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Posts Tagged ‘pvr’

LAKE I Home Cloud TV Box with HDMI Input, SATA Bay Sells for $78

June 28th, 2017 1 comment

Realtek RTD1295 based Android TV boxes are usually interesting devices as they play 4K videos relatively well – minus 4K H.264 @ 30 fps -, support HDMI input with PVR and PiP functions, and often come with a SATA interface for NAS functions handled with OpenWrt. Zidoo X9S and EWEAT R9 Plus are examples of such devices, and I found them to work pretty well in my reviews, but they are quite pricey with prices ranging from $130 to $200 (with internal SATA bay) including shipping. A cheaper option is Beelink SEA I, which I started to review, but one firmware update wiped out the HDCP key, and the product became unusable with the company unwilling/unable to provide the HDCP key. There’s now a new even cheaper model with LAKE I Home Cloud TV box sold for $77.99 on GearBest with GBLAKEI coupon.

LAKE I Home Cloud TV box specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1295 quad core Cortex A53 processor with ARM Mali-T820 MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR4
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC 5.1 flash + SD card slot up to 128 GB + SATA hard disk bay for 2.5″ drives with 9.5mm / 7.5mm thickness
  • Video I/O – HDMI 2.0a output, and HDMI input (recording and streaming up to 1080p @ 60 Hz)
  • Audio I/O – HDMI in and out, 1x 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, etc… automatic frame rate switching
  • Audio Features – 7.1 channel audio pass-through
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 with two external antennas
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, front panel display, RTC with battery
  • Power Supply – 12V/1.5A
  • Dimensions – 132 x 124 x 27 mm
  • Weight – 210 grams

The “HardDisk” bay shown in the first picture allows you to add a 2.5″ drive inside the box. The box is said to run Android 6.0, but again we don’t know if it also runs OpenWrt just like on Zidoo and EWEAT boxes. One of the picture also indicates “Intel HD Graphics 400” is used to provides 3840×2160, so the information on GearBest page can not be fully trusted. This fanless TV box ships with a HDMI Cable, a power adapter, an infrared remote control, and a user manual.

I asked GearBest for some confirmations, but I did not get a reply in time for the article. Finally, I found out the box on Alibaba, and it is sold by SHenzhen AZW Technology better known as Beelink, and the system is sold a dual OS TV box with Android 6.0 and OpenWrt there.

Via AndroidPC.es

TX95D Android Set-Top Box with Amlogic S905D SoC, DVB-T2 Tuner is Selling for $52

June 10th, 2017 8 comments

We know have a decent choice of affordable Android TV boxes with tuners, but TX95D model powered by Amlogic S905D processor, and a single DVB-T/T2 tuner, appears to be a few dollars cheaper than the competition, as it sells for $51.99 shipped on Acemax’ Aliexpress store.

TX95D Android STB specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905D quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB flash + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60Hz with HDR support, and 3.5mm AV (composite video) jack
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV (stereo audio), optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs – 10-bit H.265, and VP9 Profile 2 up to 4K60, H.264 up to 4K30, AVS+ and other codecs up to 1080p60
  • Tuner – DVB-T/T2 tuner with one coaxial RF input
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Front panel display, power LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply –  DC 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 130 x 102 x 30 mm

The box runs Android 6.0 with Kodi 17, and supports timeshifting and PVR functions likely using the usual – for AMlogic STBs – DVB app. The packages include TX95D hybrid TV BOX, one HDMI Cable, a power adapter, a remote control, and a user manual.

While searching for the product name, I found an FCC filing indicating the manufacturer should be Shenzhen Oranth Technology. They have not updated their website for a while, since the listed products are only based on Amlogic S805, and without tuner.  The Chinese version of the website lists only TV box boards without cases, as well as power adapter testing board.

Via AndroidPC.es

Sen5 Amlogic S905D TV Box Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, Kodi 17, and DVB-T2 & S2 App

May 19th, 2017 5 comments

Sen5 is one of the first Android TV boxes powered by Amlogic S905D processor, and comes with two tuners (DVB-C/T/T2 and DVB-T/T2) with two demodulators that should allow for recording on one tuner, while watching the other, or recording two channels at the same time. We’ve already check out the hardware in the first part of the review, and seen a glimpse of the neat user interface, so today I’ll report about my experience with the device.

