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Unboxing of UyeSee G1H Android TV Box Powered by Rockchip RK3288

August 23rd, 2014 20 comments

So finally after month of waiting, and various delays, Rockchip RK3288 based Android TV box are finally coming to market. Shenzhen UyeSee Technology is the first company to send me a sample with their G1H Android TV Box, as well as their M2 wireless music streaming receiver, which will be the subject of another post. I’ll list the specifications and show some pictures of the media player and board today, and write a full review in a few days.

UyeSee G1H Specifications

These are the specifications provided by the company, reformatted in CNXSoft style :):

  • SoC –  Rockchip RK3288 quad core ARM Cortex A17 processor @ 1.8GHz with ARM Mali-T764 quad-core 3D GPU with support for OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL 1.1, and DirectX11
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3 (2GB Optional)
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC Flash (16G/32G optional) + micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60fps, 3.5mm AV jack
  • Audio Output – HMDI,  AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs – MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4,H.263, H.264, H.265,AVS, VC-1,RV, VP6/VP8, Sorenson Spark, MVC 3800 x 2160P 60FPS
  • Video Containers – H.264, H.265, AVI, TS, TP, TRP, VOB, MKV, MP4, MOV, ISO, ASF, FLV, DAT, MPG, MPEG, SWF, OGM, WMV, ASF, RM/RMV
  • Audio Codecs – MPEG1, MPEG2(Layer I/II), MP3, AC-3, E-AC-3, AAC-LC, WMA, HE-AAC
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 (AP6330 module)
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power LED (On:Blue; Standby:Red), reset Button for recovery, and IR receiver.
  • Power – 12V/2A (but provided power adapter is 5V/2A…)
  • Dimensions – 107 x 107 x 26 mm
  • Weight – 150 grams

G1H runs Android 4.4.

UyeSee G1H Unboxing

I’ve received the parcel via Fedex in a bland carton box, as they may not have the retail package ready, or customize them depending on their customers. It may also be an engineering sample, as they included the bare minimum in the package with the device, a 5V/2A adapter, and a simple IR remote control without the required CR2032 battery.

G1H and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

G1H and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

In the final retail package, it’s likely you’ll also get a least an HDMI cable, and a user’s manual.

UyeSee G1H (Click to Enlarge)

UyeSee G1H (Click to Enlarge)

The device is a tiny rectangular black box. The rear panel features the AV output, the Gigabit Ethernet port (RJ45), an optical S/PDIF port, HDMI output, and a power barrel, and you’ll find a reset/recovery button, three USB 2.0 ports, and the micro SD slot on one side of the device.

You can watch the unboxing video for a few more details.

UyeSEE G1H Board

To open this product, remove the four rubber pads on the bottom of the enclosure, remove the 4 screws, and the bottom part of casing should pop-up relatively easily.

Top of UyeSee G1H Board (Click to Enlarge)

Top of UyeSee G1H Board (Click to Enlarge)

The heatsink placed on the Rockchip processor is rather small, and based on previous temperature testing for RK3288, this probably means the device is clocked @ 1.6 GHz for better stability. The Wi-Fi module is the widely AP6330 chip providing 2.4/5.8 GHz Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. There does not seem to be an obvious way to connect UART, The UART pins should be the GTR (Ground, Tx, Rx) solder pads close to the micro SD slot on the top left of the picture.There are also lots of test points. The USB port just next to the micro SD slot might also act as a USB OTG port. The board name is BX20_V1.2.

Bottom of G1H Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of G1H Board (Click to Enlarge)

There’s not much to see on the back of the board, except a Realtek chip.

UyeSee G1H is not yet listed on their Aliexpress Store, but you may find more information and/or contact the company via G1H product page. Price is not available, but the commercial invoice I received list the device for $68, which probably means a retail price of about $100 after taking into account shipping, Aliexpress fee, and reseller margin.

Since this media player is very new, I’ll check with the company to make sure I can do a full test now, or have to wait for a firmware upgrade before writing a review.

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VidOn Box XBMC Android Media Player Can Now be Pre-ordered for $72.88

August 21st, 2014 2 comments

Last month, Vidon.me provided me with their AV200 media player for review, and at the end of the review, I was a little surprised (and annoyed), when I discovered that the product was not for sale anymore. Since then, they’ve brought a new product to market called “VidOn Box” with similar hardware specs, but a completely redesigned aluminum enclosure, and much more attractive pricing.

VidOn Box (Click to Enlarge)

VidOn Box (Click to Enlarge)

VidOn Box specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner A31s ARM Cortex-A7 quad-core CPU with PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB Flash
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4
  • Audio Output – HDMI and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, reset button
  • Power – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 150 x 107 x 31 mm

The box now runs Android 4.4, instead of Android 4.2.2 in AV200, with a custom version of XBMC. They’ve also changed the user’s interface compared to last time.

VidOn Box Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

VidOn Box Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

VidOn Box is sold with an IR remote control, a power adapter, and a user’s manual. The hardware is said to cost $49, but they also include 12-month of discounted VidOn membership ($1.99 per month, regular price is $3.99 per month), bringing the total to $72.88. The membership apparently enables Blu-ray menu navigation, VidOn XBMC updates, as well as services such as photo backup, mobile transfer, access of VidOn media libraries via your Android and iOS smartphone or tablet, and more… However, the membership is not mandatory, and if you don’t want to extend it after one year, your box will still be usable, but you may not get firmware/XBMC updates (TBC), and access to VidOn services.

With AllWinner A31s processor, you won’t get the fastest Android experience available, but based on my preview review of AV200, it’s perfectly usable, the company provides OTA updates, video playback support in XBMC is very good, and Wi-Fi was excellent in AV200. The main concern I had was with regards to stability, as the AV200 rebooted twice during my testing, once in ES File Explorer, and another time in System Settings, but no problem in XBMC. Hopefully, they’ve even made further improvements over their previous firmware.

