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Ugoos AM1 4K TV Box Review

February 9th, 2016 11 comments

Ugoos AM1 is yet another TV box based on Amlogic S905. I’ve already published specifications and uploaded some pictures of the nice looking cyan box and its board, so today I’ll report on my experience after actually playing with the device, where I mostly focused on known problems found on other S905 mini PCs, and some extra features added to Ugoos firmware.

First Boot, Settings, and First Impressions

I filled all three USB ports with a USB webcam, a USB hard drive, and a USB hub with RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse,  Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad, and a USB keyboard (convenient for screenshots), and connected Ethernet, HDMI and power cables. A boot will usually take around 30 seconds.

Before going through the user interface, I’ll mention that OTA firmware upgrade worked very well, and it was one of the first thing I did before the review. Ugoos firmware version used for review is 0.0.3 as shown in the screenshot below.

Ugoos_AM1_OTA_Firmware_Update

The UPDATE&BACKUP app will download the update, reboot the device, perform the update and you’re done. The first boot you’ll be asked to choose between UgoosLauncher, or Launcher3.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

Launcher3 looks basically like stock Android launcher.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

UgoosLauncher has been designed internally, is more suitable for a TV experience, and is available on all recent Ugoos devices including Ugoos UT4, where the latest firmware includes the launcher. The menu selection on the right includes folder for apps called “Internet”, “IPTV”, “MEDIA”, “OTHER”, “ALL APPS”, “GAMES”, “TOOLS”, and “SETTINGS” as well as an “OPTIONS” section to customize the launcher with the number of rows and columns, color, time time, and wallpaper. I found adjusting the rows and columns did not work so well, as icons are cut a little when selecting 4×4.. Apps are automatically assigned to a folder, for example Antutu could be found in “Tools”, and YouTube or Kodi in “Media”. Sadly there does not seem to be a way to customize which apps you want in a particular folder. [Update: you can move apps between category by long pressing on an app, and the following menu appears to let you open, move, select category or delete an app.

Ugoos_Launcher_Change_CategoryNote that a long press with my air mouse in remote mote (using arrows key + OK) would only launch the application, but if I switch to air mouse mode, and long press an app with the mouse cursor it works.]

I’m also not a fan of listing apps by chronological order, which Ugoos Launcher does, as it makes more difficult to find the app you need, and switching between the main selections is not as fast as I’d like, as I needed to wait for one second, before switching between “ALL APPS” and “GAMES” for example.

As with other Amlogic S905 TV boxes, the user interface resolution is set to 1920×1080. Settings are basically the same as on the other devices too, so I invite you to check MINI MX review for more details about settings option. There’s however one difference: Ugoos settings.

Ugoos_Settings

You can probably expect Ugoos to add more goodies overtime as they push firmware updates out, but for now, there’s just an option to enable root or disable root access, which can be very convenient, since some apps require root, while others will refuse to run on a rooted device. Unrooting will require a reboot of the TV box.

You can have a better look at Ugoos Launcher and Ugoos specific settings in the video below.

The system set my TV to 1080p50 the first time, but I could set this to 2160p 60Hz in the settings. Unfortunately, like with most other S905 devices, AM1 won’t always keep the settings after a reboot.

About_Ugoos_AM1If we visit Android settings’ About MediaBox section, we’ll find the model number is UGOOS-AM1, which runs Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29.

The firmware also comes with a unified storage partition that gives the user 11.87GB out of the 16GB eMMC flash, with 6.57GB at the end of the review after installing apps, and copying some large files to the flash, so there should be plenty of space to fulfill the requirements of most users.

The HDMI CEC issue I have been having with Amlogic S905 and Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver was still there, so I could not enable HDMI-CEC, and all I got was the “This remote device does not support CEC” message.

I had no issues with Google Play Store, except for HPlus Watch app required for Makibes F68 smartwatch, but it’s likely because the app requires telephony support for handling call and SMS notifications. I also side-loaded Amazon Underground in order to install the free version of Riptide GP2. However, as I wanted to use YouTube, I was asked to install an update to Google Play Services, and Google service started to crash very often (like every 10 seconds), making the system usable, so I decided to uninstall the Updates and the system worked fine again, even if that means I could not use apps such as YouTube, or Google Hangouts. So that’s something the company will have to fix in next firmware.

Ugoos_AM1_Google_Play_Stopped

The firmware may have been rushed before Chinese New Year, as another side-effect of the firmware update is that the included IR remote was unusable, with the power key lowering the volume, and most keys having no effect. I guess that’s the “support for new remote layout” part that caused problem. It’s not clear right now whether the company decided to ship a different remote with new models, or simply made a mistake with the firmware.

