Posts Tagged ‘review’

MUSES-α & MUSES-β DVB-T/C, ISDB-T, DTMB & ATSC Modulator Boards Review – Part 1: The Hardware

October 19th, 2016 4 comments

V-Bridge Muses digital TV modulator boards launched on Kickstarter earlier this month, with the cheaper $200 MUSES-α board modulating video from a PC, and $600 MUSES-β turnkey solution capable of broadcasting HDMI or AV + stereo input to various digital TV standards including DVB-T/C, ATSC/QAM, DTMB, and ISDB-T/TB without the help of a computer. The company sent me the two hardware kits for evaluation and review on CNX Software, and today I’ll start by showing off the hardware I received.


I got 3 packages and a F-female to F-female cable, which means you can connect the board directly to your TV tuner without having to rely on actual RF signals, and potential legal issues that goes with it.pc-modulator-kit

The first package I open if for the PC modulator kit that include MUSES-α board, an “RF” board, as a USB cable to connect to your computer.

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Click to Enlarge

MUSES-α board features Vatek A1 chip, a USB port, an Ethernet port, a power jack, and  headers for UART, I2C, TS, JTAG, RF board and GPIOs.


The back of the board just has a Winbond flash.

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Click to Enlarge

The RF board is based on Texas Instruments TRF372017 IQ modulator PLL/VCO chip, and includes an F-male connector.


To get started you’d have to connect the USB cable, the coax cable to your TV’s tuner, as well as a 5V power supply.

The next package is the STM32 + LCD control board allowing to use MUSES-β board without PC.

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Click to Enlarge

It’s made of off-the-shelf parts including DF Robots LCD keypad shield for Arduino, connected to an STM32 based board via jumper cables + some glue.

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Click to Enlarge

The “STM32F4xx” board is also an off-the-shelf STM32F407ZET6 ARM Cortex-M4 board found on Aliexpress for $15.50. So what you are paying for here, is not really hardware, but all the development work required for a niche product.

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Click to Enlarge

The third package includes the rest of the turnkey solution with an RF board, MUSES-β board based on Vatek B2 modulator and video encoding chip, and a video & audio input board with HDMI input, and 3 RCA connector for video composite and stereo audio input. All boards are already attached to an acrylic base, and the kit adds the top acrylic cover, some spacers and screws, and a 5V/2A power supply.

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Click to Enlarge

The RF board is exactly the same as the one used with MUSES-α board, and the AV input board features Explore Microelectronics EP9555E  for HDMI input and Intersil TW9912 for CVBS input.

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Click to Enlarge

MUSES-β board comes with a USB port, a power jack, headers for the RF and AV input boards, I2C, MCU connect, and a TS port. I must have a received a prototype board, so there’s also some rework that should be gone once the kit ships to backers.

MUSES-β Kit Fully Assembled - Click to Enlarge

MUSES-β Kit Fully Assembled – Click to Enlarge

Assembly is quite straightforward:

  1. Connect the STM32 board to the “MCU connect” header
  2. Optionally add the top acrylic cover
  3. Connect the 5V/2A power supply
  4. Connect the coax cable to your TV, and add video and audio input(s) to the HDMI port or CVBS + stereo audio RCA jacks
  5. Scan the channel on your TV, and enjoy

That’s exactly what I’ll try in the second part of the review, once I receive some documentation from the company.

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

October 14th, 2016 5 comments

Zidoo X9S is more than a simple Android TV box, as it supports NAS function via OpenWrt running simultaneously with Android 6.0 and its USB 3.0 and SATA ports, as well as HDMI input function capable of recording and broadcasting videos, and supporting Picture-in-picture, so I find “Android Media Center” better fit the description for this device. I’ve already taken pictures of the Zidoo X9S and its board in the first part of the review, so I’ll test both Android 6.0 & OpenWrt firmware, and the most of the features in the second part of the review.

Initial Setup and First Boot

I connected the usual accessories and cables to the box including a USB 3.0 hard drive, HDMI and Ethernet cables, USB RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, and a USB keyboard to take screenshots. I also added a 1TB SATA drive, and connected K1 Plus T2/S2 Android TV box to the HDMI input.

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Click to Enlarge

Once you connect the 36V power supply, the front panel LCD display will show “boot” and the LED will turn blue. A standard boot takes about 40 seconds with my setup, but the very first time, you need to go through the setup wizard.
zidoo-x9s-setup-wizard-languageYou’ll be presented with a Welcome screen asking you to choose bring traditional or simplified Chinese, Turkish, English, Vietnamese, but selecting “more” will bring you many more languages options.


The second step is for overscan adjustment (Scale) in case you have black bar and the interface is cut on either side of the TV screen. The third step will let you configure the network, and if you have connected an Ethernet cable, the system should get an IP address with DHCP automatically, and you just have to select Next.zidoo-x9s-setup-wizard-networking

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

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

At this stage, you’ll probably want to go to Settings to set your timezone, and potentially change video and audio settings. In my case, I set video output to 4K 60, and disabled HDMI CEC (now disabled by default with latest firmware).

OTA Firmware Update

I’ve done this review with firmware V1.2.3, but the first time I got the box, firmware 1.1.20 was installed as shown in the About section of the launcher.


I clicked on Update, and Zidoo X9S detected a new version (v1.1.26) with a detailed changelog.zidoo-x9s-firmware-changelogI clicked on Update again to start the download.

zidoo-x9s-firmware-downloadTo clicked on Update (again) to reboot the device, and complete the OTA firmware update successfully. All my settings and currently installed  apps were still present after the update, so it worked perfectly.

Zidoo updated the firmware with feedback from beta testers, and I eventually updated the firmware to V1.2.3 with a USB flash drive (Local Update) for further testing, and it also worked just fine.

Settings, Power Consumption & First Impressions

Zidoo X9S has no separate app for settings like in Amlogic devices – not necessarily a bad thing – , so instead you get to “standard” Android marshmallow settings with some settings specific to TV boxes and NAS functions.

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Click to Enlarge

Some of the most interesting settings include

  • Wireless & network section
    • Wi-Fi
    • Bluetooth
    • Ethernet configuration with DHCP, Fixed IP and PPPoE support
    • More – Portable hotspot, VPN, DLNA DMR, Set Device Name (for DLNA/UPnP), Miracast Sink, and Openwrt Settings.
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Click to Enlarge

  • Device
    • Display
      • HDMI Mode – AUTO, PAL, 480P, 720P, 720P @ 50/60Hz, 1080i @ 50/60Hz, 1080p @ 24/50/60Hz, 3840x2160P @ 24/25/30/60 Hz, 4096x2160P @ 24 Hz
      • Deep Color Mode – AUTO, 12-bit, 10-bit, OFF
      • Cast
    • Sound & Notifications
      • HDMI output – RAW, LPCM 2 channel, LPCM multi-channel, Auto (recommended)
      • S/PDIF output – LPCM 2 ch, RAW
      • Playback effect – Off, Night Mode, Comfort mode (not sure what this does)
      • HDMI Rx Audio format – PCM or RAW
      • Playback (all on/off options) – Auto 1080p24, Auto 29.97/59.94 Hz, Force SD audio, Enable low performance mode (less buffer for playback)
    • HDMI CEC functions – HDMI CEC (on/off), One Touch Play, One Touch Standby, Auto Power On from TV, Auto OSD language, IRDA/CEC switch (on/off)

You also have other options like Daydream, printing, language & input, accessibility, and so on. I had no problem with Ethernet and WiFi, and HDMI output selection works, except it will often revert to 720p60 or 1080p60 possibly because the system is confused by the TV and AV receiver settings like so many other TV boxes.

