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HiMedia Q10 Pro Android Media Player Review

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A real contender

by Mark Hodgkinson Jun 18, 2016

  • SRP: £149.99

    What is the HiMedia Q10 Pro?

    While not the direct successor to the previously reviewed and well regarded Android media player, the HiMedia Q5, it’s not far from being so. That honour falls to the HiMedia Q5 Pro which is identical, specs wise, to the Q10 Pro only it lacks the hard drive bay the ‘senior’ model has. As an aside, it’s probably Hi time the manufacturer chose some new model numbers; perhaps next year we’ll be getting the Pro-Plus series. The Q10 Pro boasts some impressive features, including being the first media player we’ve reviewed claiming to be able to play back High Dynamic Range (HDR) video. The initial information actually claimed Dolby Vision compatibility but we note that’s subsequently, and unsurprisingly, been dropped. There’s also 4K Ultra HD playback at up to 60 frames per second, 10-bit HEVC decoding, support for HD and hi-res audio formats and auto-frame rate switching to whet the appetite of the ardent AV aficionado. The HiMedia Q10 Pro is currently available via at least one reputable UK dealer, priced at £149.99 so let’s see how it meets the new demands in home video and audio off, rather than on, paper.

    Specification


    The Q10 Pro features the brand new Quad-core HiSilicon Hi3798CV200 (ARM Cortex A53 family) processor running at 2Ghz and a Mali T720 GPU. There’s 2GB of RAM and 16GB of built-in flash storage. In a welcome upgrade from the 2015 models, the Q10 Pro has dual-band AC Wi-Fi capability and retains Gigabit LAN. The device runs on a base of Android 5.1 (Lollipop) and all testing was carried out on the latest firmware at the time of publishing (June 2016), version HMD-1.0.3 2016-05-23.124800.

    Design & Connections

    The Q10 has a brushed metal casing that feels the part and looks fairly good. The front display is big and bold with a time read-out to the left and a collection of touch-sensitive operational buttons on the right; note, you are able to switch off the display in the menu. Down the left hand side are two USB 2.0 ports and one version 3.0, with a full-sized SD card slot sandwiched between those. On the rear panel is an HDMI 2.0a port, a gigabit LAN connection, a composite video output and a pair of corresponding stereo audio jacks. There’s also both Toslink and Coax digital audio outs and a USB 3.0 slave, which is of particular use if you want to transfer over large amounts of data from a PC to an inserted SATA hard drive. Speaking of which, on the right side of the unit is a catch which releases the top panel to reveal the HDD bay; inserting a drive is incredibly easy and requires no screws, thanks to a well thought out mechanism.

    HiMedia Q10 Pro
    The supplied remote is typical of the product class in that it’s nothing spectacular but it has more weight than most so doesn’t feel too cheap. There are all the expected playback controls, toward the top, directional keys in the centre and numeric buttons at the bottom; there is a mouse cursor control but it’s painfully slow to move around, so for using the Q10 Pro beyond media playback duties, we’d recommend a wireless keyboard/mouse or an air-mouse type device.
    HiMedia Q10 Pro

    Features

    HiMedia is pretty keen to extol the virtues of their Imprex 2.0 picture engine, which is fair enough as USPs are fairly difficult to come by in this particular market. We don’t have exact details on how it works – they’re shrouded in a little mystery – but in effect, the results are something like you get with the likes of a Darbee processor, so it’s a per-pixel image ‘enhancement’ technique based on the brightness of those pixels and what neighbours them. It’s a fairly subtle effect with no real visible detriment to colours or greyscale so if you want to use it we see no real harm, but if you want to maintain fidelity to the original content, switch it off. In other words, we could take it or leave it but we do understand why people would like it.
    HiMedia Q10 Pro Features
    HiMedia Q10 Pro Features

    The Q10 Pro comes with a number of pre-installed apps but not too many, which is good to see as we don’t like bloat. There’s a remote friendly (leanback) version of YouTube which is pegged to a 1080p maximum resolution but you can install a third party version (OG YouTube) which will give you access to 4K resolutions; it’s not as remote friendly as the pre-installed app but it does work well. For optimal playback of almost everything, especially ‘exotica’ such as 3D, HD audio and 4K HDR video, you will want to use the HiMedia player built-in. It does lack a pretty front-end for organising your media, however, so you don’t get the likes of box art, descriptions or anything else you would expect from a media centre software but you can use KODI as front-end for that kind of thing if you install the HiMedia Wrapper app which launches the player from KODI when you hit Play; surprisingly it’s not one of the apps that comes pre-loaded but it’s easy to find online and, once installed, it works very well.

    Video & Audio Performance

    We’ve held off a few weeks on fully testing the Q10 Pro to allow the firmware to mature somewhat; our previous experiences in this sector has taught us that a review can become out-of-date very quickly with manufacturers who are proactive in their software releases and there were a number of bugs that needed ironing out in the initial version. The Q10 Pro still has a few issues that need addressing but, for the most part, it is now a stable device. You will notice that the player ticks most of the boxes below but there are some caveats in certain areas so please also read the text between the tables!

    Testing was carried out via a NAS over a wired Gigabit network, as well as from a USB 3.0 hard drive and an internally mounted Western Digital 750GB SATA drive on a Sony KD-55XD93 via a Yamaha RXV-679 AV Receiver.

    Beginning with Ultra HD/4K testing:

    4K Tests

    HiMedia 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

    In terms of being future-proofed for the latest video formats, the HiMedia Q10 is the best dedicated Android media player we’ve tested in many ways, especially when it comes to High Dynamic Range content. It does have quite a complex set up menu, with regards to colour spaces and bit depths, however, and to find the best fit for your display may take some experimentation; certainly with the Sony XD93 we used for testing it wasn’t straightforward but once we’d settled on Auto for HDR output and 10 Bit YCbCr for the colour space, we were in business with all our test clips playing well, albeit with some slight stutter on the Exodus: Gods and Kings clip and some posterisation (banding) evident in some areas. Every Ultra HD standard dynamic range (SDR) clip we tried was perfect. Just for the hell of it, we also tried our Dolby Vision test clips which produced audio but no video although they have no right to play, given the TV isn’t enabled for that flavour of HDR. If we get a DV TV in for review before the Q10 is returned, we’ll update the review with our findings.

    Next up we tested some more mundane fare, with standard and high definition files of varying resolutions and file types.

    SD/HD/Interlaced

    HiMedia 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
    1920 x 1080/VC-1/MKV/29.970fps
    Decent playback but slight stutter

    Now, while the results above appear to be first class, more extensive testing revealed some limitations. Most notably, for files that are anything less than 1920 x 1080 in resolution, automatic refresh rate switching (you want the video signal Hz to be divisible by the framerate) doesn’t work. For those that have encoded their Blu-rays without the ‘black bars’ to save storage space, or at less than 1080p this would be particularly troublesome. There is no auto switching for 25 or 50 frames per second content, at all, either although it is easy to change output to 50Hz on-the-fly while watching, using a button on the remote control. Furthermore, on watching a few full movies, a micro-stutter effect was also occasionally visible with anything at 23.976 frames per second, which accounts for the vast majority of content out there. There doesn’t seem to be any real pattern to it and a fix is being worked on; to be fair, it doesn’t really happen all that often but it does need fixing if the Q10 Pro is to be considered among the elite of streaming devices.

    We tested the Q10’s ability to handle very high bitrate content over wired LAN, from the internal drive and via the USB 3.0 connection with identical (and excellent) results.

    High Bitrate

    HiMedia 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

    It’s fair to say the HiMedia absolutely aced these tests, so clearly it has the chops for the demands of Ultra HD Blu-ray and, in fact, beyond assuming the format is ever cracked that is.

    The predecessor to this product was probably the best out-of-box Android solution to 3D video playback and the Q10 Pro is also very good in this regard although, again, there’s a caveat.

    3D

    HiMedia Player

    1920 x 1080/AVC/ISO/23.976fps Frame Packed
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Frame Packed
    Played in 2D
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Side by Side
    1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Top & Bottom

    It plays back 3D MVC files in 2D and there’s nothing you can do to change it; this is quite surprising given there were no issues with 3D ISO files which also require MVC decoding so it’s just a container issue.

    Finally, and going out on a high note (no pun intended), we come to the audio tests that proved to be another very strong area for the HiMedia Q10 Pro.

    Audio

    HiMedia 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

    In fact, the player performed without blemish here as well. We don’t have an Atmos or DTS:X enabled receiver at the moment but one would assume the immersive formats would play fine, given that test files had them outputting TrueHD and HD MA respectively. As a side note, the HiMedia Q10 will also play hi-res audio formats up to 96 kHz/24 bit so it’s not a bad music player as well!

    Video Review


    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
    3D ISO playback
    HDMI 2.0
    Over The Air (OTA) Software Updates
    Manufacturer version of KODI

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Excellent support for HD and hi-res audio formats
    • Extremely good video codec compatibility
    • 3D ISO playback
    • 4K YouTube possible
    • Handles high bitrates easily
    • Can play HDR10 video

    Cons

    • Some stutter with 23.976 files
    • 3D MVC plays in 2D
    • We would prefer no wrapper solution for KODI
    • Potentially confusing menu system & options
    You own this Total 4
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    HiMedia Q10 Pro Android Media Player Review

    Should I buy one

    The HiMedia Q10 Pro is an accomplished Android media hub with decent build quality, excellent connectivity options – including HDMI 2.0a for the next-gen of video – and support for up-to-the-minute audio and video formats. The Q10 Pro is the first standalone player we’ve reviewed able to play HDR (High Dynamic Range) video and it has better support for 3D than most as well. There’s also flawless pass-through of HD and replay of hi-res audio to place on the boast list, while its handling of extremely high bitrate content is the best we’ve tested to date. There are some almost inevitable compromises, most notably the occasional loss of synch with 23.976 frames per second content – which accounts for most movies and blockbuster TV series – and the ‘wrapper’ solution for KODI isn’t ideal but the HiMedia Q10 Pro is still worthy of an AVForums Recommended Award; if HiMedia can sort out the 23.976 issue, we’d be more than happy to up that rating too!

    What else is there?

    For a more integrated KODI experience, and smoother movie playback, both the Minix U1 and NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV are excellent alternatives but neither can match the HiMedia for 3D. If KODI is not of great importance and the aesthetics of the user interface is also secondary then both the Zappiti 4K or Popcorn Hour A-500 are worthy options although they cost a fair bit more and, like the other two alternatives, offer no support for HDR.


    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    8

    Performance

    8

    Networking, Internet, Streaming quality

    8

    Features

    8

    Set up, Menus, Remote

    7

    Value for Money

    8

    Verdict

    8

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