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.
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
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:
USB – 1x USB Type-A socket, 1x Mini USB Type-A socket for serial console and power
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)
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.
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 specifications:
SoC – Realtek RTD1295 quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz with ARM Mali-T820 MP3 GPU
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.
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.
I’ve already written about Vocore v2 Crowdfunding campaign, where the second generation Vocore WiFi module supports audio, PoE, and ultimate dock, and price starting at $12. But there has been some development since the launch of the campaign, as the developer received request for a cheaper board, and after looking into it, has now added Vocore2 Lite WiFi module reward for only $4, or $7 once shipping included.
He obviously had to make some trade-offs to bring the cost down, but the Lite board impressively still keep many of the same features.
VoCore2 Lite (2016)
x1 / x5
x1 / x5
USB 2.0 Host
USB 2.0 OTG
Compared to Vocore2, Vocore2 Lite has a cheaper Mediatek MT7688N MIPS processor, which is already used in board such as Mediatek LinkIt 7688, Onion Omega2, and Widora-NEO, less memory and storage, WiFi is limited to 150 Mbps and an external antenna is required, and the PCIe 1.1 interface is gone. The dimensions appear to be the same, so the dock should be compatible too, provided PCIe is not needed. Software support will be the same with OpenWrt/LEDE Linux distribution.
If you are interested, you can pledge $7 for Vocore2 Lite on the Indiegogo page with delivery planned for January 2017. There aren’t any pledge combining Vocore2 Lite with a dock so far.
Zidoo X9S is more than a simple Android TV box, as it supports NAS function via OpenWrt running simultaneously with Android 6.0 and its USB 3.0 and SATA ports, as well as HDMI input function capable of recording and broadcasting videos, and supporting Picture-in-picture, so I find “Android Media Center” better fit the description for this device. I’ve already taken pictures of the Zidoo X9S and its board in the first part of the review, so I’ll test both Android 6.0 & OpenWrt firmware, and the most of the features in the second part of the review.
Initial Setup and First Boot
I connected the usual accessories and cables to the box including a USB 3.0 hard drive, HDMI and Ethernet cables, USB RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, and a USB keyboard to take screenshots. I also added a 1TB SATA drive, and connected K1 Plus T2/S2 Android TV box to the HDMI input.
Click to Enlarge
Once you connect the 36V power supply, the front panel LCD display will show “boot” and the LED will turn blue. A standard boot takes about 40 seconds with my setup, but the very first time, you need to go through the setup wizard. You’ll be presented with a Welcome screen asking you to choose bring traditional or simplified Chinese, Turkish, English, Vietnamese, but selecting “more” will bring you many more languages options.
The second step is for overscan adjustment (Scale) in case you have black bar and the interface is cut on either side of the TV screen. The third step will let you configure the network, and if you have connected an Ethernet cable, the system should get an IP address with DHCP automatically, and you just have to select Next.
The fourth step of the setup wizards simply describes the user interface, and the last one congratulates you.Click on Complete to get the ZIUI launcher, the same as found on other Zidoo devices such as Zidoo X6 Pro.
Click for Original Size
At this stage, you’ll probably want to go to Settings to set your timezone, and potentially change video and audio settings. In my case, I set video output to 4K 60, and disabled HDMI CEC (now disabled by default with latest firmware).
OTA Firmware Update
I’ve done this review with firmware V1.2.3, but the first time I got the box, firmware 1.1.20 was installed as shown in the About section of the launcher.
I clicked on Update, and Zidoo X9S detected a new version (v1.1.26) with a detailed changelog.I clicked on Update again to start the download.
To clicked on Update (again) to reboot the device, and complete the OTA firmware update successfully. All my settings and currently installed apps were still present after the update, so it worked perfectly.
Zidoo updated the firmware with feedback from beta testers, and I eventually updated the firmware to V1.2.3 with a USB flash drive (Local Update) for further testing, and it also worked just fine.
Settings, Power Consumption & First Impressions
Zidoo X9S has no separate app for settings like in Amlogic devices – not necessarily a bad thing – , so instead you get to “standard” Android marshmallow settings with some settings specific to TV boxes and NAS functions.
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Some of the most interesting settings include
Wireless & network section
Ethernet configuration with DHCP, Fixed IP and PPPoE support
More – Portable hotspot, VPN, DLNA DMR, Set Device Name (for DLNA/UPnP), Miracast Sink, and Openwrt Settings.