Via AndroidPC.es

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Raspberry Pi Based Slice, and EzeeCube Quad Media Players Support Internal Hard Drives (Crowdfunding)

August 20th, 2014 6 comments

Slice is a media player based on Raspberry Pi Compute Module, and EzeeCube Quad is media hub powered by Freescale i.MX6 Quad, and an upgrade to EzeeCube based on i.MX6 dual, which was successfully funded. The underlying hardware between Slice and EzeeCube is much different, but both devices have a lot in common. They are both media players currently being crowd-funded respectively in Kickstarter and Indiegogo, both comes with an internal hard drive, run XBMC, targets typical end-users (rather than tinkerers) and are somewhat pricey.

Slice Media Player

When I first saw Slice, all I could see was an Raspberry Pi module, put in a case with an internal hard drive bay, and lots of pretty RGB LEDs, and with an air mouse sold for an inflated price of 114 GBP ($190 US) without hard drive or 179 GBP ($300 US) with a 1TB drive, with admittedly some cheaper early bird pledges, and I did not think many people would be ready to pay a premium price for a device powered by a low-end processor, and decided to skip it. But I was wrong to underestimate to power of the Raspberry Pi brand (R-Pi and Pimoroni members are part of the team), and they’ve already fully funded, after raising over 104,000 GBP (~$173,000 US), and the first stretch goal (Free Wi-Fi!) has been reached.

Slice_Media_Player

Slice technical specifications:

  • SoC- Broadcom BCM2835 ARM11 CPU @ 700MHz + VideoCore IV GPU
  • System Memory – 512MB RAM
  • Storage – 4GB eMMC Flash for the OS,  2.5″ SATA hard disk for media files
  • Video Output – HDMI port with 5.1 audio pass through and CEC support
  • Audio – HDMI, 3.5mm jack for stereo audio (up to 192KHz 24-bit) or optical output
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet port + Wi-Fi via included USB dongle
  • USB – 2x USB2 ports , 1x micro USB device port to use Slice as mass storage device from your PC or program the flash.
  • Misc –  IR Sensor,  Real time clock with backup battery, 25 programmable RGB LEDs
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A (barrel type)
  • Enclosure – Aluminum case with REG LED string (Knight Rider style but multi-color, and customizable)

Slide_Raspberry_Pi_Compute_Module_Baseboard_LEDThe box runs XBMC with a skin that simplifies user experience, and with different color themes and backgrounds. Video files and other media can be loaded to the Slice simply by connecting it your computer via USB and copy/paste files as if it was a simple USB flash drive. You can have a better grasp about the user interface in the video embedded below.

The company, FiveNinjas Ltd, launched a Kickstarter campaign for the project. As mentioned in the introduction, it is already successful with 36 days to go and close to 800 backers, and you can now pledge for one for as “low” as 114 GBP (~$190) without hard drive, and 169 GBP (~$280) with a 1TB hard drive. The perks include the media player, a remote control with a USB RF dongle, a power supply with multiple connectors, an HDMI cable, a USB cable, a n instruction manual, a protective carry bag, and depending on the perk, a 2.5″ 1TB  hard drive. Shipping is free worldwide with delivery scheduled for November 2014 to December 2015 depending on the chosen option.

 EzeeCube Quad

EzeeCube is a much more powerful quad core device, and features stackable layers (EzeeStacks) allowing for a Blu-Ray player, and a total of 10 TB storage.

Rear Panel of EzeeCube Media Hub

Rear Panel of EzeeCube Media Hub

EzeeCube Quad specifications:

  • SoC – Freescale i.MX6 Quad with four ARM Cortex A9 cores @ 1 GHz and Vivante GC2000 3D GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB 64-bit DDR3 @ 1066MHz
  • Storage – 4GB eMMC,  2TB 2.5″ hard drive @ 5400rpm, and SD/SDXC card slot
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet (limited to 470Mbps), 802.11n Wi-Fi (2.4GHz), and Bluetooth 3.0
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 with CEC support
  • Audio Output – HDMI and optical S/PDIF
  • Video Containers – AVI, MPEG, WMV, ASF, FLV, MKV/MKA, QuickTime, MP4, M4A, AAC, NUT, OGG, RealMedia RAM/RM/RV/RA/RMV8, OGM, 3gp, VIVO, PVA, NUV, NSV, NSA, FLI, FLC, DVR-MS and WTV
  • Video Codecs – H.264 (AVC BP/MP/HP), MPEG4 (AP/ASP), H.263, VC1, MPEG-2 (MP/HP), DivX/Xvid, and VP8
  • Audio Formats – MIDI, AIFF, WAV/WAVE, AIFF, MP2, MP3, AAC, AAC+, Vorbis, AC3, DTS, ALAC, AMR, FLAC, Monkey’s Audio (APE), RealAudio, SHN, WavePack, MPC, Speex, WMA, ADPCM, CDDA and more
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port, 1x micro USB OTG
  • Misc – Reset Button, EzeeStack connector for add-ons
  • Power – 5V power adapter
  • Dimensions – 14 x 14 x 4.5 cm
  • Weight – ~700 grams

The device runs embedded Linux built with Yocto, and a custom version of XBMC.

