You need a suitable media player to play your own 4K media files. They are available in a variety of appearances. Computer!Totaal gathered eight widely available products and put them on the rack one by one. Which 4K media player do you like best?
Almost all 4K televisions have a 'smart' operating system, so that users can stream videos in Ultra HD via apps such as Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video. A disadvantage is that these smart platforms become obsolete relatively quickly. Due to the lack of updates, apps may stop working after a few years. In addition, due to the limited video codec support, smart TVs cannot display all movie files. A big loss for people who secretly download something from controversial networks such as bittorrent and usenet newsgroups.
Modern media players are an interesting alternative to the outdated smart environment and poor file support of smart TVs. For example, there are all kinds of playback devices that process all common audio and video codecs, including movies in 4K. These are reviewed in this comparative test. Several discussed players even have their own smart environment that stays up-to-date, so you can stream Netflix in the highest quality!
Like a computer, every media player uses an operating system. We see Google in particular with its operating systems (Android and Android TV) on all kinds of playback devices. The advantage of this is that users can install their own applications via the Play Store, such as TV apps from Ziggo and KPN. There is, however, a snag in the grass. Most so-called Android boxes are equipped with an Android operating system that was actually developed for mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). These devices are generally not Netflix certified and usually cannot play streams from this provider in 4K. We pay close attention to this in the models discussed. Furthermore, many media players still run on a (self-developed) version of Linux. The interface and file support of these devices are usually well taken care of, but a slick smart environment is often hard to find. Finally, Apple is developing its own operating system for the Apple TV 4K under the name tvOS.
After a thorough inspection of the housing, we connect every media player directly to a modern receiver with an HDMI cable. By connecting an external drive to the media player, we unleash all kinds of video formats on the device. Think of original Blu-ray rips, DVD folder structures, ISO images, 4K movies including HDR and high-res audio files. This gives us a good idea of the file support, where we also look at the extent to which the media player processes commonly used surround formats such as dts-hd master audio and dolby digital. Finally, we take a look at the user interface and the quality of the smart environment (if any).
Apple TV 4K
Compared to previous versions, little has changed in the design of the Apple TV 4K. The housing is still made of black-colored plastic. There are only two connections on the back, namely gigabit ethernet and hdmi 2.0a. Compared to its predecessor, Apple has added a faster chipset and more RAM. A lack is a USB port to connect external storage carriers with their own media files, although Apple mainly targets fans of streaming video services.
As soon as we switch on the device with the clear remote control, the App Store cannot be missed. For 4K content, the Netflix and Amazon Prime Video app are ready, with which smooth images including HDR appear on televisions that support this. Unfortunately, the YouTube app is stuck at 1080p because the Apple TV 4K can't decode the necessary vp9 codec.
Still, this media player does have added value, because the iTunes Store has quite a few 4K movies these days. You can rent or buy it, after which you stream the 4K images (temporarily) to the Apple TV 4K. For a long time, the App Store on Apple's media player hardly contained applications for the Dutch market, but fortunately NPO Start, NLZiet, Pathé Thuis and Videoland have been available for some time now. The version we tested has 64 GB storage capacity. For twenty euros less, you can consider a copy with 32 GB as an alternative.
Apple TV 4KPrice
www.apple.com 7 Score 70
- Sturdy housing
- Pleasant user environment
- 4K Movies on iTunes Store
- No USB port
- No audio ports
- YouTube not in 4K
COOD-E TV 4K
The COOD-E TV 4K is one of the smallest media player in this field, because this box measures only 9.2 × 9.2 × 1.8 centimeters. Only the Chromecast Ultra is smaller. Nevertheless, there are still quite a few connections available at the rear, namely HDMI 2.0, gigabit Ethernet, micro-SD, USB 2.0 and analog audio. The manufacturer chose Android 7.1.2 as the operating system. This platform was originally intended for mobile devices with a touch screen, but COOD-E has adapted the interface for use on televisions. For example, the home screen contains clear references to the Play Store, Netflix and Kodi, among others.
Users can reach the most important menu items effortlessly with the included remote control. Within some apps that is a different story, because the navigation in Netflix is somewhat stiff. It is not without reason that COOD-E sells a so-called air mouse with mouse pointer and integrated keyboard as an optional accessory. This makes it easier to operate apps on a television. Unfortunately, the media player is not Netflix certified, so you cannot watch movies and series in 4K (but in HD) with this app. 2160p images are possible via the YouTube app. Furthermore, this modest device plays all common media files via Kodi, such as h.265/hevc movies (including hdr) and original blu-ray rips. The short response time within the user environment is striking, so that you can easily navigate through the menu.
