The new Neo U1 from Minix is the latest and greatest from the leading TV Box manufacturer in the market. It is based on the successor of the S805, but is pitted against S812 and RK3368 devices – mostly for one reason: as the new generation of SOCs, it supports 10 Bit video decoding. Meaning, it can basically play all the video formats out there (not really, but mostly).
This review unit was sent to me courtesy of the good people at Minix, so thank you all, and especially John, for the helpful communication.
What’s in the Box?
As can be seen, the box contains the following: the Neo U1 S905 TV Box, MiMO Dual Wi-Fi Antenna, DC Power adapter, HDMI 2.0 cable, USB OTG cable, Micro-USB cable, and the basic IR remote control.
Not much to be said regarding the look of the box, as Minix uses the exact same design (saves on production and design costs) in each and every model. It is still simple and elegant with the embossed logo on the top, a new IR sensor on the front, and a multitude of ports on the side and back of the box.
|Chipset||Amlogic S905 Quad-core 64 bit Cortex A53|
|GPU||Penta-Core Mali-450 GPU|
|Memory / Storage||2 GB DDR3 / 16 GB EMMC|
|Wireless||802.11ac 2 x 2 MIMO Dual-band WiFi (2.4 GHz / 5 GHz)|
|Video Output||HDMI 2.0 (4K/2K 60 FPS)|
|Audio Output / Input||HDMI out, 3.5 mm Headphone Jack, SPDIF (optical), 3.5 mm Microphone Jack|
|Power||DC 5V / 3A|
|Peripheral Interface||2 * USB Host, 1 * Micro SD card (TF card) reader, 1 * SPDIF, 1 * 3.5mm Headphone Jack, 1 * HDMI(A type Male), 1 * RJ45 LAN Port|
|Packing Included||1 * Neo U1 1 * Adapter(DC 5V/3A), 1 * HDMI Cable ,1 * IR Remote Controller,1 * Quick Guide, 1 * Product Brochure|
Benchmarks and Testing
All benchmarks have been repeated 3 times and results have been averaged to give a more accurate reading:
* Antutu Benchmark
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. The box shows that it’s single core performance is not the highest which is consistent with the S905 being a more “budget-y” SOC and not really meant for the high end products. It is still in the top 4 and not too far from the S812 and RK3368 based boxes. * Recently, Antutu benchmark has been updated to version 6 which uses different parameters and sub-tests, so the graphs are still based on the older 5.7.2 version for comparison, but here is the result of the new (6.0.0) Antutu version: 38260
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. The U1 had issues completing GPU Mark benchmark properly and froze either mid-test or upon the result screen. Issue has been reported to the manufacturer for correction.
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). The RAM performance is similar between the new Minix and the Probox2, as both are using a similar chipset. But in both Internal and External SD card tests, the Probox2 seems to take a backseat to the new Minix, probably due to a better implementation of a memory reader/controller.
PC Mark Benchmark
The PC Mark benchmark tests run several productivity tests and the U1 performed well in most of them. It came second only to RK3368 based boxes which have the advantage of four more cores..
3D Mark Benchmark
3D Mark benchmark is considered as one of the best ways to test 3d performance on Android (and other platforms). The U1 did not shine in it, coming as number five out of seven in the running. As this is the budget chip of the new AMLogic generation, it is understandable.
The U1 got a new update to firmware version 003 over the weekend (11 December), which was aimed at solving some of the issues that were encountered – especially regarding video playback. However, even with the update and a specialized Kodi version made for Minix, there are still issues:
10. Torrent streaming Kodi Add-ons still do not work (pulsar, Kmediatorrent and so on) in Kodi or Kodi variants.
Keep in mind that this is a brand new model and that those are most likely growing pains that will be ironed out in time. All issues have been reported to Minix and should be dealt with in future updates.
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)||Playing correctly||Playing correctly|
|4K (4096*2304)||AVC (High@L5.1)||Playing correctly||Long Pre-buffering (on Wifi. PLC over LAN is worse with stutter and buffering)|
|4K TS HEVC files||HEVC (H.265) 10Bit||Playing correctly||Long Pre-buffering (on Wifi. PLC over LAN is worse with stutter and buffering)|
Video playback is quite great. 10 Bit TS files that never worked before are now playing quite well, but bandwidth still affects playback, and the heavier the file is, the more of an issue it is. Wi-Fi performance is noticeably better (especially AC/5GHz connection) than LAN over PLC.
- However, when testing the latest Kodi version (16 Beta 4), I was able to use the WiFi bandwidth and play most of the heavy files consistently. Of course, once there are peaks that exceeds the measured rate (around 85 Mbit/s) the video will start to buffer. There were also a few dropped frames and skipped frames, but as long as it did not buffer, the playback was quite smooth.
I tested the network performance using the popular Speedtest.net application from the play store. I tested both WiFi (the fastest WiFi supported – in this case 802.11ac), and wired connection (in my case AV500 Ethernet over power line). My home connection is a synchronous 200 Mb Fiber connection so it would not inhibit the testing (but the Ethernet over power line connection does):
Rooting became available over the last few days, and for review purposes it is quite an important requirement. \
I am now able to measure frame rate and resource usage:
Asphalt 8 Airborne – a 3d graphic intensive racing game. Game performance is fine in standard settings. It is not completely smooth, but is more than playable. I cannot offer frame rate count due to the reasons mentioned above.
Angry Birds 2 – a popular 2d action game. The gameplay was mostly smooth with a few stutters/jerks (both in picture and audio) along the way. The loading times were a little slower than I expected. Overall, a mediocre to good experience. The GPU/RAM handling may need some polishing to avoid these issues in the future, and it may also have to do with the “Google play services” bug that does not allow games to use it for game play tracking.
Walking War Robots – an online robot warfare game that requires a game-pad (I don’t have a game-pad). Game loaded fast and frame rate was quite satisfactory. The A2 Lite gyro function did not work with the game, so only directional arrows were used.
Did I like it? Yes. As can be seen, on the top, I’ve given it the highest marks I gave any box, even with the list of bugs and mediocre 3d performance. I believe TV boxes are measured more by their video/audio playback performance – unless there are other issues that make them mostly unusable as anything else. In this case the general performance (gaming, web browsing, working) is quite satisfactory even if not the best. Minix has come out with the best (so far) S905 64 bit box in its class. It can play pretty much any video/audio file, and aside from no support for some new HD audio formats (DTS: X and Dolby Atmos) due to lack of licensing, it is another impressive high quality release.
Would I recommend it? Definitely. It still got some rough edges, but with Minix’s excellent support, I am sure it will shine much better in the future. And it is quite future proof.
UPDATE: A first rooting solution has been presented as of yesterday (14 December) on freaktab forum: http://freaktab.com/forum/tv-player-support/amlogic-based-tv-players/minix-aml-devices-x6-x8-etc/543706-root-minix-neo-u1-root-method
And a second one, easier by recovery: http://forum.tronsmart.com/forum/vega-s95/1454-tronsmart-vega-s95-root-method#.VnT_A-h96Ul
The rooting solution has already been reported to work. When I get the time, I will root the box and add information regarding the game performance – if the measuring tools work (rooting does not guarantee it).
The Minix Neo A2 Lite Air mouse (and keyboard) Mini Review
When you buy the Neo U1, you may also get the Neo A2 Lite Air mouse bundled with it.
What makes it so great? It is one of the most comfortable air mice I ever used, and it’s also quite versatile thanks to the included keyboard.
It is compatible with Android, Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
It takes 2 standard (or rechargeable) AAA batteries which goes on both sides of the Air mouse. (keyboard side)
Range could not be tested seriously (the room is not spacious enough), but the responsiveness is quite good and the buttons are of the softer, quiet kind.
The keys arrangement is quite good, although somewhat different than other remotes. It does not take long to get used to.
Switching to the A2 Lite from another (Minix) air mouse I have (the Neo M1), is like moving up from a banged up Beetle VW to a Mercedes. The experience is on a completely different level and makes the TV box usage that much more enjoyable.
The “Lite” in it’s name refers to it’s bigger brother, the A2 which adds one more function: a built in Speaker and Microphone for voice commands and sound recording.
However, it is not be aware that it is relatively bulky and heavy for a remote. If you have small hands, you may be better off with another, smaller product. Also, the mouse function reverts to remote function very fast once the remote loses it’s line of sight. On top of that, I was not able to use the Gyro functions on the (two) games I tested.
Neo A2 Lite Conclusions
Did I like it? Most definitely!
Would I recommend it? Yes. I haven’t tested it with other boxes, PCs or devices, but from past experience with other Minix remotes, I am sure it will perform on the exact same level.
I give it… 4.2/5 Stars – Great, with the only thing missing (and I am nitpicking) is true game-pad functionality (the gyro did not work in the games I tested)
So, you like it? You can buy the Neo U1 for 15 USD less, with this discount code (kodilU1) at Geekbuying (minus the A2 lite air mouse) which brings the price down to USD 114.90, Or with the A2 Lite and the same coupon (kodilU1) to bring the price down to 134.90 USD.