Google Chromecast – just another Mini TV Stick?

So, Google set out their stall in the battle for your living room TV :)  And the format they have chosen is essentially a Mini TV Stick (at least that’s what I like to think :P)!  It plugs into your TV via HDMI and they’ve chosen components that will run stable with just the juice from your TV’s USB port (kinda like the MK802 II, I guess).

Check out the a tear down of the device if you want to see images of its guts.  It looks like an Android based device (see initial properties file here).

It’s pretty light weight in terms of processing power compared to recent Mini TV Sticks, but this seems to be reflected in the relatively low price.  It sports a Marvell DE3005-A1 System on Chip (SoC), 0.5GB of RAM and 2GB of flash memory.  The SoC is based on Marvell’s ARMADA 1500-mini platform (see Marvell’s press release here).  It looks like it uses a dual core 1.2GHz processor.  Perhaps, go here if you have one and want to start hacking around with it :)

A comparison against the other sticks may give you a better feel for where this product sits compared to what is currently available on the market (use the comparison tool :)):

Compare Sticks

I don’t have one of these sticks as they are not available in the UK yet (plus my gadget fund has been sucked dry by my Oculus Rift adventures :P).  Information about what it does can be found on the Google Chromecast page and there are loads of YouTube videos that show people trying the device out.  My understanding of the functionality is essentially this:

A.  Watch something on one device (e.g. your phone or laptop)

B.  Broadcast it to the TV or laptop that has the Chromecast plugged into it

However, be aware that this functionality is only available if you are watching/listening to media on one of the media channels/apps that the Chromecast supports.  At the time of writing, you are limited to being able to broadcast to your Chromecast enabled TV from the following:

  1. Netflix
  2. Google Play
  3. YouTube
  4. Chrome

Personal View

I think it’s pretty cool that Google have created this product.  It seems to do very little compared to the other Mini TV Sticks, but it seems to do it really well -> I seriously hope that the Mini TV Stick manufacturer’s sharpen their pencils and spend more time focusing on the software that they supply with the sticks as this has been quite a let down for a few models -> so much so that the secondary ROMs have been essential to get them working properly. (Ok, so Chromecast has had it’s issues, but I think we can have confidence that fixes will be created).

The survey that I’ve been running for a while now has consistently shown that the 2nd thing most popular thing that people want to do with their Mini TV Sticks is -> Watch YouTube.  However, if you want to do the number one thing – watch XBMC – you’re going to have to get one of the other modelsMK808 is probably still the daddy for most…

Here comes the Mandroid and the Womandroid?

And a bit of fun for the conspiracists out there.  I posted this Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tribute back on the 22nd Feb 2013 (earlier this year)….

Funnily enough the model for the stick that is currently out is “H2G2-42″ (see tear down step 3)… errr…. HHGG-42… “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… 42??

OK, just hoping they let me keep that video on the channel! lol.

Posted in GK802, Google Chromecast, MK802 II, XBMC | Tagged | Leave a comment

YouTube Playlists! MK808, MK802 II, CR9

YouTube Playlists

I’ve noticed a few of you are trying to find videos on specific Mini TV Sticks.  So… I decided to create a few YouTube Playlists.  Hopefully this makes your life easier!  Playlists here!  I’ll add to this as I go along.  Currently there are playlists for MK808, MK802 II and CR9 :)

Enjoy!

 

Posted in CR9, MK802 II, MK808, Playlists | Tagged | 1 Comment

CloudnetGo CR9 Part 3? Neomode is the answer?

After using the CloudnetGo CR9 stick more with its default ROM (the one it came with) I’ve found that the video starts to stutter after about 1 or 2 hours.  A restart usually fixes the problem, but it’s kinda annoying.  This is very much reminiscent of what I saw with the original MK808 before the I managed to upgrade it with the after market Finless Bob ROM.

So… I am just downloading the CloudnetGo CR9 ROM from Neomode over at Freaktab.com.  Hopefully get an opportunity to reflash the stick and see how it performs.  I’ll create a new vid if I get there before the weekend :)  Below are the notes from the Neomode ROM if you’re interested:

NEOTV CROM for Flycast MK809III – UG007B – QC802 – Cloudnet Go CR9

Hello all,

Here it comes a New CRom for the Flycast MK809III – UG007B – Cloudnet Go CR9.
This is an Android 4.2.2 Rom based on the Latest Flycast Firmware from 06.06.2013.
The Rom is Rooted.

