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MeLE PCG03 Windows 8.1 Fanless mini PC Unboxing

January 26th, 2015 7 comments

MeLE PCG03 was announced in October 2014 with an aggressive price tag of $49 for large orders for barebone systems, and was said to support Windows 8.1 or Android 4.4. MeLE is PCG03 now is now available with 2GB RAM, and 32GB eMMC, and with a properly licensed “Windows 8.1 with Bine NTE”, but no Android for $149 on Ebay, or Aliexpress, and it should eventually show up on MeLE Amazon store. The company sent me a sample for review, so I’ll start by listing the updated specifications, and taking pictures today, before running benchmarks, trying out Kodi, and trying Ubuntu in other posts.

MeLE PCG03 Specifications

The look of the device and available ports have slightly changed since the first prototype was revealed last year.

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735F “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz (Bust freq: 1.83 GHz) with Intel HD graphics
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC + SD card slot (up to 512 GB)
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4, and VGA
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host
  • Misc – Power Button, power LED, Kensington security lock, small battery (for RTC?)
  • Power Supply – 12V/1A (12W max)
  • Dimensions – 150 x 120 x 40 mm
  • Weight – 360 grams

The system runs “Windows 8.1 with Bing NTE”, the official Microsoft operating system for mini PCs according to MeLE.

MeLE PCG03 Unboxing Pictures

I’ve received the device by Fedex in the following package.
Mele_PCG03_Package
The number of accessories is quite minimal compared to ARM based Android mini PCs with just a 12V/1A power adapter, and a Quick Start Guide.

Mini PC, Power Supply, and Quick Start Guide (Click to Enlarge)

Mini PC, Power Supply, and Quick Start Guide (Click to Enlarge)

The device’s enclosure is made of two parts with the top made of plastic, and the bottom and rear panel made of metal.

MeLE PCG03 (Click to Enlarge)

MeLE PCG03 (Click to Enlarge)

The front panel has an LED, abnd button (with no purpose), one side comes with a USB 2.0 host port, an SD card slot, and the power button, and the reat panel features most of the ports: kensington slot, power jack, VGA output, HDMI output, Ethernet port, two more USB 2.0 host port, the Wi-Fi antenna, and the earphone jack.
You can check out the unboxing video if you prefer.

MeLE PCG03 Tear-down

My favorite part of the unboxing post is to open the box to see what’s inside, and MeLE PCG03 is made to be opened so everything is pretty straightforward and comes out easily. First remove four screws on the bottom of the enclosure, and two screws on the rear panel to lift up the plastic top.

Top of Board (Click to Enlarge)

Top of Board (Click to Enlarge)

The solution is comprised of a baseboard and a system-on-module. The Wi-Fi module is based on Realtek RTL8723BS. Other chips on the baseboard include ASIX AX88772CLF USB 2.0 to Fast Ethernet controller, Realtek ACL5640 multi-channel audio hub, and Analogix ANX9833 DisplayPort to VGA adapter. Intel Atom Z3735F being mostly a tablet SoC, they had to use a few extra chips to add missing features like Ethernet and VGA output, btu I guess it’s a bit still cheaper than using more powerful Bay Trail-D processor like Celeron J1800. Three headers are unpopulated on the right of the board, but I’m not sure what they are for.

Bottom and Board and "Heatsink" (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom and Board and “Heatsink” (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve removed four more screws to completely take out the board.  There’s an opening on the baseboard to let the Intel processor touch the thermal pad placed on top of the metallic case.

Bay Trail CPU Module (Click to Enlarge)

Bay Trail CPU Module (Click to Enlarge)

Finally, I’ve taken out the CPU module by removing two tiny screws, and pushing on the metallic bits on the side of the connector. I assume this is a proprietary solution so if somehow you could upgrade the module it would have to be purchased from MeLE, but with USB 2.0 and Fast Ethernet, I’m not sure an upgrade would be that interesting any way. Intel Atom Z3735F is the shiny chip in the center of the board, and is coupled with four Samsung K4B4G1646q-HYKO DDR3L chips, and a Samsung KLMBG4GEAC-B031, a Class 2000 eMMC 5.0 flash with 32GB capacity and read and write speed rated respectively at 240 and 60 MB/s. X-Powers AXP288 is the power management IC.

 

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4K Output and Video Playback Capability Tested on 6 ARM based mini PCs and Boards

January 26th, 2015 7 comments

Since I’ve now got a 4K TV, I’ve decided to test 4K support for six different platforms based on Rockchip, Allwinner, Amlogic, Realtek, HiSilicon, and Mstar processors. For all these platforms I’ll report HDMI 4K output options, user interface resolution, and take close up pictures of the screen while displaying a 4K 1×1 grid picture and video with the image players, and video players such as MX Player or XBMC depending which are available in the firmware.

Test Setup and Procedure

I’m using LG 42UB820T 42″ UltraHD television with an HDMI cable connected to HDMI 1 port of the TV. Please note that my TV only support 8-bit color depth / YCbCr 4:2:0 which may cause compatibility issues with some boxes, at least the ones based on RK3288 processor, for 2160p 50Hz or 60Hz mode. I’ll take close-up pictures of the screen with a Canon PowerShot A2300HD camera by holding it with my hand (i.e. no tripod). This is important, because if the image feels a little bit blurry, this is most probably the reason. The important part are the black and white dot as I’ll explain below.

Six devices advertized with 4K support will be tested with the version of the firmware in the box/board:

Then I’ll report the following:

  1. Framebuffer / User Interface resolution with data from CPU-Z, Antutu, or Screenshot size
  2. Picture display quality by displaying a 3840×2160 test pattern in PNG or (non-progressive) JPG format, using the available image viewer in the firmware, and take a close-up picture.
  3. Video display quality by playing a 3840×2160 video test pattern in MKV format, using the provided 4K player, MX Player and/or XBMC/Kodi depending on what’s available in the firmware, and take a close-up picture.

This is the reference picture when decoding the JPG image directly with my TV’s internal software.

LG_4K_Test_PatternWe can clearly see a 1-pixel black and white grid, and if the boxes properly output 4K, the picture should look similar to the one above. If not there may be only white or black around “4K”, or some non-uniform pattern of black and white dots.

For each box, I’ll make sure scaling is set to 100% to avoid distortion of the image, and my TV aspect ratio is set to “Just Scan” to make sure all pixels are visible on the screen, and the system does not overscan. The status bar must hidden during video playback / picture display or this will change the picture aspect ratio, and affect the test. There’s a red border around the picture, it must be seen, or that seem the player may have zoomed in the video or picture.

If you use MX Player make sure it’s using H/W decode, and not S/W decode, as the latter will render to the framebuffer instead of hardware buffer, meaning the framebuffer resolution is used.

You can download 4K test patterns. The MKV video was created from the PNG file with the command line:

avconv -loop 1 -i 4ktest_red.png -c:v libx264 4ktest_red_border_loop.mkv

I’ll show the picture for all boxes below, but if you just want to read the results scroll down to the summary table. The pictures take with my camera, before I zoom can be found here.

Please note that while we can conclude whether given SoC support 4K, we can’t confirm an particurlar SoC does NOT support 4K properly in case of issues, because it could simply be a firmware bug.

Zidoo X9 – 4K Support

4K Video Output Options – DACOUT_4K2K_30 or DACOUT_4K2K_25

Framebuffer resolution – 1920×1080

Picture displayed with Image Player app.
4K_Zidoo_X9_PNG

Video played in MX Player (H/W decode)
4K_Zidoo_X9_MXPlayer

Video played in Kodi

4K_Zidoo_X9_XBMCAll 3 pictures have clear black and white dots. 100% mark for Zidoo Z9 for decoding 4K pictures and playing 4K videos.

Open Hour Chameleon – 4K Support

4K Video Output Options – 4K2K – 30Hz, 4K2K – 25Hz, 4K2K – 24Hz

Framebuffer resolution – 1920×1080

Picture displayed with Gallery app. (Note: OHC has a Photo app, but I could not make it to display the picture in full screen mode, so I reverted to the Gallery app)
4K_Open_Hour_Chameleon_PNG
Video played in XBMC

4K_Open_Hour_Chameleon_XBMCSo 4K does work OK in this Rockchip RK3288 TV box, contrary to what I wrote a while ago, and my mistake was to use S/W decode in MX Player which renders to the framebuffer.

BFS 4KH – 4K Support

4K Video Output Options – 2160p24, and 2160p30

Framebuffer resolution – 1920×1080 or 1280×720 (Selectable in options)

Picture displayed with Gallery app.

