.0 host ports.
  • Misc – IR receiver, power button, (firmware) update pinhole, LCD display and buttons on front panel, fan
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A
  • Dimensions – 198 x 199 x 60 mm (Aluminum enclosure)
  • Weight – 1.19 kg
Egreat_A9_USB3_GigabitThe device runs Android 4.4. It ships with an IR remote control, an HDMI cable, a power adapter, a user’s manual, and a warranty card.

With USB 3.0, SATA, and Gigabit Ethermet, it could be used as a NAS too, although the firmware might not support it, and you may have to use third-party apps. The Mstar processor is about equivalent to Amlogic S805 in terms of CPU and GPU processing power.

In my review of Zidoo X9, XBMC/Kodi experience was not really optimal, and audio-pass-through was limited to Dolby / DTS 5.1 in Kodi, and in the company’s “Explorer” app DTS-HD 7.1 and TrueHD 7.1 audio was output as Dolby / DTS 5.1. I reviewed Egreat H5 previously (2013), and I never saw any firmware update for the device, but hopefully the company has improved since then, and they claim to have Vidon.me XBMC, so Kodi / audio pass-through might be better implemented than in Zidoo X9, but it’s something that would need to be tested. [Update: Based on comments below, MSO9180-DB2 processor found in Egreat A9 should support 7.1 pass-through contrary to MSO9180D1R found in Zidoo X9]

GeekBuying sells the media player & recorder for $179.79, but since the device is pretty heavy, shipping is not included, and only DHL, EMS or TNT shipping is available bringing the price to over $200. Despite the extra features, it’s still quite a gap compared to the ~$120 you would pay for Zidoo X9. I could not find other e-retailers selling the device yet, but it’s also listed on Alibaba.

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Review of Zidoo X9 Android Media Player and Video Recorder

February 11th, 2015 10 comments

Zidoo X9 is quite a unique product on the market, as it’s the only low cost Android platform that I know of that features an HDMI input port with recording capabilities. The hardware is actually based on Kaiboer F5, with some modifications, but the latter focuses on the Chinese market, while Zidoo X9 targets oversea markets with an English firmware by default. I took pictures of Zidoo X9 and its board about a month ago, but a busy schedule and some initial issues with Google Play Store delayed the review. Finally, I’ve completed testing of the device, and ready to share my findings about performance, stability, and features in this review.

OTA Firmware Update

I’ve had to go through two firmware updates before carrying on with the review, and this part is working great, and they even include a detailed changelog with each release, which they also publish on their blog. Normally a window will pop-up once the firmware is available, but you can also go to App Manager->OTA Update to perform an online update, a local update, and/or check the update log.

Zidoo_X9_OTA_Firmware_UpgradeOnce the download is complete, it will reboot to complete the update.

Zidoo_X9_Firmware_UpdateFirmware 1.0.26 was used for this review.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The package include a IR remote control which works fine with their user interface, and you’ll need the “Menu” key in the HDMI IN app, so even though I used Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse in many case, I still had to revert to used Zidoo X9 remote from time to time. I’ve connected my USB hard drive to the USB 3.0 port of the device, a USB keyboard, a USB hub with two RF dongles, a USB flash drive, and a webcam, HDMI and Ethernet cables, as well as a DVB-T2 set-top box to the HDMI input port. Boot time takes about 35 seconds. The LCD display ion the front panel shows “Boot”m “Hello”, and finally the current time.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The user interface is quite different from other Android media players, and I find it quite eye-pleasing, but I also noticed I need more key presses than usual to navigate the menus. There are mostly folders (Browser, Media Center, Video, Music, Game, Other Apps) with relevant apps, as well as direct shortcuts to Google Play, the App Manager (list of apps), and HDMI IN app that handle HDMI input and video recording function.

Zidoo_X9_Settings

The Settings menu has fix sub-sections:

  • System – Standard Android Settings
  • Weather – To display the weather for your city on the top left of the home screen.
  • Parental Control
  • Clean Up – Task Killer, Cache Cleaner, APK File, and APP Manager (to uninstall apps)
  • Base Settings – Screen Saver Delay, Themes (Background image), Key Sound, and Use Featured Data (Probably for weather on home screen)
  • About – Provides info about the system

About_Zidoo_X9

So most configuration options are done in the Android settings.

