Not great as an HTPC but a decent little Windows Box
What is the Vorke V1?This Windows 10 Mini-PC is currently (November 2016) doing the online rounds for about £165 and, in a similar vein to the likes of the Tronsmart Ara X5 Plus, the recently launched (and soon to be reviewed) Minix Z83-4 and others, it might make a decent candidate for mini HTPC or streaming duties, given its small form factor. As with all our ‘TV Box’ reviews, our primary interest in the Vorke V1 will be how it goes about its media playback duties, so read on to see how it fares.
SpecificationThe Vorke V1 is based on a 1.6 GHz Intel Celeron J3160 processor with an on-board Intel 400 graphics processor and boasts 4GB DDR3L RAM. On-board storage comes courtesy of a 64GB SSD drive although there is the option of expanding on this, internally, with 2-5-inch SATA drives thanks to the inclusion of a mounting plate and included screws.
Design & ConnectionsThe Vorke V1 is quite a bit larger than most of the mini PCs we get in for review, although it’s still pretty small compared to a traditional computer. The tale of the tape reveals the actual dimensions to be 153x153x38mm (WxDxH) and the V1 is cased in glossy black plastic that, in all honesty, feels and looks a bit cheap. There’s a light grey power button on the bottom right of the top surface and the manufacturer’s logo to the centre. The V1 is well ventilated on either side but something we didn’t realise, prior to receiving the unit, is that there’s a fan inside so it’s not silent like most in the sector. It’s not especially loud but it is audible when playing video and audio which isn’t ideal.
Connectivity options are fairly plentiful with inputs and outputs placed on the front and at the rear. Front facing are two USB 2.0 ports and a micro SD card slot, whilst to the right of those and unusual for a mini-PC is an infra-red receiver. At the back we have an HDMI 1.4 output next to a 15-pin D-SUB VGA connection. There’s also a Gigabit Ethernet connection, two USB 3.0 ports and a 3.5mm audio out jack for headphones or speakers. The Vorke, of course, has built in Wi-Fi up to 802.11ac and there’s also Bluetooth Version 4.0 on-board.
Transfer SpeedsTesting out speeds over the network and reading of local storage revealed really quite decent performance from the V1. Read/write speeds over a wired Ethernet connection barely hit the peaks available from the 1000MB capable port, which is more than enough for streaming a full, uncompressed Blu-ray rip with an HD audio track. Performance over AC Wi-Fi was comparatively more impressive, still, and we regularly got speeds of over 50 MB/s which, again, should be more than enough for a Blu-ray, although the volatile nature of wireless means we would always recommend a cable, where possible. Read/write performance from the internal SSD was also good with maximum read speeds topping 500 MB/s, and write over 150 MB/s although, perhaps more pertinently, a connected USB 3.0 drive (NTFS formatted) got read speeds over 100MB/s read and write.
Video & Audio PerformanceAs usual, test files were stored on a networked storage device (NAS), in this case a QNAP TS-x51A, on a gigabit network, as well as a Samsung M3 USB 3.0 HDD. Video and audio was assessed using a Samsung UE65JU7000 Ultra HD TV and two older Full HD TVs (Panasonic plasma and Samsung LED), directly and via a Yamaha RXV-V679, using the latest stable build of open source media software KODI (Version 16.1). We also used a development build of KODI which has 3D support for Intel HD graphics and worked well with the Tronsmart Ara X5 Plus.
Starting with the 4K Ultra HD tests:
3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/23.976fps 3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/24.000fps 3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/25.000fps 3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/29.970fps
3840 x 2160/AVC/MKV/59.940fps
Video and audio drop-outs - frequent!
3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/23.976fps
Freezing, no audio & unbearable buffering
3840 x 2160/HEVC/MP4/29.970fps
3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/59.940fps
10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/TS/59.940fps
It tried but failed with terrible blocky-ness & buffering
10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/TS/23.976fps
3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/50.00fps
Stuttering & no audio
4096 x 2160/AVC/MP4/24fps
Switched in to 4096x2160 but either it couldn't handle the bitrate over WiFi or buffered terribly
The chipset is not 10-bit capable unfortunately which will hamper it going forwards but it can decode 8-bit HEVC at Ultra HD resolutions, up to 30 frames per second. The vast majority of what little Ultra HD content there is maxes out at 24 frames per second so the 8-bit limitation is more of a concern, for the moment. That will change when there is broadcast UHD becoming available where 50/60 frames per second, and beyond, is targeted.
