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

December 17th, 2014 8 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.

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

Review of Realtek RTD1195 Based M-195 Android Media Player

November 29th, 2014 22 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.

 

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Unboxing of M-195 TV Box Powered by Realtek RTD1195 Processor

November 24th, 2014 15 comments

Realtek RTD1195 is a dual core Cortex A7 processor with a Mali-400 GPU, supporting fast interfaces such as USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, and SATA, as well 4K video decoding (including H.265) and output, and HDMI input. Despite all these features, it can be found in ultra low cost Android media players, so I was eager to find out if it’s as good as it looks on paper.  Thanks to GeekBuying which sent me M-195 TV box, I’ll soon be able to find out. Today, I’ll list the technical specifications of the device, and take pictures of the device and the board, before doing a full test early next month.

M-195 specifications

Hardware specifications as listed in the user’s manual and GeekBuying:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1195 dual core ARM Cortex A7 processor @ 1.3 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC  + SD card slot
  • Video Output / Input  – HDMI 1.4b out up to 4K30 / 1080p60, HDMI In up to 4K30, and AV output.
  • Audio – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs
    • Decoding –  H.265, H.263, H.264, AVS, VC-1, RV, VP6/VP8, Sorenson, Spark, MVC up to 4K
    • Encoding – H.264, H.265, VP8, and MVC up to 1080p]
    • H.264, H.265 data rate – Up to 60 Mbps
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0.
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0
  • Misc – IR receiver, power LED
  • Power – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 132 x 83 x 23 mm
  • Weight – 320 grams

The device runs Android 4.4. This model does not have a SATA port, but everything else seems excellent, except the CPU/GPU which probably means it has potential as a media player, but would probably feel sluggish as a mini PC. Anyway, we’ll find out in the full review.

M-195 Unboxing

GeekBuying sent the parcel via DHL, and the device can be found in the generic “4K OTT TV BOX” package below that highlight features of the device like H.265, 3D video, HDMI input, 4K UHD support, USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, etc.. as well as pre-installed apps like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, XBMC, YouTube, and Netflix.
M-195_Package
The box comes with an IR remote control (requiring 2x AAA batteries), HDMI and AV cables, and a 5V/2A power supply.

M-195Android STB and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

M-195Android STB and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

The front panel just has a window for the IR receiver and LEDs, as well as some logos. A USB 2.0 host port, a USB 3.0 port, and a full size SD card slot can be seen on the side of the device.

M-195 Media Player (Click to Enlarge)

M-195 Media Player (Click to Enlarge)

The rear panel features both HDMI In and Out ports, as well as AV output, optical S/PDIF, the Gigabit Ethernet port, the power hack, and a Wi-Fi antenna.

Unboxing video.

M-195 Board Pictures

Simply remove the four stick rubber pads on the bottom of the case, and untighten the four screws to open the device.

Bottom of M-195 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of M-195 Board (Click to Enlarge)

There’s nothing much interesting on the bottom of the board, so let’s remove three more screws to take out the board.

M-195 Board with Thermal Pad and Tape (Click to Enlarge)

M-195 Board with Thermal Pad and Tape (Click to Enlarge)

There’s a thermal pad sticked on top of the processor, the eMMC, and the RAM chips with some extra tape. The four pins header on the bottom of the board could be for the serial console.

M-195 Board (Click to Enlarge)

M-195 Board (Click to Enlarge)

So I’ve taken out the thermal pad to have a clearer view. The processor is Realtek RTD1195DD, which controls two NANYA NT5CB256M16CP-DI DDR3 chips for 1GB RAM, and a FORESEE NCEFES78-08G eMMC flash (8GB), which I foresee (that was easy) would probably be slow like other eMMC chips from the company I’ve tested so far. The Wi-Fi module is Realtek RTL8723BS that supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and FM, although the latter is not used in the box. The board name is 902_V3.0 manufactured on 2014/08/29. There are also four unsoldered connectors, but without markings it’s difficult to know what they may be for.

I’d like to thanks GeekBuying which provided this product for review, and sell it for $68 including shipping. Other shopping options include Amazon US, Aliexpress, and Ebay.

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Unboxing of Eny M8S H.265 / 4K Android Media Player Powered by Amlogic S812 Processor

November 17th, 2014 12 comments

M8S and M8C Android TV boxes are updates of M8 / TM8 box, replacing Amlogic S802 quad core processor with Amlogic S812 processor which has about the same feature except it bring HEVC/H.265 hardware video decoding. M8S comes with 2GB RAM, whereas M8C features only 1GB RAM. Eny Technology decided to send me M8S for review. As usual, I’ll start with some pictures of the package, box, and board, and will do the full review in the next few days.

M8S Unboxing Pictures

The company send me the parcel via DHL which I promptly received with the product in the package below marked “4K OTT TV BOX” and a predominant “HEVC”.

4K_OTT_TV_BOX

The back of the package list the main specifications: quad core processor, octo core Mali 450 GPU, Android Kitkat. and so on. There’s also a sticker showing the MAC address, which starts with C4:4E:AC for those interested.

Eny M8S and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Eny M8S and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

The box comes with an IR remote control (requiring 2x AAA batteries), an HDMI cable (1.2m), a 5V/2A power supply, and a user’s manual in English and Chinese.

m8sAs expected the box looks exactly the same as M8 / TM8 media player with the same front LED, and SD card slot on the side.

M8S_4K_OTT_TV_Box_PortsOn the rear panel, the exact same connectors and placement can be seen with two USB host ports, an HDMI output, an Ethernet RJ45 port, AV output jack, optical SPDIF (that still feels low quality because of the plastic), and a power barrel.

If you fancy watch an unboxing video instead, I’ve made one for you.

M8S Board Photos

We’ve already seen some pictures released by Eny Technology, but for the sake of it, and to have slightly sharper pictures, I’ve opened the box, and take a few more. To open the box it’s the same old same old method: remove sticky rubber pads on the bottom of the case, take out four screws, and pop the lid.

M8S_Board_and_Metal_Plate

M8S Board and Enclosure (Click to Enclosure)

The similarity with M8 are normally external, but components and connectors placement is exactly the same. Let’s remove four more screen to take the board out completely.

Bottom of M8S Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of M8S Board (Click to Enlarge)

The Wi-Fi module is AP6330 which supports dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. I’ve also removed the heatsink, and taken a closer picture of the top of the board.

M8&M9 Board (Click to Enlarge)

M8&M9 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Oh surprise, it’s exactly the same PCB as Rippl-TV, namely M9&M8_V1.0 (2014/07/07), which is based on M8 hardware, but an updated version of the board compared to my earlier sample. Four Samsung K4B4G1646D DDR3L SDRAM chips are used to 2Gb RAM, MT 29F64G08CBABA NAND flash provides 8GB internal storage (so no eMMC in that device), and Ricoh RT618M PMIC handles the power. The recovery button is located right behind the AV port as usual.  So basically, they’ve simply take the last M8 PCB, and replaces Amlogic S802 by Amlogic S812.

Eny Technology sent the M8S sample for review, and you could consider purchasing M8S or M8C from them if you are a resellers buying in quantities. Individuals can buy M8S for $87 and up on Aliexpress, and M8C (1GB RAM only) is starts at $75 including shipping.

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$199 Gizmo 2 Development Board Powered by AMD G-Series GX210HA SoC

November 11th, 2014 2 comments

There are only a few Intel / AMD x86 embedded development boards on the market, at least for the hobbyist market, namely MinnowBoard MAX based on Intel E3815 or E3825 processors, and Gizmophere Explorer Kit powered by AMD G-Series GT-40E dual core APU + A55E hub controller. Gizmosphere, a non-profit organization, had now released a new version of their embedded board called Gizmo 2 powered by AMD G-Series GX210HA SoC combining a dual core x86 processor, a Radeon GPU, and peripherals.

Gizmo2 AMD Development Board (Click to Enlarge)

Gizmo 2 AMD Development Board (Click to Enlarge)

Gizmo 2 development board specifications:

  • SoC –  AMD Embedded G-Series GX210HA SOC with a dual core “Jaguar” processor @ 1.0 GHz and a Radeon 8210E GPU @ 300 MHz with support for DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.2x and OpenCL 1.2. 153 GFLOPS of performance. 9W TDP.
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3-1600 SDRAM
  • Storage – mSATA/mini PCIe Connector + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI
  • Audio I/O – HDMI and 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports,  2x USB 2.0 host ports, 4x extra USB ports available via headers.
  • Expansion Connectors
    • High-speed and Low-speed Special Features Card Edge Connectors
    • 4×1 links of PCIe Gen2 for GPP, and 1×4 links fo PCIe for GPU
    • 2x 2.54mm headers with access to GPIO, SPI (for programming), I2C, UART, DAC, ADC
  • Debugging – JTAG AMD Debug Header
  • Misc – RTC + battery slot
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A
  • Dimensions – 10.16 x 10.16 cm (4” x 4”)
Bottom of Gizmo2 Embedded Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of Gizmo2 Embedded Board (Click to Enlarge)

The board comews with a micro SD card pre-loaded with TimeSys Embedded Linux and a Qt UI, but Minoca OS (That’s new!), and  Windows Embedded 7 and 8 are also supported, and a Debian Linux distribution will soon be available. . The platform also includes a coreboot-based SageBIOS open source package from Sage Electronic Engineering. Documentation, hardware design files (schematics, gerber, PCB layout), software downloads (including BSP, application and demo code),  project examples, and news will be available on Gizmosphere Community and Element14.

The kit will include the Gizmo2 board, as well as a 12V/A universal power supply, international plug adapter, a micro SD and a coin cell battery. It can be used for digital signage, set-top boxes, IPTV applications, thin clients, home automation, point-of-sale systems, robotics, and more.

Gizmo2 can be purchased on Element14 for for $199. (Product code: GIZMO-2-GSOCD9W-1.0).

Promo video:

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JmGO G1 Android “Home Theater” Projector Powered by Mstar 6A918 SoC

October 23rd, 2014 4 comments

JmGO G1 is a neat looking Android 4.4 projector powered by Mstar 6A918 quad core Cortex A9 processor with a Mali-450MP4 GPU (same as Mstar 9810?), and featuring a Texas Instruments LED based DLP projector. It comes with USB 2.0 / 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, AV, S/PDIF ports, and four speakers on the periphery.

jmGO_G1_Android_Projector

jmGO_G1_remote_controlTentative hardware specifications:

  • SoC – Mstar MSO6A918 Quad core ARM Cortex A9 @ 1.5GHz with an ARM Mali-450MP4 GPU.
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC + microSD card slot
  • Projector
    • Texas Instruments DLP
    • RGB LED. Native resolution: 1280 x 800
    • 30,000 hours LED life (About 10 years @ 10 hours per day)
    • 15″ to 300″ screenI
    • Brightness – 450  Lumens
  • Video Inputs – HDMI IN, AV IN
  • Audio I/Os – Inputs HDMI, AV, coaxial S/PDIF; Output: 4x speakers
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port, 1x USB3.0 port
  • Power Supply – 19V/4.74A
  • Dimensions – 219 mm diameter x 60 mm height
  • Weight – 1550 grams
I’m not 100% sure of my specifications, as I assumed all video and audio ports are inputs, but I’d be glad to bring correction from people who can read Chinese… A  hook is available under the projector to mount it on a tripod or a wall. A simple yet innovative Wi-Fi remote control lets you adjust the projector focus, control the volume, and comes with Back/Home/Menu/Mouse/OK buttons, as well as a microphone for voice control.

jmGO_G1_Android_Projector_rear_panel JmGO G1 costs 2399 CNY (~$392), but I could not find it for sale anywhere, and it’s for sale on Ebay for $566 + shipping. More details and pictures can be found on JmGO G1 product page (Chinese).

