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Posts Tagged ‘mini-pc’

Tronsmart Orion R68 Meta mini PC Unboxing and Teardown

August 27th, 2015 5 comments

I’ve already reviewed one Rockchip RK3368 mini PC with Beelink i68, and found out that although HDMI 2.0 up to 2160p60 was working, there was still some work to do to have 4K 60 fps videos playing smoothly, and compared to Rockchip RK3288 device performance was – as expected – significantly lower. But I now have a new RK3368 device to play with as GeekBuying has now sent me their Tronsmart Orion R68 Meta with higher specifications including Gigabit Ethernet support, 802.11ac support, and 16GB storage (vs just 8GB for Beelink i68 sample I received previously).

Tronsmart Orion R68 Meta Unboxing

GeekBuying sent me the package via DHL, which seems the preferred courier of many resellers who provide samples. Tronsmart Orion R68 is in a retail package with complete specifications at the back. There are two models for Orion R68: Meta (2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, GbE, and AP6335 wileress module) and Pro (1GB RAM, 8GB storage, Fast Ethernet, and AP6212 wireless module). There are two stickers on the side of the box clearly mentioning the exact model, and I received the Meta version.

Tronsmart_Orion_R68_Package

Once I started to open the package and take out the box and accessories, everything looked pretty familiar… although the cables, remote and power supplier were neatly stored in small boxes, instead of being thrown into the box like in Beelink i68.

Orion R68 Meta and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Orion R68 Meta and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

The package includes the device, a USB OTG adapter, a 5V/2A power adapter with US and EU plugs, an HDMI cable, an IR remote control that requires two AAA batteries, and a Quick Start Guide in English. The guide is the only part that differs from Beelink accessories, as it has some Tronsamrt branding and is of better quality.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The device itself also looks the same, but with Tronsmart branding. One of the side comes with an SD card slot, two USB 2.0 host ports, a micro USB port, while the rear panel features a power button, the DC power barrel, another USB port, HDMI output, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and optical S/PDIF.

If you are an early adopter, you may have gotten the device with a Fast Ethernet port, so how do I know I have the Gigabit version?
Tronsmart_Orion_R68_Gigabit_StickerYou need to check the serial number on the bottom of the case. If you serial number starts with 3368, your Ethernet port is limited to 10/100M, while it starts with Z368, you’re the lucky owner of the Gigabit Ethernet version. If your boxes is already running, you can also go to “About device”, and if the model number is R68G and the Firmware version 20xx, you have a Gigabit version. I understand all new Orion R68 Meta TV boxes will ship with Gigabit Ethernet from now on, so you should not worry about getting a Fast Ethernet version as long as you order from GeekBuying. Unfortunately, firmware are not compatible, and Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet models different models… That’s quite a messy situation, and hopefully Tronsmart will provide updates for both versions, and not let the few hundreds (thousands) who bought the first models down.

Tronsmart Orion R68 Teardown

I’ve opened the box with some plastic tools, and surprisingly the enclose is a little different. but the sticker on the board indeed shows it’s made by Netxeon with the board name being RK68G V2.0 instead of RK68B V2.0 for the Beelink box. The board connectors layout may be the same, but  the board itself is a little different, as there are two Samsung K4B4G1646Q-HYK0 DDR3L chips on the back of the board (1GB RAM)…

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

.. and two more on the top of the board. So they’ve gone with a 4 RAM chips design instead of 2 RAM chips to get 2GB RAM on the board. The WiFi module is also better as AP6335 replaces AP6330 in order to add 802.11ac support on top of WiFi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Foresee NCEFBS98-16G eMMC 4.51 flash provides 16 GB storage, and others chips include GL852G USB 2.0 hub, Pulse Electronics H5007NL 1000Base-T magnetics module, and Realtek RTL8211E Gigabit Ethernet transceiver.

I’d like to thanks GeekBuying for providing Tronsmart Orion R68 Meta sample. If you are interested, you can consider buying the Meta version for $99.99, and the Pro version for $74.99 on their website. It’s also available on eBay and Aliexpress for various prices, but in the case of R68 Meta, please make sure whether you’ll get the Fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet version from these sites.

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ECS LIVA X2 Braswell Mini PC Features Up to 4GB RAM, 64GB eMMC, Sells for $170 and Up

August 25th, 2015 6 comments

ECS LIVA was one of the first low power Intel mini PC that included both RAM and storage for less than $200 when it was first announced in March 2014. Since then there’s been a tidal wave of Bay Trail mini PCs hitting the market, and now that it’s time for Braswell and Cherry Trail lower system, ECS released LIVA X2 mini PC powered by Intel Braswell N3050 processor, that’s available for $169.99 on Newegg with 2GB RAM and 32GB storage, or $239.99 with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage.

ECS_LIVA_X2ECS LIVA X2 specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron N3050 “Braswell” dual core processor @ 1.6 GHz / 2.16GHz (Turbo) and Intel HD Graphics (6W TDP)
  • System Memory – 2 or 4GB DDR3L (soldered)
  • Storage – 32GB / 64GB eMMC flash, 1x M.2 for SSD (Up to 1TB)
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Video Output – HDMI and VGA
  • Audio – 1x Combo Jack, 2x D-MIC (internal), HDMI
  • USB – 3x USB 3.0 Ports
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A
  • Dimension 156 x 83 x 51 mm

ECS says the device supports Windows 7, 8.1 and 10, although Windows 7 requires an M.2 storage device. Linux is known to run on Intel Celeron/Pentium N3000 series, so you could probably install your preferred Linux distribution too.

ECS_LIVA_X2_USB_3.0

In case like me you wonder what the yellow USB port is for, is apparently means “Always-on” even in sleep mode or when powered off, which would for example allow you to charge your phone or tablet.

Anandtech got hold of an early sample, and published a review. They like it is a fanless design, but expected a bit more performance out of the Celeron N3050 processor, and when the the device is under load, temperatures may raise close to 90 degrees C, although it should not be a problem for most use case. They conclude that “despite these shortcomings, the LIVA x2 seems like a worthy upgrade to the existing LIVA and LIVA X units.” Idle power consumption @ 3.17 Watts is also the lowest they’ve seen so far, and it’s still under control under load as it rises to about 15 Watts.

There is now quite a choice of Bay Trail, Cherry Trail and Braswell mini PCs such as Intel NUC5CPYH (Celeron N3050), Tronsmart Ara X5 and others, so Linuxium made a table comparing features, benchmark scores, and prices of such system, including ECS Liva X2.

