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Posts Tagged ‘xbmc’

OpenELEC For Amlogic Media Players – MXIII, Tronsmart Vega S89, TV110 and CX-S806 (S812)

December 18th, 2014 23 comments

XBMC / Kodi is now working pretty well on Android devices, and even automatic frame rate switching is available on some Android platforms such as MINIX NEO X6. But if you want a pure XBMC experience, you may consider XBMC/Kodi Linux distributions such as OpenELEC also providing support for some USB DVB tuner dongles and PVR function, both of which are currently unavailable in Kodi for Android. We’ve also seen OpenELEC released for M8 TV Box, but  Kerber, a Russian developer (or at least a Russian speaking developer) has also released OpenELEC 4.97.x for MXIII (Amlogic S802), Tronsmart Vega S89 (Amlogic S802), TV110 (Amlogic S805) , and CX-S806 (Amlogic S812) media players.

CX-S806_OpenELECThe forum post is dated on August 2014, but it has been updated on December 12 with more up-to-date images:

Download is a little slow, so I haven’t checked the content of the zipped firmware, but if it is the same as OpenELEC for M8, these should be “OTA update” files where you just need to copy to an SD card or a USB flash drive, and enter recovery mode to complete the update.

Rough instructions to enable PVR in OpenELEC:

  1. Select and enable one of two backends from OpenELEC repository:  VDR or tvheadend
  2. Configure VDR with pvr frontend VNSI add-on, or tvheadend with TVH / HTS client
  3. If you use tvheadend backend, you’ll get a Web based user interface @ ip_address:9981

Let us know if you try these, and your feedback in the comments section.

Thank to Ovidiu for the information.

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ODROID-XU3 Lite Board Ubuntu Review – Setup, Usability, and Performance

December 14th, 2014 13 comments

After testing ODROID-XU3 Lite with Android 4.4, and finding a workaround to some HDMI issues, I could finally try out Ubuntu, or rather Lubuntu with LXDE instead of Unity, in Hardkernel low cost octa-core development board. I’ll start this review by explaining how to install and setup Lubuntu on the board, followed by running various program to test the system usability as a desktop computer with LibreOffice, Chromium, XBMC, and 3D graphics, and finally run some performance tests with Phoronix Test Suit, build the Linux kernel natively, and transcode a video with avconf.

Setting Up Ubuntu on ODROID-XU3 Lite

All firmware images for ODROID development boards, can be found on odroid.in website, and if you want Ubuntu 14.04 image, go to ubuntu_14.04lts folder, to select the latest firmware file for your board. The latest image for ODROID-XU3 (Lite) is currently ubuntu-14.04.1lts-lubuntu-odroid-xu3-20141105.img.xz, it’s the same for micro SD card or eMMC boot. You should have gotten a eMMC to micro SD adapter if you’ve purchased an eMMC module from Hardkernel.

You can download, extract, and flash the image with dd (Linux) or Win32DiskImager (Windows). For example. in a terminal in a Linux computer:

wget http://odroid.in/ubuntu_14.04lts/ubuntu-14.04.1lts-lubuntu-odroid-xu3-20141105.img.xz
sudo apt-get install xz pv
xz -d ubuntu-14.04.1lts-lubuntu-odroid-xu3-20141105.img.xz
dd if=ubuntu-14.04.1lts-lubuntu-odroid-xu3-20141105.img | pv | sudo dd of=/dev/sdX

Where X is the letter of your micro SD or eMMC module inserted into your computer. Check the value carefully with lsblk before running the dd command, or you may lose your data stored on other drives connected to your computer,. For extra safety, you could also consider doing this procedure in a virtual machine, for example by running Ubuntu in VirtualBox.

Now insert the micro SD card or connect the eMMC module to the board, and you configure the boot switch between the Ethernet and USB ports as shown below using a pen or tweezers. For eMMC both must be in high position, whereas for SD card boot one must be down.

ODROID-XU3_Lite_Boot_Switch

Left: eMMC Boot; Right: Micro SD Card Boot

Now connect a keyboard, mouse, the HDMI cable, Ethernet, and/or other peripherals you may want to connect and power up the board by connecting the provided 5V/4A power supply. A typical boot should complete in around 22 seconds, although the first boot might take a little longer.

Lubuntu Desktop in ODROID-XU3 Lite

Lubuntu Desktop in ODROID-XU3 Lite

A this stage, the installation is nearly complete, and you should already have a usable system, however, if you’ll see that the rootfs partition is only 4.9GB with 310 MB available (that’s after installing LibreOffice):

df -h
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/mmcblk0p2  4.9G  4.4G  310M  94% /

Since my eMMC module has a capacity of 16GB, it would be nice to use all of it. Normally, you’d use fdisk/parted, and resize2fs  to get the full size, but Hardkernel provides ODROID Utility that can do just that among others. So click on the icon on the top right to launch the program, input the password (odroid), and after running apt-get update automatically, the following interface should appear.

ODROID_UtilityClick on Resize your root partition, and after making sure the root partition is in /dev/mmcblkp2, click <Yes> to continue and resize the root partition on your micro SD card or eMMC module. After a reboot, you can check all the available storage in a terminal:

df -h
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/mmcblk0p2   15G  4.4G  9.4G  32% /

9.4GB available out of a 15GB partition. Perfect! The setup is now complete.

