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Posts Tagged ‘sata’

Beelink SEA TV Box with Realtek RTD1295, HDMI Input and Internal SATA Bay Sells for $105 and Up

January 24th, 2017 1 comment

I’ve already reviewed two Android TV boxes powered by Realtek RTD1295 processor, namely Zidoo X9S and EWEAT R9 Plus. They are quite interesting devices as beside supporting video & audio playback nicely (minus 4K H.264 @ 30fps), they also serve as a personal NAS thanks to their SATA interface and OpenWrt operating system running alongside Android, as well as a HDMI recorder and streamer thanks to the HDMI input. Zidoo firmware is a little better, but it only comes with external SATA, while EWEAT R9 Plus comes with a neat internal 3.5″ SATA bay inside a metal case. The downside is that it’s quite expensive at $200 shipped. If you’d like a Realtek RTD1295 solution with a SATA bay, but would like something more cost effective, Beelink SEA TV box with might be for you.

Beelink SEA specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1295 quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz with ARM Mali-T820MP3
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR4
  • Storage – 16 or 32 GB eMMC flash + SD slot up to 128GB + 2.5″ SATA bay supporting up to 6TB SATA III drives with either 7.5 or 9.5mm thickness
  • Video I/F –  HDMI 2.0a output with HDR, CEC, and HDCP 2.2 support, AV composite output, HDMI 2.0 input
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, optical S/PDIF, AV port (stereo audio)
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Misc – Power LED, RTC + battery
  • Power Supply –  12V/1.5A
  • Dimensions – 188 x 119 x 20mm

Like its competitors, the device runs Android 6.0. There’s no mention of OpenWrt at all, but I’d be surprised if they removed it from the firmware. HDMI input allows video recording, video streaming, & PiP function from a separate video source. The device ships with an IR remote control, an HDMI Cable, a power adapter, and a user’s manual in English.

Beelink SEA is now listed for pre-order on GearBest for $104.99 with 2GB RAM/16GB storage, and $114.99 in 2GB/32GB configuration. Shipping is expected to start on March 1st… You may find a few more details on Beelink SEA product page.

Review of Ebox T8 V Amlogic S912 TV Box with SATA Bay – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown

January 19th, 2017 9 comments

Last summer I reviewed Ebox T8-4, an Android TV box based on Amlogic S905 processor sold by entertainmentbox.com and geared towards the UK market. Although it had some of the typical issues with HDMI audio pass-through, I found the box easy to setup, and potentially interesting for UK viewers since popular IPTV apps were pre-installed. It also came with a SATA bay but for some reasons I never managed to have either a 1TV HDD or 128 GB SSD recognized by the system. Nevertheless, the box is now used full time by another person who seems to be quite happy about it, especially since it comes with an air mouse and a gamepad, and good support. The company has now sent me their updated model, Ebox T8 V, with very similar features but instead equipped with Amlogic S912 octa-core processor. Before checking the firmware, I’ll have a look at the hardware in the first part of the review.

Ebox T8-V Specifications

Apart from the SATA bay and VFD display, the specifications are pretty standard for an Amlogic S912 TV box:

  • SoC – Amlogic S912 octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.5 GHz with ARM Mali-820MP3
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash, SD slot up to 32GB, and internal 2.5″ SATA bay
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 and RCA composite ports
  • Audio Output – HDMI, RCA stereo audio ports, and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac. N.B.: no Bluetooth listed in specs, but they sell a Bluetooth gamepad so it might be supported.
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 ports (including one OTG port) + 1x micro USB port
  • Misc – IR receiver, power button, VFD display
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A

The box runs Android 6.0 operating system with SPMC.

Ebox T8-V Unboxing

Beside “T8 V SMART TV BOX” package I also got an air mouse (the same as last year), a EU to UK plug adapter, and something packaged with cardboard and tape.

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Let’s open that first… That’s a 1TB WD Blue hard drive, which means I should probably already be setup, and I would not need to use a separate computer to partition and format it a way supported by the box.


The air mouse remote is the same as last year (S77 Pro), and includes a standard IR side with IR learning function, mouse functionality…

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…as well as a QWERTY keyboard side. The battery compartment is located on the right side of the keyboard and takes two AAA batteries.

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The first thing I noticed when opening the main package was a piece of paper (top right below) reading:

Because the T8 V is operating on Android 6.0, you will need to adjust the settings a bit. Let’s go into Settings, then click on Video, go to the bottom and change Settings Level to Expert. Now go to the Acceleration Tab, then over to Allow Hardware Acceleration – Amcodec, and turn it off. You need to do this, because with the introduction of the new Android 6.0, Amcodec is no longer being supported, which can cause issues with the Ebox Media Center.