Playback effect – Off, Night Mode, Comfort mode (not sure what this does)
HDMI Rx Audio format – PCM or RAW
Playback (all on/off options) – Auto 1080p24, Auto 29.97/59.94 Hz, Force SD audio, Enable low performance mode (less buffer for playback)
HDMI CEC functions – HDMI CEC (on/off), One Touch Play, One Touch Standby, Auto Power On from TV, Auto OSD language, IRDA/CEC switch (on/off)
You also have other options like Daydream, printing, language & input, accessibility, and so on. I had no problem with Ethernet and WiFi, and HDMI output selection works, except it will often revert to 720p60 or 1080p60 possibly because the system is confused by the TV and AV receiver settings like so many other TV boxes.
Internal storage usage does not seem optimized, even considering the OpenWrt partition, as only 8.91 GB is available to the user in the “internal storage” partition out of of the 16GB eMMC flash. Having said that, this should still be plenty enough of space for most people. The good news is that both SATA and USB 3.0 drive partitions were recognized with NTFS, exFAT, EXT-4, and FAT32 file systems supported. Most Android TV boxes will not work properly if you attach more than one hard drive.
The About TV box section “reveals” the device is called “Zidoo_X9S” and runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 4.1.17. The firmware is not rooted.
Zidoo IR remote control worked fine, including the IR learning function which I tried with power and volume keys of my TV. The range was good up to around 10 meters. I wish Zidoo would also offer an air mouse as option, as I had to switch between Zidoo remote control and MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse more often than usual during use, since the air mouse is not always the best with Zidoo Apps like Media Center or HDMI IN apps.
Google Play Store worked for most apps, except apps requirement Bluetooth LE/Smart support such as Mi Fit or Smart Movement. I could also side-load Amazon Underground app and install the free version of Riptide GP2 racing game.
Just like with their previous model Zidoo did a decent implementation of power handling. A short press on the remote’s power key will show a menu with Power off, Standby, and Reboot. The current firmware does not support Auto power off like in their previous device.
If you don’t want to be asked what to do each time, a long press on the power key will bring up a menu to configure the key behavior.
There’s also no problem with turning the device on from your sofa with the remote control.
Since Zidoo X9S has a 36W power supply, I did some extra tests for power consumption, testing various configuration with or without USB or SATA drives, and under load:
Power off (no HDD) – 0.2 Watt
Standby (No HDD) – 0.4 Watt
Idle (No HDD) – 5.2 ~ 6.1 Watts
Power off + USB HDD – 0.2 Watt
Standby + USB HDD – 0.3 Watts
Idle + USB HDD – 8.4 Watts
Power off + SATA HDD – 0.2 Watt
Standby + SATA HDD – 0.4 Watt
Idle + SATA HDD – 7.2 Watts
Idle + SATA HDD + USB HDD – 9.4 to 10.4 Watts
SATA HDD (Copy file to SAMBA share) + Play 4K video from USB HDD – 13.4 Watts
So everything looks pretty good, and it also means you could probably connect a few more hard drives to USB 2.0 ports, or via a USB 3.0 hub if you wished so, and it would still work. I wish there could be a “connected standby” mode to allow user to keep downloading files in the background, or let them access OpenWrt services while HDMI output and GPU are in low power mode, but I’m not sure that would save that much power. Currently, turning off the TV will not change power consumption of the device either.
Zidoo X9S metal case feels hot at times, but after Antutu 6.0, I measured just 38°C and 39°C max on the top and bottom of the enclosure with an IR thermometer, and after 15 to 20 minutes playing Riptide GP2 the temperature went up a little to respectively 41°C and 45°C. I did not experience any slowdown while playing the game. However, once I tried HDMI audio pass-through after several hours of testing, and found that it did not work reliably (my AV receiver was switching between DTS/UNKNOWN erratically) and the video were not smooth at all. I repeated the same test the next morning, and everything worked perfectly. The ambient temperature at the time of the issue was 31 °C, and it’s possible the device overheated the first time.
My first impressions about Zidoo X9S were quite good, with the firmware responsive and stable, and many options to satisfy the needs of most users. Beside the potential overheating issue, one small annoyance in the firmware is that the App list is sorted by usage frequency, instead of alphabetical order, so if you have many apps installed it can be confusing.
