Definitely not just another KODI box
What is the Zappiti 4K PlayerOn the face of things, the Zappiti 4K family is just another to add to the ever-growing collection of Ultra HD capable Android media players. Most of these get bought to use in conjunction with media centre software, such as KODI or PLEX, but the Zappiti collection aren’t intended for that. Over the last few years, this small French company has been building its own media ecosystem, including a 3D/HD audio capable software for the player, mobile, PC and NAS (Networked Attached Storage) apps and a host of other features intended to make them stand out from the crowd; and they need to because, on paper, they look expensive.
The Zappiti 4K player range actually encompasses the Zappiti 4K Player Mini at 229 Euro (approx £175), the original Zappiti 4K Player for 279 Euro (approx £215) and the one we were sent – the Zappiti 4K Player Duo - which retails at 349 Euro (approx £268). The differences wholly come down to storage options: the Duo has two internal HDD rack enclosures (up to 16 TB total capacity) and 5x USB ports; the Zappiti Player 4K has up to 8 TB storage via internal HDD rack enclosure and 3x USB ports, while the 4K Mini only supports external HDDs in SATA (external port) and USB and it also has 3x USB ports and external SATA port. So let’s get stuck in..
Design & ConnectionsThe Zappiti 4K Player Duo is one heck of a size for a media box, it’s bigger than most Blu-ray players, even, with a footprint (WxDxH) of 430 x 289 x 74, or 202mm with Wi-Fi antennas up. Of course all that extra space is needed for the built-in (hot-swappable) SATA HDD racks which are designed for 3.5-inch drives. At the front you also get two USB 2.0 ports on either sides of the drive enclosures and a large ‘Z’ which illuminates in a subdued shade of blue when the unit is powered on – you can switch it off with the remote. Moving around the back and we have both an HDMI input - for MHL capable Mobile devices - and an output, Toslink digital audio out, two further USB 2.0 ports and a power button. To the side we have the solitary USB 3.0 port and a full sized SD Card slot.
Remote Control(s)The Zappiti 4K Player comes with two remote controls and it’s important to note the Player software is only compatible with the conventional handset which is no bad piece of kit. Some of the button labelling is difficult to see in subdued lighting, however, so it perhaps could have used a backlight. The other remote is of the airmouse variety and has a full Qwerty keyboard (with some letters confusingly moved down a few rows) on the back. We found the gyroscopes built-in to be temperamental, however, and we gave up using it after a short while. We guess it could have been a defective unit as it definitely wasn’t low batteries to blame for the performance.
User Interface & FeaturesThe launcher screen of the Zappiti is simple and easy to use but we don’t think it’s very pretty, although that’s probably this reviewer’s personal aversion to the colour red. You do have the option of changing the appearance but at 4.99 Euro for an alternate ‘skin’ we don’t think there will be many takers and, quite honestly, this is the sort of thing Zappiti should be giving away to customers, not charging them for. The default home screen is set against a red theatre curtain backdrop and has three tiles dominating the screen; one takes you to the Zappiti (media) Player, there’s also Zappiti Explorer and a shortcut to Google Play which, we have to say, was immensely difficult to use with the supplied remote controls. There are also some much smaller icons to take you to your other apps, the (Android) settings menu and an ‘all tasks killer.’ There’s an option for Auto 1080p 24Hz Playback under Display settings which we’d recommend you to engage as it’s off by default.
One of the major plays Zappiti makes in their advertising concerns is over their MagicPixel technology, which is a video processing technique to give images a more stand-out look, as well as providing truly excellent scaling. We’ve actually seen similar local pixel luminance adjustment techniques employed by TV manufacturers and in a few dedicated devices, including the Darbee Darblet, and it is, no doubt, very clever. For the most part it’s actually very effective too, although it can make images look a tad over-grainy at times so there should be an option to switch it off, which there is not.
On first firing up the media player you will be invited to use the Zappiti Cloud which requires email registration and a user token which you’ll find either on the box or the unit, itself, in sticker form. It’s a bit of a pain to do using an on-screen keyboard but it’s a very necessary step if you want to get the best from the system. You nominate local and/or networked storage to scan and the system goes about downloading corresponding covers and fan art for the movies, TV shows or music. It is quite picky on how you name your files, Zappiti recommends nothing fancier than, for example, ‘Sicario.mkv’ but we found it will scan more complicated naming pretty well, although not quite so well as KODI, for instance. That said, the Zappiti system is definitely easier for a novice to setup and will suit those less hobbyist about their media centre software.
The initial scan duration depends on how many files you have, of course, but our collection of around 60 ripped Blu-rays took no longer than five minutes and it’s a one-time job as all the data is then stored on the player. The beauty of the cloud system is that you can then access the content from other devices, e.g. a PC, with all art synced instantly. We couldn’t get to test out remote streaming from the Zappiti Media Control Android app, however, as we kept getting a message that we needed to activate the cloud sync settings in the Media player but since it’s no longer there – sync is automatic – it’s a stumbling block.
UPDATE: The app is non-compatible with V4 of Zappiti Player but new ones for iOS and Android are very much in the pipeline. If they are released prior to us sending the sample back (unlikely), we will update the review with our findings. In the meantime, we suggest the manufacturer finds some way to make sure the app is labelled as incompatible with the latest software release.
Video & Audio PerformanceAll tests were conducted via a Samsung JU7000 Ultra HD TV also, for the non-4K, a Panasonic ST50 plasma and for the HD Audio testing, a Denon AVR-X2100W was used. The Zappiti Media Player version was the latest stable from Google Play (4.4.104). We also enabled auto 1080p24Hz switching in the Display Menu and set default output as 1080p50, as per the advice of Zappiti.
As the title 4K is in the product name, we guess it’s kind of imperative that the Zappiti Duo at least puts in a good showing here and, save for the 10-bit files we knew it wouldn’t be able to handle, this was thankfully the case.
3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/23.976fps 3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/24.000fps
Slight micro-judder as though output is 23.976 and not the desired 24
3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/25.000fps
Partial success - there is no auto-switching to 50Hz so had to manually set
3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/29.970fps
3840 x 2160/AVC/MKV/59.940fps
frequent audio drop-outs
3840 x 2160/H264/MP4/23.976fps
3840 x 2160/HEVC/MP4/29.970fps
3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/59.940fps
Occasional judder but watchable
10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/TS/59.940fps
No 10-bit playback on the chipset
10-bit 3840 x 2160/HEVC/TS/23.976fps
No 10-bit playback on the chipset
3840 x 2160/AVC/MP4/50.00fps
No 10-bit playback on the chipset
4096 x 2160/AVC/MP4/24fps
Slight micro-judder as though output is 23.976 and not the desired 24
There does seem to be a bit of an issue with Ultra HD files that are encoded at 24 frames per second. Whilst the vast majority of content is actually encoded at 23.976, which the Zappiti deals with very well, for the most part, there are some movies out there actually encoded at 24 so we surmise that the 24p output of the Zappiti 4K Player is locked in at 23.976 and won’t do 24; you get a slight micro-judder to images as a result, which may or may not trouble you but, like we say, there’s precious little encoded at exactly 24p so it’s far from a big issue.
Moving on to some lower resolution material, including interlaced video, and again the Zappiti acquitted itself very well
720 x 576/MP2/mpg/25.000fps - Interlaced
Need to manually switch to 50Hz output but good deinteralcing when done
1280 x 720/AVC/MP4/29.970fps 1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/25.00fps - Interlaced
Audio but no video
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
Audio no video
1920 x 1080/HEVC/MKV/23.976fps
1920 x 1080/VC-1/MKV/23.976fps
1920 x 1080/VC-1/MKV/29.970fps
While Zappiti has pretty much nailed automatic frequency switching at 60 and 24Hz, the player will not switch to 50Hz, for material that is either 25 or 50 frames per second; this is almost certainly the reason the company advises a default 50Hz output. In that configuration we had no problems at all, except with one interlaced clip at 1080 resolution and 25 frames per second and a HEVC encoded ISO which displayed no video at all. We were very pleased to see a player that can handle VC-1 material after a series of samples that can’t. It is worth noting that we did have the very odd issue with 24p switching with 5 of 60 Blu-ray rips where the Zappiti just sat in 50Hz. We tried via NAS and USB storage but the results were the same over three TVs and we couldn’t really see a reason why; the same files played fine via other media players and we’ve sent more details on to Zappiti to investigate. We also had a couple of files that would intermittently freeze the player altogether although that seemed to be completely random whereas the non-switching to 24p was completely repeatable.
The 4K Player Duo certainly doesn’t possess a power house of a processor so we were pleasantly surprised with its handling of very high bitrate material.
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
We tested, again, via SB storage and NAS with both producing good results up to 140Mbps; for an Ultra HD Blu-ray rip you are likely to need throughput up to 128Mbps so the Zappiti is on the edges of being able to deliver. The concern here would be the fact that HEVC encoded content – which will be used extensively in UHD Blu-ray threw up a few stutters.
The thorny issue of full 3D support has long been a problem for Android media players but, true to promise, the Zappiti 4K player does better than the rest here, although it’s not perfect.
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 1920 x 1080/AVC/MKV/23.976fps Top & Bottom
While there’s a tick in all the boxes of test files, playback was not entirely smooth with a slight judder in evidence with all. It would seem that while 2D at 23.976 is well under control, it’s 24p exactly for 3D playback. Still, if 3D is a concern, this player is definitely one of the premium choices out there.
And if it's one of the better choices for 3D video, it's the best we've yet tested for audio format support with the Caveat that both the Wetek Core and Minix U1 can now reportedly (17/02/2016) handle all the same formats but we need to test to verify.
AAC 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
It's a full house for the Zappiti 4K player here which is tremendous to see and it shows just how much work the company has put in to make the chipset work as they want; it looks to be no mean feat that they've pulled this off and, for music lovers, the Zappiti is the only Android media box, we know, that can play hi-res audio files at up to 192 kHz / 24-bit with support for formats including FLAC, AIFF, ALAC and WavPack.
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
3D ISO playback
Over The Air (OTA) Software Updates
- Extremely easy to setup
- Simple user interface
- Regular software updates
- MagicPixel processing makes (most) video look great
- 3D support much better than most
- HD Audio pass-through
- Built-in SATA HDD racks
- Hi-res audio support
- It's a bit expensive
- 4K limited to 8-bit at up to 30 frames per second
- Some 24p sync issues
Zappiti 4K Player Duo Media Player Review
Should I buy the Zappiti 4K Player Duo?We’ll make the assumption you need the built-in storage options, else you can look down the line at the less expensive models but we will say the Zappiti 4K Player is a very capable beast that will play most, if not all, media you care to throw its way. The connectivity options are good with HDMI in and out, Bluetooth, 5 USB ports and, in the Duo’s case, twin SATA interfaces for 3.5-inch hard disc drives. You get a pair of decent remotes in the box, although we found the air-mouse a bit flaky. Bar some nuisance with on-screen menus, setup of the Zappiti players is amongst the easiest there is with some of the phaff associated with the likes of KODI and PLEX taken away and the interface is so simple your other half could use it.
When it came to media playback, the Zappiti 4K Player distinguishes itself with comprehensive support for 3D and HD audio, although it’s not so well future-proofed for Ultra HD, with a lack of 10-bit support and some issues with 1080p HEVC encoded material. We also had the odd blip where the player wouldn’t automatically switch to the correct video output signal but they were few and far between and when they did play, the quality of the MagicPixel processing is evident with great scaling and some pixel luminance tricks giving images a real stand-out quality; it doesn’t work so well for material that has a lot of ‘film grain,’ so we would prefer the option of being able to switch it off.
Even with the minor nuisances and the high price-tag, the Zappiti 4K Player is worthy of recommendation for those folk who can’t be bothered with KODI and are looking for a media player solution with some interesting features. There is no getting away from the fact it’s a relatively expensive solution but it is, at the end of the day, generally a very effective one.
What else could I buy?Options for media players with 3D and HD audio support are definitely increasing with developments in both the Android and KODI worlds bringing much better playback of both. In fact, as this review is being written (February 2016), the Wetek Core has just received an update to allow pass-through of all virtually all HD audio formats, including Dolby Atmos, but there’s only very limited 3D playback, for now. That wasn’t just good news for the Wetek player, however, as the open source nature of KODI means that others will benefit from their work and the Minix U1 is one such device that can now also pass-through all HD audio codecs – bar DTS:X & Auro 3D – and it features better 3D support via Minix XBMC than the Wetek; the U1 also has the edge of the Zappiti with 10-bit Ultra HD support at up to 60 frames per second. Other great options are the NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV which lacks any 3D support currently and the HiMedia Q5 which is quite similar in performance to the Zappiti 4K players, although the all-round media centre experience isn’t quite so good.
Networking, Internet, Streaming quality9
Set up, Menus, Remote7
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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