Posts Tagged ‘xbmc’

Review of MINIX NEO U1 Media Hub

December 14th, 2015 40 comments

We’ve already seen that MINIX NEO U1 has some impressive hardware to offer with a good thermal solution, and high-end chips for storage and WiFi, as well as some neats additions like RTC support. But obviously the most important is to find out how the box performs, so I’ve put it through it spaces with video playback and features testing, as well as some benchmarks.

First Boot, OTA Firmware, Settings and First Impressions

The device has three full-sized USB 2.0 ports, which become four once we had the provided USB OTG adapter to the remaining micro USB port. So I’ve connected a USB 3.0 hard drive, the RF dongle for NEO A2 Lite air mouse, a USB hub with a USB webcam, a USB keyboard, and the RF dongle for Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, as well as USB powered speakers to the micro USB port. After inserting HDMI, optical audio and Ethernet cables, as well as the speakers cable into the 3.5mm speaker jack, I connected the 5V/3A power supply, and… nothing happened. So you just need to press the power button on the remote or unit itself to boot the device. A boot typically takes just over 30 seconds, or quite faster than the 50 seconds or so on lower end Amlogic S905 devices such as K1 Plus or Beelink MINI MX.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

That’s the typical MINIX launcher, but an improvement over MINIX NEO X8-H Plus home screen when it launched last year. The top 4 icons shows WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth and VPN status. The first 8 icons in the center are “folders” for apps categorized in Videos, Kodi, Music, Games, Internet, Online streaming. Screencasting, and Social, with the last one redirecting to Amlogic settings app, as seen on all other Android Lollipop firmware for Amlogic TV boxes. The bottom row is for shortcuts, and the right column features time/data, a File Explorer apps folder, the full list of app (confusingly sorted in Chronological order), and App Market apps folder, and All Tasks Killer to automatically kill all background tasks. The status provided a convenient link to the Download folder, as well as the usual other buttons Home, Back, Volume, etc… You can hide the bar with the double down arrow icon on the right, and make it show again by pulling it up from the bottom.

Before going to the settings, I’ll mention my experience with FOTA (Firmware Over The Air) update. MINIX asked me to delay the review until their release FW003 firmware and XBMC for MINIX, which was out Friday evening. So I went to MINIX System Update app, and the new firmware was properly detected.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

I liked that the update comes with a full log, and that it was a small incremental 30.71 MB download. The process went very smooth, with the device rebooted after unpacking the firmware, and flashing it with the usual Android firmware update animation. I would have however preferred that XBMC for MINIX was included inside that firmware, instead of asking users to side-load MINIX_XBMC_20151209.apk  themselves.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The main options in the settings app are exactly the same as in MINI MX, as shown above, however the company also made some improvement (in bold) to the most important options:

  • Network – WiFi, Ethernet, and VPN configuration
  • Display
    • Screen resolution: Auto, 480p-60Hz, 576p-50Hz, 720p 50/60Hz, 1080i 50/60Hz, 1080p 24/50/60Hz, 4K2K 24/25/30/50/60Hz or SMPTE
    • Screen position
    • Screen rotation (middle port, force land, original)
  • Sound – System sound (On/Off), Digital sounds (Auto detection, PCM, HDMI or SPDIF), and USB audio
  • Preferences – HDMI CEC (But not working: “This remote device does not support CEC”), and Play back settings with “HDMI self-adaption” with three options: 
    • OFF – no processing
    • Level 1 – 23.976fps videos are processed under 1080p60Hz mode;
    • Level 2 – Switching TV’s output according to source video fps
  • Remote & accessories – Add Bluetooth devices (redirect to Android lollipop Bluetooth configuration)

As with other Amlogic devices, configuring the network options (WiFi, Ethernet and Bluetooth) went well. I could set video output to 4k2k @ 60Hz, but sometimes the video output would fall back to 1080i50 or 2160p25. The former happened once or twice after a reboot, or power cycle, and is easily noticeable, as the mouse pointer will be much bigger. I think the latter (2160p25) happened after playing some videos (TBC).

