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Posts Tagged ‘wifi’

LimeSDR Open Source Hardware Software Defined Radio Goes for $199 and Up (Crowdfunding)

April 29th, 2016 10 comments

Canonical and Lime Micro showcased SoDeRa software defined radio (SDR) a couple of months ago, with a promise to launch a crowdfunding campaign later this year. They’ve fulfill their promise, and launched the open source SDR, renamed to LimeSDR, on Crowdsupply.
LimeSDR_BoardLimeSDR board specifications:

  • FPGA – Altera Cyclone IV EP4CE40F23 Altera FPGA compatible with EP4CE30F23
  • System Memory – 256 MB DDR2 SDRAM
  • RF
    • Lime Microsystems LMS7002M RF transceiver with continuous coverage of the frequency range between 100 kHz and 3.8 GHz; 61.44 MHz bandwidth
    • 4 x TxOut and 6 x RxIn U.FL connectors
    • Power Output (CW): up to 10 dBm
    • Wi-Fi, GSM, UMTS, LTE, LoRa, Bluetooth, Zigbee, RFID, Digital Broadcasting, configurable through apps.
  • USB – 1x micro USB3 via CYUSB3014-BZXC Cypress Microcontroller  for control, data transfer and power
  • Misc – Status LEDs, RGB LEDs, 4x switches
  • Power – USB or external power supply
  • Dimensions –  100 mm x 60 mm

The board interfaces with systems running Snappy Ubuntu Core, and you can enable wireless protocols the easy way by simply installing the required app with snappy. If you implement a new protocol, it can also be easily shared through snappy apps.

LimeSDR with Aluminium ENclosure with 4 Antennas

LimeSDR with Aluminum Enclosure with 4 Antennas

Potential applications include radio astronomy,RADAR, 2G to 4G cellular basestation, media streaming (DVB, ATSC, ISDB-T), IoT gateway, HAM radio, wireless keyboard and mice emulation and detection, tyre pressure monitoring systems, aviation transponders, utility meters, drone command and control, test and measurement, and more.

It’s not the first FPGA based SDR system that’s available to hobbyist, so the company compared it to other platform such as HackRF One, BladeRF, and others, include ultra-low cost solution based on RTL-SDR.

HackRF One Ettus B200 Ettus B210 BladeRF x40 RTL-SDR LimeSDR
Frequency Range 1MHz-6GHz 70MHz-6GHz 70MHz-6GHz 300MHz-3.8GHz 22MHz-2.2GHz 100kHz-3.8GHz
RF Bandwidth 20MHz 61.44MHz 61.44MHz 40MHz 3.2MHz 61.44MHz
Sample Depth 8 bits 12 bits 12 bits 12 bits 8 bits 12 bits
Sample Rate 20MSPS 61.44MSPS 61.44MSPS 40MSPS 3.2MSPS 61.44MSPS (Limited by USB 3.0 data rate)
Transmitter Channels 1 1 2 1 0 2
Receivers 1 1 2 1 1 2
Duplex Half Full Full Full N/A Full
Interface USB 2.0 USB 3.0 USB 3.0 USB 3.0 USB 2.0 USB 3.0
Programmable Logic Gates 64 macrocell CPLD 75k 100k 40k (115k avail) N/A 40k
Chipset MAX5864, MAX2837, RFFC5072 AD9364 AD9361 LMS6002M RTL2832U LMS7002M
Open Source Full Schematic, Firmware Schematic, Firmware Schematic, Firmware No Full
Oscillator Precision +/-20ppm +/-2ppm +/-2ppm +/-1ppm ? +/-1ppm initial, +/-4ppm stable
Transmit Power -10dBm+ (15dBm @ 2.4GHz) 10dBm+ 10dBm+ 6dBm N/A 0 to 10dBm (depending on frequency)
Price $299 $686 $1,119 $420 ($650) ~$10 $299 ($199 early bird)

As mentioned in the comparison table, LimeSDR is open source hardware and you’ll find the Altium schematics & PCB layout, as well as the manufacturing files in LimeSDR-USB github repo, Altera Quartus FPGA project, Cypress FX3 firmware, source code for the drivers and GUI, and more in the various repo available on myriadrf github account.

So far, the project has raised close to $70,000 out of its $500,000 goal. A $199 early bird pledge should get you LimeSDR board, as long as you are part of the 500 backers (200 left), after which you’d need to pledge $299 for the board. Unless you provide your own antennas, you may want to add $85 to your pledge to get the four antennas and cables, or if you want a complete system with the board, antennas, enclosure, and “turnkey support”, go for the acrylic or aluminum kits for respectively $499 and $599. Shipping is free to the US, and between $15 to $35 to the rest of the world, with delivery scheduled for November or December 2016 depending on the pledge.

