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Wintel W8 Review – Dual Boot Android & Windows TV Box

April 27th, 2015 15 comments

Wintel W8 (aka Kingnovel K8) is an Intel Atom Z3735F mini PC inspired from Sunchip Wintel CX-W8 (the hardware is a little different), but instead of just running Windows 8.1, the device can dual boot Android 4.4 and Windows 8.1 with Bing. I’ve already taken pictures or torn down Wintel W8, so today, I’ll focus on the software part of the review, first checking dual boot functionality and Windows 8.1 broefly ince it should be very similar to MeLE PCG03, before spending more time on Android as it’s my first Android Intel platform.

Dual boot in Wintel W8

When you boot the device, you can select Android or Windows icon, with a 10 second timeout that will boot your latest choice. There’s no menu within Windows to start Android, and vice versa, so to dual boot you need to reboot first, and select the operating systems right after UEFI. The best way to checkout how this all work is to watch the short demo below where it first boot into Android, reboot, and switch to Windows.

If you watched the video, you must have noticed that if you change OS, it will reboot again. One person on Google+ mentioned that the system is switching between the 32-bit UEFI firmware (for Windows) and 64-bit UEFI firmware (for Android), which would explain why it needs to reboot, and you have to make sure you don’t turn off the device, or a power failure occur during that process, or you may brick your device! Same thing if you mistakenly try to install Windows 8.1/10 with the 64-bit UEFI firmware.

Wintel_W8_UEFI_BIOS

Click to Enlarge

However, when I checked Aptio Setup Utility both version looked exactly the same whether I selected Android or Windows.

A Quick Look at Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 will bot in about 40 seconds on Wintel W8 because the FORESEE eMMC flash used in the hardware is not quite as fast as the Samsung Class 5 eMMC flash used in MeLE PCG03 and many other Intel Bay trail mini PCs.

Windows 8.1 Metro Interface on Wintel W8 (Click for Original Size)

Windows 8.1 Metro Interface on Wintel W8 (Click for Original Size)

Windows 8.1 with Bing is not activated in my sample, and clicking on activation failed. However, since my sample comes from Kingnovel it’s not a retail sample, and resellers can certainly request for a valid Windows NTE license if required.

Wintel W8 PC Info and Storage in Windows 8.1 (Click for Original Size)

Wintel W8 PC Info and Storage in Windows 8.1 (Click for Original Size)

Another detail you should probably pay attention when getting a dual boot firmware is the space reserved for Windows… Wintel W8 C: drive is 18.6GB large with 14.8GB free. Considering I already struggled with 32GB space on Mele PCG03, I’d really recommend trying to get a version with 64GB flash, and soon models with 128GB storage will also be up for sale.

Since I’ve already reviewed Windows 8.1 with Bing on MeLE mini PC, and that firmware customizations are not really an option with Windows, that’s all I’ve checked in the Windows side of the firmware.

Wintel W8 Review with Android 4.4

First impressions and Setup Menu

While in Windows, you’ll probably want to connect a wireless or USB keyboard and mouse, these may not be the most convenient in Android, so as usual I connected the RF dongle of my MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse to control the mini PC. I’ve also connected HDMI and Ethernet cables, before powering up the device which will boot automatically as you connect the power adapter. It also takes around 40 seconds to boot into Android.

Android Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

Android Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

The firmware is using the stock Android launcher, with a 1920×1080 resolution. Pre-installed apps include Kodi 15 Alpha 1 and Google Play Store. After setting up Ethernet, and login to the Play Store, I could install all apps required for this review just like on ARM based platforms, but I did notice some games such as Shadowgun: Deadzone, Dead Trigger, Angry Bird Star Wars, etc.. could not be installed, but many other games could. Whatsapp was also greyed out, but not Facebook or Facebook Messenger that both could be installed. I also side-loaded Amazon AppStore and installed Riptide GP2 without issues.

The settings allow you to configure Network settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet, and services including VPN, Tethering and PPPoE. There aren’t any really useful Audio settings, but Day Dream is enabled in the Display settings, and an HDMI section will allow you to compensate for overscan if needed, and select various HDMI output:Wintel_W8_About_Tablet

  • 1080p @ 60/50/30/25/24Hz
  • 1280×1024 @ 60Hz, 1360×768 @ 60Hz, 1152×864 @ 60Hz
  • 720p @ 60 or 50Hz
  • 1024×768 @ 60 Hz, 800×600 @ 60Hz
  • 720×576 @ 50Hz, 720×480 @ 60Hz (16:9 or 4:3)
  • 640×480 @ 60 Hz, 720×400 @ 70Hz

The firmware also has a separate function for video post-processing called “Intel Smart Video” that will “improve video quality by reducing noise and eliminating artifacts with interlaced content”.

Since most storage is reserved for Windows, the partition in Android is only 4.36GB out of the 32GB flash with most of it available.  Developers option can easily be enabled, and Printing menu is enabled by default, although you’ll probably prefer printing in Windows 8.1 instead.

The “About tablet” section indicate the model number is w8, and Android 4.4.4 runs on top of Linux 3.10.20. There’s also a line showing IFWI version 5.6.5, but I’m not sure what that means. The firmware is rooted. You can checkout all Android settings in the 2-minute video embedded below.

There’s an IR receiver, but it’s supposed to only work in Android, and I’m not quite sure how to set it up. One of the most important features of an IR remote control is to allow turning on and off the platform, and there’s no problem with turning off and rebooting the device in Android or Windows 8.1 with MeLE F10 Deluxe or another air mouse, but it’s just not possible to turn it back on without pressing the power button on the unit itself. If you had a power extension with a remote control, you should be able to start the box automatically.

Wintel W8 does not get hotter than ARM TV boxes, as I measured respectively 42 and 50 C on the top and bottom of the case after Antutu 5.7, and 50 and 56 after 15 minutes playing Riptide GP2.

Overall Android on Intel Atom Z3735F feels just like Android on recent ARM platforms such as Rockchip RK3288, with the exception that some games won’t install, and the games experience for some games may not be as good. The firmware is not only smooth, but extremely stable too, and I did not experience any noticeable slowdown or freezes during my testing. The only issues I had was with Kodi 15 Alpha 1 which may exit from time to time or even freeze, but it’s probably because they chose to load an Alpha version of Kodi, instead of Kodi 14.2 stable release.

Kodi 15 Android on Intel Atom Z3735F Processor

I’ve already tested Kodi on Intel both with Kodi 14.1 in Windows 8.1, and Kodi 14.2 in Linux (Ubuntu 15.04), and I was impressed by the performance in both system, although Z3735F does not support HDMI audio in Linux, so I had to use an inexpensive USB sound card instead. Let’s see how Kodi 15 Alpha 1 (pre-installed) works on Intel Atom Bay Trail-T processor by playing videos from a SAMBA share over Ethernet.

Results with video samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus Elecard H.265/HEVC samples, and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p/1080p60 – OK. However 1080p60 video renders at ~36 fps according to Kodi overlay debug info.
  • 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 (OK, but first time I had a greenish background, which disappeared the second time). RV9, and RV10 –play at 16 fps instead of 25 fps.
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – 360p & 720p OK. 1080p will play only about 3 seconds before freezing. I can’t go back to Kodi, and going back to the Home Screen and restarting Kodi does not work, so I had to reboot the device (Tested twice).
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Some higher bitrate videos could play more or less smoothly:

  • ED_HD.avi – 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) – Not smooth, plays at 12 to 15 fps instead of 29.97 fps
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Not smooth, plays at 12 to 15 fps instead of 29.97 fps

HD audio codecs have been tested down-mixed to PCM using Kodi and MXPlayer, and audio pass-through has been tested with Onkyo TX-NR636 using HDMI pass-through with BD/DVD input. I enabled pass-through in Kodi for AC3 and DTS, as well as Dolby Digital transcoding, and did not change anything in Android settings.