Sen5 Android Set-Top Box First Boot, Setup Wizard, & First Impressions

The STB comes with two USB ports so I used one for the hard drive, a necessity if you plan to use the PVR function, and connected a USB hub to the other with RF dongles for an air mouse and a gamepad, as well as a USB keyboard to take screenshots. I also connected Ethernet and HDMI cables, as well as my terrestrial antenna to the coaxial “DVB-T2” input, and my satellite dish to the DVB-S2 F-connector.

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Finally I connected the power, after a several seconds after the “Amlogic S905D” and “MBOX” boot logo I go to  a setup wizard asking me to select the language…

The next step is the output resolution, and the system auto-detected 4K2K-60Hz maximum resolution from LG 42UB820T 4K UHD TV.Screen adjust is used for overscan, but if you have a recent TV, you should not really need to use since you can always understand with settings like “just scan”.Step 4 is the selection between Ethernet and WiFi.This is followed by Date & Time configuration.Finally, you’ll be asked to select between “Scan TV channel”, “Login to Google Play Store”, and “Go to Home page”.

I selected the later at this stage, and the beautiful “NesTV” launcher appeared. A typical boot takes around 35 seconds with this box.

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You’ll get date, time, and weather on the top left, 6 main icons in the center for TV (DVB) app, IPTV & VOD (both required a login I did not have), YouTube, Kodi, and the list of app. The bottom include an “Add/Remove” button to organize favorites.

The top right row includes some convenient shortcuts showing (from left to right):

  • Free memory – Clicking on it will cleaned up memory
  • USB status – Redirects to File Browser
  • Network Status (Ethernet or WiFi) – Redirects to Network settings
  • Bluetooth Status – Redirects to Bluetooth settings
  • Download – Shortcut for easy access to Download direction
  • Notifications – Will display notifications on the left of the screen (See screenshot below)
  • Backup & Restore & Update button
  • Ookla – Measures your Internet connection performance
  • Settings – Redirect to Amlogic’s Settings app

The preview zone is black until your scan channel after which it will show a preview of the last selected channel (with audio).

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The pre-installed apps can be found below.

The Setting app is about the same as on other Amlogic Android 6.0 TV boxes, but it’s still worth noting HDMI CEC, HDR and Playback settings (for HDMI self-adaptation) options are there. The only new menu is MediaScan which lets you decided whether to automatically scan USB drives in the background (disabled by default).

Going to Android settings, we can see 5.27 GB is already used out of 8 GB storage, and that is before I installed any app. The flash was almost full by the end of the review.

NTFS and exFAT file systems are supported, but not EXT-4, nor BTRFS.

The About section indicates the model is called SH8B7AV_SF001 and runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29, the same as most other Amlogic S9xx boxes.. Android security patch is date August 1, 2016. The firmware is not rooted. OTA firmware update appears to be implemented, with the Update app communicating with the firmware update server, but I did not get any updates since March 29th.

The IR remote control works well up to 10 meters, and I also appreciate shortcuts key to app list, Play Store, YouTube, etc.. The remote control is also absolutely necessary to use with the TV app, which relies color button (red/green/yellow.blue) and special keys like EPG. Since an air mouse or wireless keyboard with touchpad is necessary in many Android apps, I ended switching between the remote control, and MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse depending on which app I used. I wishes such Android Set-top boxes would come with an optional air mouse that also support the TV app.

Google Play and Amazon Underground worked just fine, and I could install all apps I needed for the review.

The set-top box supports standby and power off mode. That’s the theory, because in practice, the box will reboot maybe 95% of the time when I try to turn it off (long press on remote control power key). Standby is working fine. The power button on the unit itself does not work at all for me. Maybe it’s just a problem with the sample.

I tested power consumption with or without the USB hard drive:

  • Standby – 0.3 Watt
  • Idle – 4.4 to 5.0 Watss
  • Standby + HDD – 0.3 to 0.4 Watt
  • Idle + HDD – 6.0 to 6.3 Watts

A reliably working power off would be nice though. I gave up on measuring power off, since it was so difficult to enter in this mode. At least power consumption is sufficiently low in standby mode, and there are reasons (scheduling) to prefer standby over power off, as we’ll see below.