Intel_Compute_Stick_Ara_X5_ECS_LIVA_X2_NUC

It’s quite interesting to note the price difference between systems may not be that large. For example, for a $20 difference ($23 with shipping to US) between Ara X5 and Liva X2, you get a faster processor, 2 extra USB 3.0 ports, 802.11ac (vs 802.11n), Gigabit Ethernet (vs Fast ethernet), a VGA port, and an M.2 slot for extra storage. Then for an extra $20, you could go with the Intel NUC together with 2GB RAM and a 60GB SSD, or whatever amount of RAM (up to 8GB) or storage you’d like. Of course, pricing is just for reference, as the final price will depend on shipping and import taxes and related fees, and the latter may be much higher when you order a product from the US or Europe instead of going through Chinese resellers…

Via Liliputing

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WeTek Core Android 5.1 TV Box to Support Netflix in HD, OpenELEC, Lubuntu and More

August 25th, 2015 13 comments

Last year, WeTek launched WeTek Play Android TV receiver with DVB-T2, DVB-S2 or ATSC tuners, and in my review of the DVB-S2 version I found out it was a rather capable device despite the low hardware specifications. The company is about to launch WeTek Core, a media player powered by Amlogic S812-H processor, running Android 5.1.1, as well as supporting Netflix up to 1080p. something most other Android media players can’t handle.

WeTek_Core

WeTek Core preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S812-H quad core processor @ 2.0GHz with an Octa-core Mali-450MP gpu
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB NAND flash, micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 up to 4K @ 30Hz + AV
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n & 802.11ac (TBC), and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button and LED
  • Power Supply – N/A
  • Dimensions – N/A

WeTek_Core_Remote_Control_Power_AdapterThe box will ship with a power adapter suitable for UK, USA and EU, and a remote control featuring RF and IR technology, and a microphone to support Google Voice. Android 5.1.1 will be pre-loaded to the media player, but users will also be able to run OpenELEC, various custom Android ROMs (CyanogenMod, AOKP, AOSP, Omega..) as well as Lubuntu.

The company claim that WeTek Core is the first Amlogic device that support Netflix in High Definition is backed up by a demo video showing Netflix up to 1920×1080 @ 5800 Kbps.

There’s also a demo with Kodi 15.0-RC1 showing playback of H.264 4K videos, and various H.265 videos up to 1080p.

The box should launch in September, but the price is “rumored” to be 109 Euros (inc. VAT) in Europe.

Via AndroidPC.es

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Tronfy MX4 Telos Android 5.1 TV Box Unboxing and Teardown

August 22nd, 2015 10 comments

I’ve recently reviewed Mygica ATV1900AC TV box powered by Amlogic S812 with 2GB RAM and 16GB eMMC running Android Lollipop, a device with some high quality components, and a RF remote with voice command and search function that sells for $180. Tinydeal, a Hong Kong-based online shopping site specialized in electronic goods, sent me Tronfy MX4 Telos with very similar specifications including support for 802.11ac and Gigabit Ethernet, but selling instead for nearly half price at $98.99 including shipping. The firmware is also based on Lollipop, and runs Android 5.1.1 instead of Android 5.0.2, and it will be interesting to find out how the cheaper product fare against the higher-end one.

Tronfy MX4 (MXIV) Telos Specifications

Since it’s the first time I come across this box, I’ll list the specifications first:

  • SoC – Amlogic S812 quad core cortex A9r4 @ 2 GHz with Mali-450MP6 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB  eMMC flash + micro SD card reader up to 32GB
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 (AP6335 module)
  • Video Output – HDMI and AV output
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codec – H.265 up to 4K2K, H.264, etc…
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Misc – IR receiver, power button
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 115 x 115 x 26 mm
  • Weight – 196 grams

Compared the Mygica model, it adds a 3.5mm jack for composite and stereo audio and Bluetooth 4.0, but instead of 4 USB ports it gets only 2 USB ports and a micro USB OTG port. It also does not come with a fancy RF remote, but a simpler IR remote.

Tronfy MX4 Unboxing

The company sent me the device via DHL. The retail package shows some of the main features of the device (Gigabit Ethernet, 4K UHD, H.265, etc..), and seems to have been optimized for low transportation cost, as it is quite thin and compact compared to other products I’ve received. The full model number of the box reads “TVB-MXIV Telos”.

Tronfy_MX4_PackageThe box comes with an HDMI cable, an OTG adapter, an IR remote control, a 5V/2A power adapter (EU), and a user’s manual,  an “operating instruction manual”, another user’s manual in English, German, French, Spanish and Italian, as well as some documentation about Eshare software that is used to share all sort of files with your mobile devices (iOS only?), and includes support for DLNA and Airplay.

MX4 Telos and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

MX4 Telos and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

The case looks very familiar, as I’ve also seen it been used on some other devices such as Probox2 EX.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The power button is conveniently located at the front top of the device, the micro SD slot, micro USB OTG port, and two USB 2.0 host port are located on the side of the device, while the DC jack, AV jack, Ethernet port, HDMI output, and optical S/PDIF port can be found on the rear panel.

If you are interested, you can also watch the unboxing video.

Tronfy MX4 Telos Teardown

There aren’t any screws to remove to open the device, and you’ll see to use a sharp object to pop-up the cover, such as the green tool shown below, and part of most disassembly kits.

Netxeon_S82_Board

Click to Enlarge

The sticker on the board shows this is one of the many boxes made by Netxeon, and the product name is S82. I had to loosen four screws to complete take out the board, which is also connected to the Power button board.
Tronfy_MX4_Board
Finally, I’ve removed the heatsink to get a better look at the board.

MX4 Board (Click to Enlarge)

MX4 Board (Click to Enlarge)

The board name is M82G_V1.0_20150324 by Netxeon, and looks like a revision of the board used in Probox2 EX with some minor modifications, and different components. A 16GB Foresee NCEFBS98-16G eMMC 4.51 flash is used for storage, while four Mezza Z3P4GF4BLF A521LK-GGN chips are used to get 2GB RAM. Mezza must be a new and cheaper player on the RAM market, as I can’t find any information about this company. The wireless module is the popular AP6335 bringing Bluetooth 4.0 and dual band WiFi connectivity to the device, including 802.11ac. Pulse H5007NL is a 1000base-T magnetics module for Gigabit support, but on Amlogic SoCs, Gigabit Ethernet usually means 200 to 300 Mbps.

I’d like to thanks Tinydeal for providing the device for review, and if you could consider purchasing Tronsfy MX4 Telos for $98.99 on their store (Update: use tronfy4 coupon for a better deal). The box also used to be on Amazon US, but Tronfy does not list it there anymore. Tronsfy MX4 Telos appears to be based on Beelink MXIII Plus, that can be found on Gearbest, Geekbuying, eBay, Aliexpress, and others, but the devil may be in the details as the specs are not the same across the board. Some devices will run Android 5.1, while most are still sold with Android 4.4, and 802.11ac or Gigabit Ethernet may not be supported, while some devices come with 8GB flash instead of 16GB… So make sure you double-check the specs before you buy, and when you receive an MX3 Plus box. Tronsfy also has its own website, where you can find MX4 Telos.

