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Tronfy MXIV Telos TV Box Review with Android 5.1

August 31st, 2015 15 comments

Tronfy MXIV Telos is a TV box powered by Amlogic S812 processor running Android 5.1 Lollipop and costing just above $90 (with coupon), so it will be interesting to find out how it performs compared to Mygica ATV1900AC also based on Amlogic S812 SoC, and Android Lollipop firmware (version 5.0.2), which I reviewed recently, and sells for $169. I’ve already checked the hardware in Tronfy MX4 Telos Unboxing and Teardown, so today I’ll check how the device actually performs.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I started by connecting peripherals: A USB hard drive to one of the USB port, and a USB hub to the other USB port with a webcam, and two RF dongles for an air mouse and a wireless gamepad, as well as HDMI and Ethernet cables, and the power supply. I then had to press the power button on the unit to start it up, and the boot took a long 1 minute 38 seconds to complete with all peripherals, or 48 seconds without any USB devices connected. That’s not the best performance, but almost exactly the same slow boot as experienced with the Mygica box.

MediaBox Launcher (Click for Orignial Size)

MediaBox Launcher (Click for Orignial Size)

LightHome (Click for Orignial Size)

LightHome (Click for Original Size)

You’ll get to  choose between two launchers: MediaBox or LightHome. The user interface resolution is 1920×1080, as you can see from the screenshots. I’ve just picked LightHome for the rest of the review.  The top right icons indicate network connectivity, and the maginifier redirects to Google Now. Weather, date and time information is displayed on the left side, and shortcuts to Kodi, Eshare, Flix Universe, the Browser, Google Play Store, the list of apps, a file browser, and Settings, as well as Favorites are placed in the center of the screen, There’s also a “kill running apps” button and a widget for CPU, memory and storage usage.

Let go to the Settings app.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Again that’s basically the same app as in ATV1900AC, and I’ve found it to be quite unstable: going to Network, changing between 12h/24h time display, adjusting screen rotation, etc… will always crash the app, so instead I went to “More setting” to access Android Lollipop settings and configure WiFi and Ethernet there.

Some useful settings include:

  • Network (crash)
  •  Display
    • Screen resolution: Auto, 480p-60Hz, 576p-50Hz, 720p 50/60Hz, 1080i 50/60Hz, 1080p 24/50/60Hz, 4K2K 24/25/30Hz or SMPTE
    • Screen position
    • Screen orientation (crash)
  • Sound – Digital sound (crash)
  • Preferences – HDMI CEC (crash)

Tronfy_MXIV_Telos(crash) means the settings look interesting, but I could not access it, since it would just crash the Settings app. At least, there isn’t three ways to access settings like in Mygica ATV1900AC, there’s only two, but most options are not accessible.. I could change the resolution to 4K30 and that one worked fine.

The 16GB flash has reportedly a single 16GB partition (which is impossible) with 10.55 GB space (perfectly believable), which means you’ll have plenty of space for both apps and data.

The “About device” section reports the model number is MXIV Telos, the device runs Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.10.33, and the firmware version is 102L1. There’s also a “System Update” section there, and the system appears to connect to a download server, but there wasn’t any new firmware while I tested it, so I cannot confirm whether OTA upgrades are working properly. The firmware is rooted.

I used MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse for most of the review, but I also quickly tested the IR remote control to check whether it was working OK, and the range is not too bad, as I only started to lose a few key presses at around 8 meters from the box.

Google Play Store worked very well, and I could install all apps I needed for review, and most apps I installed on other devices could also be installed, except apps that can’t be installed due to country restrictions. Sadly, after a while, the message “Unfortunately, Google Play Services has stopped” started popping-up every 5 seconds or so, whether I was actively using the Play Store or not, so the system became very difficult to use. I’m not the only one to have had this problem as others reported the issues on Samsung Galaxy phones, and provided a fix. I followed the instructions and could disable Google Play Services, but as I restarted the device, re-enabled the services, and updated it, the problem resumed, so I just disabled the services again to be able to use the device. If Google Play Services is disabled or not updated to the latest, applications such as the Google Play Store or Hangouts won’t work.

I’m pleased to say that Tronfy MVIV power controls work perfectly, as it’s possible to cleanly turn off and on the device, or go into standby using either the remote control or the power button on the device. The device also stays relatively cool, as the maximum temperature reached after Antutu 5.7.1 benchmark were respectively 42°C and 53°C on the top and bottom of the case.

The firmware itself appears to be stable and responsive, and I did not get any hangs up, but the settings is barely usable, and trying to access many settings will simply crash the app, so for example you can’t configure the audio device, meaning pass-through options are not accessible. Just like with Mygica box, the ART runtime used in Lollipop boosts app loading times, especially for games which load much faster than I’m used to.

Video Playback

Kodi 14.2 (customized or not) is installed and configured with Aeon Nox skin, but since there’s recently been a fix for Amlogic on Kodi 15.x that has been backported to Kodi 15.1 found on Google Play, I asked Tinydeal whether I should test the pre-installed Kodi 14.2 or the latest version, and they recommended  I keep using Kodi 14.2, so that’s what I tested.

Kodi_14.2_Aeon_noxBut first, I’ve taken a few screenshot to show what get while running Kodi. Kodi_14.2_Tronfy_system_info I’ve set the output to 1080p60 to check the framerate, and it’s indeed close to 60 fps, before switching back to 4K30 for testing. tronfy_mxiv_kodi_appsThey also have a few apps pre-installed.

kodi_traktShortly after starting Kodi, I was also ask to authorize Trakt, which automatically tracks the TV shows and movies you are watching, but I simply click on “No Thanks”.

All videos were played other Ethernet with the box connected to a SAMBA share. Let’s start with results with video samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, Elecard H.265/HEVC samples, and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – OK could be smoother (Kodi live log also reports ~20fps instead of the native 25 fps)
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Software decode @ ~20 fps instead of 25 fps
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p OK. 1080p could be a little smoother (18 fps instead of 25 fps)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – 360p: OK; 720p: 15 fps. 1080p:  plays at ~12fps with audio cuts
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

The results here are very similar to what I got on the Mygica device, and again the results are basically the same for higher bitrate videos, except for one little detail:

  • ED_HD.avi – audio only
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – Plays but at the wrong size (postcard like, zoomed out)
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – 15 fps instead of 29.970 fps and zoomed out
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Plays OK from network (Gigabit), but again zoomed out.

This is what it looks like when the system plays the video at the wrong size (zoomed out) :

Tronfy_MXIV_Telos_Kodi_PostcardNormally I use my AV receiver to test both PCM output and HDMI / (SPDIF) pass-through with videos using HD audio codec, but since I can’t set HDMI pass-through via the settings, I skipped the pass-through test, and the results with videos down-mixed to PCM are already depressing:

  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – Audio OK, but video not very smooth
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – Audio OK, but video zoomed out
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – audio only (black screen)
  • TrueHD 5.1 – Audio OK, but video zoomed out
  • TrueHD 7.1 – Audio OK, but video zoomed out
  • Dolby Atmos 7.1 – OK! Yeah!
  • DTS HD Master – Audio OK, but black screen
  • DTS HD High Resolution – Audio OK, but video zoomed out

Sintel-Bluray.iso Blu-ray ISO video and 1080i videos could play smoothly and in full screen.

Hi10p videos decoded with some artifacts in like ATV1900AC, but the video were again zoomed out:

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

4K videos also have mixed results with only two videos that are watchable:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Video zoomed out
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  Playing @ 2 to 3 fps
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Playing @ 2 to 3 fps
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t play at all
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Plays @ 3 to 4 fps.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Plays at 3 to 4 fps
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play at all.
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Looks OK to be, but Kodi reports ~25 fps for a 30 fps video
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Plays in slow motion, audio/video sync issues, and audio cuts
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – Only shows a still image, frequent audio cuts

I’ve also added a 4K 60fps H.265 video sample to my test procedure since some new processors can now support H.265 at 60 frames per second (in theory).  Software decoding explains why some video play at very low framerate.

LG 42UB820T 4K TV, which I use for all my reviews, does not support 3D, but I check whether the system can decode some stereoscopic 3D videos:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only, black screen.
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Following the catastrophic results with Kodi in this box, I just decided to skip video testing of AVI, MKV, VOB and MP4 movies, as I don’t see why I have to waste my time further with such a poor product. I did start the stability test with a complete 1080p MKV movie (~2 hours), but after seeing the video was only displayed at quarter size on the top left corner, I just laughed and stopped the test.
Video samples can be downloaded from “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Wi-Fi and Ethernet Network Performance

I’ve transferred a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the flash in both directions using ES File Explorer to test WiFi network performance. WiFi performance is pretty both with 802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4GHz (2.72 MB/s over a 65 Mbps link) and 802.11ac (4.15 MB/s over a 433 Mbps link).

WiFi Throughput in MB/s

WiFi Throughput in MB/s

For some reasons the system could only transfer in one direction with iperf, using “iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d” command line:

  • wifi 802.11n:
    Client connecting to 192.168.0.113, TCP port 5001
    TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    [ 6] local 192.168.0.104 port 36811 connected with 192.168.0.113 port 5001
    [ 6] 0.0-60.0 sec 0.00 � ��s 2459466104152450560 Bytes/sec
    [ 5] 0.0-60.1 sec 188 MBytes 26.2 Mbits/sec
  • wifi 802.11 @ 5 GHz n/ac:
    Client connecting to 192.168.0.113, TCP port 5001
    TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    [ 6] local 192.168.0.104 port 35608 connected with 192.168.0.113 port 5001
    [ 6] 0.0-60.0 sec 0.00 � ��s 2459281583543020032 Bytes/sec
    [ 4] 0.0-60.1 sec 370 MBytes 51.6 Mbits/sec

Just to make sure there wasn’t any issues with my test setup, I install iperf in my Android tablet, and ran the test, and it could transfer in both directions.

