Archive

Posts Tagged ‘quadrant’

Review of EM6Q-MXQ Android Quad Core Media Player

September 23rd, 2014 42 comments

After taking a few pictures of Eny EM6Q-MXQ Android media player, it’s time for a full review. I’ll first give my first impressions and go through the user interface, test video playback, test the system, network, and storage performance, try a few games, and check various hardware ports are working as they are supposed to do.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve inserted two AAA batteries in the provided infrared remote control to check it’s working, and it’s usable in the main user interface and XBMC, but once you start using most Android apps it’s useless, so I quickly switched to  Mele F10 Deluxe air mouse. Before powering up the device, I’ve connected an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable, and made with use of the 4 USB ports by connecting two RF dongles (Air mouse and gamepad), a USB hard drive, and a UVC USB webcam. The box lacks a power button, so it starts as soon as you connect the power supply. The boot is pretty slow as it completes in about 1 minute 50 seconds…

EM6Q-MXQ Launcher (Click for Original Size)

EM6Q-MXQ Launcher (Click for Original Size)

The user interface is exactly the same as found in Amlogic S802 TV boxes such as M8 and Vega S89. With some big icons that are folders for apps, and a link to a custom Setting menu, and there’s a customizable shortcut bar at the bottom with smaller icons. The status bar is disabled by default, but I prefer to have it when using it with an air mouse, so I restored it via the Setting menu. The first boot, the resolution was automatically detected to 720p, but I changed that to 1080p60, and the resolution is indeed 1920×1080.

The “Setting” menu provides access a Metro-style interface for settings with four sub menus: Network, Display, Advanced and Other.

  • Network – Enable and configure Wi-Fi or Ethernet
  • Display:
    • Automatic or manual HDMI resolution: 480p/i @ 60 Hz, 576p/i @ 50 Hz, 720p @ 50/60 Hz, 1080i @ 50/60 Hz, or 1080p @ 50/60 Hz
    • CVBS Mode Setting: 480 CVBS or 576 CVBS (if Composite output selected on TV).
    • Hide or Show status bar
    • Display Position
    • Screen Save (Never, 4, 8 or 12 minutes)
  • Advanced:
    • Miracast
    • Remote Control (app)
    • CEC Control
    • Location for weather(Chinese cities only)
    • Screen Orientation settings
    • Digital Audio Output (Auto, PCM, S/PDIF pass-through, or HDMI pass-through)
  • Other – System Update: Local file or OTA (not working), Backup, and “More Settings” for standard  Android Settings.

I’ve tested the device using HDMI set to 1080p60 most of the time, but there’s also an AV port for connect to the composite input and RCA stereo audio port of older TVs, and it worked just fine for 480 CVBS and 576 CVBS settings.. Component (YPbPr) output however is not supported.

You can watch a video with the user interface walk-through, XBMC user interface, and H.265 video playback in MX Player.

In the standard Android Settings, About_MediaBox_hd18qEM6Q-MXQ’s 8GB NAND flash has a single partition (5.26 GB) with 4.95 GB free for both apps and data. The “About MediaBox” section indicates the model number as “hd18q″, that happens to be the name of the board, and the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux kernel 3.10.33. Root Checker confirmed the firmware is rooted. which can be convenient if you don’t have the right cable for the full-size USB OTG port on the device. The company gave me a link to the firmware (September 3), which brings peace of mind in case something goes wrong.

I could install all apps I tried with Google Play Store including Antutu, 3D Marks, ES File Explorer, MX Player, Beach Buggy Blitz, etc…  I did not try paid apps, as the only one I have requires Bluetooth, that’s not built-in into the device. I could also install Riptide GP2 via Amazon AppStore.

There’s no power button on the device, and the remote control only allows you to enter and leave standby mode, so the only way to actually power off the device is to disconnect the power adapter. The latest ARM based mini PCs powered by Amlogic S802 and Rockchip RK3288 get pretty hot, but as expected with a Cortex A5 processor, the temperature is pretty much under control. I measured 39°C and 51°C with an infrared thermometer respectively on the top and bottom of the box, right after running Android 5 benchmark. After playing Riptide GP2 for 20 minutes at 1080p, and a few hours of usage previously,  the maximum temperature on top and bottom reached 42°C and 65°C…

The system itself is very stable, and it only freezes when I try to play a 4K video in XBMC (100% reproducible). However, apps often exit for no obvious reasons. which in theory, could be some bugs within the apps themselves, but it happens a bit too often to my liking… Amlogic S805 is not designed to be the fastest processor around, but while the box runs smoothly most of the times, at other times the box is really sluggish, and becomes frustrating to use. It’s probably not because of the processor, but rather the NAND flash with poor performance, resulting on slow loading times (Close to 2 minutes boot time, XBMC loads in 12 seconds), and in a few instances, I’ve experience very high CPU usage (e.g. 10) with the blue bar (I/O interrupt time) taking most of the load. This compares to 20 seconds boot time, and 2 seconds XBMC start time on recent RK3288 devices with an eMMC. During high load, it may take over 5 seconds to reach the launcher after pressing the Home key of the remote, compared to virtually instantaneous access when there’s no I/O activity.

Video Playback

I played videos from a SAMBA share over Ethernet using XBMC, only switching to MX Player in case of issues. At first, I had some permissions issues connecting to a specific shared folder in XBMC, but eventually I could connect to SAMBA with both XBMC and ES File Explorer,

I started with videos from samplemedia.linaro.org, H.265/HEVC videos by Elecard, as well as a new VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK, but there’s a regular blinking effect (about 1sec) in  some scenes, especially visible with the grass and trees. The same issue happens in many devices.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK but not that smooth (S/W decode)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p OK, 1080p plays in slow motion
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container
    • XBMC – Audio only
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode), but if you jump to another time in the video it will switch to S/W decode. Probably a bug in MX Player.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video)
    • XBMC – Won’t even start
    • MX Player – OK (H/W decode).

Once I mostly lost control with the keys in XBMC, and I could only use the mouse pointer and the OK button. Same result with Mele F10 Deluxe or the included IR remote control. Restarting XBMC fixed the issue.

Now some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – XBMC: audio only; MX Player: black screen only, no audio.
  • 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, but could be smoother, and XBMC reports skipped frames regularly.
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (Play from USB hard drive)

High definition audio codec could be decoded (PCM output) in XBMC, but performance could be better:

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 – OK &
  • True HD 7.1 – Some audio cuts playing from SAMBA, OK from USB hard drive
  • DTS-MA – OK
  • DTS-HR – SAMBA: Audio completely cuts after a few seconds. USB: No problem with audio, but video feels slow.

Sintel-Bluray.iso video could play in XBMC, meaning Blu-ray ISO files are supported.

I also played some AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB and MP4 videos in my library. They could all play, and I did not notice any A/V sync issues, or other obvious problems with playback. I also tested XBMC stability by playing a complete 1080p video (1h50). Sometimes XBMC refuses to exit immediately, and I need to press the “Home” button to get the the main menu. This must be an XBMC issue, as I’ve had this problem in some other devices previously.

Links to various video samples used in this review and be found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

In order to test network performance, I simply transfer a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share (Ubuntu 14.04) and the internal flash, and vice versa, repeating the test three times with ES File Explorer. I left the Ethernet connected when I first tested Wi-Fi performance, and with the numbers I got during transfer, I decided to disconnect the Ethernet cable to make it was not done over Ethernet, as throughput peaked at up 5.0MB/s, whereas I’m usually lucky to see 3MB/s for most other devices. But this was all real, and when it comes with Wi-Fi performance, EM6Q-MXQ is truly amazing, and crushes the competition with an average throughput of 3.84 MB/s.

EM6Q-MXQ_Wi-Fi_Performance

Wi-Fi Performance in MB/s

I wonder if the internal Wi-Fi antenna connection to a stainless steel plate inside the case has anything to do with it.

Ethernet worked fine @ 100Mbps even connected to my pesky Gigabit switch.

EM6Q-MXQ_Ethernet_PerformanceI’ve also tested Ethernet performance with iPerf app to get a raw number using “iperf -t 60 -c 192.168.0.104 -d” command line. It does not max out the Ethernet bandwidth but I suppose the results are still decent, even though not outstanding. As reference, Kingnovel R6 achieved over 90 Mbits/sec in both directions via a Fast Ethernet switch.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

EM6Q-MXQ does not support Bluetooth, at least the model I have, does not.

Storage

FAT32 formatted micro SD card and USB flash drive could be recognized and properly mounted by the system
I’ve also connected my USB 3.0 hard drive, and only NTFS and FAT32 could be mounted automatically, as for some reasons EXT-4 does not seems to be supported by Android.

File System Read Write
NTFS OK OK
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

I’ve run A1 SD Bench  to benchmark performance of the USB hard drive and internal flash, starting with the NTFS partition in /storage/external_storage/sda1. The read speed was 30.35MB/s, and the write speed of 31.79MB/s, both of which are the best readings I’ve ever got, but only marginally better than the competition. We should probably expect very little variability between devices using USB 2.0, and see some performance boost and more variability with devices that support USB 3.0.

USB Hard Drive Throughput in MB/s

USB Hard Drive Throughput in MB/s

A slow internal storage can make a device behave very poorly, especially during write operation, and unfortunately the NAND flash used cripples a device that would otherwise be a pretty decent product.

Internal Storage Read and Write Speed (MB/s)

Internal Storage Read and Write Speed (MB/s)

This confirms the NAND flash is the likely cause of slow boot time, and apps loading times, as well as temporary, but annoying, slowdowns when flash is written to, for example while installing apps.

USB Webcam

My USB webcam with built-in microphone worked with Skype. I could test audio successfully with the Echo service in Skype, and I could see the video from the camera while making a call. Google Hangouts could detect the webcam, I could start a video call (ringing), and the webcam image was displayed albeit at a very slow framerate (1 or 2 fps), but after a few seconds massive colorful artifacts started to show up.

The Android camera is pre-installed, and I could take a few shots, and record a video.

Gaming

As usual, I’ve tested Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide GP2. I played Candy Crush Saga with my air mouse, and at the beginning audio cut due to I/O interrupts (kswapd0, irq/60-sdio processes), and logging into Facebook was sluggish as hell, but once actually playing the game, everything worked pretty well, and smoothly.

I played the two other games with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad. Beach Buggy Blitz just as smooth as more recent processors (S802, RK3288) with default setting,s but when I maxed out the graphics settings, it was still very playable, but the framerate was impacted. Riptide GP2 was playable, but not perfectly smooth, actually not that much different from Amlogic S802. Decreasing the graphics quality improves playability (frame rate). I’ve raced on several circuits, and after the third circuits, I noticed the 3D image froze once. Playing a fourth games, it was clear I had the same problem as with Amlogic S802 (Probox2 EX), where the 3D image with just stop for a few seconds, before resuming, stop again and so on, but the 2D graphics (position on track) will still render properly and continuously.  So I checked the temperature and I got 42°C and 65°C on the top and bottom of the enclosure. I could be Mali-450MP GPU overheats due to the workload of this specific game, and does not work properly.

EM6Q-MXQ / Amlogic S805 Benchmarks

Since it’s the first device with Amlogic S802, I had to run CPU-Z.

Amlogic_S802_CPU-ZThe app correctly detect a quad core Cortex A5 @ 1.49 GHz with a Mali-450 MP GPU. The scaling governor is set to performance which explains why the cores’ frequency is set to 1488 MHz, as the developers preferred to give full performance to the system, since there’s no overheating issues. The screen resolution is set to 1920×1008 (not 1080 because I enabled the status bar on) with 1280×672 resolution in dp. 825 MB RAM is available to the system, and 5.26 GB internal storage as mentioned previously.

EM6Q-MXQ_Antutu_5.1

The device gets 16,647 points in Antutu 5.1, and is right at the bottom of the scale in the graphics chart. For reference RK3188 based device usually have a score just above 20,000, so I suppose this score is to be expected because of the slower CPU cores, and despite the faster GPU.  I’ll make a side-by-side comparison with Amlogic S802 in a separate post.

EM6Q-MXQ got 3985 points in Quadrant, close to the score of Asus Transformer Pad (TF201) tablet based on Nvidia Tegra 3.

Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)

Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve also run Vellamo 3.x which shows a performance similar to Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone (Exynos 4).

Vellamo_Amlogic_S805_EM6Q-MXQFor comparison with other devices, you can download Metal, Multicore, and Browser comparison charts.

Ice Storm Extreme test in 3DMark really shows the lower performance of the quad core Mali-450MP GPU used in S805 (Mali-450 MP2?) against something like Mali-T764 found in RK3288 SoC that gets a score three times higher. I haven’t tested Amlogic S802 with an eight core Mali-450 MP6 GPU yet.

3DMarks ICE Storm  Ultimate (Click to Enlarge)

3DMarks ICE Storm Ultimate (Click to Enlarge)

Conclusion

EM6Q-MXQ could really have been a low cost device with pretty good performance, where it not for the subpar NAND flash used in this hardware. Wi-Fi is the best I’ve ever seen, and by a large margin, video decoding is pretty good, although H.265 is still not supported in XBMC, and the firmware is stable, despite apps exiting randomly at times, but I wonder if it’s related to the I/O performance, and the app are just killed because the system does not respond fast enough.

PRO:

  • Best Wi-Fi performance I’ve ever experienced in a TV box, and by a wide margin.
  • The system is rather stable, and only hung once when trying to play a 4K video
  • Both 720p and 1080p user interfaces are supported
  • Decent video playback capabilities.
  • HEVC hardware video decoding support. Working in MX Player, but not with XBMC (yet)
  • Webcam supported in Skype (but the image was garbled in Google Hangouts)
  • 4x USB 2.0 host port available

CONS:

  • Very slow internal storage, leading to severe slowdowns especially while installing apps, or other write operations.
  • Apps may exit suddenly for no reason, maybe related to first point above.
  • Slow boot time, and apps loading times, most probably related to first point above
  • No proper power off (standby only)
  • Lack of Bluetooth support (No Bluetooth module)
  • No option for 24Hz, 25Hz, 30Hz video output

Eny Technology EM6Q-MXQ can be purchased on Aliexpress for about $70 including shipping. In that link, bothEM6Q-MXQ and MXQ S85 are listed so you’ll need to check the USB port (4x port with EM6Q-MXQ only), and/or the Red MX stripe found in S85 version. Resellers can visit EM6Q-MXQ product page to contact the company for larger orders.

Review of Probox2 EX Quad Core Android TV Box and Remote+ Air Mouse

August 19th, 2014 25 comments

Probox2 EX is an Android TV box powered by Amlogic S802-H processor with 2GB RAM and 16GB eMMC, an hardware very similar to MINIX NEO X8-H, and an upgrade to the Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite and Shenzhen Tomato EM8 / Enybox M8 TV boxes I’ve reviewed previously, with more storage (16GB vs 8GB), dual band Wi-Fi, and S802-H instead of S802 for hardware DTS and Dolby audio decoding. I’ve already published an unboxing post for Probox2 EX, so today I’m going to test the firmware, including overall performance and stability, video playback, gaming, and most hardware features, as well as Remote+ air mouse with audio and gaming capabilities, which comes with the device.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

I’ve found two AAA battery to insert into Remote+ air mouse, connected an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable, the Wi-Fi antenna, the RF dongle for Remote+, and the power adapter to Probox2 EX. After pressing the power button on the box, it will boot within 30 seconds or so, with the user interface shown below that is a little different from other Metro-style user interfaces found in most Amlogic S802 Android media players.

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

On the top row of the screen, we can see Probox2, the weather forecast (which works properly), the date, time, and network status. There are eight icons in the rest of the UI. The top four are folders for apps which are called Movies (4K MoviePlayer, MXPlayer), TV Shows (Netflix, XBMC), Music (Music, Google Play Music), Games (Frozen Bubble), and the four bottom icons are links to XBMC, a File Browser, and Google Play, as well as an Internet folder with the stock Browser and Chrome. In all folder, there’s a “+” icon that lets you add you own apps. On top of icons, you’ll find text with Home, More and All Apps. More will show more folders (Favorite, Photos, Streaming,. Social), as a task killer, and a link to custom settings. The user interface resolution is 1920×1080 (1080p), and that means videos are also played with true 1080p output. You can click on the screenshot above to check the real size.

The “Setting” menu is bascially the same as found in Tronsmart Vega S89 and M8 with Network, Display, Advanced and Other.

Display Setup (Click for Original Size)

Display Setup (Click for Original Size)

You can select between Wi-Fi and Ethernet in the Network section. By default the Display settings will automatically detect the video output, and it properly select 1080p60 in my case.. I’ve disable auto-detection to check the other and there’s only: 720p50/60, 108050/i60, 1080i50/60. No 24Hz mode, and strangely no 4K mode. I’m not sure if it is an issue with the firmware, or it cleverly detected my TV is not an UHD TV. If I connect the AV cable, disconnect the HDMI cable, and switch to AV input on my TV, the box will properly output to AV using 480cvbs or 576cvbs depending on option in Display menu. I can confirm audio is working OK in this mode. Unfortunately I could not find any way to go back to HDMI, even after a factory reset. It was a little late at night, and based on my extensive experience, if something does not work late at night, better go to bed, as invisible Goblins are probably working on your box, and they will go home at dawn. This works for software bugs too :). And magically, I could connect to HDMI again this morning. Other settings include “Hide Status Bar” (ON by default), Display Position, and Screen Saver timeout (Never, 4, 8, or 12 minutes). I’ve enabled the status bar, as I find it’s easier to navigate between apps and home screen.

ABout_Probox2_EXThe Advanced menu will let you start Miracast, and I could connect with my Android 4.2.1 phone after the second attempt. The first attempt found the display, but it could not connect. The mnue also lets you enable the software Remote control (not tested, but you can download RemoteIME.apk on your smartphone or tablet), adjust CEC controls, set the screen orientation, and select digital audio output (PCM, S/PDIF pass-through, HDMI pass-through). The Other button will give some details about the Android version (4.4.2), kernel version (3.10.33) and provides access to OTA System Update, which unfortunately is not enabled, so any firmware upgrade would have to be done with the SD card at best, and via the USB firmware tools at worst. You can access the standard Android settings by clicking on More Settings. Android Settings are based on the phone interface, not the tablet interface.

The Android Settings are needed for specific network features such as VPN and portable hotspot, and to enable Bluetooth. There’s a nice single 16GB partition with 13.24 GB free, so there’s plenty of space for apps, and some data. The firmware was rooted. Looking into the “About MediaBox” section shows the model number is  “”EX”, and just like the custom settings section, it shows Android 4.4.2 is running on top of Kernel 3.10.33.

I could install all applications I tried on Google Play Store including Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Candy Crush Saga, etc… Paid apps such as Sixaxis Controller also installed properly. I’ve installed Amazon AppStore to download Riptide GP2 that was one of the “Free App of the Day” some time ago.

Remote+ air mouse does most of the job. Yet using the air mouse to input text with the soft keyboard is not the most convenient, and the remote lacks thr play/pause and trick modes keys that are useful in media players such as XBMC. At some point the remote stopped working, so I though the AAA batteries were depleted, and I temporarily used Mele F10 Pro instead, until I released later that Remote+ started to work again. If you like to use voice search, the built-in microphone is great.  Simply start Google Search, press the audio button on the remote say “OK Google” followed by your query. I’ve also successfully performance a Skype Echo test with the remote. I’ve tested the gaming mode in the Gaming section of this review. You can have a look at Probox2 EX user’s interface, as well as demos of the built-in microphone with Google Search and Skype in the video below.

The power button on top of the device is used to power it on and off. A short press will power the device, and if somehow the system hangs (it never happened to me),  a long press (about 10 seconds) will turn it off. The power button on the remote can only to used to suspend or power off the device, you’ll need to press the power button on the media player to start it from power off state.There’s also a soft power button in the status bar, which can be useful if you want to use another remote or a mouse and keyboard. I’ve checked the temperature of the box after playing a 3D game. My infrared temperature checker detected 50 °C for both the top and bottom of the enclosure. My room temperature was around 28 °C.

The box never hung or frozen during my hours of testing, albeit several times, some apps just closed. But it’s difficult to determine if it is a system issue, or a bug in the app. The overall performance is usually good thanks to the 2GHz processor, and a fast eMMC flash.

Video Playback

The videos are played from XBMC browsing a SAMBA share on a USB 2.0 hard drive connected to a computer running Ubuntu 14.04. I’m using the Ethernet connection of the device. I had no problems with SAMBA in XBMC and ES File Explorer.

I first played videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, and as well as H.265/HEVC codec from Elecard also based on Big Buck Bunny video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK (could be a little more smooth though)
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p and 720p OK, 1080p is watchable most of the time but feels slow at time.(VP8 is software decoded)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container
    • XBMC – 360p has some audio cuts, 720p frames skipping and frequent audio cuts, 1080p lot of skipped frames and constant audio cuts
    • MXPlayer – 360p OK, 720p OK most of the time, but not so smooth when panning, 1080p will has the same symptoms as 720p but worse, and it exits after a while. No audio cuts heard in 360p/720p

VP8 and H.265 not codec supported by the Amlogic processor, and are done using software decoding, so if you read H.265 on a S802 box that’s a distortion of the truth, as it won’t work properly. You need to wait for S805 or S812 processor for proper HEVC/H.265 support.  To their credit, W2COMP did not mention H.265 support on Probox2 EX package.

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps)
    • XBMC – Won’t even start to play
    • MXPlayer – Audio only, but I can switch to software decoded, and it’s playing smoothly most of the time, except in fast moving scene where it feels a little slow.
  • 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) – OK (Played from USB drive connected to box)

High definition audio codecs could play fine even from SAMBA (down-sampled to PCM):

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

These could also work in other players such as MXPlayer thanks to hardware DTS and Dolby support provided by S802-H. The latter may also help for smoother video, as it frees CPU power for other tasks.

Sintel-Bluray.iso Blu-ray ISO file could play just fine in XBMC, and I could also navigate between the eight chapters of the video. But for some reasons, I could not change the subtitles easily in XBMC menus, clicking on the up or down icons would jump to next language, only to come back to the default language of the video, and it’s only after many tries that I managed to switch to English.

Amlogic S802(-H) support 4K video playback downscaled to 1080p, most probably even on 4K/UHD televisions, so I tried a few:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – Can play smoothly but there are frequent artifacts on the right of the video.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – Plays but in slideshow style… (Expected since S802 does not support HEVC codec).
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – Same as above
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts – Same as above

Other AVI, MKV, FLV and MP4 videos in my library could all play just fine. Somebody comment about video playback stability issue in EM8/M8 box, where videos stopped after 30 minute or so. So I played a complete 1080p mkv video (1h40) in the box, and it played until the until. Up to now Probox2 EX box is probably the best device I’ve tested when it comes to video playback support. It only fails with HEVC and VP8 videos which are not supported by the S802-H’s VPU, and decoded by software leading to mediocre performance with these two video codecs, and the lack of 24Hz video output may be a problem for some.

Links to various video samples used in this review and be found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

The network test consist in transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash using, and vice versa, repeating the test three times using ES File Explorer. I had a big smile on my face, when a saw transfer speed up to 3.25MB/s using Wi-Fi. When it comes to Wi-Fi performance, Probox2 EX is clearly ahead, and puts the competition to shame, as the transfer times averaged 1:39 (2.8 MB/s).

Probox2_EX_Wi-FiThe only device that’s faster than Probox2 EX is CS868, but the latter as very poor firmware, which is not the case for Probox2 EX. It easily beats the two other S802 boxes I tested, namely Vega S89 Elite and M8. While testing Wi-Fi, I also tried the Miracast function. The first time, even though my phone could see the display, it would not connect. Trying a few hours later, it worked just fine, and you could mirror my phone screen on the TV.

I’ve also tested Ethernet with the same procedure. and the transfer from SAMBA to flash was done @ 6.3 MB/s (44s), and flash to SAMBA @ 5.79 MB/s (48s). Which is much better than Wetek Play and Vidon.me AV200.

Probox2_EX_EthernetThere’s an important remark however. I always use the latest version of ES File Explorer from Google Play, so software may improve overtime, and the changelog for the latest version (3.1.9 – August 6, 2014) lists “-Improve SMB performance”, so even though I’m sure Probox2 EX performance is good, the results above may have been amplified due to software improvements (except for WeTek Play tested on 14th to 16th August). I haven’t investigated the scale of the improvement yet, but it might something worth looking into it.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is built-in the device, and I had no problem pairing it with my Android smartphone (ThL W200), and transfer a picture from my phone to the device.

I’ve tried Sixaxis Compatibility Checker and Sixaxis Controller, and although the drivers seems OK, I could not use my PS3 Bluetooth gamepad clone, as it won’t connect, and Sixaxis will segfault.

For the first time, I’ve also tested Bluetooth 4.0 BLE with Vidonn X5 activity tracker, and it worked flawlessly.

Storage

Both a micro SD card and a USB flash drive formatted to FAT32 could be mounted and accessed successfully.
I’ve also connected my USB 3.0 hard drive with NTFS, EXT-4, FAT32, and BTRFS partitions. Here are the performance results achieved by copying files between the internal flash and the partitions using File ES Explorer.

File System Read Write
NTFS OK OK
EXT-4 Not mounted Not mounted
FAT32 OK OK
BTRFS Not mounted Not mounted

I used A1 SD Bench for storage testing with the custom locations set to /storage/external_storage_sda1 for the NTFS partition, and the read speed is 29.64MB/s whereas the write speed is 30.97MB/s, which seems very good, and close to the performance It can achieve on my PC when connected to a USB 2.0 port. This compares to respectively 25.63MS/s, and 24.81MB/s for WeTek Play.

If you have ever upgrade your PC from a mechanical hard drive to a SSD, or upgrade from a Class 4 to a Class 10 SD card when running Linux on a development board or device, you should now how important I/O performance is important to the overall system performance, but seldom mentioned. So I’ve also decided to started testing internal storage. The eMMC flash in Probox2 EX can be read at 27.57MB/s, and written at 15.11 MB/s according to A1 SD Bench app.

USB Webcam

A no-brand USB webcam worked with Skype. I could see the video, and tested audio successfully with the Echo service. Since also tried Remote+ as a microphone, and it worked. However I did not manage to make it work with Google Hangouts. The camera icon would just show for one second or less, and disappear.

Gaming

I’ve tested three games: Candy Crush Saga, Riptitde GP2, and Beach Buggy Blitz.  Candy Crush Saga is normally not demanding, and I could play using Remote+ air mouse.

I decided to play Riptide GP2 with Tronsmart Mars G01 wireless gamepad, and at first I had no issues, but as with other S802 boxes the frame rate with default settings feels a bit low, probably because of 1080p resolution, so I lower the quality settings to try again, and shortly after the game because unplayable with sometimes one frame every 4 seconds. The box had run smoothly for over 5 hours before this, and I measured 50 °C on top and bottom of the box, so I decided to take a break, and enter suspend mode. Thirty minutes later, the temperature fell to 35 °C, and I started it, and played Riptide GP2 to try to reproduce the issue. Four races and no problem, but at the fifth race, or about 20-25 minutes later, the game became unplayable again. It’s possible my relatively high room temperature (28 to 30 °C) impacts the cooling of the device. The first time I played Riptide GP2, Mele F10 Pro dongle was connected, and Mars G01 gamepad was detected. But when I tried later with Remote+ RF dongle, Mars G01 was not detected, simply because Remote+ is also registered as a gamepad, so I had two gamepads in my system which confused the game/system.

I played Beach Buggy Blitz with Remote+ to test the gaming mode of the air mouse. There are four modes available via a single “Mode switching” key: remote control, air mouse, gaming mode (vertical), and gaming mode (horizontal). Unfortunately, there’s no indication of the mode you are currently in, and at the beginning it’s quite confusing, especially if you are not sure you are in vertical and horizontal mode. The gaming mode is making use of the gyroscope, and in the game you can to select “Tilt mode”. You can then hold and move the remote like a steering wheel to turn left and right, it works, but in this mode none of the keys can be used for breaking, which can be an issue… So instead I switched to “Gamepad mode” in the game, where I could define the keys, and play the games with the D-Pad and X,Y, B and A buttons. In this mode, you’ll obviously lose the gyroscope feature, but it’s much more easier to control, and at least you can break when needed. I played Beach Buggy Blitz for 30 minutes, and I could not reproduce the issue experienced in Riptide GP2.

Probox2 EX Benchmark

Antutu benchmark scores varies widely between Amlogic S802 devices, even with the hardware same. Some people get 22,000, others 30,000 with the same model, so the relevance is limited. Anyway, I’ve tested Probox2 EX with Antutu and Quadrant for reference.
Probox2_Antutu
With 31,747 points, this Android media player gets the highest score I’ve personally seen in such type of device. Please note that Antutu and Quadrant did not run in full screen, but in portrait mode with 607×1008 resolution (taking about a third of the screen), so this may have impacted the GPU score. The Storage I/O score with 1,801 is much higher than in Vega S89 Elite (851) and M8 (751) probably because Probox2 EX features an eMMC flash, where the other two come with a standard NAND flash.

Probox2 EX Quadrant Benchmark (Click to Enlarge)

Probox2 EX Quadrant Benchmark (Click to Enlarge)

The Quadrant score (8728) is also much greater than the scores for Vega S89 Elite (5323) and M8 (6536), but these had older firmware. Since then I have tested Vega S89 Elite with Antutu and firmware 107k4, and found a score of 29,000 points instead of 22603 points with the firmware I used during my review. So firmware version matters!

Conclusion

During the first 5 hours of test I just found Probox2 EX was amazing: stable, fast, and everything seemed to work. Video playback was also flawless, networking performance outstanding, and the remote/airmouse fun to use. Unfortunately I eventually found its Achilles’ heel when I started playing 3D games, especially Riptide GP2, where the system started to slowdown considerably to manage overheating. The good news here is that the device won’t just overheat and hang or reboot, but will just slow down to cool itself down. In most cases, it’s not a problem, as you may not even notice it, but in games, where you need real-time rendering, it can be.

PRO:

  • Stable firmware and excellent system performance thanks to CPU and fast eMMC
  • Provided Remote+ air mouse that can also be used for voice search, and gaming.
  • Best video playback support I’ve seen so far. It plays everything smoothly except H.265 and VP8 which are done by software.
  • DTS & Dolby hardware decoding.
  • Outstanding Wi-Fi and Ethernet performance (However, it may be partially due to improvement in SAMBA performance in ES Fie Explorer)
  • Most features just work (Bluetooth, Miracast, USB webcam, etc…)
  • Android Kitkat with XBMC and true 1080p user interface

CONS:

  • May overheat under load, and performance scaled down dramatically to manage system temperature. Reproduced with a 3D game (Riptide GP2), but not others.
  • Potential HDMI <-> AV switching issues
  • Video Output: No 24Hz support, no 4K option. [Update: Apparently this firmware hides 4K options when connected to FullHD TV (1080p)]
  • Webcam supported in Skype, but not in Google Hangouts
  • OTA firmware update does not work / not implemented
  • Remote+ lacks play/pause, ffwd, ffrd… buttons for media players.

If I had received this STB in winter, it’s quite possible I may not have noticed the overheating issue during 3D games. Probox2 EX is still one of best Android mini PC I’ve ever used, albeit if you like to play 3D games during extended period of times, I cannot recommend it. But for everything else I think the box is great. The lack of 4K support may not matter that much since in Android everything is downscaled to the user interface resolution (1080p), so even if the box outputs to 4K, it would still be shown @ 1080p.

I can’t compare it to MINIX NEO X8-H directly, since I don’t have the latter, but MINIX does have unofficial and official support forums, which W2COMP/PROBOX2 does not have, so you can’t rely on the power of the community for help, and instead you have to go through customer support. There has been several firmware update for their previous Probox2 products, so hopefully there will be too for Probox2 EX (no firmware file has been released so far).

Probox2 EX and Remote+ can be purchased for $149.99 including shipping. As a comparison, other TV Boxes based on S802-H with similar features include MINIX NEO X8-H selling for $149.99 with more basic NEO M1 air mouse, and Vega S89-H for $120 without air mouse. You may also want to check Probox2 EX product page.

Review of M8 Android Kitkat TV Box Powered by Amlogic S802 SoC

April 17th, 2014 242 comments

A few days ago, I wrote an Unboxing and Specs post about the M8, an Android TV Box powered by Amlogic S802 quad core Cortex A9 processor. The review took a little as I was waiting for a new firmware. I’ve now upgraded this S802 Box, and been able to complete a review. As usual , I’ll start by giving my first impressions, have a look at the user interface and settings, test different king of video files, evaluate Wi-Fi performance, and try to cover most hardware features including Bluetooth, external storage, USB webcam, and so on. The overall user’s experience, is very similar to Tronsmart Vega S89, but there are some notable differences I’ll go through during the review.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Shenzhen Tomato sent me a sample unit which they call TM8 (Tomato M8?), but I’ll just refer to the device as M8 in the review. The device comes with a simple IR remote comes, but did not include two AAA batteries. I only use the remote shortly, as I prefer using an RF remote with Android, and I used Mele F10 air mouse during testing which includes a QWERTY keyboard, and a gyroscope to easily move the mouse pointer. Beside the IR remote, the sample I received only included a 5V/2A power supply, so i also had to take a spare HDMI cable. Retail versions of the box may included an HDMI cable however. Before connecting the power, I’ve connected an Ethernet cable, an HDMI cables, and the Mele F10 USB RF dongle. There’s no power button on the device, so as soon as you connect the power, a blue LED lits up, and the device boots to the same Windows 8 / Metro-style user’s interface as Tronsmart Vega S89.

M8 Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

M8 Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

At the top of the screen there are status icons (Ethernet/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/Storage), the weather (only Chinese cities are available in the settings), as well as the time and date. There are also six main menus, the same a Vega S89, but with different apps: Online Video (One Chinese app), My recommend (favorite apps), Setting, The firmware in M8 as quite a few Chinese apps, which were not present or removed from Vega S89 firmware. There are also shortcuts on the bottom of the screen with 4K player, Music, Chinese IPTV app, and APK installer by default. You can add and remove the ones you want as you wish, and I’ve done this with XBMC and Play Store as you can see from the screenshot. The user interface resolution is 1920×1080.

The “Setting” menu gives you access to the settings shown in the same Metro-style with four sub menus: Network, Display, Advanced and Other.

Advanced Setup (Click for Original Size)

Advanced Setup (Click for Original Size)

The network settings allow you to select Ethernet or Wi-Fi, the display settings has exactly the same options as Vega S89: autodetect resolution, UHD / 4K output support, hide or show the status bar, adjust the display size, and screensaver. I’ve enabled the status bar, as it’s more more convenient to use that way, and the bar automatically hides when you play videos. The Advanced menu will let you start Miracast (Source only, not a display), enable the software Remote control (RemoteIME.apk, adjust CEC controls, set your location (only Chinese cities are available), set the screen orientation, and select digital audio output (PCM, SPDIF pass-through, HDMI pass-through). The Other button will give some details about the Android version (4.4.2) and kernel version (3.10.10). There’s also an OTA System Update menu, which does not work. You can access the standard Android settings by going through Setting->Other->More Settings. The Android settings in this box are based on the phone interface, not the tablet one, which requires a few more clicks.

You can check the user’s interface and settings in the video below. If you have already watched Vega S89 UI walk-through video, you may have well skip this one as it’s the same, except from the pre-installed apps which are a little different.

I’ve used HDMI output with 1080p during my testing, which was automatically detected as I started the device. But If I switch to manual mode, I can also see 4K video output at 24, 25 and 30 Hz, and as well as 4K SMPTE.  There’s also an AV output, which is automatically used, if HDMI is not detected. It works fine including stereo audio output. Once you are using AV output, you can go to the setup menu to select between 480cvbs and 576cvbs. To switch back to HDMI, insert the HDMI cable. and select the input on your TV. A reboot is not necessary.

M8_About_MediaboxThere’s 5.75 GB space reserved for the user out of the 8GB NAND flash, and right after firmware upgrade, there’s over 5GB free space on the single partition available. The firmware was rooted. Looking into the “About MediaBox” section shows the model number is  “K200″, and just like the custom settings section, it shows Android 4.4.2 is running on top of Kernel 3.10.10.

I could install most applications from Google Play Store including Facebook, ES File Explorer, Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Vellamo, Candy Crush Saga, etc… Sixaxis Controller failed to install returning an error in Google Play. It’s the same behavior as Vega S89, and I’ve been told all paid apps won’t install. I’ve also installed the Amazon Play Store, to use one of the free app of the day I previsouly downloaded on another device (Riptide 2).

As mentioned previously there’s no power button on the device, and all you can do is to used the IR remote to enter and exit standby mode. A real power off will require you to disconnect the power.    I’ve checked the temperature of the box after running a 3D game. The top was 55 °C, the bottom 43 °C, with my room temperature around 28 °C. This is exactly the opposite of Tronsmart Vega S89 where the top is “cool”, but the bottom is hot.

As expected performance is good, and the system is extremely responsive, but the firmware is not that stable, as I experienced several hangs up / freezes, requiring a power cycle. This happened during benchmarks, gaming and while taking screenshots. In two instance, the device apparently turned itself off automatically (Blue LED off), maybe due to overheating. I also had some text input issues from times to times (double characters) using Mele F10, and it also happened with Vega S89 but I forgot to mention it.

Video Playback

XBMC 13.0-beta 1 is pre-installed on the device, so I’ve used XBMC for video testing. I only used MX Players in case of errors, and to double check Dolby / DTS audio.. The videos are played from a SAMBA share on Ubuntu 13.10 using the Ethernet connection of the device. I had no problem for SAMBA configuration in XBMC nor ES File Explorer.

I started with the videos from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus some videos with H.265/HEVC codec from Elecard:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – Failed. Nothing happens.
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p/1080p is – OK. (1080p failed in Vega S89)
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container, 360p/720p/1080p
    • XBMC – Audio only then crash,
    • MX Player – Can play and audio works, but everything is in slow motion with many frames skipped.

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – No video, audio only.
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK. No audio/video sync issues as in Vega S89.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Video is supported but some frames are skipped.

I’ve also tested common audio codecs below, using PCM in XBMC, and I got the same results as with Vega S89:

  • AC3 – Can decode audio, but video was very slow
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

MX Player, however, won’t output any audio when playing these files using the H/W decoder.

Sintel-Bluray.iso, a free Blu-ray ISO file, could play just fine in XBMC, and I could also navigate between the eight chapters of the video.

I’ve tested several 4K Videos in MX Player (XBMC does not work – audio only):

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (60 Mbps) – OK
  • Sintel.2010.4K.mkv – Frequent pauses (buffering?) during playback after enabling S/W decode for AC3 5.1 audio. No audio output using the H/W audio decoder.
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 – Slow motion video playback in MX Player…

I also tested several AVI, MKV, FLV and MP4 videos, and they could all play, except one FLV which only had audio output. I did not experience the audio/video sync issues I found in Vega S89 in any of the videos.

Links to various video samples used in this review and be found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Wi-Fi Performance

Using ES File Explorer, I’ve transferred a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa, repeating the test three times. I’ve tried testing the transfer at different times to avoid the issues I had with Vega S89. But the results were more or less consistent. Wit5h this device there’s a clear difference in performance between transfers between SAMBA to the flash, and vice versa. Transferring the file between flash and SAMBA took between 3:16 and 4:54, but in the reverse direction it took between 5:51 and 7:47.  The transfer times averaged a poor 5:02 (0.92 MB/s), which makes M8 the laggard among devices I’ve tried.

M8_Wi-Fi_PerformanceI’ve tried to play some of the 1080p videos from Linaro samples, and none of them could play without pauses due to buffering.

I’ll add the usual disclaimer about Wi-Fi: “Please bear in mind there are many factors when it comes to Wi-Fi performance, and the results you’ve got with your setup may be greatly different from the ones I’ve gotten here.”

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooh is built-in in this Android TV Box, and you can enable it only from the standard Android settings, as there’s no option in the Metro style settings. M8 won’t find any devices (I have a Linux PC with a Bluetooth dongle and an Android phone). However I can pair my phone (ThL W200) to M8. Unfortunately it does not seem to work that well, as I failed to transfer any files, as there’s no notifications after sending a picture from either direction. My Ubuntu PC can detect M8, but fails to pair.

I’ve skipped Sixaxis Compatibility Check (free app), as M8 can’t install paid apps, in this case, Sixaxis Controller.

External Storage

I could use both an SD and a USB flash drive formatted to FAT32 successfully, and played some MP3 and videos.

USB Webcam

I could use a low cost no brand USB webcam with Skype. Video was OK, the “Echo Test” in Skype could record my voice using the webcam mic, and repeat my voice. I could also start a video call in Google Hangouts, something that did not work with Vega S89.

Gaming

I’ve tested  games: Angry Birds Star Wars, Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Blitz, and Riptide 2. The first two are simple games that play fine on all recent dual core or quad core hardware. I’ve configured Beach Buggy Blitz to maximum graphics settings, and it could still run smoothly. Riptide 2 could run very well too. With the Mali-450MP6 GPU there should not be any problems running the vast majority of Android games with high graphics details.

Since we can’t install paid app, I could not test Sixaxis controller. I found it’s usually difficult to play games on Android TV devices, but I’ve seen SomeCoolTechs video review of the Vega S89 using G910 bluetooth gamepad that works with many games without much hassle, which I may have to check out. You could also use with your smartphone as a controller using Droidmote.

M8 / TM8 Benchmarks

CPU-Z gives bascially the same information for M8 as for Vega S89. The CPU is reported as a quad core Cortex A9 r4p1 clocked between 24 MHz to 1.99 GHz with an ARM Mali-450 GPU, and the board is also the same: k200. However, the firmware won’t be fully compatible as Vega S89 Elite (8 GB flash) uses AP6220 Wi-Fi module (2.4 GHz), and Vega S89 (16 GB) and M8 (8GB) uses AP6330 (2.4/5GHz).

M8_CPU_Z

The rest is also exactly the same including pixel resolution (1920 x 1008), “dp” resolution (1280 x 672) 1578 MB RAM (available to Android), and 5.75 GB flash for the user.

Antutu 4.3.3 (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu 4.3.3 (Click to Enlarge)

M8 gets 24,133 in Antutu from, the play store, against 22,603 for Vega S89 Elite. In Vega S89, Antutu detailed results showed “4x cores @ 1104 MHz”, but in M8 it shows correctly “4x cores @ 1992 MHz”. Firmware is newer in the M8, so this may one reason. Some people have reported reaching 30,000 points in Antutu, with allegedly the same firmware, so I wonder if it’s because of some thermal management, as my room is relatively warm at 28 degree C. Just as with Vega S89, the GPU benchmarks have been run in portrait mode (607×1080), instead of full screen mode, which means other apps are likely to have issues too. I’d like to point out M8 failed to completely run Antutu once or twice, so it may be possible they’ve extracted some more performance as the expense of stability.

Quadrant (Click to Enlarge)

Quadrant (Click to Enlarge)

With 6536 points, M8 gets a significantly better score than Vega S89 Elite (5363) in Quadrant.

Vellamo failed to run completely in M8.

Conclusion

M8 / TM8 has very performance, unfortunately the firmware is not always stable, and there still quite a few issues that needs to be fix.

Let’s summarize the PROS and CONS

  • PROS
    • Smooth and fast firmware.
    • Android 4.4 Kitkat
    • XBMC 13 pre-installed
    • Blu-Ray ISO and 4K video playback
    • 1080p user interface
    • 4K video output up to 30 fps supported
    • Good Ethernet performance (60 Mbps video playback OK)
    • Good video formats/codecs support
    • USB webcam works with Skype and Google Hangouts
    • HDMI CEC support
  • CONS
    • Stability problems. Not catastrophic, but the device may still hang a few times. Could it be temperature related?
    • Bluetooth not working.
    • Poor Wi-Fi performance.
    • Can’t install paid apps via Google Play.
    • Sometimes non-optimal user’s experience:
      1. Need to switch between XBMC and MX Player depending on video files
      2. Multiple input devices required, e.g. if you use an air mouse, you still need to access the IR remote to put the device into Standby.
      3. Bluetooth not available from default settings menu
      4. Only Chinese cities available for weather
    • H.265 not working smoothly (frames skipped). Probably not fixable (not supported by hardware, and GPGPU not supported by Mali-450)
    • DTS, Dolby, AC3 not supported by hardware, but software decoded in XBMC (Can’t be fixed, SoC related)

As with Vega S89, the firmware needs some work. The main problems are the stability of the firmware, and Wi-Fi performance is very poor. Bluetooth does not appear to be working properly either, at least with my phone. Compared to Vega S89, M8 however provides a better video playback experience without any audio/video sync issues, and the USB webcam could be used with both Skype and Google Hangouts. There’s the same need to jungle between XBMC, and MX Player depending on the video codecs or container formats used.

I’d like to thanks Shenzhen Tomata for providing a sample, and if you’re planning to buy M8 in quantity you could consider purchasing via the company Alibaba website. Individuals can purchase the box through Aliexpress, DealExtreme, or GeekBuying for about $100.

Review of Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite Amlogic S802 TV Box

April 12th, 2014 41 comments

Tronsmart Vega S89 is an Android TV Box based on Amlogic quad core Cortex A9 processor. You can refer to Tronsmart Vega S89 specs for more technical details, and checkout my Tronsmart Vega S89 Unboxing post for pictures of the device and the board. As a reminder there are two models of the device: Tronsmart Vega S89 with 16GB flash and dual band Wi-Fi (AP6330 module), and Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite with 8GB flash and 2.4 WiFi (AP6220 module). I’ve been sent the Elite version, but both version should have similar performance. I’ll start by giving my first impressions, going through the user interface and settings, then I’ll switch to video and audio tests, Wi-Fi performance, and perform some other tests for Bluetooth, gaming, external storage, USB webcam, etc.. trying to cover most of the hardware features available on this device.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Vega S89 (Elite) comes with an IR remote, but the two required AAA batteries are not included, so you’ll need to purchase some separately. As we’ll soon see the user interface has been designed to be used easily with an IR remote, but once you start using Android apps, you’ll probably want to use another input device. So I’ve also used the Mele F10 air mouse during testing. I’ve connected an Ethernet cable, the HDMI and AV cables, and Mele F10 USB RF dongle, and the power supply, before pressing the power button which is oddly located at the back of the device. The complete boot took 38 seconds, and loaded the Metro style user’s interface shown below.

Tronsmart Vega S89 Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

Tronsmart Vega S89 Home Screen (Click for Original Size)

On the top of the screen, we can see the network status, the weather in your locale (only Chinese cities are available in the settings), and the date and time. There are also six main menus: Online Video (YouTube, Netflix, and XBMC), My recommend (favorite apps), Setting, My Apps (all installed apps), Music, and Local. The last two are some apps to access/play local files with a not-so-slick interface that you are unlikely to use. There are smaller icons at the bottom, some shortcuts with the Browser, File manager, Gallery, 4K player, Google Play Store and XBMC by default. You can add and remove the ones you want as you wish. You can navigate this user interface with the remote arrow keys. For those of you who are not fond of 720p UIs, I’ve got good news, as both video output and UI are 1080p, and you can click the screenshot above to see it the real size.

The “Setting” menu gives you access to the settings shown in the same Metro-style with four sub menus: Network, Display, Advanced and Other.

Display Settings (Click for Original Size)

Display Settings (Click for Original Size)

When you first boot the device, there’s no network at all, so you need to go to the Network settings, and select whether Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and both are working just fine. In the display settings, it will detect the maximum resolution for your TV, 1080p60 in my case, and it’s supposed to support UHD / 4K output, but I don’t own a 4K TV to check this out. Other options allow you to hide or show the status bar, adjust the display position/size, and whether you want to use a screensaver. I’ve enabled the status bar, as I find it’s easier to navigate between apps and home screen with the Mele F10. The Advanced menu will let you start Miracast (Source only, not a display), enable the software Remote control (not tested, but you can download RemoteIME.apk on your smartphone or tablet), adjust CEC controls, set your location (unfortunately only Chinese cities are available),  set the screen orientation, and select digital audio output (PCM, SPDIF pass-through, HDMI pass-through). The Other button will give some details about the Android version (4.4.2), kernel version (3.10.10) and provides access to OTA System Update, which is not enabled. You can also access standard Android settings by going through Setting->Other->More Settings. The Android settings in this box are based on the phone interface, not the tablet one, which requires a few more clicks.

You can check the user’s interface and settings in the video below.

I’ve used HDMI output with 1080p during my testing, which was automatically detected as I started the device. If I switch to manual mode, I can also see 4K video output at 24, 25 and 30 Hz, and as well as 4K SMPTE. SMPTE stands for Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, but I’m not quite sure what it means in this context. There’s also an AV output, but there’s no option in the menu. If HDMI is not connected, it will simply switch to composite output, which worked as expected, including audio output. You can then choose between 480cvbs and 576cvbs. To switch back to HDMI, insert the HDMI cable. and restart the device.
Vega_S89_About_Mediaboxhe product comes with a 8 GB flash, and there’s well over 5GB free storage on the only partition found in the internal storage which should be plenty enough to install as many apps as you wish. The firmware is not rooted, and developer options are disabled in the firmware. I’ve written an Amlogic S802 root how-to that will root your device and enable dev options. Looking into the “About MediaBox” section shows the device name is  “VEGA S89″, and just like the custom settings section, it shows Android 4.4.2 is running on top of Kernel 3.10.10.

I could install most applications from Google Play Store including Facebook, ES File Explorer, Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Vellamo, Candy Crush Saga, etc… The only one that failed to show up in the list is Real Racing 3, but this one appears to have disappeared from most Android TV Boxes. Sixaxis Controller also failed to install returning an error in Google Play.

The power button on the device is used to power on and off the device. A short press is needed to start the device, but a long press (about 10 seconds) is required to turn it off. You can use the IR remote to enter and exit standby mode, but not powering off the device. There’s no soft power button, so these two are the only options to turn off the box. You can’t do that with a mouse, unless maybe you install some thrid party apps. I haven’t tried. I’ve also been asked to check power consumption, but I did not have the right connectors with me to use a multimeter or check with Charger Doctor. I’ve checked the temperature of the box after running Antutu benchmark. The top was 40 °C, the bottom 53 °C, with my room temperature around 28 °C.

The firmware is extremely stable, I’ve never experienced a crash and the system never hung. With a quad core Cortex A9 processor at 1.99 GHz, it’s also very smooth, and slowdowns are very rare. At one point, my brother entered my room, and I could hear a “wow” when he realized how fast switching between menus was in Angry Birds Star Wars.

Video Playback

XBMC 14 alpha is pre-installed in the device, so I’ve decided to test videos with XBMC, reverting to MX Player to check issues, and double check some features. As always, I’ve played videos from a SAMBA share. I had no problem for SAMBA configuration in XBMC nor ES File Explorer.

I started with the videos from samplemedia.linaro.org, and I added some Big Buck Bunny videos with H.265/HEVC codec from another source (Elecard):

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – Failed. Only shows “Click OK when playback has ended”.
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p OK, 1080p is very choppy. Most probably software decode.
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container, 360p/720p/1080p
    • XBMC – Audio only
    • MX Player – Can play and audio works, but everything is in slow motion with many frames skipped. The number of frame skips does not seem to be related to the resolution.

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – No video, audio only.
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – Video appears to be fine, but after a while I’ve noticed a massive 4 to 5 seconds audio sync issue
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Video is supported but some frames are skipped.

I still don’t own an audio system with HDMI or S/PDIF input, and if anybody have recommendation for a low cost system or way (around $100), that would allow me to test SPDIF and/or HDMI pass-through in future reviews, please please let me know. Anyway, I’ve still tested the audio codecs below, downsampled to PCM, in XBMC, and most worked perfectly:

  • AC3 – Can decode audio, but video was very slow
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

There’s HDMI and S/PDIF pass-through in the menu, and I’ve already reported Geekbuying tested HDMI pass-through with success (apparently) with most codecs. However, when I switched to MX Player to play these files, none of them had audio. That probably means DTS, Dolby and AC3 are not supported by the hardware, but XBMC can use software decoding.

I was not confident about this one, but I threw a Blu-ray ISO into the test, Sintel-Bluray.iso, a free Blu-ray ISO file, and it worked perfectly, it was also possible to switch between the eight chapters of the video. I did not have audio/video sync issues.

Amlogic S802 can support 4K video in theory. I tried with HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4, a 60 Mbps UHD video, and it failed in XBMC (audio only), but could play perfectly with MX Player from a SAMBA share over Ethernet. I also tried some HEVC / 4K videos, but they had the same frame skipped problems as  lower resolution videos.

Finally, I played some random AVI, MKV, FLV and MP4 videos. They could all play, but some AVI still had that massive audio/video sync issues, the audio being late by a few seconds.

Links to various video samples used in this review and be found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Wi-Fi Performance

The Wi-Fi test consists in transferring a 278 MB files between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa. I repeat the test three times. The first time I tried the transfer speed was catastrophic, sometimes running at up to 2MB/s, but most of the time hovering around 50KB/s, and in some cases even stalling, with the transfer taking 11 minutes and 30 seconds. I went outside, and came back 2 hours later, to repeat the test, and I was unable to reproduce the problem I had during the first test, so I discarded it, but this may be something to keep in mind. The transfer times averaged a decent 2:35 (1.79 MB/s), which bring Vega S89 in the upper middle of the field, with performance similar to MK908.

Tronsmart_Vega_S89_WiFIPlease bear in mind there are many factors when it comes to Wi-Fi performance, and the results you’ve got with your setup may be completely different than the ones I’ve gotten here.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Bluetooh is built-in in this Android TV Box, There’s no option in the custom setup, but you can enable Bluetooth in the Android setting. Vega S89 can detect my PC, but can’t find my phone (ThL W200). However, my phone could find and pair with Vega S89. The first time I transfered a file it got stuck at 29% and the transfer failed, but the second time was successful.

I’ve also installed Sixaxis Compatibility Checker to check if Sony PS3 Bluetooth Controllers, or clones, can work following these instructions. The drivers appear to be there, and I can pair my gamepad with the device, but the program segfaults when listening for controllers. I was unable to install the paid version “Sixaxis Controller” due to the error “Couldn’t install on USB storage or SD card” in Google Play.

External Storage

I could use both a micro SD and a USB flash drive formatted to FAT32 successfully.

USB Webcam

I could use a low cost no brand USB webcam with Skype. Video was OK, the “Echo Test” in Skype could record my voice using the webcam mic, and repeat my voice. I could not access the Video in Google Hangouts however.

Gaming

I’ve tested 3 games: Angry Birds Star Wars,  Candy Crush Saga, and Beach Buggy Blitz. The first two are rather easy games on the GPU, and run just fine on most hardware. I’ve configured Beach Buggy Blitz to maximum graphics settings, and it could still run smoothly. As with other Android TV boxes and sticks, there are caveats because of the input devices, and the first two games can be played with an Air mouse, but not the IR remote, and racing games are very difficult to play because you have to move the cursor from on side of the screen to the other to turn left and right. If Sixaxis controller works you can use a Bluetooth controller to play games, but it failed to install on this device. Another solution might be to use remote apps like such as Droidmote.

Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite (and Amlogic S802) Benchmarks

Before running the benchmark, I’ve gathered some details about this new processor and board with CPU-Z. It’s a quad core Cortex A9 r4p1 clocked between 24 MHz to 1.99 GHz, although I’ve never seen it at 24 MHz even at idle. Maybe this frequency is used in standby mode only. The GPU is also reported correctly as an ARM Mali-450.

CPU-Z_Amlogic_S802_Vega_S89

CPU-Z – Amlogic S802 in Tronsmart Vega S89 (Click to Enlarge)

The model is referred to as VEGA S89 (k200), with k200 possibly a reference design code from Amlogic. Pixel resolution is reported to be 1920 x 1008, and there’s mention of 1280 x 672 “dp” resolution, but I’m not sure what it means here. The device comes with 2GB RAM, but only 1578 MB is available to Android, the rest probably being used by, or reserved for the GPU, VPU, and some other hardware sub-systems. As mentioned previously there’s 5.75 GB flash available to the user from the 8GB NAND Flash.

Antutu 4.3.3 Score

Antutu 4.3.3 Score

I’ve installed Antutu from Google Play (Version 4.3.3) and the score I got was 22,603, which will be disappointing if you’ve read GeekBuying blog post showing a score of 30,000. I’ve been told I’m not the only one to get this score with this firmware, and the previous firmware was different. The factory tried with Antutu 4.4.1 and got 28,000 to 30,000. I’m not sure whether it’s a problem with Antutu (CPU in test is reported as 4x core @ 1104 MHz, instead of 1992 MHz on GeekBuying blog), or if it is an issue with the firmware itself. In any case, I’m pretty sure it will be fix in future firmware. You’ll also notice the GPU benchmark has not been run in full screen (607×1080), testing in portrait mode in the middle of my TV. It’s still much faster than the Antutu  score with Rockchip RK3188T @ 1.4 GHz in Beelink A9, especially with the 3D graphics test which is over 3 times faster (S802/Mali-450: 6800 @ 607×1080, RK3188T/Mali-400: 1960 @ 1280×672).

Vega S89 Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)

Vega S89 Quadrant Score (Click to Enlarge)

In Quadrant, Tronsmart Vega S89 is faster than HTC ONE X (Nvidia Tegra 3 @ 1.5 GHz), especially because of much better I/O performance.

The device gets 617 points with Vellamo Metal, and 1602 points in Vellamo HTML5, which is lower than the 859 / 1864 points found in GeekBuying review, so there might indeed be a performance issue with this firmware.

Nenamark2 is rendered at 60.2 fps which is the maximum framerate possible.

Conclusion

Tronsmart Vega S89 (Elite) has good performance, a stable firmware, but there are still quite a few issues that needs to be addressed to make it a better product.

Let’s summarize the PROS and CONS

  • PROS
    • Fast and stable firmware
    • Android 4.4 Kitkat
    • XBMC pre-installed
    • Blu-Ray ISO and 4K video playback
    • 1080p user interface
    • 4K video output up to 30 fps supported
    • Good Ethernet and decent Wi-Fi performance (N.B: Potential stability caveat with regards to Wi-Fi, TBC)
    • USB webcam works with Skype
    • HDMI CEC support
  • CONS
    • Sometimes non-optimal user’s experience:
      1. Need to switch between XBMC and MX Player depending on video files
      2. Multiple input devices required, e.g. if you use an air mouse, you still need to access the IR remote to turn the device off (Standby), and get up to press the power button.
      3. Bluetooth not available from default settings menu
      4. Only Chinese cities available for weather
    • Some video issues: Audio/video sync with some AVI and FLV files, H.265 not working smoothly (frames skipped), and
    • DTS, Dolby, AC3 not supported by hardware, but software decoded in XBMC (minor)
    • Current firmware does not seem to be fully optimized for performance based on Antutu, Quadrant, Vellamo benchmark results
    • USB webcam could not be used with Google Hangouts

The firmware clearly still needs some work, but I believe this is a good base, as it is very stable, and most issues can be fixed by updating the firmware. Tronsmart usually tries to fix major issues, and GeekBuying will most probably send samples to some members of Freaktab to make custom ROMs that many are fans of, so in time, firmware is likely to improve. One of the most annoying issue is the audio/video sync issue with some AVI files, so if you have many in your media library, these may not be watchable. The need to try a video in XBMC, and then switch to MX Player if it does not work is also annoying, but hopefully they’ll improve XBMC overtime.

You can purchase Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite for $105 and Tronsmart Vega S89 for $120 from Geekbuying, and Aliexpress. There’s a $6 coupon (YYTKMFIX) for Vega S89 Elite, and a $10 coupon (GSFJMTQF) can be used on GeekBuying until April 18. [Update: Tronsmart Vega S89 media players are now available on DX.com for $112.57 to $122.47].

Review of Beelink A9 RK3188 Android Media Player

January 20th, 2014 20 comments

Beelink A9 is an Android TV Box powered by Rockchip RK3188 SoC with 2GB RAM, and 8GB RAM (See full specs). The hardware is pretty standard, but the company released Android 4.4 SDK for the device, so when Beelink / Nexteon told me they wanted to send me one for review, I accepted. I won’t test the Android SDK today, but I’ll just show the pictures of the device, and run my usual series of tests for review. The shipped sample is not running Android 4.4 (beta), but Android 4.2.2.

Unboxing Pictures

I’ve received this Android media player in the no brand package below. I’m not sure if Beelink will sell directly to individuals, so you’ll likely to received some different if you order Tronsmart A928 or Zero Devices Z6C which are based on the same platform.
Beelink_A9_Package
There are quite a few accessories in the package: The box itself, a small IR remote, 2x USB OTG to USB adapters, 2x micro USB to USB cables, a long HDMI cable, a 5V/2A power supply, and a user’s manual in English and Chinese.

Beelink A9 and Accessories

Beelink A9 and Accessories

There’s no much to see from the front of the device except the power button, and the glossy cover which acts like a dust magnet…
Beelink_A9
The back and sides of the device are more interesting as this is where all the ports are.
Beelink_A9_ConnectorsFrom left to right, we’ve got the power jack, an audio jack, S/PDIF optical output, Ethernet, HDMI, one USB port, and a USB OTG port at the back, and two more USB port and a micro SD slot on the side.

You can watch the unboxing video below if you please.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

Let’s connect an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable, some input device (RF dongle for Mele F10 air mouse), and the power supply to get started. I haven’t use the IR remote during testing. It works OK, but as usual is not very practical with Android. Unlike most Android STB it won’t start automatically, and you need to press on the power button for at least one second to boot the device. A  dim blue light will lit the button, and you’ll almost immediately see Google TV logo on your TV, followed by the Android animation, and within just over 30 seconds, you’ll see the Android launcher.

Beelink A9 Android Home Screen / Launcher (Click for Original Size)

Beelink A9 Android Home Screen / Launcher (Click for Original Size)

I really link this launcher as it look nice, you can see a slideshow of your pictures at the top left, and music controls are easily accessible.  The only problem is that you won’t be able to add your own App to the home screen, and will have to click on Apps to find them.

Within seconds, another screen popped up, as the device supports automatic OTA update.

Beelink_A9_OTAI’m not sure there are many changes (same date), but I accept the upgrade anyway, and after two reboot it was complete.

Lets’ go through the settings menu. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet options are available for connectivity. I had no problem with Wi-Fi and Ethernet, but although Bluetooth is built-in, I was unable to enable Bluetooth at all. You can only use Wi-Fi or Ethernet at a time, not both.  There’s also the section for Data usage, as well as options to configure VPN, portable hotspot, and PPPoE, but I haven’t tried any of these.

The Display menu will let you select the wall paper, sleep time, and font size, and if you want to adjust your screen video output, you’ll need to go top the Screen section. There’s a menu to adjust overscan (Screen Scale),  an Output Interface selection with only HDMI, and HDMI mode to select 720×[email protected], 720×[email protected], 720p50, 720p60, 1080p50, or 1080p60. The UI itself is fixed to 1280×720 as usual.The “Sound Devices Manage” in the Sound section will be you select the following audio output: RK29_RT5631 (downsampling via HDMI), ROCKCHIP-SPDIF, RK29_RT5631 & ROCKCHIP-SPDIF, ROcKCHIP-SPDIF PASSTHROUGH, or RK29_RT5631 PASSTHROUGH. I still don’t have an home theather system so I did not test S/PDIF pass-through, but I’ve got a new HDTV that comes with its own SW media player, so I though HDMI pass-through might just work, but I had no audio at all after selecting RK29_RT5631 PASSTHROUGH. Not sure if this is the TV limitations, or Beelink A9 issue.

The device has 8GB of NAND flash, and the storage is partitioned so that apps get 1.97GB (1.37GB available), and there’s 3.95 GB for user’s data, the rest being used by the system. Developer options are visible and enabled by default, with lots of different options, and the firmware is already rooted. Looking into the “About device” section shows the device model number is  “A9″, and it’s running Android 4.2.2 with Linux kernel 3.0.36+.

I could install all applications I tried via Google Play including ES File Explorer, Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Candy Crush, Raging thunder 2,  etc… All Apps I tried could run just fine. The power buttons on the IR remote and the device itself, do not completely turn the unit off, but just put it into suspend mode.

Like with RK3188 based device, the firmware appears to be very stable, and  I did not experience a single crash or hand, and it’s run very smoothly.

Video Playback

XBMC Custom XAF is pre-installed with several add-ons (See pic) and the UI is rendered @ 60fps, but since this version of XBMC just calls MX Player, I’ve just used MX Player and ES File Explorer for video playback tests, since I find it more convenient. The videos used below were played from  a SAMBA share in Ubuntu 13.10 via the Ethernet port of the device.

I started with the videos from samplemedia.linaro.org:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – Do not play (like it’s loading forever)
  • WebM / VP8,  480p, 720p, 1080p – OK

High bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – OK most of the time, but in some fast moving scene the video is choppy, and the audio cuts. There was also a massive audio/video sync issue.
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – Mostly OK, but I did notice it buffered for a short while once in the middle of the video.
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK

The device could decode all high-end audio codecs, but Ethernet appears to be weak on the device, and some buffering and audio cuts happened:

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – Decoding OK, but very long buffering during playback (2s playback, 10s buffering repeatedly)
  • DTS-MA – Decoding OK, but some short (<1s) buffering occurred during video playback.
  • DTS-HR – OK

I used the default RK29_RT5631 mode (audio downmixing) to playback those files. SPDIF and HDMI pass-through are also supposed to  work in theory, but I don’t have the equipment to test it.

I also played some other videos in different containers AVI, MKV, VOB, FLV and they could all play just fine.  I could not notice any issues such as frame skipping. There was however one annoying issue when seeking while playing with MX Player just exiting.

So video and audio decoding performance is quite good, but it is limited by the mediocre performance of the Ethernet connection. Video @ 30Mbps will have trouble to play smoothly. Even ED_HD.avi @ 10Mbps could not play smoothly, but video are using VBR (Variable Bit Rate), and I don’t know how to check the real-time bitrate with Android players.

Wi-Fi Performance

I’ve then connected the device via Wi-Fi router to test Wi-Fi performance. I transferred a 278 MB video files between SAMBA and the internal flash and repeated the test three times. On average, the transfer took 2:33 (1.81 MB/s), which is one of the fastest Android device I’ve tested, and is close to what you’d get with MK908, but still far from CS868. Beelink A9 features AP6330 module, but is significantly faster than T428 with the same module.

Beelink_A9_Wi-Fi_performanceThese are the results for my setup, and yours may vary considerably.

Rochchip WiFiDisplay app (Miracast) is also installed, but also it detected my phone (ThL W200 / MT6589T) correctly, I was unable to use Miracast a my phone kept trying to connect.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

Built-in Bluetooth can not be enabled. External BT USB dongle us not recognized either.

External Storage

My USB flash drive was automatically recognized and mount, so I’d expect external USB hard drives to work too. I also inserted a microSD card in the device and it works fine.

USB Webcam

I tested two webcams. An old Logitech webcam was no recognized, but a noname webcam could be detected by the system.

Gaming

I’ve tested 3 games: Angry Birds Star Wars II Free, Candy Crush Saga, and Racing Thunder 2. They could all run fine, and be control with Mele F10 remote.  As usual, the IR remote control can not be used for games. Bluetooth is not working at all, so no luck with getting sixaxis to work either. If you like to play with DroidMote, /dev/uinput is present so it should work.

Beelink A9 Benchmarks

Beelink A9 being yet another RK3188 box, I was not expecting much from the benchmarks, but I was wrong, as I learned something new.

Beelink_A9_AntutuAndroid media players and mini PCs based on Rockchip RK3188 now get at least 17,000, and often 18,000 @ 1.6GHz without overclocking, but Beelink A9 only gets 15,356 points. A closer look show “CPU 1416Mhz (4x)”, so for some reasons the CPU clock has been set to 1.4 GHz instead 1.6 GHz.
Beelink_A9_QuadrantQuandrant results are also disappointing, and system information indicates the same 1.4 GHz frequency. What is going on? It tuns out, AndroidPC.es reported about RK3188-T this week-end, a low cost version of RK3188 that can be clocked at 1.4GHz, and you can get more information on Freaktab. Some manufacturers will just change RK3188 to  RK3188-T in their devices to save a few bucks, but the device will still be promoted as RK3188. To be honest, the performance difference is not really noticeable, but it’s a lie if they do so. That’s perfectly OK if the manufacturer clearly announces it’s using RK3188-T instead of RK3188. Radxa Rock is based on RK3188, but Radxa Rock Lite will probably feature RK3188-T instead. Anyway, it’s likely Beelink A9 uses RK3188-T, at least the sample I used, let’s open the box to find out.

Inside Beelink A9

Opening the device is very easy, as you just have to remove two screws, no plastic clips get in the way.
Beelink_A9_Board_with_Shield
There a large shield on top of the board, so I had to remove 5 more screw to disassemble the board from the bottom of the enclosure, and lift some pads to remove the shield.

Top of Beelink A9 Board

Top of Beelink A9 Board

On the top of the board, we’ll have all the connectors, four RAM chips, AP6330 Wi-Fi module, ITE IT66121FN HDMI transmitter, COTOP C1602NS for Ethernet, and a few others components. The Rockchip SoC is also there, but markings are not visible, so I can’t confirm it’s using RK3188-T, although benchmarks imply it does. The board name/version is Nexteon H86_V20_20131116.

Bottom of Beelink A9 Board

Bottom of Beelink A9 Board

On the other side, we’ve got 8 GB flash, and space for another 8GB chip, as well as serial pins (GND, Tx, RX)  at the top right close to the flat cable for the power button board.

Conclusion

The hardware and/or firmware still have some issues such as Bluetooth not working, and mediocre Ethernet performance, but apart from these two important issues, the firmware appears to be working nicely. Wi-Fi performance was very good for me, and most other features worked fine. It is currently unclear whether devices like Tronsmart A928 and Zero Devices Z6C will ship with Rockchip RK3188 or the slower RK3188-T at this stage, since both SoCs are pin-to-pin compatible.

Beelink A9 could be used as a development machine since the Android 4.4 SDK (beta) has been released, and UART pins and a USB OTG port are available, but I haven’t tried the SDK yet, and people who tried the MK908 version reported it could not boot. So for development, I’d probably prefer Radxa Rock development board, even though Android 4.4 is not available yet, as the source code is available in a git repo, and not only a tarball, and you can get developer’s support via Radxa google groups and IRC.

Tronsmart A928 running Android 4.2.2 is already available for $99.99 with a 2.4GHz air mouse, and Zero Devices Z6C will become available with a wireless game controller once Android 4.4 is stable enough.

Raxda Rock Development Board Unboxing, Quick Start Guide, and Benchmarks

January 13th, 2014 9 comments

Radxa Rock is an Android & Linux development board based on Rockchip RK3188 with 2GB RAM, 8GB NAND Flash, several I/Os that’s been available in beta version to a small number of developers in September 2013, with general availability starting at the very end of December 2013. Radxa team has sent me a board for me to try out. I’ll start with some unboxing pictures, write a Quick Start Guide for the first boot with Android 4.2.2, and run some benchmarks on the board. In another post, I’ll try some of the instructions to build Android and Ubuntu for the platform.

Radxa Rock Unboxing Pictures & Video

I’ve received the board in the following package via Fedex.

Radxa_Rock_PackageBeside the board, we’ve got a Wi-Fi antenna, a USB power cable, and a plastic casing.

Radxa Rock Package Content

Radxa Rock Package Content

Checkout Radxa Rock unboxing video below, if you want to find out exactly what’s you get when you receive the board.

Let’s have a closer look at the board.

Top of Radxa Rock Board (Click to Enlarge)

Top of Radxa Rock Board (Click to Enlarge)

The top of the board gets most of the interesting bits. From the bottom right, clockwise: power button, microphone, micro USB OTG port, IR receiver, UART header for serial console, micro SD card, 2x USB 2.0 ports, recovery button, 40 pin “GPIO” header, battery slot, Wi-Fi antenna connector, 10/100M Ethernet port, HDMI output, S/PDIF optical output, AV out, power jack, another 40-pin header, and the reset switch.

Bottom of Radxa Rock Board (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of Radxa Rock Board (Click to Enlarge)

On the back of the board, we’ve got the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module (Realtek RTL8723AS), two more RAM chips, as well as the name of all 80 header pins on the silkscreen of the board, which can be convenient.

Radxa Rock Case Assembly

Radxa Rock comes with a plastic case that you have to assemble. It does not look the best, but it’s functional, and both easy to assemble and disassemble. Start by inserting two sides (length) into the base, place the board in the case, add the cover, and finish the assembly by adding the two other sides (width). You’ll also want to add the Wi-Fi antenna, if you plan to use Wi-Fi. At no point you need to force during assembly or disassembly, so it’s unlikely you’ll break the enclosure.

Radxa Rock Enclosure

Radxa Rock Enclosure

The box has been designed so that you can access all ports, including the two 40-pin expansion headers, and the UART header. The two USB ports are a little deep inside though, so I’m not sure if it will work with all USB peripherals, and you’ll have to insert the microSD card before assembly, or using a small tool, e.g. toothpick, to push the card.

[Update: To see how the casing is assembled as well unboxing and first boot, you can also watch that video]

Quick Start Guide for Radxa Rock

I’ve connected an HDMI cable to a TV, an Ethernet cable to a hub, a serial debug board for console access, a USB RF dongle for Mele F10 air mouse, and I used Tronsmart T428 (5V/2A) power adapter for power.

Radxa_Board_ConnectionThe power starts immediately, i.e. there’s no need to press the power button, which is only used to turn off the board, and during boot you’ll see 4 Linux penguins (Tux), an animated “radxa” logo, and after just over 30 seconds you’ll get to the Android Home screen. I’ve tried to take a few screenshots by installing trial versions of apps such as Screenshot IT and Screenshot UX, but the board would just lose display output while taking screenshots, and I’d just see “No signal” message from my TV, requiring a press of the reset button.

Radxa Rock Android Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

Radxa Rock Android Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

I could see the kernel messages from the serial console, but for some reasons I was not able to input anything in minicom. This is probably not an issue with Radxa board, as I’ve add this issue randomly with other devices too.

Here’s the boot log for reference:

DDR Version 1.04 20130517
In
DDR3
300MHz
Bus Width=32 Col=10 Bank=8 Row=15 CS=2 Die Bus-Width=16 Size=2048MB
Memory OK
OUT
BUILD=====5
F:32 1061 2 0 40
GetRemapTbl flag = 0
OK! 51786
unsigned!
SecureBootEn = 0 0
Boot ver: 2013-06-20#1.24
start_linux=====63508
2292032 Starting kernel…@0x60408000[    0.000000] Initializing cgroup subsys cpu
[    0.000000] Linux version 3.0.36+ ([email protected]) (gcc version 4.6.x-google 20120103
[    0.000000] CPU: ARMv7 Processor [413fc090] revision 0 (ARMv7), cr=10c5387d
[    0.000000] CPU: VIPT nonaliasing data cache, VIPT aliasing instruction cache
[    0.000000] Machine: RK30board
[    0.000000] memory reserve: Memory(base:0x8f000000 size:120M) reserved for <>
[    0.000000] memory reserve: Memory(base:0x8e500000 size:11M) reserved for <f>
[    0.000000] memory reserve: Memory(base:0x8dd00000 size:8M) reserved for <ca>
[    0.000000] memory reserve: Total reserved 139M
[    0.000000] Memory policy: ECC disabled, Data cache writeback
[    0.000000] bootconsole [earlycon0] enabled
[    0.000000] CPU SRAM: copied sram code from c0b55000 to fef00100 – fef02198
[    0.000000] CPU SRAM: copied sram data from c0b57098 to fef02198 – fef0291c
[    0.000000] sram_log:      4q ?&     :     4q ?)     !?, # 0q    *!  ! 3q
[    0.000000] CLKDATA_MSG: pll_flag = 0x00
[    0.000000] CLKDATA_ERR:     can’t get a available nume and deno
[    0.000000] CLKDATA_ERR:     clk_frac_div can’t get rate=48000000,uart0_fracv
[    0.000000] L310 cache controller enabled
[    0.000000] l2x0: 16 ways, CACHE_ID 0x4100c0c8, AUX_CTRL 0x76050001, Cache sB
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: version 1.00 20130712
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: DDR3 Device
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: Bus Width=32 Col=10 Bank=8 Row=15 CS=2 Total CapabiliB
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: init success!!! freq=300MHz
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: DTONE=0x3, DTERR=0x0, DTIERR=0x0, DTPASS=0x23, DGSL=10
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: DTONE=0x3, DTERR=0x0, DTIERR=0x0, DTPASS=0x24, DGSL=10
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: DTONE=0x3, DTERR=0x0, DTIERR=0x0, DTPASS=0x24, DGSL=10
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: DTONE=0x3, DTERR=0x0, DTIERR=0x0, DTPASS=0x24, DGSL=00
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: ZERR=0, ZDONE=0, ZPD=0x0, ZPU=0x0, OPD=0x0, OPU=0x0
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: DRV Pull-Up=0xb, DRV Pull-Dwn=0xb
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: ODT Pull-Up=0x2, ODT Pull-Dwn=0x2
[    0.000000] PERCPU: Embedded 7 pages/cpu @c313f000 s6976 r8192 d13504 u32768
[    0.000000] Built 1 zonelists in Zone order, mobility grouping on.  Total pa8
[    0.000000] Kernel command line: console=ttyFIQ0 console=tty0 androidboot.co2
[    0.000000] PID hash table entries: 4096 (order: 2, 16384 bytes)
[    0.000000] Dentry cache hash table entries: 131072 (order: 7, 524288 bytes)
[    0.000000] Inode-cache hash table entries: 65536 (order: 6, 262144 bytes)
[    0.000000] Memory: 733MB 1176MB = 1909MB total
[    0.000000] Memory: 1917812k/1917812k available, 179340k reserved, 1204224K m
[    0.000000] Virtual kernel memory layout:
[    0.000000]     vector  : 0xffff0000 – 0xffff1000   (   4 kB)
[    0.000000]     fixmap  : 0xfff00000 – 0xfffe0000   ( 896 kB)
[    0.000000]     DMA     : 0xff600000 – 0xffe00000   (   8 MB)
[    0.000000]     vmalloc : 0xf7000000 – 0xfe800000   ( 120 MB)
[    0.000000]     lowmem  : 0xc0000000 – 0xf6800000   ( 872 MB)
[    0.000000]     pkmap   : 0xbfe00000 – 0xc0000000   (   2 MB)
[    0.000000]     modules : 0xbf000000 – 0xbfe00000   (  14 MB)
[    0.000000]       .init : 0xc0408000 – 0xc0434000   ( 176 kB)
[    0.000000]       .text : 0xc0434000 – 0xc0ae17f4   (6838 kB)
[    0.000000]       .data : 0xc0ae2000 – 0xc0b546a8   ( 458 kB)
[    0.000000]        .bss : 0xc0b58024 – 0xc15fdc58   (10904 kB)
[    0.000000] SLUB: Genslabs=13, HWalign=32, Order=0-3, MinObjects=0, CPUs=4, 1
[    0.000000] Preemptible hierarchical RCU implementation.
[    0.000000] NR_IRQS:352
[    0.000000] rk30_gpio_init: 128 gpio irqs in 4 banks
[    0.000000] sched_clock: 32 bits at 24MHz, resolution 41ns, wraps every 1789s
[    0.000000] rk_timer: version 1.2
[    0.000000] Console: colour dummy device 80×30
[    0.000000] console [tty0] enabled, bootconsole disabled
<hit enter to activate fiq debugger>
[    0.000000] Initializing cgroup subsys cpu
[    0.000000] Linux version 3.0.36+ ([email protected]) (gcc version 4.6.x-google 20120103
[    0.000000] CPU: ARMv7 Processor [413fc090] revision 0 (ARMv7), cr=10c5387d
[    0.000000] CPU: VIPT nonaliasing data cache, VIPT aliasing instruction cache
[    0.000000] Machine: RK30board
[    0.000000] memory reserve: Memory(base:0x8f000000 size:120M) reserved for <>
[    0.000000] memory reserve: Memory(base:0x8e500000 size:11M) reserved for <f>
[    0.000000] memory reserve: Memory(base:0x8dd00000 size:8M) reserved for <ca>
[    0.000000] memory reserve: Total reserved 139M
[    0.000000] Memory policy: ECC disabled, Data cache writeback
[    0.000000] bootconsole [earlycon0] enabled
[    0.000000] CPU SRAM: copied sram code from c0b55000 to fef00100 – fef02198
[    0.000000] CPU SRAM: copied sram data from c0b57098 to fef02198 – fef0291c
[    0.000000] sram_log:      4q ?&     :     4q ?)     !?, # 0q    *!  ! 3q
[    0.000000] CLKDATA_MSG: pll_flag = 0x00
[    0.000000] CLKDATA_ERR:     can’t get a available nume and deno
[    0.000000] CLKDATA_ERR:     clk_frac_div can’t get rate=48000000,uart0_fracv
[    0.000000] L310 cache controller enabled
[    0.000000] l2x0: 16 ways, CACHE_ID 0x4100c0c8, AUX_CTRL 0x76050001, Cache sB
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: version 1.00 20130712
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: DDR3 Device
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: Bus Width=32 Col=10 Bank=8 Row=15 CS=2 Total CapabiliB
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: init success!!! freq=300MHz
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: DTONE=0x3, DTERR=0x0, DTIERR=0x0, DTPASS=0x23, DGSL=10
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: DTONE=0x3, DTERR=0x0, DTIERR=0x0, DTPASS=0x24, DGSL=10
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: DTONE=0x3, DTERR=0x0, DTIERR=0x0, DTPASS=0x24, DGSL=10
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: DTONE=0x3, DTERR=0x0, DTIERR=0x0, DTPASS=0x24, DGSL=00
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: ZERR=0, ZDONE=0, ZPD=0x0, ZPU=0x0, OPD=0x0, OPU=0x0
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: DRV Pull-Up=0xb, DRV Pull-Dwn=0xb
[    0.000000] DDR DEBUG: ODT Pull-Up=0x2, ODT Pull-Dwn=0x2
[    0.000000] PERCPU: Embedded 7 pages/cpu @c313f000 s6976 r8192 d13504 u32768
[    0.000000] Built 1 zonelists in Zone order, mobility grouping on.  Total pa8
[    0.000000] Kernel command line: console=ttyFIQ0 console=tty0 androidboot.co2
[    0.000000] PID hash table entries: 4096 (order: 2, 16384 bytes)
[    0.000000] Dentry cache hash table entries: 131072 (order: 7, 524288 bytes)
[    0.000000] Inode-cache hash table entries: 65536 (order: 6, 262144 bytes)
[    0.000000] Memory: 733MB 1176MB = 1909MB total
[    0.000000] Memory: 1917812k/1917812k available, 179340k reserved, 1204224K m
[    0.000000] Virtual kernel memory layout:
[    0.000000]     vector  : 0xffff0000 – 0xffff1000   (   4 kB)
[    0.000000]     fixmap  : 0xfff00000 – 0xfffe0000   ( 896 kB)
[    0.000000]     DMA     : 0xff600000 – 0xffe00000   (   8 MB)
[    0.000000]     vmalloc : 0xf7000000 – 0xfe800000   ( 120 MB)
[    0.000000]     lowmem  : 0xc0000000 – 0xf6800000   ( 872 MB)
[    0.000000]     pkmap   : 0xbfe00000 – 0xc0000000   (   2 MB)
[    0.000000]     modules : 0xbf000000 – 0xbfe00000   (  14 MB)
[    0.000000]       .init : 0xc0408000 – 0xc0434000   ( 176 kB)
[    0.000000]       .text : 0xc0434000 – 0xc0ae17f4   (6838 kB)
[    0.000000]       .data : 0xc0ae2000 – 0xc0b546a8   ( 458 kB)
[    0.000000]        .bss : 0xc0b58024 – 0xc15fdc58   (10904 kB)
[    0.000000] SLUB: Genslabs=13, HWalign=32, Order=0-3, MinObjects=0, CPUs=4, 1
[    0.000000] Preemptible hierarchical RCU implementation.
[    0.000000] NR_IRQS:352
[    0.000000] rk30_gpio_init: 128 gpio irqs in 4 banks
[    0.000000] sched_clock: 32 bits at 24MHz, resolution 41ns, wraps every 1789s
[    0.000000] rk_timer: version 1.2
[    0.000000] Console: colour dummy device 80×30
[    0.000000] console [tty0] enabled, bootconsole disabled
[    0.014180] Calibrating delay loop (skipped) preset value.. 1631.46 BogoMIPS)
[    0.014209] pid_max: default: 32768 minimum: 301
[    0.014399] Mount-cache hash table entries: 512
[    0.014909] Initializing cgroup subsys debug
[    0.014931] Initializing cgroup subsys cpuacct
[    0.014970] Initializing cgroup subsys freezer
[    0.015003] CPU: Testing write buffer coherency: ok
[    0.095826] CPU1: Booted secondary processor
[    0.135818] CPU2: Booted secondary processor
[    0.175818] CPU3: Booted secondary processor
[    0.175847] Brought up 4 CPUs
[    0.175884] SMP: Total of 4 processors activated (6525.87 BogoMIPS).
[    0.176217] devtmpfs: initialized
[    0.182178] NET: Registered protocol family 16
[    0.182279] last_log: 0xed900000 map to 0xf7004000 and copy to 0xc0b5c1a0 (v)
[    0.196766] DVFS MSG:        AVS Value(index=0): 114 114 114 114 114 114 114
[    0.315475] lcdc0 is used as external display device contoller!
[    0.315518] lcdc1 is used as primary display device controller!
[    0.415786] rk29sdk_wifi_bt_gpio_control_init: init finished
[    0.419594] console [ttyFIQ0] enabled
[    0.419741] Registered FIQ tty driver ed83dcc0
[    0.926124] bio: create slab <bio-0> at 0
[    0.930527] SCSI subsystem initialized
[    0.930738] usbcore: registered new interface driver usbfs
[    0.930864] usbcore: registered new interface driver hub
[    0.945115] usbcore: registered new device driver usb
[    0.945385] rk30_i2c rk30_i2c.0: i2c-0: RK30 I2C adapter
[    0.945651] rk30_i2c rk30_i2c.1: i2c-1: RK30 I2C adapter
[    0.945846] rk30_i2c rk30_i2c.2: i2c-2: RK30 I2C adapter
[    0.946007] rk30_i2c rk30_i2c.3: i2c-3: RK30 I2C adapter
[    0.946309] rk30_i2c rk30_i2c.4: i2c-4: RK30 I2C adapter
[    0.976723] rk30-adc rk30-adc: rk30 adc: driver initialized
[    0.977019] Advanced Linux Sound Architecture Driver Version 1.0.24.
[    0.977470] Bluetooth: Core ver 2.16
[    0.977551] NET: Registered protocol family 31
[    0.977603] Bluetooth: HCI device and connection manager initialized
[    0.977672] Bluetooth: HCI socket layer initialized
[    0.977724] Bluetooth: L2CAP socket layer initialized
[    0.977790] Bluetooth: SCO socket layer initialized
[    0.978862] rk fb probe ok!
[    0.983665] act8846_set_init,line=17
[    0.983713] act8846_set_init:g_pmic_type=3
[    0.985507] act8846_set_init  act_dcdc1 =1200000mV end
[    0.987393] act8846_set_init  vdd_core =1000000mV end
[    0.989276] act8846_set_init  vdd_cpu =1000000mV end
[    0.991157] act8846_set_init  act_dcdc4 =3300000mV end
[    0.992410] act8846_set_init  act_ldo1 =1000000mV end
[    0.994191] act8846_set_init  act_ldo2 =1200000mV end
[    0.995973] act8846_set_init  act_ldo3 =1800000mV end
[    0.997757] act8846_set_init  act_ldo4 =3300000mV end
[    0.999539] act8846_set_init  act_ldo5 =3300000mV end
[    1.001319] act8846_set_init  act_ldo6 =1800000mV end
[    1.002470] act8846_set_init  act_ldo7 =1800000mV end
[    1.004252] act8846_set_init  act_ldo8 =2800000mV end
[    1.004314] act8846_set_init,line=78 END
[    1.004392] i2c-core: driver [act8846] using legacy suspend method
[    1.004457] i2c-core: driver [act8846] using legacy resume method
[    1.004555] rk1000_control_probe
[    1.029546] rk1000_control_probe ok
[    1.029641] Switching to clocksource rk_timer
[    1.035218] Switched to NOHz mode on CPU #0
[    1.035856] Switched to NOHz mode on CPU #2
[    1.035870] Switched to NOHz mode on CPU #3
[    1.035883] Switched to NOHz mode on CPU #1
[    1.036495] lcdc1:reg_phy_base = 0x1010e000,reg_vir_base:0xf709c000
[    1.036607] fb0:win0
[    1.036612] fb1:win1
[    1.036617] fb2:win2
[    1.036733] rk3188 lcdc1 clk enable…
[    1.036795] rk3188 lcdc1 clk disable…
[    1.064043] fb0:phy:8e500000>>vir:f8000000>>len:0xb00000
[    1.064314] rk_fb_register>>>>>fb0
[    1.064640] rk_fb_register>>>>>fb1
[    1.065084] rk3188 lcdc1 probe ok!
[    1.065152] lcdc0:reg_phy_base = 0x1010c000,reg_vir_base:0xf70a8000
[    1.065238] fb0:win0
[    1.065243] fb1:win1
[    1.065247] fb2:win2
[    1.065360] rk3188 lcdc0 clk enable…
[    1.065413] rk3188 lcdc0 clk disable…
[    1.065460] fb2:phy:8e500000>>vir:f8000000>>len:0xb00000
[    1.065681] rk_fb_register>>>>>fb2
[    1.065954] rk_fb_register>>>>>fb3
[    1.065999] rk3188 lcdc0 probe ok!
[    1.127986] IT66121 probe success.
[    1.137628] cfg80211: Calling CRDA to update world regulatory domain
[    1.213553] NET: Registered protocol family 2
[    1.213716] IP route cache hash table entries: 32768 (order: 5, 131072 bytes)
[    1.214161] TCP established hash table entries: 131072 (order: 8, 1048576 by)
[    1.216127] TCP bind hash table entries: 65536 (order: 7, 786432 bytes)
[    1.217323] TCP: Hash tables configured (established 131072 bind 65536)
[    1.217393] TCP reno registered
[    1.217436] UDP hash table entries: 512 (order: 2, 16384 bytes)
[    1.217523] UDP-Lite hash table entries: 512 (order: 2, 16384 bytes)
[    1.217892] NET: Registered protocol family 1
[    1.218165] RK29 Backlight Driver Initialized.
[    1.218392] Unpacking initramfs…
[    1.276438] [EDID] check header error
[    1.276503] (NULL device *): [HDMI] parse edid base block error
[    1.276585] (NULL device *): warning: EDID error, assume sink as HDMI !!!!
[    1.276652] (NULL device *): warning: no CEA video mode parsed from EDID !!!*
[    1.276765] Support video mode:
[    1.276801]  [email protected]
[    1.276835]  [email protected]
[    1.276868]  [email protected]
[    1.276900]  [email protected]
[    1.276931]  [email protected]
[    1.276962]  [email protected]
[    1.276993] ******** Show Sink Info ********
[    1.277061] rk3188 lcdc1 clk enable…
[    1.277114] lcdc1: dclk:74250000>>fps:60
[    1.277159] rk30-lcdc rk30-lcdc.1: rk3188_load_screen for lcdc1 ok!
[    1.277231] lcdc1: dclk:74250000>>fps:60
[    1.277273] rk30-lcdc rk30-lcdc.1: rk3188_load_screen for lcdc1 ok!
[    1.277341] lcdc1 wakeup from standby!
[    1.277383] lcdc1 win0 open,atv layer:1
[    1.282616] Freeing initrd memory: 1216K
[    1.282733] PMU: registered new PMU device of type 0
[    1.282912] DVFS MSG: core: dvfs_adjust_table_lmtvolt get leakage_level = 3
[    1.282989] DVFS MSG: aclk_gpu: dvfs_adjust_table_lmtvolt get leakage_level 3
[    1.382349] rk3188 cpufreq version 2.1, suspend freq 816 MHz
[    1.382969] Loaded driver for PL330 DMAC-1 rk29-pl330
[    1.383031]  DBUFF-32x8bytes Num_Chans-6 Num_Peri-12 Num_Events-12
[    1.383252] Loaded driver for PL330 DMAC-2 rk29-pl330
[    1.383315]  DBUFF-64x8bytes Num_Chans-7 Num_Peri-20 Num_Events-14
[    1.410619] highmem bounce pool size: 64 pages
[    1.410832] ashmem: initialized
[    1.420066] fuse init (API version 7.16)
[    1.424803] Block layer SCSI generic (bsg) driver version 0.4 loaded (major )
[    1.424886] io scheduler noop registered
[    1.424933] io scheduler deadline registered
[    1.425015] io scheduler cfq registered (default)
[    1.445254] rga: Driver loaded succesfully
[    1.445378] rk3188 lcdc0 clk enable…
[    1.445428] lcdc0: dclk:74250000>>fps:60
[    1.445469] rk30-lcdc rk30-lcdc.0: rk3188_load_screen for lcdc0 ok!
[    1.445958] lcdc0: dclk:27000000>>fps:60
[    1.448266] rk30-lcdc rk30-lcdc.0: rk3188_load_screen for lcdc0 ok!
[    1.448333] lcdc0: dclk:27000000>>fps:60
[    1.450644] rk30-lcdc rk30-lcdc.0: rk3188_load_screen for lcdc0 ok!
[    1.450707] lcdc0 wakeup from standby!
[    1.450746] lcdc0 win0 open,atv layer:1
[    1.450794] rk1000_tv ver 2.0 probe ok
[    1.451033] rk_serial.c v1.3 2012-12-14
[    1.451316] rk_serial rk_serial.0: dma_rx_buffer 0xffdfc000
[    1.451373] rk_serial rk_serial.0: dma_rx_phy 0x8c956000
[    1.451431] rk_serial rk_serial.0: serial_rk_init_dma_rx sucess
[    1.451491] rk_serial.0: ttyS0 at MMIO 0x10124000 (irq = 66) is a rk29_seria0
[    1.629797] rk_serial rk_serial.0: membase 0xf70c0000
[    1.630036] rk_serial.3: ttyS3 at MMIO 0x20068000 (irq = 69) is a rk29_seria3
[    1.789791] rk_serial rk_serial.3: membase 0xf70c8000
[    1.790825] Rockchip ion module(version: 1.0) is successfully loaded
[    1.797301] loop: module loaded
[    1.797447] Android kernel panic handler initialized (bind=kpanic)
[    2.800542] rk29 vmac rk29 vmac.0: ARC VMAC at 0x10204000 irq 51 62:5f:65:2cd
[    2.800639] PPP generic driver version 2.4.2
[    2.800783] PPP Deflate Compression module registered
[    2.800825] PPP BSD Compression module registered
[    2.822530] PPP MPPE Compression module registered
[    2.822581] NET: Registered protocol family 24
[    2.822672] usbcore: registered new interface driver asix
[    2.822744] usbcore: registered new interface driver cdc_ether
[    2.822808] usbcore: registered new interface driver dm9620
[    2.822870] usbcore: registered new interface driver SR9700_android
[    2.822934] usbcore: registered new interface driver net1080
[    2.822997] usbcore: registered new interface driver cdc_subset
[    2.823060] usbcore: registered new interface driver zaurus
[    2.823111] cdc_ncm: 04-Aug-2011
[    2.823155] usbcore: registered new interface driver cdc_ncm
[    2.823199] Rockchip WiFi SYS interface (V1.00) …
[    2.823261] Initializing USB Mass Storage driver…
[    2.823326] usbcore: registered new interface driver usb-storage
[    2.823375] USB Mass Storage support registered.
[    2.823475] usbcore: registered new interface driver usbserial
[    2.823537] USB Serial support registered for generic
[    2.823599] usbcore: registered new interface driver usbserial_generic
[    2.823649] usbserial: USB Serial Driver core
[    2.823698] USB Serial support registered for GSM modem (1-port)
[    2.823769] usbcore: registered new interface driver option
[    2.823812] option: v0.7.2:USB Driver for GSM modems
[    3.035845] DWC_OTG: ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Device Mfie
] usug0_otg usb20_otg: DWC OTG Controller
[    3.036009] usb20_otg usb20_otg: new USB bus registered, assigned bus number1
[    3.036095] usb20_otg usb20_otg: irq 48, io mem 0x00000000
[    3.036141] DWC_OTG: dwc_otg_hcd_start controller in device mode,everest
[    3.036228] usb usb1: New USB device found, idVendor=1d6b, idProduct=0002
[    3.036285] usb usb1: New USB device strings: Mfr=3, Product=2, SerialNumber1
[    3.036344] usb usb1: Product: DWC OTG Controller
[    3.036383] usb usb1: Manufacturer: Linux 3.0.36+ dwc_otg_hcd
[    3.036428] usb usb1: SerialNumber: usb20_otg
[    3.036728] hub 1-0:1.0: USB hub found
[    3.036771] hub 1-0:1.0: 1 port detected

Since I needed to access the command line to try to capture the screen, and I could not type into the serial console I used adb instead. In Linux (Ubuntu 13.10) you need to edit two files, and add one line to each:

  • ~/.android/adb_usb.ini – add 0x2207 at the end
  • /etc/udev/rules.d/51-android.rules – add the following line:

Then you can run adb devices to make sure adb finds the board:

If the adb daemon was already running before you changed the files, you should run adb kill-server first.

Radxa Rock Benchmark

I’ll just run two benchmark: Antutu and Quadrant, to see how fast the current firmware runs on the board.

Radxa_Rock_AntutuThe board gets nearly 18,000 in Antutu 4 which is consistent with other RK3188 devices.

The score in Quadrant (5464) is also fine for a RK3188 based board.

You can find more information about Radxa Rock, and its little brother Radxa Rock Lite, on radxa.com, and if interested, purchase the board for $99 + shipping via Miniand, Seeedstudio or Aliexpress.

Jynxbox M6 Android TV Box Review

December 20th, 2013 10 comments

I’ve shown some unboxing pictures and video of Jynxbox Android M6 earlier this week, and today I’ll write a review of this AMLogic AML8726-M6 dual core Android media player. I’ll start with my first impressions, go through the different settings, test video playback, wi-fi performance, and reports about different miscalleous tests: Bluetooth, USB mass storage, USB webcam, etc…

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

First, you’ll need to insert the provided AAA batteries in to the remote control. Opening the remote is a bit tricker than I would like as the cover does not come off that easily. Before powering up the device, I’ve connected the provided HDMI cable between the device and my HDTV, and an Ethernet cable to my hub. The first Ethernet cable would not click with in the device RJ45 connector, although it works with my laptop and other devices, but using another one worked just fine. Connecting the power adapter will boot the device immediately (no power button on the device), we’ll quickly see an Android logo, and after a few more seconds we’ll get the home screen shown below.

Jynxbox Android M6 Home Screen

Jynxbox Android M6 Home Screen (Click to Enlarge)

This launcher will provide access to Google Play store, the stock Android web browser, a file manager, a MediaCenter (not tested), the Facebook app, and XBMC Frodo 12.2. The top menu gives access to the Media Player section (3 apps for Picture, Music, and Video), Online Media (YouTube pre-installed only), Games (Angry Bird pre-installed only), the list of all Apps, and Settings.

There’s no direct way, or I haven’t found any, to switch to the stock Android home screen, but since the device comes with an IR remote, this type of interface is better to use. XBMC is also well suited to IR remote. However, if you’re going to use other part of Android, and for user input, it’s much better to get an RF remote / air mouse such. as . That’s exactly what I’ve done for the first time setup, by connecting a Mele F10 air mouse. For the rest of the review, mainly XBMC, I’ve used the IR remote, and it’s doing a good job there.

Lets’ go through the settings menu, which looks the same as other AMLogic based Android TV boxes I’ve tried.

You’ll have options to configure Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet for connectivity. Bluetooth is not built-in, but I’ve added a Bluetooth USB dongle, and it was properly recognized. You can only use Wi-Fi or Ethernet at a time, not both. I’ve found that enabling Ethernet will stop Wi-Fi,m and vice versa, which is fine by me. There are also options to configure VPN, portable hotspot, and mobile networks, but I haven’t tried any of these.

Jynxbox_Android_M6_About_deviceThe display menu will let you choose different video output resolution (480p/i, 576p/i, 720p50, 720p60, 1080i50, 1080i60, or 1080p60), as well as CVBS/YUV output modes. The default resolution is set to 720p60. CVBS (composite) worked pretty well considering the resolution, but make sure you change the font size to HUGE to read anything clearly. YUV (component) output would only show in gray even after trying several combinations, as if only the luminance signal was available. Having said that, it’s unlikely you’d use component output with this player, as there’s no SPDIF output, so you’d get no audio, unless your audio systems accept HDMI in. There’s also submenu to adjust the screen position in order to compensate for over/under scan. The audio settings will let you choose between PCM (downsampling), SPDIF out, or HDMI pass-through.

Jynxbox M6 has a 4GB flash, and the storage is partitioned so that apps get 1.29GB (258MB used), the internal SD card 894 MB, the rest being used by the system. Developer Options are already visible with lots of different options available, but not enabled by default. Finally, looking into the “About device” section shows the device name is  “Jynxbox M6”, and it’s running Android 4.1.2 with Kernel 3.0.8.

The firmware comes already rooted. I could install all applications I tried including ES File Explorer, Root checker, Antutu, Quadrant, Vellamo Candy Crush, Raging thunder 2, Sixaxis Controller, etc… All apps I tried could run just fine with the exception of Antutu which failed to run the 3D benchmark. The power button on the remote control, just put the device in suspend mode, and does not completely turn it off.

The firmware appears to be very stable, and  I did not experience a single crash or hand, and it’s rather smooth considering it’s a dual core media player. You can have a look at the demo below showing the custom launcher / interface, a settings walked through, and a test of XBMC to show the add-ons and hardware accelerated video playback. An interesting point is that XBMC comes with several add-ons pre-installed including Navi-X, Xunity Maintenance, Pandora, Simply Movies, etc.. These give you access to TV shows, movies, music, in more or less legal ways…

Video Playback in XBMC

XBMC is very much a key selling point of the device, as it’s even a large part of the home screen, so I’ve used XBMC directly to play videos from SAMBA shares, just like I did with the GBox Midnight MX2. XBMC is rather smooth being rendered at about 35 to 40 fps @ 1280×720 resolution. The MX2 was a bit smoother at 50 fps.

I started with the videos from samplemedia.linaro.org:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – Do not play
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p OK, 720p seems like slow motion at time, 1080p is very slow with plenty of audio cuts. This is probably due to software decoding for this codec.

Since I’ve connected the device via Ethernet, I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – Black screen audio only.
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK, but with some artifacts at the very beginning.

The box passed all high-end audio codec tests with flying colors:

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

Please note that I used PCM mode (audio downmixing) to playback those files, but HDMI pass-through should work as well, as long as if your TV or home theater system supports it. Some videos were a bit choppy however, due to high bitrate, but since this particular section of the video test aims at testing audio support, I ticked OK. [Update: The TrueHD 5.1 video had some audio cuts during video playback from the network. I also tried all videos from a USB drive, and they could all play.]

I ended the video test by playing several videos and movies using AVI, MKV, VOB, FLV… container formats. They could all play just fine, and I could not notice any issues such as audio/video sync issues or frame skipping, which have happened on other platforms.

Wi-Fi Performance

Time to disable Ethernet and connect to my Wi-Fi router to test Wi-Fi performance. As usual, I transferred a 278 MB video files between SAMBA and the internal flash. I repeated the test three times, and on average it took 3:28 (1.33 MB/s), which is not particularly fast compared to other android TV boxes and mini PCs, but still fast than G-Box Midnight MX2.

Jynxbox_Android_M6Please bear in mind there are many factors when it comes to Wi-Fi performance, and the results you’ve got with your setup may be completely different than the ones I’ve gotten here.

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

I’ve connected a USB Bluetooth dongle to the device, and the dongle was properly recognized. I could then pair it with my phone and transfer a file. However, the current firmware is not compatible with Sixaxis (no HCI library available), so your Bluetooth game controller will not work with the current firmware. Tested with that method.

External Storage

My USB flash drive was automatically recognized by the media player, so external USB hard drives should also work, provided there’s enough power. I also inserted a microSD card in the device’s reader, and it also work fine.

USB Webcam

I tested two webcams, an old Logitech webcam, and a noname webcam, and neither of them could be detected by the system. So Skype and Google hangout are not usable with the current firmware.

Gaming

I’ve tested 3 games: Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and Racing Thunder 2. They could all run, but as with all other Android TV box there are caveats. The IR remote can not be used to play any of these games, so you’ll need to connect a mouse, or an air mouse to control the games.

I used Mele F10, and I could play the three games above. No problem (that I could find) with Angry Birds. Candy Crush is working fine, except that is you are connected via Ethernet, you won’t be able to connect to Facebook to synchronize your levels. Switching to Wi-Fi fixes this. Racing Thunder 2 also ran smoothly, however it’s quite awkward to control the game with the mouse, as you have to click left and right of the car to turn.

As mentioned in the Bluetooth section, wireless Gamepad (sixaxis) do not work. The best way to control the system with games is probably to use DroidMote app.

Jynxbox Android M6 Benchmarks

Antutu 4.x completed the benchmark early at it failed to run the 3D benchmark, and gave an irrelevant scores. Quadrant, and Vellamo run just fine however. An interested note is that Antutu detect the processor as being Samsung Exynso 4412, but CPU-Z and Quadrant confirmed the device features an AMLogic processor. The product name is stvmx, and the board name is stv_mbx_mx.

Jynxbox_M6_QuadrantJynxbox M6 gets 2907 points in Quadrant which is just on top of some older dual core systems such as Galaxy Nexus and Motorola Atrix 4G.

With Vellamo benchmark, the system got 425 points in the Metal test, and 1087 points in the HTML5 test, which again places it in the same performance range as Samsung Galaxy Nexus (running Android 4.3).

Inside Jynxbox Android M6

Once the firmware review was completed, I decided to give another try with opening the enclosure. After forcing a bit more than usual with a flat-headed precision screwdriver, I managed to open it via the opening at the button of the case, breaking one or two plastic clips in the process. You’ll also have to unscrew four internals screw to completely remove the board from the case.

Jynbox_M6_Casing_InternalsA Wi-Fi antenna with an SMA connector plug it connected to the plug, and a 3 to 4mm thick metallic round is fixed to the bottom of the case, which explains why the device is heavy (170g.) relative to its size.

Jynxbox M6 Board (Click to Enlarge)

Jynxbox M6 Board (Click to Enlarge)

The top of the board features a large metallic shield, all the connectors, and at the bottom left, a 4-pin header that is most likely the UART pins used to access the serial console. The PCB markings shows RMX1212 as the board name. The MAC address starts with ACDBDA which belongs to “Shenzhen Geniatech”, so they are probably the one who designed and manufactured the box.

Conclusion

Jynxbox Android M6 is another good Android media player based on AMLogic AML8726-MX. It’s very stable, runs smoothly, XBMC is running great with lots of add-ons pre-installed, and it could play most video files I tested, except Real Media, and WebM/VP8 struggles at higher resolution (720p/1080p). Like other AMLogic boxes, it can’t play Elephabnt Dream test files. Audio decoding was perfect with all files I tried, and I did not experience any audio/video sync issues. This device appears to have slightly better XBMC and video support than Matricom GBox Midnight MX2 and Tronsmart Prometheus, but I haven’t tested these for a few months, and the updated firmware may have improved too.

The device is very small and nice, although it’s some what heavy. But it appears to have been designed that way on purpose, so that it does not move around. The remote control is small and nice, and does the job in XBMC and the user interface, thanks to little things like a Play/Pause button, but for any other Android apps, you’d better use standard USB or Wireless keyboard and mouse, or an air mouse.

The are still a few downsides, but mostly minor depending on your usage. I only got a black and white  display with component (YUV) output, sixaxis Bluetooth game controller are not supported, neither are USB webcams. Contrary to many other products with are already running Android 4.2.2, the firmware is still based on Android 4.1.2, and features such as Miracast (Wi-Fi) Display are not available.

Jynxbox Android M6 has very similar hardware and features, notably XBMC support, compared to Tronsmart Prometheus (See review), and Matricom GBox Midnight MX2 (See review), and its strong points are a smaller, nicer form factor, and pre-installed XBMC add-ons. Having said that at $119 it’s a little more expensive than both the G-Box Midnight MX2 ($97), and  the Tromsmart Prometheus ($89.99), but the former does not include an HDMI cable, and the later lacks a remote control.

I’d like to thanks theatertvbox.tv again for sending a unit for review.

ThL W200 Smartphone Review (Mediatek MT6589T)

December 1st, 2013 5 comments

I’ve received ThL W200, a smartphone powered by Mediatek MT6589T SoC, at the beginning of week (Check specs and unboxing pictures), and after about a week of use, it’s time for a review. First I’ll go through my first impressions, test of different features such as the camera, GPS, and Bluetooth, and finally run some apps to get system information and benchmarks for this phone.
ThL_W200

ThL W200 Review

This smartphone feels very light, but the build quality is good, and as explained in my unboxing post, comes with power, volume -/+, and menu/home/back buttons. You’ll also find rear camera + flash, front camera, the light sensor, and the notification light.

First impressions

The phone boots to the standard Android home screen, as shown above, with English as the default language, and comes with Google Play Store, and no Chinese apps. The 720p screen provide a sharp and clear display, and I’m pretty happy about this part. Unsurprisingly, Android is very smooth and fast in this quad core smartphone. I had no problem installing and running over 30 applications including the benchmarks (Antutu, quadrant, vellamo, …), social apps (Facebook, twitter, line…), games (Subway Surfers, Candy Crush, Raging Thunder 2), and diverse other apps including YouTube and Firefox. The only app which crashes from time to time is Nike+ Running, but only at the very start of a run.

Bluetooth

I could not pair the phone from Ubuntu 13.10. Ubuntu’s Bluetooth Manager could find the device, and ask me to confirm the pin was correct, but nothing showed on the phone. I could successfully pair the computer from the phone however. Finally, I could send files (around around 100 to 150 kB/s), but not browse the phone from my Ubuntu PC. I finally unable to find a quick way to confirm the Bluetooth version, although it should be possible to install hciconfig / hcitool to get more info. DealExtreme says it’s Bluetooth 4.0, but others mention Bluetooth 2.1 instead. The file transfer speed above also confirms EDR is supported.

GPS

Initially, I could get my location pretty fast in Google Maps, but the app used mobile network location techniques, and GPS was not used. This is only when I started to use Nike+ Running that I discovered there was a serious problem with GPS, as it was unable to lock GPS after over 10 minutes outdoor in the countryside. It turns out mediatek GPS is just fine, but somehow the end users have to configure this manually, and/or run some third party apps to configure GPS in an optimal manner. I wrote instructions to configure Mediatek GPS for a much faster lock. Please also make sure to read insightful comments in the linked post. Once GPS is configured properly, apps could lock GPS within 5 to 10 seconds, although in some instances in may take around one minute. By default, GPS is really poor in this phone, and apparently in all Mediatek phone, but once you’ve configured it correctly, it works just fine. This is quite silly from Mediatek, not to provide optimal settings, or at least an app to help users configure GPS.

Cameras

In good light conditions, the rear camera takes decent photos, but in most cases the shots will be somewhat disappointing. Close ups are often blurry, and I’ve taken two red / orange flowers photos where details are lost and colors seem unnatural. For testing purpose, I used the default “Normal” mode in the camera app, and better photos may be obtained with other settings.

I’ve also shot a short 15 seconds video @ 720p, which could be better, but still acceptable as there does not seem to be frame dropped. Download link (~16MB)

The front camera quality is pretty decent for what it’s supposed to do. Close face shot. I haven’t tried video conference via Skype or Google Hangout.

Audio and Calls

I haven’t made any standard call, but did a test call with Line, and audio quality was decent, and sound was clear via the headphones. The provided headphones are OK, except for the lack of volume button. The rubber earbuds fit well in my ears, with the drawback that I could hear all movement of the cable while walking with low volume.

The speaker is loud enough for me.

Battery

That’s no surprise that I have to charge the phone everyday with the 1,750 mAh battery included. I normally enable Wi-Fi, Location services, and Sync at all times, but Bluetooth is usually turned off, and brightness set to automatic. I did not use 3G data, only Wi-Fi. With these settings, the battery won’t last 24 hours on a charge, and heavier users may have to charge the smartphone twice a day, or somehow charge and use the second battery included with the phone. It’s probably the case with most recent phones, but at no time, the phone got warm during use.

Misc

I’ve also tried Miracast with MK908 mini PC using WiDisplay application that comes with the latest firmwares.  The good news is that it works, and you can mirror the display. It’s convenient to show pictures but there’s clearly a hit in terms of video quality as lossless encoding artifacts are obvious. Video playback is better, but I’m usually playing YouTube videos at 360p so that may be why I’m satisfied. I’ve also tried Raging Thunder 2, a car racing game, via Miracast, and it’s unfortunately unplayable. The game is very smooth in the phone, but sometimes there will be so many frames skipped,  and longish delays that I spent more time hitting the walls than on the road. I’m assuming the problem is with a poor Wi-Fi (direct) connection between the phone and MK908, even though device were less than 1 meter apart.

Another annoying issue with the current firmware at least, is that the notification light simply does not work. There is a fix – which I have not tried yet – where you can to root your phone, and replace lights.default.so file. Everything is explained here. Another small annoyance, at least to me, is that the only way to wake up the phone from sleep mode is to use the power button, the home button does not work, probably because it’s not a physical button.

System Information and Benchmarks

In order to get some system information, I’ve run CPU-Z app.

ThL_W200_CPU-ZThe processor is clocked between 497 MHz and 1.51 GHz, the board name is bird89_wet_a_jb2, screen resolution 720×1280, and there are 5 sensors. Everything seems to match the listed specs. Good. There’s no G-Sensor according to Antutu, but I’d assume an orientation sensor is just the same, isn’t it?

Antutu

ThL_W200_Antutu_4

With 16,412 points, ThL W200 has about the same performance as Google / LG Nexus 4 in Antutu 4, barely beating HTC One X.

Quadrant

ThL_W200_QuadrantThL W200 is again clearly again of HTC One X in Quadrant with 5911 points. Mainly thanks to the CPU, and to a lesser extend memory and I/O throughput, but 2D graphics performance seems subpart. Nexus 4 gets about 5,000 in Quadrant, so ThL W200 appears to be better here.

Vellamo

ThL_W200_VellamoThL W200 appears to outperform the Nexus 4, albeit only slighly, in Bare metal and HTML5 Vellamo benchmarks.

Nemamark 2

Thl_W200_NenamarkAgain, a decent performance from the Mediatek quad core phone with Nenamark 2.

ThL W200 performance is excellent, on part, and in some cases better than, LG Nexus 4, a smartphone powered by Qualcomm APQ8064 Snapdragon quad core processor, released about a year ago, and usually selling for well above $300 in most places, although it’s also available from Google Play in the US for $199 excluding shipping. However, one important “feature” you’ll lose with ThL W200 over the Nexus 4 is that ability to download and install the latest version of Android when it comes out. Whereas Android 4.4 Kit Kat is now available for Nexus 4, ThL W200 is still stuck with Android 4.2.1, and IMHO, is unlikely to get an upgrade. Source code won’t be available either.

Conclusion

Overall, I’m very satisfied with ThL W200. It’s very fast, it just works, and I did not experience lock-ups, crashes, overheating issues, and the 720×1280 display is sharp and bright. As mentioned above, the only app that crashed on the phone was Nike+ Running. I initially had some issues with GPS, but managed to fix them by software. Bluetooth was not straightforward either, but I’m not 100% sure where the blame lies: Ubuntu 13.10, my Bluetooth USB dongle, or the phone itself. I’m however a bit disappointed by the rear camera, and the battery capacity is a bit on the low side. But if you can live with these two, it’s really a nice and cheap phone. Another plus is that many people have already bought this phone, and there’s a longish thread on XDA Developers Forum, where you may get help in case something does not work right. This will also be my main phone, so I may also be able to help.

By the way, it’s currently on sale in DealExtreme for Black Friday / Cyber Monday, with the black version selling for $175.50 and the white one for $177.20.