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Sen5 Dual Tuner Android Set-top Box Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

April 3rd, 2017 9 comments

There are only a few companies manufacturing Android TV boxes with tuners with names like VideoStrong and WeTek coming to mind. Shenzhen Sen5 Technology is another one, and the company sent me one of their DVB combo Android TV boxes for review without providing that many details. So let’s have a look at what I received.

Sen5 Android Combo STB Unboxing

The product might be not ready for retail just yet, as I received it in an old carton box.

Once I remove all the bubble wraps, I ended up with the device, an IR remote control, and a 12V/1.5A power supply. Once the product is actually launched I’d expect you’d receive a retail package and a user’s manual too.

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The box itself is made of plastic with plenty of randomly arranged (ventilation) holes on the top. The front panel comes with an IR window and a “Standby button”, one of the side includes a “mirco” SD slot, two USB host ports, and the other a Smart Card slot named CA for Conditional Access. The rear panel comes with a coaxial connector where we’ll plug the TV aerial antenna, and a F type connector for the satellite dish, as well as Ethernet, HDMI and the power jack.

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The bottom of the case show it can be wall-mounted, and the recovery pinhole is easily accessible. We can also some information aboit product including the model name: SH6B7FA.

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Sen5 SH6B7FA TV Box Teardown

After removing the four rubber pads, and loosening four screws, I could remove the top cover to have a closer look at the board.

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The processor is covered by an heatsink, so I had to start the box to find out it’s an Amlogic quad core ARM Cortex A53 processor with a Mali-450MP GPU, so probably  Amlogic S905D since we have two demodulators on the board with Availink AVL6211LAX DVB-S2/DVB-S channel receiver IC,  and Availink AVL6762TA DVB-T2/T/C demodulator, which should mean each tuner is independent, and you should be able record live TV on DVB-S2, while watching a channel on DVB-T2.

We have two 4 Gbit Samsung K4B4G1646E-BCMA DDR3 chip (1 GB RAM) on this side of the board, and an 8GB Samsung KLM8G1WEPD-B031 eMMC flash. That’s the lowest Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash available with theorethical 140/8MB/s R/W sequential speed, and 5K/0.6K R/W IOPS. Performance in Android may not always be optimal. Since the box is now only for distributors/resellers, it’s possible some will update to a faster model.

Networking is achieved with Ampak AP6212A module for 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (2.4 GHz only) and Bluetooth 4.0 LE, as well as Realtek RTL8211F transceiver and TNK QT24A03 transformer for Gigabit Ethernet.

The serial console should be accessible via CN7 or CN4 both of which are 4-pin headers. The board name is SMB.150.01 manufactured on February 2017, so it’s pretty new.

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It took out the shield on top of the circuitry for the coaxial connector, and it’s using Rafael Micro R836 digital TV tuner for DVB-T/T2/C, ISDB-T/C, DTMB, ATSC, J.83B. I could not easily remove the other shield so I skipped it.

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I still removed the board completely from the enclosure, and we can see a thermal pad placed right under the processor connects to a thick metal plate for cooling, There’s also tow more RAM chips bringing the total memory to 2GB, a micro SD slot and the recovery button.

So to summarize, Sen5 SH6B7FA set-top box must be powered by Amlogic S905D processor with 2GB RAM, and 8 GB flash + micro SD slot, supports HDMI 2.0a output, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0 (likely upgradeable), and comes with three USB ports (but only two exposed by the case, why?), independent DVB-T2/T and DVB-S2/S tuners, and a smart card reader for conditional access/premium content.

I also booted it to check the processor, but I also quickly had a look at the software, and it’s running Android 6.0.1 with Kodi 17 pre-installed, and a separate TV app is used to watch live TV.

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NesTV launcher looks quite prettier than many of the other launcher I’ve used. But we’ll find out more about the software and how the box performs in the second part of the review which I’ll probably publish sometimes in May.

I don’t have pricing, nor availability information yet, and beside their HKTDC page, the company also has its  own website, but it has not been updated for a while…

Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid STB Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, TV Center, and DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 App

March 22nd, 2017 63 comments

Last year I reviewed K1 Plus T2 S2, an Android TV box powered by Amlogic S905 quad core processor with DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 tuner support, which worked with some caveats. VideoStrong has now send me an updated model with Amlogic S912 octa-core processor, which I presented in the post entitled Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid Android STB Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown, where I listed the specifications, and showed photos of the device and the boards (main board + tuner board). I’ve now had time to play with the device, and in many respects the user experience is very similar to the one I got with KI Plus T2 S2 models, but there are also some tweaks, and a few bugs which I’ll report in the second part of the review below.

