Mele A1000: AllWinner A10 (Cortex A8) Based Hackable Android STB

The Mele A1000 is an Android 2.3 IP Set-top Box (STB) powered by AllWinner A10 (Cortex A8) CPU with 512 MB RAM and 2 GB NAND Flash.  AllWinner A10 is the CPU to be used by the 15 USD (BOM Cost) Rhombus Tech Linux Computer, an alternative to the Raspberry-Pi. Since they do not have an alpha board yet, the Mele A1000 STB is apparently the development platform chosen by developers involved in Rhombus Tech low cost board while they wait for the hardware.

Mele A1000 Android IP Set-top box

Let’s have a look at the device specifications:

CPU: ARM CortexA8 1GHz (AllWinner A10)
Memory: DDR3 512MB RAM / 2 4GB Nand Flash
OS System: Android 2.3
External Storage: Supports SD card up to 32GB, supports 2.5″ SATA HDD up to 1TB, Supports max 16GB USB flash disk
Video coding: HD MPEG1/2/4.H.264.HD AVC/VC-1,RM/RMVB, Xvid/DviX4/5/6, RealVideo8/9/10, VP6
Video Format: ts/m2ts/tp/trp/mkv/mp4/mov/avi/rm/rmvb/wmv/vob/asf/flv/dat/mpf/mpeg
Audio Format: MP3/WMA/WMV/OGG/FLAC/MKV
Subtitle Format: SRT/SMI/SSA/ASS
Network interface: RJ45(10/100Mbps)
WiFi: 802.11b/g/n
Interfaces: SD/SDHC + 3 x USB HOST + OPTICAL + LAN + HDMI + VIDEO + L + R + VGA
Features: Internet TV box, Software application supported, 1080P media player, QQ/MSN/Skype etc.
Language: Simplified Chinese/Traditional Chinese/English
Accessories: 1 x 2.5 HDD cover
  1 x AV cable (130cm)
  1 x AC 100~240V power adapter (2-flat-pin plug / 110cm cable)
  1 x Remote controller (2 x AAA batteries not included)
  1 x Chinese & English manual

The device is available for 100.70 USD at Hong Kong based dealextreme.com with free shipping worldwide and 469 RMB (75 USD) + shipping on taobao and other Chinese websites. You could also buy it for 70 USD + shipping on aliexpress.com it’s not available anymore. I’ve just bought it on dealextreme.com (Bear in mind that delivery can be very slow with this company, like a few weeks or months…).

Since it has VGA output and Wifi support it may be cheaper than the Raspberry Pi for some people, as they may not need to buy an HDMI capable monitor and/or a WiFi USB dongle. I also like the fact that since it is based on Cortex A8, we should be able to run Ubuntu on it and possibly make use of the work done by Linaro.

As mentioned in the title, the Mele A1000 is hackable and has already been hacked with instructions available on Rhombus Tech wiki. The only  inconvenience with hacking this device is that you need to make 2 cables: one to connect to the UART port to see the console and another to connect to the internal USB connector to use ADB. At first since we need to update u-boot in the flash, I thought it would be brick-able, but A10 devices hacking instructions on elinux.org seem to confirm the device can always be upgraded via USB.

[Update: On the mailing list:

Summary: the A10 machines are unbrickable.
1. you can always update nand with livesuite, even the nand flash is blank.
2. you can use a special sd card image to flash nand no matter firmware  on nand is ok or not
3. The sd card boot priority is higher than nand, so if there is a bootable image  on sd card, nand is ignored.
You may not need the 2 cables. The USB cable is not really needed (unless you want to debug Android app and/or update the bootloader) and the UART cable might not be needed once/if the framebuffer console is enabled (It does not work for now). ]

You can get further development resources at the end of the post “AllWinner A10/A1X Processor Resources, Development Board and SDK” and in arm-netbook mailing list where developers hacking the Mele A1000 discuss.

If you are interested in the media player itself, you can see some screenshots of the user interface on Mele A1000 page.