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MK808B Pro Android TV Stick Mini Review

April 26th, 2016 6 comments

MK808B PRO is the first Amlogic S905 TV stick readily available for sale, and GeekBuying sent me a sample for review. I’ve already checked out the hardware, and the lack of heatsink is a worry, so we’ll see how it performs in this mini review, where I’ll focus mainly on potential pitfalls, rather than do a throrough review as usual, since I’ve already tested so many Android TV boxes powered by Amlogic S905 processor

First Boot, Settings, and First Impressions

I’ve connected MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse RF dongle to the USB port, and Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad dongle to the mini USB port via the provided USB OTG adapter, and the provided HDMI cable to the AUX port of my AV receiver and nothing else, except the power adapter to the other mini USB port.

MK808_PRO_4K_TV_Stick

Boot time typically takes about one minute that it’s not a speed daemon in that regards. The user interface is familiar, since it’s the same as used in Beelink MINI MX, and a few other models.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

About_MK808B_ProThe settings are also the same, so I won’t go through them all. But I could set video output to 4K @ 60Hz, and connect to WiFi (2.4 GHz only) without any problems. There’s a single storage partition with 4.41GB in total available for apps and data. The About section reports MK808B Pro model is running Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29. The firmware is rooted.

I also tried the Online Update in the Update&Backup app to get the latest firmware, but sadly OTA firmware update is not implemented.

Since the stick does not come with the remote control, I use an air mouse, but in theory if you don’t have one, you should be able to use RemoteIME app after enabling “Remote” in the “Remote & Accessories” settings. This did not work for me the first time with the app unable to find MK808B Pro, but as I tried again a few hours later, it worked pretty well with keyboard, mouse, and remote control modes.

The lack of remote also raise a problem when you want to turn off the device, especially since there’s no power icon on the task bar. I could turn off the device by connecting a USB keyboard, and pressing the Power key. It works, and power consumption in that mode is only 0.3 Watt. However, the only way to turn the stick back on is to manually power cycle it, by disconnecting the power supply for a few seconds, and putting it back in. So it’s definitely not user-friendly.

I could install most apps needed for review the first time I used Google Play, except most games would not be compatible with my device. I tried again later, and i could install Candy Crush Saga, and Beach Buggy Racing. So Google Play is working OK. Amazon Underground refused to install though. After 5 or so minutes trying to install the apk, it will just say “App not installed”. I downloaded it twice, and tried to install it a few minutes with the same result.

MK808B Pro feels a little sluggish compared to other device, and you may have to be especially patient when installing apps. Sometimes apps exit by themselves, while other times, I would only get a black screen with the status bar when trying to get back to the home screen. I wonder if it would be because memory is tight. So my first impressions were not that good about the device.

Kodi in MK808B Pro

Then I switched to the pre-installed Kodi 15.2 which comes with some add-ons.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

For some weird reasons, Kodi 15.2 reports a 1280×720 screen resolution, but if you enlarge the screenshot below, it is instead 1920×1080.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Nevertheless, just a small issue. A much bigger issue was the disaster the box is to play 4K videos:

  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 (4K H.264, ~ 8 Mbps) – Choppy as hell, frequent audio cuts, artifacts may appear after a while.
  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Not smooth at all, unwatchable

I was about to give up at this stage, but later I found that Kodi had an update in Google Play, so they may have the original version of Kodi without modifications, except installing add-ons. I did the update to Kodi 16.1, and the videos played a bit better, but still not watchable:

  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 (4K H.264, ~ 8 Mbps) – Video somewhat smooth at the beginning, but then becomes more choppy with frequent audio cuts. Kodi decided by itself it could not take it anymore, and exited by itself.
  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264) – Not smooth, then buffering kicks in (60 Mbps is too high for WiFi)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (H.265 @ 60 fps – ~6.5 Mbps) – Video not smooth, and some audio cuts, but no buffering issues here. After a few minutes, Kodi exited.

If I wanted to access Kodi UI while the video is playing, key inputs from my air mouse were either irresponsive, or with 10 seconds or so delay.

I’ve decided to to waste any more with Kodi, and video playback, on that TV stick.

Wi-Fi & Storage Performance

WiFi throughput averaged about 2.6 MB/s after several transfers between the internal flash and a SAMBA server. Not a catastrophe, but still below average.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

I also tested the internal storage performance with A1 SD bench app, and the results clearly show why the stick is so cheap.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Gaming and Performance Stability

I’ve only played Beach Buggy Racing game on MK808K Pro. At the beginning it was not quite as smooth as on some other Amlogic S905 based TV boxes, but still playable. However, the games became very slow near the end of my first races (one lap – less than 1 minute play), and stayed that way after that. I measured the temperature on the top and bottom of the device, and both were around 60 C. I’ve also notice that at the beginning my power meter reported 4.4 Watts, but when it became slow, it dropped to 3.0 Watts, most probably because the system was throttling.

