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Posts Tagged ‘wifi’

Olimex Announces RT5350F-OLinuXino and Evaluation Boards Availability

May 19th, 2015 3 comments

Olimex had been working on a small board with Ralink RT5350F processor for over a year, with delays mostly due to software development and undocumented registers. But RT5350F-OlinuXino is now available together with an evaluation board with tow relays, two Ethernet ports, and expansions headers, as well as a DIN EBV still in development.

RT5350F-OLinuXinoRT5350F-OlinuXino specifications:

  • SoC – Ralink / Mediatek RT5350F MIPS24KEc CPU @ 360 MHz
  • System Memory – 32MB SDRAM
  • Storage – 8MB SPI NAND Flash
  • 3x headers with access to
    • USB 2.0 HOST/Device
    • 5x 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port
    • GPIOs, SPI, I2C
    • I2S, PCM
    • UART
    • JTAG
  • Power – 3x external DCDC power converters releasing internal RT5350F vreg and preventing common problem with overheating with this chip.
  • Dimensions – N/A
  • Operating Temperature Range – -10 to +55C

The board is pre-loaded OpenWRT with Linux 3.18.11. You can find builds instructions and other documentation in the Wiki, as well as github.

RT5350F-OlinuXino_EVB

Baseboard for RT5350F-OlinuXino module

The company jointly launch the module with RT5350F-OlinuXino-EVB evaluation board with the following technical specifications:

  • Module – RT5350F-OlinuXino with RT5350F processor, 32MB RAM and 8MB flash
  • Connectivity
    • WIFI 801.11n 150Mb
    • 2x 10/100 Mbps Ethernet ports (RJ45)
  • 2x Relays 15A/240VAC
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • Expansion headers:
    • UEXT connector (I2C, SPI, RS232) for Olimex modules
    • EXT header with 3 remaining Ethernet signals, GPIOs, I2S/PCM, JTAG…
  • Misc – Button
  • Power Supply – 5V DC via power barrel
  • Dimensions – N/A
  • Temperature Range – -10 to +55C

Documentation is available on the same Wiki and Github account as for the module.

RT5350F_DIN_EnclosureOlimex is working is also working an an other EVB with a single Ethernet port, and an LED display that can fit into a DIN enclosure which should be useful for home automation.

It will cost about 35 Euros once it is available in June or a little later. RT5350F-OlinuXino can be purchased now for 15 Euros in single quantities, while RT5350F-OLinuXino-EVB goes for 24 Euros including the module, and you can purchase both directly on Olimex website.

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CHIP is a $9 Linux Development Board Powered by Allwinner R8 (Crowdfunding)

May 8th, 2015 45 comments

It’s quite common to find MCU board for less than $10, but if you want to run Linux, you’ll need to spend a bit more, unlessit’s sponsored, and today, the cheapest you can get is probably the $20 Raspberry Pi Model A+, unless you go with some OpenWRT compatible routers. But there’s now a new board in development, called CHIP, with Allwinner R8 Cortex A8 processor, 512MB RAM, and 4GB NAND flash, as well as wireless connectivity, that will bring cost even lower, as you can pledge $9 on Kickstarter to fund its development.

CHIP_Allwinner_R8

C.H.I.P specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner R8 Cortex A8 processor @ 1 GHz with Mali-400 GPU (Compatible with Allwinner A13)
  • System Memory – 512 MB RAM
  • Storage – 4GB NAND flash
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Video Output – 3.5mm jack for composite video and audio (HDMI and VGA available via adapters)
  • USB – 1x USB host port, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Two expansion headers
  • Power – 5V via micro USB OTG or battery
  • Dimensions – 60 x 40 mm

The board is said to run a Linux distribution featuring the mainline kernel. There’s also some sort of portable gamedpad called Pocket C.H.I.P that integrates the board and that you can get for $49. The board should ship in December 2015, and Pocket C.H.I.P in May 2016….

The project looks exciting, but when you look at the details, it’s not quite as ground breaking as it may first seem. Shipping is $20, unless you live in the US ($5), so you’d buy a $29 board, which brings it very close to competitors. The internal flash, WiFi and Bluetooth are clear winners in this price range, but I assume few people will use composite output, so you’ll need to spend a few more bucks ($10 to $15) on adapters, and if you need these, you won’t get the board before May 2016… What do you think?

