X96 Link 2-in-1 Android TV Box & Router Combines Arm and MIPS Processors

Most TV boxes come with WiFi and/or Ethernet to access the Internet or local network in order to stream videos, but there are a few rare exceptions with TV boxes also acting as router such as Zome ZMT-330A we covered way back in 2014 with two Ethernet ports.

Shenzhen Tomato informed me about another TV box router product dubbed Nut Link powered by Amlogic S905W processor and equipped with not two but three Ethernet ports. A quick web search reveals the device is better known as X96 Link and sells for as low as $39 shipped on sites like GearBest or Aliexpress.

X96 Link TV Box RouterX96 Link specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S905W quad-core Arm Cortex-A53  processor with penta-core Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash, MicroSD card slot
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0a port up to 4K @ 60 Hzm AV port for composite video and stereo audio
  • Video Decoding – 4K H.265 up to 60 fps, 4K VP9 up to 60 fps, 4K H.264 up to 30 fps
  • Connectivity
    • Router SoC – Siflower SF16A18 dual-core MIPS InterAptiv processor @ 1.2 GHz + 64MB RAM
    • 1x Gigabit Ethernet (WAN) port shared between Amlogic and Siflower processors
    • 2x 10/100M Ethernet (LAN) ports via Siflower processor
    • Dual-band 802.11b/g/n/b/ac WiFi 5 MU-MIMO up to 150 Mbps (2.4 GH0z) and 433 Mbps (5 GHz) via Siflower processor
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – IR receiver; 4x LEDs for WiFi, WAN, and LAN
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A
  • Dimensions – 16.45 x 10.95 x 2.50 cm
  • Weight – 245 grams

X96 Link

The Amlogic processor runs Android 7.1.2, and the Siflower processor must be running a Linux distribution like OpenWrt. The device ships with one IR remote control, an HDMI cable, a power adapter, and a user’s manual in English.

If we look at Siflower processor’s product page and datasheet, we can see the chip embeds a “quad-processing MIPS32 InterAptiv” processor with two physical cores, four virtual processing elements (VPE), and twelve thread-contexts (TC).

SF16A18 MIPS Processor
Click to Enlarge

We also learn the processor supports one Gigabit Ethernet interface, and up to five Fast Ethernet ports. So if I was a TV box manufacturer trying to optimize my bottom line, I would probably design the board in such a way that the Amlogic processor connects to one of SF16A18 10/100M ports internally, since it does not require a separate Gigabit switch chip. That means when a user connects an Ethernet cable to the WAN port it will show a Gigabit Ethernet link, but internally data is routed to the Amlogic processor up to 100 Mbps only.

There’s still an advantage of using this solution, as both the Amlogic and the two other devices connected over the two Fast Ethernet port could be able to be feed at 100 Mbps simultaneously for up to 300 Mbps wired bandwidth,  leaving plenty of bandwidth to other WiFi devices connected to the router.

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setsunakawa
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setsunakawa

i don’t understand why they’ve put an mips cpu here, the main cpu can do the job.

Chelobaka
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Chelobaka

You can’t run OpenWRT and Android on the same CPU without virtualization. And even if someone will create a hybrid of these OSes you would still need to find a suitable SoC for this task.

willy
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willy

That’s a good point, but I think that setsunakawa’s point is that on the network side it doesn’t seem to do anything special that *requires* openwrt. If you start from the assumption that you *want* openwrt, that’s indeed a different story.

FransM
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FransM

actually I do ot understand the networking side. If you want to use this as a router there are cheaper options providing all gigabit.
100Mbit is sooo 2010

OpenWRT user
Guest
OpenWRT user

Not true, you’ve been able to run OpenWRT on android for years concurrently with Android, look in the play store/ github for it – works well.

shippy
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shippy

Can you give the links to GitHub and Playstore app?

Hans Ullki Kroll
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Hans Ullki Kroll

Siflower released their SDK based on OpenWRT Chaos Calmer 15.05
You can look at
https://github.com/siflower-company

I’ve done a quick review of the sources

The SDK contains binary blobs for the kernel modules (drivers)
copy & paste from Kconfig
kmod-sf_smac, SIFLOWER sf16a18 wireless
kmod-sf_gmac, Siflower SFA18 gmac
kmod-sf_switch, Siflower SFA18 switch
kmod-sf-ts, SIFLOWER TRAFFIC STATISTIC

This is a dead end
Maybe this SoC contains also the RAM 64MB
… looks like some clone of the (unhappy) Realtek RTK8197 with embedded RAM
which is missing 5GHZ on chip wifi

Diego
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Diego

As so often interesting silicone useless sw

Diego
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Diego

The mips is probably cheaper and easier to add than a switch and a wifi module.

Stane1983
Member

Just one question… Why? 🙂 Obsolete SoC with obsolete OS and router part which most probably will never see any update or security patch.

Diego
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Diego

Because it earns you money and creates publicity.

Tim
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Tim

But who is this for? What is the target audience?