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Bqeel MVR9 TV Box Review – Part 1: Specifications, Unboxing and Teardown

July 14th, 2017 6 comments

All Rockchip RK3328 based 4K TV boxes I’ve seen so far come with Fast Ethernet, not Gigabit Ethernet, with the exclusion of Rock64, which is not a TV box, but a development board. But Nagrace sent me Bqeel MVR9 box that comes with Gigabit Ethernet, in order to write a review. I’ll start by having a look at the hardware first, before experimenting with the firmware in several weeks.

Bqeel MVR9 Specifications

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor with ARM Mali-450MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR4 @ 1066 MHz
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDR10 and HLG support, 3.5mm AV port (composite video)
  • Video Codec – 4K VP9, H.265 and H.264, 1080p VC-1, MPEG-1/2/4, VP6/8
  • Audio Output – Via HDMI, and AV (stereo audio) ports; optical S/PDIF
  • Audio Features – Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD via RKMC
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 ports (including one OTG port), 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Misc – IR receiver, recovery button
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A
  • Dimensions –  115 x 115 x 23 mm
  • Weight – ~200 grams

The box runs Android 7.1.1, and the company told me YouTube 4K is supported, they added support for DRM (but only Widevine Level 3 for now), and BD ISO  & 3D Blu-ray can be played in RKMC.

Bqeel MVR9 Unboxing

I received the device in a black box reading “Smart Your TV, Color Your life”.

The box comes with a 5V/3A power supply that should be enough even if you connect a USB 3.0 hard drive, a male to male USB cable (for firmware recovery), a HDMI cable, an IR remote control, a TV box user manual, and remote control user manual.

Click to Enlarge

The box is made of plastic with the power button on one side, the AV port, recovery pinhole, micro SD card, a USB OTG port, and USB 3.0 port on the other side.

Click to Enlarge

The rear panel includes a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, a HDMI 2.0a output port, optical S/PDIF output, and the DC jack.

Bqeel MVR9 Teardown

We’d normally open the box by loosening some screws hidden under rubber pads, but there’s nothing there.

Click to Enlarge

So instead, I just had to unclip the bottom cover. There’s not much to see on that side of the board, except the sticker that reads TRN9-V10 2G+16G. So I loosened four screws to completely take out the board of the case.We can see two methods use to keep the box cool. First a black heatsink on top of Rockchip RK3328 processor, and a thick gray plate on top of the box.

Click to Enlarge

The board appears to have been designed by T-Chip, which should be the same company that makes the Firefly boards. The processor is connected to one 16GB Samsung KLMAG1JENB-B041 eMMC 5.1 flash that in theory delivers 285/40 MB/s sequential R/W speeds, and 8K/10k random R/W IOPS, as well as two Samsung K4A8G165WB-BCRC DDR4-2400 SDRAM chips @  (2GB in total). So the company has used some pretty decent storage and memory chip in the design, which should help with performance. They coupled a Realtek RTL8211F transceiver with Mnova MS0860 transformer for Gigabit Ethernet, and use Realtek RTL8723BS module for wireless connectivity (802.11 b/g/n WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0 LE).

Other notable chips include Rockchip RK805-1 PMIC, FE1.1s USB 2.0 hub, and TI DRV632 stereo audio line driver. We’ll notice a 3-pin header on the bottom left of the board which should be an alternative location for the IR receiver, and close to it a footprint to connect a fan. The UART debug interface is clearly marked with RX, TX, and GND, but not the most convenient, as you’d need to solder wire to solder pads.

I’d like to thank Nagrace for sending the review unit. There’s no product page, no price info right now.

Giveaway Week – Nagrace HPH NT-V6 Android TV Box

March 9th, 2015 228 comments

That’s the beginning of the new giveaway week that will take place between on March 9 – 15, with one device given away every day. I’ll start with a bang with Nagrace HPH-NTV6, an Android TV box powered by Rockchip RK3288 SoC with 4GB RAM and 32GB Flash.

Nagrace NT-V (Click to Enlarge)

Nagrace NT-V (Click to Enlarge)

In my initial HPH NT-V6 review, I found the device to have very good performance, but at the time XBMC support was rather weak on RK3288, and the device had serious Ethernet issues. Since then XBMC / Kodi / SPMC has greatly improves, and the company recently released a new firmware that fixes the critical Ethernet performance bug, so in 2015 it has become a much better device. There’s also a Ubuntu / Android dual boot image.

Nagrace NT-V6 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Nagrace NT-V6 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

You can check out HPH NT-V6 unboxing post for more pictures.

To enter the draw simply leave a comment below.

Other rules are as follows:

  • Only one entry per contest. I will filter out entries with the same IP and/or email address.
  • Contests are open for 48 hours starting at 10am (Bangkok time) every day. Comments will be closed after 48 hours.
  • Winners will be selected with random.org
  • I’ll contact the winner by email, and I’ll expect an answer within 24 hours, or I’ll pick another winner.
  • Shipping
    • Free EMS for winners with a shipping address in Thailand
    • $23 Registered Airmail Small packet for the rest of the world payable via Paypal within 48 hours once the contest is complete.
    • If Paypal is not available in your country, you can still play, and I’ll cover the cost of sending the parcel by Sea and Land (SAL) if you win.
  • I’ll post all 7 prizes at the same time, around the 18th of March
  • I’ll make sure we have 7 different winners, so if you have already won a device during this week giveaway, I’ll draw another person.

Good luck!

The 4GB RAM version of Nagrace HPH NT-V6 can also be purchased on Aliexpress for $189 including shipping by DHL, and it’s listed on Amazon for $183.99 + shipping.

