Saturday, April 20, 2013

First Look at the CozySwan UG007 and Other Android 4.1+ MiniPC Devices


Update 4/20/2013: Copied this post’s content except update history to the following three shorter sub-posts in a new Windows Azure Websites Android MiniPCs and TVBoxes WordPress blog:

Updates to these topics and added off-topic Android-related posts will appear in the new blog.

Update 4/19/2013: Added links to C|Net’s Pair your Galaxy S4 to Samsung's HomeSync via NFC article of 4/19/2013 and 5 things you need to know about Samsung's AllShare Cast Hub post of 12/7/2012 to the Samsung’s HomeSync Media Server section below. Also added a video demo of the rebranded ASUS Cube to the The Forthcoming ASUS QCube for Google TV with HDMI Input and Output section.

Update 4/17/2013: GeekBuying and Liliputing report the Tronsmart T428 is shipping with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Read GeekBuying’s review here. Get more details in the Tronsmart T428,The First RK3188 Quad Core Mini PC Coming section below. I’ll update this post when I receive my pre-ordered unit, expected in about 10 days.

Update 4/12/2013: Added a New Roku 3 with Improved UI and Media-Only USB Connectivity section. I’ll publish my results with the new device, which competes directly with Google TV, Apple TV and Infinitec’s Overpriced Android 4 (ICS) Pocket TV and Air Remote, when it arrives from Amazon.com.

Update 4/1/2013: Added a Steve Hawley Bemoans The Half-life of Google TV for DISH Network section re obsolescence of first-generation Google TV hardware and Simple.TV Goes from Kickstarter to $5.4 Million Venture Funding re a $149 PVR.

See the Update History section at the end of this post for earlier updates.


Introduction and Background

The CozySwan UG007 Android 4.1 MiniPC

imageI received a CozySwan UG007 Android 4.1 MiniPC device from Amazon (US$69.50) on 1/14/2013. I ordered the MiniPC based on James Threw’s The RK3066 Android 4.1 mini PC is the MK802's younger, smarter, cheaper brother, we go hands on Engaget review of 1/12/2013, which begins as follows:

imageWhen the MK802 Android mini PC landed in our laps, it caused more than a ripple of interest. Since then, a swathe of "pendroids" have found their way to market, and the initial waves have died down. While we were at CES, however, we bumped into the man behind the MK802, and he happened to have a new, updated iteration of the Android mini PC. Best of all, he was kind enough to give us one to spend some time with. The specifications speak for themselves, and this time around we're looking at a dual-core 1.6GHz Cortex A9, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of built-in flash (and a microSD slot), WiFi in b/g/n flavors, DLNA* support and Bluetooth, all running on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. There's also a micro-USB, full-size USB, female HDMI port and 3.5mm audio out. [Emphasis added, see notes below.]

imageFor anyone who has used one of these types of devices, the two standout features mentioned above should be the audio jack, and the addition of Bluetooth. Why? Because this expands the potential functionality of the device manyfold. Beforehand, the lack of Bluetooth made adding peripherals -- such as a mouse of keyboard -- either difficult, or impractical. However, with Bluetooth, setting up this device to be somewhat useful just got a lot easier. Likewise, with the dedicated audio out, now you can work with sound when the display you are connecting it to (a monitor for example) doesn't have speakers. Read on after the break to hear more of our impressions. …

image

* imageDLNA is an abbreviation for the Digital Living Network Alliance, which Wikipedia calls “a non-profit collaborative trade organization established by Sony in June 2003, that is responsible for defining interoperability guidelines to enable sharing of digital media between multimedia devices.”

I wasn’t able to find a 3.5-mm audio output connector on the device I received. The male, not female, HDMI connector provides digital stereo audio channels. The Micro-USB connector is for power only; it doesn’t provide other OTG features.

image

Update 3/13/2013: GeekBuying.com recently began offering the UG007 Mini PC Android 4.1.1 TV Box Dual Core Cortex-A9 RK3066 1GB RAM 8G Storage HDMI USB Black for US$49.99 56.99 with free shipping. GeekBuying also offers accessories, such 7-port USB hubs and Ethernet to USB adapters at the lowest prices I’ve seen to date.

Here’s the UG007’s score, device info and system info with the Antutu Benchmarking Tool available from Google Play (click for original 1280 x 720 graphic size):

image

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Update 3/17/2013: Brad Linder (@bradlinder), Lilliputing’s editor, posted UG008 dual-core Android mini PC with Ethernet, WiFI about an updated UG007 on 3/15/2013:

imageThe UG008 is a palm-sized device which you can plug into a TV to run Android apps on a large display. Like many other Android mini computers that have been released in the last few months, it has a Rockchip RK3066 dual core processor and runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

UG008But unlike many of its peers, this inexpensive Android computer has an Ethernet jack.

One problem that plagues many of the small Android TV sticks that we’ve seen has been poor WiFi reception. If you buy a cheap Android device with the hopes of streaming Netflix, YouTube, and other media to your TV, a good internet connection is kind of important.

While the UG008 is a little larger than some of its peers, the addition of an Ethernet jack means that you should be able to keep a reliable internet connection by running a cable straight to your router.

The UG008 also has an external antenna which should help with WiFi performance if you choose to go wireless.

The box features a microUSB port, a full-sized USB port, a microSD card slot, HDMI port, AV port, power jack, and power button.

GeekBuying sells the UG008 for $68, but you can also find it at AliExpresss, where it sells for about $60 and up (although not all sellers offer free shipping).

via GeekBuying blog

As I mentioned in a comment, I would have preferred a UG007 with a telescopic antenna and type F connector for an off-air ATSC tuner feature, instead of WiFi, with capabilities similar to the PCTV80e or its Hauppauge equivalents.


New Roku 3 with Improved UI and Media-Only USB Connectivity

Richard Lawler (@rjcc) reported Roku 3 goes on sale tomorrow for $99 with upgraded CPU and a new UI in a 4/5/2013 post to the Engadget blog:

Roku 3 goes on sale tomorrow for $99 with upgraded CPU and a new UI

imageAlmost two years after its last major set-top box rollout, Roku is ready to introduce its first third generation player. Other than a new curvier design outside the Roku 3's main differences are a more powerful processor inside, the addition of dual band WiFi and a tweaked remote with audio out (headphones included) for private listening.

imageOf course, hardware is only half the story and the new player debuts a reworked interface that will also spread to "current generation" players (read: Roku 2, new HD, LT and Streaming Stick) as an update in April. Roku 3 goes on sale tomorrow through Roku.com and Amazon.com for $99, taking the place of the current top of the line XS model. We'll go more in depth about what's new this time around, including a video preview of the new UI, after the break.

Roku 3 hardware, interface

Roku 3 goes on sale tomorrow for $99 with upgraded CPU and a new UI

The company wouldn't share specific performance info on that new CPU but called this box "the most powerful Roku ever," claiming the Roku 3 will feature substantially faster performance when browsing or changing apps. Outwardly, as you can see from the pictures it's showing off a design that executives compared going from the brick of previous versions to a smooth pebble -- its overall footprint is largely unchanged from previous models, counter to our assumption from the measurement of its FCC label. The remote still features motion sensing for gaming, while the box itself brings the usual assortment of Ethernet, USB and microSD ports. While the hardware control of the remote has not changed (beyond the addition of two volume buttons for the headphone output) how users will interact with the Roku has been altered significantly now that the channel UI has gone from a horizontal bar to a grid of icons that spans across the vertical axis as well.

Roku 3 goes on sale tomorrow for $99 with upgraded CPU and a new UI

The reason for the change? The company claims user feedback indicated that while the old simpler menu worked well enough for 10-15 channels, in a world where it's offering 750+ channels and offering features like search across multiple providers, a new look is needed. We can't argue with the logic, and we'll be waiting for our hands-on impressions to see how much easier this is making it for users, and not just additional channel operators looking for a little more homescreen exposure.

Roku 3 goes on sale tomorrow for $99 with upgraded CPU and a new UI

As you can see from the pictures and video, the UI is largely focused on the left and right halves of the screen, with users selecting content on the left and viewing details on the right. It's also capable of displaying nine channel icons at a time now and it wraps around so you can scroll either way. There's one other software tweak worth noting, the addition of themes. The player defaults to "graphene", but if you're a heavy user and need to switch your look up there will be five separate options available at launch that change the colors and background details.

Roku 3 goes on sale tomorrow for $99 with upgraded CPU and a new UI

Other details we were interested in were whether the pumped up processor would enable the return of an official YouTube channel for Roku and what kind of new features may be on the way for its mobile remote apps, but so far there's nothing to report there. The press release did reveal a few new channels on the way however: Fox Now, PBS and PBS Kids.

With slightly bumped specs and a refashioned menu the Roku 3 is unlikely to turn the ever-crowded set-top box market upside down. Still, viewed as a logical evolution reflecting the services offered and the possibility to do more in the future, it will be interesting to see if this company can continue to expand beyond the expectations of its initial aim as a Netflix box to offer even more types of entertainment, and adapt more easily to a changing market than its larger competition. We'll have hands-on with a unit in the coming days and will be able to let you know then how this version compares to its predecessors.

Following are the Roku 3 specs from Roku’s site:

Networking
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi (b/g/n compatible) with WEP, WPA and WPA2 support
  • 10/100 Base-T Ethernet
Video Outputs
  • 480i (over composite video)
  • 480p (over HDMI)
  • 720p (over HDMI)
Video Output
  • 480p
  • 720p
  • 1080p
Audio Output
  • Digital over HDMI (7.1 and 5.1 surround pass through)
Remote Control
  • Roku 3 enhanced remote with headphone jack and motion-control (uses Wi-Fi Direct)
  • Streaming player includes IR receiver (compatible with various universal remotes)
Power Consumption
  • Less than 3.5W (typical) when streaming HD video
Power Input
  • 12V – 1A power adapter
USB Media Formats
  • Video: MP4 (H.264), MKV (H.264)
  • Audio: AAC, MP3
  • Image: JPG, PNG
Storage Expansion
  • microSD card slot for additional game and channel storage
Size
  • 3.5 x 3.5 x 1 inches
Weight
  • 5 ounces

The Roku 3 competes directly with Google TV and Apple TV; it doesn’t offer a conventional Android UI as an alternative to the built-in browser.

Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) wrote a glowing Roku 3 Review: The New Best Streaming Box for Gizmodo on 3/22/2013. Following are selected excerpts:

imageHow many Roku models are there? Like, twelve? But it doesn't matter: the newest one is here, and thankfully (predictably?) it's the best one yet. So good that you'll stop using other crap you own. So good you'll use your cable box less. That good.

imageThe Roku 3 is very, very simple. It's more or less like every single other Roku: a little black thing you plug in to your TV that'll deliver streaming media (Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Spotfiy, et al.) on demand. The Roku 3 is still very much this same thing—but it's reached a critical mass of how much stuff you can stream and how easily you can stream it. So much so that it really feels like an entirely new Roku. So much that it'll make your TV fun again. …

Like

imageRoku beat Google TV without even trying. The new interface makes the prospect of navigating hundreds of channels—thousands and thousands of shows and movies—a non-nightmare. It makes streaming music on Spotify or Pandora a cinch, without horrendous Android app residues.

And lo: for the first time, search on a TV isn't a convoluted horror. Gone are the confusing duplicate results of Google TV. Type in something you want to watch, and if one of the Roku channels you use has it, it'll be listed. You're not flashbanged with options. It's simple. Roku insisted on keeping everything simple.

And this is what matters: the interface is everything. Everything. There's simply never been a better way to watch stuff.

No Like

Most of Roku's 700+ channels, just like most apps, most art, and most people who raise their hands to comment in class, are terrible. Obscure junk that nobody really needs or wants. But while Roku's gone for volume over quality, none of these worthless channels are foisted on you. Just choose not to install "WealthTV 3D" or "The Man Channel" or "Asian Crush Plus." It'll be as if they never existed. No loss.

What might be a real loss, though, is the richness of Roku that you can only hit if you're spending a non-insignificant amount of money on subscriptions. I have a Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, Spotify, and a Time Warner Cable account. This yields me all the streams from all of these companies—and man, having 300 channels of live HD cable TV is a dream—and really makes my cable box feel stupid and senile. If you're signed up for fewer of these services, you won't have the same Oh My God, Here Is Everything media experience, but frankly they're largely redundant, and you can get away with much less than I used for testing.

But keep it in mind: the Roku is a thing you pay for that just reroutes things you also pay for, albeit in a lovely way. …

I’ve ordered a Roku 3 from Amazon and will report my results when it arrives. I’m especially interested to learn if the Ethernet port enables configuration for an Internet service provider’s fixed IP address, such as my AT&T DSL connection, or whether DHCP is required, as is the case with Dish Network. (See my Changing AT&T DSL Fixed IP Addresses to DHCP to Accommodate DISH Network’s Broadband Configuration post of 8/15/2012 for details.)


