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Posts Tagged ‘openwrt’

Beelink SEA TV Box with Realtek RTD1295, HDMI Input and Internal SATA Bay Sells for $105 and Up

January 24th, 2017 1 comment

I’ve already reviewed two Android TV boxes powered by Realtek RTD1295 processor, namely Zidoo X9S and EWEAT R9 Plus. They are quite interesting devices as beside supporting video & audio playback nicely (minus 4K H.264 @ 30fps), they also serve as a personal NAS thanks to their SATA interface and OpenWrt operating system running alongside Android, as well as a HDMI recorder and streamer thanks to the HDMI input. Zidoo firmware is a little better, but it only comes with external SATA, while EWEAT R9 Plus comes with a neat internal 3.5″ SATA bay inside a metal case. The downside is that it’s quite expensive at $200 shipped. If you’d like a Realtek RTD1295 solution with a SATA bay, but would like something more cost effective, Beelink SEA TV box with might be for you.

Beelink SEA specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1295 quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz with ARM Mali-T820MP3
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR4
  • Storage – 16 or 32 GB eMMC flash + SD slot up to 128GB + 2.5″ SATA bay supporting up to 6TB SATA III drives with either 7.5 or 9.5mm thickness
  • Video I/F –  HDMI 2.0a output with HDR, CEC, and HDCP 2.2 support, AV composite output, HDMI 2.0 input
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, optical S/PDIF, AV port (stereo audio)
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Misc – Power LED, RTC + battery
  • Power Supply –  12V/1.5A
  • Dimensions – 188 x 119 x 20mm

Like its competitors, the device runs Android 6.0. There’s no mention of OpenWrt at all, but I’d be surprised if they removed it from the firmware. HDMI input allows video recording, video streaming, & PiP function from a separate video source. The device ships with an IR remote control, an HDMI Cable, a power adapter, and a user’s manual in English.

Beelink SEA is now listed for pre-order on GearBest for $104.99 with 2GB RAM/16GB storage, and $114.99 in 2GB/32GB configuration. Shipping is expected to start on March 1st… You may find a few more details on Beelink SEA product page.

Getting Started with Onion Omega2+ LEDE WiFi IoT Board and Expansion Dock

January 16th, 2017 49 comments

Onion Omega2 LEDE (OpenWrt fork) WiFi board is powered by Mediatek MT7688 MIPS SoC, targets IoT projects, and sells for as low as $5. There are actually two versions: Omega2 with 64MB RAM, 16MB flash, and Omega2+ with 128MB RAM, 32MB flash and a micro SD slot. Onion sent me the latter for review, together with an expansion dock that allows powering up the board though USB , and adds a USB host port, an RGB LED, buttons, and access to GPIO via a female header. In this quick start guide, I’ll start by taking some unboxing pictures, and then report my experience following the documentation to configure the board, blink the RGB LED, and control a LED on a breadboard using a GPIO from the header.

Onion Omega2+ Unboxing

I received the two boards in their respective package, and which are both stored in anti-static bags.

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Let’s check Onion Omega2+ board first. The top includes a chip antenna and an u.FL connector for an external antenna, as well as the main components covered by a shield with some info like FCC ID, and the MAC address with the last four digits (hexits?) in bold since they are used to access the board. The bottom of the board are two rows of headers, and a micro SD card slot. There’s also a footprint for another header or connector, but I could not find out the details.

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Next up is the dock. We have a 2x 15-pin female header with clear marking for the pins that include power signals, GPIOs, I2C, UART, and USB.

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The button on the top is for power, the one at 45 angle is the reset button, and we also have a micro USB port for power, a USB port for storage, an RGB LED, and the header for Onion Omega2 board.

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Plugging Omega2 into the dock is very easy, and the only thing you have to check is that it is inserted correctly.

Onion-Omega2-vs-LinkIt-Smart-7688Onion Omega2+ is not my first Mediatek MT7688 board, as I’ve reviewed LinkIt Smart 7688 too, and took side-by-side picture of both boards for comparison. Omega2+ is smaller, but LinkIt Smart board already include a micro USB port for power.

Initial Setup for Onion Omega2 and Expansion Dock

I normally test the documentation as much as I test the board, and after a web search, I ended up on that Getting Started page. However, it was for Onion Omega, the first version of the board introduced in 2015, and while the instructions are similar, they are not quite the same. Finally, I found the actual Omega2 Wiki, and could successful complete the setup with some efforts.

I’ll be using a computer running Ubuntu 16.04 to access the board, but it also works with Windows with Bonjour Service, and Mac OS X.

The Zeroconf services is needed to play with the board unless you access the board directly with its IP, but it’s normally already installed in Linux distriutions, so we are good to go. First we need to connect a micro USB to USB cable to a power source like the USB port of your computer, and turn on the board with the power switch.

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At first both the RGB LED on the dock and Omega2+ LED will turn on for a short time, after which the RGB LED will turn off, and Omega2 LED will blink for a few seconds, and once the LED stops blinking and remains solid the boot is done.

Omega-Onion2-Access-Point

You should then see an new “Omega-XXXX” access point in your WiFi networks, where XXXX is the last digits of your MAC address shown on bold on the board. We now need to connect to the access point using password: 12345678

Omega2 Web Configuration

One it’s done, open a web browser and go ti http://192.168.3.1 or http://omega-XXXX.local/ to access Omega2 Setup Wizard.