I repeated the file transfer test over Gigabit Ethernet with a 885 MB file, and the results were best I’ve seen so far, just above Mygica ATV1900AC results.

Ethernet Throughput in MB/s

Ethernet Throughput in MB/s

Since with Gigabit Ethernet that test is often bound by the internal storage write and read speed, I also ran iperf, which showed the exact same oddity as with WiFI:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.111, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  187 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 43066 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec  0.00 � ��s  2459433968852288512 Bytes/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec  5.70 GBytes   816 Mbits/sec
[  5] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 43073

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is built-in, and everything I tried just worked straightaway:

  • File transfer with smartphone
  • PS3 game controller with Sixaxis Controller app following these instructions.
  • Bluetooth Low Energy support with Vidonn X5 fitness tracker
  • A Bluetooth headset

Storage

FAT32 (micro SD card), and the NTFS and exFAT partitions of a USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted, and there was no problem with the SD card, however while the two partitions on the HDD are about 250GB large, but the system would only show 10MB partitions with 10MB free instead, basically meaning my hard drive was mounted as read only. The same bug occurred with Mygica ATV1900AC.

File System Read Write
NTFS OK No
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
exFAT OK No
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK

So once again I could not test USB storage performance, and I simply ran A1 SD Bench app to benchmark the eMMC flash performance, which read at 26.33 MB/s and wrote at 21.83 MB/s on average.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

The combined read+write performance is about the same as Mygica ATV1900AC here, not too bad for a significantly cheaper device…

USB Webcam

Skype worked fine both with the Test /Echo Service audio call, and a video call, however I could not run Google Hangouts since I only tested it after I had to disable Google Play Services.

Gaming

Unsurprisingly, gaming performance on Tronfy MX4 Telos was exactly the same as with ATV1900AC: Candy Crush and Beach Buggy Racing were both very smooth with default graphics settings, but Beach Buggy Racing was not quite enjoyable with maxed out graphics settings, albeit still playable.

Tronfy MXIV Telos Benchmarks

For some reasons, Amlogic S812 processor was limited to 1608 MHz in Mygica ATV1900AC, but it runs at full speed in MXIV Telos (1.99 GHz). The board name is n200.

Tronfy_MXIV_Telos_CPU-ZSo it should be no surprise that Antutu 5.7.1 score is a bit higher at 35,519 points against 34,137 points for ATV1900AC

Tronfy_MXIV_Telos_AntutuHowever, 3DMark score was about the same with 5,897 point for MX4 against 5,834 for Mygica platform.

Trongy_MXIV_Telos_3DMarkConclusion

Tronfy MXIV Telos hardware hold itself pretty well against Mygica ATV1900AC, with similar Gigabit Ethernet and storage performance, and pretty good WiFi performance, although not as perfect as on Mygica TV box, and it also has some extras like Bluetooth support and power control circuitry. I was a bit disappointed by the firmware on Mygica because there were still a bit too many bugs, but somehow MXIV Telos managed to do much worse, and it really feels like they had the hardware ready, and just load Amlogic Android 5.1 SDK onto the device and shipped it without any testing: Kodi is barely usable, many settings are not reachable because the Setting app will crash, my hard drive is read-only, and Google Play Store simply stopped to work after a while. Although to be fair, I’m not sure the latter is 100% related to that particularly firmware since people also had the same issues on Samsung Galaxy phones.

PROS:

  • Android Lollipop firmware
  • Very good Ethernet and good WiFi performance
  • Relatively fast internal storage
  • Video Output – 1080p 24/50/60 Hz, 4K @ 24/25/30Hz, etc…
  • Hardware video decoding for H.265 4K up to 30Hz in “4K MoviePlayer”
  • Bluetooth works for file transfer, Sixaxis gamepad, Bluetooth low energy, and Bluetooth headset.
  • Power handled by MCU with support for proper power off.
  • Skype works fine
  • Two launchers available

CONS:

  • Pre-installed Kodi is a disaster: many videos play at the wrong size (Zoomed out in the top left corner), several videos can’t play at all (black screen), H.265 is not working, audio pass-through is not working
  • Dolby and DTS audio not supported outside of Kodi.
  • Settings app will crash, so several settings are not accessible including audio output selection (PC/pass-through).
  • Incorrect partition size detected on USB hard drive leading to read-only partitions
  • Slow boot time (100 seconds will USB devices attached)

The hardware base is good, so you’d either have to rely on Tronfy to release a new firmware with bug fixes, or find another firmware compatible with n200 board, or try various versions of Kodi (this won’t fix the USD HDD nor Settings app issues though..) for it to be usable.

Tinydeal kindly provided Tronfy MXIV Telos sample for review, and in case you are interested, you can purchase it on their website for $91.85 with coupon tronfy4. As mentioned in the unboxing post, the hardware is based on Beelink MXIII Plus, that can be found on Gearbest, Geekbuying, eBay, Aliexpress, but you need to carefully check the specifications, as memory, storage and network connectivity options may vary.

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Review of Mygica ATV586 Android Set-Top Box with DVB-T2 Tuner

August 27th, 2015 10 comments

I’ve already tested some Android TV boxes with tuners such as HD18T (DVB-T2) and WeTek Play (DVB-S2) , but they were all based on Amlogic AML8726-MX dual core processor. Geniatech recently sent me Mygica ATV586 quad core Android DVB-T2 receiver based on Amlogic S805 processor. I’ve already taken a few pictures, and look at the hardware components,  so today, I’ll write the review, mainly focusing on the live TV program capabilities including PVR and Timeshifting.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve connected a hard drive, a webcam, MeLE F10 Deluxe RF dongle, and a keyboard (for screenshots) to the device’s USB ports, as well as HDMI and Ethernet cables, and a TV antenna cable, before connecting the 5V power adapter to start the device. When everything is connected, the boot takes about 1 minute 35 seconds, but without USB devices, it drops down to 44 seconds. Boot time is not something that Geniatech appears to focus on, as also had slow boot times with Mygica ATV1900AC.

ATV586_Setup_WizardIt all then start with a Welcome screen, leading to a wizard to configure the language (English, Simplified Chinese, or Traditional Chinese) , the Screen resolution and scaling, and networking connectivity (Ethernet or WiFi). What’s missing from the wizard is timezone selection, so you’ll have to configure it in the Android settings, and it’s quite important to do so, if you plan to use EPG to record videos.

Click to Enlarge

Click for Original Size (1920×1080)

Once this done, you’ll get to the user interface with shortcuts to favorites, as well as icons launch Kodi, Mygica and Google Play Stores, access the list opf apps and settings, as well as a black window reading “No Program,  Please click ‘Here’ to scan!”. I did that, and at the beginning all I had was a black screen, but I went back again, and I was able to access the Search menu, set the country to “Thailand”, and start scanning for channels.

Mygica_ATV586_Country_SelectionOther supported countries include France, Myanmar, Taiwan, Canada, Israel, Singapore, Russia, UK, Italy, Australia, and Colombia. The “DTV player” user interface is actually exactly the same as in HD18T, except the list of countries is longer, and all features work as expect. Once scanning was completed, there was 30 TV channels detected in either SD or HD resolutions.

ATV586_DVB_Scan_CompleteYou can now watch the TV channels you wish, but I’ll get back to that later. Going back to the home screen, you’ll see the latest selected TV channel displayed in that black window. I find this rather annoying personally, but it’s probably just a matter of preference.

ATV586_Home_Screen_Live_TVNow let’s check the settings.

ATV586_SettingsIf they look familiar, it’s because it’s the usual Amlogic settings found in MXQ S85, EM6Q-MXQ, MINIX NEO X6, and most other Amlogic TV boxes but with a different background. The settings are mostly the same as in MINIX NEO X6:

  • Network – Enable and configure Wi-Fi or Ethernet
  • Display:
    • Automatic or manual HDMI resolution: 480p @ 60 Hz, 576p @ 50 Hz, 720p @ 50/60 Hz, 1080i @ 50/60 Hz, or 1080p @ 24/50/60 Hz
    • Hide or Show status bar
    • Display Position
    • Screen Save (Never, 4, 8 or 12 minutes)
  • Advanced:
    • Miracast
    • Remote Control (app)
    • Google TV Remote
    • CEC Control
    • Digital audio auto-detection
    • Digital Audio Output (Auto, PCM, SPDIF passthrough, or HDMI passthrough)
  • Other – System Update: Local file or OTA, and “More Settings” for standard Android Settings.

About_ATV586The system set the resolution to 1080p50 automatically, and I used this setting. WiFi and Ethernet could connect without issue, but Bluetooth failed. Bluetooth can only be found in the standard Android settings

ATV586 comes with 8 GB storage with a single 6.95GB partition, and 4.30 GB free. The “About device” section reports model number is “XS″, and the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.33, just like other S805 boxes I tested previously. The firmware is rooted.

Google Play Store worked OK, and I could install most app needed for review through the store, except Vidonn Smartband. I also scrolled through the list of apps of I previously installed on other devices, and some other apps were incompatible: Thailand Post & Track, Plants vs Zombies 2, and the usual SMS and GPS apps. For overall Play Store support is good, and better than with the company’s ATV1900AC mini PC.

There’s no power button on the unit, and a short press on the remote will go to standby mode, while a long press will show a menu asking whether you want to go into Standby or Reboot, meaning there’s no clean power off option. Talking about the remote control, the included Mygica KR-21 remote works pretty well with the DTV app (except to input recording time) and Kodi, and the range is very good, as it was still working 10 meters away. You’d still want to use another input device (air mouse, wireless keyboard, smartphone app..) to use a web browser, a play some games… As with other S805 devices, the temperature is pretty cool, as the maximum temperature  of the top and bottom of the case was respectively 45°C and 43°C after running Antutu 5.7.