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Espressif WROOM WiFi ESP8266 Modules are FCC and CE Certified

May 5th, 2015 13 comments

Espressif, the company behind ESP8266 (EX) Wi-Fi chip for IoT applications, has now opened store on Taobao, where they sell WROOM-02 and WROOM-02 modules based on ESP8266EX with FCC, CE, TELEC, and SRRC certifications.

Espressif VROOM-02

Espressif WROOM-02

WROOM-01 has some soldered headers that make it easier to use for hobbyists and prototyping, while WROOM-02 is more compact, and should be more suitable to include in your own products. But otherwise, they share about the same specifications:

  • SoC – Espressif Systems ESP8266EX 32-bit RISC processor @ 80 MHz with integrated WiFi
  • Wi-Fi – 802.11 b/g/n with STA/AP/STA+AP operation modes
  • Header – 2x 18-pin headers with SDIO 2.0, GPIOs, SPI, UART, GND and 3.3V pins
  • Dimensions – 11.5mm x 11.5mm
  • Temperature Range – -40C ~ 125C
  • Certifications – FCC, CE, TELEC, and SRRC
Espressif VROOM-01

Espressif WROOM-01

The company can also provide “hardware reference design, antenna design, and SDK for secondary development”, but you’re likely to find most of what is needed for development, including the SDK, on esp8266.com. You can also checkout WROOM-02 datasheet.

Both modules sell for 20 CNY (~$3.22) on Taobao, before shipping, but in due time they should also show up on Aliexpress stores.

Thanks to Jon for the tip.

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Ventana GW5220 ARM Linux SBC Supports WiFi, Wimax, 3G Cellular Connectivity & PoE

April 29th, 2015 No comments

Gateworks recently launched another Freescale i.MX6 board part of theur Ventana family with Vetana GW5220 single board computer with Freescalei .MX6 dual processor, HDMI out, Ethernet, and a PCIe slot that takes modules adding WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/a, 4G Wimax, and 3G (CDMA/GSM) connectivity, as well as other compatible PCIe modules.
Gateworks_GW5220Gateworks GW5520 board specifications:

  • SoC- Freescale i.MX6 Dual with 2x Cortex A9 core @ 800MHz and Vivante GPU
  • System Memory – 512 MB (default) to 2GB DDR3-800 SDRAM
  • Storage – 256 MB (default) to 2GB Flash, micro SD slot, serial configuration EEPROM
  • Connectivity – 1x Gigabit Ethernet port (RJ45)
  • Video Output and Input – HDMI 1.4 out, CVBS, Y/C, and YPbPr inputs, LVDS output (TIA/EIA 644-A)
  • Audio – HDMI, analog stereo Line In/Out, or Headphone/Mic
  • Expansion – 2x Mini PCIe sockets including one supporting USB and SIM socket, and the other supporting PCIe, mSATA and USB signals.
  • Other I/O ports:
    • Serial – 2x RS232, CAN Bus 2.0B @ 1 Mbps, optional RS485 serial port
    • SPI, GPIO
    • USB – 1x USB 2.0 OTG port up to 480 Mbps
  • Misc – RTC with battery,  voltage & temperature monitor; 6-axis accelerometer/magnetometer, optional GPS receiver, etc…
  • Power Supply – 8 to 60V DC via a power barrel or 36 to 60V DC via 802.3af PoE
  • Typical power consumption – 2W Watts @ 25 C (0.08A @ 24VDC)
  • Dimensions – 100 x 70 x 21 mm
  • Weight – 57 grams
  • Operating Temperature – -40 to +85 C
Ventana GW5220 Block Diagram

Ventana GW5220 Block Diagram

The company can provide OpenWRT, OpenEmbedded/Yocto, and Android BSPs (Board Support Packages). A development kit with GW5220 network computer, cables (Ethernet, Serial, USB, AV), a passive PoE power injector and power supply, and a JTAG programmer is also available. More technical details about the board and supported wireless modules can be found on Ventana Wiki.

Ventana GW5220 board has started shipping, and costs $297 per unit for 100 pieces orders. The development kit pricing has not been disclosed, but you can find request more information via Ventana Development Kits page, as well as Ventana GW5520 product page.

