Standalone media players should curiously be more popular, considering the advancements in high-definition technology. While there are a multitude of products in the market, no single manufacturer has yet to truly standout. However, this might all change with A.C. Ryan’s Playon!HD.
Out of the box, this media player is surprisingly lightweight, considering that it’s packed with a load of capabilities. Constructed out of hard plastic, its exterior design is wonderfully simple with its all-black casing and a front interface containing only the logo, power button and discrete remote receiver. Its minimalist design would definitely appeal to anybody who might be frightened at the complexities that most devices present today. However, there is a possible downside – the lack of any physical controls on the actual box means that it can only be operated with the included remote control.
Taking a peek at the rear of the Playon!HD reveals all of its multiple connection options: composite, component and HDMI ports for video; a pair of stereo analogue outputs; optical co-axial digital outputs and the Ethernet LAN port. A.C. Ryan has also generously included all the necessary cables for users to get started. The addition of the HDMI cable will definitely please a lot of consumers, not only for its inclusion, but for its attractive design as well.
Setting up the Playon!HD to your television is as easy as 123: connect the corresponding cables from the box to the TV; power up the unit, and locate the media you want to enjoy. Getting started is as wonderfully simple as its design, which makes it a prize in this entangled world of technology.
While the inclusion of an internal 3.5” hard disk sets the Playon!HD apart from other standalone media players in its class, it is a feature that is not entirely essential. Connecting the box directly to a computer and transferring files proved to be rather cumbersome and sluggish, and the same applies in utilizing its 10/100 LAN (network and internet) capabilities as well. It is far more intuitive to download movies using a computer, transfer them to an external hard drive, and subsequently connect it to the Playon!HD.
If the LAN and the internal hard disk could have been left out altogether, resulting in a smaller and more cost-effective media player, despite the Playon!HD’s already pocket-friendly price. While the more technologically adept user will appreciate these alternate connection options, the average consumer might really only need the USB ports. Nevertheless, having multiple choices on how to transfer/acquire media does make the Playon!HD considerably more appealing in comparison to other media players in its class.
Navigating through A.C. Ryan’s menu is a breeze, especially when using the “Browser” mode. Although there are various ways for users to locate their media files (i.e. by file type), this method proves to be the quickest and easiest. The interface is intuitive and user-friendly and while there is a slight learning curve, this is normal with any form of technology. Figuring out the menu will take minimal effort at best, and users will find themselves soaring through it in no time.
Finally, what makes A.C. Ryan’s Playon!HD shine is the multitude of video and audio formats it is able to play. It supports virtually every file format from MKV to RMVB, and even obscure formats that users probably won’t ever consider watching on a large screen display (i.e. FLV). Resolutions reach up to 720p, 1080i and 1080p, which should satisfy and HD fanatic’s appetite. It supports a wide range of audio types as well, particularly Dolby and DTS audio (pass-through or down-mixed to stereo). Truth be told, the Playon!HD is the hardware equivalent of VLC media player– it plays just about everything.
If users aren’t drawn in to take a peek at the Playon!HD by the vast support of file formats alone, it’s budget-friendly price will definitely raise its appeal. It is perfect for those that are constantly downloading and watching movies, and want an intuitive bridge for their media to play on their televisions.
– Support for virtually every video and audio format
– Intuitive menu interface
– Slow transfer rate via LAN
Buy Meter: 8.0
The A.C Ryan Playon!HD is a great standalone multimedia player that supports a range of formats, and is an essential gadget for any multimedia enthusiast.
Playback support: Video: AVI / MKV / TS / TP / TRP / M2TS / MPG / MP4 / MOV / M4V / VOB / ISO / IFO / DAT / WMV / ASF / RM / RMVB / FLV with resolutions up to 720p, 1080i and 1080p. Video Codecs: MPEG-1 / MPEG-2 / MPEG-4 SP/ASP/AVCHD (H.264) / XviD / DivX / WMV9 (VC-1) / RealVideo 8/9/10 (up to 720P) Video Subtitle: SRT / SMI / SSA / IDX-SUB / SUB Audio: MP3 / MP2 / WMA / AAC / FLAC / WAV / OGG Vorbis / PCM / LPCM / MS-ADPCM / LC-AAC / HE-AAC / COOK / RA-Lossless Image: HD JPEG / BMP / GIF / TIF / PNG [This review originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of Gadgets Magazine]