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Vero 4K+ Review: Finally, a Native Kodi 4K + 3D Do-it-All Player?
#1
Updated September 29, 2020
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News or Notices:
I'm lowering the overall grade to A- for two reasons that several of you here and OSMC forum have pointed out: (1) 3D support requires a specific Beta 'testing' build (19th September 2020), and (2) a couple of issues related to 3D remain, namely occasional macroblocking or overlapping images, on 'Avatar', 'Ready Player One', and a few other 3D titles (see list under the gripes section below). The macroblocking issue may never be fixed as it's dependent on AMLogic.

Quick Take:
Yes, almost! If what you're after is that (elusive to date) pure Kodi player w/perfect 4K HDR + 3D MVC + HD/object-based audio playback for your videos off a NAS (or old school USB drive)! This is it; there's no other player on the market (at the moment) to accomplish this feat, come this close that is!

My Assessment: Overall grade: A- (updated)
Vero 4K+, in my assessment, is a first-rate media player, but I'm not saying so lightly. No player is perfect, but it took owner Sam Nazarko and OSMC developers since summer of 2018 (when it was released) to get the player to its present state. I requested a review sample in August 2019 when 3D support was first introduced to Vero 4K/4K+. Early results were very encouraging, but nagging issues needed to be resolved w/3D (and it was by no means a sure thing they'd all be resolved). Sam and team took their time, in particular our hero @tanio99, and did so deliberately in improving performance w/community inputs, and boy did they deliver, just recently, hence the timing of this review.

This is about as close to a perfect Kodi-native player we're likely to get! OSMC is the OS (like CoreELEC) behind Kodi in Vero 4K+. For 4K fans who continue to also love 3D as much (or more so), it had been necessary to have 2+ players (in my case Zidoo Z9S, mostly for 3D, with Odroid N2 w/CoreELEC for 4K and everything else my own media). For Netflix, Amazon Prime and other premium services, along with Kodi, nVidia Shield TV remains excellent, but lack of 3D (which nVidia has said will never happen) is a bummer.

For proper 3D playback and quality, Vero 4K+ edges past my previous favorite pick Zidoo Z9S (that post to be updated soon to reflect so). While Zidoo remains an excellent choice, ZDMC (Zidoo's Kodi fork) is simply a front-end (window-dressing) to manage your media library w/playback being handled externally by the Realtek-based Zidoo player app. For pure Kodi for all local media, Vero 4K+ is it.

Disclosures:
  • Vero 4K+ review unit kindly provided by Sam
  • Player software version June 2020.06-1 (kernel 4.9.113-20-osmc)
  • Opinions are my own, and haven't been influenced by anyone else
  • This review is being posted w/o seeking any kind of consent from Sam or the OSMC team
  • Here's my new home theater and review set-up


My Expectations for a Media Player:
I love HD, 3D and 4K, with HD audio (preferably Dolby ATMOS/DTS:X) in the best quality possible (that means local media vs. online streaming whenever possible). I love movies and shows, and want to enjoy them in the best environment possible (and what I can afford, which isn't high end by any means). I realize 3D is a slow dying format, but at 400+ titles in my collection (and growing), I continue to support and enjoy it (even if manufacturers and studios have mostly abandoned it). See this thread on Blu-ray.com's forum with fans keeping 3D on life support. Although you can't buy new 3D TV's anymore, it's still well-supported on projectors thankfully from the likes of BenQ, Optoma, JVC and Epson. And a big screen is the way to enjoy it anyway. As much as I love the clarity and rich colors of 4K w/HDR, you simply cannot beat the total immersive experience of (decently produced) 3D, especially combined w/Dolby ATMOS or DTS:X! Those who dismiss 3D don't get it, or didn't experience it as they should've at home.

Solid playback is a must! Glitches, stutters, unwanted artifacts or other issues (even minor) ruin the movie experience. And a solid player needs to support SD, HD, 3D, 4K w/various audio formats, in various containers (MKV, ts, ISO, mov, etc.) equally well. Refresh rate switching and resolution switching also need be handled right. For 4K, accurate colors and no banding. And, the player needs to be really affordable. Oh, and it needs to be well supported and for months, years. Not asking for much are we home theater fans?! Wink

Vero 4K+ checks all these boxes as a local media player! Like I said, not perfect, as there are a few 3D titles that exhibit issues.

Performance Results:
To cut to the chase:
  • PQ is excellent (and looks as good as my nVidia Shield TV, Odroid N2 w/CoreELEC and Zidoo Z9S)
  • Proper 23.976 support and other framerates (59.94/60, 24, 29.97, etc.) and resolutions (HD, 3D, 4K, NTSC/PAL-based) matching source media
  • Proper HD audio passthrough support for all formats, including Dolby ATMOS and DTS:X
  • Proper HDR10 support, along with HLG and VP9; also MaxFALL/MaxCLL metadata passthrough and HDR10+ fallback support
  • Playback of high bitrate videos (over wired connection of course), including the max Birds 90Mbps clip and even the Jellyfish 400Mbps

Vero 4K+ supports gigabit connection and relies on AMLogic's S905D SoC to power it, with 16GB onboard (eMMC) memory. It support Bluetooth, so you can pair a Bluetooth remote or keyboard to it. I have my Logitech Harmony Ultimate remote and iOS app paired, but the supplied wireless USB remote is simple and well-designed, and works well (see here for extended functionality).

Adding your networked media shares via SMB or NFS work just fine, including high bitrate playback, even up to max available 400Mbps clip, playing smoothly (using OSMC s/w version June 2020.06-1 or later; kernel 4.9.113-20-osmc). You can also mount shares for even better results. See this thread about using autofs to mount shares. It may seem intimidating at first to some (did to me), and I did need to solicit help, but experts like @fzinken and others came through quickly (and even tweaked instructions for clarity based on my feedback).

Boot-up is under 13 seconds (but, I never turn off my Vero 4K+).

Photo Gallery:
A few pics.

Quick Video Review & Demo:
I tried over 50 types of a/v test clips (4K, 3D, bitrate/torture, fps/codec, subtitles and motion/clipping), and all played perfectly. One I didn't test is Hi10, which is presently a "work in progress".


Anything to Gripe About?:
See a laundry list in @Shasarak's post below.

Some may also say Vero 4K+ can't be a true do-it-all player w/o support for premium streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, etc. Maybe, and if you don't care about 3D, nVidia Shield TV will fit the bill. But, we're in a Kodi forum, and it's about top notch local media playback. I don't subscribe to Netflix and barely use my Amazon Prime service for streaming, and even with improved quality of streaming, I prefer high bitrate, full ATMOS (over EAC3 JOC) whenever available.

The following 3D titles exhibit occasional picture issues like macroblocking or overlapping images, caused by an issue "with the MVC microcode", for which Sam/OSMC team "have started a conversation with the SoC vendor to investigate the issue thoroughly and... are working on given them reproduction steps". IMHO, I wouldn't hold out hope this will be addressed by AMLogic.
- 'Avatar'
- 'A Christmas Carol'
- 'Gravity'
- 'Ready Player One'

Other than this, the OSMC team continues working on improvements; see here for details, which leads me to the next topic...

Support:
Just terrific! This is one of the key things that sets Vero/OSMC apart from most manufacturers. Sam and team support the community with patience and persistance, and appear to continually work on improving performance and features. They worked hard for over 9 months to get 3D right before Sam felt confident I could review the player. What the OSMC development team has achieved is no easy feat as there are simply no other native Kodi 3D players that also support 4K HDR. And, HTPC's don't have that set-top box convenience and user experience (and require a lot of work to configure and maintain). Beyond 3D, numerous 4K improvements have been made, from HDR10 metadata passthrough to HLG and HDR10+.

Wrap-Up:
What a pleasure it has been to review and now own a Vero 4K+! While I still use my Shield TV, Zidoo, Odroid N2 w/CE and even Fire TV Stick 4K, my default (and most used) player for my home theater has now become my Vero 4K+. I don't have to think about the type of local media type (4K, 3D, ATMOS/X, whatever) and confidently use it knowing, for 99% of what I have, I'll get perfect playback.
[H]i-[d]eft [M]edia [K]een [V]ideosaurus
My Family Room Theater
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#2
Nice mini review from the 3D Guru !

Just to Note @hdmkv is running a RC OSMC Software release on the Vero 4K.
RC = Release Candidate, which means final testing underway before a widespread public release, which I would expect to happen real soon.

AMLogic S9xx chipsets have always had the capabilities under the hood to playback the video codecs that have been listed above. But have been always let down by AMLogic themselves failing to provide Linux/Android SDK support for their still very capable, earlier S9xx hardware releases.

The updated OSMC massaged - v4.9 AML Linux Kernel has now added extra HDR capabilities and HDR Max CLL/FALL Metadata passthru definitely now works. (Tested with Spears & Munsil 10,000 nits clip)

Owners of Projectors that Do their own HDR Tone Mapping will be very happy.

I can also definitely confirm HLG and HDR10+ playback now works. This RC update also adds a bit more snappiness to OSMC Kodi.
Works well !

The icing of course is 1080p Frame Packaged 3D support, a first for AMLogic chipset based hardware.

Excellent work from @Sam Nazarko and the OSMC / Vero crew Smile

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#3
Almost anything one can say about the Vero 4K+ needs to be prefaced with "as of right now", because the device is under ongoing active development, and will remain so for quite some time. In particular, frame-packed 3D support is not part of the standard software yet - it's still in beta - so one should definitely expect improvements there.

So, AS OF RIGHT NOW:

  • Most blu ray menus don't work (specifically, the ones that use Java don't). If you're playing an ISO, or from a disc backed up in folder format, it will give you a list of the disc's playlist files, listed with index number and duration of the video, and it will auto-select the one that's likely to be the full movie; but finding a specific "extra" within an ISO image can be fiddly. And it also can't handle fancy interactive features like picture-in-picture commentaries, or information pop-ups. (Granted, you don't tend to find these on 3D discs).

  • 3D image quality is not perfect on all titles. On some films (including, for example, Avatar and Gravity) you get occasional bursts of macro-blocking. This may take a while to fix as (we are told) the fault lies in microcode, meaning it will require contributions from Amlogic.

  • Deinterlacing has some problems. 1080i can't be deinterlaced in film mode, so if you're watching a remux of one of those BBC blu rays that are 1080p/25 stored on the disc as 1080i/50, you are losing some image resolution. DVD remuxes can be decoded in software, which fixes the deinterlacing but introduces one or two other subtle issues. (Native 480i/576i/1080i output is not yet available, although there has been talk of adding it in the future).

  • Upscaling quality is poor (and unlike other issues it's unlikely this will change in the future). So long as you are willing to set up a Kodi whitelist, this is not usually a problem, as you can output most videos at native resolution and have the TV do the upscaling. But if the video dimensions/frame-rate don't match a standard HDMI mode (e.g. if it's 720p/23.98Hz, or 720x540/50Hz), or if you need to use Kodi to correct for TV overscan, it may be a problem.

  • Currently, it can play 4K VP9 profile 2 files, but not yet in HDR, meaning you can play 4K files on YouTube, but not in HDR.

  • Access to internet streaming services is via Kodi add-ons rather than native apps. Amazon Prime Video is limited to 960x540 resolution. Netflix is, for practical purposes, limited to 1280x720, and SD Netflix videos can have messed up subtitles. For YouTube the initial setup process is fiddly, but it works okay after that, except for the lack of HDR. It does quite a good job with BBC iPlayer, though, and the latest beta version can play the iPlayer test-loop in 4K/HLG.

  • A few 4K videos can skip frames if subtitles are turned on.

  • No support for Dolby Vision, and it's extremely unlikely there ever will be.

  • It can sometimes run a little hot, so it needs good ventilation. There are one or two reports of it actually going into thermal shutdown playing Gemini Man.

  • Only two USB ports, once of which is normally taken up by a remote-control RF dongle. They're also only USB 2.0, not 3.0, so if you attach a local drive, read/write speeds are limited to ~40MB/s. That's far more than you need for playing UHD video, but transfers to that drive across the LAN will be slow. It also doesn't produce enough current to supply a USB-powered hard drive, so if you want to use one you need to add a powered USB hub.

Depth-correct 3D subtitles are under active development, so I would expect those to be working soon.

However, all of that aside, there is indeed a lot to like. Not that many players offer MVC/frame-packed 3D playback; some can't pass through DTS-HD or TrueHD+Atmos; plenty lack certain output resolutions (e.g. the 2017 Shield can't output 480p or 576p) or certain refresh rates (e.g. the Apple TV 4K can output 23.976Hz but not 24.000Hz); some don't pass through HDR10 metadata properly; a number don't support HDR10+ and/or HLG; and a number can't decode VP9 profile 2 in hardware. All good stuff.

One thing I really do have to take issue with, @hdmkv, is the suggestion that the Nvidia Shield TV should ever be recommended. Cool To be fair, I haven't tried the 2019 model, but I have the 2017 version, and it's a complete and utter disaster which shouldn't be recommended for anything, under any circumstances - particularly not for watching Netflix!
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#4
(2020-05-05, 10:51)Shasarak Wrote: [*]Currently, it can play 4K VP9 profile 2 files, but not yet in HDR, meaning you can play 4K files on YouTube, but not in HDR.

Jeez Google's VP9 profile 2 is a tricky bugger to get it to output HDR .... eg...

- ODROID N2 CoreELEC = No
- Vero 4K with Firmware mentioned above = No
- expensive Panasonic GZ OLED, internal player = No

Yet when you use YouTube Apps....
- ODROID N2 & YouTube App = Yes
- expensive Panasonic GZ OLED & YouTube App = Yes
- 2016 Xiaomi Mi Box & YouTube App = Yes

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#5
(2020-05-05, 10:51)Shasarak Wrote: (Native 480i/576i/1080i output is not yet available, although there has been talk of adding it in the future).
  

Just to be clear, Vero4k+ can output those interlaced modes but cannot pass them through.  However, 480i/576i are disabled as without passthrough there's no use for them.
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#6
(2020-05-05, 10:51)Shasarak Wrote: One thing I really do have to take issue with, @hdmkv, is the suggestion that the Nvidia Shield TV should ever be recommended. Cool To be fair, I haven't tried the 2019 model, but I have the 2017 version, and it's a complete and utter disaster which shouldn't be recommended for anything, under any circumstances - particularly not for watching Netflix!
Thanks for all the things you noted to keep in mind. Don’t want to go off-topic, but Shield TV “complete and utter disaster” is news to me. Granted, I’m going by my impressions mostly from several months back when I used it more heavily; before using ODROID N2 and Vero far more so. Did something change with Shield?
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#7
(2020-05-05, 10:51)Shasarak Wrote: [*]A few 4K videos can skip frames if subtitles are turned on.

Really? I’m thinking of getting some kind of device for the sole purpose of getting darker subtitle colors for usb content (lg b7 oled, subtitles in hdr are blinding), so that’s bad news.
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#8
Quote:Currently, it can play 4K VP9 profile 2 files, but not yet in HDR, meaning you can play 4K files on YouTube, but not in HDR.

This should be solved sooner than later. AMLogic's COBALT supports this in their April 2020 Buildroot release, but we need to port it to amcodec. VP9 is a bit trickier because the metadata needs to be sent at a very specific time in the playback process.
Quote:There are one or two reports of it actually going into thermal shutdown playing Gemini Man.

From what I can see that seems to only affect one user. I am still working with them on this issue.

The subtitles issue is also being worked on. It could take a bit longer to solve. It seems to be the 60fps content that is affected.

Sam
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#9
I got 5 Vero devices at home. However all require daily reboots. I don’t recommend this device for users with large media libs.
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#10
(2020-05-07, 08:43)sniferx1 Wrote: I got 5 Vero devices at home. However all require daily reboots. I don’t recommend this device for users with large media libs.
Dann,

As outlined in a previous support ticket, this is caused by an add-on on your system which is causing Kodi crash due to running out of free memory (OOM).
We provided some suggestions how to identify the problematic add-on and isolate it, but you did not follow these steps. The issue is not caused by the size of your library.

We are happy to help you (you can submit a new ticket) but we need you to follow these steps. I'd recommend you do so and we can then get this solved for you.
It can only take a single add-on to cause performance issues which is why we've made the suggestions that we have. We also cannot support third party add-ons that allow unauthorised access to copyrighted material.

Thanks

Sam
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#11
I've had this player since Fall of last year and haven't needed reboots, certainly not daily. And not for large media libraries. In my case, if 2,100 movies and 70 shows (w/multiple seasons inside each) count as "large".
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#12
(2020-05-07, 21:09)hdmkv Wrote: I've had this player since Fall of last year and haven't needed reboots, certainly not daily. And not for large media libraries. In my case, if 2,100 movies and 70 shows (w/multiple seasons inside each) count as "large".
I got about the same amount movies and have no issues at all, like Sam says ... prolly an addon issue.
Sony KD-65X8505C • Onkyo TX-RZ840 • Q Acoustics F:2050i C:2000Ci R:2020i S:2070Si A:QI65C
Vero 4K (OSMC) • Nvidia Shield (2017) • Sony UBP-X800 • Sony PlayStation 4 Pro
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#13
(2020-05-07, 21:43)Theetjuh Wrote:
(2020-05-07, 21:09)hdmkv Wrote: I've had this player since Fall of last year and haven't needed reboots, certainly not daily. And not for large media libraries. In my case, if 2,100 movies and 70 shows (w/multiple seasons inside each) count as "large".
I got about the same amount movies and have no issues at all, like Sam says ... prolly an addon issue. 
How long does it take you to update your library?
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#14
Pitty it lacks netflix, that would ultimate..
Looking for a shield that can
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#15
I can concur with the Shield comments above, I sold mine (2017 model), within a month of buying it, have been looking at the vero. I know there will be a world of difference in the hardware, but I have amongst other devices, a MeCool BB2 Pro, 3g ram and I use the vero remote with it, scrolling widgets and lists is jerky and not responsive., I absolutely hate having to stop scrolling and wait for the box to catch up. ( am blaming the box not the remote). I have a much smoother experience with 4K firesticks. The 2g ram on the vero puts me off and also I notice in the vero online store you market a "usb3 hub" yet if I am not mistaken the vero+ has usb2 ports?
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