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Wintel W8 Review – Dual Boot Android & Windows TV Box

April 27th, 2015 8 comments

Wintel W8 (aka Kingnovel K8) is an Intel Atom Z3735F mini PC inspired from Sunchip Wintel CX-W8 (the hardware is a little different), but instead of just running Windows 8.1, the device can dual boot Android 4.4 and Windows 8.1 with Bing. I’ve already taken pictures or torn down Wintel W8, so today, I’ll focus on the software part of the review, first checking dual boot functionality and Windows 8.1 broefly ince it should be very similar to MeLE PCG03, before spending more time on Android as it’s my first Android Intel platform.

Dual boot in Wintel W8

When you boot the device, you can select Android or Windows icon, with a 10 second timeout that will boot your latest choice. There’s no menu within Windows to start Android, and vice versa, so to dual boot you need to reboot first, and select the operating systems right after UEFI. The best way to checkout how this all work is to watch the short demo below where it first boot into Android, reboot, and switch to Windows.

If you watched the video, you must have noticed that if you change OS, it will reboot again. One person on Google+ mentioned that the system is switching between the 32-bit UEFI firmware (for Windows) and 64-bit UEFI firmware (for Android), which would explain why it needs to reboot, and you have to make sure you don’t turn off the device, or a power failure occur during that process, or you may brick your device! Same thing if you mistakenly try to install Windows 8.1/10 with the 64-bit UEFI firmware.

Wintel_W8_UEFI_BIOS

Click to Enlarge

However, when I checked Aptio Setup Utility both version looked exactly the same whether I selected Android or Windows.

A Quick Look at Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 will bot in about 40 seconds on Wintel W8 because the FORESEE eMMC flash used in the hardware is not quite as fast as the Samsung Class 5 eMMC flash used in MeLE PCG03 and many other Intel Bay trail mini PCs.

Windows 8.1 Metro Interface on Wintel W8 (Click for Original Size)

Windows 8.1 Metro Interface on Wintel W8 (Click for Original Size)

Windows 8.1 with Bing is not activated in my sample, and clicking on activation failed. However, since my sample comes from Kingnovel it’s not a retail sample, and resellers can certainly request for a valid Windows NTE license if required.

Wintel W8 PC Info and Storage in Windows 8.1 (Click for Original Size)

Wintel W8 PC Info and Storage in Windows 8.1 (Click for Original Size)

Another detail you should probably pay attention when getting a dual boot firmware is the space reserved for Windows… Wintel W8 C: drive is 18.6GB large with 14.8GB free. Considering I already struggled with 32GB space on Mele PCG03, I’d really recommend trying to get a version with 64GB flash, and soon models with 128GB storage will also be up for sale.

Since I’ve already reviewed Windows 8.1 with Bing on MeLE mini PC, and that firmware customizations are not really an option with Windows, that’s all I’ve checked in the Windows side of the firmware.

Wintel W8 Review with Android 4.4

First impressions and Setup Menu

While in Windows, you’ll probably want to connect a wireless or USB keyboard and mouse, these may not be the most convenient in Android, so as usual I connected the RF dongle of my MeLE F10 Deluxe air mouse to control the mini PC. I’ve also connected HDMI and Ethernet cables, before powering up the device which will boot automatically as you connect the power adapter. It also takes around 40 seconds to boot into Android.

Android Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

Android Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

The firmware is using the stock Android launcher, with a 1920×1080 resolution. Pre-installed apps include Kodi 15 Alpha 1 and Google Play Store. After setting up Ethernet, and login to the Play Store, I could install all apps required for this review just like on ARM based platforms, but I did notice some games such as Shadowgun: Deadzone, Dead Trigger, Angry Bird Star Wars, etc.. could not be installed, but many other games could. Whatsapp was also greyed out, but not Facebook or Facebook Messenger that both could be installed. I also side-loaded Amazon AppStore and installed Riptide GP2 without issues.

The settings allow you to configure Network settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet, and services including VPN, Tethering and PPPoE. There aren’t any really useful Audio settings, but Day Dream is enabled in the Display settings, and an HDMI section will allow you to compensate for overscan if needed, and select various HDMI output:Wintel_W8_About_Tablet

  • 1080p @ 60/50/30/25/24Hz
  • 1280×1024 @ 60Hz, 1360×768 @ 60Hz, 1152×864 @ 60Hz
  • 720p @ 60 or 50Hz
  • 1024×768 @ 60 Hz, 800×600 @ 60Hz
  • 720×576 @ 50Hz, 720×480 @ 60Hz (16:9 or 4:3)
  • 640×480 @ 60 Hz, 720×400 @ 70Hz

The firmware also has a separate function for video post-processing called “Intel Smart Video” that will “improve video quality by reducing noise and eliminating artifacts with interlaced content”.