Video PCM Output
Kodi
PCM Output
MX Player
HDMI Pass-through
Kodi
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but the video could be smoother No audio OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio Dolby 5.1
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio Dolby 5.1
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio Dolby 5.1
DTS HD Master OK No audio Dolby 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio Dolby 5.1

So the firmware does not support any advanced audio codec as shown with MX Player results, so but since Kodi implements its own audio decoding by software all formats can be down-mixed in Kodi. Lossless audio codecs HDMI pass-through is not supported, but again Kodi handle that by transcoding unsupported audio codec to Dolby Digital 5.1. I’d like to note however that enabled HDMI pass-through makes Kodi relatively unstable, as it might randomly exit when starting to play videos.

Sintel-Bluray.iso could play so unencrypted Blur-ay ISO are supported The two 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play, but GridHD video would sparkle. Both Hi10p H.264 videos failed to play:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – No audio / no video. Back screen.
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – No audio / no video. Back screen.

Bay Trail-T processors can’t output to 2160p (4K UHD), but they should still decode H.264 videos up to 2160p30:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – 10 fps
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – 10 fps
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t start
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Won’t start
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – 10 fps
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Kodi will exit
  • tears_of_steel_4k_H264_24fps.mov – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, plays @ ~20 fps.

My LG 42UB820T television does not support 3D, but I still tested whether the platform could decode some stereoscopic 3D videos:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – Looks OK, but plays at 36 fps instead of 60 fps
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Looks like a still picture slideshow
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

All my AVI, MKV, IFO and MP4 videos (720p/1080p) could play fine without issues such as A/V out-of-sync. Most FLV videos played, but some only had audio with black screen. A full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) could play without interruption and no dropped or skipped frames at all for the whole duration.

Kodi 15 Alpha 1 is not that bad on Intel platform, but it certainly does not perform as well as Kodi 14.x in Windows 8.1, with some videos not playing smoothly, HDMI audio pass-through makes Kodi unstable, and Kodi may exit while starting videos. So I’d still recommend using Kodi inside Windows 8.1 instead of Android 4.4.

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

I’ve also run Antutu Video Tester where Wintel W8 gets 460 points about of 700+ possible despite failing to play a fair amount a video due to lack audio codec and HEVC video codec among other things.

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

It’s not quite as good as HiSilicon (700+ points), or Allwinner (600+) platforms, but still better than the score I got with Open Hour Chameleon (Rockchip RK3288): 262 points.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’ve tested networking performance by transferring a 278MB file over SAMBA three times with ES File Explorer. Wi-Fi performance is very good with an average transfer rate of 3.58 MB/s, making it one of the best 802.11n performer.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve repeated the same test with the 10/100M Ethernet connection, which achieves 6.78MB/s which is quite good for a Fast Ethernet connection.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Run iperf instead with the command iperf -t 60 -s server_ip -d confirms the good performance.

Wintel_W8_iperf

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

[  4] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 33327
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.111, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  272 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 59163 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   652 MBytes  91.2 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   423 MBytes  59.1 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I had mixed results with Bluetooth. Photo transfers over Bluetooth between Iocean M6752 smartphone and the box worked fine, but Vidonn X5 smartband (Bluetooth Low Energy) could not be found by the relevant app, and my Wireless PS3 gamepad clone failed to connect with Sixaxis Compatibility checker, although the drivers appears to be there.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be mounted by the system. However, only the NTFS partition of my Seagate USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed.

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

The system also only appear to support one USB storage device at a time, so when I connected my USB flash drive it automatically unmounted the NTFS partition on my hard drive with a notification popping up as follows:

Warning: One more MSC devices attached
Warning:  only one USB mass storage device can be used.

I ran A1 SD Bench to benchmark USB hard drive and internal flash performance, but I have to gave with the former, since I could not find a supported mount point. in ES File Explorer it shows as usb://1004/USB3_NTFS, where USB3_NTFS is the volume name, but this string is not recognized in A1 SD bench.

Read and Write Speed in MB/S (Click to Enlarge)

Read and Write Speed in MB/S (Click to Enlarge)

So finally, I only tested the eMMC which turns not to be so bad after all. It’s still much slower than the 160MB/s achieved with CrystalDiskMark on MeLE PCG03 in Windows 8.1, but compared to Android TV boxes, the read speed is acceptable, and the write speed is very good.

USB Webcam

I could install Skype and Google Hangouts, but once I connected my USB webcam I lost all input to the mini PC (keyboard and air mouse unresponsive) for 30 seconds or so before I could use the system again.

The camera was detected in Google Handhouts (Camera icon shown), but I could not get any image during calls. I tried to call “Echo / Sound Testing services” but I could get the lady voice at all despite the system audio working. Trying to call a real person, who just get me the Android home screen, and start Skype again.

Conclusion: if you want to use Skype / Hangouts on Wintel W8, use Windows 8.1…

Gaming

My three usual test games namely Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2 could all be installed and run on the box. I control Candy Crush Saga with the air mouse, and game play was nice and smooth. I then then switched to Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad for Beach Buggy Racing and Riptide GP2. The former was behaving just like on higher end Android TV boxes, with a higher framerate even with quality settings set to the maximum. Riptide GP2 was playable with high quality settings, but far from optimal, and the user experience appeared to deteriorate with time. I played  15 minutes (5 races), and the game felt slower at the end.

As mentioned in the “First impressions” section, some famous games (Dead Trigger, Shadowngun…) can’t be installed on the platform, and I’m assuming it might be because these have not been ported to x86 target (TBC), so to play Android games better go with Rockchip RK3288, Tegra K1/X1 or Qualcomm Snapdragon S8xx based platforms.

Wintel W8 Android Benchmarks

Before running benchmarks per se, let’s see what CPU-Z has to show for this Intel mini PC.

CPU-Z _ Intel Atom Z3735F Mini PC (Click to Enlarge)

CPU-Z _ Intel Atom Z3735F Mini PC (Click to Enlarge)

It correctly detects an Intel Atom Z3735F processor @ 498 MHz to 1.83GHz processor with HD Graphics. The screen resolution is 1920×1080, total RAM 1887 MB, and it has 4.36GB reserved for Android OS.

Wintel_W8_AntutuWintel W8 got 30,682 points in Antutu 5.7, which is fairly similar to the score with MeegoPad T01 running Android-x86, and I have compared to Rockchip RK3288 processor.  Rockchip RK3288 devices now get around 36,000 to 39,000 points.

Wintel_W8_VellamoBut Antutu can easily be cheated, so I’ve also run Vellamo 3.x, and compare it to the results I got with HPH NT-V6, another Rockchip RK3288 TV Box.

Vellamo 3.x Test Wintel W8
Intel Atom Z3735F
HPH NT-V6
Rockchip RK3288
Browser 2,683 2,549
Multicore 1,423 2,003
Metal 1,077 1,457

The Intel platform slightly outperform the ARM device in the browser test with the stock Android browser, but Rockchip RK3288 clearly has the edge in  metal and multicore benchmarks.

3DMark_Ice_Storm_ExtremeFinally, 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme shows the limitations of the Intel GPU, as 4771 points is significantly lower than 6,400 points in Allwinner A80 platforms (PowerVR GC6230), and 7,000+ points with ARM Mali-T764 GPU found in Rockchip RK3288.

Conclusion

When it comes to Windows 8.1, I don’t believe there’s much difference between vendors with a given processor, in that case Intel Atom Z3735F, except with eMMC speed, and thermal management. Wintel W8 does not seem to overheat at all, and although the eMMC may not be quite as fast as other low cost bay Trail mini PC I find it’s still acceptable. But dual boot with Android is the selling point of this device, and the Android firmware is actually fairly good with Google Play support, and very stable, but some applications like Office, Kodi, and Skype should still better run in Windows 8.1, and 3D graphics performance is a little weak compared to recent ARM targets.

PRO:

  • Dual boot image with Windows 8.1 with Bing and Android 4.4
  • Google Play pre-installed.
  • Relatively fast processor
  • Stable and fast firmware.
  • Very good Wi-Fi and Ethernet (10/100M) performance

CONS:

  • 32GB internal storage may not be enough for many people: 18GB in Windows 8.1, 4GB+ in Android, and it’s a bit slower than other Intel Atom mini PCs, but performance is still decent.
  • 3D graphics performance is a little weak, and some games can’t be installed in Android.
  • Pre-installed Kodi 15.1 Alpha 1 is not quite as stable, and video playaback is not as good as in Windows 8.1, so use Kodi 14/15 in Windows 8.1 instead
  • Skype and Hangouts not working in Android, but should be OK in Windows 8.1
  • Bluetooth Low Energy not supported
  • Windows 8.1 is not activated (in my sample)

The dual boot firmware helps Wintel W8 being a better device, as some of the cons, such as average Kodi or poor Skype support in Android, can easily be worked around by rebooting into Windows. So this type of device could really be great with 64 or 128GB internal storage, as with 32GB it’s likely to be frustrating over time, with the user having to free space regularly.

