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Posts Tagged ‘xbmc’

Giveaway Week – RipplTV Quad Core Android Media Player

March 11th, 2015 226 comments

Today, I’d like to give away RipplTV, an Android TV box based on M8 hardware with Amlogic S802, 2GB RAM, and 8GB eMMC, but putting XBMC front and center, as the popular media center is used as the default launcher in this media player.

Rippl-TV Ports (Click to Enlarge)

Rippl-TV Ports (Click to Enlarge)

When I tried RipplTV,  the device had a much better firmware than M8/TM8 from the same company (Shenzhen Tomato), although it was not always trouble free, as 3D gaming could be problematic (Riptide GP2), and I had to clear data for XBMC once to have it run correctly, but overall a pretty decent device. It probably never became very popular through due to the rather large difference in price with M8 TV box.

Rippl-TV_AccessoriesYou can get full specs and more pictures in the unboxing post. Please note that the 5V/2A power adapter is not included, since I cut the cable for some other purpose, so you’d need to find a 5V/2A (or greater) power supply with a 5.5/2.1mm power jack.

To enter the draw simply leave a comment below.

Other rules are as follows:

  • Only one entry per contest. I will filter out entries with the same IP and/or email address.
  • Contests are open for 48 hours starting at 10am (Bangkok time) every day. Comments will be closed after 48 hours.
  • Winners will be selected with random.org
  • I’ll contact the winner by email, and I’ll expect an answer within 24 hours, or I’ll pick another winner.
  • Shipping
    • Free EMS for winners with a shipping address in Thailand
    • $19 Registered Airmail Small packet for the rest of the world payable via Paypal within 48 hours once the contest is complete.
    • If Paypal is not available in your country, you can still play, and I’ll cover the cost of sending the parcel by Sea and Land (SAL) if you win.
  • I’ll post all 7 prizes at the same time, around the 18th of March
  • I’ll make sure we have 7 different winners, so if you have already won a device during this week giveaway, I’ll draw another person.

Good luck!

Rippl-TV can be purchased for $119.99 and up on Amazon and Aliexpress.

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Giveaway Week – VidOn Box XBMC Android Media Player

March 10th, 2015 160 comments

Vidon Box is the second item for the Giveaway Week organized on CNX Software. This nice looking media player is powered by Allwinner A31s with 1GB DDR3 and 8GB internal storage, and runs Android 4.4 with VidOn’s own XBMC version.

Vidon Box (Click to Enlarge)

Vidon Box (Click to Enlarge)

VidOn Box is certainly not the fatest device around but in my review I found out that it mostly did the job with excellent Wi-Fi performance, and good XBMC support, but for some reasons transfer from USB hard drive was particularly slow, at least with the firmware version I used during testing. Some features that you may take for granted like Blu-ray playback and audio pass-through require a $15 one year membership, but one free year is included. I’m not sure if the one-year free card is transferable, so the giveaway winner may not be able to enjoy the remaining membership options without paying extra. Basic functionalities will work fine. You can check VidOn Box unboxing post to find the differences between non-subscriber and subscriber.

Vidon Box and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Vidon Box and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

To enter the draw simply leave a comment below. To make the contest more interesting, you may want to share why you want it, or what you plan to do with it instead of the usual “I’m in”. It won’t improve your odds though, as all entries will have the same weight.

Other rules are as follows:

  • Only one entry per contest. I will filter out entries with the same IP and/or email address.
  • Contests are open for 48 hours starting at 10am (Bangkok time) every day. Comments will be closed after 48 hours.
  • Winners will be selected with random.org
  • I’ll contact the winner by email, and I’ll expect an answer within 24 hours, or I’ll pick another winner.
  • Shipping
    • Free EMS for winners with a shipping address in Thailand
    • $19 Registered Airmail Small packet for the rest of the world payable via Paypal within 48 hours once the contest is complete.
    • If Paypal is not available in your country, you can still play, and I’ll cover the cost of sending the parcel by Sea and Land (SAL) if you win.
  • I’ll post all 7 prizes at the same time, around the 18th of March
  • I’ll make sure we have 7 different winners, so if you have already won a device during this week giveaway, I’ll draw another person.

Good luck!

VidOn Box can be either purchased on Vidon.me for $69.99 including shipping, or third parties like GeekBuying and Aliexpress with the latter now selling the device for just $49.99.