4K_BFS_4KH_PNG

Video played in XBMC for HiSilicon

4K_BFS_4KH_XBMCBFS 4KH is a pretty good box for the price, but based on my testing, although it can output @ 2160p, rendering is done at 1080p for both pictures and videos. The red “4K” looks particularly ugly.

A80 Optimusboard – 4K Support

4K Video Output Options – 2160p30

Framebuffer resolution – 1920×1080

Picture displayed with Gallery app.

4K_A80_OptimusBoard_PNG

Video played with 4KVideoPlayer app
4K_A80_OptimusBoard_4KVideoPlayerThe images looks not too bad, but no black and white dots, so the board fails to properly output 4K pictures and videos, even with their 4K player. The firmware dates from September, and testing with a TV box like Tronsmart Draco AW80 might have yielded different results, but I don’t own it anymore.

Eny M8S – 4K Support

4K Video Output Options – 4K2K-24Hz, 4K2K-25Hz, 4K2K-30Hz or 4K2K-SMPTE. Selecting the latter is the same as 2160p24Hz on my TV

Framebuffer resolution – 1920×1080

Picture displayed with Gallery app.

4K_M8S_PNG

Video played with 4K Video Player
4K_M8S_4KVideoPlayer

Video played in XBMC.
4K_M8S_XBMCThat one is confusing. I can see some black and white dots in the videos, but not everywhere. So it’s like it supports 4K, but some processing affect the video, or the resolution is not exactly 1920×1080. Pictures looks ugly as with all tests with the Gallery app.

M-195 – 4K Support

4K Video Output Options – 3840×2160 24Hz, 3840×2160 25Hz, 3840×2160 30Hz, or 4096×2160 24Hz. The latter does not work with my TV (which supports 4096×2160), and all I got is a black screen.

Framebuffer resolution – 1280×720

Picture displayed with Gallery app.

4K_M-195_PNG

Video played with XBMC
4K_M-195_XBMCM-195 can play 4K video just fine, but again the gallery app just renders to the framebuffer.

Conclusion

Here’s the summary table for my testing

Device Video Output 3840×2160 Picture Video
Zidoo X9
Mstar MSO9810
DACOUT_4K2K_30 DACOUT_4K2K_25  OK (Image Player)  OK (MX Player and XBMC)
Open Hour Chameleon
Rockchip RK3288
4K2K – 30Hz
4K2K – 25Hz
4K2K – 24Hz
Blurry, no black and white dots (Gallery) OK (SPMC)
BFS 4KH
HiSilicon Hi3798M
2160p24
2160p30
 Blurry, no black and white dots (Gallery)  Poor quality image, no black and white dots (XBMC)
A80 optimusboard
Allwinner A80
2160p30  Clear image, but no black and white dots (Gallery)  Clear image, but no black and white dots (4KVideoPlayer)
Eny M8S
Amlogic S812
4K2K-24Hz 4K2K-25Hz 4K2K-30Hz 4K2K-SMPTE  Blurry, no black and white dots (Gallery)  Black and white dots can be seen at some places but not others (4KVideoPlayer and XBMC)
M-195
Realtek RTD1195
3840×2160 24Hz 3840×2160 25Hz 3840×2160 30Hz 4096×2160 24Hz  Blurry, no black and white dots (Gallery)  OK (XBMC)

So based on the results no platforms support 2160p @ 60 Hz (HDMI 2.0) with my TV. Zidoo X9 is the only one to properly support both picture and video display @ 4K,and two products don’t seem to support 4K properly at all, at least with the firmware I used: A80 OptimusBoard and BFS 4KH. Open Hour Chameleon and M-195 can play 4K just fine, but there’s no app (that I could find) to display pictures at full resolution. Eny M8S (Amlogic S812) appears to support 4K but not all black and white dots are shown, of some data is lost in the way. It’s likely to be a firmware or a setup issue. The Gallery app could not display pictures at high resolution in all hardware platforms, so it’s probably something to avoid with a 4K TV if you want to see your photos with the best quality possible. Devices that can play 4K videos properly should also easily be able to display pictures properly with the right app.

I’ve also noticed some artifacts while pausing the video on (almost?) all devices, but I haven’t been able to reproduce this issue with other videos yet. Here’s what it looks like on Zidoo X9.

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LG 42UB820T 4K UHD TV Review

January 24th, 2015 7 comments

After several people often asked me about audio pass-through, and 4K video support on mini PCs, with some suggesting adding a donation button to my website, I decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for an AV Receiver and a 4K TV by asking for donations and selling some samples I used for review. Thanks to the great help of my readers, I managed to get enough money to buy LG 42UB820T on Lazada for 19,610 Baht including shipping (~$600) via 10% coupon I got in a newsletter, as well Onkyo TX-NR636 7.2 channel receiver in a local shop in Chiang Mai (Sahapanich). I’m still waiting for the speakers, so I’ll start by reviewing the TV. This model is sold as 42UB820V in Europe, and 42UB8200 in Hong Kong and probably other markets.

I spent a lot of time studying about 4K TV and AV receiver features, and even speakers, and also learned about online shopping in Thailand, and some of the key lessons include:

  • Don’t overestimate sellers technical knowledges of products. Many times they don’t really know the details of the products they sell. The seller told me the current TV I wanted to buy did not support HDMI 2.0, and I had to purchase a more expensive model….
  • Even the manufacturer site may be wrong, as the Thai website listed 42UB820T as only providing 3 HDMI 1.4 input.
  • Read the user’s manual to make sure. This is where I learned all three HDMI ports supported HDMI 2.0 (2160p @ 60 Hz)
  • Online shipping in Thailand: Lazada (Paypal accepted) and Cdiscount seems to have very good deals online, and priceza.com can be used to compare prices on online shops in Thailand. HomePro also has an online shop called directtoshop, and this is where I purchased Pioneer S-11 speakers.
  • LG has a service center in Chiang Mai, while Onkyo and other AV receiver manufacturers do not, which is why I purchased the TV online (1-year warranty), and the AV Receiver in a local shop (3-year warranty).
  • You can get a complete 4K 60Hz (HDCP 2.2) / 7.2 audio home theater system for about 50,000 Baht (~$1,500 US)

But let’s go back to the TV. I’ll unbox it first, explain about the first time setup, go through the user interface, and test it as a media player.

LG 42UB820T 4K TV Pictures

Lazada sent the TV via TNT courier, and I received it within a couple of days in the large box below.

42UB820T_Package

Click to Enlarge

Before getting to the TV itself, let’s check out all the accessories provided with the television.

Magic Remote vs IR Remote (Click to Enlarge)

LG UHD TV Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

That’s the list from left to right, top to bottom:

  • Power cord
  • 2x Stand bases + 4 screws
  • 2x cable management bits, and a cable holder
  • Smart TV Quick Start Guide (One in English, one in Thai)
  • IR remote control with 2x AAA batteries
  • Magic remote (AN-MR500) with 2x AA batteries, and multi-lingual (and pretty much useless) remote user’s manual
  • Component and composite gender cables
  • Ferrite core for Ethernet cable
  • Warranty card
  • Owner’s manual in Thai and English

Models that support 3D (e.g. UB830) should also come with one or more pairs of cinema 3D glasses. The Quick Setup Guide, User Guide, and Owner’s Manual can also be downloaded online.

Magic Remote vs IR Remote (Click to Enlarge)

Magic Remote vs IR Remote (Click to Enlarge)

The IR remote has more buttons, but 99% of the time I’m just using the magic remote, and it’s just great to use, and I’m used to playing with such remote with the Mele F10 models. The key difference is that to enabled the mouse pointer, you just need to shake the remote, and after a while or when using the arrow keys it will revert to remote mode. I give high marks to this remote control, and it also features a microphone for voice input.

Back Panel of 42UB820T (Click to Enlarge)

Back Panel of 42UB820T (Click to Enlarge)

That’s the back panel of the TV, where you’ll find the connectors, mounting points for the bases, 200×200 mm VESA mount, and at the bottom in the middle a Joystick button.

Joystick Button

Joystick Button

It’s used to turn on/off the TV, adjust the volume, change channels, and access settings, but unless your remote is broken, you don’t really need to use it at all. Some remote control and “intelligent” sensors are also located in that zone.