The firmware is very stable, but at times it feels a bit sluggish, especially while apps are installed or are updating, as well as inside “DTV Player” app used to watch DVB-T2 channels, as it does not always feel as responsive as it should.

Video Playback

Since I’ve already reviewed three Android 4.4 boxes based on Amlogic S805, results were mostly satisfactory, and my time is limited, I’ll refer you to MXQ S85 review for Kodi performance under the platform. I still quickly tested H.264 and H.265 in Kodi 14.2 “Mygica Edition” as well as HDMI pass-through. 1080p H.264 video played perfectly, but a 1080p H.265 video would only play at 10 fps due to software decoding.

Playing audio through my AV receiver using HDMI pass-through would only generate noise for Dolby and DTS audio, even after settings Kodi and the system to use HDMI pass-through.

Finally, I’ve also run the latest Antutu Video Tester 3.0 to get a reference point for Amlogic S805 platforms.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

683 points is quite lower than Amlogic S812 based ATV1900AC’s 1,059 points, but it was probably to be expected since Amlogic S805 does not support 4K videos. It’s still higher than the mere 532 points achieved by Beelink i68 (RK3368). Please note again that Antutu Video Tester 2.2 and Antutu Video Tester 3.0 scores can’t be compared as for example, ATV586 got 490 points in version 2.2.

Tuner App in ATV586

The main selling point of this device is support for digital tuners, DVB-T2 in the device under test, or ATSC in the other version. I’ve already explained about first time setup and autoscan in the first section of this review, so let’s look at overlay data and menu.

ATV586_Overlay_MenuWe’ve got the channel number and name and some EPG info with current program and upcoming program, and as well as icons to adjust the aspect ratio (16:9, 4:3, full), access EPG, select the audio language, configure TeleText and record the current program.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The EPG data looks great, as the device got data for 7 days for all channels, and for once, the app also supports complex languages such as Thai. You can then select one or more programs from the program guide, and schedule a recording once, daily or weekly.

EPG_Record_ProgramOnce you have scheduled a few recording, you may want to press the red button on the remote control to access the schedule list.

EPG_Schedule_ListOne minute before the program is set to start, a pop-up window will show up asking you to go to the app, or it will go there within one minute. That means background recording is not possible, DTV Player app must be in the foreground in order to record a program, and you can’t do any other tasks during recording. You could also record a program manually, by pressing the record button, and inputting the time in minutes. The app will automatically detect external storage, and partitions available to record program. It will select one automatically, and create a directory called TVRecordFiles, which you can access with Kodi to playback later, or via the PVR Manager in the settings menu of DTV Player app.

The setup menu will let you change the default recording path, set TimeShilting time, enter TimeShitfing mode, and some other settings which you can see in the video where I show Live TV features in ATV586, or in HD18T mini review as the options are the same.

Overall the implementation is much better than in HD18T, as everything works, however I found the responsiveness of the app could be improved, and more importantly, sometimes the video will be choppy, audio cut, and/or audio & video may be out of sync, especially while changing channels, but this should only last a few seconds.

Finally, the user’s manual mentions DTV Viewer app that’s supposed to stream live TV to up to 2 mobile device. The QR code redirects to DTV Viewer on Google Play, but the link is not working at the time of writing, and the company did not reply to my email asking for clarifications.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’m using a 278 MB file transferred between a SAMBA share and the internal flash to test network performance, repeating the test three times with ES File Explorer. Wi-Fi transfer speed is a little disappointing @ 2.1 MB/s on average, quite lower than MXQ S85 or EM6Q-MXQ reaching close to 3MB/s.

Throughput in MB/s

WiFi Throughput in MB/s

iperf looks even worse, maybe because I’m using full duplex transfer (iperf -t 60 -c server -d):

Client connecting to 192.168.0.113, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[ 6] local 192.168.0.104 port 53408 connected with 192.168.0.113 port 5001
[ 5] 0.0-61.2 sec 31.6 MBytes 4.34 Mbits/sec
[ 6] 0.0-62.0 sec 26.0 MBytes 3.52 Mbits/sec

Over Ethernet, the file could be transfered at 5.5 MB/s, not a fantastic result, but in line with other Amlogic S805 devices.

Throughput in MB/s

Ethernet Throughput in MB/s

I’ve also included iperf result over Ethernet for reference:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.105, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  153 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 56126 connected with 192.168.0.105 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   594 MBytes  83.0 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.1 sec   440 MBytes  61.4 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

There’s no built-in Bluetooth.

Storage

A FAT32 (micro SD) partition, as well as NTFS and exFAT partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed in read/write mode.

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

USB hard drive and internal flash performance were tested with A1 SD Bench app. The read and write speeds were respectively 18.91 MB/s, and  23.27MB/s for the NTFS partition (mounted to /storage/external_storage/sda1), not an exciting results, but again pretty much in line with MXQ S85 performance. exFAT performance was even lower at 13.70MB/s and 2.12 MB/s, or the lower combined (R+W) performance I’ve reported so far. Make sure you use an NTFS drive on this device…

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

The internal storage reads at 22.87Mb/s and writes at 12.18 MB/s, less than average among all devices, but still the fastest storage I found in the four Amlogic S805 devices I tested. It’s right above MINIX NEO X6, and much better than MXQ S85, so I wonder where the sluggishness I experience during testing comes from…

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

USB Webcam

The “Test / Echo Service” in Skype worked, as well as a normal call, and the same could be said about Google Hangouts. Both apps used a UVC webcam connected to a USB port of the device.

Gaming

Please refer to previous reviews for gaming performance on Amlogic S805 platforms.

Mygica ATV586 Benchmarks

Again, I’ll keep it short here since S805 is a well known and tested platform by just running CPU-Z and Antutu 5.7.1 in order to make sure the system performs as expected.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The surprise here is that they boosted the CPU frequency to 1.61 GHz instead of 1.49 GHz in the other platforms I tested. It’s not the first time an Amlogic S805 is clocked as that frequency though, as I had read about the higher clock for ODROID-C1(+) board firmware. The rest of the information is pretty much as should be expected. The model name is XS and the board name stvm8b.

ATV586_Antutu_5

Click to Enlarge

The higher frequency shows in Antutu 5 score, as ATV586 gets 18,071 point, while for instance, MXQ S85 got 16,448 points with the firmware I tested in October 2014.

Conclusion

Mygica ATV586 is the first quad core Android box with tuner that I’ve tested, and the implementation of the DTV software, is way better than I experienced in HD18T DVB-T2 receiver, as multiple countries are supported, EPG, PVR and Timeshifting functions are all working. Performance is also on par with other Amlogic S805 TV boxes such as MINIX NEO X6 or MXQ S85. However, I did notice some slowdowns in the system and “DTV player” app from time to time, something I hope can be solved in subsequent firmware upgrades

PRO:

  • Well tested platform (Amlogic S805) and stable firmware.
  • All DTV features advertised work out of the box: Autoscan, EPG, PVR, TimeShifting, complex languages (at least Thai) are handled correctly
  • HEVC/H.265 hardware video decoding support. Working in MX Player, but not with Kodi “Mygica Edition” yet
  • USB webcam worked in Skype and Google Hangouts
  • Future update: Streaming live TV to up to two Android smartphone or tablet using DTV Viewer app

CONS:

  • System and DTV Player app may experience noticeable slowdowns. For the latter, video and audio are often affected for several seconds right after switching channels.
  • Wi-Fi performance is less than average
  • Power not controlled by MCU (only standby or reboot are available)
  • USB exFAT storage performance is very poor (NTFS is OK)
  • Audio pass-though is not working in Kodi
  • No Bluetooth

Mygica ATV586 is available now, and can be purchased either in quantity directly from Geniatech/Mygica with either a DVB-T2 or ATSC tuner, or online for $109 on Mygica Aliexpress store.

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Review of Tronsmart Ara X5 Windows 10 mini PC with Intel Atom X5 Processor

August 24th, 2015 23 comments

Tronsmart Ara X5 is one of the first mini PC featuring a Cherry Trail processor, more exactly Atom x5-8300 quad core processor manufactured with 14nm process. Price and max TDP are similar to Atom Z3735F Bay Trail-T processor found in many mini PCs designed in China, so it will interesting to compare the two platforms. Yesterday, I took some photos of the device, and found out the design was comprised of a baseboard and system-on-module, but today, I’ll focus on testing the device in Windows 10, checking everything works as it should, as well as running some benchmarks, verifying the Windows license status, test H.265 video playback in Kodi, and more.

Tronsmart Ara X5 Setup

I had not much to do the first time I booted the device, as it was already configured to use English, and the system logged in with user “User” without password. I still double checked the screen resolution,as it was set to 1920×1080 (Recommended), but there are also option for 4K resolutions such as 4096×2160 or 3840×2160.

Ara_X5_resolutionI set it to 3840×2160 and 4096×2160, and both resolution worked fine with an LG 4K TV. However, the system does not support HDMI 2.0, so the refresh rates are limited to 23 Hz, 24Hz, 25Hz, 29Hz and 30Hz for 3840×2160 and 23 and 24Hz for 4096×2160 in Intel HD Graphics Control Panel.

Ara_X5_Refresh_RateThis probably explains why 1080p is recommended over 4K, since the refresh rate can be set up to 60 Hz, and if you are using another resolution a warning window will show up.

Windows_10_1080p_warningBut the image quality seem fine once I switch the 4K. Here’s a screenshot of the desktop. Click for full resolution.

Ara_X5_4K_UHD_Windows_10So if you want to watch 4K movies setting the resolution to 3840x2160p @ 24Hz will be appropriate, but for gaming you’ll want to switch back to 1080p60. After changing the resolution, you’d better reboot or some apps won’t display correctly. For example, Kodi 15.1 would only show the top left quarter of its interface.

