Android Media Player TVBoxes and MiniPCs


Google TV: Inventing the Android Media Player

imageThe Google TV operating system, based on a customized version of Android, powered the predecessors of today’s Android media player TVBoxes. According to Wikipedia’s Google TV entry:

Google TV is a Smart TV platform from Google co-developed by Intel, Sony, and Logitech that was launched in October 2010.[2] Google TV initially, with official devices from Sony and Logitech.[3] Google TV integrates the Google Chrome browser to create an interactive television overlay on top of existing Internet television and WebTV sites to add a 10-foot user interface.

Google TV’s first generation devices were created and commercialized by Sony and Logitech. The first generation of devices were based on x86 architecture processor by Intel. For the second generation of devices new partners have joined, including LG, Samsung,[4] Vizio, and Hisense, some of which include 3D capabilities. The second generation of Google TV devices are based on ARM architecture processors.

In 2013, more Google TV supported devices were announced by Hisense, Netgear, TCL, and Asus.

Google TV leverages many of Google’s existing products. Google TV’s operating system, a customized version of Android, provides the underlying foundation, allowing developers to create applications that extend the system’s functionality. Google’s Chrome browser provides a gateway to the Internet, allowing consumers to browse web sites and watch television, in tandem. Consumers can access HBO, CNBC, and content from other providers through the Chrome browser. Android and Apple smartphones and tablet computers may be used as remote controls for Google TV. Google TV products ship with wireless remote controls with a full QWERTY keypad. An update in November 2011, allowed access to Google Play and enabled search to find content from live TV, Netflix, YouTube, HBO GO, Amazon, and more.[5]

Google TV has been less than a roaring success. Low-cost ARM Cortex-powered MiniPC USB sticks and TVBoxes, manufactured in or marketed from China’s Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (Guandong province, near Hong Kong) and running Android 4.2+, sell for less than US$100 delivered to the US. These devices provide media player capabilities similar to dedicated devices running Google TV. They also have access to hundreds of thousands of applications (apps) intended for Android smartphones and tablets from the Google Play store.

Google Services for Smart TVs

Capitalizing on the success of its Cromecast dongle and faced with declining Google TV implementations, Google has delivered Google Services for Smart TVs to HDTV original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). As of January 2014, Google had published little information about these services. A 1/10/2014 Google search on the topic returns the following sponsored links:

image

Clicking the Shop for … link returns links for HDTVs by major US brands dated 2012 and 2013, which indicates they support Google TV, not Google Services for Smart TVs. Hisense and Skyworth are the first TV manufacturers to announce adoption of Google Services for Smart TVs (see items below.) I’ll update this post as more information becomes available.

Note: Much of the earlier content below was moved here on 7/24/2013 from the earlier Potential Personal Video Recorders (PVRs/DVRs) with HDTV Tuners article, which has been renamed Personal Video Recorder (PVR/DVR) TV Boxes and PCTV Tuner Sticks.


Israeli Startup Introduces an Android MiniPC Named “Meet Bob

Comigo Ltd. posted an Android-based TV Stick Converts any TV into a Family Communications Center press release on 1/6/2014:

imageBob, the new family TV stick, provides families with intuitive and exciting interactive communications options

Yarkona, Israel – 6th January 2014: A unique Android-based TV stick aimed at enabling families to communicate, share content, interact and play via the TV – no matter where each individual may be located – is to be launched at CES, Las Vegas.

imageThe new HDMI TV stick – called Bob and developed by Meet-Bob Ltd. – is designed to provide families with intuitive and exciting interactive communication options. It easily turns any TV into a content and communications center, enabling family members to watch TV shows, movies or videos together; easily share favorite content and special moments with each other; keep-in-touch (using a Web-cam) and play games with one another – even if they are spread out in different parts of the world!

The Bob stick can be easily carried anywhere, making any TV part of the family network

Content providers, brands, retailers or any companies interested in extending their reach to the family living room, are provided with a refreshing new family-oriented product offering unique marketing opportunities. Bob enables the efficient delivery of content (live channels, VOD and games), the promotion of products and services and micro-targeted campaigns directly to the family’s TV. Bob’s social nature and its unique interactive capabilities, allow it to target families in an entirely new way, strengthening brand loyalty, increasing viewer engagement and opening new revenue opportunities.

Moreover, with the Bob stick the user experience is fully personalized. Every family member has a personal login and is offered relevant features and content to fit their profile. For example, the kid in the family will have access to specific VOD, live channels, games, Apps, websites and educational books that have been authorized by his parents. He will have limited TV viewing time and can communicate only with other family members. While grandma will have the ability to access different content that is relevant for her, the ability to ask for family help, links to her shopping sites, options for sharing with other family members, etc. Bob enables each content provider, brand or retailer to define different user profiles at home and their usage scenarios.

“Technology was supposed to get us closer; it has opened the boundaries and has become a commodity enabling us to communicate easily with anyone, anywhere,” said Sigalit Klimovsky, CEO of Meet-Bob Ltd.
“But while we communicate more with more people, we interact and communicate less with the people we care about… our family. We believe technology can do more for us and bring the people we love closer together and that’s what Bob is designed to do,” she added.

About Meet-Bob Ltd.
Cellular phones and social networks enable us to communicate easily with anyone around the world, yet they reduce the personal human interactions. Aimed at bringing families back together, Bob provides them with exciting interactive communication options. This Android-based HDMI TV stick turns any TV into part of the family network.

Bob creates an exciting opportunity for brands, content providers and retailers interested in entering the TV market with a refreshing family-oriented product. With Bob, dedicated TV content can be distributed to any TV. Its social nature and interactive capabilities allow strengthening brand loyalty, increasing viewer engagement and maximizing revenue opportunities.

More details are available from the Times of Israel’s ‘Meet Bob’ turns TV into a ‘Family Affair’ article of 1/8/2014. Here’s the Meet Bob booth (Venetian, Level 1, 75500) at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2014:

image

A Meet Bob representative showed me a high-end remote control with an air-mouse and alphanumeric keyboard and a lower-cost remote with conventional directional control and no keyboard. The unique UI is well designed and very responsive.

Family-friendly Meet Bob reminds me of ZeroDesktop’s MiiPC for Kids with Remote Adult Supervision App. I hope Meet Bob doesn’t suffer the same fate as Microsoft Bob.


Marvell Reports Skyworth will Produce Smart TVs and Set Top Boxes with Google Services for Smart TVs

Marvell Technology Group, Ltd., the producer of the CPU powering the Chromecast dongle, reported Marvell Partners with Leading Global TV Maker Skyworth to Introduce Smart TV and Set-Top Box with Google Services for Smart TV in a 1/7/2014 press release:

Skyworth announces K100 Smart TV and GS100 and GS300 set-top boxes with Google Services for Smart TV powered by Marvell’s ARMADA 1500 Plus.

Las Vegas and Santa Clara, California (January 7, 2014) – Continuing its leadership in the Smart Home ecosystem, Marvell (NASDAQ: MRVL) today announced a partnership with Skyworth, a global TV maker, to deploy Smart TVs and set-top boxes with Google services for Smart TV. The new offerings are powered by Marvell’s ARMADA® 1500 Plus (88DE3108) system-on-chip (SoC) platform, a full HD media processor designed for a vast array of smart video products. …

The ARMADA 1500 Plus is the newest edition to the award-winning ARMADA 1500 product family, offering significantly improved graphics performance due to its OpenGL ES 2.0 compatible graphics engine, while real-time 1080p video encode capabilities allow the platform to function as a multi-screen source device, enabling an optimal viewing experience for consumers. Additionally, the ARMADA 1500 Plus incorporates an enhanced security engine that further facilitates more seamless adoption by service operators as well as its award-winning Qdeo® video processing for state-of-the-art HD and 3-D video for an immersive entertainment experience. The SoC has an integrated HDMI receiver and Gigabit Ethernet, enabling a broad range of low cost form factors that makes the ARMADA 1500 Plus ideal for small set-top-boxes, over-the-top media players, hybrid set-top boxes, and Smart TVs at mass-market price points.

Marvell will showcase its innovative Digital Connected Lifestyle solutions at Murano Rooms 3304-3306, level 3, located at the Venetian Congress Center, during CES, January 7-10 in Las Vegas.

About Skyworth
Skyworth (HK00751) is a global TV manufacturer and large-sized high-tech public company. Holding the No. 1 domestic TV market share in China, achieving No.1 sales volume in domestic TV market in China, Skyworth will move forward on the way of internationalization, since established a strong, comprehensive global sales, distribution platform and network that covers major continents. Skyworth is committed to providing customers with complete solutions of digital life and bringing Skyworth’s video and audio products into common households to let people of different countries and groups enjoy the fun and joy of digital audio- and video- life. …

Skyworth might claim to be China’s top-selling TV maker, but the Consumer Electronic Association (CEA) rated it (#7) below Hisense (#5) in its “2013 Global TV Brands Top 20” item in the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) Daily magazine for 1/9/2014:

imageSource: CEA, reformatted

This means that Marvell and Google Services for Smart TVs have captured the two leading Chinese TV manufacturers’ smart TV and set-top box business. (See item below for the Hisense offering.)


Hisense Announces Android and Pulse PRO Set Top Box based on Google Services for Smart TVs

Hisense (@Hisense_USA) published a Hisense Launches H6 SMART TV for Android and Pulse PRO Set Top Box based on Google Services for Smart TVs press release on 12/5/2013:

imageSuwanee, GA – December 5, 2013 — Hisense today announced the launch of the new H6 SMART TV with the latest Google™ services for TV powered by Android™ 4.2.2. Along with a new EasyView natural user interface and incredibly simplified remote control air mouse, the new H6 SMART TV available in 40-inch, 50-inch, and 55-inch models is powered by Marvell’s latest ARMADA 1500 Plus (88DE3108) HD Media processor.

“Android delivers on the promise of Smart. Today, by seamlessly coupling Hisense’s television expertise, Marvell’s high performing and innovative ARMADA 1500 Plus platform and Android’s connectivity and interactivity, Hisense is delivering on the promise of a truly smart TV — and making it accessible to broad markets here in North America and across the globe,” said Jonathan Frank, Vice President of Marketing, Hisense USA. “We are proud to bring Google services for Smart TV to the market with the H6 and the Pulse PRO. Hisense provides a comfortable, lean-back experience, with an elegant, simple remote with MIC for voice control and functionality that is simply phenomenal. And if you’re not quite ready to invest in a new TV, but would like the latest and greatest Android platform, get the Pulse PRO set-top box.”

Image courtesy of Android Beat

“I am very pleased to see the new ARMADA 1500 Plus from our award-winning SoC platform family to be the first to power a broad portfolio of Hisense SMART TV products with the next generation of Google services for Smart TVs,” said Weili Dai, President and Co-Founder of Marvell. “We are excited to collaborate with Hisense and Google on bringing the best consumer experiences to the North American Smart TV mass market and beyond.”

Both products come with the Hisense Social TV™ App and Hisense Cloud Services Hi-Media™ Player and Receiver. The H6 features a 120Hz refresh rate, and both are Energy Star 6.0 qualified, and are configured with 1GB RAM and 8GB ROM. The H6 remote, which will also be sold with the Pulse PRO, comes with just 30 keys, a built-in air mouse with IQQI Smart Input and content centric voice search with a built-in microphone.

The Pulse PRO brings all of the SMART functionality you receive with the H6, including Netflix, Vudu HD Movies, Amazon Instant Video, Chrome™, YouTube™, Google Play™, Google Voice Search™, PrimeTime, Android-based TV v4 Media Streaming, a MARVELL BG2-CT board with 1G RAM and 4G Flash, HDMI-In/Out, IR-In/Out, DLNA, WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, USB and an air mouse remote with MIC and Motion Sensing.

Android, Google Play, Google and other marks are trademarks of Google Inc.

For more information please visit: www.hisense-usa.com.

» Download Press Release (PDF)

The Android Headlines blog reported Hisense Announces their Pulse Pro Android TV at CES 2014 on 1/9/2013:

IMG_2390_610x457

imageWhile Google TV isn’t officially dead, it might as well be. We have heard rumors that it would be renamed and relaunched in 2014 as Android TV. And it looks like Hisense spilled the beans a bit early. Hisense is showing off a nice little set top box at CES this week. Which is called the Pulse Pro, obviously keeping up with the Hisense Pulse naming scheme. It’s running software called “Android TV v4″. It’s not exactly Google TV, but it’s clearly built on the same foundation, with the same PrimeTime guide, and the ability to run Google TV apps. The Hisense Pulse Pro is said to be pretty impressive, according to those in Vegas this week able to check it out. They say one of the biggest improvements is the home screen, which lays out your content choices in a much more straight-forward way than standard Google TV software

The remote is said to be much simpler than your typical Google TV remote, it’s focusing on being able to easily jump to the content you want rather than offering a full keyboard. The need to type on a keyboard has been  replaced with a built-in microphone. All you have to do is press the search  button, then speak into the remote’s mic and it works within a few seconds. It worked well even at CES, on the show floor. Which as you can expect, is pretty noisy. Hisense has also added in the motion sensing to the remote control. The Pulse Pro’s pointer was actually very responsive. So for those times when you want to use a web browser on your TV, the remote will work quite well.

As far as availability and pricing goes, Hisense didn’t have any information on that front. But hopefully we’ll see it out on the market really soon. How many of you are interested in the Hisense Pulse Pro? Let us know in the comments below.

IMG_2390_610x457 IMG_2375_610x457 IMG_2373_610x457

Update 1/11/2014: Hisense also published a Hisense Transforms Smart TV Experience with the VIDAA Series press release on 1/6/2014 about Android-equipped smart TVs without a reference to Google Services for Smart TVs:

imageLas Vegas, NV, January 6, 2014 – Hisense today introduced the VIDAA series TV, a full-featured Android-powered SMART TV with multi-core processing and a stunningly simple, elegant and immensely powerful User Interface (UI). VIDAA redefines the current Smart TV landscape with a vastly improved user experience that does not yet exist in the product category.

The VIDAA series TV Full HD lineup will be available in March 2014 and features three ultra slim LED models, the 65H7 (65-inch), 55H7 (55-inch) and 50H7 (50-inch).

VIDAA simplifies and enhances a passive, lean-back consumer experience with intuitive channel “jumping” across four content experiences: Live TV, Video On Demand, Media Center, and Applications. VIDAA has built-in WiFi, a Chrome™ browser and also supports screen sharing – enabling pictures, videos and music to be simply shared right to your TV screen from most mobile devices. It also features a 30-button remote control with the most sophisticated built-in air mouse technology, a pop up virtual keyboard and astounding natural voice control.

“Hisense has boldly re-invented the concept of Smart TV with the VIDAA series. By combining a sleek and elegant look with the most intuitive UI and innovative remote control, our television is no longer just Smart – it’s simply brilliant,” said Jonathan Frank, Vice President of Marketing, Hisense USA.

Hisense is providing the global consumer electronics community and end-users across the world with the best-balanced coupling of connectivity, functionality and image performance with the VIDAA series. Users can easily navigate content experiences and view them uninterrupted as they slide into view. This new type of user interface was designed to align with the passive nature of the 10-foot, lean back experience, which favors a consumption-friendly experience over complicated interaction.

The VIDAA series will be on display at the Hisense booth 7243 during CES, January 7-10, 2014.

» Download Press Release (PDF)

Hisense UHD TVs with built-in Android features won’t be available until 2014Q4 according to a Hisense Launches Android Powered UHD Line at CES 2014 press release of 1/9/2014:

imageLas Vegas, NV – January 8, 2014 — Rounding out the most comprehensive line of high-performing, attainable Ultra High Definition televisions on the market today, Hisense today unveiled the Hisense H8c series and Hisense H9 3D series at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The H9 will debut with 85-inch and 75-inch models and the H8c will be available in 65-inch, 55-inch and 50-inch models. Both series are powered by Android™ 4.2 and include SMART TV features such as Netflix, Vudu HD Movies, Amazon Instant Video, Pandora, Chrome™, YouTube™, and are Google Play™ certified.

“Our message at CES is UHD For All!” said Jonathan Frank, Vice President of Marketing, Hisense USA. “These two additions to our line deliver stunning performance, elegant design and category leadership when it comes to coupling advanced features and innovative UI.”

The H9 is navigable via its cutting-edge VIDAA user interface; comes with Bluetooth® 3D glasses, Ultra-LED (U-LED) technology for incredible color detail and local dimming, RF remote with NFC, and Smart Interaction capabilities including voice and gesture controls.

Key Specifications:
UHD (3840 x 2160) native resolution; UltraSMR 480 (H9); UltraSMR 240 (H8c); Precise Local Dimming; Mega Dynamic Contrast Ratio; Android 4.2 base; VIDAA UI; HDMIx4 to support UHD inputs, USBx3to support UHD video play; AirBridge™ Digital Media Player and Receiver; Merlin™ Air Mouse and smart remote controls, built-in WiFi; Dolby Digital; DSP audio process; closed captioning; noise reduction; parental controls; sleep timer.

The new UHD models will be available nationwide in Q3 2014. [Emphasis added.]

Both series will be on display at the Hisense booth 7243 during CES, January 7-10, 2014.

Download Press Release (PDF)

The delay in UHD models with Android UIs might be due to availability of GPUs that will handle the 15 Mbps bandwidth required for Netflix’s highest-quality UHD offerings coming in early 2014. Most UHD owners will require faster Internet connections and Ethernet connections. For more details, see Brian Bishop’s How Netflix won CES: It’s not the TVs, it’s what you watch on them article of 1/10/2014 for The Verge.

Android MiniPCs and TVBoxes will require HDMI 2.0 connections to support 4096x2160p60 content. HDMI 1.4 maxes out at 4096x2160p30.


Roku TV Android TVBox will Complete with Google TV 

Monica Heck (@MonicaHeck) posted #CES: Introducing Roku TV to her TechByHeck site on 1/6/2014:

The Roku TV smart TV was announced today in advance of the 2014 CES show. The company plans to license the new reference design platform and software stack to manufacturers to build and distribute Roku TV models. TCL and Hisense are the first partners, with first demos expected today.RokuRoku TV says it is removing the complicated layers and menus that plague existing smart TV set-ups and give consumers a home screen that centralises all content sources: live programming, streaming, music.

Roku TVs can be controlled by a TV remote or a mobile device using the Roku app for iOS or Android. It supports modern casting standards including DIAL, which streams content from a mobile device to the TV.

TV manufacturers will receive the Roku TV reference platform complete with TV and remote control design as well as software and support. Like their Roku streaming player counterparts, Roku TVs will have full access to the Roku Channel Store filled with more than 1,200 channels that offer 31,000 movies and feature TV shows and live sports plus news, music, kids, food, science, tech, fitness, foreign language and other programming.

The question is: Will Roku have more success with its Roku TV than Google had with Google TV?


Chromecast SoC Supplier Marvell Announces New ARMADA 1500 Plus for Smart Media Players

Jean-Luc Aufranc reported Marvell Unveils ARMADA 1500 Plus (88DE3108) SoC for Android and Linux Smart Video Platforms in a 12/5/2013 article for CNX Software:

imageBuilding on top of it ARMADA 1500 SoC for Google TV, Marvell has recently announced the ARMADA 1500 Plus (88DE3108) HD secure media processor SoCdesigned for smart video products based on Android 4.2.2, and Linux, such as media players, OTT boxes, hybrid set-top boxes and smart TVs.

ARMADA 1500 Plus features two ARM Cortex A9 cores, Vivante GC1000 and GC300 GPUs, respectively for 3D and 2D graphics,  and integrates an HDMI receiver and Gigabit Ethernet.

Hisense will be among the first to use the platform with the upcoming H6 Smart TV and Pulse Pro set-top-box, but details have yet to be released for these two products.

imageHere are the key features of 88DE3108 SoC:

  • Processor – Dual core Cortex A9 with over 6000 Dhrystone MIPS
  • Dedicated 3D and 2D graphics acceleration – dual threaded unified shader (Vivante GC1000 and GC300) with support for OpenGL ES 1.1/2.0 and DirectFB.
  • Video
    • vMeta Video Codec – Decoding: H.264, VC-1, MPEG2, AVS, VP8 and several other formats. Real-time encoding: H.264, VP8 to allow the platform to function as a multi-screen source device.
    • Marvell Qdeo video post processing engine for improved HD and 3D video quality
  • Audio – Support for HE-AACv2, Dolby HD, DTS-HD, SRS and other high-end audio formats.
  • Trusted Video Path certified security engine with the following DRM/CAS options: Verimatrix, Widevine, Playready, NDS VGC, DTCP-IP
  • Hybrid architecture – Multiple TS inputs supports PayTV Operators STB requiring both broadcast (DVB-T,C,S) and IP content deployment.
  • Peripherals – HDMI 1.4a, SATA 2.0, SDIO, 2x USB 2.0 host, 10/100/1000M Ethernet MAC with RGMII interface, and more
  • Support for Google services for Smart TVs based on Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2

ARMADA 1500 Plus (88DE310) Block DiagramARMADA 1500 Plus (88DE3108) Block Diagram

Marvell ARMADA 1500 Plus appears to be very similar to the older Marvel ARMADA 1500, except the company switch to ARM Cortex A9 cores instead of using its own ARMv7 implementation, it may have added Vivante GC300 for 2D graphics (TBC), fast Ethernet has been upgraded to Gigabit Ethernet, the SATA version has apparently been downgraded to SATA 2.0, and HDMI got an upgraded to v1.4a (vs 1.4). The rest of the SoC appears to be more or less the same according to the block diagrams.

Marvell also provides smart TV and STB reference designs with a complete Android TV and Linux SDK supporting PayTV and OTT services, and including device drivers, schematics, layout files and other documentation. The platforms support Marvell Wi-Fi (2×2 802.11ac) and Powerline (G.hn) technologies.

Marvell_STB_System_Block_DiagramTypical Set-top Box System based on Marvell 88DE3108

Further information may be available on Marvell ARMADA 1500 Plus page

Hisense’s US$99 Pulse with Google TV TVBox was no longer available from Amazon.con when this post was written. Hisense is Walmart’s primary TV supplier and also has Costco as an outlet. Hisense is the largest TV maker in China.


 CloudMedia’s OTT1 Linux Media Player Emulates Roku for Asian Content

CNX Software (@cnxsoft) reported Cloud Media OTT1 Internet Media Player Runs Linux on Cavium ARM11 SoC on 12/3/2013:

imageCloud Media is mostly known for their Linux based Pop Corn Hour media players. but recently they started offered a free media player called FreeOTT via ISPs or Facebook giveaways. This little box gives direct access to online video channels.

I reviewed FreeOTT a few months ago, and found the interface to be sluggish (possibly because of my Internet connection), audio was not working on my TV. So overall not a very good experience from my side, but they’ve upgraded the firmware with features like Miracast, DLNA, and “iOSCast” (Airplay?), possible improving performance, and recently added CCTV 1 to 15, except CCTV 4, to the list of channels.

imageFreeOTT was difficult to source since you can only get it for free, so the company has just launched 1OTT player based on what appears to be the same hardware platform, but with a larger enclosure.

1OTT_Player

OTT1 Specifications:

  • Media Processor – Cavium CELESTIAL CNC1800L ARM11 @ 640 MHz
  • System Memory – 256MB DDR3
  • Storage – 256MB Flash + microSD card slot
  • Video Output – HDMI Output (1080p), Composite A/V Output
  • Connectivity – 802.11n Wi-Fi, 10/100 Ethernet
  • USB – Micro USB for power
  • Streaming Protocols – Adobe RTMP, HTTP, MMS/RTSP, HTTP LIVE STREAMING (HLS), SopCast
  • Supported DRM – HDCP Over HDMI, AES-128 Bit HLS Encryption
  • Dimension – 123mm (L) x 100mm (W) x 25mm (H)
  • Weight – 120g

1OTT Player comes with a micro USB cable, a USB to Power adapter, a remote control, 2x AAA batteries, and a Quick Start Guide. The device runs Linux, and the user interface is built on top of Adobe Flash Lite (Stagecraft 1.2) which may explain the sluggishness I experienced with the free version of the player.

1OTT_Rear_Panel

This device is quite different from XBMC and/or Android set-top boxes I usually feature in this blog, as it’s mainly an Internet video player, getting channels from known online sources, and I understand the only way to play local videos is to connect it to a Plex Media Server.

The key media features of 1OTT player are listed as follows:

  • Social TV – Direct SopCast link over Facebook and Twitter
  • CIBN TV Channels – Over 50 Live TV channels and VODs from China International Broadcast Network available anywhere in the world
  • Support for PLEX Media Server
  • iOSCast, DLNA and Miracast support
  • Education TV channels – Over 10,000 free videos from sources like TED, Khan Academy, and universities such as Tsinghua, Peking, Harvard, and Yale.
  • Private Apps – Get more free and premium video and audio contents from private app developers. Check the developer website if you are interested in bringing apps to Cloud Media OTT platform
  • Premium Content Apps – Kartina TV for Russian Expat, Polsky TV for Polish Expat, Umedia for Chinese Expat, HDZone for Vietnamese Expat, Online TVRecorder for German Expat, etc.. There’s also some premium adult content that needs to be managed via parental controls.

Last time I tried in FreeOTT I could also access YouTube, Russia Today, Revision3, SoundCloud, CBS and more as shown in the picture below.

FreeOTT_User_Interface

1OTT media player is available for pre-order now, with shipping scheduled for the 20th of December 2013. You can purchase the device for $69 with FFhmGkkuKr coupon until the 14th of December, and $99 afterwards. There’s also $25 international express shipping fee, for a total discounted price of $94, which seems pretty expensive for this type of hardware. However, there’s no subscription to watch most TV channels, and it may be worthwhile in some cases.

