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Posts Tagged ‘wifi’

HICAT.Livera Machine Vision Board and Robot Kit Feature HiSilicon Hi3518 SoC (Crowdfunding)

September 21st, 2016 3 comments

HiSilicon Hi3518 ARM9 processor is mostly being used in IP cameras, but Hicat startup decided to combined the camera processor with an Atmel MCU and a MT7601 WiFi module to create a wireless camera board to be used with OpenCV, and even provide a complete affordable robot kit with the board.

livera-boardHicat.livera board specifications:

  • Vision Core – Hisilicon Hi3518 ARM9 processor @ 440 MHz
  • Storage – 16MB flash + micro SD card
  • MCU – Atmel ATmega32U4 AVR micro-controller
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi via Mediatek MT7601 module + u.FL antenna connector
  • Camera interface with provided 140 deg. camera using Omnivision OV9712 720p (1280×720) sensor
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for power and programming
  • Audio – Built-in microphone, speaker header
  • Sensors – MPU6050 accelerometer and gyro
  • Expansion – 2x GPIO headers with GPIOs, I2C, SPI, serial, PWM, digital, analog and power signals.
  • Misc – MCU reset and Linux reset buttons,
  • Power Supply – 5V via USB or 3.3V LiPo battery
  • Dimensions – 60 x 42 mm

They’ve also provide a comparison table between HICAT.Livera and two competing platforms, namely openMV and PIXY.

hicat-livera-openmv-pixy

The firmware in the Hisilicon chip is based on Linux, and includes a video and file streaming server, OpenCV support for object tracking, Node.js support. The ARM9 processor and Atmel MCU communicate over a serial port, and an Arduino library is provided. An Android app (iOS coming soon) can also be used to view the live stream, control the robot, and change settings. Some code is available on Github, but not Linux, which may be an issue to due Hisilicon strict NDA requirements. The developer also claims the project will be open source hardware.

computer-vision-robot-kit

Beside Livera kit with the board and camera, a robot kit is also offered with a extension cable for the camera, a motor driver board based on lv8548 H-Bridge, two DC motors, a servo motor, wheels and body, 9V rechargeable battery, and laser beam. The board and robot are demonstrated in the embedded video.

The project has just launched via Kickstarter, where the goal is to raise $5000 ore more to fund mass production. They have not mentioned the manufacturing partner in Kickstarter, but it should be Seeed Studio, since they informed me about the project. Livera board with camera requires a $39 pledge (Early bird), while the complete robot kit is just $69 (Early Bird). Shipping adds $2 to $20 depending on rewards and destination, and delivery is scheduled for (end of) December 2016 or January 2017.

Sonoff TH10/16 WiFi Relays Support Temperature and Humidity Probes

September 19th, 2016 3 comments

Sonoff are dirt cheap WiFi AC/DC relay systems based on ESP8266 selling for about $5 with board and case. They are made by ITEAD Studio, and the company has now new versions supporting up to 16A @ 250V, and with a 2.5mm connector to connect external temperature and humidity probes.

sonoff-th10-temperature-humidity-probeTwo models are available Sonoff-TH10 (10A max) and Sonoff-TH16 (16A max) with the following specifications:

  • SoC – Espressif ESP8266 Tensila L106 32-bit MCU up to 80/160 MHz with WiFi
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi with WPA/WPA2 support
  • Relay
    • Sonoff-TH10 – HK3FF-DC5V-SHG supporting 90 to 250 VAC input, up to 10A (2200 Watts)
    • Sonoff-TH16 – Hongfa HF152F-T supporting 90 to 250 VAC input, up to 16A (3500 Watts)
  • Terminals – 6 terminal for mains and load’s ground, live and neutral signals.
  • Misc – 4-pin 2.5mm jack for external probes, LEDs for power and WiFi status
  • Dimensions – PCB: 89.1 x 45.0 x 1.2mm
  • Temperature range – -40 ℃ to 125 ℃

The company also offer two probes to connect the sensor jack: one based on AM2301 sensor for temperature (-40 to +80 °C, +/- 0.5 °C) and humidity (10 to 90%, +/- 3%), and an a waterproof temperature probe based on DS18B20 supporting  -55 to 125 °C range.

sonoff-th16-connection-diagramThe wireless relays can be controlled with eWeLink app for Android or iOS, where you can manually turn on and off the load, but also set temperature and/or humidity threshold to start and stop a device. Some technical details, most related to the hardware like PDF schematics, can be found on the Wiki.

