Review: Zappiti One SE 4K

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This week we tested the Zappiti One SE 4K video player, a device designed for the storage, indexing, and playback of HD and Ultra HD HDR videos. With compact Android TV players such as the NVIDIA SHIELD and Xiaomi Mi Box TV dominating the market, is there still room for an old-school video player with a proprietary interface and indexing system? Zappiti seems to believe so with its release of a new generation of UHD video players featuring -and this is their main asset- the Magic Pixel 2 video enhancement technology.

Android 6.0

The Zappiti One SE 4K is an Android video player with Realtek RT1295 SoC and an integrated GPU. This slightly outdated design may be slower than a basic smartphone but Zappiti is very familiar with this design and therefore works with tried and trusted materials. Nevertheless, this platform features an older version of Android, which means the most recent security patches are from 2016.

Video formats compatible with the Zappiti One SE 4K

Almost everything, and this is an undeniable strength. The manufacturer is well aware that it is essential for its player to handle 1080p MKV files extracted from a Blu-ray disc as well as 2160p HDR MKV files, and the One SE 4K was designed with this in mind. The AVC (h264) codec, as well as the HEVC (h265), is handled up to 400 Mbps. The Zappiti One SE 4K can read files extracted from 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs…However, this means you also have to know how to extract video files from a Blu-ray disc you just purchased.

Zappiti One SE 4K HDR: audio playback

All the audio formats used for films and series are handled: DTS, DTS-HD MA, DTS-HD HRA, DTS:X, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Atmos. The Zappiti One SE4K transmits the signal in its original form to the UHD TV or AV receiver (HDMI pass-through) by default. Stereo downmix may be carried out by the player if the AV receiver or TV is not compatible with recent audio formats. Sound may then be transmitted via an HDMI port, optical output, or stereo analog output.

The Zappiti Music app allows you to listen to MP3 and FLAC files, for example.

Zappiti One SE 4K HDR: connectors

The Zappiti One SE 4K is fitted with multiple connectors. The HDMI 2.0a port is paired up with a second connector exclusively dedicated to audio signals. A particularly convenient solution for listening to music with the TV off, for example. More unusual, an HDMI input and preinstalled app let you capture audio and video content from an external source. A 3.5” SATA disk array, multiple USB-A ports (including a USB 3.0 port) and a USB-C port (although it doesn’t seem to bring much to the table). The Zappiti One SE 4K also features an SD card slot as well as digital and analog stereo outputs.

The Zappiti One SE 4K is fitted with 4 USB-A ports, one USB-C port, deux HDMI 2.0 outputs, and an HDMI input to record content from an external source.

Zappiti One SE 4K HDR: storage

The Zappiti One SE 4K comes without internal storage for your films and series. It is therefore necessary to install one or multiple drives. To do so, several options are available. The first option consists of using the 3.5” SATA disk array. The device is compatible with all sizes of external drives up to 16 TB. The 5 USB ports of the devices may also be used to connect an external hard drive or USB flash drives. In other words, there is a plethora of possibilities.

Zappiti One SE 4K HDR: which external drive for optimal performance?

Use the most quiet storage device you can possibly find, as nothing is more irritating than the loud humming of an external drive while watching a movie. We recommend using 5400 rpm (3.5”) or 4200 rpm (2.5”) hard drives over 7200 rpm drives. Ideally, we recommend using the disk array or one of the 3.0 USB ports (type A or type C) for optimal reading and writing speed. Using a USB 3.0 port will ensure a maximum reading/writing speed of 100 MB/s against 25 MB/s with one of the USB 2.0 ports. This is particularly important because images of Blu-ray discs implies copying dozens of GB for one movie.

The Zappiti One SE 4K’s 3.5” SATA disk array can be opened without using any tools.

Zappiti One SE 4K HDR: connecting it to your local network player

Two options are available: wired or wireless. The Zappiti One SE4K is fitted with a dual band WiFi controller (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), but we strongly recommend one avoids using a wireless connection with a HD and UHD player. The wire connection is therefore more appropriate. It is strongly recommended to use a Gigabit router (10/100/1000) to connect the Zappiti One SE 4K and the various devices connected (computer, NAS, etc.). If your router does not feature 10/100 ports (10 MB/s max), the best solution is to acquire a 5 port Gigabit switch.

Zappiti One SE 4K HDR: accessories

The Zappiti One SE 4K comes with two WiFi antennas, an RJ-45 cable, an HDMI cable, a power block, and a remote control. Note that the remote control comes without AA batteries. Zappiti also warns the user about the HDMI cable, which may not be compatible with 4K Ultra HD signals. Replacing the HDMI cable may be preferable.

The Zappiti One SE 4K HDR’s accessories… Note that the batteries for the remote control are not included.

Zappiti One SE 4K: test conditions

We didn’t initially connect our external drive to the Zappiti One SE 4K since our film library is stored on a dedicated server. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to connect to the server. We then connected a USB external hard drive to the Zappiti One SE 4K so we could copy a few video files from our server via the local network. The Zappiti player’s FTP server is inactive by default and needs to be activated manually using the Android advanced settings.

The Zappiti One SE 4K HDR’s main menu.

Zappiti One SE 4K: main menu

The Zappiti One SE 4K’s main menu features three massive icons which allow the user to use video or audio playback, and to browse the indexing menu. It is necessary to create a Zappiti account (free) and to enter the token code located under the device. It’s not difficult but not exactly user-friendly either, notably because it requires using the Android visual keyboard with the remote control. A smartphone app does exist (Zappiti Media Control 4K), but the display is limited to landscape mode, which means we had to move the screen of our Xiaomi Mi 8 SE smartphone constantly.

The Zappiti One SE 4K HDR dedicated Android app.

Zappiti One SE 4K: Zappiti account

After creating an account, the Zappiti video (browsing and playback) and Zappiti Explorer (indexing and managing) apps are operational. Although Zappiti recommends creating a ‘Movie’ and a ‘Series’ folder, it is possible to manually select folders located on a connected drive or network attached storage (NAS). The indexing process is automatic. Movie posters, visual elements, and summaries are automatically downloaded from the Zappiti servers. The pictures featured on the servers are high quality and optimized for TV display.

Zappiti One SE 4K HDR: indexing

The movie poster presentation is well done and accessing to the film description is fast. The indexing process is quick and the Zappiti One SE 4K will make no mistake if you took the time to name each file using the title and release date (avengers.infiny.war.2018.mkv for exemple). If a mistake does occur, the only way to correct it is by hand with the Zappiti Explorer app using the contextual menu via the remote control. Unless we are mistaken, the Zappiti One SE 4K HDR doesn’t feature a web server which may be used to edit information about films and series from a computer.

The Zappiti One SE 4K control app gives access to film libraries and allows you to control the player with a smartphone.

Zappiti One SE 4K HDR: Google Play Store

We chose not to install any third-party Android app (VLC, Plex, Netflix …) in order to use the player’s MagicPixel technology  Nevertheless, Google Play Store, as well as the Aptoide TV store, are pre-installed. Note that you may also install the Youtube app for 4K video playback.

Zappiti One SE 4K: adaptive video resolution

The default display resolution of the interface is 1080p at 60 fps, but many other options are available, up to 4096x2160p for 4K video projectors. We should mention that adjusting the resolution yourself is of little interest as the video player automatically switches to the film’s video resolution and optimal color depth. It is therefore possible to display the interface in 1080p resolution and watch movies in 4K HDR format without losing a pixel.

Zappiti One SE 4K: impressions

The Zappiti One SE 4K is rather pleasant to use, although there is a time-lapse of a few seconds when starting the Zappiti Video app after completely turning-off the device. We had no problem watching MKV 1080p (AVC) and 2160p HDR 10-bit (HEVC) files and our TV automatically switched to HDR mode.

We compared the quality of the image delivered by the Zappiti One SE 4K with the nVidia SHIELD TV Android TV player and with the Emby for Android TV app as neither of the two feature a video post-treatment function. MagicPixel technology (always activated with the Zappiti player) brings additional contrast and brightness. The image benefits from more detailed textures without overdoing it.

MagicPixel technology ensures a natural looking, enhanced image and never appears excessively bright or saturated.

The difference between the two images is subtle but perceptible with any video content.

Conclusion

What we liked:

  • The image quality
  • The automatic video resolution and frame rate adjustment

We would have liked:

  • A simpler and more intuitive eco-system
  • A web server for managing the movie index
  • An optimized control app

Zappiti clearly put some work in their indexing system for films and series but it still doesn’t compare to the Plex interface installed on the nVidia SHIELD TV. The main advantage offered by the Zappiti One SE 4K HDR is its compatibility with unusual video formats combined with an excellent image quality thanks to the Zappiti MaciPixel Plus technology.

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