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Wintel W8 Review – Dual Boot Android & Windows TV Box

April 27th, 2015 1 comment

Wintel W8 (aka Kingnovel K8) is an Intel Atom Z3735F mini PC inspired from Sunchip Wintel CX-W8 (the hardware is a little different), but instead of just running Windows 8.1, the device can dual boot Android 4.4 and Windows 8.1 with Bing. I’ve already taken pictures or torn down Wintel W8, so today, I’ll focus on the software part of the review, first checking dual boot functionality and Windows 8.1 broefly ince it should be very similar to MeLE PCG03, before spending more time on Android as it’s my first Android Intel platform.

Dual boot in Wintel W8

When you boot the device, you can select Android or Windows icon, with a 10 second timeout that will boot your latest choice. There’s no menu within Windows to start Android, and vice versa, so to dual boot you need to reboot first, and select the operating systems right after UEFI. The best way to checkout how this all work is to watch the short demo below where it first boot into Android, reboot, and switch to Windows.

If you watched the video, you must have noticed that if you change OS, it will reboot again. One person on Google+ mentioned that the system is switching between the 32-bit UEFI firmware (for Windows) and 64-bit UEFI firmware (for Android), which would explain why it needs to reboot, and you have to make sure you don’t turn off the device, or a power failure occur during that process, or you may brick your device! Same thing if you mistakenly try to install Windows 8.1/10 with the 64-bit UEFI firmware.

Wintel_W8_UEFI_BIOS

Click to Enlarge

However, when I checked Aptio Setup Utility both version looked exactly the same whether I selected Android or Windows.

A Quick Look at Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 will bot in about 40 seconds on Wintel W8 because the FORESEE eMMC flash used in the hardware is not quite as fast as the Samsung Class 5 eMMC flash used in MeLE PCG03 and many other Intel Bay trail mini PCs.

Windows 8.1 Metro Interface on Wintel W8 (Click for Original Size)

Windows 8.1 Metro Interface on Wintel W8 (Click for Original Size)

Windows 8.1 with Bing is not activated in my sample, and clicking on activation failed. However, since my sample comes from Kingnovel it’s not a retail sample, and resellers can certainly request for a valid Windows NTE license if required.

Wintel W8 PC Info and Storage in Windows 8.1 (Click for Original Size)

Wintel W8 PC Info and Storage in Windows 8.1 (Click for Original Size)

Another detail you should probably pay attention when getting a dual boot firmware is the space reserved for Windows… Wintel W8 C: drive is 18.6GB large with 14.8GB free. Considering I already struggled with 32GB space on Mele PCG03, I’d really recommend trying to get a version with 64GB flash, and soon models with 128GB storage will also be up for sale.

Since I’ve already reviewed Windows 8.1 with Bing on MeLE mini PC, and that firmware customizations are not really an option with Windows, that’s all I’ve checked in the Windows side of the firmware.

Wintel W8 Review with Android 4.4

First impressions and Setup Menu

While in Windows, you’ll probably want to connect a wireless or USB keyboard and mouse, these may not be the most convenient in Android, so as usual I connected the RF dongle of my MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse to control the mini PC. I’ve also connected HDMI and Ethernet cables, before powering up the device which will boot automatically as you connect the power adapter. It also takes around 40 seconds to boot into Android.

Android Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

Android Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

The firmware is using the stock Android launcher, with a 1920×1080 resolution. Pre-installed apps include Kodi 15 Alpha 1 and Google Play Store. After setting up Ethernet, and login to the Play Store, I could install all apps required for this review just like on ARM based platforms, but I did notice some games such as Shadowgun: Deadzone, Dead Trigger, Angry Bird Star Wars, etc.. could not be installed, but many other games could. Whatsapp was also greyed out, but not Facebook or Facebook Messenger that both could be installed. I also side-loaded Amazon AppStore and installed Riptide GP2 without issues.