ITEAD Studio now have a nice portfolio of inexpensive device for “smart home”. Please note that (AFAIK) none of the items have UL or TUV safety certifications, so use them at your own risks.

itead-smart-home-productSonoff-TH10/TH16 and sensor probes can be purchased on ITEAD Studio’s Sonoff-TH page with Sonoff-TH10 selling for $7.50, Sonoff-TH16 for $8.60, Sonoff Sensor-AM2301 temperature & humidity sensor for $4.30, and Sonoff Sensor-DS18B20 waterproof temperature probe for $3.50. Shipping is not included but only adds a couple of dollars, if you select the cheapest (and slowest) options.

Thank to Harley for the tip.

Qintaix Q912 Android Box Review – Part 2: Android 6.0, Kodi 17, Benchmarks, etc…

September 18th, 2016 6 comments

Qintaix Q912 is one of the many octa-core Android boxes based on Amlogic S912 processor. I’ve already shown photos of the device and its internal design in the first part of Qintaix Q912 review, so today I’ll report the results of my testing with Android firmware, video & audio capabilities in Kodi 17 Alpha 3 (pre-installed), features supports, benchmarks, and other comment. I will also be interesting to find out how it compares to M12N TV box, also based on Amlogic S912 processor.

qintaix-q912-boot

First Boot, Settings, and First Impressions

I’ve connected all necessary cables including HDMI and Ethernet, added some USB devices including two 2.4 GHZ USB dongles for my air moues and wireless gamepad, a USB keyboard to take screenshots, and a USB 3.0 hard drive to the USB 2.0 ports of the device. Once you apply power, the LED is turn red, and you need to press the power button on the unit ot the remote control to start the TV box. The front panel display will show “Boot”, and within a typical 40 seconds you should be to the launcher, after which the display will show the current time.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

It’s your typical TV launcher with large icon links to common apps or folders of apps (not customizable), and shortcut row will smaller icons that can be added or removed as you wish.

The Settings app is different from M12N. but basically the same as other Amlogic TV boxes.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The most relevant / notable settings include:

  • Device
    • Network – WiFi, Ethernet, and VPN
    • Display
      • Screen resolution: Auto switch on/off, deep color mode on/off, 1080p24/50/60, 720p50/60, 4k2k 24/25/30/50/60/SMPTE, 576p50, 480p60, 1080i50/60
      • Screen position, Day Dream, HDR (Auto, On, Off)
    • Sound -> Digital Sounds -> Auto detection, PCM, HDMI, SPDIF
  • Preferences
    • Playback settings – HDMI self-adaption on/off (aka automatic frame rate switching)
    • Power key definition – Suspend and resume, shutdown
    • More settings – Access to Android Marshmallow settings

By default, the box will select the high possible resolution on your TV, and for mine to was 4K2K SMPTE (4096×2160 @ 24 Hz), but I switched back to 4K2K-60Hz (3840×2160) for testing. Like with most Amlogic TV box, Qintaix Q912 has problems to remember my settings, and will often revert to 1080p60. One possible reason is that it is connected to an Onkyo A/V receiver before being connected to the TV, and sometimes the receiver is turned on, and other time turned off.  Once the receiver is turned on, I can’t turn it off anymore using either its remote control or the power button on the unit, as the box will always turn it back on. That’s a very annoying issue that’s been happening with all recent (Android 6.0) Amlogic TV boxes. This is some HDMI CEC issue, as if I disable HDMI CEC (RIHD) in the receiver the problem goes away. That however means I can’t control the TV over CEC using the receiver’s remote control anymore…

As mentioned in the list of “Notable settings”, we can access Android 6.0 settings through More settings icon, and configure other aspect of the device such as portable hotpost, printer, developer options, accessibility, printing, Languages and Input, etc…

A single 11.49 GB internal partition is used for apps and data, a capacity that should be plenty enough for most people. Just like M12N, Qintaix Q912 is running Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29 as per About Mediabox section. The firmware is rooted. OTA firmware update is currently not supported, but I could install the latest firmware (dated 06 September 2016) via UPDATE&BACKUP app using a USB flash drive. The company also informed me that network firmware updates will be enabled later on.

The included infrared remote control works fine, and I could use it up to 10 meters, where I started getting some misses (maybe 1 out of 10). The IR learning function worked too, as I tested it with the power and volume keys of my TV remote control. I still used MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse for the review, since it’s just much more convenient to use that the IR remote control.

The Google Play store worked better than on other box, especially since I could also installed Bluetooth LE apps such as Mi Fit or Smart Movement. I also installed Amazon Underground to play the free version of Riptide GP2 game.

