The best portable media player you’ve never heard of!

When it comes to portable media players today there are many types that must be considered. Your smartphone, Apple’s array of iPod’s, iPhones and now iPad, Archos devices, netbooks...

When it comes to portable media players today there are many types that must be considered. Your smartphone, Apple’s array of iPod’s, iPhones and now iPad, Archos devices, netbooks and laptops to name a few. All are portable, all play media in their various forms and with their various capabilities. But have you considered adding a portable hard drive to that mix? 

Welcome to the Astone AP-200.

Astone ap200 side

Yes, the first thing you will note is that it is missing a screen so it can’t be compared to those previously mentioned and hook this up to your PC using the included USB cable and you can use it just like a normal portable hard drive. Nothing new here right? Correct. But add this little gem to your 1080p HD TV using HDMI and you are in for some HD movie sessions courtesy of yourself. 

So if you are lucky enough to have a vacation home or you want to watch a movie in bed on your bedroom TV you have no need to buy another media player. If you are a traveller there is no need for anymore dodgy hotel movies that cost more than a cinema ticket plug this into the hotel room TV and as long as you can get to the AV setting you have your very own media centre whilst also storing your important documents on the same hard drive for when you are working. 

First opinions:

The media player is no bigger than a portable hard drive today except for the slightly raised fan housing and the buttons for navigation if you don’t have the remote control and it weighs just slightly more than the 2.5 SATA drive that it houses. It is very portable and once you get used to the OS pretty simple to use. 

What’s included:

Astone with Remote

Astone with Remote

The case can be bought on its own but this one came with a WD500GB Scorpio Blue 2.5 Hard drive. Also included is a little stand for placing the drive vertically when in use (although is works just as well lying horizontally). 

There is a remote control, a 3.5mm to AV cable, a USB cable and an AC adaptor for use when playing video to TV. Strangely the HDMI cable isn’t included so this needs to be included in a purchase budget. 

How does it work:

Connection to a TV is done through either HDMI (required for HD playback), Component using a 3.5mm to component cable or the standard 3.5mm to AV cables. There is also an S/PDIF optical out option for hooking up to a surround sound amp. 

The other end of the device has the IR sensor, a mini USB for file transfers and a full USB for plugging in other USB devices like a thumb drive, off which you can play a file directly. 

I won’t go into the full details of how it works as it is fairly self-explanatory but the built in OS allows navigation to the folders on the hard drive fairly easily using your TV screen.
Navigation can be done using the controls on the unit or the remote control. There are buttons for Movies, Music and photos on the remote allowing you to only highlight those files if you save everything under one folder. 

The AV output options

The AV output option

Once you find the movie file it starts to play in the window next to the file name which is useful when you have similarly named files, this also serves as insurance that the file actually works in the format you have chosen to use for the media file. 

This shouldn’t be a problem as it seems this will play any file you can throw at it from MKV, AVI through to WMV not once has it said unsupported file type there is a list of supported file formats at the end of this article. 

What else can it do:

If you have a wireless USB dongle you can plug it in the front USB port and it can play files using UPNP so you can stream media from another computer or home server. 

It can play music through your television speakers or home theatre system or it can be used as a 21st century slide projector and show your photos on your great aunt’s TV. 

The downsides:

As you can see it isn’t going to break any one’s hearts in the looks departments but then it doesn’t aim to be pretty, it aims to be everything you need for media.
After prolonged use the fan can get quite loud but not deafening so that you can’t hear the TV it is just noticeable if you listen for it. 

The OS isn’t the easiest to use for non-tech savvy people but it is very easy once you are shown how. HDD is the source for the inbuilt hard drive and USB for any external USB device you plug in and then it is a case of locating the folder where the files are and that is up to your file management. 

Specs:

List of supported file formats:

  • MOVIE Video: MPEG-1 (DAT / MPG / MPEG); MPEG-2 (MPG / MPEG / VOB / ISO / IFO / TS / TP) MPEG-4 (MP4 / AVI / MOV); DivX 3/4/5/6, Xvid (AVI / MKV) H.264 AVC (TS / AVI / MKV / MOV) VC-1 (TS / AVI / MKV / WMV); WMV 9 (WMV); Real Video HD 8/9/10 (RM / RMVB); FLV (FLV)
  • MOVIE Audio: Dolby Digital AC3, DTS, MPEG-I Layer 1/2/3, MPEG-II Layer 1/2 multichannel, Real Audio, MPEG-4 HE AACv2, LPCM; Support 7.1 audio channels
  • MOVIE Subtitle: srt, sub, smi, *idx+sub, ssa, DVD subtitle, DivX subtitle
  • MUSIC: MP3, WMA, WAV, ASF, AAC, OGG Vorbis, FLAC, iTune, M4A(AAC), M3U(Playlist)
  • PHOTO: JPG(40-mega pixel without limitation of resolution, Baseline), BMP, PNG, GIF, TIF, TIFF

In conclusion:

The Astone AP200D has travelled with me everywhere around the world, no more foreign language TV for me. It resides in my work bag so I can take documents home if need be, it comes with me on weekends away so I can watch movies or TV shows at friends’ houses or in hotels and when I am home I use it on my second TV for watching films when someone else is watching the TV in the living room. It isn’t the greatest gadget of all time but you will have a hard time finding something that can do what it does for the budget and the portability.

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