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Posts Tagged ‘air mouse’

Factory Prices of Some TV Boxes and Accessories

September 12th, 2017 13 comments

Some companies that contact me have not read the about section of the blog, and either tell me they can give me a good price for TV boxes, and some even send me their price list. And this morning, I’ve received a EXW (Ex Works) price list this of Amlogic S912/S905X/S905W and Rockchip based TV boxes, as well as some air mice, and Android projectors.

The cheapest models are based on S905W and RK3229, with MXQ Pro 1GB/8GB going for $17.5 per unit for 200 pieces orders. For reference that models goes for around $26 shipped online before any discount coupon you may find. At the other end of the scale, you have TX2 model with 3GB RAM, 64GB flash going for $77.5 EXW for 200-unit orders, and sold online for $86 including shipping, again before coupon. Margin must be really low, or the prices above are not that competitive, but nevertheless it gives an idea of factory prices of various TV boxes. Air mice are really cheap, and backlight usually only adds 90 cents.

iPazzPort SY-20-19RS TV Box Doubles as an Air Mouse Holder and Charger

August 2nd, 2017 2 comments

iPazzPort SY-20-19RS is yet another Amlogic S905X powered Android TV box. But it sells with an air mouse with qwerty keyboard and touchpad by default, and includes a slot right in the middle to hold and charge the air mouse / remote control.

iPassport SY-20-19RS TV box specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905X quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ up to 1.5 GHz with  penta-core Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0, AV
  • Video Codecs – 1080p/4k2k H.264, H.265, VP9; HD AVC/VC-1, HD MPEG1/2/4, RM/RMVB, Xvid/DivX 3/4/5/6, RealVideo 8/9/10
  • Audio – HDMI, AV, coaxial S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet (N.B.: Sellers mention GbE, but S905X does not support it), dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Power Supply –  DC 5V/3A
  • Dimensions – 124 mm ∅ x 80.7 mm

The box runs Android 6.0.1, and ships with a power adapter, a USB cable, a HDMI cable, an English user manual, and the  4-in-1 remote control/air mouse/keyboard/touch pad shown below, which comes with a 240mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

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The device is sold on GearBest for $70.64 including shipping, but GeekBuying offers it for a tad less at $69.99.

Via AndroidTVBox.eu

BLCR MX3 is a $12 Backlit Air Mouse with QWERTY Keyboard

February 27th, 2017 7 comments

There’s an embarrassment of choices when it comes to air mice, but so far apart from models like Rii Mini i28 which looks more like a keyboard than a remote control, I had not seen air mice with backlit keys. But this morning BLCR MX3 showed up in DX new arrivals feed for $17.27 shipped, but you could also find it for about $12 on Aliexpress without BLCR “trademark”. [Update: Also on Amazon US for ~$16].

BLCR MX3 air mouse specifications:

  • Connectivity – 2.4 GHz RF up to 10 meters
  • Sensor – 6-axis sensor with gyroscope and g-sensor
  • Remote side with IR learning function + backlit keys
  • Air Mouse mode
  • QWERTY keyboard with backlit keys
  • Power Supply – 2x AAA batteries (not included)
  • Dimensions – 17.2 x 5.2 x 1.9 cm
  • Weight – 98 grams
  • Material – Plastic + silicone

The device ships with a USB dongle and user’s manual, and works with Android, Max OS, Linux, Windows… basically any OS that supports USB HID class. Backlight functions can be enabled/disabled with the corresponding key on the bottom right of the remote side (above “Internet Explorer” icon), and the last row of keys (red, green, yellow, blue) can be programmed to work with your TV, for example for the power, input, and volume buttons. That side also have trick modes buttons, play/pause, Zoom In/Out buttons, but not Stop button.

The QWERTY keyboard also features backlight keys, but some people may miss the Tab key which can be convenient when filling out forms like entering username and password. The Shift key is not included either, so you’d have to play with CAPS to switch between lowercase and uppercase characters.

Please note that there are some other MX3 air mouse models without backlit, and with or without microphone, so if you are interested in the backlight function make sure you purchase the right one.

Categories: Hardware Tags: air mouse, Android, Linux, mac, windows

Review of MINIX NEO U9-H Media Hub & MINIX A3 Air Mouse – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown

February 24th, 2017 15 comments

MINIX showcased MINIX NEO U9-H TV box at IFA 2016 last year, but was not ready to launch the product or provide the full details yet. The company has now completed development of their Amlogic S912-H octa-core TV box, and sent a review sample for evaluation on CNX Software together with their latest MINIX A3 air mouse with voice command function. I’ll start by listing the specifications of the TV box, take some pictures, and tear it apart to check out how it’s been designed in the first part of the review, and test the firmware in the second part which I intend to post in a few days.

MINIX NEO U9-H Media Hub specifications

One of the main difference over other Amlogic S912, is the -H suffix which means Dolby and DTS licenses have been paid for so all apps will handle those audio formats:

  • SoC – Amlogic S912-H octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.5 GHz with ARM Mali-820MP3
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC 5.0 flash, and micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz with HDMI CEC, and HDR support
  • Audio I/O – Via HDMI output, optical S/PDIF, 3.5mm headphone jack, 3.5mm microphone jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 4.1
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Misc – IR receiver, power button, Kensington Lock
  • Dual DRM Support – Play Ready 3.0 + Google Widevine Level 1
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A

The device runs Android 6.0.1 with XBMC MINIX Edition. The box does not officially support Netflix, but this apk likely based on a previously reported Netflix hack, should give you better quality than the Netflix app from Google Play.

MINIX NEO U9-H Unboxing Photos

I’ve received the box and air mouse in familiar looking packages (if you’ve ever bought anything from MINIX).

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The TV box has exactly the same shape as previous model, and ships with a WiFi antenna, a HDMI cable, a USB OTG adapter, a micro USB to USB cable in case you want to connect the box to your computer, a 5V/3A power adapter, a MINIX IR remote control, and a user’s manual in English, German, and Chinese.

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The front of the device has a plastic window for the IR receiver, and the power LED, while one of the side includes the power button, three USB 2.0 host ports, a micro SD slot, a micro USB OTG port, and a Kensington lock. The rest of the ports can be found on the rear panel: 3.5mm headphone jack, 3.5mm microphone jack, HDMI 2.0a output, optical S/PDIF, Gigabit Ethernet, and the power jack.

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You’ll also find the recovery pin hole on the bottom of the case, more exactly on the left side on the picture below.

MINIX NEO A3 Air Mouse

NEO A3 air mouse specifications include:

  • Connectivity – 2.4GHz transmission with up to 10 meters range
  • Sensors – 6-axis gyroscope and accelerometer
  • Remote side and QWERTY keyboard side
  • Built-in microphone for voice input.
  • Power – 2x AAA batteries
  • Support for Android, Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows

The remote ships with a user’s manual in English, and an RF dongle located in one of the two battery compartments located on the keyboard side.

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It’s actually very similar to MINIX NEO A2 Lite I’ve been using in all of my reviews for about a year.

MINIX NEO A2 Lite (Left and Top) vs NEO A3 (Right and Bottom) – Click to Enlarge

The main difference on the remote side is the microphone & settings button in the new model replacing respectively the “enter button”, which I never use since the Android button does the same, and the mute button. The keyboard side is very similar, except for some adding characters on the arrow keys.

The remote fits well in bigger hands, and I’m overall happy with my experience with A2 Lite, but I wish that space, dot, and enter did not have alternate keys, as I often have to press the Fn button to switch between mode. For example typing an IP address is not that convenient, but one the other side I understand space is limited on such keyboard, and you may have to compromise. The air mouse works well with MINIX devices, and can also be used with other devices, except that you can’t turn on TV boxes from other brands with the remote. This would require some IR learning function which has not been implemented.

MINIX NEO U9-H and NEO A3 Unboxing Video

MINIX NEO U9-H Teardown

Opening NEO U9-H is straightforward, as you just need to remove the four rubber pads on the bottom of the enclosure, and loosen four screws.

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The bottom of the board includes two SkHynix H5TQ4G63CFR-RDC DDR3 SDRAM chips (1GB RAM), the recovery switch, and a 3V battery for the real-time clock (RTC).

It’s then very easy to complete take out the board, as you can simply pull it out. MINIX is always serious when it comes to cooling, and again they’ve used a large heatsink in their latest model, which means there should be no CPU or GPU throttling issue. The two wireless antennas are connected to u.FL connector with some glue to keep them in place during transport.

The heatsink has a thermal that fits right on top of Amlogic S912-H SoC, which on the top of the board is connected to two more  SKHynix chip brings the total memory to 2GB, and a 16GB Samsung KLMAG1JENB-B041 eMMC 5.1 flash with 285/40 MB/s read/write sequential performance, and 8K/10K random R/W IOPS, so I/O performance should be very good.

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Network connectivity is achieved via a Realtek RTL8211F transceiver, and a RJ45 jack with built-in transformer, as well as the same Ampak AP6356S wireless module found in MINIX NEO U1, and supporting 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi up to 867 Mbps (2×2 MIMO) and Bluetoth 4.1 LE. Other components include Genesys Logic GL852G USB 2.0 hub controller, ES8323 audio codec, and Nuvoton MINI54ZDE ARM Cortex M0 MCU to handle power controls. wjhich were also used in NEO U1 TV box. MINIX also kept the same debug headers with JDEBUG1 with 3.3V/Tx/Rx and GND, ICE1 possibly for Nuvotron MCU, and JUART1 with Tx/Rx/GND. So the hardware looks just as solid as in NEO U1, and the eMMC flash that has been upgraded to a new and faster model, which should help a bit with boot time, apps loading times, and overall performance.

That’s it for the hardware, we’ll have to see if firmware is working as well as on their MINIX NEO U1 model, and I’ll publish a review sometimes next week after completing testing.

MINIX NEO U9-H will be officially released on Friday March 3, with pricing as follows:

  • MINIX NEO U9-H = US$139.90 / 154.90EURO
  • MINIX NEO A3 = US$34.90 / 39.90EURO
  • MINIX NEO U9-H + NEO A3 = US$159.90 / 174.90EURO

GearBest has already listed the device on their site, but it’s currently out of stock, since it will only launch in one week. However, MINIX also told me they had some limited stocks in their Amazon US, Amazon UK, and other Amazon stores.

[Update: the second part of the review is up @ MINIX NEO U9-H Media Hub Review – Part 2: Android 6.0 Firmware & Kodi 17]

Ebox T8 V Octa-Core Android TV Box Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, EBMC, and Benchmarks

January 25th, 2017 1 comment

EBox T8 V (version 5) is the new EntertainmentBox.com  TV box specially geared towards the UK market with its choice of apps and online shop based in the United Kingdom. It’s an upgrade to EBox T8-4 I reviewed last year, replacing Amlogic S905 quad core processor by Amlogic S912 octa-core processor, but keeping most of the same features including the SATA bay and EBox user interface. Since we’ve already checked out the hardware, likely based on Zoomtak U Plus, I’ll focus on the firmware in the second part. It will be a shorter reviewed than usual since I have already tested many Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and I’ll refer to T8-4 review when the user interface is identical, and instead focus on what has changed, and the usual suspects like audio pass-through, 4K video playback, DRM support, WiFi performance, etc…

EBox T8 V Setup Wizard, Setup, OTA Firmware Update, and Default Apps

I had already plugged the provided 1TB SATA drive into the device during the unboxing post, but I’ve also connected another USB hard drive, as well as HDMI and Ethernet cables, the RF dongle for S77 Pro air mouse that came with the box, a USB keyboard to take screenshots, and finally the power cord.

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The power button on the box should be red, so if you want to start the TV box, press the button on the box, or the power button on the IR remote control, the power button will change to blue color, and the display will show “boot”. If you want to use the air mouse to turn on the device, you’ll need to use the IR learning function to learn the power key from the IR remote control. I’ve tried and it works well. The boot normally takes around 30 to 35 seconds. Note that the boot animation includes some music, which can be annoying if other people sleep, and you forgot to turn the volume down…

The first time, you’ll go through a setup wizard for language, screen scale network, since nothing has changed here, I invite you to check EBox T8-4 Setup Wizard & Configuration section of my previous review for details.

Beginners Launcher – Click for Original Size (1920×1080)

The launcher is also the same, but you now have an option to switch between the “beginners launcher”, which includes Ebox Apps Hub and Ebox app for support, and the more barebone “experienced launcher” shown below.

Experienced Launcher – Click to Enlarge

The Experienced Launcher setting interface is exactly the same as in T8-4, but the company made another Settings app for the Beginners Launcher.

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As fas I could tell however, all settings were the same, but just presented in a different way. The Speed Test is new, but it’s just an Ookla speed test to check your ISP performance. Note my fiber optic connection is 20/10 Mbps to the bandwidth was maxed out in that test.
The Advanced icons redirect to the familiar Amlogic Settings app.

It’s also interesting to quickly check out the system info that shows the model number is q201_9377, which can be useful in case you’ll want to use an alternative firmware. Few people will likely try that, since you pay extra for firmware and support for the box.

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The list of app is what makes this box further different from the competition with UK specific apps such as BBC iPlayer, FilnOn Live, and WookieSports, with the latter not present in T8-4.

The company did not include TVCatchUp app this test, but for people who wants to watch UK programs but live outside the country, IPvanish app was added to let you setup VPN. You may want to check Installed App & IPTV streaming section in T8-4 review for details about the UK streaming apps.

Finally, I went to EBox OTA, it could find a new firmware, and the upgrade went smoothly.

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Check out OTA firmware section of my previous review for more info about that.

Power consumption is fine with 0.2W is power off mode with the two hard drives connected, and around 8 Watts at idle. The air mouse also worked well, and once you’ve programmed the IR remote control’s power button to the air mouse, you won’t need the IR remote at all. If you exclusively run Kodi (EBMC) then the IR remote control might be a little better since you can access some features like Zoom, aspect radio, and audio directly from the remote, and you won’t need a mouse pointer at any times.

The user experience of the new T8 V was very much like the one of the previous model with the firmware working well, except that I had a “App not Responding” window appear twice, and the mouse cursor is quite small when you set video output to 4K.

Video and Audio Support in EBOX MC (Kodi 16.1) & DRM Info

EBOX Media Center (EBMC) is based on SMPC 16.4, itself a fork a Kodi 16.1 with optimization for Amlogic processors.

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Before playing any videos, I disabled amcodec as instructed in a paper included with EBOX T8 V package.

I also enabled automatic frame rate switching via “Adjust display refresh rate” option….

… as well as audio pass-through, with Dolby and DTS. Note that DTS-HD and TrueHD options are missing, and as we’ll see below not working, so you’d better enable Dolby Digital (AC3) Transcoding too.

I played 4K videos over a SAMBA share using Gigabit Ethernet:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (H.264, 30 fps) – OK
  • 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) – plays, but not perfectly smoothly
  • 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 – Not smooth, and audio delay (OK, not supported by Amlogic S912)
  • 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
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Slow motion
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK, but not perfect at all times.
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays but could be smoother

4K video playback working about as well as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, but automatic frame rate switching does not work, so if the video output is set to 4K @ 60 Hz, and you play a 24 fps video it might not be as smooth as it could be.

HDMI audio-pass through works but is limited to Dolby and DTS 5.1. Tested with Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver.

  • AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 – OK (Dolby D 5.1)
  • E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 – OK (Dolby D 5.1)
  • Dolby Digital+ 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • TrueHD 5.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • TrueHD 7.1 – PCM 2.0, no audio *
  • Dolby Atmos 7.1 – PCM 2.0 with audio *
  • DTS HD Master – DTS 5.1 only
  • DTS HD HR – DTS 5.1 only
  • DTS:X (not supported by Onkyo TX-NR636) – DTS 5.1 only

* If you set “Dolby Digital (AC3) Transcoding” in the settings, audio will be transcoded, and output Dolby D 5.1 audio.

DRM Info – Click to Enlarge

DRM Info apps shows Widevine Level 3 is supported.

EBox T8-4 Benchmarks – Antutu, Storage and Networking

I’ve run Antutu 6.x to make sure the system did not have any issue with performance, and T8 V achieved above 41,000 points, in line with the scores of other Amlogic S912 TV Boxes.

The 1TB internal hard drive (NTFS) shipped with the device was properly recognized with performance ~30 MB/s you’d expect from USB 2.0, while my external hard drive NTFS and exFAT partition could be mounted, and also delivered as expected with the recurring low write speed (5.88 MB/s) on exFAT partitions typical of the vast majority of Android TV boxes. Note that the 44.50 MB/s read speed for the exFAT partition is likely wrong, and affected by the slow write speed.

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Internal storage performance (35.01MB/s & 12.15 MB/s) is OK without being outstanding, and works well enough.

My very first experience with WiFi did not quite go accordingly to plans, as the box hung when I enabled WiFi in the settings. My second attempts was successful with a 433 Mbps connection to my 802.11ac router. Performance was however underwhelming with an average of 2.4 MB/s transfer rate, that’s quite typical of Amlogic S905X and S912 TV boxes.

WiFi Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Conclusion

EBox T8 V offers user experience very similar to EBox T8-4, with slightly faster performance, decent 4K video playback which adds VP9 support, better support for audio pass-through albeit limited to Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, and a few pre-installed video streaming app for the UK. I did not have any issues with the internal hard drive this time, but WiFi performance is not quite as good as on EBox T8-4.

PROS

  • Stable and responsive firmware
  • Easy to setup & e thanks to setup wizard, and bundled Air mouse.
  • 4K video playback in EBMC (based on SPMC) with H.264, H.265 and VP9 well supported
  • HDMI audio pass-through working for DTS and Dolby Digital (AC3) 5.1
  • Pre-installed IPTV apps for the UK market such as BBC iPlayer and Filmon, as well as a VPN app.
  • 2.5″ internal SATA bay
  • OTA firmware update
  • Good customer support with Live chat, forums, and online documentation

CONS

  • HDMI audio pass-through does not work for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD
  • Automatic frame rate switching is not working
  • WiFi performance could be better
  • DRM support limited to Widewine Level 3
  • No Dolby and DTS licenses
  • Small mouse pointer when 4K is selected
  • Boot animation includes some music (potential issue at night).

EBox T8-4 + S77 Pro air mouse + 1 TB HDD bundle I reviewed can be purchased for 185.87 GBP including VAT (~$234 US), but you can also purchase the box with the standard IR remote control only for 104.99 GBP including VAT (~$132 US), or select other bundles with gamepad and/or wireless keyboard.

Using M12N Android Amlogic S912 TV Box as a Game Console (Video)

August 21st, 2016 12 comments

When Amlogic announced S912 processor, they mentioned it would target not only 4K OTT and IP set-top boxes, but also gaming consoles thanks to a faster and better Mali-T820MP3 GPU compared to the Mali-450MP GPU found in their previous S905 and S805 processor, and we’ve already seen that S912 is indeed faster in 3D benchmarks.

So I decided to play several games to show the performance, the pre-loaded retro gaming app, and for people who have never used a TV box to play games show what it looks like, and how to play using M12N TV box, in conjunction with MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse and Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad.

M12N_Amlogic_S912_GamingI played four games downloaded from the Play Store or Amazon Underground:

  • Candy Crush Saga with air mouse
  • Beach Buggy Racing and Riptide GP2 with the gamepad
  • Dead Trigger with the air mouse in menus, and the gamepad during the game (requires key mapping)

All four games played just fine in the box, and Riptide GP2 framerate was noticeably higher than on Amlogic S905 TV boxes when “highest resolution” setting is selected. If you don’t want to purchase an air mouse or/and game pad, it should also be possible to use your smartphone with the remote app, but it’s not something I’ve tested.

MXQ Plus M12N TV box also includes KO GameBox app [Update: I’ve been informed the app may contain adware and malware] simply shown as “Game” in the main menu.

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The app has some Chinese logos, and the interface and games are all available with English language. All games appear to be retro games, and include classic like Super Mario Bros. None of the games are installed in the box, but the app will allow you to download them from various mirrors. I tried Fate/Unlimited Codes street fighting PSP game, and it worked well with Tronsmart gamepad. The app also exposes a QR code to download KO TVGame Assistant app in order to use your Android phone as a gamepad.

KO Gamebox Assistant App

KO TVGame Assistant App

You can see all games mentioned above tested in MQX Plus M12N TV box in the video below.

