New f/w v1.4.6 has been posted by Zidoo for X9S (with X8 and X10 to follow). Glad to see continuing efforts to improve these players, especially playback performance. Looking forward to user impressions especially around on deep color, color space, 4K with 23.976 aspects.
Just a note that I'll be out of commission until late July with a move, so will rely on user reports to keep this post updated to extent I'm able. Thanks.
Zidoo X9S: A/V Performance Review
Updated January 30, 2016
Zidoo X9S: A/V Performance Review
Updated January 30, 2016
Overall Verdict: A- (Based on firmware v1.2.10)
> Read about & download firmware v1.2.10 for X9S
> Read about & download firmware v1.2.10 for X8
- A/V performance: A- (Some stability/reliability-related issues may remain, as well as proper 4K rendering; awaiting user reports)
- Picture quality: A (w/native/external player) | B+ (w/ZDMC)
- 3D-specific performance: A (Both 3D ISO's and MVC MKV's play great! Excellent depth, dimensionality, clarity)
- 4K-specific performance: B+ (Ever-so-slight juddder w/VP9 remains, and color space/switching issues may remain; awaiting user reports)
- User experience: A-
- Value for money: B+ (for X9S at $129-149 off Amazon) | A- (for X8 at $109 off Amazon)
- Support: A- (So far, very good! Zidoo should continue to make improvements, and focus on reliability)
Disclaimer #2: Zidoo relies on an external player solution, and ZDMC (Zidoo's Kodi 16.1) and it are separate apps that aren't really interconnected in any meaningful way. When the external player option is enabled in ZDMC (pic), most of the video playback is pushed to the external player as only it supports 3D MVC, has better PQ, etc. So, ZDMC only acts as a front-end to manage your movie and TV libraries with a nice skin, posters and metadata. As ZDMC and the external player don't really 'talk to each other', you'll have to rely on playback settings in the external player separately (as ZDMC's HD audio and other settings have no effect on it). If what you want is a Kodi-native 3D playback solution, go for Intel h/w with MVC builds.
Other A/V-centric Reviews:
- Zidoo X9S Android TV Box Review by AVForums.com
- Zidoo X8 Review by @OlivierQC
- Zidoo X9S - The Return of Realtek? And has Zidoo found their Ideal SoC? by Massimo (@looun), in Italian (use Google Translate)
- ZIDOO X9s -- REVIEW -- TEST by @Lony at ANDROID-MEDIAPLAYER.DE, in German (use Google Translate)
- Zidoo X9S Review by @Shank at Home-Theater.be, in Dutch; alternatively at HTForum.nl (use Google Translate for both)
When Zidoo announced the X9S and posted bold, 'seemingly convincing' claims and screenshots, I was skeptical, but interested enough to look and read about it. Had no desire to request a sample for review though. I previously reviewed their X6 Pro, and subsequently read about shortcomings with X5, so thought I'd take a wait-and-see approach w/X9S. After reading some more posts and seeing some more pics, I changed my mind (got intrigued enough) and figured why the heck not?!
My thanks to Zidoo for sending me a review unit. I had let @mirror88 know that if I didn't find that X9S mostly delivered, after only investing a little time, I'd stop right there, not bother further, and not even post a review. Well, I'm happy to report that Zidoo's X9S is actually very good, and does a great deal right already . Seems like this time's the charm for them. There are a few issues remaining at this point, but no major deal-breakers IMHO. It's evident that Zidoo has been working diligently, resolving issues and trying to make A/V-centric performance improvements. I believe X9S/X8 are slightly better than HiMedia Q5/Q10 Pro at this point (as latter stick lack proper 23.976 for 3D MVC).
Photo Gallery: (also showing all proper settings for optimal A/V playback)
Overall, very impressive. The only real issues remaining may be around 4K render and stability. VP9 4K has minor judder, with playback not perfectly smooth like HiMedia Q5/Q10 Pro and nVidia Shield. Beyond this, X9S supports automatching switching even for 3D SBS/TAB videos. It does proper refresh rate switching for 23.976, 24.000, 25.000/50.000 and 29.970/30.000/59.940/60.000. HD audio now seem solid across all 2D/3D containers, w/all formats, including ATMOS/X and multichannel PCM.
There's also an issue with external subtitles being rendered poorly. See this.
The X9S boots up to main user interface (Android launcher) in about 29-30 seconds, after pressing 'power' button on remote. Not that quick, but not slow either. The box itself is quite snappy, and I didn't notice any lags, whether navigating around the main UI, or browsing my large movie/TV libraries (couple of thousand titles).
Zidoo's wrapper solution from ZDMC (to call up and open video in external/native player) is much faster than HiMedia's on Q5/Q10 Pro. It's also more elegant, feeling more like an integrated, seamless solution (even though it obviously isn't). ZDMC is Zidoo's fork of Kodi based off official Jarvis 16.1. The wrapper isn't implemented via a custom playercorefactory.xml file (like HiMedia does) in ZDMC (Kodi's) userdata folder because I looked and didn't find it. So, if you want to customize which types of videos opened with native player vs. ZDMC, there doesn't seem to be a way to do it.
So far, Zidoo has provided solid support. They've posted fairly frequent f/w updates, and been responsive in Kodi and Zidoo forums. They've also complied with GPL2 rules and posted ZDMC source code.
Tips & Tricks:
- Make sure, in ZDMC's settings, under Videos > Discs, to choose 'Show simplified menu' next to 'Blu-ray playback mode'. See here and here.
- Long-press the 'Power' button on remote to bring up power options. I opted for single press of 'Power' button to have X9S power off directly. This made it easier to program my Harmony remote for proper activity shutdown
- Use the remote's red and green buttons to program useful functions like 'Stop', 'Record' (from HDMI), etc.
- Use the remote's number keys to jump to specific times in the native player (thanks @mirror88)
- Attach a USB MCE remote dongle (like Ortek) and get additional useful functions like FF, REW and skip back/forward (even w/native player) (thanks @timstephens24)
- Prefer to use official Kodi 16.1 with wrapper for external playback? Check out @Lony's tutorial at Zidoo forum
Zidoo X8/X9S vs. Other Kodi 3D Boxes: See here.
Box Build Quality & Remote Control:
Very nice! Well-packed; actually like WeTek's level of attention (just minus all the extra accessories they include). X9S itself doesn't sport a cheap case, but aluminum, and feels really sturdy. The remote is lightweight plastic though, and cheap-feeling. It lacks a 'Stop' button; I just can't understand why so many Android box manufacturers skip out on this basic yet very important function button. When using native player, you need to press 'Return' twice to close playback. With ZDMC, you need to press 'OK' key, then choose stop icon on OSD. However, you can program the red or green button on the remote to act as a single-key press 'Stop' (see this). Also missing from the remote are FF/REW and skip forward/back commands, which forces you to bring up the OSD navigation to scan back/ahead in videos.
Thankfully, X9S programs easily w/Harmony remote using "Zidoo" and "X9" via MyHarmony app.
Two wi-fi antennas are included (for attaching to X9S), but any serious a/v phile knows better to stick w/wired for issue-free video playback over NAS . What's also unique about X9S is its HDMI-in port for recording video fed through from another HDMI video source. Another nice touch is the hard on/off power switch on the back, something lacking from most Android TV boxes.
HDMI Recording Feature:
I was planning on making a video on this, but noticed that Zidoo already did one, so let me instead write about what HDMI-in can and can't do.
If you plan on recording from any HDCP sources (that have copy-protection enforced, like TiVo), fuggedaboutit , unless you invest in a HDCP-stripper (like HDFury). Picture-in-picture (PIP) works with any HDMI source however. Here's the rest of the skinny on the HDMI-in feature:
- PIP works well. You can position it anywhere over the Zidoo UI and apps (like ZDMC), and even toggle it full screen (and back). The catch is that you really need a keyboard (or air-mouse) connected. There's no audio (only video) with the source in the PIP window (as it should be). Once you toggle if full screen, audio returns. There is aliasing, moire and jaggies in the PIP window video, but the actual full screen video and recording appear to be free of artifacts.
- While using the HDMI-in app, X9S can occasionally get bogged down a little, so be patient for a second or two for it to unhang.
- The HDMI out and in ports on the back of X9S are too close to each other. You may have trouble pushing in both, as I did, with certain HDMI cables w/'fatter' heads.
- Maximum recording resolution is 1080p, at 10Mbps, w/2-channel audio (no 5.1).
- You can record to internal flash storage, attached USB external HDD or to SMB/NFS shares (latter is what I did).
- Recordings from non-HDCP sources work fine, and the quality of captured .ts files seem good.
Zidoo X9S is a really pleasant surprise. After X6 Pro and X5, I was expecting another kinda half-baked media player, but Zidoo has obviously taken a better approach with X9S (and X8). They've resolved several issues since release (audio drop-outs, MVC functionality, etc.) and continue to diligently support these players. So far, so good.