ZeroDesktop’s MiiPC for Kids with Remote Adult Supervision App

ZeroDesktop (@ZeroDesktop) launched a Kickstarter campaign to supply an Android 4.2-powered MiniPC called the MiiPC with a larger-than-usual circuit board and enclosure by July 15, 2013:

image

The firm differentiates its MiiPC from other Android MiniPC offerings by providing parental control software for iOS and Android-powered phones and tablets. According to ZeroDesktop:

imageMiiPC [@MiiPC4kids] is a compact personal computing device that runs on the Android operating system. Connect MiiPC to a computer monitor or TV and instantly turn it into a learning, media and entertainment station. It is designed for large screen connectivity and optimized to provide a true keyboard and mouse experience.

imageWith MiiPC, the user can surf the web, play games, watch videos, edit documents, and run Android apps. Simply set up different user accounts for each person in your family and each user will have their own private MiiPC desktop.

A companion mobile app provides parental control for MiiPC. You can set guidelines for kids. online activities and get real-time monitoring. Help keep your children safe and eliminate everyday hassles by defining who gets to use the device at what time and specifying the apps & websites that your kid can access.

Our mission is to create a simple and effective way for families to take back control of online experiences, letting MiiPC create a safe and relaxed environment for your family computing.

Jason Evangelho (@killyourfm) wrote On Kickstarter: The $99 Android-Powered MiiPC May Be Your Child's Next Computer for Forbes Magazine on 3/26/2013:

imageWhen we think about Google‘s Android OS, traditional home PCs are probably the last item in that thought process. San Mateo, California-based ZeroDesktop, Inc. (headed up by eMachines co-founder Young Song) are out to alter our perceptions of what a family computer can be with the $99 MiiPC, which reached its $50,000 Kickstarter goal in less than 24 hours.

imageThe MiiPC (pronounced “Mee PC”) is targeted at parents who wish to go beyond merely blocking certain websites and online activities, and tackle the addictive nature of the internet.

MiiPC’s free companion app for iOS and Android ties everything together, offering parents real-time monitoring of their child’s activity on the computer. But the app has a suite of comprehensive features extending beyond what we’re used to with, for example, the Xbox 360.

Microsoft‘s Xbox lets parents define which games can be played and how long a child can use the console on a daily or weekly basis. The MiiPC app takes it a step further by saying “you can play Angry Birds for 30 minutes and use Facebook for 2 hours today.”

The MiiPC Companion App

The MiiPC Companion App (for iOS and Android)

Read more.

From the Kickstarter site:

Desktop Computing Experience:

  • Powerful and optimized for fast internet surfing, an accurate web experience (instead of mobile sites with big fonts) flash content support, customize your own desktop, drag & drop ... and more
  • Large screen monitor that gives true desktop PC resolution (up to 1920x1080)
  • Multiuser log-in for family members (or you can use this as a public kiosk for visitors)
  • Super smooth movie and video playback using the latest Android Jelly Bean 4.2 OS
  • Miracast Receiver - remote wireless display video feeds from Miracase enabled devices (tablets, phones) through MiiPC to the big screen (Monitor or TV)
  • Free bundled productivity software such as KingSoft Office suite, Splashtop2 to connect to other PC or Mac, eReader, Multimedia players... and more

Technical Specifications:

  • Processor: Marvell New Armada Dual Core 1.2GHz SoC / Memory: 1GB RAM
  • Storage: 4GB Internal Flash (expandable via SD Slot and USB port)
  • Connectivity: WiFi (802.11 b/g/n), Ethernet Port, and Bluetooth (4.0)
  • I/O: 2 USB 2.0 Ports, Speaker & Microphone Jack, HDMI (1080p/720p) output

MiiPC includes Main Unit, Power Adapter, and Quick Guide.  (Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor and HDMI cable sold separately)

The MiiPC differs from most current MiniPCs by using a Marvell processor and manufacturing in Korea, rather than China. According to ZeroDesktop’s About page:

imageZeroDesktop, Inc. is headed by Chief Executive Officer, Young Song [@ygsong], an entrepreneur whose career focus has been on bringing to market synergistic desktop computing products that deliver life-enhancing value to education, business and consumers.

Young Song founded NComputing Inc (www.ncomputing.com), a $60 million venture-backed company with patented technology that leverages PC power and cloud computing to create a shared computing resource that connects multiple users at a low cost. NComputing products are used today by millions of customers in over 140 countries. He also co-founded eMachines, Inc. (www.emachines.com), the low-cost computer brand that pioneered affordable PC ownership and Internet adoption for consumers (later acquired by Gateway)."

ZeroDesktop reached their initial Kickstarter goal of US$50,000 in less than 24 hours and raised more than US$90,000 by 3/27/2013. Whether ZeroDesktop can maintain an acceptable profit margin selling the MiiPC with two printed circuit boards and a costly case for $US99.00 remains to be seen.

Infinitec’s Overpriced Android 4 (ICS) Pocket TV and Air Remote

Update 3/31/2013: Infinitec of Dubai, UAE claimed US$501,321 pledged by 3,164 backers for its Pocket TV Kickstarter project in July 2012. The Pocket TV appears to be a repackaged MK802 or similar MiniPC device running Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich. Infinitec sells a package consisting of a Pocket TV and Air Remote (keyboard and air mouse) for US$159 and the Air Remote with USB cable separately for US$40:

image 

The UG007 II MiniPC, US$49.99 at GeekBuying.com, appears to offer all the Pocket TV’s features with the added benefit of a later Android version (4.1.1, Jelly Bean.)

Following is an excerpt from an Android-HDMI-stick "Pocket TV" receives first stable firmware review of 2/25/2013 for an update to the Pocket TV’s firmware [translated from German by Bing]:


Version 4.0 follows the release 1.3a. It is an update with a large number of changes and revisions. In particular the hitherto existing performance problems should be taken through better use of the CPU and new drivers for the Mali-400 GPU in attack. So far, the Pocket TV due to performance deficits was only restrictedly suitable for everyday use (see WebStandard-test).

Air Remote appears to be similar to the RC11 Android Monitor Wireless Keyboard Air Mouse Remote Controller With Gyroscope for Android Google TV Box, which GeekBuying.com sells for US$19.99, freight prepaid, and Amazon offers from a partner for US$21.50 plus $4.49 freight from China:

image

It appears to me that Infinitec is simply a reseller of a Chinese MiniPCs and air mice to individuals who aren’t aware of competitive Android specs and pricing for MiniPCs and accessories.

I’ve ordered an RC11 from Geek Buying to test with my UG007 II in our living room.


Rikomagic Announces MK802 IV Quad-Core MiniPC with Android 4.2

Brad Linder (@bradlinder) posted Rikomagic announces MK802 IV quad-core mini PC with Android 4.2 to the Lilliputing.com blog on 3/18/2013:

Chinese device maker Rikomagic plans to launch a new Android TV stick in mid-April. Like some other models we’ve seen recently, the upcoming MK802 IV will feature a Rockchip RK3188 ARM Cortex-A9 quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM.

But the MK802 IV is also expected to ship with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, offering Google’s latest software.

Rikomagic MK802 IV

The Rikomagic name also carries a bit of brand recognition — about a year ago the first-generation Rikomagic MK802 was one of the first Android mini PCs to make waves in the West.

But to be perfectly honest, the pre-release images of the MK802 IV look very familiar — it appears to be based on the same design as the upcoming Tronsmart T428. The only difference is that the Tronsmart model is expected to ship with Android 4.1.

mk4_02

Rikomagic’s new model features Mali 400 graphics, 8GB of storage, built-in 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth.

It has a USB 2.0 host port and a microUSB port which it uses for power[*]. There’s also a microSD card slot for extra storage. It remains to be seen whether you’ll be able to boot from a removable storage card — but that’s a feature that’s helped make a number of similar devices interesting, since not only can you load firmware updates from removable storage, you can also often run other Linux-based operating systems such as Ubuntu.

The company is also introducing a new air mouse/remote control called the MK702 II. It features a built-in keyboard on one side and number, volume, direction, and other buttons on the other.

mk702 ii

The remote also a microphone and speaker which you can use for voice controls.

You can use the remote with a PC or Android TV box with a USB receiver. It also has an IR port and can work with other media device, and functions as a learning remote. Rikomagic also points out that the MK802 II is compatible with the Sony Playstation 3.

* There’s also an OTG MicroUSB port on the side of the device, adjacent to the power-only MicroUSB port. The two-sided keyboard is interesting, but I’ve found it almost impossible to type on them. The wire in the device photos appears to be a tether.

It will be interesting to learn if Dell/Wyse’s “Project Ophelia” adopts the Rockchip RK3188 and Tronsmart’s initial shipments run Android 4.2. Otherwise, neither product will be competitive.


Tronsmart T428,the First RK3188 Quad Core Mini PC Coming

Update 4/17/2013: GeekBuying and Liliputing report the Tronsmart T428 is shipping with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Read GeekBuying’s review here. I’ll update this post when I receive my pre-ordered unit, expected in about 10 days. From the review (with minor edits to the Chinglish):

XBMC. OK, this really takes some times for us, because the old 12.1 Frodo didn’t work on this, so we tried this XBMC 13.0 beta version, and yes, it does work now. Maybe the XBMC team added some support for RK3188 to this beta version. [We would appreciate] anyone who knows [sharing their knowledge] with us. But anyway, the good news is that the quad-core Tronsmart t428 can support XBMC 13.0.

GeekBuying.com’s Geek Gadgets blog reviewed the forthcoming Tronsmart T428 in an illustrated Tronsmart T428,The First RK3188 Quad Core Mini PC Coming post of 3/8/2013 [edited for brevity and clarity]:

Tronsmart, is an innovative company based on cutting-edged Android devices. We have sold lots of their Prometheus, and we got the firmware upgrade and tech support really fast every time. Now they plan to release their new model: Tronsmart T428, which will be based on Rockchip RK3188 quad core chip.

  • imageThe RK3188 is a 28nm quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 chip with speeds up to 1.8 GHz.
  • It has Mali 400 quad-core graphics with speeds up to 500 MHz, and support for OpenGL 2.0 and OpenVG 1.1.
  • The chip can handle 1080p HD video playback at 60 frames per second, or 1080p HD H.264 and VP8 encoding at 30 frames per second.
  • It can also handle dual panel displays and resolutions up to 2048 x 1536 pixels.

Today we just get a sample from Tronsmart, and here [are the] basic specifications:

  • CPU: Rockchip RK3188 quad core Cortex A9
  • GPUS: Mali-400MP4
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • OS: Android 4.2 4.1.1 Jelly Bean (will upgrade to Android 4.2 soon)
  • Storage – 8 to 16GB internal flash + micro SD slot (up to 32GB)
  • Connectivity – Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Video Output – HDMI (male) up to 2160p
  • Video Codecs – VP8, AVS, MJPEG, RV8/9/10, H.263, H.264, VC-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DIVX
  • Video Container Formats – AVI, RM, RMVB, PMP, FLV, MP4, M4V, VOB, WMV, 3GP, MKV, ASF, 3G2M4V.
  • Audio Codecs/Formats – MP1/2/3, WMA, OGG, AAC, M4A, FLAC, APE, AMR, RA, WAV. USB – 1x USB Host 2.0, 1x micro USB for power

Tronsmart staff tell us they are still busy designing the cover, so we just got a PCBA board for this little MiniPC. The review is based on this board.

The Tronsmart T428 uses the original Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS. [Here’s the system screenshot:]

According to Rockchip news, the RK3188 will get [an] Android 4.2 upgrade soon. …

[Here are the reported HDMI resolutions (click for full size screen capture):]

image

I like the ScreenShotSetting option. I’ve not discovered how to take screen shots with my UG007 device.

It still has no real 1080P output. Like their dual core RK3066 chip, it still scales to 720P. However, I think, like the RK3066, developer[s] will find methods for setting real 1080p output.

We have released a shopping link for pre-orders: http://www.geekbuying.com/item/Tronsmart-T428-Quad-Core-Mini-PC-Android-4-2-Rockchip-RK3188-2G-DDR3-Wifi-Bluetooth-TV-BOX-314524.html

All of the pre-orders will get a free USB Ethernet dongle.

Update 4/17/2013: Tronsmart was conducting a contest for the best artwork to apply to the T428’s enclosure. Apparently, no one won:

image

Lilliputing.com reported “Rockchip includes and embedded GPS baseband” in its Rockchip’s RK3188 quad-core processors coming in the first half of 2013 post of 1/10/2013, which includes a video of the processor connected to a touch-screen display. Unlike phone and tablets, MiniPC devices are likely to be attached to a large LED HDTV or monitor so geolocation isn’t an important feature.

Brad Linder (@bradlinder), Lilliputing’s editor, posted Rooting Android 4.1 on devices with Rockchip RK3188 quad-core chips to the Liliputing.com site on 3/17/2013:

imageThe first tablets and TV sticks with Rockchip RK3188 quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor are just starting to hit the streets. But it hasn’t taken long for early users to figure out how to roo an Android device featuring the new processor.

Spanish blog AndroidPC.es has posted instructions for rooting a device with an RK3188 chip and Android 4.1 software.

Rockchip RK3188

The process looks remarkably similar to the steps you’d take to root Android 4.1 on a device with a Rockchip RK3066 dual-core processor. In other words, while the RK3188 chip is faster and has twice as many CPU cores as it predecessor, Rockchip is using a similar hardware architecture and offering similar software on the two chips. So you can exploit the same security vulnerabilities on the new processor as on the older one to gain root access to Android 4.1.

