As thick as a brick, but smarter

Adrian Justins organises and manages his media collection via USB

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.

Highs

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.

Quiet operation.

Lows

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

Overall: 3/5