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Orange Pi Development Boards

BBen MN10 TV Stick Review – Windows 10, Ubuntu 17.04, Benchmarks, and Kodi

The BBEN MN10 is the second Apollo Lake device to be released in the stick form-factor and on paper looks to have a lot to offer:

It features an Apollo Lake N3350 SoC, an unusual 3GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and is cooled by a ‘mute’ fan. The devices comes in a plain box with a power adapter, and a leaflet style manual.

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It also included a three-pin UK power adapter, as this was advertised as the ‘BBen MN10 Mini PC  –  UK PLUG  BLACK’.

Looking at the detail specifications:

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We can immediately see discrepancies as the device does not have a ‘RJ45 Port Speed: 1000M LAN’ port, and was not supplied with ‘1 x HDMI Cable’ nor ‘1 x Remote Control’.

Powering on the device and the ‘mute’ fan is also a miss-representation as it starts immediately and is noticeably noisy. It also runs at full speed regardless of workload so the noise is a constant reminder that the device is switched-on:

Starting Windows and the disappointment continues with a message informing that ‘We can’t activate Windows on this device because you don’t have a valid digital license or product key’:

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also ‘Intel Remote Keyboard Host App’ is pre-installed (see icon top left) and the computer name is already been set as ‘BBEN’.

As a result I tried installing Microsoft’s Windows 10 Home ISO but because of the confirmed lack of license, I then installed Microsoft’s Windows 10 Enterprise product evaluation ISO in order to review the device.

The basic hardware matched the specification:

with plenty of free-space available post installation:

I then ran some standard benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows. These are a new set of benchmarks as I’ve updated the tools and releases specifically for devices running Windows version 1709 and later:

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As can be seen the performance is as expected for the N3350 SoC and is comparable with other devices such as ECDREAM A9 or Beelink AP34 Ultimate:

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Next I installed Ubuntu as dual-boot using my ‘isorespin.sh’ script, which includes installing the rEFInd bootloader to enable booting on Apollo Lake devices when the BIOS doesn’t support Linux:

Performance is again as expected:

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And can be compared with other Intel Apollo Lake and earlier Intel Atom devices:

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Revisiting the hardware using Linux commands additionally shows the micro SD card is running the slower HS200 interface:

and rather interestingly a S/PDIF audio interface shows up in the sound settings. However given there is only a 3.5mm audio jack and when an external speaker is connected through it, sound works when selecting the S/PDIF interface. This again is somewhat misleading.

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Looking at real-work Windows usage cases the first being watching a 4K video using Microsoft Edge which works flawlessly:

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The same video when watched using Google Chrome results in occasional dropped frames:

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but notice how much harder the CPU and GPU are working.

Watching the same video and changing the video quality to high definition (1080p resolution) results in a better experience.

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Unfortunately this can’t be said for watching the same video in Google Chrome on Ubuntu. At 4K the video is unwatchable with excessive dropped frames and a stalled network connection after a short while:

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Even at 1080p the video still stutters:

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Running Kodi on both Windows and Ubuntu show similar ‘differences’ in the results.

On Windows if the video is encoded using the VP9 codec then decoding is using software resulting in high CPU usage and high internal temperatures:

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However when the video is encoded with the H.264 codec then Windows uses hardware to decode:

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and similar for videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC:

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with no issues playing the videos.

On Ubuntu hardware is used to decode all three codecs:

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however some H.265 videos resulted in a blank (black) screen just with audio whereas others played without issue:

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As previously mentioned the internal fan is screaming away merrily although it’s effectiveness with internal cooling is somewhat questionable:

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It does assist in keeping the device at a safe external temperature:

with the highest observed reading being 41°C.

So looking at the physical characteristics of the device its size is only slightly larger than the second generation Intel Compute Stick:

Initially I used the device upside down as it seemed sensible to have the case vents exposed:

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However cracking open the case reveals the fan actually uses the side vent between the two USB ports:

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with the bottom vents for cooling the memory and storage chips:

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Remarkably the WiFi chip appeared to have been exposed to excessive heat at some stage:

yet had still passed inspection as evidenced by the green ‘Pass’ sticker.

