Archive

Posts Tagged ‘set-top box’

Popcorn Hour VTEN Media Player Powered by Sigma Designs SMP8757 STB SoC Supports 4K, H.265 Codec

January 20th, 2015 11 comments

Cloud Media must have noticed the shortcomings of Rockchip SDK and RK3288 processor found in their Open Hour Chameleon box with pseudo 4K video playback and only partial audio pass-through capability, and the company have not given up on more traditional Linux based media players with a proven track record, as they’ve just announced Popcorn Hour VTEN featuring the latest Sigma Designs SMP8757 SoC with 4K video output.
Popcorn_Hour_VTEN
Popcorn Hour VTEN specifications:

  • SoC – Sigma Designs SMP8757 ARM Cortex A9 processor @ 1.2 GHz with ARM Mali-400 GPU
  • System Memory – 1024MB DDR3
  • Storage – 512MB SLC NAND Flash, 1x eSATA port, 1x SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI
  • Audio Output – HDMI, optical S/PDIF, and coaxial S/PDIF
  • Video Containers – MPEG 1/2/4 Elementary, MPEG 1/2 PS, MPEG-2 TS, AVI, ASF, WMV, MKV, MOV (H.264), MP4, 3DMKV, BD-ISO, BDMV, 3D-BD
  • Video Codecs – XViD SD/HD, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 MP@HL, MPEG-4.2, MPEG-4 10, WMV9, VC-1, H.265/HEVC
  • Audio
    • Formats – AAC, M4A, MPEG audio, WAV, WMA, FLAC, OGG, APE, TTA, DSD
    • Decoders – DTS, WMA, WMA Pro, MPEG-1 (Layer 1,2,3), MPEG-4 AAC-LC, MPEG-4 HE-AAC, LPCM, FLAC, Vorbix
    • Pass-through – DTS, DTS-HD HR, DTS-HD MA
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, optional WN-160P USB Wi-Fi dongle (802.11 b/g/n)
  • Misc – IR receiver, power and network LEDs
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A
  • Dimensions – 144 x 110 x 30 mm (Aluminum enclosure)
  • Weight – 1 kg

The system runs the company’s NMJ Media Jukebox application. Sigma Designs is a company strongly believing in the benefits of closed source software, so don’t expect much from them in terms of complying with open source licenses, except possibly the Linux kernel.

NMJ_MediaJukeboxVTEN is up for pre-order for $169, with shipping scheduled for February 6, 2015.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

Linux based Vu+ DVB Set-top Boxes Now Support XBMC/Kodi

January 17th, 2015 11 comments

Vu+ Duo2, Solo2 and Solo SE are high-end Linux based DVB receivers powered by Broadcom processors made by Ceru, and with a relatively active community of users and developers. All three models have recently received support for XBMC in their “Black Hole” firmware. Solo SE is the most recent model having been released in 2014, against Duo2 and Solo2 that have been selling since 2012 according to Wikipedia. Since I’ve never heard about these, I’ll check out Duo2, as it comes with the most features out of the three.

Vu+_Duo2.jpgVu+ Duo2 specifications:

  • SoC – Broadcom BCM7424 dual core MIPS processor @ 1.3 GHz with VideoCore IV GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM
  • Storage – 1 GB NAND flash + SATA III interface for 2.5″ and 3.5″ HDD (internal) + eSATA +
  • Video Output – HDMI, SCART, Composite, and Component (YPbPr)
  • Audio Output – HDMI, stereo audio, and optical S/PDIF
  • Tuners – 2x S2/C/T2 (Up to 4 tuners supported)
  • Front Panel Displays – 3.2″ TFT LCD (262,000 color / 16-bit) + VFD display
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi up to 300 Mbps
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, 2x Smart card slots, RS232 port,
  • Power – 12V/1.5A

The box also supports 3DTV, PiP, on-the-fly video transcoding for mobile devices, up to 16 channels recording via four tuners, and is compliant with HbbTV providing access to TV guides, catch-up services, web video, VOD, or portable services. The Linux distributions used in Vu+ products is based on Enigma2, and it also supports OpenPLI, an open source software for set-top boxes based on Enigma2.

Rear Panel (Click to Enlarge)

Rear Panel (Click to Enlarge)

The tuner cards can also be purchased separately, and you can add satellite, cable, or terrestrial tuners as needed. Only two tuner slots are available, the last slot show on the panel can’t be used (Ultimo model support 3 tuner cards). Since the device has been around for a while, there are already reviews, and the one written by Linux TV, also includes lots of internal pictures.

Vu+ Duo2 sells for 349 Euros on Satshop.TV or 399.99 GBP on Amazon UK. The other two Vu+ set-top boxes supporting XBMC/Kodi cost a bit less, as Vu+ Solo2 goes for 299 Euros, and the new Vu+ Solo SE (Second Edition) for 220 Euros. More details can be found on VuPlus website.

Thanks to Harley for the tip.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

Broadcom Unveils BCM725x SoCs for STBs and TV Sticks

January 14th, 2015 9 comments

Broadcom has recently announced two new SoCs, namely BCM7250 and BCM72502, respectively targeted at OTT streaming media player form factor and  HDMI stick or dongle applications.  Both feature Broadcom’s Brahma-B15 ARMv7-A cores, support 10-bit H.265, HDMI 2.0, MHL 2.0, and up to to 4×4 5G WiFi via BCM4366 WiSoC.

Broadcom_BCM72502_TV_StickKey features listed by Broadcom for both SoCs:

  • High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC)/H.265 compression
  • 6000 DMIPS B15 ARMv7-A CPU
  • 1.0 Gpix/s OpenGL ES 3.0 3D GPU
  • Supports HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 or MHL 2.0 digital video output
  • PCIe connectivity to Broadcom BCM4366 4×4 carrier-grade 5G WiFi
  • 480/576p30 transcode
  • 1080p60 10-Bit HD HEVC decode and 4Kp60 upscale
  • High Performance DDR3/DDR4 system memory interface
  • Supports Android, Chromium, DIAL, DLNA CVP2, Miracast protocols
  • Supports Broadcom Trellis Multi-Application Framework and DTVKit software stack

The company can also provide reference platforms with 2×2 and 4×4 5G WiFi connectivity options via a high-speed PCIe interface, and announced that BCM7250, BCM72502 and BCM4366 are currently sampling.