Omega-Onion2-Setup-Wizard

Click Start to login with the default credentials (username: root ; password:onioneer), and the next page will let you connect the board to your WiFi router.Omega-Onion2-WiFi-Configuration

Selection you ESSID, input you WiFi password. and clikc on “Configure WiFi“. Omega-Onion2-Cloud

The wizard offers you to register your board to the cloud, but this is completely optional, and you could simply select Skip Step to go to the next step (firmware update). But I tried to registered the device to the cloud for this review.Onion-Cloud-RegistrationYou’ll need to provide your name, an email address and a password to register an account first.Onion-Omega2-Cloud-NameYou’ll then be asked for a device name and a description to confirm the registration.Onion-Cloud-Connection-failedSadly this step failed and I got the window above. Clicking on the red cross button did nothing. If I login to the cloud service, I can see the board listed, but detected as offline. I’m not the only one to have this issue, and Onion developers are looking into it.

Onion-Omega2+-Firmware-Update-ConsoleSo instead I went to the next step to upgrade the firmware and install Console web-based virtual desktop.Onion-Omega2-Firmware-Download-StuckThis also failed as the progress bar did not move at all, and I waited for around 20 minutes. I could also see my router’s DHCP server gave an IP address to the board, so it should have been able to connect to the Internet.

Omega2 Command Line Configuration

So I used to backup configuration method, using the command line as explained in the documentation. You just need to SSH the board as root with the same password as in the web configuration (onioneer):

Note Ω-ware firmware version is 0.1.5 b130.

wifisetup allows you to scan the network, and connect the board to your router:

Good. Firmware update failed in the web setup wizard, but we can retry it with oupgrade command line:

The firmware could be downloaded, and it looked like the system rebooted as I lost access to SSH terminal. The LED was still on for a while after it happened, then the LED went off (forever), at least longer than the 15 seconds listed in the documentation, and in that case they explain you need to power cycle the board. I used the power switch on the expansion dock to do so.

The board LED blinked for a pretty long time (maybe 2 minutes), but eventually it stopped and remained solid, and I could login to the board:

The firmware was updated to version 0.1.7 b139, so all good even though the whole setup did not go 100% smoothly. In case something goes really wrong and you can’t access the board at all, you could try to do a Factory Restore by pressing and holding the reset button for 10 seconds then releasing it.

Omega2 LEDE System Info

Since we’re done with the configuration, let’s quickly check some system info:

So we have a relatively recent kernel (Linux 4.4), 24.4MB space available to the user, 125664 KB total memory, and a MIPS 24KEc processor…

Controlling Omega2’s Dock RGB LED (via PWM)

We can start playing with the GPIO on the board starting with the RGB LED on the dock  that should be connected to pin 15, 16 and 17. The documentation explains expled sample can be used for this and we can see the R, G, B hexadecimal values. I want to show red color only, and I set blue and green to zero:

Oops, segfault. Let’s try something else like a pinkish color:

It runs, but the RGB LED remains off. It’s not an hardware problem since the RGB LED turns on at boot time. expled is actually a bash script that can be found in /usr/bin/expled and calls “fast-gpio“program which access GPIOs directly without using sysfs. Maybe it’s another firmware issue.

Controlling Omega2 GPIOs – LED example

In order to play with the expansion header, I connected a 5V LED to a breadboard together with two resistors and a transistor (for 3.3 to 5V conversion), and connected it to pin 1 on the header.

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We’ve already seen fast-gpio tools in expled script, but I used another GPIO tools for the LED, namely gpioctl that relies on sysfs.

We first need to set the GPIO pin as an output pin using the dirout command (dirin would set it as an input):

We can now turn the LED on by setting GPIO 1 to HIGH with dirout-high option:

The get command above will check the value of the pin. The LED did turn on as it should, and we can turn it off with dirout-low option:

Success.

If you want to use multiplexed pin with I2C, SPI, UART, PWM, I2S… you’ll need to check out omega2-ctrl program. I have not tried it for this guide to keep it short.

Onion Omega2 and BreadBoards

Many similar small IoT board are designed to fit on a breadboard, but Onion Omega2 board’s header pins are using 2 mm pitch, not 2.5 mm pitch, so they can’t be used with a breadboard directly. Instead, you’d have run wires from the board to the breadboard or purchase a BreadBoard Dock as pictured below.

If you do not have a dock, or breadboard expansion board, you can still power the Omega2 module/board using a 3.3V power source for example with a regulator such as LD1117, or something like YwRobot MB102 breadboard power supply.

If you are interested in getting a board, you may have to wait as while Omega Expansion Dock sells for $14.99 on Onion store, Omega2 boards are not listed yet. For reference, Omega2 board went for $5, and Omega2+ board for $9 on Kickstarter. [Update: While the Kickstarter campaign is now finished, you can still get on Indiegogo for the same price, and that includes shipping].

Banana Pi BPI-R2 Router Board Powered by Mediatek MT7623A Quad Core Processor Comes with 5 GbE Ports, SATA, and More

January 3rd, 2017 24 comments

Banana Pi BPI-R1 board was launched in 2014 with 5 Gigabit Ethernet ports, SATA interfaces, and powered by Allwinner A20 board. SinoVoip his now about to launch an updated version – Banana Pi BPI-R2 – powered by Mediatek MT7623A quad core Cortex A7 processor with 2GB RAM, 8GB flash, 5 Gigabit Ethernet ports, up to 2 SATA connectors, mPCIe, USB 3.0, and more.

mediatek-mt7623n-boardBPI-R2 board specifications:

  • SoC – MediaTek MT7623A quad-code ARM Cortex-A7 processor @ up to 1.3 GHz with Mali 450 MP4 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash (option 16/32/64GB), up to 2x SATA interfaces, micro SD slot up to 256GB expansion
  • Video Output / Display  I/F – HDMI 1.4 up to 1920×1200, MIPI DSI connector
  • Connectivity – 5x 10/100/1000 Mb Ethernet port (via MT7530), Bluetooth 4.1 & dual band 802.11b/g/n WiFi (MT6625L module)
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports, 1x micro USB 2.0 OTG port
  • Expansion – Mini PCIE interface, 40-pin “somewhat Raspberry Pi 3 compatible” GPIO header with UART, I2C, SPI, PWM, I2S…
  • Misc – Power, reset, uboot, and 2x user buttons; LEDs; IR receiver; 5V fan header; debug UART pins
  • Power Supply – 12/2A via power barrel; 6-pin miniJST header for battery + built-in 3.7V Lithium battery charging circuit
  • Dimensions – 148 x 100.5 mm

The company claims the board can run Android 5.1, OpenWrt, Debian, Ubuntu Linux, Raspbian and others operating systems. Some (limited) hardware information is available on the Wiki, but there’s nothing about software right now, apart from a few placeholder links.

banana-pi-bpi-r2-router-boardThere’s no info about availability nor pricing, except the hardware is ready, but the company has been working for the last month or so on operating systems and drivers. It’s not the first board to feature a Mediatek MT762x processor, but previous attempts like FireWrt, MQmaker WiTi board, and Geek Force did not end up being a commercial success. One of the reasons, at least for FireWrt, was the high cost of Mediatek processors in low quantities, but since SinoVoip has a close relationship with Foxconn, they may be able to leverage their purchasing power as the chip should be used in other hardware platforms manufactured by Foxconn.

Eweat R9 Plus TV Box Review Part 2 – Android, OpenWrt, and HDMI Recording

December 24th, 2016 5 comments

Eweat R9 Plus is a device powered by Realtek RTD1295 SoC combining main functions: Android 6.0 TV box, OpenWrt NAS/router, and HDMI recorder thanks to its HDMI input port. It competes directly with Zidoo X9S which has the same features, except while Zidoo X9S has no internal SATA bay and your 2.5″ hard drive just hang outside the box, Eweat R9 Plus comes with an internal 3.5″ SATA bay that makes it much neater on your furniture… We’ve already seen that in the first part for review “Eweat R9 Plus unboxing and teardown“, and I was impressed by the hardware, but the software is even more important, and that’s what I’m going to check out in the second and final part of this review.

First Boot, First Impressions and Setup.

I’ve first inserted a 1TB 3.5″ SATA drive in the device, and then I connected an extra USB 3.0 hard drive, HDMI and Ethernet cables, two USB dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, and a USB keyboard to take screenshots, as well as U4 Quad Hybrid Android TV box to the HDMI input.

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Connect the power, press the mechanical power switch on the back, and the device will boot, typically in about 40 seconds, to the main launcher. There’s no setup wizard like in Zidoo X9S, so you’d have to change configuration separately.

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The top left corner includes status icons for USB, Ethernet, Bluetooth, and WiFi, and the top right corner shows the current date and time. The first time the time and date were not correctly update, and I did not get any IP address from my router… That’s because I connected the Ethernet cable to the WAN port, but once I connected it to the LAN port, everything worked fine. It’s just WAN and LAN markings are not quite correct…. Let’s go back to the launcher with 7 large icons, the “R9 Plus” icon is linked to Chrome browser (so we have two Chrome links), apps to the list of apps, EWMC links to Kodi 16.1, and 4K to the local file browser/media player. We also have 3 shortcuts on the botton that can be customized to your needs. Sadly, there’s no status nor notifications bars which can be a pain in some use cases. The small blue “rocket” on the of EWMC icon, is actually the mouse cursor (red in reality, but the screenshot app turns that blue).

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The system comes with a bunch of apps including Netflix, HDMIRecorder, and QuickSupport, and I could install my own without any issues using Google Play and Amazon Underground.

eweat-r9-plus-displayThe front panel display on the unit is a little more useful than most, as it will show the current time of the day when not playing videos or music, and instead display the current video time with 4K video player, but not Kodi, while playing media files.

If you are interested to find out more about the settings, I invite you to check the Settings section of Zidoo X9S review, as Eweat R9 Plus has basically the same settings, except only “Auto 1080p24” option is available in the Display section, Deep Color Mode (AUTO, 12-bit, 10-bit, OFF) is gone, and the Playback section is missing together with “Auto 29.97/59.94 Hz”, “Force SD audio”, “Enable low performance mode (less buffer for playback)”.

I could set the resolution (“TV System”) to 3840x2160P @ 60Hz without any issues, but I’ve noticed the video output will sometimes fall back to 720p or 1080p after a power cycle. I could not find any option to adjust overscan either, so I had some black zone on all edges of my TV. Those are issues, but the latter at least should be easy to fix via firmware upgrades.

Once I found that LAN is actually WAN, and WAN is LAN, I had no troubles at all with Ethernet and WiFi, and OpenWrt options are also exactly the same as on Zidoo X9S.

You only get 9.31GB of the 16GB in Android because some part is reserved to OpenWrt, but it still more than the 8.91GB I had on X9S. In theory it should be plenty enough, but after a day or two of use, my internal storage was completely full, despite not installing that many apps.

android-storage-fullEventually I found that since my 1TV hard drive had millions of files, Android’s “Media Storage” activity had created two very large databases. Disabling Media Storage fixed the issue, and after clearing the data from “Media Storage” I had close to 8GB free. Alternatively you can add an empty .nomedia files in the directory you do not want to system to scan, for example the root of the harddrive if you don’t want it to scan anything.

