M9 (aka E8 Plus) is yet another Android media player powered by Amlogic S812 with 2GB RAM and 8GB flash, but it’s currently selling for $62.71 including shipping on Aliexpress from a seller with positive feedback. The offer is valid for 17 hours more. M9 specifications:
I’ve had HD18T Android TV box with a DVB-T2 tuner for several months, but I’ve only installed a roof antenna recently, so I’ve decided to give it another try since my indoor antenna did not pick-up any signal with that box. The set-top box is also known as EM6-T2 or HD18T2, and features Amlogic AML8726-MX dual Cortex A9 processor which has been used in numerous boxes in the past, so I will only focus on my experience with the DVB app in this mini review.
Android Home Screen (Click for Original Size)
If you want to use DVB-T2 go straight to the right and click on DVB app. Where you’ll then be greeted with a pop-up windowsasking if if you want to scan channels.
You can do autoscan, manual scan (for one frequency), select the area (France/Taiwan/UK/Italy/Australia only), and enable/disable LCN (Logical Channel Numbering). At first I selected “Australia”, and the system did not find any channels, but after switching back to “UK”, the device found most, if not all, digital TV channels available in Thailand, including HD channels, meaning DVB-T2 is clearly working just fine. However, several people in Singapore complained that DVB-T2 does not work at all, and only DVB-T channels could be viewed. So your mileage may vary.
In the program section you can delete or rename channels in the Program Edit menu, check the EPG and schedule recording, configure the PVR function (recording path and timeshitfing duration), access the PVR manager (password: 0000) to view or delete recordings, and TimeShifting to be able to pause live TV.
Using the box to watch TV works relatively well, although some of the channels marked with “$$” in the info overlay produced background noise (with the proper image), meaning I could only really watch about 25 channels, while it’s working just fine on a cheap Linux based DVB-T2 set-top box such as Samart Strong Black. I’ve also noticed some stability issues, as I may lose either picture or audio from time to time, requiring a reboot.
PVR function can be started with the “Rec” button on the remote, and you just need to input the duration. You can watch another channel at the same DVB-T2 frequency while recording. When I tried a single DVB-T2 stream could handle 6 TV channels. If you go over the boundaries, the system will ask if you want to cancel recording.
Once recording is complete, you can go to PVR manager to view the videos, but I did not manage to play any recording from there, so instead I went back to the main menu, and clicked on Movie app to access TVRecordFiles folder on my hard drive, and watch the recordings. Unfortunately all videos were recorded without audio, and I got some artifacts from time to time.
Time-shifting is working OK, but I could not find a way to manually hide the “record” button and the controls overlaid on top of the video, which can be annoying, although they’ll hide after a while (maybe one minute or so).
Other available settings are shown in the screenshot below. Picture size can be set to auto, 4:3 or 16:9, while the selectable languages for subtitle and audio are only English and Chinese. I don’t understand what “Blackout Policy” means.
The system menu has some options to enable subtitles, reset data, set password, and set the TTX region (a few more languages are available here).The firmware version installed was built on May 14, 2014, with building number JDQ39.20140514. I could not find any other firmware updates.
You may want to watch the review video below for more details about DVB app.
The sample was sent to me by Shenzhen Tomato, and if you want to purchase this type of box in quantities you may contact them. I don’t recommend buying such device based on my experience, but at least it’s relatively cheap as it can be found on DealExtreme for $73.99, or Aliexpress for just under $70.
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 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)
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.
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.
Key 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
1080p60 10-Bit HD HEVC decode and 4Kp60 upscale
High Performance DDR3/DDR4 system memory interface
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
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
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.
An article about a Mediatek MT8685 based Android media player on AndroidPC.es, made me look into UTStarcom products, and beside some other MT8685 based quad core set-top boxes such as MC8685A and MC8685B, I found a weird/funny/intriguing/futuristic looking game console STB powered by Nvidia Tegra K1 quad core cortex A15 processor named MC8718.
Video and Audio Output – HDMI 1.4b up to 4K @ 30Hz
Video Decode – H.264, MPEG-4, etc..
Audio Decode – MP3, AAC, optional Dolby and DTS, etc..
Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, Dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
USB – USB 2.0 interface
Misc – IR receiver
Power Supply – 5V
The company claims support for TegraZone and Shield games, as well as PC streaming, and cloud gaming. An optional gamepad can also be provided. The box is said to run a customized version of Android 4.4.