The settings allow you to configure Network settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet, and services including VPN, Tethering and PPPoE. There aren’t any really useful Audio settings, but Day Dream is enabled in the Display settings, and an HDMI section will allow you to compensate for overscan if needed, and select various HDMI output:Wintel_W8_About_Tablet

  • 1080p @ 60/50/30/25/24Hz
  • 1280×1024 @ 60Hz, 1360×768 @ 60Hz, 1152×864 @ 60Hz
  • 720p @ 60 or 50Hz
  • 1024×768 @ 60 Hz, 800×600 @ 60Hz
  • 720×576 @ 50Hz, 720×480 @ 60Hz (16:9 or 4:3)
  • 640×480 @ 60 Hz, 720×400 @ 70Hz

The firmware also has a separate function for video post-processing called “Intel Smart Video” that will “improve video quality by reducing noise and eliminating artifacts with interlaced content”.

Since most storage is reserved for Windows, the partition in Android is only 4.36GB out of the 32GB flash with most of it available.  Developers option can easily be enabled, and Printing menu is enabled by default, although you’ll probably prefer printing in Windows 8.1 instead.

The “About tablet” section indicate the model number is w8, and Android 4.4.4 runs on top of Linux 3.10.20. There’s also a line showing IFWI version 5.6.5, but I’m not sure what that means. The firmware is rooted. You can checkout all Android settings in the 2-minute video embedded below.

There’s an IR receiver, but it’s supposed to only work in Android, and I’m not quite sure how to set it up. One of the most important features of an IR remote control is to allow turning on and off the platform, and there’s no problem with turning off and rebooting the device in Android or Windows 8.1 with MeLE F10 Deluxe or another air mouse, but it’s just not possible to turn it back on without pressing the power button on the unit itself. If you had a power extension with a remote control, you should be able to start the box automatically.

Wintel W8 does not get hotter than ARM TV boxes, as I measured respectively 42 and 50 C on the top and bottom of the case after Antutu 5.7, and 50 and 56 after 15 minutes playing Riptide GP2.

Overall Android on Intel Atom Z3735F feels just like Android on recent ARM platforms such as Rockchip RK3288, with the exception that some games won’t install, and the games experience for some games may not be as good. The firmware is not only smooth, but extremely stable too, and I did not experience any noticeable slowdown or freezes during my testing. The only issues I had was with Kodi 15 Alpha 1 which may exit from time to time or even freeze, but it’s probably because they chose to load an Alpha version of Kodi, instead of Kodi 14.2 stable release.

Kodi 15 Android on Intel Atom Z3735F Processor

I’ve already tested Kodi on Intel both with Kodi 14.1 in Windows 8.1, and Kodi 14.2 in Linux (Ubuntu 15.04), and I was impressed by the performance in both system, although Z3735F does not support HDMI audio in Linux, so I had to use an inexpensive USB sound card instead. Let’s see how Kodi 15 Alpha 1 (pre-installed) works on Intel Atom Bay Trail-T processor by playing videos from a SAMBA share over Ethernet.

Results with video samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus Elecard H.265/HEVC samples, and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p/1080p60 – OK. However 1080p60 video renders at ~36 fps according to Kodi overlay debug info.
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8 (OK, but first time I had a greenish background, which disappeared the second time). RV9, and RV10 –play at 16 fps instead of 25 fps.
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – 360p & 720p OK. 1080p will play only about 3 seconds before freezing. I can’t go back to Kodi, and going back to the Home Screen and restarting Kodi does not work, so I had to reboot the device (Tested twice).
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Some higher bitrate videos could play more or less smoothly:

  • 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) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Not smooth, plays at 12 to 15 fps instead of 29.97 fps
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Not smooth, plays at 12 to 15 fps instead of 29.97 fps

HD audio codecs have been tested down-mixed to PCM using Kodi and MXPlayer, and audio pass-through has been tested with Onkyo TX-NR636 using HDMI pass-through with BD/DVD input. I enabled pass-through in Kodi for AC3 and DTS, as well as Dolby Digital transcoding, and did not change anything in Android settings.

Video PCM Output
Kodi
PCM Output
MX Player
HDMI Pass-through
Kodi
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but the video could be smoother No audio OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio Dolby 5.1
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio Dolby 5.1
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio Dolby 5.1
DTS HD Master OK No audio Dolby 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio Dolby 5.1

So the firmware does not support any advanced audio codec as shown with MX Player results, so but since Kodi implements its own audio decoding by software all formats can be down-mixed in Kodi. Lossless audio codecs HDMI pass-through is not supported, but again Kodi handle that by transcoding unsupported audio codec to Dolby Digital 5.1. I’d like to note however that enabled HDMI pass-through makes Kodi relatively unstable, as it might randomly exit when starting to play videos.

