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Posts Tagged ‘wifi’

LoPy Tiny IoT Developer Board Runs MicroPython, Supports LoRa, WiFi and Bluetooth (Crowdfunding)

February 10th, 2016 8 comments

Pycom launched WiPy last year, a WiFi IoT board based on Texas Instruments CC3200 ARM Cortex M4 SoC, and a few months after sending rewards to their Kickstarter backers, they are back on the crowdfunding platform to launch LoPy, another IoT development board that runs MicroPython and offers LoRa, WiFi and Bluetooth LE connectivity.

LoPy Boards, WiPy Board, and Pycom baseboard

LoPy Boards, WiPy Board, and LoPy Expansion Board

LoPy board hardware specifications:

  • SoC – Dual processor @ 160 MHz with WiFi & BLE radio with 400 kB RAM, 1MB flash
  • External Storage – 4MB flash
  • Connectivity
    • 802. 11b/g/n @ 16Mbps with WEP, WPA/WPA2 WiFi security; SSL/TLS support; AES encryption engine.
    • Bluetooth Classic and Low Energy
    • LoRaWAN
      • Semtech LoRa transceiver SX1272 @ 868 MHz (Europe) or 915 MHz (North America).
      • Range – Node: Up to 40km; Nano-Gateway: Up to 5 km
      • Nano Gateway Capacity – Up to 100 nodes.
    • Internal chip antenna and u.fl connectors for external antennas
  • Headers – 2x 14-pin headers for:
    • Up to 24 GPIOs (3.3V tolerant)
    • 2x UART, SPI, I2C
    • DMA, I2S
    • 12-bit ADC and 8-bit DAC.
    • 16-bit and 32-bit timers with PWM.
  • Hash and encryption engines – SHA, MD5, DES, AES
  • Misc – RTC
  • Power Supply – 3.3V to 5.5V
  • Power Consumption
    • Wi-Fi:12 mA in active mode, 5uA in standby
    • LoRa: 3mA in active mode, 39mA during Tx, 14mA during Rx
    • BLE: 8mA in active mode, 2uA in standby.
  • Dimensions – 55mm x 20mm
  • Certifications – EMC, CE, FCC, LoRaWAN

They did not disclose the wireless SoC name, but the specifications look very similar to Espressif ESP32, and ESP8266 should get a proper MicroPython port soon, so at first I thought they could have decided to go with ESP32, even though it’s probably premature even for a Kickstarter project. However, WiFi is said to be limited to 16 Mbps,  one of the pictures indicates a “Cortex-M4 WiFi” is used, and somebody asked whether the chip was ESP32, and they answered that “due to NDA restrictions we can’t give more details about the SoC at this moment”, so it could be also a new Texas Instruments SimpleLink CC3x part with WiFi and Bluetooth. So we’ll have to wait to find out.

LoPy Kit with IP64 enclosure, LoPy Board, antenna, and battery

LoPy Kit with IP64 enclosure, LoPy Board, antenna, and battery (Not available in the Kickstarter campaign, but later).

The board also supports Blynk libraries, can be programmed with Pymakr IDE, and is Microsoft Azure ready. Arduino IDE support is planned as a stretch goal. LoPy can be used as a LoRa node, and as LoRa gateway with up to 100 nodes, so you could easily build your own little IoT network.

LoPy expansion board allows easier development with a USB to serial converter, 3 Female headers, compatible with both LoPy and WiPy board, a LiPo battery charger with JST connector, a microSD card socket, user LED and push button, and various jumpers to enable/disable features. You’ll probably want to include the antenna kit as well, unless you have your own, as it’s not included in the standard pledges.

Setting up a LoRa Connection in Python

Setting up a LoRa Connection in Python

The company has already raised over 58,000 Euros out of their 50,000 Euros target so the project will go ahead. All early bird rewards are gone, but you can still pledge 29 Euros to get a LoPy board, and most will probably want to add 5 Euros to get the LoRa antenna kit too, or simply pledge 48 Euros to get a complete kit with the board, the antenna, and the expansion board. Shipping adds 7 Euros, and delivery is scheduled for August 2016.

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Ugoos AM1 4K TV Box Review

February 9th, 2016 12 comments

Ugoos AM1 is yet another TV box based on Amlogic S905. I’ve already published specifications and uploaded some pictures of the nice looking cyan box and its board, so today I’ll report on my experience after actually playing with the device, where I mostly focused on known problems found on other S905 mini PCs, and some extra features added to Ugoos firmware.

First Boot, Settings, and First Impressions

I filled all three USB ports with a USB webcam, a USB hard drive, and a USB hub with RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse,  Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad, and a USB keyboard (convenient for screenshots), and connected Ethernet, HDMI and power cables. A boot will usually take around 30 seconds.

Before going through the user interface, I’ll mention that OTA firmware upgrade worked very well, and it was one of the first thing I did before the review. Ugoos firmware version used for review is 0.0.3 as shown in the screenshot below.

Ugoos_AM1_OTA_Firmware_Update

The UPDATE&BACKUP app will download the update, reboot the device, perform the update and you’re done. The first boot you’ll be asked to choose between UgoosLauncher, or Launcher3.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

Launcher3 looks basically like stock Android launcher.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

UgoosLauncher has been designed internally, is more suitable for a TV experience, and is available on all recent Ugoos devices including Ugoos UT4, where the latest firmware includes the launcher. The menu selection on the right includes folder for apps called “Internet”, “IPTV”, “MEDIA”, “OTHER”, “ALL APPS”, “GAMES”, “TOOLS”, and “SETTINGS” as well as an “OPTIONS” section to customize the launcher with the number of rows and columns, color, time time, and wallpaper. I found adjusting the rows and columns did not work so well, as icons are cut a little when selecting 4×4.. Apps are automatically assigned to a folder, for example Antutu could be found in “Tools”, and YouTube or Kodi in “Media”. Sadly there does not seem to be a way to customize which apps you want in a particular folder. [Update: you can move apps between category by long pressing on an app, and the following menu appears to let you open, move, select category or delete an app.