COOD-E TV 4KPrice
www.cood-e.com 7 Score 70
- Very compact media player
- Responds quickly
- Netflix not in 4K
- Android apps require airmouse
Dune HD Pro 4K
If you want a stable media player with the necessary connections, the Dune HD Pro 4K is a good partner. Although the sturdy housing offers no space for an internal drive, you can add various external data carriers via an eSata connection, micro-SD card reader and three USB ports. It is also nice that in addition to HDMI, you can also send audio separately via an optical and analog output. Handy in case your receiver does not contain HDMI ports or does not support the transmission of 4K images.
The design of this device is sober with a small display on the front. Inside, Dune HD has opted for a media processor from Realtek that is capable of decoding just about all media formats. After turning on the device, a simple wizard appears to configure the language, screen resolution and network settings, among other things. Great, because unlike many other players you don't have to dive into the settings yourself.
Within the menu you can reach via the section Sources the contents of local storage media. All common file formats appear smoothly on the screen, with the device not shying away from HDR content at a refresh rate of sixty frames per second. A (simplified) menu will appear on the screen for original Blu-ray and DVD rips. In short, the local file compatibility is fine. For using apps, the menu includes a link to Android so you can install streaming video services. You can play 4K streams in this way via the YouTube and Netflix app.
Dune HD Pro 4KPrice
www.dune-hd.com 9 Score 90
- Solid housing
- Many connection options
- Introduction Wizard
- Menu display with movies
- Navigation structure menu could be better
Although Eminent now has a decent track record in the media player field, the Dutch manufacturer only delivers its first product with 4K support with the EM7680. The compact plastic housing feels somewhat fragile and has an external Wi-Fi antenna on the back. You cannot disconnect it. The black-colored box also contains connections for hdmi 2.0a, s/pdif (optical), ethernet, micro-sd and three times usb 2.0. An Amlogic S905X media processor forms the heart of this device, with the existing video chip being able to process 4K films at a refresh rate of sixty frames per second.
We are pleasantly surprised as soon as we switch on the player with the supplied remote control. After a short startup phase, the popular media software Kodi appears on the screen. It turns out that the device uses the Linux variant LibreELEC as its operating system, with Kodi acting as the user interface. Movies including images, trailers, descriptions and other information appear in the library. Whether we release an iso image or folder structure on the EM7680, this media player plays everything including commonly used surround formats. If necessary, you can download missing subtitles directly via an Opensubtitles.org add-on. You also optionally also have access to the TV programs of NPO, although this extension is not of high quality. Unfortunately, there is no support for Netflix.
www.eminent-online.com 8 Score 80
- Beautiful media library via Kodi
- Additional features via add-ons
- flimsy housing
- External WiFi antenna
- No Netflix
Google Chromecast Ultra
The cheapest way to show 4K images on your television via an external device is via the tiny Google Chromecast Ultra. This device costs just under eighty euros. The round housing only has an HDMI 2.0 connector for connection to a television, receiver or soundbar. Unlike the regular Chromecast, the adapter has an Ethernet port. A smart choice, because streaming 4K images requires a stable internet connection with sufficient bandwidth.
The Chromecast Ultra does not include USB ports or a card reader, so this device is unsuitable for playing local media files. You can, however, stream the content of apps to the Chromecast Ultra after the intervention of a smartphone or tablet. This works fine for Netflix, YouTube, RTL XL, NPO Start, KPN Interactive TV and Ziggo Go.
You can also stream your own video files from media servers in the network. You can use Plex or VLC for this. To set up the Chromecast Ultra, you use the Google Home app. After a few user-friendly steps, the device is ready to receive 'cast commands' from mobile devices.
Google Chromecast UltraPrice
//store.google.com 6 Score 60
- Cheap 4K Streamer
- Easy in use
- Do not connect external data carriers
- Mobile device required
Nvidia Shield TV
The Nvidia Shield TV is the only media player discussed that you can place both flat and upright. The pyramid-shaped housing has two USB3.0 ports plus ports for HDMI2.0b and Gigabit Ethernet. Sending audio separately to a receiver or soundbar will therefore not work.
