MINIX NEO U9-H Review

Introduction
There are lot of Amlogic S912 Android TV Boxes in the market. What make MINIX NEO U9-H special? First of all, it has dual DRM support – Play Ready 3.0 + Google Widevine Level 1 with its Amlogic S912H processor. That’s not easily found in any other S912 boxes. Furthermore, it is loaded with 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO Dual-Band Wi-fi. And of course, supports 4K Ultra HD with High Dynamic Range (HDR) videos and HD audios as well. Powered by Android 6.0 Marshmallow with lot of nice features like Adoptable Storage. Alright, let’s have a closer look on it…

Special Thanks
This review is possible thanks to below companies. Be sure to check them out too…

Features

  • Picture Perfect – 4K Ultra High Definition
  • Realistic, True-to-Life Imagery – High Dynamic Range (HDR)
  • Rich Cinematic Surround Sound – Dolby Digital Audio
  • Cutting-Edge Technologies
  • Adoptable Storage
  • Streaming Made Simple – Connectivity
  • Dual DRM Support – Play Ready 3.0 + Google Widevine Level 1
  • Committed Support & Updates

Package Content
MINIX NEO U9-H comes in a well protected black packaging. And there are lot of accessories included too. Once taken out NEO U9-H, you can find MINIX IR-Remote, dual-band antenna, power adaptor, HDMI, micro-USB, OTG cable and multi-language setup guide in English, Deutsch and Chinese. FYI, you will get the correct plug for your region. No worry…

Build Quality & Design
Excellent build quality as usual. No doubt on this new NEO U9-H too with solid plastic as frame. And still having stylish design. Yup, there are infrared receiver and LED light indicator in front.

On the right, there are power button, 3 USB 2.0 ports, TF slot, Kensington lock and microUSB OTG port.

Headphone jack, microphone jack, HDMI port, optical audio port, Ethernet jack and DC input at back. And the antenna is on the left. FYI, there is a recovery button (tiny dot) at bottom near microSD slot if you look carefully.

The bundled IR remote is decent. Usable for simple navigation. However, you will need air mouse like MINIX NEO A3 for form input as this one does not even have mouse pointer function. And D-pad does not help here.

Specifications

  • Processor: Octa Core Cortex A53 Processor (64-bit)
  • GPU: Mali-820MP3 GPU
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3 (32-bit)
  • Wireless Connectivity: 802.11ac 2x2MIMO Dual-Band Wi-fi
  • Operating System: Android Marshmallow 6.0.1
  • Video Output: HDMI 2.0, up to 4K @ 60Hz, Supports HDMI-CEC, HDR
  • Audio Output: Via HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm stereo jack, optical
  • Peripheral Interface: RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet – Supports hotspot sharing via Wi-fi, Micro SD Card Reader, USB 2.0 port x 3, OTG port x 1, Kensington lock ready
  • Power: DC 5V, 3A adapter included (CE, FCC certified)

Software
MINIX NEO U9-H is powered by Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and support OTA firmware update. Using FW003 (20170216) now and no worry about MINIX support. Yes, they are good. Just check out their own forum will do. As for applications, it is loaded with latest Kodi Media Center v17.1 Krypton and other useful applications like Play Store, Miracast and YouTube…

Here is the MINIX Metro Launcher. All the stuffs are categorized in those big shortcuts. Example, Kodi shortcut for Kodi or any other streaming apps. And your preferred apps shortcuts at bottom. All of them are customize-able. Android tablet alike launcher is here for you too. Just select it in the settings to enable it.

Don’t have air mouse, no worry. Just install RemoteIME on your Android smartphone and use it as air mouse replacement. A great substitution of the simple IR remote. You will get basic touch navigation buttons, multimedia shortcuts, mouse and keyboard there.

16GB eMMC internal storage is good for me. However, you might need more. No worry, Android 6 Adoptable Storage is working perfect on NEO U9-H. I managed to attach 64GB micro SD card to act like internal storage. That’s 80GB in total.