This could probably be useful to change those Kodi settings for other Amlogic S905X, S905D, and S912 TV boxes too. I’m not sure why it is not disabled by default in the firmware however.

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The rest of the package includes an IR remote taking two AAA batteries which you are unlikely to use at all if you have purchased the air mouse, a 5V/3A power supply, an HDMI cable, a HDMI cable, and of course the device itself.

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The front panel has a power button, as well as plastic cover hiding the IR receiver and VFD display. Two USB ports, the SD card slot, and a recovery button can be found on one of the sides, with the other ports on the rear panels including a USB OTG port (full size), a micro USB port market USB HDD, an optical S/PDIF audio output, 3 RCA connector for video, left and right audio, a HDMI 2.0 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port and the power jack. The gap under the box should allow for some cooling of the hard drive. If you want to connect the hard drive, you’ll need open the cover on the bottom of the case. There’s also a sticker with a MAC address starting with 00:11:6E and looking up to Peplink International Ltd.

Installing the hard drive is very easy and does not require any tool. Two clips hold the back cover to the case, and then you just need to insert the HDD in the bay, and push it to plug it into the SATA connector. Put the cover back, and you’re done.

Ebox T8 V Teardown

The first step to open the device is to loosen the four screws on the bottom of the case. This will allow you to remove the plastic cover on the front panel, and then push and slide the device to take it out of its outer shell.

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The board is called U PLUS V1.1, and features a heatsink covering Amlogic SoC. Foresee NCEMBSF9-16G eMMC flash is used for storage (16 GB), while two NANYA NT5CB256M16DP-EK chips are used for memory on the top of the board.

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Gigabit Ethernet is made possible thanks to Realtek RTL8211F Gigabit transceiver and HS2401 magnetics, and WiFi connectivity relies on an uncommon module, but I could not read the exact model. Since Amlogic S912 does not integrate a SATA controller, the board designer used GL830 USB 2.0 to SATA bridge. TM1628 chip takes care of the VFD display, and GL850G USB 2.0 hub adds a few extra USB interface required by the board.

That’s all for today. If you are interested, the box is for sale directly on Entertainmentbox.com for 104.99 GBP ($129.5) with the standard remote, and up to 217.97 GBP (~$269) with full options including a 1TB HDD, Rii i12 Keyboard, and an Ipega gamepad. The package I received should cost 185.97 GBP (~$229). Prices include VAT.

Orange Pi Zero NAS Expansion Board with SATA, USB, and AV Port Sells for $10 Shipped

January 19th, 2017 34 comments

Orange Pi Zero is a $7 and up board based on Allwinner H2+ quad core Cortex A7 processor with 256 to 512MB RAM, Ethernet, WiFi, and USB, but no video output except on headers, making it more suitable to headless applications. The company has just launched Orange Pi Zero NAS Expansion port adding SATA, mSATA, two more USB ports, and an AV port allowing you to add a hard drive or SSD, and connect it to a TV with composite input.

Orange Pi Zero NAS Expansion Board preliminary specifications:

  • Storage – 1x SATA port, 1x mSATA port both through a JMS578 USB 3.1 to SATA bridge with UAS support each, which should be better than some other USB to SATA solution despite only being connected to a USB 2.0 interface.
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Video & Audio Output – 3.5mm AV jack with composite video (TBC) and stereo audio
  • Misc – Microphone and IR receiver
  • Header – 13-pin female header connecting to OPi Zero board

There won’t need any specific support for SATA, since the drive will be seen as USB mass storage devices. The best way to get started would probably be used Armbian Debian or Ubuntu image.

Orange Pi Zero and NAS Expansion Board

Orange Pi Zero NAS Expansion board is sold on Aliexpress for $6.98 plus shipping adding up to just over $10 in my case. Ideally, Shenzhen Xunlong should also offer a kit with both boards and potential a case to lower overall shipping costs, but that’s not available (yet).

Eweat R9 Plus TV Box Review Part 2 – Android, OpenWrt, and HDMI Recording

December 24th, 2016 5 comments

Eweat R9 Plus is a device powered by Realtek RTD1295 SoC combining main functions: Android 6.0 TV box, OpenWrt NAS/router, and HDMI recorder thanks to its HDMI input port. It competes directly with Zidoo X9S which has the same features, except while Zidoo X9S has no internal SATA bay and your 2.5″ hard drive just hang outside the box, Eweat R9 Plus comes with an internal 3.5″ SATA bay that makes it much neater on your furniture… We’ve already seen that in the first part for review “Eweat R9 Plus unboxing and teardown“, and I was impressed by the hardware, but the software is even more important, and that’s what I’m going to check out in the second and final part of this review.

First Boot, First Impressions and Setup.