Ugoos_Launcher_Change_CategoryNote that a long press with my air mouse in remote mote (using arrows key + OK) would only launch the application, but if I switch to air mouse mode, and long press an app with the mouse cursor it works.]

I’m also not a fan of listing apps by chronological order, which Ugoos Launcher does, as it makes more difficult to find the app you need, and switching between the main selections is not as fast as I’d like, as I needed to wait for one second, before switching between “ALL APPS” and “GAMES” for example.

As with other Amlogic S905 TV boxes, the user interface resolution is set to 1920×1080. Settings are basically the same as on the other devices too, so I invite you to check MINI MX review for more details about settings option. There’s however one difference: Ugoos settings.

Ugoos_Settings

You can probably expect Ugoos to add more goodies overtime as they push firmware updates out, but for now, there’s just an option to enable root or disable root access, which can be very convenient, since some apps require root, while others will refuse to run on a rooted device. Unrooting will require a reboot of the TV box.

You can have a better look at Ugoos Launcher and Ugoos specific settings in the video below.

The system set my TV to 1080p50 the first time, but I could set this to 2160p 60Hz in the settings. Unfortunately, like with most other S905 devices, AM1 won’t always keep the settings after a reboot.

About_Ugoos_AM1If we visit Android settings’ About MediaBox section, we’ll find the model number is UGOOS-AM1, which runs Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29.

The firmware also comes with a unified storage partition that gives the user 11.87GB out of the 16GB eMMC flash, with 6.57GB at the end of the review after installing apps, and copying some large files to the flash, so there should be plenty of space to fulfill the requirements of most users.

The HDMI CEC issue I have been having with Amlogic S905 and Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver was still there, so I could not enable HDMI-CEC, and all I got was the “This remote device does not support CEC” message.

I had no issues with Google Play Store, except for HPlus Watch app required for Makibes F68 smartwatch, but it’s likely because the app requires telephony support for handling call and SMS notifications. I also side-loaded Amazon Underground in order to install the free version of Riptide GP2. However, as I wanted to use YouTube, I was asked to install an update to Google Play Services, and Google service started to crash very often (like every 10 seconds), making the system usable, so I decided to uninstall the Updates and the system worked fine again, even if that means I could not use apps such as YouTube, or Google Hangouts. So that’s something the company will have to fix in next firmware.

Ugoos_AM1_Google_Play_Stopped

The firmware may have been rushed before Chinese New Year, as another side-effect of the firmware update is that the included IR remote was unusable, with the power key lowering the volume, and most keys having no effect. I guess that’s the “support for new remote layout” part that caused problem. It’s not clear right now whether the company decided to ship a different remote with new models, or simply made a mistake with the firmware.

That also means that the only way to control power is to use the power icon on the status bar. Clicking on the icon will show a menu with Power off, Sleep, Reboot, and Reboot recovery options. All four worked fine, but since the remote is not working with that firmware, or the remote I used was only send to a few reviewers or beta testers, the only way to power on the media player is to disconnect and reconnect the power supply. I’m sure a solution will quickly be found after Chinese New Year holidays.

Temperature was under control at all times with the maximum top and bottom covers’ temperatures being respectively 39°C and 46°C after Antutu 6.0, and 41°C and 53 °C after over 15 minutes playing Riptide GP2, without any noticeable performance difference over time.

I also measured power consumption in three modes with or without USB hard drive:

  • Power off – 2.0 Watts
  • Sleep – 1.2 Watt
  • Idle – 3.1 Watts
  • Power off + HDD – 4.1 Watts
  • Sleep + HDD – 3.3 Watts
  • Idle + HDD – 5.4 Watts

There are two problems here: 1. Power off power consumption is higher than in sleep mode, and 2. the USB port is not properly turned off in power off mode.

I also had an other issue on my device. The USB port close to the SD card slot would not work at all with either my USB hard drive or RF dongles. The firmware should have fixed this as one comment on Ugoos blog explained:

Some users had problems with OTG usb port that turns to a slave mode and doesn’t work with airmouses and pads. Now we add automatic slave/active mode for this USB port.

But it did not, unless I have another issue.

While the firmware is very responsive, and stable, there are currently too many issues to have satisfying experience, including the remote messed-up key mapping, a USB port not working, and issues with the latest version of Google Play services. I’m hopeful all those three critical issues will be fixed in upcoming firmware updates.

Video Playback in in Kodi 16.0

Kodi’s trademark policy is that if you distribute a modified binary, you can’t use Kodi in your application name. The rule is not followed by the vast maority of companies, but for example that’s why MINIX is called their port XBMC for MINIX, and WeTek will change the name of their “Kodi” app to something else. And at first when I went to Google Play in order to install apps, I noticed that Kodi was detected as installed, which would truly have been a first.

Kodi_Google_Play_Installed However the latest version of Kodi in Google Play is Kodi 15.2 released on October 2015, and the company installed a version of Kodi 16.0 Beta 4, modified or not, built on December 13, 2015. So we can’t trust the Google Play store to report the “truth” about this details.
Ugoos_AM1_Kodi_16.0I’ve tested Kodi many times on Amlogic S905 platform, so I’ll shorten the list of tested videos just like in G9C review. I’ve played all videos from a SAMBA share over a Gigabit Ethernet connection unless otherwise stated.

Playing 1080p Linaro media samples and 720p RealMedia samples went relatively smoothly:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 1080p – OK, but I got a black screen until the user interface was activated
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (1080p) – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Could be smoother (but unrelated to network).
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Could be smoother, but likely because Amlogic S905 cannot handle 100+ Mbps videos very well
HDMI audio pass-through only worked for Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, and for some reasons videos were all played zoomed in:
  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – Dolby D 5.1, but with some audio cuts; video zoomed in
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1); video zoomed in
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – PCM 2.0 only; video zoomed in
  • TrueHD 5.1 – PCM 2.0 only; video zoomed in
  • TrueHD 7.1 – PCM 2.0 only; video zoomed in
  • Dolby Atmos 7.1 – PCM 2.0 only; video zoomed in
  • DTS HD Master – DTS 5.1 only with some audio cuts; video zoomed in
  • DTS HD High Resolution – DTS 5.1 only with some audio cuts; no video, as the system stays in Kodi’s file browser.