Power handling has been well implemented. The TV box will go into standby after a short press on the power button of the remote control, and into power off mode with a long press. As seen above, you can also configure the short press to go directly into power off mode. You can also turn the TV box back on using the remote control or the power button on the unit

Power consumption figures are also pretty good, since my power meter did not detect any power draw in power off mode, but standby mode appears to be pretty much useless:

  • Power off – 0.0 watt
  • Standby – 3.1 watts
  • Idle – 3.1 watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.0 watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 5.1 watts
  • Idle + USB HDD – 5.1 watts

As we’ve seen with the teardown, Qintaix Q912 comes with a heatsink on top of Amlogic S912 processor, as well as a metallic  enclosure, but the board is not in contact with the case at all. Still, during use the case feels fairly hot, and actually feeling hotter at the touch that what my IR thermometer is reporting with top and bottom temperatures of  40 and 44 °C max after Antutu 6.2, and about 43°C and 46°C respectively after playing Riptide GP2 for 15 minutes.

I did not find any major issues with Qintaix Q912 firmware, which I found fast and very stable, although I still got a couple of “Unresponsive app”. I also like that they kept the notification bar, albeit removed the status bar, and they still have that annoying HDMI CEC bug preventing me to turn on my A/V receiver. The device also have the exact some IPTV apps, namely FilmOn, Modbro, and Showbox, that I covered in MXQ Plus M12 TV box review.

Video and Audio Playback with Kodi 17, Antutu Video Tester, and DRM info

Contrary to most other TV boxes I’ve reviewed which come with the stable version of Kodi, currently Kodi 16.1, or somethimes a fork, Qintaix Q912 is pre-loaded with Kodi 17.0 Alpha  3 built on July 31st.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

And like many TV box, they’ve also installed piracy add-ons, many of which are not working…

kodi-17-add-onsAnyway, I’m only testing local video playback in Kodi, and I’m done so from a SAMBA share using the Gigabit Ethernet connection.

Most Big Buck Bunny videos from Linaro media samples and Elecard are playing just fine:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Could be a little smoother (software decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p: OK (ff-vp8 software decode); 1080p: not smooth
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK

Automatic refresh rate switching is not working in Kodi 17.0, at least in this device.

Videos with various bitrates were next:

  • ED_HD_10Mbps_1080p_MPEG-4.avi (MPEG-4 / 10 Mbps) – Not smooth at all, barely watchable (msmpeg4v2 software decode)
  • 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) – Won’t play
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

Dolby Digital and DTS support was tested with four use case: PCM 2.0 output (stereo downsampling) or HDMI audio pass-through via Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver, using Kodi and MoviePlayer apps.

Audio Codec in Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi 17 Alpha 3)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MoviePlayer)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi 17 Alpha 3)
HDMI Pass-through
(MoviePlayer)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK but video not smooth No audio Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1), video not smooth OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 Video plays in fast forward, without time to setup audio
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 TrueHD 5.1
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 TrueHD 7.1
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 Dolby D 5.1 – continuous beep
DTS HD Master OK No audio Black screen, no audio DTS 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio Black screen, no audio DTS 5.1
DTS:X OK No audio Black screen, no audio DTS 5.1

Results are pretty much the same as other Amlogic Android 6.0 TV boxes.

For most videos, 4K video playback is not too bad in Kodi 17.0:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Not always smooth
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps) – OK.
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Some frames are “jumping”
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, and audio delay (as expected since hardware is not supposed to support it)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) –  OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – 0.5 to 1 fps (software decode)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 30 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Not smooth at all from either HDD or network
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video) – OK, except for one massive slowdown for 2 to 3 seconds.
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – OK most of the time, but I can see some frame drops from time to time

The video above were tested using 4K60Hz (3840×2160), and the video show properly, but I previously also tested 4KSMPTE (4096×2160 @ 24 Hz) and some black bands showed on the left and right edges of the TV. You can watch Kodi 17.0 setup and video playback in Qintaix Q912 below.

Blur-ray videos (Sintek-4k.iso & amat.iso) and two MPEG2 1080i videos could play fine. I basically had the same results as on M12N for 10-bit H.264 videos with a 720p sample playing fine, but a 1080p sample not being smooth enough. Kodi 16.1 would enable subtitles by default in those two videos, but Kodi 17.0 Alpha 3 requires the user to manually enable subtitles.

