Testing HDMI video output from the Allwinner A10, VIA 8850, and Q88 ATM7013 MIPS 7″ Android tablets.
I obtained a mini HDMI-to-HMDI cable ($3) and a mini-HDMI adapter ($2) to test the video output capabilites of my import tablets. Most of the models that feature HDMI out require an adapter or cable to convert mini HDMI to regular HDMI. (You only need one type of adapter, not both.)
Included in the test was a new Q88-style MIPS tablet, Allwinner A10 and VIA 8850 that all featured a HDMI port. Each was connected to a 55″ Samsung LED HDTV. I played a variety of video files in mp4 and flv format. Resolutions ranged from 480×360, 640×360, 854×480, 1280×720, 1920×1080, 4k Ultra HD. All of these files looked adequate on the tablet’s 7″ screen, but the quality of the results varied on the 55″ Samsung.
Anything below 1280×720 will look like a blocky mess. It seems the video hardware does not do any sort of upscaling to psuedo HD like most consumer DVD players or digital media players. This might be handled better on more expensive android tablets but I didn’t have access to any with HDMI out. Garbage in – garbage out. Right to your big screen. The Samsung TV generally does a great job displaying 480i or 480p content from a Wii or other non-HD source. I suspect the tablets were sending it blocky garbled video.
On the other hand, HD videos at 720p and 1080p look awesome. I watched hours of video (with the power adapter connected) and it didn’t stutter or crash once. So far the best feature of my Q88 MIPS tablet is the ability to play HD video from a device smaller than the DVD movie case it was resting on. These same HD video files choked up my little Gateway netbook running the Intel Atom N2600 cpu with Intel graphics acceleration.
The Allwinner A10 was a bit slow to read video files from the microSD card and had issues trying to skip forward and backward during playback. The VIA 8850 and Q88 MIPS were very responsive, putting my FIOS DVR to shame. It doesn’t seem to matter that the Allwinner A10 smoked the Q88 ATM7013 MIPS in most benchmark tests: the Q88 kicked its butt for HD video.
The ATM7013 could not display the 4k video correctly on my TV. The image was distorted. But I suspect that was partially due to the file which registered on my computer as 1920×1214 and not 4k. The A10 and VIA 8850 handled it perfectly.
After watching videos on the tiny Q88 I decided to try a few games using the HDMI output. Bad idea. The device can’t seem to handle rendering graphics to both displays. My big screen went blocky and skipped frames, while the internal 7″ display was normal. So HDMI is strictly for watching HD video even though it is clear in the product specs and sales jargon. I did not try this on the other tablets, but I suspect they would handle it more gracefully.
Overall, all three tablets handled HDMI output well as long as the source was a high-definition video file. This of course means more storage space compared to lower-res files. The ability to store and play HD video from these low-cost devices makes them a great iPad-alternative and makes the potential China shipping wait worthwhile.