That part did not work exactly well, and since Ugoos AM1 is not based on Amlogic S905-H, DTS and Dolby down-mixing is not supported outside of Kodi.

4K videos playback was also a mixed experience:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Plays with a micro pause every second or so.
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (H.264) – Lots of buffering, and when the video is not smooth when it plays.
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264 @ 119 Mbps) – Massive artifacts, mostly green screen
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – Stays in Kodi’s file browser for nearly 20 seconds, and then starts to play fine.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK, after a long buffering at the beginning.
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – Plays fine until the image is stuck after a while. Typical of older Amlogic S905 SoC revisions found in boxes shipped so far.

I’ve added 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 to my list of file, as 10-bit H.264 is said to be supported by newer platforms such as Rockchip RK3229.

I played a full ~2-hour 1080p movie over SAMBA to test reliability, and it could play smoothly and until the end.

Finally, I also checked whether automatic frame rate switching would work, and it did not even after enabling HDMI self-adaptation in Android settings and setting “Adjusting display refresh rate” to “On start/stop” in Kodi settings.

Ugoos_AM1_DRM_InfoDRM info app indicated that Google Widewine DRM is enabled. The security level is blank, but it’s likely to be Level 3 for SD playback.

You can find links to video samples I use for reviews in my “video samples” post, and comments section.

Network Performance

Ugoos AM1 could transfer a 289 MB from a SAMBA over WiFi to the internal flash @ 3.18 MB/s on average with 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz, and 4.34 MB/s using an 802.11ac connection.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

802.11n performance was slightly above average, and 802.11ac performance slightly below average, and both appeared to be stable and with satisfactory performance.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

I repeated the same test, using ES File Explorer, and a large file, and on average the system could transfer a file @ 15.39 MB/s in both direction, making it one of the top performer in this test. however, please note that one of the transfers completely stalled, so I had to repeat the test again.

Since transferring a file over Gigabit Ethernet may be highly influenced by the eMMC flash write performance, I normally also run a full duplex iperf test, but AM1’s Ethernet connection just failed whenever I ran test, and very quickly, i.e. within 2 seconds. After the test I could still see a Gigabit Ethernet link on my Gigabit switch, but Android would indicate no Ethernet connection, and the only solution I found was to reboot the device. So it looks like while Ethernet usually performs well, there may also be some reliability issues.

Storage

The NTFS and exFAT partitions on a Seagate USB hard drive, and the FAT32 partition could be mounted. However, the infamous 10MB free space bug found in Amlogic Lollipop SDK dies hard, and I could still not copy large files to those partitions, nor run A1 SD Benchmark.

File System Read Write
NTFS OK No (10 MB free space)
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
exFAT OK No (10 MB free space)
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK

Internal storage has both decent read and write speeds @ respectively 38.05 MB/s and 14.16MB/s according to A1 SD Benchmark, and it surely helps making the firmware run smoothly.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s - Click to Enlarge

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Bluetooth

I had no issues pairing my phone to the device, and transfer some pictures, that is until I actually checked the pictures, all of which seemed to have been corrupted during the transfer with some lines shifted and color changes.  I’m not sure what may have caused this. I had a Bluetooth smart watch connected to my phone the first time, so I disconnected it first, and re-tried, but the results was just the same, as you can see from the image below.
Ugoos_AM1_Bluetooth_Picture_Problem

The root options in Ugoos settings is really convenient, and I could configure Sixaxis Controller app to use my PS3 Bluetooth gamepad clone with the device. I also tested Bluetooth Low Energy successfully with F68 smartwatch and its HPlus Watch app, as well as a Bluetoot headeset which I used to watch a music video on YouTube.

Gaming Performance

Since I’ve tested 3D graphics on several Amlogic S905 platforms already, I focused my testing on how good the system would maintain 3D graphics performance, by playing about 15 minutes with Riptide GP2. I set the graphics settings to the maximum, and the game did not crash like on some other Amlogic  mini PCs, and the game was very playable all the time. So that’s one of the positives for Ugoos AM1.

Ugoos AM1 Benchmarks

CPU-Z did not detect anything unusual, and UGOOS-AM1 appears to be a p200_2G platform, just like MINIX NEO U1, which is something you want to keep in mind if you want to try alternative firmwares.

Ugoos_AM1_CPU-Z
I just run Antutu 6.0.1 performance to make sure the result was as expected, and Ugoos AM1 achieved 35,068 points, which remains  comparable to the 36,741 points for Tronsmart Vega S95 Telos, but a bit short of MINIX NEO U1’s 38,032 points, with the latter most probably greatly helped by its ultra fast eMMC flash.

Ugoos_AM1_Antutu_6.0
You can get AM1 results details here.

Conclusion

While Ugoos AM1 has a good hardware base with above average storage, WiFi and Ethernet performance, as well as a responsive firmware, there’s still some work to be done, as the firmware has some rather embarrassing bugs with the remote control not working with the latest firmware, and one of the USB ports does seem to work, and the pre-installed version of Kodi has disappointing video and audio capabilities. The saving grace here is that I expect Ugoos to get on updating the firmware and fixing bugs over time.

PROS

  • Responsive Android 5.1 firmware
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 2160p with support for 24, 25, 30, 50, and 60 Hz refresh rates
  • Pretty good network performance both with WiFi and Ethernet
  • Relatively fast internal storage read and write speed leading to fast boot time, and load time, and virtually no slowdowns
  • Root can easily be enabled/disabled in the settings
  • Performance is high and constant overtime, as tested with Riptide GP2.
  • Ugoos commitment to provide firmware upgrades
  • Widevine DRM support (likely Level 3 only)

CONS

  • The remote control is not working at all with the latest firmware
  • One of the USB port is also not working at all, and this could be a firmware issue TBC.
  • Kodi has various bugs random black screens, some videos playing zoomed in, and some videos that should play well are not. Audio pass-through is also not working in a satisfying manner, limited to DTS and Dolby 5.1 with audio cuts, and complete lack of support for TrueHD and DTS HD
  • The latest Google Play services will always crash, and if the latest version is not installed, Google Apps like YouTube won’t run.
  • Power off power consumption is higher than sleep power consumption, and USB is not turned off in power off mode.
  • 10 MB free space bug on some USB device is still not fixed
  • Potential Ethernet instability under high traffic
  • Images get corrupted during Bluetooth transfer (Unsure of cause yet).

If you’d rather wait for the most critical issues to be fixed before purchasing the device, I’d recommend you to follow Ugoos Blog, where they post news about new firmware updates.

I’d like to thanks Ugoos for sending a review sample. and distributors or sellers wanting to purchase in quantities may contact the company via AM1 product page. Ugoos AM1 is now also available for sale on e-retailers such as Aliexpress for $89.90 with free shipping, GeekBuying for $87.99, ChinaVasion for $74.62 + shipping, or GearBest for $88.74.

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FriendlyARM NanoPC-T2 Board Gets More Storage, WiFi & Bluetooth, Stays Cool, and Costs Less

February 4th, 2016 5 comments

FriendlyARM NanoPC-T1 board powered by Samsung Exynos 4412 processor with 1GB RAM and 4GB eMMC flash was unveiled at the start of 2014 for $69. The company has now announced NanoPC-T2 with Samsung S5P4418 processor with 1GB RAM, and 8GB Flash, as well as WiFi and Bluetooth, as Gigabit Ethernet all of which were missing in the first version. NanoPC-T2 also has a power management chip, and a larger heatsink, meaning that it does not suffer from overheating like NanoPi2 according to FriendlyARM.

NanoPC-T2NanoPC-T2 specifications:

  • SoC – Samsung S5P4418 quad core Cortex A9 processor @ up to 1.4GHz with Mali-400MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB 32bit DDR3 RAM
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash, and 1x SD card slot (on the bottom of the board)
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth LE 4.0 (Ampak AP6212) with on-board chip antenna and 1x IPX antenna connector
  • Video Output / Display I/F- 1x HDMI 1.4a, LVDS, MIPI DSI, 0.5 mm pitch SMT FPC seat for type-A full-color LCD (RGB: 8-8-8)
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack, 1x on-board microphone
  • Camera – 1x DVP interface, 1x MIPI CSI interface
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 type A host ports; 1x micro USB 2.0 OTG port; 2x USB 2.0 host port via 8-pin header
  • Expansions Headers – 30-pin header for GPIO, 8-pin header for power signals, reset and LED 1-2
  • Debugging – 4-pin header for serial console
  • Misc – Power switch, 1x power & 2x user LEDs, RTC battery header, boot selection button (SD card / eMMC)
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via power barrel; AXP228 PMIC
  • Dimension – 100 x 60 mm (6-layer PCB)
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The board can run Debian and Android from either anSD card or eMMC flash using the boot selection button. The Wiki page is currently empty, but should eventually have all the technical details needed to get started and more.

NanoPC-T2 board will launch on February 28, 2016 for $59 + shipping on FriendlyARM shop. Individuals based in South and North America will instead be able to purchase it from Andahammer.

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Zsun Wifi Card Reader Can Now Run OpenWrt

January 25th, 2016 14 comments

Zsun Wifi card reader is a tiny micro SD card reader with WiFi connectivity, and while people managed to access the device serial console a few months ago, the plan was to eventually run OpenWrt since it’s based on the popular Atheros AR9331 WiSoC combined with 64MB RAM and 16MB SPI Flash. It would also be one the smallest OpenWrt capable device with dimensions of 30 x 33 mm.

Zsun_Wi-FI_Card_ReaderA team of Polish managed this feat, and have now posted instructions to install OpenWrt, as well as other documentation, for example a description of the board’s GPIOs.

There are four methods to flash OpenWrt:

  1. Solder on an Ethernet jack and flash from the original uboot (hard but safe)
  2. Reflash the bootloader from the original firmware to one that supports upload over serial (less soldering but fatal if you mess up)
  3. Reflash the firmware from the original firmware using mtd_write (easy but you have to do it right on the first try)
  4. Attach a programmer to the flash chip (impossible to mess up)

I’ll reproduce the method with mtd_write here, as although you may potentially brick your device, it’s the easiest (no hardware hack):

  1. Download OpenWrt for Zsun binary images
  2. Start a TFTP server on your computer. If you use a Linux computer, you can use dnsmasq as follows:
  3. Login to the board, and download the necessary files to zsun’s /tmp directory:

    You may also want to copy /sbin/mtd_write to /tmp, and kill all unnecessary process to be extra safe.
  4. Now you can flash the firmware to “uImage” and “rootfs” partitions:

    Bus error” looks like an error, but in this case it just indicates flashing is complete.
  5. Restart the device, and after a longer than usual very first boot, you should have access to OpenWrt. Have fun :)

Zsun_WiFi_Card_Reader_Pin_DescriptionsSo once you’re done, what you can do with the device? Some ideas of the developers include just serving files over WiFi, using it as a WiFi AP/client/repeater, as the brain for an IoT project, mesh networking, PirateBox, mini Tor server, and more.

Zsun WiFi card reader can be purchased for as low as $10.99 on Banggood, and can be found on others shops for $11+ to about $15 such as DealExtreme, GearBest or Aliexpress.

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Renesas GR-PEACH mbed Board Features RZ/A1H Processor with 10MB On-chip Memory

January 19th, 2016 No comments

Renesas RZ/A1 ARM Cortex A9 processors were unveiled in 2013, and one of the differentiating feature was the large amount of on-chip SRAM with up to 10MB for RZ/A1H model. The following year, Renesas’ RZ/A1 professional development kit, and some RZ/A1H modules were launched, and I’ve now just seen a tweet about Renesas GR-PEACH development board that is mbed compatible, feature Renesas RZ/A1H processor, and happens to be pink.

GR-PEACH Full (Click to Enlarge)

GR-PEACH Full (Click to Enlarge)

There are actually two models based on the same PCB: GR-PEACH normal without header, and a “WiFi” connector, and GR-PEACH Full with female headers and an Ethernet port. Both basically share the same specifications:

  • SoC – Renesas RZ/A1H ARM Cortex-A9 Core @ 400 MHz with 10MB on-chip RAM, NEON and FPU, and 128KB L2 cache
  • Storage – 8MB FLASH + micro SD slot
  • Connectivity – Normal: Optional BP3595 WiFi module; FULL: 1x 10/100M Ethernet(Microchip LAN8710A); Both: Xbee connector (unpopulated)
  • USB – 2x micro USB Host/Device interfaces
  • Expansion Headers
    • Arduino compatible pin sockets – 1x 6-pin, 2x 8-pin, 1x 10-pin)
    • GR-Shield pin sockets – 1x 5-pin, 1x 6-pin, 3x 8x-pin, and 1x 10-pinx
    • Signals (Not 5V tolerant): 3xSPI, 3xI2C, 8xUART, 7×12-bits ADC, 2xCAN, 2x Camera Input, 1x LCDC(via LVDS)
  • Debugging – Unpopulated RZ/A1H 10-pin JTAG Connector (CoreSight10)
  • Misc – 1x Power LED, 1x user LED, 1x full color LED, reset and user switches
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB connector connected to mbed-IF or RZ-A1H, or Vin pin (5.5V to 16V)
  • Dimensions – 67.58 x 53.34 mm
Block Diagram for GR-PEACH (Clock to Enlarge)

Block Diagram for GR-PEACH (Clock to Enlarge)

Both boards support GR-PEACH AUDIO CAMERA Shield with two composite (NTSC) inputs, Line IN and OUT, a USB connector, a 20-pin camera connector, and through holes for extra audio interfaces. The normal version supports Rohm BP3595 WiFi 802.11 b/g/n module.

The board supports mbed.org Online Compiler, and high level C/C++ SDK. More technical details can be found on mbed website as well as Renesas GR-PEACH product page. The board has been listed on mbed website for several months, and it never seemed to be available, but you can now purchase GR-PEACH Full for $119 on Digikey, or if you are based in Japan via one of three local distributors.

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Ugoos UT4 Android 5.1 TV Box Review

January 19th, 2016 2 comments

Ugoos UT4 is one of many Rockchip RK3368 TV boxes available on the market today, but it’s one of the model with higher-end specifications including  2 GB RAM, and 16 GB flash, as well as Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac WiFi, Ugoos offers regular firmware updates for their devices, and as I found out in Ugoos UT4 specs and teardown post, the mini PC features a fan to keep the device cool at all times. Today, I’ll focus on reviewing the firmware including video playback capabilities, performance and whether advertised features work as they should.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Before powering on the device, I connected some cables (Ethernet, HDMI, optical audio, AV to speakers), and made use of all four USB ports with a USB hard drive, a webcam, a keyboard, and a USB hub with two RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, and to power my external speakers that are connected to the AV port. Finally, I inserted the power cable, and UT4 booted automatically with a typical boot time being 25 to 30 seconds, or one of the fastest start-up time I’ve experienced lately.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

So Ugoos has decided not to include a TV launch with their device, and instead go with the typical Android Home Screen with some pre-installed apps including Settings, a File Manager, the Play Store, the list of Apps, Kodi, YouTube, and Chrome. The status bar can be hidden easily by clicking on the double down arrow icon on the right of the power icon. The notification bar at the top does not get out of the way in all apps, which may annoy some people… But it does disappear in Kodi and the games I tried. There’s also a small display bug when you hide the taskbar, and the gray icon highlighter, shown on the Settings icon in the screenshot above, will be have an incorrect vertical alignment afterwards (too high).

The box automatically detected the TV is HDMI 2.0 capable and set the video output to 2160p @ 60 Hz. However, I noticed later on that the resolution had changed to 1080p60 or even 720p60, so it’s better to go in the settings (Display->HDMI mode) to set this manually. I could also confirm that the AV port worked with my speakers. Both HDMI audio and AV are always enabled.

The most useful options inside Android Lollipop settings include:

  • Wireless & Networks – Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Data usage for Wi-Fi and Ethernet, Bluetooth, and a “More” section with: Airplane mode, Tethering & Tethering & portable hotspot, PPPoE and VPN
  • Device
    • USB – Connect to PC
    • Sound & Notifications – Volume for various sounds, notification settings, and a Sound Device Manager to select Default Output, Spdif Passthrough, or HDMI Bitstream
    • Display
      • Wallpaper, sleep, Daydream, font size, screen rotation
      • Cast Screen
      • Screen Scale
      • Output Interface – HDMI only
      • HDMI Mode:
        • Auto
        • 4096x2160p @ 60Hz (YCbCr420), 50Hz (YCbCr420), 30Hz, 25Hz, or 24Hz
        • 3840x2160p @ 60Hz (YCbCr420), 50Hz (YCbCr420), 30Hz, 25Hz, or 24Hz
        • 1920x1080p @ 60 Hz, 50Hz, 30Hz, 25Hz, 24Hz
        • 1280x720p @ 60 or 50 Hz
        • 720x576p @ 50 Hz
        • 720x480p @ 60 Hz
    • Storage – Two partitions: 3.87 GB “Internal storage” with 3.57GB free, and a  9.12 GB “NAND FLASH” partition

About_Ugoos_UT4While there’s no unified partition in the device, the 3.87GB internal partition should be large enough for most people. Usual settings like Accounts, Language & Input, Printing, accessibility are all enabled.