Since most storage is reserved for Windows, the partition in Android is only 4.36GB out of the 32GB flash with most of it available.  Developers option can easily be enabled, and Printing menu is enabled by default, although you’ll probably prefer printing in Windows 8.1 instead.

The “About tablet” section indicate the model number is w8, and Android 4.4.4 runs on top of Linux 3.10.20. There’s also a line showing IFWI version 5.6.5, but I’m not sure what that means. The firmware is rooted. You can checkout all Android settings in the 2-minute video embedded below.

There’s an IR receiver, but it’s supposed to only work in Android, and I’m not quite sure how to set it up. One of the most important features of an IR remote control is to allow turning on and off the platform, and there’s no problem with turning off and rebooting the device in Android or Windows 8.1 with MeLE F10 Deluxe or another air mouse, but it’s just not possible to turn it back on without pressing the power button on the unit itself. If you had a power extension with a remote control, you should be able to start the box automatically.

Wintel W8 does not get hotter than ARM TV boxes, as I measured respectively 42 and 50 C on the top and bottom of the case after Antutu 5.7, and 50 and 56 after 15 minutes playing Riptide GP2.

Overall Android on Intel Atom Z3735F feels just like Android on recent ARM platforms such as Rockchip RK3288, with the exception that some games won’t install, and the games experience for some games may not be as good. The firmware is not only smooth, but extremely stable too, and I did not experience any noticeable slowdown or freezes during my testing. The only issues I had was with Kodi 15 Alpha 1 which may exit from time to time or even freeze, but it’s probably because they chose to load an Alpha version of Kodi, instead of Kodi 14.2 stable release.

Kodi 15 Android on Intel Atom Z3735F Processor

I’ve already tested Kodi on Intel both with Kodi 14.1 in Windows 8.1, and Kodi 14.2 in Linux (Ubuntu 15.04), and I was impressed by the performance in both system, although Z3735F does not support HDMI audio in Linux, so I had to use an inexpensive USB sound card instead. Let’s see how Kodi 15 Alpha 1 (pre-installed) works on Intel Atom Bay Trail-T processor by playing videos from a SAMBA share over Ethernet.

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

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p/1080p60 – OK. However 1080p60 video renders at ~36 fps according to Kodi overlay debug info.
  • 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 (OK, but first time I had a greenish background, which disappeared the second time). RV9, and RV10 –play at 16 fps instead of 25 fps.
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – 360p & 720p OK. 1080p will play only about 3 seconds before freezing. I can’t go back to Kodi, and going back to the Home Screen and restarting Kodi does not work, so I had to reboot the device (Tested twice).
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Some higher bitrate videos could play more or less smoothly:

  • ED_HD.avi – 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) – Not smooth, plays at 12 to 15 fps instead of 29.97 fps
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Not smooth, plays at 12 to 15 fps instead of 29.97 fps

HD audio codecs have been tested down-mixed to PCM using Kodi and MXPlayer, and audio pass-through has been tested with Onkyo TX-NR636 using HDMI pass-through with BD/DVD input. I enabled pass-through in Kodi for AC3 and DTS, as well as Dolby Digital transcoding, and did not change anything in Android settings.

Video PCM Output
Kodi
PCM Output
MX Player
HDMI Pass-through
Kodi
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but the video could be smoother No audio OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio Dolby 5.1
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio Dolby 5.1
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio Dolby 5.1
DTS HD Master OK No audio Dolby 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio Dolby 5.1

So the firmware does not support any advanced audio codec as shown with MX Player results, so but since Kodi implements its own audio decoding by software all formats can be down-mixed in Kodi. Lossless audio codecs HDMI pass-through is not supported, but again Kodi handle that by transcoding unsupported audio codec to Dolby Digital 5.1. I’d like to note however that enabled HDMI pass-through makes Kodi relatively unstable, as it might randomly exit when starting to play videos.

Sintel-Bluray.iso could play so unencrypted Blur-ay ISO are supported The two 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play, but GridHD video would sparkle. Both Hi10p H.264 videos failed to play:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – No audio / no video. Back screen.
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – No audio / no video. Back screen.

Bay Trail-T processors can’t output to 2160p (4K UHD), but they should still decode H.264 videos up to 2160p30:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – 10 fps
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – 10 fps
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t start
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Won’t start
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – 10 fps
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Kodi will exit
  • tears_of_steel_4k_H264_24fps.mov – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not smooth, plays @ ~20 fps.