Kingnovel provide their K8 box for reviews, and resellers / wholesalers can purchase it in quantities (with 32, 64 or 128GB storage) by contacting the company via their Kingnovel K8 product page, or alternatively you could consider Kingnovel K8-II based on the same hardware but with a metal case instead. Individuals can pre-order Wintel W8 with the same dual boot firmware on the partner’s Aliexpress store or Geekbuying* for $126, although I’m not 100% whether Windows 8.1 with Bing is properly licensed, or they simply use the tablet version. Another model called Wintel CX-W8 can be purchased on Aliexpress for less than $100, but with Windows 8.1 only, and most definitely without a proper Windows license at that price.

[Update: * I’ve been told the following:

Geekbuying website which shows the K8 is not released by Kingnovel…
Actually, There are two original manufacturers for K8, There is a true situation need clarify to you.Our software is not the same as other’s.  our software is “A key switch external” for Android OS and Windows OS. it is very stable for running system.their software is “A key switch internal” for Android OS and Windows OS. It need to upgrade bois every time once switched. it will occur big risk for drop procedure easily.
So basically, that should mean Kingnovel K8 should not be easily brickable like Wintel W8 sold on Geekbuying]
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Wintel W8 Dual boot Android 4.4 + Windows 8.1 mini PC Unboxing

April 24th, 2015 22 comments

Last year, we were promised dual boot mini PC based on Intel that would run Windows 8.1 or Android 4.4, but finally companies decided against shipping a dual boot firmware, and simply loaded Windows 8.1 on their machines. Kingnovel sent me their K8 mini PC, better known as Wintel W8, based on Intel Atom Z3735F, and that can dual boot Windows 8.1 with Bing or Android 4.4. Today, I’ll go through the specs first, take some pictures of the device, and tear it down to have a closer look at the hardware, and in a separate post I’ll quickly check out Windows 8.1, before spending a bit more time on Android 4.4 to see how well or bad Android runs on Intel platforms.

Kingnovel K8 / Wintel W8 specifications

Hardware-wise the box has mostly the same boring specifications as almost any other Intel Atom Z3735F products on the market:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735F “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz (Burst freq: 1.83 GHz) with Intel HD graphics
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC (16, 64 and 128GB as options) + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 (RTL8723BS or AP6330)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Misc – Power Button, power LED, small battery for RTC, IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A
  • Dimensions – 98 x 98 x 22.4 mm
  • Weight – 190 grams

One noticeable difference is the presence of an IR receiver which can be used in Android, but not in Windows… The Android firmware includes the Google Play Store and Kodi 15 alpha.

Wintel W8 Pictures

Kingnovel sent me the parcel with DHL, and I received in a simple cardbox marked with “Wintel Box”.

Wintel_BoxMost of the times Intel mini PC only come with the power supply, but the package also included an HDMI cable.

Wintel_W8_Power_Supply_HDMIThe power supply included takes 100 ~ 240V 50/60 Hz input, and outputs up to 5V/3A.

Kingnovel K8 (Click to Enlarge)

Kingnovel K8 (Click to Enlarge)

The power button and IR receiver are on the front panel, two USB ports and a micro SD slot can be found on the side, with the rear panel featuring an headphone jack, the Ethernet port, HDMI output, a micro USB port, and the power jack.

Wintel W8 Tear-down

You’ll need a small plastic tool to unclip the bottom of the case, which comes out rather easily.

Bottom of W8 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of W8 Board (Click to Enlarge)

We’ll find a battery for RTC as well as the 32GB FORESEE NCEFEH58-32G eMMC flash on the bottom of the board. There are also a few through holes on the bottom right, and an unused 10-pin connector on the left of the board, but I can’t really guess what these are for. The Wi-Fi antenna can be seen on the left of the enclosure.

Kingnovel_K8_Board_OpenYou’ll need to remove four small screws to completely take out the board from the case. There’s a heatisnk on the Intel processor, as well as another metallic plate for cooling fastened to the top of the plastic enclosure.

W8 Board (Click to Enlarge)

W8 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Four SK Hynix H5TC4G63AFR DDR3L chips are used to get 2GB RAM, Genesis Logic GL852G USB hub is for the USB ports, and the Wi-Fi module used in this board is Realtek RTL8723BS. The IR receiver / LED is located on the top left of the picture, and we can find the recovery switch right behind the headphone jack.

Kingnovel can provide their K8 box to resellers and wholesalers, and if you’d like to purchase in quantities you could contact them via their Kingnovel K8 product page. Individuals can pre-order Wintel W8, which should feature the same dual boot firmware, on Geekbuying for $126.  A model called Wintel CX-W8 is also available on Aliexpress for just under $100, but with Windows 8.1 only, and most probably without a proper Windows license.

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Popcorn Hour VTEN Review

April 17th, 2015 7 comments

Popcorn Hour VTEN a Linux based media player powered by Sigma Designs SMP8757 ARM Cortex A9 processor. Contrary to the many Android TV boxes I tested in the last few years, the device is dedicated to media playback, even though it has an App Store with 59 apps including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. I’ve already taken a few pictures of the device and board, so today, I’ll go through the user interface, quickly test the app store, go through my library of video test files, and check if HDMI audio pass-through is indeed working.

Popcorn Hour VTEN User Interface

I’ve connected VTEN to an Ethernet Gigabit switch, the HDMI port to Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver which itself is connected to LG 42UB820T 4K UHD TV, and the 5V/3A power supply. Pressing the On/Off switch at the back of the player will start it, and the boot takes just under one minute.

Popcorn_Hour_VTEN_User_InterfaceThe user interface (1280×720 resolution) is quite simple, not necessarily a disadvantage for a media player, with the date, time and weather (if applicable) on the top, as well as icons on the bottom namely: Apps Market, Local Media, Recently Played, Shortcut, Setup, Setup Wizard, and Network Media.

I assume most people will simply ignore the Apps Market. It’s quite slow to navigate, and only features 59 apps to date, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter app. However, if you don’t have another device to watch YouTube on your TV, you may still consider using it.

The Setup Wizard will allow you select your language, configure the network, and set the time and your location for weather. The Setup is fairly complete with preferences, personalization options (e.g. wallpaper, icon and text colors…), audio options with downmix / pass-through selection for most codecs including PCM, DTS and AC3 (Dolby),  video options including resolution up to 1080p60 or 4K 30Hz, default zoom, aspect ratio, 3D output, and so on. You can also configure the network (IP / Proxy), manage network shares (SAMBA / NFS), configure parental control, set BD/Audio CD options, and upgrade the firmware.

The first time I booted the box, I quickly got a pop-up windows asking me if I wanted to upgrade the firmware. I went through the process, which downloaded the firmware and install it without any issues.

Popcorn_Hour_VTEN_OTA_Firmware_update

I used this “1 April 2015″ firmware for the complete review.

Local Media and Network Media allows you to respectively play files from USB or eSATA drive, or SAMBA or NFS shares. I did all testing from a SAMBA share, but while a USB flash drive was recognize, a Seagate USB hard drive with multiple partitions (NTFS / EXT-4 / exFAT / BTRFS) was simply ignore by the player. I could not test eSATA since I do not have any compatible drive. Finally the Shortcut is used for quick access to directories in Local Media or Network Media apps.

The best way to have a complete look at the user interface is to watch the video below, where I also test HDMI pass-through with DTS-HD MA 7.1 and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 videos, as well as 4K videos with H.264 and 10-bit HEVC / H.265.

Video Playback and Audio Pass-through Testing

I played my library of video test files from a SAMBA share running in an Ubuntu 14.04 computer with the Network Media app. The system had no issues finding my workgroups, and the PCs on the local network. The only inconvenience is that I had to input the username and password with the software keyboard using the remote control, but I guess that’s OK since it should be a one time thing.

