Archive

Posts Tagged ‘802.11ac’

Zidoo X7 Review – Part 2: Android 7.1 Firmware, ZDMC, WiFi, and More

August 29th, 2017 9 comments

Zidoo X7 is an Android TV box powered by Rockchip RK3328 processor similar to Bqeel MVR9 with 2GB RAM, but instead of provide Gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, it comes with Fast Ethernet, and 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, so is better suited to people using WiFi instead of Ethernet for media streaming. You’ll find plenty of photos in the first part of the review entitled “Zidoo X7 TV Box Review – Part 1: Unboxing & Teardown“, and I’ll report my experience with Android 7.1.2 firmware in this second part.

First Boot, Setup, and First Impressions

I connected two RF dongles for  MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 gamepad via a USB hub, a USB keyboard to take screenshot, and a Seagate USB 3.0 hard drive to the single USB 3.0 port on the box. I perform tests with Ethernet in most reviews, but with Zidoo X7, I’ve decided to use 802.11ac WiFi instead, so I only connected the Ethernet cable when required for some tests. I completed the hardware setup with HDMI, and power cables with the box starting automatically when connecting power.

Click to Enlarge

The boot normally takes around 19 seconds to the new version of the company’s ZIUI launcher, largely inspired from Android Leanback launcher, but I find Zidoo design more pleasing to the eyes.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The notification and status bars will show automatically when you move the mouse pointer to the top of bottom of the screen, and hides automatically when you move away. That’s my favorite way of handling those.

Pre-installed apps include the Play Store, ZDMC (Kodi fork), some settings apps. YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu… apps shown in the main launcher are not installed by default but you can download them if you click on the icons.

The setting app have four main sections, starting with Network to configure WiFi, Ethernet, or Bluetooth…

Click to Enlarge

Display to adjust the screen resolution from 720x480p-60 up to 4096x2160p-60, adjust overscan, and set your own wall paper…

Sound to configure audio output to PCM, or S/PDIF / HDMI audio pass-through, and disable/enable system sounds…

Other to set language, reset to factory settings, switch to “advanced settings” (i.e. Android Nougat settings), or learn more about the system info.

The About section of the advanced settings shows ZIDOO_X7 model runs Android 7.1.2 on top of Linux 3.10.104 with the security patch level dated April 5, 2017.

The device has a 7.28GB internal storage partition with 2.91GB used at the beginning of the review. The system also detected and mounted exFAT, EXT-4 and NTFS partitions on my USB hard drive, but could not handle BTRFS.

I went to the Update app but no new firmware was available ,so I tested Zidoo X7 with firmware v1.2.5.

Google Play worked fine, and I could install most apps I needed for the review, but I did notice Smart Movement app for a Bluetooth LE smartwatch could not be installed via the store, so maybe BLE is not supported. I could also install Riptide GP2 with Amazon Underground, but the first time I launched the latter is crashed. (Riptide GP2 only). I had a funny issues with apps installed from Google Play, not but Amazon Underground,  as they would show twice in the list of apps.

The included IR remote control worked well up to 10 meters, and I could use the IR learning function to record some of my TV remote control buttons like power and volume. I did not use it very long though, as I used a more convenient air mouse most of the time.

A short press on the remote control power button will bring a menu to select between Power off, Standby, or Reboot.


But a long press will allow you to select between showing this menu (Ask me) go to power off and standby mode directly.

So while power handling is nicely implemented, I found power consumption to be rather high in power off mode:

  • Power off – 2.3 to 2.4 Watts (although once I somehow managed 1.0 Watt)
  • Standby – 3.3 Watts
  • Idle – 3.2 Watts
  • Power off + USB HDD – 5.0 to 6.2 Watts (even after 3 hours). The Ethernet port can establish a link if I connect the cable…
  • Standby – 5.0 to 6.4 Watts
  • Idle + USB HDD – 6.4 to 7.0 Watts

So it looks like something is wrong with power off mode.

Zidoo X7 gets a little less hot than MVR9, but I still measured up to 45 and 52ºC max measured on the top and bottom covers after playing a 2-hour 1080p video in ZDMC (Kodi fork), and 47 and 55ºC after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 minutes. CPU-Z reported respectively 74.6°C and 83.9°C after the tests. The ambient temperature was around 28°C, and I did not experience any noticeable slowdowns during the review.

Zidoo X7 works pretty well, and I’m especially pleased with the new ZIUI launcher that’s both beautiful and convenient to use, and attention to details like option for power handling. But not everything is prefect, as power consumption in power off mode is rather high, and apps installed with Google Play show twice in the list of apps.

