• REVIEW: X96 mini a small low-cost TV-Box with Amlogic S905W SoC

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    With the collaboration of the Gearbest store today we offer the review of the small TV-Box X96 mini, this is the first model where we will see the capabilities of the new SoC Amlogic S905W Quad core focused on the low-cost sector. In this device we have 1 or 2GB of DDR3 RAM, 8 or 16 GB of internal storage, b/g/n Wifi and Ethernet 10/100 among other features, as we can see a fairly basic model. This model supports decoding of all types of H.265 and VP9 files with HDR support but is limited to 4K30fps or 1080p60fps video output. Let’s see if we are facing an interesting or mediocre product in our usual review.

    • Buy the X96 mini in their basic setup on the store Gearbest.com for only $25 with free shipping

    SPECIFICATIONS

    ModelX96 mini
    CPUAmlogic S905W Quad Core Cortex-A53 1,2 GHz
    GPUMali-450MP
    OSAndroid 7.1.2 (32bit)
    RAM1 / 2 GB DDR3
    Storage8 / 16 GB eMMc
    WiFiWiFi b/g/n (RTL8189)
    BluetoothNo
    Ports2x USB 2.0
    microSD reader
    HDMI 2.0
    Audio jack
    IR jack
    Ethernet 10/100
     OthersRecovery button
     ContentIR Remote
    IR extension cable
    HDMI cable
    5V 2A DC adapter
    Manual
    Wall support
    Measures: 3.23 x 3.23 x 0.67 inches
    Weight: 5,2 oz

    CONTENT DESCRIPTION

    Package content

    This TV-Box X96 mini comes in a cardboard box with the logo of the model on top. Inside the box we find the mini TV-Box in an upper compartment, the rest of the accessories are in a lower area, we have by default a IR control, HDMI cable, IR extender cable, English manual, support for the wall and a small 5V / 2A adapter.

    Product Details

    The small box of the X96 mini is made of plastic and have a very small size, on the front we have a status LED and an IR receiver hidden behind the black plastic.

    On the side we have a microSD card reader with self-extracting mechanism and two USB 2.0 ports, the first is the one used to perform the updates from PC.

    On the back we find the other ports, DC connector, optical audio output, HDMI 2.0 connector limited to 1080p60fps, 10/100 Ethernet port, AV video / audio jack and the connector for the IR extender.

    In the lower area of the X96 mini we have four rubber feet, the sticker that identifies the model and two fixation points that allow us to mount the plastic support that we can screw or paste on a wall or on our TV.

    As a curious point in this TV-Box we have the IR receiver extender that connects to a rear jack, with this method we can have the device box in a not very visible place, but we must also bear in mind not to leave it without wifi reception .

    CONNECTING THE DEVICE

    Connection and desktops

    Connecting the X96 mini to de DC adapter the box turn on directly, we come to the classic launcher based on squares, we have direct access to KD Player which is Kodi, access to Google Play, browser, settings, memory cleaner and different subcategories. In the lower part we have a row where we can add optional shortcuts with our apps. We can change the launcher but if we restart we always jump the preinstalled launcher by default, something quite annoying if we do not want to use it, the solution is to install another launcher and then delete the default launcher of the TV-Box. The resolution of the system is only 720p and it is something that can be seen in the image quality of the Android environment and streaming apps.

    • Boot time: 19 seconds

    Within the categories of video, music and favorites we can also customize the apps to launch. As we have seen, we DO NOT have a navigation bar and notification bar, that is annoying if we want to use a mouse to manage the system, for example.

    The installed applications by default are the classic, we have Miracast that allows us to share the screen of our mobile, an appInstaller, Chrome, File browser, Modbro to see streaming content, a Netflix app, KD Player (Kodi), app to update , YouTube for tablets, Skype and Twitter.

    Within the language settings we have all the classic Android languages, we can change to another language without problems.

    User Experience

    At the level of daily use X96 mini is a box that allows us to do the basic functions correctly, the Amlogic S905W processor moves the system well but we must bear in mind that we are using Android only at 720p resolution. In this model we have 2 GB of RAM that is the minimum to move apps correctly, we discourage to buy the version with 1 GB. With no taskbar or direct access to the multi task command use this function is quite uncomfortable to use this function since it is not very accessible. In general a TV-Box only to use the playback functions.

    Android Settings

    In the X96 mini we have three different settings screens, the first one created by Amlogic with the basic settings of the system, although as we see we do not have for example the screen settings.

    Within the settings Droid Settings we have other settings where we can see the screen settings, HDMI CEC, automatic refresh setting, sound, shutdown control and access to classic Android settings.

    If we click on More Settings we get to the Classic Settings of Android we have some options more than in the previous settings but they are quite limited and it seems that some menus have been cut that would have allowed us to fine-tune the system.