So the lack of heatsink, possibly combined with high ambient temperature (30 C), is really a problem with the stick, and you can’t expect good performance over time.

MK808B Pro Benchmark and System Info

I’ve finally ran CPU-Z and Antutu 6.1.4 to complete the review.

MK808B_Pro_CPU-Z_System_Info

Click to Enlarge

The package mentions the CPU was clocked @ 1.5 GHz, but CPU-Z and Antutu info both reports a Quad coe Cortex A53 processor clocked between 100 MHz and 2.02 GHz. But whenever it reaches 2.02 GHz, it won’t stay there for long, as we’ve seen before. The total RAM is only 775 MB, with 4.41 GB internal storage. MK808N Pro is also based on p201 board.

MK808B_Pro_Antutu_6.1.4

Antutu 6.1.4 score is 31,5166, but that’s without 3D graphics. I tried to run the benchmark again, but it would always get stuck during “Image Processing Fisheye” test right after the 3D benchmark successfully completed. It was a complete system freeze, I noticed the power draw was 8.4 watts, and my IR thermometer reported 88 C. I had to turn if off, and let it cool for 5 minutes to be able to use the stick again.

Conclusion

I wonder why anybody would buy MK808B Pro, even if the price is so low, as I’ve had so many problems, it performs slowly, Kodi 15.2 & Kodi 16.1 don’t handle 4K video very well at all, and WiFi performance is under par, at least with my setup. Maybe the stick works better at a lower ambient temperature, but I would not bet on it.

GeekBuying kindly provided the sample for review, and if for some reasons you feel the urge to buy it, you can do so for $34.99 including shipping.

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$20 MediaTek LinkIt 7687 Arduino Compatible WiFi IoT Board Runs FreeRTOS

April 22nd, 2016 No comments

MediaTek Labs has already launched several WiFi boards for IoT applications starting with LinkIt ONE, and later LinkIt Smart 7688 running OpenWrt, and the company is now about to launch LinkIt 7687 HDK (Hardware Development Kit) powered by Mediatek MT7687F Cortex-M4 SoC,  running FreeRTOS, and developed & produced by Silicon Application Corp (SAC).

LinkIt_7687LinkIt 7687 (WS3489) board specifications:

  • SoC – MediaTek MT7687F ARM Cortex-M4F MCU @ 192MHz with 352 KB SRAM, 64KB ROM, and 2 MB serial flash in package, integrated security engine, and built-in 802.11n WiFi. 8×8 mm 68-pin QFN package
  • Connectivity – 1×1 802.11 b/g/n WiFi with on-module PCB antenna and U.FL connector.
  • USB – 1x micro USB for power, debugging (Coresight Debug Access Port + Virtual COM)
  • Expansion
    • Arduino Uno Rev. 3 headers + an extra 8-pin extension connector.
    • Mass Storage Device (MSD) flash programming interface.
    • Reserved headers for power consumption (current) measurement.
  • Misc – LEDs for UART communication, power, and 6x user customizable; 3x push buttons for reset, RTC interrupt, and external interrupt; configuration jumpers for power source and boot mode (embedded flash or UART)
  • Power supply – 5V via micro USB port, or 1.8 to 3.2V using VIN pin
  • Dimensions – 108.5 x 60.5 mm
  • Weight – 25 grams
  • Temperature Range – Operating: -40 to 85°C
Mediatek MT7687F Block Diagram

Mediatek MT7687F Block Diagram

This is the first board for MediaTek LinkIt Development Platform for RTOS, which is said to provide “the convenience of a single toolset and common APIs implemented over a popular RTOS”, in this case, FreeRTOS with additional components such as TCP/IP, SSL/TLS, HTTP (client and server), SNTP, DHCP daemon, MQTT, XML and JSON. You can download MediaTek LinkIt SDK v3.0, compatible with Windows and Linux operating systems, to work on it.

LinkIt_for_RTOS

Documentation for the board, including datasheets, a user’s guide, and the hardware reference files, can be found on Hardware Development Kits for the MediaTek LinkIt Development Platform for RTOS page.

Mediatek MT7687 HDK and MT7687 WiFi module are shown to be “coming so” for respectively $19.99 and $4.99.