Video & Audio Playback with ZDMC (Kodi 16.1 fork), Antutu Video Tester, and DRM Support
There are to main ways to play videos in Zidoo X9S: ZDMC, a fork a Kodi 16.1, using an implementation from Realtek (RTDPLAYER), or Media Center app developed by Zidoo themselves. It’s also possible to set ZDMC to use Media Center by enabling Settings -> Video -> Playback –> Play video with external player. I’ve tested ZDMC with the internal player for most of the video, and switched to Media Center to double check for videos with issues.
Big Buck Bunny videos from Linaro media samples, and Elecard:
MPEG2 codec / MPG container – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK (software decode)
WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p – OK (ff-vp8 software decode), 1080p – OK
H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – OK
Automatic refresh rate switching (Adjust display refresh rate) is enabled by default in ZDMC, and worked well.
I continued testing using videos with various bitrates:
ED_HD.avi (H.264 / 10 Mbps) – OK
big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK
Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK
So that’s very good so far, and I switched to Dolby and DTS audio testing using both PCM output (stereo downsampling) via ZDMC and Media Center apps, and HDMI pass-through in both apps using Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver.
Click to Enlarge
I had to repeat the test twice with HDMI pass-through using Media Center app with tries marked as #1 and #2.
Audio Codec in Video
PCM 2.0 Output
PCM 2.0 Output
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1
Audio OK, but 1:1 aspect ratio
#1: Some audio cuts, 1:1 aspect ratio
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1
#1: AV receiver switching between Dolby D 5.1/Unknown frequently
Dolby Digital+ 7.1
#1: Audio OK (TrueHD 5.1), video not smooth
#1: TrueHD 7.1 detected but some audio cuts, and video not smooth
Dolby Atmos 7.1
#1: TrueHD 7.1/Unknown switching, audio cuts, video not smooth
#2: TrueHD 7.1
DTS HD Master
#1: DTS HD MA/Unknown switching with audio cuts, video not smooth
DTS HD High Resolution
#1: PCM 2.0 audio, video not smooth
DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636)
DTS HD Master (OK)
#1: DTS HD Master, video not smooth
#2: DTS HD Master (OK)
Zidoo X9S is a massive improvements compared to most other Android TV boxes on the market with both HDMI audio pass-through working well, and DTS and Dolby audio licenses (also confirmed with MX Player app). But what happened in the forth column, with my first attempt (#1) a disaster, and the second one (#2) working just fine? The first test was done after testing the device for several hours, and the room temperature was around 30 C, while the second attempt was the next day, a few minutes after a fresh boot, so it appears the device overheated, and it greatly affected the performance in the first try. That’s the only instance when I noticed the device overheating. It might not be an issue if you live in a temperate climate, but something to keep in mind if you live in hotter climates (or during summer).
The Video/Audio System section shows the SoC support H.264 video codec up to 2K @ 60 fps & 4K @ 24 fps, H.265 up to 4K 60 fps, and VP9 up to 4K 60 fps. One question you often may want to ask when you purchase a media player, is if it is future proof. But Realtek decision to limit 4K H.264 to 24 fps makes it “not proof for the present” due to the millions of cameras (e.g. GoPro/Xiaomi) and phones capable of recording 4K H.264 @ 30 fps sold on the market. Whether this matters to you or not, you’ll have to decide by yourself. Following problems with 4K VP9 60 fps videos reported to Zidoo, the company also informed me that 4K VP9 would be limited to 30 fps. VP9 is not used very much right now, and this will probably mostly matter if you download 4K YouTube videos @ over 30 fps using VP9 codec.
Nevertheless, while no TV box will be able to play all of the 4K video samples I used for review, Zidoo X9S is unable to play many of them smoothly. I repeated the test with a more recent firmware (V1.2.3) both in ZDMC with internal player, and Media Center, and I’ve prefixed lines with samples out of specs with OoO.
OoO – HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – Not smooth in ZDMC, better in Media Center app, but still not perfect, especially at the end.
sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) – Not smooth in ZDMC, OK in media center
Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) – Not smooth and some audio cuts in ZDMC, OK in Media Center app
OoO – big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Not smooth in ZDMC, yet watchable in Media Center
OoO – big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (as expected since hardware is not supposed to support it)
Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – Not always perfectly smooth in ZMDC, perfect in Media Center app
Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – Not smooth in ZDMC, OK in Media Center
OoO – 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Lots of artifacts and around 1 fps (software decode)
OoO – Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Not smooth
OoO – tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – Not smooth, artifacts, and audio cuts
OoO – The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Not smooth
4K video playback is quite disappointing in ZDMC with the internal player, but with Media Center it’s pretty good with videos within specifications. Some H.264 4K 30 fps videos are almost watchable in Media Center app, if you allow for a few frame drops and rare slowdowns here and there.