Rooting an Android device lets you access files and settings that might otherwise be unavailable, which lets you run apps that require root access such as Titanium Backup or SetCPU.

You can find instructions for rooting a device with an RK3188 chip at AndroidPC.es — or if you can’t read Spanish (or don’t want to struggle with Google Translate), you can try following instructions written for RK3066 devices at the xda-developers forum.

Here’s Tronsmart’s results with AnTuTu Benchmarking Tool available from Google Play:

image

imageNotice that the 2D and 3D Graphics data is for 1232 x 720, not 1920 x 1080 pixels. The score is 2.65 times that of the UG007.

I have a T428 on order and will report my initial results after it arrives.


Neo G4 Mini PC from MINIX

Click here for GeekBuying’s list of all Android Mini PC “TV Box” variations with prices. The US$97.99 NEO G4 Mini PC from MINIX, for example (see below), has three USB 2.0 ports, a Micro USB OTG port (see my Get the Right On-The-Go (OTG) Micro-USB Cable and Bluetooth Peripherals for Nexus 7 Tablets for details), headphone and microphone jack, and a IR receiver built-in (remote included). Click here for recent firmware upgrades.

image

The Neo G4’s housing appears similar to that of the Apple TV device:

image

To properly qualify as TV or PCTV Boxes, devices should have built-in ATSC/cable tuners with type F connectors for the US market.

Update 4/13/2012: Geekbuying.com posted What products does MiniX show us in 2013? New Quad Core Model Neo X7 and X5+ Coming! and Liliputing.com reported Minix unveils X7 quad-core Android media box, among other things on 4/12/2013.

Note: Shenzhen ZKYelectronic Technology Co., Ltd. offers what it calls the Fastest! Google Android TV Stick PCTV HD Box USB 2.0 TV Tuner (model ZKYDSB008) but product photos don’t show a type F connector and specifications don’t include a reference to ATSC or DVB-T tuners. It appears that Chinese manufacturers/traders are missing a significant market opportunity for MiniPCs with built-in over-the-air tuners. (Including the word “tuner” in the description implies that the device can capture over-the-air HDTV programs.)

imageThe only Android-compatible USB PCTV tuner stick that I’ve been able to find is the Elgato EyeTV Micro Tuner (US$75.99), which receives only live DVB-T standard-definition video. I’m surprised that Hauppauge or other PCTV tuner stick suppliers haven’t written Android apps for their ATSC devices that support 1080p broadcasts.

See Also: Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) Kits Offer Better Performance than Android MiniPCs at a Much Higher Price, which describes three relatively new Ultra-Small Form Factor (USFF) Celeron and Core i3 motherboards in ~4.5 x 4.5 x 1.5 inch boxes similar to the Neo G4 housing.


MarsBoard Allwinner A10 Board

imageThe MarsBoard development system, which sells for US$49 (including freight), competes with the US$35 Raspberry Pi Model B (see the Building a Low-Cost Media Center with XBMC Running on a Raspberry Pi section below.) The MarsBoard uses the Allwinner A10 (aka sun4i) SoC, which includes a Cortex-A8 (55nm process) CPU with Mali400 GPU and CedarX VPU, and has the following specs:

CPU
  • ARM Cortex-A8
  • 32KB I-Cache
  • 32KB D-Cache
  • 256KB L2 Cache
GPU
  • ARM Mali-400
Video
  • UHD 2160P video decoding
  • 3D video decoding
  • Support various video decoding formats, including VP8, AVS, H. 264 MVC, VC-1, MPEG-1,2,4, etc
  • H.264 HP video encoding up to 1080p @ 30 fps or dual-channel 720p @ 30 fps
Display
  • Multi-channel HD display
  • Integrated HDMI 1.4
  • YPbPr, CVBS, VGA
  • Multiple LCD interfaces, including CPU, RGB, LVDS up to Full HD
Memory
  • 32-bit DDR2/DDR3
    Memory capacity up to 16G bits
  • SLC/MLC/TLC/DDR NAND
    - 8 flash chips, 64-bit ECC
    - Memory capacity up to 64GB
    - Support NAND of 5xnm, 4xnm, 3xnm, 2xnm, etc
    - Support NAND of Samsung, Toshiba, Hynix, etc
Boot Devices
  • NAND Flash
  • SPI NOR Flash
  • SD Card
  • USB
OS

* MarsBoard specifies Android ICS (4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich) or Ubuntu as operating systems.

A SATA connector for mass storage distinguishes the MarsBoard from other MiniPCs, but it doesn’t offer built-in WiFi. Here are the MarsBoard specs:

CPU 1.2GHz Allwinner A10 ARM Cortex A8
GPU Mali400 with hardware 3D acceleration and hardware video decoding
SATA port Supports mass storage devices
Operating System Android 4.0 ICS, Linux, Ubuntu, Fedora
USB 2 x USB host, 1 x USB OTG
Internal storage 4GB NAND storage, 1.5GB available in user partition in Android
SDHC slot SDHC card slot supporting up to 32GB
External Expansion 140 extend pin 2.0mm headers
Networking 10/100 Ethernet, supports USB WiFi (not included)
Memory DDR3 1GB, 100MB is reserved for the GPU
Boot Boot from SD card and internal storage via u-boot
Dimensions 80mm X 55mm
Digital video output HDMI up to 1080p (cable not included)
Analog Audio output 3.5mm plugs Analog Audio output
Power DC 5V Input

The MarsBoard is of interest primarily due to its low price and built-in Ethernet and SATA ports. Lack of a housing and WiFi connectivity make it less suitable than the UG007 for TVBox applications. You can purchase MarsBoards for US$49 (freight included) from Thaoyu Electronics in Shenzhen, China. The firm has no international distributors.


Xi3 Corporation’s x64 Modular Computer

Ten times the price of a UG007 II or MarsBoard (US$499) will get you Xi3 Corporation’s (@xi3) basic modular PC, sans display and keyboard/mouse with specs similar to those for a mid-range laptop. Xi3 Corporation  emphasizes their Modular Computers’ low power consumption, but the 9 Vdc @ 3.3A rating on the power connector = 30 Watts:

image

Basic Xi3 computers come with openSUSE Linux installed on a 16 GB SSD. Windows 7 is an extra cost option and requires a 32 GB or larger SSD. The Acer Aspire AS5750-6690 15.6-Inch Laptop I purchased in July 2011 cost US$430 with Windows 7 Home Premium installed.

Jonathan Blum (@blumsday) reviewed the Xi3 in his Why This Tiny Cube Might Be Your Next Office PC article for Entrepreneur magazine or 2/24/2012:

imageOne startup is reimagining the traditional business PC, and the result can be a useful new computing option for entrepreneurs.

Salt Lake City-based Xi3 Technologies has been quietly developing a computer that's roughly four inches by four inches, or about the size of a grapefruit. But what sets this gadget apart from other portable PCs is that the Xi3 splits the core functions of a traditional PC into three separate, easily replaceable components. Think of it as a high-tech equivalent to Ford's model T, which was considered so simple that anyone could repair it.

imageEach Xi3 device is made up of three separate modules: one for the processor, one for how the unit communicates on a network and a third for power. This means you can upgrade any of these components -- say, to swap out for a faster processor -- with little effort. Just unscrew the back panel, slide out the required part, put the hatch back on and you're done.

Being able to conveniently access individual parts of a computer allows users to upgrade the device as software needs change or when specific parts fail. Entry-level models cost $850 and come with 16 GB of memory built in. Expandable drives are optional and cost extra.

Here are some additional reasons the Xi3 just might find a place in your business:

Size and adaptability: The Xi3 can fit anywhere: crowded desktops, sales kiosks or attached to a high-definition display to support interactive advertising. Dedicated and expensive server rooms aren't necessary to house these PCs. They can be stacked densely in small racks in just about any room or closet.

The Xi3 can also be used as a virtual work station. The company sells an outboard processor ($250) that allows four users to work on a single device. Monitors are not included.

And it can save on electricity costs. The Xi3 requires only 20 watts of electricity to operate compared to most other units that drain 100 to 400 watts on average.

Durability: The Xi3 is built from a forged metal case, similar to how Apple's Macs are made. And the electronic components inside the Xi3 are a level or two sturdier than what is usually found in entry-level work computers.

On top of that, the company says the Xi3 can last up to 10 years. That's more than double the lifespan of traditional PCs.

Bottom line: Despite its cache of convenient features, the Xi3 isn't perfect. Possibly the Xi3's biggest downfall is that it isn't easily portable like a notebook or tablet. These units still need full wall power, a monitor, a keyboard and network access.

Also, at $850, it is roughly double the cost of a standard work desktop. But you can potentially save money over time as the PC could live longer than those traditional computers.

I’m not sure what combination of upgrades Blum used to arrive at the $850 price. I don’t see any longevity advantage to the Xi3 product line.

As to the “forged metal case,” I don’t believe drop forges or blacksmith’s forges and hammers are part of the supply chain for the Xi3’s housing. They appear to be a combination of die-cast aluminum and sheet metal.

See Also: Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) Kits Offer Better Performance than Android MiniPCs at a Much Higher Price, which describes three relatively new Ultra-Small Form Factor (USFF) Celeron and Core i3 motherboards in ~4.5 x 4.5 x 1.5 inch boxes similar to the Neo G4 housing.


UG007 II Specifications and Accessories

According to GeekBuying, the specs for the upgraded CozySwan UG007 II device (with 3/13/2013 updates underlined) are as follows:

  • imageOperating System: Google Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean with Bluetooth
  • CPU: RK3066 1.6GHZ Dual ARM Cortex-A9 processor
  • GPU: Mali 400MP4 quad-core; supports 1080P video (1920 by 1080 pixels)
  • RAM: 1GB DDR3
  • Internal Memory: 8 GB Nand Flash
  • External Memory: Supports Micro-SD (aka TF = TransFlash) card, up to 32GB
  • Networking: WiFi 802.11b/g/n with internal antenna
  • Ports: 1 USB 2.0 host and 2 1 Micro USB host* and 1 Micro-SD card slot (see photo at right); 1 HDMI male under a removable cover (see photo at right)
  • External reset switch simplifies upgrading firmware (1 mm hole for paper clip, similar to CD/DVD release feature)
  • Power: 90-230V, 50/60Hz, 30 W input to wall-wart [with US-standard European (round pin) power plug*]; output: 5V/2A
  • Video Decoding:MPEG 2 and 4/H.264; VC-1; Divx; Xvid; RM8/9/10; VP6
  • Video Formats: MKV, TS, TP, M2TS, RM/RMVB, BD-ISO, AVI, MPG, VOB, DAT, ASF, TRP, FLV
  • Audio Decoding: DTS, AC3, LPCM, FLAC, HE-AAC
  • Images: JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF

The UG007’s HDMI output is limited to 720p. Following are the the three choices offered by Settings | Screen | HDMI Mode:

  • 1280x720p
  • 720x576p
  • 720x480p

Adding 1020p support to the UG007 II requires upgrading to the Finless iMitoX1/2 Custom ROM, which also provides a soft reboot feature. You can reboot with a keyboard by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del.

* The instruction sheet says the original Micro USB connector is for power; see Startup Issues below.

The original UG007 (not II) package I received contained the following items:

  1. The UG007 Mini PC device
  2. imageA 5V/2A power supply with Euro-style round power pins, not US standard blades.
  3. A USB 2.0 male to Micro USB type A male power cable
  4. A six-inch female HDMI to male HDMI cable to connect to an HDTV HDMI input
  5. An 8-1/2 x 11 inch instruction leaflet printed on both sides and written in Chingrish.

Note: There are many similar first-generation devices, such as the MK802, which use the RK3066 CPU, run Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and don’t support v4.1+ (Jelly Bean) or Bluetooth. As another example, DealExtreme offers the U2 Mini Android 4.0 Media Player w/ Wi-Fi / Video Call / HDMI - Black (1GB RAM / 4GB) for US$20.50 with freight prepaid from China to the US. This device has half the Nand Flash memory of the UG007 and doesn’t support Bluetooth accessories. (When this item was added, DealExtreme’s Web site stated, “Item is temporarily sold out.”

Make sure you purchase a second-generation device.


Comparing the UG007 MiniPC with Dell Computer’s Cloud-Based Project Ophelia

imageSean Gallagher (@thepacketrat) asserted “Push to go private may be to refocus Dell's client strategy on PC-on-a-stick” in a deck for his Is Dell looking to kill PCs with “Project Ophelia”? article of 1/15/2013 for Ars Technica:

Dell is reportedly investigating a move to take the company private in a leveraged buy-out to clear the decks for a radical repositioning of the company. And according to a report from Atlantic Media's Quartz, that includes relaunching Dell's desktop and mobile business around a brand-new product: a computing device the size of a thumb-drive that will sell for about $50.

imageDell announced its pocket client PC, called "project Ophelia," on January 8, and demonstrated it at CES. Developed by Dell's Wyse unit, Ophelia uses a Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) to draw power to boot from an HDTV display, or it can be powered off a USB port. It has integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capability for connecting to a keyboard, a mouse, and the network, and it runs the Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) operating system with all of the functionality of a tablet. It can also be used to power virtual instances of other desktop operating systems on a remote server or in the cloud.1 [Emphasis added; see note below.]

