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Posts Tagged ‘cloud media’

Cloud Media Openbook is Another Smartphone Laptop Docking Station (Crowdfunding)

October 12th, 2017 6 comments

Cloud Media (previously Syabas) is better known for their OpenHour and HourPopcorn Hour TV boxes, but the company also has a close relationship with Pine64 company, and helped them make Pinebook laptop powered by an Allwinner A64 ARM processor.

They’ve now used their experience, and likely some parts, from the ARM laptop to create Openbook, a 14″ laptop dock for Android smartphones.

Openbook specifications:

  • USB Monitor SoC – DisplayLink DL-4000 Series USB 3.0 to LVDS/eDP SoC
  • Storage – micro SD card slot
  • Display – 14″ TN LCD with 1366 x 768 resolution
  • QWERTY Keyboard + Large Multi-Touch Touchpad
  • USB – USB 3.0 host port, USB port to connect to mobile phone
  • Audio – Headphone Jack, stereo speaker, microphone
  • Battery – 10,000 mAh Lithium Polymer Battery
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A (DC Jack: Type H 3.5mm OD/1.35mm ID barrel ‘coaxial’ type)
  • Dimensions – 329mm x 220mm x 12mm (W x D x H)
  • Weight – 1.26 kg

The dock works with smartphones equipped at least with a quad core processor @ 1.5 GHz, 2GB RAM, 50MB free storage, USB type C or micro USB OTG port, and running Android 5.0 or greater. Since stock Android does not exactly offer the best desktop experience, the company has patterned with LeenaOS, multi-window launcher that brings the desktop operating system experience to your mobile device.

Openbook is not exactly the first smartphone laptop dock, which also started with Motorola LapDock (now defunct), as new players have entered the market place including NexDock and Mirabook. Just like the two aforementioned products, Openbook also launched on a crowdfunding website, specifically Kickstarter with the goal of raising at least $30,000 for mass production.

A pledge of $129 should get you a white Openbook with a power adapter and a custom USB-OTG cable. Shippings adds from $22 (Hong Kong) with several other prices depending on destination up to $88, and delivery is scheduled for December 2017. The people behind Cloud Media are highly experienced in bringing products to market, so failure is very unlikely.

Popcorn Hour RockBox Basic TV Box To Leverage ROCK64 Board Firmware Images

October 2nd, 2017 8 comments

Pine64 launched ROCK64 development board powered by Rockchip RK3328 processor a few months ago. The board exposes fast interfaces like Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0, and support 4K video playback, and runs Android 7.1 or various Linux distributions such as Ubuntu 16.04 and others.

Pine64 and Cloud Media companies share some of the same owners, and RK3328 being a TV box processor, it should not come as a surprise that Cloud Media has introduced Popcorn Hour Rockbox Basic TV box based on the processor. While the box is running Android 7.1 by default, it will also be support alternative operating systems such as LibreELEC, Android TV OS, Ubuntu, etc… thanks to the work of Pine64/Rock64 community.

Popcorn Hour RockBox Basic specifications are quite standard:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.5 GHz with Mali-450MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1 GB LPDDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + microSD card slot
  • Video 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
  • Audio – Via HDMI, optical S/PDIF output
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 OTG port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Misc – IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – TBD

The box is not based on ROCK64 board per se, but the hardware will be similar enough, so that community firmware will work without too many modifications. The box will run Android 7.1.2 by default with RKMC (Kodi 16.1 fork) supporting HD audio pass-through, automatic framerate switching, and BD ISO. Kodi 17.4 installed from the Play Store will also work,but maybe the aforementioned features may not perform a well as in RKMC for now.

Other firmware image will be posted on Rockbox firmware page as they become available. For now, only Android 7.1.2 firmware can be downloaded.

The device ships with an IR remote control and a 5V/2A EU or US power supply, and can be purchased for $44.90 with free shipping to some countries like the US and Eurozone countries, while others may be charged an extra $9.99 for shipping. For comparison, A95X R2 TV box has similar specifications and sells for around $33 shipped, but build quality might be lower – for example the eMMC flash used is a bit slow -, and you’d likely have to spend more time figuring out how to run alterntive operating systems.

[Update: There will be another RockBox model with more memory and storage, Gigabit Ethernet, and stackable aluminum casing]

Mini Review of Popcorn Hour A500 Media Player

June 12th, 2016 12 comments

Last month I received Popcorn Hour A500 high-end media player powered by Sigma Designs SMP8758 dual core Cortex A9 processor, and in the firtst part of the review I posted the specifications, and pictures of the devices and its internals. Today, I’ll write a short review of the device, as it’s basically an update of Popcorn Hour VTEN which I reviewed last year with a faster processor, more memory, and an internal SATA bay for 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives.

User Interface, Remote Control, Internal HDD, and Technical Support

The user interface is basically the same as on VTEN with two home screens to select: Media or Music.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The performance is a little better, but if you want to find out more about the user interface, I propose you watch the video I shot for Popcorn Hour VTEN

During the first boot, Music Home was selected, and I soon got asked whether I wanted to upgrade the firmware, and OTA firmware update worked just fine.

Popcorn_Hour_A500_OTA_Firmware_Update

One difference with VTEN is that the number of apps to install has decreased from 59 to 52 with YouTube, Russia Today still there, and working as expected.

The remote control provided with Android TV boxes is normally pretty useless, with since Popcorn Hour A500 is a pure media player the remote control is the only input option you have, and it’s actually pretty good for the task as you have quick access to various features such as audio track, video zoom, play/pause and other trick modes, subtitles, and so on.

Backlit Remote Controls are cool

Backlit remote controls are cool

Another thing that pleasantly surprised me is that the remote control keys are backlit, so it’s more convenient to use in the dark. I think it’s the very first time I get a backlit remote control.

I tried both a 1TB 3.5″ HDD with an EXT-4 partition (and some bad sectors) and a 128GB 2.5″ SSD with two partitions (NTFS and EXT-4) in the SATA bay. The hard drive was not detected, but the EXT-4 of the SSD could be mounted and and I could play some video using “Local Media” option. Others had no problems with larger hard drives.

Popcorn_Hour_A500_NASPopcorn Hour A500 can also be used as a NAS running UPnP AV, NFS, Samba, and FTP servers, and it can download torrents using a web based torrent interface using Transmission BT.

This brings me to the last part of this section before I carry on with video and audio testing. Cloud Media offers email support to customers, and well as a detailed user guide for Popcorn Hour A500, and their other devices. You can also check Network Media Tank forums to get some help.  I can also see the company has been working on firmware updates for their devices for well over a year, so you get a level of support that’s higher than with most other manufacturers, which should be reassuring. However, I’ve also read a few people write they would never buy a Cloud Media device again, as they could not fix the bug(s) that affected them on older devices.

Video Playback and Audio Pass-through Testing

The first video samples are the easy ones from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus H.265 videos by Elecard:

  • 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 – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – Network Media app reports “No content found”, as  .rmvb files are filtered out
  • WebM / VP8 – Network Media app does not show any file (only another directory), as .webm files are filtered out
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – 1080p – OK

Exactly the same results as in VTEN. Then I switched to videos with various bitrates:

  • ED_HD.avi – Audio only.
  • 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) – Could be smoother
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK

Most videos played fine over Ethernet, even the 120 Mbps one. I could also clearly notice that the video quality is superior to most Android TV boxes as the device appears to be able to clear some “white noise” on some videos, notably in the bottom right corner of the “birds” video, possibly with some clever post-processing performed with the SoC’s VXP video engine.

I’ve checked audio pass-through capabilities with Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver via HDMI and optical S/PDIF, and I’ve also tested PCM downmix for people who connect the device directly to the TV.

Video’s Audio Codec HDMI PCM downmix HDMI Pass-through optical SPDIF Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK OK OK
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK OK Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 No Audio OK
Dolby TrueHD 7.1 No Audio OK
Dolby Atmos No Audio Dolby TrueHD 7.1
DTS-HD Master OK OK
DTS-HD High Resolution OK OK
DTS:X OK DTS-HD MSTR 7.1*

* TX-NR636 does not support DTS:X, so fall back to DTS-HD Master 7.1 is expected.

I’ve added Dolby Atmos and DTS:X since last year, but apart from that the results are exactly the same as with VTEN which I tested a year ago. The fact that they did not fix TrueHD downmixing is unimpressive.