Internal storage usage does not seem optimized, even considering the OpenWrt partition, as only 8.91 GB is available to the user in the “internal storage” partition out of of the 16GB eMMC flash. Having said that, this should still be plenty enough of space for most people. The good news is that both SATA and USB 3.0 drive partitions were recognized with NTFS, exFAT, EXT-4, and FAT32 file systems supported. Most Android TV boxes will not work properly if you attach more than one hard drive.

The About TV box section “reveals” the device is called “Zidoo_X9S”about-tv-box_zidoo-x9s and runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 4.1.17. The firmware is not rooted.

Zidoo IR remote control worked fine, including the IR learning function which I tried with power and volume keys of my TV. The range was good up to around 10 meters. I wish Zidoo would also offer an air mouse as option, as I had to switch between Zidoo remote control and MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse more often than usual during use, since the air mouse is not always the best with Zidoo Apps like Media Center or HDMI IN apps.

Google Play Store worked for most apps, except apps requirement Bluetooth LE/Smart support such as Mi Fit or Smart Movement. I could also side-load Amazon Underground app and install the free version of Riptide GP2 racing game.

Just like with their previous model Zidoo did a decent implementation of power handling. A short press on the remote’s power key will show a menu with Power off, Standby, and Reboot. The current firmware does not support Auto power off like in their previous device.

zidoo-x9s-power-off-standby-rebootIf you don’t want to be asked what to do each time, a long press on the power key will bring up a menu to configure the key behavior.

zidoo-x9s-power-key-defineThere’s also no problem with turning the device on from your sofa with the remote control.

Since Zidoo X9S has a 36W power supply, I did some extra tests for power consumption, testing various configuration with or without USB or SATA drives, and under load:

  • Power off (no HDD) – 0.2 Watt
  • Standby (No HDD) – 0.4 Watt
  • Idle (No HDD) – 5.2 ~ 6.1 Watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.2 Watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 0.3 Watts
  • Idle + USB HDD –  8.4 Watts
  • Power off + SATA HDD – 0.2 Watt
  • Standby + SATA HDD – 0.4 Watt
  • Idle + SATA HDD – 7.2 Watts
  • Idle + SATA HDD + USB HDD – 9.4 to 10.4 Watts
  • SATA HDD (Copy file to SAMBA share) + Play 4K video from USB HDD – 13.4 Watts

So everything looks pretty good, and it also means you could probably connect a few more hard drives to USB 2.0 ports, or via a USB 3.0 hub if you wished so, and it would still work. I wish there could be a “connected standby” mode to allow user to keep downloading files in the background, or let them access OpenWrt services while HDMI output and GPU are in low power mode, but I’m not sure that would save that much power. Currently, turning off the TV will not change power consumption of the device either.

Zidoo X9S metal case feels hot at times, but after Antutu 6.0, I measured just 38°C and 39°C max on the top and bottom of the enclosure with an IR thermometer, and after 15 to 20 minutes playing Riptide GP2 the temperature went up a little to respectively 41°C and 45°C. I did not experience any slowdown while playing the game. However, once I tried HDMI audio pass-through after several hours of testing, and found that it did not work reliably (my AV receiver was switching between DTS/UNKNOWN erratically) and the video were not smooth at all. I repeated the same test the next morning, and everything worked perfectly. The ambient temperature at the time of the issue was 31 °C, and it’s possible the device overheated the first time.

My first impressions about Zidoo X9S were quite good, with the firmware responsive and stable, and many options to satisfy the needs of most users. Beside the potential overheating issue, one small annoyance in the firmware is that the App list is sorted by usage frequency, instead of alphabetical order, so if you have many apps installed it can be confusing.

Video & Audio Playback with ZDMC (Kodi 16.1 fork), Antutu Video Tester, and DRM Support

There are to main ways to play videos in Zidoo X9S: ZDMC, a fork a Kodi 16.1, using an implementation from Realtek (RTDPLAYER), or Media Center app developed by Zidoo themselves. It’s also possible to set ZDMC to use Media Center by enabling Settings -> Video -> Playback –> Play video with external player.  I’ve tested ZDMC with the internal player for most of the video, and switched to Media Center to double check for videos with issues.

Big Buck Bunny videos from Linaro media samples, and Elecard:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK (software decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p – OK (ff-vp8 software decode), 1080p – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK

Automatic refresh rate switching (Adjust display refresh rate) is enabled by default in ZDMC, and worked well.

I continued testing using videos with various bitrates:

  • ED_HD.avi (H.264 / 10 Mbps) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

So that’s very good so far, and I switched to Dolby and DTS audio testing using both PCM output (stereo downsampling) via ZDMC and Media Center apps, and HDMI pass-through in both apps using Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver.

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Click to Enlarge

I had to repeat the test twice with HDMI pass-through using Media Center app with tries marked as #1 and #2.

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

Zidoo X9S is a massive improvements compared to most other Android TV boxes on the market with both HDMI audio pass-through working well, and DTS and Dolby audio licenses (also confirmed with MX Player app). But what happened in the forth column, with my first attempt (#1) a disaster, and the second one (#2) working just fine? The first test was done after testing the device for several hours, and the room temperature was around 30 C, while the second attempt was the next day, a few minutes after a fresh boot, so it appears the device overheated, and it greatly affected the performance in the first try. That’s the only instance when I noticed the device overheating. It might not be an issue if you live in a temperate climate, but something to keep in mind if you live in hotter climates (or during summer).

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

RTD1295 Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

RTD1295 Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

The Video/Audio System section shows the SoC support H.264 video codec up to 2K @ 60 fps & 4K @ 24 fps, H.265 up to 4K 60 fps, and VP9 up to 4K 60 fps. One question you often may want to ask when you purchase a media player, is if it is future proof. But Realtek decision to limit 4K H.264 to 24 fps makes it “not proof for the present” due to the millions of cameras (e.g. GoPro/Xiaomi) and phones capable of recording 4K H.264 @ 30 fps sold on the market. Whether this matters to you or not, you’ll have to decide by yourself. Following problems with 4K VP9 60 fps videos reported to Zidoo, the company also informed me that 4K VP9 would be limited to 30 fps. VP9 is not used very much right now, and this will probably mostly matter if you download 4K YouTube videos @ over 30 fps using VP9 codec.

Nevertheless, while no TV box will be able to play all of the 4K video samples I used for review, Zidoo X9S is unable to play many of them smoothly. I repeated the test with a more recent firmware (V1.2.3) both in ZDMC with internal player, and Media Center, and I’ve prefixed lines with samples out of specs with OoO.

  • OoO – HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – Not smooth in ZDMC, better in Media Center app, but still not perfect, especially at the end.
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) –  Not smooth in ZDMC, OK in media center
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) – Not smooth and some audio cuts in ZDMC, OK in Media Center app
  • OoO – big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Not smooth in ZDMC, yet watchable in Media Center
  • OoO – big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (as expected since hardware is not supposed to support it)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – Not always perfectly smooth in ZMDC, perfect in Media Center app
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) –  Not smooth in ZDMC, OK in Media Center
  • OoO – 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Lots of artifacts and around 1 fps (software decode)
  • OoO – Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Not smooth
  • OoO – tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – Not smooth, artifacts, and audio cuts
  • OoO – The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Not smooth

4K video playback is quite disappointing in ZDMC with the internal player, but with Media Center it’s pretty good with videos within specifications. Some H.264 4K 30 fps videos are almost watchable in Media Center app, if you allow for a few frame drops and rare slowdowns here and there.