SML-482 HEVC Hybrid Based on BCM7250

SML-482 HEVC Hybrid Based on BCM7250

Smart Labs is one of the first companies to have designed a products based on the latest Broadcom processors with SML-482 HEVC Hybrid box pictured above featuring BCM7250 processor, and with the following specifications:

  • SoC – Broadcom BCM7250 with 3D GPU supporting OpenGL ES 2.0
  • System Memory – Options: 512MB DDR3, 1GB DDR3 for Dual HEVC Decode, 1GB DDR3 for Android
  • Storage – 256 MB flash  (Up to 16GB as option for Android)
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 1.4 with HDCP 1.4 and 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 (upscale 1080p60 content to 4k2kp60), CVBS + stereo audio
  • Video Codecs – HEVC / H.265, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, VC-1
  • Audio Codecs – MPEG1/2, MP3, AAC, AC3, WMA, FLAC, OGG vorbis
  • Tuner – DVB-C (QAM, ITU-T J.83 Annex A, B, C)
  • Connectivity – 10/100Mbit Base-T Ethernet + optional internal 802.11n Wi-Fi or USB WiFi dongle
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 port,  1x USB 2.0 with internal Wi-Fi (whatever that means)
  • Misc – IR Receiver
  • Dimensions – 100x100x32 mm
  • Weight – 140 grams

The device runs either Linux or Android as option, with Webkit as the browser, and Verimatrix and Securemedia for security / DRM. Smartlabs does not sell to individual, so you may end-up with one, possibly re-branded, via your IPTV provider. More details can be found on Smartlabs SML-482 product page.

I could not find a TV stick with BCM72502, but the one in the top picture might be Broadcom’s reference design.

Via AndroidPC.es

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

Allwinner H3 Android TV Boxes Are Now Selling

January 13th, 2015 1 comment

Allwinner H3 SoC was announced last month, promoted as a quad core processor for low cost ($35 to $50) media players with HEC/H.265 codec support up to 2160p. At least one box – model TVPP0030 - has shown up on Aliexpress for $83.79 including shipping, so either the price initially announced was the BoM cost, or the first sellers offer the box at a premium.

Allwinner_H3_TV_Box

TVPP0030 specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner H3 quad core ARM Cortex A7 @ 1.5GHz with quad core Mali-400MP2
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB NAND flash + micro SD slot up to 32GB
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.3? up to 4K2K, AV output
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, optical S/PDIF
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – IR sensor, recovery pinhole
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – N/A
  • Weight – N/A
The Android 4.4 box comes with an IR remote control, power adapter, and user’s manual.

Allwinner_H3_media_player

The specifications and features are quite similar to BFS 4KH I’ve just reviewed, with an Hisilicon quad core Cortex A7 processor, 4K & H.265 support, a faster GPU, and a USB 3.0 port,  but selling for just over $50 including shipping. So if the price does not come down, Allwinner H3 Android media players won’t sell so well…

Via AndroidPC.es

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

Top 10 Posts of 2014 and Stats on CNX Software

December 31st, 2014 15 comments

Wow! After a slow start of the year, 2014 has been a busy year as new devices based on newer processor from Amlogic started to flood the market in Q2, soon followed by even more Rockchip RK3288 based media players, and then some more Amlogic S805 and Allwinner A80 boards and devices. It’s now the last day of the year, so just like in 2013, it’s time to look back on the main trends of the year, and based on the list of the top 10 most visited posts below, the new generation of ARM Android media players were the most important story of the year on CNX Software, but we also saw more IoT devices and board like Vidonn X5 or LinkIT One, lots of new Wi-Fi modules, and by the end of the year ESP8266 seemed to have won that fight, but being found in $3 Wi-Fi modules. Low cost Intel based mini PCs generated a lot of buzz in the last quarter, although they’ve just started shipping in the last few days.

I’ve compiled the list using data from Google Analytics, filtered posts from 2014, and sorted them by decreasing number of page views. Here are the top 10 posts of 2014:

    1. Review of M8 Android Kitkat TV Box Powered by Amlogic S802 SoC (April 2014) – Shenzhen Tomato M8 was one of the first new generation Android TV boxes available on the market, featuring the new Amlogic S802 quad core Cortex A9 processor with a Mali-450MP6 GPU. Despite stability issues, and poor Wi-Fi performance at with earlier firmware, the device became popular, and is by far the most popular post of 2014, getting three times more pageviews than the post in second position.
    2. Rockchip RK3288 vs RK3188 Performance Comparison (January 2014) – Rockchip RK3188 was the king of 2013 in TV boxes and HDMI TV sticks, so it was natural people were eager to find out more about the performance of its more powerful successor, Rockchip RK3288.
    3. Review of Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite Amlogic S802 TV Box (April 2014) – Tronsmart Vega S89 was another Amlogic S802 Android media player released in April, and my very first review for an Amlogic S802 device, so people certainly wanted to find out more about the performance and video capabilities of the latest Amlogic processor.
    4. How to Upgrade Firmware in Amlogic S802 Devices (April 2014) – With all these Amlogic S802 mini PCs in the market requiring firmware updates, and user friendly working OTA firmware updates a rarity rather than the norm, people had to find out how they could upgrade their device with the latest firmware.
    5. MEEGO-T01 HDMI TV Stick Supports Android, Windows 8.1, and Ubuntu/Linux (October 2014) – By Q4 2014, several low cost Intel Atom Z3735 mini PC started to be announced, and Meego-T01, now better known as MeegoPad T01, got popular as a Windows 8.1 / Android HDMI TV Stick.
    6. ARM Cortex A15/A17 SoCs Comparison – Nvidia Tegra K1 vs Samsung Exynos 5422 vs Rockchip RK3288 vs AllWinner A80 (May 2014) – Several Cortex A15 and A17 based processors have hit the market this year, so I’ve drawn a comparison table with features, interfaces, and interfaces of the most popular ones by Nvidia, Samsung, Rockchip, and Allwinner.
    7. List of Rockchip RK3288 Android TV Boxes So Far (May 2014) – Chinese manufacturers were announcing Rockchip RK3288 devices at a tremendous pace, and many months before Rockchip RK3288 became available, at times announcing their products by showing early PCBA while the enclosure was not finalized. This was all confusing, so I started to make a non-exhaustive list to try to navigate the flood of devices.
    8. M8 Android TV Box Powered by AMLogic S802 (Unboxing) (April 2014) – As people checkout M8 review, the top post of 2014, they also clicked on the unboxing post to checkout pictures and specs of the device.
    9. Raspberry Pi Model A+ Board Features a 40-pin GPIO Connector, a micro SD slot, and Improved Power Management (November 2014) – What happens when you are the first to post a leak of a widely anticipated product? It goes viral. It’s what happens with Raspberry Pi Model A+, as I found a page on Element14 a couple of days before the official release. Posted on November 8, this is the most recent post of this list.
    10. SolidRun HummingBoard is a Raspberry Pi Compatible Board Powered by Freescale i.MX6 (April 2014) – You often read people asking for a more powerful Raspberry Pi, but although the Foundation only released variations of their Broadcom BCM2835 based boards this year with A+ and B+, some R-Pi inspired dual and quad board got released this year with Banana Pi, Orange Pi, and SolidRun HummingBoard.

