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Posts Tagged ‘xbmc’

SolidRun HummingBoard is a Raspberry Pi Compatible Board Powered by Freescale i.MX6

April 21st, 2014 No comments

Yesterday, I wrote about Banana Pi, an AllWinner A20 powered development board that’s mechanically and electrically compatible with the Raspberry Pi so that you can keep using your existing R-Pi accessories. It turns out another company is working on a similar concept. Solidrun who has brought us Cubox and Cubox-i in the past, will soon launch HummingBoard, a Raspberry Pi compatible board powered by Freescale i.MX6 solo/dual/quad SoC, bring even more power than the AllWinner A20 dual core Cortex A7 SoC found in the Banana Pi.

HummingBoardThe HummingBoard, previously known as Carrier One, is composed of a baseboard and SolidRun microSOM (micro System-on-Module) have comes with the followings specifications:

  • SoC = Freescale i.MX6 Quad @ 1 GHz with Vivante GC2000 3D GPU. The microSoM also comes in solo and dual flavors, and although it’s likely the HummingBoard will be sold with these variants too, it’s not 100% confirmed
  • System Memory – 2 GB RAM
  • Storage – micro SD card slot, mSATA connector, and optional eSATA (shared with USB?)
  • Video output – HDMI, and LVDS
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 3.5mm stereo jack, and Coax S/PDIF output
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet + Wi-Fi and Bluetooth module (BCM4329)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports, 1x micro USB for power
  • Expansions
    • Raspberry Pi compatible headers (26-pin P1 header only), Camera connector (CSI), LCD connector (DSI)
    • 8-pin header for FlexCAN
    • mini PCIe connector
  • Misc – RTC, IR receiver, LEDs
  • Dimensions – Not explicitly specific, but they should be the same as the Raspberry Pi.

The microSOM features i.MX 6Q SoC, 2GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet PHY and BCM4329 Wi-Fi + BT module, and there may be different microSOM configurations, so these may end up being optional. You’ll lose one feature from the Raspberry Pi: composite video output, which has been replaced with coaxial S/PDIF. All other hardware features appear to be present with faster hardware. You’ll gain a much faster CPU, 2GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth,SPDIF, an IR receiver, and a RTC. As with the Banana Pi, not all Raspberry Pi accessories, such as the camera, will work out of the box, as there’s some serious work to make them compatible. But enclosures should be re-usable, and most boards that simply connect via the 26-pin connector should work with just a little bit of work.

The good news is that software made for the Cubox-i will be compatible with HummingBoard, so various Linux distributions (Arch Linux ARM, Debian, Ubuntu, etc..), Android, and XBMC (Linux) should pretty much work out of the box. You can find some details about the hardware on the Wiki.

The board are not available yet, and pricing has not been announced either.  However, I’d expect the launch to take place some time in May, as the company is launching a competition to give away HummingBoards to the 30 best projects using the Cubox (or Cubox-i). You’ll need a 90-minutes (max) video demonstrating your project, and submit it before the 25th of April to get a chance to win. Winners will be notified on May 10.

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Banana Pi is a Raspberry Pi Compatible Board fitted with an AllWinner A20 SoC

April 20th, 2014 6 comments

So you’ve got a Raspberry Pi board, an enclosure, and a few add-on boards. Your application would however do with some more processing power, or you’d like to run Android, but you don’t want to have to purchase accessories all over again for another board. Banana Pi could be the solution, as it’s apparently mechanically and electrically compatible with the Raspberry Pi, and comes with a dual core Cortex A7 AllWinner A20 SoC with 1GB RAM, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a SATA port, among other things.

Banana Pi (CLick to Enlarge)

Banana Pi (Click to Enlarge)

The board does indeed look familiar, with all external connectors at the exact same positions, but the hardware specs are fairly different:

  • SoC- Allwinner A20 dual core Cortex A7 processor @ 1 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1 GB RAM
  • Storage – SD card slot, SATA connector
  • Video output – HDMI, Composite, and LVDS/RGB
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 3.5mm stereo jack, and on-board microphone
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports, 1x micro USB for power
  • Expansion – Raspberry Pi compatible headers (26-pin P1 header only), Camera connector (CSI), and LCD connector (DSI).
  • Misc – 3x on-board buttons, IR receiver
  • Dimensions – 92 x 60 mm (Raspberry board is reported to be 85.60 x 56 mm)
  • Weight – 48 g
Banana Pi with AllWinner A20 (Click to Enlarge)

Banana Pi with AllWinner A20 (Click to Enlarge)

The board is said to support sunxi Debian, Ubuntu, Android 4.2, XMBC, and FireFox OS (work in progress). You’ll notice the dimensions reported for Banana Pi and Raspberry Pi are different, but this may depend how they’ve measured it: PCB only, or including connectors. Most likely both board are the same dimensions, or Banana Pi would bring little to the table. I’ve just measured my board. PCB only: 84.85 x 56 mm. Including connectors: 92.25 x 64.67 mm. This is confusing, so if somebody has the board and tried with a Raspberry Pi enclosure, please let us know.

The board is also said to support 2160p capacitive touch screen, and designated camera modules, and even though it’s possible the board is electrically compatible to the Raspberry Pi, It’s not clear at all if the software is there to work with the Raspberry Pi camera module for example. So even if most R-Pi accessories will happily be connected to the Banana Pi, they may not work out of the box without substantial (software) work.

You can find a bit more information on Banana Pi website (most of the links do not work),  The board is available from Aliexpress starting at $57 including shipping, but the design, e.g. SATA port, seems to be different from the pictures above. [Update: As mentioned in comments, lemaker.org has more information, including download links and forums]

Thanks to Nanik for the tip.

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Xunity Eclipse Android XBMC TV Box Can Stream Live TV, TV Shows, and Movies

April 20th, 2014 5 comments

There are many Android TV Box based on Rockchip RK3188 that are pre-loaded with, or least claim to support,  XBMC. Xunity Eclipse goes further as it promises to replace your satellite dihj or aerial TV with the ability to stream live TV, watch movies or TV shows thanks to their Stream platform which they integrated into XBMC.

Xunity_Eclipse

Here are the hardware specifications of the device:

  • Soc – Rockchip RK3188 (not RK3188T) quad core Cortex A9 processor with Mali 400 MP4 GPU
  • System memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage- 8 GB NAND flash
  • Video Output – HDMI v1.4. Resolutions: True 720p, 1080p, experimental 1440p
  • Audio Output – SPDIF Optical out, 5.1 DTS over HDMI
  • Connectivity -  Wi-Fi 802.11 n/g/b , 10/100M Ethernet Port
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • Power supply – Data N/A
  • Dimensions – N/A

The device runs Android 4.2 (Jelly-Bean), supports NAND recovery via dedicated recovery button & CWM (ClockWorkMod) variant, and will be updated via over the air (OTA) updates. Support will be provided via their users’ forum.