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29 Replies to “Mele A1000: AllWinner A10 (Cortex A8) Based Hackable Android STB”

  1. I’ll keep the dealextreme steps and dates for info on delays:
    19/03/2012 – Order
    20/03/2012 – Order Confirmation (after submitting some papers to prove my identity)
    26/03/2012 – Packaging
    27/03/2012 – Shipped (Via Hong Kong Post)
    03/04/2012 – The parcel left Hong Kong
    07/04/2012 – Received !

  2. I was looking at remote control picture on dealextream and found that there i no way to enter any input from the user.
    Will it be possible to use browser on this device?
    On mele web site i found fly mouse F10 will it be compatible with this device?

    1. I haven’t received the device yet, but I supposed they have a soft keyboard and you use the arrow key + OK to enter text.
      It might be also possible to connect a USB keyboard and mouse.

      I don’t know fly mouse F10.

  3. I am using a4tech wirless mouse and keboard which has a nano receiver and uses a single usb port. a4tech doesn’t provide any driver for linux. Does linux has some standard driver for using wireless keyboard or mouse they are registered as Human Interface Device.

  4. Hi all…

    How can i port my u-boot.bin to Mele A1000

    How to enable ADB interface as they said in http://elinux.org/Hack_A10_devices. Because Mele A1000 doesn’t have any key, other key other than power key. But they said to press other than power key to enable ADB interface

    Thanks in advance

  5. @ cnxsoft

    Thanks cnxsoft…

    I am also proceeding as said in http://rhombus-tech.net/allwinner_a10/hacking_the_mele_a1000/. This link takes me http://elinux.org/Hack_A10_devices for dumping u-boot_mmc to Mele A1000.

    As of now
    1. I’ve created mmc_uboot.bin, i have downloaded ‘mele-ubuntu-lucid.img.lzma’ and i have idea to make boot-able SDCARD.
    2. I made usb and com-Port wiring as said in the above link and able to see boot log via com-port.

    My Question is..,
    1. How and where can i write my U-boot.bit into Mele A1000?
    2. Usb interface is not detected by windows PC

    Thanks in Advance..,

  6. @ Nataraj.B Qmax system Inc
    If you have mele-ubuntu-lucid.img.lzma, you can just proceed as I explain in http://www.cnx-software.com/2012/04/28/how-to-create-your-own-debian-ubuntu-image-for-mele-a1000-allwinner-a10-based-stb/.
    Only 2 commands in Linux:
    7z x mele-ubuntu-lucid.img.lzma
    dd if=mele-ubuntu-lucid.img of=/dev/sdX

    where X is the letter corresponding to your SD Card device.

    Insert the SD card in your device and Ubuntu 10.04 will boot instead of Android.

  7. I’ve been searching for some opinions of other users but so far I haven’t seen a strong reason why not to consider Mele A1000, though I am interested in learning a bit from the A2000 that others are speaking about. The specs are great. Thanks for posting.

  8. CNX, as you have the Mele, can you tell something about its usage? For example, how is at playing videos, including subtitles? All using the standard Android 2.3?

  9. @ Sander
    Yes, it will play all kind of videos like a tablet, but It won’t have the performance of some high-end set-top boxes. If you check my Mele A1000 review I mentioned that some videos won’t play and it can depend on the Android app you use. Once XBMC is available more videos might play properly.

    One other guy has mentioned a problem with the playback frequency which leads to one frame being skipped every X seconds and after testing with a specific videos I can also see the issue. It will only happen when the movie scene is panning, and won’t be noticeable in “static” scenes.

    Another person said he had trouble with DTS/AC3 audio even when trying HDMI or SPDIF pass-through. I haven’t tried it myself.

  10. I heard that they are offering a 1GB version, do you know where can I buy it?
    Source- wiki.xbmc.org/index.php?title=Allwinner_A10_devices

    Thanks!

  11. Don’t buy any A10 device till there is a firmware for Linux that installs to on-board memory, not off a sdcard.

    1. It should be in the settings.
      First look for Language (语言)
      Then change the language to English (英文)

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