Sen5 does get a little hot over time.After playing a 2-hour H.264 1080p movie in Kodi, max. top and bottom temperatures were 51 and 61 °C respectively, and as I went to CPU-Z to check the CPU temperature, soc_thermal was 84 °C. The movie frame rate did not feel “optimal” at the end either. Riptide GP2 game frame rate also suffered over time, and temperature after playing 15 minutes were 48°C (top) , 56°C (bottom) and 79°C (CPU-Z).  The idle temperature reported in CPU-Z is also a not-so-cool 73 °C. Hopefully, the company will find a solution before selling the box retail.

An Amlogic S905D TV box is very much like other Amlogic S905(X) TV boxes with a fairly stable and responsive firmware. But Sen5 box stands out thanks to NesTV launcher which looks really nice, and comes with some useful features and shortcuts. The remote control is also well designed, although I’d like it to have air mouse and keyboard functions. The two main issues I encountered were overheating, and the inability to power off the box reliably.

Video & Audio Tests with TV Center (Kodi), and DRM Info

Sen5 comes with Kodi 17 pre-installed.

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After enabling “Adjust display refresh rate” in Kodi settings, and  HDMI self-adaptation, I played 4K videos over Gigabit Ethernet /SAMBA:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Choppy at the end of the video
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • 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, 24 fps) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – The video plays in slow motion and audio delays (As expected, as 4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by S905D VPU)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • 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) – OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Plays at around 1 to 2 fps (expected since it relies software decode)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – USB hard drive playback: Not smooth
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays, but could be smoother

My experience with 4K video playback was inline with other Amlogic S912/S905X TV boxes, except possibly with HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4.Automatic Another common state of affair is that automatic frame rate switching is not working, and  MINIX NEO U9-H is the only exception to this rule for recent Amlogic TV boxes (that I tested).

I enabled HDMI Passthrough in Android settings…and in Kodi. Some whatever reasons, there are no option to select AC3/ DTS, TrueHD, or DTS HD like in other devices. You can only enable or disable “Allow passthrough”.

Those are the results with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver. PCM 2.0 is without pass-through using my TV speakers, and I used both Kodi (which handle audio its own way), and MoviePlayer app.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MoviePlayer)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
HDMI Pass-through
(MoviePlayer)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, video not smooth No audio Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1), Video not smooth OK (Dolby D 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 OK (DD+ 7.1)
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 Beep (AC3 audio track)
DTS HD Master OK No audio PCM 2.0 DTS 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio PCM 2.0 DTS 5.1
DTS:X OK No audio PCM 2.0 DTS 5.1

Kodi is not usable with your AV receiver, except for Dolby Digital 5.1 / AC3, while MoviePlayer requires you to own an AV receiver if you want to have any audio on videos with only Dolby or DTS audio track(s).

I could play a 2-hour movie over SAMBA, but as mentioned previously the frame rate seemed to drop slightly at the end due to over heating.

Sen5 supports Widevine Level 3 DRM, meaning no HD support on some premium apps like Netflix. YouTube worked well, even while recording live TV in the background.

DTV App for DVB-S/S2 and DVB-T/T2

Let’s get started with the TV app. The first time you’ll go through the “TV First Installation” wizard.

You can select aspect ratio, zap mode (black screen or freeze), subtitle, LCN, and DVB Type between DVBS-DVBT/T2 or DVBS-DVBC. I did not change any of the settings and kept going with DVBS-DVBT/T2.The next window will let you start scan, and load channels from USB, the Internet, and another STB. I just clicked on Start Scan which brought me to the TV menu.

If you’re going to change any “installation” setting for satellite or DVB-T/T2/C, you’ll be asked for a password “0000”.

Going into Dish Settings, I could select Thaicom 5/6 satellite, as I normally do, but I was a little confused since I had to select between C-band and Ku-band. I eventually figured I had to select C-band, as I would not get any channels with Ku-band selection.

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The first time I did a “standard scan” as shown above, and I got only 13 channels, far below what I would expect especially I select both free-to-air and paid channels. So I restarted a Blind Scan instead again on Thaicom 5/6 (78.5E C-band).

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I ended up with 387 TV channels including premium (marked with $) and free channels.

You can select channels by CAS type using the blue button on the remote control for example to select the Free channels. The paid channels should be accessible via the smart card reader provided you have the right card. But it’s not something I could try.

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Next up I had to configure DVB-T2. It took me a couple of minutes to find out I had to use the drawer key (on the left side of the Blue HOME key) in order to bring the TV menu back up.

I selected auto scan, input the country, before running the scan.