The only identifiable marking on the board were on the bottom under the sticky black coverings:

The BIOS is minimalistic:

which is an issue when booting with a connected USB to Ethernet adapter, as it defaults to PXE booting which needs to timeout before booting occurs from internal storage. A workaround is to boot Windows from the boot menu after pressing F7:

Notice also that the BIOS is unbranded and simply displays the Intel logo.

Finally after using Windows then Ubuntu and returning to Windows I encountered that audio over HDMI had disappeared:

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and reinstalling the Intel HD Graphics driver didn’t fix it.

So to sum up this is a device with specific limitations which the buyer should be aware of prior to purchase. I’d like to thank Gearbest for providing the BBEN MN10 for review. They sell it for $197.42 shipped. You’ll also find it on Aliexpress from various sellers with not-activated or activated Windows 10 Home / Pro.

$69.99 Amazon Fire TV 2017 TV Box Supports 4K HDR-10 Video Playback

September 28th, 2017 10 comments

Amazon has just announced a new Fire TV TV box with support for 4K Ultra HD and HDR (High Dynamic Range), and a cheaper price, as it is selling for $69.99 on Amazon US with delivery scheduled to start on October 25, 2017.

Amazon Fire TV 2017 specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S905Z quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.5 GHz with penta-core Mali-450MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM
  • Storage – 8GB flash
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K 60 Hz with HDCP 2.2, Doby Atmos support
  • Video – HDR-10. H.265, H.264
  • Connectivity – Dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi + Bluetooth 4.1 LE
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for power (and optional USB Ethernet adapter)
  • Dimensions – 65 x 65 x 15 mm
  • Weight – 87 grams

Amazon just mentions “Amlogic Quad-core 1.5GHz | ARM 4xCA53” for Fire TV processor, so it first assumed it could either be S905X, S905D or S905L since all support 4K60, HDR-10, and H.265, but since Amazon did not list VP9 in the store page, I assumed Amlogic S905L should be the one. But based on more complete specs, the TV box is actually powered by a new Amlogic S905Z processor that supports VP9 too…

The new Fire TV runs Fire OS 6 based on Android 7.1, and ships with an Alexa voice remote control, a USB cable and power adapter, a quick start guide, a product guide, and 2 AAA batteries for the remote control. The device is as simple as possible with only two ports: a short built-in HDMI cable, and a micro USB port for power. That’s it. The latter can also be used to connect a $15 USB Ethernet adapter. Netflix, Hulu, SHOWTIME, Amazon Video, and more services will be accessible using the buttons on the remote control or Alexa, and the TV box can also be paired to Echo devices for far-field voice control.

As with most Amazon devices it will be mostly be for the US market, and some services and features may not work overseas. As a side note, Amlogic has made some recent good deals in the US, as Amlogic S905X is found in Xiaomi Mi Box entry-level Android TV TV box, and now in Amazon Fire TV.

Voyo (V1) VMac Mini Apollo Lake Mini PC Review – Part 2: Windows 10

January 30th, 2017 5 comments

Voyo VMac Mini, also sometimes referred to just Voyo V1, is an actively cooled mini PC powered by Intel Celeron N3450 or Pentium N4200 Apollo Lake processor. I’ve received samples for both, and already taken pictures of the device and motherboard. So in the second part I’ll review the mini PC checking out system info, running some benchmarks on both, and see how it performs as an entry-level desktop PC.

Voyo VMac Mini Setup and System Information

Setup is pretty straightforward, as you just need to connect mouse and keyboard, Ethernet, the mini HDMI to HDMI cable, optionally the included USB WiFi dongle, the power supply, and finally press the power button to get to Windows 10 desktop logged in as “admin” user in about 30 seconds.

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Some Apollo Lake mini PCs support HDMI 2.0 video output, but this requires a DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 bridge chip, which not included in Voyo VMac Mini’s board, so the system supports 1080p resolution up to 60Hz, and 3840×2160 up to 30Hz.

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4K video output will work, but by default the system will be set to 1080p60. Window will show a “non-optimal resolution” notification on the bottom right whenever you change resolution to 4K.

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The System Info window will show the device is running an activated version of Windows 10 Home 64-bit, and comes with 4.00GB (3.84GB usable) RAM and Intel Pentium CPU N4200 @ 1.10 GHz (or Celeron CPU N3450). However, Voyo may not be 100% in compliance with the hardware requirements for a discounted Microsoft license, as while it comes with 4GB RAM, and a 32GB eMMC flash, Windows is installed on the 128GB SSD instead.

I’ve also included a “Device Manager” screenshot for a bit more info about the peripherals and features.

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One of the first thing you may want to do is to remove some Chinese programs which are running in the background.

The two processes are called ldslite.exe and computerZservice.exe, and many websites report about those two from the ones saying they are safe, to the ones claiming they are adware, to the ones claiming both are very dangerous viruses, and you need to download their free software to remove them. I have not seen any ads, but I could remove both easily simply going to “Add or remove programs”, and removed the only program with a Chinese name which removed both processes.

Voyo VMac Mini Benchmarks

If you are interested in typical system benchmarks I’ve already reported about PCMark 8 , Passmark 8 & 9, and 3DMark results in the posts entitled “Voyo VMac Mini mini PC (Intel Pentium N4200) Benchmarks” and “Voyo VMac Mini mini PC Benchmarks with Intel Celeron N3450 Apollo Lake Processor“, so I’ll just add storage and networking benchmarks in this section.

The C: drive is the 128GB FORESEE SSD drive where Windows is installed, and both sequential and random performance is pretty good, and ever faster than the already pretty fast SSD found on Voyo V3 mini PC.The 32GB eMMC flash (D: drive) is not quite as good, and from a technical point of view, it was the right thing to do to install Windows on the SSD.

Voyo VMac Mini does not include a wireless adapter internally, but a 802.11n WiFi dongle is included. Since you may want to use your own instead, I have not tested WiFi, but only Gigabit Ethernet using iperf 2 for a 60 seconds full duplex transfer.

The results show download speed is OK, but if you need a device that handles heavy traffic in both directions simultaneously this will not work so well:

I repeated the test in one direction only:

Voyo VMac Mini User Experience and Usability Testing

The mini PC has done good so far, I did not experience many problems (I had USB problem at the beginning with some flash drives not recognized, but they seem to have gone). But the most important is to see how it would perform during use as a desktop PC and/or HTPC, so I’ve performed the following tasks:

  • Multi-tasking – Launching and using Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, and Gimp at the same time
  • Web Browsing with Firefox & Microsoft Edge
    • Loading multiple tab in Firefox with CNX Software blog
    • Playing a flash game  (Candy Crush Saga) in Firefox
    • Playing a 4K (VP9) YouTube Videos in Microsoft Edge
  • Gaming with Asphalt 8
  • Kodi 17.0 RC3 @ 4K videos using H.265 or H.264 codecs, 10-bit H.264 @ 1080p, and audio pass-through


The good news is that such machine can now perfectly be used a an entry level computer for multi-tasking such as reading email, browsing the web, and editing documents. Beside the incrementally faster processor over Braswell and Cherry Trail systems, the fast SSD and 4GB of RAM clearly help here. You’ll still see differences with faster machine while scrolling long web pages, and playing games. 4K YouTube videos are playing well in Microsoft Edge, and not too bad in Firefox with only a few frames dropped here and there. Asphalt 8 frame rate does really feel similar to what I experience in Atom x7-Z8700 or Celeron N3150 based mini PCs such as Beelink BT7 and MINIX NGC1. Kodi 17 is almost out, so I used Kodi 17 RC3 during testing, with automatic frame rate switching working well, for example a 4K @ 30 fps video will make the resolution switch from 1080p60 to 4K30 automatically, and H.264 and 10-bit H.265 videos are playing fairly well. VP9 videos however are extremely choppy and unwatchable in Kodi 17. If you have a lot of animes using 10-bit H.264 (Hi10p), th goods news is that the processor is fast enough to play such videos using software decoding. HDMI audio pass-through works for Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, but not for TrueHD instead playing PCM 2.0 or transcoding to Dolby Digital, and DTS HD with the platform only passing DTS 5.1.

Stress Test, Fan Noise and Power Consumption

Some mini PCs do no handle heavy loads very well, with CPU throttling occurring after a few minutes, even for devices with a fan. So I ran AIDA64 Extreme Stability Test to find out, as well as HWiNFO64 in sensor-only mode for a little over 2 hours to find out.

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The results are very good with no CPU throttling, the maximum temperature achieved was 89 °C, 16° C from the maximum Junction temperature (105 °C), and the Pentium N4200 processor was clocked at 1.6 GHz most of the time right between the 1.1 GHz “baseline” frequency and 2.5 GHz maximum burst frequency.

The system is not fanless, but the fan does not allow turn, as it depends on actual temperature, and the higher the temperature the faster the fan spins. GM1352 sound level meter placed at about 2 cm from the top of the case reported 50 dbA under light load, and either 52.5 dBA during AIDA64 stress test,  with burst up to 57.5 dBA during the same test, that would only last maybe 10 seconds. Fan noise is not too bad while browsing the web, although audible, but for any demanding tasks you’ll clearly hear it on the temperature rise enough.

Power consumption was 10.3 Watts without USB hard drive during the stress test, but there’s a design flaw in power off mode as USB ports still draw current, so with a USB 3.0 hard drive connected, power consumption is 2.0 Watts when the device is turned off, and around 1.0 Watts when I only leave the USB keyboard and mouse. Idle power consumption is 6.4 to 7 watts with USB HDD connected.

Conclusion

Voyo VMac Mini works as advertised, and performance is quite good with the Apollo Lake processor processor, fast SSD storage and 4GB RAM. I could perfectly see people using it as an entry level computer to browse the web, work with documents and spreadsheets and so on. People who want to run high load on the device should not worry about CPU throttling as the fan and heatsink take care of cooling the device even under stress. It’s obviously still limited when it comes to games, and it might not be the best price/performance for HTPC use, as while 4K H.264 and 10-bit H.265 videos can play,  4K output is limited to 30 Hz (HDMI 1.4), 4K VP9 is not working well in Kodi, and HDMI audio pass through is limited to Dolby and DTS 5.1, and does not support Dolby TrueHD nor DTS HD formats.

At the beginning I also had some issues with some USB flash drives (NTFS) recognized by the system, but not mounted (no file system detected), but the problem went away, maybe after a Windows 10 update, and I could not reproduce the issue anymore at the end of the review with any of the 3 drives I tested. Please note the mini PC does not include WiFi, nor Bluetooth, but a WiFi dongle is included in the package instead. There was also some crapware installed in Windows 10, but as indicated in the review it’s very easy to remove. I plan to test Linux with Ubuntu 16.04, but so far my attempts have not been successful. The BIOS find the bootable drive with Ubuntu, but when I select it, all I get is a black screen.

I’d like to thank GearBest & GeekBuying for providing the samples for review, with the former providing the Pentium N4200 version which they sell for $234.93 and the latter the Celeron N3450 version selling for $199.99. Both models can also be found on other online shops such as Amazon US and Aliexpress. Note that the version on Aliexpress is significantly cheaper because it only comes with a 64GB SSD. The custom SATA cable to add your own 2.5″ hard drive is only $2 extra if you select a bundle on the Aliexpress link.

$28 MK809V 4K Android TV Stick is Powered by Rockchip RK3229 Processor

October 26th, 2016 2 comments

Rockchip RK3229 is found is some ultra-cheap 4K Android TV boxes such as SCISHION V88 are selling for as low as $20. If you prefer HDMI TV stick form factor, there’s now MK809V 4K TV stick based on the processor, which I’ve first noticed on DealExtreme for $30.71, but it can also be found on other sites such as GeekBuying for $27.99, or eBay for $33.

mk809v-4k-rk3229-tv-stickMK809V-4K HDMI TV dongle specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3229 quad core ARM Cortex A7 processor @ 1.5 GHz with ARM Mali-400MP2
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K2K @ 60 fps with CEC support
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi up to 150 Mbps + Bluetooth 4.0 LE (Realtek RTL8723)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port, 1x micro USB port for power only
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 10 x 3.8 x 1 cm

Most Rockchip RK3229 devices run Android 4.4.4, but MK809V-4K is advertised as either running Android 4.4.4 or Android 5.1 depending on the website. While the processor will feel slow for many Android tasks like gaming or browsing the web, it’s good enough for video playback, and on top of 10-bit H.265 up to 4K @ 60 fps supported on most 4K Android TV boxes and dongles, it can also handle 10-bit H.264 videos up to 4K @ 30 fps, although based on my review of MXQ 4K RK3229 TV Box, not all Hi10p videos will be supported.

MK809V-4K ships with a 5V/2A power adapter, an HDMI cable, an IR remote control, and a user’s manual in English.

MUSES-α & MUSES-β DVB-T/C, ISDB-T, DTMB & ATSC Modulator Boards Review – Part 1: The Hardware

October 19th, 2016 4 comments

V-Bridge Muses digital TV modulator boards launched on Kickstarter earlier this month, with the cheaper $200 MUSES-α board modulating video from a PC, and $600 MUSES-β turnkey solution capable of broadcasting HDMI or AV + stereo input to various digital TV standards including DVB-T/C, ATSC/QAM, DTMB, and ISDB-T/TB without the help of a computer. The company sent me the two hardware kits for evaluation and review on CNX Software, and today I’ll start by showing off the hardware I received.

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I got 3 packages and a F-female to F-female cable, which means you can connect the board directly to your TV tuner without having to rely on actual RF signals, and potential legal issues that goes with it.pc-modulator-kit

The first package I open if for the PC modulator kit that include MUSES-α board, an “RF” board, as a USB cable to connect to your computer.

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MUSES-α board features Vatek A1 chip, a USB port, an Ethernet port, a power jack, and  headers for UART, I2C, TS, JTAG, RF board and GPIOs.

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The back of the board just has a Winbond flash.

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The RF board is based on Texas Instruments TRF372017 IQ modulator PLL/VCO chip, and includes an F-male connector.

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To get started you’d have to connect the USB cable, the coax cable to your TV’s tuner, as well as a 5V power supply.

The next package is the STM32 + LCD control board allowing to use MUSES-β board without PC.

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It’s made of off-the-shelf parts including DF Robots LCD keypad shield for Arduino, connected to an STM32 based board via jumper cables + some glue.

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The “STM32F4xx” board is also an off-the-shelf STM32F407ZET6 ARM Cortex-M4 board found on Aliexpress for $15.50. So what you are paying for here, is not really hardware, but all the development work required for a niche product.

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The third package includes the rest of the turnkey solution with an RF board, MUSES-β board based on Vatek B2 modulator and video encoding chip, and a video & audio input board with HDMI input, and 3 RCA connector for video composite and stereo audio input. All boards are already attached to an acrylic base, and the kit adds the top acrylic cover, some spacers and screws, and a 5V/2A power supply.

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The RF board is exactly the same as the one used with MUSES-α board, and the AV input board features Explore Microelectronics EP9555E  for HDMI input and Intersil TW9912 for CVBS input.

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MUSES-β board comes with a USB port, a power jack, headers for the RF and AV input boards, I2C, MCU connect, and a TS port. I must have a received a prototype board, so there’s also some rework that should be gone once the kit ships to backers.

MUSES-β Kit Fully Assembled - Click to Enlarge

MUSES-β Kit Fully Assembled – Click to Enlarge

Assembly is quite straightforward:

  1. Connect the STM32 board to the “MCU connect” header
  2. Optionally add the top acrylic cover
  3. Connect the 5V/2A power supply
  4. Connect the coax cable to your TV, and add video and audio input(s) to the HDMI port or CVBS + stereo audio RCA jacks
  5. Scan the channel on your TV, and enjoy

That’s exactly what I’ll try in the second part of the review, once I receive some documentation from the company.

V-Bridge Muses Digital TV Modulator Boards Let You Broadcast Your Own TV Channel for $199 and Up (Crowdfunding)

October 5th, 2016 15 comments

I wrote about VATek VMB8202D Enmoder SoC handling both DVB, ATSC, DTMB and ISDB modulation and H.264 hardware encoding earlier this summer, and at the time, the company also planned to launch a crowdfunding campaign for two open source hardware DTV modulation boards in a couple of weeks. Weeks turned into months, but finally V-Bridge Muses boards and video input & RF daughterboards have now launched on Kickstarter where you can get your own live video broadcasting board for $199 and up.

MUSES-α board

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Muses Alpha Board

MUSES-α board is the cheapest of the two boards, and features a header for the RF daughter board, and a USB port to connect to a computer.
MUSES-α board specifications:

  • SoC – VATek A1 32-bit RISC modulator chip
  • Storage – SPI flash (unclear whether it can be accessed/modified by user)
  • Modulation – DVB-T/C, ATSC/QAM, DTMB; RF header
  • Video Encoding – N/A (handled by PC via USB or another board via TS header)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port
  • Expansion – UART header, Master I2C header, TS header, GPIO header
  • Debugging – JTAG pin
  • Misc – License MCU
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via power barrel

MUSES-α board is sold with the RF board, and allows you to broadcast video over your chosen modulation scheme, through a GUI and video encoded on your PC via the USB interface. Alternatively, you should also be able to input the video signal via the TS serial/parallel header with video encoded by your own board.

MUSES-β board

Muses Beta Board

Muses Beta Board

MUSES-β board combined with the RF daughterboard, video input board, and an optional STM32 kits with display and buttons, is a standalone solution taking video composite + stereo audio (RCA connectors) or HDMI input, encoding the video to MPEG2 or H.264, and broadcasting using your selected modulation scheme.

MUSES-β board specifications:

  • SoC – VATek B2 Enmoder 32-bit RISC chip
  • Storage – SPI flash (unclear whether it can be accessed/modified by user)
  • Modulation – DVB-T/C, ATSC/QAM, DTMB, ISDB-T/TB; RF header
  • Video Encoding – MPEG-2 in full HD resolution, H.264 in SD resolution
  • Video/Audio Input – 2x BT 601/605 header, 1x TS header, video input daughterboard header
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port
  • Expansion – UART header, Master I2C header, GPIO header, Ethernet module header, MCU connect header
  • Misc – License MCU, audio switch MCU, reset and rescue buttons
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via power barrel

You can also connected to a PC via the USB port to do the same task as you would with Muses-α board. You can more control with the more complete board, as it can be programmed via an host MCU if needed.

Video Input Board (Left) & RF module (Right) - Click to Enlarge

Video Input Board (Left) & RF module (Right) – Click to Enlarge

 

You’ll be given STM32 sample code, an MCU Porting Guide, operating tools, PCB layout & schematic, and a user’s manual  once the boards are shipping.

Three kits are available on Kickstarter:

  1. $199 Basic Package –  MUSES-α Board, RF Board, Power supply (Design complete)
  2. $399 Standard Package –  MUSES-β Board, Video Board, RF Board, Power supply (Work in progress)
  3. $559 (Early bird)/$599 Turnkey Package –  MUSES-β Board, Video Board, RF Board, STM32F4 MCU Board, Panel & Button, Power supply (Design complete)

While you’ll be paying $169 to $200 for a MCU board with LCD display with buttons for the turnkey package, it should be the easiest way to get started with MUSES-β board. The standard package requires you to connect and program your own MCU board to control the system. The basic package should also be straightforward to use then it just relies on the GUI program (no detailed info yet).

Shipping adds $25 (Taiwan) to $70 depending on the destination country, and delivery is scheduled for January 2017. You may also be able to get some more details on V-Bridge Tech website.

4K VP9, H.265 and H.264 Video Playback in Amlogic S912 M12N TV Box

August 15th, 2016 5 comments

I’ve received my first Amlogic S912 TV box with MXQ Plus M12N TV box this week-end, and I’ve decided to start testing by showing the media capabilities of the platform that is supposed to support 4K VP9 up to 60Hz, 4K 10-bit H.265 up to 60Hz and 4K H.264 up to 30 Hz.

Amlogic_S912_TV_Box_4K_VP9

I connected the device to Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V recevier itself connected to  LG 42UB820T 4K UHD TV, set video output to 2160p @ 60Hz, and played several 4K video samples from a USB hard drive using the pre-installed version of Kodi 16.1:

  • 4K Hawaii Sunset _ GoPro Hero 4 Black [email protected] (Downloaded from YouTube) – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265 @ 30 fps – No audio) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 (H.264 @ 30 fps – MPEG1/2 and AC3 audio) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 (H.264 @ 60 fps – MPEG1/2 and AC3 audio) – Video a bit choppy, large audio delay. Expected as not supported by Amlogic S912 VPU
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (H.265 Rec.2020 compliant – AAC audio) – OK
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (H.265 @ 60 fps – AC3) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC @ 24 fps – no audio) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm – OK, although not perfect (some frames seem to be missing, TBC)
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (4K 10-bit H.264 video) – Lots of artifacts. Software decode since the VPU does not support 10-bit h.264

The results are pretty good as the two main “failures” were expected since Amlogic S912 video processing unit (aka hardware video decoder) does not support 10-bit H.264 nor 4K H.264 @ 60 Hz. The Curvature of Earth video was watchable, but I think I’ve seen it play more smoothly on other hardware platforms. I initially started to play over SAMBA, but the Fast Ethernet network performance is not always good enough to play the videos from a SAMBA share, so I reverted to using a USB hard drive.