Sintel-Bluray.iso could play so unencrypted Blur-ay ISO are supported The two 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play, but GridHD video would sparkle. Both Hi10p H.264 videos failed to play:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – No audio / no video. Back screen.
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – No audio / no video. Back screen.

Bay Trail-T processors can’t output to 2160p (4K UHD), but they should still decode H.264 videos up to 2160p30:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – 10 fps
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – 10 fps
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t start
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Won’t start
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – 10 fps
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Kodi will exit
  • tears_of_steel_4k_H264_24fps.mov – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, plays @ ~20 fps.

My LG 42UB820T television does not support 3D, but I still tested whether the platform could decode some stereoscopic 3D videos:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – Looks OK, but plays at 36 fps instead of 60 fps
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Looks like a still picture slideshow
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

All my AVI, MKV, IFO and MP4 videos (720p/1080p) could play fine without issues such as A/V out-of-sync. Most FLV videos played, but some only had audio with black screen. A full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) could play without interruption and no dropped or skipped frames at all for the whole duration.

Kodi 15 Alpha 1 is not that bad on Intel platform, but it certainly does not perform as well as Kodi 14.x in Windows 8.1, with some videos not playing smoothly, HDMI audio pass-through makes Kodi unstable, and Kodi may exit while starting videos. So I’d still recommend using Kodi inside Windows 8.1 instead of Android 4.4.

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

I’ve also run Antutu Video Tester where Wintel W8 gets 460 points about of 700+ possible despite failing to play a fair amount a video due to lack audio codec and HEVC video codec among other things.

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

It’s not quite as good as HiSilicon (700+ points), or Allwinner (600+) platforms, but still better than the score I got with Open Hour Chameleon (Rockchip RK3288): 262 points.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’ve tested networking performance by transferring a 278MB file over SAMBA three times with ES File Explorer. Wi-Fi performance is very good with an average transfer rate of 3.58 MB/s, making it one of the best 802.11n performer.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve repeated the same test with the 10/100M Ethernet connection, which achieves 6.78MB/s which is quite good for a Fast Ethernet connection.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Run iperf instead with the command iperf -t 60 -s server_ip -d confirms the good performance.

Wintel_W8_iperf

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

[  4] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 33327
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.111, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  272 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 59163 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   652 MBytes  91.2 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   423 MBytes  59.1 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I had mixed results with Bluetooth. Photo transfers over Bluetooth between Iocean M6752 smartphone and the box worked fine, but Vidonn X5 smartband (Bluetooth Low Energy) could not be found by the relevant app, and my Wireless PS3 gamepad clone failed to connect with Sixaxis Compatibility checker, although the drivers appears to be there.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be mounted by the system. However, only the NTFS partition of my Seagate USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed.

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

The system also only appear to support one USB storage device at a time, so when I connected my USB flash drive it automatically unmounted the NTFS partition on my hard drive with a notification popping up as follows:

Warning: One more MSC devices attached
Warning:  only one USB mass storage device can be used.

I ran A1 SD Bench to benchmark USB hard drive and internal flash performance, but I have to gave with the former, since I could not find a supported mount point. in ES File Explorer it shows as usb://1004/USB3_NTFS, where USB3_NTFS is the volume name, but this string is not recognized in A1 SD bench.

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

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

So finally, I only tested the eMMC which turns not to be so bad after all. It’s still much slower than the 160MB/s achieved with CrystalDiskMark on MeLE PCG03 in Windows 8.1, but compared to Android TV boxes, the read speed is acceptable, and the write speed is very good.

USB Webcam

I could install Skype and Google Hangouts, but once I connected my USB webcam I lost all input to the mini PC (keyboard and air mouse unresponsive) for 30 seconds or so before I could use the system again.

The camera was detected in Google Handhouts (Camera icon shown), but I could not get any image during calls. I tried to call “Echo / Sound Testing services” but I could get the lady voice at all despite the system audio working. Trying to call a real person, who just get me the Android home screen, and start Skype again.