Going into the About device section, we can see “R9Plus” model runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 4.1.17.

about-device-r9plusThe firmware is rooted, and OTA firmware update is done with SystemUpdate app, and I could upgrade from R9PLUS_V1.1_20161130 version to R9PLUS_V1.02_20161217 version which I used in most of the review. I had to disconnect the USB drive, or the update will fail. You can leave the SATA drive inside the box during firmware upgrades.

eweat-r9-plus-firmware-updateThe update went well, and did not mess with my settings, apps, and media files.

The included IR remote worked fine up to 10 meters, but I’d really wish higher end devices such as R9 Plus would ship with an air mouse by default. I had to jungle between the IR remote control and MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse quite often depending on the app I used. Realtek apps such as HDMIRecorder, 4K media player, and File Manger may work better with the infrared remote control.

Eweat R9 Plus firmware is stable and responsive, but there are a few small bugs here and there that should be fixed, like the lack of screen scale option, video output resolution set by the user is not always used after a reboot, there’s no status nor notification bars, etc… I’d also wish such higher-end systems would come with an air mouse with keyboard by default to be able to fully control the TV box with a single remote.

Power Consumption and Temperature

Power control support is basic with only on or off, no standby or reboot, but the power consumption numbers are OK, albeit a little higher than Zidoo X9S, maybe because of the 3.5″ SATA drive instead of 2.5″ SATA drive:

  • Power off (SATA HDD) – 0.3 Watt
  • Idle (SATA HDD) – 9.2 Watts
  • Power off + SATA & USB HDD – 0.3 Watt
  • Idle + SATA & USB HDD –  11.2 to 12 Watts
  • SATA HDD (Copy file to SAMBA share) + Play 4K video from USB HDD + miniDLNA in the background – 18 to 19 Watts

If you has a drive with many files, miniDLNA – enabled in OpenWrt settings as DMS (Digital Media Server) – will take a lot of CPU and I/O resources, so if you don’t need it, make sure to disable it. Idle power consumption numbers are with DMS disabled.

While there’s no standby mode, we’ve seen with Zidoo X9S that standby mode is not that useful as networking and drives are all turned off. It’s just must faster to boot than from power off mode. Most cheap Android TV boxes cannot handle more than one USB hard drive, but Eweat R9 Plus had no troubles with a SATA hard drive and a USB 3.0 drive. It might be possible to add yet another USB 3.0 drive, as the power supply has a 30 Watts capacity.

It’s no surprise that with a large metal case, the device stays relatively cool at all times. The maximum temperatures measured with an IR thermometer on the top and bottom of the device were 35 and 37 °C respectively after Antutu benchmark, and 40 and 50 °C after playing Riptide GP2 for 15 minutes.

Video & Audio Playback with Kodi 16.1 and 4K App, Antutu Video Tester, and DRM Support

R9 Plus comes with Kodi 16.1 (EWMC) and 4K app to browse and play media files with the internal player. So I’ve started by testing 4K videos with both. Bear in mind that while Realtek RTD1295 supports 10-bit HEVC/H.265 up to 60 fps @ 4K, H.264 is limited to 24 Hz, which will be a problem with you shot 4K H.264 30 fps videos with a camera or your smartphone, and 4K VP9 @ 60 fps is supposed to be supported, and with DDR4 memory I had hope some progress may be made here, but unfortunately the limit is really 30 fps, which could be an issue with some (downloaded) YouTube videos. Out of Specs videos are prefixed with OoO.

Kodi 16.1 4K App
OoO – HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) Not smooth Not smooth, although better than Kodi
sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) Not smooth OK
Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) 1st try: 1 second and exit
2nd try: OK
OK
Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) 1st try: 1 second and exit
2nd try: OK
OK
Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) 1st try: 1 second and exit
2nd try: OK
OK
MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) OK OK
phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) OK OK
BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) Not perfectly smooth OK
OoO – big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 Not smooth at all Not smooth
OoO – big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 Not smooth at all, and artifacts Not smooth, audio delays
Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) 1st try: Still image (first frame) + audio
2nd try: OK
OK
Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) OK OK
Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) 1st try:plays a few frame, then freezes, audio still playing
2nd try: OK
OK
OoO – 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) 1fps, audio cuts Can’t play
OoO – Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) Not smooth Slow motion
tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) Unwatchable, and many audio cuts Not smooth audio cuts
The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) Not smooth at all, some audio cuts Not smooth, no audio

For some reasons Kodi 16.1 will fail to start playing some videos the first time, but play them the second time. Just like on Zidoo X9S – but worse – Kodi 16.1 implementation is not as good as the internal player, so for best user experience you’d have to use the 4K player. Automatic refresh rate switching works with 4K app, with 23.975/24Hz, 25 Hz, 29.97 Hz and 59.94 Hz with the latest firmware. It does not work at all with Kodi.

For so the audio tests, I’ve stopped using Kodi, and only used 4K app with PCM 2.0 downmixing and audio pass-through via HDMI.

Audio Codec in Video PCM 2.0 Output HDMI Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK Audio OK (DD 5.1), but wrong aspect ratio
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK (DD 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK (Dolby D+ 7.1)
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK TrueHD 7.1
DTS HD Master OK OK (DTS-HD MSTR)
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK (DTS-HD HR)
DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636) OK DTS-HD MSTR

So HDMI audio pass-through is working very well, and I did not experience some of the audio cuts I had on Zidoo X9S with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver. Those may have been fixed since Zidoo X9S review however.

Below are a few screenshots from 4K video app starting with the list of storage devices/partitions…

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… the menu available once you’ve selected a storage device…

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.. and subtitle options while playing a video.

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I’ve also quickly tested Blu-ray ISOs (Sintel and Amat videos) and both could play. Finally, I play a 2-hour 1080p video to make sure the system can play a full movie, which I does.