The system supports both HDMI and stereo audio, so you may need to configure the audio output too. Simply right click on the speaker icon on the bottom right of the screen, and select Playback devices in order to set Speakers or your TV or AV receiver as the default audio playback device.

Windows_10_Sound_Playback

I could use both my TV speakers using the HDMI connection, and external speakers connected to the 3.5mm audio jack of the mini PC. That’s all I had to do for the initial setup of the computer.

Tronsmart Ara X5 System Info

Let’s check the System Info.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Tronsmart Ara X5 indeed features Intel Atom x5-Z8300 quad core processor @ 1.44GHz (base frequency) as well as 2 GB RAM, but contrary to Z3735F systems that ship the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 or 10, Ara X5 runs the 64-bit version of Microsoft operating system, which could indirectly be good news for Linux support. Windows 10 Home is activated and appears to have a proper license.

ara_x5_disk_spaceThe 28.5 GB partition on the eMMC flash had 14.3GB free space after installing Firefox and Adobe Flash.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The Device Manager shows the list of devices, such as ASIX AX88772C USB 2.0 to Fast Ethernet controller, Broadcom 802.11 a/b/g/n/ wireless adapter, or a Realtek audio codec.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

HWiNFO64 detects Atom x5-Z8300 processor and its Gen8 GPU correctly, and you’ll find out that according to this tool, x5-Z8300 has the same list of features as Z3735F processor in Mele PCG03 mini PC. The memory is clocked a little higher at 800 MH instead of 677 MHz in MeLE PCG03, but the Gen8 GPU is clocked at 400 MHz, instead of 620 MHz for the Gen7 GPU found in Z3735F SoC.

Aptio Setup Utility complies with UEFI 2.4, and contrary to most Z3735F device that ships with a 32-bit UEFI binary, that one is loaded with a 64-bit UEFI and Secure Boot is disabled by default, both of which should make installing Linux distributions such as Ubuntu a little easier.

Ara_X5_64-bit_UEFI

Tronsmart Ara X5 Benchmarks

PCMARK 8 is a pretty good benchmark for Windows, as it emulates real task such as video conference, word processing, photo editing and so on. I normally run PCMARK 8 HOME CONVENTIONAL 3.0 test, and in this version claims it does not know that processor yet reports it correctly as x5-Z8300.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Tronsmart Ara X5 gets 1,048 points, while MeLE PCG03 got 1,052 points in Windows 10. So if you were expecting a small boost in performance you’ll be disappointing. I’ve compared the detailed benchmark results in my Z3735F vs x5-Z8300 post, and there are some variations in the scores, with Ara X5 getting a small edge for gaming, while losing out in most other tests.

The internal storage is a Sandisk eMMC flash, and although performance is acceptable, it’s much small than the Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash used in MeLE PCG03.

Ara_X5_CrystalDiskMarkWhile Tronsmart mini PC achieves 92.07 MB/s and 36.50MB/s read and write speeds, MeLE PCG03 delivered respectively 165.5 MB/s and 72.55 MB/s.

I’ve also run some network benchmarks with iperf2 for Windows using “iperf.exe -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line

Fast Ethernet:

------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.110, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  170 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 47902 connected with 192.168.0.110 port 5001
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   471 MBytes  65.9 Mbits/sec
[  5]  0.0-60.0 sec   552 MBytes  77.1 Mbits/sec

Although it’s still very much usable, Ethernet performance is not the best there is, as it’s far from the 90 Mbits/sec achieved with the best devices over a Fast Ethernet connection. Gigabit Ethernet is not supported.

Fast Ethernet Throughput in Mbps

Fast Ethernet Throughput in Mbps

WiFi 802.11n 2.4GHz:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.109, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 55505 connected with 192.168.0.109 port 5001
[  4]  0.0-60.1 sec   132 MBytes  18.3 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.1 sec   104 MBytes  14.5 Mbits/sec
[  5] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.109 port 50912

I have less data for WiFi performance with iperf, but Ara X5 seems less than average @ 1.8 to 2.2 MB/s.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

Having said that, it was much better than an Intel NUC running Windows 10 with a 7620N mPCIe wireless card which frequently has lots of packet losses and a ping > 2s in the local network, while Ara X5 worked just as expected.

Tronsmart Ara X5 Usability Testing

I’ve also tested the various programs in the device, that may often be problematic in low end devices, and shot a video with the following:

  • Web Browsing in Firefox
    • Loading CNX Software
    • Playing an Embedded Video
    • Playing a 1080p Video in Full Screen mode
    • Playing a flash game  (Candy Crush Saga)
  • Gaming with Asphalt 8
  • Kodi 15.1 with 1080p & 4K H.265 video playback at 1080p50 and 3840x2160p25.

I had some troubles scrolling the webpages in Firefox with the scrolling wheel of my mouse, as it was jittery going up and down at times, instead of simply going down, but let’s say it’s a minor issues. Both embedded and fullscreen 1080p videos in played very well in YouTube, until I was called for lunch, and came back later to find out the videos were rather choppy. The temperature at the top and bottom of the box was respectively 57 and 52 degrees C, so I paused the video and waited a few minutes, and the video was smooth again. Candy Crush Saga was playable in Firefox, but the animations were rather slow..

Even with the better GPU, I did not find Asphalt 8 that enjoyable to play as I like higher framerates, and although H.265 video decoding for 1080p and 4K videos is OK at 1080p resolution, once you switch to 3840×2160 in Windows 10, 4K videos are not smooth enough for an enjoyable experience. Hopefully, that’s something that Intel, Microsoft, or Kodi developers can improve on.

In theory, the USB 3.0 port is a useful addition to expand storage, since the flash can fill up pretty quickly if you intend to use the system as a desktop computer and install many programs, but unfortunately a Seagate Expansion USB 3.0 drive did not work in the USB 3.0 port with the message “USB device not recognized”, but working just fine in the USB 2.0 port. A USB 3.0 flash drive was properly recognized in the USB 3.0 port, but I could not insert it perfectly perpendicularly to the rear panel since it’s a bit too close to the HDMI cable, and I assume some people will require a USB hub to connect their thumb drives as there may be too little space.

Tronsmart Ara X5 is not a bad device, but apart from H.265 1080p videos, there are not many things you could not do just as well with an Atom Z3735F based device, and there are also quite a few bugs, which may be related to Windows 10, directly or indirectly, as the apps or drivers may not have been fully ported and optimized since the OS and processor are so recent.

I’d like to thanks Geekbuying again for providing the device for review. They sell it for $149.99 including shipping [Update: use UTJOOOWW coupon for $20 discount], with delivery scheduled for August 31, and you may want to play their lottery to win coupons. It can also be purchased on Ebay for $159.99 and soon more online sellers should list the product.

Next Step… Trying Linux, but so far I can’t get UEFI to list my flash drive as a boot device…

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Mygica ATV1900AC Android 5.0 Mini PC Review

August 20th, 2015 6 comments

4K TV boxes based on Amlogic S812 processor have been around for about 9 months, and I already reviewed MINIX NEO X8-H Plus and CX-S806 mini PCs, but Mygica ATV1900AC is one of the first to support Android Lollipop, so I though it would be interesting to see the progress made compared to devices that run Android KitKat. I’ve already taken apart the TV Box, and found some interesting Toshiba eMMC flash and Realtek 802.11ac WiFi chips on the board, but today, I’ll test the firmware including stability, features and performance in this review.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve connected all ports of the device using the four USB host port with a webcam, hard drive, an RF dongle for a wireless gamepad, the RF dongle for the included remote, as well as inserting an HDMI cable, an optical audio cable S/PDIF, an Ethernet cable to Gigabit switch, and a Class 10 micro SD card. Finally I connected the power cable, and the device started straightaway. The boot took a long 1 minute 40 second to complete, so I disconnected all USB devices, except the one required for the remote, and boot time dropped to a more respectable 50 seconds, but I was still expecting a much faster boot.

"Mygica Android 5.0" Launcher (Click for Original Size)

“Mygica Android 5.0” Launcher (Click for Original Size)

"Home Screen" Launcher (Click for Original Size)

“Home Screen” Launcher (Click for Original Size)

You’ll then be offered to choose your launched between “Mygica Android 5.0” and “Home Screen”, with the latter looking very similar to Google’s Android TV launcher. I still prefer the first one, and that’s the one I used for most of the review, although it misses the Status Bar which makes it a little harder to use with an air mouse, as I had to use the remote control to press the “Home” key.

Kodi 14.2 “Mygica Edition”, YouTube, the Browser, Mygica store, Google Play, Netflix, 4K MoviePlayer and Facebook were all pre-installed and set as the shortcut in the interfaces. Other pre-installed apps include Miracast and Crackle.

Click for Original Size (1920x1080)

Click for Original Size (1920×1080)

There’s also Settings page on the right that will let you configure various aspect of the system:

  • Wi-Fi – Enable/Disable WiFi, Select ESSID, Connect via WPS…
  • Ethernet – Enable/Disable Ethernet, select Fixed IP or DHCP, configure Proxy if needed
  • Display
    • Screen resolution: Auto, 480p-60Hz, 576p-50Hz, 720p 50/60Hz, 1080i 50/60Hz, 1080p 24/50/60Hz, 4K2K 24/25/30Hz or SMPTE
    • Screen position
    • Daydream
  • More Setting – Android Lollipop Settings
  • Manage Apps – Open, stop, uninstall, clear data, cache, or defaults for a given app
  • Date & Time – Automatic Date & Time On/Off. The timezone however must be set via “More Setting”
  • Software Updates – Local or automatic updates
  • Language – List of languages for Android UI (Check walk-through video below for a complete list).

What you won’t find here are options to set audio output like PCM, or HDMI / SPDIF pass-through, and it won’t be in “More Setting” either, and instead, you need to go to the list of app, and access another Settings app (Icon with white background) to have more options, many of which are already accessible from the list above, and go to Device->Sounds->Digital Sounds… I’m not really impressed the way Settings are handled in that box, as you have 3 different places to adjust settings, a complete mess!

