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Posts Tagged ‘xbmc’

Raspberry Pi 2 / ODROID C1 Development Boards Comparison

February 2nd, 2015 107 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
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 14 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 19 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 7 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 41 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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WeTek Play Review with Android 4.2.2 Firmware v1.1.1

December 29th, 2014 11 comments

I had already reviewed WeTek Play Android DVB-S2 STB this summer, but at the time it was still an early sample, so the company asked me to review it again with the latest firmware that includes bug fixes and new features such as WeCloud Antenna IPTV service with over 180 Live TV channels, now that they’ve officially launched WeTek Play with either a DVB-S2 tuner as in my sample, a DVB-T/T2/C tuner, or no tuner at all. You can find pictures of WeTek Play in my unboxing post. As usual the review will include my first impressions, video testing, and various benchmark, but I’ll also have sections for WeCloud Antenna Live TV over IP service, and WeTek Theater for live TV from my satellite dish.

OTA Firmware Update

But first of all, I’ll test OTA firmware update, as many companies claim to support OTA updates, but you often end up have to sideload the firmware, or worse, use some Windows based upgrade tool. I already already updated the firmware to Firmware v1.1 last week which added WeCloud Antenna app, CPU overclocking, and 1080p24 support among other features, but as I clicked on WeTek Update icon in the main menu, I was greeted with the message “There is a new update available!” as shown below.
WeTek_Play_V1.1.1_Firmware_UpdateWeTek Play v1.1.1 firmware adds support for Google Widevine, useful for online video apps like Voyo, HBO GO, etc…, and EXT2/3/3 file system support for external hard drives, as well as various other improvements. You can to enter mouse mode with the remote, to scroll down, and click on Download. After the download is complete (a few hundred megabytes), click on Update Now, and Start Update to complete the process.
WeTek_Play_V1.1.1_Firmware_Update_ApplyAfter a short time, the system will reboot into recovery mode with the typical Android update logo, and complete the installation.

Android_Firmware_Update_LogoThe box will then boot into Android automatically, so it just takes three clicks to update the firmware, with very little interaction from the user. Ideally, I’d prefer a one-click update, but overall it was an hassle free experience, and it also kept all my settings, and apps.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

WeTek Play come with an RF air mouse also integrating an IR transmitter to handle power on and off, which also means you can turn on and off comfortably from your sofa using the provided remote control. The air mouse works quite well, and a button at the back allows to conveniently switch between mouse or remote control modes. There’s no QWERTY keyboard on the air mouse, so I also use Mele F10 Deluxe to input text when needed, also it should be possible to use the soft keyboard together with mouse mode to input short texts. You’ll also need two AAA, as there’s no built-in battery in WeTek remote control / air mouse. The “recent apps” key on the remote does not seem to do anything, but it might be I got an early engineering sample. I’ve also connected an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable, my satellite dish cable, a USB hard drive, and a USB hub with a webcam, two RF dongles for MeLe air mouse and a Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad, as well as a USB flash drive.

The boot takes 90 seconds, which lasts much longer than the 40 seconds I had for my initial review. Just in case some of the devices caused issues, I disconnected all USB devices, and tried again. Results: 64 seconds, so at least one of the device slows down boot time by 25 seconds, but for some reasons (extra features, or apps installed), booting take 65 seconds instead of 40 seconds during my first review.

Normally, the very first time you boot the device, you should go through a Welcome Wizard to select your language, network connectivity, check for the latest firmware (OTA update), activate your device, login to  Google Play, and optionally configure your satellite reception. But since I had done that in August already, I did not have to do it again even after the firmware update. The main screen has not changed.

Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

From top to bottom, and left to right, we’ve got the date, time, and weather forecast (and I could find Chiang Mai this time!) on the top row, then 5 icons for TV (WeCloud Antenna / WeTek Theater), Apps, Web, Local (File manager), and XBMC, and in the last row some user configurable shortcuts. On the left side of the screen four more icons are accessible for Settings, Power Off, Connected to Internet (Network settings) and Recent Apps, as well as shortcuts to connected external USB drives. The user interface is 1280×720, but for some reasons when I take screenshots with Screenshot Ultimate app the captured image is 1280×1080, with an offscreen black zone.

The “Setting” icon takes you to a “WeTek Settings” page with access to Android Settings, Weather Settings, and WeTek Services. The weather settings let you set your location, temperature unit, and update period (default is 30 minutes). WeTek Services are actually part of the Android Settings, and you can activate your device, check services status, as well as Backing up your setting in the cloud thanks to partnership with Box.com, but it’s not something I tried. There’s also a new option for WeControl, an app to control the box from your Android smartphone or tablet.

About_WeTek_PlayThe Android settings are mostly the same, except for some extra features and options. The Wireless & Networks section has not changed at all with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, Data usage, and “More” for VPN and portable hotspot support. Digital audio output menu has been added in the Sound section to select PCM, SPDIF passthrough, or HDMI passthrough. The Display section is mostly the same with  overscan, but they’ve added 1080p 24 Hz to video output selection: 480cvbs / 576cvbs, 480i / 576i, 720p, 72p50, 1080p, 1080p24, 1080p50, 1080i and 1080i50. Another new option is HDMI-CEC to enable/disable HDMI-CEC, select One key Play, One key power off, and auto change language. A single 1.89GB partition is available for apps and data out of the 4GB NAND flash, and it can fill up pretty quickly, as at the end of the review, I only had 240 MB free space, but that includes all apps I had to install for the review, plus screenshots, and a 280MB video I used for testing networking performance. The company also added a new Overclock section, to boost the device performance a little bit. The “About WeTek” section displays the model number “WeTek Play”, and Android 4.2.2 is running on top of Linux kernel 3.0.50, just like for the earlier firmware.

My system was already connected to Google Play from my previous review, so i mostly add to update apps, and install a few ones. WeTek Play is a device certified by Google and include Google Widewine DRM which means apps should work pretty well, including some online video app that may not work with most Android TV boxes. But for some reasons, the Play Store reported Antutu, Antutu Video Tester, and iPerf as being incompatible with my device. When I updated the app it often got stuck “waiting for network”, but it’s most likely due to network issues that I had with Ethernet and Wi-Fi, and the company told me the networking issues were only happening with engineering samples, and retail products won’t be affected.

You can turn on and off the system cleanly from the power button on the unit or the remote control. There’s no standby mode, only on and off. You won’t see the power on message as in other Android boxes, but there’s will be an animation duplicating the effect on old TVs, and once the box is really off, you’ll see the LED on the unit turn red. I used the box with Overclocking on all the time, and after Antutu benchmark, I measured the max. temperature to be 52°C on the top, and 60°C on the bottom, with exactly the same temperature measurements after 15 minutes playing Riptide GP2.

Amlogic AML8726-MX processor is an older processor, and at times reaction times may be a little slow, like 2 or 3 seconds after click, so a few times I ended up clicking twice. The flahs is a little slow too, so when you install or update apps, you should probably not expect to do other tasks. It’s also possible the issue may have been amplified as I got “space running low” warning a few times. Apart from that, the firmware is rock solid, and most of the time responsive enough. Despite the 12V/1.5A (18W) power adapter, if I connect all USB devices mentioned above, the hard drive partitions won’t mount, so I had to remove the USB flash drive to make it work.

Video Playback

XBMC 14.0–alpha1 is pre-installed in the firmware, and that’s probably the exact same version of in August, and it was compiled in June 4, 2014. Since WeTek is a Kodi sponsor, it’s probably a good idea to simply install Kodi 14 from kodi.tv, but as usual, I simply tested the version provided in the firmware, as it’s what most people would use. The videos are played from a SAMBA share using the Ethernet connection of the device. I had already configured SAMBA in XBMC and ES File Explorer without issues in my previous review, so I did not have to reconfigure again. Unsurprisingly, the results are very similar to the August firmware.

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

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK, but the 1080p video is playing at 20 fps instead of 25 fps as reported by XBMC debug screen.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 all play, but only at 12 fps instead of 50 fps (software decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p OK, 720p playing @ 17fps with some audio cuts, 1080p playing in slow motion and frequent audio cuts (Software decoded, VP8 not supported by AML8726-MX)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – 360p OK, 720p playing @ 12 fps with audio cuts, 1080p slideshow and frequent audio cuts

I’ve also tested some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – audio only
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – Beginning is slow but after it’s OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Plays at 15 fps instead of 29.975 fps.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – Does not show video (Played from 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  OK  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 100% CPU usage)  OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1  OK  Video starts, but then hangs without buffering. Network issue?
TrueHD 5.1  Audio cuts, and video choppy  No audio
TrueHD 7.1  Audio cuts, and video choppy  No audio
DTS HD Master  Audio cuts  No audio
DTS HD High Resolution  Audio cuts  No audio

I’ve have re-tried the “PCM output – XBMC” test by playing video from a USB hard drive, and perform is much better, but I still got one or two audio cuts while playing TrueHD and DTS-HD audio files, so the system won’t support high bitrate videos with “advanced” audio codecs very well, at least via PCM output. I suppose it might be better using pass-through (if it works), as the box won’t need to decode audio.

Sintel-Bluray.iso could play OK, although XBMC reported playback at 20 to 22 fps instead of 24 fps. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play. 4K videos are not supported by AML8726-MX, but I still tried to play two to make sure XBMC does not crash, and the system simply played the videos with audio only.
I’ve also tested 1080p SBS (Side-by-Side) and Over/Under 3D videos. My current Panasonic TV is not a 3D TV according to the specs, so I can only check if video decoding is working.

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

I also tested several AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB/IFO and MP4 videos, and the majority of videos could play fine without audio/video sync issues, and at or close to native frame rate. Only some FLV videos would not play, only outputting audio. A 2-hour video could be played until the end, but around the 19 minutes mark, the video paused automatically (maybe network issue in my engineering sample), but I could resume without issues. XBMC reported around 14,000 skipped frame in this video, which happens with some other media boxes too.

So overall WeTek Play is fairly good at playing videos, but it won’t support VP8/VP9 and H.265 video files very well because AML8726-MX does not support these video codecs, and if you plan to play Blu-ray with some lossless high-definition audio codecs, playback might not be super smooth over the network, but a bit better from the USB hard drive.

I’ve also installed Antutu Video Tester, but the test got stuck at 40%, so I could not get a score.

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

WeTek Theater DVB-S2 / PVR App

The TV icon in the main screen will pop-up a window asking you to select between WeCloud Antenna (IPTV) or WeTek Theater (DVB), and you can make the default selection permanent, or be prompted each time. If you make the selection permanent, a long press on the TV icon, will pop-up the selection prompt again.

WeTek Theater was already part of this summers’ firmware, but at the time I had to input Thaicom 5 satellite coordinates (78.5° East) manually, while this time I just had to chose from a list of satellites, which makes setup much easier. I could not filter satellites by location/country however.

WeTek_Theater_Dish_Setup

To complete the setup, press 1 Scan channels,  select “Blindscan” mode, FTA channels, and All. I ended up with  66 TV channels and 25 radios. You can actually select FTA (Free-to-air) or Crypted channels, and since there’s no smartcard slot, I though only FTA channels would be available, but apparently a method (probably more or less legal) to decoded crypted channels using OSCAM (Open Source Conditional Access Module) as been posted on some forums. I have not tried. Nevertheless once scanning is complete, you can press OK, and start watching TV.

The EPG (Electronic Program Guide) is also available, but it may not support some languages such as Thai, as you can see from the screenshot below.

Wetek_Play_EPG_DVBYou can switch to mouse mode, and click on one of the program for scheduling viewing or recording to an external USB mass storage device. The “Book List” option will display current bookings. The system currently does not handle programming overlap, so for example if program A is shown between 22:00 and 22:30 and program B is shown between 22:15: and 23:30, there won’t be any warnings.

I’ve tried the PVR function manually on Thairath HD, one of the few HD channels available, by pressing the record button on the remote, and it works pretty well. The shows are recorded in TVRecordFiles in your chosen USB mass storage, and you can play them back with XBMC, or another video player app. TimeShifting function is available in the setup. Strangely, I could not find a working setup button in the remote, so to enter setup, I press the EPG key, and the back key. There are for main menu in WeTek Theater settings: Antenna Settings (For inital setup), Channel Options, Video Settings (aspect ration, and language options for audio and subtitles), and System (subtitle on/off, parental rating, passwordm, TTX region..). The most interesting part is Channel Options where you can edit channels, set some EPG settings, set or check the record storage and path,  manage PVR recordings, use TimeShifting, and enable/disable TS recording. TimeShifting is working as expected, recording 10 minutes of live video by default.

You may want to watch the embedded video in the next section to see WeTek Theater in action.

WeCloud Antenna IPTV Service

WeClodu Antenna is a complete new app introduce in the latest firmware, and currently includes over 180 Live TV channels from various countries. This service requires online activation, and you’ll be provided a card with a code, that you need to input on WeTek Signup page. If you don’t perform this step, trying to access WeCould Antenna app will results in error messages such as “lease provide username, password, UID and device type (ios, android, …)” or “Wrong username or password”. Once you’ve activated your device online, you should see a list of live TV channels with some EPG data.

WeCloud_Antenna_Live_Channels

Live Channels (Click for Original Size)

You can scroll down many channels. If you don’t watch BBC Word News, Bloomberg, ProSieven Max, you can re-arrange the listing in your online profile in WeTek website. You can also filter channels by clicking the top left blue icons (three horizontal bars), and select categories such as Music, Cultural, Italy, Arabic, Turkish, Sports, and so on.

You can also access EPG data for the channels that provide it in the EPG section.

WeCloud_Antenna_EPG

EPG (Click for Original Size)

In this view, you can click on a program, and setup a reminder. Contrary to WeTek Theater, you can only set viewing reminders, and it’s not currently possible to record live TV channels on WeCould Antenna. The settings include your contact details, and subscribed packages, currently only WeCloud Antenna. I’ve included a screenshot of BBC News so that you can evaluate the video quality.

BBC News Screenshot (Click for Original Size)

BBC News Screenshot (Click for Original Size)

WeCloud Antenna may be listed as a subscribed package, but the company confirm it will stay free, and no recurring yearly fees are needed. However, they may add some premium channels later on. I’ve also been promised a link to the 180 channels, which I’ll add later on. From what I’ve seen all channels in that list are legally free, no so piracy is involved.

For more details, about WeTek Theater and WeCloud Antenna, you may want to watch the video review below.

 Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

The network test consist in transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa, repeating the test three times. There’s a problem with Wi-Fi apparently because the box I have is an early engineering sample, and also when I opened the box, I broke the internal antenna connection, and I had to resolder it.  This means my sample a only a fair signal strength (2 bars out of 4), and from time to time transfer stalls. Ethernet also has some problem, as transfer may stall randomly during transfer in ES File Explorer. However, I managed to get iperf benchmark over Ethernet working OK for 60 seconds (the length of the test), and when it works, performance is acceptable.

Throughput in Mbps

Throughput in Mbps

iperf log:

Client connecting to 192.168.0.107, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  178 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 56818 connected with 192.168.0.107 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec   562 MBytes  78.5 Mbits/sec
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec   438 MBytes  61.2 Mbits/sec

The company told me the retail products would not have the Ethernet and Wi-Fi issues my engineering samples had, so I won’t take these into account in my conclusion.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

WeTek Play failed to find Infocus CS1 A83 tablet, but the tablet could fid the TV box, and the devices could pair just fine, and I managed to transfer pictures from the tablet to the TV box without issues.

I managed to use my Sony PS3 wireless gamepad clone using Sixias Compatibility Checker app.

Bluetooth Low Energy is not supported, because the system is running Android 4.2. We would have to wait for Android 5.0 firmware release to test whether this feature works.

External Storage

I could use an SD card formatted to FAT32 successfully. I’ve also connected my USB 3.0 hard drive with NTFS, EXT-4, FAT32, and BTRFS partitions, all partitions could mount, except BTRFS. However, the EXT-4 partition is read only so you can’t write to it.

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

I used A1 SD Bench to test internal storage and USB NTFS performance. I set the custom path to /storage/external_storage_sda1 for the NTFS, and the read speed ended up being 22.23 MB/s, and the write speed 11.27MB/s, strangely significantly lower than the ~25MB/s I got for both in my first review. Maybe I should defragment my NTFS partition from time to time… Not sure why though, as very little data is written to it, except during benchmarks.

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

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

A1SD reported the 4GB NAND flash in this system is the slowest ever with 9.5MB/s read speed, and a lowly 1.13 MB/s write speed, however I wonder if this results has not been impacted by the low disk space I had when doing the benchmark, as the device should really be unusable at times if it really had a 1.13 MB/s write speed, and I’m not sure we should trust these results.

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

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

USB Webcam

My UVC USB webcam could be used with both Skype and Google hangout, but the system felt like freezing when the video was on, and I could not move the mouse at all for several seconds at time, so to recover I had to press the Home button.

Gaming

I’ve tested three games: Candy Crush Saga, the new Beach Buggy Racing, and Riptitde GP2,  I used WeTek air mouse to play candy crush,  and Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad to play the two other racing games. All three games were very playable most of the time, but the advanced quality settings in Riptide GP2 automatically disabled some graphics features that are normally enabled in more powerful platform such as boxes based on Rockchip RK3288 processor. Riptide GP2 also also started to act funny after the third race where the 3D graphics started to freeze for short period of time, before resuming. Mars G01 gamepad can also be used in Android home screen, but the OK button is “X” instead of “A”.

WeTek Play Benchmark

I run CPU-Z to see the effect of enabling overclocking but I saw no differences with the max frequency reported to be 1.5 GHz. So instead I’ve been told they simply set the governor to “performance” when this is enabled. Last time, I got a score of 12,951 points in Antutu, but with Antutu 5.5, the new firmware, and performance governor the score went up to 14,365 points.

WeTek_Play_AntutuI also ran Vellamo 3.1 to get an alternative benchmark, and it confirms the hardware performance is rather low end by today’s standard.

WeTek_Play_Vellamo

Conclusion

By the end of 2014, WeTek Play is rather a low end hardware with a dual core Cortex A9 processor, 1GB RAM, 4GB flash, and at times, you can feel some limitations of the hardware, with sluggishness become apparent from time to time. However, the system is very stable, and WeTek has probably extracted the best in term of performance they could extract from the chosen hardware. I could not recommend this device is you main use to browse the web or play games, but if you just want to watch 1080p videos, watch one of the 180 Live TV channels, or live TV via the DVB-S2 (or DVB-C/T/T2 tuner found in other the other WeTek play model), and use the EPG and PVR function, it does the job.

PRO:

  • Stable firmware
  • User friendly remote control with IR for power, and air mouse function, and all buttons you would expect in Android
  • DVB-S2 tuner with very good app (WeTek Theater) supporting EPG, PVR, and TimeShifting features
  • Live TV app (WeCloud Antenna) with access to over 180 free-to-air channels from the Internet
  • Google Certified Device, also including Widevine Level 1 and Level 3 DRM required by apps like Voyo, HBO GO.
  • Decent video playback, except for VP8 (VP9) and H.265 which are only decoded by software, some high bitrate videos, and some 3D videos.
  • Support for multiple firmware image including Android and Linux, as well as support for CMW  and TWRP recoveries – See (old) list here, and download page on WeTek website. Android 5.0.2 firmware is currently worked on, as well as Android TV.
  • OTA updates (Tested successfully), Cloud backup (not tested)
  • 1080p 24Hz has now been added
  • Proper power handling (Clean on/off from remote control or unit)
  • External serial console port (for developers and troubleshooting)
  • Support Forums

CONS:

  • Older hardware which may feel sluggish at times, especially if you are used to faster platforms.
  • Some languages are not supported in WeTek Theater EPG (e.g. Thai languages)
  • UI set to 720p, which could be an issue for people requiring “true” 1080p output.
  • Automatic frame rate switching not available.
  • External USB hard drive partitions may not mount if you have some other USB devices, despite a 18W power supply.
  • Skype and Google Hangouts detect the camera, but are very slow (unusable)

I also had some critical issues with Ethernet and Wi-Fi transfers (stalling), but the company told me if was because I had an engineering sample, and these issues have all been fixed for the retail products, so I have not listed these in the CONS, trusting the company claims.

WeTek Play with DVB-S2 tuner can be purchased on the company’s website for 108.86 Euros including VAT and international shipping, so you should be able to pay less if you live outside European Union. A DVB-C/T/T2 version is available for the same price, and a version without tuner is sold for 98.86 Euros.

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Kodi 14.0 Helix Release

December 24th, 2014 3 comments

XBMC (name) is definitely dead, as developers of the popular open source “entertainment center” project have announced the first stable Kodi release – the new name of XBMC – with XBMC 14.0 Helix.

Kodi_14Key changes and new features include:

  • Update to FFmpeg 2.4.4 – Adds H.265 / HEVC and VP9 video codecs support. Software decode only.
  • Library Improvements – Scanning speed greatly improved, better UPnP support including with PlanOn and MediaBrowser servers.
  • New Configuration features – Add-on update controls, choice of virtual keyboard layouts for tablets and remote control users in order to support multiple languages.
  • Android, iOS and Embedded – 4K support for Amlogic S802, more ARM SoCs are now supported in Android, fast forward/rewind improvements. Airplay support fixed, except for Android. Freescale i.MX6 support for Kodi Linux.
  • Windows, OSX, and Linux – Audio playback improvements. DXVA video playback has been improved for Windows too. A critical Kodi Linux bug has been fixed by Intel, and hardware de-interlacing is now supported thanks to VAAPI video post processing implementation for Intel graphics.
  • PVR – PVR windows in Kodi have been rebuilt, and ATSC sub-channels are supported in Kodi 14. I understand PVR is currently not supported in Android.

Kodi 14.0 is available for download for Windows, Linux, Mac OSX, Android (ARM and x86),  Raspberry Pi, iOS, ATV2, and there’s also KodiBuntu, a Linux distribution pre-installed with Kodi. There’s still no announcement of a release of Kodi on Google Play Store, but you should be able to install SMPC 14 from the Play Store, a fork of Kodi with some patchsets for H.265 hardware decoding, and more.

Important! If you update from XBMC 13.2 to Kodi 14.0 make sure you back your setup first, for example with XBMC Backup add-on, because there’s no easy way to revert from Kodi 14.0 to XBMC 13.2 in case you change your mind. There may also be issues with skins resulting in a blank software keyboard, in that case try a new skin.

There will soon be minor releases Kodi 14.1, 14.2, etc.. for bug fixes, and Kodi 15 will be the next major release, whose name has apparently been chosen from that long list of suggestions, but not announced yet.

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