Several posts from 2013, and even 2012 would have made it to the top 10 list, including my now-somewhat-outdated comparison table of GPU in ARM SoCs, a simplified method to install Rockchip drivers in Windows, a rooting method for WM8800 tablets, or the 84 MB minimal image for the Raspberry Pi.

Let’s now check out some traffic stats for CNX Software blog in 2014.

CNX_Software_Pageviews_2014The year started just like the end of 2013 with traffic around 350,000 pageviews per month, with a slow growth for the first 9 months, but then around mid-October, Google pushed a new search algorithm update, and traffic nearly doubled to 600,000 pageviews in November and December. Google Analytics reports a total of 2,999,462 sessions, 1,757,172 users, and 4,834,676 pageviews for the year, or about a 35% increase in traffic mostly thanks to the last three months.

Nearly 70% of traffic comes from search engines, mainly Google, with the remaining coming from nearly 5,000 other websites. The top 10 search terms clicked (excluding “cnxsoft”, “cnx software” and similar keywords) for the last 3 months listed in Google Webmasters, and referrals for the full year listed in Google Analytics (GA) are shown in the table below. Keywords for the year are listed in GA too, but for the vast majority of request the keywords are “not provided”, which is why I use Google Webmasters data instead.

Top 10 Keywords Top 10 Referrals
m8 android tv box plus.url.google.com
esp8266 scoop.it
meegopad t01 freaktab.com
xtreamer wonder facebook.com
tronsmart draco aw80 reddit.com
rk3288 t.co
meego-t01 raspbian.org
amlogic s812 forum.xbmc.org
amlogic s805 liliputing.com
odroid-c1 4pda.ru

Google Plus, that some “pundits” refers as the “ghost town”, went to the top of referral traffic for the year, barely overtaking scoop.it website curating service. Freaktab and Reddit are new entrants to the referral list. Most keywords are related to Android mini PC articles found the top 10 post, but ESP8266, the ultra low cost Wi-Fi SoC, and ODROID-C1 development board are also part of the list.

Let’s find a bit more about you, my readers / visitors.

CNX_Software_Traffic_2014_Country_CityThe top four countries are still the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France, with the USA and the UK totalling about 22%, just like last year. London still has the top city, with Seoul moving to second position, and moving Moscow down to third.

CNX_Software_Traffic_2014_OS_BrowserWindows is still the most widely use operating systems of CNX visitors, but its market share has gone down from 61.9% to 57.39%. Linux is still in second position, but has gone down from 17.30% to 15.30%, and the rising OS are the mobile OS such as Android and iOS, so we should expect Android to overtake Linux distributions next year, unless something drastic happens. If we add up all Linux based OS (Linux + Android + Chrome OS), Linux market share goes up to 28.55% vs 25.5% last year. Chrome Browser has extended its lead from 43.94% to 48.05%, while Firefox went down to 27.20% from 30.61%, and the others did not change that much. That means despite the rise of Android OS, people are not using the Android Browser that much and prefer to use alternative browsers such as Chromium, Opera, or Firefox.

I’ll conclude this post and 2014 by joining some of this year’s media player, boards, and tools (pictured below) to wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year 2015, which should see the rise of 64-bit ARM platform, an interesting ARM vs Intel mini PCs war, more products finally getting out with alternative OS such as Tizen, Firefos OS, and Ubuntu, as well as low cost IoT products and wearables featuring ESP8266 or Mediatek Aster SoCs.

Happy_New_Year_2015_CNX

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

Best Android Mini PCs Awards of 2014

December 27th, 2014 28 comments

I’ve reviewed quite a few Android media players this year, and as 2014 comes to an end, I thought it might be worth writing a best of 2014. But it’s difficult to announce an overall winner since all have some flaws one way or another, I’ll classified by categories: Best Ethernet, Best Internal Storage, … a bit like for “Oscars ceremony awards, based mostly on objective results from my tests. However, and somewhat oddly for a media player, I won’t select any TV boxes based on their video playback capabilities, as so far I haven’t found one that can play most 4K / H.265 videos reasonably well in Kodi, and video playback tests are also subjective. This is obviously a flawed contest as they all are, because in order to be nominated, the media player must have been reviewed on CNX Software. But it should be fun anyway, so let’s get started.

Best Ethernet Performance – Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta

This year has see several boxes with Gigabit Ethernet, pushing all devices with Fast Ethernet (10/100M) out of contest. However, Gigabit Ethernet has been a challenge for most devices, with some devices being a complete failure such as HPH NT-V6 or Kingnovel K-R6 which failed at full duplex transfers, and here we have a clear and undisputed winner with Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta.

Tronsmart Orion R28 (Click to Enlarge)

Tronsmart Orion R28 (Click to Enlarge)

I used iperf -s on my Ubuntu computer, and iperf – t 60 -c ip_address_ubuntu_compute -d command line in Android iperf app for testing.

Throughput in Mbps (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in Mbps (Click to Enlarge)

Best Wi-Fi Performance – Nagrace HPH NT-V6

Starting this year as well, we saw Android media player featuring 802.11ac Wi-Fi modules such as AP6335, and these are usually at the top of the chart, and the winner is… Nagrace HPH NT-V6 which managed to transfer data above 4.5 MB/s (36 Mbps) on average. It also wins the 802.11n contest at around 3.9 MB/s, barely out-pacing EM6Q-MXQ media player.