Going into “About device” shows UGOOS-UT4 model number is running Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.10.0. There’s also “vendor software version” reports that’s UGOOS_UT4_V0.0.1.b on my device. OTA firmware updates appear to be working, but my system was detected as being up to date so I could not test it. The firmware is not rooted by default.

While I prefer using air mice like MeLE F10 Deluxe or MINIX NEO A2 Lite with Android TV boxes, an infrared remote control is normally included. So I added two AAA batteries to test the provided remote, and while it works, the range was rather short, and if I stood more than 4 meters away, key presses started to get unreliably detected. I tried with two sets of batteries, and the result was the same.

After successfully registering my Google account, Google Play Store complains I was unauthorized to access my list of apps… But I rebooted, and it worked quite well afterwards. I could install all apps I needed for review, except Hplus Watch for F68 Bluetooth LE smart watch, which I had to sideload. I could also install Riptide GP2 using Amazon Underground app.

At first, power handling appears to be properly implemented, as when you press the power key for a short time it goes into standby / sleep mode, and a long press – or clicking on the power icon in the task bar – pops up a menu with: Power off, Reboot, Sleep, Reboot bootloader. However while Reboot and Sleep modes are working fine, power off  and reboot bootloader modes do not seem to work. The screen does go black, but the power LED is still on, power consumption is high (~7 watts), and there’s no way to power it on again, except by powering cycling the device.

I still tested power consumption, but bear in mind power off mode simply hangs, so the consumption is higher than normal, and hopefully Ugoos can fix it in the next firmware. I tested power consumption without any USB device, and with a USB hard drive:

  • Power off – 4.0 Watts (system hangs)
  • Standby / Sleep  – 1.3 Watt
  • Idle – 4.2 Watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 6.0 Watt (system hangs)
  • Standby / Sleep + USB HDD – 3.1 Watt
  • Idle + USB HDD – 6.4 Watts

So for the current firmware, I’d recommend to only use Sleep mode. Idle power consumption is also a little higher (1 Watt extra) compared to Kingnovel R8, another RK3368 TV box, and while there could be various reasons for it, the fan is likely the culprit here.

Since I’m talking about the fan, I’d like to mention it is rotating all the time, not only when the processor gets hot. Compared my computer, it’s very silent, but if I turn off my main computer, I can clearly hear the fan, even standing at about 2 meters away. I don’t find it noisy at all or disturbing, but it may be an issue for some people.

The fan clearly helps with temperature, as after running Antutu, the temperature was just 38 and 41°C on the top and bottom of the case, and it only went up to 40 and 44°C after 30 minutes playing Beach Buggy Racing and Riptide GP2.

Beside the power off issue, Ugoos UT4 is a good device with fast boot and app loading, and I only had slowdowns once or twice. So overall it’s a very responsive system, and performance can be sustained over time thanks to the cooling fan. There are also a few display bugs like icon highlight alignment when hiding/showing the task bar, and the notification bar may be an annoyance with some apps.

Video Playback with Kodi

Ugoos UT4 comes pre-loaded with a version Kodi 15.2-rc1 likely modified with specific patchsets to add Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD passthrough to RK3368, and it’s actually been compiled almost the same day as the source code release.
Ugoos_UT4_Kodi_15.2

I’ve played all videos from a SAMBA share in Kodi over Ethernet, unless otherwise noted. I’ve also enabled Automatic frame rate switching in Kodi, but unfortunately it did not work at all, so some videos may suffer from micro stuttering.

Linaro media samples, Elecard H.265 samples, and low resolution VP9 video could all play fairly well, except Real Media videos:

  • 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) – 1080p – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Could be a little smoother
  • WebM / VP8 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

I then switched to some video with various frame rates

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – OK
  • 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) – Could be smoother
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK from the network, except a micro pause occurs after about 2 seconds playback.

The next step was to test audio capabilities of the device using HDMI and S/PDIF pass-through in Kodi, and PCM output (downmixing) in both Kodi and Video Player.  I selected the output in Android Settings->Sound & Notifications->Sound Device Manager and chose Default Output, Spdif Passthrough, or HDMI Bitstream accordingly. For audio pass-through, I also configured Kodi as shown below.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Video PCM Output
(Kodi)

PCM Output
(Video Player)

HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
S/PDIF Pass-through
(Kodi)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK
video 1:1 aspect ratio
No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio OK (Dolby D+ 7.1) Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio No (TrueHD 7.1)
DTS HD Master OK No audio DTS 5.1 only OK (DTS 5.1)
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio DTS 5.1 only OK (DTS 5.1)

Audio downmixing and pass-through are working well in Kodi, but since Dolby and DTS licenses are not included most other video players and online video services won’t support Dolby and DTS audio, unless you are passing the audio through an AV receiver.

Some 4K videos can be played, but there are still some issues, and there’s no miracle as VP9 and 10-bit H.265 codecs are not supported by Rockchip RK3368 VPU:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK most of the time, but a freeze lasting 9 seconds occurred at the 4 seconds mark (apparently not related to buffering).
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK, but a micro pause happened once.
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t play, stays in UI
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Black screen
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Freeze at the beginning and get stuck there.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play, stays in UI
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not very smooth and massive audio delay (4K H.264 @ 60 fps not supported by RK3368)
  • 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) – Won’t play, stays in UI
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – Won’t play, stays in UI

Both Sintel-Bluray.iso and amat.iso (Ambra – Prism of Life) Blu-ray ISO could play smoothly, as well as two 1080i video samples.

Hi10p videos have the same problem as on other Android TV boxes in Kodi:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – Audio and subtitles OK, some video artifacts
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – Audio and susbtites OK, more artifacts

This will likely only be possible with the upcoming Rockchip RK3229 and RK3399 SoCs that natively support 10-bit H.264.

LG 42UB820T 4K UHD television does not support 3D, but I still played some 3D videos to check 3D decoding capabilities of Ugoos UT4:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – Plays in slow motion, and some audio delay
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Blackscreen with audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Finally, I tested various other videos in my library (VOB/IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4, XViD, DiVX, FLV and MKV), and I did not notice any issues, except for some FLV that could not play.