OTA firmware update is working, but with some caveats. I had played around one hour with the box, and installed all apps required for testing and taken a few screenshots, when the firmware update pop-up appeared. I clicked “Cancel” as I wanted to complete the current task. But soon the Upgrade app crashed, restarted and asked me again, after a few loop of this, I finally gave up and clicked on “OK” to carry on with the firmware update. It went well, except the procedure wiped out all installed app and my screenshots, meaning I had to restart all over again… I’d expect a firmware update made with Windows tools to wipe out my data, but not an OTA update…

About_Mygica_ATV1900ACOne good thing is that they did not separate app and data partitions (unless that explains why I lost all my data), as a single 12GB partition is used for both, so you won’t quickly fill up the app partition present – usually 2GB large – in some other boxes. WiFi and Ethernet worked OK (more on that later), but there’s no built-in Bluetooth, although there’s an option for it in the Android Lollipop settings. I had no problem selecting HDMI output up to 4K30.

The “About device” section shows the model number is “Mygica ATV1900AC”, and the system runs Android 5.0.2 on top of Linux 3.10.33. Despite having just update the firmware (OTA), the build date is on 17th of July 2015. Root checker exports the firmware is rooted.

The remote control is quite interesting. At first, when I saw the RF dongle, I assumed it was an air mouse, but it can only control the pointer with the arrow keys. The range  is however excellent, and standing in the corridor around 10 meters from the device, I could still control it.  It also supports Voice command and search, so you can start apps by just saying their name, e.g. Firefox, YouTube, K.O.D.I, and if the name if not recognized, it will just start a web search. You’ll need an Internet connection for voice recognition to work.  I have tested this feature in the review video below, where I also play 4K video samples in Kodi and 4K MoviePlayer, and go through the user interface and settings.

I haven’t tried Mygica store, as Google Play worked mostly OK. As usual on TV boxes, SMS and GPS app can’t be installed, but there was a long list of apps that should probably have installed, but did not including: all Bloomberg apps, AtHome Camera, some banking apps, Wiwo, Vidonn Smartband, Plants vs Zombies 2, Torque Lite, PPTV streaming, a Thai dictionary, Antutu Video Tester (OK first time, but not after firmware update) and a few more… The Amazon app installed just fine, and I could download Riptide GP2 racing game with it.

ATV1900AC can’t be powered off, and the only option is go to into standby. It worked with both the provided remote control, and MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse.  Other Amlogic S812 TV boxes ran pretty cool, and the latest Mygica box is no exception, as the maximum temperature was 53°C and 49°C on the top and bottom of the enclosure after running Antutu 5.7, and  52°C & 46°C after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 minutes.

I could a few hiccups as I started using the device,  including some network connection problems (WiFi and Ethernet), and I found the settings a pain to navigate because options are all over the place, but the firmware is usually quite OK, and Android 5.0 really makes a difference when launching apps, especially games, as the load much faster than to ART runtine replacing Dalvik found in earlier versions.

Video Playback with Kodi

The box ships with Kodi 14.2 “Mygica Edition”, so Geniatech must have made changed to the official Kodi 14.2 release, I’m just not sure what they are. Anyway, I used the provided version, and played video samples and movies stored on SAMBA shares over Ethernet. Initial connections to SAMBA shares in Kodi and ES File Explorer worked fine, but “connection time out” messages started to show up in Kodi a little later (after testing was complete), while ES File Explorer had no such problem.

Video samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, Elecard H.265/HEVC samples, and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – OK could be smoother (Kodi live log also reports ~21fps instead of the native 25 fps)
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Software decode @ ~20 fps instead of 25 fps
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p OK. 1080p could be a little smoother (18 fps instead of 25 fps)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – 360p: OK; 720p: OK most of the time, except in some scenes where the frame rate drops.. 1080p:  plays at ~15fps with audio/video sync issues.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Moving on to some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – audio only
  • 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) – 15 fps instead of 29.970 fps
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (played from network)

The next step was to test some videos samples with HD audio tracks using PCM (down-sampling), HDMI pass-through with Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver. I skipped S/PDIF pass-through because as we’ll see audio pass-through is not working, even after enabling AC3 and DTS in Kodi, as well as HDMI audio output in the hard to find part of the system settings.

Video PCM Output
Kodi
PCM Output
“Video Player” app
HDMI Pass-through
Kodi
S/PDIF Pass-through
Kodi
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but video not smooth No audio PCM 2.0 (and Noise) Skipped test
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 (and Noise) Skipped test
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
DTS HD Master OK No audio PCM 2.0 (and Noise)
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio PCM 2.0 (and Noise)

Beside pass-through not working, any video with Dolby or DTS sound tracks will have to be played in Kodi, as other the system does not support them.

Sintel-Bluray.iso and amay.iso (Ambra – Prism of Life) Blu-ray ISO videos played fine,  as did GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg my two 1080i MPEG2 video samples.

That’s the best Hi10p video decoding I’ve seen so far as the video plays all the way and with less artifacts than usual, but unfortunately the videos are still not watchable:

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

H.264 4K videos can play, but unfortunately H.265 4K videos won’t play smoothly in Kodi 14.2, as it only supports software decode even after customization by Geniatech:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  Playing @ 2 to 3 fps
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Playing @ 2 to 3 fps
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t play, the system stays in user interface.
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Plays @ 3 to 4 fps.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Plays at 3 to 4 fps using software decode as all eight cores are close to 100% CPU usage.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play, the system stays in the user interface
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – ~40 fps, with audio cuts, and audio/video issues (excepted, as it’s not supported by the hardware…)

I’ve tried the H.265 videos @ 30 fps or less again in 4K MoviePlayer and they could also play smoothly, except 10-bit HEVC video, and BT2020. The ones with AC3 audio did not have audio.

The TV I use for reviews, namely LG 42UB820T, does not support 3D, but I can still try to play stereoscopic 3D videos to find out if the device under test can decode them:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only, black screen.
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Finally, I’ve played movies and videos from my library, including FLV, AVI, MKV VOB/IFO, and MP4 videos, and they could all play fine, except I’ve noticed one or two could not be zoomed / stretched. The option was there, but it simply did not work.

The stability test with a complete 1080p MKV movie ran without interruption, but scenes with panning did not seem as smooth as usual, and Kodi log window reported around 7,000 skipped frame.

Since Antutu Video Tester could not be installed from Google Play, I sideloaded version 2.2, and upgraded to version 3.0, before running the test. Last week, Beelink i68 got 532 points, but Mygica ATV1900AC got a much higher score at 1,059 points.

Antutu Video Tester 3.0 results can be found below, and somehow, AC3 audio is working according to the test results… Go figure.

Mygica_ATV1900AC_Antutu_Video_Tester_3.0

Click to Enlarge

Video samples can be downloaded from “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Wi-Fi and Ethernet Network Performance

In order to test network performance, a 278 MB file is transfered using ES File Explorer between a SAMBA share and the flash. The test is repeated three times, and the average is used. WiFi performance on Mygica ATV1900AC is outstanding, it’s the best device in terms of performance I used both with 802.11 b/g/n (300 Mbps) and 802.11ac (867 Mbps) with transfer averaging respectively 5.08 MB/s and 7.45 MB/s.

Mygica_ATV1900AC_WiFI

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

However, there’s potentially a stability issues, as one of the transfer stalled and stopped (802.11n 2.4GHz). I could not easily reproduce the issue, and I could hear a commercial plane fly over when it occurred (Could it affect WiFi?). I also noticed a WiFi re-connection another time while shooting the video review embed above.

I also ran iperf “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line to check the raw performance for

  • WiFi 802.11n (300 Mbps)
Client connecting to 192.168.0.109, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 53062 connected with 192.168.0.109 port 5001
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   555 MBytes  77.5 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.2 sec   230 MBytes  32.1 Mbits/sec
  • WiFi 802.11ac (867 Mbps)
Client connecting to 192.168.0.109, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 51591 connected with 192.168.0.109 port 5001
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   929 MBytes   130 Mbits/sec
[  5]  0.0-60.3 sec   229 MBytes  31.9 Mbits/sec

A 885 MB file transfer from SAMBA to flash and vice versa took just under one minute using Gigabit Ethernet, again ranking Mygica ATV1900AC at the top of the charts.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s

Contrary to transfers with WiFi or Fast Ethernet, transferring a file over Gigabit Ethernet is often bound by storage performance, and it’s the case for Mygica’s TV box, as running iperf shows Amlogic S812 Ethernet limitations as seen in other devices.

Mygica_ATV1900AC_Gigabit_Ethernet_Iperf

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.110, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  170 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 45170 connected with 192.168.0.110 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec  2.38 GBytes   341 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec  2.61 GBytes   374 Mbits/sec

Since the fastest storage interface is USB 2.0 (480 Mbps max), this limitation is unlikely to matter in practise.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

There’s no Bluetooth capable chip in the device. However, there’s a Bluetooth option in Android settings, and I tried to connect a USB Bluetooth 4.0 dongle, but still failed to enabled it.  So Bluetooth is not supported, even with external hardware, at least with this firmware.

Storage

A FAT32 micro SD card could be access in read/write mode, and the NTFS and exFAT partitions in USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted, however while the partition are about 250GB large, the system only detected 10MB partitions with 10MB free, so reading files worked, but copying files to these partitions failed due to an incorrectly reported lack of space…

File System Read Write
NTFS OK No
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
exFAT OK No
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK

That means I could not run A1 SD Bench app to benchmark USB 2.0 performance, so I only tested the performance of the Toshiba eMMC flash. The results are quite good, but far from the theoretical 270 MB/s and 50MB/s read and write speeds, probably because Amlogic S812 does not support eMMC 5.0 HS400 mode.

