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Posts Tagged ‘wifi’

Vonets VM300 Wi-Fi & Ethernet IoT Board with Mediatek MT7620 Runs OpenWRT

January 23rd, 2015 2 comments

Mediatek MT760 is a recent Wi-Fi SoC found in some Nexx WT3020 routers, and WRTnode development board. Both run OpenWRT and costs $17 to $30 depending on the amount of flash, and ports with the former featuring two Ethernet ports, and the latter access to GPIOs. You could probably open the case of the Nexx routers and solder some wires to get access to GPIO, and you can hack an Ethernet cable for WRTnode, but another options could be Vonets WM300 kit that includes a board with Wi-Fi and Ethernet, a cable for USB / Ethernet connection, headers for GPIOs, and two external antennas for less than $30. An OpenWRT SDK is also provided for the kit.

Vonets_VM300Specifications listed for VM300 board:

  • Processor – Mediatek MT7260N MIPS processor @ 580MHz
  • Storage – 4MB SPI Flash (option: 8MB/16MB) for firmware
  • System Memory – 32MB or 64MB SDRAM
  • Connectivity
    • Wi-Fi
      • Single band 802.11 b/g/n 2T2R up to 300 Mbps with two external 2dB antenna.
      • Output power: 15dbm – 16.5dbm
      • Supports 1-14 Wi-Fi channels
      • Working modes – Routing, Bridge (also support AP Client and AP Station), Repeater
    • 10/100M Ethernet
    • 3G/4G supported via USB dongle (no USB port, but signal are available on headers)
    • Functions – Firewall, QoS, VPN
  • Expansion – Mini PCIe, 2x 6-pin and 8-pin headers with access to Ethernet signals, UART, USB host, 2x GPIO, reset signal, status signals
  • Power Supply – 3.3V – 3.4V DC, or 4.5V – 15V DC; Consumption:  <2W
  • Dimensions – 51 x 30 mm
  • Weight – 86g
  • Temperature Range – -25°C – 55°C (operating)

Vonets_VM300_Development_BoardThe mini PCIe connector is probably not following any standard, and can be use in case you make some baseboard for the module. You can find the pinout and a little more in WM300 datasheet. The quick start guide shows the board is not running OpenWRT by default, but you can download the OpenWRT SDK and instructions.

Vonets WM300 can be purchased on several sites including DealExtreme, Aliexpress or Ebay for $25 and up. The only problem is that everybody has just copied and pasted the specs showing 32 or 64MB RAM, and 4 and 8MB Flash, so you don’t know exactly what you are buying, and this could be an issue if you want to run OpenWRT as 64MB SDRAM and 8MB flash are required according to the company. Visit Vonets VM300 product page for details.

Thanks to Onebir for the tip.

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Atmel Introduces Wi-Fi / Bluetooth Combo SoCs for the Internet of Things

January 22nd, 2015 3 comments

Atmel has recently announced two SoCs supporting Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 that target M2M and IoT applications, namely WILC3000 wireless link controller and WINC3400 network controller which both integrate a power amplifier, LNA, switch and power management unit.

WILC3000 Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

WILC3000 Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

WILC3000 and WINC3400 should share the following specifications:

  • MCU – Cortus APS3 32-bit processor
  • ROM/Flash – 256KB instruction/boot ROM (160KB for 802.11 and 96KB for Bluetooth) along with a 768 bits of non-volatile eFuse memory
  • RAM – 420KB instruction RAM (128KB for 802.11 and 292KB for Bluetooth), and a 128KB data RAM (64KB for 802.11 and 64KB for Bluetooth), as well as 160KB shared/exchange RAM (128KB for 802.11 and 32 KB for Bluetooth)
  • Wi-Fi

    • IEEE 802.11 b/g/n RF/PHY/MAC SOC (2.4 GHz)
    • IEEE 802.11 b/g/n (1×1) for up to 72 Mbps
    • Wi-Fi Direct and Soft-AP support
    • Supports IEEE 802.11 WEP, WPA, WPA2 Security, China WAPI security
  • Bluetooth
    • Version 4.0 Low Energy
    • Class 1 & 2 transmission
    • HCI (Host Control Interface) via high speed UART
    • PCM audio interface
  • On-chip memory management engine to reduce host load
  • 1x SPI, 1x SDIO, 1x I2C, and 1x UART host interfaces
  • Operating Voltage – 2.7 – 3.3 V
  • Operating temperature range – -30°C to +85°C
  • Package – 6x6mm QFN;  48 pins. WLCSP (Wafer Level Chip Scale Package) is also available.

According to the information available on Atmel website WILC3400 adds the following:

  • Fast boot options:
    • On-Chip Boot ROM (firmware instant boot)
    • SPI flash boot (firmware patches and state variables)
    • Low-leakage on-chip memory for state variables
    • Fast AP re-association (150ms)
  • On-Chip Network Stack to offload MCU:
    • Integrated Network IP stack to minimize host CPU requirements
    • Network features: TCP, UDP, DHCP, ARP, HTTP, SSL, and DNS

So as I understand it the main difference between WILC3000 and WINC3400 is that the former provides low level Bluetooth / Wi-Fi connectivity, but the IP stack must be handled on a separate MCU / processor, while the latter also embeds the IP stack and Bluetooth Smart profiles.

WILC3000 chip is available now, and a fully certified module of this chip will be available in April 2015, and WINC3400 SiP and its module will be also be available at the same time. Pricing information has not be disclosed. A WINC3400 integrated module on an Xplained Starter Kit platform is also planned for Q2 2015. A few more details can be found on WILC3000 and WINC3400 product pages, including WILC3000 datasheet.

Via Embedded.com

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Categories: Hardware, Processors Tags: IoT, atmel, bluetooth, m2m, wifi

LinkIt Connect 7681 is a Wi-Fi IoT Board Powered by Mediatek MT7681

January 19th, 2015 2 comments

So it looks like Mediatek has decided to carry on with its Mediatek Labs endeavours, as after launching LinkIt ONE last year, they’re about to introduce LinkIT Connect 7681, a development board with a Mediatek MT7681 based Wi-Fi module, and access to various GPIOs.

LinkIt_Connect_7681LinkIt Connect 7681 HDK (Hardware Development Kit) specifications:

  • SoC – Mediatek MT7681 Andes N9 processor @ 80 MHz with 64KB RAM,
  • Storage – 1MB SPI Flash for firmware
  • Connectivity – Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n for Station mode; 802.11 b/g for AP mode via a MT7681 module by AcSIP
  • Headers – 12-pin header for UART, 5 GPIOs (also usable as software PWM), RESET, and 3.3V/5V/GND; 6-pin header for SPI, 3.3V and GND.
  • USB – 1x micro USB for power and programming/debugging
  • Misc – Reset push-button, 2x UART LEDs
  • Power Supply – On-board 1A 3.3V voltage regulator (can be powered from USB connector)
  • I/O Voltage – 3.3V for GPIO and UART
  • Dimensions – 50 x 31 mm (board); 15 x 18mm (Wi-Fi module)

LinkIt_Connect_7681_Block_Diagram

A Wiki has been setup for the board, and already contains a short overview, and links to hardware files (free registration required), API reference, a developer’s guide, and the SDK for Linux or Windows (Cygwin required). Key features of the SDK include:

  • Libraries for all the MediaTek LinkIt Connect 7681 APIs, including Smart Connection and FOTA firmware updates
  • C-like language
  • Command line compiler, based on Andes Development Kit
  • Firmware upload tool
  • MediaTek Smart Connection app examples for Android and iOS, including source code
  • Example source code such as IoTServer, AT Command Parser, Data Command Parser and X-Modem

 

MT7681 Software Architecture

MT7681 Software Architecture

The board is not available yet, but Mediatek Labs MT7681 page indicates LinkIt Connect should be available early 2015 via Seeed Studio. The price has not been disclosed either, but this looks somewhat similar to WRTnode selling for $25, and the HLK-M30 Starterkit, also based on MT7681 and very similar to LinkIt Connect, sells for $16.32 including shipping and a power supply, so I’d expect the new board to cost between $10 to $20.