I’ve started with some video samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus H.265 videos by 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 – Failed. Network Media app reports “No content found”.  .rmvb files are probably filtered out
  • WebM / VP8 – Failed. Network Media app reports “No file listed”, as .webm files are filtered out
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – 360p, 720p and 1080p – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – Failed. Network Media app reports “No content found”. (webm file)

All files play very well, expect VP8/VP9 and RealMedia because the file extensions are supported, and did not show in the player.

Let’s move to 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, but could be smoother (Most players are troubles playing this file smoothly).
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

The Jellyfish video played fine over the Gigabit Ethernet connection, which is good news, however, I’ve seen some buffering with some other lower bitrate videos, so I wonder is Ethernet is 100% stable all of the time (TBC).

Most Android media player don’t support HD Audio pass-through via HDMI with codecs like DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD, but Sigma Designs solution have been supporting HDMI audio pass-through for years. So I’ve check using Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver via HDMI and optical S/PDIF, and I’ve also made sure to check whether downmix is working for all tested codec.

Here are the settings I used for HDMI audio pass-through.

And the results of my tests:

Video’s Audio Codec HDMI downmix HDMI Pass-through optical SPDIF Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK OK OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 No Audio OK
Dolby TrueHD 7.1 No Audio OK
DTS-HD Master OK OK
DTS-HD High Resolution OK OK

So HDMI audio pass-through worked perfectly for me, and VTEN is the first device I’ve tested that support DTS-HD and TrueHD pass-through with 7.1 channels. However, if you don’t own an AV receiver, but still want to play video with Dolby TrueHD audio, you’re out of the luck, at least with this firmware version.  The first line of the release notes of the firmware reads “Improve on Dolby TrueHD pass-through audio drop or audio-out-of-sync problems (reduce chance of happening)”, but I encountered this bug a few times during testing. The only solution is currently to stop the video, and resume where you stopped.

Sintel-Bluray.iso (unencrypted Bluray ISO) could play fine, as well as two 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg). However, I could only get audio with Hi10p H.264 videos:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – Audio only / black screen. Shows 1,000 fps in Info overlay.
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – Audio only / black screen. Lots of buffering despite low bitrate.

VTEN supports 4K output up to 2160p 30Hz via HDMI 1.4 output, so I tested a few 4K videos with relative success:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK (Appears cleaner than on other platforms, not white dots on black)
  • 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, but seeking is not working.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Not listed in Network Media app
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – WBlack screen and no audio
  • tears_of_steel_4k_H264_24fps.mov – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Plays OK (up to 30 fps), but I’ve noticed audio and video are out of sync

Overall 4K video playback is one of the best I’ve experienced so far. I’ve also check videos and pictures are not somehow downscaled but playing a 4K video test pattern, and taking a close up, as I did for 6 other ARM based 4K players.
Popcorn_Hour_VTEN_4K_Video
The 4K video looks very sharp, and we can clearly see black and white pixels of the pattern video.

Popcorn_Hour_VTEN_4K_PictureBut jpg or png pictures are not quite as clear, so they must have been software decoded to the 720p frame buffer, instead of being rendered on an hardware scaler @ 4K resolution.

The latest Popcorn Hour model supports 3D videos, and despite my TV not supporting 3D, I’ve also checked 3D decoding capability of the platform:

  • 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

I’ve never manage to play the 2160p 3D video on any video, as it must require two 2160p hardware video decoders capable of decoding the top and bottom videos in the file.

Several AVI, MKV, IFO and MP4 videos (720p/1080p) could play smoothly, and without A/V sync issues. I had a bit less luck with FLV videos as only about 50% would work. One made the app restart, and I had a black screen and no audio for many of them. I also played a full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) with any troubles. The box does not really get hot, and the maximum temperature I measured with an IR thermometer was 41 C.

You can checkout my “video samples” post for links to sample videos, especially the comments section.

Conclusion

Popcorn Hour VTEN is a pretty decent 4K media player, and it’s actually one of the best 4K and H.265 device I’ve tested so far, as well as the only one that supports both DTS-HD Master / High Resolution, and Dolby TrueHD HDMI audio pass-through. The player is also using the same high quality metal enclosure as in Open Hour Chameleon which ensure a relatively cool operation.

That’s not to say there aren’t any issues or limitations. For example, the device could not recognize any partitions on my hard drive (NTFS/ EXT-4 / exFAT / BTRFS), some video containers format are filtered out like webm and rmvb, and I had trouble playing several FLV videos, as well as Hi10p videos, and a black screen was all I got. I’ve also come across several bugs, such as losing audio after seeking or using trick mode while playing videos with HDMI audio pass-through enabled (Not reproducible with all files), and in one case I had video and audio were out of sync. Hopefully, Cloud Media will work through all these issues over time, and make VTEN an even better device.

Price may also be an hindrance, as I’ve noticed Chromeboxes seems popular Kodi devices, and an Asus Chromebox M004U costs just $159.99 in the US with features similar to what VTEN is capable of, except for H.265/HEVC video decoding, and 4K video output and decoding.

Popcorn Hour VTEN can be purchased on Cloud Media website for $169 + shipping, and WP-160N wireless USB adapter (802.11n) is also offered for $11.90.  You can also find both on eBay for the same price.

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Popcorn Hour VTEN 4K Linux Media Player Unboxing & Teardown

April 16th, 2015 6 comments

Cloud Media (aka Syabas) sent me their latest Popcorn Hour VTEN media player. It supports HDMI output up to 4K, H.265 video codec, and features an eSATA connector, as well as optical and coaxial S/PDIF connectors. Today, I’ll show some pictures of the kit, and teardown the box to checkout the hardware, and in a few days, I’ll report on the user interface, video playback, and HDMI audio pass-through capabilities.

Popcorm Hour VTEN Unboxing

The unexpected device was sent via Fedex in the package shown below.

Popcorn_Hour_VTEN_packageIt lists some of the key features such as H.265, DSD (Direct Stream Digital), FLAC, Matroska, UPnP, 3D, and 4K Ultra HD support, as well as the specs, and more features and package content in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Swedish, and Danish.

Popcorn Hour VTEN, Remote, Cables, Power Supply, User's Guide, and Warranty (Click to Enlarge)

Popcorn Hour VTEN, Remote, Cables, Power Supply, User’s Guide, and Warranty (Click to Enlarge)

The box comes with an IR remote control and two AAA batteries, an HDMI cable, a SATA cable, a 5V/3A power supply, a quick start guide, and a warranty document.

Popcorn Hour V10 (Click to Enlarge)

Popcorn Hour V10 (Click to Enlarge)

The device itself looks very similar to Open Hour Chameleon, as they basically used the same metallic enclosure.

VTEN (aka V10) media player comes with two LEDs and the IR receiver window on the front panel, an SD card slot and a USB 2.0 host port on one side, with the rest of the port all available on the rear panel: an IR extension jack, optical and coaxial S/PDIF output, HDMI output, an Ethernet port, another USB 2.0 port, the eSATA port, an On/Off switch, and the power barrel.

Popcorn Hour VTEN Teardown

Opening the case is pretty easy, as all you need to do is to loosen four screws on the bottom.

Bottom of PCH V10 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of PCH V10 Board (Click to Enlarge)

The only interesting bit on this side is the MAC address with 00:06:DC prefix looking-up to “Syabas Technology (Amquest)”. To completely remove the board from the enclosure, you need to loosen two screws on the rear panel, and the four screws holding the PCB in place, before sliding the board out.
Popcorn_Hour_VTEN_HeatsinkJust like with the Chameleon. thermal design has been neatly done with an aluminum ingot screwed to the metallic enclosure, and a thermal pad providing contact with the Sigma Designs processor.

Top of PCH V10 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Top of PCH V10 Board (Click to Enlarge)

The full name of the processor is “Sigma Designs SMP8757B80-CBE3 Secure Media Processor”. An SK Hynix H27U4G8F2ETR NAND flash provides 512MB internal storage, and two SK Hynix H5TQ4G63AFR DDR3 chips 1GB system memory. One of the two headers might provide access to the serial console for some hacking. There’s no wireless module for WI-Fi or Bluetooth, so an external USB dongle is required if you need wireless connectivity.