If you want to purchase the setup I used, you can get Shenzhen Shiningworth M12N on Aliexpress for $69.99, Tronsmart Mars G01 RF gamepad for $25.99, and/or MINIX NEO A2 Lite  air mouse for the same price. Of course, you’d have pretty much the same experience with any of the other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and the gamepad or/and air mouse of your choice.

EBox T8-4 Review – A 4K Android TV Box Bundle Geared Towards the UK Market

July 24th, 2016 2 comments

I’ve already taken some pictures of the device and board in part 1 of EBox T8-4 review, so today, I’m going to report my experience with the Android 5.1 firmware for this Amlogic S905 TV box, air mouse, and wireless gamepad, specifically targetted to users leaving in the United Kingdom, but since the hardware is based on Zoomtak T8V, it may also be informative to international users, although the firmware, mostly launcher and IPTV services, will be different.

EBox T8-4 Setup Wizard & Configuration

Since I’ve already inserted an internal SSD into the SATA bay of the device, I did not connect an external USB harddrive, and only connected HDMI and Ethernet cables,  plus the RF dongle for the included air mouse, a USB keyboard to easily take screenshots, and of course the power cord. The power button will be red at this stage. If you want to start the TV box, you either need to press the button on the box, or the power button on the remote control, the power button LED will change to blue, and the display will show “boot”.

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A typical boot takes around one minute, but for the very first boot, you’ll be asked to go through setup wizard similar to what we find in few others boxes like WeTek Core or ARNU Box.EBox_T8-4_Setup_Wizard

Click Next to “select” your language.. English only for now.

EBox_T8-4_Language_Selection

Next window is to adjust the screen in order to remove any black orders on the edges of the screen. If you are using HDMI output, most TV should have a setting to underscan. For example it is called “Just Scan” on LG televisions. That way you don’t need to adjust the screen at all, and you can keep it at 100%.

EBox_T8-4_Adjust_ScreenThe next step is for network configuration for either Ethernet or WiFi.

EBox_T8-4_Setup_Wizard_Ethernet_Configuration EBox_T8-4_Setup_Wizard_WiFi_ConfigurationThe system correctly detected my three access points @ 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz, but I carry on with Gigabit Ethernet, and click on Finish button to access the main user interface.

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The launcher include EBOX MC fork of Kodi 16.1, EBOX APPS Hub folder with custom apps from the company including EBox  App to access support channels, EBox Apps app store, EBox OTA for firmware update, etc…, as well as icons to access all apps, the browser, settings, and to clean the memory.

Sadly, that’s another wizard that does not ask you to set your timezone, but maybe in that case it is understable since it’s designed for the British public and already set to the right timezone. Any I went through the settings, which looks quite similar as other Amlogic TV boxes.
EBox_T8-4_Settings_Network

You can change network configuration as needed, as well as display settings.EBox_T8-4_Settings_Display

HDMI auto-detection is ON by default, and it set the resolution to 1080p50 by default, so I disabled it and manually selected 4k2k-60Hz mode. Sadly it looks like it does not always remember that setting after a reboot.EBox_T8-4_Settings_Advanced

Advanced options are for Miracast, CEC Control is not working for me (same results as with all other Amlogic TV boxes I’ve tested), and you can also configure audio output to PCM, SPDIF or HDMI.EBox_T8-4_Settings_Others

Other settings show some system information: Android 5.1.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29 running on p200_2G platform. More Settings lead to another familiar setup menu.
EBox_T8-4_Settings

This is where I enabled HDMI adaptation (automatic refresh rate) via Play back settings, and set the correct timezone (Date & Time). You can access Android Lollipop settings by selecting “More setting”, so you’ve got three different settings user interfaces, which should really be unnecessary….

EBox T8-4 OTA Firmware

The company informed me by email of a new firmware update, so I updated it right before going further, by entering the System Update menu, but you can click on EBox OTA to enter the update app too. After clicking to check updates, I got a popup window “ROM update available”.

EBox_OTA_Firmware_Update

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So I start the download…

EBox_OTA_Firmware_Download

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Which was reasonably fast, and been asked whether I want to Wipe Data and/or Wipe Cache when installing the firmware. I always wipe the cache, but I avoid wiping the data since I like to keep my data (screenshots) and apps installed via Google Play.

EBox_T8-4_Wipe_Data_Wipe_Cache
Once I click on Install, I get another window explaining the box will reboot into recovery mode, flash the ZIP file, and automatically reboot.

EBox_T8-4_Install_Firmware

So I click in Install against and this time the box reboots, shows me an animation with a green Android logo amd a progress board, and after 3 to 5 minutes, reboot the the main launcher and the update is complete. That part was flawless.

Entertainmentbox.com Customer Support

However, I had a big hiccup with the firmware, after spending much time taking screenshoot, and testing apps, I tested on and off, and power consumption, and all of a sudden the device would not boot to the launcher, and all I could see if a blueish background photo (the vertical line is just an issue with my TV).

EBox-T8-4_DeadI sent an email to my contact in the company about the issue, but since it was a Saturday, I was not sure when I’d get an answer, so I went to their website, and saw a “Chat Now – Online”  section on the bottom right of the page, so I decided to give it a try and asked my question about the box being stuck at boot time.

Within a few seconds, a support person called Vikram told me to try to factory rest the box, and provide a link with detailed instructions, and the chat was over in about one minute. I followed the instructions, which involved wiping the data, but I tried to only wipe the cache as I wanted to keep my data, and I did not work.

I wanted to try to re-install the firmware without wiping out the data instead. So I went back to start a new chat to ask about the firmware since I could not find T8-4 on their firmware page. Again Vikram answered within a few seconds, and said he was aware of the issue, and forwarded to the persons in charge. Again efficient, polite and to the point, so my experience with support was very positive, although my problem was not resolved.

Eventually, I got answer from my contact, as they had uploaded T8-4 firmware with clear instructions. So I copied the file to a USB flash drive, went into recovery, and flashed the firmware apparently successfully, but it did not resolve my issue. So I ended up wiping out the data, and lost all my files and installed app, wasting a few hours of work.

The reasons was that EBox Play app (now removed from the firmware) that allows you to play retro games was not compatible with Android 5.1, and messed up with the firmware.

Anyway, while I was clearly not happy about that annoying firmware bug and wasted time, Entertainmentbox.com customer support appears to be very good. They also have support forums.

Installed Apps and IPTV Streaming

The TV box comes with some interesting apps including popular video streaming and on-demand app in the UK such as BBC iPlayer, FilmOn, and TVCatchUp.

EBox_T8-4_App_List_1BionicTCP should be interesting too on other devices, especially if you have troubles with streaming videos, as it allows you to tweak TCP buffers to allow for larger buffers possibly improve the streaming experience.

EBox_T8-4_App_List_2
So I had a quick try of the IPTV apps, although I’m not based in the UK.

Let’s start with Filmon.TV app which sorts live TV streams by country or categories.

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You can then select one category, and a stream from the list to watch live TV, in full screen or within the interface.

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There’s also an online TV guide (EPG) available from the app.

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After a while, the app will ask you to register. I think it’s free to watch SD channels, but you may have to pay to watch HD TV. (TBC)

TVCatchup is a service that allows to watch live TV even if you missed the right time when it was broadcasted. When the app start I’ve been asked to confirm I’m indeed based on the UK… to which I agreed…

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I could get the list of channels, and programs, but was unable to play any videos, most probably because I’m not actually in the UK…

TVcatchUp_ChannelsYou can also access the EPG from the app. You’d think free channels like Aljazeera would work from anywhere, but it did not play either.

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Finally, BBC iPlayer.. It asked me to install BBC Media Player, which I did, but then I could not stream any video due to geo-blocking.

BBC_iPLayer

BBC_iPLayer_Content_Not_WorkingSo the pre-installed app are interesting if you are based in the UK, and wants something easy to setup. If you live overseas, you’d have to use a VPN, or some DNS services like StrongDNS.

Video and Audio Support in EBOX MC (Kodi 16.1)

EBOX MC (EBMC) used Confluence skin with a different background image.

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It is based on Kodi 16.1 with possible some customizations under the hood.

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Since I’ve reviewed so many Amlogic S905 TV boxes, I’ll just try 4K videos, and audio capabilities (e.g. HDMI pass-through). All files will be played from a SAMBA share.

4K video samples:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265 @ 30 fps) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265 @ 30 fps) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265 @ 30 fps) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • 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
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 30 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Won’t start to play, and stays in UI.

So no problem playing most 4K video samples with the codecs supported by Amlogic S905 SoC (i.e. excluding H.264 4K @ 60 fps, and 10-bit H.264) expect a very high bitrate H.264 video. However, please note that automatic refresh rate switching is not working, even after it is configured in both the system and EBMC.

Time to test audio.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi/EBMC)
PCM 2.0 Output
(Video player)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi/EBMC)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK but video not smooth No audio Audio OK but video not smooth
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (OK), but frequent short noise
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0
DTS HD Master OK No audio DTS 5.1 with frequent short (0.5s) noise
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio DTS 5.1 with frequent short (0.5s) noise
DTS:X OK No audio DTS 5.1 with frequent short (0.5s) noise

As expected Ebox T8-4 does not have the DTS and Dolby licenses for audio down-mixing since it’s using Amlogic S905, and not S905-H, but that’s a disappointment to find out that HDMI pass-through is basically unusable even for 5.1 channel audio due to a short noise that happens every 5 to 10 seconds, at least with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver.

Gaming with Ipega PG-9028 Bluetooth game controller

I’m normally using Tronsmart Mars G01 RF gamepad in my review, but since the bundle I received includes a Bluetooth gamepad, that’s what I used with Riptide GP2 installed from Amazon Underground. At first, I had troubles pairing the gamepad as I only pressed the Home key, but then I was asked to press Home and X blue buttons together, and the gamepad would show a new device Bluetooth MAC address, and once paired show it as PG-9028.

PG-9028_Bluetooth_PairingSubsequently, you’ll just need to press the Home button to connect the gamepad to the TV box. I had then no issue navigating the user interface with B button for “Back”, A button for “Accept”, and the top left joystick to move around the launcher, and start Riptide GP2.

The game was a fluid as on other good Amlogic S905 TV boxes, so I set the graphics setting to the maximum, and played for over 15 minutes without any degradation of performance over time. The device stayed cool at all time, and the top and bottom temperatures of the case were respectively 36° C, and 39° C.

Other interesting features of the gamepad include the touchpad area to control the mouse pointer, and the five buttons at the bottom for volume, play/pause, back and next, which makes it suitable to control Kodi/EBMC. It is also possible to place your smartphone on top of the gamepad, if you want to play games on the phone instead of the TV box. You’ll find detailed pictures of the controller in the first part of the review.

EBox T8-4 Benchmarks – Antutu, Storage and Networking

Amlogic S905 is a now extremely well known platform, so I just ran Antutu 6.1.4 to double check there wasn’t any issue.

EBox_T8-4_Antutu

35,473 point is typical for this kind of device. All good.

I also tested internal storage performance A1SD bench, and the eMMC flash is reasonable fast @ 26.21 MB/s for sequential read, and 14.80 MB/s for sequential write.

Read/Write Speed in MB/s

Read/Write Speed in MB/s

One of the key selling point of the device is the presence of an internal 2.5″ SATA bay. I started by inserting an SSD with both NTFS and EXT-4 partitions, but it was mounted as a USB device with 0 MB size, so I switched another 1TB hard drive formatted with NTFS inside a Linux machine, which was a little loose in the SATA bay but still inserted to the SATA connector, and this time it was not detected at all. When I removed it, it was warm so I assume it got power. It’s quite possible the hard drive needs to be prepared inside a Windows computer to work with the box, based on a video for their older T8-3 box. That part was very disappointing.

Let’s switch to network performance with Gigabit Ethernet and iperf -t 60 -c server_ip -d command for full duplex transfer.

So the system cannot handle full duplex transfer very well, with the speed in one direction very fast (as it should), but very slow in the other direction. That test is worse case scenario though, and unless you plan to use the box as a server too, it should not be an issue, and I had no problem streaming 60 Mbps+ videos.

I’ve tested 802.11ac by transferring a 278MB file from SAMBA to the flash and vice versa 3 times using ES File explorer. For some reasons download was much faster than upload @ 5.67 MB/s vs 2.89 MB/s, and on average the transfer rate was a decent 4.27 MB/s.

Throughput in MB/s

Throughput in MB/s

Other remarks

The included air mouse is very convenient with mouse mode, remote side, and QWERTY keyboard side, and while usually I have to switch to the IR remote control to power on other devices, T8-4 can be powered on with that air mouse too. The air mouse function works well, the keyboard includes the media player keys (play/pause, etc..), and the only two downsides I found is the lack of tabulation key, and Alt key Blue on black markings are hard to read, at least with my eyesight (I need to remove my glasses to read them).

Power handling have been properly implemented too, but with only power on and power off modes. Power consumption is 0.2 watts in power off mode, 5.0 watts at idle with SSD, and 5.2 watts at with (non-detected) HDD.

I had no problem at all with Google Play with free and paid app, and Amazon Underground.

Conclusion

EBox T8-4 Android TV box performs well over time (no overheating), delivers good video playback performance in Kodi (EBMC), include pre-installed IPTV streaming app for the UK, and provide a good overall user experience, but there are still some issues that need to be fixed such as very poor HDMI pass-through implementation, and problems with internal SATA bay.

PROS

  • Complete easy to setup and use bundle with TV box, air mouse, and wireless Bluetooth gamepad
  • Stable and responsive firmware
  • Good 4K video playback performance in Kodi with both H.264 and H.265 videos
  • (Legal) pre-installed IPTV app for the UK market like BBC iPlayer, Filmon, and TVCatchup
  • Gigabit Ethernet and good 802.11ac WiFi performance
  • 2.5″ internal SATA bay (see CONS too!)
  • OTA firmware update
  • Good customer support with Live chat, forums, and online documentation

CONS

  • HDMI audio pass-through is not working well, with only 5.1 channel audio support, and I got short white noise for almost all videos.
  • No Dolby / DTS licenses
  • My 2.5″ SSD (NTFS + EXT-4) and HDD (NTFS) were not recognized by the system
  • DRM support limited to Widewine Level 3
  • (Minor) Settings are spread over  3 menus
  • (Minor) Somewhat slow boot (One minute)
  • I loss all my data and installed apps after a while due to a bug in the firmware (But it should be now be fixed, and I could not reproduce the issue).

The main thing I like about EBox T8-4 bundle is that it’s easy to setup and comes with everything you may need to watch local and live TV (in the UK), the included air mouse and Bluetooth gamepad just work out of the box, without headache due to potential interoperability issues.

EBox T8-4 + S77 Pro air mouse + Ipega Bluetooth gamepad bundle I reviewed can be purchased for 108.33 GBP exc. VAT ($142 US), but you can also purchase the box alone for 79.16 GBP exc. VAT (~$104 US), or select other bundles with different input devices and/or an included 1TB hard drive (which could mitigate the issues I had).

EBox T8-4 TV Box and Ipega Bluetooth Game Controller Unboxing and Teardown

June 20th, 2016 6 comments

Entertainmentbox.com is a UK based shop specializing in TV box, and the company sent me their latest Amlogic S905 TV Box running Android 5.1 with EBMC based on Kodi 16.1, featuring an internal 2.5″ SATA bay, as well as an interesting and different design. I’ll write a two part review as usual, starting with specifications, and photos of the device, accessories, and internals, before actually testing the device in the second part of the review in a few weeks.

EBox T8-4 specifications

The TV box, also called Ebox T8 V4, has the following specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905 quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 2.0GHz with penta-core Mali-450MP GPU @ 750 MHz
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC 5.0 flash + SD card slot + internal 2.5″ SATA bay for HDD or SSD
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz with HDMI CEC support + AV RCA port
  • Audio – HDMI, optical S/PDIF, and stereo audio RCA ports
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports including one OTG port, 1x micro USB port
  • Misc – Power button, IR receiver, restore pinhole button, front panel LED display
  • Power Supply –  5V/3A
  • Dimensions – 166 x 116 x 53 mm

Overall the hardware specifications are fairly similar to a product like MINIX NEO U1, except for the SATA bay and some different for audio ports.

The device runs Android 5.1.1 with a custom launcher, Google Play Store, EBMC (aka EBOX MC) based on Kodi 16.1, as well as EBox App for support, EBox Apps (with an “s) app store, EBox Play Box to emulate different retro gaming consoles, as well as OTA firmware updates.

Ebox T8 V4 & Ipeda Bluetooth Controller Unboxing

The company sells their device with various recommended input devices such as air mice, gamepads, and wireless keyboards, and I received the device with an air mouse (in the main package), and Ipeda Bluetooth game controller.

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The box ships with a standard IR remote control, S77 pro air mouse with QWERTY keyboard together with USB RF dongle and manual, a HDMI cable, a 5V/3A power supply plus a UK to EU plug adapter, and a user manual in English.
Entertainment_Box_T8-4_Accessories

The air mouse are both a remote side, and a QWERTY keyboard side, and this type is one of my favorite input device for Android TV boxes.
Ebox_T8_Air_Mouse_Keyboard
The box itself is made of a metal cover with a plastic body, and the metal cover also serves has feet for the box. The build quality also feels higher than most TV boxes on the market.

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The front panel feature an LED display (hardly visible on the pic), a power LED, an IR receiver, and the power button. We’ve got an SD card slot, two USB 2.0 port, and a restore pinhole for recovery firmware updates, with all remaining ports on the rear panel: USB 2.0 OTG port, micro USB port labelled USB-HDD,  optical S/PDIF output, video composite RCA output, stereo audio RCA outputs, HDMI 2.0 port, Gigabit Ethernet, and the power jack.

T8_TV_Box_Case_BottomIf we check the back of the device we’ll find a cover with two clips, as well as a sticker with some info including a MAC address starting with 00:11:6C. We can easily open the bottom cover to access the SATA bay…

EBOX_T8-4_TV_Box_SATA_Bay… and insert a 2.5″ SSD or HDD. I’ve done so and it does not require any screwdrivers. The bay looks deep enough not to have to worry about your drive’s thickness.

EBOX_T8-4_SATA_Drive
I’ll complete the unboxing with a look at Ipega PG-9028 game controller, which comes with a user’s manual and micro USB to USB cable for charging. It’s compatible with Android, Windows XP to Window 8 (and probably Windows 10).Entertainment_Box_Ipega_Bluetooth_ControllerThe controller includes a touchpad area, left and right joysticks, a D-pad, left and right buttons on the top, ABXY buttons, some multimedia buttons on the bottom, as well as select, start and home buttons.

Ipega_BT_Gamepad_Back

The back has two more R1 and L1 buttons, as well as a reset pinhole. The Qr Code at the back points to a drivers directory with two apks. Those are probably already installed in Ebox T8-4, but if you want to use it with another Android TV box, it will be useful. The user’s manual also recommends to download BitGames to have access to many compatible games.
Entertaiment_Box_Ipega_Bluetooth_Gamepad_Smartphone
The gamepad can also be used with smartphones up to 6″ in size.

Ebox T8-4 Teardown

T8U_Board

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I had to loosen four screws on the bottom of the case, before sliding the main body. It did not come that easily, but I finally managed.There’s no form of cooling on Amlogic S905 processor, so we’ll have to see how well it performs under load. A 16GB FORESEE NCEFBS98-16G eMMC flash is used for storage, and four NANYA NT5CB256M16DP-EK DDR3 chips for the RAM. WiFi and Bluetooth are implemented through a hard-to-read “179CGR DGP0C8” module… Genesys Logic GL830  USB 2.0 to SATA bridge controller allows for the connection of the internal hard drive, so you can’t expect amazing performance, but it will be good enough to play videos supported by Amlogic S905 processor. Other ICs include HS2401 and Realtek RTL8211E for Gigabit Ethernet, GL850G USB hub controller, and Titan Micro TM1628 LED controller. The four pin header on the bottom left corner of the picture above is likely for serial console, and the board is named T8U v1.1.

T8_Board_Bottom

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The bottom of the board features the two other RAM chips, the SATA connector, power button and  LED.

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The WiFi antenna also looks a little different than usual.

If you are interested in purchasing Ebox T8-4, you can do so via Entertainmentbox.com T8-4 product page, with prices ranging from 99.99 GBP (~$146) to 189.99 GBP (~$278) depending on options with prices including shipping to UK and Europe, as well as VAT. The kit I received with S77 Pro air mouse and Ipega Bluetooth controller sells for 135 GBP inv VAT ($197).