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Posts Tagged ‘4k’

BenQ W1700 4K HDR Video Projector to Sell for Less than $2,000

November 17th, 2017 8 comments

4K UltraHD TVs have now become affordable, with prices not that far from HD television sets for a given size. But what about 4K projectors? We first find out about development in this space with a demo for Texas Instruments 4K DLP chip in January 2016 at CES. Close to the end of that year, I had another look while writing about a $70,000 Canon 4K projector based on laser technology, and found out the cheapest true 4K projector would sell for around $10,000.

I did not pay to much attention to 4K projectors this year, but I’ve been informed that Benq has come up with an affordable 4K HDR projector: W1700 / HT2550 (US) that will start selling for 1,599 Euros including VAT (around $1,885 US) next January. This could well mean $1,600 once it is launched in countries without VAT.

BenQ W1700 specifications:

    • Projection System – 0.47” single-DMD DLP technology with 8.3 million pixels resolution [Update: AFAICT, TI only makes 0.47″ DMD up to 1080p – see comments]
    • Resolution – VGA (640×480) to 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 native)
    • Brightness (ANSI lumens) – 2200 ANSI Lumens‎
    • Contrast Ratio (FOFO) – 10,000:1 ‎
    • Display Color – 30 Bits (1,07 billion color)
    • Light Source – 240W lamp good for 4,000 hours (Normal), 8,000 hours (SmartEco), 10,000 hours (Economic), or 15,000 hours (LampSave)
    • Throw Ratio – 1.47 – 1.76 (100″ @ 3.25 m)
    • Zoom Ratio – 1.2X
    • Lens – F/# = 1.94 – 2.06, f = 15.57 – 18.67 mm
    • Keystone Adjustment – 1D, Vertical ± 40 degrees
    • Projection Offset – 110%
    • Clear Image Size – 60″ ~ 200″ (max: 30″ to 300″)
    • Horizontal Frequency – 15K – 102KHz‎
    • Vertical Scan Rate – 23 – 120Hz‎
    • Audio – 5W mono speaker, 3.5mm audio IN jack, 3.5mm audio OUT jack
    • Video Input – VGA (D-sub), 1x HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2, 1x HDMI 1.4a/HDCP1.4
    • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x mini USB port
    • Misc – 1x RS232 (DB-9pin) serial port,1x 12V Trigger (3.5mm Jack), 2x IR Receivers (front and top), 1x security bar
    • Special features – HDR, ISF Night/ Day, CinemaMaster Video + and Audio+2
    • Power Supply – 100 to 240V AC 50/60Hz
    • Power Consumption – Standby: 0.5W; typical: 330W
    • Dimensions (W x H x D)(mm) – 353 x 135 x 272
    • Weight – 4.2 kg

The projector also supports 3D content up to 1280×720 120Hz (Frame Sequential), 1080p24 (Frame Sequential), 1080i60 (Side by Side), and 720p60 (top bottom).

The projector will ship with a remote control, a power cord, a user manual CD, a quick start guide, a warranty card, and a lens cover. Optional accessories include a spare lamp kit and 3D Glasses.

No purchase or pre-order link for now. You may find further information on the product page.

Thanks to Harley  for the Tip

Categories: Hardware Tags: 4k, benq, hdr, projector

Zidoo H6 Pro (Allwinner H6) TV Box Review – Part 2: Android 7.0 Firmware

November 10th, 2017 5 comments

Zidoo H6 Pro is the very first Allwinner H6 based 4K TV box. The Android 7.0 device support H.265, H.264 and VP6 4K video decoding, comes with fast interfaces such as USB 3.0, and network connectivity with Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac WiFi.

I’ve already checkout the hardware in the first part of the review entitled “Zidoo H6 Pro (Allwinner H6) TV Box Review – Part 1: Unboxing & Teardown“, and since then, I’ve had time to play with the TV box, and report my experience with Android 7.0 in this second part of the review.

First Boot and OTA Firmware Update

I’ve connected a USB keyboard and a USB dongle with RF dongles for an air mouse and gamepad on the two USB ports, a USB 3.0 hard drive to the single USB 3.0 ports, as well as HDMI and Ethernet cables before powering up the TV box. I also added two AAA batteries to the IR/Bluetooth remote control.

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Boot to the background image takes around 20 seconds, but to reach the actual launched it normally takes around one minute and 25 seconds when I have the hard drive connected (with 4 partitions and many files). If I remove the hard drive, the full boot can complete within 23 seconds. Not that much of an issue, but it still may be something Zidoo wants to optimize.