Moving down the resolution rungs, the Intel hardware is very well supported in KODI and thus the V1 produced the expected goods:
720 x 576/MP2/mpg/25.000fps - Interlaced
Excellent scaling & deinterlacing
1280 x 720/AVC/MP4/29.970fps
1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/25.00fps - Interlaced
1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps 1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/24.000fps 1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/25.000fps 1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/29.970fps 1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/30.000fps 1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/59.970fps 1920 x 1080/HEVC/ISO/23.976fps
1920 x 1080/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps
1920 x 1080/VC-1/MKV/23.976fps 1920 x 1080/VC-1/MKV/29.970fps
Provided you engage the ‘Adjust display refresh rate to match video’ setting in KODI (you need Expert Settings enabled), the Vorke V1 has no issues in detecting framerates and outputting a matching frequency in the video signal so playback of content was generally excellent with a sharp and defined picture and good scaling of lesser resolutions. Especially notable, given a lot of Android TV boxes can’t handle it, is that VC-1 encodes play without issues. Deinterlacing performance was also impressive so activating the PVR functions in KODI is definitely an option with this device
Given that the V1 has very fine network performance the only thing potentially throttling the playback of high bitrate content is the CPU, and so it proved:
1920 x 1080/AVC/M2TS/23.976fps & 90mbps 1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 100mbps 1920 x 1080/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 110mbps
3480 x 2160/H264/MKV/23.976fps @ 120mbps 10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 120mbps
3840x 2160/H264/MKV/23.976fps @ 140mbps 10-bit 3840x2160/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 140mbps
3840x 2160/H264/MKV/23.976fps @ 200mbps
10-bit 3840x 2160/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 200mbps
The V1 topped out at around 120Mbps on Full HD content which is more than ample for playing a ripped Blu-ray with HD audio but struggled with even 8-bit HEVC Ultra HD content at around that bitrate. We had already established that this device isn’t the ideal vehicle for UHD, in general, so it’s not really a big issue provided users know in advance the limitations.
For the 3D content we tried the latest KODI build created by developer, afedchin, but we couldn’t achieve the same degree of three dimensional success we’ve had with other Mini-PCs in the past:
1920 x 1080/AVC/ISO/23.976fps Frame Packed
Played fine in 2D
1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Frame Packed
Played in 2D
1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Side by Side
Had to maunually engage TV mode
1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Top & Bottom
Needed to manually engage 3D mode
For whatever reason, likely highly specific to the chipset, we couldn’t get the V1 to output MVC or ISO files as 3D, although they did play properly in 2D. With top and bottom and side by side files, we could force a 3D output but that’s not really going to cut it for true fans of the format.
While the Vorke V1 proved incapable of bitstreaming HD audio formats, it wasn't totally unsuccessful with multi-channel audio:
AAC (Dolby Digital) 5.1 AC3 (DTS) 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Played as PCM 5.1
Dolby True HD 5.1
Played as PCM 5.1
Dolby True HD 7.1
Played as PCM 5.1
DTS HD-MA 5.1
Played as DTS Core 5.1
DTS HD-HR 7.1
DTS HD-MA 7.1
Played as DTS Core 5.1
Played as PCM 5.1
There were no problems in passing through ‘regular’ DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 but that’s about as far as it went. HD audio was passed as either core DTS 5.1 or 5.1 PCM, in the case of Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital+. We couldn’t get DTS-HD HR 7.1 to play at all, although this is very much a minor issue as there is so little of it about.
How future-proof is this video streamer?
4K Ultra HD playback up to 60 frames per second
HEVC decoding Full HD
HEVC decoding Ultra HD
7 Channel HD Audio pass-through
3D ISO playback
- Solid playback of 'core' video & audio
- Good network & transfer speeds
- Expandable internal storage
- Decent price for specification
- Fan can be heard
- No 3D in KODI
- No HD audio
- No 10-bit HEVC support
Vorke V1 Mini-PC Review
Should I buy one?As a multi-purpose PC for fairly light duties, the Vorke V1 is a well-priced option boasting decent performance more or less across the board. The build quality isn’t the best; the casing is a lightweight black plastic and there’s not much in the way of passive cooling inside to make it feel sturdy. That’s because the Vorke V1 contains a fan, which definitely doesn’t help its cause as a media player as it is definitely audible, if faintly so, most of the time. Connectivity options are fairly good, however, including HDMI and VGA video outputs and four USB ports (2 x 3.0/2 x 2.0) and it’s possible to expand upon the 64GB of built-in solid state storage by removing the under-casing and accessing an internal SATA connection.
In terms of media playback via KODI, the on-board Celeron J3160 processor didn’t quite live up to our hopes. We’re specifically referring to 3D ISO and MVC playback, here, as other extremely similar hardware we’ve reviewed has been up to the job. Still, the V1 is pretty competent with playback of 8-bit HEVC Ultra HD video at up to 30 frames per second and fully working dynamic refresh rate switching. The Vorke V1 also deinterlaces video very well and can pass through 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital but it’s not HD audio capable, if that’s a concern for you. All in all, it’s solid enough as a media player/streamer but given the fact you can get better devices for the purpose, for less outlay, the Vorke V1 just misses out on an award.
What else is there?If you have yourself set on Windows 10 as a platform and there’s nothing wrong in that – the Tronsmart Ara X5 Plus is a bit more capable as a media player and, importantly, features passive cooling so it’s completely silent in operation. If you want something that will play just about anything – 4K, HDR, 3D & HD audio – we have two contenders in the Zidoo X9S and HiMedia Q10 Pro or, if HDR and 3D aren’t so important, the Minix U1 or NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV would be our picks, with the Wetek Hub not far behind.
Networking, Internet, Streaming quality8
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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