Xunity_Eclipse_RemoteThe box will be sold with an HDMI cable, a power cable, and an RF Air mouse, “pictured” above, with a QWERTY keyboard on one side, and a standard remote on the other. I consider this type of input device a must for Android TV device, so it’s a welcome addition.

You can watch the promo video to have a look at the user’s interface, and iStream in XBMC for access to Live TV in various countries, watch movies and TV shows.

This all looks very nice, but does not seem quite legal. Here’s what the company claims about piracy, basically to defer claims to third parties:

The  Xunity  Team created iStream to use only legal sources of internet media. Xunity – does not condone internet piracy or usage of third party extensions which although providing alternate and plentiful sources can affect your user experience. Xunity  does not host any files, nor does it upload them. Therefore, it cannot be held responsible for the actions of others, uploads to third party sites, or anything beyond its direct control. Xunity urges all copyright owners, to recognize that actual files and virtual links are not contained within iStream and are located elsewhere on the internet beyond the direct control of Xunity. Please direct all copyright infringement issues to the companies and websites that index virtual links and host the files and who will be happy to comply with the DMCA.

Another concern is that I could not find any actual pictures of the device, although it is supposed to start shipping this week or next. Some people in forums have also complained about slow answers, but the company claimed it would improve once the device ships.

For more information, and/or if you’d like pre-order Xunity Eclipse for $149.99 or £124.99, visit xunitytv.us. The price looks fair considering a decent air mouse is included with the box, and the company seems dedicated to provide (OTA) firmware updates and support via their forums.

Thanks to CSilie for the tip

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Review of M8 Android Kitkat TV Box Powered by Amlogic S802 SoC

April 17th, 2014 10 comments

A few days ago, I wrote an Unboxing and Specs post about the M8, an Android TV Box powered by Amlogic S802 quad core Cortex A9 processor. The review took a little as I was waiting for a new firmware. I’ve now upgraded this S802 Box, and been able to complete a review. As usual , I’ll start by giving my first impressions, have a look at the user interface and settings, test different king of video files, evaluate Wi-Fi performance, and try to cover most hardware features including Bluetooth, external storage, USB webcam, and so on. The overall user’s experience, is very similar to Tronsmart Vega S89, but there are some notable differences I’ll go through during the review.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Shenzhen Tomato sent me a sample unit which they call TM8 (Tomato M8?), but I’ll just refer to the device as M8 in the review. The device comes with a simple IR remote comes, but did not include two AAA batteries. I only use the remote shortly, as I prefer using an RF remote with Android, and I used Mele F10 air mouse during testing which includes a QWERTY keyboard, and a gyroscope to easily move the mouse pointer. Beside the IR remote, the sample I received only included a 5V/2A power supply, so i also had to take a spare HDMI cable. Retail versions of the box may included an HDMI cable however. Before connecting the power, I’ve connected an Ethernet cable, an HDMI cables, and the Mele F10 USB RF dongle. There’s no power button on the device, so as soon as you connect the power, a blue LED lits up, and the device boots to the same Windows 8 / Metro-style user’s interface as Tronsmart Vega S89.

M8 Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

M8 Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

At the top of the screen there are status icons (Ethernet/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/Storage), the weather (only Chinese cities are available in the settings), as well as the time and date. There are also six main menus, the same a Vega S89, but with different apps: Online Video (One Chinese app), My recommend (favorite apps), Setting, The firmware in M8 as quite a few Chinese apps, which were not present or removed from Vega S89 firmware. There are also shortcuts on the bottom of the screen with 4K player, Music, Chinese IPTV app, and APK installer by default. You can add and remove the ones you want as you wish, and I’ve done this with XBMC and Play Store as you can see from the screenshot. The user interface resolution is 1920×1080.

The “Setting” menu gives you access to the settings shown in the same Metro-style with four sub menus: Network, Display, Advanced and Other.

Advanced Setup (Click for Original Size)

Advanced Setup (Click for Original Size)

The network settings allow you to select Ethernet or Wi-Fi, the display settings has exactly the same options as Vega S89: autodetect resolution, UHD / 4K output support, hide or show the status bar, adjust the display size, and screensaver. I’ve enabled the status bar, as it’s more more convenient to use that way, and the bar automatically hides when you play videos. The Advanced menu will let you start Miracast (Source only, not a display), enable the software Remote control (RemoteIME.apk, adjust CEC controls, set your location (only Chinese cities are available), set the screen orientation, and select digital audio output (PCM, SPDIF pass-through, HDMI pass-through). The Other button will give some details about the Android version (4.4.2) and kernel version (3.10.10). There’s also an OTA System Update menu, which does not work. You can access the standard Android settings by going through Setting->Other->More Settings. The Android settings in this box are based on the phone interface, not the tablet one, which requires a few more clicks.

You can check the user’s interface and settings in the video below. If you have already watched Vega S89 UI walk-through video, you may have well skip this one as it’s the same, except from the pre-installed apps which are a little different.

I’ve used HDMI output with 1080p during my testing, which was automatically detected as I started the device. But If I switch to manual mode, I can also see 4K video output at 24, 25 and 30 Hz, and as well as 4K SMPTE.  There’s also an AV output, which is automatically used, if HDMI is not detected. It works fine including stereo audio output. Once you are using AV output, you can go to the setup menu to select between 480cvbs and 576cvbs. To switch back to HDMI, insert the HDMI cable. and select the input on your TV. A reboot is not necessary.

M8_About_MediaboxThere’s 5.75 GB space reserved for the user out of the 8GB NAND flash, and right after firmware upgrade, there’s over 5GB free space on the single partition available. The firmware was rooted. Looking into the “About MediaBox” section shows the model number is  “K200″, and just like the custom settings section, it shows Android 4.4.2 is running on top of Kernel 3.10.10.

I could install most applications from Google Play Store including Facebook, ES File Explorer, Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Vellamo, Candy Crush Saga, etc… Sixaxis Controller failed to install returning an error in Google Play. It’s the same behavior as Vega S89, and I’ve been told all paid apps won’t install. I’ve also installed the Amazon Play Store, to use one of the free app of the day I previsouly downloaded on another device (Riptide 2).

As mentioned previously there’s no power button on the device, and all you can do is to used the IR remote to enter and exit standby mode. A real power off will require you to disconnect the power.    I’ve checked the temperature of the box after running a 3D game. The top was 55 °C, the bottom 43 °C, with my room temperature around 28 °C. This is exactly the opposite of Tronsmart Vega S89 where the top is “cool”, but the bottom is hot.