Visit Cloud Media’s 1OTT page for details.


HiMedia Q5II Dual-Core TVBox Supports Hardware Decoding for XBMC

CNX Software (@cnxsoft) reported HiMedia Q5II Android STB Features HiSilicon Dual Core SoC, a 2.5″ SATA HDD Bay, and Supports XBMC Hardware Decode in an 11/28/2013 post:

Many Android set-top boxes are based on application processors mainly targetting tablets such as Rockchip RK3188, and media capabilities including video quality, and audio pass-through are not always optimal, or not working at all. On the contrary, HiMedia Q5II, an Android 4.2 media player, is powered by HiSilicon 3718 (or is it Hislicon 3716C V200?), a dual core Cortex A9 SoC designed specifically for media players. It also features an external SATA slot, HDMI and composite video output, optical and coaxial S/PDIF, and I’ve just found out the company worked on making video hardware decoding work with XBMC.

HiMedia_Q5_II

HiMedia Q5II specifications:

  • SoC – HiSilicon Hi3716C V200 dual core ARM Cortex A9 @ 1.6GHz + ARM Mali-400MP4 GPU. N.B.: HiMedia indicates the processor is Hi3718, but most resellers give specifications with a dual core processor called 3716C… Hi3718 is not listed at all in HiSilicon website, and Hi3716C is a single core processor. So I’d guess it might be Hi3716C V200 which is a dual core Cortex A9 processor.
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – 4 GB NAND Flash, hot swapable SATA slot, and MMC/SD 2-in1 card reader
  • Video Out – HDMI and composite
  • Audio Output – HDMI, L/R stereo (RCA), and optical & coaxial S/PDIF
  • Video Containers – ts, m2ts, tp , trp , mkv, mp4, avi , rm , rmvb , wmv, asf , flv, vob, dal , mpg, mpeg
  • Video Codecs – MPEG1/2/4, H.264/AVC, MVC,VC1, XVID, DiVX , REALVIDEO8/9/10, VP6
  • Audio Format – MP3, wma, aac, ape, flac, mka
  • 3D Video – side-by-side , up-and-down , Blu-ray 3D
  • Video modes – PAL, NTSC, 720p, 1080i (50/60Hz), 1080p (50/60Hz)
  • Display – LED display on front panel
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, and 802.11n Wi-Fi with external antenna
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 Host ports
  • Power Supply – 12V/2.0A
  • Dimensions – 170 x 115 x 24.5 mm
  • Weight – 500g ??

HiMedia_Q5II_Rear_Panel

The device runs Android 4.2 with a custom user interface, but you can also switch the standard Android interface. The power is controlled by an MCU, which means the main SoC is turned off, or in deep sleep mode, while the player is in standby, which should result in lower standby power consumption. The company claims audio downmix and pass-through are both fully supported for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA (7.1)
lossless HD-Audio format, as well as DTS / Dolby Digital (5.1). The device come with a remote control, a power adapter, a SATA cable, an HDMI Cable, and a Quick Start Guide, which you can also download here. It shows how to connect the STB to your audio amplifier among other things.

HiMedia provides 2 applications to interact with their set-top boxes via your smartphone or android:

The video below filmed at the Hong Kong Electronic Fair by tablet republic shows XBMC with hardware video decoding running on the Q5 II.

The latest firmware for HiMedia Q5II is available from their website, and dates from the 23rd of October, and it may or may not include XBMC hardware decoding capability.

If the processor is indeed HiSilicon Hi3716C V200, it is supported by Linaro, or at least they work on it, so it might also be a fun platform to hack around, install Linux, or get the source code for the Android kernel.

HiSilicon 3716C V200 Block Diagram

HiSilicon 3716C V200 Block Diagram

The box has been released in September, and can be found in Aliexpress or W2COMP for $129.99, and Amazon for $154.99. Despite the extra features such SATA, Aluminum casing, 3D Blu-ray decoding, etc…, the device seems a little pricey compared to other dual core Android STBs on the market. Further details ar available in Chinglish on HiMedia Q5 II page.

Via Eddy’s Lab

Read more: http://www.cnx-software.com/2013/11/28/himedia-q5ii-android-stb-features-hisilicon-dual-core-soc-a-2-5-sata-hdd-bay-and-supports-xbmc-hardware-decode/#ixzz2lyBh65RF

 

 


Crowd-Funded Qubi Android Media Player Promised for July 2014

CNX Software (@cnxsoft) reported Qubi Android Media Center Features Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC on 11/23/2013:

imageTraditional Qualcomm Application Processor have mostly been found in tablets, smartphones, and in development board such as the company’s own Mobile Development Platforms (MDP) or MyDragonBoard boards. But recently, a Snapdragon S4 has found its way into a smartwatch and today, I’ve found an upcoming, or maybe not, media player  powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 600. Beside Qualcomm quad core Krait SoC, Qubi Android media center features 2 GB RAM, 16 GB NAND Flash,  dual band Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, Gibabit Ethernet, and more.

imageQubi Concept Art

Here are the specifications of the device:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 Quad Core Krait CPU @ 1.7 GHz with Adreno 320 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB RAM
  • Storage – 16GB NAND Flash + microSD slot
  • Connectivity – Dual band Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, Gigabit Ethernet, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Video Output – HDMI with HDMI-CEC support
  • Audio Output – HDMI, optical SPDIF
  • Video – 1080p video decoding
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Misc – IR receiver

imageThe device is also said to support Miracast, Dolby & DTS audio decoding, HDMI pass-through, and there will be a customized and “streamlined” version of XBMC install in the box. As you can see from the picture above, the enclosure for the player has not been done yet, but they have a working demo on a prototype PCB which is currently running Android 4.2 with a customized UI, but the version may be upgraded at the time of release (July 2014). That’s one of the rare media player with Wi-Fi ac which should be able to stream any 1080p videos you throw at it, as well as Gigabit Ethernet which may not be that useful in this type of device.

A dual sided remote will also be included with one size used as a standard remote, and the other a QWERTY keyboard, with both sides backlit. Using a Wi-Fi direct connection, it will also function as an air mouse, and the built-in microphone will be useful for voice command and Skype. There’s also an headset jack for the same purpose.

There’s no included game controller, but the company recommends Moga Bluetooth controller to play games with Qubi, and probably other Android devices.

The 8-minutes video demo below shows the prototype board and remote, the Android UI, their version of XBMC, and some games (Riptide 2, Shadowgun).

The company is looking for funding via Kickstarter to complete development, and manufacture at least 4,000 units. The early bird pledge is $129 for Qubi and its remote, and the regular pledge is $149. Add $30 for shipping if you live outside the US. The price is actually quite aggressive considering the hardware provided, but the expected delivery (July 2014) may have put off some people for this type of device, as they’ve only received about $26,000 in pledges out of the $500,000 requested with 14 days left to go, so the product may never see the light of the day. Their XBMC source code modifications will apparently be made available in September 2014, based on the $30 pledge to get the source only (People who pledged for the box will get the code for free if they ask).

Via Google+.


Silicon Dust Upgrades Single-Tuner Simple.TV 1 to Dual Tuner Simple.TV

CNX Software (@cnxsoft) posted Dual Tuner “Simple.TV by SiliconDust” DVR Runs Linux on Zenverge ZN200 SoC on 11/21/2013:

imageSimple.TV by SiliconDust” is the full name of a digital video recorder (DVR) featuring two tuners, one input supporting antenna (ASTC) and over-the-air cable (ClearQAM) connections, one Ethernet, and one USB 2.0 host port for external mass storage devices. The device, called HD Homerun on SiliconDust website, is powered by Zenverge ZN200 STB SoC, and runs Linux. This is an upgrade of Simple.TV 1, and it allows you to watch a channel, while recording another, or record 2 programs thanks to the 2 tuners. An app will also be available to watch recorded TV program on Android tablets (coming soon) or iPads, and there’s also an HTML5 client to watch TV in any compatible browser. Recorded shows can be watch from any location with Internet access if you have a Premier subscription.

Simple.TV by SiliconDust (Source: CNet.com)Simple.TV by SiliconDust (Source: C|Net)

Simple.TV 2 specifications:

  • SoC – Zenverge ZN200 STB SoC with a quad Stream HD Transcoder, audio processing engine, transcryption engine (CA/DRM), and a unnamed host processor
  • System Memory – 1GB RAM
  • Storage – NAND Flash (capacity unknown), Hard drive via USB 2.0 host port
  • Tuner – Dual TV Tuner (ATSC for now, but DBV-T2, DVB-C, DVB-S2, and ISDB-T should also be supported according to C|Net) with one coaxial port
  • Connectivity – Ethernet Port
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port

The device is said to support DLNA for Xbox 360, and Roku Channels. You’ll notice there’s no video output, that’s because contrary to many other DVR, the new Simple.TV DVR does not connect to your TV, and you’d have to use a media player connected to your TV to watch recorded shows. [Emphasis added*.]

Simple.TV_by_SiliconDust_rearThe hardware will let up to 5 users watch recorded TV shows on their preferred device at home, but if you want remote access and extra features (See table below), you’ll need to pay a premier subscription that costs $60 for one year, or $150 for lifetime.

* Lack of an HDMI output probably will put a significant dent in the device’s sales. I continue to believe that there’s a large market for a device with one or two ATSC/DVB/Cable tuners, USB/SATA-2 storage, and HDMI output.

Amazon sells the forerunner of the dual-tuner Simple.TV devices, the SiliconDust HDHomeRun DUAL High Definition Digital TV Tuner HDHR3-US (Black), for US$77.61. 


Samsung HomeSync Will Include McAfee VirusScan Mobile Protection

McAfee (@McAfee) announced McAfee Partners with Samsung to Protect Consumers from In-Home Cyber Attacks in an 11/13/2013 press release from the Wall Street Journal:

McAfee VirusScan Mobile to Ship on Samsung HomeSync Boxes

imageMcAfee today announced protection for Samsung HomeSync users against the growing range of Android-based threats reaching consumers’ living rooms through Internet-connected TV and entertainment platforms. McAfee(R) VirusScan(R) Mobile software will come pre-installed in all Samsung HomeSync boxes to provide users with a secure in-home digital entertainment experience.

The Android platform has become increasingly attractive to cybercriminals because it continues to grow as the preferred place for consumers to live out their digital lives. According to the McAfee Threats Report: Second Quarter 2013, there were nearly 18,000 new Android malware samples in the second quarter of 2013 and this rapid growth is not expected to slow down because Android users are failing to protect themselves. McAfee’s Digital Assets Survey found that only one fifth of U.S. smartphone users and 13 percent of tablet users have security software installed on their devices.

image“Consumers are eager to invite new digital entertainment technologies into their home, but with these new technologies comes new security and privacy risks that aren’t being acknowledged,” said Gary Davis, vice president worldwide consumer marketing at McAfee. “We’re able to protect HomeSync customers right at the point of purchase and eliminate the opportunity for malware and other security threats to invade the in-home digital entertainment experience.”

McAfee VirusScan Mobile software is an anti-malware system that scans and cleans mobile data, preventing corruption from viruses, worms, dialers, Trojans, and other malicious code. It protects mobile devices at the most critical points of exposure and will allow all Samsung HomeSync users to enjoy their entertainment and TV experience in a safe and secure environment.

Availability

imageMcAfee VirusScan Mobile software will be pre-installed within all Samsung HomeSync boxes globally as an independent security app at no additional cost to end users. HomeSync will also come with the option to upgrade to McAfee Mobile Security, McAfee’s comprehensive mobile security solution offering best-in-class in privacy features at $29.99 US for a 12-month subscription.

About McAfee

McAfee, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), empowers businesses, the public sector, and home users to safely experience the benefits of the Internet. The company delivers proactive and proven security solutions and services for systems, networks, and mobile devices around the world. With its Security Connected strategy, innovative approach to hardware-enhanced security, and unique Global Threat Intelligence network, McAfee is relentlessly focused on keeping its customers safe. http://www.mcafee.com


Vizio Abandons Google TV with $79.99 Co-Star LT Stream Player

Visio announced the availability of its Co-Star™ LT Stream Player, which supports the DIAL protocol and offers an HDMI input, from the Vizio Store on 10/16/2013:

image

  • Upgrade any HDTV to be a smart TV with streaming movies, TV shows, music and more on demand*.
  • Combines your existing live TV with the best in streaming entertainment into one seamless experience.
  • Built-in Wifi for easy, hassle-free internet access.
  • Access popular streaming apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, iHeartRadio, M-GO, Amazon Instant Video, VUDU, YouTube, and more.
  • Second Screen Interactivity – Control apps and send content seamlessly from your mobile device to Co-Star™ LT**
  • Supports Full HD 1080p and 3D.
  • Easy to use remote with 1-touch access to popular apps.

From the Overview page:

Upgrade Any HDTV With Shows, Movies, Music and More On Demand

Powered by VIZIO Internet Apps Plus™, Co-Star™ LT is your door to the best streaming entertainment.

The VIZIO Co-Star™ LT Stream Player seamlessly combines live TV and streaming entertainment – bringing more hit movies, TV shows and music to your existing HDTV*. Powered by VIZIO Internet Apps Plus™, Co-Star™ LT adds apps such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, M-GO, iHeartRadio, YouTube and more to your TV – you can even control select apps from your smartphone or tablet. Its HDMI pass-through feature eliminates the need to change inputs, and a streamlined interface with full-screen apps window makes finding something to watch a breeze. With 1080p Full HD resolution, built-in Wi-Fi, and 3D-readiness, VIZIO Co-Star™ LT is the ultimate entertainment upgrade for any high-definition television.

Smart TV Made Simple
INSTANT SMART TV

Enjoy streaming TV, movies and music on your HDTV

SEAMLESS EXPERIENCE

Watch live TV + streaming content in one unified experience

BUILT-IN WIFI

High-speed wireless means no cable clutter

image image image image

HDMI IN + HDMI OUT Connects to TV & Cable / Satellite box, No changing inputs to access apps

*Compatible with high definition televisions with HDMI-HDCP connectivity. Internet connection required and sold separately.
**Compatible with apps including Netflix and YouTube that support the DIAL (DIscovery And Launch) protocol.

From the Tech Specs page:

Features
Smart TV Platform VIZIO Internet Apps Plus™
Remote Control Wireless (2x AAA batteries included)
Featured apps Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, MGO, Vudu, Crackle, iHeartRadio, YouTube, Facebook and many more.
Second Screen Interactivity Control apps and send content from mobile device to Co-Star LT.

 

Networking
WiFi Yes, 802.11n (single-band 1×1)
Ethernet No (optional USB to Ethernet adapter available)

 

Video
Resolution supported 720p, 1080p
3D support Yes – Pass Through
Video playback H.263, H.264, AVC, MP4, VP8, WMV9/VC-1
TV compatibility HDTV with HDMI-HDCP port
HDMI Profile HDMI 1.4

 

Audio
Music playback AAC LC/LTP, HE-AACv1 (AAC+), HE-AACv2 (enhanced AAC+), MP3, PCM, WMA
Audio Features Pass-through only.  Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus & DTS Digital Sound

 

Ports and Interfaces
HDMI In (to Cable/Satellite Box) 1
HDMI Out (to TV) 1
USB 1 (USB 2.0)

 

Power
Energy Star Certified Yes

 

Weights + Measurements
Product Dimensions (W x H x D) 3.98” x .97” x 3.98”
Weight .37 lbs

 

In the Box
Co-Star™ LT Stream Player
Remote Control
Batteries (2x AAA)
Power adapter
Quick Start Guide

VIZIO, Inc. has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information provided herein. All product specifications, functionality, features, configurations, performance, design and other product information described herein are subject to change without notice. VIZIO, Inc. disclaims liability for typographical, technical, or descriptive errors.

I would have been tempted to purchase a Co-Star LT for testing if I hadn’t bought an early 38-inch Vizio HDTV whose power supply died after 13 months of use. (One month out of warranty.)


Google Abandons “Google TV” Brand for Outdated Android TVBoxes

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) reported Google to sunset Google TV brand as its smart TV platform merges with Android in a 10/10/2013 post to the GigaOm blog:

imageSummary Google is getting ready to say good-bye to Google TV: The company is getting rid of the branding, but will continue to make Android available to TV manufacturers.

imageGoogle TV is dead, long live Android TV: Three years after launching the first generation of Google TV devices, Google is now looking to rid itself of the brand and realign its smart TV platform efforts more closely with Android. The move is part admission that Google TV failed, part hope that Android will eventually find its place in the living room.

Google apparently isn’t quite ready to announce the switch-over yet; a spokesperson contacted for this story declined to comment. However, an executive from a consumer electronics manufacturer that has been producing Google TV devices confirmed the rebranding in a recent conversation with GigaOM, saying: “They are calling it ‘Android TV.’”

Google’s partners, developers have stopped using the name

imageSome of Google’s hardware partners have already made the switch. Sony introduced a new smart TV adapter dubbed the Bravia TV stick last month. The device is based on the most recent version of Google TV, but Sony’s announcement didn’t mention that fact once. Jamie Marsh, TV marketing manager for Sony Electronics, was instead quoted saying that the device “brings the full power of Google services to your TV.”

Sony's latest TV stick is based on the latest version of Google TV, but you won't find that mentioned in any of its marketing material.

Sony’s latest TV stick is based on the latest version of Google TV, but you won’t find that mentioned in any of its marketing material.

Sony isn’t alone with this kind of wording. Geneva, Switzerland-based chipset manufacturer STMicroelectronics announced support for Google TV products last month, but also refrained from using the brand in its announcement, instead saying that its new SDK “allows the development of Android-compliant devices and supports the latest Google services for TV.” And LG recently showed off some new devices at the IBC in Amsterdam that were described as Android devices with access to “the latest Google services for TV.” *

Even members of the original Google TV team have started to drop that name when talking about their work. A recently-scheduled developer event in Seoul was officially called “Android TV Developer Day,” and some developers have started to change affiliations in their online biographies from “Google TV” to “Android TV.”

The use of both “Android TV” and “Google services for TV” suggests that Google may not have finalized the new branding for its TV efforts yet, or that it may use a variety of brands depending on the target audience. It’s unclear when the company is officially going to announce the switch.

TV devices will run the latest version of Android, offer more options

For Google TV, this is more than just a name change. The TV platform was launched three years ago based on Honeycomb, the Android version that also powered Google’s first steps into the tablet world. Google’s latest tablets now run Android 4.3, but Google TV is still stuck on Android version 3.2, which makes it much harder for developers to bring their apps to the TV screen.

Google announced earlier this year that it would update Google TV to the latest version of Android, which would allow developers to use the same APIs available on mobile devices. The upgrade to Android 4.2 was officially announced for Q3, but word is that LG will now update their Google TV devices later this month, with other manufacturers following in the coming months.

See Nate Swanner’s article below re LG update in October 2013.

*The devices LG announced at the IBC 2013 conference were:

  • Android TV
  • Android TV with Cable
  • Android TV with Terrestrial
  • MiniBox for Android

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.

On the same topic, Jeff Baumgartner (@thebauminator) reported LG “Debuts Models that Blend Its NetCast OS, Google TV, and Live and On Demand Cable Video” in his Cable Show 2013: LG Enters the Cable Box Biz article of 6/10/2013 for the Multichannel News site:

imageThe consumer electronics giant has launched lineup of IP-connected devices, including models that use its own NetCast Smart TV operating system and the Google TV OS and are designed to blend cable-supplied, live subscription TV services, VOD and whole-home DVR capabilities with over-the-top apps from Hulu, Vudu, and YouTube and other sources.

imageLG said it will use DLNA-compliant boxes to connect to a home video gateway in order to receive terrestrial or pay TV programming and video-on-demand, meaning that none of the new LG devices appear to be outfitted with CableCARD slots. LG is wrapping all apps and services within its own user interface.

LG has previously developed TVs with CableCARD slots, a move that enabled those HDTV models to support subscription digital cable TV services (but not cable VOD) without a separate set-top box. Monday’s announcement offers a clear indicator that the consumer electronics giant has completely reengaged with the cable industry.

LG is entering the show here with a family of seven different devices, including set-top models that are capable of supporting downloadable security and Ultra HD/4K video.

  • IPTV Set-Top: In addition to cable-supplied live video and VOD, LG said the device supports Google TV outfitted with the Google Play app store, Google Chrome browser, and integrated home monitoring and automation capabilities.
  • Android Mini-Box/Dongle: A media player with the Jelly Bean 4.2.2. operating systems with on-board 802.11ac Wi-Fi for HD streaming to devices hanging off the wireless home network.
  • NetCast OTT Set-Top: Offers live linear, VOD and DVR and OTT fare, and uses LG’s DLNA-compliant “Smart Share” technology for accessing protected content over a home network.
  • Ultra HD Set-Top: Adds 4K reception and playback via a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, HEVC compression, with support for DOCSIS 3.0 and the 2.0 version of the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA), a home networking platform that supports speeds up to 800 Mbps.
  • Next-Generation “OpenTV 5” IP Set-Top: Combines an IP-capable box with Nagra’s OpenTV 5 middleware and conditional access protection, 802.11n for file sharing with a home gateway.
  • “Low-Cost” MPEG-4 Cable Set-Top: Device will support “downloadable conditional access security.”
  • Wi-Fi Dongle: Allows users with Miracast smartphones to “mirror” the phone’s screen directly onto the big screen TV over a Wi-Fi connection.

A company spokeswoman said the LG-made Google TV STB is available today, while the NetCast IP box will become available in the second half of 2013. The company said it “has the flexibility and relationships to distribute most of these devices through retail or to service providers.” However, LG did not announce any distribution relationships Monday. [Emphasis Added.] …

Nate Swanner reported LG Google TV reportedly getting update to Android 4.2.2 this Monday in a 10/10/2013 post to the Android Community site:

Having already said their Google TV would get an update in the third quarter of this year, LG is apparently ready to make good on that promise. Via a tipster, we learn that LG customer service is telling users they’ll see an update to their service, starting Monday.

LG Google TV

The update, which is said to be an upgrade to Android Jelly Bean, was noted as being the 4.2.2 variety. The upgrade for Google TV was announced at Google I/O this year, but LG was the only company willing to commit to the change. Others, like the Logitech Revue or Vizio CoStar, have been quiet on their upgrade cycle. [Emphasis added.]

On the heels of the Chromecast announcement, many wondered if Google TV was bound for the recycling bin. Google is determined to have both, saying they believe there is room for both in your living room. With hardware partners dragging their feet on upgrades or turning their back on the program altogether, we wonder how true that is. LG seems to be one of the few partners sticking around. [Emphasis added.]

If you have an LG Google TV, or LG TV with Google TV built in, look for your update on Monday. It may roll out in one day, but a gradual implementation is expected.

Story Timeline


Wizarm Proposes a CrowdSourced Android PVR without TV Tuner or Disk Drive for US$299

From the “There’s a sucker born every minute” and “Take the Money and Run” departments: CNX Software (@cnxsoft) reports Wizarm PVR MediaBox Features Samsung Exynos 5250 Processor in a 10/7/2013 post:

imageWizarm is an high-end set-top box / PVR powered by Exynos 5250 dual cortex A15 processor, with 2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, lots of I/Os including USB 3.0 and SATA 3 support running Android 4.2, and soon Ubuntu as well. Although its main use is to handle and process media files, the device can be also used as a PC, gaming console, smart TV box, or even a development platform.

wizarm

Here are the specifications of the device:

  • SoC – Samsung Exynos 5250 dual Cortex A15 up to 2GHz with Mali T-604 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC. SDXC card slot, and SATA 3 connector for 2.5″ SSD or HDD
  • I/O ports:
    • SATA 3
    • USB – 2x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0 host ports
    • Video – HDMI OUT, HDMI IN, DisplayPort
    • Audio – LINE IN, LINE OUT, Optical out
  • Connectivity:
  • Misc – IR sensor
  • Dimensions – 21cm x 14cm x 5cm

The hardware is somewhat similar to Nuvola NP-1, except it has a slower processor (Exynos 5250 vs Tegra 4), but adds SATA support, and to me the key features is HDMI in, as it allows you to record anything coming out of another HDMI device. If you’re a gamer, you can use this box to record the action from your PS3 or XBOX 360 game console. Recording can be done up to 1440p.

wizarm_ssdWizarm board connected to Samsung SSD

The source code for the platform will be available on git.wizard.com (not working at the moment).

Wizarm is still under development, hardware seems mostly done, except certification, Android 4.2 development is nearly complete, and Ubuntu will be added later. The company is now looking for funds to complete development and start mass production via an Indiegogo (flexible) campaign to deliver the product in April 2014. The “earliest wizard” pledge reserved to the first 100 backers will get your the device for $249 including express shipping, after you’ll need to pledge $299 to get the device. [Emphasis added.]

You can also visit Wizarm.com for more details, videos and pictures, access to forums, etc…

The rabbit ears appear to be for the FM (not ATSC or DVB-T/C tuner.) It’s doubtful if the HDMI input will record 1080p TV content because of HDCP restrictions. You can purchase a Hauppauge Colossus capture board with HDMI (1080i, max.), component (YPrPb), and analog video inputs from Amazon for US$135. Samsung’s HomeSync device offers similar features with a 1-TB disk drive for the same exorbitant price, although it works only with the latest Samsung phones.


