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Appeared on: Thursday, March 19, 2015
Zidoo X9 Media Player review


1. Specifications

We had the chance to spend some hours playing and experimenting with the Zidoo X9, an ARM-based, Android TV box that can be used to record content in the resolution of 1080p through its HDMI input (PVR). So if you have a satellite, cable, or terrestrial receiver, you can directly record content to the player.

Since its based on the Android Operating system, the player can be also used to enjoy online movies (4K H265 ), live and on demand sports, music, photos, games, working and more.

The device is powered by an Mstar MSO9180D1R chipset, a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU and an oct-core ARM Mali-450 GPU. It has 2GB DDR3 memory onboard, 8GB eMMC and accepts MicroSD cards.

The player can be connected to bluetooth speakers, keyboard or any other Bluetooth 4.0 devices, and its internal wifi function supports
802.11n dual-band and 2.4GHz/5.8GHz connections.

 


Specifications: 


2. Unboxing the player

The Zidoo X9 can be purchased online at Geekbuying and Amazon for $139.99 and $129, respectively.. Below you see the retail box of the device:

Zidoo have provided everything you need to get started. Inside the box,  you have:

We were surprised to see no batteries included.

Roughly the size of a 7 inch tablet (187 x 127 x 27 mm ), the X9 crams all of its internals into a unibody aluminum chassis. The metal case is finished nicely, with subtly chamfered edges.

The front panel includes just a small LCD panel in the center, which is used to communicate the device status such as boot, in addition to displaying the time during operation. With the latest available firmware installed you cannot dim or even disable the LCD display for those who fight find it a bit flashy when they watch movies.

At the bottom, we will find the product ID and ventilation holes.

Most of the available ports are located at the back. Flanked by two large WiFi antennas (not removable), the ports are the power switch, 10/100 Ethernet (no 1Gigabit), Optical Audio, the Reset Button, HDMI In, Composite Video out, HDMI Out and DC In.

On the sides of the unit, one side houses 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 USB3.0 port, some vents and the microSD card slot.

 

The remote control is looks typical and its layout should be familiar to anyone who had already access to other Android TV players. Using a remote wireless keyboard instead would make typing experience easier.


3. User Interface, settings

We have just connected the player to the AC adapter and the local LAN cable, so let's power it on. Booting up takes about 35 secs to complete. Immediately, the player prompt us to install a newer firmware version (1.0.2.6), and we started the OTA process:

With the latest firmware installed, we are ready to have a look to the Zidoo OS GUI. In the Youtube video below you can see the main features/options of the Zidoo OS interface, which is frequently updated by the company:

The colored tiles you see above are ready for your remote. There are mostly folders (Browser, Media Center, Video, Music, Game, Other Apps) with relevant apps, as well as direct shortcuts to Google Play, the App Manager (list of apps), and HDMI IN app that handle HDMI input and video recording function.

Under the settings menu there are fix sub-sections:

Navigating through several menus will lead you to the Settings->System sub-menu, where you'll find the usual Android settings. Under the display section, there are several options for you to choose related to the player's output resolution -- up to 4K2KP at 30Hz.

Under the 'Sound' menu, you will only find the S/PDIF option between PCM or RAW (for pass-through), but this is also used for HDMI audio pass-through.

You can also set the display area limits:

There are also the usual Wifi/Ethernet/Bluetooth settings, and the option to create a portable Hotspot:

The player carries 8GB of internal storage space. As you see below, 1.97GB of RAM are available for apps you and 3.49GB are provided by the SD card:

All Android languages are supported:


The "About Box" section confirms the model number is "IDOO_X9", and that the system runs Android 4.4.2 on top of Linux 3.1.10.As we saw over Zidoo forums, they are already are working on a 5.xx Android Lollipop build.

Soon after we finished our tests, Zidoo released a new firmware update that fixed several issues and updated the player to v1.0.2.7:

The Zidoo X9 comes pre-installed with a whole bunch of applications to get you started. There is a custom fork of Kodi, Clear Manager, Movie Studio and HDMI Recorder. There are also many links for downloading even more apps from the Google store.

Under the App Management, you will see all the installed applications:


4. Benchmarks

Since the player is based on the Android operating system, we were able to run some benchmarks in order to give you an idea of what you should expect from this little box. The CPU-Z software confirms the presence of the Mstar MSO9810 chipset -- a quad-core chip clocked at 1~1.5GHz and an ARM Mali-450 GPU:

CPU-Z also reports that the system is already rooted and that its total RAM is 1.60GB:

In the table below you see the the test results we got with various benchmarks:

Benchmark
Score
AnTutu 5.6.1 (Pics 1, 2)
18147
AnTutu Video Benchmark (1080p)
3D Mark IceStorm Extreme
GeekBench 3 (Single Core)
GeekBench 3 (Multi-Core)
BaseMark OS II (overall score)
BaseMark X v1.1
GFXBench ( T-Rex)
Quadrant benchmark
Cannot start

The above tests have their own significance. The AnTutu Video Benchmark tests returned a high score of 698 points, reaching almost the top. The player scored 18147 points in the AnTutu benchmark, which is not the highest in the list but is still pretty good for a desktop Android device.

Moving on to the important read/write tests, the following write/read speeds were recorded using a 716MB file and external storage devices, through the ES File Explorer:

Source
Reading from Internal Storage (MB/sec)
Writing To Internal Storage (MB/sec)
USB3.0 (at USB2.0 port)
17.07
20.58
USB3.0 (at USB3.0 port)
27.54
23.87
100Mbit LAN
1.46
7.36
external micro SDHC
10.00
7.77
Wifi (2.4GHz)
1.83
6.40

The Zidoo X9 player was fast in both the read/write tests with a storage device connected to the player's USB3.0 port.

The LAN speeds were much slower, especially when reading from the device (not very realistic scenario anyway)... The reading over network speeds were ~8.0MB/sec with a LAN connection and ~7.00MB/sec through Wifi (2.4GHz). The player also supports 5.0GHz Wi-Fi, which could improve the connection's stability and performance as well.

The microSDHC offers an extra option to expand the player's storage abilities, in case you need it.


5. Video/Audio playback tests - video player

For the video playback tests, we used the the following setup

The specific TV does not support 3D, so we didn't test the player's 3D features.

We connected the TV (HDMI2) to the A/V receiver and the Zidoo X9 player to the the A/V receiver as well, using the included HDMI cable. HDMI-CEC is NOT supported, meaning you have to use an additional remote control instead of your TV's.

The player doesn't support 24Hz playback. This means that all files will be playbacked at 60p, resulting to a less "cinematic" experience. Zidoo promises to fix this with a future firmware update. In addition, the player does not support DTS files as it was supposed to, probably due to a chipset limitation. Instead, they are played at 5.1 channel.

You can playback a video file through the Media center tab, which gives you the option to use KODI or the Explorer app:

Launching the Explorer app, you can navigate across local and network devices and filter video, audio or images:

Of course, you can also select to browse for files stored in any connected device, either locally or through the network:

Pressing the Up button takes you to following window, in which you can filter the displayed contents - ALL, Video, Music, Picture or APK

By pressing right button of the remote, you go through the functions you see below -- viewport, choices, copy, delete, cut rename etc.

The Explorer software gives you easy access to local SMB folders :

The main video player supports hardware acceleration for all videos.

Pressing the Menu button after loading a video to the player gets you more options as showed below. You can select another video file, subtitles (inner/external/none), audio tracks, video (3D to 2D, ) aspect ratio and finally get information about the currently loaded video:

We connected a USB3.0 device loaded with many video/audio test files to the Android player and got the following results:

Audio format
Results
Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3/THX/TrueHD)
Playback was perfect
Dolby Digital+ 7.1
VideoPlayer crashes and reboot was required to get the localMM work again
Dolby TrueHD 7.1
DTS 5.1
Playback was perfect
DTS-HD MA 7.1
Playback was OK but with slightly distorted audio

As we discussed earlier, the player only supports 5.1 channel audio. The DD 7.1 files are not playable even down to 5.1. In addition, although the DTS 7.1 audio files were playable, playback produced a slight audio distortion to the pitch of the track. This was confirmed by using various audio files, so this is something Zidoo should look at.

We are moving on to playback of various video files:

Video Format
Results
bird90.m2ts, bird90.mkv Playback was perfect
Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv Playback was perfect
test_10bitvideo (AVC High 10@L4.1) Not playable
Jurassic Park 1 1993 1080p DTS-HD MA 5.1-HighCode (H264 file) Playback was perfect
4K H264 files (either clips from Youtube or test files from companies) Playback was perfect
4K HEVC H265 file Playback was perfect
720p, 1080p, 4K HEVC H265 file from Elecard Player doesn't recognize the files
4KHD_VP9TestFootage.mkv VP9 encoded file resets the player
4K VP9 codec Crashes the VideoPlayer app
DivX 5, DivXHD files Only sound, not picture
WMV HD files Playback was perfect, but without audio!!
ClipHD_sorensen.mov Playback was perfect
Xvid avi files Playback was perfect
BD-ROM ISO Only the main movie was playable, not the menus
DVD-ROM ISO Content recognized but DVDISO is not supported
Motion tests ?????

The Zidoo X9 media player showed strong video playback capabilities. It managed It manages to playback up to 120Mbit video files, 4K H.264 and 4K H.265 files without any problems. Some files from Elecard did not produce good results but most players have problems with them. In addition, older DivX 5, DivXHD video files had only sound but again, that's not a big deal. The only issue we can see is that the DVD-ROM ISO doesn't playback and that there is no full menu support for Blu-Ray ISO files.

- Subtitles

The VideoPlayer software supports and internal/external subtitles. Although many options are provided, the flexibility related to the size and position of the subtitles is limited.

Below you see the internal subs from Jurassic Park 1 (1993) 1080p DTS-HD MA 5.1-HighCode (H264 file), with BIG size selected:

Internal subs from Blu-Ray ISO movie (Casino Royal):

Don't forget to select UTF-8 encoding in order to display subtitles perfectly:


6. KODI, HDMI recording

The player supposedly uses a hardware-accelerated KODI that can support up to 4K H.265 video playback. The box comes with Kodi 14.0-RC3 Zidoo edition and the interface runs at 1920x1080@60Hz. Probably Zidoo needs to upgrade this to the latest 14.1 builds:

The 'Audio' output settings tab includes options to output Dolby Digital (AC3), DTS, TrueHD and DTS-HD files:

While things should work just fine in theory, we had several problems with the audio files. In some cases the type of the audio file was detected but with many audio cuts, while other files had no audio at all.

We connected a USB3.0 device loaded with many video/audio test files to the Android player and got the following results:

Audio format
Results
Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3/THX/TrueHD) Playback is jerky and video/sound not in sync
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 KODI crashes
Dolby TrueHD 7.1
DTS 5.1 Playback is jerky and video/sound not in sync
DTS-HD MA 7.1 Playback is jerky and video/sound not in sync

As it seems KODI support needs improvement.

- HDMI recording

HDMI input is the main selling point of the device, and you need to plug a device at the HDMI-in in order the corresponding app to open, bringing you the following user interface. Here you can set the recording path to the internal flash or external USB storage. You can send select the resolution (VGA, 720p or 1080p), the video container (MP4 or TS), and optionally the start time, and the length of the recording:

The player uses only the internal memory to record. In our case, for the HD/TS format, we were given around 6 hours and 23 minutes of recording. You can set the recording time as shown below:

By starting the recording, the app minimizes and you can bring it back by using the the menu button of the remote. A small Rec icon is displayed at the top right corner of the window. Of course you cannot use other functions of the media player during the recording process:

For our tests we used the Eweat EW902 media player as an input source and we tried to record the 'Jurassic Park 1' 1993 1080p DTS-HD MA 5.1-HighCode movie, playbacked in the default Eweat media player.

The produced file had a resolution of 1920x1080x30fps and 2-channel AAC (121Kbps) audio. Of course, do not expect the quality of the backup video to be as high as the original but generally, it should be considered as acceptable. We also noticed that the produced video had several black border pixels , so it didn't fit in the current playback window.

For an 1h .24m recording session we ended up with a 39.128MB TS file.


7. Summary

The Zidoo X9 media player has impressive specifications and is armed with many features. It is a unique product thanks to its HDMI input, and video recording function, which records content on the player's internal memory and generally works pretty well, although there is still space for further improvement.

The promised 4K H.265 playback also makes the X9 stand out the competition. The player's performance is great, and its storage performance (eMMC and USB 3.0) is also good.

As happens with all media players, some parameters need further improvement, such as and Kodi. But Zidoo's development team has been very active and has already released several firmware updates that fix issues and further improve the player, so we are expecting them to keep up with the good work.

The Zidoo X9 media player retails for $129.00 over Amazon .

Below you see a list of what we liked about the player and what needs further improvement. Of course, any of the issues listed below can change as new firmware updates are being released:

Positive

Negative



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