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Raspberry Pi 2 / ODROID C1 Development Boards Comparison

February 2nd, 2015 111 comments

Raspberry Pi 2 Model B board has just been released, and although it’s not a direct answer to ODROID-C1, as Broadcom started the design for BCM2836 SoC for RPI2 a long time ago, both low cost development boards have similar specifications, with a quad core processor, 1GB RAM, Ethernet, and four USB ports, as well as the exact same price: $35. So I’ve decided to compare both in details to find out the actual differences, and which one may be more suitable to a particular application.

Raspberry_Pi_2_vs_ODROID-C1
Let’s get straight to the comparison table.

Hardkernel ODROID C1
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
Comment
Processor Amlogic S805 quad core Cortex A5 @ 1.5 GHz (Overclockable to 1.7 GHz or more) Broadcom BCM2836 quad core Cortex A7 @ 900 MHz
(Overclockable to 1.1GHz or more)
Despite the architecture advantage for Cortex A7 (1.9 DMIPS/MHz)  against Cortex A5 (1.57 DMIPS/MHz), the frequency difference means ODROID-C1 has the edge here with about 40% extra integer performance
GPU Quad core ARM Mali-450MP2 VideoCore IV I don’t have data for comparison here, but Mali-450MP2 is much more recent.
Video Decoder Unknown IP.
1080p (60Hz??) video decoding for H.264, H.265, MPEG2, MPEG4, VC1, Xvid, Dvix. 720p decoding for RealMedia1080p video encoding
VideoCore IV
1080p30 video decoding for H.264, MPEG2* and VC1*
1080p video encoding (H.264)* Extra license required
ODROID-C1 supports more codecs, and codec licenses are included
RAM 1GB DDR3 @ 792MHz 1GB LPDDR2 @ 400 MHz
Same amount of RAM, but ODROID-C1 is clocked at twice the speed.. However, LPDDR2 will consume less power than DDR3.
Storage eMMC module socket for  8GB/64GB Toshiba eMMC, or 16GB/32GB Sandisk iNAND Extreme, and micro SD slot (UHS-1 SD models supported) micro SD card slot At equivalent cost, ODROID-C1 and RPI 2 should have the same performance, but ODROID-C1 also supports higher performance SD cards, and eMMC modules
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8211F) 10/100M (USB to Ethernet chipset) Gigabit Ethernet vs Fast Ethernet, and the R PI does so via USB, so the USB bandwidth is shared with USB storage and Ethernet.
USB 4x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG (that cannot be used for power) 4x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB for power Draw. If you need OTG, ODROID-C1 is the winner. If you’d rather use a USB power adapter, RPI 2 is better.
[Update: ODROID-C1 can also be powered via a USB adapter, but this requires some soldering]
Video micro HDMI (without CEC) HDMI (with CEC), Composite (AV)
RPI2 adds composite, and standard HDMI ports may make it more convenient to use (no special micro HDMI cable needed)
Audio Via HDMI Via HDMI and
AV jack
ODROID-C1 lacks a stereo output jack
I/Os and other peripherals 19 GPIOs, 2x I2C, 1x SPI,  2x UART, 2x ADC.
Extra debug port. (UART)
RTC clock
IR Receiver
26 –GPIOs, 1x UART (debugging), 1x SPI, 2x I2C, PCM/I2S, 2x PWM CSI (camera serial interface) and DSI (display serial interface). I’ll give the win to RPI 2 here, as it features more I/Os, but if you need ADC then ODROID-C1 is better, or you need an add-on board for RPI 2
Power 5V via DC jack.
Typical power consumption:  0.5A @ 5V
5V via micro USB
Typical power consumption: 0.8A @ 5V
Typical power consumption may not mean much, but from the numbers released by each company, ODROID-C1 might consume less power.  We’ll need people to test power consumption independently to find out.
Linux Support

Ubuntu 14.04 with XBMC/Kodi

Raspbian, Snappy Ubuntu Core, OpenELEC, RaspBMC, Pidora I’ve just listed Linux distributions listed on the download sections of R-Pi and Hardkernel.  RPI 2 has more choices, but both support hardware video decoding and 3D graphics acceleration.Other unofficial distributions are also supported. For example Snappy Ubuntu Core for ODROID-C1 is coming.
Android Support

Android 4.4.2

N/A. At least no image worth talking about. For Android go with ODROID-C1, at least for now. I’m sure Android for RPI 2 will be released soon-ish. [Update: R-Pi foundation is not interested at all in Android]
Windows Support

N/A

Windows 10 IoT will be available for RPI 2 For Windows go with RPI 2. This is a special version of Windows for Internet of Things applications, not the “full Windows 10 desktop experience” without desktop environment  (This part is not clear)
Community Very active community on ODROID-C1 forums and #odroid IRC channel. Largest community so far for a development board. Mostly on Raspberry Pi Forums. Both boards are pretty good in that area, but RPI (2) is much more popular.
Documentation, source code and hardware files. Documentation can be found on ODROID-C1 Wiki. Schematics are available in PDF format, autocad files too, as well as Amlogic S805 datasheet. No PCB layout or gerber files. Documentation is available via eLinux RPI Wiki. The schematics are available in PDF format only, and, AFAIK, the PCB layout and gerber files are not available. Broadcom BCM2835 datasheet has been release, and should be nearly identical to BCM2836, except the CPU part.

