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Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid STB Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, TV Center, and DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 App

March 22nd, 2017 37 comments

Last year I reviewed K1 Plus T2 S2, an Android TV box powered by Amlogic S905 quad core processor with DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 tuner support, which worked with some caveats. VideoStrong has now send me an updated model with Amlogic S912 octa-core processor, which I presented in the post entitled Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid Android STB Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown, where I listed the specifications, and showed photos of the device and the boards (main board + tuner board). I’ve now had time to play with the device, and in many respects the user experience is very similar to the one I got with KI Plus T2 S2 models, but there are also some tweaks, and a few bugs which I’ll report in the second part of the review below.

KIII Pro Hybrid TV Box Setup, Settings, & Power Consumption

The four USB ports are really convenient, as I could connect a USB hard drive, an air mouse, a wireless game pad, and a USB keyboard without the need for a USB hub. I also connected the usual Ethernet and HDMI cable, plus the cable from my Satellite dish to the DVB-S2 F connector, and the cable from my roof antenna to the DVB-T2 coaxial connector.

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Once we connect the power, the device boots automatically, and usually takes under 30 seconds to do so. The launcher is pretty much the same as KI Plus TV box.

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So I won’t go through it in details again, and will only comment on one change. Kodi is gone and been replaced by something called “TV Center”. So I clicked on it, and it showed a famous Chinese proverb “The installation isn’t installed!”. So I went to the list of apps, and click on TV CENTER, which will do the installation of this mysterious app.

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Once it’s done I can click on TV Center, and the user interface looks familiar.

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So that means they made some modifications to Kodi 17, and change the name to comply with the trademark requirements.

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The TV Center installation also automatically added some add-ons as shown in the screenshot below.

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The Setting app is exactly the same as for other recemt Amlogic TV boxes, and there’s nothing specific to DVB, so I’ll mostly skip it (If you want to see check out Qintaix Q912 review), except to show Storage & USB section that reveals 634 MB is used out of 16.00 GB. That’s obviously a fake number, and it should be around 11 to 12 GB, but the company may have chosen to do so to avoid some customer’s complains that there’s not 16GB storage, as they don’t understand the OS take places on the flash.

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It also shows NTFS and exFAT file systems are supported, but not EXT-4, nor BTRFS.

The About section shows the model is indeed KIII pro running Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29. The firmware is rooted by default.

OTA update appears to be supported, but at the time of the review, there was no update available.

I tested the provide IR remote by adding two AA batteries, and it works well up to 10 meters. For most other TV boxes, I’d recommend to use an air mouse, bu in the case of KIII Pro, you’ll need to keep using the remote control in order to support DTV app for DVB-S2/DVB-T2 properly, maybe switching to an air mouse or wireless keyboard + touchpad for some other Android apps. One recurring issue in most TV boxes is still present in KIIIPro however: the mouse cursor is rather small when you set your TV to 4K resolution.

I could install all apps I needed through Google Play, and Amazon Underground without issues.

The set-top box has only two power modes: off or on, and there’s no standby mode. I can turn the device on or off using the IR remote control or the power button.

Power consumption is pretty high in power off, as I tested different options with or without the USB hard drive, but I found a lot of variability with testing:

  • Power off – Test 1: 5.1 Watt; Test 2: 2.2  Watts; Test 3: 3.1 Watts
  • Idle – 7.2 Watts, then 4.3 Watts (2nd try)
  • Power off + HDD – Test 1: 5.1 Watt; Test 2: 2.2  Watts; Test 3: 3.1 Watts
  • Idle + HDD – 9.3 Watts then 8.1 Watts (2nd try)

The good news is that USB ports are turned off in power off mode, so at least the extra power consumption does not come from those ports.

Temperature is a little higher than other boxes, but I’ve not encounter massive CPU throttling during my tests. After playing a 2-hour video the maximum top and bottom temperatures as measured with an IR thermometer were respectively 53°C and 57°C, while after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 to 20 minutes the temperatures were 51°C and 57°C, but I did not notice any lower framerate in the game as the time went on. I quickly started CPU-Z after quitting the game, and the reported temperature in the app was a high 89°C, so in some conditions performance degradation due to high temperature might be possible, I just did not experience it during my tests. FYR, room temperature was around 30 °C during testing.