Via HackerBoards (previously LinuxGizmos)

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Zidoo X1 II 4K Android TV Box (Rockchip RK3229) Review

April 11th, 2016 11 comments

After skipping MXQ-4K TV box review due to severe issues with video playback, Zidoo X1 II is actually the first device powered by Rockchip RK3229 processor that I’ve fully tested. I’ve already taken pictures of the box, and opened it up to check the board in Zidoo X1 II unboxing and teardown post,  and confirmed 4K videos could play pretty well from my USB hard drive using Zidoo Media Center after disabling Media Scanner process. So today, I’ll review other parts of the firmware, as well as video playback with ZDMC 16.0, Zidoo’s fork of Kodi 16.0.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The device only has two USB ports, and I used one for a USB hard drive, and the other for RF dongles for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse,  a USB keyboard, and the RF dongle for Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad via a USB hub. I also connect HDMI & Ethernet cables before powering up the device by plugging in the 5V/2A power supply. A typical boot take around 24 seconds which is quite impressive for a $50 device, and faster than most other devices I’ve tested.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The company is now using ZIUI launcher in all their devices, and it’s exactly the same as in my reviews for Zidoo X5 and Zidoo X6 Pro. Since RK3229 is a lower-end processor with a Mali-400MP2 GPU, they’ve decided to use a 1280×720 user interface, instead of the now usual 1920×1080 interface, for better performance. Bear in mind that it does not affect the resolution of videos, which are always played at the video output resolution. Speaking of which, the system automatically detected LG 42UB820T 4K UHD TV and set the resolution to 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz.

Another difference is that while now most new devices are running Android 5.1, and soon Android 6.0, Zidoo X1 II is running Android 4.4. That means the settings now have the old black background, and some interesting options include:

  • Wireless & Networks – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, Data usage, and a “More” section with five sections: Airplane mode, Tethering & portable hotspot, VPN, Mobile networks, and VPN. The mobile phone options can useless, as there’s no support for 3G dongles.
  • Device
    • USB – Connect to PC
    • Sound – Volume for media, notifications, and alarms, as well as the Sound Devices Manager to select between Default Output, Spdif Passthrough, or HDMI Bitstream
    • Display
      • Daydrean
      • Font size
      • Screen Scale
      • HDMI Mode:
        • Auto
        • 4096x2160p @ 60Hz (YCbCr420), 50Hz (YCbCr420), 30Hz, 25Hz, or 24Hz
        • 3840x2160p @ 60Hz (YCbCr420), 50Hz (YCbCr420), 30Hz, 25Hz, or 24Hz
        • 1920x1080p @ 60 Hz, 50Hz, 30Hz, 25Hz, 24Hz
        • 1280x720p @ 60 or 50 Hz
        • 720x576p/i @ 50 Hz
        • 720x480p @ 60 Hz
    • Storage – Unified 5.75 GB internal storage partition. I still had 2.82 GB free at the end of the review with all apps and copied files

About_Zidoo_X1-IIAll other usual options are still present including Location, Language & input, Date&time, Accessibility, Printing, and so on.

All features worked well including Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. I’ve never seen HDMI output revert to some other video output and/or refresh rate as on Amlogic S905 platforms. Zidoo devices are shipped with some black edges on the sides to compensate for overscan, so if your HDMI monitor supports underscan, you’ll have to adjust the “Screen Scale” to 100% to make sure all the screen’s real estate is used.

The  “About device” section reports “Zidoo_X1 II” model number runs Android 4.4.4 runs on top of Linux 3.10.0. The firmware is not rooted.

The IR remote works OK, but range is limited to 6 to 7 meters, as at around 8 meters I started to get missed key presses. The IR learning function is also working well, and I could set the remote to memorize my TV’s remote control volume and power keys. I still used NEO A2 air mouse for most of the review, as it’s much more user friendly in Android, and to type username, passwords, and so on.

Google Play Store worked very well, so I could install all apps required for review, and I did not need to waste my time side-loading apks. I also installed the free version of Riptide GP2 via Amazon Underground.

Power handling has been nicely implemented, although currently without the sleep timer available on other Zidoo boxes. A long press on the power key on the remote control will show a configuration menu allowing you to set the behavior of the power key: Power off directly, Standby directly, or Ask me. I’ve used “Ask me” option, and a short press on the key will shows three options: Power off, Standby, and Reboot.  Once you select an option a 5 second counter will start, permitting you to change your mind by pressing any key, before completing the action. The remote control can also be used to turn on the device from power off or standby mode.

I’ve also measured power consumption with and without USB hard drive (HDD) in three power modes:

  • Power off – 0 Watt
  • Standby – 1.1 Watt
  • Idle – 3.3 Watts
  • Power off + HDD – 0 Watt
  • Standby + HDD – 1.3 Watt
  • Idle + HDD – 5.0 Watts

So the system do not draw power in power off, and overall power consumption is quite low, as expected for a Cortex A7 processor based device.

The TV box stays rather cool, and I measured 38°C and 47°C max on respectively the top and bottom of the enclosure after running Antutu 6.1.2, and after about 15 minutes playing Riptide GP2 the temperature went up to 45°C and 53°C. Performance was also stable throughout, and the system does not appears to be throttling, or at least not in a noticeable way.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Zidoo X1 II performance, and the experience was stable and fluid most of the time, except for the occasional slowdown when installing apps in the background from time to time, and a few random reboots which still happened three to four times during testing.

