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Posts Tagged ‘videostrong’

Mecool VS-RK3399 Board Linux Benchmarks

September 27th, 2017 11 comments

I’ve just showed how to install Debian, and build a Linux image from source on VS-RD-RK3399 board (aka Mecool VS-RK3399) last week-end, but at the time I did not run any benchmarks on the board. We already have plenty of benchmarks for Rockchip RK3399 in Android, so instead I started by installing the latest Phoronix Test Suite in Debian:


… and ran the tests I did on NanoPi NEO 2 earlier:

For whatever reasons OpenSSL and Mafft failed to download, but we still have the other benchmarks to compare with. Note that the Debian image is likely not optimized, and while the system runs an Aarch64 kernel, the rootfs is only 32-bit, which may have affected some of the benchmarks.

But let’s see what’s we’ve got, starting with John the Ripper password cracker, a multi-threaded benchmark.

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We’d normally expect hardware platforms based on Rockchip RK3399 SoC to outperform all other Cortex A53 or A17 based boards in the list, but MiQi board with a quad core Cortex A17 processor @ 1.8 GHz, and BPI-M3 board with an octa-core Cortex A7 processor @ 2.0 GHz, both beat the VS-RK3399 with an hexa-core processor with two Cortex A72 cores @ 1.8 GHz, and four Cortex A53 cores @ 1.4 GHz. BPI-M3 is even twice as fast in this test.

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C-Ray is also a multi-threaded benchmark, but here Rockchip RK3399 SoC shines, making VS-RK3399 the fastest platform of the lot, also beating MeLE PCG02U TV stick (MeUbuntu 14.04.3) powered by an Intel Bay Trail Z3735F processor.

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Smallpt is another multi-threaded benchmark, and VS-RK3399 board does well, but it’s still beaten by the Intel TV stick (OpenMP might help here?), and Banana Pi M3.

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The Rockchip RK3399 board is the fastest ARM platform for Himeno linear solver of pressure Poisson, but due to specific x86 instructions and/or optimization, the Bay Trail TV stick is well ahead.

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Finally, for FLAC audio encoding, VS-RK3399 is the best ARM platform (in the tested lot) by a wide margin, but Intel is ahead with their more advanced SIMD instructions.

So Rockchip RK3399 processor will outperform all ARM boards with single threaded tasks thanks to it Cortex A72 cores, but in some multi-threaded tests, octa-core Cortex A7, and quad core Cortex A17 platforms may deliver better results.

VS-RD-RK3399 board comes with a 32GB Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash that supposed to deliver 246/46 MB/s R/W speed, and 6K/5K R/W IOPS.

I tested it with iozone using a 100MB file:

Results for the read speed are around the theoretical limit, but write speeds are well above, maybe because of some caching.

I switched to Gigabit Ethernet performance testing starting with a full duplex iperf test:

Not quite optimal, so let’s look at upload only:

and download only:

Both of which are quite good. I had been told that IRQ may all be handled by CPU0 (Cortex A53 core in the board), and the following changes may improve performance:

So I repeated the tests, and something impossible happened:

We’re not supposed to get 1.35 Gbps on Gigabit Ethernet… So I tried again for a longer period of time (10 minutes):

Same results.. But looking at the output from the server side, it looks more realistic:

and it does improve a little compared to the first test without the tweaks.

Checking Out Debian and Linux SDK for VideoStrong VS-RD-RK3399 Board

September 25th, 2017 32 comments

VideoStrong VS-RD-RK3399 (aka VS-RK3399) is a features-packed development board powered by Rockchip RK3399 hexa core core processor which offers an alternative to Firefly-RK3399 board. The company sent me a development kit for evaluation, and I’ve already looked into VS-RD-RK3399 hardware and SDK in the first part of the review. Today, after shortly looking into the pre-installed Android 7.1 OS to make sure the board boots fine, I’ll report my experience with Debian 9, and building it from source.

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A Quick Look at Android 7.1

I connected the board to my HDMI TV, added an Ethernet cable, and after powering it, VS-RK3399 promptly booted into Android 7.1 with the following launched.

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It just has a few apps pre-installed, and lack Google Play store, but as I’ve seen in the new version of the SDK, a patch for Google Play store is provided, if that’s something you need for your use case.

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The version I had pre-installed was built on August 14, 2017 with Android 7.1.2 OS running on top of Linux 4.4.55 kernel.

The storage section shows plenty of space left out of the 29.12GB flash partition, and the NTFS and EXT-4 partitions of my USB drives were mounted properly.

However, Explorer app would keep on reporting all USB partitions were NOT mounted. I had to use my smartphone to transfer the screenshots over Bluetooth. Adb would have been another option. Anyway, the Android version I had on my board was pretty rough, but I can see they’ve released another Android image in VS3399 board’s MEGA folder. I have not tried it, since I’ve spent enough time playing with Android on RK3399 with TV boxes such as Yundoo Y8 and Vorke Z3.

Installing Debian

So instead I went to the aforelinked MEGA folder, and downloaded VS-RD-RK3399-linuxSDK, which not only have the SDK like last month, but also a Debian image.

