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Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Octa Core Kryo 385 SoC to Power Premium Smartphones, XR Headsets, Windows Laptops

December 7th, 2017 9 comments

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor was expected since May 2017 with four custom Cortex A75 cores, four Cortex A53 cores, Adreno 630 GPU, and X20 LTE modem. with the launch planned for Q1 2018. At least, that what the leaks said.

Qualcomm has now formally launched Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform and rumors were mostly right, as the the octa-core processor comes with four Kryo 385 Gold cores (custom Cortex A75), four Kryo 385 Silver cores (custom Cortex A55) leveraging DynamIQ technology, an Adreno 630 “Visual Processing System”, and Snapdragon X20 modem supporting LTE Cat18/13.

The processor is said to use more advanced artificial intelligence (AI) allowing what the company calls “extended reality (XR)” applications, and will soon be found in flagship smartphones, XR headsets, mobile PCs, and more.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (SDM845) specifications:

  • Processor
    • 4x Kryo 385 Gold performance cores @ up to 2.80 GHz (custom ARM Cortex A75 cores)
    • 4x Kryo 385 Silver efficiency cores @ up to 1.80 GHz (custom ARM Cortex A55 cores)
    • DynamIQ technology
  • GPU (Visual Processing Subsystem) – Adreno 630 supporting OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0,Vulkan 1.x, DxNext
  • DSP
    • Hexagon 685 with 3rd Gen Vector Extensions, Qualcomm All-Ways Aware Sensor Hub.
    • Supports Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine (NPE) SDK, Caffe, Caffe2, and Tensorflow
  • Memory I/F – LPDDR4x, 4×16 bit up to 1866MHz, 8GB RAM
  • Storage I/F – TBD (Likely UFS 2.1, but maybe UFS 3.0?)
  • Display
    • Up to 4K Ultra HD, 60 FPS, or dual 2400×2400 @ 120 FPS (VR); 10-bit color depth
    • DisplayPort and USB Type-C support
  • Audio
    • Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec and speaker amplifier
    • Qualcomm aptX audio playback with support for aptX Classic and HD
    • Native DSD support, PCM up to 384kHz/32bit
  • Camera
    • Spectra 280 ISP with dual 14-bit ISPs
    • Up to 16 MP dual camera, up to 32 MP single camera
    • Support for 16MP image sensor operating up to 60 frames per second
    • Hybrid Autofocus, Zero Shutter Lag, Multi-frame Noise Reduction (MFNR)
    • Video Capture – Up to 4K @ 60fps HDR (H.265), up to 720p @ 480fps (slow motion)
  • Connectivity
    • Cellular Modem – Snapdragon X20 with peak download speed: 1.2 Gbps (LTE Cat 18), peak upload speed: 150 Mbps (LTE Cat 13)
    • Qualcomm Wi-Fi 802.11ad Multi-gigabit, integrated 802.11ac 2×2 with MU-MIMO, 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 60 GHz
    • Qualcomm TrueWireless Bluetooth 5
  • Location – Support for 6 satellite systems: GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, Galileo, QZSS, SBAS; low power geofencing and tracking, sensor-assisted navigation
  • Security – Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit (SPU), Qualcomm Processor Security, Qualcomm Mobile Security, Qualcomm Content Protection
  • Charging – Qualcomm Quick Charge 4/4+ technology
  • Process – 10nm LPP

The company will provide support for Android and Windows operating systems. eXtended Reality (XR) is enabled with features such as room-scale 6DoF with simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), advanced visual inertial odometry (VIO), and Adreno Foveation. Maybe I don’t follow the phone market closely enough, but I can’t remember seeing odometry implemented in any other phones, and Adreon Foveation is not quite self-explaining, so the company explains it combines graphics rendering with eye tracking, and directs the highest graphics resources to where you’re physically looking, while using less resources for rendering other areas. This improves the experience, performance, and lower power consumption.

 

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Compared to Snapdragon 835, the new processor is said to be around 25 to 30% faster, the Spectra camera and Adreno graphics architectures are claimed to boost power efficiency by up to 30 percent, and the LTE modem is a bit faster (1.2 Gbps/150Mbps vs 1.0 Gbps/150Mbps). Quick Charge 4+ technology should deliver up  to 50 percent charge in 15 minutes. Earlier this year when SD835 was officially launched, there was virtually no mention of artificial intelligence support in mobile APs, but now NNA (Neural Network Accelerator) or NPE (Neural Processing Engine) are part of most high-end mobile processors, which in SD845 appears to be done though the Hexagon 685 DSP. High Dynamic Range (HDR) for video playback and capture is also a novelty in the new Snapdragon processor.

One of the first device powered by Snapdragon 845 will be Xiaomi Mi 7 smartphone, and according to leaks it will come with a 6.1″ display, up to 8GB RAM, dual camera, 3D facial recognition, and more. Further details about the phone are expected for Mobile World Congress 2018. Considering the first Windows 10 laptop based on Snapdragon 835 processor are expected in H1 2018, we may have to wait until the second part of the year for the launch of Snapdragon 845 mobile PCs.

More details may be found on Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 mobile platform product page.

Amlogic S905X vs Rockchip RK3328 vs Allwinner H6 Processors – Benchmarks & Features Comparison

November 27th, 2017 46 comments

Rockchip, Amlogic and Allwinner are all battling for the lower and mid range segment of the TV box market, so it may be interesting to compare their solutions. We won’t look into the ultra low-end market with 32-bit ARM Cortex A7 processor, but instead compare some of the recent quad core 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 processor for 4K HDR TV box from the company with respectively Amlogic S905X, Rockchip RK3328, and Allwinner H6 SoCs.

We’ll compare some of the benchmarks obtained with Android TV boxes, as well as other features like video support, USB and Ethernet interfaces.

Benchmarks

Let’s start with results for popular Android benchmarks: Antutu 6.x, Vellamo 3.x, and 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme v1.2 with results obtained from 3 TV boxes: Mini M8S II (Amlogic S905X), A95X R2 (Rockchip RK3328), and Zidoo H6 Pro (Allwinner H6). A score is highlighted in green is there’s a clear winner, and in red for a clear loser.

Amlogic S905X Rockchip RK3328 Allwinner H6
CPU (1) Quad core Cortex A53
@ 1.51 GHz
Quad core Cortex A53
@ 1.51 GHz
Quad core Cortex A53
@ 1.8 GHz
GPU (2) ARM Mali-450MP3 ARM Mali-450MP2 ARM Mali-720MP2
Antutu 6.x
Overall 33,553 33,117 40,467 / 36,957 (2)
3D (1920×1080) 3,099 1,475 6,292 / 2,782 (2)
UX 12,365 16,426 13,360
CPU 12,438 10,486 16,395
RAM 5,651 4,730 4,420
Vellamo 3.x
Metal 910 937 930
Multicore 1,491 1,464 836 (3)
Browser 1,855 (Browser) 1,943 (Chrome) 2,546 (Browser)
3DMark – Ice Storm Extreme v1.2
Total score 4,183 2,252 3,951
Graphics score 3,709 1,871 3,643
Physics score 7,561 7,814 5,608

(1) Those are the frequencies reported by CPU-Z, and the actual maximum frequency may be different. For example, it appears Allwinner H6 can only run at 1488 MHz in a sustained manner, and possibly only reach 1.8 GHz during short bursts (TBC).
(2) Allwinner H6 is the only SoC to include a GPU supporting OpenGL ES 3.1, which means it is the only one to complete Marooned 3D graphics test (Antutu 3D test has two 3D benchmarks), and the other boxes just got zero since it did not run. So I’ve included two scores for overall and 3D Antutu results: actual score / score minus Marooned benchmark.
(3) Vellamo multicore had a warning on Zidoo H6 Pro, so it may not represent the actual performance of the device.

Allwinner H6 has a slight advantage, but during use it will be really hard to notice the difference between TV boxes with one of those processors, and other factor like RAM capacity and storage performance will have more influence.One exception is 3D performance, as Rockchip RK3388 is clearly slower here, and I could notice it while playing games.

Features

But SoC performance is only one side of the equation, so let’s have a look at some of the features from the SoCs, which may or not be implemented in some TV boxes. For reference I also included USB 2.0 or 3.0 storage (HDD NTFS partition), and Ethernet performance numbers. Those numbers may vary a lot with further software optimization, configuration tweaks, so they should only be used for reference. I used the same TV boxes as for the benchmark section, except for Gigabit Ethernet relying instead on iperf results from ROCK64 development board (RK3328) and K1 Plus (Note S905, no X, for reference only, but in my experience all Fast Ethernet interfaces have about the same performance), and NEXBOX A95X for the USB storage performance.

Amlogic S905X Rockchip RK3328 Allwinner H6
Video
– 4K 10-bit HEVC Up to 60 fps
– 4K VP9 Up to 60 fps
– 4K H.264 Up to 30 fps (8-bit only) Up to 30 fps (8-bit and 10-bit) Up to 30 fps (8-bit only)
USB 2.0 / 3.0 USB 2.0 USB 3.0 USB 3.0
– A1SD Bench (R/W) 37/37 MB/s 94.52/90.73 MB/s 59.07/42.12MB/s
Ethernet 10/100M only Gigabit Ethernet MAC Gigabit Ethernet MAC
– iperf (full duplex) 91.6/91.8 Mbits/s 815/344 Mbits/s 758/350 Mbits/s
RAM Capacity (Max) 2GB 4GB 2GB
Misc  TS, Smartcard interface TS, Smartcard interface, PCIe

I did not include audio, as all those SoC are supposed to support Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD audio codec pass-through. but implementation varies a lot between devices.

Amlogic S905X is the weakest of the lot based on the two tables above, but it’s also the cheapest SoC among the three, and in my experience, one with the best support in Kodi, for example. Rockchip RK3328 is not much more expensive, and have many benefits, except when it comes to 3D graphics performance, but it usually only matter if you plan to play games on the platform, the GPU is usually good enough for user interfaces. Allwinner H6 has more interfaces, a Mali GPU with OpenGL ES 3.1 and OpenCL support, and lightly more interfaces. The few devices that are based on the Allwinner processor are currently quite more expensive with all other features being equal.

 

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

November 10th, 2017 5 comments

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

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

First Boot and OTA Firmware Update

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

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

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

Click for Original Size

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

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

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

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


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

Settings & Google Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power Consumption & Temperature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

I’ve also tested HD videos with various bitrates:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Network & Storage Performance

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

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

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

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

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

  • 802.11ac download:

  • 802.11ac upload:

Throughput in Mbps

I also tested Gigabit Ethernet with iperf:

  • Full duplex:

  • Upload only:

  • Download only:

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

Switching to store benchmarks with A1 SD Bench.

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

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

Gaming

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

Bluetooth

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

Zidoo H6 Pro (Allwinner H6) System Info and Benchmarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

PROS

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

CONS (and bugs)

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

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

H.265 / HEVC License Pricing Updated for Low Cost Devices

October 30th, 2017 8 comments

Most video codecs such as H.264, H265/HEVC, MPEG-2, MPEG-4… requires the manufacturer to pay a license fee. The fees are then added to the final product, but the actual codec fees are usually unknown to the end user. One of the exceptions are VC-1 and MPEG-2 license fees for Raspberry pi boards which are sold separately for respectively £1.20 ($1.58 US) and £2.40 ($3.16 US).

So I assumed that licenses pricing was mostly private and negotiated based on volume. But a recent article stated that HEVC Advance, independent licensing administrator, revised the royalties for lower-price devices (<$40) with the price table below providing a good insight into pricing for different device types, unit prices and regions.

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The new discounted royalty rate category applied to consumer and commercial products selling for less than $40 including set-top boxes, surveillance cameras, game console and others. A simplified Patent License Agreement (PPL) was also announced in order to reduce costs for licensees.

The table above requires some explanations:

  • Region 1/2 – Region 1 is comprised of countries with higher GPD per capita, and Region 2 are all other countries, mostly developing countries.
  • Advance Profiles Extension –  Additions to version 2 of HEVC specifications with RExt, MV-HEVC and SHVC (3 profiles).
  • Three main categories of devices for licenses:
    • Mobile Devices
    • Connected Home & Other Devices
    • 4K UHD+ TV

The license is apparently applied to the country of sale or manufacture, and “if there are no patents in both the country of manufacture and the country of sale, then no royalties are due for HEVC”. Those licenses appear to be for manufacturers, so I don’t know if silicon vendors pay a license too. I also don’t understand what happens to those TV boxes sold from China, and shipped to various countries around the world, how is the licensee fee calculated, if any? Comments are welcome.

The good news is that in case HEVC license fees are indeed paid in China, cheap devices with H.265 codec should become even cheaper with up to 85 cents less royalities to be paid per devices.

Thanks to Theguyuk for the tip.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: h.265, hevc

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

October 27th, 2017 11 comments

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

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A95X R1 specifications:

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

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

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

Beelink GS1 Allwinner H6 TV Box Sells for $60

October 20th, 2017 4 comments

Allwinner H6 is the latest “Home Entertainment” SoC from the company. Designed for 4K HDR TV boxes and set-top boxes, it supports 6K/4K H.265, H.264 and VP9 hardware video decoding, HDR10 and HLG video processing, and features TS interfaces for digital TV tuners, and high speed interfaces such as USB 3.0 and PCIe.

So far only one device was equipped with the processor: Zidoo H6 Pro TV Box launched last August, and no other companies offers H6 based products. This may be about to change, as Beelink GS1 is now up for pre-order on GeatBest for $69.99 shipped. But if you read the fine prints on the product page, you’ll find a $10 coupon code: GBGS1. Beelink GS1 specifications:

  • SoC – AllWinner H6 quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor with Mali-T720MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash, micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – 1x HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60hz with HDR support
  • Video Playback Support
    • H.265/HEVC Main/Main10 profile @ level 5.2 high-tier up to 4K @ 60fps / 6K @ 30 fps
    • VP9 Profile 0/2, up to 4K @ 30fps
    • H264/AVC BP/MP/HP @ level5.1, MVC, up to 4Kx2K @ 30fps
    • SmartColor 3.0 image optimization engine
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB3.0 port
  • Misc – IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 9.6 cm x 9.6 cm x 1.6 cm
  • Weight – 190 grams

The device runs Android 7.1, and ships with an IR remote control with IR learning function, a HDMI Cable, a power adapter for your country, and an English user manual.

The product is so new, Beelink has not even setup a product page on their website. GearBest expects shipments to start after October 31, 2017.

Via AndroidPC.es

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]

H96 PRO Plus Amlogic S912 TV Box with 3GB RAM, 32GB Storage Sold for $48.49 (Promo)

September 7th, 2017 14 comments

H96 Pro+ is a Amlogic S912 TV box with 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, that’s similar to R-Box Pro 3G TV box I reviewed, and Banggood has now a promotion for the box for just $48.49 shipped with about 850 pieces left in stock.

H96 Pro+ specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S912 octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.5 GHz with Mali-820MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 3 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a with HDR and CEC support up to 4K @ 60 fps, and AV port for composite output
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV (stereo audio), and optical S/PDIF
  • Video codecs – VP9-10 profile 2 up to 4K @ 60 fps, H.265 [email protected] up to 4K 60fps, H.264 AVC up to 4K @ 30 fps, H.264 MVC up to 1080p60, MPEG-4, WMV/VC-1 SP/MP/AP,  AVS-P16(AVS+)/AVS-P2 JiZhun Profile, MPEG-2 MP/HL, MPEG-1 MP/HL, and  RealVIDEO 8/9/10 all up to 1080p60
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band WiFi 802.11 b/g/n + Bluetooth 4.1
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Misc – IR receiver, power button, front-panel LCD display, LEDs
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions & weight –  N/A

The box runs Android 6.0, and ships with a remote control, a HDMI Cable, a power adapter, and a user manual.

I double check the prices on GearBest and GeekBuying, and they sell the device in the same 3GB/32GB configuration for $65.99 and $61.99 including shipping respectively, which means the offer on Banggood is about $17.50 and $13.50 cheaper.

Banggood has a site-wide promotion on their store during September 7-9 for their 11th anniversary, where you may find further deals for gadgets and other products.

 

Categories: AMLogic, Android, Hardware Tags: 4k, Android, discount, hevc, TV box, vp9