Realtek's new SoC could power Mini PC's, smart routers and NAS devices

Update June 17th

Zidoo announced a second model with this SoC, Zidoo X8, which will have 8 GB ROM and won't feature a SATA port as it's X9S counterpart.

Update April 14th

Three new manufacturers confirmed that they will release their own RTD1295 devices soon:

  • Zappiti, which did wonders with the previous Realtek SoC will release a device using RTD1295 later this year. All the Zappiti goodies (like Zappiti Media Center and Zappiti Explorer) will work out of the box.
  • Xtreamer confirmed that they will release a new HDMI streamer and recorder using RTD1295: Xtreamer eXpress
  • Eweat, one of the first manufacturers to release an RTD1195 device will have their own RTD1295 Mini PC's as well (there will be 3 models from Eweat, first being Eweat R9).

Update April 8th

- the first Realtek RTD1295 PCB pictures surfaced - see our article about Zidoo X9S
- we have a brief feedback from one of the manufacturers that are working with RTD1295 for the past few weeks: RTD1295 can render 4K 60p, 4K 10-Bit and 4K HEVC with bitrate up to 300 Mbps.
HDR10 is fully supported, but there are a few things to be fixed before the first devices will arrive to the shelves (like 3D support).
Image quality is excellent, HiSilicon has a serious competitor on this regard (finally!!)

Below is the original article, first to announce this SoC.

The first week of January is always exciting. We get to forget about the unfulfilled last year's New Year resolutions and we get to start a new list of how we can become better or how we will improve our life in the year that just started.

And then we have CES - the same level of enthusiasm, but this time on a professional/corporate level instead of the personal one.

CES 2016 will be setting the trends for at least the first half of the year; many new devices and technologies will be announced, some of them being just on early stages of development.

If yesterday we announced the new Himedia Q10 Next Generation Mini PC, today we have another exclusive article for you.

Rumors about Realtek's new SoC have been circulating for months. At some point we even had a preliminary specs sheet but we decided not to publish it.

Realtek RTD1295 had to be carefully planned as competition in this area is now fierce.
Rockchip and Amlogic had a good run last year with their SoC's created for Android Mini PC's and tablets, Intel stepped into this market with some low-cost and pretty well received SoC's, Huawei/Hisilicon announced their Hi3798C V200 SoC - all of these contributed to a lower market share for Realtek, something they want to change in 2016 with Realtek RTD1295.

Realtek RTD1195 and a bit of history

Let's be blunt about it: RTD1195 did not follow the RTD1073 or RTD1185/RTD1186's footsteps. These were used in hundreds of devices and at some point dominated the TV box/media player market providing good file format support for a fraction of their competitor's price (SigmaDesigns was the main competitor at the time).
They were so popular because Realtek pretty much provided everything (firmware, OS), leaving the manufacturers with just the hardware. So it's easy to understand why there were so many Chinese brands using these SoC's and why bigger brands like Asus and Philips had devices using them as well.
But there was another element that helped : the firmware was easy to modify by DIY enthusiasts to stream content from the internet or to fix/improve small things.

But people wanted even more content from the internet, and Android slowly moved from phones and tablets under the TV.
Realtek did not move fast enough to keep the market share intact. Android 2.3 on Realtek RTD1186 was unusable and this allowed others to step in.

When Realtek RTD1195 was announced it was a "too little, too late" kind of a situation: market was not the same, there were SoC's with CPU's that had 4 and later 8 cores.
BTW, we announced RTD1195 here on MiniPCDB way before others did.
RTD1195 was used only by a few companies (like Eweat or Zappiti) and never achieved the same success as the previous ancestors.
But something good did happen, at least in the last part of 2015 - Realtek found other possible niches for RTD1195 and partnered up with Qnap, so newer NAS models TAS-168 and TAS-268 are using RTD1195 (you'll see later why this is important).

Meet Realtek RTD1295

Things are very different with Realtek RTD1295: it's like Realtek listened to manufacturers and users and tried to match all of their requests in their next generation SoC.

Let's take a look at the Realtek RTD1295 specs:

  • CPU: quad core Cortex A53
  • GPU: Mali T820 MP3
  • RAM: DDR3 and DDR4 supported, also LPDDR2/3
  • ROM: eMMC 5.0 (and NAND)
  • HDMI: 2.0 (TX/RX)
  • LAN: Gigabit Ethernet (x2), 11ac Wi-fi
  • USB: 1 X USB 3.0 and 2 X USB 2.0.
  • MHL: 3.0 Tx and 2.0 Rx
  • Other: SATA, Bluetooth, SD card, PCI-e,IrDA in/out, S/PDIF output, I2S in/out

The quad core Cortex A53 CPU combined with the new Mali T820 MP3 GPU (up to 4 sharder cores, 40% improvement from Mali-T622) will offer enough processing power for 4KP60 and H.265/VP9.
Gigabit Ethernet, SATA and USB 3.0 are all useful when playing files with higher bitrates (H.265/4k2k are to be even more popular in 2016).

While there's no mention about HD audio on the current specs sheet, we do saw that Widevine, Playready, Verimatrix will be supported.

Realtek 1295 will find it's way not only on TV boxes but also on OpenWRT routers and next generation NAS devices. That makes sense, as NAS devices evolved as well to become full-fledged media centers and might benefit from Realtek 1295's video encoding and decoding power. Don't be surprised if you will see Western Digital, Buffalo or Qnap NAS devices powered by Realtek RTD1295 one year from now.

When will be the first Mini PC's with Realtek 1295 available? Soon enough, as some manufacturers did receive engineering samples and are currently working on it.

Realtek RTD1296

RTD1295 might have a sibling with 2 native SATA ports and 2 USB 3.0 ports (one might be type C) named Realtek RTD1296.