Video & Audio Playback – ZDMC, MediaCenter, DRM, and YouTube

Zidoo X7 comes with the compan’y own Kodi fork named ZDMC (ZiDoo MediaCenter) based on Kodi 16.1.

Click to Enlarge

For some reasons, “Accelerate VP9” and “Enable fractional HDMI (23.976, 59.67)” were disabled in Settings->Videos->RKMC, so I enabled them, as well as automatic frame rate switching before starting to test videos.

As mentioned in the introduction, I used 802.11ac WiFi for testing with my router about 4 meters away and behind a wall, but since I came across buffering issues in some videos, I tested with three methods in case of problems, stopping at the first successful attempt:

  1. ZDMC + 802.11ac WiFI (WiFi)
  2. ZDMC + 10/100M Ethernet (Ethernet)
  3. ZDMC + USB NTFS partition (HDD)

Those are the results for 4K videos:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps)

    • WiFi – Some buffering, then video OK, but no audio
    • Ethernet – Video OK, but no audio
    • HDD – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744)
    • WiFi – Frequent buffering
    • Ethernet – OK (24 Hz video output)
  • 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 (24 Hz video output)
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps; 59.97 Hz)
    • WiFi – Not smooth, no audio
    • Ethernet – Video + Audio OK for a while, then lost audio
    • HDD – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Tested with WiFi only: Not smooth, audio delay (Note: H.264 @ 4K60fps is not supported by RK3328 VPU)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps)
    • WiFi – Long buffering after 2 seconds, then some infrequent audio cuts, infrequent short image freezes
    • Ethernet – Mostly OK, but one short audio cut during the first 3 minutes
    • HDD – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC)
    • WiFi – Not smooth at all, no audio (buffer = 0%)
    • Ethernet – Not smooth at all, no audio (buffer = 0%)
    • HDD – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream)
    • WiFi – Not smooth at all, no audio (buffer = 0%)
    • Ethernet – Not smooth at all, no audio (buffer = 0%)
    • HDD – OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps)
    • WiFi – Constant buffering (as should be expected)
    • Ethernet – Constant buffering (as should be expected)
    • HDD – OK
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – HDD: Not smooth
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio)
    • WiFi – Frequent buffering, then artifacts starts to show on the whole screen after 10 seconds, and audio lost
    • Ethernet – Some buffering, artifacts after a while, and some apparently AV sync issues
    • HDD – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio)
    • WiFi – Frequent buffering, artifacts on the whole screen for 1 or 2 seconds from time to time
    • Ethernet – Plays OK most of the time, but artifacts on the whole screen appears from time to time (e.g. at 00:50, then 1:20, etc..)
    • HDD – Played OK at the beginning, but then massive artifacts between 1:06 to 1:36, before resuming normally

So finally, I could play most videos with automatic frame rate switching from the hard drive, but 802.11ac WiFi is just not fast enough to play many 4K videos from a SAMBA share. Some of it may be improved by using a UPnP/DLNA server instead of SAMBA. However, I was still it surprised by the number of videos not playing fine over Fast Ethernet, so there may still be some issues here, notably with videos where the buffer suddenly dropped to 0% as reported by Kodi log overlay as shown in the screenshot below.

Click for Original Size

Another oddity is that when I take screenshots on other platform, it will only capture the OSD / user interface, since the video is rendered on a separate 4K video buffer. Could that mean the video is downscaled? Before answering this question, I played the 4K video samples with MediaCenter app from the USB drive:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv (H.264, 24 fps, 4096×1744) –  OK with 24 Hz video output, but I could not select the subtitles like I normally do in this video
  • 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, but 1080p @ 24 Hz video output, instead of 4K @ 24Hz
  • 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 – Almost smooth, but audio delay (H.264 @ 4K60fps is not supported by RK3328 VPU)
  • 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) – OK
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Not 100% smooth
  • 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) – OK, expect for some specific scenes (source issue?).

The results with MediaCenter are very good, except for a few problem for subtitles, automatic frame rate switching for one video using 1080p24 output, and a very high bitrate video not as smooth as it could be.

Click to Enlarge

Coming back to the screenshot concern in ZDMC, I did a screenshot again with MediaCenter, and the video was again included. So it could either be the video is rendered to a 1920×1080 surface, or the system does something clever during the screenshot by copying the video hardware buffer to the framebuffer to include both. let’s find with a 4K resolution test sample, which I used previously on other 4K TV boxes. The sample would not play in MediaCenter, so I played in in ZDMC, and took a picture with my camera, and zoomed in closely on a part of the movie to find out if there was any issues.

Ignore the green line, as it’s a problem with my TV.

The samples is comprised of a grid of black and white dots, and if the video is scaled to a lower resolution we would only see white/greay or black dots, but here we can see black and white dots as expected, so Zidoo X7 indeed supports 4K properly…

So I carried on the review with audio test for both PCM 2.0 (stereo audio) for people who connected the box directly to their TV or other stereo speakers, and HDMI audio pass-through for those with A/V receivers. For the latter test, I enabled pass-through settings in ZDMC and Android, and tested both configuration with ZDMC and MediaCenter using my TV and Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver.

Audio Codec in Video PCM 2.0 Output
(ZDMC 16.1)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MediaCenter)
HDMI Pass-through
(ZDMC 16.1)
HDMI Pass-through
(MediaCenter)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK,
Video 1:1 aspect ratio
Audio OK,
Video 1:1 aspect ratio
Audio OK,
Video 1:1 aspect ratio
Audio OK,
Video 1:1 aspect ratio
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK OK OK
TrueHD 5.1 OK OK OK OK
TrueHD 7.1 OK OK OK OK
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio TrueHD 7.1* TrueHD 7.1*
DTS HD Master OK No audio DTS-HD MSTR 7.1 DTS-HD MSTR 7.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK DTS 5.1 DTS 5.1
DTS:X OK 2x No audio, 1x OK DTS-HD MSTR 7.1* DTS-HD MSTR 7.1*

* My A/V receiver does not support DTS:X nor Dolby Atmos, so it correctly falls to be best option in this case.
Zidoo X7 handles audio much better than Bqeel MVR9 in my case, with the only real issues because the lack of reliable DTS HD MA downsampling support, and DTS-HD HR pass-through is not supported.

I played a 2-hour 1080p movie in ZDMC using WiFi and SAMBA, and I had no problem, however, there was no option to adjust the zoom level, only 3D options.

Click to Enlarge

There’s no support for Widevine or PlayReady DRM, but CENC ClearKey is supported, and actually appears to be supported in all Android TV boxes (TBC).

YouTube is working fine up to 1080p, but you can’t select 2160p.

Networking & Storage Performance

I tested 802.11ac WiFi with SAMBA by copying a 278MB file between the server and the internal flash, and vice versa, with ES File Explorer. The download results are excellent, but for some reasons the upload much weaker:

  1. Server to flash (average): 1 minutes 7 seconds, or around 4.15 MB/s
  2. Flash to server (average): 3 minutes 13 seconds, or around 1.44 MB/s

So if I used the download + upload total average of around 2.14 MB/s, Zidoo X7’s WiFi performance is somewhat disappointing.

WiFi Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

But luckily the upload issue seems to be related to SAMBA, as there’s no such issues with iperf:

  • 802.11ac WiFi Upload:

  • 802.11ac WiFi Download:

Zidoo X7 has a performance similar to some other WiFi AC capable devices I’ve reviewed recently.

iperf throughput in Mbps

Switching to storage performance, A1 SDbench app shows good write speed for the internal memory (as expected), but as is often the case the read speed is cached with an invalid result. However, I had no trouble with slow I/O during testing, the box boots rapidly (< 20 seconds), apps are loading fine, and I did not get any “app is not responding” pop-ups.

Click to Enlarge

USB 3.0 performance is acceptable for EXT-4 and NTFS file systems, but exFAT is basically unusable, which may explain why some competitors disabled it.

Gaming

I could play both Beach Buggy Racing (BBR) and Riptide GP2 on the device using Mars G01 game controller. BBR was usable even with max settings, but just like in Bqeel MVR9, Riptide GP2 was only really enjoyable with default settings, while if you set the graphics settings to “max resolution” the frame rate feels like 10 to 25 fps. I played the game for around 15 minutes, and the performance was constant throughout, so there was no apparent throttling due to overheating.

So if you use such RK3328 TV box for gaming, you’ll either have to accept default settings, or decrease quality for better performance, or get a model with 1280×720 user interface, instead of 1920×1080. Ideally, this should be an option in the settings.

Bluetooth

I had no troubles at all with Bluetooth, as I could pair my  Android smartphone, and transfer some photos over Bluetooth, and X1T Bluetooth earbuds to watch and listen to YouTube videos. I did not try Sixaxis since the firmware is not rooted.

Zidoo X7 CPU-Z System Info and Antutu Benchmark

CPU-Z still shows “Rockchip RK3066” for most Rockchip device, but apart from that it properly detected a quad core ARM Cortex A53 r0p4 processor clocked @ 408 MHz to 1.51 GHz with a Mali-450MP, as well as 1998 MB total RAM, and 5.27 GB internal storage

Click to Enlarge

The Antutu 6.x score of 33,264 points is comparable to Bqeel MVR9 and A95X R2 scores of respectively 35,994 and 33,117 points. The former slightly higher score may be due to the DDR4 used, as Zidoo X7 relies on DDR3 SDRAM instead.

Conclusion

Overall I find that Zidoo X7 offers a better experience than the other Rockchip RK3328 devices I have tested so far, especially if you rely on WiFi, and HDMI audio pass-through is important to you, and 4K video playback is working decently well as long as you play from a hard drive. I also really like the new ZIUI launcher that’s quite eye pleasing, and similar to Leanback launcher with the “Suggested videos” section replaced by icon for the main apps. Attention to details, like flexibility for power options, and automatic handling of notifications and status bar. But there are also issues with some troubles playing some video over SAMBA due to unusual buffering issues, high power off consumption, lack of DRM, and so on.

PROS

  • Recent, responsive and stable Android 7.1.2 operating system
  • Nicely designed new ZIUI launcher / user interface
  • Good support for 4K videos played from hard drive in both ZDMC 16.1 (Kodi fork) and MediaCenter with automatic frame rate switching support
  • HDMI pass-through for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master working in ZDMC and MediaCenter
  • Fast eMMC flash storage allowing for fast boot, short app loading times, and good overall performance (e.g. no “aspp not responding” issues)
  • USB 3.0 performance is good with EXT-4 and NTFS file systems
  • Good 802.11ac WiFi performance (except for SAMBA uploads)
  • Built-in Bluetooth working as expected
  • Small details like notifications & status bars automatically shown/hidden, power options,

CONS (and bugs)

  • ZDMC – Some unusual buffering issues while playing from network/samba (either with WiFi and Ethernet); no zoom option while playing video (only 3D options); artifacts with some VP9 videos, even when played from HDD; No DTS HD High Resolution HR pass-through support (uses DTS 5.1 instead)
  • MediaCenter – Selecting embedded subtitles not working in one video; 1080p24 output selected while playing on 4K24 video; No DTS HD High Resolution HR pass-through support (uses DTS 5.1 instead); DTS HD audio down-mixing not working reliably.
  • High power consumption in power off mode, especially when HDD connected (5.0 to 6.4 Watts).
  • Poor SAMBA upload performance when using WiFi
  • Lack of DRM support
  • Google Play – Apps relying on Bluetooth LE cannot be installed; apps show twice is list of apps after installation
  • 3D gaming frame rate may not be very high on some apps, due to the 1920×1080 resolution (instead of 1280×720 on some other RK3328 models)

I’d like to thank Zidoo for sending a review sample. Resellers and distributors can contact the company via Zidoo X7’s product page, and individuals will find the box for sale online for $65 and up on e-retailers such as GearBest, GeekBuying, Amazon US, or Aliexpress.

Intel Wireless-AC 9560 CRF Module Adds 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 5 to Gemini Lake/Cannon Lake Processors

August 23rd, 2017 3 comments

Last week, we saw that the upcoming Intel Gemini Lake processors integrated a CNVi (Connectivity Integration) block with a WiFi MAC, and Bluetooth MAC & Baseband Modem connected over a CNVio interface to a separate CRF (Companion RF) module handling the RF part. The design change is shown in the block diagram below with the old design on the left using wireless modules connected over PCIe and USB, and the new design on the right used in Cannon Lake/Gemini Lake processors which aims at saving power, cost, and size.

Intel has now uploaded the product brief for their first wireless CRF module: Intel Wireless-AC 9560 with the following key features:

  • Connectivity
    • WiFi
      • Dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wave 2 2×2 WiFi up to 1.73 Gbps using 160 MHz channels
      • Standards – IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 802.11d, 802.11e, 802.11h, 802.11i, 802.11w, 802.11r, 802.11k, 802.11v pending OS support
      • Security
        • WPA and WPA2, 802.1X (EAP-TLS, TTLS, PEAP,EAP-SIM, EAP-AKA, EAP-AKA’) authentication methods
        • PAP, CHAP, TLS, MS-CHAP, MS-CHAPv2 protocols
        • 64-bit and 128-bit WEP, TKIP, 128-bit AES-CCMP encryption
      • Supports roaming between access points
    • Bluetooth 5
    • Antenna diversity and Radio ON/OFF control supported
  • Connector Interface – M.2: CNVio
  • Dimensions
    • 9560NGW model: 30 x 22 x 2.4 mm (M.2 2230 form factor)
    • 9560D2W model: 16 x 12 x 1.57 mm (M.2 1216 form factor)
  • Weight – 9560NGW: 2.8 grams, 9560D2W: 0.7 gram
  • Certifications – FIPS, FISMA, UL, C-UL, CB (IEC 60950-1), and other regulatory certifications depending on country

Intel has been providing M.2 2230 and M.2 1216 wireless modules for a while, so there’s no direct space saving here with CNVi when using those modules, but they should still come with less components than previous design.

We’ll have to wait until systems based on Gemini Lake or Cannon Lake start selling before being able to purchase Wireless-AC 9560 module, or see it bundled in computers or laptops.

Khadas VIM2 Amlogic S912 Development Board Sells for $75 and Up

August 21st, 2017 21 comments

Khadas VIM2 is the only low cost development board powered by Amlogic S912 octa-core processor that I know of, but when we first wrote about the board it was not available yet. The three versions of the boards are now being sold on GearBest with the Basic version going for $74.99, the Pro version for $94.99, and the Max version for $109.99. [Update: You can get VIM2 Max for $99.99 by using GBVIM2MAX coupon code for the first 100 boards daily, and the five first boards are sold for $49.99 daily at 9:00 UTC until August 28th. Details on promotion page.]

Click to Enlarge

Khadas VIM2 Basic/Pro/Max specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S912 octa core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with ARM Mali-820MP GPU
  • System Memory
    • Basic – 2 GB DDR4
    • Pro/Max – 3 GB DDR4
  • Storage
    • micro SD card and 2MB SPI flash
    • eMMC Flash – Basic: 16GB; Pro: 32GB; Max: 64GB
  • Video & Audio  Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz with CEC support
  • Connectivity
    • Basic – Gigabit Ethernet with WoL support, 802.11 b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.1 via Ampak AP6356S module
    • Pro/Max – Gigabit Ethernet with WoL support, 802.11 b/g/n/ac with RSDB and Bluetooth 4.2 via Ampak AP6359SA module
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports supporting 900mA and 500mA loads, 1x USB 2.0 type C port supporting power and data only
  • Expansion header
    • 40-pin 2.54mm pitch header with USB, UART, I2C, ADC, PWM, I2S, SPDIF, and ISO7816
    • 10-pin FPC connector with I2C and IOs
    • 8 “pin” pogo pads array with USB, I2C, DVB bus, and I/Os
  • Misc – Blue LED, white LED, dual channel IR, power/function/reset buttons, header for RTC battery, fan header
  • Power Supply –  5V to 9V via USB type C, 4-pin VIN 1.25mm pitch header, or pogo pads for VIN (5V recommended for better efficiency); programmable current limit switch up to 4A (Set to 3A by default)
  • Dimensions – 82.0 x 57.5 x 11.5 mm (4x M2 mounting holes)

Click to Enlarge

SZWesion has a single Wiki for both Khadas VIM (S905X) and VIM2 (S912) boards, so it may be a little confusing, but you’ll find Android Nougat, Ubuntu 16.04.2 and Dual OS (Android + Ubuntu) images in the firmware page, as well as more technical information (e.g. schematics, build instructions…) in the documentation page. The board should work well in Android 7.1 with hardware video decoding and GPU acceleration working since they’ve been so many Amlogic S912 Android devices on the market. For Linux, the board will likely work well for headless applications, or applications that do not require multimedia features, but for example, 4K video decoding may not work that well – at least for now -,  as I was told kszaq work on LibreELEC using 32-bit Android libraries and libhybris would only work up to 1080p60. If you have any specific question, you should be able to get your answer in the support forum.

New Features of Intel Gemini Lake Processors – HDMI 2.0, 10-bit VP9 Codec, 4-Wide Pipeline, and More

August 13th, 2017 5 comments

Most recent low power Intel mini PCs are now based on Apollo Lake family with SoC such as Celeron N3450 or Pentium N4200, but we’ve known for a while that Gemini Lake processors will succeed those starting in Q4 2017, and we can expect some Celeron/Pentium SKUs like Intel Pentium J5005 or Intel Celeron N4000, but so far I had not seen that many details. However, an anonymous tip pointed me to some interesting publicly available information.

First, a kernel patch reveals a little about the CPU pipeline:

Add perf core PMU support for Intel Goldmont Plus CPU cores:
– The init code is based on Goldmont.
– There is a new cache event list, based on the Goldmont cache event list.
– All four general-purpose performance counters support PEBS.
– The first general-purpose performance counter is for reduced skid PEBS mechanism. Using :ppp to indicate the event which want to do reduced skid PEBS.
– Goldmont Plus has 4-wide pipeline for Topdown

Goldmont Plus is the microarchitecture  used in Gemini Lake processor. Goldmont found in Apollo Lake processors only uses a 3-wide pipeline, so there should be some performance benefits here.

Another patch indicates the processor will natively support HDMI 2.0 output:

Geminilake has a native HDMI 2.0 controller, which is capable of driving clocks up to 594Mhz. This patch updates the max tmds clock limit for the same.

Apollo Lake processors only support HDMI 1.4 natively, and while HDMI 2.0 is possible, it requires an external DP to HDMI 2.0 converter, which won’t be needed in Gemini Lake processors.

The last link to Intel 2017Q2 Graphics stack page lists the supported codecs and post-processing support in Gemini Lake processors via the VAAPI driver:

Add support for Gemini Lake (aka. GLK)
– Decoding: H.264/MPEG-2/VC-1/JPEG/VP8/HEVC/HEVC 10-bit/VP9/VP9 10-bit
– Encoding: H.264/MPEG-2/JPEG/VP8/VP9/HEVC/HEVC 10-bit/AVC low power CQP mode
– VPP: CSC/scaling/NoiseReduction/Deinterlacing{Bob, MotionAdaptive, MotionCompensated}/ColorBalance/STD

Finally, as I searched more about the Goldmont Plus microarchitecture, I found Wikichip page that also claims the processor will integrate an 802.11ac wireless controller, so no external module is needed. I could not find any other reference to this last claim, except for a FanlessTech tweet also claiming DDR4, Bluetooth, and 4MB L2 cache. Gemini Lake processors will be manufactured with 14-nm process like their Apollo Lake predecessors.

VideoStrong VS-RD-RK3399 is Another Development Board Based on Rockchip RK3399 Processor

August 11th, 2017 9 comments

VideoStrong is better known for their Android set-top boxes with digital TV tuners, but they are making other hardware too, and their latest design is a Rockchip RK3399 development board named VS-RD-RK3399.

Click to Enlarge

VideoStrong VS-RD-RK3399 board specifications:

  • SoC – Rochchip RK3399 hexa-core big.LITTLE processor with two ARM Cortex A72 cores up to 2.0 GHz and four core Cortex A53 cores,  ARM Mali-T860 MP4 GPU with OpenGL 1.1 to 3.1 support, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL and DX 11 support
  • System Memory – Dual channel 2GB or 4GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16/32 GB eMMC 5.1 flash, micro SD card
  • Video Output & Display Interfaces
    • 1x HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz
    • 1x DisplayPort up to 4K @ 60 Hz
    • 1x MIPI DSI dual channel interface up to 2560×1600 @ 60 Hz
    • 1x eDP (embedded DisplayPort) 1.3 with 4-lanes @ 10.8 Gbps
    • 1x I2C interface for touch panel
  • Video Decode – 4K VP9 and 10-bit H.265 video codec support up to 60 fps
  • Audio
    • Via HDMI or DisplayPort
    • 1x 3.5mm headphone jack with stereo audio output and mic input
    • 1x LINE out
    • 1x speaker output (1.8W 8Ω/3.1W 4Ω )
    • 2x speaker outputs (1.5W 8Ω/2.5W 4Ω )
    • 1x SPDIF digital audio output port
    • 1x microphone
    • 1x I2S interface up to 8 channels
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet (RJ45) port using RTL8211E transceiver, WiFi 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO and Bluetooth 4.1 (AP6356S module)
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 type C port
  • Camera
    • 2x MIPI CSI interfaces up to 13MP or 2x 8MP
    • 1x DVP camera interface up to 5MP
  • Debugging – 3-pin serial header
  • Expansion
    • 42-pin GPIO female header with access to 1x I2S, 2x ADC, 2x I2C, 1x SPI/UART, 2x GPIO, 1x LINEOUT, 1x SPEAKER
    • 1x mini PCIe for LTE
    • 1x SIM card slot
  • Misc – Power and user LEDs; 1x IR receiver, 1x RTC battery port; reset, power, and upgrade buttons
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A DC via 5.5×2.1mm barrel connector or 2-pin header; RK808 PMIC
  • Dimensions – 12.4 x 9.5 mm (8-layer PCB)
  • Weight – Board: 89 grams; board + cooling fan and heatsink: 120 grams

The specifications are very similar to the ones for Firefly-RK3399 board, except a few tweaks here and there. You’ll find the header pinout in that document.

Click to Enlarge

The company will offer support for both Android 7.1 and Linux, but when asked about the SDK I was told that “SDK could be down load from our indicating link”. If you are confused, so I was, but after deep mediation, I saw the light, and it probably means that they’ll provide download links for the SDK to their customers only.

Click to Enlarge

The kit comes with an acrylic case, and antennas for WiFi and Bluetooth. I don’t have any confirmation about the price, but the board is listed on Alibaba for $149.99. We’ll soon find out more as the company intends to send a sample for review.

A Look at Some USB 3.0 WiFi 802.11ac Adapters with Multiple High Gain Antennas

August 11th, 2017 9 comments

When last week I reviewed Rock64 board I noticed they sold a “USB 3.0 Dual Band 1200Mbps WIFI 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (RTL8812AU) adapter” for $19.99. So far I had only seen USB dongles with internal antennas or a single external antenna, but in the case of development boards, which may be used as routers or gateways, it makes perfect sense to get such adapter for higher performance and longer range. The only problem is that it “ships together with ROCK64 fulfillment”, meaning you can’t purchase it separately if you already have some other board to use, so I went to look for alternatives.

ROCK64 USB Dongle (left); COMFAST CF-926AC (right)

One of the first I’ve come across was COMFAST CF-926AC with the following specifications:

  • Chipset – Mediatek MT7612U
  • Interface –  USB 3.0 rotatable port
  • WiFi – Dual band 2T2R WiFi 802.11ac, 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n up to “1200” Mbps (867 Mbps @ 5.8 GHz + 300 Mbps @ 2.4 GHz)
  • Antenna – 2x external high gain (3dBi) antennas (270° rotation)
  • Dimensions – 19.50 x 5.00 x 1.40 cm
  • Weight – 410 grams

The page description mentions it works without drivers on Windows, but one seller reports that “it can support win10 system receive wifi signal,but it can’t support win10 system emission wifi signal”. As usual, no mention of Linux, but luckily a quick search found MT7612U Linux driver with support for AP and STA mode, just don’t run iwconfig in AP mode… It requires Linux 4.2 or greater, and as only been tested on x86_64 so far, so your mileage may vary on other targets.

I first found it on Aliexpress for $16.99 shipped, but you’ll also find it on GearBest for $15.99, and Amazon US for $19.99.

EDUP EP-AC1621 AC1900 USB Adapter – Click to Enlarge

During my search I also found EDUP EP-AC1621 USB 3.0 WiFi adapter with four external antennas and the following specifications:

  • Chipset – Realtek RTL8814AU
  • Interface – USB 3.0 OTG port
  • WiFi – Dual band WiFi 802.11ac, 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n up to 1900 Mbps (1300 Mbps @ 5.8 GHz + 600 Mbps @ 2.4 GHz)
  • Antenna – 4x external high gain (6dBi) antennas
  • Misc – WPS key
  • Dimensions – 9.0 x 4.4 x 1.4 cm (body); 17 cm long antennas

The device does not connect directly to the USB port, but instead via a one meter USB 3.0 OTG to USB 3.0 type A cable. The description explains it comes with an “easy to use CD setup wizard and compatible with Microsoft Windows XP/VISTA/Win7/8.1/10 Linux/Macintosh”. In case, you’d rather have an alternative driver, you’ll find an 8814AU Linux driver in Github based on the original driver  for Linux kernels up to 4.8 with DKMS support, but there are some commits to make it work with newer kernels.

I found that model on Aliexpress for $41.90, but again you can also purchase it on Amazon US or GearBest (and other sites).You may learn a little more by visiting the manufacturer’s product page.

Various other models are also sold, the important is to check whether the chipset is supported by your operating system, and if it supports the modes (AP, STA, AP+STA) required for your use case. Those type of adapters only really make sense with boards and devices with USB 3.0 interfaces, since USB 2.0 is limited to 480 Mbps.

Zidoo X7 TV Box Review – Part 1: Unboxing & Teardown

August 9th, 2017 6 comments

Zidoo X7 is another Rockchip RK3328 based TV box that has the advantage of coming with 2GB RAM, 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1, as well as Zidoo firmware support, compared to its cheaper competitors such as A95X R2 TV box. The company sent me a review sample to check out it. As a side note, it was quite a challenge to get the box, as my country of residence enacted a new law requiring a “broadcasting license” to import TV boxes and HDMI dongles, even if you get just one unit, so the first attempt failed to got through customs, but eventually I managed to get the box through a local reseller. Back to the review… As usual I’ll write a first part showcasing the hardware design today, before testing the firmware, and publishing my results next month.

Zidoo X7 Unboxing

The package shows some of the key features of the box like 4K, 3D, H.265/HEVC video support, Android 7.0 OS, 2GB RAM, and so on.

