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V-Bridge Muses DTV Modulator and Video Encoder Review – Part 2: Muses-β Turnkey Solution Demo

November 12th, 2016 No comments

V-Bridge Muses-α and Muses-β boards can be used to respectively broadcast video to DTV standard from your PC, and as a turnkey solution taking any HDMI, CVBS, or USB inputs. The VATek SoC used in those  board support various DTV standards including DVB-T, DVB-C, ATSC/QAM, DTMB, ISDB-T/TB up to full HD resolution. I’ve received an early prototype for each, and I’ve already taken pictures and show how to assemble both Muses-α and Muses-β kits in the first part of the review. Today, I’ll show a demo with Muses-β turnkey solution taking HDMI input from an Android TV box (R-Box Pro), encoding and modulating the video to DVB-T, before broadcast it to an Android STB with a DVB-T/T2 tuner (U4 Quad Hybrid). This tool could be useful to test STB featuring ATSC or ISDB-T too, as those two standards are not supported in my country, and I could instead generate signals within my office.

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U4 Quad Hybrid (Left), Muses-Beta Kit (Center) and R-Box Pro TV box (left)

You could also connect it directly to your TV, but for this review it was easier to show with an external device, and my TV is using a coaxial input instead of a female F-connector, so that made it easier. If you connect it to your TV, you could still combine your local TV station signal with Muses-Beta signal by using a 2-way splitter as shown below.

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The company provided a cable to connect the RF board to tuner directly, but you could also use the type of antenna shown above instead. The power level is -12dBm, which means it won’t affect others, and should not break any laws in your country. If you need longer range you’d need to use an amplifier, and check with your local authorities if you need any specific licenses.dtv-antenna

Now that the connection is done, let’s have a look at the LCD display, since it;s used to configure the DTV standard, frequency, and many more options. I did not have to change much for this demo. First I select DVB-T and QPSK modulation.

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Then set the frequency to 628 MHz as it’s one of the listed frequencies in U4 Quad Hybrid.
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And kept HDMI to 720i-60, as the prototype can only handle HD resolution (720p) smoothly, and while Full HD (1080p) is possible it won’t be that smooth yet, but should be in the final hardware.
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There are many options as shown in the UI chart below.

User Interface State Machine (Click to Enlarge)

LCD User Interface Options (Click to Enlarge)

If HDMI input is detected, the LCD should then soon show three full squares on the top left indicating video is being broadcast with whatever standard you’ve chosen. In order to get the signal I had to configure U4 Quad Hybrid set-top box with the frequency, bandwidth, and delivery system  I selected for the modulator.

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And it worked pretty much out of the box, as you can see from the photo below showing U4 Quad Hybrid menu overlaid over the DVB-T signal showing R-Box Pro user interface. Please ignore the vertical lines, as it’s just a problem with LG 4K TV.

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I’ve also shot a video showing the setup, and how well it works. Sadly, the video I selected does not play optimally in R-Box Pro (the video source), but I found it only after the review, and other videos are being broadcast normally without smoothness issues nor audio cuts. But the important in the video is to show how easy it is to configure the system and that it works reasonably well. Quality will obviously suffer a bit compare to the source since its re-encoded and HDMI output is set to 720p.

Latency & video quality can be adjusted using three profiles: High Quality (500ms), Average (300ms) and Low latency (200ms). You’ll find some more details in the preliminary? Muses Turnkey Product user’s manual.

The kickstarter campaign is still on-going with 21 days to go. Muses-β kit with the LCD control board – as reviewed in this post – requires a $559 pledge, but if you prefer to replace the STM32 Board and LCD display by your own control board (API will be provided), you can get Muses-β board with AV input board and RF board for $399. I’ll test the cheaper $200 Muses-α board connected to a computer in the next few days in part 3 of the review.

Review of Xtream-Codes IPTV Panel Professional Edition – Part 1: Introduction, Initial Setup, Adding Streams…

September 22nd, 2016 9 comments

Today I’ll start the review of one of the streaming software available on the market, with version 2.2.0 EVO of IPTV Panel Professional Edition developed by Xtream-codes.

The Software is mainly used for the so-called IPTV broadcasting, but also with great potential for all kind of other content delivery applications such as audio and business streaming, cloud video transcoding, and all other kind of global streams.

What is IPTV?