Popcorn Hour VTEN can be purchased on Cloud Media website for $169 + shipping, and WP-160N wireless USB adapter (802.11n) is also offered for $11.90.  You can also find both on eBay for the same price.

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Kodi 14.2 Linux Tested on MeLE PCG03 with Ubuntu 15.04

April 7th, 2015 No comments

I’ve already tested Kodi 14.1 on MeLE PCG03 running Windows 8.1, with the Intel Atom Z3735F device performing greatly for 1080p videos, working DTS and Dolby pass-through (no HD Audio though) and automatic frame rate switching working at all frequencies I tested. Later I installed Lubuntu 15.04 on the mini PC, and I had planned to test Kodi 14.x in Linux to compare the performance in Windows 8.1. Unfortunately, I did not manage to mak HDMI audio, nor the audio jack work in Linux, so instead I purchased a cheap USB sound card from DealExtreme for around $2 US, and connected a pair of USB powered speakers to enable audio output.

Kodi 14.2 in MeLE PCG03 (Click for Original Size)

Kodi 14.2 in MeLE PCG03 (Click for Original Size)

The USB sound card performs pretty well, and out of the 80 or so videos I used for testing, only one had some saturation issues likely due to the sound card itself. I installed Kodi 14.2 using the recommended instructions for Ubuntu:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install kodi

The refresh rate indicated in the System Information section oscillates around 30 fps, or a bit lower than the ~45 fps I got in Windows 8.1.

Unless otherwise noted, all videos has been played from a SAMBA share over an Ethernet connection. My findings should also be applicable to other Intel Atom Z3735F / Z3736F based mini PCs such as MeegoPad T01PiPo X7, or MINIX NEO Z64 provided you’ve also booted a Linux distribution on the devices. The only potential difference is thermal management, where devices that dissipate heat better may be able to sustain a constant frame rate for a longe period of time, especially for 60 fps videos. That’s also one of the reason you may want to switch from Windows 8.1 to Linux, as reported by one reader with Pipo X7, but personally I have not noticed slowdown on MeLE PCG03 for any videos.

The computer was connected to LG 42UB820T 4K Ultra HD television via HDMI, but the resolution was set to 1920×1080, the maximum supported by the hardware.

I’ve first played videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, 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. But Kodi reports decoding at 24 fps, instead of the video native 25 fps.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK, but the live framerate is around 24fps instead of 25 fps.
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – 360p, 720p and 1080p – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Linux seems to perform a bit better than Windows 8.1, especially as it can handle 720p and 1080p H.265 / HEVC video with were hardly watchable in videos. Real Media framerate is also more constant, but MPEG4 is not set at exactly to 25 fps like in Windows, something that’s not really noticeable to me.

Time for some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – 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) – Most of the time OK, but plays at 18 to 24 fps instead of 29.970 fps
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (using USB hard drive)

HDDVD video plays better in Windows 8.1 here as it could achieve a stable 24 fps.

High definition audio codecs below have only been tested using PCM downsampling, simply because HDMI audio is not working, and there’s no S/PDIF output. I’ll update the post with HDMI audio pass-through with Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver, once a software fix can be applied for HDMI audio.

Video’s Audio Codec PCM Output HDMI Pass-through SPDIF Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK Not tested No S/PDIF Output on MeLE PCG03
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK Not tested
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK Not tested
TrueHD 5.1 Audio cuts and slow mo at the end Not tested Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 7.1 OK Not tested
DTS HD Master OK Not tested
DTS HD High Resolution Slow motion video Not tested

While Kodi 14.1 in Windows 8.1 had no problems at all with all videos using PCM downsampling, Kodi 14.2 Linux struggled to play all videos perfectly.

Sintel-Bluray.iso could play fine, so unencrypted Bluray ISO are supported. My two 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play, but GridHD.mpg image sparkled (correct word here?). I’ve also been asked to test 10-bit H.264 1080p videos, but I could only find a 10-bit H.264 720p video sample ([Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv) which played flawlessly.

4K video output is not supported by the hardware, however the Atom processor can decode some 4K videos (e.g. H.264 codec), but newer H.265 and VP9 codec can’t be handled at that resolution:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Plays, but not so smooth (18 fps instead of 29.97 fps)
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Kodi reports ~12 fps, but feels even slower
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Kodi reports ~12 fps, but feels even slower
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t play at all (stays in XBMC UI)
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Slow motion: 9 to 12 fps instead of 24 fps.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Plays at about 13 fps.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play at all (stays in XBMC UI)

Performance is quite similar between Ubuntu 15.04 and Windows 8.1, except for the “Chimei” video which played well in Windows, but not so smoothly in Linux.

Despite my TV not supporting 3D, I’ve also played some 3D videos to check video decoding capabilities:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – 25 fps instead of 60 fps, and audio cuts.
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Plays at about 8 fps, and frequent audio cuts.
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Disappointment here for Kodi Linux, as in Windows the 1080p over/under video could play fine at 60 fps. The other two videos have about the same results.

All my AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB, IFO and MP4 videos could play smoothly, and without A/V sync issues. However, while in Windows I had a very stable live framerate reported in Kodi debug overlay, it was fluctuating a bit more in Linux. I’m not entirely sure if it is just the way the frame rate is reported, or if there are real differences between the two, as videos seemed smooth in Linux too.

In Windows 8.1, I was also to play a full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB), with Kodi reporting only 1 skipped frame over the whole movie, instead of the usual 14,000 or so skipped frames in Android. Kodi 14.2 in Ubuntu was also very good with that regards as only 2 skipped frame where reported… in my second try. The first try ended up after just over 30 minutes as the complete system froze, requiring a hard reboot. PCG03 froze another time as Kodi was idle, but maybe it’s because I’m using Ubuntu 15.04 Development Branch…

Finally I tested automatic frame rate switching with some motion bars video at different frame rates. First, I went to Settings->Video, changed the Settings level to Advanced, and set Adjust display refresh rate to match video to On start/stop. The results I got are exactly the same as in Windows 8.1, and this feature works very well. The “Video Output” is what shows when I press the Info button on the remote control of my TV:

  • 23.976 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p24
  • 24 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p24
  • 25 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p50
  • 30 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p60
  • 50 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p50
  • 59.94 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p60
  • 60 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p60

Kodi 14.x performance in Windows 8.1 and Linux (Ubuntu) is quite similar in MeLE PCG03, but it looks like the GUI is rendered at a higher framerate in Windows, and the live framerate reported in Kodi debug overlay is more stable for most videos in Windows too. I’ve also had some stability issues in Linux with two system hangs, and two of the videos I use for audio codec testing did not play very smoothly. One advantage in Linux, or maybe Kodi 14.2, is that H.265 up to 1080p plays smoothly, something that was not feasible in Kodi 14.1 in Windows 8.1 when I tried last January.

If you want to experiment yourself, you can download the video samples used for my reviews. Mostly check the links in comments section.

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Xiaomi Mi Box Mini Review

April 4th, 2015 21 comments

After showing pictures of Xiami Mi Box Mini, it’s now time for a “review”, but a bit different from my other reviews, or Xiaomi tiny media player is much different. First the firmware is in Chinese only, and there’s only one external port HDMI output. So first I’ll show the user interface is Chinese, then explain how you can install your own Android apps, and finally run some benchmark to evaluates Mediatek MT8568, Wi-Fi and storage performance.

Xiaomi Mi Box Mini Setup and Chinese User Interface

The device is super small, but in my case it was almost too big, as it takes enough space to potentially cause problems with the adjacent plug.

Mibox_mini_power_extension

This little issue will of course depend on your power extension.  You then need to connect the 1.5 meter HDMI cable, which should be long enough for most setups, and you’ll see some guide asking you to remove the plastic sheet under the battery on the Bluetooth remote, and showing how to use the remote (I guess).

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_SetupAfter that you need to configure Wi-Fi, which should be relatively straightforward even you can’t read a word a Chinese, and then you get to the user interface.Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_User_InterfaceWe are told the box runs Android, but all visual traces of that are gone including the setup.

I’ve recorded a video of the user interface with Zidoo X9 recorder to show what you’d get.