My LG 42UB820T television does not support 3D, but I still tested whether the platform could decode some stereoscopic 3D videos:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – Looks OK, but plays at 36 fps instead of 60 fps
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Looks like a still picture slideshow
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

All my AVI, MKV, IFO and MP4 videos (720p/1080p) could play fine without issues such as A/V out-of-sync. Most FLV videos played, but some only had audio with black screen. A full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB) could play without interruption and no dropped or skipped frames at all for the whole duration.

Kodi 15 Alpha 1 is not that bad on Intel platform, but it certainly does not perform as well as Kodi 14.x in Windows 8.1, with some videos not playing smoothly, HDMI audio pass-through makes Kodi unstable, and Kodi may exit while starting videos. So I’d still recommend using Kodi inside Windows 8.1 instead of Android 4.4.

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

I’ve also run Antutu Video Tester where Wintel W8 gets 460 points about of 700+ possible despite failing to play a fair amount a video due to lack audio codec and HEVC video codec among other things.

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu Video Tester Results (Click to Enlarge)

It’s not quite as good as HiSilicon (700+ points), or Allwinner (600+) platforms, but still better than the score I got with Open Hour Chameleon (Rockchip RK3288): 262 points.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I’ve tested networking performance by transferring a 278MB file over SAMBA three times with ES File Explorer. Wi-Fi performance is very good with an average transfer rate of 3.58 MB/s, making it one of the best 802.11n performer.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve repeated the same test with the 10/100M Ethernet connection, which achieves 6.78MB/s which is quite good for a Fast Ethernet connection.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Run iperf instead with the command iperf -t 60 -s server_ip -d confirms the good performance.

Wintel_W8_iperf

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

[  4] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 33327
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.111, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  272 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 59163 connected with 192.168.0.111 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   652 MBytes  91.2 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   423 MBytes  59.1 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I had mixed results with Bluetooth. Photo transfers over Bluetooth between Iocean M6752 smartphone and the box worked fine, but Vidonn X5 smartband (Bluetooth Low Energy) could not be found by the relevant app, and my Wireless PS3 gamepad clone failed to connect with Sixaxis Compatibility checker, although the drivers appears to be there.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be mounted by the system. However, only the NTFS partition of my Seagate USB 3.0 hard drive could be mounted and accessed.

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

The system also only appear to support one USB storage device at a time, so when I connected my USB flash drive it automatically unmounted the NTFS partition on my hard drive with a notification popping up as follows:

Warning: One more MSC devices attached
Warning:  only one USB mass storage device can be used.

I ran A1 SD Bench to benchmark USB hard drive and internal flash performance, but I have to gave with the former, since I could not find a supported mount point. in ES File Explorer it shows as usb://1004/USB3_NTFS, where USB3_NTFS is the volume name, but this string is not recognized in A1 SD bench.

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

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

So finally, I only tested the eMMC which turns not to be so bad after all. It’s still much slower than the 160MB/s achieved with CrystalDiskMark on MeLE PCG03 in Windows 8.1, but compared to Android TV boxes, the read speed is acceptable, and the write speed is very good.

USB Webcam

I could install Skype and Google Hangouts, but once I connected my USB webcam I lost all input to the mini PC (keyboard and air mouse unresponsive) for 30 seconds or so before I could use the system again.

The camera was detected in Google Handhouts (Camera icon shown), but I could not get any image during calls. I tried to call “Echo / Sound Testing services” but I could get the lady voice at all despite the system audio working. Trying to call a real person, who just get me the Android home screen, and start Skype again.

Conclusion: if you want to use Skype / Hangouts on Wintel W8, use Windows 8.1…

Gaming

My three usual test games namely Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptide GP2 could all be installed and run on the box. I control Candy Crush Saga with the air mouse, and game play was nice and smooth. I then then switched to Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad for Beach Buggy Racing and Riptide GP2. The former was behaving just like on higher end Android TV boxes, with a higher framerate even with quality settings set to the maximum. Riptide GP2 was playable with high quality settings, but far from optimal, and the user experience appeared to deteriorate with time. I played  15 minutes (5 races), and the game felt slower at the end.