Using ODROID-XU3 Lite as a Desktop Computer / Media Player

The Ubuntu image comes pre-loaded with Firefox, Chromium, Transmission, Arduino IDE, Abiword, PacmanFM, XBMC and a few others programs. Since they probably wanted to keep the image reasonably small, they did not install large program, but I install LibreOffice for a better office suite, and Nautilus for a file manager with Network Shares access:

sudo apt-get install libreoffice nautilus

The system is extremely responsive, and if you’re using a computer with a mechanical drive, ODROID-XU3 Lite will boot and load programs much faster than your full-blown Intel/AMD computer.

The best way to showcase ODROID-XU3 (Lite) capabilities is to shoot a video, so I’ve just done that showing:

  1. 20 seconds boot
  2. ODROID Utility options
  3. List of installed applications
  4. LibreOffice (Writer)
  5. Chromium – Multi-tabs, YouTube (embedded / full screen; VP9 / H.264/AVC1), and Candy Crush Saga (Flash game) in Facebook
  6. 3D hardware acceleration with es2gears
  7. XBMC Media Player with 2D/3D OpenGL ES and hardware video decoding.
  8. Power off

I’ve also opened a terminal running htop to show the eight cores CPU usage during these tests.

Side note: Since my camera (Canon Powershot A2300 HD) is pretty poor at shooting videos of screens, I’ve used SJ1000 action camera instead as the image is much sharper, but there’s a fisheye effect due to the wider angle of such camera. There are some tools in Linux including Python scripts and KDEnlive that can remove the fishing effect, but they introduce some aliasing, which does not look nice in this type of video, although it’s probably acceptable for content without text or thin lines.

Based on these tests, ODROID-XU3 Lite can be used as a desktop replacement or an XBMC media center, but you have to be aware of some limitations:

  • YouTube embedded videos play usually well, and 360p/480p full screen video play quite well, but the user experience is not very good with 1080p full screen videos, either with VP9 or H.264 codec.
  • Adobe Flash is not pre-installed, but in Chromium, it should be quite easy to install libpepperflash.so to enable Flash support. I have not tried, but normally, flash performance on ARM is rather subpar compared to x86.
  • The window manager may not be hardware accelerated with the GPU.

For all other uses, ODROID-XU3 Lite is clearly the best ARM Linux platform, I’ve tried so far, with a fast eMMC, 2D/3D hardware accelerated graphics (for apps that support OpenGL ES only), and hardware video decoding.

Other Use Cases and Performance

Before starting some benchmarks, I’ll check what type of Exynos 5422 I have in my system:

root@odroid:~# dmesg | grep BIN                                                 
[    0.355271] [c6] CPU Info : Samsung Exynos5422 Soc is BIN2

BIN1 is for the Exynos 5422 processor clocked up to 2.2 GHz found in ODROID-XU3 board, and BIN2 is limited to 1.8 GHz, and normally found in the Lite version of the board which I’m reviewing right now.

Phoronix Suite Benchmarks

Antutu is the most famous benchmark in Android, but in Linux, Phoronix Test Suite is the reference. It’s a bit more complicated to use than Antutu, but more flexible, and throrough.

sudo apt-get install php5-cli php5-gd php5-gd
wget http://phoronix-test-suite.com/releases/repo/pts.debian/files/phoronix-test-suite_5.4.0_all.deb
sudo dpkg -i phoronix-test-suite_5.4.0_all.deb

After apt-get install,. I had to run “sudo apt-get install -f” to complete the installation.

Than I’ve followed the instructions here, and selected four tests from the suite to test audio encoding, multi-core file compression, server, and disk I/Os:

phoronix-test-suite batch-benchmark pts/encode-mp3 pts/compress-7zip pts/apache pts/iozone

It turns out the iozone test for disk I/O takes nearly five hours, and recently my computer tends to turn off randomly, and since I started the test from an ssh console, the test got interrupted, so I only ran encode-mp3, compress-7zip, and apache benchmarks which last only about 15 minutes in total.

Out of the three test, compress-7zip failed because of a lack of memory:

[c4] Out of memory: Kill process 9593 d
[16693.088181] [c4] Killed process 9593 (7za) total-vm:1844536kB, anon-rss:1509B

So the whole Phoronix benchmarks did not exactly work out as expected, but you can find the result for MP3 encoding and Apache tests @ http://openbenchmarking.org/result/1412146-LI-20141214131

ODROID-XU3-Lite_Phoronix_Intel_Core_i3_radxa_proI’ve compared the ODROID-XU3 Lite results to some recent results on Openbenchmarking website including an Intel Core i3-4150 quad core system (cpu-ubuntu), an older Intel Atom N570 system (2G), and Radxa Pro board powered by Rockchip RK3188 processor. So Exynos 5422 can’t match a recent Core i3 processor yet (which by itself costs more than ODROID-XU3 Lite board), but does well against N570 netbook processor, and is about twice as fast as Radxa Rock Pro board in these two tests.

Mainline kernel compilation

People may want to use this powerful low cost Octa core board in build farm, so I though it would be fun to try building Linux mainline kernel natively. Let’s installing dependencies, and get the source latest Linux release (3.18) first.

sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev gcc make git exuberant-ctags
git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git
cd linux-stable
git checkout -b stable v3.18

Ubuntu 14.04 comes with gcc 4.8.2 only, but this compiler will break Linux mainline build, so I had to install gcc 4.9 instead:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-toolchain-r/test
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gcc-4.9

You’ll also note some ODROID boards are already part of mainline, probably with partial support, but unfortunately ODROID-XU3 (Lite) kernel has not been upstreamed yet.

root@odroid:~/linux-stable# ls -l  arch/arm/boot/dts | grep odr                 
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   8334 Dec 14 14:11 exynos4412-odroid-common.dtsi        
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   1310 Dec 14 14:11 exynos4412-odroidu3.dts              
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root    829 Dec 14 14:11 exynos4412-odroidx2.dts              
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   1691 Dec 14 14:11 exynos4412-odroidx.dts

Anyway, let’s build the kernel for Exynos processor, and see how fast the board can compile a Linux kernel:

make exynos_defconfig
time make -j8 CC=gcc-4.9
...
real    5m43.746s
user    31m25.235s
sys     4m11.130s

So it takes less than 6 minutes to build the kernel on ODROID-XU3 Lite, about 4 times longer than on a powerful, but much more power hungry (300W) AMD FX8350 based computer. In other words, it should be possible to achieve the same performance as my computer using 4 or 5 ODROID-XU3 Lite boards in a mini build farm using distcc compilation for about the same price, but only a fraction of the power consumption, and of course native compilation has advantages over cross-compilation, since some tests may have to be skipped for the latter.