KIII Pro Android firmware feels very much like any other Amlogic S912/S905X TV boxes, and it was responsive without any critical bugs. The only small annoyances were the somewhat loud music during the boot animation, the small cursor at 4K resolution, and the relatively high power consumption in power off mode.

Video & Audio Tests with TV Center (Kodi), and DRM Info

As we’ve seen in the section above, Kodi is not installed per se, but instead the box comes with an installer for a fork of Kodi 17.0-RC3 called TV Center.

I enabled “Adjust display refresh rate” in Kodi settings,and started by playing 4K video over Ethernet from a Linux SAMBA share:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Not always smooth
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC, 24 fps) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – The video plays in slow motion and audio delays (NB: 4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by S912 VPU)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Plays at around 1 to 2 fps (expected since it relies software decode as S912 VPU does not support 10-bit H.264)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – USB hard drive playback: Not smooth as on all other Amlogic TV boxes.
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays, but not always perfectly smooth as with all Amlogic S912 TV boxes.

4K video capabilities are pretty much the same as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, except for HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 that was worse than usual. Automatic frame rate switching is not working again as is the case on most other S912 boxes, except MINIX NEO U9-H.

Next up I enabled HDMI audio pass-through in Kodi, and since TrueHD is not part of the list, I also enabled Dolby Digital (AC3) transcoding.

Here are the results of my tests with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MX Player / Video Player app)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but video not smooth at all OK Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1), Video not smooth
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK Video not smooth, and audio cuts No audio
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
DTS HD Master OK No audio No audio and black screen
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK No audio and black screen
DTS:X OK No audio No audio and black screen

That’s pretty bad if you plan to use HDMI audio pass-through, except for Dolby Digital 5.1 / AC3. The first video has often problem on Amlogic TV boxes in Kodi, but most AC3 video should work fine. A good news is that AC3 is working via MX Player, so if you receive live TV channels with AC3 audio through the DTV app, it should be able to decode AC3 audio properly, something that was not possible in K1 Plus T2 S2.

I also played a 2-hour video to check for stability. The first time, TV CEnter app crashed with the message “Unfortunately TV Center has stopped” after about 5 minutes, and my second attempt was not completely trouble free either, as the video stopped at around the 50 minutes marked, and the system went back to TV Center UI, but I could select the video again, was offered to resume from 49:21, and it could play until the end.

KIII Pro supports Widevine Level 3 DRM. That means no Netflix HD like on most competing Android media players.

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DTV App for DVB-S/S2 and DVB-T/T2

Now to the most important features of KIII Pro hybrid set-top box: DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 tuner support. The box is using the same DTV app as on K1 Plus T2 S2 with only minor modifications. The first time you launch the app, you should get the following message indicating there aren’t any channels yet, and asking you to scan for channels.

Once you agree, you’ll be ask to select DVB S/S2 or DVB T/T2.

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I’ve gone with the latter first, and I’ll redirect you to the post entitled “How to Configure DVB-S2 and DVB-T2 Tuners in K1 Plus Android DTV Receiver” since the procedure is the same. I got 26 channels for my T2 scan, but somehow I got 30 channels on K1 Plus T2 S2. So I went to check the settings, and this time the Area Setting was already set to Thailand, either automatically, or it was done before sending the device.

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Anyway I could watch both HD and SD channels without any problems, and signal strength are quality are both at 100% or close to it all the time.

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The EPG looks exactly the same, and it still has problems with Thai encoding or font.

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But before testing other features, let’s configure our satellite dish. Press the Menu key on the remote control, select Installation,

and then DVB S/S2.

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You’ll be able to select your satellite from a list, or define your own as I showed in K1 Plus T2 S2 setup guide and review. I did not show Motor Settings last time, so I’ve taken two screenshots one showing DiSEQc 1.2 support…

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… and the other USALS support. I have not tested either since I don’t own a motorized satellite dish.

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Once you are happy with the setting go to Multi Scan menu to see your satellite list, and press the Blue button on the remote control to start scanning.

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I got 25 TV channels and 7 radios after selecting a Blind Scan and FTA (free-to-air) channels only. Last year, I got 55 TV channels and 5 radio with the same “Thaicom2” satellite. Go figure… Signal strength and quality are quite lower in my case at around 55% and 50% respectively. There are some channels without signal, just as with K1 Plus T2 S2.

One nice improvement is that you don’t need to select between DVB-T2 or DVB-S2 when you start DTV app, as all your channels are shown in the list.

