Review: Zidoo NEO Alpha

Discussion in 'HDD Media player(RTD 1619DR)' started by Sledgehamma, Aug 3, 2022.

  1. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    The NEO α(Alpha) is the flagship of Zidoo in the current lineup and benefits from all Firmware releases of the earlier models like the Z9X while offering a vastly different set of hardware and some special audio features on the software side.
    As Zidoo has quite a comprehensive list of devices with different hardware aspects I created a spreadsheet for a comparison between all models so that it is easier for you to decide what specific model best fits your needs:
    [​IMG]

    This is my second review of a Zidoo player (Z9X review: https://www.avsforum.com/threads/review-zidoo-z9x.3170473/#post-60175090) and even if you do not consider the NEO Alpha as a player it is still worth reading this review as Zidoo has improved many aspects since the initial Z9X review. I try to keep the Z9X review up to date but it’s quite cumbersome to keep it in a way so that it all fits neatly together. So please enjoy this review as most aspects like added settings (custom EDID, default flag) and improvements for HT (clearlogo support, trakt.tv integration) also apply to all other Zidoo models based upon the RTD1619DR.

    This marks also the first review diving into the audio side of things. So please bear with me as I try to do my best to explore all things audio. If you want me to test something specific, please let me know and I’ll to my best to answer your question.

    The Hardware:

    The NEO Alpha uses the same SoC as the Z9X, which is an ARM Cortex A55 hexa-core CPU with 1.3 GHz. However it uses double the RAM (4GB) and double the eMMC storage (32GB). Furthermore, it comes already equipped with a 512GB M.2 SATA SSD.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The I/O is as follows:

    On the back of the device:
    • Wifi and Bluetooth antennas (removable)
    • Optical audio
    • HDMI 2.0a output (audio and video)
    • HDMI 1.4 (audio only)
    • IR in
    • RSR-23
    • Gigabit ethernet
    • 2x USB 3.0
    • Optical audio input
    • Coaxial input
    • USB DAC
    • RCA audio
    • XLR
    • 2.5”/3.5” HDD
    On the front:
    • 6.3mm Headphone
    • 2x USB 2.0
    The package and what’s inside:

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    The case:

    The case of the NEO Alpha has proper HiFi dimensions so that it neatly fits onto other A/V gear or into a rack. The dimensions and its weight are rather massive for a media player and its very well built, completely made from aluminium. The front panel is a thick aluminium plate and features an OLED screen in the middle as well as an illuminated volume knob (can be dimmed or turned off). With 5” the screen is big enough so that it is actually pleasant to use for music playback. Another plus for the screen is the fact that it is an OLED screen which makes a huge difference on the contrast rich and dark playback UI of the NEO Alpha.
    The device does not have a fan so that it is silent. In order to cool the components the top has a mesh area that lets the hot air escape. As this device is primarily targeted towards audiophile this is the main purpose of the front display. Not only can one fully operate music playback but it offers access to the most important settings in all aspects music (see more details in the music and settings chapter). One drawback of this big screen is that it is deactivated during video playback and therefore remains black. This is a hardware limitation (the SoC can’t output video through HDMI and simultaneously output video to the onboard OLED screen) and cant be fixed in the future.
    An interesting fact is that the NEO Alpha does have its own fuse in order to protect the components from power surges.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    The inside:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    PSU:
    [​IMG]

    Audio chips:
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Bluetooth:
    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    The OLED front display:

    [​IMG]


    Start Screen:
    [​IMG]

    Music can be accessed via favourites, songs, albums or folder view:
    [​IMG]

    A vast majority of sources are supported like Tidal, Spotify, Airplay, etc.
    [​IMG]

    Changing the input for the DAC, the same can be toggled on the remote control:
    [​IMG]

    Album view:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Search function:
    [​IMG]
    Setting up Tidal connect:
    [​IMG]

    Display settings:
    [​IMG]

    Different clocks can be set as screensaver:

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
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  4. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    The brightness of the knob can be adjusted:
    [​IMG]

    DAC settings:
    [​IMG]

    Volume Boost settings:
    [​IMG]

    Album view:
    [​IMG]

    Playback screen indicating DSD bitstream:
    [​IMG]
    Playback converting to PCM:
    [​IMG]
    Info screen on AVR showing DSD bitstream (thanks to @markswift):
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Media center:
    [​IMG]