HPH NT-V6 Firmware V1.4.4 (Rockchip RK3288) Fixes Ethernet Performance, Adds Smartphone App

February 19th, 2015 4 comments

When I first started to review Rockchip RK3288 based TV boxes I noticed several had critical issues with Ethernet including Nagrace HPH NT-V6 and Kingnovel K-R6. The main cons of the Nagrace media player included:

  • XBMC has too many issues: VC1 not supported, H.265 support only partial, audio/video sync issue, some MPEG-2 and XVID videos are skipping frames, some of the 4K videos I used could play properly, etc…
  • Some MPEG-2 file won’t play smooth in either XBMC or MX Player
  • Potential Ethernet issues, confirmed with my Gigabit switch (D-Link DSG-1005A) and 10/100Mbps D-Link router (configured as a switch).

Since then SPMC and Kodi must have improved video playback issues, but as late as last month I still got feedback from one person (Mr. B.) complaining about Ethernet on HPH NT-V6, but he finally got an email with a new firmware that is said to fix the Ethernet issues and more:

Below is the new firmware you can download and update the device.

https://mega.co.nz/#!NtxSQbTD!ke8fGZEFJAtoNtYpsx9qu8QlvvOeczIqrYsj5ddrfEg

1. Add Lehome assistant, use your mobile phone control the box, download the apk by setting/lehome

  • Android OS support both wifi and Bluetooth in english version and Chinese version
  • IOs support Chinese version only currently, english version will coming soon

2. Update the voice problem caused by media library. update the media library.

Here is how to update. Below information for updating a box with new firmware for your ref.

  1. Find the folder: androidtool_Release_v**
    enter “config” to chose select=2 (english version)
    back and open AndroidTool (the same folder with config)
  2. Connect USB with box and computer, use a small hard tool push the recover, connect Charger at the same time, then you will find the “Found one LOADER device”,then “LowerFOrmat”,Then “Run” then finished

You can try the TF card/U disk upgrade as well, method as below,

  1. After you download the firmware, and decompressing the file
  2. find the” V1.4.4 “file and open it and find the file “full_package.zip” and rename it to “update.zip” and then copy the file which you renamed to TF card/U disk to upgrade

So I downloaded that firmware, which was a breeze since the file is hosted on mega, extracted it, and found the “full_package.zip” files as advertised in OTA_TRN6A_HPH-FO-N6_RK3288_4.4.2_EN_US_FT0_V1.4.4_150129/V1.4.4 directory, and copied it to a micro SD card formatted with FAT
32, renamed the file to “update.zip”, and inserted it in to the device, and after a few seconds I got a pop-up windows asking me if I wanted to upgrade the firmware.
HPH_NT-V6_Firmware_Update
I clicked on Install, then the system checked the firmware, rebooted, and installed it successfully. The firmware in my device was still v1.1.9, and there was no problem updating to the latest v1.4.4 version, so you can probably give a pass to the annoying AndroidTool Windows utility.  You can also check the full changelog for the firmware since November 2014. The Ethernet problem was fixed on the 16th of January:

2015-01-16   3d05ed8 Kernel->gmac:改大rx_delay改善部分机器网口速度慢的问题

translating into

2015-01-16   3d05ed8 Kernel-> gmac: change large parts of the machine rx_delay improve the problem of slow network port

So if you still have Ethernet serious issues with another Rockchip RK3288 box, it may pay to find a newer firmware. I’ve doubled checked the fix, with iperf app, and the command line: iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d, and sure enough the improvement is there, and Ethernet is now usable in full-duplex, as you can see the difference for the red bar between firmware 1.1.9 and 1.4.4.

Throughtput in Mbps

Throughtput in Mbps

I’ve also quickly checked LeHome smartphone app, which you could download via a QR Code in the Android settings, or this link. After you install the apk (LeHomeRemoteControlClient_v1.5.apk), and run it, the app should look for a device. In my case it detected “T-Chip Tchip-DMR 001”, which I selected.

LeHome_ConnectionThen you’ll have access to various input devices like “Direction Key”, a keypad, a touchpad, and”Gestures”, as well as Miracast / EZCast like features for media.

LeHome App (Click to Enlarge)

LeHome App (Click to Enlarge)

There’s also a gamepad mode which can be useful for games.

LeHome_GamePadI have not tried the gamepad, but the touchpad, keypad, and Android keyboard input all work fairly well, albeit you may have to switch between input methods a bit too often.

Best Android Mini PCs Awards of 2014

December 27th, 2014 29 comments

I’ve reviewed quite a few Android media players this year, and as 2014 comes to an end, I thought it might be worth writing a best of 2014. But it’s difficult to announce an overall winner since all have some flaws one way or another, I’ll classified by categories: Best Ethernet, Best Internal Storage, … a bit like for “Oscars ceremony awards, based mostly on objective results from my tests. However, and somewhat oddly for a media player, I won’t select any TV boxes based on their video playback capabilities, as so far I haven’t found one that can play most 4K / H.265 videos reasonably well in Kodi, and video playback tests are also subjective. This is obviously a flawed contest as they all are, because in order to be nominated, the media player must have been reviewed on CNX Software. But it should be fun anyway, so let’s get started.

Best Ethernet Performance – Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta

This year has see several boxes with Gigabit Ethernet, pushing all devices with Fast Ethernet (10/100M) out of contest. However, Gigabit Ethernet has been a challenge for most devices, with some devices being a complete failure such as HPH NT-V6 or Kingnovel K-R6 which failed at full duplex transfers, and here we have a clear and undisputed winner with Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta.

Tronsmart Orion R28 (Click to Enlarge)

Tronsmart Orion R28 (Click to Enlarge)

I used iperf -s on my Ubuntu computer, and iperf – t 60 -c ip_address_ubuntu_compute -d command line in Android iperf app for testing.

Throughput in Mbps (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in Mbps (Click to Enlarge)

Best Wi-Fi Performance – Nagrace HPH NT-V6

Starting this year as well, we saw Android media player featuring 802.11ac Wi-Fi modules such as AP6335, and these are usually at the top of the chart, and the winner is… Nagrace HPH NT-V6 which managed to transfer data above 4.5 MB/s (36 Mbps) on average. It also wins the 802.11n contest at around 3.9 MB/s, barely out-pacing EM6Q-MXQ media player.

