Out of the box, this is a non-networked version of AC Ryan’s PlayOn!HD media streamer, but you can add an optional £20 wi-fi dongle to change that. My sample came with a pre-installed 1TB HDD and there are 500GB and 2TB versions.
The unit is designed to organise and manage your media content with a Smart Database system that automatically indexes all media files and makes multimedia playback an idiot-proof pastime.
The box itself is industrial-looking with one LED-lit power button on the fascia. There are USBs (two USB-A hosts and one USB-B slave) and an SD card slot on one side, and AV connections around the back. You get one HDMI socket, both flavours of digital audio output and analogue stereo phonos plus a composite video. To get media into the box you either plug in a portable USB drive or connect to a laptop. Simples.
AC Ryan claims no other media player supports as many file types.
Video playback is good, and it has no problems with a range of standard-def and HD files including DivX, H.264, SRT subtitles and a full HD M2TS Blu-ray rip.
Audio support is even better with HDMI or digital audio pass-through for Dolby Digital Plus, DTS, Dolby TrueHD and AAC 7.1 plus stereo downmix of all except DD Plus.
The menu system reacts slowly to the remote control.
l File management is a pain. Movies (unlike photos and music) don’t show up on the home screen, and without instructions, it was hard to move them within the HDD.
AC Ryan PlayOn!HD Essential
Price: £149 Approx
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