Video Transcoding with avconv

Finally, one follower on G+ asked me to test MPEG2 to H.264 video transcoding with ffmpeg. The latter does not seem to be available, and as been replaced by avconc, so I installed libav-tools instead, and ran the transcoding.

sudo apt-get install libav-tools
time avconv -i big_buck_bunny_1080p_MPEG2_MP2_25fps_6600K.MPG \
-vcodec libx264 -minrate 300k -maxrate 300k -bufsize 1835k bbb-h.264.avi
avconv version 9.16-6:9.16-0ubuntu0.14.04.1, Copyright (c) 2000-2014 the Libav s
built on Aug 10 2014 18:32:09 with gcc 4.8 (Ubuntu/Linaro 4.8.2-19ubuntu1)
Guessed Channel Layout for  Input Stream #0.1 : stereo
Input #0, mpeg, from 'big_buck_bunny_1080p_MPEG2_MP2_25fps_6600K.MPG':
Duration: 00:00:44.74, start: 0.240000, bitrate: 7159 kb/s
Stream #0.0[0x1e0]: Video: mpeg2video (Main), yuv420p, 1920x1080 [PAR 1:1 Dc
Stream #0.1[0x1c0]: Audio: mp2, 44100 Hz, stereo, s16p, 160 kb/s
[libx264 @ 0x6c9c0] using SAR=1/1
[libx264 @ 0x6c9c0] MB rate (734400000) > level limit (2073600)
[libx264 @ 0x6c9c0] using cpu capabilities: ARMv6 NEON
[libx264 @ 0x6c9c0] profile High, level 5.2
Output #0, avi, to 'bbb-h.264.avi':
Metadata:
ISFT            : Lavf54.20.4
Stream #0.0: Video: libx264, yuv420p, 1920x1080 [PAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], q=-1--1c
Stream #0.1: Audio: libmp3lame, 44100 Hz, stereo, s16p
Stream mapping:
Stream #0:0 -> #0:0 (mpeg2video -> libx264)
Stream #0:1 -> #0:1 (mp2 -> libmp3lame)
Press ctrl-c to stop encoding
frame= 1035 fps= 8 q=55.0 size= 30701kB time=40.52 bitrate=6206.7kbits/s

It took 2 minutes 31 seconds to encode a 44 seconds video, so real-time 1080p video transcoding is currently not feasible with avconv / ffmpeg.

Have said that, Exynos 5422 supports video decoding and encoding, so it should be possible to write a program using the MFC (Multi-Format Codec) driver for Exynos. I could not find any sample code, but having a look a XBMC source code for ODROID boards might be a start, since it’s using the MFC drivers for decoding.

ODROID-XU3 Lite can be purchased directly from Hardkernel for $99 + shipping, or through distributors like Ameridroid (USA) or Pollin Electronics (Germany). Adding an eMMC module, an HDMI cable, and the serial debug board to your order is recommended, although you could replace the eMMC with a fast micro SD card (class 10 or greater) for a still decent performance.

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Hisilicon Hi3798M Quad Core Android TV Box with USB 3.0, and 4K / HEVC Support Sells for $53

December 8th, 2014 2 comments

I’ve been informed about a quad core Cortex A7 TV box supporting 2160p output, H.265 codec and featuring a USB 3.0 port, that’s currently selling for just $52.99 on Aliexpress including shipping, as well as Ebay for $62 from the same seller. Only “quad core ARM cortex A7″ was listed in the specs, and the exact processor was not mentioned, but I could see marketing material about “Q3 quad core” used, and a quick search redirected me to Himedia Q3 Quad Core also powered by an Hisilicon processor, but a different device. So I decided to contact the seller (“Buyforsure”) who quickly replied it was indeed powered by Hisilicon Hi3798M processor.

Hisilicon_quad_core_TV_box

The model is called BFS 4KH on Aliexpress/Ebay, but that name has probably been made up by the seller, so it will also be found under other name. Nevertheless here are the specifications of this low cost 4K TV Box:

  • SoC – HiSilicon Hi3798M V100 quad core ARM Cortex A7 @ 1.5GHz + quad core ARM Mali-450MP GPU.
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB NAND Flash
  • Video Out – HDMI 1.4a with HDCP 1.2, and composite RCA output
  • Audio Output – HDMI, and L/R stereo output (RCA)
  • Video Codecs – MPEG1/2/4, H.264/AVC, H.265, VC-1, REALVIDEO 8/9/10, XviD, DviX, VP6 ,etc.. up to 2160p
  • Audio Support – MP3, WMA, AAC, APE, FLAC, WAV, MKA, DTS, DTS HD, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD,
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with external antenna
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • Misc – Power switch (On/Off)
  • Power Supply – N/A
  • Dimensions – N/A

4KH_Media_player_Hisilicon_Hi3798M_USB_3.0

The box runs Android 4.4.2 with Google Play support, and XBMC pre-installed. It ships with an IR remote control, a power adapter, and an HDMI cable. Supported file systems include NTFS, FAT32, and EXT2/3. In theory, it’s great to have a USB 3.0 port, but it becomes pretty useless, as least for storage devices, if all you have is 10/100M Ethernet, or 802.11n Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, this HiSilicon processor only features an 10/100M Ethernet PHY, so it’s a limitation from the processor itself, and not the device. The power on/off switch is mechanical, but power control is allegedly handled by an MCU, which could allow clean power off, and power on from the remote control.