Since the company has already raised close to $150,000 from their previous campaign for the dual core version, they already have the funds for production, which explains why the new Indiegogo campaign only has a $500 funding target… EzeeCube Quad is available for $349 including a 2TB internal hard drive. Shipping is $15 outside of Hong Kong, and delivery is expected for March 2015. There’s also a $49 “EzeeTuner” a USB tuner to watch and record TV on the internal storage (but no mention if it is DVB, ASTC,… or analog TV [Update: I asked and: “Right now only off the air all standard, after we finish testing, we will also support dvb c“]), a $49 Retrogame EzeeStack for Nintendo and Sega game cartridges, and Blu-Ray and 2TB hard drive EzeeStack expansions for respectively $99 and $149. If you had pledge for a dual core version in the previous campaign, and wish to upgrade to a quad core version with 2GB RAM, 2TB HDD, you can do so for $99.

If you had to chose, what would you prefer? The Raspberry Pi powered Slice, the quad core EzeeCube, or none of the above?

Thanks to Harley (again) for the tip.

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Review of Probox2 EX Quad Core Android TV Box and Remote+ Air Mouse

August 19th, 2014 20 comments

Probox2 EX is an Android TV box powered by Amlogic S802-H processor with 2GB RAM and 16GB eMMC, an hardware very similar to MINIX NEO X8-H, and an upgrade to the Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite and Shenzhen Tomato EM8 / Enybox M8 TV boxes I’ve reviewed previously, with more storage (16GB vs 8GB), dual band Wi-Fi, and S802-H instead of S802 for hardware DTS and Dolby audio decoding. I’ve already published an unboxing post for Probox2 EX, so today I’m going to test the firmware, including overall performance and stability, video playback, gaming, and most hardware features, as well as Remote+ air mouse with audio and gaming capabilities, which comes with the device.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve found two AAA battery to insert into Remote+ air mouse, connected an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable, the Wi-Fi antenna, the RF dongle for Remote+, and the power adapter to Probox2 EX. After pressing the power button on the box, it will boot within 30 seconds or so, with the user interface shown below that is a little different from other Metro-style user interfaces found in most Amlogic S802 Android media players.

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

On the top row of the screen, we can see Probox2, the weather forecast (which works properly), the date, time, and network status. There are eight icons in the rest of the UI. The top four are folders for apps which are called Movies (4K MoviePlayer, MXPlayer), TV Shows (Netflix, XBMC), Music (Music, Google Play Music), Games (Frozen Bubble), and the four bottom icons are links to XBMC, a File Browser, and Google Play, as well as an Internet folder with the stock Browser and Chrome. In all folder, there’s a “+” icon that lets you add you own apps. On top of icons, you’ll find text with Home, More and All Apps. More will show more folders (Favorite, Photos, Streaming,. Social), as a task killer, and a link to custom settings. The user interface resolution is 1920×1080 (1080p), and that means videos are also played with true 1080p output. You can click on the screenshot above to check the real size.

The “Setting” menu is bascially the same as found in Tronsmart Vega S89 and M8 with Network, Display, Advanced and Other.

Display Setup (Click for Original Size)

Display Setup (Click for Original Size)

You can select between Wi-Fi and Ethernet in the Network section. By default the Display settings will automatically detect the video output, and it properly select 1080p60 in my case.. I’ve disable auto-detection to check the other and there’s only: 720p50/60, 108050/i60, 1080i50/60. No 24Hz mode, and strangely no 4K mode. I’m not sure if it is an issue with the firmware, or it cleverly detected my TV is not an UHD TV. If I connect the AV cable, disconnect the HDMI cable, and switch to AV input on my TV, the box will properly output to AV using 480cvbs or 576cvbs depending on option in Display menu. I can confirm audio is working OK in this mode. Unfortunately I could not find any way to go back to HDMI, even after a factory reset. It was a little late at night, and based on my extensive experience, if something does not work late at night, better go to bed, as invisible Goblins are probably working on your box, and they will go home at dawn. This works for software bugs too :). And magically, I could connect to HDMI again this morning. Other settings include “Hide Status Bar” (ON by default), Display Position, and Screen Saver timeout (Never, 4, 8, or 12 minutes). I’ve enabled the status bar, as I find it’s easier to navigate between apps and home screen.

ABout_Probox2_EXThe Advanced menu will let you start Miracast, and I could connect with my Android 4.2.1 phone after the second attempt. The first attempt found the display, but it could not connect. The mnue also lets you enable the software Remote control (not tested, but you can download RemoteIME.apk on your smartphone or tablet), adjust CEC controls, set the screen orientation, and select digital audio output (PCM, S/PDIF pass-through, HDMI pass-through). The Other button will give some details about the Android version (4.4.2), kernel version (3.10.33) and provides access to OTA System Update, which unfortunately is not enabled, so any firmware upgrade would have to be done with the SD card at best, and via the USB firmware tools at worst. You can access the standard Android settings by clicking on More Settings. Android Settings are based on the phone interface, not the tablet interface.

The Android Settings are needed for specific network features such as VPN and portable hotspot, and to enable Bluetooth. There’s a nice single 16GB partition with 13.24 GB free, so there’s plenty of space for apps, and some data. The firmware was rooted. Looking into the “About MediaBox” section shows the model number is  “”EX”, and just like the custom settings section, it shows Android 4.4.2 is running on top of Kernel 3.10.33.

I could install all applications I tried on Google Play Store including Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Candy Crush Saga, etc… Paid apps such as Sixaxis Controller also installed properly. I’ve installed Amazon AppStore to download Riptide GP2 that was one of the “Free App of the Day” some time ago.

Remote+ air mouse does most of the job. Yet using the air mouse to input text with the soft keyboard is not the most convenient, and the remote lacks thr play/pause and trick modes keys that are useful in media players such as XBMC. At some point the remote stopped working, so I though the AAA batteries were depleted, and I temporarily used Mele F10 Pro instead, until I released later that Remote+ started to work again. If you like to use voice search, the built-in microphone is great.  Simply start Google Search, press the audio button on the remote say “OK Google” followed by your query. I’ve also successfully performance a Skype Echo test with the remote. I’ve tested the gaming mode in the Gaming section of this review. You can have a look at Probox2 EX user’s interface, as well as demos of the built-in microphone with Google Search and Skype in the video below.