On the very first boot, a few seconds after the launcher showed up, I also had a pop-up window informing me that Firmware v1.0.11 update was available, with a neat changelog listing the main changes including support for Netflix 1080p playback, and YouTube 2K/4K playback.

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I clicked on the Update button to start downloading the new firmware…

… an cliked Update again after downloading, to complete the firmware update with MD5 check and installation to the eMMC flash.

The system will then reboot, and we can get access the Zidoo ZIUI launcher.

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The launcher is identical to the one in Zidoo X7 except for two extra icons on the bottom for BT remote, and “Box RC” app, but more on that later.


Beside those two new remote apps, we’ll also notice HappyCast app used by Airplay/Miracast, and the lack of ZDMC (Zidoo’s Kodi fork), as we are told to use Kodi from Google Play instead.

Settings & Google Play

The settings section looks the same as Zidoo X7 settings, so I will only go through it quickly.

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We have four main section with Network, Display, Sound and Other. I could connect to WiFI and Ethernet with no issues, and Bluetooth worked with my smartphone and a pair of headphones. Display can be set up to a resolution / framerate of 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz, and PCM 2.0 output, HDMI & S/PDIF audio pass-through options are available. Looking at the Other section, About tab, and Android Settings about TV box reveals ZIDOO_H6 Pro is running Android 7.0 on top of Linux 3.10.65, and the firmware I tested for the review is v1.0.11, as we’ve seen from the OTA firmware update part of this review.

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Android security patch level is dated November 5, 2016. Not the most recent, and you won’t get monthly to bi-monthly security updates like in Android One phones such as Xiaomi Mi A1. The firmware is rooted by default.

Looking into storage options, I had 418MB free out of 10.22GB internal storage partition at the very beginning of the review, and NTFS and exFAT partitions of my USB hard drive could be mounted, but not the EXT-4 and BTRFS partitions.

I could install all apps I needed for review using Google Play, and I also installed Riptide GP2 game with Amazon Appstore since I got it for free there.

Remote Control – IR/Bluetooth, and Box RC Android App

One way Zidoo H6 Pro differs from most competitors is that it comes with a Bluetooth remote control. By default it works with the IR transmitter, and Bluetooth is disable, but you can enable Bluetooth by launching Bluetooth Remote app, or selecting BT Remote icon on the launcher.

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Hold the back and menu keys for a few seconds until the LED on the remote start flashing. The app will then show the Bluetooth remote is connected, and the battery level. Bluetooth does not enable air mouse function, and you’d still need to use the arrow keys to move the cursor in mouse mode, so the main advantage of Bluetooth over infrared is that it does not require line of sight. You can hide the box being the TV, or inside a furniture, and the remote would work. You do not need to point the remote control towards the TV box either, it works in any directions. I successfully tested the remote control up to a distance of 10 meters. Once I lost control of the OK and Back keys, but they came back later on after a reboot, and could not reproduce the issue.

I also tested MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse / keyboard / remote control, and again no problem. It’s my favorite way to control an Android TV boxes, since it works with all sort of user interfaces and most apps, excluding some games that require touch support.

Another way to control the TV box is to install Box RC  Android app in your smartphone. Launch Box RC app in the TV box, and you should see the QR Code below.

It redirects to RC Box apk file. +  Screenshots of smartphone app.

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After installation, you’ll be presented with the “key mode” pad. Tap on “My Device” and select ZIDOO_H6 Pro to connect to the TV box. Clicking on the icon in the top left corner will give you a few more remote modes, including “Handle model” for gaming…… as well as mouse and gesture mode – both of which look like the left screenshot below -, and an Applications with a complete list of apps installed in the TV box. Simply select the app you want to launch in the TV box.

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Finally, you’ll have an About section showing the version number, and checking for app updates, and a Screenshot option to remotely take screenshots. Everything worked well. I’m just not quite sure how to use the gesture mode.

Power Consumption & Temperature

Power control is just like on Zidoo X7 with a short press on the remote control power button bringing a menu to select between Power off, Standby, or Reboot. A long press will allow you to configure the behavior of the power button: Off, Standby, or Ask (default).

I measured power consumption in various mode, and here it works better than X7:

  • Power off – 0.0 Watt
  • Standby – 3.2 Watts
  • Idle – 4.0 ~ 4.4 Watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 0.0 Watt
  • Standby – 6.0 to 6.4 Watts
  • Idle + USB HDD – 6.0 to 6.4 Watts

With regards to temperature, the box itself stays fairly as after playing a 2-hour video in Kodi, I measured 45 and 43ºC max measured on the top and bottom with an IR thermometer, and 47ºC on both sides after playing Beach Buggy Racing & Riptide GP2 for about 30 minutes. However, right after playing, CPU-Z reported respectively 86°C and 80°C CPU & GPU temperatures, which should be close to limit of the SoC. The ambient temperature was around 28°C, and 3D performance was contant while playing.

