Posts Tagged ‘openwrt’

Vocore2 Lite is a $4 Linux MIPS WiFi Module based on Mediatek MT7688AN SoC (Crowdfunding)

October 19th, 2016 9 comments

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.

vocore2-liteHe obviously had to make some trade-offs to bring the cost down, but the Lite board impressively still keep many of the same features.

VoCore (2014) VoCore2 Lite (2016) VoCore2 (2016)
Price 19.99 USD 3.99 USD 11.99 USD
CPU RT5350, 360MHz MT7688AN MIPS24KEc
@ 580MHz
MT7628AN, 580MHz
Memory 32MB SDRAM 64MB DDR2 128MB DDR2
Storage 16MB NOR 8MB NOR 16MB NOR
Antenna Slot x1 x1 x2
On-Board ANTENNA ×
Wireless Speed ~75Mbps ~150Mbps ~300Mbps
Ethernet Port x5 x1 / x5 x1 / x5
Ethernet Speed 100Mbps 100Mbps 100Mbps
SPI Master
SPI Slave
USB 2.0 Host
USB 2.0 OTG × ×
PCIe 1.1 × ×
SD Support SPI
GPIO > 30** >=40 >= 40
UART x2 x3 x3
PWM x2 x2
Power Consumption 138mA 74mA 74mA

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.

Thanks to Freire for the tip.

Zidoo X9S Android Media Center Review – Part 2: Android Firmware & OpenWrt (NAS Functions)

October 14th, 2016 5 comments

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

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.
zidoo-x9s-setup-wizard-languageYou’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.zidoo-x9s-setup-wizard-networking

The fourth step of the setup wizards simply describes the user interface, and the last one congratulates you.zidoo-x9s-interface-descriptionClick on Complete to get the ZIUI launcher, the same as found on other Zidoo devices such as Zidoo X6 Pro.

Click for Original Size

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.zidoo-x9s-firmware-changelogI clicked on Update again to start the download.

zidoo-x9s-firmware-downloadTo 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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Some of the most interesting settings include

  • Wireless & network section
    • Wi-Fi
    • Bluetooth
    • 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.
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

  • Device
    • Display
      • HDMI Mode – AUTO, PAL, 480P, 720P, 720P @ 50/60Hz, 1080i @ 50/60Hz, 1080p @ 24/50/60Hz, 3840x2160P @ 24/25/30/60 Hz, 4096x2160P @ 24 Hz
      • Deep Color Mode – AUTO, 12-bit, 10-bit, OFF
      • Cast
    • Sound & Notifications
      • HDMI output – RAW, LPCM 2 channel, LPCM multi-channel, Auto (recommended)
      • S/PDIF output – LPCM 2 ch, RAW
      • 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”about-tv-box_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.

zidoo-x9s-power-off-standby-rebootIf 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.

zidoo-x9s-power-key-defineThere’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:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • 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

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
(Media Center)
HDMI Pass-through
HDMI Pass-through
(Media Center)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK Audio OK, but 1:1 aspect ratio OK #1: Some audio cuts, 1:1 aspect ratio
#2: OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK #1: AV receiver switching between Dolby D 5.1/Unknown frequently
#2: OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK OK #1: OK
#2: OK
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK OK #1: Audio OK (TrueHD 5.1), video not smooth
#2: OK
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK OK #1: TrueHD 7.1 detected but some audio cuts, and video not smooth
#2: OK
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK OK TrueHD 7.1 #1: TrueHD 7.1/Unknown switching, audio cuts, video not smooth
#2: TrueHD 7.1
DTS HD Master OK OK OK #1: DTS HD MA/Unknown switching with audio cuts, video not smooth
#2: OK
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK OK #1: PCM 2.0 audio, video not smooth
#2: OK
DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636) OK OK 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).

You may have already read my post about HDMI audio pass-through and 4K video support on Realtek RTD1295 processor, where I found many of my 4K video samples not playing smoothly on the platform. I’d like to put some perspective to with the SoC block diagram.

RTD1295 Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

RTD1295 Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

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.zidoo-x9s-antutu-video-tester-3-0

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.

zidoo-x9s-antutu-video-tester-results 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.

Video samples used in Kodi for this review can be downloaded via links in the comments section of my audio & video samples post.