LG 42UB820T Ultra HD television does not support 3D videos, but my Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver does, and could detect 3D content (3D icon on) for MVC videos as shown in Zidoo X1 II review, and for others it’s still interesting to see if the box can decode them:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Won’t play at all
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK
  • 3D-full-MVC.mkv (Full-frame packed MVC 3D MKV) – 2D only, 3D icon not shown on AV receiver
  • ISO-full3D-sample.iso (Full-frame packed MVC 3D ISO) – 2D only, 3D icon not shown on AV receiver

I also played one complete 1080p H.264 video for 2 hours without issues through the network (SAMBA share), and I completed Kodi 17 testing by check out various video from my library with IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4, XViD/DViX, and MKV 720p and 1080p videos. Most could play just fine, but I noticed some FLV video had no audio, and IFO/VOB files would not play smoothly at all.

MXQ Plus M12 previously achieved 865 points in Antutu Video Tester 3.0 benchmark, and Qintaix Q912 got a slightly lower score with 849 points.qintaix-q912-antutu-video-testerThe three “partially support” videos could not play smoothly enough.

amlogic-s912-tv-box-video-not-smooth DRM info reports Widevine Level 3 is supported.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I also quickly tested YouTube, and it supports up to 1080p. Video samples can be downloaded via links in the comments section of that video sample post.

Network Performance for WiFi and Ethernet

Qintaix Q912 has a dual band WiFi module (AP6330), and I could connect to both 2.4 and 5.0 GHz access point, but no support for 802.11ac, so I only tested performance of 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz by copying a 278MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal storage several times in either direction. The result is disappointing since the transfers averaged 1.69 MB/s, one of the poorest results among the devices I’ve tested. At least, even if the performance is far from outstanding, WiFi is very stable.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

There’s also some asymmetry between download and upload speeds, with the former reaching about 2 MB/s. You may have noticed two external antennas on Qintaix Q912, but one of them is not connected to anything, and is only there to make the box prettier.

I found Gigabit Ethernet to be working well, and tested full duplex performance with “iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d” command line:

It’s not exactly reaching 1 Gbps, but in a TV box it should not matter than much, especially the device/SoC only support USB 2.0 ports.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I could easily pair Vernee Apollo Lite smartphone to the box, and transfer a few pictures over Bluetooth, however I was not so lucky with my Bluetooth 3.0 headet (Sport-S9) which was not detected at all, and a Bluetooth 4.0 LE fitness tracker that was detected, but the TV box asked me for a pin number, which usually is not the case for this device, and pairing failed. I tried a few times and different pin code, and after pressing Cancel, the device (SH09) was shown to be paired… Sadly Smart Movement app used with the tracker would not find the device at all.

Since the firmware is rooted, I also tried my PS3 wireless gamepad clone with Sixaxis Compatibility Checker, and I could configure and use the game controller.

Storage

I used a 1TB Seagate USB hard drive set-up with 4 partitions, and a FAT32 micro SD card to test file system support.

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

I also use A1SD bench app to test the two partitions on the USB hard drive (NTFS & exFAT), and read speed was OK for both (NTFS: 34.88 MB/s; exFAT: 39.88 MB/s), but write speed is better on NTFS: 16.08 MB/s vs 4.83 MB/s. I had to test exFAT on two different days. The first day I only got R: 4.83 MB/s; W: 0.97 MB/s, after running the benchmark twice on the partition, maybe because another process was busy going through the file system…

I ran A1SD bench again to evaluate internal storage performance, and sequential read and write speeds were decent at 40.36 MB/s and 12.94 MB/s respectively.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Gaming

I’ve detailed gaming on Amlogic S912 using M12N TV box, and last time I could clearly see a different in performance between Amlogic S905 and Amlogic S912, although games like Riptide GP2 were still not clearly as fluid as on Xiaomi Mi Box 3 Enhanced. So I expected the same results on Qintaix Q912, but I have to say performance feel just like on Amlogic S905 here: Candy Crush Saga and Beach Buggy Racing are both very smooth, but Riptide GP2 using max resolution settings had a lower framerate closer to Amlogic S905. Still performance was stable throughout my 15 minutes playing the game.

Qintaix Q912 Benchmarks

CPU-Z detects an octa-core Cortex A53 @ up to 2.02 GHz with a Mali-T820 GPU. The info is correct from the Linux kernel point of view, but as we’ve previously seen Amlogic S912 is most likely running at 1.5 GHz maximum here.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The device’s board is q6330, an information that can be useful if you want to try alternative firmware. Resolution is 1920×1080, total RAM 1775 MB as some is used by the GPU and/or GPU, and internal storage has a 11.49 GB capacity as reported above.