That also means that the only way to control power is to use the power icon on the status bar. Clicking on the icon will show a menu with Power off, Sleep, Reboot, and Reboot recovery options. All four worked fine, but since the remote is not working with that firmware, or the remote I used was only send to a few reviewers or beta testers, the only way to power on the media player is to disconnect and reconnect the power supply. I’m sure a solution will quickly be found after Chinese New Year holidays.

Temperature was under control at all times with the maximum top and bottom covers’ temperatures being respectively 39°C and 46°C after Antutu 6.0, and 41°C and 53 °C after over 15 minutes playing Riptide GP2, without any noticeable performance difference over time.

I also measured power consumption in three modes with or without USB hard drive:

  • Power off – 2.0 Watts
  • Sleep – 1.2 Watt
  • Idle – 3.1 Watts
  • Power off + HDD – 4.1 Watts
  • Sleep + HDD – 3.3 Watts
  • Idle + HDD – 5.4 Watts

There are two problems here: 1. Power off power consumption is higher than in sleep mode, and 2. the USB port is not properly turned off in power off mode.

I also had an other issue on my device. The USB port close to the SD card slot would not work at all with either my USB hard drive or RF dongles. The firmware should have fixed this as one comment on Ugoos blog explained:

Some users had problems with OTG usb port that turns to a slave mode and doesn’t work with airmouses and pads. Now we add automatic slave/active mode for this USB port.

But it did not, unless I have another issue.

While the firmware is very responsive, and stable, there are currently too many issues to have satisfying experience, including the remote messed-up key mapping, a USB port not working, and issues with the latest version of Google Play services. I’m hopeful all those three critical issues will be fixed in upcoming firmware updates.

Video Playback in in Kodi 16.0

Kodi’s trademark policy is that if you distribute a modified binary, you can’t use Kodi in your application name. The rule is not followed by the vast maority of companies, but for example that’s why MINIX is called their port XBMC for MINIX, and WeTek will change the name of their “Kodi” app to something else. And at first when I went to Google Play in order to install apps, I noticed that Kodi was detected as installed, which would truly have been a first.

Kodi_Google_Play_Installed However the latest version of Kodi in Google Play is Kodi 15.2 released on October 2015, and the company installed a version of Kodi 16.0 Beta 4, modified or not, built on December 13, 2015. So we can’t trust the Google Play store to report the “truth” about this details.
Ugoos_AM1_Kodi_16.0I’ve tested Kodi many times on Amlogic S905 platform, so I’ll shorten the list of tested videos just like in G9C review. I’ve played all videos from a SAMBA share over a Gigabit Ethernet connection unless otherwise stated.

Playing 1080p Linaro media samples and 720p RealMedia samples went relatively smoothly:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 1080p – OK, but I got a black screen until the user interface was activated
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (1080p) – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Could be smoother (but unrelated to network).
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Could be smoother, but likely because Amlogic S905 cannot handle 100+ Mbps videos very well
HDMI audio pass-through only worked for Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, and for some reasons videos were all played zoomed in:
  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – Dolby D 5.1, but with some audio cuts; video zoomed in
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1); video zoomed in
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – PCM 2.0 only; video zoomed in
  • TrueHD 5.1 – PCM 2.0 only; video zoomed in
  • TrueHD 7.1 – PCM 2.0 only; video zoomed in
  • Dolby Atmos 7.1 – PCM 2.0 only; video zoomed in
  • DTS HD Master – DTS 5.1 only with some audio cuts; video zoomed in
  • DTS HD High Resolution – DTS 5.1 only with some audio cuts; no video, as the system stays in Kodi’s file browser.

That part did not work exactly well, and since Ugoos AM1 is not based on Amlogic S905-H, DTS and Dolby down-mixing is not supported outside of Kodi.

4K videos playback was also a mixed experience:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Plays with a micro pause every second or so.
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (H.264) – Lots of buffering, and when the video is not smooth when it plays.
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264 @ 119 Mbps) – Massive artifacts, mostly green screen
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – Stays in Kodi’s file browser for nearly 20 seconds, and then starts to play fine.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK, after a long buffering at the beginning.
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – Plays fine until the image is stuck after a while. Typical of older Amlogic S905 SoC revisions found in boxes shipped so far.

I’ve added 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 to my list of file, as 10-bit H.264 is said to be supported by newer platforms such as Rockchip RK3229.

I played a full ~2-hour 1080p movie over SAMBA to test reliability, and it could play smoothly and until the end.

Finally, I also checked whether automatic frame rate switching would work, and it did not even after enabling HDMI self-adaptation in Android settings and setting “Adjusting display refresh rate” to “On start/stop” in Kodi settings.

Ugoos_AM1_DRM_InfoDRM info app indicated that Google Widewine DRM is enabled. The security level is blank, but it’s likely to be Level 3 for SD playback.

