• REVIEW: MINIX NEO U9-H and MINIX NEO A3 remote

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    Thanks to the collaboration of MINIX today we present the review of the new MINIX NEO U9-H TV-Box and the MINIX NEO A3 fly mouse with integrated microphone. In this model we have as central core the new Octa Core AMLogic S912-H SoC which includes licenses for DD and DTS sound systems, as well as a novelty we have DRM certificates for Google Wide vine L1 and Microsoft PlayReady. This new flagship of MINIX comes to replace your previous MINIX NEO U1 with the Quad core S905 SoC, in our review we will test all the details of the system both software and hardware level and see if it is a worthy successor.

    SPECIFICATIONS

    ModelMINIX NEO U9-H
    CPUAMLogic S912-H Cortex-A53 Octa Core
    GPUMali-T820MP3
    OSAndroid 6.0.1
    RAM2 GB DDR3
    Storage16 GB eMMc
    WiFiWiFi AC 2×2 MIMO (AP6356S)
    Bluetooth4.1
    Ports3x USB 2.0
    1x microUSB OTG
    HDMI 2.0a
    Audio jack In
    Audio jack Out
    microSD reader  (256GB max.)
    Ethernet Gigabit (Realtek RTL8211F)
    SPDIF audio port
     OthersRecovery button
    Kensington lock
    Power button
     ContentIR Remote
    HDMI Cable
    USB Type-A to USB Type-A cable
    microUSB to USB Type-A cable
    5V/2A DC adapter
    Manual

    CONTENT DESCRIPTION

    MINIX NEO U9-H

    Package content

    The new MINIX NEO U9-H TV-Box is presented in a very compact box, at the top we have the brand logo and the name of this device in the area below we can see the certificates that come with it. Also in the box we find the IR remote control, external WiFi antenna, HDMI cable, micro-USB OTG cable, micro-USB to USB cable, manual and 5V 3A power adapter.

    Product Details

    The box of the MINIX NEO U9-H is made out of plastic and in the upper area we have the MINIX logo embossed, on the front we have a status LED in addition to the IR receiver. On one side we can see the external WiFi antenna and inside the TV-Box we have another internal antenna.

     

    On one of its sides we have a power button that we can configure to have to press it when connecting it to the current or not as we will see in the adjustments. We also have three USB 2.0 ports, microSD card reader (256GB max.), microUSB connector for upgrading from PC and Kensington lock.

    In the rear area of the MINIX NEO U9-H we have the remaining connectors, audio output jack, microphone jack, HDMI 2.0 video output, SPDIF audio output, Gigabit Ethernet and round power connector.

    In the lower part of the MINIX NEO U9-H we have four rubber feet that slightly raise the unit and hide four screws to disassemble the unit, on the side there is a small hole to press the recovery button in case it is necessary to update from a PC.

    If we remove the cover we find the recovery button, the system battery for the internal clock and two DDR3 SKHynix memory modules of the four in total that of the 2GB of RAM.

    In the box we can see the two antenna connectors, one for the external antenna and the other one for the internal. On the motherboard you can see a heatsink of considerable size that keeps the temperatures at low range. In general as we see is a model almost identical at hardware level to the MINIX NEO U1.

    MINIX NEO A3

    Detalles del producto

    The new flymouse MINIX NEO A3 is similar to the previous MINIX NEO A2 Lite model but in this version we have an integrated microphone. As for the distribution of keys where before was the button of Intro now we have the microphone and where mute was now we have settings. The IR shutdown key and the microphone is only compatible with the MINIX TV-Box models, the other functions are compatible for any Windows, Android or Mac device. The flymouse function is activated by pressing the circle key with an arrow and press it again turns it off. At the top we have a WiFi activity LED and to the opposite side a microphone activity led, the microphone is located at the bottom.

    • Repair remote: Press Fn + P and connect USB receiver.
    • Recalibrate remote: Press Fn + Y and leave it in a flat place.