So if you can’t read Chinese, you’ll be up for a struggle, and the only think you may be able to use is Miracast function, although I had mixed luck making it work with my mobile phone (M6752). Alternatively, there’s a QR code in the user manual linking to an app that will allow you to display your mobile’s photos and videos on the big screen.

If you are an oversea Chinese you may have though it could have been a nice option to watch Chinese shows and movie online, but unfortunately most of the content is only copyrighted for China viewing, or you’d need to setup a VPN.

Xiaomi_Movie_Copyright_China_OnlyI’ve been told the two lines in the picture above translated into “Your current region does not support the playback of this channel” and “Downloading source information” so no Fast and Furious 7 for me…

There’s an option to enable adb.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_adb

But I had no luck connecting to the box with adb over Wi-Fi, and whatever setting I choose adb port is not open.

sudo nmap -sS 192.168.0.109

Starting Nmap 6.40 ( http://nmap.org ) at 2015-04-03 16:27 ICT
Nmap scan report for 192.168.0.109
Host is up (0.0065s latency).
Not shown: 994 closed ports
PORT     STATE SERVICE
1080/tcp open  socks
5000/tcp open  upnp
7000/tcp open  afs3-fileserver
7100/tcp open  font-service
9003/tcp open  unknown
9876/tcp open  sd
MAC Address: 10:48:B1:95:5D:86 (Beijing Duokan Technology Limited)

Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 28.07 seconds

Finally, as I tried the box, I got a pop-up for a new firmware that I happily installed. Unfortunately, I turned out to be a bad idea since this also removed the menu required to side-load apks to the board. So I had to downgrade the firmware, something that’s very easy to do since there’s an option for that.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Firmware_DowngradeSimply go to the firmware upgrade menu, and click on the right button, a window will pop-up asking if you really want to downgrade from MIUI TV 1.3.72 to MIUI TV 1.3.76. Accept by selecting the left button.

Changing Xiaomi Mi Box Mini Language and Side-loading Apps

A shop posted video instructions to help users change the language and load apps, including Google Play. To do so, click on the third icon from the left in the launcher, and select the fifth option on the top menu.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Remote_Connection

If the third Blue option is missing, then your firmware may have removed the option to side-load apps, and should you try to downgrade the firmware as mentioned above. If you can’t do that, I don’t know other solutions to change to English and install apps.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Side-load_appsUpon entering the third options, you’ll ne shown an address, in my case http://192.168.0.109:6095/443 that you need to type in your mobile or computer’s browser, and will allow you copy files to the device over Wi-Fi.

Xiaomi Mi Box Mini File Uploader (Click to Enlarge)

Xiaomi Mi Box Mini File Uploader (Click to Enlarge)

A bunch of apk have been provided, including Google services, Google Play, and YouTube, but unfortunately, so the only one you really need to download is Shafaguanjia.apk, as it will allow you to access Android settings, and change the language and input method, as well as upload more apk, which may fail with the Xiaomi uploader. Once the file is transfered to Mi Box Mini, you’ll get the usual installation prompt asking to review permissions before installation, and installation is complete, you should see “Shafa Market” app (in Chinese) shown in the right of the main screen.

Start the app, select the Setup icon to enter the “standard” Android settings, scroll down until your the the options for Language (“A” icon), select the first options, and you should be able to select English, simplified Chinese, or traditional Chinese as shown in the picture below.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_English

Now get a bunch of apk you want to install, for example with APK Downloader, and since the default web uploader does not seem to work for all apk, instead go to the last option to the right of the top menu in Shafa market, and click on the bottom right icon (Computer + Smartphone) in order to get another address to upload, for example http://192.168.0.109:8899.

Shafa_Market_Apk_installation

Upload Option in Shafa Market

The webpage is similar to the Xiaomi one, with a single green button to browse your local storage and install apps.

Shafa_Market_Apk_DownloaderI’ve installed a bunch of application include ES File Explorer, Antutu, Vellamo, CPU-Z, Google Play, Chrome (there’s no web browser by default), Amazon appstore, Kodi 14.2, and so on. For some unknown reasons, Firefox Android browser was transfer to Xiaomi box but the installation window did not show up. Once you have installed Shafa Market, you can safely upgrade your Xiaomi Mi Box Mini firmware.

Xiami_Mi_Box_Mini_App_InstallationThe Bluetooth is a standard remote, e.g. not a magic remote with pointer, so many android apps won’t work. You should be able to work around this by using a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, but I don’t happen to have any, and since the device is not rooted it might not be possible to install a server (e.g. DroidMote) to be used with a smartphone remote app. So I had to give up on using Amazon Appstore, 3Dmark benchmark, and iperf, and I did not even bother side-loading any games for that reason. Chrome browser is working, but you may have to select “Request desktop site” with the menu key in order to be able to click on links…

If you want to see I’ve shot another video with the user interface in English and a few extra apps.

Since I forgot to include Kodi in the video above, and I’m sure some people would ask, I’ve also tried to play a few samples including Sintel Blu-ray in Kodi 14.2 from a SAMBA share. It sort of work for some videos, but in many cases the system struggle to have a decent framerate, or there are massive artifacts.

Xiami Mi Box Mini Benchmarks

Mediatek MT8685 is a completely new processor to me, so I had to run CPU-Z first.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_CPU-ZThe processor indeed features  four Cortex A7 cores @ 598MHz to 1.51 GHz with a Mali-450 MP GPU.

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Forrestgump_CPU-ZThe board is called forrestgump, the screen resolution is 1920×1080, and there’s just 968 MB RAM, and 2.13 GB storage available from the internal flash.

The box gets 21,091 points in Antutu 5.6.1, but the score is probably higher than it should because it was only performed on part of the screen (830×1080 instead of 1920×1080), hence affecting 2D and 3D graphics scores positively.

Antutu 5.6.2 on Mi Box Mini (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 5.6.2 on Mi Box Mini (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve also run Vellamo 3.1 which in most cases places Xiaomi Mi Box Mini close LG Nexus 4 smartphone powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad core processor (APQ8064).

Xiaomi_Mi_Box_Mini_Vellamo_3.1You can get the comparison charts for Multicore, Metal, and Browser.

I’ve also tried to run 3DMark, but I could not download Ice Storm package due to input issues.

I can’t report about Wi-Fi performance either since ES File Explorer failed to copy a file from SAMBA to flash, and I could not use iperf, again due to input issues as the software keyboard would not show up when needed…

I still managed to run A1SD bench to evaluate internal storage performance, but there’s no little storage, that the utility detected Cache reads. The reported read speed is 57.11 MB/s, and write speed is 12.41 MB/s.

Mibox_mini_storage_performance

Read & Write Speed in MB/s

Conclusion

If you live in China, Xiao Mi Box Mini may be a nice little device giving you access to lots of content. If you can read Chinese, and live overseas, be prepared to setup a VPN to China, and you may access the many online videos and movies, but if you don’t read a word of Chinese, switching to English will require some efforts, and many apps won’t work as expected, unless possibly if you get a Bluetooth air mouse or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Provided the latter work, you could get a decent little box for web browsing, some casual gaming, watching videos and so on. Just don’t expect Google Play, YouTube. etc… to work.

In case you’d still like to give it a try, GearBest, who kindly provided a sample for review, sells it  for $42.98 with coupon MIBOX, but you can also purchase on other websites such as GeekBuying, Aliexpress, or eBay for around $50.

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Cubieboard 4 Ubuntu Review – Setup, Usability, and Performance

April 1st, 2015 6 comments

Cubieboard4 is a development board powered by Allwinner A80 octa-core processor with 2GB RAM and 16GB eMMC. I’ve already shown how to get started with the board using the pre-installed Android 4.4 image, and run some benchmarks in Android, so now it’s time to check out the Ubuntu Linaro 14.04 image provided by CubieTech. I’ll show how to install and setup Ubuntu 14.04 on the board using a micro SD card, run desktop applications like Chromium, Libre Office, and son on on the board, and complete the review with some Linux benchmarks.