You can find links to video samples I use for reviews in my “video samples” post, and comments section.

Network Performance

Ugoos AM1 could transfer a 289 MB from a SAMBA over WiFi to the internal flash @ 3.18 MB/s on average with 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, and 4.34 MB/s using an 802.11ac connection.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

802.11n performance was slightly above average, and 802.11ac performance slightly below average, and both appeared to be stable and with satisfactory performance.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

I repeated the same test, using ES File Explorer, and a large file, and on average the system could transfer a file @ 15.39 MB/s in both direction, making it one of the top performer in this test. however, please note that one of the transfers completely stalled, so I had to repeat the test again.

Since transferring a file over Gigabit Ethernet may be highly influenced by the eMMC flash write performance, I normally also run a full duplex iperf test, but AM1’s Ethernet connection just failed whenever I ran test, and very quickly, i.e. within 2 seconds. After the test I could still see a Gigabit Ethernet link on my Gigabit switch, but Android would indicate no Ethernet connection, and the only solution I found was to reboot the device. So it looks like while Ethernet usually performs well, there may also be some reliability issues.

Storage

The NTFS and exFAT partitions on a Seagate USB hard drive, and the FAT32 partition could be mounted. However, the infamous 10MB free space bug found in Amlogic Lollipop SDK dies hard, and I could still not copy large files to those partitions, nor run A1 SD Benchmark.

File System Read Write
NTFS OK No (10 MB free space)
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
exFAT OK No (10 MB free space)
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK

Internal storage has both decent read and write speeds @ respectively 38.05 MB/s and 14.16MB/s according to A1 SD Benchmark, and it surely helps making the firmware run smoothly.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Bluetooth

I had no issues pairing my phone to the device, and transfer some pictures, that is until I actually checked the pictures, all of which seemed to have been corrupted during the transfer with some lines shifted and color changes.  I’m not sure what may have caused this. I had a Bluetooth smart watch connected to my phone the first time, so I disconnected it first, and re-tried, but the results was just the same, as you can see from the image below.
Ugoos_AM1_Bluetooth_Picture_Problem

The root options in Ugoos settings is really convenient, and I could configure Sixaxis Controller app to use my PS3 Bluetooth gamepad clone with the device. I also tested Bluetooth Low Energy successfully with F68 smartwatch and its HPlus Watch app, as well as a Bluetoot headeset which I used to watch a music video on YouTube.

Gaming Performance

Since I’ve tested 3D graphics on several Amlogic S905 platforms already, I focused my testing on how good the system would maintain 3D graphics performance, by playing about 15 minutes with Riptide GP2. I set the graphics settings to the maximum, and the game did not crash like on some other Amlogic  mini PCs, and the game was very playable all the time. So that’s one of the positives for Ugoos AM1.

Ugoos AM1 Benchmarks

CPU-Z did not detect anything unusual, and UGOOS-AM1 appears to be a p200_2G platform, just like MINIX NEO U1, which is something you want to keep in mind if you want to try alternative firmwares.

Ugoos_AM1_CPU-Z
I just run Antutu 6.0.1 performance to make sure the result was as expected, and Ugoos AM1 achieved 35,068 points, which remains  comparable to the 36,741 points for Tronsmart Vega S95 Telos, but a bit short of MINIX NEO U1’s 38,032 points, with the latter most probably greatly helped by its ultra fast eMMC flash.

Ugoos_AM1_Antutu_6.0
You can get AM1 results details here.

Conclusion

While Ugoos AM1 has a good hardware base with above average storage, WiFi and Ethernet performance, as well as a responsive firmware, there’s still some work to be done, as the firmware has some rather embarrassing bugs with the remote control not working with the latest firmware, and one of the USB ports does seem to work, and the pre-installed version of Kodi has disappointing video and audio capabilities. The saving grace here is that I expect Ugoos to get on updating the firmware and fixing bugs over time.

PROS

  • Responsive Android 5.1 firmware
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 2160p with support for 24, 25, 30, 50, and 60 Hz refresh rates
  • Pretty good network performance both with WiFi and Ethernet
  • Relatively fast internal storage read and write speed leading to fast boot time, and load time, and virtually no slowdowns
  • Root can easily be enabled/disabled in the settings
  • Performance is high and constant overtime, as tested with Riptide GP2.
  • Ugoos commitment to provide firmware upgrades
  • Widevine DRM support (likely Level 3 only)

CONS

  • The remote control is not working at all with the latest firmware
  • One of the USB port is also not working at all, and this could be a firmware issue TBC.
  • Kodi has various bugs random black screens, some videos playing zoomed in, and some videos that should play well are not. Audio pass-through is also not working in a satisfying manner, limited to DTS and Dolby 5.1 with audio cuts, and complete lack of support for TrueHD and DTS HD
  • The latest Google Play services will always crash, and if the latest version is not installed, Google Apps like YouTube won’t run.
  • Power off power consumption is higher than sleep power consumption, and USB is not turned off in power off mode.
  • 10 MB free space bug on some USB device is still not fixed
  • Potential Ethernet instability under high traffic
  • Images get corrupted during Bluetooth transfer (Unsure of cause yet).