You can go to Android Lollipop settings by clicking on More Settings.  I could immediately a new feature that stands out: MCU setting.
MINIX_NEO_U1_MCU_SettingsAbout_NEO_U1You can configure the MCU behavior in this section. For example, you can select to automatically start the device when power is on, instead of having to press the power button. I’ve not sure what “RTC alarm” means in that context, maybe “low battery”?, but if the MCU is also handling RTC some neat feature like timed power on/off could also be implemented in the future. Finally, I could upgrade the MCU firmware to Version V1 without issues.

The 16GB eMMC flash is partitioned with a single unified 11.87GB partition, which is plenty of space for apps, and some data, and at the end of the review I still had 7.57GB  free space. All options that you can find in Android Lollipop are also there including Language & Input, Backup & reset, Printing, Accessibility, and so o.

The “About Mediabox” section reports NEO-U1 model number running Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux kernel 3.14.29, with the firmware firmware version being U1 FW003 20151210. The firmware is not rooted by default.

A MINIX infrared remote control is included by default. I added two AAA batteries, and I could use it without problem, even up to 10 meters. But I strongly recommend you also purchased MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse as well, especially if you don’t already a wireless keyboard or air mouse with keyboard, as it makes the user experience much better with a three-in-one keyboard, air mouse, and remote control. The mouse pointer works just as well as in MeLE F10 Deluxe, but the dedicated air mouse activation key removed unwanted clicks I sometimes get with the MeLE device when I want to enable air mouse mode. The keyboard is also nice with large keys, and the range is also very good, as I could test it up to 10 meters. I only found some “minor” issues. I found myself pressing the top button of the D-pad quite often instead of the OK button, so the design might have been slightly more ergonomic if the D-Pad was slightly higher. That one probably depends on your hand size though. While the keyboard is really nice, I wished the often used Space and Back key where left alone as in a full keyboard, as when Fn is enabled, pressing space will display the equal sign “=” instead, and the Back key will feel like it’s not used as all since it’s in “Delete mode”. But as I said these are minor, and possibly just something to get used to. Another input option is to use the Android remote control app for MINIX NEO U1 with your smrtphone.

The Google Play Store worked for all apps I had to use for the review, and most apps I previously installed on my phone would also install, except when telephony is required, or an app can now be only installed in specific countries. I also installed Amazon Underground, in order to play Riptide GP2 for free.

Power handling is very well implemented, and you can go into standby or power off the device with the remote control, or the power button.  MINIX NEO H8-Plus would not support turning on the device with the remote control, which was a pain, the company fixed that with NEO U1 and you can comfortably control the system from your sofa using either the included IR remote or NEO A2 Lite air mouse.

Power consumption is also good, and the hard drive is properly turned off in standby or power off modes:

  • Power off – 0.1 Watt
  • Standby – 1.2 Watt
  • Idle – 3.2 to 3.4 Watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.1 Watt
  • Standby + USB HDD – 1.4 Watt
  • Idle + USB HDD – 4.3~4.4 Watts

So you’ll actually spend a little less money compared to cheaper Amlogic alternatives when the box is in power off or standby mode. I did come across two issues:

  • Once I got stuck in standby mode, which required a power cycle
  • When I disconnected the USB hub, all other USB ports went down… so the hard drive, and A2 Lite air mouse would not work… That was a little scary, but I used the IR remote control to turn off and on the device again, and it worked.

Amlogic S905 processor is already low power, and just like Beelink MINI MX, NEO U1 stays cool during operating. I measured 41°C and 45°C respectively on the top and bottom of the case after Antutu 6.0, and the temperature went up slightly after playing Riptide GP2 for 20 minutes to 45°C and 50°C. Those are values measured with an IR thermometer, and I scanned both top and bottom covers of the case to find the highest temperature.