As expected performance is good, and the system is extremely responsive, but the firmware is not that stable, as I experienced several hangs up / freezes, requiring a power cycle. This happened during benchmarks, gaming and while taking screenshots. In two instance, the device apparently turned itself off automatically (Blue LED off), maybe due to overheating. I also had some text input issues from times to times (double characters) using Mele F10, and it also happened with Vega S89 but I forgot to mention it.

Video Playback

XBMC 13.0-beta 1 is pre-installed on the device, so I’ve used XBMC for video testing. I only used MX Players in case of errors, and to double check Dolby / DTS audio.. The videos are played from a SAMBA share on Ubuntu 13.10 using the Ethernet connection of the device. I had no problem for SAMBA configuration in XBMC nor ES File Explorer.

I started with the videos from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus some videos with H.265/HEVC codec from Elecard:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – Failed. Nothing happens.
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p/1080p is – OK. (1080p failed in Vega S89)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container, 360p/720p/1080p
    • XBMC – Audio only then crash,
    • MX Player – Can play and audio works, but everything is in slow motion with many frames skipped.

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – No video, audio only.
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK. No audio/video sync issues as in Vega S89.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Video is supported but some frames are skipped.

I’ve also tested common audio codecs below, using PCM in XBMC, and I got the same results as with Vega S89:

  • AC3 – Can decode audio, but video was very slow
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

MX Player, however, won’t output any audio when playing these files using the H/W decoder.

Sintel-Bluray.iso, a free Blu-ray ISO file, could play just fine in XBMC, and I could also navigate between the eight chapters of the video.

I’ve tested several 4K Videos in MX Player (XBMC does not work – audio only):

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (60 Mbps) – OK
  • Sintel.2010.4K.mkv – Frequent pauses (buffering?) during playback after enabling S/W decode for AC3 5.1 audio. No audio output using the H/W audio decoder.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – Slow motion video playback in MX Player…

I also tested several AVI, MKV, FLV and MP4 videos, and they could all play, except one FLV which only had audio output. I did not experience the audio/video sync issues I found in Vega S89 in any of the videos.

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

Wi-Fi Performance

Using ES File Explorer, I’ve transferred a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa, repeating the test three times. I’ve tried testing the transfer at different times to avoid the issues I had with Vega S89. But the results were more or less consistent. Wit5h this device there’s a clear difference in performance between transfers between SAMBA to the flash, and vice versa. Transferring the file between flash and SAMBA took between 3:16 and 4:54, but in the reverse direction it took between 5:51 and 7:47.  The transfer times averaged a poor 5:02 (0.92 MB/s), which makes M8 the laggard among devices I’ve tried.

M8_Wi-Fi_PerformanceI’ve tried to play some of the 1080p videos from Linaro samples, and none of them could play without pauses due to buffering.

I’ll add the usual disclaimer about Wi-Fi: “Please bear in mind there are many factors when it comes to Wi-Fi performance, and the results you’ve got with your setup may be greatly different from the ones I’ve gotten here.”

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooh is built-in in this Android TV Box, and you can enabled it only from the standard Android settings, as there’s no option in the Metro style settings. M8 won’t find any devices (I have a Linux PC with a Bluetooth dongle and an Android phone). How I can pair my phone (ThL W200) to M8. Unfortunately it does not seem to work that well, as I failed to transfer any files, as there’s no notifications after sending a picture from either direction. My Ubuntu PC can detect M8, but fails to pair.

I’ve skipped Sixaxis Compatibility Check (free app), as M8 can’t install paid apps, and in this case, Sixaxis Controller.

External Storage

I could use both an SD and a USB flash drive formatted to FAT32 successfully, and played some MP3 and videos.

USB Webcam

I could use a low cost no brand USB webcam with Skype. Video was OK, the “Echo Test” in Skype could record my voice using the webcam mic, and repeat my voice. I could also start a video call in Google Hangouts, something that did not work with Vega S89.

Gaming

I’ve tested  games: Angry Birds Star Wars, Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide 2. The first two are simple games that play fine on all recent dual core or quad core hardware. I’ve configured Beach Buggy Blitz to maximum graphics settings, and it could still run smoothly. Riptide 2 could run very well too. With the Mali-450MP6 GPU there should not be any problems running the vast majority of Android games with high graphics details.

Since we can’t install paid app, I could not test Sixaxis controller. I found it’s usually difficult to play games on Android TV devices, but I’ve seen SomeCoolTechs video review of the Vega S89 using G910 bluetooth gamepad that works with many games without much hassle, which I may have to check out. You could also use with your smartphone as a controller using Droidmote.

M8 / TM8 Benchmarks

CPU-Z gives bascially the same information for M8 as for Vega S89. The CPU is reported as a quad core Cortex A9 r4p1 clocked between 24 MHz to 1.99 GHz with an ARM Mali-450 GPU, and the board is also the same: k200. However, the firmware won’t be fully compatible as Vega S89 Elite (8 GB flash) uses AP6220 Wi-Fi module (2.4 GHz), and Vega S89 (16 GB) and M8 (8GB) uses AP6330 (2.4/5GHz).

M8_CPU_Z

The rest is also exactly the same including pixel resolution (1920 x 1008), “dp” resolution (1280 x 672) 1578 MB RAM (available to Android), and 5.75 GB flash for the user.

Antutu 4.3.3 (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 4.3.3 (Click to Enlarge)

M8 gets 24,133 in Antutu from, the play store, against 22,603 for Vega S89 Elite. In Vega S89, Antutu detailed results showed “4x cores @ 1104 MHz”, but in M8 it shows correctly “4x cores @ 1992 MHz”. Firmware is newer in the M8, so this may one reason. Some people have reported reaching 30,000 points in Antutu, with allegedly the same firmware, so I wonder if it’s because of some thermal management, as my room is relatively warm at 28 degree C. Just as with Vega S89, the GPU benchmarks have been run in portrait mode (607×1080), instead of full screen mode, which means other apps are likely to have issues too. I’d like to point out M8 failed to completely run Antutu once or twice, so it may be possible they’ve extracted some more performance as the expense of stability.

Quadrant (Click to Enlarge)

Quadrant (Click to Enlarge)

With 6536 points, M8 gets a significantly better score than Vega S89 Elite (5363) in Quadrant.

Vellamo failed to run completely in M8.

Conclusion

M8 / TM8 has very performance, unfortunately the firmware is not always stable, and there still quite a few issues that needs to be fix.