If you’d rather wait for the most critical issues to be fixed before purchasing the device, I’d recommend you to follow Ugoos Blog, where they post news about new firmware updates.

I’d like to thanks Ugoos for sending a review sample. and distributors or sellers wanting to purchase in quantities may contact the company via AM1 product page. Ugoos AM1 is now also available for sale on e-retailers such as Aliexpress for $89.90 with free shipping, GeekBuying for $87.99, ChinaVasion for $74.62 + shipping, or GearBest for $88.74.

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AAEON BOXER-6404 Bay Trail Embedded Computer Comes with 4 GbE Ports, 2 HDMI Outputs

February 2nd, 2016 3 comments

AAEON has recently launched BOXER-6404 embedded box PC suitable to industrial application, powered by Intel Celeron J1900 “Bay Trail-D” or Celeron N2807 “Bay Trail-M” processor, with up to 8GB RAM, a CFast slot, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, and to HDMI outputs.

Aaeon_BOXER-6404BOXER-6404 mini PC specifications:

  • SoC
  • System Memory – 1x 204-pin DDR3L SODIMM slot for up to 4GB RAM with N2807), and up to 8GB RAM with J1900
  • Storage – CFast Slot
  • Video and Audio Output – 1x or 2x HDMI ports
  • Connectivity –  2x or 4x Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 ports
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Serial – 1x RS232 DB9 port
  • Expansion – 1x mini card with USB interface only
  • Misc – Power button
  • Power — 12V DC via lockable DC jack; ATX mode (optional for AT by jumper/BIOS settings)
  • Dimensions – 166 x 107 x 30mm
  • Weight – 1.3 kg
  • Temperature Range – -30 to 65°C (N2807) with 0.5 m/s airflow
  • Anti-vibration – 5 Grms/ 5 ~ 500Hz/ operation (CFast)
  • Anti-shock – 50 G peak acceleration (11 msec. duration, CFastTM)
  • MTBF – 152,670 hours

Bay_Trail_Four_Ethernet_Ports

Four models of the fanless computer are available with combination of 1 or 2 HDMI ports, and 2 or 4 Ethernet ports. An optional VESA/Din-rail kit is also available for mounting it on walls. The device supports Windows 10/8.1/7, Windows Embedded 8/7, and  Fedora Linux.

The embedded computer is available now at an undisclosed price. Documentation such as product brief and user’s manual, as well as drivers and BIOS download can be found on AAEON BOXER-6404 product page.

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Unboxing of MINIX NGC-1 Windows 10 Edition mini PC

February 2nd, 2016 16 comments

This morning I’ve received MINIX NGC-1 Intel Braswell fanless mini PC, so I’ve taken a few pictures of the device and its accessories, before starting testing the performance and reliability of this low power computer.

Contrary to the black, gray and green packages I’ve come across for their Android TV box, MINIX has gone blue with their latest Intel mini PC’s package.

MINIX_NGC-1_Package
The product announcements mentioned both Windows 10 and Ubuntu support,  and I’ve received the Windows 10 Edition, which hopefully means there will also be a Ubuntu edition.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Beside the mini PC, the package includes two external WiFi antenna, an HDMI cable, a 12V/3A power supply and corresponding power cord, as well as a multi-language setup guide, and MINIX product brochure.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The power supply should work anywhere in the world as it takes 100-240V/1A input @ 50 or 60 Hz.
NGC-1_Power_Supply
NGC-1 is very similar to the one used for MINIX Android TV boxes, except the company replaced the usual black color, by silver, and obviously the ports are quite different.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The front panel features the power button with three USB 3.0 host ports, one side comes with two antenna connectors and a Kensington lock, while the rear panel includes a 3.5mm audio jack, mini DisplayPort and HDMI video output,  optical S/PDIF, Gigabit Ethernet, and the power jack.

At this stage, I would normally teardown the device, and in theory you’d just need to remove the four sticky pads on the bottom of the device, loosen the four screws, and pop the cover out.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Sadly, none of my screwdrivers and screwdriver bits would allow me to actually do that, so I had to skip. So the next step will be actually run Windows 10 to test the device capabilities.

MINIX NGC-1 pre-sales will start on February 12, 2016 for $399.90 in North America, 399.90 Euros in Europe, and 299.90 GBP in the United Kingdom.