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Tronsmart Ara X5 Cherry Trail mini PC Unboxing and Teardown

August 22nd, 2015 17 comments

Tronsmart Ara X5 is one of the first Intel Atom X5 mini PCs available on the market, and should provide a decent update to the many Intel Atom Z3735F based devices with its Atom x5-Z8300 quad core processor. GeekBuying sent me one sample for review, and today I’ll take a few pictures, and take it apart to find out more about the components used and its thermal design, before doing a review in the next few days.

Tronsmart Ara X5 Unboxing

I received the fanless computer by DHL in the following package together with a EU to US plug adapter.

Tronsmart_Ara_X5_Package

Ara X5 ships with a 5V/3A power adapter, an HDMI cable, and a user’s manual in English.

Ara X5, Power Adpater, HDMi Cable, and User's manual (Click to Enlarge)

Ara X5, Power Adpater, HDMi Cable, and User’s manual (Click to Enlarge)

The front panel has two USB 2.0 host ports, a 3.5mm headset jack, and the power button, while the rear panel features the power jack, a Fast Ethernet RJ45 port, HDMI output, a USB 3.0 host port, and a micro SD slot.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The main improvement compared to previous generation boxes based on Atom Z3735F is support for USB 3.0 host port, so it would have been extra nice to have a Gigabit Ethernet port too. Maybe with other models.

Tronsmart Ara X5 Teardown

I’ve struggled a little more than usual to open the box, but the teardown procedure is quite standard: removing four stiky rubber pad on the bottom of the case, loosening four screws, and take out the bottom cover. It’s held with clips so I had to use my dissassembly toolset to pop it out.

Tronsmart_Ara_X5_Board_Bottom

Bottom Side of Ara X5 Board (Click to Enlarge)

There’s a CR2032 battery for the RTC, something you won’t find in most Android TV boxes, as well as AP6330 wilress module for dual band WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, as well as COTOP C1602NS chip for Ethernet. One of the serial code is a MAC Address starting with 30:F7:07 prefix that looks up to Shenzhen Thread Technology Co, which could also be VX2 mini PC manufacturer.

Let’s carry on the teardown, by removing two more screws in order to take out the board from the case.

Tronsmart_Ara_X5_Board_Top

There’s a thick metal plate covering all components.Ara_X5_Metal_Plate_Side

It can be easily removed after loosening the three screws holding it with the rest of the board.Ara_X5_Metallic_Shield

Interestingly there seems to be a CPU module covered by a metallic shield. You’ll have notice the name of the baseboard is Ara X3 VERA, so an Atom X3 model may be in the work, or it was canceled, and instead they leveraged the baseboard to fit it with a more powerful Atom X5 processor.Ara_X5_Thermal_Pads

The metal shield shield is very easy to take out, but they must have made sure thermal dissipation was optimal, and we can find two more pink thermal pads on the PMIC and Intel processor.Intel_Atom_x5-Z8300_System_on_ModuleThere are two names on the system-on-module silkscreen: MS-M1E198407 and CI_CTCR_SI Rev 1.2. Beside Intel x5-Z8300 processor in the middle of the module, other main chips are AXP288C PMIC, a 32GB Sandisk SDINBDE4-32G eMMC flash, and four Samsung K4B4G1646Q-HYK0 DDR3 chips for 2GB RAM.

I’d like to thanks Geekbuying for providing the device for review. You can buy it for $149.99 including shipping, but possibly less if you are lucky, as they have a lottery for coupons. It can also be purchased on Ebay for $159.99 and more online sellers should soon list it too. These are actually pre-orders as shipping is scheduled for August 31.

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Mygica ATV1900AC Android 5.0 Mini PC Review

August 20th, 2015 6 comments

4K TV boxes based on Amlogic S812 processor have been around for about 9 months, and I already reviewed MINIX NEO X8-H Plus and CX-S806 mini PCs, but Mygica ATV1900AC is one of the first to support Android Lollipop, so I though it would be interesting to see the progress made compared to devices that run Android KitKat. I’ve already taken apart the TV Box, and found some interesting Toshiba eMMC flash and Realtek 802.11ac WiFi chips on the board, but today, I’ll test the firmware including stability, features and performance in this review.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve connected all ports of the device using the four USB host port with a webcam, hard drive, an RF dongle for a wireless gamepad, the RF dongle for the included remote, as well as inserting an HDMI cable, an optical audio cable S/PDIF, an Ethernet cable to Gigabit switch, and a Class 10 micro SD card. Finally I connected the power cable, and the device started straightaway. The boot took a long 1 minute 40 second to complete, so I disconnected all USB devices, except the one required for the remote, and boot time dropped to a more respectable 50 seconds, but I was still expecting a much faster boot.

"Mygica Android 5.0" Launcher (Click for Original Size)

“Mygica Android 5.0” Launcher (Click for Original Size)

"Home Screen" Launcher (Click for Original Size)

“Home Screen” Launcher (Click for Original Size)

You’ll then be offered to choose your launched between “Mygica Android 5.0” and “Home Screen”, with the latter looking very similar to Google’s Android TV launcher. I still prefer the first one, and that’s the one I used for most of the review, although it misses the Status Bar which makes it a little harder to use with an air mouse, as I had to use the remote control to press the “Home” key.

Kodi 14.2 “Mygica Edition”, YouTube, the Browser, Mygica store, Google Play, Netflix, 4K MoviePlayer and Facebook were all pre-installed and set as the shortcut in the interfaces. Other pre-installed apps include Miracast and Crackle.

Click for Original Size (1920x1080)

Click for Original Size (1920×1080)

There’s also Settings page on the right that will let you configure various aspect of the system:

  • Wi-Fi – Enable/Disable WiFi, Select ESSID, Connect via WPS…
  • Ethernet – Enable/Disable Ethernet, select Fixed IP or DHCP, configure Proxy if needed
  • Display
    • Screen resolution: Auto, 480p-60Hz, 576p-50Hz, 720p 50/60Hz, 1080i 50/60Hz, 1080p 24/50/60Hz, 4K2K 24/25/30Hz or SMPTE
    • Screen position
    • Daydream
  • More Setting – Android Lollipop Settings
  • Manage Apps – Open, stop, uninstall, clear data, cache, or defaults for a given app
  • Date & Time – Automatic Date & Time On/Off. The timezone however must be set via “More Setting”
  • Software Updates – Local or automatic updates
  • Language – List of languages for Android UI (Check walk-through video below for a complete list).

What you won’t find here are options to set audio output like PCM, or HDMI / SPDIF pass-through, and it won’t be in “More Setting” either, and instead, you need to go to the list of app, and access another Settings app (Icon with white background) to have more options, many of which are already accessible from the list above, and go to Device->Sounds->Digital Sounds… I’m not really impressed the way Settings are handled in that box, as you have 3 different places to adjust settings, a complete mess!