Setting up Ubuntu on Cubieboard4

Firmware images for Cubiebord4 can be downloaded @ http://dl.cubieboard.org/model/cc-a80/Image/. Currently Android 4.4, Debian server, Ubuntu Linaro server, and Ubuntu Linaro desktop with LXDE desktop environment. That’s the latter I’ll use for the experiment, and two images are available:

  • linaro-desktop-cb4-card-hdmi-v0.4.img.7z – Bootable image from micro SD card
  • linaro-desktop-cb4-emmc-hdmi-v0.4.img.7z – Installation image to eMMC to be written to micro SD card (and not via PhoenixSuite).

I’ve just downloaded and flash the “card” image to a 32GB Class 10 micro SD card in a terminal windows in a Linux computer:

wget http://dl.cubieboard.org/model/cc-a80/Image/ubuntu-linaro/ubuntu-linaro-v0.4/linaro-desktop-cb4-card-hdmi-v0.4.img.7z
7z x linaro-desktop-cb4-card-hdmi-v0.4.img.7z
sudo dd if=linaro-desktop-cb4-card-hdmi-v0.4.img | pv | sudo dd of=/dev/sdX bs=16M

where X is the letter of your SD card, which you can check with lsblk. Be very careful as using the wrong letter may wipe out your hard drive, and you may consider using a virtual machine to be extra safe. This step also be done in a Windows computer with 7-zip and Win32DiskImager utilities.

Now insert the micro SD card into the board, connect the necessary cable, and power it on. After around 35 seconds, maybe a little more the first time, I get a usable desktop. Your own boot time will obviously be impacted by your micro SD card performance.

Cubieboard4_Ubuntu_LXDE

Lubuntu Desktop (Click for Original Size)

Firefox and Nautilus are not part of the default image, but I’ve installed them with apt-get, and added shortcuts to the desktop.

Usually, you need to run gparted or resize2fs to make full use if your SD card capacity, but this is automatically taken care of by the image, and my root partition was automatically extended to 30GB:

linaro@cubieboard4:~$ df -h
Filesystem       Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/root         30G  4.2G   25G  15% /
devtmpfs         814M  4.0K  814M   1% /dev
none             4.0K     0  4.0K   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
none             163M  476K  163M   1% /run
none             5.0M     0  5.0M   0% /run/lock
none             814M     0  814M   0% /run/shm
none             100M  4.0K  100M   1% /run/user
/dev/mmcblk1p2   128M  5.6M  123M   5% /media/mmcblk1p2
/dev/mmcblk1p7   756M  587M  170M  78% /media/linaro/57f8f4bc-abf4-655f-bf67-946fc0f9f25b
/dev/mmcblk1p10  630M   11M  620M   2% /media/linaro/57f8f4bc-abf4-655f-bf67-946fc0f9f25b1
/dev/mmcblk1p1   5.7G  3.4G  2.4G  59% /media/linaro/57f8f4bc-abf4-655f-bf67-946fc0f9f25b2
/dev/mmcblk0p1    12M  6.1M  5.9M  51% /media/linaro/29BC-6723

Since I’m connected to Internet via an Ethernet connection I did not have to configure anything else, except the timezone set with:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure tzdata

At this stage, you’ve got a fully workable ARM Linux computer, although if you want to use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and/or a printer more configuration work is required, but I haven’t tried any of these.

Cubieboard4 Usability as a Desktop Computer

The image is quite minimal, and beside Pacman file manager and a few other small programs, only Chromium browser is already installed. So I installed Firefox, Libre Office, Nautilis and Gimp with apt-get:

sudo apt-get install libreoffice nautilus firefox gimp

The system is quite responsive, although programs don’t quite load as fast as from an SSD or eMMC, and you need to wait a few seconds for Chromium or Libre Office to load.

Since the font looked quite poor in Chromium, I installed Firefox, but I had the same results. So finally I installed Ubuntu fonts:

sudo apt-get install ttf-ubuntu-font-family

and configured the web browsers accordingly leading to much better font rendering.

I’ve run the following tests in Cubieboard4 to show the performance, and what is working or not:

  1. 30 seconds boot
  2. List of installed applications
  3. LibreOffice (Writer)
  4. Chromium – Multi-tabs, YouTube (embedded / full screen; VP9), and Candy Crush Saga (Flash game) in Facebook
  5. 3D hardware acceleration with es2gears and glmark2-es2
  6. 1080p video playback with VideoLAN
  7. Power off

I also ran htop in a terminal to show the eight cores CPU usage. Sorry the video is not quite straight and audio is poor with SJ1000 camera.

The system is working quite well, except with YouTube videos which are not so smooth, because YouTube has now mostly switched to VP9 codec, and 3D support failed with “DRI2: failed to authenticate”. Candy Crush Saga worked fine, although not amazingly smooth, but performance is not that much different from my regular Ubuntu PC for that game. 2D hardware acceleration is supposed to be implemented (a80-xf86-video-fbturbo), but I’m not quite sure how to formally test this. H.264 and MPEG4 video could be played in VideoLAN with only one CPU core use confirming hardware video decoding support, but MPEG2, VC1 and H.265 codecs all failed.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

In the screenshot above, I play Big Buck Bunny in VideoLAN on the top left corner, but since hardware video decoding is activated, the video won’t show in the screenshot, which is perfectly normal.

Even though Cubieboard4 Ubuntu support is not too bad right now, I still think ODROID-XU3 Lite delivers a better Linux experience, especially when using an eMMC module, as programs load faster, 3D acceleration is working, as well as Kodi with hardware video decoding. The only downside is that flash (Chromium + pepperflash) did not work when I tried on XU3 Lite, but this may have been fixed by now.

Cubieboard4 Performance Testing in Linux

Phoronix Suite Benchmarks

I’ve installed the latest version of Phoronix Test Suite to run a few benchmarks in Linux:

sudo apt-get install php5-cli php5-gd 
wget http://phoronix-test-suite.com/releases/repo/pts.debian/files/phoronix-test-suite_5.4.1_all.deb
sudo dpkg -i phoronix-test-suite_5.4.1_all.deb

After configure the test suite for batch benchmark with

phoronix-test-suite batch-setup

I decide to run the same three tests as on ODROID-XU3 Lite, encoding MP3, compressing files, and performing some HTTP server tasks:

phoronix-test-suite batch-benchmark pts/encode-mp3 pts/compress-7zip pts/apache

Unfortunately, apache failed to compiled, so only the MP3 and 7-zip test completed.

Cubieboard4_vs_ODROID-XU3-Lite_MP3So the only direct comparison with the test I’ve done between ODROID-XU3 Lite and Cubieboard4 is for MP3 encoding, and in this test the Exynos platform is faster, but the Allwinner A80 board still compares favorably to slower or/and older ARM board like Radxa Rock, ODROID-C1, or PCDuino (cpu test) in 7-Zip test, especially this test runs on all available cores.

7-Zip_Cubieboard4_Radxa_Rock_ODROID-C1

 Mainline kernel compilation

Now let’s see how fast the board build Linux 3.19.

sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev gcc make git exuberant-ctags
git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git
cd linux-stable
git checkout -b stable v3.19

Mainline kernel requires gcc 4.9 to build, but Ubuntu 14.04 only comes with gcc 4.8.2, so let’s install the new compiler. Since add-apt-repository is missing, we have to install the relevant package first:

sudo apt-get install software-properties-common

We’ll also need to edit /etc/lsb-release to replace DISTRIB_ID=Linaro by DISTRIB_ID=Ubuntu temporarly, as the toolchain repo has never heard about a Linaro distribution, and then we can complete gcc 4.9 installation.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-toolchain-r/test
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gcc-4.9

Allwinner enginners themselves are not directly involved in mainline kernel develompent, but they are usually in the loop when members of linux-sunxi community send patchsets to the ARM Linux kernel mailing list, which mean Allwinner processor are supported in mainline kernel, albeit with limitation. Allwinner A80 codename is sun9i, and we can see a device tree file for A80 OptimusBoard:

linaro@cubieboard4:~/linux-stable$ ls -l arch/arm/boot/dts/ | grep sun9
-rw-rw-r-- 1 linaro linaro   3561 Apr  1 13:23 sun9i-a80-optimus.dts
-rw-rw-r-- 1 linaro linaro  12608 Apr  1 13:23 sun9i-a80.dtsi

Nevertheless, I’ve built the kernel using sunxi default config used for all Allwinner platforms:

make sunxi_defconfig
time make -j8 CC=gcc-4.9
...
OBJCOPY arch/arm/boot/zImage
Kernel: arch/arm/boot/zImage is ready

real    6m36.198s
user    34m6.070s
sys    4m32.100s

So Cubieboard4 took 6 minutes on 36 seconds to build Linux 3.19, while ODROID-XU3 Lite took 5 minutes 43 seconds to build Linux 3.18, not too bad, but this is show some performance advantage for the Exynos processor.