I’ve included a block diagram for Hi3798M for reference below. Also it only shows 1080p60 for the video decoder, the product brief specifies 4K x  2K video decoding is indeed supported.

Hi3798M V100 Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

Hi3798M V100 Block Diagram (Click to Enlarge)

Thanks to Gabe for the tip.

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Zidoo X9 Android Media Player Features an HDMI Input Port with PVR & Time Shifting Functions

December 5th, 2014 9 comments

I’ve recently tested two Android TV boxes with an HDMI input, namely HPH NT-V6 and M-195, and with the firmware they had at the time of review, the HDMI input just acts as a dumb HDMI input port, and there was nothing much I could do with it. Now comes Zidoo X9, another Android TV box powered nby Mstar MSO9810 that also comes with an HDMI input port, but this time, they’ve implemented a PVR function, so if you have a low end satellite, cable, or terrestrial receiver, you can connect it to Zidoo X9 and record programs, which makes it much more useful.

Zidoo_X9Zidoo Z9 specifications:

  • SoC – Mstar MSO9180D1R quad core Cortex A9 processor up to 1.5GHz with octa-core ARM Mali-450MP6 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot
  • Video Output / Input –  HDMI output up to 4K, HDMI input with PVR and Time Shifting support, and AV port (Composite + stereo audio)
  • Audio I/O – HDMI Out and In, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • (Main) Video Codecs – H265, VC-1, WMV-HD, MPEG1/2/4 up to 4Kx2K, etc..
  • Audio Codec – MP3, AAC, AC3, DTS-HD Master, TrueHD 7.1 pass-through, etc…
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, Dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (MT7632 module), Bluetooth 4.0. Dual external antennas.
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 host ports.
  • Misc – ON/OFF switch, reset pinhole, LCD display on front panel
  • Power Supply – N/A
  • Dimensions – 187 x 127 x 27 mm (aluminum enclosure)

It looks very similar to Kaiboer F5, but they’ve added dual bad Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, and I understand the firmware is completely different.

The device runs Android 4.4.2 with Google Play Store, a custom version of XBMC optimized for Mstar MSO9810, and an interesting user interface called ZIUI. If you are mainly interested in HDMI in function, jump to 5:49, where you’ll see the configuration menu for PVR function that allows to record in HD, VGA, FHD resolution and MP4 or TS container, and specific the starting date/time. H.264 is used to encode the video, and you can choose the recording path, for example on SD card or USB hard drive. Warning: If you are a member of the grammar/vocabulary police, this video may make you  faint / feel unwell.

Zidoo X9 can be purchased for $169 on Amazon US, but I can’t find it anywhere else. You may be able to find more information on ZidooX9 product page, and ask questions on the Forums.

Thanks to Harley for the tip.

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Mini Review of Jesurun T034 Android TV Stick Featuring a Gigabit Ethernet Port

December 5th, 2014 1 comment

The vast majority of Android TV sticks only provide Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet, but Jesurun T034 is one of the rare TV stick that also features an Ethernet interface, and a Gigabit one at that. I’ve already listed specifications and uploaded pictures of the device, so today it’s time for a review. I’ve reviewed so many Rockchip RK3288 devices in the past, so I won’t write my usual full review, but I will focus on network connectivity, internal storage performance, stability / temperature measurements, as I’ve found high temperature to be problematic in another RK3288 TV stick, and I’ll quickly show the launcher, test the remote with the extension cable, and run Antutu 5.3 benchmark.

Jesurun T034 User Interface and Remote Control

I’ve connected the IR extension cable, an Ethernet cable, the RF dongle for Mele F10 Deluxe to the USB  port, and the RF dongle for Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad to the micro USB port of the device via a USB OTG adapter (not included with T034), as well as the power adapter. This is what it looks like on my messy desk.

Jesurun_T034_Ethernet_HDMI_TV_StickThe IR extension cable is on the right of the picture, and you can stick it something thanks to the 3M tape on the back of the IR receiver. I’ve inserted two AAA batteries in the remote, walked about 5 meters away, and it works as expected.

Boot time is ultra fast, and T034 boot is about 20 seconds, matching the quickest booting Android TV boxes on the market. The user interface is imply the stock Android home screen, with a 1920×1080 resolution.

Android Home Screen on T034 (Click for Original Size)

Android Home Screen on T034 (Click for Original Size)

The system feels fast, just like other RK3288 devices, and I had no problem installing few app I needed from Google Play.

Temperature Measurement and Stability

Based on my previous reviews, I’ve seen devices getting really hot, and sometimes choking when playing Riptide GP2, and some devices also failed to play an entire movie in XBMC. So I’ve tried both, and also added temperature measurements while idles and right after Antutu benchmark completes. I measure the maximum temperature with an IR thermometer scanning both the both and bottom of the case.

