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Hackable DVR dual-boots Android and Linux

Oct 14, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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A Shenzhen-based startup called Wizarm has launched an Indiegogo campaign for a hackable media player with DVR recording, HDMI pass-through, Miracast support, and video overlay capabilities. The Wizarm device dual-boots Android and Linux on a Samsung Exynos 5250 system-on-chip, and offers SATA storage and extensive I/O including USB, HDMI in/out, DisplayPort, and S/PDIF.

We don’t make it a practice of covering every nifty Linux- or Android-based gizmo that pops up on Indiegogo or Kickstarter, especially while the effort has only achieved a fraction of its goal. Yet Wizarm may be worth a second look by A/V enthusiasts and hackers, who might be interested in exploring the new digital video possibilities enabled by the device’s open source, rooted design.



Wizarm HDMI video player/recorder
(click image to enlarge)

 

Wizarm dubs its device a “synergic mediabox for smart handling of digital streams,” and indeed it’s far more than just an overpriced Android media player. Yes, it can plug into your TV and play Internet video and display browser screens, but it can also process and store recorded video, as well as capture and enhance the video signal with features like scaling and overlay processing. Starting at $259, the box is touted for offering some features found only on PC video capture cards that cost hundreds of dollars more.

The Wizarm’s HDMI pass-through technology lets users augment incoming HDMI or DVI-D digital video streams. Overlaid content can include Web or social networking content, as well as texts and incoming calls. While applying these overlays, the video can be scaled up or down in resolution. Users can choose an output resolution, ranging from SD to HD to 1440p, while assigning a different recording resolution. Video recording is said to be supported at rates up to 1080p60.



Wizarm front and rear panel controls and connections
(click image to enlarge)

 

The device is designed to receive input form a USB keyboard and mouse, a PS3 or Xbox 360 console, an Android device, or even a Mac or PC, including Linux computers. In addition, the device support Miracast technology, letting users perform tasks such as streaming video from a Miracast compliant Android device directly to the TV while “controlling your phone through the Wizarm input or vice versa,” says the company.



Wizarm recording from a PS3
(click image to enlarge)

 

The Wizarm incorporates the same Samsung 5250 SoC that appeared in Google’s Nexus 10 tablet. This “Big.Little” hybrid SoC combines dual ARM Cortex-A15 cores clocked to 1.7GHz with four lower-power Cortex-A7 cores. It also offers a quad-core Mali-T604 graphics processing unit (GPU). Samsung has since upgraded to an Exynos 5420 model that features a faster, six-core Mali-T628 GPU. The company is expected to soon announce yet another revision of the SoC that features ARM’s and Linaro’s Global Task Scheduler (GTS) technology, which will enable all eight cores in an Octa processor to operate simultaneously for peak performance.

According to Wizarm, “Digital home entertainment never came in such a sleek package.” In truth, the 210 x 140 x 50mm device has an industrial look that will appeal more to hackers than consumers looking for an objet d’art to accompany their HDTV. Yet, OEM and custom styling features are also said to be available, including multiple color choices.

The Wizarm can multi-boot Android or Ubuntu, and considering the device is “rooted and fully open source,” it can also load any other ARM-ready Linux distribution. The system ships with 2GB of DDR3 RAM and 16GB of eMMC 4.5 flash memory.

Additional storage capabilities are provided by a micro-SD slot and a SATA 3 storage bay. If that’s not enough, there are three USB 3.0 ports and three more USB 2.0 ports, with two of the latter configured as powered ports.

Both dual-band WiFi and a gigabit Ethernet port are provided for data sharing and Internet access, while Bluetooth 4.0 and IR interfaces connect various input devices. On the A/V side, HDMI is supported with separate in and out ports, and a DisplayPort connection is provided as well. In addition, the box provides S/PDIF audio out and analog line-in and line-out.
 

Specifications

Specifications listed for the Wizarm include:

  • Processor — Samsung Exynos 5250 (2x Cortex-A15 cores @ 1.7GHz, 4x Cortex-A7 cores @ 1.2GHz); Mali-T604 GPU (4x cores @ 533MHz)
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB DDR3 RAM @ 800MHz
    • 16GB eMMC 4.5 flash
    • Micro-SDXC slot (up to 64GB
    • SATA 3 storage bay
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11 a/b/g/n dual-band WiFi
    • Bluetooth 4.0
    • FM radio
    • IR receiver
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet
  • Other I/O:
    • 3x USB 3.0 host
    • 2x USB 2.0 powered (HHD)
    • USB 2.0 device
    • DisplayPort out
    • HDMI 1.4 in
    • HDMI 1.4 out
    • Optical S/PDIF out
    • Analog audio out; mic in
  • Power — 19V 3.5A DC In
  • Dimensions — 210 x 140 x 50mm (8.2 x 5.5 x 1.8 inches)
  • Operating system — dual-boot Android and Ubuntu (or other Linux)

 

The video below (from the Wizarm team) demonstrates a few of the Wizarm device’s capabilities, including taking screenshots and recording movie clips from an HDMI input at 1080p60, launching XBMC on the Wizarm device, and more.




Wizarm demo video

 

Further details

The Wizarm is available for funding on Indiegogo in packages starting at $259 for the early birds, and $299 thereafter, with the funding period ending Nov. 26. More information may be found at the Wizarm Indiegogo page and the Wizarm website.
 

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