Wireless & Networks section includes Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Data use, and More… sub menus, the latter only listing Portable hotspot options. Sound options only provide S/PDIF option between PCM or RAW (for pass-through), but this also is also used to for HDMI audio pass-through. The Display sections let you adjust the screen scale, and select the resolutions: 4K2KP_30, 4K2KP_25, 1080P_60, 1080P_50, 720P_60, 720P_50, 576P_60 and 480P_60. I could set 4K @ 30Hz on an LG 42UB820T UHD television without issues.

Two partitions are aAbout_Box_Zidoo_X9vailable in the 8GB eMMC flash: “Internal Storage” with 1.97 GB total space for apps, and “SD CARD” with 3.49GB space for data. The “About Box” section confirms the model number is “ZIDOO_X9″, and that the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux 3.1.10, so not such a recent kernel. The firmware is rooted

Google Play Store caused me some troubles…  Although I could login, each time I would enter the app the message “Check your connection and try again” would be displayed despite having no internet connection issue with the web browser for example. So I was unable to use the Play Store, even after clearing the cache, removing and re-adding my account, and even after factory reset… I was advise to wait for the new firmware (1.0.26), but even after an update the problem subsisted. But Zidoo had written a blog post about the issue saying to try between Wi-Fi and Ethernet. So I switched to Wi-Fi, but no luck, Finally I did a factory reset, configured Wi-Fi, and finally I could access the Play Store. Once the connection is up, it works just fine. Only a few applications could not be installed such as CNBC and Real Racing 3, but these can seldom be installed on Android mini PCs, maybe because of my location?  I also installed Amazon AppStore to get Riptide GP2 game.

You can check the user interface, Kodi, and HDMI IN application in the video below.

There’s no standby mode with this device, it’s only power on and off, and you can do with with the remote control. I measured the temperature after Antutu 5.6 benchmark and 15 minutes of play in Riptide GP2, and the max. measured temperatures on top and bottom of the enclosure were respectively 37°C/43°C, and 37°C/50°C. But it did not seem quite right, and since I used a IR thermometer and the enclosure of Zidoo X9 is bright, the reading might be incorrect, so after adding some black stick tape, and a few hours of use, I check the top temperature again, and instead of 37°C, I got 45°C, which seems more like it. So the system gets a little hot, but it’s not out of control.

The system works well most of the time, but I’ve experienced several crashes for their internal apps, as well as Kodi. You can also one hang up in the video above, so system stability does need some improvement.

Video Playback

The box comes with Kodi 14.0-RC3 Zidoo edition (built on  December 2014). The system info reports 1920×1080@60Hz screen resolution rendered at about 30 fps.  I had some problems to connect to my SAMBA shares at first, but somehow it eventually worked.  Videos have normally been tested via Ethernet using Kodi, unless otherwise stated.

Some results with samplemedia.linaro.org video samples, plus some H.265/HEVC videos (Elecard), and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p/1080p60 – OK, but the 1080p60 video only renders at 30 fps according to Kodi
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK, but framerate oscillates between 22 and 25 fps (video is 25 fps)
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – Won’t play
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – 360p OK, Audio only for the other two videos.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

I also played some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – Could be smoother
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Not really smooth. (18 to 24 fps for a 23.976 video). Played from NTFS partition on USDB hard drive.

High definition audio codecs have been tested downmixed to PCM using XBMC and MXPlayer, and audio pass-through has been tested with Onkyo TX-NR636 using HDMI pass-through to BD/DVD input, and S/PDIF pass-through using TV/CD input on the receiver. Pass-through is enabled in Android Settings (Sound->S/PDIF->RAW) for both HDMI and optical S/PDIF, as well as the proper settings in Kodi, as done here.

