This isn’t so much a review, more my first impressions and experience with this lovely new gadget!
I’ve used Kodi/OSMC for a long time now on my Raspberry Pi (the original, and then the 2 when it came out), and it was always rock solid; I left it running 24/7 with a 3tb drive hooked up to it, and used the Android remote app to navigate. It was always a dream to use, but it lacked some of the “oomph” I wanted/needed; so many things these days are encoded in h265/HEVC and/or Hi10 that it was beginning to be more and more likely that anything I wanted to play just wouldn’t. That’s not the fault of OSMC as such, just that the hardware it was running on wasn’t powerful enough. This meant that I needed to find less well-encoded versions of files, which then ate up more and more hard drive space. So I decided to take the plunge and nab myself one of these lovely new Vero 4k units – since I love OSMC, this would fix the only issue I had, which was power. And that was a good choice!
Over the years I’ve upgraded and added to my media setup. I built a mini-PC that’s fairly powerful and energy efficient, and is small enough to put anywhere; it has around 7tb of storage inbuilt, and was running Plex, which did a lot of what I wanted, though not everything. I’ve also managed to get a Samsung 50” 4k TV, and am watching more and more 4k content – so I thought I’d rearrange things a little. I plugged the 3tb external drive into the mini-PC, organised everything better in a coherent folder layout, setup internal network shares to everything on there, with the idea being that it can act as a server/central location for all my media, with the intention of the Vero 4k accessing everything over said shares.
I managed to get my Vero 4k in perfect condition around 6 days after ordering – which I was very happy about, since I’m in the Netherlands and Post NL tend to either be slow or play football with your parcels! Sadly I haven’t got any unboxing pictures as I was just too keen, and wanted to get playing with it. But one thing that struck me was how SMALL the actual unit is; I knew it was going to be compact, but this thing really is TINY, and even more so when stuck on a display under a 50” TV. The only way I’d notice it was there is thanks to the attractive blue light that’s on the front of it! Everything you need is in the box, including the power adapter (and the correct one for my country, to boot!), an HDMI cable (so annoying when you buy things that use HDMI and they don’t include a cable!), remote control, USB dongle for the remote, and an included battery. Also included was an IR receiver, which I won’t use, but was nice to see included for those who will. Eagerly I got it plugged in, made sure the TV was on and set to the right source, and then applied power. Within 30 seconds I was already at the familiar main menu, and ready to go!
Now, I’m no slouch with these things and thought the best thing to do would be to install all updates; 17.1 had dropped in the time between me ordering and it arriving, so I wanted to make sure I had all of the latest bugfixes. The update took about 60 seconds – and then, unfortunately, promptly crashed with a sad frowning face on the screen once it’d got to the menu. I wasn’t too worried about this as (a) I work in IT and know these things happen, and (b) I’d already read the forums and found this was a known issue, and it hasn’t happened since.
The next thing I did was set the box to output at 2160p, which in hindsight wasn’t the best idea; I was thinking that the higher resolution would be better, but more on that in a moment!
After that – well, as nice as the menu system is, I thought actually adding some media might make it a bit more useful and worthwhile! I went and added my network shares, and encountered two minor annoyances. When browsing the SMB shares, the entry fields for the username and password are barely noticeable; thanks to the cursor colour and the background, it took me a moment to navigate to them. Not a massive problem, but easy to overlook. The second thing was that adding the first share to the library was easy, and then I can click “Add” on the line under it; but there’s no way to browse for the second share in the same library. Browse only works on the first (main) option, so I had to manually enter the share path for the second location. Again, not the end of the world, but with the remote it was quite slow going!
Once I got the share(s) added, I set about updating the library. I encountered the usual problems everyone has here; some of my folders were duplicated (I didn’t realise this under later, but a quick “Clean” function sorted that out for me!), some weren’t picked up by the TVDB, and some were recognised wrongly (an example being the TV series Castle – for some reason it thought it was an old show about people walking around, quite literally, in castles). I’m still in the process of cleaning everything up, but with a little effort my collection’s looking very nice now!
The only real irritations I’ve found so far – which are just my experience/opinion, and not reflecting badly on the box itself – are:
When watching some shows, I experienced significant jerkiness, specifically on some shows every 1 second it would “jerk” a little before continuing normally. Again, the forums are useful for this and enabling the “sync playback to display” option fixed that.
Other videos had similar issues, but enabling the option to adjust the refresh rate cleared that right up.
When navigating the menus, it seemed extremely laggy; I was experiencing at least a half-second delay after pressing the buttons, which caused me to overshoot some shows/settings and select the wrong things. After changing the skin settings back down to 1080p then everything seems much nippier and more comfortable, and this also helped with the next thing!
When playing back SD content (in this case, some 576p stuff I ripped from DVDs a while back), the resulting playback is noticeably softer/more blurred than I was used to, and in some cases I was getting a very weird motion blur/warping effect where artifacts were left behind when people or objects moved, almost like ghosting. As it turns out, my TV has a better-than-average scaler and seems to produce better output than the Vero 4k – that’s in no way a criticism of the box, just that I’ve got used to it! Changing the settings to 1080p resulted in the 4k outputting the video at 1080p at which point the TV does it’s job and upscales, whilst watching 4k content it switches output automatically.
Overall, I’m massively impressed – the box isn’t expensive at all, it looks and feels like good quality, is easy to use, and the included remote is really handy; you can do everything you need from it, and as it doesn’t require line-of-sight to the box or TV I can use it without having to worry about pointing it I’ve encountered very few issues thus far, and when I have the forums have been a great source of help. I suspect that I’m going to be tweaking things for quite a while, but that’s half the fun with these things!
The only major downside I’ve encountered is that a lot of my content simply isn’t going to work. I have a lot of Japanese TV shows/dramas/anime series (over 4tb, I think!) of which a large percentage is encoded in h264 10-bit. I did know about this going in as I’d read it in the forums, so I can’t act surprised – and I understand that decoding h264 in Hi10 is very CPU intensive and no hardware decoding solutions are readily available. I think when I have more spare time I’ll use my fairly beefy PC to start re-encoding it to h265 Hi10 – I really am loving the Vero 4k (and OSMC) enough that I want to run EVERYTHING through it. If that means a little legwork on my side, then so be it