Nagrace NT-V (Click to Enlarge)

Nagrace NT-V (Click to Enlarge)

For this test, I’m using ES File Explorer transferring 278 MB between the device and a SAMBA share, and vice versa. Wi-Fi transfer is usually slow enough so that internal flash write speed does not affect the results.

Wi-Fi Throughput in MB/s

Wi-Fi Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Best Internal Storage Performance – Kingnovel K-R6

Internal storage performance may be critical to a system performance. A fast reading speed should yield fast boot and app loading times, and a decent writing speed may avoid user noticeable slowdowns when the system is busy writing, such as when installing apps. The best devices I tested this year are not Android TV boxes, but instead Infocus CS1 A83 tablet, and ODROID XU3-Lite development board’s eMMC module, but since this contest is reserved to Android media player, the winner is Kingnovel K-R6 (previously called K-R68), closely followed by HPH NT-V6, which just won the Ethernet award.

Kingnovel K-R68 4K (Click to Enlarge)

Kingnovel K-R6 (Click to Enlarge)

The tool used to test internal storage performance is A1 SD bench, and I added read and write speed to get the full score.

Best_TV_BOX_Internal_Storage

Internal Storage Read and Write Speeds

Best External Storage Performance – M-195

A device with SATA would have easily won this contest, but unfortunately, none of the TV boxes I tested this year came with a real SATA port, so devices with USB 3.0 ports ought to win that fight, and the inexpensive ($60 to $70), Realtek RTD1195 based M-195 TV box was ahead of the competition, even outperforming other devices with USB 3.0 ports such as ODROID-XU3 Lite or Tronsmart Draco AW80.

M-195 Media Player (Click to Enlarge)

M-195 Media Player (Click to Enlarge)

All tests below were performed with a USB 3.0 hard drive either connected to a USB 2.0 host port, or a USB 3.0 port if available. A1 SD bench was the chosen app.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Best Benchmark Score – Tronsmart Draco AW80 Meta

This one might be controversial, as I may just have given an award to a cheater…with the benchmark crown given to Tronsmart Draco AW80 Meta. But I’ll explain my process below.

Draco AW80 Meta (Click to Enlarge)

Draco AW80 Meta (Click to Enlarge)

The most popular benchmark in Android is clearly Antutu, but many companies tend to “optimize”, an euphemism for “cheat”, their system to score well in Antutu. As you can see in the chart below, Draco AW80 Meta is even ahead of ODROID-XU3 Lite board with a “BIN1” Exynos 5422 processor @ 2.2 GHz, with the Allwinner A80 is only clocked at 1.8 GHz, and both are octa core processors with four Cortex A15 cores, four Cortex A7 cores.

Best_TV_Box_Antutu

Antutu 5.x Results

So instead I also selected Rockchip RK3288, and Amlogic S802 devices, where I ran Vellamo 3.x, and here somehow the quad Rockchip RK3288 based HPH NT-V6 outperforms both Exynos and Allwinner octa-core processors…

Best_TV_Box_Vellamo

Vellamo 3.x Scores

So I decided to give an equal weight to Antutu and Vellamo by multiplying Vellamo score by eight and adding Antutu score, and that’s what I got.

Best_TV_Box_Hybrid_Benchmark ODROID-XU3 Lite has the highest score based on my hybrid score, but since it’s a development board mainly, I had to declare Tronsmart Draco AW80 Meta the winner.

Most Beautiful TV Box – Ugoos UM3

Many people just want a discreet black box, that does the job, and makes you forget it’s even there. But I’ve decided to give a prettiest box of the year award anyway, and after voting unanimously with myself, I selected Ugoos UM3 which comes with a nice black and red enclosure.

Ugoos Um3 (Click to Enlarge)

Ugoos Um3 (Click to Enlarge)

Best Value for Money – MXQ S85

Most of the time, cheap also means bad quality, but not always. One of the exception is MXQ S85 selling for about $50, with above average Wi-Fi and 10/100M Ethernet performance, pretty goos codecs/containers support in XBMC, H.265 support in MX Player, reasonable internal storage performance, and overall very stable firmware. This is obviously not a racing horse, but if all you need of a 1080p media player, with some support for not-so-demanding Android apps, then it should do the job. MK808B Plus TV stick based on the same Amlogic S805 processor might have taken it place for just $30 to $39, but I did not review it, and it could not be nominated.

MXQ S85 (Click to Enlarge)

MXQ S85 (Click to Enlarge)

Best Software Support – WeTek Play

The last award is more like a special mention, as the product is very new, but WeTek Play comes with an amazing number of available firmwares, beside the officially supported Android and OpenELEC images, including Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, and various Android ROMs. It also features a specially designed DVB app with automatic scanning and PVR function, as well as WeCloud Antenna app with over 180 free-top-air channels available over the network. A support forum has also been setup.

WeTek Play (Click to Enlarge)

WeTek Play (Click to Enlarge)

Best Gaming Experience – Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta

An Nvidia Tegra K1 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 mini PC would have certainly won here, but I can’t think of any Android mini PCs featuring rthese processors, and among Chinese processors, Rocklchip RK3288 based device offer the best 3D graphics performance, close to Alwinner A80, and much better than Amlogic S802/S812, based on gaming experience and benchmarks such as 3Dmark. Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta is the winner here, as contrary to other RK3288 boxes it supported by Mars G01 and a Sony PS3 wireless controller clone, making it the only mini PC to receive two awards this year.

What do you think about these 2014 awards? Anything you would change?

Preliminary Dual Boot Android & Ubuntu Firmware for Nagrace HPH NT-V6 TV Box (Rockchip RK3288)

October 22nd, 2014 3 comments

Nagrace NT-V6 TV Box is powered by Rockchip RK3288 processor, and in my review I found the hardware to be pretty good, although some progress had to be done on the firmware. The company is still focus on perfecting Android firmware for NT-V6 and Firefly-RK3288 development board, but in meantime, they’ve released a dual boot image capable of running either Android 4.4 or Ubuntu (14.04?).

