N9 was sent to me courtesy of the kind people at Nagrace, so thank you all, and especially Candy, for your continuing help and support!!
Nagrace is a Chinese manufacturer for over 15 years which specializes in TV Boxes – both own branded, and OEM/ODM (manufactured for other companies). They are a big Solution partner for Rockchip, and as such, produce devices based on their chipsets.
HPH (named after “Happy Home”) NT-N9 is a brand new model based on one of the latest Rockchip SOCs available, the RK3328. It holds a Quad Core CPU, a Mali-450MP2 GPU, fast DDR4 RAM, and a WiFi module (RTL8723BS) that offers only 2.4 GHz 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, but also includes Bluetooth 4.0. N9 runs on the latest Android Nougat (7.1).
What do we get in the box?
N9 Looks and design
N9 is a standard black plastic box divided into four quadrants with the “hph” logo on top, and some model and standards details printed on the bottom. I found the front to be empty of buttons or ports and with only the IR sensor and a LED notification light. The left side is where the power button is located and the box can be turned on from it or from the dedicated remote. On the right side we’ll find the AV port, recovery pin hole, Micro-SD (TF) reader, USB-OTG port and a USB 3.0 port. On the back are the LAN, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI 2.0, SPDIF and the DC power jack.
|Chipset||Rockchip RK3328 Quad-Core 64bit Cortex-A53|
|GPU||Mali-450MP2, OpenGL, ES1.1/2.0|
|Memory / Storage||DDR4 2G 1066M / 16 GB （EMMC)|
|Wireless||RTL8723BS，2.4G 802.11 b/g/n|
|Video & Audio Output||HDMI 2.0|
|Peripheral Interface||MicroSD(TF) card up to 128 GB, IR receiver and LED, 1 * HDMI (A type Male), 1 * RJ45 LAN Port, 1 * USB 3.0 port, 2 * USB 2.0 ports, 1 * OTG port|
|Packing Included||1 * NT-N9 1 * Adapter(DC 5V/2A), 1 * HDMI Cable , 1 * OTG cable, 1 * IR Remote Controller, a user’s manual|
N9 Benchmarks and Testing
I have repeated All benchmarks have been repeated 3 times and results have been averaged to give a more accurate reading:
The Antutu benchmark tests single core performance over multi-core as it is a better indication of the performance of one device over others in most situations. Here I found the N9 takes a place in the middle of the pack, though general performance in gaming did not impress.
GPU Mark Benchmark
GPU Mark tests 3d gaming performance and also provides a normalized score according to the used screen resolution (for a more accurate result). The test is quite short and should be taken as a supporting result to that of the more serious 3D Mark benchmark. N9 is taking one of the middle places in this test, and that’s an improvement over the 3dmark results I measured.
A1 SD Benchmark
A1 SD Benchmark tests RAM and flash memory speeds. As can be seen in the provided graphs, RAM is much faster (by a factor of about 40) than flash memory – that is why it’s in smaller amount and is also volatile (does not keep its contents after a reboot). I believe that the use of DDR4 RAM and helped the N9 get the third place in RAM copy speed. I also clocked SD speeds at second place showing another of the N9 strengths.
PC Mark Benchmark
PC Mark suite of tests tries to measure performance in day-to-day tasks such as image processing, word processing, video playback and editing and so on. This time, only the new Work 2.0 version has been used as the older 1.0 version is not available on the N9. I found that out of the 8 boxes tested with this new version, the N9 takes 6th place.
3D Mark Benchmark
3D Mark is a labor intensive 3D animation and gaming Benchmark. It runs a series of 3d heavy game and video animations. N9 takes one of the last places, showing that this box is not optimal for 3d gaming.
Video Playback testing (Using RKMC)
|Resolution||Video Format||Local Playback||Network (LAN) Playback|
|720p (1280*720)||AVC (High@L4.1)||Playing correctly||Playing correctly *|
|1080P (1920*1080)||AVC (High@L4)||Playing correctly||Playing correctly *|
|2160P (3840*2160)||HEVC (H.265) – 10Bit||Playing correctly||Playing correctly *|
|4K (4096*2304)||AVC (High@L5.1)||Playing correctly||Mixed – some fine some stutter|
|4K TS HEVC files||HEVC (H.265)||Playing correctly||Stutter, audio loss and buffering|
* I’ve observed some video-audio sync loss while playing some HD content off of local area network. Both over WiFi and Wired connections. Issue has been reported to the manufacturer. Also, a custom firmware with full library support was used for testing, which should be made available within a week or two of review publication.
I’ve performed Kodi/RKMC (both were tested. Latest Kodi 17.3 from the Google Play store was used) testing using a new firmware with full library support as the latest one provided with the box had playback issues with 4K 10 bit TS files. The full library support will be implemented in a (soon) coming firmware update.
Additionally I tested a few Kodi Add-ons that came pre-installed with RKMC (also pre-installed on the box) such as: Phoenix, Exodus, NAVI-X, and S.A.L.T.S. Out of these four, only Exodus still seems to work. This is not due to the box performance, but more to do with the current assault these add-ons developers are experiencing which forced them to take those add-ons (or the servers they were connected to) offline.
I wanted to mention, that using the pre-installed media center app may yield better and smoother results in 4k playback – unlike in Kodi and RKMC apps. However, it is less convenient and does not provide information and add-ons support as Kodi/RKMC does.
I tested network performance using Speedtest.net Internet speed measuring app, in WiFi and in Wired mode. My Internet connection is 500 Mbit Symmetric Fibre connection. Performance is quite good for LAN (especially since WiFi is only supported in 2.4GHz standards), but there is plenty of room for video playback optimization as it does not manifest well in Kodi:
N9 Issues and Bugs
Loss of sync between video and audio in some files (some 720p video files)– does not happen after the latest firmware update
- Angry Birds 2 – game does not respond to click on an item selection and move on to next level
- Asphalt 8 – crashes to home screen after finishing downloading data (1.2 GB)
- 3DMark and PCMark – apps freezes after swiping left for more tests – meaning only default initial screen tests were available – Work 2.0 in PCMark and Ice Storm Extreme in 3DMark.
- After left on its own for a few hours, RKMC (the Kodi 17.1 Variant in N9) may lose connection to the network/LAN and has to be restarted
- Adding a source for the Backup add-on is a bit more complicated than in other boxes – requiring adding the network path in the videos section
N9 Gaming performance
Angry Birds 2, a popular 2d game – on the N9 the game performed well and smooth until one of the selection screens (game does not respond to click on an item selection and move on to next level) where it basically got stuck (box responsive, but cannot click where I need to click)
Asphalt 8 Airborne , intense 3d racing game – could not even start and crashed back to home screen, or gets stuck on the Gameloft logo after finishing downloading data (1.2 GB)
Walking War Robots – an online 3d robot battle game – N9 performs well, aside from the usual issues with all TV boxes – no shooting possible with the standard or Air mouse and to exit, the Home button must be used
The NT-N9 impressed me as a pretty stable box so far. However, its general performance outside of Kodi/RKMC leaves much to be desired.
If you’re after a video performer, the N9, even with it’s shortcomings (gaming issues, not enough Wireless standards support) may be the right fit for you.
Did I like it? Some. As I mentioned, for video playback alone, it is a good choice. But less so for general performance. It may improve in time.
Would I recommend it? Only to video enthusiasts at this point. The N9 was the fastest box I’ve seen in kodi add-ons installation time. Maybe due to the faster DDR4 RAM.
So you’d like to buy this box? You still cannot since it’s not out for sale yet, but I will update here the minute it does become available.