First look at Matrix TBS2910

Intro

A few weeks ago, I received from TBS technologies their new Matrix tbs2910 device

The hardware device

It is iMX6Q device derived from the SabreSD board with nice specifications.
Of course, we find common features for an iMX6Q device such as :

  • 2GiB RAM
  • HDMI output
  • 1Gbps wired Ethernet (in fact limited to 400mbps as any other iMX6 device)
  • wifi 802.11n/b/g
  • sdcard slot
  • Analog audio output
  • 3 USB 2.0 slots
  • 1 USB OTG
  • RS232 (optional with additional adaptation board)

But it also exhibits a few, less common, interfaces :

  • mini PCIe slot
  • TF card slot
  • optical SPDIF (with TOSLINK connector)
  • SATA interface (including power connector)

Last but not least : A 16GiB eMMC is embedded.
This approach differs from most alternatives and their sdcard slots only solutions…

It is also worth mentioning that the HDMI CEC signal is properly wired and functional.

The device is packaged in a acrylic case which looks a little… Hmm well I guess you should have look at the pictures and make your own mind (Click on the picture tab)
There are also a few buttons (power, vol up and down) that are not so useful to be honest : But after all they could be bounded to other activities with a few changes…

At last the most worrying item is a fan !
Why the hell should we add a fan on a iMX6 device ? Of course heat dissipation can become a concern especially with the Quad variant and its GPU but I really think most ARM users just don’t want active cooling and that’s it…

Software

The embedded eMMC can be programmed through the USB OTG port with freescale MfgTool2 tool, a user friendly but windows only utility.
TBS distributes several images on sourceforge :

  • An Android image
  • An ubuntu image
  • A MatrixTV image

I will mainly speak about the matrixTV as it is the one I have tried and I know about.
This image is built using the openbricks build system and the relevant source is again available on sourceforge.
This image packages my XBMC port along with useful programs for liveTV (especially VDR and tvheadend).
It even supports out of the box the TBS tuners (TBS5922, TBS5980, TBS5925, TBS5680, TBS DVB-C sticks, TBS5220, TBS5880,TBS5881) with a configuration program to setup everything at first boot.
That way, I have been able to have a smooth experience with my DVB-T TBS5880 tuner at first try (well at second try to be perfectly honest because there was a little mismatch between the dvb-c and dvb-t kernels at some time. But it is now something of the past…)

The developers seem to be pretty active and to listen to users feedback.
After my grunts about the fan which is quite loud, they quickly implemented an automatic regulation that really mitigates the issue as the fan will almost never run while using XBMC (only a few seconds if you heavily use the GUI but not during playback for sure)
They have also integrated in their kernel Rene driver to give access to a cheap IR receiver (It is easy to connect a TSOP on the header available at the corner of the board)

To get an idea about how it behaves, you can have a look at these videos posted by an user (piotras) on the XBMC forums :

Conclusion

At the end, it can definitively be an attractive iMX6 device with specific features and a team which wants to provide a good experience out of the box.
As I guess many users wonder which iMX6 devices they should buy, I will try to post an article which compares the ones I own (I currently have 7 different boards/devices) to help with this choice.
I will also post a similar article for the cubox-i4 as soon as I can as I have recently received a sample from solidrun and it is a very good device…

7 thoughts on “First look at Matrix TBS2910

  1. Hi! I already have my hands on this device, but I’ve been a disappointment in terms of software.
    I have in my living room a nvidia ion atom 330 with ubuntu 12.04 lts with xbmc, tvheadend, etc..
    I thought about replacing it with this wonderful trifle, but the version that brings ubuntu 12.04 install is a mess where you can not do anything and do not want to dispense with the functions of desktop or buy a card dvb-t of brand, since I have a perfect a815 for linux.
    Soc remain the same: there is any possible way to install on EMMC, your last image yocto dora?

    I take this occasion to congratulate you on your work, thank you very much.

  2. Hi Stephen,
    I am noob to Linux and may be the dumbest question you might have heard, can you explain me weather its possible to extract drivers of the tuners (TBS5922) from the image and use it in raspberry pi.
    I have TBS5922 usb tuner and wanted it to use it as tvheadend server with raspberry pi, but TBS only provides x86/64 drivrs.

    Best regards,
    Chandan

    • Hi
      No you cannot do this because Rpi is based on an older ARM CPU (not armv7 arch) so the binary blob will likely not work…
      But if you search a little you will find that a pure open source solution is compatible for TBS5922 I guess (use the stb6100/stv090x driver)
      Regards

  3. Hi Stephan,

    I’m looking for this type of mini computer to run as a NAS for example. Would you currently recommend one of them? This one seems interesting, but for example I’ve seen the Wandboard on your website too. There seems to be so many of them. I guess how strong their communities are is going to be an important point.

    Thanks!
    Manu

    • Hi Manu,
      Today, there is a lot of choice. Yet if you plan to build a NAS, I would recommend a board with SATA port.
      Indeed You will not reach very good throughput with USB only (I would says about 15MiB/s to write on a ext3 partition)
      Please also note that unfortunately when Ethernet uses internal imx6 ENET interface you will never reach the advertised 1gpbs (internal bus will limit you at 400mbps as a total for Tx+Rx)
      The only device I know about which has another “real” 1gpbs interface is the utilite (because there is an additional Ethernet controller on PCIexpress) Unfortunately there it has no eSATA interface …
      Regards
      Stephan

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