HPH-NTV6_Android_Ubuntu_Linux

To give it a try download HPH-RK3288-Android-Ubuntu_20140924.rar. I haven’t been able to try it myself, because Google Drive download is extremely slow today. Once the download is complete, you’ll probably need to flash the firmware using Rockchip AndroidTools (windows) or upgrade_tool command line utility (Linux).

The dual boot firmware is based on Android firmware 1.3.9 released on September 30, plus an Ubuntu root file system. It’s not overly convenient to use Ubuntu, because you need to enter recovery mode by inserting a sharp oject (e.g. a toothpick) into the recovery pinhole on the side of the device, and keep pressing for a few seconds as you power it up, or reboot from Android. Switching from Ubuntu to Android is much easier, as you simply need to click on a button called “boot android” located on the home screen.

It’s highly unlikely this image support 2D/3D graphics acceleration and/or hardware video decoding in Linux, but since the eMMC flash has very good performance, overall user experience should be pretty decent in Ubuntu, and most videos (up to 720p or 1080p depending on video codec/bitrate) can probably be played relatively smoothly using software decoding. The company also warns users that the Linux image is likely to have many bugs, and fixing them will be done after they’ve handled Android bugs.

If you have some other RK3288 TV boxes (Orion R28, Beelink R89…), you can also try some instructions provided in Linuxium in Mini PC Google+ community.

Review of Nagrace HPH NT-V6 Android Mini PC Powered by RK3288 with 4GB RAM, 32GB Internal Storage

September 30th, 2014 10 comments

Last week-end, I finally received TP-Link TL-WDR7500 router (Chinese variant of Arched C7) router, so I could complete my review of Nagrace HPH NT-V6 including 802.11ac Wi-Fi. I’ve already listed the specifications, and taken a few pictures of the device and the board, and today I’ll focus on the test results. I’ll start by giving my first impressions, going through the user interface and settings, before testing video playback, as well as benchmarking networking, storage and overall system performance, playing some games, and testing most hardware features of this mini PC.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

A simple infrared remote control is provided with the device, and I’ve quickly tried it by inserting two AAA batteries, and it works fine, but for the rest of testing I switched to Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse to control the device, as it’s much more user friendly than any IR remote. Before booting up the device, I’ve connected an HDMI cable, a USB hard drive, an Ethernet cable, a USB webcam, and a USB hub with RF dongles for my air mouse and gamepad, and USB flash drive. Finally connect the power supply to boot the device in about 20 seconds.

NT-V6 User Interface (Click to Enlarge)

NT-V6 User Interface (Click to Enlarge)

The company has made their user interface, but in a similar style than the one common found in Amlogic S802 devices. On the top right, you’ve network status (Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Bluetooth). The status bar won’t show in the main menu, but in some other apps and settings, you’ll be able to access it. A large section with 9 folders can be found on the left with Movie (Videoplayer), XBMC (yes a folder too containing XBMC, so you have to click twice), Music, Game, Browser, Stream (Youtube and Netflix), Screencast, Social and Market. On the right, you’ve got the time, and weather (that does not work), and four more icons: “My Device” (Actually a file manager), “All Apps”, “Settings”, and “All Tasks Killer”. The user interface resolution is set to 1920×1080.

The Android settings are very similar to other RK3288 TV box. The Wireless and Networks menu comes with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and Data Usage sections, as well as a “More” section with VPN, Portable Hotspot, etc… Display settings let you set the font size, adjust the screen size, select between HDMI, YPbPr (Component), and “TV” (Composite) video outputs, and the resolution: “auto”, 1080p 24/25/30/50/60Hz, 720p 50/60, 720×576 or 720×480. I don’t own a 4K UHD TV, but if I did, there should also be some 4K options. You can choose between “Default Output” (PCM), “Spdif Passthough”, and “HDMI Bitstream” (HDMI pass-through) in the Sound settings. HDMI video output is working, but composite and component (YPbPr) video outputs failed to work. An AV cable was not included, so I used some other cables, and I could only see a black screen. Audio (L/R) works fine.

What about HDMI In? I’ve connected Orino R28 meta to the HDMI input port of the NT-V6, clicked on HDMI IN app, and I could see R28 user interface, but apart from that I could not do much. Things like Android notifications of the “host” won’t show up, as as it stands the HDMI In function is just like a cheap HDMI switcher. To go back to main user interface, simply press the back key on the remote.

The version of HPH NT-V6 I got comes with a 32GB eMMC, other options includes 8, 16 or 64 GB, which is partitioned into a 1.91GB “Internal Storage” partition for apps, and a 25.99 GB “NAND FLASH” partition for data. After I installed all applications I needed for this review, I was left with 568 MB available. It would have been preferable to design the system with a single flash partition, or make the “Internal Storage” a bit bigger. Nevertheless with 26 GB for data, there’s plenty of data, even to download and place movies directly from eMMC flash.

The “About device” section only lists the model number (HPH-F0-N6) and the Android version (4.4.2). It’s running on top of Linux kernel 3.10.0, but it’s not indicated in this section. The firmware is not rooted, and NT-V6 is another device with a USB A receptacle, instead of a micro USB port, and I could not root it via the OTG port since I don’t have a proper cable. There’s a System Update app for OTA firmware upgrades, and the firmware version is currently 1.1.9 in my device. I’m not 100% sure it works, because I have not received a firmware upgrade yet.

In the video below, I boot the device, and go though the user interface, and system settings.

Google Play Store mostly works. I could install most apps, install a paid app, such as ES File Explorer, MX Player, Antutu, Beach Buggy Blitz, CPU-Z, etc…  Vidonn activity tracker app was reported as “incompatible with your device”. I discover an easy way to quickly scan through compatible apps that you’ve installed in other devices previously with the same account. Go to My Apps->All in the Play Store, and you can scroll down to see which apps are already installed, or incompatible. You can also select multiple apps, and click Install for bulk installation. Since I got Riptide GP2 as a “free app of the day”, I installed Amazon AppStore to install the game.