Video & Audio Playback with Kodi, Media Center and YouTube, DRM Info

Some people reported that Kodi installed from Google Play is working well in the box, so I installed Kodi 17.5 from Google Play, enabled automatic frame rate switching, setup the connection to my SAMBA share over Ethernet, and started playing my 4K video samples:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – Not smooth, and some parts of the picture are very red
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) – Not perfectly smooth
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Plays fine, but woman face is more red than usual
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Not perfectly smooth
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Not perfectly smooth
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Not perfectly smooth
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – 2 to 3 fps (software decode)
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – Not super smooth
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Not very smooth, audio delay (OK, as not supported by Allwinner H6)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – Plays OK, but red parts are over-saturated?
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – ~2 fps (software decode – OK, as not supported by hardware)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Not smooth
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – 2 to 3 fps (software decode), lots of buffering
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – 2 to 3 fps (software decode), lots of buffering

Automatic frame rate switching is not working, but that’s only a small issue compared to the disastrous results above. As shown in the screenshot above, H.265 is hardware decoded, but for some videos the CPU usage is really high, close to 100% on all four cores, so something is clearly wrong. H.265 / H.264 1080p videos fare better, so maybe that’s why other people think Kodi works well. Maybe ZDMC, Zidoo’s fork of Kodi is coming soon.

In the meantime, I switched to Media Center, and it’s night and day compared to my experience with Kodi, also played from the same SAMBA share:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – OK most of the time, but the end is a bit choppy
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Plays but not smoothly, plus audio delay (OK, as not supported by Allwinner H6)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Massive artifacts  (OK, as not supported by Allwinner H6)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – OK
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Not too bad, but not 100% smooth in all scenes. (Note: Most TV boxes struggle with this video).

I’m pretty happy with the results, and automatic frame rate switching works, it just need to be enabled in Advanced menu.
Switching audio tracks and subtitles are supported by the app, and work well. SmartColor engine is specific to Allwinner processors, and may help improve the video quality, or adjust the image to your taste.


Let’s carry on testing with PCM 2.0 (stereo) output to my TV, and HDMI audio pass-through to Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver, with some advanced audio codec in Media Player.

Audio Codec in Video PCM 2.0 Output HDMI Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK TrueHD 7.1 (OK)
DTS HD Master OK DTS 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK DTS 5.1
DTS:X OK DTS 5.1

Audio works pretty well with the only downside being a lack of support for DTS HD MA/HR which all fallback to DTS 5.1. My receiver does not support Atmos, so the box outputs TrueHD 7.1 as it should.

I’ve also tested HD videos with various bitrates:

  • ED_HD.avi (MPEG-4/MSMPEG4v2 – 10 Mbps) – OK (except running scene that is not smooth)
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – HDD: OK

Most Linaro media and H.265 elecard samples are playing fine in Media Center:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny) – 1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container – 1080p – OK
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container – 1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV) – 1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – Media Center app returns “Can’t play video”
  • WebM / VP8 – 1080p – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – 1080p – OK

The full HD Blu-ray ISO files I tested (Sintel-Bluray.iso and amat.iso) played fine, so were 1080i MPEG-2 samples. I had the usual artifacts with Hi10p videos, but audio and subtitles were displayed correctly.

I also tested a bunch of 720p/1080p movies with various codecs/containers such as H.264, Xvid, DivX, VOB / IFO, FLV, AVI, MKV, MP4, etc… Most could play, except some of my FLV video samples, and DVD Rips would show the “This is a Blu-ray folder” pop-up…

… but the app would also report “Can’t play video”. If I browse to the folder, and select the IFO, it does not work, and the only way to start is to select a VOB file. However, it does not automatically switch to the next file. So there’s a problem with DVD rips in Media Center app.

YouTube app could play videos up to 1440p, but 4K (2160p) is not an option.

I’ve shot a video to show issues in Kodi, as well as Media Center app which work pretty well, and YouTube playback up to 1440p.

DRM Info app shows Widevine DRM L1 is supported, meaning one of the requirements for Full HD Netflix is fulfilled.

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The company – as we’ve seen in the firmware changelog – claims support for Netflix 1080p, but since I don’t have an account I could not confirm that. It’s also unclear whether this has been achieved through a hack, or a partnership with Netflix. The latter would be permanent, while the former may not work in a few months. Based on info gathered on Zidoo forums, I can see other boxes like Mecool M8S Pro Plus TV box can play Netflix 1080p through a “3rd party Android TV Firmware”, so it’s likely something similar has been implemented for H6 Pro.

Network & Storage Performance

Zidoo X7 had a somewhat asymmetrical performance while copying a 278 MB file over 802.11ac + SAMBA, and Zidoo H6 Pro appears to have the same issues:

  1. Server to flash (average): 51, or around 5.45 MB/s
  2. Flash to server (average): 3 minutes 22 seconds, or around 1.37 MB/s

So excellent download performance, but weak upload performance with SAMBA. The average is around 2.24 MB/s.

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

It’s probably a SAMBA configuration/implementation issue, as testing with iperf shows good performance in both directions:

  • 802.11ac download:

  • 802.11ac upload:

Throughput in Mbps

I also tested Gigabit Ethernet with iperf:

  • Full duplex:

  • Upload only:

  • Download only:

That’s pretty good, and fairly close to the results I got with ROCK64 Board (RK3328).

Switching to store benchmarks with A1 SD Bench.

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The cached read is due to the incredibly low exFAT write performance (1.52 MB/s). Read speed is quite weak to at 16.37 MB/s with this file system, but poor exFAT performance is a common to most Android TV boxes. NTFS is much better at 59.07MB/s read, and 42.12 MB/s but still far from the ~100MB/s R/W, I achieved with the same hard drive on ROCK64 board. Nevertheless the performance will be good enough for TV box use case. However, if you need hardware with fast storage (through USB 3.0) and Ethernet, RK3328 processor looks to be better.

Internal performance is good, and helps explain relatively fast boot (when no HDD is connected), fast app loading, and the lack of “app not responding” issues.

Gaming

I installed three games: Candy Crush Sage, Beach Buggy Racing (BBR) and Riptide GP2. I played Candy Crush with my air mouse, and no problem here. I played the two racing games with Tronsmart Mars G01 game controller, and BBR played very smoothly even with max graphics settings. Riptide GP2 was quite playable with max “resolution”, maybe at 25 to 30 fps, but not quite close to 60 fps. I feel Allwinner H6 might be a little better at playing games than Rockchip RK3328, and somewhat comparable to Amlogic S905/S905X. I played both games for around 30 minutes in total, and I did not notice any drop in performance over time, so no obvious throttling/overheating, despite the rather high CPU/GPU temperatures reported by CPU-Z.

Bluetooth

I’ve used Bluetooth more than on any other TV boxes simply because of the Bluetooth remote control. But I could also pair the TV box (seen as petrel-p1) with Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone, and transfer a few photos over Bluetooth, watch some YouTube video using X1T Bluetooth earbuds, but while I was able to see and pair my BLE fitness tracker in the Bluetooth settings, I was never able to locate the smart band from within “Smart Movement” app.

Zidoo H6 Pro (Allwinner H6) System Info and Benchmarks

CPU-Z still shows a quad core Cortex A53 r0p4 processor clocked between 480 MHz and 1.80 GHz, and a Mali-T720 GPU. Note that I never saw the frequency goes over 1488 MHz, so that 1.80 GHz may only occur during short bursts if at all.

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1906 MB total memory was reported, and 10.22 GB storage. Screen resolution was 1920×1080. As with most Allwinner platform you’ll never get a recent kernel (Linux 3.10.65).

The device achieved 40,467 points in Antutu 6.x, or about 5,000+ more compared to competitors based on RK3328 or S905X.

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One of the big jump is with 3D graphics, but there’s an easy explanation: Rockchip RK3328 and Amlogic S905X SoCs rely on Mali-450MP GPU which does not support OpenGL ES 3.1 used by “Marooned” benchmark, meaning Allwinner H6 just gets 3,510 points extra just for supporting OpenGL ES 3.1… So in reality, there’s not so much performance difference between the performance.

Vellamo 3.x confirms Allwinner H6 is that much faster with the following scores: Browser: 2,546 points, Metal: 930 points, and Multicore (836 points). I’ll put aside Multicore as on the test failed because of an issue with sysbench: “issue with Finepar: Invalid CPU mode”. But when comparing the metal score result against Amlogic S905X (910) and Rockchip RK3328 (937), the differences are minor.

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The Ice Storm Extreme score (3,951 points) is about the same as Amlogic S905X (4,183 points), but quite better than Rockchip RK3328 (2,252 points). We can also see the CPU frequency never surpassed around 1.5 GHz, so I’m wondering whether the 1.8 GHZ reported by CPU-Z might just be for show/marketing…

Conclusion

Despite Allwinner H6 SoC being pretty new, I have not found any really critical bugs in Zidoo H6 Pro TV Box. 4K video playback is working well in Media Center app with automatic frame rate switching, and HD audio pass-through, and overall performance is good, including for Wifi, Ethernet and storage.Widevine Level 1 DRM is installed, and the device is also supposed to support Netflix HD playback (not tested). 3D graphics performance is closer to the one of Amlogic S905X ,and quite better than on Rockchip RK3328 SoC.

The biggest issues I’ve found is poor support for Kodi with most 4K videos I’ve tried not playing well, and red color is over-statured in many videos. Media Center app also have a few limitations such as no support for DTS HD HR/MA pass-through (fallbacks to DTS 5.1), and IFO (DVD Rip) & Real Media video files are not supported. Other issues include poor exFAT performance, and WiFi SAMBA upload speed.

PROS

  • Android 7.0 operating system – Stable and responsive
  • Eye-pleasing ZIUI launcher / user interface
  • Very good support for 4K videos played in Media Center app with automatic frame rate switching support; Smart Color Engine for post-processing
  • HDMI pass-through for Dolby, DTS, and Dolby TrueHD working in Media Center app
  • Relatively fast eMMC flash storage (fast boot/app loading)
  • Very good networking performance for Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac WiFi (except for SAMBA uploads)
  • Bluetooth remote control
  • Decent 3D graphics performance
  • Widevine Level 1 DRM; Netflix HD support (not tested)

CONS (and bugs)

  • Kodi 17.5 from Google Play struggles to play 4K videos and color issues (too much red)
  • MediaCenter – No DTS HD pass-through support (DTS 5.1 instead); IFO (DVD rip) and Real Media (RM) videos not supported, some FLV files can’t play.
  • YouTube limited to 1440p (no 2160p option for me)
  • Poor SAMBA upload performance when using WiFi
  • exFAT file system performance poor -> use NTFS instead on external hard drive
  • Slow boot time (~1 minute 30 seconds) when hard drive with many files connected
  • “OK” button stopped to work on the Bluetooth remote control once (despite still working on the air mouse). Reboot fixed the issue.

Zidoo kindly sent the review sample from a local distributor. Resellers can contact the company via H6 Pro’s product page. GeekBuying currently has a promotion for the device where you can get it for as low as $79.99 (only for the first 50 orders), but it’s also sold on other websites for about $85 to 100 including GearBest, Amazon, or Aliexpress.

HiMedia Q10 Pro TV Box Review – Part 1: Unboxing and 3.5″ SATA Bay

November 8th, 2017 1 comment

HiMedia Q10 Pro Android TV box was launched in March of last year, equipped with a HiSilicon Hi3798CV200 quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB flash, and a SATA bay for 3.5″ drives. When I wrote a post about the Best Android TV boxes, on commenter mentioned that while NVIDIA Android Shield was the best box for streaming, he felt HiMedia Q10 Pro offered the best quality for media playback.

With now 18 months since launch, you may wonder why I would do a review now. That’s because Himedia keeps updating the firmware, and they asked me to check out and test their latest feature: 4K Blu-Ray navigation on Android 7.0 OS. As usual, I’ll start by checking out the hardware, and will publish a review focusing on Blu-ray playback in a few weeks.

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The package is more like a suitcase that your usual tiny box, but that’s common for high-end TV boxes. It also shows the main features like 4K HDR support, Dolby and DTS-HD audio and so so.

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The box ships with an IR remote control with IR learning function for 4 keys, a WiFi antenna, a HDMI cable, a 12V/2A power supply, and  quick guide describing the remote control functions, and explaining how to connect the device to a TV and/or amplifier.

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The build quality feels very good, and the box is entirely made of metal.

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The front panel includes a VFD display, IR receiver window, and several touch button for power, menu navigation, etc…

The left side features all USB host ports with one USB 3.0 port, and two USB 2.0 ports, as well as a SD/MMC slot.

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The rear panel has vents for the cooling fan, a WiFI antenna connector, a USB 3.0 device port to connect the box directly to your computer, optical and coaxial S/PDIF output, 3 RCA jacks for composite video and L&R audio, a Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI 2.0a output, a recovery pin hole, and the DC jack.

The remaining side comes with a button which you can slide to open the SATA bay.

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Installation is super easy, just insert your 3.5″ SATA drive push the “Open” handle, and close the lid.