Temperature
Top Bottom
Idle (7-hour) 45 °C 50 °C
Antutu 5.3 64 °C 72 °C
Riptide GP2 (15 minutes) 75 °C 80 °C
Full movie (after 1 hour) 60 °C 60 °C

So it gets hot, but not that much more than full-sized TV boxes, and it never got hot enough to actually reboot itself, so I found Jesurun T034 to be pretty stable, despite its small form factor.

XBMC 13.0-ALPHA12 (Compiled: August 22 2014) is pre-installed with this firmware, so that’s the one I used, but for Rockchip RK3288, it’s probably better to use the SPMC apk I tried in my Open Hour Chameleon review. At first, I planned to watch a new movie (AVI/Xvid/AC3) but the frame rate was only 15 fps instead of 24 fps, so I skipped, and later I played my usual test movie (H.264) which played find for almost one hour, until it suddenly stopped. However, I could click again to resume the movie where it stopped.

Networking and Storage Performance

I had to test Ethernet since it’s the key selling point of this device compared to its competitors, and I also tested Wi-Fi, in case some people want to use it as an access point or server using the “Portable Hotspot” function in Android, and with Linux.

Throughput in Mbps (Click to Enlarge)

Throughput in Mbps (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve measured the raw Ethernet performance with iPerf, and the result is about the same as Open Hour Chameleon, and with 510 Mbps and 768 Mbps in either directions, Gigabit is working fnie, although it’s not optimal, but it’s good enough for USB 2.0 storage devices that you may attach to the stick.

iperf log:

------------------------------------------------------------
Server listening on TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.3 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  4] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.107 port 54166
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.107, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  153 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 35021 connected with 192.168.0.107 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec  3.57 GBytes   510 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec  5.37 GBytes   768 Mbits/sec

Unfortunately, Wi-Fi performance is not that good, although still usable to browse the web, and play 1080p YouTube videos for example, as least in my environment.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

The test used ES File Explorer to transfer a file between the internal flash and a SAMBA share.

A speedy internal flash is important for fast boot and app loading times which are affected by read speed, and a poor write speed may affect overall system performance, for example while installing apps.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

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

As expected from the boot time I got previously, the eMMC read speed is avery good (40 MB/s), and the write speed is not too bad at 10.50 MB/s, which strangely is higher than on Samsung eMMC specs (6MB/s). Tested with A1 SD benchmark app.

Jesurun T034 Antutu Benchmark

Finally, I’ve run Antutu 5.3 to check out if the CPU frequency and system performance was lowered in order to improve the stability of the stick..

Jesurun_T034_Antutu_5.3The score is 34,180 points which is only slightly lower than the usual 35,000 to 38,000 points I got with full-sized RK3288 media players.

The conclusion of this mini review is that T034 gets a little hot, but it does not seem to affect stability, Gigabit Ethernet works well, but Wi-Fi is the weakest for my recent reviews, and Rockchip RK3288 is still clocked @ 1.8 GHz providing a good Antutu score, despite the smaller form factor.

Jesurun T034 was provided to me by GearBest, which sells it for $79.98 with JT034CN coupon code (Valid until Dec 31, 2014). It can also be purchased on DealExtreme, or  GeekBuying. Few sellers use the name “Jesurun T034″, but if you look for MK802 V instead, or just T034, which should be exactly the same hardware, you’ll find it on Aliexpress, and Tinydeals.

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Review of Open Hour Chameleon Android Media Player

December 2nd, 2014 24 comments

Open Hour Chameleon is yet another Rockchip RK3288 based Android TV box, but it comes with aluminum enclosure, and boots from SD card instead of internal storage like all other devices I’ve seen on the market so far. Cloud Media (previously Syabas) also have a long history of making Linux based media players based on Sigma Designs processor, and when I worked on IPTV products, we used their PopCorn Hour has comparison platforms. So we should probably expect some interesting customization and features from the company. I’ve already posted pictures of Chameleon box and its board, so today, I’ll focus on reporting my experience with Android 4.4, and later I may also try their Lubuntu image.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Normally I quickly try the remote control, and get it out of the way. But this time, I’ve spent a little bit more time with the remote since they user interface is designed for the remote, and it also comes with an IR learning function with 5 keys, which may be convenient if your TV does not support HDMI CEC. I successfully recorded the power, source, mute, and volume buttons from my Panasonic TV remote control. so I could both the media player and my TV with a single remote. But in Android, it’s really useful to have a mouse and keyboard, so I switched to Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse.

I’ve inserted the 8GB class 10 SD card with Android 4.4 into the SD card slot of the device, and connect a bunch of cables and accessories: HDMI cable, Ethernet cable, the power adapter, one extra micro SD card, my USB hard drive, and a USB hub with two RF dongles  for air mouse and gamepad, a USB flash drive and a webcam. I’ve then turned the device with the mechanical ON/OFF switch on the rear panel. Boot time is bearable (1m20s), but significantly slower than on other RK3288 device with fast eMMC that can boot in 20 seconds.  It can probably been brought down by using a faster SD card.

Chameleon Launcher (Click for Original Size)

Chameleon Launcher (Click for Original Size)

By default the launcher and notifications do not show, and that’s fine if you simply use the IR remote control, but if you like to an air mouse, or a wireless keyboard / touchpad like Logitec K400, you’ll probably want to access the notification and the status bars. To do simply, simply go to the Settings->Advanced Settings->>Display, and tick “System bar” to show the system bar and notifications.

I had been told a new firmware was available before the review, which can be updated over the air, offline from a storage device, and by flash an SD card. Since I’m a big fan of OTA updates, I went to Settings->System->System Update, and the system found a new firmware, downloaded it, rebooted the device, and installed the new firmware automatically. Perfect!