OTA firmware update is working, but with some caveats. I had played around one hour with the box, and installed all apps required for testing and taken a few screenshots, when the firmware update pop-up appeared. I clicked “Cancel” as I wanted to complete the current task. But soon the Upgrade app crashed, restarted and asked me again, after a few loop of this, I finally gave up and clicked on “OK” to carry on with the firmware update. It went well, except the procedure wiped out all installed app and my screenshots, meaning I had to restart all over again… I’d expect a firmware update made with Windows tools to wipe out my data, but not an OTA update…

About_Mygica_ATV1900ACOne good thing is that they did not separate app and data partitions (unless that explains why I lost all my data), as a single 12GB partition is used for both, so you won’t quickly fill up the app partition present – usually 2GB large – in some other boxes. WiFi and Ethernet worked OK (more on that later), but there’s no built-in Bluetooth, although there’s an option for it in the Android Lollipop settings. I had no problem selecting HDMI output up to 4K30.

The “About device” section shows the model number is “Mygica ATV1900AC”, and the system runs Android 5.0.2 on top of Linux 3.10.33. Despite having just update the firmware (OTA), the build date is on 17th of July 2015. Root checker exports the firmware is rooted.

The remote control is quite interesting. At first, when I saw the RF dongle, I assumed it was an air mouse, but it can only control the pointer with the arrow keys. The range  is however excellent, and standing in the corridor around 10 meters from the device, I could still control it.  It also supports Voice command and search, so you can start apps by just saying their name, e.g. Firefox, YouTube, K.O.D.I, and if the name if not recognized, it will just start a web search. You’ll need an Internet connection for voice recognition to work.  I have tested this feature in the review video below, where I also play 4K video samples in Kodi and 4K MoviePlayer, and go through the user interface and settings.

I haven’t tried Mygica store, as Google Play worked mostly OK. As usual on TV boxes, SMS and GPS app can’t be installed, but there was a long list of apps that should probably have installed, but did not including: all Bloomberg apps, AtHome Camera, some banking apps, Wiwo, Vidonn Smartband, Plants vs Zombies 2, Torque Lite, PPTV streaming, a Thai dictionary, Antutu Video Tester (OK first time, but not after firmware update) and a few more… The Amazon app installed just fine, and I could download Riptide GP2 racing game with it.

ATV1900AC can’t be powered off, and the only option is go to into standby. It worked with both the provided remote control, and MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse.  Other Amlogic S812 TV boxes ran pretty cool, and the latest Mygica box is no exception, as the maximum temperature was 53°C and 49°C on the top and bottom of the enclosure after running Antutu 5.7, and  52°C & 46°C after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 minutes.

I could a few hiccups as I started using the device,  including some network connection problems (WiFi and Ethernet), and I found the settings a pain to navigate because options are all over the place, but the firmware is usually quite OK, and Android 5.0 really makes a difference when launching apps, especially games, as the load much faster than to ART runtine replacing Dalvik found in earlier versions.

Video Playback with Kodi

The box ships with Kodi 14.2 “Mygica Edition”, so Geniatech must have made changed to the official Kodi 14.2 release, I’m just not sure what they are. Anyway, I used the provided version, and played video samples and movies stored on SAMBA shares over Ethernet. Initial connections to SAMBA shares in Kodi and ES File Explorer worked fine, but “connection time out” messages started to show up in Kodi a little later (after testing was complete), while ES File Explorer had no such problem.

Video samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, Elecard H.265/HEVC samples, and 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 could be smoother (Kodi live log also reports ~21fps instead of the native 25 fps)
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Software decode @ ~20 fps instead of 25 fps
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p OK. 1080p could be a little smoother (18 fps instead of 25 fps)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – 360p: OK; 720p: OK most of the time, except in some scenes where the frame rate drops.. 1080p:  plays at ~15fps with audio/video sync issues.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Moving on 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) – 15 fps instead of 29.970 fps
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (played from network)

The next step was to test some videos samples with HD audio tracks using PCM (down-sampling), HDMI pass-through with Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver. I skipped S/PDIF pass-through because as we’ll see audio pass-through is not working, even after enabling AC3 and DTS in Kodi, as well as HDMI audio output in the hard to find part of the system settings.

Video PCM Output
Kodi
PCM Output
“Video Player” app
HDMI Pass-through
Kodi
S/PDIF Pass-through
Kodi
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but video not smooth No audio PCM 2.0 (and Noise) Skipped test
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 (and Noise) Skipped test
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
DTS HD Master OK No audio PCM 2.0 (and Noise)
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio PCM 2.0 (and Noise)

Beside pass-through not working, any video with Dolby or DTS sound tracks will have to be played in Kodi, as other the system does not support them.

Sintel-Bluray.iso and amay.iso (Ambra – Prism of Life) Blu-ray ISO videos played fine,  as did GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg my two 1080i MPEG2 video samples.

That’s the best Hi10p video decoding I’ve seen so far as the video plays all the way and with less artifacts than usual, but unfortunately the videos are still not watchable:

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

H.264 4K videos can play, but unfortunately H.265 4K videos won’t play smoothly in Kodi 14.2, as it only supports software decode even after customization by Geniatech:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  Playing @ 2 to 3 fps
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Playing @ 2 to 3 fps
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t play, the system stays in user interface.
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Plays @ 3 to 4 fps.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Plays at 3 to 4 fps using software decode as all eight cores are close to 100% CPU usage.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play, the system stays in the user interface
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – ~40 fps, with audio cuts, and audio/video issues (excepted, as it’s not supported by the hardware…)

I’ve tried the H.265 videos @ 30 fps or less again in 4K MoviePlayer and they could also play smoothly, except 10-bit HEVC video, and BT2020. The ones with AC3 audio did not have audio.

The TV I use for reviews, namely LG 42UB820T, does not support 3D, but I can still try to play stereoscopic 3D videos to find out if the device under test can decode them:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only, black screen.
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Finally, I’ve played movies and videos from my library, including FLV, AVI, MKV VOB/IFO, and MP4 videos, and they could all play fine, except I’ve noticed one or two could not be zoomed / stretched. The option was there, but it simply did not work.

The stability test with a complete 1080p MKV movie ran without interruption, but scenes with panning did not seem as smooth as usual, and Kodi log window reported around 7,000 skipped frame.

Since Antutu Video Tester could not be installed from Google Play, I sideloaded version 2.2, and upgraded to version 3.0, before running the test. Last week, Beelink i68 got 532 points, but Mygica ATV1900AC got a much higher score at 1,059 points.

Antutu Video Tester 3.0 results can be found below, and somehow, AC3 audio is working according to the test results… Go figure.