The stability test consisting of a 2-hour movie was successfully, and the movie played in its entirety reasonably smoothly, but not perfectly due to the mismatch between the video frame rate and the TV refresh rate. I also notice it was impossible to access the zoom menu while playing the video. During my testing, I adjusted the volume to the maximum while playing some videos, only to notice it was reverted back to some other values when playing another video.

Ugoos UT4 achieved 730 points in Antutu Video Tester 3.0. That’s not quite as high as on Amlogic S905 TV boxes (~900 points), but still a good progress over Beelink i68 (532) or Zidoo X6 Pro (328) scores.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

DRM info reports that neither Widewine nor PlayReady DRM are installed.
Ugoos_UT4_DRM_Info
However, since Netflix is now available internationally, I did have a try, and was able to stream a video at SD resolution. So either the lack of DRM for standard definition streaming is not an issue with Netflix, or the app reported incorrect information.

If you want to reproduce most of the tests above, you can download the video samples (mostly in comments section).

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I transfer a 278MB file between a network share (SAMBA) and the internal storage, and vice versa, using ES File Explorer in order to evaluate WiFi performance. The results for Ugoos UT4 are pretty good as 802.11n connection achieved 3.18 MB/s on average, and 802.11ac 5.87 MB/s,  one of the top three results, and about equivalent to MINIX NEO U1 WiFi performance.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

I repeated the same test with Gigabit Ethernet, but instead of using a larger 885 MB file, and the average transfer rate was 9.4 MB/s, which for some reasons is quite lower than other devices I tested, possibly due to the low write speed of the flash, as we’ll see below. Having said that, it’s not that far from other Rockchip RK3368 based mini PCs file transfer throughput.

Throuput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Since as Gigabit speeds, file transfer rate is likely to be limited by storage performance, it’s important to also test raw network performance, which I did with iperf -t 60 -c “server-ip” -d command in Android.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

Here the performance is slightly over average, and very similar to other Rockchip RK3368 TV boxes such as Zidoo X6 Pro or Beelink i68.

iperf output:

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Ugoos UT4 supports Bluetooth 4.0 LE, and shows as rk3368 Bluetooth device like most other device based on the same processor.  While I could pair it with my iocean MT6752 smartphone, and initiate photos transfer, it eventually failed with the message “Request can’t be handled correctly”, on both the device and my phone.Ugoos_UT4_Bluetooth_Issue

I has more luck connecting to a Bluetooth headset that I used to watch a 1080p YouTube video. I also tested Bluetooth LE (BLE) with F68 smartwatch successfully. Since the firmware is not rooted, I skipped the test with my PS3 gamepad clone using Sixaxis Controller app.

Storage

The mini PC could mount NTFS & EXT-4 partitions on my USB hard drive,  as well as an SD card formatted with FAT32, but it could not handle exFAT, nor BTRFS partitions.

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

USB storage performance, tested with A1SD bench, is average with respectively 21.98 MB/s and 27.01 MB/s read and write speeds for NTFS, and 22.44 MB/s and 26.17 MB/s for EXT-4.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read (Blue) and Write (Red) Speeds in MB/s

The internal storage (Samsung eMMC 5.0) has a good read speed (~60MB/s), but write speed is limited to less than 10MB/s, which probably explains why I experienced two or three slowdowns during this review.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Gaming

Candy Crush worked well with NEO A2 Lite air mouse, but that’s not a surprise. I then use a wireless gamepad to play Beach Buggy Racing and Riptide GP2, and both games were very smooth with default settings. I maxed out the graphics settings to “High Resolution”, while Beach Buggy Racing was just as smooth, Riptide GP2 was a little less so, but still very playable, and decided to perform my stability test with those settings. After playing around 15 minutes with Beach Buggy Racing, and then 20 minutes with Riptide GP2, the graphics performance was just the same all the way, so the cooling fan is doing its job.

Ugoos UT4 Benchmarks

Before running the benchmark, I ran CPU-Z, which detected UGOOS-UT4 model with an octa-core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.20 GHz, and a PowerVR G6110 GPU. So the company did not try to boost the CPU clock frequency despite the presence of the fan.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The TV box got 39,032 points in Antutu 6.0.1, and managed to pass all tests, including Marooned graphics.
Ugoos_UT4_Antutu_6.0The score cannot be compared to Antutu 5.x, and the only other scores I have are 38,032 points for MINIX NEO U1 (Amlogic S905) and 35,069 points for GeekBox (Rockchip RK3368). That’s interesting that Ugoos UT4 is over 10% faster in Antutu than GeekBox that is a very a similar platform.

Ugoos_UT4_VellamoI’ve also run Vellamo 3.0, and results confirm a performance boost compared to other Rockchip RK3368 devices such as Beelink i68 or GeekBox in all three tests: Browser, Metal and Multicore.

Ugoos_UT4_VellamoOther platforms in the chart are based on Amlogic S905 (Neo U1, and K1 Plus), and Amlogic S812 (WeTek Core and Neo X8-H Plus). So proper cooling appears to provide some performance boost even in benchmark that do not last that long.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Finally, Ugoos UT4 achieved 5,121 points in 3DMark’s Ice Storm Extreme that compared to 4,248 in Beelink i68 or 4,327 in MINIX NEO U1.

Conclusion

All in all, Ugoos UT4 is a pretty good device with responsive firmware, decent Kodi support including working 4K H.264 and H.265 video playback, and audio pass-through for DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD, very good WiFi performance for 802.11ac, and thanks to the cooling fan a performance that stays high over time, and allows Ugoos UT4 to outperform other Rockchip RK3368 devices I’ve tested so far. However, it would have been even better if an eMMC flash with a higher writing speed had been chosen to completely eliminate some rare slowdowns, the firmware has still a few bugs, including power off and Bluetooth file transfer that do not work, and the lack of automatic frame rate switching in the pre-installed version of Kodi 15.2.