KIII Pro Hybrid TV Box Setup, Settings, & Power Consumption

The four USB ports are really convenient, as I could connect a USB hard drive, an air mouse, a wireless game pad, and a USB keyboard without the need for a USB hub. I also connected the usual Ethernet and HDMI cable, plus the cable from my Satellite dish to the DVB-S2 F connector, and the cable from my roof antenna to the DVB-T2 coaxial connector.

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Once we connect the power, the device boots automatically, and usually takes under 30 seconds to do so. The launcher is pretty much the same as KI Plus TV box.

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So I won’t go through it in details again, and will only comment on one change. Kodi is gone and been replaced by something called “TV Center”. So I clicked on it, and it showed a famous Chinese proverb “The installation isn’t installed!”. So I went to the list of apps, and click on TV CENTER, which will do the installation of this mysterious app.

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Once it’s done I can click on TV Center, and the user interface looks familiar.

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So that means they made some modifications to Kodi 17, and change the name to comply with the trademark requirements.

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The TV Center installation also automatically added some add-ons as shown in the screenshot below.

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The Setting app is exactly the same as for other recemt Amlogic TV boxes, and there’s nothing specific to DVB, so I’ll mostly skip it (If you want to see check out Qintaix Q912 review), except to show Storage & USB section that reveals 634 MB is used out of 16.00 GB. That’s obviously a fake number, and it should be around 11 to 12 GB, but the company may have chosen to do so to avoid some customer’s complains that there’s not 16GB storage, as they don’t understand the OS take places on the flash.

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It also shows NTFS and exFAT file systems are supported, but not EXT-4, nor BTRFS.

The About section shows the model is indeed KIII pro running Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29. The firmware is rooted by default.

OTA update appears to be supported, but at the time of the review, there was no update available.

I tested the provide IR remote by adding two AA batteries, and it works well up to 10 meters. For most other TV boxes, I’d recommend to use an air mouse, bu in the case of KIII Pro, you’ll need to keep using the remote control in order to support DTV app for DVB-S2/DVB-T2 properly, maybe switching to an air mouse or wireless keyboard + touchpad for some other Android apps. One recurring issue in most TV boxes is still present in KIIIPro however: the mouse cursor is rather small when you set your TV to 4K resolution.

I could install all apps I needed through Google Play, and Amazon Underground without issues.

The set-top box has only two power modes: off or on, and there’s no standby mode. I can turn the device on or off using the IR remote control or the power button.

Power consumption is pretty high in power off, as I tested different options with or without the USB hard drive, but I found a lot of variability with testing:

  • Power off – Test 1: 5.1 Watt; Test 2: 2.2  Watts; Test 3: 3.1 Watts
  • Idle – 7.2 Watts, then 4.3 Watts (2nd try)
  • Power off + HDD – Test 1: 5.1 Watt; Test 2: 2.2  Watts; Test 3: 3.1 Watts
  • Idle + HDD – 9.3 Watts then 8.1 Watts (2nd try)

The good news is that USB ports are turned off in power off mode, so at least the extra power consumption does not come from those ports.

Temperature is a little higher than other boxes, but I’ve not encounter massive CPU throttling during my tests. After playing a 2-hour video the maximum top and bottom temperatures as measured with an IR thermometer were respectively 53°C and 57°C, while after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 to 20 minutes the temperatures were 51°C and 57°C, but I did not notice any lower framerate in the game as the time went on. I quickly started CPU-Z after quitting the game, and the reported temperature in the app was a high 89°C, so in some conditions performance degradation due to high temperature might be possible, I just did not experience it during my tests. FYR, room temperature was around 30 °C during testing.

KIII Pro Android firmware feels very much like any other Amlogic S912/S905X TV boxes, and it was responsive without any critical bugs. The only small annoyances were the somewhat loud music during the boot animation, the small cursor at 4K resolution, and the relatively high power consumption in power off mode.

Video & Audio Tests with TV Center (Kodi), and DRM Info

As we’ve seen in the section above, Kodi is not installed per se, but instead the box comes with an installer for a fork of Kodi 17.0-RC3 called TV Center.