It found 25 channels, but no radio channels.I could watch DVB-T2 channels. but some HD channels have low quality sometimes dropping below 25% and the channels freezing. I have not noticed the same issue with SD channels, and sometimes the same HD channels do not have any problem.

The “I” button on the remote shows some of the info about the current channel including channel number abd name, date and time, current and next program name and time, audio, S2/T2, and CAS information, as well as signal strength and quality.

I’ll go through other options in TV menu before checking out the other features of the app. The Edit Channels section allows you to set favorites, and organize channels as you see fit.

The PVR and Timers section will give you access to the list of already recorded program, and current timers / schedules (see further below for details).

The Add-on menu allows you to add favorites, so you can quickly jump from the TV app to whatever other you may want. Not very useful IMHO, as you could do the same by pressing the Home key and selecting shortcuts in the main launcher.

Finally there are various TV settings. The only problem is that none of the options would work for me, as each option would just go back to the main launcher. You can access the program guide by pressing the EPG button on the remote control. Encoding is handled properly with DVB-T2 channels, and there’s a problem with Thai language with satellite channels, probably because the software does not use the right encoding.

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Burmese language is barely better.

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Anyway, you can still browser channels and the program guide, and add or remove “timers” to record or play videos at any given time.

By default all timers are set to record once, but you can go to the list of timers (drawer button-> PVR and Timers-> Timer), and change the option.

The repeat mode is quite versatile, as you can select daily, weekly, and even select the days to record during the week.

Timers and PVR are working quite well, and I had no troubles recording videos on either DVB-T2 or DVB-S2. Since the box has two demodulators, you can even record on DVB-T2 and watch DVB-S2 channels and vice-versa, as shown in the photo below (ONE HD is a DVB-T2 channel)

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Later on, I also discovered that during recording the list of unavailable channels will be grayed out, and you can still watch channels both on DVB-T2 or DVB-S2, as long as the channel on the busy input is one the same stream.

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Another thing impossible on VideoStrong set-top boxes is background recording, so as I recorded a channel, I pressed the HOME key, went to browse the web, and then watch a YouTube video. I came back to the TV app and discovered the recording was still taking place, and later on I could verify the video was properly recorded, and I did not notice any stuttering or obvious artifacts. So that’s a big plus compare to existing solutions. In theory, you should be able to record live TV on DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 at the same time, but the timer software detects a conflict if you do so.

I did one last test with schedules. I setup a recording at 16:30, and put the device into standby, waiting for the time… To my surprise, Sen5 STB started automatically at 16:30, but for whatever reason the recording only started 10 minutes later, at 16:40. So it looks like the capability is there, but it’s still buggy.  Timeshifting is working using the play/pause key, and you can also record manually using the record button on the remote control.

You can play the recordings in the TV app, but if you prefer to use another player, you’ll find the files in the DVBRecordFiles directory on your hard drive with a subdirectory for each recording.

The TV app will split large files into 2GB files probably because of hard drives still using FAT32, and despite mine using NTFS file system. info.amri is a binary file with some details about the recording, but it also contains some visible strings like the program name and TV channel name.

You can find some SD and HD recordings from DVB-T2 or DVB-S2, as well as info.amri file in MEGA. I had no troubles playing the DVB-T2 recording in my computer, but I had neither Totem, nor VLC could play the DVB-S2 recording, and I had to use

You’ll find a demo with the TV app in the video below.

Networking (WiFi & Ethernet)

WiFi performance was first tested by transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash (and vice versa) using ES File Explorer. The box only support 2.4 GHz WiFi, and the transfer rate was 1.5 MB/s on average.

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

The performance is not very good, but similar to other Amlogic TV box due to the poor SAMBA performance. However, during testing I had other problems, with the first transfer failing after about 60%, which I could complete by clicking on Retry, and another transfer failing to start completely.

I also ran iperf for 60 seconds on both direction to get a raw benchmark value:

WiFi upload:

WiFi download:

Gigabit Ethernet is however working pretty well as least with iperf.

Iperf upload:

iperf download:

iperf full duplex:

A SAMBA to flash copy was limited by the write speed of the flash, and occurred at about 9.8 MB/s. Flash to SAMBA performance was worse because of the poor SAMBA implementation in Amlogic Android 6.0 SDK @ 5.9 MB/s.

Storage

FAT32, NTFS, and exFAT file systems are support, but as is often the case not EXT-4 and BTRFS. As usual USB storage benchmarks show that exFAT should be avoided as slow write speed may impact recorded videos. NTFS performance is however OK, and the eMMC flash used in the box does not have the best performance on the market, but I have not noticed any specific slowdowns, it may just take a little longer to install some apps.

