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WeIO is an Open Source Hardware IoT Board Programmable from a Web Browser (Crowdfunding)

September 16th, 2014 1 comment

WeIO is an open source hardware board for the Internet of things with Wi-Fi connectivity and lots of I/Os designed by nodesign, a French based startup, in collaboration of 8devices, the makers of the Carambola boards. WeIO is powered by an Atheros AR9331 SoC running OpenWRT as well as an NXP LPC MCU for faster handling of I/Os and support for analog I/Os. One interesting aspect of this board is that it can be programmed via a web browser using HTML5 or Python, and it does not rely on the Cloud to store data.

WeIO

WeIO Board (Click for Larger View of the Board)

WeIO hardware specifications:

  • SoC – Atheros AR9331 MIPS 24K Wireless SoC @ 400 MHz
  • MCU – NXP LPC11xx ARM Cortex M0 MCU for analog I/O and real-time H/W interfaces
  • System Memory – 64 MB DDR2
  • Storage – 16 MB flash + micro SD slot
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with on-board antenna (AP and STA modes), solder pads for Ethernet
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port (for storage, webcam, sound cards, …), 1x micro USB (FTDI) for console access.
  • Expansion Headers – 5 headers with:
    • 32x GPIO
    • 1x UART, 2x SPI, 1x I2C
    • 8x ADC with 10-bit precision
    • 6x PWM with 16-bit precision
  • Debugging – micro USB for programming, JTAG solder pads for AR9331 SoC, and LPC11xx MCU.
  • Misc – RGB LED connected to 3 PWM outputs, AP mode and soft reset buttons, LM75 digital thermometer
  • Power – 3.3V operating voltage, 5V tolerant I/Os (except ADC), external supply 5V.
  • Dimensions – 91 x 68 mm

There’s no IDE to install to program WeIO, as everything can be done from WeIO IDE hosted on the board itself, and you just need to connect using your favorite Web browser. There’s no cross-compiling, board flashing, or  programming electronics in C, unless you plan to update OpenWRT or the MCU firmware. That also means you should be able to program the board from any operating system, be it Windows, Linux, Mac OS, or even Android, FreeBSD…

WeIO IDE (Click to Enlarge)

WeIO IDE (Click to Enlarge)

The API is said to be “Arduino-like”, but using HTML5 (HTML, Javascript, CSS) and/or Python. You can find related code on weio repository on github.Some of the server technologies or protocols used include Tornado web server (written in Python), Websockets, SSH and SMB, and Bonjour zeroconf. The board is also supposed to be open source hardware, but the hardware design files do not appear to have been released just yet.

The company has made some demos using WeIO such as a smart lamp, real-time data visualizaton on iOS or Android smartphones, various displays support,  music and video streaming, interfacing with Arduino, and so on. You can watch the video for an overview of the board and have a look at some of the demos.

The project has been launched on Indiegogo, and have already reached its $10,000 funding target. A $86 pledge will get you a WeIO board, but various kits are available between $99 to $399, and there are also 1 to 2-day workshops for several thousands dollars. Shipping is either free, or $9 to Europe, and $12 to the other continents, depending on the perks, and delivery is scheduled for November 2014. You may also want to visit we-io.net for access to full documentation (work in progress), and/or join WeIO Google+ Community.

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Review of Kingnovel K-R68 Android Mini PC

September 9th, 2014 8 comments

I’ve already listed specs, and shown a few pictures of Kingnovel K-R68 Android media player based on the latest Rockchip RK3288 quad core processor. I’ve now gone through all my usual tests, so today, I’ll write the review, going through the user interface, testing video playback, reporting one various performance benchmarks including network and storage performance, tested most hardware features, and played a few games.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Albeit there’s an infrared remote control with the device. I’ve not used it all, especially, as we’ll see below the default user interface is the stock Android home screen. As usual, I’ve connected an RF dongle to use Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse. Before powering up the device, I’ve also connected an HDMI cable, a USB hard drive, and an Ethernet cable. Albeit there’s a power button, the device will boot automatically as you connect the power adapter, and the boot completes in just over 20 seconds.

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

The status bar is shown by default with a power (Standby or Reboot) button, volume buttons, the back, home, and app list icons, as well as an icon to hide the status bar. I’ve enabled the screenshot button in the settings. The user interface defaults to Chinese as shown in the screenshot above, so I had to go to the settings to change the language. The resolution was set to 1920×1080.

The Settings are basically the same as Uyesee G1H, but with some colorful icons on the left, instead of the usual black and white icons, and there’s no “Home” to select between launchers. The Wireless and Networks section features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and Data Usage sections, as well as a “More” section with VPN, Portable Hotspot and so on. You can choose between “Default Output” (PCM / Down-mixing), “Spdif Passthough”, and “HDMI Bitstream” (HDMI pass-through) in the sound settings, (Not tested, as I don’t have audio receiver). The Display settings include options to adjust for overscan, select HDMI, YPbPr, and “TV” (Composite) video output, as well as the resolution: “auto”, 1080p 24/25/30/50/60Hz, 720p 50/60, 720×576 or 720×480. Again it’s exactly as the previous RK3288 sample I tested (G1H). 4K options should also show if the box is connected to  4K TV, Most of the tests have been done using HDMI output, but I also tested composite and component (YPbPr) video outputs.

Composite (NTSC) - Click to Enlarge

Composite (NTSC) – Click to Enlarge

Composite (PAL) - Click to Enlarge

Composite (PAL) – Click to Enlarge

Component (720p) - Click to Enlarge
Component (720p) – Click to Enlarge

Composite works, but in NTSC mode I had a green line on the bottom, which I could not hide with the “Screen Scale” menu. I had no such problem in PAL mode.  I had the same problem with Component (YPbpr) output as with my other RK3288 device, as only the Chrominance signal would apparently be displayed. Resolutions selectable with YPbPr are only 720p, 720×576 (PAL) and 720×470 (NTSC), and there’s no option for 1080p.

