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Posts Tagged ‘sata’

Supermicro A2SAV mini-ITX Board Powered by Intel Atom E3940 SoC Features 6 SATA Ports, Dual GbE, and Up to 9 USB Interfaces

February 6th, 2017 14 comments

Intel introduced three Atom E3900 series Apollo Lake processors last fall that target IoT, industrial and automotive applications, and Supermicro has designed A2SAV mini-ITX board powered by Atom x5-E3940 SoC that comes with lots of interfaces include 6 SATA ports, two Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 ports, and up to 9 USB interfaces accessible from connectors or headers.

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Supermicro A2SAV motherboard specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom x5-E3940 quad core “Apollo Lake” processor @ 1.6 / 1.8 GHz with 2MB L2 cache, 12 EU Intel HD graphics (6.5W TDP)
  • System Memory – 1x 204-pin DDR3 SO-DIMM socket for 2, 4, or 8GB 1866/1600/1333MHz Unbuffered non-ECC 204-pin SO-DIMM DDR3
  • Storage
    • 6x SATA3 ports include 2x from SoC, and 4x via Marvel 88SE9230 controller
    • 1x SATA DOM (Disk on Module) power connector
    • 64Mb SPI Flash EEPROM with AMI UEFI BIOS supporting Plug and Play (PnP), DMI 2.3, ACPI 5.0, USB Keyboard, SMBIOS 2.7.1, and UEFI
    • mSATA and M.2 (See  expansion below)
  • Connectivity – Dual GbE LAN with Intel i210-AT controller
  • Video Output – 1x VGA, 1x Display Port, 1x HDMI, 1x eDP (Embedded Display Port)
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports (rear), 7x USB 2.0 port (2x rear, 4 via headers, 1x type A)
  • Serial – 3x COM ports using RJ45, RS232 and RS485 ports
  • Expansion
    • 1x PCIe 2.0 (in x8) slot
    • 2x M.2 PCIe 2.0, M Key 2242/2280
    • 1x Mini-PCIe with mSATA
  • Misc – Voltage and temperature monitors, chassis intrusion header and detection, system overheat LED, 2x 4-pin fan headers
  • Power Supply – ATX Power connector, 4-pin 12V DC power connector
  • Dimensions – 17.145cm x 17.145cm (Mini-ITX form factor)
  • Temperature Range – 0°C to 60°C

The company can provide mid and mini-tower chassis for the board, as well as a 1U chassis all “optimized for A2SAV motherboard”. There’s no list of supported operating systems yet, but Windows 10 (IoT), and various Linux distributions will certainly run on the board.

Supermicro product page has a few more details including some documents, but it does not mention pricing information. However, the board is listed for back order on Arrow Electronics for $253.73 (back order), and TigerDirect has the light version of the board, named A2SAV-L, with just two SATA ports and fewer USB ports for $169.99.

Thanks to Paul for the tip.

GIGABYTE EL-30 Apollo Lake Fanless IoT Gateway Powered by Intel Pentium N4200 to Launch in Q2 2017

January 31st, 2017 No comments

GIGABYTE will soon introduce their EL-30 “Intel Apollo Lake IoT Gateway Solution” powered by a quad core Intel Pentium N4200 with 32GB storage, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, dual HDMI ports, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a mini PCIe slot for 3G module or mSATA storage, and an optional Zigbee module.