I tried EPG scheduling to start playback or record video, and it works exactly like before.

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So  I setup a few “timers, and watched a DVB-T2 channel live, and one minute before a schedule recording on MONEY channel (DVB-S2) the following window overlaid the video:

I did not press any button, and one the count down expire, it switched to MONEY channel automatically (good), and I got the message “recording complete” (bad). I could reproduce this bug several times. I noticed if I schedule a recording on a channel, and stay on that channel it will work fine.

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You can see the list of recording above on my USB hard drive with some started manually (REC key on remote), and several scheduled. All the 0 bytes videos are due to the bug described above. So schedule does not work 100% reliably. However I noticed different current times (shown in top right of EPG) with different channels, for example it was 13:10 on a DVB-T2 channels, and 13:18 on a DVB-S2 channel, so this might explain some of the issues.. Please note that if you schedule program, and turn off the box, it won’t automatically start to record, and some comments in case try to run DTV app in the background and do other things. The DTV app must run in foreground in other to record videos.

I was more lucky with TimeShifting. Pressing the play/pause key on the remote control, will ask you to select a storage device, and you’ll be able to pause and play live TV within a default 5 minutes period, but this is adjustable in the settings. Note that you need external storage, as this won’t work from the flash.

Advanced users will be able to access CCcam, BISS, and PowerVU setting, by pressing the Menu key, selecting Installation and DVB S/S2, and from there enter 111111 on the remote (6 times character 1) to access Smart Data Manager menu.

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I have not done a video again since it’s so similar to the previous model, with just a few minor changes to the user interface, and if you want to check out DTV app into more details, I invite you to watch K1 Plus T2 S2 video review.

Networking (WiFi & Ethernet)

I’ve checked WiFi performance by transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash (and vice versa) using ES File Explorer. I’ve only tried 802.11ac (connected @ 265 Mbps) , and again performance was asymmetric with the download @ 3.70 MB/s and upload @ 1.44 MB/s, and average @ 2.1 MB/s which makes it similar to other recent Amlogic TV boxes.

Throughput in MB/s

However, last time I reviewed MINIX NEO U9-H which had disappointing WiFi results with the same tests, as it was much slower than MINIX NEO U1 despite ahving the same WiFi module and overall system setup. MINIX them showed me their own tests with different routers showing similar performance between NEO U1 and NEO U9-H, so Amlogic may have completely blown up their SAMBA implementation in their Android 6.0 SDK (NEO U1 runs Android 5.0, U9-H runs Android 6.0).

For that reason, I also tested 802.11ac download speed using iperf “download” test:

That’s 216 Mbps (~27 MB/s) with a raw TCP transfer, and while SAMBA is not supposed to be the fastest network protocol, performance should not drop as low as 3.7 MB/s (over 7 times slower) for the SAMBA download unless something is really wrong.

I also tested Gigabit Ethernet with iperf but using a dual duplex test, and performance is fine.

Doing a SAMBA download over Gigabit Ethernet gets a 885 MB file transfer in 59 seconds (15 MB/s) to the internal flash, which is pretty much normal. So it looks like the issues occur when combining WiFi with SAMBA. SAMBA performs fine with Ethernet, and WiFi raw TCP transfer speed is OK.

Storage

KIII Pro supports exFAT, NTFS, and FAT32 file systems, but not EXT-4 and BTRFS. Benchmarks with A1SD bench shows you should avoid exFAT to record videos with the DTV app, as write speed is rather low (1.35 MB/s), and the write speed (156.09 MB/s) is just incorrect as it is what triggered the “Cached read” in the screenshot below.

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That means your only option is to use NTFS for external storage if you want to support larger video files. Performance is good at 44.43 MB/s for read speed, and  16.74 MB/s write speed.

The eMMC flash (“SD card” in screenshot) performance is not outstanding, but at 41.34 MB/s (read) and 18.29 MB/s (write) is good enough for the system to boot fast, and feel responsive at all times.

KIII Pro Benchmarks

CPU-Z correctly reports an octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.51 GHz with an ARM Mali-T860 GPU. Model KIII Pro is using q20x board, and the pp shows with 2825 MB total RAM, and 11.87 GB internal storage (the real value, but the 16GB shows in Android settings).

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Since I’ve reviewed so many Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and only ran Antutu 6.x benchmark to make sure there was no hidden issue, and the 40,330 points achieved by the TV box is within the normal range.