Overall, the firmware is very and extremely responsive, as I never had slowdown during use, so the user experience is very good with this device, and much different from the cheaper Amlogic S905 devices. As seen above there are still some small bugs, which hopefully they’ll be worked on in due time.

Video Playback with Kodi/XBMC 15.3 for MINIX

So far, Kodi was not really usable on Amlogic devices, so I had to review K1 plus with Video Player, and MINI MX with MX Player. But some patchsets have made it to Kodi, and MINIX must have leveraged them by releasing their own XBMC for Kodi 15.3. You’ll actually have two versions in the firmware: Kodi 16.0 alpha that comes with the firmware, but you should really download and install MINIX version instead.

So I played all videos with “Kodi 15.3 MINIX” from a network share over Ethernet, unless otherwise noted. The first time I started Kodi, I could not hear much, unless I boosted my TV volume to 100%. I exited the app, and when adjusting the volume from the launcher, I noticed it was only about 30% (but showed 100% in Kodi), so I adjusted it to the max, reduced my TV volume to 25%, and restarted Kodi to have proper audio volume.

Let’s start with the easy video with with Linaro media samples, Elecard H.265 samples, and low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container –  480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – OK
  • WebM / VP8 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container  – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Clean sheet here. Please also note that HDMI self-adaption, better known as automatic frame rate switching, worked very well too.
I’ve also gone through some videos with higher bit rates, still over SAMBA and Ethernet:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Could be smoother
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Not 100% smooth, but no buffering while playing from network… Same results on USB drive.

Not too bad. The Jellyfish video felt exactly the same as on MINI MX with MX Player, so Amlogic S905 might struggle with 100 Mbps+ videos.

After that I tested audio capabilities of the device with PCM, HDMI and S/PDIF pass-through in Kodi, as well as PCM (downmix) with MX Player and MoviePlayer apps. For pass-through you need to configure Kodi/XBMC 15.3 as shown below. With S/PDIF you should also enable Dolby Digital (AC3) transcoding.
You’ll notice that DTS-HD capable receiver is not enabled, and it’s not a mistake, as MINIX made clear this is not supported right now.

Video PCM Output

PCM Output
(MX Player)

HDMI Pass-through
S/PDIF Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, video not smooth No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio OK (Dolby D+ 7.1) Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio No (TrueHD 7.1)
DTS HD Master OK No audio DTS 5.1 only OK (DTS 5.1)
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio DTS 5.1 only OK (DTS 5.1)

So that’s pretty good overall, except DTS-HD pass-through is not working yet over HDMI, and since DTS and Dolby license are not included, only apps that handle DTS/Dolby by software will output anything when PCM is selected. I had a question marked to “Atmos OK” because I could hear audio fine, and TrueHD 7.1ch B was shown on my AV receiver, but I’m not 100% sure if Atmos should have shown instead. [Update: Based on this video, Onkyo TX-NR636 will show Dolby Atmos for such content]

4K video can now be played pretty well in Kodi, almost as well as with MX Player:

  • 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) – It would not play the first time, but I clicked again and it was OK…
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – 3 to 4 fps
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – The video is not very smooth and large audio delay (4K H.264 @ 60 fps not supported by S905 VPU)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – Failed. It will show the first images, and gets stuck at ~85% buffering. The same behavior occurs from a USB drive.
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – The first time it played zoomed in with only one quarter of the video showing on the full screen. But I tried later and it played fine, and without the bug where the video freezes for a short time, as in MX Player and Video Player in the other two S905 boxes I tested.

The only really problem is with Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts, and times when videos can play, and other don’t but overall it’s very good. It’s also the first Amlogic S905 that can play those files from the network without buffering issues.

You can see how I configured the system in the video below, as well as show 4K videos and audio pass-through in action.