Mygica_ATV1900AC_Antutu_Video_Tester_3.0

Click to Enlarge

Video samples can be downloaded from “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Wi-Fi and Ethernet Network Performance

In order to test network performance, a 278 MB file is transfered using ES File Explorer between a SAMBA share and the flash. The test is repeated three times, and the average is used. WiFi performance on Mygica ATV1900AC is outstanding, it’s the best device in terms of performance I used both with 802.11 b/g/n (300 Mbps) and 802.11ac (867 Mbps) with transfer averaging respectively 5.08 MB/s and 7.45 MB/s.

Mygica_ATV1900AC_WiFI

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

However, there’s potentially a stability issues, as one of the transfer stalled and stopped (802.11n 2.4GHz). I could not easily reproduce the issue, and I could hear a commercial plane fly over when it occurred (Could it affect WiFi?). I also noticed a WiFi re-connection another time while shooting the video review embed above.

I also ran iperf “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line to check the raw performance for

  • WiFi 802.11n (300 Mbps)
Client connecting to 192.168.0.109, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 53062 connected with 192.168.0.109 port 5001
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   555 MBytes  77.5 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.2 sec   230 MBytes  32.1 Mbits/sec
  • WiFi 802.11ac (867 Mbps)
Client connecting to 192.168.0.109, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 51591 connected with 192.168.0.109 port 5001
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   929 MBytes   130 Mbits/sec
[  5]  0.0-60.3 sec   229 MBytes  31.9 Mbits/sec

A 885 MB file transfer from SAMBA to flash and vice versa took just under one minute using Gigabit Ethernet, again ranking Mygica ATV1900AC at the top of the charts.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s

Contrary to transfers with WiFi or Fast Ethernet, transferring a file over Gigabit Ethernet is often bound by storage performance, and it’s the case for Mygica’s TV box, as running iperf shows Amlogic S812 Ethernet limitations as seen in other devices.

Mygica_ATV1900AC_Gigabit_Ethernet_Iperf

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.110, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  170 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 45170 connected with 192.168.0.110 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec  2.38 GBytes   341 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec  2.61 GBytes   374 Mbits/sec

Since the fastest storage interface is USB 2.0 (480 Mbps max), this limitation is unlikely to matter in practise.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

There’s no Bluetooth capable chip in the device. However, there’s a Bluetooth option in Android settings, and I tried to connect a USB Bluetooth 4.0 dongle, but still failed to enabled it.  So Bluetooth is not supported, even with external hardware, at least with this firmware.

Storage

A FAT32 micro SD card could be access in read/write mode, and the NTFS and exFAT partitions in USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted, however while the partition are about 250GB large, the system only detected 10MB partitions with 10MB free, so reading files worked, but copying files to these partitions failed due to an incorrectly reported lack of space…

File System Read Write
NTFS OK No
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
exFAT OK No
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK

That means I could not run A1 SD Bench app to benchmark USB 2.0 performance, so I only tested the performance of the Toshiba eMMC flash. The results are quite good, but far from the theoretical 270 MB/s and 50MB/s read and write speeds, probably because Amlogic S812 does not support eMMC 5.0 HS400 mode.

Mygica_ATV1900AC_eMMC_Performance

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

USB Webcam

The Echo / Sound Testing Service works in Skype, and I could make a video call, but for some reasons, there was no input from the camera, and I could only see the caller video.

Google Hangouts worked fine with my USB webcam.

Gaming

I installed Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2 to test gaming. The main difference compared by my previous versions was how fast the games would load, probably a combination of fast internal storage and ART runtime. Candy Crush Saga had no issue, Beach Buggy Racing was smooth using standard settings, but because a little less smooth with graphics settings maxed out.  Riptide GP2 was not quite as smooth as expected even with default settings, while I was quite happy with all the game on MINIX NEO X8-H Plus. I did the previous test 9 months ago, and as it’s a subjective test, I may have become an old grumpy man that is a little more demanding, or the processor may not run at its full potential…

Mygica ATV1900AC Benchmarks

Even though Amlogic S812 is a mature platform, it’s still interesting to run CPU-Z, and in this case we find out that the processor only runs up to 1608 MHz, while most other devices run it at its full speed (2.0 GHz).

Mygica_ATV1900AC_CPU-ZI doubled-check with Android terminal just in case…:

cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_max_freq
1608000

And indeed the maximum frequency is set not too exceed ~1.6GHz. Other information look good, and the board codename is stvm8.

Mygica_ATV1900AC_AntutuDespite the lower CPU frequency, Antutu 5.x score (34,137) is still higher than the one in MINIX NEO X8-H Plus box running Android 4.4 (31,204).  Somehow (for a metal test), it seems that Android 5.0 has better integer and floating-point performance than Android 4.4, as the scores are about the same despite the lower frequency, unless Antutu changed how their benchmark behaves in their minor releases (5.7.1 vs 5.3). The runtime score is about twice as fast, and that one can easily be explained by the switch from Dalvik to ART, while 2D graphics score is a bit lower, and 3D graphics a bit higher.

Mygica_ATV1900AC_VellamoVellamo 3.x metal score in Mygica (884) is also higher than the one in the MINIX device (792), while multicore is lower (1,472 vs 1808).

Mygica_ATV1900AC_3DMark3DMark Ice Storm Extreme is slightly lower at 5,834 points vs 6,056 points. The Physics score is where the score difference was made, but both scores are pretty close.

Conclusion

There’s certainly an advantage in running Android Lollipop firmware over KitKat as app will noticeably load faster. Mygica ATV1900AC has also by far the fastest WiFi connection I’ve ever seen on TV boxes both using 2.4GHz 802.11n and 5GHz 802.11ac, and Ethernet performance is also pretty good. Video playback in Kodi also pretty good, but their “Mygica Edition” is still based on Kodi 14.2, and H.265 hardware decoding does not work. I also never managed to make audio pass-through work. The firmware is usually stable and responsive, but there are still a few bugs and annoyances to iron out.

PROS:

  • Android Lollipop firmware
  • Very good Ethernet and outstanding WiFi performance (although with a question mark regarding stability)
  • Fast internal storage
  • Video Output – 1080p 24/50/60 Hz, 4K @ 24/25/30Hz, etc…
  • Video Support – Good in Kodi 14.2 for most videos, and very high score in Antutu Video Tester 3.0
  • Hardware video decoding for H.265 4K up to 30Hz in “4K VideoPlayer”
  • RF remote control with long range and voice command and search
  • OTA firmware update (with caveats see below)
  • Two launchers including an Android TV like.