I’ve first inserted a 1TB 3.5″ SATA drive in the device, and then I connected an extra USB 3.0 hard drive, HDMI and Ethernet cables, two USB dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, and a USB keyboard to take screenshots, as well as U4 Quad Hybrid Android TV box to the HDMI input.

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Connect the power, press the mechanical power switch on the back, and the device will boot, typically in about 40 seconds, to the main launcher. There’s no setup wizard like in Zidoo X9S, so you’d have to change configuration separately.

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The top left corner includes status icons for USB, Ethernet, Bluetooth, and WiFi, and the top right corner shows the current date and time. The first time the time and date were not correctly update, and I did not get any IP address from my router… That’s because I connected the Ethernet cable to the WAN port, but once I connected it to the LAN port, everything worked fine. It’s just WAN and LAN markings are not quite correct…. Let’s go back to the launcher with 7 large icons, the “R9 Plus” icon is linked to Chrome browser (so we have two Chrome links), apps to the list of apps, EWMC links to Kodi 16.1, and 4K to the local file browser/media player. We also have 3 shortcuts on the botton that can be customized to your needs. Sadly, there’s no status nor notifications bars which can be a pain in some use cases. The small blue “rocket” on the of EWMC icon, is actually the mouse cursor (red in reality, but the screenshot app turns that blue).

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The system comes with a bunch of apps including Netflix, HDMIRecorder, and QuickSupport, and I could install my own without any issues using Google Play and Amazon Underground.

eweat-r9-plus-displayThe front panel display on the unit is a little more useful than most, as it will show the current time of the day when not playing videos or music, and instead display the current video time with 4K video player, but not Kodi, while playing media files.

If you are interested to find out more about the settings, I invite you to check the Settings section of Zidoo X9S review, as Eweat R9 Plus has basically the same settings, except only “Auto 1080p24” option is available in the Display section, Deep Color Mode (AUTO, 12-bit, 10-bit, OFF) is gone, and the Playback section is missing together with “Auto 29.97/59.94 Hz”, “Force SD audio”, “Enable low performance mode (less buffer for playback)”.

I could set the resolution (“TV System”) to 3840x2160P @ 60Hz without any issues, but I’ve noticed the video output will sometimes fall back to 720p or 1080p after a power cycle. I could not find any option to adjust overscan either, so I had some black zone on all edges of my TV. Those are issues, but the latter at least should be easy to fix via firmware upgrades.

Once I found that LAN is actually WAN, and WAN is LAN, I had no troubles at all with Ethernet and WiFi, and OpenWrt options are also exactly the same as on Zidoo X9S.

You only get 9.31GB of the 16GB in Android because some part is reserved to OpenWrt, but it still more than the 8.91GB I had on X9S. In theory it should be plenty enough, but after a day or two of use, my internal storage was completely full, despite not installing that many apps.

android-storage-fullEventually I found that since my 1TV hard drive had millions of files, Android’s “Media Storage” activity had created two very large databases. Disabling Media Storage fixed the issue, and after clearing the data from “Media Storage” I had close to 8GB free. Alternatively you can add an empty .nomedia files in the directory you do not want to system to scan, for example the root of the harddrive if you don’t want it to scan anything.

Going into the About device section, we can see “R9Plus” model runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 4.1.17.

about-device-r9plusThe firmware is rooted, and OTA firmware update is done with SystemUpdate app, and I could upgrade from R9PLUS_V1.1_20161130 version to R9PLUS_V1.02_20161217 version which I used in most of the review. I had to disconnect the USB drive, or the update will fail. You can leave the SATA drive inside the box during firmware upgrades.

eweat-r9-plus-firmware-updateThe update went well, and did not mess with my settings, apps, and media files.

The included IR remote worked fine up to 10 meters, but I’d really wish higher end devices such as R9 Plus would ship with an air mouse by default. I had to jungle between the IR remote control and MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse quite often depending on the app I used. Realtek apps such as HDMIRecorder, 4K media player, and File Manger may work better with the infrared remote control.

Eweat R9 Plus firmware is stable and responsive, but there are a few small bugs here and there that should be fixed, like the lack of screen scale option, video output resolution set by the user is not always used after a reboot, there’s no status nor notification bars, etc… I’d also wish such higher-end systems would come with an air mouse with keyboard by default to be able to fully control the TV box with a single remote.

Power Consumption and Temperature

Power control support is basic with only on or off, no standby or reboot, but the power consumption numbers are OK, albeit a little higher than Zidoo X9S, maybe because of the 3.5″ SATA drive instead of 2.5″ SATA drive:

  • Power off (SATA HDD) – 0.3 Watt
  • Idle (SATA HDD) – 9.2 Watts
  • Power off + SATA & USB HDD – 0.3 Watt
  • Idle + SATA & USB HDD –  11.2 to 12 Watts
  • SATA HDD (Copy file to SAMBA share) + Play 4K video from USB HDD + miniDLNA in the background – 18 to 19 Watts

If you has a drive with many files, miniDLNA – enabled in OpenWrt settings as DMS (Digital Media Server) – will take a lot of CPU and I/O resources, so if you don’t need it, make sure to disable it. Idle power consumption numbers are with DMS disabled.

While there’s no standby mode, we’ve seen with Zidoo X9S that standby mode is not that useful as networking and drives are all turned off. It’s just must faster to boot than from power off mode. Most cheap Android TV boxes cannot handle more than one USB hard drive, but Eweat R9 Plus had no troubles with a SATA hard drive and a USB 3.0 drive. It might be possible to add yet another USB 3.0 drive, as the power supply has a 30 Watts capacity.

It’s no surprise that with a large metal case, the device stays relatively cool at all times. The maximum temperatures measured with an IR thermometer on the top and bottom of the device were 35 and 37 °C respectively after Antutu benchmark, and 40 and 50 °C after playing Riptide GP2 for 15 minutes.

Video & Audio Playback with Kodi 16.1 and 4K App, Antutu Video Tester, and DRM Support

R9 Plus comes with Kodi 16.1 (EWMC) and 4K app to browse and play media files with the internal player. So I’ve started by testing 4K videos with both. Bear in mind that while Realtek RTD1295 supports 10-bit HEVC/H.265 up to 60 fps @ 4K, H.264 is limited to 24 Hz, which will be a problem with you shot 4K H.264 30 fps videos with a camera or your smartphone, and 4K VP9 @ 60 fps is supposed to be supported, and with DDR4 memory I had hope some progress may be made here, but unfortunately the limit is really 30 fps, which could be an issue with some (downloaded) YouTube videos. Out of Specs videos are prefixed with OoO.

Kodi 16.1 4K App
OoO – HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) Not smooth Not smooth, although better than Kodi
sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) Not smooth OK
Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) 1st try: 1 second and exit
2nd try: OK
OK
Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) 1st try: 1 second and exit
2nd try: OK
OK
Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) 1st try: 1 second and exit
2nd try: OK
OK
MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) OK OK
phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) OK OK
BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) Not perfectly smooth OK
OoO – big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 Not smooth at all Not smooth
OoO – big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 Not smooth at all, and artifacts Not smooth, audio delays
Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) 1st try: Still image (first frame) + audio
2nd try: OK
OK
Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) OK OK
Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) 1st try:plays a few frame, then freezes, audio still playing
2nd try: OK
OK
OoO – 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) 1fps, audio cuts Can’t play
OoO – Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) Not smooth Slow motion
tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) Unwatchable, and many audio cuts Not smooth audio cuts
The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) Not smooth at all, some audio cuts Not smooth, no audio

For some reasons Kodi 16.1 will fail to start playing some videos the first time, but play them the second time. Just like on Zidoo X9S – but worse – Kodi 16.1 implementation is not as good as the internal player, so for best user experience you’d have to use the 4K player. Automatic refresh rate switching works with 4K app, with 23.975/24Hz, 25 Hz, 29.97 Hz and 59.94 Hz with the latest firmware. It does not work at all with Kodi.

For so the audio tests, I’ve stopped using Kodi, and only used 4K app with PCM 2.0 downmixing and audio pass-through via HDMI.

Audio Codec in Video PCM 2.0 Output HDMI Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK Audio OK (DD 5.1), but wrong aspect ratio
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK (DD 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK (Dolby D+ 7.1)
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK TrueHD 7.1
DTS HD Master OK OK (DTS-HD MSTR)
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK (DTS-HD HR)
DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636) OK DTS-HD MSTR

So HDMI audio pass-through is working very well, and I did not experience some of the audio cuts I had on Zidoo X9S with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver. Those may have been fixed since Zidoo X9S review however.

Below are a few screenshots from 4K video app starting with the list of storage devices/partitions…

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… the menu available once you’ve selected a storage device…

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.. and subtitle options while playing a video.

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I’ve also quickly tested Blu-ray ISOs (Sintel and Amat videos) and both could play. Finally, I play a 2-hour 1080p video to make sure the system can play a full movie, which I does.

Antutu Video Tester score (820 points) is a little lower than on Zidoo X9S (888).

eweat-r9-plus-antutu-video-testerBut the videos that failed are exactly the same:

zidoo-x9s-antutu-video-tester-resultsDRM info crashed each time, just like on X9S, so there’s problably no DRM support at all.

HDMIRecorder App

Eweat R9 Plus HDMIRecorder, as its name implies, allows you to record video from an HDMI input source. It can record up to 1080p @ 30 fps using H.264 codec in TS or MP4 container format, with a bitrate up to 10Mbit/s.

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It will also record audio, and you can select the output with the “Path” field. It will create a new “hdmi” directory to store the recorded videos.

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Once recording has started, it will work in the background (see recording info in the top right corner below) and you can browse the web, watch other videos, and so on during recording.

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I could then connect to the device via SAMBA, and play with the recorded video with both Totem player ad VLC in my Ubuntu 16.04 computer.

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That part works fine, and looks similar to Zidoo HDMI In app, however it lacks some goodies like PiP support and UDP broadcasting found in Zidoo X9S. So if so those functions are important to you, Zidoo X9S clearly has an edge of Eweat device here.

OpenWrt and NAS functions

If you want to learn more about settings up OpenWrt on Eweat R9 Plus, I’ll redirect you to OpenWrt and NAS functions section of Zidoo X9S review as all features are identical.

You can control OpenWrt manin function in Android settings…

eweat-r9-plus-openwrt

… and fine tune OpenWrt settings through LuCi web interface.

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I tested SAMBA, FTP, and Bittorrent. Performance on Eweat R9 Plus was very good with FTP transfer at ~105 MB/s, and 40 MB/s for SAMBA file copy to the internal SATA, very similar to Zidoo X9S with respectively about 90 MB/s and 50 MB/s.

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Eweat R9 Plus FTP Transfer – Click to Enlarge

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Eweat R9 Plus SAMBA Transfer

Contrary to my experience with Zidoo X9S, BitTorrent worked just fine and the transfer quickly saturated my 20 Mbps Internet connection.

eweat-r9-plus-bittorrentBear in mind that firmware evolves overtime and it’s quite possible Zidoo has already fixed the issue.

This time I also tested OpenWrt opkg system manager to see if it would work. After connecting to the device through ssh, I tried to update the packages and it failed miserably:

So if you want to install packages, you’d probably have to build them yourself, or copy and install opkg packages built for ARM architecture manually.

WiFi Performance

We’ve already seen Gigabit Ethernet works perfectly above with transfers at 105 MB/s through FTP basically saturing the Gigabit Ethernet bandwidth, so I’ll only focus on WiFi in the network performance section. Eweat R9 Plus has excellent WiFi performance with both 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, and 802.11ac (433 Mbps), roughly matching Zidoo X9S equally good performance.

Throughput in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

All you need to know is that Eweat R9 Plus is one of the top devices for WiFi  for all devices I’ve tested over the year.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I could pair Vernee Apollo Lite Android smartphone with “Realtek Bluetooth”, however once I started transferring files from my phone to the device, I either got the message “Unfortunately Bluetooth has stopped”, and when lucky, the transfer was initiated with Eweat R9 Plus showing an overlay message reading “”Incoming file from another device, please confirm…”. That’s all good but since there’s no notification bar, and no pop-up window, I had no idea where to confirm the transfer, and it eventually time out. I could not test Bluetooth Low Energy, because all my device are either broken or lost.

Bluetooth is not completely useless however, as I could get Sixaxis to work with my PS3 BT gamepad clone, and I paired X1T Bluetooth earbuds successfully, and listen to a YouTube video.

Storage

Eweat R9 Plus could mount NTFS, EXT-4, and NTFS partitions on a 1 TB USB 3.0 Seagate expansion harddrive with only BTRFS failing to be recognized. A FAT32 micro SD could also be mounted in read/write mode, as well as my SATA drive formatted with NTFS.

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

A1SD bench app shows excellent sequential read and write for the SATA interface, a decent performance for all supported file systems through USB 3.0:

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  • USB 3.0 + NTFS – Read: 37.93 MB/s – Write: 39.28 MB/s
  • USB 3.0 + EXT-4 – Read: 37.67 MB/s – Write: 39.43 MB/s
  • USB 3.0 + exFAT – Read: 37.04 MB/s – Write: 39.28 MB/s
  • SATA + NTFS – Read: 140.78 MB/s – Write: 86.30 MB/s

Eweat R9 Plus looks faster than Zidoo X9S using SATA + NTFS, but bear in mind that the hard drive used was different, so it may explain the difference. However, Zidoo was quite better for USB 3.0 using EXT-4 and NTFS, but quite poor for exFAT, which R9 Plus appears to support well.

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

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

I also measured internal storage performance, but unfortunately A1SD bench reported “Cached Read”, so the read speed is not valid. The write speed of about 55 MB/s is however, and this is quite good. The actual read speed in the chart below should be lower than 140+ MB/s, but usually read speed is faster than write speed, so performance should still be good.

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

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

Gaming

I played Candy Crush Saga with the air mouse, and Beach Buggy Racing (with max quality) using a gamepad, and both games played perfectly well. Then I switched to Riptide GP2, again with maximum resolution settings. It’s started begin playable – but not quite 60fps – just like on Amlogic S905/S912 TV boxes, and Zidoo X9S, but then I noticed the image would freeze from time to time, and after a race was completed,  it may have a 10 seconds black screen before going to the main menu. So I checked the CPU usage in OpenWrt (SSH terminal), and notice miniDLNA with a high CPU usage. So I disabled DMS in Android’s OpenWrt settings, miniDLNA stopped running, and I could play the game for 15 minutes more without issues, nor performance degradation over time.

Eweat R9 Plus Benchmarks

Let’s start with CPU-Z.. R9PLUS (rtk_kylin32) model with a quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.4 GHz and a Mali-T820 GPU, so no surprise here.

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The device reached 36,076 points in Antutu 6.2 against 34,976 points for Zidoo X9S Antutu score.
eweat-r10-plus-antutu

There are a few potential explanations for the small difference: 1. R9 Plus firmware is more recent, 2. it’s winter here (~ 22 °C), and 3. R9 Plus has DDR4 ram instead of DDR3 RAM. However the strange thing is that R9 Plus RAM score is 3,046 points, but Zidoo X9S got 3,960 points which does not make any sense.

eweat-r9-plus-vellamo
Vellamo 3.x scores are pretty similar with R9 Plus getting 1,430, 881 and 2,539 points for respectively multicore, metal, and Chrome Browser benchmarks, against 1,457, 831 and 2,638 points for Zidoo X9S. So it looks like DDR4 memory does not help for any benchmarks, including 3Dmark’s Ice Storm Extreme.

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4,359 points for Eweat R9 Plus against 4,574 for X9S.

Conclusion

Eweat R9 Plus is a solid device, and I really like the internal 3.5″ SATA bay, internal and external storage, as well as networking performance is really outstanding too. However I would have wished the firmware to have fewer bugs, and just like for Zidoo X9S, Realtek RTD1295 SoC has some limited 4K capabilities when it comes with H.264 and VP9. Getting the optimal performance may require some tweaks like disabling some server services.

PROS

  • Responsive and stable Android 6.0 firmware
  • 4K app plays 4K H.265 videos very well with automatic frame rate switching, and HDMI audio pass-through for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD audio
  • Excellent Ethernet and WiFi performance
  • Excellent internal and SATA storage performance, and good USB 3.0 performance
  • NTFS, EXT-4, exFAT, and FAT32 file systems are well supported
  • HDMI Input (up to 4K60 input) with video recording up to 1080p30 (4K input is also supported but record at 1080p30 max)
  • OpenWrt NAS functions such as SAMBA, FTP, and BitTorrent running at the same time as Android, as well as router functions thanks to its two Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • 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 licenses are included, so audio will work in any apps
  • OTA Firmware update
  • Good hardware design with internal 3.5″ SATA bay

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, as 60 fps is not well supported. This will be an issue for some 4K videos downloaded from YouTube
  • Kodi 16.1 (EWMC) is not really working that well with many 4K videos not playing smoothly (even those within specs) and automatic frame rate not working. So 4K app is recommended
  • No DRM support (DRM info app will crash)
  • HDMI input works, but does not include features like picture-in-picture and UDP broadcasting found in Zidoo X9S
  • You’ll probably have to use both the include IR remote control AND a air mouse or other input device to fully use the device. A air mouse specifically designed for the box would be a plus.
  • Scale screen option missing in firmware, so I had black edges on my TV the whole time (should be easy to fix with firmware update)
  • No option for status and notifications bars
  • Bluetooth file transfer is unreliable (crash) and there’s no way to confirm file transfer (related to notification bar above)
  • Tweaks may be needed (e.g. disable Media Storage and DMS) for optimal performance if you have a hard drive with many files.
  • The system will not always remember the video output set by the user (e.g. 4K 60 Hz set, but falls back to 1080p or 720p).

Eweat also lacks a community forum like Zidoo, but as long as they keep firmware updates rolling, it may or may not matter to you. Overall, Eweat R9 Plus is also a good device combining 4K TV box, OpenWrt NAS, and HDMI recording functions. Whether that’s right for you depends on your requirements and budget.

The manufacturer sent me the review sample directly. Distributors can inquire the company to purchase in quantities, but if you just need one or a few you can purchase it on Aliexpress for $175.99 plus shipping (about $200) on Aliexpress.

Merry Christmas to all!

AndromedaBox Networking Edge Board Includes a Dual Core Marvell Processor, SATA, Gigabit Ethernet, and More

December 23rd, 2016 3 comments

Last year, Marvell introduced AndroMeda Box Edge IoT board using 96Boards form factor and running Brillo (now Android Things), but the company has been working on the similarly named AndromedaBox Networking Edge (ANE) board with a tweaked version of 96Boards form factor including Gigabit Ethernet and SATA, and powered by a dual core ARMADA 3700 processor.

andromedabox-networking-edge-ane

AndromedaBox Networking Edge specifications:

  • SoC – Marvell ARMADA LP 3700 dual-core ARM Cortex 53 processor @ up to 1.2 GHz
  • System Memory – 512MB LPDDR4
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash, 1x SATA 3.0 port
  • Connectivity – 1x Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 port, 1×1 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.2
  • USB – 2x micro USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Expansion – 1x PCIe 2.0 (maybe via a slot on the back of the board), 40-pin LS (Low Speed) Expansion connector
  • Power Supply – Likely 8 to 18V input as per 96Boards specs
  • Dimensions – 85 x 54 mm (Same as 96Boards CE Edition)

The board would be suitable for IoT gateways, mobile NAS, home cloud server, etc… You can watch a short description of the board in the video below.

Marvell ARMADA 3700 is the same processor as used in the company’s ESPRESSOBin community board, which means we already have a Wiki with a little more technical details (no processor datasheet though), as well as u-boot and Linux images and source code.

What’s odd is that there’s no trace of AndromedaBox Networking Edge board anywhere in the net, including in Andromedabox.org website, and the board via apparently introduced last June.

Via ARMDevices.net

Vorke Z3 Rockchip RK3399 TV Box to Launch in February 2017

December 20th, 2016 8 comments

I was expecting devices based on Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor to launch by the end of this year, that is about right now, but finally it looks like products will only start the show by the end of Q1 2017, as Firefly-RK3399 development board is scheduled to ship to backers in March 2017, while GeekBuying has started teasing us with their Vorke Z3 TV box powered by Rockchip RK3399 with 4GB RAM slated to launch in February 2017.

vorke-z3Vorke Z3 preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor with  2x ARM Cortex A72 cores at up to 2.0GHz, 4x Cortex A53 cores, and an ARM Mali-T860MP4 GPU
  • System Memory – 4GB LPDDR3
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash, external SATA interface (hopefully implemented via the PCIe interface), micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz
  • Video Decoder – 4K H.265 and VP9
  • Audio Output – HDMI, 3.5mm audio port, optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi up to 1200 Mbps (300 Mpbs + 867 Mbps)
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB type C port (for data and power external devices?)
  • Misc – IR receiver, mechanical power switch
  • Power Supply – TBD
  • Dimension & Weight – TBD

rockchip-rk3399-android-tv-boxThe box will run Android 6.0, and currently gets about 72,500 points in Antutu 6.x with 16,519 points for 3D graphics, 25,805 points for UX, 25,905 points for CPU, and 4254 points for RAM tests. There’s hope a good Linux support on Rockchip RK3399, as Google and Rockchip are working on RK3399 Chromebooks, actively committing code to mainline kernel, and Firefly has ported Ubuntu 16.04 to their RK3399 development board with 3D graphics acceleration, and hardware video decoding is coming.

rk3399-sataPrice has now been announced yet, but for reference, Firefly-RK3399 development board with 4GB RAM and 32GB storage is now offered with all accessories for $199 on Kickstarter, and Remix IO+ TV Box also sells with 4GB/32GB configuration sells for $139 shipped, so I’d expect Vorke Z3 to sell for about the same price.

Banana Pi BPI-M64 & BPI-M2 Ultra Boards PDF Schematics Published

December 13th, 2016 14 comments

SinoVoip has recently released PDF schematics for both of their Banana Pi boards, namely BPI-M64 board powered by Allwinner A64 processor, and BPI-M2 Ultra board based on the latest Allwinner R40 SoC with an on-chip SATA interface.

banana-pi-bpi-m2-ultra-schematicsFor most boards on the market, this should not be news, but SinoVoip does not always release schematics in a timely manner, so you may want to be noticed when it happens:

The clear benefit of BPI-M2 Ultra is the presence of a SATA connector NOT implemented via a slow USB 2.0 to SATA bridge, but instead directly through the SATA interface of the R40 quad core processor. As for BPI-M64 ($46), it can be compared to Pine64+ with 2GB RAM and a WiFi module ($39), and despite the higher price it does come with some benefits like adb over OTG working, it is equipped with an 8GB eMMC flash instead of just a micro SD card slot, and it’s powered by a separate power connector. Pine64+ comes with DDR3 memory, while BPI-M64 is fitted with LPDDR3, which should consume less power (Update: BPI-M64 comes with DDR3 memory too , the specs on Banana Pi website are wrong).

One the other side, there have been several instances – not to say many – where SinoVoip did  not take inputs from the community in order to fix bugs, and they’ve made some interesting decisions including using a 6-pin battery header on BPI-M2 Ultra, and are now unable to explain one of their customers where to source such type of battery or even just the connector [Update: Banana Pi will sell the connector soon]

Thanks to Jon and Thomas for the info.

Eweat R9 Plus Android TV Box and OpenWrt NAS Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

December 12th, 2016 7 comments

Zidoo X9S is getting some competition with Eweat R9 TV boxes based on the same Realtek RTD1295 processor with built-in SATA, Gigabit Ethernet, 4K VP9 and H.265, HDR, and USB 3.0. The company has three R9 models, and they sent me to top of the line R9 Plus with 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, a 3.5″ SATA bay, HDMI input, and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports for evaluation. I’ll start the first part of the review by checking out the hardware inside and out, before testing the firmware in the second part.

Eweat R9 Plus Unboxing

The device ships in a large package with a handle which can be convenient in brick and mortar shops since the whole package weights about 1.8 kilograms.eweat-r9-plus-packageThe package then contains a smaller package will all accessories: a 12V/2.5A power supply, a “Quickly User Guide” (sic.), a HDMI cable, and an IR remote control taking two AAA batteries.

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You’ll also find the box packed between two polystyrene blocks. The device really feels of high quality thanks to its metal case.

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It’s also much heavier than your typical TV box. The front panel include an LCD display and an IR receiver window, while you’ll notice the SATA bay door on the right.

eweat-r9-plus-sd-card

The other side has a USB 2.0 port, a recovery pinhole, an SD card slot, some ventilation holes, and a “don’t-think-out-it-this-will-void-your-warranty” sticker.

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Bu the rear panel has all the cool goodies with two WiFi antennas, two more USB 2.0 host ports, four RCA connectors for stereo audio, coaxial S/PDIF and CVBS (composite), a USB type C port that can be used to connect storage devices or charge your phone, a USB 3.0 port, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one HDMI 2.0 out port to connect to your TV, one HDMI 2.0 input port to record video from external sources, an optical S/PDIF port, the DC jack, and a mechanical power switch.

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Inserting a hard drive is very easy. Pull the handle on the door, insert the hardware, and close the door and you’re done. If you want  to remove the drive, open the door and as we’ll see below a small arm is pushing the drive out. The SATA bay mechanism looks solid, and feels much better than the plastic key mechanism used in Cloud Media’s Popcorn Hour A-500, which I broke after two tries.

You can see how easy it is to insert the hard drive in the unboxing video below.

Eweat R9 Plus Teardown

The hardware looks good out the outside, what about the inside? Let’s open it to find out. Remove the four sticky pad on the bottom of the case, and loosen the four screws.

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Now you can lift the top cover, void the warranty, and have a closer look at the mechanical and thermal design of the device. The MAC address on the bottom of the device – 9C:F8:DB:xx:xx:xx – looks up to a company called Shenzhen Eyunmei Technology, who also manufactured the older M-195 TV box based on Realtek RTD1195 processor.

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The metal top cover is connected to the SATA bay’s metal frame via two short thermal pads, and you can see the arm pushing the HDD out when your open the door in the bottom right of the photo.

Then I had to take a thinner screwdriver to loosen four more screws to remove the SATA bay mechanism, and checkout the board – named 1295-V4.0_161029 – itself.

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Realtek RTD1295 quad core Cortex A53 processor is covered by a heatsink, and connected to a 16GB Toshiba THGBMBG7C2KBAIL eMMC flash, and two Micron MT40A512M16JY-083E (I used FBGA & Component Marking Decoder to find out) 8 Gbit DDR4 chips (16 Gbit = 2GB in total). Gigabit Ethernet connectivity is achieved via one RTL8211F PHY transceiver and two E-Con EG24S036S magnetic transformers (only one transceiver is required since Realtek RTD1295 SoC comes with one Gigabit Ethernet MAC/PHY),  and wireless connectivity is made possible through Realtek RTL8821AU USB 2.0 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 LE also used in Zidoo X9S. There’s also a part reserved for a battery for the RTC, but Eweat decided not to populate it.

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The front panel display is driven Titan Micro TM1628 LED Controller, just like the one on Zidoo X9S. You’ll need to loosen two more screws and two spacers attaching the board to the case, as well as the screw between the four RCA connectors on the rear panel to take the board out.

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Some parts are glued, so I did not removed it completely, especially since there’s no much to be seen, except one expansion header,  a footprint for another connector, and another thermal pad between the bottom of the board and the case.

I’d like to thank Eweat for sending the device for review. Interested resellers and distributions may want to contact the company via the company’s website, while individuals can purchase Eweat R9 Plus for $175.99 plus shipping on Aliexpress.

[Update: Part 2 is up @ Eweat R9 Plus TV Box Review Part 2 – Android, OpenWrt, and HDMI Recording ]