As a user interface, Nvidia has provided this media player with Android TV 7.0.2. An excellent choice, because Google develops this operating system especially for use on large screens. With the included remote control, you can easily navigate through apps such as YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, where you can count on 4K image quality. Unlike regular Android-based players, there are fewer apps available. For example, do not expect Dutch applications such as RTL XL, NPO Start, KPN Interactive TV and Ziggo Go. Not a disaster, because thanks to the Chromecast module present, you can still use these apps on the Shield TV via a smartphone.
You use the Kodi app to display your own media files. That works flawlessly! Blu-ray rips, ISO images and 4K files appear on the television without murmuring at a high refresh rate. It is striking how smoothly the user interface navigates, because we do not have to wait anywhere. The inside contains the Nvidia Tegra X1, a powerful chipset. You can even play 3D games via the built-in game store. Nvidia supplies a controller for this. If you're not into games, you can purchase a version without a controller for 199 euros.
NVIDIA Shield TVPrice
www.nvidia.com 10 Score 100
- Android TV apps
- Pleasant user environment
- Chromecast function
- No separate sound output
Venz V10 Pro+ LS
With the V10 Pro+, Venz continues on the path that the company has taken with the previously released V10 Pro. The computing power has been increased slightly with a faster media processor and video chip. With a micro-SD card reader and three USB2.0 ports, the V10 Pro+ offers plenty of options for connecting external storage devices. Venz offers a bundle with an airmouse under the product name V10 PRO+ LS. That works a lot more pleasantly than the regular (also supplied) remote control. This media player uses a recent Android version as its operating system.
Since you have to enter user data for the Google Play Store and Netflix, the integrated keyboard is not an unnecessary luxury. In addition, the mouse pointer comes in handy in various places. Venz has thoroughly overhauled Android for this media player. The home screen provides access to Netflix, YouTube and Kodi via clear blocks. Using Kodi, this media player plays all known video formats such as iso, m2ts and mkv. In addition to the widely used 4K codec hevc/h.265, the V10 Pro+ can also handle vp9. Although this media player navigates at lightning speed and contains clear menus, using Android on a media player still feels somewhat contrived. The player is not Netflix certified, so the app only supports a resolution of 720p. You can use YouTube in 4K.
Venz V10 Pro+Price
www.venz.tech 7 Score 70
- Lots of computing power
- Quick menus
- Netflix not in 4K
- Navigating in Android is sometimes difficult
Zappiti One SE 4K HDR
The French Zappiti is one of the few brands that still builds media players with room for an internal hard drive. This also applies to the new One SE 4K HDR, where you can mount a 3.5-inch disk via a flap on the side. Handy for those who want to build a local media library. In addition, the device contains no less than five USB ports (including USB-C) and a card reader to connect external data carriers. The number of remaining connections is also impressive. You can easily connect any receiver or soundbar via analog, optical and coaxial outputs. Like most Blu-ray players, the device even includes a separate output for HDMI audio. In this way, you can also enjoy modern surround formats on receivers that do not transmit 4K images.
Like the Dune HD Pro 4K discussed earlier, the Realtek RTD1295 processor is responsible for processing audio and video codecs. A good choice, because the One SE 4K HDR plays the most exotic media formats in excellent quality. You can provide the user interface with film information and attractive covers, but for this it is necessary that the file names contain the correct film titles.
Thanks to the presence of Android 6.0.1, you can add apps such as YouTube and Netflix, although the latter application is unfortunately not available in 4K. However, the manufacturer says it is working on a 4K license. The almost identical Zappiti One 4K HDR is also for sale at a suggested retail price of 299 euros. Only this media player does not contain an HDMI audio output.
Zappiti One SE 4K HDRPrice
www.zappiti.eu 8 Score 80
- Aluminum housing
- Mounting Internal Hard Drive
- Lots of connection options
- Separate HDMI audio output
- No Netflix in 4K
The ideal media player plays both your own video files and Netflix streams in 4K. In that case, only the Dune HD Pro 4K and Nvidia Shield TV remain. The latter player has just an edge, since Android TV as an operating system has a very smooth and user-friendly interface. The YouTube and Netflix apps are specially designed for the big screen, while you can stream the content of standard Android applications thanks to the built-in Chromecast module. A downside is that the Nvidia Shield TV only sends out audio via HDMI, which causes problems especially on older receivers. In that case, the Dune HD Pro 4K is an excellent alternative, since you can also transmit audio via an analog or optical cable with this device. However, the combination of Linux and Android as a user environment feels somewhat artificial.
Click on the table below for a larger version.