Nagrace NT-V (Click to Enlarge)

Nagrace NT-V (Click to Enlarge)

For this test, I’m using ES File Explorer transferring 278 MB between the device and a SAMBA share, and vice versa. Wi-Fi transfer is usually slow enough so that internal flash write speed does not affect the results.

Wi-Fi Throughput in MB/s

Wi-Fi Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Best Internal Storage Performance – Kingnovel K-R6

Internal storage performance may be critical to a system performance. A fast reading speed should yield fast boot and app loading times, and a decent writing speed may avoid user noticeable slowdowns when the system is busy writing, such as when installing apps. The best devices I tested this year are not Android TV boxes, but instead Infocus CS1 A83 tablet, and ODROID XU3-Lite development board’s eMMC module, but since this contest is reserved to Android media player, the winner is Kingnovel K-R6 (previously called K-R68), closely followed by HPH NT-V6, which just won the Ethernet award.

Kingnovel K-R68 4K (Click to Enlarge)

Kingnovel K-R6 (Click to Enlarge)

The tool used to test internal storage performance is A1 SD bench, and I added read and write speed to get the full score.

Best_TV_BOX_Internal_Storage

Internal Storage Read and Write Speeds

Best External Storage Performance – M-195

A device with SATA would have easily won this contest, but unfortunately, none of the TV boxes I tested this year came with a real SATA port, so devices with USB 3.0 ports ought to win that fight, and the inexpensive ($60 to $70), Realtek RTD1195 based M-195 TV box was ahead of the competition, even outperforming other devices with USB 3.0 ports such as ODROID-XU3 Lite or Tronsmart Draco AW80.

M-195 Media Player (Click to Enlarge)

M-195 Media Player (Click to Enlarge)

All tests below were performed with a USB 3.0 hard drive either connected to a USB 2.0 host port, or a USB 3.0 port if available. A1 SD bench was the chosen app.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Best Benchmark Score – Tronsmart Draco AW80 Meta

This one might be controversial, as I may just have given an award to a cheater…with the benchmark crown given to Tronsmart Draco AW80 Meta. But I’ll explain my process below.

Draco AW80 Meta (Click to Enlarge)

Draco AW80 Meta (Click to Enlarge)

The most popular benchmark in Android is clearly Antutu, but many companies tend to “optimize”, an euphemism for “cheat”, their system to score well in Antutu. As you can see in the chart below, Draco AW80 Meta is even ahead of ODROID-XU3 Lite board with a “BIN1″ Exynos 5422 processor @ 2.2 GHz, with the Allwinner A80 is only clocked at 1.8 GHz, and both are octa core processors with four Cortex A15 cores, four Cortex A7 cores.

Best_TV_Box_Antutu

Antutu 5.x Results

So instead I also selected Rockchip RK3288, and Amlogic S802 devices, where I ran Vellamo 3.x, and here somehow the quad Rockchip RK3288 based HPH NT-V6 outperforms both Exynos and Allwinner octa-core processors…

Best_TV_Box_Vellamo

Vellamo 3.x Scores

So I decided to give an equal weight to Antutu and Vellamo by multiplying Vellamo score by eight and adding Antutu score, and that’s what I got.

Best_TV_Box_Hybrid_Benchmark ODROID-XU3 Lite has the highest score based on my hybrid score, but since it’s a development board mainly, I had to declare Tronsmart Draco AW80 Meta the winner.

Most Beautiful TV Box – Ugoos UM3

Many people just want a discreet black box, that does the job, and makes you forget it’s even there. But I’ve decided to give a prettiest box of the year award anyway, and after voting unanimously with myself, I selected Ugoos UM3 which comes with a nice black and red enclosure.

Ugoos Um3 (Click to Enlarge)

Ugoos Um3 (Click to Enlarge)

Best Value for Money – MXQ S85

Most of the time, cheap also means bad quality, but not always. One of the exception is MXQ S85 selling for about $50, with above average Wi-Fi and 10/100M Ethernet performance, pretty goos codecs/containers support in XBMC, H.265 support in MX Player, reasonable internal storage performance, and overall very stable firmware. This is obviously not a racing horse, but if all you need of a 1080p media player, with some support for not-so-demanding Android apps, then it should do the job. MK808B Plus TV stick based on the same Amlogic S805 processor might have taken it place for just $30 to $39, but I did not review it, and it could not be nominated.

MXQ S85 (Click to Enlarge)

MXQ S85 (Click to Enlarge)

Best Software Support – WeTek Play

The last award is more like a special mention, as the product is very new, but WeTek Play comes with an amazing number of available firmwares, beside the officially supported Android and OpenELEC images, including Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, and various Android ROMs. It also features a specially designed DVB app with automatic scanning and PVR function, as well as WeCloud Antenna app with over 180 free-top-air channels available over the network. A support forum has also been setup.

WeTek Play (Click to Enlarge)

WeTek Play (Click to Enlarge)

Best Gaming Experience – Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta

An Nvidia Tegra K1 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 mini PC would have certainly won here, but I can’t think of any Android mini PCs featuring rthese processors, and among Chinese processors, Rocklchip RK3288 based device offer the best 3D graphics performance, close to Alwinner A80, and much better than Amlogic S802/S812, based on gaming experience and benchmarks such as 3Dmark. Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta is the winner here, as contrary to other RK3288 boxes it supported by Mars G01 and a Sony PS3 wireless controller clone, making it the only mini PC to receive two awards this year.

What do you think about these 2014 awards? Anything you would change?

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

A Quick Look at SAMART Strong Black “Free” DVB-T2 Receiver in Thailand

December 17th, 2014 9 comments

Thai government has made digital television a priority, so they’ve launched a program to give a 690 Baht voucher ($21) to all households in Thailand. The voucher is send by registered mail to your home, and delivery has to be signed by a Thai person. Then you can go to a shop equipped with a Thai ID card and house registration book copy, present this voucher, and get a free (except for tax payers of course) DVB-T2 receiver, or use it to buy something a more advanced set-top box or digital TV package with 690 Baht discount.

690 Baht Voucher for Digital TV

690 Baht Voucher for Digital TV

We decided to get a free DVB-T2 receiver, and ended up with a box called SAMART Strong Black supporting SD and 1080p video streams over DVB-T2, EPG (Electronic Program Guide), and with a USB port to connect devices for recording programs or time-shifting. SAMART is a Thai company whose name means “can” (formal) as in “we can”, not as in “beer can”… So I decided to have a closer look at the device, and report what kind of features and hardware a $21 DVB-T2 may have.