Conclusion: if you want to use Skype / Hangouts on Wintel W8, use Windows 8.1…

Gaming

My three usual test games namely Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2 could all be installed and run on the box. I control Candy Crush Saga with the air mouse, and game play was nice and smooth. I then then switched to Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad for Beach Buggy Racing and Riptide GP2. The former was behaving just like on higher end Android TV boxes, with a higher framerate even with quality settings set to the maximum. Riptide GP2 was playable with high quality settings, but far from optimal, and the user experience appeared to deteriorate with time. I played  15 minutes (5 races), and the game felt slower at the end.

As mentioned in the “First impressions” section, some famous games (Dead Trigger, Shadowngun…) can’t be installed on the platform, and I’m assuming it might be because these have not been ported to x86 target (TBC), so to play Android games better go with Rockchip RK3288, Tegra K1/X1 or Qualcomm Snapdragon S8xx based platforms.

Wintel W8 Android Benchmarks

Before running benchmarks per se, let’s see what CPU-Z has to show for this Intel mini PC.

CPU-Z _ Intel Atom Z3735F Mini PC (Click to Enlarge)

CPU-Z _ Intel Atom Z3735F Mini PC (Click to Enlarge)

It correctly detects an Intel Atom Z3735F processor @ 498 MHz to 1.83GHz processor with HD Graphics. The screen resolution is 1920×1080, total RAM 1887 MB, and it has 4.36GB reserved for Android OS.

Wintel_W8_AntutuWintel W8 got 30,682 points in Antutu 5.7, which is fairly similar to the score with MeegoPad T01 running Android-x86, and I have compared to Rockchip RK3288 processor.  Rockchip RK3288 devices now get around 36,000 to 39,000 points.

Wintel_W8_VellamoBut Antutu can easily be cheated, so I’ve also run Vellamo 3.x, and compare it to the results I got with HPH NT-V6, another Rockchip RK3288 TV Box.

Vellamo 3.x Test Wintel W8
Intel Atom Z3735F
HPH NT-V6
Rockchip RK3288
Browser 2,683 2,549
Multicore 1,423 2,003
Metal 1,077 1,457

The Intel platform slightly outperform the ARM device in the browser test with the stock Android browser, but Rockchip RK3288 clearly has the edge in  metal and multicore benchmarks.

3DMark_Ice_Storm_ExtremeFinally, 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme shows the limitations of the Intel GPU, as 4771 points is significantly lower than 6,400 points in Allwinner A80 platforms (PowerVR GC6230), and 7,000+ points with ARM Mali-T764 GPU found in Rockchip RK3288.

Conclusion

When it comes to Windows 8.1, I don’t believe there’s much difference between vendors with a given processor, in that case Intel Atom Z3735F, except with eMMC speed, and thermal management. Wintel W8 does not seem to overheat at all, and although the eMMC may not be quite as fast as other low cost bay Trail mini PC I find it’s still acceptable. But dual boot with Android is the selling point of this device, and the Android firmware is actually fairly good with Google Play support, and very stable, but some applications like Office, Kodi, and Skype should still better run in Windows 8.1, and 3D graphics performance is a little weak compared to recent ARM targets.

PRO:

  • Dual boot image with Windows 8.1 with Bing and Android 4.4
  • Google Play pre-installed.
  • Relatively fast processor
  • Stable and fast firmware.
  • Very good Wi-Fi and Ethernet (10/100M) performance

CONS:

  • 32GB internal storage may not be enough for many people: 18GB in Windows 8.1, 4GB+ in Android, and it’s a bit slower than other Intel Atom mini PCs, but performance is still decent.
  • 3D graphics performance is a little weak, and some games can’t be installed in Android.
  • Pre-installed Kodi 15.1 Alpha 1 is not quite as stable, and video playaback is not as good as in Windows 8.1, so use Kodi 14/15 in Windows 8.1 instead
  • Skype and Hangouts not working in Android, but should be OK in Windows 8.1
  • Bluetooth Low Energy not supported
  • Windows 8.1 is not activated (in my sample)

The dual boot firmware helps Wintel W8 being a better device, as some of the cons, such as average Kodi or poor Skype support in Android, can easily be worked around by rebooting into Windows. So this type of device could really be great with 64 or 128GB internal storage, as with 32GB it’s likely to be frustrating over time, with the user having to free space regularly.

