Thinking of getting a RK3399 box/SBC...

  • Hi all. Seeing as my shelved A10-based TV box will probably be of little use due to the low specs, I'm wondering if getting a TV box or SBC with a Rockchip SoC (specifically, the RK3399) would make sense now that mainline support is landing, and the recent announcement of new SoCs should be a signal for incoming sales of current/old stock.

    • How usable are the boards now/ what's missing (compared to, say, an x86 PC with well-suported hardware components)? (Rockchip's status matrix hasn't beed updated in 8 months... Is anyone tracking the mainline development of Rockchip as well as the sunxi community is tracking theirs?)
    • Does any tick all "boxes" listed below? If so, which would you recommend?


    My expected use of the box/SBC:

    • used as a TV box - controllable using a remote (if not shipped with a decent one, then preferably usable with generic IR (nec encoding), and audio through HDMI

    • Playing movies stored on NAS (SMB v2+, Wired Ethernet, preferably gigabit)

    • content:

    • "typical" H264 (up to 1080p BD quality; alternatively 1080p60 from youtube and the like) ~50%
    • mpeg4 (xvid,divx) ~10%
    • "Hi10P H264" ~35%
    • various sw-decodable SD-or-lower content (flv) ~5%
    • H265 - Don't see myself caring about, and (knowingly) getting H265 and/or 4K content any time soon. Unknowingly (through services forcing H265) - I'm currently not subscribed to anything, but am considering Nebula and Curiosity Stream; can't see anyone dropping H264 altogether, not even Youtube. About the only forced-H265 source I can possibly see considering is DVB-T2, (probably streamed into the network from another box), where the resolution will most likely never go beyond 1080i. If the chip can sw-decode such H265 stream, possibly while overclocked, that's good enough.

    • Anime, and most movies in non-native language -> (rich) subtitles, and lots of 'em. I think this places additional requirements on the quality/capability of the DRM driver, as it isn't just scaling+scanning out a single plane with the video, but also combining the video plane (may not match display resolution) with display-resolution OSD/subtitle plane at all times. Ie. if the system starts stuttering the playing video when showing OSD, it's no good - just playing the video smoothly with nothing else showing isn't good enough (there's probably a workaround, where the subtitles are rendered into the video plane, but that limits their resolution and on-screen position, so.. "No, thanks.")

    • Plex client (server should be capable of transcoding to h264 if needed).


    • (maybe) hosting Kodi DB for all home Kodi clients - a non-roaming, passively-cooled TV box is IMHO best suited for the task. Weeks-long uptimes and low tolerance for kernel glitches affecting the DB operation (networking, storage) expected. Probably needs 4 GB of RAM?

    • (maybe) WiFi AP (assuming the driver supports it) - the other AP at home doesn't quite reach one room, having an extra AP for better coverage would be nice.

    • Case (for SBC): sufficient cooling required - mustn't overheat/throttle under sustained load (à la Raspberry Pi). Shouldn't need to disassemble the case to access sd-card, if the SBC has on-board IR the case mustn't block it (duh).


    I took a look at a few SBCs:

    - Rock Pi 4: I don't understand the point of putting RK3399 in a Raspberry form factor. RK3399 needs a beefy heatsink, and cools on the bottom, so it's not like I can use any Raspberry cases anyway, I think. Lots of USB ports are nice. No mention of infrared. Can buy some of the models locally for an OK price. Not a fan of having connectors on multiple/adjacent sides, with even the minimal setup (power, Ethernet, HDMI) having cables sticking out of 2 of them.

    - RockPro64 Can't seem to find a decent case for it. Doesn't come with infrared.

    - Rock960: Has a nice metal case, a bit bare-bones but probably sufficient aside from the missing IR.

  • You can also look at the Khadas Edge-V or NanoPi.

    But the RockPi 4B and NanoPi have the best cooling with their cases and heatsinks.

    RockPi 4B also has the best Android Pie firmware(and Edge-V but the connectors are a problem since you need to remove the HDMI cable every time to access the micro-sd card slot, it only has 2 USB ports and you need to use a fan for better cooling).

