In a world where all media is generously available and downloading is as common as a statement shirt, owning a media player is an absolute must. Gone are the days when you burned CDs and DVDs to enjoy music, movies, TV shows, and home videos. You don’t even have to wonder why you have to watch on your computer, when you have that awesome HD TV sitting idly in the living room. With an HD media player, you can put all your media in an external memory drive, plug it in and sit back while it all unfolds on your home entertainment system.
A good example of such a convenient device is the AC Ryan ACR-PV73500 PlayON! HD Essential media player. Not only does the PV73500 allow you to play media from external sources, but it can also store thousands of photos, music and videos in a pre-assembled internal HDD that supports up to 2TB. And for those who thrive to tinker just about anything, users can also install any 3.5-inch SATA / SATAII HDD inside the housing. It also offers an optional upgrade to network with the Essential Wireless N dongle, sold separately
But for most of us “regular” folks, these nice extras are ignorable and can cause more hassle than happiness when compared to simply plugging in a portable hard drive. During the test period, I found myself most comfortable resorting to the aforementioned way of playing media files. True enough, The PV73500 is designed for users who prefer an easy-to-use media player without the fuss of networking.
The PV73500 boasts to be the world’s first full HD Realtek chipset-based media player, capable of supporting every video format—from the widely used to the rarely seen, including Blu-ray and DVD ISO. It also allows maximum picture clarity of up to HD 1080p, via HDMI and standard component connections. Audio-wise, it serves to stereo, Dolby and DTS—with a full range of audio codecs and subtitle support.
When it comes to size, the casing is quite big (although smaller than previous models) but it’s largely due to accommodate the expandable internal memory of the device. It’s not a MINI model anyway, and the larger exterior only means that more ports are available for connection. On the side is a media card reader, two USB 2.0 ports, and a single USB 2.0 Slave Port. Outgoing ports are all on the rear panel with connectivity for both 1080p HDMI (1.3) and composite audio/video, with SPDIF Optical TOSlink and SPDIF Coaxial. There is also a power connector located and fan vents on the right.
The player has a simple and streamlined black matte body, with a glossy front panel that houses a lone power button in the middle. The simplicity contradicts the depth of features and performance that the PV73500 has to offer, and these can be seen in the accompanying remote, which is the only way you can access any and all the controls. Fortunately, AC Ryan has addressed a rather off-putting button layout of its previous models, particularly for the playback functions. It still takes quite a while to get used to but you know have a more conventional looking remote with clearer buttons and a better accessing.
Diving into the usage and interface, this media player has excellent booting speed and features a clean and simple menu, using the PlayON! GUI 2.0 interface. However, this seems to stop at appearances.
One of my minor gripes with the PV73500 is that the structure of accessing, organizing and playing files seems to take a while to get used to. The new operating system has an automatic index feature that scans all the contents and files the relevant files into the subsections, but sometimes it includes files you don’t necessarily intend to watch or keep.
This causes a rather rough user experience when trying to find files, and unless you develop OCD in organizing your media files on your external source, you’ll find yourself jumping in and out of various menus, and tirelessly scrolling up and down. There’s also a bit of a lag in response time but it’s pretty negligible after some time.
But other than that, this media player is still a solid winner. It was brilliantly convenient, useful, and it delivers on its many features, compatibilities, and most of all, in playing stunning picture quality and crisp audio. Aside from all its possible external and internal media sources, its allowable media format is a complete set that leaves no room for complaint. And given its price point, this proves to be one of the best media players out in the market.
Physical: 227x165x60mm, 610g
A/V Out: HDMI 1.3 up to 1080p / Composite Video / Composite Audio / SPDIF coaxial / SPDIF Optical TOSLink
Video Codecs: MPEG-1 / MPEG-2 / MPEG-4 SP/ASP/AVC (H.264 | x264) / XviD / DivX / WMV9 (VC-1) / RealVideo 8/9/10 (up to 720P)
Audio Format: MP3 / MP2 / WMA / AAC / FLAC / WAV / OGG Vorbis / PCM / LPCM / MS-ADPCM / LC-AAC / HE-AAC / COOK / RA-Lossless
• Full-featured and convenient full HD media player
• Supports a full range of popular and rare formats
• Multiple connection options and external sources
• Fast booting speed
• Expandable Internal HDD up to 2TB
• Small lag in response time
• Auto-file indexing can get in the way
• Does not include HDMI cable
If you’re in the market for a complete media player, the A.C. Ryan ACR-PV73500 PlayON! HD Essential Media Player should definitely be considered. Its brilliant HD playback is highlighted by a full set of supported video formats and external sources. It’s convenient, complete, and all-around classy.
Buy Meter: 9.0
[This review originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Gadgets Magazine]