Video Transcoding with avconv

Ideally video transcoding should not be done by software, since most ARM processors can handle MPEG2 to H.264 transcoding using the VPU, but this can still be useful to evaluate a processor performance, so just like for ODROID-XU3 Lite, I’ve converted a short MPEG2 into H.264 with avconc:

sudo apt-get install libav-tools
time avconv -i big_buck_bunny_1080p_MPEG2_MP2_25fps_6600K.MPG \
-vcodec libx264 -minrate 300k -maxrate 300k -bufsize 1835k bbb-h.264.avi
avconv version 9.11-6:9.11-2ubuntu2, Copyright (c) 2000-2013 the Libav developers
 built on Mar 24 2014 06:21:10 with gcc 4.8 (Ubuntu/Linaro 4.8.2-17ubuntu1)
Guessed Channel Layout for Input Stream #0.1 : stereo
Input #0, mpeg, from 'big_buck_bunny_1080p_MPEG2_MP2_25fps_6600K.MPG':
 Duration: 00:00:44.74, start: 0.240000, bitrate: 7159 kb/s
 Stream #0.0[0x1e0]: Video: mpeg2video (Main), yuv420p, 1920x1080 [PAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], 9792 kb/s, 24.75 fps, 25 tbr, 90k tbn, 50 tbc
 Stream #0.1[0x1c0]: Audio: mp2, 44100 Hz, stereo, s16p, 160 kb/s
[libx264 @ 0x6c9c0] using SAR=1/1
[libx264 @ 0x6c9c0] MB rate (734400000) > level limit (2073600)
[libx264 @ 0x6c9c0] using cpu capabilities: ARMv6 NEON
[libx264 @ 0x6c9c0] profile High, level 5.2
Output #0, avi, to 'bbb-h.264.avi':
 Metadata:
 ISFT : Lavf54.20.3
 Stream #0.0: Video: libx264, yuv420p, 1920x1080 [PAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], q=-1--1, 90k tbn, 90k tbc
 Stream #0.1: Audio: libmp3lame, 44100 Hz, stereo, s16p
Stream mapping:
 Stream #0:0 -> #0:0 (mpeg2video -> libx264)
 Stream #0:1 -> #0:1 (mp2 -> libmp3lame)
Press ctrl-c to stop encoding
frame= 1037 fps= 6 q=56.0 size= 30759kB time=40.60 bitrate=6205.9kbits/s

It took  3 minutes 3 seconds to convert the 44 seconds video, so just like with the Exynos board it’s not possible to transcode a 1080p video @ 25 fps in real-time by software, at least with avconv, and the parameters I used. ODROID-XU3 Lite was a bit faster however, managing to convert the same video in 2 minutes and 33 seconds.

Cubieboard4 can be purchased for $125 + shipping on R0ck.me, Eleduino, Seeed Studio, or others, and it’s also listed on Amazon US for $138.99 including shipping.

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Cubieboard4 Benchmarks in Android

March 25th, 2015 1 comment

Last time I tried running benchmarks in an Allwinner A80 board (A80 OptimusBoard), it either rebooted during the benchmark, or had fairly disappointing results for example for USB storage. I documented my findings in a post entitled “Current Performance and Stability Issues on AllWinner A80 OptimusBoard Development Board” which was written in October 2014. But a few months have passed, and since Cubieboard4 is another hardware platform, so I was interested in running benchmarks including storage and networking performance testing on the new board to see if any progress was made.

Cubieboard4 Android Benchmarks – Antutu, Vellamo, and 3DMarks

Manufacturers can add the key ro.sys.hiritsu to build.prop in order to artificially inflate their Antutu scores with Allwinner A80 processor. So before running Antutu, I checked /system/build.prop in the firmware, and found out no trace of this variable, which can only be good for CubieTech reputation.

Cubieboard4_AntutuCC-A80 board, the other name for Cubieboard4, got 36,374 point in Antutu 5.6.2, which is similar to what Allwinner A80 cheating hardware platforms get with Antutu X, a version of Antutu that prevents cheating. So that means performance is as expected here.
Cubieboard4_Vellamo
The board gets 1172 points for Metal, 1482 points for Multicore, and 2455 points for Chrome Browser tests which compared to respectively 1138, 1352, and 2109 (Stock Browser) for Tronsmart Draco AW80 Meta, an Android media player also based to Allwinner A80.
Cubieboard4_3DMark
3DMark’s Ice Storm Extreme score is more interesting, as the board gets 8,213 points against only about 6,500 for Tronsmart Draco AW80, and 7,000 to 7,500 points for Rockchip RK3288, so there may have been some GPU drivers optimization since then, or they simply clocked the GPU at higher speed.

Cubieboard4 Storage Performance

We already knew the eMMC – with advertised 25MB/s read and write speed – would not break records, but at least its A1 SD benchmark reports speeds so no far off from the advertised rates at around 19.50 MB/s in both directions, placing the board in the middle of the pack, with very good write speed, but below than average read speed.

Cubieboard4_eMMC

eMMC Flash – Read and Write Speed in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Cubieboard4 features an USB 3.0 OTG port and an OTG adapter which allowed me to connect my Seagate USB 3.0 hard drive to the board. Unfortunately, the drive could not be powered via this port, albeit a USB 2.0 flash drive worked just fine. So I had to fallback to connecting my HDD to one of the USB 2.0 ports. I was interested in checking NTFS performance since it was poor on A80 OptimusBoard, but unfortunately, CC-A80 firmware would only mount EXT-4 and exFAT partitions of the drive.

Cubieboard4_USB_2.0_EXT-4

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

A1 SD reports 21.63 MB/s read speed and 18.17 MB/s write speed for the EXT-4 partition slightly outperforming the underwhelming performance of Draco AW80 media player. What about exFAT? Write is 3.16MB/s, and read a massive 239.04MB/s? The latter is clearly impossible over USB 2.0, and happened because of the slow write speed resulting in a ~400MB test files that was cached and read from the RAM, so I did not include this results in the chart. So USB storage does not look promising on the board at least for now.

Cubieboard4 Networking Performance

Gigabit Ethernet performance measured with iperf Android app and the following command line iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d, showed the same asymmetric transfer rates over Ethernet as Draco AW80 with one side getting 712 Mbits/sec and the other 216 Mbits/sec.

Throughput in Mbps (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in Mbps (Click to Enlarge)

iperf output:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.112, TCP port 5001
 TCP window size: 144 KByte (default)
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 [ 6] local 192.168.0.104 port 52303 connected with 192.168.0.112 port 5001
 [ ID] Interval Transfer Bandwidth
 [ 6] 0.0-60.0 sec 1.51 GBytes 216 Mbits/sec
 [ 4] 0.0-60.0 sec 4.97 GBytes 712 Mbits/sec

I’m not using iperf for Wi-Fi to make use of my older data, and because Wi-Fi is normally slow enough not to be impacted by internal storage performance, and instead transfer a 278MB file over SAMBA via ES File Explorer. I’ve tested both 5.0 GHz (802.1n) with TP-link TL-WDR7500 router and 2.4 Ghz with my older TP-Link TL-WR940N.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Wi-Fi performance is quite below average, and I was a bit surprised to see 5.0GHz to be faster than 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, as in my environment there are only these two routers. Maybe the newer router simply have better performance.

In conclusion, Allwinner A80 is a powerful processor, and in tasks where you need raw CPU or GPU power it should deliver, but USB 3.0 is just not working at least with my hard drive, read and write speed over USB 2.0 appears weak, and both wired and wireless performance are somewhat underwhelming. Some of these issues have been known for over 6 months on Allwinner A80 platforms, so I’m not sure there are some silicon issues, or it just takes an awful lot of time to improve the firmware.

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