Video PCM Output
Kodi
PCM Output
MX Player
HDMI Pass-through
Kodi
SPDIF Pass-through
Kodi
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but I could see tearing on the bottom of the video OK Dolby Digital  detected, but frequent audio cuts Dolby Digital  detected, but frequent audio cuts
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK Dolby Digital detected, but frequent audio cuts Dolby Digital detected, but frequent audio cuts
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 Makes Kodi crash Video Stuck at 00:00, eventually leading to “MX Player is not responding” Makes Kodi crash Makes Kodi crash
TrueHD 5.1 Video plays in slow motion OK No audio (PCM shown on receiver) Audio formats not supported via S/PDIF
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK No audio (PCM shown on receiver)
DTS HD Master OK “This audio format (DTS) is not supported” No audio (PCM shown on receiver)
DTS HD High Resolution OK “This audio format (DTS) is not supported” No audio (PCM shown on receiver)

Using “Explorer” app, AC3 and E-AC3 pass-through works, and TrueHD and DTS-HD can also be heard but down-mixed to Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1. I’ve been informed that stock Android does not support HD pass-through (TrueHD and DTS-HD), so it would require customization from the manufacturers. If you need this feature, you should go with Linux or Windows HTPC, bearing in mind that the hardware also needs to support it.

I’ve successfully tested Blu-Ray ISO with Sintel-Bluray.iso. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play

Previously I reported that Zidoo X9 was the only platform that could support both photo and video playback at true 4K resolution among 5 others ARM devices running Android, and this is still true, but unfortunately it can’t play any of my 4K videos samples smoothly in Kodi:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Not smooth. ~15 fps instead of 29.976 fps
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – No smooth. 15 to 20 fps instead of 24 fps
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Does not even start (stays in Kodi UI)
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Does not even start (stays in Kodi UI)
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  Does not even start (stays in Kodi UI)
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Does not even start (stays in Kodi UI)
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Extremely slow. Kodi reports 9 to 10 fps, but it feels closer to 3 fps.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Does not even start (stays in Kodi UI)
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Not smooth
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Audio only, shows last frame of previous video.

Playing 4K videos in Kodi is not really an option, so I tried in the sample in “Explorer” app that comes with the firmware:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Plays OK, but could be smoother.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – “media server died”
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Shows one image and plays crappy audio
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Audio only + message “video media error unsupport format”

Although you can’t really play 4K videos in Kodi, Explorer app does a decent job.

I also tested some 3D video, despite my 4K TV not supporting 3D, to check 3D video decoding:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – Plays at 20 fps instead of 60 fps
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

No device so far has been able to support 2160p 3D video, probably as it would need to support 3840×4320 video decoding.

One the other hand, Kodi managed to play all my AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB, and MP4 videos without A/V sync issues, and at a decent framerate.  One annoying bug is that sometimes when you start a video, all you get is a black screen, you have to go back and try agin, and the video will play.

I perform stability testing on my USB hard drive (since SAMBA did not work at the time) with a 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB). Kodi played the most at the right framerate, and only reported 20 dropped frames, instead of the often-reported 14,000 skipped frames on some other Android media players.

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

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

Zidoo X9 gets 698 points on Antutu Video Tester, a very good score (Maximum so far is 704). Audio failed to play only once, and quality is good based on that benchmark.

HDMI Input / PVR Function

HDMI input is the main selling point of the device, and it can be used with HDMI IN app only, which brings the following user interface.

HDMI IN App Screenshot (Click for Original Size)

HDMI IN App Screenshot (Click for Original Size)

You can see the recording path to the internal flash or external USB storage. If a USB hard drive or flash drive is connected it will create HdmiRecorder directory in the first partition by default, so this is what I used. You can send select the resolution (VGA, 720p or 1080p), the video container (MP4 or TS), and optionally the start time (called Bespoke here), and the length of the recording. You can click on Start Record to record immediately, or Add record to schedule a recording. For some reasons, I was unable to schedule multiple recordings, but the one I set started right on time. You can access the List of recorded video with the List tab on the left of the menu.

The user interface will quickly disappear (within 5 seconds) if there’s no user activity, but you can press the Menu button on the remote control to bring it back. Once you start recording, a red record button will be overlaid on the top right of the TV. You can stop recording anytime, by pressing the “Stop Record” button in the menu.