Click to Enlarge

The box ships with an infrared remote control with IR learning function for 4 keys, a HDMI cable, a 5V/2A power adapter – which hopefully will be enough to power my hard drive -, Zidoo X7 user guide, a guarantee card, and a “qualified certificate”.

Click to Enlarge

The box itself comes with a small windows on the front panel for the power LED and IR receiver, two USB 2.0 port and micro SD slot on one side, a USB 3.0 port on the side, and the remaining of the ports on the rear panel: 5V DC jack, AV port (composite + stereo audio), Fast Ethernet port, HDMI 2.0a output, optical S/PDIF, and the recovery pinhole.

Click to Enlarge

Zidoo X7 Teardown

I had to take out the four rubber pads, and loosen four screws to open the box.

Click to Enlarge

There’s not much to see on the bottom side, except a metal shield soldered to the board.

Click to Enlarge

The board can be easily taken out of the plastic case. We can see a fairly large heatsink on the processor that makes contact to a thermal pad glued on a thick thermal pad. So cooling appears to be better than on the cheaper models. The WiFi antenna is also glued to one of the side of the case.

Click to Enlarge

On the top side of Z3328_V1.0 board, the processor is connected to two SKHynix H5TQ4G63CFR DDR3 SDRAM chip (2x 512MB) – with the two other chips likely placed under the metal shield -, and Samsung KLM8G1GEME-B041 eMMC 5.1 flash chip with 185/40 MB/s sequential R/W speeds, and 5.2K/2.5K R/W IOPS, which will be the best you’ll get from an 8GB Samsung flash chip, and should help to offer a smooth user experience.

Click to Enlarge

Network connectivity is implemented with an Ampak AP6255 SDIO module with 802.11 b/g/b/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1, as well as PPT PSF-162111 transformer for Fast Ethernet. Others ICs include Rockchip RK805-1 PMIC, and 3PEAK TPF632 audio line driver. There also appears to be a footprint for a CR2032 battery for an RTC, and the 3-pin header close to the IR receiver is likely for serial console access.

I’d like to thank Zidoo for arranging shipping for the review sample. Zidoo X7 can be purchased on several sites for $65 and up, including GearBest, GeekBuying, Amazon US, and Aliexpress.

Unistorm AK1 Intel Celeron J3455 mini PC Sells for $158

August 3rd, 2017 5 comments

Last month, I wrote about MeLE PCG35 Apo mini PC based on Intel Celeron J3455 “Apollo Lake” processor. It has started to sell for $179 this week, but there’s now a cheaper option with similar specifications thanks to Unistorm AK1 mini PC going for $158.30 instead.

Unistorm AK1 mini PC specifications with highlights in bold or stricken-through showing differences with PCG35 Apo:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron J3455 quad core “Apollo Lake” processor @ 1.50 / 2.30 GHz with a 12 EU Intel HD Graphics 500 @ 250/750 MHz (10W TDP)
  • System Memory – 4GB LPDDR3
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC flash, 1x 2.5″ SATA HDD slot, 1x M.2 SSD slot, 1x micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 up to 4K @ 30 Hz, and VGA
  • Audio – Via HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11b/g/n/ac WiFi & Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB Type-C port
  • Misc – Power button, Kensington Lock, VESA mount support
  • Power Supply  – 12V / 2A
  • Dimensions – 128 x 128 x 37 mm (vs 198 x 125 x 39.50 mm)
  • Weight – 230 grams (vs ~1 kg)

The main differences in terms of ports are that HDMI is limited to 4K @ 30 Hz (no HDMI 2.0), the VGA port is gone, and instead of three USB 3.0 ports, and one USB 2.0 port, AK1 comes with a pair of both. The mini PC does not appear to ship with a VESA mount.

MeLE PCG35 Apo case is also made of metal, while Unistorm AK1 uses a plastic enclosure, so it’s much lighter, but it may not cool as well. Speaking about cooling, it’s clear whether the device includes a fan, or is passively cooled like the MeLE mini PC, but at least the company designed the case with plenty of ventilation around the top edges. The picture also shows colored LEDs inside AK1, sometimes blue, sometimes orange, and there not indicated whether this can be disabled. Maybe in the BIOS? The mini PC is said to be pre-loaded with an activated version of Windows 10.

[Update: This mini PC looks very similar to ACEPC AK1, and based in the description on Amazon US, the mini PC is designed with a fan.
Unboxing video shows more details about the modular 2.5″ SATA bay, and that model does include a VESA mount:

]

Via AndroidPC.es