CONS:

  • Kodi 14.2 “Mygica Edition” based on Kodi 14.2 does not support H.265 hardware decoding. (Kodi 15 should won’t work either, see comment)
  • Audio issues:
    • HDMI audio pass-through does not work at all in Kodi
    • Dolby and DTS down-mixing not supported in 4K MoviePlayer and other players (except in Kodi, where it’s handled by software).
  • Incorrect partition size detected on USB hard drive leading to read-only partitions
  • OTA firmware download program may crash, firmware update will wipe out apps and data
  • Lack of power off (only standby supported)
  • User-friendliness of parts of the UI could be improved – Settings are all over the place (in three different locations), the status bar cannot be displayed.
  • Bluetooth not supported (No built-in hardware, and USB Bluetooth dongle not recognized)

Mygica ATV1900AC can be ordered in quantities directly from Mygica/Geniatech, and consumers can purchase the Lollipop box on eBay for $179.99 including shipping, and soon on Mygica Aliexpress store. on Mygica Aliexpress store for $169 including shipping.

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Eglobal K8 Z3735F mini PC Includes Up to 2 Ethernet Ports, a COM Port and an IR Receiver (As options)

August 19th, 2015 3 comments

Most mini PCs based on Intel Atom Z3735F have very similar specifications, but at least one company – Eglobal Technology – is providing some extra options with their mini PC as they offer dual Ethernet (which they call “Router”), a COM port and an IR receiver as options.

Eglobal_K8 Eglobal K8 specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735F “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz (Bust freq: 1.83 GHz) with Intel HD graphics
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC + micro SD card slot (up to 128GB)
  • Video Output – HDMI
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, 3.5mm earphone jack, 3.5mm microphone jack
  • Connectivity
    • Standard – 1x 10/100M Ethernet,  802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
    • Option – One extra 10/100M Ethernet port
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host
  • Misc – Power Button, optional IR receiver, optional COM port (DB9)
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 107 x 107 x 25 mm
  • Weight – 250 grams

The mini PC ships with a power adapter, and a “mini HDMI” cable, and Windows 8.1 is pre-installed, but probably not activated. This could also be used as a low power Linux server, although the interfaces are only Fast Ethernet, and 802.11 b/g/n WiFi.

Z3735F_Dual_Ethernet_serial_portThe device is available on Aliexpress, where you have two options: “No router” for $113.04 and “With Router” for $127.29, both prices including shipping. It’s pretty clear what you get with the “No router” option, and although you should get the extra Fast Ethernet port with the second option, it’s unclear whether the COM port and IR receiver are included.  I did not get any answer to my online chat questions.

Via AndroidPC.es.

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Beelink i68 (Rockchip RK3368) TV Box Review

August 16th, 2015 16 comments

Beelink i68 is one of the first 64-bit ARM Android mini PCs available on the market, and could offer an update to Rockchip RK3288 TV boxes thanks to its eight Cortex A53 cores and support for HDMI 2.0 up to 4K2K @ 60Hz. I’ve already taken a few pictures of the device and RK68 board, so today I’ll report about performance, stability, features and video playback capabilities in the full review.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The box has three USB 2.0 host ports and a micro USB OTG port, so for once I did not have to use a USB hub to connect all my devices and cables. I’ve inserted an Ethernet cable, an HDMI cable, an optical cable to the S/PDIF output, a Class 10 micro SD card, a USB hard drive, a USB webcam, an RF dongle for Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad, and finally MeLE F10 Deluxe RF dongle to the micro USB OTG port via the OTG adapter provided with the box. After connecting the power, you’ll need to press the red power button on the rear panel to start the device. The boot takes 44 seconds, which is OK, and might be faster with less peripherals connected to the mini PC.

Android Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Android Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

The launcher is the standard Android Home Screen with icons for the Browser, Google Play, the list of App, an Internal player, and Settings.  The status bar is hidden by default, but you can pull it up with the mouse pointer. The user interface resolution is 1920×1080, but the system automatically detected the capabilities of LG 42UB820T 4K TV and set the video output to 3840x2160p60 (YCbCr420).

The settings interface is basically the same as on other Android 5.1 devices but with some options specific to TV boxes. The most relevant / uselful options include:

  • Wireless & Networks – Wi-Fi, Data usage for Wi-Fi and Ethernet (Accessing the latter crashes the settings), Bluetooth, and a “More” section with four sections: Tethering & portable hotspot, Ethernet, PPPoE and VPN
  • Device
    • USB – Connect to PC
    • Sound & Notifications – Volume for various sounds, and a Sound Device Manager to select Default Output, Spdif Passthrough, or HDMI Bitstream
    • Display
      • Cast Screen
      • Screen Scale
      • HDMI Mode:
        • Auto
        • 4096x2160p @ 60Hz (YCbCr420), 50Hz (YCbCr420), 30Hz, 25Hz, or 24Hz
        • 3840x2160p @ 60Hz (YCbCr420), 50Hz (YCbCr420), 30Hz, 25Hz, or 24Hz
        • 1920x1080p @ 60 Hz, 50Hz, 30Hz, 25Hz, 24Hz
        • 1280x720p @ 60 or 50 Hz
        • 720x576p @ 50 Hz
        • 720x480p @ 60 Hz
    • Storage – Two partitions: 1.94GB “Internal storage” with ~1.21GB free, 3.78GB “NAND Flash” partition

Beelink_i68_About_DeviceThe other usual options like Printing, Security, Language & Input, etc.. are still there. If you want the full details, checkout the walk-through video embedded a little further below.

I had no problems connecting with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet. As previously mentioned, HDMI output was automatically set to 4K 60Hz, although some time later, I could see it set to 1080p60 after rebooting, so it could be automatic detection is not 100% reliable. I had to adjust the “Screen Scale” to 100% to make use of all the “real estate” of my TV screen.

The “About device” section reports “I68” as the model number, which runs Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.10.0_100. The firmware version is 100L1, and I also checked with system updates in that menu, but it appears I have the latest firmware, or Firmware update OTA is not activated. This firmware is not rooted.

Here’s the walk-through video showing more details about the settings, as well as some tests in Kodi and the internal player with a 4K 60Hz H.264 video, and a 4K 30Hz H.265 video sample.

I also quickly tried the IR remote control, and after inserting 2x AAA battery, it was perfectly usable at 2 to 3 meters from the box, but around 5 meters I noticed some keys pressed were missed. I still use my air mouse for most of the review, but I decided to move the RF dongle from the micro USB OTG port to one of the USB 2.0 host port because I lost control of the air mouse when I went to the USB settings…

The Google Play Store works very well, and the only apps I could not install require SMS capabilities (cellular), or are not available my locale anymore (e.g. CNBC Video). The only two apps that I believe should have installed, but are not available for my device, are Vidon Smartband and Plants vs Zombies 2 game.  I also installed the Amazon app in order to download Riptide GP2 which I got during a “free app of the day” promotion. You may have heard about Stagefright bug affecting earlier versions of Android, so I’ve run the Stagefright Detector app, and everything is clear. That’s one of the advantages of getting a recent Android version…

Beelink_i68_StagefrightThe power circuit does not appear to be controlled by an MCU. A long press (2 seconds or more) on the power button on the remote control or the unit itself, will bring a menu to Power Off or Reboot, but both options will simply reboot the device, so there’s no option to truly turn off the device. A short press will make the device enter standby mode, and another press will wake it up again. So you’ll have to choose between going into Standby mode or disconnect the power. The latter may lead to corrupted firmware, even after Standby mode is activated. When you connect the power adapter, the device won’t boot, and you need to press the button on the back of unit, as the power button on the IR remote control won’t work.