I was disappointed by Amlogic S912 benchmarks in M12N TV box, so I was expecting a little more in Qintaix Q912, but on the contrary the score was even lower at 35,966 points in Antutu 6.2.
qintaix-q912-antutu-6

Scores in Vellamo were also lower for Metal (787 vs 1,052)and Browser (2,336 vs 2,758), but better for multicore (1,422 vs 1,130) likely because Qintaix Q912 passed all tests, but M12N failed one.
vellamo-qintaix-q912
3Dmark Ice Storm Extreme confirmed the lower performance in benchmark with 4,713 points against 5,752 points in MXQ Plus M12N.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

That may explain why gaming did not feel thtat good. For reference, Amlogic S905 TV boxes typically achieve about 4,300 points.

Conclusion

Qintaix Q912 TV box works reasonably well overall, but they’ve decided to use Kodi 17.0 Alpha 3 which does not bring much compare to Kodi 16.1, and does not perform as well with all video. Once we dig into benchmarks and play game, we also quickly realize the TV box has about the same performance as Amlogic S905 devices, meaning you pay a premium without any obvious benefits.

PROS

  • Recent Android 6.0 firmware that is both responsive and stable, and includes a slightly different launcher
  • Mostly fine 4K video support for VP9, H.265 and H.264 codecs in Kodi 17
  • HDMI audio pass-through for Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1, and TrueHD 5.1 and 7.1 in Video MoviePlayer
  • Proper power handling, and low power off & idle power consumption
  • exFAT, NTFS, and FAT32 file system support for external storage
  • IR remote control working up to at least 10 meters
  • Google Play Store support better than some other device (e.g. for Bluetooth LE app)
  • Bluetooth file transfer and Sixaxis controller (PS3 gamepad) working
  • Metal case with front panel display showing time

CONS

  • HDMI audio pass-through and automatic frame rate switching not working properly in Kodi, and DTS-HD even lead to black videos with no audio at all. Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD 7.1 not supported in other apps
  • Kodi 17.0 Alpha 3 used in the firmware does not handle video playback of all videos as well as Kodi 16.1 (stable version): e.g. issues with VOB, no audio in FLV, etc…
  • Performance equivalent to quad core Amlogic S905 TV boxes according to benchmarks and gaming experience
  • HDMI output mode is often falling back to 1080p60, even when manually set to 4K 60Hz. (The system may be confused when I turn on the TV or AV receiver on and off).
  • WiFi: Mediocre yet stable (e.g. no stall) WiFi performance. Only one external antenna used out of the two external antennas.
  • HDMI CEC not disabled by default and no CEC option. HDMI CEC bug keeping my A/V receiver on.
  • Bluetooth: BT 3.0 audio headset not found at all, Bluetooth LE fitness tracker detected, but pairing fails, and app can’t sync.
  • DRM: Only supports Widevine Level 3
  • Dolby & DTS licenses not included (Only a problem for apps other than Kodi, for people not using HDMI or S/PDIF audio pass-through). This would require Amlogic S912-H processor.

I’d like to thank Qintex Tech for sending a review sample, and if you plan to order in quantities, you can do so directly from the company. The TV box can also be found on Aliexpress for $73.50 and up, or Amazon US for $122.

A.I. Thinker A20 Plus ESP8266 WiFi Board Includes GPRS Support and a VGA Camera

September 15th, 2016 18 comments

A.I. Thinker, a company known for its ESP8266 module, has designed a new intriguing product with A20Plus board powered by Espressif ESP8266 (or ESP8285) WiFi SoC, that also features GPRS connectivity, and a 0.3MP camera.

a20plus-board-wifi-gprs-cameraThere’s basically no info on the “English Internet”, but Raymond Tunning found lots of info in Chinese, and posted information and links on his blog.

A20 Plus board specifications:

  • Wireless Module – A.I. Thinker A20 module with GPRS and WiFi (ESP8266 or ESP8285), two antennas connector
  • Camera – VGA camera interface (up to 640×480 resolution) compatible with OV7670, GC0308, GC0328, & GC0309 sensors.
  • Expansion – 2x headers with GPIO, ADC, power signals…
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for power and programming
  • Misc – Reset and user button, two LEDs (for flash?)
  • Dimensions – TBC

An Android app (binary + source code) is provide to retrieve pictures (apparently no video for now) over WiFi or GPRS.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Some other documentation in Chinese to use and program the app in Android Studio can also been found here (password: 123456), and more info about the module is available on A.I Thinker forums, where we’ll also find they have a few other modules to offer.

a6-a6c-a7-a20-module-wifi-gprs-gps-cameraA6 module only support GSM/GPRS, A6C module supports GPRS and camera (but no WiFi), and A7 module supports GPRS and GPS. Hopefully, they’ll have a 3G module soon enough, since I’m not sure GPRS is available everywhere anymore.

