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Author Topic: Practical experiences "Dinobot U5 mini" dual Android TV (A7) and OpenATV (E2)  (Read 1143 times)

Nice Monkey

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 It is a true hybrid Media Player/Streamer and Set Top Box.

Specifically compared this box with Egreat and Himedia players as it uses the same Hisillicon SOC as a basis. PQ and HW features are virtually identical to the base/small models of those brands. It also compares with a NVIDIA Shield as a streamer for IPTV including Netflix but don't own one myself.
As a Set Top Box (STB) compared it with my dated VU+ UNO which it will potentially replace (for 4K satellite channel support). That one is running Blackhole Enigma2 as the OS. Always liked that box as it pairs great PQ plus functionality with user-friendliness and stability.

Things one needs to know to get started well:
Got the feeling the box is a kind of obscure and doubt if they care much about property rights and other legal aspects. On the other hand It is not directly bundled with all kinds of illegal plugins and APP's as some Chinese boxes sold remaining in the grey area.

- It is Dual Boot for Android TV 7 (ATV7) and OpenATV 6.2 (E2). In fact it is ATV7.0 (or ATV8.0). The first time I see Android 8 on a media player!
      The main OS is clearly Google AndroidTV with a special Boot Selection Menu added to it.
      During about 10 sec on the boot selection menu one can use the Remote Control Unit (RCU) to select booting ATV7 (red button) or E2 (blue button)
      If nothing is selected then the last used OS will be re-booted implicitly.
- There is even a Linux compatibility mode option under Android which I did not try. So you may say it supports 3 OS types.
  Also the standard E2 included OpenATV can be changed to multiple customized E2 alternatives (but not including the popular OpenPLI).
- Enigma2 is a simplified version of Linux used specifically for Smart STB's. The APP used is always fully integrated making it a single identity with its own GUI/Features/Setup/RCU-interface. So Enigma2 is never installed or updated as such, this is done by the overlying APP. In this case OpenATV. This looks and feels very close to how KODI is implemented on various OS versions.
- Within Android the same approach as for OpenATV/KODI is followed for the "Live TV" APP which controls the TV-tuners under Android. So also that APP has its own GUI/Features/Setup/RCU-Interface. This is very relevant when using the tuners under Android.

- As with many Chinese FW's: Open means OFF and Close means ON mostly.
- When Dinobot talks about Full and Normal firmware versions they really mean to say Full (update including Factory Reset) and Normal (update without wiping any data, settings or APP's).
- Bluetooth pairing the RCU is done at first OS activation by keeping the setup button on the remote pressed during pairing . It may need several tries for pairing to succeed.
- The Movie Poster System (Movie Box), the file browser (Movie Center), music player and picture viewer all are pretty basic but what they offer is stable.  But alternatives can be added using additional APP's (see APP support for this).
- The box consumes considerable power (6 W to 7 W) in standby. Changing the default behavior of the power button (=standby) is well hidden in the "Live TV" APP and not available under Android settings anywhere: Live TV => Config => Misc => Preference => Power Mode (Standby / Power Save).

The Ugly:
Unfortunately all these loosely coupled OS environments may be confusing and troublesome to update. Specifically troublesome is how Dinobot deals with Dual Boot right now: Android TV plus OpenATV (=E2)

- First of all OTA updates deal only with Android (and Linux within). OpenATV/E2 (or alternative E2 based APP's) maintenance  is entirely left to the user to deal with. Dual Boot works fine when left from the factory but after the first Android update via OTA or USB the Dual Boot may be broken as an E2 image may be missing then. This is always the case if ATV8 has been installed/tried. Backing out to ATV7 won't restore E2.
- Found out the hard way and with essential help of friends on various forums that OpenATV/E2 updates/installs also go via that same Google ATV Boot Selection Menu. One needs to press the (green button) there to install the E2 setup image of choice from an USB-stick. The image can be downloaded e.g, from the OpenATV site, unzipped untouched to a FAT32 stick and finally be inserted into the USB2 port of U5 Mini.
When all is good after pressing green: the led on the flash drive will flash, the front display will show "UPdt" and a pop-up window with the "ofgwrite Flashing Tool" will appear on the TV screen showing progress and success once finished. Make sure nothing else is connected (except to the tuners). Had to disconnect even my Ethernet to get the "ofgwrite Flashing Tool" going myself.
- There are lots of E2 images for the various Dinobot 4K models but hardly any for U5 Mini specifically. it appears that Dinobot 4K Mini images are also suitable for U5 Mini players (mine worked). Dinobot is facilitating none directly at the moment via OTA.
- Dinobot is not clearly labeling Android TV FW releases as they don't use directly referenced FW release numbers. They just merely rely on FW dates. To make matters even a lot worse they don't consistently use the same date format for filenames. Example: 02-03-2019 or 2019-26-04 and even 03-05-2019 (American date with day/month swapped).

All these points can be solved by just improving the ways things are done. I am sure Dinobot can do this as OTA itself and also Backup/Restore are implemented better than I have seen on any other media player. Once well known these are fairly easy to deal with anyway.

The Bad:
- The first big problem I found is that the USB ports don't deliver power as they should. It is far below 500 mA for USB2 plus 800 mA for USB3. My guess is that it actually can power only 500mA for both ports combined. My USB3 2.5 inch Music HDD only powers up with all load removed on the USB2 port. It is my first media player having such a problem.
- There is a green front led display: This is hardly usable as it is 4 position/7 segments only and is very small and dim (unreadable at some distance). It says boot or home/E2, displays the time when in standby and above all is essential for dual boot selection.
- It is very shy on ports: 1x USB2, 1x USB3 and no Internal or external SATA. The only practical way to connect multiple devices to this box is using a powered USB3 hub with it. This is what I finally went for.

The Good:
- It comes with an excellent Bluetooth RCU which includes a build-in cursor mouse and a microphone too.  See those normally bundled only on a lot more expensive models. The IR-learning is restricted to the TV-Power button (single key) but still handy.
- As a media player it basically acts and works as a Himedia Q5/Q10 (using the same Hisillicon SOC) but using Android TV 7 (ATV7) as the basis instead. HiControl does not work with it as a consequence. It also supports BD Menu's the same way as Himedia players do and it has the same Wrapper APP for KODI (to swap the real time player to external). Feature wise Egreat players are slightly more advanced (also using the same Hisillicon SOC) with above all Music Player 2.0 added as a bonus.
- For streaming services it acts and even presents itself as an "NVIDIA Shield" with Widevine L1. This makes it very universal not talking about E2 and tuners yet.
- Netflix Premium works flawless in HD/4K with 5.1 sound and Youtube in 4K as claimed out of the box. Did not try other streaming services yet.
- My Egreat players still have problems with: Stuttering of 4K+HDR+Atmos movies if the HDD is not SATA connected, weird problem with Atmos not producing any sound needing a factory reset to restore, 10-bit video setting reverting to 8-bit after processing any BD with Menu. These are no problem here. In fact this box has no settings at all for AMP compatibility with HDMI RAW mode set to ON it just passes all audio formats as it should do.
- It not only supports HDR10 but also (HLG and) DV (yes Dolby Vision). Did not try if DV actually works as my TV does not support it but could be great with Netflix.
- There is a micro SD-slot meant mainly to store an alternative OS on. it can also be formatted as expanded Device Storage! Don't see these anymore on recent players!
- Similar to Egreat Seamless Branching for DVD/BD/4K works correctly. This is still a nasty problem on my Zidoo players!
- There is a standard option to backup and restore user data. It works also for registrations and APP's installed. A great feature which I truly miss on other Android platforms. Obviously it does not support a restore when upgrading/downgrading OS levels.
- ATV8 OREO 26-04-2019 FW is released now with the omission of Media Center (not compatible with ATV8 according Himedia). OTA enables moving back and forth between ATV7 and ATV8 which is an unique feature. ATV8 OREO seems to be stable and full functional as far as I tried provided one is happy using any other file browser/manager as an alternative for Media Center.
- It has 2 tuners build in for terrestrial+cable and satellite respectively. It has no CAM and/or Smart-Card slots for pay TV services
Tried both concurrently and that works just fine and yes UHD/HDR is supported by the satellite tuner.

Support of APP's installed by oneself:
As a basis one needs to be aware of the following:
- The player FW is based on the Android TV 7 OS which forms a good basis. Google Play Store for Android TV is included as a standard which facilitates using APP's like it is a standard TV with Android running on it.
- Unlike TV's the player is also rooted which in principle allows to add anything one likes. Just will mention the possibility to add:
"APPdroide" to look for any free to install smartphone APP as an alternative for the Google Store
"SideLoad" to get a menu to start those additional APP's easily too  as these will stay hidden by Android TV.
- The remote control is BT based and has a good pointer-mouse included too. It also has a microphone with support for Google Voice control (not used by me). This facilitates adding APP's a lot as most can be controlled nicely with it. No reel need to use multiple remotes (except maybe programmable ones).

It is by far the most convenient player to add APP's I used thus far. Not really my thing but for those who like to fully load or customize their player with all kind of (illegal) stuff, a lot will be possible. The player is not bundled with specific interesting once's from the factory.
I am using additional APP's structurally only to get my licensed Music Players for my external USB DAC installed and running (USB Audio Player PRO and Onkyo HT Player) plus some standard Android TV streaming APP's.

My external USB DAC works just fine with my music apps also on this player after finding out how to install these properly.

Using the Android "Live TV" APP with the build-in Tuners
Started to use the "Live TV" APP which facilitates the build-in tuners. Hooked up my Satellite Dish with 4 LNB's using a Disecq switch. It had me puzzled for a while how to configure this but got it to work. I have seen nicer and more feature rich STB's but it just works and this with a good PQ too. Verdict: Practical usable with the user interface being a bit restricted regarding friendliness and functionality! Partly this is due to the remote control missing some essential direct function keys.
So yes one can use the tuners running Android for a quick switch over. The biggest issue for me is that it has no smart-card slot so I am limited to FTA.
It is amazing to see Satellite pictures in UHD. There are even channels with HDR which is also supported. So in that sense the box is future proof.
"Live TV" is the exception to otherwise very stable Android APP's. Seen some crashes playing around with it. Android itself deals well with it and lets it restart without further side effects.

Of course there is always IPTV too which is a real jungle with tons of legal and also illegal products and services (out of my scope).

Using the Enigma2 (E2) OS making it a Smart STB

Intro:
With E2 as a basis it is similar to a Dreambox, VU+ or equivalent E2 based Smart STB. The alternative Open Source FW's for all these boxes are very close to each other. It turns out to be functionally a valid alternative for my VU+ UNO. Obviously Smart STB's may support many more tuners in mixed flavors and multiple CAM and/or Card slots for encrypted/paid TV channels.
I see those Smart STB's themselves moving into the opposite direction of Media Players and streamers with among-st others support for KODI. Looking at price/performance media players have the best hand today specifically if they can  run Enigma2 for TV support and/or Linux for KODI next to standard Android.
Dinobot seems to be the first one to use a media player SOC to build a E2 based Smart STB with. The Android media player part is more or less a bonus feature and not the other way around.

How is a Smart STB running E2 different from a TV or regular STB using tuners?
There is a specific community developing FW's in various flavors for Enigma2 based STB's. They typically build-in anything they think is nice to have. Will give the basic highlights here only. But the differences are big:
- The GUI and functions and features are more extensive. Above all the user can model his environments to his preference in multiple ways.
- Having E2 as the basis plugins and APP's can be installed as Add-ons. Tools and databases for this are typically included as a convenience.
- There is always a very advanced Electronic Program Guide (EPG) subsystem. Also this one can be configured to user needs and preferences.
- The use of Time-Shifting and Recording is always included. Depending on the actual setup multiple parallel recording may be possible. This even having a single tuner (from the same transponder for instance).
- For paid services a legally installed Smart STB typically can decode multiple channels in Parallel. So with just a single card one can record/view multiple channels concurrently.
 
Practical experience running E2/OpenATV 6.2
Got E2/OpenATV 6.2 finally going with both tuners configured also. Had a quick look around and came across lots of familiar things also found on my VU+ UNO STB running Blackhole FW. Getting used to the menu structure and controls using the RCU will take a while as it very extensive.
In fact OpenATV 6.2 FW is also available for my good old VU+ UNO but alas Blackhole FW running on that one is not available for my Dinobot.
E2 firmware's all share the best from each other and are in general very user friendly, feature rich and also stable as there is a big enthusiastic community behind it. The implementation/experience on the Dinobot U5 Mini is as to be expected accordingly.
The Dinobot U5 Mini is a far more powerful platform regarding CPU/RAM/Flash than my VU+ UNO and even superior to the current model VU+ UNO 4K SE. The pluggable FBC twin tuner part on the other hand is far more advanced with an UNO 4K SE. Only the top VU+ model Ultimo 4K uses an equivalent powerful HW.

Total verdict:
YES still think that it is an amazing little box but definitely it is also somewhat complex. What is really remarkable is that it is so stable even with all that flexibility build-in.
Price/performance:
  - As just an Android media player/streamer:     Good (far better than average regarding FW)
  - As an Android media player/streamer/STB:    Very good
  - As just an E2 Smart STB:                                        Excellent (prices came down but these are relative still expensive)
  - As a hybrid box doing it all combined                Incredible (using Linux not even considered)                                     
To position the box: If one wants a top media player/streamer with tuner capabilities then Dinobot is a good choice but if one is looking for for a top satellite/cable receiver with media player/streamer capabilities go for a Dreambox/VU+/Xtrend or equivalent STB running Enigma2.

Bottom-line Dual Boot here truly brings what it promises to do and offers the best of both Android/Enigma2 worlds.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2019, 11:30:46 AM by Nice Monkey »

pcristi

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Re: How to change between Android and Enigma2?
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2018, 05:53:17 PM »
You need manually prepare microSD with Enigma after that will have option to reboot to Enigma.
http://u5pvr.blogspot.com/2017/12/u5pvr-with-enigma2.html
--> outdated.

More simple for now Enigma E2 is install in one of internal partitions:
https://www.opena.tv/dinobot-4k-mini/42115-howto-dinobot-u5-mini-flashen-mit-openatv-image.html

Collection of E2 Image can get from Dinobot.TV.BBS:
http://forum.dinobot.tv/forum.php?mod=forumdisplay&fid=38
« Last Edit: May 02, 2019, 09:01:27 AM by pcristi »

Nice Monkey

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Re: How to change between Android and Enigma2?
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2018, 10:33:58 PM »
Thanks! ;)

Took me a while but in fact I can boot into Android or E2 without loading a SD-Card.  This using the Red or Blue remote control button at boot time.
Had me puzzled for a while but now looking good.
Got it, the sd-card need is for using Android 8 with E2 combined. I will wait for the normal release.

Anyway added a 32-Gbyte SD-card. Lets see what this little thing can all do.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2018, 07:17:45 PM by Nice Monkey »

rikioh

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i am also quite impressed with this box... strange that there is very little information about this device... i think this is the perfect combo for someone using a beamer, cause you have dvb-c/s/t tuners integrated.... i was a bit skeptical when i bought it, but i haven't regret it, it runs much smoother than my zidoo box with the Addition of netflix and youtube 4k

the only bad thing i noticed is that i have a delay with ac3 sound in the live tv android app and on open atv, where you can correct it but in the live tv app i cannot change sound delay for ac3... and it is a bit slower to switch channels but maybe this will get better or i have to try another e2 image cause in android tv app it is faster...

@nice monkey

do you also have a delay or does your sound perfectly match and runs synchronously
« Last Edit: December 25, 2018, 03:29:33 PM by rikioh »

Nice Monkey

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Re: How to change between Android and Enigma2?
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2019, 06:14:03 PM »
You need manually prepare microSD with Enigma after that will have option to reboot to Enigma.
http://forum.dinobot.tv/forum.php?mod=forumdisplay&fid=38
http://u5pvr.blogspot.com/2017/12/u5pvr-with-enigma2.html
Learned that there multiple ways to install things for E2 outside the OS:
- Burning an image to an SD-CARD (none images found for U5 Mini, just for other models) using win32diskimager under windows on a PC. The card is next inserted back into the player.
- Doing an update via a script installed on an USB stick or SD-Card. This script is run when the (Green) button is pressed during the Google Menu boot-display choice for Android (Red) or E2 (Blue)  at boot time. The front display will show MENU then. UPdt is then shown on the front display next. the led on the flash drive will flash for access and most important a pop-up window will show on the TV-screen showing progress and success when finished.

Followed the second method as that is the easiest one and seems to have replaced the first method. After lots of learning it worked finally for me and now pressing blue it boots to OpenATV 6.2 firmware as it should again.

@rikioh
No problem with sound delays. Not using an AMP in between and neither directly connected to  a TV.

Made a lot of updates! Now including the "Ugly" about FW installs/updates, Experience with tuners using the  Android "Live TV" APP and also using E2 with the OpenATV 6.2 APP.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2019, 03:18:04 PM by Nice Monkey »

Nice Monkey

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Finally finished the review. Only corrections will be made and updates may be done with new FW releases.
I hope it is useful for new and potential buyers.

Comments are welcome as always.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2019, 09:58:42 AM by Nice Monkey »

 

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