In other words, it's a fusion of Wyse's thin client technology modeled after the capabilities of a Google Chromebook—except it can be carried in a pocket. The main drawbacks are that few HDTVs currently support MHL—though such support can be found in a number of Dell flat-panel displays.2 [Emphasis added; see note below.]

imageDell has been moving gradually away from its consumer PC roots for the past five years. The company's desktop and mobile computer business has suffered in the global PC-buying slump of the last year. Its consumer segment has been losing money, while the enterprise business outside of PC sales accounts for a majority of Dell's revenue. But the stock market has been punishing Dell as it has tried to shift focus. The company has lost 43 percent of its market capitalization over that time, despite continuing to be profitable and having an estimated $14.2 billion in cash (though most of that is in Dell's businesses overseas).

It is unlikely that Dell will completely jettison its PC business overnight in favor of Ophelia, as Quartz's Christopher Mims suggests. But the device could be at the center of a change of Dell's consumer-facing business and maybe even a big part of its end-to-end enterprise business strategy.

My take:

  1. I don’t believe that any MiniPC in this size and price class will be able “to power virtual instances” of anything.
  2. Most MiniPCs will rely on 5V/2A wall-wart power supplies similar to the UG007’s. Actual power consumption is about 2 Watts, which makes these devices much greener than PCs.
  3. I don’t understand how profit from selling US$50 Chinese MiniPCs could replace that from US$500+ laptop/notebook/tablet PCs.
  4. I question whether Microsoft would be interested in continuing Project “Ophelia” if they finance Dell’s going private.
  5. Dell subsequently increased its price estimate to < US$100 (see later articles from the Mobile World Congress 2013 below), while GeekBuying reduced the price of the upgraded UG007II to US$49.99 in early March 2013.

Andrew Nusca (@editorialiste) summarized his Dell's 'Project Ophelia' might be my favorite gadget at CES article of 1/8/2013 for ZDNet’s Between the Lines blog as follows:

imageThe most interesting gadget at this year's Consumer Electronic Show isn't for consumers and is barely electronic. But it could very well change how people compute.

The preceding three writers have emphasized cloud-based apps but I believe the power of MiniPCs is the capability to run local apps that integrate easily with cloud-based file storage, such as Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Google Drive. Cloud-based storage prevents access to confidential information by unauthorized users in the event you lose the device, if your credentials aren’t cached in its persistent memory.

Allison Darin’s original Project Ophelia: A window to the cloud for work and play article of 1/8/2013 for Dell’s Direct2Dell site asserts:

imageSome perks that the device offers include:

  • Integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Built on the Android 4 OS -- supports Web browsing, social networking, media playback and Android Apps
  • Allows instant access to the countless apps available on the Google Play Store
  • Securely connects to Windows desktops and applications running on back-end systems from all leading infrastructure providers including Citrix, Microsoft and VMware
  • No batteries to charge or change – it self-powers through the display it’s plugged into
  • Remembers settings for each individual to enhance usability
  • Compatible with many existing Dell Wyse thin clients and software products
  • Managed by Dell Wyse Cloud Client Manager software as a service (SaaS) which offers enhanced security and authentication

“Project Ophelia” will be available during the first half of this year. Stay tuned to @WYSE on Twitter for the latest information. [Emphasis added.]

Dell/Wyse’s (@DellWyse) Ultra-Compact Dell Cloud Connection Device Enables Access to Personal and Professional Content From Any Capable Display press release of 1/8/2013 formally announced “Project Ophelia.”

The latest report on Dell’s Project Ophelia: Andrew Hoyle reported from Barcelona, site of the Mobile World Congress 2013, on 2/26/2013, Never carry a laptop again with Dell's sub-$100 Project Ophelia (hands-on) for C|Net:

Dell's Project Ophelia is an Android-powered 3-inch dongle that slots into the HDMI port of any TV or monitor, giving you PC functions anywhere without carrying a laptop.

Similarly, Stuff Magazine posted MWC 2013 – Dell crams a computer into a dongle dubbed Project Ophelia on 2/26/2013:

Imagine a world where lugging a heavy laptop around is old hat and working on any screen via a dedicated dongle is the new norm. That's the future of portable computing if Dell gets its way.

Dell wants you to ditch your portable computer and replace it with an even more portable computer – an Android-powered 3in dongle to be more specific. Dell's Project Ophelia slots into the HDMI port of any TV or monitor, equipping you with PC functions right there and then. More importantly it gives you access to local files, remote desktop access and the wealth of apps, games and movies available in the Google Play store. The best part? It will cost just under US$100. …

The preceding articles are of interest because they demonstrate that Dell/Wyse is continuing to promote the project during the buyout process. The authors didn’t mention that the TV or monitor must support MHL to power the stick; few do. Apparently, Dell intends to raise the price from an original “about US$50” to “just under US$100” shortly before GeekBuying decreased the price of the upgraded UG007II to US$49.99 (see below.)

Dell/Wyse PocketCloud Apps and Cloud Client Manager Agent

imageDell/Wyse offers free PocketCloud Remote RDP/VNC, Pocket Cloud Explore and Cloud Client Manager Agent, as well as PocketCloud Remote Desktop Pro (US$14.99) apps from Google Play for Android devices.

The free Cloud Client Manager Agent app enables the Dell Wyse Cloud Client Manager to provide:

image[A] simple, secure, cloud-based management system to securely manage and enable corporate access to any device. With Cloud Client Manager, IT administrators have access to a unified console providing visibility into the relationship between users, devices, and their applications. …

Note: The Dell Wyse Cloud Client Manager Agent requires authentication to the Dell Wyse Cloud Client Manager server. Consult with your IT organization for further details.

Only 30 downloads of the Cloud Client Management Agent had occurred from 12/13/2012 and 3/13/2013, which indicates Android user indifference to this technology.

You must purchase Dell/Wyse’s PocketCloud Pro (US$14.99 from Google Play), rather than install the basic (free) version, to display your PCs’ desktops in wide screen 1280x720p mode by rescaling for Remote Desktop Services, as shown here for a remote desktop session with my Windows 7 Professional development PC:

image

The free version displays only a portion of the desktop in 4:3 aspect ratio. I’ll provide a better wide-screen shot when I discover how to capture screens with the UG007. (I can’t capture with the Hauppauge Collosus card while logged on remotely to the development PC running Windows 7.)

PocketCloud Explore enables transferring files between devices running Windows RT, Windows 8, Android and iOS and PCs or Macs on which Pocket Cloud Companion is installed. PocketCloud Explore’s three screens let you choose between the device or PC/Mac:

image

The device on which it’s running:

image

Or the host PC/Mac:

image

Note: You must sign into the Pocket Cloud Companion application each time you reboot the PC you access with PocketCloud.

I’ve installed the three PocketCloud apps, as well as the Cloud Client Manager Agent on my UG007 and will report my experiences in updates to this post.


Estimating the Cost of a MiniPC Workstation

Updated 3/13/2013 for US$7.00 reduction in price of the new UG007II, lower cost European-US plug adapter, and correction to HDMI cable specs. Following is the estimated cost for the MiniPC equivalent of a Netbook or tablet PC but with a larger (24-inch) display and wireless router included:

Item Description Source Cost Sales Tax Freight Total
MiniPC Bluetooth UG007II MiniPC Android 4.1 Dual Core Cortex A9 1080P Geek Buying $49.99 - -
 
$49.99
Monitor Insignia NS-24E340A13 24” 1080p LED TV BestBuy 159.00 14.31 - 173.31
Input Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 with Keyboard and Mouse Amazon 24.99 2.25 7.99 35.23
WiFi Buffalo AirStation N150 Wireless Router Amazon 19.99 1.80 4.99 26.78
HDMI Cable 2m High-Speed HDMI M/F Cable (6.56ft) Monoprice 6.44 - 3.50 9.84
Power VP-7 Plug Adapter for USA Voltage Converter 1.00 - 3.99 4.99
  Total system cost, less ISP charges         $294.24

imageUpdate 2/26/2013: The Insignia TV has excellent image quality, two HDMI inputs and weighs about eight pounds. The HDTV synced immediately to full-screen display of Netflix videos at 720p when plugged in to the UG007. Audio quality is diminished by small, “tinny” speakers, but stereo RCA output connectors are provided for integration with home audio gear. The TV appears to be well suited as a low-cost, large screen computer monitor.

imageIf you want to send HDMI data to a TV monitor and an HDMI capture card, such as the Hauppauge Colossus card (see the Recording HDMI and Capturing Screens with a Hauppauge Colossus Card section below), purchase an EnjoyGadgets Powered HDMI Splitter from Amazon for US$18.99.

imageSupporting additional USB accessories requires an unpowered USB hub, such as the 4-Port USB 2.0 Hub (Black/Silver) ($8.95 plus shipping from SF Cable.)

imageIncreasing internal memory to its maximum capacity of 40 GB requires a 32 GB High Capacity MicroSD flash memory card, such as a SanDisk 32 GB Mobile microSDHC Flash Memory Card SDSDQ-032G-AFFP ($22.40 plus freight from Amazon.)

I have tested all the above components, including the Insignia HDTV, for compatibility with the UG007.

The above package costs less than typical 10-inch tablets that include the Android OS, such as Google’s Nexus 10 (US$399) and the ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 (US$346 to $380 for 16 GB).

Updated: If you now have an HDTV with a spare HDMI input and a wireless router for a cable or DSL Internet connection, the cost is only US$112.29. The current surcharge for adding “Smart TV” features, which include wired or wireless Internet connectivity and a collection of video-related apps, such as Netflix, Amazon Instant videos, Hulu and the like, is about US$100 to $150, depending on the manufacturer and screen size. Adding Internet browsing capability usually costs another $100. Thus, the cost of a MiniPC “TV box” is likely to be less than the surcharge for non-programmable Smart TV apps. You’ll also find the wireless mouse and keyboard provides a much better user experience than an infrared remote.


UG007 Startup Issues

image1. I used temporarily the 5V/2A battery charger with a female USB output connector for my Nexus 7 and the supplied power cable for the tests. I ordered a Travel Power Plugs Adapter Kit 4 pc Universal Worldwide for US$6.88 from Amazon to obtain a Euro-to-US power plug adapter. Note: The UG007 II version I received on 3/26/2013 has a US power connector.

2. Neither of my LED PC monitors (19-inch 4:3 Sony SDM-HS95P and 24-inch widescreen Samsung) would synchronize to the UG007’s HDMI output and displayed a black screen, despite their capability to display the HDMI output from my Acer laptop. (Both monitors require DVI-to-HDMI adapters.) Our 46-inch Samsung UN46D6050 HDTV in the living room displayed video in the device’s available HDMI formats with no problem. It’s likely that more recent monitors with HDMI inputs would work as expected. (Tests follow.)

image3. The UG007 reported poor or out-of-range WiFi signal strength from our Buffalo Air-Station in the second-story office, although other devices in our living room reported good or excellent signal strength. The problem probably is a too-small antenna; other UG007 users have reported similar problems. I purchased a Netgear Universal WN3000RP Wi-Fi Range Extender - Manufacturer Refurbished (Amazon, US$39.99) to solve the problem by brute force.

imageNote: The UG007’s Settings menu includes an Ethernet choice for a wired connection with a USB 2.0 Ethernet Adapter 10/100M (US$16.50 from SFCables). I have one of these on order and will report later on its effectiveness.

4. The device failed to pair with my K1280C keyboard or Logitech Wireless Headset, both of which work fine with my Nexus 7. The USB keyboard and trackball I normally use with the Nexus 7 worked fine with the UG007.

5. The Dual Core Cortex A9 Android 4.1 Mini PC Manual sheet provides only cursory instructions for use of the device and its included apps. Illustrations are very small (about 1 by 2 inch) screen captures, most of which are unreadable. A user unfamiliar with the Android Jelly Bean UI would find it very difficult to configure and use the UG007 with the required USB or Bluetooth mouse or trackball and optional keyboard. Following are sources of additional information about the UG007:

image5. Shift+PrtScreen doesn’t appear to capture the HDMI output to a file. Google Play offers several screen capture apps that purport to be compatible with the Nexus 7 and Rockchip RK3066.

To provide more more details of the included and downloadable applications, I attempted to install Tomorrowkey’s Screen Capture Shortcut Free app from Google Play on both the Nexus 7 and U2007, which Google Play says it supports. However, attempts to start the app report that it is incompatible and sends an email with device data to the developer.

In the interim, I’ll use my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 to capture the Samsung’s video display.