Via AndroidPC.es

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Kaiboer Q8 Android Media Player Features USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, and a 2.5″ SATA Bay

October 8th, 2014 8 comments

Kaiboer Q8 may look like an alarm clock radio, but it’s definitely an upcoming Android media player powered by Mstar 9810 SoC with 2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and an internal 2.5″ SATA bay. The company had previously launched three MSO9810 Android STBs, two of which did not support hard drives, and one with a 3.5″ SATA bay, so this new product fills the void for 2.5″ hard drives.

Kaiboer_Q8Kaiboer Q8 specifications:

  • SoC – Mstar MSO9180D1R Quad core ARM Cortex A9 @ 1.5GHz with a quad-core ARM Mali-450MP GPU.
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC + microSD card slot + internal SATA bay for 2.5″ drives
  • Video I/O – HDMI in, HDMI out (All models)
  • Audio I/O – HDMI in/out, optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs –  Up to 4K. MPEG-1/2, MPEG-4, DivX, H.264, H.265 VC-1, H.263, Real Media, MVC, etc…
  • Audio Formats – MPEG, WMA, WAV, APE, OGG, FLAC, ACC, Dolby Digital, DTS…
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x USB3.0 port
  • Front panel – LED display wit 5 digits and various icons
  • Misc – Power and back buttons, and D-Pad on device, with another power button on the rear panel.
  • Power Supply – N/A
  • Dimensions – N/A

Kaiboer_Q8_Rear_Panel_with_SATA_bayHard drives can simply be inserted in the slot you can see on the rear panel above. This media player is said to run Android 4.3, and the package should include an IR remote control among other accessories. Kaiboer seems fully focused on the Chinese market, and I’m not aware of any English version of their firmware for previous models, so even the hardware looks quite interesting, and it should become available on Aliexpress, most people may want to skip this product, unless the company has changed their stance about oversea markets. It might be possible to change the language to English in the settings, and I’m not 100% sure Google Play Store is pre-installed, so it might have to be manually installed.

There’s no word about pricing nor availability at this stage, but you can find more information on Kaiboer Q8 product page (in Chinese).

Via AndroidPC.es

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Xtreamer Wonder Might Be the First Android Media Player Powered by Amlogic S812

October 1st, 2014 13 comments

Amlogic S812 processor is an upgrade of S802 processor with HEVC/H.265 hardware video decoding up to 3840×2160 resolution, and Gigabit Ethernet support, and it looks like the first Android TV boxes will start shipping by early November, starting with Xtreamer Wonder “TV entertainment system” running Android 4.4 Kitkat and XBMC / Kodi.

Xtreamer_Wonder

Xtreamer_AirmouseXtreamer Wonder specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S812-H quad core cortex A9r4 @ 2 GHz with Mali-450MP6 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB  eMMC 5.0 + micro SD card reader
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4
  • Audio Output – HDMI, optical S/PDIF
  • Video Container Formats – DAT, MPEG, MPE, MPG, TS/TP, VOB, ISO, AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, FLV, MKV, M2TS, MTS, M4V, WMV, ASF, RM/RMVB, etc…
  • Audio Formats – MP2, MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG, OGA, FLAC, ALAC, APE, AAC etc… Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, and DTS
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 13.8 x 16.6 x 2.8 cm
  • Weight – 190 grams.

The box will run Android 4.4 Kitkat with Xtreamer ver 2.0 UI, and ship with Xtreamer AirMouse, an HDMI cable, a power adapter, and a quick start guide.

There should not be hardware differences between S812 and S812-H SoC, expect the latter will come with an SDK supporting Dolby Digital & DTS with the right licenses, and any media app in Android should be able to handle these audio formats. 5-ch and 7-ch pass-though is said to be supported too.

Amlogic S812 is also supposed to support Gigabit Ethernet, but this box seems limited to 10/100M Ethernet, which could be an issue with some high bitrate (>60 Mbps) 4K videos, so the only advantage using S812-H or S802-H with this device is H.265 support.

Xtreamer UI v.2

Xtreamer UI v.2

Xtreamer Wonder is currently available for pre-oder for 99 Euros ($139 US) with shipping scheduled for October 31, 2014. Further details about the device and its air mouse, can be found on Xtreamer Wonder product page.

Thank you dhead666!

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