Kingnovel provide their K8 box for reviews, and resellers / wholesalers can purchase it in quantities (with 32, 64 or 128GB storage) by contacting the company via their Kingnovel K8 product page, or alternatively you could consider Kingnovel K8-II based on the same hardware but with a metal case instead. Individuals can pre-order Wintel W8 with the same dual boot firmware on Geekbuying for $126, although I’m not 100% whether Windows 8.1 with Bing is properly license, or they use the tablet version. A model called Wintel CX-W8 can be purchased on Aliexpress for less than $100, but with Windows 8.1 only, and most definitely without a proper Windows license at that price.

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Tronsmart Draco H3 is a Low Cost HDMI TV Stick based on Allwinner H3 SoC

April 24th, 2015 12 comments

Allwinner H3 was unveiled as a quad core processor for 4K media players that would sell for less than $50, but so far devices like TVPP0030 are selling for an unattractive $80, but this may be about to change thanks to devices like Tronsmart Draco H3 HDMI TV stick that are expected to sell between $30 to $40 retail, possibly excluding shipping, and it would then compete against Amlogic S805 platforms such as MK808B Plus that only support 1080p video decoding and output.

Tronsmart_Draco_H3Preliminary specifications for Tronsmart Draco H3:

  • SoC – Allwinner H3 quad core ARM Cortex A7 @ 1.5GHz with quad core Mali-400MP2 @ 600 MHz
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with external antenna, and Bluetooth 4.0 (AP6212 module)
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 1.4 male connector up to 4K2K @ 30Hz, with HDMI CEC support
  • Video Codec – H.265/HEVC up to 4K30, 1080p60 decoding for H.264, VP8, MPEG-1/2,  MPEG-4, H.263. WMV9, VC1, etc…
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port (full size), 1x micro USB OTG port, 1x micro USB port for power
  • Misc – Function key (recovery?)
  • Power Supply – 5V with micro USB port
  • Dimensions – N/A
  • Weight – N/A

Allwinner_H3_HDMI_TV_Stick
The TV dongle should run Android 4.4, and I’ve been told Allwinner assigned extra resources to properly support Kodi on their Allwinner H3 processor.

Tronsmart Draco H3 should start shipping in the middle of May.

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Wintel W8 Dual boot Android 4.4 + Windows 8.1 mini PC Unboxing

April 24th, 2015 12 comments

Last year, we were promised dual boot mini PC based on Intel that would run Windows 8.1 or Android 4.4, but finally companies decided against shipping a dual boot firmware, and simply loaded Windows 8.1 on their machines. Kingnovel sent me their K8 mini PC, better known as Wintel W8, based on Intel Atom Z3735F, and that can dual boot Windows 8.1 with Bing or Android 4.4. Today, I’ll go through the specs first, take some pictures of the device, and tear it down to have a closer look at the hardware, and in a separate post I’ll quickly check out Windows 8.1, before spending a bit more time on Android 4.4 to see how well or bad Android runs on Intel platforms.

Kingnovel K8 / Wintel W8 specifications

Hardware-wise the box has mostly the same boring specifications as almost any other Intel Atom Z3735F products on the market:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735F “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz (Burst freq: 1.83 GHz) with Intel HD graphics
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC (16, 64 and 128GB as options) + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 (RTL8723BS or AP6330)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Misc – Power Button, power LED, small battery for RTC, IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A
  • Dimensions – 98 x 98 x 22.4 mm
  • Weight – 190 grams

One noticeable difference is the presence of an IR receiver which can be used in Android, but not in Windows… The Android firmware includes the Google Play Store and Kodi 15 alpha.

Wintel W8 Pictures

Kingnovel sent me the parcel with DHL, and I received in a simple cardbox marked with “Wintel Box”.

Wintel_BoxMost of the times Intel mini PC only come with the power supply, but the package also included an HDMI cable.

Wintel_W8_Power_Supply_HDMIThe power supply included takes 100 ~ 240V 50/60 Hz input, and outputs up to 5V/3A.

Kingnovel K8 (Click to Enlarge)

Kingnovel K8 (Click to Enlarge)

The power button and IR receiver are on the front panel, two USB ports and a micro SD slot can be found on the side, with the rear panel featuring an headphone jack, the Ethernet port, HDMI output, a micro USB port, and the power jack.