Top View of Connectors (Click to Enlarge))

Top View of Connectors (Click to Enlarge))

Bottom and Side Connectors (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom and Side Connectors (Click to Enlarge)

The TV has plenty of connectors:

  • 3.5mm audio jack for external speakers or headphones
  • An Ethernet port
  • S/PDIF out to connect to an AV receiver
  • Composite and component ports
  • TV antenna connector (The TV support Analog TV, Digital TV (DVB-T2) and radio)
  • 3x HDMI 2.0 / DVI input ports all supporting 2160p @ 60 Hz:
    • HDMI 1 – Supports HDCP 2.2
    • HDMI 2 – Supports Audio Return Channel (ARC) and SIMPLINK
    • HDMI 3 – Supports MHL. The manual also says “HDMI3 is only 4K 50Hz / 60 Hz”, and you need to use HDMI1 or HDMI2 for 2160p @ 24 or 30Hz
  • 3x USB 2.0 host ports, which USB 1 being reserved for external USB hard drive (maybe it can drive more current?)

Setting Up LG 42UB820T UHD Television

First, you’ll need to attach the two stand bases with 4 screws. That’s easy. Alternatively you could purchase wall mount brackets (LSW240B, MSW240, or other 200×200 VESA brackets) to mount the TV against the wall.

I placed the TV on a small furniture, and connected some HDMI cables, Ethernet, and the power cable. You’ll also probably want to wind the ferrite core around your Ethernet cable to reduce electromagnetic interference. After a few seconds, you’ll be greeted with a Welcome Screen asking you to press the wheel/OK button on the magic remote control.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

From here you just need to follow the wizard in order to:

  1. Select the language
  2. Select the country (Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, or Vietnam)
  3. Select the environment: Home or Store
  4. Accept General Terms, and Additional Services conditions. Interestingly all in Thai language, despite selecting English.
  5. Configure the Network: Wired (Ethernet) or Wireless (Wi-Fi)
  6. Scan channels for Digital TV, Radio, and Analog TV. The TV signal is pretty poor in my room, and my Indoor antenna only allowed to be catch Analog TV channels.

LG_42UB820T_Scan_Channels

Once this is done the setup is complete, and you’ll be asked to go through a mini tutorial to learn how to use the magic remote control.

LG_Setup_Complete

Soon after completion of the settings, a windows pop to upgrade the firmware, so I went ahead, and testing everything with the new firmware.

LG_TV_Firmware_UpdateYou’re now ready to have some fun.

LG 4K Ultra HD TV User Interface (NetCast 4.5)

I understand LG has two user interfaces for its TVs: NetCast gets used in entry level TVs, and WebOS in higher models. Since I bought an inexpensive model (for a 4K TV), my model features NetCast 4.5. Pressing the home button starts the interface.

LG NetCast 4.5 (Click to Enlarge)

LG NetCast 4.5 (Click to Enlarge)

The top left section shows the current input (Antenna, AV, Component, or HDMI 1,2 or 3). The right part of the screen has some country specific “Premium” apps, LG Smart World app including an app store for free and paid apps, and SmartShare to access media from internal storage, a USB hard drive or flash drive, LG smartphone,  or PC using the SmartShare programme. The company also provides a download Link to Plex server in that page fro Windows and Mac, so if they haven’t modified anything it might also be possible to use Linux distributions. I have not tried to connect to PC, and only use the USB hard drive to test video playback from the TV.

Other settings include the Input List to select video input, and audio output.

LG_Netcast_Input_List

Video inputs include the antenna, composite, component, and the three HDMI input ports, while audio output options are as follows: TV Speaker, external Speaker/HDMI ARC), or LG Sound Sync (Optical). Time machine is the PVR function for the LG TV, and it works for analog and digital TV, but unfortunately HDMI input recording is not supported. I tried at both 2160p and 1080p with an Android TV box, but either the option is grayed out, or if you press the Record key on the IR remote, the TV clearly reports it’s an “Unsupported function in HDMI input”. The INTERNET icon will launch a web browser where you can either use a software keyboard or voice input and browse the web very much like in a PC. I invite you to check all this, as well as the full Settings, and a quick look at the user guide in the video below.

The TV box I connected is Zidoo X9 which supports 2160p up to 30Hz, and it worked fine with the TV. Just make sure, you press the “Ratio” button on the IR remote control and select “Just Scan” or the sides of the user interface will be cut due to overscan. I’ve also been told that since the TV only supports 8-bit / YCbCr 4:2:0, and not 10-bit RBG/YUV 4:4:4, so some HDMI 2.0 TV boxes may not work at 4K60 apparently due to limitations of some processors like Rockchip RK3288 that does not support YUV420 video output.

Image quality is very good, and even at 1080p I find the image looks significantly better and sharper than what I get with my Panasonic TH-L39EM6T Full HD television. So there must be other improvements beside just the higher resolution.

I’ll also just add a side-note here, as 42″ might be quite small for an Ultra HD television, as according to this chart, the human eye may not be able to distinguish the difference compared to 1080p further than 5 feet (about 1.5 meters).

Click to Enlarge. Source:

Click to Enlarge. Source: Carlton Bale

So you should really try to get one of the larger models if your budget allows it, unless you use the TV for testing (as I do), or as a computer monitor.

LG 42UB820T Video Playback Capabilities

I’ve gone through my usual list of video to evaluate video playback capabilities using the TV software (SmartShare) by playing videos from the NTFS partition of a USB hard drive.

Videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus some H.265/HEVC videos (Elecard), and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • 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), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK
  • WebM / VP8 – The software will filter out .webm file extension
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – File type not supported
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – The software will filter out .webm file extension

Some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – File type not supported
  • 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

I’ve also played high definition audio codecs to check the SmartShare can down-mix them to its speakers:

  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – OK
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – OK
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – “Audio format not supported”
  • TrueHD 5.1 – Loading animation shows forever (I needed to go into standby to recover)
  • TrueHD 7.1 – Loading animation shows forever (I needed to go into standby to recover)
  • DTS HD Master – No audio
  • DTS HD High Resolution – No audio

So you’ll definitely need to connect your TV to an AV receiver if you want to play these files. Since S/PDIF does not support TrueHD or DTS-HD, you’d probably have to use HDMI 2 with an ARC capable receiver.

I could not play Bluray ISO since .iso file extension is filtered out. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play just fine.

4K video playback however is not too bad:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – “This file type is not supported”
  • 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 (First time ever, I can play this video)
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – .webm, files are not shown
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – “This file type is not supported”

Despite the TV not supporting 3D, I’ve also tried some 3D videos as the 3D model (xxUG830T) should have the same software:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – “This file type is not supported”
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

The TV software is usable, but most people may still prefer using an external TV box for video playback, and access to more apps. But overall, I’m pretty happy with the TV so far, with the main concern being the lack of (10-bit) RGB/YUV444 support via HDMI which could cause compatibility at 4K60 with HDMI 2.0 devices, but for that (and 3D) you’d need to look at models UB850T/V or greater. I know I have not covered everything, so let me know if you have further questions about the TV in the comments section.

Update:  I’ve loaded a 4K test pattern on the TV, and taken a close up picture as a reference when I test 4K TV boxes. Here’s the picture from my camera, and further zoomed below to verify one pixel indeed corresponds to one dot as it should be for a 4K display.LG_4K_Test_PatternYou can compare this to the picture taken from another 4K TV with a Rockchip RK3288 based device outputting 2160p, but rendering at 1080p as shown by the four pixels required to render one dot.

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Categories: Hardware, Testing, Video Tags: 4k, dvb, firmware, hdmi, lg, review, uhd

Mini Review of VidOn Box Android Media Player

January 16th, 2015 4 comments

Vidon Box is an Allwinner A31s based TV box made by Vidon.me, a Diamond sponsor for Kodi entertainment center. I’ve already listed specs, subscriber services, and uploaded pictures in the unboxing post, so it’s time for a review. Since Allwinner A31s has been around for a while, I’ve decided to write a shorter review.

First Boot, Setup, and First Impressions

Since the box provides some services with a subscription, with a free 1-year top-up card included, you’ll probably want to register an account on Vidon.me first, as it’s needed to activate all services in the box as shown on the back of the top-up card. After the optional Subscription is $14.99 per year, and it’s only needed if you need features like Blu-ray navigation, or audio pass-through.