Let’s summarize the PROS and CONS

  • PROS
    • Smooth and fast firmware.
    • Android 4.4 Kitkat
    • XBMC 13 pre-installed
    • Blu-Ray ISO and 4K video playback
    • 1080p user interface
    • 4K video output up to 30 fps supported
    • Good Ethernet performance (60 Mbps video playback OK)
    • Good video formats/codecs support
    • USB webcam works with Skype and Google Hangouts
    • HDMI CEC support
  • CONS
    • Stability problems. Not catastrophic, but the device may still hang a few times. Could it be temperature related?
    • Bluetooth not working.
    • Poor Wi-Fi performance.
    • Can’t install paid apps via Google Play.
    • Sometimes non-optimal user’s experience:
      1. Need to switch between XBMC and MX Player depending on video files
      2. Multiple input devices required, e.g. if you use an air mouse, you still need to access the IR remote to put the device into Standby.
      3. Bluetooth not available from default settings menu
      4. Only Chinese cities available for weather
    • H.265 not working smoothly (frames skipped). Probably not fixable (not supported by hardware, and GPGPU not supported by Mali-450)
    • DTS, Dolby, AC3 not supported by hardware, but software decoded in XBMC (Can’t be fixed, SoC related)

As with Vega S89, the firmware needs some work. The main problems are the stability of the firmware, and Wi-Fi performance is very poor. Bluetooth does not appear to be working properly either, at least with my phone. Compared to Vega S89, M8 however provides a better video playback experience without any audio/video sync issues, and the USB webcam could be used with both Skype and Google Hangouts. There’s the same need to jungle between XBMC, and MX Player depending on the video codecs or container formats used.

I’d like to thanks Shenzhen Tomata for providing a sample, and if you’re planning to buy M8 in quantity you could consider purchasing via the company Alibaba website. Individuals can purchase the box through Aliexpress or GeekBuying for about $100.

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Review of Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite Amlogic S802 TV Box

April 12th, 2014 18 comments

Tronsmart Vega S89 is an Android TV Box based on Amlogic quad core Cortex A9 processor. You can refer to Tronsmart Vega S89 specs for more technical details, and checkout my Tronsmart Vega S89 Unboxing post for pictures of the device and the board. As a reminder there are two models of the device: Tronsmart Vega S89 with 16GB flash and dual band Wi-Fi (AP6330 module), and Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite with 8GB flash and 2.4 WiFi (AP6220 module). I’ve been sent the Elite version, but both version should have similar performance. I’ll start by giving my first impressions, going through the user interface and settings, then I’ll switch to video and audio tests, Wi-Fi performance, and perform some other tests for Bluetooth, gaming, external storage, USB webcam, etc.. trying to cover most of the hardware features available on this device.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Vega S89 (Elite) comes with an IR remote, but the two required AAA batteries are not included, so you’ll need to purchase some separately. As we’ll soon see the user interface has been designed to be used easily with an IR remote, but once you start using Android apps, you’ll probably want to use another input device. So I’ve also used the Mele F10 air mouse during testing. I’ve connected an Ethernet cable, the HDMI and AV cables, and Mele F10 USB RF dongle, and the power supply, before pressing the power button which is oddly located at the back of the device. The complete boot took 38 seconds, and loaded the Metro style user’s interface shown below.

Tronsmart Vega S89 Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Tronsmart Vega S89 Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

On the top of the screen, we can see the network status, the weather in your locale (only Chinese cities are available in the settings), and the date and time. There are also six main menus: Online Video (YouTube, Netflix, and XBMC), My recommend (favorite apps), Setting, My Apps (all installed apps), Music, and Local. The last two are some apps to access/play local files with a not-so-slick interface that you are unlikely to use. There are smaller icons at the bottom, some shortcuts with the Browser, File manager, Gallery, 4K player, Google Play Store and XBMC by default. You can add and remove the ones you want as you wish. You can navigate this user interface with the remote arrow keys. For those of you who are not fond of 720p UIs, I’ve got good news, as both video output and UI are 1080p, and you can click the screenshot above to see it the real size.

The “Setting” menu gives you access to the settings shown in the same Metro-style with four sub menus: Network, Display, Advanced and Other.

Display Settings (Click for Original Size)

Display Settings (Click for Original Size)

When you first boot the device, there’s no network at all, so you need to go to the Network settings, and select whether Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and both are working just fine. In the display settings, it will detect the maximum resolution for your TV, 1080p60 in my case, and it’s supposed to support UHD / 4K output, but I don’t own a 4K TV to check this out. Other options allow you to hide or show the status bar, adjust the display position/size, and whether you want to use a screensaver. I’ve enabled the status bar, as I find it’s easier to navigate between apps and home screen with the Mele F10. The Advanced menu will let you start Miracast (Source only, not a display), enable the software Remote control (not tested, but you can download RemoteIME.apk on your smartphone or tablet), adjust CEC controls, set your location (unfortunately only Chinese cities are available),  set the screen orientation, and select digital audio output (PCM, SPDIF pass-through, HDMI pass-through). The Other button will give some details about the Android version (4.4.2), kernel version (3.10.10) and provides access to OTA System Update, which is not enabled. You can also access standard Android settings by going through Setting->Other->More Settings. The Android settings in this box are based on the phone interface, not the tablet one, which requires a few more clicks.

You can check the user’s interface and settings in the video below.

I’ve used HDMI output with 1080p during my testing, which was automatically detected as I started the device. If I switch to manual mode, I can also see 4K video output at 24, 25 and 30 Hz, and as well as 4K SMPTE. SMPTE stands for Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, but I’m not quite sure what it means in this context. There’s also an AV output, but there’s no option in the menu. If HDMI is not connected, it will simply switch to composite output, which worked as expected, including audio output. You can then choose between 480cvbs and 576cvbs. To switch back to HDMI, insert the HDMI cable. and restart the device.

TVega_S89_About_Mediaboxhe product comes with a 8 GB flash, and there’s well over 5GB free storage on the only partition found in the internal storage which should be plenty enough to install as many apps as you wish. The firmware is not rooted, and developer options are disabled in the firmware. I’ve written an Amlogic S802 root how-to that will root your device and enable dev options. Looking into the “About MediaBox” section shows the device name is  “VEGA S89″, and just like the custom settings section, it shows Android 4.4.2 is running on top of Kernel 3.10.10.

I could install most applications from Google Play Store including Facebook, ES File Explorer, Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Vellamo, Candy Crush Saga, etc… The only one that failed to show up in the list is Real Racing 3, but this one appears to have disappeared from most Android TV Boxes. Sixaxis Controller also failed to install returning an error in Google Play.

The power button on the device is used to power on and off the device. A short press is needed to start the device, but a long press (about 10 seconds) is required to turn it off. You can use the IR remote to enter and exit standby mode, but not powering off the device. There’s no soft power button, so these two are the only options to turn off the box. You can’t do that with a mouse, unless maybe you install some thrid party apps. I haven’t tried. I’ve also been asked to check power consumption, but I did not have the right connectors with me to use a multimeter or check with Charger Doctor. I’ve checked the temperature of the box after running Antutu benchmark. The top was 40 °C, the bottom 53 °C, with my room temperature around 28 °C.