Selected UG007 Screen Captures

The device takes about 15 seconds to boot to an “R-BOX” screen and displays the ugliest home screen I’ve ever seen about 45 seconds later (see first image below; please excuse the parallax):

UG007HomeScreen

Fortunately, Google Play offers innumerable free wallpaper apps to replace the above screen (click for full size 1020P captures):

image

Only an experienced Android user would be likely to know that clicking the six dots at the upper right opens the built-in Apps screen:

image

Following are preinstalled Widgets:

image

Clicking Explorer from the Apps screen and navigating to a Flash drive with MPEG4/H.264 video segments showed the folder contents:

image

Here’s the Chrome browser displaying Titan TV listing for San Francisco Bay Area stations:

image

OakLeaf Systems Retail Survey HTML5 Client Autohosted by SharePoint Online 2013 and Windows Azure

Logging into the LightSwitch HTML 5 Client Preview 2: OakLeaf Contoso Survey Application Demo on Office 365 SharePoint Site with the Chrome browser provides a different (and better) experience than that described in Running the SurveyApplicationCS Demo Project under Android Jelly Bean 4.2 on a Google Nexus 7 Tablet:

  • Navigating to the http://oakleafsystems210.sharepoint.com Office 365 Developer Edition site the first time without the Fiddler2 proxy specified opens a sign-in form to enter Office 365 credentials. This page doesn’t appear when using the Nexus 7. Subsequent logins require use of the Fiddler2 proxy, as with the Nexus 7.
  • The home page of the Developer Edition doesn’t require opening a menu page to start the Survey app, as described for the Nexus 7. Instead, the home page appears with a link to the Survey app as shown here:

SurveyAppHome

Successive pages appear as expected:

SurveyLandingPage

SurveyPhoto
1080P Video Segments from a Flash Drive

Clicking a segment item lets you choose between the Video (Gallery) and the Video Player app. Here’s the Video Player app displaying a scene from PBS’ Downton Abbey season 2, episode 1 (1080P):

image

Commercial Streaming Video from the Internet

The following capture is with Video Player from Al Jazeera streaming video in High Quality format:

image


Note: Pat Moss posted [ROM] FengHuang 4.1.1 V04 for UG007 to the DragonDevs blog on 1/6/2013:

  • imageFor any brave souls who have a UG007, I am releasing the RC (V04) of FengHuang for this device.
  • It is unbranded, but ready to go.
  • It fixes the market, roots the stick, supports xbmc, fixes some wifi negotiation issues.
  • If you get any 'force close' issues, please do a factory reset to wipe data.

Note: TF (TransFlash) is another name for MicroSD memory cards.

See Pat’s post for download and installation instructions. I haven’t tested his ROM as of yet. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)


Testing XBMC App Compatibility and PVR Potential 

Media Centers and Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) are common applications for MiniPCs. Whitson Gordon (@WhitsonGordon) wrote How to Watch and Record Live TV on Your XBMC Media Center for LifeHacker on 2/5/2013. It begins:

imageBuilding a media center is a killer way to watch or stream your favorite movies and TV shows, but if you miss being able to watch live TV—and record it so you can watch it later—you can turn your XBMC box into a personal video recorder (PVR) with just a bit of setup. Here's what you need to do.

imageXBMC 12 Frodo finally brought official PVR support to our favorite media center software, and it integrates very nicely. It still takes a bit of setup to get running though, so we're here to detail all the steps involved for your XBMC media center. If you don't have one yet, check out our guide to building one and setting everything up before continuing. …

From XBMC.org’s About page:

XBMC is an award-winning free and open source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub for digital media. XBMC is available for Linux, OSX, and Windows. Created in 2003 by a group of like minded programmers, XBMC is a non-profit project run and developed by volunteers located around the world. More than 50 software developers have contributed to XBMC, and 100-plus translators have worked to expand its reach, making it available in more than 30 languages.

While XBMC functions very well as a standard media player application for your computer, it has been designed to be the perfect companion for your HTPC. Supporting an almost endless range of remote controls, and combined with its beautiful interface and powerful skinning engine, XBMC feels very natural to use from the couch and is the ideal solution for your home theater.

Currently XBMC can be used to play almost all popular audio and video formats around. It was designed for network playback, so you can stream your multimedia from anywhere in the house or directly from the internet using practically any protocol available. Use your media as-is: XBMC can play CDs and DVDs directly from the disk or image file, almost all popular archive formats from your hard drive, and even files inside ZIP and RAR archives. It will even scan all of your media and automatically create a personalized library complete with box covers, descriptions, and fanart. There are playlist and slideshow functions, a weather forecast feature and many audio visualizations. Once installed, your computer will become a fully functional multimedia jukebox.

It is difficult to put into words all that XBMC can do, head to the gallery to see some examples, or take the plunge and Try it Today.

Later XBMC versions include an add-on manager for installing a variety of user-contributed features. Here are the categories for the latest Frodo version from the XBMC Wiki:

image

An Official XBMC Remote Control for Android phones is available from Google Play, but it doesn’t support XBMC v12 or Jelly Bean (last supported Android version was a beta for Honeycomb.) Remote control details from the Wiki are here.

My initial attempt to download the Frodo 12 XBMC RC3 for Android 4 failed due to the poor WiFi connection.

XBMCDownload

I previewed it with my Nexus 7, which had no problem downloading and installing, and reattempted download and installation on the UG007 after setting up the NetGear WiFi range extender. The download and installation was successful:

XbmcSplashScreen

Stay tuned for my results with 1080P videos from a 64 GB Flash drive and 32 GB Micro-SD HC Flash memory card. …

My interest in XBMC stems from it’s PVR capabilities, which use a client/server architecture to record off-air or cable broadcast TV as described in the The XBMC Live TV and PVR/DVR Setup Guide:

Introduction:

As of v12 (Frodo), XBMC features live TV and video recording (DVR/PVR) abilities. This allows you to watch live TV, listen to radio, view a TV guide (EPG), schedule recordings and enables many other TV related features.

Due to the somewhat complicated nature of setting up PVR for XBMC, this guide was created to help users from start to finish.

How does live TV/PVR work in XBMC?

Logically, the XBMC PVR / Live TV consists of two parts:

  1. The Live TV backend server, which communicates with a TV tuner adaptor to create a video or audio stream, and
  2. The PVR client - an XBMC Add-on which controls the presentation of that content

The PVR backend is a process/application that performs the task of tuning, streaming and recording over-the-air and cable television and radio programming. It can either run on the same host running XBMC, on a stand-alone host or completely by itself with XBMC only running when needed. Some servers may be able to serve several clients simultaneously, which may be XBMC clients or others.

When paired with a matched backend, a configured PVR Add-on enables XBMC to handle the interface, or frontend, allowing the user to watch live TV (with pause/time shift, if supported by the backend), schedule recordings or listen to radio, giving the same sort of functionality as Tivo-style video recorder devices.

Next Step: Setting up the backend software

Graeme Blackley provides a free third-party XBMC PVR client, which you install from XBMC’s System | Add-ons | Get Add-ons | XMBC.org PVR Add-ons | PVR clients page (shown in a Nexus 7 for readability):

XBMC PVR Clients

Update 2/26/2012: Alexis Santos reported XBMC now available for Apple TVs with software update 5.2 in a 2/22/2012 Engadget article:

Jailbroken Apple TVs with software update 5.2 (iOS 6.1) snagged Bluetooth keyboard compatibility roughly a week ago, and now Cook and Co.'s hockey puck is in store for a heftier perk: support for XBMC. Memphiz, a developer on the entertainment hub project, has managed to tweak XBMC to run on Cupertino's TV box with its latest software release. Ready to load up your hardware with the alternative media suite? Hit the bordering source link for the download and instructions, or check out the "Manage Extras" section if you're running aTV Flash.

What’s Needed from xbmc Developers

An Android 4.1.1 or later backend with support for the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR850 and WinTV-HVR950Q sticks that’s compatible with xbmc v12 (Frodo) RC3 or later frontends and will run in Nexus 7 and 10 tablets, as well as UG007 and similar Android devices. See the Using the Pinnacle PCTV USB Mini Stick 80e with a NextPVR Windows Back End for details of connecting to a popular PVR/TVTuner combination which, unfortunately, requires access to a PC running Windows Vista or later.

Building a Low-Cost Media Center with XBMC Running on a Raspberry Pi

Update 4/1/2013: Lilliputing.com reported $25 Raspberry Pi Model A goes on sale in the US, quickly sells out on 4/1/2013:

The Raspberry Pi is a tiny, low-power, and inexpensive computer. A $35 model B version with 2 USB ports, 512MB of RAM, and an Ethernet jack has been available since last year.

Earlier this year a cheaper $25 Raspberry Pi model A went on sale in Europe, and now it’s kinda/sorta available in the US.

Raspberry Pi Model A

Allied Electronics started taking orders for the Model A this weekend, and quickly sold out. Since supply is limited, there’s currently no option to pre-order or backorder.

So while it looks like the Raspberry Model A is now officially shipping to the US and Europe alike, good luck getting your hands on one in the States.

The Model A has the same 700 MHz ARM11 processor, HDMI port, and SD card slot as its $35 sibling. But the cheaper model has just 256MB of RAM, a single USB 2.0 port, and no Ethernet jack.

It’s designed for low cost computing projects where those features might not be necessary. This model uses about 30 percent less power than the Model B, which makes it easier to run off a solar charger or other simple power source.

You could use it as the brains of a robot, the basis for a media center PC, or as part of a home automation system, among other things.

via TechCrunch and Slashdot

Update 2/11/2013: Michael Wolf (@michaelwolf) reported One Million Raspberry Pi's Later, The Story of How a Mobile Phone Chip Helped Deliver a Vision in an article of 2/10/2013 for Forbes magazine:

Over the past few years, one of the biggest stories in technology has also been one of its smallest: a $35, stripped-down computer by the name of Raspberry Pi.

imageThe project originated in 2006, when a former University of Cambridge professor named Eben Upton and his colleagues noticed a lack of real computer knowledge among incoming computer science students. Figuring the iPhone generation didn’t really have access to the type of tinkerer’s machines of yore like the BBC Micro or Commodore 64, they set out to see if they could create one themselves, all for the price of a text book.

Upton’s patience and front row seat [as a Broadcom engineer] paid off. It was 2009, and a promising new system on chip with the decidedly chip-like name of BCM2835 came along.

The BCM2835 was packed with functionality: it had a powerful ARM processor engine built inside, as well as a powerful video engine called VideoCore, which is the same video processing engine used in some Samsung mobile phones and iPods, all at a low enough cost to meet the requirements of cost-conscious mobile phone manufacturers.

In short, everything Raspberry Pi needed. Upton knew he had found his chip.

“I was on design team at Broadcom for the chip we used. You wake up one day and you realize you’re not just designing a great chip, but you’re designing exactly the chip you need for the project you were planning.”

One million Raspberry Pi’s and possibly a new generation of tinkerers later, it appears Upton found just the chip he was looking for.

Wolf included a transcript of his conversation with Upton in a Raspberry Pi's Eben Upton on 1 Million Pi's and What's Next For the Low Cost Computer post to the Next Market blog of 2/9/2013.

Update 2/6/2013: RaspberryPi.org reported in a Model A now for sale in Europe - buy one…post of 2/4/2013 that the new $25 Model A board supports XBMC. According to Liz:

imageThe Model A is a stripped-down version of the Model B Raspberry Pi, with no Ethernet, one USB port and 256MB RAM. If you’d like to learn more, check out this post from a couple of months back.

Stripping down the Model A means it has two important differences from the Model B: we can make it ten dollars cheaper, at $25; and it consumes roughly a third of the power of the Model B, which is of key importance to those of you wanting to run projects from a battery or solar power: robots, sensor platforms in remote locations, Wi-Fi repeaters attached to the local bus stop and so forth. We’re working on software to get the power consumption even lower. And we’ve seen how well XBMC works on the early 256MB Model Bs we sold last year; it’ll work just as well if you want to make a $25 media centre out of your Model A.

DesignSpark’s Pete Wood observed in his Raspberry Pi Model A post of 12/14/2012:

… It's also ideal for those of us at home who are looking to use it as a low cost media centre.

Following are the specifications for the US$35 Model B from XBMC.org’s Raspberry Pi wiki page:

image

And a photograph of the Model B-Rev1 from Wikipedia’s Raspberry Pi topic:

image

Here’s the layout diagram for the Model B’s PCB and its connections from the Quick Start Guide:image

Raspberry Pi hardware is designed primarily for electronics hobbyists, but also is used by model aircraft and helicopter enthusiasts. The Model B card’s connectivity is similar to the UG007 except:

  • The UG007 doesn’t provide analog 3.5-mm audio and RCA video outputs or an Ethernet port.
  • The Model B doesn’t provide WiFi or Bluetooth capability.
  • Raspberry Pi products use the Raspbian operating system, not Android.

John Bodkin (@JBodkin) asserted “Open sourced GPU drivers will boost graphics acceleration and software ports” in a deck for his Raspberry Pi maker says code for ARM chip is now open source ArsTechnica post of 10/24/2012:

The makers of the Raspberry Pi credit card-sized computer today announced every last piece of code running on the computer’s ARM chip has been open sourced. While the computer could already run several Linux-based operating systems, not all the drivers were open source. Going fully open source prevents users from having to use drivers that are proprietary or reverse-engineered, and it should make it easier to create new Raspberry Pi-targeted OS ports.

The announcement said all the VideoCore driver code has been made available on GitHub under the 3-clause BSD license, making the Pi’s BCM2835 chip “the first ARM-based multimedia SoC with fully-functional, vendor-provided (as opposed to partial, reverse engineered) fully open-source drivers.” As of today, “everything running on the ARM is now open source.” (UPDATE: As some astute readers note, this isn't strictly true; see the Editor's Pick comments [reproduced partially below] for more details.)

“Broadcom is the first vendor to open their mobile GPU drivers up in this way,” wrote Raspberry Pi Foundation lead Linux developer Alex Bradbury. “We at the Raspberry Pi Foundation hope to see others follow.” …

However, Yuma claimed “Unfortunately it's not really open source at all” in a comment. Matty seconded Yuma’s assertion:

Unfortunately very correct.

Even the shader compiler is in the closed source blob. All they open sourced was some marshaling shim that does RPC to the firmware which does the real work (and hasn't been opened).

So it still doesn't have an open source driver. Which means that only Broadcom can implement things like OpenCL and many future OpenGL versions and extensions.

Which is probably unlikely.

If the Raspberry Pi Foundation can sell a million US$35 circuit boards with a non-standard operating system in four years, I believe producers of nicely packaged US$50 ARM-based MiniPC sticks running Android 4.1 and later with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity should be able to sell at least a million units per year.

Adding NTSC and DVB-T HTDV tuners for viewing or time-shifting over-the-air broadcasts, as described at the end of the Neo G4 Mini PC from MINIX section above priced at < US$100 might add another million or two units to the potential market.

What do you think?

Potential Personal Video Recorder (PVR) Add-ins with HDTV Tuners

Prospective UG007 or Dell “Ophelia” device purchasers are likely to be interested in their capability to display live and record time-shifted broadcast video. XBMC architecture allows it to connect to Windows back ends for live and time-shifted broadcast TV from NextPVR or MythTV back-end services. (MythTV also offers back-end services for Linux and iOS.) NextPVR also supports a dedicated nDroid front end for Android devices.

Simple.TV Goes from Kickstarter to $5.4 Million Venture Funding

Ryan Lawler (@ryanlawler) reported Simple.TV Raises $5.7M From New World Ventures To Take Its DVR-For-Cord Cutters Mainstream in a 4/2/2013 TechCrunch post:

image… The Simple.TV box was pitched mostly as a way for cord cutters to record programming that comes off of HD antennas, and to later stream those recordings to a wide range of connected devices. After connecting storage to their Simple.TV box, users could use the device to record individual episodes or full seasons of their favorite shows, then watch them on apps for iOS, Android, and Roku devices. In that respect, it was kind of like a combination TiVo-plus-Slingbox in one.* It also has a sleek programming guide to help users find their favorite programs, and has a subscription service that gives users a bunch of features that out-of-home remote streaming and scheduled recordings of their favorite series. [Emphasis added.]

imageLast May, Simple.TV introduced its first hardware device — a DVR targeted at cord cutters — as part of a Kickstarter campaign. The company raised nearly double its original $125,000 goal, selling more than 1,000 of the devices as part of its first run. Later in the fall, the company shipped devices to consumers who backed the campaign, and also put the DVR boxes on sale to the general public, at $149 a piece.

imageNow, it appears that the Simple.TV guys are ready to move beyond bootstrapping, as they’ve confirmed a $5.7 million funding round detailed in this SEC filing. The funding round was led by New World Ventures, with NWV partner Matt McCall joining Simple.TV’s board of directors. Also listed on the filing are Simple.TV CEO Mark Ely and CTO Bruce Randall, along with Accanto Partners founding partner Robert Doris. Doris worked with the Simple.TV founders at Sonic Solutions, which was acquired by Rovi back in late 2010. …

Simple.TV doesn’t have an HDMI output nor WiFi connectivity. It connects to home networks via an Ethernet connection to an Internet router.

imageDarrell Etherington (@drizzled) gave a more detailed device description in his Simple.TV’s $149 DVR For iPhone, iPad, Roku And Web Ships September 27 TechCrunch post of 9/20/2012. The Simple.TV site offers the boxes for sale with and without their Premiere subscription service.

I’m sure the off-air time-shifting capability led to the Simple.TV box’s initial success with investors. I can’t use DISH Network’s SlingBox with my 722R PVR because my Internet connection has fixed IP addresses and the software only works with DHCP-enabled services. See my Changing AT&T DSL Fixed IP Addresses to DHCP to Accommodate DISH Network’s Broadband Configuration post of 8/15/2012 for details.


Steve Hawley Bemoans The Half-life of Google TV for DISH Network

Independent TV analyst Steve Hawley (@tvstrategies) complained that Google TV obsoleted his first-generation Logitech Review device in his The Half-life of Web TV Devices article of 2/5/2013 for TeleCompetitor:

imageLike most households, ours has a TV routine in which we watch certain programs.  The other day, we wanted to see what else was on and because we have Google TV, we also get the Web and online video on our TV.  Our version of Google TV is on a Logitech Revue, which was one of Google TV’s two device partners at launch, along with Sony.  Google’s other launch partners were DISH Network, Adobe and Best Buy.

We were excited when we hooked our system up more than two years ago (has it been that long?), and we enjoyed the experience until we changed over to a DISH Hopper whole-home DVR.  The Revue is integrated with the DISH Network ViP722 set-top box, so a Google TV search would yield not only Internet results, but also, upcoming TV shows from the DISH Network EPG and programs DVR-recorded on the 722.  DISH continues to support this setup.

We still have the Revue, so when we want to watch streaming video on our TV, that’s what we use.  The Google TV main menu pops up along the bottom edge of the TV screen, with the icons of several apps, access to a grid view of all the apps installed on the device, and alerts that usually are about new versions of apps.  Last week, there was an alert.   An update to one of the TV apps was available, and we were prompted to go to Google TV’s Google Play store to download it. …

I backed out of this screen and repeated the process just to make sure: same screen.  Google has not updated Android on the Logitech Revue, a first-generation Google TV device, prior to version 3.1.  After some further research, a November 14, 2012, posting on the Google TV blog announcing enhancements to Google TV said that the latest enhancements applied only to second generation Google TV hardware – with a link back to the announcement of these second generation devices .  It was immediately clear that our Logitech Revue had reached its half-life.

Yes, the November press release did indicate that first-generation devices would still receive updates to YouTube and PrimeTime for Google TV – Google’s online electronic program guide and recommendation engine.  And yes, the Revue still works fine: we can watch videos from YouTube, Amazon, NBA, Netflix and CNBC programming.  Pandora and Napster are still there.  The DISH integration still works.  But our device will no longer be able to obtain new apps from the Google Play store.  The beginning of the end. …

Android-powered MiniPCs aren’t likely to suffer a similar mid-life crisis because tech-savvy users can upgrade their TVBox’s operating system, within the limits imposed by their initial hardware purchase. The Logitech Revue Companion Box with Google TV and Keyboard Controller sells for US$160 from an Amazon partner. At least Google hasn’t (yet) straight-lined Google TV as they did Google Reader.

Rumor has it that the sold-out Google I/O 2013 conference, to be held 5/15 through 5/17/2013 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, will be the venue for announcing a major Google TV update and, finally, a built-in 10-foot UI for Android devices to make developing apps that display on living-room TVs easier.

I’m a DISH Network subscriber with a ViP 722R PVR and have an unrelated complaint about the device’s software, as described in my Changing AT&T DSL Fixed IP Addresses to DHCP to Accommodate DISH Network’s Broadband Configuration post of 8/15/2012.


Samsung’s HomeSync Media Server

C|Net NewsJacqueline Seng (@jacseng) reported that users in Singapore will be able to Pair [Their] Galaxy S4 to Samsung's HomeSync via NFC when the device releases there in 2013Q2:

Tapping on the HomeSync opens up the accompanying app.
(Credit: Aloysius Low/CNET Asia)

imageWhile at the Samsung Galaxy S4 media event in Singapore yesterday, we also caught a glimpse of the HomeSync media hub, which was unveiled at MWC this year.

As a refresher, the Android-based media hub is able to run apps from Google Play and doubles as a networked storage device for the home. Based on Jelly Bean (version unspecified), the HomeSync features 1TB of onboard storage, supports full-HD output (the AllShare Cast dongle only supported up to 720p output) and is powered by a 1.7GHz dual-core processor.

The HomeSync app.
(Credit: Aloysius Low/CNET Asia)

A Samsung Galaxy S4 is easily paired to the hub via NFC. This opens the HomeSync app, or prompts you to download the app from Google Play if it's not installed. Using the app, you can then access media files stored on the HomeSync and even download them to your S4.

That's not all. The S4 even acts like a Nintendo Wii-mote and enables you to point the phone at the screen to navigate--similar to the Magic Motion remote for LG TVs.

Waving the S4 around acts as a cursor, while touching its screen is akin to click and drag.
(Credit: Aloysius Low/CNET Asia)

During Samsung's demo, the Wii-mote-like feature worked and we were even able to play a round of Angry Birds: Star Wars.

Besides the S4, the HomeSync media hub can also be networked to other Samsung AllShare-compatible products such as tablets and laptops. All you need is a free Samsung account. The company also told us that it is rebranding AllShare as Samsung Link when the S4 is rolled out.

The HomeSync app is currently not listed on Google Play, but will come pre-installed on the S4. It will also support other Galaxy smartphones and tablets in the future.

Theoretically, you should be able to download the app on any non-Samsung Android device, but you will probably not be able to access the Samsung Link service or any features associated with it. For example, the ability to upload photos instantly to the HomeSync--much like the feature found on Dropbox and Google+ mobile apps--either via Wi-Fi or a data connection.

The HomeSync will be available in Singapore in Q2 and pricing has not been confirmed yet.


The Lilliputing.com site reported on 2/23/2013 Samsung’s HomeSync 1TB Android-based media server streams apps to your TV, keeps your data in sync with a MiniPC having specifications similar to the UG007:

imageSamsung makes phones, tablets, and televisions that can run apps. Now the company is also offering a set-top-box that can bring Android apps to your TV, let you stream content from your mobile device to a TV, or keep your data synchronized between devices.

It’s called the Samsung HomeSync, and it’s a home media server with a 1.7 GHz dual core processor, 1GB of RAM, an 8GB solid state drive, and a 1TB hard drive.

Samsung HomeSync

The HomeSync is expected to ship in select countries starting in April, 2013.

The device features WiFi, Bluetooth and Ethernet support, 2 USB 3.0 ports for peripherals, a micro USB port for connecting to a PC, and HDMI output for hooking up a TV or monitor.

Under the hood, the HomeSync is running software based on Google Android Jelly Bean, which means you can use it to watch movies on the hard drive or stream videos from YouTube, among other things. It also includes access to the Google Play Store, which should let you download additional apps such as Netflix or Vudu to turn the HomeSync into a pretty powerful media center for your TV.

Samsung says you can also link up to 8 accounts to the HomeSync so you can synchronize data across your devices or access shared or private storage. In other words, you can keep your music and movie collection on the HomeSync’s 1TB hard drive and use each of your family’s phones to access a different set of media files for each user.

Samsung hasn’t yet revealed how much the HomeSync will cost.

Update 4/1/2013: The UK’s Clove Technology site posted a Samsung HomeSync product page on 4/1/2013:

image

The above page header was followed by a canned device description and this features list:

Samsung HomeSync Features
  • 1.7 GHz dual-core processor
  • 2 GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB HDD media storage and 8GB flash for Android OS and apps
  • HDMI output (supports HDMI v1.4)
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • S/PDIF optical audio out
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n (2.4/5GHz)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Customised Android 4.2 Jelly Bean UI

The SamMobile blog reported in a Hands-on – Samsung HomeSync post of 2/28/2013 that the HomeSync will be available from April 2013 starting in the US.

Alex Colon described his Hands on With the Samsung HomeSync experience in a PCMagazine article of 2/26/2013. David Ruddock posted [MWC 2013] Hands-On (Video) With Samsung Home Sync: I Don't Quite Know What It's For, But I Kind Of Really Want One to the Android Police blog on 2/25/2013.

From Samsung’s HomeSync creates connected media experience for the whole family announcement of 2/24/2013 from Mobile World Congress 2013:

image

HomeSync competes directly with Apple TV (US$99) but offers the advantage of built-in disk storage. There’s no indication of an included HDTV ATSC/DVB-T tuner for time-shifting, but the retail HomeSync device will validate Android 4.2 MiniPC/TVBox architecture in the consumer electronics market. Adding a tuner probably would increase its market by one or two orders of magnitude.

Sean Hollister reported Samsung Galaxy S4 doubles as a smart TV remote, with built-in IR blaster and 'WatchOn' software in a 3/14/2013 post to The Verge:

Samsung's new flagship smartphone sports a feature that's becoming increasingly popular as of late: the Galaxy S4 will come with a built-in infrared LED and companion app that allows it to control your television and home theater system. We most recently saw such a feature on the HTC One, and a smattering of recent tablets have had it too, but the new handset most closely follows in the footsteps of Samsung's own Galaxy Note 10.1 and Galaxy Note 8.0 by using what appears to be the very same Peel-inspired interface.

Not only can you control your media center directly, but also check current TV programs, discover on-demand content with Samsung's Media Hub, and purchase it from the phone, then watch it on the TV or your device itself. At Mobile World Congress, the company called it Video Discovery, and you can see our video demo on the Galaxy Note 8.0 below. Now, it's called WatchOn, and we'll let you know if it differs in any significant way from what we've already been shown.

Undoubtedly, HomeSync will interact with Samsung’s new Galaxy 4S smartphone, but it’s not yet clear how.


Huawei’s MediaQ Set-Top Boxes with HDMI Input and Built-in TV Tuners

The Lilliputing.com site also reported Huawei MediaQ M310 set-top-box is a quad-core Android media player in an earlier 1/27/2013 post:

imageChinese device maker Huawei [@HuaweiDevice] has been turning headlines lately with its Android smartphones. But the company also has an Android TV box in the works. It’s called the Huawei MediaQ M310, and it’s one of the few Android devices designed for use with a TV to feature a quad-core ARM-based processor.

Huawei MediaQ M310

The MediaQ M310 is powered by a HiSilicon K3V2 ARM Cortex-A9 quad-core chip, 1GB of RAM, and 4GB of storage. There’s also a microSD card slot for extra storage.

It features Vivante GC4000 graphics and includes HDMI input and output with support for 1080p HD video. There are also 2 USB 2.0 ports, SPDIF audio, and a 3.5mm audio jack. [Emphasis added.]

Connectivity options include 802.11n WiFI and Bluetooth 4.0.

The device runs Google Android software, but it has a customized user interface designed to make the OS easier to use on a TV. But it’s not a Google TV box, which means that you should be able to run most Android apps on the MediaQ M310, not just software optimized for Google’s TV-specific platform.

Huawei plans to bring the M310 to market within a few months, and sell it for around $80 or less.

The company also has a higher-end version called the MedaiQ M810 with 2GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, Ethernet, a TV tuner, and hard disk drive bays. [Emphasis added.]

via CNX-Software

Finally, a Chinese device manufacturer added a TV tuner, but CNX-Software reports that it’s for DVB-T broadcasts. The HDMI input capability appears to be unique to the MediaQ products. I would expect the U.S/Canada/Mexico market for devices with ATSC tuners to be larger than the DVB-T market.

Huawei’s Website has features and specifications for a MediaQ M3 device but nothing for M310 or M810 devices. Most Huawei set-top boxes support DVB and European cable standards, not ATSC transmission.

C|Net News reported Huawei's MediaQ M310 is a tiny media hub with HDMI in and out (hands-on) from the Mobile World Congress 2013. The article includes a video segment demoing the M310 and a reference to a MediaQ 210 “HDMI dongle that has a single-core processor, less RAM, and only one HDMI port. The thinking is that you'll plug this dongle into your TV to play video …” I don’t believe a low-end MiniPC stick will gain any headway in this already crowded market.


The Forthcoming ASUS Qube for Google TV with HDMI Input and Output

Update 4/20/2013: The CNX-Software.com site reported the availability of an Asus Cube Google TV Unboxing and Demo Video on 4/17/2013:

The Asus Qube, featuring Google TV 3.0 supporting, was first unveiled at CES 2013 [see article below]. Since then the device has lost its “Q”, has been renamed to Asus Cube, and is now available for pre-order in the US for $139.99 in Newegg, a bit earlier than initially planned (Q3 2012), but slightly more expensive than the $130 we were told to expect in January. The device will start to ship on 24th of April.

First, just a quick reminder of the specs. Asus Cube is based on Marvell Armada 1500 Google TV platform, features HDMI out (for TV), HDMI in (for satellite or cable receiver), 2x USB ports, a IR blaster port and provides both Ethernet and Wi-Fi 802.11n connectivity. The Cube is a cube (duh!) measuring about 12.44 cm on each side.

Asus Cube with Dual Sided Remote

Asus Cube with Dual Sided Remote

Newegg has uploaded a 21 minutes video discussing about the device with an Asus representative, describing the accessories or the Cube itself, and doing a demo of the UI and key features. This is obviously not a review, since they will not explain the shortcomings of the products on promotional videos, but still interesting to have a look.

For the first five minutes they show the packaging, and discuss about the features of the device. At 05:03, they show the accessories included: quick start guide and user’s manual, IR blaster, remote control and batteries, and AC power supply, then spent a bit of time going through the device ports.

The demo starts at 11:20. They show the UI (which is also a cube), play with voice recognition to launch apps and TV shows, either available online or via your satellite / cable receiver, and pair a Nexus 7 tablet with the Asus Cube to play and control YouTube videos on the big screen with the tablet. This last feature is available for both Android and iOS devices.

Via Liliputing.

Liliputing has additional background on the device.


ASUS (@ASUSUSA) displayed its Qube TVBox at CES 2013 and Justin Rubio reported Asus Qube Google TV set-top box to cost $150 when it launches this March in a 1/8/2013 article for The Verge:

asus qube

imageAsus has its new Google TV set-top box here at CES, letting us take a good look at the Qube's distinct shape. Unfortunately, the device on hand wasn't connected to any displays, so we were unable to sample Asus' special Qube Interface. While pricing was previously unclear, Asus told The Verge that it will cost around $150, making it a bit more expensive than similar devices from Apple, Roku, and even other Google TV set-top boxes. As far as when it will be available, we were told that the Qube is expected to come out at the end of the first quarter of 2013.

Asdas1asd

The Qube is another TVBox without an ATSC tuner but with an HDMI input. There was no news about the device’s availability as of 4/3/2013. The Lilliputing site has more details on the Qube, as well as NetGear’s NeoTV Prime, which also has an HDMI input. Amazon offers the NeoTV Prime for US$129; some partners charge less than US$90 plus shipping.


As you’ll see in the following sections, popular PC-based PVR software that has Android-compatible client apps work as expected over WiFi connections to a Google Nexus 7 running Android 4.2. However, neither NextPVR front-end delivers satisfactory results with my UG007 device running Android 4.1.1.

The first step in the PVR hardware/software evaluation process was to acquire an HDTV tuner/decoder.

Using Pinnacle/Hauppauge Video Tuner/Decoders

imageI currently use the Pinnacle PCTV USB stick 80e with Windows Media Center or the device’s supplied TV Center software to time-shift off-air content from Bay Area PBS stations. PCTV and related USB ATSC sticks use MaxLinear TV tuners and LG DT3305 ATSC/QAM demodulators. The 80e device, which is now supported by Hauppauge, is available from a variety of sources at prices ranging from about US$30 (Compuvest, refurbished Ultimate version) to $85 (Amazon, new original 80e version shown above). I bought my two PCTV 80e sticks from Compuvest for about US$25 plus shipping. A short cable acts as an MCX to Type F coax converter for connection to my rooftop antenna.

You can download the latest TV Center software for Windows XP, Vista and 7 (v6.4.4.905) from PCTV Systems here. You’ll need the serial number from the software CD’s sleeve to install the updated version.

The LinuxTV Wiki reports in its Pinnacle PCTV HD Mini Stick (80e) topic:

imageAn ATSC USB 2.0 device by Pinnacle.

It’s not supported under Linux, although there is now a beta driver which can be found here: [1]. A more up to date driver can be found here: [2]

A later, upgraded Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick (800e) is supported:

A hybrid ATSC USB 2.0 device by Pinnacle.

Support for the digital functionality of this device was added to the LinuxTV codebase on June 5, 2008 (hg 2aa420c58fc6), and is available in kernel 2.6.27 [1].

Note: This device identifies itself as a "PCTV 800e" and the subsystem information provided by lsusb -v is 2304:0227. Pinnacle has released a newer revision of the device with the exact same name and branding, but which is not covered by this driver. Information on that other version of the device (USB ID 2304:023a) can be found in the Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick (801e) article.

Amazon offers the 80e, 800e or 801e only as used/refurbished.

image

Hauppauge sells a repackaged version of the PCTV 80e as the Hauppauge 01200 WinTV-HVR-850 USB2.0 Hybrid Video Recorder 1200 (US$55.87 from Amazon, US$50 and up from eBay) and a later WinTV-HVR-950Q (US$79.00 from Hauppauge, $70.08 from Amazon, $40.00 and up from eBay.)

The LinuxTV Wiki’s ATSC USB Devices topic provides a table with information regarding supported and unsupported ATSC USB devices.

Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-850 Linux support: A hybrid ATSC USB 2.0 device by Hauppauge.

Note: There are three significantly different devices being sold under the same "HVR-850" brand name. All three versions are supported, but the newest version (USB ID 2040:b140) requires kernel 2.6.37

  • The first is essentially the older WinTV-HVR-950 model. Running lsusb -v will show the manufacturer:device code of 2040:651f.
  • The second version is essentially a WinTV-HVR-950Q. Running lsusb -v will show the manufacturer:device code of 2040:7240.
  • The third version is unique, though it shares a tuner chip with the WinTV-HVR-1950. Running lsusb -v will show the manufacturer:device code of 2040:b140.

Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950Q: A hybrid ATSC USB 2.0 device by Hauppauge.

Package.jpgThe digital side of the device is supported under Linux since kernel 2.6.26. Analog support was merged into the mainline v4l-dvb tree on March 18, 2009.

Note: This device, the HVR-950Q, is significantly different from the older HVR-950 model, so please be sure to differentiate between the two. For information on the older model, see the WinTV-HVR-950 article.

imageA newer WinTV-Aero-m supports US ATSC and European DVB-T broadcasts with the Kernel Labs drivers (pictured at right, US$69.00 from the Hauppauge Store). Doug Lung posted Hauppauge USB Receiver Tested Under Linux 3.2 on 2/2/2012. Michael Krufky of Kernel Labs discusses the drivers in the following three posts:

Hauppauge WinTV-Aero-m Linux compatibility:

A hybrid mulitple frontend (MFE) Digital TV USB 2.0 device, by Hauppauge, featuring reception capabilities for ATSC, ATSC-M/H and DVB-T.

It is supported under Linux; since kernel 3.2 for ATSC & DVB-T and kernel 3.5 for ATSC-M/H support.

According to Wikipedia’s Android Version History topic, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is based on Linux Kernel 3.0.31, so the PCTV HD Pro 800e, WinTV-HVR850 and WinTV-HVR950Q should be supported with the UG007’s 4.1.1 version, although the improvements noted by Doug Lung for Linux 3.2 and the WinTV-Aero-m probably aren’t available.

Using the Pinnacle PCTV Mini Stick 80e with a NextPVR Windows Back End

NextPVR is a free Windows PVR client/server media center application that runs under Windows XP, Vista and 7, and supports the PCTV HD Mini Stick (80e) as well as other HDTV recording devices that support Windows Broadcast Driver Architecture (BDA) from several manufacturers. Here’s NextPVR’s Windows front end playing live TV from a Bay Area PBS station:

image

Beetec Services offers a free nDroid client for NextPVR from Google Play that doesn’t require XBMC but does require installing the nDroid Service, a NextPVR proxy, on the computer running the NextPVR service. Here are screen captures from the nDroid utility topic on the NextPVR wiki:

See the Using the nDroid Android Client with a NextPVR Back End section below for more details and issues with the UG007.

The NextPVR Wiki’s Hardware topic states:

A tuner card or similar video capture device is required to watch and record TV shows in NextPVR.

Supported Tuner Cards

If you are looking to buy a card for use with NextPVR we would recommend a Hauppauge card as these are widely used here and so well supported by the software and it's developers.

If you're considering alternative brands, it's recommend to search the forums for comments of success/failure from other users with the same device.

Digital: The majority of DVB/ATSC digital cards that come with BDA drivers can be used with NextPVR.

Analog: Some analog cards can be used with NextPVR (install SoftPVR and follow the Adding an Analog Device walkthrough if required).

Unsupported Tuner Cards

None specifically known at this time. Please post on the forums if you are having problems with a particular card.

NextPVR’s Web site provides a Quick Start page and a wiki-style detailed manual for getting NextPVR up and running on Windows Vista or Windows 7, as well as an active NextPVR Support Forum whose members respond quickly to user questions.

Important: To listen to audio with the video data from a PCTV 80e, you’ll need to download and install Alexander Vigovsky’s free AC3 Filter v1.63b or later. (The installer offers multiple crapware features with the filter, but you can decline them.)

After installing the AC3 Filter, specify the Settings for US ATSC broadcast HDTV shown here:

NextPVRDecodersSettings

Here’s the NextPVR playing a recorded NFC Championship pre-game program:

image

Connecting to the NextPVR with XBMC’s Live TV Add-in

After you’ve set up the program guide and verified operability of the NextPVR Windows front end, follow the instructions in the NextPVR wiki’s XBMC ‘Live TV’ topic to configure the Windows Firewall to allow NextPVR Recording Service (NRecord.exe), nextpvr.exe, and ndigitalhost.exe through the firewall:

NextPVRFirewall1

Browse for NRecord.exe and NDigitalHost.exe in \Program Files (x86)\NPVR folder. If your Android device is connecting to a NextPVR host in an Active Directory domain, accept the default Domain network location. Otherwise, click the Network Location Types button and and mark the Private checkbox to enable connection to a host computer in the same workgroup.

NextPVRFirewall2

Open the Next PVR client’s Add-on Information screen in your Android device, a Nexus 7 for clarity in this instance:

XBMC NextPVR Client

Tap configure, IP Address, and enter the NextPVR’s IP address,10.5.7.51 for this example, accept the default NextPVR Port (8866) and PinCode (0000):
NextPVRClientSettings
Tap OK, and tap Enable. Return to Add-ons | Enable Add-ons | PVR Clients and verify NextPVR PVR Client appears in the list.