What is Working:

- Bluetooth (Tested with Mouse and Keyboard)
- Wifi
- Netflix (Patch includes) Install Netflix and Restart
- Wifi Streaming
- RK Remote
- init.d Support
Software:

- Chrome in Desktop Mode
- eMedia Center
- Ultra Explorer
- Terminal Emulator
- Reboot App
- RKGame Control Settings

This is Version 1.0 I have the UG007B and Flycast MK809III to Test and it Works.
The Cloudnet Go CR9 has also been tested and confirm to Work.
QC802 should Work but must be confirmed !

I’ve sent a note over to the folks at CloudnetGo as well.  Am sure they are looking at the problem too.  They’ve been pretty good so far.  Will drop a note here too if I hear anything back.

Oh, one other thing… I find that I answer quite a lot of questions via email… am thinking about putting up a FAQ section as many of you folks actually have similar problems… I can help you with the simple questions, but you’ll have to go to some of the real pros for the deeper ones!

Posted in Cloudnet, CloudnetGo, CR9, Neomode | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Compare Android Mini TV Sticks

Just added the Zealz GK802 and the Cloudnet Go CR9 to the Compare Tool so you can compare various Android Mini TV Sticks :)

Hope the tool holds up!  The site crashed last night and wondering if it is due to this feature :P  Oh well, will give it a try!

Compare Tool

Posted in Compare Sticks | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Cloudnet CR9 Review

Update 20th June 2013: Check out Ian Morrison’s site if you are interested in trying to get Ubuntu working on this stick.  And just added this stick to the stick comparison database!

Update 19th June 2013: If you are looking for a quad core stick you may also want to consider the Zealz GK802 stick.  Review here.

You can now get the stick on Amazon UK.  I am not sure when it will be for sale in the US yet…

(Video review further down) Wow, it’s been a while since I posted.  Sorry guys.  Been super busy… I actually started another blog and started ploughing into that :P  Check it out if you are interested… it’s about Virtual Reality and the Oculus Rift (www.oculushut.com).

(Try again in 1hr time if the video does not show.  I am going to bed and have just left it to upload!  Hope you find it useful :))

AnTuTu Benchmark scores of 15 000! :D

Anyway, getting back to the task at hand -> I was sent a new quad core Android Mini TV Stick from Cloudnet!  Woohooo :)  Thank you Miss Cloudnet!  I did make sure that they understood that I only wanted to do independent reviews though so I’ll be just saying whatever I want as per usual (no strings).

The Cloudnet CR9 is a new Android Jelly Bean Quad Core Stick.  I’ll add more to this posting over the weekend!  This is only Part 1, I want to do another video as there are a bunch of other things I want to cover that I did not manage to cover here (e.g. I tried out the feature to stream from my Android phone to the stick over DLNA, Skype and webcams etc etc!)

Who are Cloudnet?

You can find out more about Cloudnet on their website here.  I have had some email dialogue with their Hong Kong office only.  They seem like quite a serious operation from their corporate video; setup looks similar to some factories I have visited in Shenzhen in the past.

I must admit that I do find some comfort in seeing a logo that looks like it may last on this stick.  I have also had some indications that they will improve the ROM for this stick even after it has gone live.  I know it sounds like an odd comment, but most of the sticks that I have had so far have been pretty much anonymous and the result of a “pump and dump” type strategy (not all of course :))

Will try to get more info on here over the weekend, but seriously need to hit the hay!!

EDIT (Monday 17th June 2013): Plugged into Oculus Rift to see what hapens :)
(More info here if you have not heard of this: http://www.oculusvr.com/)

Posted in Cloudnet, CloudnetGo, CR9, Jelly Bean, Linux, Oculus Rift, quad core, Ubuntu, XBMC | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Too many products!

The Buying Sticks page already has the MK802 II, iMito and MK808 -> it’s becoming a little too crowded and I’ve spent the weekend looking for alternatives.  It’s not really scalable as it stands and I really want to make those Zealz GK802 stats available for side by side comparison.

Anyway, going to mess around with new Compare Sticks page and see if I can get it to do what I want!

Any feedback welcome :)

(EDIT: 27th Feb Deactivated to investigate some stability issues!)

(EDIT: 16th Mar OK, giving it another go!)