I enabled “Adjust display refresh rate” in Kodi settings,and started by playing 4K video over Ethernet from a Linux SAMBA share:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Not always smooth
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC, 24 fps) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – The video plays in slow motion and audio delays (NB: 4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by S912 VPU)
  • 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
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Plays at around 1 to 2 fps (expected since it relies software decode as S912 VPU does not support 10-bit H.264)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – USB hard drive playback: Not smooth as on all other Amlogic TV boxes.
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays, but not always perfectly smooth as with all Amlogic S912 TV boxes.

4K video capabilities are pretty much the same as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, except for HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 that was worse than usual. Automatic frame rate switching is not working again as is the case on most other S912 boxes, except MINIX NEO U9-H.

Next up I enabled HDMI audio pass-through in Kodi, and since TrueHD is not part of the list, I also enabled Dolby Digital (AC3) transcoding.

Here are the results of my tests with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MX Player / Video Player app)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but video not smooth at all OK Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1), Video not smooth
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK Video not smooth, and audio cuts No audio
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
DTS HD Master OK No audio No audio and black screen
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK No audio and black screen
DTS:X OK No audio No audio and black screen

That’s pretty bad if you plan to use HDMI audio pass-through, except for Dolby Digital 5.1 / AC3. The first video has often problem on Amlogic TV boxes in Kodi, but most AC3 video should work fine. A good news is that AC3 is working via MX Player, so if you receive live TV channels with AC3 audio through the DTV app, it should be able to decode AC3 audio properly, something that was not possible in K1 Plus T2 S2.

I also played a 2-hour video to check for stability. The first time, TV CEnter app crashed with the message “Unfortunately TV Center has stopped” after about 5 minutes, and my second attempt was not completely trouble free either, as the video stopped at around the 50 minutes marked, and the system went back to TV Center UI, but I could select the video again, was offered to resume from 49:21, and it could play until the end.

KIII Pro supports Widevine Level 3 DRM. That means no Netflix HD like on most competing Android media players.

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DTV App for DVB-S/S2 and DVB-T/T2

Now to the most important features of KIII Pro hybrid set-top box: DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 tuner support. The box is using the same DTV app as on K1 Plus T2 S2 with only minor modifications. The first time you launch the app, you should get the following message indicating there aren’t any channels yet, and asking you to scan for channels.

Once you agree, you’ll be ask to select DVB S/S2 or DVB T/T2.

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I’ve gone with the latter first, and I’ll redirect you to the post entitled “How to Configure DVB-S2 and DVB-T2 Tuners in K1 Plus Android DTV Receiver” since the procedure is the same. I got 26 channels for my T2 scan, but somehow I got 30 channels on K1 Plus T2 S2. So I went to check the settings, and this time the Area Setting was already set to Thailand, either automatically, or it was done before sending the device.

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Anyway I could watch both HD and SD channels without any problems, and signal strength are quality are both at 100% or close to it all the time.

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The EPG looks exactly the same, and it still has problems with Thai encoding or font.

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But before testing other features, let’s configure our satellite dish. Press the Menu key on the remote control, select Installation,

and then DVB S/S2.

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You’ll be able to select your satellite from a list, or define your own as I showed in K1 Plus T2 S2 setup guide and review. I did not show Motor Settings last time, so I’ve taken two screenshots one showing DiSEQc 1.2 support…

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… and the other USALS support. I have not tested either since I don’t own a motorized satellite dish.

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Once you are happy with the setting go to Multi Scan menu to see your satellite list, and press the Blue button on the remote control to start scanning.

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I got 25 TV channels and 7 radios after selecting a Blind Scan and FTA (free-to-air) channels only. Last year, I got 55 TV channels and 5 radio with the same “Thaicom2” satellite. Go figure… Signal strength and quality are quite lower in my case at around 55% and 50% respectively. There are some channels without signal, just as with K1 Plus T2 S2.

One nice improvement is that you don’t need to select between DVB-T2 or DVB-S2 when you start DTV app, as all your channels are shown in the list.

I tried EPG scheduling to start playback or record video, and it works exactly like before.

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So  I setup a few “timers, and watched a DVB-T2 channel live, and one minute before a schedule recording on MONEY channel (DVB-S2) the following window overlaid the video:

I did not press any button, and one the count down expire, it switched to MONEY channel automatically (good), and I got the message “recording complete” (bad). I could reproduce this bug several times. I noticed if I schedule a recording on a channel, and stay on that channel it will work fine.