It’s possible I’ve made some mistakes in the table above, so feel free to comment for corrections.

Nevertheless, the takeaways are that ODROID-C1 board still have more CPU processing power than RPI 2, it will perform much better to move data between a USB drive to the network (probably 2 to 3 times faster) thanks to Gigabit Ethernet, and is the only board to currently support Android. If you need ADC inputs, ODROID-C1 will be preferable, although you can also add an add-on board to RPI 2. ODROID-C1 is potentially better as a media player, as it supports more codecs (with license fees already paid), including H.265, and I understand it also support 1080p60 video decoding, while BCM2836 is limited to 1080p30. The latter point is not that critical as many videos are recorded at 24 to 30 fps.

The Raspberry Pi 2 on the other hand has a larger community, officially supports Windows 10 (and it’s free), features more I/Os and connectors including  I2S and MIPI CSI and DSI connectors, as well as an AV jack with composite and stereo audio signals which are missing on ODROID-C1.

The board with the lower power consumption could be ODROID-C1, as per the power consumption figures released by both companies but more testing is certainly needed.

In conclusion, I can’t give an overall winner, since both boards have their pros and cons, and you have to think about your particular application(s) to select the board that matches your requirements the best.

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Linux based Vu+ DVB Set-top Boxes Now Support XBMC/Kodi

January 17th, 2015 15 comments

Vu+ Duo2, Solo2 and Solo SE are high-end Linux based DVB receivers powered by Broadcom processors made by Ceru, and with a relatively active community of users and developers. All three models have recently received support for XBMC in their “Black Hole” firmware. Solo SE is the most recent model having been released in 2014, against Duo2 and Solo2 that have been selling since 2012 according to Wikipedia. Since I’ve never heard about these, I’ll check out Duo2, as it comes with the most features out of the three.

Vu+_Duo2.jpgVu+ Duo2 specifications:

  • SoC – Broadcom BCM7424 dual core MIPS processor @ 1.3 GHz with VideoCore IV GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM
  • Storage – 1 GB NAND flash + SATA III interface for 2.5″ and 3.5″ HDD (internal) + eSATA +
  • Video Output – HDMI, SCART, Composite, and Component (YPbPr)
  • Audio Output – HDMI, stereo audio, and optical S/PDIF
  • Tuners – 2x S2/C/T2 (Up to 4 tuners supported)
  • Front Panel Displays – 3.2″ TFT LCD (262,000 color / 16-bit) + VFD display
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi up to 300 Mbps
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, 2x Smart card slots, RS232 port,
  • Power – 12V/1.5A

The box also supports 3DTV, PiP, on-the-fly video transcoding for mobile devices, up to 16 channels recording via four tuners, and is compliant with HbbTV providing access to TV guides, catch-up services, web video, VOD, or portable services. The Linux distributions used in Vu+ products is based on Enigma2, and it also supports OpenPLI, an open source software for set-top boxes based on Enigma2.

Rear Panel (Click to Enlarge)

Rear Panel (Click to Enlarge)

The tuner cards can also be purchased separately, and you can add satellite, cable, or terrestrial tuners as needed. Only two tuner slots are available, the last slot show on the panel can’t be used (Ultimo model support 3 tuner cards). Since the device has been around for a while, there are already reviews, and the one written by Linux TV, also includes lots of internal pictures.

Vu+ Duo2 sells for 349 Euros on Satshop.TV or 399.99 GBP on Amazon UK. The other two Vu+ set-top boxes supporting XBMC/Kodi cost a bit less, as Vu+ Solo2 goes for 299 Euros, and the new Vu+ Solo SE (Second Edition) for 220 Euros. More details can be found on VuPlus website.

Thanks to Harley for the tip.