You can see HDMI audio pass-through and ZDMC 4K video playback with an earlier firmware (few differences) in the video below.
Sintek-4k.iso & amat.iso (non encrypted) Blu-Ray ISOs, and MPEG2 1080i videos could play just fine. Like on most platforms Hi10p is not supported by the hardware, so it must be done with software decode, and ZDMC could handle the 720p Hi10p video, but the 1080p one would not be smooth, and exhibit some artifacts. Media Center won’t play Hi10p videos at all.
My review 4K TV does not support 3D, but it’s still interesting to find out whether the TV box can decode 3D videos, and Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver is capable of detecting 3D content (3D icon shown) for MVC videos as shown in Zidoo X1 II review, so I checked whether the 3D icon is lit up using Media Center app:
bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Black screen, audio only
Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK
3D-full-MVC.mkv (Full-frame packed MVC 3D MKV) – Plays in 2D by default (since my TV does not support 3D), but can be force to 3D, with the 3D icon showing on the Onkyo receiver.
ISO-full3D-sample.iso (Full-frame packed MVC 3D ISO) – Plays in 2D by default (since my TV does not support 3D), but can be force to 3D, with the 3D icon showing on the Onkyo receiver.
Finally, I played several MKV, VOB/IFO, AVI, XViD/DViX, MP4, and FLV videos from my library in ZDMC, including one full 2-hour 1080p H.264 movie, and the vast majority could play just fine, with the exception of some FLV videos.
In order to have a formal video & audio capability score, I’ve also run Antutu Video Tester 3.0 benchmark, with Zidoo X9S getting 888 points, a score pretty similar to what you’d get on Amlogic devices.
Some videos were only partially supported, as the app detected they did not play smoothly, and one WMV/WMV2/WMAV2 video completely failed to play. I also heard some video had issues with audio (only noise), but the app did not seem to pick this up.
DRM info app will crash, so I was not able to find out whether Widewine or PlayReady are supported, but it’s probably safe to assume they are not… YouTube worked fine me up to 1080p.
As shown in the description of settings, but you disable/enable services on OpenWrt directly within Android settings, but in some cases, such as SAMBA, you may also have to define the shared directory(ies) within OpenWrt LuCI web interface.
Click to Enlarge
To do so, go to About in the launcher, note the IP address of Zidoo X9S, and access LuCI in your PC web browser @ http://ZIDOO-X9S-IP-ADDRESS. You’ll find the following NAS services on the top menu: DLNA, iTunes, Samba, FTP, TimeMachine, and BitTorrent.
I’ve enabled SAMBA shares for the SATA drive NTFS partition, and all three USB 3.0 partitions. “OpenWrt” client won’t show in Ubuntu 16.04 with Nautilus, but I could select “Connect to Server” and input smb://ZIDOO-X9S-IP-ADDRESS to access the list of shares.
Disk_sda1 is the SATA drive share on Zidoo X9S, and I could transfer large files from my PC’s SSD to Zidoo’s SATA drive at a reasonable speed (~49 MB/s) over Gigabit Ethernet.
I could also play a few 1080p and 4K videos on my computer using Zidoo X9S as a SAMBA server.
Then I switched to FTP with Filezilla program, and I could easily transfer files after login as root user.
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Performance basically maxes out the Gigabit Ethernet connection at close to 90 MB/s.
Finally, I’ve configured BitTorrent. By default it will download files to /tmp/bittorrent (Ramdisk), so you may want to change that to a directory on SATA or USB storage… It’s a little inconvenient as the path need to be type by hand, and mine looked like: /storage/309C86229C85E2A8/transmission/done.
Then you can open Transmission web interface @ http://ZIDOO-X9S-IP-ADDRESS:9091 (a reboot may be required), in order to add torrent either from .torrent files downloaded to your PC or direct links to torrent files.
However, BitTorrent did not work well for me. First while I could Browse to select a torrent file, entering a URL would results in error such as:
Add when adding .torrent file, the download would never seen to start.