About_K-R68K-R68 features a 8GB eMMC flash partitioned with a 1.91GB “Internal Storage” partition for apps with 1.53 GB free, and a 4.27 GB “NAND FLASH” partition for data. A single partition for apps and data would be ideal, but this partitioning should work fine for most people. The “About device” section reports the model number as “rk3288″, Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.0. The firmware is not rooted, and I don’t have male to male USB cable, so I could not root it via the OTG port. In this review, I won’t show a video of the settings and user interface, because it’s just the same as Uyesee G1H, apart from a different home screen (pictured above), and colorful icons in the settings menus.

Google Play Store works as expected, and I could install most apps such as ES File Explorer, MX Player, Antutu, Quadrant, Beach Buggy Blitz, etc…  and even paid apps such as Sixaxis Controller installed properly. Vidonn activity tracker app was reported as “incompatible with your device”. I also installed Amazon AppStore after downloading it via the stock browser, and loaded Riptide GP2 on the device.

I haven’t used the remote control, but the power button on the status bar only lets you reboot and put the device into standby. Press the Power button on Mele F10 deluxe also brings the same menu. The power button on top of the device can only be used to power off the device completely, and to do so, you’ll need to press it for 10 seconds. The enclosure also gets pretty hot. The maximum temperatures measured with an infrared thermometer on the top and bottom of the box were respectively 46 °C and 56 °C after running Android 5 benchmark, and after playing Riptide GP2 for 30 minutes at 1080p (right after playing a 1080p movie for 2 hours), the measured max. temperatures reached 58 °C and 77 °C…

The firmware is stable and fast. I had no reboot and hang ups during my testing. Thanks to fast eMMC, apps loading times can be impressive, for example XBMC loads in less than 2 seconds, and I never had slowdowns as experience in Uyesee G1H while installing apps. The user interface resolution is 1080p by default, but if you want some extra performance for some games for example, you can switch to 720p if you wish.

Video Playback

Contrary to Uyesee G1H, Kingnovel K-R68 comes pre-loaded with XBMC. So I played videos from a SAMBA share over Ethernet using XBMC, only switching to MX Player in case of issues. I had problems with Gigabit Ethernet again (instability), so I used a 10/100M hub between the device and my Gigabit switch (D-Link DSG-1005A), and the connection was perfectly stable. So all results are based on XBMC playback unless otherwise stated.

I started by playing videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, and H.265/HEVC video by Elecard:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p
    • XBMC – OK, but smoothness could be better.
    • MX Player – Video playing at an estimated 2 to 4 fps, with most frames skipped
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p
    • XBMC – Audio only
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode)
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK and relatively smooth, also not perfect like on PC (VideoLAN)
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container
    • XBMC – Audio only
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode)

So XBMC can’t play H.265, no VC1 videos, and MPEG-2 play, but are not super smooth.

Next are some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK, no problem even in fast moving scenes
  • 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 (That’s the VC1 codec issue in XBMC).
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

All high definition audio codec could play (downsampled) in XBMC:

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

Sintel-Bluray.iso Blu-ray ISO file could play just fine in XBMC.

None of the 4K videos could play without issues in XBMC. The HEVC/H.265 video were all played in MX Player:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4

    • XBMC – OK most of the time, but skips about 60 frames at the end of the video (The image will freeze before the end of the video).
    • MX Player – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv
    • XBMC – Played in slow motion, unwatchable.
    • MX Player – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK (H/W decode), but some white “fog” appears on the black background
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK (H/W decode)
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts – Plays with S/W decode (MX Player reports codec not supported by H/W).

Finally, I played some Several AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB and MP4 videos in my library. Most could play, but several had audio/video sync issues, a number of FLV videos could not play at all, and one XVID video had lot of frames skipped during playback. A complete 1080p video (1h50) could be played in XBMC without issues. Once XBMC refused to exit, as clicking on the exit button did not work at all, but I could not reproduce the issue. Overall, the XBMC experience is disappointing, but if you combine MX Player and XBMC capabilities most videos can be played.

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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

The network test consists in transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa, repeating the test three times using ES File Explorer. Wi-Fi performance is excellent and very consistent, as transfer times were all between 1m42s and 1m44s, averaging a cool 2.69 MB/s.

Wi-Fi Performance in MB/s

Wi-Fi Performance in MB/s

While I’m with Wi-Fi testing, I also ran Rockchip’s “Wi-Fi display” app, but even though the display was detected by my phone and “successfully” connected, mirroring did not work at all. I tried several times, but my subsequent attempt all failed to connect at all.

As mentioned previously, I had stability problems (again) with Gigabit Ethernet, so I could only properly test Fast Ethernet performance. Using the same test procedure as Wi-Fi, K-R68 shows very good performance compared to other solutions I’ve tested.

Kingnovel_K-R68_EthernetThis test is not a pure network performance test, as it may be affected by storage write performance. Having said that, I’ve experience similar results writing to flash or USB hard drive for all devices under test.

Under Linux, you can test network performance with iPerf, and it turns out iPerf app is also available for Android. So I gave it a try using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line. This runs a “dualtest” (a bidirectional test simultaneously) for one minute, and based on the test results, there’s definitely an issue with Gigabit Ethernet, but only in one direction (872 Mbps vs 314 Kbps), but Fast Ethernet is running great:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.107, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  425 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 37734 connected with 192.168.0.107 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec  6.09 GBytes   872 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-63.4 sec  2.38 MBytes   314 Kbits/sec
[  5] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.107 port 51937
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.107, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 37843 connected with 192.168.0.107 port 5001
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   654 MBytes  91.4 Mbits/sec
[  5]  0.0-60.1 sec   658 MBytes  91.8 Mbits/sec

I’ve tried different Cat5e Ethernet cable with it did not solve the issue.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I could easily pair K-R68 to my Android smartphone (ThL W200) over Bluetooth, and transfer a picture.