As mentioned in the “First impressions” section, some famous games (Dead Trigger, Shadowngun…) can’t be installed on the platform, and I’m assuming it might be because these have not been ported to x86 target (TBC), so to play Android games better go with Rockchip RK3288, Tegra K1/X1 or Qualcomm Snapdragon S8xx based platforms.

Wintel W8 Android Benchmarks

Before running benchmarks per se, let’s see what CPU-Z has to show for this Intel mini PC.

CPU-Z _ Intel Atom Z3735F Mini PC (Click to Enlarge)

CPU-Z _ Intel Atom Z3735F Mini PC (Click to Enlarge)

It correctly detects an Intel Atom Z3735F processor @ 498 MHz to 1.83GHz processor with HD Graphics. The screen resolution is 1920×1080, total RAM 1887 MB, and it has 4.36GB reserved for Android OS.

Wintel_W8_AntutuWintel W8 got 30,682 points in Antutu 5.7, which is fairly similar to the score with MeegoPad T01 running Android-x86, and I have compared to Rockchip RK3288 processor.  Rockchip RK3288 devices now get around 36,000 to 39,000 points.

Wintel_W8_VellamoBut Antutu can easily be cheated, so I’ve also run Vellamo 3.x, and compare it to the results I got with HPH NT-V6, another Rockchip RK3288 TV Box.

Vellamo 3.x Test Wintel W8
Intel Atom Z3735F
HPH NT-V6
Rockchip RK3288
Browser 2,683 2,549
Multicore 1,423 2,003
Metal 1,077 1,457

The Intel platform slightly outperform the ARM device in the browser test with the stock Android browser, but Rockchip RK3288 clearly has the edge in  metal and multicore benchmarks.

3DMark_Ice_Storm_ExtremeFinally, 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme shows the limitations of the Intel GPU, as 4771 points is significantly lower than 6,400 points in Allwinner A80 platforms (PowerVR GC6230), and 7,000+ points with ARM Mali-T764 GPU found in Rockchip RK3288.

Conclusion

When it comes to Windows 8.1, I don’t believe there’s much difference between vendors with a given processor, in that case Intel Atom Z3735F, except with eMMC speed, and thermal management. Wintel W8 does not seem to overheat at all, and although the eMMC may not be quite as fast as other low cost bay Trail mini PC I find it’s still acceptable. But dual boot with Android is the selling point of this device, and the Android firmware is actually fairly good with Google Play support, and very stable, but some applications like Office, Kodi, and Skype should still better run in Windows 8.1, and 3D graphics performance is a little weak compared to recent ARM targets.

PRO:

  • Dual boot image with Windows 8.1 with Bing and Android 4.4
  • Google Play pre-installed.
  • Relatively fast processor
  • Stable and fast firmware.
  • Very good Wi-Fi and Ethernet (10/100M) performance

CONS:

  • 32GB internal storage may not be enough for many people: 18GB in Windows 8.1, 4GB+ in Android, and it’s a bit slower than other Intel Atom mini PCs, but performance is still decent.
  • 3D graphics performance is a little weak, and some games can’t be installed in Android.
  • Pre-installed Kodi 15.1 Alpha 1 is not quite as stable, and video playaback is not as good as in Windows 8.1, so use Kodi 14/15 in Windows 8.1 instead
  • Skype and Hangouts not working in Android, but should be OK in Windows 8.1
  • Bluetooth Low Energy not supported
  • Windows 8.1 is not activated (in my sample)

The dual boot firmware helps Wintel W8 being a better device, as some of the cons, such as average Kodi or poor Skype support in Android, can easily be worked around by rebooting into Windows. So this type of device could really be great with 64 or 128GB internal storage, as with 32GB it’s likely to be frustrating over time, with the user having to free space regularly.

Kingnovel provide their K8 box for reviews, and resellers / wholesalers can purchase it in quantities (with 32, 64 or 128GB storage) by contacting the company via their Kingnovel K8 product page, or alternatively you could consider Kingnovel K8-II based on the same hardware but with a metal case instead. Individuals can pre-order Wintel W8 with the same dual boot firmware on the partner’s Aliexpress store or Geekbuying* for $126, although I’m not 100% whether Windows 8.1 with Bing is properly licensed, or they simply use the tablet version. Another model called Wintel CX-W8 can be purchased on Aliexpress for less than $100, but with Windows 8.1 only, and most definitely without a proper Windows license at that price.