Video Playback in ZDMC / Kodi 16.0

As mentioned in the introduction, I could play 10-bit H.265, 10-bit H.264 videos from a USB harddrive using Media Center apps, but only after disabling Media Scanner. Otherwise, I would have frequent slow-downs and audio cuts, and the system was continuously scanning my driver. The 100Mbit connection does not allow playback for some of the videos with very high bitrate, so playing from an hard drive is the only practical way, unless you copy the videos to internal storage (limited to up to 5GB depending on the installed app) before playing them back. But in this review, I’ll test ZDMC (Kodi 16 fork) from a SAMBA share over Ethernet, except for high bitrate videos where I’ll revert the the hard drive, and prefix the result with “HDD”.

I also set “Adjust display refresh rate” to “On start / stop” in Kodi to test automatic refresh rates, and for some reasons if I set the video output to 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz, the refresh will match the video, but if it was set to 3840×2160 @ 30 Hz, it would play all videos @ 30 fps.

I’ve first played some videos part of Linaro media samples, Elecard H.265 samples, and low resolution VP9 video:

  • 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 – Looks OK, but the first few seconds of the video are not shown
  • WebM / VP8 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK (software decode)

The first few seconds are likely missing for all videos (not only the real media ones) due to automatic refresh rate, but I did not notice it. If I disable “adjust display refresh rate” option I can see the full video. It’s just a small issue however. I also noticed there’s no option to adjust the video zoom (using the video icon on the bottom OSD), as it will show the 3D settings most of the time, which is more annoying.

I then switched to videos with various bitrates:

  • ED_HD.avi (H.264 / 10 Mbps) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Could be smoother, and no audio
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – HDD: OK

The next steps was to test audio capabilities using PCM (stereo downmixing), and HDMI pass-through in Kodi.

Kodi_HD_Audio_Pass-through_SettingsI also added the results I got with Media Center in the table with the results.

Video PCM Output
(Kodi/ZDMC)
PCM Output
(Media Center)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi/ZDMC)
HDMI Pass-through
(Media Center)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK but wrong aspect ratio (1:1) Audio OK but wrong aspect ratio (1:1) Audio OK but wrong aspect ratio (1:1) Audio OK but wrong aspect ratio (1:1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK OK OK
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK OK OK
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK OK OK
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK Continuous beep Doby TrueHD 7.1 ch. B (with some audio cuts) Doby TrueHD 7.1 ch. B
DTS HD Master OK OK DTS HD MA 7.1 ch, but with some audio cuts OK
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK DTS 5.1 only DTS 5.1 only
DTS:X OK OK DTS HD Master DTS HD Master

So that means if you just connect the box to your TV, and play videos with Kodi, audio should be fine, but with other players, videos with Dolby Atmos audio may not play properly. If you connect it through an A/V receiver you may experience some audio cuts, at least with my model (Onkyo TX-NR636), and DTS HD HR 7.1 channel audio is only passed-through as DTS 5.1 ch.

4K videos did not play quite as well with Media Center, but the results are not that bad:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK, after the first few seconds of dropped frames and audio cuts.
  • 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 (however, the system hung when I attempted to stop the video).
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – 3 to 4 fps
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps) – Network: Not very smooth, and audio loss after a while. HDD: OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – The video is not very smooth and massive audio delay (4K H.264 @ 60 fps not supported by RK3229 VPU)
  • 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) – Network: Video not smooth, and audio loss. HDD: 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) – HDD: Video will freeze from time to time (very short), and many audio cuts
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 30 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – HDD: Not smooth (and part of Rockchip marketing materials)

Two Blu-ray video samples (sintek-4k.iso, and amat.iso) could play well, as were the MPEG2 1080i videos. 10-bit H.264 is a selling point of RK3229, but the two Hi10p anime videos had the same issues as usual with video artifacts, but audio and subtitles working fine.

I discovered that my A/V receiver will display a 3D icon when 3D MVC videos are played, so even through my TV does not support those, I can still find out when 3D signals are outputted correctly.

Onkyo_TX-NR636_3D_Support

3D stereoscopic videos (Over/under and SBS) won’t show that 3D icon however, but I still played then to check whether the system could decode them:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – stays in UI, audio only
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – stays in UI, nothing happens
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK
  • 3D-full-MVC.mkv (Full-frame packed MVC 3D MKV) – OK, with 3D icon shown on Onkyo receiver
  • ISO-full3D-sample.iso (Full-frame packed MVC 3D ISO) – OK, with 3D icon shown on Onkyo receiver

Various VOB/IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4, XViD/DViX, and MKV videos could play fine, and I also play a 2-hour video over SAMBA using WiFi instead of Ethernet, and the video plays smoothly until the end.