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I’ve drawn a red line on exFAT – USB 2.0 and internal memory read results because they were cached read, and the internal memory can clearly NOT be read @ ~629 MB/s.

Bluetooth

I could pair Vernee Apollo Lite Android smartphone to the box and transfer several photos without any problem, but there was not a direct and easy way to click to see the files after the transfer, so I had to go to the FileBrowser app and into the bluetooth directory to check the files. I also watched a YouTube video after easily pairing X1T earbuds, and the box also detected the SimpleBLE demo I had running on a ESP32 board, so Bluetooth LE should also work.

Sen5 and Amlogic S905D Benchmarks

That’s my first Amlogic S905D device, so let’s run CPU-Z first. It’s impossible to distinguish S905D to  S905/S905X as they are all shown to be quad core Cortex A53 processors @ up to 1.51 GHz with a Mali-450 MP GPU.

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Antutu would just crash each time I start it, so I ran Vellamo instead to check the performance.
1,540 for Multicore, 919 for Metal, and 1,887 for Browser are comparable to the results I got on Amlogic S905X boxes (1,491 / 910 / 1,855).

Conclusion

Sen5 device is the first true dual tuner Android set-top box I have reviewed, as I was able to record one channel, and watch another at the same time. It also supports background recording, and wakeup from standby to start recording a video, both of which are impossible in all other Android STBs I have reviewed. NesTV launcher is also eye-pleasing, and includes really convenient shortcuts.  The box is not perfect however, as it still has some serious bugs like DVB-T2 channels freezing from time to time, WiFi failures (at least with SAMBA), and overheating issues. There are also various smaller bugs which hopefully will be fixed once the box is sold to end users.

PROS

  • Dual independent DVB-S/S2 and DVB-C/T/T2 tuner allowing for recording and watching live TV at the same time;
  • EPG, Timeshitfing, and PVR function working reasonably well
  • Exclusive Tuner Features (for an Android TV box) – Support for recording from standby mode (with caveat), and background recording (e.g. you can watch YouTube, browse the web, or play games while recording)
  • Beautiful & user-friendly NesTV launcher (I also found out after the review that there’s a mobile app for it)
  • Good 4K video playback in Kodi 17 works well
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 works in all apps including Kodi, TrueHD and DTS HDMI audio pass-through works with MoviePlayer app (and likely most other apps including the TV app, but not Kodi)
  • Excellent Ethernet performance
  • Bluetooth is working well for file transfer, audio headset, and BLE
  • Support for smartcards (not tested)

CONS

  • DTV app issues and shortcomings
    • DVB-T2 channels may freeze from time to time
    • Encoding problems with data from satellite channel, at least for Burmese and Thai languages
    • It’s not possible to record two videos (one in DVB-S2 / one in DVB-T2) at the same time as the app reports a scheduling conflict
    • When the box is in standby and a program is schedule, the box will wake up, but recording will only start a few minutes later (10 minutes in my case)
  • The box may overheat potentially leading to video become choppy over time, and games less smooth
  • Power off mode does not work reliably (will reboot most of the time), and the unit power did not work for me at all
  • SAMBA + WiFi performance is poor, and connection can be unreliable
  • Kodi issues: automatic frame rate switching does not work, pass-through is limited to AC3/ Dolby Digital 5.1
  • DTS/Dolby audio down-mixing does not work in Android apps like MoviePlayer or Video Player; DTS-HD pass-through does not work (DTS 5.1 only) in such apps.

I’d like to thanks Shenzhen Sen5 for providing a sample for review. AS previously mentioned, the product is not available for retail yet, but interested resellers and distributors may contact the company via their website.

U5 PVR Deluxe Android Set-Top Box Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing, Teardown, and SATA HDD Assembly

April 22nd, 2017 34 comments

Last year, I reviewed U4 Quad Hybrid, an Android TV box powered by Hisilicon Hi3796M quad core Cortex A7 processor and with a combo DVB-T2/C + DVB-S2 tuner. with digital TV tuner. It worked pretty well, except for a few bugs here and there, the processor is not the most powerful, and video output & decoding is limited to 4K  @ 30Hz. The company – Shenzhen Vivant Technology – is now back with a new model called U5 PVR powered by a more powerful Hisilicon Hi3798C V200 quad core Cortex A53 processor with fast interfaces like USB 3.0, SATA, and Gigabit Ethernet, as well as support for 4K @ 60Hz via a HDMI 2.0a interface. There are actually three variations of U5 PVR with Deluxe/Slim/Normal models, and the company sent me U5 PVR Deluxe model for review. As usual, after listing the specifications, I’ll start the review by checking out the hardware, before reporting my experience with the firmware in the second part.