Wikipedia definition:

Internet Protocol television (IPTV) is a system through which television services are delivered using the Internet protocol suite over a packet-switched network such as a LAN or the Internet, instead of being delivered through traditional terrestrial, satellite signal, and cable television formats. Unlike downloaded media, IPTV offers the ability to stream the media in smaller batches, directly from the source. As a result, a client media player can begin playing the data (such as a movie) before the entire file has been transmitted. This is known as streaming media.

IPTV services may be classified into three main groups:

  • Live television, with or without interactivity related to the current TV show;
  • Time-shifted television: catch-up TV (replays a TV show that was broadcast hours or days ago), start-over TV (replays the current TV show from its beginning);
  • Video on demand (VOD): browse a catalogue of videos, not related to TV programming.

IPTV is distinguished from Internet television by its ongoing standardisation process (e.g., European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and preferential deployment scenarios in subscriber-based telecommunications networks with high-speed access channels into end-user premises via set-top boxes or other customer-premises equipment.

This review will contain results mainly for the “end-user” or business owner, who already owns or bought legitimate streams, as Xtream-codes IPTV software does not provide any video streams, and “only” helps distributing your content.

If starting from scratch, producing your self-made streams, it’s already professionally explained in the video below using Xtream-codes IPTV panel on AMD MOI Pro IPTV streaming server.

I would love to do this by myself, but I would be in need of the necessary hardware. TBS can provides future producers of streams with all the required and necessary hardware.

Installation Process

After you registered at https://xtream-codes.com and placed your order, you get access (after payment) to your unique default root username, default root password, and your CMS Address.

You can now login with both credentials, and start adding your server addresses. Your Server IP and SSH Password is required, and the whole process is pretty straightforward.

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If necessary, you can add a second Load balancer Server by the same method. If you need more Load balancers (LB’s) in the future, you will have to pay an extra Fee. Xtream-Codes call this “plugins”, but I guess it’s a simple SSH Protocol.

They activate on their server side, like: 2/4/6 LB’s…. Again, the first LB is free of charge.

The Graphical User Interface (GUI): Xtream-Codes Panel

xtream-codes-iptv-guiIf you are confronted the very first time with it, it might be confusing at first with all the available options, but be assured, that after 1 or 2 days you’ll be getting used to it. Many features and possibilities are waiting for you, and it also a few have’s and have not’s. Let’s start with the “have’s!

One of the great features in version 2.2.0 Evo is the Transcoding process. Here a general overview of the 2 Versions: Profesional and Minimal Editions.

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Xtream-Codes also offers a Minimal Edition of this software for a cheaper monthly price (19 Euros per month vs 59 Euros per month)

xtream-codes-iptv-panel-minimal-editionAs you might expect, the professional edition adds several features including:

  • Load Balancing by adding servers (1 is free, all others must be bought)
  • Manage all servers in a very simple and powerful interface
  • MAG Devices Support
  • New powerful transcode System supporting almost every function
  • Every stream is playable (more protocols support)
  • Faster zapping time (instant)
  • Powerful Logging & Search System
  • Stream Statistics
  • Http Live Streaming (HLS) Output
  • iOS/Android Client Area Portal
  • More lightweight

The Menus & Options  of the Panel

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The Transcoding or Video-Conversion process

This is one one of the “Highlights” of Xtream-Codes IPTV Panel. I’ve tested over a hundred different kinds of formats, from Blu-ray-MKV, different AVI’s, FLV, MP4, WMV, MOV and OGG. Each time the transcoding process was successful.

I also tested quite a few homemade AVI’s without transcoding, all watchable later on. But for professional hosting, large sized movies should be encoded before transferred to your server, in my opinion. The reason is mainly the later ability for your future customers to watch the movie streams, without any kind of freezings or bufferings. Due to Internet limitations, and nowadays also server bandwidth problems, the movies should be transcoded in 720p maximum and the file size should be around +/- 1GB each. The bitrate should be somewhere around 2 – 3000k maximum. This would later almost guarantee the freeze free availability of the stream, if the user owns a decent Internet connection. Not everybody have an 200 Mbit/s and up broadband connection.

Sure, there are higher bitrates possible and many customers already crying for lossless FHD’s streams. In my eyes often a wishful thinking. Too many components playing a huge role in the Internet world, and last but not least there’s always the question of bandwidth.

encoding-vs-transcoding

“What’s the difference between encoding and transcoding?” was one of the first questions I had when I started working with video’s and IPTV streaming. I had always used them interchangeably and after a quick Internet search I was surprised that I did not find a clear answer.

