Egreat A11 Review

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Taking the high-end higher-end?

by hodg100 May 2, 2018 at 7:48 AM

  • SRP: £389.99

    What is the Egreat A11?

    The A11 is Egreat’s flagship 4K, HDR and 3D capable player in the manufacturer’s ever-growing range of Android based devices and is unashamedly – and potentially profitably – aimed at the high end of the market. In terms of the Android TV device sector, the pricing is very high indeed and, at around £390 in the UK, it’s performance will need to be as near to flawless as possible to represent what most would consider good value for money. If the previously reviewed Egreat 10 is any marker – and it really is – the A11 should provide comprehensive audio-visual format support, a slick user interface and frequent manufacturer software updates but, still, that price… Let’s see what the Egreat A11 has to offer.

    Specification

    The Egreat A10 uses the same HiSilicon Hi3798CV200 processor found in the HiMedia Q5, Q10 Pro and the Egreat A10. There’s a Mali 720 GPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of built-in storage. The device comes running Android 5.1.1. (Lollipop), although there is an Android 7 (Nougat) beta firmware just around the corner, according to the manufacturer although they won’t release until its considered at least reasonably stable, which is sensible.

    Design & Connections

    Egreat A11 Design & Connections
    The Egreat A11 is not your typical Android media box in terms of build quality, indeed that’s part of the justification for the hefty price tag. The A11 feels incredibly well engineered, in fact, and features a higher grade PCB, a better Wi-Fi and Bluetooth module and some design enhancements over the A10. The display panel is very clear and easy to read and shows a choice of various playback information while a drop-down panel at the front conceals a hot-swappable 3.5-inch SATA HDD bay, with a maximum storage capacity of 8TB. The primary difference, from a practical perspective, between the two is the additional HDMI port of the A11 which carries audio only. This is of use to those with displays whose video display technology capabilities outstrip those of their AV Receivers, soundbars or other HDMI capable amplification devices. In this day and age, we’re primarily thinking of 4K HDR, HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2, and all that, but it could potentially apply to 3D video, also, which isn’t quite dead…yet.
    Egreat A11 Design & Connections
    Another upgrade on the A10 experience is the bundled, military sounding, AK86 remote control which proved to be a decent, if somewhat cumbersomely large, tool. The best thing about the remote is that it is Bluetooth enabled, meaning you can pair it with the A11 for wireless control without the need of IR (infra-red) line of sight. The Bluetooth performance is also notably snappier than when using IR. Furthermore, the AK86 can learn basic IR commands for a further three devices for actions including volume control, power and source selection. It’s no replacement for the likes of a Logitech Harmony, which does have a profile for the A11 incidentally, but the functionality is useful. There are a lot of buttons on this remote which means it takes some getting used to and the text description of the buttons’ functions, above the button itself is barely legible in the bronze font chosen by Egreat despite the backlights under the casing; the AK86 seems to have two separate lighting areas which gave a slightly uneven spread – toward the centre – with the sample provided. Overall, it’s a good remote but it could use a few tweaks.

    Egreat A11
    The Egreat A11 is a very well connected player, beside the dual HDMI outputs mentioned above. There’s an IR extender kit in the box which plugs in to a jack on the rear which sits next to an further IR receiver, which could well prove useful for those with blasters and/or universal remotes in their setup. There’s also a female RS232 connection which integrates with a special firmware ‘download-able’ from the Egreat website. The Egreat A11 is also compatible with popular automation system Control 4 (C4) which is a boon to the installer/prosumer market. To the right of the RS232 port, towards the middle of the rear plate, are Toslink, SPDiF and Coaxial digital audio outputs and, further RCA stereo audio jacks and a composite video-in. The HDMI 2.0 outputs are situated next to USB 3.0 & 2.0 ports and, in turn, a Gigabit Ethernet port. Above those we have a SATA interface, although this one isn’t of the hot-swap variety found in the front bay.