PROS

  • Stable firmware, and responsive most of the time
  • Constant performance throughout thanks to the cooling fan, which provides better performance than equivalent RK3368 based devices
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 2160p 60Hz; 24/25/30/50/60 Hz refresh rates supported, and AV
  • Fairly good Kodi support with working 4K H.265 video playback, and Dolby 5.1, Dolby+7.1, DTS-HD and TrueHD audio pass-through via HDMI and S/PDIF.
  • Very good WiFi performance, especially 802.11ac, and 802.11n is above average.
  • Fast read speed of internal storage, leading to fast boot time (< 30 seconds) and app loading
  • 4 USB ports  allow for good expandability
  • 3D games are running well, even after playing for several minutes

CONS

  • Powering off the device does not work (UT4 appears to hang)
  • Kodi issue – Automatic frame rate switching is not working, some videos will freeze a short time a few seconds after the beginning of the video, most videos don’t have the option to adjust the zoom level.
  • Bluetooth file transfer does not work, at least with my smartphone
  • IR remote control has a relatively short range (4 meters)
  • No Dolby and DTS licenses, so there will be no audio if you use PCM output in some applications (Kodi is OK).
  • Lack of Widewine and PlayReady DRM which might be an issue with some premium video streaming apps, or a least limit their capabilities.
  • Relatively slow write speed of the internal storage may lead to some slowdowns (does not happen often)
  • The fan is always spinning, and audible in quiet room at one or two meters (I don’t really notice it personally, but some people may do).
  • UI bugs – Icon highlight misalignment when hiding or showing the task bar, volume settings may not be remembered

Ugoos sent me the sample for review, and if you are planning in purchasing in quantities, you could contact the company via their Ugoos UT4 product page. Individuals can purchase Ugoos UT4 for $103.90 on Ugoos Aliexpress store, as well as GearBest, GeekBuying, and probably some other online shops.

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PixiePro Board Combines NXP i.MX6Q Processor with WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS, and a 3G Modem

January 16th, 2016 6 comments

Saying that the market now provides a wide range of development boards is probably an understatement, but Code Ing has found out that most hobbyist boards had limited on-board wireless connectivity with WiFi and Bluetooth basically the best you could expect, with any extra wireless functionality requiring USB dongles. So the company designed PixiePro single board computer powered by NXP i.MX6Q quad core Cortex A9 processor with on-board wireless connectivity including WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS/GLONASS, NFC and a 3G module.

PixiePro_Board

PixiePro board specifications:

  • SoC – NXP i.MX6Q quad core Cortex A9 processor @ 1 GHz with Vivante 2D and 3D GPUs
  • System Memory – 2GB 64-bit DDR3
  • Storage – 2x UHS-I micro SD card slot up to 104 MB/s
  • Video Output – micro HDMI up to 1080p60
  • Audio Output – HDMI and 3.5mm mini TOSLINK optical port/Line Out
  • Connectivity
    • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO with two antenna connectors
    • Bluetooth 4.2 LE, 2.1 + EDR
    • NFC – ISO 14443A/B, 18092, 15693, NFCIP-1, NFC Forum with one antenna connector
    • Cellular – UMTS/HSPA+ 3G module (Quectel UC20) with SIM card slot and 2x 3G antenna connectors (main and RX diversity)
    • GPS/GLONASS with antenna connector
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Sensors – 9-axis IMU (accelerometer, gyro and magnetometer)
  • Expansion – Two 60-pin expansion connectors for Gigabit Ethernet, 1x PCIe, SDIO, 2x MIPI, SATA-II, RGB666, USB 2.0 HS, CAN, SPI, 2x UART, 2x I2C, and GPIOs
  • Debugging – 4-pin debug port for serial console
  • Misc – Reset button, RTC + battery
  • Power Supply – 5V DC input
  • Dimensions – 91 x 52 mm
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Since the two expansion headers are not exactly convenient for experimentation, the company will design a low cost adapter called PinsBoard that will fit into the 60-pin connector and provide a Raspberry Pi compatible header.

The board currently supports Arch Linux ARM, and they have a Wiki with some documentation, including guides for WiFi, Bluetooth and 3G, as well schematics in PDF. You can also get support via their Forums.

The board was first showcased at FTF 2015 last year, where it was called PixieBoard, so there should already be some out in the wild. The company has launched the board in mid December for $99.50 + shipping, which unless you are based in the US, will add $30 to $50 to the cost. You can find all details on Treats4Geeks.com.

Thanks to Guillaume for the tip.

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Wi-Fi HaLow is the Consumer Name for 802.11ah Low Power Long Range WiFi

January 5th, 2016 1 comment

For some reasons, people who decide to name things like to give one name for technical people, and another for consumers. A few years ago, I went to buy a 1080p TV, but at first the seller was confused when I asked, and then I talked about resolution, and when he asked “Full HD” or “HD Ready”? It was my turn to me confused. There are several other example such as Bluetooth Low Energy for geeks may be Bluetooth Smart for consumers, and now the Wi-Fi alliance has just announced that IoT devices and gateway featuring the latest 802.11ah standard will be designed as Wi-Fi HaLow devices.

WiFI_Alliance_Logo

They have not come up with a Wi-Fi Halow logo yet… Nevertheless, apart from the name, nothing appears to have changed. HaLow/802.11ah is still the same Wi-FI standard operating at 900MHz targeting IoT applications with low power, long range (up to 1km), and low bitrate (up to 150 Kbps) requirements for smart homes, connected cars, and digital healthcare, as well as industrial, retail, agriculture, and smart city environments.

The alliance expects that many devices that support Wi-Fi HaLow will also work in the 2.4 / 5 GHz band, and according to this comparison table of LPWAN standards, 802.11ah standard is expected for release in 2016, and actual devices, powered by 802.11ah SoCs such as Newracom NRC6101, should become available later in 2016 or later.

Via Liliputing

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Categories: Hardware Tags: 802.11ah, halow, IoT, lpwan, standard, wifi