    Spectrum:
    [​IMG]

    VU Meter:
    [​IMG]

    Settings overview:
    [​IMG]

    General settings:
    [​IMG]

    Settings for the remote:
    [​IMG]

    HDMI settings can be adjusted via the front screen as well:
    [​IMG]

    USB DSD mode:
    [​IMG]
     
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  5. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    The remote:

    Like the remote of the Z9X the included remote (V10 mini) does offer backlighting when pressing a key. As can be seen in the below pictures the remote is significantly smaller and as a result lighter as well. At this price point one could have expected a remote made from aluminium, but sadly its made from plastic. However, it still doesn’t feel cheap and one can mistake the upper side of the remote for aluminium. The back of the remote features a pattern that makes the remote extremely grippy so that it wont slip out of your hand easily which is important with a remote this size. On the plus side the remote works via both, infrared and bluetooth so that the NEO Alpha can be in a cabinet or even further away. Sadly, again due to hardware limitations, it is not possible to power on the device via bluetooth but only via IR.
    For user of Pure Audio Blu-rays it is noteworthy to say that the colour buttons do not act as such but can be programmed in various other ways (like taking a screenshot). With that format those buttons are used to change the audio track. However, the same can be accomplished with the “audio” button which can be setup so that it switches through the different audio tracks.
    The key presses are on point and in contrast to that of the Z9X are not mushy at all.
    Due to the small size of the remote the number buttons had to be removed. This means that you can’t quickly go to 10%, 20% etc, of the video like you are with other remotes. For that you may choose another remote (Logitech Harmony, Control4, Crestron,…) or use the Zidoo Control app. Noteworthy here is that the Alpha offers RS232 and IP protocols for those using home automation systems or wanting to create their own apps.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Initial setup

    As these media players are getting more and more feature packed with a plethora of settings Zidoo tries to guide you through those upon first boot:
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
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  6. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    The graphical user interface (GUI):

    Navigating the overall GUI feels about the same as on the Z9X. However, the homescreen looks differently as can be seen in the picture. This the “black Zidoo GUI”, which is used on devices like the Z1000 PRO and up. Again, the GUI is only displayed at 1080p and not 2160p. Sadly, this holds true for almost all media players and even TVs running Android (only AndroidTV 12 offers native 2160p GUI). This fact makes text and pictures less sharp compared to players like the Apple TV 4K, which offer a GUI in 2160p.

    The start screen when booting the device. Items from left to right are Music Player, Poster Wall, File Browser, Apps and Settings
    [​IMG]

    Navigating down gives you the option to pin apps for faster access:
    [​IMG]

    Its also possible to automatically launch any app on startup:
    [​IMG]

    File browser. For fast access you can add your shares or external drives as favourites:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    Most important operations like copy, paste etc. are possible:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Settings of the file browser:
    [​IMG]
     
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  7. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    Poster Wall 4.0:

    The Poster Wall is Zidoo’s own media centre which pulls all videos from your sources, be it network shares or external hard drives into one library with artwork and meta data like frame rate and codec. Interestingly it resembles infuse on the Apple TV from a layout point of view (at least the start screen). It has no problems with indexing large collections at all. The scanning process in general is quick as well but depends whether you have mediainfo analysis enabled for scanning or not. For example my movie library consists of 683 films with local artwork and NFO and it took around 55 minutes for a full scan with mediainfo enabled. With disabled mediainfo scanning it only takes just under 5 minutes .

    Scanning a new movie typically only takes a few seconds and HT has the ability to see if there is a change so that it automatically looks and scans for new content.
    While the identification at the time of the Z9X review was not very good, this has changed dramatically. Due to the separation of TV shows and Movies while matching there are no more mix ups between the two categories. While matching for movies is almost perfect its still not perfect for TV shows. However, this remains the exceptions and the vast majority gets matched correctly.