I planned to get the Antutu Video Tester 3.0 score, but after 3 unsuccessful tries, including one reboot, and with twice the progress stuck at 91% after reaching 100%. But many of the video did not seem very smooth, but I would not expect a good score anyway here.
Zidoo-X1-II-DRM_Info

DRM info app could not detect any DRM solution installed in the TV box.

Download links to video samples used in this review can be found in the comments section of that post.

Network Performance (WiFi and Ethernet)

I test both WiFi and Fast Ethernet by copying a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal storage using ES File explorer several times and average the results. Zidoo X1 II has a slightly under average WiFi transfer rate in my environment averaging only about 2.74 MB/s. That’s still good enough to stream HD videos in most cases.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Ethernet is even more disappointing as it copied the file at 5.4 MB/s on average. That’s still much better than WiFi, but compared to other devices, it’s clearly in the bottom part.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

However, it’s not because of the Ethernet configuration, as a full duplex iperf test shows about 90 Mbps in both direction, so the bottleneck must be somewhere else.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

Command line used in Android:

iperf output:

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooth support is another advantage of Zidoo X1 II over the cheaper MXQ-4K TV box. I could transfer some pictures over Bluetooth with my smartphone, and get fitness data from Makibes F68 smartwatch with the corresponding app over Bluetooth 4.0 LE. However, I never managed to find my Bluetooth headset with the device, and a skipped Sixaxis PS3 game controller test since the firmware is not rooted.

Storage

Zidoo X1 II only failed to mount the BTRFS partition, and all other partitions on my USB hard drive could be mounted successfully, as well as FAT32 micro SD card.

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

I used A1 SD bench custom location to test USB throughput for NTFS (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK0/udisk0), EXT-4 (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK0/udisk1), and exFAT (/mnt/usb_storage/USB_DISK0/udisk0), and all had decent read speed close to 30 MB/s, but write speed was rather slow for NTFS and especially exFAT.

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

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

It looks like exFAT is the file system to avoid in Android if you want decent write speeds in any TV box.

The eMMC speed was also good, but the read speed (78.64 MB/s) is likely not valid due to cached read. Write speed was 8.65 MB/s, and should lead to slow down when many concurrent write operation are occurring at the same time. Measuring random write / IOs would also be useful, but it’s not something A1 SD benchmark generates.

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

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

Despite the flawed benchmark results, the eMMC should still have a decent read speed considering the fast boot time.

Gaming

Candy Crush Saga was perfectly playable with the air mouse, but it was laggy once as an app was getting installed in the background.

Beach Buggy Racing was set to “maximum resolution” in the settings, likely due to the 1280×720 framebuffer resolution, and the game was extremely smooth all the time. Riptide GP2 had the same settings, and rendered smoothly for the 15 minutes or so I played it. So performance is OK at this resolution and steady.

Zidoo X1 II Benchmarks

CPU-Z results are toughly the same as for MXQ-4K with a Rockchip RK3066 processor (wrongly) detected with four Cortex A7 core clocked between 408 MHz and 1.46 GHz and a Mali-400MP GPU. Internal storage was much bigger since the company implemented a single partition for both apps and data.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The Antutu 6.1.2 score was also higher with 21,345 points against 19,912 points in MXQ-4K, mostly thanks to higher CPU results maybe because of better cooling, allowing multi-threaded benchmark to run at full capacity.
Zidoo_X1-II_Antutu_6.1.2
I had some problems with Vellamo and the Browser test would not run properly (many time outs) as shown with the yellow mark on the top right. Multicore score was 1,244 and Metal 707, and comparable to Amlogic S805 devices such as MXQ S85 TV box with respectively 1,319 and 551 points.

Vellamo_Zidoo_X1_II3DMark Ice Storm Extreme benchmark score of 2,195 points is also comparable to the 2,308 points in MXQ S85 TV box, but bear in mind that the latter was using 1920×1080 resolution, so the Mali-400MP2 in Rockchip RK3229 is quite weaker than the Mali-450MP GPU used in Amlogic S805 processor.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Conclusion

In my experience, while Zidoo provides regular firmware updates, they also launch their product a little too early, with too many bugs, and sometimes poor thermal design. But with Zidoo X1 II, although there are still a few bugs, the firmware features and performance are already quite good, and I did not notice any performance drop off over time. Most part of the hardware are around average  including networking and storage, but it still work well enough to play games, and 10-bit H.264 and H.265 4K video playback is very good for a $50 device, at least once you disable Media Scanner if you have connected an hard drive.