HDMI IN App Review: PVR, UDP Streaming, and PiP

HDMI input is one of the main selling points of the Zidoo X9S, and I’ve already tested video recording, video streaming, and picture-in-picture in the post entitled “Zidoo X9S Android TV Box HDMI Input Testing – Video Recording, PiP, and UDP Broadcasting“, where I found that all three features worked reasonably well, despite my having some issue with audio at the beginning.

One issue included RAW audio (AC3/DTS) recording not working, and videos broadcasted over UDP are not quite as smoothly as the original input.

OpenWrt and NAS Functions

I’ve already explained how to access OpenWrt, and perform its first time configuration, so here I’ll report my findings with some of the available services, namely SAMBA, FTP, and Bittorrent.

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.

zidoo-x9s-samba-sharesDisk_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.

zidoo-x9s-samba-transfer-rateI 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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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.

zidoo-x9s-bittorrentHowever, 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.

Network Performance

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.

Click to Enlarge

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.

Miscellaneous Tests


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.

File System Read Write
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

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:

  • USB 3.0 + NTFS – Read: 57.41 MB/s – Write: 56.73 MB/s
  • USB 3.0 + EXT-4 – Read: 63.38 MB/s – Write: 59.06 MB/s
  • USB 3.0 + exFAT – Read: 16.27 MB/s – Write: 5.32 MB/s
  • SATA + NTFS – Read: 106.67 MB/s – Write: 84.74 MB/s

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

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 X9S Benchmarks

You’ll find results Antutu, Vellamo, 3DMark, and CPU-Z in Zidoo X9S Realtek RTD1295 Android & OpenWrt TV Box System Info & Benchmarks. The results are about as expected with a CPU performance roughly equivalent to what you’d get with Amlogic S905 CPU, and GPU performance and capabilities (OpenGL ES 3.1) similar to Amlogic S912.



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.

VoCore2 WiFi IoT Board Launched with Audio, PoE & “Ultimate” Docks (Crowdfunding)

October 6th, 2016 1 comment

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
  • Connectivity
    • 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

The new board runs OpenWrt/LEDE based on Linux, and can be programmed in C, Java, Python, Ruby, Javascript, etc… The developers claim they’ll release the “full hardware design including schematic, circuit diagram(PCB); full source code including bootloader, system, applications”, something which they’ve already done with Vocore (v1).

Vocore2 + Ultimate Dock

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:

  1. 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
  2. PoE Dock – To upgrade existing wall-mount Ethernet panel to a wireless hotspot
  3. 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.

Widora-NEO OpenWrt WiFi IoT & Audio Board is Based on Mediatek MT7688 SoC, WM8960 Audio DAC

September 14th, 2016 11 comments

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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Widora-NEO board specifications:

  • SoC – Mediatek MT7688AN MIPS SoC @ 580 MHz with built-in WiFi
  • System Memory – 128 MB RAM
  • Storage – 16MB SPI flash, micro SD card
  • 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.
  • Expansion headers
    • 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

widora-open-source-hardwareThe 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.

Block Diagram - Click to Enlarge

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 Realtek RTD1295 Android & OpenWrt TV Box System Info & Benchmarks

September 9th, 2016 19 comments

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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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.

realtek-rtd1295-storage-ntfs-exfat-ext4-sata-usb3Another 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:

and I also scan Zidoo X9S IP address from my Ubuntu machine to discover a few oen ports:

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 (, or any browser on your LAN (http://[ZIDOO-X9S IP address]). zidoo_openwrt_rtd1295_luciIt 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.

zidoo-openwrt_set_password 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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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 (Realtek RTD1295) Android TV Box Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

September 7th, 2016 21 comments

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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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]

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

After removing three more larger screws, I can access the top of the board named “GPT X9S_1295_V1.0”.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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.

I’d like to thank Zidoo for sending an early sample for review, and resellers and distributors can contact the company to purchase in quantities. Zidoo X9S can also be pre-order for $149 on GeekBuying, as well as a few shops on Aliexpress for the same price.