Sintel-Bluray.iso and amat.iso (Ambra – Prism of Life) Blu-ray ISO could play smoothly, as well as two 1080i video samples. Hi10p videos can be decoded somewhat, but with so many artifacts that they are not really watchable:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – Audio and subtitles OK, some video artifacts
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – Audio and susbtites OK, more artifacts

The TV used for review, namely LG 42UB820T does not support 3D, but I could still check whether the system could decoded some stereoscopic 3D videos:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – Video OK, but some audio/video sync issues
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Blackscreen with audio only
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Most videos and movies in my library (VOB, IFO, MKV, AVI, MP4 and MKV) played without issues, but some FLV did not have audio for some reasons.  I also played a a 2-hour video to test stability, and it played very well. For reference, Kodi’s log window reported 3 dropped frames and 1 skipped frame, which is very good, although we can’t also trust the data from Kodi here.

MINIX NEO U1 achieved 901 points in Antutu Video Tester 3.0, or about the same as K1 Plus (906) and MINI MX (891), so no surprises here.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I also ran DRM info, and contrary to the other two boxes, Widewine is said to be enabled in NEO U1, but for some reasons, the app does not reports the security level.
MINIX_NEO_U1_DRM_InfoSo I tried iflix, the equivalent of Netflix for south-east asia, as I have a free one month trial, and it could stream videos, albeit the quality was not really good.

Video samples used for this review can be found here.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

In order to evaluate WiFi performance, I transfer a 278MB file between a network share (SAMBA) and the internal flash for three times using ES File Explorer, and average the results. I tested both 802.11ac (connected at 780 Mbps) and 802.11n (connected at 117 Mbps), and both results are very good.

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)

802.11ac performance is nearly at the very top of the chart with 6.0MB/s transfer rate, and 802.11n is also pretty good at 3.01 MB/s (around 24 Mbps) and above average.

I repeat the same test for Gigabit Ethernet, but with a 885 MB file instead of the average performance (12.4 MB/s) is OK, but for some reasons it was much faster in one direction (22.12 MB/s) and slower in the other direction (8.59 MB/s).

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

I also ran iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d to test raw dual duplex performance, and the latest Ethernet IP in Amlogic S905 appear to much better than in previous generation Amlogic S8xx processors.

Throughput in Mbps (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in Mbps (Click to Enlarge)

iperf output:

Miscellaneous Tests


MINIX NEO U1 shows as p200 Bluetooth device, and I could pair it with my smartphone to trnsfer some pictures. It worked, but one of the picture got corrupted during the transfer. I also successfully connected a Bluetooth headset, and paired No.1 D3 smart watch with the device. The firmware is not rooted, so I could not try Sixaxis app for PS3 gamepads.


The “10 MB free space bug” is still remaining in NEO U1, as in all other 5 devices I’ve tested with Amlogic and Android Lollipop. So while the NTFS & exFAT partitions on my USB hard drive could be mounted, but the total and free space would only show as 10MB, and I could not copy files larger than 10MB. A FAT32 micro SD card could be mounted

File System Read Write
NTFS OK No (10 MB free space)
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
exFAT OK No (10 MB free space)
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

So again, I skipped USB storage benchmarks, and only tested the internal storage with A1 SD bench app. The results are quite phenomenal with 118.37MB/s read speed and 73.85 MB/s write speed, the best so far for any device reviewed on CNX Software, and at least twice as fast as any other TV boxes tested so far, and about 5 to 10 times faster than the cheaper Amlogic S905 devices.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

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

This must at least partially explain why I never noticed any slow downs on the device…

USB Webcam

I connect a standard UVC webcam to the box, and login with Skype and successfully run the Echo/Service test, and make a video calls. However, after two tries at different times, I never managed to login to Google Hangouts, and I would only see the spinning wheel as it tried to login.


Beelink MINI MX struggle a bit with games in my last review, but MINIX NEO U1 perform way better. First, I played Candy Crush Saga with NEO U1 air mouse without any issue.