Since the firmware is not rooted, and I’m not sure how to root it, I had to skip Sixaxis test for PS3 Bluetooth Gamepad support

Vidonn X5 activity tracker suppoert Bluetooth 4.0 LE, so I installed the Android app, and successfully connected to my wristband to get the data.

Storage

FAT32 formatted micro SD card and USB flash drive could be recognized and properly mounted by the system
I’ve also connected my USB 3.0 hard drive with NTFS, EXT-4, FAT32, and BTRFS partitions, and as usual only NTFS and FAT32 could be mounted automatically.

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

A1 SD Bench was run to benchmark the NTFS partition (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK2/USB3_NTFS). The read speed was 29.47MB/s, and the write speed of 24.63MB/s, both of which are pretty consistent with the results achieved with other devices, albeit the write speed was the weakest of the products tested by a small margin.

K-R68_USB_Write_SpeedThe internal storage read and write speeds are very important to apps loading time, and overall system performance, and K-R68 excels in this benchmark, at least compared to Uyesee G1H, and Probox2 EX.

K-R68_eMMC_PerformanceThe fast eMMC write speed explains why I never felt slowdowns during my testing, contrary to what happened with G1H.

USB Webcam

Using a white brand UVC USB webcam with built-in microphone. I could test audio successfully with the Echo service in Skype, and I could see the video, but as I tried to leave a video message, the app exited.

Google Hangouts could detect the webcam (Video icon at the top right of the screen), and I could start a video call, but the webcam image was not shown.

Gaming

I’ve tested three games: Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2.

I played Candy Crush Saga with my air mouse, and used Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad in the two other games.  Beach Buggy Blitz was super smooth even with graphics settings maxed out and 1080p resolution, and Riptide GP2 was very smooth most of the time, and albeit not perfect, RK3288 devices are a massive jump in terms of playability compared to earlier generation of chip, and even Amlogic S802. I’ve also tested stability by playing Riptide GP2 for 30 consecutive minutes, and everything runs fine, but the bottom of the device can get pretty hot (Over 75 °C). Thanks to the rubber pads, it does not touch the table though. The top is much cooler at around 55 °C.

Kingnovel K-R68 Benchmark

CPU-Z app returns the exact same data as for G1H TV box, that is a Rockchip processor with four Cortex A12 cores @ 126 MHz to 1.80 GHz with a Mali-T764 processor. Only the firmware version differs.

G1H got 39,273 in Antutu 4.x @ 1080p resolution. Since them Android 5 has been released, and K-R68 got 37,428 points between Redmi Note (MediaTek MT6592) and Xiaomi Mi3 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 800). Results between Antutu 4.x and Antutu 5.x are not directly comparable.

Antutu 5 Results for Kingnovel K-R68 (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 5 Results for Kingnovel K-R68 (Click to Enlarge)

I had no luck with Quadrant, as I was greeted with gray screen when I wanted to start the test.

I’ve run Ice Storm Extreme test in 3DMark to see if there was any improvement compared to G1H score.

3DMark Ice Storm Extreme Results (Click to Enlarge)

3DMark Ice Storm Extreme Results (Click to Enlarge)

A score of 7,531 points, is only slightly higher than than 7,278 points achieved by G1H, and is about the same as the one achieved on a smartphone based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 801. However many recent devices based on Qualcomm 800 and greater get a score above 10,000 or simply maxes out the test.

Conclusion

Kingnovel K-R68 hardware has massive potential with a fast processor, outstanding 3D performance, and excellent Wi-Fi and eMMC storage performance. The firmware is stable and provides a smooth experience, but if you are looking for a device well supported by XBMC, it’s not there yet. Having said that, I’ve only tested the XBMC version provided with the sample (Gotham 13.2), and there are some version that may have better support include HEVC hardware decoding such as Beyond XBMC 3.4 (beta) and an XBMC version released for Firefly-RK3288 development board.

PRO:

  • Fast new processor
  • Excellent 3D graphics performance for games
  • Stable and fast firmware.
  • Excellent Wi-Fi performance
  • Fast eMMC, both for reading and writing speeds.
  • Both 720p and 1080p user interfaces are supported
  • Video Output – 1080p support 24, 25 ,30 , 50 and 60 Hz output which may be important for some videos. 4K @ 60Hz should be supported thanks to HDMI 2.0 (not tested).
  • HEVC video decoding support
  • Webcam supported in Skype (although it did not seem to work with Google Hangouts)

CONS:

  • XBMC has too many issues: VC1, H.265 not supported, audio/video sync issue, some MPEG-2 and XVID videos are skipping frames, none of the 4K videos I used could play properly, etc…
  • Some MPEG-2 file won’t play smooth in either XBMC or MX Player
  • Potential Gigabit Ethernet issues, at least confirmed with my switch (D-Link DSG-1005A).
  • No proper power off (standby only)
  • The enclosure (bottom) can get pretty hot, with temperatures over 75+ C after long periods of 3D gaming.
  • Video output – Component only output the Luminance signal with my TV, composite (NTSC) has a green bar at the bottom, no problem for PAL.

If you are a distributor, you may want to visit Kingnovel K-R68 page for some details, and possibly contact the company. The box does not seem to be selling on e-retailer sites yet, or it’s sold under another model name. The box  appears to be sold on Geekbuying under the model name R6 for $107.99.