So I downloaded debia_linux_20170905.rar, and the rar file in linux_update_tools, but the latter actually contains (outdated versions of) Windows based Rockchip’s AndroidTool & DriverAssistant, but since I’m using Ubuntu, I went with upgrade_tool instead just like I did for Rock64 board quick start guide.

We’ll need to enter recovery mode to flash the Debian image. While the board is running keep pressing the recovery button, press the reset button shortly, count to 2 or 3, and release the recovery button. When you connect the USB type C to USB 3.0 cable between the board and your computer, you should see the board in the kernel log (dmesg):

How we can extract the Debian firmware, and flash it with upgrade_tool:

if successful the procedure is successful, the output should like the four lines below:

and the board should have automatically rebooted to Debian 9.

Testing Debian 9 on VS-RK3399 Board

Now that the installation is complete, we can start to play with the Debian on the board. Or can’t we? There’s no menu available at all, and only the Trash icon on the desktop. If I right click I get some more menus…

So I went into Desktop Preferences, enabled some other icons, and change the right click behavior.

Now I can launch some apps such as the terminal emulator and Chromium web browser, but they don’t show on the desktop at all, despite clearly running “somewhere”…

I then noticed I can move the mouse cursor beyond he left side of the HDMI TV, so I’d assumed there must be another display enabled. I tried to connect Dodocool DC30S hub to the USB type C port since it supports DisplayPort, but I get no signal on my other monitor, so the extra display must be connected via eDP or MIPI DSI, and the company sent me neither.

I could see the image is based on Linaro ALIP rootfs, so I connected to the board via SSH, hoping that linaro/linaro username and password would work, and they did:

The image runs Debian 9 with Linux 4.4.55, and we have a 29GB rootfs, and 3877 MB memory in total.

We can get some more details about the CPU with 2 Cortex A72 cores clocked at up to 1.8 GHz, and 4 Cortex A53 cores clocked at up to 1.416 GHz:

The Gigabit Ethernet port and WiFi module are both detected:

I could not find Bluetooth however using “communication”, and the list of buses or bridges only showed USB ports, no PCI(e) interfaces:

lspci did not return anything either.

Build a Debian Image from Source

Since the image is not really usable with LCD display, I won’t perform more tests on Debian firmware, and instead will work with the SDK, trying to build my own image from source. We can extract the Linux SDK we’ve gotten from the MEGA link:

…and follow / adapt the instructions in VS-RK3399 Linux SDK Compile and build (EN).pdf document found in VS-RD software datasheet folder.

The company recommends a build machine running Ubuntu 14.04 / 16.04 64-bit, and I installed some dependencies on my Ubuntu 16.04 computer:

as well as ARM/ARM64 GCC toolchain and other tools and libraries:

We can now build u-boot:

It should only take a few seconds, and we can make sure the build went fine:

Next up is the the Linux kernel:

We have to choose an image to build with the dts file of our choice:

The -edp image is with eDP LCD display, -mipi is for MIPI LCD display, and the -dulelcd must be for both (“dual LCD”). So there’s no option for no LCD at all right now, and I’m not sure why there’s a need for three DTS files for the board, as surely this should be possible to select/configure the LCD outputs are runtime (TBC). But let’s use the MIPI LCD one:

I did not go that well, as the build failed:

I tried with rk3399-videostrong-board-edp.img again, and same error, but I noticed more details by scrolling up:

We can see gsl3673.c file is missing:

So I renamed the c-old file to c, and could complete the build:

Now we can build the complete firmware from source using buildroot:

The build all script will take a long while as it downloads and builds all packages. It took over 2 hours on my machine. I ended with:

It looks OK, except for the script failed to remove one file/directory. Let’s try to create the firmware file:

Sadly that part failed too because of conflicts with a patch:

That failures means the rootfs was not built, and the script is so bad did not stop during mpp build failure, and continued building other libs:

I have not tried to fix the issue, as I don’t know how many other issues are hidden in that big piles of code. VideoStrong should look into and provide an SDK that actually builds.. In case the build works, we should get rootfs.img file that can be flashed with AndroidTool if we follow the instructions in the PDF file.

However, you’ll also be able to flash the files one by one using upgrade_tool in Linux, no need to have a Windows machine for any part of the process.

It’s hard to recommend VS-RD-RK3399 if you are an individual who want a platform for development since software support and documentation are rather poor, but if you are a company that plans to order in quantity, you should have direct support from the company, and you can contact them via Alibaba’s VideoStrong page. If you have a good skills, and are ready to work to solve whatever issues, you can also purchase the board for $168.32 (2GB/16GB) or $213.29 (4GB/32GB) on GearBest where it is sold under the MECOOL brand (Coupon GBCNA will give a 14% discount), or Aliexpress. For reference, Firefly-RK3399 in equivalent memory/storage configuration sells for $179 and $219 on Aliexpress. It’s also listed on Amazon US for $149.99/$199.99.