Then I switch to 3D racing games and used Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad. Beach Buggy Racing was very smooth with default settings, so I maxed out the graphics settings to “High Resolution” and it was still very much playable and enjoyable, albeit possibly with a slightly lower frame rate.

Riptide GP2 was also super smooth with default settings, and with graphics settings set to the max, it was still playable, but not really optimal, so I went back to default settings for the longer test. Other device tends to slow down after playing the game for a while, but NEO U1 was stable after 15 minutes, and it was fun so I played about 5 minutes more (6 races), and I had the same performance all the way. I suspect the large heatsink in the device really helps avoiding GPU throttling.

MINIX NEO U1 Benchmarks

CPU-Z detects NEO U1 is another p200 platform (p200_2G), and that it features a quad core Cortex A53 processor @ up to 2.02 GHz with a Mali-450MP GPU without recognizing Amlogic S905 processor yet.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Since I’ve run Antutu 6.0 benchmark on the device, and it gets 38,032 points, but remember scores between Antutu 5.x adn Antutu 6.x are not directly comparable. If we look into the details of the score, we’ll notice that Marooned 3D graphics benchmark (3D 孤立)  did not complete, so if somehow this is fixed in the feature, the scores will automatically go up, and the reason is because this test is based on OpenGL ES 3.1, which is not supported by the GPU. For reference, Vega S95 Telos, another Amlogic S905 platform, got 36,741 points, with the gap most entirely due to UX I/O test, and the ultra eMMC flash in NEO U1.MINIX_NEO_U1_Antutu
So to compare to other devices, better run some other benchmarks like Vellamo 3.2.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

I’ve drawn a comparison chart with K1 Plus (low cost Amlogic S905 platform), and MINIX NEO X8-H Plus (previous generation Amlogic S812 device).

MINOX_NEO_U1_vs_NEO_X8-H_Plus_vs_K1_PlusSo apart from the metal score, results are pretty equivalent on all three devices. Please note that MINIX NEO X8-H Plus runs Android 4.4, and does not benefit from the faster ART runtime found in Android Lollipop and greater.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

NEO U1 media hub scores 4,327 points in 3Dmarks’ ICE Storm Extreme benchmark, against 4,304 in K1 plus, and 6,056 points in NEO X8-H Plus. It’s not surprising that the penta-core GPU in Amlogic S905 SoC is slower than the octa-core GPU featured in Amlogic S812 processor.


It’s quite difficult to find a device where both the hardware and software are very good. Most of the time, I’m given decent hardware with half-baked firmware, but I’ve also tested boxes with outstanding hardware and rather poor firmware (e.g. Mygica ATV1900AC), or on the contrary very good firmware, but hardware that could be better (e.g. WeTek Core). So I’m happy to report MINIX guys have managed to combined excellent hardware with very stable and responsive firmware that works (the vast majority of the time).

One the hardware side, you’ve got good (802.11n) and excellent (802.11ac) WiFi transfer rate, and Gigabit Ethernet works very well, even for streaming high bitrate videos, while the eMMC flash is the fastest I’ve tested in any devices, and whatever performance I get is sustainable thanks to the large heatsink in side the device keep everything cool and running smoothly over time.

One the software side, the system feel very responsive at all times, certainly helped with the good hardware, but most of advertised features just work out of the box, with XBMC for MINIX running well enough for be your primary media player / center, a first on the Amlogic S905 devices I tested. That’s not to say there aren’t any flaws, or bugs but there are not major, and I’m sure many will be fixed with upcoming firmware updates.