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W908I & W908II Wi-Fi Smart Sockets Support US, EU, UK, or AU Plug Types, Up to 4400W Power

September 8th, 2014 4 comments

I’ve had a look at several Wi-Fi smart sockets recently. Broadlink SP2 comes with a Chinese plug and supports power monitoring (About $40), Kankun KK-SP3 is more basic but sells only for $20, and runs OpenWRT, and Orvibo Wiwo S20 does not support power monitoring either, but is available with US, Europe, United Kingdom or Australia plug (About $40). If you want a Wi-Fi smart socket with a EU plug, there’s another option: W908I selling for $32 on Chinavasion. Based on the manufacturer website (HaiDian Technology) however, there are four W908I models with US, EU, UK, or AU plugs, as well as four W908II models with a higher power ratings (4400W).

W908i_Wi-Fi_Smart_SocketInstead of just one socket like socket models, it features a 3-pin socket, a 2-pin socket, and a USB port for charging devices.

W908I / W908II specifications:

  • Wi-Fi
    • 802.11 b/g/n
    • Sensitivity – 802.11b: < -84dBm; 802.11g: < -68dBm
    • Output power – 802.11b: 16 ±2dBm; 802.11g: 13 ±2dBm
    • Security – WEP, WPA-PSK or WPA2-PSK
  • Wall Socket Power Plug – US, Europe, United Kingdom or Australia plug
  • Input Sockets – 3-pin, 2-pin, and USB
  • Output Current – W908I: 10A max; W908II: 20A max.
  • Output Power – W908I 2200W max; W908II: 4400W max;
  • Voltage Range – 90-260V AC @ 50-60 Hz
  • Power Consumption – ≤0.8W
  • Dimensions – 11.2 cm x 6.4 cm x 7.0 cm
  • Temperature Range – -20 C to 75 C
  • Weight – 116 grams

The app to control the smart socket is available for Android and iOS, and can be downloaded by scanning the QR code at the back of the socket. Their appears to be a web interface too. Power monitoring function is not available in W908I/II. By the way, Broadlink SP2 does have this function, but it stopped to work on my sample after about a month.

As mentioned above, the W908I-Euro is available on Chinavasion for just $32, but other W908I plug types are available on Aliexpress for prices between $35 and $50, and a few shops sell W908II for about $60.

Thanks to Onebir for the tip.

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Categories: Android, Hardware Tags: Android, IoT, automation, haidian, ios, wifi

Xiaomi Mi Wi-Fi Mini 802.11ac Router Can Now Be Purchased for $45

September 3rd, 2014 8 comments

Ever since TV boxes with 802.11ac capabilities have been listed, I’ve been looking at purchasing a router with the latest Wi-Fi standard since I would then be able to test 802.11n at 2.4 and 5 GHz, as well as 802.11ac. The vast range of prices got me confused at first, but an article on Connectedly helped me clear things out. One of the most important factor is the different classes of Wi-Fi routers as shown in the table below. The class nomeclature is based on the Wi-Fi standard (AC or N) with a number corresponding to the rounded sum of the maximum throughput at 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

Wi-Fi_Router_ClassesBased on this table, and my limited budget ($100), I decided to look for AC1200 or greater routers, and I found one for TP-LINK Archer C7 AC1750 router selling for $100 on Amazon. Awesome! So I went to look on local websites only to find out it sold for over $200 locally, and TP-Link Thailand confirmed that “of course!” prices were different in US and Thailand… But this morning, I discovered Xiaomi Mi Wi-Fi mini router sold for $45 on DealExtreme, and that it was an AC1200 router, and it’s even cheaper than some AC750 routers, so let’s check it out.

Xiaomi_Mi_Wi-Fi_Mini_Router

Xiaomi Mi Wi-Fi Mini router specifications:

  • Wi-Fi SoC – Mediatek MT7620A @ 580MHz
  • System Memory – 128 MB DDR2
  • Storage – 16 MB SPI flash memory
  • Wi-Fi
    • Protocols – IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
    • Transmission Rate – 300Mbps max @ 2.4GHz, 867 Mbps max @ 5GHz
    • Wireless Security – WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK encryption
    • 2.4 GHz Channels: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 ,11, 12, 13;
    • 5 GHz Channels: 149, 153, 157, 161, 165;
    • 5 GHz DFS (dynamic frequancy selection) channels: 36, 40, 44, 48, 52, 56, 60, 64;
  • Ethernet – 2x LAN (Fast Ethernet), 1x WAN (Fast Ethernet)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port for external mass storage or 3GB dongle
  • Power – 5V?
  • Dimensions – 14.9 cm x 13.8 cm x 3 cm
  • Weight – 253 grams

Xiaomi_Mi_WiFi_mini_Ethernet_USBThe router is sold with a 100~240V power adapter, and a user’s manual in Chinese. The user interface will also be in Chinese, as well as the Android and iOS apps, which could be a problem. Having said that, Xiaomi mentions OpenWRT in their website, and some other devices based on MT7620 can run custom firmware, so there may be hope. But the biggest problem may be the 10/100M Ethernet ports used by the router, as they could possibly become the bottleneck while testing performance. So I’ll skip it for now myself. It’s also possible the price drops to around $35 as it’s sold for 129 CNY in China, or about $21. I could not find any decent reviews in English, but a review on Sina (in Chinese) appears to be more interesting, where they show a stronger signal than some other routers, but no actual throughput testing. You can find further details (in Chinese) on Xiaomi’s Mi Wi-Fi Mini page.