Thanks to deets for the tip.

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Mini Review of VidOn Box Android Media Player

January 16th, 2015 4 comments

Vidon Box is an Allwinner A31s based TV box made by Vidon.me, a Diamond sponsor for Kodi entertainment center. I’ve already listed specs, subscriber services, and uploaded pictures in the unboxing post, so it’s time for a review. Since Allwinner A31s has been around for a while, I’ve decided to write a shorter review.

First Boot, Setup, and First Impressions

Since the box provides some services with a subscription, with a free 1-year top-up card included, you’ll probably want to register an account on Vidon.me first, as it’s needed to activate all services in the box as shown on the back of the top-up card. After the optional Subscription is $14.99 per year, and it’s only needed if you need features like Blu-ray navigation, or audio pass-through.

Vidon_Box_Top_Up_Card_InstructionsThe simple remote included does the job if you only use the box for settings and XBMC, but otherwise you’ll need an air mouse, or wireless keyboard. Just make sure you remove the plastic under the battery to make it work. I’ve connected all required cables, and a bunch if USB devices, and for the very first boot you go through a wizard to set the language, configure the display  (720/1080p/i video output and screen scale), the network (Wi-Fi or Ethernet), the time, audio output (HDMI or S/PDIF, and disable/enable pass-through), check for firmware update, and login with you Vidon.me username and password7vagywbpojka. There was a new firmware for the device, and although the download for the 322MB firmware (SDK 1.2)  took over 2 hours, the process went smoothly, but at next start-up, it went through the wizard again, and  it detected yet another update, smaller (50.96MB) and called VMC (maybe standing for Vidon.me XBMC?). Subsequent boots take about 45 seconds.

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

They’ve revamped the user interface they had in Vidon.me AV200, and black/white/grey home screen shows the list of app directly. There’s also an option to autostart XBMC. The apps with a grey down arrow are not installed yet, you need to click on them, and they will be downloaded and installed.

If you want to check all settings available, I’ve recorded the Android screen with all options in the video below.

Power handling is all good, as you can enter/exit standby, and power on/off cleanly with the remote control. Temperature after Anautu was 38 C on both side of the device, but the shiny metallic enclosure may have interfered with my IR thermometer, as the temperature felt higher with my hand.

The system performs nicely most of the time, but if you are installing apps, you’d better wait, as it becomes hardly usable. Google Play works fine for me. Stability is good, but I had one system freeze in XBMC once while playing a 3D video.

Video Playback

XBMC 13.2 is pre-installed, and there;s are actually two versions of Vidon XBMC installed which is really confusing. I just tried a few videos over Ethernet + USB or SAMBA:

  • 1080p H.264 – OK
  • 1080p MPEG-2 – OK
  • 2160p H.264 – Slow motion
  • 1080p Bluray (Sintel) – OK
  • 1080p Over/Under 3D Video – First time: system hang, power cycle required. Second try: Plays like in slow motion.

I’ve also run Antutu Video Tester, and Vidon Box got an average score with 490 points. Not quite as good as devices with more recent Allwinner processor (e.g. A80/A83T).

Antutu_Video_Tester_Vidon_Box

Click to Enlarge

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

Network performance over Wi-Fi is tested by transferring a 278 MB file using ES File Explorer to a SAMBA server, and vice versa. Results: 3.09 MB/s average transfer speed, which places it in the top of the 802.11n device in terms of Wi-Fi performance.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

I did the same with Ethernet, and the speed is a bit slow, but as well see below, this tests is affected by the internal flash read speed.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Raw Ethernet performance with iperf show good performance in one direction, but problem to handle full duplex at full speed.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.102, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 34423 connected with 192.168.0.102 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   299 MBytes  41.8 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.1 sec   665 MBytes  92.9 Mbits/sec

Storage

Following comments from a reader, I’ve replaced the FAT32 partition in my USB 3.0 hard drive by exFAT, especially since I’ve already testing FAT32 with a (micro) SD card and/or USB flash drive. So now I have 4 partitions with NTFS, EXT-4, FAT32, and BTRFS in the drive.

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

I tested read and write performance for USB NTFS and the internal storage using A1 SD Bench app.

Read and Write Speed (MB/s)

Read and Write Speed (MB/s)

Despite a decent read performance via USB (32.92 MB/s), Vidon Box is the wort performing device with USB device because of a dismissal write performance (2.59 MB/s). I also ran the test with the exFAT partition in case the culprit was the NTFS partition, but it’s not much better: 26.57 MB/s and 3.38 MB/s, so something is very wrong here.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

The internal storage performance also places it with other low end device, and the poor write performance also explains why the device is not really usable while installed apps.

Gaming

I’ve tested one game (Beach Buggy Racing) and graphics performance is OK, but it’s very unpleasant to play because Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad can connect, but it’s unusable (no reaction, and it’s the first time it happens), so I had to use the Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse to play.

VidOn.me AV200 Benchmark

I’ve only run Antutu 5.6 benchmark, and with a score of 15,591 points is roughly where a quad cortex Cortex A7 device should be.

vidon_box_antutuConclusion

VidOn Box is a good looking device that runs OK, with excellent Wi-Fi, and only quickly tested video playback, and H.265, MPEG-2 and Bluray are Ok in XBMC, but 3D videos and 4K videos somehow do not work, even though Allwinner A31(s) is supposed to support the latter at least. Wi-Fi is one of the best, Ethernet average, but storage is really poor when it comes to write speed both for internal storage, and especially USB storage.

Let’s summarize the PROS and CONS

  • PROS
    • Stable firmware (although I got one freeze in XBMC once)
    • Eye pleasing elliptic design with metallic enclosure
    • Excellent Wi-Fi performance
    • Proper power handling with standby and power on/off from the remote control
    • OTA firmware and XBMC upgrades
    • Future firmware upgrades promise Mobile Transfer, Photo Backup, Mobile Access, and more.
  • CONS
    • Their XBMC version requires registration and login to VidOn.me
    • 4K hardware video decoding, and 3D stereoscopic videos are not supported, at least in XBMC
    • The flash is partitioned with a 1GB app partition, and a ~4GB data partition, which may lead to issues install many apps.
    • The processor is somewhat slow by today’s standard, but it’s not really an issue if all you do is video playback
    • Very poor write speed to USB mass storage (~3 to 4 MB/s)
    • Relatively slow internal storage
    • 1280×720 user interface
    • Wireless gamepad (like Mars G01) are not supported
    • Standard features like audio pass-through and Blu-ray navigation require a $14.99 annual subscription fee.