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You can see the list of recording above on my USB hard drive with some started manually (REC key on remote), and several scheduled. All the 0 bytes videos are due to the bug described above. So schedule does not work 100% reliably. However I noticed different current times (shown in top right of EPG) with different channels, for example it was 13:10 on a DVB-T2 channels, and 13:18 on a DVB-S2 channel, so this might explain some of the issues.. Please note that if you schedule program, and turn off the box, it won’t automatically start to record, and some comments in case try to run DTV app in the background and do other things. The DTV app must run in foreground in other to record videos.

I was more lucky with TimeShifting. Pressing the play/pause key on the remote control, will ask you to select a storage device, and you’ll be able to pause and play live TV within a default 5 minutes period, but this is adjustable in the settings. Note that you need external storage, as this won’t work from the flash.

Advanced users will be able to access CCcam, BISS, and PowerVU setting, by pressing the Menu key, selecting Installation and DVB S/S2, and from there enter 111111 on the remote (6 times character 1) to access Smart Data Manager menu.

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I have not done a video again since it’s so similar to the previous model, with just a few minor changes to the user interface, and if you want to check out DTV app into more details, I invite you to watch K1 Plus T2 S2 video review.

Networking (WiFi & Ethernet)

I’ve checked WiFi performance by transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash (and vice versa) using ES File Explorer. I’ve only tried 802.11ac (connected @ 265 Mbps) , and again performance was asymmetric with the download @ 3.70 MB/s and upload @ 1.44 MB/s, and average @ 2.1 MB/s which makes it similar to other recent Amlogic TV boxes.

Throughput in MB/s

However, last time I reviewed MINIX NEO U9-H which had disappointing WiFi results with the same tests, as it was much slower than MINIX NEO U1 despite ahving the same WiFi module and overall system setup. MINIX them showed me their own tests with different routers showing similar performance between NEO U1 and NEO U9-H, so Amlogic may have completely blown up their SAMBA implementation in their Android 6.0 SDK (NEO U1 runs Android 5.0, U9-H runs Android 6.0).

For that reason, I also tested 802.11ac download speed using iperf “download” test:

That’s 216 Mbps (~27 MB/s) with a raw TCP transfer, and while SAMBA is not supposed to be the fastest network protocol, performance should not drop as low as 3.7 MB/s (over 7 times slower) for the SAMBA download unless something is really wrong.

I also tested Gigabit Ethernet with iperf but using a dual duplex test, and performance is fine.

Doing a SAMBA download over Gigabit Ethernet gets a 885 MB file transfer in 59 seconds (15 MB/s) to the internal flash, which is pretty much normal. So it looks like the issues occur when combining WiFi with SAMBA. SAMBA performs fine with Ethernet, and WiFi raw TCP transfer speed is OK.

Storage

KIII Pro supports exFAT, NTFS, and FAT32 file systems, but not EXT-4 and BTRFS. Benchmarks with A1SD bench shows you should avoid exFAT to record videos with the DTV app, as write speed is rather low (1.35 MB/s), and the write speed (156.09 MB/s) is just incorrect as it is what triggered the “Cached read” in the screenshot below.

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That means your only option is to use NTFS for external storage if you want to support larger video files. Performance is good at 44.43 MB/s for read speed, and  16.74 MB/s write speed.

The eMMC flash (“SD card” in screenshot) performance is not outstanding, but at 41.34 MB/s (read) and 18.29 MB/s (write) is good enough for the system to boot fast, and feel responsive at all times.

KIII Pro Benchmarks

CPU-Z correctly reports an octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.51 GHz with an ARM Mali-T860 GPU. Model KIII Pro is using q20x board, and the pp shows with 2825 MB total RAM, and 11.87 GB internal storage (the real value, but the 16GB shows in Android settings).

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Since I’ve reviewed so many Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and only ran Antutu 6.x benchmark to make sure there was no hidden issue, and the 40,330 points achieved by the TV box is within the normal range.

Conclusion

KIII Pro comes with typical performance and flaws of other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, with Android 6.0 firmware working well, TV Center (Kodi 17 fork) playing 4K videos relatively well, supporting DD 5.1 pass-through, but not the full range of audio codec, and lacking support for automatic frame rate switching. The device is however unique thanks to its dual tuner with DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 inputs, and the DTV app is about the same as on the previous model (K1 Plus T2 S2), but merges channels from both sources instead of having to choose at launch. Sadly some of the same bugs and shortcomings linger such as font encoding issues, and inablity to run PVR process in the background.