Antutu Video Tester score (820 points) is a little lower than on Zidoo X9S (888).

eweat-r9-plus-antutu-video-testerBut the videos that failed are exactly the same:

zidoo-x9s-antutu-video-tester-resultsDRM info crashed each time, just like on X9S, so there’s problably no DRM support at all.

HDMIRecorder App

Eweat R9 Plus HDMIRecorder, as its name implies, allows you to record video from an HDMI input source. It can record up to 1080p @ 30 fps using H.264 codec in TS or MP4 container format, with a bitrate up to 10Mbit/s.

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It will also record audio, and you can select the output with the “Path” field. It will create a new “hdmi” directory to store the recorded videos.

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Once recording has started, it will work in the background (see recording info in the top right corner below) and you can browse the web, watch other videos, and so on during recording.

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I could then connect to the device via SAMBA, and play with the recorded video with both Totem player ad VLC in my Ubuntu 16.04 computer.

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That part works fine, and looks similar to Zidoo HDMI In app, however it lacks some goodies like PiP support and UDP broadcasting found in Zidoo X9S. So if so those functions are important to you, Zidoo X9S clearly has an edge of Eweat device here.

OpenWrt and NAS functions

If you want to learn more about settings up OpenWrt on Eweat R9 Plus, I’ll redirect you to OpenWrt and NAS functions section of Zidoo X9S review as all features are identical.

You can control OpenWrt manin function in Android settings…

eweat-r9-plus-openwrt

… and fine tune OpenWrt settings through LuCi web interface.

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I tested SAMBA, FTP, and Bittorrent. Performance on Eweat R9 Plus was very good with FTP transfer at ~105 MB/s, and 40 MB/s for SAMBA file copy to the internal SATA, very similar to Zidoo X9S with respectively about 90 MB/s and 50 MB/s.

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Eweat R9 Plus FTP Transfer – Click to Enlarge

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Eweat R9 Plus SAMBA Transfer

Contrary to my experience with Zidoo X9S, BitTorrent worked just fine and the transfer quickly saturated my 20 Mbps Internet connection.

eweat-r9-plus-bittorrentBear in mind that firmware evolves overtime and it’s quite possible Zidoo has already fixed the issue.

This time I also tested OpenWrt opkg system manager to see if it would work. After connecting to the device through ssh, I tried to update the packages and it failed miserably:

So if you want to install packages, you’d probably have to build them yourself, or copy and install opkg packages built for ARM architecture manually.

WiFi Performance

We’ve already seen Gigabit Ethernet works perfectly above with transfers at 105 MB/s through FTP basically saturing the Gigabit Ethernet bandwidth, so I’ll only focus on WiFi in the network performance section. Eweat R9 Plus has excellent WiFi performance with both 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, and 802.11ac (433 Mbps), roughly matching Zidoo X9S equally good performance.

Throughput in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

All you need to know is that Eweat R9 Plus is one of the top devices for WiFi  for all devices I’ve tested over the year.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I could pair Vernee Apollo Lite Android smartphone with “Realtek Bluetooth”, however once I started transferring files from my phone to the device, I either got the message “Unfortunately Bluetooth has stopped”, and when lucky, the transfer was initiated with Eweat R9 Plus showing an overlay message reading “”Incoming file from another device, please confirm…”. That’s all good but since there’s no notification bar, and no pop-up window, I had no idea where to confirm the transfer, and it eventually time out. I could not test Bluetooth Low Energy, because all my device are either broken or lost.

Bluetooth is not completely useless however, as I could get Sixaxis to work with my PS3 BT gamepad clone, and I paired X1T Bluetooth earbuds successfully, and listen to a YouTube video.

Storage

Eweat R9 Plus could mount NTFS, EXT-4, and NTFS partitions on a 1 TB USB 3.0 Seagate expansion harddrive with only BTRFS failing to be recognized. A FAT32 micro SD could also be mounted in read/write mode, as well as my SATA drive formatted with NTFS.

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

A1SD bench app shows excellent sequential read and write for the SATA interface, a decent performance for all supported file systems through USB 3.0:

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Click to Enlarge

  • USB 3.0 + NTFS – Read: 37.93 MB/s – Write: 39.28 MB/s
  • USB 3.0 + EXT-4 – Read: 37.67 MB/s – Write: 39.43 MB/s
  • USB 3.0 + exFAT – Read: 37.04 MB/s – Write: 39.28 MB/s
  • SATA + NTFS – Read: 140.78 MB/s – Write: 86.30 MB/s

Eweat R9 Plus looks faster than Zidoo X9S using SATA + NTFS, but bear in mind that the hard drive used was different, so it may explain the difference. However, Zidoo was quite better for USB 3.0 using EXT-4 and NTFS, but quite poor for exFAT, which R9 Plus appears to support well.

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

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

I also measured internal storage performance, but unfortunately A1SD bench reported “Cached Read”, so the read speed is not valid. The write speed of about 55 MB/s is however, and this is quite good. The actual read speed in the chart below should be lower than 140+ MB/s, but usually read speed is faster than write speed, so performance should still be good.

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

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

Gaming

I played Candy Crush Saga with the air mouse, and Beach Buggy Racing (with max quality) using a gamepad, and both games played perfectly well. Then I switched to Riptide GP2, again with maximum resolution settings. It’s started begin playable – but not quite 60fps – just like on Amlogic S905/S912 TV boxes, and Zidoo X9S, but then I noticed the image would freeze from time to time, and after a race was completed,  it may have a 10 seconds black screen before going to the main menu. So I checked the CPU usage in OpenWrt (SSH terminal), and notice miniDLNA with a high CPU usage. So I disabled DMS in Android’s OpenWrt settings, miniDLNA stopped running, and I could play the game for 15 minutes more without issues, nor performance degradation over time.

Eweat R9 Plus Benchmarks

Let’s start with CPU-Z.. R9PLUS (rtk_kylin32) model with a quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz and a Mali-T820 GPU, so no surprise here.

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Click to Enlarge

The device reached 36,076 points in Antutu 6.2 against 34,976 points for Zidoo X9S Antutu score.
eweat-r10-plus-antutu

There are a few potential explanations for the small difference: 1. R9 Plus firmware is more recent, 2. it’s winter here (~ 22 °C), and 3. R9 Plus has DDR4 ram instead of DDR3 RAM. However the strange thing is that R9 Plus RAM score is 3,046 points, but Zidoo X9S got 3,960 points which does not make any sense.

eweat-r9-plus-vellamo
Vellamo 3.x scores are pretty similar with R9 Plus getting 1,430, 881 and 2,539 points for respectively multicore, metal, and Chrome Browser benchmarks, against 1,457, 831 and 2,638 points for Zidoo X9S. So it looks like DDR4 memory does not help for any benchmarks, including 3Dmark’s Ice Storm Extreme.

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Click to Enlarge

4,359 points for Eweat R9 Plus against 4,574 for X9S.

Conclusion

Eweat R9 Plus is a solid device, and I really like the internal 3.5″ SATA bay, internal and external storage, as well as networking performance is really outstanding too. However I would have wished the firmware to have fewer bugs, and just like for Zidoo X9S, Realtek RTD1295 SoC has some limited 4K capabilities when it comes with H.264 and VP9. Getting the optimal performance may require some tweaks like disabling some server services.

PROS

  • Responsive and stable Android 6.0 firmware
  • 4K app plays 4K H.265 videos very well with automatic frame rate switching, and HDMI audio pass-through for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD audio
  • Excellent Ethernet and WiFi performance
  • Excellent internal and SATA storage performance, and good USB 3.0 performance
  • NTFS, EXT-4, exFAT, and FAT32 file systems are well supported
  • HDMI Input (up to 4K60 input) with video recording up to 1080p30 (4K input is also supported but record at 1080p30 max)
  • OpenWrt NAS functions such as SAMBA, FTP, and BitTorrent running at the same time as Android, as well as router functions thanks to its two Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Proper power handling with power off, standby, and reboot, and low power consumption in off/standby modes. The provided 36W power supply also allows the connection of multiple hard drives.
  • Dolby & DTS audio licenses are included, so audio will work in any apps
  • OTA Firmware update
  • Good hardware design with internal 3.5″ SATA bay

CONS (and bugs):

  • Realtek RTD1295 VPU limitations:
    • 4K H.264 up to 24 fps which will be an issue for 4K videos recorded with some actions cameras (GoPro/Xiaomi Yi) and smartphones
    • 4K VP9 up to 30 fps, as 60 fps is not well supported. This will be an issue for some 4K videos downloaded from YouTube
  • Kodi 16.1 (EWMC) is not really working that well with many 4K videos not playing smoothly (even those within specs) and automatic frame rate not working. So 4K app is recommended
  • No DRM support (DRM info app will crash)
  • HDMI input works, but does not include features like picture-in-picture and UDP broadcasting found in Zidoo X9S
  • You’ll probably have to use both the include IR remote control AND a air mouse or other input device to fully use the device. A air mouse specifically designed for the box would be a plus.
  • Scale screen option missing in firmware, so I had black edges on my TV the whole time (should be easy to fix with firmware update)
  • No option for status and notifications bars
  • Bluetooth file transfer is unreliable (crash) and there’s no way to confirm file transfer (related to notification bar above)
  • Tweaks may be needed (e.g. disable Media Storage and DMS) for optimal performance if you have a hard drive with many files.
  • The system will not always remember the video output set by the user (e.g. 4K 60 Hz set, but falls back to 1080p or 720p).

Eweat also lacks a community forum like Zidoo, but as long as they keep firmware updates rolling, it may or may not matter to you. Overall, Eweat R9 Plus is also a good device combining 4K TV box, OpenWrt NAS, and HDMI recording functions. Whether that’s right for you depends on your requirements and budget.

The manufacturer sent me the review sample directly. Distributors can inquire the company to purchase in quantities, but if you just need one or a few you can purchase it on Aliexpress for $175.99 plus shipping (about $200) on Aliexpress.

Merry Christmas to all!

Samlinking D240 Mediatek MT7620A Router Boards Support Two 4G LTE mini PCIe Modules, PoE for $38 and Up

December 13th, 2016 2 comments

Samlinking Technologies, a manufacturer of 4G WiFi integrated solution based in Shenzhen, has launched D240 router board powered by Mediatek MT7620A MIPS processor with 128MB RAM, 64 MB flash, four Fast Ethernet LAN ports, one Fast Ethernet WAN port with PoE, as well as two PCIe slots accepting 4G LTE modems.dual-lte-router-boardThree Samlinking D240 models are available with D240A1, D240A2, and D240A3 with different combination of LTE module, and 802.11 b/g/n and/or 802.11ac connectivity.

  • SoC – Mediatek MTK7620A MIPS processor @ 580MHz

    mt7620a-board-case

    Enclosure for D240 Board

  • System Memory – 128MB
  • Storage – 64MB flash + micro SD card slot
  • Connectivity
    • 802.11 b/g/n/ac up to 300, or 300 + 867 Mbps depending on model+ 2 u.FL connectors
    • 5x 100 Mbps Ethernet port (RJ45) with 4 LAN ports, 1 WAN port with PoE 802.3af
    • 2x PCIe slot with LTE Cat3 to Cat 6 modem cards
    • 2x SIM card slots
  • Serial – 1x 4-pin header
  • USB – 1x USB host port
  • Expansion – Footprints for Bluetooth, I2S, and UARTF/PCM
  • Misc – 9x LEDs, reset button, extra watchdog timer
  • Power – 12V via power barrel, or 802.3af PoE
  • Dimensions – 11 x 8.3 x 3 cm
  • Temperature Range – Operating: -20ºC to 70ºC; storage: -40ºC to 90ºC
  • Certifications – CE, RoHS, FCC Compliance

The board can run OpenWrt or a custom firmware. I’ve asked the company for more details about software and documentation, but only received information about the hardware…
mediatek-mt7620a-bluetooth-i2s-uart-pcm
D240A1 board is available now for $38 (sample price) plus shipping without any LTE modems, while D240A2 board sells with one LTE cat3/4 modem for $90, or a Cat6 modem for $150, and D240A3 comes with two LTE modems  (cat4+ cat6; up to 450 Mbps) for $220. Prices are cheaper for quantities over 500 pieces. There’s no online shop, so if you are interested you’d have to contact the company directly through their website.

Eweat R9 Plus Android TV Box and OpenWrt NAS Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

December 12th, 2016 7 comments

Zidoo X9S is getting some competition with Eweat R9 TV boxes based on the same Realtek RTD1295 processor with built-in SATA, Gigabit Ethernet, 4K VP9 and H.265, HDR, and USB 3.0. The company has three R9 models, and they sent me to top of the line R9 Plus with 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, a 3.5″ SATA bay, HDMI input, and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports for evaluation. I’ll start the first part of the review by checking out the hardware inside and out, before testing the firmware in the second part.

Eweat R9 Plus Unboxing

The device ships in a large package with a handle which can be convenient in brick and mortar shops since the whole package weights about 1.8 kilograms.eweat-r9-plus-packageThe package then contains a smaller package will all accessories: a 12V/2.5A power supply, a “Quickly User Guide” (sic.), a HDMI cable, and an IR remote control taking two AAA batteries.

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Click to Enlarge

You’ll also find the box packed between two polystyrene blocks. The device really feels of high quality thanks to its metal case.

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Click to Enlarge

It’s also much heavier than your typical TV box. The front panel include an LCD display and an IR receiver window, while you’ll notice the SATA bay door on the right.

eweat-r9-plus-sd-card

The other side has a USB 2.0 port, a recovery pinhole, an SD card slot, some ventilation holes, and a “don’t-think-out-it-this-will-void-your-warranty” sticker.

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Click to Enlarge

Bu the rear panel has all the cool goodies with two WiFi antennas, two more USB 2.0 host ports, four RCA connectors for stereo audio, coaxial S/PDIF and CVBS (composite), a USB type C port that can be used to connect storage devices or charge your phone, a USB 3.0 port, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one HDMI 2.0 out port to connect to your TV, one HDMI 2.0 input port to record video from external sources, an optical S/PDIF port, the DC jack, and a mechanical power switch.

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Click to Enlarge

Inserting a hard drive is very easy. Pull the handle on the door, insert the hardware, and close the door and you’re done. If you want  to remove the drive, open the door and as we’ll see below a small arm is pushing the drive out. The SATA bay mechanism looks solid, and feels much better than the plastic key mechanism used in Cloud Media’s Popcorn Hour A-500, which I broke after two tries.

You can see how easy it is to insert the hard drive in the unboxing video below.

Eweat R9 Plus Teardown

The hardware looks good out the outside, what about the inside? Let’s open it to find out. Remove the four sticky pad on the bottom of the case, and loosen the four screws.

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Click to Enlarge

Now you can lift the top cover, void the warranty, and have a closer look at the mechanical and thermal design of the device. The MAC address on the bottom of the device – 9C:F8:DB:xx:xx:xx – looks up to a company called Shenzhen Eyunmei Technology, who also manufactured the older M-195 TV box based on Realtek RTD1195 processor.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The metal top cover is connected to the SATA bay’s metal frame via two short thermal pads, and you can see the arm pushing the HDD out when your open the door in the bottom right of the photo.

Then I had to take a thinner screwdriver to loosen four more screws to remove the SATA bay mechanism, and checkout the board – named 1295-V4.0_161029 – itself.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Realtek RTD1295 quad core Cortex A53 processor is covered by a heatsink, and connected to a 16GB Toshiba THGBMBG7C2KBAIL eMMC flash, and two Micron MT40A512M16JY-083E (I used FBGA & Component Marking Decoder to find out) 8 Gbit DDR4 chips (16 Gbit = 2GB in total). Gigabit Ethernet connectivity is achieved via one RTL8211F PHY transceiver and two E-Con EG24S036S magnetic transformers (only one transceiver is required since Realtek RTD1295 SoC comes with one Gigabit Ethernet MAC/PHY),  and wireless connectivity is made possible through Realtek RTL8821AU USB 2.0 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 LE also used in Zidoo X9S. There’s also a part reserved for a battery for the RTC, but Eweat decided not to populate it.

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Click to Enlarge

The front panel display is driven Titan Micro TM1628 LED Controller, just like the one on Zidoo X9S. You’ll need to loosen two more screws and two spacers attaching the board to the case, as well as the screw between the four RCA connectors on the rear panel to take the board out.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Some parts are glued, so I did not removed it completely, especially since there’s no much to be seen, except one expansion header,  a footprint for another connector, and another thermal pad between the bottom of the board and the case.

I’d like to thank Eweat for sending the device for review. Interested resellers and distributions may want to contact the company via the company’s website, while individuals can purchase Eweat R9 Plus for $175.99 plus shipping on Aliexpress.