Conclusion

KIII Pro comes with typical performance and flaws of other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, with Android 6.0 firmware working well, TV Center (Kodi 17 fork) playing 4K videos relatively well, supporting DD 5.1 pass-through, but not the full range of audio codec, and lacking support for automatic frame rate switching. The device is however unique thanks to its dual tuner with DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 inputs, and the DTV app is about the same as on the previous model (K1 Plus T2 S2), but merges channels from both sources instead of having to choose at launch. Sadly some of the same bugs and shortcomings linger such as font encoding issues, and inablity to run PVR process in the background.

PROS

  • Stable and Responsive Android 6.0 firmware
  • Decent 4K video playback in TV Center (Kodi fork)
  • Support for Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3) HDMI pass-through and downmixing in all apps
  • DVB-S/S2 & DVB-T/T2 support via DTV app with timershifting, EPG, and PVR support
  • Good 802.11ac WiFi and Ethernet performance
  • OTA firmware update (App is there, but not fully tested as no new firmware available during the review)

CONS (and Bugs)

  • DVB issues and shortcomings:
    • DVB S/S2 signal strength and quality is only around 50 to 55% (on my setup and for others too), which could lead to problems get signals for some channels
    • Thai font encoding issues
    • In some conditions, scheduled recordings will start on time, but stop immediately resulting in an empty video.
    • PVR function does not work in background, so the DTV app must be on the foreground at all time, and the box cannot be turned off when using schedules/timers.
  • HDMI audio pass-through not working (in TV Center) for Dolby Digital+ 7.1, TrueHD and DTS / DTS-HD
  • Automatic frame rate switching is not working in Kodi
  • Potential instability issues with TV Center – The 2-hour video test failed twice: 1st time: crash after 5 minutes; 2nd time the video stopped after about 50 minutes, but I could resume. N.B.: I did not experience other crashes while testing video samples.
  • Mediocre WiFi + SAMBA performance like in other S905X/S912 TV boxes with Android 6.0.
  • Relatively high power consumption (2.2 to 5.1 Watts) in power off mode
  • While I have not noticed obvious CPU or GPU throttling during my tests, temperature does get high (89 °C reported in CPU-Z)
  • Minor issues – Very small mouse pointer @ 4K resolutions, loud music during boot logo

Finally, I also have a user-friendliness remark. If you are just going to use TV Center and DTV app, the provided IR remote control will do, but if you are going to also use other Android apps, I normally recommend to replace the IR remote control with an air mouse. It’s not really possible/practical with KIII Pro, as DTV app has been designed around the IR remote control with keys such as MENU, PVR, REC, EPG… That means you’ll need juggle with both the IR remote control and an air mouse in order to fully enjoy all capabilities of the device. It would be really nice if VideoStrong could come up with an (optional) air mouse with keyboard that also supports DTV app.

Resellers and distributors may inquire Videostrong via their Alibaba page to purchase KIII Pro in quantities. Individuals can purchase KIII Pro Android set-top box on  GearBest ($117.99), Aliexpress ($141 and up), Banggood ($133.99), and other online retailers.

Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid Android STB Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown

March 13th, 2017 31 comments

K1 Plus T2 S2 review has been a popular post on CNX Software, as many people tried to improve their experience with the device. VideoStrong has just send an updated version of their DVB-T2 + DVB-S2 TV box with Mecool KIII Pro octa-core Hybrid STB powered by an Amlogic S912 processor combined with 3 GB RAM and 16GB storage, and the same dual tuner configuration. I’ve started the review by posting some pictures of the hardware, inside out, before reporting my experience with Android, especially the DTV part, in a few weeks.

KIII Pro Specifications

  • SoC –  Amlogic S912 octa core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with  Mali-T820MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 3 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60Hz with support for HDR10 and HLG, and 3.5mm AV (composite video) jack
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV (stereo audio), optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs – 10-bit H.265, and VP9 up to 4K60, H.264 up to 4K30, AVS+ up to 1080p60
  • Tuner – Combo DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 with two connectors
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button and LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply –  DC 12V/12A
  • Dimensions – 130 x 120 x 32 mm
  • Weight – ~190 grams

The box runs Android 6.0 with Kodi 17 pre-installed.

KIII Pro Unboxing

I received the device in a white retail package marked “KIII Pro Octa-core Hybrid STB” and “OTT TV BOX”.