You can see HDMI audio pass-through and ZDMC 4K video playback with an earlier firmware (few differences) in the video below.

Sintek-4k.iso & amat.iso (non encrypted) Blu-Ray ISOs, and MPEG2 1080i videos could play just fine. Like on most platforms Hi10p is not supported by the hardware, so it must be done with software decode, and ZDMC could handle the 720p Hi10p video, but the 1080p one would not be smooth, and exhibit some artifacts. Media Center won’t play Hi10p videos at all.

My review 4K TV does not support 3D, but it’s still interesting to find out whether the TV box can decode 3D videos, and Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver is capable of detecting 3D content (3D icon shown) for MVC videos as shown in  Zidoo X1 II review, so I checked whether the 3D icon is lit up using Media Center app:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Black screen, audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK
  • 3D-full-MVC.mkv (Full-frame packed MVC 3D MKV) – Plays in 2D by default (since my TV does not support 3D), but can be force to 3D, with the  3D icon showing on the Onkyo receiver.
  • ISO-full3D-sample.iso (Full-frame packed MVC 3D ISO) – Plays in 2D by default (since my TV does not support 3D), but can be force to 3D, with the  3D icon showing on the Onkyo receiver.

Finally, I played several MKV, VOB/IFO, AVI, XViD/DViX, MP4, and FLV videos from my library in ZDMC, including one full 2-hour 1080p H.264 movie, and the vast majority could play just fine, with the exception of some FLV videos.

In order to have a formal video & audio capability score, I’ve also run Antutu Video Tester 3.0 benchmark, with Zidoo X9S getting 888 points, a score pretty similar to what you’d get on Amlogic devices.zidoo-x9s-antutu-video-tester-3-0

Some videos were only partially supported, as the app detected they did not play smoothly, and one WMV/WMV2/WMAV2 video completely failed to play. I also heard some video had issues with audio (only noise), but the app did not seem to pick this up.

zidoo-x9s-antutu-video-tester-results DRM info app will crash, so I was not able to find out whether Widewine or PlayReady are supported, but it’s probably safe to assume they are not… YouTube worked fine me up to 1080p.

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

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

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

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

OpenWrt and NAS Functions

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

As shown in the description of settings, but you disable/enable services on OpenWrt directly within Android settings, but in some cases, such as SAMBA, you may also have to define the shared directory(ies) within OpenWrt LuCI web interface.


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To do so, go to About in the launcher, note the IP address of Zidoo X9S, and access LuCI in your PC web browser @ http://ZIDOO-X9S-IP-ADDRESS. You’ll find the following NAS services on the top menu: DLNA, iTunes, Samba, FTP, TimeMachine, and BitTorrent.

I’ve enabled SAMBA shares for the SATA drive NTFS partition, and all three USB 3.0 partitions. “OpenWrt” client won’t show in Ubuntu 16.04 with Nautilus, but I could select “Connect to Server” and input smb://ZIDOO-X9S-IP-ADDRESS to access the list of shares.

zidoo-x9s-samba-sharesDisk_sda1 is the SATA drive share on Zidoo X9S, and I could transfer large files from my PC’s SSD to Zidoo’s SATA drive at a reasonable speed (~49 MB/s) over Gigabit Ethernet.

zidoo-x9s-samba-transfer-rateI could also play a few 1080p and 4K videos on my computer using Zidoo X9S as a SAMBA server.

Then I switched to FTP with Filezilla program, and I could easily transfer files after login as root user.

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Click to Enlarge

Performance basically maxes out the Gigabit Ethernet connection at close to 90 MB/s.

Finally, I’ve configured BitTorrent. By default it will download files to /tmp/bittorrent (Ramdisk), so you may want to change that to a directory on SATA or USB storage… It’s a little inconvenient as the path need to be type by hand, and mine looked like: /storage/309C86229C85E2A8/transmission/done.


Then you can open Transmission web interface @ http://ZIDOO-X9S-IP-ADDRESS:9091 (a reboot may be required), in order to add torrent either from .torrent files downloaded to your PC or direct links to torrent files.

zidoo-x9s-bittorrentHowever, BitTorrent did not work well for me. First while I could Browse to select a torrent file, entering a URL would results in error such as:

Add when adding .torrent file, the download would never seen to start.

Network Performance

We’ve already seen Gigabit Ethernet interface is doing its job in the OpenWrt section, but I’ve also tested WiFi performance by transferring a 278MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash in both directions using ES File Explorer. Zidoo X9S can achieve 3.6 MB/s on average with 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, and MB/s with 802.11ac (434Mbps Link Speed) both of which are excellent, and near the top oftheir respective category against competing devices.

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WiFi Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

I’ve also quickly tested Gigabit Ethernet with iperf in full duplex mode:

That’s impressive, as it’s quite rare to see ARM based SoCs for TV boxes nearly hit Gigabit Ethernet speed in full duplex. So both wireless and wired networking performance on Zidoo X9S is outstanding.

Miscellaneous Tests


After I paired Vernee Apollo Lite smartphone with “Realtek Bluetooth”, I could transfer several photos over Bluetooth. However, I also got the message “Unfortunately Bluetooth has stopped” a few times, so the transfer failed for some photos. Since Google Play would report BLE app to be “incompatible with this device”, I side-loaded Smart Movement app, and I could synchronize data from my Bluetooth Smart fitness tracker without issues.

The firmware is not rooted, so I skipped sixaxis gamepad test. completely failed to detect my Bluetooth headset. I could however pair my Bluetooth headset, and watch and listen to some YouTube videos with it.


I have a 1 TB USB 3.0 Seagate hard drive with 4 partitions with different file systems, and Zidoo X9S could mount 3 of them,  and a FAT32 micro SD could also be mounted in read/write mode. So file system support is a bit better than most other devices that do not always support EXT-4.

File System Read Write
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

A1SD bench app shows excellent sequential read and write both via USB 3.0 and SATA interface, except for exFAT file system which should usually be avoided on Android devices:

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

Zidoo told me that they are using Paragon NTFS, a commercial implementation of NTFS file system that normally delivers much higher performance than NTFS-3G open source implementation.

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

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

Maybe Realtek should make a networking/storage SoC with the USB 3.0, SATA and Ethernet IP blocks used in RTD1295…

I ran A1SD Bench again for test Zidoo X9S eMMC flash, but I never managed to do so without “Cached read”. eMMC write speed was 25.71 MB/s, and the cached read speed was between 80 and 102 MB/s.


I shortly played Candy Crush Saga with the air mouse, and as expected no problem at all here. So I moved to my wireless gamepad, and Beach Buggy Racing 3D game, which also played perfectly smoothly even with maximum quality settings. Riptide GP2 had very much the same user experience as on Amlogic S912 SoC with the game being playable, but not perfectly smooth, with the “highest resolution” settings. I could play the latter game over 15 minutes with any obvious degradation in performance, so the overheating issue is not that easy to reproduce.