    On the opposite side to the multimedia control we have a complete QWERTY keyboard that helps us to write commands comfortably if we do not want to use the built-in microphone. On the left we have two status LED’s, one that indicates if we have activated the capital letters and another one warns to us if we have activated the Fn key to execute the commands in orange.

    If we disassemble the sides we find the RF receiver and the hole to accommodate two AAA batteries. We have checked the range of the receiver and we can say that it is quite good reaching almost 10 meters. To launch a search command we can use the built-in microphone, we can make click on any microphone icon on Android to allows us to send a search phrase, the microphone will translate into text our order and show us the results.

    CONNECTING THE DEVICE

    Connection and desktops

    We plug in the power adapter to the MINIX NEO U9-H and we have to press the power button to boot, we can change this from the Android settings as we will see later. By default the system comes with two default launchers, if you want to user the default IR remote we recommend using MINIX METRO.

    • Boot time: 20 seconds.

    The launcher3 is a very simple launcher almost a pure Android environment, we have an application drawer and a desktop where we can put Widgets. A correct launcher for use with mouse, if we want more customization we recommend to change it for another launcher like Apex.

    On the other hand we have the MINIX METRO launcher that have a large series of icons where we have different categories of applications, the bottom bar we can customize it easily with the apps that we are most interested in.

    This TV-Box does have Android navigation bar and it behaves in an excellent way since we can show or hide it to our taste without problems. In the upper area we have the notifications tab with quick Android settings, something that is practical to use with a mouse for example.

    If we look at the list of installed applications by default we find few apps, we have KODI without any plugins in its official version, the MINIX updating app and the system shutdown as featured points, as we see quite clean.

    As usual in this generation of systems based on the latest AMLogic SoC we also have the classic Android settings that allow us to further refine our settings.

    User Experience

    The MINIX NEO U9-H have a good performance thanks to this hardware what is enough to run the most commons apps on Android 6, play games and play movies in the local storage or using streamings sources. With the 2GB of RAM installed we can run several apps with no load times thanks to the multitasking feature.

    Android System

    In the MINIX NEO U9-H we have Android 6.0.1 OS, the kernel is 3.14.29 and the compilation is dated 16-02-2017, with this version we have done the review you can read on the following pages.

    Brand Support

    As resources for the MINIX NEO U9-H TV-Box we have the MINIX website, its community English forums. We always have OTA updates fixing the issues that the users detect, and we can always contact them through the web contact email.

    Storage and RAM

    Integrated on the MINIX NEO U9-H we have a total of 16GB of eMMc storage memory, from this storage memory we have actually available about 11 GB, a figure that allows us to install quite a few apps. In models with AMLogic SoC we have a single partition in the storage memory which facilitates the management of our files. In this hardware we have integrated 2GB of DDR4 RAM that behave normally, from this amount we have available about 1.2 GB in the usual way.

    We ran several memory and storage tests using the SD bench app which gives us quite clear results. The MINIX NEO U9-H has a good results and as we can see this model continues in the lines what we have seen in the U1, although the writing results as we can see have a little lower values. The memory maintains a performance as in other similar DDR3 devices.

    Consumption and temperatures

    In the section of electrical consumption the MINIX NEO U9-H using the S912 SoC gives us results within the range for this type of devices, if we put the SoC to the limit with 3D games, we reach 6.2 W peak consumption in punctual moments. The system stays cool at all times and we only have some heat in the upper area.

    Google Play and Amazon App Store

    Using the Google play store we have no problem finding and downloading the most common apps to the internal memory. With Amazon’s App Store we had the same result, no major issues with this TV-Box, it seems this aspect is under control.

    Root

    In the MINIX NEO U9-H as it is usual in MINIX devices we do not have root by default, it is normal because it interferes with the DRM system that comes by default. Sure that soon we will have a specific method for this TV-Box but if we do not need it for something specific, we recommend do not do it since we will lose the OTA updates.

    Power Off / Standby / Power On

    The MINIX NEO U9-H has a very complete shutdown system. Pressing the remote shortly makes the system shut off the HDMI signal and it recovers it immediately if we press it again, if we press continuously we will have a shutdown menu that also offers us restart and complete shutdown.