GIGABYTE EL-30 specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Pentium processor N4200 with 4 cores, 4 threads @ 1.10 – 2.50 GHz with 2MB L2 cache, 18EU Intel HD Graphics 505 (6W TDP)
  • System Memory – 2x SO-DIMM slots for DDR3L 1600/1866MHz memory up to 8GB
  • Storage -32GB eMMC flash + 1x SD card slot + optional mSATA module
  • Video Output – 2x HDMI 1.4b ports up to 3840×[email protected] Hz
  • Audio – Via HDMI ports, 3.5mm audio jack (headphone + mic), Realtek ALC255 audio codec
  • Connectivity
    • 2x GbE LAN ports (Realtek RTL8111HS)
    • Pre-installed WiFi + Bluetooth module in half-size mini PCIe slot
    • 1x Zigbee module (optional)
  • USB – 4x USB 3.0 ports + 1x internal USB 2.0 header
  • Serial – 1x COM port (RJ45), 1x micro USB 5-pin RS232 full-duplex port (TxD, RxD, CTS, RTS, GND)
  • Expansion
    • 1x Full-size Mini-PCIe slot for 3G module or mSATA storage
    • 1 x Half-size Mini-PCIe slot used by pre-installed WiFi+BT module
    • 10-pin GPIO header, SPI-SMB header, RS232 header, and “80H” LPC port on motherboard
  • Misc – Power button with LED, HDD/SSD activity LED, 1x TPM header, Kensington lock slot
  • Power Supply – 19V (65W) DC / 100~240V AC
  • Dimensions – 140.8 x 107.5 x 29.5 mm
  • Weight – 560 grams
  • Temperature Range – Operating: 0°C to 40°C; storage: -20°C to 60°C

The fanless IoT gateway will run Windows 10 64-bit, Windows 10 IoT, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, or Android N. It will ship with a quick start guide, a 19V power adapter and a US power cord.

Pricing is unknown, but we do know production is scheduled for Q2 2017. More details – including the Quick Start Guide – can be found on the product page.

Thanks to Paul for the tip.

Voyo (V1) VMac Mini Apollo Lake Mini PC Review – Part 2: Windows 10

January 30th, 2017 2 comments

Voyo VMac Mini, also sometimes referred to just Voyo V1, is an actively cooled mini PC powered by Intel Celeron N3450 or Pentium N4200 Apollo Lake processor. I’ve received samples for both, and already taken pictures of the device and motherboard. So in the second part I’ll review the mini PC checking out system info, running some benchmarks on both, and see how it performs as an entry-level desktop PC.

Voyo VMac Mini Setup and System Information

Setup is pretty straightforward, as you just need to connect mouse and keyboard, Ethernet, the mini HDMI to HDMI cable, optionally the included USB WiFi dongle, the power supply, and finally press the power button to get to Windows 10 desktop logged in as “admin” user in about 30 seconds.

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Some Apollo Lake mini PCs support HDMI 2.0 video output, but this requires a DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 bridge chip, which not included in Voyo VMac Mini’s board, so the system supports 1080p resolution up to 60Hz, and 3840×2160 up to 30Hz.

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4K video output will work, but by default the system will be set to 1080p60. Window will show a “non-optimal resolution” notification on the bottom right whenever you change resolution to 4K.

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The System Info window will show the device is running an activated version of Windows 10 Home 64-bit, and comes with 4.00GB (3.84GB usable) RAM and Intel Pentium CPU N4200 @ 1.10 GHz (or Celeron CPU N3450). However, Voyo may not be 100% in compliance with the hardware requirements for a discounted Microsoft license, as while it comes with 4GB RAM, and a 32GB eMMC flash, Windows is installed on the 128GB SSD instead.

I’ve also included a “Device Manager” screenshot for a bit more info about the peripherals and features.

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One of the first thing you may want to do is to remove some Chinese programs which are running in the background.

The two processes are called ldslite.exe and computerZservice.exe, and many websites report about those two from the ones saying they are safe, to the ones claiming they are adware, to the ones claiming both are very dangerous viruses, and you need to download their free software to remove them. I have not seen any ads, but I could remove both easily simply going to “Add or remove programs”, and removed the only program with a Chinese name which removed both processes.

Voyo VMac Mini Benchmarks

If you are interested in typical system benchmarks I’ve already reported about PCMark 8 , Passmark 8 & 9, and 3DMark results in the posts entitled “Voyo VMac Mini mini PC (Intel Pentium N4200) Benchmarks” and “Voyo VMac Mini mini PC Benchmarks with Intel Celeron N3450 Apollo Lake Processor“, so I’ll just add storage and networking benchmarks in this section.