We’ve already seen Gigabit Ethernet interface is doing its job in the OpenWrt section, but I’ve also tested WiFi performance by transferring a 278MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash in both directions using ES File Explorer. Zidoo X9S can achieve 3.6 MB/s on average with 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, and MB/s with 802.11ac (434Mbps Link Speed) both of which are excellent, and near the top oftheir respective category against competing devices.
WiFi Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge
I’ve also quickly tested Gigabit Ethernet with iperf in full duplex mode:
That’s impressive, as it’s quite rare to see ARM based SoCs for TV boxes nearly hit Gigabit Ethernet speed in full duplex. So both wireless and wired networking performance on Zidoo X9S is outstanding.
After I paired Vernee Apollo Lite smartphone with “Realtek Bluetooth”, I could transfer several photos over Bluetooth. However, I also got the message “Unfortunately Bluetooth has stopped” a few times, so the transfer failed for some photos. Since Google Play would report BLE app to be “incompatible with this device”, I side-loaded Smart Movement app, and I could synchronize data from my Bluetooth Smart fitness tracker without issues.
The firmware is not rooted, so I skipped sixaxis gamepad test. completely failed to detect my Bluetooth headset. I could however pair my Bluetooth headset, and watch and listen to some YouTube videos with it.
I have a 1 TB USB 3.0 Seagate hard drive with 4 partitions with different file systems, and Zidoo X9S could mount 3 of them, and a FAT32 micro SD could also be mounted in read/write mode. So file system support is a bit better than most other devices that do not always support EXT-4.
A1SD bench app shows excellent sequential read and write both via USB 3.0 and SATA interface, except for exFAT file system which should usually be avoided on Android devices:
Zidoo told me that they are using Paragon NTFS, a commercial implementation of NTFS file system that normally delivers much higher performance than NTFS-3G open source implementation.
Read and Write Speeds in MB/s – Click to Enlarge
Maybe Realtek should make a networking/storage SoC with the USB 3.0, SATA and Ethernet IP blocks used in RTD1295…
I ran A1SD Bench again for test Zidoo X9S eMMC flash, but I never managed to do so without “Cached read”. eMMC write speed was 25.71 MB/s, and the cached read speed was between 80 and 102 MB/s.
I shortly played Candy Crush Saga with the air mouse, and as expected no problem at all here. So I moved to my wireless gamepad, and Beach Buggy Racing 3D game, which also played perfectly smoothly even with maximum quality settings. Riptide GP2 had very much the same user experience as on Amlogic S912 SoC with the game being playable, but not perfectly smooth, with the “highest resolution” settings. I could play the latter game over 15 minutes with any obvious degradation in performance, so the overheating issue is not that easy to reproduce.
Zidoo appears to be getting better and better overtime, and Zidoo X9S might be their best devices so far. They also invited a team of beta testers to provide inputs and report bugs before sending to end users, so this might have help. At first, I was disappointed by RTD1295 SoC limited 4K capabilities (4K H.264 up to 24 fps, 4K VP9 up to 30 fps), but if you can do without those, the firmware is normally excellent with HDMI audio pass-through, automatic frame rate switching, outstanding networking and storage performance, and most features working out of the box.
Stable and responsive Android 6.0 firmware
Good Media player capabilities with Media Center app including 4K H.265 & HDR support, automatic frame rate switching HDMI audio pass-through including for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD
Outstanding Ethernet and WiFi performance
Very good storage performance for internal storage, USB 3.0, and SATA
File systems support – NTFS (Paragon), EXT-4, exFAT (slow), and FAT32
HDMI Input (up to 4K60 input) with video recording, UDP broadcasting, and picture-in-picture support. N/B/: Recording can only be done up to 1080p30, so video input may be downscaled.
NAS functions such as SAMBA and FTP servers through OpenWrt, which runs side-by-side with Android
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 work in any apps
OTA Firmware update
Zidoo support – Frequent firmware update (with Changelog) and user forums.
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 (Zidoo confirmed 60 fps won’t be supported)
4K videos are often not smooth when using the internal player in ZDMC (Kodi 16.1 fork).
Potential overheating issues in hot weather. I only experienced overheating once during testing, at which point it was not possible to play any videos smoothly (Room temp: ~30 C)
Lack of DRM support
HDMI Input – Recording/broadcasting fails when selecting RAW HDMI Rx, so AC3/DTS can not be recorded; UDP Broadcast is not quite as smooth as original input
Third party air mouse (MINIX NEO A2 Lite) is not always usable with Zidoo apps, and Zidoo IR remote is not really suitable for general Android usage (no proper mouse function), so you may have to jungle between Zidoo remote control and your air mouse more than one other devices. Alternatively using Zidoo RC app with your smartphone is an option, but I’d wish Zidoo would make an air mouse specifically for their devices.