The firmware is extremely stable, I’ve never experienced a crash and the system never hung. With a quad core Cortex A9 processor at 1.99 GHz, it’s also very smooth, and slowdowns are very rare. At one point, my brother entered my room, and I could hear a “wow” when he realized how fast switching between menus was in Angry Birds Star Wars.

Video Playback

XBMC 14 alpha is pre-installed in the device, so I’ve decided to test videos with XBMC, reverting to MX Player to check issues, and double check some features. As always, I’ve played videos from a SAMBA share. I had no problem for SAMBA configuration in XBMC nor ES File Explorer.

I started with the videos from samplemedia.linaro.org, and I added some Big Buck Bunny videos with H.265/HEVC codec from another source (Elecard):

  • 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), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – Failed. Only shows “Click OK when playback has ended”.
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p OK, 1080p is very choppy. Most probably software decode.
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container, 360p/720p/1080p
    • XBMC – Audio only
    • MX Player – Can play and audio works, but everything is in slow motion with many frames skipped. The number of frame skips does not seem to be related to the resolution.

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – No video, audio only.
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – Video appears to be fine, but after a while I’ve noticed a massive 4 to 5 seconds audio sync issue
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Video is supported but some frames are skipped.

I still don’t own an audio system with HDMI or S/PDIF input, and if anybody have recommendation for a low cost system or way (around $100), that would allow me to test SPDIF and/or HDMI pass-through in future reviews, please please let me know. Anyway, I’ve still tested the audio codecs below, downsampled to PCM, in XBMC, and most worked perfectly:

  • AC3 – Can decode audio, but video was very slow
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

There’s HDMI and S/PDIF pass-through in the menu, and I’ve already reported Geekbuying tested HDMI pass-through with success (apparently) with most codecs. However, when I switched to MX Player to play these files, none of them had audio. That probably means DTS, Dolby and AC3 are not supported by the hardware, but XBMC can use software decoding.

I was not confident about this one, but I threw a Blu-ray ISO into the test, Sintel-Bluray.iso, a free Blu-ray ISO file, and it worked perfectly, it was also possible to switch between the eight chapters of the video. I did not have audio/video sync issues.

Amlogic S802 can support 4K video in theory. I tried with HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4, a 60 Mbps UHD video, and it failed in XBMC (audio only), but could play perfectly with MX Player from a SAMBA share over Ethernet. I also tried some HEVC / 4K videos, but they had the same frame skipped problems as  lower resolution videos.

Finally, I played some random AVI, MKV, FLV and MP4 videos. They could all play, but some AVI still had that massive audio/video sync issues, the audio being late by a few seconds.

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

Wi-Fi Performance

The Wi-Fi test consists in transferring a 278 MB files between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa. I repeat the test three times. The first time I tried the transfer speed was catastrophic, sometimes running at up to 2MB/s, but most of the time hovering around 50KB/s, and in some cases even stalling, with the transfer taking 11 minutes and 30 seconds. I went outside, and came back 2 hours later, to repeat the test, and I was unable to reproduce the problem I had during the first test, so I discarded it, but this may be something to keep in mind. The transfer times averaged a decent 2:35 (1.79 MB/s), which bring Vega S89 in the upper middle of the field, with performance similar to MK908.

Tronsmart_Vega_S89_WiFIPlease bear in mind there are many factors when it comes to Wi-Fi performance, and the results you’ve got with your setup may be completely different than the ones I’ve gotten here.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooh is built-in in this Android TV Box, There’s no option in the custom setup, but you can enable Bluetooth in the Android setting. Vega S89 can detect my PC, but can’t find my phone (ThL W200). However, my phone could find and pair with Vega S89. The first time I transfered a file it got stuck at 29% and the transfer failed, but the second time was successful.

I’ve also installed Sixaxis Compatibility Checker to check if Sony PS3 Bluetooth Controllers, or clones, can work following these instructions. The drivers appear to be there, and I can pair my gamepad with the device, but the program segfaults when listening for controllers. I was unable to install the paid version “Sixaxis Controller” due to the error “Couldn’t install on USB storage or SD card” in Google Play.

External Storage

I could use both a micro SD and a USB flash drive formatted to FAT32 successfully.

USB Webcam

I could use a low cost no brand USB webcam with Skype. Video was OK, the “Echo Test” in Skype could record my voice using the webcam mic, and repeat my voice. I could not access the Video in Google Hangouts however.

Gaming

I’ve tested 3 games: Angry Birds Star Wars,  Candy Crush Saga, and Beach Buggy Blitz. The first two are rather easy games on the GPU, and run just fine on most hardware. I’ve configured Beach Buggy Blitz to maximum graphics settings, and it could still run smoothly. As with other Android TV boxes and sticks, there are caveats because of the input devices, and the first two games can be played with an Air mouse, but not the IR remote, and racing games are very difficult to play because you have to move the cursor from on side of the screen to the other to turn left and right. If Sixaxis controller works you can use a Bluetooth controller to play games, but it failed to install on this device. Another solution might be to use remote apps like such as Droidmote.

Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite (and Amlogic S802) Benchmarks

Before running the benchmark, I’ve gathered some details about this new processor and board with CPU-Z. It’s a quad core Cortex A9 r4p1 clocked between 24 MHz to 1.99 GHz, although I’ve never seen it at 24 MHz even at idle. Maybe this frequency is used in standby mode only. The GPU is also reported correctly as an ARM Mali-450.

CPU-Z_Amlogic_S802_Vega_S89

CPU-Z – Amlogic S802 in Tronsmart Vega S89 (Click to Enlarge)

The model is referred to as VEGA S89 (k200), with k200 possibly a reference design code from Amlogic. Pixel resolution is reported to be 1920 x 1008, and there’s mention of 1280 x 672 “dp” resolution, but I’m not sure what it means here. The device comes with 2GB RAM, but only 1578 MB is available to Android, the rest probably being used by, or reserved for the GPU, VPU, and some other hardware sub-systems. As mentioned previously there’s 5.75 GB flash available to the user from the 8GB NAND Flash.