While encoding and transcoding both represent ways of converting files between formats, there is a distinct difference:

  • Encoding, by definition, takes analog source content and converts it to a digital format. For example – converting a video on a VHS tape to an mpeg file or a video DVD.
  • Transcoding takes an existing digital format and converts it to a different digital format, like taking a sample video and converting it to an adaptive bitrate format such as HTTP-Live-Streaming.

Despite the clear differences by definition, I’ve noticed that only technical experts tend to use the term with distinction. People getting started with video are often left behind and confused between the terms like I was. I hope that with this short note, we were able to shed some light on this myth….

Here you can see the different kinds of VIDEO and AUDIO transcoding codecs available:

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The Preset option allows you to select between ultra fast and very slow transcoding options, which should also affect the video quality.

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The Video Profile option (in my opinion too many Apple’s…)

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Setting the average video bitrate

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Other Transcoding Options

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Main server and load balancer monitoring

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3rd Load balancer

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Load Balancer Settings

Load balancing Chart? What this feature is doing exactly? As stated before, IPTV Panel Pro has load-balancing mode that will redirect your users automatically to other servers in a case of huge load. The load-balancing chart is being used to control the SOURCE flow or how the stream source will be transferred to your servers.

You can draw any flow you want depending on your needs.

iptv-load-balancerBoth servers will take the stream from the source in the configuration above.

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In this case, the server “Load balancer 1” will read the stream from the source and at the same time he will transfer the same stream to the second server.

Implementing LEGITIMATE Streams in your Panel and Managing Streams

Attention: Many customers make here a major mistake, with the result of missing audio and other misbehaviors in the stream later. What Video & Audio Codec should I use if I transcode later?

Xtream Codes has added many video & audio codecs but not all of these codecs are supported for IPTV use. To be on the safe side, you should always use the H.264 as video codec and AAC as audio codec for IPTV use.

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As we can see, importing a live stream, a movie or a radio broadcast stream was never that easy. We start by adding a live stream.

Two options here: One single stream, or multiple streams! If you import multiple streams, you need the file/stream list containing all of your streams.

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We have several options later, how the streams can act. For better understanding, it’s theoretically possible that you “restream” your legitimate bought streams later. In other words…in some cases, you may want to sell these streams to other resellers.

Through this setting you can block your streams to be “restreamed” later on, if you really try to sell some of your streams in time by choosing a category or bouquet later for your customer. Streams marked here as “yes” will not work for your customer.xtream-codes-restream-block

xtream-codes-stream-control Very useful are the “Quicktools” in the Manage-Streams Section:

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Adding a New Movie

You can also add a movie you uploaded to your server previously, or even from a remote source.

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If you add a movie from your own server, it works over the integrated file browser, while if you want to stream from a remote location, simply type in the location.

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You can set read “Input Source in Native Frames”, and  if you are transcoding, set it to YES.xtream-codes-imdb-database

You like to have a picon for your Movie? Here you can add a IMDB ID.

But here we go…Movies! It is common in this business, that once a while a server is having issues, and most times the load balancer also gives up. If this happens, and no matter the backup of your data bank, you are in troubles. You may have tons of movies in backup, and must re-assign them all again to a server manually.

This feature is definitely missing in the editing movies section. There are only 3 parts: Add New Movie, Import Multiple Movies and Manage Movies.

The scenario: You transfer in an emergency case over ssh protocol sftp-wise all your movies to an other server. You set up a new OS or reinstall one, and you get a new root password. After making a new server with Xtream Codes Panel, so far, so good. But you have to assign them later, all of them! A mass-edit regarding assigning movies to the main server or one of the load balancers would do it! Saving a dramatic amount of time for a customer. I repeat myself here, I mentioned that above already, regarding “add a new stream”. No reason for me to think of right now, that it should not be possible to assign this stream to a bouquet, and not only in to a category.

Adding a New Radio

It’s the same procedure as adding a video stream. You can import a single or multiple Streams from a file.