The C: drive is the 128GB FORESEE SSD drive where Windows is installed, and both sequential and random performance is pretty good, and ever faster than the already pretty fast SSD found on Voyo V3 mini PC.The 32GB eMMC flash (D: drive) is not quite as good, and from a technical point of view, it was the right thing to do to install Windows on the SSD.

Voyo VMac Mini does not include a wireless adapter internally, but a 802.11n WiFi dongle is included. Since you may want to use your own instead, I have not tested WiFi, but only Gigabit Ethernet using iperf 2 for a 60 seconds full duplex transfer.

The results show download speed is OK, but if you need a device that handles heavy traffic in both directions simultaneously this will not work so well:

I repeated the test in one direction only:

Voyo VMac Mini User Experience and Usability Testing

The mini PC has done good so far, I did not experience many problems (I had USB problem at the beginning with some flash drives not recognized, but they seem to have gone). But the most important is to see how it would perform during use as a desktop PC and/or HTPC, so I’ve performed the following tasks:

  • Multi-tasking – Launching and using Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, and Gimp at the same time
  • Web Browsing with Firefox & Microsoft Edge
    • Loading multiple tab in Firefox with CNX Software blog
    • Playing a flash game  (Candy Crush Saga) in Firefox
    • Playing a 4K (VP9) YouTube Videos in Microsoft Edge
  • Gaming with Asphalt 8
  • Kodi 17.0 RC3 @ 4K videos using H.265 or H.264 codecs, 10-bit H.264 @ 1080p, and audio pass-through


The good news is that such machine can now perfectly be used a an entry level computer for multi-tasking such as reading email, browsing the web, and editing documents. Beside the incrementally faster processor over Braswell and Cherry Trail systems, the fast SSD and 4GB of RAM clearly help here. You’ll still see differences with faster machine while scrolling long web pages, and playing games. 4K YouTube videos are playing well in Microsoft Edge, and not too bad in Firefox with only a few frames dropped here and there. Asphalt 8 frame rate does really feel similar to what I experience in Atom x7-Z8700 or Celeron N3150 based mini PCs such as Beelink BT7 and MINIX NGC1. Kodi 17 is almost out, so I used Kodi 17 RC3 during testing, with automatic frame rate switching working well, for example a 4K @ 30 fps video will make the resolution switch from 1080p60 to 4K30 automatically, and H.264 and 10-bit H.265 videos are playing fairly well. VP9 videos however are extremely choppy and unwatchable in Kodi 17. If you have a lot of animes using 10-bit H.264 (Hi10p), th goods news is that the processor is fast enough to play such videos using software decoding. HDMI audio pass-through works for Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, but not for TrueHD instead playing PCM 2.0 or transcoding to Dolby Digital, and DTS HD with the platform only passing DTS 5.1.

Stress Test, Fan Noise and Power Consumption

Some mini PCs do no handle heavy loads very well, with CPU throttling occurring after a few minutes, even for devices with a fan. So I ran AIDA64 Extreme Stability Test to find out, as well as HWiNFO64 in sensor-only mode for a little over 2 hours to find out.

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The results are very good with no CPU throttling, the maximum temperature achieved was 89 °C, 16° C from the maximum Junction temperature (105 °C), and the Pentium N4200 processor was clocked at 1.6 GHz most of the time right between the 1.1 GHz “baseline” frequency and 2.5 GHz maximum burst frequency.

The system is not fanless, but the fan does not allow turn, as it depends on actual temperature, and the higher the temperature the faster the fan spins. GM1352 sound level meter placed at about 2 cm from the top of the case reported 50 dbA under light load, and either 52.5 dBA during AIDA64 stress test,  with burst up to 57.5 dBA during the same test, that would only last maybe 10 seconds. Fan noise is not too bad while browsing the web, although audible, but for any demanding tasks you’ll clearly hear it on the temperature rise enough.