I’ve also included two extra 720p and 1080p 10-bit H.264 (hi10p) video to check whether the 8 cores would be fast enough for software decoding:

  • [Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv – OK with video, audio, and subtitles
  • [1080p][16_REF_L5.1][mp3_2.0]Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu BD OP.mkv – Subtitles OK, audio may cut from time to time, and video is playing but a bit choppy, and with artifacts at times.

So the processor is not quite fast enough to play 1080p 10-bit H.264 videos despite all eight cores being used at the time of playback.

You can watch all videos above being played in M12N TV box, and download them from comments @ Where to get Video & Audio samples.

I also tested HDMI audio pass-through, but only Dolby and DTS options are available in that version of Kodi, with DTS-HD and TrueHD options missing, and Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1 sometimes playing with audio cut. So that’s yet another TV box shipped without proper audio support. Automatic frame rate switching is not supported either.

Please also note that my sample was sent directly from Shenzhen Shiningworth, the manufacturer of the device, and I’ve been told the launcher will be different on their customers hardware such as ENYBOX X2 or Acemax M12N, with the latter currently being sold on GearBest for $69.99. [Update: Shenzhen Shiningworth M12N is now sold on Aliexpress for $69.99]

Multiple Videos Encoding and Decoding in Android on Firefly-RK3288 Development Board

August 10th, 2016 5 comments

Some applications like digital signage and video surveillance may require simultaneous video playback, and encoding to send over the network. ARM platforms may not be powerful enough to achieve those tasks with the processor only, but luckily many ARM SoCs include powerful video processing unit (VPU) capable of doing both hardware video encoding and decoding, leaving the CPU cores mostly free for other tasks.

Firefly-RK3288_Multi-codec

Firefly team has demoed such capabilities on their Firefly-RK3288 development board by displaying 7 videos on a single screen, including two previews from two USB cameras attached to the board, which are then encoded and decoded on the fly and displayed on the screen. The last three videos are played from 3 different files. So that means that 5 video decode and 2 video encode are running simultaneously.  The board can achieve 26 to 30fps with 720p videos, and around 13 to 15 fps with 1080p videos in that demo.

The demo was published in September 2015, but I just found out about it via one Rockchip tweet, which claimed “Multiple video coding&decoding case of Firefly-RK3288 is open source for maker now!”. While the demo firmware with MultiCodecs app is available from Firefly website, I did not find any source code, so I asked on twitter… To my surprise I got an answer with a link to download 多路编解码.zip   (password:qtsr), with source code for MultiCodecs app (with some close-source binary libraries), and to control the UVC cameras.

Google translation of the readme file:

System: Android 4.4

Implementation:
In SDK libraries required to compile and execute the file:
1, will be copied to the folder uvc to frameworks/av/ directory
2, In the folder frameworks/av/uvc, run “mm -B” to compile

Add Android system services:
1. Edit device/rockchip/rksdk/init.rc
2 added services:

Replace libRkOMX_Resourcemanager.so:
Android 4.4 can patch: 0001-Android-vpu-omx-support-5-decodes-and-2-encodes.patch
Other versions can be replaced manually own respective positions.

Then you can compile SDK, package generated img file to burn on the board.
Taken to ensure that the following files exist:
out/target/product/rk3288_box/system/bin/uvcserver
out/target/product/rk3288_box/system/lib/libmp4v2.so
out/target/product/rk3288_box/system/lib/libuvc-bunchen-jni.so

Nextinstall MultiCodecs.apk:
1, path: MultiCodecs/bin/MultiCodecs.apk
2, through adb install apk installed or copied to the board can be installed

Then you have to prepare three mp4 format video, named video1.mp4, video2.mp4, video3.mp4, and copied to the board /mnt/ sdcard/ below.
Uvc then plug in two cameras, run MultiCodecs, will be able to see the effects..

So you could try by yourself using Android 4.4 for the board, adjust the app to your needs, or integrate the solution into your own app.