Zidoo X9S Benchmarks

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



Zidoo appears to be getting better and better overtime, and Zidoo X9S might be their best devices so far. They also invited a team of beta testers to provide inputs and report bugs before sending to end users, so this might have help. At first, I was disappointed by RTD1295 SoC limited 4K capabilities (4K H.264 up to 24 fps, 4K VP9 up to 30 fps), but if you can do without those, the firmware is normally excellent with HDMI audio pass-through, automatic frame rate switching, outstanding networking and storage performance, and most features working out of the box.


  • Stable and responsive Android 6.0 firmware
  • Good Media player capabilities with Media Center app including 4K H.265 & HDR support, automatic frame rate switching HDMI audio pass-through including for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD
  • Outstanding Ethernet and WiFi performance
  • Very good storage performance for internal storage, USB 3.0, and SATA
  • File systems support – NTFS (Paragon), EXT-4, exFAT (slow), and FAT32
  • HDMI Input (up to 4K60 input) with video recording, UDP broadcasting, and picture-in-picture support. N/B/: Recording can only be done up to 1080p30, so video input may be downscaled.
  • NAS functions such as SAMBA and FTP servers through OpenWrt, which runs side-by-side with Android
  • Proper power handling with power off, standby, and reboot, and low power consumption in off/standby modes. The provided 36W power supply also allows the connection of multiple hard drives.
  • Dolby & DTS audio work in any apps
  • OTA Firmware update
  • Zidoo support – Frequent firmware update (with Changelog) and user forums.

CONS (and bugs):

  • Realtek RTD1295 VPU limitations: 4K H.264 up to 24 fps (which will be an issue for 4K videos recorded with some actions cameras (GoPro/Xiaomi Yi) and smartphones; 4K VP9 up to 30 fps (Zidoo confirmed 60 fps won’t be supported)
  • 4K videos are often not smooth when using the internal player in ZDMC (Kodi 16.1 fork).
  • Potential overheating issues in hot weather. I only experienced overheating once during testing, at which point it was not possible to play any videos smoothly (Room temp: ~30 C)
  • Lack of DRM support
  • HDMI Input – Recording/broadcasting fails when selecting RAW HDMI Rx, so AC3/DTS can not be recorded; UDP Broadcast is not quite as smooth as original input
  • Third party air mouse (MINIX NEO A2 Lite) is not always usable with Zidoo apps, and Zidoo IR remote is not really suitable for general Android usage (no proper mouse function), so you may have to jungle between Zidoo remote control and your air mouse more than one other devices. Alternatively using Zidoo RC app with your smartphone is an option, but I’d wish Zidoo would make an air mouse specifically for their devices.
  • Minor – App list in “most used” order, not alphabetical, which makes it hard to find apps if you have any installed.
  • Potential OpenWrt issue – While adding torrent files to Transmission web interface work, Bittorrent downloads would not start. SAMBA server not automatically detected in Ubuntu, smb:// address needs to be typed manually.
  • To be fixed – Apps requiring Bluetooth LE  can’t be installed through Google Play (side-loading apps works)

If you plan to use Zidoo X9S to its fullest with 4K media playback, NAS functions, and HDMI input features, the media center is actually very good value.

I’d like to thank Zidoo for sending a review sample. Resellers and distributors can contact the company to purchase in quantities, while individual will find Zidoo X9S for $139 on Amazon US with O974D68X coupon (also works in other Amazon stores) and other online resellers such as Chinavasion, GeekBuying, DX, or eBay.

Zidoo X9S Android TV Box HDMI Input Testing – Video Recording, PiP, and UDP Broadcasting

October 10th, 2016 3 comments

One of Zidoo X9S media center‘s key features is its HDMI Input port with support for PVR, picture-in-picture, and video broadcasting over UDP. The company has come a long way since the implementation of HDMI input on Zidoo X9 TV box, which would only support PVR function, and exclusively work in the foreground.

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Click to Enlarge

For this review, I connected K1 Plus T2 S2 Android TV box to the HDMI input of Zidoo X9S, and started HDMI In app.zidoo-x9s-hdmi-input-appThe first good news is that HDMI input does work, as we can see K1 Plus user interface preview inside Zidoo X9S’ HDMI IN app. Before testing all features, let’s go through the options for Video, Audio, and Output.

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You can select various video resolution up to 1080p, but I left it to Auto, which for this test meant 1080p. Framerate cannot be changed and is set to Auto, while bitrate ranges from 1M to 10M. For local video recording 10M should be a good option, but if you broadcast the video over the network, it would be wise to lower the bitrate to something more manageable, even if you are using Ethernet because the video may not be perfectly smooth at 10Mbps.

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I don’t expect most people will change Audio settings, but the sample rate is configurable from 8,000 to 96,000 with the default being 48,000, and the number of channels can be adjusted between one and two.

The output mode allows you to select between “File” and “Broadcast” recording. If File is select, the second option will be video duration (HH:MM:SS), and the third the recording path (which I set to a directory in the SATA drvie), while if Broadcast is selected you can choose between Multicast, Broadcast, or Unicast with the default addresses being respectively:,, and some IP address:7878.

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Click to Enlarge

The + icon on the bottom right will let you set a start time (Reservation time) to record to File or start a broadcast, the clock icon will show the list of current scheduled events (called “My Reservations”), and the settings icon provides a list of options such as enabling audio in PiP mode.

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As you can see from the screenshot above you can schedule any type of “recordings” either to a file or broadcasted to the network using various settings for each schedule. It works well, but the box needs to be running at all time. If you set Zidoo X9S to standby mode, it won’t wake up and start recording.

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Settings include HDMI 2.0, because Zidoo X9S suports HDMI 2.0 input up to 4K 60 Hz, although it will record the input at 1080p30 max. If the input is 60 Hz, it will record at 30 fps, and 50 Hz to 25 fps.

Let’s play with the main features, start with PiP (Picture-in-Picture), which could start from from the HDMI IN app, or the PiP icon on the taskbar.

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The first time it will show on the top right corner, but you can move it around and resize it as your please with an air mouse. There are also icon to put it into full screen mode, and close the PiP window. You can then play with other app like the web browser, or even play another videos from any video app in Android. I was very pleased with PiP support, as I could not find any faults, and you’ll see a demo in the video embedded at the end of this post. A quick option to turn on/off the volume for the PiP window would be nice (a simple firmware update could do this), since for example you do some tasks waiting for the program in PiP to start (in silent mode), and then switch to full screen and enable audio. Now you have to go back to HDMI IN app to enable PiP audio for this to work.

The very first time I used HDMI input function, I had no audio at all. I made sure volume was not mute or low on Zidoo X9S, K1 Plus, and my TV, but I still had no audio. So I went to the Settings-> Sound & Notifications->HDMI Rx Audio format, and try to switch from PCM to RAW. I also changed some audio settings in K1 Plus, and suddenly I had audio for 5 seconds, and it stopped again for no obvious reasons. Eventually, audio came back, and I could not reproduce the issue at all. I’m not entirely sure what may have happened here. I’ve tested this with firmware V1.2.3, and the upcoming firmware V1.2.4 includes fixes for “abnormally sound recorded from HDMI IN”, so maybe this will help avoiding the issues I had too.

Video recording to the hard drive works well too, and the part I really appreciate is that it can take place in the background, meaning you can still use the box while it’s recording, something that was not possible when I tested Zidoo X9 (no S) in 2015. You’ll have the REC icon showing on the top right of the user interface at all time.

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Browsing the web, and playing app should not affect the recording, if you use an app consistently using multiple cores and/or having lots of I/O request on the recording devices it may degrade the recording. I don’t have any device requiring HDCP, so I have not been able to test that part.