SAMART Strong Black Specifications & Features

Specifications listed on the user’s manual:

  • Processor – 32-bit RISC processor @ 550 MHz
  • System Memory – 64 MB DDR
  • Storage – 8MB Flash for firmware
  • Video Output – HDMI up to 1080p60 or AV
  • Tuner
    • System – DVB-T2 (ETSI EN 302 755)
    • Receiving Channels – 470 – 862 MHz
    • RF Input/Output Impedance: 75 Ohm
    • Active Antenna – 5V, 150 mA
    • Demodulation – QPSK, 16-QAM, 64-QAM, 256-QAM
    • In and Out Antenna connectors
  • Video Codec – MPEG-2MP@ML and MP@HL, MPEG-4 P2 ASP, H.264 MP & HP
  • Video Containers – MKV, AVI, MPG, MP4, TS, DAT, VOB, FLV, MPEG
  • Audio – Codec: MPEG-4 HE-AAC v1/2; Sampling freq: 22.1 kHz, 32 kHz, 44.1 kHz, and 48 kHz
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • Misc – Power LED, IR receiver, 3.5mm jack for IR extension, 4 buttons on front panel (power. vol/ch- +, vol/ch -, and exit/menu)
  • Power Supply – 100-240V 50/60Hz in to 5V/1.2A out
  • Power Consumption – Active: <= 6W, standby: <= 0.5W
  • Dimensions – 175 x 185 x 55 mm
  • Weight – 550 grams

Other features include 3D display support, picture adjustment (color/brightness/contrast), 7-day EPG function, USB hard drive for PVR, time-shifting, and firmware update functions, multiple audio and subtitles, automatic and manual channel scanning and so on.

SAMART Strong Black Unboxing

That’s the pretty package for this DVB-T2 receiver box.

The box comes with HDMI and AV cables, a 5V/1.2A power supply, an IR remote control with two AAA batteries. a warranty card, a user’s manual (strangely in English only), and some promotional brochure.

SAMART_Strong_Black_Package_Content

DVB-T2 Receiver and Accessories

I’m not exactly sure that 5V/1.2A will be able to handle an external 2.5″ HDD, we’ll have to see another day. Let’s have a closer look at the device itself.

SAMART Strong Black (Click to Enlarge)

SAMART Strong Black (Click to Enlarge)

There’s a government sticker on the top of the box to make it clear that box was “sold’ as part of the program. Four buttons are on the front pane: power, Ch+/Vol-, Ch+/Vol+, and Exit/Menu, as well as the power LED, and a window for the IR receiver. The USB port is on the right side of the box. The rear panel comes with the following port from left to right:  RF antenna connector, RF loop, jack for optional IR extension cable, HDMI output, 3.5,mm jack for composite and L/R audio, and power jack.

SAMART Strong Black Board Pictures

There’s a two year warranty with the device, which I may have well lost, since as usual, I open the enclosure. There aren’t any screws, so you have to pull the top of the box with some tools.

SAMART Strong Black PCBA (Click to Enlarge)

SAMART Strong Black PCBA (Click to Enlarge)

The board name is SAMART-G v.1, so it looks like it’s really a locally designed and manufactured product. The processor has a small heatsink on top, but I failed to remove it because the thermal paste would have to be softened with heat, and I don’t have the right equipment for that. But we can still check the other components: ESMT M14D5121632A is a 64GB DDRII RAM, and Mstar MSB1236C must be the demodulator.

Close up on Tuner (Click to Enlarge)

Close up on Tuner (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve also open the shield on top of the tuner to find out the device uses MaxLinear MxL608 tuner, which appears to be quite popular, as over 10 million STBs feature this tuner.

Since I did not have full details about the processor, and the operating systems, I decidd to connect a USB debug board to the 4-pin connector on the board. The left and right are respectively ground and 3.3V pin, so I played with the two other pins, and selected various baud rate, but all I got on my minicom terminal was gibberish.

A Google search for 550 MHz processor used in STBs points to Mstar or Novatek processor, but since neither company list their products lists on their respective website, it’s still unclear which exact processor might be used. I could only find one STB with star 550 MHz processor, and another one with Novatek 550 MHz processor. My guess goes towards Mstar since they’ve used an Mstar demodulator in their design.

We tried it at the shop, and it worked fine, but my indoor antenna at home must be too old, as the signal was 0% even though I live close to the broadcasting antenna. I tried to get a 300 Ohm to 75 Ohm matching adapter to make my own antenna, but I was told they don’t do this in Thailand, it’s old tech. maybe a language problem. So instead I purchased the matching adapter on Ebay, together with a cheap Digital TV indoor antenna.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter

Categories: Hardware Tags: dvb, review, samart, set-top box, stb, thailand

Review of Realtek RTD1195 Based M-195 Android Media Player

November 29th, 2014 23 comments

M-195 is one of the new low cost Android media players based on Realtek RTD1195 processor featuring two Cortex A7 cores, and a Mali-400MP2 GPU, but providing high speed interface like USB 3.0, and Gigabit Ethernet, as well as 4K video decoding and output, including the latest H.265 / HEVC video codec. So before testing, I was expecting the box to be mainly interesting as a media player, and even maybe NAS, as Android performance for other tasks would be similar to Allwinner A20. I’ll already taken pictures of M-195 and its “902” board, so today we’ll find out how the device performs.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve used both the provided IR remote control, and Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse in this review, simply because I needed to press the Home button to come back to the Launcher from time to time, and the Home button on my air mouse is not mapped to the actual home button If you use this device mostly to play videos, then the IR remote control will do just fine. I’ve connected an HDMI cable to my TV,  Widicast EZCast dongle to the HDMI input, a USB 3.0 hard drive to the USB 3.0 port of the TV box, an Ethernet cable, inserted an SD card, as well as a USB hub with RF dongles for my air mouse and Mars G01 gamepad, a USB webcam, and the USB cable for EZCast dongle power. There’s no power button, and the board boots immediately as you connect the 5V/2A power adapter. The boot takes about 1 minute and 20 seconds to complete, or about 4 times more time that the fastest Android mini PCs available on the market today. Once the user interface shows up, you may be in for a surprise (I thought I saw a monster!).