Minor – App list in “most used” order, not alphabetical, which makes it hard to find apps if you have any installed.
Potential OpenWrt issue – While adding torrent files to Transmission web interface work, Bittorrent downloads would not start. SAMBA server not automatically detected in Ubuntu, smb:// address needs to be typed manually.
To be fixed – Apps requiring Bluetooth LE can’t be installed through Google Play (side-loading apps works)
If you plan to use Zidoo X9S to its fullest with 4K media playback, NAS functions, and HDMI input features, the media center is actually very good value.
I’d like to thank Zidoo for sending a review sample. Resellers and distributors can contact the company to purchase in quantities, while individual will find Zidoo X9S for $139 on Amazon US with O974D68X coupon (also works in other Amazon stores) and other online resellers such as Chinavasion, GeekBuying, DX, or eBay.
Vocore WiFi IoT board was popular at its launch in 2014 because affordable WiFi boards with I/Os were not common at the time, and it came with an Ethernet dock making it a complete router within a tiny and cute cube. The developers have been working on VoCore2 (aka Vocore V2) with a faster processor, more memory, a lower power consumption, a better WiFi signal, and more I/Os for several months, and have now launched the board on Indiegogo aiming to raise at least $6,000 for mass production.
Vocore2 and Audio Dock
Vocore2 board specifications:
SoC – Mediatek MT7628AN MIPS processor @ 580 MHz
System Memory – 128 MB DDR2
Storage – 16MB NOR FLASH, 1x SDXC via I/O pins
WiFi 802.11n 2T2R up to 300 Mbps with either 2 u.FL connector or 1 u.FL connector + on-board chip antenna (Max signal output >19.5dbm peak)
2x 10/100M Ethernet interfaces via I/O pins
I/Os – About 30 GPIOs multiplexed with 3x UARTs, 1x I2C, 1x I2S, 1x reference clock, 1x USB 2.0, 1x PCIe 1.1, 1x high speed SPI (40Mbps max), 1x SPI slave, 2x hardware PWM
Power Supply – Input: 3.6~6.0V; output: 1.8V, 3.3V.
Power Consumption – 74mA @ 5V (wifi on, no data transfer); 233mA @ 5V (max speed cpu and wireless)
Dimensions – 25.4 x 25.4 x 2.8 mm
Vocore2 + Ultimate Dock
Considering we have an embarrassment of choices of low cost Linux WiFi boards with easy to use platforms such as Mediatek LinkIt Smart 7688 or Onion Omega2, the main draw to the new Vocore V2 is mostly because of its three docks:
AirPlay Dock – Adds a micro USB port for power, as well as an audio codec and 3.5mm audio jack to connect to speakers. Dimensions with Vocore2: 25.4 x 25.4 x 9.0 mm
PoE Dock – To upgrade existing wall-mount Ethernet panel to a wireless hotspot
Ultimate Dock – Combines audio jack, Ethernet (RJ45) port, micro SD slot, USB 2.0 host port, micro USB port for power and debugging, and a AD/DA converter to connect sensors. It can be used to store data in the SD card, as CCTV DVR system by adding a USB webcam, as a voice command system with a microphone, and so on. Dimensions with Covore2: 28 x 28 x 22 mm
Vocore2 and PoE Dock installed in a (not included) Wall-Mount Ethernet Panel
Some extra details about the docks, and some earlier firmware release would have been nice to have, but I could not find this information on their Indiegogo page.
VoCore2 module starts at $12 (Early bird), Vocore2 + Airplay or PoE dock goes for $29, and you’d have to pledge $39 for Vocore2 with Ultimate dock (and case?). Bundle rewards are also available with 5 pieces for each kit. Shipping is not included but only adds $3 to $10 depending on the selected reward, and delivery is scheduled for November 2016 for most rewards, except PoE rewards which should be shipped later in January 2017.
A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed ReSpeaker board combining MediaTek MT7688 WiFi SoC with WM8960 audio DAC, running OpenWrt, and allowing you to perform tasks using text-to-speech and speech-to-text thanks to the built-in microphone (or optional microphone array), and a 3.5mm audio jack to connect speakers, as well as several I/O pins. It turns out there’s been board with similar features, minus the built-in microphone, available in China for a while. Meet Widora-NEO.
Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi 1T1R up to 150 Mbps with PCB antenna, or IPEX connector
Audio – 3.5mm jack for stereo headphone and mono microphone, WM8960G audio codec
USB – 1x micro USB port for programming via CP2104 chip, 1x micro USB host (or is it OTG?) port.
19-pin P1 header with UART, GPIO, WPS, Ethernet LINK, I2S, GND, and 3.3V signals
28-pin P2 header with SPI, GPIO, PWM, UART, SDIO, GND, 3.3V, and 5V signals
Misc – Reset and WPS buttons, some LEDs
Power Supply – 5V DC via micro USB port or header.
Dimensions – 76.20 x 35.56 mm
The board is running OpenWrt Chaos Calmer R4937 with Mediatek official closed-source drivers, support for AP and STA (APCLI0) modes. I could also find some references to Node.JS in the pictures, and spotted some commits credited to bug fixes made on ReSpeaker OpenWrt. The back of the board features an “Open Source hardware” logo, and while I could find OpenWrt and U-boot on their Github account, I was unable to find any hardware files. They also have a dedicated website with forums, but all information is only in Chinese at the time.
Widora-NEO Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge
The board will be much harder to play with compared to ReSpeaker for people who can’t read Chinese, but at the same time, it’s quite cheaper, as it sells for 99.00 RMB ($14.86), 106 RMB ($15.91) with OTG (cable?), or 140 RMB ($21) with a camera on Taobao. Widora-NEO is also listed on Aliexpress, but for $200 they probably don’t plan to sell it, still you will some more Google translated details on that page. The main developer also has a Twitter account, where he mentions an upcoming Widora-AIR based on Espressif ESP32.
Zidoo X9S is the first Android TV box based on Realtek RTD1295 quad core Cortex A53 processor that I’ve received for review. So in this post, I’ll show some system information with CPU-Z, and Android & OpenWrt Settings, and run typical Android benchmarks such as Antutu 6.x, Vellamo, and 3Dmark.
Zidoo X9S / Realtek RTD1295 Android System Info
CPU-Z detects Realtek RTD1295 is a quad core ARM Cortex A53 processor clocked between 600 MHz and 1.4 GHz with an ARM Mali-T820 GPU, and uses an unknown governor… But in adb shell, tje command “cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_governor” reports an ondemand governor is used.
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The system runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 4.1.17 (I think it’s the first time I see a Linux 4.x kernel used in a TV box…), and with 1920×1080 resolution. Total RAM is shown to be 1672 MB, most probably because some RAM is reserved for the GPU and VPU out of the 2GB RAM. There’s only 8.91 GB internal storage out of the 16GB eMMC flash, which is quite lower than on other TV boxes, but there’s at least one reason for this: OpenWrt is also running in the box. Zidoo however told they plan to optimize this in order to offer more space to the user.
Another interesting aspect of Realtek RTD1195 is support for USB 3.0 and SATA storage, and with the 12V/3A power supply that comes with the box, I could connect both a USB 3.0 hard drive to the USB 3.0 port, and a SATA drive (CNXSoft shown above) to the external port. My USB 3.0 drive has 4 partitions, and with the exception of BTRFS, all other file systems could be mounted: NTFS, exFAT, and EXT-4. NTFS is implemented with Paragon NTFS, a commercial implementation, which usually delivers much better performance than NTFS-3G.
Zidoo X9S / Realtek RTD1295 OpenWrt System Info
So let’s have a look at OpenWrt. First I can see some OpenWrt process within Android using adb shell:
MAC Address:9C:44:3D:46:32:4E(Chengdu Xuguang Technology)
So there are port SSH and HTTP ports running, but you can’t access SSH just yet, as you need to set the root password first. To do, you can access the configuration page from Zidoo (http://127.0.0.1), or any browser on your LAN (http://[ZIDOO-X9S IP address]). It should redirect you to LuCI interface, and you can login with no root password. There’s a security issue here, as your personal files may be exposed if you forget to set the root password, or to disable OpenWrt if you don’t need it.
In order to set the root password, go to System->Administration input your password, and click on Save & Apply.
Now that we have configured the system, we can check the status, and see that it’s running OpenWrt Chaos Calmer 15.04.