The bottom of the package has some of the specs.The set-top box ships with a 12V/1A power supply, a largish IR remote control taking two AA batteries, an HDMI cable, and a user’s manual in English.

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The enclosure is very similar to K1 Plus with the edges “smoothed” out.

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The power bottom can conveniently be found on the top cover, one side has four USB 2.0 host ports, a micro SD, and the rear panel features a DVB-T2 coaxial connector, a DVB-S2 F connector, CVBS/LR composite + stereo audio 3.5mm jack, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a HDMI 2.0a port, optical S/PDIF, and the power jack.

KIII Pro Teardown

Let’s open the thing. We’ll have to start with the bottom cover. First we’ll notice a D0:76:58 MAC address which is not registered with IEEE, but the company previously explained that it was for “localized network, and it is the only ID for empowering applications to activate, specially IPTV applications”. Then, the box can be wall-mounted via two “hooks”, which can be convenient in some use cases. Finally, there’s a recovery pinhole on the right of the sticker in order to reinstall firmware if your box does not boot anymore.

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We don’t need to remove all rubber pads, as there are two just screws holding the case together. One under the bottom left rubber pad, and one under the QC sticker, which you need to pierce through. Once we’ve removed those two screws, the box comes apart easily.


We have two boards: main board with heatsink on the CPU, and a yellow board with the tuner circuitry.

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We’ll find two SpecTek DDR3 SDRAM chips: PE029-125 (512 MB) and another chip market “512X16DDR3” (1 GB) for a total of 1.5 GB RAM on this side of the board. The flash is covered by a sticker, which I have not removed, so we’ll see how storage performs in benchmarks. Gigabit Ethernet is done using Realtek RTL8211F transceiver, and Pulse H5900L transformer, while AC WiFi  and Bluetooth LE is implemented via a module marked “KM63351412” which could be equivalent to AP6335 module found in some other devices. Other chips include GL852G USB hub, and DIO2133 audio driver. If you want to hack the board, the serial console should be available via an unpopulated 4-pin header on the bottom left of the photo above.

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The other side of the CPU board comes with a micro SD card slot, and 1.5 GB extra RAM to bring the total to 3GB. We can also see extra cooling with a thick metal plate, covered by a black sheet, itself covered by a thin plastic transparent sheet on the bottom of the enclosure.

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S2&T2_R848_REV1.2 tuner board looks very similar to KI Plus tuner board, but just upgraded from Revision 1.0 to Revision 1.2, and featuring the same Availink AVL6862TA DVB-C/T/T2 + DVB-S/S2 demodulator, but they changed Rafael Micro R848 tuner chip to R912 model, which is not documentation on Rafael Micro website yet.

If you are interested in purchasing KIII Pro in quantities, you may inquire Videostrong via their Alibaba page. Mecool KIII Pro can also be purchased online on sites such as GearBest ($117.99), which by the way currently has promotions for their 3rd anniversary, as well as several shops on Aliexpress ($141 and up) and Banggood ($133.99).

[Update: Part 2 of the review is up @ Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid STB Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, TV Center, and DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 App]

NVIDIA Shield Android TV Gets Unofficial USB Tuner (ATSC/DVB) Support

March 9th, 2017 3 comments

NVIDIA Shield Android TV may only be available in a limited number of countries, but if you happen to live in a country where it’s officially sold, it can be one of the best options due its hard-to-beat price to performance ratio, and official Android TV software support from Google & Nvidia. One features it does not support out of the box  is support for digital TV tuner, but linux4all has released an unofficial firmware image adding USB TV tuner support to Android TV (7.0) on Nvidia Shield Android TV 2015 and 2017 models.

You’ll first need a supported tuner either Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD (DVB-C, DVB-T and DVB-T2), Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-850 (ATSC), Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-955Q (ATSC, QAM, Analog), or Sony PlayTV dual tuner (DVB-T). More tuners may be supported in the future. One you’ve got your tuner connected to Nvidia Shield Android TV, make sure you have the latest Android TV 7.0 OTA update, unlock the bootloader, and flash the specific bootloader as explained in the aforelinked forum post. Upon reboot you should see “USB TV Tuner Setup” in the interface. Go through it and scan channels.

Finally, connected a USB 3.0 hard drive or micro SD card with at least 50GB and select format as device storage, and you should be able to watch free-to-air TV and record it as needed using Live channels.

If you are interested in adding more tuners, fix bugs, or possibly implemented this for another Android TV TV box, you’ll find the Linux source code with change history on github.

Note that it’s not the first hack to use USB tuners on Shield, as last year somebody used Kodi + TVheadend, so the real news is here probably integration into Android TV’s Live Channels.

Via AndroidTv.News, and thanks to Harley for the tip.

Rockchip RK3328 Quad Core 64-bit ARM SoC is Designed for 4K HDR Android 7.1 & Linux TV Boxes

January 11th, 2017 11 comments

Beside RV1108 visual platform for applications, Rockchip also unveiled another processor at CES 2017 with RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor for 4K TV Box with H.265, H.264 and VP9 codecs support, HDR, HDMI 2.0, USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet and more.

rk3328-tv-boxRockchip RK3328 STB SoC specifications:

  • Processor – Quad core Cortex A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz
  • GPU – ARM Mali-450MP2
  • Memory I/F – DDR3/DDR3L/DDR4 with “large memory” support (4GB?)
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.x/1.4 up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDR10/HLG support, CVBS output
  • Video Processor
    • 4K UHD H.264, 10-bit H.265 and VP9 video decoder
    • 1080p H.265/H.264 video encoder
  • Audio – Embedded audio DAC
  • Peripherals
    • embedded USB 3.0 interface
    • Dual Ethernet interface: RGMII (reduced gigabit media-independent interface) + Fast Ethernet PHY
    • 8 channel I2S interface supporting PDM/TDM
    • TS and smart card interface, with support for CSA 2.0
  • Security – TrustZone, Secure Video Path, Secure Boot, OTP

The new processor with support Android 7.1 and Linux, as well as OP-TEE secure OS and DRM support for Widewine L1 and Microsoft PlayReady. The TS interface will allow for tuner (DVB, ATSC…) support.

The processor is quite similar to Amlogic S905X. However the GPU is a bit weaker, which is not really that important for video applications, but not so good for games, and RK3328 also offer some extra interfaces with USB 3.0, dual Ethernet including one Gigabit Ethernet MAC, and tuner support.

The company did not provide any information about pricing or availability in their press release, and has yet to add RK3328 product page to their website.

Geniatech ATV1960 Octa-core Android TV Box Comes with a Dual TV Tuner (ATSC or DVB-T2)

November 23rd, 2016 3 comments

We now have so many Amlogic S912 Android TV boxes on the market, it becomes hard for companies to differentiate, but Geniatech is offering something different with their Geniatech/Mygica ATV1960 model thanks to a dual TV tuner support either ATSC or DVB-T2 and allowing you to watch a program, while recording another.

amlogic-s912-dvb-t2-atsc

Geniatech/Mygica ATV1960 specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S912 octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.5 GHz with ARM Mali-820MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot + 2.5″ SATA bay (cover on the bottom of the case)
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz
  • Audio Output – HDMI, and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Tuner – Dual Digital TV Tuner  (ATSC/T2); one for live watching, another for recording; EPG and PVR supported.
  • Misc – IR receiver, reset pinhole
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions –  160 x 110 x 33 mm
  • Weight – 237 grams

The exact specifications are of the device are hard to find since the people who updated the company’s website did not do such a good job. While all other Amlogic S912 TV boxes are running Android 6.0, ATV1960 is said to run Android 5.1, something that’s unlikely but possible in case the drivers for the tuners could not be re-built for Android 6.0.

mygica-atv1960We also could not see any demo of the device yet, and price and availability are not available yet. ATV1960 will likely be sold under the Mygica brand, possibly with some specifications tweaks, as the company has done in the past with other models. You can find more – but not-so-accurate – information on Geniatech ATV1960 product page.

Via ARMDevices

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

November 12th, 2016 No comments

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

muses-beta-video-encoder-dtv-demodulator-demo

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

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

2-way-splitter-antenna

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

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

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

There are many options as shown in the UI chart below.

User Interface State Machine (Click to Enlarge)

LCD User Interface Options (Click to Enlarge)

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

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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

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

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

$79 HiSilicon Poplar is the First 96Boards TV Platform Compliant Board

August 30th, 2016 35 comments

At the end of last month I wrote about 96Boards TV Platform specifications, and noticed Hisilicon had one such boards, but details were sparse. Linaro has now officially unveiled HiSilicon Poplar board, the first 96Boards TV Platform board, sold for $79 + shipping on Aliexpress.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Poplar board specifications:

  • SoC – HiSilicon Hi3798C V200 quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 CPU up to 2.0 GHz per core with ARM Mali-T720 GPU supporting OpenGL ES 3.1/3.0/2.0/1.1/1.0, OpenVG 1.1, OpenCL 1.2/1.1 Full Profile, RenderScript, and Microsoft DirectX 11 FL9_3
  • Memory – 1 or 2 GB DDR3 (Specs are conflicting depending where you look)
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.2 up to 4K @ 60Hz
  • Video Decoding – H.265/HEVC Main/Main10 and VP9 up to 4K @ 60 fps
  • Audio Output – HDMI, optical S/PDIF, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 2xUSB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port for console
  • Expansion
    • 40-pin Low Speed (LS) connector with UART, SPI, I2S, 2x I2C, 12x GPIO
    • 1x PCIe 2.0 interface
    • 12-pin Smart Card connector (unpopulated)
    • 24-pin connector for tuner (unpopulated)
  • Debugging – 1x JTAG port, 1x UART connector
  • Misc – IR receiver, boot selection jumper, LEDs, power button
  • Security – ARM Trustzone, trusted execution environment, secure boot, secure storage, secure video path, DRM, DCAS
  • Power Supply – 12V / 2A
  • Dimensions – 160 x 120 mm (96Boards TV platform specs)
  • Temperature Range – 0°C to +70°C

Hisilicon Hi3798C V200 is quite an interesting processor with many high speed and media interfaces, and while they used most of them, they did not leverage support for SATA. Luckily, there’s still USB 3.0 and PCIe if you need faster storage.

Hi3798C V200 Block Diagram - Click to Enlarge

Hi3798C V200 Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

The board is sold with Android 5.1.1, but it will be the main development platform of Linaro Digital Home Group which aims “to continue creating optimized, high-performance secure media solutions for ARM on both Linux- and Android-based platforms. Licensees of the RDK (Linux) will be able to create Open Embedded/Yocto RDK builds for Poplar. The Poplar board will also serve as a common development platform for Android TV (AOSP) as well as for TVOS-based STB solutions used in China.”

In the meantime, you may find some information on Tocoding Poplar page, or access directly the hardware user manual. Eventually, 96Boards Poplar page will be a good place to look.

VideoStrong KII Pro Android Set-top Box with DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 Tuners Comes with 2GB RAM

August 26th, 2016 215 comments

Based on the number of comments I get daily on my review of Videostrong K1 Plus T2 S2 Android TV box, the device is rather popular thanks to its dual DVB-T2/T2C and DVB-S2/S tuner, its low price, and OpenELEC community support. However, some people are possibly affected by the mere 1GB RAM in the system, with some apps being killed during use due to lack of memory. One solution is to purchase WeTek Play 2, but at $120 it’s in a different price range, and does not offer a dual tuner solution. But Videostrong has recently launched their KII Pro DVB T2+S2 model based on K1 Plus DVB T2+S2, but with 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, and 802.11ac WiFi.

K2-PRO

KII Pro specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905 quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 2.0GHz with  penta-core Mali-450MP GPU @ 750 MHz
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz, and 3.5mm AV (composite video) jack
  • Audio – HDMI, AV (stereo audio), optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs – 10-bit H.265 up to 4K60, MPEG/VC-1/AVS+/H.265 up to 4K30
  • Tuner – Combo DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 with two connectors
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 (Ampak AP6335) – Not Realtek RTL8189 as shown in Aliexpress according to VideoStrong.
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button and LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply –  DC 12V/1A
  • Dimensions – 130 x 120 x 32 mm
  • Weight – 187.50 grams

K2 Pro runs Android 5.1.1 and comes with the same DTV app installed on K1 Plus S2 T2 with channel scanning, EPG, channel recording and CCCAM/NEWCAMD support. People who require AC3 / Dolby D 5.1 in some countries will have the same issue as on K1 Plus T2 S2 because the Dolby license is still missing, and a device with Amlogic S905-H is required, unless maybe if you use OpenELEC (TBC) instead of Android.

 

KII_Pro_T2_S2The box is currently sold on Aliexpress for $82.69 shipped, and GeekBuying for $79.99. It’s also sold under the Acemax brand for about the same price, but it’s unclear whether the WiFi module is the same since they only mention dual band WiFi. More details may soon be available on Videostrong products page.