    Android System

    As an operating system in the X96 mini we have Android 7.1.2 installed, a fairly modern system today. The kernel as we see is the version 3.14.29 and the compilation is dated 12-02-2017, a firmware that must be installed manually since it does not enter by OTA. With this version we have made the review that you can read in the following pages.

    Brand Support

    When starting the TV-Box surprisingly we have an OTA update with the factory firmware but after install we can check that it is not the latest version of the firmware, as we said before you have to install the latest version by hand (12-02-2017) . On the other hand this model has no support known as it usually happens in models of this type.

    Storage and RAM

    The X96 mini includes 16 GB of eMMc storage memory, from this storage memory we have actually available about 11 GB, a figure enough to install a good number of apps. As a device with AMLogic SoC this has a single partition in the storage memory which facilitates the management of our files.

    As we have seen we also have 2 GB of DDR4 RAM and 1.4 GB that are free after a long navigation through the system, so it allows us to correctly open several tabs in a browser.

    We check the memory and internal storage testing the hardware that is integrated in this device, we used the SD bench app as usual. The results of the X96 mini give correct figures for this kind of product.

    Consumption and temperatures

    In terms of power consumption, the X96 mini with the S905W SoC shows results within the range of other devices, even putting the SoC to the brim with games with 3D graphics only 6,7 W peak are reached in consumption, the temperatures are low.

    Google Play and Amazon App Store

    Looking for apps on the Google play we had no problem finding the most common apps in our tests except we only had some inconvenience with specific apps, we can always download the APK’s we are interested in and install them manually. With the Amazon App Store equal result, no problem noticeable with this new TV-Box.

    Root

    The firmware of the X96 mini as we can see the sistema is rooted by default, something that despite everything will not affect us in services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video as we will see in our analysis in the corresponding section.

    Power Off / Standby / Power On

    The X96 mini it offers us a menu with which we can completely turn off the device, if we want to change this behavior in the settings of the TV-Box we have a menu with several options in this regard.

    TEST BENCH

    Video and audio connections.

    Installed in the X96 mini we have the new SoC Amlogic S905W a product that has support for video output by HDMI 2.0a but is limited to a maximum resolution of 4K@30fps, this is a product designed to play 1080p60fps content. We also do not have image quality controls like brightness, contrast or gamma.

    In this system there is NO automatic refresh rate option for the video playback, the menu we have in the settings for this purpose does not work, something that would be interesting since it avoids us to play content with the annoying Judder effect.

    Within the advanced settings of HDMI we find control to choose the format and depth of color in detail, something that we will do well to adjust with respect to our TV, for example we can put RGB mode for old screens.

    DLNA and Miracast

    Installed in the X96 mini we can share the screen using the Miracast app and we have NO problem using a Smartphone LG G3, as we know this type of connections depends on many factors.

    Using the app MediaCenter 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 Windows’ file explorer.

    Webcam

    We ran several videoconferencing tests with the X96 mini, with Skype we have been able to video conference without any notable problems using a simple webcam Logitech C170, a model very compatible with Android.

    NETWORK CONNECTIONS

    Wi-Fi and Ethernet

    By default in the X96 mini we have a b/g/n Wireless Wi-Fi Adapter and 10/100 Ethernet chip, with which 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. This model has a 10/100 connector with which we used a Category 6 network cable to guarantee the max speed, using this connection we reach about 52 mbps which is a basic transfer speed.

    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 correct for this kind of hardware, if is possible we recommend to use the Ethernet port to use streaming services.

    During the Wi-Fi coverage tests with the device located at a distance of about 16 ft as always and with a wall in between we verified that we have connection without cuts, the signal reaches a level of about 48 dBm a figure that indicates we have a basic range.

    Bluetooth

    In the WiFi adapter of the X96 mini don’t have Bluetooth integrated.

    CONTROL SYSTEMS
    Remote control

    Included with the X96 mini we have a basic IR remote control that is powered by two AAA batteries, we have the classic crosshead functions, shortcuts of Android commands, volume, mouse to move with the cursors and several keys to copy the commands of another remote control that we want to clone.

    Within the settings menus we also have the possibility to activate HDMI CEC to be able to use the control of our TV with the TV-Box itself, a system that gives varied results depending on our TV models.

    Remote control app

    To control the X96 mini we can use the alternative CetusPlay to control it from our mobile or tablet, we only need to install the server in our TV-Box and the client app in or desired device.

    Gamepad and games

    To control games on the X96 mini we can connect a Xbox 360 Gamepad and the device recognizes it without problems. We can use them in games with this type of support, in general we will not have problems with conventional PC controls. As for power the Mali-450MP GPU that is incorporated in this Amlogic S905W SoC runs any Android game without problems at medium or low level.