Vidon Box can either be purchased directly on Vidon.me for $69.99 including shipping and one free year of membership, or via other websites such as GeekBuying and Aliexpress. After one year, membership costs $14.99 per year, or $1.99 per month, and is optional for most features.

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Broadcom Unveils BCM725x SoCs for STBs and TV Sticks

January 14th, 2015 9 comments

Broadcom has recently announced two new SoCs, namely BCM7250 and BCM72502, respectively targeted at OTT streaming media player form factor and  HDMI stick or dongle applications.  Both feature Broadcom’s Brahma-B15 ARMv7-A cores, support 10-bit H.265, HDMI 2.0, MHL 2.0, and up to to 4×4 5G WiFi via BCM4366 WiSoC.

Broadcom_BCM72502_TV_StickKey features listed by Broadcom for both SoCs:

  • High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC)/H.265 compression
  • 6000 DMIPS B15 ARMv7-A CPU
  • 1.0 Gpix/s OpenGL ES 3.0 3D GPU
  • Supports HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 or MHL 2.0 digital video output
  • PCIe connectivity to Broadcom BCM4366 4×4 carrier-grade 5G WiFi
  • 480/576p30 transcode
  • 1080p60 10-Bit HD HEVC decode and 4Kp60 upscale
  • High Performance DDR3/DDR4 system memory interface
  • Supports Android, Chromium, DIAL, DLNA CVP2, Miracast protocols
  • Supports Broadcom Trellis Multi-Application Framework and DTVKit software stack

The company can also provide reference platforms with 2×2 and 4×4 5G WiFi connectivity options via a high-speed PCIe interface, and announced that BCM7250, BCM72502 and BCM4366 are currently sampling.

SML-482 HEVC Hybrid Based on BCM7250

SML-482 HEVC Hybrid Based on BCM7250

Smart Labs is one of the first companies to have designed a products based on the latest Broadcom processors with SML-482 HEVC Hybrid box pictured above featuring BCM7250 processor, and with the following specifications:

  • SoC – Broadcom BCM7250 with 3D GPU supporting OpenGL ES 2.0
  • System Memory – Options: 512MB DDR3, 1GB DDR3 for Dual HEVC Decode, 1GB DDR3 for Android
  • Storage – 256 MB flash  (Up to 16GB as option for Android)
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 1.4 with HDCP 1.4 and 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 (upscale 1080p60 content to 4k2kp60), CVBS + stereo audio
  • Video Codecs – HEVC / H.265, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, VC-1
  • Audio Codecs – MPEG1/2, MP3, AAC, AC3, WMA, FLAC, OGG vorbis
  • Tuner – DVB-C (QAM, ITU-T J.83 Annex A, B, C)
  • Connectivity – 10/100Mbit Base-T Ethernet + optional internal 802.11n Wi-Fi or USB WiFi dongle
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 port,  1x USB 2.0 with internal Wi-Fi (whatever that means)
  • Misc – IR Receiver
  • Dimensions – 100x100x32 mm
  • Weight – 140 grams

The device runs either Linux or Android as option, with Webkit as the browser, and Verimatrix and Securemedia for security / DRM. Smartlabs does not sell to individual, so you may end-up with one, possibly re-branded, via your IPTV provider. More details can be found on Smartlabs SML-482 product page.

I could not find a TV stick with BCM72502, but the one in the top picture might be Broadcom’s reference design.

Via AndroidPC.es

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Review of BFS 4KH Media Player Powered by HiSilicon Hi3798M Processor

January 11th, 2015 16 comments

Buyforsure (BFS) 4KH is a low cost Android TV box powered by HiSilicon Hi3978M quad core Cortex A7 processor supporting 4K video output and decoding, HEVC/H.265 video decoding, and featuring a USB 3.0 port. I’ve already taken a few pictures of the device and board, so today I’ll reports about my findings after testing features and performance of this media player.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The remote control included in the package does the job as long as you use the box user interface and play videos with the included player or XBMC, but I also switched to Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse when I need a pointer or to input text. I’ve connected an Ethernet cable, an HDMI cable, a USB 3.0 hard drive to the USB 3.0 port, and a USB hub to the USB 2.0 port including a USB webcam, two RF dongles for the air mouse and wireless gamepad, and a USB flash drive. There’s no power button on the unit, and the box starts automatically as you connect the power adapter. The boot time is very fast (25 seconds) if you boot by plugging the power adapter, but somehow boot time increases to 55 seconds, when you use the remote control button to power it back on.

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

The user interface is much different from the other boxes. The Home Screen display the date and time, network connection, and features 7 menus: Live Television, VOD, Favorite, Media Center (media Player with supports for storage and network shares), App Store (Shafa app store), Applications, and System Settings. The first two link to a Chinese app (VST) allowing you to watch Chinese live TV and Chinese and foreign movies. The resolution was correctly automatically detected and set to 1080p, and the user interface resolution is 1920×1080.

BFS_4KH_applications

There are just a few applications pre-installed as shown above (Excluding Screenshot Ultimate), and with the stock firmware, a custom version of XBMC 13.1, but as I entered recovery mode, a factory reset was automatically performed, and the XBMC app was gone. So I asked BFS to send the app again. You can download it on baidu (password: amaw). There are two files: xbmc13.1_hisilicon.apk and xbmc13.1_seahisilicon.apk, with one for YunOS, one for Android. Not sure which one I had to use, but I installed xbmc13.1_seahisilicon.apk, and it worked OK.

The system settings remind me a little of OpenHour Chameleon EasySetup app with six sections:

  • Network Set – For Wi-Fi and Ethernet (Automatically select Ethernet if the cable is inserted)
  • Display – Scale and Move for overscan adjustment, and Video output selection between: 2160p 24Hz/30Hz, 1080p 60Hz/50Hz, 1080i 60Hz/50Hz, 1080i 60Hz/50Hz, 720p 60Hz/50Hz, PAL or NTSC
  • Security – Allows/disallows unknown sources for apps.
  • Normal
    • Input Method – Remote control or VirtualIME
    • Language- English or Chinese
    • Samba service – On or Off
    • Device name – For UPnP / DLNA
    • Factory reset
    • Super set – Redirects to standard Android settings
  • Play Set – Audio and video settings
    • HDMI Output – Auto / LPCM / RAW / Close
    • SPDIF Output – LPCM / RAW / Close
    • HBR Output – Auto / 5.1 / 7.1
    • Video aspect ratio – Auto / 4:3 / 16:9
    • Maintain aspect ratio – Add black side / Extrude
  • System – Local Upgrade or Upgrade Online

In case you set one of the video output by mistake (e.g. 2160p on a 1080p TV), you can use the “TV” button on the remote control to cycle between video output options.

BFS_4KH_About_deviceThe 8GB eMMC flash has two partitions: a 0.97GB partition, and a 4.67 GB partition. This partitioning means you can’t install too many apps until filling the 0.97GB partition, and even in the review, I had to delete some apps, or click on Move to SD to save some space. The Android settings also have some interesting options that cannot be found in the Setting app such as: adding a password for SAMBA, and setting the UI to 720p or 1080p, which can be convenient while playing games. The “Device Info” reports the model number as “Hi3798MV100″ running Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux 3.10.0_s40. The UPnP device name is also listed. The firmware is not rooted, and I could not find a way to root the device since it’s a production build.