[Update: * I’ve been told the following:

Geekbuying website which shows the K8 is not released by Kingnovel…
Actually, There are two original manufacturers for K8, There is a true situation need clarify to you.Our software is not the same as other’s.  our software is “A key switch external” for Android OS and Windows OS. it is very stable for running system.their software is “A key switch internal” for Android OS and Windows OS. It need to upgrade bois every time once switched. it will occur big risk for drop procedure easily.
So basically, that should mean Kingnovel K8 should not be easily brickable like Wintel W8 sold on Geekbuying]
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Improve Mediatek MT6752 GPS Accuracy by Turning WiFi Off?

April 26th, 2015 12 comments

Mediatek smartphones used to have a terribly slow GPS fix, and it would often take over 10 minutes to get a fix if any, and one workaround was to enable Mediatek EPO. However, in my Iocean M6752 review, I found out GPS fix was not super fast even without Internet connection, but accuracy is quite a disaster as Nike+ Running screenshot below clearly shows.

Nike+_Running_Iocean_M6752I’m running around a stadium so the shape should be elliptic…, but data point are all over the place. Since the review, I’ve kept using the smartphone with Nike+ Running, and each time it’s a disaster, and once the app even reported a 81 km for an actual 10 km run… I’ve also used Google Maps once or twice, and found accuracy to be poor as well.

However, I usually leave Wi-Fi on, and for some reasons today, I decided to turn Wi-Fi off before driving to the sports complex, and for the very first time, I got a proper tracking during my run.

Nike+_Running_Mediatek_MT6752_no_Wi-FiI did not get any firmware update since I started using the phone, Nike+ Running was last updated on April 8, 2015, and the last two weeks I had the same poor accuracy. So even though I only tried once, it looks like disabling Wi-Fi might have done the trick. I’m not sure if it is specific to my phone design, or whether other Mediatek MT6752 phones may also be affected. I would be interested in getting feedback from other recent Mediatek phone owners.

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WiPy Wi-Fi Board for IoT Runs MicroPython on Texas Instruments CC3200 (Crowdfunding)

April 24th, 2015 29 comments

If you’ve interested in connecting devices via Wi-Fi, you’re being spoiled as “Internet of things” boards keeps getting designed and produced. The latest board with WiPy, a small board powered by Texas Instruments CC3200, running MicroPython, and consuming less than 1mA in suspended mode with Wi-Fi connected.

WiPyWiPy specifications:

  • MCU – TI CC3200 ARM Cortex-M4 @ 80 MHz with 256KB RAM, Wi-Fi and TCP/IP stack
  • Storage – 2MB flash
  • Connectivity – WiFi 802.11b/g/n 16Mbps (AP, Station and WiFi-Direct), on-board antenna and u.FL connector
  • Expansion – 2x 14-pin headers (2.54mm pitch) with
    • Up to 25 GPIOs
    • 2x UART, SPI, I2C, I2S, and SD card
    • 3×12 bit ADCs
  • Others
    • 4×16 bit timers with PWM and input capture
    • RTC
    • Hash and encryption engines: SHA, MD5, DES, AES
    • Reset switch, heartbeat LED
  • Power Supply – 3.6 – 5.5V DC input; 3.3V output up to 250mA
  • Power Consumption – Active: 14 mA; Suspended (Wi-Fi connected): 850 uA; Hibernating (No Wi-Fi): 5 uA
  • Dimensions – 25mm x 45mm (1.0″ x 1.77″)

WiPy_MicroPythonBeside low power consumption, the board can switch from suspended to active mode in less than 5 ms, send some data, and go back to sleep, with the developers claiming several years on a single battery charge with this type of activity.

The board run MicroPython and so it can be programmed using Python 3.4, minus some functions like “with” or “yield from”. You’ll notice no USB port on the board that can be used for programming, that’s because you’d normally connect via Telnet to access the console, and program the board from there, and alternatively you can also connect via FTP to upload Python scripts or other files. WiPy supports BSD sockets, and MicroPython compatible librairies are being worked on to handle HTTP, SMTP, XMPP, FTP, and MQTT, and since the TI MCU also support hardware hash and encryption, secure HTTPS and SSL connection will also be available.

MicroPython_GPIO

Sample code to toggle a GPIO in Python

There aren’t any shields for WiPy, as it’s breadboard compatible so you can easily connect it to your existing modules for your project, but they’re still in the process of developing an expansion board with a micro USB and battery connectors, FT234XD USB to  serial converter, a LiPo charger, a micro SD socket, two prototyping areas, and more.