    In the menu of power off settings we can also select that we want to make the device when we press the default power key.

    In the MINIX NEO U9-H we have a MCU chip from Nuvoton called MINI54ZDE with a ARM Cortex M0 core, inside the settings menu we can configure the system to turn on automatically when the power adapter is connected, we also have a power on alarm system with the internal clock and even supports firmware upgrade.

    TEST BENCH

    Video and audio connections.

    The new MINIX NEO U9-H has an AMLogic S912 SoC that has video output support for HDMI 2.0a which gives us a maximum resolution of 4K@60MHz with 10 bit color and is compatible with HDR if we have a TV with this technology.

    In the list of resolutions we have 720p, 1080p and we get to 4K resolution, among these modes are 24p to synchronise with the cinema mode. As usual in this type of SoC brightness, contrast and gamma controls are missing.

    By default on the MINIX NEO U9-H we have an automatic refresh adjustment option that detects the frequency of the movie to be played and changes the screen settings to prevent the Judder effect, this system works with any player we use be it the default one, KODI or MX Player. We can also set a delay time in the audio if our AV receiver requires it.

    • Off = Unprocessed
    • Level 1 = Content adaptation for 23.976 fps (24 fps) from 1080p 60fps.
    • Level 2 = Changes the resolution output to match the frame format of any video

    In this TV-Box we have support to change the RGB mode something that is necessary in some old TV models that have incompatibility with the current color modes.

    In the audio section we have controls in the system to define which device we use input or output by default. An interesting option if we use more than one audio device, without this feature it is possible that the default selection does not fit us.

    As we see in the audio input we have several options, among them the remote control MINIX NEO A3, we have connected a webcam and interestingly also a microphone is detected on the list but it is not functional.

    DLNA and Miracast

    Installed in the MINIX NEO U9-H system we have the usual DLNA app that in this case is called MediaCenter. With this system we can access the multimedia content that we have in our device easily using an app like BubbleUPnP from an Android mobile or from a PC with the Windows file explorer.

    We can share the screen using the Miracast app with which we had no problems using a LG G5 Smartphone, as we know this type of connections depends on many factors.

    It is also possible to connect Mac devices using the AirPin Pro app that work quite well for us and we have been able to do YouTube AirPlay without a major problems.

    Webcam

    We tested the videoconferencing capabilities on the MINIX NEO U9-H using the Hangouts and Skype apps with a simple Logitech C170 webcam, overall good results with these apps that are installed from Google Play directly.

    NETWORK CONNECTIONS

    Wi-Fi and Ethernet

    With the MINIX NEO U9-H we have a Wireless Dual Band AC Wi-Fi (AP6356S) adapter and Gigabit Ethernet port, with them we have connected with an ASUS RT-AC1200G+ Router, a mid range device. We transferred files over a SAMBA network connected through 2.4 Ghz Wi-Fi and achieved a speed of about 28 mbps, with the 5Ghz Wi-Fi network we reached about 40 mbps a value quite higher than the previous one. T This model has a Gigabit network connector with which we used a Category 6 network cable to guarantee the speed, using this connection we reach about 184 mbps a very good number. Correct speeds on all adapters although the 5GHz network might be better, it may be some problem of incompatibility with our router in this band.

    We also ran tests on the network adapters for streaming using the iPerf measurement tool with which we have the maximum connection speed in each type of network. With this figure we have how far we can reach using the available connections, the final performance will depend on our internet provider, the contracted speed, the distance of our Wi-Fi network and other factors. The results are good for this the network devices installed.

    We checked the Wi-Fi range with the device located at a distance of about 5m as always with a wall in between and we verified that we have connection without cuts, the signal reaches a good level of about 40 dBm, a correct result. The signal remains quite stable thanks to the double WiFi antenna.

    Bluetooth

    Integrated with the WiFi adapter of the MINIX NEO U9-H we also have Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity with which we have no major problems when it comes to detecting other devices in general although it has resisted at a BT headset, sure to be corrected in future brand firmware.