Google Play Store is also installed, and although I could install most app, many were also listed as incompatible including: Antutu Video tester, iperf, Antutu, Chrome browser, Facebook, messaging apps (Facebook, WeChat, LINE,Facebook Messenger), vidonn smart band, Vine, CNBC, and so on. So it’s not ideal, and I had to side-load some to complete the review. I’ve also installed Riptide GP2 via Amazon AppStore.

BFS 4K does not support standby, it’s only power on or power off, and you can do both from the comfort of your couch using the power button of the remote control. After Antutu 5.5 benchmark, the max. temperatures measured with an IR thermometer were 50°C and 52°C respectively on the top and bottom of the case, and 56°C and 57°C after playing Riptide GP2 for 15 to 20 minutes.

I show the user interface including the Live TV and VOD app, and all settings in the walk-through video below.

BFS 4KH is rather stable, as the system become unresponsive only once at the end of Vellamo browser test (not reproducible), and perform smoothly most of the time, but with some slowdowns from time to time. The main issue I found was poor Google Play Store support that may require side-loading some apps, instead of using the Play Store. The lack of rooting method may also be an issue for some people.

Video Playback

XBMC 13.1 (built in July 2014) is pre-installed in the box, and since it’s supports H.265 and 4K videos, it’s certainly a close source custom version (XBMC Hisilicon download link (password: amaw). All videos were played in XBMC from a SAMBA shares in Ubuntu 14.04, except otherwise noted.

XBMC Debug in Hisilicon Hi3798M (Click to Enlarge)

XBMC Debug in Hisilicon Hi3798M (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve included the screenshot above because it reveals two things:

  1. Custom version of XBMC based on the unusual overlaid debug info with much less info, and a reference to CHiPlayer. The fps info also seem unrelated to the actual video, but to the video output instead.
  2. The video playback is not shown in the screenshot. This is actually a good thing, as that means a different layer is used for video, so even though the UI is limited to 1080p, it may still display 2160p video at the correct resolution. But it’s something I can’t test, as I don’t have a 4K TV just yet.

[Update: Going into factory reset will delete a few apps including XBMC, and remove Dolby/DTS support. I’ve now received a new firmware, and re-tested the videos with audio output issues]

Let’s start by reporting results from videos Big Buck Bunny samples from samplemedia.linaro.org and Elecard (H.265), and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK
  • WebM / VP8 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – Does not play at all (Stays in XBMC UI).

So it’s started pretty well. let’s move to some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – Slow motion.
  • 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) – OK, and very smooth contrary to most other Android media players, but no audio.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (using USB drive)

That lack of audio on some videos with AC3 audio is worrying, and high definition audio codec testing confirms something is very wrong:

Video PCM Output
XBMC
PCM Output
“MediaCenter”
HDMI Pass-through
XBMC
SPDIF Pass-through
XBMC
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK, but Video 1:1 Aspect ratio OK Not tested, since I don’t own an AV Receiver. If you can help me by making a donation, or purchasing one of my review samples.
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK
DTS HD Master OK OK
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK

That’s very odd to ship a device that can’t support AC3 at all, and I double checked the HDMI audio setting to make sure there were on LPCM. I’m not sure what’s wrong here.

I tested Blu-ray ISO with Sintel-Bluray.iso, and it works OK. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could play fine too.

4K videos playback is  working quite well in XBMC, even H.265/HEVC, except for very new formats that are not even supported in my PC yet:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK, but no audio (AC3)
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Massive artifacts, the effect is quite artistic though…
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Playing with large blu-ish bands, and lots of artifacts, an the audio is bad

The results in MX Player and “MediaCenter” apps are the same.

1080p 3D videos can be played, but not 2160p videos:

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

Please note that my Panasonic TV is not a 3D TV according to the specs, so I can only check if video decoding is working.

Most AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB, and MP4 videos could play without A/V sync issues, or noticeable frame dropped. Unfortunately, many video are with AC3 codec so I got no audio. AAC codec is OK.  IFO can’t be played, but clicking on the VOB file instead works OK.

The full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) test passed, and with audio.

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

I side-loaded Antutu Video Tester, and it could play all files, and gave 704 points, the highest score in the app comparison table, share with Himedia Q5 (also based on Hisilicon processor). The strange thing is that it reported DTS, and AC3 decoding a success, so I may have a problem with my settings, but I could not find out what.

Antut_Video_Tester_BFS_4KH

Antutu Video Tester (Click to Enlarge)

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

In order to evaluate transfer speed, I copy a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share (Ubuntu 14.04) and the internal flash using ES File Explorer, and vice-versa, repeating the test three times. BFS 4KH averages an excellent 3.70 MB/s placing it in the top performers, and even outperforming one device with 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Despite having a USB 3.0 port, the device only comes with 10/100M Ethernet, and using ES File Explorer the performance is also very good, among the best devices without Gigabit Ethernet.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

The raw Ethernet performance test with  iPerf app using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line shows very good performance in one direction, and a little weakness in the other:

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.108, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 59950 connected with 192.168.0.108 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   660 MBytes  92.3 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   414 MBytes  57.9 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is an option in the system, but won’t turn on because Bluetooth is not built-in. So I tried two USB Bluetooth dongles, but without success.

Storage

There’s no SD slot in this device. A USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be mounted by the system. NTFS, EXT-4, and FAT32 partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed, only the BTRFS partition could not be mounted.

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

The hard drive is located in /mnt/sda, with sda1, sda2, and sda3 the respective partitions. So I run A1 SD Bench to benchmarks both the NTFS and EXT-4 over USB 3.0, and the results were amazingly, as this little $50 device delivers PC like performance with read and write speed respectively 100,77 MB/s and 95.39 MB/s for NTFS, and 92.45 MB/s and 90.94 MB/s for EXT-4.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

The 8GB FORESEE eMMC flash in the device reads at 16.43 MB/s and writes at 15.35 MB/s, so that’s not really great, but acceptable, and probably expected for a low cost device. Having said that M-195 has the same eMMC, but A1 SD Bench reported  a much higher read speed (25.61 MB/s).

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

USB Webcam

Skype was pre-installed, and I installed Google Hangouts from the play store. Both app worked pretty well, the Echo service audio was rather clear, video worked, and I could even send a video message, something that often makes other boxes crash. Hangouts worked well too.

Gaming

I played three games (Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2) with the device.  I played Candy Crush Sage with MeLe F10 air mouse, no problem here. Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad was automatically by the system, and I could control the user interface and launch and play  both Beach Buggy Racing  and Riptide GP2. I played with 1080p user interface, and with default settings the user experience is OK, but setting the graphics settings to highest framerate improve things a bit. I have not try setting the UI to 720p while playing games, but this should help too. I played 5 races in Riptide GP2 for 15 to 20 minutes, and it worked just fine.

BFS 4KH (HiSilicon Hi3798M) Benchmarks

HiSilicon Hi3798M is a completely new SoC (to me), so I started with CPU-Z.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

A quad cortex A7 processor @ 1.5Ghz with a Mali-450MP GPU is correctly detected. The model is Hi3798MV100, and even though Kaiboer is most probably the manufacturer, the name makes me think it’s just an HiSilicon reference design. The board name is bigfish. The resolution 1920×1080 (240dpi) and the system has 983 MB RAM available, with 0.97 GB reported internal storage, since only the first partition is usually detected by CPU-Z. I don’t know why but CPU-Z usually gets Root Access wrong. (The firmware is not rooted).