    PERFORMANCE TEST

    SOC

    As the core of the X96 mini we have the new SoC of Amlogic S905W that includes four processors ARM Cortex-A53 64bit and a GPU Mali-450mp. A fairly simple SoC that works between 100 MHz and 1.2 GHz (although theoretically it reaches 2 GHz) depending on the performance needs of the system. This SoC incorporates hardware decoding support for the H.265 video codec, 10-bit H.265 and is capable of playback video at 4K@30fps. In the performance tests as we can see we have low figures in general, something that is logical within a product of this type.

    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 perform our usual video playback tests in the X96 mini, in this TV-Box we have the SoC Amlogic S905W that gives us positive results in general. It is possible to reproduce the most common files without major problems in native resolution in a fluid way. We can watch videos at resolutions at 1080P@60fps or also in 4K@30fps format encoded with the h.265 codec, this SoC also supports HDR modes and 10 bit color files an option seems to work in the native player and in KODI without problems. By default we have installed many streaming plugins, if we are not interested we can delete this installed Kodi and set up our own.

    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 MbpsIncompatibleIncompatible
    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 X96 mini we have the Amlogic S905W SoC Quad core that as we know it is NOT 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 naturally check that in the device we have audio pass through for DTS  and DD5.1 although in some formats we have noticed problems..

    Test results

    Formato audioPCM*HDMIOptical
    Dolby Digital 5.1CorrectCorrectCorrect
    Dolby Digital Plus 7.1CorrectCorrectCore
    Dolby True HD 7.1CorrectCorrectCore
    Dolby Atmos 7.1CorrectPCM *PCM
    DTS 5.1CorrectCorrectCorrect
    DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1CorrectCoreCore
    DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1CorrectCoreCore
    DTS-X 7.1CorrectCore *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

    Using the TV Box X96 mini we can navigate in a quite good way opening a good number of tabs, something normal since it includes 2GB of RAM DDR3 and manages them quite well. The contents that are reproduced in HTML5 do not have major problems with the included default browser which has a good general compatibility, we can install the browser that we like.

    DRM

    As for the DRM certificates needed for some paid Streaming apps we have Google Widevine L3 that gives us access to Google Video content, as a novelty we see that we have CENC ClearKey.

    Youtube and streaming apps

    We installed some of the most common Streaming apps to watch TV online that we downloaded from the Play Store, we don’t have problems. This TV-Box can play Youtube up to 720p without any problems with the version installed from Google Play.

    Streaming services with subscription

    We do our battery 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
    HBO nordicHD (720p)StereoPlay button frozen
    in the center of the screen
    • You can consult our guides where we explain in detail all the most known streaming services, what are their limitations in each platform and how to configure them to see content in HD or 4K quality if possible.
    • Guide for Netflix on Android, inside you can found a solution for Error 0013 and installation method on rooted devices
    • Guide for Amazon Prime video on Android

    CONCLUSIONS

    X96 mini

    X96 mini
    4.9

    DESIGN AND CONNECTIVITY

    5.5 /10

    HARDWARE

    4.0 /10

    SOFTWARE

    5.5 /10

    SUPPORT

    4.0 /10

    PRICE/QUALITY

    5.5 /10

    Pros

    • Cheap
    • Compact
    • External IR receptor
    • Wall support
    • Android 7

    Cons

    • b/g/n Wifi and Ethernet network 10/100
    • No Bluetooth
    • Android only at 720p
    • S905W limited on video playback resolution

    Opinion

    As we have seen with our review of the TV-Box X96 mini equipped with the SoC Amlogic S905W, we are in front of a classic low-cost TV-Box, basically we have what we pay for. The assembled components are the just ones so that the system defends itself in a basic use but we can not demand more with its its b/g/n Wifi and Ethernet network 10/100.

    At the firmware level behaves correctly without forced closures but as we have seen the system is rendered at 720p and we do not have navigation bars, a device that will not have long-term support and that may not evolve much more at software level . In general, as we can see, the S905W does not offer much more than the S905X SoC, which supports 4K resolutions. In short, if we look for something extremely cheap, it may be an option but not expect miracles.

    Where to buy

    • Buy the X96 mini in their basic setup on the store Gearbest.com for only $25 with free shipping

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    ronald lacewell
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    ronald lacewell

    can not get any sound on kodi

    ANKIT KUMAR
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    ANKIT KUMAR

    No info about vp9 profile 1 or 2 codec

    Pietro
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    Pietro

    You said you connected a Xiaomi bluetooth game pad but said that this device has no bluetooth on it, can you connect a regular usb dongle in to it?