Wintel W8 Tear-down

You’ll need a small plastic tool to unclip the bottom of the case, which comes out rather easily.

Bottom of W8 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of W8 Board (Click to Enlarge)

We’ll find a battery for RTC as well as the 32GB FORESEE NCEFEH58-32G eMMC flash on the bottom of the board. There are also a few through holes on the bottom right, and an unused 10-pin connector on the left of the board, but I can’t really guess what these are for. The Wi-Fi antenna can be seen on the left of the enclosure.

Kingnovel_K8_Board_OpenYou’ll need to remove four small screws to completely take out the board from the case. There’s a heatisnk on the Intel processor, as well as another metallic plate for cooling fastened to the top of the plastic enclosure.

W8 Board (Click to Enlarge)

W8 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Four SK Hynix H5TC4G63AFR DDR3L chips are used to get 2GB RAM, Genesis Logic GL852G USB hub is for the USB ports, and the Wi-Fi module used in this board is Realtek RTL8723BS. The IR receiver / LED is located on the top left of the picture, and we can find the recovery switch right behind the headphone jack.

Kingnovel can provide their K8 box to resellers and wholesalers, and if you’d like to purchase in quantities you could contact them via their Kingnovel K8 product page. Individuals can pre-order Wintel W8, which should feature the same dual boot firmware, on Geekbuying for $126.  A model called Wintel CX-W8 is also available on Aliexpress for just under $100, but with Windows 8.1 only, and most probably without a proper Windows license.

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TBS 2980 Matrix 2 AllWinner A80 Android TV Box Will Support USB Tuners

April 23rd, 2015 9 comments

TBS launched their Matrix 2910 media player based on Freescale i.MX6 Quad processor in 2013, and what made the platform especially interesting was support for the company’s USB DVB tuners in their Android and Ubuntu images. The company has now unveiled its successor with TBS 2980 Matrix 2 powered by Allwinner A80 octa core processor that will also support USB DVB-T2, DVB-C & DVB-S2 tuners.

TBS_Matrix_2TBS Matrix 2 specifications:

  • SoC – AllWinner A80 4x Cortex 15, 4x Cortex A7 big.LITTLE processor with PowerVR GC6230 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC + micro SD card slot
  • Video  Output – HDMI + AV port
  • Audio – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, reset button
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A
  • Dimensions – 101 x 101 x 31 mm
  • Weight – 400 grams

Matrix 2 is significantly smaller than other Allwinner A80 devices like Tronsmart Draco AW80, mostly because it lacks the rather slow SATA port. The box runs Android 4.4 with Kodi pre-installed, and will ship with a power adapter, a remote control, and a user’s guide. I’ve also been told the mini PC will also boot Debian server or Ubuntu Linaro desktop distributions from the micro SD card.

TBS_Matrix_2_ARM_mini_PCThe list of supported USB tuners are not been provided, but I do know TBS 5520 multi-standard USB tuner will be used for development, and it supports DVB-S/S2, DVB-C/C2, DVB-T/T2, and ISBT standards, so all these should be covered. It’s quite likely tuners supported by the original Matrix mini PC will also be supported on Matrix 2.

TBS_5520_TunerTBS Matrix 2 sells for $149.99 plus shipping on BuyDVD.net. You may find more details on TBS 2980 Matrix 2 product page.

Thanks to Ovi for the tip.

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Various Ways to Control a mini PC without IR Receiver for HTPC Use

April 22nd, 2015 9 comments

Low cost Intel Bay Trail mini PCs such as Pipo X7, MeegoPad T01, MeLE PCG03, etc… almost all share one thing in common: they lack an IR receiver, and for people who’d like to use their box as a dedicated HTPC running Kodi for example, this could be a problem as connecting a keyboard might not the best of solutions. Since I’ve been asked about this recently, I’ve decided to dig into the issue to see what options could be available, and I also hope to trigger a discussion in comments to discover other interesting solutions.

RF Air Mouse

I’m using MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse during my reviews, and such device can be used with HTPC. You just need to connect a tiny USB RF dongle to one of the USB ports of your mini PC, and you’d ready to go with having to configure anything. In Kodi, you would not use the air mouse function, but the remote mode is working well, and you can use the QWERTY side for the rare times when you need to input text.