Mygica_ATV1900AC_eMMC_Performance

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

USB Webcam

The Echo / Sound Testing Service works in Skype, and I could make a video call, but for some reasons, there was no input from the camera, and I could only see the caller video.

Google Hangouts worked fine with my USB webcam.

Gaming

I installed Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2 to test gaming. The main difference compared by my previous versions was how fast the games would load, probably a combination of fast internal storage and ART runtime. Candy Crush Saga had no issue, Beach Buggy Racing was smooth using standard settings, but because a little less smooth with graphics settings maxed out.  Riptide GP2 was not quite as smooth as expected even with default settings, while I was quite happy with all the game on MINIX NEO X8-H Plus. I did the previous test 9 months ago, and as it’s a subjective test, I may have become an old grumpy man that is a little more demanding, or the processor may not run at its full potential…

Mygica ATV1900AC Benchmarks

Even though Amlogic S812 is a mature platform, it’s still interesting to run CPU-Z, and in this case we find out that the processor only runs up to 1608 MHz, while most other devices run it at its full speed (2.0 GHz).

Mygica_ATV1900AC_CPU-ZI doubled-check with Android terminal just in case…:

cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_max_freq
1608000

And indeed the maximum frequency is set not too exceed ~1.6GHz. Other information looks good, and the board codename is stvm8.

Mygica_ATV1900AC_AntutuDespite the lower CPU frequency, Antutu 5.x score (34,137) is still higher than the one in MINIX NEO X8-H Plus box running Android 4.4 (31,204).  Somehow (for a metal test), it seems that Android 5.0 has better integer and floating-point performance than Android 4.4, as the scores are about the same despite the lower frequency, unless Antutu changed how their benchmark behaves in their minor releases (5.7.1 vs 5.3). The runtime score is about twice as fast, and that one can easily be explained by the switch from Dalvik to ART, while 2D graphics score is a bit lower, and 3D graphics a bit higher.

Mygica_ATV1900AC_VellamoVellamo 3.x metal score in Mygica (884) is also higher than the one in the MINIX device (792), while multicore is lower (1,472 vs 1808).

Mygica_ATV1900AC_3DMark3DMark Ice Storm Extreme is slightly lower at 5,834 points vs 6,056 points. The Physics score is where the score difference was made, but both scores are pretty close.

Conclusion

There’s certainly an advantage in running Android Lollipop firmware over KitKat as app will noticeably load faster. Mygica ATV1900AC has also by far the fastest WiFi connection I’ve ever seen on TV boxes both using 2.4GHz 802.11n and 5GHz 802.11ac, and Ethernet performance is also pretty good. Video playback in Kodi also pretty good, but their “Mygica Edition” is still based on Kodi 14.2, and H.265 hardware decoding does not work. I also never managed to make audio pass-through work. The firmware is usually stable and responsive, but there are still a few bugs and annoyances to iron out.

PROS:

  • Android Lollipop firmware
  • Very good Ethernet and outstanding WiFi performance (although with a question mark regarding stability)
  • Fast internal storage
  • Video Output – 1080p 24/50/60 Hz, 4K @ 24/25/30Hz, etc…
  • Video Support – Good in Kodi 14.2 for most videos, and very high score in Antutu Video Tester 3.0
  • Hardware video decoding for H.265 4K up to 30Hz in “4K VideoPlayer”
  • RF remote control with long range and voice command and search
  • OTA firmware update (with caveats see below)
  • Two launchers including an Android TV like.

CONS:

  • Kodi 14.2 “Mygica Edition” based on Kodi 14.2 does not support H.265 hardware decoding. (Kodi 15 should won’t work either, see comment)
  • Audio issues:
    • HDMI audio pass-through does not work at all in Kodi
    • Dolby and DTS down-mixing not supported in 4K MoviePlayer and other players (except in Kodi, where it’s handled by software).
  • Incorrect partition size detected on USB hard drive leading to read-only partitions
  • OTA firmware download program may crash, firmware update will wipe out apps and data
  • Lack of power off (only standby supported)
  • User-friendliness of parts of the UI could be improved – Settings are all over the place (in three different locations), the status bar cannot be displayed.
  • Bluetooth not supported (No built-in hardware, and USB Bluetooth dongle not recognized)

Mygica ATV1900AC can be ordered in quantities directly from Mygica/Geniatech, and consumers can purchase the Lollipop box on eBay for $179.99 including shipping, and soon on Mygica Aliexpress store. on Mygica Aliexpress store for $169 including shipping.

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NextDrive Plug Adds Wireless Storage or a Surveillance Webcam to Your Smartphone (Crowdfunding)

August 20th, 2015 No comments

There are several wireless storage options on the market that allows you to add storage to your smartphone, such as WiFi USB flash drives, wireless SD card readers, or WiFi HDD enclosures. These inexpensive solutions are are quite portable since they come with a battery, so it’s like your have your own portable NAS or Cloud storage in your pocket. The Next Drive plug is a tiny computer with a single USB port and WiFi connection, that will add wireless connectivity to your USB device such as hard drives, including USB RAID arrays, but also others like USB webcams.

Next_Drive_HDD_AppNext Drive technical specifications:

  • Processor – ARM Cortex A9 @ 1GHz
  • System Memory – 128MB DDR3
  • Storage – 16MB NOR flash for firmware only
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • USB Output – 5V @ 2.1A
  • Support File Systems – FAT, FAT32, NTFS, EXT4, HFS, HFS+
  • Power Supply – Built-in, input: 100V-240VAC @ 50/60Hz (US Plug with EU, UK and AU adapters available)
  • Dimensions – 84 x 67 x 45 mm

The device runs embedded Linux, and supports Mac and Windows PCs, devices running Android 4.0 or higher and iOS 7 or higher with NextDrive Connect app , as well as Apple TV and Chromecast. Once you connect a mass storage device, you’ll have your own Dropbox equivalent on your home LAN, secured and authenticated by “bank-level security mechanisms and encryption chips” using Infineon Optiga hardware key, so password is only required for the initial setup for each device that are going to access the plug.

Next_Drive_CameraConnecting a mass storage device will allow you to perform automatic upload of pictures and videos, stream music, backup your important files, and so on, while connect a USB webcam will transform it in to a WiFi webcam which you can access from your smartphone from anywhere with Internet access. Other features include firmware upgrades, optimized charging, WiFi repeater, and WiFi direct. There’s also mention of “IoT center”, probably to leverage Bluetooth Smart connectivity, but few details are provided so it might not be ready yet.

An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign has been launched several days ago, and so far the project has raised $41,000 out of its $50,000 target with 22 days to go. The “Early Bird Special” reward should get you a NextDrive Plug for $59. The plug is available in the US, Canada, the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Mexico, and shipping is free to the US, HK and Taiwan, and $10 to $20 to other destinations. Delivery is scheduled for October 2015. You may also also nextdrive.io for more details.

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$5 Amazon Dash Buttons Can Be Hacked as WiFi Logging Buttons

August 18th, 2015 1 comment

Amazon launched Dash buttons earlier this year in order to allow Amazon Prime customers to order products by simply pressing them. The small WiFi enabled buttons only cost $5, and looked like a nice thing to hack. And that’s exactly what Ted Benson did, and managed to use them to log his baby’s patterns like the number of time he poos, or wakes up at night by pressing some buttons, and storing the results in a spreadsheet.

Dash_buttonThe hack does not involve any firmware or hardware modifications, and instead he noticed that the Dash was disconnected and sleeping, except when the button was pressed. So all he does is to detect ARP requests from the Dash using some Python code relying on Scapy library, and when the MAC address matches one of the dash MAC addresses (hard coded in the Python program), data is sent to a Google Spreadsheet using a tools called Magic-Form. Here’s a quick demo.

Just one last detail… You’ll have to make sure you don’t complete the last step of the setup instructions from by Amazon, that is setting the product to order, unless you plan on ordering the product each time your press the button to record your baby’s cries, or other activity.

Via Hackernews and Liliputing

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Categories: Hardware Tags: amazon, hack, IoT, wifi

WRTnode2P, WRTnode2R and WRTnodeHi OpenWRT Boards to Feature M.2 & mini PCIe Edge Connectors, H.265 Camera Support, and More

August 17th, 2015 12 comments

WRTnode is a small and low cost development board powered by Mediatek MT7620N and running OpenWRT. The developers have been working on three new OpenWRT boards based on Mediatek or Hisilicon processor and featuring either an M.2 connector, a mini PCIe connector, or support for H.265 camera.

WRTnode2P

WRTnode2P

The first board is WRTnode2P with the following specifications:

  • SoC – Mediatek MT7628an MIPS 24KEc processor @ 575 MHz
  • System Memory – 256 MB RAM
  • Storage – 32MB Flash
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi @ 300 Mbps (2T2R)
  • I/Os via NGFF M.2 connector:
    • PCIe X1, USB 2.0 host, SD-XC
    • 5x 100M Ethernet switch
    • I2S up to 192K/24-bit
    • 2x UART, SPI, I2C
    • 20x GPIO
  • Dimensions – 42 x 22mm
WRTnode2R

WRTnode2R

The second board, WRTNode2R, features a processor and a micro-controller, and can be connected to a mini PCIe port:

  • SoC – Mediatek MT7688an MIPS24K Processor @ 580 MHz
  • System Memory – 256 MB DDR2
  • Storage – 32MB NOR Flash
  • MCU – STMicro STM32F103 Cortex M3 micro-controller
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi @ 300 Mbps (2T2R)
  • I/Os via mPCIe connector (preliminary, exact details are TBC):
    • Mediatek processor
      • PCIe X1, USB 2.0 host, SD-XC
      • 5x 100M Ethernet
      • I2S up to 192K/24-bit
      • 2x UART, SPI, I2C
      • 4x PWM
      • 20x GPIO
    • STM32 MCU:
      • 5x 12 A/D
      • 26x GPIO
      • 10x PWM @ 36 MHz
      • CAN, 3x timer
  • Dimensions – N/A

The Mediatek processor runs OpenWRT, while the ST Micro MCU will run Liteos, but not LiteOS “open source, UNIX-like operating system designed for wireless sensor networks”, but rather Liteos developed by Huawei, which can also run on OpenWRT. More information about Liteos can be found on the community page. (Chinese only).