Benchmark
How does Amlogic S912H perform? In short, it is pretty much like S912 octa-core CPU with ARM Mali-T820MP3 GPU. Just check out below synthetic benchmarks data to find out…

NEO U9-H has the highest score in Antutu Benchmark among my other S912 boxes. Well done, MINIX.

Storage benchmark results are great too. Excellent reading speed on internal storage and fast writing too. Same apply to micro SD slot. External hard drive test is limited by USB 2.0 port for sure. And it has very fast RAM too.

Again, NEO U9-H won in 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme test too. Fastest again. Software optimization does help here too I believe. Fast paced 3D games like Asphalt 8 Airborne and Unkilled are playing very smooth no doubt. As for Geekbench 4, it is on par my previous fastest S912 box.

Connectivity test results are mixed however. Yes, it is getting the best result with 924 Mbits/sec on Gigabit Ethernet. No problem to get connected at 867 Mbps on 5GHz AC and 150 Mbps on 2.4GHz too thanks to 2T2R MIMO. Able to reach maximum transfer rate of 86 Mbits/sec on 2.4GHz. And up to 293 Mbits/sec on 5GHz. Excellent transfer speed no doubt. But wireless range is average only when compare to other boxes. On the other hand, Bluetooth range is great. Get connected up to 7m with obstacles.

Performance Result
Yeah! MINIX NEO U9-H is my very first TV box that support auto frame rate switching and HD audio passthrough on Kodi 17 Krypton. Yup, 4K Ultra HD 10-bit 3840 x 2160 HEVC 60fps videos are playing smoothly here. That’s include h.264 or h.265 codec too. Able to play 4K Jellyfish 140Mbps video through wireless flawlessly too. And support lot of audio codec like Dolby True HD, DTS HD-MA and so on. Everything is looking good but there is one issue on current firmware – brightness issue – blacker black on certain video format during dark scene. No worry, this had been fixed on next pre-release FW004 firmware already.

Some notes to take… NEO U9-H boots up in less than 30 seconds. Took few seconds to shutdown. Does not have root access out of the box. But does include the important dual DRM support – Play Ready 3.0 + Google Widevine Level 1. Yup, you should be able to HD contents from streaming apps that require these DRMs like Netflix. That’s what common TV Box can’t provide. And Malaysia users, iflix and Astro GO are working great on NEO U9-H.

Multi-tasking is working great and fast too. 2GB of RAM is more than enough for an Android TV Box nowadays. No issue on switching between multiple games like Asphalt 8, Unkilled, Rayman Adventures and Xenowerk and none of them get killed by system. And 3D games are running smoothly on Mali-T820MP3 GPU too. Be sure to grab yourself a gamepad and turn NEO U9-H into a game console as well.

No Moonlight (NVIDIA GameStream) test this round as my NVIDIA GTX 980 card is in the hospital right now. Will cover it when it’s back in action. But NEO U9-H does very well job in Miracast section. Yes, I am getting smooth video and audio playback. No skipping nor distortion at all.

Advantages

  • 4K Ultra HD & H.265 codec support
  • Auto frame rate switching support
  • Play Ready & Google Widevine DRM support
  • Great wireless & Gigabit Ethernet speed
  • Smooth multi-tasking
  • Remote control app support
  • Lot of USB ports
  • Excellent build quality

Limitations

  • IR remote with no mouse pointer
  • Average wireless range
  • Firmware still can be improved

Conclusion
MINIX NEO U9-H is a solid Android TV Box for sure. Enjoy smooth 4K video playback with auto frame rate switching, DRM support and HD audio. Excellent build quality and great multi-tasking. Don’t forget continuously software support from MINIX team too. Interested? More information can be found at MINIX Website. Do get yours at Lazada or GearBest or Amazon with MINIX NEO A3 air mouse.

  • Dangdut

    Minix has a reputation of not offering OS updates, so I wouldn’t want to be stuck with marshmallow for the life of this box. Shield offers Nougat already and they don’t have a problem offering OS upgrades. Plus I have read that the S-912 chip poses problems with Kodi. Pass.

    • OS update will depend on the chipset SDK.

      What is the S912 issue on Kodi?