I’ve tested different use cases, and you can download the samples below to check yourself too:

Please bear in mind the videos won’t play in Totem or VideoLAN. I could play them in my PC with Kodi 14 and KMPlayer.  The first three videos look pretty good to me, although some lines appear when panning in the first video (“Hello Kitty” Funerals), but it could be the original video. When I play the PC video in full screen, it almost feels the same as the original, so I’m rather impressed by the the quality. The text may not be quite as sharp as the original, but still pretty good to me. However, when scrolling in Firefox we can clearly notice it’s a video, as the text becomes blurry.

I started to experience some issues with OpenELEC. By default it seems the resolution was set to 1280×1024, and Zidoo X9 did not like that, reporting an error, so I switched to 1920×1080, and everything worked again. Another bad news is that audio pass-through does not work. If I play n AC3 video using this flow: OpenELEC on my PC->HDMI port of Zidoo->Onkyo TX-NR636 AV Receiver->TV, the receiver will probably detect Dolby Dolby 5.1, and I can hear the audio just fine, but the recorder won’t handle AC3, and just record AAC (for all videos), so audio is just silent here. Another problem is the quality of the video itself, and it’s quite choppy at time, and I can see obvious horizontal lines in some scenes too. The original video is 60 fps, my PC plays it at 51 to 52 fps, and output 1080p50, while the recorded video is 29.976 fps.

I did try TrueHD audio pass-through but this made OpenELEC lose video output, but it’s the same when I connect my PC to a Sharp TV, so OpenELEC must not like try to pass TrueHD to an HDMI input that does not support it…

Some people have asked about HDCP, but I don’t have devices, and checking in AMD Catalyst Control Center did not report anything about HDCP when I connected my PC to Zidoo X9. I’ve been told that you should be able to record PS3 output by entering the game first, then inserting the HDMI cable to the HDMI Input of the recorder. maybe something similar is feasible with a Cable STB, and some other devices.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share (Ubuntu 14.04) and the internal flash of the device in order to test network performance. This is done with ES File Explorer three times, and I average the results. My testbed has now changed since I got a 4K TV and AV receiver, and the device under test is now a little closer to the Wi-Fi router, around 5 meter + wall, instead of around 6 meters + wall. I’ve made the assumption that it should not much change the results, but maybe this is something to look into. With that warning out of the way, Zidoo X9 is the best  802.11n platform tested so far with an average transfer rate of 4.43 MB/s over Wi-Fi.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

One the other hand, Ethernet could be better.

Zidoo_X9_Ethernet_SAMBA_Performance

Throughput in MB/s

The below average Ethernet performance can also be confirmed with iPerf using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line:

Zidoo_X9_Ethernet_iperfiperf output:

TCP window size: 85.3 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  4] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.105 port 59341
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.105, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 48609 connected with 192.168.0.105 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   567 MBytes  79.2 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   290 MBytes  40.5 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

File transfer worked without issue using ThL W200 smartphone.

Sony PS3 game controllers can’t be used because Sixaxis Compability Checker “could not load Bluetooth library”.

I could connect Vidonn X5 activity tracker over Bluetooth Low Energy to retrieve my fitness data.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and a USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be mounted and access. NTFS, EXT-4 and exFAT partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed, and only BTRFS failed.

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

I ran A1 SD Bench to measure I/O performance of both internal and USB storage. My hard drive is connected to the USB 3.0 port for the device, and it did show for the read/write of the three partitions:

  • NTFS – Read: 44.33 MB/s; Write: 48.95 MB/s
  • EXT-4 – Read: 52.41 MB/s; Write: 62.00 MB/s
  • exFAT – Read: 52.51 MB/s; Write: 43.31 MB/s

So for this device, EXT-4 appears to be the best choice, at least for sequential read/write.

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

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

We’ve got one of the best Android media player on the market when it comes to USB mass storage performance, but unfortunately just like BFS 4KH it can’t really be leverage as both devices are limited by their Fast Ethernet port.