Beelink i68 stays pretty cool for a mid range device, as the temperature only went up to 42°C and 48°C on the top and bottom of the enclosure after running Antutu 5, and it got slightly warmer after 15 to 20 minutes playing Riptide GP2 at respectively 49°C and 56°C on the top and bottom of the case. These are the maximum temperatures I got while scanning the box covers with an IR thermometer.

The device feels just as responsive as boxes powered by Amlogic S802 or Rockchip RK3288, and the system is very stable, apart from a few bugs in the settings and Kodi where both apps may crash.

Video Playback with Kodi

The firmware was pre-loaded with Kodi 14.2, so that’s what I used for testing with various videos stored on SAMBA shares in an Ubuntu 14.04 computer and accessed while connected via Ethernet. I had not troubles to connect to my SAMBA share in either Kodi or ES File Explorer.

Kodi 14.2 on i68 Comes with Some Pre-installed Add-ons.

Kodi 14.2 on i68 Comes with Some Pre-installed Add-ons.

Let’s being with video samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, as well as some Elecard H.265/HEVC samples, and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – Mostly OK, but I could notice some “image jump” occurring very rapid, maybe 2 or 3 times in the video, as if an older frame was displayed for a short. It might also have been a bit smoother
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – Same results as for H.264
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – Same results as for H.264
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 480p/720p/1080p – audio only
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Software decode @ ~18 to 22 fps instead of 25 fps
  • WebM / VP8 – Could be a little smoother
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – 360p and 720p – OK. 1080p plays at 15fps, for a 24fps video, ) with audio/video sync issues.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Results are a little disappointing, although it’s possible some people find video playback to be acceptable, as the “image jump” issue does not occur that often and is very short (like one frame).

I’ve followed up with some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK, except during fast moving scenes, where the video is not really smooth
  • 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) – audio only, and it stops after 9 seconds
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Sometimes OK, but most of the time not, with the fps fluctuating a lot between 12 fps to 60 fps… played from USB hard drive

I’ve played some HD audio videos both down-mixed to PCM using Kodi and the internal player “Video” app, and audio pass-through with Onkyo TX-NR636 using HDMI pass-through with BD/DVD input, and optical S/PDIF with TV/CD input. For audio pass-through, AC3 and DTS pass-through, as well as Dolby transcoding, were enabled in Kodi, as well as Spdif passthrough and HDMI bitstream in Android Sound settings as needed.

Video PCM Output
Kodi
PCM Output
“Video” app
HDMI Pass-through
Kodi
S/PDIF Pass-through
Kodi
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK OK OK. (Dolby 5.1) OK (Dolby 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK. (Dolby 5.1) OK (Dolby 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK Dolby 5.1 Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 5.1 Slow motion video, and audio cuts OK Dolby 5.1
Slow motion video, and audio stops after a while
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK Dolby 5.1
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK OK Dolby 5.1
DTS HD Master OK OK Dolby 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK Dolby 5.1

You may have noticed I’ve added a video with Dolby Atmos 7.1, as my AV receiver supports it, and I’ve found some free Atmos samples online. The pass-through results were always Dolby 5.1 when transcoding was enabled in Kodi, but if I disabled it then it would just about stereo audio (PCM 2.0) for all codecs.

Sintel-Bluray.iso and amay.iso (Ambra – Prism of Life) Blu-ray ISO could play without noticeable issues, as did my two 1080i MPEG2 video samples (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg). I’ve yet to find a box that plays Hi10p videos:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – Audio OK, green screen only, and no subtitles.
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – Audio OK, subtitles OK, but video with massive artifacts, and got stuck after a short while.

Since HDMI 2.0 support is one of the main selling point of RK3368 TV boxes, you’d think they’d work to make 4K videos, and especially 2160p @ 60 fps video, work in Kodi:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Starts OK, but somehow the framerate drops to 10 fps, and becomes choppy  near the end
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – The first 10 seconds are stuttering, then it looks OK, only to become unwatchable a few seconds later due to low framerate.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  Probably playing at 2 to 3 fps (Kodi live log says 8 to 11 fps)
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Probably playing at 2 to 3 fps (Kodi live log says 8 to 11 fps)
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t play, the system stays in user interface.
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Probably plays at 3 to 4 fps using software decode as all eight cores are close to 100% CPU usage.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Probably plays at 3 to 4 fps using software decode as all eight cores are close to 100% CPU usage.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play, the system stays in the user interface
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Not smooth, at 15 fps or less
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Even less smooth than the 30 fps video (~10 fps) with serious video/audio synchronization issue.

I feel tired getting devices that don’t support 4K videos in Kodi… Nevermind, let’s try those with the “Video” app from a USB hard drive:

  • 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) – “Can not be played”
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Green screen…
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – “Can not be played”
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Audio and green screen…
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Plays in slow motion, massive audio/video sync issues

That’s better, but too bad it fails to play the 4K 60fps H.264 video…

My 4K UHD television does not support 3D, but I still try to play some stereoscopic 3D videos to see if the system can decode them:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – 10 to 15 fps, audio/video sync delay
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only (None of my hardware can decode this though, as it’s require two 4K decoders for 4K 3D videos…)
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

I’ve played a bunch off FLV videos, and most can play, but the ones which can’t be played will crash Kodi. H.265, DViX/XVid, VOB/IFO, and MP4 could play, although some will get that “image jump” bug I got with Big Buck Bunny linaro samples from time to time. I also got three XVid video at standard resolution that would make Kodi crash, and some had audio / video sync issues.

I could play a full 1080p MKV movie without interruption, and Kodi log window reported only 2 dropped frames and no skipped frame, but while watching the video I did not always seem perfect, so I’m assuming the reported values in this device can’t be trusted. I experienced the same issue with sample videos.

Finally, I’ve downloaded Antutu Video Tester from Google Play (Version 2.2), which soon after informed me there’s a new 3.0 version, which I downloaded. However, I first ran the test in version 2.2, and the system only got around 230 points which is pretty low, but with the new version it got 532 points. So that means we can’t compare scores between versions. You can find the detailed results for Antutu Video Tester 3.0 below.
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The video samples used in this review can be downloaded via links found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and in its comments section.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’m using ES File Explorer to transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the flash three times, and average the results to test Wi-Fi and Ethernet performance. Results for Beelink i68 are not catastrophic, but rather underwhelming, with the average transfer speed @ 2.2 MB/s, ranking the box as one of the least performing device for WiFi connection, at least with my setup.