    Start screen:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    Movie details, the technical information can be obtained via mediainfo (you can also disable it):
    [​IMG]

    See mediainfo directly:
    [​IMG]

    See all the actors:
    [​IMG]

    Get more details of the actor and see which movies with that actor are in your database:
    [​IMG]

    The ability to alter which categories are displayed:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Custom categories can be added:
    [​IMG]

    Filter movies or go to the settings:
    [​IMG]

    Scanning in progress. You can add several sources (network shares, external HDDs) and combine them to a single database:
    [​IMG]

    The ability to mark single episodes as watched was added:
    [​IMG]

    Ability to set a static time per season for intro and end credits. Its not dynamic like Plex does it but it can still be useful for certain TV shows like MacGyver when they always start with the same intro.
    [​IMG]

    HT automatically scrapes clearlogo for TV shows and movies and not only show it on the details page but also on the loading screen:
    [​IMG]

    Support for trakt.tv makes it possible to two-way sync your progress and watched status with another database like Jellyfin:
    [​IMG]

    For better matching you can specify the contents of each source:
    [​IMG]

    Setting which indexer should be used. For TV shows you have the option between TMDb, TheTVDB and TVMaze. For Movies TMDb is available:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    NFO may or may not be used:
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    Easily bulk edit TV shows in case they matched wrongly:
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Settings of the movie wall:

    Child lock:
    [​IMG]

    Language setting:
    [​IMG]

    Configure the layout to your needs:

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    General Settings, certain names of folders or file names can be excluded if needed:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    HT can play movie or TV theme in the background when selection the cover or being inside the details page:
    [​IMG]

    You can also let it play a trailer automatically in a small window or on demand in a larger window when inside the detail view of a movie.
    This can use online sources from YouTube or a local trailer file (identified with the addition of a .trailer file suffix).
    The online feature has had issues recently as Zidoo has to adapt to the continuous changes made by YouTube. Recent firmware has fixed this for most users, but Zidoo has no control over the vagaries of YouTube’s obfuscation techniques so for 100% reliability, local trailers are much more preferable.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Location of the DB:
    [​IMG]

    Backup the DB:
    [​IMG]

    Background can be changed:
    [​IMG]

    Different poster sizes:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Sorting can be changed:
    [​IMG]

    Different views:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Collections:
    [​IMG]

    Order of collections can be manually changed if needed:
    [​IMG]

    TV shows - Seasons:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Overall HT 4.0 has made great progress from the initial review of the Z9X with new features like trakt.tv integration and vastly improved matching.
    Still, an upgrade in resolution from 1080p to 2160p would make it just that more sharp and beautiful. While Zidoo also just made a custom Plex version available it would be great to see native support for Plex and Jellyfin inside HT (like Infuse and MrMc are doing).
     
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  10. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    Jellyfin:

    If you are already invested in a huge Jellyfin library and don’t want to have a second database with Zidoo’s HT App thanks to a @AndyIEG you now have the ability to use the Jellyfin AndroidTV app with support for Zidoo’s native player. This means that everything from Dolby Vision to DTS:X is supported as Jellyfin “just” calls the Zidoo player. It also supports progress sync, watched status and seeking for SMB and NFS. Another aspect in which Jellyfin shines is the smart selection of audio and video tracks, which is a welcome feature to viewers of anime. Example: All the normal content you watch is in english, but if you are watching anime you want the original Japanese audio track with english subtitles (which you normally disable). Andy added a logic in which this is easily possible, something that can’t be achieved with the normal preference of language or default flag.
    You can also browse via the webinterface or tablet and start playback on the NEO Alpha. The progress is then synced back to the App. Controlling playback doesn’t work at this time, though.
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    For download and installation see Github: https://github.com/Andy2244/jellyfin-androidtv-zidoo

    Start Screen:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Movies:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Poster size can be changed:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Option to display something different than the poster:
    [​IMG]

    Collection overview:
    [​IMG]

    Detail page of movie:
    [​IMG]

    Detail page of TV show:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Detail of Season:
    [​IMG]

    Loading screen:
    [​IMG]
     
  11. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    Some of the settings:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Plex:

    Zidoo just released their version of a Plex app. In general appearances it looks like HT but has a few differences.
    This is still a very early Alpha “experience” release, so currently for example there are no settings available for this app whatsoever and the movie and TV show detail page look differently from HT. Hopefully this will develop in time.
    Within your Plex server you cant select the NEO Alpha as a player like you can with Jellyfin. Furthermore, the Dashboard in the webinterface doesn’t show that the Zidoo is currently playing but the progress gets synced nevertheless.