PROS

  • Stable and Responsive Android 6.0 firmware
  • Decent 4K video playback in TV Center (Kodi fork)
  • Support for Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3) HDMI pass-through and downmixing in all apps
  • DVB-S/S2 & DVB-T/T2 support via DTV app with timershifting, EPG, and PVR support
  • Good 802.11ac WiFi and Ethernet performance
  • OTA firmware update (App is there, but not fully tested as no new firmware available during the review)

CONS (and Bugs)

  • DVB issues and shortcomings:
    • DVB S/S2 signal strength and quality is only around 50 to 55% (on my setup and for others too), which could lead to problems get signals for some channels
    • Thai font encoding issues
    • In some conditions, scheduled recordings will start on time, but stop immediately resulting in an empty video.
    • PVR function does not work in background, so the DTV app must be on the foreground at all time, and the box cannot be turned off when using schedules/timers.
  • HDMI audio pass-through not working (in TV Center) for Dolby Digital+ 7.1, TrueHD and DTS / DTS-HD
  • Automatic frame rate switching is not working in Kodi
  • Potential instability issues with TV Center – The 2-hour video test failed twice: 1st time: crash after 5 minutes; 2nd time the video stopped after about 50 minutes, but I could resume. N.B.: I did not experience other crashes while testing video samples.
  • Mediocre WiFi + SAMBA performance like in other S905X/S912 TV boxes with Android 6.0.
  • Relatively high power consumption (2.2 to 5.1 Watts) in power off mode
  • While I have not noticed obvious CPU or GPU throttling during my tests, temperature does get high (89 °C reported in CPU-Z)
  • Minor issues – Very small mouse pointer @ 4K resolutions, loud music during boot logo

Finally, I also have a user-friendliness remark. If you are just going to use TV Center and DTV app, the provided IR remote control will do, but if you are going to also use other Android apps, I normally recommend to replace the IR remote control with an air mouse. It’s not really possible/practical with KIII Pro, as DTV app has been designed around the IR remote control with keys such as MENU, PVR, REC, EPG… That means you’ll need juggle with both the IR remote control and an air mouse in order to fully enjoy all capabilities of the device. It would be really nice if VideoStrong could come up with an (optional) air mouse with keyboard that also supports DTV app.

Resellers and distributors may inquire Videostrong via their Alibaba page to purchase KIII Pro in quantities. Individuals can purchase KIII Pro Android set-top box on  GearBest ($117.99), Aliexpress ($141 and up), Banggood ($133.99), and other online retailers.

Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid Android STB Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown

March 13th, 2017 33 comments

K1 Plus T2 S2 review has been a popular post on CNX Software, as many people tried to improve their experience with the device. VideoStrong has just send an updated version of their DVB-T2 + DVB-S2 TV box with Mecool KIII Pro octa-core Hybrid STB powered by an Amlogic S912 processor combined with 3 GB RAM and 16GB storage, and the same dual tuner configuration. I’ve started the review by posting some pictures of the hardware, inside out, before reporting my experience with Android, especially the DTV part, in a few weeks.

KIII Pro Specifications

  • SoC –  Amlogic S912 octa core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with  Mali-T820MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 3 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60Hz with support for HDR10 and HLG, and 3.5mm AV (composite video) jack
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV (stereo audio), optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs – 10-bit H.265, and VP9 up to 4K60, H.264 up to 4K30, AVS+ up to 1080p60
  • Tuner – Combo DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 with two connectors
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button and LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply –  DC 12V/12A
  • Dimensions – 130 x 120 x 32 mm
  • Weight – ~190 grams

The box runs Android 6.0 with Kodi 17 pre-installed.

KIII Pro Unboxing

I received the device in a white retail package marked “KIII Pro Octa-core Hybrid STB” and “OTT TV BOX”.

The bottom of the package has some of the specs.The set-top box ships with a 12V/1A power supply, a largish IR remote control taking two AA batteries, an HDMI cable, and a user’s manual in English.

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The enclosure is very similar to K1 Plus with the edges “smoothed” out.

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The power bottom can conveniently be found on the top cover, one side has four USB 2.0 host ports, a micro SD, and the rear panel features a DVB-T2 coaxial connector, a DVB-S2 F connector, CVBS/LR composite + stereo audio 3.5mm jack, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a HDMI 2.0a port, optical S/PDIF, and the power jack.