Mele_F10_DeluxeThis type of device is compliant with USB HID class, so it should work with all common operating systems. MeLE F10 Deluxe sells for about $30, but you can also find cheaper model like Tronsmart TSM01 that goes for $17. Whatever air mouse you choose, make sure a play/pause button is included, as it’s not always a given.

Small form factor RF or Bluetooth Keyboards

If you don’t mind something a little bigger, but still smaller than a full-sized keyboard, a wireless Bluetooth or RF keyboard may be an option, such as the popular Logitech K400, which beside a keyboard also includes a multi-touch touchpad.

Logiteck_K400It should also be easy to setup, as you just need to connect the “USB unifying receiver” to your mini PC, and you’re good to go. Logitech K400 costs $25 on Amazon US. I also mentioned iPazzport KP-810-35BTT Bluetooth keyboard recently with backlit keys, and a touchpad that can be used as a numpad.

USB IR Remotes

If you don’t need something too fancy, and just want to control Kodi with the arrow keys and enter most of the time, you could get a USB IR remote. The cheapest one could be SANOXY Wireless USB PC remote control / mouse that sells for $5 on Amazon US.

Sanoxy_5_Dollars_Remote_ControlThe remote is said to be driverless, so even though the specs says it only works with Windows, it should also work with Linux or other operating systems. You just need to connect the USB IR receiver into a USB port of your mini PC, and it should work. In case of issues, you may have to double check  “Remote control sends keyboard presses” is enabled in “Input Devices” menu. Reviews are mixed on Amazon with some people saying it works great for the price, while others complained it only lasted a few weeks, and the range is 10 feet (3 meters) max.

Use your TV or AV Receiver Remote Control with HDMI CEC

HDMI CEC allows you to control multiple devices over HDMI using a single remote control, and in theory you could use your TV or AV receiver remote control to control Kodi on your mini PC. Unfortunately, HDMI CEC is not usually implemented in computers, but there’s a workaround thanks to HDMI USB CEC adapters such as the one provided by Pulse Eight.

USB_HDMI_CEC_AdapterIt looks pretty straightforward to use: connect the HDMI out and USB port to your mini PC, and the HDMI IN part to your TV or AV receiver, and it will be automatically detected in Kodi, and you should be good to go.

You can buy on Pulse Eight website directly for $44.60, and it’s also available on Amazon US for $49, where you’ll find mixed reviews. I’ve also tried to find Chinese clones / alternatives, but without success.

Remote App with an Android Smartphone

A final way to control your HTPC is to use your smartphone, or if you prefer recycle one of your old smartphone, with a remote control app such as Yatse.

Yatse_Kodi_Remote_ControlThis may not be as easily to use as the other solution above, but it should be much more powerful feature-wise.

That’s all I could come up with, so I’m now eagerly waiting for your suggestions, or just let us know what you use.

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Pipo X8 is a Windows 8.1 Mini PC with a 7″ Touchscreen

April 19th, 2015 10 comments

When it first launched, Pipo X7 was a $90 mini PC running Windows 8.1 with Bing tablet version, but Microsoft did not approve since that version is reserved for products with a 7″ screen or smaller, and now Pipo X7 sells for around $120 because it includes a $25 license for Windows 8.1 with Bing NTE (for mini PC). So in their cost saving efforts, Pipo decided to add a cheap 7″ 1024×600 touch screen display to their new Pipo X8 mini PC also powered by Intel Atom Z3736F or Z3735F

Pipo_X8Pipo X8 specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Bay Trail Z3736F up to 2.16 GHz or Atom Z3735F up to 1.83Mhz with Intel HD graphics.
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 32GB or 64GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot up to 32GB
  • Display – 7″ 1024×600 touch screen with 5-points.
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI up to 1080p
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, earphone jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with external antenna, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A?
  • Dimensions – N/A
  • Weight – N/A

So overall specifications are pretty much the same as Pipo X7 except for the display. NotebookItalia spotted the device at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair and spotted the device.

While Pipo X7 costs $120, Pipo X8 is expected to sell for around $100 at launch in May, IMHO provided Microsoft is OK with using the tablet license in that thing… The company also plans to launch Pipo X8s, the dual boot version with Windows 8.1 and Android 4.4.