Finally, I experienced with UDP broadcasting using Multicast protocol.

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You can see the video input is 4K 60 and is converted to 1080p30, just like for video recording to the hard drive. However, the very first time I tried this feature, I got the message “Start broadcast failed…”, and Start Record would also fail with “Start hdmi in record failed…” Very odd since recording to file previously worked. After 30 minutes, I found that the culprit was Settings-> Sound & Notifications->HDMI Rx Audio format set to raw, and whatever settings in K1 plus (PCM or HDMI pass-through), Zidoo X9S would refuse to start streaming or recording the video. Settings HDMI Rx Audio format back to PCM fixed the issue, and I could start UDP streaming. That also means if you can’t record AC3 / Diolby Digital 5.1 audio

So I open VideoLAN (VLC) in my computer, to open a Network Stream using udp:[email protected]:7878 address, and it worked just fine.

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The video uses H.264 codec and AAC stereo audio. It’s not quite as smooth as the original input, possibly because of the framerate convertion. It’s particularly obvious when looking at the scrolling ticker in the video. I still found it was watchable.

So I decide to try another client at the same time, and installed VideoLAN on my Android smartphone (Vernee Apollo Lite), and all I got was a green screen with some artifacts at the top.

videolan-android-udp-streaming-zidoo-x9sSince the stream was working with VideoLAN Linux program, this has to be a problem with VideoLAN, or a compatibility issue between HDMI IN app and VideoLAN Android app. So I searched for alternative UDP streaming apps, and at first found one designed for security cameras that was not really suitable for watching video. But finally I found that GoodPlayer app would do the job on my phone.

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That means you can stream videos from Zidoo X9S to multiple devices, and both on computers and mobile phones. What you can’t do is record to file and stream to the network at the same time.

You can watch HDMI In app in action in the video below.

While HDMI IN implementation is not 100% perfect, that’s a massive improvement over my first experience with Mstar based Zidoo X9 Android TV box in 2015, and the HDMI input port on Zidoo X9S can be useful for various use cases.

RabbitMax Flex IoT & Home Automation Board and Kit for Raspberry Pi

October 7th, 2016 4 comments

RabbitMax Flex is an add-on board for the Raspberry Pi boards with 40-pin headers, namely Raspberry Pi Model A+ and B+, Raspberry Pi 2, Raspberry Pi 3 and Raspberry Pi 0, destined to be used for Internet of Things (IoT) and home automation applications thanks to 5x I2C headers, a relay, an LCD interface and more.

I’ve received a small kit with RabbitMax Flex boards, a BMP180 temperature & barometric pressure I2C sensor, and a 16×2 LCD display.

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RabbitMax Flex specifications:

  • Relay – Songle SRD-05VDC-SL-C supporting 125V/250VAC up to 10A, 30VDC up to 10A
  • Storage – EEPROM with some system information for identification
  • IR – IR LED, IR receiver
  • Misc – Buzzer, Button, RGB LED
  • Expansion
    • Header for LCD character display + potentiometer for backlight adjustment
    • 5x 4-pin headers for I2C sensors
  • Dimensions – Raspberry Pi HAT compliant
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The assembly of the kit is child’s play as you don’t even need tools. First insert the HAT board on top of your Raspberry Pi board, add the LCD display, and whatever I2C sensors you please.

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Click to Enlarge

I’ve done so on my Raspberry Pi 2 board and battery kit. I have not tried the software part yet, but the platform has been tested on Raspbian, with a custom Linux OS built with the Yocto Project coming soon. Currently three sensors are supported including a temperature and barometric pressure sensor (BPM180), a temperature and humidity sensor (HTU21) and a light sensor (BH1750), but you could also connect any other I2C sensors provided you work on the code to enable support.

You’ll find documentation, software, example projects, tools, and soon KiCAD files on RabbitMax github’s account, and some extra info on website. RabbitMax Flex board is now sold for $49.90 on, but if you are patient enough, you should be able to buy it for a significantly lower price via an upcoming crowdfunding campaign.

Xtream Codes IPTV Panel Review – Part 2: Movie Data Editing, Security, Resellers, Users and Pricing Management

October 4th, 2016 1 comment

Dear readers, after part 1 of Xtream Codes Panel v.2.2.0 EVO review, here is part 2. I tried hard to get all in two parts, but “to be exhaustive” there will also have to be a part 3…

Movie Editing Section


As we can see, it’s only possible to assign a movie into a single category, a SELECT BOUQUET Option under the Category would be more then useful. So while Movie Editor Section is useful right now, it still needs improvement.

Also taking each movie by hand for editing, after, for example, a Main server crash or changing the Main, is really something, a waste of time. Some of the issues / possible improvements include:

  • No mass edit of movies to bouquets
  • If changing the category of a movie, I found no working method to change in a bulk.. Even if I tried to delete the “content” of a bouquet, it was denied.
  • Left Hand Section, Mass Edit Streams allows only live streams to be edited.
  • Stream Tools! To be able to delete the falsely assigned movies. With the result of the complete addition process later on, and the transcoding process has to be repeated all over again…
  • I strongly advice customers/user’s of the Xtream Codes Panel to name their movies in a kind of unique, retrievable way later on. If not, and if you try to sort them later by assigning them in to a bouquets, you stand in front of all the movies, the way you loaded them up. No kind of Movie editing (re-naming) possible, before you load them to transcode. The mass edit movie section is simply missing.
  • This great piece of Software NEEDS A MOVIE EDITING SECTOR

The options available right now:xtream-codes-movie-editing-options


  • Manage Categories has to be more specific to meet the needs of the customer.
  • Right now I was not able to really sort the categories to my preferred sequences. Did I miss here options? I couldn’t find it.
  • Edit Category function is limited to change the name only.


  • Again, if you have already tons of movies assigned to a category there’s no other way to assign them in a bulk right now. A time waster.

General Warnings

To be on the safe side, do not fill your HDD up to the limit. Max 70% should give more stability.

Attention: If you rent a dedicated server, seeing the offer for example, let’s say 2x 2TB, you should know that after a normal install, you’ll only get 2TB. That is because one is mirrored, in case you loose the first partition, it would be fatal, right?

So, better let it this way, do not use the whole size. Agreed?

Having issues with reconnecting interrupted streams, I filled Xtream Codes panel with over 200 streams, and around 500 movies. I checked the stopped streams, and most connected again after manually pressing the “start/restart stream” button. But these are rare cases only, overall I must say the platform is absolutely stable.

I found a few times the ‘Guilty-ONE” for this: It was not Xtream Codes Panel, it was the miserable Streams I got from a friend for testing purposes.

Security settings (Fight the Intruders by blocking them)

Handle this setting carefully! Especially if you give a trial List to a customer, he will zapp through the channels quickly, or VLC crash often, how we all know..

Wrong or too hard settings will block him immediately.

A good setting should be as follows:

  1. General Settings->Security Settings->Flood Limit to 6 or 8
  2. Request Frequency in Seconds to 1.

Security Settings Section

Back to the Security “plugins”

xtream-codes-security-pluginsBLOCK IP/CIDR


We see the IP’s or better, the intruders (hint: After you set-up the Flood Limits in General-Security/Settings)

Here we go, nice to look at… but why not show directly the “customer by name with IP”?. In the end, we have to make the decision whether to unlock the IP or keep him locked. It’s only working if a server with a fixed IP started the attack, dynamic IP’s appear soon then if the IP changed.