WiPy_Baseboard

MicroPython source code for CC3200 is already available on WiPy github account, and the hardware files are being promised once the project is about to ship.

WiPy has just reached its 30,000 Euros target on Kickstarter, where you can pledge 27 Euros to get WiPy with the headers of your choice (male, female, double stackable, or none), or 37 Euros to also include the expansion board above. Shipping is included, and delivery scheduled for August 2015. You can find more details, ask question on their forums, and soon access tutorials on www.wipy.io.

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UDOO Neo Combines Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Sensors into a Single $49 Board (Crowdfunding)

April 21st, 2015 6 comments

UDOO Neo was unveiled last February as the first hobbyist board features Freecale i.MX6 Solox Cortex A9 + Cortex M4 processor. I was expecting UDOO to design support board since their earlier UDOO board combined Freescale i.MX6 processor with an Atmel MCU, and the new processor allowed for integrating the same functionality into a single chip. The board is now on Kickstarter where you can pick UDOO Neo Basic for $49 (Early bird is $35), or UDOO Neo for $59 (Early bird was $45) adding an Ethernet port, some sensors, and 1GB RAM, instead of 512 MB for the Basic version.UDOO_Neo_Kickstarter

But both versions of the board basically share the same specifications:

  • SoC – Freescale i.MX 6SoloX ARM Cortex-A9 core @ 1GHz with 2D/3D GPU and ARM Cortex-M4 Core @ 166 MHz
  • System Memory – 512MB (Basic) or 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – micro SD slot, 8-bit SDIO interface (on expansion headers)
  • Video Input/Output
    • micro HDMI port
    • LVDS interface + touch (I2C signals)
    • Analog camera connection supporting NTSC and PAL
    • 8-bit Parallel camera interface (on expansion headers)
  • Audio – HDMI, I2S and S/PDIF (on expansion headers)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 Type A ports, 1x USB OTG (micro-AB connector)
  • Connectivity
    • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (Wi-Fi Direct supported), Bluetooth 3.0 / 4.0 Low Energy
    • UDOO Neo only – 10/100Mbps RJ45 connector
  • Arduino UNO compatible and extended GPIOs headers giving access to the following:
    • Serial – 3x UART ports, 2x CAN Bus
    • 8x PWM
    • 1x I2C interface, 1x SPI interface
    • 36 GPIOs
    • 6 Analog inputs
  • Sensors (UDOO Neo only) – 9-Axis Accelerometer, Magnetometer, & Gyroscope
  • Misc – Coin Cell RTC Battery Connector, Green Power Status LED, Configurable Red LED
  • Power Supply – 5V DC Micro USB;  12V DC power jack
  • Dimensions – 85mm x 59.3 mm

The board features Arduino compatible headers, and can be programmed with an Arduino IDE running on a separate PC or in the board itself. It has similar functionalities as the Raspberry Pi as it runs Linux (and Android), and offers similar interfaces, but adds Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Smart, and 9-axis motion sensors. So if you have a project that requires the power of Linux, and the I/O flexibility of Arduino, UDOO Neo boards should cost a little bit less than competing solutions, be easier to configure, and provide a more compact solution.

UDOO_Neo_Arduino_Raspberry_PiThe ARM Cortex A9 core will run Android 4.4.3 + Linux 3.10, with UDOObuntu distribution to become available before the board ships, and the ARM Cortex M4 should run MXQ RTOS. Android and Linux source code will be provided. They also claim UDOO Neo will be open source hardware like the original UDOO. However, a Google search for the older board only shows UDOO schematics in PDF format, but after checking a bit more, I found the documentation page where the Gerber files, BoM, and mechanical files are also freely downloadable. Since the original schematics are not available, it’s not 100% open source hardware, but it’s still better than what is provided for the Raspberry Pi boards.

Since it’s UDOO project team have been around for a while, there’s already an active community, and several example projects for the older boards, but many should be adaptable to the Neo boards, and since it’s Arduino compatible, you can also leverage existing Arduino libraries and sketches.

The Kickstarter campaign started yesterday, and they already raised over $40,000 out of their $15,000 goals. Beside the pledges for UDOO Neo boards, they also have various kits including one with a 7″ LCD touchscreen display, a power supply, and cables, and bundles with up to 5 boards. Delivery is scheduled for September 2015.

A few more details may also be found on UDOO Neo product page.

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