Videostrong VS-RD-RK3399 Development Board Review – Part 1: Unboxing, Kit Assembly, SDK and Documentation

August 18th, 2017 8 comments

Videostrong VS-RD-RK3399 development board is a full-featured development based on Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor with up to 4GB RAM, and 32GB eMMC flash, and plenty of I/Os. The company has sent me a sample, and after getting some trouble going through customs with questions like “what is a development board?” and “is it a board for TV boxes or computers?”, I finally got hold of the parcel. Today, I’ll check out the board and its accessories, show how to assemble it, and since the company shared more info about documentation and software, quickly go over what’s available.

Videostrong VS-RD-RK3399 Development Kit Unboxing

The board was in a bland carton box, which is fine since it’s not a consumer product, with a stick showing I got the 4GB LPDDR3 / 32GB eMMC flash version. There’s also a board using 2GB/16GB configuration.


The package includes the board, bottom and top acrylic plates for the “case”, some spacers, WiFi and Bluetooth antenna, USB 3.0 type A to USB type C cable, a user’s manual detailing the board’s specifications and pinout diagram…

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… and a 12V/2A power adapter and EU, US, and UK plug adapters.

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I also took some closer photos of the development board, and it will only report new information that I have not already written in the announcement post.  First, the eMMC flash is Samsung KLMBG4WEBD-B031, the cheapest 32GB eMMC flash from the company, but still with acceptable performance: 246/46 MB/s R/W speed, and 6K/5K R/W IOPS.

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There are many USB ports in the board’s design, and this is done via Genesys Logic GL850G USB 2.0 hub chip, while the audio codec is Realtek ALC5640.

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The back of the board includes an mPCIe slot for a 4G LTE card, and a MIPI DSI connector.

VS-RD-RK3399 Kit Assembly

The assembly of the kit is mostly straightforward for may be a little confusing at the beginning. First, we’ll need to remove the protection on the acrylic plates, and use the bottom one with the 6 ventilation lines, and tighten the small and medium spacers around the base, with the small ones facing down. I thought it was a good idea to connect the u.FL to SMA cable for the antenna at this stage, but they come off those easily, it’s better to do it later.

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Then we’ll place the main board on top of the medium spacer, and tighten the longer spacers on top. Once it’s done we can remove nuts from the SMA connector, insert the antenna cables on the right and middle hole in the top acrylic, and screw the nuts back to keep the cables in place.

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We can now connect the antenna cables the ANT0 (for Bluetooth), and ANT1 (for WiFi) u.FL connectors on the board, place the top cover with the two opening aligned over the MIPI CSI connectors, and tighten it with the four remaining nuts we have, before completing the assembly by installing the two antennas.

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VS-RD-RK3399 Board SDK and Documentation

When I asked about Android/Linux software development kit, and documentation last week, the company had nothing to offer, saying the SDK will be provided via a link… Today, they gave me that link on MEGA with most of what is needed for development.

The download is too big for a free MEGA account, unless you are really patient, but you should be able to download everything using megaupload tools in a terminal.

I haven’t completed the download yet, and I’ll look into details during the next part of the review, but we can see 6 main directories:

  • VS-RD-RK3399-linuxSDK – The Linux SDK
  • VS-RD-android7.1-SDK – Android Nougat SDK
  • VS-RD Software image – Android firmware, apparently no Linux OS (yet)
  • VS-RD Software datasheet – Linux, Android, Dual OS documentation
  • VS-RD Hardware – Parts datasheet, RK3399 TRM, LCD datasheet (No schematics apparently)
  • DevelopmentTool – Various tools for development like AndroidTool, DriverAssistant, etc…

If you are interesting in the platform, you can purchase it by contacting Videostrong via Alibaba.

[Update: Part 2 of VS-RD-RK3399 / Mecool VS-RK3399 board: Checking Out Debian and Linux SDK for VideoStrong VS-RD-RK3399 Board]

VideoStrong VS-RD-RK3399 is Another Development Board Based on Rockchip RK3399 Processor

August 11th, 2017 9 comments

VideoStrong is better known for their Android set-top boxes with digital TV tuners, but they are making other hardware too, and their latest design is a Rockchip RK3399 development board named VS-RD-RK3399.

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VideoStrong VS-RD-RK3399 board specifications:

  • SoC – Rochchip RK3399 hexa-core big.LITTLE processor with two ARM Cortex A72 cores up to 2.0 GHz and four core Cortex A53 cores,  ARM Mali-T860 MP4 GPU with OpenGL 1.1 to 3.1 support, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL and DX 11 support
  • System Memory – Dual channel 2GB or 4GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16/32 GB eMMC 5.1 flash, micro SD card
  • Video Output & Display Interfaces
    • 1x HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz
    • 1x DisplayPort up to 4K @ 60 Hz
    • 1x MIPI DSI dual channel interface up to 2560×1600 @ 60 Hz
    • 1x eDP (embedded DisplayPort) 1.3 with 4-lanes @ 10.8 Gbps
    • 1x I2C interface for touch panel
  • Video Decode – 4K VP9 and 10-bit H.265 video codec support up to 60 fps
  • Audio
    • Via HDMI or DisplayPort
    • 1x 3.5mm headphone jack with stereo audio output and mic input
    • 1x LINE out
    • 1x speaker output (1.8W 8Ω/3.1W 4Ω )
    • 2x speaker outputs (1.5W 8Ω/2.5W 4Ω )
    • 1x SPDIF digital audio output port
    • 1x microphone
    • 1x I2S interface up to 8 channels
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet (RJ45) port using RTL8211E transceiver, WiFi 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO and Bluetooth 4.1 (AP6356S module)
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 type C port
  • Camera
    • 2x MIPI CSI interfaces up to 13MP or 2x 8MP
    • 1x DVP camera interface up to 5MP
  • Debugging – 3-pin serial header
  • Expansion
    • 42-pin GPIO female header with access to 1x I2S, 2x ADC, 2x I2C, 1x SPI/UART, 2x GPIO, 1x LINEOUT, 1x SPEAKER
    • 1x mini PCIe for LTE
    • 1x SIM card slot
  • Misc – Power and user LEDs; 1x IR receiver, 1x RTC battery port; reset, power, and upgrade buttons
  • Power Supply – 12V/3A DC via 5.5×2.1mm barrel connector or 2-pin header; RK808 PMIC
  • Dimensions – 12.4 x 9.5 mm (8-layer PCB)
  • Weight – Board: 89 grams; board + cooling fan and heatsink: 120 grams

The specifications are very similar to the ones for Firefly-RK3399 board, except a few tweaks here and there. You’ll find the header pinout in that document.

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The company will offer support for both Android 7.1 and Linux, but when asked about the SDK I was told that “SDK could be down load from our indicating link”. If you are confused, so I was, but after deep mediation, I saw the light, and it probably means that they’ll provide download links for the SDK to their customers only.

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The kit comes with an acrylic case, and antennas for WiFi and Bluetooth. I don’t have any confirmation about the price, but the board is listed on Alibaba for $149.99. We’ll soon find out more as the company intends to send a sample for review.

Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid STB Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, TV Center, and DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 App

March 22nd, 2017 92 comments

Last year I reviewed K1 Plus T2 S2, an Android TV box powered by Amlogic S905 quad core processor with DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 tuner support, which worked with some caveats. VideoStrong has now send me an updated model with Amlogic S912 octa-core processor, which I presented in the post entitled Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid Android STB Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown, where I listed the specifications, and showed photos of the device and the boards (main board + tuner board). I’ve now had time to play with the device, and in many respects the user experience is very similar to the one I got with KI Plus T2 S2 models, but there are also some tweaks, and a few bugs which I’ll report in the second part of the review below.

KIII Pro Hybrid TV Box Setup, Settings, & Power Consumption

The four USB ports are really convenient, as I could connect a USB hard drive, an air mouse, a wireless game pad, and a USB keyboard without the need for a USB hub. I also connected the usual Ethernet and HDMI cable, plus the cable from my Satellite dish to the DVB-S2 F connector, and the cable from my roof antenna to the DVB-T2 coaxial connector.

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Once we connect the power, the device boots automatically, and usually takes under 30 seconds to do so. The launcher is pretty much the same as KI Plus TV box.

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So I won’t go through it in details again, and will only comment on one change. Kodi is gone and been replaced by something called “TV Center”. So I clicked on it, and it showed a famous Chinese proverb “The installation isn’t installed!”. So I went to the list of apps, and click on TV CENTER, which will do the installation of this mysterious app.

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Once it’s done I can click on TV Center, and the user interface looks familiar.

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So that means they made some modifications to Kodi 17, and change the name to comply with the trademark requirements.

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The TV Center installation also automatically added some add-ons as shown in the screenshot below.

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The Setting app is exactly the same as for other recemt Amlogic TV boxes, and there’s nothing specific to DVB, so I’ll mostly skip it (If you want to see check out Qintaix Q912 review), except to show Storage & USB section that reveals 634 MB is used out of 16.00 GB. That’s obviously a fake number, and it should be around 11 to 12 GB, but the company may have chosen to do so to avoid some customer’s complains that there’s not 16GB storage, as they don’t understand the OS take places on the flash.

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

The About section shows the model is indeed KIII pro running Android 6.0.1 on top of Linux 3.14.29. The firmware is rooted by default.

OTA update appears to be supported, but at the time of the review, there was no update available.

I tested the provide IR remote by adding two AA batteries, and it works well up to 10 meters. For most other TV boxes, I’d recommend to use an air mouse, bu in the case of KIII Pro, you’ll need to keep using the remote control in order to support DTV app for DVB-S2/DVB-T2 properly, maybe switching to an air mouse or wireless keyboard + touchpad for some other Android apps. One recurring issue in most TV boxes is still present in KIIIPro however: the mouse cursor is rather small when you set your TV to 4K resolution.

I could install all apps I needed through Google Play, and Amazon Underground without issues.

The set-top box has only two power modes: off or on, and there’s no standby mode. I can turn the device on or off using the IR remote control or the power button.

Power consumption is pretty high in power off, as I tested different options with or without the USB hard drive, but I found a lot of variability with testing:

  • Power off – Test 1: 5.1 Watt; Test 2: 2.2  Watts; Test 3: 3.1 Watts
  • Idle – 7.2 Watts, then 4.3 Watts (2nd try)
  • Power off + HDD – Test 1: 5.1 Watt; Test 2: 2.2  Watts; Test 3: 3.1 Watts
  • Idle + HDD – 9.3 Watts then 8.1 Watts (2nd try)

The good news is that USB ports are turned off in power off mode, so at least the extra power consumption does not come from those ports.

Temperature is a little higher than other boxes, but I’ve not encounter massive CPU throttling during my tests. After playing a 2-hour video the maximum top and bottom temperatures as measured with an IR thermometer were respectively 53°C and 57°C, while after playing Riptide GP2 for about 15 to 20 minutes the temperatures were 51°C and 57°C, but I did not notice any lower framerate in the game as the time went on. I quickly started CPU-Z after quitting the game, and the reported temperature in the app was a high 89°C, so in some conditions performance degradation due to high temperature might be possible, I just did not experience it during my tests. FYR, room temperature was around 30 °C during testing.

KIII Pro Android firmware feels very much like any other Amlogic S912/S905X TV boxes, and it was responsive without any critical bugs. The only small annoyances were the somewhat loud music during the boot animation, the small cursor at 4K resolution, and the relatively high power consumption in power off mode.

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

As we’ve seen in the section above, Kodi is not installed per se, but instead the box comes with an installer for a fork of Kodi 17.0-RC3 called TV Center.

I enabled “Adjust display refresh rate” in Kodi settings,and started by playing 4K video over Ethernet from a Linux SAMBA share:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Not always smooth
  • 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 (NB: 4K H.264 @ 60 fps is not supported by S912 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 as S912 VPU does not support 10-bit H.264)
  • Ducks Take Off [2160p a 243 Mbps].mkv (4K H.264 @ 29.97 fps; 243 Mbps; no audio) – USB hard drive playback: Not smooth as on all other Amlogic TV boxes.
  • 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 not always perfectly smooth as with all Amlogic S912 TV boxes.

4K video capabilities are pretty much the same as on other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, except for HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 that was worse than usual. Automatic frame rate switching is not working again as is the case on most other S912 boxes, except MINIX NEO U9-H.

Next up I enabled HDMI audio pass-through in Kodi, and since TrueHD is not part of the list, I also enabled Dolby Digital (AC3) transcoding.

Here are the results of my tests with Onkyo TX-NR636 receiver.

Video PCM 2.0 Output
(Kodi)
PCM 2.0 Output
(MX Player / Video Player app)
HDMI Pass-through
(Kodi)
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio OK, but video not smooth at all OK Audio OK (Dolby D 5.1), Video not smooth
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK OK (Dolby D 5.1)
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK Video not smooth, and audio cuts No audio
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
Dolby Atmos 7.1 OK No audio Dolby D 5.1 (transcoding)
DTS HD Master OK No audio No audio and black screen
DTS HD High Resolution OK OK No audio and black screen
DTS:X OK No audio No audio and black screen

That’s pretty bad if you plan to use HDMI audio pass-through, except for Dolby Digital 5.1 / AC3. The first video has often problem on Amlogic TV boxes in Kodi, but most AC3 video should work fine. A good news is that AC3 is working via MX Player, so if you receive live TV channels with AC3 audio through the DTV app, it should be able to decode AC3 audio properly, something that was not possible in K1 Plus T2 S2.

I also played a 2-hour video to check for stability. The first time, TV CEnter app crashed with the message “Unfortunately TV Center has stopped” after about 5 minutes, and my second attempt was not completely trouble free either, as the video stopped at around the 50 minutes marked, and the system went back to TV Center UI, but I could select the video again, was offered to resume from 49:21, and it could play until the end.

KIII Pro supports Widevine Level 3 DRM. That means no Netflix HD like on most competing Android media players.

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

Now to the most important features of KIII Pro hybrid set-top box: DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 tuner support. The box is using the same DTV app as on K1 Plus T2 S2 with only minor modifications. The first time you launch the app, you should get the following message indicating there aren’t any channels yet, and asking you to scan for channels.

Once you agree, you’ll be ask to select DVB S/S2 or DVB T/T2.

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I’ve gone with the latter first, and I’ll redirect you to the post entitled “How to Configure DVB-S2 and DVB-T2 Tuners in K1 Plus Android DTV Receiver” since the procedure is the same. I got 26 channels for my T2 scan, but somehow I got 30 channels on K1 Plus T2 S2. So I went to check the settings, and this time the Area Setting was already set to Thailand, either automatically, or it was done before sending the device.

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Anyway I could watch both HD and SD channels without any problems, and signal strength are quality are both at 100% or close to it all the time.

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The EPG looks exactly the same, and it still has problems with Thai encoding or font.

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But before testing other features, let’s configure our satellite dish. Press the Menu key on the remote control, select Installation,

and then DVB S/S2.

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You’ll be able to select your satellite from a list, or define your own as I showed in K1 Plus T2 S2 setup guide and review. I did not show Motor Settings last time, so I’ve taken two screenshots one showing DiSEQc 1.2 support…

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… and the other USALS support. I have not tested either since I don’t own a motorized satellite dish.