Amazon and BestBuy Offer Samsung HomeSync at List Price with Few Details

From the “Lets show a picture of it and see if it sells at MSRP” department:

image

imageAmazon.com provides these “technical details”:

  • HomeSync is the center of your connected life.
  • It stores and displays the best content and features of your Galaxy phone on your TV, puts the Internet on a larger screen and expands your entertainment choices.
  • 2.5″ 1TB HDD inside: No Fan, No Noise, No Vibration

imageBest Buy is equally terse:

  • Connects your HDTV to your home network; compatible with most HDTVs and Samsung Galaxy devices; 1TB shared storage; Android Jelly Bean 4.2 operating system; public and private content management; Bluetooth; NFC tag

Would you spend $299 plus sales tax for a TVBox that costs more than a 32-inch LED HDTV without knowing more about it?

See the Overpriced Samsung HomeSync to be Generally Available for US$299 on 10/6/2013 post below.


Wall Street Journal Reports Amazon Readying TV Box

Brad Linder (@BradLinder) reported WSJ: Amazon TV box will offer music, video streaming, apps and games in a 10/3/2013 post to his Liliputing blog:

imageAmazon’s third generation tablets are scheduled to hit the streets starting this month, but the company reportedly has more hardware in the works. Hot on the heels of reports that Amazon will launch its own smartphones in the coming year, the Wall Street Journal has new details about a TV box Amazon is reportedly building, which the paper says could be ready to launch in time for the holiday season. [WSJ link changed to not require subscription.]

Amazon Google TV appAmazon Google TV app

imageAs expected, the Amazon device will provide customers a way to play music and movies purchased from Amazon on a television set. Amazon Prime subscribers who pay $79 for free 2-day shipping, among other benefits, will also be able to stream thousands movies and TV episodes for no additional fee.

imageBut according to the WSJ, Amazon’s set-top-box won’t only be able to stream content from Amazon. It’s also said to support music, video, and game apps from other companies.

In other words, it’d work a lot like a Roku, Google TV, or Apple TV device.

It’s not clear if Amazon will be able to match the number of channels available on competing devices right out of the gate. Roku, for instance, already supports online video streaming from over 150 sources including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Vudu and HBO Go.

It’s also not clear if Amazon would match its competitors’ pricing: An Apple TV runs $99, while you can buy Roku devices for as little as $50.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the project might even be killed off before Amazon’s TV box is even released, due to financial or performance concerns. But it makes sense for Amazon to try to flesh out its ecosystem for making digital content available across devices.

While you can use a Roku to stream Amazon Instant Video on a TV, an Amazon-branded box would likely be designed to work with Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets and other devices. You might be able to use your tablet as a remote control for your TV, for example. And it could give you one more reason to buy music, movies, or apps from Amazon’s digital content stores if you can buy once and run on your phone, tablet, and TV.

Everyone wants to get into the TVBox act as a result of Google’s success with Chromecast.


Overpriced Samsung HomeSync to be Generally Available for US$299 on 10/6/2013

Brad Linder (@BradLinder) reported Samsung launches $299 HomeSync Android-powered media center in a 10/3/2013 post to his Liliputing blog:

imageThe Samsung HomeSync is a home media server with 1TB of storage. You can set it up by your TV and use it to play videos from the hard drive on your TV. You can also use it backup and sync data from your Samsung phones or tablets, or stream content from your mobile device to your TV.

Samsung introduced the HomeSync earlier this year, and now it’s scheduled to go on sale in the US starting October 6th. It’ll cost $299.

Samsung HomeSync

imageThat’s more than 8 times as expensive as a Chromecast, Google’s simple device that lets you stream audio and video content to your TV. But Samsung’s HomeSync can do a lot more than a Chromecast… as long as you’re using it with a Samsung phone or tablet.

Here’s some of what the HomeSync can do:

  • Backup photos, videos, music, and other data from your mobile devices.
  • Create up to 8 separate user accounts for synchronizing and shareing your data.
  • Use your phone or tablet as a remote control for your TV, using the touchscreen as a mouse and the on-screen keyboard to type.
  • Stream content from your Samsung Galaxy device to your TV in real-time to display photos, videos, and other content.

Samsung says the HomeSync will be available from Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg and the Samsung web store.

Customers who buy a $299 HomeSync will also get $50 to spend on digital content from Samsung’s MediaHub store.

1-TB USB 3.0 external drives sell for less than US$70 on Amazon.com but fill up quickly if you store online HD video content; I use Seagate 3-TB drives, which cost US$112.

From the Samsung HomeSync Brings The Best Features of Your Galaxy Devices to Your TV press release of 10/3/2013:

For Application Developers

Application developers can make their existing Android apps compatible with HomeSync in the Google Play Store with as little as one line of code. For more information, visit http://developer.samsung.com/homesync.

Application developers are also invited to attend the first annual Samsung Developers Conference [to be held 10/27 through 10/29/2013 at San Francisco’s St. Francis hotel] where they’ll have the opportunity to connect with industry visionaries, Samsung executives and technical leaders, and fellow developers while getting an exclusive first look at the latest tools, SDKs, and emerging platforms for Samsung devices to create what’s next. HomeSync product management members will be on-hand to demonstrate HomeSync, discuss development possibilities, and answer questions. Attendees of the HomeSync breakout session will have a chance to win a HomeSync. [Link, location and dates added.]

I find it strange that Samsung is releasing the device on a Sunday.

Even the general-interest NBC News site carried a Samsung HomeSync is a $299 Android-powered media center and cloud drive article by Wilson Rothman (@wjrothman) on 10/3/2013:

imageOn Thursday Samsung revealed its $299 HomeSync, a little black box that has three basic tricks: It lets you blast your videos and photos on your TV, save (and access) those media files on a central home network drive, and play movies and other content from the Internet via standard Android apps. Instead of coming with a remote control, it takes commands from your compatible Galaxy phone.

Samsung HomeSyncSamsung HomeSync

imageHomeSync, available on Oct. 6, is not quite the same as the $99 Apple TV or Google’s $35 Chromecast. True, all three let you watch movies and TV streamed from the Internet (with varying degrees of functionality), and view the pictures and videos you’re constantly shooting on your phone.

But neither of the other two gives you a way to offload all those files for permanent storage. With nearly a terabyte of internal storage in the HomeSync, you could shoot for years and not fill up the drive.

Samsung HomeSync Android appsSamsung HomeSync gives you a plethora of Android apps and options.

The other difference is that HomeSync is basically a free-standing Android device, so you can install any app, not just video streaming stuff. Spec-wise, it partly resembles the Ouya Android game console, so as long as there’s not too much latency when you’re controlling what’s on the screen, you could technically even use it to play games. …

Read more.

None of the stories about HomeSync’s general release mention Samsung HomeSync Media Server Finally Appears at AT&T Store on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, as I noted on 8/13/2013.


Huawei to Demo MediaQ M310 in Sydney through 10/6/2013

Not to be outshone by Samsung’s HomeSync announcement, Huawei Devices offers a sneak preview of ‘Connected Home’ tech at hands-on experience stand “at an experience stand in Sydney’s Bondi Junction Westfield this school holidays”:

Sporting Celebs line up for new Huawei Devices experience

imageHuawei Devices will offer the public a sneak preview of its next-generation of ‘Connected Home’ devices at an experience stand in Sydney’s Bondi Junction Westfield this school holidays. The experience stand will show off the capabilities of the MediaQ – Huawei’s mini-media-streaming device – and Huawei’s latest Android smartphones, with a line-up of sports stars from the Sydney Roosters and Sydney Swans making guest appearances at the stand.

“This is a great opportunity for Australians to have a hands-on experience of Huawei’s latest Devices,” said Huawei Australia Account Director Geison Jiao. “Huawei’s Devices business goes beyond our latest range of smartphones, so we’re giving a special sneak preview of new ‘Connected Home’ technologies like the MediaQ so users can experience what Huawei’s latest innovations can bring to their own homes.”

The experience stand will be open at Bondi Junction Westfield until Sunday October 6th. A range of local sports stars will make daily appearances at the stand, including former Sydney Roosters star Brad Fittler and Sydney Swans stars Shane Mumford, Jarrad McVeigh, Ted Richards, and Ryan O’Keefe. Details of appearance times will be updated on Huawei Devices’ Facebook page, www/facebook.com/HuaweiDeviceAustralia. …

Huawei recently updated their Devices Website with the M310’s less-than-stellar specifications:

  • Chipset: Hisilicon K3V2 Quad-core
  • Memory: 1GB RAM + 4GB Flash
  • Interface
    • 1 × STB In
    • 1 x HDMI Out
    • 1 × SPDIF / 3.5mm stereo jack / Mic mono ( three in one )
    • 2 × USB 2.0 (1 extension from Y cable)
    • 1 × microSD card slot
    • 1 × micro USB
  • Power supply: 1 × Micro USB for power DC 5V 2A
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n 2.4G/5G 2×2MIMO
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0

I believe the STB (Set Top Box) In interface is a conventional HDMI input port, which is uncommon for TV boxes. Note the lack of GPU and operating system details. Commercial availability is still in limbo.


Koushik Dutta Adds AppleTV Mirroring with AirPlay to CyanogenMod

Brad Linder (@bradlinder) reported CyanogenMod to let you mirror your phone on a TV with Apple TV AirPlay support in a 9/21/2013 post to his Liliputing blog:

imageGoogle may have thwarted CyanogenMod developer Koushik Dutta’s efforts to make the Chromecast more useful by letting you stream all sorts of content from your phone to a Chromecast. But he’s shifted his efforts to the Apple TV.

Koush is showing off an upcoming CyanogenMod feature that lets you mirror your phone’s display on a TV using Apple’s AirPlay service.

cyanogenmod airplay

Basically all you would need to do is plug a $99 Apple TV into your television, fire up a phone running CyanogenMod, and choose to stream from your device to the Apple TV.

This’ll fill your TV with a copy of everything happening on your phone. That’s not just video — you can surf the web, view Google Maps, or run other apps. It could be an interesting way to give presentations — just fire up a slide deck on your phone and you can show it on a TV or projector in a conference room. But it’s more likely that you’ll just use this feature to bore your friends with pictures from your last vacation… or photos of your cat.

It looks like the AirPlay support is built into the same AllCast app that Koush has been working on, which means that there could eventually be a single app or service on CyanogenMod devices that’ll let users stream content to a TV using a Roku, Apple TV, or other devices… maybe even a Chromecast or Google TV one day.

via FunkySpaceMonkey

Cyanogen, Inc.’s Team page says Koush is CyanogenMod’s VP of Engineering. Kim-Mai Cutler reported Cyanogen Mod Raises $7M To Find A Direct-To-Consumer Route For Android Firmware in a 9/18/2013 TechCrunch article.


Sony Announces General Availability of BRAVIA Smart Stick for US$150

Sony’s PR Department issued a Sony Introduces BRAVIA® Smart Stick with Google Services press release on 9/18/2013:

New Sony NSZ-GU1 BRAVIA Smart Stick Brings Google Search,
Google Play and More in a Slim, Stick-like Form Factor

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 18, 2013 – Sony Electronics today announced its next-generation smart TV device, the NSZ-GU1 BRAVIA Smart Stick, making it easier than ever for owners of Sony’s 2013 TV line-up to discover and watch exactly what they want, from TV programming to apps and websites, all on one screen with one easy, voice-activated remote.

image

The BRAVIA Smart Stick features a slim form factor, 8GB of on-board storage, and plugs directly into the MHL port on the back of 2013 Sony BRAVIA TVs, with a USB cable to provide its power source. In addition, the BRAVIA Smart Stick comes bundled with Sony’s award-winning, voice-activated remote control, giving viewers a variety of ways to interact and control their entertainment. Priced at $149.99, the BRAVIA Smart Stick is available now at Sony Stores and select retailers nationwide.

“The BRAVIA Smart Stick answers the question, ‘What’s on TV,’ with ‘whatever you want to watch’” said Jamie Marsh, TV marketing manager for Sony Electronics Home Entertainment & Sound Division. “It brings the full power of Google services to your TV. From the apps in the Google Play store to the power of Google search, the BRAVIA Smart Stick integrates seamlessly with Sony’s own BRAVIA apps and navigation to deliver an amazing connected TV viewing experience.”

Search live TV, the internet and apps

Viewers can either type or speak into the included universal remote and enjoy the power of Google search for results from cable/satellite providers, the internet and apps. The BRAVIA Smart Stick also integrates a user’s existing cable or satellite service, so there is no need to switch inputs to enjoy content from either source.

The Chrome™ browser is built for speed, simplicity and efficiency, and features a Flash Media Player, enabling viewers to enjoy endless video content with easy, engaging interactivity.

Out of the box, the BRAVIA Smart Stick is pre-installed with entertainment apps like Netflix®, Pandora®, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, YouTube and more. Viewers can personalize their TV experience by adding video, music, games, social networking and news apps from the Google Play Store.™

BRAVIA Seamless Control

The BRAVIA Smart Stick’s user interface seamlessly integrates Google and Sony’s own BRAVIA apps, allowing viewers to stay in a single menu to launch any of their apps, including BRAVIA apps like the Internet Video Library.

Additionally, the BRAVIA Smart Stick’s Picture-and-Picture feature allows viewers to surf the web and watch TV at the same time in two independent windows on the television screen, without interfering with one another. Perfect for Fantasy Football, with one screen showing the game and another showing live scoring updates of your fantasy league, it’s also perfect for live tweeting or updating a Facebook® status while watching award shows or other televised events and programming.

Intuitive operation with a remote unlike any other

With a large, clickable touchpad on one side and a QWERTY keyboard on the other, the BRAVIA Smart Stick’s remote control is optimized for ease of use. Additionally, users can simply speak into the remote’s microphone to search content, apps, and the web.

The universal remote controls the TV, all of a user’s apps and even connected set-top boxes, and the clickable touchpad works just like a laptop’s, including one-handed operations like pinch and pull zoom control.

If the Smart Stick has a Micro-USB OTG power connection, why does it need the MHL feature for it’s HDMI connection? Apparently, it’s MHL that prevents use with earlier Sony BRAVIA TVs.


Instructions for Sony BRAVIA Smart Stick Reveal Additional Features

Richard Lawler (@rjcc) supplemented his earlier story with a Sony BRAVIA Smart Stick revealed, it’s Google TV in a Chromecast-looking dongle Engadget article of 9/13/2013 that includes a link to the device’s Users Manual:

Sony BRAVIA Smart Stick MHL dongle revealed with Google TV and Sony apps

imageThe Sony NSZ-GU1 Google TV device we’ve seen pop up in FCC filings has been at least partially revealed today, and it’s called the Sony BRAVIA Smart Stick. The blog post doesn’t specifically mention any Chromecast-style features, but it is an MHL dongle that runs both Google TV and Sony’s own BRAVIA apps. The features are just like Google TV boxes Sony has released before, with a remote (that the FCC filings showed is at least similar to the previous ones) that has QWERTY and voice search support. Additionally, its “picture-and-picture” feature lets users see a browser in one window and TV in another.

imageSince it’s a true Google TV device it can install and run Android apps from the Play Store, but any other details will have to wait until it’s officially announced on Sunday (the truly dedicated can dig into the source code, linked after the break). Of course this does leave one other question: Now that app support is available as a simple plug-in dongle, does that mean Sony is going to ship plain-jane HDTVs and leave the “smart” features for add-on accessories like this one?

Update: @CJ_000 points out the web-based instruction manual is up on Sony’s site, and should answer most questions about how it works. It also lists the pre-installed apps, and at least so far, Hulu Plus is not among them. We’re not seeing any DIAL-related features available to start with, so now we really want to know when it will be available, will it work with TVs other than Sony and how much will it cost?

Update 2: Reader Bryan points out a page in the manual that confirms this accessory is only for 2013 model year (and later) Sony HDTVs.

You can download Sony’s Linux source code for the NSZ-GU1 and a Help Guide to Applications for watching online video, also.


XBMC Finally Gets Hardware Decoding on Android Devices

Brad Linder (@BradLinder) reported XBMC media center adds Android hardware decoding, drops Windows XP support from his Liliputing blog on 9/6/2013:

imageThe developers of open source media center software XBMC have released a new build of XBMC 13 Gotham, sporting a few shiny new features including support for stereoscopic 3D video and for hardware-accelerated decoding on Android devices.

imageAt the same time, the team is dropping a feature (or a bug, depending on who you ask): support for Windows XP, Microsoft’s aging but still relatively popular desktop operating system.

XBMC for Windows now requires Vista or later. The software is also available for OS X, Linux, and Android.

XBMC 13 Alpha 7

imageWhile XBMC has been available for Android for a while, up until recently it’s relied on software decoding, which means you’ve needed a pretty fast processor to handle HD video playback. Now XBMC can take advantage of the graphics chips in many phones, tablets, and TV boxes to decode H.264 and other supported video codecs.

At this point you’ll need a device running Android 4.0 or later — and XBMC 13 doesn’t currently support hardware decoding on devices with Amlogic or Allwinner chips.

3D video support now works with videos encoded in SBS, TAB, anaglyph and interlaced formats. The media player can’t yet handle 3D Blu-ray videos.

The team has also made some changes to the menu system, removed the default weather app (to stop XBMC users from hammering Weather Undeground with forecast requests), and fixed a number of bugs.

You can find more details at the XBMC blog.


XBMCAndroid.com Staff Pans the Linux-based “Little Black Box”

The XBMCAndroid.com Staff (@XBMCAndroid) posted a Preliminary Review of the Little Black Box Android TV Device on 9/5/2013:

imageJust over a month ago we were given the privilege of getting our hands on one of the latest devices to hit the XBMC consumer base. What is this mystery device you ask… The Little Black Box. Here at XBMC ANDROID we had heard a lot of exciting things about this new device and like many of you, we were anxious to jump right in.

thelittleblackbox Preliminary Review of the Little Black Box Android TV Device

THE GOOD

imageThe Little Black Box [@TLBlackBox] is unique from its competitors in both design and function. That is to say… this device comes to you with a customized body and LINUX based build of a XBMC. This offers users a much more stable experience than other set top boxes made of the same hardware design and form factor. The creators behind TLBB are clearly attempting to bring XBMC into the home of consumers as a stand alone experience… where as companies like PIVOS require users to do the extra work in getting XBMC up… running… and working. It is for this reason that we applaud The Little Black Box Team.

THE BAD

As we all know, there are two sides to every coin. As such, even TLBB has its flaws. Where it excels in differentiating itself from its competition, it also seems to have set itself apart for its shortcomings as well. Out of the box… absolutely nothing works.

  • The controller needs to be manually paired with the box.
  • The mapping of the keys is less than subpar… rendering the remote quite useless.
  • The update process out of the box was an utter mess… requiring a USB drive and a few hours of patience.
  • The default skin was often lacking in functionality.
  • Default wifi functionality was also quite bad. I had to change my actual SSID as this device wouldn’t connect to networks that have names that exceed a count of roughly 15 characters.

This is just a few of the larger, more painful, shortcomings I fell upon in the first 3 days of testing the device. Also, should you be wondering, I spoke with the team and these are all know, acknowledge issues that they tell us they are working on.

THE UGLY TRUTH

imageIf you are in the market for a device to run XBMC on… there are literally hundreds of options on the market. This fact makes it almost panic inducing to decide what to product to purchase.  For the price, and current status of this product, I would have to recommend a “wait and see approach” when it comes to The Little Black Box.

Sadly, for all of these companies, a new product came to market this year known as the OUYA. This device, in my mind, has closed the door to many of the hardware startups in this space. The OUYA offers better hardware, better firmware, and richer features for a smaller price tag than many of these business can provide.

All of that said… don’t count them out. They talk a big game and seem poised to follow through. They are striving to become a “name” in the XBMC community… and it is entirely possible to do this… they simply need to have a product that costs the same or less than an OUYA with an experience that is, at least, as stable as theirs.

It’s probably safer to stick to XBMC on Android devices for now. See the earlier CNXSoft reports 100 Euros “Little Black Box” Runs XBMC Linux article below for more product details.


Sony Sends an Oddly Shaped Google TV Dongle for FCC Approval

Richard Lawler (@rjcc) reported Sony’s first post-Chromecast Google TV device is a dongle, not a set-top box in an 8/30/2013 Engadget article:

Sony's first postChromecast Google TV device is a dongle, not a settop box

imageWe first got a whiff of Sony’s NSZ-GU1 earlier this month from an FCC filing, and now the folks at GTVHacker point out those documents have been updated with more info and pictures. The first new Google TV hardware seen since the $35 Chromecast dongle launched, this device appears to be a blend of the two. A key difference revealed from the pictures however, is an odd stepped design, with the MHL/HDMI port protruding from the bottom of the box. The brief user manual included in the filing may explain this however, as it can draw power via that MHL output and the USB connection to a BRAVIA TV. A tiny diagram in the truncated user manual shows it plugged into the side of a TV like the Chromecast or Roku Streaming Stick. If you’re wondering about the PS4 — yes, we looked, but there’s no indication it’s meant to work directly with the upcoming console.

imageLike previous Google TV devices, it brings HDMI passthrough to the table along with an IR blaster, remote diagrams (in a separate filing) look similar to the one included with the NSZ-GS7 and GS8. Inside is a low power Marvell DE3108 SoC, 8GB of flash memory and 1GB RAM, however the specs indicate it’s limited to 720p video output. As GTVHacker put it, the entire thing is similar to the Chromecast but with Google TV features. What remains to be seen is when it arrives, how much it costs, and what software tweaks Google and Sony can cook up to make this generation of Android-powered smart TVs more appealing. [Emphasis added.]

See all [five Engadget] photos [from the FCC.]

Sony’s OET Exhibit List for its PU5NSZGU1 filing of 6/20/2013, updated 8/29/2013, includes more photos and a PDF of its User Manual.

The HDMI connector hump on the TVStick might be required to accommodate recessed HDMI receptacles on Sony Bravia TV sets. None of the pictures I’ve seen include the reported HDMI in (pass-through) port.

Sony’s GS7 and GS8 have an MSRP of $199, so I wouldn’t expect the NSZ-GU1 to be price-competitive with Chromecast.

Edwin Kee noted that Taiwanese Original Design Manufacturing (ODM) firm Wistron Group will manufacture Sony’s dongle in this 9/2/2013 post to Upergizmo.com:

Sony Could Unveil Chromecast Rival

imageThere is word going around that Sony could very well unveil their very own Google Chromecast rival device – at least if one were to infer to some of the documents and photos released by the FCC. These images do point to a dongle with the model number NSZ-GU1, and it also carries the words “Internet Player”. The Sony branded dongle itself seems to come with with an HDMI-in port and MHL-out (720p video), where those will be accompanied by an IR Blaster sensor and a ‘Connect’ button.

imageThe Sony device will be manufactured by the good people over at ODM Wistron, and the revealed specifications sheet also showed off the presence of a Marvell DE3108 SoC, 8GB of flash memory, 1GB of RAM, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity. Not only that, it does seem as though the dongle itself will be powered from a television’s USB connection. It remains to be seen whether the NSZ-GU1’s functions will be exactly the same as that of the Google Chromecast, or will it be used to mirror a mobile device, but only time will tell. We expect to check out this particular device from Sony at IFA 2013 later this week, considering how the confidentiality request [to the FCC] has already expired on August 29th. [Emphasis added.]

Sony’s device’s functions are unlikely to “be exactly the same as that of the Google Chromecast” and probably will implement or emulate Miracast. If the latter, this post will move to the Miracast-Compatible Android MiniPCs and TVBoxes article.


Samsung HomeSync Media Server Finally Appears at AT&T Store on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue

Jeremiah Rice reported Samsung HomeSync Drops Into Online Store Along With PDF Manual, But You Can’t Order It Yet [Update: Pricing And More] in an 8/26/2013 post to the Android Police site:

imageUpdate: It turns out you can get a Samsung HomeSync in the US… if you live in the greater Chicago area. AT&T is selling the devices at its flagship store on Michigan Avenue, and only at this store. We called up the location for information about pricing and availability, here’s what we were told: the HomeSync is $299 (no contracts or anything), is currently in stock at that location, and you do not have to be an AT&T customer to purchase one.

imageHere’s Samsung’s official statement on the HomeSync, which basically says there is not yet any other information on when and where the HomeSync will be available in the US:

Samsung HomeSync™ is available at the AT&T Michigan Avenue Store in Chicago. Samsung HomeSync stores, shares and streams mobile content across multiple devices, and brings the Internet to a TV screen, offering Web browsing, YouTube, apps, games and social networking.  In addition, it provides 1 TB of secure storage for up to eight separate accounts and allows each user to sync in near real time, as well as upload and download mobile content.  We have not announced further plans for U.S. availability of Samsung HomeSync.

It never rains, but it pours. Just a few hours ago we reported that the Samsung HomeSync popped up on the manufacturer’s registration page, despite being unavailable for purchase four months after its scheduled release. Now a page for the HomeSync has gone live on Samsung’s online store, curiously marked as an AT&T model. Unfortunately there’s no way to order one, or even see how much it will cost.

homesync

The HomeSync is Samsung’s take on Google TV, which very emphatically is not a Google TV. It’s more of a home media server, assuming that you’re OK with all your media either being served up by a Samsung device or bought from Samsung’s Media Hub service or Google Play. The set-top box runs a highly customized version of Android and includes a 1 terabyte hard drive for videos and apps. Video and audio can be mirrored from the Galaxy S4 via AllShare Cast (including content from the Play Store) and the box itself has access to the Play Store and Samsung’s proprietary content. For a hands-on look at the HomeSync, check out our coverage from Mobile World Congress way back in February.

manual

The device manual (PDF link) also popped up on Samsung’s site, but it yields no clue to price or availability. Considering that we’ve seen two major breaks on the web, I’d say that a launch is imminent. The curious mention of AT&T on the product page may imply that Samsung wants to promote the HomeSync in carrier stores.