Antutu 4.3.3 Score

Antutu 4.3.3 Score

I’ve installed Antutu from Google Play (Version 4.3.3) and the score I got was 22,603, which will be disappointing if you’ve read GeekBuying blog post showing a score of 30,000. I’ve been told I’m not the only one to get this score with this firmware, and the previous firmware was different. The factory tried with Antutu 4.4.1 and got 28,000 to 30,000. I’m not sure whether it’s a problem with Antutu (CPU in test is reported as 4x core @ 1104 MHz, instead of 1992 MHz on GeekBuying blog), or if it is an issue with the firmware itself. In any case, I’m pretty sure it will be fix in future firmware. You’ll also notice the GPU benchmark has not been run in full screen (607×1080), testing in portrait mode in the middle of my TV. It’s still much faster than the Antutu  score with Rockchip RK3188T @ 1.4 GHz in Beelink A9, especially with the 3D graphics test which is over 3 times faster (S802/Mali-450: 6800 @ 607×1080, RK3188T/Mali-400: 1960 @ 1280×672).

Vega S89 Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)

Vega S89 Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)

In Quadrant, Tronsmart Vega S89 is faster than HTC ONE X (Nvidia Tegra 3 @ 1.5 GHz), especially because of much better I/O performance.

The device gets 617 points with Vellamo Metal, and 1602 points in Vellamo HTML5, which is lower than the 859 / 1864 points found in GeekBuying review, so there might indeed be a performance issue with this firmware.

Nenamark2 is rendered at 60.2 fps which is the maximum framerate possible.

Conclusion

Tronsmart Vega S89 (Elite) has good performance, a stable firmware, but there are still quite a few issues that needs to be addressed to make it a better product.

Let’s summarize the PROS and CONS

  • PROS
    • Fast and stable firmware
    • Android 4.4 Kitkat
    • XBMC pre-installed
    • Blu-Ray ISO and 4K video playback
    • 1080p user interface
    • 4K video output up to 30 fps supported
    • Good Ethernet and decent Wi-Fi performance (N.B: Potential stability caveat with regards to Wi-Fi, TBC)
    • USB webcam works with Skype
    • HDMI CEC support
  • CONS
    • Sometimes non-optimal user’s experience:
      1. Need to switch between XBMC and MX Player depending on video files
      2. Multiple input devices required, e.g. if you use an air mouse, you still need to access the IR remote to turn the device off (Standby), and get up to press the power button.
      3. Bluetooth not available from default settings menu
      4. Only Chinese cities available for weather
    • Some video issues: Audio/video sync with some AVI and FLV files, H.265 not working smoothly (frames skipped), and
    • DTS, Dolby, AC3 not supported by hardware, but software decoded in XBMC (minor)
    • Current firmware does not seem to be fully optimized for performance based on Antutu, Quadrant, Vellamo benchmark results
    • USB webcam could not be used with Google Hangouts

The firmware clearly still needs some work, but I believe this is a good base, as it is very stable, and most issues can be fixed by updating the firmware. Tronsmart usually tries to fix major issues, and GeekBuying will most probably send samples to some members of Freaktab to make custom ROMs that many are fans of, so in time, firmware is likely to improve. One of the most annoying issue is the audio/video sync issue with some AVI files, so if you have many in your media library, these may not be watchable. The need to try a video in XBMC, and then switch to MX Player if it does not work is also annoying, but hopefully they’ll improve XBMC overtime.

You can purchase Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite for $105 and Tronsmart Vega S89 for $120 from Geekbuying, and Aliexpress. There’s a $6 coupon (YYTKMFIX) for Vega S89 Elite, and a $10 coupon (GSFJMTQF) can be used on GeekBuying until April 18.

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M8 Android TV Box Powered by AMLogic S802 (Unboxing)

April 4th, 2014 29 comments

Shenzhen Tomato Technology has send me a sample of their M8 Android TV Box based on the latest quad core AMLogic S802 processor which is said to run Android 4.4 Kitkat. In this post I’ll go through the specs, and show some pictures of the device, and internals. Later, I’ll write a full review with XBMC 13, which I’ve been told is pre-installed. I’ll also receive Tronsmart Vega S89 next week for unboxing and review.

M8 Specifications

M8 has more or less the same specs as other S802 Android TV boxes:

  • SoC – AMLogic S802 quad core Cortex A9r4 processor @ 2GHz with Mali‐450MP6 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB NAND flash + SD card slot
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band Wi‐Fi (2.4GHz/5GHz), Bluetooth
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4b, AV. HDMI supports 1080p, 4K2K 30fps
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs and Containers – MPEG1/2/4, H.264, AVC, VC‐1, RM/RMVB, Xvid, DivX3/4/5/6, RealVideo8/9/10…
  • Audio – MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, OGG, AC3, DDP, TrueHD, DTS, DTS HD, FLAC, APE…
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports ,Support U DISK And USB HDD
  • Misc – Power LED (ON:blue; Standby:Red), IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A

The box runs Android 4.4 KitKat.

M8 Unboxing

The company send me the sample via Fedex, which I received in the package below.

SZTomato_M8

A 5V/2A, a remote control and a user’s manual are included with the media player.

M8 STB and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

M8 STB and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Although it’s mentioned in the user’s manual there was no HDMI cable. The two AAA batteries required by the remote were not included either. I’d assume these may be included in retail packages, depending on the seller requirements.

M8 Android TV Box (Click to Enlarge)

M8 Android TV Box (Click to Enlarge)

A close up on the box, shows a small triangular window at the front for the IR receiver, an SD card slot on one side, and most of the connectors at the back: two USB host ports, an HDMI output, Ethernet RJ45 connector, AV output, optical SPDIF (that feels low quality because of the plastic), and a power jack.

You can watch the unboxing video below.

 M8 Board and Enclosure

I’ve already shown pictures of the boards of the M8 and Vega S89, but as I got this sample, I found a few more interesting bits.

M8 Enclocusre, Heatsinks and Board (Click to Enlarge)

M8 Enclocusre, Heatsinks and Board (Click to Enlarge)

It may be because the SoC faced down in this box, but there’s a heatsink on the CPU itself, as well as a metallic plate on the casing itself to keep everything cool. I’m not sure if it’s because of the thermal design of the box, or because S802 produce lots of heat, or both.

M8 Board Top (Click to Enlarge)

Top of M8 Board  (Click to Enlarge)

All the connector are on the top of the board, and this is the same PCB manufacturer on the 12/12/2013 and named M9_V0.91 as shown in my previous post.

M8_Board_bottom

Bottom of M8 Board (Click to Enlarge)

At the back, we’ve got AP6330 module for dual band Wi-Fi, and the serial debug port on the top right of the picture. There’s also a sticker with a MAC address starting with C4:4E:AC

S802 Processor on M8 (Click to Enlarge)

S802 Processor on M8 (Click to Enlarge)

It’s quite easy to remove the heat sink from the SoC, as there’s no need to put thermal paste after putting it, as they use a small “cushion” (what’s the right word?). The marking on the SoC is S802. AndroidPC.es reported there are three type of S802:

  • S802 – No HDMI pass-through support
  • S802D – HDMI pass-through for Dolby, but not DTS
  • S802DD or S802H -  HDMI pass-through for Dolby and DTS

I don’t know if the different names will show differently on the SoC marking, or if it will be more subtle than that.

