£50 well spent?
What is the Zidoo X1?Well, it’s the cheapest of all the little media boxes we’ve reviewed, for one thing, and you can pick up the Zidoo X1 for around the £50 mark but the manufacturers still make some lofty claims on its prowess. This unusually shaped box boasts HEVC decoding, 4K Ultra HD playback, quadcore processing and its own tailored version of KODI, plus built-in framerate detection for movie purists so if it can live up to the advertising, we will have a bargain on our hands.
The Allwinner H3 processor packs four ARM Cortex-A7 CPU cores and a built-in Mali400 GPU that runs at around 600MHz. It can decode H.265/H.264 4K video in hardware up to 30fps and comes with Allwinner's latest patented SmartColor display technology to deliver better visual effects. There’s just 1GB of RAM, 8GB of built-in Nand Flash storage, with expansion available through a mini SD card slot. The X1 supports 2.4Ghz 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and has a LAN port with 100Mbps speeds.
What’s in the Box?In the box you get a euro power supply, so if you’re UK based you will need an adapter, plus the device itself, a remote control requiring 2XAAA batteries and an HDMI cable. There’s also a very simple, yet informative, manual/leaflet which has undergone slightly better translation than some areas of the Zidoo website.
Design & ConnectionsHow to describe the X1? It has something of the Millennium Dome about it but it could just as easily be a prop from a sci-fi movie – a hat maybe? Anyhow, we like the curves and it certainly gives the X1 a stand-out quality amidst the sea of anonymous black boxes on the market. The front panel has a red/blue power indicator LED and the Zidoo logo features on the bottom of the right-hand slope. At the back are a fairly basic set of connections, including an HDMI port, two v2.0 USB inputs, a 3.5mm audio/headphone out and a TF card slot for expanding the memory. There’s also a LAN port but because there is so little space in the recess housing the connections, if you do go wired, you will struggle to insert other connections unless you have very skinny fingers!
The controller works using an infra-red signal, so you will need line of sight and, it’s a reasonably effective piece of kit with a well laid out button arrangement. There’s a mouse pointer function for any apps requiring touchscreen controls but, whilst it does work, it’s quite frustrating to use so get yourself an airmouse/mini keyboard if you plan on using Android apps extensively. KODI-only users will be fine with the supplied remote.
User Interface(s)Whilst we’re always happy to see manufacturers developing and updating their software, it came as a small personal annoyance that Zidoo released two new launcher (homescreen) options the very day I started writing this review. So, in effect, there are three choices with each showing that Zidoo has a flair for designing a good interface. The default launcher is extremely clean, the tiled one looks incredibly professional and the new Firsbee (we think they mean Frisbee) presents everything in circular fashion with attractive disc shaped icons. It was a toss-up, for us, between the tiled and default with perhaps the latter being that bit lighter and quicker to navigate but we’d have been happy with any.
Zidoo RC App
Zidoo has produced their only well-polished Remote app for Android, which allows your phone or tablet full control over the device. There’s a straight ‘TV’ remote interface, mouse & gesture control and a keyboard, plus there’s also the option to use your mobile device as a games controller with touchscreen operation, in addition to virtual buttons, triggers and directional keys – very handy!
KODI ZDMCWhilst we’ll fully admit to never having heard of Zidoo before they asked us if we would like to review their products, on further research it turns out this isn’t the only business they’re in. The company is quite heavily involved in hardware supply to the broadcast industry, back home, and thus have a team of extremely clever video engineers on hand; they’ve even got a 12K media player up their sleeves but that is strictly a broadcast industry only product – we did ask if they’d like to send one! And the point of all this is? Good question, well it means that Zidoo has been able to tailor KODI, absolutely, to the slightly unusual chipset in the X1 and the results are, mostly, really good
We will say that it’s imperative that you get the firmware up-to-date, and you can find instructions on how to do that here, but once you have done that the video performance is generally very impressive. It’s also worth noting that if you update to the current official version of KODI, you will lose a lot of the ‘special features’ One of the things the Zidoo team has been working hardest on is framerate detection/automatic refresh rate switching and certainly with 24p material it works really well, although we did see some problems with video in the MKV container. It is not so successful switching between 50 and 60Hz, and vice versa, however but since 90%+ of what I watch should either be 24Hz or 50Hz, setting the X1 to output 1080p@50Hz yielded excellent results.
Unlike the Zidoo X9, the X1 struggles with 3D playback with both of our test ISO files failing to be detected. This is a known issue and is promised to be fixed in the next firmware update. We did also note some stuttering with HEVC encoded Ultra HD video, played back through the Samsung JS8500, when the framerate was 24p, although it was fine at 30 frames per second. Switching the framerate detection to manual seemed to cure that though. It’s difficult to know if that was a quirk of the player or the TV, in all honesty.
On the audio front, there is no HDMI pass-through for 7.1HD audio and 5.1 DTS-HD is stripped down to core DTS but the X1 had no problems passing through 5.1 DD and DTS and was able to output 5.1 HD audio as PCM but not 7.1. Given the proliferation of Bluetooth audio devices on the market, it’s slightly surprising there is no transmitter on-board the X1 and output through the 3.5mm jack is far from impressive so it doesn’t qualify as a digital jukebox in quite the way some competing products do.
On an entirely unrelated note, the pre-installed Zidoo KODI gives provides direct access to a number of KODI repositories of very questionable legalities and ethics – and we can’t say that impressed us greatly. We’re not here to be your moral guardian but we don’t think the company is doing itself any favours in the Western markets by being associated with such goings-on.
Zidoo Media CenterIf you don’t want to get involved with setting up KODI, and we can understand why some wouldn’t, then the X1 still makes for an excellent media playback device via its inbuilt media player. It supports everything that can be played via KODI and operates like a simple file explorer interface that can access networked media, as well as locally stored, via SMB and DLNA. In fact, we had slightly better playback of MKVs via the Zidoo player so we might even have been tempted to create a playercorefactory.xml to handle that container in KODI but we’ll just wait for a fix.
You will struggle to match the playback capabilities of the X1 in this price bracket
- Great price
- Nice design
- Automatic refresh rate switching
- 4K Playback
- Great UI
- LAN port difficult to access
- Some issues with MKV
- Too easy access to questionable KODI repos
Zidoo X1 Android TV Box Review
Should I buy the Zidoo X1
For around £50, you could do worse; a lot worse so if you’re on a bit of a shoestring but still demand great video playback the Zidoo X1 makes for a really good option. It looks very nice, too, with its futuristic dome-like design plus there’s a decent set of connectivity options – although running a wired internet connection is rendered tricky by the lack of space at the rear. The supplied remote control is good but beyond navigating around the (lovely) native user interface(s) and KODI, you would probably want to seek out a controller with gyroscopes built-in.
The Zidoo tailored version of KODI is a must and the company’s engineers have made a really good job of integrating the chipset. The automatic refresh rate switching is mostly spot-on but we did see some stuttering with MKV files. The built-in media player is also excellent with copious file support although it, along with KODI, struggles to handle 3D ISO files. The audio performance of the X1 was also impressive with HDMI passthough up to 5.1 and PCM output beyond that. All in all, for the money asked, you really can’t grumble at the Zidoo X1 too loudly and with a steady supply of firmware updates, it only promises to get better. Recommended.
What else is there?
As said in the intro, this is by far the least expensive media player we’ve had in for review so we’ve nothing to match this budget but if you’ve a bit more to spend, take a look at the Minix X8 Plus and HiMedia Q5. You could consider the Amazon Fire TV Stick, at £35ish, but its video/audio playback capabilities are nowhere near as versatile as the X1. You can also see all our favourite Android Media Players here.
Networking, Internet, Streaming quality8
Set up, Menus, Remote9
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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