Price will be the make-or-break factor here. With the Chromecast and Roku already covering some of the HomeSync’s media-centric functions well below the $100 level, Samsung will have to work the storage angle hard to make its alternative appealing.

Source: Samsung

If you can afford an apartment on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, you can probably afford a US$299 HomeSync box. Other folks might want to combine a US$100 3-TB USB drive with a $50 Android TVStick to store and playback whatever video content from wherever they want.

The 74-page manual makes a point of detailing DivX license requirements for 720p (!) playback, but doesn’t mention Miracast, DLNA, UPnP and other media playback standards


CNX Software Reports “Kaiboer F4 / Ugoos UT1 Quad Core Media Player Is Now Available for as Low as $116”

As if there weren’t enough Chinese Android-powered media players available already, CNX Software (@cnxsoft) posted Kaiboer F4 / Ugoos UT1 Quad Core Media Player Is Now Available for as Low as $116 on 7/28/2013:

imageK-R42-1 (aka CS918 aka MK888 aka …) has been one of the first Rockchip RK3188 Android TV Boxes available on the market, and can be purchased for less than $90 US. Kaiboer F4, discovered at the end of June, has similar specs, but comes with 2 Wi-Fi antennas, potentially improving Wi-Fi reception. The only problem. until now, was that it was not available for sale, but this has now changed, and you can purchase it for $116 including on GeekBuying, renamed as Ugoos UT1. It’s also available on Aliexpress at higher prices at the time of writing. [Update: Dealsprime sells it for $109.99]

Kaiboer_F4_ports_remote_control

Kaiboer F4 / Ugoos UT1 Specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3188 up to 1. 8 GHz with Mali-400 MP4 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8 GB Flash + 1x SD card
  • Video Output – HDMI, and AV
  • Audio Output – HDMI,  AV, and optical S/PDIF
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n with 2 external Wi-Fi antennas. (No Bluetooth)
  • USB – Micro USB OTG + 2x USB host ports
  • Power & reset buttons
  • Dimensions – 187x128x24 mm

This Android 4.2.2 device comes with a 5V/2A power adapter, an IR remote control, HDMI and composite cables, as well as a user’s manual. GeekBuying has posted some pictures of the devices including the custom user’s interface.

Kaiboer_F4_User_Interface

as well as low resolution pictures of the board.

Kaiboer_F4_board_bottom Kaiboer_F4_board_top

At the bottom of the top side of the PCB, on the left side of the cable that goes to the small IR/LED board, you can see a 3-pin header with what may be GND, TX and RX, so this could be a decent Rockchip hacking platform, more practical than RK3188 mini PCs.

Geekbuying also posted some benchmark results: Antutu 3.x (15,245), Nemamark 2.4 (59.9 fps) and Vellamo (HTML5: 1544 / Metal: 491), and tested some features and apps such as Miracast, Video webcam, XBMC, Netflix…

Purchase status on Geekbuying.com was “Presell” as of 7/28/2013 with a “Presell Product Lead-time: 2013-08-03”.


Waiting for the Other (Amazon’s) Shoe to Drop in the Media Player Market

Back on April 24, 2013 Brad Stone (@bradstone) wrote Here Comes Amazon’s Kindle TV Set-Top Box for Bloomberg Business Week:

imageAmazon (AMZN) is making e-readers and tablets and will likely soon introduce a smartphone. As it works to build all types of connected devices, that leaves a natural next step: a television set-top box. The e-commerce giant is planning to introduce a device this fall dedicated to streaming video over the Internet and into its customers’ living rooms, according to three people familiar with the project who aren’t authorized to discuss it.

imageThey say the box will plug into TVs and give users access to Amazon’s expanding video offerings. Those include its à la carte Video on Demand store, which features newer films and TV shows, and its Instant Video service, which is free for subscribers to the Amazon Prime two-day shipping package. The Amazon set-top box will compete with similar products, such as the [Chromecast], Roku, Apple TV, and the Boxee Cloud DVR, along with more versatile devices such as the Playstation 3 and the Xbox. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.

imageMany other set-top devices already give their users access to Amazon’s video catalog. By building its own system, Amazon can put its content more directly in front of consumers while expanding its lineup of devices and giving developers another reason to create apps for Amazon’s digital ecosystem.

The set-top box is being developed by Amazon’s Lab126 division in Cupertino, Calif., which has toyed with building TV-connected devices for several years, the people familiar with the effort say. The project is being run by Malachy Moynihan, a former vice president of emerging video products at Cisco Systems (CSCO) who worked on the networking company’s various consumer video initiatives. Moynihan also spent nine years at Apple (AAPL) during the 1980s and 1990s. Among the other hardware engineers working at Lab126 with considerable experience making set-top boxes are Andy Goodman, formerly a top engineer at TiVo (TIVO) and Vudu (WMT), and Chris Coley, a former hardware architect at ReplayTV, one of Silicon Valley’s first DVR companies. …

Amazon has a tough price-point to meet: Google’s $35 Chromecast. Content is another problem. Although I’m an Amazon Prime subscriber and get Amazon Instant Video with the subscription, my wife and I find Netflix’s streaming content more to our liking. I doubt if we’re different in this respect from the majority of HDTV owners.

Brad observed in his Jeff Bezos Doesn’t Care What You Think About Amazon’s Quarterly Earnings article of 7/25/2013:

… Amazon’s chief executive doesn’t concern himself with Amazon’s quarterly earnings report or with Wall Street’s visceral reaction to it. (In fact, he’s in Silicon Valley for most of this summer, working with Amazon’s hardware design arm, Lab126, according to a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to discuss it publicly.) …

It’s hard to make much money when you’re opening refrigerated fulfillment centers around the country, manufacturing your first set-top box, preparing to launch a phone, buying up video content in a furious competition with Netflix, and creating original programming, all the while diving into new product categories and revolutionizing the publishing business. …

Bezos has a habit of pulling rabbits out of hats, but the Lab126 folks have a serious challenge on their hands.


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:

image_thumb13Like 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.

image_thumb151Update 3/18/2013: David Pierce (@piercedavid) asked “Android is coming to our TVs, but has Google already lost the battle for the living room?” in a deck for his Google TV: silent but not forgotten at I/O 2013 article of 3/17/2013 for TheVerge.com:

Google TV booth I/O

It’s easy to miss the Google TV booth here at I/O 2013, hidden in the corner of the third floor. That may not be an accident: there was apparently no room in the company’s sprawling three-and-a-half-hour keynote to mention Google TV, either, just a short blog post hours later announcing that it now runs the latest version of Android. So in a sea of new products, services, and pitches to developers, we couldn’t help but wonder: is TV dead? Google has killed plenty of products with many more fans than Google TV — will it go the way of Reader?


Google TV is Android, and Android is Google TV

image_thumb45We’ve been told that Google TV isn’t going away — the company can’t give up, because the market and opportunity are too large. But Google’s changing its approach to your living room, beginning with the update this week. Google TV is now based on Android 4.2.2, the latest version of the operating system, and offers developers much more — when Google TV first started three years ago, the team forked Android to build the OS, and a source described this update as “bending the fork back in.” Google TV is Android, and Android is Google TV — or it will be, whenever the update becomes available. It’s what Google TV should have been from day one. …

Pierce concludes:

… Despite its slightly awkward presence, like the nerdy kid that snuck into the school dance and hid in the corner hoping no one would notice, Google TV isn’t gone. And Google believes it may be heading toward a comeback: we’re told to expect a steady drumbeat of Google TV products, from partners like LG, TCL, and others. But a steady drumbeat is what got Google TV where it is today.

What Google TV needs is a makeover, and a splashy re-launch. It needs to shows us why it’s different now, why it’s better. Google needs to convince users, developers, and manufacturers that the Android they love on cell phones can work on the big screen in their living room as well. Then Google needs to prove it, fast.


Hands-on Review of the HomeSync Media Server from Singapore

Samsung’s overpriced HomeSync Media Server still isn’t available in the US, but Kenny Yeo finds it lacking compatiblity in his First Looks: Samsung HomeSync Personal Cloud Device review of 7/22/2013 for Singapore’s HardwareZone.com:

A Confused Box?

The Samsung HomeSync is a stylish-looking box that lets you share and stream content such as photos and videos from your Samsung mobile device to your TV. It also doubles up as Android media player, allowing users to enjoy Android apps as well as play various media files on your TV. But is it the perfect complement to your Samsung mobile device? We’ll let you decide after reading our usage experience.

The perfect complement to your Samsung mobile device?

Design & Features

The HomeSync device is actually really compact. Here it is next to the new Galaxy S4 Active.

Samsung is one of the best when it comes to industrial design and the HomeSync device is very modern-looking and sleek. We especially liked the front brushed aluminum panel, which gives the device a high-end look and feel. It certainly looks good beside Samsung’s own newer TVs and is a device you would be happy to have sitting on your TV cabinet. The front panel has a single LED status indicator located at the top right corner and the HomeSync device only has two buttons – a power button and a function key that is used to pair devices without NFC capability.

To keep the front brushed aluminum panel clean, Samsung has positioned the buttons on its side, and there’s only two of them.

The dual USB 3.0 ports let you expand storage and or quickly transfer media content.

Behind, the HomeSync device has an HDMI port for video output, a micro-USB port, an Ethernet jack, two USB 3.0 ports that you can use to expand storage or simply play media files from, and finally an optical audio out. Under the hood the HomeSync is powered by a 1.7GHz dual-core Exynos processor with 2GB DDR3 RAM and has 1TB of storage. The unit is also built-in with Wireless 802.11b/g/n support and Bluetooth 4.0.

What it Does – Part 1: HomeSync

The HomeSync is so-called because it lets users share and stream content from their Samsung mobile device to their TV. This can be done by simply downloading the HomeSync app from the Google Play Store or Samsung Apps and then activating the device by using NFC. This also automatically sets the HomeSync device up. For Samsung devices without NFC, you can still manually set your device to work with the HomeSync device via the downloaded app.

Simply tap the HomeSync device on the top with your NFC-enabled Samsung mobile device and the pairing will be done.

Once paired, your Samsung mobile device becomes a remote control. In this mode, it works like a touchpad on a notebook.

After installing the app, the option to share via HomeSync will appear on your Samsung mobile device.

Once your device is paired with the HomeSync device, you can use your Samsung mobile device to navigate the HomeSync’s menu page. You can do so in three ways: using your mobile device as a pointer, using the display of your Samsung mobile device as a touchpad, or by simply mirroring your TV’s display on your Samsung mobile device. We found the third option to be the easiest.

To share content via the HomeSync device on your TV, simply navigate to the photo or video on your Samsung mobile device and tap the HomeSync icon in the top menu bar. After tapping the HomeSync icon, you will be given the option to share it publicly, in your personal folder or in your password-protected private folder. Users do not need to be the on the same network as the HomeSync device; they can even be outside using a mobile connection and still perform these functions – quite similar to other online cloud storage options.

Speaking of private folders, the HomeSync device can sync with up to eight users, with each user supporting a maximum of six mobile devices. And each user will be allocated a password-protected folder to keep sensitive data.

Unfortunately, that is just about what the HomeSync can do. Despite its rather capacious 1TB hard drive, it does not store backups of your device – only the media content that you choose to sync with it.

What it Does – Part 2: Media Player / Smart TV

Aside from sharing content from their Samsung mobile device, users can also make use of the HomeSync device’s two USB 3.0 ports to quickly add or play media files using portable hard drives or USB flash drives.

The HomeSync’s video and music player apps both support a healthy selection of formats and codecs. This includes H.264, MPEG-4, VC-1, VP8, DivX, WMV and more. And thanks to its 1.7GHz dual-core Exynos processor, the HomeSync device handled video files we threw at it with ease. It also plays lossless audio formats such as FLAC, Ogg Vorbis on top of your regular lossy formats such as MP3 and AAC.

The HomeSync device is a capable media player capable of playing multiple formats and has no problem displaying subtitle files.

If your TV does not have built-in Smart TV capability, the HomeSync’s YouTube app will let you watch YouTube on your TV.

Browsing the web on the big screen is quite an experience.

The HomeSync’s bundled video and music player apps are easy enough to use and will automatically scan for recognized media files. However, it will only scan files that are on the HomeSync’s drive and not on expanded storage devices.

Since the HomeSync runs on Android 4.2, it therefore enables Smart TV features on older TVs. Users can download apps and games as they would on any Android device and use it with their TV. With the HomeSync, users can also browse the web, watch YouTube videos, update Facebook and play Android games on their TV.

What Am I?

On paper, the HomeSync sounds like a nifty device, but in practice, it seems to suffer from an identity crisis and has several limitations.

To begin, despite running on Android 4.2, the HomeSync works only with Samsung devices. The app refused to install on other non-Samsung Android devices and sighted compatibility issues. Additionally, the HomeSync does not come with a remote control and relies on your Samsung mobile device for control. This poses a problem because if one were to take a photo outside and share it on the HomeSync back home, the user(s) back home would need a compatible Samsung device to navigate to the photo or video to view it.

Is it not simpler to just send what you wanted to share straight to the mobile device back home via other services such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or just plain instant messaging? We cannot help but think that the primary function of HomeSync – that is to quickly share content from your Samsung mobile device directly to your TV at home from anyplace and at anytime – is a very niche and specialized one.

On top of that, most Samsung mobile devices support DLNA as do most modern Smart TVs. And it is much more straightforward to simply share content via DLNA, which again makes the HomeSync redundant.

The Samsung HomeSync fulfills a very specific need and has several restrictions that gives it limited appeal. Not to mention its asking price which seems the reverse of what you would expect given its limitations.

That said, we did find the HomeSync device to be a very capable media player and it does bring Smart TV capabilities – as well as Android 4.2 functionality – to older TVs. It is also very stylish-looking and well-built. Unfortunately, at S$489, it is considerably more costly than its competing media players and it seems to work in a closed ecosystem with limited advantages (if any).

All in all, the Samsung HomeSync is an interesting device, but one with limited appeal because of its vaguely-defined purpose and usage restrictions. [Emphasis added.]

See my Samsung Galaxy S4 Screen Mirroring Is Not Miracast Compliant article of 7/20/2013 for another Samsung usage restriction example. As of 7/24/2013, the HomeSync device was not certified as an interoperable Digital Media Adapter by the WiFi Alliance.


Samsung’s HomeSync Media Server

Update 6/9/2013: Lise Pendergast posted an extensive Samsung HomeSync photo gallery with links to sources on the Electronic Explorations blog.

Update 6/7/2013: Reuben Lee (@ReubenCNETAsia) updated his 6/4/2013 article (see below) as follows:

Update (June 6 1100 GMT+8): Samsung has confirmed that the HomeSync will be available in all Asia markets starting June 2013 and will retail for about US$310. 

Still no word about US markets.

Update 6/4/2013: Reuben Lee (@ReubenCNETAsia) of C|Net Asia reported Samsung HomeSync to retail for S$498 on 6/4/2013.

image_thumb10First unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, the Samsung HomeSync is a media hub that lets you share multimedia content easily from the smartphone to the TV. As it is Android-based, it can also allow you to access apps as well. The onboard 1TB storage doubles as a networked access storage device for the family. Here’s a quick look how the Galaxy S4 is paired with the HomeSync via NFC.

The Samsung HomeSync will retail for S$498 from June 6 via the Singapore telcos, before it is made available in electronics and IT stores from July.

Tapping the Galaxy S4 on the HomeSync opens up the accompanying app. (Credit: Aloysius Low/CNET Asia)

S$495 corresponds to about US$395 at current exchange rates. A bit pricey for the equivalent of a MiniPC or TVBox with a 1 TB USB drive.

Update 5/28/2013: Samsung remains mum on HomeSync delivery date:

image_thumb18

Update 5/21/2013: SAMSUNGmobile (@SamsungMobile) uploaded a 00:13:16 professionally produced Introducing Samsung HomeSync promotional video to YouTube on 5/20/2013 (click to activate player):

Update 5/9/2013: iDroidSpot posted MWC2013 – Samsung HomeSync Presentation, a 00:05:00 video demo from HomeSync’s introduction at the Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona:

Heap big smoke but still no fire regarding HomeSync’s US pricing and availability.

Update 4/26/2013: Samsung posted Play your Personal Cloud: Introduction to HomeSync and App development reference to the Samsung Developers Blog on 4/23/2013:

1. Introducing Samsung HomeSync

Samsung is introducing a new product that will bring greater innovation to mobile devices.
HomeSync is a cloud storage device you can use at home. You can save photos and videos that are in your mobile devices then enjoy them anywhere, anytime. You can also connect HomeSync to your smart TV to watch its content on TV. Because it is based on Android (Jelly Bean), it lets you install and run Android applications. With mobile devices connected to HomeSync, you can control the HomeSync screen displayed on TV at home.

2. Home Cloud Accessible Anywhere, Anytime

Save your data at home and share it easily.
HomeSync is a 1 TB network storage device. If you register your mobile devices and HomeSync in your Samsung account, you can access HomeSync from your mobile devices anytime to upload or download data. With one ID, you can register up to 6 devices, including HomeSync. So, you can easily share data among your devices. You can also register up to 7 family members so that the whole family can save and share data together. This means that you and the people you allow can enjoy the content saved in HomeSync from their own mobile devices. They can also enjoy the content from multimedia devices, such as smart TVs at home.

3. Android Media Center at Home

Enjoy Android on TV. Because HomeSync is based on Android Jelly Bean, it lets you use various services provided by Google and Samsung. It ships with many built-in Android-based services from Samsung, such as Samsung Apps, Media Hub, and Video Hub, as well as Google services, such as Google Play and YouTube. If you have synchronized your mobile devices with HomeSync, you can control them at home with your HomeSync controller. You can also enjoy the content in HomeSync through many multimedia devices at home by connecting HomeSync to your TV with an HDMI cable, or to your music players through an optical audio port. (The TV screen supports HD and full HD.)

4. Various Controller Modes Supported

Through the HomeSync app, you can control the TV screen of HomeSync. HomeSync supports many control modes as listed below.

  • Remote Mouse: Senses the movement of a device through its geomagnetic sensor and accelerometer sensor, and controls the cursor on the screen. (Phone-type devices supported)
  • Touch Pad: A control method similar to the touch pad of a laptop. Touch the screen of a device to control the cursor on the screen. (Phone and tablet-type devices supported)
  • Mirror Mouse: Controls by mirroring the TV screen on the device. (Planned to be supported in the Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II, Galaxy S IV, and later models)
  • QWERTY Mode: Lets you enter text on the TV screen with a QWERTY keyboard that automatically appears on the device control screen.

5. Powerful Hardware & Software

HomeSync has great hardware performance with its built-in 1.7 GHz Dualcore CPU and 2 GB RAM. It is great for playing multimedia content as it supports many codecs.

image_thumb36

App Development Reference

Please refer to the below information about Android app development for HomeSync. It differs from regular mobile devices due to the nature of remote controlling with a smart TV. Please note that HomeSync is defined as a “faketouch” device instead of a touchscreen device. (Please refer to No. 4 and No. 5.)

  1. OS : 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean MR1) API Level 17
  2. Resolution :
    • Full screen : 1920×1080 (sw720dp)
    • App Area (Excluding status bar): 1920 x 1008 (sw720dp)
  3. Density : hdpi
  4. Features that HomeSync supports :
    • android.hardware.audio.low_latency
    • android.hardware.bluetooth
    • android.hardware.faketouch
    • android.hardware.faketouch.multitouch.distinct
    • android.hardware.location
    • android.hardware.location.network
    • android.hardware.screen.landscape
    • android.hardware.type.television
    • android.hardware.usb.accessory
    • android.hardware.usb.host
    • android.hardware.wifi
    • android.hardware.wifi.direct
  5. Features that HomeSync does NOT support :
    • android.hardware.camera
    • android.hardware.location.gps
    • android.hardware.nfc
    • android.hardware.microphone
    • android.hardware.screen.portrait
    • android.hardware.touchscreen
    • android.hardware.sensor.xxx.

    Note: If your application has any of above features in a uses-feature tag in the Android manifest file, those should be either removed or set to not-required by adding the ‘required=”false”‘ property, in order to be installable in the Play Store.
    e.g.) Before: <uses-feature android:name=”android.hardware.camera” />
           After: <uses-feature android:name=”android.hardware.camera” android:required=”false” />

  6. OpenGL ES version :
    • reqGlEsVersion=0×20000
  7. For more information :

Now if Samsung would publish availability and pricing details, I could decide whether to evaluate a HomeSync box. The SamMobile (@SamMobile) reported:

Samsung HomeSync available from week 21 #HomeSync #SamsungHomeSync 

In a 4/2/2013 tweet. My calculation says week 21 begins on Sunday, May 19, 2013.


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)

While 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:

Samsung 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_thumb33

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 HomeSync: 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_thumb30

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 ho


Sony’s Personal Content Station is “Coming Soon”

image_thumb211

This basic TVBox, shaped like shallow covered bathtub has one each HDMI and USB connectors; the front has a MicroSD slot:

image_thumb51

image_thumb81

Like Samsung’s HomeSync it includes a 1 TB disk drive and has WiFi/NFC connectivity, but Sony doesn’t emphasize streaming video capabilities. The device will transcode video from AVCHD to MP4, however.



Pandora TVBox is an All-in-One Android Media Player, Game Console, DVB Receiver, Video Chat System, etc… per CNXSoft

Chiang Mai of CNX Software (@cnxsoft) posted  Pandora TV Box is an All-in-One Android Media Player, Game Console, DVB Receiver, Video Chat System, etc… on 6/6/2013:

imageThis morning I received an email from DealExtreme with a link to a teaser video about an upcoming Android device to be available on June 10, that comes with a game controller (PS3 type) to play games. After some research, I finally found this “Android-on-TV” device which is based on Rockchip RK3066 with 1GB RAM, 8GB Flash, lots of ports (USB, HDMI, Ethernet), a webcam, and more. Beside the game controller, it also comes with a remote control, so the device can be used for a whole lot of applications including gaming, video chat, media player, web browsing, and more. It’s something you can already do with existing devices, but it may require some efforts, and this one seems to come all included.

Pandora_TV_Box

Here are the specs of the “beast”:

  • Pandora_TV_Box_On_TVSoC – Rockchip RK3066 dual-core processor @ 1.6GHz +  MALI 400 MP4 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 8G NAND Flash + SD card slot (up to 32GB)
  • Connectivity
    • WIFI 802.11b/g/n
    • 10/100M Ethernet
    • Bluetooth 2.0
  • Camera – 2.0 MP camera
  • TV – Apps for Macau and Hong Kong on-demand videos and live TV, and optional DVB receiver (no details provided, but I guess it must be through a USB dongle)
  • Input Devices – 6-axis (PS3) game controller and “air flying squirrel” mouse (I guess that’s means an RF remote with gyro)
  • USB – 1x USB OTG (full size), 3x USB 2.0 host.
  • Video Output – HDMI (720p to 1080p)
  • Audio ports – Buil-in microphone (3 m range) + 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Buttons – Power and recovery buttons
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A

Pandora_TV_Box_Rear_Panel

This Android 4.1.1 “Android-on-TV” box comes with a remote and an optional Bluetooth game controller, a stand to position it on top of your TV, an HDMI cable, a mini USB to USB cable to charge the game controller, and a 12V/2A power adapter. It’s also said to support DLNA and Airplay, and a applications to control the box with your Android smartphone is provided. This device looks like the ultimate Android STB that allows you to do virtually anything you may want to do on your TV. This looks promising, but we’ll have to see how the software implementation, and hopefully this won’t be a “Jack of all trades, master of none” type of products.

Pandora TV Box with its remote, game controller, power supply, and cables.

Pandora TV Box with its Remote, Game Controller, Power Supply, and Cables.

If even though it’s not available on dx.com right now, I could find it on Aliexpress for $145 including shipping. Considering the features and accessories included, the price seems about right, but better wait until it’s on more websites. 7po.com also has a forum thread about the device with more pictures and details in Chinese. The company behind the product appears to be “L.C. Smart Co. Ltd” based in Shenzhen, but I can’t find any details about it, except their username in Sina Weibo (Chinese twitter) is @LCTVBOX101.

[Update: the device is already available from DX.com for $123.90 including shipping]


ASUS QCube for Google TV Has HDMI Input and Output

Amazon.com sells the 4.9-inch ASUS CUBE V2 with Google TV for US$139 with free shipping for Prime subscribers:

Product features:

  • imageWorks with existing HDTV and existing cable or satellite system to provide access to the over-the-air TV, Internet content, streaming services and Android apps.
  • Use Voice Search to quickly find what you want on live TV, the web, or on-demand services such as Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, and Netflix.
  • Get 50GB of ASUS Web Storage accessible on your PC and mobile devices.
  • Universal remote with 2-in-1 directional and touchpad, QWERTY keyboard and built-in microphone.
  • image

I have no idea what ASUS uses to occupy the empty space in this humungous TVBox.


CNXSoft reports 100 Euros “Little Black Box” Runs XBMC Linux

Linux TVBoxes are a bit off-topic but CNX Software’s (@cnxsoft) 100 Euros “Little Black Box” Runs XBMC Linux post of 4/25/2013 describes what might become another TVBox category and Roku competitor:

imageMost set-top boxes running XBMC, are actually Android devices running XBMC as an app, and I don’t know of other media players that are sold with XBMC Linux pre-installed. Until today, as an XBMC Linux STB called The Little Black Box has been officially announced today. This XBMC device is powered by AMLogic AML8726-M3 @ 1 GHz, and comes with 1GB RAM, 4GB Flash, HDMI and AV output and more.