Open_Hour_Chameleon_OTA_Update

The launcher mostly consists of folders linking to app or settings, allowing to add shortcuts for your favorite applications. If you have a lot of apps it may be cumbersome to browse through the list, as only one line is displayed at a time. The file manager included with the device does not look too bad, as it can handle both local and network storage, but I did not play with it too much, since I prefer using ES File Explorer.

The Settings app is called Easy Settings. Six main sections are provided in the app:

  • Network – For Ethernet and Wi-Fi.  The latter requires an external USB Wi-FI dongle, since Wi-Fi is not built-in
  • Screen – Adjust the scale of the display, and select the output resolution: 1080p 24/25/30/50/60Hz, 720p 50/60, 720x576p-50 or 720x480p-60. If you have a 4K TV, 2160p options should show up there too.
  • Localization – Language and Timezone
  • Audio – For audio output selection: Default Output, S/PDIF Pass-through, or HDMI Bitstream. It also listed my USB webcam as “Venus USB 2.0 Camera”, probably since it was detected as an audio device because of its microphone…
  • System – Local storage (show usage), System Update (OTA or offline), and Factory reset
  • Advanced Settings – Redirect to Android settings with the usual settings found in all other RK3288 devices.
Open_Hour_Chameleon_Easy_Setup

Easy Settings Main Menu

The 8GB SD card is partitioned into two partitions:  a 1.91 GB “Internal Storage” partition for apps, and a 4.11GB  “NAND Flash” partition for data. If you find the NADN flash is too small, you could always use a 32GB SD card instead of the 8GB card provided, and even top that with a 32GB “external” micro SD card.

The “About device” reports the model number as simply “rk3288″, with the system running Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux 3.10.0 kernel. The firmware is not rooted by default, but I used E3288 EZ-Root-Tool to do the job easily with a micro SD card.

If you are interested in checking even more details about the user interface and settings, I’ve shot a walk-through video, also including H.265 4K video playback in SPMC, and the Antutu score.

I could install various apps such as ES File Explorer, Antutu, Beach Buggy Blitz, CPU-Z, etc…, as well as one paid app (Sixaxis Controller). I also downloaded and installed Amazon AppStore without issues.

The power button at the back of the device is an ON/OFF switch, that cuts the power just as if you were to pull out the power cord, and I’ve not found a way to power off the device cleanly. All you can do is to enter standby mode with the remote control, or the power button in the status bar. Pressing the power button again reactivates the box. Mele F10 Deluxe can only enter standby, but not activate the device again. Cloud Media boasted Chameleon’s thermal design in their marketing materials, and for good reasons. After Antutu benchmark, I measured 35 and 34 °C on top and bottom of the enclosure using an IR thermometer, and after 20 minutes of play with Riptide GP2, the temperature went up to 40 and 38 °C. Compare that to a box like Orion R28 Meta which can reach temperature up to 67°C, and it’s not the worst offender. The temperature is also uniform on the top of the metallic enclosure, whereas others have hot zones.

If you worried that the SD card may negatively affect the performance of the device, you don’t have too worry, as I only noticed slowdowns once or twice while installing apps, with the most obviously downside being the slow boot time (1m 20s). Otherwise, Open Hour Chameleon performance feels just as fast and smooth as other Rockchip RK3288 with fast graphics, but contrary to other devices it stays cool (40 C or less) under all loads. Firmware is also stable, and I only hung once, when I tried to record a video message in Skype.

Video Playback

XBMC / Kodi / SPMC is not pre-installed in the firmware, but the company recommended me to install SPMC 13.3.4 apk apparently modified and optimized by RockChip and the SPMC team. I’m not sure how much different it is from SPMC found on Google Play or on SPMC website. Nevertheless, I downloaded and installed SPMC from that link into the box.

I connected to my SAMBA shares in Ubuntu 14.04, and started my usual list of videos, adding some 3D videos to the mix.

Videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus some H.265/HEVC videos, 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 – It’s playing sort of OK, but it could be more smooth (Playing at ~22 fps instead of 25 fps)
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container – 480p/720p/1080p– OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • RealMedia – RV8/RV9/RV10 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – 360p/720p/1080p – OK

Some higher bitrate videos all played fine in SPMC:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK, no problem even in fast moving scenes
  • 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
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (That’s over Gigabit Ethernet)

High definition audio codec (downmixed to PCM output):

  • AC3 – OK, but video does not feel that smooth
  • Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR –  OK

I don’t own an AV receiver, but some people found a hack for Dolby & DTS 5.1, and it appears to work, although a user reports noise during pause.

I played Sintel-Bluray.iso without issues, so Blu-ray ISO are supported. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play

Even though video playback performance / quality seems to have improved on RK3288, some 4K videos still have problems:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Starting OK, but many frames are dropped near the end.
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – The video is not smooth (Playing at ~24 fps instead of 29.970 fps). Also seeking may introduce artifacts that won’t go away, until I sought again.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK (but background blinks a bit)
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – SPMC reports 8 to 10 fps, and all four cores are maxed out at 100% CPU usage. (Software decode)

I’ve also added some 3D videos to my test. The anaglyph videos play normally, but these are pre-processed video and they are actually just like normal videos. I’ve also tested two stereoscopic videos (Over and Under) at 1080p and 2160p resolutions, and the system can’t really handle them:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 – Plays at 13 fps (instead of 60 fps)
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 – Audio only

I’ve never tried 3D videos before, so I’ve included a screenshot , but I assume it’s displayed the way it should be. I’d also like to add one or two 3D BD iso file to my test, but I haven’t found any so far.