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xWifi Open Source Hardware Wi-Fi Module and Dock for the Internet of Things (Crowdfunding)

September 1st, 2014 8 comments

For some reasons, Wi-Fi modules are pretty popular this year. After modules such as VoCore, AsiaRF AWM002, and ESP8622, here’s come xWifi. This module is based on Mediatek MT7681 SoC which includes a TCP/IP stack like Espressif ESP8622 or TI CC3300, so it won’t run OpenWRT like VoCore or AsiaRF modules. The module only consumes about 350mW during transfer, it will be open source hardware, and the xWifi module plus a dock with a 10A relay, a humidity and temperature sensor, and a LED will go for as low as $17.

xWi-Fi_IoT_ModulexWifi module only specifications:

  • SoC – Mediatek MT7681 802.11 b/g/n SoC with 32-bit RISC CPU. Support for Client/softAP mode. Package size 5×5 mm
  • Storage – 512KB SPI Flash (for firmware)
  • I/Os via headers:
    • UART and SPI interfaces.
    • 5x GPIOs
    • PWM
  • Power – 3.3V, GND
  • Power Consumption – ~70mA  @ 5V (during RX active)
  • Dimensions – 14 x 17 mm

The module can be used for smart home appliances, smart plug and door locks, smart lighting, metering, remote control, network consumer devices, and more.
There’s also a dock available with xWifi modules:

  • Relay – Songle SRD03VDC-SL-C – 3V for control pins. 230V/10A support.
  • Sensors – Humidity & Temperature sensor
  • Header – 2x 8 pin header for xWifi module
  • Misc – 3-color LED
  • Power – 5V via micro USB port
  • Dimensions – N/A, estimated ~ 4 x 3 cm

The kit comprised of the xWiFi module and the dock with be open source hardware with schematics, PCB layout, Gerber files, and BoM released. An SDK with samples apps for Android & iOS will also be provided.

If you want to know a bit more about MT7681, you can download the datasheet, but you may also access much more resources with documentation, code samples, and SDK via a forum post on Andes Workshop. The datasheet also gives some pricing information for another MT7681 module by Shenzhen Anxinke Technology, which sells for 30 CNY (~$5) in 500-unit order, and as low as 25 CNY (~$4) for 10k orders.

xThink Lab, the company behind the project, has now completed development, and they are looking for $4,500 or more via an Indiegogo campaign to start mass production in November. There’s no word about FCC/CE compliance by the way…, but it was the same with VoCore at the beginning and it ended up being ultra successful. An early pledge of $17 will get your a full kit with xWifi module and the dock. There’s no way to get a xWiFi module only, unless you pledge $37 for 3 modules. Shipping is free to the US and China, and $3 to the rest  of the world, with delivery scheduled for November 2014.

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ESP8266 WiFi Serial Module Costs Just $5

August 28th, 2014 6 comments

Wi-Fi is great because it’s ubiquitous, and rather fast for a wireless standard. However, it drains batteries fast, and Wi-Fi modules are usually much more expensive than Bluetooth modules for instance. There’s not much that can be done with regards to power consumption, but thanks to ESP8266 module, it’s now feasible to add Wi-Fi to your Arduino board, or others, for just $5 including shipping on Aliexpress, but SeeedStudio also have it for $6.95. If you buy 1,000 pieces, it goes down to about $3 per unit.

ESP8266_Wi-Fi_Module
As reported by Hackaday, this module embeds ESP8266 SoC which takes care off all IP stacks, a bit like Texas Instruments CC3000 SoC, but it’s just much cheaper.

Here are some of the specifications of the module (and processor):

  • SoC – Espressif Systems ESP8266 32-bit RISC processor with 802.11 b/g/n support(32-pin QFN package), Interfaces: SDIO 2.0, SPI, UART, I2S
  • Wi-Fi – 802.112 b/g/n with WEP, TKIP, AES, and WAPI engines, Wi-Fi direct (P2P), and soft-AP
  • Header – 8-pin header with GND, VCC (3.3V), Rx and RX, and 4 NC pins.
  • Standby power consumption – < 1.0mW (DTIM3)
  • Dimensions – 21 x 11 mm
  • Weight – 3 grams

SeeedStudio has provided documentation for the module including the AT Instruction Set and ESP8266 Specifications both in Chinese only, but there’s also a translation of the datasheet in English. There;s also a “IoT SDK” available for the board that includes tools, scripts, binary libraries, and an IoT demo programmed in C language.

Schematics with ESP8622 Wi-Fi SoC

Schematics with ESP8622 Wi-Fi SoC

There are very few references to ESP8266 on the net for now, so even if it’s feasible to use it with Arduino boards for example, somebody (YOU!) still have to write the AT command set to control the module, and it won’t be as easy as using an already supported Wi-Fi shield, until a library makes it to the Arduino IDE. One developer plans to interface it with TI MSP430 MCU.

Thanks to Freire!

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Categories: Hardware Tags: IoT, arduino, espressif, seeed studio, wifi

Review of UyeSee G1H Rockchip RK3288 Android TV Box

August 27th, 2014 4 comments

UyeSee G1H is one of the first Android TV boxes powered by Rockchip RK3288 quad core Cortex A17 SoC. I’ve already listed specs, and shown a few pictures of the device and the board in my “UyeSee G1H Unboxing” post, so today I’ll write a full review, checking out the user interface, testing video playback capabilities, network and storage performance, play a few games, check hardware features are working as expected, and runs some benchmarks on the platform.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

There’s an infrared remote control with the device. I’ve inserted a CR2032 battery, and although it works great in the user interface, it becomes useless with Android apps, so instead I’ve opted to use Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse which brings mouse and keyboard support. Before powering up the device, I’ve connected an HDMI cable, the RF dongle for Mele F10 Deluxe, a USB hard drive, and an Ethernet cable. Connecting the power supply will start the device automatically, and the boot is super fast compared to other devices I’ve tested, as it takes about 18 seconds only.