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MINIX NGC-1 Braswell Mini PC Runs Windows 10 or Ubuntu

January 31st, 2016 14 comments

MINIX showcased some unnamed Braswell mini PCs at IFA 2015 last September, but since then the company has been pretty quiet about their new Intel based mini PCs. The good news is that MINIX NGC-1 will be launched in about two weeks with an Intel Celeron N3150 quad core “Braswell” processor coupled with 4GB RAM, and 128GB M.2 SSD, and beside running Windows 10 64-bit, it will also support Ubuntu.

MINIX_NGC-1_mini_PC

MINIX NGC-1 specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron N3150 quad-core processor @ 1.6 GHz / 2.08 GHz (Turbo) with 2MB L2 cache, and Intel HD graphics with 12EU (4W SDP / 6W TDP)
  • System Memory – 4GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 128 M.2 SSD
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 up to 4K @ 30 Hz, and mini DisplayPort
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 3.5mm stereo jack (microphone + headphone), and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2 with two external antennas
  • USB – 3x USB 3.0 host ports on front panel
  • Misc – Kensington lock
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A

We also know the mini PC has a fanless design.
MINIX_NCG-1_Connectors
Braswell and Cherry Trail processors have similar performance, but if you check the features’ comparison between Atom x7-Z8700 and Celeron N3150, you’ll find the Braswell processor has more PCIe lanes, USB 3.0 ports, and natively supports SATA 6Gb/s.

Tech Connect noticed the mini PC at CES 2016 and shot a short video.

MINIX did not provide pricing information yet, but another CES video mentions the price should be $399. Since the product will launch in about two weeks, we shall find out the exact price soon.

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Mini Review of G9C Android Media Player

January 30th, 2016 16 comments

Shenzhen Tomato sent me their G9C Android TV box at the beginning of December, but as Google Play was not working reliably in the first firmware, I decided to delay the review a little, and the company has provided a new working firmware a few weeks ago, and I’ve now taken the time to test some the main issues I normally find on Amlogic S905 Android TV box. I’ve also ready shown pictures of the device and the board, so today, I’ll only report my experience with the firmware.

First Boot and First Impressions

I’ve connected all necessary cables, and several USB devices include an harddrive and RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad. The device started automatically upon connecting the power, and on average the boot takes between 25 to 30 seconds. Not bad at all for an entry-level device.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The launcher looks familiar…

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

…and the list of apps as well (I installed DRM info by myself). So I invite you to check out MINI MX review if you want to find how more about the launcher and settings, as they are identical in G9C.

About_G9CIn the about section, the Android version (5.1.1), and kernel version (3.14.29) are also identical. But at least the person who built the kernel is different so the complete firmware must be a little different.

There’s a single storage partition with 4.76 GB total space, and 3.51GB available once I had installed the apps I needed for testing, and copied some files.

Like with other Amlogic S905, G9C did not like my AV receiver (Onkyo TX-NR636) for HDMI-CEC, and i was unable to enabled it, with the system reporting that “This remote device does not support CEC”.

Google Play works pretty well with the latest firmware (I can uploaded it if somebody needs it, as I was only given a temporary link), and I could install Riptide GP2 via Amazon Underground too, although the installation of the later took a little longer than usual, and it crashed the first time right after I logged in.

Power control is implemented properly as you can turn on and off the device with the remote, or go into standby. A short press will go into standby, and a long press on the power button of the remote control will pop-up a window asking whether you want to power off the device.

The firmware itself appears to be relatively stable, however I could sometimes notice slowdowns, where the mouse pointer could not move for short periods, and in several instances I had apps just exiting for not obvious reasons.

Video Playback with Kodi 15.2

The device is pre-loaded with a version of Kodi 15.2 built on November 4, 2015, and I played all videos from a SAMBA share over Gigabit Ethernet unless other stated.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I’ve started with 1080p Linaro media samples (except for Real Media @ 720), and they could all play:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (1080p) – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Network: Could be smoother, and later on the video is buffering; USB HDD: Could be smoother.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – Won’t play at all (stays in UI)
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Network: buffering all the time. USB: Playing, but not really smooth

So the system buffers even while playing videos with less than 20 MBit/s bitrate. That’s not quite normal, and they should look into it. The device is also struggling to play the 120 Mbps from the hard drive, but this should be Amlogic S905 limitation since it occurs on all other devices with that processors.