Vidon_Box_Top_Up_Card_InstructionsThe simple remote included does the job if you only use the box for settings and XBMC, but otherwise you’ll need an air mouse, or wireless keyboard. Just make sure you remove the plastic under the battery to make it work. I’ve connected all required cables, and a bunch if USB devices, and for the very first boot you go through a wizard to set the language, configure the display  (720/1080p/i video output and screen scale), the network (Wi-Fi or Ethernet), the time, audio output (HDMI or S/PDIF, and disable/enable pass-through), check for firmware update, and login with you Vidon.me username and password7vagywbpojka. There was a new firmware for the device, and although the download for the 322MB firmware (SDK 1.2)  took over 2 hours, the process went smoothly, but at next start-up, it went through the wizard again, and  it detected yet another update, smaller (50.96MB) and called VMC (maybe standing for Vidon.me XBMC?). Subsequent boots take about 45 seconds.

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

They’ve revamped the user interface they had in Vidon.me AV200, and black/white/grey home screen shows the list of app directly. There’s also an option to autostart XBMC. The apps with a grey down arrow are not installed yet, you need to click on them, and they will be downloaded and installed.

If you want to check all settings available, I’ve recorded the Android screen with all options in the video below.

Power handling is all good, as you can enter/exit standby, and power on/off cleanly with the remote control. Temperature after Anautu was 38 C on both side of the device, but the shiny metallic enclosure may have interfered with my IR thermometer, as the temperature felt higher with my hand.

The system performs nicely most of the time, but if you are installing apps, you’d better wait, as it becomes hardly usable. Google Play works fine for me. Stability is good, but I had one system freeze in XBMC once while playing a 3D video.

Video Playback

XBMC 13.2 is pre-installed, and there;s are actually two versions of Vidon XBMC installed which is really confusing. I just tried a few videos over Ethernet + USB or SAMBA:

  • 1080p H.264 – OK
  • 1080p MPEG-2 – OK
  • 2160p H.264 – Slow motion
  • 1080p Bluray (Sintel) – OK
  • 1080p Over/Under 3D Video – First time: system hang, power cycle required. Second try: Plays like in slow motion.

I’ve also run Antutu Video Tester, and Vidon Box got an average score with 490 points. Not quite as good as devices with more recent Allwinner processor (e.g. A80/A83T).

Antutu_Video_Tester_Vidon_Box

Click to Enlarge

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

Network performance over Wi-Fi is tested by transferring a 278 MB file using ES File Explorer to a SAMBA server, and vice versa. Results: 3.09 MB/s average transfer speed, which places it in the top of the 802.11n device in terms of Wi-Fi performance.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

I did the same with Ethernet, and the speed is a bit slow, but as well see below, this tests is affected by the internal flash read speed.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Raw Ethernet performance with iperf show good performance in one direction, but problem to handle full duplex at full speed.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.102, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 34423 connected with 192.168.0.102 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   299 MBytes  41.8 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.1 sec   665 MBytes  92.9 Mbits/sec

Storage

Following comments from a reader, I’ve replaced the FAT32 partition in my USB 3.0 hard drive by exFAT, especially since I’ve already testing FAT32 with a (micro) SD card and/or USB flash drive. So now I have 4 partitions with NTFS, EXT-4, FAT32, and BTRFS in the drive.

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

I tested read and write performance for USB NTFS and the internal storage using A1 SD Bench app.

Read and Write Speed (MB/s)

Read and Write Speed (MB/s)

Despite a decent read performance via USB (32.92 MB/s), Vidon Box is the wort performing device with USB device because of a dismissal write performance (2.59 MB/s). I also ran the test with the exFAT partition in case the culprit was the NTFS partition, but it’s not much better: 26.57 MB/s and 3.38 MB/s, so something is very wrong here.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

The internal storage performance also places it with other low end device, and the poor write performance also explains why the device is not really usable while installed apps.

Gaming

I’ve tested one game (Beach Buggy Racing) and graphics performance is OK, but it’s very unpleasant to play because Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad can connect, but it’s unusable (no reaction, and it’s the first time it happens), so I had to use the Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse to play.

VidOn.me AV200 Benchmark

I’ve only run Antutu 5.6 benchmark, and with a score of 15,591 points is roughly where a quad cortex Cortex A7 device should be.

vidon_box_antutuConclusion

VidOn Box is a good looking device that runs OK, with excellent Wi-Fi, and only quickly tested video playback, and H.265, MPEG-2 and Bluray are Ok in XBMC, but 3D videos and 4K videos somehow do not work, even though Allwinner A31(s) is supposed to support the latter at least. Wi-Fi is one of the best, Ethernet average, but storage is really poor when it comes to write speed both for internal storage, and especially USB storage.

Let’s summarize the PROS and CONS

  • PROS
    • Stable firmware (although I got one freeze in XBMC once)
    • Eye pleasing elliptic design with metallic enclosure
    • Excellent Wi-Fi performance
    • Proper power handling with standby and power on/off from the remote control
    • OTA firmware and XBMC upgrades
    • Future firmware upgrades promise Mobile Transfer, Photo Backup, Mobile Access, and more.
  • CONS
    • Their XBMC version requires registration and login to VidOn.me
    • 4K hardware video decoding, and 3D stereoscopic videos are not supported, at least in XBMC
    • The flash is partitioned with a 1GB app partition, and a ~4GB data partition, which may lead to issues install many apps.
    • The processor is somewhat slow by today’s standard, but it’s not really an issue if all you do is video playback
    • Very poor write speed to USB mass storage (~3 to 4 MB/s)
    • Relatively slow internal storage
    • 1280×720 user interface
    • Wireless gamepad (like Mars G01) are not supported
    • Standard features like audio pass-through and Blu-ray navigation require a $14.99 annual subscription fee.

Vidon Box can either be purchased directly on Vidon.me for $69.99 including shipping and one free year of membership, or via other websites such as GeekBuying and Aliexpress. After one year, membership costs $14.99 per year, or $1.99 per month, and is optional for most features.

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Understanding Windows 8.1 Licenses with MeegoPad T01 (and Other Intel Atom Bay Trail mini PCs)

January 16th, 2015 32 comments

MeegoPad T01 was initially announced as a dual boot Windows 8.1 and Android 4.4 HDMI Stick, and it became quite popular. But as it has recently started shipping, Android is gone, and people who receive it only have Windows 8.1 to play with. Unfortunately, as the review embedded at the end of this post clearly indicates it’s running with a Windows 8.1 trial version that needs to be activated and with an invalid serial number, so it can only be used for 30 days… Normally, I would not be so interested in a Windows 8.1 only device, but since many people seem to have acquired one, it’s probably useful to look into what can be done about the license.

MeegoPad_T01_Windows8,1_License_Costs

So what could you do? There are several options:

  1. One person decided to buy a Windows 8.1 License. Cost? $119.99 + $7.20 for tax for a grand total of $127.19, or more than the device itself
  2. Use a pirated version. I’m not sure how to do, plus it’s illegal, and you’ll lose access to all security updates. Clearly not recommended.
  3. Boot Ubuntu from a USB drive instead. This requires quite a few steps, and Wi-Fi does not work, so you’d need a USB to Ethernet dongle.
  4. You could also try to negotiate a refund with a seller, either full or partial. That will teach them they should not sell products with trial versions of operating systems. With Ebay/Aliexpress, you’d usually have to pay for return shipping if you want a full refund, and if you have already confirmed reception it will be tricky. With DealExtreme, the company may also reimburse shipping fees (up to a certain percentage), as the product was not sold as described (TBC).

If you have not purchased one yet, it does not mean you should avoid this product, and potentially other Intel Atom Z3735 TV boxes and sticks, because there are actually two Windows 8.1 options, as shown on maketheone.com:

  • Windows 8.1 with Bing (Factory activated) – $139
  • Windows 8.1 Pro (30-day trial version) – $108 [Update: Apparently Microsoft does not allow this]

So it becomes clearly that most sellers have gone with the “cheaper” option, providing a 30-day trial of Windows with the device, and if you want something that works without spending an extra $120 or or, go the illegal route, or want to tinker with it and install Ubuntu, Android, or other operating systems (FreeDOS anyone?) you should insist on getting Windows 8.1 with Bing for an extra $29.

You may wonder why Windows 8.1 with Bing is free when you purchased a tablet, but should be $29 on mini PCs? Here’s the explanation from makeone? thanks to Ian Morrison (read comments section on G+ link):

Windows 8.1 with Bing and Windows 8.1 with Bing for Stick are two distinct versions, at least for now. The former is free for manufacturer’s of tablet’s under 9 inches, and some others as mentioned in the article you pasted here. The latter, however, is not free for manufacturers of “computer sticks”, as of yet. There might be changes in the future, but as of now, it is not free. This piece of information can be verified, if you delve deeper or ask Microsoft employees.

and after noticing there;’s no such thing as  “Windows 8.1 with Bing for StickTM”:

My apologies for complicating things. There is not an official name from Microsoft as “Windows 8.1 with Bing for Stick”, the name was used by the manufacturer, instead just calling it ‘OEM’.