Power consumption was 10.3 Watts without USB hard drive during the stress test, but there’s a design flaw in power off mode as USB ports still draw current, so with a USB 3.0 hard drive connected, power consumption is 2.0 Watts when the device is turned off, and around 1.0 Watts when I only leave the USB keyboard and mouse. Idle power consumption is 6.4 to 7 watts with USB HDD connected.

Conclusion

Voyo VMac Mini works as advertised, and performance is quite good with the Apollo Lake processor processor, fast SSD storage and 4GB RAM. I could perfectly see people using it as an entry level computer to browse the web, work with documents and spreadsheets and so on. People who want to run high load on the device should not worry about CPU throttling as the fan and heatsink take care of cooling the device even under stress. It’s obviously still limited when it comes to games, and it might not be the best price/performance for HTPC use, as while 4K H.264 and 10-bit H.265 videos can play,  4K output is limited to 30 Hz (HDMI 1.4), 4K VP9 is not working well in Kodi, and HDMI audio pass through is limited to Dolby abd DTS 5.1, and does not support Dolby TrueHD not DTS HD formats.

At the beginning I also had some issues with some USB flash drives (NTFS) recognized by the system, but not mounted (no file system detected), but the problem went away, maybe after a Windows 10 update, and I could not reproduce the issue anymore at the end of the review with any of the 3 drives I tested. Please note the mini PC does not include WiFi, nor Bluetooth, but a WiFi dongle is included in the package instead. There was also some crapware installed in Windows 10, but as indicated in the review it’s very easy to remove. I plan to test Linux with Ubuntu 16.04, but so far my attempts have not been successful. The BIOS find the bootable drive with Ubuntu, but when I select it, all I get is a black screen.

I’d like to thank GearBest & GeekBuying for providing the samples for review, with the former providing the Pentium N4200 version which they sell for $234.93 and the latter the Celeron N3450 version selling for $199.99. Both models can also be found on other online shops such as Amazon US and Aliexpress. Note that the version on Aliexpress is significantly cheaper because it only comes with a 64GB SSD. The custom SATA cable to add your own 2.5″ hard drive is only $2 extra if you select a bundle on the Aliexpress link.

Add a 2.5″ Hard Drive to Voyo VMac Mini mini PC with a $20 Custom SATA Cable

January 27th, 2017 6 comments

When I tore down Voyo VMac Mini mini PC, I noticed a 2.5″ mounting mechanism, and some weird 9-pin SATA connector, but since the hard drive would be so close to the components I assumed this specific case was not designed for a drive, but the board would be compatible. However, it’s now possible to purchase a $20 custom SATA cable from “Voyo Official Store” on Aliexpress to do just that.All you have to do is to open the case, connect the cable to the motherboard, and the hard drive, and mounting the hard drive to the mechanism with four screws. I’m not sure whether you should also use some kind of insulation between the drive and motherboard, as it will be really close, but the company does not mention anything about that. Cooling might also be an issue even though there’s a fan in the mini PC.

It’s not difficult to do, but should probably be attempted by the most adventurous. I’d also expect the cable to become cheaper overtime if this little hack become common among VMac mini owners, or maybe even offered for free with the mini PCs during promotions.

Thanks to Jake for the tip.