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At this point, I normally do a teardown, but I found it not to be so obvious, and since the device is old enough, somebody else already did one.

HiMedia Q10 Pro is sold for $159.99 shipped on GeekBuying, but you’ll also find it on eBay, Amazon US (for $299?), and likely in a local reseller in your own country. Now, I’ll need to find some 4K Blu-Ray ISO files to test on the device…

Rikomagic RKM V3 Rockchip RK3328 TV Stick Launched for $63

November 2nd, 2017 4 comments

We’ll know find plenty of devices powered by Rockchip RK3328 from TV boxes to development boards, but if you are interested in getting an Android TV stick based on the processor, I’m only aware of Rikomagic RKM V3 which the company unveiled in September.

However, at the time the TV dongle was not for sale yet, and the company has just launched it for $62.90 including shipping on Aliexpress.

RKM V3 specifications have not changed since the announcement, except we can have info about size and weight:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.5 GHz with Mali-450MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB RAM
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + micro SD card up to 32 GB
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDR10 and HLG support
  • Video Codec – 4K VP9, H.265 and H.264. 1080p VC-1, MPEG-1/2/4, VP6/8
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via power barrel jack
  • Dimensions – 110 x 48 x 22 mm
  • Weight – 325 grams (for package?)

The stick runs Android 7.1, and ships with a power supply (EU, US, UK, or AU plug), and a short female to male HDMI cable.

RKM V3 is about the same price as Zidoo X7 TV box, and cheaper than their RKM V5 TV stick ($83.90) powered by Rockchip RK3328, but you do pay a premium compared to some RK3328 TV boxes with the same 2GB/8GB configuration such as T98 4K going for under $50.

Arm Announces Mali-D71 for 4K/120 Hz Displays, Assertive Display 5 with HDR

November 1st, 2017 5 comments

Arm has just announced Mali-D71 display processor optimized for 4K120 displays used for virtual reality, Assertive Display 5 display management core which adds support for high dynamic range (HDR10 / HLG), as well as CoreLink MMU-600 system memory management unit to handle data feed to Mali-D71, with the integration leading to a 55% area saving for the combined solution and a 50% latency improvement.

Mali-D71 Display Processor

The main advantages of D71 display processor include:

  • 30% system power savings by fully offloading GPU workloads before output such as composition, rotation, high-quality scaling, and other imaging processing in fixed function hardware.
  • 2x area efficiency compared to Mali-DP650. When driving a single display, it can re-use the resources of a secondary display, doubling the performance.
  • 4x latency tolerance – Mali-D71 can sustain up to 4x the delay on the system bus for the same throughput, helping maintaining high refresh rates up to 120 fps.
  • 2x pixel throughput

Mali D71 will also improve multi-window display support with up to 8 Android composition layers in single display mode.

Assertive Display 5

As mentioned in the introduction, Assertive Display 5 adds support for HDR content (HDR10 or HLG), and it can do so to any characteristic of display (any dynamic range and gamut), also delivering an HDR experience on an SDR display.

Assertive Display 5 utilizes iridix8 HDR local tone-mapping engine to handle HDR, combines with other blocks as shown in the diagram above. Since not all displays are capable of the 100,000:1 contrast ratio enabled by HDR, tone mapping maps one set of colors to another, approximating the appearance of high dynamic range images on devices with a more limited dynamic range.

HDR also has a wider color gamut with Rec.2020, or WCG (wide color gamut), but again HDR displays are not yet capable of showing the full gamut of Rec.2020, and instead achieve P3 gamut, right between Rec.709 (normally associated with SDR) and Rec.2020. So this also needs to be mapped as best as possible, and AD-5 relies on an hardware implementation of 3D LUT (Three-dimensional look-up tables) to perform gamut and color mapping.

AD-5 and Mali-D71 also support the handling of both HDR and SDR windows within the same composition scene.

Beside the aforelinked blog post, you’ll also find more details on Arm’s Mali-D71 and Assertive Display 5 developer pages.

Categories: Hardware, Processors Tags: 4k, arm, hdr, HDR10, virtual reality

A95X R1 4K Android TV Box Sells for $20 (Promo)

October 27th, 2017 11 comments

Rockchip RK3229 quad Cortex A7 processor powers some of the cheapest TV boxes on the market. One of them is A95X R1 with 1GB RAM, 8GB flash, which likeother RK3229 boxes supports both 4K H.265 and H.264, and outputs up to 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz via its HDMI 2.0 interface. GearBest is now selling the device for $19.99 shipped using coupon AA95XR1.

