$40 CX-01 mini PC Unboxing and Review

I’ve just received the CX-01 Mini Android PC I ordered 3 weeks ago on Pandawill website using Togetho.ru group buy coupon and paid $41.89 as I selected “Singapore Post” shipping option. Today, I’ll post some unboxing pictures and provide a review of this tiny and cheap device.

I received the device in the box below.

SUNCHIPS-CX1 mini PCThe device characteristics are listed on the back on the package.

CX-01 specificationsTelechips TCC8925 does not support 1 GHz (max 833 MHz), and I’m unable to play some of the video container format listed, but more on that later.

You’ll just find the TV Stick and a microUSB to USB cable to power the device in the package.

Now let’s connect it to the TV. The device can plug neatly into on the HDMI port of my HDTV (Samsung LA328450), and it’s powered by the TV’s “USB service” port.

$40 is a low price to turn a standard HDTV into a Smart TV, and you don’t get the cables hanging around like products using an HDMI female connector. I understand this could be a problem if you have to connect it perpendicularly to the TV and have limited space, but a female to male HDMI cable could solve this issue as well. Now all you need to add is an input device. Ideally it should be one of those 2.4 GHz remotes (possibly dual-sided with a qwerty keyboard), but I don’t have one yet, so I’ve just connected a mouse to the USB port.

After you connect the power, you should see the boot picture below within 3 to 4 seconds.
After waiting around one minute, you can see the home screen. The pre-installed applications are at the bottom, and I’ve installed all  other apps via Google Play. The Play Store was pre-installed, but not available on the home screen.

The default language is in English which is probably a good thing for most people, and 5 applications are shown in the home screen: Video player. Gallery, Music, Browser and Settings.

I haven’t been able to take screenshots, because the device is NOT rooted and some apps won’t work. There are some other methods to take screenshot with a non-rooted device, but it’s a pain, so instead I’ve taken some pictures. I found a method to root CX-01, and some people appear to have been successful, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Going into the “About Tablet” section,  you’ll find out the device runs Android 4.0.4 and the model is SUNCHIPS-CX1. Interestingly there is also a “System updates” menu that lets you update the firmware via NAND Storage (I guess after firmware download), SD Card storage (although there is no microSD card slot) or USB storage. This might be useful if the manufacturer ever release the firmware. You may add your voice to the “where is the firmware?” complaint on Pandawill forum.

Google Play seems to work just fine and you’ll be able to install and run most of your favorite apps. I installed ES File Explorer, Antutu benchmark, Quadrant, Android Terminal Emulator, Opera Mini, the YoutTube App and a few others, all of which appear to work fine. The only exception (for now) is the Quadrant benchmark which installed and started fine, but I was unable to run the benchmarks. It’s exactly the same issue as I had with Mele A1000 stb.
After playing around a few hours, I find the device to usually perform very well, and I don’t really see performance difference compare to Mele A1000. I said “usually”, because sometimes the device will become very very slow due to high system CPU usage. It happened twice in one afternoon. The first time, I just disconnected and reconnected the power, and the second time I just went away for a while, and It appeared to work fine again. You may want to install a widget to reboot your device when that happens. You’ll need to root the device first though.

I’ve tested video playback and found it quite good, better than the Mele A1000 (Android 2.3) I tested in April. I could play YouTube videos both in the stock web browser and the YouTube app. There are 3 video players available by default:

  • ES Media Player
  • PPTV Pad
  • Video Player

I found “Video Player” to support the most files, and I used this player to test some video format/codec, mostly from http://samplemedia.linaro.org/, but also some others I downloaded:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p* – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p* – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – FAIL
  • MOV file from Kodak camera – OK
  • FLV videos – Video OK, but no Audio
  • MKV (several codecs) – FAIL

*One very important thing, if you plan to play videos on a Windows share or your NAS: Videos with bit rate above 5/6 Mbps could not play smoothly on the device, and basically all 1080p I tried (Samba share on Windows XP playing with ES File Explorer) could not play smoothly due to buffering. But if I just press pause, and wait a bit for the video to buffer, it’s just fine, so I expect 1080p to play just fine from USB devices. Another possibility could be to share files via NFS, as the performance should be better.

Time for some benchmark. Quadrant did not work, so I only ran Antutu benchmark.
A score of 2216 with this resolution (1280×672) is not too bad, it’s only slightly lower than the score I got with Mele A1000 (2337) using a similar resolution (1280×720), although it was running Android 2.3, so the performance might have improve since Android 4.0 release.
TCC8925 Antutu Benchmark
Details of Antutu benchmark:

  • RAM – 204
  • CPU Integer – 402
  • CPU float – 286
  • 2D Graphics – 291
  • 3D Graphics – 696
  • Database I/O – 190

I also used Quandrant to find about some details about the system. Interestingly, the memory is reported to be 512 MB for Linux, so I suppose they manage the memory differently than with other SoC, where part of the memory is reserved and not accessible in Linux.

