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It was only a matter of time for Zidoo to launch its new, Realtek RTD1619 System on Chip (SoC), media player lineup. We currently have the Zidoo Z9X model for testing, which should perform as good as the higher-end models (Z10 Pro, Z1000 Pro) to be released very soon.
Packaging – Specifications
Nothing changed, except for the color of the box. The Zidoo Z9X arrived in a white-ish cardboard box, just like its predecessor.
Inside you will find the media player itself, the backlit remote, a SATA connector for external HDD connection, an HDMI cable (although not listed), the power brick (no additional regional adapters included), and some basic documentation. Batteries for the remote are not included so you will have to buy them yourself.
Specifications are interesting because of the new, next-gen System on Chip (SoC) by Realtek and some newly introduced features.
The Realtek RTD1619DR SoC is a Six-Core ARM 55 CPU accompanied by the new Mali-G51 GPU and promises improved performance greater than 50% compared to the previous model. It also adds support for the newest HDR10+ high dynamic range format while at the same time incorporating Dolby’s VS10 processing engine for the conversion of various high dynamic range protocols. More on that later. It is also equipped with, the as per usual for a 9 series Zidoo model, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of ROM.
Connectivity is the same, but is still superb with:
- 2x USB3.0
- 2x USB2.0
- 1x SATA3.0 (up to 16TB)
- 1x HDMI2.0a Out
- 1x HDMI 2.0 In
- 1x Optical Out
- 1x A/V Out for legacy connections
- 1x RS232
- 1x Gigabit RJ45
- 1x Dual-band high-speed wireless 867Mbps MIMO module with two integrated high gain antennas
- 1x Bluetooth BT4.2
Traditionally, Zidoo still supports all major playback features, and then some with auto frame rate switching, accurate MaxCLL/Fall information, HD Audio, 3D frame-packing and it’s own developed poster wall and music playback applications.
Zidoo user interface relies on Google’s Android 9.0 Operating System (OS)
Media Player – Remote
We still get treated with the same quality chassis, but this time with a more living room-friendly, anthracite color which is very similar to the one used in Zidoo X9s two years back. It remains aluminum even if the applied color layer results in a less intense metal feel. The highly capable Wi-Fi antennas are still not detachable while the I/O layout stayed the same with all major connections at the back (Power, LAN with all A/V ports) while on the side we get all storage-related ones (2USB ports per side with the SATA port on one of them). On the front, we still find the same LED display, with its brightness settings (off, dark, light) found inside the quick settings menu.
The remote is still the same plastic one, with the back-lit option. It is IR based (Zidoo saves their Bluetooth one for their higher-end, more expensive models) but its range and line of sight appear to be better than the competition. The button layout is easy to learn and the grip is very comfortable due to its large size. Numeric keys are also included and are very conveniently used during video playback. Via the pre-installed app, you are able to configure specific buttons with certain apps or actions. In case you prefer to use your smartphone, Zidoo has also got you covered with its application for both iOS and Android platforms.
Menus – Settings
The UI is still the same classic Android-like looking, but with large icons suitable for TV use and aesthetically pleasing design. As it usually happens, we get a main page with the main applications and setting shortcuts and a second one for the full list of the installed applications. You can also add shortcuts of your favorite apps in the main page’s last row.
The Zidoo (quick) settings menu is something in need of no change. All the settings you will ever need are there and perfectly organized by category. Playback, Display, Audio, Network, and Other. The integration of the new high dynamic range processor from Dolby added two very interesting settings in the Display-> HDR category. “Dolby Vision VS10 Engine” and “Dolby Vision Low Latency”. Their impact on video performance will be discussed later on in a separate section.
The predecessor, Z9S, had already reached a very stable performance level with all of its firmware updates. Oddly for a just-released media player, the Z9X performs in a similar manner. Note that all of our tests were performed with the v6.0.17_G firmware update (the original fw did not include Google Apps).