1080p Over / Under Video in SPMC (Click to Enlarge)

1080p Over / Under Video in SPMC (Click to Enlarge)

Most of the AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB/IFO, FLV and MP4 videos in my library could play fine, except a few FLV which make SPMC exit, and the system return to the launcher. Finally I played a 2-hour video (1080p / mkv / h.264) to test stability.

So video playback in RK3288 is slowly improving, but some 4K video still have issues, some videos can’t play at their native frame rate,  and seeking may introduce artifacts in video. Stereoscopic 3D video can’t be played at an acceptable frame rate in SPMC, but it’s the first yime I test this type of video.

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

Network Performance (Ethernet)

Wi-Fi is not built-in in Open Hour Chameleon, but the company provides a Bluetooth / Wi-Fi USB dongle at extra cost. If was not included with my sample, so I skipped Wi-Fi performance, and only tested Ethernet.

I’ve transfered a 278 MB file between SAMBA and the SD card and vice versa. The SD card write speed is the bottleneck from SAMBA to SD card, as the file was transfered in one minute (4.63 MB/s), but from SD card to SAMBA, it’s clear Gigabit Ethernet is working just fine, as the transfer took just 22 seconds (12.63 MB/s). If I transfer from SAMBA to the USB hard drive (ext-4 partition), the throughput gets much higher at 26 MB/s in both direction with a 885 MB file.

Running “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line in iPerf app in Android, confirms the Gigabit Ethernet works, and performance is decent, without being outstanding, but at least good enough for any USB 2.0 storage device you may attach to the player.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in Mbps

iperf output:

Server listening on TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.3 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  4] local 192.168.0.104 port 5001 connected with 192.168.0.109 port 39823
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 192.168.0.109, TCP port 5001
TCP window size:  230 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  6] local 192.168.0.104 port 46062 connected with 192.168.0.109 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  6]  0.0-60.0 sec  3.46 GBytes   495 Mbits/sec
[  4]  0.0-60.0 sec  5.63 GBytes   806 Mbits/sec

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

The device does not come with Bluetooth, but the firmware supports Bluetooth, and the company sells a Wi-Fi / Bluetooth USB dongle for the device. I’ve tried two of my own USB Bluetooth but neither worked. I did try one of them successfully in ODROID-XU3 Lite in Android a few weeks ago, so in theory Chameleon should support it too if the firmware is updated with the right drivers.

Storage

A micro SD card and USB flash drive formatted with FAT32 could be mounted and accessed.
The box is also one of the few Android media player supporting EXT-4 file systems, the other one being M-195 media player. So FAT32, NTFS, and EXT-4 partitions in my USB 3.0 hard drive were support, and only BTRFS was not supported. However, I had to root the device in order to support writing to EXT-4 with ES File Explorer.

File System Read Write
NTFS OK OK
EXT-4 OK OK after rooting the device only
FAT32 OK OK
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

A1 SD Bench was used to test the bootable SD card provided with the player, as well as USB 3.0 NTFS performance. I could not measure EXT-4 performance, as A1 SD could not write to the partition, even after changing permissions for external storage.

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

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

USB NTFS read speed (30.75 MB/s) is good for a USB 2.0 device, but the write speed (10.22 MB/s) is the worst I have measured on a TV box so far, so some firmware optimizations are probably needed here. Albeit I could not test EXT-4 with A1 SD, I could transfer a file from/to EXT-4 at 26 MB/s, which mean the read and write speed to the EXT-4 partition should be over 26 MB/s.

Read and Write Speed in MB/s

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

Either Rockchip RK3288 SD interface is slow, or Cloud Media provided a cheap Class 10 SD card, as it delivers one of the weakest internal storage performance on record, and compared to devices with high speed eMMC, Chameleon is in another (lower) league. There’s even a large difference compared to ODROID-XU3 Lite with SD card (ADATA Class 10 – 16 GB) just next to OHC on the right of the chart, which doubles the read/write performance. The SD card reads at 15.65 MB/s, and writes at 5.54 MB/s, so I’m surprised I haven’t experienced much slowdowns during use, apart from the slow boot time.

Gaming

Candy Crush Saga, and Beach Buggy Blitz played extremely smoothly on this platform, Riptide GP2 had a decent frame rate with high quality graphics. I played Candy Crush with Mele F10 airm ouse, and the two other games with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad. I played Riptide GP2 for about twenty minutes (5 races) to test stability and temperature. As mentioned above, the enclosure temperature never exceeded 40 °C.

Open Hour Chameleon Benchmarks

Open Hour Chameleon must be the sixth Rockchip Rk3288 I’m testing, so I only ran Antutu 5.3 and 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme, and with respectively 36,525, and 7,563 points, the results are in-line with the other devices I tested. So no problem here.

Antutu 5.3

Antutu 5.3

Ice Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

Ice Storm Extreme (Click to Enlarge)

Conclusion

Open Hour Chameleon is a pretty good device, with a stable firmware, properly working Gigabit Ethernet, EXT-4 file system support for external devices, relatively decent video playback capabilities in SPMC (fork of XBMC), at least compared to earlier Rockchip RK3288, but that may mostly due to improvement in Kodi/SPMC itself rather than specific work from Cloud Media. Performance is very good despite the somewhat slow (Class 10) SD card provided with the device, and leading to a 80 seconds boot time. I also found the user interface a little awkward and frustrating to use, but maybe it’s just matter of getting use to it, and it should be easy to install your own launcher.