So there you have it, if you don’t get the “free” 30-day trial version of Windows 8.1 Pro, you’d need to pay extra $29 at purchase to get a valid Windows 8.1 OEM license. God knows what happens if your Windows gets corrupted, as there’s obviously no “recovery CD”…

If you have other such low cost Windows 8.1 devices based on Intel Atom Bay-Trail SoCs such as Pipo X7, I’m sure others would be interested to read about your experience.

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Review of BFS 4KH Media Player Powered by HiSilicon Hi3798M Processor

January 11th, 2015 16 comments

Buyforsure (BFS) 4KH is a low cost Android TV box powered by HiSilicon Hi3978M quad core Cortex A7 processor supporting 4K video output and decoding, HEVC/H.265 video decoding, and featuring a USB 3.0 port. I’ve already taken a few pictures of the device and board, so today I’ll reports about my findings after testing features and performance of this media player.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The remote control included in the package does the job as long as you use the box user interface and play videos with the included player or XBMC, but I also switched to Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse when I need a pointer or to input text. I’ve connected an Ethernet cable, an HDMI cable, a USB 3.0 hard drive to the USB 3.0 port, and a USB hub to the USB 2.0 port including a USB webcam, two RF dongles for the air mouse and wireless gamepad, and a USB flash drive. There’s no power button on the unit, and the box starts automatically as you connect the power adapter. The boot time is very fast (25 seconds) if you boot by plugging the power adapter, but somehow boot time increases to 55 seconds, when you use the remote control button to power it back on.

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

The user interface is much different from the other boxes. The Home Screen display the date and time, network connection, and features 7 menus: Live Television, VOD, Favorite, Media Center (media Player with supports for storage and network shares), App Store (Shafa app store), Applications, and System Settings. The first two link to a Chinese app (VST) allowing you to watch Chinese live TV and Chinese and foreign movies. The resolution was correctly automatically detected and set to 1080p, and the user interface resolution is 1920×1080.

BFS_4KH_applications

There are just a few applications pre-installed as shown above (Excluding Screenshot Ultimate), and with the stock firmware, a custom version of XBMC 13.1, but as I entered recovery mode, a factory reset was automatically performed, and the XBMC app was gone. So I asked BFS to send the app again. You can download it on baidu (password: amaw). There are two files: xbmc13.1_hisilicon.apk and xbmc13.1_seahisilicon.apk, with one for YunOS, one for Android. Not sure which one I had to use, but I installed xbmc13.1_seahisilicon.apk, and it worked OK.

The system settings remind me a little of OpenHour Chameleon EasySetup app with six sections:

  • Network Set – For Wi-Fi and Ethernet (Automatically select Ethernet if the cable is inserted)
  • Display – Scale and Move for overscan adjustment, and Video output selection between: 2160p 24Hz/30Hz, 1080p 60Hz/50Hz, 1080i 60Hz/50Hz, 1080i 60Hz/50Hz, 720p 60Hz/50Hz, PAL or NTSC
  • Security – Allows/disallows unknown sources for apps.
  • Normal
    • Input Method – Remote control or VirtualIME
    • Language- English or Chinese
    • Samba service – On or Off
    • Device name – For UPnP / DLNA
    • Factory reset
    • Super set – Redirects to standard Android settings
  • Play Set – Audio and video settings
    • HDMI Output – Auto / LPCM / RAW / Close
    • SPDIF Output – LPCM / RAW / Close
    • HBR Output – Auto / 5.1 / 7.1
    • Video aspect ratio – Auto / 4:3 / 16:9
    • Maintain aspect ratio – Add black side / Extrude
  • System – Local Upgrade or Upgrade Online

In case you set one of the video output by mistake (e.g. 2160p on a 1080p TV), you can use the “TV” button on the remote control to cycle between video output options.

BFS_4KH_About_deviceThe 8GB eMMC flash has two partitions: a 0.97GB partition, and a 4.67 GB partition. This partitioning means you can’t install too many apps until filling the 0.97GB partition, and even in the review, I had to delete some apps, or click on Move to SD to save some space. The Android settings also have some interesting options that cannot be found in the Setting app such as: adding a password for SAMBA, and setting the UI to 720p or 1080p, which can be convenient while playing games. The “Device Info” reports the model number as “Hi3798MV100″ running Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux 3.10.0_s40. The UPnP device name is also listed. The firmware is not rooted, and I could not find a way to root the device since it’s a production build.

Google Play Store is also installed, and although I could install most app, many were also listed as incompatible including: Antutu Video tester, iperf, Antutu, Chrome browser, Facebook, messaging apps (Facebook, WeChat, LINE,Facebook Messenger), vidonn smart band, Vine, CNBC, and so on. So it’s not ideal, and I had to side-load some to complete the review. I’ve also installed Riptide GP2 via Amazon AppStore.

BFS 4K does not support standby, it’s only power on or power off, and you can do both from the comfort of your couch using the power button of the remote control. After Antutu 5.5 benchmark, the max. temperatures measured with an IR thermometer were 50°C and 52°C respectively on the top and bottom of the case, and 56°C and 57°C after playing Riptide GP2 for 15 to 20 minutes.

I show the user interface including the Live TV and VOD app, and all settings in the walk-through video below.

BFS 4KH is rather stable, as the system become unresponsive only once at the end of Vellamo browser test (not reproducible), and perform smoothly most of the time, but with some slowdowns from time to time. The main issue I found was poor Google Play Store support that may require side-loading some apps, instead of using the Play Store. The lack of rooting method may also be an issue for some people.

Video Playback

XBMC 13.1 (built in July 2014) is pre-installed in the box, and since it’s supports H.265 and 4K videos, it’s certainly a close source custom version (XBMC Hisilicon download link (password: amaw). All videos were played in XBMC from a SAMBA shares in Ubuntu 14.04, except otherwise noted.

XBMC Debug in Hisilicon Hi3798M (Click to Enlarge)

XBMC Debug in Hisilicon Hi3798M (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve included the screenshot above because it reveals two things:

  1. Custom version of XBMC based on the unusual overlaid debug info with much less info, and a reference to CHiPlayer. The fps info also seem unrelated to the actual video, but to the video output instead.
  2. The video playback is not shown in the screenshot. This is actually a good thing, as that means a different layer is used for video, so even though the UI is limited to 1080p, it may still display 2160p video at the correct resolution. But it’s something I can’t test, as I don’t have a 4K TV just yet.

[Update: Going into factory reset will delete a few apps including XBMC, and remove Dolby/DTS support. I’ve now received a new firmware, and re-tested the videos with audio output issues]

Let’s start by reporting results from videos Big Buck Bunny samples from samplemedia.linaro.org and Elecard (H.265), and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK
  • WebM / VP8 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – Does not play at all (Stays in XBMC UI).

So it’s started pretty well. let’s move to some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – Slow motion.
  • 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, and very smooth contrary to most other Android media players, but no audio.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (using USB drive)

That lack of audio on some videos with AC3 audio is worrying, and high definition audio codec testing confirms something is very wrong:

Video PCM Output
XBMC
PCM Output
“MediaCenter”
HDMI Pass-through
XBMC
SPDIF Pass-through
XBMC
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK, but Video 1:1 Aspect ratio OK Not tested, since I don’t own an AV Receiver. If you can help me by making a donation, or purchasing one of my review samples.
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK
DTS HD Master OK OK
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK

That’s very odd to ship a device that can’t support AC3 at all, and I double checked the HDMI audio setting to make sure there were on LPCM. I’m not sure what’s wrong here.

I tested Blu-ray ISO with Sintel-Bluray.iso, and it works OK. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could play fine too.

4K videos playback is  working quite well in XBMC, even H.265/HEVC, except for very new formats that are not even supported in my PC yet:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK, but no audio (AC3)
  • 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) – Massive artifacts, the effect is quite artistic though…
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Playing with large blu-ish bands, and lots of artifacts, an the audio is bad

The results in MX Player and “MediaCenter” apps are the same.

1080p 3D videos can be played, but not 2160p videos:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Please note that my Panasonic TV is not a 3D TV according to the specs, so I can only check if video decoding is working.