If you are a reseller, you could get this device from Shenzhen Tomato Technology (Alibaba). Individuals can purchase the box from sites such as Aliexpress or GeekBuying for about $100.

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Review of Mele X1000 Blu-Ray Android TV Box (Telechips TCC8935)

March 27th, 2014 7 comments

Mele X1000 is an Android media player based on Telechips TCC8935 dual core Cortex A9 that is said to support Blu-ray video playback. You can refer to Mele X1000 specs for more technical details, as well as my previous Mele X1000 Unboxing post for pictures of the device, as well as the PCB.  Today I’ll review Mele X1000, by showing off the user interface, and going through the different settings, test video playback including a Blu-ray ISO, wi-fi performance, and report whether all other features such as Bluetooth, USB mass storage, USB webcam, etc… work as expected.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

This media player comes with an infrared remote and corresponding AAA batteries, but during most the tests I’ve actually switched to Mele F10 RF remote (not included) as it’s just more convenient to navigate menus, and I’ve also test an Android Remote app compatible with the device, but more on that later. After connected an Ethernet cable, the HDMI and AV cable, Mele F10 USB RF dongle, and the power supply, I’ve pressed to power button on the front panel to get started. Boot feels a little slow, and it might take close to one minute to reach the user’s interface shown below.

Multimedia Launcher (Click for Original Size)

Multimedia Launcher (Click for Original Size)

On the top right corner, you’ll get the time, day of the week, and the options to add some system information such as network status with IP address. At the bottom of the screen you’ve got a navigation bar with access to “File”, “Photo”, “Music”, “Movie”, Apps, Settings, and Internet (Android Browser). The first four menu give access to storage devices including SATA hard drive or SSD (not tested), USB flash driver, SD card, and NFS & SAMBA network shares. The app section redirect to the list of Android Apps, which only a few pre-installed, including Google Play. Media applications are IPDTV (not working for me), and XBMC plugins, but XBMC is not installed in this firmware, something I’ve been told would be corrected during mass production. The settings menu gives access to a custom setup menu, and the Android menu.

Movie Menu with Blu-Ray Region Code and Playback Options (Click for Original Size)

Movie Menu with Blu-Ray Region Code and Playback Mode Options (Click for Original Size)

If you do not like the default launcher named “Multimedia Launcher”, you can switch the default Android home screen, or even select a “Pop Up” that will ask you each time. The navigation bar shown above will still be there in the Android Home screen, but you’ll have access to the 5 screens to add apps or widgets, just like in stock Android. I’ve kept the Multimedia Launcher for testing.

I have to admit I’m impressive with the level of options found in the setup menu. There are options about the configure the System. Audio & Video Output, network, movie, music, photo, and access to Android settings. It’s the level of details inside the menu that I found particularly compelling. Since there are so many options, I won’t go through them all in the article, but I’ve shot a video instead.

Some of the goodies include:

  • Language options for system and subtitles
  • Screensaver mode and options
  • Auto power off time
  • HDMI, DVI and Composite output options (640×480 to 1080p60)
  • HDMI, SPDIF, and AV audio output options. Pass-through options with HDMI and SPDIF allows you to select which audio codec (eg . DTS, Dolby) to downsample, and which one to pass-through.
  • YouTube Cache Size configuratin
  • Blu-ray settings (shown in the screenshot above)
  • Power button can be set to suspend or power off the device
  • And many more

I had no problem setting up Wi-Fi and Ethernet, the only thing is that both can’t be enabled at the same time, or Wi-Fi won’t work.

I’ve used HDMI output with 1080p during my testing with the user interface always set to 720p. Component (YPbPr) is not supported, but I tested composite output with success. the only problem is that I’ve been unable to revert to HDMI without doing a factory reset in the menu… A video input button on the IR remote could have been nice.

Mele_X1000_About_DeviceMele X1000 has a 4GB flash, and there’s only one partition on the flash providing 2.29GB of storage, which means it may take a while before apps take all storage. All your medi files woudl have to be in external device with as USB drives, SATA hard drives, and network shares, whch I think is just fine for this type of device. Developer Options are enabled with lots of different options. Looking into the “About device” section shows the device name is  “MeLE″, and it’s running Android 4.2.2 with Kernel 3.1.10

The firmware is not rooted, and I have not tried to find a root method yet. I could install all applications I tried including ES File Explorer, Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Vellamo, Candy Crush Saga, Racing thunder 2, Sixaxis Controller, YouTube, Facebook etc…, except for one: Netflix, which did not show up in the search results. The apps I tried could run fine, except Quadrant with refused to start the tests.

As explained above, the power button on the front panel and the remote control can be used to put the device in suspend mode, or turn it off depending on the settings. This is possible thanks to an MCU that control power, IR, and the small LCD display, which appears to be more or less useless, as all I have seen is the power icon.

The firmware is relatively stable, but since the processor is only a dual core clocked at up to 1GHz, you may not want to do anything else while installing apps, as there’s a noticeable slowdown. For the rest of the time, it’s pretty smooth. There’s an animation between the main menu, which looks nice at first, but last about 3 seconds and becomes annoying overtime. During my testing, the Multimedia Launcher crashed three times, requiring a reboot.

TizzRemote App

In the Quick Start Guide, there’s mention of AirlinkMedia, an Android app to transform your smartphone or tablet into a remote control. They explain to look for it in Google Play, but there’s nothing there. The company finally then me a link to AirLinkRemote which failed to find my Mele. But previously, I found a QR code in the setup menu directing to TizzRemote, which immediately found my device, and allowed me to access control the files on the devices, and play YouTube videos. This also probably means the firmware and software has been developed by TizzBird, a Korean company specialized in Telechips products.

TizzMote App Screenshots (Click to Enlarge)

TizzMote App Screenshots (Click to Enlarge)

This remote app works pretty well, and you have access to files from your device or your phone. The files from the phone will only play in the phone however, where the files in the Mele will play on your TV. There are also remote and mouse modes, that allow you to use the touchscreen of your phone as a touchpad, and with buttons providing video playback trick modes. When I tried to input text using the soft keyboard on the phone, it would just show the previous letter twice on the TV. For example, test would show up as ttss, so basically unusable. The YouTube app is very similar to ChromeCast or EZCast, as you can search and play YouTube videos streaming directly to your box, but controlled by your phone. The YouTube videos I tried seemed to skip frames however.

Video Playback

As there’s an XBMC logo on the package, and at the bottom of the device itself, I expect to find XBMC, but all I could access was XBMC Plugin app. I’ve been told they will ship boxes to customer with XBMC Frodo V12, and I could just install this version. since XBMC Android is currently a mess, with different version depending on the device, I was not hopeful, and I tried to install the latest Frodo V12.3 apk, it could run and play videos, but it’s obvious it was just using software decode. I’ve asked the actual apk, and still waiting… So the only solution was to use the default user interface. I usually play from a SAMBA share, and configuration went smoothly, as the device automatically found the share, and entered the username and password, and success! Or so I was told because I never managed to see any files from my SAMBA share. I also tried with NFS, but same results. I tried to use ES File Explorer, which could connect to my SAMBA share, but it was clearly not using the internal player (required for Blu-Ray), and only the Android video player.  At this point I was quite frustrated. I was given a device promising XBMC, but without XBMC, and  it could not even be used as a networked media player. End of story, I used an 8GB Class 4 SD card to do video playback testing.

I started with the videos from samplemedia.linaro.org:

  • 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 – Failed. “Unsupported video codec”
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – Failed. Black screen only
  • WebM / VP8 – Skip test. “File” and “Movie” menus can’t find .webm video files.

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – Failed. “Could not play video”
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK

I don’t own an audio system with HDMI or S/PDIF input, but the box could play all high-end audio codec below (downsampled to PCM) without any issues:

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

HDMI and S/PDIF pass-through should work as well, since there’s an option in the menu, but this has to be tested.

Since the product is being advertised as a Blu-ray Navigation Android TV Box, I could play Sintel-Bluray.iso, a free Blu-ray ISO file, without issue. I could also change the subtitles. I’m not sure how to test “Blu-ray Navigation”. I’ve asked the company at the beginning of the week, but I still have to receive an answer.

Finally, I played some random AVI, MKV, and MP4 videos without any problems. I also tried some FLV videos but many could not play well, either complaining about “unsupported codec”, or producing noise (audio).

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

Wi-Fi Performance

I’ve transferred a 278 MB video files between SAMBA and the internal flash, and vice versa. I repeated the test three times, and on average it took a cool 1:48 (2.57 MB/s), which makes Mele X1000′s Wi-Fi performance one of the best in the field, at least with my setup. This time the transfer rate in the direction Flash to SAMBA was faster (1:32) compared to the one from SAMBA to Flash (1:56). The SD card writing speed may have affected the result negatively.

Mele_X1000_WiFi_PerformancePlease bear in mind there are many factors when it comes to Wi-Fi performance, and the results you’ve got with your setup may be completely different than the ones I’ve gotten here.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

There’s no built-in Bluetooth, but Bluetooth menu is enabled in the Android settings, so I connected a USB Bluetotoh dongle, which the device failed to recognize.

External Storage

I’ve used an SD card formatted with FAT32 to play videos that hat part works. I’ve also done the same successfully with a USB flash drive. At one point I used an SD card for the Raspberry Pi, and it could only see the FAT32 partition, so either the device can’t handle more than 2 partitions on a device, or it can’t handle ext-2 file systems.

There’s also an external SATA port, but I don’t have a spare 2.5″ drive to test it.

USB Webcam

I could use a low cost no brand USB webcam with both Skype and Google Hangouts. Video is working in both apps, and the “Echo Test” in Skype could record my voice using the webcam mic, and repeat the recording.

Gaming

I’ve tested 4 games: Angry Birds, Angry Birds Go,  Candy Crush Saga, and Racing Thunder 2. They could all run fine. You can play these with the included remote control,. but with Mele F10, this is playable, except the racing games which are more challenging. You could always Candy Crush Saga with TizzRemote, but this requires some practice (and maybe luck), using two fingers on your screen. However, with this rather low end processor, this is obviously not the best gaming platform.

Mele X1000 (and Telechips TCC8935) Benchmarks

Since this is a complete new processor to me, I’ve started by running CPU-Z to get some data.

Mele_X1000_TCC8935_CPU-ZBeside the CPU details, interesting part of the model name (full_tcc8930st) which could be used to build the kernel, there’s only 741MB RAM available, which mens the GPU and other part of the hardware take about 280 MB, and the manufacturer is said to be DigitalZone Co.Ltd & ChipAlive Co Ltd. instead of MeLE. This could be a mistake, as Mele does have their own factory.

I ran Antutu 4.x, Quadrant and Vellamo to test the system performance. Quadrant failed to start the full benchmark, but other two completed successfully.

Mele_X1000_Antutu

Mele X1000 scores 9,002 in Antutu whichseems reasonable as RK3188 devices with four Cortex A9 @ 1.6 GHz, and a Mali-400MP4 now get aroud 18,000. However, please note that the 2D/3D GPU testsAntutu were performed in portrait mode using only the center of te screen (526×672 resolution) which could have inflated the graphics results. MeLE X1000 is listed just under Samsung Galaxy S2 (Exynos 4210), which about 1,000 less points.

In Vellamo, the media player got 1118 points in the HTML5 test, and 285 in the metal test, placing Mele X1000 at about the same level as the Galaxy Nexus powered by Texas Instruments OMAP4460, another dual core Cortex A9 processor.

There’s nothing unusual about the performance of the device for a dual core processor. This won’t give you an optimal performance for Android, but for what the device specializes in, i.e. video playback, it should be just good enough.

Conclusion

There’s no need to hide than I’m disappointed by the device, not because of performance, but simply because the current firmware has so many shortcomings that it real feels beta. Having said that Mele X1000 feels like a solid device thanks to its metallic casing, SATA support, Blu-ray ISO playback, and excellent Wi-Fi performance.

Let’s summarize the PRO and CONS

  • PROS
    • Metallic enclosure
    • SATA port
    • Outstanding Wi-Fi performance
    • Blu-Ray ISO support
    • High level of details and configuration options in the setup menu
    • Decent Android Remote App
    • USB Webcam support
  • CONS
    • Multimedia launcher somewhat unstable
    • SAMBA and NFS currently not working
    • Some videos can’t play. Potential skipped frame in YouTube
    • External Bluetooth does not work
    • XBMC not pre-installed in this firmware (Mass production unit will come with XBMC)

Mele X1000 is currently sold for $179 including shipping, which is quite expensive considering the firmware status, but if everything works, it may be worth it if you plan to play Blu-Ray videos, and have a surround audio sub system. I can see good potential as a media player, but in the first few months, Mele’s customer may spend some time working out the bug, and will rely on Mele to provide firmware update to fix issues. If you don’t plan to play Blu-Ray ISO or rips, and will spend more time playing around wih other Android apps, you’d be better off with some cheaper and more powerful TV BOX, in terms of CPU and GPU performance, such as the many based on Rockchip RK3188.

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