Power control work as it should. A short press on the remote will put the device in standby mode, and you start it again but pressing the remote button again. A long press on the power button will pop-up the Android menu with Power Off/Airplane Mode/Silent Mode, in order to achieve true power off. A press on the box button will have the same effect. When the device is powered off, you can press the remote power button, or the power button on the media player, although I’ve found the latter does not always work… It takes 3 to 4 second for power LED to run blue after pressing the power button, so it’s a bit confusing at times. and you need to wait 4 seconds to make sure you’ve really powered the device on. Both the included remote control and Mele F10 Deluxe could power on/off NT-V6. As with other RK3288 devices, the case may become hot. After Antutu benchmark, the maximum temperatures measured with an infrared thermometer on the top and bottom of the box were respectively 58°C and 64°C, and 58°C and 66°C after playing Riptide GP2 for over 20 minutes.

HPH NT-V6 mini PC is very stable, and I never had a reboot and hang up during my 6-8 hours testing. Boot time (20s) and XBMC load time (2s) are very similar to Kingnovel R6 as both integrate a fast eMMC flash.

Video Playback

Video playback results are the same as Kingnovel R6 (previously known as K-R68), so I invite you to visit R6 review for video testing. To summarize, a version of XMBC 13 alpha12 is pre-installed, and suffers from not-so-smooth MPEG2 playback (in some files), lack of support for VC1, some 4K videos are not smooth at all, as well as audio/sync issues.

What’s different however is that I could play some HEVC/H.265 videos in XBMC:

  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (Elecard 360p / 720p / 1080p) – Audio only
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts – Won’t start to play

I’ve also test some VP9 videos. They can’t be played in XBMC, but can in MX Player:

  • out9.webm (low resolution) – OK. H/W decode according to MX Player.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (3840×2160) – Maybe 1 or 2 frames per second, still with H/W decode according to MX Player, but internally it’s certainly using S/W decode.

I also played a complete FullHD video (1h50) with XBMC to test stability. I had the same slow XBMC exit as with other boxes, which does not happen all the time, and apparently only during scanning or other background tasks.

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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

To evaluate network performance, I transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa, using ES File Explorer, and repeating the test three times. I now have two routers, but I’ll keep testing 2.4GHz Wi-Fi with my old TP-Link TL-WR940N router, and test 5GHz Wi-Fi with TP-Link TL-WDR7500 (Archer C7) which also support 802.11ac. I already tested NT-V6 in TL-WDR7500 review, and found the connected with NT-V6 to be unstable, and not that fast. That was on Sunday… But on Monday I tested it again, and the performance and stability was much better. I have no idea why. The only differences are: it was raining on Monday, and I was the only  one using Wi-Fi, whereas on week-ends, TL-WR940N may get 4 to 5 connected clients. So it went from 1.92 MB/s to 3.91 MB/s average speed with 802.11n, and 3.02MB/s  to 4.85 MB/s with 802.11ac, the best performance I ever got with Wi-Fi.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

The top line is with 802.11ac, and the second line with 802.11n @ 2.4GHz. But as I said this chart may overestimate the actual Wi-Fi capabilities of NT-V6, and performance seem irregular… Using “sunday” results, 802.11ac would have been in third position in the chart, and 802.11n between Vega S89 and VidOn.me AV200.

And now Ethernet…. I had rather disappointing performance with Fast Ethernet, and still more problems with Gigabit Ethernet… I should really buy another Gigabit switch to make sure that’s not the root cause.

Fast Ethernet Performance in MB/s

Fast Ethernet Performance in MB/s

I could actually get a Gigabit Ethernet connection, but I got a transfer rate of 250 KB/s from network to flash, and 1.8MB/s from flash to network…

In order to get a “pure” network test, I also used iPerf app and iperf in my Ubuntu PC, using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line in Android. It clearly show some issues with both Fast and Gigabit Ethernet, and whereas one direction has good performance, the other is problematic (100Mbps first, then Gigabit):

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

File transfer over Bluetooth works fine. I use ThL W200 Android smartphone to send a picture to NT-V6.

I skipped Sixaxis test for PS3 Bluetooth Gamepad support, because the firmware is not rooted, and I’m not sure how to root it without OTG cable.

Vidonn X5 activity tracker was used to test Bluetooth 4.0 LE. I could not install Vidonn app from Google Play (incompatible), so I instead installed vidonn.apk, and successfully connected to my wristband to get the data. Note-to-self: make sure to set the time on the mini PC before making the connection to the wristband, or it will mess with the data…

Storage

The system could detect and mounted a micro SD card and USB flash drive formatted with FAT32.
It seems nobody is interested in having EXT-3/4 working for external storage in Android, and as usual only the NTFS and FAT32 partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted.

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

I benchmarked the eMMC and the NTFS partition on my hard drive with A1 SD Bench. There does not seem to be a standard for mount points in Android, and firmware from various (SoC) vendors, have different mount points. In this firmware, the NTFS partition is located in /mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK2/USB3_NTFS. The read speed was 35.62MB/s, and the write speed of 15.08MB/s, so NT-V6 gets both the best read speed, and the worst write speed of all devices I tested.

MB/s

USB NTFS Performance in MB/s

Hopefully, the only solution is some optimization for NTFS writing speed.

The Samsung eMMC found on the board has very good performance, reading at 55 MB/s, and writing at 18 MB/s.

MB/s

MB/s

Beside fast loading times, a product with a fast eMMC is much less likely to experience slowdowns.

USB Webcam

I could test audio successfully with the Echo service in Skype, but unfortunately although my webcam appeared to be detected in both Skype and Google Hangouts, I could only see a black screen during video calls.

Gaming

Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2 all worked pretty well. I played Candy Crush Saga with Mele F10 Deluxe, and the two racing games with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad. Beach Buggy Blitz is super smooth all the time, even after maxing out graphics settings. Riptide GP2 is very playable as well, but not optimal all the time, but clearly mini PCs based on Rockchip RK3288, and much better than the rest of Chinese Android mini PCs thanks to its Mali T-764 GPU. I played the latter game for over 20 minutes to test stability, and I did not encounter any specific issues. Temperature measurements after game: 58°C (top) and 66°C (bottom).

