Cheap but Capable Android Boxes

  • So... used an old PC for years now, Core2Quad Q9450... and thinking upgrade time.

    I am getting a new TV soon (currently no stock) with 4K Ultra image, and Dolby Vision HDR and 10-bit colour. As a test, I grabbed a 10-bit HEVC H265 file, that well... played, but miserably. Stuttered, jerky, etc... I have not yet tried the Beta version of LibreElec, with Kodi 18. I read that may be part of the issue, Kodi 17 vs 18, but also my fanless cheap Nvidia video card.

    Someone suggested an Android box, which I knew about and ignored because didn't want an Android interface. Just discovered that you can 'hack' them I guess and replace the OS with LibreElec. Now I'm interested. Way smaller, far less noise and power consumption. Plus, I was thinking of getting a 2-Bay NAS drive anyways for the 2x3TB drives I have.

    I don't want to spend $200 (Canadian) on a box... nor do I want one that won't do the job. I won't have many movies that are 10-bit H265, just a few select ones. Mostly 8-bit H265 around 6000kbps bitrate. Plus, and doesn't have to be as good, I need one for the living room as well. Not a 4K TV, not used as often, but rare time they might click on a 10-bit x265 file, hopefully it'll run.

    Any pointers of what to search for? or specific models to get? RK3328 vs S905W... 2GB/4GB...

    Would something like this work?

  • Not exactly the question you asked, but the only box that I can find (so far) that runs KODI, works with 10bit, HDR and 4K is the Vero 4K (which runs OSMC.)

    I also use LibreELEC on the Odroid C2, which works fine for 4K, but no HDR or 10bit.

    The Vero 4K is L100, so it's slightly on the expensive side, but it works great and is very well supported.

    I'm guessing that in six months or so, LibreELEC will support 4K HDR 10bit on a RockPro64 or similar board, but in the meantime...

  • As a general point i would say that if your budget is a factor then i wouldn't worry about a lot of the higher end boxes that cost more as most of the hardware features that drive those box prices up aren't really worth the extra money as there are still some key pieces of user space and other code to enable and take advantage of those features, people are working on them but theres no guarantee's of if and when, so those boxes are working but being done in various manners that negate the real hardware benefits of those boxes. Basically i am talking about the S912's.

    I would suggest at least 2 gig of ram and 16gig flash as a starting point and let the price point dictate. You cant' go wrong with more Sram and Flash.

    The S912's still are not a bad deal tho if you can find a good deal. just understand you will be waiting for the pieces that will really make the fly.

    I would stay away from any of the new 2nd generation of S9xx boxes that are starting to appear. the older units are still playing catch-up so the newer 2nd gen boxes will probably be further back in the support chain.

    If higher end performance is your wants then hopefully some of the others will post with actual experiences on a particular brand or model.

    Also my comments are strictly based on running something like LibreELEC (linux) as you won't find Android or any remnants of it on any of the dozen or more boxes i have running here at any given point in time. Android based comments i will leave to others.

    Also the newer Rockchip boxes appear to have a real bright future and i am sure theres some here that can make a solid recommendation on which particular one. I'm currently looking at the RK3399 boxes as well.

  • If reading correctly... Rockchip is kinda a no-go still, correct? beta versions out testing but no stable releases?

    I won't have a whole bunch of stuff that's 4k 10bit H265... just a few things (ie Infinity Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy... stuff where the CGI is high-end and needs to be seen). Otherwise, most off my library would be more-or-less like the below. I use VidCoder (handbrake with a different gui) and usually use the variable bitrate now at 21 for most movies, 18 for the ones I really like and have lots of CGI. Audio, usually convert the DTS 5.1 down to AC3 5.1 640kbps... on my 2.1 system, sounds the same and saves space.

    Format : HEVC

    Format/Info : High Efficiency Video Coding

    Format profile : [email protected]@Main


    Duration : 2 h 5 min

    Bit rate : 4 345 kb/s

    Width : 1 920 pixels

    Height : 1 080 pixels

    Display aspect ratio : 16:9

    Frame rate mode : Constant

    Frame rate : 23.976 (24000/1001) FPS

    Color space : YUV

    Chroma subsampling : 4:2:0

    Bit depth : 8 bits

    Bits/(Pixel*Frame) : 0.087

    Stream size : 3.80 GiB (87%)

  • I would stay away from any of the new 2nd generation of S9xx boxes that are starting to appear. the older units are still playing catch-up so the newer 2nd gen boxes will probably be further back in the support chain.

    How can I tell if 2nd Gen?

    Also, is the Octa-Core overkill vs Quad?

    On (Canada so not .com, fewer options) trying to find a good balance between specs, and not being absolutely horrid to look at, :D

    Lot's look a bit too SciFi and way too many lights on them. Personally, I'd kinda like to get one, gut it, and make a nice wooden case or something.

  • Amlogic S905X2/D2/Y2 are the "second gen." devices. At the moment they are Android-only with negligible support in the upstream kernel.

  • Well, I think I am getting either the T95ZMax ($88CAD) or the Beelink GT1 Ultimate ($113CAD). Specs are about the same, except Beelink shows DDR4 memory vs DDR3. Both have 3GB/32GB, Android 7.1, S912, octacore, gigabit ethernet, etc...I was also able to find a website for them with firmware updates. Few other boxes had similar specs, but a guessing game who made them.

    I guess my main questions are really...

    - how hard is it to get my Sony universal remote working on these

    - is it worth the extra $25-$30 on the Beelink

    - is it better to dual boot and run LibreElec off an SD card? will that be slower? My worry is wiping Android out, then needing to reinstall it. Haven't seen much online with regards to reversing the process which has me worried.

  • From other threads (Search for them) the OSMC Vero 4K+ is a good contender. I don't have one, but other people think this offers the best of all worlds and works (AFAIK) with LE if OSMC is not to your liking.

  • Personally depending on what your aim is i would just say buy something that is being actively developed for what you want. If your going to use Android a lot then you want someone that actively supports the firmware for that box, If your looking to make the use of LiberELEC or similar then make sure what you buy is being supported by one of the developers here or one of LibreELECs forks.

    Run LibreELEC off the sd card.

    $25 extra for DDR4 is only worth it if your gonna go about making sure the firmware timing is proper to take advantage of it and even then the gains may only be marginal.

    Just keep in mind that no matter what any dealer says if the box has a S912 in it then they are all basically in the same boat no matter what. so just make sure whatever you buy that someone is actually supporting.

  • Vorke Z1 is the cheapest S912 with DDR4 and gigabit I did see at geekbuying, but I don't know about the Android in the box, but if you put LE on it it should be no problem.

    If you want something plug and play buy a Vero 4k+. I have my one for 3 days now and it is working fine.

  • So... Sunday I placed the order, should arrive tomorrow or Wednesday.

    Decided because of reviews and a website with firmware updates, to grab the Beelink GT1 Ultimate. DDR4 vs DDR3 I figured likely no real advantage, but, good reviews and a website was a big deal for me. Still can't seem to join their forum though, the confirmation email never shows.

    I also bought the Western Digital MyCloud EX2 Ultra 2-Bay drive for my 2x3TB HDDS. And for the Beelink, usually I get Sandisk, but opted to get the Samsung EVO Plus 32GB card for CoreElec.

    Will be nice to watch and HEAR a movie without a massive desktop case with a PSU and 2 fans whirring away.

    I'll let you guys know how it all works out. :)