Getting Started with ReSpeaker WiFi IoT Board’s Audio Capabilities, Voice Recognition and Synthesis

August 27th, 2016 8 comments

ReSpeaker is a development board combining an Atmel AVR MCU, a MediaTek MT7688 WiFi module running OpenWrt, a built-in microphone, an audio jack, and I/O headers to allow for voice control and output for IoT applications. That means you could make your own Amazon Echo like device with the board and add-ons, use it as a voice controlled home automation gateway and more. The board was launched on Kickstarter a few days ago, and already raised $100,000 from about 100 backers, but I’ve received an early sample, so I’ll provide some more information about the firmware, and shows how to use with some Python scripts leveraging Microsoft Bing Speech API.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

You’ll need a micro USB to USB cable to connect your to computer (Linux, Windows, Mac OS…), and a speaker to connect to the board. Linux (OpenWrt) boots in a few seconds, and once it’s done all RGB LED will continuously blink.

I’m using a computer running Ubuntu 16.04, and ReSpeaker is detected by the system as an Arduino Leonardo board:

That’s optional, but if you want you can access the serial console, with programs like Minicom, screen, putty or hyperterminal and set the connection to 57600 8N1 to access the command. Here’s the full boot log:

If you think something is odd here… That’s because the serial connection will miss some characters. This happens with two computers and different USB cables. Hopefully this is either a specific issue with my sample, or if it is an issue it will be fixed by the time boards ship to Kickstarter backers [Update: The company explained me that it’s because the Atmel 32u4 and Mediatek MT7688 share the same USB port]. So instead of using the serial console, I’ll use SSH instead which means I have to connect to ReSpeaker WiFi access point first, and configure it.

LinkIt_Smart_Access_PointReSpeaker will show as LinkIt_Smart_7688_XXXXX, because the WiFi module is exactly the same as LinkIt Smart 7688 IoT board, and unsurprisingly the configuration interface is exactly the same.ReSpeaker_WiFi_PasswordFirst set the root password, and login with that password.

ReSpeaker_Station_Mode_OpenWrt_LUCIThen go to Network tab, select station mode, and connect to your access point by entering your password. Click Configure, and you’re done. As you can see on the right above, you can also use OpenWrt’s LUCI interface to configure networking.

Now find ReSpeaker IP address via your Router DHCP client list, arp-scan, or other method:

You can now connect to the board via SSH:

and use the password you set in the web interface.

Now let’s check some CPU information:

We’ve got Mediatek NT7688 MIPS24K processor as advertised, so let’s check a few more details:

The board runs Linux 3.18.23, has 7.6MB available storage, and 128MB RAM in total.

I’m not going to test the audio features with command tools, and python script, and also include a video demo at the end of this review.Since I don’t have ReSpeaker Microphone array add-on, I have to be fairly close to the microphone for it to work well, maybe one meter at most, or the volume would be really low.

I’ll start by checking audio recording and playback with any API or internet access requirements.
We can record audio with 16000 sample rate, 16 bit width, 1 channel using the following command

and play it back with aplay:

It worked OK for me, although the volume seemed quite low.

Now we can do something a little more interested as Seeed Studio develop a few Text-to-speech and Speech-to-text Python scripts. You can retrieve the scripts from ReSpeaker github account, and install one dependencies to setup the board:

The script are using Microsoft Speech API, but in theory you could use any other speech API. Since Seeed Studio has already done all the hard work, I simply applied for a Microsoft peech API key in order to be able to use the demo.

Microsoft_API_KeyThat’s free for testing / evaluation, but if you intend to use it in commercial products, or for your own case, if you use more 5,000 transactions per month, you’d need to purchase a subscription.

You’ll find three Python scripts in the directory namely:,, Look for BING_KEY inside each script, and paste your own key.

Time to have some fun, starting with the speech to text script:

It’s pretty slow to start (about 15 seconds), and then there are a few error message, before you can see the “* recording” message, and you can talk, with Bing returning the results: “Bing:你好”. Chinese? Yep, as currently the default is Chinese, but if it is not your strongest language, you can edit, and change the language replacing zh-CN by en-US, or other language strings:

An English works too (sort of):

In the first sentence, I said “Hello World! Welcome to CNX Software today”, but it came out as “hello world next software”, maybe because of my accent, but I doubt it…

Then I wanted to try Thai language, but I got an API failure simply because the number of supported languages by Microsoft Speeach API is limited as shown in the table below.

language-Country language-Country language-Country language-Country
ar-EG* en-IN fr-FR pt-BR
ca-ES en-NZ it-IT pt-PT
da-DK en-US ja-JP ru-RU
de-DE es-ES ko-KR sv-SE
en-AU es-MX nb-NO zh-CN
en-CA fi-FI nl-NL zh-HK
en-GB fr-CA pl-PL zh-TW

If your language is not listed here, then you could Google Speech API instead, and it’s likely Seeed Studio or the community will have written compatible scripts by the time ReSpeaker boards ship to backers.