The Antutu 5.5 score is only  points, which is equivalent to the score I got with WeTek Play box (1280×720 resolution) with Amlogic AML8726-MX (Cortex A9) processor. I was expecting a little more, even though the framebuffer resolution is different. The explanation is that at equal frequency Cortex A7 is weaker than Cortex A9, so a dual core processor may still outperform a quad core processor in Antutu.

bfs_4kh_antutu_5.5

Vellamo 3.1 scores for Metal is similar to Amlogic AML8726-MX, the Browser score is weaker (894 vs 1197), but using Browser++ instead of Android browser, and the Multicore benchmark is better (1147 vs 723).

bfs_4kh_vellamo_3.1I also ran 3D Marks Ice Storm Extreme in case the Mali-450MP GPU can lift the somewhat weak CPU, but the score (1,840) is really on the low end.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Conclusion

BFS 4KH user interface is quite different from other Android devices I’ve seen, and includes a Live TV and VOD app, but only in Chinese with some foreign movies too (illegal of course). The firmware is rather stable, and although slowdowns do occur, most of the time the user experience is nice and smooth. USB 3.0 storage performance blew my mind, as it’s almost as fast as on my computer. Wi-Fi and Ethernet are all good, but it’s too bad Gigabit Ethernet is not supported by HiSilicon processor, because it just wastes the amazing USB 3.0 performance.  XBMC 13.1 plays most files, and it would be a very good device, if only it could support Dolby and DTS audio codec, as I got no audio even for AC3, a very common audio codec. (This is just a factory reset issue)

PRO:

  • Firmware is stable most of the time
  • PC class USB 3.0 storage performance (~100 MB/s) with FAT32, EXT-4, and NTFS file system support
  • Excellent Wi-Fi and Fast Ethernet performance.
  • 4K up to 30Hz video output.
  • Good video playback in XBMC, including H.265 / HEVC 4K video playback
  • High Antutu Video Tester score (704).
  • Built-in SAMBA server support meaning you can easily access the USB hard drive connected to BFS 4KH from your computer(s).
  • Proper power handling with remote control.
  • Relatively Fast boot time – 25 to 50 seconds
  • Google Hangouts appears to work OK.
  • Price / performance ratio

CONS:

  • Some common audio codecs are not supported by any players: Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3), TrueHD, DTS MA/HD all fail even with HDMI set to LPCM. [Update: The factory reset I did before the review had deleted several apps and Dolby/DTS codec support, and I’ve re-tested it successfully with another firmware]
  • Many apps are reported as “incompatible with your device” in Google Play
  • Bluetooth not supported even with external dongle.
  • Skype could not detect my camera
  • This quad core processor performance looks equivalent to Amlogic AML8726-MX dual core processor
  • Firmware not rooted, and I could not find a method to root the firmware. The company also replied there’s not rooted firmware.
  • Factory rest with delete a few apps including XBMC, and remove support for Dolby/DTS audio codecs.

If you live in China, the Live TV and VOD app might be quite nice, but outside of China it’s probably useless as the download speed may be too slow, at least it’s what happened on my side, but YMMV. Overall this box could be very good for the price, if only they could fix this audio codec issue. Thix box is very good value for money with good XBMC support including 4K and H.265 codec.

BFS 4KH is currently selling for $52.99 on Aliexpress including shipping, as well as Ebay for $61.99 from the same seller.

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Crowdfunding Report for 2014 on CNX Software Blog

January 5th, 2015 4 comments

Following up on my 2013 Crowdfunding Report, I’ve gone through all 55 Kickstarter and Indiegogo crowdunding projects featured on CNX Software between December 2013 and November 2014 (inclusive) to see how well they fared.

Indiegogo_KickStarter

The table below sort projects chronologically as they were published on this very blog.

Date Project Crowdfunding Site Funded?
Pledged amount / Goal
Expected Delivery Actual Delivery Comments
2. Dec. 2013 Micro Python Kickstarter Yes
97,803 GBP / 15,000 GBP
03/2014 04/2014 Available @ https://micropython.org/store/#/store
5. Dec. 2013 Plugaway Kickstarter Yes
$162,835 AUD / $50,000 AUD
04/2014 - People upset because of lack of updates. Project might be dead, and backers lost their money
6. Dec. 2013 AIRTAME Indiegogo Yes
$1,268,332 / $160,000
05/2014 12/2014 People have started received the beta versions, after a massive 8-month delay
7. Dec. 2013 Crystal Board Kickstarter No
$14,574 / $200,000
04/2014 - The project appears to be dead
10. Dec. 2013 Smart Power Strip Kickstarter Yes
$109,012 / $100,00
04/2014 - People are really upset, because of delays, and especially lack of updates, or incorrect update (e.g. “shipping soon”. Now shipping is schedule now until April 2015
11. Dec. 2013 Iteaduino Lite Indiegogo Yes
$14,778 / $2,000
01/2014 01/2014 Being an Arduino clone, it just works as expected, based on user’s feedback
11. Dec. 2013 Pivotheat SMART Indiegogo Yes
$159,613 / $100,000
06/2014 - Shipping is now expected by January. People are disappointed by delays and lack of updates
13. Dec. 2013 LOGi Board Kickstarter Yes
$114,126 / $6,900
04/2014 05/2014 You can get the board @ http://www.element14.com/community/docs/DOC-69129
21. Dec. 2013 NavSpark Indiegogo Yes
$63,735 / $27,000
03/2014 05/2014 Updates still done after shipping. No specific complains from users. NavSpark community setup @ http://www.navspark.com.tw/
17. Jan. 2014 Yacy Kickstarter Yes
$17,451 / $10,000
04/2014 06/2014
19. Jan. 2014 ICE xPC Indiegogo No
$10,734 / $300,000
07/2014 - Flexible campaign, but people have been refunded
11. Feb. 2014 Keepod Unite Indiegogo Yes
$40,801 / $38,000
04/2014 05/2014 You can now give and/or get Keepod on http://keepod.org/collections/all-keepod-products
13. Feb. 2014 Webee Boss Indiegogo Yes
$73,373 / $50,000
04/2014 12/2014 8 months delay
14. Feb. 2014 Fin Ring Indiegogo Yes
$202,547 / $100,000
09/2014 - Fin is now scheduled for May 2015, or 8 months delay!
19. Mar. 2014 MicroView Kickstarter Yes
$573,760 / $25,000
09/2014 08/2014 One month early? Too bad the first shipping lacked the bootloader…, and the returns are still being handled
21. Mar. 2014 USB2Go Kickstarter No
$13,963 / $50,000
10/2014 - Website sill up: http://www.usb2go.org, not clear if the project is still alive
25. Mar. 2014 Rufus Cuff Indiegogo Yes
$359,463 / $200,000
04/2015 - WIP, and updates are frequent
15. Apr. 2014 Digispark Pro Kickstarter Yes
$103,569 / $10,000
07/2014 09/2014 Shipping has taken place over 4 months (September to December). The board is now available @ http://digistump.com/getpro
22. Apr. 2014 ButtonDuino Indiegogo No
$1,226 / $4,500
08/2014 - It can be pre-ordered @ http://buttonduino.site44.com/ with shipping Late January 2015.
23. Apr. 2014 MotherBone PiOne Kickstarter No
$4,270 / $60,000
08/2014 - It might be available @ http://aplusmobile.com/MotherBone.html
30. Apr. 2014 Arduissimo Indiegogo No
5,031 Euros / 29,600 Euros
11/2014 - Another indiegogo campaign is in progress: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/arduissimo-reloaded-multicore-cortex-m3-arduino
30. Apr. 2014 Dimple NFC Sticker Indiegogo Yes
$87,098 / $43,000
08/2014 - People are losing patience, especially as update are not forthcoming
9. May. 2014 ANTVR Kickstarter Yes
$260,834 / $200,000
09/2014 12/2014 Three months delay
22. May. 2014 VoCore Indiegogo Yes
$116,194 / $6,000
09/2014 11/2014 The module can now be purchased on Vocore website: http://vocore.io/store
30. May. 2014 WifiDuino Indiegogo No
$12,710 / $23,000
10/2014 - The project has been cancelled
30. May. 2014 AsiaRF AWM002 Indiegogo Yes
$7,386 / $6,000
07/2014 08/2014 Many people complain about the lack of documentation. I also got one module, and It was not clear I needed to provide power with 3 different voltages when I backed the project.
2. Jun. 2014 miniSpartan6+ Kickstarter Yes
$80,897 / $7,500
08/2014 12/2014 Four months delay
5. Jun. 2014 EzeeCube Indiegogo Yes
$146,666 / $75,000
12/2014 - Shipping is now expected by February
12. Jun. 2014 Soap Router Indiegogo Yes
$261,318 / $42,500
02/2015 - Shipping expected for January 2015 in the latest update.
However, they changed the product specs, and some people are upset
13. Jun. 2014 Console OS Kickstarter Yes
$79,497 / $50,000
12/2014 12/2014 Beta version release
14. Jun. 2014 Papilio DUO Kickstarter Yes
$62,707 / $30,000
12/2014 - Delivery scheduled for January
28. Jun. 2014 Amptek Icon Kickstarter No
$3,626 CAD / $55,000 CAD
10/2014 - Icon board can be purchased @ http://www.semiconductorstore.com/Amptek/
17. Jul. 2014 MicroNFCBoard Kickstarter Yes
20,885 GBP / 20,000 GBP
10/2014 01/2015 Shipping scheduled for 8 Jan 2015
24. Jul. 2014 Immedia Blink Kickstarter Yes
$1,069,386 / $200,000
05/2015 -
29. Jul. 2014 TouchPico Indiegogo Yes
$869,827 / $55,000
10/2014 - Doing FCC/CE certification now
2. Aug. 2014 VolksPC Indiegogo No
$1,519 / $80,000
10/2014 - It’s unclear whether the project will go forward independently
11. Aug. 2014 Atomwear Kickstarter Yes
$13,740 CAD / $12,000 CAD
11/2014 12/2014
13. Aug. 2014 Squink Kickstarter Yes
$100,380 / $100,00
04/2015 -
20. Aug. 2014 Raspberry Pi Slice Kickstarter Yes
227,480 GBP / 90,000 GBP
11/2014 01/2015
20. Aug. 2014 STACK Box Kickstarter Yes
$87,500 / $65,000
12/2014 12/2014
25. Aug. 2014 RPISoC Kickstarter No
$14,323 / $20,000
01/2015 - The project is still going on outside Kickstarter → http://www.embeditelectronics.com/blog/uncategorized/going-forward-with-the-rpisoc/
1. Sep. 2014 xWiFi Wi-Fi Module Indiegogo Yes
$12,649 / $4,500
11/2014 12/2014 Some people complain it did not work out of the box
15. Sep. 2014 Com1 Android Wear Watch Indiegogo No
$?? / $ ??
01/2015 - Project taken down following Google request
16. Sep. 2014 WeIO IoT Board Indiegogo Yes
$37,437 / $10,000
11/2014 01/2015 Should ship this month
Can be pre-ordered @ http://shop.8devices.com/weio with shipping scheduled for February 2015
19. Sep. 2014 MOD DUO Kickstarter Yes
$82,781 / $65,000
06/2015 -
30. Sep. 2014 MicroDuino JoyPad Kickstarter Yes
$27,007 / $20,000
11/2014 11/2014 On time, but some people are still waiting for their package.
1. Oct. 2014 MatchStick Kickstarter Yes
$470,310 / $100,000
02/2015 - Developers unit have shipped to backers in November 2014. I expect them to keep their schedule promise
7. Oct. 2014 TinyScreen Kickstarter Yes
$128,813 / $15,000
01/2015 - Shipping still scheduled for January, or February
9. Oct. 2014 The Egg Kickstarter No
$18,489 / $500,000
12/2014 - A new Kickstarter campaign is planned in January 2015
29. Oct. 2014 Zero+ IoT Wi-Fi Board Indiegogo No
$624 / $25,000
02/2015 -
6. Nov. 2014 Maker Club 3D Printed Robots Indiegogo Yes
12,018 GBP / 10,000 GBP
07/2015 -
14. Nov. 2014 Xped DeB Kickstarter Yes
$29,288 AUD / $18,5474 AUD
04/2015 -
19. Nov. 2014 DWA8 Wi-Fi Module Indiegogo No
$465 / $5,000
N/A - Available on Taobao
20. Nov. 2014 Jolla Tablet Indiegogo Yes
$1,824,055 / $380,000
05/2015 -
25. Nov. 2014 Imp Computer Indiegogo No
$12,092 / $100,000
03/2015 -

Hall of Shame

Last year, it was clear FocusWill Coolship project was a disaster, and the project owner clearly did not deliver the goods and kept silent. This year, I could not find project that I’m 100% sure failed with money being lost, but at least Plugaway Wi-Fi smart sockets could be a project where backers lost their money. The sockets were supposed to be delivered in March 2014, but nothing so far, and the last update in November is only about the API, nothing about delivery despite backers complains.

AFAICS, nobody lost money with Com1 Android Wear smartwatch, but they should have known better, as Google asked Indiegogo to take the project down, because only Google partners can develop and manufacture Android Wear devices.

Stats and Projects Delays

Out of the 55 campaigns, 15 project failed to reached their funding targets. Most projects without a successful crowdfunding still carried out, with 4 to 6 projects completely dead. That means 72% of projects got funded via crowdfunding, 90% of projects get manufactured (assuming the ones still under development will succeed). AIRTAME got the most funding with over $1,200,000 raised, but has not been so successful in terms of product delivery with 8 months delay.

Many projects are delayed, but Smart Socket Strip may take the delay crown, with a massive 1-year delay for the project, and backers upset of the constant postponing (or lies) about delivery dates. Fin Ring is also pretty bad, as the September 2014 promised delivery is now expected to occur on May 2015.

Hall of Fame

This year several project managed to deliver working products on time, although sometimes shipping was have taken place over a few months.

  • IteaDuino Lite Arduino clone was delivered right on schedule just a year ago.
  • MicroDuino JoyPads were delivered on November 2014 as promised
  • The first version of Console OS Android operating system for PC was released on December 2014.
  • STACK Box Home Automation / IoT Gateway were sent in December 2014. There aren’t many feedback for now, as most people are still waiting for delivery, or have just received their device.

Many other projects shipped with just one month delay, and still got good user feedback, and an active community around them, such as Micro Python, LOGi boar, VoCore Wi-Fi module, NavSpark. MicroView was also on schedule, and even slightly ahead of schedule, but unfortunately, Sparkfun shipped several boards without bootloaders, and they are still handling the returns.

That’s all for today. If you’ve had good or bad crowd-funding experiences, feel free to share them in the comments section.

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Review of CX-S806 TV Box Powered by Amlogic S812 Processor

January 4th, 2015 26 comments

I’ve already reviewed one Android media player based on Amlogic S812 processor with MINIX NEO X8-H Plus. Today, I’m going to have a look at another S812 TV box, namely CX-S806, with lower specs, and less support, but that sells for half price compared to the MINIX device. I’ve already published pictures of CX-S806 media player and board, so today I’ll focus on testing the performance and features of the device.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The package include a simple IR remote control, so I inserted two AAA batteries to give it a try, and it seemed to work OK, but as usual I switched to use Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse for the rest of the review. Since I’ve connected Ethernet and HDMI cables, a USB hard drive, a USB webcam, and a USB hub with two RF dongles for the air mouse and wireless gamepad, and a USB flash drive. The box will start automatically as you connect the power, which had to be expected since there’s no power button. The boot takes 1 minutes and 29 seconds with all devices attached, no a speed daemon, but still faster than MINIX NEO X8-H Plus which takes nearly 2 minutes to boot when all devices are connected. So it seems Amlogic S812 are not optimized to boot fast like Rockchip RK3288 media boxes.

MediaBox Launcher (Click for Original Size)

MediaBox Launcher (Click for Original Size)

The media player features the usual metro-style MediaBox launcher. The main difference is that apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus are pre-installed, and have a shortcut in the main screen. I have not tested these since I don’t have an account with them. Other noticeable pre-installed apps include Flash Player, Plex and Quikcoffice among others. The resolution was correctly automatically detected and set to 1080p, and the user interface resolution is 1920×1080.

The Settings menu is also typical of Amlogic box with four sub-sections: Network, Display, Advanced and Other:

  • Network – Enable and configure Wi-Fi or Ethernet
  • Display:
    • Automatic or manual HDMI resolution: 480p/i @ 60 Hz, 576p/i @ 50 Hz, 720p @ 50/60 Hz, 1080i @ 50/60 Hz, 1080p @ 24/50/60 Hz, or 4k2k 24/25/30Hz/smpte
    • Hide or Show status bar
    • Display Position
    • Start screen Saver (Never, 4, 8 or 12 minutes)
  • Advanced:
    • Miracast
    • Remote Control (For Rockchip/MINIX remote app)
    • Google TV Remote (for Google TV remote app)
    • CEC Control
    • Screen Orientation settings
    • No Output to USB Audio
    • Digital Audio Output (Auto, PCM, S/PDIF pass-through, or HDMI pass-through)
  • Other – System Update: Local file or OTA (No connection to server), Backup; “More Settings”: redirects to standard Android Settings.

About_MediaBox_Sunchip_CX-S806There’s a single 5.26 GB partition in the 8GB eMMC flash, and at the end of my testing, I had 1.99 GB free space. In the “About MediaBox” section in the standard Android settings, the model number is “S806″ , and the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.33. You’ll also notice the email string in the Kernel version reads “tianfeng@sunchip-To-be-filled-by-O-E-M #1″, as Sunchip is a manufacturers, so they don’t sell to end users, which also explains why OTA is not working. They told me the OTA function can be enable with their customer’s OTA servers.  I noticed GeekBuying provided an updated firmware for CX-S806, so I asked Sunchip is I could use that one, especially since the firmware in my box is dated from October 2014, and they told me it’s only for AP6330 version, and since I have the AP6210 version I didn’t need to upgrade. CX-S806 model with Amlogic S802 processor will be phased out. The firmware is rooted with supersu installed.

Google Play Store worked relatively well, although I had to install Vidonn smart band app and Antutu Video Tester with their apk, and they were reported as “Incompatible with my device”. I also download and installed Amazon AppStore in order to get the “free app of the day” Riptide GP2.

The device only supports stand by mode with the remote control, there’s no way to cleanly power off the device. A long press on the remote control power button will still go into standby. After Antutu 5.5 benchmark (excluding 3D graphics test which fails), the max. temperatures were 46°C and 51°C on respectively the top and bottom of the case, and after 5 races in Riptide GP2, the max. measured temperatures went up to 47°C and 52°C.

CX-S806 firmware is stable, and smooth, and I did not experience any slowdowns, freezes, or hang-ups while using it. Boot time is a little slow however. (1 minute 30 seconds with several USB devices attached).

Video Playback

XBMC 13.1 (built-in June 2014) is pre-installed in the box, so that’s what I used, as I never known if a company made modifications to the source code, but as we’ll see below, it miht be a good idea to install Kodi 14 instead. XBMC user interface renders at around 60 fps @ 1920×1080, somehow much faster than the 35 fps reported by XBMC 13.3 in MINIX NEO X8-H Plus. I had no problems connecting to SAMBA shares in Ubuntu 14.04 in either XBMC or ES File Explorer. Most videos have been tested with XBMC over Ethernet, but I also switched to “4K MoviePlayer” app to play some 4K videos, and MX Player for audio codecs.

Videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus some H.265/HEVC videos (Elecard), 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 – XBMC will exit/crash
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK, but could be smoother.
  • WebM / VP8 – XBMC will exit/crash
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – Audio only, and the 1080p video makes XBMC exit/crash.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – Does not play at all (Stays in XBMC UI).

I also played 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) – Plays at 15 fps instead of 29.970, and XBMC also reports skipped frames.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (using USB drive)

High definition audio codecs below has been tested in XBMC and MX Player using PCM output, because currently XBMC is using audio software decode, while MX Player is trying to use HW decode by default:

Video PCM Output
XBMC
PCM Output
MX Player
HDMI Pass-through
XBMC
SPDIF Pass-through
XBMC
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Crash XBMC (VOB file) OK Not tested, since I don’t own an AV Receiver. If you want me to test pass-through for these audio format, you can consider donating below. I plan to buy Onkyo TX-NR636 which supports all codec tested here and costs 25,000 to 30,000 Baht locally ($760 to $900 US), Suggestions for cheaper options are welcomed.
AV Receiver Donation



Other Amount:



E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK, but videos plays at 17 to 24 fps OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK Blackscreen, and app not reponsive
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio, slow video (S/W decode)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio, slow video (S/W decode)
DTS HD Master OK No audio
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio

Blu-ray ISO are supported. Tested with Sintel-Bluray.iso. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play, but GridHD video seemed to blink during playback.

4K videos playback is not working very well in XBMC, especially since H.265/HEVC is not supported:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Does not even start (stays in XBMC UI)
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Audio only

4K MoviePlayer app included in the firmware performs better, except with new Bt.2020 format, 10-bit HEVC, and VP9 videos:

  • 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) –  OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Shows a complete mess with some picture from the previous video, and the current video mixed, and more like a slideshow of still images rather than videos.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – “Not supported media”
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Black screen

3D video testing results are about the same as for the MINIX device:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK, but XBMC reports it playing at 50 fps instead of 60 fps.
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Please note that My Panasonic TV is not a 3D TV according to the specs, so I can only check if video decoding is working.

Most AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB, and MP4 videos could play without A/V sync issues, or noticeable frame dropped. Strangely even a VOB/IFO video (MPEG-2) played fine, while MPEG-2 videos from Linaro made the system crash, so it might a container issue, rather than a codec issue. Some FLV videos would also make XBMC exit/crash.

