Rho Board $35 Mstar MSO9280 Development Board Supports an Optional DTV Tuner (Crowdfunding)

Futarque A/S, a Danish company specializing in digital TV (tuners, IPTV), DVD and Blu-ray solutions, has developed the Rho Board powered by Mstar MSO9280 quad core ARM Cortex A7 processor with 1GB RAM and 4GB NAND flash, and featuring HDMI 2.0 output, a Raspberry Pi 2 compatible expansion header, and  a TV tuner connector for an optional DVB-T2/C tuner.

Rho_BoardRho board specifications:

  • SoC – Mstar MSO9280PBM quad core Cortex A7 processor with an hexacore (4+2) Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3-1666
  • Storage – 4GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot up tp 128GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 and AV ports
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV and optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codec – MPEG 1/2, 4K @ 60 fps AVC and 4K @ 30 fps H.265
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports, 1x micro USB port
  • Expansion
    • 40-pin “Raspberry Pi” header
    • TV tuner connector
    • SDIO expansion connector
  • Misc – IR Receiver, reset button, RS232 minijack
  • Power Supply – 12V via power barrel
  • Dimensions – TBD
Rho Board Controlling a GertBoard for RPi
Rho Board Controlling a GertBoard for RPi

The board supports Android only, and the company has provided a tutorial showing how to get started, control the GPIOs from Android, and more. Some Java source code can be found in Github, and a support forum has already been setup.

If you do get the tuner, the company has also installed the full version of Aurora TV, an Android app developed by the company that allows you to watch live TV via  DVB-T2 or DVB-C. You can also try the app before getting the board, since it also works with HDHomeRun or Sat>IP networked tuners, and that means the Rho Board can be used to stream live TV to any of your other Android devices at home.

Rho_Board_Tuner

The company is looking to raise 100,000 DKK (Danish Krone) or close to $15,000 on Kickstarter to fund mass production of the board. Pledges starts at $35 for the Rho Board only, and up to $79 for the board with the tuner, a 12V power supply, an air mouse, and a plastic case. Shipping adds 100 DKK (~$14.72), and delivery is scheduled for May 2016.

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TLS
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TLS

Not bad for the asking price, only concern is how well supported the Mstar SoC will be.

With 4GB of eMMC onboard, this is a better deal than getting an RPi.

Harley
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Harley

Wonder if they will support OpenELEC, Tvheadend/VDR, and Kodi (XBMC)?

natsu
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natsu

@Harley
that’s the real question, and there is no DVB S2 tuner offert
I think the team choose the more sample and affordable way, DVB S2 tuner drivers are more expensive and much more complicated to integrate that T/C I think
promising project, but I would hope to see others PCB like that but with much powerful hardware like RK3399 then it will be really interesting

Jens Kristian Jensen
Guest
Jens Kristian Jensen

@natsu
The only officially supported OS on the SoC is Android. Kodi (XBMC) runs very nicely on it as an Android app.
There’s an S2 tuner in the works – we might run it as a stretch goal.

Gabe
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Gabe

@Jens Kristian Jensen
Does it have Widevine DRM Level 1 for Netflix full HD support?

Jens Kristian Jensen
Guest
Jens Kristian Jensen

@Gabe
So far the Widewine is Level 3. Netflix is working in HD, but I cannot tell if it is 1080p or not.

birdog
Guest

Does the TV tuner work within Kodi with a plug-in like TVHeadend or do you have to exit Kodi to use the tv part, and if it works in Kodi then does it have/support EPG and recording?

Stane1983
Member

@TLS
I have friend in China working on projector projects. He said that they’re switching to Amlogic TV/projector SoCs because Mstar support is not so good…

Steve
Guest
Steve

HEVC decode limited to 30fps according to a question I asked on their campaign page.

Futarque A/S says:
Unfortunately the video decoder is 30p only in HEVC.

Jens Kristian Jensen
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Jens Kristian Jensen

Hi @birdog
We do not support or TVHeadend directly, but anyone who knows how to write such a plugin is most welcome to make one.

Harley
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Harley

Tvheadend and VDR requires that you compile Android kernel with Linux DVB API (DVBAPI), see:

http://wetekforums.com/v/index.php?p=/discussion/242/experimental-cyanogenmod-for-wetek-play-with-kodi-live-tv

More about Linux DVB API (DVBAPI) can be found on http://www.linuxtv.org

Harley
Guest
Harley

IMHO they should have gone with an Amlogic based SoC for it instead, like the S905X or S912 for the set-top box market that they are targeting. As while Amlogic may be more expensive they offer much better upstream development and better track record with open source.

http://www.cnx-software.com/2015/12/17/amlogic-s905m-and-s912-processors-to-support-4k-vp9-hdmi-2-0a-built-in-dac-and-more/

As an example, there appear to be no support for Linux on the MSO9280 SOC from upstream manufacturer Mstar. And no official upstream support probably means that there is a very slim chance of getting Linux distros with Kodi like OpenELEC fully working on it.

Not a showstopper if they could extend Android to do more, but unlike the competition like WeTek it sounds like Futarque doesn’t yet have in-house software developers skilled with Android firmware or Linux kernel and OS distribution developers.

I hope that Futarque understand that they will need to get developers with such skills and maintain that in-house in order for them to develop this into a potentially popular OEM hardware platform for set-top box like it sounds is their wish for the future.

Gabe
Guest
Gabe

@Jens Kristian Jensen
Do you have the GPL source code for the kernel?

Jens Kristian Jensen
Guest
Jens Kristian Jensen

Hi Harley,

Since you bothered to copy/paste from the Kodi forum (or was it the other way around?), let me copy my answer from there:

At Futarque we have been doing Linux-based set-top boxes, TV sets and similar product for more than a decade now, on a handful of different chip architectures. We have had our own Linux distro for embedded use, developed against SoC drivers, developing our own drivers, FPGAs, etc. etc. so I’m quite confident we have the skills and the engineers necessary to do what you suggest.

However, none of this helps if we do not get the support, source and documentation needed for a particular chip, and in the case of the Rho Board, the supported OS is Android. Surely we could make a Linux kernel run on the board, but without access the chip specific hardware like the A/V decoders, none of this would be of much use.

If you’re looking for a platform to run your own Linux distro on, the Rho Board is probably not what you’re looking for. Think of it more like a preconfigured, but flexible Android board/box.

Jens Kristian Jensen
Guest
Jens Kristian Jensen

@Gabe
The Linux kernel sources for Android is available from the AOSP project: https://android.googlesource.com/
We will post the exact source versions, configs etc. to http://rhoboard.com/downloads.html

Harley
Guest
Harley

@Jens Kristian Jensen
Please consider creating a corporate account on GitHub.com and post all your code there as well (or instead). Everyone including Google now use Git and most use GitHub to host and publish their source code.

Jens Kristian Jensen
Guest
Jens Kristian Jensen

@Harley
The Rho Board download page already points to github projects for the library and example projects.