We tested the Zappiti Player Mini multimedia player, which is the compact version of the popular Zappiti player, an indispensable player on the HD MKV or MP3 and FLAC market. This small media player offers quality images on HDMI output, which are far superior to the vast majority of Blu-ray and HTPC players (Media Center computers). It is aimed at providing a high quality image on an HD television or video projector.
Dune HD by Zappiti
Zappiti is a recently-created French brand, devised by the importer of Dune HD multimedia players. Dune multimedia players now bear the Zappiti stamp, with identical components, interface and design. The Zappiti Player is identical to the Dune HD Base 3D and the Zappiti Player Mini is identical to the Dune HD TV-303D. If these appliances are clones, what’s the point in choosing a Zappiti player rather than a Dune HD, a brand so well known for the quality of its products?
There is a difference between these appliances but it concerns the control application for smartphones and tablets. Is this a mere technicality? Not at all. Mobile applications are currently essential items and are necessary for the smooth running of most hi-fi and home cinema products. This is even more relevant for multimedia players.
What does a mobile application add’
The Zappiti Media Control control application for iPad and Android allows you to access all films, series and indexed music (we’ll come back to this later) present in the multimedia player but also shared on a local network (computer, NAS). Films are displayed using posters, enhanced with descriptions giving the synopsis, main actors, duration, languages, subtitles, audio tracks, etc.
From the comfort of your own sofa, this application allows you to ?flick through? an interactive catalogue of films, concerts, cartoons, series or music and to play them on your television (or video projector) without the need for an IR remote control.
We’ll come back to the installation and settings of this application at a later point and in more detail.
The Zappiti Player Mini under the spotlight
The Zappiti Player Mini is presented in the form of a highly compact case, equipped with complete audio-video connectors, in which a 2.5? hard drive can be installed. In terms of electronic components, it is similar to the Zappiti Player. At the heart of the Player Mini, there is a Sigma Design SMP7672 processor, optimized to smoothly decode an ISO image from a Blu-ray film in 1080p 3D and up to 60 images per second, all of this done with an impeccable level of quality.
3.0 USB port
This is a USB slave port which allows the Zappiti Player Mini to be connected to a computer for fast copying of films. This is not a waste of time as an ISO image of a Blu-ray disc weighs between 20 and 50 Go. If the computer you’re using has a 3.0 USB port, the copy has a very high output (>70 Mo /sec). If the master port is 2.0 USB, the copy will be carried out at 25 Mo /second maximum.
2.0 USB master ports
There are two USB master ports, one at the back and the other on the right-hand side of the Zappiti Player Mini. Hard drives or USB flash drives can be connected, possibly a hub (USB hub) in order to use several discs. The player can then access content and share it on the local network.
The controller is compatible with standard 802.11n and it runs like any WiFi controller of this kind. This connection is not adapted to HD playing of ISO Blu-ray images or MKV files at a high speed.
This is one of the highlights of this player as the controller is Gigabit. There isn’t a problem in playing an ISO image from a Blu-ray film from the network. There are no jumps.
In standard 1.4, it’s 1080p compatible and 3D (true). The Zappiti Player menu offers an important range of settings (8 or 12 bits, settings). If black seems blocked, this can be repaired by accessing the advanced video menu. Upscaling is scheduled.
This is practical for connecting an audio DAC and for listening to FLAC files. Dolby Digital and DTS (16 bits / 48 kHz) stream are also carried out. This isn’t the case for DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby True-HD, which are incompatible with any optical output, for which the only choice remaining is the HDMI output.
AV out and YUV output
Zappiti delivers an adaptor cable for using this double output. An S/PDIF coaxial RCA output and composite stereo and video output are retrieved. The digital output features are identical to the optical. Analog outputs have little interest as their quality is passable (inevitable for this type of appliance). Zappiti has thought of those who own video projectors with component inputs. Component outputs were not tested.
SD card readers
Compatible with SHDC and SDXC cards and interesting for reading photos and MKV files.
Internal rack for hard drive
The internal rack is accessible when manually opening the lockable drive bay. You just simply have to slip in a hard disk (2.5? format) to the SATA interface, up to 3 Tb. The Samba server allows you to share the contents of this hard drive on the local network and to potentially use a NAS.
We connected the Zappiti Player to a 50? plasma screen TV with an HDMI Norstone HDS-500 cable. Our television was connected via its optical output to a NuForce DDA-100 digital amplifier and via an HDMI ARC to a Denon AVR-X3000 home cinema amplifier. Our test speakers are Q Acoustics 2050i and Magnat Quantum Edelstein. Our NAS Synology contains ISO Blu-ray, MKV 1080p and FLAC files.
Starting up the Zappiti Player Mini takes roughly one minute, time which will be reduced as the device goes into standby mode and comes out immediately. The interface is that of Dune players, a fairly simple configuration. The Zappiti Player is set by default to detect the resolution of the connected distributor (1080p in our case) as well as automatically adapting the speed of frames /sec (24 fps for Blu-ray films, 25 fps for DVDs, etc.). Audio default settings ensure a bitstream transmission of audio flow via the HDMI and S/PDIF outputs. It is impossible to impose a stereo PCM decoding if you want to connect an external audio DAC. We did this temporarily for the NuForce DDA-100.
When adjusting access to our NAS, we note that it is not an easy procedure. If the network navigation icon is on the home page, no contextual assistance is displayed. If you know what you’re doing, it will be fine. If you don’t understand the SMB sign, continue, switch on your computer and download the Zappiti Media Center software. If you use a Mac, you will need a virtual machine with Windows (VirtualBox for example).
A closer look at the Zappiti Media Center application
The configuration assistant is fairly easy to use. You just simply have to indicate where the multimedia files to be indexed are to be found. These locations can be local network files, files from a NAS or any hard drive connected directly to the Zappiti Player Mini (internal or USB). Terabytes of films and music can be categorised.
For each added folder, you should indicate its contents ? films, series or music. If you’ve mixed different contents, you should arrange them. You can, however carry on and carry out this file arrangement at a later stage.
The last step involves selecting the folder containing the database (visual, files, etc.) from your film and music collection. This folder must be accessible on your Zappiti player as well as on your tablet or smartphone. You should store this folder on your NAS or on a disc connected to the Zappiti Player Mini.
When you return to the home page of your Zappiti Media Center application, you just simply have to click the Scan button at the top left then Scrape. The software will then submit the names of video and audio files to different Internet databases in order to retrieve film sleeves and descriptions. Scrape is the name given to the search and import methods of this metadata.
Does it always work?
No. If file names are not clear (avatar.1080p.3d.i’mgoingtotheswimmingpoolthisevening.x264.mkv, for example), things then get more complicated and you must proceed by clicking ?To scrape? and indicating the film title manually.
Compulsory on-line activation
The Android Zappiti application for iPad and tablets is free for owners of Zappiti players. Owners of Dune HD equipment will have to download a pay version of this application. You will have to justify your purchase by entering a code (token) in the Zappiti Media Center software interface and then export the created base.
After a fairly long configuration, but one which is necessary for ease of use, the Zappiti Player Mini used with an iPad or an Android portable device is exceptionally user-friendly. Navigation in film descriptions is easy to use and films or music of your choice can be played without using an IR remote control. This application is of great assistance, it definitely serves a purpose.
The image quality seemed better than the range of Dune HD products launched in 2012. There are no major differences but there are slight differences nevertheless ? enhanced contrast and richer colour display. The Sigma Design chip is excellent. It never fails during tracking shots or high-speed data complex scenes. The Gigabit network controller holds up and can maintain ISO Blu-ray images without any problem. Images are detailed and you can clearly see the grain of a low-lit or compressed shot.
Don’t expect anything good from the analog output. The use of an audio DAC on an S/PDIF optical output is necessary to obtain a satisfactory result. A 24 bit and 192 kHz compatible DAC can be used as the Zappiti Player Mini is compatible with FLAC HD files. The iPad application allows you to choose the music you want to listen to and to play it.
We would be lying to you if we said that the Zappiti Player Mini used only with its OSD menu is high-performing and user-friendly. This appliance was designed to operate with an indexing software and a mobile iPad and Android application. Used in this way, it is very easy to use. Schedule a good hour for setting up film nights where films are played one after another, with a superb image and unrivalled audio video support (FLAC, ISO, TS, MKV, MP4, etc.).