M-195 Android Launcher (Click for Original Size)

M-195 Android Launcher (Click for Original Size)

The HDMI window on the left is probably reserved for HDMI input, but it actually showed my USB webcam input. Later I disconnected the USB webcam, and restarted the device, hoping to see HDMI input being display there, but all I could see was a black screen. Since the processor is not really fast they decided to go with a 1280×720 user interface. On the top right you can access settings, then from left tor right, top to bottom, you’ve got icon for Music app, a File Manager  that actually browse Videos, Picture, and other files, an upload/download speed widget, a movie icon that show the Video folder in Android (empty for me), an icon for favorites, a Miracast widget use to select “Source” or “Sink” modes, a larger icon for the list of apps, the Miracast Receiver app, and a “Database” icon that simply redirects to the storage settings in Android. Interestingly all audio and video files are added to the library automatically since the system will scan you storage devices in the background. If you move the mouse pointer to the top of the screen, or press the Red shortcut key on the remote, customized notifications will be displayed. Overall, I don’t find the user interface particularly well-though out, and if you want to run Google Play or XBMC, you need to go to the list of apps / or favorites and select the app you want to launch. The main menu can’t be customized either. About five minutes the box became unresponsive (maybe due to background scanning), and I had to turn it off, and back on with the remote.

However, they have some very interesting features in the Android Settings. The Wireless and Networks menu features the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Data Usage, More…, and Ethernet configuration sections, and going to “More” brings some new features with options for DLNA, WPS method, Wireless Display, Miracast Sink, and some NAS Settings.

Realtek_RTD1195_DLNA_NASA few days ago, a commenter complained his MINIX NEO X6 was basically useless because there was no option to use it as a NAS server, so it’s something that may be important to some. Going into NAS settings, you’ll get a few available services namely: AFP Service, DAAP Service, FTP Service, BT Service, Samba Server, and DMS Service. I don’t even know what half of these do, so I just tried FTP and SAMBA. Unfortunately, both services just went back to OFF settings automatically, so it’s not working just yet, or I missed something.

The Sound Settings will let you select HDMI (Auto or RAW), and S/PDIF (LPCM 2Ch or RAW) audio output options, with the RAW option being the equivalent of audio pass-through, but people who have an AV receiver. There’s also a Playback effect selection between “Off”, “Night Mode”, and “Comfort Mode”, but I haven’t tried these, and I’m not sure what they do. The Display settings only have tree sub-menus: wallpaper, font size, and TV System. The latter is for video output selection, and provides the following options: AUTO, NTSC, PAL 480p, 576p,  720p50/60, 1080i50/60 and 1080p50/60. There’s no option for 24Hz, but as we’ll see below the video player will automatically switch to 24 Hz when playing 24 fps videos. 4K options should also be listed if you have a 4K TV.

HDMI Input (Click to Enlarge)

HDMI Input (Click to Enlarge)

The screenshot above is what I got when connecting an EZcast dongle (Similar to Chromecast) to the HDMI input of the device, so there are some HDMI IN issues, that may depend on the device used.  The app is called Source-In.

HDMI CEC Options

HDMI CEC Options

About_Realtek_RTD1195_M-195The 8 eMMC flash has a single 5.96GB partition for app and data, with about 5.58GB free. There’s another “More..” menu in the Device section of Android Settings, which brings HDMI CEC configuration options as shown in the screenshot above.

The “About” section lists the model number as just “realtek”, with Android 4.4 running on top of Linux kernel 3.10.24. The firmware version used for testing is not clearly stated but we have some “Version information” (SDK_Release_140923), and the build number: “rtk_phoniex-eng 4.4 KRT16O eng.tony.2014.1024.09.42.01″, which contains the date of the firmware release (October 24, 2014). The “System Updates” may or may not work, as check for update does not seem to do much. The firmware is not rooted, and I’m not sure if one of the USB ports can be used as an OTG port,  but the firmware is not encrypted, so it should be easy to modify it, add root access, and other optimizations / apps. {Update: there’s already a root method]

If you want to have a better feel about the device performance, and see most options available, watch the video below. I also show the Antutu score, as well as play back a H.265 4K video, and a DTS-HD MA video samples @ 24 fps in XBMC. I’ll also find out about some of the issues I had with the box.

Google Play Store is pre-installed, and works great with most apps, including a paid app like “Sixaxis Controller”. The only app I had to side-load was Vidonn smartband app. I also noticed Real Racing 3, Whatsapp, and a few others can’t be installed. I’ve also downloaded Amazon AppStore using the stock browser, and installed Riptide GP2 from there.

M-195 does not come with a power button, and when you connect the power it will turn on automatically. But if you long-press the power button, you’ll be able to turn it off, and a short press will make it go into standby. Once it’s turned off the LED turns to red, and you can use the IR remote control to turn it on again. So the lack of power button on the unit is not much of any issue. Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse can be used to turn the device off, but it can’t be used to turn it back on, since the IR code must be different. In theory, the AI power button on F10 deluxe can be programmed, but I never managed to make it work. M-195 stays cool in all circumstances. After Antutu, the max top and bottom temperatures measured with an IR thermometer were respectively 37°C and 33°C, and after 20 minutes of playing Riptide GP2: 41°C and 37°C.

M-195 feels definitely a bit sluggish compared to recent devices based on Rockchip RK3288, Amlogic S802, or Allwinner A80, but I still find it to be acceptable, and with XBMC UI the performance is still very good, at least with the default skin. I really like the many options provided in the settings for NAS, HDMI CEC, etc… too bad the NAS options don’t work. However, I got frustrated with various small bugs, where suddenly the current app or system seems to hang, or stop working properly (e.g. XBMC), and I need to press the power key on the more to turn if off, and restart it.

Video Playback

“XBMC 14″ is pre-load in the box, but it’s not playing within XBMC directly, and calling an external player instead, so that means XBMC/Kodi menus are not available while playing video, if you want to check the player interface watch the video above. It supports trick modes, subtitles selection, audio track selection, and two aspect ratios. I could connect to a SAMBA share in XBMC, but each time I would try to play a video, the video player would show the message “loading…” and soon after “can’t play video”. So I guess that player either can’t handle the network path sent from XBMC, or it times out. So I had to revert to play videos from my USB hard drive. At first, XBMC would return “Incorrect path” when I clicked on sda1, but going to “Add Videos->External Storage”, and selecting the path to my hard drive’s NTFS partition (/storage/sda1) fixed the issue.