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AtHome Video Streamer App Transforms Android TV Boxes into IP Security Cameras

April 14th, 2015 4 comments

Some Android mini PCs come with cameras, for example Measy U2C or CS928, but depending on firmware support, most will also take a USB webcam, and the obvious application is for video conferencing with Skype or Google Hangout. But I’ve just found out an app called “AtHome Video Streamer” can transform any Android device with camera support into as IP camera for security or monitoring. The app will show with the name AVS, and it should detect your camera automatically, and show a live feed.

AtHome Video Streamer

AtHome Video Streamer

I installed the app in Zidoo X9 TV box to which I connected a UVC USB camera in order to monitor… my chameleon plush / pillow. X9 camera support might need to be improved, as I lost access to the webcam a few times. You don’t have many options in AVS app, except Dimming the screen, and change the streamer name, username and/or password.

So the next step is to install AtHome Camera for Android or iOS on the device you’ll use for monitoring. The first time, you’ll go through a wizard, asking you to optionally register/login, whether the streamer is located on a PC / Mac, Android / iOS smartphone, or AtHome IP Camera.

AtHome_Camera_Home_Security

AtHome Camera Wizard (Click to Enlarge)

I selected Android/iOS smartphone, clicked on “Generate QR code” on in the Streamer app, scanned it with my tablet, and the new IP camera was properly detected, and I could check what my plush was up to! There are some options on the bottom of the app to record video manually, take a screenshot, mute audio, talk through the mini PC’s speakers, and so on.

AtHome_Camera_Video_Motion_Timed_Recording

AtHome Camera App Screenshots (Click to Enlarge)

Motion detection and timed recording are also available after registration with the service, and both worked fine. Interval is the start and stop time during the day where you can to automatically record or enable motion detection.

You’ll receive an email entitled “Motion Detected” with a body that should read like:

Camera AndroidPhone-2973-cam0 detected motion at 2015-04-14 14:29:16

You can then go to the mobile app to watch the 30 seconds clip automatically recorded upon motion detection.

Via MiniAndroidPC who tried it with their MK9 and MK9s TV boxes (aka IPPLI ip.i9).

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VX2 Celeron J1800 / J1900 mini PCs with 500GB Hard Drive Sell for $180 and Up (Promo)

April 8th, 2015 10 comments

CSQ CSW9 is an Intel Celeron J900 based mini PC with a 500GB HDD that normally sells for a little over $200 on Aliexpress once shipping is included. But today, as I found a list of Geekbuying Coupons via Google+, I noticed the device was listed on Geekbuying as VX2, and both Celeron J1800 and J1900 versions were available for respectively $179.99 and $189.99 after applying MYMVECMY coupon, which looks like a decent deals since a 500GB 2.5″ SATA drive costs about $45.

VX2_mini_PCSpecifications listed on Geekbuying are mostly the same as for CSQ CSW9 except some difference highlighted in bold or stricken-through when removed:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron J1800 dual core processor @ 2.41 GHz (base) / 2.58 GHz (burst),  or J1900 Quad core processor  @ 2.0 GHz (base) / 2.41 GHz (Burst) with Intel HD graphics (10W TDP)
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3L 1066/1333 MHz
  • Storage – 2.5″ 500GB SATA hard drive + micro SD card slot + optional 32GB to 128GB eMMC flash
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4a + VGA with dual independent display support
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet (Gigabit Ethernet as option), 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Audio – Realtek ALC269 HD audio codec, 1x headphone jack
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x USB 3.0 port.
  • Misc – IR receiver, power button, and power LED
  • Power Supply – 19V/2.1A
  • Battery – 2,000 mAh (only claimed by one seller)
  • Dimensions – 153.4 x 153.4 x 38 mm
  • Weight – 440 grams

VX2_mini_PC_HDMI_VGA_Ethernet
The computer only ships with its power supply, is said to come with Windows 8.1 pre-installed (likely without proper license), and the company claims Android & Windows 8.1 Dual Boot, Ubuntu, Fedora, etc.. can also be installed.

GeekBuying $50 coupon in only valid until April 14,2015. although I’ve seen them withdraw coupons earlier, if a promotion is a bit too popular… An alternative is eBay where VX2 J1800 sells for $188.99 and VX2 J1900 for $197.99.

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