    Menus, Setup & Features

    The user interface of the Egreat A11 is very pared back and minimalist, with just five options available from the Launcher for Video, Music, Photo, All Files and Settings. In fact, aside from the Settings, the launcher is really just a fancy file explorer, allowing you to locate your various media from local and networked storage.

    The background process of matching of movies and TV shows to poster art and metadata has been improved since we reviewed the A10. It is now possible to map subfolders on your networked storage – which is a plus – but the interrogation of the storage, when using the ‘Automatic’ option is over-zealous with the A11 picking up video files that weren’t actual movies. The matching of TV Shows has been notably improved with the latest scraping improvements but it’s still a chore to sort out mismatches or – and that applies to Movies, too - and it often can’t, in any case. An obvious competitor to the Egreat, the Zappiti 4K HDR is much more flexible in this regard and has richer options in terms of poster art too. You could say the same of any competent device running KODI, of course.
    Egreat A11 Menus, Setup & Features
    Egreat A11 Menus, Setup & Features

    Speaking of that, as well as the built-in media player, the Egreat A11 also comes with a pre-installed, premium version of VidOn XBMC, which is a fork of open source software, KODI. This gives you a lot more flexibility in organising your media with all the bells and whistles of KODI 16.1 (Jarvis) but with much better support of the chipset than the mainline release. We are aware that VidOn are personas non grata in the KODI community for apparent/alleged breaches of software agreements so you may want to avoid it. We’ll avoid directly commenting on that issue and we will only be conducting tests using the internal player. The Hi3798CV200 processor also brings with it the Imprex 2.0 processing engine which possesses Darbee-like capabilities, some calibration controls and even motion processing but we find it a bit hit and miss so we’d generally rather rely on the processing and calibration controls at display side. We’re not saying its unimpressive, by any means, but good HDR TVs will probably able to match Imprex’s capabilities. Besdies which, many TVs already apply processing that most users never disable so images can end up over-processed.

    As we alluded to earlier, courtesy of the RS232 port, the A10 can integrate with dedicated control systems and, specifically, the device is certified by Control 4, which increases its appeal to the custom install market where, we understand Zappiti is faring well.

    Egreat A11
    Egreat A11


    Video and Audio Performance

    Testing was conducted on an ISF/THX calibrated Philips POS9002 Ultra HD HDR OLED TV and a Panasonic ST50 Plasma (for 3D) with (and without) a Yamaha RXV-679 AV Receiver via a QNAP NAS, on a Gigabit network as well playback from an inserted SATA drive and a USB 3.0 HDD. All results are from the latest release firmware (v1.2.9) at the time of publishing. Beginning with the Ultra HD/4K tests:

    4K Tests

    Native Player

    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/23.976fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/24.000fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/25.000fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/29.970fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MKV/59.940fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/23.976fps
    3840 x 2160/HEVC/MP4/29.970fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/59.940fps
    10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/TS/59.940fps
    10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/TS/23.976fps
    3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/50.00fps
    4096 x 2160/AVC/MP4/24fps

    The Hi3798CV200 processor is very powerful when married to the native, slightly modified HiMedia player. The A11 flew through all the Ultra HD tests and was able to dynmaically adjust the video refresh rate to complement the frame-rate of the content. This holds true at all resolutions although, as yet, the A11 can’t switch between resolutions so, if you have your system set to Ultra HD output, anything sub UHD will be scaled by the player. In this instance that’s not such a bad thing as the (up)scaling of the Egreat is of a high standard but you might find your TV will do it better so it’s worth experimentation

    Moving on to UHD HDR content.

    HDR

    Native Player

    3840 x 2160/HEVC/MP4/BT 2020/23.976fps - 10 bit
    3840 x 2160/HEVC/TS/BT.2020 25fps - 10 bit

    3840 x 2160/HEVC/MP4/BT 2020/29.97fps - 10 bit

    3840 x 2160/HEVC/MP4/BT 2020/59.94fps - 10 bit


    3840 x 2160/VP9.2 /MKV/24fps - 10 bit


    3840 x 2160/HEVC /TS/BT 2020/HLG 50fps - 10 bit
    Played in SDR/BT.2020

    While actual playback Of HDR10 High Dynamic Range content was good in terms of colour, contrast and saturation, there is an issue with it in that it displays some content misaligned vertically on-screen. The issue applies to encodes where the ‘black bars’ have been removed to reduce file size from 3840 x 2160 (2:40:1 ratio) to 3840 x 1600. HiMedia has fixed it for the chipset but it will only make its way to the Egreat A11 with Nougat (Android 7) based firmware. You can get around it by playing the content in SDR but that’s kinda defeating the object. Hopefully the firmware is imminent and (relatively) free of bugs. It is likely that there will be plenty of Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) content in the near future which the Egreat A11 couldn’t play in HDR but was able to play in SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) with a BT.2020 colour space. It was unable to display the VP9 Profile 2 (used for HDR on YouTube) test at all however.

    SD/HD/Interlaced

    Native Player

    720 x 576/MP2/mpg/25.000fps - Interlaced
    Good deinterlacing
    1280 x 720/AVC/MP4/29.970fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/25.00fps - Interlaced
    Good deinterlacing
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/24.000fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/25.000fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/29.970fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/30.000fps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/59.970fps
    1920 x 1080/HEVC/ISO/23.976fps
    1920 x 1080/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps
    1920 x 1080/VC-1/MKV/23.976fps
    Stutter
    1920 x 1080/VC-1/MKV/29.970fps
    Stutter

    VC-1 encoded material is notoriously tricky for Android for reasons unclear and the Egreat A11 exhibited stutter issues at both 24 and 30 frames per second (23.976/29.97). Otherwise playback was near spotless with good scaling and strong deinterlacing at all frame rates. It should be noted that VC-1 is perfectly playable using other video players – with full hardware acceleration, it’s just the Egreat Player having issues.

    High Bitrate

    Native Player

    1920 x 1080/AVC/M2TS/23.976fps & 90mbps
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 100mbps
    1920 x 1080/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 110mbps
    3480 x 2160/H264/MKV/23.976fps @ 120mbps
    10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 120mbps
    3840x 2160/H264/MKV/23.976fps @ 140mbps
    10-bit 3840x2160/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 140mbps
    3840x 2160/H264/MKV/23.976fps @ 200mbps
    10-bit 3840x 2160/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps @ 200mbps

    As we’ve said on a few occasions in this review, the HiSilicon Hi3798CV200 processor is a powerhouse and it had no problems playing back very high bitrate files, all the way up to 200Mbps which gives it plenty of headroom for even the most demanding UHD rips. We even had no issues playing back from our NAS (via wired ethernet) in addition to trouble free SATA and USB HDD replay.

    Full frame-packed 3D output is a relatively rare accomplishment in the media streamer market so is, therefore, a cherished asset for fans of the format.

    3D

    Egreat Player

    1920 x 1080/AVC/ISO/23.976fps Frame Packed
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Frame Packed

    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Side by Side
    Use menu button to dictate 3D mode to engage TV
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Top & Bottom
    Use menu button to dictate 3D mode to engage TV

    You can see by the table above that the Egreat A11 was perfectly capable of playing back the various formats but there’s a catch in that the A11 plays 3D at exactly 24 frames per second, rather than the actual - and fractional - 23.976 required so there's a stutter every 41 seconds, approximately. It doesn't sound too serious but it’s one of those things that just gets more annoying with time. You could experiment with the motion processing in your TV to see if you can remove the stutter without introducing over-smoothed images (or even Imprex) else you’re stuck with it. A useful 3D feature of the A10 is the ability to bring up the playback menu to force SBS (side by side) or TAB (top and bottom) instantly which should autoswitch your TV in to its 3D mode, as opposed to some devices where you'll need to delve into the TV menus to achieve this.

    Finally we come to the audio tests .

    Audio

    Native Player

    AAC (Dolby Digital) 5.1
    AC3 (DTS) 5.1
    Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
    Dolby True HD 5.1
    Dolby True HD 7.1
    DTS HD-MA 5.1
    DTS HD-HR 7.1
    DTS HD-MA 7.1
    LPCM 7.1

    The Egreat A11 proved a super performer in our audio testing here, including the RAW passthrough of 7.1 LPCM, which marks it as unusual for an Android player. We don't have an object based audio capable AV Receiver for testing but 7.1 DTS-HD MA and Dolby True HD both played fine so the assumption - also backed up by user reports - is that Atmos and DTS:X pose no difficulties.

    How future-proof is this video streamer?

    4K Ultra HD playback up to 60 frames per second
    HEVC decoding Full HD
    HEVC decoding Ultra HD
    7 Channel HD Audio pass-through
    Netflix HD/4K
    YouTube 4K/HDR
    3D ISO playback
    HDMI 2.0
    Over The Air (OTA) Software Updates

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Generally excellent audio-video support
    • Frequent software updates
    • Slick interface
    • Bluetooth remote is a plus - if slightly cumbersome

    Cons

    • It's expensive
    • Some alignment issues with HDR video
    • Occasional 3D stutter
    • VC-1 encodes choppy
    • Scraping can be over-zealous
    You own this Total 0
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Egreat A11 Review

    Should I buy one?

    The Egreat A11 is marketed, unashamedly, as a high-end player but at the UK price of £389.99 it’s looking a little over-priced, in all honesty, especially given the almost equally as talented Egreat A10 can be had for £280, which is already at the top end of sector. For your money, the Egreat A11 is probably the best made media player we’ve tested, in terms of build quality and you couldn’t complain at the connectivity options either which include a couple of USBs, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth, Digital Coax and Toslink audio outs and - the star attraction(s) - dual HDMI ports which allows users with AV receivers or audio systems lacking 4K/HDR/3D support to send video direct to the display and the audio to the appropriate equipment.

    The Egreat firmware provides a slick interface over the base Android 5.1 Operating system while the HiSilicon Hi3798CV200 processor offers some of the most comprehensive native audio-visual support in the business. The A11 can play Ultra HD at up to 60 frames, HDR 10 High Dynamic Range and 3D video and is both DTS:X and Dolby Atmos object based audio capable. It’s not without its flaws, however, with some UHD HDR rips (3840 x 1600) displaying content misaligned on the vertical axis. This is promised to be fixed with an upcoming (Android 7 based) firmware, while the stuttering issues with VC-1 encodes should be corrected before that. The 3D output isn’t quite perfect, either, with content output at exactly 24 frames per second instead of the correct 23.976 so there’s a stutter every 40 seconds, or so.

    There’s no such thing as the perfect media player just as there are no perfect TVs, projectors, AV receivers or countless other consumer products but, by most people’s reckoning, the more that you pay the more you’re likely to expect some close to perfection. For the best part of £400, we don’t think the Egreat A11 is quite offering enough, especially if you have no need of the dual HDMI capability. Sure, it has a high-end build quality, a snappy Bluetooth remote and a built-in SATA port but you can get most of that for quite a sum less – e.g. Zappiti One 4K HDR or Egreat’s own A10 – or you could maybe even pick up a second hand Oppo 4K player for a similar price. Don’t get us wrong, the Egreat A11 is an accomplished player which keeps on improving with regular software updates but, despite being a solid 8/10 product, just misses out on an award in the value stakes.


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £389.99

    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    10

    Performance

    9

    Networking, Internet, Streaming quality

    9

    Features

    8

    Set up, Menus, Remote

    8

    Value for Money

    7

    Verdict

    8

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