Ebox T8 V Octa-Core Android TV Box Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, EBMC, and Benchmarks

January 25th, 2017 1 comment

EBox T8 V (version 5) is the new EntertainmentBox.com  TV box specially geared towards the UK market with its choice of apps and online shop based in the United Kingdom. It’s an upgrade to EBox T8-4 I reviewed last year, replacing Amlogic S905 quad core processor by Amlogic S912 octa-core processor, but keeping most of the same features including the SATA bay and EBox user interface. Since we’ve already checked out the hardware, likely based on Zoomtak U Plus, I’ll focus on the firmware in the second part. It will be a shorter reviewed than usual since I have already tested many Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and I’ll refer to T8-4 review when the user interface is identical, and instead focus on what has changed, and the usual suspects like audio pass-through, 4K video playback, DRM support, WiFi performance, etc…

EBox T8 V Setup Wizard, Setup, OTA Firmware Update, and Default Apps

I had already plugged the provided 1TB SATA drive into the device during the unboxing post, but I’ve also connected another USB hard drive, as well as HDMI and Ethernet cables, the RF dongle for S77 Pro air mouse that came with the box, a USB keyboard to take screenshots, and finally the power cord.

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The power button on the box should be red, so if you want to start the TV box, press the button on the box, or the power button on the IR remote control, the power button will change to blue color, and the display will show “boot”. If you want to use the air mouse to turn on the device, you’ll need to use the IR learning function to learn the power key from the IR remote control. I’ve tried and it works well. The boot normally takes around 30 to 35 seconds. Note that the boot animation includes some music, which can be annoying if other people sleep, and you forgot to turn the volume down…

The first time, you’ll go through a setup wizard for language, screen scale network, since nothing has changed here, I invite you to check EBox T8-4 Setup Wizard & Configuration section of my previous review for details.

Beginners Launcher – Click for Original Size (1920×1080)

The launcher is also the same, but you now have an option to switch between the “beginners launcher”, which includes Ebox Apps Hub and Ebox app for support, and the more barebone “experienced launcher” shown below.

Experienced Launcher – Click to Enlarge

The Experienced Launcher setting interface is exactly the same as in T8-4, but the company made another Settings app for the Beginners Launcher.

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As fas I could tell however, all settings were the same, but just presented in a different way. The Speed Test is new, but it’s just an Ookla speed test to check your ISP performance. Note my fiber optic connection is 20/10 Mbps to the bandwidth was maxed out in that test.
The Advanced icons redirect to the familiar Amlogic Settings app.

It’s also interesting to quickly check out the system info that shows the model number is q201_9377, which can be useful in case you’ll want to use an alternative firmware. Few people will likely try that, since you pay extra for firmware and support for the box.

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The list of app is what makes this box further different from the competition with UK specific apps such as BBC iPlayer, FilnOn Live, and WookieSports, with the latter not present in T8-4.

The company did not include TVCatchUp app this test, but for people who wants to watch UK programs but live outside the country, IPvanish app was added to let you setup VPN. You may want to check Installed App & IPTV streaming section in T8-4 review for details about the UK streaming apps.

Finally, I went to EBox OTA, it could find a new firmware, and the upgrade went smoothly.

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Check out OTA firmware section of my previous review for more info about that.

Power consumption is fine with 0.2W is power off mode with the two hard drives connected, and around 8 Watts at idle. The air mouse also worked well, and once you’ve programmed the IR remote control’s power button to the air mouse, you won’t need the IR remote at all. If you exclusively run Kodi (EBMC) then the IR remote control might be a little better since you can access some features like Zoom, aspect radio, and audio directly from the remote, and you won’t need a mouse pointer at any times.

The user experience of the new T8 V was very much like the one of the previous model with the firmware working well, except that I had a “App not Responding” window appear twice, and the mouse cursor is quite small when you set video output to 4K.

Video and Audio Support in EBOX MC (Kodi 16.1) & DRM Info

EBOX Media Center (EBMC) is based on SMPC 16.4, itself a fork a Kodi 16.1 with optimization for Amlogic processors.

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Before playing any videos, I disabled amcodec as instructed in a paper included with EBOX T8 V package.

I also enabled automatic frame rate switching via “Adjust display refresh rate” option….

… as well as audio pass-through, with Dolby and DTS. Note that DTS-HD and TrueHD options are missing, and as we’ll see below not working, so you’d better enable Dolby Digital (AC3) Transcoding too.