Nagrace HPH NT-V6 Benchmark

CPU-Z app returns similar data as other TV boxes with Rockchip RK3288 processor being a four Cortex A12r0p1 core processor with a Mali-T764 GPU, except this time, the CPU frequency is between 312 MHz and 1.61 GHz, instead of topping at 1.8GHz for other devices.. I could also check there’s indeed 4GB RAM installed with over 2700 MB free.HPH_NT-V6_CPU-Z

NT-V6 could achieve G1H got 35,321 points in Antutu 5.1, a bit lower than Kingnovel R6 score (37,428), most probably because of the lower CPU frequency.

HPH_NT-V6_Antutu

I had not run Vellamo 3.x  test in R6 media player, but the scores in NT-V6 are better than the ones for Uyesee G1H.

HPH_NT-V6_Vellamo_3

Ice Storm Extreme benchmark score (7,056) in 3DMark is however a bit lower than the two other RK3288 box I tested (7,278 and 7,531).

Ice Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

Ice Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

Conclusion

Nagrace HPH NT-V6 is a pretty good hardware with a fast processor, excellent 3D and eMMC storage performance. The firmware is stable, and provides a smooth user experience, without slowdowns. Wi-Fi can be excellent too, but stability may be an issue. As with other Rockchip RK3288 devices I’ve tested,  video playback in XBMC is rather disappointing, but at least there’s partial HEVC/H.265 codec support. partial, nbecause only some caontainers appear to be supported.

PRO:

  • Fast new processor
  • Excellent 3D graphics performance for games
  • Stable and fast firmware.
  • Memory and Storage capacity (4GB / 32GB)
  • Excellent Wi-Fi performance, when it works
  • Fast eMMC, both for reading and writing speeds.
  • Both 720p and 1080p user interfaces are supported
  • Video Output – 1080p support 24, 25 ,30 , 50 and 60 Hz output. 4K @ 60Hz should be supported (not tested).
  • Partial HEVC/H.265 video decoding support in XBMC.
  • OTA update appear to be support
  • Proper power off/standby handling.
  • HDMI In

CONS:

  • XBMC has too many issues: VC1 not supported, H.265 support only partial, audio/video sync issue, some MPEG-2 and XVID videos are skipping frames, some of the 4K videos I used could play properly, etc…
  • Some MPEG-2 file won’t play smooth in either XBMC or MX Player
  • Potential Ethernet issues, confirmed with my Gigabit switch (D-Link DSG-1005A) and 10/100Mbps D-Link router (configured as a switch).
  • Video output – Component and composite do not work atall (black screen)
  • Webcam not working properly (black screen) in Skype and Hangouts
  • Relatively slow write speed on NTFS/USB partition.
  • Wi-Fi may be unstable at times
  • HDMI In support is quite basic (only as HDMI switcher)

HPH NT-V6 with 4 GB RAM and 32 GB eMMC (as reviewed in this post) purchased for $189 including shipping by DHL or EMS, but there’s also a 2GB RAM/16GB eMMC available on Aliexpress for $129 + shipping. I’ve also been told Ugoos UT3 is based on the same board (TRN6A), but should have a different firmware. It is listed on Chinavasion for $149.99, and DealsPrime for $134.99 (bot 2GB/16GB versions). Resellers and distributors can check out Nagrace NT-V6 product page to order in quantities.

TP-Link TL-WDR7500 (Archer C7) 802.11ac Router Review

September 28th, 2014 16 comments

With several new Android devices coming with the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi, I decided I should buy a new router with AC1200 class or greater and Gigabit Ethernet support, and with a budget of $100. Xiaomi Mi Wi-Fi Mini router almost matched my requirements, but unfortunately only comes with Fast Ethernet ports. TP-Link Archer C7 selling for $96 Amazon US exactly matched my budget, and outmatched my requirements being an AC1750 router with 5x Gigabit Ethernet ports, and two USB ports. Since Amazon won’t ship to my location and shipping would have gone over budget, I expected to find it locally for a slightly higher price, but it ended up selling for over $200 here, allegedly because of a lifetime guarantee. Finally, I ended up buying TP-Link TL-WDR7500, the Chinese version of Archer C7 with 6 Wi-Fi antennas instead of 3, for $94.32 including shipping on Aliexpress.

I’ll take some pictures of the device, explain options to change the Chinese web interface into English, compare the Wi-Fi range to my existing router (TP-Link), and perform some transfer test using 802.11n and 802.11ac with Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta, and HPH NT-V6 Android media player both supported 802.11ac thanks to AP6335 wireless module.

Unboxing Photos

When I received the package I was surprised how big the parcel was, and it felt massive compared to the size of mini PC packages.

TP-Link_TL-WDR7500_Router_Package

The complete package is in Chinese, so this router is definitely designed for the Chinese market only. Based on the text on the package, it’s indeed an AC1700 router with a throughput up to 1.3Gbps @ 5 GHz, and 450 Mbps @ 2.4 Ghz.

Chinese_TP-Link_Archer_C7_Package_Content
The router itself is quite big, and the 6 antennas (3 for 2.4Ghz, 3 for 5Ghz) explain why you’d need such as large package. As expected all documents are in Chinese.

TL-DWR7500 Router and Accessories.

TL-DWR7500 Router and Accessories.

The router comes with a 2m-meter blue Ethernet cable, a 12V/1A power supply, a user’s manual in Chinese, a warranty card, and another small paper listing where traces of lead, mercury, cadmium… may be found.