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Once you are happy with the setting go to Multi Scan menu to see your satellite list, and press the Blue button on the remote control to start scanning.

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I got 25 TV channels and 7 radios after selecting a Blind Scan and FTA (free-to-air) channels only. Last year, I got 55 TV channels and 5 radio with the same “Thaicom2” satellite. Go figure… Signal strength and quality are quite lower in my case at around 55% and 50% respectively. There are some channels without signal, just as with K1 Plus T2 S2.

One nice improvement is that you don’t need to select between DVB-T2 or DVB-S2 when you start DTV app, as all your channels are shown in the list.

I tried EPG scheduling to start playback or record video, and it works exactly like before.

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So  I setup a few “timers, and watched a DVB-T2 channel live, and one minute before a schedule recording on MONEY channel (DVB-S2) the following window overlaid the video:

I did not press any button, and one the count down expire, it switched to MONEY channel automatically (good), and I got the message “recording complete” (bad). I could reproduce this bug several times. I noticed if I schedule a recording on a channel, and stay on that channel it will work fine.

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You can see the list of recording above on my USB hard drive with some started manually (REC key on remote), and several scheduled. All the 0 bytes videos are due to the bug described above. So schedule does not work 100% reliably. However I noticed different current times (shown in top right of EPG) with different channels, for example it was 13:10 on a DVB-T2 channels, and 13:18 on a DVB-S2 channel, so this might explain some of the issues.. Please note that if you schedule program, and turn off the box, it won’t automatically start to record, and some comments in case try to run DTV app in the background and do other things. The DTV app must run in foreground in other to record videos.

I was more lucky with TimeShifting. Pressing the play/pause key on the remote control, will ask you to select a storage device, and you’ll be able to pause and play live TV within a default 5 minutes period, but this is adjustable in the settings. Note that you need external storage, as this won’t work from the flash.

Advanced users will be able to access CCcam, BISS, and PowerVU setting, by pressing the Menu key, selecting Installation and DVB S/S2, and from there enter 111111 on the remote (6 times character 1) to access Smart Data Manager menu.

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I have not done a video again since it’s so similar to the previous model, with just a few minor changes to the user interface, and if you want to check out DTV app into more details, I invite you to watch K1 Plus T2 S2 video review.

Networking (WiFi & Ethernet)

I’ve checked WiFi performance by transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash (and vice versa) using ES File Explorer. I’ve only tried 802.11ac (connected @ 265 Mbps) , and again performance was asymmetric with the download @ 3.70 MB/s and upload @ 1.44 MB/s, and average @ 2.1 MB/s which makes it similar to other recent Amlogic TV boxes.

Throughput in MB/s

However, last time I reviewed MINIX NEO U9-H which had disappointing WiFi results with the same tests, as it was much slower than MINIX NEO U1 despite ahving the same WiFi module and overall system setup. MINIX them showed me their own tests with different routers showing similar performance between NEO U1 and NEO U9-H, so Amlogic may have completely blown up their SAMBA implementation in their Android 6.0 SDK (NEO U1 runs Android 5.0, U9-H runs Android 6.0).

For that reason, I also tested 802.11ac download speed using iperf “download” test:

That’s 216 Mbps (~27 MB/s) with a raw TCP transfer, and while SAMBA is not supposed to be the fastest network protocol, performance should not drop as low as 3.7 MB/s (over 7 times slower) for the SAMBA download unless something is really wrong.

I also tested Gigabit Ethernet with iperf but using a dual duplex test, and performance is fine.

Doing a SAMBA download over Gigabit Ethernet gets a 885 MB file transfer in 59 seconds (15 MB/s) to the internal flash, which is pretty much normal. So it looks like the issues occur when combining WiFi with SAMBA. SAMBA performs fine with Ethernet, and WiFi raw TCP transfer speed is OK.

Storage

KIII Pro supports exFAT, NTFS, and FAT32 file systems, but not EXT-4 and BTRFS. Benchmarks with A1SD bench shows you should avoid exFAT to record videos with the DTV app, as write speed is rather low (1.35 MB/s), and the write speed (156.09 MB/s) is just incorrect as it is what triggered the “Cached read” in the screenshot below.

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That means your only option is to use NTFS for external storage if you want to support larger video files. Performance is good at 44.43 MB/s for read speed, and  16.74 MB/s write speed.

The eMMC flash (“SD card” in screenshot) performance is not outstanding, but at 41.34 MB/s (read) and 18.29 MB/s (write) is good enough for the system to boot fast, and feel responsive at all times.

KIII Pro Benchmarks

CPU-Z correctly reports an octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.51 GHz with an ARM Mali-T860 GPU. Model KIII Pro is using q20x board, and the pp shows with 2825 MB total RAM, and 11.87 GB internal storage (the real value, but the 16GB shows in Android settings).

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Since I’ve reviewed so many Amlogic S912 TV boxes, and only ran Antutu 6.x benchmark to make sure there was no hidden issue, and the 40,330 points achieved by the TV box is within the normal range.