Little_Black_Box

Little_Black_Box_RemoteDual Sided Remote

Little Black Box hardware specifications:

  • SoC – AMLogic AML8726-M3 ARM Cortex A9 @ 1GHz + Mali-400 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB RAM
  • Storage – 4GB NAND Flash
  • Video Output – HDMI (1080p) and composite
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet + 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 2x USB host ports
  • Weight – 500 g
  • Dimensions – 10 x 10 x 3 cm

The package will come with the box, a dual sided RF remote  with a qwerty keyboard and standard remote buttons (pictured on the right), an HDMI cable, a power supply, and a quick start guide.

The device was initially scheduled for the 1st of May, but following some delays it should now be available at the end of May. It can be pre-ordered for 99.99 Euros including free shipping to Europe and US which is still reasonable considering you get an RF remote, and price includes VAT. Shipping to Asia, Thailand at least, costs about 30 Euros.

The exact source code used in the device will not be made completely available. There will be a TLBB version (closed source) shipped with the product, as well as a community build (See j1nx) which will be fully open source. Correction: So as per Peter’s comment, there will be two versions TLBB, specific to this set-top box, and a community build. The source code of both version is available via github.

You can watch watch the teaser video below.

Further information and link to pre-order are available on The Little Black Box site

As of about 7/1/2013, The Little Black Box is available for purchase from Amazon as The Little Black Box Pure XBMC for US$129.99 plus $5.99 shipping from Oregon. Here’s CXN Soft’s The Little Black Box XBMC STB Gets Users’ Feedback, Becomes Available on Amazon report of 7/21/2013:

The Little Black Black Box (TLBB) is an set-top box running XBMC powered by AMLogic AML8726-M3 with 1GB RAM, 4GB Flash that comes with a dual sided RF remote control. The device became available for pre-order in April, and the first customers have started to receive the media player, one of them (flipfoelyfe) has uploaded a video, and posted some pictures.

LTTB_Unboxing

After initial issues setting up Wi-Fi (A bug seems to prevent the use of long passwords), his tweets about the device are rather positive, and he uploaded a short video demo showing Sports-a-Holic plugin playing a live NBA match, and a ESPN Boxing program.

Whereas you had to pre-order and be patient for the first batch, LTBB is now available on Amazon for $129.99. Considering it also includes a dual sided RF remote control with a QWERTY keyboard, this single core set-top box is about the same price, or even a few dollars more, than Android dual core media players running XBMC such as G-Box Midnight MX2 or Tronsmart Prometheus. But if you’re looking for a device that runs exclusively XBMC, this may be the only media player that ships with the Linux version by default.

Thanks to CSilie for the tip!


Miracast-Compatible Android MiniPCs and TVBoxes

Contents:

Background

Miracast and DLNA compatibility is becoming de rigueur for Android MiniPCs and TVBoxes now that Android 4.2.2 provides full support for the WiFi streaming format that enables smartphone and tablet owners project small screens to widescreen HDTV sets, as well as stream media wirelessly. NetworkWorld’s Steven Max Patterson (a.k.a. PhilAndroid, @philandroid1) asserted With Google’s IO conference just around the corner, the updates in this week’s Android 4.2.2 release probably could have waited for Key Lime Pie. But Android 4.2.2 is an important step for Android development in a deck for his Why Android 4.2.2 is an important update article of 2/21/2013:

imageGoogle released Android 4.2.2 for the Nexus 4, 7 and 10 this week. Some devices have already received over-the-air updates. Compared to Android 4.2.1, is there really anything important in this incremental release? With Google’s annual developer’s conference Google IO scheduled just 82 days from now, when Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie is anticipated to be announced, why would Google interrupt its course for an incremental release? Who should care? …

imageAndroid 4.2.2 enables developers who are building the next family hearth in the rapidly evolving and intensely competitive smart TV market. Samsung, LG, Sony and other smart TV manufacturers are working feverishly to avoid becoming just display companies whose products can’t compete with devices that stream content. Also competing is Apple’s Airplay, which lets iOS and Leopard users stream high-definition (HD) audio and video content to Digital Living Network Alliance (DNLA) TVs connected with Apple TV. Intel, with its wireless display standard WiDi, does the same for certain processors and some new LG and Toshiba HDTV models or any HDTV with a WiDi adapter.

Android’s open approach to streaming HD content to HDTVs incorporates the WiFi Alliance’s Miracast standard, which is fully compatible with Intel’s WiDi. Android 4.2.2 includes a stable Miracast feature that enables users to stream HD content from a smartphone or tablet on a HDTV equipped with an adapter. This is an important development for both the Android enthusiast and the Android entertainment developer. But, for the time being, it is just an appealing idea, another step toward the wonderful future in which TV and movies and other content can be selected from Hulu or Netflix smartphone apps and streamed to a large HDTV, for lean-back consumption by the entire family.

Android 4.2.2 includes enhancements and stability to WiFi Direct, an open source peer-to-peer WiFi project that enables direct communication between WiFi devices intended to let smart connected devices communicate directly with one another. Like Miracast, WiFi Direct eliminates a router to establish and control the communication. Tablets, smartphones, cameras, printers, PCs, and gaming devices that support WiFi Direct can communicate with one another, and developers of cool apps such as Smart Phone Ad-Hoc Networks (SPAN) can be deployed on unrooted Android 4.2.2 devices that support WiFi Direct. …

Android 4.2.2 is not a critical update for many smartphone and tablet owners. For the time being, it’s just for Nexus smartphones and tablets, and will debut as an update to newer mobile devices from companies such as Samsung, Sony and LG that also have a stake in the HDTV business and want a consistent consumer experience using branded mobile devices and HDTVs. In time, these important features will be insulated from the general Android user’s experience with intuitive apps.

As it turned out, Android 5.0 wasn’t announced at Google I/O 2013.

Eric Ravenscraft (@ocentertainment) jumped the gun a bit with his Android 4.2 Feature Highlight: So, What Is This Miracast Thing And How Does It Work, Anyway? article of 11/16/2012 for the AndroidPolice site:

imageAndroid 4.2 is out now and it brings a bunch of new goodies. Multiple users on a tablet, photospheres, and gesture typing are all pretty neat. What about this Miracast thing, though? If you’re part of the majority of Android users out there, you know that it involves screen sharing and something vaguely to do with WiFi. Well, here. Let’s clear some of that up for you.

So, Uh… What Is Miracast?

At its most basic level, Miracast is a video streaming specification created by the Wi-Fi Alliance. It allows a user to share whatever is displayed on their device’s screen with another compatible product. Whether that’s a TV, another smartphone, a tablet, or a desktop. The spec supports up to 1080p HD video and 5.1 surround sound. The dream is, you could download a movie to your tablet via the Play Store (or your preferred medium) and stream it to your TV without ever plugging in a cable and without sacrificing quality. Among other applications.

The neat thing about Miracast is it doesn’t require any special hardware to work. So unlike, say, a new wireless standard (e.g., 802.11n, 802.11ac), you won’t need to upgrade to a new device in order to use it. In theory anyway. More specifically, Miracast is built on top of WiFi Direct, which allows devices to utilize WiFi to communicate with each other directly, instead of having to hop on a mutual wireless router. There’s already a push to make more mobile devices support this standard, since it makes things like file transfers much easier, so Miracast support is already piggybacking on another train’s momentum. This will be good for support.

This Sounds A Lot Like Airplay…

That’s because it kind of is! The main difference is that, unlike Apple’s mirroring standard, this would be open so that any platform or device manufacturer could jump on board and support it. Even Apple! Though, probably not. As of right now, there are a number of major players who are willing to work on this including Intel, AMD, Broadcom, Ralink, NVIDIA, TI, Qualcomm, Marvell, MediaTek, and the Android platform. Of course, putting a bunch of brand names together doesn’t guarantee an awesome and mighty force to be reckoned with (I miss you, Android Update Alliance). Still, it’s good to see so many companies pay attention right off the bat.

Ultimately, though, the effect would be largely the same. Synergy between your devices. It’s an attempt to remove the wily wires, the confusing configurations, and the irritating interfaces from media sharing. Virtually every device you own has two-to-five ways to communicate wirelessly, right? Why can’t they just talk to each other and everything be simple? That’s the idea.

Sounds Great! So, Can I Use It Now?

2012-11-15_14h05_39

Maybe! To be honest, probably not yet, but it kinda depends on what devices you own. For example, did you know that Samsung already has a Miracast-based video streaming solution in some of its devices? It’s called AllShare. While this software is more or less limited to Samsung’s own brand of hardware, if you own a Galaxy S III, a Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, a Series 7 Chronos laptop, and an LED 8000 Series Smart TV, then you can share content between any of them with relative ease! Of course, those four devices could also cost you over $5000 easily.

Outside of Samsung’s compatible-yet-still-proprietary solutions, the entries are pretty sparse. The Nexus 4 and 10 both support it officially, though you’d be hard-pressed to find a working demo of it. In fact, while Google claims the Nexus 10 can utilize it, the option is entirely absent. According to Ars Technica, a Google rep has stated the feature could be enabled in a future software update, but no indication was given as to when that might happen. The option is also missing from Nexus 7s and Galaxy Nexuses that have been updated to Android 4.2. This may be due to a lack of Miracast certification. It’s unclear when or if the option will roll out.

N4wirelessdisplayNexus 4 with Wireless Display option enabled. 

N10wirelessdisplay Nexus 10 distinctly lacking this option.

Since the hardware requirements are rather low, and the standard is already building on top of another spec that companies have reason to push rather hard, it’s reasonable to believe that, in a year, this will be about as ubiquitous as NFC is on smartphones now. At least among phones and tablets. Televisions will take a lot longer, especially if yours doesn’t have WiFi built in. Since people upgrade their TVs, computer monitors, laptops and desktops much less frequently than their tablets and smartphones, it will take a lot more time for you to find places to stream to.

The upshot is, if you really want it, you don’t necessarily have to replace your TV. Set top boxes, wireless dongles, and perhaps even Blu-Ray players can also act as Miracast receivers. If you’re in the market for a new device in this category, be on the look out for branding that indicates compatibility. You could buy a dedicated mirroring box like the Push2TV from Netgear. Beyond that, there isn’t too much outside of dedicated TVs. There will be, though. Here’s a list of components, chipsets, or products that are in development that will support Miracast:

• Broadcom Dualband 11n WiFi
• Intel® WiDi
• Marvell Avastar USB-8782 802.11n 1×1 Dual-band Reference Design
• MediaTek a/b/g/n Dualband Mobile Phone Client, MT662X_v1 and DTV Sink, MV0690
• Ralink 802.11n Wireless Adapter, RT3592
• Realtek Dual-band 2×2 RTL8192DE HM92D01 PCIe Half Mini Card and RTD1185 RealShare Smart Display Adapter

More are sure to come. Be on the look out for more devices that list ““Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Miracast™” among its features, as this is the officially-approved designation (PDF). I wish I had better news for you, but unfortunately, this is an extremely new product and you’ll be waiting a while to see it supported widely.

Okay… Am I Going To Forget About This For Years Until It Works?

To be honest, maybe. It’s a little like NFC in that regard. What you’re seeing here isn’t so much a brand new feature that everyone can use today (although some can), but more the groundwork being laid to do some really awesome things in the future. Remember when NFC was first announced and Android Beam looked amazing, until you realized your phone didn’t have NFC and you were a year and a half away from an upgrade? This is a little like that, only not quite as bad.

For starters, if you have a device without Miracast support, but you do have Wi-Fi Direct, it’s possible that it could be added in an update later. Possible. Not guaranteed. Among the things needed for this feature to become available are certification that it works with the new spec (not hard) and software to actually do it (much harder). This will either mean Android 4.2 will need to roll out to your device — so, see some of you in six months to a year—or some other app like Samsung’s AllShare will need to be made available. A lot of blocks need to fall into place here.

On the other hand, two or three years from now, it’s like that virtually every new phone or tablet sold will support Miracast. At that point, there will probably also be a wide range of set top boxes or dongles that can add the functionality to your TV or computer monitor. Heck, if we’re really lucky, maybe Windows will even support it on some hardware. Maybe not in the OS, but at least via some hardware certification and some software download.

In the meantime, if you’ve got the constellation alignment of devices that allows you to use it, have fun. Otherwise, abide by the mantra that all technology must endure: just keep waiting. It will get better.

The WiFi Alliance provides lists of interoperable Miracast-certified display devices and Miracast-certified source devices. Following is a typical certificate for a 2.4-GHz only Wireless Display Adapter from D-Link Corp.:

image

image


The Miracast Standard

Following is the beginning of Wikipedia’s description of Miracast:

imageMiracast is a peer-to-peer wireless screencast standard formed via Wi-Fi Direct connections in a manner similar to Bluetooth. However, it works only over Wi-Fi and cannot be used to stream to a router access point.[1][2][3][4][5] It was created by the Wi-Fi Alliance and billed as an open alternative to Apple‘s AirPlay Mirroring. It allows users to, for example, echo display from a phone or tablet made by Company A onto a TV made by Company B, share a laptop screen with the conference room projector in real-time, and watch live programs from a home cable box on a tablet. Miracast sends up to 1080p HD video and 5.1 surround sound.

On 29 October 2012, Google announced that Android version 4.2 (updated version of Jelly Bean) will support the Miracast wireless display standard, and by default will have integrated features for it.[6] As of January 8, 2013, the LG Nexus 4 and Sony‘s Xperia Z, ZL, T and V officially support the function,[7][8] as does HTC One and Samsung in its Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II under the moniker AllShare Cast. The Galaxy S4 uses Samsung Link for its implementation.[9] … [Emphasis added.]

Unlike the Play To app on my wife’s Nokia 822 (see the DLNA with Windows 7 and 8 section below), which has no problem communicating with my UG007 Android MiniPC with DLNA, the Samsung Link app on my Galaxy S4 (updated 7/10/2013) will only communicate with DLNA devices that I register at link.samsung.com. I can’t register the UG007 because the Samsung Link site doesn’t support Chrome, Firefox or the default browser of my Android MiniPC. Samsung Link clearly isn’t a legitimate DLNA implementation.

See the Samsung Link and HomeSync, Samsung Introduces SideSync and HomeSync Lite at Premiere 2013 and Samsung’s US$300 SEK-1000/ZA 2013 Evolution Kit sections below for more details of Samsung’s hopefully futile attempt to coopt the Miracast spec with proprietary substitutes.


The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)

DLNA is an abbreviation for the Digital Living Network Alliance, which Wikipedia describes as follows:

image_thumb[3]The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) is 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.[3] These guidelines are built upon existing public standards, but the guidelines themselves are private (available for a fee). These guidelines specify a set of restricted ways of using the standards to achieve interoperability.[4]

DLNA uses Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) for media management, discovery and control.[5] UPnP defines the type of device that DLNA supports (“server”, “renderer”, “controller”) and the mechanisms for accessing media over a network. The DLNA guidelines then apply a layer of restrictions over the types of media file format, encodings and resolutions that a device must support.

As of February 2013,[6] over 18,000 different device models have obtained “DLNA Certified” status, indicated by a logo on their packaging and confirming their interoperability with other devices.[7] It is estimated that more than 440 million DLNA-certified devices, from digital cameras to game consoles and TVs, have been installed in users’ homes.[8]

You can search for certified DLNA-compliant devices by manufacturer and model number here.


Intel’s WiDi (WirelessDirect) Protocol

Here’s Wikipedia’s description of Intel’s WiDi technology, which hasn’t been adopted as widely as Miracast:

imageIntel® Wireless Display technology enables users to stream music, movies, photos, videos and apps wirelessly from a compatible PC or Ultrabook™ to a compatible HDTV or through the use of an adapter with other HDTVs. Intel® WiDi supports HD 1080p video quality, 5.1 surround sound, and low latency for interacting with applications that are sent to the TV from a PC. Using the Intel® WiDi Widget users can do different things simultaneously on their PC and TV at the same time such as checking email on the PC or Ultrabook™ while streaming a movie to the TV from the same device. [1]

As of Intel Wireless Display version 3.5, the Miracast standard is additionally supported.[2]


Coltech Claims WiFi Display Dongle CM-GC03_RK and CM-GC03_EZ Are Miracast and DLNA Certified

Coltech Electronic Co., Ltd. (a.k.a. Cynmate) reported New Product !!! WiFi Display Dongle CM-GC03_RK and CM-GC03_EZ on 12/24/2013:

Cynmate Electronic promoted two models of multi-screen sharing WIFI Displayer–CM-GC03_RK&CM-GC03_EZ in this Christmas season.
As a professional wifi display device, it can project the mobile screen on the TV set timely and it is the most simple direct way to achieve multi-screen sharing .Now, It’s time to say goodbye with the MHL and HDMI cable. just use the wifi displayer to create a wonderful life in the big screen .


Please pay attention to this popular wifi displayer. it adopts the Linux system, supporting for three compatible models:EZCast、Miracast and DLNA 3, and easily push your Android mobile phone, I phone/I pad, Tablet PC screen to the displayer device. It has been widely used in the family, commercial, education and vehicle-mounted system.

Functions:

  • It is a strong multi-media sharing tool in the family. It can excellently switch the screen of the mobile,Tablet PC,Notebook to the big TV set and let you experience the multi-screen interactive.
  • Real time screen mirroring function, without delay,smooth images. The device should support Miracast.
  • Support duplex WiFi; you can use the mobile to display online internet video on the TV set;

Features:

  • High compatibility: supports the DLAN multimedia output on all of the mobile phone and PC operating system
  • 1080P high definition video output
  • small volume, easy tacking and operating
  • It also supports DLNA protocol, the protocol can support video, pictures, audio and other multimedia content broadcast on television, projectors and other terminal equipment via the software which under the Andriod,
    IOS, Windows, and other operating system platforms

Has the following features:

  • High compatibility: supports DLNA multimedia output of all mobile phones and PC’s operating system
  • Support Dual duplex WiFi under DLNA,can use mobile phones,Pad play online video directly
  • Screen mirroring function need to support terminal equipment of Miracast*

* Andriod 4.2 that Google has announced support for Miracast published standards, including Ying Wai  (NVIDIA), Texas Instruments (TI), Qualcomm, Realtek, Marvell, MediaTek, etc. The mainstream mobile phone chip manufacturers have announced the integration of Miracast standard in the chip.

EZCast’s powerful wireless home multimedia sharing tools, you can complete the phone, tablet, the screen switches to the perfect PC on a big screen TV. with Winner Wave wireless connectivity solutions to achieve the best multi-screen interactive experience

Related Reading:

* Items marked with an asterisk (*) were copied from this blog without attribution, which is not permitted.

Here’s a photo I took of the Coltech/Cynmate booth at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 in Las Vegas, NV:

image

This product appears to be another reincarnation of the EZCast dongle.


Netgear Proposes NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle with Miracast as a Set-top Box Replacement

Netgear (@NETGEAR) delivered a NETGEAR Announces The NeoMediacast Dongle, Full-Featured Android Set-Top Box in Your Pocket press release on 1/6/2014:

image_thumb[4]LAS VEGAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–NETGEAR®, Inc. (NASDAQGM: NTGR) (www.netgear.com), a global networking company that delivers innovative products to consumers, businesses and service providers, has introduced the NETGEAR NeoMediacast™ HDMI Dongle (NTV300D) (www.netgear.com/ntv300d).

image_thumb[2]

The NTV300D is a customizable, Miracast®-enabled platform that enables telecommunications service providers to use the latest Android™ applications to offer their subscribers a veritable “curated content store” of both premium and free Over-the-Top (OTT) content. The NETGEAR NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle is among a number of new products that NETGEAR is demonstrating to press, customers and channel partners this week at the 2014 International CES® trade show in Las Vegas.

“The NTV300D platform supports seamless integration with other NETGEAR home connectivity devices so that service providers can offer a worry-free connected media solution to their subscribers, knowing they can trust the NETGEAR reputation for quality, reliability, and ease of use.”

With NeoMediacast, service providers can develop and operate a complete media streaming solution that supports their multi-screen video initiatives, where quick time-to-market is critical. The small, easy-to-use NTV300D integrates the Android SDK, giving service providers the tools to build their own premium content store. Another major benefit is that service providers can leverage the Android apps they have already developed to support linear TV on tablets and phones. Combined with NTV300D support for DRM, this offers service providers a low-cost alternative to set-top boxes. By supporting this seamless portability of existing Android applications and the cost-effective development of new applications, the NeoMediacast Dongle enables service providers to instantly turn any TV into a Smart TV.

“Consumers are clamoring for new options for accessing digital content across their screens, including their wide-screen HD TVs. With the NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle, our service provider customers have the means to provide a plug-and-play solution to their subscribers that also provides opportunities for additional revenue stream,” said Michael Clegg, senior vice president and general manager for Service Provider Business at NETGEAR. “The NTV300D platform supports seamless integration with other NETGEAR home connectivity devices so that service providers can offer a worry-free connected media solution to their subscribers, knowing they can trust the NETGEAR reputation for quality, reliability, and ease of use.”

image_thumb[7]The NETGEAR NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle provides uncompromising functionality and performance. It offers Miracast®-enabled wireless display, so that consumers experience intuitive sharing of content from their mobile screens to big screen TVs. Equipped with full HD 1080p/60 decode, there is no compromise in accessing the best content available, while integrated DRM support ensures access to premium content. The NTV300D also leverages best-in-class, next-generation 802.11ac wireless connectivity for a top quality viewing experience even with HD quality video. It integrates support for Bluetooth® 4.0 so Bluetooth-enabled remote devices connect seamlessly. Service providers’ subscribers will love the simple and easy installation afforded by the small form factor.

The NETGEAR NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle comes with a host of innovative features:

  • HDMI dongle form factor for small footprint
  • Android 4.2+ supported with RDK support in the future
  • 1080p/60 full HD, H.264/MPEG4 video decode
  • Supports HDMI 1.4 and HDCP 2.1
  • Miracast®-enabled
  • 802.11ac high-speed wireless connectivity
  • USB powered
  • Micro SD slot for playback/storage
  • Micro USB (OTG) for secondary storage
  • DRM support for Microsoft PlayReady™, Google Widevine® and Adobe® RTMPe
  • Remote control unit: RF4CE or Bluetooth® supported

“Subscribers want intuitive, plug-and-play access to all forms of video content across multiple screens in their homes. They also want simple integration with their home networks,” said Jeff Heynen, principal analyst covering broadband access, pay TV and video for Infonetics Research. “The NETGEAR NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle provides both, bringing true content integration to reality.”

Availability

The NETGEAR NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle (NTV300D) is scheduled to become available for service provider deployments in the first half of 2014.

More Information

Cross-posted to Current and Potential Chromecast Competitors.

Check out these reviews and articles about Netgear’s NeoMediacast:

* RDK is an abbreviation for Reference Design Kit. Quoting Jeff Baumgartner:

… The RDK is a pre-integrated software stack for IP-only and hybrid IP/QAM clients and gateways that’s being managed by Comcast and Time Warner Cable and designed to accelerate product development cycles. An RDK-optimized version of the NeoMediacast should be ready by the second half of 2014, with MSO tests expected to get underway by the third quarter, [Netgear director of product management Naveen] Chhangani  said.

Smaller, more portable devices are increasingly expected to become part of the RDK arsenal. Here at the show, Alticast said it will demonstrate an RDK-based HDMI set-top stick, but so far has not revealed its hardware partner for the project. Elsewhere in the emerging set-top stick universe,  Azuki Systems and LG recently teamed on an Android-powered streaming device that will serve as a small, IP-capable unit capable of handling authenticated TV Everywhere apps, cloud DVR services and transactional VOD fare.

In RDK environments, Netgear’s new dongle could be made to work in tandem with the vendor’s new “headless” gateway, the HMG7000, which would give the set-top stick access to a consumer’s “home cloud,” Chhangani explained.  As designed, that headless gateway includes a video transcoder that can convert QAM  video to streams that can be delivered to IP-based devices hanging off the wireless home network.

“Multiscreen is becoming a must,” Chhangani said.

The new NTV300D dongle is also capable of accessing content directly from the Internet-fed cloud.

Netgear did not divulge pricing, but Chhangani said the NTV300D will likely sell for in the sub-$50 range. The device itself can be powered by a TV’s USB port. [Emphasis added.] …

I’ll be at CES2014 later this week and will post updates with additional information I obtain at the show.


Visonicom Falsely Claims EZCast Dongle is DLNA and Miracast Certified

Visonicom is a Chinese organization located in the Shenzhen Special Economics District that claims to be the manufacturer of the EZCast WiFi HDMI display adapter. In its EZCast – Latest and most powerful WiFi display adapter Web page, Visonicom asserts that its EZCast adapter is DLNA Certified:

image 

and Wi-Fi Miracast Certified:

image

Neither of these certifications is valid for Visonicom as the manufacturer or EZCast as the product.

The DLNA certificate shown above of 2/5/2013 is for Actions Microelectronics Co., Ltd.’s EZMobile AM82XX Digital Media Player (DMP) and Digital Media Renderer (DMR), described as a Photo Frame, Projector and Mobile Device:

image

The Miracast certificate is for a different manufacturer (Acer) and product (MHL Wireless Adapter MWA2) described as a Projector, Photo Frame and Mobile Device:

image

image

Clearly, it’s caveat emptor when purchasing display adapters claiming DLNA and Miracast certifications. Even more egregious is Visonicom riding Chromecast’s coattails with a device named “ezchrome”:

image

that copies exactly the trade dress of Google’s device.