(Oh, and also added new YouTube link top left of the site for those who want to follow the Mini TV Stick YouTube channel :))

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Zealz GK802 – Review

Update (19th June 2013): If you are looking for a quad core stick you may also want to check out the Cloudnet Go CR9 stick. Review here.

The first thing I would like to say is that I would like to caveat this review.  I’ve had it for a few weeks now, but there is still so much I need to try out!!  Oh, and just so that I have fully declared my interests – the stick was kindly donated by ingadget.co.uk, but they agreed that I could have complete editorial freedom (I have chosen Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy this time…wooohoo…..)

The main highlight: this is a quad core stick (and probably the only one on the market – see pictures below)!  The MK808, iMito and MK802 III series of sticks are all dual core whilst MK802 II is single core only.

As far as I know, there is only 1 other quad core stick on the market at the moment and this is the Hi-803.  Or so I thought… I know that this may sound like looney talk, but are Hi-803 and GK802 the same people?  Never in the same place at the same time?  Similar allergies and both left handed?

Top = Photos of the GK802 that I have here

Bottom = Hi-803 photos from the HiaPad website

Zealz GK802 versus Hi-803

Even the ports are the same.  I am going to stick my neck out and say they are the same thing.  I guess this is continuing the weird trend within Stick Land of creating the same product and then giving them different names (kind of the reverse of a fake LV bag).

Anyway, back to the stats.  This baby sports a Freescale i.MX6 Quad Core Cortex-A9 , Frequency  1.2GHz processor.  According the wiki:

i.MX6 Quad = 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A9 quad cores platform + dual Full HD VPU (1080p decode) + 3D GPU + 2.5D GPU + 2D GPU + 2xIPU + security

It has 1GB RAM

For comparison, the MK808 has a dual core Rockchip SoC which is also running the ARM Cortex-A9 core.

Connectivity

The number of available physical ports was disappointing.  There was a micro USB port and a standard Type A USB port, but only the Type A port was usable since the other port was for power.

Zealz GK802 usb ports

I needed to buy an additional USB hub just to check out web cam compatibility.  Basically, you need a USB hub if you are going to plug in more than your controller.  I decided to choose one that was a little more expensive, but had tonnes of good reviews.  It worked perfectly.  Link on the peripherals page.

The saving grace is that this unit also supports bluetooth.  My problem is that none of the devices I have work on Bluetooth.  So, if you are buying this new then do consider getting bluetooth compatible peripherals!

With regards to Skype, I tried the Microsoft LifeCam Cinema and the Logitech C270 and both failed (although I could get some video out of the Logitech).

XBMC works fine.  Like on the MK808, there were sound/vision synch issues when I used the official XBMC distribution, but then these issues disappeared after I downloaded the XBMCAndroid version which utilised the MX Player.

I believe there will be a real step change in performance as soon as somebody creates a decent ROM for this stick.

Additionally, I believe Freescale have opensourced the code for the SoC so there should be decent Linux distros… I’ve already seen an Ubuntu distro that I really want to check out.

There are a few benchmarks that have been ran for this stick and they all agree that the MK808 with Finless ROM is currently faster [LINKS to come].

If you are going to buy a stick, don’t mind forking out the bigger bucks, are patient, going to do more than just watch XBMC (i.e. use Ubuntu etc) then buy the Zealz GK802 and wait for the ROMs to come or build one yourself!  If you are looking for a media player for your TV then go for the MK808 and stick the Finless ROM on there!

Posted in GK802, Hi-803, quad core, XBMC, Zealz | 1 Comment

Received my Zealz GK802 :)

The guys over at ingadget have lent me a Zealz GK802 Android Mini TV Stick! Woohoo!  They are not selling this stick yet and we have agreed that I can say whatever the hell I like about any kind of hardware they donate to my cause.  Started to mess around with it a little tonight.  Will do a vid of the sticky once we’re better aquainted… oh, and I’m  going to keep my notes on a new Benchmarking page (which does not really contain much benchmarking info at all yet!).  First impressions: nice background (yes – it’s important to the aesthetically sensitive), seems to be running at higher resolution than other ROMs and pretty stable, GMail app failed to run a couple times, but runs now, XBMC seems OK…

Oh, and the UK adapter that came with it kinda flashes a few sparks when you plug it in.  How exciting.  More to come!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

XBMC? What’s that?