A20 Plus board is listed on Taobao for $49RMB (~$7.4), but shown as out of stock for now.

Via Bird on SMEoT Facebook Group

Broadlink MP1 Quad Socket WiFi Power Strip Review and Teardown

September 14th, 2016 17 comments

Broadlink MP1 is an inexpensive ($20) power strip with four international sockets that can be controlled over WiFi. Since I was interested in finding out how the power strip was designed internally, I asked GearBest whether they could send a sample for evaluation, which they did, and I got it today. So I’ll first check the device, and hardware design, before trying it with the Android app.

Broadlink MP1 Unboxing

I don’t have much to say about the package, it’s just a bland white box with Broadlink logo.

broadlink-package

The bottom of the package is useful however, as it contains a sort of user guide in Chinese together with the specifications. I could not find any mentions of CE/FCC/CCC (for WiFi) or UL/TUV (safety) certifications on the package.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

There’s no more information inside the box, except what looks like a warranty card in Chinese.

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Click to Enlarge

The power strip itself has four multi-standard sockets, a power button, and a 1.5 meter lead with a Australian 3-prong plug. Spacing between each socket is a good 5 cm as advertised.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The bottom on the power strip includes some information including the model number (MP1-1K4S), maximum current and voltage (10A/250V), and a QR core linking to a QQ page redirecting to WeChat app in Google Play Store, so I did not try further…. The device is made by Hangzhou GuBei Electronics Technology.

Broadlink MP1 Teardown

We can open the device by removing the four rubber pad, and loosening 4 screws, as well as an extra screw placed right on the QR code.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I’m not the best person to evaluate the design of this type of product, but I can see three wires including the ground are connected, the parts carrying the mains appear to be large enough, but I don’t see any type of fuses, which might be suitable in that sort of thing. You may want to check out the comment section, as hopefully more knowledgeable people may give their input. The long board is the really board, and the square board is the brain of the design with the WiFi module.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Four JQF-3FF 12V relays supporting 10A @ 277VAC / 12A @ 125VAC are used to control the sockets. A cable with 4 GPIOs (R1 to R4), GND, and 12V signals is connected between the relay board and WiFi board.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The board (PCCII-U1-2) includes a Broadlink WiFi module, the power button, two LEDs, and an unpopulated “GSRV” header to connect an  ISP programmer. The small chip on the bottom of the pic is XLSemi XL1509 DC-DC converter.

I can’t find specific information about W1SBS03L WiFi module, except through its CMIIT ID, a product ID assigned by the China Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to identify wireless products in the Chinese market. The aforelinked website indicates the module operated in 2400-2483.5MHz frequency range, emits less than 20dBm (EIRP), occupies less than 40MHz bandwidth, and its emissions are inferior than -30 dBm. What I could not find it which chip that module is using.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The bottom of the board has two more small ICs: STMicro STM8S003F3P6 8-bit MCU, and MP157 regulator.

Broadlink MP1 Power Strip Review

I’ve also tried the power strip. The first step is to scan the QR core on the package, to install the same e-Control app used on Broadlink SP2, or other Broadlink WiFi devices for home automation.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

After the welcome screen, you’ll be asked to register or sign-in, but simply select Skip on the top right. If you want to control the plug over Internet, instead of just your local network, you may have to register however. You’d then have to tap on the three blue bars icon to bring the left menu, and select Add device.

At this stage I also connect the power strip, and the power button LEDs will start blinking regularly meaning the strip is ready for configuration.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

You’ll be presented with a first window asking you to enter your WiFi password, but when I tried to do this it failed each time. Instead tap on the top right Setup button and switch to AP mode. Click OK in the the second screen shown above, select your access point, enter your password, and you should be able to find the power strip pre-named with a name in Chinese (4-socket power strip).

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

You’ll be able to turn on or off individual sockets, set timers to turn on or off specific a socket, control all sockets with a single button, or go to settings to change the power strip name, lock the device so that only your device can control the socket, or update the firmware. If you don’t have your smartphone with you, it’s also possible to turn on or off all sockets by pressing the power button on the unit.

I’ve scanned the power strip for both UDP and TCP port with nmap, which reports all TCP ports are closed, and all UDP ports are open|unfiltered.