Android Developers Reports Devices Running Android 4.4 KitKat Can be Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Miracast

The Android Developers KitKat page states the following in its Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Miracast™ section:

imageAndroid 4.4 devices can now be certified to the Wi-Fi Alliance Wi-Fi Display Specification as Miracast compatible. To help with testing, a new Wireless Display developer option exposes advanced configuration controls and settings for Wireless Display certification. You can access the option at Settings > imageDeveloper options > Wireless display certification. Nexus 5 is a Miracast certified wireless display device.

I would have liked to have seen a screen capture of the Wireless Display Certification page, as well as a link to the Nexus 5’s certificate.

I’ll be interested to learn if RK3188 quad-core MiniPCs, such as the Tronsmart MK908ii and Rikomagic MK802IV, can be updated to Android 4.4 and used as a Miracast receiver device.


Microsoft’s Surface 2 Tablet Receives WiFi Miracast Certificate

Microsoft received the following WiFi Miracast Certificate for the Surface 2 Tablet with Wi-Fi Direct on 10/17/2013:

image

Note that the Operating System is Windows RT, not Windows 8 or 8.1. The certificate was extended to the Surface Pro 2 on 10/23/2013. The original Surface was certified for WiFi a, b, g and n, but not Wi-Fi Direct or Miracast, on 9/24/2012.

image


Barbara Bowman Describes a Fix for Miracast on Original Surface Pro with the Window 8.1 Upgrade

Barbara Bowman described how to How to Make Miracast work on Surface Pro on 10/16.2013:

Microsoft broke Miracast for Surface Pro (original) users on Windows 8.1. They have not officially commented on this or provided any information on a fix. As pointed out on Twitter by Rafael Rivera, you can work around this by disabling and re-enabling your WiFi connection. Every time you want to use it. Hat tip to Paul Thurrott for letting the Twitterverse know that the Surface Pro 2 firmware and driver pack was available. (Note: there is still no new driver for the Surface 2 so the WiFi toggle is the only option).

Microsoft just released a Surface Pro 2 firmware and driver pack. This is NOT for the original Surface. At your own risk, you CAN download and extract the Marvell WLAN network driver (the chipset in both the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 is the same) and fix your issue instead of cooling your heels waiting for the Microsoft Surface team to even acknowledge the issue.

1. Download the  file from http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/confirmation.aspx?id=40856

2. Drill down to to the x64 folder inside the Marvell\WLAN\win81 folder    ..\October2013SurfacePro2.zip\Marvell\WLAN\win81

3. Copy ONLY the x64 folder to another location or folder and rename it so you know what it is. Something like x64Marvell driver would be a good name.

getdriver

4. Open Device Manager and expand to show the Marvell Wireless Network Controller

miracast2

5. Right click/press and hold to display Properties and select the Driver tab, then select Update Driver.

miracast3

6. Browser to the folder where the driver is located and click OK.

miracast4

7.Windows display the path to the driver. Click Next and it will be installed.

miracast5

8. Reboot when prompted.

9. If you open Device Manager, you will see the new driver

miracast6

10. Windows will now find the Miracast device when you select Project. (If you did not try the previous work around of toggling WiFi off and on, you may need to use Add a wireless display the first time you want to you your Miracast device).

miracastworking


Hammacher-Schlemmer Features US$99.95 Miracast and DLNA Dongle

Hammacher-Schlemmer (@Hammacher), a mail-order retailer which claims to have the oldest, continuously published catalog in the US, is offering The Wireless iPhone to TV Converter for US$99.95. From the description:

image

imageThis is the wireless receiver that turns a television into a large-scale monitor for a mobile device. Rather than crowding around a handheld, four-inch screen to view vacation movies, your audience can enjoy real-time, high-definition mirroring of video and audio on any HDMI-enabled TV, monitor or projector. Using standard Wi-Fi connectivity, the device translates all output on the mobile device – including games, phone calls, video conferences, and music playlists – to the bigger monitor, even displaying content in landscape or portrait mode, depending on the orientation of the source device. Connects to non-HDMI screens with the included USB cable. Supports Miracast for Android devices and DLNA for iOS devices. 5″ H x 2″ W x 1″ D. (1/2 lb.)

Some folks consider this a Chromecast competitor; I’d say it’s more similar to EZCast and IPush dongles. I believe the description should read “Connects to non-MHL screens …”, which don’t deliver power through the connector. Obviously, a free HDMI input is required. Perhaps the high price is justified by Hammacher’s “lifetime guarantee.”


Actions Semiconductor Offers iPush and iCast Android Apps for Mysterious Miracast and DLNA Device

Actions Semiconductor (Actions-Semi) is a fabless semiconductor supplier located in Zhuhai, Guandong, China. Google’s Play Store lists ActionsSemi as the seller of the iPush app:

image_thumb[4]

and iPush Mirror app for Android, which has phone screens similar to other DLNA apps:

image_thumb[7]

Following is the Google’s attempt to translate Action-Semi’s description:

iPush Mirror is Actions for the band WiFi Miracast function – iPush device development a powerful media sharing application.

Which iPush equipment not only through DLNA, Air Play on TV Phone peace panel video, music, pictures, the phone also supports WiFi Miracast and flat screen content is fully displayed on the TV, allowing you to achieve true multi-screen interaction, entering a new era of home entertainment! [Trademarks capitalized.]

Actions-Semi also offers the iCast app with similar phone screens and the following description:

The iPush app designed for iPush devices is a useful tool for sharing media files. You can share videos, music, photos, online video and TV program on the TV set with your family or friends easily. Sharing your happiness, start over here.

Actions-Semi updated iPush to v1.9.10 and introduced iCast v1.0.0 on 8/8/2013; they updated iPush Mirror to v1.1.8 on 8/26/2013. All three versions share the same What’s New details (Google translation):

    • Discover the sharing devices automatically.
    • Push your media files to the TV set.
    • Playback movies, music, pictures locating on the other sharing devices.
    • Configurate the IPush device with your phone/pad.
    • Supporting 800*480, 1280 * 720, 480*320 resolution

I’ve ordered a MOCREO M1 RK2928 iPush HDMI Wireless Adapter Airplay Miracast Receiver for iPhone / Android Phone from DealExtreme for US$25.90, including shipping via Hong Kong post to evaluate the seller’s Miracast- and iPush-compatible claims. Actions-Semi markets the ATV6007B Smart Living Room SoC, which appears to compete with the Rockchip RK2928. Therefore, I’m not sure if the MOCREO M1 uses iPush or iCast apps. I’ll update this or a related post when I receive and test it.


AliExpress Reports 256 Miracast TV Stick Products Available from 23 Chinese Suppliers

A modern-day Scheherazade might title the results of a search for miracast tv stick on this Chinese website “AliExpress and the 23 Thieves.” Shenzhen Xinlinuo Technology Co., Ltd. is the ringleader with this description Miracast Certified Wireless HDMI Adapter Smart Life! WIFI Dongle Miracast TV Stick for an “OEM V5” product:

image

What’s worse is the firm’s inclusion of a Google Chromecast screen in its detailed advertisement of this sham product (scroll down):

image

Miracast has enough problems with firms who have actually certified devices as Miacast compliant that aren’t, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S4 (see my Samsung Galaxy S4 Screen Mirroring Is Not Miracast Compliant article of 8/1/2013), without bogus claims of Miracast and Chromecast compliance by numerious fly-by-night Chinese electronics dealers.



Tech Journalist Mistakenly Contends New MHL 3.0 Spec Does “Miracast One Better”

Andrew Cunningham (@AndrewWrites) asserted “Updated standard does Slimport and Miracast one better” in a deck for his Get 4K video from your phone’s USB port with the new MHL 3.0 spec article of 8/20/2013 for ArsTechnica:

imageSimultaneous charging is one of MHL’s advantages over Slimport and Miracast.

MHL Consortium

imageThe Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) standard already lets you connect certain phones, tablets, and other devices to your TV using adapters that connect to the devices’ micro-USB ports. But the consortium has just announced that an upgrade is coming: the new MHL 3.0 standard adds support for 4K displays. This will allow mobile devices that support the standard to output 3840×2160 (also known as 2160p) video at up to 30 frames per second, an upgrade from MHL 2.0′s 1080p.

imageThe updated standard can transmit data and video simultaneously, and a device connected via MHL can draw up to 10 watts of power to charge your device. Backward compatibility with MHL versions 1.x and 2.x, HDCP 2.2 DRM support, and 7.1 channel surround sound support are also part of the standard.

The MHL standard competes with a few standards (as well as Apple’s proprietary AirPlay), all of which are designed to put your phone or tablet’s display up on your TV. There’s SlimPort (used most prominently in Google’s Nexus 4 and 2013 Nexus 7), a DisplayPort-compatible spec which like MHL uses the micro USB port to connect over HDMI. There’s also Miracast, an Airplay-like standard that uses a Wi-Fi-equipped receiver to beam video to your TV without the use of cables (Miracast support was baked into Android beginning in version 4.2, but it’s also included in a smattering of other devices). Neither standard supports 4K video at this point, making MHL 3.0 slightly more appealing for those on the bleeding edge of TV technology.

The new standard will be available to download from the MHL Consortium in September. The standard is backed by a number of companies that make up the consortium, including Nokia, Samsung, Toshiba, Sony, and Silicon Image, Inc.

Cunningham compares apples and oranges; Miracast is a wireless, not a wired protocol. There’s no way you can wirelessly charge a smartphone battery with WiFi. It’s questionable whether any smartphone will capture 2040p (4K) video in the foreseeable future. If otherwise, would consumers pay for it?


CNXSoftware Reports New Miracast Adapters Will Use Mediatek MT8636 SoC

CNXSoftware (@cnxsoft) described Miracast Adapters Coming Up with Mediatek MT8636 SoC in an 8/7/2013 post:

It’s already possible to use Android mini-PCs such as T428 as a Miracast adapters, and we’ve also seen low cost HDMI dongles based on Actions Semi ATV6003 and Rockchip RK2928 that should eventually work as Miracast adapters, and sell for less than $30 retail. But there’s now a new SoC targeting DLNA/Miracast adapter: Mediatek MT8636. I don’t have any details about the SoC itself, but I could find a few Chinese companies working on the solutions. The most common is the one shown below, which can be called W18, SH-18, or WFD-04 depending on the company.

MT8636_Miracast_AdapterThe device is said to have the following specifications:

  • SoC – MT8636 highly integrated SOC
  • System Memory – 128MB DDR3 (TBC)
  • Storage – 128 MB Flash (TBC)
  • Wi-Fi – MT7601 WiFi 802.11b/g/n with Wi-Fi direct
  • Video Decode – 1080p H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC) CBP, MP, HP at L1 to 4.1
  • Audio Decode – LPCM and optional AAC
  • Video Output – HDMI V1.4,  HDCP 2.x (optional)
  • Wireless display content up to 1080p HD resolution, with latency < 200ms
  • USB – microUSB for power
  • Power consumption – Up to 2.5W (5V/500mA)
  • Dimensions – 38 x 90mm

Hopefully the latency will be less than 100ms most of the time, and not just less than 200ms, as greater latency would affect the user experience. As usual, it’s very difficult to find the manufacturer, but I assume it could be Menoda Technology, a Shenzhen based manufacturer, that sells the device as W18. There’s also another company called RFTech that makes CPM218, a device with similar internal specifications, but a different enclosure.

The only information about price I could currently find is a 50 pieces lot on Aliexpress that goes for $45 per unit, which IMHO is too high for this type of product. There’s also a quick start guide on this Aliexpress page that shows the list of supported devices including Samsung Galaxy S4/S3/Note II/Note 10.1, Nexus 4, LG Optimus G, etc…

Google’s highly successful Chromecast has established an effective price cap of US$35 for all video or screen casting dongles.

It will be interesting to see if any Chinese manufacturer claiming Miracast compatibility for a dongle obtains interoperability certification from the WiFi Alliance. I’m surprised claim for compatibility with Galaxy S4 and other Samsung devices. As noted in my Samsung Galaxy S4 Screen Mirroring Is Not Miracast Compliant article, Samsung’s own technical team says the S4 isn’t Miracast compliant. 


Google’s $35 Chromecast Dongle Emulates Miracast with Chrome Browser

imageGoogle hasn’t claimed Miracast compatibility (as of 8/2/2013) for its Chromecast device, but you can use an experimental feature in the Chrome browser v28.0.1500 or later to share (cast) the full screen with your Miracast dongle. The secret is to click the Chrome Cast icon in the address bar to open the Cast This Tab To … menu and click the highlighted button to open the Cast menu (v28.0.1500.95 m is shown here):

ScreenCasting2-575px

Click the Cast Entire Screen (Experimental) option to begin casting in full-screen mode. You can expect a significant delay between the time you select full-screen casting and appearance of your device’s screen on the HDTV display.

Ryan Whitwam (@RyanWhitwam) discussed this feature in his Chromecast tab casting: How to stream your desktop, browser, and local media to your TV (video) article of 7/29/2013 for ExtremeTech and says this about tab casting:

imageTabs are sent to the Chromecast locally, whereas all the standard video streaming from phones and tablets comes down over the internet. The tab casting seems to be slightly more delayed than video, even though it’s only moving across your WiFi network — possibly due to processing overhead.

imageThe default mode is to only send the page over to the TV, cropping out the Chrome interface and operating system UI. This is probably what you want for most applications. You can get to various video providers that aren’t supported by native apps, and check out regular websites on the TV. The lag makes the latter a bit awkward, but it’s workable.

The Google Cast extension also allows the Chromecast to display the entire desktop as well, but this is labeled “experimental.” It’s in a drop-down menu within the standard tab casting popup. The lag is roughly the same as I saw with the regular tab casting, even while pushing over my multi-monitor desktop. Impressive.

Tab casting can also be used to route locally stored content (such as downloaded TV episodes and movies) to the TV, which is not really what Chromecast is designed to do. Simply use Chrome to navigate to a location on your hard drive by pasting the file location into the address bar (a network drive would probably also work). Chrome can play back almost all audio files and many video files natively. Both H.264 MP4 files and WMV encoded videos play just fine.

Tab casting is already incredibly robust for a beta feature. It will be quite interesting to see where this feature goes in the future. It’s not quite to the level of Apple AirPlay mirroring on iOS, but it’s getting close.

Now read: Chromecast hacked: It’s based on Google TV and Android, not Chrome OS

Darren Yates (@darrenyatesau) explained Chromecast vs Miracast – what’s the difference? in a 7/27/2013 post to the Minipute.com site:

imageWith Google launching its new $35 Chromecast dongle, there’s a bit of confusion around how it compares with Android 4.2′s new Miracast feature and whether or not the two are the same thing.

imageSo what’s the Chromecast vs Miracast story? Miracast is a new feature integrated into Android 4.2 that allows two supporting devices to create a direct ‘peer-to-peer’ connection between themselves over Wi-Fi for the purpose of audio-video mirroring. It’s a bit like Intel’s WiDi (wireless display) technology. In fact, WiDi supports Miracast as of version 3.5. The idea with Miracast is that it allows you to transmit up to 1080p (1920×1080-pixel) video and 5.1-channel digital audio over a direct-connect Wi-Fi link between say your supporting phone and a Miracast dongle on your big-screen TV. In that regard, Miracast is a bit like using a Bluetooth audio dongle where audio is played and transmitted from an Android smartphone via Bluetooth to a tiny Bluetooth dongle connected to your audio Hi-Fi setup.

Chinese chipmaker Rockchip recent demonstrated a Miracast dongle it believes could be made for $10 or integrated into smartphones or tablets at low cost, so the technology isn’t expensive.

Chromecast is similar but works differently. It’s basically a single-function mini PC that streams video from  the web via its own Wi-Fi hotspot that must link into your existing Wi-Fi network. So rather than a direct connection like Miracast, Chromecast links into your Wi-Fi network. It also runs an embedded version of Chrome OS that basically runs video through a built-in browser. You initiate playback of videos from a PC (Windows, Mac OS X or Linux) or from a mobile app. In this regard, it’s more like a simple network media player but with support for online services such as YouTube and Netflix.

So putting it more simply, Miracast is a way of transmitting HDMI-grade audio and video over a direct peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network with another Miracast-capable device. Chromecast is more like a network media player you control via web browser or mobile app like Plex or XBMC where your mobile device acts like a remote control rather than originating playback device.

For a tutorial on tab casting, see my Casting MPEG-4/H.264 Video Files with Chrome from a Windows Laptop post.


Google’s $35 Chromecast Dongle Might Redefine the Media Player Market with Miracast

This article was moved here because Chromecast isn’t Miracast-compatible.


Forthcoming OVO Media Player Claims Will Support Miracast

Update 9/6/2013: Indiegogo reported on 9/6/2013 that OVO raised only US$37,051 of its $100,000 crowdfunding target, so the fate of the OVO remains in doubt.

CNXSoft (@cnxsoft) reported forthcoming $49 OVO Egg-Shaped Media Player Helps You Collect and Organize Online Videos With your Smartphone on 8/2/2013:

imageIf you’re often watching online videos on your smartphone, and when back home, you’d rather continue watching those on your television, OVO may be for you. The device is a tiny media player shaped like an egg, with a multimedia processor, a minimum amount of RAM and flash, and Wi-Fi.

ovo

The full specifications haven’t been provided, but here’s what we know about the hardware:

  • SoC- Full HD Media Processor
  • System Memory – 2Gbit DDR3 (256 MB)
  • Storage – 2GBit NAND Flash (256 MB)
  • Connectivity – 2×2 WiFi 802.11b/g/n single-band
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4
  • Dimensions – 61.85 mm (h), 63.32 mm (w), 72.78 mm (d)
  • Weight – 77 grams

There’s no word about the OS, but it’s probably running some sort of Embedded Linux distribution. Another interesting point about the hardware is that the Wi-Fi module is not placed horizontally, but inclined, and according to the company this improves Wi-Fi reception compared to other devices with a chip antenna.

Typical Home Setup with 3 OVO

Typical Home Setup with OVO Connected to Each TV

On the software side, you’ll need to install OVO-Q app on your smartphone (Android-based or iPhone), which will connect to OVO-Q Cloud, and allow you to:

  • Autoplay – play selected online videos simply by pressing on the OVO.
  • Resume – watch videos continuously at different locations.
  • Switch Play – switch video play between your handheld device and the OVO.

The OVO device itself also supports the following features:

  • Miracast – mirror your screen to TV. [Emphasis added.]
  • My Mediashare media contents from your mobile device to TV.
  • Media Apps - play media contents to TV from 3rd party Media Apps, including DLNA-compliant and proprietary services. More content services will be provided, including Apps offering substantial Chinese videos.
  • OVO Remote and OVO Setting - turn your smartphone into a remote controller when playing selected videos on TV, or change your OVO hardware settings.

OVO_App

The best way to understand what the device does, is probably to watch the Indiegogo video below.

In some ways, the hardware and software features looks similar to Google Chromecast, but those are actually different products. First OVO is also a Miracast and DLNA adapter, features that AFAIK are not available (yet) with the Chromecast. Chromecast interact with online services, whereas OVO seems to deal with your own videos only (TBC). OVO will be available in Europe, North America and Taiwan, when it’s shipped in October 2013, whereas it’s not clear when Chromecast will be available outside the US.

If you’re interested, you can pledge $39 (Early birds), and later $49 to get the device hopefully shipped in October. The campaign is not available internationally, and they will only ship to Europe, US, Canada, and Taiwan. Shipping is free to the US and Taiwan, but you have to add $20 to ship to Canada and Europe. There are also twin pack, family and company pledges to order more OVOs, at a lower per unit price, or with some extra goodies (e.g. HDMI cables).

Thanks to CSilie for the tip.

I’ve pledged $39 and will report my results, if and when I receive an OVO.


EnyTech PTV-01 TVStick supports Miracast or DLNA

The AndroidPC.es blog posted Analysis: Adapter DLNA/Miracast EnyTech PTV-01 (Bing translation to English) on 7/5/2013:

Today [we] analyze this DLNAdevice /Miracast thanks to a Sample offered by Eny Technology these systems to disseminate multimedia media via wireless every day are more numerous and are certainly useful in some scenarios. This device combines two wireless distribution facilities in the same unit more extended between mobile devices.

For OEM/ODM information with Eny Technology. Also available on Aliexpress from €38 (US$47.49) including shipping and EBAY (US$64.88). [US$ added.]

Specifications

  • CPU Mips 500 MHz
  • 256 MB of DDR3 memory
  • Wifi Realtek 802.11b/g/n 2.4 GHz 150Mbps
  • Operating system based on Linux
  • Connection microUSB OTG

The Miracast function is supported at the moment with the Smartphone LG NEXUS 4, 2/2s XiaoMi, SONY xperia and HTC ONE with Android 4.2. In addition to other models of tablets that have the option “display wireless”.

image

Is available as an alternative application MirrorOP from Realtek which gives access to Miracast works it to other Android devices to this function, is necessary to be Root and purchase a license of use.

It is also compatible with Samsung Galaxy S4 using the newly released ROM Google Edition, the MirrorOP app does not work with a Samsung official Rom. It seems that the only [a] Korean company can make Miracast with their own original devices (expensive). …

MIRACAST

Double-clicking a clip on the inside of the device button go to mode Miracast which we have to activate on our Android device from settings > display > screen wireless. Our Android will detect the Wifi network that creates the Stick Miracast and we can connect directly.

Can also use the app MirrorOP from Realtek, is necessary to be Root and purchase a license of use.

As you can see in the following video connection is immediate and is fully transparent, simply have directly the content of our Android screen on TV, no more complications, a system that is called to the success in the future no doubt.

See the original post for an embedded video Miracast demo. ShenZhen HiDeer Technology Co. Ltd. describes the device as Hot Miracast Dlan DLNA WIFI DISPLAY All Share Cast Wifi Display Dongle PTV-01 for Nexus 4, Samsung S3 S4 Note 2 Push to TV big Screen on the AliExpress site:

  1. Support LCD TV, Monitor and Projector which have HDMI input slot.
  2. Support Miracast , DLNA, MirrorOp wireless transmission protocol
  3. PTV have 2 working mode: DLNA & WIFI DISPLAY

Notice:

  • PTV-01 support all Android Phone and Tablet PC with Miracast / Wifi Display Function
  • LG Nexus 4 Have wifi display Function
  • SamSung S3,  S4, Not II have AllShare Cast function.

The above indicates to me that the PTV-01 supports Samsung’s AllShare for DLNA features. There’s no mention of a Google ROM requirement for Miracast screen mirroring.


Reko QT800 AllWinner A20-Powered MiniPC Claims to Support Miracast

CnxSoft posted Reko QT800 mini PC Based on AllWinner A20 Comes with Dual Band 300Mbps Wi-Fi (Maybe) on 7/12/2013:

In an HDMI TV stick market now dominated by Rockchip RK3066 and RK3188 based devices, Reko QT800 is one of the rare AllWinner A20 mini PCs. It comes with 1 GB RAM, 4 to 8 GB flash, as well as dual band Wi-Fi (2.4/5.0Ghz) that is said to support up a Wi-Fi connection up to 300Mbps.

Reko_QT800

Reko QT800 Specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner A20 dual core Cortex A7 @ 1.5GHz (yeah, right… 1GHz is more like it) with Mali-400 MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 4 to 8 GB Nand Flash + micro SD slot (up to 32 GB)
  • Connectivity – Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (2.4/5.0 GHz – 300 Mbps)
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 (1080p)
  • USB – 1x micro USB OTG port, 1x micro USB port for power, and 1x USB 2.0 Host port
  • Button – Recovery button
  • Dimensions – 106*33*14mm
  • Weight – 34g

The devices runs Google Android 4.2.2, and according to one seller on Taobao, and a few other Chinese websites, QT800 is said to support DLNA, Airplay, and Miracast (with a special ROM???), and dual band Wi-Fi with support for 300Mbps connection. This latter claim, even if true, may not bring much performance improvement.

I can’t find if the device comes with cables and power supply, since none of the sellers thought it might be a useful indication… Sellers on Aliexpress do not mention dual band Wi-Fi, 300Mbps claim, nor Airplay support, and sell it for about $44 including shipping.

The TaoBao seller’s REKO QT800 dual-core Android 4.2 mini-computer MK802 adapter Miracast set-top box item (Bing translation) emphasizes its Miracast capabilities, but I believe many claims by Chinese vendors are for Miracast sender/transmitter capability and don’t cover the receiver (Miracast dongle) feature that mirrors sender/transmitter screens to a monitor/HDTV set. I recommend waiting for reviews that explicitly test Miracast receiver capability before making a purchase.


Giayee TVB103 TVBox Supports Miracast and Provides VGA/Audio Outputs (Coming Soon)

Brad Linder (@bradlinder) reported a forthcoming TVB103 quad-core Android TV box with VGA, HDMI output in a 6/14/2013 post to his Liliputing.com blog:

imageIt’s not hard to find an Android-powered TV box with a Rockchip RK3188 quad-core processor these days. But it is unusual to find one with a VGA port, as well as the usual HDMI output.

imageThe Giayee TVB103 is one of the few devices I’ve seen which fits the bill.

Giayee TVB103

imageIt’s a device that you can plug into a television or monitor to run Android apps on the big screen.

In addition to the video ports, it has RCA jacks for audio, an S/PDIF port, and a 10/100 Ethernet jack. The device also features WiFi and Bluetooth. There are also 2 USB ports for connecting a keyboard, mouse, remote control adapter, or external storage.

It’s powered by Rockchip’s fastest ARM Cortex-A9 processor and the TVB103 features up to 2GB of RAM and 8GB to 32GB of built-in storage. There’s a microSD card slot if you need extra storage space.

Unfortunately one thing we still don’t know about the Giayee TVB103 is the price.

tvb103_02

via AndroidPC.es

I believe few potential TVBox customers are interested in VGA video, but audio input/outputs and a wired LAN connection are desirable features. See Giayee’s specifications sheet (PDF) for explicit Miracast support details:

image

Price information is missing.


Google’s Rumored $35 Miracast Dongle

Kellex asked Is Google Creating a $35 HDMI Dongle Called Chromekey? in a 6/7/2013 post to the DroidLife blog:

image_thumb15The week leading up to Google I/O, we received a tip that mentioned the possibility of Google announcing a product called Chromekey. At the time, we thought this was going to be an HDMI-style dongle that could plug in to any monitor or TV in order to make Chrome OS accessible on any screen at a low price point. While we still believe there is an HDMI-style dongle in the works called Chromekey, new information points towards it being more of a receiver, that can interact with your smartphone, tablet, or computer to extend not only a Chrome experience, but also streaming video and other content to your TV.

Let’s talk about what we think we know.

What exactly is Chromekey?

Chromekey is an HDMI dongle that can plugin to a TV or monitor and then display mirrored content from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. It allows you to put a Chrome browser onto a big screen, or stream videos and access other apps from smaller screens to your TV.

How does it work?

In order to use Chromekey, you’ll need to have an open HDMI port on your TV. Once connected to your TV, it’s powered by a USB cable (plugs into TV or AC adapter), attaches to your local WiFi network, updates automatically to new software, and is an extension of the content you consume on your other devices.

image_thumb81You will be able to “CAST” the Chrome browser from your phone, tablet, or computer to your TV so that you can enjoy the full internet on any display. But beyond just Chrome, the Chromekey will allow you to mirror content from YouTube, Google Play, and Netflix directly to your TV. You could even pull up sites like Hulu, ABC, Google Maps, or other video sites.

It is our understanding that Google Chrome will receive an update in the near future that will allow it to mirror itself to other screens (so be on the lookout for that). We would also assume that an update to the mobile versions will include a “CAST” icon that when pressed, turns blue to let you know that you are connected to a TV. This is likely similar to what you see with the YouTube app currently.

So that also means that future apps could have “CAST” support built in, that would allow you to mirror them to your TV with the press of a button.

What are the specs?

The specs won’t blow you away by any means, but since it’s more of a receiver than a powerhouse computer, you shouldn’t expect them to. We’re looking at an HDMI plug, a single core processor, 2GB of storage, 512MB of RAM, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, VP8 (Chrome mirroring), CEC compatibility, video resolution at 1080p, and is powered by USB (or an adapter).

Availability and price?

According to sources, the Chromkey will launch for $35 on Google Play, at Best Buy (both online and in stores), and through Amazon. For a limited time, Google may even offer free shipping should you pre-order the device.

Still no word on a launch date, but it sounds as if it could be ready in the “coming months.” That’s not much of an exact time frame, and we were sort of expecting to see this at I/O and didn’t, so it’s anyone’s guess at this point.

Interested in a product like this? At that price point, it seems like a product you would want a couple of, to attach to every TV in your house.

US$35 appears to me to be an unrealistic MSRP for a MiniPC with WiFi, even with the low-end specs that Kellex reported. But Rockchip’s new ultra low cost Miracast dongle prototype could make a US$25 dongle possible. Note that all current MiniPCs and TVBoxes “… allow you to mirror content from YouTube, Google Play, and Netflix directly to your TV” with DLNA.

Update 9/6/2013: Kellex obviously got the story wrong.


Rockchip’s Ultra Low Cost Miracast Dongle Design

CnxSoft reported in their Rockchip Unveils RK3168 Dual Core Processor, Showcases $10 Miracast Adapter article of 4/14/2013:

… Rockchip The company also had a few demos to show some new features for Android such as multiple windows support,  hand writing recognition, and Miracast with Android 4.2.2 with about 80ms lag. Chen Feng, Vice President at Rockchip, explains that 720p is working fine but 1080p may be more challenging for both the Miracast source and display.

Linux based Miracast Adapter Powered by RK2928

Linux based Miracast Adapter Powered by RK2928

Speaking about Miracast, they also have an ultra-low cost Miracast dongle built around RK2928 running Linux with 16MB RAM and a small NOR flash that can be produced for as low as $10 US. This is obviously the manufacturing price or possibly just BoM cost, but it still means we should be able to buy Miracast adapters for $20 to $25 in a few months. … [Emphasis added.]

Read more: http://www.cnx-software.com/2013/04/14/rockchip-unveils-rk3168-dual-core-processor-showcases-10-miracast-adapter/#ixzz2YeSkmYBe

Some folks would be willing to settle for a 720P Miracast dongle for US$20 to $25. The RK2928 would make Google’s erstwhile Chromekey device practical if it can render Miracast at 1080p.


$25.60 iPush WiFi DLNA Adapter for Android

DealExtreme dropped the price and Miracast feature claim after CnxSoft posted a $32 iPush Wi-Fi DLNA / Miracast Adapter for Android report on 5/31/2013:

Last time I wrote about Miracast / DLNA dongles, the price was about $55, but today I’ve found a new device closer to my target price ($25): an iPush Miracast adapter that sells for $31.90 on DealExtreme. [Update: Several users report it’s only a DLNA dongle, and it does not support Miracast yet]

IPUSH_Miracast_Adapter

Here are the specifications according to DealExtreme:

  • SoC – Allwinner A10s Cortex A8 + Mali-400 GPU
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for power
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4
  • Supports DLNA and Miracast mode
  • Power – 5V / 0.5A

The device comes with an HDMI cable and a micro USB cable used to connect the device to your TV HDMI and USB ports, or if your TV lacks USB, [and] a USB power adapter.

However, I’ve done a little more research, and it turns out iPush is also a product designed by Action Semi, that just does the same thing, and with the same enclosure. zol.com.cn wrote about an event showing a Miracast demo with iPush and an Android 4.2.2 tablet powered by ATM7029. It could be DX.com got the specs wrong, or it’s just a product with the same casing but different board. [Emphasis added.]

The specifications are as follows:

  • CPU -  ACTIONS SEMI ATV6003 @ 400MHZ
  • Memory – 64M DDR2
  • Storage – 16M Nor Flash
  • Video Output – Standard HDMI interface
  • Wi-fi – 802.11 b/g/n (Support for Wi-Fi Direct)
  • USB – Hi-speed micro USB
  • Video formats – AVI, WMV, RM, 3GP, MKV, MP4, ASF, VOB, MPG, TS, TP, DVIX, MOV up to 720p
  • Power supply – 5V / 500mA via micro USB  port
  • Dimensions -  63 x 22 x 9.5 mm
  • Weight – 15 grams

The device runs Linux, and is said to be compatible with Bubbleupnp and Skifta, both of which are UPnP/DLNA Android apps. Some resellers tell you to install iPush APK on your smartphone or tablet in order to use the device. Please note that the maximum resolution is 720p, which may be fine, as many smartphones / tablets may have issues to handle Miracast 1080p smoothly. This device competes directly in terms of features and price with the upcoming Rockchip RK2918 Miracast adapter. If you search for “ATV6003″, you’ll find several companies offering DLNA/Airplay/Miracast dongles with different casings, but most of them do not appear to be for sale just yet. DealExtreme actually sells another device it calls D2 with ATV6003 for $33, but only mentions DLNA and Airplay, and not Miracast.

Bear in mind that resellers sometimes add “Miracast” in the description because it helps selling their device, but it’s not properly supported, at least with the current firmware. According to customers’ reviews, DLNA/UPnP appears to be working fine however.

Even though it doesn’t support Miracast, the iPush device proves that it’s possible to sell a dongle with accessories for US$25 and shipping prepaid to the US, but it might not be profitable at that price.


CloudnetGo’s CR-M200 Miracast for TV Adapter

The AndroidPC.es site published Analysis: Adapter Wifi Miracast for TV CloudnetGo CR-M200 on 5/20/2013. Following is the Bing translation:

From CloudnetGo send us a piece of technology, a Miracast for CR-M200TV adapter, this small device connected to the TV and a Miracast compatible device can transmit contents in mirror mode easily to our TV. We have tested it thoroughly and we can say that we have in our hands a gadget that will delight of the most geeks.

Its technical specifications are not bad for this type of device.

  • Processor Rockchip Cortex A9 1 GHz
  • 256 DDR3 memory
  • GPU Mali400
  • Wifi 802.11 b/g /n

To highlight the chip mounted wifi that supports connections N 300mbps

This Dongle Miracast is compatible for the moment with the Smartphone LG NEXUS 4, XiaoMi 2/2s and SONY xperia with Android 4.2.

Contents of the box:

When it comes from a sample of manufactures that it sends us directly CloudnetGo, we find a simple small cardboard box where is well protected the Dongle. Accompanies it a cable MicroUSB that will help us to feed the Dongle from the USB output of TV or monitor where you want to use it.

destacada

This small dongle is powered by a micro USB port located on the back side and only need 500mA for operation which means that any TV that has USB ports you can feed it perfectly without need to purchase an external transformer. Its size is very small, almost half of a TV-Stick, which is welcomed since this size ensures its discretion.
Conex

We can observe a cord in the back which is nothing else than the wifi antenna. The feel of the Dongle is to be compact and resistant despite having perforated enclosure to a large extent to facilitate the cooling of the device. We also find a small hole where you can access the hidden Reset button, need to upgrade Dongle.

Connection of the CR-M200 is very simple, feed it with a typical cable usb microusb, plug into the hdmi port of your TV and access to the hdmi channel in question. When you select the corresponding HDMI channel on TV you will see a screen like this. You can see which firmware version is 0.43, although we really used the 0.58 for the analysis, after upgrading the Dongle.

Miracast

In the part of the smartphone you have used a Nexus 4 and the connection has been very simple. Just go to settings- >display- >Wireless display and activate it on the button Yes/NO coach who is in the upper right corner. After this action we see as appears on the screen detected the dongle with the name LOLLIPOP-83257 (which can be changed), to connect us nothing more easy click on the name and let technology do its magic. After a few seconds you will see on our TV screen image that shows our smartphone. Connect it, as you can see, is child’s play.

Screenshot_2013-05-14-15-22-08

Miracast technology uses a wifi connection directly between the two devices to transmit data, this can make us think that we will lose the connection to the internet (via wifi) when using CR-M200dongle, then nothing further from reality because we can continue using internet without any problem.

For things that we like to do tests have run Wifi Analyzer to see how strong is the link between our smartphone and dongle wifi and the result is more than satisfactory:

Screenshot_2013-05-14-15-21-34

In the demonstration video that we made you can see the most common uses that may occur, surf the internet, play, watch videos… We’ve also recorded the connection process so you can see how simple that is. You can see that there is only a slight delay to between the Smartphone and the TV that does not prevent use of the Dongle in many games and makes it especially suitable for playback of multimedia content, navigation, etc…

Conclusions:

As you can see can not be easier to share content in mode mirror from our Smartphone to a TV with Dongle CR-M200 from CloudnetGo. Us to especially liked by the easy configuration and commissioning, as you have seen it is child’s play. On the other hand we have used a Dongle with a Firmware in the test phase, from the manufacturer which indicate that they expect to reduce the delay between the Dongle and the TV in the final version of the device.

Being a cutting-edge technology at the moment there are very few Smartphones compatible 100% with Miracast at the moment only the LG NEXUS 4, XiaoMi 2/2s and SONY xperia and absolutely need Android 4.2, which already incorporates this feature. Note that some manufacturers such as Samsung have chosen have chosen to restrict this technology in their terminals only to devices Miracast of its own brand, for their own benefit.[*]

Ultimately the CR-M200 is a gadget to take into account, for the quality that has and its ease of connection and use. It may be advisable to convert quickly and easily any screen with HDMI on a Multimedia Player to share the contents of our Smartphone easily on any screen (or projector) with HDMI.

We hope that soon this Miracast support extends to all brands of Android devices (Smartphones, Tablets…), because we felt it very interesting and especially easy to use…

We are waiting to know both its price end availability soon. At the moment only can make a reservation to the wholesale at CloudnetGo .

Note: Our thanks to Daemonium, regular contributor of this Blog who selflessly volunteered to carry out the analysis of the Dongle with your Nexus 4 CR-M200

* I assume restricting Miracast technology to devices of one’s own brand prevents one from certifying them as Miracast-compatible.


Tekxon’s AX-14 DLNA, WiDi and Miracast Adapter

CNXSoftware reported a $55 AX-14 DLNA, WiDi & Miracast Dongle Works with Android / iOS Devices, and Windows 7/8 PC on 4/10/2013:

Miracast is a new standard allowing you to play videos or mirror your Android device display on a TV via Wi-Fi direct. All you need is a Wi-Fi device that can be connected to the HDMI and USB (for power) ports of your TV, and decode common video codecs. There are not many devices available on the market, but I’ve just found out about AX-14, a Wi-Di and Miracast HDMI adapter that lets you connect your Windows 7 or 8 to your TV via Wi-Di, or your Android / iOS via Miracast. The device also supports DLNA. …

image_thumb121

Read more.

You can learn more about the AX-14, which appears to be the TEKXON Wi-Fi Display Dongle  (WFD-01), and read illustrated operation guides for Windows and Android devices here.

Aliexpress offers the AX-14 for US$55.00 with air mail delivery from China prepaid. GeekBuying.com’s price for the AX-14 is US$94.99. An Amazon partner offers a Hzz wifi display dongle video sharing link mobile smart phones and PC with TV and Projector Full HD 1080p Compatible with IEEE802 & DLNA & Miracast, which appears to be the same device, for US$82.99 with free two-day freight for Prime subscribers.


Netgear’s PTV3000 Push2TV Miracast Box

Steve Dent (@Stevetdent) announced Netgear PTV3000 updated, supports Miracast-ready Android devices in a 2/18/2013 Engadget post:

Netgear PTV3000 updated, supports Miracastready Android devices

imageInterested in Miracast-ing from an Andoid phone via your Netgear Push2TV PTV3000 adapter? Want to know what all that meant? It’s understandable — Miracast is a very recent open standard that lets you echo the display from an enabled device like a smartphone or tablet onto your TV (think Apple’s AirPlay Mirroring). You’ll now be able to officially do that with the PTV3000 from the few Android devices that support Miracast: Samsung’s Galaxy S III, Note II and Note 10.1, LG’s Optimus G, the Google / LG Nexus 4, and various Sony Xperia models — all with Android 4.04 or higher.

imageThe PTV3000 also supports Intel’s WiDi standard, and actually brought Miracast support in an earlier beta firmware upgrade, though testers saw significant bugginess at the time. Many of those nags have been squelched with the new update, though, and you’ll also see a single interface for Intel WiDi and Miracast, both PIN and PBC support, 5GHz Miracast operation and faster bootup times, too. So, if you’ve been looking to get all those pixels crammed into your smartphone over to a bigger medium, hit the source or check the details after the break.

Supported Intel Wireless Display platforms:

  • Windows 7, Intel Wireless Display V3.1.29.0, Wifi driver V15.1.1
  • Windows 7, Intel Wireless Display V3.5.41.0, Wif driver V15.3.1
  • Windows 8 (systems upgraded form Windows 7), Intel Wireless Display V3.5.41.0, Wifi driver V15.3.50
  • Windows 8 (with Win8 preinstalled), Intel Wireless display, V3.5.41.0, Wifi driver V15.5.7

Supported Miracast platforms:

  • Samsung Galaxy S3 (Android 4.1.1 or above)
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
  • LG Optimus G (Android 4.0.4 or above)
  • Google Nexus 4 (Android 4.2.1)
  • Sony Xperia (various models with Android 4.0.4 or above)

Enhancements & Bug Fixes:

  • Miracast support for compatible mobile phones and tablets.
  • Combined Intel wireless display (Widi) and Miracast a single user interface. There is no need to use the push button on the side of the PTV3000 unit to switch between Widi and Miracast modes. The side push-button is strictly used to go into FW update mode.
  • (Miracast) Both PIN and PBC methods for WPS are supported. The device automatically communicates with the source device (mobile phone, tablet or laptop) to determine which WPS method to use.
  • (Miracast) The device is already PBC ready waiting for source to initiate connection.
  • Fixed HDCP connection error issue with some Sony mobile phones.
  • Fixed issue that screen projection does not take place until swiping action takes place on mobile phone.
  • Fixed some disconnection with mobile phone.
  • Device does not allow second Widi or Miracast souce device to interrupt existing Widi or Miracast session.
  • Enable 5Ghz Miracast operation with preferred operating channel as channel 40.
  • Reduced image size and faster boot time.
  • Fixed system lockup issue after wrong PIN entry.
  • Improved connectivity with Intel Widi running under Win8. Repaired issue in win8 that device connection has issue after removal of device under Devices and Printers interface in Win8.
  • Fixed issue of connecting screen appearing after a session teardown on Win7 laptop.
  • Fixed issue of one Widi session affecting screen projection of subsequent Widi or Miracast session.
  • (Widi) Fixed issue of cursor position not updated until “resize TV picture” takes place.
  • Fixed kernel panic issue that system goes into a non-responsive state.
  • Implement regional domain control allowing shipment to Europe, Australia, and Canada.
  • Localization support for international languages.

Installation Procedure

  1. Push and hold the WPS button on the side of the PTV3000 unit for more than 5 seconds.
  2. PTV3000 goes into firmware update mode. Firmware update procedure shows up on TV screen (also shown below on steps 3 to 6).
  3. Use your PC or mobile device and motivate to www.netgear.com/stream to check for and download the latest firmware.
  4. Using the wireless network manager utility on your device, search for “Push2TV” wireless network name (SSID) and connect.
  5. Open a web browser on your device and type http://192.168.3.1 into the URL bar of the browser.
  6. Follow the steps on the web page to upload the firmware image and complete the installation.

The PTV’s problem is that it’s only a Miracast device, not an Android MiniPC or TVBox. Hopefully, the update has been applied to boxes purchased in mid-2013.

Amazon sells the Netgear PTV3000-100NAS Push2TV Miracast/Wi-Di TVBox for US$54.99:

image_thumb19

Click here for a list of all Miracast-enabled and -enabling devices that Amazon sells, which start at about US$35.


Panasonic’s DMP-MS10 and DMP-MST60 Miracast-Enabled TVBoxes

T.C. Sottek reported Panasonic’s new Miracast-enabled streaming boxes now available starting at $79.99 in a 4/8/2013 post to The Verge:

Panasonic has announced that the new Miracast-enabled media streamers it unveiled at CES 2013 are now available, expanding the company’s lineup of screen-sharing set top boxes. Miracast, a video streaming standard rivaling Apple’s AirPlay ecosystem, gained momentum at CES this year as several manufacturers showed off Miracast-enabled equipment — but Miracast has remained nascent without widespread support in consumer devices.

image_thumb21

The $79.99 DMP-MS10 and $99.99 DMP-MST60 can be purchased now directly from Panasonic, and like other standard steaming set tops, they allow users to play video from Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and other providers. The MST60 supports 3D video playback, and also includes a 2D-to-3D conversion feature. Both set tops allow owners to use tablets and smartphones running Android 4.2 or higher (like the Galaxy S III or Nexus 4) to share movies, music, photos, and anything else on their mobile device with their television. [Panasonic photo and links added.]

The Panasonic Store sells the DMP-MS10 for $49.99 and the DMP-MST60 for US$89.99. Amazon prices are US$74.62 and US$87.99, respectively. PanasonicCanda has uploaded a 00:01:40 Panasonic DMP-MST60 MIracast video to You Tube. The You Tube page has links to many Miracast-related video segments. The primary selling point appears to be the ability to stream video to an HDTV without a WiFi hotspot.


Windows 8.1’s Miracast Support

imageEven Windows 8.1 is climbing on the Miracast bandwagon. Jensen Harris (@jensenharris) demonstrated a Surface Pro running Windows 8.1 and mirroring its screen to an HDTV with a Miracast receiver attached at 02:11:30 into the 03:56:26-long Day 1 Vision Keynote video archive from Microsoft’s World Wide Partners Conference in Houston, TX on 7/8/2013. Here’s a 00:02:16 excerpt from Jensen’s demo:

Jensen Harris demonstrating Miracast from a Surface Pro running Windows 8.1

 

I asked @jensenharris:

image

Click here for ActionTec’s ScreenBeam details and here for Amazon.com’s $69.99 ACTIONTEC SBWD100KIT01 ScreenBeam Universal Wireless Display Adapter Kit (Black) with a ScreenBeam transmitter dongle:

image

Amazon and ActionTec sell the ScreenBeam receiver alone for the same price. It’s not clear whether Amazon’s offerings are for the ScreenBeam Pro or an earlier model.

Earlier, Tom Warren (@tomwarren) reported Windows 8.1 to include native Miracast wireless display support and internet sharing in a 6/3/2013 article for The Verge:

Windows 8.1 Start Screen (Embargo)

image_thumb17Microsoft revealed a number of new features for its upcoming Windows 8.1 update last week, but at Tech-Ed today the company is focusing on business-related changes. Windows 8.1 will include native support for the wireless Miracast format, allowing users to mirror their screens to compatible devices. Miracast is designed as an open alternative to Apple’s own AirPlay mirroring, and makes use of Wi-Fi direct connections to stream content from a PC, smartphone, or other source to TVs.

Potentially, Microsoft could also include Miracast support in its upcoming Xbox One, making it possible for Windows 8.1 devices that are compatible with Miracast to wirelessly project their screens via the Xbox One. Display manufacturers and PC makers will both have to ensure their equipment is Miracast compatible for the Windows 8.1 support to work, but it helps opens up the door to a future without wired projectors.

Aside from Miracast, Windows 8.1 will also include Wi-Fi direct printing support and broadband tethering. The tethering support will allow compatible tablets and PCs to share a 3G or LTE connection as a wireless hotspot. It’s a common feature of modern smartphones, but as Microsoft targets small form factor Windows tablets it’s another option to share a connection to other devices.

There appear to be significant problems getting Miracast to work with Windows 8.1 on Surface RT and, to a lesser degree, Pro tablets. For example, see the Miracast Not Working thread in Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 Preview forum. According to Barb Bowman (see below post), the Surface RT doesn’t support mirroring its screen on Miracast-enabled displays.

Paul Thurrott (@thurrott) asserted “Still not as seamless as what Apple offers, sorry” in a deck for his Hands-On with Windows 8.1: Play article of 7/3/2013 for his Supersite for Windows blog:

In Windows 8.1, Microsoft is providing additional options for connecting your PC to external displays and playing content from the PC, or from online media services, to compatible devices like HDTVs and the Xbox 360. Curiously, these interfaces aren’t consolidated, however, and the Play To option from Windows 8/RT has been renamed to Play in this update.

If you’re curious about the truly new Miracast support that’s been added to Windows 8.1, please check out my Windows Secrets co-author Rafael Rivera’s post, Windows 8.1 features Miracast wireless display tech, and it works well [See below post]. In it, he explains that Miracast uses the Project option in the Devices charm rather than the Play (Play To in Windows 8/RT) option. This makes sense only if you know too much about these technologies, and I’m curious that Microsoft didn’t consolidate these options into a single interface to make life simpler on users.

The problem with both Miracast and Play/Play To (and Wi-Di for that matter) is that these industry standard display technologies simply don’t work as seamlessly as does Apple’s AirPlay. That said, I believe the previous Play To restrictions from Windows 8/RT—which I wrote about The Sad Tale of Play To and Windows 8—have been lifted in 8.1. (My Google TV-based Sony TV now shows up as working, for example.) And if you buy into the Xbox media ecosystem for some reason, you can also use the proprietary Play On Xbox functionality in apps like Xbox Video to get paid content from Windows 8/RT/8.1 from your PC to your Xbox 360.

Confused? Right. That’s the problem.

Anyhoo. In Windows 8.1, Microsoft has rebranded Play To as Play and they’ve changed the way that you access this functionality from the Devices charm and pane. Fortunately, it’s still pretty obvious.

First, you need to make sure that the device you want to use for playback is connected to your PC. This happens in PC Settings, as before, but with the changes in 8.1, you’ll need to do some extra digging, so navigate to PC & Devices and then Devices. Check your list of Play devices. If the device is present, you’re good to go.

If not, click Add a device and then select the device from the list. (I used my Xbox 360, which is Play To compatible.) …

Paul continues with the details for using the Xbox 360 as the rendering device.

Rafael Rivera (@WithinRafael) posted Windows 8.1 features Miracast wireless display tech, and it works well on 6/30/2013:

imageFor me, there was very little more frustrating than trying to get moving pictures from my PC to the TV. What should have been easy always turned into a nightmare of mismatching codec support (PlayTo), missing cables and adapters, and fumbling of FAT32 USB sticks (which can’t even hold your typical H.264 encoded movie). But that was then. Windows 8.1 is now. And we now have wireless display capabilities baked right into the OS.

Miracast is here!

To be more specific, Windows 8.1 (preview) ships with an implementation of the Miracast standard. This standard shipped a little under a year ago and defines a protocol that devices can use to share their “screen” with each other. That is, you can now do the things you wanted but failed to do with a TV companion, like show off a PowerPoint slide deck or stream a chick flick on date night.

The Miracast specification requires that devices transmit H.264 encoded video and at least 2-channel Linear Pulse-Code Modulation (LPCM) encoded audio. Devices can upgrade the latter support as needed (e.g. Dolby Advanced Codec 3) but otherwise that’s it. There’s not a lot room for OEMs to screw up here.

But does it work?

My set up consisted of a Surface Pro and an up-to-date Netgear Push2TV (PTV3000-100NAS, $59.99 Amazon) connected to a generic LG TV. The TV isn’t important here as the adapter acts as a Miracast bridge, connecting to the TV via HDMI (and optionally USB for power). With just a few flicks and taps on the Surface, I was able to effortlessly stream its screen to the TV. Woot!