[Update: Part 2 is up @ Eweat R9 Plus TV Box Review Part 2 – Android, OpenWrt, and HDMI Recording ]

8Devices Rambutan Qualcomm Atheros QCA9557 / QCA9550 GbE & WiFi Modules and Development Kit Run OpenWrt

November 10th, 2016 3 comments

8Devices, a Lithuanian company specialized in the development and manufacturing of electronic equipment, is known for their Carambola and Carambola2 WiFi modules powered by Ralink and Qualcomm Atheros WiSoCs. The company has now introduced a new dual band WiFi module called Rambutan that comes in commercial and industrial temperature range through respectively Qualcomm Atheros QCA9557 & QCA9550 SoCs.

8devices-rambutan

Rambutan and Rambutan-I modules specifications:

  • SoC
    • Rambutan – Qualcomm Atheros QCA9557 MIPS processor @ 720 MHz
    • Rambutan-I – Qualcomm Atheros QCA9550 MIPS processor @ 720 MHz
  • System Memory – 128 MB DDR2
  • Storage – 128 MB Flash
  • Connectivity
    • WiFi – 802.11 a/b/g/n, 2.4 or 5 GHz, 2×2 MIMO, 300 Mbps data rate, 21 dB per chain output power; 2x u.FL connectors
    • Ethernet – Atheros AR8032 10/100M Ethernet PHY
  • 68x half holes with
    • 2 x USB 2.0 host port
    • 2 x serial port
    • 1x 100 Base-T Ethernet port;  1000 Base-T Ethernet port  (SGMII interface)
    • I2S, SPI, I2C, GPIO, PCIe, MDIO
  • Power Supply – +3.3V DC; max power consumption: 3.7 W
  • Dimensions – 46.9 x 31.8 mm
  • Temperature Range – Rambutan: 0 – 65° C; Rambutan-I: -40 – 85° C

Beside the wider temperature range, Rambutan-I features QCA9550 SoC with the following advantages over QCA9557:

  • 5 and 10 MHz channelization supported in a 4.9 GHz frequency band only
  • Loopback mode to assist FIPS AES certification
  • High Tx power accuracy at lower power level
  • Small packet size (96 Bytes) in AES encryption at full packet rate
  • 8 bits spectral analysis resolution
Rambutan Pinout Diagram

Rambutan Pinout Diagram

The modules run OpenWrt with the source code to be provided on 8devices’ github account, while support is handled through their forums. The company also offers Rambutan development kit with a baseboard for the module with some interesting features and expansion for this kind of board:

  • Ethernet – 1x 1000 Base-T Ethernet port, 1×100 Base-T Ethernet port
  • USB – 1x USB Type-A socket, 1x Mini USB Type-A socket for serial console and power
  • Expansion:
    • 2x 20-pin 2.54 mm pitch through holes for I/Os such as GPIOs, USB, UART, SPI, JTAG, …
    • Mini PCIe socket
  • Misc –  reset and user buttons, DIP switch for bootstrap options, 2x integrated antennas
  • Power Supply – 5V via mini USB port
  • Dimensions – 125 x 77 mm (estimated)
Rambutan DVK (Click to Enlarge)

Rambutan DVK (Click to Enlarge)

Rambuta can be purchased now for $35, Rambutan-I for $49, and Rambutan development kit for $79. You’ll find more information, include a product brief, a datasheet, and the development board’s schematics on 8devices Rambutan’s product page.

Zidoo X8 Android TV Box, OpenWrt NAS, and HDMI Recorder Sells for $109

October 24th, 2016 16 comments

I posted my review of Zidoo X9S Android TV box, HDMI recorder and OpenWrt NAS a few days ago, and despite some limitations with regards to 4K video playback, the device is working pretty well. The $140 price tag might be a little more than some people are ready to pay, and the good news is that the company has now launched a cheaper model based on the same processor called Zidoo X8, without the external SATA port, and less storage.

zidoo-x8

Zidoo X8 specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1295 quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz with ARM Mali-T820 MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot + SATA 3.0 interface
  • Video I/O – HDMI 2.0a output, AV output and HDMI 2.0 input (Support up to 4K60 input, but record/stream up to 1080p @ 30 Hz)
  • Audio I/O – HDMI in and out, AV, S/PDIF output
  • Video Playback – HDR, 10-bit HEVC/H.265 up to 4K @ 60fps, H.264 up to 4K @ 24 fps, VP9 up to 4K @ 30 fps, BDISO/MKV, 3D videos, etc… automatic frame rate switching
  • Audio Features – DTS HD and TrueHD 7.1 channel audio pass-through
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 (RTK8821)
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, VFD display, restore pin hole.
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A
  • Dimensions – TBD

The media center runs Android 6.0 and OpenWrt simultaneously, and ships with  a remote control, an HDMI cable, a power adapter, and a user’s manual.

zidoo-x8-ports

So the only thing really missing compared to Zidoo X9S is the external SATA port, but since there’s still a USB 3.0 port, you’ll still have decent storage performance. I’d expect the firmware to work as well as on Zidoo X9S with HDMI audio pass-through up 7.1, automatic frame rate switching, and 4K video playback to work very well with Media Center app, but a little less well, especially for videos, using ZDMC (Kodi 16.1 fork) internal player. HDMI input will also you to setup a PiP window, record videos to your hard drive, or stream videos to the network, while OpenWrt will add support for NAS functions such as SAMBA share, FTP, Bittorrent downloader, and more.

Zidoo X8 is currently selling for $109 on GeekBuying, or about $30 to $40 cheaper compared to Zidoo X9S. You’ll also find a few sellers on Aliexpress, and it should be sold on Amazon US soon.