PROS

  • Firmware is relatively stable and smooth to operate
  • 4K 10-bit HEVC/H.265 and 10-bit H.264 is working very well with Zidoo Media Center, and fairly well with ZDMC/Kodi 16.0.
  • 3D MVC videos are supported
  • Video Output – 4096×2160 / 3840×2160 up to 60Hz, 1080p 24/25/30/50/60, etc.. Automatic frame rate switching is working
  • HD audio pass-through working for TrueHD and DTS HD Master (with some concerns due to short audio cuts I noticed).
  • Fast boot time
  • File systems support – NTFS, EXT-4, exFAT, and FAT32
  • Proper power handling (remote on/off, 0 watts in power off mode, USB ports off in standby, etc…)
  • Unified 5.75 GB partition for both apps and data
  • OTA firmware update, and frequent firmware releases to be expected

CONS

  • Some random reboots may occur from time to time (not very often though)
  • Videos may not play smoothly without hack (Disable Media Scanner) if you connect an hard drive
  • Impossible to easily adjust video zoom level in ZDMC/Kodi (3D menu shown by default)
  • Some audio cuts may occur when using audio pass-through (at least with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver)
  • VP9 up to 4K @ 30 fps is allegedly supported by the processor, but not implemented in the box.
  • CPU/ GPU performance does not match the one of recent low cost processors such as Amlogic S905 or Rockchip RK3368.
  • Networking (WiFi and Ethernet) performance slightly below average, albeit still usable
  • Older Android 4.4 operating system
  • System could not find my Bluetooth headset (file transfer and BLE smartwatch are OK)
  • Shape and color of case may not be to everybody’s taste

The review sample was provided by Zidoo, and distributors or resellers may want to contact the company via the product page for inquiries or order in quantities. Zidoo X1 II can also be purchased for $49 on GeekBuying, Banggood, or Aliexpress.

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$35 Arduino MKR1000 Board is Powered by Atmel ATSAMW25 WiFi Module

April 6th, 2016 7 comments

Arduino LLC has launched a new official Arduino board with MKR1000 board under the Arduino brand in the US, and Genuino brand in the rest of the world. The tiny board features Atmel ATSAMW25 SmartConnect module comprised of Atmel SAMD21 ARM Cortex-M0+ MCU, WINC1500 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi chip, and ECC508 CryptoAuthentication device.

Arduino_MKR1000MKR1000 specifications:

  • MCU – Atmel SAMD21 Cortex-M0+ MCU @ 48 MHz with 32KB SRAM, 256 KB flash memory
  • WiFi – 802.11b/g/n WiFi (2.4 GHz) via WINC1500 with 1×1 PCN antenna, support for SHA 256 certificates.
  • I/Os
    • 8x digital I/Os
    • 12x PWM pins
    • 1x UART, 1x SPI, 1x I2C
    • 7x analog input pins
    • 1x analog output pin
    • 8x external interrupts
    • Operating voltage – 3.3V
    • DC Current per I/O Pin – 7 mA
  • USB – micro USB port for power and programming
  • Misc – RTC, power and charge LEDs
  • Power Supply
    • 5V only via USB or VIN pin
    • Li-Po single cell, 3.7V, 700mAh minimum
  • Dimensions – TBD

Genuino_MKR1000The board is programmable with the Arduino IDE, as with all other Arduino boards, however, you must be aware that I/Os only support 3.3V (not 5V like most Arduino board), and VIN only support 5V, and not a voltage range as on Arduino UNO for example. You can find more documentation including the hardware designs files on Arduino / Genuino MKR1000 product page, and the Getting Started Guide.

Arduino MKR1000 and Genuino MKR1000 boards sell respectively for $34.99 and 30.99 Euros + VAT on Arduino.cc store.

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Learn How to Build Your Own Open Source Hardware ESP8266 Smartwatch

March 28th, 2016 4 comments

ESP8266 might be the cheapest WiFi SoC for IoT application available, but it’s not really renowned for its power efficiency, and is often not considered the best choice for battery powered applications. This has not stopped Jeifa from developing a WiFi smartwatch based on the chip, and the 250 mAh battery used in the design is said to be good enough for 1 or 2 days of operation on a charge.

ESP8266_Smartwatch

Click to Enlarge

Main components of Jeija’s ESP8266 smartwatch:

  • SoC – Espressif ESP8266 with 32Mbit of flash memory
  • Display – SSD1306 OLED Display, 128×64 resolution
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (via ESP8266)
  • Sensor – Invensense MPU-9250 gyroscope, accelerometer, and compass
  • Debugging / Programming – FT232RQ for USB communication
  • Misc
    • RV-3029-C2 Real Time Clock with alarm function, and temperature sensor
    • 3x user buttons
    • Vibration Motor
  • Power
    • 250mAh LiPo battery
    • MCP73831 LiPo charger
  • Dimensions – 35 x 39 x 11mm (board)

He designed the PCB with Kicad, and the firmware is based on esp-open-sdk, with all hardware and software files released in github under respectively Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-SA), and MIT licenses. Bear in mind that the project is mostly a hardware project, and the firmware is used to show the hardware works, so you may have to tweak the code to have the watch do what you want.