What about my xxx PC and yyy TV?

Of course you’ll probably want to set this up using hardware different than mine. Here are the key features your Windows PC needs for success:

  • Wi-Fi. If you’re thinking about streaming from the desktop, you may want to pick up a wireless adapter. But make sure it’s…
  • A wireless device that supports Virtual Wi-Fi (introduced in NDIS 6.2) and Wi-Fi Direct (introduced in NDIS 6.3). You should see this in newer wireless devices that ship with Windows 8 support. (Most newer PCs have this so you’re probably okay.) To print the NDIS version of your network devices, open Powershell and issue this one liner: Get-NetAdapter | Select Name, NdisVersion
  • A display driver specifically for Windows 8.1 (i.e. WDDM 1.3). Both NVIDIA and AMD have preview code up. Microsoft is providing Intel drivers (9.18.10.3200) inbox for select chipsets.

(Based on preliminary code and findings. This list could change, beware.)

Walk me through this, please.

First, ensure you meet the requirements for connecting to a wireless display (see above).

Add a display

Add a display

Tap the Devices charm, Project, and finally the Add a display link.

Select a device

Select a device

Tap the newly discovered device you wish to project to.

Pair with the device

Pair with the device

Depending on the device manufacturer, you may or may not be given a pair challenge. This will require you to enter a PIN or press a physical button on the device.

Done

Done

If all goes well, wireless display projection should be active. You can verify or reconfigure projection by tapping the Devices charm then Project.

Add a displaySelect a devicePair with the deviceDone

Where can I read more? What if I need help?

There isn’t a lot of Windows 8.1 wireless display information up just yet. But if you’re a Windows driver developer, check out [Wireless Display (Miracast) Structures and Enumerations] on MSDN. Or the Miracast specification [Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Miracast™] on Wi-Fi Alliance’s website.

If you run into snags and met the hardware requirements above, feel free to tweet or email me. But please be cognizant of the fact that this stuff is undocumented and bleeding edge. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Device compatibility list

Sources
  • Surface Pro:  Working.
  • Surface RT: Does not currently support wireless display. As of writing, it uses a WDDM 1.2 driver, versioned 9.17.13.879. Perhaps with a bit of luck Microsoft/NVIDIA will issue out an update.
  • PCs with Intel HD Graphics 3000 or lower: No WDDM 1.3 drivers at this time.
  • PCs with Intel HD Graphics 4000, Iris Pro (5200), or P4### variants: Working. (Inbox drivers.)
Targets
  • Netgear Push2TV: Working.
  • Panasonic DMP-BDT230:  Windows asks you to press a button to complete WPS Push Button pairing, but device doesn’t have a button. [@davidkozera]


DLNA with Windows 7 and 8 

Nokia provides a free Play To app for Nokia phones (only) that you can download from the Windows Store:

imageEnjoy your photos, videos and music on other web-enabled (DLNA) devices using Play To in order to connect over the same Wi-Fi network. Discover devices you can connect to over Wi-Fi using Play To, including smart TVs, Blu-ray players, PCs and tablets.

You can’t currently connect to PS3 or stream media from the cloud with Play To. This latest version includes improved Wi-Fi connectivity ensuring it continues working with future devices and firmware updates. Update your phone with the latest firmware before downloading and installing this app.

Play To should find all DLNA-enabled devices on the local WiFi network. In my case, I have a UG007 MiniPC, Surface Pro running Windows 8, Surface RT running Windows 8.1 RT, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung ML2165-W printer, Roku 409, and an Acer Aspire laptop running Windows 7 on the network. My wife’s Nokia 822 with the Play To app installed connected immediately to the UG007 MiniPC, which displayed the following image from the sample Camera Roll photos after clicking the Play To icon on a black splash screen (see below):

NokiaCameraRollDLNA1

You can enable Windows 8 Pro and RT devices to serve as DLNA receivers by downloading Software Developer’s US$1.99 Play To Receiver app from the Windows Store:

image

I took advantage of Software Developer’s free one-day trial and installed the app on my Surface Pro. Upon starting, Play To Receiver displayed the following screen:

image

The message at the top of the screen requested Nokia users to read the Nokia Play To – Play To Receiver Video problems thread of 7/8/2013, which reported the following problems with Nokia Lumia 900 and 920 phones:

I am the Software Developer who made the Play To Receiver app for the Windows Store on Windows 8, I’m getting support requests from my users on the video not working. I am seeing the video from Nokia Play To on Lumia 920 and 900 to be very difficult to play. I got it to play a couple times, but usually it is as described above by vl_leo in #34.

I also used the Nokia Play To app going to Windows Media Player and to the Xbox360, the Windows Media Player had the same experience as the Play To Receiver app, but the Xbox360 worked albeit very delayed, it would keep pausing in 7 second intervals and jumping back in time.

Next I tried using Windows Media Player to stream videos to the Play To Receiver app and to the Xbox 360 and this worked great to both locations. The video started right up and played without breaks. I used the same video from all locations and saw bad performance only when playing from Nokia Play To.

I think the latest updates may have introduced some problem, it wasn’t always like this as you can see in the demo video inside the Play To Receiver app. If there is anything I can do to work with Nokia to create a great Play To experience between Windows Phone and Windows 8 contact me at my email. This should be one of the great features of Windows Phone and Windows 8 but at the moment it’s a bit broken down.

Swiping up on the app’s splash screen after installation displays a brief video of Software Developer demonstrating how to use Play To Receiver. For unknown reasons, the Lumia 822  was unable to connect to the Surface Pro. Removing power to my UG007-II (Rockchip) device, rebooting the Surface Pro and restarting enabled the Surface Pro connection, which displayed the same black Nokia splash screen as the UG007:

image

Unlike the UG007, which displayed images selected from the Lumia 822 after clicking the stylized start button, the same button on the Surface Pro didn’t respond to taps or mouse clicks. The splash screen was frozen.

Upgrading the Surface RT to 8.1 should have enabled the device as a DLNA receiver. However, the Lumia 822 didn’t recognize it when setting up connections. I installed Play To Receiver, but encountered the same frozen splash-screen button problem as with the Surface Pro. I’ve notified Software Developer of the issues and I’ll update this post if I find a solution to these problems. In the meantime, I’ll be using the Nokia as a test fixture to evaluate DNLA compliance of other MiniPCs and TVBoxes.

Barb Bowman (@barbbowman) described Using MSFT Uncertified Play To DLNA devices with W8 Modern UI Apps in a 3/30/2013 post to her Barb’s Connected World blog:

imageToday I’m one step closer to giving up my iPad as my Surface RT can now perform one more task on my must have list. Full DLNA Play To sharing from the Charms bar/Devices for non Microsoft certified devices was a biggie on my list.

A little history: In Windows 7, Microsoft introduced Play To which used the DLNA spec to let me send media from my computer to a DLNA DMR. I had so-so results with my 2009 Samsung TV due to poor transcoding support, but great results with my WDTV Live Hub and my SONOS speakers. The so-so experience on my TV and the not wonderful experience on other device by many many people caused Microsoft to rethink their strategy for Windows 8 and come up with their own certification process for devices to “insure” a good experience. This translated into a restrictive policy for Windows 8 Start Screen/Metro/Modern UI Apps where only MS certified devices would appear in an applications Settings: Devices menu. What this meant for me was that I could no longer send music to my SONOS speakers from these Apps, although I could do so from the classic Desktop-Explorer-Libraries view. I certainly was annoyed and disappointed. To me, this meant that Microsoft was going down the closed eco-system route and emulating Apple. DLNA is an open standard, and there are tiered requirements. MS was seeking to bulletproof the experience, but in the process left many of us hanging. I certainly wished for, and expressed my desire for, an advanced user setting to “Show non MS certified devices”, and I still think that is the necessary change that Microsoft needs to make.

Others in the geek world wanted a way to use their non certified devices and Rafael Rivera came up with a way for x86 based Windows 8 computers to do just this. He didn’t find a way to do this on Surface RT. And that’s where I most wanted this functionality. Note: The information that follows applies to Windows 8/Windows RT and I have tested on my Surface RT, my Surface Pro, and a Windows 8 desktop.

So I started looking at the registry. What I am about to describe works on both my Surface and Surface RT tablets but it is the only way so far to enable this functionality on RT.

Before you start,verify that your device supports Play To in the classic desktop/explorer/libraries interface. To do this, right click a supported media file in a classic library and verify the Play To menu appears and that you can successfully send to your target device and it plays the media you selected.

There is an interesting key in the registry:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Device Association Framework\InboxProviders

\DAFUPnPProvider\Plugins\DlnaMetadataProvider\DeviceShims]

When expanded, it shows devices from just a few companies.

providers

Why only five vendors?

If you export the DeviceShims reg key, things get interesting. For example, specific vendors and specific devices have entries, such as:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Device Association Framework\InboxProviders

\DAFUPnPProvider\Plugins\DlnaMetadataProvider\DeviceShims\ONKYO]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Device Association Framework\InboxProviders

\DAFUPnPProvider\Plugins\DlnaMetadataProvider\DeviceShims\ONKYO\HT-R690]
“IsLegacyDMR”=dword:00000001 …

Barb continues with detailed instruction for rolling your own keys to add DeviceShims for other DLNA providers.

Barb describes her DLNA enabler in a WDTV Live Hub – A Home Entertainment-DLNA Love Story post of 2/12/2011:

I’ve never had a CE device that exceeded my expectations. Until now.  My Connected Home includes devices that enable me to stream media between devices on my network, but which also provoked frustration because of half implemented codec support and DLNA protocols. I thought I had true DLNA love back in July 2009 with a Samsung TV, but the lack of firmware updates for DLNA compatibility (such as support for WMA music) eventually caused me to realize it was just a summer romance. Samsung seems to abandon devices after 6 months or so, and concentrates on newer products.

Like many others, while I’d love a new DLNA certified Home Theater receiver DMR, the price range for these is currently $900+. And the Samsung TV is relatively new.

Enter the WD TV Live Hub. This >$200 little box does it all. Like many Home Theater enthusiasts looking for optimum solutions that provide Windows 7 Play To functionality, I’ve been frustrated and was not looking for an expensive solution. This is a very small box with gargantuan capabilities, including a 1TB hard drive to store your favorite media on.

wdliveproduct

Lots of jacks, including HDMI and SP/DIF, plus USB ports front and back (for connecting USB drives, USB Flash Keys, Wireless Adapters, Keyboards, etc.) For size comparison, in the image above on the right, the WD TV Live Hub sits atop a Samsung BD Player, which sits atop my (broken RRoD’d) Xbox 360. No HDMI or Optical SP/DIF cables are supplied, so you will need your own for the best AV experience. There is an included quick set up poster type guide supplied in the box, but no manual /user guide in the retail box, but it is available online for download in PDF format.  Most of my manuals are still in shrink wrap, so, as usual, I just jumped in without  a net.

I connected an HDMI cable from the device to my TV and an optical cable from the device to a SP/DIF port on my home theater receiver. I also plugged a wired Ethernet cable in to the device and into my D-Link DAP-1522, which provides wireless connectivity as an access point client (like a gaming adapter).  There is a list of supported USB Wireless N adapters, (as well as everything else that WD tested for connectivity including TV’s, routers, etc.) but I found that the one I tried wasn’t as good as the DAP-1522, or MoCA. More later on Network connectivity and speeds. …

Barb continues with more detailed information about the WD TV Live Hub.

The WD TV Live Hub sounds a lot like the Samsung HomeSync device (see next post) to me, including the built-in 1-TB disk drive.



Samsung Link and HomeSync

Our Samsung UN46D6050 TV, which we purchased in May 2012, isn’t listed as Miracast compatible, nor is the Samsung Wireless Adapter that was included with it. The set has a direct Ethernet connection to one of our AT&T DSL service’s five fixed IP addresses.

Samsung’s Samsung Link (formerly All-Share) technology appears to be Miracast compatible. The All-Share site carries the following caveat at the bottom of the All-Share page:

WiFi or WiFi CERTIFIED Miracast™ is required to connect Samsung smart devices using AllShare™.

The Samsung Link (All Share Play) app from the Google Play store states:

This app is incompatible with all of your devices.

Rockchip Rk30sdk: This item is not compatible with your device.
Asus Nexus 7: This item is not compatible with your device.

From the app’s Description:

* AllShare Play is now Samsung Link. Once AllShare Play is updated the logo and service name will change to Samsung Link. Continue to log-in with your Samsung Account to access your pictures, videos, and documents previously stored on AllShare Play.

Share & Play Content across Smart Devices, Anytime Anywhere

Samsung Link enables users to access & play content saved on other devices over a wireless access point as well as over the internet.

1) Remote access across devices & Content management
Remotely access and manage your devices and use and share multimedia content. (Register your PC at link.samsung.com)

2) Store photos automatically to your PC or storage service
Photos/Videos taken with your device will automatically be transferred onto your PC or storage service.

3) Stream your photos on TV
Push your content from your smart device or PC to the large screen of your Samsung TV and enjoy with family & friends.

If the application is not pre-installed, you will not be able to use Samsung Link properly.

You can obtain more details about Samsung Link for mobile, PC and TV devices and install the PC software by signing in here and providing or obtaining a Samsung account:

image

See the later Samsung Introduces SideSync and HomeSync Lite at Premiere 2013 link below for more information on Samsung Link with a Galaxy S4 smartphone.

There’s no mention of Samsung’s HomeSync Android media streamer with a built-in 1-TB fixed disk drive on the Samsung Link page of 5/29/2013, possibly because it’s still not available in the US:

image

SAMSUNGmobile (@SamsungMobile) uploaded a 00:13:16 professionally produced Introducing Samsung HomeSync promotional video to YouTube on 5/20/2013 (click to activate player):

Samsung HomeSync is a high-capacity personal cloud device for your home. It lets you stream content from your GALAXY device such as the GALAXY S4 to the TV, so you can watch, browse and access all your home videos, photos and apps at full-HD 1080p.
With a 1TB internal hard drive, your family can share content wherever, whenever, at no extra cost.

By connecting multiple accounts and devices, and using remote control, sharing precious memories with others gets much simpler.
HomeSync, a home hub solution that gives you the best entertainment experience on a big screen TV, a shared storage large enough for an entire family, and a new way of enjoying your HDTV through a familiar and smarter Android user experience.
To find out more about the Samsung GALAXY S4, click here.

The narration is very affected, e.g. video becomes “veedeo,” and there’s no link to a pricing and availability page, but the provided software is impressive. The narrator confirmed Android Jelly Bean as the OS version. You must have a recent Samsung smartphone and home WiFi running to use the HomeSync device, which was slated to become available this week (week 51, beginning 5/19/2013.)

Reuben Lee (@ReubenCNETAsia) of C|Net Asia reported Samsung HomeSync to retail for S$498 on 6/4/2013.

imageFirst unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, the Samsung HomeSync is a media hub that lets you share multimedia content easily from the smartphone to the TV. As it is Android-based, it can also allow you to access apps as well. The onboard 1TB storage doubles as a networked access storage device for the family. Here’s a quick look how the Galaxy S4 is paired with the HomeSync via NFC.

The Samsung HomeSync will retail for S$498 from June 6 via the Singapore telcos, before it is made available in electronics and IT stores from July.

Tapping the Galaxy S4 on the HomeSync opens up the accompanying app. (Credit: Aloysius Low/CNET Asia)

S$495 corresponds to about US$395 at current exchange rates. A bit pricey for the equivalent of a MiniPC or TVBox with a 1 TB USB drive.

Update 6/7/2013: Reuben Lee (@ReubenCNETAsia) updated his 6/4/2013 article (see above) as follows:

Update (June 6 1100 GMT+8): Samsung has confirmed that the HomeSync will be available in all Asia markets starting June 2013 and will retail for about US$310.

Still no word about US markets.

For more about HomeSync, see my Potential Personal Video Recorder (PVR/DVR) TV Boxes; Two Have HDTV Tuners article.


Samsung Introduces SideSync and HomeSync Lite at Premiere 2013

Samsung took over London’s Earls Court Exhibition Center to present Samsung Premiere 2013 on 6/20/2013.

Mixed in among the new Galaxy smartphone, ATIV tablet and ultrabook agitprop were brief mentions of the following:

Samsung SideSync (at 00:51:56 in the video archive)

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Samsung’s site claims:

SideSync’s phone screen sharing mode puts an adjustable, digital version of your phone right on your PC screen! Type, click and use any of your apps straight from your PC. …

The current version is compatible with ATIV Book, Tab and One PCs and Android phones – the PC program will either be pre-installed or available via SW Update if your PC is compatible, and the companion phone app can be downloaded from Samsung Apps. Updates about future versions and compatibility will be made here, so stay tuned!

This sounds to me like a proprietary Miracast clone.

Liam Spradlin (@LiamSpradlin) came to the same conclusion in his Samsung Introduces Side Sync: ‘PC In Mobile, Mobile In PC’ With A Fatal Flaw article of 5/9/2013 for the AndroidPolice site:

imageSamsung has just announced details of a new syncing/file management tool called Side Sync, which it mentioned last month alongside new ATIV PC branding.

The basic idea behind the app is easy, painless file and information transfer from PC to mobile and vice versa. This is accomplished using a dock that plugs into your PC’s USB port. Once hooked up, you can share your mouse and keyboard with your Samsung phone, dragging and dropping files, and copying and pasting information as you please. Users can also set the service to automatically sync photos. Here’s Samsung’s introductory video for the product:

image

As great as the service looks, the tagline “PC in Mobile, Mobile in PC” is at least a little misleading – Side Sync doesn’t just work with just any PC – it’s only compatible Samsung PCs. As a matter of fact, it only works with some Samsung PCs, so far including the ATIV Book, ATIV Book Q, ATIV One, and ATIV Tab globally, and the same selection inside Korea, with the addition of the ATIV Smart PC. This is its fatal flaw.

If you own a PC that’s not part of the above ATIV family, you can forget about effortlessly transferring files and information between your devices with Side Sync.

That said, Side Sync is actually a great idea, and looks like it could provide major utility. If you just so happen to have your hands on a compatible PC and a Samsung phone and you feel like peeking into Samsung’s app store, hit the link below to grab the app.

Side Sync on Samsung Apps

via SammyHub

Update 7/6/2013: Samsung HomeSync Lite makes it’s initial appearance in a 00:02:09 Introducing Samsung HomeSync Lite YouTube professionally produced video clip:

From the description:

Meet Samsung HomeSync Lite, the new PC solution that allows you to back-up content using your PC storage and access it away from home with other devices. You can have your own cloud on your PC, connecting to many of your Samsung digital devices, accessing various formats of the files, up to 5 different accounts! Enjoy your personal cloud on your PC.

HomeSync Lite appears to be software without Miracast screen mirroring capabilities. Perhaps it’s SideSync redux with a new name.

Samsung Link (formerly All-Share, see the preceding Samsung Link and HomeSync section) is the only similar app I can find on Samsung Apps for my Galaxy S4 (SCH-I545), which has a link to the app built in. Samsung Link runs on most Intel PCs and uses Dropbox, Skydrive or SugarSync as Registered storage. I’ve registered my development machine (OL-Win7Pro23), Surface Pro tablet (RJSurfacedPro), Acer Aspire Laptop (Acer-Win7Pro), Galaxy S4 and SkyDrive account with Samsung Link:

Screenshot_2013-06-21-11-16-14

and can share content between them. Here’s a screenshot of the S4 displaying images from OL-Win7Pro23:

Screenshot_2013-06-21-10-44-44

However, the Surface Pro doesn’t show the Galaxy S4 as a nearby device, and won’t display it’s own media thumbnails; it displays an “Unable to load the list due to a network error (-708325)” problem when refreshing the Nearby Devices list.

Miracast screen sharing with the Galaxy S4 and Acer laptop in the living room would require an All-Share Dongle, which a single seller offers on Amazon for US$219. (The Sale-Fire.com site offers a wide range of Samsung WiFi boxes and dongles.) I ordered a MicroUSB male MHL to female HDMI adapter cable as a workaround and it works as expected when connected to an HDMI input of our Samsung Smart? TV.

My Surface Pro probably will need Windows 8.1 installed to enable Miracast screen sharing. I’ll test it after upgrading the tablet with the preview from the //BUILD/ conference on 6/26/2013.

Note: My Galaxy S4’s Wi-Fi Direct setting shows DIRECT-roku-409 for my Roku TV box and DIRECT-uPML-2160 for my Samsung ML-2165W laser printer, but neither appear to connect:

Screenshot_2013-06-22-12-25-42


HomeSync Lite is a software-only version of the ephemeral HomeSync box. Samsung cloudwashes HomeSync Lite in this description:

Meet Samsung HomeSync Lite, the new PC solution that allows you to back-up content using your PC storage and access it away from home with other devices. You can have your own cloud on your PC, connecting to many of your Samsung digital devices, accessing various formats of the files, on up to 5 different accounts! Enjoy your personal cloud on your PC.

For more details, please visit http://www.facebook.com/samsungnotebook

Like the original HomeSync tv box, this appears to more unavailable projectorware. There’s nothing about Samsung HomeSyncLite or HomeSync on the Facebook site as of 6/21/2013. The HomeSync box didn’t even warrant a mention at the Premiere event.


Samsung’s US$300 SEK-1000/ZA 2013 Evolution Kit

Amazon and BestBuy offer Samsung’s SEK-1000/ZA Smart Evolution Kit for upgrading specific 2012 Samsung LED HDTV sets to more recent Samsung Smart TV standards. The device plugs into a connector on the back of the TV:

image

BestBuy provides the following feature list:

Enhance your viewing experience with this Samsung Smart Evolution SEK-1000/ZA kit, which features Smart Interaction 2.0 to enable 2-hand motion control, face tracking and voice control with your compatible 2012 Samsung TV.

Product Features

Compatible with select 2012 Samsung TVs

Including ES7500 and ES8000 LED and E7000 (no SI) and E8000 PDP models for use with your existing TV.

SmartHub

With Smart Recommendation offers an enhanced viewing experience.

Smart Interaction 2.0

Enables 2-hand motion control, face tracking and voice control with speech commands for easy operation.

Smart Touch remote

Simplifies control over your TV.

1.3GHz quad-core processor

Along with a 500MHz GPU and 1.5GB DOR memory enables optimal performance.

You can download the kit’s 301-page User Manual here. The manual states the following about DLNA and AllShare™:

AllShare™ connects your TV and compatible Samsung mobile phones/ devices through a network. On your TV, you can view call arrivals and SMS messages received by your mobile phones. In addition, you can play media contents including videos, photos, and music saved on your mobile phones or the other devices (such
as your PC) by controlling them on the TV via the network.

Additionally, you can use your TV for browsing web pages on your mobile phones.

For more information, visit “www.samsung.com” or contact the Samsung call center. Mobile devices may need additional software installation. For details, refer to each device’s user’s guide.

If your Samsung TV connects to a non-Samsung DLNA server, a compatibility issue may occur during video playback.

By connecting your Samsung TV to a network via AllShare™, you can use Samsung’s original functions as follows:

  • Playback of various video formats (DivX,XVID, MP4, 3GPP, AVI, ASF, MKV, etc.)
  • Video thumbnail feature
  • Bookmark function (to resume video playback)
  • Auto-chaptering (scene navigation)
  • Digital content management
  • Compatibility with various subtitle formats (SRT, SMI, SUB, TXT, TTXT)
  • Search with file names
  • And many others

To use the original DLNA functions of Samsung fully, it is recommended that you use the AllShare™ software provided with your TV.

I could find no mention of Miracast or WiFi Direct in the manual.

Videos:

The Will this accessory work with my product? test on the where to buy page shows it’s not compatible with my Samsung UN46D6050 46-inch “Smart” HDTV. Apparently the 6050 series aren’t smart enough to upgrade.

$300 appears to me to be a bit pricey for an Android TV box and remote control, especially one that doesn’t support Miracast and/or WiFi direct. I paid Amazon about $650 for the HDTV.


BlackBerry 10.2 to Gain Miracast and DLNA Support

Michael Li asserted BlackBerry 10.2 Could Make Apple’s Airplay Obsolete in a 6/20/2013 post to the GadgetMasters blog:

imageBlackBerry 10.2 will be getting Miracast and Wireless HDMI support.  This is in addition to BlackBerry 10 already having DLNA support, which is also something that Apple’s iOS does not have.  Miracast is an open-standard version of Apple’s Airplay.  It allows wireless delivery of high-definition video to TVs, desktops, tablets and mobile phones.

imageApple’s Airplay has a similar set of features, but requires the purchase of a $99 Apple TV.  Thus, BlackBerry 10.2 with Miracast will save BB 10 users $99, and save them the hassle of operating an additional piece of hardware.

imageAndroid received Miracast support with Android 4.2.  With BlackBerry 10.2 also supporting Miracast, it appears this open-standard is gaining momentum, and is set to challenge Apple’s Airplay.  With non-Apple smartphones increasingly adopting Miracast, it could cause Apple users to question why they have to pay $99 for a proprietary version of a similar service.


Building WiFi Direct Apps for Devices Running Windows 8.1

Yatharth Gupta presented a Building Apps for WiFi Direct Direct Devices video at Microsoft’s //BUILD/ 2013 Conference in San Francisco:

Windows makes it easy for developers to create apps that can talk to their device, such as a phones or TV, by using Wi-Fi Direct. This session describes the key concepts, APIs, and samples, and walks through examples that show how Windows Store apps can use these APIs to control Wi-Fi Direct devices.

Native experiences supported in Windows [8.1 are]: Miracast, printing, and DLNA over WiFi Direct.