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Packaging – Specifications
In a similar fashion to Z9s, the Z10 also arrived in a brown-ish cardboard box. As expected, the packaging is bigger due to main unit’s increased size.
Inside you will find the media player itself, the new backlit remote control (same as Zidoo’s X20 and Z9s), the dettachable antennas,a SATA cable, an HDMI cable, the power brick and some basic documentation. Batteries for the remote are not included.
In terms of specs, the Z10 model differs from its smaller brother only in terms of connectivity and build quality (you will read more on the later in the next chapter).
It is still equipped by Realtek RTD1296 (a 64-bit Quad-core Cortex A53 processor and the Mali-T820MP3 ), 2GB of RAM and 16GB of fast eMMC flash ROM. The SoC byitself is pretty powerfull (for a TV Box) by positioning itself in terms of raw power just above Amlogic’s S912 SoC. Still miles away from Nvidia Shield’s performance but very acceptable for any other use. Realtek chips are fine-tuned though for optimal video performance with features like auto frame rate and resolution switching, 4K/HDR, and HD Audio passthrough, among others.
I/Os are top notch with 2x USB3.0, 2x USB2.0, 1x SATA, 1x Coaxial out, 1x Optical out, 1x CVBS out (including RCA outs) and 1x RS232 port (for smart house purpose). All of these in addition to one of Z10’s main selling points, the internal tray for a 3.5″ HDD (up to 10TB), make the Z10 a beast in terms of connectivity options that will also please owners of legacy A/V receivers. Just like in any Zidoo Realtek based unit, you will also find 1 HDMI in and one HDMI 2.0a out.
Network connectivity is superb with 1x Gigabit RJ45 port, Dual band high-speed wireless 867Mbps MIMO module with two dettachable high gain antennas and Bluetooth BT4.2 connection protocol.
The operating system is Google’s Android 7.1 (not in its TV variant) and it still supports all of Zidoo’s software optimizations like full 4K HEVC/HDR compatibility, full HD Audio bit-streaming (ATMOS and DTS X included), Blu-Ray/UHD menu navigation of your backup discs combined with auto frame rate and resolution switching. Dolby Vision (still not “mainstream” in terms of releases) and video streaming licensing (Netflix/Amazon Video) aside, it is as good as it gets in terms of video playback.
Media Player – Remote
At first glance, the first thing that comes to mind is its similarity to the previous model. Upon closer inspection we realize that Zidoo did its best to differentiate the new model from the previous one (X10).
Zidoo still uses the same “Aviation Aluminum alloy case” but not with the aluminum brushing look. This one has a more premium “oxidized sandblasting surface”. It’s looks are further enhanced by the black top lid by providing a nice two-color design. We had praised the X10 unit for its build quality before, but now we feel the need to do the same for the design too.
The display is the same (?) and can be both dimmed or turned off. You are able to select its function during video playback from the settings menu.
The unit has a small fan pre-installed that is required when a HDD is inserted inside the metal tray. It is barely audible and only in full speed. You will never have to worry about it and it would be better to leave it to auto selection.
It would be impossible to place all I/Os at the back, so this time we have 2x USB ports on the front (oddly, they do not ruin the front image), while the other two alongside with the SATA connector are on the right side. The HDD caddy is on the left and it supports an all metal extractor. We have seen both better and far worse implementations in terms of quality and stability, but the better ones were found on more expensive, dedicated NAS enclosures. The Zidoo Z10 implementation is way above average for a TV Box (Zidoo X20 uses the same). The rest I/Os are at the back, just like the two high gain dettachable antennas and the silent fan (required for units supporting internal HDDs. You can turn it off from the settings menu).
The remote is the brand new one we recently found in Zidoo Z9s. It is IR based, with very good range. You will still have to target towards the main unit, but not in a frustrating way. The backlit option further enhances the overall user experience. Although there is a light button, each time you press one, their light turns on for a few seconds or so. The button layout is easy to learn and the grip is very comfortable due to its large size. Through the pre-installed app you are able to configure specific buttons with certain apps or actions.
Menus – Settings
User interface is still the same as the one we found in the latest firmware releases of the X9S/Z9s models. Tablet-like looking, but with large icons suitable for TV use and aesthetically pleasing design (fonts and background). As it usually happens, we get a main page with all major applications and a drawer for the full list of applications installed. You can also add shortcuts of your favorite app in main page’s last row.
Although we are really fond of the Nougat settings menu, Zidoo implements its own one that is mainly targeted to easy customization of audio and video options. WRT and advanced settings (not casual) aside, you will never feel the need to launch the Android settings menu.
Zidoo is one of really few manufacturers that include such an advanced set of video options. Frame rate and resolution switching, Blu Ray region, 3D and HDR conversion options, HDMI color mode and color space etc. You will be able to fine tune every aspect. If you don’t know what you are doing, just leave it to auto, since chances are that Z9S will correctly detect your hardware.
Actual performance is what really matters and this is an area where the Z10 model shines. It is actually pretty weird for us to write almost the same results for each product of the Realtek 1296 lineup, but the truth is that all units practically share both the same hardware and firmware. All differences have mainly to do with the chassis and connectivity options.
Audio wise, it supports all popular (and some lesser ones) codecs. You will find no issue with SACD, DFF, DSF, APE, FLAC, WAV, and CUE rails. The only complain is the non gapless playback, especially when playback live recordings divided on multiple files.
Video playback performance is exceptional and exactly the same as the one experienced in Zidoo X20 and Z9s units previously reviewed. We still get excellent 1080p performance, including proper 3D playback, many subtitle options and Navigation Menu support for your back-up Blu-Ray movies. 4K playback is also excellent with HEVC decoding up to 60Hz, so playback of titles like “Billy Lynn’s long halftime walk” is as close to perfect as can be. Navigation Menu is also supported for UHD backups but you may experience incompatibilities with certain titles. In such case it is prefferable to use the simple playback mode (only movie, no menus). HDR is properly handled (HDFury Vertex verified) and HDR->SDR conversion is very acceptable. Unfortunately, there is no Dolby Vision support. You will also experience perfect auto frame rate and resolution switching. You will no longer need to adjust your settings each time a different file type is selected. Zidoo made some optimizations to avoid the 4K banding bug, but in case you still experience it, you can always have proper 4K playback with manual settings (just select 422 colorspace). This bug is Realtek SDK related. As always for a Realtek based Zidoo TV box, always prefer the external player in order to fully experience all the afforementioned features. You can also install Zidoo’s fork of KODI named ZDMC, and use KODI as front-end while playback will be handled by the external player. Streaming add-ons use KODI internal player, but you will still get great performance up to 1080p. 4K playback via the KODI player is not ideal since you may experience small stutters/lags. For owners of non-HDR TVs and projectors, we would like to state that the HDR->SDR conversion is the best one we’ve seen in a media player. Colors appear to be accurate and the same applies to skin colors. In the settings menu there are more profiles to choose from (for the SDR conversion), including custom ones.
In terms of non-BD/UHD file playback, the unit was capable to playback all of our home videos (shot on Sony 4K and Panasonic 1080p cam-corders, Iphone XS and Samsung S7Edge smartphones). Image quality was still great, but we wish there was an image processor that could handle/upscale SD content better. The result is not bad, but only basic and not enhanced.
HD Audio pass-through is supported, up to Dolby ATMOS and DTS X. In case you don’t have an A/V receiver and you intend to connect the Zidoo Z10 directly to your TV screen, then you should not worry either, since stereo down-mixing is supported.
Similar to Zidoo X20 and Z9s, both wired and wireless LAN performance was great. Via wired (Gigabit) LAN we managed to playback UHD backups of the highest bit-rate, while via Wi-Fi (867Mbps module installed) high bit-rate 1080p backups also had perfect playback. In the later case, make sure your access point is up to the task. Our tests were made with the Netgear EX7000 access point.
Zidoo probably used the same eMMC flash ROM seen in the Z9s unit, so performance is almost the same. Application launching should be fast since we measured read speeds >140mb/s. USB3.0 speeds were below average (39mb/s read, 29mb/s write) but both SATA interfaces had proper performance (>110mb/s for both read and write scenarios).
The raw computing performance of the RTD1296 SoC has average scores compared to other more popular chipsets but extreme gaming was never one of Zidoo’s main selling points. Still, gaming is possible, and enjoyable, for casual 2D and light 3D textured titles.
Firtunately, Zidoo enabled HDMI in recording in their Realtek 1296 line-up so you will be able to record anything up to 1080p, stereo, not HDCP protected with a decent bitrate of 10Mbit/s.
We used the latest (at the time of review) available firmware version (v2.1.30) for our tests that also introduced the forced subs support.
Zidoo Home Theater 2.0 – Zidoo Music 3.0
One of Zidoo’s main selling points is the integration of the Home Theater 2.0 poster wall application. In a similar fashion to KODI, Zapitti and Yadis, it scans your (selected) folders for films and TV shows and results in a most impressive poster wall with details on each specific title, actors and film contributors.
Options exist to change the main cover and background photos for each film. There are many filters with which you can short out the end result. Genre, Alphabetically, Resolution, Year etc. The information shown for each title is rich and very impressive. In case some files are not recognized properly, you can add them manually. We do miss a video trailer section though.
Zidoo’s music player in it’s latest version (3.0) offers many features (Album posters among others) but you may experience application crushes from time to time while scanning your folders since it is still in beta stage. The previous version (2.0) works way better, but features less audio options.
Android – WRT
Zidoo Z10 has the same user interface we saw in Z9s. We still miss the more elegant user interface of the X20 model, but we are still fine with it. Now you do have access to Google’s Play Store in case you want to install more applications and games by downloading the optional installer provided by Zidoo. The unit arrives with no You-Tube or Play Store. For a unit with a video oriented performance, the lack of many applications/services running in the background could result to unwanted stutters. We do prefer this way, although we totally understand potential buyers who require more options.
You-Tube goes all the way up to 1080p (once you download it from Play Store) but the lack of proper Google Widevine licensing limits playback to Standard Definition (SD) quality of all well known streaming services including Netflix (mobile version of Netflix downloaded from their official site).
Open WRT is still supported with advanced NAS-like features that now make even more sense with the option of the dual SATA interfaces . All you need is to enable it from the Android menu and then launch the web based settings via the Chrome web browser. We do not consider the Zidoo Z10 (or any TV box for that matter) as a unit that should handle such tasks, especially for 24/7 operation, but it is always nice to have the option and use it once in a while.
The device is not pre-rooted.
Zidoo is very popular for its support, so do expect frequent updates and bug fixing.
It is difficult not to like the Zidoo Z10. The combination of looks, backlit remote, unparalleled connectivity and performance is seen only in the flagship model (X20) which costs almost twice as much.
The Zidoo Z10 is not cheap. Actually, you can get the exact same performance from the significantly cheaper Z9s unit which still has a backlit remote and a great build quality too. You will miss the larger front display, the CVS/Coaxial outs and the HDD tray. If you don’t care about connectivity and are an owner of a model from the previous lineup, you still won’t have to upgrade since video playback features and performance are the same. But in case you are in search of a high performance video playback oriented TV box with (almost) all bells and whistles, the the Zidoo Z10 should be at the top of your list.
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