The processor is called tcc8920st and the frequency is set to 716 MHz each time I go to this menu, but a look at the log should that the processor switches between 716 MHz and 812 MHz regularly, probably to reduce power usage and avoid the device to become to hot. The device is warm during use, but it’s not excessive, like it appears to be with other mini PCs like MK802.

Quandrant also report that the product name is “full_tcc8920st_evm_4096_cn” and the board “tcc8920st_evm” which looks like something I found in the kernel source code, but I was still expecting something with tcc8925 in the code, so the board I have may really use tcc8920 processor. Not sure how to check this.

To conclude, I’m quite satisfied with this product, but with 4 main issues:

  • Relative instability (High CPU usage)
  • Network performance (Choppy “high” bitrate video playback over the network)
  • MKV video playback does not seem to work
  • Lack of microSD card slot (only 2 GB flash available for apps)

Hopefully, the first 2 can be fixed with a firmware update. For the last one, you can install external storage (USB), but I’m not sure Android let you install apps on a USB drive.

The group buy is not available anymore, but if you are interested, it can be purchased on Pandawill for $47.99, Dealextreme for $51 or Aliexpress for $49.99. All companies include free shipping, Pandawill with China Post, and the other two via Hong Kong Post.

There is also a 8GB version on Dealextreme for $54.50

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hipboi
Guest

looking forward the uHost reivew : D

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[…] to CNX Software, the processor runs at up to 812 MHz and the device feels comparable to an MK802 Mini PC (which has […]

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[…] […]

Romain
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Romain

Please, can you tell us which wifi chipset is used?

myxa78
Guest
myxa78

@ Romain
realtek

deadhp1
Guest
deadhp1

I was wondering if you could try MX Player with the CX-01. You might be able to get hardware decoding of MKV’s with it.

I have an Oval Elephant and MX Player was able to do hardware decoding on everything except divx AVI files(had to use software decoding for them). The stock player wouldn’t even open divx AVI files.

deadhp1
Guest
deadhp1

Too bad I missed the group buy for the $39.99 4gb model, but now the same site is doing a group buy for the 8gb model for $43.99.
http://www.togetho.ru/cx01eng.html
I won’t be missing out this time.

max
Guest
max

I want to see a video review 🙂

Nikos
Guest
Nikos

Today i got 2 of these 4GB version CX-01.

Its quite good but i was expecting to see flash updates from google play.
Pre-installed Flash doesn’t work with Opera web browser and i still dont know if it even works with the android web browser.

When i connect the stick on the PC i can see the mass storage internal flash memory of the stick but i also see in the device manager a SUNCHIPS-CX1 unknow device. Do you know if its possible to develop and debug applications on the device? I am noob and i don’t know what else i need except Eclipse with android SDK.

Gabe
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Gabe

You should try Opera Mobile & set in Settings->Advanced-User Agent as “Desktop” then try Adobe Flash.

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[…] by the size of the Uhost. It looked rather big to me, but it’s probably because I just used CX-01 mini PC this week, and would I have received it one or two weeks earlier I would probably have wondered how […]

Kerry
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Kerry

any luck with PLEX?

NPS
Guest
NPS

There is a mention of CEC in the settings, which should mean that a CEC supported TV can control the device using the TV remote. I cannot test this as I do not have a CEC supported TV, though.

NPS
Guest
NPS

Also, any idea what the “Fn” button on the side does?

Robbert
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Robbert

I cannot seem to find the option to install non market apps. It refuses to install saying it’s not a valid file. (. Apk) The whole setting is miss from the settings menu…
Tried installing the xmbc apk.

Mehmet
Guest
Mehmet

I received this device last week and played with it a little. Things that might be useful for other people:

– to access developer options (to use adb):
install terminal emulator or similar from google play and run:
(on term emul)# am start -a android.intent.action.MAIN -n com.android.settings/.DevelopmentSettings

– device is already rooted, if you use adb. after making device accessible from adb (permission, adb_usb.ini), restart adbd on device as root, and you can open root shell on device. then do whatever you like 🙂
(on pc)# adb root
(on pc)# adb shell

anyone heard of any effort to build kernel / android with released sources?

deadhp1
Guest
deadhp1

Today I received my coupon code from the group buy site for the 8gb model cx-01.(I ordered 3 lol)
I just figured I would let everyone know that it is active and the 8gb model is 43.99 instead of 50.99.

Klaus
Guest
Klaus

Someone tried to root this device?

deadhp1
Guest
deadhp1
Planet
Guest
Planet

Worked for me as described on Pandawill forum – had a hard time finding the unlockroot tool though, the download from the original site doesn’t work. Found it on XDA though:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1436426

Everything is working fine now, got the german keyboard layout with root (I know there is a non-root solution but I like this one better) and easily disabled all chinese bloatware even without (including input method). CWM would be nice to be safe.

Klaus
Guest
Klaus

@Planet: Could you describe how you did that? Mayer a Tutorial or something like that? 🙂

Würdest mir sehr helfen 😉

myxa78
Guest
myxa78

for root-
1.download http://www.unlockroot.com/
2. at directory where you install unlockroot – find Unlockroot\driver\android_winusb.inf
3. open it in text editor
4.if windows 64 then edit to :

[Google.NTamd64] 64-bit]
;TCC8920
%SingleAdbInterface% = USB_Install, USB\Vid_18D1&Pid_DEED&MI_01
%CompositeAdbInterface% = USB_Install, USB\Vid_18D1&Pid_DEED&Rev_0231&MI_01

5. if windows 32
[Google.NTx86]
;TCC8920
%SingleAdbInterface% = USB_Install, USB\Vid_18D1&Pid_DEED&MI_01
%CompositeAdbInterface% = USB_Install, USB\Vid_18D1&Pid_DEED&Rev_0231&MI_01

6.connect cx-01 to pc usb
7.it detected new device (if not press fn on cx-01)
8. choose driver that you edited Unlockroot\driver\android_winusb.inf
9. after install run unlockroot
10.press ROOT
11. then reroot device
12. reboot cx-01
PROFIT! 😉

Klaus
Guest
Klaus

@myxa78 Thanks for the quick tutorial 🙂

Could you tell me also how to delete the chinese apps and keyboard? Is there an package manager or do i have to delete them from filesystem by hand?

myxa78
Guest
myxa78
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[…] Root CX-01 Android mini PC August 1st, 2012 cnxsoft Leave a comment Go to commentsCX-01 is a cool low cost Android mini PC (as low as $40),  but unlike many other Chinese Android device it is not rooted.Here are the […]

Klaus
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Klaus

@ myxa78
Sounds good, thank you 🙂

myxa78
Guest
myxa78

@ Klaus
you’re welcome! 😉

Planet
Guest
Planet

Sorry for being too slow, Klaus, bit myxa78 hit it quite well it seems. 🙂

For me, it worked like on that Pandawill forum post linked right above my comment. PDAnet driver complained about existing ADB drivers though (from Samsung) and it might be that this mix and match allowed me to do what you apparently had difficulties with. Anyway, this is solved for you now.

Now I am just missing the SecuritySettings and DevelopmentSettings actitivities from the settings dialog (the latter is at least accessible by lengthy terminal command). Borrowed the stick to my father in law though for a while anyway, so can’t investigate. 🙂

Slowstream
Guest
Slowstream

Dumb question here :-)… does rooting will help for streaming videos? Cause like cnxsoft said in his review, streaming at high bitrate is kind of choppy…?

apmaricato
Guest
apmaricato

How install gtalk? don’t listed on Google play

Slowstream
Guest
Slowstream

@ cnxsoft
Thanks but I am new to android and don’t think I am skill enough to play in kernel.

Actually the thing I really find annoying is the bad buffer quality for online videos. I tried many players and
they are all unable to make pleasant and fluid buffering. It always stall even if I have good connection. I don’t care to wait at the beginning of video but don’t want to see it stop repeatedly.

You said that you think firmware update could possibly take care of that. If you find a solution or tutorial to remedy that problem, I’ll be more than glad to see it added/edit in your review.

Cheers.

myxa78
Guest
myxa78

@ Slowstream
you can tru vplayer (can config buffer size) https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=me.abitno.vplayer.t&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsIm1lLmFiaXRuby52cGxheWVyLnQiXQ..
but i suppose that does not help, but you can try
p.s. i’m using bsplayer+arv5 support

NPS
Guest
NPS

The “Fn” button does indeed toggle the mass USB storage option. A drive mounted just fine on my MBP after it “booted up” and I then pressed the Fn button.

I also noticed that if I hold down the Fn button while powering up, the blue light stays on and not as bright, but the unit doesn’t seem to do anything, in contrast to the normal “eventually comes on bright” when it fully boots.

Slowstream
Guest
Slowstream

Final question. How performance compares to the raspberry when rolling ICS?

thedoginthewok
Guest
thedoginthewok

Hey, nice Review.

I ordered the same device a few weeks ago (from dx) and it arrived today.

I hope there will be some firmware updates, because it feels extremely slow to me.

I’m currently using a HTC One X as phone, and while I know that it has a much better CPU, it’s still faster when I limit the clock to 500 MHz. There’s something really wrong with this firmware, because Android 4.0.4 should be snappier and shouldn’t need much CPU, because it uses GPU rendering.

MCG
Guest
MCG

My cx-01 have just arrived and I can confirm it is working with my tv’s remote with hdmi-cec (samsung, anynet+)

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[…] Android is now everywhere, from the ubiquitous smartphones and tablets to cars, cameras, satellites (no kidding), light bulbs (seriously) and more. Today is the first time I’ve come across a full sized projector running Android. The “Smartbeam” is a 2000 lumens 1280×768 (native) projector powered by Telechips TCC8925 with 512 MB RAM and 4 GB Flash running Android 4.0.4 (ICS), so the performance should be very similar to CX-01 mini PC. […]

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[…] the boot will start, but like most other devices (excluding Telechips TCC8925 based devices such as CX-01) the boot won’t complete, so the external power supply is really needed. Droid Stick A2 User […]