Creating new Client/Customer Lines xtream-code-user-details-2

Creating a new customer line is a piece of cake; just fill up the necessary fields. Like user, a unique password if you wish so, you even can use the created line in a stalker portal, but watch out then, please read:

xtream-codes-iptv-panel-mag-devices

If a customer has a MagBox for example, the better option is to bind the box over the MAC address. It is even possible to bind a before created simple m3u Playlist to a newly created MAC address. Simply go to “Add New Mag Device” and associate the existing line to it.

xtream-codes-iptv-panel-mag-stbPortals for Mag-Devices are like “http://yoursite.com:port/c/”

Features, Options, Security

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Restreamers Finder

Another useful feature is the so-called Restreamers Finder. In these days there are many restream software’s for ordinary users on the market, like Hola addons for Android Systems and many more.

Block User Agent

Not absolutely clear about this feature. What is a “User Agent”? A User Agent is normally a short string that web browsers and other applications send to identify themselves to web servers. Unfortunately, most browsers falsify part of their User-Agent header in an attempt to be compatible with more web servers. Useful, but I find that the manual assigning of each single user agent is a hell of a work. There are preconfigured block lists already in the Internet and it would be from great help, if Xtream Codes would allow loading a whole list.

Block IP/CIDR

IP blocking is clear, but what is a CIDR? Classless inter-domain routing (CIDR) is a set of Internet protocol (IP) standards that is used to create unique identifiers for networks and individual devices.

The IP addresses allow particular information packets to be sent to specific computers. Shortly after the introduction of CIDR, technicians found it difficult to track and label IP addresses, so a notation system was developed to make the process more efficient and standardized. That system is known as CIDR notation.

Resume? Absolutely useful!

There is still some work to do specially in the editing sector, one of the most important parts of streaming software:

  • Searching for Bad Movies (a dog’s work if hundreds/thousands of movies)
  • Adding a new stream and assign it direct into a bouquet, would be more then useful.
  • Mass edit Movies features (ex:Assign Movies to a server in bulk)

Part 2 (…coming soon)

  1. Finishing the part of the most important features
  2. Comparison the “Have’s” and “Have Not’s”
  3. Results after a new installation (Simulated Crash of the Main Server)
  4. The Pro’s
  5. The Contra’s
  6. The Competitors of Xtreme-Codes Panel
  7. Be aware of some kind of hoster (Strange experiences with 2 “Big Ones”! Troubleshootings)
  8. The Conclusion and resume

Ending the first part, I want to say thanks to Xtream-Codes for giving me the tools and the necessary “LB Plugins” (Naaaa, not a plugin, Xtream-Codes! Call it a Addon better!) to start.

[Update: Part 2 is up @ Xtream Codes IPTV Panel Review – Part 2: Movie Data Editing, Security, Resellers, Users and Pricing Management ]

WeTek Play 2 4K Android Set-top Box with ATSC, DVB-S2 or DVB-T2 Tuners is up for Pre-order for $120

August 19th, 2016 37 comments

With WeTek Play 2, initially unveiled as WeTek Play+, we now have a successor to WeTek Play with the same ATSC, DVB-S2/S, DVB-T2/T/C tuners, but much better specs thanks to Amlogic S905-H processor, 8GB storage, 2GB memory, and support for HDMI 2.0 and 4K60Hz video decoding allowing you to watch 4K UHD channels via your satellite dish for example. The device can be pre-ordered for $119.90 with the tuner of your choice, and shipping is slated to start on September 6th.

WeTek_Play_2

WeTek Play 2 specifications have changed slightly since January:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905-H rev. C quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 2.0GHz with  penta-core Mali-450MP GPU @ 750 MHz
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC 5.0 flash + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz with HDCP 2.2 support
  • Audio – HDMI, optical S/PDIF
  • Video codecs – H.265 (10bit) & H.264 AVC up to 4K60Hz, H.264 MVC, MPEG-4 ASP, VC-1, AVS, MPEG-2, MPEG-1 up to 1080p60
  • Audio codecs – MP3, AAC, WMA, RM, FLAC, Ogg, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS
  • Tuners – Modular (replaceable) tuners for DVB-S2 (Satellite), DVB-C/T/T2(Cable/terrestrial), and ATSC (terrestrial for North America and South Korea)
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 (Ampak AP6335 module)
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports
  • DRM – Playready and Widewine; Netflix HD supported
  • Misc – IR receiver, IR extender port, 3.5mm jack RS-232 port,
  • Power Supply –  DC 12V
  • Dimensions – 180x125x42 mm

The receiver runs Android 5.1.1 with Kodi 16.1, and ships with a remote control, an update nail, an HDMI cable, an RS232 cable, and a power supply.

