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4K2K Android TV Boxes with AMLogic S802 SoC – Tronsmart Vega S89 and Eny ES8

February 13th, 2014 34 comments

For nearly a year, we’ve been waiting for Android TV media players based on the latest AMLogic quad core Cortex A9 SoC, that’s been known as AML8726-M8, then M801/M802, and there’s AMLogic S802, which is the set-top box version of the SoC. M must probably stands for MID, and S for STB. Geniatech ATV1800 seems to never become available, and instead I’ve found out about two other Android TV boxes powered by S802 called Tronsmart Vega S89 and Eny ES8 that should sell very soon. The specs look great, but if you are into rather standard enclosures you may be disappointed…

Tronsmart Vega S89

Tronsmart_Vega_S89The first one is Vega S89. It will be sold on Geekbuying, and has with the following specifications:

  • SoC – AMLogic S802 quad core ARM Cortex A9r4 at 2.0GHz with ARM Mali-450MP6 GPU
  • System Memory – 2G DDR3
  • Storage – 16 GB NAND Flash + micro SD card slot up to 64GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4b up to 4K2K (2160p = 3840×2160), and AV
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports + micro USB OTG
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, optical S/PDIF
  • Misc – IR Sensor, Power LED, power button, and recovery/update switch (via hole)

This hockey puck media player will come with a 5V/2A power adapter, an HDMI cable, and USB cable, and a user’s manual.  It will run Android 4.4 Kitkat with stock home screen, support OTA function, Miracast, and DLNA. If 4K support is important to you, please note that it’s using HDMI 1.4b which limits the frame rate to 30 fps in UHD resolution. You’d need HDMI 2.0 for 2160p60 support. Price and retail availability is unknown at this point, but Geekbuying will received samples some time next week. You can check Tronsmart Vega S89 page for more pictures.

Eny Technology ES8

Eny_ES8 ES8 media player has similar specifications:

  • SoC – AMLogic S802 quad core ARM Cortex A9r4 @ 2.0GHz with ARM Mali-450MP6 GPU @ 600 MHz
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3 @ up to 1600 MHz
  • Storage – 8GB / 16 GB NAND Flash + micro SD card slot up to 64GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4b up to 4K2K (2160p = 3840×2160), AV
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, optical S/PDIF

ES8 will be available with either 8 or 16 GB, and miss Bluetooth support and a micro USB port found in Tronsmart Vega S89. Price and availability are not available either. You can check Eny Technology ES8 page for a few more 3D renderings. The company sells the device on Alibaba.

The Antutu scores on an early sample of Geniatech ATV1800 was 25,000, and it goes up to over 30,000 on M802 based tablets such as Onda V975m. Rockchip RK3188 based devices only get around 18,000 in Antutu. The higher score is due to a new revision of Cortex A9 core (revision 4) that allows M802/S802 to reach 2 GHz, a much faster 6+2 core GPU, and more memory bandwidth. Another advantage with AMLogic SoCs is that XBMC support is likely to be better than for Rockchip or other silicon vendors’ ARM SoCs.

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Review of Huawei MediaQ M310 Android TV Box

February 12th, 2014 5 comments

Huawei MediaQ M310 is an Android set-top box powered by HiSilicon K3V2 quad core SoC. AndroidPC.es have just written a review of the device in Spanish, and since it’s one of the only media player based on this processor, which also include a Vivante GC4000 GPU, I’ll translate some of the most interesting bits, but you can find many more pictures and screenshots on the original article.

MediaQ M310 Unboxing

Huawei_MediaQ_M310_with_RemoteLet’s remind us of the specifications first:

  • SoC – Hisilicon K3V2 Quad-core ARM Cortex A9 processor with Vivante GC4000 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB RAM
  • Storage – 4GB Flash + microSD card slot
  • Video I/O – 1x HDMI In,1x HDMI Out
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, SPDIF, 3.5mm stereo jack, Mic mono
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 (1 extension from Y cable) + 1x micro USB
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n 2.4G/5G 2×2MIMO, Bluetooth 4.0

Beside the device and the Bluetooth remote control shown above, the package also comes with a 5V/2A power adapter, an HDMI cable, and a user’s manual written in Chinese. You can watch the unboxing video below for details.

System Setup

There are two versions of the firmware: Chinese, and international with several languages supported. The international version is much smaller than the Chinese versions (363.14 MB vs 510.80 MB), probably because they’ve remove some online TV app only working in China, and not quite as up-to date (21/11/2013 vs 27/1/2014). The international version however comes with Google Play, which is not present in the Chinese version. AndroidPC.es tested the international version.

With this firmware, the Bluetooth remote does not work although it does with the Chinese firmware. So they’ve connected a mouse and keyboard, setup Wi-Fi and download an app on their phone thanks to a QR code showed on the user interface.

Huawei_MediaQ_User_InterfaceThe device runs Android 4.1.2 with Linux kernel 3.0.8, and the interface has completed be customize so you won’t be able to access the Android settings, and go to the device settings which still give access to most setup options:  System Information, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Display, Audio, USB, Storage, and more. Developer options are not available, and it does not look like the reviewer tried to enable them by clicking 7 times on the build version.

Audio & Video

You can either select 720p60 or 1080p60 for HDMI, and it support audio downsampling (PCM), and pass-through. They’ve tested DTS and AC3 5.1 with S/PDIF output and it worked fine, but 7.1 audio failed. It could be because the AV receiver they used, Pioneer VSX-527-K, simply does not support 7.1, or MediaQ M310 does not support it.

Video playback appears to be decent as all video samples from Linaro (H.264, MPEG2, MPEG4, VC1, VP8, RealVideo) could play from a USB flash drive or Wi-Fi. Some higher bitrate videos (1080p @ 40 Mbps, 4K2K @ 60Mbps) could not play smoothly from their USB stick. With their setup, file transfer performance was 11 MB/s for the USB flash drive, and 0.5MB/s for Wi-Fi. The later should actually not be enough to play 1080p video samples from Linaro. I notice the video test have been done via 802.11g, and the transfer with 802.11n, which could explain the oddity.

They have also tested XBMC, but there’s no hardware acceleration for now. XBMC Custom XAF version which is using an external player, e.g. MX Player, should work just fine however. Skype could work fine, except they had to install it from an apk, as Google Play store said the device was incompatible.

There’s also an HDMI input, but they do not appear to have tested it.

Huawei MediaQ M310 Benchmarks

Let’s see what HiSilicon K3V2 and Vivante GC4000 are capable of.

Hisilicon_K3V2_AntutuCompared to Rockchip RK3188-T score of 15,356 in Beelink A9, an Antutu score of 10974 is rather disappointing. Unfortunatly, AndroidPC screenshot does not show GPU score, but we can still compare some of the tests. I would have liked to add Antutu 4.x results for devices based on Freescale i.MX6 and AllWinner A31, but I don’t have detailed scores for these.

Test Rockchip RK3188-T
Beelink A9
HiSilicon K3V2
MediaQ M310
Multitask 3227 2657
Dalvik 1165 932
CPU integer 2130 1901
CPU float-point 1361 1049
RAM Operation 1625 1437
RAM Speed 872 699?

With regards to CPU performance, the scores are actually as expected because K3V2 is clocked at 1.2 GHz against 1.4GHz for RK3188-T.

The device gets 1063 points in Passmark Android, which places it between HTC Desire HD (Qualcomm 8255 dual core) and Samsung Galaxy S (Samsung Exynos 3110) performance which is pretty pathetic, and appears to be due to poor results in memory mark, and 2D graphics mark tests. These results appear to be really too low, and the device should be closer to Nvidia Tegra 3 used in Asus Transformer Prime in the charts below.

Huawei_MediaQ_M310_PassMarkMediaQ M310 gets 3446 points in 3Dmark Ice Storm benchmark. If we compare this to the list of best Android mobile devices in Futuremark’s website it’s very close to Pipo S1 tablet (3448 pts, Rockchip RK3188 w Mali-400MP4), and not that far from Transformer Prime (3935 pts, Nvidia Tegra 3). It’s still somewhat disappointing, as I was expecting Vivante GC4000 to outperform these older GPUs.

Conclusion

The guys at AndroidPC.es concludes with the pros and cons of the device:

  • Pros – Good finish of the product, the firmware works well, native 1080p resolution, HDMI input, easy firmware upgrade, and good video playback.
  • Cons – Poor Wi-Fi, Google Play incompatibilities, and firmware with too many customizations compared to stock Android. It would also add disappointing SoC performance.

If you are interested in purchasing Huawei MediaQ M310, you can do so for $129 on Aliexpress.

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$50 Hotach HTV003 Android Media Player is Powered by Telechips TCC8935 SoC

February 10th, 2014 34 comments

The last few months have been pretty quiet in terms of new Android mini PCs and media players, at least when it comes to new platforms. But finally there’s something new, as Telechips TCC893x based devices are starting to show up on the marketplace. The devices won’t beat performance records as the new Telechips SoC features a dual core Cortex A9 processor with a Mali-400MP2 GPU, but they’ll be very affordable. Hotach HTV003 is one of the first media player powered by Telechips TCC8935, and sells for $50 on Aliexpress.

Hotach_HTV003

Hotach HTV003 specifications:

  • SoC – Telechips TCC8935 with two ARM Cortex A9 cores up to 1GHz, one Cortex M3 core, and an ARM Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 4GB NAND Flash + micro SD card slot up to 32 GB
  • Connectivity – Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Video Output – HDMI
  • Audio Ouput – HDMI
  • USB – 2x USB host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Power Supply – 5V/1A via micro USB port
  • Dimensions – 77 x 40 x 14.5 mm

The box is sold with an HDMI cable (optional), a USB cable, a 5V/1A power adapter, and a user’s manual. HTV003 currently runs Android 4.2.2, and is said to support Miracast DLNA, and Airplay.  The company does not mention the Ethernet speed, but TCC893x processors integrate a Gigabit Ethernet MAC, which would be a unique feature for a device at this price. It still believe it’s a 10/100M Ethernet port though. I’m not exactly sure if the Cortex M3 is used in the device, but it could potential handle remote control input, while the Cortex A9 cores are down, to lower standby power consumption.

The Linux kernel, Android Jelly Bean, and a VPU “driver” (actually a wrapper around a binary) source code is available for Telechips processors on the company’s open source SW page. So there’s potentially some hacking potential, but the Linux kernel was also available for previous processors, and interest failed to take off except somewhat for CX-01 (Android only).

At $50 + shipping ($58 in total), it’s about the same price as the cheapest AllWinner A20 media player with Ethernet, but features faster Cortex A9 cores compared to the Cortex A7 cores found in AllWinner SoC. The GPU is the same: MAli-400 MP2. Beside Aliexpress, you could checkout the company’s Alibaba store if you want to buy in quantities, or visit Hotach website. The complete company name is actually Shenzhen Hongtai Auspicious Technology Co. Ltd…

Thanks to Gabe for the link.

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How to Install XBMC on D-Link Boxee Box

January 28th, 2014 7 comments
D-Link Boxee

D-Link Boxee

D-Link Boxee Box is a Linux based media player powered by Intel Atom CE4100 processor that became available in 2010, and features a dual sided  RF remote / QWERTY keyboard that probably inspired many of the air mouse that are available today.

The box features many of the ports and connectors that are available on most Android STB today, namely an HDMI port, an optical S/PDIF) out, a stereo analog audio out, Ethernet and 802.11n Wi-Fi, two USB ports, and an SD card slot. Many people however got disappointed with the firmware at launch time, and even if subsequent firmware updates have improved the user experience, some people have considered it was worth the effort to port XBMC to the device.

Myles McNamara wrote the instructions to install XBMC on D-Link Boxee Box. I’ll summarize the steps below, and it appears to be relatively easy.

  1. Installing Boxee+Hacks to gain root access
    The first thing you’ll have to do is to gain root access by following these steps:

    1. Download install.zip (Boxee+Hacks) from http://boxeed.in/
    2. Format a USB flash drive or SD card to FAT32 using the label BOXEE (case sensitive)
    3. Copy the files from the zip files to the USB drive or SD card.
    4. Plug it into the device, and boot Boxee Box
    5. Go into ‘Settings’->’Network’->’Servers’ to enable ‘Windows File Sharing’
    6. Add ‘;sh /media/BOXEE/install.sh‘ to your ‘Host Name’. Make sure it looks like ‘boxeebox;sh /media/BOXEE/install.sh‘ after you’re done.
    7. Reboot the device to start the install process.
    8. Once it’s complete, you’ll have a device with root access.
  2. Installing XBMC on Boxee Box
    There are two ways to install XBMC on D-Link media player: building XBMC from source using code and instructions available on https://github.com/quarnster/boxeebox-xbmc, or much simpler, download the latest version from devil-strike.com which as of today is xbmc13.alpha12.boxeebox2014.01.18.early_alpha2_92146e8.zip. You’ll notice this is an alpha version, and this XBMC port to Boxee Box is new, so although the system will run, you can’t expect everything to magically work out of the box.Once you’ve downloaded the zip file, extract the files to the root of a storage device (USB flash drive or SD card) making sure xbmc.bin is in the root folder, insert the storage device in Boxee Box, power the device, and it should automatically boot into XBMC. If you remove the storage device, it will just boot Boxee+Hacks you’ve installed previously.
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Review of Beelink A9 RK3188 Android Media Player

January 20th, 2014 20 comments

Beelink A9 is an Android TV Box powered by Rockchip RK3188 SoC with 2GB RAM, and 8GB RAM (See full specs). The hardware is pretty standard, but the company released Android 4.4 SDK for the device, so when Beelink / Nexteon told me they wanted to send me one for review, I accepted. I won’t test the Android SDK today, but I’ll just show the pictures of the device, and run my usual series of tests for review. The shipped sample is not running Android 4.4 (beta), but Android 4.2.2.

Unboxing Pictures

I’ve received this Android media player in the no brand package below. I’m not sure if Beelink will sell directly to individuals, so you’ll likely to received some different if you order Tronsmart A928 or Zero Devices Z6C which are based on the same platform.
Beelink_A9_Package
There are quite a few accessories in the package: The box itself, a small IR remote, 2x USB OTG to USB adapters, 2x micro USB to USB cables, a long HDMI cable, a 5V/2A power supply, and a user’s manual in English and Chinese.

Beelink A9 and Accessories

Beelink A9 and Accessories

There’s no much to see from the front of the device except the power button, and the glossy cover which acts like a dust magnet…
Beelink_A9
The back and sides of the device are more interesting as this is where all the ports are.
Beelink_A9_ConnectorsFrom left to right, we’ve got the power jack, an audio jack, S/PDIF optical output, Ethernet, HDMI, one USB port, and a USB OTG port at the back, and two more USB port and a micro SD slot on the side.

You can watch the unboxing video below if you please.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Let’s connect an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable, some input device (RF dongle for Mele F10 air mouse), and the power supply to get started. I haven’t use the IR remote during testing. It works OK, but as usual is not very practical with Android. Unlike most Android STB it won’t start automatically, and you need to press on the power button for at least one second to boot the device. A  dim blue light will lit the button, and you’ll almost immediately see Google TV logo on your TV, followed by the Android animation, and within just over 30 seconds, you’ll see the Android launcher.

Beelink A9 Android Home Screen / Launcher (Click for Original Size)

Beelink A9 Android Home Screen / Launcher (Click for Original Size)

I really link this launcher as it look nice, you can see a slideshow of your pictures at the top left, and music controls are easily accessible.  The only problem is that you won’t be able to add your own App to the home screen, and will have to click on Apps to find them.

Within seconds, another screen popped up, as the device supports automatic OTA update.

Beelink_A9_OTAI’m not sure there are many changes (same date), but I accept the upgrade anyway, and after two reboot it was complete.

Lets’ go through the settings menu. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet options are available for connectivity. I had no problem with Wi-Fi and Ethernet, but although Bluetooth is built-in, I was unable to enable Bluetooth at all. You can only use Wi-Fi or Ethernet at a time, not both.  There’s also the section for Data usage, as well as options to configure VPN, portable hotspot, and PPPoE, but I haven’t tried any of these.

The Display menu will let you select the wall paper, sleep time, and font size, and if you want to adjust your screen video output, you’ll need to go top the Screen section. There’s a menu to adjust overscan (Screen Scale),  an Output Interface selection with only HDMI, and HDMI mode to select 720×480@60, 720×576@50, 720p50, 720p60, 1080p50, or 1080p60. The UI itself is fixed to 1280×720 as usual.The “Sound Devices Manage” in the Sound section will be you select the following audio output: RK29_RT5631 (downsampling via HDMI), ROCKCHIP-SPDIF, RK29_RT5631 & ROCKCHIP-SPDIF, ROcKCHIP-SPDIF PASSTHROUGH, or RK29_RT5631 PASSTHROUGH. I still don’t have an home theather system so I did not test S/PDIF pass-through, but I’ve got a new HDTV that comes with its own SW media player, so I though HDMI pass-through might just work, but I had no audio at all after selecting RK29_RT5631 PASSTHROUGH. Not sure if this is the TV limitations, or Beelink A9 issue.

The device has 8GB of NAND flash, and the storage is partitioned so that apps get 1.97GB (1.37GB available), and there’s 3.95 GB for user’s data, the rest being used by the system. Developer options are visible and enabled by default, with lots of different options, and the firmware is already rooted. Looking into the “About device” section shows the device model number is  “A9″, and it’s running Android 4.2.2 with Linux kernel 3.0.36+.

I could install all applications I tried via Google Play including ES File Explorer, Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Candy Crush, Raging thunder 2,  etc… All Apps I tried could run just fine. The power buttons on the IR remote and the device itself, do not completely turn the unit off, but just put it into suspend mode.

Like with RK3188 based device, the firmware appears to be very stable, and  I did not experience a single crash or hand, and it’s run very smoothly.

Video Playback

XBMC Custom XAF is pre-installed with several add-ons (See pic) and the UI is rendered @ 60fps, but since this version of XBMC just calls MX Player, I’ve just used MX Player and ES File Explorer for video playback tests, since I find it more convenient. The videos used below were played from  a SAMBA share in Ubuntu 13.10 via the Ethernet port of the device.

I started with the videos from samplemedia.linaro.org:

  • 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 – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – Do not play (like it’s loading forever)
  • WebM / VP8,  480p, 720p, 1080p – OK

High bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – OK most of the time, but in some fast moving scene the video is choppy, and the audio cuts. There was also a massive audio/video sync issue.
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – Mostly OK, but I did notice it buffered for a short while once in the middle of the video.
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK

The device could decode all high-end audio codecs, but Ethernet appears to be weak on the device, and some buffering and audio cuts happened:

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – Decoding OK, but very long buffering during playback (2s playback, 10s buffering repeatedly)
  • DTS-MA – Decoding OK, but some short (<1s) buffering occurred during video playback.
  • DTS-HR – OK

I used the default RK29_RT5631 mode (audio downmixing) to playback those files. SPDIF and HDMI pass-through are also supposed to  work in theory, but I don’t have the equipment to test it.

I also played some other videos in different containers AVI, MKV, VOB, FLV and they could all play just fine.  I could not notice any issues such as frame skipping. There was however one annoying issue when seeking while playing with MX Player just exiting.

So video and audio decoding performance is quite good, but it is limited by the mediocre performance of the Ethernet connection. Video @ 30Mbps will have trouble to play smoothly. Even ED_HD.avi @ 10Mbps could not play smoothly, but video are using VBR (Variable Bit Rate), and I don’t know how to check the real-time bitrate with Android players.

Wi-Fi Performance

I’ve then connected the device via Wi-Fi router to test Wi-Fi performance. I transferred a 278 MB video files between SAMBA and the internal flash and repeated the test three times. On average, the transfer took 2:33 (1.81 MB/s), which is one of the fastest Android device I’ve tested, and is close to what you’d get with MK908, but still far from CS868. Beelink A9 features AP6330 module, but is significantly faster than T428 with the same module.

Beelink_A9_Wi-Fi_performanceThese are the results for my setup, and yours may vary considerably.

Rochchip WiFiDisplay app (Miracast) is also installed, but also it detected my phone (ThL W200 / MT6589T) correctly, I was unable to use Miracast a my phone kept trying to connect.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Built-in Bluetooth can not be enabled. External BT USB dongle us not recognized either.

External Storage

My USB flash drive was automatically recognized and mount, so I’d expect external USB hard drives to work too. I also inserted a microSD card in the device and it works fine.

USB Webcam

I tested two webcams. An old Logitech webcam was no recognized, but a noname webcam could be detected by the system.

Gaming

I’ve tested 3 games: Angry Birds Star Wars II Free, Candy Crush Saga, and Racing Thunder 2. They could all run fine, and be control with Mele F10 remote.  As usual, the IR remote control can not be used for games. Bluetooth is not working at all, so no luck with getting sixaxis to work either. If you like to play with DroidMote, /dev/uinput is present so it should work.

Beelink A9 Benchmarks

Beelink A9 being yet another RK3188 box, I was not expecting much from the benchmarks, but I was wrong, as I learned something new.

Beelink_A9_AntutuAndroid media players and mini PCs based on Rockchip RK3188 now get at least 17,000, and often 18,000 @ 1.6GHz without overclocking, but Beelink A9 only gets 15,356 points. A closer look show “CPU 1416Mhz (4x)”, so for some reasons the CPU clock has been set to 1.4 GHz instead 1.6 GHz.
Beelink_A9_QuadrantQuandrant results are also disappointing, and system information indicates the same 1.4 GHz frequency. What is going on? It tuns out, AndroidPC.es reported about RK3188-T this week-end, a low cost version of RK3188 that can be clocked at 1.4GHz, and you can get more information on Freaktab. Some manufacturers will just change RK3188 to  RK3188-T in their devices to save a few bucks, but the device will still be promoted as RK3188. To be honest, the performance difference is not really noticeable, but it’s a lie if they do so. That’s perfectly OK if the manufacturer clearly announces it’s using RK3188-T instead of RK3188. Radxa Rock is based on RK3188, but Radxa Rock Lite will probably feature RK3188-T instead. Anyway, it’s likely Beelink A9 uses RK3188-T, at least the sample I used, let’s open the box to find out.

Inside Beelink A9

Opening the device is very easy, as you just have to remove two screws, no plastic clips get in the way.
Beelink_A9_Board_with_Shield
There a large shield on top of the board, so I had to remove 5 more screw to disassemble the board from the bottom of the enclosure, and lift some pads to remove the shield.

Top of Beelink A9 Board

Top of Beelink A9 Board

On the top of the board, we’ll have all the connectors, four RAM chips, AP6330 Wi-Fi module, ITE IT66121FN HDMI transmitter, COTOP C1602NS for Ethernet, and a few others components. The Rockchip SoC is also there, but markings are not visible, so I can’t confirm it’s using RK3188-T, although benchmarks imply it does. The board name/version is Nexteon H86_V20_20131116.

Bottom of Beelink A9 Board

Bottom of Beelink A9 Board

On the other side, we’ve got 8 GB flash, and space for another 8GB chip, as well as serial pins (GND, Tx, RX)  at the top right close to the flat cable for the power button board.

Conclusion

The hardware and/or firmware still have some issues such as Bluetooth not working, and mediocre Ethernet performance, but apart from these two important issues, the firmware appears to be working nicely. Wi-Fi performance was very good for me, and most other features worked fine. It is currently unclear whether devices like Tronsmart A928 and Zero Devices Z6C will ship with Rockchip RK3188 or the slower RK3188-T at this stage, since both SoCs are pin-to-pin compatible.

Beelink A9 could be used as a development machine since the Android 4.4 SDK (beta) has been released, and UART pins and a USB OTG port are available, but I haven’t tried the SDK yet, and people who tried the MK908 version reported it could not boot. So for development, I’d probably prefer Radxa Rock development board, even though Android 4.4 is not available yet, as the source code is available in a git repo, and not only a tarball, and you can get developer’s support via Radxa google groups and IRC.

Tronsmart A928 running Android 4.2.2 is already available for $99.99 with a 2.4GHz air mouse, and Zero Devices Z6C will become available with a wireless game controller once Android 4.4 is stable enough.

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Media Player SoCs at CES 2014 – Qualcomm Snapdragon 802 and Sigma Designs SMP8756

January 9th, 2014 3 comments

Apart from Nvidia Tegra K1, CES 2014 has been somewhat disappointing when it comes to new mobile SoCs announcement. On the media processor front, we’ve had Marvell announces Skyworth Android TV set-top boxes and HDTV based on their ARMADA 1500 Plus SoC, and we’ve got at least two new processors for media players with Qualcomm Snapdragon 802, and Sigma Designs SMP8756. Let’s have a look at some of the details.

Qualcomm_Sigma_Designs

Qualcomm Snapdragon 802

Qualcomm has started to enter the media player space with MPQ8064 / 8064M last year, but I haven’t seen actual products based on this SoC, except Qubi, which is not shipping yet. This year, the company announced Snapdragon 802 SoC designed for next-generation smart TVs, smart set-top boxes and smart digital media adapters.

As usual, the company gave very little details in the press release, but here’s what we know:

  • Quad core Krait processor @ 1.8Ghz with Adreno 330 GPU
  • Qualcomm Hollywood Quality Video (HQV) processing engine allow up-converted 1080p content to be delivered at a level approaching Ultra HD
  • Hexagon DSP provides efficient processing for Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound
  • Dual-band Qualcomm VIVE 802.11ac
  • Ultra HD resolution, and video decoding support
  • Playback of four HD videos simultaneously
  • Advanced content protection with integrated Snapdragon StudioAccess

The company will provide a custom Android Software Framework based on Kit Kat, as well as AllJoyn software connectivity framework for the “Internet of Everything”.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 802 processor will begin sampling in Q1 2014, and is expected to be in commercial devices by the end of the year. There’s no information on Qualcomm website.

Sigma Designs SMP8756

A few years ago, Sigma Designs processor were based on ARM7TDMI, and the company switches to MIPS core since then, but company has just gone back to ARM with SMP8756 secure media processor featuring ARM Cortex A9 CPUs and Mali GPU. Their newly announced HiDTV PRO-SX6 also features a dual core ARM Cortex A9 and Mali-400 GPU.

SMP8756 is a processor for set-top boxes and DVR, part of the company’s new SMP8750 series SoC, with support for 4K2K and HEVC, and the following specifications and features:

  • CPU – Single core ARM Cortex A9
  • GPU – ARM Mali-400
  • FHD (1080p) and UHD (2160p) resolution and video decoding
  • HEVC Main-10 profile allowing processing of up to 10-bit color samples
  • Broadcast TS processing
  • Secure media processing
  • Multi-format Full-HD video decoding
  • VXP display processing
  • Certification of CAS technologies (e.g. Verimatrix and Nagravision) planned.

The company can provide both Android and Linux SDKs for development. is available for either Linux or Android platform development. The chipset will support global tuner/demodulator standards, wired and wireless network controllers, DTV middleware stacks and IPTV middleware ports, such as Wyplay and OpenTV.

There’s no availability information, nor SMP8756 product page on Sigma Designs website.

PS: There’s actually been another STB SoC announcement at CES 2014 with Broadcom BCM7364 and BCM7399 for entry-level satellite STB, but they do not seem to offer IP connectivity.

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Popcorn Hour A-410 Linux Based Networked Media Jukebox is Now Available for Pre-order for $259

January 4th, 2014 8 comments

CloudMedia, previously known a Syabas, has announced the available of Popcorn Hour A410, a networked media jukebox (NMJ) powered by Sigma Designs SMP8911 dual core processor with 1GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, support for 2.5″ and 3.5″ SATA drives, USB 3.0, and numerous audio / video ports. It can be used as a media player, as well as a NAS (Networked Access Storage).
Popcorn_Hour_A410Popcorn Hour A410 specifications:

  • SoC – Sigma Designs SMP8911 Dual-Core 800Mhz processor (MIPS) with 512KB L2 Cache and VXP Video Processor
  • System Memory1024MB DDR2
  • Storage – 256MB SLC NAND Flash, SD Card reader, 2.5″ and 3.5″ SATA HDD bay, and eSATA connector.
  • Audio/Video I/OsHDMI, Component, CVBS, Stereo Audio, optical and coaxial S/PDIF.
  • Audio DAC – ESS Sabre Audiophile class DAC (24-bit, 192 Khz sampling rate)
  • Video containers – MPEG1/2/4 Elementary (M1V, M2V, M4V),MPEG1/2 PS (M2P, MPG, DAT, VOB),MPEG2 Transport Stream (TS, TP, TRP, M2T, M2TS, MTS),AVI, ASF, WMV, Matroska (MKV),MOV (H.264), MP4, RMP4, 3D BD ISO
  • Video Decoders – XVID SD/HD,MPEG-1, MPEG-2 MP@HL, MPEG-4.2 ASP@L5, 720p, 1-point GMC, MPEG-4.10 (H.264) : BP@L3, [email protected], [email protected], [email protected],WMV9 : MP@HL,SMPTE 421M (VC-1) : MP@HL, AP@L3
  • Audio Containers – AAC, M4A,MPEG audio (MP1, MP2, MP3, MPA),WAV, WMA, FLAC, OGG
  • Audio DecodersDTS, WMA, WMA Pro,MPEG-1 Layer 1, 2, 3, MPEG-4 AAC-LC, MPEG-4 HE-AAC, MPEG-4 BSAC ,LPCM, FLAC, Vorbis, TrueAudio, APE Audio
  • Audio Passthrough – DTS, DTS-HD HR, DTS-HD MA
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 Host, 1 x USB 3.0 Slave
  • Connectivity – 10/100/1000M Ethernet
  • Misc – Power and Standby LEDs, IR sensor
  • Power Supply – 12V DC, 3.5A Max
  • Power Consumption – Typical: 15W, Max: 40W.
  • Dimensions – 182mm (W) x 158mm (L) x 56mm (H)
  • Weight – 1.3 kg
  • Casing – Aluminum case designed by Silverstone , fanless Operation

The box comes with a remote Control and corresponding two AAA batteries, several cables (HDMI, eSATA, and USB 3.0 slave), one HDD dock key, foud HDD dock screws, an AC power adapter, a quick start guide, and a warranty card.

Popcorm_Hour_A410_Rear_Panel

Several network protocols are supported namely Bonjour, UPnP SSDP, UPnP AV, Windows Media Connect, Windows Media Player NSS, Samba, NFS, BitTorrent P2P, and Usenet downloader. It can be access as a NAS via SMB, NFS, or  FTP.

Popcorn Hour A400/A410 User Interface (Click to Enlarge)

Popcorn Hour A400/A410 Jukebox User Interface (Click to Enlarge)

The user interface is said to be customizable with shortcuts and a background that changes according to the time of the day, and Network Media Tank Jukebox (shown above) is pre-installed in the box. An Android and iOS app called NMJ navigator can freely be downloaded and installed in order to control your device via your smartphone or tablet.

Sigma Designs SMP8911 is a secure media processor with two main MIPS cores @ 800MHz, one more MIPS core @ 400MHz for image processing, a security core @ 400MHz, three DSPs @ 400MHz, a 2D/3D graphics processing unit, and more.

SMP8910 / SMP8911 Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

SMP8910 / SMP8911 Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

You can read more details about the processor on my earlier coverage of SMP8910 / SP8911, or on Sigma Designs SMP8910 page.

For further information and/or pre-order the device for $259, visit Popcorn Hour A410 page. Shipping is expected on the 10th of January. Since A410 is an upgrade of the previous A400 NMJ with more RAM, and the Audio DAC, you can also check out A400 user’s manual, and visit networkedmediatank.com forums.

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