TV-box mania: IV part. A95X F3 Air (Amlogic S905X3)

A95X F3 Air.

TV box that costs $40 is equipped with Amlogic S905X3. It offers excellent USB3.0 compatibility, high CPU power and low temperature. Wifi driver for Mediatek MT7668 is available only for Kernel 4.9. If the Wifi is important for you then probably best choice for OS could be CoreElec.

Therefore I created plugins that install HyperHDR on CoreElec. They are available here: link. But Kernel 4.9 offers almost no support for USB3.0. Only Ezcap 320 works fine, other grabbers work using USB2.0 and Ezcap 321 refused to work at all.

Kernel 5.15 on the other hand offers no wifi but excellent USB3.0 compatibility for all grabbers.

A95X F3 Air (Amlogic S905X3)



The unit is equipped with:
  • 4 cores S905x3
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • Ethernet, Wifi (only Kernel 4.9)
  • 1 x USB3.0 and 1 x USB2.0 ports
  • HDMI out, AV, SD card slot


  • Disclaimer:

    The current supply crisis has unfortunately also affected the tvbox market. The latest new models are almost always inferior to their predecessors or they are much pricier, so you'd better hurry up before the old models run out. H616 is inferior compare to the old H6, rk3318 is inferior compare to the rk3328, S905x4 is closed for opensource community contrary to the old S905x3.

    The most common problem with tvboxes is that most of their Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices are not supported by Linux Kernel. Even the same model may have a different Wi-Fi chip installed depending on the revision of the main-board (usually also combined with RAM and disk size version). So at worst, you may need to use an Ethernet connection only.

    By installing Linux you risk voiding your device warranty and could brick it if something goes wrong. Most of these cheap devices are of low quality and can break without modification anyway.


    1 Installing Linux (Armbian or CoreElec plugin)

    If you prefer CoreElec which supports Wifi but no USB3.0, then install the system standard way. CoreElec offers Samba/Network folder sharing so you can easily copy the HyperHDR plugin to CoreElec host and then install it using Kodi menu: in plugins select ZIP option and browse for the downloaded HyperHDR plugin.
     
    CoreElec plugin download site: https://github.com/awawa-dev/CoreELEC/releases/

    I focus here on Armbian installation:
  • at least 8GB SD card and SD card reader
  • Balena Etcher - SD card flashing utility
  • Armbian for Amlogic TV Boxes (ophub)

  • Armbian_22.05.0_Aml_s905x3_bullseye_5.15.40_2022.05.18.1924.img.gz was used in this review.

    Install and run Balena Etcher. Select downloaded image and SD card. Flash it.
    It's critically important to select proper DTB. Otherwise ethernet network won't work.

    This is my uEnv.txt configuration file located at the main SD card partition. Pay attention to FTD section which selects DTB.
    
    LINUX=/zImage
    INITRD=/uInitrd
    FDT=/dtb/amlogic/meson-sm1-x96-air.dtb
    APPEND=root=UUID=1150864f-6b21-4449-bf7e-cfb9b09c3934 rootflags=data=writeback rw rootfstype=ext4 console=ttyAML0,115200n8 console=tty0 no_console_suspend consoleblank=0 fsck.fix=yes fsck.repair=yes net.ifnames=0 cgroup_enable=cpuset cgroup_memory=1 cgroup_enable=memory swapaccount=1
    

    Insert the SD into the TV-box. The first time you run it, it is very important to insert a toothpick into the AV port for a few seconds: there is a hidden button that allows you to boot from the SD media. You need to gently press this reset button, hold it still and connect the power cord to the TV-box at the same time. If you did everything correctly, the device should try to boot from the SD card. Otherwise, it will boot Android with eMMC. For a new system, you only need to complete this procedure once.
        boot

    Attach keyboard and monitor. Then start the box remembering about pressing the reset button for the first boot. After few minutes your Armbian should be ready for final configuration. You can also SSH to Armbian avoiding using monitor and keyboard for the first boot. Default login is root and password: 1234 (you have to change it after logging in for the first time). Create new user 'pi' for everyday usage.
    start

    You can SSH (using Putty) to the TV-box now if you like or continue with the console.

    Next very important commands to install things we need:
    sudo apt update && sudo apt install armbian-config libxcb1

    Congratulation. You have (almost) installed Armbian. You may reboot now.
    sudo reboot

    You may check out assigned IP type:
    ip address

    2 Installing HyperHDR

    As pi user download latest HyperHDR aarch64 installer. For example:
    cd /tmp
    wget https://github.com/awawa-dev/HyperHDR/releases/download/v18.0.0.0beta2/HyperHDR-18.0.0.0beta2-Linux-aarch64.deb
    sudo apt install ./HyperHDR-18.0.0.0beta2-Linux-aarch64.deb
    HyperHDR should be up and running on 8090 port. If you can't connect with your browser then execute one more command and check out the output:
    /usr/bin/hyperhdr

    3 HyperHDR tested hardware

    I tested latest recently released HyperSerialWLED (ESP32) as the LED driver. It worked fine and stable for me, despite some bugs that were reported for WLED 0.13.1 serial communication. Maybe due to the fact that the serial communication module has been completely rewritten in HyperSerialWLED. Just remember to choose proper serial speed in the WLED web configuration.

    USB grabbers

    All following grabbers worked fine at full performance utilizing USB3.0 if the grabber supports it.
    The temperature was around 60C and the CPU utilization was below 30%, even with very intensive use.

  • Ezcap 269
  • Ezcap 320
  • Ezcap 321
  • Ezcap 331
  • Navy U3 
  • MS2109 (USB2.0 grabber)
  • AV Access

  • 4 Summary

    A95X Air F3 offers excellent USB3.0 compatibility, high CPU performance for newer Kernels. This is the first reviewed TV box that can challenge Raspberry Pi 4 offering similar performance for much, much less money at cost of missing Wifi support for newer Kernels. Certainly Amlogic S905X3, which the A95X F3 Air is equipped with, is the best choice for the budget HyperHDR platform. Perhaps it is also worth checking out other variants of TV boxes equipped with S905X3 using a different Wifi chip.

    Comments

    1. How is the connection diagram with the capture card? please guide

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      Replies
      1. USB grabber to USB 3.0 port: there is only one available in this tv-box. USB esp8266/esp32 led driver to USB2.0: also there is only one such port. How HDMI cables are connected that depends on the model of the grabber, if there is a HDMI splitter etc.

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