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Android -  MINIX NEO U9-H (64-bit Octa Core Amlogic S912-H/ 4K UHD HEVC, HDR, Dolby Audio)
#1
Image

There is a new player in town: Minix released their Neo U9-H on 2/24/2017. It is probably the first Amlogic S912-H SoC based box from a mainstream vendor.

Specifications:
  • Amlogic S912-H ARM Cortex A53 Octa-Core with Mali-820MP3 GPU
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM, 16GB eMMC 5.0 MLC, micro SD Card slot
  • Android Marshmallow 6.0.1
  • HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60Hz (10-bit 4:2:0)
  • Optical S/PDIF, 3.5mm headphone & microphone jacks
  • Gigabit Ethernet, 2 x 2 MIMO 802.11ac Dual-Band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Dual DRM Support – Widevine L1, PlayReady

External Reviews:
CNX-Software Review Part 1: Specs, Unboxing, Teardown
CNX Software Review Part 2: Android 6.0 Firmware & Kodi 17
YouTube Review - Roberto Jorge
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#2
Mini Review of Minix Neo U9-H -wesk05

Review updated on March 14, 2017

Let me begin by stating that this is a personally purchased retail unit and not a review sample provided by Minix.


Packaging and Build:

Just like the previous Minix Android media hubs, Neo U9-H also comes in the familiar black and green Minix box. The front of the box displays prominent logos for HDMI, Dolby Audio, H.265/HEVC Main10 and 4K HDR and on the back side, the specifications are listed. Inside the box you will find the device, power adaptor, an antenna, standard IR remote, HDMI, Micro-USB, OTG cables and a multi-language setup guide (English/Deutsch/Chinese). U9-H has the same dimensions as of the U1. They look like identical twins!

Android OS and User Interface:
U9-H comes installed with Android 6.0.1 with August 2016 security patch. My unit came with a firmware with build date 12/10/2016. There is an OTA update dated 12/26/2016. The samples sent to reviewers seem to have a newer firmware from 2/16/2017. Minix hasn’t yet responded when this firmware will be made available for other users. This review has been done with the Dec. 2016 firmware.

Just like the U1 and previous Minix boxes, the U9-H comes with the same classic tiled Minix Metro launcher. The launcher differs from that of U1 in that there is an additional weather info tile which apparently cannot be configured in this firmware.

General Performance:
From a cold start, the box boots to the launcher in 29.5 sec. Just like the U1, menu navigation, responsiveness etc. were smooth on the U9-H and the box seemed to be snappy. I haven’t done any benchmark scores, but I did test Wi-Fi, Ethernet throughputs and the results are given below:

802.11ac TCP/IP – Down: 237.16Mbps Up: 276.14Mbps
802.11ac SMB – Down: 3.39Mbps Up: 3.29Mbps
Ethernet TCP/IP – Down: 94.14Mbps Up: 95.20Mbps
Ethernet SMB – Down: 30.38Mbps, Up: 26.98Mbps

Media Playback Performance:
All tests were done using Kodi 17.1 RC1 with audio passthrough enabled. The video samples from played from a portable SSD drive. The samples used for testing are mostly from Kodi Wiki. IEC61937 passthrough is implemented in the firmware. Refresh rate switching works in Kodi with MediaCodec APIs. Refresh rate switching can also be set in “Playback” settings via “HDMI self-adaption” Level 2. It is recommended that you enable only one of them. Except for some minor issues, playback was OK for most audio and video codecs. The tables below detail the audio and video codecs tested.

Image ------------Image


PCM audio output is limited to stereo. Decoded audio from multichannel tracks will be downmixed to stereo. Hi-resolution audio is also down sampled to 16-bit 48kHz stereo.
I am not sure why, but one of the videos in the sample collection (4K 10-bit 59.94) played without audio.

As suggested by the “-H” suffix, hardware decoders for Dolby Audio (Dolby Digital/Dolby Digital Plus) and DTS are enabled (Minix doesn't officially mention the DTS decoder). Video player apps such as the default “Movie Player” and “MX Player” can utilize the hardware audio decoders. The output will be downmixed stereo.

There were issues with 4K H.264 50, 60fps videos, but I think that is because 50/60fps are out of spec. for the SoC.

For HDR playback, “deep color” mode should be turned on in display settings to enable 10-bit and Rec.2020 output. The output color space is YCbCr 4:2:0 for 4K 50/60Hz refresh rates and YCbCr 4:4:4 for 4K 24/25/30Hz and all HD resolutions. Dolby Vision HDR sample clips play OK, but Dolby Vision metadata cannot be detected in the output. Similarly, HDR10 videos in VP9 profile 2.0 format can be played, but the output doesn’t seem to have HDR metadata.