The power button on top of the device is used to power it on and off. A short press will power the device, and if somehow the system hangs (it never happened to me),  a long press (about 10 seconds) will turn it off. The power button on the remote can only to used to suspend or power off the device, you’ll need to press the power button on the media player to start it from power off state.There’s also a soft power button in the status bar, which can be useful if you want to use another remote or a mouse and keyboard. I’ve checked the temperature of the box after playing a 3D game. My infrared temperature checker detected 50 °C for both the top and bottom of the enclosure. My room temperature was around 28 °C.

The box never hung or frozen during my hours of testing, albeit several times, some apps just closed. But it’s difficult to determine if it is a system issue, or a bug in the app. The overall performance is usually good thanks to the 2GHz processor, and a fast eMMC flash.

Video Playback

The videos are played from XBMC browsing a SAMBA share on a USB 2.0 hard drive connected to a computer running Ubuntu 14.04. I’m using the Ethernet connection of the device. I had no problems with SAMBA in XBMC and ES File Explorer.

I first played videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, and as well as H.265/HEVC codec from Elecard also based on Big Buck Bunny video:

  • 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) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK (could be a little more smooth though)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p and 720p OK, 1080p is watchable most of the time but feels slow at time.(VP8 is software decoded)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container
    • XBMC – 360p has some audio cuts, 720p frames skipping and frequent audio cuts, 1080p lot of skipped frames and constant audio cuts
    • MXPlayer – 360p OK, 720p OK most of the time, but not so smooth when panning, 1080p will has the same symptoms as 720p but worse, and it exits after a while. No audio cuts heard in 360p/720p

VP8 and H.265 not codec supported by the Amlogic processor, and are done using software decoding, so if you read H.265 on a S802 box that’s a distortion of the truth, as it won’t work properly. You need to wait for S805 or S812 processor for proper HEVC/H.265 support.  To their credit, W2COMP did not mention H.265 support on Probox2 EX package.

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps)
    • XBMC – Won’t even start to play
    • MXPlayer – Audio only, but I can switch to software decoded, and it’s playing smoothly most of the time, except in fast moving scene where it feels a little slow.
  • 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
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (Played from USB drive connected to box)

High definition audio codecs could play fine even from SAMBA (down-sampled to PCM):

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

These could also work in other players such as MXPlayer thanks to hardware DTS and Dolby support provided by S802-H. The latter may also help for smoother video, as it frees CPU power for other tasks.

Sintel-Bluray.iso Blu-ray ISO file could play just fine in XBMC, and I could also navigate between the eight chapters of the video. But for some reasons, I could not change the subtitles easily in XBMC menus, clicking on the up or down icons would jump to next language, only to come back to the default language of the video, and it’s only after many tries that I managed to switch to English.

Amlogic S802(-H) support 4K video playback downscaled to 1080p, most probably even on 4K/UHD televisions, so I tried a few:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – Can play smoothly but there are frequent artifacts on the right of the video.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – Plays but in slideshow style… (Expected since S802 does not support HEVC codec).
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – Same as above
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts – Same as above

Other AVI, MKV, FLV and MP4 videos in my library could all play just fine. Somebody comment about video playback stability issue in EM8/M8 box, where videos stopped after 30 minute or so. So I played a complete 1080p mkv video (1h40) in the box, and it played until the until. Up to now Probox2 EX box is probably the best device I’ve tested when it comes to video playback support. It only fails with HEVC and VP8 videos which are not supported by the S802-H’s VPU, and decoded by software leading to mediocre performance with these two video codecs, and the lack of 24Hz video output may be a problem for some.

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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

The network test consist in transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash using, and vice versa, repeating the test three times using ES File Explorer. I had a big smile on my face, when a saw transfer speed up to 3.25MB/s using Wi-Fi. When it comes to Wi-Fi performance, Probox2 EX is clearly ahead, and puts the competition to shame, as the transfer times averaged 1:39 (2.8 MB/s).

Probox2_EX_Wi-FiThe only device that’s faster than Probox2 EX is CS868, but the latter as very poor firmware, which is not the case for Probox2 EX. It easily beats the two other S802 boxes I tested, namely Vega S89 Elite and M8. While testing Wi-Fi, I also tried the Miracast function. The first time, even though my phone could see the display, it would not connect. Trying a few hours later, it worked just fine, and you could mirror my phone screen on the TV.

I’ve also tested Ethernet with the same procedure. and the transfer from SAMBA to flash was done @ 6.3 MB/s (44s), and flash to SAMBA @ 5.79 MB/s (48s). Which is much better than Wetek Play and Vidon.me AV200.

Probox2_EX_EthernetThere’s an important remark however. I always use the latest version of ES File Explorer from Google Play, so software may improve overtime, and the changelog for the latest version (3.1.9 – August 6, 2014) lists “-Improve SMB performance”, so even though I’m sure Probox2 EX performance is good, the results above may have been amplified due to software improvements (except for WeTek Play tested on 14th to 16th August). I haven’t investigated the scale of the improvement yet, but it might something worth looking into it.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is built-in the device, and I had no problem pairing it with my Android smartphone (ThL W200), and transfer a picture from my phone to the device.

I’ve tried Sixaxis Compatibility Checker and Sixaxis Controller, and although the drivers seems OK, I could not use my PS3 Bluetooth gamepad clone, as it won’t connect, and Sixaxis will segfault.