I’ve also tested HDMI audio pass-through from my USB hard drive, because from the network video playback was quite a disaster with constant buffering. Here are the results after changing audio device to HDMI pass-through, and corresponding Kodi settings:
  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1). Video not smooth
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – OK (Dolby D 5.1)
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – PCM 2.0 only
  • TrueHD 5.1 – No audio
  • TrueHD 7.1 – No audio
  • Dolby Atmos 7.1 – PCM 2.0 only
  • DTS HD Master – DTS 5.1 only
  • DTS HD High Resolution – Network: Won’t play (stays in UI); USB HDD: DTS 5.1 only.

G9C simply does not support audio pass-through very well. Using some other version of Kodi could help.

I’ve also tested AC3 using PCM output (downmixing) with MoviePlayer and Video Player apps and there was no audio, most likely due to the lack of licenses for those codecs.

I’ve completed the video testing, by checking some 4K videos:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Network: Lots of buffering; USB HDD: OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (H.264) – Won’t play at all (stays in UI)
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – Won’t play at all (stays in UI)
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play at all (stays in UI).
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – Won’t play at all (stays in UI)

I’ve added a very high bitrate video with Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv which plays at 243 Mbps, and is supposed to work on the latest RK3229 processor. But g9C did not manage to play that one at all, and none of the 10-bit H.265 videos either.

Automatic frame rate switching did not work, even after setting it in Android settings (HDMI self-adaptation) and Kodi settings.

G9C_DRM_InfoI’ve run DRM Info to confirm there was indeed no DRM installed at all in the device, like with many others. Shenzhen Tomato however told me they can implemented for OEM/ODM customers that need it.

WiFi performance

I’ve tested WiFi performance by transferring a 278MB between the internal flash and a SAMBA share three times with ES File Explorer, and with 1.7MB/s transfer on average, G9C is one of the devices with the poorest WiFi performance, at least with my setup.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Storage

The mini PC could mount my FAT32 SD card, as well as NTFS and exFAT partitions on my USB hard drive, but sadly the usual 10MB free space bug found in other Amlogic S905 devices is still there.

File System Read Write
NTFS OK No (10 MB free space)
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
exFAT OK No (10 MB free space)
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK

The eMMC flash has a pretty good read speed @ 38.64 MB/s, but a poor write speed @ 6.64 MB/s with the former explaining fast boot times, and the latter most likely being the reasons with the slowdowns experienced during use.

G9C_eMMC_Read_Write_Speed

Gaming Performance

3D graphics performance of Amlogic S905 platforms is quite well known, and usually the main difference between devices is how well the maintain the performance over several minutes of play time. So I tested Riptide GP2 for 15 minutes for this purpose. However, I had a few other issues at the beginning. The game would be choppy in the user interface at the beginning, but it quickly become usual after a minute of so, and I went through the tutorial without issues or slowdowns. Then I went to the settings, and tried to maxed out the graphics “resolution”, but it would crashed at MAX-2, and I repeated it three times with the same results. So I only set it to MAX-3, but the game would then crash when I wanted to play. So I reverted to default settings, and played for 15 minutes with the games being rendering at a good frame rate over the duration of the games. The temperature at the top and bottom was around 55 C after the game.

G9C Benchmarks

CPU-Z still reports a quad Cortex A53 processor @ up to 2.02 GHz with a Mali-450MP GPU, and the device reports itself as being model “AOSP on p200”.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

G9C achieved 36,060 points in Antutu 6.0.1, or in the same ball park as other S905 platforms such as MINIX NEO U1 (38,032 points)  or Vega S95 Telos (36.741 points). Please note that I had to run Antutu 4 times to get a score, as the app would crash before ending the results, or completely fail the 3D benchmark leading to a very low score.
G9C_Antutu_6.0

You can access the full results here.

Conclusion

G9C Android TV box has one of the fastest boot time of any other Amlogic S905 devices I’ve tried so far, but apart from that the media player has poor WiFi performance, a slow internal storage write speed leading to regular slowdowns, and possibly some apps crashing, Kodi still have a few issues that have mostly been resolved on other devices (e.g. frame rate switching, audio pass-through), and some older bugs I found on other devices that have not been resolved.

PROS

  • Recent Android 5.1 OS firmware
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 2160p 60Hz; 24/25/30/50/60 Hz refresh rates supported
  • Fast boot time (25 to 30 seconds)
  • Relatively fast internal storage read speed
  • Power handling properly implemented (Power on/off with remote, and standby)
  • Performance seems to be constant over the hours.
  • Dolby 5.1 and DTS audio pass-through is working.

