Review of MINIX NEO U1 Media Hub

We’ve already seen that MINIX NEO U1 has some impressive hardware to offer with a good thermal solution, and high-end chips for storage and WiFi, as well as some neats additions like RTC support. But obviously the most important is to find out how the box performs, so I’ve put it through it spaces with video playback and features testing, as well as some benchmarks. First Boot, OTA Firmware, Settings and First Impressions The device has three full-sized USB 2.0 ports, which become four once we had the provided USB OTG adapter to the remaining micro USB port. So I’ve connected a USB 3.0 hard drive, the RF dongle for NEO A2 Lite air mouse, a USB hub with a USB webcam, a USB keyboard, and the RF dongle for Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad, as well as USB powered speakers to the micro USB port. After inserting HDMI, optical audio […]

ChromeCast 2.0 and ChromeCast Audio Announced for $35

Google released the original ChromeCast in 2013. The $35 device allows users to stream online video from your smartphone to your big TV, and since then Google and the community has brought various improvement to make more with the device, and thousands of apps can be installed in the little device. Google has now released a new ChromeCast, as well as ChromeCast Audio to stream audio to speakers. The hardware has been upgraded but the complete specifications are not available, but we do know ChromeCast 2.0 support 802.11 b/g/n and 802.11ac for higher quality 1080p video streaming, and Marvell tweeted about the new ChromeCast devices, so it’s likely another Marvell SoC has been used, maybe Armada 1500 Plus (88DE3108) [Update: ChromeCast 2.0 is based on Armada 1500 Mini Plus (88DE3006) dual core Cortex A7 processor] The new ChromeCast still works with iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, Mac and Windows […]

MINIX NEO Z64W (Intel Atom Z3735F) mini PC gets HDMI Audio in Ubuntu

We’ve been able to run Ubuntu on Intel Atom Z3735F mini PCs, as well as other Linux distributions, for a while, but with an important caveat: HDMI audio would not work, so instead you had to use an external USB sound card to get any audio. Luckily the problem seems solved, as Linuxium has now released a script (audio-wifi-minix-neo-z64-release.sh) and relevant files that will  patch your system to enable HDMI audio, and WiFI on MINIX NEO Z64W running Ubuntu. Ian Morrison (Liuxium) compiled a Linux kernel and the Wi-Fi driver, together with a modified DSDT (Differentiated System Description Table) table to fix an ACPI bug. He used John Pemberton’s Bay Trail Audio HDMI patch, as well as help from Paul Kendall for identifying the ACPI DSDT table bug, Bastien Nocera (hadess) for the wifi source code and DroidMote Server / Client for the wifi pointer.  A quick demo shows WiFi […]

Rockchip RKNanoD is a Dual Core Cortex M3 MCU for IoT and Audio Applications

Rockchip is better known for their application processor like RK3188 or RK3288 found in tablets and mini PCs, but the company is also making lower power SoCs such as RKNanoC Cortex M3 micro-controller used in wireless audio applications, and more recently Rockchip demonstrated RKNanoD, a dual core Cortex M3 micro-controller for IoT and high-definition audio applications. Some key specifications and features of RKNanoD MCU: Cores ARM Cortex M3 @ 150 MHz with 64KB SRAM, 16KB RAM, 320KB iRAM, 256KB DRAM for system. ARM Cortex M3 @ 300 MHz with 128KB iRAM, 256 KB DRAM, and an audio H/W accelerator for compute tasks like audio decoding. Storage I/F – Flash, SDMMC, SDIO, SFC Display I/F – LCD, E-Ink Audio – 2x I2S, 24-bit / 192 KHz audio codec USB – USB 2.0 OTG Other I/Os – GPIO, 6x UART, 2x SPI, 3x I2C, 5x PWM, 8x SARADC 8x DMA, 2x Timers […]

Popcorn Hour VTEN Review

Popcorn Hour VTEN a Linux based media player powered by Sigma Designs SMP8757 ARM Cortex A9 processor. Contrary to the many Android TV boxes I tested in the last few years, the device is dedicated to media playback, even though it has an App Store with 59 apps including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. I’ve already taken a few pictures of the device and board, so today, I’ll go through the user interface, quickly test the app store, go through my library of video test files, and check if HDMI audio pass-through is indeed working. Popcorn Hour VTEN User Interface I’ve connected VTEN to an Ethernet Gigabit switch, the HDMI port to Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver which itself is connected to LG 42UB820T 4K UHD TV, and the 5V/3A power supply. Pressing the On/Off switch at the back of the player will start it, and the boot takes just under one […]

Open Hour Chameleon RK3288 TV Box Gets (Partial) DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD HDMI Pass-through Support

People owning AV receivers capable of outputting 7.1 channels or more have had a hard time finding Android TV boxes that supports HD audio pass-through via HDMI. Many devices can pass through 5.1 codec like DTS or Dolby Digital (AC3 / E-AC3), but so far, none of the boxes I’ve tried could manage content with DTS-HD (MA / HR) and Dolby TrueHD with 8 channels properly. The one that came close was Zidoo X9 with support for Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and 7.1, but it downmixes 7.1 channels to 5.1 channels. So the only cost effective options to get proper 7.1 channel pass-through were Intel based mini PCs running Linux such as Asus Chromebox M004U or Intel NUCs. But recently, I’ve seen some progress. For example, yesterday Cloud Media released a new firmware for their Open Hour Chameleon media player based on Rockchip RK3288 processor. Their Android 4.4.2 firmware (version 1.0.23) […]

Linux 3.19 Release – Main Changes, ARM and MIPS Architectures

Linus Torvalds released Linux Kernel 3.19 yesterday: So nothing all that exciting happened, and while I was tempted a couple of times to do an rc8, there really wasn’t any reason for it. Just as an example, Sasha Levin used KASan and found an interesting bug in paravirtualized spinlocks, but realistically it’s been around forever, and it’s not even clear that it can really ever trigger in practice. We’ll get it fixed, and mark it for stable, and tempting as it was, it wasn’t really a reason to delay 3.19. And the actual fixes that went in (see appended shortlog) were all fairly small, with the exception of some medium-sized infiniband changes that were all reverting code that just wasn’t ready. So it’s out there – go and get it. And as a result, the merge window for 3.20 is obviously also now open. Linus Linux 3.18 improved performance of […]

Onkyo TX-NR636 AV Receiver Setup and Audio Pass-through with OpenELEC / Kodi

Following up on my LG 42U820T 4K TV review,  I’ll know checkout the second item purchased for my reviews thanks to the help of my readers, with Onkyo TX-NR636 7.2 channel AV receiver combined with Pioneer S-11 speaker set. As this is my first AV receiver, I still have a lot to learn, I can’t really comment on audio quality (except it sounds much better than my TV speakers, and is more powerful), so I won’t do a full review, but I’ll show some details about the receiver, explain how to it setup with speakers, show how to setup OpenELEC / Kodi for HDMI audio pass-through, and test it with various Dolby and DTS video files. Onkyo TX-NR636 Specifications But before all that, I’ll list some of the specifications of this cool AV receiver. Amplified Rated Output Power: 95 watts minimum continuous power per channel, 8 ohm loads, 2 channels driven […]