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Vero 4K+ Mini-review: The Only Native Kodi 4K + 3D Set-top Player
#1
Updated August 15, 2021
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News or Notices:
I no longer have a Vero 4K+ player & rely instead on Zidoo Z9S for my 3D needs (more on why in a bit). Requested & received a review sample two years ago (August 2019), but used it until recently. For dual 4K HDR & 3D use as a native Kodi player, Vero 4K+ is finally out of beta & a mature player. Read about the big Kodi 19.1 update here. Most significantly, there's no longer a need to keep up with & jump through command line hoops to get 3D, keep the player updated.

Quick Take:
Is Vero 4K+ the perfect native Kodi full 3D + 4K HDR set-top player? Yes... close enough! 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 still no other player on the market that accomplishes this feat, or come this close.

My Assessment: Overall grade: A-
I'm not saying Vero 4K+ is a perfect Kodi-native player lightly. No player is, but it took owner Sam Nazarko & OSMC developers since summer of 2018 (when it was released) to get the player to its present state. 3D support was first introduced in August 2019. Early results, while very encouraging, were plagued by nagging issues & it wasn't certain if they'd all be resolved. Sam & team took their time, in particular our hero @tanio99, and did so deliberately in improving performance w/community inputs, and boy did they deliver.

For 4K fans who also still love 3D as much (or maybe even more so), it had been necessary to have 2+ players for one's own Blu-ray/UHD collection. In my case, I've kept a Zidoo Z9S, mostly for 3D use, with Odroid N2 w/CoreELEC & nVidia Shield TV Pro for 4K and everything else. nVidia of course additionally supports premium streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc., but lack of 3D has been a bummer. And nVidia confirmed 3D will never happen.

Disclosures:
  • Vero 4K+ review unit kindly provided by Sam
  • Opinions are my own, and haven't been influenced by anyone else
  • This review has been posted w/o seeking any kind of consent from Sam or the OSMC team
  • Here's my 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. 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 440+ 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 over the last couple of years, Chinese ultra-short throw PJ's from Xiaomi, Wemax, etc. 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 supports 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. 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).

Photo Gallery:
A few pics.

Anything to Gripe About?:
Yes. Until this Kodi 19.1 update, one had to put up with command line SSH commands to get and update the player for 3D & other video/performance enhancements. This ultimately is why I went back to Zidoo Z9S, for the ease of playback & even easier firmware updates. Zidoo isn't a Kodi-native player, but to me, it became easier to put up with its ZDMC (Kodi fork) + external (Realtek) player combo than deal with keeping up with Vero's frequent updates on OSMC forums and software/firmware updates themselves. The lack of an easy GUI to button-press around and manage (other than the OSMC/Kodi OS and command line stuff) just became a bother. This was just me however, and for others or most, it may not be.

Also, believe some of the macroblocking issues w/'Avatar', 'Gravity', 'Ready Player One' & 'A Christmas Carol' still remain. Sam said this was caused by an issue "with the MVC microcode", for which he had posted a while back, "AMLogic are now able to reproduce the 3D issues when playing MVC content such as Gravity. We are discussing getting it resolved. It is going to take some time to investigate and involves getting the VSLI team involved."

Vero 4K+'s SoC is now getting dated, and performance isn't as snappy as Zidoo's, or even S905X3-based CoreELEC boxes. nVidia Shield's & S922X-based boxes are even more powerful, and once you get used to them, Vero 4K+ definitely feels slower.

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.

Support:
Just terrific! This is one of the key things that sets Vero/OSMC apart from most manufacturers. Sam & team support the community with patience and persistence, and appear to continually work on improving performance and features. They worked hard for many months months to get 3D working well. 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 have owned a Vero 4K+! While I've moved on/back to Shield TV Pro & Zidoo Z9S as my only two players in my home theater now, Vero 4K+ was (and is) that unique player where you don't have to think/worry about the type of local media type (4K, 3D, ATMOS/X, whatever) and confidently use it knowing that for 99% of your collection, you'll get perfect playback directly from within Kodi.
[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.

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. [UPDATE: We are told that Amlogic has succeeded in reproducing the problem and intend to look at it at some point. We don't known when.]

  • Image quality on interlaced material can be poor.

  • Upscaling quality is poor (and unlike other issues it's unlikely this will change in the future as it's a hardware limitation). 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.

  • 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. So is Disney+. For YouTube the initial setup process is extremely fiddly, but it works okay after that. It does a good job with standard 720p videos on BBC iPlayer, but sadly it can't play 4K/HLG material on iPlayer, except for one test looo. (It should be noted that this is a limitation of the Kodi iPlayer add-on, and not under OSMC's control).

  • 4K 60fps material like Gemini Man and Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk plays with significant frame-skipping, particularly if subtitles are turned on.

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

  • It can sometimes run a little hot, so it needs good ventilation.

  • 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 or from 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.

  • On a few 3D titles, if you're watching them in ISO format, the first time you skip forwards or backwards results in a long pause - could be as long as a minute. It only affects some films - notably Avatar and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and it's easy enough to work around by ripping to MKV instead of ISO. But I mention it for completeness.

  • Several people (including me) have reported that the standard remote gets through batteries at an alarming rate. Mine needs a new (lithium) battery about once every three weeks.

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; 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.
LG 77G1 • Onkyo TX-RZ840 • Q Acoustics F:2050i C:2000Ci R:2020i A:QI65C • BK Elec XXLS400-DF
Vero 4K (OSMC) • Nvidia Shield TV Pro (2019) • Sony UBP-X800M2 • Sony PlayStation 5
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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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