The 8GB eMMC flash in the device achieves 29.95 MB/s (read) and 15.30 MB/s (write), a good performance overall, with nice balance between read and write speeds.

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

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

USB Webcam

I installed Skype and Google Hangout. I managed to make the “Echo Service” call in Skype, but most of the time video calls failed, and I could only see the actual webcam image once, while most of the time a black screen was shown. The webcam icon showed in Google Hangout, and I could click to start a call, but I got no image at all. So neither Skype nor Hangouts worked at all for me, except for voice calls on Skype.

Gaming

Three usual games: Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2.  I played Candy Crush Sage with MeLe F10 air mouse, and the game was as smooth as on other recent devices. However, I did notice some delays with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad in Beach Buggy Racing, and the game was not that smooth even with graphics options set to “highest framerate”.  No delays in Riptide GP2, but again, although it’s playable, it’s certainly not as enjoyable as on more powerful  platforms. On the plus side, none of the games froze at anytime, even after over 20 minutes of play.

Zidoo Z9 (Mstar MSO9810) Benchmarks

I had never used a product based on Mstar MSO9810 so I went through all benchmarks I normally run for my reviews. But before that, I checked out CPU-Z information.

Mstar 9810 CPU-Z (Click to Enlarge)

Mstar 9810 CPU-Z (Click to Enlarge)

An Mstar Semiconductor quad core ARM Cortex A9 r4p1 processor @ 1.45 GHz is detected, together with a Mali-450MP GPU. The model number is Zidoo_Z9 (full_lemon) with the board simply called “lemon”, and the hardware “napoli”. Not quite sure what the difference is between “board” and “hardware”. 1579 MB RAM is available in total, the rest most probably being reserved for the GPU and VPU, with 1.97GB internal storage (CPU-Z only report the first partition).

X9 got 15,851 points in Antutu 5.6.

Antutu 5.6 Score (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 5.6 Score (Click to Enlarge)

Quite surprising for a quad core Cortex A9 processor (in a bad way), because that’s lower than score I got (16,500+)  with Amlogic S805 Cortex A5 platforms such as MXQ S85. It’s always possible one is cheating more than the other, and looking at the detailed scores, integer and floating point performance is better with Mstar as it should be, but RAM speed is rather poor (853 vs 1590), while graphics performance is slightly better, and I/O too. So memory bandwidth seems to be the issue here.

Vellamo 3.1 score for Metal Benchmark (534), Browser benchmark (1151), and Multicore benchmark (718) are mixed against Amlogic S805 with respectively 551, 1319, and 816 (but some test were skipped). So it more or less confirms Mstar 9810 performance is quite close to Amlogic S802.

Zidoo_X9_Vellamo

Mali-450MP GPU found in Mstar 9810 might be clocked at a higher speed (and/or use a different amount of cores MP2 vs MP4), as it gets a little over 3,000 points vs 2,325 points in EM6Q-MXQ.

3DMark ICE Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

3DMark ICE Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

Conclusion

Zidoo X9 is a unique product on the market thanks to its HDMI input, and video recording function, which works pretty well with some caveats. Wi-Fi is excellent, and storage performance (eMMC and USB 3.0) is also very good. The firmware works well most of the time, but a few internal apps tend to crash a bit too often to my liking, and Kodi really needs some work. The good news is that the development team seems dedicated to regular firmware updates, and is looking into users’ issues.

PRO:

  • HDMI Input with PVR function works relatively well.
  • Both 4K videos and pictures are actually displayed at 4K resolution.
  • H.264 / HEVC 4K video playback with “Explorer” app
  • Audio pass-through in “Explorer” app works for AC3 and E-AC3, TrueHD and DTS-HD are down-mixed to Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1 however.
  • High Antutu Video Tester score (698).
  • Excellent Wi-Fi performance
  • Good performance for eMMC, and USB 3.0 hard drive
  • NTFS, EXT-4, exFAT and FAT32 file systems are fully supported.
  • Good looking user interface
  • Clean power off  and on from remote control
  • Regular OTA update with detailed changelog
  • Blog and support forums

CONS:

  • Some Zidoo apps  (e.g. Settings) may crash, or even hung the system. I have not really found issues with the firmware itself, while running apps from Google Play however.
  • Kodi 14.0 has some issues
    • None of my ten 4K video samples would play at an acceptable frame rate
    • H.265 / HEVC not well supported in XBMC
    • Sometimes a video won’t start (Black screen), and re-trying will usually work
    • It may crash with some videos
    • Audio pass-through is not working is a satisfying manner even with AC3 / E-AC3 (frequent audio cuts)
  • Performance underwhelming for a Cortex A9 processor based on Benchmarks, which ends up being equivalent to Amlogic S805 due to slow memory bandwidth.
  • Skype and Google Hangouts did not work for me
  • Sony PS3 controller can’t be used (required Bluetooth library missing)
  • HDMI IN app – I could not schedule multiple recordings, some “lines” may be apparent in the recordings, can’t record AC3 audio pass-through.
  • Lack of 1080p24 / 4K24 video output option

I’d like to thanks GearBest for sending the sample for review, and if you are interested in the device, you could purchase from their shop for $119.99 including shipping with ZDX9CN coupon.  Other shipping options include Amazon US ($165)GeekBuying ($115.99 with BFCIGPHO coupon) or Ebay ($149.99).

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Zidoo X9 Android Media Player and Recorder Sells for $100 (Promo)

February 5th, 2015 25 comments

Zidoo X9 is an Android TV box powered by Mstar MSO9810 quad core processor, with an HDMI input port that allows video recording up to 1080p, and that’s the only device that could properly display pictures and play videos at 4K resolution (Up to 30Hz) in a recent test. You can buy on GearBest for $120 with coupon, but GeekBuying has launched a promotion where the first 100 orders can get the device for just $99.99.

Zidoo X9 (Click to Enlarge)

Zidoo X9 (Click to Enlarge)

Here are the specifications as a reminder:

  • SoC – Mstar MSO9180D1R quad core Cortex A9 processor up to 1.5GHz with octa-core ARM Mali-450MP6 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot
  • Video Output / Input –  HDMI output up to 4K, HDMI input with PVR and Time Shifting support, and AV port (Composite + stereo audio)
  • Audio I/O – HDMI Out and In, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • (Main) Video Codecs – H265, VC-1, WMV-HD, MPEG1/2/4 up to 4Kx2K, etc..
  • Audio Codec – MP3, AAC, AC3, DTS-HD Master, TrueHD 7.1 pass-through, etc…
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, Dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (MT7632 module), Bluetooth 4.0. Dual external antennas.
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 host ports.
  • Misc – ON/OFF switch, reset pinhole, LCD display on front panel
  • Power Supply – N/A
  • Dimensions – 187 x 127 x 27 mm (aluminum enclosure)

The device is running Android 4.4, and video recording can be done either their HDMI In app or Kodi.

Zidoo_X9_HDMI_Video_Recording

I’ve actually received the device about a month ago (See unboxing post), but so far I have not fully reviewed it, simply because Google Play Store does not work properly, but I’ve been promised a firmware update, or installing the latest version of the Play Store, would fix this.
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Latest Ubuntu 14.10 Image for Tronsmart Draco AW80 Supports Hardware Video Decoding

February 4th, 2015 7 comments

Tronsmart Draco AW80 is one of the most powerful ARM mini PC on the market thanks to Allwinner A80 octa core processor, and the company also released an early Linux (Ubuntu) image at the end of last year. However, this firmware could not support hardware video decoding nor 2D/3D graphics acceleration.

Draco_AW80_Video _DecodingSince then progress has been made, and Tronsmart has just released an image with hardware video decoding. There’s still some work to be done as 4K and H.265 are not supported, and support for Kodi also needs to be implemented. At least for now you should be able to play 1080p video with VLC without issues, and the company also claims online video will play without lags.

