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Posts Tagged ‘set-top box’

ARRIS Showcases Android TV Set-Top Boxes at IBC 2017

September 22nd, 2017 4 comments

Just last week, we found out there was a fair amount of TV boxes running Android TV with certification from Google, with most of them from PayTV providers or OEMs. Today, I’ve come to better understand what that means thanks to ARMDevices.net interview of ARRIS at IBC2017.

I used to think getting a device with official Android TV support would mean getting Google’s Leanback launcher, but there’s more to it, as Google also offers “operator tier” Android TV certifications, which allow manufacturer to use Android TV operating system with their own launcher/user interface, and official support for Google services like Google Play Store, Google Play Music and so on.

ARRIS International has a whole family of certified Android TV devices with 4K UHD set-top boxes and DVR systems as shown in the table below, all likely based on Broadcom SoCs.

Wi-Fi Set-Tops
Wi-Fi Processor DMIPS Type Size
Zx4430 2×2 802.11ac Dual core (7000 DMIPS) DVB-C, DVB-T, DVB-S 120mm W x 120mm D x 40mm H
Zx4515 2×2 802.11ac Quad core (15000 DMIPS) DVB-C, DVB-T, DVB-S 120mm W x 120mm D x 40mm H
Zx4517 4×4 802.11ac Quad core (15000 DMIPS) DVB-C, DVB-T, DVB-S 120mm W x 120mm D x 40mm H
VIP5202W 2×2 802.11ac Dual core (7000 DMIPS) IP 120mm W x 120mm D x 20mm H
VIP5402W 2×2 802.11ac Quad core (15000 DMIPS) IP 120mm W x 120mm D x 20mm H
VIP6102W 4×4 802.11ac Quad core (15000 DMIPS) IP 156mm W x 137mm D x 21mm H
Wi-Fi DVRs
Wi-Fi Processor DMIPS Type Size
Px5517 4×4 802.11ac Quad core (15000 DMIPS) DVB-C, DVB-T, DVB-S 120mm W x 120mm D x 45mm H
VIP6162W/WM 4×4 802.11ac
MoCA2.0 (VIP6162WM)
Quad core (15000 DMIPS) IP 270mm W x 137mm D x 25mm H

The company then use those platforms to customize the launcher, DVR and DVB functions for their customers, and potentially integrate it with the customers’ IPTV system, and/or DRM solution.

As mentioned in previous posts, more and more OEMs are getting Android TV certification, with Geniatech working on it, since this morning SDMC Tech also contacted me claiming they had obtained Google’s certification for Android TV.

TX95D Android Set-Top Box with Amlogic S905D SoC, DVB-T2 Tuner is Selling for $52

June 10th, 2017 8 comments

We know have a decent choice of affordable Android TV boxes with tuners, but TX95D model powered by Amlogic S905D processor, and a single DVB-T/T2 tuner, appears to be a few dollars cheaper than the competition, as it sells for $51.99 shipped on Acemax’ Aliexpress store.

TX95D Android STB specifications:

  • SoC –  Amlogic S905D quad core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB flash + micro SD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60Hz with HDR support, 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 tuner with one coaxial RF input
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – Front panel display, power LED, IR receiver
  • Power Supply –  DC 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 130 x 102 x 30 mm

The box runs Android 6.0 with Kodi 17, and supports timeshifting and PVR functions likely using the usual – for AMlogic STBs – DVB app. The packages include TX95D hybrid TV BOX, one HDMI Cable, a power adapter, a remote control, and a user manual.

While searching for the product name, I found an FCC filing indicating the manufacturer should be Shenzhen Oranth Technology. They have not updated their website for a while, since the listed products are only based on Amlogic S805, and without tuner.  The Chinese version of the website lists only TV box boards without cases, as well as power adapter testing board.

Via AndroidPC.es

BLOMC ONE is a Linux IPTV/OTT Set-Top Box Compatible with Stalker Middleware Portal

June 2nd, 2017 14 comments

Infomir MAG boxes are popular for people running their own IPTV network with content managed using Linux servers to store media files and run Stalker open source IPTV middleware portal developed by the company. A new company has now launched a competing set-top box compatible with Stalker called BLOMC ONE.

BLOMC ONE specifications:

  • Processor – Unamed 667 MHz CPU with LQFP144 package
  • System Memory – 2Gbit (256 MB) DDR3 memory
  • Storage – 16 MB flash
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.3 port up to 1080p, AV (CVBS)
  • Transport Stream & Profile Level – MPEG-4, H.264, H.265, MPEG-2 [email protected],MPEG/AVC
  • Audio – S/PDIF output, HDMI, and AV
  • Audio Decoding – MPEG1 Layer I&II, MPEG4 AAC, and MPEG4 AAC-HE (AAC+), Dolby Digital(AC-3), MP3, WMA
  • Connectivity – Ethernet (RJ45) port
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Misc – RS232 connector, IR expansion port
  • Power Supply – 12V/1.5A; standby Power – 0.5 watts max.
  • Dimensions – 137mm x 103mm x 29mm

The company informed me that BLOMC ONEC and ONES models are also coming with respectively a cable and satellite tuner. You’ll find the firmware for the box on the company website’s software page, which is upgradeable via USB mass storage. The video below explains the simple procedure to configure the box to connected to your Stalker portal.

BLOMC ONE can be purchased for 57,02 on JASAT Multimedia website. However, while searching for a 667 MHZ CPU with LQFP144 package, I found the box is also known as Maxytec i100, compatible with both Stalker and Xtream Codes, and a Maxytec i100 S2 model already includes a DVB-S2 tuner. If you already own one of those Stalker compatible STBs, you should be able to watch IPTV on other devices with StalkerTV Android app or Kodi together with the Stalker Client add-on.

Categories: Hardware, Linux Tags: infomir, iptv, Linux, set-top box, stb

HiSilicon Hi3796M V200 UHD DVB + H.265 STB SoC Showcased at Broadcast Asia 2017

May 25th, 2017 6 comments

Broadcast Asia international digital multimedia & entertaiment technology exhibition & conference is taking place in Singapore on May 23 – 25, and I’ve been informed that Hisilicon showcased their latest Hi3796M V200 Set-top box SoC with support for 4K DVB, H.265, and high dynamic range technology such as HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision.

Hiliscon Hi3796M V200 Board and DVB Tuner – Click to Enlarge

Key features and specifications of Hi3796M V200 processor:

  • CPU – Quad core ARM Cortex A53
  • GPU – ARM Mali-450MP
  • Memory – DDR3, DDR3L, DDR4
  • Video Output – 1x HDMI 2.0a Tx with HDCP 2.2
  • Video format – HEVC, H.264, MPEG2, MPEG4, VC1, VP9, AVS 2.0
  • HDR – HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, HDR and SDR conversion
  • HiVXE 2.0 VPU – Decoder – 4K60 10-bit; Encoder – HEVC/H.264 1080p30 or 2x 720p30
  • Ethernet – 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x Fast Ethernet
  • USB 2.0 – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • SATA & PCIe & USB 3.0 – USB 3.0, SATA 3.0, PCIe 2.0 host interface (optional); cnxsoft’s note: all ports are likely multiplexed, so only one is usable.
  • Transport Stream I/F – 2x TS In + 2x TS In or Out + 1x Cable IF in
  • SDIO – 2x SDIO 3.0
  • Security – Advanced DRM, and CAS (NOCS3.X), and hardware video watermark. TrustZone

The company can provide Android 7.0 and Linux SDKs with middleware and RDK for the processor and development board. HiVXE 2.0 is also said to support PiP and video transcoding. Hardware video watermark ability allows the processor to meet MovieLabs UHD premium service delivery requirements.

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It appears the company will also offer a user-friendly way to watch VR videos / 360° videos on the TV by using a mobile app or remote control to navigate in all directions while the video is playing.

I could not find any information at all on the web about Hi3796M V200 processor, so thanks to Ovi for sending pictures directly from the Broadcast Asia exhibition, and allowing us to discover this new multimedia processor.

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.

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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 153 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.

Sen5 Dual Tuner Android Set-top Box Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

April 3rd, 2017 10 comments

There are only a few companies manufacturing Android TV boxes with tuners with names like VideoStrong and WeTek coming to mind. Shenzhen Sen5 Technology is another one, and the company sent me one of their DVB combo Android TV boxes for review without providing that many details. So let’s have a look at what I received.

Sen5 Android Combo STB Unboxing

The product might be not ready for retail just yet, as I received it in an old carton box.

Once I remove all the bubble wraps, I ended up with the device, an IR remote control, and a 12V/1.5A power supply. Once the product is actually launched I’d expect you’d receive a retail package and a user’s manual too.

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The box itself is made of plastic with plenty of randomly arranged (ventilation) holes on the top. The front panel comes with an IR window and a “Standby button”, one of the side includes a “mirco” SD slot, two USB host ports, and the other a Smart Card slot named CA for Conditional Access. The rear panel comes with a coaxial connector where we’ll plug the TV aerial antenna, and a F type connector for the satellite dish, as well as Ethernet, HDMI and the power jack.

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The bottom of the case show it can be wall-mounted, and the recovery pinhole is easily accessible. We can also some information aboit product including the model name: SH6B7FA.

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Sen5 SH6B7FA TV Box Teardown

After removing the four rubber pads, and loosening four screws, I could remove the top cover to have a closer look at the board.

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The processor is covered by an heatsink, so I had to start the box to find out it’s an Amlogic quad core ARM Cortex A53 processor with a Mali-450MP GPU, so probably  Amlogic S905D since we have two demodulators on the board with Availink AVL6211LAX DVB-S2/DVB-S channel receiver IC,  and Availink AVL6762TA DVB-T2/T/C demodulator, which should mean each tuner is independent, and you should be able record live TV on DVB-S2, while watching a channel on DVB-T2.

We have two 4 Gbit Samsung K4B4G1646E-BCMA DDR3 chip (1 GB RAM) on this side of the board, and an 8GB Samsung KLM8G1WEPD-B031 eMMC flash. That’s the lowest Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash available with theorethical 140/8MB/s R/W sequential speed, and 5K/0.6K R/W IOPS. Performance in Android may not always be optimal. Since the box is now only for distributors/resellers, it’s possible some will update to a faster model.

Networking is achieved with Ampak AP6212A module for 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (2.4 GHz only) and Bluetooth 4.0 LE, as well as Realtek RTL8211F transceiver and TNK QT24A03 transformer for Gigabit Ethernet.

The serial console should be accessible via CN7 or CN4 both of which are 4-pin headers. The board name is SMB.150.01 manufactured on February 2017, so it’s pretty new.

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It took out the shield on top of the circuitry for the coaxial connector, and it’s using Rafael Micro R836 digital TV tuner for DVB-T/T2/C, ISDB-T/C, DTMB, ATSC, J.83B. I could not easily remove the other shield so I skipped it.

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I still removed the board completely from the enclosure, and we can see a thermal pad placed right under the processor connects to a thick metal plate for cooling, There’s also tow more RAM chips bringing the total memory to 2GB, a micro SD slot and the recovery button.

So to summarize, Sen5 SH6B7FA set-top box must be powered by Amlogic S905D processor with 2GB RAM, and 8 GB flash + micro SD slot, supports HDMI 2.0a output, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0 (likely upgradeable), and comes with three USB ports (but only two exposed by the case, why?), independent DVB-T2/T and DVB-S2/S tuners, and a smart card reader for conditional access/premium content.

I also booted it to check the processor, but I also quickly had a look at the software, and it’s running Android 6.0.1 with Kodi 17 pre-installed, and a separate TV app is used to watch live TV.

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NesTV launcher looks quite prettier than many of the other launcher I’ve used. But we’ll find out more about the software and how the box performs in the second part of the review which I’ll probably publish sometimes in May.

I don’t have pricing, nor availability information yet, and beside their HKTDC page, the company also has its  own website, but it has not been updated for a while…

Allwinner H6 Processor for 4K HDR Set-Top Boxes Supports USB 3.0, PCIe, and Smart Card Interfaces

April 1st, 2017 40 comments

Allwinner H6 is a new quad core Cortex A53 processor designed for 4K set-top boxes. It will support “6K” video decoding for 10-bit HEVC, VP9, and H.264, integrate HDR10 and HLG video processing, support high speed interfaces like USB 3.0 and PCIe, as well as security features like two ISO7816 smart card interfaces and DRM solutions.

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Allwinner H6 specifications:

  • CPU –  Quad-core ARM Cortex A53 with NEON, hardware Java acceleration, and FPU
  • 3D GPU – Dual shader ARM Mali-T720 with support for OpenGL ES3.1/3.0/2.0/1.1, OpenCL 1.1/RenderScript, Microsoft DirectX 11 FL9_3
  • Memory I/F – DDR4/DDR3/DDR3L interface
  • Storage I/F – 1x eMMC 5.0 flash interface, 1x NAND Flash interface for SLC/MLC/TLC flash memory with up to 80-bit error-correcting code (ECC), 1x SPI NOR Flash interface, 1x SD Card 2.0
  • Multimedia via Allwinner Phoenix 3.0 VE Engine
  • Audio Encoding/Decoding
    • MPEG-1,MPEG-2(L1/L2/L3), MP3, AAC-LC, HE AAC V1/V2, APE, FLAC, OGG, AMR-NB, AMR-WB,G.711(u/a) decoding
      • G.711(u/a), AMR-NB, AMR-WB, AAC-LC encoding
      • Karaoke sound effects, supports automatic gain control, voice enhancement and echo/reverberation.
      • 3~5m far field sound acquisition, supports speech enhancement, acoustic echo cancellation and direction of speaker estimation.
      • Dolby Digital/Dolby Digital Plus decoding (option)
      • Dolby DMA2.0 audio effect (option)
      • DTS-HD decoding(option)
      • Dolby Digital/DTS transparent transmission
  • TS Demultiplexing/PVR
    • 4x TS inputs supporting 32 PID each
    • DVB-CSA/AES/DES descrambling
    • PVR,recording of scrambled and non-scrambled streams
  • Security/ DRM
    • Full Disk Encryption(FDE) with support for AES-ECB/CBC
    • 4K bits Efuse (OTP)
    • Protection for JTAG and other debugging port
    • HDCP 2.2/1.4 protection for HDMI outputs
    • Trusted execution environment(TEE)
    • Digital rights management(DRM)
    • Mainstream advanced CA
    • Secure boot, Secure Storage, Secure upgrade
  • Display Processing ((Smartcolor 3.0 DE Engine)
    • HDR10 and HLG HDR processing
    • HDR conversion between SDR
    • Dual independent display support
    • 16 layers, video and UI input layers to overlay
    • 3D video processing and display
  • Audio/Video Interfaces
    • Video Output
      • 1x HDMI 2.0a TX with HDCP 2.2 output
      • 1x CVBS interface , supports PAL/NTSC mode
      • 1x RGB interface up to1920x1080
    • Video Input – CSI camera (DVP)
    • Audio Interfaces
      • Analog audio input/output
      • Digital MIC interface
      • 2x I2S supporting 7.1 channel
      • S/PDIF audio interface
  • Other Interfaces
    • USB – 1x USB 3.0 host port, 1x USB2.0 OTG port, 1x USB 2.0 host port
    • 1x PCIe 2.0 interface
    • 1x SDIO 3.0
    • Ethernet – 1x 10/100 Mbps Ethernet with PHY, 1x Gigabit Ethernet MAC
    • 5x UART, 5x TWI/I2C, GPIOs
    • 2x ISO7816 Smart Card interfaces
    • IR receiver and keypad control interface
  • Misc
    • USB, SD card and flash boot supported
    • Adaptive voltage scaling (AVS)
    • Dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS)
  • Package – 15 x 15 mm BGA451 package

The CPU is not that important in TV boxes and set-top boxes, so there are no changes here except potentially a higher frequency (TBC). The dual shader Mali-T720 GPU should provide 3D performance in the same range as other competing solutions based on Mali-450MP and Mali-T820MP GPU, and includes OpenCL support for GPU compute applications. AFAIK it’s the first Allwinner processor to support HDR, so the company is mostly catching with competitors on the multimedia front. The video decoder supports 4K H.265 and VP9 at up to 60 fps, and 4K H.264 up to 30 fps, as well as 6K up to 30 fps. The processor can also support HD audio formats (as an option), while the transport stream (TS) interfaces to connect one or more more tuners, and Smart Card interfaces make it ideal for set-top box with free or premium content. The addition of USB 3.0 and PCIe will allow for fast storage options, with external PCIe to SATA chips potentially providing better performance than the SATA IP found in Allwinner R40, especially when it comes to write speed.

I found all this information in Allwinner H6 product brief published on linux-sunxi website. There’s no information anywhere else about H6 processor, even on Alibaba, so it will likely take many more months before products and boards are launched with the new SoC.