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You can also enable/disable some OpenWrt services within Android itself by going to Settings->More->Openwrt Settings.
Zidoo X9S / Realtek RTD1295 Benchmarks
Zidoo X9S got 34,973 points in Antutu 6.x, in the expected range for a quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz. The result is a little lower than Antutu 6.x for Amlogic S905 processor @ 1.5 Ghz.
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The 3D score is quite faster thanks to the Mali-T820MP GPU, but UX, CPU and RAM scores are lower.
Moving on to Vellamo, Zidoo X9S got 1,457 for Multicore, 831 for Metal, and 2,638 for Browser using Chrome (the stock browser is not an option in X9S firmware). This compares to 1,589 for Multicore and 1,235 for Metal achieved by MINIX NEO U1 TV box based on Amlogic S905 SoC. The browser score for the latter (2,157 points) is not directly comparable since it was done with the stock Browser, not Chrome.
Finally, I’ve tested 3D graphics performance again using 3D Ice Storm Extreme 1.2.
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The total score (4,574 points) is surprisingly only slightly higher than on Amlogic S905 with Mali-450MP GPU (4,327), and significantly lower than on Amlogic S912 with ARM Mali-T820MP3 (5,752), which is supposed to have the same GPU as Realtek RTD1295, maybe it’s clocked lower on the latter, or RAM performance has an impact on the score. Zidoo X9S does not come with any heatsink on the processor, but instead a metal shield covered with “graphite nano thermo material”, so it might be a cooling issue too.
Zidoo X9S is one of the first Realtek RTD1295 based TV boxes coming to market, and it has some pretty special features like running both Android 6.0 and OpenWrt simultaneously, HDMI input support for video recording and PiP, an external SATA interface, 4K media capabilities including HDMI 2.0a output, 4K 60 fps H.265 and VP9 & 4K 24 Hz H.264 video decoding, as well as HDR and 3D support. You can find the full Zidoo X9S specification in my previous post. The company has now sent me an early review sample, and in the first part of the review you’ll post photos of the devices and accessories, and perform a teardown to find out more about the electronics and thermal design. Later on I’ll publish articles with benchmarks, video performance, and the complete review.
Zidoo X9S Unboxing
The box comes in a light green retail package showing some of the key features like 3D, 10-bit HEVC, Ultra HD, HDMI 2.0, HDR. etc…
The bottom of the package lists the specifications.
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The devices comes with a SATA cable for 2.5″ “laptop” hard drives or SSDs, a HDMI cable, a 12V/3A power supply that should be good enough to handle a SATA drive plus a USB 3.0 drive, an IR remote control with IR learning function, two large WiFi antennas, a guarantee card, and Zidoo X9S “simple manual” in English.
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The case is made of aluminum alloy, and the device feels of good quality. It’s also quite larger than most recent Android TV boxes released to market
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The front panel includes a VFD display and a window for the IR receiver, while one of the side features the SATA interface, one USB 3.0 port, and two USB 2.0 ports. The rear panel comes with two WiFi antenna connector, a Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI input and output, AV (composite + audio stereo) jack, optical S/PDIF, a firmware recovery pinhole, a micro SD slot, the power jack, a mechanical on/off switch for power.
Zidoo X9S Teardown
You’ll need to loosen the four screws on the bottom of the case in order to take out the metal bottom cover, which comes out very easily.
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There’s no direct contact between the board and metal cover, but we’ll notice a shield covering the processor, memory and storage chips. [Update: The black part on top of the shield is “graphite nano thermo material” which helps with cooling]
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The shield is soldered to the board, so I have not attempted to remove it, and the bottom of the board reveals the micro SD slot, Genesis Logic GL852G 4-port USB hub, and Titan Micro TM1628 LED Controller found on the small board used by the front panel display.
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After removing three more larger screws, I can access the top of the board named “GPT X9S_1295_V1.0”.
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Again there’s a soldered shield on the top of main ICs, so we can’t check out the SoC, RAM, and eMMC flash chips. But we’ll find a battery for the RTC, Realtek RTL8821AU USB 2.0 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0? chip, and SG24002 10/100/1000M transformer for Gigabit Ethernet (GbE PHY and MAC are inside RTD1295 chip). The serial console / UART header appears to be located between the USB 3.0 and SATA ports. The latter should be a “true” SATA port since SATA is supported natively by Realtek RTD1295 SoC.