WiFi Throughput in MB/s

WiFi Throughput in MB/s

I also ran iperf with Wi-Fi using the command line “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” and the results are similar, but strangely a little slower than with SAMBA:

------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.110, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 45737 connected with 192.168.0.110 port 5001
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   116 MBytes  16.3 Mbits/sec
[  5]  0.0-60.1 sec   119 MBytes  16.7 Mbits/sec

GearBest claims the box supports Gigabit Ethernet on their product page, but when I connect the box to my Gigabit switch only a Fast Ethernet connection is detected. It could be the first devices sold don’t ship with Gigabit Ethernet, but by the end of the month or next month, the new production run will have Gigabit Ethernet, as I’ve been told is the case for Tronsmart Orion R68. Nevertheless considering the transfer is taking place over a 10/100M link, the performance is very good.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

iperf confirms the very good performance (for 10/100M Ethernet) as running iPerf with the same command line as for WiFi delivers a transfer rate of over 90 Mbps in both direction.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

Ethernet iperf output:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.116, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  144 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 39845 connected with 192.168.0.116 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   656 MBytes  91.6 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.1 sec   660 MBytes  92.1 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I could pair my Mediatek MT6572 smartphone with issues, and transfer several pictures over Bluetooth.

I had to skip Sixaxis test with my Bluetooth PS3 controller, since the firmware is not rooted, and I did not try to root it.

Finally, I installed Vidon Smartband app to connect to X5 fitness band over Bluetooth LE, and the fitness band was detected, but for some reasons it failed to synchronize data, and always ends with “No bracelet connected”.

Storage

The system could mount a FAT32 micro SD card, as well as the NTFS and EXT-4 partitions on my Seagate USB HDD, but exFAT and BTFRS are not supported.

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

A1 SD Bench results are not pretty standard for transfers over a USB 2.0 connection. However, EXT-4 write speed is about twice as fast as NTFS write speed.

  • NTFS (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK2/USB3_NTFS) – Read: 28.47 MB/s , Write: 12.97 MB/s
  • EXT-4 (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK2/udisk1) – Read: 25.21 MB/s, Write: 27.40 MB/s
Beelink_i68_HDD_Performance

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Beelink i68 internal performance is OK, but not quite the best I’ve seen so far, which explains why it boots in around 45 seconds, instead of under 20 seconds for the fastest devices. The FORESEE eMMC flash read @ 26.56 MB/s, and wrote @ 13.93 MB/s in A1SD app.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

USB Webcam

First I connected my USB webcam to the micro USB port via the OTG adapter, and I did not work for either Skype or Hangout. Switching to a USB host port improved things a little bit, as the Echo / Sound Testing Service work fine in Skype, but for some reasons, I never manged to get the picture from the USB webcam.

Google Hangouts worked fine however.

Gaming

I played three games Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2. PowerVR G6110 was a bit of an unknown to me, but it performed pretty well with all three games at 1080p.   Beach Buggy Racing was super smooth, even after maxing out the graphics settings. Riptide GP2 was super smooth with default settings, and after settings the Graphics settings to the maximum, it was still playable, but I could feel it was not quite as smooth. Both racing games were played with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad.

Beelink i68 Benchmarks

CPU-Z does not know Rockchip RK3368, but detected the 8 Cortex A53 cores @ 312 MHz to 1.2 GHz and the PowerVR G6110 GPU correctly.
Rockchiup_RK3368_Beelink_i68_CPU-Z
The model is I68 (rk3368_box) with 2GB RAM, and only 1.94GB storage detected, because the firmware uses two partitions. The UI resolution is confirmed to be 1920×1080.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Beelink i68 gets 34,171 points in Antutu 5.7.1. which compares to 35,000 to 37,000 points I got with various RK3288 TV boxes, such as HPH NT-V6 or Uyesee G1H last year. So as expected, you should not really get a performance boost compared to RK3288 devices.  I’ll make a more detailed benchmark comparison between RK3288 and RK3368 in a post later on.

Please note that when the USB hard drive was connected, the 5V/2A power supply could not deliver enough power to complete Antutu, and the system would reboot during the multi-threaded floating point benchmark. I had to disconnect the hard drive the complete the benchmark successfully. RK3288 FPU would consume a lot of power, so I guess it’s the same for RK3368.
Vellamo_3_Beelink_i68
The mini PC got 1,288 points for Multicore test, 773 points for Metal test, 1,796 points for Browser test in Vellamo 3, which compares to respectively around 2000, 1500, and 2,500 points in Rockchip RK3288 devices.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Based on my gaming experience, the GPU is not too bad, and scores 4,248 in 3DMark’s Ice Storm Extreme. This is not quite as high as the scores achieved with Mali-T764 GPU in Rockchip RK3288 though which ranges between 7,000 and 7,500 points.

Conclusion

Beelink i68 is a decent device, with a smooth and stable firmware, although Kodi still needs some work, but if you were expecting a performance bump with a 64-bit ARM platform compared to Rockchip RK3288, you’ll be disappointed, as Rockchip RK3368 does not reach RK3288 CPU or GPU performance. It’s no slug either, but there’s no performance advantage switching from a RK3288 based device to one featuring RK3368. The two main advantages I see are 4K 60Hz video decoding and output and Android 5.1 firmware. Unfortunately, albeit video output is fine, 4K video decoding @ 60 Hz does not really work for now, and Android Lollipop is coming to Rockchip RK3288 TV boxes.

PROS

  • One of the first 64-bit ARM TV boxes
  • Firmware is responsive and stable
  • HDMI 2.0 video output works up to 2160p60 Hz
  • Recent Android 5.1 OS
  • Very good Ethernet performance (for a 10/100M connection)
  • 3D Games run pretty well

CONS

  • Kodi 14.2 needs some work as
    • None of my 4K videos could not play properly
    • Many videos have problems to play perfectly smoothly, either because of low framerate, or some skipped frames
    • Some videos will make the app crash
    • Pass-through only works with transcoding to Dolby Digital 5.1.
  • Box advertised with Gigabit Ethernet, but the current samples only ship with Fast Ethernet (I understand this may be fixed for models selling next month onwards)
  • 4K 60 fps videos won’t play smoothly in either Kodi or the internal “Video” app.
  • Wi-Fi performance below average, although still usable.
  • The device cannot be turned off cleanly (Only standby or reboot are working)
  • The flash is divided into two partitions, and the 2GB app partition may get filled pretty quickly.

I’d like to thanks GearBest for providing a sample for review. They sell the version I reviewed for or $78.99, as well as a version with just 1GB RAM  for $71.18. Beelink i68 can also be purchased on Amazon US, eBayGeekBuying, and Aliexpress. Rockchip RK3368 TV boxes should be more cost effective than RK3288 ones, as for instance, RK3288 TV boxes with 2GB RAM, and 8GB RAM sell for a little over $80 to $90 including shipping depending on model.

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