UyeSee_G1H_Android_Home_Default_640px

UyeSee G1H Android Launcher (Click for Original Size)

There’s a custom launcher as shown above, as well as the stock Android home screen as shown below. The status bar is disabled by default, but I’ve enabled it for easier control with the air mouse, and to take screenshots. It looks pretty, but unfortunately this must have been designed for the Chinese market, and all buttons report “App not installed”, except the Settings button which goes to the Android settings. You can use the arro keys to navigate, and if you go right, you’ll find the all the you’ve installed apps. This menu has some animation that are extremely smooth, probably thanks to the Mali-T764 GPU. However, if you click on the screenshot above you’ll find out the resolution is set to 1280×720. I’d assume most people don’t buy the latest Android mini PC to get a 720p machine, but you can change to 1920×1080 resolution in the settings, and the user interface will also be set to 1080p. I don’t have a 4K TV so 4K options did not show up. The launcher above won’t look very nice at 1080p, because graphics are made for 720p, and a large part of the bottom of the screen will not be used. There’s no such problem when switching to the stock Android home screen.

UyeSee_G1H_Android_Home_640px

Android Home Screen (Click for Original @ 720p)

Going to the Settings, we’ve got all usually Wireless and Networks options for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet, including VPN, Portable Hotspot and so on. There’s a Home menu to select the launcher, and ScreenshotSetting  menu, both of which I did not notice in most other firmware. The Sound settings like you choose between “Default Output” (PCM / Down-mixing), “Spdif Passthough”, and HDMI Bitstream (HDMI pass-through), but I don’t have an audio receiver yet, so I could not try the pass-though options. The Display settings will allow you to hide or show the status bar, adjust for overscan, select HDMI, YPbPr, and “TV” (Composite) video output, as well as the resolution: “auto”, 1080p 24/25/30/50/60Hz, 720p 50/60, 720×576 or 720×480. If you have a 4K TV, 4K options should show as well. I’ve been informed there’s currently a bug for 4K @ 60Hz, but it will be resolved in the next firmware upgrade. I’ve done most of my testing with HDMI, and I had no problem, but I also tested composite and component (YPbPr) video output.

Composite (Click to Enlarge)

Composite (Click to Enlarge)

Component (Click to Enlarge)

Component (Click to Enlarge)

Composite looks fine, but there’s a green line on my TV that could not be removed even after using the “Screen Scale” menu. YMMV. Component output is more problematic as it is only shown in Grey (Y signal), I could not get the Chrominance signal to show which any cable combination I tried.

About_UyeSee_G1HMy device comes with a 8GB NAND flash, and they’ve partitioned it with a 1.91GB “Internal Storage” partition for apps, and a 3.88 GB “NAND FLASH” partition for data. I really prefer a single partition for everything, but even after installing all apps I needed for testing I still had 1.17GB free in the “Internal Storage” partition. It may become a problem if you install many apps, especially games which can be rather large.

Other settings are pretty standard, and the developer option are enabled by default. The “About device” section reports the model number as “rk3288″, Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.0. The firmware is not rooted, and I don’t have male to male USB cable, so I could not root it via the OTG port.

I could install most applications I tried on Google Play Store including Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Beach Buggy Blitz, etc…, but a few would just report my device is not compatible such as Real Racing 3 (but many Android STB have the same issue) and Vidonn activity tracker app. I have had some 941 errors from time to time, failing to install an app, but these were possibly network error unrelated to G1H. Paid apps such as Sixaxis Controller installed properly. In order to play Riptide GP2, I also installed Amazon AppStore without issue.

There’s no power button, so you can’t power off the device gracefully, only put it in standby mode with the IR remote control power button, The soft power button in the status did not work for me. Despite having only a 5V/2A power adapter, connected a USB hard drive, I did not seem to have issues with a lack of power, except possibly at the end of one Antutu test at 1080p where the screen went blank. The box can get pretty hot however. After Antutu, the max temperature on the top and bottom of the box were respectively 53 °C and 60 °C, after after playing Riptide GP2 for 30 minutes at 1080p, it went all the way up to 63 °C and 71 °C, which means the processor even gets hotter, possibly well over 80 °C, I’m not sure this can be good if this happens too often.

The firmware is very smooth most of the time, except when it’s writing to the flash, while installing an app for example, where the mouse pointer may not react for short periods of time. Stability is OK, but I had the screen turn off at the end of Antutu benchmark once, requiring a power cycle, and another time the box rebooted itself, while browsing files in ES File Explorer. I like the fact that you can switch between 720p and 1080p user interface, as you want prefer the former for smoother games, and the former for video playback for example.

You can watch the video below to see what the UI looks like at 1280×720 and 1920×1080 resolution, as well as the difference settings options available.

Video Playback

I normally play videos from a SAMBA share over Ethernet using XBMC. However, the box does not come with XBMC, and currently XBMC does not support hardware decoding for HEVC, so instead I’ve chosen to test videos with MXPlayer. I did try to install XBMC using XBMC Updater, and downloaded both stable and nightly apk, but the system reported the apk were not recognized. So I tried to install SPMC via Google Play instead, but atfirst I got a 941 error, and I could only manage install it after most testing was complete at a later stage. Using Es File Explorer, I connected to my SAMBA share, and unfortunately even 480p video were buffering like crazy, so I ended up using a USB hard drive. The Ethernet issue may not be due to G1H, but my Gigabit switch, as I’ll explain in the networking section. Nevertheless, the takeaway is that videos were played from USB hard drive with MXPlayer, unless otherwise stated.