I played videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus H.265/HEVC video by Elecard, and a low res VP9 sample using this hybrid player:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – Failed. The player specifically outputs “Can’t play video”
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK for video, but no audio
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK and smooth.
  • WebM / VP8 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS 360p/720p/1080p – OK (and seeking works!)
  • Vp9 (low re) – OK

Higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – “Can’t play video” message
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK.
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK and smooth.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

Videos with high definition audio codec using HDMI PCM output (not an AV receiver):

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1- OK
  • Dolby Digital 7.1 – No audio (known problem, and Realtek is working on it)
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

Blu-Ray ISO are supported, as I played Sintel-Bluray.iso, and I could select among the 10 subtitles languages provided in this video. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could play without issues.

Despite the slow processor, RTD1195 has some great multimedia muscle, as H.265 / 4K UHD video playback is part of its key selling point. So let’s see how it performs with 4K videos:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Feel like slow motion, does not seem to play a few frames (e.g. I-frames).
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – Not smooth as above, as if it was played in slow motion or 15 fps.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (3840×2160) – Loads but won’t play (Black screen) with the player timer stuck at 00:00.

I also played several AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB/IFO and MP4 videos and the vast majority could play, except some FLV videos. I also played a 1080p H.264 MKV video (1h50), and it played the video smoothly till the end.

When I started playing videos on M-195, I was surprised how the videos felt much better, much more smooth, and enjoyable to watch than on most other boxes, and in this respect, M-195 / Realtek RTD1195 media processor currently put to shame Rockchip RK3288 and Allwinner A80 based mini PCs. It’s too bad that too often, the system suddenly refuses to play videos, and I have to restart the box to make it work again. XBMC is also currently unusable if you store your media files on a NAS.

Finally, I’ve like to address the concern of using a 1280×720 user interface (used for all video output resolution up to 4K) to play 1080p or 4K videos. I have a 4K video test pattern made of a 1-pixel black and white grid, but I don’t have the equivalent fat 1080p, and I’m not sure how to create one easily, so I’ve played GridHD.mpg 1080p mpeg video. I played it on the same Panasonic TV, using my PC (set to 1920×1080), as well as XBMC external player, and MX Player in M-195, and taken a picture with a camera on a tripod. Then I zoomed the pictures on number “2” and compared the output on M-195 and my PC.

M-195_1080p_videoThe three images look pretty similar. When downscaling a video from 1080p to 720p, some loss of details should be introduced, but it’s not visible here, albeit there are differences in terms of sharpness. The image quality looks exactly the same whether Realtek player (via XBMC) or MX Player is used. For reference, I’ve also uploaded the three original pictures for my PC, M-195 + XBMC, and M-195 + MX Player.

M-195_1080p_720p_videoSo to make sure, I set the video output to 720p60 in M-195, and I took another picture to compare, and extrapolation is pretty good, but there does seem to be some loss of details with number 2 “eye” compared to the 1080p images. That should mean that M-195 is indeed capable of handling 1080p video correctly, and most probably 4K videos too.

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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa to evaluate network performance. I’m using ES File Explorer, and repeat the test three times. The average performance of M-195 is 2.8 MB.s which puts it in the middle of the pack, but strangely the transfer performance was highly asymmetric. From SAMBA to flash (download) the average transfer rate was about 3.7 MB/s on average (with peaks @ 4.6 MB/s), from from flash to SAMBA (upload) the file was copied at only 1.8 MB/s on average.

Throughput in MB/S

Throughput in MB/S

Gigabit Ethernet is working fine on M-195, but yet again the file transfer rate was asymmetrical. While it took just 2m20s to transfer a 885MB file from SAMBA to flash (6.32 MB/s), it took just 1m13s to move it back to the SAMBA share (12.12 MB/s). On average, M-195 is still faster than all Fast Ethernet capable devices, but not quite as fast as devices with much faster internal storage. Since some scanning may happen in the background, performance may also have been affected.

Throughput in MB/S

Throughput in MB/S

However transfer from network to hard drive is what counts, and I had to transfer 77.60 GB of data between my SAMBA share and my USB 3.0 hard drive, and that took one hour, at 22 MB/s, which is equivalent to the speed I got with Tronsmart Draco AW80 Meta.

I also used iPerf app and iperf in my Ubuntu PC to test raw Ethernet performance, using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line in Android.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

This confirmed M-195 Gigabit Ethernet port works in both directions, it’s even faster than Draco AW80 Meta, and not that far from Tronsmart Orion R28 (Meta) network performance. The other two devices (K-R6 and NT-V6) Gigabit Ethernet did not work well during the review. I’ve been told HPH NT-V6 Ethernet issues have been fixed with a firmware update.

iperf output:
Server listening on TCP port 5001
 TCP window size: 85.3 KByte (default)
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 [  4] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.105 port 41721
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 Client connecting to 192.168.0.105, TCP port 5001
 TCP window size:  144 KByte (default)
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 [  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 41156 connected with 192.168.0.105 port 5001
 [ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
 [  4]  0.0-60.0 sec  5.28 GBytes   756 Mbits/sec
 [  6]  0.0-60.0 sec  4.47 GBytes   639 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

After pairing “Realtek Bluetooth″ to my ThL W200 Android smartphone, I could transfer a few pictures,. But the first time, I could not pull down the notification bar to accept the transfer, so I had to power cycle the device, and it worked fine afterwards.

The device is not rooted, and I was too lazy to root it, so Sixaxis Compatibility Checker app failed to work properly.

Vidonn X5 is an activity tracker using Bluetooth Smart. So I installed their “Smartband” app to try Bluetooth Smart (Low Energy), bu the app filed to find the device, so BLE does not work.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be mounted and accessed by the system (in ES File Explorer)
Realtek has a long history with media player, and they know that FAT32 is a problem for 4GB+ files, and NTFS is sometimes slow, so people may prefer using EXT-4, and this is the first and only Android box I’ve tested that properly support EXT-4. So three partitions out of four in my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted, and read/written to, with only the BTRFS partition failing to mount.

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

I installed and ran A1 SD Bench to benchmark performance of the internal flash and USB 3.0 NTFS and EXT-4 partitions. But as I tested the hard drive partition I started to see the HDMI output become black for one second, come back, black again, and so on in cycle, and the test would not just complete, like the partition would unmount themselves during testing. The power supply is just 5V/2A, so I wonder if it could be the same so I used the 5V/8A 12V5A switch mode power supply (SMPS) pictured below, and “magically” all my HDD / HDMI problems went away. (This should make “Mr. Anon”, a frequent “bad power supplies” commenter happy :)). Since there’s live 220V exposed, you would not want to use this type with children running around however, as they may try to press those “shiny buttons”… Anyway, I did most of my testing with the better power supply. The EZCast dongle also contributed to the power consumptin, so USB 3.0 HDD + EZCast was probably too much. Devcies’s power adapter temperature: 70°C.

SMPS_Power_Supply I set the custom located to /storage/sda1 and /storage/sda2 to A1SD respectively to test NTFS and EXT-4. The results are not outstanding (compared to USB 3.0 transfer rates in a PC), but at least it’s faster than any USB 2.0 devices, and much better than Draco AW80 USB 3.0 performance. NTFS read and write speeds are 36.31 MB/s and 44.52 MB/s, and 31.98 MB/s and 36.45 MB/s for EXT-4. So based on A1SD benchmark NTFS is faster than EXT-4, which feels odd.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

NTFS and EXT-4 results on the right of the chart above. For some reasons write speed is faster than read speed. ODROID XU-3 Lite is still the device with the best read performance, but M-195 is the new king of USB 3.0 storage write speed.

Contrary to what I expected, the FORESEE eMMC found on the board has good performance, with read speed at 25.61 MB/s, and write speed at 15.96 MB/s, quite similar to the performance of Probox2 EX.

Read & Write Speeds in MB/s

Read & Write Speeds in MB/s

USB Webcam

If I attempt to make a call with Skype, it will fail, showing the status at “not connected” when the call stops, yet switching to online status immediately. Chatting works.

When I launched Google Hangouts, all I got was a “Signing in…” message displayed forever.

Gaming

I had low expectation with the dual Mali-400 used in RTD1195 SoC, but I still tried the three usual games: Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2. Candy Crush Saga played smoothly with the air mouse when it comes to graphics, but the audio cut very often. I played the two bike and car racing games with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad. Beach Buggy Blitz was smooth and very playable even with graphics settings set to the maximum “Higher Resolution”. But when I first played the sound was really bad, like saturated. Once I kicked out my HDMI switcher, and connected M-195 directly to my TV, audio was clear. I had already removed the HDMI switcher for Candy Crush, and video playback. Riptide GP2 is normally more challenging, so I was very surprised when I realized the games was quite playable even with maxed out “Higher Resolution” (similar to S802), but I quickly noticed it looked a little different. So I think games will automatically select optimal settings, more or less successful depending on the platform, and if I went to advanced settings, I noticed low resolution textures had been selected, and some other low to mid settings. So comparing game performance between platforms is not as easy as it seems. Nevertheless that means Beach Buggy Blitz and Riptide GP2 are playable with Realtek RTD1195, but just with lower quality settings and resolution (720p). I could play five races in Riptide GP2 without any problem.

M-195 / Realtek RTD1195 Meta Benchmark

It’s the first time I test a device powered by Realtek RTD1195 SoC, so running CPU-Z is a must.

Realtek_RTD1195_CPU-ZRealtek RTD1195 is a dual core Cortex A7 r0p5 processor up to 1.10 GHz with a Mali-400 MP GPU. There’s only 669 MB total RAM for Android, as the rest of the 1GB RAM is probably used for the VPU buffers. There’s only 251 MB available which can explain some of the issues I’ve had with the box. (Samba server can’t start, XBMC quits, when video player is playing a video, etc…). The screen resolution is 1280x 720, and there’s 5.96 GB internal storage as previously reported.

M-195_Antutu_5.3With standard Android benchmarks, M-195 and the Realtek processor show their weaknesses, scoring 11,174 points in Antutu 5.3. This kind of score is to be expected, but it’s far from the 30,000 to 40,000 points of more recent devices. M-195_VellamoVelloma 3.1 scores are also on the low end of the scale, with scores about 3 times less than recent quad or octa core ARM processors.

Conclusion

Although it makes a sluggish general purpose mini PC, M-195 has some very good potential as a media player, as video playback performance is usually excellent including H.265 and 4K videos, albeit some improvements are needed, and the videos feels much more smooth than with the powerful Rockchip RK3288 and Allwinner A80 SoCs. The device also puts all RK3288, Allwinner A80, and Amlogic S802 devices to shame, at least the ones I’ve tested, when it comes to moving data around, with one of the best Gigabit Ethernet, and USB mass storage performance of the market. Unfortunately this is all wasted due to various small bugs that ruins the user experience.

PRO:

  • Very good video playback performance including 4K, H.265, automatic refresh rate switching, although improvement are still needed with some videos.
  • Good Gigabit Ethernet performance
  • Best USB 3.0 mass storage performance I’ve tested so far on TV boxes
  • Support for NTFS, FAT32, and EXT-4 file systems.
  • Proper power off/standby handling.
  • Device keeps cool (40 C max).
  • True 1080p (and likely 2160p) video outputs appear to be supported, despite 720p UI.
  • Extra options in Android for NAS, Miracast Sink and Source, and HDMI CEC. Unfortunately NAS options (e.g. SAMBA server) don’t work yet
  • HDMI Input

CONS:

  • Various unstability bugs: The system will stop to respond from time to time, video won’t play anymore, until a reboot. Low RAM (656MB for Android) may be the culprit here.
  • Slow processor, so for example the user interface is not as smooth as recent devices.
  • Can’t play videos from a network share (e.g. SAMBA) in XBMC.
  • Current video/audio bugs: Some 4K video are not played correctly, sometimes WMA audio is not decoded properly, Dolby Digital 7.1 is not supported yet (known bug)
  • 5V/2A power adapter can’t be used reliably with a USB 3.0 hard drive + EZCast dongle, so another power adapter may be needed.
  • USB webcam not working with Skype and Google Hangouts
  • Bluetooth Low Energy not supported
  • User interface not very user friendly.
  • HDMI input had some color issues with the device I used. (EZcast dongle)

You could buy M-195 for $68 on GeekBuying, the company which kindly provided this sample for review, but it’s also available on Amazon US, Aliexpress, and Ebay.

 

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter