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Posts Tagged ‘satellite’

Mecool KII Pro Set-Top-Box Upgraded to Amlogic S905D Processor, Android 7.1.2

December 29th, 2017 10 comments

VideoStrong is making some of the most popular – at least on this website – Android set-box boxes with digital TV tuner on the market with products like Mecool KIII Pro, or KI Pro, mostly because of their affordability. Software may be hit or miss depending on your local requirement (e.g. AC3 on DVB-T2, language encoding issues, etc..), so there’s fairly large number of users and some community tools or firmware such as DVB Channel Editor or Vitmos OS that may make them better devices.

Most models are based on Amlogic S905 or S912, but Amlogic launched S905D processor some time ago with better tuner support (multiple demodulator support) which for example allowing me to watch terrestrial TV (DVB-T2) while recording satellite TV (DVB-S2) on Sen5 TV box. VideoStrong decided to upgrade their KII Pro Android set-top box  with S905 processor, DVB-T2/T/C and DVB-S2/S tuners to the new Amlogic S905D processor, and the new version of the device also get some interesting firmware and software upgrade with support for Android 7.1.2, YouTube 4K, Widevine L1 DRM, Netflix HD, and MAC25X (IPTV) Stalker TV box compatibility.

Mecool KII Pro (2017/2018) specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905D quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with penta-core Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60Hz with HDR10/HLG HDR and HDCP 1.4, and 3.5mm AV (composite video) jack
  • Audio – HDMI, AV (stereo audio), optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs – 10-bit H.265 up to 4K60, VP9 Profile 2 up to 4K30, MPEG/VC-1/AVS+/H.265 up to 4K30
  • Tuner – Combo DVB-T/T2/C and DVB-S/S2 with two connectors (coaxial and F-type)
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button and LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply –  DC 12V/1A
  • Dimensions – 130 x 120 x 32 mm
  • Weight – 187.50 grams

Going to Amlogic S905D from S905 also has the advantage of adding support for HDR, and 4K VP9 video codec. The company paid for a HDCP 1.4 license as well, but not HDCP 2.2 if the table below is to be believed.

You’ll still be able to watch and record free-to-air TV, get access to EPG (Electronic Program Guide), and other features described in previous reviews. VideoStrong/Mecool usually have hidden features such as CCCAM/NEWCAMD support, and I’d expect the new model to be able to record one channel via  cable/terrestrial antenna, and watch another via satellite dish.

The new Mecool KII Pro set-top box is sold on GeekBuying for $66.99 including shipping, but you’ll also find it on Aliexpress, or GearBest. From time to time, I receive email asking “why can’t I receive free-to-air channel, I live in the US”. So please, if you live in the US, or another country where DVB-T/T2 standard is not in use, do not buy this box, unless you are interested in satellite or/and cable reception. In the US, people need to check for boxes with an ATSC tuners, in some other countries for ones with ISDB-T tuner.

Thanks to Natsu for the tip.

Dune HD Unveils 5 Entry Level to Premium 4K HDR Linux + Android Media Players & Set-Top Boxes

December 29th, 2017 4 comments

Dune HD is known to make high-end digital media players that often costs several hundred dollars such as Sigma Designs based Dune HD SOLO 4K or Dune HD Solo Lite. The company has now sent out an email announcing new models classified into three categories with most models based on Amlogic processors:

  • Neo Series – Entry level
    • Dune HD Neo 4K – 4Kp60 HDR media player + Android Smart TV box
      • Amlogic S905X
      • 1GB RAM, 8GB flash
      • 802.11ac Wi-Fi, 100Mbit Ethernet, Bluetooth
    • Dune HD Neo 4K T2 – 4Kp60 HDR media player + Android Smart TV box + DVB-T/T2/C receiver
      • Amlogic S905D
      • 1GB RAM, 8GB flash
      • 802.11ac Wi-Fi, 100Mbit Ethernet, Bluetooth
    • Dune HD Neo 4K T2 Plus – 4Kp60 HDR media player + Android Smart TV box + DVB-T/T2/C receiver
      • Amlogic S905D
      • 2GB RAM, 16GB flash
      • 802.11ac Wi-Fi, 100Mbit Ethernet, Bluetooth
  • Sky series – Models with satellite receiver
    • Dune HD Sky 4K Plus – 4Kp60 HDR media player + Android Smart TV box + DVB-T/T2/C receiver + DVB-S/S2 receiver
      • Amlogic S905D
      • 2GB RAM, 16GB flash, 2.5″ SATA HDD
      • 802.11ac Wi-Fi, 1Gbit Ethernet, Bluetooth, 2.5″ SATA HDD
      • Slot for CI/CI+ Conditional Access Modules to access premium DVB channels
  • Pro series – Premium models with high-end audio/video
    • Dune HD Pro 4K – Premium 4Kp60 HDR media player + Android Smart TV box
      • Realtek RTD1295
      • 2GB RAM, 16GB flash
      • 802.11ac Wi-Fi 2T2R, 1Gbit Ethernet, Bluetooth
      • USB 3.0, SATA HDD port, HDMI input
      • Hi-End video quality, BD3D support, full support for HD audio

All models listed above support HDMI 2.0a, 4Kp60 with HDR and BT.2020, and run the original Linux based Dune HD software and Android OS simultaneously. You can also run Android apps while Dune HD media center is playing music or a video in the background. Widevine Level 1 DRM is also enabled for premium online video services such as Hulu+, Netflix, and others.

The devices are said to support various various TV-optimized applications, plugins, extensions, GUI skins, collection management solutions, as well as integrations with home automation systems via the official Dune Store, 3-party vendors, or the one-million+ user’s community.

You’ll find more details on Dune HD website, including price information (MSRP):

  • Dune HD Neo 4K – $99.90
  • Dune HD Neo 4K T2 – $124.90
  • Dune HD Neo 4K T2 Plus – $149.90
  • Dune HD Sky 4K Plus – $209.90
  • Dune HD Pro 4K – $199.99

So you’d still pay a premium compared to equivalent Android TV boxes on the market due to software support, and features like Widevine L1 DRM. Dune HD boxes are usually sold through distributors, and I could not find the new model for sale online, and very few of the older models.

 

 

How to Use Khadas VIM2 Board with VTV Expansion DTV Board as a Live TV Streaming Server

December 18th, 2017 10 comments

Khadas VIM2 is the first and only Amlogic S912 based hobbyist development board on the market, which makes it interesting by itself, but the company also added some interesting features such as an SPI flash for network boot, Wake-on-LAN support, and more. Last month the company sent me a sample of the Khadas VIM2 Basic (2GB RAM/16GB flash) together with VTV Extension DTV Board featuring a DVB-T2/C and DVB-S2 tuner.

I’ve already checkout the hardware and shown how to assemble the kit, so for the second part of the review it seemed like a good idea to use the board as a Live TV streaming server broadcasting satellite, cable or terrestrial TV to devices connected to the local network. At first I wanted to use Linux operating system, because I could have run other Linux server services, but SuperDVB, the company that makes and supports the tuner board, only have Android software for their board.

So I changed plan, and instead used their Android VTV app to stream the video over Gigabit Ethernet. I’ll report my experience setting this all up in this post.

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Download & Flash Android firmware to Khadas VIM2 board

First we need to download the latest firmware on Khadas Firmware Resources page. Here you’ll find a little of firmware with names such as VIM2_Nougat_V171028 or VIM2_Nougat_vTV_V171024. The “vTV” string is important here, as the one without do not support the tuner board, so we’ll need one with vTV. So I downloaded VIM2_Nougat_vTV_V171024.7z  Android firmware, and VIM2_Uboot_Nougat_171028.7z “uboot” files from the page. Just make you download the latest version on the website.

The firmware provided works with Amlogic USB Burning Tool Windows software, but the tool is not really user-friendly, and in my case not directly supported as it only runs on Windows. So instead it’s better to flash the firmware to a bootable SD card (backup instructions here) in Ubuntu. If you are using Windows, Burn Card Maker Tool is much easier to use.

If you are using Ubuntu or a Linux distributions, there are a few steps to follow. After inserting you card, locate it with lsblk:

I’m using a 16GB card, so /dev/sdd is the device to so. We’ll need one partition, but my card has none for now:

I’ll use /dev/sdX to refer to the device from now on to avoid potential data loss due to copy/paste gone wrong.

We can create a new primary partition of W95 FAT type with fdisk or (g)parted:

Once it’s done let’s format it with FAT32:

Now we can copy u-boot binary for SD card to specific locations in the storage device:

Now unplug and replug the card to mount it automatically (or mount it with the command line) in order to copy the command and firmware files:

Now we can remove the card from the computer, and insert it into Khadas VIM2 board, and enter upgrade mode, by pressing the power key, pressing and releasing the reset key, wait two or three seconds, before releasing the power key on the board.You should see an Android logo and “Upgrading…” string together with a progress bar, and after a few minutes, the firmware should be flashed successfully.

A look at Android Settings

At this point, we can remove the micro SD card, and reboot the board, and within a few seconds, we’ll get to the (stock) launcher.

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Several apps are installed including Google Play and MoviePlayer. VTV is the app we’ll use to watch and stream Live TV.

But let’s have a look at some of the settings. I’ve reviewed many Amlogic S912 TV boxes from the popular MINIX NEO U9-H media hub, to the cheap MN12N TV box, or Mecool KIII Pro set-top box with a dual DVB-T2/S2 tuner among other, so I’m not going into the full details, but instead focus on some of the unique features.

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The image is based on Android 7.1.2 with Linux 3.14.29, and offers typical features like HDMI CEC or playback settings (HDMI self-adaptation), but if we go into More settings we’ll find some less usual option for the cooling, LED, and WOL.

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Cooling fan will allow you to turn on or off fan support, and set either automatic speed, low speed, medium speed, or high speed. LED option allows the user to control the board’s LED behavior such as always on, always off, heartbeat mode, or breather mode.

WOL is used to enable or disable Wake On LAN.

Khadas VIM2 CPU Temperature, Fitting an Heatsink

During my first post, people had concerns about using the board without heatsink, and based on CPU-Z app, CPU temperature is indeed around 76°C in idle mode.

When I watched and streamed live TV, the video did not feel very smooth especially on the display connected to the board, so I decided to fit an heatsink to the board.

I put some thermal grease on Amlogic S912 SoC, the flash and the two RAM chip to the heatsink on top. You may not necessary use such large heatsink, but that’s the only spare one I had. The amount of cooling you need also depends on your application.

With the heatsink, the temperature drops to 58°C (26°C room temperature), but I still had some troubles while watching live TV. So the problem is most probably not temperature related, as reported temperature only climbed to around 62°C while watching and streaming video from VTV app

Install VTV V2 App with IP Streaming Function

This section may not be necessary in the future, as the latest app will be updated in the firmware, but IP Streaming function is new, so I had to download VTV-2017-11-30-IpStreamming.rar, extract it, and manually install VTV-2017-11-30-IpStreamming.apk to the board. It’s now important to reboot the board to avoid version conflict.

At this point we should launch the app, and scan the channels. VTV app is based on DTV app found in Videostrong/Mecool set-top boxes, you can follow the same DVB-T2/DVB-S2 configuration instructions. I connected the tuner to my roof top antenna, so the first time after being asked to scan the channels, I went through DVB-T2 configuration.

That part took me an awful lot of time, as despite having 95 to 100% signal strength, none of the channels would lock. Eventually, the company sent me another tuner board, but it turned out my antenna cable connector had a bad contact or short circuit, as I would only get proper signal when bending the cable. So I disassembled and cleaned up the connector, and everything worked fine. Lesson: high signal strength in DTV/VTV app do not mean you cable / antenna is working fine.

Finally, we can make sure we have the latest app, by pressing the INFO key while watching a channel in order to show service info & version of the app.

APK (V2) is exactly what we want so we can go ahead. There’s a problem with Thai font or encoding, which has been a recurring problem in all Amlogic set-top boxes I’ve tested in the past. Hopefully, this will be fixed one day.

Khadas VIM2 Live TV Streaming

Once we have the channel configured, we can enable IP streaming by pressing the MENU key on the remote control, then DTV preference->IP stream setting.

You can manually set the port between 10,000 and  65,535 (20,000 default), and the app will provide you with the streaming link (e.g. http://192.168.0.114:20000), and the maximum number of client (10). You can use now use this link with a program or app on other devices in the network. I used GoodPlayer app in my Android phone and VLC in computer like I did while streaming video from Zidoo X9S’ HDMI input.

In the demo below, I use three clients: one Android phone, a Ubuntu 16.04 laptop, and my Ubuntu 16.04 desktop PC playing the video from Khadas VIM2 board at the same time.

I think the feature is still beta, so maybe that’s why there are problems while changing channels where the client may not pick up the stream. The live channel in Khadas VIM2 appears not to be quite as smooth as it could be too, again some optimization may likely solve this issue.

A better way to change channels however is to export ip stream list file tvlist.txt in VTV app by pressing the red/audio button on the remote control, which in my location looks as follow:

I copied it to my computer, and renamed it to tvlist.m3u, and you use in VLC to easily switch to the channel of your choice.

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Going forward, I think Linux support for the tuner board is unlikely, so people should really focus on Android if they plan to use the board. I’ve asked the company if they planed to release the source code for VTV app or at least an API to let people integrate support into their own app, but I have not received an answer yet.

For end users support for TVHeadEnd would be a bonus, as they’d be able to watch live TV, access the EPG, and change channels right from Kodi running in the client, as it’s now done in products such as U4 Quad Hybrid, U5PVR, or WeTek Play 2.

[Update: answers from company:

  1. Linux is not in their plan now, and they are focus on Android platform.
  2. VTV app can not be made open source due to it being used in other business projects, and there does not seem to be plans an API either
  3. “TVheadend is supported by LibreElec already, for Android platform, we will try to learn it and make it into software if possible.”  See comments below for download link for LibreELEC.

I’d like to thank Khadas (Shenzhen Wesion), and SuperDVB for sending the kit for review and their support getting this to work. Khadas VIM2 Basic board can be purchased on GearBest for $89.99 shipped, and the “VTV Expansion DTV board” for $39.99. You’ll pay a bit less if you take a bundle for a total of $112.98 including shipping ($17 discount) available from the latter link.

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

November 14th, 2017 11 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Via AndroidPC.es

Khadas VIM2 Board Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Dual Tuner Board

November 8th, 2017 30 comments

Khadas VIM2 board is the successor of Khadas VIM board, replacing Amlogic S905X by a slightly more powerful Amlogic S912, but that’s the connectivity features that really makes it stand apart from the first version with Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2. It also exposes a few extra I/Os via pogopins. and among the three variants, two comes with 3GB RAM, and up to 64 GB storage.

The company (Shenzhen Wesion) sent me one of the boards, together with various accessories, and I’ll start the review of the board by checking out the hardware and accessories, before testing the board further in another post.

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I received two packages: one book-like with Khadas marked on top, and another one with various other items.

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The first package includes the board, a USB to USB type C cable, and a card showing the main specifications, and supported operating systems: Ubuntu 16.04, Android 7.1. Buildroot build system is also another option to generate a minimal or custom image.

The second package comes with an IR remote control, a 12V/1.5A power supply, four stands, and VTV 2.2 tuner board.

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The board comes in a multi-layered acrylic case and exposes the same buttons and ports as its predecessor with 3 buttons (reset, function, power), USB type C port for power, HDMI output, Ethernet, and two USB 2.0 ports.

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The case has openings for the 40-pin header and VIN header behind the USB type C board. We can see Ampak AP6356S module is used meaning I’ve been sent Khadas VIM2 Basic version with 2GB DDR4 RAM and 16GB eMMC 5.1 flash.

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The bottom of the board has the remaining RAM chips, the micro SD card, and some ventilation holes. You’ll also notice some 20-pin and 7-pin pads, with the first one exposing USB, I2C, DVB bus, and I/Os, and the second for the small programmable MCU on the bottom right.

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Looking at DTV board we can see two antenna inputs with F connector and coaxial connector, Rafael Micro R848 universal tuner supporting DVB-T/T2/C, ISDB-T/C, DTMB, ATSC,J.83B, and DVB-S/S2, ABS-S, as well as Availink AVL6862TA demodulator. That’s the same chips combination as in KI Plus T2 S2 TV box supporting satellite dish and aerial antenna inputs.

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The bottom side of the board has one pogo pin rows to connect to the 20-pin row on the board, and 6 other pogo pins for power. In order to connect the VTV board to Khadas VIM2, we’ll have to disassemble the case, and align the VTV board with the pogo pings and mounting holes on Khadas VIM2.


We can now screw the four stands on the top of VIM2 board to secure both boards together.

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We now have an interesting development platform with dual tuner support.

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I’d like to thank Shenzhen Wesion for sending the kit for review. Khadas VIM2 Basic board can be purchased for $72.99 shipped on GearBest, and the VTV extension DTV board with power supply, remote control, and stands costs $39.99 extra. For the second part of the review, I’m considering using the board as DVB video server taking live TV input from my antenna / satellite dish, and broadcasting the video over my local network. That’s provided it can be done within one or two days.

[Update: I’ve posted the second part of the review: How to Use Khadas VIM2 Board with VTV Expansion DTV Board as a Live TV Streaming Server]

PingPong IoT Development Board Supports Cellular Connectivity, WiFi, Bluetooth, LoRa, Sigfox, and More

October 19th, 2017 No comments

Round Solutions, a supplier of products, services and concepts for industrial M2M and IoT markets, has introduced PingPong IoT development board with either Microchip PIC32MZ running an RTOS, or PIC32MZ DA running Linux, and equipped with a Telit modules for either 2G or 3G cellular + GNSS connectivity.

The board can also support WiFi, Bluetooth, ISM/RF, NFC/RFID, LoRa, Sigfox, Iridium satellite, and serial interface thanks to a range of expansion boards.

PingPong IoT board specifications:

  • MCU / Flash
    • RTOS version – Microchip PIC32MZ 32-bit Microcontroller @ 200 MHz, with 512 KB RAM and 2 MB Flash Memory + 4 MB external memory
    • Linux version – Microchip PIC32MZ DA  (Full specs TBA)
  • Connectivity
    • Cellular connectivity
      • Telit xE910 module with 2G, 3G and/or 4G LTE (coming soon)
      • Data
        • GSM/GPRS – Uplink/Downlink: 9.6 kbps
        • UMTS – Downlink: 384 kbps, Uplink: 384 kbps
        • HSPA+ – Downlink: 42.0 Mbps, Uplink: 5.75 Mbps
        • LTE – Download: 100 Mbps, Uplink: 50 Mbps
      • Frequency Bands (MHz) – 1800, 1900, 2100, 850, 900
      • 2x SIM card slots, SIM on chip
      • u.FL antenna connector
    • GNSS
      • Telit SL869 module for GPS, Glonass, and Galileo E1
      • u.FL antenna connector for GPS
    • 10/100M Ethernet (RJ45)
    • Connectivity stackable expansion boards for
      • Wi-Fi/Bluetooth: with webserver on board
      • Satellite communication: Iridium
      • ISM/RF:433MHz/868MHz/915MHz/2.4GHz
      • NFC/RFID: Protocol EPCglobal Gen 2 (ISO 18000-6C)
      • Sigfox/LoRa: Ultra low power transmitter
  • Other stackable expansion boards:
    • I/O & Serial Board: 10 digital/10 analog/4 frequencies, RS485, RS232
    • Still image and video camera
  • USB – 1x micro USB port
  • I/Os
    • 2x connectors for stackable extension boards with UART, SPI, CAN, I²C
    • 1x CAN interface, 2x analog inputs, 4x 3-state logic inputs, 4x NMOSFET outputs, 1-wire interface
    • 2x current measurement inputs (24-bit resolution)
  • Sensors – Magnetometer, accelerometer
  • Power Supply – 9 to 60V DC
  • Dimensions – 85 x 52 x 23 mm
  • Temperature Range – -40 C to +85 C (industrial grade)
  • Certification CE

 

The RTOS version uses C/C++ and Python and comes with a USB CDC bootloader, while the Linux version is more versatile with support for Open VPN, IPSEC tunnels for example for IoT gateway / router functionality. The source code is available for both operating system, and the company can also provide ready-made software packages for remote metering, asset tracking, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth gateway, MODbus over TCP, or MODbus RS485.

The board is also compatible with MPLAB Harmony, and can connect to Cumulocity IoT Cloud Platform or Telit m2mAIR Cloud out of the box.

The Linux & 4G versions of the board still appear to be in development, but PingPong IoT 3G/RTOS board is available now, starting at 197 Euros with the board only, and up to 445 Euros with the WiFi/Bluetooth, and RF/ISM add-on boards.

Sen5 Amlogic S905D TV Box Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, Kodi 17, and DVB-T2 & S2 App

May 19th, 2017 7 comments

Sen5 is one of the first Android TV boxes powered by Amlogic S905D processor, and comes with two tuners (DVB-C/T/T2 and DVB-T/T2) with two demodulators that should allow for recording on one tuner, while watching the other, or recording two channels at the same time. We’ve already check out the hardware in the first part of the review, and seen a glimpse of the neat user interface, so today I’ll report about my experience with the device.

Sen5 Android Set-Top Box First Boot, Setup Wizard, & First Impressions

The STB comes with two USB ports so I used one for the hard drive, a necessity if you plan to use the PVR function, and connected a USB hub to the other with RF dongles for an air mouse and a gamepad, as well as a USB keyboard to take screenshots. I also connected Ethernet and HDMI cables, as well as my terrestrial antenna to the coaxial “DVB-T2” input, and my satellite dish to the DVB-S2 F-connector.

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Finally I connected the power, after a several seconds after the “Amlogic S905D” and “MBOX” boot logo I go to  a setup wizard asking me to select the language…

The next step is the output resolution, and the system auto-detected 4K2K-60Hz maximum resolution from LG 42UB820T 4K UHD TV.Screen adjust is used for overscan, but if you have a recent TV, you should not really need to use since you can always understand with settings like “just scan”.Step 4 is the selection between Ethernet and WiFi.This is followed by Date & Time configuration.Finally, you’ll be asked to select between “Scan TV channel”, “Login to Google Play Store”, and “Go to Home page”.

I selected the later at this stage, and the beautiful “NesTV” launcher appeared. A typical boot takes around 35 seconds with this box.

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You’ll get date, time, and weather on the top left, 6 main icons in the center for TV (DVB) app, IPTV & VOD (both required a login I did not have), YouTube, Kodi, and the list of app. The bottom include an “Add/Remove” button to organize favorites.

The top right row includes some convenient shortcuts showing (from left to right):

  • Free memory – Clicking on it will cleaned up memory
  • USB status – Redirects to File Browser
  • Network Status (Ethernet or WiFi) – Redirects to Network settings
  • Bluetooth Status – Redirects to Bluetooth settings
  • Download – Shortcut for easy access to Download direction
  • Notifications – Will display notifications on the left of the screen (See screenshot below)
  • Backup & Restore & Update button
  • Ookla – Measures your Internet connection performance
  • Settings – Redirect to Amlogic’s Settings app

The preview zone is black until your scan channel after which it will show a preview of the last selected channel (with audio).

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The pre-installed apps can be found below.

The Setting app is about the same as on other Amlogic Android 6.0 TV boxes, but it’s still worth noting HDMI CEC, HDR and Playback settings (for HDMI self-adaptation) options are there. The only new menu is MediaScan which lets you decided whether to automatically scan USB drives in the background (disabled by default).

Going to Android settings, we can see 5.27 GB is already used out of 8 GB storage, and that is before I installed any app. The flash was almost full by the end of the review.

NTFS and exFAT file systems are supported, but not EXT-4, nor BTRFS.

The About section indicates the model is called SH8B7AV_SF001 and runs Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29, the same as most other Amlogic S9xx boxes.. Android security patch is date August 1, 2016. The firmware is not rooted. OTA firmware update appears to be implemented, with the Update app communicating with the firmware update server, but I did not get any updates since March 29th.

The IR remote control works well up to 10 meters, and I also appreciate shortcuts key to app list, Play Store, YouTube, etc.. The remote control is also absolutely necessary to use with the TV app, which relies color button (red/green/yellow.blue) and special keys like EPG. Since an air mouse or wireless keyboard with touchpad is necessary in many Android apps, I ended switching between the remote control, and MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse depending on which app I used. I wishes such Android Set-top boxes would come with an optional air mouse that also support the TV app.

Google Play and Amazon Underground worked just fine, and I could install all apps I needed for the review.

The set-top box supports standby and power off mode. That’s the theory, because in practice, the box will reboot maybe 95% of the time when I try to turn it off (long press on remote control power key). Standby is working fine. The power button on the unit itself does not work at all for me. Maybe it’s just a problem with the sample.

I tested power consumption with or without the USB hard drive:

  • Standby – 0.3 Watt
  • Idle – 4.4 to 5.0 Watss
  • Standby + HDD – 0.3 to 0.4 Watt
  • Idle + HDD – 6.0 to 6.3 Watts

A reliably working power off would be nice though. I gave up on measuring power off, since it was so difficult to enter in this mode. At least power consumption is sufficiently low in standby mode, and there are reasons (scheduling) to prefer standby over power off, as we’ll see below.

Sen5 does get a little hot over time.After playing a 2-hour H.264 1080p movie in Kodi, max. top and bottom temperatures were 51 and 61 °C respectively, and as I went to CPU-Z to check the CPU temperature, soc_thermal was 84 °C. The movie frame rate did not feel “optimal” at the end either. Riptide GP2 game frame rate also suffered over time, and temperature after playing 15 minutes were 48°C (top) , 56°C (bottom) and 79°C (CPU-Z).  The idle temperature reported in CPU-Z is also a not-so-cool 73 °C. Hopefully, the company will find a solution before selling the box retail.

An Amlogic S905D TV box is very much like other Amlogic S905(X) TV boxes with a fairly stable and responsive firmware. But Sen5 box stands out thanks to NesTV launcher which looks really nice, and comes with some useful features and shortcuts. The remote control is also well designed, although I’d like it to have air mouse and keyboard functions. The two main issues I encountered were overheating, and the inability to power off the box reliably.

Video & Audio Tests with TV Center (Kodi), and DRM Info

Sen5 comes with Kodi 17 pre-installed.

Click for Original Size

After enabling “Adjust display refresh rate” in Kodi settings, and  HDMI self-adaptation, I played 4K videos over Gigabit Ethernet /SAMBA:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Choppy at the end of the video
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) –  OK
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – OK
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – OK
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC, 24 fps) – OK
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – OK
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_30fps.mp4 – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_4k_H264_60fps.mp4 – The video plays in slow motion and audio delays (As expected, as 4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by S905D VPU)
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – OK
  • Samsung_UHD_Dubai_10-bit_HEVC_51.4Mbps.ts (10-bit HEVC / MPEG-4 AAC) – OK
  • Astra-11479_V_22000-Canal+ UHD Demo 42.6 Mbps bitrate.ts (10-bit H.265 from DVB-S2 stream) – OK
  • 暗流涌动-4K.mp4 (10-bit H.264; 120 Mbps) – Plays at around 1 to 2 fps (expected since it relies software decode)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – USB hard drive playback: Not smooth
  • tara-no9-vp9.webm (4K VP9 YouTube video @ 60 fps, Vorbis audio) – OK
  • The.Curvature.of.Earth.4K.60FPS-YT-UceRgEyfSsc.VP9.3840×2160.OPUS.160K.webm (4K VP9 @ 60 fps + opus audio) – Plays, but could be smoother

My experience with 4K video playback was inline with other Amlogic S912/S905X TV boxes, except possibly with HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4.Automatic Another common state of affair is that automatic frame rate switching is not working, and  MINIX NEO U9-H is the only exception to this rule for recent Amlogic TV boxes (that I tested).

I enabled HDMI Passthrough in Android settings…and in Kodi. Some whatever reasons, there are no option to select AC3/ DTS, TrueHD, or DTS HD like in other devices. You can only enable or disable “Allow passthrough”.

Those are the results with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver. PCM 2.0 is without pass-through using my TV speakers, and I used both Kodi (which handle audio its own way), and MoviePlayer app.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MoviePlayer)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
HDMI Pass-through
(MoviePlayer)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, video not smooth No audio Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1), Video not smooth OK (Dolby D 5.1)
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK No audio OK (Dolby D 5.1) OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 OK (DD+ 7.1)
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 OK (TrueHD 5.1)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 OK (TrueHD 7.1)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio PCM 2.0 Beep (AC3 audio track)
DTS HD Master OK No audio PCM 2.0 DTS 5.1
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio PCM 2.0 DTS 5.1
DTS:X OK No audio PCM 2.0 DTS 5.1

Kodi is not usable with your AV receiver, except for Dolby Digital 5.1 / AC3, while MoviePlayer requires you to own an AV receiver if you want to have any audio on videos with only Dolby or DTS audio track(s).

I could play a 2-hour movie over SAMBA, but as mentioned previously the frame rate seemed to drop slightly at the end due to over heating.

Sen5 supports Widevine Level 3 DRM, meaning no HD support on some premium apps like Netflix. YouTube worked well, even while recording live TV in the background.

DTV App for DVB-S/S2 and DVB-T/T2

Let’s get started with the TV app. The first time you’ll go through the “TV First Installation” wizard.

You can select aspect ratio, zap mode (black screen or freeze), subtitle, LCN, and DVB Type between DVBS-DVBT/T2 or DVBS-DVBC. I did not change any of the settings and kept going with DVBS-DVBT/T2.The next window will let you start scan, and load channels from USB, the Internet, and another STB. I just clicked on Start Scan which brought me to the TV menu.

If you’re going to change any “installation” setting for satellite or DVB-T/T2/C, you’ll be asked for a password “0000”.

Going into Dish Settings, I could select Thaicom 5/6 satellite, as I normally do, but I was a little confused since I had to select between C-band and Ku-band. I eventually figured I had to select C-band, as I would not get any channels with Ku-band selection.

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The first time I did a “standard scan” as shown above, and I got only 13 channels, far below what I would expect especially I select both free-to-air and paid channels. So I restarted a Blind Scan instead again on Thaicom 5/6 (78.5E C-band).

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I ended up with 387 TV channels including premium (marked with $) and free channels.

You can select channels by CAS type using the blue button on the remote control for example to select the Free channels. The paid channels should be accessible via the smart card reader provided you have the right card. But it’s not something I could try.

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Next up I had to configure DVB-T2. It took me a couple of minutes to find out I had to use the drawer key (on the left side of the Blue HOME key) in order to bring the TV menu back up.

I selected auto scan, input the country, before running the scan.

It found 25 channels, but no radio channels.I could watch DVB-T2 channels. but some HD channels have low quality sometimes dropping below 25% and the channels freezing. I have not noticed the same issue with SD channels, and sometimes the same HD channels do not have any problem.

The “I” button on the remote shows some of the info about the current channel including channel number abd name, date and time, current and next program name and time, audio, S2/T2, and CAS information, as well as signal strength and quality.

I’ll go through other options in TV menu before checking out the other features of the app. The Edit Channels section allows you to set favorites, and organize channels as you see fit.

The PVR and Timers section will give you access to the list of already recorded program, and current timers / schedules (see further below for details).

The Add-on menu allows you to add favorites, so you can quickly jump from the TV app to whatever other you may want. Not very useful IMHO, as you could do the same by pressing the Home key and selecting shortcuts in the main launcher.

Finally there are various TV settings. The only problem is that none of the options would work for me, as each option would just go back to the main launcher. You can access the program guide by pressing the EPG button on the remote control. Encoding is handled properly with DVB-T2 channels, and there’s a problem with Thai language with satellite channels, probably because the software does not use the right encoding.

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Burmese language is barely better.

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Anyway, you can still browser channels and the program guide, and add or remove “timers” to record or play videos at any given time.

By default all timers are set to record once, but you can go to the list of timers (drawer button-> PVR and Timers-> Timer), and change the option.

The repeat mode is quite versatile, as you can select daily, weekly, and even select the days to record during the week.

Timers and PVR are working quite well, and I had no troubles recording videos on either DVB-T2 or DVB-S2. Since the box has two demodulators, you can even record on DVB-T2 and watch DVB-S2 channels and vice-versa, as shown in the photo below (ONE HD is a DVB-T2 channel)

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Later on, I also discovered that during recording the list of unavailable channels will be grayed out, and you can still watch channels both on DVB-T2 or DVB-S2, as long as the channel on the busy input is one the same stream.

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Another thing impossible on VideoStrong set-top boxes is background recording, so as I recorded a channel, I pressed the HOME key, went to browse the web, and then watch a YouTube video. I came back to the TV app and discovered the recording was still taking place, and later on I could verify the video was properly recorded, and I did not notice any stuttering or obvious artifacts. So that’s a big plus compare to existing solutions. In theory, you should be able to record live TV on DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 at the same time, but the timer software detects a conflict if you do so.

I did one last test with schedules. I setup a recording at 16:30, and put the device into standby, waiting for the time… To my surprise, Sen5 STB started automatically at 16:30, but for whatever reason the recording only started 10 minutes later, at 16:40. So it looks like the capability is there, but it’s still buggy.  Timeshifting is working using the play/pause key, and you can also record manually using the record button on the remote control.

You can play the recordings in the TV app, but if you prefer to use another player, you’ll find the files in the DVBRecordFiles directory on your hard drive with a subdirectory for each recording.

The TV app will split large files into 2GB files probably because of hard drives still using FAT32, and despite mine using NTFS file system. info.amri is a binary file with some details about the recording, but it also contains some visible strings like the program name and TV channel name.

You can find some SD and HD recordings from DVB-T2 or DVB-S2, as well as info.amri file in MEGA. I had no troubles playing the DVB-T2 recording in my computer, but I had neither Totem, nor VLC could play the DVB-S2 recording, and I had to use

You’ll find a demo with the TV app in the video below.

Networking (WiFi & Ethernet)

WiFi performance was first tested by transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash (and vice versa) using ES File Explorer. The box only support 2.4 GHz WiFi, and the transfer rate was 1.5 MB/s on average.

Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge

The performance is not very good, but similar to other Amlogic TV box due to the poor SAMBA performance. However, during testing I had other problems, with the first transfer failing after about 60%, which I could complete by clicking on Retry, and another transfer failing to start completely.

I also ran iperf for 60 seconds on both direction to get a raw benchmark value:

WiFi upload:

WiFi download:

Gigabit Ethernet is however working pretty well as least with iperf.

Iperf upload:

iperf download:

iperf full duplex:

A SAMBA to flash copy was limited by the write speed of the flash, and occurred at about 9.8 MB/s. Flash to SAMBA performance was worse because of the poor SAMBA implementation in Amlogic Android 6.0 SDK @ 5.9 MB/s.

Storage

FAT32, NTFS, and exFAT file systems are support, but as is often the case not EXT-4 and BTRFS. As usual USB storage benchmarks show that exFAT should be avoided as slow write speed may impact recorded videos. NTFS performance is however OK, and the eMMC flash used in the box does not have the best performance on the market, but I have not noticed any specific slowdowns, it may just take a little longer to install some apps.

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I’ve drawn a red line on exFAT – USB 2.0 and internal memory read results because they were cached read, and the internal memory can clearly NOT be read @ ~629 MB/s.

Bluetooth

I could pair Vernee Apollo Lite Android smartphone to the box and transfer several photos without any problem, but there was not a direct and easy way to click to see the files after the transfer, so I had to go to the FileBrowser app and into the bluetooth directory to check the files. I also watched a YouTube video after easily pairing X1T earbuds, and the box also detected the SimpleBLE demo I had running on a ESP32 board, so Bluetooth LE should also work.

Sen5 and Amlogic S905D Benchmarks

That’s my first Amlogic S905D device, so let’s run CPU-Z first. It’s impossible to distinguish S905D to  S905/S905X as they are all shown to be quad core Cortex A53 processors @ up to 1.51 GHz with a Mali-450 MP GPU.

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Antutu would just crash each time I start it, so I ran Vellamo instead to check the performance.
1,540 for Multicore, 919 for Metal, and 1,887 for Browser are comparable to the results I got on Amlogic S905X boxes (1,491 / 910 / 1,855).

Conclusion

Sen5 device is the first true dual tuner Android set-top box I have reviewed, as I was able to record one channel, and watch another at the same time. It also supports background recording, and wakeup from standby to start recording a video, both of which are impossible in all other Android STBs I have reviewed. NesTV launcher is also eye-pleasing, and includes really convenient shortcuts.  The box is not perfect however, as it still has some serious bugs like DVB-T2 channels freezing from time to time, WiFi failures (at least with SAMBA), and overheating issues. There are also various smaller bugs which hopefully will be fixed once the box is sold to end users.

PROS

  • Dual independent DVB-S/S2 and DVB-C/T/T2 tuner allowing for recording and watching live TV at the same time;
  • EPG, Timeshitfing, and PVR function working reasonably well
  • Exclusive Tuner Features (for an Android TV box) – Support for recording from standby mode (with caveat), and background recording (e.g. you can watch YouTube, browse the web, or play games while recording)
  • Beautiful & user-friendly NesTV launcher (I also found out after the review that there’s a mobile app for it)
  • Good 4K video playback in Kodi 17 works well
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 works in all apps including Kodi, TrueHD and DTS HDMI audio pass-through works with MoviePlayer app (and likely most other apps including the TV app, but not Kodi)
  • Excellent Ethernet performance
  • Bluetooth is working well for file transfer, audio headset, and BLE
  • Support for smartcards (not tested)

CONS

  • DTV app issues and shortcomings
    • DVB-T2 channels may freeze from time to time
    • Encoding problems with data from satellite channel, at least for Burmese and Thai languages
    • It’s not possible to record two videos (one in DVB-S2 / one in DVB-T2) at the same time as the app reports a scheduling conflict
    • When the box is in standby and a program is schedule, the box will wake up, but recording will only start a few minutes later (10 minutes in my case)
  • The box may overheat potentially leading to video become choppy over time, and games less smooth
  • Power off mode does not work reliably (will reboot most of the time), and the unit power did not work for me at all
  • SAMBA + WiFi performance is poor, and connection can be unreliable
  • Kodi issues: automatic frame rate switching does not work, pass-through is limited to AC3/ Dolby Digital 5.1
  • DTS/Dolby audio down-mixing does not work in Android apps like MoviePlayer or Video Player; DTS-HD pass-through does not work (DTS 5.1 only) in such apps.

I’d like to thanks Shenzhen Sen5 for providing a sample for review. AS previously mentioned, the product is not available for retail yet, but interested resellers and distributors may contact the company via their website.

Mecool KI PRO Hybrid Android TV Box with Amlogic S905D SoC, DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 Tuners Sells for $80

May 8th, 2017 175 comments

VideoStrong has become popular among people wanting an Android TV box with a tuner thanks to their affordable and customizable products such as K1 Plus T2 S2, or KIII Pro coming with DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 tuners. AFAIK, all there products so far came with a single demodulator meaning you could watch or record satellite or terrestrial TV, but not do both at the same time, for example watching a channel via DVB-S2, and recording one via DVB-T2. Amlogic S905D is supposed to support this, and upcoming products like Sen5 Android set-top box do come with two demodulators. Mecool KI PRO – based on the processor – has just been launched, pre-selling for $79.99 on Banggood with shipping scheduled for mid May.

Mecool KI Pro specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905D quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with  Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR4
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + micro SD card slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60Hz with support for HDR10 and HLG, and 3.5mm AV (composite video) jack
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV (stereo audio), optical S/PDIF
  • Video Codecs – 10-bit H.265, and VP9 Profile 2 up to 4K60, H.264 up to 4K30, AVS+ and other codecs up to 1080p60
  • Tuner – DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 tuners with two connectors
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.1 LE
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Power button and LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply –  DC 12V/1A
  • Dimensions – 130 x 120 x 32 mm
  • Weight – 163 grams

Another advantage of the device is that it runs the latest Android 7.1 operating system. The interface looks the same as with older devices, so I’d expect the same DTV app to be used in the box. KI Pro ships with a HDMI cable, a remote control, a power adapter, and a user manual. You may be able to find (more or less accurate) details on the manufacturer’s page.

Thanks to Natsu for the tip.