PRO:

  • Fast processor and excellent 3D graphics performance
  • Stable and fast firmware.
  • Gigabit Ethernet is working fine.
  • Video Output – 1080p support 24, 25 ,30 , 50 and 60 Hz output. 4K should also be supported (not tested).
  • NTFS, FAT32, and EXT-4 file systems supports (EXT-4 write requires root access)
  • Enclosure always cool (40 C max) due to thermal design
  • Support for OTA update (tested)
  • Video playback in XBMC (SPMC) improved compared to earlier RK3288 firmware
  • Skype is working OK (except video message recording)
  • SD card boot with support for Android and Lubuntu from the company. (Lubuntu not tested yet).
  • Support forums and Wiki

CONS:

  • Video playback issues – Some 4K video have problem, 3D stereoscopic videos not supported,  some videos can’t play at their native frame rate, seeking in video may generate artifacts.
  • Lack of automatic refresh rate switching
  • No clean power off available, only standby.
  • No built Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and my two USB Bluetooth dongles did not work with the box. So you may need to purchase the company’s Wi-Fi/BT USB dongle to get these features.
  • Google Hangouts does not work.
  • Slow NTFS write speed to USB hard drive
  • Slow boot time with provided SD card
  • Price is higher than other devices with equivalent specs, probably mostly due to the aluminum enclosure, and (hopefully) commitment to firmware updates.
Open Hour Chameleon is available for $149 on Cloud Media Store. They always mention the shipping schedule, but the product is currently mass-produced, so it’s not a pre-sale. The media player is also available on Ebay, and Amazon US, as well as Amazon DE for 159 Euros. If you need working Wi-Fi & Bluetooth, you can also purchase the supported Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module for $21.90.
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Imp Computer is an Ubuntu 14.04 mini PC Based on ODROID-U3 Development Board (Crowdfunding)

November 25th, 2014 3 comments

Hardkernel ODROID-U3 is a development board powered by Samsung Exynos 4412 quad core Cortex A9 processor that’s both small and cost effective at $59, not including required storage and shipping. An Israeli start-up named Imp Computer has now launched a mini PC of the same name, based on ODROID-U3 board, and running Lintux Ubuntu 14.04 with Cinnamon based Imp Desktop environment, and various pre-installed software packages like Chrome and Firefox web browsers, Kodi/XBMC, etc.., and somehow Microsoft Office with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook are also listed, which does not seem right on an ARM Linux machine, but they are apparently using Microsoft Office Online to achieve this feast.

Imp_Computer
Imp computer specifications:

  • SoC – Samsung Exynos 4412 Prime @ 1.7 Ghz with ARM Mali-400MP4 GPU @ 440MHz
  • System Memory – 2GB @ 880MHz
  • Storage – 8 or 16 GB internal storage (micro SD card)
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 Host ports, 1x USB 2.0 device for ADB/mass storage
  • Connectivity – 10/100Mbps Ethernet (LAN9730)
  • Video Output – micro HDMI
  • Audio Output – 3.5mm audio jack, micro HDMI
  • DC Power – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 10.92 x 10.92 x 3.05 cm

The mini PC comes with a power adapter, a USB Wi-Fi dongle, and a mini HDMI to HDMI cable.Imp_Computer_Ports

A wireless HDMI stick (DLNA, Airplay), and a wireless keyboard & trackpad are also available as options. One of the advantage of this device is that the software is fully open source, and it leverages the work done by Hardkernel and member of ODROID community for Ubuntu and Android support. Their solution appears to have brought several open source solutions together (Linux, ownCloud, XBMC, etc..) to make easier for the end-user.

Imp Desktop Including Microsoft Office Icon

Imp Desktop Including Microsoft Office Icon

The project is now on Indiegogo (fixed funding), where the developers aim to raise at least $100,000 for mass production. A $129 early bird pledge should get the 8GB storage version including required accessories such as power supply and cable, and once all 250 early bird perks are gone, it will go for $149. The premium edition version with 16GB storage is $199, which seems a steep markup for just 8GB storage extra, and maybe a better looking case (not so clear). Shipping is free to the US, and $15 to the rest of the world. Delivery is expected to be in March/April 2015.

You can also find some more details on Imp Computer website.

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MK808B Plus Android HDMI TV Stick Based on Amlogic S805 Sells for $36

November 18th, 2014 22 comments

You can get a cheap an decent H.265 capable Android TV box for less than $50 with MXQ S85, but MK808B Plus may be the cheapest H.265 capable player on the market, as the Amlogic S805 based Android TV stick sells for just $35.99 on Aliexpress including shipping (promotion valid for 6 days). [Update: Apparently the seller “changed his mind”, and nobody could actually buy for $35.99, so the best option is with GeekBuying for $39.99, also a promotion for the first 1,000 pieces or 10 days whichever comes first] [Update Dec 9, 2014: Promotion for $29.99 on Gearbest with MK808BCN coupon valid until January 9, 2015].

MK808B_PlusMK808B Plus specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S805 quad core ARM Cortex A5 @ 1.5GHz with quad core Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB NAND flash + micro SD slot up to 32GB
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0.
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 1.4b (female)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 ports + 1x mini USB OTG port + 1x mini USB for power
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 88 x 32 x 16 mm
  • Weight – 30 grams

The device ships with a micro USB OTG adapter, an HDMI cable, a power adapter with a USB cable, and a user’s manual. Compared to full-size Amlogic S805 players, you’ll lose Ethernet, optical S/PDIF, and usually one or two USB ports. It runs Android 4.4 with the MediaBox user interface, and is pre-loaded XBMC just like its big brothers.

The normal price is $45 to $50, and after the promo ends it can also be purchased on Ebay, Aliexpress, and GeekBuying. The latter will start a promotion on November 19 (tomorrow) selling the device for $39,99.

Thank you Gabe!

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