U5 PVR Deluxe TV Box Specifications

The TV box has some pretty impressive specifications:

  • SoC – Hisilicon Hi3798C V200 quad core Cortex A53 processor + multi-core ARM Mali-T720 processor
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR4-2133 SDRAM
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC 5.0 flash, internal SATA port for 2.5″ & 3.5″ hard drives / SSDs, micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a port up to 4K60 with HDR10 support, HDCP 1.4/2.2, AV port (composite + stereo audio)
  • Audio Output – Via HDMI, AV ports, optical S/PDIF port
  • Video Decoding – 10-bit H.265/HEVC up to 160 Mbps, H.264, MPEG-2, AVS/AVS+, VC1, VP8/VP9
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • Tuner
    • Smart Card slot
    • 4 Options
      • Combo tuner with DVB-S2/S and DVB-T2/T/C tuners
      • Dual DVB-T2/T/C tuner with two demodulators
      • Twin DVB-S2/S tuner with Disqc v1.0, v1.2, and USALS support
      • Dual ATSC 2.0 tuner with two demodulators
  • Misc – Power/standby button, power switch, 2x LED, 4-digit 7 segment front panel display, IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A ; Standby mode power consumption: 0.5 watt
  • Dimensions – 320 x 275 x 135 mm
  • Weight – 1.5 kg
  • Operating Temperature – 0 to 45 °C

The box runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with LeanBack launcher, a customized Live TV app, and support for PVR, time-shifting, and  TVHeadEnd 3.6 to steam Live TV to other devices (laptop, smartphone…). You’ll find more details hardware and software specifications in U5 PVR forums.

U5 PVR Deluxe Unboxing

The device package is really massive compared to other boxes I’ve received. I thought somebody might have sent an large oscilloscope instead…

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The package also shows one more option for tuner: single satellite tuner (DVB-S2/S). No tick on my package, so we’ll see which exact model I’ve received later.

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The box ships with a WiFi antenna, a large remote control taking two AAA batteries, and HDMI cable, a SATA cable + screws, a 12V/3A power supoply, and U5 PVR user manual. The user manual indicates that I should have gotten an RS-232 cable too, but it was nowhere to be found.

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The front panel comes with one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port, a window for the IR receiver and LCD display, two LEDs and the power button.

Both sides of the set-top box expose plenty of ventilation holes, with one side featuring the WiFi antenna connector, and the other two more USB 2.0 ports, and the Smart Card slot. The rear panles comes with two coaxial connectors (one female, one male) for the tuner, a 3.5mm AV jack, optical S/PDIF, HDMI 2.0a, Gigabit Ethernet, micro SD slot, the power jack, a mechanical power switch, and an RS-232 port used to reflash or upgrade the firmware.

U5 PVR Deluxe Teardown and SATA Drive Installation

Most TV boxes need to be opened from the bottom side of the case, and there are indeed a few screws that we could have removed to try to open the box. But since U5 PVR is supposed to take an internal hard drive, I found it would be an inconvenient way.

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So I looked into the user manual, but found absolutely nothing about installing a hard drive in the box. Then I realized the top cover was slightly elevated, and after gently pulling it I managed to take it out fairly easily.

We can see multiple mounting options with A: 2x 2.5″ HDD, B: 1x 3.5″ HDD, and C: 1x DVD. There’s only one SATA port, so I’m not sure how you would install two SATA drives, and a DVD drive would be possibly, but inconvenient unless you have a specific application that requires one DVD, or you place it on top of the case, and do not put the top cover back. There are also holes to install a fan, but I don’t have details to what type of fan is suitable. The sticker on the top left of the case read “Warranty void if seal is broken”, which does not make any sense, since that means connecting the hard drive internally would void the warranty. Anyway, I loosen the four screws, and pulled out the cover to have a better look at the board.

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The board is called “VV98C VERO 3”. A small heatsink covers the Hisilicon processor, are very next to it we can see a 16GB Samsung KLMAG2GEND-B031 eMMC 5.0 flash with 230/50MB/s sequential R/W speeds, and 6.5K/6K R/W IOPS, as well as two K4A8G16-5WG8CRC DDR4 memory chips. The tuner board comes with two Availink AVL6762TA DVB-T2/T/C demodulators, which means I got the Dual DVB-T2/T/C tuner version of U5 PVR Deluxe. Ampak AP6335 module provides 802.11 b/g/n/ac and  Bluetooth 4.0 Smart connectivity, while as we can see in the picture below, Realtek RTL8211E transceiver and PSF-2447 transformer are used for Gigabit Ethernet.

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Genesys Logic GL850G USB 2.0 hub is used for the extra USB ports since the processor only comes with a single USB 2.0 interface. The tiny 8-pin chip close to the power jack is FR9889 step-down DC to DC converter. The front panel board includes i-core HD2015E LED driver IC.

Now that we’ve had a look at the board’s main components. Let’s carry with the hard drive installation, and I’ll use a 3.5″ hard drive. First connect the 4-wire part of the cable J12 header, and the red SATA cable to the SATA port close to Ampak AP6335 module.

Connect the other part of the cable to the hard drive, place the HDD upside-down on a table, and tighten the four screws through the four “B” holes, before placing it back on top of the case as shown below.

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Tighten the four screws on the edges of the box, put back the top cover, and you’re done. In case, you prefer to use a fan, I strongly suspect that J14 3-pin header on the main board is designed for this very purpose.

I’d like to thank Shenzhen Vivant Technology for sending a review sample. Distributors and resellers may contact the company to purchase in quantities. U5 PVR Deluxe is for sale for $229.99 on Vivant Technology Aliexpress store, where you’ll also find a dual ATSC tuner board for $29.99.

Continue reading U5PVR Deluxe Set-Top Box & NAS Review – Part 2: Android TV, Debian, and Live TV App

Kodi 17 “Krypton” Released, Kodi 18 “Leia” Development Started

February 3rd, 2017 2 comments

Although not officially announced yet, Kodi developers have finally released Kodi 17 “Krypton” which you can download for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS, as well as Raspberry Pi and some other development boards, and several Linux versions specific to TV box such as Nvidia Shield Android TV, Amazon Fire, or WeTek Hub. The most visible changes of the update are the new Estuary and Estouchy default skins, and people who have bought recent Amlogic based Android TV boxes may have already experienced them as several TV boxes shipped with Kodi 17 Beta versions.

There’s a long list of changes, but some noticeable ones include:

  • Lots of changes and updated to the Live TV and PVR (Personal Video Recorder) include PVR backend clients addons
  • New Settings user interface
  • Media library improvements with multiple sources support, more filtering & rating options, and better scanning & database performance
  • Audio Engine improvements on most platforms using ActiveAE
  • New default web interface called Chorus2

Click to Enlarge

There are also some Android specific changes, with the most important being that you now need Android 5.0 or greater to run the latest version of Kodi:

  • Moved to Android API 21 and SDK 21 with NDK 10 as minimum, meaning at least Android 5.0 is now required
  • Moved jni into its own separate project / submodule (jni backports from SPMC)
  • Added support for audio pass-through for DTS-HD, DTS-X, Dolby TrueHD, and Dolby ATMOS
  • Added support in CMake to debug binary-addon packaging issues on Android
  • Improved MediaCodec API video decoding implementations support for Android 5.0 (API level 21) and later
  • Improved automatic refresh rate switching support for video playback on Android 5.0 & later (>= API 21), inc. Android TV
  • Improved support for UltraHD decoding / 4K resolution output when HW supports it
  • Improved playback of HEVC, VC-1 / WMV 9, and VP9 hardware video decoding when using Android’s MediaCodec API
  • Removed AMLCodec hardware accelerated video decoding support for Android on Amlogic device

Now that Kodi 17 has been released, no new features will be added, but bug fixing will still occur, and a dot release might be available later on. New features are now developed on Kodi 18 “Leia”.

Via Liliputing

Giveaway Week – Zidoo X9 Android TV Box and HDMI Recorder

November 6th, 2016 284 comments

For the last day of giveaway week 2016, I’ll send Zidoo X9 Android TV box and HDMI recorder powered by Mstar MSO9180D1R quad core Cortex A9 processor to one lucky winner.

Zidoo X9 (Click to Enlarge)

Zidoo X9 (Click to Enlarge)

The product was launched at the end of 2014 with Android 4.4, and at the time of my review, I found the HDMI PVR function to work pretty well, the device also come with very good WiFi and internal storage, but Kodi needed some work. The company has provided firmware updates for a little over a year for the device with the latest firmware release on December 2015. It’s also possible to stream video from HDMI input to the network.

Zidoo X9 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Zidoo X9 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

I’ll send the package with all items shown in the picture above.

To enter the draw simply leave a comment below. Other rules are as follows:

  • Only one entry per contest. I will filter out entries with the same IP and/or email address.
  • Contests are open for 48 hours starting at 10am (Bangkok time) every day. Comments will be closed after 48 hours.
  • Winners will be selected with random.org, and announced in the comments section of each giveaway.
  • I’ll contact the winner by email, and I’ll expect an answer within 24 hours, or I’ll pick another winner.
  • Shipping
    • $28 (That thing is heavy) for registered airmail small packet for oversea shipping payable via Paypal within 48 hours once the contest (for a given product) is complete.
    • If Paypal is not available in your country, you can still play, and I’ll cover the cost of sending the parcel by Sea and Land (SAL) if you win.
  • I’ll post all 7 prizes at the same time, around the 10th of November
  • I’ll make sure we have 7 different winners, so if you have already won a device during this giveaway week, I’ll draw another person.

Good luck!

Categories: Android, Hardware, Mstar Tags: 4k, Android, giveaway, pvr, TV box, zidoo

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

October 24th, 2016 16 comments

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

zidoo-x8

Zidoo X8 specifications:

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

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

zidoo-x8-ports

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

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

Ferguson Ariva 4K Android STBs Come with Digital TV Tuners, a Pay TV Card Reader, and a SATA Bay

October 19th, 2016 22 comments

We already have a choice of Android TV boxes with digital TV tuners (DVB-T2, DVB-S2, ATSC…) with devices like K1 Plus T2 S2, U4 Quad Hybrid, and Wetek Play 2, but Ferguson, a company based in Poland, has two other options based on Amlogic S905 processors with their Ariva 4K and Ariva 4K Combo with one or two tuners, a Pay TV card reader which is not available on competitors’ models, and 2.5″ HDD bay in the bottom of the case implemented via a USB 2.0 to SATA bridge.

ferguson-ariva-4kAriva 4K & 4K Combo specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905-B quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with Mali-450MP GPU

    RCU660 Universal RCU - Click to Enlarge

    RCU660 Universal RCU – Click to Enlarge

  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + slot for HDD mounting (on the bottom) + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz and AV port
  • Audio – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Audio Decode – Dolby Digital/Digital Plus, MPEG, OGG, OGA, FLAC, ALAC, Ape, M4A, RM, MPEG-1 Layer1/2, MPEG-2 Layer II (DTS pass-through)
  • Tuners
    • Ariva 4K – DVB-S/S2 tuner & demodulator via LNG IN F-Female connector
    • Ariva 4K Combo –  DVB-S/S2 tuner & demodulator via LNG IN F-Female connector + DVB-T/T2/C tuner & demodulator via ANT IN IEC-Female connector
    • DiSEqC 1.0, 1.1 and DiSEqC 1.2, USALS (Universal Satellites Automatic Location System) support
    • Card reader for pay-per-view television / conditional access (CAS)
    • PVR functions – Record, time-shifting with support for FAT32 and NTFS file systems
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, recovery pin hole, power button, and front panel LCD display
  • Power Supply –  12V/2.0A (24W); >0.5W in standby mode
  • Dimensions – 258 x 158 x 43 mm
  • Weight – 800 grams

The device runs Android 5.1, and ships with RCU660 universal IR remote control, and an instruction manual available in English, German, Polish, and Spain.

ariva-4k-combo-ant-in-lnb-in

Ariva 4K Combo – Click to Enlarge

Usually, I don’t even look at the user manual since it’s normally useless, but Ferguson put a lot of efforts and details in their 42 pages manual, so it might be useful. If you can read Polish there’s also a Wiki. They also have a YouTube account explaining how to configure their devices, for example using USALS when you have a motorized satellite dish that can handle multiple satellite as shown below.

Ferguson Ariva 4K Android TV boxes can be bought on Satshop.tv for 179 Euros, and 189 Euros for the Combo version including VAT. You’ll also find some more details on Ferguson website.