    NanoPi, RockPro64 only has Android 8 firmware that is very outdated but it's not a problem if you only want to use LibreELEC or Armbian.

    For any device, a cheap $10 airmouse wifi remote works wonders.


    With LibreELEC and the old 4.4 kernels all those things should work.

    But for mainline only mpeg2, mpeg4, VP8, H264 is currently working with H265, VP9, HDR, 10-bit H264 coming later.

  • "Hi10P H264" ~35%

    ^ 10-bit H264 is not an official standard so although it's widely used by anime fans there is no hardware decode support for it on any ARM device that I have come accross. Most anime fans gravitate towards an Intel NUC with a CPU capable of decoding the content in software.

  • mo123 Thanks. Totally forgot Android TV was an option for the SBCs as well. Will probably go for the Rock Pi, the Edge is nearly double the price here, and has lower specs.


    ^ 10-bit H264 is not an official standard so although it's widely used by anime fans there is no hardware decode support for it on any ARM device that I have come accross. Most anime fans gravitate towards an Intel NUC with a CPU capable of decoding the content in software.

    Thanks for the tip, though I'll take my chances. User reports suggest that it is indeed working, at least on the Rockchip kernel. Just took a look at the current scene, and it seems most have migrated to H265, so that might become a strong requirement after all.

  • mo123 Thanks. Totally forgot Android TV was an option for the SBCs as well. Will probably go for the Rock Pi, the Edge is nearly double the price here, and has lower specs.


    Thanks for the tip, though I'll take my chances. User reports suggest that it is indeed working, at least on the Rockchip kernel. Just took a look at the current scene, and it seems most have migrated to H265, so that might become a strong requirement after all.

    For Hi10p 10-bit Level 5.1 Anime videos, it is working on my AndroidTV firmware for RockPi with Kodi 18.

    Actually Hi10p is supported on most Rockchip CPU's like RK3399, RK3328 and RK3229 but almost no manufacturer implements the software changes needed to play such files. LibreELEC images using the older 4.4 kernel also plays this format hardware decoded.

    You can run Android from a micro-sd card or removable emmc storage, I'm also trying to make Android/LibreELEC boot from USB & NVME storage on the RockPi 4.

  • almost no manufacturer implements the software changes needed to play such files.

    What does that mean? By "software", do you mean the default media player? (No loss there..)


    You can run Android from a micro-sd card or removable emmc storage, I'm also trying to make Android/LibreELEC boot from USB & NVME storage on the RockPi 4.

    Suppose I'd like to dual-boot Android TV and (legacy) LibreELEC images. Is running both off of 1 storage device possible/viable? The Radxa wiki provides an example image (ubuntu+android), for an older SBC that had onboard NAND. but I don't see any info how to prepare it, or if the process is applicable to the Rock Pi4, and it's quite old at this point.

  • What does that mean? By "software", do you mean the default media player? (No loss there..)


    Suppose I'd like to dual-boot Android TV and (legacy) LibreELEC images. Is running both off of 1 storage device possible/viable? The Radxa wiki provides an example image (ubuntu+android), for an older SBC that had onboard NAND. but I don't see any info how to prepare it, or if the process is applicable to the Rock Pi4, and it's quite old at this point.

    For Hi10p, the manufacturers also have to modify the Android framework to broadcast to all video players that Hi10p is available, 99% of manufacturers don't implement this. What it means is that Hi10p won't work in any video player like Kodi, VLC, Nova or MxPlayer.

    Luckily I fixed it in RockPi 4, Edge-V and RK3328, RK3229 firmwares I made. Without the changes, videos will play in 8-bit color with green, purple color artifacts and the picture will break up.


    At the moment you have to use emmc and micro-sd but Rockchip is working on it so you can install 2 OS's on the same storage in future.


    Widevine shows L3 so most apps can work. Widevine L1 is only available on closed-source devices with locked bootloaders.

    You can also use Magisk to make your device Google Certified or use LibreELEC for 1080p Netflix.