CONS

  • Frequent slowdowns due to slow write speed of internal storage
  • Potential instability with app using 3D graphics, e.g. Antutu, and Riptide GP2 with high graphics settings
  • Kodi does not support 10-bit H.265, HDMI pass-through is limited to Dolby 5.1 (AC3) and DTS 5.1, and automatic frame rate switching is not working
  • Streaming over Gigabit Ethernet will often buffer in Kodi.
  • 10 MB free space bug on some USB device is still not fixed, meaning those drives are basically read-only.
  • Complete lack of DRM support
  • No Dolby and DTS licenses, which can be an issue if you don’t use Kodi.
  • Poor WiFi performance

I’d like to thanks Shenzhen Tomato for sending a unit for review. If you are a distributor, reseller, or have a custom project that could use G9C hardware, you could contact the company via their G9C product page. Individual can purchase G9C on Amazon US ($56.99) or GearBest ($52.57).

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Zappiti Player 4K Duo UHD Media Player Supports Two 3.5″ Hard Drives for Up to 16TB Video Storage

January 27th, 2016 3 comments

If you are the kind of person who mostly likes to watch online videos, Zappiti’s media players won’t have much to offer over cheaper alternatives, but if you have a large library of videos, either downloads or your own Blu-Ray rips, and would like to watch your movies both at home or on the go, Zappiti Player 4K Duo media player may fulfill your needs thanks to its two 3.5″ SATA bays providing up to 16TB storage, and a RealTek RTD1195 dual core processor supporting 1080p60 and 4K30 video playback.

Zappiti_Player_4K_Duo

Zappiti Player 4K Duo specifications:

  • SoCRealtek RTD1195 dual core ARM Cortex A7 processor @ 1.1 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – N/A
  • Storage Zappiti_4K_Duo_Side
    • 5 GB  internal memory (I assume available space out of a 8GB NAND flash)
    • 2x SATA Bay with 3.5″ hard drive up to 8TB each formatted with FAT16/FAT32, EXT2/EXT3, NTFS, or Mac OS enhanced (HFS+) file system.
    • SD card reader
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 with CEC support up to 1080p60 / 3840x2160p30 / 4096x2160p24, and AV port
  • Video Input – HDMI port
  • Video codecs HEVC/H.265, MVC, AVC, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, XVID, DIVX, WMV9, FLV, VC-1, H.264/x.264, CVD 1.0/2.0, SVCD, AVS, Sorenson Spark L70, VP8 ; Very High Speed video bitrates supported up to 120Mbit/s.
  • Video file formats – BD ISO, BDMV, MKV, MPEG-TS, MPEG-PS, M2TS, VOB, AVI, MOV, MP4, QT, WMV, DVD-ISO, VIDEO_TS, AVCHD 2.0 (AVCHD 3D, AVHD Progressive, and AVCHD 3D / Progressive).
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV and optical S/PDIF
  • Audio Codecs – AC-3, DTS, MPEG, AAC, LPCM, ALAC, AIFF, WAV, VSELP, FLAC, Ogg/Vorbis; lossless and audiophiles formats support (up to 192 kHz / 24-bit).
  • Multichannel Audio HD DTS, DTS-HD, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos – Bitstream (RAW) and downmix 2.0.
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi with 2 antennas
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x USB 3.0 port (side)
  • Misc – AC button On/Off (at the back), recovery button, LED display on front switchable with RC.
  • Power Supply – 12V
  • Dimensions – N/A
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The device runs Android 4.4 with Zappiti Media Center interface, which can play videos from the internal drives, but also external USB drives, the built-in SD card reader, but also via the network through SAMBA, UPnP, DLNA 1.5/2.0, or HTTP, as well as Internet. PlayReady, Widevine, HDCP, and DTCP-IP DRM solutions are also said to be implemented. The media player also supports true 24p (1080p @ 23.976 Hz) for a smooth viewing experience. I’m not quite support whether the HDMI input is support, and when I reviewed another Realtek RTD1195 device (M-195), it was not really working. They also have not reported the memory installed, but hopefully they went with 2GB, or did some software optimization, as on M-195 I often had issues due to the low memory, as some memory out of the 1GB installed was reversed for the GPU and VPU. That was in 2014, so it’s quite possible those issues have been resolved.

Zappiti Player 4K Duo ships with an IR remote control, a 2.4GHz air mouse, HDMI & AV cables, a power adapter, and a quick installation guide. They showcased the player, as well as their lower  end Zappiti Player 4K (1 hard drive bay), and Zappiti 4K mini at CES 2016, where Charbax interviewed the French start-up’s owners.

They also covered Zappiti Media Center V4, the app that runs on their players, and that is also available for Windows, Mac OS, and Synology NAS for free. All devices that runs the media center app share the videos, so I understand you can play a video from any device in your home network, and on Windows and Mac OS, the server can also perform on the fly transcoding to let you watch videos on the go on your mobile device.

Zappiti Player 4K Duo sells for 290.83 Euros (inc VAT) without hard drive on the company’s e-Store, and but you also select various storage options up to 2x 8TB drives which brings the price to 889.17 Euros. More details can be found on Zappiti Player 4K Duo product page, including the user’s guide in English and French.

Via ARMDevices.net

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MeegoPad T09 Cherry Trail mini PC Features a USB Type C Port with DisplayPort, Data & Power Capabilities

January 26th, 2016 1 comment

MeegoPad T01 was one of the first Intel based TV Stick, having launched months before Intel’s own Compute Stick, and over the last couple of years, the company has introduced a dozen of Intel Bay Trail and Cherry Trail mini PCs and TV Sticks. MeegoPad has now unveiled three new Cherry Trail devices with MeegoPad T09, MeegoPad T10, and T05 Pro. While the last two models look more of the same with MeegoPad T10  mini PC, and MeegoPad T05 Pro TV stick powered by Intel Atom x5 processors with 2 to 4GB RAM, and 32 to 128 GB storage, I find MeegoPad T09 more interesting with a thin form factor with an Ethernet port, and a USB type C connector that supports data at USB 2.0 speeds, DisplayPort over USB-C, and USB Power Delivery.

MeegoPad_T09MeegoPad T09 specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom x5-Z8300 or x5-Z8500 quad core processor with Intel 12EU Gen8 HD graphics
  • System Memory – 2 or 4 GB DDR3L-1600
  • Storage – 32, 64 or 128 GB flash, and micro SD slot up to 64 GB
  • Video Output – HDMI, and USB-C connector for DisplayPort output
  • Audio Output – HDMI, DisplayPort (USB-C), or 3.5 mm audio jack.
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0. Optional: Extra Ethernet port for router mode.
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port, 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB type-C for Power, DisplayPort and Data (USB 2.0).
  • Misc – Power button, cooling fan, optional serial port.
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 105 × 105 x 25mm
  • Weight – 293 grams

MeegoPad_T09_USB-C_Ethernet

The mini PC will come pre-loaded with Windows 10. It’s not quite available at the retail level, but MeegoPad T09 is listed on Alibaba, where you can purchase the hardware starting at $80 per unit for orders of 10 and more, and $75 per device if you buy 100 or more units.

Via WinFuture.de

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GOSTICK Intel Atom x7-Z8750 TV Stick Comes with Up to 8GB RAM (Crowdfunding)

January 24th, 2016 19 comments

After products like MagicStick or MeegoPad T07, GOSTICK is yet another crowdfunding campaign for an Intel Atom Cherry Trail TV stick. The device does have some interesting specifications with an Intel Atom x7-Z8750 quad core processor, 4 to 8 GB RAM, and 64 to 128 eMMC flash.

GOSTICKThere are three version of the stick GOSTICK Standard (4GB RAM/64GB flash), GOSTICK Enhanced (8GB RAM/64GB flash), and GOSTICK Extreme (8GB RAM/128GB flash) that beside different memory and storage capacity basically share the same specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Cherry Trail Atom x7-Z8750 quad core processor @ 1.6 GHz/2.56 GHz (Turbo) with HD Graphics 405
  • System Memory
    • Standard – 4GB RAM
    • Enhanced and Extreme – 8GB RAM
  • Storage
    • Standard and Enhanced – 64GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot up to 128 GB
    • Extreme – 128 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot up to 128 GB
  • Video Output – HDMI
  • Audio Output – HDMI + 3.5mm audio jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports (5Gbps), 1x USB 3.1 type C port (10 Gbps), 1x micro USB port
  • Power Supply – TBD
  • Dimensions – N/A (but it looks fairly big for a stick)

The stick all run Windows 10 Home 64-bit. The specifications are very attractive, but the Indiegogo campaign has at least two red flags: flexible funding, and only 3D renders are provided, without pictures of the actual prototype that is based on x7-Z8700 (since x7-Z8750 is barely available). However, they have uploaded a demo video that’s said to run on GOSTICK with 4GB RAM, 64GB Flash, showing Windows 10 Home Info (it’s activated in the demo), Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop CS6, and Blender 3D graphics and animation software.

A potential backer also asked GO Technologies, the Singapore based company behind the project (third red flash: no working website, That’s the company website: http://www.gostick.com.sg/ which includes contact information, but I still can’t find whether the company is registered @ here), whether they could really get Atom x7-Z8750 in time to deliver on their schedule promise (April 2016), and the company provided a screenshot of an email allegedly coming from Intel showing x7-Z8750 should be available right now with 2 to 4 weeks lead time. He did not exactly do a good job at hiding the Intel’s sales person name though…

Intel_Atom_x7-Z8750_availabilityIn case the project is indeed legit, pricing is quite attractive with GOSTICK Standard going for $169, and Enhanced and Extreme versions for respectively $199 and $219 with all three rewards including worldwide free shipping.

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