TP-Link TL-WDR7500 Router (Click to Enlarge)

TP-Link TL-WDR7500 Router (Click to Enlarge)

TP-Link TP-WDR7500 router looks pretty neat once it’s installed. You’ll get a bunch of LEDS on the front panel (left to right): Power, System/Status, 2.4 GHz connection, 5GHz connection, 4x LEDs for LAN ports, 1x LED for WAN port, and WPS. On the back panel, we’ll find a power jack, a power button, two USB 2.0 ports with LED for mass storage (FTP, Samba…), a WAN port, four LAN ports, and a WPS/Reset button.

Bottom of Enclosure (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of Enclosure (Click to Enlarge)

On the case’s bottom you’ll get a sticker with loin details, S/N, and MAC address. You’ll also notice two holes for wall-mounting the router.

TP-Link TL-WDR7500 / Archer C7 Review

Setting up the router

So I’ve installed my new router close to my old one to perform range and performance testing.

TP-LINK TL-WR940N_Archer_C7TP-Link TL-WR940N is wall-mounted, beer can optimized, and comes with 3 external antennas for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi (no 5Ghz support). This is actually equivalent to TL-WDR7500 router with 3 external antennas for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, and three more with 5GHz.

Once everything is connected, you’ll need to access the router with Wi-Fi or Ethernet using the router IP address (192.168.1.1), and login credentials (admin/admin). Provide the computer/device you use to connect to the router support dual band Wi-Fi, you should see two new ESSID: TP-LINK_5GHz_F9EB0E and TP-LINK_2.4GHz_F9EB0E for respectively 5 and 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi.

TP-Link_Archer_C7_ChineseFor most people, using the Chinese interface may be a problem. But luckily there are several options:

  • Use TP-Link Archer C7 simulator side-by-side the Chinese router.
  • Use Greasemonkey add-ons in Firefox with TPlink-WDR7500-UITranslate script
  • Download and flash Archer C7 firmware. There are several version of Archer C7 and TL-WDR7500, so you’d have to make sure you install the right, or you may brick your router.
  • Install OpenWRT. Depending on the model you bought, only 2.4 GHz may be supported, and the latest version of the PCB may not be supported yet. According to the router interface. mine is “WDR7500 v2”, the earlier model. I haven’t open it, so I can’t confirm. You can find picture of the PCB on OpenWRT. The wireless SoC used should either be Qualcomm QCA9880-AR1A (v1) or QCA9880-BR4A (v2).

Since I use Firefox as my main browser, I just installed the script as it’s fast and easy, and it automatically translates the left menu, and the most important settings.

TP-Link_TL-WDR7500_English

However, anything below DHCP server has not been translated. So it’s enough for basic settings, but for more access settings you’ll probably want to find a better option. The script limits itself so some IP ranges, and when I changed the default subnet to 192.168.2.x, I had to edit the script within Firefox to add 192.168.2.0. It’s very easy to do.

TP-Link TL-WDR7500 Signal Strength and Range

I haven’t kept the default ESSID in the router. My older TP-Link router is CNX-TRANLATION (2.4 Ghz), and I’ve configure TL-WDR7500 with CNX-SOFTWARE (2.4 GHz), and CNX-SOFTWARE_5G (5Ghz). In this part of the review, I just walked about with my phone (ThL W200) checking the signal strength in various locations with Wifi analyzer.

My Office

My Office – 1 wall about 6 meters from routers

Wife

Wife’s Office – 2 walls, about 18 meters from routers

Garden

Garden – 1 wall about 14 meters from routers

Street

Street – 1 wall about 50 meters from router

It’s quite clear both router have about the same range, and signal strength at various locations. The only small difference is that on the street, CNX-TRANSLATION (TL-WR940N) had a tendency to come and go, whereas CNX-SOFTWARE (TL-WDR7500) signal appeared to be more stable.

I was unable to test 5GHz 802.11n/ac range, since I don’t own any mobile devices supporting it.

TP-Link TL-WDR7500 Throughput Testing

Finding out a router range is interesting, but the reason to buy a 802.11ac is not really about improved range, but rather faster throughput. So I’ll put two Android TV boxes to test, transferring a 278 MB from SAMBA to their internal eMMC and vice-versa using 802.11n (2.4 GHz) with both TL-WR940N and TL-WDR7500 routers, and 802.11ac with the new router. I used ES File Explorer for this purpose, repeating the tests three times, and averaged the results.

The first device under test was Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta Android mini PC with Rockchip RK3288 processor and an AP6335 module with an external antenna.

Tronsmart_Orion_R28_Meta_Wi-Fi

Throughput in MB/s

OK, so that’s quite disappointing as 802.11ac is much slower than 802.11n… The 5GHz connection was initially set with a speed of 433Mbps (as reported in Android Settings), but it fell to 117 Mbps after a while. Orion R28 Meta has an external Wi-Fi antenna, but for some reasons the signal is not “Excellent” but only “Fair”, almost like if there’s a bad contact with the external antenna.

Let’s move to HPH NT-V6, another media player based on Rockchip RK3288 processor with AP6335 module, to see if performance is any better.

HPH_NT-V6_Wi-Fi

Throughput in MB/s

Performance in underwhelming again. The 802.11ac is connected at 292 Mbps, and the results are a bit better than Orion R28, but it’s not the real picture as I discarded one of the transfer which dropped to around 10 KB/s over a 17 Mbps connection. You may wonder why there’s no result with 802.11n using TL-WDR7500. The reason is simple: two of the three transfer were very slow and even stalled at times, so I canceled them. The transfer that went through took 3 minutes 50 seconds with an average of 1.20 MB/s… The connection was more stable with my older router @ 1.92 MB/s, a very average score among Android mini PCs, as the best device

The best device I’ve tested can reach 3.84 MB/s on average with 802.11n, so it’s clear disappointing that I haven’t been able to go faster with any of the devices I’ve tested over 802.11ac. Having said that it’s very difficult to draw a conclusion regards the performance of either TL-WDR7500 router, and the two Android TV boxes because I don’t have a reference platform that’s known to work properly that could help pinpoint the bottleneck in these tests. But at least I’ve learned that 802.11ac does not always beats 802.11n.