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Mini Review of VidOn Box Android Media Player

January 16th, 2015 4 comments

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

First Boot, Setup, and First Impressions

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

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

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

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

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

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

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

Video Playback

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

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

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

Antutu_Video_Tester_Vidon_Box

Click to Enlarge

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

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

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

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

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

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

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

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

Storage

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

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

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

Read and Write Speed (MB/s)

Read and Write Speed (MB/s)

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

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

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

Gaming

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

VidOn.me AV200 Benchmark

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

vidon_box_antutuConclusion

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

Let’s summarize the PROS and CONS

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

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

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

January 11th, 2015 55 comments

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

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

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

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

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

BFS_4KH_applications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Playback

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

XBMC Debug in Hisilicon Hi3798M (Click to Enlarge)

XBMC Debug in Hisilicon Hi3798M (Click to Enlarge)

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • ED_HD.avi – Slow motion.
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK, and very smooth contrary to most other Android media players, but no audio.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (using USB drive)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Antut_Video_Tester_BFS_4KH

Antutu Video Tester (Click to Enlarge)

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

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

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

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

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

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

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

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

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

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

Storage

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

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

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

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

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

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

USB Webcam

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

Gaming

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

BFS 4KH (HiSilicon Hi3798M) Benchmarks

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

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

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

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

bfs_4kh_antutu_5.5

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

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

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Conclusion

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

PRO:

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

CONS:

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

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

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

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Xunity Aurora is an XBMC Linux TV Box Powered by Amlogic S802 Processor

January 6th, 2015 9 comments

There are plenty of Android media players on the market, and Linux only TV boxes with recent processors have become a rarity. One of them is Armada Mach 8 Pure Linux based on Shenzhen Tomato / Eny M8 hardware, and a new device called Xunity Aurora,  also powered by Amlogic S802 quad core processor, will run Linux based on an hardware platform that looks very much like Zoomtak T8.

Xunity_auroraXunity Aurora specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S802 quad core cortex A9r4 @ 2 GHz with Mali-450MP6 GPU @ 700 MHz
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB NAND flash + SD card slot
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with external antenna, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4a up to 4K30, composite output (RCA)
  • Audio Output – HDMI, stereo RCA, and optical S/PDIF
  • Video Containers – DAT, MPEG, MPE, MPG, TS/TP, VOB, ISO, AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, FLV, MKV, M2TS, MTS, M4V, WMV, ASF, RM/RMVB, etc…
  • Audio  Formats – MP2, MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG, OGA, FLAC, ALAC, APE, AAC etc…
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, LED display on front panel, and power button.
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – N/A (Aluminum enclosure)

Xunity_Aurora_connectorsThe box comes with an IR remote control, a 5V/2A power adapter, an HDMI cable, an a user’s manual. XBMC 13.2 is pre-installed in the box, together with iStream add-on, a “smart media aggregator that stores media preferences, creates a digital online library in the cloud, and let you watch TV shows, movies, and YouTube videos without the need to pay for cable TV subscription”.

Zoomtak T8 can also feature an optional SATA bay under the device, but it has not been included in Xunity Aurora, so the company recommends to use a USB hard drive instead.

Linux based TV boxes are normally more expensive than Android ones, which I understand as sales should be lower, and software developers need to be pay somehow. But here the price gap is a little more than expected, as while Zoomtak T8 sells for $95 shipped, Xunity Aurora goes for 160 Euros (~$190 US) + shipping, although it can also be found on Ebay for $169.95. I guess this could be still attractive for people who want to get rid of their cable subscription, and don’t know how to install an XBMC add-on.  If you have a twitter account, the company also organize a giveaway to win this Linux box. Further details may be found on Xunity Aurora product page.

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

January 4th, 2015 46 comments

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

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

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

MediaBox Launcher (Click for Original Size)

MediaBox Launcher (Click for Original Size)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Playback

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

Videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus some H.265/HEVC videos (Elecard), and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – XBMC will exit/crash
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK, but could be smoother.
  • WebM / VP8 – XBMC will exit/crash
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container (360p/720p/1080p) – Audio only, and the 1080p video makes XBMC exit/crash.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – Does not play at all (Stays in XBMC UI).

I also played some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – audio only
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Plays at 15 fps instead of 29.970, and XBMC also reports skipped frames.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (using USB drive)

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

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



Other Amount:



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

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

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

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

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

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Shows a complete mess with some picture from the previous video, and the current video mixed, and more like a slideshow of still images rather than videos.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – “Not supported media”
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Black screen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

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

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

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

CX-S806_Ethernet_Performance

Throughput in MB/s

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

Throughput ion Mbps

Throughput ion Mbps

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

iperf output:

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

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

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

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

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

Storage

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

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

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

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

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

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

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

USB Webcam

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

Gaming

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

CX-S806 (S812) Benchmarks

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

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

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

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

CX-S806_Vellamo

Conclusion

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

PRO:

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

CONS:

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

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

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

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

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