I also played a full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) to test stability. At first, I was a little too optimistic, and I did that over Wi-Fi, but unfortunately the movie stopped after 51 minutes due to a “connection timeout”. I started again with Ethernet, and the movie could play fully. XBMC reported nearly 14,000 frames were skipped during playback, but I found the video was rather smooth, when I checked it out.

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

CX-S802_Antutu_Video_TesterAntutu Video Tester could play all files, and gave 675 points to the device. That compares to 263 points for Open Hour Chameleon (RK3288), and 631 points with Infocus CS1 Allwinner A83T tablet, with the best devices scoring just over 700 points.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

Networking is one part of the specs where CX-S806 is much weaker than MINIX NEO X8-H Plus as it comes with Fast Ethernet + 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi, while the latter features Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. To test performance, I transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share (Ubuntu 14.04) and the internal flash using ES File Explorer, repeating the test three times, and averaging results. CX-S806 averages 2.76 MB/s (22.08 Mbps) with 802.11n, right in the middle of the pack.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve done the same test transferring the file over Ethernet, and the performance is one of the best of the 10/100M platforms.

CX-S806_Ethernet_Performance

Throughput in MB/s

I’ve also checked the raw Ethernet performance with  iPerf app using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line:

Throughput ion Mbps

Throughput ion Mbps

And here, it seems Ethernet is a weak point in Amlogic SoCs, as none can reach the level of performance of RK3288 (when it works) or Exynos 5422.

iperf output:

------------------------------------------------------------
 Client connecting to 192.168.0.111, TCP port 5001
 TCP window size:  136 KByte (default)
 ------------------------------------------------------------
 [  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 37479 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 5001
 [ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
 [  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   569 MBytes  79.6 Mbits/sec
 [  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   491 MBytes  68.6 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Just like MINIX NEO X8-H Plus, CX-S806 is advertised as “bluedroid″, and I had no problem pairing the device with ThL W200 smartphone, and transferred pictures over Bluetooth.

I could use mmy PS3 wireless gamepad clone with Sixaxis Compatibility Checker by following these instructions.

Vidonn X5 activity tracker was used to test Bluetooth Low Energy )Bluetooth Smart), and Vidonn smartb and could could the device, but for some reasons it could not retrieve data afterwards, and showed the message “No bracelet connected”.

Storage

There’s no (micro) SD slot in this device, but a USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be recognized and mounted by the system. NTFS and FAT32 partitions on my USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed, but no the other file systems.

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 used to test storage performance in Android. The first time I run the test I only got a read speed of 11.42 MB/s, and a write speed of 8.92 MB/s for the NTFS partition in my USB hard drive (mounted in /storage/external_storage/sda1). That’s an extremely low score, and since I noticed a decreased in performance in my updated WeTek Play review, I decided to run the hard drive through a disk check and defragmentation in a Windows netbook. I did not expect much difference, since I only use this hard drive for reviews, seldom writing data, except to test write support and SAMBA to USB storage performance, and run A1 SD Bench. But somehow, I got a massive performance boost with 24.50 MB/s read speed, and 27.57 MB/s write speed. So it’s quite possible some of my latest reviews (WeTek Play 2nd Review, MINIX NEO X8-H Plus, …) under-reported USB NTFS performance.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

The 8GB eMMC flash in the device achieves 24.47 MB/s (read) and 12.57 MB/s (write), which places the box slightly below average.

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

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

USB Webcam

Skype was pre-installed, and I installed Google Hangouts from the play store. Both app worked pretty well, the Echo service audio was rather clear, video worked, and I could even send a video message, something that often makes other boxes crash. Hangouts worked well too.

Gaming

Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2 were used to test gaming performance.  I played Candy Crush Sage with MeLe F10 air mouse, no problem here. Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad was automatically recognized by both Beach Buggy Racing  and Riptide GP2, but if I set the resolution to the highest level, the games were not particularly smooth. Changing the settings for a smoother framerate made the gaming experience much more enjoyable.  Riptide GP2 did not have the freeze issues found in some other Amlogic devices It could be because of better firmware, or because Riptide GP2 developers fixed a bug.

CX-S806 (S812) Benchmarks

I started to run CPU-Z again to compare it to what I got with MINIX NEO X8-H Plus.

CX-S806-CPU-ZThe app reports the same processor with four ARM Cortex A9 cores clocked between 24 MHz and 1.99 GHz coupled with a Mali-450MP GPU. The model is S806 (n200), the resolution 1920×1080 (240dpi) and the system has 1,606 MB RAM available to Android with 5.26 GB internal storage. Interestingly, n200 is the same code as MINIX NEO X8-H Plus.

Antutu 5.5 fails to complete, stopping at the 3D graphics test, so I only got a partial Antutu score of 22,369 points. If the 3D graphics score had been the same as for the MINIX device (9,296), the total score would have been 31,665.

CX-S806_Antutu_5.5_No_3D_GPU
The media player got virtually equal scores in Vellamo 3.1 for Metal Benchmark (766) and Browser benchmark (1789), but for some reasons, it only achieved 1253 points in the Multicore against over 1,800 for the MINIX device. Go figure…

CX-S806_Vellamo

Conclusion

CX-S806 media player mostly does the job, and its firmware is stable. Performance of storage, Wi-Fi and Ethernet are all average, but the results match the relatively low price of the device, and I could not really find any really weak point. Amlogic S812 SoC is also good enough for most tasks, except some 3D games with max graphics settings. As with so many other platforms, you may have to juggle between two media players app with XBMC for most videos, and 4K MediaPlayer for 4K videos, especially H.265 videos. The XBMC version installed in the device (XBMC 13.1) is quite buggy too, but replacing it with Kodi 14 or SPMC might improve things.

PRO:

  • Firmware is stable, and fast.
  • Video Output – Supports 1080p24/50/60 (but not 25/30 Hz), and 4K2K up to 30Hz/SMPTE
  • 3D games play without issues (Although you may have to decrease 3D rendering quality for a smoother experience)
  • H.264 / HEVC 4K video playback with 4K MoviePlayer app
  • High Antutu Video Tester score (685).
  • USB webcam works well with Skype and Google Hangouts

CONS:

  • XBMC 13.1 installed in the device is buggy (Some MPEG-2, VP8 and FLV videos make the system crash)
  • H.265 / HEVC not supported in XBMC
  • No real power off, only standby on/off is possible.
  • Boot time could be faster. 1 minute 30 seconds with several USB devices connected.
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) may not work reliably.

The lack of OTA firmware update server would have made it to the CONS too, if Sunchip (who provided the box for review) was not a manufacturer, and sold directly to end users. Instead the company relies on their customer to setup the update servers. There’s also an unofficial OpenELEC image for the device.

You can contact Sunchip via their CX-S806 product page (Contact link is on top), if you plan to purchase in quantities.  Individuals can purchase the box for $80 on Amazon US, Ebay, GeekBuying, as well as Aliexpress. The model might be slightly different depending on sellers, as CX-S806 may come with AP6210 wireless module (2.4 GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi) as in this review, or AP6330 module (2.4GHz/5GHz Wi-Fi). Sometimes you’ll get 1GB RAM, while other times 2GB RAM, and older models with S802 processor may still be sold, so make sure you check the specs carefully wherever you purchase the box.

Disclaimer: Although this post is not sponsored, Sunchip is currently a sponsor of CNX Software.

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