Review | ARNU Mach 10 Pure Linux TV Box

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Introduction

ARNU Mach 10 Pure Linux is the first TV box I had the pleasure of using and reviewing that makes use of a specialized Linux operating system. I do know that android is built on Linux kernel foundation, but it’s heavily modified and cannot be considered as a “real” Linux experience.

However, since this is not a android or a Microsoft Windows machine, I am unable to run benchmarks on it, nor to exit Kodi to the desktop (the Linux version is “EmbER” which is custom built to run Kodi and nothing else).

This review unit was sent to me courtesy of the good people at ARNU BOX and Theater in a Box, so thank you all for the opportunity to review such a different product in the TV box industry

This review is going to be a little different.

What’s in the Box?

The Box contains: ARNU Mach 10 Pure Linux, Remote Control, Power Adapter, HDMI v1.4b Cable, and a user manual.

It really does not contain anything more than the basic necessities, but these are enough for a box who’s main and only purpose is video and multimedia playback.

Looks

The box’s design is clean and elegant. A black square, with tapered edges. The front include a small LCD screen and an activity LED. The screen mostly shows the time (a digital clock) and also “On” when it’s turned on from sleep/shutdown mode, and “Off” when shutting the box down. It’s a nice touch.

The built-in skin (“Code Red”) is quite fetching and cleanly designed. It’s sharp, fast, and mostly very user friendly. I do have a biff with it: There is no separate TV shows and Movies options, What you get is Videos (with recently added for TV, the full TV Shows list and the full Movie list) and Streaming, with the recently added Movies above in thumbnails. It’s quite a deviation from the standard and really annoying for regular Kodi users such as myself.

Usage

The whole experience is within the confines of Kodi. There’s no getting out. ARNU Box (the manufacturer) included color coded buttons on the remote to make configuration a little easier, with shortcuts to “System Settings” (RED), “Wireless network manager” (GREEN), “Total Installer” (YELLOW), and “Cloudword Installer” (BLUE, which allows you to install add-ins with a keyword).

There is also a built in “First time setup” which can be re-invoked at will from the system settings of the box. It allows setting up the screen resolution and picture size calibration, as well as network setting up – WiFi or Wired according to preference.

Bluetooth is built in, but is not active at this time. Future update is expected to activate that capability.

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Issues

  • The box seemed not to turn on at first. I reconnected the HDMI cable, and gave it another try. Now it worked, but it took a bit of time to boot. The remote control is the kind with hard (and a bit loud) buttons. It has a tendency to ignore some clicks, and sometimes interprets certain clicks to different actions. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens.
  • The firmware update experience was less than encouraging, as the device was unable to connect to the update server. The manufacturer has been notified, but manual update through a USB/SD Card like in other boxes is not allowed. A new (3.2.2) firmware is expected to come out in a week or so.
  • Installing add-ons from “Cloudword” did not work at first, and even regular add-ons had some difficulty installing at first and needed to be attempted another time before succeeding.
  • An example is the popular “Open Subtitles” add-on that allows subtitles download from the website. I kept getting Error messages when attempting to find subtitles with it, though with any other (android/windows based) box I tried, the add-on worked flawlessly, although slowly.
  • Issues connecting to ARNU update servers (both through Ethernet and WiFi), as well as signing into YouTube (time out too fast to allow code entry).

Specifications

CPU Amlogic S812 Quad-Core Cortex-A9 at 1.5GHz
GPU Octo-Core Mali-450 at 600MHz+
Memory / Storage 2GB DDR3 / 16 GB NAND FLASH
LAN Ethernet:10/100/1000 (Gigabit Ethernet), standard RJ-45
Wireless Support 802.11 b/g/n Dual Band Wi-Fi(2.4GHz/5GHz)
Bluetooth yes, implemented by OTA when ready
OS EmberOS (Linux)
Video Output HDMI 1.4b with CEC up to 4k2k
Audio Output HDMI 1.4b, Optical SPDIF
Power DC 5V / 2A
Peripheral Interface 2 * High speed USB 2.0,support U DISK and USB HDD, SD/SDHC/MMC Card Reader, AV Port, IR Sensor (Remote included)
Packing Included ARNU Mach 10 Pure Linux, Remote Control, Power Adapter, HDMI v1.4b Cable, User Manual

The specifications are about the same as any of the other AMLogic S812 based boxes out there, and the main difference remains the operating system. The manufacturer markets the box as better than it’s android counterparts, but I found it to be a mixed bag.

Mostly, it responds faster. However, multitasking seems to be a problem. And since the only multitasking you’ll need is in Kodi, it manifests itself with long “freezes” or the temporary inability to move around with the remote when you start (automatically or manually) a library update or a clean-up procedure. That barely happens in the android based boxes, probably thanks to android’s better multitasking features. And it shouldn’t happen in a clean (“pure”) Linux system either.

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Video Playback testing (Using KODI)

Resolution Video Format Local Playback Network (Wi-Fi/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 with Pre-Buffering
4K (4096*2304) AVC (High@L5.1) Playing correctly Playing correctly with Pre-Buffering
4K TS HEVC files HEVC (H.265) Does not play / play with artifacts and stutter Does not play / play with artifacts and stutter

Conclusions

The Mach 10 Pure Linux seems like a promising Kodi box. It shows great performance, but I also experienced issues with it connecting to ARNU update servers (both through Ethernet and WiFi), signing into YouTube, some add-ins did not work, and the remote control was useful but quite flawed.

On the bright side, it is a only-kodi machine with good picture quality that managed to play almost anything thrown at it (inside the S812 chipset limitations – no TS files). Local network performance proved quite good, though with long pre-buffering for heavy 4K content. Built-in samba server is nice to have, though limited as you cannot change the shares, and are limited to a few empty folders and connected USB drives. Cloudword allows easy add-in installation with keywords, and there also some services that are reminiscent of the old NMT (network media tanks) which allows things like torrent download and playback, and other interesting options.

The default skin that was custom made for the box requires some getting used to, if you are used to the standard confluence kodi skin. But it works quite well, aside for the lack of international fonts. If you don’t like it, you can change to other skins quite easily.

If you come from android, or even windows boxes, this linux box will be an adjustment. It might be the right fit for you, but you will need to know that It’s Kodi only, and there is nothing else.

Did I like it? Not really. I was disappointed with some of the issues I found as my expectations were higher for a dedicated box. However, I am told that those issues are quite rare with this model, and so it may be a good option for some.

Would I recommend it? I would, but only for people who just need a capable Kodi box, and are willing to live with its limitations, and higher than average price.

If you like it, you can find it here, for 129.99 USD

I give it…  3.3/5 Stars

The grade was given after much consideration as I was going to grade it lower due to the issues I met. However, I have checked online and other reviews did not encounter these issues. So I took that into account, and graded accordingly. A new firmware is expected to come in a week or two that may further improve the performance and issues of this model.

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