Amlogic-S905-digital-tv-tunerI’ve been sent a review sample, which has been stuck in customs for about 2 weeks, but I expect it to be “liberated” sometimes next week. You can find more details on WeTek Play 2 product page.

U4 Quad Hybrid Android TV Box Unboxing and Teardown with DVB-T2, DVB-S2 and ATSC Tuners

January 22nd, 2016 20 comments

Yesterday, I wrote about U4 Quad Hybrid Android Digital TV receiver based on HiSilicon Hi3796M processor, and supporting for DVB-T2/T/C, DVB-S2, and ATSC standards. Today, I’ve received the device, taken a few pictures, and torn it down to find out more about the hardware. The full review will come out in a few weeks.

U4 Quad Hybrid Unboxing

DHL did their job quickly as I received the set-top box in about two days in the following package.

U4_Quad_Hybrid_PackageThe box comes with a 12V/1.5Am AV and HDMI cables, a WiFi antenna, an IR remote control requiring two AAA batteries (not included), a user’s manual in Korean language only and… a separate tuner…

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So let’s check that tuner more in details…

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The demodulator chip is LG3390A, so an ATSC tuner is included in the package. Not very useful in Thailand, but it’s good to know it’s included. I also open the cover of the bottom connector.

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And if I’m correct, what we have here is Aihora AV2012 DVB-S2 tuner chip, so that little expansion board should support both ATSC and DVB-S2.

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The box itself look fairly nice. We’ve got a USB 2.0 host port and a a USB 3.0 host port on the side (both limited to 500 mA), as well as a micro SD slot, the AV port, and a mini USB port for an IR/LED extension cable (not included). The rear panel features ANT IN and LNB IN antenna connectors, coaxial S/PDIF, the WiFi connector, HDMI output, 10/100M Ethernet, and a power jack for the 12V input.  If the antenna ports do not mean much to you, a look to the Korean user’s manual may help, as ANT IN is referred to “Ter In” and LNB IN to “Sat In”, which should be the left connector if for DVB-T2/T/C and the right connector for DVB-S2/T2, and if you want ATSC + DVB-S2, you simply need to insert the ATSC tuner. The sad part is that doing so would void your warranty according to the sticker on the rear panel… So I don’t really get it.

You could also watch the unboxing video for something more visual.

U4 Quad Hybrid Teardown

You’ll need to remove three screws to open the device. The one on the rear panel above the HDMI port, and two on the bottom of the case.

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There’s a sticker in Korean on the bottom about Shenzhen Sosci Technology, which specializes in, you guessed it.. LED aquarium lights! I’m not sure if there are other companies with the same name, and I picked the wrong one, or they simply chose to diversify. The MAC address suffix 00:11:AD points to Shanghai Ruijie Digital Technology, an Internet service provider, and the company that actually sent me the product is called Shenzhen Vivant Technology, so lots of parties involved here!

U4 Quad Hybrid Board (Click to Enlarge)

U4 Quad Hybrid Board (Click to Enlarge)

The board called W96M_MAIN VO.4 feature the HiSilicon processor with a heatsink, an 8GB FORESEE NFEFEH68-08G eMMC flash, two SKhynix H5TQ4G63AFR DDR3 chips (2x 512MB), and Realtek RTL8188ETV Wifi module.

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If we zoom in on the tuner area, we can see AVL6762TA DVB-T2/T/C demodulator, and on the main board itself and located on the bottom right of the picture above, Hisilicon Hi3136 is the DVB-S2/S demodulator.

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There’s also two LEDs, an IR receiver, and a 4-digit LED panel on the front of the board.

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There’s basically nothing on the bottom of the board, except S1 switch which should be the firmware recovery button.

I’d like to thanks Shenzhen Vivant Technology for sending a review sample, and you contact them if you wish to purchase in quantities. They also sell U4 Quad Hybrid for $119.99 shipped by DHL on Aliexpress, but a cheaper option is to go with China Post for $106.69 instead.