Conclusion

KIII Pro comes with typical performance and flaws of other Amlogic S912 TV boxes, with Android 6.0 firmware working well, TV Center (Kodi 17 fork) playing 4K videos relatively well, supporting DD 5.1 pass-through, but not the full range of audio codec, and lacking support for automatic frame rate switching. The device is however unique thanks to its dual tuner with DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 inputs, and the DTV app is about the same as on the previous model (K1 Plus T2 S2), but merges channels from both sources instead of having to choose at launch. Sadly some of the same bugs and shortcomings linger such as font encoding issues, and inablity to run PVR process in the background.

PROS

  • Stable and Responsive Android 6.0 firmware
  • Decent 4K video playback in TV Center (Kodi fork)
  • Support for Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3) HDMI pass-through and downmixing in all apps
  • DVB-S/S2 & DVB-T/T2 support via DTV app with timershifting, EPG, and PVR support
  • Good 802.11ac WiFi and Ethernet performance
  • OTA firmware update (App is there, but not fully tested as no new firmware available during the review)

CONS (and Bugs)

  • DVB issues and shortcomings:
    • DVB S/S2 signal strength and quality is only around 50 to 55% (on my setup and for others too), which could lead to problems get signals for some channels
    • Thai font encoding issues
    • In some conditions, scheduled recordings will start on time, but stop immediately resulting in an empty video.
    • PVR function does not work in background, so the DTV app must be on the foreground at all time, and the box cannot be turned off when using schedules/timers.
  • HDMI audio pass-through not working (in TV Center) for Dolby Digital+ 7.1, TrueHD and DTS / DTS-HD
  • Automatic frame rate switching is not working in Kodi
  • Potential instability issues with TV Center – The 2-hour video test failed twice: 1st time: crash after 5 minutes; 2nd time the video stopped after about 50 minutes, but I could resume. N.B.: I did not experience other crashes while testing video samples.
  • Mediocre WiFi + SAMBA performance like in other S905X/S912 TV boxes with Android 6.0.
  • Relatively high power consumption (2.2 to 5.1 Watts) in power off mode
  • While I have not noticed obvious CPU or GPU throttling during my tests, temperature does get high (89 °C reported in CPU-Z)
  • Minor issues – Very small mouse pointer @ 4K resolutions, loud music during boot logo

Finally, I also have a user-friendliness remark. If you are just going to use TV Center and DTV app, the provided IR remote control will do, but if you are going to also use other Android apps, I normally recommend to replace the IR remote control with an air mouse. It’s not really possible/practical with KIII Pro, as DTV app has been designed around the IR remote control with keys such as MENU, PVR, REC, EPG… That means you’ll need juggle with both the IR remote control and an air mouse in order to fully enjoy all capabilities of the device. It would be really nice if VideoStrong could come up with an (optional) air mouse with keyboard that also supports DTV app.

Resellers and distributors may inquire Videostrong via their Alibaba page to purchase KIII Pro in quantities. Individuals can purchase KIII Pro Android set-top box on  GearBest ($117.99), Aliexpress ($141 and up), Banggood ($133.99), and other online retailers.

Mecool KM8 P Amlogic S912 TV Box Runs Android 7.1 Nougat, Sells for $39 and Up

March 19th, 2017 22 comments

We’ve already written about Android 7.1 on Amlogic earlier with week with an overview of the system and SDK from a developer, and there were some issues and user interface inconsistencies. However, I’ve just seen GeekBuying is now taking order for Amlogic S912 powered Mecool KM8 P TV box running Android 7.1 for $38.99 and up.

Mecool KM8 P specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S912 octa-core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.5 GHz with ARM Mali-820MP3
  • System Memory – 1 or 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 or 16GB eMMC flash and micro SD slot up to 32GB
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60Hz with CEC and HDR support, and 3.5mm AV port (composite + stereo audio)
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, status and network LEDs
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 97 x 97 x 10 mm

The box ships with an IR remote control, a power adapter, a HDMI cable, and a user’s manual. It’s running Android 7.1 with Kodi 17.

I’m not convinced it will work as well as Android 6.0 right now, but OTA firmware updates may fix some of the bugs. The 1GB/8GB version is sold for $38.99, but if you prefer the system with 2GB RAM, you’ll have to spend $49.99, and for extra storage (16GB) with 2GB RAM, the price is $54.99. GeekBuying also offers bundles with  various air mice.

Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid Android STB Review – Part 1: Specs, Unboxing and Teardown

March 13th, 2017 36 comments

K1 Plus T2 S2 review has been a popular post on CNX Software, as many people tried to improve their experience with the device. VideoStrong has just send an updated version of their DVB-T2 + DVB-S2 TV box with Mecool KIII Pro octa-core Hybrid STB powered by an Amlogic S912 processor combined with 3 GB RAM and 16GB storage, and the same dual tuner configuration. I’ve started the review by posting some pictures of the hardware, inside out, before reporting my experience with Android, especially the DTV part, in a few weeks.