    CONTROL SYSTEMS
    Remote control

    With the MINIX NEO U9-H package comes with a simple IR remote by default that we can use to control basic installed applications. The keys are correctly mapped for use with KODI-type apps. This remote comes with two small AAA batteries. If we want more control at all levels we recommend the MINIX NEO A3 control we have seen or add a keyboard with wireless mouse for example Logitech MK360.

    Remote control app

    Is possible to control the MINIX NEO U9-H remotely with the service that is integrated to be used with the AMLogic control app, with it we can handle our TV-Box remotely from a Smartphone or tablet if they are in the same Wi-Fi network. It is only necessary to enable the remote control option in the settings of the TV-Stick and install the app on the device that we want to use to control it. If have problems with this method we can use the alternative CetusPlay to control it from our mobile.

    Gamepad and games

    In general the MINIX NEO U9-H don’t  have problems with conventional PC controls. At power level the Mali-T820MP3 GPU that is integrated in the Amlogic S912 SoC is enough to run any Android game without problems with high settings, as we will see in the performance benchmarks this GPU it has a performance far superior to the Mali-450 S905 SoC. We can control games connecting a Xbox 360 Gamepad and the device recognizes it without problems, it also works correctly the Xiaomi Bluetooth Gamepad, we can use them in games with this type of support.

    PERFORMANCE TEST

    SOC

    The new MINIX NEO U9-H features the AMLogic S912 SoC which includes eight 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 processors and a Mali-820Tmp3 GPU. As we see a this is a very powerful SoC and works between 100 Mhz and 2.02 GHz (limited to 1.5GHz) depending on the performance needs of the system, the SoC scales with out problem for each scenario. As we can see the results are in line with others devices with this kind of hardware, we don’t detect any slowdowns and the scores are very high.

    Benchmarks

    Antutu

    With this famous test we get an idea of the general performance of the device and we can compare it with others. Since this tests changes a lot of scale we can not use it in our graphics.

    Geekbench 4

    A new benchmark in SoC testing that offers fairly reliable numbers of CPU’s working in a single core or multiple cores ate the same time, it also has a section of GPU computing that gives us an overall result of the processing capacity.

    3Dmark

    The graphical performance test par excellence with a fairly solid continuity in the results which helps us to compare the performance of GPU’s historically.

    PCMark

    This benchmark tests the device in various scenarios of image processing, web browsing and other everyday uses of our device, the results are useful to check if you defend well in these areas.

    VIDEO AND AUDIO TEST

    Video format test

    We performed our usual tests of video playback on the MINIX NEO U9-H where we obtained good results, something usual in the AMLogic S912 models, we can reproduce all the most usual files without major problems. We checked that you have no problem in playing video to resolutions to 1080P or also in 4K format encoded with h.265 codec, this SoC also supports HDR modes with 10 bit color, an option that we can activate in the settings. By default in the device we have the official KODI 17 that will be automatically updated with the latest official version, the performance is correct. Soon we will have a specific version of KODI developed by MINIX especially for this TV-Box.

    Test results

    H.264 formatDefault playerKODI
    BBB – H.264 8bit – 1080p@25fps – 7 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Birds – H.264 8bit – 1080p@24fps – 40 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Samsung Oceanic Life – H.264  8bit– 1080p@30fps – 40 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Anime – H.264 10bit – 1080p@24fps – 10 MbpsArtifactsFrame skip
    Skyfall – H.264  8 bit – 4K@24fps – 10 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Timelapse – H.264 8bit – 4K@24fps – 43 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    H.265 format
    Tears of steel – HVEC 8bit – 1080p@24fps – 17 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Beauty – HVEC 8bit – 4K@120fps – 12 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Anime – HVEC 10bit – 1080p@24fps – 21 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Samsung UHD Dubai – HVEC 10bit – 4K@24fps – 51 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    HDR format
    Life of Pi HDR –  HVEC – 4K@24fps – 45 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    TravelXP HDR HLG – HVEC – 4K@24fps – 20 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Planet Earth II – HDR HLG – HVEC 10L5 – 4K@25fps – 31 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    • The MKV, Blu-ray ISO and BDRemux formats are only containers, inside we can have different codecs, resolutions, audio channels, chapters or subtitles. To play the Blu-ray format menus we need KODI or a compatible program.

