FXI Technologies was the first company to ever show an HDMI TV dongle when they unveiled the Cotton Candy in November 2011. Since then, many Chinese companies started to provide similar products at lower cost, and the company further improved the Cotton Candy, which is still powered by Exynos 4210 (dual core Cortex A9), by making it even smaller, and getting rid of the internal flash in the process.
- SoC – Samsung Exynos 4210 dual core Cortex A9 + Mali-400MP4
- System Memory – 1GB DRAM
- Storage – No flash, up to 64GB microSD
- Video Output – HDMI
- Wifi 802.11b/g/n
- Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
- USB – USB 2.0 male connector for power and connection to devices that supports USB mass storage + microUSB
- Video Codecs- 480p/720p/1080p Decode of MPEG4-SP/H.263/H.264 AVC/MPEG-2/VC1
- Audio Codecs – MP3, AAC, AAC+, Real Audio
Charbax interviewed FXI Tech at MWC 2013 to see how things are going on. There are not that many new things, and no real demo in the video below. I still find the video interesting as we learn how the HDMI TV sticks idea came to life: they designed a CPU+GPU-in-a-microSD in order to easily upgrade existing phones, but the design never came to life since manufacturing a new silicon needs a lot of capital, and they could not find customer. So instead they decided to use off-the-shelf components to re-create something similar as the mini PC / HDMI dongle was born. They also explained that they considered using eMMC in their design, but due to cost and form factor reasons, they decided to go without internal flash at all, and instead only boot the OS from a micro SD card. Interestingly they still consider the Cotton Candy as a developer’s device as the software is not yet ready for prime time. Contrary to other companies, the first OS will be Ubuntu (Linaro) and come with full hardware GPU and VPU acceleration, and “Cotton Candy Ubuntu” will be available for mass market later this months. Currently video decoding only work from the command line (via gstreamer), and they are working on making it work with all software (e.g. Totem Player). Android will come later, as they upgrade to Android Jelly Bean (currently Android 4.0).
Cotton Candy is available for $199 + tax + shipping, which is several times more expensive than equivalent Rockchip RK3066 mini PCs, but the price does not seem an issue for some applications, as the company still has 250 partners using their solution, and if you want a fully working Ubuntu mini PC, this will become the only option once Ubuntu is officially released for the platform.