    Start screen, which has a fixed layout unlike HT and only shows recently added movies but no recently added TV shows :
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Movie details page looks different from HT:
    [​IMG]

    Resume function is supported:
    [​IMG]

    Also info screen while playback looks different from HT:
    [​IMG]

    Movie Wall:
    [​IMG]

    Several filter options available:
    [​IMG]

    Filter by resolution or genre for example:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Different sorting options:
    [​IMG]

    Scrolling too the left gives you fast access to certain filters like “recently added” :
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
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  12. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    TV show wall:
    [​IMG]

    TV show overview, again vastly different from HT:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Zidoo Controller App:

    The Controller App is another aspect in which Zidoo changed a lot compared to the initial review of the Z9X. The app offers the ability to navigate network shares, alter several settings while playback or simply browse your library and start a movie.
    It’s now finally possible to use the landscape mode, but again only one orientation is supported. Sadly, since its redesign in November 2021 it hasn’t seen a single update and so a few bugs and missing features remain (see here for more details: http://forum.zidoo.tv/index.php?threads/zidoo-controller-hd-app-for-ipad.92091/)


    Start screen and option to select the desired Zidoo device:
    [​IMG]

    File manager:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]


    Apps can be started directly from the app as well:
    [​IMG]

    Start screen of Home Theater 4.0:
    [​IMG]

    Categories:
    [​IMG]

    One can even start a scan of the database or add a new source directly via the app:
    [​IMG]

    TV show details:
    [​IMG]

    Season details:
    [​IMG]

    Collection overview:
    [​IMG]

    Movie details:
    [​IMG]

    Getting Mediainfo:
    [​IMG]

    Rematching:
    [​IMG]

    Playback controls. It’s even possible to display basic media info as well as output format.
    [​IMG]
     
  13. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    Changing audio and subtitle tracks. Sadly, the names of the audio tracks are not shown but only the language, basic codec, no. of channels and sampling rate
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Subtitles can be downloaded conveniently as well:
    [​IMG]

    Remote control functions:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Some settings for the app as well as regarding Home Theater 4.0. The blue playback button can be moved around the screen and is only shown while playback. When pressing this one is taking directly to the playback controls.
    [​IMG]]

    Customising the start screen of the App:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Further customising the App:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Most of the settings of the NEO Alpha are accessible:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Links:
    iTunes: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/zidoo-controller-hd/id1596255844
    Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zidoo.control.phone&hl=en_US
     
  14. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    Playback:

    The Z9X and its initial review are almost two years old. In the meantime there were more than 20 Firmware Updates (including beta FWs) which the NEO Alpha benefits from as it shares the same SoC. As a result file playback is rock solid and no major bugs can be found.

    Starting, stopping, skipping and time seek are extremely fast. As with the Z9X and all other models based upon the RTD1619DR the forced flag within mkv for subtitles is supported. A recent addition is the support for the default flag for subtitles and audio track as well. You can have various options for the selection of subtitles and audio tracks, see picture:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    In case your display device relies upon HDR10 meta data for tone mapping, the NEO Alpha can send the correct metadata. You also have the option to disable this in the settings. Furthermore, in case your Display does not support Dolby Vision but HDR10 you can use the “custom EDID” function of the player and send out Low Latency Dolby Vision (LLDV), which essentially is an HDR10 signal. Just note that you manually need to set your display device into HDR10 as there is no HDR10 flag. If your display device does not have this option, you can use a HDFury device to do that.
    Like the Z9X this player is of course able to output the correct frame rate depending on the content without any frame drops. It also has the ability to send the video without upscaling to your display device or video processor in case these have a better upscaler. Just note that it needs to be a legal HDMI mode to work: For example 720p24 is not a valid HDMI mode and it will send 1080p24 instead.
    Due to the fact that there was some issue with the black level on the RTD1619DR it needs to be stated that there is no black level issue in either SDR, HDR10, Dolby Vision or utilising the VS10 engine anymore.
    Its worth mentioning that the almost obsolete VC-1 codec does not produce irregular stutter which plagued some previous Realtek SoCs.
    The Dolby Vision implementation of Zidoo has come a long way. Not only is DV supported in mp4, mkv but also with UHD BD discs. For Dolby Vision profile support it can be said that profiles 5, 7, 8 and 9 are supported. Profiles 5 and 8 are most important for web-dl of streaming services and are supported natively by the SoC. Profile 7 is exclusively on UHD BD discs and consists of the following:
    Base Layer (BL): HDR10 base layer for compatibility with non DV players/displays
    Reference Processing Unit (RPU): The dynamic metadata DV which DV is best known for
    Enhancement Layer (EL): depending on the implementation its either basically empty or carries the difference between the HDR10 BL and the 12 bit master in a 1080p HEVC video stream.

