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MadOp

Best TV Box SOC for Linux?

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hi,
I am considering getting a couple of inexpensive tv boxes to play with, my goals in order of interest would be:

- Test Linux running some monitoring bash scripts.
- Test Linux running some lan services as PiHole, nginx service fallback static pages for a couple of domains.
- Test Linux acting as a thin client to RDP servers (think LTSP).
- Test Android acting as a thin client to RDP servers (think LTSP).

 

I don´t intend to run all of these at once, but rather test how well those work (or not).

 

I am leaning towards TV Boxes instead of SBCs for the "all in one piece" factor, with SMBs getting the board+case+PSU+wifi-dongle rapidly seem to become more expensive or cumbersome to bundle (FriedlyElec/NanoPi's for instance look nice, but shipping them down here would cost me U$D 150/200)


As there is a gazillion "brands" and models out there, I will ask which would be your preferred SOC for this rather than brands or models.

 

More details on what I´d like to have working in the box:
- A device that won´t drive me crazy in order to get Linux with a relatively modern kernel up and running,

- stable WiFi,

- USB ports for keyboard, mouse (and a USB drive would be welcome!),

- HDMI,

- 2GB/32GB minimum,  4/64 preferred.

(Video decoding is not really a priority.)

 

Budget... somewhere between $25 and $40 (each box). Otherwise I _might_ be better off with an SBC.


So, which SOC would you choose?

1. AML S905x3
2. AML S912
3. Allwiner H5? H616?
4. RK3328? RK3229?

 

Thanks in advance.

 

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15 minutes ago, MadOp said:

- stable WiFi,

I would say that this will be the most difficult requirement to meet.  It is very hit and miss (my experience is mostly miss) whether you will be able to get wifi working on any particular box.  If you are able to, use wired ethernet and you will be much more successful, or alternatively purchase inexpensive usb wifi dongles that have linux mainline support.  In addition to the poor support by the wide variety of wifi chips in these boxes by mainline linux, you can purchase identical looking boxes that have different internals, so just because you have something working on one box (or someone else does) doesn't mean it will also work for another identical looking box because it has a different wifi chip inside.

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51 minutes ago, MadOp said:

More details on what I´d like to have working in the box:
- A device that won´t drive me crazy in order to get Linux with a relatively modern kernel up and running,

- stable WiFi,

- USB ports for keyboard, mouse (and a USB drive would be welcome!),

- HDMI,

- 2GB/32GB minimum,  4/64 preferred.

(Video decoding is not really a priority.)

and

52 minutes ago, MadOp said:

Budget... somewhere between $25 and $40 (each box).

 

they don't fit together

If you change the budget to 50-55, then you can actually complete all these items.

or reduce the requirements and you can meet 30-35$ (but you will have to be careful with the choice of supplier, please note, not the model, but the supplier, so that he would deliver exactly what you request)

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If you want to make it cheap take a look at here:

 

 

Some people on 4pda.ru say that there are few devices that are electrically the same. They can be obtained from $35 for 2GB RAM and 4 GB for 5 more bucks. From my experience on my Vontar x3 everything works as on H96 Max x3. Currently most annoying is lack of gpu/vpu acceleration on Armbian. I'm experiencing some display issues but it's probably due to s905x3 incompatibility. On my hardware 2.4 GHz WiFi has crappy range but again "some people on 4pda" say that is due to inference from board and can be solved by using aluminium foil or moving antenna to different position. Other things seems to be pretty solid. More info in mentioned thread. If you need some specific testing on Armbian I can do some for you.
 

Absolute price/performance champion is probably this https://pl.aliexpress.com/item/4000278688252.html but I don't know if anybody managed to run Armbian on it.

 

Edit:

nguyen managed to boot Armbian on A95X F3 Slim but I don't know how it corresponds to hardware from aliexpress link

 

 

Edited by mradalbert
Found something on A95x f3 slim

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On 5/19/2020 at 10:55 AM, SteeMan said:

I would say that this will be the most difficult requirement to meet.  It is very hit and miss (my experience is mostly miss) whether you will be able to get wifi working on any particular box. [...].  In addition to the poor support by the wide variety of wifi chips in these boxes by mainline linux, [...]

@SteeMan Thanks for the insights, you just got me reconsidering my whole plan.... But I won´t give up just yet :)

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Hi guys, thank you very much for yor feedback. Lots of details to research there :)

I´m amazed at the amount of work you put into this.