Playback of music files (MP3/FLAC) is perfect. The native music player is the one developed by Zidoo (Music Player 6.0), so no matter if select your music from the file manager, Music Player will handle the task. You can of course select 3rd party ones, like KODI. You do get support for stereo SACD images as well. FLAC files are limited to stereo only, and gap-less playback is not supported. As expected, no issues were experienced with Spotify playback.
Most will care for video performance and we can confirm that the Zidoo Z9x did not disappoint.
As far as 4K playback is concerned, we experienced proper MaxCLL/FALL transmission and accurate 24p motion handling. The auto frame rate switching also worked perfectly when required but we still miss the omitted auto resolution function in case you prefer an external scaler. Upscaling is decent, but nothing special. But this time the HDR->SDR conversion is very good, a feature to be appreciated mostly by owners of projectors.
1080p playback in all of its forms (BD rip, ISO image, 3D ISO, MKV, and other containers) was perfect, including motion handling.
During video playback, there are tons of options to select from. Aside from the usual ones, you get excellent subtitle support and customization (height, color, size, even the spacing between the lines) while you can also download the ones missing. During menu navigation mode you can still alter the height of the subtitles (no other options are available), a feature to be appreciated from the owners of projector screens with masking applied.
Menu navigation is slightly enhanced compared to previous models with faster loading times and better compatibility. Some irregularities are to be expected.
Audio pass-through is perfect once again supporting all the audio codecs up to Dolby ATMOS and DTS X. Stereo down-mixing is also possible in case you want to connect the Z9X directly to your TV screen.
Netflix arrives pre-installed (needs your confirmation for the installation) in its Android TV variant and goes up to 4K with stereo sound. Zidoo informed us that a 4K/5.1 update is well on its way. Make sure to set your HDCP setting to 2.2 for you to go above 1080p.
The same applies to Amazon Prime Video too, but this time we get the tablet variant of the application requiring a mouse for hassle-free navigation. The good news is that we get official HD support (the application can be installed from the Play Store) while still in stereo sound.
You-Tube supports 4K in stereo sound.
It’s a first for a Zidoo unit to pay attention to streaming services, which is a good sign.
Wired LAN Gigabit performance is stellar. High bit-rate UHD files had no issues, just like Blu-Ray ones. Switching chapters and long time-jumps are lag and buffer-free, even when during playback of very high bit-rate UHD files. Wireless performance was also very good since we were able to stream high bit-rate 1080p Remux files with no buffering. Just make sure that your access point is equally capable.
While using the SATA port, our WD Blue 1TB drive was properly recognized just like our WD RED 4TB one. On the fly connection/disconnection is not advised. You should connect your drive before turning on your device.
Gaming performance is a far better experience compared to previous Realtek models due to the faster SoC, and for the first time, casual gaming can be a nice experience on this platform. Performance is similar to AMlogic S905X3 SoC which is a good thing. More RAM would be ideal for more demanding 3D titles. Make sure to pair a BT gamepad to play games, since you will not be able to use the Dune remote for the task. Benchmark results are on par with other RTD1619 based units.
Dolby VS10 Engine
The VS10 engine by Dolby is the most hyped part of the Z9X. Since acquiring a full Dolby Vision disc license is impossible for a media player, this route was the best alternative.
In the quick settings options and under the Display->HDR tab, we will find two new Dolby Vision related options.
- Dolby Vision S10 Engine.
By selecting this option, HDR content is processed by the VS10 engine to properly match your High Dynamic Range (including Dolby Vision capable ones) or SDR display. There is also a note in the menu description stating:
“This option support Dolby Vision standard mode and is recommended when playing HDR or Dolby Vision content on non-HDR devices.”
Well, the note is correct. Aside from demo, showcasing video files, most of your 4K movie backups should be encoded either in HDR(10) or in Dolby Vision format. As per usual, the latter includes the HDR(10) information in case your high dynamic range display does not support Dolby Vision. We should point out that the VS10 engine will only read the HDR information of your file, and not the Dolby Vision one, even if existing. By enabling this option, you will immediately realize that your display entered in its High Dynamic Range mode. Yes, even in the navigation menus! (screen gets brighter)
While browsing to get to the file explorer, we noticed a small delay in the screen transitions, meaning that the vS10 engine was indeed trying its best to apply a “per scene” high dynamic range setting based on its A.I.
Actual movie viewing encoded with Dolby Vision, and processed by VS10 engine, confirmed the menus’ description. Although there was nothing particularly bad regarding the colors of the projected image, we noticed that it was flatter, and less punchier compared to the same disc’s HDR mode playback. More than 4 test files were used, with the same results across the board. Of course, this can be heavily title-dependant. The VS10 engine performed its best when playback occurred in SDR displays. This means more options for a Dolby certified outcome for projector owners.
2. Dolby Vision Low Latency (LLDV, YUV422,12Bit)
This option works on Dolby Vision displays allowing SDR content to be processed and then converted to Dolby Vision. In simple words, SDR – >
HDR Dolby Vision. The end result is impressive, considering the total lack of any high dynamic range information, but we would rather have the processing power reserved for better upscaling. Still, no complaints whatsoever.
Zidoo has confirmed that they are working on the SDK, and developing Dolby Vision support for MKV containers regarding profiles 4,5,8 & 9. Good stuff!
As of now, Zidoo’s instructions are the following:
For SDR Displays:
- Quick Setting> Display>HDR> VS10 Engine
For HDR Displays (no DV):
- For HDR source: Quick Setting> Display>HDR> Auto
- For SDR or Dolby Vision source: Quick Setting> Display>HDR> VS10 Engine
For Dolby Vision Displays:
- For SDR or single Dolby Vision source: Quick Setting> Display>HDR>LLDV
- For HDR or Dolby Vision source: Quick Setting> Display>HDR>Auto
Our tests were performed on a 65″ LG OLED C8 which supports both HDR and Dolby Vision.
One of Zidoo’s main selling points is still their in-house development of the Home Theater poster wall application. This time it is updated to version 3.0. The new version is even more polished with better-designed icons and additional main screen/poster wall options. Instead of a simple poster wall with all your movies, you now get a…main poster wall with selection per genre, including some posters from the most stand-out films of your library (unaware of the selection criteria). Once you get to the poster wall of your full library, you still get the same customization options as before. Size of the posters and filtering by Genre, Alphabetically, Resolution, Year, etc
Inside a movie’s poster, we now get the trailer alongside with other introduction videos. As always, you still get information about the specific title, its actors, film contributors, and more. Many options exist to change the main cover and background photos for each film.
In case some files are not recognized properly, you can add them manually.
After the first boot, you will notice that Google Services are missing. Don’t worry though, because Zidoo has already a firmware update available to include them. After the installation of the Google Play Store, you will be able to download almost every application to your device. The Android version (9.0) in combination with the device’s non-rooted state and Widevine L1, results in a better than ever application compatibility (for a Realtek based unit).
Web browsing is a better experience due to faster SoC. A keyboard/mouse combo is required for that.
OpenWRT is no longer supported, and the classic Android settings menu has now disappeared. The device is not rooted.
Zidoo was always great with providing updates, so you can rest assured that the majority of bugs will be ironed out soon.
It is hard not to like the Z9X. It is equipped with a faster SoC, more features (HDR10+), updated tailor-made apps (HT3.0), and includes Dolby’s VS10 engine (carrying huge future potential as far as high dynamic range processing is concerned), while at the same time being ~100€ cheaper than the competition. You should not forget the backlit remote which is not a given for all media players costing more than 200€. Their new approach to media streaming services is also a much-appreciated gesture.
If you have a 200€ budget for a latest-gen high-performing media player to playback and organize your local files, chances are the Zidoo Z9X is your only choice.
We would like to thank Zidoo for sending over a review sample for a non-sponsored and unbiased review.
If this review helped you towards making your decision, we would appreciate it if you made your order through the following affiliate link(s). This way we will be able to review more products in the future.