    The FEL implementation requires a second HEVC decoder for the video stream which the Realtek RTD1619DR lacks and therefore cannot be used. What Zidoo instead is doing is utilising the RPU so that it still uses the dynamic metadata.
    As the EL of the MEL version is essentially empty there is nothing to use besides the BL and the RPU so that the Zidoo is capable to fully support this DV 7 profile. The difference between FEL and MEL is usually only visible on badly mastered titles like Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Total Recall (1990).
    The player is extremely flexible in terms of settings which can be seen by the fact that one has the ability to choose between player led or TV led Dolby vision:
    [​IMG]


    In 2022 its suffice to say that all major HD audio formats like Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD MA/HR and DTS:X are bitstreamed flawlessly.

    At the beginning of video playback there is an indication for the HDR format. In addition you can see if it is native playback of if the Dolby VS10 engine comes into play and converts the content.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Decoder torture test:
    The jellyfish 2160p29.97 AVC test plays butter smooth up until 200 mbit and starts only to stutter with a bitrate of 300 mbit. The same is true for HEVC 2160p files. Please note that this is more of a “peace of mind” aspect than actual real world benefit as there is no commercial content on streaming or physical media that offers such a high bitrate. So you can be sure that the decoder is able to handle all retail UHD BD discs or high bitrate streams just fine.

    Chapter names are now supported as well:
    [​IMG]

    Names of audio tracks are not supported instead basic codec information, no. of channels and sample rate are displayed (same as Zidoo Controller app):
    [​IMG]

    Audio can be moved in time (plus and minus):
    [​IMG]

    Names of subtitle tracks are supported. It displays the language first and then in brackets is thee name of the track, in this case “NAME”In case there is a subtitle track with a forced flag, a new menu item appears (forced subtitle):
    [​IMG]

    Infos are shown when pressing pause:
    [​IMG]

    Infos when pressing the info button during playback:
    [​IMG]

    Display of complete media info output is possible as well:
    [​IMG]
     
  15. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    PGS subtitles can be shifted and the brightness can be adjusted. The latter can be saved for all content or just for HDR.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    More options are available for SRT subtitles. They can even be shifted in time.:
    [​IMG]


    Blu-ray:

    In accordance to other brands such as Dune and Zappiti, Zidoo also included a full (UHD) BD menu playback solution, which is capable of displaying Java menus as well as support for HDR10 and HDR10+. Due to the fact that neither of these brand’s solutions is perfect here is an overview of Zidoo’s capabilities:

    What works:

    • playlist obfuscation
    • seamless branching
    • While Dune had serious problems for full menu HDR playback when skipping a chapter(it briefly sends and SDR signal, which forces the TV to resync) the Zidoo does not have such problems.

    These features work, but not reliably. So depending on how/who authored the discs they might work perfectly and for others they don’t work:

    • forced subtitles:
      • These work for some discs (Ford v Ferrari 2019) and not for others (Bad Boys 2003)
    • native BD java resume function:
      • This produces also mixed results, at least for TV shows. Sometimes it resumes the last episode from the beginning and sometimes it starts the previous episode at the end (at the point where I selected to playback the next episode).
    • correct menu language and audio setting
      • This is basically the same as on Dune. It works most of the time in choosing the correct menu language and audio track according to the UI settings, but sometimes in didn’t work.

    While the Dune exhibit some display issues on the X-Files BD, these were not present on the NEO Alpha. Still, it seems one has to trade in one display issue for another as Zidoo’s implementation had difficulties with elapsed and total time on the US BDs of “The 100”:
    [​IMG]

    As with previous generation BD live features do not work and its not clear whether those BD live servers are any longer online anyway.

    Music Playback:

    As one would expect from an audio focused player, it supports a plethora of different audio formats: The most important ones for audiophiles are SACD.iso (2.0/5.1), DSF, DFF, FLAC as well as WAV. Needless to say that the player also supports the embedded covers for these type of files with the exception of SACD.iso as this doesn’t have embedded covers. Another features that is most important is the ability to play songs continuously, without an annoying gap between song changes. It is important to note that the songs need to have the same sampling rate. In case they have different sample rate it still can be achieved, but one needs to set a specific sample rate which then applies to all content. This in turn means (depending on the set sample rate) that certain tracks get upsampled while others get downsampled. However, this only applies to stereo content as gapless playback is not supported for multichannel playback, neither PCM nor DSD output.

    Another interesting feature is the player’s ability to convert up to 5.1 DSD to PCM. See below for the output sample rates:

    • 2.0 DSD64 outputs at 176.4 Khz
    • 2.0 DSD128 outputs at 88.2 Khz
    • 2.0 DSD256 outputs at 44.1 Khz
    • MCH DSD outputs at 44.1 Khz

    That said, Zidoo is already working on supporting up to 176.4 Khz for MCH DSD. In case Zidoo improves upon this, the above table will be updated accordingly.

    Furthermore, the NEO Alpha features a unique selling point among media players based upon Realtek SoC, namely the ability to bitstream DSD via its second HDMI port. The player is able to achieve this up to DSD64 for Stereo and Multichannel music.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    SACD.iso playback is also very convenient with Zidoo’s Music Player app as it reads and adds each track individually. So the playback and selection is the same as it were DSF files for example.
    [/url] [​IMG] [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Because often times the SACD.iso does have stereo as well as multi channel you can set a default for SACD playback or toggle between the two options during playback (note output was set to PCM for testing only):
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Playback of local DSF DSD64 music via Roon. Multichannel in general does not work via Roon and it will send stereo only:
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  16. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    MQA (you need internal DAC for this) from local playback, Roon and tidal connect works. See screenshots:
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Are few limitations for Tidal are that at the moment Dolby Atmos is not supported and neither are lyrics. The latter is true for all music played through Roon.
    As this player offers UHD BD menu playback, pure audio Blu-ray is supported. DTS inside WAV works just fine as well but no further output details present on the front screen:
    [​IMG]

    Roon support:
    [​IMG]

    Setting up the NEO Alpha:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    As the NEO Alpha does not support a screensaver for the TV output but only for the front OLED screen is important to know that turning the TV on or off during music playback there is no resync happening as long as you use the second HDMI port for audio output.
     
  17. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    Picture quality evaluation:

    Due to the fact that the NEO Alpha offers a dual PSU setup with high quality components in addition to its ability to send audio and video separately through its two distinct HDMI outputs this sections compares its video quality to the entry level Z9X.

    At first let’s compare some real world footage from the Spears and Munsil UHD Benchmark disc.

    The first picture is always the NEO Alpha whereas the second one is the Z9X:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Although it is not always the exact same frame it can be seen that there is no difference in sharpness or colour reproduction.
    Next, let’s have a look at some SDR patterns and see if this changes:

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]
     
  18. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    Further test patterns:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Again, there are no changes visible which makes perfect sense as both of these players use the same SoC. As a result the previous comparisons between the Z9X, internal player of the Philips 804 and the Apple TV 4K (2017) still hold true.
    The most comprehensive way to evaluate the PQ are the various test patterns provided by Spears and Munsil. Currently there is a second edition in the works which will offer new test patterns with support for Dolby Vision for example. Sadly, this edition is not available at the time of this review.

    1080p AVC pattern:

    Zidoo (native Realtek):
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo (Dolby VS10):
    [​IMG]

    Infuse:
    [​IMG]

    Philips:
    [​IMG]

    Extremely hard to see differences. Appears like all use the simple “nearest neighbour” method.


    Zidoo (native Realtek):
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo (Dolby VS10):
    [​IMG]

    Infuse:
    [​IMG]

    Philips:
    [​IMG]

    Philips looks like the cleanest and seems to use either bicubic or bilinear. All the other players use the nearest neighbour and Zidoo shows in both, native Realtek and Dolby’s VS10, some sharpening issues which can be observed on the right side of the blue and red. In addition it’s also visible horizontally directly under the black bar.



    Zidoo (native Realtek):
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo (Dolby VS10):
    [​IMG]

    Infuse:
    [​IMG]

    Philips:
    [​IMG]

    The results on the banding part look exactly like previously observed in the Dune Pro 4K II review: No banding on Philips and Infuse but Realtek produces visible banding. However, this picture changes completely once VS10 is activated as the banding is gone entirely.
     
    serg fedorov likes this.
  19. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    2160p SDR HEVC:

    Zidoo (native Realtek):
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo (Dolby VS10):
    [​IMG]

    Infuse:
    [​IMG]

    Philips:
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo on auto produces the blockiest picture by far, definitely nearest neighbour. Infuse is a little bit better, but still not smooth. Only Philips and Dolby’s VS10 produce a smooth picture, thus indicating the use of either bicubic or bilinear chroma upsampling algorithm.



    Zidoo (native Realtek):
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo (Dolby VS10):
    [​IMG]

    Infuse:
    [​IMG]

    Philips:
    [​IMG]

    Note: please disregard the colour differences on the VS10 picture.
    Besides that, no clear differences are visible.


    Zidoo (native Realtek):
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo (Dolby VS10):
    [​IMG]

    Infuse:
    [​IMG]

    Philips:
    [​IMG]

    As previously observed on the 1080p AVC pattern only native Realtek produces visible banding.


    2160p HDR HEVC; CLL: 600 nits, FALL: 400 nits

    Zidoo (native Realtek):
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo (Dolby VS10):
    [​IMG]

    Infuse:
    [​IMG]

    Philips:
    [​IMG]

    Results are in accordance to the HEVC SDR: Native Realtek the worst, Infuse a bit better and Philips and VS are the smoothest.

    Zidoo (native Realtek):
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo (Dolby VS10):
    [​IMG]

    Infuse:
    [​IMG]

    Philips:
    [​IMG]

    All players display some colour alteration around the vertical bars: Very bright green around the red bar and yellow around the blue bar. Philips and Realtek are the worst as they show both colours the clearest. Infuse shows both of them less pronounced and VS10 only barely shows the yellow shadow around the blue bar.
     
    serg fedorov likes this.
  20. Sledgehamma

    Sledgehamma Active Member

    Zidoo (native Realtek):
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo (Dolby VS10):
    [​IMG]

    Infuse:
    [​IMG]

    Philips:
    [​IMG]

    Again, the banding is most pronounced and clearly visible with the native Realtek SoC’s decoding. Infuse shows this as well, albeit the blocks being smaller and thus less visible from a distance. Philips is much better and basically not visible from a normal viewing distance, also hard to see on the picture. Only VS10 displays the image without any banding whatsoever.

    It’s clearly visible that the VS10 processing engine by Dolby fixes almost all shortcomings of Realtek’s video decoding/processing. Therefore, enabling VS10 should be the preferred setting. The only downside with having that enabled is that everything gets send to your TV at the highest capabilities of your TV. In case you have a Dolby Vision capable monitor this means that everything (no matter if its SDR or HDR10) gets sent as Dolby Vision. In case you have a HDR10 capable display, everything gets sent as HDR10*.


    SDR to HDR conversion:

    The standard Realtek SDR to HDR conversion even in the latest Realtek SoC doesn’t do a decent job as one of its drawbacks are altering colours of the image. It could previously be observed that the VS10 engine by Dolby addresses these shortcomings when it comes to chroma upsampling and banding issues. Can Dolby do its magic once more?

    In order to answer this the Zidoo was set to output VS10, which in this case sends Dolby Vision to the Philips TV.

    The following comparison will show a native SDR and HDR picture compared to the Dolby VS10 SDR to HDR conversion as well as Philips SDR to HDR conversion (Perfect Natural Reality set to maximum).
    Please also note that these pictures do not necessarily represent the image in real life due to the limited range of the camera being used (Canon EOS 700D) and the fact that these pictures are in SDR.

    native SDR:
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo:
    [​IMG]

    Philips:
    [​IMG]

    native HDR:
    [​IMG]

    Philips does a vastly decent job in creating an HDR effect. However, the colours appear to be pushed a little bit too much (especially the green) and the bright part directly above the animal’s back is too bright. Having said that, Philips algorithm can be altered in its intensity.
    The VS10 processing almost looks exactly like the native HDR picture.

    native SDR:
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo:
    [​IMG]

    Philips:
    [​IMG]

    native HDR:
    [​IMG]

    The colours of the Philips image look like the SDR version while the VS10 conversion makes them look a little dull.

    native SDR:
    [​IMG]

    Zidoo:
    [​IMG]

    Philips:
    [​IMG]

    native HDR:
    [​IMG]

    Philips tends to brighten the image a little bit too much (for example the house on the lower left). The same applies for the VS although it brightens it just a little bit less aggressively.
     

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