KIII Pro Teardown

Let’s open the thing. We’ll have to start with the bottom cover. First we’ll notice a D0:76:58 MAC address which is not registered with IEEE, but the company previously explained that it was for “localized network, and it is the only ID for empowering applications to activate, specially IPTV applications”. Then, the box can be wall-mounted via two “hooks”, which can be convenient in some use cases. Finally, there’s a recovery pinhole on the right of the sticker in order to reinstall firmware if your box does not boot anymore.

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We don’t need to remove all rubber pads, as there are two just screws holding the case together. One under the bottom left rubber pad, and one under the QC sticker, which you need to pierce through. Once we’ve removed those two screws, the box comes apart easily.


We have two boards: main board with heatsink on the CPU, and a yellow board with the tuner circuitry.

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We’ll find two SpecTek DDR3 SDRAM chips: PE029-125 (512 MB) and another chip market “512X16DDR3” (1 GB) for a total of 1.5 GB RAM on this side of the board. The flash is covered by a sticker, which I have not removed, so we’ll see how storage performs in benchmarks. Gigabit Ethernet is done using Realtek RTL8211F transceiver, and Pulse H5900L transformer, while AC WiFi  and Bluetooth LE is implemented via a module marked “KM63351412” which could be equivalent to AP6335 module found in some other devices. Other chips include GL852G USB hub, and DIO2133 audio driver. If you want to hack the board, the serial console should be available via an unpopulated 4-pin header on the bottom left of the photo above.

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The other side of the CPU board comes with a micro SD card slot, and 1.5 GB extra RAM to bring the total to 3GB. We can also see extra cooling with a thick metal plate, covered by a black sheet, itself covered by a thin plastic transparent sheet on the bottom of the enclosure.

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S2&T2_R848_REV1.2 tuner board looks very similar to KI Plus tuner board, but just upgraded from Revision 1.0 to Revision 1.2, and featuring the same Availink AVL6862TA DVB-C/T/T2 + DVB-S/S2 demodulator, but they changed Rafael Micro R848 tuner chip to R912 model, which is not documentation on Rafael Micro website yet.

If you are interested in purchasing KIII Pro in quantities, you may inquire Videostrong via their Alibaba page. Mecool KIII Pro can also be purchased online on sites such as GearBest ($117.99), which by the way currently has promotions for their 3rd anniversary, as well as several shops on Aliexpress ($141 and up) and Banggood ($133.99).

[Update: Part 2 of the review is up @ Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid STB Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, TV Center, and DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 App]

Datamax DM145S Hybrid TV Box with Digital Tuners is Powered by Amlogic S905D Processor

January 10th, 2017 9 comments

There are already several Amlogic Android TV boxes with dual tuner on the market, but so far you could not use both tuner at the same time, for example using one to watch live TV, and another to record TV [Update: WeTek Play 1st generation based on Amlogic AML87426-MX can do that]. Amlogic S905D is supposed to change that, and Datamax DM145S is the first device I’ve seen featuring the new processor.

datamax-dm14s5Datamax DM145S specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S905D Quad Core Cortex A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with ARM Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB RAM
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a + AV
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wifi, optional Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Tuner – Combination of DVB-C/T2, DVB-S2, ATSC or ISDB-T
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 115 x 115 x 28 mm
  • Weight – 200g

The device runs Android 6.0

amlogic-s905d-tv-boxI could not find the box for sale anywhere yet, but DM145S is listed on the company’s hybrid TV boxes page.

Via AndroidPC.es

SmartHomy Hybrid TV Box with DTV Tuner Triples as a Game Console & Home Automation Gateway (Crowdfunding)

December 26th, 2016 25 comments

SmartHomy Homy Player is a TV box running Android TV that includes an ATSC, DVB-T2/C,DVB-S2, or ISDB-T tuner, is said to be powerful enough to be used as a 3D gaming platform, and serves as a security system and home automation gateway using Z-Wave, Bluetooth, WiFi and IR blaster to control your things.

smart-homyHomy player specifications [Updated on January 19th, 2017]:

  • SoC – Amlogic S912 octa-core Cortex A53 processor with Mali T820MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 3 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC flash
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz with HDCP 2.2, HDR, CEC
  • Audio Output – HDMI and optical S/PDIF
  • Video / Audio Capabilities – 10-bit 4K H.265 @ 60 fps, HD audio pass-through, Dolby Digital & DTS licenses
  • DRM – Widevine Level 1, Microsoft PlayReader, Netflix license
  • Digital TV Tuner – DVB-S2 (satellite), DVB-C/T/T2 (Cable/Terrestrial), ATSC, and ISDB-T
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, Z-Wave (Plus 500 series)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Dimensions – 200 x 143 x 40 mm
  • Weight – 530 grams