For the first time, I’ve also tested Bluetooth 4.0 BLE with Vidonn X5 activity tracker, and it worked flawlessly.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and a USB flash drive formatted to FAT32 could be mounted and accessed successfully.
I’ve also connected my USB 3.0 hard drive with NTFS, EXT-4, FAT32, and BTRFS partitions. Here are the performance results achieved by copying files between the internal flash and the partitions using File ES Explorer.

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

I used A1 SD Bench for storage testing with the custom locations set to /storage/external_storage_sda1 for the NTFS partition, and the read speed is 29.64MB/s whereas the write speed is 30.97MB/s, which seems very good, and close to the performance It can achieve on my PC when connected to a USB 2.0 port. This compares to respectively 25.63MS/s, and 24.81MB/s for WeTek Play.

If you have ever upgrade your PC from a mechanical hard drive to a SSD, or upgrade from a Class 4 to a Class 10 SD card when running Linux on a development board or device, you should now how important I/O performance is important to the overall system performance, but seldom mentioned. So I’ve also decided to started testing internal storage. The eMMC flash in Probox2 EX can be read at 27.57MB/s, and written at 15.11 MB/s according to A1 SD Bench app.

USB Webcam

A no-brand USB webcam worked with Skype. I could see the video, and tested audio successfully with the Echo service. Since also tried Remote+ as a microphone, and it worked. However I did not manage to make it work with Google Hangouts. The camera icon would just show for one second or less, and disappear.

Gaming

I’ve tested three games: Candy Crush Saga, Riptitde GP2, and Beach Buggy Blitz.  Candy Crush Saga is normally not demanding, and I could play using Remote+ air mouse.

I decided to play Riptide GP2 with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad, and at first I had no issues, but as with other S802 boxes the frame rate with default settings feels a bit low, probably because of 1080p resolution, so I lower the quality settings to try again, and shortly after the game because unplayable with sometimes one frame every 4 seconds. The box had run smoothly for over 5 hours before this, and I measured 50 °C on top and bottom of the box, so I decided to take a break, and enter suspend mode. Thirty minutes later, the temperature fell to 35 °C, and I started it, and played Riptide GP2 to try to reproduce the issue. Four races and no problem, but at the fifth race, or about 20-25 minutes later, the game became unplayable again. It’s possible my relatively high room temperature (28 to 30 °C) impacts the cooling of the device. The first time I played Riptide GP2, Mele F10 Pro dongle was connected, and Mars G01 gamepad was detected. But when I tried later with Remote+ RF dongle, Mars G01 was not detected, simply because Remote+ is also registered as a gamepad, so I had two gamepads in my system which confused the game/system.

I played Beach Buggy Blitz with Remote+ to test the gaming mode of the air mouse. There are four modes available via a single “Mode switching” key: remote control, air mouse, gaming mode (vertical), and gaming mode (horizontal). Unfortunately, there’s no indication of the mode you are currently in, and at the beginning it’s quite confusing, especially if you are not sure you are in vertical and horizontal mode. The gaming mode is making use of the gyroscope, and in the game you can to select “Tilt mode”. You can then hold and move the remote like a steering wheel to turn left and right, it works, but in this mode none of the keys can be used for breaking, which can be an issue… So instead I switched to “Gamepad mode” in the game, where I could define the keys, and play the games with the D-Pad and X,Y, B and A buttons. In this mode, you’ll obviously lose the gyroscope feature, but it’s much more easier to control, and at least you can break when needed. I played Beach Buggy Blitz for 30 minutes, and I could not reproduce the issue experienced in Riptide GP2.

Probox2 EX Benchmark

Antutu benchmark scores varies widely between Amlogic S802 devices, even with the hardware same. Some people get 22,000, others 30,000 with the same model, so the relevance is limited. Anyway, I’ve tested Probox2 EX with Antutu and Quadrant for reference.
Probox2_Antutu
With 31,747 points, this Android media player gets the highest score I’ve personally seen in such type of device. Please note that Antutu and Quadrant did not run in full screen, but in portrait mode with 607×1008 resolution (taking about a third of the screen), so this may have impacted the GPU score. The Storage I/O score with 1,801 is much higher than in Vega S89 Elite (851) and M8 (751) probably because Probox2 EX features an eMMC flash, where the other two come with a standard NAND flash.

Probox2 EX Quadrant Benchmark (Click to Enlarge)

Probox2 EX Quadrant Benchmark (Click to Enlarge)

The Quadrant score (8728) is also much greater than the scores for Vega S89 Elite (5323) and M8 (6536), but these had older firmware. Since then I have tested Vega S89 Elite with Antutu and firmware 107k4, and found a score of 29,000 points instead of 22603 points with the firmware I used during my review. So firmware version matters!

Conclusion

During the first 5 hours of test I just found Probox2 EX was amazing: stable, fast, and everything seemed to work. Video playback was also flawless, networking performance outstanding, and the remote/airmouse fun to use. Unfortunately I eventually found its Achilles’ heel when I started playing 3D games, especially Riptide GP2, where the system started to slowdown considerably to manage overheating. The good news here is that the device won’t just overheat and hang or reboot, but will just slow down to cool itself down. In most cases, it’s not a problem, as you may not even notice it, but in games, where you need real-time rendering, it can be.

PRO:

  • Stable firmware and excellent system performance thanks to CPU and fast eMMC
  • Provided Remote+ air mouse that can also be used for voice search, and gaming.
  • Best video playback support I’ve seen so far. It plays everything smoothly except H.265 and VP8 which are done by software.
  • DTS & Dolby hardware decoding.
  • Outstanding Wi-Fi and Ethernet performance (However, it may be partially due to improvement in SAMBA performance in ES Fie Explorer)
  • Most features just work (Bluetooth, Miracast, USB webcam, etc…)
  • Android Kitkat with XBMC and true 1080p user interface

CONS:

  • May overheat under load, and performance scaled down dramatically to manage system temperature. Reproduced with a 3D game (Riptide GP2), but not others.
  • Potential HDMI <-> AV switching issues
  • Video Output: No 24Hz support, no 4K option. [Update: Apparently this firmware hides 4K options when connected to FullHD TV (1080p)]
  • Webcam supported in Skype, but not in Google Hangouts
  • OTA firmware update does not work / not implemented
  • Remote+ lacks play/pause, ffwd, ffrd… buttons for media players.

If I had received this STB in winter, it’s quite possible I may not have noticed the overheating issue during 3D games. Probox2 EX is still one of best Android mini PC I’ve ever used, albeit if you like to play 3D games during extended period of times, I cannot recommend it. But for everything else I think the box is great. The lack of 4K support may not matter that much since in Android everything is downscaled to the user interface resolution (1080p), so even if the box outputs to 4K, it would still be shown @ 1080p.

I can’t compare it to MINIX NEO X8-H directly, since I don’t have the latter, but MINIX does have unofficial and official support forums, which W2COMP/PROBOX2 does not have, so you can’t rely on the power of the community for help, and instead you have to go through customer support. There has been several firmware update for their previous Probox2 products, so hopefully there will be too for Probox2 EX (no firmware file has been released so far).

Probox2 EX and Remote+ can be purchased for $149.99 including shipping. As a comparison, other TV Boxes based on S802-H with similar features include MINIX NEO X8-H selling for $149.99 with more basic NEO M1 air mouse, and Vega S89-H for $120 without air mouse. You may also want to check Probox2 EX product page.

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Unboxing of WeTek Play DVB-S2 Android / Linux STB

August 14th, 2014 16 comments

WeTek Electronics, a company based in Hong Kong, has sent me an Android TV powered by Amlogic AML8726-MX dual core Cortex A9 processor. Nothing new here, but I was very very interested in reviewing it because it includes a DVB-S2 tuner, and on top of their stock Android firmware, the company provides various Android and Linux firmware files such as CyanogenMod, ParanoidAndroid, OpenELEC, Linux with Enlightenment desktop environment, Lubuntu 14.04 and so on. Today, I’ll list the hardware specifications of the device, show some unboxing pictures and video, and as usual, open the device to see what’s inside. I’ll provide a full review in one or two more posts.

WeTek Play Specifications

Apart from the DVB-S2 tuner are the serial port, the hardware specifications sound familiar:

  • SoC – Amlogic AML8726-MX dual core Cortex A9 @ 1.5GHz with 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
  • 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)
  • Misc – IR receiver, 3 LEDs for power, Ethernet and Wi-Fi, RS-232 port for serial console.
  • Power – 12V/1.5A

The remote control uses RF technology (air mouse), as well as IR for power on/off.

WeTek Play Unboxing

I’ve received the box via TNT in the package below, together with a registration card with a QR code.

WeTek_Play_PackageThe QR code redirected to a registration page (under development), but in the final product it will simply redirect to WeTek.com, and you just need to click on Activate your device to join the membership section. I’ve been told this can also be done in the box itself with the Welcome Wizard.

WeTek Play and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

WeTek Play and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Inside the package you’ve got two boxes: one with WeTek Play box, and the other with an IR + RF remote control / air mouse, a 12V/1.5A power supply, and, to my surprise, a serial cable (TTL to RS232). There’s no user’s manual with this early sample, but the final product will come with the user’s manual (See PDF), and a HDMI cable. The two AAA batteries required by the remote control are not included, but you’ll probably want to use rechargeable battery with RF remotes as the ones I have need to be recharged every 2 weeks or so.

WeTek Play (Click to Enlarge)

WeTek Play (Click to Enlarge)

The box is made of plastic, but still feel nice. At the front, we’ve got a power button, and the three LEDs for power, LAN, and Wi-Fi, on one side, we can find a USB port, and the micro SD slot, and on the back panel, there are two antenna connectors for DVB-S2, 2 more USB 2.0 ports, the AV port, Ethernet (RJ45), HDMI output, optical S/PDIF, the RS-232 connector, and the power jack.

If you’d rather watch an unboxing video, and listen to my soothing voice, here it is…

Wetek Play Main Board and DVB-S2 Tuner

And now the fun part. The back of the enclosure comes with 4 rubber pads, that I had to remove in order to remove the 5 screws. You’ll also notice the box can be wall-mounted, and there’s a upgrade through hole for firmware upgrade.

Bottom of WeTek Play Enclosure (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of WeTek Play Enclosure (Click to Enlarge)

The top cover does not pop-up that easily, and I took off the Wi-Fi cable as I opened it, and I’ll need to do some soldering. The final product will come with a Wi-Fi connector, so that issue is less likely to happen for the few people that may open the box.

Top of WeTek Play Board (Click to Enlarge)

Top of WeTek Play Board (Click to Enlarge)

So we’ve got a daughter board with two DVB-S2/S tuners with Availink AVL6211 channel receiver (enhanced version of AVL2108), and the mainboard simply called MX with the Amlogic processor and memory, AP6210 Wi-Fi module, another AVL6211 chip, and two USB dongles with PCB marking reading “USB Token” and “2.4G dongle”.

RF Dongle and USB Token

RF Dongle and USB Token

The one of the top is the 2.4G RF receiver for the remote control, which I find it much nicer than having to connect it outside. I’ve taken it out, and Linux reports it as a USB keyboard mouse by HGBIC (VID=0x2252, PID=0x0100). The dongle at the bottom, is not recognized by Linux, but I’ve been told it’s an anti-copy USB token to protect the firmware, and avoid clones using their firmware. The box won’t boot if you remove this dongle.