Sintel-Bluray.iso and amat.iso (unencrypted Bluray ISOs) could play fine, and MPEG2 videos too. However, Popcorm Hour A500 does not support Hi10p (10-bit H.264) video, as all I got what a black screen and audio for the two anime videos I tried.

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK, but not 100% smooth
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – 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
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video; 36 Mbps) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – Plays, but not very smoothly.
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK. It’s perfectly watchable by obviously plays at 30 fps during to hardware limitations.
  • 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) –  Video OK, but no audio
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Black screen only (normal since hi10p is not supported) and audio heavily saturated
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 30 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – Plays, but in slow motion.

That’s not too bad, but the results are fairly similar to other devices that sell for a fifth of the price.

Finally I tried some 3D videos. My TV does not support 3D, but my A/V receiver is capable of detecting 3D MVC videos and shows a 3D icon:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – Plays but not smoothly
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Black screen + audio
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK
  • 3D-full-MVC.mkv (Full-frame packed MVC 3D MKV) – Plays in 2D only
  • ISO-full3D-sample.iso (Full-frame packed MVC 3D ISO) – Plays in 2D only

Conclusion

Popcorn Hour A500 capabilities are quite similar to Popcorn Hour VTEN, but it’s a little faster, features a SATA bay, and ships with a backlit infrared remote control. The video “smoothness” is comparable to what I get in Android TV boxes, but the video “quality” appears to be better in some videos, probably due to VXP engine and some post-processing. Audio quality should be better too, but I could not hear noticeable improvement. I don’t quite have “musical” ears though…  The main downsides I experienced were that the player did not recognize my (old) HDD drive (SSD OK), and it also rebooted twice as I tested videos. It’s also possible to setup PCH-A500 as a NAS server with UPnP AV, torrent client, NFS, SAMBA and NFS services. Another positive point is that Cloud Media provides support by email, decent documentation, and access to NMT (Networked Media Tank) forums as mentioned in the first section of this review.

Cloud Media sells Popcorn Hour A500 directly on their website for $269 plus shipping, and through resellers.

Popcorn Hour A500 4K Linux Media Player Specifications, Unboxing, and Teardown

May 23rd, 2016 21 comments

CloudMedia introduced Popcorn Hour A500 Pro last summer on Kickstarter, and as the company is about the ship rewards to backers, they has now recently introduced a lower cost version, called Popcorn Hour A500, based on the same processor but overall lower specs to bring the price down to $269. The company has  sent me a review sample, so I’ll start by listing the hardware specifications, and post pictures of the device and its internals, before testing media playback capabilities later on.

Popcorn Hour A500 Specifications

The “non-PRO” version has less RAM, dropped the XLR connectors, and  uses a cheaper audio DAC:

  • SoC – Sigma Designs SMP8758 dual core ARM Cortex A9 processor @ 1.2 GHz with ARM Mali-400 GPU and VXP image processing engine
  • System Memory – 1GB  DDR3
  • Storage – 512 MB SLC NAND Flash for firmware, 1x SD card reader, internal SATA bay for 2.5″ and 3.5″ hard drives
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4a up to 3840×2160 @ 30 Hz, RCA connectors for component and composite video
  • Audio Output
    • Digital – HDMI, optical S/PDIF, and coaxial S/PDIF up to 192 kHz sampling rate
    • Analog – Stereo RCA jacks
    • Audio DAC – ESS SABRE Audio DAC ES9023P
  • Video Containers – M1V, M2V, M4V, M2P, MPG,VOB TS, TP, TRP, M2T, [email protected], MTS, AVI, ASF, WMV, MKV, 3DMKV, MOV, MP4, RMP4
  • Video Codecs – HEVC, VP9, H.264, MPEG-4.2-ASP, SMPTE 421M, AVS, H.261
  • Audio
    • Formats – AAC, M4A, MPEG audio, WAV, WMA, FLAC, OGG, APE, TTA, DSD
    • Decoders – DTS, WMA, WMA Pro, MPEG-1 (Layer 1,2,3), MPEG-4 AAC-LC, MPEG-4 HE-AAC, LPCM, FLAC, Vorbix
    • Gapless playback – DSD (DSF & DFF), SACD ISO, MP3, WAV and FLAC
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet; optional 802.11ac WiFI via  BL-WDN600 USB dongle; optional 802.11 b/g/n via WN-150 or WN-160 USB dongle
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host, 1x USB 3.0 slave
  • Misc – IR receiver, IR extender port, power and network LEDs
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A
  • Dimensions – 182 x 158 x 56 mm (Aluminum enclosure)

It’s also an update compared to Popcorn Hour VTEN that features a single core Cortex A9 processor, and no internal SATA bay. The media player runs Linux with NMJ (Networked Media Jukebox) navigator user interface, and you can also control the device with Android or iOS Mobile NMJ navigator app.

Popcorn Hour A500 Unboxing

The package is massive (and heavy) compared to the Android TV boxes I’m used to receive.

Popcorn_Hour_A500_PackageThe accessories also highlights some of the feature of the device with for example a USB 3.0 slave cable to use the box as an external hardware, and the screws and key for 2.5 ” and 3.5″ SATA support.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Other items include a HDMI cable, a 12V/3.33A power supply and power cord, the remote control and two AAA batteries, a quick start guide, and a warranty card explaining the device comes with one year warranty. The yellow sticker on the top of the device confirm it is a fanless design with an aluminum case that may get rather hot during use.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The media player itself feels of very good quality with its metallic enclosure. The front panel has a window for the IR receiver and LEDs, one of the side feature the SATA bay, an SD card slot, as well as a USB 2.0 port, while the rear panel has plenty of connectors: IR extension hack, USB 3.0 salve port, Gigabit Ethernet, another USB 2.0 host port, HDMI 1.4 output, composite and component RCA connectors, stereo audio RCA connectors, optical and S/PDIF RCA connector, the DC jack and finally a power switch.

Popcorn_Hour_A500_Hard_Drive_SATA_BayI unlocked the SATA bay with the provided key to connect a 3.5″ hard drive. The four holes on the bottom are for 2.5″ HDD and are meant to be used with the four small screws.

Popcorn_Hour_A500_HDD_InstallationBut for a 3.5″ HDD, you’ll use the larger screws and the opening on the side of the SATA slot. Then push the slot back into the case to insert the drive into the SATA connector.

Popcorn Hour A500 Teardown

Let’s open the thing. You can leave the four feet alone, and loosen the four other screws on the bottom, the two screws on the top corner of the rear panel and remove the SATA bay to open the device.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The case has been made by SilverStone, a company that appears to be popular for PC chassis. By the way, while the case is of very good quality, the key to lock / unlock the SATA is made of plastic, and was unusable when I tried to unlock of SATA bay, as its edges were damaged. I spent around 15 minutes to find alternative tools to unlock it, and retrieve my hard drive. So when the teardown was complete, and I put everything back together, I’ve not locked the SATA bay. We’ll see how it goes.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

There’s no much to see on the top of the board, but I still took another picture with a different angle to show the SATA connector.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I loosen four more screws to have a look at the other side of the board.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

There’s a thermal pad attached to the metal case, with some thermal past to dissipate heat from the Sigma Designs SMP8758 processor. That’s the only point I could see where heat from components is actually conducted to the metal case. Other components include SKhynix H27U4G8F2DTR NAND flash (8GB), and two SKhynix H5TQ4G63CFR DDR3 chips (1GB RAM in total), and Atheros AR8035-A Gigabit Ethernet transceiver.

Cloud Media sells Popcorn Hour A500 directly on their website for $269 plus shipping, and through resellers.

Black Friday 2015 – International Deals

November 25th, 2015 9 comments

While Black Friday is very much a US tradition, Chinese online retailers have made an habit to launch Black Friday, and to a lesser extend Cyber Monday, promotions discount on their sites bringing the event to an international audience. This year is no different, and have gathered some promotions that may be of interest to CNX Software readers.

DX_Black_Friday_2015DealExtreme

I have not found specific deals on DealExtreme, but the company launched a Black Friday 2015 Lucky Draw event where you can get partial or full refunds of existing orders, as well as coupons for future order. Here are the rules:

  1. This campaign is for all DX customers.
  2. Please log in first.
  3. One play per valid order number.
  4. Valid Orders must meet the following three conditions:
    • Orders made on or after 10:00:00(AM) Oct. 28th and before 9:59:59(AM) Nov. 26th, 2015 (UTC+8).
    • Order should include one or more MVP product(s) and the order value must be more than $20.
    • Orders have been shipped or partially shipped.
  5. Present winners will be notified by email.
  6. The Coupon prizes can be used on Bidding Sales (Nov.11), Black Friday (Nov.27) and Cyber Monday (Nov.30) for MVP product only.
  7. The Order Refund prizes will be processed within seven workdays in the form of store-credit.
  8. The Surprise Gift will be shipped within seven workdays.

GearBest

GearBest has also a pre Black Friday lucky draw with some coupons for grab. Rules:

  1. Enter a paid order number to get THREE Lucky Draw attempts!
  2. Paid orders must be at least $50, and payment submitted between Nov 23 (00:00 UTC) and Nov 30 (23:59 UTC).
  3. Coupons are only valid from Nov 26 (00:00 UTC) to Nov 30 (23:59 UTC).

At least two TV boxes will be covered by winning coupons:

  • Chiptrip MXV (Amlogic S805)for $28.89 with coupon
  • MXIII-G (Amlogic S812 with 2GB RAM / 8GB flash) for $49.99 with coupon
  • Beelink i68 (RK3368 with 2GB/8GB) for $59.99 with coupon

If you are not in luck, you could also use Thanksgiving2015 coupon to get 10% discount on the site. This coupon is valid until December 12th.

GeekBuying

GeekBuying has their own Black Friday 2015 event with coupons for both existing customers and new ones.

They also have special deals for TV Boxes for example:

TinyDeal

Tinydeal  launched discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday mostly for smartphones, tablets, and accessories.  There are also some flash sales, where for example you could get a LEAGOO ELITE 4 smartphone for just $9.99.

Chinavasion

Chinavasion plans to run their promotion between Black Friday (Nov 27.) to Cyber Monday (Nov 30.), and they’ve already shown three product to be discounted in a blog post:

Banggood

Bangood launched what they called Snap Up, where you add a product to your cart, and wait for the exact time to buy at incredibly low price, e.g. $0.01. Frustration guaranteed…

BuyForSure & Aliexpress

BuySureSure is a small company that makes and sells TV boxes via Aliexpress, and I reviewed their BFS 4KH box last year.

They are giving $5 coupon to people who purchase one of the following devices between Nov 24 – 28:

You can find more discount on the whole Aliexpress website, by checking out their Black Friday Page.

Cloud Media

Cloud Media promises up to 82% discount, and buy 1 get 2 free offers for selected products.

Cloud_Media_Black_Friday_2015But I’m not quite sure how to work, as adding 3 product to the cart still show the price for 3 devices. They do offer some small discount for their VTEN media player ($149), and you can add a WiFi dongle for just $1.9 extra (maybe that’s where the 82% discount is coming from…).  Their Open Hour Gecko is still $89, but you can add an air mouse for just $5.

OpenELEC Box

OpenELEC also has a Black Friday campaign for their OpenELEC Box based on WeTek Play, wit hthe price as low as 53.99 Euros if you buy 12 or more units. If you don’t need that many, there’s still a 10% discount bringing the price to about 80 Euros for one.

There are probably other deals, please let us know in comments. There’s also a Black Friday deals thread on Kodi forums, but mostly with link to US and UK stores.

Giveaway Week – Popcorn Hour VTEN 4K Media Player

November 8th, 2015 259 comments

Linux based Popcorn Hour VTEN media player is based on Sigma Designs SMP8757 Cortex A9 processor, and supports video playback up to 4K @ 30 fps (H.264 and H.265), and 7.1 channel audio pass-through. It’s not running Kodi, but CloudMedia’s own media application, and the build quality is superior to most devices thanks to its metallic enclosure.

Popcorn Hour V10 (Click to Enlarge)

Popcorn Hour VTEN (Click to Enlarge)

That’s one of the best media player I’ve reviewed so far with H.265 10-bit 4K video playback support, HDMI audio pass-through working for 5.1 and 7.1 channels audio, and very good playback quality. There were a few codecs that were not supported at the time however, such as RealMedia and VP8, and it does not support VP9 either like the vast majority of players on the market today. There were also a few bugs here and there, so the winner may want to upgrade to the latest firmware in case the OTA update does not work. Gigabit Ethernet and eSATA ports are also bonuses. So while it’s not quite as versatile as Android TV boxes, the device excels at playing videos.

Popcorn Hour VTEN, Remote, Cables, Power Supply, User's Guide, and Warranty (Click to Enlarge)

Popcorn Hour VTEN, Remote, Cables, Power Supply, User’s Guide, and Warranty (Click to Enlarge)

You can find more pictures in Popcorn Hour VTEN unboxing and teardown post.

To enter the draw simply leave a comment below.

Other rules are as follows:

  • Only one entry per contest. I will filter out entries with the same IP and/or email address.
  • Contests are open for 48 hours starting at 10am (Bangkok time) every day. Comments will be closed after 48 hours.
  • Winners will be selected with random.org, and announced in the comments section of each giveaway.
  • I’ll contact the winner by email, and I’ll expect an answer within 24 hours, or I’ll pick another winner. (Please make sure my email cnxsoft <at> cnx-software.com is while-listed, I’ve already had to redraw twice this week)
  • Shipping
    • Free EMS for winners with a shipping address in Thailand
    • $29 for registered airmail small packet for the rest of the world payable via Paypal within 48 hours once the contest (for a given product) is complete. Popcorn Hour VTEN is an heavy device (well over 1kg) which explains why it’s more expensive to ship than others.
    • If PayPal is not available in your country, you can still play, and I’ll cover the cost of sending the parcel by Sea and Land (SAL) if you win.
  • I’ll post all 7 prizes at the same time, around the 11th of November
  • I’ll make sure we have 7 different winners, so if you have already won a device during this giveaway week, I’ll draw another person.

Good luck!

Popcorn Hour VTEN can be purchased on Cloud Media website for $169 + shipping, and WP-160N wireless USB adapter (802.11n) for $11.90.  You can also find both on eBay.

Sadly that’s the last giveaway for this week, and I expect for this year. Congratulations to all winners, and thanks to all who participated!

A Look at Android and Windows Mini PCs’ Power Consumption in Power Off, Standby, Idle, and Video Playback Modes

September 22nd, 2015 18 comments

I’ve previously measured power consumption of Amlogic S812 and Rockchip RK3288 based TV boxes using a multimeter. This provides relatively accurate measurements, as well as neat power consumption profiles of devices, but it’s a little complex and time-consuming, so it’s not something I would do for all devices. The easiest way to measure power consumption is to use a kill-a-watt type of device, but my first one broke after only 3 months last year.  I purchased a new one recently, so I run run some power measurement tests on several devices.

Tronsmart_Orion_R68_Power_Consumption
I selected five devices for this test:

The procedure used the device’s power supply, and I connected an HDMI cable, and MeLE F10 RF dongle to the device only.  The devices were connected to the network over WiFi, except for Open Hour Chameleon, where I had to use Ethernet, since the device does not include WiFi. The video output was set to 1080p60 for all devices.

The power consumption was measured for five different scenarios:

  1. Power Off mode, after shutdown (when available)
  2. Standby/Sleep mode (when available)
  3. Idle mode, a few minutes after boot.
  4. 1080p60 video – bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_normal.mp4 video playback in “Movie & TV” app in Windows, or MX Player in Android using a SAMBA server
  5. 1080p60 video in Kodi – bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_normal.mp4 video playback in Kodi 14.x or 15.x (depending on pre-installed version in firmware) using a SAMBA server

I did not change any settings in the video players before playback, and AFAIK all of them used hardware video decoding.

Power Off Standby/Sleep Idle 1080p60 Video 108060 Video in Kodi
MeLE PCG01 0.4W 5.2~6.0W 3.2~4.2W 4.0~5.2W 7.1~8.2W
Zidoo X9 0.3W N/A 7.4~8.4W 8.2~9.2W 9.2~10W
Open Hour Chameleon N/A 1.2W 3.4W 5.2~6.0W 5.0~5.4W
Tronsmart Orion R68 0W 2.0~2.4W 3.0~3.2W 3.3~4.0W 5.0~5.4W
Tronfy MXIV 1.2W 3.0~3.2W 3.0~3.4W 4.4~5.3W 6.1~7.4W

I’ve also drawn a chart for all five tests and devices using the average value.

Low_Power_mini_PCs_Power_ConsumptionPower off, when implemented, is usually working as it should, with the devices consuming between 0 and 0.4 Watt, but for some reasons Tronfy MXIV’s power off mode power consumption is a little higher at 1.2 Watts. However, standby / sleep mode power consumption is rather on the high side, except for Open Hour Chameleon, and in the case of MeLE PCG01, you’d even waste energy by going into Sleep mode, based on the results I got. I waited a few minutes to make sure, but power consumption stayed in the 5.2 to 6.0 Watts range.

The only Intel device actually did pretty good, against its ARM based competitors, and it’s Zidoo X9 that has the worst power consumption, which may or may not due extra features like HDMI input and is not turned off when not in use, or it’s simply the overall system design is not optimized for low power consumption. The box will the lowest power consumption is Tronsmart Orion R68.

I also wanted to see if performing a given task, e.g. playing a 1080p 60 fps H.264 video, in different apps would yield different power consumption results, and in most cases Kodi consumes more power than MX Player in Android or “Movie & TV” app in Windows. The only exception being Chameleon where Kodi consumes a little less than MX Player. It’s probably not that important in TV boxes, but if you are watching videos on the go, Kodi may deplete your battery faster.

Finally, I also wanted to evaluate the cost of using the device, using the extreme case of playing Big Buck Bunny video 24 hours a day for 365 days in Kodi, and the case of playing it only 2 hours a day, with the 22 hours left in standby or power off. The costs are based on my electricity rate (4 Baht / KWh or about $0.1108 US per KWh):

365 Days / 24 Hours 2 Hours a Day
KWh Cost KWh Cost
MeLE PCG01 67.0 $7.43 8.8 $0.97
Zidoo X9 84.1 $9.32 9.4 $1.04
Open Hour Chameleon 45.6 $5.05 13.4 $1.49
Tronsmart Orion R68 45.6 $5.05 3.8 $0.42
Tronfy MXIV 59.1 $6.55 14.6 $1.61

From a cost perspective, there’s just over $4 difference between the best and worst device if the box plays a video continuously for a year, while if you watch videos for about 2 hours a day only, the maximum cost does not exceed $1.61 per year on Tronfy MXIV, and that’s provided you don’t disconnect the power supply after use. So it’s probably much more important to check out your TV and/or AV receiver power consumption than the one of your media player.

Open Hour Gecko 4K Android Player Features Hisilicon Hi3798M Processor

September 16th, 2015 2 comments

Cloud Media has just introduced yet another media player with Open Hour Gecko, an Android TV box powered by Hisilicon Hi3798M quad core Cortex A7 processor supporting H.265 and video output up to 4K @ 30Hz.
open_hour_geckoOpen Hour Gecko specifications:

  • SoC – HiSilicon Hi3798M quad core ARM Cortex A7 processor @ 1.5GHz with a quad core ARM Mali-450MP GPU.
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB NAND Flash + micro SD slot
  • Video Out – HDMI up to 4K @ 30Hz, and 3.5 mm jack AV jack
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, built-in 802.11 b/g/n WiFi with external antenna
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • Misc – Power switch (On/Off)
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – N/A

The device ships with a power adapter, HDMI and AV cables, a remote control with batteries, a Quick Start Guide, and a warranty card.
Open_Hour_Gecko_and_Remote_ControlCloud Media box runs Android – but the company did not disclose the version – and includes an “optimized” version of Kodi 15 with HD audio pass-through, frame rate sync, 3D BDISO, and 4K H.264/H.265 video playback

Devices based on Hisilicon processors usually rank at the top of Antutu Video Tester, people seem to appreciate the video quality of the platform, and when I tested BFS 4KH TV box, also based on Hi3798M, I found XBMC 13 (at the time) to be well supported with 4K video output and H.265 support, making the box a good deal for around $50. The main warning I can give about devices based on Hisilicon is that some companies have separate products for Chinese and overseas markets (e.g. Himedia), but they keep the same model name, so you may end up with a product with a Chinese interface and zero support. This won’t be a problem with Cloud Media box though. If you are interested in the Linux source code for Hi3798M, some Linux 3.10 code can be found on github.

Open Hour Gecko is available now for $89 + shipping, and there’s also an optional $28.90 air mouse with voice control.