Most AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB, and MP4 videos could play without A/V sync issues, or noticeable frame dropped. Unfortunately, many video are with AC3 codec so I got no audio. AAC codec is OK.  IFO can’t be played, but clicking on the VOB file instead works OK.

The full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) test passed, and with audio.

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

I side-loaded Antutu Video Tester, and it could play all files, and gave 704 points, the highest score in the app comparison table, share with Himedia Q5 (also based on Hisilicon processor). The strange thing is that it reported DTS, and AC3 decoding a success, so I may have a problem with my settings, but I could not find out what.

Antut_Video_Tester_BFS_4KH

Antutu Video Tester (Click to Enlarge)

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

In order to evaluate transfer speed, I copy a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share (Ubuntu 14.04) and the internal flash using ES File Explorer, and vice-versa, repeating the test three times. BFS 4KH averages an excellent 3.70 MB/s placing it in the top performers, and even outperforming one device with 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Despite having a USB 3.0 port, the device only comes with 10/100M Ethernet, and using ES File Explorer the performance is also very good, among the best devices without Gigabit Ethernet.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

The raw Ethernet performance test with  iPerf app using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line shows very good performance in one direction, and a little weakness in the other:

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.108, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 59950 connected with 192.168.0.108 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   660 MBytes  92.3 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   414 MBytes  57.9 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is an option in the system, but won’t turn on because Bluetooth is not built-in. So I tried two USB Bluetooth dongles, but without success.

Storage

There’s no SD slot in this device. A USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be mounted by the system. NTFS, EXT-4, and FAT32 partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed, only the BTRFS partition could not be mounted.

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

The hard drive is located in /mnt/sda, with sda1, sda2, and sda3 the respective partitions. So I run A1 SD Bench to benchmarks both the NTFS and EXT-4 over USB 3.0, and the results were amazingly, as this little $50 device delivers PC like performance with read and write speed respectively 100,77 MB/s and 95.39 MB/s for NTFS, and 92.45 MB/s and 90.94 MB/s for EXT-4.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

The 8GB FORESEE eMMC flash in the device reads at 16.43 MB/s and writes at 15.35 MB/s, so that’s not really great, but acceptable, and probably expected for a low cost device. Having said that M-195 has the same eMMC, but A1 SD Bench reported  a much higher read speed (25.61 MB/s).

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

USB Webcam

Skype was pre-installed, and I installed Google Hangouts from the play store. Both app worked pretty well, the Echo service audio was rather clear, video worked, and I could even send a video message, something that often makes other boxes crash. Hangouts worked well too.

Gaming

I played three games (Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2) with the device.  I played Candy Crush Sage with MeLe F10 air mouse, no problem here. Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad was automatically by the system, and I could control the user interface and launch and play  both Beach Buggy Racing  and Riptide GP2. I played with 1080p user interface, and with default settings the user experience is OK, but setting the graphics settings to highest framerate improve things a bit. I have not try setting the UI to 720p while playing games, but this should help too. I played 5 races in Riptide GP2 for 15 to 20 minutes, and it worked just fine.

BFS 4KH (HiSilicon Hi3798M) Benchmarks

HiSilicon Hi3798M is a completely new SoC (to me), so I started with CPU-Z.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

A quad cortex A7 processor @ 1.5Ghz with a Mali-450MP GPU is correctly detected. The model is Hi3798MV100, and even though Kaiboer is most probably the manufacturer, the name makes me think it’s just an HiSilicon reference design. The board name is bigfish. The resolution 1920×1080 (240dpi) and the system has 983 MB RAM available, with 0.97 GB reported internal storage, since only the first partition is usually detected by CPU-Z. I don’t know why but CPU-Z usually gets Root Access wrong. (The firmware is not rooted).

The Antutu 5.5 score is only  points, which is equivalent to the score I got with WeTek Play box (1280×720 resolution) with Amlogic AML8726-MX (Cortex A9) processor. I was expecting a little more, even though the framebuffer resolution is different. The explanation is that at equal frequency Cortex A7 is weaker than Cortex A9, so a dual core processor may still outperform a quad core processor in Antutu.

bfs_4kh_antutu_5.5

Vellamo 3.1 scores for Metal is similar to Amlogic AML8726-MX, the Browser score is weaker (894 vs 1197), but using Browser++ instead of Android browser, and the Multicore benchmark is better (1147 vs 723).

bfs_4kh_vellamo_3.1I also ran 3D Marks Ice Storm Extreme in case the Mali-450MP GPU can lift the somewhat weak CPU, but the score (1,840) is really on the low end.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Conclusion

BFS 4KH user interface is quite different from other Android devices I’ve seen, and includes a Live TV and VOD app, but only in Chinese with some foreign movies too (illegal of course). The firmware is rather stable, and although slowdowns do occur, most of the time the user experience is nice and smooth. USB 3.0 storage performance blew my mind, as it’s almost as fast as on my computer. Wi-Fi and Ethernet are all good, but it’s too bad Gigabit Ethernet is not supported by HiSilicon processor, because it just wastes the amazing USB 3.0 performance.  XBMC 13.1 plays most files, and it would be a very good device, if only it could support Dolby and DTS audio codec, as I got no audio even for AC3, a very common audio codec. (This is just a factory reset issue)

PRO:

  • Firmware is stable most of the time
  • PC class USB 3.0 storage performance (~100 MB/s) with FAT32, EXT-4, and NTFS file system support
  • Excellent Wi-Fi and Fast Ethernet performance.
  • 4K up to 30Hz video output.
  • Good video playback in XBMC, including H.265 / HEVC 4K video playback
  • High Antutu Video Tester score (704).
  • Built-in SAMBA server support meaning you can easily access the USB hard drive connected to BFS 4KH from your computer(s).
  • Proper power handling with remote control.
  • Relatively Fast boot time – 25 to 50 seconds
  • Google Hangouts appears to work OK.
  • Price / performance ratio

CONS:

  • Some common audio codecs are not supported by any players: Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3), TrueHD, DTS MA/HD all fail even with HDMI set to LPCM. [Update: The factory reset I did before the review had deleted several apps and Dolby/DTS codec support, and I’ve re-tested it successfully with another firmware]
  • Many apps are reported as “incompatible with your device” in Google Play
  • Bluetooth not supported even with external dongle.
  • Skype could not detect my camera
  • This quad core processor performance looks equivalent to Amlogic AML8726-MX dual core processor
  • Firmware not rooted, and I could not find a method to root the firmware. The company also replied there’s not rooted firmware.
  • Factory rest with delete a few apps including XBMC, and remove support for Dolby/DTS audio codecs.

If you live in China, the Live TV and VOD app might be quite nice, but outside of China it’s probably useless as the download speed may be too slow, at least it’s what happened on my side, but YMMV. Overall this box could be very good for the price, if only they could fix this audio codec issue. Thix box is very good value for money with good XBMC support including 4K and H.265 codec.

BFS 4KH is currently selling for $52.99 on Aliexpress including shipping, as well as Ebay for $61.99 from the same seller.

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Unboxing of Zidoo X9 Android HDMI Video Recorder and Media Player

January 7th, 2015 10 comments

Zidoo X9 Android media player is powered by Mstar MSO9180 quad core Cortex A9 processor, supports 4K video output and decoding, H.265 codec, a USB 3.0 port for (hopefully) fast external storage, and in HDMI input port that allows you to record video from another HDMI input device to a USB mass storage device, or micro SD card. GearBest sent me one of the first sample, so let’s have a look at the device itself, and its boards, because getting to the full review next week.

Zidoo X9 Pictures

I received the parcel the exact same day, GearBest provided the tracking number, together with some invoice for custom duty, DHL duty handling fee, and VAT. The large black package has a few scratches, and makes it clear the device is called X9. Some of the main features are also mentioned on the package: 4K, 3D video, quad core, Bluetooth 4.0, 2GB RAM, dual band Wi-Fi, XBMC, H.265 codec support, and H.264 video recording (DVR).
Zidoo_X9_Package
The box comes with a nice IR remote control requiring two AAA batteries (not included), an HDMI cable, a 12V/2A power supply which should provide plenty enough of power for an external USB 3.0 hard drive, and “X9 BOX Simple Manual” showing how to connect the box, and troubleshoot potential issues.

Zidoo X9 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Zidoo X9 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Checking out the device itself reveals two Wi-Fi / Bluetooth antennas, a front panel display, as well as two USB 2.0 host port, a USB 3.0 port,and a micro SD card slot on the side. The rear panel has most of the ports: On/Off mechanical switch, a Fast Ethernet port, optical S/PDIF, a reset pinhole for firmware recovery, HDMI input, AV output, HDMI output, and the power jack.