Wi-Fi Antenna

Wi-Fi Antenna

Another intriguing part is the way the Wi-Fi antenna is fixed to the enclosure. I’m not sure why it is done that way, but I’ve never seen anything like it in the other boxes I opened.

Bottom of WeTek Play Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of WeTek Play Board (Click to Enlarge)

There’s not that much to see at the back of the board.

WeTek Play does not seem to be available yet, and the company is looking for distributors.

That’s all for today. Next, I’ll probably test Android, especially the satellite receiver part, and post a review, following up by a review of the Linux images with VPU support (hardware video decoding) via Gstreamer (Gplay), but maybe not DVB-S support (TBC).

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Rockchip RK3288 Temperature Testing and Antutu Benchmarks

August 10th, 2014 13 comments

There are many upcoming Rockchip RK3288 based devices, and in the listing the CPU frequency varies from 1.6 GHz to 2.0 Ghz. so it’s difficult to know exactly what to expect. Ugoos has done some testing with their UT3 board measuring temperature after Antutu benchmark for different CPU clock frequencies and fan/fanless combinations.
Ugoos_UT3_HeatsinkThe board comes with a rather tiny heatsink which may explain some of the results below. They also added a small fan on top in about half the tests to compare the temperature against an heatsink only solution.

Without further delays let’s go through the results:

Frequency Antutu Score Temperature (heatsink) Temperature (Back of PCB)
Heatsink only Heatsink + fan Heatsink only Heatsink + fan
1.608 GHz 38655 67 °C N/A 70 °C N/A
1.704 GHz 39853 72 °C 50 °C 75 °C 60 °C
1.800 GHz 41440 83 °C 52 °C 85 °C 62 °C
1.920 GHz 43397 86 °C 53 °C 89 °C 64 °C
2.016 GHz 45226 N/A 55 °C N/A 67 °C

So while it’s correct to say Rockchip RK3288 can reach 45,000+ points in Antutu (resolution: 1920×1080), there likely won’t be any fanless solutions that will be clocked at 2 GHz and achieve that type of performance. From this test, it even looks like the new Rockchip TV boxes are likely to be clocked at 1.6 GHz, unless other companies select larger heatsinks. 38000 points is still a very respectable score in Antutu.

Rockchip RK3288 @ 2.0 GHz (with fan)

Rockchip RK3288 @ 2.0 GHz (with fan)

There are some products is the wild right now, notably with Nagrace HPH RK3288, and one user reports an Antutu score of “only” 31.328 points, but considers the firmware very fast, and with good XBMC support, but it currently lacks Google Play support, and one of the launcher is in Chinese only, so it’s not quite ready for prime time. If you want one, a group buying is organized via Freaktab for $180 including shipping, This is a version with 4GB RAM, 32GB Flash and HDMI In.

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Mele F10 Deluxe Air Mouse Review

August 3rd, 2014 15 comments

Mele F10 is an air mouse using 2.4GHz RF technology, that can be used as a remote, a QWERTY keyboard. and  a wireless mouse. That’s my favourite input device for Android TV Box, and I use it regularly for my product reviews.The company has now introduced an improved model called Mele F10 Deluxe with trick mode buttons, a gaming mode thanks to a gyroscope, and an IR learning function to use it as a universal remote. Mele sent me a sample for evaluation, so I’ll start with some unboxing pictures, and comparing it to the original Mele F10, before testing the remote.

Mele F10 Deluxe Unboxing

I’ve received the air mouse in the package below that highlights the four main features: Air mouse, Game Controller, Wireless Keyboard, and IR Learning.

Mele F10 Deluxe Package (Click to Enlarge)

Mele F10 Deluxe Package (Click to Enlarge)

WE’ll find the air mouse, a tiny RF dongle, a USB cable for charging and user’s manual describing the button, and explaining how to use it, especially the IR learning function.

Mele F10 Deluxe and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Mele F10 Deluxe and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Let’s compare it with the original F10 model.

Mele F10 vs Mele F10 Deluxe - Remot Side and Dongles (Click to Enlarge)

Mele F10 Deluxe vs Mele F10 – Remote Side and Dongles (Click to Enlarge)

The number of buttons are the same, but they’ve reorganize the key mapping. It’s clearly an improvement as I never used the 8 buttons key on the Mele F10, except Mute, and there are now Mute, prev and next, play/pause button on the first bottom row, and Game, My Box, STB and TV on the bottom row for gaming mode, and IR functions. The only downside is that the mouse button to enable mouse mode is also left click, so you may click when you just want to enable the mouse. The previous mouse button, as been replace with the A.I Power button for IR remote controls. They have miniaturized the RF dongle even further, and although it’s nice in the way, it’s easier to lose, and harder to differentiate with other tiny USB dongles I have.

Mele F10 vs Mele F10 Deluxe - Keyboard Side (Click to Enlarge)

Mele F10 Deluxe (Top) vs Mele F10 (Bottom) – Keyboard Side (Click to Enlarge)

The keyboard side has also changed, as they added a mouse left and right buttons, and the game button, slightly shuffling the keys around. I’m not a big fan of having the Esc and Backspace at the bottom, but I understand choices had to be made, and it’s a plus not to have to turn the remote each time you want to use the mouse mode. There’s still no Tab key to switch between fields, but the down key works most of the time. Other change, not shown on the pictures, has been the replacement of the mini USB port for charging the built-in 500 mAh battery by a micro USB port.