    Audio format test

    In the MINIX NEO U9-H we have the Amlogic S912-H SoC Octa core that as we know it is IS licensed for the use of audio pass through for DD and DTS. For the sound tests we use our Yamaha RXV-577 AV receiver and we verified that we have audio pass through available for DD and DTS 7.1, the results are variable depending on the software that we use although we recommend to use the default player.

    Test results

    Formato audioPCM*HDMIOptical
    Dolby Digital 5.1CorrectCorrectCorrect
    Dolby Digital Plus 7.1CorrectCorrectCore
    Dolby True HD 7.1CorrectCorrectCore
    Dolby Atmos 7.1CorrectCorrect *Core
    DTS 5.1CorrectCorrectCorrect
    DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1CorrectCorrectCore
    DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1CorrectCorrectCore
    DTS-X 7.1CorrectCorrect *Core
    • PCM – Stereo downmix from DD or DTS
    • Core – Only the core of the format Dolby / DTS is played
    • * Our AV receiver does not support these native formats but we check that it does downmix fine

    WEB NAVIGATION AND STREAMING

    Navigation

    To navigate in the MINIX NEO U9-H TV-Box we used the default browser where we had no problems opening a good number of tabs thanks to its 2GB of RAM. The content that is reproduced in HTML5 does not have major problems with the included default Chrome browser that has a good general compatibility, we can install the browser that we like.

    DRM

    In the section of DRM certificates needed for some paid Streaming apps, we have Google Widevine L1 and Microsoft Playready, something that gives us access to several platforms. As we will see below the results with the streaming are varied depending on many factors.

    Youtube and streaming apps

    Installing the most common streaming apps to watch various sources, this TV-Box can play YouTube up to 1080p without problems, we downloaded the app from Google Play without major problems since it is not installed by default in the system.

    Streaming services with subscription

    We pass our battery of test as usual on the most popular streaming services to verified if can work correctly, the power of this device is more than enough to see any type of content on this services, although as we know we are limited on the streaming quality for the restrictions of each company.

    • NOTE: We remind that these TV-Box do not have official support for these streaming apps, the compatibility with these services can vary depends of any new limitations imposed for this companies. The tests are perform with the indicated firmware and the version of the streaming app at the date of the review.
    Streaming serviceVideoAudioPerformance
    NetflixSD (480p)*StereoCorrect
    Amazon Prime VideoSD (480p)StereoCorrect
    HBONot working
    • For more details consult our Guide for Netflix on Android, inside you can found a solution for Error 0013 and installation method on rooted devices or chinese TV-Boxes.

    CONCLUSIONS

    MINIX NEO U9-H

    MINIX NEO U9-H
    8.8

    DESIGN AND CONNECTIVITY

    8.5 /10

    HARDWARE

    9.6 /10

    SOFTWARE

    9.0 /10

    SUPPORT

    9.6 /10

    PRICE/QUALITY

    7.5 /10

    Pros

    • Good MINIX support
    • Auto refresh rate
    • Good network performance
    • Firmware and hardware well tuned
    • MINIX NEO A3 remote with microphone

    Opinion

    After testing the new MINIX NEO U9-H we can say that MINIX continues in the path of its previous model MINIX NEO U1, we basically have the same hardware with a new SOC and an Android system well tuned as the previous one, in this case we also have several DRM certificates installed in the system. This model has DD and DTS 7.1 sound support with license, something that make our live easy when it comes to playback this type of content.

    As we see the MINIX NEO U9-H offers a very polished platform compared to other models, at hardware level all components have good performance and this is noted in the daily use of the system. On the other hand since MINIX as we have seen over the years they ensure a good pace using OTA updates to improve aspects and correct different points. If we are looking for a TV-Box to enjoy in the long term without a doubt this model is a good recommendation, also has the MINIX NEO A3 remote control which is an ideal combo if we are interested in this type of control.

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