USB Mass Storage and Gigabit Ethernet

To complete my review, I connected a USB 3.0 hard drive to one of the USB 2.0 port on the back of the router to test both USB transfer speed, and Gigabit Ethernet. Normally I get about 30 MB/s transfer rate if my drive is connected to USB 2.0, but I only got 7.3 MB/s over a SAMBA connection, and quickly realized the LED on my Gigabit Ethernet switch (D-Link DGS-1005A) indicated a Fast Ethernet connection with the router… The Cat5e cable between the router and the switch is is 15 meter long, so I thought maybe it could be an issue. I brought my router closer to try several cables and I could get a Gigabit connection with some, but not all. Again, I can’t be sure 100% of the reason for this issue, but based on experience I’d tend to think the problem is related to with Gigabit switch, which has been picky with other devices too.

Gigabit Ethernet has been introduced in 1999, so I was naively thinking after 15 years it should just work with no problem, but actual testing showed it was not the case…

Unboxing of Nagrace HPH NT-V6 Android TV Box with HDMI In, Rockchip RK3288 Processor

September 22nd, 2014 27 comments

Thanks to Nagrace Times Technology, I’ve got a new Rockchip RK3288 Android mini PC to play with. HPH NT-V6 model is higher end compared to the other ones I’ve received including Uyesee G1H, Kingnovel R6 and Orion R28 Meta, because it comes with 32GB eMMC, HDMI In, and a AP6335 Wi-Fi module providing 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity. I’ll start by listing the device specifications, take some pictures of the device and the board, and I’ll write a full review probably next week as I have some other hardware to test first.

Nagrace NT-V6 specifications

The company provides various memory and storage options for this product, and if Linux based operating systems such as Ubuntu or Chrome OS end up being properly supported on Rockchip RK3288, Nagrace NT-V6 could end up bring a very nice mini PC:

  • SoC –  Rockchip RK3288 quad core ARM Cortex A12/A17 processor @ 1.8 GHz with ARM Mali-T764 quad-core 3D GPU with support for OpenGL ES 1.1/2.0/3.0, OpenVG 1.1, OpenCL 1.1, RenderScript, and DirectX11
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3 (Optional 4GB DDR3)
  • Storage – 8GB flash (16, 32, and 64GB optional) + micro SD slot
  • Video Output / Input
    • HDMI 2.0 output up to 4K @ 60fps
    • AV output (3.5 mm jack)
    • HDMI 1.4 Input up to 1080p60
  • Audio Output – HDMI,  AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n and 802.11ac Wi-Fi with external antenna, and Bluetooth 4.0 (AP6335 module)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x Micro USB OTG
  • Camera – 5M auto focus (optional, not included in sample I’ve received)
  • Misc – Power button and LED, IR receiver, recovery button
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A
  • Dimensions –  115 x 115 x 23 mm (excluding Wi-Fi antenna)
  • Weight – 250 grams

HPH NT-V6 runs Android 4.4, like most of the the boxes currently on the market.

NT-V6 Unboxing Pictures

The company sent me the box via DHL, and the media player can be found in the package below. The back of the package lists options for 2 or 4 GB RAM, and 8, 16, 32 or 64 GB flash, so there will most certainly be an option for 4GB RAM and 64GB (eMMC) flash.
Nagrace_NT-V6_Package
An HDMI cable (1 meter), an IR remote control requiring two AAA batteries (not included). a Wi-Fi antenna, a 5V/3A power supply, a user’s manual, and an enclosure protection film can be found in the package together with the box.

Nagrace NT-V6 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Nagrace NT-V6 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

There’s nothing on the front of the device (where the power LED and IR receiver are located), a power button and antenna connector can be found on one side, AV output, a recovery button, a micro SD slot, a full-size USB OTG port, and HDMI IN are located on the other side, and the rear panel comes with the following ports: Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 2.0 host ports, HDMI 2.0 output, optical S/PDIF, and a DC power barrel.

Nagrace NT-V (Click to Enlarge)

Nagrace NT-V (Click to Enlarge)

The top of the case is a fingerprint magnet which may be why a protective film has been included.

You can also watch the unboxing video if you please.

 HPH NT-V6 Board

Let’s open the box to see what’s inside. There aren’t any screw holding both parts of the case together, but you’ll find a small opening between the gray and black parts just below the USB OTG port, where you can insert a flat-headed precision screwdriver to start popping out the bottom of the enclosure.

Bottom of NT-V6 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of NT-V6 Board (Click to Enlarge)

The board name is TRN6A V10, and it looks like I may have received the version with 4GB RAM and 32 GB eMMC based on markings on the sticker. You’ll also find ribbon connectors on the bottom left of the photo, probably for the camera interface, and maybe LVDS? You need to remove four screws to completely take out the board from its case.

NT-V6 Board (Click to Enlarge)

NT-V6 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Again, a stainless place is screwed on the top of the enclosure for power dissipation reasons, but I’m not sure how efficient that is.  There’s also a heatsink, a bit larger than in the other RK3288 boxes, on top of the quad core SoC and the RAM chips. I have not dared to unglue it before testing the device. The wireless module is indeed AP6335 for 802.11 b/g/n, 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.0. Samsung KLMBG4WEBC-B031 is a 32GB eMMC 5.0 flash that can achieve 200MB/s read and 50MB/s write in theory, and there’s another empty emplacement to add another eMMC flash. Just under the flash, there’s another unpopulated connector (mini PCIe?). Lontium LT8641SX is a very recent HDMI 1.4 switch chip that provides up to 3x HDMI 1.4 input channel and 1x HDMI 1.3/ 3 MHL 2.0 input channel, so it’s obviously the chip handling HDMI input here.

That’s all for today for this exciting device. The version with 2GB RAM and 16 GB eMMC is available on Aliexpress for $129 + shipping, and the one with 32GB eMMC/4GB RAM as I received can be purchased for $189 including shipping by DHL or EMS. You may also want to visit Nagrace NT-V6 product page if you want to contact the company to order in quantities.