Mele F10 Deluxe Review

The remote is supposed to work in Linux, Android, Windows and MaC OS X, and does not require drivers. I started by plugging it to my Ubuntu 14.04 computer, and it was immediately recognized and usable. But I did most of the testing on an Android TV box, namely Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite. Again, the system had no problem recognizing the RF dongle, and I could use the air mouse straight-away. One complain I had with the original Mele F10 is that the mouse pointer alignment drift over time, and I had to recalibrate it manually, by hitting the sides of the screen. This is clearly an annoyance, but somehow I could get used to. The Mele F10 Deluxe does not have this problem anymore, either because they improve they algorithm, or they get some help from the added 6-axis gyroscope. That’s definitely a plus.

I planned to test the play/pause, prev and next keys with XBMC, but for some reasons it was gone from my box, and I had troubles installing it. So instead I tried the play/pause key in YouTube, and prev/next key to play music, both of which worked just fine. The mouse button, also acting as the left click, is used to enable the mouse, which can be problematic as you may click without meaning to. The mouse will be disabled after one minute of inactivity, and you need to press the mouse button again if you plan to use it. The keyboard works very much like the Mele F10, and I don’t really have complains, except for the missing tabulation key.

One of the new feature is a “Game Controller” mode. There’s only one sentence on the user’s manual about this: “Press Game button to enter into game mode”…. right, it does not help, does it? I guess the remote is suppose to be used like a wheel drive, just like you would do when playing with a tablet thanks to the gyro. So I setup Riptide GP2 and Beach Buggy Games to tilt mode, confidently at least one of them would work, but tilting the remote did nothing at all. First massive failure.

The second major feature is the “IR learning function”. What can go wrong here? Everything is clearly explained in the user’s manual, so I started with recording the main keys of the TV remote control. All keys can be programmed on Mele F10 except Power, Game, My Box, STB and TV buttons. After I thought I had successfully programmed the remote control, I gave it a try, and…. it did not work. Trying again with just the volume+ key, and it failed again. Then I switched to my aircon remote control. no luck. Second massive failure.

You can also watch the video review below, where I compare Mele F10 to Mele F10 Deluxe,  try a few working features, and showing how Game mode and IR learning functions did not work for me.

In conclusion, despite Game mode and IR learning function disasters, Mele F10 Deluxe is a better air mouse than Mele F10 thanks to an improved control of the mouse pointer, and more useful keys (play/pause, prev/next) on the remote side. [Update: I’ve used it more, and when clicking with the OK button, the mouse pointer may jump, and this does not seem to happen with the L mouse button. This can get really annoying, and holding the remote to click the L button instead feels a little awkward]. Mele F10 Deluxe can be purchased for $34.99 on Mele’s Aliexpress store, but I understand you can get $5 discount by mentioning you’ve been referred by CNX Software in the comment field, bringing the price down to $29.99 (Chat with them first to confirm). There are also other sellers on Aliexpress that sell it for the same price, and it can be found on DealExtreme for $31.92. For reference, the original Mele F10 now sells for $27.30 on DX, and as low as $22.49 on Aliexpress.

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$50 CMX Dual Core Android TV Box Runs Android 4.2, Supports XBMC Linux

July 30th, 2014 13 comments

XBMC Android now runs fairly well on ARM based hardware, but some people still prefer to run XBMC Linux because they want a pure XBMC experience, and Android is just an unnecessary overhead, and some features are still better supported in XBMC Linux such as frame rate switching, which is not supported in Android (You need to manually select the refresh rate in the settings). One way to go if you want to get XBMC Linux is to buy one of the boxes pre-loaded with the firmware such as Jynxbox M1V2 Pure Linux or Little Black Box. But these devices are generally significantly more expensive than their Android equivalents. So instead, some people get an Android TV box, and install XBMC Linux firmware compatible with the hardware such as MX Linux which runs on media players with a “g18ref” and “mx2ref” boards. Gbox Midgnight MX2 is one of these g18ref Android TV boxes, but there are quite a few “clones” on the market, and CMX is one of the most recent, powered by Amlogic AML8726-MX, running Android 4.2.2, and selling for just $49.99 on GeekBuying.

Original Matricom Gbox Midnight MX2 and Accessories

Original Matricom Gbox Midnight MX2 and Accessories

CMX specs are indeed exactly the same as Gbox Midnigt MX2:

  • SoC – Amlogic AML8726-MX Dual Core Cortex A9 CPU + dual core Mali-400 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3 RAM
  • Storage – 8GB Flash + SD card slot (Up to 32GB)
  • Video Output – HDMI v1.4, composite (CVBS) and component (YUV)
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, and coaxial S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n internal Wifi + 10/100M Ethernet Port
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 Ports
  • Misc – IR sensor, LED
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A

The box apparently also comes with the same accessories including a 5V/2A power adapter, HDMI and AV cables, the same IR remote control, and a user’s manual.

It’s impossible to verify whether there’s indeed a “g18ref” board inside the device that compatible with XBMC Linux without actually trying it or opening the box [Update: CMX board picture can be seen on Freaktab]. After failing to get a satisfying answer from GeekBuying support, one reader contacted me about this, and I asked GeekBuying to try MX Linux or OpenElec on the device, and they kindly did test both versions, and reported them to boot fine.

Here are the links to both versions with instructions:

  1. OpenELEC 4.2 beta2 – It can be installed on generic g18ref device after flashing Matricom’s firmware 1.1.6 that changes the NAND layout/partition table. Geekbuying reported they did not need to update the firmware on CMX, and it just worked by flashing OpenELEC directly.
  2. MX Linux v1.00 Stable

If for some reasons, after you try XBMC Linux, you want to get back to Android, you can always reinstall the stock firmware.

Beside GeekBuying, CMX TV Box is also available on Aliexpress for $57.99 and up. I don’t know any other dual core Android TV box compatible with XBMC Linux that sells for $50, and whether you run Android and Linux, it looks like a very good deal.

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