 

Altough I see I am somewhat on track on what my options might be, and I will also go through those links and threads, let me put the question this way:

S905x3 was sort of my first choice, just because I heard some good comments about it and also have a couple of Odroids, so they are somewhat familiar to me.... But I just read @balbes150 seems to be favoring RKs over AML S905x3, is that just a personal choice or has RK a clear edge on Linux on an equivalent SOC? (I know RK3399 is on a higher level, closer to an S922 I guess)

 

And, AW´s .... are those any good at all for my "project"?

 

@mradalbert

That one looks very interesting... Yeah, I wanna go rather cheap because A) for more expensive devices I have my Odroids, and B) part of the "experiment" is about how far can I go with inexpensive yet easily avaiable devices. And C) I know I might get ripped off in this purchase, heh.

 

That is also why getting close to the cost of, say, a RPi3 or RPi4 doesn´t fully makes sense in this project as, for the same money, I´d expect a SBC to be more reliable than a TV Box when running Linux .

Granted, perhaps the more expensive the TV Boxes *are* as reliable as an SBC, but software wise I think they will require much  more work (or learning) from my part. ( @balbes150 the guru probably knows a ton about that :) )

 

Thanks in advance!

MadOp.

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11 hours ago, mradalbert said:

If you want to make it cheap take a look at here:

The only point that will fulfill this advice is the minimum price. All other items are not feasible with this equipment. Especially trouble-free operation (startup) of the system and support. You can forget about using built-in WiFi, this is the additional cost of buying a good external module , which will be more of a price difference with good equipment (as a result, the final price will be higher than if you immediately buy a normal device).

Even if you are lucky enough to buy the first test samples and be able to use them, the next purchase (as you will think of the same equipment\model), you will not be a pleasant surprise, the new samples may be completely different inside, not suitable for use with the already configured and used system.

 

8 hours ago, MadOp said:

S905x3 was sort of my first choice, just because I heard some good comments about it and also have a couple of Odroids, so they are somewhat familiar to me....

A good model with the s905x3 will cost significantly more than your budget, with no significant advantages. Unfortunately, the actual price of C4 for your requirements will be significantly higher than $ 100.

 

8 hours ago, MadOp said:

is that just a personal choice or has RK a clear edge on Linux on an equivalent SOC?

My priorities are based on the technical advantages and availability of Linux support. AML produces chips exclusively designed for Android and TV boxes, all their technical solutions are aimed only at this. AML regularly deceives not only users, but also manufacturers by providing deliberately false information about their equipment.

 

8 hours ago, MadOp said:

And, AW´s .... are those any good at all for my "project"?

Yes, but there are still a number of elements that are not finished.

 

8 hours ago, MadOp said:

 or RPi4

This shit is not interesting, even if it will be distributed for free (technically, this is a very bad decision).

 

8 hours ago, MadOp said:

for the same money, I´d expect a SBC to be more reliable than a TV Box when running Linux .

You are mistaken, if you do not need the features that only SBC has (additional GPIO ports, etc.),  good TV box will always be cheaper and easier to use.

 

9 hours ago, MadOp said:

I´d expect a SBC to be more reliable than a TV Box when running Linux .

Granted, perhaps the more expensive the TV Boxes *are* as reliable as an SBC, but software wise I think they will require much  more work (or learning) from my part.

If you study (small time) the features of the equipment you are going to use before using it, it will be easier to use TV boxes than SBC.

My recommendation for a specific model is based on important nuances that few people remember. For example. for good WiFi performance, you must have an external antenna. And there are many such nuances.

 

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@balbes150 Thank you for such a thorough reply.

 

You are correct about the GPIO and such features not being needed for my project. 

I think it´s the first time I hear a (good) TV Box should be easier for this "project", I thought an expensive TV Box would not give me a noticeably better linux experience than a cheap one.

 

Up untill these weeks my impression was that there where no Linux releases (Armbian or others) that where as reliable on TV Boxes as the ones for SBCs simply because SBCs manufacturers are (more or less) supporting it, while Linux on TV Boxes is usually a third party project without manufacturer collaboration AND with very dodgy targets (all those undocumented differences between devices and production batches)...

 

I guess I will revisit the forum with a new perspective...

 

A tangent question for you, if you don´t mind:

Why the bad blood with the RPi? I realise it has questionable aspects and it´s superiority over RPi3 as an upgrade is often debatable, but I think considering cost + flexibility + available software is a good product, even if it might not be the best for every project.

 

Again, I appreciate everyone' s insights.

MadOp

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>> balbes150

>> or RPi4

>> This shit is not interesting, even if it will be distributed for free (technically, this is a very bad decision).

 

>>>> MadOp

>>>> Why the bad blood with the RPi?

 

Sorry, I meant to ask specifically for the RPi4, as you seem to dislike that version in particular.

 

(I could´t edit my previous post).

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