Review: PlayOn!HD2 by A.C. Ryan

The network media player / set-top-box PlayOn!HD2 from A.C. Ryan is a very intriguing beast, could it be your next purchase ? The feature list for this beast is...

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The network media player / set-top-box PlayOn!HD2 from A.C. Ryan is a very intriguing beast, could it be your next purchase ? The feature list for this beast is as long as your arm and frankly ridiculously awesome. With so many features its hard to know where to start.

  • USB3.0 port, 2x USB2.0 ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet / Optional Wireless B/G/N adapter available
  • Ez-Drive slot for SATA/SATA2 drives in either 2.5” or 3.5” sizes, up to 2TB.
  • SD, SDHC (SD High Capacity), MMC, MS, MSPro
  • HDMI 1.3, Component, Composite and optical audio out.

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Ez Drive slot
With this unique feature, you can slide an entire hard drive chock full of your favourite media right into the side of the PlayOn!HD2. For those who constantly complain about the storage available in devices, this is a great way to get around it.

Media support
If you thought Boxee was the king of format support, think again. The PlayOnHD2 supports the following video formats..  

AVI / MKV / TS / TP / TRP / M2TS / MPG / MP4 / MOV / M4V / VOB / ISO / DVD-ISO / IFO / DAT / WMV / ASF / RM / RMVB / BD-ISO FLV / MP3 / MP2 / WMA / AAC / FLAC / WAV / OGG Vorbis / PCM / LPCM / MS-ADPCM / LC-AAC / HE-AAC / COOK / RA-Lossless, JPEG, HD JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIF, PNG.

Codec supported is also comprehensive – MPEG-1 / MPEG-2 / MPEG-4 SP/ASP/AVC (H.264 | x264) / XviD / DivX / WMV9 (VC-1) / RealVideo 8/9/10.

Audio support isn’t left out either with support right from Stereo up to 7.1 surround sound. There’s even FLAC support for those audio files out there who can’t stand compression. Basically if you have a file that this thing can’t play, your doing it wrong.

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Noise
If you thought powering a device like this meant loud noisy fans, think again. The PlayOn!HD2 uses a 40mm low-noise fan and is essentially silent. Think Xbox 360S quiet. 

Interface
The UI of the PlayOn!HD2 reminded me a lot of XBMC with a fresh skin. Navigation is pretty straight forward, just up and down to skip through the menu. Unfortunately at times the interface was a little sluggish to respond. Not a massive issue, but something to be aware of, a firmware update may be able to remedy this.

The Movies, Music and Photos menu items are reserved for local media, where is a shame, I’d rather see those convenient shortcuts be able to contain network media. Content on your local network can be accessed via the Files Manager option, then the appropriate folder. This means getting to your latest content is a multi-menu process. It’s not the end of the world, just more of a missed opportunity, surfacing those shortcuts in at the top level would make it much more convenient for consumers.

More commonly these days, wireless keyboards and even mice are making their way on to lounge room coffee tables. The PlayOn!HD2 also offers Online applications including Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, YouTube XL, Facebook, Twitter, IM, Yahoo News Weather and Finance, Mediafly and Video Podcasts. The experiences of each vary.. a lot. The keyboard is a must for using these apps at 10 feet.

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Price
You can pickup the A.C. Ryan PlayOn!HD2 from
Scorptech for A$179 or from City Software for City Software for A$187.


Overall
When we compare the PlayOn!HD2 to other set-top-boxes like Boxee, the Xbox 360, the PS3 and WD Live, it stacks up pretty well. Its real strength is format support. This thing can handle pretty much every format imaginable. If your someone who’s media collection is full of many disparate formats, then this is very likely the media device for you. The interface speed is a little lacking, but if you can deal with that, its a solid device.

The unique feature that sets the PlayOn!HD2 above the competition is the ability to slot in a hard drive. Considering the form factor isn’t much larger than a 3.5” drive, A.C.Ryan have done well to achieve this in the size and weight of the PlayOn!HD2.

For more information please visit A.C. Ryan.

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.