I start with videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, and as well as videos with H.265/HEVC codec from Elecard:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – Video playing at an estimated 2 to 4 fps, with most frames skipped [SPMC test: OK, but every second or so, there will be a subtle change of color / screen jump]
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK, much smoother than any other device I’ve tried, and according to MXPlayer using HW decode.
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – No video, audio only.

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK, no problem even in fast moving scenes
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK. (Audio needs to be decoded by S/W)
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK  (Audio needs to be decoded by S/W)
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

Most high definition audio codecs (except AC3 and TrueHD) could not play with MXPlayer, but I tried later with SPMC (XBMC fork on Google Play), and all could play:

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

Sintel-Bluray.iso Blu-ray ISO file could play in MX Player but with video only, I could not get audio to work, even switching to software decode.

Rockchip RK3288 is supposed to handle 4K videos, even with HEVC, so let’s try a few in MX Player:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – Can play but with some slow downs from time to time. I can get audio by switching to audio S/W decoding.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK, but some white “fog” appears on the black background
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts – Cannot play.

Several AVI, MKV, FLV and MP4 videos in my library could play fine with SPMC. I also played a complete 1080p video (1h50) in the box, and I had no issues either.

At first, I was not too happy with video playback using MX Player only, but when you put SPMC (XBMC) into the mix, it looks much better. The main thing you lose (confirmed) with XBMC is H.265 / HEVC hardware video decoding.

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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

The network test consists in transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash using, and vice versa, repeating the test three times using ES File Explorer. Wi-Fi performance appears to be inconsistent, as I had three much different transfer times: 3m20s, 2m43s, and 4m31s, averaging a rather disappointing 1.31 MB/s. I also tested Miracast via Rockchip’s “Wi-Fi display” app included with the firmware, and after a few tries I managed to mirror my Android phone display.

Wi-Fi_UyeSee_G1H

Wi-Fi Performance in MB/s

Now.. Ethernet.. This gets interesting. At first, when I used the device connected to Ethernet, it felt sluggish in the Play Store, and soon found some serious issues while transferring a file from a SAMBA share using ES File Explorer, as throughput was around 300 to 500 KB/s most of the time, and sometimes it would even stall. This looks very similar to the issue I had to Wetek Play. I’ve recently purchased a D-Link DGS-1005A 5-port Gigabit switch for test, and used it in my last five reviews. That means three products had no problem with the switch, and two had issues. Which item is guilty is difficult to prove. So I decided to insert my older (D-Link) 10/100M hub, between the device and the Gigabit switch and it worked. I tried to connect the device to my Gigabit switch with a different cable, and it also worked, but the connection is only 100M. If I used the original cable (the same I used for all other reviews), it will detect a Gigabit connection, but the Ethernet LEDs will “funnily” blink on the device, and the Link LED will turn on and off. So at the end of the day, I did not manage to get a proper Gigabit connection, so I tested Fast Ethernet, and the result is OK.

Ethernet_UyeSee_G1H

Ethernet Performance in MB/s

Like with Probox2 EX, this test used the ES File Explorer version with improved SAMBA performance, which may have helped a bit for Ethernet, but did nothing for Wi-Fi.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Transferring a picture via Bluetooth worked just fine, after pairing G1H with my Android smartphone (ThL W200).

I skipped Sixaxis test for PS3 Bluetooth Gamepad support, as it required root.

After installing Vidonn app for Vidonn X5 activity tracker, it could connected via Bluetooth 4.0 LE to retrieve the data.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and a USB flash drive formatted to FAT32 could be mounted and accessed successfully.
I’ve also connected my USB 3.0 hard drive with NTFS, EXT-4, FAT32, and BTRFS partitions. and as usual the Linux file systems are not supported, at least not by default.

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

After setting the custom locations set to /mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK2/USB3_NTFS in A1 SD Bench to benchmark the NTFS partition, I got a read speed of 27.5MB/s and a write speed of 25.98MB/s.

UyeSee_G1H_USB_Drive

USB Hard Drive Performance in MB/s

There’s not that much differences between difference platforms at USB 2.0 speeds.

Last time, the eMMC flash in Probox2 EX could be read at 27.57MB/s, and written at 15.11 MB/s, and the eMMC used in G1H as better read speed at 44.50 MB/s, but much slower write speed at 7.3 MB/s, which may explain some the rare slowdowns I experienced while playing with this mini PC.

USB Webcam

Skype sort of worked with my UVC USB webcam. I tested audio successfully with the Echo service, and I could see the video, but as I tried to leave a video message the app crashed.

Google Hangouts could detect the webcam, but when I did a video call the camera image did not show up.

Gaming

With Mali-T764 GPU, Rockchip RK3288 should be a star when it comes to video games. I’ve tested the three games: Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2. Candy Crush Saga unsurprisingly worked fine as with any device. Beach Buggy Blitz is a little more challenging, and based on my experience Riptide GP2 is even more demanding.

Testing games was actually the first thing I did, at first the resolution was set to 720p. I used Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad to control both games. I went to Beach Buggy Blitz settings, and maxed out the graphics settings which normally make devices based on Amlogic S802 struggle to have a decent framerate. But with UyeSee G1H, the game was just extra smooth. I did the same with Riptide GP2, and yet again very smooth most of the time. I could even win races, or battle with the lead driver at all games. That’s not usual at all, as normally I’m always fighting for third place in other Android TV boxes :). Beside the high framerate, one of the reasons gameplay is better is that I don’t have lag with Tronsmart Gamepad in this device.  Switching to 1080p, Beach Buggy Blitz is still super smooth, except sometimes during the first one of two seconds of the game. Riptide GP2 is still very playable, and I’m still fighting for victory!, but it feels like the framerate may drop in the low 20, or even 15 at times. I’ve played Riptide GP2 for 30 consecutive minutes, and albeit the box gets very hot (70 C), everything is stable and smooth.

