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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 12 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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Rockchip RK3288 Beta Firmware Release for Unnamed Android TV Box

July 28th, 2014 1 comment

The whole activity around the upcoming media players based on Rockchip RK3288 is pretty interesting, or some would say amusing. First, many companies started to release pictures of their boards a few months before their products are actually ready, and now we’ve got a beta Android 4.4 firmware for Rockchip RK3288 for an unknown TV box released via Geekbuying Blog. I’ve read rumors about a Tronsmart Orion R28, so it might be that one, but who knows.

Android_Kitkat_Firmware_RK3288Before investigating the content of the firmware, here are the features that we know about the hardware:

  • Based on Rockchip RK3288 quad core Cortex A17 processor
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM (Samsung)
  • Storage – 8GB flash (Kingston)
  • Wi-Fi –  AP6330 Wi-fi module

The firmware is based on Linux 3.10, the build number is rk3288-eng 4.4.2 KOT49H eng.ant.20140721.164453 test-keys, and the software version RK3288_R_BOX_Android 4.4.2-SDK_v1.0.0_140613.

Most people won’t need this, but if developers want to checkout the content of the firmware, go ahead and download Geekbuying_RK3288 BETA__AP6330_20140721.zip.

After you unzip it, you’ll get a single Geekbuying_RK3288 BETA__AP6330_20140721.img file, which you might be able to extract with img_unpack and afptool utilities for RK3188 (TBC, I haven’t tried yet).

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Geniatech Unveils ATV585 Enjoy TV Box Powered by Amlogic S805 with HEVC Hardware Decoding

July 26th, 2014 6 comments

After Eny Techology EM6Q-MXQ, there’s at least another Amlogic S805 based media player with Geniatech ATV585 Enjoy TV powered by the quad core Cortex A5 processor, with 1GB RAM and 8GB flash. Compared Amlogic S802 based STBs, you’ll get slower CPU and GPU performance, and lose 4K video decoding and output, but gain HEVC hardware decoding up to 1080p, if you’re lucky, you’ll get Gigabit Ethernet, and in theory, the price should be cheaper.

Geniatech_ATV585_Enjoy_TVATV585 Enjoy TV specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S805 quad core Cortex-A5 @ 1.5GHz with quad core Mali-450MP4 GPU @ 600MHz
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC FLASH + micro SD/MMC card slot up to 32GB
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 1.4 and CVBS
  • Video Codecs / Containers – MPEG1/2/4, H.264, H.265, VC-1, WMV, AVI, MKV, MOV, etc…
  • Audio Formats – MP3, WMA, AAC, etc…
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, Wi-Fi with external antenna
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, Net and status LEDs
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A (Typical power consumption: 4W)
  • Dimensions – 100 x 100 x 15 mm
  • Weight – 160g

Geniatech_ATV585_Enjoy_TV_Front_PanelThis media player runs Android 4.4 KitKat, and comes with an HDMI cable, a power adapter, an IR remote control with mouse function, and a user’s manual.

ATV585 Enjoy TV appears to be available to resellers right now, but I could not find it listed on any Chinese e-retailer yet. For reference, Eny EM6Q-MQX currently sells for $76 to $80 on Aliexpress. That’s less than most Amlogic S802 based Android TV boxes, but not all. You can find more information on Geniatech ATV585 Enjoy TV page.

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Probox2 EX Quad Core Android Box Comes with an Air Mouse Designed for Gaming

July 22nd, 2014 5 comments

Probox2 EX is an Android TV Box with an enclosure similar to MX3, but with better hardware including Amlogic S802-H, 16GB eMMC Flash, 2GB RAM, dual band Wi-Fi, and more, and an interesting RF air mouse dubbed “Remote+” that can also be used for playing games, and audio chat.
Probox2_EX

Probox2 EX specifications:

  • SoC – AMLogic S802-H quad core ARM Cortex A9r4 at 2.0GHz with ARM Mali-450MP6 GPU up to 600 MHz
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC Flash + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4b  and AV
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, and S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n with external antenna, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports + 1x micro USB OTG
  • Misc – IR Sensor, Power LED, power button, and recovery/update switch via AV jack
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 11.5 x 11.5 x 2.6 cm
  • Weight – 200 grams

If you’re sick and tired of seeing the same colorful Metro style user interface all over again, Probox2’s developers have designed a custom user interface running on top of Android 4.4 that I haven’t seen in other products.

PROBOX2 Ex Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

PROBOX2 Ex Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

The device comes with Remote+ air mouse, a power adapter, a backup IR remote control, an external dual band 5dB Wi-Fi antenna, HDMI and AV cables, a USB cable, and a user’s manual. Remote+ features a gyroscope (for air mouse function), a D-pad and buttons for gaming and XBMC navigation, and a built-in microphone. It’s not clear what kind of batteries are used with the remote.

Probox2 EX is available for pre-order now on W2COMP for $149.99 including shipping, with delivery expected for August 8. It’s exactly the same price as MINIX NEO X8-H with NEO  M1 air mouse, and slightly more than Tronsmart Vega S89-H + TSM1 air mouse. However, both Probox2 EX and MINIX X8 comes with eMMC, against NAND flash for Vega S89-H, and Probox2 EX air mouse seems to have more features than M1 air mouse. However, one of the main advantages of MINIX is their regular firmware update and user’s forums. Based on Probox2 Ultimate (RK3066) history, I expect Probox2 EX to receive firmware upgrades, but there’s currently no user’s community. More details can be found on Probox2 EX product page.

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