EDIT1: Thank you to Tim and Gianni (See comments) for tip on using an alternative XBMC release that makes use of the MK808′s hardware acceleration.  I tried it and the video lip synch issue disappeared!  Had a slight stability issue at first, but then seemed OK afterwards – recommended!  Get it here: http://www.xbmcandroid.com/2013/01/17/introducing-the-first-end-user-friendly-release-of-xbmc-for-android-must-have/

EDIT2: Had some queries on whether I thought the iPlayer footage was coming from BBC or a separate source.  I’ve not looked through the code, but believe the source of the video is the BBC website (some evidence here: http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=27063&page=89)

EDIT3 (19th June 2013): Things keep on moving on as usual!  For those that are interested, I have also tried out XBMC on the newer quad core sticks.  Video reviews for Zealz GK802 and Cloudnet Go CR9 are available.

XBMC!  It’s rather like hearing a cough in the distance, not paying much attention and then the guy next to you clears his throat vigorously – something not to be ignored.  Could be the start of an epidemic?

On the way to work that morning, I searched for XMBC on my phone (it trips off the tongue better) whilst on the train and psychic google cleverly pointed me to xBMc.org.  And so began my journey of discovery…

Discovery 1

I started an online poll to see which Mini TV Stick apps people liked.   Partly to find out how to do polls on WordPress (because I want to) and partly because I was interested in which apps I should concentrate on in the future.  Adding XBMC as an option to the list was an afterthought.  A few days later, I find XBMC at the top of the beauty parade!  Really?  More fun than VNC?

Discovery 2

After downloading XBMC on my laptop, I found a skin that made it look like a cinema.  After about 5 minutes of dossing around, I was smacked in the face with deja vu.  A few months back I attended a show and there was a very serious company who sold very serious fancy home theatre systems.  This bunch of very serious guys kept on talking about their very serious software… OMG – they were using XBMC!

Serious company with serious guys using serious software => I should take this seriously?

Discovery 3

From wikipedia: “XBMC is an award-winning free and open source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub for digital media.”

“Open source (GPL)”??  That caught my eye; I have a general interest in open source anything at the moment… it’s free and it’s heart is in the right place.

Discovery 4

The XBMC team seem to recognise that there is a place for Android apps on TVs!

XBMC for Android

Discovery 5 – I suspect this is the main reason for XBMC’s popularity!

This guy is watching movies and TV episodes on an MK808… stream movies and TV shows?  (Btw, Add-Ons such as 1Channel and BBC are super easy to install for those that are interested – ignore the guy saying it is difficult.  You just download zip file whilst on your Mini TV Stick and select it from the Add-On from ZIP option in the XBMC user interface)

Discovery 6

It worked on MK802 II as well, I managed to download those Add-Ons and things seemed to work!

Conclusions

I suspect Discovery 5 explains XBMC for me.

Separately, with a thriving open source community, you know it’s going to only get better.  The interface on dedicated media appliances (TVs, Monitors, DVD/BluRay Players) tend to be pretty crappy and are rarely upgraded after they have been sold: XBMC could lead the change for the industry (look at how you change contrast or volume on each TV you have ever used and the long standing jokes about setting the record timer on each model of DVD recorder).  CPU/memory is cheap enough to have a proper OS now so would be good to see it utilised…

XBMC is the most awesome thing on my Mini TV Stick at the moment.  The poll did not lie.  However, some notes for those who are looking to invest or install:

▪ video/sound synch is still slightly off (similar to other video playback I have seen -> somebody please fix!)
▪ you can get an iPlayer add-on which makes things really convenient!
▪ If you shift the bottom bar down then the cursor tracking goes off calibration (e.g. to click a button you need to move the cursor a few pixels above the button)

For those who are interested in links to the various ROMs in the video:

Finless 1.6
Omegamoon Kernel

Lastly, thank you to Gianna Kaye for cool intro music and convo.  I know she is available for awesome art/music commissions for those who need it! (www.giannakaye.com)

Posted in Finless 1.6, MK808, RC11, Remote Control, XBMC | 8 Comments

Gaming on the MK808 -> what do you think?

I’m working on ideas for a video to show gaming on the MK808 or MK802 II Mini TV Sticks.  With seemingly so much movement around this area at the CES show it seems appropriate and I’ve promised it for ages!

Do you have a Mini TV Stick?  Which one?  Which games and apps do you think are essential for a Mini TV Stick??

Tweet/Facebook/Email me with your suggestions (or leave comment).

I’ll start up a poll if there are too many :)  Will try to get the suggested items into the vid!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments