Testing Android MiniPC and Raspberry Pi

Author: John Honovich, Published on Mar 27, 2013

Local viewing is a common problem for VMS software based systems. Even for DVR/NVR appliances with direct video output, if the video needs to be viewed elsewhere, it typically requires a monitor and a PC.

One solution gaining attention is deploying super low cost open source based appliances as spot monitors 'PCs'. These units, costing $50 or less, can replace a traditional Windows based PC.

Here's an example of what they look like, with the Raspberry Pi and the Android Mini PC displayed side by side:

Both are fairly tiny, with the Pi about the size of a pack of playing cards and the Mini PC about the size of a lighter.

While they are not designed specifically for surveillance, some are looking to use them. Inside this report, we share our results of using these devices as a surveillance monitor 'PC'.

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Comments (11)

Could you imagine using the Android Mini with a VMS mobile app to drive video to a Public View Monitor vs using a video decoder?

For displaying 1 camera? Sure, though I am not sure if it can keep full frame rate but I don't think that much matters for many.

Yeah I'm thinking either in a back warehouse, or front desk of an office.. Not high priority locations

I have tested these extensively - resolution/frame rate is below par. But for customers that want a freebie it is "functional"

The key with the RPi is that unless you are leveraging the hardware support (within the Broadcom SoC) for the select few video codecs, your performance is going to be garbage. That being said, the OpenELEC team has 30fps 1080 h.264 playback at significant bitrates working without issue... so its just a matter of working out how to leverage this horsepower with whatever VMS you're dealing with.

I've been contemplating the RPis for use in these situations for awhile.

For an inexpensive spot monitor PC, we have been starting to play with the Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing). With dual HDMI out, integrated Intel HD4000 graphics and a Corei3, it leverages the more familiar Intel x86 platform and utilizes Windows, something that majority of integrators around are familiar with.

It doesn't come with a hard drive, memory or an OS, but supports up to 16 GB of 1600/1333 MHz RAM. If you are computer-savvy it is relatively easy to add an mSATA Solid State drive, the RAM and install Windows 7 in a couple of hours. At under $500, it is a decent, small-footprint machine that should have enough horsepower to drive a few streams at full-frame H.264 video. While we haven;t had a lot of time to test it at this time, I would earmark it as a limited-use video viewing workstation for <9 cameras @10 fps or <4 cameras @30fps. Of course, megapixels, resolution, image quality and scene complexity will also play a major factor in what mileage you will get in real life.

Todd, thanks for sharing. I think the Intel NUC is better comparable to Fit PC or the Asus Eeebox. I bet it does perform better but that's a lot more money (closer to $500 vs $50 for the Android Mini PC or Raspberry Pi). If you have the extra money, I bet that will be better but there seems to be a lot of interest in a dirt cheap option.

I tested the mini Android PC using IP Camera Viewer and an 8 camera installation. It is very slow at 4CIF resolution and the program freezes after been running like an hour.

Jorge, I can certainly believe it. One thing for all of us to consider is that there are multiple version of the Android Mini PC, including a new more powerful one coming out this Spring. As such, I suspect performance will vary even across models named 'Android Mini PC'.

We have worked with both devices with our DifWav codec. Both work well and are valuable in different environments.

It is not worth the cheap price if it is not reilable. Have had good luck with Viewsonic VOT Windows mini-pcs for $400 running a thick client. (generally run Logmein on these in case problems occur.)

I have been looking for an RTSP streaming appllcation for IoS and Android (like VLC). This may be a good option for the Android, accessing a cameras second stream (not used by VMS). If anybody has a success story, I would like to hear it.

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