WeTek Play+ Amlogic S905 Android Set-Top Box Features a Tuner with a SmartCard Reader and an mSATA SSD Bay

January 9th, 2016 33 comments

When WeTek announced the WeTek Core, some people were disappointed that they did not include a tuner like in the original WeTek Play, but the company has been working on a successor called Wetek Play+ that is based on Amlogic S905-H quad core processor and supports DVB-S/S2, DVB-C/T/T2, ISDB-T and ATSC tuners with a smartcard reader, as well as an extra store with an half-size SSD slot.

WeTek Play+ (Click to Enlarge)

WeTek Play+ (Click to Enlarge)

WeTek Play+ specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905-H (Revision C) quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 2.0GHz with  penta-core Mali-450MP GPU @ 750 MHz
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC 5.0 flash + micro SD card slot + mSATA SSD socket (implemented via USB to SATA)
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz with HDCP 2.2 support, and AV port
  • Audio – HDMI, AV (stereo), optical S/PDIF
  • Tuners – Support for DVB-S2, DVB-C/T/T2, ISDB-T and ATSC tuners
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports (external), 2x internal USB 2.0 ports
  • DRM / CAS – Playready and Widewine included, Smartcard reader for tuner
  • Misc – 3.5mm jack RS-232 port (TBC)
  • Power Supply –  DC 12V
  • Dimensions – N/A
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The TV box will run Android 5.1, but while I don’t have much more details about the software, I’m pretty sure it will run a recent version of Kodi, WeTek Theater for live video via the tuner, and WeCloud Antenna for IPTV channels, just like on WeTek Play.

Amlogic S905-H means the box with have the DTS and Dolby license to downmix audio on any apps, and not only Kodi, and Revision C is a new revision of the chip that apparently fixes bugs with 4K 10-bit HEVC DVB-S2 streams. I did notice the video freezing for a few seconds before resuming with some 4K DVB-S2 samples on two Amlogic S905 boxes, respectively K1 Plus and MINI MX, but I could not reproduce the issue with MINIX NEO U1 and XBMC for MINIX. I’m sure the MINIX box did not have the revision C of the processor since it’s very new, but it’s quite possible there are several bugs, and there must be a reason for Amlogic to create a new revision, so it will be something to check in the future if you want to make you sure you don’t have this bug, and want to buy a device with the latest revision.

The smartcard reader shown on the left of the first picture will be useful for people needed to have premium channels via the tuner. I’ve not been told which standard it supports yet. Since USB to SATA implementations are not exactly equal, with some Genesys Logic chips providing really poor performance, I’ve been informed that the performance was good enough to record 4K DVB streams, but I don’t have raw numbers.

I often see HDCP 2.2 and DRM mentioned in product specs, even for cheap Amlogic S905 devices, but usually they don’t have the right keys and firmware for this, and again WeTek Play+ will definitely support both.

I don’t have pricing nor availability information, but WeTek Play+ looks like a pretty good device on paper.

Dune HD Solo 4K is a High-End Media Player with a SATA Bay, a DVB-T2 Tuner, and Sigma Designs SMP8758 Processor

December 26th, 2015 10 comments

Dune HD, a company specializing in “high-performance digital media players”, has just unveiled Dune HD Solo 4K media player based on  Sigma Designs SMP8758 dual core Cortex A9 processor, supporting 10-bit HEVC video decoding up to 2160p @ 30 fps, HD audio pass-though, and including a SATA tray.

Dune_HD_Solo_4KDune HD Solo 4K specifications:

  • SoC – Sigma Designs SMP8758 dual core Cortex A9 processor @ 1.2 GHz with an ARM Mali-400 GPU and VXP image processing engine
  • System Memory – 1GB
  • Storage – 4GB flash for firmware, internal HDD rack with hot swap function for a 2.5″ SATA drive, SD card reader (TBC)
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4b up to 1080p60 and 4K @ 30 Hz (including 23.976, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94Hz refresh rates), and composite video
  • Audio Output – HDMI, analog stereo audio, coaxial S/PDIF (shared via AV port). 24-bit /192 KHz audio support
  • Video codecs – MPEG2, MPEG4, XVID, WMV9, VC1, H.264, H.265, H.265 Hi10p; support for very high bitrate video (up to 100 Mbit/s and higher)
  • Video file formats – MKV, MPEG-TS, MPEG-PS, M2TS, VOB, AVI, MOV, MP4, QT, ASF, WMV, BDMV, DVD-ISO, VIDEO_TS
  • 3D video formats – MVC, Side-by-side, Top/Bottom
  • Audio codecs – MPEG-1/2 layer I/II/III, AAC, LPCM, WMA, WMAPro, FLAC, multichannel FLAC, Vorbis, WavPack, APE (Monkey’s Audio), ALAC (Apple lossless), AC3 (Dolby Digital), DTS; support for very high quality audio (up to 192 kHz / 24-bit). Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD MA, and Dolby Atmos pass-through to AV receiver
  • Tuner – DVB-T/T2 RF IN
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n/ac WiFi with two external antennas, optional Z-Wave controller for home automation
  • USB –  2x USB 2.0 ports (1x rear, 1x front)
  • Misc – IR extender port, on/off switch
  • Power Supply – 12V DC IN power connector
  • Dimensions – N/ADune_HD_Solo_4K_SATA

