Alfawise H96 Max TV Box: Pie and "HotPot" - Gadget Victims

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Alfawise H96 Max TV Box: Pie and "HotPot"

This is the 2019 version of the popular H96 MAX TV Box, now with Android 9.0 and refreshed user interface







Features:
CPU: RK3318 Quad-Core 64bit Cortex-A53
GPU: Penta-Core Mali-450 Up to 750Mhz+
RAM: 4GB DDR3
ROM: EMMC 32GB (reviewed) or 64GB
OS: Android 9.0
Ethernet: 100M LAN
WIFI: Built in 2.4G /5G 802.11 a/b/g/n
1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0
Bluetooth: 4.0
Video decoder: 4K VP9 Video decoder, H.265

Interface

The user interface is nice and easy to use with the usual shortcuts to make the navigation as straightforward as possible.

















The usual boring-classic IR remote is provided and buying a decent double-sided gyroscopic air mouse greatly improves the experience.

There's a front display, hard to read because it's strongly darkened by the casing, but that's probably better than having something too bright anyway.



Storage in this version is 32GB and, in both versions, Alfawise provides 4GB of "Momery".

But that's nothing compared to the appetising HotPot feature hidden in the middle of the connectivity features...












Beside these amusing typos, the Wi-Fi connection is solid in both 2.4 and 5Ghz even at distances where other boxes usually start to give up. Bluetooth is very stable too as tested with my Blitzwolf earphones, speakers and game pad.

Compatibility

It's been a while since I had any Android device with Play Store compatibility problems.
The H96 Max has plenty! Simple apps like Ookla Speedtest or Antutu just won't install...


Some apps loaded with the default firmware cannot be updated from the Play Store, like Netflix 4.16 (current is 6.26) and Google 8.39.8.21 (current is 10.49.11.21). Be prepared to do some side-loading.
It's less of a problem for RKMC 18.1, which is a fork of Kodi especially optimised for Rockchip, and I see no reason to replace it with the "official" Kodi.

The good news is that Plex, MX Player and Beach Buggy racing installed just fine.

Performance

At least I could install GeekBench for what it's worth... Single Core: 522 / Mutli-Core: 896...I've seen higher on Youtube for the same model but that's what I get.

Luckily for that box, I don't give too much importance to the benchmarks and don't expect a game console at this price (although games like beach BB Racing run fine at max settings) but want it to have a snappy interface (it does) and smooth video playbacks in FHD@60fps.

The H96 Max can deliver some decent 4K playback... with the right planets alignment:

Local 4K files will give variable results depending on the format and frame rate.

For example, a 4K sample from the movie Elysium (23.97fps), was choppy, but the Jellyfish demo (29.97fps) played smoothly (a good thing the jellysifh did not decide to swim faster). Samples from Youtube all played fine.
I didn't bother testing anything at 60fps, but overall I found this low cost RK3318 chipset doing better than I expected.

Still, if 4K is your thing, do yourself a favour and look for a stronger chipset.


Conclusion:


For less than 35$/~30€, the 2019 edition of the H96 Max (aka Model 3318) is a decent entry level TV box with modern features (Android 9, dual-band Wi-Fi, BT 4.0, USB 3.0 port).
It delivers adequate (as opposed to comfortable**) performance and does not get hot after a full day of use. It's the appropriate bedroom TV box for watching FHD videos comfortably.

Its biggest problem is the limited compatibility with some apps from the Play Store, but the collection already installed should satisfy most users.


Side note:

Another actualisation to the H96 series is the H96 Mini H6. For an few extra bucks (~5$), it's a very similar device equipped with a different chipset, the AllWinner H6, and no front display this time.
This H6 chipset is not as popular as Rockchip, but is slightly more performant ...on paper, with a clock speed of  1.8Ghz (vs 1.51) and a ARM Mali-720MP2 GPU (Mali-450). It might look like a better choice for those wishing to play 6K videos, but the benefit in real life should be marginal.

Features:
CPU: Allwinner H6 Quad Core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53
GPU: High-performance multi-core GPU Mali T720
RAM: 4GB DDR3
ROM: 32GB
OS: Android 9.0
Ethernet: Standard 10/100M  RJ-45
WIFI: IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4G/5G/AC)
bluetooth: 4.0
Video decode: VP9-10 Profile-2 up to 6K@30fps, H.265 HEVC MP-10@L5.1 up to 6K@30fps




** The devices presented above have adequate performance.
For comfortable performance, look out for the new S922X based devices like the Beelink GT King!







Special thanks to Kylie from Banggood
for providing the H96 Max

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