Is this the One?
What is the Zidoo X6 Pro?This is a device you attach to your TV to make it either Smart or (hopefully) smarter than it already is. The Zidoo X6 runs on the Android operating system, so it can perform lots of what you can do with an up-to-date smartphone or tablet, only on a bigger screen using a remote control. To make it a more media-centric box, the manufacturer has attempted to add some audio/videophile features including pass-through of HD audio, 3D & 4K Ultra HD playback plus proper support for movie framerates and HDMI 2.0 connectivity. There are precious few media boxes that promise all that and given the entry price of the X6 Pro is around £90 (November 2015) from UK based online retailers, it could prove to be a winner.
SpecificationThe X6 comes running Android 5.1 (Lollipop) and is powered by a 64-bit Rockchip 3368 Octa-core CPU, with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of eMMC Flash storage, so it should be a fairly slick performer. There’s also support for 802.11a/b/g/n/mimo, 802.11ac Wi-Fi at both 2.4GHz/5GHz so it’s also right up to date, networking-wise, backed up by the fact it has a Gigabit wired Ethernet connection and Bluetooth 4.0 support.
Design & ConnectionsWhile it looks quite attractive the silver effect casing of the box feels very flimsy and lightweight and it’s also very small (110x110x20mm), which might be a worry in terms of cooling. There’s an infra-red receiver panel at the front which also contains the blue power light, which shines a little too bright, for our liking, especially when the lights are low. The supplied remote is slightly above average in this product category with a rounded design and pleasantly rubberised buttons. All the most used buttons are at the top and in the centre, so we’ve no complaints over the layout either. One bonus feature of the X6 is the ability to power off the box using one press on the remote control button; it might not sound like much but it makes it unique amongst Android boxes. Connections are on the left-hand side and at the rear and include two USB version 2.0, a Micro SD card slot, a Toslink digital audio out, an HDMI 2.0 port and the LAN connection.
User Interface & FeaturesIt’s slightly ironic that having heaped praise on Zidoo in the past for their flair in designing attractive and well-planned user interfaces that they seem to have somewhat mimicked one from one of their competitors (Minix) with the X6. It’s clean and easy to use with an array of customisable shortcut tiles and it’s easy to navigate using the remote control. We actually prefer a couple of Zidoo’s previous efforts, to be honest, so they should have just stuck with those.
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.
Audio/Video PerformanceZidoo has evidently spent quite some time honing both their firmware and specially tailoring a version of KODI in order to meet some of their lofty pre-release claims; the results have been semi-to-very successful. It needs to be stated that the review is based upon firmware v1.0.16, although there is a beta version which might fix some of the issues that do exist.
A near holy grail in any media player – for a vocal minority, at least – is full support for 3D playback; by that we mean the frame-packed type - rather than side by side, explanation here – which produces higher resolution 3D images with more depth. Unfortunately this feature is not properly working on the X6, at the moment, and frame packed 3D ISO is being displayed as half side by side, both in KODi and the built-in player. To be honest, most people couldn't care less about 3D but since the fact that Zidoo was causing such a fuss about this very feature, pre-release, and it prospectively put the X6 Pro in to a near-unique position, it is a very big miss. As we said above, Zidoo is working hard to fix the problem but we could hold off no longer waiting for the update.
Zidoo is to be congratulated on releasing their KODI source code, for all to see, which should hopefully have the benefit of better support of the chipset in regular KODI releases going forwards; for now it is much better to use Zidoo XBMC. As an aside, the release of the source code has allowed the KODI developers to add support for playback of 3D ISO on the Raspberry Pi so it surely won’t be long before Zidoo gets it right on their own player.
Most 2D video files are handled extremely well, as it happens, with even the various 4K HEVC encoded demos we’ve been given when reviewing TVs by the manufacturers playing really well at up to 30 frames per second. The one HEVC encoded Ultra HD file at 60 frames per second was met with playback which froze a few times the first time we played. Interestingly, when we tried the second time it froze only once, which might indicate there are overheating issues in play as we'd been putting the X6 through a whole series of tests prior to the first attempt. Again, this is something the manufacturer is looking in to.
Zidoo has managed to build in very good, if not perfect, support for automatic refresh rate switching in to their version of KODI which means video playback is generally smooth. It’s not quite right for the majority of film content, however, as instead of sending an output signal refreshing at 23.976Hz (as most films actually are), it is actually 24Hz that means you get a stutter every 40 seconds, or so, which may or may not bother you. Unlike some devices, the X6 does successfully switch in and out of 24, 50 and 60Hz, where a lot have trouble with 50Hz. This is definitely good news for us in the UK with the likes of the iPlayer add-on.
Unusually, the X6 doesn’t just switch the refresh rate it also alters the output resolution to exactly match that of the original source, so e.g. 720p is sent as 1280 x 720 to your TV and 1080p as 1920 x 1080p. Providing the built-in scaling of your TV is good – and the majority are nowadays – this won’t be an issue other than it getting ‘stuck’ in the contents’ resolution once playback has finished; so you’ll need to change back manually if it’s not a match for your display.
Impressively, support of audio pass-through allows for seven channel playback of DTS-HD and Dolby True HD was working very well through a Denon 2100. It is reported that 7 channel Dolby Atmos will also work although I was unable to check on that using this receiver, plus Mrs H wouldn’t let me either!
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
Manufacturer version of KODI
- Generally excellent video playback of 2D sources
- 7 Channel HD audio pass-through, including Atmos
- Fast in operation
- Powers off with one click on remote
- Decent price
- Seems to overheat and sometimes freezes video playback
- 3D not working properly with release firmware
- 24p playback not quite smooth
Zidoo X6 Pro Review
Should I buy the Zidoo X6?Would, ‘it might be worth hanging fire for a few weeks,’ make an acceptable answer? The Zidoo X6 Pro is a nifty little Android media box, which has plenty of potential to separate it from much of the pack; the only trouble is, with the current state-of-play, at least one of its defining features isn’t working as it should – namely the playback of 3D video files in their correct format.
If 3D doesn’t matter to you – which would put you in the vast majority, to be fair – this is one worth considering and the fact it’s so able with HD audio pass-through (including Dolby Atmos) might well mark it as very attractive, to some, at its £90, or so, price-point. There is a minor timing issue with 24p content, which is being addressed by the manufacturer, along with a fix for the 3D playback so we'll definitely be updating the review once the new firmware is released to the public. As it is, we'll hold off on a recommendation without caveats but if Zidoo gets it right in quick order, we'll be happy to reconsider; it's a good box but not yet the great box it was advertised as being.
What else is there?As a like for like replacement, we think the HiMedia Q5 ticks the most boxes with comprehensive support of local media files, including 7.1 HD audio and 3D ISO playback. If neither is a concern, then our strongest recommendation is the trusty Minix X8-H Plus, which is fabulous at everything else and extremely well supported by the manufacturer.
Networking, Internet, Streaming quality8
Set up, Menus, Remote7
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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