And in case no internal customer, let’s say a simple “from outside” or no customer would be a great help. Going through the log files  to find out if it us a customer or instead a competitor trying to slow down your server (we are all nosy, aren’t we?) makes no sense and no fun. Reason: time extensive if dozens or hundreds of logs!

Live Streams-Video on Demand Section

Manage Stream/Add New Stream

xtream-codes-live-streams-vodThere is also one relatively “unique” function; you should handle with care, or best ask the seller of the LEGITIMATE streams, if he allows that you use the “Use Direct Source & don’t restream it”. This means all coming traffics are not on your side, the connected server takes it all. You should be able to see the other side. But I guess you know already.

You can also redirect the Stream to the Original Source, so that your customers connect through your own DNS. Doing so, setting to yes, your URL will show up in the Bouquet List later. But again, be aware, choosing NO, your user will not connect to your server in any case. I tested it by letting the user connect over my DNS. I thought, I would see any client connecting through my DNS, but you will not, in both cases. No matter Client Connection Logs or in Manage Lines, he is simply invisible to you. I guess, after all not the smartest idea.


Security Section

General settings->Security Settings


Useful if you find the “right” setting. The Flood Limit shows the number of requests specified in “Request Frequency”. I started with 5 requests within 3 seconds, result: I got blocked myself and no idea why. I just watched one channel, no fast channel switching, no nothing. This seems to getting interesting, I thought.

Switched to 8 requests in 3 seconds range. Activated my test users… Result: 2 Android boxes getting blocked.

Mhhhh, I go deeper in this then after, and because of English is not my native language, haha, we “none-english” have sometimes a problem to understand the language. And…I found it! My mistake! Definitely to 90% only, haha! And 10% I give to Xtream Codes back, because they should really be more specific about this classy feature, which is highly useful!

Advice: Give 3 options, or 4, the ordinary customer can use! Like: LOW-Standard-HIGH-HYPER Settings, pre-configured! (Also the option for manual settings).

I know I know…but remember this: Many customers are not common with these terms; they simply do mistakes resulting in blocking customers who do nothing wrong at all, which could lead to losing customers.

Standard should be: 10:1, or 20:1 ((flood limit:request frequency), but hard to say for sure in my opinion. And even this could maybe cause some troubles, if a nervous user zapping the channel’s in a lightspeed and the playlist is huge…

For example: Each zapping under 1 second is 1 evil request, collected and memorized by the panel! 10:1  means, 10 times under 1 second is OK, but then… the 11th try would blocked them! This is a hard decision to make for each panel user, if he has a huge playlist with many customers. Some customers could complain, if they get blocked, and I don’t want to talk about the non-stop checking the Security Settings, and look for blocked IPs.

Recommendation: Invest in a DDOS Protection with your server, every hosting provider is offering this. Also let this setting to OFF (0) in the beginning, and get used to everything first. You can then implement the settings you are comfortable with lateron.

Resellers – Registered Users Section


Reseller Section

Registered Users and Reseller

When I started to work with the panel and getting used to it, this was the first category I started with. I expected something like: REGISTER RESELLER, or similar. Registered means already already registered, right?

Let’s start with “Register New User”. This feature is mainly used, to create a new RESELLER of yours, a now you want to give him access to a reseller panel. Let’s create one!


As we can see, you have to provide the follwing details for the new user (reseller in this case):

  • Username (Whatever you want to call the reseller)
  • Password (Please 6 digits minimum, out of security reasons, phrases are also useful)
  • E-Mail (Email address of your reseller, without one you can not create a new reseller)
  • Default Language (right now only English is possible)
  • Group Members (see the next Section, Group Members)
  • Reseller DNS (Reseller Only) – Here you can specify the reseller’s own DNSs
  • Credits (reseller Only) – The amount of money the Reseller payed you, usual is 1 credit = 1 UK pound or other currencies)

Section Manage Group Members

First of all, a little explanation here on this important part. As we’ve already seen above, we can “register” a new user, reseller in this case with “REGISTER NEW USER” option (I would rather see a “Create new Reseller” button). But here is the point: If you register a new future reseller, you have to assign the payment formalities later (ex: 300 Euro = 300Credits), but also how much for 1 month, 3 months or any other kind of subscription (time frame), and the reseller can create lines for his own customers later, and see his own costs each time.

Assigning them (the resellers) all in one category, named reseller, let you later no choice to give different kind of subscription prices. (ex: Reseller A 1 month =6 Euro, Reseller B 1 month 8 Euro), so that’s why Xtream Codes has a great feature in creating groups.

You can simply create a new “group”, let’s say Group elcap in my case, and assign reseller A to it. Now your Reseller A is a Group Member of “elcap” group. Next step, you want to give him prices and time frames of each line he creates.


As you can see, I created the trials , 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and 12 months, and also a VOD package for the reseller part of group elcap.

You start with Resellers -> New Package (Adds a new Package)

xtream-codes-resellersWe see the following options after clicking on New Package:xtream-codes-resellers-new-package-1


You first need to name the package, mark it as Trial or Official Package (1-12 month or else later, you are free in your decision), you can even pair the line with the ISP provider of your client by first connection. (Attn.: need additional plugin to buy).

Useful only if you create a Package for a RESTREAMER (Restreamers are able to put your bouquets/packages on their server(s) and use them as there own streams), as they have a fixed IP in any case.

In this example we give 20 connections to a Restreamer


Meaning: You can give your whole LEGITIMATE stream list, or assorted ones, like a bouquet you filled with specific streams before. In any case, your Restreamer you are selling to, is only able to open 20 connections on his server. The amount of connections you assign to him is what he pays for.

Settings Prices with Manage Packages


Edit a packagextream-codes-resellers-edit-package


A complete option to edit your before assigned package (Manage Package->Edit Package).

Here’s the output of my own created packages Create them for your own needs, everything is possible!


Manage ROOT (Registered Users)


By clicking on Manage Root you get the following options:


Here you can change your ROOT username/password given by Xtream Codes for your panel.

You can change both passwords here later, if you do not wish to use the old ones once given from Xtream Codes after you ordered and paid for your panel. Handle this carefully, write it down and copy it to safe locations, just in case of a crash of the main server (see upcoming part 3, with simulated crash of the Main server)

I initially planned to finish this review into two parts, but there are so many options, I have to do at least one more part.

I also have to repeat Options and Features for better understanding later on. See you guys on Part 3 soon, which should include:

  1. Changing the Main Server (through my extended kind of tests, I worked a couple of days on this, and the results should benefit all of us who are using this software and working with it.)
  2. Finishing the features for good, I promise
  3. The “Have’s” and the “Have Not’s
  4. Enumerations of the Top 5 settings to use
  5. Results after a new installation (Simulated Crash of the Main Server)
  6. The Pro’s & the contra’s
  7. The Competitors of Xtreme-Codes Panel
  8. Be aware of some kind of hosting services (Strange experiences with 2 “Big Ones”! Troubleshootings)
  9. The Conclusion
  10. Preparing a little Manual (PDF format, to help you guys)

[Update: During finishing my work on the huge Part 3 of the Review Xtream Codes Panel Version.2.2.0 EVO, there was yesterday, 08th October, an update to Version 2.3.0 EV0, with a lot of new Features and Improvements!

So, I will need a little longer to finish the Part 3, please stay tuned.]

Rikomagic MK22 Octa-core Android TV Box Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

October 3rd, 2016 5 comments

Rikomagic became a much better known company when they launched MK802 TV stick in 2012, and over the years they’ve kept introducing new products, and I’ve just received a review sample of their latest Rikomagic MK22 octa-core Android TV box powered by Amlogic S912 processor. I’ve posted photos of the device and its accessories, and check out the hardware design in the first part of the review, before testing Android 6.0 firmware in the second part in a few weeks.

Rikomagic MK22 Unboxing

I received MK22 in its black and white retail package.

The back of the package details the main features, and the hardware specifications.

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Instead of printing a user’s manual that anybody will hardly read, the company instead printed a QR Core to MK22 user’s manual download link.

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The TV box ships with a 5V/2.5A power supply, an HDMI cable, and an IR remote control that looks the same as used with Ugoos TV boxes and GeekBox board.

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The case is made of plastic with the top having a speaker like design. We’ll find a USB port, a micro SD slot, and the firmware recovery pinhole on one of the sides, and an external WiFi antenna, two more USB 2.0 ports, optical S/PDIF output, AV and HDMI 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 connector, and the power jack on the rear panel.

Rikomagic MK22 Teardown

In order to open the device, I had to remove the four rubber pads on the bottom of the case, and loosen four screws.

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One of them was really hard to remove, but I eventually managed, and could have a closer look at CZ-S29-V2 board, which has a naming scheme very similar to CZ-S32-V2.1 board found in R-Box Pro TV box.

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A now common black and relatively thin heatsink is placed on top of Amlogic S912 processor, which is connected to a 16GB Samsung KLMAG2WEMB-B031 eMMC 5.0 flash (Seq. R/W: 170/11 MB/s; IOPS R/W: 4000/500), and two SKHynix H5TQ45G3CFR DDR3 chips (1GB RAM) on this side of the board. The board also features AP6330 wirelress module for dual band WiFi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, as well as Pulse H5007NL and Realtek RTL8211F for Gigabit Ethernet. The serial console should be the unpopulated 4-pin on the right side, right one top of two unused USB 2.0 PCB footprints. The 24-pin unpopulated header on the bottom right are probably reserved for a front panel LCD display.

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The bottom of the board comes with two more SKHynix DDR3 chip to bring the total to 2GB RAM, as well as a sticker with a MAC address starting with 78:C2:C0, corresponding to any unregistered MAC address range, but again the same range as found in R-Box Pro.

I’d like to thank Rikomagic for sending the box for review, and if you are interested in the device, the company sells MK22 TV box on their Aliexpress store for $90.90 including shipping. I could also find it listed on GearBest, but it’s currently “out of stock”.

Review of Allo Vana Player Linux HiFi Audio System with Max2Play, SqueezeBox and Kodi

October 2nd, 2016 9 comments

Last month I showcased what I called “Allo Sparky Audio Kit” with a DAC board (Piano), an amplifier board (Volt), and usually hard to find  reclocker and capacitance multiplier boards (Kali & CM), all connected to Allo Sparky ARM Linux development board powered by Actions Semi S500 quad core Cortex A9 processor, and running Ubuntu 12.04. In the first post, I just described the boards, and showed how to assemble the kit, but now that I have received the user’s manual, it turns out the kit is actually called “Vana Player” and the provided Ubuntu firmware image runs Max2Play Browser based system that’s also available for Raspberry Pi and ODROID boards.

Before starting the kit, you’ll need to connect speakers to Piano DAC board and/or Kali board, as well as a 19.5V power source such as a laptop power supply to connect to the CM board. I connected some USB powered speakers to the headphone jack of Piano board, and one 5 ohm speaker to Volt amplifier board which I had left from a speaker set. You’d normally want to use two speakers for the Volt board, but that will do for testing. I tried four different laptop power supplies, but none of the jack would fit, so finally I change the plug from a Sony Laptop power power supply. Finally I connected an Ethernet cable, and a USB hard drive.

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The user manual recommends to connect the 5V power supply provided with the kit, before turning on the 19V power source, and do the reverse while powering it off (turn 19V off first, then 5V). If your kit includes Kali reclocker board, it’s also very important not to connect 5V to Sparky board, but only to Kali board.

Now that the board is started you can find the IP address with an IP scanner software or your router DHCP list. In my router, the kit is detected as pcm5122:

pcm5122 00-17-F7-01-00-FD 00:57:43

While running arp-scan in my Ubuntu computer looks up the manufacturer (CEM Solutions Pvt) from the MAC address suffix (00:17:f7):

Now that we have the IP address, let’s open a web browser and access Max2Play web interface.

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It’s telling me an update is available, so I went to Settings / Reboot tab, and successfully upgraded it from version 1.0 to version 2.36.

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Two players are installed: Squeezelite working with Logitech Media Server (now Squeezebox Server) and Shairport for Airplay support, with both players set to auto start. You can access the settings for each in Audioplayer tab in the web interface.

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I have not changed anything but you can disable autostart, set advanced options, and enable/disable the Graphics Equalizer.

SqueezeLite will communicate with SqueezeBox Server, which can be configure in the tab of the same name.

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You can also install plugins in that menu such as ShairTunes / ShairTunes2 (Airplay), and Google Music. But again, I have not changed anything in that section.

Vana Player is also powerful enough to act as a video player when connected to a TV via its HDMI port, so you can enjoy both high quality audio and video. That’s what the Kodi/XBMC tab is for, as it will allow you to configure Kodi, for example to decide whether you want to start it automatically.

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This can also work as a headless Kodi installation using Kore Android app, but I’ll get into more details a little later.

The most important part of the interface at first is the Filesystem Mount tab, where you’ll be able to mount network shares (NFS/SAMBA) on other devices, or your USB storage partitions, as well as use Vana Player as a SAMBA server. If you copied your file on the SD card, you don’t need to do anything here.

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Three out of four partitions of my USB hard drive are detected, the only exception being the BTRFS partition, however none of them would mount from the web interface. I could however mount them manually using ssh (username/password: pi/pi):

So I set “Set fixed Mountpoint to prevent directory switching on reboot” and clicked “Save”, but the  “resolve host pcm5122” error still caused  the web interface to believe mounting did not work:

sudo: unable to resolve host pcm5122 [mntent]: line 3 in /etc/fstab is bad [mntent]: line 5 in /etc/fstab is bad [mntent]: line 7 in /etc/fstab is bad [mntent]: line 9 in /etc/fstab is bad [mntent]: line 11 in /etc/fstab is bad; rest of file ignored
Mountpoint NOT added! Please refer to the description below!

So restarted the board, and the NTFS partition was mounted automatically. Restarting the board is not straightforward however, as the Reboot option in “Settings / Reboot” never worked for me. It does restart the board, but never fully boots it. So I turned off 19V power, turned off 5V power, and then back on 5V, and 19V to be able to boot successfully. Maybe some programmable power strip would be useful here.

vana-player-usb-drive-samba-shareI also created “vanaplayer” SAMBA share, and could access from my Ubuntu computer after settings a password for the SAMBA share for user “root” (fixed username).


Finally, you can configure networking for Ethernet or WiFi in WiFi / LAN tab. However, the first time you’ll need to connect Ethernet even if you want to use WiFi through an USB WiFi dongle.

So now we should be ready to play some audio files. To do so, go to SqueezeBox Server tab, and click on “Open Squeezebox Server Webadministration” button, which should open a new video with “Logitech Media Server” (LMS).

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If you are using external USB or network storage for your music, you’ll want to click on Settings on the bottom right corner in order to add your Media Folders, in my case /media/usb1/Music/music, and optionally edit the playlist folder.

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Click on Apply and Close, and then you’ll be able to able play your music, add files to the playlist, and adjust the volume and other settings such as repeat and shuffle from the web interface.

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Audio plays via speakers connected to both Piano DAC board and VOLT amplifier, and the audio quality seemed pretty good considering the speakers I used. I also set the volume in LMS to the maximum, but it was not that loud. Maybe there’s another way to increase the volume, but I did not find it. I also played a FLAC audio file (24-bit/192 KHz) successfully.

Another source of audio can be found in the Radio part of LMS, I managed to do so easily, although one of the radio stations would not start at all. Probably a network issue, as others worked just fine.

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Vana player manual also mention the use of Qobuz plugin, but I did not try since it requires subscription.

The final way to play music using LMS is DLNA/UPnP, and I could confirm the UPnP/DLNA plugin was installed and running on port 5000:

However, for whatever reason, BubbleUPnP nor AirWire apps were able to locate PCM5122 as the media renderer.


I’ll update the post if I manage to make it work.

An another way to use Vana Player is via Kodi Media Center. You’ll need to connect an HDMI display to Sparky board, login using pi / pi credentials, and start Kodi via Max2Play interface. SqueezeLite and Shairport will be stopped, and only restart (if set to autostart) once Kodi is stopped.

If you want to control the player remotely, you’ll need to install Kore app on your smartphone. I started Kodi by going to Max2Ply Interface, selecting Kodi/XBMC tab, and clicking on Start Kodi(video), which will start Kodi 15.0 Isengard on the device.

Now to enable smartphone remote control support, enable Settings → Services → Remote control → Allow programs on other systems to control Kodi and Settings → Services → Webserver → Allow control of Kodi via HTTP to ON to allow you smartphone to send data such as images and summaries to Kodi. Both options were actually already enabled in my system, but I got the error message “remote communication server failed to start” in Kodi, until I manually stopped SqueezeBox Server in Max2Play web interface.The rest of the instructions should work with any other system running Kodi.

Now we can start Kore app, click Next, auto detection will fail, click Next again to setup manual configuration with the IP address and default Kodi settings as shown below.

kodi-kore-remote-controlThen we can go to Files to access the video inside Vana Player and start playing them. Once the video is started it does not rely on the smartphone, except if you want to use Kore remote control to stop the video, fast forward, adjust the volume and so on.

Another way to use Kodi Media Server capabilities is to use a UPnP app such as AirWire or BubbleUPnP, and contrary to my experience with SqueezeBox Server, Kodi(pcm5122) media renderer was probably detected, and I could play a video located on my phone.

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A final way to use the system as explained in the user’s manual is to stream a YouTube video from your smartphone to Vana Player again using UPnP. To do so, start YouTube app, start playing a video, and share it to BubbleUPnP (AirWaire does not support this feature), which will ask to install additional files the first time.

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Once it is complete, you’ll be able to stream and control YouTube videos from your smartphone.

I suddenly had a problem while using UPnP apps however, as I lost all audio. I tried to reboot the system, and use SqueezeBox server, but I still did not have any audio. The screenshoot below shows I can run AlsaMixer and atm7059_link audio card is detected.

alsamixerHowever, if I go to Sound Settings in Ubuntu 12.04, there’s no Output device at all, and Kodi complains /dev/mixer is missing. All boards seem to be OK based on the LEDs, so it must be a software issue, but I have not found a solution yet.

So overall Vana Player is an interesting audio device, but software can be confusing at time, and not always work as expected. I’ve also noted that the network interface may take a long time to be brought up, and sometimes I have restart the device manually to make it work. Some explanation about the many LEDs on the board could be useful to debug potential issue without having to connect the device to a monitor or TV.

Allo website has been updated, and you can now buy all boards on Sparky page. My kit includes Sparky board ($37), Piano DAC board ($27), Piano 2.1 DAC board ($49), VOLT amplifier board ($27), Kali reclocker board ($69),  CM board ($15), and some accessories, but you can also directly buy Vana Player kit for $169, as well as other bundles. If you own a Raspberry Pi 2/3 board, the audio add-on boards should also be compatible.

Review of R-Box Pro OTT TV Box with 3GB RAM – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

October 1st, 2016 9 comments

R-Box Pro is just another Amlogic S912 TV box, except it comes with up to 3GB RAM, against 2GB for most other models on the market. Kingnovel sent me a sample with 3GB RAM to check it out, and today I’ll start by taking photos of the devices, and perform a teardown mostly to find out how the 3GB memory design is implemented.

R-Box Pro Unboxing

The retail package is minimal black box with “OTT TV Box Amlogic S912” and “R-Box Pro” markings and Kodi logo. A sticker on the side will also indicate whether you have received to 2GB or 3GB RAM version.r-box-pro-package

The device ships with an IR remote control with learning function, a 5V/2.5A power supply, an HDMI cable, and a user’s manual in English.

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The day I received the sample the top cover looked to have many scratches, but after removing the plastic film on the top it will look as new.

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One side has two USB 2.0 ports and the firmware recovery/reset button, the other side two more USB 2.0 ports, and a micro SD slot, while the rear panel comes with a Gigabit Ethernet port, optical S/PDIF, HDMI 2.0 output, AV output (composite + stereo audio) and the power jack.

R-Box Pro Teardown

Let’s get to the fun part of this post with the teardown. The bottom of the case confirms I got the 3GB DDR3/16GB flash version of R-BOX PRO, but there’s nothing under the rubber pads.

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That means instead I had to take out the top cover that is glued on the top of the case using a flat and sharp tool. An old credit card would also do. You have to work your way slowly around the device to push the glue around in order to remove the top cover.

r-box-pro-teardownBut what do I see on the plastic cover? Some transparent plastic tube? Is it for liquid cooling? Nope… The tube is connected to two LEDs. That looks fun, so I could not resist and had to power the device up…

r-box-pro-led-tubeThat’s pretty, but let loosen the four screws to get a better look at the board.

r-box-pro-plastic-coverAn heatsink covers Amlogic octa-core processor. The top of the board (CZ-S32-V2.1) also features a 16GB Samsung KLMAG2GE4A-A001 eMMC flash, two SpekTek PE025-125 F1622 RAM chips, Pulse H5007NL magnetics and Realtek RTL8211F transceiver for Gigabit Ethernet, as well as Ampak AP6255 wireless module for WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0.

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The serial console should be accessible through the pin between the two USB ports on the bottom of the photo above. We can loosen three more screws to have a look at the bottom of the board.

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We have two SpekTek PE039-125 TP RAM chips, so I looks like they used two 1GB RAM chips, and two 512 MB chips from the same company (I forgot the name of the company behind “Superman” logo). There’s also a Genesys GL850G USB 2.0 hub, as well as Dioo Microcircuits DIO2133 audio driver. The MAC address prefix (78:C2:C0) looks up to “IEEE Registration Authority”, so it does not seem to have been assigned to any company yet.

Kingnovel provided the box for review, and resellers & distributors can contact the company via their website if they want to purchase the box in quantities. They also appear to sell the device (3GB version) on Amazon US for $90.99, but it can be found on various other website such as GeekBuying,and Aliexpress for $80 and up, and around $66 if you select the 2GB RAM version.