MC8718 does not seem to be selling online right now, and pricing has not been disclosed. UTStarcom is a large Chinese company, part of Fortune 1000, and even listed on the Nasdaq, but somehow none of the set-top boxes listed on their products page appear to be mentioned anywhere. The product briefs do not like very professional either. The official website reported by Google is utstar.com, but the site I ended-up on was utstarcom.cn, that may explain everything…
WeTek Play is an Android media player that comes with a digital TV tuner, and in my recent updated review with a DVB-S2 tuner I found out that the software for live TV either via Internet or satellite was pretty good, and despite the older Amlogic AML8726-MX processor used in the box, it could still be recommended for watching live TV, with featuring like PVR, TimeShifting and EPG working reasonably well. At launch however, WeTek Play was only available with DVB-S2 or DVB-C/T/T2 tuners, so North American did not have the option to watch free-to-air digital TV on the box. This has now been resolved, as the company has launched Wetek Play with an ATSC tuner.
The rest of the specifications for the ATSC model are exactly the same:
SoC – Amlogic AML8726-MX dual core Cortex A9 @ 1.5GHz with a dual core Mali-400MP GPU
System Memory – 1GB DDR3
Storage – 4 GB NAND flash + 1x micro SD slot
Video Output – HDMI, AV (CVBS + R/L audio)
Audio Output – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
Tuner – ATSC tuner with two antenna connectors
Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi , and Bluetooth 4.0 (AP6210)
USB – 3x external USB 2.0 ports, 2x internal USB 2.0 ports (used by anti-copy USB token, and RF dongle for remote)
Debugging – Serial debug port
Misc – IR receiver, 3 LEDs for power, Ethernet and Wi-Fi, RS-232 port for serial console.
Power – 12V/1.5A
This version also support Android 4.2 (internal flash) or OpenELEC 5.0 (SD card).
WeTek Play with ATSC or other tuners can be purchased on WeTek website, and it seems the price may have gone down, as it is now listed as $106.11 / 89.34 Euros instead of 109 Euros last month, but it’s just because they don’t include VAT by default now, since it does not apply to countries outside the European Union.
Rockchip announced RK3368 64-bit processor yesterday for mid-range tablets and 4K media player, but the company also have some new ultra low cost TV box and HDMI TV stick solution with Rockchip RK3036 dual core Cortex A7 processor that will go into $9.9 TV boxes running Android 4.4. The price is most probably factory price, but that means $20 H.265/HEC capable Android media players are probably around the corner. You can already get an RK3066 TV dongle (MK808 and similar) for less than $30 in Aliexpress, so the new solution will likely decrease the price by $5 to $10.
Technical specifications of RK3036 reference design:
SoC – Rockchip RK3036 dual core Cortex A7 processor @ up to 1.2 GHz with Mali-400MP GPU
Video & Audio Output – HDMI 1.4a. The chip also supports CVBS, and optical S/PDIF.
(Main) Video Codecs – 1080p multi format decoder including H.265 / H.264 codecs. H.264 encoding.
Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (possibly using Expressif ESP8089). The chip also supports 10/100M Ethernet
USB – 1x USB 2.0 port. (Two USB interfaces are provided by the SoC)
The RAM is really on the low side, but Rockchip has said they further optimized Android 4.4 to run on 256 MB RAM. Lots of apps will probably fail to run properly on this platform, and such device should be mostly reserved to video playback. I’m not even quite sure Kodi would run with that little RAM.
A few more details may eventually be added to RK3036 product page.
[Update: Just to get a better grasp to what might be the actual online retail price. Rockchip announced $10 RK2928 miracast dongles in 2013, which are now selling for $16 to $20 shipped, so something around $20 to $25 on Aliexpress should be feasible on RK3036 devices become available]
Last month, we discovered Zidoo X9 Android TV box powered by Mstar MSO9810 quad core processor, and featuring an HDMI input for PVR function. There’s now an alternative with Xtreamer Prodigy 4K based on the same Mstar processor, but adding an internal SATA bay for 3.5″ Hard drives.
Xtreamer Prodigy 4K specifications:
SoC – Mstar MSO9180D1R quad core Cortex A9 processor up to 1.5GHz with octa-core ARM Mali-450MP6 GPU
System Memory – 2GB DDR3
Storage – 8GB eMMC flash + 3.5″ SATA bay up to 3TB + multicard slot
Video Output / Input – HDMI output up to 4K @ 30HZ, HDMI input with PVR and Time Shifting support up to 4K @ 30 Hz
Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with external antenna.
USB – 1x USB 3.0 host, 1x USB 3.0 slave, 2x USB 2.0 host ports.
Misc – ON/OFF switch, reset pinhole, LCD display on front panel
Power Supply – 12V/2A
Dimensions – 238 x 207 x 64 mm
Weight – 1.1 kg
The box runs Android 4.4 with Xtreamer launcher & user interface, and supports OTA updates. It sells with an HDMI cable, a 12V/2A power adapter, an IR remote control, and a quick start guide. The HDMI input supports both PiP (Picture-in-picture), and PVR functions. If you’ve already watched Zidoo X9 demo video, the video recording interface below will look familiar.