Click to Enlarge

A95X R1 specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3229 quad core ARM Cortex A7 processor @ 1.5 GHz with  ARM Mali-400MP2
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB flash + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 fps, and 3.5mm AV output (composite)
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, and coaxial S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – 100Mbps Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (RTL8189)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Power Supply – 5V
  • Dimensions – 9.3 x 9.3 x 1.5 cm
  • Weight – 120 grams

The box runs Android 6.0, and ships with a power adapter, a user manual, and an IR remote controller. There’s no HDMI cable in the description, but unboxing photo on GearBest clearly show one is included, so you may not have to source your own.

I have not reviewed this particular device, you could get an idea from other reviews of devices based on Rockchip RK3229 such as Zidoo X1 II. You’ll also find various A95X R1 reviews on YouTube.

MeLE PCG35 Apo Apollo Lake Mini PC Review – Part 3: Ubuntu 17.10

October 26th, 2017 4 comments

I completed the review of MeLE PCG35 Apo with Windows 10 Home a few days ago, and as promised, I’ve now installed the freshly released Ubuntu 17.10 in the Intel Celeron J3455 “Apollo Lake” mini PC.

I’ll start by shortly explaining the step to install Ubuntu 17.10 in the M.2 slot, although you could also install it to the internal eMMC flash replacing Windows 10, then show what works and what does, and finally include a video reproducing the tests I usually do in Windows 10.

How to Install Linux in MeLE PCG35 Apo

This partially follows the procedure I used to run (not install) Ubuntu 16.04 on MeLE PCG03 Apo mini PC. First you’ll need to download the ISO of your choice (ubuntu-17.10-desktop-am64.iso in my case), and prepare a bootable USB flash drive with the software of your choice be it Rufus, Startup Disk Creator or others. I did mine with Startup Disk Creator in my Ubuntu 16.04 computer

We can now plug the USB flash drive with Ubuntu 17.10 into one of the USB port of the mini PC, start it up and press ‘Esc’ key to enter Apio Setup Utility (aka “The BIOS”). By default, the system will use the “Windows boot method”, but we can change that by going to Chipset->South Bridge, then OS Selection and select Intel Linux.

Now go to the Boot menu and select our USB flash drive (I had to select “Partition 1”) to start Ubuntu installation. I did not want to remove Windows 10 (installed in the eMMC flash), nor wipe out the Program Files directory in the M.2 SSD, but still install Ubuntu 17.10 in the faster M.2 SSD, so I used a custom installation type.

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The eMMC flash, the M.2 SSD (/dev/sdc), SATA hard drive, and USB hard drive were all recognized by the system. I only modified the SSD partition by resizing the Windows’ “Program Files” partition to 64000 MB, and creating new partitions for the root file system (167913 MB) and swap (~8GB). Once the changes were all applied I clicked on Install Now to complete the installation, and a few minutes later reboot with Grub giving the option between Ubuntu (default) or Windows Boot Manager.

So we have a dual boot Windows 10 / Ubuntu 17.10 systems here, I selected Ubuntu and within a few seconds I could login to Ubuntu 17.10 and access the GNOME desktop environment.

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Canonical did a good job of making their GNOME implementation feels like Unity, but there are some obvious changes like the login prompt, different dash search location, and redesigned Settings menu.

Ubuntu 17.10 on MeLE PCG35 Apo – System Info and Hardware Features

Let’s run some command to check what we have:

Ubuntu 17.10 with Linux 4.13, around 4GB RAM, and 153 GB rootfs. The SATA drive (NTFS) was not mounted by default, but I could mount it manually later on. However the three of four partitions on the USB drive were mounted automatically (exFAT not supported?), and the Windows partitions was mounted too:

Good news if you don’t plan to use an SSD, but want to install Ubuntu or other Linux distribution in the computer.

CPU information returned by lshw:

as well as BIOS, cache, & memory info:

Ethernet & WiFi were also detected:

I also tested all ports and networking options of the device, and everything worked just fine.

Features Results
HDMI video OK
HDMI audio OK
VGA OK
Ethernet OK
WiFi OK
Bluetooth OK. Tested with Bluetooth headset
USB 2.0 port OK
USB 3.0 ports OK
USB 3.0 type C port OK. Mouse connected via adapters
SD slot OK
eMMC flash OK

Ubuntu 17.10 User Experience on Apollo Lake

Finally I played with various apps, mirroring what I normally do on Windows 10, except I had to replace Asphalt 8 Airborne by Jet Racing Extreme which I installed from Steam:

  • Multi-tasking – Launching and using Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, and Gimp at the same time
  • Web Browsing with Firefox
    • Loading multiple tabs with CNX Software blog, Facebook, YouTube
    • Playing Candy Crush Saga
    • Playing a 4K YouTube Videos (also tested with Chrome)
  • Gaming with Steam (Jet Racing Extreme Demo)
  • Kodi 4K videos and audio pass-through

The video is fairly long, and I did not edit it to show how some parts are rather slow to load, especially Jet Racing Extreme, and to a lesser extent Candy Crush Saga.

The Multi-tasking part is really fast, everything starts about as fast as on my much more powerful main computer (AMD FX8350 with 128 GB SSD + 16 GB RAM), ans for simple desktop tasks, even with multiple program, the system is really fast enough.

Multitab browsing goes well too, but Candy Crush Saga takes quite a while to start, so much that I decided to play YouTube videos will the game started. 1080p YouTube video playback works OK, but once we switch to 4K, it’s really sluggish. By default VP9 is used, so I installed h264ify, but in that case (AVC1), YouTube limits video to 1440p, and 2160p is not accessible. I switched to Chrome, and VP9 decoding was again incredibly slow.

Jet Racing Extreme Demo is playable – if we ignore the awful controls -, but it’s really slow to load. Once the reason could be that it requires a lot of RAM, and 4GB is not enough. Running htop while running the game showed that the RAM was fully utilized, and part of the swap was needed too (1GB+).

Kodi 17.3 (installed with apt) was also a disappointment with H.264, H.265 and VP9 all relying on software decoding despite VAAPI hardware video decoding being enabled in the settings. That means the systems is usable with 1080p videos, but not 4K videos. Automatic frame rate switching did not work either. Audio pass-through with PulseAudio worked fine as I could play videos with Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3) and DTS 5.1.

Amlogic T962E SoC Powers $55 Alfawise H96 Mini TV Box with HDMI Input, HDMI Output

October 25th, 2017 19 comments

HDMI input can be a useful addition to Android TV boxes, or media centers, as they allow for functions such as PiP (Picture in Picture), PVR/DVR  (Personal / Digital Video Recording), and potentially video broadcasting with the box taking input from your set-top box (or other HDMI device), and broadcasting the video over your network in order to make it accessible to other computer or mobile devices on your home network, or the Internet.

We started to see HDMI input on devices powered by Mstar MSO9810 processor a few years, and more recently Realtek RTD1295 processor has become more popular with products such as Zidoo X9S, Beelink SEA I, or EWEAT R9 Plus.

Amlogic appears to have joined the fray with Amlogic T962E processor, a family normally used for TVs instead of TV boxes, found in Alfawise H96 mini 4K TV box with HDMI In and Out, 2GB RAM, and 16GB flash.

H96 Mini specifications [Updated based on comments]:

  • SoC – Amlogic T962E quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor with ARM Mali-450 MP3 (GearBest says Mali-T820MP3)
  • System Memory – 2GB LPDDR3
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot up to 128GB
  • Video I/F –  HDMI 2.0a output with HDR, CEC, and HDCP 2.2 support, HDMI 2.0 input, AV port (composite)
  • Audio I/F – HDMI In/Out, AV port (stereo audio), optical S/PDIF
  • Video Playback – 4K HDR; 10-bit H.265 up to 4K @ 60 Hz, VP9 Profile 2 up to 4K @ 60 Hz, H.264 up to 4K @ 30 Hz, H.263, MPEG-4 codecs
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – TBD
  • Power Supply –  TBD
  • Dimensions – 10 x 10 x 1.9 cm
  • Weight – 130 grams

The device runs Android 7.1, and ships with a power adapter, a remote control, a HDMI cable, and an English user manual.

While Amlogic T962 is listed on Amlogic website, T962E is not, and provided the info on GearBest is correct, it appears to be a bit different with a least the GPU being Mali-T820MP3 instead of Mali-450MP3. The solution is quite not as powerful as RTD1295 since it lacks Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, and SATA interfaces.

You’d think that with a fairly unique feature such as HDMI input, even claiming “the only one with HDMI IN / HDMI OUT”, that they’d explain the capabilities of the port, but nothing. Worse case it’s just a mostly useless built-in HDMI switcher, and best case, it rivals Realtek feature set with PiP, DVR and video broadcasting features. We could assume it support DVR since it’s likely derived from a TV SoC, but honestly we just don’t know. I’ll try to see if I can find more info.

What we know for sure is that the price is much cheaper, with H96 Mini selling for just $54.99 on GearBest with coupon GBH96MINI.

Via AndroidPC.es