Picture Quality:
Based on the few hours that I have used the box for testing, I couldn’t detect a discernible difference in picture quality compared to that of the nVIDIA Shield, Xiaomi Mi or Zidoo X9S. Since picture quality is a subjective perception, for comparison I have provided the HDMI captures of few video clips from the above mentioned boxes. At some point of time, I intend to do some objective video quality metrics assessment on the captured clips.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

There is a serious issue with picture quality in FW003 (2/16/2017). The black levels are incorrect when processing 8-bit content (video or system graphics). The output levels are altered to 0-217 instead of 16-235 for YCbCr color space. This issue darkens the picture. The black levels seem to be correct when processing 10-bit content even when it is truncated/dithered to 8-bit.
- Fixed with Firmware update 004A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

HDMI Capture Clips:
Clips were captured as uncompressed AVI (NV12) and compressed to H.264 using Intel QuickSync Encoder with the same bitrate settings. I haven't edited the clips. So, you will see some "unsupported signal" during the refresh rate change. Since Xiaomi Mi doesn't support refresh rate switching, the recording is in 24fps. It is also couple of seconds shorter than the other clips.

Minix Neo U9-H
nVIDIA Shield
Xiaomi Mi
Zidoo X9S

Original Clips:
John Wick: Chapter 2
La La Land
Moonlight
Zootopia


Mainstream Online Streaming Services:

U9-H is the first Minix device that has Google Widevine L1 and Microsoft PlayReady 3 licenses. HDCP implementation seem to be limited to 1.x. While the box is ready for HD streaming, it may not be able to do 4K/UHD streaming from DRM protected services because of HDCP limitation. I tested some streaming services with official apps installed from Google Play Store.
Google Play Movies: ?HD, but only stereo audio
Netflix: 480p. Apparently there are some patched versions floating around, those can get you HD streaming.
HBO Go: ?HD + Dolby Digital Plus audio

Summary:
Overall, the U9-H is a very capable box. It will work very well both HD and UHD (including HDR10) media playback. The performance is almost identical to that of U1. If you are not interested in the extra features that the U9-H offers, an upgrade from U1 is difficult to justify. You can find a detailed review of Minix Neo U1 here. It is also worth mentioning that Xiaomi Mi is also a serious contender esp. for those in the U.S. where it is available for purchase at the local Walmart.

NB: Consider this as my pet peeve - I am just not sure whether the Dolby Audio logo on the packaging complies with Dolby branding guidelines that are provided to the licensee.

Revision History:
3/2/2017 - Initial post
3/14/2017- Added details about picture quality


__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Mini Review of MINIX U9-H by wrxtasy
Updated: 16-September-2017

Purchased from Amazon USA - $139.90 - IR remote only.

Before all the MINIX fanboys start frothing at the mouth and sitting on the edge of their seats wondering what I'm going to write. Just sit back and relax, because I've been pleasantly surprised by this U9 Smile

The Good:
  • Stable AMLogic Marshmallow Firmware. Thermal management looks excellent. I'm seeing about 55 degrees C when using Kodi Krypton
  • As @wesk05 has said - working Kodi Dynamic Refresh Rate Switching
  • Smooth video playback of 23.976, 29.97 & 59.94fps video using Mediacodec (surface) & HDMI-self adaptation Level 1 settings selected.
  • Google IEC Audio Passthrough Support for HD Audio and Kodi Krypton.
  • Its a snappy, well built box. The Mali-T820 GPU is slightly quicker than the Mali-450 GPU in say a (S905x) Xiaomi Mi Box.
  • Excellent Dual Band AC WiFi (MIMO)
  • Numerous External Connectivity options.
  • Widevine Level 1 & Microsoft Playready DRM certificates. (HDCP 1.x only)
  • Visually - until I do proper testing - (both max 1280x720p) HD Netflix (Hacked Touchscreen App) and HD Stan (Aussie DRM streaming App) works. However 2.0 Audio with Netflix.
    These touchscreen Apps are not remote control friendly. An Air mouse is definitely needed.
  • A decent Android TV ROM available when 1080p ATV Netflix works with 2.0 Audio.

The Bad:
  • A Highly directional Infra Red remote control, that needs to be pointed directly at the box to work. Its as bad as the WeTek Hub's (without it's IR extender cable) and other budget AMLogic boxes. Why is this so hard to get right ? Sad
  • (For me personally) - after using the user friendly Android TV OS Interface. The usual Air Mouse Control difficulties with all Android Touchscreen Apps. Non tech Newbies and Frequent drinkers with bad co-ordination are going to have problems. Oo
  • Thank god you don't need to use an Air Mouse to use Kodi.
  • The remote control - user friendly Android TV version of Netflix will not work at all. Now working with 2.0 Audio with an Android TV ROM !
  • No Amcodec video acceleration shows up when using SPMC (Jarvis) - this would solve all PVR client deinterlacing issues.
  • No 1080p > 2160p Resolution switching. A known Android Firmware issue on 99% of Android platforms. (Fire TV2 has this working)

The Downright Ugly:
  • As previously mentioned 1080p 8bit colorspace output issues. Dark video output is the result. MINIX supposedly has a permanent fix with upcoming Firmware. - Fixed with Firmware update 004A
  • Unreliable, broken deinterlacing when using Live TV - Krypton PVR - clients. Tested with TvHeadend PVR and I see the same issues all Android Krypton platforms are having. It's a widespread Android Kodi Krypton problem.
  • Numerous reports of MINIX A3 lite Wireless remote Wake from Sleep issues. Users prefer the MINIX A2 lite remote that has no such problems.

