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Xiaomi Mi A1 Smartphone Review – Part 2: Android 7.1.2 Firmware

November 15th, 2017 9 comments

Google recently announced several Android One smartphones, which are supposed to get 2 years of firmware updates, including to the latest version of Android, such as HTC U11 Life and Android One Moto X4. Many of those phones are limited to some specific countries, but Xiaomi Mi A1 will be launched in over 40 countries, and thanks to Chinese online shops is really available worldwide. GearBest sent me the latter last month, and in the first part of Xiaomi Mi A1 review I simply went through unboxing, booted the phone, perform an OTA update, and ran Antutu 6.x on the phone for a quick estimate of performance.

Since then, I’ve had around four weeks to play with the smartphone running Android 7.1.2 (still), so I’m ready to report my experience in the second part of the review.

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General Impressions

In the past year, I used Vernee Apollo Lite smartphone powered by Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core SoC, which in theory is quite faster than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 used in Mi A1, but in practise, I did not feel much difference in performance for example while browsing the web or checking email, and in some games, performance of Xiaomi Mi A1 was actually much better than on Apollo Lite, as I reported in the post entitled “Mediatek Helio X20 vs Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 – 3D Graphics Benchmarks and CSR 2 Game“.

Some of my wishes in Vernee Apollo Lite included a better camera, and improved GPS accuracy, and Mi A1 is a big improvement for both as we’ll see in more details later on in the review. The build quality of the phone is good, and the design looks more stylish and thinner than my previous phone. The display is clear, and I like the wide brightness range, that is low enough not to hurt eyes in the dark, and high enough to use the phone in sunlight. It’s quite glossy though, so you’ll have reflect especially with black background, and it’s possibly to use it as a mirror without turning it on… I seldom call with my phone, but the couple of times I made or received actual calls, the sound was loud and clear. I spend most of my time browsing the web, checking emails, watching YouTube video, and playing games (mostly CSR 2) on my phone, and do so over WiFi connection, and the phone just works flawlessly for this with good performance, and no overheating (that I could notice) contrary to Vernee Apollo Lite, which does get hot in some cases, and slows down considerably.

I’m also happy about battery life, and with my use case of hour 4 to 5 hours use a day, I can still get around 30 hours on a charge. One of the downside is the lack of fast charging, so I can’t quickly top of the battery for 5 minutes before going out. A full charge takes around 1h30, so still not too bad, and since the battery lasts more than 24 hours, it would be possible to charge every day at the same time to avoid low battery charge while on the go.

The main selling of the phone is being part of Android One program, as you’ll get security updated once or twice a month, as well as bigger Android version updates for two years hopefully up to Android 9 / P.Β  You do pay a premium for this, so if regular security/firmware updates are not important to you, you’ll get better value with other smartphones.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone, I could not find any major flaws so far, so I can safely recommend it especially if having up-to-date firmware (for the next two years) is important to you.

Benchmarks: Antutu, Vellamo, and 3DMarks

Here are Antutu 6.x benchmark results for people who have yet to read the first part of the review.

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60,000 points is a decent score for a mid-range phone, but for example quite lower than the 85,840 points I got on Vernee Apollo Lite.

Next up… Vellamo 3.x benchmark. Comparisons are against older phone / Android version, so I should probably drop that benchmark in future reviews…

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Note that I could not run Vellamo with Chrome browser, since it would hang during CSS 3D animation. Firefox mostly worked, except for Pixel Bender test timing out… The number are all much lower than my Vellamo results on Vernee Apollo Lite.

So I also ran GeekBench 4. AFAIK, It’s however limited to CPU performance so it does not really give real world indication like Vellamo’s Browser test for example.

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We can see the single core performance is quite lower than more powerful Cortex A72 “class” processors, but multicore performance is close enough. You can find the full details here.

I also ran 3DMark Ice Store Extreme for evaluation 3D performance further. Vernee Apollo Lite would max out the test, but Xiaomi Mi A1 scored “only” 8,045 points.

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The interested part is that my real-life experience does not match the benchmarks at all, as I found Mi A1 to perform just as well as if not much better in many apps. We’ll find out one potential reason just below.

Storage and Wi-Fi Performance

I ran A1 SD Benchmark app to estimate storage performance of 64 GB eMMC flash, and Xiaomi Mi A1 has by far the best storage I’ve used on any devices.

With sequential read speed of 198.94 MB/s, and a write speed of 192.45 MB/s, the device is in a class of its down. Ideally, random I/O performance should be tested too, but it still gives an indication.

Read & Write Speeds in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Time for some WiFi testing. I did not have any issues, and felt web pages were always loading fast, and YouTube videos played smoothly even at 1080p. But let’s have some numbers to play using SAMBA file copy (278MB) over 802.11ac WiFiΒ  with ES File Explorer, and placing the phone is the same test location as the other DUTs. Just like many recent devices SAMBA “download” is much faster than “upload”:

  • File copy SAMBA to Flash – 47.5s on average (5.85 MB/s)
  • File copy Flash to SAMBA – 2m10s on average (2.13 MB/s)

When we average both numbers, Xiaomi WiFi SAMBA performance is only slightly above average, but still outperformed by some 802.11n devices.

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

Maybe that’s an Android Nougat bug… In order to have raw numbers, I also usedΒ  iperf for both upload and download

  • 802.11ac WiFi upload:

  • 802.11ac WiFi download:

Assymetry is gone, and Mi A1 is the best device in that test, but we have less data for comparison…

Throughput in Mbps

The main takeaway is that WiFi is working well, and performance is very good.

Rear and Front Facing Cameras

Beside being part of Android One program, another key feature of Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone is the dual rear camera with optical zoom.

Rear Camera

So I’ve taken a few shots with the camera, starting with an easy cat shot… The thing that surprised me the most at first was the speed at which the photo is taken. It just happens instantaneously. With older devices, I often had to wait around one second after pressing the button while it was doing the auto-focus and take photos. You can launch the camera app very quickly – without having to unlock your phone – by pressing the power button twice.

“What do you want?” Cat – Click for Original Size

Clear enough for a camera phone. Close up shots are sometimes problematic with phone, but I had pretty good results. The text book shot is close to perfect.

I used to Read that Stuff – Click for Original Size

Development board can be tricky to photograph because the camera can focus on the wrong part (e.g. top of Ethernet/USB connector), But Orange Pi One photo below is fairly good. I had to try a few times to get the right focus.

 

Best.Board.Ever? – Click for Original Size

You can press on the live view to set the focus point. It will help.

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Flower photos were also good with color matching reality.

Local Angel – Click for Original Size

Photos taken with good lighting are always good.

What year is this? Morning Shot – Click for Original Size

The photo above was taken in the morning with the sun in my back.

Dirt Road Genocide at Sunset – Click for Original Size

When it get a little dark, or in shots with different lighting conditions for foreground and background it helps to enable HDR function.

HDR Works in Temples Too – Click for Original Size

Night shots can be a little grainy, but I find they are still pretty good…

Smoking Bear with Pig and Hedgehog overlooked by Confused Panda at Night – Click for Original Size

Now some video testing, starting with the easiest of all 1080p30 day time video.

The video looks fine, but if you’ve watched it with audio, you may have noticed may not be quite right with the microphone/audio.

4K video can be recorded at 30 fps, but it does feel as smooth as the 1080p one while panning.

All videos are recorded using MP4 Quicktime container, H.264 video codec @ 30 fps, and MPEG-4 AAC stereo audio. If you plan to watch 4K videos from the phone on TV, you’ll have to make sure the player supports 4K H.264 @ 30 fps, as some 4K TV boxes are limited to 24 fps.

Slow motion recording is something that I did not have in my previous phone, and it’s working fairly well up to 720p30 (recorded at 120 fps).

Night time videos are the most difficult, and even at 1080p the results are quite poor with the video frame rate at 14 fps, auto focus being seriously confused, and and audio has a metallic component to it, even more than for the video I recorded during day time.

So I tried again to shot a video will taking to myself, and audio was just fine. So I guess the issue may be specific to far field audio or traffic noise.

Font-facing camera

The front-facing camera works pretty well for selfies.

Angel with Bra – Click for Original Size

Golden Necklace Beauty – Click for Original Size

Black “The Boss” – Click for Original Size

I also used it with a one hour long Skype call.

Camera App Settings

Let’s have a look at the camera app interface. In the preview window we have three icons at the top to change flash settings, enable/disable portrait mode (if enabled it will bur the background), and enable/disable HDR.

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If we tap on Options we’ll have the choice to play with Panorama mode, adjust timer and audio settings, set manual camera settings for white balance, exposure time, focus, ISO, lens selection (wide/tele), and more. Tapping the Settings icon on the top right corner will bring further camera settings.

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If you plan to share photos with strangers you may want to disable “Save location info” as otherwise your GPS location will be embedded into the photos’s EXIF info. Face detection is nice, but you may consider disabling “Age & gender”, as it will automatically detect whether a person is male or female, and estimate their age while taking a photo (although it won’t show on the photo itself). I’ve seen the phone misgender people, and age can always be a contentious subject πŸ™‚

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If we switch to video capture we have much fewer options, mostly time-lapse or slow-motion, and we can select video quality (4K, FULL HD, HD, SD).

Battery Life

Xiaomi Mi A1’s ~3,000 mAh baterry provides enough juice for over 30 hours in my use cases (Web browsing / YouTube / Gaming 4 to 5 hours a day). I also like to turn off my phone automatically at night between 22:00 and 7:00, so it adds a little to the battery life too. A typical cycle for charge to charge looks as the one below.

I normally use LAB501 Battery Life app to test battery life from 100% to 15% for browsing, video and gaming cases, with brightness to 50%, WiFi and Cellular (no data) enabled, but for some reasons I cannot explain, the tests would always stop after a few hours – despite several attempts -, not drawing the battery down to 15%.

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However, the battery discharge on this phone, and Vernee Apollo Lite looks linear…

…so I’ll use linear approximation to estimate the actual battery life..

  • Browsing (100% to 15%) – 740 minutes (12h20)
  • Video (100% to 15%) –  598 minutes (9h58)
  • Gaming (100% to 15%) –  389 minutes (6h29)

…and compare it to the other battery powered mobile devices I’ve tested so far.

Battery Life in Minutes

Xiaomi Mi A1 wins hands down against the other (older) devices I’ve tested when it comes to battery life. The good news is that battery life seems to improve over the years, as the older devices fare the worse. So a few more years, and we can get a week of charge on our phones?

Charging is not as fast as on Vernee Apollo Lite since there’s no Quick Charge, and it takes 1h30 to 1h50 to fully charge the phone from 15% to 100%. Topping the battery from a low of 8% to 27% took me 23 minutes. For comparison, I could do a full charge in one hour on Apollo Lite with Quick Pump 3.0, and a 20 minute charge would add about 40% to the battery.

Miscellaneous

Bluetooth

No problems here. I could transfer photos between the phone and Zidoo H6 Pro Android TV box over Bluetooth, connect two different Bluetooth headsets to the phone, and pair with, and retrieve data from a fitness tracker using Smart Movement app.

GPS

GPS is also an improvement over all the other Mediatek phones I’ve had. GPS fix is super fast like on Vernee Apollo Lite, but while using Nike+ Running, GPS accuracy is much better on the Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone, as you can see from the two screenshots below.

Xiaomi Mi A1 (left) vs Vernee Apollo Lite (Right) – Click to Enlarge

I ran two laps with the Xiaomi phone, and they almost exactly overlap. The downside is that I have to run a little longer to achieve the same distance on the app πŸ™‚

Gaming

I tried four games: Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Bleach, Riptide GP2, and CSR Racing 2. All played very smoothly, to my surprise CSR 2 performed much better than on Vernee Apollo Lite, despite the latter having a more powerful ARM Mali-T880 GPU in Helio X20 SoC. As mentioned in a aforelinked post, I can see 3 potential reasons for the difference in that game: more optimization on Qualcomm SoCs than Mediatek SoCs, slightly lower level of details shown in the Qualcomm phone, better cooling for Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone, which stays cool at all times, contrary to the Vernee phone which may require a cool pack to run smoothly…

IR Transmitter / Remote Control App

An infrared transmitter is built into Xiaomi Mi A1Β  smartphone, and can be control with Mi Remote app. I tried with LG 4K UHD TV, and it worked well.

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Air conditioners are always more challenging. So first I had to go through a process to detect which Haier aircon model I had, pressing poweroff button, and then other buttons, to find the right model among 158 options.

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It finally found mine, I gave it a name “Bedroom Haier AC” and realized on some functions would work, and some temperatures are not supported. So not so useful in that case.

Others

Multitouch app reports the touchscreen supports 10 touch points. The smartphone has a single speaker with mediocre quality when listening to music, but that’s not that big of an issue as Bluetooth speakers are now rather inexpensive, and in my daily life I mostly use wired or Bluetooth audio headsets. It’s good to have a 3.5mm audio jack, but I normally prefer when it’s placed on the top of the phone, rather than the bottom left, which can be an issue when using an armband, or while holding the phone.

Video Review

I’ve also shot a video review mostly summarizing the points above, showing the camera in action, playing Riptide GP2, a YouTube video up to 1080p, opening a large PDF files, etc…

Long Term Review / History

Since I’ve very satisfied with the phone, I’m going to retire Vernee Apollo Lite, and make Mi A1 my main phone. Since it’s also supposed to be upgraded for two years, I’ll keep this section to report the history of the phone, like a long term review, and report important events like firmware updates, or if something stops working. I got 3 firmware updates since I received the phone less than a month ago.

  • September 5, 2017 – Xiaomi Mi A1 announcement
  • September 12, 2017 – Official launch in India
  • October 16, 2017 –Β  Unboxing and September 2017 security update (1059.6 MB), Android 7.1.2 / Linux 3.18.31
  • October 21, 2017 – October 2017 security update (118 MB), Android 7.1.2 / Linux 3.18.31
  • November 3, 2017 – October 2017 security update (75.7 MB), Android 7.12 / Linux 3.18.31

Conclusion

I’m really pleased with my experience with Xiaomi Mi A1 smartphone, and to my surprise it’s an improvement over Vernee Apollo Lake with most features, except for fast charging that’s missing from the phone.

PROS

  • Stable and relatively recent Android 7.1.2 firmware
  • Part of Android One program with promise of regular security and firmware updates for 2 years (including Android 8.x and 9.x).
  • Good & sharp 1920 x 1080 display; wide brightness range
  • Excellent Wi-Fi 802.11ac performance
  • Excellent eMMC flash performance (Best I’ve tested so far)
  • Long battery life (about 30 hours per charge for 4 to 5 hours active use per day)
  • Good front-facing camera and rear dual cameras for depth effect
  • Overall better app performance compared to my previous Helio X20 based smartphone, especially for some games
  • Support forums

CONS

  • Quick Charge (Fast charging) not available
  • Videos shot with the rear camera are not smooth in dark scenes, and audio is poor in some videos (metal sound)
  • SAMBA WiFi performance is average for transfer from phone to server
  • Mi RemoteΒ  app (infrared remote) is not working well with my aircon (Haier)
  • Display is quite glossy / reflective
  • Built-in speaker not really good to listen to music
  • Android One support may add about $30 to $40 to the price of the phone
  • GPL source code not released yet, but an article suggests Mi A1 Linux kernel source code may be released within three months.

I’d like to thank GearBest for providing a review sample. Xiaomi Mi A1 (Black) can be purchased on their shop for $219.99 shipped with coupon A1HS. Other shopping options include GeekBuying, Banggood, eBay, and others online shops.

Some people noticed that Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 smartphone has very similar specifications with a Snapdragon 625 processor, 4GB RAM, and 64GB storage, the same 5.5″ Full HD display, but no dual rear camera, and a bigger battery (4,100 mAh). It’s sold for on Aliexpress for about $190 (Black version) and around $180 (Other colors), so if we assume the battery / camera features cancel out (in terms of price) that means Android One support adds about $30 to $40. One way to look at it is that you pay a little less than $2 per month for 2-year support with regular security & firmware updates.

$9+ Libre Computer Tritium Allwinner H2+/H3/H5 SBCs Leverage Raspberry Pi 3 Form Factor (Crowdfunding)

November 15th, 2017 17 comments

A few months ago, Libre Computer introduced Le Potato board (akaΒ AML-S905X-CC) powered by Amlogic S905X processor plus up to 2GB RAM, and using Raspberry Pi 3 form factor.

The company is now back with three Tritium boards, using the same form factor, but instead powered by Allwinner H2+, H3, or H5 processors, with a lower price point as the Tritium IoT board (H2+ / 512 MB RAM) goes for $9 only.

Tritium 1GB and Tritium 2GB Boards

Tritium boards (ALL-H3-CC) specifications:

  • SoC and Memory
    • Tritium IoT – Allwinner H2+ quad core Cortex A7 processor with Mali-400MP2, 512MB DDR3
    • Tritium 1GB – Allwinner H3 quad core Cortex A7 processor with Mali-400MP2, 1GB DDR3
    • Tritium 2GB – Allwinner H5 quad core Cortex A53 processor with Mali-450MP4, 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 1x micro SD Card slot, eMMC module connector
  • Video & Audio Output
    • Tritium IoT – HDMI up to 1080p60, AV port
    • Tritium 1GB & 2GB – HDMI 1.4 up to 4K30, AV port
  • Camera – Parallel camera interface
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Expansion – 40-pin Raspberry Pi header with I2C, SPI, PWM, UART, 5V, 3.3V, and GPIO
  • Debugging –  UART via header for access to the serial console
  • Misc – IR Receiver, u-boot button
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port
  • Dimensions – Raspberry Pi 3 form factor

The boards do not perform as fast as the Amlogic S905X one, and the I2S and S/PDIF header are gone, but a camera connector has been added to connect a camera. Tritium IoT board runs Linux only (e.g. Ubuntu 16.04), but Tritium 1GB can run also Android 7.0, and Tritium 2GB Android 7.1, beside the listed Linux distributions:

  • Ubuntu 16.04 by Libre Computer Project
  • Debian 9 Stretch by Libre Computer Project
  • Ubuntu 16.04 by Armbian

The Linux source will be released on Github as they’ve done for Le Potato, for which they’ve also released the PDF schematics, and CE/FCC certifications.

Tritium Board in Case made for Raspberry Pi 3

The project has been launched on Kickstarter with a $10,000 goal. The bare boards are available for respectively $9 (IoT), $19 (1GB), and $29 (2GB), but you can also get kits with all accessories such as the $59 “Tritium IoT Kit Special” with comes with:

  • Tritium IoT Board
  • 8GB eMMC 4.x Module
  • Push-Pin Heatsink with Thermal Tape
  • 5.1V/2.5A MicroUSB Power Supply
  • Active Cooling Media Center Polycarbonate Case
  • 1m HDMI Cable
  • 8GB MicrorSD Card
  • Wireless RF Remote with Mini Keyboard and Touchpad

Shipping is not included and depends on the selected reward, but for example it adds $7 to $9 to Tritium IoT board, and $10 to $14 to the kit listed above. Delivery is planned for January 2018, and general availability (outside the KS campaign) in February 2018. Hardware customizations are accepted for orders of 500 units or more.

The market is starting to get crowded with Allwinner H development boards thanks to the Orange Pi and NanoPi board families, but that also means software support should be good, and AFAIK, Tritium boards are the first to be compatible (HW + Mech) to Raspberry Pi 3, excluding NanoPi Duo + mini Shield which does not come with HDMI, and is limited to Allwinner H2+ with 512MB RAM. That means you could reuse or purchase RPi 3 accessories and they should work either out of the box (enclosures), or with some SW development efforts (add-on boards). RPi MIPI camera and display modules won’t work.

Magicsee C300 is a $70 DVB-T2/C & DVB-S2 Android Set-Top Box Powered by Amlogic S905D SoC

November 14th, 2017 10 comments

Amlogic S905D processor is an evolution of Amlogic S905X with Gigabit Ethernet support, and TS interfaces for digital TV tuners. That explains why most devices launched with the processor come with tuners. So far, we’ve covered or reviewed a few including Sen5 STB (2x DVB-T2/C), Mecool KI Pro (T2/S2), and TX95D TV box with a single DVB-T2 tuner.

Magicsee C300 is another Amlogic S905D Android STB that comes with DVB-T2/C (Terrestrial & Cable), and DVB-S2 (Satellite) tuners, and sells for just under $70 on Aliexpress, and can be found on other shops such as GearBest.

Magicsee C300 specifications are quite similar to the ones for Mecool KI Pro:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905D quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with penta core Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60Hz with support for HDR10 and HLG, and 3.5mm AV (composite video) jack
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV (stereo audio), optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs – 10-bit H.265, and VP9 Profile 2 up to 4K60, H.264 up to 4K30, AVS+ and other codecs up to 1080p60
  • Tuners
    • DVB-T/T2/C tuner with coaxial antenna input connector
    • DVB-S/S2 tuner with F antenna input connector
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.1 LE
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button and LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply –  DC 12V/1.5A
  • Dimensions – 14.80 x 12.00 x 3.30 cm
  • Weight – 195 grams

The only differences are that they used DDR3 memory instead of DDR4, Fast Ethernet instead on Gigabit Ethernet, and a slightly more powerful power supply (18W vs 12W). The ports layout is exactly the same, so I suspect Magicsee is using Videostrong KI Pro board with DDR3 memory, and no Gigabit Ethernet placed into a different case.

The set-top box is said to run Android 6.0.1 according to Aliexpress/GearBest, and ships with a power adapter, a HDMI cable, an IR remote control, and a user manual.

Shenzhen Intek Technology may be the manufacturer of the device as they list Magicsee C300 on Alibaba. There’s one key difference however, as they claim the device runs Android 7.1.2 support instead of Android 6.0.1. Android Nougat would make more sense, as KI Pro is running the more recent operating system.

Via AndroidPC.es

Ugoos UM4 TV Box/Dongle Runs Android 7.1.2 with Some Uncommon Features

November 10th, 2017 4 comments

Ugoos UM3 was launched in 2014 with Android 4.4 on Rockchip RK3288 processor, and could be described a a tiny TV box, or large TV stick. That form factor must have had some success, and they later launched AM2 model powered by Amlogic S905 plus Android 6.0.

The company has now just launched Ugoos UM4 with the same form factor but with Rockchip RK3328 processor running Android 7.1.2. Ugoos likes to add some software features often not found on other devices, and that would normally require hacking the firmware, or purchasing apps.

Ugoos UM4 specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor with ARM Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR4 memory
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC flash (8GB optional) + micro SD card slot up to 32 GB
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0a female port up to 4k @ 60 fps with CEC and HDR support, 3.5mm AV output with composite and stereo audio
  • Connectivity – Dual band WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0 with external antenna
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 2.0 OTG port (USB type A receptacle)
  • Misc – 2.5mm IR jack
  • Power Supply – 5V/2.5A via micro USB port
  • Dimensions – 109 x 60 x 20 mm
  • Weight – 80 grams

The device ships with a user manual, a power adapter, aΒ  short HDMI cable, an IR remote controller, and a extension cable with IR receiver. I’ve not found the latter in that many TV stick, and it allows you to use an IR remote control with the stick even if it is connected behind your TV. But what could be the most interesting with this device are the extra Ugoos settings in the firmware.

You’ll get a choice of 7 submenus with some options that are not commonly found in other TV boxes:

  • Root – Enable/disable root access which can be useful as some apps require a system without root, while others won’t work with root
  • File server/client – NFS and SAMBA client, and SAMBA server. I understand the clients make your SAMBA/NFS server accessible from any apps.
  • Hardware Monitor – Shows network usage, CPU info, RAM info in notification bar
  • (Fireeasy) Wireless Assistant – Remote control app for Android / iOS (download)
  • Gamepad settings – Gamepad buttons mapping app. Profiles are shareable among users
  • Debug settings – WiFi/USB Adb access, log files management, etc…
  • User scripts – Create init.d directory is enabled, and allows advanced user to run scripts at boot time without rooting the device.

The device also supports automatic frame rate switching (AFRS) with 3 modes: system resolution, video resolution priority, and frequency resolution priority. This does not affect AFRS function in Kodi, which handle this on its own. Finally, digital signage users will be happy to find an option to switch between landscape and portrait mode.

The firmware might be at the beta stage right now, as reviewers and customers are only starting to get samples right now. If you’d like to give it a try yourself, Ugoos UM4 can be purchased on Aliexpress for $89.99 shipped.

It’s a Soda Can. No! It’s Nebula Capsule Smart Projector Running Android 7.0 (Crowdfunding)

November 10th, 2017 2 comments

I have reviewed two Android smart pico-projectors in the last couple of years, namely Doogee Smart Cube P1 and Rikomagic RKM R1. Both are battery powered, and worked well in the dark, but the Rikomagic model is my favorite of the two because it works without any major bugs, and I really like the touchpad on top as it made configuration and control really easy.

There’s now another model on Indiegogo that’s been very popular so far with over one million dollars raised. Nebula Capsule may look like a soda can, but it integrates a pico-projector, a 360Β° speaker, a board running Android 7.0, and a battery allowing you to carry it around and use it on any a flat surface.

Capsule projector specifications:

  • SoC – Quad core Cortex A7 processor with Adreno 304 GPU (likely Snapdragon 210/212)
  • System memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash
  • Projector
    • 0.2″ DLP technology up to 100 lumens
    • Resolution – 854Γ—480 (WVGA)
    • Lamp Life – 30,000 hours
    • Projection – Area – 20 to 100β€³; distance: 0.58 to 3.08 meters; throw ratio: 1.3:1
    • Keystone correction – automatic, vertical: -/+ 40 degrees
    • Manual focus
  • Video Input – HDMI 1.4 port
  • Audio – Built-in 360Β° speaker (5W)
  • Video Codecs – 8-bit H.265, H.264, MPEG-4, Divx 4x/5x/6x, and VP8 up to 1080p, H.263 up to VGA resolution
  • Connectivity – Dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x micro USB OTG port also used for charging
  • Misc – IR receiver; power/volume/mode switch buttons on top of device, cooling fan (<30 dB @ 25 dB environment)
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port
  • Battery – 5,200 mAh @ 3.85V; Quick Charge 2.0 support with full charge in 2.5 hours @ 9V/2A; good for 2.5 hours video playback @ 100 lumens
  • Dimensions – 12cm (h) x 6.8cm (Ø)
  • Weight – ~420 grams

The projector runs Android 7.0, and can also work as a Bluetooth speaker. It supports OTA firmware update, screencast from your phone, and Nebula app store with 300 apps for now (GMS certification is being worked on to get the Google Play Store). A Bluetooth remote control working for Android and iOS will also be provided.

The projector will ship with an IR remote control, and power supply with cable. The crowdfunding campaign is almost finished with about one day to go. All easrly bird rewards are long gone, but you can still pledge for the projector for $269, or $299 if you want a tripod and carry case. Shipping adds $15, and delivery is scheduled for December 2017.

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.

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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 RCΒ  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. +Β  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 43ΒΊC max measured on the top and bottom with an IR thermometer, and 47ΒΊC on both sides after playing Beach Buggy Racing & Riptide GP2 for about 30 minutes. However, right after playing, CPU-Z reported respectively 86Β°C and 80Β°C CPU & GPU temperatures, which should be close to limit of the SoC. The ambient temperature was around 28Β°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, 4096Γ—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
  • ζš—ζ΅ζΆŒεŠ¨-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.VP9.3840Γ—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, 4096Γ—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
  • ζš—ζ΅ζΆŒεŠ¨-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Massive artifactsΒ  (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.VP9.3840Γ—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.

HiMedia Q10 Pro TV Box Review – Part 1: Unboxing and 3.5″ SATA Bay

November 8th, 2017 1 comment

HiMedia Q10 Pro Android TV box was launched in March of last year, equipped with a HiSilicon Hi3798CV200 quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB flash, and a SATA bay for 3.5″ drives. When I wrote a post about the Best Android TV boxes, on commenter mentioned that while NVIDIA Android Shield was the best box for streaming, he felt HiMedia Q10 Pro offered the best quality for media playback.

With now 18 months since launch, you may wonder why I would do a review now. That’s because Himedia keeps updating the firmware, and they asked me to check out and test their latest feature: 4K Blu-Ray navigation on Android 7.0 OS. As usual, I’ll start by checking out the hardware, and will publish a review focusing on Blu-ray playback in a few weeks.

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The package is more like a suitcase that your usual tiny box, but that’s common for high-end TV boxes. It also shows the main features like 4K HDR support, Dolby and DTS-HD audio and so so.

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The box ships with an IR remote control with IR learning function for 4 keys, a WiFi antenna, a HDMI cable, a 12V/2A power supply, andΒ  quick guide describing the remote control functions, and explaining how to connect the device to a TV and/or amplifier.

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The build quality feels very good, and the box is entirely made of metal.

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The front panel includes a VFD display, IR receiver window, and several touch button for power, menu navigation, etc…

The left side features all USB host ports with one USB 3.0 port, and two USB 2.0 ports, as well as a SD/MMC slot.

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The rear panel has vents for the cooling fan, a WiFI antenna connector, a USB 3.0 device port to connect the box directly to your computer, optical and coaxial S/PDIF output, 3 RCA jacks for composite video and L&R audio, a Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI 2.0a output, a recovery pin hole, and the DC jack.

The remaining side comes with a button which you can slide to open the SATA bay.

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Installation is super easy, just insert your 3.5″ SATA drive push the “Open” handle, and close the lid.

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At this point, I normally do a teardown, but I found it not to be so obvious, and since the device is old enough, somebody else already did one.

HiMedia Q10 Pro is sold for $159.99 shipped on GeekBuying, but you’ll also find it on eBay, Amazon US (for $299?), and likely in a local reseller in your own country. Now, I’ll need to find some 4K Blu-Ray ISO files to test on the device…

Rikomagic RKM V3 Rockchip RK3328 TV Stick Launched for $63

November 2nd, 2017 4 comments

We’ll know find plenty of devices powered by Rockchip RK3328 from TV boxes to development boards, but if you are interested in getting an Android TV stick based on the processor, I’m only aware of Rikomagic RKM V3 which the company unveiled in September.

However, at the time the TV dongle was not for sale yet, and the company has just launched it for $62.90 including shipping on Aliexpress.

RKM V3 specifications have not changed since the announcement, except we can have info about size and weight:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor @ 1.5 GHz with Mali-450MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB RAM
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash + micro SD card up to 32 GB
  • Video & Audio 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
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via power barrel jack
  • Dimensions – 110 x 48 x 22 mm
  • Weight – 325 grams (for package?)

The stick runs Android 7.1, and ships with a power supply (EU, US, UK, or AU plug), and a short female to male HDMI cable.

RKM V3 is about the same price as Zidoo X7 TV box, and cheaper than their RKM V5 TV stick ($83.90) powered by Rockchip RK3328, but you do pay a premium compared to some RK3328 TV boxes with the same 2GB/8GB configuration such as T98 4K going for under $50.