Jeija also shot a video showing how to solder the components and test the watch as you build it. Interestingly enough, he could not buy ESP8266-EX chip directly, so instead he bought ESP-01 module, and unsoldered the chip to solder it back on the watch PCB.

His other videos show how it can be used as a compass or game controller.

Via ESP8266COM Tweet

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$15 RobinCore WiFi IoT Module Runs OpenWrt, Supports 720p Video Encoding (Crowdfunding)

March 27th, 2016 7 comments

Do you remember VoCore? It was a low cost OpenWrt WiFi IoT module based on Mediatek RT5350 processor, that had a very successful crowdfunding campaign managed by a single developer, and the project is still going strong with VoCore2 being in the works. Another developer had the idea of doing something similar but based on HiSilicon Hi3518 ARM9 processor with more memory and support for 720p video encoding making it suitable for HD drone camera, compact video cameras, and so on. Meet RobinCore.

RobinCoreRobinCore specifications:

  • SoC – Hisilicon Hi3518E ARM926 processor @ 440MHz with H.264 encoder([email protected])
  • System Memory – 64MB DDR2
  • Storage – 16 MB NOR flash
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi via Mediatek MT7601U with on-board chip antenna
  • Debugging – micro USB port
  • Expansion – 2x 30-pin 2.0mm pitch through holes with access to 10/100M Ethernet, UART, I2C, SPI, SDIO, ADC, PWM, JTAG and GPIOs
  • Power Support – 5V via micro USB port
  • Dimensions – 33 x 27 mm
RobinCore Pin Assignment

RobinCore Pin Assignment

The board runs OpenWrt 15.05 with Linux 3.18 or HiSilicon Linux SDK with Linux 3.0.8. The developer has already released some binary images and script, as well as documented is progress on RobinCore.org. Source code has not been released, but he plans to submit patch files to OpenWrt trunk  for hi3518e soon. I’ve been told HiSilicon SDK normally costs $10k – at least outside of China-, but the developer confirmed by email that he obtained HiSilicon SDK and documentation from an authorized agent of HiSilicon, and as well as H.264 video library and API. He also claims to be releasing PCB layout, schematics, documents and full source code for U-boot, the Linux Kernel, OpenWrt, and applications such as the RTSP server, and DVR program if the campaign is successful.

RobinCore_RobinCam_RobinMac

Two add-on boards (aka docks) have also been developed:

  • RobinCam board with Omnivision OV9712 HD CMOS sensor and a wide-angle lens
  • RobinMac with 10/100M Ethernet RJ45 port,a microphone and a SD card slot.

As you can see from the picture above both boards can be connected together to RobinCore.

The project has now launched on Indiegogo (fixed funding), where Robin, the developer, aims to raise at least $7,000 to go ahead with production. A $15 pledge should get you RobinCore, $20 RobinCore with RobinMac dock, $25 RobinCore with RobinCam dock, and $30 the board with the two docks. Shipping adds $3 to anywhere in the world, and delivery is planned 2 weeks after the campaign ends, so around June 2016 with a production run for 500 units.

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WeKast is a HDMI & VGA Wireless Display Dongle for Business Presentations (Crowdfunding)

March 23rd, 2016 1 comment

You have already many options to mirror your mobile device’s screen to a big TV or projector with Chromecast, Miracast adapters, or EZCast dongles. However, if you want to connect it to a projector with a VGA connect you’ll need a separate HDMI to VGA adapter, and some devices may require Internet access, which you may or may not have during your presentations. WeKast dongle have been designed to simplify the process of setting up your presentation on any premises with HDMI and VGA output, and no requirement for WiFi connectivity. Simply copy your presentation on your smartphone, connect the dongle, and you’re ready to get started using WeKast app on your Android or iOS smartphone.

WeKastWeKast hardware specifications:

  • CPU – 1.6GHz processor
  • System Memory – 1GB RAM
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/f/n with WPA2 enterprise security
  • Video Output – Female HDMI and female VGA ports
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for charging
  • Battery – 1,200 mAh good for a 3-hour presentation.

The app and dongle currently  supports ppt and pptx file, but other file formats such as pdf, doc, xls are also being worked on. Audio and video embedded in the presentation will work, and animations too, although with some limitations for the latter. A full mirroring option is also planned.

You can watch the video to show how it works, and what problem WeKast aims to solve.

The company wants to raise $50,000 via a Kickstarter campaign to fund production. The product costs is quite higher than competing wireless display solutions, with the pledges for WeKast starting at $89 (early bird), while the retail price should be $149. Shipping adds $10 to $15, and delivery is scheduled for January 2017. Beside the crowdfunding campaign, you can also visit WeKast website for details.

 

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Categories: Android, Hardware, Video Tags: Android, ios, kickstarter, wifi