Like all Android touchscreen OS based devices. You have to use an Air mouse remote or Keyboard touchpad to use the Android OS and its Apps properly.
I used a previously purchased, excellent - MINIX A2 Lite Wireless Mini Keyboard Air Mouse remote for this review.
A Wireless Air Mouse definitely needs to be purchased, which then means the minimum required (device usable) price is actually $154.90 or $149.90 for the Keyboard Touchpad version. (Amazon USA / MINIX Pricing)

The U9 is the first AMLogic Marshmallow device I've seen with working Kodi Refresh switching and nice smooth 23.976 / 29.97 / 59.94fps Kodi Krypton video playback. These two features have to be implemented properly IMHO for demanding Kodi users and day to day media player usage.

Its a snappy little box, when used with a nicely integrated MINIX Wireless remote.
MINIX have definitely been Firmware bug busting before releasing this U9 and it shows. This is what you are paying $$$ for. Excellent work ! Smile

What remains to be seen is if MINIX will actually upgrade the Android OS on this U9 device going forward. Many users and potential customers are now interested in this sort of Android OS upgrade support - especially when they see what other Android media player competitors are doing.

What would have really been nice is if AMLogic and ARM could come to some sort of Licensing arrangement for Open Source Linux Mali-T820 GPU drivers.
You would then see a nice, stable LibreELEC Kodi Krypton release that uses Amcodec Hardware acceleration for OTA TV viewing. On this U9 and all other AMLogic S912 platforms
Worked around and Fixed by the AMLogic kernel Guru @kszaq !

The MINIX U9 with its high quality, fast RAM and Samsung eMMC flash storage is now a quick snappy LibreELEC Kodi Krypton media player !
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#3
(2017-02-27, 00:52)wesk05 Wrote: Mini Review coming soon...
Nice, looking forward to it... the first decent S912 box?
[H]i-[d]eft [M]edia [K]een [V]ideosaurus
My Family Room Theater
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#4
(2017-02-27, 01:19)hdmkv Wrote: Nice, looking forward to it... the first decent S912 box?
I haven't found any issues so far with Kodi 17 playback. HD audio works so does Refresh rate switching.
Sadly, it still falls short when it comes to DRM streaming services.
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#5
3D?
HDR?
MY CURRENT MEDIA PLAYER | MY HOME THEATER
MINIX NEO U9-H LIBREELEC v18 Leia | EGREAT A5 | NVIDIA SHIELD
SAMSUNG QLED QN65Q7 | Sony 43 Android TV HDR
XBOX ONE X UHD BLU-RAY | PS4 PRO 4K w/PSVR
ONKYO SBT-A500 DTS X | ATMOS 3.2.1
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#6
(2017-02-27, 01:36)movie78 Wrote: 3D?
HDR?
I haven't tested 3D yet, but I do not expect frame packing 3D output from it. As for HDR, Amlogic specs. mention that the SoC supports HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. HDR10 works. Dolby Vision doesn't seem to work. My analyzer didn't detect any Dolby Vision metadata. I haven't checked HLG. Just like S905X, the S912-H can play VP9 profile 2 video, but it doesn't pass the HDR10 metadata.
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#7
Meh. Reading the review, this S912 box *still* isn't running official Android TV and infers it does NOT support Netflix for Android TV (with 10-foot UI). They recommend a known Netflix hack that allows the normal android version of Netflix to play UltraHD content.

Wesk05 - I'm assuming its running an "official" marshmellow build, and not one of the hacked versions on existing S912 devices?? I'd think about getting this if I can avoid using the pcm hack for DD/DTS PT to my Yammy AVR.