UyeSee G1H Benchmark

Since it’s my first Rockchip RK3288 device, I’ve run a few more benchmarks than usual, and also checked the CPU details with CPU-Z app.
Rockchip_RK3288_CPU-Z
CPU-Z has apparently not yet heard about Rockchip RK3288, as it reports a Rockchip RK3066 processor. The CPU architecture is 0xc0d, which stands for ARM Cortex A12, whereas Cortex A17 should be 0xc0e, according to this. So finally Rockchip RK3288 might be a Cortex A12, at least for the first versions. If there are other ways to check let me know.  The CPU clock can scale between 126MHz and 1.8 GHz, the GPU is correctly detected as Mali-T764, and there’s indeed 2GB RAM in my device, but CPU-Z only takes the “internal flash” partition reporting 1.91 GB storage for the 8 GB flash.
UyeSee_G1H_Antutu
Antutu 4.x score is excellent with 40,497, one of the top device on the market. That score has been achieved with a resolution of 1280×720, switching to 1920×1080 brings the score down to a still very good 39273 points. I’ve created a table below showing comparing S802 in Probox2 EX, and RK3288 in G1H  to find out where it shine in the tests:

Amlogic S802 Rockchip RK3288
Multitask 5744 10415
Runtime 2018 4698
RAM Operation 2997 2066
RAM Speed 1596 2797
CPU integer 3781 3162
CPU float-point 2815 5218
2D Graphics 1648 (607×1008) 1641 (1280×672)
3D graphics 8717 (607×1008) 8404 (1280×672)
Storage I/O 1801 1461
Database I/O 630 635

Results are quite surprising. According to Antutu 4.x scores, RK3288 shines in multitask, runtime, and CPU floating point testes, but graphics are about equivalent to S802 (at slightly different resolutions), and CPU integer is faster in the S802 @ 2.0 Ghz compared to RK3288 @ 1.8 Ghz. Probox2 EX has slightly better storage performance compared to UyeSee G1H but this part is mostly independent from the processor.

I also tried to run Quadrant, but all I got was a grey screen as I ran the test. Vellamo benchmark is now at version 3.0, so I can’t really compared it to earlier tests I did, but UyeSee G1H performance is also pretty good here.

Vellamo_UyeSee_G1H_Rockchip_RK3288In the new Multicore (beta) benchmark, this Rockchip RK3288 solution even beats all other players.

Rockchip_RK3288_Vellamo_MulticoreIn the browser score, UyeSee G1H is only outperformed by LG G3 smartphone (Qualcomm Snapdragon 801), and in the metal score, its performance is about equivalent to LG Nexus 5 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 801).

Despite the clear superior performance in games, the graphics benchmarks in Antutu were somewhat disappointing, so I’ve run Ice Storm Extreme test in 3DMark.

3DMarks_RK3288_UyeSee_G1H

3DMark Benchmark Results (Click to Enlarge)

A score of 7278 points is about equivalent to a phone based on Snapdragon 600 with Adreno 320 GPU. Many recent devices based on Qualcomm 800 and greater get score above 10,000 or simply maxes out the test, so again I was expecting the GPU to perform better in benchmarks.

Conclusion

First, I’d like to thank Shenzhen UyeSee Technology for being the first company to send me a product based on Rockchip RK3288. The product is still new, and although there are positives, there’s still some work that need to be done. Compared to existing products, the main benefits of Rockchip RK3288 are HEVC video decoding and a 3D gaming performance unmatched by other Android TV boxes

PRO:

  • Fast new processor
  • Excellent 3D graphics performance for games, which for some reasons does not really show in benchmarks.
  • Both 720p and 1080p user interfaces are supported
  • Video Output – 1080p support 24, 25 ,30 , 50 and 60 Hz output which may be important for some videos. 4K will eventually support 60Hz thanks to HDMI 2.0.
  • HEVC video decoding support
  • OTA firmware updates appear to be supported (but I cannot confirm).
  • Webcam supported in Skype (although it did not work in Google Hangouts)

CONS:

  • Rare stability issues (1 reboot, one black screen over 8 hours of testing)
  • Lacklustre Wi-Fi performance
  • XBMC not pre-installed
  • Issues with some videos in MX Player (MPEG2, several HEVC/H.265 can’t be played, some audio issues)
  • Somewhat slow eMMC flash write speed potentially leading to slowdowns
  • Potential Gigabit Ethernet issues, at least confirmed with my switch (D-Link DSG-1005A).
  • No proper power off (standby only)
  • The device can get pretty hot (70+ C)
  • A few apps are not compatible in Google Play
  • Video output – Component only output the Luminance signal with my TV, composite has a green bar at the bottom
  • “TV” Launcher is only made for 720p resolution

I had quite a few problem with networking with this hardware. First Wi-Fi is stable, but relatively slow, and then the box did not want to play nice with my Gigabit Ethernet switch, but connection and performance were fine with a Fast Ethernet hub. Video playback is decent, but may still need more work, a version of XBMC with support for H.265 would be nice, but I’d assume at first all Rockchip RK3288 TV boxes will suffer from the same flaw, at least initially. If you’d like to play some 3D games this TV box will give you a much better experience than what you can achieve with the fastest Cortex A9 solution (Rockchip RK3188, Amlogic S802), and after testing the box, this is currently the main selling point of this media player.

You may find more information and/or contact the company via G1H product page. UyeSee G1H is not yet listed on their Aliexpress Store, but some hardware with similar specs, but different enclosure, can be bought for $90 including shipping on Aliexpress, so we might expect a similar price for G1H.

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