So you now know how to convert your voice to text, and you can use that text to send a web search, or toggle GPIOs, but you may also want to get an audio answer to your action, and script is there for your, and very easy to use:

It did not really feel realistic, but at least I could understand the female voice in the speakers. Looks in the script I did not see any language settings, so I assume the API will automatically detect the language, and inputted a string in French instead, and all I heard was gibberish. Finally I found that you can change the voice language in script with contains most of the code:

I replaced the US female voice, but a French male voice, added a “famous French saying”:

At least it was understandable, but Microsoft has still some work to do the audio output was more like “Salut mon gars. commencer a va?”. The reason could also be that the correct writing is “Comment ça va”, but the terminal (set to UTF-8), did not let me input “ç”.

You can watch all those demo in the video below to get a better feel about the audio quality, delays, and capabilities of Microsoft Bing Speech API.

ReSpeaker WiFi IoT Board is Designed for Voice Interaction (Crowdfunding)

August 24th, 2016 2 comments

More and more devices are supporting voice interaction nowadays from your smartphone to devices like Amazon Echo, but so far, I had not seen development boards specifically designed for that purpose, and that’s exactly what Seeed Studio ReSpeaker board does by combining audio capabilities, WiFi connectivity, and I/O headers.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

ReSpeaker Core board specifications:

  • WiFi Module – Acsip AI7688 Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n module based on Mediatek MT7688 MIPS SoC
  • Storage – micro SD card slot
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for programming and power
  • Audio – 3.5mm AUX port, WM8960 audio codec, 2-pin header for external speakers
  • Expansion – 2x 8-pin expansion headers for I2C, GPIO and USB 2.0 host connected to MT7688, built-in microphone.
  • MCU – Atmel ATMega32U4 @ 16 MHz
  • Misc – 12x RGB LEDs, 8x touch sensors, 3 push buttons
  • Power Supply – 5V DC
  • Dimensions – 70mm diameter
  • Weight – 70 grams

The board runs OpenWrt, and uses Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text capabilities from Bing and Google with the company having focused on the English language so far, but you should be able to add other languages fairly easily.  A “detailed and easy-to-use” Python SDK is provided to developers, and other programming languages/options such as C/C++, Arduino, JavaScript and Lua are also available. You can find more details and source code on the Wiki.

Beside the core board, the company also offers two add-on boards such as Grove Extension board to add I2C, UART, digital or analog Grove modules to your projects, and a Microphone array board with 7 microphones and 12 LEDs.

Mic Array (Top Left), Grove Extension (Bottom Left), and (Right)

Mic Array (Top Left), Grove Extension (Bottom Left), and Meow King Drive Unit (Right)

Finally if you want something hackable, but looking more like a consumer product, Seeed Studio has partnered with Meow King Audio Electronic to design Meow King Drive Unit with a 5W speaker and taking ReSpeaker Core and Mic Array boards. ReSpeaker Core is also compatible with ESP8266 based Wio Link, and its graphical setup interface.

Some fun projects include a smart speaker answering your questions, weather forecasting decorative cloud, voice controlled meeting scheduler, talking “I’m thirsty” flower, smart photo album showing photos from a given date or event, and more…

The project has launched on Kickstarter a few hours ago, and already raised $37,000 out of its $40,000 funding target. ReSpeaker Core with a 8GB micro SD card requires a $39 pledge (early bird, $59 normal), which goes up to $89 with ReSpeaker Mic Array, and $139 with the complete Meow King Drive unit kit with all necessary boards. There are many other rewards to choose from with various sensors, bundles, etc… Shipping is not included, and adds $10 for standard shipping (Tip: select Hong Kong irregardless of your country), or $20 for DHL shipping according to their latest update. Delivery is scheduled for November 2016, except for the Meow King kit  (January 2017).

PS: I have an early sample of ReSpeaker Core board, and I’ll post a review/guide in a few days.