Finally, add a Live TV item to xbrm’s main menu by opening System | Live TV to open the TV - Settings page, and tap Enabled:

XBMCTV-Settings

When you’re finished, return to XBMC’s home screen, tap Live TV on the main menu to display the TV Channels list and tap a channel to show a preview:

XBMCChannelList

Tap the preview to display the full screen image:

XBMCLiveTV

You also can view recorded programs, the program guide, and other NextPVR data. My initial observations are that the XBMC app consumes substantial UG007 resources and doesn’t play live TV or recorded programs reliably with a WiFi connection to my Buffalo router via a NetGear WiFi range extender.

Important: Garbage characters in the Program Guide can cause the XBMC app to open, download some Program Guide data and abruptly close. To correct this problem, go to Settings | Channels, tap Empty EPG and then tap Update EPG to refresh the contents. In some cases, you won’t be able to use XBMC in an Android device with EPG information from the back end. the XBRC front-end will download its own program descriptions:

Note: The XBMC back end supports only one front-end at a time. You receive a “No tuner available” message if you attempt to connect more than one front end to a back end.

No sound with a Nexus 7: Go to Settings | Sound | Volumes and move the Music, Video, Games & Other Media slider to the right. It sometimes resets to 0 without warning.

Recording HDMI and Capturing Screens with a Hauppauge Colossus Card

imageHauppauge Computer Works describes the Colossus as “A High-Definition H.264 Video Recorder for Windows.” The device, which is available from Amazon for $US135.99 plus shipping, combines a PCI Express adapter card, with drivers and WinTV v7 and ArcSoft ShowBiz software. WinTV v7 supports “All WinTV-HVR digital TV tuners for North America, plus the WinTV-NOVA and WinTV-MiniStick products in Europe and Asia”, which include the WinTV-HVR850 and WinTV-HVR950Q devices mentioned in the Using Pinnacle/Hauppauge Video Tuner/Decoders section above.

Colossus records from composite NTSC, component ATSC and NTSC, and HDMI inputs in formats up to and including 1080i. I installed the drivers and WinTV v7.2.30254 (CD 2.6), as well as ShowBiz on my development computer running Window 7 Professional on 1/26/2013.

Colossus is capable of negotiating and establishing (via a mutually supported display mode) a connection to the UG007’s HDMI output and recording H.264 transport stream (*.ts) files in MPEG4 AVC format at the High@L4.0, 720P format (1280 x 720 px). You also can capture still *.jpg or *.bmp images. Here’s a full-screen capture of WinTV 7 displaying the UG007’s custom home screen (click for for full-size, 1024 x 768 px image):

image

Following is XBMC’s Live TV channel selector screen:

XBMC-LiveTV-All Channels

Here’s High Definition capture from a recent Motor Week recorded episode:

image

And a letterboxed McLaughlin Group Standard Definition segment:

image

imageNote: Using the WinTV 7 app as a substitute for a display with an HDMI input isn’t practical because of a substantial delay between movement of the mouse connected to the UG007’s USB port and its position on the WinTV window. You’ll need an HDMI Splitter Amplifier 1 In to 2 Out Dual Display adapter ($US21.00 plus shipping from Amazon) for a real-time display while recording.

Bogus Low-Resolution Messages for Colossus from the Microsoft Surface RT Tablet

The Surface RT has a 1366 x 768 1280 x 720 display and the base resolution of the Colossus is 720P (1280 x720). When you plug a Micro-HDMI (Type D) to standard HDMI (Type A) adapter cable between a shut-down Surface RT and Colossus card with the WinTV software running and start the Surface RT, the Start page fills the entire width of the PC’s monitor (1024 px, for this example in 1024 x 768 resolution):

image

Tapping Internet Explorer or a video source tile, such as Al Jazeera English, displays the following “This app cannot open. The screen resolution is too low for this app to run. Change your screen resolution” message:

image

Opening the Change Display Settings applet displays a “Your resolution is lower than 1024 x 768. Some items might not fit and apps might not open” message:

image

Changing the Multiple Displays mode to Extend These Displays and selecting the Colossus shows the same message:

image

This message appears to be bogus because the Surface RT can display IE and steaming video in IE at 1280 x 720 if you disconnect the Colossus. Further, you can open IE from the Desktop, navigate to streaming video sites, and record the stream. It appears that the resolution requirement applies only to Windows Store (formerly Metro) apps. For example, you receive the same resolution message when attempting to open in IE on the Desktop a video with the required Netflix Player App downloaded from the Windows Store.

You can use Handbrake to transcode the *.ts files to conventional *.mp4 format.

Using the nDroid Android Client with a NextPVR Back End

Beetec Services’ nDroid app is a simple, no-frills front-end for NextPVR, which consists of two components:

  1. An nDroid Service proxy downloaded from here, then installed and configured on the PC running the NextPVR back end.
  2. An nDroid Client to be installed on your device from Google Play, as shown here:

nDroidFromGooglePlay

Follow the instructions from the nDroid wiki on the NextPVR site to configure the nDroid Service Proxy and Android client, which displays the program guide for the channel, day and time range you select:

nDroidClient1

Note: The nDroid client refused to display live video from the 1080P “Check, Please! Bay Area” HD segment.

Tip: You must fully populate the EPG with the NextPVR Settings dialog’s Channels page to watch or record TV programs. The preceding list doesn’t display entries with missing EPG data.

Selecting an item from the list displays a simple menu which enables watching (when the program is live) and recording:

nDroidClient2

Tapping Watch opens a full-screen video player:

nDroidClient3

The nDroid app works as expected with my Nexus 7, I haven’t been able to install and use it with the UG007. After specifying the IP address for the computer running the nDroid Service, specifying my password and accepting other defaults, attempting to run nDroid results in a hang with Android’s equivalent of an hourglass. Rebooting the UG007 and clicking the nDroid icon displays an “App isn’t installed” message.


Update History

Update 3/31/2013: Posted Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) Kits Offer Better Performance than Android MiniPCs at a Much Higher Price, which describes three relatively new Ultra-Small Form Factor (USFF) Celeron and Core i3 motherboards in ~4.5 x 4.5 x 1.5 inch boxes. Added a new Infinitec’s Overpriced Android 4 (ICS) Pocket TV and Air Remote section.

Update 3/28/2013: Posted Using Windows SkyDrive and Microsoft Office Web Apps with the UG007 Android 4.1.1 MiniPC and updated MiniPC Device Shipment from GeekBuying.com in China No Longer in Tracking Limbo with delivery reported but no intermediate waypoints.

Update 3/27/2013: Updated UG007 II Specifications and Accessories, Estimating the Cost of a MiniPC Workstation and Startup Issues sections with change of power supply to US-style power connection and clarified “reset switch” detail. Added a new ZeroDesktop’s MiiPC for Kids with Remote Adult Supervision App section.

Update 3/25/2013: Updated my MiniPC Device Shipment from GeekBuying.com in China Still in Tracking Limbo - Caveat Emptor post regarding missing tracking details of GeekBuying.com order after last “despatch from tracking center” in Shenzhen, China eight days after shipment. GeekBuying reports Tronsmart T428 HDMI now supports up to 2160p.

Update 3/18/2013: Rikomagic joins the RK3188 MiniPC sweepstakes with its MK 802 IV stick loaded with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (see the new Rikomagic Announces MK802 IV Quad-Core MiniPC with Android 4.2 section.)

Update 3/17/2013: Added details about the upgraded UG008 (see the UG007 Android 4.1 MiniPC from CozySwan section below) and Huawei’s MediaQ forthcoming products (see the Huawei’s MediaQ Set-Top Boxes with HDMI Input and Built-in TV Tuner section.)

Update 3/16/2013: Updated Tronsmart T428 Android version from 4.1.1 to 4.2 based on updated specifications from their site and added AnTuTu Benchmark screenshots (see UG007 Android 4.1 MiniPC from CozySwan and Tronsmart T428,The First RK3188 Quad Core Mini PC Coming sections below.)

Update 3/15/2013: Added a new Samsung’s HomeSync Media Server section with Galaxy S4 and WatchOn details and began investigating Dell/Wyse PocketCloud Apps for Android and Cloud Client Manager; see new Dell/Wyse PocketCloud Apps and Cloud Client Manager Agent below. Also moved earlier update items to a new Update History section.

Update 3/13/2013: GeekBuying now offers an upgraded UG007 II Mini PC Android 4.1.1 TV Box Dual Core Cortex-A9 Rockchip 3066 1G/8G with BT Black, which adds a reset button for easier firmware upgrades (e.g., to add support for 1080p HDMI output) and one more micro USB port. I’ve updated the UG007 II Specifications and Accessories section above.

Update 3/13/2013: GeekBuying reduced the price of the UG007II from US$56.99 to US$49.99 with free air-mail shipping from China. This matches Dell’s original target price of <US$50 for its Project Ophelia device, which doesn’t include a power supply. I’ve updated the Estimating the Cost of a MiniPC Workstation section above.

Update 3/12/2013: Details from GeekBuying’s Geek Gadgets blog about the Tronsmart T428, claimed to be the first RK3188 quad-core MiniPC in the Tronsmart T428,The First RK3188 Quad Core Mini PC Coming section above.

Update 3/9/2013: Added a MarsBoard Allwinner A10 Board section for a recent (March 2013) entrant in the MiniPC circuit board market.

Update 3/3/2013: The UG-007 is a low-cost, if not the lowest-cost, way to validate Windows Azure Mobile Services apps you create with the newly released Android SDK for Windows Azure Mobile Services and related ToDo List tutorial as described here. Check out this post’s Estimating the Cost of a MiniPC Workstation section.

Update 2/26/2013: Walmart no longer sells the Element ELEFW245 24" 1080p 60Hz LED (1.8" ultra-slim) HDTV, so I purchased an Insignia NS-24E340A13 24” 1080p LED TV from BestBuy for US$10.00 more than the Element. See the updated Estimating the Cost of a MiniPC Workstation section. Also, Engaget reports XBMC now available for Apple TVs with software update 5.2; see the updated Testing XBMC App Compatibility section. Finally, reduced the amount of Dell’s “Project Ophelia” coverage.

Update 2/23/2013: Chris Velazco (@chrisvelazco) reported that the new HP Slate 7-inch Android tablet uses a RockChip CPU from China’s Fuzhou Rockchips Electronics company in his HP’s Android-Powered Slate 7 Tablet Is Cheap And It Works, But Is That Really Enough? TechCrunch article of 2/23/2013. The UG007 uses the RockChip RK3066 System on a Chip (SoC) with the Dual Core Cortex A9 (ARMv7) CPU and Mali-400MP GPU.

Update 2/17/2013: Added details of the US$499 Xi3 Modular Computer in an Xi3 Corporation’s x64 Modular Computer section to the Introduction and Background section.

Update 2/11/2013: GeekBuying.com recently began offering the UG007 Mini PC Android 4.1.1 TV Box Dual Core Cortex-A9 RK3066 1GB RAM 8G Storage HDMI USB Black for US$56.99 (see the end of the Introduction and Background section) and Forbes Magazine reported 1 million Raspberry Pis have been sold (see the Building a Low-Cost Media Center with XBMC Running on a Raspberry Pi section.)

Update 2/6/2013: Added a new, detailed Building a Low-Cost Media Center with XBMC Running on a Raspberry Pi section and a link to a new How to Watch and Record Live TV on Your XBMC Media Center Life Hacker article to the Testing XBMC App Compatibility section.

Update 1/28/2013: Corrected the Surface RT tablet’s display resolution to 1366 x 768 in the Bogus Low-Resolution Messages for Colossus from the Microsoft Surface RT Tablet section.

Update 1/27/2013: Added the Recording HDMI and capturing screens with a Hauppauge Colossus Card and Bogus Low-Resolution Messages for Colossus from the Microsoft Surface RT Tablet sections.


8 comments:

AAREN said...

Excellent post.Thank you so much!

android app developers india

Nicko said...

The round pins on the plug are actually Euro standard, not UK.
The Euro(pean) standard has two round pins as in your illustration, it is used in Germany, Holland, Italy and others. UK power sockets have three chunky squared-off pins - including a mandatory earth pin - a standard not used anywhere else in Europe.
A minor detail, but may help someone avoid ordering the wrong adapter!

Roger Jennings (--rj) said...

Nicko,

Thanks for the correction. I've updated the text.

--rj

Alan Wade said...

I guess it is most widely used in all over the world and also the android vpn.

Galaxy Note 3 said...

The round pins on the plug are actually Euro standard, not UK.

RocketDroid PC said...

The Rocket Droid Pc is a HDMI Android TV Dongle on Steroids! Plug it into your TV and experience the Android UI & Gaming like never before.
Rocket Droid

Roger Jennings (--rj) said...

@RocketDroidPC,



Yet another attempt to crowdfund a ho-hum Android MiniPC/TVBox, which probably will be dual-core because fund-raising isn't going so well. (BP1,359 of BP75,000 with 35 days to go.) I don't think I'd buy any device with "2 GHZ of DDR3 RAM" (direct quote from specs.) I'm also unimpressed with the packaging.

lokesh goyal said...

The round pins on the plug are actually Euro standard, not UK.
The Euro(pean) standard has two round pins as in your illustration, it is used in Germany, Holland, Italy and others. UK power sockets have three chunky squared-off pins - including a mandatory earth pin - a standard not used anywhere else in Europe.www.techppp.com