The media device support dual boot Linux + Android with the Linux OS featuring Dune HD media player functionality, and the Android OS providing access to Android apps.

Supported file systems include FAT32, EXT-2/3/4, and NTFS, all with read and write support. The player also has some other media features that are often missing or poorly supported in cheaper devices with as Blu-ray playback and menus, true 24p output (23.976Hz), NAS function, MPEG-DASH and HLS streaming support, etc.. . Solo 4K can also be an home automation gateway thanks to Control4 software.

I’ve never used a product with Sigma Designs SMP8758 processor, but I reviewed Popcorn Hour VTEN with SMP8657, that’s basically the single core version of the processor, and video playback and HD audio pass-through all worked very well, yet with some bugs at the time of review.

Dune_HD_Solo_4K_ConnectorsCloud Media also introduced Popcorn Hour A500-Pro media player with Sigma SMP8758 via a crowdfunding campaign where you could get it for $399 instead of $599 (MSRP) retail. Although both players as a different set of features, Dune HD Solo 4K should be a better deal once it becomes available in February of 2016 for 299 Euros (MSRP) [Update: price with VAT is 349 Euros]. You can find more details on the product page.

List of Amlogic S905 TV Boxes and Sticks

November 13th, 2015 96 comments

Rockchip RK3368 TV boxes looked promising at the end of the summer, but ended up being disappointing, not because of their expected lower performance compared to RK3288, but simply because they could not deliver on their main selling point: 4K H.265 / H.264 video playback, and the sheer number of issues with the first devices selling for nearly the same price as equivalent Rockchip RK3288 devices. Rockchip RK3368 will soon have a worthy competitor with Amlogic S905, which won’t deliver amazing benchmark scores, but looks promising for its 4K 10-bit HEVC video playback, HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2, and historically Amlogic delivers better video playback than Rockchip. The first Amlogic S905 TV boxes should start shipping by the end of the month, and prices are starting very low, just over $40, thanks to competition between the many manufacturers launching devices based on the new Amlogic SoC.

Amlogic_S905_Android_TV_BoxesThat’s why I’ve decided to make a list of Amlogic S905 Android 5.1 TV boxes and sticks:

  • Geniatech ATV495 TV Box – TV box with 2GB RAM, 8 GB flash, Fast Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, 2x USB 2.0 host ports and HDMI 2.0 and AV. Price: TBD
  • Geniatech ATV1950 STB – TV box with 2GB RAM, 16 GB flash, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, 4x USB 2.0 host ports, HDMI 2.0, and dual tuner (ATSC/DVB-T/DVB-T2/ISDBT). Price: TBD
  • Ugoos AM1 – TV box with 2GB RAM, 16 GB flash, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0, 3x USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0. Price: TBD
  • Ugoos AM2 – Largish TV stick/dongle with 1GB RAM, 8 GB flash, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth, 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB port, and HDMI 2.0 & AV outputs. Price: TBD
  • MXQ Pro TV Box – TV box with 1GB RAM, 8 GB flash, Fast Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth, 4x USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0 & AV outputs. Price: $50 and up
  • Beelink MINI MX – TV box with 1GB RAM, 8 GB flash, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth, 2x USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0. Price: $42.99.
  • Guleek A8 Android TV Stick -> TV stick with 2GB RAM, 8 GB flash, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth, 1x USB 2.0 host port, 2x micro USB ports, and HDMI 2.0. Price: TBD
  • Eny EM95 -> TV box with 1 or 2GB RAM, 8 or 16 GB flash, Fast or Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, 3x USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0 and AV output. Price: $56.99 with 1GB/8GB configuration.
  • Acemax G9C – TV box with 2GB RAM, 8GB flash, Fast Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, 2x USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0 & AV ports. Price: TBD
  • Venz K1 Plus – TV box with 1 GB RAM, 8 GB flash, Fast Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, 4x USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0 and AV outputs. Price: $42.99. Venz K1 Plus Hybrid is another version with DVB-S2, DVB-T2, ISDB-T, DTMB, or ATSC tuner.
  • MXQ Plus – TV box with 1 GB RAM, 8 GB flash, Fast Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, a few USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0 and AV outputs. Price: TBD.
  • Venz K5 – TV box with 2 GB RAM, 8 GB flash, Gigabit Ethernet, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, a few USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0. Price: TBD.
  • MXV Plus (MXV+) – TV box with 1 GB RAM, 8 GB flash, Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, 3x USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0. Price: $62.99.
  • Xiaomi 3 Mi Box – TV box with 1 GB RAM, 4 GB flash, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.1, 1x USB 2.0 host port, and HDMI 2.0 and AV ports. Price: $71.79. Please note: Chinese interface only!
  • Eweat M8V – TV box with 1 or 2 GB RAM, 8 or 16 GB flash, Gigabit Ethernet, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, 3x USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0 & AV ports. Price: $78.78.
  • Measy B4TS – TV box with 1 GB RAM, 8 GB flash, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, 3x USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0. Price: $66.29.
  • Quintex S905 – TV box with 1 GB RAM, 8 GB flash, Fast Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and optional Bluetooth 4.0, 2x USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0 and AV output ports. Price: $78.
  • M9+ (M9 Plus) – TV box with 1 GB RAM, 8 GB flash, Fast Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, 4x USB 2.0 host ports, and HDMI 2.0 and AV output ports. Price: $54.99.

Most of the devices come with 1GB RAM and 8GB flash, and price disparity is rather large. In this category the best values appear to be Beelink MINI MX and K1 Plus TV boxes at $43 both. The only TV stick, Guleek U8, is not for sale yet.  Two TV boxes stand out in terms of specifications with 2GB RAM, 16GB flash, Gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11ac, namely Ugoos AM1 and Geniatech ATV1950, with the latter also including a dual tuner, but they are not for sale yet.

Giveaway Week – Eny M8S Android TV Box

November 6th, 2015 244 comments

Today, I’m going to give away Eny M8S, an Android media player based on Amlogic S812 processor with 2GB RAM and 8GB NAND flash that runs Android 4.4, and supports H.265 video playback up to 3840×2160 at 30 fps.

m8sHow does the device perform? Well, I don’t really know because I postponed the review due to many problems including HDMI going on and off, lack of Google Play Store, some power issues, and eventually the box refused to boot. When I finally got a new firmware, I did upgrade it, but so many months had passed, that I postponed the review indefinitely… Having said that, I tested its 4K capabilities later on, and again before this giveaway to reset the box to factory settings, and it booted fine… The box is not abandoned, as the company released a new firmware at the beginning of this month, so the lucky winner may consider upgrading the box to the latest firmware.

Eny M8S and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Eny M8S and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

More photos are available on “Unboxing of Eny M8S H.265 / 4K Android Media Player Powered by Amlogic S812 Processor” post. Please note that the HDMI cable is not included.

To enter the draw simply leave a comment below.

Other rules are as follows:

  • Only one entry per contest. I will filter out entries with the same IP and/or email address.
  • Contests are open for 48 hours starting at 10am (Bangkok time) every day. Comments will be closed after 48 hours.
  • Winners will be selected with random.org, and announced in the comments section of each giveaway.
  • I’ll contact the winner by email, and I’ll expect an answer within 24 hours, or I’ll pick another winner.
  • Shipping
    • Free EMS for winners with a shipping address in Thailand
    • $17 for registered airmail small packet for the rest of the world payable via Paypal within 48 hours once the contest (for a given product) is complete.
    • If PayPal is not available in your country, you can still play, and I’ll cover the cost of sending the parcel by Sea and Land (SAL) if you win.
  • I’ll post all 7 prizes at the same time, around the 11th of November
  • I’ll make sure we have 7 different winners, so if you have already won a device during this giveaway week, I’ll draw another person.

Good luck!

M8S can be purchased for $48 and up on Amazon, eBay, GeekBuying, GearBestGearBest and many other websites.