The device ships with Homy Remote, a backlit Bluetooth 4.0 LE remote control that includes gyroscope, and allows to control the player with voice commands. Smart Homy appears to mostly targets the US markets as seen in the comparison table with some home automation solution, media players. and game console.

smart_homy_comparison

Click to Enlarge

It would have been a little more fair to include the non-pro version of NVIDIA Shield Android TV since the price without hard drive is also $199, and it still lacks home automation support and the tuners. While you can play games with Amlogic S912 SoC, the performance will be much lower than the NVIDIA box.

In order to maximize Z-Wave interoperability, Homy Player supports more than 50 command classes for Z-Wave devices, and the player/gateway also supports more than 70 Security Devices, including common security cameras. Configuration of home automation is allegedly simplified thanks to a “patent pending” Scene Recording System where you can easily record trigger and action using your physical devices.


SmartHomy has launched Homy Player on Indiegogo (flexible funding), where the company targets to raise $59,000 or more. A $199 pledge should get you Homy Player with the remote and an extra 64GB storage. Shipping adds $30, and delivery is scheduled for July 2017. You may also get more details on SmartHomy website.

Giveaway Week – K1 Plus T2 S2 Android TV Box and DTV Receiver

November 5th, 2016 254 comments

Videostrong K1 Plus T2 S2 is one of the most popular devices this year on CNX Software, as it’s probably the cheapest 4K Android TV box that includes both DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S2/T2 tuner, and beside just supporting Android, the community has also released an OpenELEC image with tuner support, and tools such as a Windows channel editor.

KI_Plus_TV_BoxWhen I first reviewed K1 Plus T2 S2 in February of this year, I found the Android part still needed some work, but the DTV app to watch live TV through my aerial antenna or satellite dish worked reasonably well despite some bugs here and there. Since then the company must have fixed some of the issues through various firmware updated, but some people are running Vitmos OpenELEC image instead since it may be more familiar, and other interfaces like Enigma may also be supported.

Android_Digital_TV_Receiver_Accessories

All accessories shown above will be included in the package sent to the winner.

To enter the draw simply leave a comment below. Other rules are as follows:

  • Only one entry per contest. I will filter out entries with the same IP and/or email address.
  • Contests are open for 48 hours starting at 10am (Bangkok time) every day. Comments will be closed after 48 hours.
  • Winners will be selected with random.org, and announced in the comments section of each giveaway.
  • I’ll contact the winner by email, and I’ll expect an answer within 24 hours, or I’ll pick another winner.
  • Shipping
    • $17 for registered airmail small packet for oversea shipping payable via Paypal within 48 hours once the contest (for a given product) is complete.
    • If Paypal is not available in your country, you can still play, and I’ll cover the cost of sending the parcel by Sea and Land (SAL) if you win.
  • I’ll post all 7 prizes at the same time, around the 10th of November
  • I’ll make sure we have 7 different winners, so if you have already won a device during this giveaway week, I’ll draw another person.

Good luck!

If you’re not lucky, Videostrong K1 Plus T2 S2 can be purchased for around $60 on GeekBuying, eBay, Aliexpress, and other websites.

Outernet Introduces Standalone & DIY Internet Satellite Kits for C.H.I.P Board, Raspberry Pi 3 Board, and Laptops

November 3rd, 2016 16 comments

Outernet goal is to bring knowledge and/or emergency info to places without Internet either to remote places, or where Internet has been temporary shutdown due to natural disasters or political reasons through a satellite feed. In some ways, it works like a typical FM radio, but instead of receiving audio, you’ll get data. The first hardware was based on WeTek Play TV box, and called Lighthouse, but they now have a DIY kit that will work with Next Thing C.H.I.P, Raspberry Pi, or Laptops running Windows 7/10 or Linux, as well as a standalone Outernet Satellite kit including C.H.I.P Allwinner R8 development board.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Let’s first check out “Basic Outernet DIY Kit” comprised of three items:

  • L-Band Antenna
    • Frequency: 1525 – 1559 MHz (Center frequency: 1542 MHz)
    • 8dbi
    • 4″  SMA Male connector
    • Dimensions – 12 cm x 12 cm x 1.5 cm
    • Weight – ~100 grams
  • RTL-SDR Blog Software Defined Radio/Tuner USB dongle
    • Ultra-low phase noise 0.5PPM TCXO
    • RF-suitable voltage regulator and custom heatsink
    • SMA female connector
    • SDR frequency range of approximately 25MHz – 1700MHz
    • Bias tee (software enabled)
  • Outernet/Inmarsat Amplifier (LNA) board
    • Frequency: 1525 – 1559 MHz (Center Frequency: 1542 MHz)
    • Gain – 34 dB
    • Voltage – 3.0V – 5.5V
    • Current Draw – 25 mA
    • Dimensions – 6.5 cm x 1.5 cm x 2.5 cm
    • Weight – 8.5 grams

The kit costs $69, but it’s not usable standalone, and you’ll need to connect the USB dongle your own C.H.I.P or Raspberry Pi 3 board running rxOS operating system, or laptop and configure them as explained in the documentation to configure and run the system in order to access Outernet Library through your satellite (DVB-S). It should be possible to use other boards too, but you’d have to handle the software part yourself. It should not be too complicated since the only hardware interface is a USB port.

However, if you want something that mostly works out of the box, you should consider “Deluxe Outnert DIY receiver kit” with included all items from the basic kit, plus a pre-configured C.H.I.P board, and a battery pack for $99.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Once you’ve assembled the kit, pointed the L-band antenna to the right satellite, and completed the configuration through the web browser of a WiFi enabled device such as a smartphone. Outernet kit will freely download data (textbooks, health guides, courseware, weekly news, emergency info, disaster alerts, crop prices…) depending on your selected satellite, and anybody with a smartphone or computer will be able to access the data updated weekly/daily.

You’ll find the some details explaining how Outernet works and available data on my first post about Outernet, or for the complete details, visit directly Outernet.is.

Ferguson Ariva 4K Android STBs Come with Digital TV Tuners, a Pay TV Card Reader, and a SATA Bay

October 19th, 2016 22 comments

We already have a choice of Android TV boxes with digital TV tuners (DVB-T2, DVB-S2, ATSC…) with devices like K1 Plus T2 S2, U4 Quad Hybrid, and Wetek Play 2, but Ferguson, a company based in Poland, has two other options based on Amlogic S905 processors with their Ariva 4K and Ariva 4K Combo with one or two tuners, a Pay TV card reader which is not available on competitors’ models, and 2.5″ HDD bay in the bottom of the case implemented via a USB 2.0 to SATA bridge.

ferguson-ariva-4kAriva 4K & 4K Combo specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905-B quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with Mali-450MP GPU

    RCU660 Universal RCU - Click to Enlarge

    RCU660 Universal RCU – Click to Enlarge

  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + slot for HDD mounting (on the bottom) + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz and AV port
  • Audio – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Audio Decode – Dolby Digital/Digital Plus, MPEG, OGG, OGA, FLAC, ALAC, Ape, M4A, RM, MPEG-1 Layer1/2, MPEG-2 Layer II (DTS pass-through)
  • Tuners
    • Ariva 4K – DVB-S/S2 tuner & demodulator via LNG IN F-Female connector
    • Ariva 4K Combo –  DVB-S/S2 tuner & demodulator via LNG IN F-Female connector + DVB-T/T2/C tuner & demodulator via ANT IN IEC-Female connector
    • DiSEqC 1.0, 1.1 and DiSEqC 1.2, USALS (Universal Satellites Automatic Location System) support
    • Card reader for pay-per-view television / conditional access (CAS)
    • PVR functions – Record, time-shifting with support for FAT32 and NTFS file systems
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, recovery pin hole, power button, and front panel LCD display
  • Power Supply –  12V/2.0A (24W); >0.5W in standby mode
  • Dimensions – 258 x 158 x 43 mm
  • Weight – 800 grams

The device runs Android 5.1, and ships with RCU660 universal IR remote control, and an instruction manual available in English, German, Polish, and Spain.

ariva-4k-combo-ant-in-lnb-in

Ariva 4K Combo – Click to Enlarge

Usually, I don’t even look at the user manual since it’s normally useless, but Ferguson put a lot of efforts and details in their 42 pages manual, so it might be useful. If you can read Polish there’s also a Wiki. They also have a YouTube account explaining how to configure their devices, for example using USALS when you have a motorized satellite dish that can handle multiple satellite as shown below.

Ferguson Ariva 4K Android TV boxes can be bought on Satshop.tv for 179 Euros, and 189 Euros for the Combo version including VAT. You’ll also find some more details on Ferguson website.