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Posts Tagged ‘stb’

WeTek Unveils Hyperion 4G LTE Set-Top Box & Nix OTT TV Box Running Android TV OS

January 12th, 2018 5 comments

When Geniatech announced Android TV certification for their ATV598Max set-top box with digital TV tuners compliant with DVB-T2, DVB-C, ATSC, or ISDB standards earlier this week, we noticed how few official Android TV STB there was on the market.

But more may be coming, as Wetek will showcase two Android TV products at CABSAT in Dubai on January 14-16 with Wetek Hyperion Amlogic S905D 4G LTE set-top box, as well as WeTek Nix OTT box powered by Amlogic S905X processor.

WeTek Hyperion

Specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S905D quad core ARM Cortex-A53 SoC up to 1.5 GHz, with penta-core ARM Mali-450 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC 5.0 flash
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0a (CEC, HDR, HDCP 1.4/2.2), mini jack analog AV output
  • Connectivity
    • Gigabit Ethernet
    • Dual band 802.11 ac/b/g/n WiFi (optional 802.11ac MiMo)
    • Bluetooth 4.0
    • 4G LTE modem – LTE-FDD: B2/B4/B5/B12/B13/B17/B25/B26; LTE-TDD: B41; Download up to 150 (Mbps). Upload up to 50 (Mbps)
  • Power Supply –  5V/2A

Hyperion does not appear to come with tuner, so we’ll have to see since S905D processor is well-suited for tuners. I think 4G LTE is popular in the Middle East since that’s how many people get their broadband Internet, so it’s possible this model mostly targets the MENA market. The device is promoted as a “complete home hub capable of providing the best video quality, user’s favorite Android applications and routing all Internet traffic at home”.

The set-top box currently runs Android TV 7.1.2, but Oreo 8.0 will also be supported, and DRM is enabled using ARM TrustZone SecureOS with Google Widevine Level 1 and Microsoft PlayReady 2.5 & 3.0 for secured, premium content playback. It will ship with a power supply, a 1.2m HDMI cable, and an optional one meter IR extender cable.

WeTek Nix

The second device appears to include lots of ventilation holes, and is a more traditional OTT TV box with the following specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S905X quad core ARM Cortex-A53 SoC up to 1.5 GHz, with penta-core ARM Mali-450 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC 5.0 flash
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0a (CEC, HDR, HDCP 1.4/2.2) up to 4K @ 60 Hz, mini jack analog AV output
  • Connectivity – 100 Mbit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 ac/b/g/n WiFi (optional 8902.11ac MiMo), Bluetooth 4.0
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A

Like Hyperion, Nix support Android TV 7.1.2 / 8.0, as well as Widewine L1 and PlayReady 2.5/3.0, but also adds Verimatrix VCAS for IPTV. The TV box with also ship with a power adapter, HDMI cable, and optional IR extender cable.

Both device seem to be targeted to OEM partners, and it’s unclear whether those models will be sold direct to end users like previous models such as Wetek Hub or WeTek Play 2. We’ll probably find out more in a few days.

Thanks to Ron for the tip

Geniatech ATV598Max is a Certified Android TV Hybrid TV Box with ATSC, DVB-T2, DVB-C, or ISDB-T Digital TV Tuner

January 10th, 2018 7 comments

Geniatech ATV495 Max was the first model from the company to get official Android TV certifications. There now a bunch of those ATV OEM devices, but if you want one with a digital TV tuner, then the choice is much more limited, and so far, I only heard about ARRIS set top boxes.

Geniatech ATV598 Max can now be added to the list, as the company informed me the Amlogic quad core hybrid TV box with ATSC, DVB-T2, or DVB-C tuner had just received official Android TV certification from Google too.

ATV598Max specifications:

  • SoC  – Amlogic S905D quad core Arm Cortex-A53 processor up to 1.5 GHz with penta-core Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3 (optional 1GB)
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a;
  • Audio – Via HDMI, optical output, optional Dolby support
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi or 802.11 b/g/ac WiFi module, Bluetooth
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Tuner – Optional ATSC/DVB-T2/DVB-C/ISDB-T tuner, 75 Ohm antenna input (coaxial or F-connector)
  • Power Supply – 5.0V/2A
  • Dimensions – 132 x 126 x 27.5 mm
  • Weight – 250g

The box ships with a HDMI cable, a user manual, a power adapter, and a remote control

ATV598Max runs Android TV 7.1, and the certification also includes Google Mobile Service (GMS) with the Play Store and other Google apps, as well as support for features such as Google Cast and Google Voice Search. The tuner software supports EPG, schedule recording, timeshift and parental control functions.

More details can be found on the product page.

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.

Marvell 802.11ax WiFi Chips are Designed for Enterprise Gateways, Mainstream Routers, and Set-Top Boxes

December 12th, 2017 No comments

High-Efficiency Wireless (HEW), better known as 802.11ax, is a new WiFi standard that is supposed to deliver up to 10 Gbps bandwidth over 2.4 and 5.0 GHz frequencies, and improve the average throughput per user by a factor of at least 4 times in dense environments. Several draft of the specifications have been voted on, but the latest 802.11ax timeline seems to indicate the final 802.11ax specifications will only be approved sometimes in 2019.

This has not prevented companies to announce or unveil 802.11ax SoC or solutions based on the draft specifications, as we’ve seen in the past with NXP Layerscape LA1575 programmable WiSoC, Qualcomm gateway reference design, and Broadcom Max WiFi chips. Marvell has now joined the fray with their 802.11ax wireless portfolio.

All Marvell 802.1ax WiSoCs support all using uplink & download OFDMA / MU-MIMO, 1024 QAM, off-channel spectrum scanning, dedicated in-service monitoring, and precision location. Three SKUs have been launched for different markets / products

  • Marvell 88W9068 8×8, 8-spatial stream device with 5-GHz support (up to 4.8 Gbps) for premium enterprise and retail access points, carrier gateways and fixed wireless services.
  • Marvell 88W9064 4×4, 4-spatial stream device with 5/2.4-GHz support (up to 2.4 Gbps) and integrated Bluetooth 5 for mainstream enterprise and retail access points, carrier gateways and fixed wireless services.
  • Marvell 88W9064S 2×4, 2-spatial stream device with 5/2.4-GHz support and integrated Bluetooth 5 for the service provider and OTT set-top box markets.

Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

The chips also have PCIe 3.0 interfaces and Marvell MoChi Interconnect, beside lower speed interfaces like 2-wire setial, SPI, GPIO, and UART. 88W9068 block diagram is similar minus the Bluetooth parts, and support for 8×8 5.0 GHz only WiFi.

Marvell 802.11ax solutions will be demonstrated at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, US next year. More details can be found on Marvell’s 802.11ax WiFi solutions page. The company also uploaded the video below explaining the advantage of 802.11ax for multi-user access.

Thanks to TLS for the tip.

Synaptics Introduces VideoSmart BG5CT 4K HDR Multimedia Video Processor for Set-Top Boxes

October 23rd, 2017 1 comment

Marvell used to design Media SoCs running Android TV such as ARMADA 1500 Ultra (aka BG4CT). That part of Marvell business has very recently been sold to Synaptics, which has just unveiled VideoSmart BG5CT multimedia SoC with 4K “Advanced” HDR video processing for the set-top-box market.

The BG5CT is said to be pin-to-pin compatible with BG4CT Android TV SoC, features a quad core ARM CPU @ 1.6 GHz with 15K DMIPS, an Imagination PowerVR Series8XE GE8310 GPU, and a security engine enabling secure boot, Trusted Rendering Path, full TrustZone, and video watermarking carrier-grade security making it suitable for Pay TV operators and set-top-box manufacturers.

Synaptics’ Qdeo video processing technology adds 4K “Advanced HDR” – including HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, and Technicolor HDR, among user video processing technology. The company did not provide that many details, but BG5CT appears to mostly add HDR support compared to BG4CT, and replace Vivante GC7000 GPU by PowerVR GE8310.

Primary SDKs for BG5CT will include Android TV and RDK. We can expect the new SoC to be found in “operator tier” Android TV set-top boxes with a custom launcher, and designed to handle Pay TV services from a specific provider.Visit the product page for (not that many) more details.

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

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.

U5 PVR Deluxe Android Set-Top Box Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing, Teardown, and SATA HDD Assembly

April 22nd, 2017 34 comments

Last year, I reviewed U4 Quad Hybrid, an Android TV box powered by Hisilicon Hi3796M quad core Cortex A7 processor and with a combo DVB-T2/C + DVB-S2 tuner. with digital TV tuner. It worked pretty well, except for a few bugs here and there, the processor is not the most powerful, and video output & decoding is limited to 4K  @ 30Hz. The company – Shenzhen Vivant Technology – is now back with a new model called U5 PVR powered by a more powerful Hisilicon Hi3798C V200 quad core Cortex A53 processor with fast interfaces like USB 3.0, SATA, and Gigabit Ethernet, as well as support for 4K @ 60Hz via a HDMI 2.0a interface. There are actually three variations of U5 PVR with Deluxe/Slim/Normal models, and the company sent me U5 PVR Deluxe model for review. As usual, after listing the specifications, I’ll start the review by checking out the hardware, before reporting my experience with the firmware in the second part.

U5 PVR Deluxe TV Box Specifications

The TV box has some pretty impressive specifications:

  • SoC – Hisilicon Hi3798C V200 quad core Cortex A53 processor + multi-core ARM Mali-T720 processor
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR4-2133 SDRAM
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC 5.0 flash, internal SATA port for 2.5″ & 3.5″ hard drives / SSDs, micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a port up to 4K60 with HDR10 support, HDCP 1.4/2.2, AV port (composite + stereo audio)
  • Audio Output – Via HDMI, AV ports, optical S/PDIF port
  • Video Decoding – 10-bit H.265/HEVC up to 160 Mbps, H.264, MPEG-2, AVS/AVS+, VC1, VP8/VP9
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • Tuner
    • Smart Card slot
    • 4 Options
      • Combo tuner with DVB-S2/S and DVB-T2/T/C tuners
      • Dual DVB-T2/T/C tuner with two demodulators
      • Twin DVB-S2/S tuner with Disqc v1.0, v1.2, and USALS support
      • Dual ATSC 2.0 tuner with two demodulators
  • Misc – Power/standby button, power switch, 2x LED, 4-digit 7 segment front panel display, IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A ; Standby mode power consumption: 0.5 watt
  • Dimensions – 320 x 275 x 135 mm
  • Weight – 1.5 kg
  • Operating Temperature – 0 to 45 °C

The box runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with LeanBack launcher, a customized Live TV app, and support for PVR, time-shifting, and  TVHeadEnd 3.6 to steam Live TV to other devices (laptop, smartphone…). You’ll find more details hardware and software specifications in U5 PVR forums.

U5 PVR Deluxe Unboxing

The device package is really massive compared to other boxes I’ve received. I thought somebody might have sent an large oscilloscope instead…

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The package also shows one more option for tuner: single satellite tuner (DVB-S2/S). No tick on my package, so we’ll see which exact model I’ve received later.

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The box ships with a WiFi antenna, a large remote control taking two AAA batteries, and HDMI cable, a SATA cable + screws, a 12V/3A power supoply, and U5 PVR user manual. The user manual indicates that I should have gotten an RS-232 cable too, but it was nowhere to be found.

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The front panel comes with one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port, a window for the IR receiver and LCD display, two LEDs and the power button.

Both sides of the set-top box expose plenty of ventilation holes, with one side featuring the WiFi antenna connector, and the other two more USB 2.0 ports, and the Smart Card slot. The rear panles comes with two coaxial connectors (one female, one male) for the tuner, a 3.5mm AV jack, optical S/PDIF, HDMI 2.0a, Gigabit Ethernet, micro SD slot, the power jack, a mechanical power switch, and an RS-232 port used to reflash or upgrade the firmware.

U5 PVR Deluxe Teardown and SATA Drive Installation

Most TV boxes need to be opened from the bottom side of the case, and there are indeed a few screws that we could have removed to try to open the box. But since U5 PVR is supposed to take an internal hard drive, I found it would be an inconvenient way.

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So I looked into the user manual, but found absolutely nothing about installing a hard drive in the box. Then I realized the top cover was slightly elevated, and after gently pulling it I managed to take it out fairly easily.

We can see multiple mounting options with A: 2x 2.5″ HDD, B: 1x 3.5″ HDD, and C: 1x DVD. There’s only one SATA port, so I’m not sure how you would install two SATA drives, and a DVD drive would be possibly, but inconvenient unless you have a specific application that requires one DVD, or you place it on top of the case, and do not put the top cover back. There are also holes to install a fan, but I don’t have details to what type of fan is suitable. The sticker on the top left of the case read “Warranty void if seal is broken”, which does not make any sense, since that means connecting the hard drive internally would void the warranty. Anyway, I loosen the four screws, and pulled out the cover to have a better look at the board.

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The board is called “VV98C VERO 3”. A small heatsink covers the Hisilicon processor, are very next to it we can see a 16GB Samsung KLMAG2GEND-B031 eMMC 5.0 flash with 230/50MB/s sequential R/W speeds, and 6.5K/6K R/W IOPS, as well as two K4A8G16-5WG8CRC DDR4 memory chips. The tuner board comes with two Availink AVL6762TA DVB-T2/T/C demodulators, which means I got the Dual DVB-T2/T/C tuner version of U5 PVR Deluxe. Ampak AP6335 module provides 802.11 b/g/n/ac and  Bluetooth 4.0 Smart connectivity, while as we can see in the picture below, Realtek RTL8211E transceiver and PSF-2447 transformer are used for Gigabit Ethernet.

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Genesys Logic GL850G USB 2.0 hub is used for the extra USB ports since the processor only comes with a single USB 2.0 interface. The tiny 8-pin chip close to the power jack is FR9889 step-down DC to DC converter. The front panel board includes i-core HD2015E LED driver IC.

Now that we’ve had a look at the board’s main components. Let’s carry with the hard drive installation, and I’ll use a 3.5″ hard drive. First connect the 4-wire part of the cable J12 header, and the red SATA cable to the SATA port close to Ampak AP6335 module.

Connect the other part of the cable to the hard drive, place the HDD upside-down on a table, and tighten the four screws through the four “B” holes, before placing it back on top of the case as shown below.

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Tighten the four screws on the edges of the box, put back the top cover, and you’re done. In case, you prefer to use a fan, I strongly suspect that J14 3-pin header on the main board is designed for this very purpose.

I’d like to thank Shenzhen Vivant Technology for sending a review sample. Distributors and resellers may contact the company to purchase in quantities. U5 PVR Deluxe is for sale for $229.99 on Vivant Technology Aliexpress store, where you’ll also find a dual ATSC tuner board for $29.99.

Continue reading U5PVR Deluxe Set-Top Box & NAS Review – Part 2: Android TV, Debian, and Live TV App