If you’d like to give it a try, download and extract Draco_AW80_Ubuntu_20150204.zip. Then follow Allwinner A80 firmware upgrade instructions with PhoenixSuit (Windows) or LiveSuit (Linux) firmware tool to complete the process. You need to connect a USB cable cable between the USB 3.0 OTG port of Draco AW80 and your PC, hold the Fn button on the bottom of the enclosure, and connect the power so that it enters FEL mode and be detected by the firmware tool.

Thanks to ovi for the tip.

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Videostrong K1 is a Quad Core Android TV Box with a DVB-T2 Tuner

January 30th, 2015 15 comments

There are several Android media player with a digital TV tuner on the market, such as WeTek Play, but most, if not all, are based on Amlogic AML8726-MX dual core Cortex A9 processor, and so far, I have not seen quad core Android TV boxes with a built-in tuner. This is about to change thanks to Videostrong K1 an Android 4.4 media player powered by Amlogic S805 quad core processor, and an optional DVB-T2 tuner.
K1_OTT_TV_BoxK1 OTT TV Box specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S805 quad core Cortex A5 processor @ 1.5GHz with a quad core Mali-450MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3 (512MB, 2GB as option)
  • Storage – 4 or 8 GB NAND flash (Options: 16 or 32GB), micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4, AV (Composite and YPbPr supported)
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Tuners – DVB-T2 Tuner with RF In and Out
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (dual band optional), and optional Bluetooth
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, power LED
  • Power – 12V/1A

The device runs Android 4.4 with XBMC pre-installed, and comes with an IR remote control, a power adapter, an HDMI cable, and a user’s manual. I could not find any details about the included software for DVB. Compared to devices with AML8726-MX, you should probably expect similar CPU performance, but the GPU will be much faster, and the system will also support H.265 /1080p hardware video decode.

Amlogic_S805_DVB-T2I found the information on Shenzhen Videostrong’s Alibaba page, and based on the board name “VS_S805_…” they should really be the designer and manufacturer of the board, and not only a reseller. The factory price listed on Alibaba is $25 to $35, but usually a tuner may add about $10, and since Amlogic S805 based boxes like MXQ-S85 go for $50, I’d expect the tuner version to cost around $60 retail.

[Update: Another model with similar specs, Venz T2, is already listed on Aliexpress for $60].

Via AndroidPC.es

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$46 EKB318 / F6 Android Media Player Features Rockchip RK3128, Supports H.265 Decoding

January 28th, 2015 9 comments

Rockchip RK3128 is a quad core Cortex A7 processor with a Mali GPU that supports H.265 video decoding up 1080p, and aimed at tablets, but it also found it way into mini PCs such as EKB318 (aka F6) with 1GB RAM, and 8GB flash in what looks like the answer from Rockchip to Amlogic S805 solutions.

EKB318

F6 / EKK318 specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3128 quad core ARM Cortex A7 @ 1.3 GHz (or 1.2GHz) with ARM Mali-400MP2 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
  • Audio Output – HDMI, optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codec
    • Decode – H.265, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.263, H.264, AVS, VC-1, RV, VP6/VP8, Sorenson Spark, MVC up to 1920×1080 @ 60fps
    • Encode – H.264, H.265, VP8, MVC (1080p)
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 ports + 1 x micro USB OTG port
  • Misc – IR sensor, power button and LED
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 117 x 117x 22 mm
  • Weight – 190 grams

The box runs Android 4.4 pre-loaded with XBMC 14.0, and comes with an IR remote control, an HDMI cable, a power adapter, and a user’s manual.

Cortex A7 is a faster core than Cortex A5, but the frequency on RK3128 is only 1.2/1.3GHz, while S805 is clocked at 1.5 GHz, so there may not be that much difference in terms of CPU performance. However, the GPU in RK3128 is the old Mali-400MP2, which may feel a bit sluggish like in M-195 (Realtek RTD1195) media player, and even casual gaming may suffer, so the box should probably be reserved for media consumption.

Price-wise the solution is very competitive, just like Amlogic S805 device, as it sells for as low as $45.90 on Aliexpress, and $49.99 on GeekBuying, both shops selling the version without Bluetooth. Eny Technology will soon sell in bulk for $31 to $34, according to their Alibaba page.

Thanks to Adem for the tip.

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