Zidoo X9 (Click to Enlarge)

Zidoo X9 (Click to Enlarge)

The top part of the enclosure is made of plastic, but the bottom cover is made of aluminum.

You can watch the unboxing video if you please.


Zidoo X9 Internals

Remove forums screws on the bottom of the case, and gently tap on the top to take out the metallic cover from the plastic case.

Back of X9 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Back of X9 Board (Click to Enlarge)

There’s not that much to see on that side of the board, except the MAC Address starts with DC:C0:DB which confirms Shenzhen Kaiboer Technology (Kaiboer) made the board, and Zidoo team focused on the software side of the product. We’ve got to remove three more screws, and disconnect a few cables to have a better look at the board.

Board and Enclosure (Click to Enlarge)

Board and Enclosure (Click to Enlarge)

There’s a largish heatsink covering Mstar processor and two RAM chips. The top left header is for the On/Off switch, the small 3-pin header on the right most probably for the serial console, and the larger header is for the front panel display. The board name is MSO9810D1R-TF-V1.2 made on May 22, 2014. We can also see three cable coming out of the wireless module to the two antenna. Most probably one wire for Bluetooth, one for 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, and one for 5.0 GHz Wi-Fi.

Zidoo X9 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Zidoo X9 Board (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve also removed the heatsink to have a better look at the board. A thermal pad is sticked on top of MSO9810D1R SoC and does not seem to come off easily so I left it that way. Four NANYA NT5CB256M16CP-EK DRAM chips are used to get 2GB RAM, and a Samsung KLM8G1GEAC-B001 eMMC flash provides 8GB storage.  The latter should is an eMMC 4.5 Class 700 eMMC which should provide pretty good performance compared to some cheaper Samsung eMMC used in other devices, something that I’ll hopefully be able to confirm with benchmarks. Most products on the market comes with Broadcom based AP6xxx modules, so it’s nice to get a change for once with a wireless module based on Mediatek MT7632UN chip, which on some modules support 802.11ac, but Zidoo only advertises 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi support.MSTAR_VFD_Board
I’ve also taken out the front panel board (MSTAR_VFD_1.1) for those interested.

That’s all for now. I’d like to thanks GearBest for sending a sample of this interesting product. They sell it for $119.99 including shipping with coupon ZDX9CN. It’s also available for about $170 on Amazon US and Ebay.

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Review of CX-S806 TV Box Powered by Amlogic S812 Processor

January 4th, 2015 26 comments

I’ve already reviewed one Android media player based on Amlogic S812 processor with MINIX NEO X8-H Plus. Today, I’m going to have a look at another S812 TV box, namely CX-S806, with lower specs, and less support, but that sells for half price compared to the MINIX device. I’ve already published pictures of CX-S806 media player and board, so today I’ll focus on testing the performance and features of the device.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The package include a simple IR remote control, so I inserted two AAA batteries to give it a try, and it seemed to work OK, but as usual I switched to use Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse for the rest of the review. Since I’ve connected Ethernet and HDMI cables, a USB hard drive, a USB webcam, and a USB hub with two RF dongles for the air mouse and wireless gamepad, and a USB flash drive. The box will start automatically as you connect the power, which had to be expected since there’s no power button. The boot takes 1 minutes and 29 seconds with all devices attached, no a speed daemon, but still faster than MINIX NEO X8-H Plus which takes nearly 2 minutes to boot when all devices are connected. So it seems Amlogic S812 are not optimized to boot fast like Rockchip RK3288 media boxes.

MediaBox Launcher (Click for Original Size)

MediaBox Launcher (Click for Original Size)

The media player features the usual metro-style MediaBox launcher. The main difference is that apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus are pre-installed, and have a shortcut in the main screen. I have not tested these since I don’t have an account with them. Other noticeable pre-installed apps include Flash Player, Plex and Quikcoffice among others. The resolution was correctly automatically detected and set to 1080p, and the user interface resolution is 1920×1080.

The Settings menu is also typical of Amlogic box with four sub-sections: Network, Display, Advanced and Other:

  • Network – Enable and configure Wi-Fi or Ethernet
  • Display:
    • Automatic or manual HDMI resolution: 480p/i @ 60 Hz, 576p/i @ 50 Hz, 720p @ 50/60 Hz, 1080i @ 50/60 Hz, 1080p @ 24/50/60 Hz, or 4k2k 24/25/30Hz/smpte
    • Hide or Show status bar
    • Display Position
    • Start screen Saver (Never, 4, 8 or 12 minutes)
  • Advanced:
    • Miracast
    • Remote Control (For Rockchip/MINIX remote app)
    • Google TV Remote (for Google TV remote app)
    • CEC Control
    • Screen Orientation settings
    • No Output to USB Audio
    • Digital Audio Output (Auto, PCM, S/PDIF pass-through, or HDMI pass-through)
  • Other – System Update: Local file or OTA (No connection to server), Backup; “More Settings”: redirects to standard Android Settings.

About_MediaBox_Sunchip_CX-S806There’s a single 5.26 GB partition in the 8GB eMMC flash, and at the end of my testing, I had 1.99 GB free space. In the “About MediaBox” section in the standard Android settings, the model number is “S806″ , and the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.33. You’ll also notice the email string in the Kernel version reads “tianfeng@sunchip-To-be-filled-by-O-E-M #1″, as Sunchip is a manufacturers, so they don’t sell to end users, which also explains why OTA is not working. They told me the OTA function can be enable with their customer’s OTA servers.  I noticed GeekBuying provided an updated firmware for CX-S806, so I asked Sunchip is I could use that one, especially since the firmware in my box is dated from October 2014, and they told me it’s only for AP6330 version, and since I have the AP6210 version I didn’t need to upgrade. CX-S806 model with Amlogic S802 processor will be phased out. The firmware is rooted with supersu installed.

Google Play Store worked relatively well, although I had to install Vidonn smart band app and Antutu Video Tester with their apk, and they were reported as “Incompatible with my device”. I also download and installed Amazon AppStore in order to get the “free app of the day” Riptide GP2.

The device only supports stand by mode with the remote control, there’s no way to cleanly power off the device. A long press on the remote control power button will still go into standby. After Antutu 5.5 benchmark (excluding 3D graphics test which fails), the max. temperatures were 46°C and 51°C on respectively the top and bottom of the case, and after 5 races in Riptide GP2, the max. measured temperatures went up to 47°C and 52°C.

CX-S806 firmware is stable, and smooth, and I did not experience any slowdowns, freezes, or hang-ups while using it. Boot time is a little slow however. (1 minute 30 seconds with several USB devices attached).

Video Playback

XBMC 13.1 (built-in June 2014) is pre-installed in the box, so that’s what I used, as I never known if a company made modifications to the source code, but as we’ll see below, it miht be a good idea to install Kodi 14 instead. XBMC user interface renders at around 60 fps @ 1920×1080, somehow much faster than the 35 fps reported by XBMC 13.3 in MINIX NEO X8-H Plus. I had no problems connecting to SAMBA shares in Ubuntu 14.04 in either XBMC or ES File Explorer. Most videos have been tested with XBMC over Ethernet, but I also switched to “4K MoviePlayer” app to play some 4K videos, and MX Player for audio codecs.

Videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus some H.265/HEVC videos (Elecard), and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – XBMC will exit/crash
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK, but could be smoother.
  • WebM / VP8 – XBMC will exit/crash
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – Audio only, and the 1080p video makes XBMC exit/crash.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – Does not play at all (Stays in XBMC UI).

I also played some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – audio only
  • 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) – Plays at 15 fps instead of 29.970, and XBMC also reports skipped frames.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (using USB drive)

High definition audio codecs below has been tested in XBMC and MX Player using PCM output, because currently XBMC is using audio software decode, while MX Player is trying to use HW decode by default:

Video PCM Output
XBMC
PCM Output
MX Player
HDMI Pass-through
XBMC
SPDIF Pass-through
XBMC
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Crash XBMC (VOB file) OK Not tested, since I don’t own an AV Receiver. If you want me to test pass-through for these audio format, you can consider donating below. I plan to buy Onkyo TX-NR636 which supports all codec tested here and costs 25,000 to 30,000 Baht locally ($760 to $900 US), Suggestions for cheaper options are welcomed.
AV Receiver Donation



Other Amount:



E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK, but videos plays at 17 to 24 fps OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK Blackscreen, and app not reponsive
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio, slow video (S/W decode)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio, slow video (S/W decode)
DTS HD Master OK No audio
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio

Blu-ray ISO are supported. Tested with Sintel-Bluray.iso. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play, but GridHD video seemed to blink during playback.