+1 for optical TOSLINK port for us peeps with older AVRs
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#8
@wesk05 et @movie78

waiting review....but need to know the following (first post, but long time reader)

- S912 is not recommended by kodi devs...right ? so why should this box be good ? coz its minix ?
- does the u9 use a wrapper like zidoo/himedia ? if not does it use kodi engine that has low PQ ?
- how does the s912 measure up vs realtek and hisilicon or tegra x1 regarding PQ ? blacks, upscaling etc ?
- does the picture seems better than U1 if anyone can respond ?
- does this come with official kodi 17 or minix 17 fork ?
- what is the point of marketing DV if it cant read its metadata ?!!!! what is more shocking is that you say even hdr10 has no metadata being read ?!

i am really hesitating since a long time between this U9 and himedia Q5 pro...and read the posts here, still undecided !
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#9
(2017-02-27, 21:18)nenito2k Wrote: @wesk05 et @movie78

waiting review....but need to know the following (first post, but long time reader)

- S912 is not recommended by kodi devs...right ? so why should this box be good ? coz its minix ?
- does the u9 use a wrapper like zidoo/himedia ? if not does it use kodi engine that has low PQ ?
- how does the s912 measure up vs realtek and hisilicon or tegra x1 regarding PQ ? blacks, upscaling etc ?
- does the picture seems better than U1 if anyone can respond ?
- does this come with official kodi 17 or minix 17 fork ?
- what is the point of marketing DV if it cant read its metadata ?!!!! what is more shocking is that you say even hdr10 has no metadata being read ?!

i am really hesitating since a long time between this U9 and himedia Q5 pro...and read the posts here, still undecided !

You have seen my question over on Minix forum. My unit has an older firmware. I am waiting for Minix to respond. I don't want to post a review with the older firmware.

- Kodi devs were of that opinion because the S912 devices available on market were rushed to release with a development firmware that was buggy and incomplete.
- I have already told you the reason why some devices need a wrapper.
- The picture quality will be no different from other Amlogic devices. It will have a small amount of ringing due to aggressive edge sharpening.
- My unit came with an official Kodi 17 build from Dec.
- I don't think Minix marketing materials state Dolby Vision support.
- What I said is, it doesn't pass HDR10 metadata from VP9 profile 2 videos. It works fine with HEVC videos.
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#10
thanx did not realize it was you on minixofum as your name does not have an "S"...will wait for your impressions before deciding !
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#11
(2017-02-27, 20:39)Jokerchyld Wrote: ...They recommend a known Netflix hack that allows the normal android version of Netflix to play UltraHD content.
Who exactly is "they" or is this just more unproven internet Parroting Gossip ?

"Example Short" is the clip that should be used for testing Netflix resolution. Until that is done every post you see is just speculation and gossip.

Next you will be telling us the AML S912 can actually run LibreELEC Kodi ..... Wink

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#12
(2017-02-28, 04:21)wrxtasy Wrote: Who exactly is "they" or is this just more unproven internet Parroting Gossip?
I think it is a patched version that modifies a JSON response (??) to Widevine query. The app is hosted on official Minix HK server. DRM Info app reports max HDCP level as 1.x. I am not sure whether this is a problem with the app or the firmware or the box configuration.
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#13
(2017-02-28, 04:37)wesk05 Wrote:
(2017-02-28, 04:21)wrxtasy Wrote: Who exactly is "they" or is this just more unproven internet Parroting Gossip?
I think it is a patched version that modifies a JSON response (??) to Widevine query. The app is hosted on official Minix HK server. DRM Info app reports max HDCP level as 1.x. I am not sure whether this is a problem with the app or the firmware or the box configuration.
As an observation...
I wonder how impressed Netflix are that a Hacked Version of their App is actually hosted on official Minix servers.

You would need HDCP 2.2 for 4K Netflix normally, unless that has been bypassed as well.

Maybe the device does not have proper HDCP 2.2 Keys if DRM Info is reporting 1.x ?

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#14
(2017-02-28, 04:21)wrxtasy Wrote:
(2017-02-27, 20:39)Jokerchyld Wrote: ...They recommend a known Netflix hack that allows the normal android version of Netflix to play UltraHD content.
Who exactly is "they" or is this just more unproven internet Parroting Gossip ?

"Example Short" is the clip that should be used for testing Netflix resolution. Until that is done every post you see is just speculation and gossip.

Next you will be telling us the AML S912 can actually run LibreELEC Kodi ..... Wink

"They" is the Minix review that Wesk05 posted in the first post. That article makes a reference to this APK --> http://minix.com.hk/downfile/Netflix_HD.apk -- which is the hacked APK to get unsupported Netflix devices to watch Netflix content in HD (or UltraHD if you get that particular APK). There is an observable and marked difference between using Netflix on the android play store and these APK (regardless if its "true" HD or not).

As far as S912 running LibreELEC... Its coming!!! Big Grin (joking, of course).
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#15
1- can anyone confirm if this box IS 10 bits video output ! s905 was only 8 bits in that regard even if in accepted 10 bit...
2- can anyone confirm if this box is getting android nougat and is hdcp 2.2 (aside from netflix/amazon) ! minix confirmed it last year...but no word since !
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MINIX NEO U9-H (64-bit Octa Core Amlogic S912-H/ 4K UHD HEVC, HDR, Dolby Audio)3.65