I’d like to thank GearBest for sending Broadlink MP1 for review, and if you’re interested you could consider buying the device from them for $22.39 shipped. Banggood used to have a promo selling it for just under $20, but the price is now $22.79. You’ll also find Broadlink WiFi power strip on Aliexpress, but the prices are normally around $25 or greater.

Pine64 Unveils $2 PADI IoT Stamp WiFi IoT Module with FreeRTOS SDK, Upcoming ARM mbed 5.0 Support

September 12th, 2016 12 comments

Realtek RTL8710 WiFi IoT modules came out as potential competitors to ESP8266 modules last month, with similar features. an ARM Cortex M3, and a pricing as low as $2 in quantities. However, documentation is often in Chinese only, and based on my experience with an RTL8710AF module limited to AT commands set for now. Software and documentation are likely to improve a lot however, as Pine64, the makers of Pine A64 boards, are about to launch their own “PADI IoT Stamp” RTL8710AF module for just $1.99 in any quantities.

padi-iot-stampPADI IoT Stamp specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTL8710AF ARM Cortex-M3 @ 83 MHz with 1MB ROM, 512KB RAM, and 1MB flash
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi @ 2.4 GHz – 2.5 GHz (2400 MHz – 2483.5 MHz) with PCB antenna; Station / SoftAP / SoftAP + Station modes;
  • Expansion headers – 22 half-holes with
    • Up to 1x SPI @ 41.5 Mbps max
    • Up to 3x UART with 2x up to 4Mbps, 1x @ 38400 bps
    • Up to 4x PWM
    • Up to 1x I2C @ 3.4 Mbps max
    • Up to 19 GPIOs including 10 supporting interrupts
  • Power Supply – 3.0 to 3.6V (3.3V recommended)
  • Power Consumption – 87 mA typ. @ 3.3V using 802.11b 11 Mbps, +17 dBm; 0.9 mA light sleep; 10 uA deep sleep; More details on Section 6 of the datasheet.
  • Dimensions – 24 x 16 mm
  • Temperature range – -20 ℃ ~ 85 ℃

If the hardware looks familiar, it’s because it also most the same as B&T RTL-00 module. However, I’ve been told it might not be 100% compatible, so mixing firmware for different modules may potentially brick them. The module can be programmed and debugged using IAR, openOCD, and/or J-Link, and it supports firmware updates via UART, OTA, and JTAG. Currently, the company provides a download link to Ameba Standard SDK based on FreeRTOS and LWIP, but ARM mbed 5.0 support is planned in the coming months. [Update:Ameba RTL8710AF SDK ver v3.5a GCC ver 1.0.0- without NDA has been uploaded recently] Configuration can be done through AT Commands, Cloud Server, or Android / iOS mobile app.

PADI IoT Stamp Pinout Diagram

PADI IoT Stamp Pinout Diagram – Click to Enlarge

You’ll find documentation in English and tools on PADI IoT Stamp product page, including the datasheet, a guide start guide with AT commands, Ameba SDK 3.4b3, and some tools and drivers for the serial console. The module will officially launch on September 14th, and you’ll be able to purchase it for $1.99 plus shipping. The company is also working on a breadboard-friendly NodeMCU like board featuring PADI IoT Stamp, but I don’t have further info about this board at this stage.

In somewhat other news, some people submitted both RTL8710AF and RTL8711AF processors to a X-Ray machine, and while the latter has more features such as NFC support, it appears both SoCs look exactly the same under X-Ray, so RTL8710AF might actually have the exact same features, but they are just disabled.

You Can Now Buy ESP3212 ESP32 WiFi + Bluetooth Module for $6.95

September 5th, 2016 24 comments

After the official launch of ESP32 processor for less than $3, it did not take long before ESP32 modules hit the market, and Seeed Studio has already listed ESP3212, one of the first modules based on Espressif ESP32 Bluetooth LE + WiFi SoC, for $6.95 with shipping scheduled to start on September 23, 2016.

ESP3212-ModuleESP3212 module specifications:

  • SoC – Espressif ESP32 dual core Xtensa LX6 processor @ up to 240 MHz with 448 KB flash, 520 KB SRAM, 16 KB SRAM in RTC, WiFi and Bluetooth LE connectivity
  • Storage – 4MB Winbond SPI flash
  • Connectivity
    • 802.11 b/g/n/e/i WiFi (HT40) up to 150 Mbps
    • Bluetooth 4.2 BR/EDR and BLE
    • 3 dBi PCB antenna
  • Headers – 22x GPIOs (multiplexed with ADC, Touch, DAC, SPI, UART, CAN, ETH, IR, PWM, and I2S), 1x UART, Sense VP/Sense VN, EN pin. 3.3V and GND
  • Power Supply – 3.0 – 3.6V
  • Dimensions – 24 x 16 x 3 mm

ESP32-ModuleThe exact pinout of the module can be found on Taobao, section “3.2 接口定义”.