WRTnode Hi

WRTnode Hi

The third and last board, WRTnode Hi, is a little different because it’s a WiFi camera board powered by Hisilicon Hi3516A:

  • SoC- HiSilicon Hi3516A ARM Cortex A7 processor @ 600MHz with NEON and FPU
  • System Memory – 512B DDR3
  • Storage – 32MB SPI Flash
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
  • Camera Support

    • Up to 5MP sensor
    • H.264 / H.265 multi-stream real-time encoding
    • H.265 up to 2560×1920 @ 30 fps at 4 Mbps
  • I/Os via mPCIe edge connector
    • 2x SAR-ADC
    • 4x UART interfaces
    • IR, I2C, SPI master,  I2, GPIO 
    • 8x PWM interface (four independent, four multiplexed with other pins)
    • 2x SDIO 3.0 interface with support for SDXC
    • 1x USB 2.0 HOST / Device interface
    • 100/1000Mbps Ethernet
  • Dimensions – N/A

The board also runs OpenWRT, and an SDK will be provided to handle the camera.

Both three boards appears to target the Chinese market, at least for now, as most information is only in Chinese, including product pages for WRTnode2 boards and WRTNode Hi board. Retail pricing has not been announced, but I understand that 50 pieces of WRTNode2R are currently offered for 148 RMB ($23) to beta testers in China, who can apply via Elecfans forums. If I have not lost too much in translation, these beta boards will ship at the end of September.

Thanks to Freire for the tip.

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Beelink i68 (Rockchip RK3368) TV Box Review

August 16th, 2015 16 comments

Beelink i68 is one of the first 64-bit ARM Android mini PCs available on the market, and could offer an update to Rockchip RK3288 TV boxes thanks to its eight Cortex A53 cores and support for HDMI 2.0 up to 4K2K @ 60Hz. I’ve already taken a few pictures of the device and RK68 board, so today I’ll report about performance, stability, features and video playback capabilities in the full review.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The box has three USB 2.0 host ports and a micro USB OTG port, so for once I did not have to use a USB hub to connect all my devices and cables. I’ve inserted an Ethernet cable, an HDMI cable, an optical cable to the S/PDIF output, a Class 10 micro SD card, a USB hard drive, a USB webcam, an RF dongle for Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad, and finally MeLE F10 Deluxe RF dongle to the micro USB OTG port via the OTG adapter provided with the box. After connecting the power, you’ll need to press the red power button on the rear panel to start the device. The boot takes 44 seconds, which is OK, and might be faster with less peripherals connected to the mini PC.

Android Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Android Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

The launcher is the standard Android Home Screen with icons for the Browser, Google Play, the list of App, an Internal player, and Settings.  The status bar is hidden by default, but you can pull it up with the mouse pointer. The user interface resolution is 1920×1080, but the system automatically detected the capabilities of LG 42UB820T 4K TV and set the video output to 3840x2160p60 (YCbCr420).

The settings interface is basically the same as on other Android 5.1 devices but with some options specific to TV boxes. The most relevant / uselful options include:

  • Wireless & Networks – Wi-Fi, Data usage for Wi-Fi and Ethernet (Accessing the latter crashes the settings), Bluetooth, and a “More” section with four sections: Tethering & portable hotspot, Ethernet, PPPoE and VPN
  • Device
    • USB – Connect to PC
    • Sound & Notifications – Volume for various sounds, and a Sound Device Manager to select Default Output, Spdif Passthrough, or HDMI Bitstream
    • Display
      • Cast Screen
      • Screen Scale
      • 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: 1.94GB “Internal storage” with ~1.21GB free, 3.78GB “NAND Flash” partition

Beelink_i68_About_DeviceThe other usual options like Printing, Security, Language & Input, etc.. are still there. If you want the full details, checkout the walk-through video embedded a little further below.

I had no problems connecting with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet. As previously mentioned, HDMI output was automatically set to 4K 60Hz, although some time later, I could see it set to 1080p60 after rebooting, so it could be automatic detection is not 100% reliable. I had to adjust the “Screen Scale” to 100% to make use of all the “real estate” of my TV screen.

The “About device” section reports “I68” as the model number, which runs Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.10.0_100. The firmware version is 100L1, and I also checked with system updates in that menu, but it appears I have the latest firmware, or Firmware update OTA is not activated. This firmware is not rooted.

Here’s the walk-through video showing more details about the settings, as well as some tests in Kodi and the internal player with a 4K 60Hz H.264 video, and a 4K 30Hz H.265 video sample.

I also quickly tried the IR remote control, and after inserting 2x AAA battery, it was perfectly usable at 2 to 3 meters from the box, but around 5 meters I noticed some keys pressed were missed. I still use my air mouse for most of the review, but I decided to move the RF dongle from the micro USB OTG port to one of the USB 2.0 host port because I lost control of the air mouse when I went to the USB settings…

The Google Play Store works very well, and the only apps I could not install require SMS capabilities (cellular), or are not available my locale anymore (e.g. CNBC Video). The only two apps that I believe should have installed, but are not available for my device, are Vidon Smartband and Plants vs Zombies 2 game.  I also installed the Amazon app in order to download Riptide GP2 which I got during a “free app of the day” promotion. You may have heard about Stagefright bug affecting earlier versions of Android, so I’ve run the Stagefright Detector app, and everything is clear. That’s one of the advantages of getting a recent Android version…

Beelink_i68_StagefrightThe power circuit does not appear to be controlled by an MCU. A long press (2 seconds or more) on the power button on the remote control or the unit itself, will bring a menu to Power Off or Reboot, but both options will simply reboot the device, so there’s no option to truly turn off the device. A short press will make the device enter standby mode, and another press will wake it up again. So you’ll have to choose between going into Standby mode or disconnect the power. The latter may lead to corrupted firmware, even after Standby mode is activated. When you connect the power adapter, the device won’t boot, and you need to press the button on the back of unit, as the power button on the IR remote control won’t work.

Beelink i68 stays pretty cool for a mid range device, as the temperature only went up to 42°C and 48°C on the top and bottom of the enclosure after running Antutu 5, and it got slightly warmer after 15 to 20 minutes playing Riptide GP2 at respectively 49°C and 56°C on the top and bottom of the case. These are the maximum temperatures I got while scanning the box covers with an IR thermometer.

The device feels just as responsive as boxes powered by Amlogic S802 or Rockchip RK3288, and the system is very stable, apart from a few bugs in the settings and Kodi where both apps may crash.

Video Playback with Kodi

The firmware was pre-loaded with Kodi 14.2, so that’s what I used for testing with various videos stored on SAMBA shares in an Ubuntu 14.04 computer and accessed while connected via Ethernet. I had not troubles to connect to my SAMBA share in either Kodi or ES File Explorer.

Kodi 14.2 on i68 Comes with Some Pre-installed Add-ons.

Kodi 14.2 on i68 Comes with Some Pre-installed Add-ons.

Let’s being with video samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, as well as some Elecard H.265/HEVC samples, and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – Mostly OK, but I could notice some “image jump” occurring very rapid, maybe 2 or 3 times in the video, as if an older frame was displayed for a short. It might also have been a bit smoother
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – Same results as for H.264
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – Same results as for H.264
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 480p/720p/1080p – audio only
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Software decode @ ~18 to 22 fps instead of 25 fps
  • WebM / VP8 – Could be a little smoother
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – 360p and 720p – OK. 1080p plays at 15fps, for a 24fps video, ) with audio/video sync issues.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Results are a little disappointing, although it’s possible some people find video playback to be acceptable, as the “image jump” issue does not occur that often and is very short (like one frame).

I’ve followed up with some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK, except during fast moving scenes, where the video is not really smooth
  • 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) – audio only, and it stops after 9 seconds
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Sometimes OK, but most of the time not, with the fps fluctuating a lot between 12 fps to 60 fps… played from USB hard drive

I’ve played some HD audio videos both down-mixed to PCM using Kodi and the internal player “Video” app, and audio pass-through with Onkyo TX-NR636 using HDMI pass-through with BD/DVD input, and optical S/PDIF with TV/CD input. For audio pass-through, AC3 and DTS pass-through, as well as Dolby transcoding, were enabled in Kodi, as well as Spdif passthrough and HDMI bitstream in Android Sound settings as needed.

Video PCM Output
Kodi
PCM Output
“Video” app
HDMI Pass-through
Kodi
S/PDIF Pass-through
Kodi
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK OK OK. (Dolby 5.1) OK (Dolby 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK. (Dolby 5.1) OK (Dolby 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK Dolby 5.1 Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 5.1 Slow motion video, and audio cuts OK Dolby 5.1
Slow motion video, and audio stops after a while
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK Dolby 5.1
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK OK Dolby 5.1
DTS HD Master OK OK Dolby 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK Dolby 5.1

You may have noticed I’ve added a video with Dolby Atmos 7.1, as my AV receiver supports it, and I’ve found some free Atmos samples online. The pass-through results were always Dolby 5.1 when transcoding was enabled in Kodi, but if I disabled it then it would just about stereo audio (PCM 2.0) for all codecs.

Sintel-Bluray.iso and amay.iso (Ambra – Prism of Life) Blu-ray ISO could play without noticeable issues, as did my two 1080i MPEG2 video samples (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg). I’ve yet to find a box that plays Hi10p videos:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – Audio OK, green screen only, and no subtitles.
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – Audio OK, subtitles OK, but video with massive artifacts, and got stuck after a short while.

Since HDMI 2.0 support is one of the main selling point of RK3368 TV boxes, you’d think they’d work to make 4K videos, and especially 2160p @ 60 fps video, work in Kodi:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Starts OK, but somehow the framerate drops to 10 fps, and becomes choppy  near the end
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – The first 10 seconds are stuttering, then it looks OK, only to become unwatchable a few seconds later due to low framerate.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  Probably playing at 2 to 3 fps (Kodi live log says 8 to 11 fps)
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Probably playing at 2 to 3 fps (Kodi live log says 8 to 11 fps)
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t play, the system stays in user interface.
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Probably plays at 3 to 4 fps using software decode as all eight cores are close to 100% CPU usage.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Probably plays at 3 to 4 fps using software decode as all eight cores are close to 100% CPU usage.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play, the system stays in the user interface
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Not smooth, at 15 fps or less
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Even less smooth than the 30 fps video (~10 fps) with serious video/audio synchronization issue.

I feel tired getting devices that don’t support 4K videos in Kodi… Nevermind, let’s try those with the “Video” app from a USB hard drive:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • 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) – “Can not be played”
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Green screen…
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – “Can not be played”
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Audio and green screen…
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Plays in slow motion, massive audio/video sync issues

That’s better, but too bad it fails to play the 4K 60fps H.264 video…

My 4K UHD television does not support 3D, but I still try to play some stereoscopic 3D videos to see if the system can decode them:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – 10 to 15 fps, audio/video sync delay
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only (None of my hardware can decode this though, as it’s require two 4K decoders for 4K 3D videos…)
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

I’ve played a bunch off FLV videos, and most can play, but the ones which can’t be played will crash Kodi. H.265, DViX/XVid, VOB/IFO, and MP4 could play, although some will get that “image jump” bug I got with Big Buck Bunny linaro samples from time to time. I also got three XVid video at standard resolution that would make Kodi crash, and some had audio / video sync issues.

I could play a full 1080p MKV movie without interruption, and Kodi log window reported only 2 dropped frames and no skipped frame, but while watching the video I did not always seem perfect, so I’m assuming the reported values in this device can’t be trusted. I experienced the same issue with sample videos.

Finally, I’ve downloaded Antutu Video Tester from Google Play (Version 2.2), which soon after informed me there’s a new 3.0 version, which I downloaded. However, I first ran the test in version 2.2, and the system only got around 230 points which is pretty low, but with the new version it got 532 points. So that means we can’t compare scores between versions. You can find the detailed results for Antutu Video Tester 3.0 below.
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The video samples used in this review can be downloaded via links found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and in its comments section.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’m using ES File Explorer to transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the flash three times, and average the results to test Wi-Fi and Ethernet performance. Results for Beelink i68 are not catastrophic, but rather underwhelming, with the average transfer speed @ 2.2 MB/s, ranking the box as one of the least performing device for WiFi connection, at least with my setup.

WiFi Throughput in MB/s

WiFi Throughput in MB/s

I also ran iperf with Wi-Fi using the command line “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” and the results are similar, but strangely a little slower than with SAMBA:

------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.110, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 45737 connected with 192.168.0.110 port 5001
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   116 MBytes  16.3 Mbits/sec
[  5]  0.0-60.1 sec   119 MBytes  16.7 Mbits/sec

GearBest claims the box supports Gigabit Ethernet on their product page, but when I connect the box to my Gigabit switch only a Fast Ethernet connection is detected. It could be the first devices sold don’t ship with Gigabit Ethernet, but by the end of the month or next month, the new production run will have Gigabit Ethernet, as I’ve been told is the case for Tronsmart Orion R68. Nevertheless considering the transfer is taking place over a 10/100M link, the performance is very good.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

iperf confirms the very good performance (for 10/100M Ethernet) as running iPerf with the same command line as for WiFi delivers a transfer rate of over 90 Mbps in both direction.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

Ethernet iperf output:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.116, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  144 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 39845 connected with 192.168.0.116 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   656 MBytes  91.6 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.1 sec   660 MBytes  92.1 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I could pair my Mediatek MT6572 smartphone with issues, and transfer several pictures over Bluetooth.

I had to skip Sixaxis test with my Bluetooth PS3 controller, since the firmware is not rooted, and I did not try to root it.

Finally, I installed Vidon Smartband app to connect to X5 fitness band over Bluetooth LE, and the fitness band was detected, but for some reasons it failed to synchronize data, and always ends with “No bracelet connected”.

Storage

The system could mount a FAT32 micro SD card, as well as the NTFS and EXT-4 partitions on my Seagate USB HDD, but exFAT and BTFRS are not supported.

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

A1 SD Bench results are not pretty standard for transfers over a USB 2.0 connection. However, EXT-4 write speed is about twice as fast as NTFS write speed.

  • NTFS (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK2/USB3_NTFS) – Read: 28.47 MB/s , Write: 12.97 MB/s
  • EXT-4 (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK2/udisk1) – Read: 25.21 MB/s, Write: 27.40 MB/s
Beelink_i68_HDD_Performance

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Beelink i68 internal performance is OK, but not quite the best I’ve seen so far, which explains why it boots in around 45 seconds, instead of under 20 seconds for the fastest devices. The FORESEE eMMC flash read @ 26.56 MB/s, and wrote @ 13.93 MB/s in A1SD app.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

USB Webcam

First I connected my USB webcam to the micro USB port via the OTG adapter, and I did not work for either Skype or Hangout. Switching to a USB host port improved things a little bit, as the Echo / Sound Testing Service work fine in Skype, but for some reasons, I never manged to get the picture from the USB webcam.

Google Hangouts worked fine however.

Gaming

I played three games Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2. PowerVR G6110 was a bit of an unknown to me, but it performed pretty well with all three games at 1080p.   Beach Buggy Racing was super smooth, even after maxing out the graphics settings. Riptide GP2 was super smooth with default settings, and after settings the Graphics settings to the maximum, it was still playable, but I could feel it was not quite as smooth. Both racing games were played with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad.

Beelink i68 Benchmarks

CPU-Z does not know Rockchip RK3368, but detected the 8 Cortex A53 cores @ 312 MHz to 1.2 GHz and the PowerVR G6110 GPU correctly.
Rockchiup_RK3368_Beelink_i68_CPU-Z
The model is I68 (rk3368_box) with 2GB RAM, and only 1.94GB storage detected, because the firmware uses two partitions. The UI resolution is confirmed to be 1920×1080.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Beelink i68 gets 34,171 points in Antutu 5.7.1. which compares to 35,000 to 37,000 points I got with various RK3288 TV boxes, such as HPH NT-V6 or Uyesee G1H last year. So as expected, you should not really get a performance boost compared to RK3288 devices.  I’ll make a more detailed benchmark comparison between RK3288 and RK3368 in a post later on.

Please note that when the USB hard drive was connected, the 5V/2A power supply could not deliver enough power to complete Antutu, and the system would reboot during the multi-threaded floating point benchmark. I had to disconnect the hard drive the complete the benchmark successfully. RK3288 FPU would consume a lot of power, so I guess it’s the same for RK3368.
Vellamo_3_Beelink_i68
The mini PC got 1,288 points for Multicore test, 773 points for Metal test, 1,796 points for Browser test in Vellamo 3, which compares to respectively around 2000, 1500, and 2,500 points in Rockchip RK3288 devices.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Based on my gaming experience, the GPU is not too bad, and scores 4,248 in 3DMark’s Ice Storm Extreme. This is not quite as high as the scores achieved with Mali-T764 GPU in Rockchip RK3288 though which ranges between 7,000 and 7,500 points.

Conclusion

Beelink i68 is a decent device, with a smooth and stable firmware, although Kodi still needs some work, but if you were expecting a performance bump with a 64-bit ARM platform compared to Rockchip RK3288, you’ll be disappointed, as Rockchip RK3368 does not reach RK3288 CPU or GPU performance. It’s no slug either, but there’s no performance advantage switching from a RK3288 based device to one featuring RK3368. The two main advantages I see are 4K 60Hz video decoding and output and Android 5.1 firmware. Unfortunately, albeit video output is fine, 4K video decoding @ 60 Hz does not really work for now, and Android Lollipop is coming to Rockchip RK3288 TV boxes.

PROS

  • One of the first 64-bit ARM TV boxes
  • Firmware is responsive and stable
  • HDMI 2.0 video output works up to 2160p60 Hz
  • Recent Android 5.1 OS
  • Very good Ethernet performance (for a 10/100M connection)
  • 3D Games run pretty well

CONS

  • Kodi 14.2 needs some work as
    • None of my 4K videos could not play properly
    • Many videos have problems to play perfectly smoothly, either because of low framerate, or some skipped frames
    • Some videos will make the app crash
    • Pass-through only works with transcoding to Dolby Digital 5.1.
  • Box advertised with Gigabit Ethernet, but the current samples only ship with Fast Ethernet (I understand this may be fixed for models selling next month onwards)
  • 4K 60 fps videos won’t play smoothly in either Kodi or the internal “Video” app.
  • Wi-Fi performance below average, although still usable.
  • The device cannot be turned off cleanly (Only standby or reboot are working)
  • The flash is divided into two partitions, and the 2GB app partition may get filled pretty quickly.

I’d like to thanks GearBest for providing a sample for review. They sell the version I reviewed for or $78.99, as well as a version with just 1GB RAM  for $71.18. Beelink i68 can also be purchased on Amazon US, eBayGeekBuying, and Aliexpress. Rockchip RK3368 TV boxes should be more cost effective than RK3288 ones, as for instance, RK3288 TV boxes with 2GB RAM, and 8GB RAM sell for a little over $80 to $90 including shipping depending on model.

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