  • Recent stable and always responsive Android 5.1 OS firmware
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 2160p 60Hz; 24/25/30/50/60 Hz refresh rates supported
  • Good Kodi support (XBMC 15.3 MINIX Edition) with smooth 4K H.265 (10-bit) and H.264 video playback
  • Dolby 5.1, Dolby+7.1, DTS and TrueHD audio pass-through are working (HDMI and S/PDIF).
  • Proper implementation of power handling with more feature possible as the MCU firmware is upgradeable and the included RTC.
  • 3x USB ports + 1x micro USB port with USB OTG
  • Very good to outstanding network performance with Gigabit Ethernet and WiFi (802.11n / 802.11ac)
  • Fastest internal storage I’ve seen in any device tested so far
  • Decent platform for 3D games
  • Skype working fine with USB webcam
  • Working OTA firmware upgrade
  • Active support forums


  • HDMI – DTS HD pass-through not working yet; CEC not working; Video output resolution set in settings is not always used at next power on, and may fall back to 1080i50. I’ve also noticed the resolution switch to 2160p25 (instead of 2160p60), after playing some videos.
  • A few video playing OK in MX Player has issues in Kodi XBMC for MINIX.
  • Lack of DTS and Dolby support for PCM (downmix) output. Does not affect Kodi users, or people with an AV receiver.
  • DRM installed, but lacks Widewine Level 1 required for full HD and 4K video streaming in some apps (e.g. Netflix)
  • USB hard drive partitions (NTFS / exFAT) reported as having 10MB free only, basically rendering the partitions read-only. (likely bugs related to having multiple partitions on a single hard drive)
  • Some small UI issues – Mouse pointer looks quite small at 4K resolution, list of apps shown in chronological order instead of alphabetical, Kodi folder empty in home screen after firmware update.
  • System may be stuck in standby mode (only happens once)
  • Potential USB port shutdown issue (only happened once when I disconnect a USB hub and all USB port turned off).
  • I could not login to Google Hangouts
  • Volume may be very low in Kodi (Workaround is to adjust volume in launcher first).

I also tested MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse in the review, and I really recommend it, this is an excellent input device, and IMHO better than MeLE F10 Deluxe due to larger keyboard keys, and a dedicated button to activate air mouse function.

I’ve seen some people ask whether they should upgrade their MINIX NEO X8-H Plus to NEO U1. In terms of performance, you won’t see much differences, and X8-H Plus should have higher 3D performance, but if you care about H.265 video playback at 4K @ 60 Hz, 10-bit HEVC support, 802.11ac WiFi, and get something that you can turn on/off with the remote control, then go ahead you won’t be disappointed.

MINIX NEO U1 sells for $129.99 on Amazon US, Amazon UK,, GearBest, GeekBuying and others, but I really recommend you spend $20 extra and get the bundle with MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse on these sites. The air mouse is also sold separately for $29.99 shipped.

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
  • 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.

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
  • 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 for $69.99 including shipping, or third parties like GeekBuying and Aliexpress with the latter now selling the device for just $49.99.

Raspberry Pi 2 / ODROID C1+ Development Boards Comparison

February 2nd, 2015 115 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.

Let’s get straight to the comparison table. [Updated on November 24 to use ODROID C1+ instead of ODROID C1]

Hardkernel ODROID C1+
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
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 4x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB for power Draw.
Video HDMI (with CEC) HDMI (with CEC), Composite (AV)
RPI2 adds composite
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


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.

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.

Mini Review of VidOn Box Android Media Player

January 16th, 2015 4 comments

Vidon Box is an Allwinner A31s based TV box made by, 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 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 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 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 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).


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:


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
EXT-4 Not supported
BTRFS Not supported

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.


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. 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 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
    • 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 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.

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

January 11th, 2015 59 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.


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 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
PCM Output
HDMI Pass-through
SPDIF Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK, but Video 1:1 Aspect ratio OK Not tested, since I don’t own an AV Receiver. 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 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.


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 -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:

Miscellaneous Tests


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.


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
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.


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.


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


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)


  • 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


  • 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.

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

January 6th, 2015 10 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.

Categories: AMLogic, Hardware, Linux Tags: Linux, TV box, xbmc, xunity