Number Pin Name Description
1 GND 接地
2 EN 模组使能端,高电平有效
3 SVP SENSOR_VP, GPIO36, ADC1_CH0, RTC_GPIO0
4 SVN SENSOR_VN, GPIO39, ADC1_CH3, RTC_GPIO3
5 IO34 GPIO34, ADC1_CH6, RTC_GPIO4
6 IO35 GPIO35, ADC2_CH7, RTC_GPIO5
7 IO32 GPIO32, 32K_XP, (32.768 kHz晶体振荡器输入),ADC1_CH4, TOUCH9, RTC_GPIO9
8 IO33 GPIO33, 32K_XN,(32.768 kHz晶体振荡器输出),ADC1_CH5, TOUCH8, RTC_GPIO8
9 IO25 GPIO25, DAC_1, ADC2_CH8, RTC_GPIO6
10 IO26 GPIO26, DAC_2, ADC2_CH9, RTC_GPIO7
11 IO27 GPIO27, ADC2_CH7, TOUCH7, RTC_GPIO17
12 IO14 GPIO14, ADC2_CH6, TOUCH6, RTC_GPIO16, MTMS,HSPICLK
13 IO12 GPIO12, ADC2_CH5, TOUCH5, RTC_GPIO15, MTDI, HSPIQ
14 IO13 GPIO13, ADC2_CH4, TOUCH4, RTC_GPIO14, MTCK, HSPID, U0CTS
15 IO15 GPIO15, ADC2_CH3, TOUCH3, RTC_GPIO13, MTDO, HSPICS0, U0RTS
16 GND 接地
17 IO2 GPIO2, ADC2_CH2, TOUCH2, RTC_GPIO12, HSPIWP
18 IO0 GPIO0, ADC2_CH1, TOUCH1, RTC_GPIO11, CLK_OUT1
19 IO4 GPIO4, ADC2_CH0, TOUCH0, RTC_GPIO10, HSPIHD
20 IO16 GPIO16, HS1_DATA4
21 3V3 3.3V 供电
22 IO17 GPIO17, HS1_DATA5
23 IO5 GPIO5, VSPICS0, HS1_DATA6
24 IO18 GPIO18, VSPICLK, HS1_DATA7
25 IO23 GPIO23
26 IO19 GPIO19, VSPIQ, HS2_DATA2
27 IO22 GPIO22, VSPIWP, HS2_CLK
28 U0RX U0RXD, GPIO3, CLK_OUT2, HS2_DATA0
29 U0TX U0TXD, GPIO1, CLK_OUT3, HS2_DATA1
30 IO21 GPIO21, VSPIHD, HS2_CMD
31 GND 接地

On the software side of things, you should be able to use ESP32 SDK available from Espressif website, aka ESP32 IoT Development Framework (IDF). If you prefer Arduino or NodeMCU firmware, the former is available for ESP32 in beta phase @ Arduino Core for ESP31B ESP32 and NodeMCU should be work in progress, but I have not found code specific to ESP32 on NodeMCU github repo.

Espressif ESP32 WiFi & Bluetooth SoC is Now Up For Sale for $2.85

September 2nd, 2016 12 comments

Espressif ESP32 is one of the most awaited chip for IoT applications as it combines a dual core processor, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and various I/Os. The good news is that you can now purchase ESP32 for 19 RMB ($2.85) on Taobao, or if you are not based in China, contact Espressif by email at sales [at] espressif.com.

ESP32Availability is however limited, and the maximum order is now 5 pieces. ESP32 modules and boards, as opposed to just the SoC, are not quite ready right now, but should become available in a few weeks. ESP-WROOM-32 is the ESP32 module developed by Espressif, and NodeMCU is also working on an ESP32 board, so we’ll get more good news very soon.

ESP32-Demo-Board

ESP32 Demo Board V2 with ESP-WROOM-32 Module

You can also find documentation, hardware and software resources on a Espressif ESP32 page , including a getting started guide, ESP32 SDK, ESP32 reference manual, ESP-WROOM-32 datasheet, and more.

If you are unsure whether your project would benefit from ESP32 over the cheaper ESP8266, I found an interesting table in Espressif Introduction document, showing how the processors are used in different applications.

ESP32_vs_ESP8266_ProjectsVia ESP32 Forums and RelentlesS