KIII Pro Specifications

  • SoC –  Amlogic S912 octa core ARM Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5 GHz with  Mali-T820MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 3 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 up to 4K60, H.264 up to 4K30, AVS+ up to 1080p60
  • Tuner – Combo DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S/S2 with two connectors
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, dual band 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/12A
  • Dimensions – 130 x 120 x 32 mm
  • Weight – ~190 grams

The box runs Android 6.0 with Kodi 17 pre-installed.

KIII Pro Unboxing

I received the device in a white retail package marked “KIII Pro Octa-core Hybrid STB” and “OTT TV BOX”.

The bottom of the package has some of the specs.The set-top box ships with a 12V/1A power supply, a largish IR remote control taking two AA batteries, an HDMI cable, and a user’s manual in English.

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The enclosure is very similar to K1 Plus with the edges “smoothed” out.

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The power bottom can conveniently be found on the top cover, one side has four USB 2.0 host ports, a micro SD, and the rear panel features a DVB-T2 coaxial connector, a DVB-S2 F connector, CVBS/LR composite + stereo audio 3.5mm jack, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a HDMI 2.0a port, optical S/PDIF, and the power jack.

KIII Pro Teardown

Let’s open the thing. We’ll have to start with the bottom cover. First we’ll notice a D0:76:58 MAC address which is not registered with IEEE, but the company previously explained that it was for “localized network, and it is the only ID for empowering applications to activate, specially IPTV applications”. Then, the box can be wall-mounted via two “hooks”, which can be convenient in some use cases. Finally, there’s a recovery pinhole on the right of the sticker in order to reinstall firmware if your box does not boot anymore.

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We don’t need to remove all rubber pads, as there are two just screws holding the case together. One under the bottom left rubber pad, and one under the QC sticker, which you need to pierce through. Once we’ve removed those two screws, the box comes apart easily.


We have two boards: main board with heatsink on the CPU, and a yellow board with the tuner circuitry.

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We’ll find two SpecTek DDR3 SDRAM chips: PE029-125 (512 MB) and another chip market “512X16DDR3” (1 GB) for a total of 1.5 GB RAM on this side of the board. The flash is covered by a sticker, which I have not removed, so we’ll see how storage performs in benchmarks. Gigabit Ethernet is done using Realtek RTL8211F transceiver, and Pulse H5900L transformer, while AC WiFi  and Bluetooth LE is implemented via a module marked “KM63351412” which could be equivalent to AP6335 module found in some other devices. Other chips include GL852G USB hub, and DIO2133 audio driver. If you want to hack the board, the serial console should be available via an unpopulated 4-pin header on the bottom left of the photo above.

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The other side of the CPU board comes with a micro SD card slot, and 1.5 GB extra RAM to bring the total to 3GB. We can also see extra cooling with a thick metal plate, covered by a black sheet, itself covered by a thin plastic transparent sheet on the bottom of the enclosure.

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S2&T2_R848_REV1.2 tuner board looks very similar to KI Plus tuner board, but just upgraded from Revision 1.0 to Revision 1.2, and featuring the same Availink AVL6862TA DVB-C/T/T2 + DVB-S/S2 demodulator, but they changed Rafael Micro R848 tuner chip to R912 model, which is not documentation on Rafael Micro website yet.

If you are interested in purchasing KIII Pro in quantities, you may inquire Videostrong via their Alibaba page. Mecool KIII Pro can also be purchased online on sites such as GearBest ($117.99), which by the way currently has promotions for their 3rd anniversary, as well as several shops on Aliexpress ($141 and up) and Banggood ($133.99).

[Update: Part 2 of the review is up @ Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid STB Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, TV Center, and DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 App]

YokaTV KB1 Android TV Box is Equipped with Two HDMI 2.0 Inputs

January 26th, 2017 3 comments

We’ve seen in the past some TV boxes with one HDMI input such as Zidoo X9 or EWEAT R9 Plus in order to record an external video source, and possibly use some other features like PiP or video UDP streaming. However, I’ve recently become informed that YokaTV KB1 Android TV boxes, powered by an Amlogic S905X, and not one, but two HDMI 2.0 input ports, on top of its HDMI 2.0a output port.

YokaTV KB1 specifications:

  • SoC – Amlogic S905X quad core ARM Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.5 GHz with an ARM Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash *4 to 32GB flash optional), micro SD slot up to 32GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K @ 60 Hz,  3.5mm AV jack (composite)
  • Video Input – 2x HDMI 2.0 ports
  • Audio Output – HDMI, AV (stereo audio), and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0 (BCM4335) with external antenna
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – IR receiver, power/standby LED, recovery pin hole
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 109 x 109 x 21 mm

The device runs Android 6.0 with Kodi 17 (Alpha or Beta), and ships with the usual IR remote control, HDMI cable, power adapter, and user’s manual.The device was actually for announced in September of last year, and has been sold on Amazon US, GeekBuying, Aliexpress and other sites for $58 and up for a while. However, I have not been able to find one review that comments on the two HDMI inputs. Based on the low price, and lack of info about the HDMI input ports, I’m assuming they are just used as an HDMI 2.0 switcher, meaning you can’t record or use fancy features, but only switch between the inputs using a specific app or a key on the remote control. Videostrong KB1 product page has very little extra info about the device.

Thanks to theguyuk for the tip.