Exclusive: Google is testing a low-latency gaming mode on its Android TV dongle, possibly for Stadia support

Earlier this month, we published renders from a marketing video we obtained of Google’s upcoming Android TV dongle, code-named “Sabrina.” We obtained the marketing video from a pre-release firmware build. What we didn’t initially realize, though, is that the firmware also contains evidence of upcoming hardware features.

If you’re looking for a recap of what we know so far about the design and software experience of Google’s Android TV dongle, then I recommend either reading my initial coverage or watching the following YouTube video from XDA’s TK Bay.


XDA Recognized Developer deadman96385, who shared the pre-release firmware build for “Sabrina” with us, discovered some of the Android TV dongle’s hardware specifications by examining the “Device Tree Source” (DTS) files contained within the boot image. The files specify which hardware features of the SoC platform to enable when booting.

Since the main DTS file is very long (~4,200 lines) and difficult to parse without knowledge of Linux kernel development for Android, I won’t be posting the full file in this article. At the very top of the file, though, we can see two key details of the “Sabrina” Android TV dongle device: It has 2GB of RAM (sml_sabrina_2g) and is powered by the Amlogic S905X2 system-on-chip (the reference to g12a below and multiple references to the code-name “meson” not shown below confirm this).

The Amlogic S905X2 is fabricated on a 12nm manufacturing process and has a quad-core CPU with 4 ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores clocked at up to 1.8GHz. The CPU is joined by an ARM Mali-G31 MP2 GPU. The SoC supports video decoding for 4Kp75 10-bit H.265 content, video output at up to 4Kp60 over HDMI 2.1, HDR video playback with HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision, and more.

The S905X2 is a very popular SoC for Android TV devices, so we’re not surprised to see it power Google’s Android TV dongle. Here’s a partial list of certified Android TV devices with this SoC platform, thanks to our friend @AndroidTV_Rumor:

Other Android TV devices with the Amlogic S905X2 SoC

Pay TV Provider / Brand Model Year Country Manufacturer Code Name SoC
Amplia Amplia TV 2020 Trinidad & Tobago Askey STI6160d327 Amlogic S905X2
Antel Vera TV 2020 Uruguay SDMC DV8547 Amlogic S905X2
Canal+ Polska Android TV Dekoder 2020 Poland Skyworth HY4001 / HY40A Amlogic S905X2
Digiturk AirTV IP Box 2019 Turkey SDMC DV8535 Amlogic S905X2
Dish TV SmartVU + 2020 New Zealand SDMC A7070 Amlogic S905X2
EMCALI   2020 Colombia Coship N9119M Amlogic S905X2
Mecool KM3 2019 China Videostrong KM3 Amlogic S905X2
Mecool KM9 Pro 2019 China Videostrong KM9PRO Amlogic S905X2
Midco eSTREAM 4K 2020 USA SEI Robotics   Amlogic S905X2
MINIX NEO T5 2019   SDMC DV8553 Amlogic S905X2
MNC Play PLAYBOX 2020 Indonesia Skyworth HP40A / CYBORG001 Amlogic S905X2
Oi Streaming Box 2019 Brazil SEI Robotics ETRI02 (SEI531O) Amlogic S905X2
RockTek G1 2020 Taiwan Elebao RT-G1 Amlogic S905X2
SK Broadband B tv Smart 3 2019 South Korea Foxconn BFX-AT100 (BFX-UH200) Amlogic S905X2
TADAAM (Telenet) TADAAM Box 2020 Belgium Askey STI6160 Amlogic S905X2
TCC   2020 Uruguay     Amlogic S905X2
Telecom Argentina FlowBox-F1 2020 Argentina Skyworth HP40A2 Amlogic S905X2
Telekom Malaysia unifi TV Plus Box 2020 Malaysia Skyworth HP40A3 Amlogic S905X2
Telkom Indonesia IndiHome 2020 Indonesia ZTE B860HV5_Telkom Amlogic S905X2
Transvision Xstream Box 2020 Indonesia SEI Robotics SEI500TR Amlogic S905X2
United Group EON Smart Box (OTT) 2019 Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia SDMC SDOTT0202 / DV8519 Amlogic S905X2
Vectra 4K Box 2020 Poland SDMC DV8519-Vectra Amlogic S905X2
Verizon Stream TV 2019 USA WNC JS8V Amlogic S905X2
Yes Yes+ 2020 Israel SEI Robotics SEI500Y Amlogic S905X2
Youfone Android TV 2020 Netherlands SDMC DV8519 / Amigo7xYUF Amlogic S905X2

Other hardware features of Google’s Android TV dongle hinted at in the DTS file include Broadcom’s BCM43569 combo chip for Wi-Fi/Bluetooth and Cadence’s Tensilica HiFi 4 DSP.

XDA Recognized Developer deadman96385 also found some other interesting features of Google’s Android TV dongle in a pre-installed system application called “SabrinaService.” Within this application are references to “ALLM,” which stands for “Auto Low Latency Mode.” This is a feature of the HDMI 2.1 specification that allows the device to send a signal to the connected TV to get it to disable any post-processing features that might add latency to displaying the video. A lot of televisions will market this feature as a “Game Mode” because it’s most useful for reducing lag when gaming. To be clear, the user’s television will need to have a low-latency “Game Mode” for this to work, but ALLM support means that Google’s Android TV dongle will be able to toggle this mode automatically.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this feature is being added to support Google’s cloud game streaming service, Stadia. We first reported that Google planned to bring Stadia support to Android TV in 2020, so it would make sense for Google’s own Android TV dongle to be the first device to support the company’s own cloud game streaming service. The latest update to Stadia enables experimental Android TV support, but the setup process is a bit janky at the moment. Very few existing Android TV set-top boxes or dongles support Auto Low Latency Mode, according to our friend @AndroidTV_Rumor. Sony’s 2018 and Philips’ 2020 televisions with built-in Android TV support low-latency gaming modes, though.

Another interesting class in SabrinaService called “GlobalKeyReceiver” hints at the remote having a Netflix button, YouTube button, and a microphone.

There’s code that suggests long-press action support on one of the keys, which could be for the mysterious button with the star symbol that showed up in the render of the remote we published earlier.

Google Android TV dongle remote

Possible remote

Another class in SabrinaService reveals that the dedicated remote likely connects to the device via Bluetooth, which is unsurprising. (DFU in the below screenshot refers to “Device Firmware Update.”)

 

We still don’t know when Google’s Android TV dongle will launch or what it will be priced at, but we’re definitely excited about it coming to market. We’re long overdue for more competition in the consumer Android TV space which is currently propped up by Xiaomi and NVIDIA.


Thanks to PNF Software for providing us a license to use JEB Decompiler, a professional-grade reverse engineering tool for Android applications.

The post Exclusive: Google is testing a low-latency gaming mode on its Android TV dongle, possibly for Stadia support appeared first on xda-developers.

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