4K videos playback is not working very well in XBMC, especially since H.265/HEVC is not supported:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Audio only

4K MoviePlayer app included in the firmware performs better, except with new Bt.2020 format, 10-bit HEVC, and VP9 videos:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • 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) – Shows a complete mess with some picture from the previous video, and the current video mixed, and more like a slideshow of still images rather than videos.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – “Not supported media”
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Black screen

3D video testing results are about the same as for the MINIX device:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK, but XBMC reports it playing at 50 fps instead of 60 fps.
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Please note that My Panasonic TV is not a 3D TV according to the specs, so I can only check if video decoding is working.

Most AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB, and MP4 videos could play without A/V sync issues, or noticeable frame dropped. Strangely even a VOB/IFO video (MPEG-2) played fine, while MPEG-2 videos from Linaro made the system crash, so it might a container issue, rather than a codec issue. Some FLV videos would also make XBMC exit/crash.

I also played a full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) to test stability. At first, I was a little too optimistic, and I did that over Wi-Fi, but unfortunately the movie stopped after 51 minutes due to a “connection timeout”. I started again with Ethernet, and the movie could play fully. XBMC reported nearly 14,000 frames were skipped during playback, but I found the video was rather smooth, when I checked it out.

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

CX-S802_Antutu_Video_TesterAntutu Video Tester could play all files, and gave 675 points to the device. That compares to 263 points for Open Hour Chameleon (RK3288), and 631 points with Infocus CS1 Allwinner A83T tablet, with the best devices scoring just over 700 points.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

Networking is one part of the specs where CX-S806 is much weaker than MINIX NEO X8-H Plus as it comes with Fast Ethernet + 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi, while the latter features Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. To test performance, I transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share (Ubuntu 14.04) and the internal flash using ES File Explorer, repeating the test three times, and averaging results. CX-S806 averages 2.76 MB/s (22.08 Mbps) with 802.11n, right in the middle of the pack.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve done the same test transferring the file over Ethernet, and the performance is one of the best of the 10/100M platforms.

CX-S806_Ethernet_Performance

Throughput in MB/s

I’ve also checked the raw Ethernet performance with  iPerf app using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line:

Throughput ion Mbps

Throughput ion Mbps

And here, it seems Ethernet is a weak point in Amlogic SoCs, as none can reach the level of performance of RK3288 (when it works) or Exynos 5422.

iperf output:

------------------------------------------------------------
 Client connecting to 192.168.0.111, TCP port 5001
 TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 [  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 37479 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 5001
 [ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
 [  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   569 MBytes  79.6 Mbits/sec
 [  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   491 MBytes  68.6 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Just like MINIX NEO X8-H Plus, CX-S806 is advertised as “bluedroid″, and I had no problem pairing the device with ThL W200 smartphone, and transferred pictures over Bluetooth.

I could use mmy PS3 wireless gamepad clone with Sixaxis Compatibility Checker by following these instructions.

Vidonn X5 activity tracker was used to test Bluetooth Low Energy )Bluetooth Smart), and Vidonn smartb and could could the device, but for some reasons it could not retrieve data afterwards, and showed the message “No bracelet connected”.

Storage

There’s no (micro) SD slot in this device, but a USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be recognized and mounted by the system. NTFS and FAT32 partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed, but no the other file systems.

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

A1 SD Bench was used to test storage performance in Android. The first time I run the test I only got a read speed of 11.42 MB/s, and a write speed of 8.92 MB/s for the NTFS partition in my USB hard drive (mounted in /storage/external_storage/sda1). That’s an extremely low score, and since I noticed a decreased in performance in my updated WeTek Play review, I decided to run the hard drive through a disk check and defragmentation in a Windows netbook. I did not expect much difference, since I only use this hard drive for reviews, seldom writing data, except to test write support and SAMBA to USB storage performance, and run A1 SD Bench. But somehow, I got a massive performance boost with 24.50 MB/s read speed, and 27.57 MB/s write speed. So it’s quite possible some of my latest reviews (WeTek Play 2nd Review, MINIX NEO X8-H Plus, …) under-reported USB NTFS performance.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

The 8GB eMMC flash in the device achieves 24.47 MB/s (read) and 12.57 MB/s (write), which places the box slightly below average.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

USB Webcam

Skype was pre-installed, and I installed Google Hangouts from the play store. Both app worked pretty well, the Echo service audio was rather clear, video worked, and I could even send a video message, something that often makes other boxes crash. Hangouts worked well too.

Gaming

Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2 were used to test gaming performance.  I played Candy Crush Sage with MeLe F10 air mouse, no problem here. Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad was automatically recognized by both Beach Buggy Racing  and Riptide GP2, but if I set the resolution to the highest level, the games were not particularly smooth. Changing the settings for a smoother framerate made the gaming experience much more enjoyable.  Riptide GP2 did not have the freeze issues found in some other Amlogic devices It could be because of better firmware, or because Riptide GP2 developers fixed a bug.

CX-S806 (S812) Benchmarks

I started to run CPU-Z again to compare it to what I got with MINIX NEO X8-H Plus.

CX-S806-CPU-ZThe app reports the same processor with four ARM Cortex A9 cores clocked between 24 MHz and 1.99 GHz coupled with a Mali-450MP GPU. The model is S806 (n200), the resolution 1920×1080 (240dpi) and the system has 1,606 MB RAM available to Android with 5.26 GB internal storage. Interestingly, n200 is the same code as MINIX NEO X8-H Plus.

Antutu 5.5 fails to complete, stopping at the 3D graphics test, so I only got a partial Antutu score of 22,369 points. If the 3D graphics score had been the same as for the MINIX device (9,296), the total score would have been 31,665.

CX-S806_Antutu_5.5_No_3D_GPU
The media player got virtually equal scores in Vellamo 3.1 for Metal Benchmark (766) and Browser benchmark (1789), but for some reasons, it only achieved 1253 points in the Multicore against over 1,800 for the MINIX device. Go figure…

CX-S806_Vellamo

Conclusion

CX-S806 media player mostly does the job, and its firmware is stable. Performance of storage, Wi-Fi and Ethernet are all average, but the results match the relatively low price of the device, and I could not really find any really weak point. Amlogic S812 SoC is also good enough for most tasks, except some 3D games with max graphics settings. As with so many other platforms, you may have to juggle between two media players app with XBMC for most videos, and 4K MediaPlayer for 4K videos, especially H.265 videos. The XBMC version installed in the device (XBMC 13.1) is quite buggy too, but replacing it with Kodi 14 or SPMC might improve things.

PRO:

  • Firmware is stable, and fast.
  • Video Output – Supports 1080p24/50/60 (but not 25/30 Hz), and 4K2K up to 30Hz/SMPTE
  • 3D games play without issues (Although you may have to decrease 3D rendering quality for a smoother experience)
  • H.264 / HEVC 4K video playback with 4K MoviePlayer app
  • High Antutu Video Tester score (685).
  • USB webcam works well with Skype and Google Hangouts

CONS:

  • XBMC 13.1 installed in the device is buggy (Some MPEG-2, VP8 and FLV videos make the system crash)
  • H.265 / HEVC not supported in XBMC
  • No real power off, only standby on/off is possible.
  • Boot time could be faster. 1 minute 30 seconds with several USB devices connected.
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) may not work reliably.

The lack of OTA firmware update server would have made it to the CONS too, if Sunchip (who provided the box for review) was not a manufacturer, and sold directly to end users. Instead the company relies on their customer to setup the update servers. There’s also an unofficial OpenELEC image for the device.

You can contact Sunchip via their CX-S806 product page (Contact link is on top), if you plan to purchase in quantities.  Individuals can purchase the box for $80 on Amazon US, Ebay, GeekBuying, as well as Aliexpress. The model might be slightly different depending on sellers, as CX-S806 may come with AP6210 wireless module (2.4 GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi) as in this review, or AP6330 module (2.4GHz/5GHz Wi-Fi). Sometimes you’ll get 1GB RAM, while other times 2GB RAM, and older models with S802 processor may still be sold, so make sure you check the specs carefully wherever you purchase the box.

Disclaimer: Although this post is not sponsored, Sunchip is currently a sponsor of CNX Software.

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