I played 4K videos over a SAMBA share using Gigabit Ethernet:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) –  OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – plays, but not perfectly smoothly
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (OK, not supported by Amlogic S912)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) –  OK
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Slow motion
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK, but not perfect at all times.
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays but could be smoother

4K video playback working about as well as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, but automatic frame rate switching does not work, so if the video output is set to 4K @ 60 Hz, and you play a 24 fps video it might not be as smooth as it could be.

HDMI audio-pass through works but is limited to Dolby and DTS 5.1. Tested with Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver.

  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – OK (Dolby D 5.1)
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – OK (Dolby D 5.1)
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • TrueHD 5.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • TrueHD 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • Dolby Atmos 7.1 – PCM 2.0 with audio *
  • DTS HD Master – DTS 5.1 only
  • DTS HD HR – DTS 5.1 only
  • DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636) – DTS 5.1 only

* If you set “Dolby Digital (AC3) Transcoding” in the settings, audio will be transcoded, and output Dolby D 5.1 audio.

DRM Info – Click to Enlarge

DRM Info apps shows Widevine Level 3 is supported.

EBox T8-4 Benchmarks – Antutu, Storage and Networking

I’ve run Antutu 6.x to make sure the system did not have any issue with performance, and T8 V achieved above 41,000 points, in line with the scores of other Amlogic S912 TV Boxes.

The 1TB internal hard drive (NTFS) shipped with the device was properly recognized with performance ~30 MB/s you’d expect from USB 2.0, while my external hard drive NTFS and exFAT partition could be mounted, and also delivered as expected with the recurring low write speed (5.88 MB/s) on exFAT partitions typical of the vast majority of Android TV boxes. Note that the 44.50 MB/s read speed for the exFAT partition is likely wrong, and affected by the slow write speed.

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Internal storage performance (35.01MB/s & 12.15 MB/s) is OK without being outstanding, and works well enough.

My very first experience with WiFi did not quite go accordingly to plans, as the box hung when I enabled WiFi in the settings. My second attempts was successful with a 433 Mbps connection to my 802.11ac router. Performance was however underwhelming with an average of 2.4 MB/s transfer rate, that’s quite typical of Amlogic S905X and S912 TV boxes.

WiFi Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Conclusion

EBox T8 V offers user experience very similar to EBox T8-4, with slightly faster performance, decent 4K video playback which adds VP9 support, better support for audio pass-through albeit limited to Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, and a few pre-installed video streaming app for the UK. I did not have any issues with the internal hard drive this time, but WiFi performance is not quite as good as on EBox T8-4.

PROS

  • Stable and responsive firmware
  • Easy to setup & e thanks to setup wizard, and bundled Air mouse.
  • 4K video playback in EBMC (based on SPMC) with H.264, H.265 and VP9 well supported
  • HDMI audio pass-through working for DTS and Dolby Digital (AC3) 5.1
  • Pre-installed IPTV apps for the UK market such as BBC iPlayer and Filmon, as well as a VPN app.
  • 2.5″ internal SATA bay
  • OTA firmware update
  • Good customer support with Live chat, forums, and online documentation

CONS

  • HDMI audio pass-through does not work for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD
  • Automatic frame rate switching is not working
  • WiFi performance could be better
  • DRM support limited to Widewine Level 3
  • No Dolby and DTS licenses
  • Small mouse pointer when 4K is selected
  • Boot animation includes some music (potential issue at night).

EBox T8-4 + S77 Pro air mouse + 1 TB HDD bundle I reviewed can be purchased for 185.87 GBP including VAT (~$234 US), but you can also purchase the box with the standard IR remote control only for 104.99 GBP including VAT (~$132 US), or select other bundles with gamepad and/or wireless keyboard.

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

January 24th, 2017 5 comments

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.

[Update: Part 2 of EBox T8 V Android Review is up]

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

January 19th, 2017 49 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).